In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, they can be found by clicking the labels button "stuff I made up".

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

For a Few Minutes, I Lost My Composure

Years ago, I spent the better part of an entire summer working long hours on a highway project. It was a large patch job, which meant we repaired sections of paving over an entire area. My crew placed road closures, worked with concrete saw crews and tied the rebar for the patches. Most of our work was at night, which was the best time for sawing hot concrete. In the day, the concrete would expand and "slam" shut on the concrete blades as they sawed. Slam was the best description. When the paving slammed shut on a blade, it felt as though someone hit the paving with a sixteen pound sledge hammer right next to your foot.

We were on the last month of the project and my temper was short. Between the constant problem of dealing with aggressive motorists and drunks, I had little patience for anything. I'd had enough and I was ready for the project to wrap up and return to working days.

One evening, right at dark, we had a section of interstate to close and prepare. I was setting up the advance warning signs, which meant driving on the shoulder to the locations I had marked earlier in the evening and placing the reflective signs on temporary stands. I constantly watched the traffic in the rear view mirror. I wouldn't open the door and get out of my truck until I knew I had a break in traffic. I parked my truck behind the location so I had some protection if a careless driver slammed into the rear of my truck.

I placed the last sign, returned to my truck, checked traffic and pulled into the outside lane. There was a car coming, but it was far away and I had time. Within moments, a car was close behind my truck; so close I couldn't see the headlights. The driver was laying on the horn and wouldn't change to the outside lane. I continued accelerating and the driver wouldn't budge. I was almost to highway speed when the car whipped to the left, pulled to the side of my truck and crowded my lane. I slowed and the driver forced me to the shoulder. That's when I snapped.

Before my truck came to a complete stop, I pushed the parking brake to the floor and was out the door as the truck skidded to a stop. The car was right in front of me and I could see there was a passenger beside the driver. Within seconds, I reached in the back of my truck for a hardwood table leg I had found on the shoulder a few days before. I picked such things up to throw away later. If left on the shoulder, a passing truck could hit the object and turn it into a missle.

The driver opened the door, stepped out and found me standing there with my club. The shocked look on his face meant he realized he had just written a check his ass couldn't cover. He was a big fellow, but in my state of mind, he didn't have a chance. He knew this, so he started running his mouth about his wife (the passenger) was late for work and I had pulled in front of him as he was trying to get her there on time. I asked if he wanted to go to jail, or something else. He cursed me, climbed back into his car and sped away.

I stood and stared for a moment when I was startled by a voice: "Are you okay?" I turned to find two members of my crew, out of breath and pumped up with adrenaline. They had run a thousand feet when they saw the event unfold. I didn't realize I had some backup. It felt good, especially when I started working over the thoughts of what I would have done if the driver had pulled a gun.  All I could say was: "The crazy bastard cut me off." and mumbled something about he was late for work.

They climbed into my truck, we went to set up the lane closure and the rest of the night went without incident. I half expected the motorist to come back to cause trouble and kept a close eye on traffic during the night. Nothing happened, which was good. My temper was still short; maybe shorter. I just wanted the job to be over. I'd had enough.

A Late January Afternoon

Light rain pelted him as he ran from his car to the porch. The cold wind scattered leaves in the yard and sped the low clouds across the winter sky. He quietly opened the door and walked to the kitchen. The smells and warm air reminded him of the past. A faint hint of breakfast still lingered. For a moment, he thought of his childhood and preparing for school. He'd catch a ride with his father on such a day. He allowed the memories to pass. His father had been gone for decades.

Time stood still in the old house. Memories hung on the walls or sat in special places on shelves. The photographs stuck to the refrigerator were moments in time captured forever; the young children now adults and scattered by the winds of change. Their faded photographs were testimonies to special moments, or graduations.

His mother was at the kitchen table. She had placed her head down to take a short nap. He paused for a few moments then gently shook her arm. She awoke, stared for a moment then lit the room with her smile. "This is a surprise. I wasn't expecting you."

He raised his voice and asked: "How are you feeling?" It was a question that he asked out of habit. He knew the answer. Age had trapped her mind in a body that refused to allow her to rest. They had discussed this a few times. While she was ready, he knew her passing would be the start of his own. At that time, his own mortality would not be an occasional thought to push to the side for another day.

She answered: "I'm okay."  paused for a moment and asked: "Would you like some coffee?"

"Sure. You stay there, I'll make a pot."

