Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Occupy movement: I don't get it...

I must admit that I just don't "get" the Occupy movement. Perhaps it is because I am just a simple southern boy, and don't grasp things well, but by my observation, these people just do not understand their own purpose, nor realize or appreciate what they do have.
They seem to be just angry at anyone who makes more or has more money than they do. That is not a noble attitude, it is just one of jealousy and envy. I see among this crowd so many signs declaring "Eat the Rich". The pity of it is that according to most of the world's population, they should be eating each other, because they are the rich! The "top 1%" thing - what does one have to earn to be, worldwide, among the top 1% of earners? According to World Bank economists, $34,200. The top 10%, $12,000. This is an extraordinarily wealthy nation - the bottom 5% in the ol' USA are better off than 68% of the world population. This is the crowd crying about their situation, squatting on and damaging public property, shitting on police cars, and loudly decrying corporate capitalism and the greed and wealth of the U.S. top 1%, while their message seems to be anger that *they* are unable to access jobs that would place *them* in the top 1%. I don't get it.
I have looked carefully at photos of these poor distraught folk - I see Gap, Old Navy and L.L. Bean clothing, North Face tents, high-line smart cellphones being used to access Facebook, Twitter, etc to spread their confused messages, while they are not holding signs made with poster board and Magic Marker pens, all the products of corporate capitalism.
One young lady (and from her language on camera, I am using the term loosely indeed) was angry that she has $44,000 in college loan debt, and is unable to find the high-paying job that she expected, and was cursing the banks that loaned the money to her. I don't get it. In my college days, if one could not manage the academic chops in K-12 to attain a scholarship, and could not afford to go to college full-time, one worked at whatever they could find while going to college part-time for as long as it took to attain a marketable degree in something useful, not Art History or anything "Studies". In a world where 18% of the adult population is illiterate, what is their problem? And incidentally, this situation is not new - there was a Masters degree in Sociology driving a fire truck at a local fire hall 30 years ago. My own daughter graduated high school with a 3.94 GPA, and scholarshipped her way through two earned Bachelors in Psychology and Criminology, just in time to be caught up in the present economy and widespread governmental mismanagement, with force reductions and hiring freezes in law enforcement - she works in a framing shop at a Hobby Lobby store. She is disappointed, but not wandering around with the Occupy crowd - she is too busy working at whatever she can to pay her bills.
I am still reeling from the whiny out-of-touch weirdo who, during the Obama campaign, explained that he was 27 years old and working for McDonalds with no benefits, and was essentially trying to find out if Barry was going to force McD's to provide him health insurance. 27 and working at Mickey's? Perhaps he had not considered that he was in that situation because he is a loser with poor planning skills and no motivation, and he ain't gonna get a better job waiting for the feddle gummint to force some company to give him one. I know an intelligent, attractive lady who has been married and divorced three times. She has given up on the dating/marriage thing after an epiphany - "I have been married to three fine men, and the marriages all fell apart. I just realized 'Hey, maybe it is me', and I don't want to punish another fine man that way". Clarity of vision...
Some of the Occupiers have admitted to interviewers that they quit their jobs to be there, and be part of a "noble cause". Here's a noble cause for you entitled, out-touch wackos: go beg to get your jobs back, Suck It Up, and try to do some better planning from now on. Sheesh.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Re: December 15

Re: December 15. Thirty two years ago today, more by luck than good planning, I stood, in an uncomfortable suit, before a room full of people, and vowed to bind myself emotionally and legally to Sandy, a lady of intelligence and decency. She has suffered long, through my weirdness and devastating medical problems, and has remained my partner, confidant, lover, and best friend. She is better than I deserve. Love you, baby. Happy anniversary!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Still recovering, and feeling useless...

Even more "excitement" - I had a spell of reduced heart function, apparently because of the illnesses, and the Edema Fairie set in on me. I looked much like the Michelin Man for a few days, until the industrial-strength dieuretics got me back to normal. And no, I have not been scooter-riding, or going much of anywhere - when I was all "swole up" (southern medical term) I did not have the sense to remove my prosthetic foots, and kept wearing them during the day, such that the stumps were very tight in the sockets, and I now am healing up pressure sores and abrasions on the stumps, and I have not been able to wear the fake foots for about the last month, and have been largely immobile. I have made it out of the house for a few things, but traveling is a chore, and exhausting.
Anyway, enough complaining. I am building a do-list which gets longer by the day, so I expect to be quite busy for who knows how how long. On the scooters alone, I have to change out the tires on the trike, and replace all the coolant hoses on the Elite, plus general housekeeping on all three. Here in the house, I am attacking things a room at the time, mostly cleaning and organizing, to reduce the junkies. The beat goes on...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rising from the illness...

