Thursday, July 30, 2009
I woke up with the remnants of a particularly insistent dream yesterday morning. Most of the details became foggy almost immediately, but it seemed I was being quizzed about something very very important. Perhaps a game show. The question was: "Where would you find a Jeep on the moon?"
Well, this was supposed to be soluble if I knew my moon facts - craters and such. Welp, I'm a failure there. So, as I was groggily coming to my senses (as it were, it's debatable if I ever do), this search string was imbedded as Very Important.
OK, so I entered it into the Crackberry, since the laptop was shut down. Something was up with Crackberry service north of Atlanta, and nothing was returned. I eventually had to do a hard reset to get it to find anything.
Finally, I got search service. Was this question some portent of the future? Was there some sort of enlightment enclosed in this simple yet complex question? Would I become rich and famous as a soothsayer?
Of course not. It was nonsense. My brain was just screwing with me.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
So, I and two others are headed to Savannah, GA to deliver some tanks. It's all business - we aren't gonna go to the beach or sightsee - the truck parking at those sort of things is usually non existent. We'll get down there as quickly as possible and point the rigs back to the house.
But, it will be kinda cool - I've never been that far "back East" before. Western Ohio or Western Kentucky is my benchmark at the moment. My alarm is set for 4:30am so we can leave as early as possible tomorrow morning - gonna be some long days! So, my 'net presence is probably gonna be pretty limited for a bit! Cya later!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
A Public Service Announcement ....
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I got my start in trucking working for Ronnie - he is a custom harvester, farmer, and trucker. I was in his employ for ten years. I've got to say that he was the best person or organization to write a paycheck to me. I quit his employ (with his encouragement and approval) to work for the USPS - he couldn't begin to afford the benefits I got there, he knew it, and wanted the best for me. Perhaps had I never worked for him, I could have stomached the USPS and their attitude towards their charges, but I'd experienced being treated like a human being. That was pretty hard to give up.
I'm still friends of the family - I've spent many a holiday at the Burns residence over the years. He's a Ford fanatic, and we trade barbs during Nascar season about the inevitable Chevy vs Ford rivalry. I've always known if I need advice, he's there for me.
Always a workaholic, age has slowed him somewhat. He isn't as active in custom harvesting or trucking. He likes to do all his farming. He's had knee replacements in the past few years. Grandkids figure large in his life. He and his wife Kay have a model marriage. They started with nothing, and have made quite a life for themselves and their family.
Don't think it was all sunshine and lollipops between us. I can get pretty mouthy, and did so on plenty of occasions when I felt something wasn't right. That I didn't get mad and quit or he didn't fire me says something right there.
I'd imagine y'all can hazard a guess that I admire him greatly. I do, and I'll stand with him against any detractors. He's a hell of a guy, and the fact he's made it to seventy is a cause for celebration. Here's to many more - and if you know him at all, wish him a happy birthday and tell him I sent ya!
Oh, and he'll never see this. That household is completely internet free! I just got off the phone with him and said what needed to be said.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
That this would be in a place of honor in my lottery fueled game room in the new house.
It's an Ultimate Arcade II Cabinet MAME - which means it has a 'puter running MAME software capable of running old video arcade games. It also has a decent sound system - which, considering the tech at the time, mostly needed to be loud. More importantly, it comes with a bunch of games preloaded - some really take me back!
Most important (in my mind) is Defender. No keyboard or commercial joystick ever really replicated the original arcade version. It took mad skilz to play that game with it's myriad buttons - I could and did "roll it over." Other blasts from the past include Joust, Robotron, Sinistar and Spy Hunter - some of my old faves. There are several others, but these would do. All it needs now is Galaga, Ms Pac Man, Centipede, Missile Command - oh well, ya get the idear. And Gorf - that one is pretty hard to find. In my ideal post lottery winning days, I could just purchase the necessary MAME goodies to play those as well. Actually, just between you and me - if I resurrected some old drives, I'd find some of those old MAME games I downloaded back in the day, when they could be picked up for free. The new games are certainly impressive with their superior graphics, sound and so on - but they leave me cold.
I can remember the first good (Pong got boring real quick) video arcade game I ever played - it was a two person console version of Tank at a resort hotel near World's of Fun in KC. Our high school Honor Society sponsored that trip, and some of us future geeks managed to tear ourselves away from that game long enough to ogle some of our hawt classmates in their bikinis. Just barely.
