Thursday, September 30, 2010


I had not expected the decision to come quite this quickly, but advancing age and declining health have led me to pull the plug, and take early retirement. Today, 09/30/10, was my last day on the job. The decision has not been made lightly, but it has become more evident that I am no longer fully effective on the job, and I am not being a credible asset to my employer, and my health is suffering because of my trying to keep up.
I look forward to using the opportunity to better distribute and control my nutrition (insulin-dependent diabetic) and energy levels (congestive heart failure), and to be around a while longer to further harass and generally bug my family and friends. We are cutting expenses around here by such measures as dumping the landline phone, so I will be operating solely on my cell, at too oh five five for one won six one ate, with no texting. At sixty five mpg, I suspect that the Elite scooter will become a more integral part of my transportation, which will be easy – my increasing sensitivity to weather means that if it is raining or less than 60 degrees, I probably will not leave the house anyway.
I plan to use the situation to reconnect with my lady wife – presently, she sees me mostly after work, when I am tired all the time, and I normally leave in the morning before she is awake. I have 20+ years of things I would like to have been doing with the house, but have been unable to do because of time/health issues, and I hope that with operating at my own pace and ability without the pressure and hassle of work, I can get a bunch of it done. I hope to pursue my hobbies more seriously.
I also hope to avoid bankruptcy and homelessness, as our household income will drop by about a third on the early pension, and the mortgage is not paid out yet. We have been crunching numbers however, and I am surprised at the savings that will materialize. I spend about $7 a day in fuel making the commute in the truck, and if I am not careful, I can spend $10 a day in food for breakfast, lunch, needed occasional snacks, etc. Working an average of 21 days per month, we are looking at over $350 a month in working costs. The gasoline costs for the truck will, of course, not disappear, but will drop drastically, and my insurance will go down since I am no longer commuting, and I plan to turn the Pimpmobile, making for more savings, and I will have less clothing cost. Add this to the $70 per month savings by dropping the landline phone, and we about have the mortgage covered.
It will be uncomfortable while we get used to it, but it seems doable. We will see.
I will think about you commuters in the morning. Briefly.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Okay, I am here!

This is the same blog which has been located at Blogsome for the while; I just felt a need to move to a more robust blog engine, and this one seems to be pretty much OK, so now the blog is located here!
One of my aggravations with Blogsome was the utter lack of a usable export format, so I have had to transfer this blog by simple cut-and-paste, one post at a time.  This has produced a confusing thing with the archive header, as it appears that all the posts were made today, but I have included the original date of the post in the post text. Also bear in mind that a few of the posts simply would not cut and paste, and were thus lost.  I have no idea why.
I should be able to keep this thing more regularly updated beginning next month (October) as some things will change then.  Bear with me.

Off to war, and other rumination

March 17, 2010
So, the spring that I have been hoping for looks as if it may finally arrive.  In the morning, my lady wife and I will leave for Southern Mississippi, to attend the annual SCA event known as Gulf Wars.  This year, I will not be fighting, but will use some time to try to get some pics and video of some of the goings on.  Looks to be a Good Time.  Yes, we dress in funny clothes and subscribe to a standard of chivalry and courtesy that is probably mostly inoperable in the real world of today, but it is fun!  It is a hobby, and an enjoyable one.  Remember though, that to be treated as the object of such, it is incumbent on you to act the part.  If you conduct yourself as an unbecoming ass or a wench, do not be surprised if you are treated as one.  This is officially a war between the kingdoms of Trimaris [the Florida peninsula] and Ansteorra [Texas and Oklahoma], with the other kingdoms being allied with one or the other for the war. The attendance is usually 4000-5000, and of the nineteen kingdoms worldwide, seventeen are expected this year.  No, it really does not matter who wins - it is, as they say, A War With No Enemies, and a really good reason to have a good time.
On the other hand, the laws of Unintended Consequences are bearing down on me.  The coming of spring means the coming of yard work, for me an increasingly difficult task, but one that must be done.  The yard is beginning to look shaggy already!  During next week, there will be a trip to Lowe’s for blades and a drive belt for the drive-it-around mower, line for the trimmers, and a new blade for the bow saw, all of those to be installed and made ready for the following Saturday, which will be the initial Grass Cuttin’ Day for this season.  I kind of look forward to it, and kind of not - it will be an industrial-strength task.  Forty weight.  Sheesh.
With the weather becoming survivable again however, it opens the scooter riding season.  Now that is something for which to look forward!

Global Foolishness

February 21, 2010
Once again, I have been assailed verbally by a well-meaning but not overly bright young woman telling me that we must seriously alter our lifestyle in order to "Save The Planet".  This of course is due to our causing of Global Warming, and the danger that it entails.  Of course, I am old enough to remember that in the 1960s and early 1970s, the big scare was an oncoming Ice Age, with all the misplaced enthusiasm and insane demands for action that now come with Global Warming.
Here is the real skinny - global warming is happening to a point, but humans have no control over it.  From the real evidence we have, we know that over the past million years, this old rock has experienced an ice age about every 100,000 years.  These have corrected themselves, by means of global warming, without the presence of SUVs, coal power plants, or any of the other human-made things largely blamed for our present relatively mild warming.  It has, in fact, been warmer than now in only the last 1000 years.  The Medieval Warm Period, which ran from about 900 to the late 1300s, was apparently a very nice period for humans.  The south end of Greenland was populated by Nordic farmers and sheepherders, wine grapes grew and prospered as far as northern Britain, and even most of Russia was an agricultural breadbasket.  All this began to fall apart in the late 1300s, when the climate turned around, and the Mini Ice Age set in.  The peaceful Nordic farmers and sheepherders in the  Greenland/Norway/Sweden corridor became the Vikings, and went exploring and conquering to find a warmer place to live.  In England there began a winter festival each winter when the Thames river froze over.  By the late 1700s, this also was turning around, as we began to enter our present little cycle of warming.  In the new world, the United States was getting more liveable (the river at Valley Forge was not freezing over any more, among other things) as was Europe (the annual winter festival in London was canceled in 1812, as the Thames wasn’t freezing over anymore).  And by the way, Mars is also getting a bit warmer over the last 30 or so years, and there are not any humans there to influence it.
Now CO2 - that is right, Carbon Dioxide - greenhouse gas, evil stuff, them damm humans again.  Real science, as opposed to the wild-eyed junk science floating around today, shows us that human activity of all kinds to include agriculture and industry contributes about 3% of total CO2 to the environment, which is less than negligible.  The most common greenhouse gas around is atmospheric water vapor, over which we have no control.
Here is the real unvarnished skinny for the young woman mentioned above and her like - we can not Save The Planet, nor can we destroy it.  We don’t have the power. The influence. The control of The Force.  We are another form of life here on the ol’ rock, and when Mother Nature tires of us, she will be rid of us, and our passing will be unnoticed by the other life forms here.  This old ball has been here a whole lot longer than we, and will continue just fine without us when we are gone.
In the meantime, be nice to each other. Do not let wild-eyed do-gooders dominate you.  Live your life, and let other people live theirs.  We are here for a limited time - make the best of it.

Catching up

February 16, 2010
Yeah yeah, no posting for a while, and just catching up a bit.  I have had some "health challenges" of late, and missed a bit of work.  This happens most often in the winter, and makes me an unhappy boy during this season.  Thanks to Global Warming (now there is an incredible scam, but that is another post), we here in Alabama, along with most of the country, are having our worst winter since 1985.  Unseasonably cold temps, non-typical snowfalls, the whole nine yards.  I do not operate well in cold weather, and am having a particularly rough time this year.  Winter blows.
When we get some survivable  weather, I have major projects to do, and I am building and prioritizing a "to do" list.  One involves a major shovel-out of the house and basement.  I have seen a TV show called "Hoarders", and while not at that point, I see too much of myself in that show to be comfortable with this place, so I will begin a massive cleanout. I also do pledge to do better with the yard work and outside maintenance this year.
So I have all this to look at, and a couple other points also. It should be an interesting year, and I will try to chronicle some of it here. Bear with me…

But I am Disabled!

December 25, 2009
I have been told again that I am "courageous" for going on with life "in spite of" my disabilities.  I am afraid I did not react well.
If you told me of all of the complications of your disability – physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, economically – and I simply replied, “So what?” would you be offended?
But I give this very response to myself every day when it comes to living with disability: I have disability hardships, so what?
Yes, I am insensitive and crass and jaded, and kind of an ass. And I simply know that when it comes to viewing our disabilities, often simply saying to ourselves "so what?" is a key to continuing with life.
Sure, people can easily dive headfirst into victimhood at some point, making a three-page list of reasons why they couldn’t attend school or work: I can’t speak. I can’t move my limbs. I can’t feed myself. I can’t toilet myself. My disablity  prevents me from doing what I want and dream. And, as a society, we’d never argue with that reasoning.
But there’s no accountability in such thinking, is there? The minute that we look at disability as happening to us – where we make a list of excuses why we can’t rise to its challenges, we live in defeat.  It’s not my fault that I can’t attend school or work – I have a disability. It’s victim thinking at its best – and it serves no one.
Often when it comes to the limiting factors of our disabilities, they’re based almost entirely on our own negative thinking, our embracing victimhood instead of valid barriers. Sure, we could all play the victim, make our own three-page list of how our disabilities limit our potentials – and, we could check off every box as yet another reason why we can’t pursue our goals or live up to what we should achieve, why we’re casualties of disability. Heck, we could even get everyone from family to doctors to society to sign off on that tragic list, validating why we can’t do something we should be doing, acknowledging why we deserve to feel robbed, defeated, and depressed.
The fact is that we all have limitations - my singing frightens children, so I cannot be a blues singer, as I once aspired.  I do not have the ability or talent to be a NFL running back.  I would love to have a doctorate in applied mathematics from Stanford, but I am not smart enough.  Deal with it.
At some point, though, if we’re going to move our lives forward – we must assume full accountability for how we live with disability, and throw our three pages of disability excuses in the trash, where victim thinking is replaced by accountability, where we pronounce to ourselves, I have a disability – so what? and just get on with life.