Yes, I have been incommunicado for a while, mostly due to illness - The latest began as a good old-fashioned late-summer cold, and degenerated from there into all kinds of excitement. Just suffice it to say that I am finally on the upswing.
Coming to my little corner of paradise, Fall Weather. Here in central Alabama, we are not talking arctic permafrost, but the coming winter season here is enough to cause me issues with heart function and arthritis, and does not fill me with joy. On the other hand, I will get something of a break from yardwork, so things do balance out a bit.
Scooter riding will be a bit of issue, but I will be going through the winter riding gear and preparing. And yes, around here we do ride through the winter. During the utter depths of winter (late December-early February) we generally average daily highs in the 50F range, and lows in the low 30s. We have a winter precipitation thing, but mostly in the form of very cold rain, more-than-occasional ice at night, and we have snowfall mostly in a flurry form, with measurable stuff on the ground every few years. It always interests me when folk start posting about storing their scooters about this time of year - I sometimes cause disturbance by commenting that around here, we don't store our scooters, we just don't ride them during the torturous two-week winter. (a couple of riders in south Florida usually respond "winter?")
Perhaps I will have more of a bit of motivation to do some things inside the house. The place is getting "junky", and I am getting unsettled about it. The living room, kitchen, and master bedroom are target areas, likely in that order. More later as my mind gets clearer...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Finally rid of Lee!

No, not a person, but Tropical Storm Lee. Here in central Alabama, we are far enough north and inland to almost have a real winter, but close enough to the Gulf of Mexico to qualify for an occasional banging from a hurricane or tropical storm, and we caught it from Lee over several days. We are located in the almost-end of the Appalachian foothills, which extend a tail into the state - north, west, and south of here is fairly flat, but we are quite hilly in these parts, so extensive rain, high wind, and an odd mix of rocky and clay-based soil lead to flooding and to falling trees, which take out houses, power infrastructure, etc and cause endless frustration.
In Lee's aftermath, there are the typical power outages, but made interesting by modern smartphone technology, which allows folks to access FaceBook from their phones. One fellow, who has no power, but gas stove and water heat, was describing his situation as "camping with hot water". One lady was frustrated that she was temporarily unable to leave her gated apartment complex because with the power out, the gates would not open. [chuckle]
On the good side, even with trees falling on houses and cars, there seem to have been no deaths or serious injuries. On the bad side, far too many people seem to be helpless, stupid, or both. I heard a woman on a local call-in radio show lamenting the possibility of her power going out, because her husband has been on a "breathing machine" (CPAP maybe?) for years, that won't work without electricity. The radio host made the mistake of asking if they had not checked into some kind of emergency power for this thing in case of power outage, so they would not be "so incredibly helpless" in case of an outage, and the woman became angry, telling the host that "we don't know nothing about that stuff" and hung up. Irresponsible, pathetically helpless, and judging by her vocabulary, not exactly a Rhodes Scholar. [sigh]
We are done with Lee, the weather being very nice right now, and we await the next tropical rain-and-blow, tornado, or whatever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Business in the downtown...

Yes, I know that it has been quite the while, but you get what you pay for, and this blog is free, so there.
Yesterday, my lady wife and I tooled downtown to the main library for a grins trip and the courthouse for some administrative things. Among other things, Sandy had to renew her driver license, and since the satellite courthouse offices are closed due to general fiscal incompetence, the most populous county in the state now has two locations to get this stuff done. The D/L renewal line was not bad, but for those who know the layout of the courthouse, the title/tag line came out of Revenue, and extended down the hall past the Tax Assessor office, almost to the main entrance portal, some nearly 250 feet. Oddly enough, the people working in Revenue seemed to be as courteous and efficient as possible under the circumstances, but some of them looked a bit shell-shocked. Thank you, Jefferson County Commission, for your wonderful management of county finances leading to the closing of the satellite locations!
OTOH, the main library downtown still rocks!
Just a note; nowadays, entering the courthouse now requires going through a metal detector, and being inspected by Sheriff's deputies. I came in on an aluminum mobility scooter, wearing my prosthetics and all my other accouterments (pacemaker etc). When I drove up in front of the first deputy, I automatically lifted my shirttail above my waist, so he could see my beltline. he looked at the rest of me and and my gear, and just said "Go ahead Sir". I did, and set off all kinds of alarms when I went through the metal detector. The deputy just grinned. I suppose a fat Irish guy with fake feet doesn't fit their idea of a terrorist...