I guess my chances of winning the fool's tax would increase dramatically if I would actually buy a ticket once in a while. I suppose I'm getting tighter than bark on a tree in my old age....
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
link The official "clean" video here
This song has just enough southern rock roots and overall whimsical lyrics to make the rap portion of it's origins palatable to this ol' redneck/ex-hippie. Rehab managed to find a pretty good balance between self parody and the blues to make this work.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
So, I laboriously pecked out a post on the chiclet keyboard, and hit the publish button. I was presented with the previous screen with about eight words of my first sentence. I thought - this is Alltel, and I was in a fairly poor coverage area, so maybe it has to have an EDVO signal. I typed it all out again, and when I had the required signal I sent 'er off again. Same result. Nothing showed up on this page. On the off chance there was some kind of browser cache issue, I shut the phone off and pulled the battery. Nope, it didn't publish.
Doing a bit of Googling just now, I find I have to email my posts - I've already tried that with Letter Me Later to publish on a schedule, and it didn't render HTML worth a crap. I've also learned perhaps the Opera browser for Blackberry might work.
All I know is for mature technology, it ain't worth what fills the cow lot. Internet at our fingertips? We gotta long way to go, baybee. Brain to internet interface? I doubt I'll volunteer.
And here I thought we'd have flying cars by now. Gah.
Monday, July 20, 2009
When I started driving twenty five years ago, trucks looked pretty much the same as they do now, but I can assure you there are major differences. The powerplants are similar in that they are large displacement diesel motors, but their fuel management is far different. Older motors had mechanical fuel injection - Caterpillar's used a fuel pump that precisely metered the fuel charge to each injector, and most of the rest used a common rail - where fuel was pumped to a certain pressure and the injector was timed to release a certain amount of fuel. Now, it's all electrically managed by a computer. Timing the injection can be altered. Some of the earlier motors could do that mechanically, but not in response to real time conditions, plus there was added complexity and thus added costs to maintain.
You can see I'm leaning towards today's electronically managed motors, and you'd be right. The older motors could be repaired by a shade tree mechanic, they could be "modified" to put out more power, and they sounded pretty good. Newer motors sound like washing machines and dryers. They start much easier in adverse conditions, make better fuel mileage (until the last round of eco rules, anyways), can be made idiot proof for fleets and so much more. It's a waste of time letting the Cat I drive go beyond 1700rpm - it pulls far better at lower rpms. My fav Cummins would have melted down turning so slow - it liked 2100 a lot better. I've mentioned this before considering "Which Diesel is Best" a while ago. But, there is a trade off - the complexity and the planned obsolescence inherent in the direction the industry has taken assures that in years to come the lack of parts and the improvements in technology will make these motors boat anchors. They won't be worth fixing.
Tech improvements haven't been in engine management alone. Another big improvement has been in suspensions. Most older suspensions are variations on leaf springs. Most common is the Reyco style, often called a four spring - and while just about all suspension brands make this variety, Reyco is to this style as Kleenex is to facial tissue.
This is a representation of a trailer suspension, but this was also used on the drive axles of tractors as well. This was probably the most common, and the most "comfortable" of the leaf spring varieties. It wasn't very good on extremely rough ground - the center rocker would allow one axle to raise or lower a limited amount. Wheels often were lifted clear of the surface - not a good thing with drive axles. The free wheel would spin, and the truck was "stuck."
So, there was another style - the Hendrickson or "walking beam."
The axles mounted to the beam can "walk" over uneven ground far better than with a Reyco with the side effect of a very rough ride. That big stack of leaves just didn't give much. Mack trucks have used their own variant referred to as the Camelback suspension. It's pretty much the same as the Hendrickson, but with this kind of leaf array:
This is reminiscent of a camel's hump - thus the name. The advantage of turning the spring over is to lower the frame of the trailer or truck while allowing the same ground clearance. Tough? Yep. Long term effects on a driver's lower back? Not so good.
There is another style of suspension that bears mentioning - the torsion bar:
There were several varieties - this one has the "tension" in the shackles. Some had arms hooked to a steel bar mounted lengthwise along the frame - the suspension would force the bar to twist as the axles moved. Kenworth (IIRC) used that variety. Supposedly, if it was set up and maintained correctly the ride was pretty good.