What Privacy?

December 19, 2009
Yes, it has been too long since I posted here, but you get what you pay for, and this is a free thing.  I will try to do a bit better.
I am not a Conspiracy Kook per se, but I have just enough tech knowledge to realize much of what is possible these days.  I have a sticker on a file cabinet at work which reads "One Nation Under Surviellance", and was asked about it just the other day by a visitor.  The easiest explanation I could think about at the time was my travel to the gulf coast on a scooter trip.  I do not like to carry large amounts of cash, so I mostly travel with a bit of cash, my check card, and a couple of gasoline credit cards.  Out on the road, I like to stop every 50-60 miles, to top off gas, check fluids and tires, and rest my old joints and fake feet. On a 200+ mile tool to the coast, this will usually involve about 4 pit stops, including one when I arrive at my destination city, all using the debit/credit cards .  It also creates a transaction at whatever lodging, probably a couple meals, and repeat as needed on the way home.  In short, I have created electronic footprints to the coast and back home, available to whatever agency of government who may be keeping track of my movements, plus records of movement and use of my cellphone. Scary?
Maybe, maybe not.  Here is the good part of all this: I have a buncha health problems, to the extent that I have a better-than-average chance of keeling over at any time.  If I am traveling alone, and end up lying in a ditch somewhere beside a two-lane highway, I have a good chance of being found.  My cellphone is GPS activated, and can be tracked almost instantly to within a few feet.  If the phone is destroyed or turned off for whatever reason, a fast run of my card records can narrow me down to 50 miles or so, by the last gas stop, meal, or whatever.
The bad part of all this?  See above.  A number of folk get absolutely crazy about this, convinced that The New World Order, or someone, is keeping track of everybody; where they go, what they do, etc.  There are a few flaws with this thinking, mostly revolving around people’s perception of privacy.  The bottom line is that you ain’t got any.  If you walk outside your house/apartment/whatever, your privacy is gone, and you are visible to all and sundry.  The people who would recoil in horror at the thought of someone, anyone, looking at purchase records to see if they own a Toro mower will without thought crank their Toro Saturday morning and mow their grass, they and their Toro plainly visible to anyone who drives by on the street.  Those who rail against security cameras in stores and parking lots do not seem to realize that without the cameras, they are on a bike or in a glass cage (car), or pushing a buggy through a store, visible to all.  In such circumstances, I am difficult to overlook - I am a big guy with fake legs, usually dressed in an arrogant Banana-Republic style, sporting a pony tail, and in the case of retail stores, normally astride a wheelchair or mobility scooter, and I am not likely to be unnoticed.  Also, the average working person is thought to be on camera about 3000 times a day. In my case, it applies to my workplace, which has cameras in every corridor, so my movements around the building are committed to electronic storage every workday, to include my frequent tooling down the corridor to the men's potty. One morning, my mother called to say that during a traffic report on the local TV news, she had seen my pickup truck on the TraffiCam, so I had been randomly recorded on I-59 southbound at 6:44am.
For the tinfoil-hat-black-helicopter crowd, we are also talking about our own government, which for the most part is far less efficient or competent than we imagine.  Been to the DMV lately?

Rally at Memfis, baby!

September 14, 2009

This weekend, I finally got back into the motorscooter rally mode, though not exactly as I had wanted, but rallying nonetheless.
I have been planning on and looking forward to the Dead Elvis scooter rally in Memphis for some time, my first rally in  over a year, after a number of medical atrocities. I was riding my Elite 250, and Sandy was tailgunning in her Explorer.  When we started to leave, I found, without warning, that I was just not ready to ride 5-6 hours to the rally. I was tired, my pacemaker was cycling, my hips and knees were hurting, and I just was not up to it. This is a very hard thing for me, as I have always been one to ride to events, and not one to trailer, and fairly proud of it. This time, however, it just did not work for me. I, of course, do not have a suitable trailer, and no way to carry the scooter.  My alternative here turned out to be to simply leave the Elite 250 here at home, and load up my mobility scooter on the Explorer’s carrier, and take an "alternative" form of scooter to the rally. This actually turned out better than anticipated, and I had a really good time. 
When we arrived Friday, Sandy and I were frustrated trying to find the hotel, and when we finally did, going anywhere else was a pain; to get anywhere, we had to know the shortcuts to get out of there, and we didn’t know them. The maps we had were more-or-less useless. We ended up on the I-55 bridge going into Arkansas trying to go downtown.  When we did make it back to the hotel, we did not dare try to go anywhere for dinner, and ended up ordering by phone from one of the places listed in the rally propaganda, and we had pasta delivered to the hotel, and it was very good.  We missed the registration at Calhoun’s Sports Bar, and we don’t do late-night partying, so we ended up staying at the hotel.
Saturday morning, there was late registration and a breakfast burrito bust in the park next to the hotel, and a great time had by all.  The day group ride was, of course, Elvis centered, and I have no interest in Elvis - I had no use for him when he was alive, and certainly don’t now, but the ride was interesting. The stops were the Sun Records studios, always interesting, Supercycle (Elvis’s bike builder), and Graceland. No, I did not take the tour, so Sandy and I had a couple of hours to go back to the hotel and rest.  A bit later, the whole rally group met up at the hotel, and rode en masse to Metro Moto, the Vespa purveyor in Memphis. For a bit of nostalgia, follow a huge group of scooters through town, many of them being vintage Vespas and Lambrettas, and smell that two-stroke exhaust smoke…  Metro Moto is a very nice store, and the folks there simply set up big round portable tables, iced kegs, and music in the parking lot in front of the store,  and Central Barbeque brought in killer food.  The weather cooperated, and good times were had. Later, a huge raffle went on, and awards were given for many catagories.  The Birmingham Scooter Syndicate made an impressive showing, taking the Best Club Turnout trophy,  and BSS members taking trophies for Furthest Ridden (done on a 125!), Best Modern Vespa, Best Modern Other (Dib’s Big Ruckus), Best Stella, Best Rat Bike, and Best of Show. 
Sunday morning, a mass breakfast was had at the Arcade Cafe, Memphis’ oldest restaurant (1919) and Elvis’s favorite breakfast place. Good food!
The Memphis Kings scooter club did a bang-up job, and must be shamelessly commended.
So, I am back into rally mode after all this time, but not exactly as I had wanted.  One thing that has become clear is that I am no longer up to long rides to faraway rallies.  This is a heartbreaker for me. I have always been the one to ride to stuff, and have never been afraid of long rides. In just the last few years, I have ridden the Silver Wing to Johnson City TN, to the Gulf Coast several times, to Louisiana, etc. I have flogged the Elite 250 to Knoxville TN, Madison GA, Chattanooga TN, the Gulf Coast, etc etc. I have done 1000 mile weekends onthe 250.  All this may be at an end, I dunno.  I will continue to ride the Silver Wing wherever I go, but traveling on the 250 is more difficult.
So I may actually be one to wuss out and trailer the 250 to far-off events, to become one of those I have made fun of all these years.
My S10 pickup is ready to take a small trailer, and the Explorer can be adapted very quickly; It has a Class III frame hitch already, which carries the lift for the mobility scooter. This can be rather easily slid out, and a ball reciever slid in, and the four-wire light connector is already there.  So it will now be my project to find a suitable small-to-medium trailer to use when I become a trailer wuss going to events.  A long way down for me, but apparently one of those things…

I got a little distracted

June 27, 2009
I have just arrived back at the manse, to get started on the yard work that is sorely needed. I had headed out this morning for the old ‘hood in south East Lake to check out the neighborhood yard sale thing going on there. On the way back, I tooled onto the trusty old US Hwy 11 on the way home, and had a thought of going a bit out of the way and making a stop at the WalMart in Springville, to pick up a couple of needed goodies. I am not sure exactly what transpired, but after three gas stops and a quick lunch at a Waffle House in Fort Payne, I found myself back at home, with 168 miles on the trip odo. I got distracted, that is what happened. That is my story anyway, and I am sticking to it. The old Elite 250 does cruise well at 55mph though, and will do 60 without complaint, but does sound a bit busy at that speed. What can I say; it is old.
I did have an encounter at the Waffle House which was unusual. (Hmmm… WalMart and Waffle House; you knew I was white trash didn’t you?) An older guy (67 as it turned out) asked me, not the usual how many mpg, but if I thought he would be able to ride something the size of the Elite just around town, and was it a problem to shift the gears. He recently retired, has been widowed for a couple years, and has always wanted a motorcycle, but "my wife never would let me get one." He has some two-wheel knowledge from his bicycle, which he still rides, but the only motorcycle of any kind he has ridden was many years ago, when he rode his brother’s Cushman around the farm in the 1950s, to keep it exersized while bro was drafted away. I explained the CVT scooter trans has no shifting at all, and with Art’s influence in mind, referred him to Fort Payne Powersports, a Yamaha dealer, and suggested he look at the Zuma 125. I also recommended the MSF rider course. (I think the closest one to him is in Jacksonville)
He seemed pleased, so maybe we will have another scooter rider in Fort Payne.
So now for the yard work. I will work on it until I give up on it, which will be late this afternoon, and I will be working at my own pace, as I chase patches of shade around. I do want to go tonight down to Trussville, where the Birmingham Amateur Radio Club is doing their annual Field Day thing, just to look around, see some of the folks, and be around some RF.
I never did make it to Wally World. I’ll do that tomorrow…