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We just returned from the annual VRCC Cheaha Mountain motorcycle rally, held at, of course, Cheaha Mountain State Park. This is the Alabama VRCC's annual run, and was as always a great time. I see people from other states there that I only see once a year.
The concern I have about the event is that it brings its own climate. We used to freeze in April, so moved it to mid-May, which in central Alabama is usually severe early-summer; the April showers are long gone, temps in the 80s, etc. Until Cheaha weekend, when it turns unseasonably wet and cold. This year, true to form, the temps have been mid-upper 80s, with lots of sunshinium; Wednesday was 91. Thursday night, a massive cold front swept in from the NW, with lots and lots of rain. Yesterday, the rain held off for the group ride, but last night, at our outdoor pavillion party place, temps were low 50s and showers played peeky-poo. This morning, the mountain was socked in with heavy fog. [sigh] This just in time for folks from eight states to ride home...
OTOH, Sandy and I had a great time, saw some great people, and relaxed for a bit. Well worth it, except for the carrying on of the evil weather omen...

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I had a semi-productive day today, and am fairly happy with the results, though I am hoping that tomorrow will not lead to regret. I attacked the yard work today, which I usually approach over several days, carefully controlling the exertion. Fifteen years ago, of course, I would have been up early this morning, and would have been completely done by lunchtime. These last fifteen years have, however been exceptionally hard on me, and let us leave it to say that after five hours of labor in the sun, I have about 40% of the job done. This may be a three, or possibly four-day process, which will put me back at starting point, and the cycle will begin again. The planter beds out front must be cleared of jungle undergrowth, as must the four feet or so immediately behind the house, the growing hedge forest around the old hackberry stump must be sheared, and a number of smaller things done hither and yon. Today, my hips and knees were acting up painfully, and I worked myself to virtually the end of my energy; sometimes this comes back to bite me later, sometimes not. We will see.
OTOH, Sandy went today to a session of the A Taste of Home cooking school, her very first, and had a blast. The woman conducting the thing is a noted local chef, entertaining, communicative, and "scary organized", and did several dishes, one of which Sandy won in one of the many drawings! It is an all-in-one thing called a Rueben Casserole, and it is very good indeed. They also covered, among other things, the making of eclairs, for which I would have to have insulin on IV Push, but I am looking forward to trying that. More of these classes to come, when they happen around here...
The next coming weekend, the Valkyrie Riders are doing the annual Cheaha Mountain ride-in, at, of course, Cheaha Mountain State Park, and Sandy and I will attend. Sandy does not ride at all, but enjoys the atmosphere of rallies and ride-ins. Some issues here - I am having some stump troubles, and my new legs are not here yet, so I will not be able to ride the Silver Wing, which will preclude me from the group ride on Saturday - on the Elite, I simply cannot keep up with the group. Also, the computer models are generally agreeing on a high probability of rain for the weekend, and right now, I simply am not up to riding in the rain. I will feel very wimpy showing up to a bike event in a car, but it may happen. We will see.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sadder news

I have been hesitant to post this, but hey, this is the situation. We have had a good old-fashioned southern weather incident here, a Tornado From Hell. Actually, we had several dozen tornados in one day, but the mother-of-all-tornados was on the ground continuously from Mississippi to North Carolina, possibly the longest-tracking tornado ever recorded in North America, varying along its path from F3 to F5 strength, and from one-half to one mile wide. On its merry way through my state of Alabama, it followed a popular practice for tornados by following I-59 through the state, inflicting incredible damage on Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide), Birmingham, Gadsden, and dozens of smaller towns and communities. Several small towns are simply no more - they are gone, wiped off the map, nothing left standing. The death toll is almost 300 in Alabama alone, 3000 are injured, tens of thousands homeless, and there are still more than 200 people simply unaccounted for, though this number may go down as communications are reestablished.
A hard week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A few changes in lifestyle...