As he made the coffee, he thought how things had changed. At one time, his mother would always have a fresh pot. She never made coffee now. Coffee was for special occasions. He measured the grounds, placed the coffee in the machine and added the water. After making sure the switch was on, he sat across from his mother and asked if she had anything new to report.

"Nothing is new."

"Have you heard from anyone?" He always asked the same question. Visits were rare and she spent a lot of time alone watching television or reading the paper. She would dabble in her office, but she didn't have the ability to concentrate as in the past. Mental tasks were tedious, but she still persevered. She refused to be beaten by life.

"I heard from an old friend from high school. They had lost my phone number and found it again. They were checking to see if I was still alive." She laughed and added: "I told them it's not much of a life, but I'm still here."  

He smiled, although the words broke his heart. He'd finally accepted that all that was left was the waiting. It made him sad to watch her fade. He knew she was ready to pass on, since the dignity of life was slowly disappearing. He felt a stab of anger. It all seemed so unfair. Everyone else in his life had passed suddenly; watching the slow event of her passage was excruciating. Her time left was like a dead limb on a tree; the amount of time before it fell was a mystery.

"Are you hungry?"

He hesitated, then answered: "A little. What do you have?"

"I have some leftover roast, rice and gravy. We can heat it and I'll make a salad"

"Let's have some coffee first. I'm enjoying the visit"

The coffee machine was gurgling and spitting the last of the boiled water. He rose and flipped the switch to off. It lasted longer if it wasn't kept on the hot plate. He knew she would have some more later, or tomorrow morning. If she didn't it would sit for a few days, until she poured it out. In the past, when she drank more coffee, he would smell the pot before he ever accepted any coffee. Sometime, it would be days old and stale. He wondered if that was why she stopped making her daily pot. She couldn't remember if it was fresh and hated the thought of wasting the coffee.

They sat, sipped their coffee and discussed politics. Neither was happy about current politics or the state of the economy. She was disappointed with the stock market, since her retirement income was supplemented by dividends. She was concerned she wouldn't have enough and drops in the market would cause her to worry.

She rose and opened the refrigerator. He responded by rising and offering "I'll help." Quickly looking at the shelves, he spotted the small roast covered with clear wrap. Pulling it from the refrigerator, he hunted for the rice and gravy. He opened and smelled the containers. It all smelled fresh, but he still asked: "When did you make this?"

"Last night. It's "cow butt", which brought a glint to her eye. "Cow butt" was the term his brother had used for rump roast. The story behind the term was one of her favorites and part of many conversations at family gatherings.

He removed lettuce from the hydrator and handed it to his mother. She had started slicing a small tomato that was on the counter.  As she worked, he looked in the refrigerator for old containers. In the past, he would ask how old something was, which always brought the same answer: "It's still good." He didn't ask any longer. He would open the containers, smell the contents and throw things away when she wasn't looking. He knew she could barely smell and taste. She might take a chance, but he'd do everything he could to remove the opportunity.

After heating their servings in the microwave, they sat and visited, while they ate. He ate slowly, to match her pace. He relished the time and the taste reminded him of Sunday dinners, when the entire family would share a meal. There were few left now. Without grandchildren and their families, there were usually only two or three during a gathering. Large gatherings were few and would soon only be memories. She wasn't physically able to prepare a large meal, refused to allow anyone else to perform the task and was uncomfortable about others doing the same for her. She was tenaciously independent and determined to be so until her death.

They finished their meal and started clearing the table. He put the food back in the refrigerator, while she placed the dishes in the sink. He offered to help with the dishes, which she refused. She would wash them later; not while they were visiting.

He poured them both a cup of coffee and sat once again at the table. She asked about his family and his work. In the past, he would seek her advice on both and they would have have hours of discussion. She was a good sounding board for thoughts. Her experiences in life offered valuable information, but those days were gone. He answered: "Everyone is fine and work is good." He didn't want to burden her with any problems he might be having. She had enough to worry about, without adding his worries.

"I need to be going" he said as he rose from the table. "I need to wash my hands first."

He went to the bathroom and washed his hands. He left the bathroom and made his usual cursory tour of the house. He looked for anything that seemed out of place or showed signs of future problems. He ended up in the living room and paused to stare out the window. For a moment, the late afternoon sun broke through the heavy clouds. The wet limbs of the oak trees appeared as poured gold, which glistened as the wind moved the branches. The light soon faded and the dreary, deep greys of a late, rainy winter evening returned.

He returned to the kitchen and spoke: "If you need anything, you know how to find me. I always have my cell phone close; even at night."

"I know. Is there anything I can do for you?"

