Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CLANG! {rattle}

Around age eight, I got a BB gun.  A couple years later I was allowed to have a pellet gun.    Most people will just assume at this point that I must've gone around killing birds and whatever else I saw

Yeah - NO.  I did NOT go around killing things.  There is something else much more fun you can do with a BB/pellet gun.

I used to set up aluminum cans in the branches of trees and shoot at them.  Also fun to set the can up so that it will fall when you hit it.  A partner waits for your shot and then tries to shoot the can on the way down.  The only thing we killed doing this was hours of time.  Birds and squirrels and so forth do NOT make that satisfying CLANG! when you hit them.  Properly sighting the gun was also great fun.  You had to invent some kind of way to hold the gun perfectly still and keep everything consistent, and then make your sight adjustments.  It was a creative and ultimately very rewarding challenge to really get it dialed in.  I got it to the point where I could hit a thin piece of rope from about 25 yards back.  That never made a sound, but it was very satisfying to see the whole rope move when you hit it solid.  Initially I would rest the barrel of my gun in the fence for that shot, but sometimes I could shoot it freehand.

Cans were probably the most fun, but after a while they'd have enough holes in them that you'd run out of fresh metal to hit.  Old, shot-up cans just don't sound as satisfying as fresh ones, so the other thing we'd turn to was Army Men.  We would build bunkers and trenches and fortify them with twigs and bark.  Then we'd stand back the 25 or so yards and see which of us had made the strongest reinforcements.  Lots of creativity there, too.

One day, while we were shooting from the deck in back of our house, my neighbor comes walking over holding a dead bird by its feet and says, "I think I got one of your victims here."

Friday, December 11, 2015

Distortion

What I have learned is that if you are a fan of politics (and there are plenty of them out there) part of the fun is relishing in the opportunity to decry the candidate on the other side as a complete idiot.  Taking sides is fun.  Someone with the opposing political view is the enemy.  It's as much sport as anything else, including actual sports, where rivalries are a fundamental element.

In light of that...

What was proposed was a temporary ban until we establish a better process for vetting some immigrants, then we lift the ban and carry on.

This was turned into accusations of hate speech.

I like to think I present that information separately from my opinion of the idea, but if you'd like to know what I think about it, I'd say that enhanced border checks probably won't have much to do with stopping folks bent on terrorism.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Reality

It's probably safe to say that people who have never seen a gun in person, let alone held or even shot one, are most likely to look at guns strictly as weapons of terror.  If you have no personal experience with them and all you know is what you see in the news, that would kind of make sense.  That same kind of thinking would probably lead you to think that guns are something that you can just ban and that will make them go away.

I guess that idea works if we assume that every act of gun violence is committed with a brand new gun.

I think the real truth is that if there were actually an answer to this problem we'd have solved it by now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

That was nice. What's next?

I'm not against the idea of family, and I don't have any real, longstanding issues with anyone in my extended version of it, but I'd like to offer up the idea that family is a little overrated.  It's kind of a trap in some ways.

With family, you're dealt a certain hand.  If you choose to stay with those people for your whole life, you do so at the expense of diversity.  A lot of people are okay with that.  Familiarity equals comfort.  But if someone wants to go out and see the rest of the world and meet all the kinds of people, we should be smart enough to applaud that.  The storybook family unit can make for a great upbringing, but it doesn't always have to endure.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Patriotism?

It'll be a year before it's official but one thing is clear; no matter who we elect, millions of people are already pre-disposed to hating the new President.

Friday, October 23, 2015

You Have Got To Be Kidding

It's too long ago to remember exactly, but the basic concepts are thus:

My parents moved in 1988 and it seems there was no real interest in taking the stuffed, mounted deer head with them.

At the time, I thought it would be a cool thing for a bachelor like myself to have in my apartment and so I took it.

That was the last any of us discussed the deer head.  I never did hang it.  I moved it three times.  I finally tossed it, I don't know how many years ago.  Today, 27 years later, a text from my father:

"I would like my 7-point deer head returned. Would you please ship it back to me?"


Sunday, October 18, 2015

2½ Weeks a Year


Sure it's nice, but it doesn't last long.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Brother

a 3200 word essay


My brother was ill for almost his entire life.  In my fully biased opinion, a complete tragedy. I believe the trouble started when he was just eight years old.  I was four at the time, so I can’t recall much detail about how it all started, and since it was always a difficult subject to discuss with my parents, a lot of those details never came clear for me.  I don’t think it much matters.

