22 June 2017

Space Junk

Some time ago I wrote on this subject. My concerns originated when a "fleck of paint" hit the windshield of the Space Shuttle at a closing speed of something like 17,000 miles per hour and cracked the windshield to the point that experts feared a heavier object would have compromised the Shuttle's survival in space.
Now I read this article, and it is comforting to know experts are also concerned and trying to come up with a solution to the trash heap we are building in earth's orbit.
Now all we need to do is figure out how to do the same thing with that Delaware-size pile of trash in the Pacific ocean!

God help us.

31 May 2017

The Anti-Squirrel:

This is just weird.
For about 40 years I have been squirreling away money for our retirement.
Mutual funds, Annuities, IRA's, 403b's, 401K's, traditional and Roth, and for insurance, some precious metals...
I'm a minor "expert".
I just turned 70. I'm now getting notices from a multitude of places notifying me I MUST withdraw funds in the year I turn 70-1/2 years of age or suffer a penalty. I'm submitting the necessary forms.
But "squirreling" is such a part of my life that this REALLY FEELS WEIRD.
We are blessed.
But feeling this way is a form of mental illness, isn't it?

It's time to anti-squirrel.
Santorini, here we come.

24 May 2017

Greed. Envy. Jealousy-

A quickie post, as I HAVE to get out to my disorganized "hangar" to sort out bikes, my desk, and other treasures:
I frequently wonder where Germany would be today if, instead of picking the scab that turned into World War Two, they had just continued on their path of excellence and sold the rest of the world Mercedes Benz's, BMW's, and other FABULOUS (and WAY ahead of time) technologies.
I think the entire world would have learned German because we WANTED to.

It's so simple, isn't it?
"Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door!"
So why didn't Germany follow that path?

And then I remember Cain.
He lived in the Garden of Eden and had loving parents.
And he WAS NOT satisfied.

23 May 2017

SANTORINI !

We've decided to pull the trigger on something we've wanted to do for years.
I had two "bucket list" items on my "Cruise" list-
The inland passage to Alaska, and an "Ocean to ocean" cruise through the Panama Canal.
We've now done both. (And I recommend 'em.)

Sara Jean wants to do another cruise, so I'm tryin' to figger out where I'm interested in cruisin'.
I'm a HUGE fan of the movie An Affair To Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant.
There's a scene in that movie that has Cary Grant hiking up the mountain in Santorini, Greece to visit his grandmother. At the top he stops to take in the view of the port below, and that scene knocked me out! I've wanted to go there ever since.

We called our travel agent today to start the process.
It just happens she herself is going to Santorini next month, so we intend to profit from her knowledge and get serious about our planning upon her return.

Any hints, prods, or warnings will be appreciated.
What was the name of that liquor they drank in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? :>)

07 May 2017

My Brother's Keeper

He was a big man...
6'2" and probably about 220 lbs.
He had been my hoochmate in Viet Nam and we got along well there.
When I got home and found him searching for a place to live I bought a place and asked if he'd like to room with me.
"Sure!"

He was loud, brash, and unpredictable.
When he didn't come home Friday night I chalked it up to the probability he'd found someone he liked and chose to stay with them.
When he didn't come home Saturday night and hadn't called to let me know, I was mildly concerned.
By 2200 hours Sunday night, facing a normal workday Monday, I considered calling the police, then changed my mind.

Monday afternoon I came home from work to find his lemon yellow '69 Corvette parked in our drive.
I unlocked the door and entered the living room to find him watching TV with half his head wrapped in gauze and bandages.
"What the heck happened to you?!"

"I had a serious discussion with a guy at 'The Monster'. I didn't think much of it when he left on his own. When I left the bar he jumped me with a claw hammer and nearly took my left ear off."
And he wasn't kidding. The ear was hanging by a small strip of tissue and required serious expertise to reattach. The hospital kept him for a while because of the possibility of serious concussion.