He knew those days were over. The only thing she could really do for him was to be careful and never forget he was there if she needed him. "Not right now. If there is, you know I'll ask"

She rose, he hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. "I'll love you, Mom" she responded: "I love you, too. You be careful and come when you can."

He carefully locked the door when he left. He knew he'd remember the last few moments forever if needed. They might be the last moments he ever spent with her, so every detail was important.

As he drove away, he glanced back towards the house. The porch light had come on and lit the wet walk in front of her house. He thought of how times had changed. Families were now scattered. While the Internet kept everyone close, it was a pale reminder of reality. Those short moments of communication didn't represent the myriad of moments known as life. He felt sadness for a moment, but quickly shifted his thoughts to work, home and the thousands of things that occupied his thoughts. His time would eventually come, but not now. There were too many things to do and not enough time for the tasks.

Turning on the radio brought a song from high school. He fondly remembered riding down the beach, the windows down and his entire life a long journey into the future. For a moment, time slipped away and he was young again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bad Drivers

I've only been in a few automobile accidents in my life and only injured in one. I didn't know I was injured until after the accident. My brother, while driving from a parking lot on a corner, t-boned a car that was cutting the light. He was accelerating to merge with the traffic that had the right of way and the car was hauling ass to cut the light. After it was all said and done, I realized later that I had hit my head on the dashboard, which caused a small cut on my scalp and one hell of a heachache.

So, this evening, while leaving the same parking lot decades later, I witnessed another driver cutting the light. This time there was no accident, but it only brought back what I witnessed earlier today.

I was the second car at a traffic light at a highway intersection. The intersection is a controlled intersection, but about as dangerous as they can get before the highway department funds an overpass. There's too much high speed traffic, with drivers making the mistake of running the caution light. The accidents have been horrific. One accident left a pickup truck crushed to a third of the orginal length and the driver of the tractor-trailer injured. The truck driver thought he could make the light and the driver of the pickup truck was one of those drivers that floors the accelerator when the light changes.

So, I was waiting behind this pickup. The lady driving the truck was in an animate conversation on her cell phone while she angrily puffed on a cigarette. A motorcyle turned the corner and gunned the accelerator, which, I guess, triggered some instinctive response with the driver ahead. She started through the intersection as though the light had changed. The driver of the grey sedan coming from the right slammed on their brakes. The woman ahead continued on; oblivious of what she was doing, which was good. If she had so much as tapped her brakes, the grey sedan would have slammed into the passenger side of the pickup. Since she didn't slow her progress, the driver of the grey sedan managed to skid past the end of the pickup and continue on their way, while honking their horn in anger.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of what I had just witnessed, shook my head and want on about my business. It was just another one of rare close calls, or was it? After seeing the fool run the light, I realized it's not a good day to be driving. I think I'll stay home and suppress those urges for an ice cream sandwich.

Black Friday

I think Black Friday was a way for retailers to try and make an assessment on future sales for the holidays. It makes sense: manipulate your customers with sales, decide what you need to balance your inventory and try to empty the shelves by the new year. Sales are maximized and the retailer pays less on inventory taxes.

So, the idea was good, but now the term Black Friday, in my opinion, is synonymous with lunacy. If you don't believe this, read the news reports. Between the fights, pepper spraying and shootings, the average consumer will now weigh the few percent in savings to survival. There's no logic in getting a tremendous deal on a big screen television if it will only be watched by family members, while they grieve and ignore crummy holiday reruns. 

Maybe I'm wrong, but if I am, Black Friday isn't a good day to shop. It's better to avoid any shopping until the day after Christmas, when the retailers realize their mistakes and try to dump their entire inventory before the first of the new year. Family members will understand, especially when they realize your holiday personality was so much better because your didn't have to shop with the lunatics. Celebrate Christmas as the holiday of peace shared with families. Wait until after Christmas for the madness and end the madness by getting drunk on the last day of the year.

I Am The 1/1,000,000 Of A Percent

Roughly, that's what percent of the population I represent. What's most important about being such a small percent of the population is that I am as important as all of the rest combined. Otherwise, not matter how much they grind their teeth, moan, complain and posture on their higher importance, it's not so. My rights are never to be infringed upon - in theory.

So, the 99% bunch, as much as they like to assume they have some special significance, are individuals, with the responsibilities that come with the rights of every individual. Their special needs end at the end of their nose. If they can't handle the responsibility of living in a nation where everyone is only hampered by the lack of initiative, then there are other places in the world that may offer them a better opportunity. I doubt they'll find a place that's as bountiful as the United States, but if they go, at least somebody else will get to read about their whining.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Is...

