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.

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THINKING OUT LOUD

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 stop sign that many of us see as the same color as the foliage behind it.

If I were to pick any single trait that is causing this national divide it would be an overall lack of tolerance. By everyone. Not just the right or left. Even those of us who are right leaning and claim to just want to be left alone, find ourselves intolerant of the left. Yes, we wildly disagree on some subjects, but, we should just ignore them. Especially the small arguments. Both sides should be looking for ways to bridge the gap so we can work together to fight the common enemies of terrorism, economic development, social unrest, debt, government over-growth and over-reach and other factors that affect us all, right or left.

I’ve said it before, but clichés become clichés because of the truth they contain and the cliché that fits us right now is “United we stand, divided we fall.” Never have those words been more accurate.

Our memorial to those we lost 15 years ago today should be a national resolve to pull together, to pull with, not against each other. Our bickering, considering what we’ve been through together, is an insult to their memory. bd

4 Sept 16 - Maybe We Should Let Hillary Win!?
With all the Donald and Hillary crap swirling around our heads, I suddenly found myself thinking ahead four years and am starting to see things I’d never thought about before. I am, right now, finally understanding the overwhelming importance of maintaining control of Congress in the event Hillary wins, which I think is probable. Bear with me on this.

Ignore what the GOP hasn’t done in Congress for the past two years and think of the way a congress is supposed to function. Part of the job description for the Senate is to control decisions like the confirmation of SCOTUS nominations. On top of that, the House can control funding on just about everything so essentially has control of everything in government by approving, or not approving, funding. So, if the Legislative and Executive branches of government are working the way they should (an apparently gigantic IF), a President can only do just so much on his/her own. He/she has to work within the framework of the laws created by Congress. Ignore the rogue Presidential actions of the last eight years and picture them trying to go against a Congress that actually exercises the power it has under the Constitution.

Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it in a minute

Now, look at what both candidates are promising: they are promising to do huge, wonderful things all of which cost lots of money, which this country simply doesn’t have. 67% of our budget goes to entitlements (they include Social Security in that). Debt service is something like 9% (could be 7%, I forget). Regardless, by the time all the liabilities are covered, the budget has only 6.5% for discretionary spending. That’s a real number and verifiable. That would barely build a wall much less make college free for everyone who wants it.

The net-net of the above is that almost none of the high-profile projects from either candidate are going to happen. None of them! Unless, of course, they want to raise taxes like crazy and it’ll take a huge increase to fund that much increased spending. Or, they could choose to keep depending on China and other debtors to fund our extravagant national life style, but that can only go on for so long. To do any of these, they have to work through Congress.

As an aside, I truly believe Trump’s promise of a 15% corporate tax would, in the long term, result in a lot of manufacturing returning to the US, because our corporate tax structure makes our country one of the most hostile to manufacturing. Increased manufacturing means increased corporate profits which means increased tax revenue. But, that takes time, years, actually, during which time we’d be functioning under a tax revenue short fall which would make things temporarily worse.

Another way to fund the new projects proposed would be to cut government spending, but that’s too logical and not likely to happen. Besides, even if you practically eliminated government, it wouldn’t let us pay down the national debt in our lifetimes.

In other words, we’re hearing a bunch of election promises from both sides that simply can’t be kept, even if they wanted to. They’re lying to us and they know it.

Now, let’s look at the overall situation around us: terrorism is on the rise, our international position has eroded to nothing, our economy is in the tank, just about everyone in the nation is pissed off and our social issues are going off the chart. Everywhere you look are seemingly insurmountable tasks. Now, ask yourself a question: can ANY President cure all of this in one term? Can he/she even make a worthwhile dent in it?

The answer to the above is no. Whichever candidate inherits this sh*t sandwich is doomed to failure and likely to be a one-term President. Plus, there’s a probability that either candidate will actually make the situation worse. At least in the short term (it takes a while for even good programs to have wide spread effect).

So, when the next general elections come around in 2020, what kind of mood is the electorate going to be in? Their favorite told them things were going to be both hunky and dory under their reign. But, that is very unlikely to happen, no matter who wins. So, come the next election, those folks that are pissed off now are going to be even more pissed AND they’re going to be joined by folks from the other side who are also pissed. Who are they going to blame? Whomever wins this election is going to be left holding that particular bag. So, four years from now, whichever party wins this election is likely to lose the next one. The winner of this election will have made their party into a loser because that party will be blamed for the continued mess the US is in and the other party will automatically become top dog.

Now, let’s say Hillary wins, which is many conservative’s worse nightmare, but, ASSUMING CONSERVATIVES HAVE A SUPER MAJORITY IN CONGRESS, it shouldn’t be. If the GOP holds both the Senate and the House, they can at least control whom she puts on the Supreme Court, which is of extreme importance. If she tries to ram through big tax increases, she can be stopped.

If Hillary wins, the next four years would be essentially a stalemate IF IT IS A GOP CONTROLLED CONGRESS. If that doesn’t happen, and she wins, the right is pretty much screwed.

If Trump wins, we have no idea what or where we’ll be in 2020 but just his promised reduction of corporate taxes and the effect that would have on business growth might be reason enough to vote him in. But, in the long run, benefits like that may not be worth jumping on the Trump Train.

I know this is a crazy thought, and maybe I’m saying all of this just to make myself feel better, if Trump loses (which it appears he will). However, since winning this election could screw conservatives in 2020, maybe losing to Hillary wouldn’t be such a bad thing. So, as crazy as it sounds, to protect our conservative butts for 2020, maybe we shouldn’t vote for The Donald. However, we absolutely can’t afford to lose Congress, nor can we afford a Congress that isn’t doing their job. So, maybe we’re concentrating on the wrong race and should be worrying more about those political races more local to us, the Senate and House races. They’re the ones that actually control our future.

Yeah, I know: it sounds nuts but, in a way, letting Hillary win makes a certain amount of sense. Or maybe not. bd

20 Aug 16 - Of Flips and Flops
To say that I’m “sports challenged” is an understatement. I’m just not into sports. Having said that, I found myself fascinated by the Olympics. I also found that the best part of the Olympics was that they overshadowed politics for the entire week.

As far as politics goes, I was getting to the point that I’d grit my teeth every time I’d see Trump speak. I’d be asking myself, “I wonder who he’s going to piss off this time.” The guy would make a decent leader (I think) but he’s a lousy campaigner. But, he’s all we’ve got and Billary is flat scary. Then the Olympics came along. The AZ Redhead become an absolute Olympic-junkie, and, if a TV was on that’s all we watched. It was like taking a TV vacation from reality. Plus, I found myself really enjoying certain events. I loved the personalities and the drama involved.

Like most of the world, I suppose, I was absolutely amazed by the women’s gymnastics: how can a human being do things like that and do it with such perfection? Seems absolutely impossible.

We’d been watching the girls for most of the week and I even got to where I knew some of the names, especially Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, America’s top dogs. Whenever I saw Raisman, I’d think to myself, “She’s a little older and closer to being ‘normal’ size because Simone, like most female gymnasts is shorter than average.” I put Raisman at about 5’5”. Then I noticed a stat on her and saw she was only 5’2” but she looked MUCH bigger than Simone Biles, so, I asked my friend Siri (iPhone) about Biles. SHE IS 4’9”!!! And she appears average for most female gymnasts. What a joy she was to watch! Pure energy, showmanship and a smile that won’t quit. Cute as a high powered button!

At the other end of the scale was one of Marlene’s favorites, Jamaican Usain Bolt. He’s 6’ 5” and a runner. But, not just any runner. In almost every race he’s been in for the last three Olympics, everyone was racing for the silver because Bolt automatically took the gold. Yes, he has an ego and loves to show it, but in a fun sort of way. The guy is a showman as much as he is an athlete and he’s good at both. He’s the Michael Jordan of sprinters.

A side fact Marlene picked up from her binge-watching: the gold medals are reportedly valued at over $9,000 and the winners have to pay taxes on that. Or at least that’s what commentator’s claimed. I just did a little digging around and found that the actual scrap value (they are 494 grams of silver and only 6 grams of gold) is barely $587 at today’s prices. Looks like politicians aren’t the only ones stretching the facts. Or maybe not. The medals are valuable in other ways.

Take swimmer Michael Phelps (31 years old), who has won a total of 23 golds including the 2016 wins. He is officially reported to have a net worth of $55 million (!!!). That number is based on his previous 18 gold medals. That makes them worth about $3million a piece in endorsements, etc. So, the five golds from the 2016 games should net him out another $15million. Probably worth it since he’s considered the best swimmer of all times.

Hey, I used to be a decent swimmer. That should be worth a few hundred bucks, don’t you think?

The thing about the Olympics is that it’s all about the winners. Which is pretty much how life is, in general. But what about the losers? I don’t think any of us can totally grasp what kind of dedication it takes to be a competitor at that level. Just being there means you have won. Every single person who is at the starting line for any race or competition has essentially given up their life to be in that position. However, in many of the events they do so knowing their sport is dominated by a team or an individual who is essentially unbeatable. So, why, for instance, would someone give up their life and train for the 100-meter sprint knowing they have next to zero chance to beat Usain Bolt? Or what is the mindset of the swimmer who dives into the water in the lane next to Michael Phelps? In situations like that, even giving 110% isn’t going to be enough. Still, they try.

I look at the competitors from countries who you know aren’t supporting their Olympic teams well at all. So, the individual sportsman/women are out there early in the morning and late at night while trying to hold down a regular job knowing they probably don’t have a chance. But there IS a chance. And that keeps them sweating and straining and giving up so much of themselves to simply be in the race.

I often wonder what becomes of those people after they no longer strive for gold. Does their competitive nature stand them in good stead in life? Or do they feel beaten and sulk in the corner? I wish someone would do a study of Olympic athletes after the games are over for them. I’m betting money that the majority of them, in all countries, are among the more successful people in their population. This, of course, assumes they find a passion that they can throw themselves into. Somehow, I’ll bet most of them find it and become winners in their own right. I certainly hope so. bd

8 Aug 16 - Weddings, Oshkosh, Family and Tattoos
I stirred in bed and opened my eyes: “Holy crap, there’s someone sitting on my bed.” Instinctively, my arm flashed back and I was in the process of getting a hay maker going from a prone position, when I realized it was Marlene. I wasn’t in a motel/hotel. I was home. And I was about to sucker-punch my wife. Probably not a smart thing to do.

Thinking Out Loud is out of synch because today is Monday and I usually do it Saturday or Sunday. But, I was still at Oshkosh last Sunday and just got back from a niece’s wedding in Minneapolis/St. Paul last night. So, the majority of the last two weeks has been on the road. Somewhere. Doing something. The result was me trying to ambush my wife because I didn’t know where I was. So, the images of the past days are still flicking through my mind’s eye and some of them are worth discussing.

It’s about this time of year when, once you’re home, the usual greeting is, “Hey, how was Oshkosh? (‘ever notice how few people say AirVenture?)” This, is, of course, impossible to answer. The question is right up there with “So how are the Rocky Mountains?” although some of the same adjectives apply: huge, unbelievable, never seen anything like it, yada, yada, yada. Just like you can’t get a true sense of the immenseness of the Grand Canyon or the Rockies without being there, same thing holds at Oshkosh. You ‘gotta be there to understand it.

Oddly enough, even though I saw a Martin Mars off the ground for the first time and a Bell P-39 for only the second time in 48 trips to aero-mecca north, my favorites were decidedly lower profile. The one
that sticks in my mind was a Pietenpol by Dan Helsper. Powered by a modified Model A Ford engine it was “old school” personified.

Pietenpol

Dan Helsper created a little chunk of 1930 aeronostalgia with his Model "A" Ford powered Pietenpol. It was exactly how they would have done it back in the day. Hard not to love it! Photo: EAA: M. Kelly

Maybe part of the reason I airplanes like Helsper's Pietenpol is that right down to carving his own prop, it was totally created by the guy who flew it in. There were some magnificent antique and homebuilt airplanes on the grounds, each more perfect than the next, but few of them were done entirely by the owners.

Four days after OSH I left for Minneapolis/St. Paul for the wedding. That turned out to be almost as much fun and as interesting as Oshkosh. Several things stand out in no particular order. For one thing, no matter where I turned, I found myself immersed in a digital world.

I don’t know how long it has been since I was in the Minneapolis airport, but I was IMPRESSSED!! Damn! You step out of the airplane and it’s as if you just entered a gigantic restaurant in a massive shopping mall. Where there are generally lines of uncomfortable, nondescript seats, there were line after line of eating counters with iPads permanently attached. The iPads were not only computers that you could use at will but were menus that were magically hooked up to a number of “kitchens” scattered around. You selected what you wanted, paid for it via credit card, and in a few minutes a young lady walks up and hands it to you.

Then, when you transit the terminals to the baggage claim, you realized you’ve covered a mile or two and never left the aforementioned mall. Everything is new, shiny and well laid out. The crowning miracle was that our bags beat us to the carousel. I almost fell over! That NEVER happens!

Then we hooked into Uber, yet another extension of new-millennium digital service. We typed in our destination, a blue dot gave our location, a computer somewhere found a driver closest to us and soon we were on our way to the hotel with a driver named Omar. He was Nigerian, an immigrant and he filled us in on his whole journey: applied for a visa while in Kenya, it was over five years before he was granted a work visa. Then five years after that he was allowed to apply for citizenship, which he did. Now he teaches in an elementary school and drives for Uber during the summer. That’s the way immigration is supposed to work and he’s a solid addition to our country. He wasn’t asking for any favors and worked through the system on his own hook.

While all this was going on texts (which, four years ago, I swore I’d never do but now live on) were flying back and forth between family members.

Two images keep coming to mind of the stay in the rather up-scale (for us) hotel: the first was the literally hundreds of Zombie-like people, mobs actually, in the park across the street spilling over into the thoroughfares on all four sides. They were totally oblivious to everything around them as they kept their noses to their phones playing Pokemon Go. This is a game where they try to capture or kill or something, little “things” their phone projects on the screen in front of them and they chase after it. It’s a national addiction but this was the first time we saw it in action. It’s actually a little disturbing to see everything from teens to middle-age people literally giving their lives up to a game and paying no attention to their surroundings. None!

The second image I thought unusual was that nowhere have I seen so many tattoos. The hotel had lots of weddings going on and we’d constantly be running into brides and maids-of-honor in high-zoot dresses with tattoos covering almost every bit of exposed flesh. I’m not talking about seeing it occasionally, there were full-sleeve tats on young men and women everywhere we went. The scene was like a cross between a church social and Sturgis.

The best part of the weekend, of course was family. Mine is scattered around every bit of the US, border to border in every direction, so it is seldom we get together. This time it was very warm and wonderful. And something both Marlene and I needed. I haven’t seen my two sisters or their families for three years. Ditto just about every other relative at the shindig, so there was a lot of hugging and occasional tears. I got a lot of quality time with each of them, which, as the years pile up for all of us becomes increasingly important. It struck me that even some of my nieces are technically senior citizens. That, of course, mirrors back on me, letting me know I too am building up mileage. Maybe that realization is what made the weekend so special.

Life’s first get-togethers are built on births, seeing a baby for the first time. Then it’s events and graduations. Then weddings and anniversaries. Then a few grandbaby things. Then, before you know it, it all grinds to a halt at the final get-together that is minus one member. Knowing that’s always hanging out there, it behooves every one of us to spend as much time as we can with those we love. And, if there are problems between family members, they should be worked out before we run out of time. It’s a cliché but, clichés are clichés because of the truths they contain. So, saying “life is short” may well be the most underestimated cliché of all. There’s always a last hug, so make them count. bd

22 July 16 - I'm Headed for Sanity
I
'm going to miss doing a Thinking Out Loud for two weeks in a row, beginning right now. I'm leaving the real world, politics and BS behind while I head up to Oshkosh for my yearly innoculation against reality.

Although I'm leaving all this mess behind, I can't do so without a couple of passing comments about the last week. There were a couple of cop shootings, some terrorism in Europe and Donald Trump, as the old novelists used to say, "...strode upon the land." Yes, he made his mark, but not nearly as big a mark as his kids did. What a family!!!

I wasn't prepared for his 38-year-old, oldest son, Donald, Jr. What an incredibly polished, well thought-out speaker. AND HE DIDN'T USE A TELEPROMPTER! All of his kids fit the same mold and, regardless of what you may think of The Donald and his style, one of the talking heads summed it up nicely, when he said, "You can't fake good kids." Quality shows and it has nothing to do with money or position.

The Donald himself spent an hour telling us everything that was wrong (which was a helluva lot) and what he was going to do to fix it. And everything he said was right. It's all wrong for the reasons he outlined. And his fixes sounded doable. However, there were so many things that need fixing and he has so many self-induced projects on his plate that I don't see how he can do even ten percent of them. However, even if he only does that much, he'll be miles ahead of anyone else who has held that position.

During the course of the week, between the convention and life happening, it became increasingly clear what an awful train wreck we're going to have if Billary gets into office. While The Donald is an unknown quantity, his agressive "Succeeding is everything" approach and attitude give me hope. Billary is NOT an unknown quantity. Whether you vote for her or not is a direct function of how you feel about where the country is going. If you like what's happening, you'll love her, because she's going to plow straight ahead not looking either direction.

One of the big differences between the two candidates, besides just about everything, is that Trump has an almost overwhelming love for the country that appears absolutely genuine. In fact, he seems genuine in most ways. Brash and sometimes hard to take, but genuine.

Every single thing Hillary does appears scripted. And every word and every move is being delivered by a second rate actor. Nothing about her appears genuine. Even if you totally ignore her 30 years of scandals, even if you had no idea who she is, she would come off as if she is being who she has to be for that particular occasion. She's been a politician for entirely too long and she no longer knows exactly who she is.

Much worse, I get absolutely no feeling of warmth or love of country from her. She gives me the very clear feeling that she is doing this because she wants the position, the power, the recognition. She's not convincing me that she's doing it because she wants to help set things right. In fact, she doesn't seem to think there is anything wrong.

Ignore the importance of the position she is seeking and try to picture her at the head of a local PTA or Girl Scout troop. She would be one of those know-it-all, better-than-thou leaders who make every one in the room uncomfortable because of the obvious condescention. She wouldn't be down in the dirt playing with the kids. I can, however, easily see The Donald doing that.

It's easy to take cheap shots at her based on the scandals and the obvious platform differences between the two parties. But, I don't think that's necessary whether it is warranted or not. The way I like to look at people is I try to imagine them suffering a badly broken leg and needs a place to rest up for about a month. Would I be comfortable having them in my home? In this case, I'm positive I wouldn't be comforable because everything about her just strikes me "wrong." I can't put my finger on it, but there's something about her that tells me she's not who she wants us to think she is. And that's just a little scary.

Damn, looks as if I wrote a blog after all. Sorry, didn't mean to rant. bd

16 July 16 - Is This Our New Normal?
I refuse to believe that, as of today, the Orlando shootings took place barely a month ago. The weeks since have been so severely punctuated with escalating tragedies and unbelievable news events that our lives are changing daily and we’re watching it all happen in real time on cell phone videos.

First, I have to blame another long delay producing Thinking Out Loud on yet another sick computer. Turned out to be a thoroughly dead monitor. So, it was around the 12th of July before I was back on line and during the three weeks that have elapsed since the last Thinking Out Loud, it seems as if the US has lost its mind. The world too!

First: the Week of Corruption
When so much news happens so quickly, it’s easy for the fast-changing news cycles to cause some events to be forgotten much faster than they should be. For instance, the best thing that has happened for Hillary is that recent cop killings and terrorist events have been so overwhelming that we’re already forgetting the facts that led up to her skating on all aspects of her e-mail scandal. This was something I predicted would happen because the fix was in. I just didn’t think the background intrigue would be so obvious.

Monday: 27 June (two weeks after Orlando) Bill “casually” runs into Loretta.
Lemme see: she was heading for Colorado from the East Coast but for some reason stopped in Phoenix, which is about 600 miles due south of her destination. By sheer coincidence Bill’s plane happened to be parked on the ramp too. And their meeting was so casual they asked everyone to leave the aircraft so, even though it is standard protocol for all meetings involving the Attorney General to be documented, this was not done. ‘Just talked about grand kids and golf. Yeah right!

Saturday: 2 July (Fourth of July Weekend), Hillary is interviewed by the FBI.
She was not under oath and no notes were taken. There is zero record of what she was asked or what she said. However, her comments were moot anyway because she wasn’t under oath so she could lie and not be committing perjury. Then, to make sure there was no trail to follow, all agents signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Tuesday: 5 July at 0900: Comey lets Hillary off the hook.

Somewhere in Washington there is a horse without a head: that wound up on Comey’s bed. This all stinks to high heaven! However, Comey’s findings, which he clearly stated, contradicted everything Hillary had said in public about the subject and will make great commercials for Trump.

The net result of these kinds of blatant backroom dealings is that we’ve apparently entered America’s third-world-country phase: corruption is rampant and will be accepted because we have no choice and even less recourse. A sad, maddening step in our decline.

Then, the Week of Tragedy
In re-reading what follows, I realized that I had left out some major events because there have been so many, I can’t keep them all in my head. As you run through the following paragraphs try to keep the dates in mind. The rapidity with which things happened is amazing!

Tuesday: 28 June, Turkey Airport Bombing, 41 dead
Viewing it on TV, we have a tendency to look at terrorist attacks like these as something that only happens “over there”. The Orlando massacre has told us otherwise. And then terrorism of another, closer-to-home flavor, began to take root.

Monday: 5 July the same day that Comey blessed Hillary, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by cops in Baton Rouge.

Tuesday: 6 July, the next day, Philando Castile, is shot by a cop in Minneapolis.

The investigations have yet to be concluded and the facts are still a little fuzzy, but that didn’t stop the racial flames being whipped into a fire storm by the likes of Black Lives Matter. The news coverage of the protests had radicalizing effects on unstable individuals watching the coverage from the sidelines. There are those out there who hear things like “What do we want? Dead cops!” and, in their own sick minds, think that’s a viable way of acting out their complaints.

Friday: 8 July: Three days later, Lakeem Scott, Bristol TN began randomly shooting at white people, one dead, more wounded

Sunday: 10 July (five days after Alton Sterling was shot),
Micah Johnson snipes five cops in Dallas and wounds many others. The US goes into a frenzy of finger pointing. In the background you have activists like Louis Farrakhan, the leader of The Nation of Islam, urging guys like Johnson on. Read what Farrakhan said just a few hours before the Dallas shootings. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/07/08/hours-before-officers-were-gunned-down-in-dallas-louis-farrakhan-posted-this-shocking-message-of-racism-and-violence/ . Chilling!

Since Farrakhan’s rhetoric, and that of so many others, is clearly crafted to incite violence, I can’t understand how he has gotten away with it for so long. The First Amendment definitely does NOT cover that kind of speech. He gave a speech in the ‘60’s where I went to college and was shouting the same acid-filled phrases and that was nearly 50 years ago. That’s a lot of hate. And he’s made a lot of money from it.

Tuesday: 12 July, two bailiffs killed. This was tied to nothing but was just another bad event stuffed into the sequence of other sad cop happenings.

Thursday: 14 July, more terror in France.
As I began writing this, the toll from the terrorist-driven truck in France was still climbing. It was 84 at last count with 52 on life support and a couple dozen critical. The President commented on it without pushing for gun control (sorry, ‘couldn’t resist).

Friday: 15 July, the coup in Turkey is still taking place with no obvious conclusions in sight.

UP DATE ON COUP: It appears to have failed and commentators are saying a large reason why is because Ogedon had purged the top military ranks of any who weren't in lock step with him. Sound familiar?
The net-net of this is that Turkey (the single most important country in the region and formerly a strong US ally) which has been prevented from becoming another hostile Islamic state will now continue its slide to becoming another Iran. Word is that he has cut power to our Air Base there and prevented any in or out traffic. Essentially, he is holding the base hostage and declared war against any who support or harbor Imam Gulen, whom he says was behind the coup. Gulen now resides in exile in Pennsylvania and Turkey is demanding extradition. The following link is worth reading.

I don't many of us on this side of the pond realize the importance of Turkey and what the failure of the coup means to the world.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/690106/Turkey-threatens-war-America-cleric-Gulen-military-coup

Sunday 17 July - OMG!! AS I WAS TYPING THE ABOVE, THE NEWS JUST CAME IN THAT AT LEAST 3 COPS HAVE BEEN KILLED!! - Baton Rouge, LA
We're in a state of war!

All of this has taken place in less than three weeks! The world, as a whole, has gone flat out nuts! Worse than that, here in the US we now appear to have a two-tier terrorist threat developing: radical Islamist/Jihadists and cop-killers. And I see absolutely no way to stop either because they are, for the most part, single individuals who themselves are psychological soft targets: they are sick in the head and easily influenced by inflammatory rhetoric. How do you root out some guy who is sitting in his bedroom watching ISIS videos or hyper-dramatic news coverage of events that play to their mental disabilities? You can’t. And these kinds of individuals are not necessarily of any specific religion, sex or race. Mental instability is universal and easy to tilt in a bad direction. I just hope this isn't an organized effort. That will change the equation entirely. Also, I’m afraid the French terror truck has set an example for copy cats everywhere making mass murder easy. About all we can do is be aware of our surroundings and be ready to act immediately.

I’m afraid we may be turning the corner into a new normal. bd

25 June 16 - Too Much News!
This week an absolute glut of news meant that too many little happenings were overshadowed by big ones. So, I’m going to mention a few that should have gotten more attention than they did and comment on big ones that got more attention than deserved (In my opinion).

And Then There Was One
One of the more important events that happened with little or no fanfare was the passing of Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, 94, of Missoula, MT. We are losing WWII vets at a frightening rate but the loses are generally judged against the total population of vets, not against a small, limited population. When Thatcher died, that left exactly one of his fellow Doolittle Raiders, Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, 100, to represent the 80 volunteers who, not even five months after Pearl Harbor, did the impossible: against overwhelming odds they let Japan know they were not as invincible as they thought they were. The boost to US morale was incalculable. Thatcher was engineer-gunner aboard Captain Ted Lawson’s airplane, the famous “Ruptured Duck.” Their story was told in Lawson’s book, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”, and later made into a movie. Surviving Raider, Dick Cole, was Doolittle’s co-pilot. All of the other supposedly momentous happenings of the past week pale beside Thatcher’s passing and what it says about the warrior generation that is disappearing before our eyes.

The Supreme Court Versus the President
For the umpteenth time, SCOTUS told POTUS, “No, that’s not within your power to do.” This time it was when they struck down his attempt to essentially legalize 5 million illegal aliens. That was a major loss to him and a major win for the Constitution. The President only has the powers which are given him by Congress in such situations and they didn’t.

What hasn’t been discussed much, however, is that a Congressional okay for limiting immigration does exist in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1182). The act specifically says that, if a given segment of immigrants/aliens poses a perceived threat to the US, the President can keep all aliens from a given region or with particular traits out with the stroke of a pen. That might come in handy. To read more: http://dailycaller.com/2015/12/08/host-obama-has-legal-power-to-suspend-muslim-immigration-if-he-wanted-to-video/#ixzz4Cba2X4hG

This Seems Like a Really Bad Idea
Apparently the Administration is getting ready to shift control over parts of the Internet to an international concern in which entities like Russia and China are major players. Go here for details. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/06/24/cruz-obama-proposal-puts-internet-freedom-in-hands-of-russia-china/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Firewire%20-%20HORIZON%206-25-16%20FINAL&utm_term=Firewire

Brexit
Let me get this straight: Britain was a major world player as a sovereign nation for hundreds of years before joining the European Union in 1973. However, her dropping out to again function as a sovereign nation means the sky is falling around the world. I’m certain I’m missing some of the finer points here but it appears to me that, after the initial shock wears off and all of the entanglements with the EU are sorted out, that things will return to pre-EU normal.

To me, the entire concept of the EU, in which an external, non-elected central governing agency can tell all of the member nations how to run their internal affairs is total BS. Who wants to give control of their country over to vague, mostly invisible “managers” who have no connection to that country. If for no other reason than immigration, Britain needs to re-establish its borders to get the invasion that’s in progress under control. This is true for all EU members, all of which are suffering horribly under the borderless, free immigration policies of the EU.

Gun Control Sit In – No Fly, No Buy and Due Process
When was the last time anyone saw the ACLU on the same side as the NRA? Like NEVER! But, that’s the case with the Congressional Sit-in. In what amounts to a petulant display of naiveté, members of Congress are sitting around thinking they’re carrying on Dr. King’s non-violent form of protest but aren’t even coming close. This is really silly!

First, let me say that with certain modification I’d agree that if a person is on a No Fly List or a Terror Watch List, they shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a weapon. The modification would include making sure the individual involved has due process available to him/her just as it is everywhere else in our law.

There is no due process connected with the lists. Which is unconstitutional under a number of Amendments. As those lists are now set up, an individual has limited recourse, should they find themselves on the list, and can’t even determine why they are on the list or who put them there. They won’t know the name of their accuser. Thousands of absolutely “normal” people have found themselves on those lists and then find that getting off of the list is damn difficult. Even worse, they aren’t notified when they’re put on the list. It pops up when they try to fly so they are stranded at an airport with no way to solve the situation. Zero!

Those sitting on the floor of Congress are pushing a concept that I don’t think they totally understand. Or, more likely, they don’t care. They just want guns kept out of people’s hands and the unintended consequences be damned.

This all needs more thought given to it before an elected official, all of whom supposedly deserve a certain amount of respect because of their position, makes a fool of themselves by camping on the Chamber’s floor.