Two 22-yr old single guys... prowling most weekend nights. Our unwritten rules were sort of- "you do what you do and I'll do what I do, so long as we don't foul one another's nest."
But three nights with no word at all?


I know today I'd be on the phone Sunday morning trying to find out if he was in trouble, or dead.


05 May 2017

Prepping

It's inevitable.
Even during the most boring of conversations with friends and acquaintances, the fact we are trying to "hope for the best; plan for the worst" will come up.
You can probably imagine the reaction-
Some think we're just downright weird.
Some of our best friends agree with us but take the "God is in control" attitude and are leaving the future in his/her hands.
A few souls are also doing what they can to be prepared for as many permutations as possible.

Those that think we're crazy will frequently joke, "Well, if the worst happens we know where to go!"
We try to gently guide and educate them by mentioning this scenario.

We hope we ARE crazy in our thinking!

04 May 2017

Dental Sticker Shock

Yes, I know... this is my fault.
I got a thing in the mail from a reputable company offering dental insurance for my family.
There are things in life I think are too important to ignore:
Brakes and tires on your car, for instance.
Dental care is another. 

My first mistake was not shopping around for price.
I now realize I could have done much better than $60/month.
My second  was not insuring our Dentist was an "approved provider".

The policy indicated an annual cleaning would be fully covered after the policy had been in effect for a year.
I scheduled my cleaning 13 months after the policy's anniversary date.

The bill from the Doc came yesterday-
My dental insurance covered $100 of a three hundred dollar bill.
I was shocked and furious.
It means I paid $720 for a year's coverage, and then another $200 to have my teeth cleaned and consult with our Dentist.
Total bill for the year: $920.00 !

I called and canceled the policy.
We take good care of our mouths.
Now I'm wondering whether or not dental insurance is even worth carrying.

01 May 2017

The Baobob Tree

I believe in God.
I believe in a hereafter.
I don't understand how anyone can look at our world and not wonder "who put all this together and flipped the 'on' switch?"

This morning I had another of those wee hours awakenings with thoughts going wild.
The word "Baobob" came to mind.
Why? Who knows?
I have never seen a Baobob tree.
But I am AWARE of Baobob trees.

And that brings a question to mind...
God loves us.
We spend all our lives learning, gathering and storing information to make our lives better.
Some of that information we share with one another... (like reading my stuff here at "Pitchpull") ;).

Much of that remains stored in our brains for personal use.

What happens to that information when we die?
Does God have a vast "Library of Alexandria" where he compiles all the knowledge we have accumulated?

For me, death is not something to be feared.
It's a new adventure that may be more wonderful than we can imagine.

09 April 2017

Trying To Be Safe

At some point a few years back my love of bein' up on two wheels rubbed off on my son.
He changed jobs, and found himself driving from Casa Grande, AZ into Phoenix daily.
After he got his motorcycle license, to help him save gas and money I gave him my old BMW R80RT. One of the reasons I gave him this old, reliable motorcycle was my hope that he'd learn minimal tinkering on the machine-
Change/check oil. Keep sparkplugs clean. Gap the points now and then. Keep an eye on the tires.He's never had any curiosity about how machines other than computers work, and it was my hope he'd learn from this grand old bike.

His relationship with the old Boxer didn't go well.
After a particularly harrowing breakdown on I-10 on a 115 degree day I decided he needed newer, less "needs tinkering" equipment. I loaded my Suzuki SV650 up, drove to PHX, and traded him for the BMW.
Electronic ignition. Disc brakes front and rear. Nothin' much to tinker with except checking/changing the oil and the chain, which I showed him how to keep adjusted and lubricated.

He had the Suzuki a year when we returned to visit him. I took the bike for a spin around the block and found the chain in such bad shape I feared it would break, jam itself against the engine case, and spit me off like a buckin' bronco.
Chains are better today than they've ever been, but under extreme conditions they're still not foolproof.
We sold the Suzuki.
He needed something "chain-less".

