10 July 2019

Tough Decisons-

Our "Schnoodle" Lucy was 13 in June. If the 7-yr rule applies, she gets around mighty good for a 91 yr-old female... begs to go with us on our nightly 3-4 mile walks. We DO have to help her with tasks requiring the ability to jump... getting up on the bed or sofa. We happily help her to do that.
But she has begun to have some of the other "old dog" problems: Growths inside and outside her body.

Our Vet has identified two "squamous-cell carcinomas" on her chest. She also has MANY warts beginning to form on her body that the Vet says is normal for poodles. And she now has a fatty growth starting to expand on her flank that could be benign or malignant. At this point, I don't even want to know which.

Is it sane to spend a fortune on an old dog to correct problems like these? (We're by no means wealthy.) And if you do try to intervene to help, how long before a similar problem recurs?



This is a smart dog. She's the lowest-maintenance dog I've ever owned, and I've owned some mighty good dogs. We've often made trips in our car rather than fly just because we wanted to comfortably bring her along.

We're now realizing at some point in the not-too-distant future we'll have to make a horrible decision.
When does her quality of life degrade to the point where she'd want us to let her go?

Again, we all take on the responsibility of pet ownership knowing, in 10-15 years, (if we're lucky), we'll face a heartbreaking loss. And the loss is more crushing when you have to say, "Yes, let her go".

We're almost there.
And even the thought of it brings tears to my eyes.

27 June 2019

Second Verse... Same As The First !

The new Taurus SHO is in our garage. It looks EXACTLY like the old one, except the new one has a moonroof.
It's weird. Turning the old car "out to pasture" after five years of faithful service actually made me sad. And there are just enough niggling little differences between the old and new to keep us on our toes for a little while.

It smells new.
What's that worth? :)

16 June 2019

Electromotive?

The "24 Hours of LeMans" has just come to completion.
The fastest cars on the circuit were hybrids... Toyotas with gasoline engines supplemented with electric motors. They added electric power to their internal combustion engine to total about 1000 horsepower.

There is now a racing series similar to "Formula One" that features electric cars. The cars are VERY fast, but WOW is it weird to hear them race around the circuit, hearing almost no noise but drivetrain whine!
Completing the "Formula E" race requires the use of TWO cars. When battery power on car #1 is depleted, the driver switches over to car #2 to finish the course. And that's the problem STILL with total-electric cars isn't it? Range.
And it's why we see a predominance of hybrids in the electric realm.

But boy, they are really pushing the idea of hybrids during this race. And like "anthropomorphic climate change", I still have my doubts.

I've heard horror stories about the waste left behind in the process of manufacturing these lithium batteries. And when the batteries reach the end of their lifespan, will the cost of replacing them make the overall cost of owning a hybrid (or electric) car cheaper than owning a car powered with only an internal combustion engine?
Only time will tell. We'll get there eventually, I'm sure.

Pardon me while I look around for the cheapest price on gasoline.





24 May 2019

Signs?

Long ago I promised myself I'd never be so comfortable that I'd pass up a penny on the ground.
In New York on the way to the subway to visit the 9-11 memorial, in light rain, I saw a penny on the wet sidewalk. I stooped and pocketed it.
Only later when I took a look did I see the date...
1947. The year of my birth.
It's a keeper.

And I'll share a ditty one of my former helo students shared with me...
"See a penny? Pick it up. All day long-
You'll have a penny!" 
:)

21 May 2019

Before They Became Toasters...

Officer's Candidate School was hard.
I learned the secret early on. (And that knowledge also illuminated many of the secrets of life!)
Refuse to quit.
When someone tries to piss you off, smile and ask for more.
So I made it. I graduated and pinned on my "butter bars".

I promised myself early in the OCS program that if I graduated and started getting a regular, "almost livable" paycheck, I'd treat myself to a new car.
So in November of 1967 when I went shopping for a car, what did that 20-yr. old have to choose from?
400+ Cubic-inch engines in virtually any manufacturer's line...
426 Hemis in various Chrysler products.
427 Monsters in Chevrolets and Fords.
400's in Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Buicks.
MUSCLE CARS. Cars with individual personalities.

I had long lusted for an Oldsmobile 442 owned by a friend in High School.
But when the new 1968 442's came out in November of '67, they had changed the body style from the squared-off, boxy '66 that I loved.
But I didn't HATE the way the new car looked, so I plunked down the cash, and took delivery of the car a month after ordering it.