All of these various suspensions are still sold and serviced, but the air ride (technically air spring) suspensions have taken over the market. For good reason - they ride better. Much better. The first benefit that comes to my mind is driver comfort - but there are other advantages. Older trucks eventually are just beaten apart by the rough miles. Maintenance costs across the board are less as a result of using air ride. Cargo is delivered with less damage due to trailers bouncing off the ground when hitting potholes. This is the most common style:
This is a trailer suspension - not only are there four air springs, there are four torque arms and two locating arms, plus four shock absorbers. Far, far better than bare springs.
This is Peterbilt's new Flex Air - you can see the yellow curved springs will allow further movement in response to rough roads.
This is Kenworth's latest variation of their "Eight Bagger" suspension. It's heavier than the four bag variety, and opinions are mixed as to the ride effectiveness. I can tell you KWs feel more "tippy" while cornering with this suspension. It's just another thing to get used to driving different brands of trucks.
Not only have the suspensions gone to air, but the cabs are suspended as well. Usually, the cab pivots on two bushings mounted to the frame at the firewall and have a small air spring under the rear, as well as a shock absorber. This has led to a more complex shift lever - in the old trucks, the shift lever was fixed to the tranny through the top gates. Now, the lever rides with the cab. If the lever was still directly attached to the transmission, it would appear to be bobbing and weaving in the cab all the time. Might be kinda hard to shift, and it might hurt if your hand was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This development has led to cabs lasting much longer. A lot of the old cabover trucks would literally split in certain high stress areas. Don't believe me? If you can find an old Freightliner cabover, look at the upper corners of the radiator opening. If it has any miles at all on it, the aluminum will have a large stress crack.
The NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) of cabs has come a long way, baybee. Doors can be shut without a windup like a pitcher in baseball, slamming them home just to close 'em. There are less rattles - but with plastics there are a fair amount of squeaks, irritatingly enough. But you can hear those squeaks, not like in the old cabs. When the windows are rolled up, it's pretty quiet in today's OTR rigs.
HVAC has also improved markedly. Everyone's favorite classic - the 359 Pete - only had two registers on top of the dash to cool or heat you, defrost the windows, or whatever. They were amazingly adjustable, but there wasn't a lot of air. In the 9900i I drive there are four separate dash registers, long slits along the windshield for the defroster, and several heater registers. The fans move a lot of air, too.
Most trucks come with compression brakes (aka "Jake" brakes) and cruise control. The electronic management revolution has also improved the old Jake brake - they actually do something other than just make noise - they really help brake a truck. While the old Jakes helped, the weren't as effective as today's. The new higher horsepower Cummins ISX motors have a 600hp brake rating, even if the motor isn't rated that high for power. The ACERT Cat I drive now can be run one gear higher than the older C15s I've driven dropping off "The Hill" (the Rockies). And they worked far better than the old mechanical motors. Cruise control has made a huge difference in driver comfort. Back when my bladder could take it, I'd drive five hours straight - but my knees were so stiff it was a toss up whether I'd fall out or step out of the cab. Not a problem these days.
These are examples of "Dayton" wheels. The center is a cast web design, and the rim is two or three piece steel. The wheel fits on curved pads at the end of the spokes, and the rims are held by L shaped wedges fixed by a nut. Dual wheels are on wider hubs with a spacer ring between the two wheel rims. All these pieces and parts don't always go on straight - I'm sure some of you have seen some old truck driving down the road with wobbling wheels. So, triple digit speeds with these babies is a risky proposition. That isn't the half of it - the rims are "split." Which means they consist of two or three pieces. Both examples here are two piece rims - you can see the splits at about the seven o'clock position. When the tire is broken down, the split ring has to be hammered loose then pried out so the tire (and tube - these puppies can't be tubeless at all) can be removed and patched or replaced. When they are reassembled, it's a damn good idea to put them in a "cage" - a structure made of steel pipe designed to hold in the parts if they decide to "blow." If the ring doesn't catch just right, the air pressure will force it out of position, often at a high rate of speed. I've seen cages made of some pretty serious pipe bent up pretty good from one of these old rims letting go. I don't miss these things at all.
They were mostly supplanted by Budd style wheels with their unique fasteners.
