21 April 2016

Some 21Apr16 Thoughts On the Joys of Shopping At WalMart:

Let me start by declaring I DO NOT hate WalMart.
There's no question they have run many Mom & Pop stores out of business. But do we really want to go back to "The Walton's" days where we walked down to Ike and Cora Beth's store and tried to buy fresh Zucchini? Good luck with that!
WalMart has changed the world...
Lots of variety, and almost always priced lower than the competition. (Find a lower price in an ad? Bring it to the cashier and they'll match the price.)
Disagree with me? That's fine... and I'll tell ya why later in this post.

I just finished shopping at my local Wally World. In this small town I always plan to run into several people I know and like, and plan to spend at least an hour in the store even if I only have a few items to purchase. This visit was no different... I ran into a couple people I had not seen since we left for Destin last Fall. I enjoyed running into them and caught up on all the latest small-town gossip.
But let me share some thoughts on things I almost always think while shopping at Wally World...

-Is everyone miserable? Did everyone just lose their aged Dog/Cat?
No one smiles. Well, at least no one does until you smile, say hello, and force them to quit frowning.
It sometimes feels as if the world is falling down on everyone. They walk around looking glum, with their shoulders drooping as if the weight of the world is upon them.
Yes, I know the world is a mess. But can we not at least be civil with one another and try to make lemonade outta this fiasco?

-You're driving around in that electric shopping cart with the backup warning... BEEP!, BEEP!, BEEP!
You are morbidly obese, and the last thing in the world you need to be doing is shopping while seated on your two-axhandle wide butt, manipulating the controls of a motorized vehicle. YOU'RE COMMITTING SLOW SUICIDE.
Stand on your own two feet. If necessary, start out by using your walker, (with attached shopping basket!)

Then you can go home and eat those yodels and Donettes!
Providing those carts makes WalMart codependent, making it easy for gluttons to support their "Food as drug" habit.
And what's also amazing? Even while silently puttering around in their carts, these obese folks don't smile. (I guess slow-suicide will do that to you.)

WalMart shopping completed, I went to our local grocery. On Thursdays they provide a 10% discount to
active duty/retired/Veterans. (On Tuesdays they give "Seniors" a 10% discount.)
What's more... they have a butcher on duty to answer questions and serve your needs. I try to do as much business with this store as possible, to keep Wally World honest. Employees in this store try HARDER. Customers here seem happier. There are no codependent carts for customers. And this butcher KNOWS GOOD MEAT.

It's been an interesting, thought-provoking shopping day.
Thank GOD for the free market... or what today could be called the ALMOST free market!
And yes, I found my fresh Zucchini.

13 April 2016

Random Thoughts, Spring, 2016

We're home from Destin, safely, after spending the better part of five months there.
When you go to the trouble of closing up your primary home, and spend the extra $$$$ to avoid the snow/ice/cold in the "Great White North", one of the things you do is tune in "The Weather Channel" to see if your expenditure is worthwhile, (and see how your neighbors are faring back home).
Weather in the panhandle of Florida this year was NOT dramatically different from the weather back home, so gloating over calls to friends was kept to a minimum. Still there's just nothing quite like watching the surf lap against snow-white sand while dolphins swim through your picture window!

On our departure day, (Saturday), we had the truck packed with two Motor Scooters and all our personal possessions by 1 P.M., said our goodbyes to Florida neighbors, and headed Northbound. Our journey home takes us through Montgomery and Birmingham Alabama, and Nashville Tennessee.
I'm always concerned about traffic in those cities because an accident on the Interstate highway can make you a prisoner in your vehicle.
This trip home was an absolute disaster-
We experienced a slowdown South of Birmingham, so I detoured to U.S. 31 around the city. Trying to insure traffic would dissipate, we even stopped for dinner just north of B-ham. Back on the concrete slab, we almost immediately slowed to a near stop.
At 11 P.M. just south of Nashville we again topped a hill and saw four lanes of Interstate full of red tail lights. We inched forward at less than walking speed, covering two miles in two hours, gagging in the exhaust being produced by hundreds of cars and trucks. As we passed the accident site it was obvious to me someone was probably assuming ambient temperature-
The collision was so violent the tractor-trailer's front axle was lying twenty feet in front of what was left of the donor vehicle.
We finally arrived home at 0500 hours, exhausted, sixteen hours after setting off.