I owned that car for 6 years and put 96,000 miles on the odometer.
During that time I replaced the water pump and the front wheel bearings.
That's all.
And I LOVED every moment of driving that car.

How things have changed.
In 1970 you could walk through a parking lot and identify EVERY make and model car by looking at its ass.
Try doing that today.
Gas mileage rules. And mileage is ruled by aerodynamics and the wind tunnel.
And that makes all these four-wheeled pieces of crap look like members of the same, inbred family!

Our Taurus SHO is faster, more comfortable, more luxurious, more reliable, and quieter than anything made back when I promised myself a new automobile.
It gets better gas mileage (on regular unleaded fuel) too.

But it's an appliance.
It's not exciting.
And I guess, for this old man, that's a GOOD thing, huh?
:)


13 May 2019

Then I Saw Her Face...

Now I'm a believer.

How many times have you been in love?
One of the great things about becoming an old man is that I now know that seeing a beautiful face;
Loving what I see...
Will lead nowhere.
So I've learned to just enjoy God's artwork.

I've been in love several times in my life
And when you know it cannnot lead to a "happily ever after" ending, that's a special kind of pain.
But the saying "It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" is true.
I'm glad to have experienced that pain.

26 April 2019

Come sail away with me...

We are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as I write this, halfway 'twixt Hamilton, Bermuda and Horta, Azores. With the help of some amazing technology, we still have a decent (not perfect) internet connection and can watch "Fox News" on TV in our Stateroom. Our disembarkation point is Lisbon, Portugal. There, we pickup our rental car to drive to Gibraltar. "The Rock" has always been one of my must-see's. I've reserved quarters for two nights at Moron Air Base. With that name, we just hope our reservations there come off without complication!

Yes, it's been a while since I've blogged. I've discussed before how Facebook has made a dent in the urge many former avid bloggers have had to share their feelings on their blogs. But I do have an audience here that I don't have at FB, and I feel guilty when considerable time has passed since I've shared my doings and thoughts with you here.
(Some of you should be grateful you're not on my "Friends" list. 

I DO rant.)


This is Sara Jean's fifth cruise; my fourth. We're on the same ship we were kicked off when I compound-fractured my ankle in Santorini, Greece last year. We like the boat. It's big enough to provide lots of diversions. Alcohol is free, unless "top shelf" is a must for you. And with a capacity of 760 or so "guests", it's not so huge that it inundates small town ports when the ship docks.
And we're now taking a look at a cruise next October that sails out of Venice, Italy for 11 nights and includes many Mediterranean stops, including Santorini, and finishes at Athens, Greece. I want to go back so I can have GOOD memories of lovely Santorini!
If you'd be interested in cruising with us, let me know. I'll forward information to ya.

We are blessed. My family is healthy. I've got good neighbors taking care of our property back home, including one wonderful guy who picks up our mail daily and will mow our grass once while we're gone. Lucy is the guest of two wonderful people that love her as much as we do, and would kidnap her if they could figure out how to erase our memory of her.
Life is good, folks. When I can figure out how to painlessly burn these calories, life will be perfect.

Be safe and well everyone.


09 April 2019

Ambition/Motivation

For almost thirty years I held down two full-time jobs.
For almost twenty of those years I worked two full-time and one part-time job.
I was exhausted much of the time. But I LOVED the work.
Yeah, my family time suffered somewhat. But my family is now reaping the benefit of my past efforts.

I know there is always a "Back in my day..." factor, but I don't see many young people striving to succeed as I did.
In Arizona, "Help Wanted" signs were EVERYWHERE, while many intersections were occupied by folks with "Homeless and hungry" placards.

I know... I'm a dinosaur.
But I'm a very confused dinosaur.
Have we simply lost the ability to derive Joy from work?

16 March 2019

New Vehicle?

We've had a couple interesting encounters this week, both driven by our experience with our 2014 Yamaha Super Tenere.
If you come here often you know we had a problem with the bike. Just before we arrived here in Gilbert, Arizona, our son reported the bike wouldn't start. On 27 December we had the bike towed to the dealership/Service Center where we bought it. Staring New Year's Day in the face, we figured it might take a while for them to get around to fixing it. But after two weeks, when we still hadn't heard from them, we gave them a call.
"You need to come and see this."
(Our experience there is described in an earlier post here. See below.)
The intake valves had carbon caked onto their stems.

