Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lesson Learned

Back in May I wrote about my purchase of a 10 yr. old car at an auction.  I had figured on the cost of changing all the fluids once it was delivered.  Just the prudent thing to do, not knowing the maintenance habits of the previous owner.  I had inspected the tires the best I could given that you can't drive the car or move it.  The tires weren't new, but they didn't appear to need replacing either.

When I took it to my mechanic to change the transmission fluid, he called me to tell me there was something I needed to see.  That's never good.  He's two minutes from home, so I walked over to take a look.  The left front tire was separating on the inner edge, separation he thought was due to it rubbing on something.  Further inspection revealed that the left front control arms were not properly anchored to the body.  The mechanic thinks they probably were sheared off by a collision with something and then not properly repaired.  New bolts had been inserted but they were the wrong size, leaving a lot of movement and shimmy in the control arms.  A dangerous situation, as they could have come loose altogether.

It doesn't make sense to replace the control arms on one side so I gave the go ahead to replace both sides along with the ball joints.  That still left the tire situation to be addressed.  I decided to not take any chances and instead of replacing another tire every few months, to just get four new ones.  All of this being expenses I hadn't counted on.  The good news is that the handling feels like new.

The bad news?  Mrs. Grumpy is never going to let me forget this fiasco.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Out Of Touch

By now we have all seen or read about the 9 yr. old girl whose family thought it was a grand vacation idea to stop at a place called Bullets and Burgers in Arizona to get some video of her shooting a fully automatic Uzi.  The stupidity on the part of her parents and the instructor are apparent and don't need to be dissected here.

What most didn't see in the aftermath and what was largely ignored by the media was a Tweet posted two days after the tragedy on the NRA Women account.  While it has since been removed, it shows just how tone deaf and morally repugnant the NRA really is.


Friday, August 29, 2014

It's About Time

For a long time the NFL has been tone deaf when it comes to the issue of domestic violence.  Players who abused their wives or girlfriends received what amounted to a slap on the wrist.  Things finally reached a head when star Ravens running back was caught on hotel security cameras dragging his then fiancee out of an elevator.  The assumption was that he had knocked her out in that elevator, although as yet no tape of him actually hitting her has surfaced.  He also has not denied that he hit her.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell studied the evidence and suspended Rice for two games.  The uproar was immediate and loud.  A two game suspension for domestic abuse while marijuana users were getting much harsher penalties sent the wrong message.  It certainly appeared that the NFL considered smoking pot to be more egregious than beating a woman.

It took the NFL much too long to react and get it right, but I think they have finally responded appropriately.  In the future any player proven to have abused a woman will receive a 6 game suspension without pay for the first offense.  A second offense will bring a lifetime ban from the league.  Now let's see what happens the first time a big name player abuses a woman.  The league better stand up.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Decisions

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

It was a tough decision. First I thought I would tell you all about how that Adirondack chair in the picture wound up on my front lawn. Then I thought I would tell you why I decided to boycott a very high class dairy slash ice cream store until the fifth of November. Finally I was sure I wanted to share with you just what I really thought about the world’s largest cable company.

As the day wore on, this miserable summer cold I have got worse and worse and as the house became overrun with used Kleenex I decided just to go to bed. We’ll have to take up one of the above topics, or maybe something completely different, next week. But that Adirondack chair story is really fascinating.

Stay healthy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Pfc. Tan Q. Ngo
Age:  20
1st Battalion
4th Infantry Regiment
Died 27 August, 2008
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Step In The Right Direction

I don't presume to know what happened in Ferguson, MO on the day Police Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown.  There are conflicting accounts from eyewitnesses, dueling lawyers with different stories and all manner of people trying to slant the narrative in a direction of their choosing.

It doesn't have to be this way.  Put a dash cam on every police car in America and a badge cam, hat cam or button hole cam on every cop.  I'm certainly not the first to suggest this, but it makes perfect sense.  Every hour of every shift by every cop will be taped.  Departments can use the money they are using to retrofit and maintain all the military equipment they were given to instead buy the cameras.  The Federal government can probably chip in with grants.

There are too many accusations of police misconduct; several have been caught on cell phone videos during the protests in Ferguson.  Now the time has come to put the cops and the citizens on notice:  everything you do is being recorded.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Don't Be That Guy (Or Gal)

Over the course of the last week we drove over 1,600 miles (about 200 of it due to stupidity, but that's another story).  Almost all of those miles were on interstate highways or divided 4 lane highways.  One theme kept repeating itself over and over regardless of the state, the time of day or the weather conditions.  You know who you are (I'm looking at everyone in Alabama).  The idiot in the fast lane moving slower than surrounding traffic who refuses to move over for any reason.

Besides being the law in many states, it's just common courtesy to move to the right to allow faster traffic to pass.  I know some of you are going to push back by claiming that if you're going the speed limit in the fast lane, then you are entitled to stay there.  Not only are you not, but you're promoting  inefficiency in the flow of traffic and presenting a safety hazard.  I don't care if you're going 90 in the fast lane; if another driver comes up on your tail moving faster your job is to get over at the first safe opportunity.