I had been looking at adventure bikes.
The BMW GS1200 was getting raves from all the experts. But WOW, at $20,000+ optioned the way I wanted it, a new (no tinkering necessary) one was economically impossible. I started watching for a used one at the local AZ BMW dealership.
A salesman there quizzed me about what I wanted and how the bike would be used.
"Have you considered the Yamaha Super Tenere?"
This was in January. He'd had one sitting on the showroom a few months and wanted to move it.
This one was the "E" model with all the bells and whistles:
Side (hard) bags. Top case. ABS brakes. Traction control. Cruise control. Electronic ignition.
He made me an offer I couldn't refuse.
Did I mention this bike also had a drive shaft instead of a chain?

I've always been leery of the first few miles on a new motorcycle
I was INSTANTLY comfortable on this machine.
Thankfully, so was my son.

He got tired of being gouged by the dealer when he took the bike to them for routine checkups.
"Dad, will you show me how to change the oil and filter?"
I bought the filter from Amazon. The motorcycle specific oil (to protect the wet clutch) was purchased at Autozone. YouTube was a comfort showing us there was not one but TWO places to drain the oil on this bike.
I pointed while he did the work. When the job was done his comment was-
"Is that all there is to that?!!"
He'd been paying the Yamaha dealership over $300 to do the routine checkup.

In my old age I'm getting lazy.
I like all the bells and whistles.
And I REALLY like a machine without a chain.
It's so easy these days to buy something with either a belt or shaft drive.

It's enough of a worry just thinking about my boy driving in Phoenix's rush hour traffic.
Giving him the safest bike possible reduces his parents' worry level.


05 April 2017

Destin, 2016-'17

I'll pack the scooter in the truck, then stuff every nook and cranny around it Sunday. Yes, I'm worried it will all fit... we've been here since October, and in the three trips we've made to our real home we have brought more "stuff" down to make life better here.
Thank God for an extended cab truck and heavy duty garbage bags! We've learned to double-bag weather threatened stuff going into the bed, and wrap duct tape around those to keep wind from fatiguing the plastic... that works fine for our drive home.

We've had a pretty extraordinary Winter; our fourth spent at least partially in Destin.
Less rain here than in previous years, of course we watch the weather at home and compare what we're experiencing with what our neighbors are "suffering" through.
Weather back home has also been mild... we've been about 10 degrees warmer most of the time in Destin. Several times we've wondered if the premium cost has been worth it, then thought about eating fish caught in the ocean yesterday...
Yes, it's been worth it!

Forty+ trees on our property back North... inevitably it takes us several days to straighten up our yard there. Thank God there's no burn ban where we live. We just drag branches back by the pond and light 'em up. It's a good excuse to get reacquainted with neighbors with weiners, marshmallows, and beer when the bed of coals settle down.

The world is a mess.
But our little corner of it looks pretty good.
It's my hope you ALSO can look around at what's happening in your life, and
SMILE.

23 March 2017

(%#!+&$* !

My cell phone just rang.
I don't recognize the number displayed, but decide to answer anyway-
"This is Greybeard".
Pause.
Pause.
Female voice- "Hello?"
I don't respond. (I've been here before... all too often lately.)

"Oh! (Giggles.) I'm sorry! I was having trouble with my headset."
At this point I begin to attempt conversation, but the person(?) on the other end of the line just continues rapidly with her sales speil. (Spell check says "speil" is misspelled.)

I hang up, irritated, and once again wish I could just flush the cell phone down the commode.

Too often these days I envy Thoreau.

22 March 2017

The Surprises at 70:

Are skin tags like mushrooms?
Where do these age spots come from?
I still have a full head of hair. What happened to my "hairy" legs?
My hearing is failing.
I can no longer read road signs from half a mile away.
Two, (sometimes three) trips to the bathroom are necessary after going to bed.
When I get up for a bathroom break during the wee hours, I toddle like a Weeble, (but I don't fall down).
It is MUCH easier to determine who makes your life better, and who simply complicates things. (I'd rather have four quarters than 10 dimes.)