We've pretty much learned what to expect when we get home:
Digital clocks will be flashing "12:00".
Many light bulbs will die in a flash of glory when you first turn lamps on.
You wake the first morning home and look around trying to figure out where you are.
It takes two days to get all your "stuff" in its proper place, and even then you have to stop to think "is that pair of scissors in the Destin drawer or the back-home drawer?"
But the trees are greening and some flowers are blooming. Soon it will be time to get tomatoes, green peppers, corn, and other tasty things in the ground.

We're glad to be home.

16 March 2016

More (And Bigger) Is Better?

Yeah, it's time to admit I'm suffering from a disease.
But like other addicts I CAN and DO rationalize it to myself.
Let me try, and you can shoot holes in my thought process-

We've been here in Destin for the Winter.
All of our grocery shopping is done within three miles.
When we need a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, we have to start the car/truck and drive about five minutes to do that. Isn't that the absolute WORST thing you can do to a vehicle?

For years we've watched as visitors zip by on the beach road on rented 50cc scooters, throttle opened wide to the point of bending the handlebars, going all of 35-40 miles per hour. Invariably they are smiling, laughing, and generally shouting at others on similar scooters.
The epiphany came to me-
Virtually ALL the trips I'm making to buy a dozen eggs could be made on one of these scooters, saving the wear and tear of waking the big Cummins diesel engine from a sleep and not quite warming it to operating temperature with the trip to buy a few needed items.
So we bought a used Taotao 50cc scooter, and I am now one of those desperately trying to avoid getting bugs in my teeth as I race to the grocery.
And I mean that...
After three months of use if the thing assumed the "dying cockroach" position tomorrow I'd still feel we have gotten our money's worth from the little Chinese Bugger.

But there IS a fly in the ointment.
At 40 mph, if I tried to get out on one of the highways... say to drive over to Ft. Walton Beach to go to Harbor Freight Tools, (make your Tim Allen sounds here), I'd be illegal and dangerous to myself and others.

Some years back my sister bought a 500cc Kymco scooter to drive to/from work and has gotten good utility from the machine. She even bragged about being able to out-accelerate her son on his Harley-Davidson to about 60 mph, even though his machine has more than twice the displacement.
I'm sure her scoot will probably go close to 90 mph.
I don't need that kind of performance... all I need is to be safe on highways where the speed limit is 55 mph.

So I did some research and found that 150cc scooters similar to my little Taotao will go almost 60, and they are quite reasonable in price.
That's what I need.

Now here is where the picture gets a little cloudy-
I rode the little 50cc machine to get a gallon of milk this week. After buying the milk I looked up and down the street and saw the sign... "Coastal Custom Cruisers".
They rent bicycles and Motor Scooters to folks visiting the beach.
I thought, "What would it hurt to pop in and talk to them?"

I walked in and met "Cameron".
"Do you by any chance have a used 150cc scooter for sale?"
Cameron smiled. I think he knew he "had me at Hello."
"Follow me, I have something to show you."
In the back room it sat... black, and strangely wonderful. It looks just like the one you see pictured above.
Italian engineering. 250cc's. I've been fascinated with 'em since I first saw one in magazines.
It's called an MP3. The last time Blog friend Cary and I climbed high up to Tortilla Flat in Arizona we followed a lady riding one of these up the mountain... she had no trouble at all staying in front of us.

"What year is it. How many miles. And how much?" I asked.
The number Cameron gave me was a shock.
"We have the machine on consignment" he said.
"Let me go home and check the Blue Book" I responded.
And when I checked, the "low retail" value was over $1000 more than the asking price, and this machine is NOT "low retail".
I bought the strange three-wheeler the next morning.