Budd wheels are "hub piloted" which means the hub is the centering mechanism. The inner dual wheel is held by the "thimble," then the outer wheel is mounted on the thimbles with the cap nut holding it in place. Single wheels just used the outer cap nut on large diameter studs. Wheels are one piece - no split rims here. While this design was a major improvement - it had the problem of additional complexity. As one who has changed many a tire, I can tell you the thimble is the weak point of this design - they often shear the square head end off during removal. This leaves a stub with no way of attaching an air gun or much of any power tool. It was tightened by a big air gun, but it took sweat and blood to get it off. Usually, heating it with a torch and using a pipe wrench and cheater pipe were required. Cursing seemed to help as well.
This is the "metric" fastener. The wheels are now stud piloted, which means the stud holes and the studs match very closely. Both wheels on a dual setup use a common stud, and the single nut/rotating washer assembly clamp the whole thing down. Front axles don't require different studs with this system, and there are less parts to break. It's turned out to be a pretty foolproof setup.
One more thing comes to mind when considering "modern" improvements - the brake slack adjusters. Air brakes, just like any other brakes, require adjustment. Automotive drum brakes have a hidden "star" adjuster that tightens the clearance. Air brakes are external - the adjuster is attached to the rod coming from the air brake pod. The old manual adjusters were pretty foolproof - but you had to climb under the truck with a 9/16" wrench and adjust the brakes at least once a week. If you didn't, you would eventually effectively have no brakes at all. Back in the day, there were automatic adjusters, but they were pretty much failures. Now they work great. I don't have to wrestle my fat ass under the truck once a week these days, which suits me fine. I have to go under when the oil is changed to grease the u-joints and other various moving parts, so if a brake is out of whack with plenty of lining - replace the defective slack adjuster.
Power steering is another arena of improvement. Lots of trucks even into the nineties had Power Steering by Armstrong. Most of the time they weren't that bad - as long as you were moving. Corners had to be thought out a bit better - it took a lot of winding on a manual steering truck to drastically alter it's course. Lock to lock and all. One truck I drove back in the day had air assist. Which meant if I wasn't conservative with my steering while backing, I'd run the truck out of air.
These are the main areas I think of as improvements in technology, where I don't feel that going retro is a good idea. Most improvements are incremental, but one day ya kinda look around and things have really changed. As far as this tubby trucker is concerned, it's for the better.
And just as an aside - it's a lot easier for women to drive a truck these days. I mean that in the physical sense - you don't have to be a strong man to horse a rig around any more. Putting up with truck stop cretins that think they're God's gift to women, and other such misogynistic assholes are another issue entirely. In my mind, that is the area of most concern for a woman considering a trucking career. Actually handling the equipment is not much of a problem any more. If a fat old bastard with no grip and no endurance can do it, no reason why a woman should have any doubts.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Several cars and trucks flashed their headlights at us, so we knew something was up. When we got to Walton, KS, there was a line of traffic. We figured it was a wreck. Then, we saw the LifeWatch helicopter circle in for a landing. That's it lined up above the water tower.
Between the two lines of traffic is a crushed white Suburban. It looked like a giant foot had stepped on the driver's side front quarter panel. It had originally been headed eastbound. It was pointed southwesterly when it came to rest.
We sat in line for about an hour, and this is the truck that the 'Burb' hit. I snapped the pic as we were driving by (not too well, either - I was hoping to get the Suburban on the rollaway). Apparently, a grandmother and her granddaughter, approximate age eleven, were in the Suburban. The woman fell asleep and hit the truck slightly in front of the drivers, knocking the axles loose, breaking the wheels and knocking the tires loose from the wheels. You can see the trailer wheels were damaged as well. Grandma rode the helicopter, granddaughter rode in an ambulance, and the trucker was shaken but unhurt.
The speed limit is forty five at that point. Even if they were both observing the limit, closing speed would be ninety mph.
I hope the grandmother and granddaughter will be ok...
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
East of Columbia, MO - eastbound. A series of huge billboards in the tradition of the old Burma Shave signs, only these spell out MIZZOU. Pretty cool.
The big cross at Effingham, IL. It's billed as The World's Largest Cross. I don't doubt them.