What I remember was a frantic mother, just on the lucid side of hysteria, desperately trying to feed my brother orange juice.  Pouring it in his mouth.  Imploring him to swallow it.  Eventually rushing him to the hospital.  Then I remember it happening again.  I remember him being gone long enough for me to wonder where he was or when he was coming back.  Then he came back and I was assured things were all straightened out.  I was pretty shocked to see him rushed back to the hospital again.  None of it made any sense to me.

Eventually Mom explained to four year old me, best anyone could, that my brother had diabetes.  I learned the sound (if not the meaning) of the word “insulin” and understood that, as would seem the ultimate horror to a kid who’s four, he would have to have a needle EVERY DAY.  Mom and my brother both showed me that it was a short and skinny needle, so it really wasn’t too bad, and my brother could even give it to himself.  It was the bravest thing I’d ever witnessed. I learned the word “shocky” which was shorthand for describing insulin shock; a condition that makes diabetics catatonic when blood sugar levels get too low.  I witnessed a lot of insulin shock.

The five or so years that followed did not get any easier.  Far too often I watched a panicked mother doing the orange juice force-feed again, only to reprimand my brother when he came to.  Once he repeatedly pointed to a small table and asked me to hand him “that… thing.”  I asked him to be more specific but he couldn’t.  A nine year old me took everything off the table and asked him to point to the thing he wanted but he still couldn’t do it.  Next thing I did was tell Mom and she, once again, brought him back from another round of insulin shock.  My brother later explained to me that it was the box of Louden’s cough drops he wanted.  He knew they had sugar that he desperately needed, but he couldn’t articulate his thoughts and didn’t think to grab them for himself.  He felt bad that he had put me through that and apologized to me with a kiss on top of the head. It was the most sincere act I had ever experienced and I of course said “Eww!” and wiped it off my hair, but that was the day I started looking out for my older brother.

Hospital trips now were down to New York City.  We lived only 90 miles away but I had never seen it.  We went quite a few times in a six month span of 1977, but my trips consisted only of visits to New York Hospital.  In the food capital of the world, our meals were from whichever deli was closest.  For entertainment, I found a window where I could watch the tugboats emerge from under the 59th St. bridge, pushing barges up and down the East River, and I marveled at the sight of the aerial tramway, wondering exactly how far off the charts that level of fun must be.  And you can have your Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge... all good choices, but of all the great architectural icons to choose from that best represent the city of New York, for me it’s the glowing beacons and red and white stripes of the smokestacks of the generating station behind Roosevelt Island.  I’m okay with that.

It wasn’t all boring.  We got out to the Statue of Liberty once.  We only made it to the base because my brother was getting another headache.  With the notable exception of a screening back home of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, those headaches got in the way of a lot of things.  They are what brought us to New York Hospital.

Mid-seventies medical technology could not diagnose the tumor that had been growing on my brother’s thyroid gland for several years.  It grew large enough to crush and pretty well cripple the pituitary gland.  It stunted his growth at age 13.  It both caused and complicated his diabetes because a broken pituitary can’t stimulate the other glands as it should, and those symptoms can lead doctors down a seemingly endless series of dead ends in an almost literal kind of skullduggery.  Where a typical diabetic would have adrenaline to boost energy during times of low blood sugar, my brother had no such functioning gland.  Doctors spent two days regulating my brother’s diet to keep blood sugar levels in what they thought was the ideal range, drawing blood every hour to be sure, but when the supposed ideal levels were reached, my brother would go into insulin shock.  The rest, I’m told, is in medical journals.

The tumor was eventually found and removed, but the damage was done.  My brother may have had a health plan he was supposed to follow, but he never did. I remember when I was 18, finding him unresponsive one morning and having to revive him.  As a teenager, seeing someone asleep at noon isn’t something you bat an eye at, but I had gleaned enough info over the years to intuit that such a thing was dangerous for my brother, though I wasn’t exactly sure why (it was too long to go without food.) It’s also pretty hard to tell the difference between sleep and catatonia.  Because there is no snapping out of it, the best result you can get just looks like sleep sitting up.  It’s an exercise in frustration on many levels.  I think about that moment a lot and I wonder how it would’ve gone if I hadn’t noticed he was downstairs asleep in his basement room.  I did whatever anyone would have at the time, but as the day went on I began to realize I actually saved my brother's life. I was stunned by that, but it was probably just another Tuesday for him.  It may have been another ten years before he really took some responsibility for himself in that department.  Luck, if you can even use that word, would certainly intervene time and again for him.