I grow weary... [Rant]

June 19, 2009
I grow weary.  They are trying to stress out and kill an old man.  It is an evil communist plot. That must be it.  Our society deteriorates to a civilization of whiners and helpless fools.  The latest examples are the switch to digital television, and people who have no idea how to use their own computers.  People have had TWO YEARS to prepare for the TV thing, and just can’t seem to get it. Somehow, the idea of getting a simple converter box for their TV seems to be an insurmountable obstacle, even though the federal gummint has foolishly given them a chance for a $40 discount on a $50 box. Older folk are the worst, but not the only offenders.
At work Monday, I was called upstairs, where a woman was giving a presentation to a meeting.  I was there because her computer would not put her PowerPointless crap presentation on the screen through the ceiling-mounted projector.  Bear in mind thatr this was HER laptop computer, not mine, and she expected ME to make it work.  The first thing I noticed was that the cable from the wall box for the projector was not connected to her laptop.  Her explanation was "But the computer is wireless!"  While simmering inside, I explained that the projector was not wireless, and it didn’t apply.  I got the cable, brought it to the laptop, and while I was tightening the connector, told her to switch the video to the socket on the back, so that it would send the signal to the projector.  She just looked at me with a bewildered expression, and had no idea what I meant. I, rather patiently I thought, showed her how to hold down the function key and press the number key with the little blue TV on it, and the screen popped up on the projector, and thus on the big screen. She was relieved, and thanked me "so much" for helping her out.  I went back to my office.  Less than five minutes later, I was called back upstairs.  Seems the woman had sound with her PowerPointless program, and was not pleased with the crummy sound from the speakers built into her laptop, and wanted to know if I had "better speakers" she could use.  I told her that I did not, and that she would just have to get along with what she had.  She had the gonads to want to know why I did not have better speakers.  I showed great restraint in not exploding on the whacko, and told her that we expect presenters to know how to use their own equipment, be rehearsed, and bring what they need to do their presentation, and rolled away.  After the meeting, I think she felt guilty, and came to my office to thank me again for my help.  I had to ask her if she had rehearsed this thing ahead of time, and she said no.  Before I could go into a tirade, she went into another whiney story about her mother having no TV, because she just didn’t know about this "converting" thing, and she could no longer get the stations.  I asked if her mother had a fairly new TV, and she thought that the TV was about 6 or seven years old.  I asked if her mother had a converter box, and she said yes, her mother had sent for the coupon from the government, and had bought a box from Radio Shack, but did not know what to do with it. I asked if she and her mother had tried to read the book that came with the converter, and she said no, that those things were "just too complicated."  At that point, I lowered the boom on her, telling her that the books for both her computer and the converter box were carefully written so that anyone with a room-temperature IQ could understand either, and to find any 4th grader in her mother’s neighborhood who had not been educated beyond their intelligence to hook up the box.  She left angry.
Yesterday, a woman came into my sanctorum from another department upstairs.  Turns out she knows the presenter woman, who has a masters in marketing (and is still incompetent, IMHO) and it seems the biddy was offended by my "attitude".  What a shame.  At any rate, this woman had seen presenter woman at church, who had explained that she and her mother had found, actually, a 7th grader in the neighborhood, who, in less than 20 minutes, had hooked up the converter box, done a channel scan, configured mother’s TV to receive only channel 3 (for the box) and AUX (for the DVD player), and explained to the apparently thick mother how to use the remote for the box.  Old mother was just all thrilled to find out that now, instead of six channels, she had twenty four (that digital broadcasting is badass, huh?) and the picture looked so much better! Hmmph.
 Years ago, the first UHF TV station came to town, WBMG 42.  Those younger than me will not remember this, but TVs in those days came only with VHF tuners, channels 2-13.  In order to receive the new channel, people had to buy a UHF converter box which attached to their TV, and output on channel 3 or 4 on their TV, much like the digital boxes of today.  The government did not offer discount coupons.  The propaganda included with those old UHF converters, if any, was not nearly as good as now,  and most folks had to buy a new antenna in addition. Those who did not want to screw with the converters simply bought a new "modern" TV with the UHF tuner built in.  I was just a kid when all this went down, but I do not remember whining and hand-wringing.  People just adapted.
 Today, apparently, adapting is a lost art.  People these days are whiny, helpless, and to large extent, useless in day-to-day living.  I sometimes imagine a cataclysm, and can picture the Volvos and BMWs descending on what is left of the drug stores, and fist fights breaking out over the last Prozac.
 Let us do the math - I do this little rant not to aggrandize myself, but merely as a demonstration.  I am not a particularly brave or tough guy, but was raised with the idea that I would have to take care of myself, for the most part. I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. I have had two major heart attacks, and have a pacemaker.  I am a bi-lateral below-knee amputee, and wear prostheses.  Medicare did not buy my mobility scooters, or the hand controls for my car.  I am still working.  I still ride my motorscooters.  I do my own yard work.   If something breaks, I fix it, not because I am an electromechanical genius, but because I can read at more than a 4th grade level, and thus do the research. 
 Pick it up, people.  Let us get seriously independent, lest we end up as we are now headed.  Not a pretty destination…

Out and about, and semi-wet

June 14, 2009
This morning, I used what Daniel Meyer calls the "Wet Driveway Principle" - raise the garage door.  If the driveway is wet, drive the cage.  If dry, ride the motorcycle.  What happens the rest of the day is up to Fate.  This morning, the driveway was dry, so I fired up the scooter and set off.  My lady wife met me at an eatery, we had a good breakfast, and the parking lot was still dry, so I proceeded to the regular Sunday coffee shop to meet with the scooter group. While I was there, The Storm set in.  We were at the tables outside under the portico, so we had a front row seat for the lightning and heavy blowing rain.  Impressive, but not a good sign for the trip home. As it turned out, the front blew through in only a couple of hours, and the trip home was in barely a sprinkle, so I was spared becoming Functionally Non-Dry, and the air temp was warm enough that I did not get cold, so not a bad trip at all.  One of the others had to go in to work for a couple of hours, and apparently used the same logic that I did, so he was on his scooter, and was thoroughly wet.  He had apparently called his wife, who drove in with a change of clothes for him.
One thing does bug me - I make it a usual practice to fuel up on the way home, not the way out, so that I start with a full tank, and go where I am going. Today I did not, so Red has about 30 miles worth of fuel now.  This means that I will need to stop and fuel up when I next leave the house, and a fuel stop three miles from home on the way out will delay me, and cause a Disturbance in my Force.  Ah well.  A good ride, though, and good company.

Almost here! (warning: nerdsville)

June 7, 2009
Typewriter Day 2009, that is. If you’re a member of the Orthodoxy, you know that there’s enough typer-love in this world to celebrate on June 23rd, the anniversary date of the U.S. patent granted to Christopher Sholes. I have to admit to being a little over-nerdy with this thing…
I like the public typing part of it, especially as some on the forums have tried it, and shown it to not only be easy, but entertaining as well. The procedure is as follows: dig your old typer out of the garage, attic, wherever and tune it up, or beg, borrow, or steal one somewhere, take it out into public somewhere, and type a letter to someone you know. Put the letter into an envelope (preferably having addressed the letter by typing on the envelope) put a stamp on it, and mail it to whomever. "Public" can be whatever you like; I will be working that day, and am thinking of hitting a coffee shop that evening and doing it there.  Manual portables are best for this - your Remington 5 or IBM Selectric would be difficult to carry, and the IBimmer would require electricity.  I am thinking of using my 1951 Smith-Corona Skyriter. I must warn you that this may take some time, as a number of conversations with total strangers may develop.  It is fun, though.  I have 12 folk that I letter each year, usually doing 11 beforehand, and saving the last one for public, mailing them all that night.
One other thing while I am banging on the evil computer keyboard - there is a practice among the typewriter nerds called "typecasting". This is a practice of typing (yes, with a typewriter) a blog thread on a blank 5X7 index card, scanning the card to a .jpg and posting it in one’s blog. For an example, see  - I am thinking of trying this on typewriter day myself.  We will see.

Between the storms...