I spent much of the day on it yesterday.
It will go faster than I want to go on any scooter, two OR three wheels.
It's smooth-running, substantial feeling, and will be fine for two-up riding to Ft. Walton Beach, or for that matter, on the Interstate highways.
Cameron promises to help me load the MP3 AND the little 50cc Taotao into the bed of the Ram Diesel when we depart Destin the end of this month.

And now comes the hard part... my admission to "addiction"-
There are five motorcycles in my "hangar" already. Now when we get home there will be seven.
The 50cc Taotao has been an education and has served its purpose, so it's gone. The older GoldWing needs to go. The newer GoldWing stays.
That leaves the Valkyrie, the Moto Guzzi, and the BMW R80RT.
How do I decide which to part with?

This "Junkie" is already having trouble with withdrawal symptoms!

03 March 2016

Blood Politics

"You could NEVER do that", my wife said... (and she was correct).
We just watched Clarence Thomas' wife being interviewed on Glenn Beck's radio/TV show. She was talking about how amazing it was that Antonin Scalia had such a close relationship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, two people about as far apart on the political spectrum as you can get.

My response?
"Blood on their hands!"
Hillary Clinton AND Barack Obama watched, on a live feed (LIVE!!) from Benghazi, as four people who worked for them were attacked and killed... and did NOTHING.
Worse, they then lied to cover their tracks for political benefit.

I am still in touch with folks in the military, many of whom are involved with Special Ops.
Some of those folks are dying because of poor political leadership.
If you are an Obama supporter... if you are a Clinton supporter, I'd just as soon try to beat you up as have a relationship with you.
Some of my friends are DYING. You have blood on your hands.

Antonin Scalia was smarter than me.
But I'm not sure his political tactics make the world a better place.

Still, I have to admit that Scalia beating little Ruth up would have been a bad move.
But the image it gives me makes me smile.
And I don't think progressives have any idea what they face in the future if we continue down this path.

25 February 2016


"Mitt Romney, who was one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, is now pushing me on tax returns. Dope!"
Donald Trump

Since that statement, Donald has said his tax returns are "complex".
This is an excuse for not releasing them?
Seems to me, if they truly are that complex, releasing them now would give examiners more time to pore over them and agree he has nothing to hide.
Conversely, stalling about their release a few days will give him time to garner more votes toward wrapping up the nomination.

I don't like his use of profanity. It's unbefitting.
I don't like his support of abortion and using my tax money to fund Planned Parenthood.
I HATE the fact he thinks he can steal property from little old ladies to enrich himself.
And I REALLY don't like the fact he thinks having a ton of money makes him smarter than the rest of us.

Pray for enlightenment.

20 February 2016

Frank Underwood

I've written before about my concerns-
Retirement has NOT turned out the way I thought it would.
Don't get me wrong now by thinking I'm unhappy. I'm not. But I AM adjusting to change, and probably will continue to adjust 'til I assume ambient temperature.

One of the things I did not foresee is how much TV we're watching.
We've always been avid news-watchers. That hasn't changed. What HAS changed is how much other worthwhile TV we have time to watch now that work no longer consumes so much of our allotted time.

Almost immediately after I walked away from EMS we went to visit our son in Phoenix.
He has a VAST library of films and TV series on file.
"I have something I want you to watch" he said. "I'm SURE you two will enjoy it."
He then poked up Season One, Episode One of "Breaking Bad".
The first hour was... okay. The second hour... meh.
During the third hour we began to realize we cared about the characters.
And then it was like heroin, (or should I say, perfectly turquoise Crystal Meth?)...
For the next several days we watched three or four hours per night until we viewed the last episode.
62 of 'em!!!
And what's REALLY scary?
We wanted more.

Since "BB", thanks to another friend's recommendation, we've watched all available episodes of "Hell On Wheels". (Warning... although we've enjoyed the show, it is NOT historically correct. Search engines are your friend.)
As Hitchcock fans, we've also watched and enjoyed all of "Bates Motel."