One thing he never suffered for was his love of life.  He played drums professionally. He loved the outdoors.  He loved cars.  He loved computers.  He thought those little miniature shrimp were amazing.  I'm saying he was into things.  His passion for and focus on his interests was so strong that he probably thought it could overcome his illness.  

When we were kids we did our best to ride our bicycles as if we had real, live, motorized dirt bikes.  I don’t mean we put our baseball cards in the spokes to simulate engine noise.  I mean we wore our football helmets, made our own ramps, held jump contests and organized races.  And Kevin may have ridden a ten-speed, but he only did it because he had well mastered the regular bike and now wanted to achieve the goal of shifting up and back through all ten gears while riding a wheelie, which he eventually did.  You could hear the celebration from indoors after it happened.

We were blessed with an ideal bike-riding neighborhood, including a natural set of jumps off the side of our quiet road that had varying levels of steepness such that you could pick the one that best matched your skill level.  Eric could build up such a head of steam, starting around the bend and out of sight and flying toward the steepest ramp, pedaling his long and lanky legs so hard you could hear the tires hum against the pavement with each turn of the sprocket.  Then he’d hit the jump and everything would go silent as we waited for the THUMP! of the landing. It got to the point where we knew it was a good jump or not just based on the length of silence between takeoff and landing.  A team of spotters would run out and mark the landing with a line in the dirt.  Then everyone would try to break that record but no one ever did.  And if anyone came close, Eric would just go out again and set the bar even higher. 

Eventually Eric got it so tuned in that he was now jumping beyond the landing area, and we assured him that the new goal should be to see if he could land it in a tree.  It didn’t take him more than three attempts and sure enough, he stuck the landing…  in a sapling with just the right amount of flex.  I guess I don’t know how he survived this without injury, but it’s not a kid’s job to consider these things.  Never mind that, the real problem we hadn’t considered was how to get a bike out of a tree. Whatever - typical day outside so long as it wasn't raining really hard.  

The point of that diversion is that this was the sort of activity that occupied my brother’s focus.  He wasn’t thinking about whether he should take another unit of NPH or Regular insulin, or even that he should probably stop doing this for a second and eat something.  He defiantly vowed that he would not spend his years being an obsequious, model patient.  Defiant of what, exactly?  My brother seemed bent on trying to convince his body that there was just no room in his world for illness, but he never came close to winning that argument.  By the time he had reached 50, though he had certainly grabbed much of what life has to offer (including gainful employment, marriage, and two kids) his health had deteriorated to the point where it was clearly calling the shots.  Defiance turned to denial.  Indefatigability met inevitability.  

Then cancer took our mother.  Two months later, my brother was gone, 20 days shy of his 51st birthday.  That marked the end of a real shitty year in which everything just kept going wrong, and for some godforsaken reason, every night it seemed there were gale-force winds.  I'd go to bed at night hoping for just a moment of calm from the world, but was greeted with relentless howling gusts.  They never stopped. It totally put me on edge.  I hated it.

A couple of months later I fell victim to an obvious yet totally unavoidable case of "life's too short" and began to think I needed to do some living.  One of my brother’s greatest passions was boating, and he loved it as much as anything he’d done. When he was gone, we talked about how much he loved it.  But he went most of his life without having one of his own.  He didn’t get out as often as he would’ve liked.  As the months passed, that started to feel like the kind of mistake I didn’t want to make.  I certainly didn’t have the passion for it that my brother had, but my parents had a boat a long time ago and they almost traded up for a bigger boat but they never went for it.  I always wished they had. After thinking about that bigger boat for 30 years, I knew exactly which boat I wanted to get. I’ve also lived next to a beautiful and pretty large lake for most of my life.  Maybe I should finally do this.  Because what if I don’t?  I set out to find that boat from 30 years ago.

The closest one I could find was over 200 miles away.  I was ready to go get it and experience the adventure of piloting it back home; a journey of over 500 miles by water.