May 25, 2009
Just took a little scooter ride; very little, six miles, but it is a ride!  I have had very few opportunities lately - I got my "sea legs" back and got back on the scooter just in time for a month of almost continuous rainy days, with emphasis on the weekends. [grumble]  This has been aggravating.  I used to say that if you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride, but lately age and health status have been catching up with me, and my philosophy is changing.  My new prosthetic feet are not supposed to get wet, and I don’t like to anymore.  As a result, over the last 4 weeks, since the Cheaha trip, I have been able to do very little riding.  Hopefully, the regular spring monsoon season is nearly over!
A group in Homewood has formed a little scooter club, not as a competitor to the Birmingham club, but as a supplement. They are meeting on Friday evenings, a good alternative to the Sunday morning gatherings of the Birmingham group; some people just can’t make it on Sundays because of other obligations.  I am thinking of doing a similar thing in Trussville, perhaps gathering on Thursday evenings, perhaps at Willie T’s, where the  Southern Cruisers already have a gathering on Tuesday night.  I will check with the management to see what happens on Thursdays there.  There are a good many scooters around Trussville, so maybe it would be a good sized group.  We will see.

Having scooter fun again!

May 3, 2009
I had almost forgotten how much fun it is!  I just returned from the ninth annual Cheaha Mountain ride-in with the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club.  Over 100 folks from 14 states and Canada, and a bunch of folks I only see once a year.  Good folks, good food, good riding, good fun.  I was on the little scooter, as I don’t have the "sea legs" for the Silver Wing yet, but nobody seemed to mind.  I managed to avoid the bad weather all weekend, until I arrived home a little while ago, just in time for the tornado sirens.  I am glad I made it home dry, but I feel for some of the folks who have to ride home through this crappy weather.  Everyone ride safe.
We apparently got away from the mountain just in time; I am home safe and dry, but there are 3 tornado warnings out now, and it is raining like crazy, with occasional pea-sized hail, and 40+ mph wind gusts.  And I have to go back to work tomorrow.  Real life crashes in…

Back on two wheels, and in time for Cheaha!

April 26, 2009
Yea mon!  Yesterday, I got the Elite 250 out and rode it!  It was 18 miles, hardly an Epic Journey, but I was riding!  I was waiting to be able to walk with a cane, so I could be able to get off the scooter and walk when I got to wherever I was going.  You could not have pried the grin off my face with a crowbar. For a rider like me, going from June to April without riding was misery. There are still issues - I do not have the stones to try the Silver Wing yet, as it is a 500lb bike; the Elite 250 at less than 300lbs is enough of an issue right now. I have very little mechanical advantage with the legs; both of mine are amputated at about 5 inches below the knee, and flexing the knee and trying to apply forward or back motion with the feet is very tough. I can not "back up" the Elite.  A stop at an intersection an uneasy thing, as the same principle applies to side-to-side motion with the feet; I do not have the mechanical advantage.  I am getting used to it, but it is taking a while.  This morning, I rode to Crestwood Coffee to hang out with the Birmingham Scooter Syndicate.  Forty-four miles and a gas stop, and I did well, all things considered. I am a happy gimp boy.
Now to Cheaha.  I hang out with the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club, a group who ride Honda Valkyries, a huge cruiser built around a Gold Wing engine.  These are great folks, and tolerate scooter trash like me very well; in fact it is their fault that I have the Silver Wing, so I can keep up with the group rides.  These folks have an annual Alabama state ride-in at Cheaha Mountain State Park in east central Alabama on the first weekend in May.  I am going!  It looks like I will be on the Elite 250, but I am going!  Cheaha is an amazing event - it is promoted as the Alabama state ride-in, but attracts riders from many states, and good times are had.  So far this time, there are 127 registered, from 14 states and Canada.  There are folks there with whom I communicate on the BBS, Facebook, etc but only see in person once a year at Cheaha, so this is something I will not miss.  I leave this Friday afternoon, and will return Sunday.  Yeah baby!

Back from the war!

March 26, 2009
We have returned from the war, and we had a really good time.  I think that not fighting did remove some of the stress from the situation. My lady wife spent some time working registration as a volunteer, something she enjoys, as she gets to meet so many people from all around.  My brother seemed to have an excellent time also.  He spent much of his daytimes working volunteer as an instructor at the live weapons range, something he truly enjoys, and he also picked up a brand new longbow from a vendor there,  and it is sweet.
As usual for me, no good time goes unpunished, and in the midst of the good times, I developed some edema issues related to the heart failure, which is limiting my mobility,  and am working that out.  This also delays my getting back on my beloved motorscooters, which makes Clifton an unpleasant boy,  but again, I am working on it.
But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?  :-D

Off to war!

March 15, 2009
This week, I will be working through Wednesday, and my lady and I will leave Thursday morning for the big medieval war in Mississippi. This is an annual SCA event, and usually draws 4000+ folks. It runs all week, Sunday thru Sunday, but I am never able to get away the whole week. See:    It is a major event, mostly camping, but I don’t camp.
I have said before that these days, in my condition and at my age, my idea of roughing it is when the hotel room does not have free wifi,  and we *will* be roughing it - the only hotel within 35 miles is at the entrance to the ranch where the event is held, a 1950s-era 36-unit motel, originally a Holiday Inn, and still stuck in about the same time era; no wifi, no telephones in the rooms, and local TV stations from Hattiesburg.  The attendance is such that in order to get a room here during the war week, someone almost has to die to open up a room - Sandy and I were on the waiting list for 8 years, and must book for the whole week.
SCA members come from all over the US and Canada, spend the time eating, drinking, dancing, fighting, and all kinds of stuff, but mostly, they fight. It is a war, after all.  Back Sunday, probably exhausted, broke, and going back to work Monday.  See ya then.

Two feet again!

February 10, 2009
Today, I picked up my fake foot for the right side! I now have two matching fake feet, and it feels strangely sexy to be standing up again. Of course, I can’t walk on them, and can barely stand up for that matter, but Woot!  The prosthetist tells me that after this period of time, I am a toddler again, and must learn to walk all over again. I am good with that.
As soon as I figure this out, I will be back on the scooters, or at least the Elite 250.  The Silver Wing may be another issue because of the weight, but we will see. It has been June since I have been on a scoot, and I am having withdrawal, even a form of DTs… emoticon  I am ready to rock! Updates as available…

Positive Steps (pun intended)

January 15, 2009
Yesterday, I went to see the Fake Foot folks, to begin the process of getting a new right foot (mine was amputated in June).  This has been a long heal, and this one-legged thing is getting to be a drag, so I am really looking forward to this process.  I was put in a shrinker, which is a tight elastic sock over the stump, which I will wear for two weeks, and return for another visit.  This is difficult to explain to someone who does not know about it, but when a limb is amputated (in my case, about 5" below the knee) the stump, while healing, swells as the body collects fluid around the injury to protect it, and to cushion the now-atrophying muscle. This fluid has to essentially be squeezed out, and the unused muscle reshaped in order to fit a prosthesis. If this is not done preemptively, the stump will shrink after the prosthetic is fitted, which causes big-time fit problems.  It is aggravating and painful (imagine someone squeezing your leg below the knee nearly 24/7) but after the revised surgery and the healing issues, this is the first positive step in the process, and I am very pleased and encouraged.
 In addition, these folks are going to replace the prosthetic I have now on the left, which is tattered and has never been a satisfactory fit, so I will have a matched pair, and should be able to walk better. Very nice. I will still be limited to hand controls to drive the car, but I should be back on the scooters soon.  I have been told that I will not be good on ladders, and going up/down slanted and operating on loose/uneven surfaces may involve some issues, but I should be "surprisingly mobile".  I am sighing contentedly.

An old curmudgeon

December 30, 2008

Another holiday season over, and more than ever, I am reminded how old I am getting. My "little girl" is 22 now, my nieces and nephews have children of their own, and I got into a discussion with a couple family members about TV over the holiday.
I was asked why I don’t have an HD television, and that led to a discussion about how TV should be. I have lived my life with a TV picture being more-or-less square, not rectangular, and even in the last several years when broadcasters have been doing some programs in "movie perspective" (the top and bottom couple of inches of the screen are black, and the programming is in wide-screen mode) it is distracting to me that the picture is in that perspective; I don’t like it. We presently have a 31" Sanyo in the living room that does a fine job. I don’t do movies, so I don’t care about a 16:9 screen ratio, and I have looked at HD television in the stores, and maybe it is just my eyes, but from about 14 feet, ( the distance at home from me to the TV screen) I can’t tell much difference. With the trusty old Sanyo, on a talking head newscast, I can make out the gray hairs on the head of the newscasters, so how much HD do I need?
There is also the matter of screen size. We have, as I say, a 31" standard CRT set in the living room. A 31" diagonal 16:9 screen is not nearly as tall as mine, and the things just look tiny; sorry, but there it is. To get the screen height that I have now, I am probably looking at a 42" diagonal nowadays, which won’t fit in the space we have set up for the TV, and would cost about $1000, and something in my cheap Irish soul is just not willing to unroll a grand for a TV when the one we have retailed for $259 a few years ago.
And back to that perspective thing. Thanksgiving, we were at the home of one of my brothers, who has a gargantuan 52" plasma HD television. We had the big parade showing (Macy’s I think) being broadcast by one of the networks in a real perspective, which means a square picture. To fill the huge screen, the thing was in the mode which artificially stretches the picture to fill the screen, which distorts the picture - 18" tall majorettes with 3" wide thighs were marching by, followed by the band with oval tuba horns and bass drums, every instrument being played by people who looked as if they had spent far too much time at fast-food joints. Makes me freaking crazy! Why spend all that cash on a purported high-definition TV and then distort the picture like that? Grrr…
My daughter has one of the cellphones that slides open exposing a keyboard, to make it easier for her to text her friends. Now she is convinced that I need one of these, so that i could text with her. I explained to her that I have a cellphone; it is a phone - if she wants to talk to me, call me. She maintains that she doesn’t like to talk on the phone, and prefers to text, which I don’t get, but there are a number of things she does that I don’t get.
I’m just a curmudgeon I suppose. And cheap. And old. [sigh]