They were confused as to how to proceed.
Their confusion sent me scrambling online to do some research.
I don't much like what I've found.Turns out, all gasoline direct-fuel injected engines are susceptible to this problem.
That includes our car... a 2014 Taurus SHO.

The Yamaha has 30,000 miles on it. This is the earliest stage most people report beginning to have a problem with intake valves coking up with carbon.
Our Taurus has 30K miles on it. (VERY low mileage for a '14 model year car.) But the fix for intake valve problems on the Taurus?
Remove and replace the cylinder heads... obviously NOT under warranty.
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

So I thought, "Why not trade it for a new Taurus SHO?"
Ford, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to focus on SUV's and will not make the Taurus in '20 so if we want one, we MUST buy it now.
There's a car nearly like ours at a local dealership. We went to try to negotiate a deal.

They want $46,000 for the new car. They want to give us $18,000 for our (like new) '14 model.
I won't repeat what I told them they could do with their offer.

I used to be able to fix most things ailing my car.
No longer.
Cars and motorcycles are now computers with engines and wheels.
And some of this technology is gonna bite us in the butt and require BIG BUCKS to fix when things go wrong.

We got the Yamaha back yesterday.
They STILL didn't fix everything that ails the bike, but it runs fine and we simply wanted to get it out from under their roof.
Total bill? $4200.00.
But they gave us a break on the parts and I paid $2400.00 to drive it away.
I'm angry, frustrated, and confused about the future.
How do we avoid this happening again in 30K miles?

Hyundai and Kia's 100,000 mile warranty looks mighty attractive right now!

13 March 2019

Typing Paper

"Grab that restaurant coupon for me son",  I said.
"Where is it?", was his response.
"It's on that sheet of typing paper" I replied, pointing to it.

He had no idea what I was talking about.
I forgot... they call it "keyboarding" now, don't they?
Is it now "keyboarding paper"?

09 March 2019

The Playboy Bunny

I learned early on the truth that "Faint heart ne'er won Fair Lady". 
She lived in my apartment complex. I had seen her coming and going from the parking lot. I heard she had formerly worked as a "Bunny" at the local Playboy Club.
She was petite, blonde, shapely, and confident.
I asked her out. She accepted.

On our way to dinner I asked, "My boss wants me to drop by the (Dog) Pound to verify he locked the kennel. Do you mind if we stop by?"
"No, not at all" was her response.

I parked in the lot, left the car running, and checked the lock... it was secure. But while I was there I figured I might as well walk around the kennel to check on the dogs and insure everything was okay. Doing so took me out of sight of the car. Walking down one side of the cages, then around the backside of the building I came to the gate that lead back to the parking lot. This gate was made of wood slats and was abeam where I had parked my car.
I peaked between the slats to surreptitiously get a glimpse of this gorgeous woman-
And got a glimpse of this beauty with the index finger of her right hand buried almost to the second knuckle up her right nostril.
Shocked, I waited to see what she would do with what she found there. I have this "thing" about booger eaters... had she stuck her finger in her mouth I would have feigned illness and taken her home. She picked up her purse, removed a tissue, and wiped her finger thoroughly.
Beauty. Confidence. Class.
And decent hygiene.

As I recall we had a fine, enjoyable dinner.

27 February 2019

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time!

I began to hear better when my hearing aids were two rooms away on my bedroom nightstand. So I took 'em to the VA Clinic here in Gilbert, AZ to have the technician take a look.
As I walked through the entrance to the clinic I was confronted by a group of girls, maybe 15 in all with three adult supervisors, excitedly asking, "Would you like some cookies?"
As you may know, I've been on a diet and have lost 36 pounds in just under a year. I want to keep that fat off.
So my initial thought was "How do I say 'no thank you' to these beautiful faces?" 

And then they said, "They're FREE!"

I asked one of the chaperones, "How do you expect to make enough money to go on excursions if you give your cookies away?"
She answered, "Someone already bought all these and donated them to be given away here at the VA."
Wow.

I took two boxes.
And I gave the chaperone $10 with instructions to buy some more cookies to give to Veterans.

In a world that appears to be coming apart at the seams, sometimes there are events that nearly bring me to tears.
Nearly.