West of Indy on I70. We'd seen this guy before and discussed just how full of win this pickup truly is - and he later passed us again. Not hard to do when we're biting our fingernails driving far slower than we're used to - mostly in Illinois.
Look closely and you can see a single stack rising from the right front of the bed. You can also see the artistic bend put in the tube - I'm sure he'd hate to blow smoke directly on his non existent trailer. This kind of thing really tickles a trucker - here's someone trying to be a wannabe, and they fail to at least have dual stacks. Single stacks scream "fleet" truck. Lame.
Jets were flying over the rest area west of Indy, so I tried to catch one. We saw a refueling tanker with the boom hanging out in the wind, but I missed it. Two of us took a left at Indy into Michigan, and our runnin' buddy headed towards Pennsylvania. We unloaded four tanks this evening, and I've got to drop one more off tomorrow, then head for home.
I like Michigan as far as weather, people, and scenery. I don't care for some of the laws. Oversize loads are limited to fifty mph on four lane roads, and forty five on two lane. We are already a bit of a traffic plug, and to have a speed differential of fifteen to twenty mph difference with the rest of traffic just makes us a target.
Plus, we give each state detailed information about our load size, overall width, height and length. This lets the individual states route us away from overpasses that are too low for us to fit under. We are routed around construction we may be too wide for. Michigan, however, just kinda sorta halfway routes us away from these sort of things. I've mentioned before how we usually haul twelve foot diameter tanks, and how we are generally 14'2" to 14'4" - and 14'4" is usually how we are permitted. This means nothing to Michigan. We went under two overpasses today posted at 14'2". We made it, but there have been plenty of other times we've had to go "off route" to get around some obstacle. Apparently, Michigan doesn't seem to be able to keep track of all their overpasses and actually update that database - something that pretty much every other state in the Midwest has no problem doing. Their fallback is a disclaimer on the permit (which in all fairness all states usually have) claiming they have no responsibilities if the permit route takes us into a situation that damages our load or a public structure. We are responsible. If we want assurance that our route is passable, we have to hire the route surveyed. Pilot car companies do this - they'll put up a pole set at the load's height and drive the full route - before we get there. Then, the theory goes, they can inform us so we can reapply for a new permit with the correct route. It's a racket, and it stinks.
So, I'm in Mt. Pleasant tonight, tired and grumpy. I'll get shed of the last tank in the morning, and I'm headed back for the dry, hot prairie. Home.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
"A typical street whore." "A bunch of ghetto thugs." "Ghetto street trash." "Wonder when she will get her first abortion."Pic and full story here
These are a small selection of some of the racially-charged comments posted to the conservative 'Free Republic' blog Thursday, aimed at U.S. President Barack Obama's 11-year-old daughter Malia after she was photographed wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign on the front.
The thread was accompanied by a photo of Michelle Obama speaking to Malia that featured the caption, "To entertain her daughter, Michelle Obama loves to make monkey sounds."
Though this may sound like the sort of thing one might read on an Aryan Nation or white power website, they actually appeared on what is commonly considered one of the prime online locations for U.S. Conservative grassroots political discussion and organizing - and for a short time, the comments seemed to have the okay of site administrators.
Moderators of the blog left the comments - and commenters - in place until a complaint was lodged by a writer doing research on the conservative movement, almost a full day later.
OK, so the nuts and bolts of this story boil down to "The evil conservative forum is taking pot shots at one of Obama's kids, and they are saying some pretty cruel things. They didn't start self monitoring the situation until someone doing research on the conservative movement was offended."
This is news how? This whole incident is wrong on plenty of levels. First and foremost, involving children in our political discussions is wrong, period. End of story. Personally I find the shirt offensive in that Malia's parents, supposedly leaders of the free world, choose to let their daughter adorn herself with a symbol that offends about forty eight percent of us. Frankly, I expect to see the kids adorned in t-shirts with Che and sporting a beret. Because, considering the "progressive" (read socialist) thinking this president and his wife exhibit, those symbols are acceptable. Plus, they "won," and don't give a rat's ass what we think about it. Just as an example, look at how the Big O administration has treated our most staunch ally Great Britain. Words and symbols mean something, but not to this clueless bunch.
It doesn't mean the kids need to be raked over the coals, though.