I had a conversation with a group of teenagers, and now I really feel old. I did start to reflect, though, on life when I was 18 years old, which was 40 years ago. At the time, I was working for the Tennessee Valley Authority as an apprentice electric lineman, and had a little apartment. I was comparing things generally then with things generally now, and the teens could hardly relate. Some of the areas we covered follow.
Communications: I had a landline telephone, which at the time was the only kind. I had a dial-type desk phone of course, in basic black; in those days, one did not own phones, they rented them from Ma Bell, and touch-tone phones were more expensive. How did I operate voice mail systems? Well, I didn't, since there was little voicemail then, and the systems with it simply gave a message, and took yours after a certain number of rings. No, you did not press 1 for English; everyone was expected to speak English, since this was the US of A. So there. No, there were no cellphones, so how did I call someone if I was not at home? Look for a pay phone, which was not difficult, since the things were everywhere. How did someone reach me if I was not at home? They generally did not. Texting? What was that? I was a bit ahead of the game with that, though, since I was a Ham radio operater, and VHF FM mobile units were coming into popularity, since repeaters were popping up everywhere, so I generally had communications if I needed it while out in the car.
But how did I email anybody? I didn't, since there was no email. If I needed to write someone, I would commit my wisdom to paper, fold it, place it in an envelope, address the envelope, add a stamp, and take it to the mailbox. It would eventually get to the recipient. Of course, since my handwriting has always sucked, I would generally put my words to paper using technology - a typewriter. No spell check, no cut and paste, no whatever; it was a typewriter.
I had to do this, of course, because there were no personal computers - they did not come around until the mid-1970s, and were pretty much unaffordable to most folks. Of course, when they did start to show up, there were no mice, since there were no GUIs; command line only. There were some telecommunications by about 1980, but generally among hobbiest geeks, on very slow dial-up modems, and by text only. The internet did not become available to the general public until about 1990.
So, with no computers and no internet, how did one do research, shop, or pay bills?
Research was done by going to the library, looking up stuff, and checking out some useful books.
Shopping was mostly done by going to stores. What a concept! If local stores did not have, and could not order, what you wanted, you went back to the library, looked up some companies that may carry what you wanted, and call the company on the phone (usually a long-distance call, though some of the larger companies had the new-fangled "800" toll-free numbers) or write them a letter, and request a catalog.
Bill paying was done, of all things, by writing checks, and mailing them to the biller.
One of my little discussion group said that he eats a lot of pot pies and TV dinners, and was a bit surprised to find out that yes, those were around back in the day, but were not "microwaveable", since microwave ovens were not common. In fact, both TV dinners and frozen pot pies came in aluminum pans, which would not be agreeable with a microwave appliance, so they went into the plain ol' oven.
Yes, a few changes over the years...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Typed on a thrift-store find Royal Royalite portable. Very dirty but fully functional, with case, $9.88 + tax. I did the typecast above just as a test, and except for a quick run-through of keys in the store, this is its first bit o' printing. I am encouraged. I will get it cleaned up and tuned up, and a fresh ribbon, and we will see what happens.

Bit o' update: a bit of research by serial number shows this to be a 1962 model, manufactured in Holland.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Real radios glow in the dark!

I was tinkering around the other evening, and dragged out a handy toy, my 1941 Zenith Universal Companion portable radio. It is a six-tube unit, in a wood cabinet covered with a shellacked linen covering. It is AM only, as this was before FM broadcast. It still works fairly well, with a bit of a hum, bacause of bad filter capacitors that I will need to replace one of these days.

The operation of this thing is surprisingly good, considering that it is seventy years old. When it got dark outside, I was able to pick out the three-letter stations in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans, and a dial full of others. It has only a 4 inch speaker, but the wood cabinet gives it a notably good sound. Note that this one has a sailboat stitched into the speaker cover. Pearl Harbor was in December of 1941, and beginning in January of 1942, the sailboat was replaced by a 4-engine bomber, which continued until April of '42, when Zenith went into fulltime war production, and stopped offering radios to the public. I have a number of tube-type radios, AM and shortwave, to which I need to pay more attention, as well as my other hobby activities. I am working on it...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back after a little break

So, it has been a while, but you get what you pay for, and this blog is free, so there. I have been a bit disturbed by things lately, so I will take this opportunity to explain, and to complain a bit. Bear with me.
I am pleased that spring seems to be in full bloom here, which gives me open license to ride scooters, one of my favorite things. I am not pleased that yard work season is also revving up, with random and various plant life rising up outside, taking a deep breath, and stretching in anticipation of making me a yard slave for the next several months.
I addition, my mobility is becoming more limited. I am a DBK, a Double Below Knee amputee, missing both my lower legs from about 5 inches below the knee. This in itself in not a tradegy - prosthetics have come a long way in these recent years, and the ones I have, while needing an update, do allow me to stagger perilously around with a cane. The "additional factor" is that for the last several years, arthritis has been slowly but surely setting into my already crippled and ungainly body, in the last couple of years, more quickly and more surely, and it is beginning to be a pain, literally. My hands will not make a proper fist. I type two-fingered, with the left index finger, and the right middle finger. My guitar playing has lost its verve. What is left of my legs is developing stiffness and pain in the joints I have left (hips and knees). When and to what extent this will happen is apparently random, though I am sure it is not, but I have not yet connected it to a cause-effect pattern. It is always there, but gets better and worse. I will get a better handle on it as it goes along.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Event, and New Foots!