More holidays

December 22, 2008
So another round of holiday stuph coming up.  I like the holiday season generally, but I have a list of things of which I grow weary.  I am not able to ride my scooters.  The one-legged thing is getting to be a drag.  The weather blows.
Outside of those minor things, it is going fairly well.   I have always been a confident SOB, and I tend to look at things as inconveniences, not problems. I will heal up, and get another fake foot, and be back on  the scooters, and able to do some things around the house.  One thing I feel badly about is being dependent on too many people to do too many things for me; I don’t want to generate any pity, though I need the help right now. This is a quandry.  I will owe a lot of favors when all this works out.
As usual, the central Alabama winter is a pain; we alternate between warm, moist air masses from the gulf and good weather for a few days, then a cold front hits and brings storms and a few really cold days, only to go  back to the warm air. My sinuses don’t know what to do…
I have high confidence that when I get a foot on, I will jump back on the Elite 250 and roar off; in the meantime, I am collecting parts for a couple of changes. I am moving the rear brake to the left side of the handlebar.  I don’t know how well i will do with the foot pedal with a fake foot, but I need to keep the pedal for the parking brake function, so I will need to scab on the existing pedal with my handlebar rig, so it will take some fabrication.  I do need to try the pedal when the time comes though - I haven’t given up on my thing for another metal-body Vespa, and since the shifting is done with the left hand, I will *have* to use that pedal…
 All for now, I am tired, and my hands hurt…

Holidays, holidays

November 28, 2008
I am chilling at the house after the Thanksgiving thing.  I was off all this week, and my ladies and I traveled to the Golden Moon hotel and casino in Mississippi Monday-Wednesday, and then back to town for the Turkey Day thing with the family.  I don’t do the gambling thing, but the ladies had fun, and my daughter made her rent money at the roulette table, so a nice trip. I don’t camp anymore; I have often joked that these days, my idea of "roughing it" is when the handicapped hotel room does not have free wi-fi, so I did not have to rough it this trip. emoticon  
During the holiday season, I do intend to shovel out the basement so that I can get on a couple of projects - I need to move my daughter’s VW bug inside so I can work on it in a semi-protected environment, and there are a few things I need to do to the little scooter, so it will be ready to rock whenever I am, emoticon and I ordered some parts last night. My front brake shoes seem to be No Longer Available, so I may have to look up a place here in town that resurfaces these things.I hope to have all this going soon. There will be a number of trips to the landfill and the thrift store during the basement shovel-out, so I need to get moving on this. One of my projects will be a fabricating thing - the scooter is old enough that the rear brake is a pedal on the right footboard, and I don’t know what kind of skill I will have operating that with a fake foot, so I ordered a generic clutch lever, and a front brake cable, and will try to set up a hand-operated rear brake by tying the cable in with the foot pedal assembly; I need to retain the foot pedal to keep the parking brake function. We will see. 
Otherwise, it is mostly back to the daily rockpile; I go back to work Monday. [sigh] 

After the rally

November 11, 2008
The big Southern disComfort motorscooter rally was this weekend, and I made some of it, mostly morning stuff.  Good attendance, and a fine bunch of people. I was kicking around in my truck, and on my little portable mobility scooter.  Got to see a bunch of folks I only see at rallies, and met a fine bunch from Memphis. I was not able to contribute this time, and really appreciate the bunch putting up with me. Lots of people uploading their pics at   A nice weekend. Today, I am just chilling around the house.
I am keeping the good outlook and all that, but this one-legged thing is getting to be a drag.  I need this thing healed soon… emoticon

More medical

September 27, 2008
I am back from the hospital; fortunately only an overnight stay. Had a pacemaker/defibrillator installed to help the function of the left side of my heart (beat up from the heart attacks). There is nothing I can put my finger on exactly, but I do feel noticeably better. My breathing is easier, and I don’t have random pain in different parts of my arms and thighs. I am a little surprised at the difference. Unfortunately, my left shoulder area feels like it has been hit with a sledgehammer, but this will go away.
I will be at the house for a few days. For a few weeks, I will be back to having to have someone unload/load my wheelchair or scooter from the truck (restricted lifting for 6 weeks) so I will once again be an incredible PITA to my friends and relatives, but I think I can find some young strong person to handle it for me. emoticon I do hope that the generally improved blood flow will speed the healing of the leg, and speed up my acquisition of another fake foot, and I will be back on my beloved motorscooters. A man has to have priorities… emoticon

A terrible way to live?

September 19, 2008
I was at the heart doc, in the waiting room on my portable fold-up mobility scooter [] and was engaged in conversation by a 60ish looking woman, who wanted to know about the scooter. I gave her the short pitch on it, and she said that they might have to have something for her sister, who had lost both legs below the knee in a car wreck, and followed that I seemed to be rather cheerful. I told her that I was cheerful most of the time, and she allowed that it was amazing, because being a double amputee was "a terrible way to live". I was stunned, and before I could respond, the nurse appeared and called me to come back. I only had time to say "I seem to be doing fine". The alternative, I think, is worse.
Let us consider here; I am an insulin-dependent brittle diabetic. I have had two major heart attacks, and two heart surgeries. I have stage 3 kidney disease [stage 5 is dialysis], prostate trouble, and progressive arthritis in my major joints, and my hands; my handwriting sucks, and I type with 2 fingers. I was back at the heart doc to be evaluated for a pacemaker/defib unit. My heart is damaged on the left side by the heart attacks, and has electrical troubles. If this unit will help me feel better, I am up for it.
Is my life a "terrible way to live"? I don’t tend to think so. I am not as mobile as most folks, and there are things I can not do, but I have plenty of fun, I drive with hand controls, I work, and I hope to be back on my beloved motorscooters soon. What is so terrible? You take the cards you draw, and you play with them. The alternative, as I say, is unacceptable.
 I grow weary of people who have a handicap, and consider their life to be ruined. That sounds cold, but that is the way it is. One of my favorite bloggers is Mark Smith, who runs the site; he has profound cerebral palsy, cannot walk, cannot drive, cannot write, or even speak plainly. He is also a husband, father, homeowner, product manager for a large mobility equipment company, a published author, and a big motocross fan. Yes, his life is difficult, but whose isn’t? Get a grip…

Gas prices

July 21, 2008
Don’t get me wrong, $4 gasoline blows. (I filled up yesterday with regular, at $3.99.9)  Taken in context though, we are not as bad off as it seems.
People have short memories.  1998 prices ($1.03) were NOT normal; they were the result of a huge surplus on the international market. So how bad-off, oppressed, etc are we today?
Let’s look at 1955, a year most of us associate with big cars, big engines, and cheap gas – automotive glory days. Regular gas sold for 29 cents. But one dollar in 1955 was worth much more than one dollar today. If we were using today’s little dollarettes, gasoline would have cost $2.76 in 1955.  So we are worse off than in 1955, right? No. Because we were poorer in 1955 than we are today, $2.76 then had a bigger impact on the pocketbook (that is, it represented a larger fraction of income) than $2.76 today. If we adjust gasoline prices not only for inflation but also changes in disposable per capita income (defined as income minus taxes), gasoline today would have to cost $5.17 to have the same impact as 29 cents in 1955.
The highest price per income I can remember was 1981, following the Carter Inflation Spiral and the associated loss in value of the Dollar. Again, gasoline costs would have to be over $5 to equal those days.
Also, remember that our cars are cheaper and much more efficient these days. I have mentioned before that in the early 1970s I was rolling in a 1965 Rambler Classic 660 sedan, which retailed new for $2767, required a tune-up every 10,000 miles, and got 16mpg overall, about 18 on the highway at 60mph..  Today, for about the same money, inflation and disposable income adjusted , you can get a Toyota Camry, which has about the same interior room, is far safer, better built, better appointed, faster, requires less maintenance, and gets nearly twice the miles per gallon.
So keep things in perspective. 