I assembled a crew of four: Dan the Plumber, McGrath, my brother-in-law, and myself.  Dan had made a similar journey before and had the most nautical experience, was a competent mechanic, and a general alpha-male.  McGrath was a high school history teacher who had the right combination of enthusiasm and mellow to counteract Dan’s hyperactivity.  My somewhat risk-averse brother-in-law surprised us all by saying how a trip such as this was something he’d always wanted to do.  I contacted a surveyor in Massachusetts where the boat was located and awaited his report by phone.  It passed the sea trial with flying colors.  We were good to go.

In its day, the boat sold for $30,000.  Depreciation being what it is, I paid less than half that today, for a boat complete with two engines, heat/ac, a sofa, shower, galley…  Something that had for so long seemed unattainable suddenly became real.  We made the four-hour drive south, and I finally arrived at my new boat, which ran great; just as smooth as the surveyor had said.  We had provisioned it with enough food to be stranded at sea for quite some time. We were finally underway with a hazy, hot July day upon us, headed for Cape Cod Canal, dodging a channel full of lobster traps all the way.  What an unbelievable thrill!  I raised my glass and made a toast to my brother.  I knew he'd be loving this.

Dodging lobster traps on a hazy, hot day with the city of Boston on the horizon.


The boat lasted about four hours before we had a major malfunction.  We lost the transmission on the port engine.  And right on cue, the hazy skies darkened.  Rain fell and the wind came right at us.  For 90min, we made about 7mph headway in the dark, on one engine, dodging lobster traps and finding our way to the entrance of the canal.  We stayed at a marina in Sandwich, right near the east entrance to the canal, for the night.  They were closed so we just tied up to the fuel dock. I called my wife and apologized profusely that my plan had gone so wrong and that I had likely made a very costly mistake.  I felt so bad for having done this to her.  She took it well but I was probably pretty light on the details of what was likely to come.  I went back to the boat to sleep and the damned howling winds came back to blow salt air into my wounds.

Tied up at the fuel dock in Sandwich, MA

The next day we limped to the closest marina capable of doing repairs.  Peak season on the New England coast is not the time to ask to be squeezed in to the schedule, but the marina would be very happy to let me dock there for literally $100/day while they worked out the schedule.  Completely at their mercy with a broken boat 200mi from home, I pleaded with them to find some arrangement.  Five weeks later, the repair bill came to just over half of what I paid for the boat.  I think that’s a wrap on the marriage, people.  Thank you for coming.


video
Exiting Cape Cod Canal on one engine.


Looking back now, this was really the wrong attitude.  I should’ve laughed it off, thrown in a nice "Yarrrrrrrrr!" and chalked it all up to adventure.  You probably need to live above a certain financial threshold to do that, though, and I’m not quite sure I’m there.  In the end, it’s still only four figures. In the scheme of things...

Still not over it.

So we started the trip again, heading off from Onset, MA, this time.  And this time we made it about one whole hour before we decided one engine was running so rough we should stop and scope it out. We must've collectively brought 1,000lbs of tools on that boat.  But the engine was just too fouled to get restarted. Five weeks of sitting unused in the damp marine environment took it's toll on the ignition system. We needed to get back to the marina to buy some parts, and we called for a tow. The two-hour tow cost $750.  But alas, I was prepared with a Sea Tow membership. The tow was completely free.  Yarrrrrrrrr! 
$750 ?

We took care of the tune-up at the dock and headed back out.  Due to some sloppy workmanship on behalf of the marina, the transmission didn’t run nearly as smooth as when we first got it, but that day we made it all the way to New London, CT, “home of the world’s first and finest naval submarine base.”  Success.  It got off to a rough start, but for all its ups and downs it turned into one of the best days I’ve ever had.  We tied up at another closed marina and set off to find dinner, where we toasted the relative success of our first day that didn’t end back in the car.

Lighthouse at New London, CT

We had all showered and cast off before 6AM the next morning, before the marina was even open.  Everything was in our favor that day.  The seas were calm.  The weather was perfect, and we saw New York City in the middle of the afternoon.  We went around Manhattan and I took a photo of the smokestacks on Roosevelt Island, the 59th St. bridge, and today’s version New York Hospital, looking up from the very place on East River where I had watched those barges pass by so many years ago.  

Put a price on that.