13 February 2019

"New And Improved", When It Ain't:

I've had an education.
You might need one too. This post is about internal combustion.
If you have no interest about what gets you to work or the grocery, skip this one.

Review:
Our Yamaha Super Tenere has now been at the dealership for repair almost two months.
One morning it would not start. We had it transported to the dealership where we bought it new and told them to "make it run".
We've love the bike. We've had a good relationship with the service the dealer has provided, (routine stuff like tire replacement, although the cost of same has been $omewhat eye-opening.)
But this event has been nothing short of extraordinary. 

I really feel at this point that they're searching for a needle in a haystack.
They can't get the bike to run.

The intake valves had obvious, SERIOUS carbon deposits. After breaking the engine down they got after those deposits like a Dentist attacking plaque on your teeth and removed them. They re-assembled the engine.
It still wouldn't start.

Much head scratching followed.
They actually had commented how clean the engine internals looked. We've paid "religious" attention to changing the oil and filter.
Only the valves look funky.

This is a "direct injection" gasoline engine, meaning the fuel is introduced directly into the combustion chamber. Fuel DOES NOT pass by the intake valves on the way to being burned.
So no amount of "Sea Foam" or "Chevron Techron" or "BG44" will improve this situation because none of that stuff will touch the intake valves. It CANNOT clean them. In the pursuit of improved fuel efficiency we may now be facing ugly "unintended consequences"...
Carbon buildup on intake valves, starting at about the 30,000 mile mark.

I'm now worried about our Taurus SHO, the engine in which has a similar design to the Yamaha, and seems to suffer a similar fate according to forums on that "Ecoboost" engine.
(And adding chemicals to the fuel to attempt to remedy the problem there overheats the turbochargers causing them to fail... $$$$$.)

This situation has a lot of people baffled.
And it makes carburetors look like wonderful, "Old Faithful" devices.

Any helpful comments would be GREATLY appreciated!
I'm sure experts would be grateful.

08 February 2019

Chunky-

I was about 13. One of my friend's Fathers, comparing me to one of his friends,  said I was "Chunky", like that guy.
He may as well have slapped me upside the head with a 2X4.
Chunky?!
But just as we are sometimes surprised when looking at a candid photograph, it made me take a close look at myself.
My Mother was 5'2" tall. During my early teen years she weighed 190 lbs.. At that point she saw a photograph I had taken of her and had her own "2X4" moment.
But she continually had problems with her weight because she had virtually NO discipline. She always seemed to be on the "see food" diet.
She was also diabetic.

From my Mother I inherited my lifelong battle with "chunkiness". I have never been "sloppy fat", but that too is a problem. My body stores fat in my trunk and that fat does not feel like sponge.
It feels solid. And research I have done indicates that's the most dangerous kind. Solid fat is stored around vital organs and can lead to infarction, stroke, and other interesting health difficulties.
At my annual VA checkup in April I weighed in at 235 pounds. My A1C indicated I was diabetic. My eye check was a relief; no damage SO FAR. I'd like to continue to pass eye exams and flight physicals, so I realized it was time to get serious.

We've been here in Gilbert, AZ two months, and have been walking from 3 to 6 miles daily depending on mood.
The dog enjoys it. Us? Ehh... At times it's hard to get in the mood.
But this is no longer a game.
This morning I got on my scale.
It read 199.

And my blood glucose reading is back in the normal range.
I feel great. My stomach has flattened. Sara Jean is pleased.
But WOW... I want pizza, ice cream, mashed potatoes, wine/beer!

My intent is for my scale to say 185.
When I get there I'll have to take a hard look at a maintenance diet.

Life ain't fair, is it?
And as you've no doubt heard, getting old(er) sux.

03 February 2019

Radio Ga-Ga

I come from the age of vacuum operated windshield wipers, balloon-tire bicycles, and TV Repairmen.
Our family had one TV. I'm afraid my memory is faulty, but I remember the set was so small it had a handle on top so it could be carried from one room to another... (12-inch?).
It had vacuum tubes. 

You'd turn the thing on and initially there'd be a tiny dot appear on the center of the screen. Then when the tubes warmed up, which took about 30 seconds, the black and white(!) picture would appear.
The integral speaker was probably five inches or so in diameter.
We knew nothing different. We thought it was great.
I LOVED "The Steve Allen Show"!