I can't tell you how many of these instances we encountered last week.  Car going 65-70 in the fast lane and a line of traffic behind him being held up because he won't move over.  The proper thing to do in that situation is to flash your lights at the guy holding things up; it's actually a polite way to suggest you would like him to move so you can pass.  It's what all of us were taught in Driver's Ed.  But flash your lights at a car ahead of you today and you will most likely receive a middle finger salute in return.

Then there's the safety factor.  Eventually, when the moron won't move, the cars behind him will start looking for opportunities to pass him on the right, speed ahead of him and then pull back left into the fast lane.  The problem is that often several cars will leap at the chance at the same time, leading to near collisions, unnecessary swerving and frayed nerves.

Don't be that guy.  When you're in the fast lane and see faster traffic approaching behind you, move the Hell over and let them by.  If you don't, you're a dick.  90% of the drivers in Alabama are dicks.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Sounds Of Freedom

We have spent the last week living on an Air Force base.  It's like living in the burbs with a few obvious differences.  At 6:30 a.m. loudspeakers come alive all over the base with a bugle call of reveille.  At 5:00 p.m. the same system plays Retreat followed by our National Anthem.  At that point everything and everyone on base comes to a standstill; those in uniform salute and civilians stand still in silence.  At 9:30 p.m. Taps is played to end the day.

As if all of that doesn't get your attention and give you chills, every morning around 7:30 you will hear what is at first a distant roar.  It grows louder and louder and you realize the source is headed your way.  It's on you so fast and gone so fast that you could blink and miss it. "It" is an F 22 Raptor fighter plane.  Just as you're marveling at the speed and power of what you just witnessed, WOOSH, another one streaks by, rising at a steep angle into the morning sky.

As you watch those fighter planes streak by, the instinct is to raise your arms and cheer.

Call Somebody

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

It’s been just over thirty years since my bride and I moved into the home that we still live in today. We couldn’t have been there more than a few months when we decided we were going to redecorate the house, starting with the dining room. It was a small room, a chair rail around the perimeter and a bay window to one side. It could hold a table that would seat six comfortably, eight if absolutely necessary. Nothing big, nothing out of the ordinary, no odd angles, it seemed the perfect place to start.

At the time it was just amazing to me how many hundreds of thousands of wallpaper patterns were readily available and how many millions of paint colors could instantly be created with a squirt of pigment and the violent shaking of a gallon can. Looking at two square foot samples of wallpaper that came in unwieldy “books” and trying to figure out the difference between colors with names like Soft Fern and Silver Sage made me consider setting my eyelashes on fire. But after what seemed like six months and was probably six days decisions were reached and purchases made.

It’s hard enough choosing colors and patterns, let alone considering installing it yourself, which is sheer folly. Wallpaper holds this nasty little secret within its rolls that has to do with pattern matching. The only way to avoid pattern matching is to choose wallpaper that has no pattern whatsoever. This is normally referred to as paint. Sticking the paper to the wall and getting the pattern matched and the seams straight is messy and difficult no matter how you go about it. And there’s nothing like waking up in the morning and finding several pieces curled back up on the floor because the paste did not adhere properly to the wall. The best part of the whole process is discovering that the two square foot sample of wallpaper looks completely different when it’s covering an entire wall and neither Soft Fern nor Silver Sage look like you thought they would when you chose them from that little strip of color swatches in the decorating emporium.

We completed the project and at the same time learned something very special about each other. If we ever did this again the police would probably have to intervene. In my opinion there’s nothing that stands the chance of ruining a perfectly good marriage than taking on a home project together. It was then and there I learned two very important words, words that I have never forgotten and words that I will share with you right now: Call somebody. Want to paint the living room? Call somebody. Want to plant a hedgerow of rose bushes in the back yard? Call somebody. Want to decorate the Christmas tree? Call somebody. Okay, maybe not but you get the point.

As I write this we are in the midst of a painting project at my house, much of it due to winter storm damage. Two bedrooms, a bathroom and that dining room (long since remodeled) are getting a new coat of paint. The hardest thing I have to do is get up in time to let the painters in the front door at 8 in the morning, a time of day I find it best to still be unconscious. But that’s okay.

So my wish to you is that if not now then someday you’ll be able to tell the little lady to just call somebody. Trust me. It’s the only way to live. People who believe they truly like doing this sort of stuff should have their heads examined…or perhaps they’re just single.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Navy Hospitalman Chadwick T. Kenyon
Age:  20
3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
1st Marine Division
I Marine Expeditionary Force
Died 20 August, 2006
Rawah, Iraq

Monday, August 18, 2014

The South IS Different

So my step-son and I had some time to kill while our wives were shopping.  We spotted a gun and archery store and since he's interested in bow hunting, we stopped in to look around.  While he was talking to the owner about bows and test shooting one, I sat on a stool in front of the gun case to chat with the other owner.  I glanced down and in the case was a pistol fitted with a silencer next to a sign that read "we sell silencers".

I forgot to mention this happened in Florida.  I have never seen a silencer in a gun shop in Ohio.  I actually thought silencers were illegal in the U.S.  Wrong.  The woman explained that the sale of silencers is legislated on the state level.  She also said that, when it comes to gun regulation, Florida is the most lenient in the country.  Well, duh.