We navigated out through New York harbor toward the Statue of Liberty, boats going in every direction.  Times Square on the water.  Finally, after five weeks of trying, we pointed the boat north toward home, the narrow Hudson River a welcome reprieve from the ominous expanse of the open ocean.  No matter how calm the ocean gets, the sheer vastness of it imparts a sensation that it could, at any moment, just decide to swallow you up.  But with railroads lining both sides of the river, the section of the Hudson passing under the GW, up past West Point and on to Newburgh, was arguably the most scenic leg of the journey.  We tied up at a marina directly in front of a nightclub at which, as luck would have it, my sister-in-law and her band were performing.  This was a spectacular day that ended with a stop very near my hometown, checking in with my brother’s family.  This is the journey I signed up for.



Interesting twist - that evening the crew wanted to push on.  With slackwater under the light of an August supermoon, and midnight temperatures in the low 70's, they thought we could make great time.  I thought it was just plain out of the question and, as captain, had to be the sole voice of dissent.  Coulda been a mutiny for sure, but I was afforded respect and we stayed for the night.  Thanks, dudes.

Within 30min of shoving off the next day we struck a huge submerged log and our week was done.  Startling for sure, but I was honestly unfazed.  We were within sight of a marina that happened to be about three miles from my Uncle’s house.  I’d made the trip by car to and from this town dozens of times.  I’m also insured for this sort of thing, and nothing short of the boat exploding into a thousand shards of fiberglass could make me look twice at this point.  This setback lasted only a week and we were back in business. 

The rest of the trip home went off without a hitch.  Up the rest of the navigable part of the Hudson, through the Champlain locks and onward home.  Not quite two more days on the water. I arrived home at 3PM relieved that I wouldn’t have to think about the boat anymore.

Home.

So… that didn’t really go like I thought it would.  I had that brief moment at the beginning there when everything started off so well and I raised a toast to my brother, knowing he would’ve been at his happiest if he could’ve been part of this.  But to be frank, much of the rest of the trip was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it never really did.  After another year living with the boat and continuing improvements, the nerves settled down and I began to enjoy it simply.


Now I just wish he could be here to enjoy it.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Flatbush

If you're wondering, all I have to say about Bernie Sanders is that I never understood how a guy who calls it "Vuh-MUNT" could ever get so popular there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Plow Truck

In my part of the world, when shopping around on Craigslist for a used truck, you're going to need to know a few things first.

You should know that the term "Plow Truck" is legitimately used to refer to a truck that is so far beyond repair that it couldn't possibly pass inspection.  It's definitely not safe for State roads, but do anything you want with it on your own property.  You should also know a plow truck does not always come with a plow.  You may need to supply that yourself... if that's what you want to use it for.

Craigslist photo below.


Friday, September 11, 2015

I Don't Know

So much talk lately about transexuals.  I gotta tell ya - I don't know what's going on with them.  It's not so cut and dried.  There are so many facets to that issue that I think it's dismissive to just say, "Oh, how brave!" and move on because there are undoubtedly some cases where you are applauding mental illness.

To think of changing sexes as the empirical solution is missing the bigger problem.


Is the person in this picture being brave, delusional, or a unique combination of both?


Here's what makes me think most people agree, whether or not they realize it.  People don't seem to have much problem criticizing celebrities who get a lot of plastic surgery.  When a person has altered their look so much that they are hardly recognizable as their old selves, it makes pop news headlines about how freakish they look, or how they ruined their face.  And that's usually capped off with, "How can they think that looks good?" implying that there must be some kind of delusion going on.

A guy that puts on lipstick and a dress and thinks he looks like a woman probably has some of that same sort of delusion, but instead we say he is brave.

Seems a little unfair.  Both of these types of people are struggling with the idea that they are living in the wrong body.

We should apply the same standard, whatever it is.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vacation Photos with a Cell Phone Only

Can it be done?  Well, yeah...  I mean, it can be done, but should it?  I tried it.  Did not enjoy.  Even though a very capable cellphone camera is usually sitting right in your pocket, that really isn't as convenient or functional as it seems.

First, since the phone is pretty small and hides in your pocket well, you often have to search to find it.  Then, it being mostly a glass rectangle, it legitimately takes a sec to figure which way is up.  Then you power it on and swipe to open the camera app, which also takes a second to load up. The autofocus can sometimes take a second as well.  All of this adds up to a clumsy and slow process.  If you're taking a lot of pictures you'll get frustrated pretty quickly.  And those cell phones are small and don't have a lot of grip, either.  Job One when taking a photo with them is to remember to hold on tight.