Medical Misadventures

July 10, 2008
OK, while I have been away, some major life stuff. I developed a little
ulcer on the bottom of my "good" foot, and was nursing it along for several
weeks, with some success. This was short-lived however, and the thing
suddenly took a turn for the worse. Over just a couple days, it abcessed
and by the time I got to the doc, it was into the whole foot. Over three
weeks, we did two surgeries, to no avail. The orthopedic surgeon worked
hard on the thing, but gangrene set in, and we ended up taking it off a
few inches below the knee, matching the other side, so I am now
officially footless. I will have to heal the stump, and get a matching
fake foot for that side, which will likely be an 8-10 week process.
But that was not the best part.
I came home from the hospital Tuesday, and seemed, under the circumstances,
to be recovering fairly well. By Friday evening, I was doing well
enough that the wife and daughter went off out of town visiting. I was
around functioning well, talking to a couple folks on the phone, and
having a good time. Later, I started to run a little short on glucose,
and drew up about 6 ounces of grape juice, which normally will shove my
blood sugar up 20-30 points, and levelize things. After a few minutes,
instead of feeling better, I began to sweat profusely, and started to
have trouble breathing. This process got worse over the next few
minutes, to the point that I called 911, and was barely able to croak
out my info to the operator. When the paramedics arrived, they quickly
and professionally ferried my sick arse to the hospital, and I passed
out in the ER. The hospital had all my info from my amputation visit
a few days before, and called my brother Conrad, whom I had listed as
an emergency contact. When he arrived, I was unresponsive and on life
support, my ph was 6.9, my glucose over 600, my potassium levels near
zero, my liver enzymes off the chart, my stomach was bleeding profusely,
and my kidneys not working. Essentially, I was Worm Chow.
The specialists did their thing admirably - later, (7 hours as it turned out) I heard
someone say "Mr Crews, open your eyes!". Sounded like a reasonable idea,
so I did, and was looking at a very tired-looking doctor, who said "he’s
back", and I heard applause. I was moved to a hospital bed (apparently
I was still on the paramedics’ gurney), and since I was intubated, a
nurse clapped a bag on the tube, and I didn’t like the way she was
handling it; I needed more air, so I took on the breathing on my own,
and heard her say "he is breathing through the bag. I’ve never seen
that before". An older sounding male voice said "let him". and I passed
out again. Just a couple of hours later, I came to again, much clearer.
I looked around (as much as I was able, around the breathing tube),
and counted 13 IV bags, a dialysis machine, a respirator, a stomach
pump, (I also had a stomach tube through my nose) 2 central lines
in my neck, and I don’t know how many other IV lines in my arms. My
wife was there, but in the ICU, could only visit 10 minutes every
four hours, and I was increasingly alert, and really bored. I pointed
to the TV, and the nurse, relunctantly, handed me the control, and I
fired up CNN.
I am now known in the ER as the "remarkable turnaround" - 36 hours
after coming in essentially dead, I was normal, alert, my kidneys were
working and the dialysis machine was gone, the respirator and stomach
tube were gone, I was down to three IV bags, blood sugar was well
controlled, my potassium, magnesium, etc were all almost normal,
and I was jiving and joking with the staff.
The remaining days in hospital were incredibly boring, but eventually
came to an end, and I am finally back home.
The team of ER doctors and ICU nurses did an incredible job;
these people are fighter pilots in the medical sense, and literally saved
my crippled arse, and I will be grateful forever. I still think though,
that none of the fine medical professionals involved know exactly what
precipitated this thing, (ketoacidosis) or what made me fall apart so quickly. They did
a stellar job of fixing me though.
What I have to do now is heal the stump of what used to be my right foot.
When the surgeon took it off, he folded skin from the back of the shin
around to the front, to seal it to a stringer of skin from the front, and
the result is a horseshoe-shaped ring of staples, almost 50 of them.
These staples are a source of pain; a lot of pain. Any movement seems to
disturb the staples, and it hurts. I probably have about ten more days to
removal of staples, and thus about 98% of the pain associated with this
thing. After that, the stump will be swollen and misshapen, and before a
prosthetic can be fitted, must be "shrunk", which involves tight wrapping
and powerful elastic socks to bring it into shape. All this should take
about 4-5 weeks, then there is the process of making and fitting the
Can’t wait…

A tolerable day

March 22, 2008
A nice day today; the weather was almost nice, 72F. I fired up the Silver Wing, hooked up with my brother Conrad, and rode out to 29 Dreams motorcycle resort for lunch, and then to Barber motorcycle museum to tour the museum, and to meetup with a bunch of Valkyrie Riders to hand off the package for the Valhalla Journey. This is a program dreamed up by one of the members to bolster club participation by members around the Lower 48. A pair of mugs were custom produced in Norway, a very nice set - blue in color, with the image of a Valkyrie, and the handles are gold dragons. The program is for the mugs to be transported by members through all of the 48 continental states, and to end up in Johnson City, Tennessee for the national ride-in in August. Today was the handoff from Mississippi to Alabama. The mugs were accepted by Redvalk of Montgomery, and photos were made at the Barber museum, it being something unique to Alabama. There is also a log with the mugs, signed by all who participated in the handoff. Tommorrow, Redvalk will deliver them to Florida, for handoff to the folks there, and on it goes. Very nice. 31 states so far.
The first weekend in May is the Alabama state ride-in at Cheaha Mountain state park, and it looks to be a real party. So far, 123 riders from 18 states are signed up, the longest rides so far from Minnesota and New Mexico. Looking forward to it.

More nostalgia - Colorful People

March 19, 2008
Another wave of nostalgia; colorful people and odd cars. In the early 1970s, I was working and living in Bessemer, Alabama, a small blue-collar city west of Birmingham. The outfit I worked with sold scrap wire and metal regularly to the Moore Coal Co, which sold coal, and recycled scrap metal. (still in business) I became aquainted with a guy who worked in the metal yard doing various things. Thomas (I don’t remember ever knowing his last name) was a middle-aged hippie, and a Vietnam vet with a mangled leg. He got around OK, but walked with a pronounced limp. He wore mostly jeans, hawaiian shirts, and steel-toed boots, including a jacket when the weather was cold, had long pony-tail length hair, but was always impeccably clean-shaven. I noticed him originally on a metal-selling jaunt to Moore, when he was getting out of his car after finishing his lunch - the car was a Subaru 360 sedan, a tiny little microcar, and the first model Subaru exported to the USA. I remembered the 360 being advertised as having a two-stroke engine, and asked him about it, as I rode at the time a Vespa Rally 200. Turned out that Thomas was a big fan of 2-stroke engines, and said he had a couple others. Whenever we went by the metal yard, I would spend a couple of minutes talking two-stroke with the guy, and eventually he invited me to his house to see his "fleet". The following Sunday afternoon, I followed his directions and found his house, and was amazed. The house was actual "shotgun" house, three rooms in a row; you could actually fire a shotgun in the front door, and your pellets would go out the rear door. He had no idea when it was built, but it was "pert dammed old". He apparently had inherited the little house from a great uncle, who had died while Thomas was in Vietnam. The thing that most surprised me was that the house and all its surrounds were immaculately clean and fanatically cared for. The little yard and shrubbery were cut with military-haircut precision, everything was well painted, and the little house stood proud, with no sagging or leaning. Inside, everything was the same. The little place was old enough that it had not originally included a bathroom, but an outhouse; Thomas had added a bathroom off the kitchen (rear room) in the late 1960s, and it matched the house perfectly.  Behind the house was the "garage", more of a shed really, with three sides and an open front. From outside, the shed appeared to be made of large panels, but inside, it was apparent that the walls were built of railcar doors!  The roof was a spiderweb of apparently second-hand lumber sheathed with corrugated steel roofing. Great uncle had apparently not been a high earner.
I was even more stunned by the "fleet" - a 1950-something Vespa Ape, a 1950-something Saab 93, a bulbous little sedan with a 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine.  I had heard of these, but had never seen one in the flesh; they were known in their day as the "corn popper" Saabs, and while very smooth under way, when idling they did indeed sound like a movie-theatre popcorn maker gone psycho. The Saab was his "big car" - there were two other members of the fleet! One was the Subaru 360 sedan I had seen him driving to work, and a matching Subaru 360 van, the tiniest van I have ever seen.
All of these vehicles were, of course, clean, polished, waxed, and well serviced. The model designation 360 did not come about by accident; they both had 360cc 2-stroke, 2-cylinder engines, making about 25 hp. Thomas said the 0-60 time on any of them was "probly measured in hours, if it will even do 60". Oh, and there was a 2-stroke Craftsman lawn mower which lived behind the Saab.
The house itself was similarly surprising. Walking on the floor in the house was like walking on a slab; it was that solid. I later saw that in the crawlspace under the house were a couple dozen 3" concrete pavers, each supporting a house jack, each supporting a strategic place on the subfloor, keeping the house level and sturdy. The interior walls had no drywall or plaster, but 1/2"X6" boards as wall covering. Thomas had removed all of this from the exterior walls, insulated them with fiberglass insulation, replaced the boards, and painted it all. While the wall boards were off, he had upgraded the wiring and plumbing. He had insulated the ceiling. Added a window-unit air conditioner. (the place was heated by a gas floor furnace) He said that very little money was spent, relatively; it was mostly just elbow grease. I admired him for his initiative.
A couple of his coworkers at the metal yard had some interesting vehicles, also. One was an Allstate car, a rebranded Kaiser Henry J, sold by Sears for only two years, 1952 and 1953. The other was  a 1950-something Checker Marathon, the old NYC taxi type thing, only his was a kind of British-racing-green color, also in fine condition.
I lost track of Thomas when I moved away from Bessemer, and don’t even know if he is still around, as he would be close to 70 by now. I know that his little house is not; I was in Bessemer a few years ago, and thought to just check on it, and drove by, but his old little neighborhood is all garden homes now. Shame.