Declaration of Independence
July Fourth, Independence Day, is just around the corner and I’m giving you a reading assignment in preparation for it. When was the last time you actually read the Declaration that the Fourth celebrates? If you’re like most of us, it might have been in high school. Or possibly never. We just know it exists. I hadn’t read the Declaration of Independence since a kid but did earlier this week and it was something of a shock. It is impossible to read it in this day and age and not put major portions of it in the context of modern times rather than colonial times. Read it: it’s where we came from and holds some truths about where we’re going.
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Did anyone notice I got all the way through this without mentioning Trump? Or Hillary? Refreshing, isn’t it? bd

19 June 16 - Orlando, ARs, Trump and our Future
A week ago today, unknown to me as I was writing Thinking Out Loud about aging airplanes, an incredible tragedy had happened in Orlando. I thought about writing about it but decided to give it a week to percolate to see where it went. And it is the Post-Orlando happenings that have me scared.

Tomorrow, 8 days after the events in Orlando, only a few days after the identities of all 49 deaths were known, the Senate is voting on banning AR-15’s. When was the last time the Senate did anything that fast? ANYTHING? That kind of knee-jerk speed seems to typifies things these days.

It is no exaggeration to say that all of those bodies hadn’t cooled to room temperature before the predicable sources started screaming for gun control. Much, much worse, they started pointing fingers at political entities who were said to have caused it with their Republican rhetoric and not a word was said about those who lost their lives. Or their families, loved ones, and friends. By Sunday night every possible news or opinion outlet had thoroughly trounced the Right and totally ignored the magnitude of the loss or the ISIS-linking words and texts sent out by the shooter. With his own words connecting him to Islamic radicalism, the Left was saying he was something he was not: a disenfranchised, mentally unstable, homophobic who should not have had a gun and it all somehow traces back to the Right. They are wrong. No one is to blame here except radical Islam.

First, I agree, he shouldn’t have had those guns. Especially after having been under suspicion by the FBI (TWICE!). To get the handgun, he had to pass an FBI background check but apparently the FBI background checks don’t interface with FBI Investigation data. Yes, I know they investigated him and found nothing wrong, BUT, they wouldn’t have been investigating him, if something wasn’t wonky enough to worry about arming him.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think background checks do need to be somehow cleaned up, but that’s a very slippery slope. Who for instance who decides someone is mentally incompetent? What is the definition of “security risk” and who defines the definition? Inasmuch as lots of normal people mistakenly wind up on no-fly lists and getting off the list can be a pain in the butt, is that a viable barrier to gun ownership? Initially, I’d say yes, but….


First, before addressing the whole AR-15 thing (incidentally, he apparently didn’t use an AR. Reportedly it was a Sig Sauer, much more expensive and functions differently but has the same look) I should point out that I personally own no ARs. I don’t like them. Just not my kind of weapon, although I do own some semi-automatic battle rifles. However, I guarantee that what is likely to come out of the whole the-gun-is-the-problem thought pattern are rules that pretty much parallel what California already has in place. The focus will be on semi-automatic weapons that feature detachable, box type magazines, which obviously can be expanded to any capacity. This effects a huge number of rifles and even makes the lowly Ruger 1022 .22 an “assault rifle.” The facts attached to the ‘90’s assault rifle ban show no decrease in crime, but when knee jerk political reactions are in play, when do facts matter?

The net result of draconian gun laws will be turning totally law abiding citizens into criminals because many, probably a majority, won’t obey the law. Look at Connecticut which totally banned ARs. Reportedly approximately 10% to 20% of the total thought to be in the state were turned in, sold or accounted for. So, a large cadre of citizens became criminals rather than comply. There are reportedly five million (!) ARs in the country. That’s about 1.5 for every 100 citizens (man, woman and child) or about one for every seven males between the ages of 20 and 75. That’s impressive as hell!

Howard Stern, who has never been thought of as a paragon of Conservative thinking said, “So your response to them using a gun to kill us is to take away our guns.” There’s some inescapable logic there that leads a discussion of the concept of Gun Free Zones. Go back and look at all of the mass shootings over the last few years and you’ll find that nearly all of them were in gun free zones. And why wouldn’t they be? If you’re a bad guy looking to cause deaths, you don’t want any competition. Even Florida, which has pretty decent and logical gun laws says that CCWs can’t carry in a place that serves alcohol. Which is logical on the surface. However, AZ lets CCWs carry in bars but they can’t drink and there have been no reports of problems. Approximately 3% of the total population of AZ has a CCW. If that same percentage holds true in Florida, there could have been at least nine people in the Orlando crowd that could have offered resistance to the shooter had it not been a gun free zone.

Gun Free Zones, along with all other gun control measures, are obeyed only by lawful citizens. Outlaws, nut cases and terrorists of all stripes not only ignore them, but champion them. Gun laws make it easier for bad guys to accomplish their evil deeds.

As for the concept of Radical Islamic Jihads and immigration: it’s really sad when you see the recommendations of leading law enforcement officers of the country (FBI, CIA, DHS, etc.) being totally ignored by the Administration. The experts have stated categorically that any refugee population is impossible to vet and will absolutely include a percentage of ISIS plants. ISIS has even said as much. What else do you need to know?

We’re going to have our hands full just with radicalized American citizens, like the Orlando shooter, without importing more terrorists who are trained for the purpose. For that reason, it is nothing short of amazing to see politicians point out Trump as being a racist because he’s proposing a temporary hold on accepting refugees from terrorist nations until we get our processes in place. Like he says, “Let’s wait until we know what the hell we’re doing.” A totally logical thought pattern that has caused him to catch an incredible amount of grief. Trump was not my first choice and I really wish he would talk less than he does, but there is so much logic in an immigration/refugee moratorium. Why are “they” resisting it?

It doesn’t take much imagination to see where we are headed: we are joining the rest of the world in which terrorist attacks are just a fact of life because we're importing them, our borders don't exist, and the Internet knows no obstacles. Whether we want to or not, we're going to have to develop a certain amount of “wild west” mentality and conduct our lives accordingly. The Boy Scouts were right when they adapted “Be Prepared” as their motto. We should do the same. bd

12 June 16 - Airplanes Can Make us Feel Old
I’m about to make everyone reading this feel old. Some more than others. This is because I just put together an issue of Flight Journal and part of it is a salute to the aircraft and pilots who presently make up our Armed Forces. Finished, I suddenly realized how so much stuff I think of as new definitely isn’t. So, neither am I.

First, before I give you the answers, I want every av-guy to guess (no cheating and looking them up) how old the aircraft on the list below of current USAF/USN combat aircraft are. Grab a pencil and scribble them down. I’m doing them alphabetically, not by age.
-A-10 Thunderbolt II
-B-1 Lancer
-B-2 Spirit
-B-52 Stratofort
-F-15 Eagle
-F-16 Viper (or Falcon, your call)
-F-18 Hornet
-F-22 Raptor

If you’re even remotely like the rest of us, you’ll get in the right decade on one or two (B-52 probably) but that’s about as close as you’ll get. Because of Flight Journal, I spend a large portion of every day messing around with aircraft history and, when I compiled the foregoing list, I wasn’t even close on anything but the Buff (B-52). And I suddenly felt very old because aircraft I have always thought of as being new, or at least newish, aren’t.

Here are the ages since their first flight.
-A-10 Thunderbolt II – 44 years
-B-1 Lancer – 42 years
-B-2 Spirit – 27 years (that’s un-frigging real!)
-B-52 Stratofort – 64 years (every crew member is now younger than their airplane and they expect at least another 20 years out of it!!)
-F-15 Eagle – 44 years (I wasn’t even close!)
-F-16 Viper (or Falcon, your call) – 42 years (Ditto)
-F-18 Hornet -38 years (super Hornet is 21 years)
-F-22 Raptor – This will kill you – 19 years!! (How can that possibly be?!)

I don’t know about you, but I find some of those numbers, especially the newer aircraft, to be almost outlandish. The F-15 at 44 years?! Damn! And it’s still one of the very best. An F-16 at 42! The Hornet is such a new kid how can it be approaching middle age at 38 years? And I remember so clearly the awe-inspiring photos of the prototype F-22. Man, that was the razor edge of technology. I had no idea that was nearly 20 years ago. Double Damn!!

Think how many leading edge airplanes have come and gone in the meantime. I thought the F-117 Nighthawk had so much Star Wars technology in it that it would last forever. It was another of Lockheed’s super-secret projects that didn’t surface until actually operational. It has been gone for eight years (It lived 27 years). The F-111 Ardvaark was supposed to be all things to all services. It lasted 30 years but didn’t make much of a mark. Almost none of the Vietnam era designs are still in inventory.

Incidentally, the development period on almost every airplane listed ran 2-4 years from inception to first flight and another 2-4 years before going into service. The F-35 was more than a decade getting to its first flight in late 2006. Nine years later, although “they” say it’s operational, they also say it’ll be another two years before it can fire its guns because of software problems. Every month news comes out about this or that software or hardware problem is keeping it out of combat zones. It’s also by any measure, the most expensive aircraft acquisition the US has ever experienced. And it doesn’t work!

Then there’s the hyper old -52 that is still the answer to serious bombing and the F-15 and F-16 that still carry on the dual roles of ground attack and air superiority. Same thing for the Hornet. The A-10, of course, may be ugly, but it’s the hammer that consistently hits the ground support role nail right on the head. And “they” say the F-35, which, according to Warisboring.com, costs between $148 and $337 million (USN F-35C) is going to take over the role of the old A-10 Hawg. What are “they” smoking?! Besides the fact that the F-35 doesn’t work and isn’t going to work anytime in the near future, it would be cheaper to drop huge bails of hundred dollar bills on the bad guys with dating service 800 phone numbers attached. Try to introduce them to the concept of luxurious living and take them out of the fight rather than risk a single rifle bullet punching a hole in an onboard computer and downing the government’s shiniest new toy (and its pilot).

So, now that I have successfully depressed myself, I’m going to go bang on The Roadster and put a little logic back into my life. bd

29 May 16 - The Future is Now
Lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by the overall progression of everything. Be it time, age, deadlines, etc. But, the blinding acceleration of technology is especially overwhelming and, even though I’m as tech-savvy as most gray dogs ever get, it is threatening my peace of mind. It appears, however, that I’m not alone in that.

What follows is not mine. It has been circulating around the Internet for the last couple of weeks and does an excellent job of summarizing the overall effect of technological advance. It’s longer than the usual Thinking Out Loud, but I think it is all necessary. Unfortunately, it’s just a little scary. Especially for coming generations.

I’d like to credit this to someone, but have not been able to track down the author. However, I’m familiar with many of his points, so I know most of it is valid. If anyone knows where this came from, let me know so I can attribute it.

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.

What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next ten years - and most people don't see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that three years later you would never take pictures on paper film again?

Digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but the digital concept followed Moore's Law that basically says that data density in computer stuff will double every 18 months. So, as with all exponential technologies, the digital camera was a disappointment for a long time, before it became far superior and became mainstream in only a few short years. The same thing is now happening with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs, and everything that involves any kind of technology. Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age.

Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.
For instance, Uber is just a software tool, they don't own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don't own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers are becoming exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. In the US, young lawyers already have problems getting jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more-or-less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain. Watson already allows nurses to diagnose cancer, four times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don't want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver's license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.
(BD NOTE: I think this will only apply to large cities.)

Some car companies might go bankrupt. Traditional car companies will try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; they are completely terrified of Tesla.

Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Real estate will change, because, if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.
Electric cars will become mainstream by 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all cars will be electric.
(BD doubts that)

Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now begin to see see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025.
(BD: optimistic time frame?)

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don't have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.

Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There will be companies who will build a medical device (called the "Tricorder" from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medicine, nearly for free.

3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past.

At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they already 3D printed a complete 6-story office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that's being produced will be 3D printed.
(BD: he has underestimated here. 3D is already making major metal components like five-foot pipeline valves).

Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: "In the future, do you think we will have that?" and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner? If it doesn't work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.

Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time.
(BD: in other words unemployment is going to be a problem).

Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all day on their fields. Aeroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish-produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don't need that space anymore. There are several startups who will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as "alternative protein source" (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

There is an app called "moodies" which can already tell in which mood you are in. By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where its results are being displayed when the candidates are talking.

Bitcoin will become mainstream this year and might even become the default reserve currency.

Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it's 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than one-year increase per year. So we all might live for a long long time, probably way more than 100.
(BD: with our current limited medical and social services, a slow die-off would be a disaster).

Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone has the same access to world class education. Every child can use Khan Academy for everything a child learns at school in First World countries. We have already released our software in Indonesia and will release it in Arabic, Swahili and Chinese this summer, because I see an enormous potential. We will give the English app for free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half a year.

For more info about the future see: http://thefutureishere.economist.com/

So, what’s the takeaway from all of this? I read it as the following: While there are bound to be tons of as-yet-unidentified jobs, if you seriously want your kids to have a job in the future, tell them to become a plumber or something similar. Many trade skills will never be automated and will always generate good income. Plus, you don’t have to wear a tie to work! bd

15 May 16 - Rambling: Life and the Art of Luck
Yesterday I had a really interesting and fun lunch with a couple of guys who were part of making history. One retired as a Rear Admiral the other as a USN Captain and both were fighter pilots beginning in 1963 right through Vietnam and all of the major fracases for the next 25 years. One lead the Blue Angels (among other things), the other was a test pilot and CO at Top Gun, and they covered everything in between.

Since they’d both known each other since flight training, they flew formation on each other’s comments weaving an excited, non-stop peek into a community that the rest of us can only view from afar.

It’s a fact, that just like none of us will ever have meaningful conversations with a vet who has experienced hard combat, if you’ve never been a fighter pilot, you can’t actually be part of their conversations either. They lived in a world we can’t truly understand, no matter how many times we watch Maverick and Goose play the roles. And a major part of their souls still lives in that world, regardless of how many years may have elapsed since their last military flight. Just as there is no such thing as an ex-Marine, a fighter pilot will be a fighter pilot until the first shovel full of dirt hits him in the face. And I’m jealous!

Right out of high school, I had a USN college scholarship (I was a USMC option heading for flight training), but lost it because I’m color blind. This essentially took me out of any military flying program. The only one open would have been as a Warrant Officer flying choppers, but by this time it was 1965 and it was obvious this wouldn’t have been what I wanted in terms of flying. Since that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived a dream life, when it comes to aviation, so I don’t actually regret not living out my fighter pilot fantasies, even though they had been a dream since a toddler. Still, there are times when I think it would have been soul-satisfying to be part of that community. However, as I see how I developed both as a pilot and as an individual, I wouldn’t have faired well in the military.

I most definitely don’t see myself as an individualist, rugged or otherwise. However, looking back at my track record during the last nearly half a century (W-2 income for only two years), it’s obvious I don’t function well within the restrictions of an organized existence. I don’t totally understand why and can’t explain it any more concisely than that. It’s not that I don’t play well with others. I do. But, somehow I feel better doing my own thing. Which is both limiting as well as totally open ended. It means zero security while at the same time offers unlimited opportunity to expand at your own rate. And I know I’m not alone in this thought pattern. A lot of folks, without consciously thinking about it, feel the same way. Among other things, this is what gives rise to small businesses.

I’ve probably talked about this before, but I would love to see a study done on self-employed people to see how many were raised in households where the parents were also self-employed. That was the way I was brought up and none of the four Davisson kids went out and got jobs. They all did their own thing. Why?

I theorize that, when your adolescence is built around seeing mom and dad working for themselves, several basic concepts alter your view of life. The most important one is the concept of “security.” Our view of security isn’t built around a job guaranteeing an income. In our view, security hinges on our ability and willingness to hustle our butts off because we know the next dollar is going to come in the door only if we get out there and look for it. There is no such thing as “free” time. Especially, if you’re doing “piece work,” e.g. a carpenter, electrician, etc. A free-lance anything means, if you’re not working, you’re not making money. So, you’re very jealous of your time.

The risk of failure, when working for yourself, is high and is always dogging you. You know that risk can only be mitigated by hustle. However, when you’re brought up in that environment, this is the norm. The concept of a regular paycheck is the anomaly. And this is the basis for those who start any business, large or small.

The foregoing is why our President pissed off so many people last week, when he made such a big deal out of the role luck plays in successful business enterprises. His tone (“…this is one of my pet peeves.”) clearly said that if it hadn’t been for luck, none of you would have succeeded. None of you. In truth, to a certain extent, he is right. But, there is luck and then there is luck.

So much of life is built around being at the right place at the right time, but this ignores some basic facts. Most important of those is that you can easily be in the right place at the right time (luck), but, if you don’t have the right skills, the right attitude, the right product, the right amount of hustle, that opportunity is going to sail right past you because you weren’t capable of capitalizing on it.

To very large extent, we manufacture our own luck by developing our skills and expanding our capabilities so we are always ready to take advantage of the right opportunity, when we stumble across it. Or, more likely, when we look at a market, we realize what it needs, and configure our skills to supply that need at a profit. Whether we’re a one-man show, like I am, or a gigantic corporation, the basic concepts are always the same and they always carry the same risk of failure: read a market and supply a need. Or, in the rare cases like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc, through a flash of genius, coupled with unreal hustle and market savvy, create your own market through innovation.

Whatever it is that spurs people to strike out on their own and create their own luck, we owe many aspects of the life we live to them and their willingness to take on risk. And that, Mr. President, is what successful business are based on. bd

7 May 16 - It's Trump, Deal With it!
This past week has been borderline silly: you can’t turn on TV, talk to a friend, or walk down the street without hearing Trump being bandied about. Some act as if any minute the Earth is going to open up and swallow us all. I’ve never seen this much panic in so many flavors, from so many people I’ve respected in such a short time. If it weren’t so serious, it would be hilarious.

I want to get out of here and finish fabricating the windshield wiper mount for The Roadster (a man has to have his priorities), so what follows is just a random collection of observations on the silliness. Then I’m going to give/direct you to some analysis from a couple of good sources that give different views on the subject. Also, just for the record, I would have preferred Cruz, but it's not, so I'm behind Trump, as all Conservatives should be because, if nothing else, he's not Hillary.

More than anything else, I think everyone concerned needs to stand back and give the situation time to breathe and settle down. Right now, we have absolutely zero idea what Trump is going to do during the campaign and how he is going to mature. Or not. He’s unpredictable and that may be his most valuable asset as a President. In addition, the fact that the RNC hates his guts is a plus. We need something new and we wouldn’t get it if the RNC had its way.

Incidentally, where do people like Speaker-of-the-House Ryan, get off saying they can't support Trump? What they are saying is that "We don't care what the voters want, we don't agree with them." If that's not the definition of "Political Elite" I don't know what is. The insiders have drifted so far from doing what they were elected for that the entire election process means nothing, which seems to be the DC way these days. Hearing Obama and Clinton both swear they are going to get rid of guns, for instance, is them perverting the Republic to a monarchy. It's not their job to make laws or interpret the Constitution. It's their job to enforce it.

As far as Trump goes, Burt Rutan, clearly the world’s most innovative aircraft designer, ALWAYS starts with a clean sheet of paper when he approaches a problem. Rather than coming at it in an evolutionary, what-did-we-do-before, manner, he looks at the facts and the goals and works out ways to make them fit. Coming out of a business background, I’m thinking Trump will do a similar thing and, like Burt, he’ll surround himself with the best and brightest, rather than those who are clones of himself. He’s going to “captain" a team, not “be” the team, which has been Washington's ’s trademark. That’s a business-like approach and it’s about time we run the government in a business-like manner rather than as a political fiefdom.

And speaking of Burt, what follows is an e-mail he forwarded that came from Brent Regan, whom he considers to be one of the smartest people he knows. Coming from Burt Rutan, clearly one of the, if not THE, smartest person I’ve ever met, that is high praise. I’m pasting the e-mail below. Then, below that you’ll see a link to one of the better, new perspectives I’ve read.

Brent Regan wrote:
Friends keep asking my thoughts about Trump. Here they are:

I like Ted Cruz, and I also like Trump, but for completely different reasons. In my experience, as a manager, I have found that if you look for a person’s talents and then find a way to apply them, then success will be close at hand. Cruz and Trump have completely different skill sets but they are both very good at what they do.

I had arrived at the conclusion that Trump would win the nomination back in December because I could see Trump’s skill set and how he was applying it to the task. My experience in business allowed me to recognize Trump’s marketing and negotiation techniques, which caused me to read “The Art of the Deal” and conclude that Trump was approaching the problem in a way that is never (rarely) done in politics. As a consequence, his opponents have no effective defense. His victory was assured before the battle was fought. Very Sun Tzu!

I told my close friends that Cruz was who I wanted to win but Trump was who I thought would win based on a reasoned analysis of the situation. First you must understand that, as Scott Adams points out, reason is what we think we use to make decisions but emotion is what we actually use most of the time.

Now, here is where I make some people angry: if you are in the “never Trump” camp you have made that decision based on emotion and not reason. You may wrap it in “reason” and call it “principled” but what you are saying is that your mind is made up and there is NOTHING, no new information, which would cause you to reconsider. This is, by definition, irrational, which is the inability to make a rational choice based on all information. It is especially egregious when you consider that the information you DO have is deeply flawed and incomplete: it has been carefully filtered by the media for optimal shock value.

If you watched a modern interpretative dance without music or sound, you may well conclude the dancer was having some kind of seizure and perhaps suffering some pain or disease to cause such unnatural motions. The truth would be hidden because you lacked all the information. Because Trump was being viewed through a distorted political “lens” HIS actions were equally incomprehensible. In the struggle to explain the situation, many offered ridiculous comparisons; He is Hitler, he is working for Hillary, he’s a bigot, and he hates women, on and on. This was fueled by the media that feeds on controversy, while Trump used this need to serve his own purposes. He OWNED Fox news. Even Meghan Kelly got a Trump haircut.

Hillary doesn’t stand a chance against Trump because Trump will hollow out all the moderate democrats and men. It isn’t going to be pretty to us conservatives but there is a big blue pile of democrat electoral votes and Trump is going after them so gird your loins, it’s going to be a tough ride.

The good news is that Trump is the asteroid that we need to kill the political dinosaurs and the smart, successful, productive conservatives will be able to fill the void. It is a long game but it has a happy ending.

A Cruz victory would be a happy beginning but the consequences of eight years of BO would ultimately come crashing down on “THE CONSERVATIVE”, forever stigmatizing conservativism as the thing we were doing when the crash happened. I cannot imagine the media, the liberals and the establishment not scapegoating conservatives. Better to have Trump in the breach when the wave hits.

Will Trump make a good president? It’s impossible to say with certainty. I do think it is highly likely that a Hillary or Bernie presidency would be VERY bad for our prosperity. Therefore, I’ll take my chances with the successful billionaire who is the product of using persuasion in the free market rather that a socialist who uses the lethal force of government and the power of the mob to coerce the people.

Finally, stop heaping all your expectations in one spot. Government is the product of our culture, not the other way around. A president can’t change the morality of a nation, nor should he. Our Republican government requires a moral people and THAT starts with you and me. We don’t get to offload that responsibility to some guy living in a white house.

Of course I could be wrong and, with new information, I could change my views.
Brent


Nicely said, Brent.

Now, click on the below for an unexpected point of view.

George Will vs Edmund Burke

30 April 16 - Sometimes Sleep Ain't Easy
This probably falls into the category of TMI: Too Much Information. But, I accidentally slept eight hours last night, I feel like crap and I feel like doing a little good natured bitching. Sorry!

First, the whole concept of eight hours of sleep being healthy was invented by someone with a different body clock than mine. I can’t do it. At six to six and a half hours, my body clock goes off and I can’t stay asleep no matter what. This morning I tried. And it didn’t work. In fact, all it gave me was two more not-quite-asleep, dozy hours punctuated with crazy dreams and a lot of time to reflect on sleep itself and the many details that often constitutes sleep. I doubt if my sleep is much different than anyone else’s. It’s just that I had two hours to reflect on it while in the throes of a worthless sort-of-sleep and it pissed me off so I want to vent.

It used to be sleep was easy. Lay down, close your eyes, open them and its time to start another day, all perky and ready to face the world. Actually, I think I just lied—I don’t think I ever slept eight hours. The only thing in my sleep patterns that has changed over my life is that, when I moved to AZ and was running a manufacturing facility that started work at 0530, I purposely reset my body clock to be on deck at 0500. This was a big deal because it goes against my natural patterns.

I once read a study that said we all have two energy peaks during the day (this is a little like bio-rhythms) during which we’re sharper and better at doing what we do. This is what determines whether we’re morning or night people. Examine how your days progress and I’m certain you’ll see that’s true. You’re more capable at some times than at others.

My peaks are very obvious, one at about 4:30 PM and another around 10 PM. For that reason, until I moved out here, I was always a night owl. I wouldn’t even try to do productive writing, for instance, until the late afternoon and the best stuff was done between 10 pm and midnight or 0100. But, I wouldn’t get up until 0700-0730. And when my feet hit the floor I was a borderline zombie.

Some of the above may have been influenced by the three years, while in college and graduate school, when I had so much crap to do (school, playing clubs, rebuilding 195 Cessnas, traveling to out of state gigs, etc.) that part of my routine was to stay up all night three times a week so I had three 48-hour days. I have no damn idea how I managed to both survive and graduate. It tires me out to think it.

Today, I play to the brain-energy peaks by trying to do most of my creative writing late in the day before and after dinner. I do the editing and planning early in the morning, when I seem to be better at mechanical stuff but creative juices aren’t flowing as well. Early, I can generally force a little trickle to come out (it’s now 0645) but it’s not the “good stuff.” Of course, at least two dual hops in the little red airplane punctuate the day and, when I fly four hops (two students), all bets are off because I’m so beat up by the end of the day my brain is nearly flat lined.

Anyway, this morning, when I was phony-sleeping and kept re-analyzing sleep (a totally counter-productive endeavor, while you’re trying to sleep) I came up with a list of things that affect the quality of my sleep and I’ll bet most would be on your sleep-list too. Maybe not.
- Peeing – If I drink a normal amount during the day, I pee once or twice, if I’m really buried in writing, I drink too much and may be up four times.
- Good Ideas – I try not to think, when I’m peeing because, if I get a good idea, it keeps me awake thinking about it.
- Sharing a Pillow – Sháhn-deen often has one end of my pillow, which is no problem until I roll over, which is often.
- Underwear Creep (TMI for sure) – why won’t it stay in one place?
- Cat with no Conscience – Meezer, who is a monster, thinks nothing of walking the full length of my body and plopping down on my chest in the middle of the night. In a weird way, I like that.
- Pillow-Specifics – I didn’t used to use a pillow, but now use a super thin one but sometimes like the one that’s a little thicker and I usually change my mind in the middle of the night.
- Position Changes – I can’t sleep on my back, which frustrates Meezer. Prefer sleeping on my left side (Sháhn-deen slide over) but sometimes roll to the right just for a change, then back to the left. End the night on my right so I can read the alarm clock.

Like I said at the beginning. Entire too much information. And entirely too much thought going into “sleep” which isn’t supposed to be that much work. Oh, well…at least sleep gives us something to do until we have to go back to work. bd

13 April 16 - Heirlooms and Kids
My son surprised me recently by saying he wanted something that he could visually connect with my life: my old Nikon 35mm cameras. I didn’t create the Nikons, as I have so many other DIY heirloom type things, but I sure used the hell out of them and I was unexpectedly happy to see he wanted them.

Historically, an assumed role of parenting has been to create wealth or assets that would be passed on to our kids as some sort of gift. Or as a remembrance. My parents left a few assets but nothing that would qualify as heirlooms to remember them by. Which I regret. The closest I come to something that connects me to my parents is my dad’s flannel lined denim jacket with a leather collar that I wear on cold days. I always picture him in that jacket toward the end of his life.

I’m the direct opposite of my parents: I have close to zero assets to leave my kids (they’re both financially very comfortable anyway and they are diametrically opposed to the way I dress…no hand-me-down jackets.), but I have spent a life time creating a truckload of stuff, large and small, some of which is of heirloom quality that you’d think kids would want displayed somewhere to remember dad/granddad by. That, however, is just not the case and it took me some thinking to figure out why and to agree with them.

Jennifer has dibs on the 1874 cavalry belt buckle I’ve worn daily for nearly 50 years. However, interestingly enough, Scott didn’t ask for the Nikons strictly because of the personal connection (just one body/lens combination shot over 200 national magazine covers and the other two chocked up another 100 covers or so). He has developed a serious interest in photography and, better yet, my grandson, Mason, is also delving into the subject in great depth. This couldn’t make me happier. Both, of course, are working with new digital cameras. However, it turns out that there is a retro movement among millennials in which film is being re-discovered as a medium and they are flocking to it. Just like vinyl records are now in come-back mode, my old (1969), and very battle-scarred, Nikon F’s are now an “in” thing. I never expected that they’d be seeing a second life 45 years after the fact.

This all raises questions about what exactly constitutes an heirloom. When I’m pushing wood or metal into a pleasing shape, be it a car, a rifle, a knife or whatever, I sometimes find an irritating little voice inside my head saying, “…why are you doing this? It’ll just wind up in a garage sale and you don’t have that many years left. So, is it worth it?” This is a very self-defeating way of thinking. Eventually, I looked in a mental mirror and realized I’m spending all these hours and dollars on what many might consider silly projects. However, I’m not doing them for someone else. I’m simply giving dimension to artifacts that exist only in my mind until I bring them to life and that effort pleasures me in ways only I can identify.

The whole heirloom question has been bobbing to my mental surface recently because the last six weeks, or so, has been another of those pressure cooker periods in which you can hardly find time to pee. So, none of my projects have moved forward. Which is frustrating. This is where the Internet becomes a form of comfort food: every couple of days I’ll order something specifically for those projects. Like a classic-looking checkered steel butt plate, or the little $4 shell plate holder to load a thoroughly obsolete caliber (38-55). If I take five minutes to do something like that, I feel as if I’m making baby step progress.