But now, thanks again to our son, we've purchased a "Roku 2" device and, at his suggestion, have begun to watch "House of Cards".
Let me warn you...
It MAY be better if you DON'T start watching until after all this political silliness is over, January of next year.
Every time I watch the news now I'm thinking of Frank and Claire.

For those of you, like us, who anxiously await the release of Season Four on 4March...
Who do YOU think Frank and Claire Underwood are modeled after?

17 February 2016

"It's How The System Is Supposed To Work".


That's how the system HAS worked in the past.
It's the best way for it to work today.

16 February 2016

Tao Tao

It's almost three months now since I bought little "Harley".
I've learned a great deal in the short time I've owned him. The gas gauge read "full" when I bought the machine. Now, three months later, it's finally reached the "1/4" mark. I think the tank holds a little more than a gallon of fuel, so the 100 mpg claims for these machines is probably close to true.

Anyone riding on two wheels has probably heard the statement, "It's more fun to ride a slow machine fast than to ride a fast machine slow". There's no question that's true for me. With the wind at my back I have seen 41 mph on this little scoot, and felt like I was doing something slightly insane.

With storage beneath the seat, storage in the little topcase, and the ability to secure plastic bags on a hook behind the front fairing/beneath the handlebars, I can make a trip anytime to the grocery and buy the necessities... milk/eggs/bread/wine.
Starting a cold engine is the worst thing you can do to it wear-wise. Little Harley has saved me a dozen four-wheeled trips in the short time we've owned him, saving us wear and tear and gasoline on the "cage".

There ARE some limitations that we've learned from little Harley:
Obviously, if the speed limit exceeds 40, you need to avoid that street.

I look like a monkey grappling with a football on the little scoot. Try to imagine what Sara Jean and I look like when we're two-up on the thing!

When the thermometer dips below 45 or, as frequently happens here in the Florida panhandle, it rains, I'm not macho enough to saddle Harley up for errands.

Not a limitation but an observation:
A CVT transmission may be efficient and easy, but the buzziness of this scoot is an irritation. (Part of that is due to the fact that I'm riding wide-open much of the time!) The lever on the left handlebar is the FRONT brake. I'm now wondering if I'll have "negative transfer" learning when I get back on motorcycles. (Doubt it, but we'll see.)

Fifty Cubic Centimeters is fine for an area where everything you need is within five miles or so. But we frequently make jaunts 11 miles or so to Ft. Walton/Ft. Walton Beach which requires us to use U.S. 98, where the speed limit is 65 mph. Having a scoot capable of cruising at least 60 mph would make that journey possible, and a larger scooter would be more comfortable with Sara Jean aboard.
So I see a larger scooter in our future. What's "big enough"?

A 150cc machine would get the job done, (barely), but would a 200/250cc be better? (And keep me from having to trade up right away?)

Anyway, Harley has been an education.
He's also been a lot of fun.
If the insects were flying here in Dec/Jan/Feb, they'd be stuck in my teeth!

12 February 2016

Blue Lights On The Beach

That's different...
At about 1930 hours last night I saw a Sheriff's Department truck slowly traversing the beach from West to East with its emergency lights illuminated. Ten minutes later he came back, course reversed.
Thirty minutes later a small boat came from the West, blue lights flashing.
Somethin's up... a drowning?

Then the airshow started.
A Coast Guard Dolphin helicopter flew along the beach, low and SLOW, then reversed course.
Another S.D. truck passed by on the strand, blue lights blinking.
And then "WOW... what's that noise? That sounds a lot like a BK117". No, it's an Air Force V-22 Osprey with rotors in helicopter mode, also low and slow, moving from West to East. We notice the two rotors give off a blue-green glow at the rotor tips. Do they have L.E.D.'s out there?
Soon a Robinson R44 joined the search, landing/taxi light illuminated and someone in the left front seat shining a very powerful portable searchlight at the surf.

This activity continued until just before midnight. The V-22 hovering by made me wonder if there had been some sort of military training accident.

I recorded the early news this morning to see if answers would be provided.
This is what we learned.