But, you say, the left has NO problem doing the same thing. All true. The most obvious example is the children of Sarah Palin. The 'tards at Huffington Post, Daily Kos and the DU (but I repeat myself) can't let sniping at the kids even now. David Letterman, who just follows trends, couldn't resist. In his world, what he did was all right. When he found out his world wasn't his audiences' - he backed down. Andrew Sullivan can't let his deranged conspiracy theories go, either. Hello! Y'all "won!" WTF? This is all more than slightly reminiscent of the Romans salting the earth at Carthage. But this strategy is failing because people are noticing how boorish that behavior really is. Image is everything, baybee.
Neither side has any moral high ground. The Bush twins, Chelsea Clinton, hell, even Amy Carter have all suffered from this bs. It doesn't make repeating that strategy right. Two wrongs??? Anybody?? Bueller??
And btw, this whole article stinks. Is there any mention of similar liberal tactics? Some "random" (oh yeah, uh huh) writer just happened to find this researching the conservative movement. Just what did they expect to find at the Free Republic (home of the Freepers and the conservative counterpart to the DU or Daily Kos)? I'll just bet the result of that insightful and thought provoking heavy lifting would be completely unbiased and show both sides of this issue. Mmmmkay. Well, then again, not freaking likely. "They" got exactly what they were looking for - only looking at one side.
Just keep your blinders on, people. That way we are all so polarized we cannot even begin to approach solving anything. And, Oh, look! Something shiny! MJ is still dead! OMG!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
So, I looked and gee - she linked me! Woo HOOoooOOoo! That was so cool! 'Cause I read her every day, and have her linked! I looked at my blog links to be sure, and well, maybe not so much. I didn't have her linked. I have her roomie Tam linked, but not Roberta? Of course I rectified that ASAP. I've had her in my reader forever, and have vastly enjoyed what she has to say since finding her on Jeff Soyer's People of the Gun page.
So, you say, what's so great about her? You may ask, and you will find out. First, she's a GIRL, dammit. That right there takes care of ninety percent of us cavemen types. Yeah, so what??? you say. But wait, there's more!
Roberta is definitely a conservative. Not really a Republican, more of a libertarian (which is what I'd like to think I am). I hate to label 'cause I'm likely to get it wrong, but in her ideal world, we'd have as little government as possible. She tends towards anarchy more than moi, but it's because she gives the human race the benefit of the doubt far more than I. If that's not enough, she's a gunny. Likes to shoot, and likes things that go bang, and writes about her acquisitions and experiences with her growing collection.
Roberta is also into older technology. Sturdy, well built typewriters, telegraph keys, phones and other formerly essential items tickle her fancy. She sees the artistic merit in these elderly artifacts, recognizing the philosophy of over engineering inherent in the idea "built to last." Built in an era before planned obsolescence, their solidity and heft indicate a quality that certainly is artistic in this disposable era. She's a Steampunk babe, fer sure.
Roberta writes obliquely about her job, and speaks of it in terms of "working on the Star Drive." She's started a serial scifi adventure that has it's roots in her references to her job. Plus, as mentioned before, she and the Queen of Snark live under the same roof. This intersection of sharp wits results in some hilarious observations and stories.
Have I mentioned her writing skills? Roberta puts sentences together utilizing her extensive vocabulary in a quite accessible fashion. Not only does she like forgotten technology, she's a fan of abandoned words. Words that exactly fit the point she's trying to make.
It's like this: You've invited her over to play. You've got a kick-ass set of Legos® that become the toy de jour. You, being the selfish lout you are, grab all the "good" parts you can get your grubby mitts on. She oohs and ahhs over the odd bits and pieces you've never really cared for, and rakes in a pile of those "useless" parts. Hah! You'll show her. You manage to make a facsimile of a jet fighter. You're all about high tech. I mean, you've even managed to rake the wings and rudder, not an easy thing with strictly square blocks. Quite full of yourself, you proudly display your creation at your feet.
You hear a buzzing noise. Looking over at Roberta's handiwork, you see a very detailed model of a Sopwith Camel as it picks up speed on the hardwood floor. A faint whiff of oil and avgas reaches your nostrils as the little biplane gains altitude. Wait, are those Vickers machine guns mounted? Yep, because the diminutive warbird has started strafing your pitiful blocky "jet fighter." It starts to smoke, and the Camel loops over to take another run. This time, a Sidewinder missile streaks from under the bottom wing, blowing your unworthy creation to bits. The broken pieces burn, and a column of black smoke starts to rise.
