Sunday, December 20, 2009
Now, some random thoughts from this week's headlines.
First, Tiger. Basically, who cares? The man can play golf. The man can finagle a bunch of great advertising gigs. But that doesn't mean he was smart enough to figure out the first rule of survival: Don't piss off your wife!
And there are reports that he paid some of his partners in extra-curricular activities as much as $20k a month to keep quiet. Obviously, it wasn't enough.
Next, there was an item in last Sunday's Boston Globe about a principal who banned the word 'meep' from his high school. Apparently, the students were using it constantly, against the requests of faculty and staff, to the point of disrupting education. Well, obviously this principal never had kids of his own or he would have known that if he ever wanted to do anything to perpetuate the use of the word 'meep' (used in both the context of Beaker of Sesame Street and the Roadrunner of cartoon fame), banning the use of the word would do it. These are kids. It's in their genetic makeup to do things that annoy adults. And if they know it annoys them, all the better. Just ignore it and it will go away. Just like goldfish swallowing, DA haircuts, Beatle haircuts, Valley Girl speak and all the other silly things kids have been doing all their lives.
There was the story of a rescue effort in Oregon in the middle of the week. Some hikers were lost on Mount Hood and the body of one of them had been found. But conditions had worsened so that the search for the other two had to be put on hold. That got me to thinking. I know everyone has their own hobbies and some people need the challenge of overcoming great obstacles to feel fulfilled. But when that person's hobby starts to endanger the lives of others, I have to say, 'Wait a minute. What gives you the right?' The caring side of me wants to say I don't want to stand around and do nothing when someone is dying up there on that mountain. But the cynical side of me says, 'Well what do you expect? It's a mountain over 11,000' high in December in North America. If you decide to hike up it and things go wrong, why do you think a bunch of other people are gonna want to hike up looking for you?' I'm torn on this one. But I do hope the cost of the rescue effort is billed to 'em.
And my favorite headline this week: "22 million missing Bush White House e-mails found" Well, I'm shocked, SHOCKED that it is even possible that 22 million e-mails went missing. Of course, the spin doctors got to work on this right away, saying that the e-mails were found while Bush was still in office. That may be, since the law-suit that instigated the search for them was filed while he was in office, but it is just now being settled, which is why it is news now. But the best part of the story are some of the quotes from the article, which had me doing the proverbial ROTFLMAO:
'Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the Bush administration had been dismissive of congressional requests that the administration recover the e-mails. Leahy said it was "another example of the Bush administration's reflexive resistance to congressional oversight and the public's right to know." '
'Meredith Fuchs, general counsel to the National Security Archive, said "many poor choices were made during the Bush administration and there was little concern about the availability of e-mail records despite the fact that they were contending with regular subpoenas for records and had a legal obligation to preserve their records."'
' "We may never discover the full story of what happened here," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director. "It seems like they just didn't want the e-mails preserved." '
'Sloan said the latest count of misplaced e-mails "gives us confirmation that the Bush administration lied when they said no e-mails were missing." '
Every time I read those paragraphs, I want to say something. But nothing I can think of is any near as funny as the quotes themselves. All I can say is 'Congratulations to all us for surviving those eight years. It was tough, but we made it! Barely!'
Friday, November 27, 2009
The same idea was commercialized some years ago when there were a series of popular albums called "Hooked on Classics". Listening to them now, they seem a little hokey, what with the synthesized rock beat, but they showed a similar point. People that 'won't listen to classical music because it's too boring' WILL listen to it if is 'transposed' into a format they're familiar with.
Another example of this is the MTV (or was it VH1) series called Unplugged that was on a few years ago. One of the all-time classic rock songs was 'Layla' by Derek & The Dominoes. Years later, when Eric Clapton re-did it on Unplugged, it became a classic version by itself. It's just a good song. Period.
I have a gift card for iTunes that I plan to use to build another album of blue grass versions of rock favorites. It WILL include 'Layla'.
Friday, November 20, 2009
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'At the same time, even women who are profoundly tired of the fact that we have to be overqualified to win are turned off by a celebrity pol who still will not admit she was wildly underqualified.'
Like I said the other day, she just doesn't get the fact that she just doesn't get it!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Now trains obviously run with steel wheels on steel rails, which sounds like there wouldn't be a lot of friction to create traction. But with the high concentration of weight on a very small point of contact, it works. Older diesel locomotives have an adhesion ratio of about 25%, meaning that the wheels won't slip until the tractive force reaches about 25% of the weight on the wheels. Newer locomotives with more sophistocated anti-wheelslip systems can reach an adhesion ration of as much as 40%. But in the fall, add a little water to that waxy buildup on the rails, and adhesion can drop below 10%. It can get real fun trying to haul a freight train up a hill this time of year. I've had instances where just putting the locomotive in gear, without even opening the throttle, has caused runaway wheelslips. Look out the window and you're barely moving, but look at the speedometer and it says 40 or 50 or more. Kind of like trying to drive a car on glare ice.