My local SCA group sponsored their annual winter event over the weekend, and a fine time was had by all. This one of two events the group sponsors every year. This a "collegium" event, with classes on various subjects, and is indoors because, well, it is winter. The event went well this year, was well attended, and featured a wonderful feast. We were graced with the presence of the Queen and Crown Princess of the kingdom. They held a court, and presented awards to several folks, including two of our own members - our own Corrin was presented with an Award of Arms, and is now Lady Corrin. In addition, my brother Conrad (known in the Society as Sean Oneill, was presented a Grant of Arms; he is now The Honorable Lord Sean Oneill, and will be addressed as "Your Lordship". All of this and $4 will get him coffee at Starbucks, but within our Society, is a well-deserved recognition of his hard work and dedication. Sandy and I arrived at about 8:30 Saturday morning, and by the time it all wound down at 8:30 that evening, I was toast; I barely had the energy to drive home, but a good time was had.
On another subject, Wednesday I went to the prosthetist to be evaluated for new sockets for the fake foots; my stumps have changed a good bit since I got these, and they are becoming difficult to use. The technology has changed a great deal in a few years. The practice in the years I have used these things has been to make a plaster cast of the stumps, and a blank made from those, then the sockets cast around those blanks, in a heavy, semi-polyethelene plastic. These days, to my surprise, an elastic sock was pulled over each stump, markings were made at the bottom of my kneecaps, and the stumps were laser-scanned! These scans will be fed into a computer, which will operate a miller to CNC a reproduction of the stumps,and a pair of plastic test sockets will be made, which I will wear for a week to make sure they are just right (this was not done before) and on my approval, new sockets will be made in carbon fiber, which will be lighter and stronger than the heavy white plastic ones that I now have. I am impressed. Since they will be thinner, and better-fitting at the top of the socket, they should be quite the advantage.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Even more Winter! [sigh]

Saturday, I wrote about the upcoming snow and ice. It did, in fact, arrive Sunday evening, with a twist. I live in a portion of the county which seems, because of topography, wind currents and limited sun exposure because of the aforementioned topography, always to be 2-4 degrees cooler than the rest of the county. This is more common than to be worth me mentioning it, but the past few days, it has become critical. We are far below average temperatures for the past few days, with high temps barely above the freezing point. Unfortunately, that leaves us in my neck of the woods with high temps at or below that magical freezing point. As I write this, the Birmingham airport is reporting 35F; at my house, it is 32. We are still frozen in! Sandy and I tried to get out to run some needed errands, and could not get either vehicle to the street. The snow cover got a bit soft yesterday in the sun, and last night, the 14F low froze it all solid. Now, instead of snow, we have solid ice. As an example of our little winter wonderland here, tomorrow every school in the entire county is open as usual - except for the four schools closest to my house, because the lingering arctic icing makes it too dangerous to run school busses, or in one case, to even get to the school! We will try again tomorrow; if the sun tries to make it a bit soft again, I will get out and try to shovel some tire track areas to the street. Neither Sandy or I are in any condition to get out shoveling, but we have a pharmacy run to be made. In the past week, we have had more snow than we have had in all the years since the Blizzard of '93. Is it time for spring yet?

Friday, January 7, 2011

So this is winter...

So this is winter. It appears that those of us in central Alabama will have two snowfalls this year; a front is due tomorrow night, and the computer models are pretty much agreeing on 2"-4" of snow, with some icing from freezing rain. Around these parts, that will be a major winter event. We average a trace of snow about every eight years, and as a result, the county and cities here have no snow plows, no spreader trucks to lay down cinders, etc. The semi-rural road that meanders out this way has a few places that, because of the topography, never get direct sun this time of year, so icing on those spots may remain for days. It may be entertaining. Sandy and I have no place to go until Tuesday, so we will just hibernate here and see what happens.
I have just finished replacing a failing alternator in my pickup, and outside it does not seem like winter storm potential - 61F and sunny, but with an aggrevating wind, right now reading 24mph from the WSW, and my weather station thingie shows a gust of 39mph a little while ago. We will see.
As to the alternator, what was 10 years ago a 30 minute job today took an hour and a half, and I had to sit and rest twice. Because of neuropathy, I have little feeling in my lower arms and hands, and kept dropping sockets and bolts and things, and I cut my arm somehow, which I did not realize until I saw a drop of blood fall on the fan housing. [sigh] Health problems are not for sissies...
OTOH, I now have a back-in-business pickup, and am relaxing inside, out of the wind, in my recliner, with a cup of good coffee on the end table next to me. It does not suck...