Tiny houses and raggedy old cars

February 14, 2008
Today, in a conversation with another old guy about my own age, we stumbled on two subjects that stirred a wave of nostalgia, and at the risk of boring the readers senseless, I just had to throw it out here. The subjects are being young and poor and living in tiny crude conditions, and Rambler cars. Still awake? Good. First, living not-so-large:
Long ago in another life, I was fresh out of high school, and scored a good job that made neccessary a move to Bessemer, a town some 30 miles from the ‘rent’s castle. After a couple months in a "residential motel", I located a a little house thing in the expansive back yard of a larger house in Lakewood, a somewhat upscale area of Bessemer. The large house was occupied by an elderly lady and her daughter, who were related to one of my new coworkers, and thus my connection. I suspect that the little building was once quarters for a servant of some kind, though I never verified that. What I could verify was that the place was tiny. I have read that the average American home has become 55% larger since 1970, and as my dwelling in this place ran from late 1970 to early 1973, this is a good starting point. I was unrolling an expansive $50 a month plus utilities for this place, an appreciable sum in those days. The outside dimensions of this entire building were 18X18 feet, so allow for the thickness of walls, and you have an idea of the inside dimensions. I have tried to draw up a representation of the floor plan below, to scale +/- my ineptness. Here it is:
As you can see, it was a main room, a tiny "one butt" kitchen, and a tiny bathroom with a tub/shower. The furnishings in the main room were a double bed with bookcase headboard, an easychair, a small chest of drawers, a narrow-but-tall set of bookshelves, and a little folding-leaf table with two chairs. My expansive collection of electronics in the little place were an AM/FM table radio and a tube-type Hallicrafters shortwave receiver that lived in the bookcase headboard, and a 12-inch B/W TV with rabbit-ear antenna that lived in the passover between the main room and kitchen. The table was normally occupied by a typewriter, in this case an early Brother electric portable. The kitchen contained an "apartment sized" gas range, a 9-ft fridge, and a single-bowl sink. Note that this is drawn more-or-less to scale, and under the counter opposite the range was a 3′ wide empty space, a good thing since the aisle was too narrow to allow opening the oven door, so it had to open into the empty space under the counter. The fridge had a freezer compartment that would hold two ice trays, two TV dinners, and four chicken pot pies. It would teach you to live minimally. In the upper right corner of the drawing is a space marked "storage" - this was not accessible from inside, only from outside through a metal roll-up door. This was a 3.5X6′ space occupied by the 30-gal gas water heater. The place must have been well insulated; low in the wall by the bed was a small AC/heat motel-room style unit, and it did a bang-up job of climate control. Beside the little building was a storage shed for lawn care stuff, and I unrolled an extra $5/month to store my toolbox and scooter in it. (I had at the time a Vespa Rally 200 scooter, but that is another episode) I lived here for 2 1/2 years, no regrets.
Now the Rambler thing. The fellow I was talking to today has a 22 yr old son with an odd thing for bizzare 1960s cars, and has scored a 1966 AMC-Rambler American station wagon that he is resurrecting. That started the nostalgia wave - at the time, 1970, I sold off my insurance-problem 1967 442, and rolled phat in a 1965 Rambler Classic 660 sedan.
This is not mine (I don't have any photos of mine) but is just like mine - Classic 660 4-door. It was a nice car, with good radio, and was stone reliable, comfortable, and had a good heater. For some reason, the original owner had ordered it with 660 package, which was nice, automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, AM/FM radio with four speakers, and … no A/C. No idea why, but there it was. It was, as I say, a nice comfortable car with acceptable handling, quiet and rattle-free, but it was a gross polluter and a death trap - and I would like to have it back today.
Gross pollution - it was a carb, points-and-condensor engine that ran on leaded gas, and after a tune-up, was in perfect tune for probably about 100 miles, after which it spewed noxious environment-killing toxins at an increasing rate until the next tune-up, about 10,000 miles. It had no catalyst, no evaporative control, no PCV.
Death trap - It had lap-only seat belts, no airbags, no guard beams in the doors, no collapsible steering column, no crush zones in the frame, drum brakes all around, and a dashboard that was mostly metal, with sharp things and metal knobs everywhere. It rolled on bias-ply tires. The 1963 AMC-Rambler Classic line, only two years before this, was Motor Trend’s Car Of The Year. Times have changed.
Ramblers and I go back; a cousin of mine had a 1968 Rambler American in high school, and his mother was a Rambler fan, owning a string of them through the 50s, 60s, and 70s. My own Classic was eventually traded on a 1970 AMC Rebel, with 401 V8 and all the goodies, and yes, it had A/C…

Damned winter!

January 3, 2008
OK, the new year is now rung in, the holidays are officially over, and I am back at work. It is very cold, I am not well, and Sandy is at home very unwell. So the new year sucks so far, but at least we are both here. We are down to one running car [the fuel pump is apparently failing in the Chrysler] and as the temp was 13 this morningemoticon, I was not really keen on riding the scooter to work. It does appear that we will have 40s/60s by Sunday, so I will bravely go forth Sunday morning to meet up with the scooter club, but right now I am suffering PMS [Parked Motorscooter Syndrome]. This morning was especially tough on my hands as I went to take my stuff to the car; even the gloves didn’t help much, so I need to shop for some better, for everyday use and especially for riding in the brisk air. I have ridden in some cool weather the past few weeks, but have made attempts to avoid anything below about 50 degrees.
On Another Subject, as I get older, I find it harder to be nice. I just blew 42 minutes of my lunch hour in the drive-in line at AlaGasCo, trying to pay my gas bill. I was fourth in line behind three blue-hairs, and what they were doing at the drive-in thing I don’t know, but the little suction thing was going back and forth multiple times, each of these sharpeis were taking an average of 12-13 minutes, and multiple submissions by way of the vacuum tube thing, to conduct whatever business they had to conduct. The one directly in front of me, I had some better idea of, because I could see her through the rear window of her massive Buick Roadmaster. After being in line for 30 minutes, she pulled to the tube thing, got the shuttle thing from the little station, propped her checkbook on the steering wheel, AND STARTED WRITING A CHECK! I’m not feeling 100% today, and by this point, I was having a hard time resisting the urge to get out of my car, drag her out the door, and beat her down. emoticon Finally, she finished her check, put it all in the shuttle thing, and pushed the button, causing the shuttle to head on inside. Finally!! But no, after a couple minutes the shuttle came back, the sharpei talked to the speaker, got the shuttle, tore up the check she had written, and started to write ANOTHER CHECK! emoticon When she finally got her business done and retrieved what I guess was her receipt, she stayed where she was, looking at it for a couple more minutes, before moving on at about .75 mph. When *I* got to the little thing, of course, I put my check and bill stub in the shuttle, punched the "send" button, and in less than a minute, my receipt came back, I grabbed it, and moved on. I really want to be in command of a strike force, which members carry a car antenna, the really old-school long whippy steel thing, with the ball on the end. When we encounter stupid people, we will whip ‘em with the antenna, right on the neck where the welt will be clearly visible. That way, others will immediately know who the stupid people are, by the welt on the neck. Stupid should hurt… emoticon

Excuses, excuses

December 11, 2007
This thing has been poorly kept up, and will continue to be until January. I will pick it up seriously on or about January first, starting the new year. I last hit this thing in October, and was looking forward to a motorscooter trip to Louisiana to the Festival Acadiens. It did not happen - my dad, who has been in deteriorating health for years (Parkinson’s) took a sudden turn for the worse, and died after about 2 weeks in the hospital. The effects of that, all the things with mother to follow, etc put the hammer down on my schedule, my psyche and, I think, my general health, which is not 100% anyway.
Over the past few weeks, I have had no energy, my glucose is harder to control, I have sinus things freaking out, and my thermostat is not working well; I get hot and cold for no reason. Things generally suck right now.
So, I plan to get as rested and stress-free as possible during this holiday time, and to try to chase away whatever is dragging my crippled ass down. I will do my vitamins, a little chicken, a little fish, bunch of fruit and veg, and see if I can’t turn this around.
So I will be back the first of the new year, and I will try to seriously maintain this thing more better. Thanks.
Oh, and Bah! Humbug!emoticon

Yeah, I know

October 5, 2007
Long time updating this thing - yeah yeah. I will try to improve. Things have been tolerable lately, but that is about it. I have been feeling tired and weak, and I *must* figure out a way to improve my status. I will see what I can do.
A number of folks have asked me to throw up more about my motorscooter riding etc, so I will try to do so; as I have the time and energy, I will journal a few of my out-of-town trips and things.
Next weekend, [Oct 12-14] I and my brother Conrad and sister-in-law Carol will ride to Lafayette, Louisiana to the Festivals Acadiens, the big annual Cajun culture festival. I have no Cajun in me, and I don’t eat pork or shellfish, but I have a hidden thing in my soul for Cajun music, of which there will be plenty, and a bunch of the southeast Valkyrie Riders are turning it into an unofficial ride-in, with a ground zero hotel, and it should be a large amount of fun. Some of these folks I only see once or twice a year, and I am looking forward to it. Details as they develop.