A few of those projects would come under some people’s definition of “heirloom”, but only if they are gun or car people. This includes artifacts like a Budd-built, single shot buffalo-type rifle (read Cobalt Blue: it’s a clone of the rifle found with Ivan-the-mummy). It uses wood from the tree where I hung my chain hoist, when building The Roadster as a teenager, and the 1897 rolling block action Marlene and I found on our three-hour, honeymoon-drive home from the wedding. Lots of circular connections. But, regardless of how hard I try to rationalize projects like this, since all I did is build them, I don’t think they qualify as hardcore heirlooms because I haven’t really used them. They haven’t actually lived with me. The Nikons have.

Over three decades, I spent thousands of hours peering through each of those old cameras and they became part of my being. Now that I think about it, that may be what makes something an heirloom: it is part of someone’s every day life. Just like my dad’s old jacket and the images I have of him wearing it, Scott probably has images of me with a Nikon slung from each shoulder and pockets bulging with film while walking the grounds at Oshkosh.

The final test of an heirloom is probably just that: the images it conjures up to those it is handed down to. On that score I’m glad he wants the cameras. They are a good connection between the two of us. Still…I wonder… if he listens closely enough, will they tell him some of the wondrous, crazy, happy, hair-raising things they recorded? Probably not. I guess those images are strictly mine. bd

27 Mar 16 - The App Generation is...All of us.
A minute ago I suddenly got a clear indication that I’ve been solidly sucked into the Cellphone App Generation: I unconsciously picked up my cell phone, rather than the remote control, and pointed it at the air conditioner to turn it on. I’m doomed. As we all probably are.

First, let me make several things abundantly clear: I think the most important inventions of mankind include the garage door opener and TV/Air conditioner remotes. Not long ago I couldn’t find the TV remote and actually got up and manually changed the channel. Can you believe that? It felt so Jurrasic! As if I’d stepped back through a time portal. But the cell phone phenomena, which we sometimes think of as a generational thing (teens instantly turning to the cells for gratification), has infected all of society. Whether this is a good or bad thing has yet to be determined. However, last week I left the house and five miles later realized I’d forgotten my phone. The sudden, undeniable feeling that I was adrift in the ocean out of sight of land, with no means of communication, forced me to turn around and get it. That’s when I knew I had a problem.

You know you’re hooked when you automatically say “thank you” to Siri when she answers a question. She floats around our unconscious mind as a spirit who leaps out of the bottle at our slightest command. And she’s saved my butt any number of times.

I was driving AZ to LA to meet my daughter at Disney Land and suddenly realized I’d missed my exit off of I-10. That is tantamount to vehicular suicide. I’m positive people have turned off LA freeways thinking they’d find their way back on and have never been seen again. They’re still out there aimlessly wandering around. I stayed on the freeway and, for the first time, brought up Siri and said “How do I get to Disney Land?” It must have been the plaintive sound of my voice that led her to immediately start giving me directions, “In two miles exit on…” Half an hour later I’m in the hotel parking lot. We’ve been close friends every since.

Then I discovered the App Store: is there anyone reading this who doesn’t bring up a weather app (I have two) a couple times a day? And My Radar? Forget it! I live by it! Fore Flight? An absolute necessity for some. But it is the ability to put websites and such on our home screen that has been my undoing in so many areas by giving me unlimited access to far too many sites that sell stuff. I bought a pre-war Mauser while sitting in the lounge area waiting for an X-ray. I can’t guess how much stuff I’ve bought on eBay while on the john (yeah I know, too much information, but time is too valuable to waste). Or, if not spending money, I find myself unconsciously looking up stuff like the muzzle energy of a .44 Special out of a 16-inch barrel (that nags at you, doesn’t it?) or figuring out how far it is from Santa Fe to Phoenix or anything else that I’m thinking about.

Am I the only one who will be watching TV and something crosses our mind prompting us to ask Siri important questions? Things like, “How old is Jennifer Lopez?” (a good lookin’ 46) or “How tall is Tom Cruise?” (a shorter-than-expected 5’7”).

In truth, cell phones have become extensions of our computer. In some cases, because I have so many important websites resident on the phone’s home screen, I don’t bother looking up stuff on the computer. I go directly to my phone. I don’t, however, think smart phones are as good as the old flip phones as pure telephones. The old flip phones (the Motorola Razor was my favorite) were tiny and all you had to do is flip them open to answer. No touching buttons or swiping screens, which is tough, when driving. Also, dialing favorite numbers back in the day just meant punching a button a specific number of times. And it was an actual button that clicked so you could do it without even looking at the phone. Of course, texting on them sucked!

To tell you how far we’ve come in technology, you and I are talking about the pros and cons of devices that 20 years ago would have been looked at as pure magic. We used to think the Motorola “Brick” was amazing! Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect “amazing” and the manufactures are engaging in a technology war vying for our technology dollars. So, obsolescence is to be expected. And hated. My old 4GS iPhone is dying so I begrudgingly bought a new 6 (the “small” one, which isn’t small). I don’t even have it on line and just heard that Apple has done an overhaul on the old 5, which is smaller and more convenient. If I wasn’t almost done with making the new leather holster for the 6, I would try to trade it in.

Yeah, I know I’ll acclimate. We always do. But it irritates the hell out of me that technology is leading us around by the nose. On the other hand, how would we live without Siri? I don't want to even think about it. bd

20 Mar 16 - Reality and New Age Politics Suck
An amazing thing happened to me a couple weeks ago: I suddenly realized that the miles are piling up and my body was telling me that, like it or not, age may be creeping up on me. Then I watched the political nomination coverage and realized that alone could make me feel old. And more than a little depressed. And angry. And confused.

Actually, my body wasn’t telling me that I was getting old. It was telling me that I’m not a Honda: I won’t run forever. Not even with diligent oil changes. Parts are starting feel the miles and may need a little tending to. The fire running from my neck through my shoulder into my hand was traced to four seriously deteriorated vertebrae in my neck. I have chosen to ignore the pain and learn to handle it. However, the experience has given me a huge appreciation for those millions of people who have really serious problems and really serious pain. I’ve been so lucky for so long, this amounts to having a hang-nail in the big scheme of things.

I don’t know why the health thing is such a new realization for me, especially considering that when I’m watching the GOP circus, I’m thinking back to the first time I voted, which was a helluva long time ago. I was young and apparently a Democrat at the time as I voted for Kennedy (given his stances, he’d be a Republican today). The year was 1960 and I’m not kidding when I say that I didn’t actually know the difference between a Republican and a Democrat until early 2008 when the sh*t started hitting the political fan. I now DEFINITELY know how their platforms differ. But that’s only in theory. In reality I have a hard telling them apart. For instance, it’s next to impossible to believe the GOP has a super majority in Congress because they sure haven’t acted like it.

I find the overall political situation wildly unbelievable. Let’s run down a greatly simplified list of what we’re looking at.
-We have a billionaire as the GOP front runner and is ahead by a mile. Why? He has insulted everyone in sight and not in a skillful manner. If he were one of his follower’s children they’d have him standing in the corner for talking so much trash about so many people. The words “decorum” and “Presidential” mean nothing to him.
-The crowd following him have near-messianic belief in him. “Worship” is a word that comes to mind and that is precisely how our current administration came into power. That scares me.
-The reigning GOP elite hate him. HATE HIM!
-The second place contender, Cruz, scares the bejeebers out of the GOP Establishment because he can’t be controlled. They hate him worse than they hate Trump.
-The first and second slots comprise probably 75% of the votes cast.
-The GOP Insiders are reported to be figuring a way to get rid of both via nomination maneuvering at the Convention. In other words, they are reported to be picking someone who the political leaders are comfortable with but The People haven’t voted for. This is dangerous! Probably politically suicidal.

Here are the options we appear to be facing (and remember that I’m for Cruz, not Trump):

1. The powers-that-be rule that Trump doesn’t have enough electoral votes so they trump up (odd play on words) another candidate and run him. So, the now disenfranchised high-profile Trump supporters say “screw you” and don’t show up. Hillary wins.

2. The “establishment” is far more afraid of a Cruz presidency than one run by Trump, so they begrudgingly run Trump. Now the bazillion or so GOP voters who hate Trumps guts (and there are plenty), don’t show up. Hillary wins.

3. Both Trump and Cruz are backed by voters who hate the DC status quo, so, if the GOP runs neither of them, their supporters all say “screw everyone in sight” and they don’t show up. Hillary wins.

The whole thing shows the incredible rage of the conservative voter but the chances that the GOP will screw those very voters is about 90%. They’d rather live with Billary than someone in their own party who threatens to upset their highly lucrative applecart.

Confucius, or some one, said something to the effect of “The goal of those in power is to stay in power,” and therein lies the problem. It has been this way all the way back to when we were living in caves, but at least in those days they didn’t have social media to fan the flames.

BTW-wanna see flames being fanned? Follow some of Trump’s Twitter threads. I just don’t understand him. While I think he really does have the potential for turning the Nation around, it seems as if he can’t stop himself from insulting people just because he can. Usually there is no reason for the jab. This is arrogant and mean spirited and I guarantee is turning a lot of people against him who would otherwise support him. I’m one of those.

And then there is the liberal competition, which is almost comedic:
-First, a self-avowed socialist is running who promises his voters the entire store. Never mind that they don’t have the foggiest about where money comes from, they idolize him. But, who ever thought we’d see the Clinton Machine being seriously challenged by an ancient, borderline Communist?
-Second, the Dem leader is a hyper-left extension of the current Administration, who undoubtedly should be headed for jail but probably won’t be. Even if indicted, tried and found guilty, she’ll be pardoned and none of this will deter her supporters. It’ll be as if it didn’t happen. Totally insane!

And what of the irony of the Left saying Republicans are just a bunch of old white men when the original GOP slate included two Hispanics, a black man, an Indian and a woman. Then the Left fields two ancient whiter-than-white candidates both of whom are in their seventies, one of which, if elected would be the oldest to ever be sworn into office.

Me? I’ll vote for whomever isn’t Hillary/Bernie. It’s no wonder my joints (and head) hurt! They feel a bad moon a’risin’. bd

12 Mar 16 - I HATE FRIGGING COMPUTERS !!!
I'm lucky I'm not typing this in a jail cell where I'd be serving time for "computercide." I just went through the agony of upgrading computers and, to show you how well that worked, I'm typing this on my old one. I came within inches of putting a 9mm through the new one.

What follows is incredibly boring, but I need to vent! This has been too much!

I've been six weeks wrestling with the new one which wouldn't let me get into Airbum.com to up date it. Or print my shipping labels. Or my letterhead. Or any of a couple dozen other daily chores I have to attend to. Finally, we dragged out my old computer and got it working so I could get myself working.
And this wasn't cheap!

If anyone is thinking about buying one of the new hotdog Apple MacPros, do so with this warning: displaying the arrogance only a gigantic company can afford, their new operating system categorically refuses to recognize many, many slightly older softwares. I just counted: I have 31 different softwares installed. It won't let me use just short of half of them. This has been a disaster!!

The chonology of events is as follows:
- Was advised my five year old MacPro was going to be hoplessly out of date by the end of the year. Plus, the start up disk (1 Tb, that's TERRABYTES, which I thought was huge) was getting over loaded and didn't want to start. I needed a bigger start up disk: already had about 7 TB for storage.
- Bought a new MacPro (about the size and shape of a small flower pot. Very stylish, but...). $3000!!!!
- Started to hook it up and realized its start up disk was only 256 Gb! WTF?!
- Back to store, they can't sell the upgrade in the store so I had to order it online while standing in the store: $4000!!! (I was having to borrow money to do this, but too far in to quit...DAMN!)
- Hire my friend who is a high end computer tech to hook it up. Takes two days! My old computer had 6 Tb of data to be transferred. Took 8 hours!
- Instantly find that my most-used software is now trash.
- Tech is back at least six times now. Total bill is over $700 and still not working.
- Tried to update website software so I could keep up with Airbum.com. Updating required inserting the disk I originally loaded it from. Problem: MacPros no longer have a CD drive.
- Bought external CD drive and installed. $100
- Tried to insert CD but MacPro refused it because it no longer recognizes those formats.
-Now have to get on phone with Dreamweaver web folks and do upgrade by hand while on phone.
- Solution: set the old system up on a separate desk and use it for tasks the MacPro won't let me do. So, approximately $5,000 (which I didn't have) later, I'm still on my old computer.

Excuse me, while I go load a magazine with hollow points! Damn!

23 Jan 16 - Y2K Revisited.
This is not the blog I started out to write. However, as I typed “23 Jan 2016” the thought went through my mind, “Can it possibly be 16 years since Y2K and we thought our world was going to end the second that the new millennium began?” That turned out to be a silly fear but so much has changed since then that it almost feels as if we did reset the clock on our lives at that time.

Remember how crazy folks got as Dec 31, 1999 came? The survivalists moved out into the boondocks to get away from the cities. Many in the general population were convinced civilization was going to degrade into anarchy and total pandemonium. Closets were filled with Spam and cans of anything that looked edible. Today, most are still in those closets, which is probably a good place for Spam. We thought that any mechanism or software that included a clock, from our stoves to our computers, were going to simply stop working. Worse, electricity would stop flowing because the power plant computers would go crazy at the stroke of midnight. Airliners would, if not fall out of the sky, no longer be able to find their way to airports, and every car with a memory chip of any kind on board would coast to the side of the road, silent for eternity. But, not a single thing happened. Nothing. To a certain degree, some of us were a little disappointed. Much adieu about nothing is always a let down. However, 21 months later, some of what we expected of Y2K came true on 9/11. That’s when the new millennium actually began.

The ups, downs and changes since then have been monumental. Even to those of us who came of age in the 50’s and the supposedly nutzo 60’s, the last 16 years has been a sometimes confusing kaleidoscope of changes, some good, some bad. In fact, some of the bad changes have had good effects hidden within them. Terrorism is a classic example of that.

We tend to see 9/11 as the horribly negative event that it was, one that has cut a swath through our world as no other has. It literally changed our way of life. However, at the same time, it birthed an incredible number of industries and spurred others to new heights.

The security industry has gone absolutely bonkers and there’s no way of knowing how many jobs that has created. Entire industries have popped up to supply a dizzying variety of security equipment, from house systems that work off our cell phones to the big see-you-naked systems at the airport. Unfortunately, many of the jobs are at tax payer expense. On the one hand a lot of people have jobs providing for our security. On the other hand, TSA and its ilk have proven to as much of a hindrance as a help. However, even there, there’s a silver lining.

Since 9/11, in response to the combination of terrorism and body cavity searches, the corporate aircraft industry has literally exploded with new private jet designs hitting the market place on almost a monthly basis. They range from tiny little 6-place birds (VLJs-Very Light Jets) up to monsters like the Grumman GVI and the Global Express, which are literally private airliners. And Grumman is actually working on a supersonic private jet! On top of that, the fractional ownership concept in which a company or individual drops a chunk of change on a management company, essentially buying part of a jet but having access to all of those managed by that company, has become HUGE!

To put this in context, NetJets one of the many players in that market, has 400 jets, 3000 pilots and reportedly has a couple dozen Global Expresses on order, which is mind boggling. All a person has to do is call a phone number and NetJet’s service folks jump on their computers and find a jet in your general vicinity that is free to take you where you want to go at the time you want to go. Bin Ladin, Al Qaeda and the US Government can be credited with this huge growth. Between terrorists and the TSA, airline travel has become so difficult that a monied market segment spawned the development of a parallel transportation industry that solves the question of security and lets those with the money move freely about the country. The employment in that industry is strong and getting stronger. Plus, think of all the employment that’s attached to building all those airplanes and supplying the support services.

For me the most disturbing trend since the initial outburst of patriotism right after 9/11 is what appears to be a form of “anti-patriotism” and the incredible divisiveness through-out the country that accompanies it. If you’re seen displaying an American flag in any way or form, it automatically puts you in a specific class politically and socially. You’re not only right of center but are far right of center out into the scary fringe. It appears that Democrats don’t wave flags. I’m sure a few do, but I’m certainly not aware of it. And I don’t know why. The left should be as much American as the right are, but they don’t seem to want to show it. I could be wrong about this, and I hope I am, but someone is going to have to show me otherwise.

I, also never thought in a million years that I’d see such a strong push to eliminate a segment of our history from public view. I’m talking about the gray half of the Civil War. It took less than 30 days for the flags to come down, the heroes to be disinterred, street names to be changed, and monuments to be moved. In terms of eliminating history that the ruling political class disagrees with, that has been a move ISIS couldn’t have done better themselves.

Hmmmm…if this is what millenniums bring about, I’m glad I won’t see the next one. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be fun to see what the world looks like in another 1000 years. Either good or bad, I doubt if we’d recognize it. bd


10 Jan 16 - My Kid's Latest Homework Assignment is Finished
Alright, this is a dad boasting about his kid, so you can hit “delete” if you want. Or, a better idea would be to go see her latest project, the movie “Revenant”, with Leo DiCaprio.

For those who I haven’t already beat over the head with what my daughter does for a living, I’m doing it now: she co-manages a number of names including DiCaprio, but also runs his production company, Appian Way. In other words, she makes movies. Big ones. And a few little ones. Remember last year’s Wolf of Wall Street? If it has Leo as a producer or Appian Way in the credits as the production house, that’s her at work.

We saw Revenant a few hours ago and in a marvelous show of self-restraint, when they rolled the credits at the end and there was “Jennifer Davisson” in great big letters as an Executive Producer, I did not stand up and scream hysterically “That’s my baby!” I just said it loudly (kidding). But, the temptation was almost overwhelming.

The word “revenant” is of French derivation and essentially means “one who has returned”, which is the central theme of the tale. If there is one thing that is sad about the movie production it is that very, very few know that the movie is more than just a little based on the tale of Hugh Glass, an 1820’s fur trapper, explorer and guide in the Montana/Dakota/Platte region of western Nebraska. The incredible nature of the truth, which they portrayed so well on the screen, seems almost impossible to be real, but “almost” is the operative word, because Hugh Glass actually did it. If viewers knew that going in, the movie would have so much more credibility. However, as it is, it really doesn’t need it.

Glass was picked up and thrown around by a grizzly that severely mauled him so his injuries were many but included a broken leg, bite marks everywhere and many claw marks in his back that laid his rib cage bare. The fur trapping party he was with figured he was going to die, so they left two of their party with him to bury him, when he finally checked out. However, the two, which supposedly included soon-to-be legendary frontiersman Jim Bridger (this is disputed by some Bridger fans), grabbed his rifle and all his supplies and took off after the main party leaving him to die. Which he didn’t. In fact, being left with absolutely nothing and severely injured, he still crawled, limped, floated 200 miles through the wilderness to an Army fort over a six week period, which took him well into winter. Eventually he faced down the two that abandoned him but I won’t spoil anything here by giving you the facts. However, the movie stayed closer to them than they usually do.

I’m several steps closer to this tale than just having a movie mogul daughter because one of the pieces of literature I was expected to read while in high school was “The Song of Hugh Glass” a longish poem about the incident. It was written in 1915 by an uncle of one of my best high school friends and in the ‘50’s was still considered high literature, probably because the author was from Nebraska. So, it was fun to have my daughter involved in the project and even more fun to see the movie, although—viewer be forewarned—this is not a movie you go to for yuks. It’s serious in every sense of the word. In fact, you won’t see a single smile anywhere in it. It’s intense from beginning to end with zero let up, which is part of its magic.

Maybe it was my knowledge of Hugh Glass as a teenager that has always made me so enthusiastic about the time period and the mountain man culture this movie epitomizes. In fact, the two books that had the absolutely strongest effect on me as a teenager were “Two Hands and a Knife”, about an 18-year-old getting stranded in the Canadian wilderness and his survival (fiction) and the classic “The Long Rifle” by Stewart Edward White (1933 or so) which dealt entirely with the mountain fur trade culture (also fiction).

Besides being close to the real deal, the tone and detail of the movie is super true to the period, which was no-sh*t frontier adventure at its crude, threatening best. The West was still being explored, Indians were still 100% in control and, when you were out there trapping beavers for the idiot high-rollers to wear as hats in NYC, you were absolutely on your own. To get there, you went to the ends of the known Earth and keep on going for a long, long while. It’s no stretch to say it would be the equivalent of a private venture to the moon.

Survival in every sense of the word was the name of the game and everything in the environment was trying to kill you (and probably eat you afterwards) and the movie gets that truth across in gut wrenching detail. DiCaprio is known for his “pretty” roles but this one is anything but pretty. In fact, it’s easy to forget who is playing the role because it is so incredibly gritty. It’s a dark movie, but in a bright sort of way, if that makes any sense.

It’s a good thing the story and the character development makes you forget it’s a movie because you’re so tied up in the action that you loose sight of the awful agony DiCaprio and the other actors went through during the filming. Stuff like plunging (repeatedly) into icy water, always flopping around in snow, etc., etc. There’s a great interview with DiCaprio in Wired magazine this month and it shows how difficult and physically exhausting movie making can be. It’s a real eye opener.

The blackpowder/muzzle loader shooters will love pointing out some basic misunderstandings about how a flintlock rifle works, but I’m pretty certain that I’m the only one in the entire theater that noticed them. Hey, no one is perfect but this one came close. For instance, I was impressed that during a fight, the Bowie-type knife that was used was true to form for the period and culture: rather than being finely finished and threatening, it was roughly hand forged with only the edge dressed. In mountain man functionality the edge was all that mattered: the movie tech guys and costumers got almost everything right. I give them a 9.5 out of ten for the way they depicted frontier life (any building was crude and leaking, clothing was mismatched and worn, everyone was dirty with matted hair, etc.). Life out there was grim and they portrayed it beautifully.

It’s a great movie with wonderful cinematography and DiCaprio has to get at least an Oscar nomination for his work. He was so convincing it hurt to watch. Who knows, he might take home the gold statue for this one. His first.

Go! You’ll like it. bd

1 Jan 16 - Ballistic Procrastination
I had to share this with kindred souls. However, even if you don’t identify with the hardware, most will identify with the psychosis imbedded within us that’s called procrastination. And no, this has nothing to do with a New Years resolution not to procrastination. It has to do with recognizing that trait for what it is.

Here it is New Years morning and I'm doing my darndest to finish eight full-length articles, six of which are due either Monday or Thursday. The other two a week from Tuesday. Unfortunately, a new student checks in on Monday, so huge chunks of time will disappear. Thank God it's a three-day workend, all of which will be spent beating on a keyboard. Knowing this, I've been trying to plan ahead but found myself falling into the mood that often accompanies a three-day-weekend. It’s a form of spring fever so my brain is wandering around the universe looking for anything possible that will let me avoid my responsibilities. The net effect is that in the last 24 hours I’ve raised procrastination to a higher art form. Shame on me!

A contributing factor here is that my ex-brother-in-law unexpectedly died on Christmas day. He was a health freak but was only two years older than me. That spun my brain into OMG-I'm-running-out-of-time-and-have-so-many-unfinished-projects mode. I found myself looking around the office and my life at the awful mess I'm going to leave Marlene, if I get hit by a bus. Or simply age out.

One of my many major personality flaws is that I'll get up to the last ten percent of a project, where just a weekend or two will finish it off, and then drift off to something else. After a lifetime of that, I’ve wound up with far too much crap lying around that Marlene would be lucky to sell for ten cents on the dollar compared to it being finished. This gave my procrastination something to dwell on.

A lot of the unfinished projects are rifles. All kinds of rifles. So, between trips to the refrigerator (the most required form of procrastination activity) I started ferreting out rifles tucked into corners and stacked under couches (futon sofa, actually). However, where the goal was to commit to finishing the small details on a bunch of project rifles, the scavenger search rekindled my love of screwing with rifles and odd calibers. Writing was losing out to fun.

Case in point, I've had an 1884 trapdoor Springfield since a kid that someone bubba'd and cut the barrel and stock down to carbine length. Ha, I said. It's not original, so it’s not worthy of my attention. Then I picked it up early this morning. Hmmm-the metal and wood is actually in pretty damned good shape and they did a good job with the end of the stock where they cut it off. Wonder what the barrel looks like? Bear in mind that I've owned this for around 60 years and never peeked down the barrel even once. HOLY CRAP! The bore looks brand new! The front sight is just a shotgun-like sharpened screw but this thing could be a real shooter.

I know how I’ll waste more time! I'll Google "front sights for Trapdoors". Oh, sh*t, they're only $15 from Dixie. Gotta have one. A few key strokes later and it's on the way. Hmmm, ‘wonder about the front sight hoods the 1884 carbines wore. Damn! Here's an original for $40. It'll help cover up the bluing where I'll mess it up while silver soldering the sight in place. A big voice in my head yelled, "Let's get this thing ready for shooting, YEEHAH!!!"

Then I realize I’m not totally set up for loading 45-70. Some key strokes later and I have brass and 350 grain slugs inbound. Also ordered one of those funky-but-work-like-a-charm Lee Loaders where you use a mallet for most of the loading chores. I have one but haven't seen it in ages.

That I got to thinking about Lee loaders in general (remember, I'm supposed to be writing something in the hopes of being able to pay the rent). Each one is good for only one caliber but are dirt-simple. So, I looked them up on eBay. Hey, I didn't realize that there is so much traffic in Lee Loaders that were no longer being made. OMG, there's one in 8 x 57 Mauser. I'll want to load that some day. And another in 7mm x 57. Bids went in and now I wait.

Incidentally, just so ya'll know, I love long distance shooting with iron sights. No glass. However, I also know there’s a very high chance I’ll never actually take the trapdoor to the range. Same thing with most other project rifles around me, BUT, having the little $30 Lee Loader kit laying around I know that if the urge strikes me, in 45 minutes or so, I can load 30-40 rounds of any odd caliber I want for a fraction of the retail price. That's a lot of ammo, when shooting a single shot that, as much as you enjoy it, is very capable of beating the snot out of you.

This whole long-term, procrastination brain fart started a little over 24 hours ago and, in trying to avoid working, I've already spent far more than I'll make off the article. Sounds pretty counter-productive, doesn’t it? But, you know what? I don't give a damn. While procrastinating, I've scratched a ton of long-time itches. And, I'm fired up and once again dreaming of the day, when I'll toss a bunch of rifle cases in the car and head for the range. Better yet, an unfinished project is on the way to being finished. That’s a great way to start off a new year.

PS
Somehow, I just now finished the article. Absolutely amazing!
bd

20 Dec 2015 - A Thank You Note to a Thief
Hi! Although we haven’t been properly introduced, I felt I had to write you a thank you note for stealing Marlene’s jewelry and knocking some sense into my head. The next time it won’t be so easy.

I’m still not sure why our friend, who was house sitting for us, saw fit to let you into our home. You being just out of jail for burglary and all. I guess you shouldn’t be blamed: you just did what comes to you naturally and the opportunity was laid right there in your lap. Don’t you think it considerate that Marlene so carefully arranged something like 40 years worth of gifts, purchases and inheritance jewelry? That made it much easier for you to pick out the gold. We’re figuring you grabbed about $4000 worth. Bummer that you only got about $1,200 for it at the pawnshops we traced it to. We’re a little surprised your girl friend pawned it under her own name. That ties her directly to it. Not smart. Oh, well.

Oh, yes…the thank you note. Forgot…sorry. You see, I’ve been meaning to do a bunch of security-oriented stuff to the house to back-up our security system for a long time. So, your little escapade got me off dead center and, little-by-little, I’m tightening up the gaps. Our area is such a low crime area, that I’d gotten lazy.

The existing iron grates on our windows (just about the only ones in our neighborhood) are courtesy of the paranoid wife of the guy from whom we bought the house. He traveled a lot and she wanted the grates. So, I only had to build one big one for the window we added in the back, plus beefing up all the rest. No biggie. I enjoy ironwork and came up with some really cool, impossible-to-figure-out locks. If you want to defeat our gates, windows, etc., you’d better bring a cutting torch.

I’ve also learned a lot about security systems: it’s amazing what’s now available on the Internet for ridiculously low prices and how much I could add to our already killer system for next to nothing

And, the normal sized dog door in the backdoor that you imagined sending your girlfriend through? It is now 1/8” steel plate and sized to our biggest cat so you’d better be dating a really tiny person.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. There’s nothing like the image of a known felon standing in our bedroom going through our drawers to make me get serious about throwing a net around our place. And make us more selective about who babysits our house. Besides, if the paranoid fantasies of the survivalists prove to be true and the lights ever do go out in America, you’ve done a lot to get me better prepared for it.

So, thanks. And one other thing: it would probably be good for you to remember that this is Arizona, so, if we should ever meet anywhere on our property, the law is on my side. I’m never more than a step or two from a loaded weapon: you picked on the wrong goddamn gray dog and I’ll drop you where you stand. Count on it!

Ya’ll have a good holiday season now. :-)

bd

 

5 Dec 2015 - Five Steps to a Good Day
What defines a good day? Sometimes it feels as if a good day is simply one that doesn’t beat you half to death with problems as most do. It’s similar to not knowing for sure whether “happy” is just the absence of “unhappy.” Once in a while, however a day defines itself by leaving no doubt as to what is “good.” I just had one of those.

Although it’s going to differ for different individuals, I found that what follows is a recipe for a really good day.

Step one: Have a great flight. It was absolutely bell clear. You could easily see 100 miles and the temps hovered around 50 degrees. Cool-bordering-on-cold by our standards but the airplane loved it: it clawed upwards flinging pieces of fresh-cut air behind it clearly letting us know it loves fat air.

Step two: make some headway in life. The lights started coming on in my student’s mind and he made three back-to-back unassisted landings. Not perfect, but in the ball park. Progress is a wonderful thing!

Step three: Attend a good gun show. We have a big one about every six weeks but this one was the annual REALLY BIG ONE: Christmas with recoil.