Leaf wax plus a little rain or frost. I'm telling you, it's better than Teflon.
Now the funny part is that every year, this comes as a surprise to the railroad. Every year, the leaves fall. Every year, some time during that 2-3 week period when the leaves are falling, it's either gonna be mild and rainy or cold and frosty. And every year, for the first couple days like this, trains stall on the hills. Every year, the railroad reacts by adding more locomotives to the trains. But even so, the engineers have to be light on the throttle, as too much torque just causes more wheelslip. So every year, the dispatching office wants to know why we're losing time in the hilly sections. The only part about this that surprises me is that it surprises the railroad ... EVERY YEAR!
Wait 'til they see what falls out of the sky in December! And that will be just as much of a surprise!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I can deal with guests who talk in the hallways, not thinking that there might be some people trying to sleep. After all, 99% of the world actually does something crazy, like sleep at night! I can deal with the traffic on the street. I can deal with occasional work projects, both in and out of the hotel. I can deal with a high school cheerleading squad practicing in the parking lot on Saturday morning before a state tournament.
I CAN'T deal with guests who are still partying at 4 AM when I am checking in. I CAN'T deal with a pack of junior high school age boys playing hide-and-seek unsupervised in the hallways of all three wings of the hotel. I can't deal with housekeeping staff that can't keep their voices down in the hallways.
And I ESPECIALLY can't deal with housekeeping staff that knock on my door at noon to ask if I need housekeeping services when I have a 'Do Not Disturb' sign hanging on the door! And then knocking three or four times if I don't answer. What part of 'Do Not Disturb' don't you understand!!!!!!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This year we chose to head north to the far reaches of New Hampshire for a couple days. We stayed at a lodge that overlooks First Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg. While the weather wasn't the greatest, the leaves were right at their peak in that area.
Before long, we saw the first sign we were in a high-moose-activity area: two pair of long, black skid marks at the top of a rise in the road. Only a trucker standing on the brakes after suddenly finding a moose in the road can make that mark. Sure enough, right after that, we saw the next sign: a car headed in the opposite direction stopped in the middle of the road (even though there are signs stating "No stopping on pavement" every couple hundred feet) with the high-beams on. Now the first rule of moose-watching is that when you see this, you slow WAY down or even stop, until you find out where the moose they are looking at is. I stopped, and after my eyes adjusted to the ultra-high-intensity high beams the nimnul heading south refused to dim, I realized it was the right thing to do. Not 20 feet in front of the car were the silhouettes of both bull and cow moose in our lane, just standing there people watching. I occasionally saw a flash of light from the other car, so I imagine they got some good photographs of my headlights. We were not able to get any photos, but here is one of a young bull we took a few hundred yards north of this same spot three summers ago.
Friday, October 2, 2009
"Letterboxing, at its basic, is a like a treasure hunt type game. Small boxes are hidden in various locations—usually outdoors, though many are planted indoors as well—and the creator of the box will release clues so others can go out and find them later. The box is expected to have a logbook that finders can log into and a unique stamp, usually hand-carved, that the finder can stamp into their own personal logbook as a record of all the letterboxes they've found. Most letterboxers have a unique stamp to represent themselves, called a signature stamp, they stamp into the logbooks found inside letterboxes so others who find the letterbox later know they found it." Atlas Quest web-site
There are many web-sites devoted to this hobby, but two of the most popular are Atlas Quest (http://www.atlastquest.com/) and Letterboxing North America (usually referred to as LbNA)(http://www.letterboxing.org/). The two web-sites co-exist and, as is usual among hobbyists, both have their followings. In fact, many letterboxes are listed on both sites or cross-referenced from one site to the other. Much useful information about the hobby can be gleaned from those two sites.
Letterboxing actually evolved from a man named James Perrot leaving his calling card in a bottle at Cranmere Pool on Dartmoor in England in late 1854, and invited friends to find it. Later someone replaced the bottle with a tin box where visitors could leave self-addressed post-cards for subsequent visitors to mail back. Hence, the name letterboxing. Since then, Dartmoor has become the 'Mecca' of the letterboxing world. It really began to take off in the United States when the Smithsonian Magazine ran an article about the Dartmoor boxers in 1994.
While there are some purists for whom letterboxing refers only to the actual planting or finding of hidden boxes, there are others off-shoot activities such as letterboxer gatherings, exchanges, letterbox trading cards, postal rings and even virtual letterboxes.