The remarkable fighter executes a stunning victory roll and lands at Roberta's feet. Meanwhile, a perfect little fire truck, siren wailing, heads to your flaming wreck. It's followed by a tiny dump truck towing a trailer hauling a backhoe. Engine Number 9 puts out the fire, and the backhoe unloads itself, scoops up the mess into the dump truck, loads itself on the trailer, and the convoy drives to Roberta. She reaches into the dump bed, takes out the Ziploc baggie holding the wrecked airplane, zips it shut, and tosses the mess away.
Yep, it's pretty much like that.
It's ok for her to blow up your pretentious little idea. But, to leave a mess, well, that Simply Isn't Done. Roberta has manners.
Note: This is all tongue in cheek. Roberta has never skewered me for anything, and AFAIK, she's never skewered anyone in such an extreme fashion. More than anything, this little farce is just a method of showing how superior I feel her writing skills actually are. But one thing is true for sure - she is polite - another apparent anachronism these days.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Monday, July 06, 2009
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Today, I thank my Nuckle Kim. He was married to my mother's sister, and as a child I couldn't pronounce Uncle. I could say Nuckle (think knuckle). He got such a charge out of that he decided it would be his name to me for all time. Even today he signs his emails to me with that sobriquet.
Back in the early sixties, he and his family lived in OKC, so we visited once in a while. On one of our visits, Kim had to leave for work. He was in a suit and tie - the appropriate uniform for his job. I, the innocent toddler, asked him if he was "going to the field." It's what Daddy did when he stepped out the door for his job. This incident became part of the family lore - apparently I was "so cute."
Another activity that took his time when he "went to work" was his commitment to the Naval Reserves. I can remember pictures of him in his dress uniform - he cut a very trim figure. I was pretty impressed, and if I'd ever signed on the dotted line, it was gonna be Navy all the way. He served in WWII and the Korean War, as well as the Naval Reserves.
He gave me the short version of his military career in a couple of emails. I have more or less combined them below the pictures - the story is told in his own words.
This is Kim in a gun tub from his old ship USS Cronin (DEC704) at a museum in Albany, NY.
The USS Hornet (CV-12) in her WWII configuration.
The USS President Hayes (APA-20)
The USS Buckley (DE51). The USS Cronin (DEC704) and the USS Laning (APD55) were both Buckley Class Destroyer Escorts.
Like most veterans, he underplays his role. He always projects his life on board as a sailing adventure. I'm sure it was all that, but if one reads between the lines, one can see the sacrifice and courage.
And I hope and pray it wasn't all for naught.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
So, it's below average - thirty five is the minimum standard for dryland wheat in this neck of the woods. It was too dry too long when the wheat started growing after winter. Then, it was too wet. Go figure. It also had significant hail damage, which might yield some more income from insurance. It's been a rough year for the crop/hail people - their adjusters have been and still are very busy. All in all, I'm not complaining. I'm just tickled to have a crop at all. But, it sure had the makings of a far better crop than it was.
Thanks for all the positive thoughts. My involvement as a rich landlord is similar to the Hindmost in Larry Niven's Known Space series, only more so. It is said: "Lead, follow or get out of the way!" I stay out of the way. I miss the action, but I've got to work at the job I have. No time for harvest these days. Some people ask me: "Why don't you farm your ground?" Do the math. I'd have to have about thirty thousand (conservative estimate) in old junk equipment just to work and plant the ground, then hire custom cutters to get the crop in. If whatever old tractor I had puked up it's pistons, this farm would be toast. Most of the equipment in the price range this amount of ground would support has already been hauled off as scrap in this area. Economy of scale is a way of life, as Farmer Frank always preaches. He is not just whistling Dixie on that subject, either.
So, I miss out on the hands on rewards that a real farmer gets from doing a job well. I miss having more control over my destiny since I hand it over to my "tenant." He's the one taking on the significant risks, and I have to trust he will do the best he can. Luckily, he is a damn good friend and I trust him and his family with far more than just the family ground.
But, I can still walk out into a freshly worked field of summer fallow, grab a handful of the loamy, slightly moist, warm soil, and breath in the smell of potential growth. It's not just plants that have roots down 'round here.