Vacuum tubes wore out.
Local hardware and drug stores had machines that could test 'em, and had replacement tubes for sale.
When the set failed you'd remove all the tubes and carry them in a brown paper sack for testing.
If the tubes all tested "normal" your heart sank 'cause there was one recourse-
You called the TV Repairman.

This guy was always covered up with work. It would inevitably take him DAYS to work on your set.
We knew nothing different...
Grit your teeth and tolerate the denial of stimulation.
And resort to the next-best-thing-
The radio.
AM radio.

In my adolescence, Soap Operas were still being played during mid-day.
I can remember my babysitter listening to "Guiding Light" at Noon.
Mornings were devoted to Ruth Lyon's breakfast show broadcast out of Cincinnati.
Evenings, DJ's would spin records.
During summertime we listened to the broadcast of White Sox games out of Chicago.
With no TV, we accepted what was broadcast and were glad to have it.


It's very odd now how the memories of those "No TV" periods are some of my fondest.

I think of 'em every time I hear-
"G'night John-Boy.
G'night Grandpa!"



29 January 2019

Give Me Sanctuary!

Analogy-

Mom and Dad owned lakefront property.
A breeding pair of Canada Geese started feeding on their land. Mom and Dad, (wildlife lovers), thought they were beautiful, and bought a 

50-lb bag of cracked corn to entice the geese to stick around. It worked. The breeding pair hatched a brood of 8 goslings and Mom and Dad enjoyed watching the family thrive and grow.
Winter came, and all the geese flew to warmer climes.

Next Spring, Mama and Papa goose came back. The eight goslings also returned, bringing their mates with them... eighteen birds in total.
Mom and Dad bought more cracked corn. By mid-summer they, retired and on a limited budget, became pretty vocal about the cost of feeding their adopted, feathered friends.
Mama and Papa goose and all the other gooses had broods of 6-8 goslings. Dad watched as an adult from one family attacked and drowned one of the little ones from another family.
What uncivilized behavior! This, and the fact that their waterfront was now covered in goose excrement, began to give them concern.
Winter came. Geese departed. Spring returned.
And so did ALL the geese.
It was impossible to count them all.
Mom and Dad called the State Department of Natural Resources.
No one knows how they did it or what they did, but the geese disappeared.
And Mom and Dad's retirement funds were no longer spent on cracked corn.

Psychology and Sociology 101:

You get MORE of what you reward.
We must insure that we reward behavior that makes the world a better place.





11 January 2019

Our Carbon Footprint

Five years ago I bought a Yamaha "Super Tenere" adventure bike to leave behind here in Phoenix for my son to use, and for us to use while we're here during Winter. Until now the bike has given us 30,00 trouble-free miles and has been a pleasure to ride.
When our son went out to ride just before Christmas, the bike failed to start. The starter would spin the motor and the bike would cough as if a cylinder was firing now and then, but that was as close as it would come to running. Holidays approaching, we postponed taking the bike to the shop thinking they'd probably be working with a skeleton crew 'til after New Year's. Still, we delivered the bike to them on the 30th of December.

Nearly two weeks later we hadn't heard from them. We called.
"We'd like you to come see this!"
Uh-Oh.

In the shop, the bike looks like a bomb hit it...
Side covers off. Gas tank off. Air cleaner system off. Radiators (two of 'em) detached and laid off and out of the way. Both throttle bodies- ditto.
It looks sad.

But all this work exposes the intake system, and allows us to look at the intake valves.
And they are a MESS. There's a half inch of carbon caked around the stem, extending outward almost a quarter inch. An accumulation of gunk like this HAD to have had an effect on the gas/fuel mixture entering the bike's combustion chamber!
What would cause such a phenomenon?

"How do you ride this bike?"

My son has used to bike mostly to commute to/from work. He rides city streets 10 minutes to the freeway, then spends another 20 minutes riding 65+- mph there. At this speed the bike is turning about 2,000 RPM.
And there, apparently, is the problem-
He should be putting more stress on this engine!

Our parents used to talk about "blowing the engine out" now and then by taking the car onto the open road and "opening her up".
Turns out that's true.

And this is why it was a good idea for Granny to take her "Brand-new, shiny red, Super Stock Dodge" to the drags. (Thanks, Jan and Dean!)

And our behavior on the bike will have to change.