I got plenty of pictures out of my phone (here's a couple to look at) but the whole experiment only showed me that a dedicated camera, strung around your neck, is really the way to go.  If you rely on your cell phone camera, you're going to miss a lot of moments while you fumble around pushing virtual buttons made of slippery glass.











Saturday, August 29, 2015

Zinc! Wha..?

If you put metal in water, water's gonna eat that metal.  This is a problem for boaters, so they solve that problem through a thing called sacrificial anodes, which are made of zinc.  Zinc attracts electrolysis more than any other metal, so just place those anodes around your important metal stuff, and the anode will get eaten first.  Problem solved... as long as you replace your zincs on a regular basis.

Here's a photo of a sacrificial zinc after it's been in fresh water for a couple years, and a new one on the left.  The brand name is "Martyr." Perfect.

"Thank God I still live in a world of telephones, car batteries, handguns, and many things made of zinc." Simpsons, episode 8F16



Friday, August 21, 2015

So

Not a fan of starting a sentence with "So..."  People really need to stop doing that.  I think it's done as a way to take ownership of the conversation when you've been asked a question.

Example:

"What about the idea of having the City perform background checks on the company's employees?"
"So... Uber doesn't love that idea."

Starting off with "so" implies that you had said something already, and any fifth-grader could parse this a million different ways, but the main thing I take away from our discussion is that you are not a confident speaker.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Check Engine

It's getting to be about time for some new wheels.  My current ride was built in 1999. Still runs okay but the clock is running out. Unfortunately, I can't find anything that interests me at all.  If I had to get a car tomorrow I really don't know what I'd do.

This truck from 1987 currently appeals to me most.  It's not just the retro appeal of it; it's also the fact that it will never need a new ABS modulator, spark knock sensor, EGR valve, mass airflow sensor, or whatever other government-mandated point of failure auto makers have spent the past 28 years dreaming up in the interest of squeezing about 8% more fuel economy out of the engine.

And when the day comes that you need to replace any of the 4,000 sensors stuck in and around your modern vehicle, the cost of the repair will completely negate any fuel savings you may have accumulated.



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Getting It All Wrong

I know it is wrong to attempt to climb a tree with a running chainsaw in your hand, but you can do it if you plan it out and have spent a decent amount of time in trees throughout your life.  But man, that sure hurt when my foot stayed in the tree while the rest of me tried to go to the ground.  I got all upside down and junk.  The toe of one foot got caught on something and wouldn't release when I went to step down.  Things stretched well beyond their normal operating range.

The saw wasn't an issue though.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not Wind

This is just a follow-up to that last post about how many damn apples we have on our tree.



Okay, thanks.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Apples


I hate my apple tree.  For seven days out of the year, it's covered in delicate white apple blossoms; a beautiful bouquet from Mother Nature, welcoming you to the warm season.

Then it grows somewhere on the order of 2,000 useless, horrible apples which fall to the ground and demand that I pick them up and drive them to the dump.  This process lasts about a month.

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Your Fault

Check out this statistic that I just made up:

99.7% of accidents at construction zones are the result of driver inattention/error.

Probably a reasonable assumption.  But everybody makes mistakes, and that means that flag workers can make them, too.  Check out the following statistic I also just made up:

0.3% of construction zone accidents are caused because someone handed a traffic flag to an idiot.

You know, I don't want to say too much here because I respect anyone who has the pride, good sense, and motivation to go out and work for a living, but holding a stop/slow sign doesn't otherwise require a lot of brains.  That 0.3% can seem like a pretty strong possibility.

But it doesn't matter.   The 99.7% share is contaminated with reckless, inattentive, and egregious driving.  It's quite blinding and the dim 0.3% error doesn't stand a chance to be seen against it.

So when a flag worker is standing on the sidewalk 100ft behind where he wants you to stop, and, from that far away, he sends a car through a stop sign to your right, and that car pulling out blocks your line of sight toward the worker on the sidewalk and his sign, and then the worker yells at you and demands you need to pay more attention...

Well, honestly, that's never bad advice.  It applies easily in 99.7% of all situations.  Close enough.  Maybe you should stop being such a reckless asshole behind the wheel, asshole.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Legacy of Kristin

I met a girl in high school.  I actually met her through her brother, whom I have written about on this blournal before.  Her brother and I were very good friends for awhile.  When I wasn't hanging out with him I could often be found hanging out with her.  But we never dated.  We never made out.  I think I gave her a hug once on an occasion that really called for it.  Come to think of it, she hugged me.