Step four: Discover some goodies. I almost never buy guns at gun shows. Basically, I see them as museums in which everything has price tags on them. Besides, since the Davisson Household has been financially bitten in our holiday butt a couple of times lately, I was determined not to spend money at this show. Well…you know how that went. It was an unfinished 1867 project rifle: a Remington rolling-block barreled action, with a new, 31” (!) octagonal barrel in .45-70, lots of love and labor showed in the way the trigger guard and hammer were reshaped. It was case hardened and all the metal work was done and done well. All it needed was the wood and that’s my specialty. But, buying it wasn’t a snap decision and it wasn’t because of the finances involved. I walked through the aisles for probably ten minutes trying to decide if I could force myself to buy something that I didn’t build myself. I like to say I did it all, which is one reason so few of my projects actually get finished. The price was about 20% of what it would cost me to build it myself. Then I thought, “I’m never going to get anything finished if I keep thinking I’m going to get at it ‘some day’.” Like everyone reading this, I’m running out of “somedays.” So, it followed me home.

The Remington Rolling Block action is one of the simplest, most effective firearms mechanisms ever designed. The bottom of the hammer rolls under the breach block locking it in place. There are only major two moving parts in the whole thing! And this one has had all the "right stuff" done to it. Love it!
Rolling Block

Other goodies included finding a complete set of the 1960’s series, The Warplanes of the Second World War by William Green. Green is universally accepted as the go-to guy for warbird information. This actually made sense for me because I do a lot of fact scrounging. Besides, for $40 how could I leave them behind? This is exactly what I go to gun shows for: the out-of-context, non-gun stuff (saddles, antiques, etc.) and this was a real score!

Step five: find a decent burger
This time I took a gamble on a ½ pounder from the on-site Ptomaine Wagon. It was a frigging winner, with a capital “W”! What’s the world coming to when usually terrible food turns out to be great! If you can’t trust carnival food to twist your colon into knots, what can you trust?

The best thing about today was that none of the BS that’s going on in the world crossed my mind even once. That was the biggest goody of all and the one I enjoyed the most. Sometimes ya’ just gotta escape, ya’ know? bd

28 Nov 2015 - The Population Bomb and Personal Miracles
This is going to be the shortest Thinking Out Loud on record. This is because I’m going to give each of you a reading assignment (actually, mostly watching). These links will pass along some very basic, very non-political, very important information concerning the least understood, yet biggest threat to our country.

Essentially, what these links do is explain the math of population growth. There is no political agenda at all. They simply point out that any land mass can only support a given number of people and then show how our current regulations, none of them political in nature, will run head-on into that limitation. A solution is also shown, so don’t get all gloomy faced. I may have talked about part of this before but can’t find a record of it.

To redeem myself, there’s a really heart warming link at the end. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll guarantee you’ll be forwarding it. Incidentally, the reason I include the entire link, when I'm passing them along is so if it doesn't work for you, you can cut and paste it in your browser.

Immigration By the Numbers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muw22wTePqQ

World Poverty and Gumballs
https://www.youtube.com/embed/LPjzfGChGlE

The Islamic Concept of Hijrah
http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/260019/hijrah-europe-robert-spencer

Never Say Can’t
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByFUzo9KwryWWkRwUEw4bmZNaVk/edit?pli=1

22 Nov 2015 - Wealth, Capitalism and Other Whipping Boys
Like everyone else today’s middle class, I’ve never worked so hard to make a buck in my life. Still, I have a serious bone to pick with those who are now screaming about income inequality and have made both “wealth” and “capitalism” bad words.

Let’s not get into the silliness of people standing in welfare lines wearing high-dollar sneakers and killing time on their iPhones while bitching about those f**king millionaires and capitalists. Rather, let’s focus on what I’ve once again learned from a few recent encounters with serious money.

My little red airplane and the instruction I give in it attract a really wide variety of people income-wise. At one end are the barely-making-it bluecollar guys who are so in love with flying that they have mortgaged their souls to own a ragged little $15K single-place Pitts. At the other end are the folks who arrive in their own jets and pay for the instruction with pocket change. In terms of attitudes and personalities, I’m pleased to report that I can’t tell one group from the other. They are uniformly wonderful people who I’m proud to instruct and lucky to call friends. They are also uniformly attracted to cars as much as they are airplanes and it’s the cars that reminded me why I’m happy that there are a bunch of really high rollers wandering around.

One of my students invited me over to see his “cars”, which turned out to be this magnificent business building that had one purpose: it housed and supported his car collection. I’m guessing there were 40-50 cars there, a few of them were high-end antiques, but most were high-dollar, absolutely perfect hot rods. We’re talking well over a million bucks between cars and facility. Maybe two. He made his money in real estate, sold his company for many, many millions and is now living “the life” (and still running a huge real estate company). He’s also a helluva nice guy, but the kind some love to single out as having too much money and not paying enough taxes. Which is, of course, BS, which I’ll address in a minute.

Then, yesterday at the humungous (3,500 cars!) Good Guys rod and custom show I found myself in a long conversation with a guy who had a flawless, chopped ’34 Ford coupe that was obviously something special. I didn’t know how special until he started describing the work done: it had won the fabled “Ridler Award” at the Detroit Autorama and had been selected as the America’s Most Perfect Hotrod in other venues. He was quick to say, “I didn’t touch it, which is why it is so perfect. I just wrote the checks.” The legendary Boyd Coddington started it and the equally legendary Chip Foose finished it. I then knew approximately what the car had cost him, $400-$500,000 at the very least. But, now that he’s won the awards, it’s just his street car: he drove it in and parked it amongst the not-so-perfect ’57 Chevys and rusty rat rods owned by the proletariat, most of whom busted their knuckles building their rides.

Am I jealous of these rich guys? Not even slightly and no one else should be either. Yes, they are so wealthy that most of us can’t even imagine the kind of financial security that is a part of their lives. However, in building their companies certain things had to happen: they had to employ a ton of people, all of whom shared in the building of that wealth in the form of wages, etc.

And their toys? I absolutely love the wealthy and their toys! There were at least three guys working full time to build and maintain the car collection I mentioned. Think how many hands were kept busy building the Ridler coupe. The big houses both of them live in employed dozens of craftsmen to build them. And you can bet their furniture didn’t come from Pier One or Ikea, which means a bunch of other craftsmen were employed.

When the rich play, they are engaging in a healthy form of wealth distribution: yachts don’t just happen. Neither do fancy cars or aerobatic biplanes or swimming pools or high-end resorts. Supporting the rich at play is a viable industry and untold millions, worldwide, are employed in that industry. A segment of every society is prospering because they are feeding on the elephant that is their employer. Do they get rich? Not usually, but there is nothing stopping them from starting their own real estate/manufacturing company, or whatever, and making their own millions.

I absolutely do not understand how Capitalism and wealth have become political whipping boys. Or are seen as being bad, when they’re not. They’re actually much less than bad. Capitalism is what has made this country what it is and much of that has benefited the world in general. Wealth is something to strive for. It’s a goal that through hard work and a lot of luck, combined with intelligence and dedication is available to anyone. So, what’s the big deal?

Wealth re-distribution is a sure way of developing a society where “average” is the goal. We have a hot room and a cold room and, when we open a door between, we wind up with a temperature that satisfies no one. This is NOT what has made this country great. Striving for mediocre is not a goal. It is settling. Standing amidst a startling collection of cars shouldn’t make us dislike the person who owns it but should make us say, “Man, I’m so glad someone had the luck, the vision and the day-to-day fortitude to make this happen. Maybe I’ll drop what I’m doing and build the same fortune.”

Right now someone reading this is saying, “Davisson talks a good game, so why isn’t he rich as he says anyone can be.” I can answer that easily: I’m not rich because I’m not willing to totally dedicate my time and life to any given endeavor if making money is the only goal. Like most folks, I don’t want to give up what is necessary to really succeed.

We’re not rich. So what? A lot of us have had a good, very rich life doing what we love to do. Not everyone can say that. Including a lot of rich folks. bd

15 Nov 2015 - Celebrating a Good Year
Last night I was up until 12:30. It is now 0630 and I have a cupcake hang-over. I can’t party like I used to, but the night was worth it: with about 50 of our closest friends and family, we celebrated a multitude of celebration-worthy events that have occurred in our household this year.

First, Marlene, AKA the Arizona Red Head (her license plate is AZRDHD), finally reached adulthood having out-grown post-adolescence by reaching 65 years of age last Thursday.

Second, she traded her maple leaf for the red-white-and blue by getting her citizenship, which we’ve talked about here (6 June 15). The event itself was heart warming in the extreme. The party even more so.

Cake design (I forgot to photograph it)
cake design

Third, she became Grammy for the fourth time (see last week’s Thinking Out Loud).

Fourth and final: we paid off the house! This is a cross between getting a load of cement blocks off your back and the exact moment you finally solve a week-long constipation problem.

The weather cooperated and the gathering that was milling around the pool in the coolish, but definitely livable, temps represented an diverse combination of friends and family. However, it wasn’t until just this second that I realized something about my contribution to the goings-on: only about a half dozen of my flying buddies showed up, some from as far away as California, but every one of them was either building a serious hotrod or was driving one. These were as diverse as the people: a Studivette (41 Studebaker sitting on an 86 Corvette chassis and drive line), a ’48 Anglia with a double cam big block Ford, a ’31 Ford roadster with a Chrysler Hemi, etc. Plus half of them had built the aircraft they were flying. So, there was a tendency to drift to the garage. Not a bad thing.

Marlene’s contribution, besides family, were lots of her ceramic friends, some of which seemed drawn to the conversations of my nuts-and-bolts friends. Plenty of cross pollinating of interests. However, the ceramic folks didn’t have a chance against the sound of a hopped up flathead Ford idling in the garage, its dual pipes sticking out of the back door for all to enjoy the sound.

The participant that had the most fun was Shahn-deen, the Pomeranian. She immediately found that, if she pawed someone's leg while holding her ball in her mouth, they'd take it and throw it. Then throw it again. And again. She worked the crowd like a pro, getting almost everyone in attendance to do the fetch thing. It was fun to watch.

I know this is a short Thinking Out Loud, but, in all honesty, I’m dragging butt (in a pleasant sort of way). So, next week we’ll get back to serious blogging. God knows we’ve had enough national and global news recently to talk about.

See, ya’! bd

7 Nov 2015 - A New Family Addition
A few months back I mentioned how inspiring Marlene’s citizenship ceremony was. I had expected it to be an official paper-shuffling event, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think everyone should attend one to remember what America is all about. A week or so ago The Redhead and I attended attended another ceremony that should be on every one’s attendance list: the finalization of an adoption. Better yet, in this one we officially gained another Davisson.

First a little background: Jennifer The Movie Mogul already has the most incredible five-year-old you’ve ever met: Alice Willa. A wonderfully bright, beautiful and entertaining little organism. Jennifer is the ultimate mother and, among other things, didn’t want Alice to grow up without siblings. A single mother, she decided to adopt, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, it’s super complicated, expensive and riddled with potential for personal pain: she drove from CA to NC to pick up a little girl as it was born. She had it for a day or two and during the grace period the mother decided she wanted her back. A difficult time that Jennifer handled better than I would have thought possible. Then another baby popped up in Memphis.

The story of her driving through March ice storms in Texas to get there could be a novel (she’s totally aerophobic and can’t come close to flying). What a grind!

She’s a hyper-Elvis fan (interesting considering she’s not quite 40, hardly someone you’d think would like Elvis), so I’m not convinced the adoption was as important as her finally getting to tour Graceland. It was a near religious experience for both Jennifer and Alice, who is the tiniest Elvis freak.

So, the baby was born and Alice was given the honor of naming her: the newest addition to our family is Rosie Presley Davisson. I love it!

Rosie Presley Davisson
Kinda knocks you on your butt doesn't she? !
Rosie.Eyes

Incidentally, as if this whole thing wasn’t quirky enough, the baby was supposed to be a boy and they didn’t know it was a girl until delivered! Go figure!

This whole process was made all the more dramatic by two factors: they left TN on a Tuesday and Alice’s 5th birthday was to be on Friday in CA, 1800 miles away. This is a factor because Jennifer would be damned if Alice’s birthday was going to be spent on the road. This was further complicated by the fact that California had to give official permission for the baby to come into the state and Jen, Alice, and five-day-old Rosie were on our patio in AZ, 400 miles from LA late Thursday afternoon. The clock was ticking and Jen was on the phone with her attorney non-stop. The lady in the CA agency was getting ready to leave for the day and Jen still didn’t have permission. Tensions were increasing as if we were waiting for a shuttle launch. Jen was covering it up as much as possible, but she was clearly distraught.

Then, with 10 minutes to go before the civil servant bolted for the door, the word came. Jen was on the other side of the bushes in the backyard and Alice was standing on our diving board when she saw her mother break into tears of joy while blurting “thank you, thank you” over and over. Alice jumped off the board, threw both hands in the air and yelled at the top of her voice, “Let’s go home!” It was a beautiful moment!

California law says the adoption isn’t final until she goes before a judge after a suitable period (I’m guessing six months) and answers a few questions. That was the ceremony we attended last week.

I have no idea how the proceedings work with other judges, but this one made it into an absolutely joyous event, making those in attendance (I’d guess about 15 family and friends) part of it. She instructed Alice to go to a bin full of teddy bears and select an “adoption bear” for both herself and Rosie. She asked the audience if they were behind the adoption and received a fairly vocal response, but it wasn’t to her liking. So, she asked again, encouraging more enthusiasm, which she got in abundance.

It was a warm, personally full-filling experience in which Jennifer was asked if she understood that from this point on Rosie was be as if she was born to Jennifer. Jennifer was reminded that she would have sole responsibility for her health, happiness and education for the rest of their lives. Jen struggled to answer through tears and I’ll guaran-damn-tee you that there was no one named Davisson in the room that didn’t have tears running down their cheeks. We drove 14 hours round trip and I would have gladly driven for days to be part of that experience.

It’s difficult to describe how those few minutes felt. Just as Marlene’s citizenship thing made you feel closer to your country, seeing a tiny (6 months old) officially becoming part of your life somehow redefined “family” and drew us all closer. It was one human being given the duty of loving and caring for another and it was beautiful!

If you have a chance to witness one of these shindigs, do it. It’ll make your month!
bd

19 Sept 15 - In Search of the Perfect Tamale
A while back Marlene and I went to a wedding being held in Sedona, which if you don’t know it is a unique, vaguely frustrating little town. But not without its charm, which is enhanced by the area (high country of AZ) and the people it attracts. In fact, we ran across a couple of interesting folks in the course of the wedding and they represent something worth discussing.

We were at the after-wedding dinner thing (reception??) that was being held in a sort-of-funky-but-still civilized Mexican restaurant (can you still say “Mexican” and not be racist?). Their bar was just outside of the eating area and I noticed that Marlene was stopping to talk to a couple of guys there every time she went to the head (she has a bladder condition so head-trips are more often than usual). Finally, I got up and went to investigate and found that Marlene was doing things like explaining why they shouldn’t be eating the clams that aren’t open (or maybe don’t eat the ones that are open, I forget).

I wound up sitting down at the bar with them and got their story which everyone reading this can identify with to one degree or another.

They were a couple of old friends, both in their early 50s (I’m guessing) and they were driving around the country on their Harleys, each having different goals. Originally from somewhere on the East Coast one was “…looking for the America I’d only heard about” and the other was “…searching for the world’s best tamale.”

These weren’t a couple of biker dudes and they weren’t a couple of office cubicle refugees out looking for a last fling before their perception of old age sets in. And they’d both made a little headway in their respective searches: by the time you wind up in a bar in a small town in Arizona, you’ve already covered a lot of country and you’ve already had an opportunity to sample a lot of tamales. When they left the bar, they were going to continue another 30 miles to Jerome and stay in the Grand Hotel there, also known as the Asylum.

Jerome is a long-time ghost town that is little by little being gentrified, but it’s still got a lot of funk left. The Asylum is about as unusual a hotel as you’re going to find. It was originally the hospital for the copper mining town (which is built on a 50 degree grade and was totally abandon by the early ‘50’s). Closed in 1950 then reopened in the mid ‘90’s as a hotel it’s a favorite stop for ghost hunters because of all the supposed strange goings on there. The hospital had a lot of deaths occur. As antiquey as the hotel may be, it also has a honest-to-God 4-star restaurant. It’s small but super good.

So, our two adventurous bikers were going looking for good food surrounded by ghosts. We never heard from them again (not victims of the Asylum, I’m sure) but we can guarantee they didn’t find even one tamale on the menu. However, our meeting them had its effect on us. We asked ourselves, “Would we be willing to launch cross country like that with no particular goals or destinations in mind?”

That’s a helluva good question that just about everyone I know has asked themselves. Especially lately. With all the BS we hear in the news and see the government doing, hardly a day goes by that most of us don’t think about tossing some clothes in the back of our car and just taking off. No cell phones, no TV, nothing that connects us with our normal life, which at the moment seems to be under attack by the entire world. We can’t get away from the bad news that leaves us with the impression that civilization, as we know it, is going to crumble by next Wednesday. Or maybe the Saturday after.

Marlene and I both agree, running away is super tempting, but, if we were to give in and leave the real world, it probably wouldn’t be on Harleys (she would insist she have her own). Too many joints and vertebrae are already turning to dust. No reason to accelerate the process. But, a small, van-sized motor home would work well for us.

At the same time that we’d be having these conversations we also be casting doubts on the entire concept. My late brother had to close down his psychology business because he’d contracted Valley Fever (look it up) that, in his case had the possibility of being fatal. So, he spent six months driving round in his van practicing bio-feedback that eventually did arrest and cure the illness. He covered the entire US and spent a couple weeks with me while I lived in NJ. I remember him saying two things, and he was deadly serious. “Don’t ever hit the road without a destination. It gets old, really, really fast.”

He also said, “If you have a choice, don’t ever be alone. It’s not healthy.”

I can clearly see where he was coming from on both points.

In talking about us just cruising around the US, which is a popular activity (or non-activity, depending on how you look at it) for the age group we’re moving into, I know for a fact it wouldn’t work for us. I, for one, can’t go a day without feeling as if I’ve accomplished something. Once in a while I’ll have a day that's just a waste of time and it puts me in a real funk, as if I’ve stepped on, and killed, a kitten or something. But, I know that’s not the way everyone is.

Every time we drive to California, which is quiet often, we pass through the little sorta-town of Quartzite, which is right on the California/Arizona border. During the winter Quartzite is a favorite destination for hundreds and hundreds of trailers and motor homes of all sizes and descriptions. Some are in the designated motorhome parks, but the vast majority are scattered round parked out in the desert in random arrangements. Some are close together, but you see lots that are barely visible by themselves surrounded by miles of desert.

This is an area where there is virtually nothing. There are only a few eating places, no movie (the closest is in Blythe, CA, 20 miles away) and miles and miles of desert. In January they have a big swap meet and five or six weeks of a fossil/gem show (out doors), but that’s it! Every time we go through there I’m always wondering out loud “What the hell do these people do all day?”

I LOVE prowling around, taking off on side roads, just to see where they go. In fact, one of my side fantasies is designing a four-wheel drive van just for that purpose. But, I know I’ll never do it. Some folks just can’t do-nothing and sight seeing gets old quick. I know, I’m not alone in that. Even on vacation (we took a 12-day trip to England in 2008, our only pure vacation, although it did include two days of shooting tanks for a magazine.) and even though I was positively riveted by England’s history, after about four days, part of me was ready to return to the grind.

So, could I go search for the perfect tamale? Yes, if it were a magazine assignment. Could I do it, just because I wanted to do it? No way, Jose! Never happen. And I’m betting many reading this couldn’t do it either. It sounds good in concept and makes good TV/Movie plot material, but in real life, most of us want to be doing something relevant. We know we only have so much time left and need to invest it wisely.

Besides, and please don’t spread this round, I don’t really like tamales. Enchiladas and burritos, yes. Tamales, no. bd

12 Sept 15 - The Day After and Cool Stuff

I’m not going to dwell on 9/11 because I did it in some depth back on August 2nd, when I ran across the 9/11 Boat Lift video. I’ll comment on it, but mostly I’m going to pass on a ton of neat links to videos that I find interesting and some of you may also.

We can all tell minute by minute what we were doing when The Towers came down. It seems every generation is destined to have at least two moments like that. One that happens young, one that happens late. For my dad, it was Pearl Harbor and JFK’s assassination. For me, it was JFK and 9/11. For my kids it’ll be 9/11 and something that hasn’t happened yet, which is a really somber thing to think. But, that seems to be the way it works. Two per lifetime.

One thing that was unique about my 9/11 experience was that my student who was staying in our B & B was from the Netherlands. One from England had just landed in Phoenix and another was airborne and a few hours out. He was from Luxumbourg, if I remember correctly. So, I lived The Day After with a bunch of Europeans who were as shocked as we were. NYC belongs to the world. All non-Muslim nations felt it almost as much as we did.

It’s nearly impossible for the date to come and go without reliving those hours and days. We lost our national virginity that day. Unfortunately, our Administration hasn’t learned a damn thing from it. I’m afraid that terrorism, as the rest of he world knows it, is being imported to the US by executive fiat and my kids are going to have to deal with it.

Someday I'll tell all of the silly details having to do with me trying to get back in the air with those students. It culminated with me being the first VFR pilot into the air post-9/11 in AZ and almost certainly in the US.

Incidentally, I see where the Phoenix “sniper attacks” have made the national news. I don’t know anyone here who thinks this is a terrorist act. It feels more like the actions of a whacko or irresponsible teen.

On to the links. See below. Lots of cool stuff.

Enjoy!

His Very Own Undeground City
City

Easter Island Bodies
Easter Island

Underwater Pyramids
Pyramid

Underwater Cities
Cities

2000-Year-Old Shipwreck

Roman Wreck

Inca Grass Bridge
Bridge

Michigan Shipwreck
Michigan Wreck

Abandoned Russian Hangar
Russia

American Indian DNA
Indian


6 Sept 15 - Visual Progress as a Mood Elevator
This past week or so has been a period during which I rediscovered a guaranteed method of making yourself feel better: do something that’s been bugging you for a long time and get it out of the way. There’s nothing like achievement, no matter how trivial, to make us feel as if we’re getting ahead in the game.

First, it should be realized, that I, like what I prefer to believe is the majority of males, can let a mess lay around or watch something deteriorate for years, continually stepping over it or walking round it, but never doing anything about it. Stacks of books become part of the woodwork (the floor IS counted as shelf space, right?). Crap piled up in one area of the shop is ignored because “it’s always been that way.” A workbench slowly disappears as it’s engulfed by the ever-growing heap of random stuff being tossed on it.

Every one of our lives (at least those of us who weren’t born with a “tidy” chromosome.) has these little irritants around us that we’ve managed to ignore until they reach the point that they finally drive us to do something about them. Unexpectedly, I reached that point last weekend. What had started out as moving the junk in front of the roadster around so I could finish installing the head studs (again), turned into a scratch-the-itch marathon in which, while walking around the garage working on the little car, in route I took care of dozens of things that had been bugging me forever.

I walked past the pile of steel scraps and said, to hell with it, and sorted them into appropriate bins. I took the formed plastic trunk liner for Marlene’s Maxima that had been lying on top a big pile for about two years, since her accident and put it back in the car. Uncovered my wood lathe and turned it around to face the other way (and swept under it) so, if I ever wanted to use it, it would be facing the right direction. Restacked a bunch of ammo and got it out of the way. Moved some spare car parts up into the rafters.

All of the tasks I took care of were small. By themselves they were unnoticeable, but the net effect on my state of mind was stronger than if I’d gotten the roadster running again. This was because it was visual progress on something that I see almost every day and had been on-going, pin-prick irritants.

The mantra I lived by that day was , if I walked past something that would benefit from a little attention, I’d stop what I was doing and take care of it. I even dumped the big drawer of extension cords out on the floor, neatly coiled them all up and put them back. I liked the feeling so much that for the rest of the week, every time I touched or passed something that’s been bugging me, I’d take care of it. An itch scratched. Take my poor little Honda, for instance.

Arizona kills car speakers. Turns them to dust in a matter of years. Mine were in tatters and had been for at least five years and the terrible sound had become part of the audio woodwork that I totally ignore. Then, one day I took one of the speaker grills off with the intent of seeing what kind of speakers I needed, got side tracked by work, and for two years have been driving around with a ragged, gaping hole in the left door panel listening to a radio that at full volume is barely audible. This in a good-looking little car on which I had the body cherried out and painted. Tuesday, I said, “screw it”, and dropped it off at Audio Express for new speakers and whatever else it needed.

The radio in that car (a 1990 Civic) had been in two previous Hondas of mine and, as near as I could tell, it was at least 35 years old. A low-end JVC with a cassette player (remember those?), it had been a birthday present from my kids as youngsters, so it followed me into every car after that. Yes, I am a sucker for nostalgic connections. But, when the speakers were replaced this week, the radio was found to be dead or dying. So, now I have a newer-but-still-cheap JVC with Bluetooth and more software than my trusty Mac has. Someday, I’ll figure it out. Maybe.

The A/C in that same car had been in-op for over a year because some over-enthusiastic mechanic had pulled the threads out of the aluminum idler pulley bracket and it had been riding around in the trunk while I cooked in 105-plus temps. So, Monday, I buzzed down to a hotrod buddy of mine, he welded up the valley in the casting that the threads went through, installed a hi-tech helicoil (the kind with four locking pins) and I’m now riding around in air conditioned splendor talking on my phone hands-free with great tunes. Life is good!

This is all little stuff. None of it terribly expensive or time consuming, but the psychological pay-off has been huge. It’s disproportionate to the effort. I absolutely guarantee that every person reading this can turn their head and look around the room and find something they’ve been putting off for too long. So, when done reading this, stand up and take care of whatever that is and your day is bound to be better.

Quite often it’s the little stuff that contributes to visual progress that seems to count the most. bd

29 August 15 - The Link Between Discovering Fire and Inventing Computers
As I was sitting here waiting for the second cup to kick in, I was idly cruising through some random stuff I had in my Thinking Out Loud File and I ran across the below. It is an answer to an e-mail on the Bearhawk group that became a thread a mile long and got much more serious and philosophical than you’d expect between a bunch of airplane bums. Which, by the way, is thoroughly typical for that group.

The thread was kicked off by Dr. Ben Carson’s response to an Atheist who questioned his view of creation. He said “I believe I came from God, and you believe you came from a monkey. And you’ve convinced me you’re right.”

This kicked off an in-depth discussion on the chat group about how man has evolved/progressed/etc. and the question was asked of why man appears to have gotten so smart in the last couple hundred years or so. The below was my answer. If you’re not up for numbers and theories, it would be a good idea for you immediately hit the delete button and go on with your morning. I got off on a tangent (surprised right?). Re-reading it made my head hurt!

---
Your question is "What caused what appears to be a sudden expansion in fairly recent times of our ability to comprehend?" You're hinting that it was God Given. What caused the sudden, exponential explosion of technology in the last 20 years? Are we so much smarter than those who came before? Was there a sudden, god-given change in our ability to think? Of course not. The answer to the question of increased comprehension is super complex, however, much of it, in my feeble mind anyway, is rooted in numbers, percentages and shared experience.

From the minute that man stood upright, discovered fire (apparently this happened with the first humanoids 1-1.6 million years ago) and the concept of tools, he has been in a technology race not unlike what we've seen in the last couple of decades. The reason earlier technology phases (stone age, etc.) appear to have taken so long is partially explained by the small numbers of people involved. This means the way in which they gained experience in a given technology was slowed by the small amount of interaction between others. They were inventing in a vacuum.

With a small, slow moving population, we didn’t have a lot of people watching what a lot of other people were doing so they weren't feeding off of others' experience. We learn a lot from others' experience, which, in effect, makes us not only smarter, but able to think better in terms of solving problems and coming up with ideas.

Oh yeah, in those days, survival meant that there was a daily push to find the next meal, which, in turn, meant there wasn’t much spare time to be spent on expanding knowledge.

This could be looked at as a numbers-driven conversation. It's a given that within any population, regardless of how primitive it may be, there are always those individuals that are more intellectually gifted than the rest. Let's say 1 in 1000 is smarter than the rest (a number I just pulled out of my butt). It is generally assumed that man began to develop into humanoids 1-1.6 million years ago (yes, I verified all of this, although I wasn’t there at the time). It is also estimated that the worldwide population at that time was only about 18,500 humanoids. So, by the 1:1000 ratio, there were only 18 people on the planet with a higher than normal intellect. Not enough to invent television, Hollywood or Starbucks.

Early populations didn't grow at the rate that we think of populations growing. It grew much slower than we're used to. In fact, from the time of Christ, when the world's population was around 250-300mm, to the mid 1700s, the population was pretty stable. Then, when "civilization" became more advanced and food supplies more available and easier to share, the population started skyrocketing in the early 1800s. The world population today is around 7 billion with 60% of that being in Asia. The net result is that, although the percentage of smart people has probably stayed exactly the same, the sheer numbers of them has literally exploded. This is why China will eat our lunch in a lot of areas: there are four times more of them than us, so they have four times the brainiacs to work with. Plus, their communal experience means so much is being shared by so many between such a wide variety of disciplines that they will grow their national intellect at an even higher rate. The numbers, not the individual capabilities, dictate that happening. And, of course, they steal a lot of good stuff from others, which accelerates the trend.

A classic example of making an individual "smarter" by feeding off of others' experience and intellect is the Bearhawk group, which is populated by one of the most varied, most experienced, naturally-smart people I’ve ever met. I know for a fact, that I've learned far more out of this group than any other single source: we're building our abilities to comprehend because we're building on each other's experiences and thoughts.