Many letterboxers are also stamp carvers. Some of the letterboxers I have met both in person and on-line are 'blow-your-mind-away' artists. Recently, I've tried my hand at carving some stamps, and while I don't consider myself an artist at it yet, I do admit I'm getting better at it. Here is an image of the latest stamp I completed:
The tools I used are an X-acto knife and a set of Speed-Ball linoleum carving gouges. In fact, other than the hollow plastic handle instead of the wood handle, these are the same gouges that my brother used to do linoleum block carving back when he was in junior high (He let me make one with his stuff back then.). As I keep working at it, I'll post some more images later.
The other thing about letterboxing that attracts me is that the search for these hidden boxes (and actually, Tupperware is not the preferred brand of containers for hiding the stamps and logbooks in; the title phrase is from a discussion on one of the sites) often takes me to places I'd never go to otherwise. A few months ago, my wife Patty and I went on vacation in Arizona and New Mexico. We thought we'd take along the clues to find "one or two" boxes. It turned out we did nothing but look for boxes and ended up finding almost 50 in the one week we were there. We went on a lot of back roads and saw a lot of things we wouldn't have seen if we had just stuck with the books from the Dept. of Tourism. We also met eight very nice letterboxers that were only just bytes in cyberspace to us before this trip.
I've only been involved with this hobby for about a year and a half, but I can see that my interest in it will last for quite a while.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
One of the chapters is about side dishes to go with all that luscious meat. In that chapter is a recipe for Boston style baked beans, which while they go good with barbecue, the long baking time puts a lot of heat in a summer kitchen. It looked very intriguing in that they don't require you to soak the beans overnight first. (One of the things I like about America's Test Kitchen publications is that not only do they do a lot of experimenting to make the recipes come out right, they explain the results and why a test did or did not work. I'm always fascinated by how things work.)
So this simple recipe involved rendering some salt pork and bacon, softening an onion in that fat and then adding water, dry beans, molasses, brown mustard and salt. Nothing else. Bake for about 5-6 hours and voila! They came out very, very good. The only thing is... they were, shall we say, potent. Thank heavens I don't work in a tightly closed environment! While they were much less work than other recipes I've tried, I'm wondering if I should blend the recipe with another one I have that involves soaking in such a manner to turn down the volume of the music.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Move to a rural location - We've talked about Vermont, but western Massachusetts has it attraction as well. I'd like a place with about an acre of land, maybe a little more, that has some attraction to a wooded area, so that there is a chance of seeing wildlife in the yard. A place that has a sunny area to have a vegetable garden. I'll probably have lots of flowers, too. A mountain view or a broad valley view would be nice, but not necessary. Heat will be provided primarily by a wood stove. The kind that takes real logs, not wood pellets. I want the ambience that comes from the occasional wisp of smoke that escapes and reminds you where the heat is coming from.
The place will have to have a large, well laid-out kitchen. I love to cook and can't wait to try some of the many recipes I've found that take more time and effort. It's tough cooking for two, but lately we've found that it's just as easy to cook for 6-8 and freeze the leftovers for other, more hurried days. I'll probably keep that up, but I'll change 'hurried' to 'lazy'.
I want to preserve the produce from the garden; make pickles, can string beans, tomatoes, freeze berries. There's just something about the fact that later in the year, when using these products, knowing that they came from your own labor, makes them better than anything bought at the store.
Travel a bit - I love to fly, but unfortunately, that costs money, but I'm sure I could afford it once in a while. In the meantime, we've suddenly come across the idea of getting a 'teardrop' trailer. That's more than a pop-up tent trailer, but not all the way up to being a travel trailer. In most that we have seen, the galley is under a hinged awning that opens up from the rear of the trailer, so that using it is outdoors, but under a cover. In considering this, a nice pick-up truck with a cover over the bed to hold all the incidentals that go along with a camping trip would be nice to pull the trailer with.
There are so many places we'd like to go in the United States and Canada that it's almost impossible to start naming them. And most of them aren't 'tourist destinations', just some place I'd like to visit. Seattle, the northern plains states, the plains provinces, Prince Edward Island, Louisiana, parts of Texas, British Columbia. Oh, the list could go on forever. Not to mention, returning to Scotland, southern Germany and the southern parts of England we never got to on our previous trips over the Atlantic.
Obviously, I plan on reading. I do that now, but I'll have time to do even more. I'd like to take some college courses. Some of the things that I'm interested in are the same subjects that I hated when I was in school before: History, particularly 20th century; Math, another try at figuring out what is so confusing to me about Trig and Calculus, perhaps even some classic Literature.
I think I'll also have time to improve my skill at stamp-carving. After doing letterboxing for a year, I started carving some of my own stamps. It's easy to do, but hard to do well. And some of the work I've seen others do just blows me away.