In today's political climate I'll paraphrase a quote from my Mother...
"I'm glad I'm 70."





20 March 2017

The Lottery

In the old joke, Abe cries out-
"Lord! Why is it you never let me win the lottery?"
A week transpires and Abe doesn't win, so again he cries out-
"Lord, I'm a good Jew! Why do you not let me win?"
Another week goes by and Abe doesn't get a notification of winnings.
Once again he cries to the Lord-
"Father, I'm a good Jew. I always keep Kosher. If you let me win I promise to do wonderful things with the money!"
At this point Abe hears a tremendous voice from above-
"Abe... go buy a ticket!"


Up 'til recently I've only been interested in the lottery when the possible winnings started making the news... $443 million in one case as I recall.
But this Winter here in Destin the Convenience Store that sells Sunday newspapers and lottery tickets is EXACTLY one mile from us... a perfect round-trip walk for two folks needing an excuse to exercise, (and desperately needing that exercise)!



So, twice a week on our walk, we donate a buck to Florida's education fund and take home a lottery ticket. We buy just ONE ticket.
Our son ridiculed us...
"You realize you have NO chance of winning don't you?"
Of course.
And that's the reason we buy only ONE ticket...
We know that buying two tickets would not double our chances of winning million$.

But, twice a week we take our single ticket in hand and go to Flalottery.com and anxiously check to see if we are big winners. The entertainment value of checking our numbers against the numbers listed there is WELL worth the two bucks a week!

Last week our ticket matched three numbers, good for $5 in cash.
I used that five bucks to buy a ticket for Wednesday night's drawing, and pocketed $4 to buy future (sure winning) tickets.

"Lord, if you let us win we promise to use that money to do great things in your name!" :>)

13 March 2017

Funk

I don't feel like writing.
I can't explain it... maybe I'm in "Don Quixote" mode... feeling it's a total waste of time?
I have stuff that "wants to come out", but the motivation just ain't there.

I'm fine though...
Putting miles on the Piaggio MP3.

14 January 2017

Motorcycle?

If you are a "motorcycle" guy, you may look down your nose at the above machine.
It definitely ain't "macho". But now, from experience, I can tell you that most who will look askance at this machine have never owned one... likely have never ridden one. To me, anyone riding any machine with less than four wheels is part of the fraternity of bikers. When I'm on my Valkyrie, Scooter riders are frequently surprised when I give them the two finger acknowledgement because I'm one of the few folks riding a big bike to do that.
But I also have a scooter, and know how neat they are.

Our Scooter's engine displaces 250cc's. It will approach 85 mph, so we feel no danger of being run over by traffic, even on the Interstate highway.
Last summer we rode it around Smokey Mountain National Park and subjected it, "two-up", to some serious elevation changes. It is fuel injected. It performed perfectly.

I used to think CVT transmissions were for sissies.
No more. On more than a few occasions I have found myself in a position where, on a steep hill with a standard transmission, if I had selected the wrong gear and had to pull in the clutch  and make a quick gear change, I might have found myself looking like Arte Johnson on his trike on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in".
The CVT transmission is ALWAYS in the gear that will produce power at the peak torque curve.

The storage space on our little machine is more than adequate for jaunts to the grocery. Yeah, if we need a 24-pack of water, we have to take the cage. But that only happens once every couple weeks.
Otherwise, the car stays parked and waiting.

On a quick trip to the U.S. Post Office today I ran into a couple riding the machine pictured above.
It's Piaggio's 70th Anniversary homage to the first Vespas they produced.
Storage on that machine is limited to what you can put in that bag at the rear of the machine.
But to a guy my age, who grew up watching the original Vespas zipping around our neighborhood, it is BEAUTIFUL.
They admired my three-wheel machine. I admired their beautiful, "somewhat practical" work of art.
We chatted for about 15 minutes, then all mounted and rode away with smiles on our faces.

Fraternity...
Preserve "The Wave"!