You questioned: Are you speaking of physical evolution, cranial evolution, or spiritual evolution?

In my mind the brain developed right along with the body but got a major injection of the smarts when Cro-Magnon man replace Neanderthal, which was mostly an accident of evolution that happened about 40,000 years ago. His brain was apparently wired slightly differently. That’s when “modern” man took the stage.

The spiritual aspect however happened long, long before Cro-magnon came on the scene. It's only logical that man has always had a difficult time coping with death and virtually every phase of man's development, from humanoids on, has had some form of spiritual development attached to it, but the very early humanoids left little physical evidence of it. In other words, in my opinion, man wasn’t far from the discovery of fire when he invented religion because he couldn’t cope the idea of being dead. He wanted more, so he invented it, as did every civilization from that point on.

So, has our brain suddenly gotten smarter? No, we’re just using more of it and being more efficient in learning from others.

I didn't mean this to ramble on so long. Too much caffeine too early, so, I couldn't help myself. Sorry.

------
…and you thought we just talked about airplanes, didn’t you? :-) bd

22 August 2015 - More American Than America
I stumbled across a video this week that I can’t begin to explain. Yeah, I can explain the event, but I can’t explain why Swede’s have such a love affair with the concept of the American big cars of the 50’s, 60’s. The video at the end will do that for me.

First, I should warn you: it’s 0345 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep, so here I am. I know a lot of folks who are habitually up this time of the morning because, when I roll into the office at 0530-0600, as I usually do, I always find a bunch of e-mails from them waiting. I also know some borderline insomniacs who do very creative, worthwhile things with their dark time. Not me. On mornings like this I feel like Dorothy’s scarecrow “…if I only had a brain.” The lights won’t come on upstairs until the second cup kicks in and, even then, I’ll be thinking through a layer of cotton. Or at least it feels like it.

After night-time peeing, I’m usually sound asleep before my head hits the pillow. But this morning my brain was in full running mode and I couldn’t shut it off. All sorts of major things were playing in my head: do I stick with my baby Glock 9mm, which is my habitual concealed carry piece and also use it as my open carry piece, or use my Sig 229 for that and convert it from .40 to 9mm so I only have one ammo type? Or, when I’m too old to work, will I concentrate on making knives or rifles?

I obviously deal with world-shaking subjects when my brain is left to its own devices.

At some point the never ending problem I’ve been trying to solve in my little hotrod’s motor popped onto the scene (having to pull and reseal all the head studs), and then I found images of American ‘50’s,’60’s chrome boat cars being projected on my mental screen. What the…? This is not a subject I’m even interested in, so what’s my brain doing? I guess it was the effect of the Swedish video. I’m not talking about 55-57 Chevys (even as a teenager I thought a ’57 Nomad wagon with a tri-power 283 and four on the floor would be the perfect car). I’m talking about the BIG cars: the Chryslers, Pontiacs, Cadillacs and such, all of which were dripping with chrome.

Today we forget how it felt to drive a car that could easily fit three people abreast in the front seat and four weren’t too crowded in the back. Not long ago I drove a ’62 Pontiac two-door similar to what I had owned back in the day and I’d forgotten what it felt like to be pushing a hood around in front of you that’s the size of a picnic table. “Ponderous” is the word that comes to mind. Because the change happened so gradually, we don’t realize how much better even today’s family sedans handle. Marlene’s lowly Maxima would have been considered a sports car in the ‘50’s.

And then there is Sweden, the country where major chrome wagons go to live again. Garden variety older American cars, the majority of which are FAR down the collector’s scale on this side of the pond are eagerly sought-after over there. We’re talking about original condition, sort-of-running, used cars here. Not exotic, totally restored gems. And we’re not just talking about the higher grade, fully optioned versions. A Caddie doesn’t have to be an Eldorado hardtop or a convertible to qualify. The four-door barges little old ladies are still seen trundling to the grocery at 10 mph are still hot tickets. Who’d a thunk?

I’m not sure if the Swedes see these monster cars as some sort of art decoish link to a simpler time or the bloated architecture each carries is a statement about an America that was. One thing is an absolute fact however: as much as America is, and always has been a car culture, the Swedes are reinventing that culture and keeping a time alive when cubic inches and pure fun mattered.

Go to https://vimeo.com/59718224. You’ll dig it! If you’re hip that is. (damn that sounds dumb doesn’t it? Did we actually talk that way?). bd

17 August 2015 - It was Just Another Week...Sort of
For a week during which history was being made left and right, mostly in politics and shootings, my week was actually a fairly mundane week punctuated with moments of…oh, I don’t know…oddly interesting personal happenings. Let’s take the bird first.

I saw him only as a dark streak in front of us. We’re on short final and this pretty good sized dark “something” darted out in front of us. It was obviously a bird, but don’t ask what kind. At a closing speed of around 125mph, you don’t spend much time trying to count the freckles on its breast to identify it. He swung out in front of us, changed his mind, and quickly rolled towards us completely reversing course. He disappeared just outboard of our wing tip. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until we landed and were taxiing back that I saw parts of mister bird hanging from my flying wires just under the left wing. At that point, I knew only part of him had escaped. It actually looks as if he hit just below the nose of the leading edge and he was big enough that part of him hit the streamlined wire that split him like a knife. It didn’t create much of a mess, but this wasn’t my first time to the bird strike rodeo: years ago, I hit six Canadian geese on takeoff taking four of them through the prop. Now that was a mess!

Zigged when he should've zagged. I'll bet that smarts!
Bird Strike

This week was also marked with a streak of real old fashioned Arizona-style summer heat. We topped 110 degrees four or five times and supposedly peaked at 117 on Thursday (!). I was flying super early every day, first hop at 0700, second, mid-morning, but I still got to see 109 degrees from the cockpit. This doesn’t bother me at all, but it absolutely sucks the stuffing out of my little airplane’s spirit. It made my little hotrod into a VW with only three cylinders working. ‘Didn’t do much for my student either.

I tuned out this week’s political scene because it had turned into National Trump Month. Not that I’m totally against Trump, but I’m tired of the circus. On the good side, however, his sometimes-idiotic behavior has brought a lot of people into the discussion especially about immigration. I ran into one of those totally unexpectedly.

I was at Burger King with my student cooling off when a Hispanic came up to the table next to us. As he pulled a chair back, he glanced at us and asked, “Is this the Republican section?”

Sensing some sort of pending confrontation, my student and I didn’t know what to say. The guy grinned and said, “Yeah, you gotta give Trump credit. He’s telling it like it is. Never thought I’d see that in a politician. He’s alright!”

I can’t tell you how much that surprised me. He was obviously raised on this side of the border because he spoke with almost no accent of any kind. He just laughed and went up to pay for his order. I noticed when he pulled the trucker’s wallet out of his back pocket that it was decorated with a Confederate flag. Talk about assimilating into our culture!! Yeehah!

There was one last discovery/happening this week that was probably not good, depending on how you look at it: I found that tool and hardware giant, McMaster-Carr (if you don’t know them, you should…Google them), has one-click shopping just like Amazon does. Do you know how financially dangerous it is to a guy like me to be able to just click on a photo, then click a box and know that part/tool is on its way to me. Damn! I have fallen into mail order heaven.

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

8 August 2015 - Presidential Debate Trumps the A-Bomb
Overshadowed by the Presidential Debates was the fact that 70 years ago that same day the Enola Gay ushered in the nuclear age over Hiroshima. Seven decades ago this weekend the most horrific episode in mankind’s horrific past was unfolding as hundreds of thousands of Japanese tried to cope with what had just happened. 140,000 died. Many were painful beyond imagination. Survivors often wished they hadn’t.

Today we hear many say the US was unnecessarily cruel in dropping the bombs. I suppose that depends on how one feels about the projected cost of an actual invasion. The projections of American casualties range from 1.2 million (500,000 fatalities) to the study done for Sec of War Henry Stimson that peaked at 800,000 US fatalities and five to ten million Japanese fatalities. The range was the result of not knowing for sure how much the civilian population was mobilized (which turned out to be close to 100%). If the main island invasion death rate had been only 10% of the US death rate in the Okinawa invasion (less than 500 square miles), which lasted only 82 days, the cost would have been 500,000 US fatalities. This makes the projections of millions of possible deaths, seem reasonable.

So, was it cruel to kill 140,000 and wound untold thousands, versus killing millions of the native population and hundreds of thousands of GI’s? In my view I was a terrible trade off, but a good one for both sides.

We often hear, “They were ready to surrender and the bombs weren’t necessary”. Historical research proves this to be wrong. The only reason Emperor Hirohito surrendered, when he did, was because he ignored his advisors. He also survived an assassination attempt by those who wanted to keep on fighting. This was unheard of in Japanese culture. Hirohito was a diety to the Japanese and his word was law. Although Hediki Tojo’s war council pushed for a fight to the last man, woman and child, Hirohito couldn’t face another Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Even he had his limits. And so a horrible chapter in history was closed. And another opened. The nuclear threat is still with us and getting worse by the day. (A side note: I’m going to be amazed if an outlaw nuke isn’t detonated somewhere in the next decade)

If there is one thing that we civilians don’t have the right to do, that is second guess the military’s actions when in the middle of a war. And in this case, seven decades on, we can’t second-guess Truman. It’s well known that he didn’t want to drop the bombs. Neither did anyone from the bombs’ creators to the men on the B-29’s that dropped them. However, ask the opinion of any one of the Marines that were among the hundreds of thousands arrayed around the home island knowing that they were going to have to launch the most costly invasion in history. It would make D-Day look like a cakewalk. The Germans weren’t suicidal. But after four years of war in the Pacific, every Marine/GI knew the Japanese preferred death over surrender and had been whipped into a frenzy. An invasion wasn’t going to be pretty for either side. The cost of using The Bombs to force the surrender was high, but very necessary, when put against the realities of the situation.

One of the saddest part of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki events is that we haven’t learned a damn thing from them. Forget the unbelievable destruction and focus on the human suffering. A conventional explosion of the same size (15-20 kilotons), which isn’t possible, would have killed and maimed the same numbers. But the wounds would have been largely “mechanical” in nature. Burns, broken bones, concussion damage: stuff that doctors can deal with “easily.” Radiation is something else. Its effects are long lasting and unpredictable. As part of the Iran Nuclear Agreement BHO is forcing on us, Iran will regain the ability to acquire long range ballistic missiles. This in addition to the huge strides they are making with missiles of their own design using North Korean guidance systems. Does anyone in their right mind think that if Iran gets the long-range ballistic missiles it’s yearning for, it won’t launch them into Israel (Iran’s mantra is, “Israel must be removed from the map”) with nukes right behind?

A Note On the Presidential Debates
About Trump: I like his maverick stance and I’ve tried hard to line up behind him, but I just can’t. While I like some of his views, we can't have someone with a mouth like that speaking for the most powerful nation on the planet. Had he made even the slightest attempt during the debate to say most of the same things but in a more civilized manner, I might feel different about him. But, DAMN!, there has to be at least a little respect for the dignity of the office. I think BHO and Michelle have dragged it down to the lowest level I can tolerate.

Also, my BS alarm goes off often with Trump. For him to deliver on the things he promises, he's going to have to compromise with Congress, etc., but he has always been the captain of his own ship. A dictatorship is his style and we've had enough of that. After five minutes watching BHO, even before he announced he was running, my poser alarm pegged. With Trump, it's a different feeling but alarms go off nonetheless.

For me, right now, it’s Cruz by a narrow margin over Walker with Fiorina and Carson as VPs. I did, however, like Rubio. Huckabee pleasantly surprised me with his rant about transgenders, etc. in the military. But, he doesn’t have a chance.

We have a long year ahead of us,folks! bd

2 August 2015 - Boat Lift: a Tale Late in the Telling
It was early in the morning, too early, so, when the phone rang, I knew it was trouble: it was my daughter, Jennifer, in LA. She was frantic. “Dad, Mom just called, have you been watching the news?” I flipped it on and, sitting on the floor in my underwear next to the bed, the phone to my ear, Marlene in the bed behind me, my dog in my lap, we watched the Towers come down together.

I so clearly remember the disbelief. “Dad, the tower just collapsed!”

“No, honey, it couldn’t have.” Then I realized it had. I refused to believe it.

I seriously doubt if there’s a single person reading this that doesn’t remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they saw, or learned, of the 9/11 attack. The images in our minds, just won’t go away. For my parents, that moment was when they heard about Pearl Harbor, for me it had been when I heard about JFK’s assassination. Now this.

Amazingly enough, even though 9/11 has been sliced and diced every way possible by the media, some images have, for whatever reason, never been seen. Or, if they have, the audience has been tiny. The reason I say that is because this week I was sent a link to a You-Tube video that made my month. Maybe my year. It showed a side of 9/11 that I didn’t even know existed. The link is at the bottom of these words. PLEASE take the time to watch it. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll forward it to everyone you know because of what it means to us as a people.

I think this video is of particular importance today because, in a short ten-minute slice of life, it shows America as we like to think of her: selfless, bonded together by purpose, covering each other’s six no matter what.

Also, when you put it in context against today, it shows how incredibly self-centered and petty we can be. The 14 years since the attacks started out with our national head held high. American flags festooned everything that would hold one. During my lifetime I can’t remember a time when we were as patriotic or as united. Then politics and personal interests began to erode those proud moments and re-sculpt us right back into a familiar form. That trend has continued until we’re now as factionalized and divided as I’ve ever seen us. It’s much, much worse now than it was even during the ‘60’s. It’s hard to believe things could deteriorate so quickly, especially considering the grievous wound we all suffered on that fateful day.

It’s not worth going into how we wound up where we are today. We each have our own explaination of what I see as a decline, but others don’t. Instead, take a few minutes out of your day at watch the below. You’ll be glad you did and it may even re-ignite the flame that’s necessary for us to reclaim the spirit that I personally believe is still within us straining to get out.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/MDOrzF7B2Kg?rel=0 bd

18 July 2015 - I Can't Say it Any Better
As I'm typing this, I have one foot out the door headed for Oshkosh, which I desperately need. I need to get away from the Media and all the incredibly stupid/bad things going on.

I really don't want to leave on a negative note so I'm not even going to mention the four Marines that a Jihadist just killed and ISIS being in our backyard. In fact, I'm not going to write much at all because I ran into a You-Tube video I want everyone to watch. A young lady says it much better than I ever could and with much more credibility. The link will be at the end of this text

I'm really upset about this whole Confederate thing and the horrifying things people are doing or getting ready to do in the name of political correctness, e.g. dig up Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife and move them out of Memphis (research his post-civil war racial equality efforts, you'll be surprised). New Orleans is talking about renaming all the streets named for Confederate generals and removing all their statues. The NAACP is demanding that the Stone Mountain, Georgia monument be erased by sandblasting. We are doing to our own country's history exactly what ISIS is doing in every historic city they enter: destroy anything they disagree with. It's amazing the speed with which this whole thing peaked.

Eliminating a flag or a segment of history that's 150 years old isn't going to change today one damn bit. All it will do is build resentment where there is none and alienate a huge section of the country. Not to mention pissing off open-thinking people like me. I like the fact that Kid Rock and Ted Nugent are recording a record, "Kiss My Rebel A**". And both of them are from Detroit!

Wanna see an unexpected source of clear thinking? Go to http://chicksontheright.com/blog/item/29867-watch-young-black-woman-explains-the-confederate-flag-to-everyone-and-especially-sensitive-black-people.
See you in ten days. bd

4 July 2015 - Independence Day Blues
Oh, man! It’s mid-morning Phoenix time (same as CA) on the Fourth of July and I wish I were back in Seward Nebraska. Yeah, it’s my hometown, but on Independence Day, it’s also my touchstone for the Real America. I’m not kidding even a little bit, when I say that everyone in our country should experience the Fourth of July as celebrated there.

Right now, amidst their 4th of July hoopla that has earned them fame nationwide, their parade is starting. It's just one of the many things I miss about that day. Seward is where I go to remember that America is NOT as the news channels or government would have us believe it is. Just as small business is at the heart of our economy, small towns like Seward (population, a shade over 7,000) are the central part of our soul. Those small towns are also where the Fourth of July is remembered for what it is: Independence Day.

A quiet form of self reliance permeates the atmosphere of every small town and they seem to subliminally identify with our founding fathers’ decision they’d had enough of the Crown of England. Inasmuch as those pioneering colonialists had created this nation out of nothing, they didn’t see why the fruits of their labors should go to support a foreign nation. Also, since their unique form of individualism was what had made them successful, they knew they didn’t need someone else to tell them how to run what they had created. Small towns are on the forefront of self preservation as it was practiced on the frontier, a trait that comes in handy during hard financial times. Big government isn’t something they aspire to, nor do they expect it to solve their problems. Personal and civic responsibility is a given.

Independence Day undoubtedly means different things to different folks, but in small towns, the overwhelming display of patriotism clearly shows where their heads and hearts are at.

I find the red, white and blue extravaganza to be refreshing. And reassuring. National news is dominated by the Beltway Buffoons and unbelievable news from overseas. The way we are absolutely pummeled by the worse type of news, it would be really easy to get depressed, and in some ways, I think the nation is depressed. But, as I look around at small towns, especially those in agrarian areas, I know that regardless of what happens nationally, when the dust settles, the small towns and their traditions will have survived. The big cities may be smoking piles of ash but small town America will still be up and kicking. That’s where our nation got its start, and if it proves necessary, that will be where it gets a fresh start. Just knowing that makes me feel better.

So, here are a few photos that demonstrate what a small town Fourth is all about.

statue.Courthouse
The quinessential small town square complete with Civil War statue. The plaques around the base thank those who have fought in every war since.
Plaque
The plaques go from the Civil War to today. Iraq and Afghanistan are on order.
polevaulter
An area about six blocks on a side is shut down as every possible activity you can think of is in process. These are female highschool pole vaulters showing their stuff.
Parade Tractors
The parade has been known to last two hours. This in a town that is barely a mile wide, if that.
Czech queen
Every tiny town has a Czech queen and they all show up. I think the record is 13 (update: there were 11 this year).
Sometimes family reunions will be measured in the hundreds when all the generations show up, and they usually do.
BSA
When was the last time you saw Boy Scouts in a parade? Makes we smile just to think of it.
governor
Every politician worth his salt knows his future may depend on showing up in this specific parade.
Firetrucks
How can you have a parade without fire trucks? Makes we wonder who is protecting the surrounding towns.
Model A Club
Old cars, especially Model A Fords, are a big thing in the plains states. There will be many dozens chugging along.
KidsOnBikes
If you can walk or ride, you can participate.
rodeo queen
The rodeo queens are always a favorite.

Seward is about 30 miles west of Lincoln right on I-80. You should think about visiting next year. You'll be glad you did. We'll be there for sure. bd

28 June 2015 - A Bloodless Coup?
Holy…! What just happen? Did the Supreme Court just decide to redefine Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances and, in the process, take over the United States of America? Did “We the people…” just get replaced by “We the judges?”

I’ve made an honest effort this year to keep Thinking Out Loud away from politics and anything like it. But, this week too much stuff happened to ignore it. I hope this is the last time I get forced into talking about this crap.

First there is the Supreme Court: The way the US government was purposely set up by the founding fathers, the Supreme Court of The US (SCOTUS) was there to judge whether laws met the exact letter of the Constitution. They are the final authority and are supposed to look at a law, lay it against the template of the Constitution and make a judgment as to whether it fits or not. THEY ARE NOT THERE TO TWIST THEIR INTEPRETATION OF EITHER THE CONSTITUTION OR A LAW TO MAKE THAT LAW MORE PALITABLE TO THEM. They absolutely cannot make or change laws. That’s the job of Congress. Unfortunately, no other branch has overview as to whether SCOTUS is doing its job or not and the mechanism to censure them for questionable “behavior” is cumbersome and has seldom, if ever, been used.

This week dissenting judge Scalia summarized it best in his brief when he said, of the Obamacare ruling, “The Court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. We must always remember, therefore, that our task is to apply the text, not to improve upon it.’”

He further said that the legacy of the Roberts Court will be "…forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others.” Scalia explained that the Court engaged in "somersaults of statutory interpretation to save ObamaCare, rather than applying neutral and consistent rules to all laws equally.”

In other words, SCOTUS not only didn’t do their job, as spelled out in the Constitution, they redefined their job the way they saw fit. This is a scary situation because they’re the check valve for the whole system. If they waiver in their responsibilities, the entire system is weakened to its core.

It’s not so much the Obamacare decision I object to, as it is the manner in which they did it. However, I don’t like the decision either.

The Gay Rights Decision. I suppose I could react the same way to their gay marriage decision as I do Obamacare, but, my objections to that are different. First, let it be known far and wide that I don’t think anyone outside of the couple involved should have any say on the matter of gay marriage or anything similar. It’s none of my business what they do. I know this is going to rankle some readers, but I really don’t care if a guy wants to marry another guy, a pig or his pick-up. I have zero personal leanings in that area other than one very big one: I DON’T THINK GOVERNMENT—STATE OR FEDERAL—HAS ANY DAMN BUSINESS LEGISLATING ANYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH GAY RIGHTS. Their rights should be the same as anyone else on the planet. Ditto for transgenders or anyone else regardless of color, creed or sexual orientation, assuming they don’t present a physical threat to the population. Once you separate out any category or group of people for special legislation, which we do repeatedly, you’re on a slippery slope.

By the same token, if a person’s religious beliefs say they really don’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, that’s their business. The government should butt out. In my eyes, that’s just a variation of the sign on the door, “no shirt, no shoes, no service.”

Morality and Politics. The entire governmental system is screwed up for one very simple reason. The way the Constitution sets up the government is brilliant in the way, that, if it is followed, it keeps any given branch from becoming so powerful that it negates another branch. However, a flaw in the concept was spelled out by T. Jefferson at the very beginning, when he stated that this structure would only work if it was built around “moral men.” The concept requires a high level of honesty, integrity and dedication to the Constitution and the people it serves, to keep the roles of each branch well defined so they can keep watch on the other branches. Judging from many of the actions this week, it would appear that Tom’s concern is valid.

Moral leaders are the main ingredients of a republic. What we are seeing right now is that, if a person is in a governmental position for which there is little to no penalty for performing in a wrongful manner, there are only their own morals to keep them walking the line. I’m afraid that’s what we saw this week in so many areas of government, not just SCOTUS. In short, it appears the morality of government and their commitment to the Constitution has been compromised in the extreme.

This has been going on for a long time. Recently, we all screamed when the President unilaterally decided to give an immigration breaks to 5 million illegals. Clearly not within his power. The whole Benghazi thing smelled to high heaven, but we let it slide. The ultimate “how dumb do they think we are?” actions can be seen in the rash of beltway hard drive crashes, hard drive disappearances, e-mail trashings, etc. And then the SCOTUS rulings this week! On a national level, it seems as if we’ve very much lost our way and are wandering in the wilderness.

About the Confederate flag thing: I have mixed emotions about that one. Because the stars and bars has been high jacked by so many racist groups, I can clearly see why some folks see it in that light. That reference is hard to escape and I understand and largely agree with their sentiment. Being from Nebraska, my roots are as a bluecoat (the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 helped start the Civil War.) Some part of me, however, strongly identifies with the anti-government, rebel aspect of the south but not the slavery. I’m betting that was the case with 90% of Confederates. They weren’t fighting for slavery as much as they were fighting simply because they were being invaded. When you shoot at someone, they have no choice but to shoot back. And that’s what I see, when I see a Confederate flag: underdogs backed into a corner and being forced to fight. They did so as bravely as anyone ever has. And they were Americans. Make no mistake, however, I can clearly see why some folks want that flag removed and I won’t argue that. But, why now all of a sudden?

We are seeing a tsunami of narrowly defined political correctness sweeping the land that may see warrior statues being removed and an attempt at re-writing history by omission ala Japan’s treatment of WWII. Also you can count on the American flag eventually being targeted. Students at the Univ. of California Irvine campus have already said they want that symbol of oppression and imperialism removed. If we don’t recognize the symbols of American pride, both national and regional, those regions will have every right to resent the PC-Nazi’s intrusion and eventually, the whole thing will fester until it comes around to bite us in the butt. This thing goes much deeper than a flag.

I hope this is my last political, Thinking Out Loud. bd20 June 2015 - But, it's a Dry Heat
If you watch the news, some would say that it was hot this past week here in Phoenix. Others would say it was hot as hell. And, I would have to agree. It’s important for those thinking about moving to Phoenix to realize that we have four months where the temps never get below 211 degrees. Celsius. So, don’t move here. Please!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve told someone I’m from Phoenix and automatically, they say, “Oh, man! How can you live down there? It’s always 110 degrees! How can you stand it?” It’s like it’s a conditioned response. Just as my conditioned response to them is, “Let’s have this same conversation in January.”

Truth is, we had a really cool, and pleasant, spring, but June marks the start of serious summer for us where temps go over 100 and pretty much stay there until mid-September. June also, for some reason, always seems to have at least one week, like last week, where it stays above 110, which is well above normal, all week, then drops back to a more normal 105-108.

I know that even 105 sounds ridiculously hot to most folks, but that’s because they’ve never experienced those temperatures at the kind of humidity we have here. Last week we saw as high as 114 degrees (and yes, thank you, I was flying in it) with 111 being an average. But I never saw the humidity above 10 percent. Usually about eight percent. And that makes a HUGE difference. The “dry heat” thing everyone jokes about is very real. Super real, actually.

FYI- the historical record temp for Phoenix was 122 in 1990, which caused the main airport to shut down. This because airline performance charts didn’t go that high.

I’m always flying in these temps with students from out-of-state or out-of-the-country (I fly VERY few locals. I’ll go a year or two without any.) and it’s fun to hear their comments on our weather. They’re usually here for a week and, regardless of the time of year, inevitably they say something like, “Man, this is like Ground Hog day. The sky almost never has any clouds!” That’s not 100% true, but close enough.

They also say, when they see the hangar thermometer at 105, “I can’t believe that’s how hot it is. If I was back home in (insert your state), we’d be dying, but I’m perfectly comfortable.” However, the instant the air stops moving, as in shutting off the fan in the hangar, you start sweating. Even if the humidity is low. Fortunately, there’s usually a slight breeze and the front seat of my Pitts is open cockpit.

We do have higher humidity (as high as 25-30%) during August and we all bitch and moan about it. You only have to live here for a couple of weeks to become a certified weather wienie: we can’t stand temps below 60 and humidity above 20-25%. And I’m not kidding one bit. If it gets down into the 50’s, which it will sometimes during the winter, you honest-to-God see folks walking around with gloves on. I always fly with gloves, when it’s that cool.

The hottest I’ve flown here was 118 degrees with a student from (are you ready for this?) northern Ontario, Canada. But he was a really game kid and didn’t complain a bit. I made up a “Certificate of Incredibility” for him at the end of the week. He’s now flying in the Red Bull races. Additionally, I’ve flown enough in high temps that I can automatically convert the Celsius (when did it stop being Centigrade?) on ATIS to “real” degrees (Fahrenheit) in my head.

One thing I’ve really noticed about myself in the last few years on this heat thing is how easily I get dehydrated. I mean, to the point that I can feel my brain shutting down and my body goes weak. So, I go through a minimum of two bottles a hop, which I never had to do in the past. I’m guessing the miles I’ve racked up on this old body have opened up some of the tolerances in my internal fittings so I just need more lubricating.

So, anyway, everybody’s favorite season is here: summer and most folks will lament the day it passes. Not us. As soon as summer is over we can begin actually living, not just tolerating.

As Rudyard Kipling said (sort of ), “Only mad dogs and Englishmen (and turistas) go out in the mid-day sun. Zonies know better.” bd

6 June 2015 - America: A View From the Outside
I’ve started to write this blog at least six times and I can’t believe I’ve let two weeks go by in the process. Things just kept taking me away from it. But in some ways, it has worked out well because today is June 6th, a red, white and blue date that always chokes me up. It’s also a date that dovetails with what was to be the original subject of this blog: I found that a good place to have a rebirth of patriotism is to attend the swearing in ceremony for new citizens. Especially a ceremony as special as this one was.

Two weeks ago last Tuesday, Marlene Elizabeth Davisson was sworn in as a US citizen! This was something she’d had on her bucket list for a long time and sitting there, watching the ceremony, affected me more than I thought it would.

MED.CitizenshipSmile
The smile of a new citizen

I had been told that it was to be a very cut and dried, repeat-after-me thing that took more time getting seated than it did to complete. Wrong on all scores. Very wrong and I have to give the Immigration Service credit for making sure that those who had decided to become US citizens and their families would remember the day.

There were 64 people to be sworn in and probably 200 people in the room: every family, us included, knew this was a very big deal. In looking around the room, I suddenly realized that I had walked in the door with some preconceived notions that were wrong. With all the hype about our southern borders and immigrants pouring in, I had assumed most of those in the room would be Hispanic. But of the 33 nations represented, Mexico didn’t come close to dominating the room. There were less than ten Hispanics. In fact, as the administrator had people stand up as he called out their country, there were as many Iraqis as Mexicans and the rest was split every way you could imagine. A four-member family from England, a young couple for Nairobi and on and on.

They asked for volunteers to get up and tell their stories, which was what brought tears to my eyes. The AZ Redhead was amongst the speakers and, in as proud and as clear a voice as I’ve ever heard from her, she let us all know that, she had been in Phoenix since 1958, when her family moved down from Vancouver, Canada and she considered herself as American as anyone in the room, but this would make it official.

Two other speakers were the ones who really got to me. One was another Canadian, a young man who struggled with his words and his emotions as he told his story. He had had surgery for brain cancer, which effected his speech, and he said that, as he went through the entire, painful experience, all he could think about was becoming a US citizen.