These are the facts.  Everything written from here on out is conjecture.

No one said anything at the time, but I think many people... well, my family, thought the two of us made a good pair.  I know her mom thought so.  You could almost make a case that everyone except Kristin thought so, and you'd almost be right.  But not quite.  It's just that she had a boyfriend pretty much the entire time I knew her.  I always read that as sort of a sign, y'know?  I've since learned that a boyfriend should not be seen as any kind of barrier because he is quite often the wrong boyfriend (hint: any man that is not you is the wrong boyfriend) but in any case, seems like some people I knew were pretty impressed with her, or the idea of me and her.  More on that in a bit.

As the college years arrived, we didn't hang out so much. We did occasionally cross paths and we got along as well as ever.  A lot of you, including Kristin, might at this point ask, "So what happened?"  I'm sorry to put such a fine point on it because this is a little offensive, but what happened is I met Diane.

I think all you really need to know here is that I ended up marrying Diane.  Safe to say that, after meeting Diane, my thoughts were pretty well centered around her.  From this point forward, I shall refer to Diane as "Carole."

So after Carole and I have been together for a couple of months, it's going very well.  I'm figuring we're both pretty much feeling the same about each other and I more or less say this to her.  Carole says, "What about the most beautiful girl in the state?"

That sentence meant as much to me at the time as it probably does to you right now.  NO IDEA.  But whatever it means, it can't be good.  Clearly Carole has something she'd like to discuss.  ALWAYS FUN.

Okay.  I promised earlier I'd have more to say on the "made a good pair" topic.  Here's that.

Somewhere during this same time when Carole and I are figuring out exactly how deep is your love, my brother decided it would be some of his business to tell Carole about a girl I once knew named Kristin.  Okay, so hold up a sec.  WHY?!  Why do that?  What's the best possible outcome in that scenario?  Carole's gonna say, "Oh, she sounds nice" ?!  Where is he going with this?  Well let's tune in and find out.

When my brother spoke of Kristin, he referred to her as, you guessed it, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the State."  This unflatteringly specific phrase was his and his only.  Those words did not come from me (no offense to Kristin.)  Still, as you can probably imagine, that detail turned out to be of little relevance.

So I really can't conjure up exactly why my brother felt the need to have this discussion.  It seems, from my end, like nothing but sabotage.  What exactly was Carole supposed to do with this information?  I'll tell you what; quiz me.  That's what.  So thanks for that, bro.  Thanks so much.  Makes me think he was really hoping to see that "good pair" concept he had envisioned finally materialize.  Either way, I explained to Carole that those were never my words.

For about 28 years now.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Mom?

Nope.  Not Mom.

I just spent a week watching a woman I don't know call my father a name I don't recognize.

Such is the nature of dating in your 70's.  I guess...

Friday, July 03, 2015

Reminder: Corporations Are Not People

signed,

Mrs. Fields
Ben and Jerry
Wendy's
People's United Bank
Denny's
The Oprah Network
Mrs. Paul
Famous Amos
Gordon's Gin
John Deere
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
SC Johnson & Johnson (a family company)
Newman's Own
Sam's Club
Tom's of Maine


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Typing While Driving

I figured out why people text and drive.  I think it was pretty hard to understand at first because the blinding rage I have over it is hard to see past, but after a few years of pure wonderment over how we could have lowered the bar to the point where we don't even look where we're going anymore, I feel like it came clear to me all at once.  The pivotal moment was when I saw a guy last week behind the wheel looking at down at his phone and giving the road the occasional glance.  Instead of the usual outrage and disgust, I felt a strange sense of calm as the simplicity of the problem dawned on me; he had it exactly backwards.  He was studying his phone and giving the road the occasional check.  Yes, this is colossal and inexcusable stupidity, but I think I know what's going through people's heads.

1) The phone is more interesting than driving.

There's a new generation of people out there who aren't all that interested in cars. It's not their thing. The reasons might have something to do with the environment, but it also can't be completely discounted that the act of driving requires you to forget about your phone for awhile.  That's a hard sell.

2) For the most part, taking your eyes off the road (or hands off the wheel) doesn't stop your car from moving.  You look at the road, you look at the phone, and most times things just keep going along.  You end up convincing yourself that a certain aspect of the driving happens on autopilot, and you get lulled into the familiar sensation of riding public transportation.