Just catching up

June 6, 2007
No, I haven’t been keeping this thing up very well, but little of consequence has been going on.
Friday night, I went to the Bike Nite at Lightning Strikes in Trussville, the largest bike nite in the state. I rode the Elite, just to see what kind of comment it would get, and I got NO negative comment, so I was pleased. When I left at about 2100, there were over 600 bikes there, and they were still pouring in. (last week, the total count was 1270) That is almost Too Much Bike Nite…
Sunday, the daughter was in town, so the women and I went out for an early breakfast. After, the women went off shopping, and I rode over and met with a bunch from the scooter club for coffee at Crestwood, and then back home for chores. <spit>
Last night, I rode out to Willie T’s in Trussville for the bike nite there, and found it had almost gone away! Admittedly, I haven’t been in several weeks, but a measly 8 bikes showed up. I’ll try to find out what is going on there.

Rotting of the culture

May 29, 2007
Well, my favorite morning radio team (Mark, Mack, and Jil) have been replaced suddenly on their station (WYSF, Birmingham, AL). Seems the station wanted to take a "new direction", and the existing morning team was not part of their plans. Good move guys - you have replaced a clean, fun, family-oriented team with a bunch of sillyassed innuendo-laden utter clowns, and changed your music lineup to a format to which I don’t listen. In other words, you are now like any number of other stations in the market, chasing the lowest common denominator. What a moron move, IMHO. 94.5 is now off my FM dial for good, the morning drive being the only time that I listened to your station. Lots of luck in the mullet-and-wife-beater-shirt market, guys. The deterioration of the culture continues. emoticon

I missed the memo

May 17, 2007
Sandy and I normally carpool to work, as we work just a few blocks from each other. Due to logistical things, Sandy took the cage to work this morning, and I rode the SilverWing. I must have missed the memo proclaiming today National Kill A Biker Day. On the way in, *three* cages turned left in front of me, two of them apparently driven by cellphone users. As if that is not enough for one morning commute, I was stopped at a red light on 1st Av, and an old Camry came up behind me too fast, and started sliding. Every neuron in my semi-old and decrepit brain was screaming "DO SOMETHING!" and I twisted the go-stick. The S’Wing, for lack of a better term, *leaped* across the intersection, and from what I could tell in the mirror, the ratty old Camry slid to a stop just about where I had been. It appeared to be driven by a short Hispanic woman with very large eyes. Just to cap off a perfect commute, as I was going south on 20th St in the inside lane, a young woman, a teenager from what I saw, right-turned onto 20th from a cross-street, and started moving into my lane, forcing me onto the center line. I yelled at her, questioning her parentage and species, and did something I have never done before - I raised my foot and kicked the side mirror on the car. I don’t think I hurt the mirror; it appeared to be one of the swivel-when-it-takes-a-hit kind, but it did get her attention, and distracted her from her task of apparently DOING A TEXT MESSAGE ON HER CELLPHONE! When I become dictator of the universe, these people will be dragged from their cars and beaten to death with their own cellphone.
I’m too old for this shite. I can’t wait to see what happens when I go to lunch later…

For the birds...

May 15, 2007
In San Francisco, there are two flocks of feral parrots around Telegraph Hill. People feed these things in the parks, and enjoy looking at them. No more. The San Francisco Board of Wackos^H^H^H^H Supervisors has now passed an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of these birds at all, because being regularly fed by the public, the birds are growing fat and lazy, and are no longer actively hunting for food. Why are these "Supervisors" unable to extrapolate the same theory to humans? Homeless bums, drunks, addicts, etc flock to San Francisco, because San Francisco feeds them! Same principle - sloth is the natural condition for most humans; feed ‘em and they grow fat and lazy, and lose the skills to scrounge food. Wake up…

Love your computer?

February 10, 2007
Some of you know that I have some unusual interests, among them
portable manual typewriters.
The University of Pittsburgh has designated the coming week as "Love
your Computer" week.  I take umbrage at this, and I counter-designate
next week, "Love your Typewriter" week.  In celebration thereof, I
will take a troublesome computer from my house into the woods
and "unlove" it with my Mossburg shotgun.  If I’m
lucky, I’ll stay out of jail. :-D

Relief from the PMS

As mentioned before, I have been exceptionally grumpy the past couple of weeks, and my  long-suffering mate has diagnosed me with the PMS - Parked Motorscooter Syndrome. I am happy to report that I have been able to relieve it, somewhat. Wednesday and Thursday, I had doctor things, and rode my Silver Wing to those and then to work! Wednesday was a gorgeous riding day - temps in the 60s, sunshine, the works. Thursday sucked, with cold and light rain, but I rode anyway. I am anticipating Sunday morning, when I meet with the scooter club. It will be cold, but one more ride!

Cold, Cold Days

February 5, 2007
Yeah, I know, I have been slack updating this thing. I’ll try to do better. As I write this at 1:00pm, the temp outside is 39 degrees, 16 degrees below normal high for this date, and a continuing of about a 4-week stretch of below-normal days and nights. Damn that global warming! emoticon I have some real physical problems with the cold, and have been unable to do anything outside or ride my scooters for about three weeks, and I am grumpy. My wife has diagnosed me with PMS (Parked Motorscooter Syndrome) and is hoping for some warm sunny weather soon, almost as much as I am.
Speaking of global warming, I am *not* a subscriber to the panic of man-made global warming. The ol’ ball o’ dirt here has been warming and cooling since it has been here, and will continue to do so. For those of you in panic because "Greenland is melting!", I would ask you to kindly Google "medieval warming period", and you will find that about 1000 years ago, the south end of Greenland was really green; Nordic farmers, sheepherders, all that. That all took a dive about 1400, when the cycle reversed and a "mini ice age" set in, making the northern hemisphere welldigger’s-butt cold for about 300 years. You should also know that the polar caps on Mars seem to be receding, and there ain’t no way to blame that on earth-bound SUVs. Always remember that this same bunch of "scientists" have, in 40 years, been in a panic about global *cooling*, overpopulation, catastrophic starvation, global deforestation, we have been supposed to run out of crude oil about every 5 years since the 1960s, etc etc etc. There is a period of warming going on, yes, mostly due to increased sun activity over the last 25 or so years, and it is a regular thing.  Look people, Mother Nature is in charge here, and she can be a goddess or a bitch at any time. She will be rid of us when she is ready to be, and there is not a damned thing we can do about it. Just enjoy the ride; our lives are too short as it is.  Cheers.  

Even More Info!

January 4, 2007
Yes, I am running a bit behind in getting the regular blog thing going, but I have one more bit of info. I am a medieval chivalry buff, and the best way to find it these days is the Society for Creative Anachronism or SCA, an international society of medieval history buffs, with chapters all over.  SCA chapters sponsor "events", which usually include armored fighting tournaments, grand feasts, dance balls, and classes on some aspect of medieval life and crafts. Everyone dresses in more-or-less medieval garb, and folks are addressed as MiLord or MiLady, and we have royalty etc. Here is what I look like on
weekends sometimes:


More Info

December 23, 2006
Tonight’s subject: Motorscooters!  I have had, and ridden, some kind of bike since I was 14 years old, so we are looking at over 40 years. I started out on scooters, and I have ended up on scooters. Over the years, I have had a number of street bikes, but found myself unable to ride them several years ago when my feet started falling off. For non-riders, shifting of gears is done with the left foot, and mine is fake so I am unable to use it for that purpose. In addition, my legs are no longer strong enough to hold up a large street bike when I am stopped. My scooters are the answer, being lighter than a street bike of comparable engine size, and having automatic transmissions, so there is nothing for my fake foot to do. The "small scooter" has a 250cc engine which is small, but quite adequate for around-town use, though I have taken it on some trips (from Birmingham to Knoxville TN, Panama City FL, etc).  The "big scooter" is really a motorcycle with a step-thru frame and smaller wheels - 600cc engine, 0-60 in 5 seconds, top speed over 100 mph, cruises at 70 effortlessly, and will carry luggage, so it is a marvelous highway machine.  I ride for enjoyment, and get a bunch of it. And I have the only handicapped motorcycle plates on the block, so I can park nearly anywhere!  I am a member of the Birmingham Scooter Syndicate, the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club, and the Southern Cruisers Riding Club.

Preliminary Info

December 21, 2006
I have been told that while we wait for this thing to ramp up as a regular blog, I should use the time to aquaint the readers with me, and give some warning as to where some of my opinion originates. The issue for today is Disability. I am, in several ways, disabled. I am a type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetic, getting more brittle as years go by, (my glucose gets harder to control) and along with that comes a world of complications. I have had three heart attacks, with resulting congestive heart failure; my present heart function is about 30%. As a result of injury to my feet, I have lost one leg just below the knee, and have about 2/3 of a foot on the other side. Needless to say, I don’t get around very well. I walk with a cane, and use a wheelchair or mobility scooter at times. None of this has stuck me at the house. There are a number of things I can not do these days, and a number of things I need assistance to do, but I keep doing.
My point is this - when you see someone like me hobbling or scootering along, do not look at it as a tragedy, but as someone just using the tools they need to get along. Some people need eyeglasses, some need hearing aids, and some need the equipment I use. Same difference. Other subjects to come…

Well, here it is

December 19, 2006
Welcome to my blog. I  set this up at the suggestion of some friends, but I’m not sure what I will do with it - I can’t imagine my life being interesting enough that anyone would care to read this. But I will try. The whole thing will begin with the new year, January 1.