The other was a tiny, ancient, gray-haired woman, at least 85 years old, from some country I’d never heard of in Africa. She told the tale of an America she had only seen in her dreams and on the TV she saw rarely. When she came to Phoenix, she said what surprised her most were the people. She hadn’t expected them to be so warm and to reach out to her so readily. Their sincerity had touched her and she could hardly believe that she was about to become an American.

It was about that time that a wave of pride in my country rolled over me. Like so many others, I’d forgotten what an incredible country this is. It took voices from the outside to remind me. From the inside we see only the squabbles, the politics and the problems. We forget that for all its warts and overt screw-ups, this is still the most fantastic country in the world. Tony Blair once said that you can judge the quality of a country by whether people are trying to get into it or out of it. And the very fact that immigration is one of our major subjects of discussion says that, as nasty as some groups would like to make us out to be, we are still the “go to” country worldwide.

As I think about all the young men who died 71 years ago on an Atlantic beach determined to bring freedom back to an oppressed land, and I think of the hopeful souls in the room with Marlene last week, I almost get angry at myself. And at the rest of our population. There’s a very negative vibe throughout the country that shows we’re losing our confidence in the principles upon which we as a nation have conducted our lives for 239 years. We’re losing our faith in The Dream. But, as I sat there with 64 people from 33 countries, you could almost feel their dreams filling the room. In their minds they were taking a very large step toward becoming part The American dream. They still believed in us. And we should too.

16 May 2015 - Simplicity Trumps the Need for Speed...Maybe
The other day a shiny new Maserati Ghibli coupe pulled up along side me at a light. It was being driven by a millennial who sported the requisite unshaven look. He glanced over and, as our eyes met, I couldn’t help but grin and chuckle, which perplexed him…me being in my ancient Civic and all. I guess I wasn’t giving him the respect he imagined his ride deserved. That happens a lot with me.

First, I have to admit to being a car guy, which is no secret to any reader of Thinking Out Loud. However, I also have to admit that my four-wheel taste is a little eclectic (weird might be a better word). As I’ve gotten older, it has gotten decidedly oddball and unexpected. Unexpected even to me.

First my students often find it strange that someone who spends an obscene amount of time falling out of the sky in a hotrod biplane drives a 25-year-old (1990) Honda Civic (I bought it new as I was getting divorced, 240,000 miles!). Much worse: I seem to enjoy it. And I’ve lavished far more money than is sensible in returning it to, if not show room condition, at least to a state that it isn’t totally embarrassing (dents removed, new paint, etc). The car doesn’t match the personality the airplane would seem to indicate. And I’m not sure why.

I have to admit that, while I dearly love performance cars and my taste runs to the slightly cruder machines than the Maserati, for some reason I just don’t want them in my life. Again, I’m not sure why.

My first new car right out of college was a ’65 GTO (Tri-power, four-on-the-floor, posi-traction, etc.). Before that it was a ’62 Pontiac Catalina hardtop from my younger brother that was set up with all the Grand National Stock Car options that were then available. For a lot of years the Goat shared my garage with a ’65 Shelby GT350 (Serial number 195). I’d LOVE to have any one of those cars back, and, of course the Shelby is now worth a very pretty penny, but, for the life of me I can’t see myself driving any of them. This isn’t because I’m technically a gray dog and too old for them: you’re never too old for a boss ride and the majority of high dollar performance cars I see around here are driven by gray dogs. I think it’s because my life just doesn’t have room for them. No, let me rephrase that: I wouldn’t have them because I don’t want to invest the time necessary to effortlessly house them and enjoy them. I just don’t want the complexity.

This is going to sound incredibly silly, but, some part of me seems to be seeking some sort of simplicity in life, this even though I’m surrounded by tons of stuff that breeds complexity. ‘You want to complicate a life? Try owning an airplane in a big city. It’s a major pain in the butt in every way possible.

Maybe part of aging is the realization that there really are only 24 hours in a day and we’re not as good at compressing stuff into them as we used be.

It might also be the realization that for a lot of our lives, we would look at something and say, “Oh, I’ll get at it eventually.” Time was an intangible, gossamer concept that, while we valued it, we didn’t conscious see it as having an end. There was always more of it out there.

Of all the things that moving into the last quarter of your existence changes, it is your concept of time. At some point the fact that time has a finite limit attached to it creeps into our consciousness and we begin looking at things differently. We finally realize that at some point there will be the last car, the last dog, the last hug, the last of everything. And, without thinking about it, some of us begin setting priorities as to how we’re going to invest whatever time is left in our bank. And “invest” is the right word. We no longer think in terms of doing something just to be “passing the time." We want it to earn us something that’s precious, but not necessarily tangible. Maybe it’s paying more attention to old friends. Or maybe creating something that others will enjoy when we can no longer enjoy it. I don’t know. Everyone does it differently.

Certainly one of the trends that’s creeping into my thought patterns is coming up with dreams and goals that are more short term in nature: I select projects and goals that I can logically see where they’ll end, rather than stretching out to some sort of vague, difficult to control, “sometime” conclusion.

I guess I’m looking for a little simplification in everything because I then know I can handle what ever it is and do a better job of it. Would I like to be commuting to the airport in a ’65 GTO? Sure I would, but would I want to complicate my life? No way.

As I accelerated away from the light, hearing the Honda’s modified exhaust tone building as I effortlessly snapped it into second gear, I looked at the Maserati pulling away from me and grinned again. I was having as much fun as he was with a whole lot less effort or worries. And that’s worth a lot.

PS
The AZ Red Head just read this and said it’s mostly BS. She said, if I had the money I’d have another big block screamer. In truth, she’s probably right. So much for profound thoughts and commonsense. :-)
7 May 2015 - A Ten Second Period of Grace
I just had a miracle happen to me. It could have just been a coincidence, but, miracle or not, I’ll take it. This because, without it, there’s the chance I would have been writing this propped up in a hospital bed hammering on my laptop. I wouldn’t have been seriously hurt but would probably be banged up a little. Monday I had the luckiest, unlucky thing I’ve ever had happen to me and I’m hoping to learn from it.

We were cleared for takeoff and my student was in the process of taxiing from the crowded run-up area to the empty sanctity of the wide runway. Just as she curved onto the centerline, throttle at idle, the right rudder pedal fell to the floor, brake and all, and just that quickly, we had zero directional control of the airplane! Zero! Since we were barely moving at a walk, but already turning, the airplane’s center of gravity took control of things and continued pulling our tail to the right until the tailwheel unlocked and we made a very tight, very lazy ground loop, eventually coming to a halt sitting crosswise on the centerline.

So, there we sat, on the approach end of an 8,000 foot runway, jets clearly in sight on final and others lined up on both sides of the runway ready to go. But, there was this little red biplane sitting in the middle of the runway. I felt incredibly exposed, obvious and just a hair confused.

It took about a second for me to realize that there was no way in hell that I could taxi clear of the runway. Any power at all just caused the airplane to turn tightly. So, we shut down and bailed out of the airplane as if it was on fire, pushing like crazy people to get it off the runway and across a taxiway to the ramp as quickly as possible. I’d be go to hell, if I would be one of those idiots who shut down a runway and back up traffic. I’ve seen them do that for nothing more than a flat tire. Not me.

As I was pushing, I had no idea what happened, but obviously something had broken. I suspected a cable or maybe a nicopress had slipped off. When I walked around to the other side of he airplane, I got my answer: the right rudder cable was dragging on the ground with half of the turnbuckle that connected it to the rudder attached. The other half of the turnbuckle was still attached to the rudder horn. It had actually broken! That’s the first time in my life I had seen one break.

S-2A Turnbuckle
Some problems are easier to diagnose than others!

Incidentally, as I was inspecting the rudder cable I became conscious of how hard my heart was beating and the quickness of my breath. I hadn’t realized I was in such sorry physical condition. That was a wake-up call.

A tow tractor with a dolly showed up and we started the slow motion towing trek back to the hangar, about ¾ mile away. During the ten or so minutes it took to make the trip, I sat on the tractor thinking about the episode and all the “what ifs” attached to it.

What if it had happened five seconds earlier, when we were taxiing past a Falcon in the run-up area? We would have been moving much faster and had quite a bit of power on it. The turn to the left would have been much more violent. I don’t think we would have had enough room between me and the Falcon for me to hit the good brake and execute a tight ground loop before hitting it. In all likelihood we would have stopped with my prop chewing into the fuel filled wing of the Falcon and with more than a little speed behind me.

If it had happened five seconds later: we would have had full power on the airplane accelerating rapidly to a 70-80 mph lift off. If still on the ground, the airplane’s P-factor would have yanked us off the left side of the runway at about the same time I would have chopped the throttle. It would probably have twisted us into a very high-speed ground loop as we left the runway. The normal scenario in a Pitts at that point is it folds the outside landing gear, catches the wingtip and flips the airplane on its back usually destroying it and ruining the occupant’s underwear.

If it had happened 10 seconds later, while we were in the air, I would have been faced with the challenge of having to land the airplane with no directional control. I could have gotten it on the ground just fine, but immediately after touchdown, it would have taken off for the side of the runway at about 70 mph and the upside-down-in-the-gravel scenario was almost guaranteed.

The turnbuckle had decided to fail during the only ten-second window possible that there wouldn’t have been dire results. I doubt if any of them would have resulted in serious injury, but who knows?

I was such a seriously lucky SOB I can’t believe it! And it had some worthwhile effects on me. Among other things I immediately got more serious about my morning walks and started looking for hills to challenge me. I’ve even tossed in some squats and push-ups. I’m also making a very minor mod to the airplane that won’t let the rudder pedals fall forward and take the brakes away from me. Most tailwheel airplanes are set up the same way and I’d suggest a similar mod to all of them.

This wasn’t a life-threatening event. In fact, what actually transpired was more entertaining than threatening. However, the what-ifs are another matter. They made me a little more aware of what else is going on in my life and, like someone who had escaped death (which I hadn’t), made me appreciate the good things more and not let the bad ones bother me. I guess I’m prioritizing a little better. The challenge now is make that effect last. bd
26 April 2015 - You just gotta love the coyote
One of the most hopeful signs that everything is still right in the world was on the news last night. The accompanying video was of the NYPD (as in New York City cops) chasing a coyote that was running around lower Manhattan. As usual, the Coyote was making the NYPD look silly. Just as they always do with everyone else. Now that’s funny! Just shows no place is sacred to a Coyote, which I view as the overall leveling organism in the universe. Next to the cockroach.

I love coyotes. Yeah, like most westerners, I’ve put my share of them in the ground, but I’ve changed my ways. They, of course, haven’t. Now, other than the fact that they have CAT (big cats) and dogs (small dogs), which are my closest family, on the top of their everyday menu, I find them entertaining. I find it flat out amusing that even a place that’s as sophisticated (or so they’d like us to believe) as NYC (which actually floats on a veritable cockroach haven) isn’t safe from El Coyote’. Old Mr. Coyote is the omnipresent reminder that we don’t actually rule the world. That we’re just passing through. Mr. C is the thread of continuity that ties yesterday, today, and tomorrow together.

I would have loved to be there when someone stepped out of a high-dollar NYC eatery only to have a coyote, being pursued by a herd of cops, flash past them. Okay, so it’s not hilarious to most, but I think the image is pretty damn funny.

Frank Lloyd Wright said (although it could have been Buckminster Fuller…or Soupy Sales) that 10,000 years from now, all that anyone will find of our civilization will be toilet bowls: ceramics are forever. Nothing else manmade is. However, the cockroaches and coyotes, which were here long before we walked on two legs and will still be here long after we’re gone, will probably have their thoughts about us. If they feel like talking they could talk about the tall, salty-tasting bipeds that used to beat their chests and stack rocks on top of rocks and live inside the result. Yeah, those funny looking, hairless bipeds were here. But, now they’re gone.

It’s kind of interesting to think about the coyote and how he has reacted to mankind taking over his living space. I was born and raised in eastern Nebraska, which doesn’t mean much except for a couple of unusual facts. First, I know for a fact that I never saw a coyote in the wild unless we drove out into the Sand Hills on the other end of a pretty big state (430 miles across). Oddly enough, same thing holds for deer. It was farm country with lots of food, but we had to go out west to find deer. Today, of course, both species are nuisances in the area.

I doubt if we’re going to see deer running down 3rd Avenue on the lower East side, but the funny, not-so-little, laughing dogs have somehow made the trip. But, I can’t imagine how.

Manhattan Island is called an island because…well… because it’s an island. That means it’s surrounded by water. A lot of water. But there are good sized bridges across that water. However, I cannot, for the life of me, see a coyote getting up on the George Washington Bridge and trotting into the Big Apple. Ditto the Lincoln or Holland tunnels. So, how did that guy get into Manhattan? The video was the final proof that, if you leave a sandwich laying around, a coyote is going to find it. You can kill ‘em, but you can’t run them out of a territory were they want to live.

As for coyote populations moving East, that makes perfect sense. Even though it would appear that we have taken their living spaces, just the opposite is true. They’re the space thieves: they’ll live any damn place they please. And it pleases them to live around the edges of mankind because mankind produces an endless stream of garbage. Which attracts rodents and rodents attract coyotes. And mankind raises things like cats and small dogs, which might as well be coyote bait. We lost a cat not long ago to a coyote. Now we keep them in at night.

I’m certain everyone from farmers to suburbanites to 5th Avenue doormen are trying to get rid of coyotes. However, if there’s one incontrovertible fact in life, when it comes to a fair fight (no firearms involved), always bet on the coyote.

And the cockroach, of course. bd11 April 2015 - Getting Our Lives Under Control (Good luck!)
The human animal is a curious one. We have reshaped an entire planet in what amounts to the blink of an eye, yet, when it comes to controlling some pretty basic, personal behavior patterns, most of us suck. Me especially. I’m admitting this publicly in the hopes that it’ll shame me into doing something about it. And may help others with the same challenges. I’m talking about minor stuff like controlling our weight or where our life is going.

There’s something about most of us that we’ll put our heads down and charge into the unknown ready to take on any challenge. However, give us a little time and we seem to drift off course and forget where we were going. A classic example is how quickly the patriotic furor over 911 faded and degraded back down to the same divisive conservative/liberal way of thinking . Or, on a more personal level, how we go charging off determined to get in shape. Or, better yet, lose weight. Or clean the garage. Or whatever. We start off like a house afire, but in a fairly short period of time lose momentum and there we are…right back where we started. Granted, there are those amongst us who can pick a direction and maintain it, resisting all temptations to drift off course. But that’s not most of us. In fact, I think I hate those people. You know who you are (kidding).

I, for one, get pretty damned disgusted with myself from time to time because I know I’m not doing what I should be doing. And right now is one of those times. I look around at my life and ask myself, “What the hell are you doing? You’re not even close to controlling your life, which is something you’ve always prided yourself on.”

I’m absolutely positive others feel the same way periodically. That we’re letting events set our course rather than controlling it ourselves We’re letting the winds fly our airplane, when we should be controlling what’s going on rather than just reacting to what’s happening around us. Why is that?

I’m not talking about the big things like politics and the madness in our nation’s capital. I’m talking about all of the smaller, day-to-day life-factors over which we have total control, but do nothing about. Sometimes we seem to let them overwhelm us, or they pick at us a little at a time causing us to lose our heading without our realizing it.

Wait….! For all I know, I’m alone in this up and down, saw-tooth approach to life. Please don’t tell me that the majority of you start on a project of some kind and keep fiddling with it until it’s done. Please don’t tell me you decided to lose 17 ½ pounds ten years ago, lost it and kept it off! That makes me think you’re some sort of extraterrestrial because, in my experience, mere mortals can’t do that. At least this one can’t. I lost 33 pounds about five years ago and little by little have gained 20 of it back. And I’m seriously pissed at myself. But it goes deeper than that and I was made aware of similar losses of control while I was messing with my taxes this morning.

Those of you who are in business for yourselves all have the same problem: since we don’t actually know what we’re going to make on a yearly basis we have to exercise a bit of self control and walk a razor blade path that lets us pay the bills, yet still have enough left to pay the taxes.

I said that backwards: we plan to pay the taxes and hope we have enough left to pay the bills.

Increasingly, taxes are the big wind that we have to control and, in the last few years that has become more difficult. But, this is just one of those control-challenged areas, like my weight, that I’ve lightened my grip on so this tax year is going to be a tough one. This morning, I found myself brow beating myself because I’m not doing the job of running my life as I’m supposed to be doing. On every front I’ve become lax. When that happens, what do we do about it?

It’s obvious that “lax” is a chronic human condition that I think lurks around the corners of our personalities and is always waiting to catch us in a weakened condition so it can lead us off the correct path. In so many aspects of our lives, we say “screw it!” and pry the top off a fresh quart of chocolate-carmel ice cream (which should be illegal, by the way), at the same time saying “Just this once. I’ll only eat an inch of it now. I’ll diet it off tomorrow.” That NEVER works! Worse…we know it doesn’t work, but we do it anyway.

It is universally accepted that the human animal is a weak one. Yet, as a species, we manage to do some amazing things. Even more amazing, most of our accomplishments are for good. We’re not the scourge of the universe some would have us believe that we are. Individually, however, we (more correctly “I”) have difficulties controlling our own tiny universes. So, it’s time for me to do something about that.

Our current B & B/flying student is leaving in a half hour. Shortly after that, I’m rousting The AZ Red Head out of the sack with a hot cup of tea and we’re going to sit on the patio, yellow pad in hand, and plot out a new course for us. How long the result will stay in effect is hard to tell, but one fact is absolutely true: if we don’t make the effort, nothing is going to change. And I can’t live life like that. Could you? bd
4 April 2015 - A Simple Life?
This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, a conversation I had on a plane a while back floated through my mind. I don’t know if I’ve recounted it before, but, if I have, I feel like talking about it this again this morning.

I don’t remember where I was going, but when my seatmate made his way to his roost beside me, his uneasiness was palpable. His eyes had a lot of age behind them but, as he walked down the aisle, they never stopped moving around the airplane. He studied the overhead storage, the way the bins opened, he glanced down into each seat as he passed and a finger rode the overhead rail keeping track of the seat numbers: he even stopped to read the defibrillator placard on the appropriate bin. This was a true airline newby. Actually, it was more than that: he was a stranger in a strange land. And obviously from a different era.

I tried to guess his age, but couldn’t. Everything about him said late 80’s. Maybe even 90’s. But, the quickness in his eyes made me think younger. His back was straight, his frame thin but wiry. His sun-darkened skin was the wrinkled texture of old, but well oiled, leather and he carried himself proud. He was old. There was no way to deny that. But he made old look good.

He wore a faded, but clean and perfectly pressed, flannel shirt, with matching jeans, a big buckle from a long-ago rodeo and pointy-toed boots that he’d valiantly tried to polish, but their age and the miles showed through. He carried a small leather suitcase/bag like you’d see in an antique store in one hand and his Sunday-go-to-meeting, high-crown Stetson in the other. The hat had obviously been his traveling companion for a long, long time. Everything about the old gentleman said “cowboy.” Not the kind you see on the Country Music Awards, or climbing out of a Cadillac with horns on the hood. The kind that part of your mind hopes still inhabits far corners of the American Experience carrying on a tradition that we know is dying and we hate that. He was the real thing and had been since before I was born.

As he sat down, he fumbled with the seat belt and strained to see out the window. I introduced myself and stood up, insisting that he slide to the window seat so he could enjoy the entire experience. I helped strap him in and pointed out the overhead lights and the seatbelt signs. Initially, he was timid. Almost embarrassed that he needed help. I sensed an incredibly self-reliant man who was fighting old age as much as he could and didn’t like the fact that he was so far out of his element that he needed help from a stranger. Still, he quietly expressed his gratitude and settled back for the take off, only slightly stiffened with well-hidden anxiety.

His nose against the window, the airplane raced down the runway and rotated into the air. At about 500 feet, his head snapped around with a big grin on his face, his eyes on fire.“Damn!” Then he was back to the new world unfolding before him.

As the flight wore on, he relaxed and asked me where I was from. He called me “son”, which I liked. Little by little, his story came out.

He was born, raised and lived his entire life on a smallish ranch in the mountains east of Phoenix. This is an area that still offers the open spaces and challenging life that the general public associates with “The West.” Few, however, partake of that life because there are far, far easier ways to make a living. As he described his childhood and the times that followed, I could see the ranch in my mind so clearly it was as if I had been there. It was nestled into the back of the foothills on the eastern slope where the wooded mountains fade into high-country plains. Some of the pasture area could be mistaken for western Nebraska or the Dakotas except it was an easy 4,500 MSL with the mountains and hill country much higher than that. This meant their winters were tough and their summers hot.

Without even seeing them, I knew the simple house and barns all needed a coat of paint. Times had never been good, much less fat enough to allow regular painting and in many spots the wood had turned gray. His sons had moved to The City as soon as they were able. He was proud of them. One a mechanic, the other a physician’s assistant. Oh, sure they visit as much as they can, but, you know…they have families. And business to take care of. His beloved Amanda is nearly a decade gone, but he’s doing okay. The Gutierrez boys have acerage next door and they come over and help, when needed. He doesn’t get TV, but the radio works real good. The telephone too. The big herd got to be too much, so he’s only running about 50 head now. His immediate family is an old gray named George and a couple of dogs who love him dearly: Mable and Ernesto. His eyes lit up when mentioning the dogs and the lights stayed on, when he ran down the list of grand children, some of which had actually been out to the ranch. They seemed to enjoy it. At 92, he didn’t think he’d see them too many more times. If at all. Some of the light went out of his eyes, when he said that.

And, yes, this was the first time in an airplane. In fact, except for a few rodeos in Prescott and Texas, he’d seldom left the county. Except during WWII. He’d joined the Marines with a Navajo friend of his. He hated the Pacific and hadn’t really known how to swim, when he stepped into the surf at Iwo. Dreadful place. Lost a lot of friends there. Some nights, when the light is low out on the back porch, he’ll sit there smoking a cigar and see their faces. All of them are so young. So damn young!

As I said good by and looked him in the eyes, I hadn’t realized, until that moment, how much I envied him. He’d lived what most of us would judge as a simple life. But, it was his life, lived on his terms. And it was a good life. His years were guided only by the weather, the seasons, his health and that of his herd. And he’d kept a dying tradition alive. I know I’ve met lots of guys who think of themselves as cowboys. But, that day, I knew for a fact, I had actually met one. And I savor that memory. bd

2 March 2015 - Cities and Other Social Constructs
There’s a truly interesting character, recently deceased at 93, Pablo Soleri, who is a part of AZ culture in an unexpected way: a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (the architect, in case you didn’t know), he spent most of his long life trying to redefine the concept of “city” and this weekend, The Redhead and I finally understood what he meant. And that understanding made me stand back and re-evaluate the way I look at life, in general.

Trying to explain how Soleri looked at buildings and cities is difficult but I’ll do my best (and I’ll probably get it wrong). At the root of his design philosophy is the elimination of what he sees as waste: the waste of land, the waste of building materials, the waste of energy, the waste of the human experience. So his designs pivot around the concept of sustainability in which the key ingredient is low waste.

When designing his buildings he seeks to take advantage of everything natural, both in the support of those buildings (heating, cooling, etc.) and in his construction techniques. So, rather than strapping on a ton of solar panels, he orients his buildings to the sun, shapes them to absorb sun, when it’s needed, and repel it, when it’s not.

His construction is, for the most part, highly non-traditional. Rather than using conventional build-from-the-inside methods that result in a skeletal interior frame with a cosmetic covering, most of his structures have an exoskeleton, like a turtle or a beetle or a tilt slab building, in which all of the loads are carried by the exterior skin. The way in which he builds that skin is also about as non-traditional as you can get. He uses what some call the “earth casting” system: the basic shape of the building (usually some variation of dome) is sculpted in huge piles of dirt. The piles are dampened and tamped down so workers can sculpt designs and structural members into the dirt. This includes interior girders that appear as sculpted trenches in the dirt dome but appear as some form of artful arch inside the dome. Then the dirt dome is covered in concrete. Re-bar and steel screen run throughout the concrete, most of which is now sprayed in place (I’m assuming some sort of gunnite). When the dirt is excavated (which can be used again for another building), you have a form of sometimes-huge igloo-like structures. I like that concept, if not the philosophy behind it.

Soleri-dome
Arcosanti workshop. The girders and inteior decoration is sculpted into the dirt mound before the concrete and re-bar is run over it.The orientation and arch is designed so sun reaches the work shops in the rear during winter but not summer.

Soleri has two show cases for his architectural concepts here in AZ, one of which is Cosanti, a five acre tract about a mile from our house that was originally out in the desert but is now surrounded by some of the most expensive houses in Arizona. This was his student-supported architectural campus where he not only taught architecture, but based his bronze and ceramic bell business, which is also supported and operated by student labor. We love his bells/windchimes and anyone we know that’s getting married can count on one being their wedding gift. Google them and you can buy them on-line. We highly recommend them.

Even though we’d been exposed to Soleri for decades, we didn’t really understand what he espoused until we finally stopped at his really major project, a utopian mini-city about 60 miles north of Phoenix, Arcosanti. We’d been past it dozens of times, but never stopped. We finally stopped this weekend and that’s when we not only understood his concepts, but came face to face with our own concepts of “city” and “living.”

Soleri-ampitheater
In Soleri's concept of a city, everything anyone needs would be built into a large rambling building, including entertainment. Arcosanti's ampitheater often hosts known artists, but the road in is two miles of rough dirt.

Soleri-House
All buildings, inside and out are raw, unplastered concrete that is tinted with dirt while being poured so they visually match the hillsides. They need zero up keep. Cast concrete slabs are integrated into the dome structures.

In a nutshell, Soleri’s concepts say that the major problem with cities is the car and the urban sprawl caused by the car. So, he thought we should all be in what amounts to huge apartment buildings that maximize energy conservation by not only using green systems but are within walking/bicycling distances of our jobs (he makes no provisions for manufacturing plants, etc). Cars wouldn’t be allowed in the city-center. And that’s what Arcosanti showcases: highly efficient use of space for large numbers of people who live in close proximity in a “harmonious way:” his concept also says people get along better if they share the same experiences and spaces.

He apparently never met me, or the vast majority of people I know.

My feeling about harmonious living can be summed up by a single experience, which I think I’ve mentioned here before, but is again apropos: my garage/workshop has a garage door at both ends and my primary work area is against the back one that opens into the backyard. I had that door open during one of my rare workshop sessions. Suddenly a head popped up over the cement block wall that surrounds our backyard (typical for Phoenix). The Head, was eerily reminiscent of the guy in Tim Allen’s TV show “Home Improvement” that was always talking to him over their fence. The Head said, “Hi, my name is Sam, I just moved in. I like building stuff too. Whatcha working on?”

At that instant, I suddenly realized I really don’t like, or want, neighbors. I value my private time too much. And I’m certain I’m typical of a large segment of the population.

What Soleri’s concepts don’t recognize is that there are lots of folks who don’t function well, when hemmed in. They aren’t necessarily anti-social, but very much want to control their social interaction. If those folks want other people in their lives, they’ll invite them in. Otherwise, stay away. In fact, those folks want to control everything about their existence and don’t want anyone else involved. They don’t need anyone to provide anything but the basics: electricity and water. In fact, given a choice, they’d supply that too, if they could. That doesn’t make them hermits. They just like things the way they like them, and aren’t about to be pigeon holed. You won’t find them sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows with the neighborhood.

Personally, I applaud the majority of Soleri’s techniques and innovations. In fact, I’d like to use some of them. But, his overall philosophy just ain’t gonna work with a lot of folks.

I did, however spot a gorgeous desert valley less than a mile from Arcosanti where I’d love to put a runway with a combination hangar/workshop/house snuggled into the cliff surrounding it. It would be a perfect application for Soleri’s earth-casting building techniques. And it’s far enough out in the boondocks that I wouldn’t have talking heads popping up over my fence insisting I converse with them.

Bah-humbug! bd

15 March 2015 - Grandbaby Again
As I mentioned last week, my daughter braved her way through ice and snow to get to Memphis to await the arrival of her baby-to-be-adopted. It arrived, and yesterday, she came through with grandchild-four (granddaughter-three) and the granddad/Grammy thing became real again.

At 6 pounds 9, this one, is, to me frighteningly cute and frighteningly fragile, even though she’s not. First, it’s been a helluva long time since I’ve been around a newborn (sitting on our patio, she was five days old!). Second, both of my kids were relative giants in the baby world: 9 pounds 6 and 9 pounds 3 respectively. So, I’ve never been around a baby baby like this one. I find it hard to believe that every single member of the human race starts out that incapable of taking care of themselves. That says a lot for mothers. Less for fathers. I couldn’t get over the tiny fingers and the eyes that roam around that you know are basically seeing nothing. It’s all about impressions of bright and dark, warmth and closeness. And eating.

Her middle name is Presley, which I think is perfect and fits well. Mom is a hardcore Elvis fan (highly unusual for a 30’s-something) and she and granddaughter-two had just been through Graceland a few days earlier. When mom asked her five-year-old what her new baby sister should be named, “Presley” popped out and, after some discussion, all agreed. Why the hell not? I love it!

So, now, my daughter is the single-mom of two. A hard row to hoe, but she’s made hoeing hard rows a specialty, so there’s no doubt she’ll be fine and the new one will be the exemplary human being her older sister is. Not many kids are that lucky. Not many moms would take on the single-mom role a second time. But, my daughter couldn’t NOT do it. She was driven. As she always is. So, all is good.

FYI - I was not aware of the incredible complexity of adopting children until my daughter went through it. I’m not sure if her experience was typical, but it was certainly arduous. You don’t just fill out an order form for a baby and wait to be called to the front of the line. The birth mother “auditions” perspective parents. My daughter actually made up promotional brochures on herself to present to birth mothers in an effort at selling herself.