I think any other contributing factors still stem from these two main points.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Free Will*

*some restrictions apply

You could argue that the more enlightened among us practice tolerance, but everyone has a line.  We can agree to accept each other regardless of race, sexual orientation, cultural mores, etc., but polygamists and nudists have a harder time of it.  The guy who belches loudly in public... he doesn't find the same acceptance.   Who is he really hurting and why?  Maybe we need to work on our tolerance for that guy.

Or maybe we need to admit that we all have a line.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Make a Proud Distinction

Let me make SUPER CLEAR right at the top that I'm not against gay marriage.  I AM NOT.  Seems totally fair to me, and a pretty obvious what-were-we-ever-thinking moment.  I would kind of appreciate it if you would come back and read this paragraph again in a minute, because...

I do have one problem with it, and a couple of pretty simple reasons why.

My problem is I wish gay marriage had a different name.  Yes, a gay marriage should undoubtedly be viewed as equal, but equal doesn't mean identical.  It really isn't entirely honest to say that they are exactly the same thing.  No - that's not a subtle way of trying to say I think one is better than the other.  What I'm saying is that each type of marriage has a distinction worthy of note in its own proud title.

These days, finding out someone is married isn't quite as informative as it once was.  Our standard response is soon to become, "Oh. Do you have a husband or wife?"  So although we've gained something here, we've also kind of lost something.  And it's too bad because I really think it's a unique opportunity to make a proud distinction.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Nope

No ride.  This is hard news for me to accept.  All signs pointed to these guys being criminal masterminds, but I guess I overestimated the value of that.  Maybe a criminal mind can only be so smart.  It is broken after all.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Where Were You?

Regular and fully committed readers will remember that I decided to go check out a local prison several years ago.  Some kind of horrible fascination drove me to do it, I guess.  That trip... actually, writing about that trip, served to completely satisfy my curiosity.  It was at the end where I wrote, "All right. Prison is real. (What next?)" where I had a well-what-the-hell-were-you-expecting kind of moment and I haven't thought nary a whit about it since.

But then a couple of guys broke out.  And they didn't just break out; they masterminded the only escape in the 170-year history of the maximum security prison.  Pretty incredible feat.  Getting access to power tools, manipulating guards and other employees, the planning, the execution, the decoys left in their cells, the five-hour head start they got before anyone knew they were missing...  Just amazing.

Deplorable as these criminals may be, you have to have some respect for their ability to manipulate people to the point where they were able to get everything they needed to bust out of a maximum security facility.  Again - AMAZING.

Now, to think that after all this, they didn't have a solid getaway driver lined up?  Ah... I don't think so.  Three weeks later these guys are still schlepping around the Adirondacks because their ride flaked?  They had every detail worked out, even to the point that they knew the manhole out on the street would be padlocked and they came prepared to cut it, but then they didn't have a solid connection on the outside who could drive them to Mexico?  I really can't believe that's true.  It's a prrrrrrretty important detail and would be quite an oversight... and it frankly ruins the whole thing for me.

These guys outsmarted a LOT of people.  They used a literally unprecedented level of cunning to derail an entire prison security mechanism and get over (okay, under) that wall.  If you're going to succeed that far, you owe it to the GP to a) make it the rest of the way, and b) disappear forever.

TELL me you didn't just get outside and go, "Well... where is she?"

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

If You See Something - Don't Say Anything

The guy in the car next to me texting with his phone in his lap.  The girl who runs the stop sign and then parks in the fire lane.  The able-bodied girl who parks in the handicap space and goes inside for 15 minutes.

If I said something every time I saw people doing these things, I'd be doing it all day.  And worse, I'd have to hear their perverse explanations. That's a pretty lousy time.  If I don't say anything - still a lousy time.  It's just watching people lower the bar every damned day, and that knocks the wind out of you a little bit.

Most old folk don't want to give up their licenses, but I welcome the day that they tell me I'm too old to drive.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Advice

Being the only one who is right is the same thing as being wrong.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Please Understand...

Just because I don't want a dog doesn't mean I want to kill all the dogs.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Look - I Just Sincerely Don't Care

Can I just tell you?  I haven't cared one whit about Bruce Jenner since 1976 and THAT HASN'T CHANGED.

Anything you read into that is on you.