And mostly, I want to just sit and watch the weather, the change of the seasons, the birds on the feeders and just reflect on life and how good it's been to me.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Immediately what popped into my head was a new addition to an old adage I have heard:
"Them that can, do. Them that can't, teach. Them that are experts, but got fired or resigned and now can't find work doing what they did, become expert reporters."
Think about how many ex-NFL head coaches are on ESPN and CBS Sports now. How many ex-MLB managers and general managers are on the sports shows as well. And Ollie North ain't the only expert reporter on network news. Am I wrong?
Friday, September 11, 2009
"It looked to me as though those men were saying to the country as a whole, 'we are Republicans first. We represent you here in Congress not as citizens of the U.S. in a period of crisis, but as members of a political party which seeks primarily to promote its own partisan interests.' This is to me shocking and terrifying. There was running through my mind as I watched them, in what would have been an act of childish spite, if it had not been such a serious moment in history, the lines of a song which was popular when I was young: 'I don't want to play in your yard. I don't love you any more."
Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day January 6, 1941
Now, I'm not saying that the Democrats are all lily-white and innocent, but it sure seems to me that the Republicans sure have a thing for saying 'No' just for the sake of it. If a Democrat pointed out that the sun comes up in the east, you could probably get a complete episode from Rush Limbaugh explaining why that's just liberal untruth. It's almost as if ER had known Rush 10 years before he was born!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
TIME Sept. 14, 2009 edition.
Shares of Pfizer (PFE 16.21, -0.18, -1.10%) were down a fraction Wednesday morning, after the Justice Department announced what it said was the largest health-care-fraud settlement in the agency's history.
Now, I don't know everything about stocks and investing, but if a company has to pay a nagging little fine of $2.3 billion (with a 'b') and the stock's value only drops a shade over 1%, that tells me that the investors realize that this is really only a drop in the bucket for Pfizer. For years, we have all been hearing that the high cost of pharmaceuticals in this country are because of the high cost of meeting federal drug safety standards and testing. Well, if that were true, how did Pfizer have so much money they could afford to pay this fine so easily? Those high prices they were collecting should have already been spent on that testing and regulation.
Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but perhaps the high cost of drugs is so that the company can line its (and its investors' pockets)?
That issue of TIME I quoted above has 10 1/2 pages of ads for 5 prescription-only drugs from 4 different manufacturers (none of them Pfizer; they must be broke this week). TIME doesn't do that for pennies! Why advertise to the public? If I have to see a doctor to get these medicines, just tell HIM about them. That's what I pay him and the pharmacist for: to tell me what medicines are available for my particular condition and to prescribe what THEY feel is the best treatment for it.
I drive a train for a living. Yes, the company I work for handles only freight, but if I was running a passenger train, I really wouldn't want my doctor, who happened to be riding that day, give me suggestions as to how to run the train. In the same way, I'm not sure he would be real receptive to me 'asking my doctor' about Drug X or Treatment Y. So why do the pharmaceutical companies spend all this money on advertising in non-medical journals? To get more people to pressure their doctor to prescribe over-priced medicines! So they can line their pockets some more! So when they get caught doing something the FDA doesn't like, they can pay a fine without hurting the stockholders!
And one other thing. What line in the budget in Washington gets the $2.3b? I'll bet it would make a nice down payment on the proposed health plans Congress is supposed to be working on!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
- A son, brother, father, grandfather, nephew, cousin, uncle, husband, friend.
- Almost 56.
- A locomotive engineer.
- A reader.
- A pet owner.
- One who likes to travel.
- A letterboxer.
- A railfan.
- Interested in how things work.
- A foodie (but not a gourmet).
- A cookbook collector (kinda goes with #7 and #13).
- Somewhat cynical.
- A should-be citizen of Missouri (Show me! Prove it to me!)
- A union member.
- A list maker (you noticed?).
- A baseball fan. (Red Sox mostly, but not completely fanatical about that.)
- A nature watcher.
There may be a few more things, but they aren't coming to mind right now. I'm going to use this list to come up with ideas of what to post about, so you can expect to see some expounding on this list.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Oh, wait. Wrong forum! Anyway, welcome to my blog. I was urged to start this by one of my sons when I complained that something I said as an original idea was posted the same day by a 'professional' blogger. He said I should quit my day job and become a rich blogger myself.
I'm not thinking of going that far, but upon further thought, he was right. Why not share the thoughts going through my head at different times? So here it is.
What you'll see are stories from my past, random thoughts (and rants) that come to mind, opinions on current events, etc. (with plenty in the etc. department).
Your feedback will always be welcome. Even if I don't agree with you, I always enjoy a good discussion.
So let the fun begin!