And the process can be cruel: She was selected once, drove to the East Coast to do the adoption and, in the middle of the night, after spending a day with the new baby, the birth mother decided not to let it go. Nothing is firm until the forms are all signed. Like I said, it can be cruel.

Then there is the role of granddad and grammy: we have two grand kids in NJ and now two in CA. And all are too damn far away. I know lots of friends who are constantly on the road visiting their grand kids, and I’m out and out jealous. But, those same friends are at least semi-retired. Most fully retired. We aren’t. To say the least. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I know for a fact, it’s not about to change unless some health event intrudes and makes us slow down. So, we have to work our far-spread family in around a daily schedule.

I’m eternally grateful that we got that hour or so with the new little bundle because it’ll be a month before we make another screaming-across-the-desert trip to grandbabies’ house. That’ll give us a little time to wiggle ourselves back into new-grandparent mode. We can’t wait.

27 Feb 2015 - Weather or Not
As this is being written, my daughter is threading her way through freezing fog in south Texas on her way from Hollywood, CA to Memphis to adopt a baby. I’m sitting here flipping through weather maps and Interstate Weather sites trying to help her find the soft spots. But, I know full well that I can’t do much more than advise. Frustrating!

The weather has come close to knocking everything else off the front page. And there’s a good reason for that. When you can’t find your car beneath an unbroken field of snow, even though you know about where it was parked, ISIS, politics and global warming get pushed off to the outer fringes of your consciousness. Ma Nature has a brutal way of continually reminding us that we actually don’t control anything. She just allows us to exist in the calm periods between her calamitous fits of behavior. When she’s in a bad mood, everything else is irrelevant. And the immediacy of the Net and media makes us totally aware of the seriousness of the weather even though we’re not even remotely affected.

Being born and raised in flatland, blizzard country and then moving to lots-of-snow-and-too-many-people country (NJ), I’ve paid my bad weather dues. Still there are times, when I not only remember what’s going on in the rest of the country but very much appreciate what we have here in the Southwest. One of those days happened this week.

As I’ve mentioned before that one of our favorite events is the Single Action Shooting Society’s national extravaganza, Winter Range. That has run for the entire week and provided us with a weather-reminder.

For those not familiar with Cowboy Action Shooting, just picture the police tactical range training you see in the movies, where they are working their way through buildings and shooting through windows, etc. Now dress everyone in Western garb and take away the AR-15’s and hand everyone a pair of single action handguns, a shotgun of some kind and a lever action Winchester or the equivalent. It’s a bunch of guys playing cowboy with live ammo and steel plate targets. Also, there are tons of exhibitors purveying everything from firearms to Bowie knives, frilly dresses and hats for the ladies and all sorts of cowboy duds for the guys.

SASS shooter
Guy in back is holding a timer. Note the shotgun laying on the bench. When finished with these targets, the shooter will grab the shotgun and dash to another stage

SassRider.2
Mounted shooting is a big deal at the meet with both men and women competing. They are shooting .45s loaded with crushed walnut shells.

SassGuyTopHat
Some shooters really get into character.

This time around the weather was the typical AZ afternoon: high 70’s, clear blue. We were sitting there with a couple of good friends enjoying a BBQ elk burger, the sounds of firing all around us and everyone in sight packing at least one single action. The sun cast kind of a warm glow over us, the conversation with those around us was engaging and mostly hilarious, and you could almost feel the relaxation settle over you like a blanket. However, I was acutely aware that we were part of a very small group of people in the entire Nation that wasn’t cursing Ma Nature. In fact, we were falling more in love with her every minute.

The foregoing was definitely NOT being said to gloat. It was said to let those not as fortunate know that we very much appreciate what we have here. Actually, the break of getting out of the office and spending an afternoon in great weather, with good friends, doing something we really enjoy, was energizing. It was a long time coming and, as I now recognize, was necessary. We need to do it more often.

To those of you to whom weather is an unrelenting enemy, hang in there. Spring will eventually get here and just know that those of us who have been in your shoes feel your pain. Of course, it’s easy to say that when the sun is almost always shining. Still, we’re thinking of you.
bd

21 Feb 2015 - Random Thoughts 2.0
This has been a very confusing week worldwide. It has been hard to concentrate on any one thing because of all the important and totally unimportant things that have popped up on my radar. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to skip around and hit some random subjects, all of which include links that I think everyone needs to read. One is deadly serious, while others are amazing and fun.

First the Fun Stuff
There has been a You-tube thingie bouncing around the Web for a couple of weeks in which a young Dane takes the simple bow and arrow to new heights as a tactical weapon. His ability to put three arrows in three moving targets while he himself is running at full speed is barely matched by doing the same thing with an automatic handgun. And then there is the image of him splitting an arrow that is fired at him mid-flight. If you didn’t see it on film, including slow motion, you wouldn’t believe it. There’s some good historical information included, as well. See below.

As a comparison/counter-point, I’m including some links for the late Bob Munden, a six-gun speed shooter, which is also difficult to believe, but still not up to what the archer is doing. Ditto, Jerry Miculek, which some of you may know from TV. I have links below of him hitting a balloon from 1000 yards (yes, one thousand yards) with a 9mm handgun, doing some high speed shooting and hitting a target at 200 yards with a snub nose revolver while holding it upside down and firing it with his pinky finger.

This is all impossible stuff but it’s really fun to see how good people can get at something, when that’s their focus in life. I’m including the full links so, just in case they don’t work, you can cut and paste them into your browser.

Archer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1421914688&v=BEG-ly9tQGk&x-yt-cl=84503534&feature=player_embedded

Bob Munden, speed shooter
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcZHVspVIDs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsU5AMxvlKg

Jerry Miculek
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ3XwizTqDw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=85114404&x-yt-ts=1422579428&v=0FbUMqoyjDw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIwVK_FxGZk

A feel-good link
In case you haven't seen this, you'll understand why I've included it, when you see it. I didn't want readers to miss it
http://swf.tubechop.com/tubechop.swf?vurl=8k9Si28k0Fk&start=0&end=438.55&cid


ISIS...again
They are dominating the news and increasingly, we’re hearing people who have a good handle on things saying that we’re seeing the beginning of WWIII. And it’s easy to see why they say that. First, if you read the link, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/18/former-libyan-dictator-made-ominous-prediction-about-islamist-militants-before-his-ouster-is-it-about-to-come-true/, which is just a news report of today’s events over “there”, skim it quickly on purpose. Don’t slow down for the details. It’s short and the impact is best noticed during a quick skimming: it reads like a newspaper front page that was printed in 1940, when the war in Europe was building on all fronts but we were still spectators. The running account of the various battles on the various fronts is essentially a template for what the news from overseas sounds like today. Country after country is being attacked with the battlefront stretching across North Africa with skirmishes throughout Europe in the form of terrorist attacks. Looked at in that way, we’ve had some guerilla action taking place on our own shores.

The following link, http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/, is long, 32 pages, but it is hands-down the most important document people can read to put our current ISIS problem in context. Oddly enough, it is from the usually-liberal Atlantic Monthly, and the author did a superb job with the subject. Take your time with it: it'll give you a perspective on ISIS you won't get elsewhere.

Essentially what the long document says (it’s exceedingly well written and readable) is that when we use the phrase “Fundamentalist Islam” that’s exactly what they are. They are so “fundamental” that they are taking the original version of the Quran absolutely literally and everything they do and think on an hourly basis is driven by that document, a document that was compiled from prophet Mohammed’s oral recitations circa 635 AD. So, they are essentially a modern army with the goals of a medieval religion that allows zero deviation from the script. Zero! If you don’t live a Muslim life, as dictated by Mohammed in the original version, to the letter, you are lower than scum and to be eliminated. That’s why they thought nothing of burning 45 Muslims alive this week: being a Muslim isn’t enough. You have to be their kind of Muslim or it doesn’t count and is to be punished. The reason for the beheadings and burnings is because that’s what their version of the religion, as dictated by Quran 1.0, requires. Every single action they have taken can be found word for word in that document.

Their goal isn’t really to convert the world to their way of thinking, although that IS their short-term goal. It’s not their long view because according to their script, the “apocalypse” is coming and they want to facilitate it. And, to that end they will do what ever it takes to rid the world of those they consider unworthy. That’s us, among others. And they’ll take what ever time it takes. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the ISIS spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

Slavery, BTW, is distinctly mentioned and allowed in the Quran. As are beheadings, burning and rape.

Think of the US, and the world in general, as a gigantic elephant. Now think of that elephant infected with fleas. He ignores them for a short time because initially they’re underfoot and he only gets a bite here and there. The actual gestation of a flea from egg to full-fledged biting member of the flea clan is over a month. However, when several thousand fleas lay eggs, it’s only a few short generations before you’re seeing a new crop of fleas about every 10 seconds. In a short while, they are crawling all over him, biting everywhere. As soon as he snatches one off, another two or three are born and begin biting. Soon, even though they are tiny fleas and he’s an elephant, he’s totally covered and they’re in every crevice and his eyes making it hard to see. They aren’t going to kill him, but they are making his life miserable and become the focus of his existence.

Right now the fleas are threatening our ankles and it’s time to get serious about using every possible means at our disposal to kill them and keep them from even getting on the soles of our feet. When it comes to ISIS fleas, zero tolerance right now will keep them from crawling up our national butt in the not too distant future. They are NOT going to go away on their own.

Enuff said? This really may be the beginning of WWIII.
bd

7 Feb 2015 - ISIS/ISIL: a Global Threat
Let’s think about two concepts for a just a second: the first is burning a man alive. The second is videoing that event with high level production values and then spreading it across the world as a sign of pride and achievement. It’s difficult to say which is worse: the hyper-savage act or their making a public relations spectacle of it. We have definitely entered a new chapter in world history. Or have we?

If we look back through history we can find similarly savage acts. Shortly after the Vietnam debacle, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge wiped 1.5 million Cambodians, out of a total population of around 7 million, from the face of the Earth. The stories coming out of the various African countries like Rwanda and the brutal slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by the Hutu Majority where close to a million Rwandans were killed in barely three months. And then there were the Nazis. Nothing needs to be said there.

There is, however, a marked difference between the way in which ISIL has hacked their way into history and the actions of perpetrators of similar tragedies.

Seldom has any given group practiced their savagery for any reason other than brutalizing the population on which they were focused. Pol Pot was creating a classless, peasant society in Cambodia by eliminating anyone who didn’t fit that category. Intellectuals, professionals, etc., were toast. The Hutus wanted anyone in their country who weren’t radical Hutus gone. The Nazis sought to “purify” their nation by industrializing the slaughter of anyone who, under their definition, wasn’t “pure.” In the case of ISIS, however, their focus doesn’t seem to be on a given group and they haven’t limited their focus to Syria or Iraq. They seem focused on anyone worldwide who isn’t hard core Sunni Muslim. Actually, even that isn’t true.

Jordan is predominately Sunni, not Shia (ISIL’s sworn enemy, although still Muslim) so it can be assumed that the Jordanian pilot they torched was also Sunni. So, they are absolutely not above killing their own in spectacular fashion. Ditto the unreal photos that come out of Iraq, like the one in which a soldier is surrounded by a wall of human heads, every one of them Muslim (probably Shia) or the videos of shooting hundreds of Iraqi soldiers in the back. Not only do these acts show that their brand of Islam is apparently unique to ISIL and their affiliates, but they have made their violent actions into specific public relations programs to promote their cause. Showcasing their brutality is meant to cow their enemies but, at the same time, the videos are designed to appeal to individuals world wide who share the same thoughts as ISIL. And this is what makes ISIL dangerous to the US.

If it weren’t for social media and the Web, we really wouldn’t know what ISIS/ISIL is doing except by watered down headlines in the papers that would appear long after the incidents. Technology, however, has given ISIL a world wide stage on which to display their brutality in real time and, in so doing, reach like-minded people on a global scale. Their on-line magazine, Dabiq, is as slick and as sophisticated as anything you’ll find on any US newsstand http://www.clarionproject.org/news/islamic-state-isis-isil-propaganda-magazine-dabiq. It is VERY well written and most of the prose very persuasive. It makes ISIS look like a winner and a hero to be supported. Combine that with their use of every form of social media and you don’t have a physical army doing battle in a far away land. You have an ideologically-driven, virtual force that is essentially a guerilla army that exists in every computer in every den/bedroom/basement in the world.

Their Web presence is what makes ISIL a real danger to the US, not the actual combat in the deserts.

ISIL doesn’t need recruits that journey to Iraq to join them in their fight against the infidels. They can create ISIL soldiers right here in suburbia, in the inner city and even on seemingly placid farms. The subject matter in the magazine often explains how to carry out lone wolf attacks and it is so well produced that it can convince weaker, or more fanatical, minds that ISIL’s goals are just. Videos of beheadings and the even more stomach wrenching episodes like burning the Jordanian pilot are recruitment tools as much as they are aimed at warning others what can happen if they continue the fight against them. Radicals worldwide, Muslim and otherwise, are cheering those videos. They are seeing blows struck for what they see as the downtrodden of the world. They see ISIL rubbing our noses in it.

Even though their videos have pretty much sickened the entire civilized world and turned that world against ISIS, has that really mattered? What has that world done to reverse the ISIL tide? At the same time, their propaganda machine has only to reach a few fanatics in each country for the terror that rages through out Iraq/Syria to reach right into our own neighborhoods via lone wolf fanatics. Because of the Web, no place is safe from ISIL. No place.

Even worse, there is no way that ISIL can be completely put out of business. Let’s assume the good guys (that’s us, just to clarify) totally chases ISIL out of Iraq and Syria. Lets say we kill every single one in sight. That won’t change the threat to the US and the rest of the globe. Only a half dozen ISIL confederates working out of a garage in Yemen/Germany/Brooklyn/anywhere can keep a web presence going including beheading videos and such.

To those who think the ISIL threat is regional and exists only over “there” and we should let the locals fight it, you’re wrong. This is a cancer in the process of metastising and the longer we wait, the worse it is going to get. As it is, this threat is going to be with us, in one form or another, for as long as the Web exists, which is another way of saying we'll be fighting it forever. ISIS has made terrorism a marketable product and has developed marketing programs to support it. This is the most sophisticated, devious, effective threat we’ve ever faced.

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

PS-
King Abdullah of Jordan came out swinging after the atrocity committed to one of his pilots and, in no uncertain terms, let ISIS know "I'm coming after your a**!" (not his exact words, but close.). He's ex-Special Forces and a trained pilot. 'Never thought I'd be willing to vote for a king. I couldn't resist posting the below.

He looks like he means business, doesn't he?
King Abdulla

1 Feb 2015 - Spectator Sports and Me
It is the morning of Sunday, 1 Feb, 2015 and I know for a fact that a lot of you won’t be reading this until tomorrow because the Super Bowl, or the Super Bowel, as I call it, is this afternoon. So, you’re lost to the world until it’s over. I know it’s totally un-American for me to say this, but you couldn’t pay me to sit and watch a ball game of any kind. And, if there were 100-dollar bills stacked on a free seat at the Super Bowl waiting for me, I couldn’t force myself to fight through the crowds to get them. This, even though it’s being played only about 15 miles from where I now sit.

I fully recognize that I must have a break in my DNA because my genes shouldn’t give me that kind of outlook on sports. I was born and raised less than 25 miles from the U. of Nebraska and went to school at the U. of Oklahoma (which, by the way, is a near-capital offense in Nebraska). Logically. I should be a football super-fan: there is no way I can adequately explain how football is closer to a religion than a sport in those states. So, I guess that makes me a football atheist.

To put things in perspective: when my late brother was getting married, he and his bride had the bad sense to schedule it at the same time as a Nebraska football game. Throughout the ceremony, the Nebraska half of the clans in attendance, were clustered around a portable radio in the back of the room. They were not totally successful in muting their cheers and groans.

I can’t explain my outlook on sports, but I’m definitely sports-challenged. ‘Don’t know why. Just is. Even though part of my college career was spent living in an apartment directly across the street from the OU stadium, I never once set foot in it, except to visit the architecture school that was built under it.

Given my point of view, you can understand why this weekend I’m not even going to try to venture out to the airport. Among other things, to get to my hangar, I would have to fight my way through unreal traffic and then would have to have a special pass to get on the airport, even though I’m paying a healthy chunk just to have a hangar there. And I totally understand their logic: The last time the Super Bowl was here in Phoenix, the airport was an unreal mess: 208 jets had to be parked on a fairly small (long but narrow) airport. They had 7 hours delays trying to get out the next day because the IFR traffic system couldn’t absorb the traffic from all the Phoenix airports. So, this year every movement, coming and going, both VFR and IFR, is by reservation only.

The reservations sound like a good idea except they didn’t count on Mother Nature giving them the shaft. Ceilings have been at, or below, minimums for a couple of days (very Un-Arizona-like) and right now, 0800 on Sunday, the day of the game, I’m looking out the window at heavy ground fog, which doesn’t happen once every couple of years out here. So, right now, their reservation system is going to go to hell in a hand basket: among other things, even though Scottsdale is supposedly in the top two airports in the country for corporate jet traffic, it doesn’t have an ILS system. Mountains at the ends of the runway preclude it. Only the VOR/GPS systems let folks in with much higher minimums. Generally, that’s no problem because true IFR weather happens seldom and usually lasts only a few hours. Not this week.

I can’t imagine the back-ups that have been happening for the last couple of days or how nuts the airport is going to be when the fog burns off this morning. There’s sun above it, but a lot of jets are desperate to get in before the TFR (Terminal Flight Restriction) sets in shortly after noon.

Oh, did I forgot to mention (visualize my big grin): while all the Super Bowl craziness is ramping up, the PGA Open Golf tournament is in full swing right at the end of Scottsdale’s runway. The area is awash in sports nuts. We drove past a In ‘n Out burger last night (Saturday) in that part of town and the line went completely around the parking lot and attendants were standing out amongst the cars taking orders. Team jerseys were in abundance and this was the low buck crowd. The high-rollers were congregating in every major venue in town and circus tents abound. Every big open space has been turned into Party Central. Given the weather, I imagine a lot of folks awoke this morning with a severe hang-over.

Papillion Helicopters, normally serving the Grand Canyon, is down here operating a fleet of choppers ferrying folks from Scottsdale across town to the game. $600 per 12 minute (a guess) flight, which, given the current situation, sounds cheap. Even to me.

All of this because people want to watch other people chase or hit balls of various descriptions. One looks as if it was extruded through a sphincter, and the other is round with severe cystic acne.

Again, I know I’m in a tiny minority here, but I just don’t get it.

I’m going to spend the day wiring the license plate light on The Roadster and putting a Timney, adjustable trigger, on a 98 Mauser.

When my day is over, I’ll have something to show for it. Hmmmm! Maybe that’s why I’m not enamored by sports. Apparently, in my mind, there’s a difference between investing my time and spending it. bd

25 Jan 15 "Manspirin" to the Rescue
As I’m writing this, a few miles east from where I sit the Barrett Jackson car auction is having its biggest day of the week. It’s covered on Discovery Channel during the day and Velocity TV at night. However, if there’s one thing that should be understood about the BJ car auction it’s that it’s not an auction. It’s an “experience.” Yes, a lot of high and low-buck cars cross the auction block, and a bazillion dollars changes hands but that’s not a reason for attending in person.

First an apology: my main computer was down for three weeks, so this is late and this is a little out of date. Amazingly, although my start-up disc was a terrabyte in size, I filled it too full and it took major surgery to get me back on line. My total storage is now five terrabytes, three in the start-up disc. Amazing!

Now, back to Barrett-Jackson:

The last couple of years we haven’t gone and, to be honest, I’ve been in some sort of pressure-funk for the last couple of weeks courtesy of a newly overhauled, 80-hour airplane engine that had to go back to be rebuilt again. Although they found nothing wrong, it still needed to be flown a minimum of three hours a day, every day, to break it in again before inbound students show up tomorrow (Sunday). Plus, magazine deadline alligators were cruising the moat around the house. So, the thought of fighting our way through crowds versus making headway on stuff that absolutely had to be done, didn’t appeal to me. Which, by the way, pissed me off. How dare the world allow making a living become an obstacle to having a little fun! Damn!

The Redhead, however, had other ideas. She got on my case and I soon found myself gritting my teeth as we pulled into the Barrett-Jackson parking lot. I was not a happy camper and was possibly the only person on the huge site with a tension headache (except for car sellers, you just know they were anxious).

Then the experience of being at a major event built around a much-loved interest began to work its magic.

Barrett Jackson covers a site that’s about (this is a guess) two blocks by three blocks and that’s not counting the really remote parking lots. At least half of the main area is under tent. It is frigging HUGE!! The atmosphere is a cross between carnival, circus and a car lover’s wet dream. You name it and you’ll find it in the five large storage/display tents where the cars to be sold are stored and then cycled across the stage in the huge arena where the actual auction takes place. How about a smallish, 1950’s school bus restored to the smallest detail except that it sits about four feet off the ground on a four-wheel drive chassis pushed by a blown big block of some kind. Or how about the 1966 Super Snake, the 427 Cobra Carroll Shelby had built for himself. Phoenix uber-collector Ron Pratte paid $5.5mm (that’s MILLION) for it a few years ago and this year he decided to dump his entire collection.

The 140 car Pratte Collection included stuff I didn’t know he owned. This even though his hangar and museum is just across the runway from where the maintenance on my airplane is often done. Among other oddball items he had was the Beverly Hillbillies movie car that just sold for $275,000. A porcelain and neon Harley-D sign went for $86,000! Money came out of the woodworks by the truckload.

While the BJ cars are super interesting, after a while you get “car blind:” you’ve seen so many you actually start to lose interest in them. They have to be something really out of the ordinary to catch your eye. You can only see so many $100,000 ’57 Chevy convertibles and sports cars so exotic you can’t identify half of them. It’s not long before you become overwhelmed.

I was drawn to an Austin Mini station wagon that was towing a finely finished mahogany hydroplane. Also liked some of the oddball trucks folks had restored and were hoping they’d make money on, which, usually wasn’t the case. I saw lots and lots of cars sell for prices that were about half of what it would cost to acquire and restore or modify the car. There were definitely some deals to be had on the field. If a guy had $20-$25k to burn, he could do quite well.

Truth is, we go to BJ as much for the exhibitors as we do for the cars. At least half the tented area is a swamp of exhibitors hoping to cash in on the herds of high rollers that were cruising the grounds. There was zero ticky-tacky stuff being sold, but there was more non-car stuff than there was automobilia. Want 40 acres of land so high in the Rockies that your only neighbors would be mountain goats? How about $10,000 adjustable beds? Lots and lots of folks were selling workshop benches that were chromed and painted so nicely, you’d have a hard time not feeling guilty the first time you got them dirty.

I broke down and bought a fairly inexpensive throatless metal shear that I could probably get cheaper at Harbor Frieght, but it was there, I had the $120, and they’d deliver it to the house for that, tax included.

The net result of rubbing shoulders (and everything else) with the sweaty masses who were attracted to the car spectacle was that I was in a great mood. Of course, it’s impossible to feel funky, if you’ve just bought a tool. That’s a guaranteed “manspirin.” bd

4 Jan 15
2015: So far, so good

Here it is, the fourth day of the new year and so far nothing catastrophic has gone wrong. At least not in my world. I have, however, decided I’m not sure I like having our two major holidays on Thursday. I found myself reacting strangely to four-day weekends.

Actually, looking back over the holiday weekends, here I am, just a few days after New Year’s eve and I don’t remember any of the holidays having happened. Somehow, everything being on Thursday left that uncomfortable Friday gap where I felt guilty, just as I did in highschool when I was ignoring my homework. I just knew a term paper was due and I wasn’t working on it. Which definitely wasn’t true.

With no kids in the house, Christmas comes very close to being just another day with a big dinner at the end of it. However, for some reason, knowing that most of the world is taking the day off and unlikely to call me, I seize on the morning and most of the early afternoon to do something that lets me know I’m getting ahead. In this case it was writing an entire EAA article, a fairly complex one, in one sitting.

Being able to write something beginning to end is almost unheard of in our house because of constant interruptions in the form of phone calls and business e-mails. However, the only way that happened this time was by turning off my e-mail, because so many other gray dog friends were in the same boat. Dozens of them were sitting at their computers chatting back and forth because, it seems that after a certain age, Christmas morning is pure dead time. No ball games yet. No kids. Dinner isn’t until mid afternoon. So, many default to the computer, as most of us do, when life slows down.

I had seen the two four-day weekends coming and I was determined to dedicate every available hour to making massive progress on The Roadster. So, with that in mind, I spent most of December getting all my articles done, getting Flight Journal finished and generally clearing the slate so I could indulge myself. However, as things slowed down on Christmas, and then New Years, eve, I quickly found I couldn’t force myself out into the shop. I’m apparently not very good at indulging myself. After nearly 45 years of self-employment, I, like most people in my position, feel as if free time has to be earned. And it is earned by TCB (taking care of business). So, at least four to six hours of every day of both holidays were spent cranking out future articles, pitching publishers for new articles and planning out 2015. That however put me out in the shop by around 11 o’clock every day feeling as if I had earned it, so, yes, I did make, what to me, is huge progress on the little car. I’m definitely closing in on putting it on the road.

New Years Eve here is always a traditional event: Marlene buys more clams, crab legs, shrimp and scallops than any ten people can possibly eat, fixes them and we spend the evening gorging ourselves. Then we struggle to stay awake long enough to watch the ball come down in NYC (2200 hours our time). We doze on and off in front of the TV for another half hour or so and then go to bed. Not terribly exciting but very comfortable and satisfying.

I think it’s interesting that, once you give up going out on New Years Eve, eventually a lot of us wind up starting our year on New York time, not local time, and watching that silly ball come down. Every year it’s almost painful watching people standing around Times Square freezing their butts off so full of enthusiasm and hope. It’s also amusing watching 20-somethings in their ridiculously skimpy dresses with boobs overflowing while braving the temps in hopes of getting face time on national TV. Oh, well, you’re only young once.

New Years day is a recovery period for most people, but it’s a tradition with me to roll into the office no later than 0530. That’s when I attack all the tiny, inconsequential stuff I’ve let slide (answering e-mails I’ve ignored, packing books for mailing that I have let pile up, clean my desk, etc.) and generally clear the decks for the new year. After about four hours of that, I’m even with the World and a load of guilt is off my back. But, having a Friday after that is awkward. I tried working in the shop but it felt unnatural, so I gave up and made it into a normal workday and didn’t hit the shop solidly until Saturday. That felt right.

Anyway, even though I barely remember the holidays, as we’re standing here on the brink of a new year, I’m painfully aware of the way time is running away from us all. We have to make it all count in every phase of our lives. This includes nurturing and rebuilding family relationships where it’s needed. Then we need to keep a watchful eye on our futures and prepare and plan so we’re not caught unaware. This includes keeping track of what our leaders are, and are not, doing on local, state and national levels. However, we need to do this in a way that doesn’t include self-induced heartburn. In that area, we’re often our own worse enemies.

The New Year in every life is a clean slate and it’s up to us to write on it and make it read the way we want it to. bd

27 Dec 14An Honestly New Year

How was your Christmas? And how does the New Year look to you? Graydog Christmases don’t have kids running around and being the focus of everything, so, the day is basically just a day. In some ways that sucks. But, not totally.

We’ve pretty much stopped giving gifts to each other primarily because all of us, from my wife to my own kids, have pretty much anything any of us can ask for. My daughter, however, ignored that dictum and stole my day with two fairly simple gifts. One was a little 50-page photo book she created through Shutterfly.com in which four-year-old Alice acted out the 12 Days of Christmas in pictures. Besides being a major piece of production work, it showcased a granddaughter that we don’t see nearly as often as we wish or should. It was absolutely killer and really showed The Alice personality and The Jennifer creativity. I love it so much I ordered two more. One for my office and one for my older sister.

The other gift gives me the ability to say something not too many fathers can say: “My daughter gave me a stuffed bat for Christmas.”

I opened it (it has it’s own glass, display bell) and start laughing immediately. Marlene summed it up perfectly with her first comment, “Well…she really knows her father.” And, even though we have our differences, she does, indeed, know that aspect of me well. So, now I have two bats in my office. Doesn’t everyone? I feel so blessed! J

As for the new year, it’s so unpredictable, I don’t even know what to say on the national/international level. Between Putin, ISIS, our Administration and the administrations of just about every other country, the possibilities are endless. However, for whatever reason, I don’t see any of them having catastrophic results here. Probably the most dangerous thing here is the way OPEC is countering the Dakota’s oil shale effect by dropping prices to the point that the US oil boom might go into the red. Yeah, we’re getting cheaper gas but it may cost us much more in the long run. This, however, I’m certain will sort itself out.

Incidentally, I think it’s almost comical what appears to be happening over the Sony cyberattack: it now appears it may not have been N. Korea, as the FBI swore it was, but a pissed-off Sony employee. Oops!

Certainly one of the more upsetting trends is the anti-cop thing. The flames here are being fanned by the media and various organizations and……..

Dammit! You know what? I don’t want to talk about this kind of stuff any more! I’m bone tired of it! There is so much BS floating around that it makes me feel as if I’m wading through quicksand, unable to make any headway because of all the stuff that I’m letting bog me down. That’s simply not the way I want to start my year.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but Thinking Out Loud is now downloading much, much quicker than it has been in the last year or so. That’s because I built a new, corruption-free file and have been slowly populating it with blogs from the last year. I’m only a little way into that, but, in picking through the blogs to put up, I’ve found they are overwhelmingly political and down beat. They’re not fun to read. And they’re sure as hell not fun to write. Some of them are basically depressing and reading them is hard work. And, as has been pointed out by my kids and friends, I appear angry. And I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want 2015 to be an angry year for me. And, it’s going to be, if I continue on this track.