About this time a detective with the local force walks in.  So I decided to ask him why anyone would need a silencer.  His response was that you might want to target shoot on your property and not disturb your neighbors.  Or you might want to go hunting with your handgun and not want the discharge to scare game away and anger other hunters.

Hunt with a handgun?  Are you fucking kidding me?   Must be a Southern thing.


The Gaza Crisis Summed Up In One Sentence

If Palestine were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down theirs, there would be no Israel - Benjamin Netanyahu.

Friday, August 15, 2014

I've Made Napping An Art Form

One of my greatest pleasures in life is taking a nap.  This is not something that has come to me in my old age; I was a practiced napper in my twenties.  There is no better feeling in the world than crawling into bed in the middle of the day for a 2-3 hour snooze.  Perfect conditions are when the outside temps are in the 60-65 degree range so windows may be left open, creating a wonderful, cool cross breeze.  But even on 90 degree days I'm not deterred, the ceiling fan providing breeze enough.

That's one of the fine points of napping for me.  The conditions have to be cool.  Digging in under the covers in a dark, cool room is just a great feeling.  When I nap, I do nap in bed.  I've fallen asleep on the couch, but I'll usually awaken and drag myself to the bed.  It's the most comfortable place to nap.  That's what it's made for, sleeping.

When I was single I would often get home around 4:00 p.m. (totally ignoring my employer's mantra of making that "one more call") and nap until around 6:00 before getting around to working on dinner.  Sometimes I'll nap in the mornings after Mrs. Grumpy leaves for work; sometimes in the afternoons.  It just depends on when the mood strikes and how well I slept the night before.

There was a recent study that supposedly shows that napping may shorten your life span.  That's total bullshit.  Probably conceived by some Type A nimrod who thinks everybody should be full steam ahead and productive at all times.  If you told me that I would live two years longer by forsaking naps, I'd tell you to screw off. 

When my faithful companion, Abby, and I lie down together for a nap, it's pure bliss.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Refugees — Next Part

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Quick refresher: Last week I mentioned, with some trepidation that I was off to a cousins’ reunion. Seven of a complete set of thirteen first cousins along with assorted spouses, children and a limited number of the generation that brought them all into the world were having a get together which didn’t involve a funeral.

Well, I survived, not that I was worried about it. I’m pretty sure that none of my relatives are felons or a part of the witness protection program. While I haven’t seen most of them for dozens of years I am reasonably certain I would have heard if someone had done three to five downstate for bank fraud or something.

All of us out-of-towners, five of the seven actual cousins who were in attendance along with our significant others, wound up spending most of our time together. We were also five of the oldest and therefore the ones who spent most of our time together as kids. We spent the first evening at dinner talking about the birthday parties we all attended as kids, the games we played, our parents and grandparents. After a few hours I began to realize that for our spouses at some point this whole weekend had to approach waterboarding. They said what made it worthwhile was learning things they never knew about us, things they would use to get even at a later date, which somehow seemed only fair.

Later in the evening the discussion turned to childhood mysteries, which uncle or uncles or aunt had an affair, why one cousin decided to disappear himself from the rest of the family, things we never knew and continued not to know because it was speculation then and remained speculation. Any corroboration had been lost with the passing of members of the previous generation and we were not looking to open up forty year old wounds. The weekend was going to remain light and happy rather than become a script for a Lifetime Movie Network feature presentation. Besides that, it was more fun to speculate. The truth could turn out to be a disappointment or worse yet, boring.

The next afternoon we took the neighborhood tour: the houses where we grew up, the schools where we attended, the shopping centers where we hung out. I think the malls got the worst of it. Individual merchants were gone and replaced by the various chains that you see in every single mall in the country. One of the elementary schools sat shuttered and looked like it would be better off torn down than sitting there in its dilapidated condition. The houses though were in good shape. Both remained in stable well kept neighborhoods. The cousins’ house was pretty similar to the way I remember it. The house I grew up in, which I’ve seen a number of times over the years, looked identical, absolutely identical to the way it did when I lived there all those years ago.

Dinner that night with all of us together was very nice, very casual with lots of catching up. After a few hours the locals returned to their homes, the out-of-towners to the hotel and eventually many goodbyes and promises to keep in touch. It really was wonderful seeing these people. I liked them, well most of them, as kids. And now the best part is that I like them even more as adults, their spouses, too, and I hope the feeling is mutual. Now we’ll have to see where this goes.

I couldn’t help but think of those off-site company meetings when people get together for two or three days and participate in those workshops to open your eyes to possibilities of which you never dreamed. Everyone leaves energized, promising a whole new level of excitement, creativity and growth to make the company a better place and within a few weeks everything is forgotten and it’s back to the same old grind. Hope the refugees can do better.

By the way, still can’t find that picture that illustrates why we’ve called ourselves the refugees all these years. Still looking, so I decided to put that picture up top just because I like it.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Cpl. James M. Hale
Age:  23
978th Military Police Company
Ft. Bliss, TX
Died 13 August, 2008
Baghdad, Iraq