I need to start thinking about me, my life, my family and my friends and less about oh-my-God stuff that’s over the horizon. I’m wasting the years I have left worrying about stuff I shouldn’t worry about and I’m preaching to a choir that already knows every single thing I can possibly say in those areas. I want to go back to being happy, crazy and full of fun.

There are lots of good things happening in the world, but I’m letting the politics and media blind me to them. And, if it’s happening to me, it’s happening to others. In fact, I think dwelling on the negatives has become an unhealthy national mindset and it’s easy to see why: spend a few minutes surfing the news channels and see how many upbeat stories you see being covered.

I’VE HAD IT and the resolution I’m making for 2015 (being mindful that I never make resolutions) is to try to focus more on the good and less on the bad.

So…picture me smiling!

There, don’t I look better and don’t you feel better?

See, I knew it would work. Have a good one! bd

21 Dec 14 –Solstice Sensibilities

It’s 0430 on December 21. Today the winter solstice occurs and I feel the need to sacrifice something to celebrate: ‘must be that my English heritage includes a little druid. So, as I’m typing this, I’m sacrificing an open face turkey sandwich. Does that count? Will the Gods look favorably on that? ‘Hope so because they’ve been screwing with us of late.

We’ve had a two-week run of semi-overcast days. Some barely getting above 60. Gloom in the desert is not becoming. My newly overhauled, and very expensive, airplane engine continues to exhibit varying degrees of sickness requiring a mechanical physician’s attention about once a week. Both of my kids have essentially disowned me because of what I’ve said in blogs. Marlene was standing on a plastic stool that died right at that moment, dropping her on to the driveway and chipping a bone in her foot, so she’s hobbling around in a big boot thingie. Deadlines are eating me a live timewise so the Roadster no longer recognizes me.

Super minor things, when measured against the big picture, but aggravating nonetheless. So, I decided to dedicate this sandwich’s life to the Gods of Nuisance on this, the winter solstice, in the hopes of getting some respite. Then, I made the mistake of Googling “winter solstice” and realized I knew even less about my world than I realized and my sacrifice was probably in naught.

Stonehenge, the Mayans and many other ancient civilizations that have miraculously constructed temples where two windows line up with the sun right at the moment of solstice, are basically full of crap. Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere is when the sun is at its lowest point and, because of the Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt and changing orbital speeds, it almost never happens at exactly the same time. Moreover, it doesn’t even happen on the same day every time, which was real news to me. So, the ancients weren’t holding a celebration and sacrificing turkey sandwiches at exactly the same time, same day every year. There were probably herds of them sitting around in the grass, playing poker or whatever, watching the sun creep up on their Windows 1.0 sundial thingie and, whenever they saw the sun line up in the windows, someone blew a rams horn or threw a spear into the air and everyone started drinking, screwing everything in sight, yelling and screaming and generally behaving like a frat house.

Considering that I’m a pilot and an engineer, I’m a little embarrassed that I assumed the solstices (summer and winter) always happen at the same time every year. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it, but, when you do, you realize it only makes sense that the exact time wanders around a little. Oh well, at least I’m not too old to learn something that’s obvious.

Just FYI, here in Phoenix, the solstice will happen this afternoon, Sunday 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm. Do I have to eat another turkey sandwich at that time to make the sacrifice count? FYI-you can forget about using those times as any kind of guideline because next year it’ll happen at 9:48 pm. The real head wrecker is that in 2040, it’ll happen a day earlier, on the 20th at 11:33 pm. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be worrying about sandwich sacrifices for that one. Go to http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html, so you know how to time your local sacrifices.

Incidentally, for those who have thought about sacrificing a politician to the Gods, don’t bother. Those never count because “sacrifice” means you’re giving up something you value. I value a turkey sandwich. Politicians, not so much.

So, while you’re out there gleefully engaged in whatever pagan ritual befits your life style, just know you’re probably doing it at the wrong time.

Also, even us heathens recognize Christmas on the 25th day of the 12th month and, although we may not buy into the religious aspects of it, I, for one, am very glad the religion and the celebration around it exists. Anything that gives mankind a code of exemplary conduct and brings the family together is worthwhile.

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

14Dec 14 –Ashes to Ashes

I’ve been sicker’n crap and working my butt off for nearly two weeks. A miserable combination. There, that’s my excuse for missing last week. In the midst of all this Marlene and I somehow started talking about what to do with our ashes, when this whole deal is done. That’s a weird topic that brought up some unanswered questions that I’m betting a lot of folks think about.

The first question for us was one you don’t hear often in these kinds of conversations: “Do we include Meezer?” Meaning, do we include his ashes with ours, the way we will the rest of our furry kids? We both said, “sure”, he finally came around.

Meezer is a big Siamese that we inherited from Marlene’s oldest and was a first rate gangster initially. He would have nothing to do with anyone, showed a ton of attitude and absolutely brutalized Smoki Joe, the huge, soft-hearted, gray that has zero self confidence. Meezer was a Siamese through and through. However, the more he saw the love that blanketed the other cats, little by little he became more human and now is constantly begging for scratches, insists on sleeping on top of us and leaves Smoki pretty much alone. Just shows that enough love conquers even the most sinister of characters.

We’ve always said that we want our ashes mixed together along with those of all the loving, canine/feline kids who have shared our life with us. I don’t believe in heaven, but eternity is out there and we can’t imagine spending eternity without all of those little characters that have made our life what it is. Each one of them has a corner of our collective heart and we want to hold them close forever.

There are, however, other thoughts that surround the above, the first being what do we have done with the ashes? Marlene and I don’t see eye to eye on this one. She thinks everyone should leave something that marks their having been here. Specifically, a tombstone others can visit. I disagree.

Marlene’s brother, Tom, has a tombstone here. He died in the most improbable form of accident you can imagine while in the Army (flew Snakes in VN, but died from peritonitis when a litter fell and pierced his fresh appendectomy incision here in the states). He has a widow and a kid or two locally, however, Marlene is the only one who ever visits him. It’s a Memorial Day ritual with her.

My folks and brother are buried back in Nebraska and, whenever I’m there I visit, but that’s only about every five years.

I have no one locally who cares enough to visit and I absolutely guarantee that neither of my kids will visit even once. Grand kids neither. So, why spend the money on a tombstone or plot? As for leaving a mark that you’ve been here, I figure my students and my words will have to be my legacy. A marble slab isn’t needed.

I originally had high ideals about where my ashes would go, including a pinch being mixed with the smoke oil in a Pitts doing a show at Oshkosh. Seems fitting and I’d still like to see it done. Otherwise, I’d just as soon I was spread out over the Arizona high country, preferably over an Indian ruin. Spirits meeting spirits and all that.

Also, there’s the thoroughly practical side of the combined-ashes thing: will a cemetery even let two people’s ashes be buried in a single plot? Will they let animals be buried in their sacred, but very expensive, ground? I’m betting they wouldn’t be too crazy about a stone that reads:

The Davisson Family: Eternally United
Budd
Marlene
Nizhoni
Sha´hn-deen
Corki
Abigail
Smoki Jo
Meeze
r

And the list is bound to get longer.

I’m fairly confident it’s going to be a decade or so before anyone will have to make any of these decisions, but I’m the king of worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about. Just part of my wiring. I was also an Eagle Scout at a time, when that meant something, and our motto was “Be Prepared.” So, just bear with me. bd

30 Nov 14 –Thanksgiving got the Crap Knocked Out of it

You know what? Just being alive in America is really tiring me out. It seems as if once a week (sometimes twice) we have a new crisis to deal with. It didn’t used to be this way. Yes, we’d have problems here and there but our news channels weren’t delivering an almost daily offering of new stuff that to most of us makes no sense and can be pretty damn upsetting. This has been one of those weeks.

Between BHO’s new immigration Executive Order (EO), also known as a monarch style mandate, and Ferguson, both of which appear to be specifically designed to further dismantle the USA, my brain is ready to explode. Thanksgiving came and went almost unnoticed. It is, however, so very American that news of Black Friday shopping (how did that get past without being branded racist?) knocked some of the other crap off the news channels…temporarily.

About Ferguson, let’s get something absolutely straight: if a 6’4”, 290 pound, 18-year-old “kid” roughed up a cop while he was sitting in his car and then appeared to be charging him (according to the more valid witness statements), he’d be dead regardless of what color he was. No one, cop or otherwise, would have behaved any differently. Ferguson-the-event wasn’t about race. It was about dealing with a “perceived threat” that was the result of questionable physical behavior.

It’s an absolute tragedy that a kid died, but, Brown had 80 pounds on the cop, who was also 6’4”, and, if he hadn’t been stopped, it was going to end badly for the cop, I don’t care how well trained he might have been. I’m guessing that anyone reading this would have reacted the same way in the same situation. And the color of the assailant would have no bearing on the outcome.

Incidentally, reading the trial transcript you have to wonder why perjury charges weren’t brought against some of the witnesses, some of whom changed their statements, because they were out-and-out lying. Especially the “shot him in the back while standing over him”, type that forensics didn’t even come close to verifying.

Regardless, this thing wouldn’t have blown up the way it has were it not for 1) on-site aggravations in the form of professional race-baiters like Sharpton. He is doing the black community so much more harm than good that it’s hard to believe. The input of the DOJ didn’t help either. And 2) the presence of news cameras, which, in some cases changed the “protest” into violent kabuki theater where the attitude was, “You wanna see violent? Watch this!” Not once do I remember seeing footage of those protesting peacefully and, believe it or not, there were plenty of those.

Most of what went on wasn’t protesting. You only have to watch the footage of the market/liquor store being trashed to know that those involved weren’t protesting anything. They didn’t even appear to be angry about anything. They were having a great running off with bottles of booze and anything else that wasn’t nailed down. They weren’t protesters. They were looters, criminals-at-large doing nothing more than taking advantage of the situation.

Incidentally, why weren’t storeowners standing in front of their businesses with shotguns? I’d heard rumors that the police had told them not to do that, but that was never verified. And a few business owners did mount a guard and it worked out well for them. Looters will always take the low hanging fruit and are never going to mix it up with even the most fragile form of guard detail.

And then there’s BHO’s immigration executive order and some unintended consequences hidden therein. At least I “think” they were unintended.

In essence, one of the things the new EO does is give business owners a $3,000 incentive to hire illegals who are being granted work permits over US citizens. This is because it will now be legal to hire an illegal immigrant, but, since they don’t qualify for Obamacare, the business owner can’t provide them health coverage AND the company won’t be fined for not doing so. If they hire a US citizen and don’t give them coverage, they pay a $3000 fine for each. If they hire an illegal that’s carrying a nice, new work permit they avoid the $3,000 fine AND the cost of health car. THIS IS NUTS!!

Further, even though the EO supposedly applies only to those parents of legal permanent residents or citizens (their kids were born here) and have been in the country illegally for five years (this is a reward for being crafty enough to successfully avoid being caught for that long) it’s not going to work out that way. There are already well-established underground businesses that produce difficult-to-spot phony rent receipts, utility bills, etc. So, as it stands now, someone has only to make it across the border to one of these document factories, waltz over to the INS and declare “Hey, I’ve been here five years and can prove it. Give me my work permit.” If you don’t think that’s going to be a HUGE magnet to future immigrants, you’ve been drinking the Kool Aid too long.

And then there was Thanksgiving and just a little respite from reality. It was in the low-80s here in Phoenix (about 5 degrees above normal) and I had the back garage door open, a little breeze coming in and classic rock and roll coming out of the shop radio. I was whittling out little parts for the roadster (steel grommets for where the shoulder harness comes through the rear bulkhead). And I couldn’t have been more relaxed and satisfied if I tried.

Regardless of the tons of BS coming down and an overall lack of trust in the government, we, as a nation and as a people, have a HUGE amount to be thankful for. So, I guess the best we can do is periodically turn off the news and glory in the lives we each have built, love our family and friends, and soldier on. One way or the other, we’ll survive. bd

23 Nov 14 –On Surviving a President

Oh, Gee: I wonder what Budd’s going to talk about this week? Could it be the weather? Could it be Syria and/or Iraq? Hmmmm! Do you think he’ll touch on Obama’s little Wednesday night message to the proletariat (us common folks) over which he rules? Damn straight Budd will. He/I can hardly ignore it.

First, let it be said that as much as I’d like to be able to wave a magic wand and have every illegal person in the US magically transported to their homeland, that just ain’t gonna happen. The reality is that the numbers are too big to be dealt with by deportation. It is logistically impossible. 11 Million people would be the equivalent of shipping the combined populations of 12 states (WY, VT, DC, ND, AK, SD, DE, MT, RI, NH, MN HI), out to a wide variety of destinations. If illegals wanted to really screw with our heads, they should all just show up in the Washington Mall agreeing to be deported. What a mess that would be!

At the same time, there’s no way in hell we should be giving them a short cut to citizenship any more than we should be giving them benefits for just being here. Let’s not forget: they broke our laws to be here and we are, if nothing else, a nation of laws. We don’t reward people for breaking them. Further, we are a “republic” not a democracy, which means we have this do-not-disturb guidebook called the Constitution that pretty much spells out how everything should be done. Or at least it did until Wednesday night.

I have to admit something right up front: I was prepared to ignore the speech and not watch it because I figured it would be so much BS. But, it turned out to be so much more. At first, I was taken by BHO’s ability to appear to speak from the heart and some of the content of the speech. Like providing a pathway for the parents of kids born here at least five years ago (citizens by birth…we’re one of only two or three countries that allow that), to first get working papers and then work their way towards citizenship. Bring them out of the shadows, as he put it, and make them tax paying contributors. He stopped deportation on that class of individuals. An estimated 5 million people.

Then he said deportation would only be aimed at felons and other bad people. In fact, under his program people with skills that could contribute to the national well-being would NOT be deported, regardless of when they arrived. A theoretical mathematician could wade across the Rio Grande tomorrow and be guaranteed of staying. So we’re going to have thousands of people streaming across the border claiming to be theoretical mathematicians. BHO had it pretty much worked out who he would deport and who he wouldn’t.

As he talked I heard myself saying, “Hey, some of this makes sense. It’s a beginning on sorting out the immigration mess.”

Then, he droned on and on about how compassionate he was and how the country had a long history of compassion and how this affected a kid he knew, yada, yada, yada. If he had shut up right after making his points it would have taken longer for me, and so many others, to realize that we’d just been had. He is so good in front of a teleprompter that we were taken in like every one else, when it was just more of his super-slick, condescending rhetoric.

It was during the rambling, sophomoric closing that a a brilliant neon sign lit up in the theater of my mind that said, “Just a damn minute! He can’t do the things he just suggested! The Congress can, and, to one degree or another, probably should, but he can’t.” He was altering and making laws even as he stood there staring into the teleprompter that surrounded the camera. He was talking like a king making decrees that he was certain would please the most mentally challenged amongst us.

He was on camera less than 15 minutes, and, in the process. proceeded to absolutely shred the Constitution. He stood up in front of the American people and, in so many words, said that he wasn’t going to follow the rules. He wasn’t going to respect the governmental framework of checks and balances that insured no single branch had enough power that they could do what they wanted. Every branch (executive, judicial, legislative) could reach out and slow the others down. But, not him. He was going to write his own rules and run his own game.

Never mind what he said about immigration. The focus should be on the way in which he plans on putting those ideas into motion. People continually point out that both Reagan and Bush used executive orders (EOs) on immigration matters. What virtually none of them realize is that in both cases Congress had already voted on the issues and presented a law that the presidents were expected to put into action, which is the President’s job (something BHO mentioned dozens of times in recent times). So, an EO put those versions of amnesty into action. BHO quite literally ignored the process and acted as if Congress had no say in the matter.

“They” also say that the Senate passed an immigration bill several years ago but the GOP House refused to vote on it. However, according to the Washington Times, Monday, Nov 17, that’s not the whole story.
Senate Democrats keep own immigration bill from House, urge Obama executive action By Stephen Dinan -
Senate Democrats say Republicans could head off President Obama's immigration plans by passing the Senate's own immigration bill — the only problem is the Democrats still haven't sent the measure to the House for a vote. Known as S.744, the 1,200-page bill has been bottled up by Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in a bit of legislative gamesmanship that has clouded much of the debate over the past two years. Now, that bill has become the centerpiece of last-minute chiding as Democrats say they have exhausted all alternatives except for having Mr. Obama go it alone.Again, ignoring what he says he’s going to do, think of the motivation behind his actions. Why do it now? Why do it in such an arrogant, even petulant, manner? He looks as if he’s spoiling for a fight and is sticking out his chin inviting us to swing the first blow, thereby becoming the bad guy. I pray that some of the GOP hotheads don’t take the bait. We have an opportunity here to make our case stronger or destroy it completely and it’s going to require balancing on a razor for two years to make it work. He is obviously going to go out of his way to make the GOP’s life even more miserable than it is already and the challenge to the GOP big wigs is to prove to us that they are as smart as they think they are. And are smarter than BHO gives them credit for. Some serious blows need to be dealt but somehow they have to appear to be hugs and caresses aimed at making the Country better. BHO’s speech was nothing more than the opening gun in what is going to be an unbelievably nasty, complex, drawn-out battle. The way in which it is handled is going to decide which party wins the golden apple in 2016. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good feeling about any of this. I hope I’m wrong.At the very least, it’s going to be interesting and will provide a true WTF moment for future historians to ponder. bd

16 Nov 14 –The Hotrod Gene Yesterday was Good Guys car show day: a gathering of those individuals who, like me, see everything mechanical as something to be modified to our personal taste. In this case, the final result is rods and customs, vehicular genres totally unique to America. And, I think they are indicative of some kind of specific gene that exists in only some people.

First, let me say that much of what I’m about to say is based on my own feelings about “stuff,” especially mechanical stuff. Which is to say that there are very few things I can look at without seeing how I would change them. Or how I would build something similar from scratch that would better suit my specific tastes. This applies to firearms, guitars, knives, etc., etc., but especially cars and especially older ones. BTW- “Older” is defined as something from the ‘80’s on back with pre-70’s cars being of particular interest and pre-48’s reigning supreme. But the same thing applies to just about anything I’m associated with, not just cars.

Let’s take rifles as an example: for $500 I can buy something new, like a Mossberg MVP that is reputed to be a tack-driver right out of the box (although some apparently aren’t). But, as much as I admire highly accurate rifles, I can’t just buy one. I have to start with something inferior and worn out. Generally it’s something ex-military and old. I’ll totally rebuilt and modify it and, even though I know it’ll cost at least twice as much as something I can buy over the counter, will take several years to complete and it may not be as accurate as the store bought version (accuracy is often elusive no matter how much you spend), I’ll do it anyway. I can’t even begin to explain why I have a lifetime of the foregoing. It makes absolutely zero sense. But, right now I have about a dozen M98 Mausers of many varieties (WWI and WWII), all of them basically junk rifles (non-original) going all the way back to 1900, awaiting custom barrels, stocks and all the other hotrod goodies that will make them into rifles that reflect my taste.

Going to the Good Guys car meet is delving into another, but better recognized, orgy of modification. The Good Guys meets are held all over the country and each will attract over 3,000 cars, trucks and whatever. Every single one of those vehicles has had far more time and money invested in making it unique than is rational. Yet, not one of the tens of thousands of spectators on the grounds questions the rationale behind the cars they’re viewing. Even though the majority of attendees wouldn’t even dream of devoting so much of their lives to creating/re-creating a vehicle, they nonetheless admire the result. They understand the need to modify, to re-create something that matches the image someone has in their own mind.

What got me thinking about the modification gene was a comment my current Pitts student made. He’s a car guy (and airplane guy, obviously) from England and he said, “…however, I really prefer to see cars restored to what they were when they came out of the factory.” And I couldn’t disagree: I very much admire fully restored cars. But, I can’t do it myself. And I think I’m typical of that part of the car culture, the hotrod/custom part, that seems uniquely American.

Lately, because my airplane was down for two months I’ve had weekends off, so I’ve gotten a HUGE amount done on the roadster. In fact, I thought I was going to have it ready to go to Good Guys in an unfinished form. Unfortunately, the pressures of making a living intervened, when the airplane came alive again. But, I’m close. In the process of working on it, from time to time I literally grin, when I hit an snag, search around the shop for a piece of this or that, that I can cobble together and solve the problem. I love solving problems and I’m free to do what I want to the car at any time in any way.

In restoring a vehicle to original, there are basically only two problems, both of them potentially huge: beating rust and finding original parts. Hotrodding, original hotrodding where you take something you’ve found in a junkyard or ditch, not in a catalog or website, and make it perform a new function, shares the common enemy of rust. However, there is nothing that constrains us to use any specific part in any application. We can do it any damn way we please. There are no rules and few conventions.

These days, even the conventions that sometimes vaguely dictate the style of a given class of hotrods, e.g. highboy and low boy street roadsters, are being ignored courtesy of the rat rods and rat rigs (funky, modified big trucks). And I love it! While I could never bring myself to discard craftsmanship in favor of oddball creativity, as with rat rods, I enjoy the hell out of them. I enjoy that you just never know what a rat rodder is going to build.

As I typed that last sentence, I realized that some part of my rifle-building brain is that of a rat rodder. Years ago I bought a badly beat-up Mexican built 7mm Mauser (M98, small ring) that had a really long barrel and the much-abused stock was broken clean through right under the action. I glued it back together and shot it some because I admired its tenacity: it had obviously lived a hard life, which the barrel unfortunately showed. But it had survived. And I can’t bring myself to destroy the patina and signs of struggle by restocking and refinishing it. So, right now I’m getting ready to put a new, long barrel (26 inches) on it and leave the funky, I’ve-been-there look alone. But, the new caliber 6.5 x 55 is a tackdriving round and I’m installing a super accurate, but well worn, receiver peep sight on it and a finely tuned trigger that will be invisible from the outside. To complete the image, I’m finishing the barrel to look old. My goal is to take a crappy looking rifle that will group at less than 1 inch at a hundred yards to the range and amaze people. It’s kind of a rat rifle that will make absolutely zero sense and not be worth a dime to most people. This is okay with me. It’s just something I’ve built to match an image in my head. And that’s all that matters.

Sometimes, when it comes to things mechanical, change for change’s sake is impossible to avoid. It’s in our genes. bd


7 Nov 14 –Let The Mouse Do it Other than handing the Democrats their asses, what else went on this week? Quite honestly, I can think of almost nothing because my life has been eaten up by watching political coverage (actually, I think I just like Meghan Kelly) and dealing with a newly overhauled airplane engine that refuses to behave. Oh, and one other thing: I discovered what I think is a way we can save our country.

Last Friday I worked and flew my butt off then jumped into my car and rocketed to LA. By 0700 the next morning I had met my daughter and granddaughter at our Disneyland hotel, checked in and was standing at the gates of Walt Disney’s orgy of organization, creativity and fun. Because we were staying in a Disney hotel, we could get in at 0700, an hour ahead of the common folk, the sweaty, unwashed masses, which usually includes me. Looking through the gates at a totally empty, seemingly abandoned amusement park made me feel as if I was Clark Griswald and I’d just arrived at Wally World not realizing it was closed. Eerie! What I didn’t know was that I was about to become part of a mouse-driven machine that would impress me at every turn. This started right at the turnstile going in.

A sweet, middle-aged lady ask me for my hotel key and a photo ID. She ran the key through a card reader and clicked what looked like a cell phone in my face. From that point on, every time we changed parks or went through some sort of Disney-guest-only function, they’d take a second (no longer) to scan the key and my face would pop up on their little handheld card reader verifying that I hadn’t strong-armed some pink-haired old lady out of her room key. This process didn’t come close to slowing anything down. It was totally seamless. The system would work perfectly for voter ID. If, of course, that wasn’t racist. Same thing could be tied to credit cards to cut down credit card fraud.

From that point on, every time I turned around I saw overwhelming evidence of the Disney organization’s ability to do things right and make monstrous amounts of money in the process.

First, my two-day pass was about $190 plus $40 (I think it was) so I could hop back and forth between the two parks. That was a choker for me, but, as I looked around there were tens of thousands of folks that just looked like normal working stiffs from the area. There were also a huge percentage of kids, 17-22, I’m guessing, that were there having a helluva good time. I was astounded at how many normal-looking families were there with multitudes of kids, each of which cost a fortune to support for the day. Who knows? Maybe the economy actually is recovering. However, you couldn’t prove that from my personal point of view. Of course, these could also be people either living up their foodstamp money or they’d given up, said “screw it” and are having one last fling.

The quality of the parks, the quality of the thousands of employees staffing it, the overall complexity of the whole thing was nothing short of overwhelming.

Incidentally, I’ve been to Disney World in Florida probably a dozen times, when I was still living in the East. However, I hadn’t been to Disneyland since probably the 60’s. I’d forgotten how the entire thing is crammed into what amounts to a fairly small area so it took a lot of imagination and planning to squish everything together yet make it feel as if you actually had a lot of room. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at details like how the hand rails were constructed and the massive amount of planning, engineering and manufacturing, it took to build just one ride or amphitheater and there were dozens and dozens of everything.

I should also make mention of the fact that Disney REALLY hires to a profile in a lot of their positions, but it’s most obvious in picking the young ladies (and guys) who play some of their well known characters on the streets. They had to be some of the most beautiful, perfect behaving young ladies I’ve ever seen in one place.

Little by little, as I wandered through the never ending, overarching quality of the experience, I couldn’t help but think what a mess the country was in by comparison. Here was a massive, really huge, operation that was working like a well-oiled machine. However, virtually everything in which our government gets involved turns into an oversized, bloated, slow moving ox cart that continually breaks down and costs ten times what it should. It also almost always moseys aimlessly across the landscape and quite often winds-up moving in circles. But, I have a solution. Let’s hire Disney run America.

Here is a company that really has its finger on the pulse of America. They make it their business to really know and understand the population and what it wants because, if it doesn’t, it’s not going to make a profit. This, of course, is true of every business of any kind, from the local cupcake vendor in Keokuk, Iowa, to giants like Microsoft. They can only survive if they make a profit and they can only turn a profit if they read their market correctly and satisfy its needs accordingly. This is not true of a government.

A government is a business but it runs on other people’s money and doesn’t have to worry about a balance sheet, much less a profit. And, of late, they’ve apparently decided they don’t have to operate on a budget either. They seem to think taxpayers are a bottomless piggy bank that will always be there for them to dip into. It’s a mindset that would put them out of business in a heartbeat in the real world outside the beltway. If more politicians had come out of the private sector, rather than politics, the lawyer community or academia, they’d understand how a government is nothing more than a special kind of business and would recognize how important efficiency is to stretch the supposedly limited resources they have. But, of course they don’t.

The solution is to farm the country out to Disney. Let them run it and their pay would be a small percentage of any surplus created. They’d be constrained in terms of being given an exacting list of services they have to provide. Also, I don’t think we should let them put a mouse outline on top of either the capital building or the Washington Monument. Maybe put it on the five dollar bill or something. In my eyes, a Mouse is probably good for America.

So, now that the GOP is the temporary top dog in town and it looks as if BHO is going to dig his heels in and flaunt his power, what do we do? I think we’re in for the craziest ride we’ve ever seen in our history, in terms of a President running amuck while he still has a lame duck congress. And even more so for the next two years. TWO FRIGGING YEARS!! This is going to be nuts!

No matter what happens, it’s going to be hard to maintain our emotional balance. So, I suggest we all take a couple of days off and hit Disneyworld or Disneyland. Hey, it can’t hurt! If all the politicians were to go, they might learn a thing or two. However, neither BHO or Biden would be allowed to wear mouse ears. They’d be redundant. bd 7 Nov 14 –AloneAs I’m writing this, it’s 0800 and Marlene’s flight took off about 15 minutes ago. She’ll be gone for a week visiting her sister and I already feel incredibly incomplete.

This is really a strange feeling, mostly because I don’t think she’s ever been gone for more than three days since we got together 22 years ago (married 16). It’s even stranger considering that I usually hit the office around 0530 so on a normal day it’s at least three or four hours before I even know she’s in the house. Right now, however, I can sense her absence. Some part of me knows she’s not there.

It’s interesting how all mammals form some sort of psychic connection with another and often know when that connection is broken. How else do you explain the number of times a dog will sleep on his master’s grave? Or a child will know when a parent has died thousands of miles away? A wife subliminally senses when her warrior husband has departed this life?

On a more positive side, I’m guaranteed to choke up, or even have tears running down my cheeks, when I see some of the videos about men/women returning from overseas and surprising their mates at home or their kids at school. There is something so tangible about that connection that it touches us all.

However, I’m not sure which touches me the most, the human connections or the unspoken, hard to explain connections between dogs and their owners. We can easily enough explain the family connections between kids and parents, husband and wife (well, no, we can’t really explain that either), and between friends, but the bond between dogs and humans is simply unexplainable but so wonderful it adds a warmth to life that is unavailable from any other source. Even from a baby. Maybe it’s the unquestioning love and devotion a dog will show.

So, this week, it’s just me, Sháhn-deen and the cats. So, I won’t be alone.

But, you know that’s a lie, don’t you?

Watch the below and if you don’t get choked up at least a couple of times, drop me a line. I’m pretty sure I won’t get a single e-mail. bd

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzCaA6IazFA

http://fox4kc.com/2014/07/25/dog-whines-with-joy-nearly-passes-out-when-owner-returns-home-after-2-years/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC5DXGIC8s8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzwJ70dYqKc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKBcs9tNWg8

PS
We were concerned enough about putting Marlene on an airplane, given the ebola situation, that she has surgical masks in her purse and, if she doesn’t like the situation, I’m certain she’ll use them. She’s already paranoid about everything she touches, thanks to the news coverage on the disease.