- Cloudy, still mornings. The lingering smoke of burning leaves wafting in the first stirrings of a gentle breeze.
- Warm kitchens with the bustle of preparing a feast.
- The hugs and smiles of distant relatives.
- Children laughing.
- Sharing thoughts.
- The mellow burn of brandy.
- Tastes, and smells that only fit one day of the year.
- Short, peaceful naps.
- Crisp late Autumn afternoons with cirrus clouds and the brilliant rainbow of a sun dog.
- Quiet moments of introspection.
- Gathering pieces of the past.
- Reluctantly ending the day and closing the box of memories until next year.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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They've Left...For Now

For the last few days, I've received multiple site examinations from a Russian web address. What they were looking for is beyond me, but I doubt it was people with a curiosity to know more about my blog. More than likely, it was some type of spam. If it wasn't spam, then I apologize to the visitors. Next time leave a comment.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It Is the Season

Thanksgiving is almost here. It's the real start of the holiday season, which will be much different than in the past.

Years ago, Thanksgiving was either my grandparents, or parents house full of family. There were grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers, aunts uncles and cousins packed into a house with little room to sit and eat. The feast was the traditional bounty of turkey, dressing, potatoes, vegetables, sweet potato casserole, cranberry salad and desserts that included pumpkin pie, cheese cake and banana pudding.

This year will be much different. All my grandparents, my father, aunts, uncles, many cousins and two brothers are gone. The rest have scattered in the wind and have other obligations. This leaves only me, my mother, my wife and a brother to share Thanksgiving this year. It will be a small gathering, but it won't be less important. We'll share the day to be thankful for what we have and each other.

So, I wish everyone the blessing of Thanksgiving. Everyone has something to be thankful for. Share it with the people you love.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If You're Wondering...

...about the economy, I'll put it in perspective. The city of Port Arthur, Texas unemployment is at 14.4 percent. Washingon D. C. is around 5 percent and the U.S. Congress have had an increase in income. Otherwise, if you're expecting any help from the people you elected, don't expect much. They live in an area that has no idea how bad the rest of the country is struggling and are getting fatter.

Meanwhile, Port Arthur can go suck eggs as far as Obama and Washington are concerned. The only bright spot in years was removed when the pipeline to Port Arthur, and the promise of more new jobs ended. When you add the fact that most private sector workers haven't seen a raise in years, the situation is bleak.

Bleh.

Added note: I was reading the Port Arthur newspaper, which had a story about a local citizen's petition to repair the roads. A substantial portion of the budget for road repair was reallocated to build parks, softball fields and concession stands. The citizen wanted, at least, the money that was budgeted to be used on the roads, which isn't nearly enough for the needed repairs.

The only description I have is that this is Washinton D.C. on a smaller scale. The politicians, and bureaucrats, misused their power, failed to be fiscally responsible and the taxpayers suffer most because they pay the bill, besides being abused by the people they elect. Meanwhile, the city is literally falling apart. The city streets can only be described as deplorable.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Measuring Things

When I first started in the construction business, the initial layout, and controls were placed by a survey field party. This usually consisted of 3 or 4 men that used a multitude of different instruments to place offset points and information on location and elevation.

Usually, there was a party chief, that coordinated the work, recorded data in a field book and used the transit to establish lines and elevations. The rest of the crew had various tasks, including hacking through brush, or wading swamps to establish open areas for sighting and placing controls. In some locations, the crew would wear a pistol, or carry a small shotgun to supplement their brush hooks and machetes. This allowed protection from the "critters" that included snakes, feral animals and alligators. When the day was over, the crew may return home with whelps from insects, a substantial accumulation of filth and the knowledge that the next day may be worse; it all depended on the location. Horror stories were told by all. Cotton mouths, alligators and red wasp nests left memories that most would want to forget.

Measuring distances and angle would usually involve a "chain" and a transit (I describe these at the bottom of this post). The crew chief would use both to determine locations. The information was either recorded or used for stakeouts. If a stakeout was involved, the crew chief used trignometry and calculus to determine the correct distances and angles. The old timers did most of their calculations using tables, a pencil and a scratch pad. Whatever they did was recorded in their field book. Laying out a curve involved pointing the transit in a certain direction, calculating the angles and distances to the points and the crew pulling the chain. When the point was determined, a stake was driven and a nail placed in the top for future reference.

Today, a single person can do everything a field party could do with one instrument. A GPS surveying instrument, when it's used in open areas, can accurately record, or determine any point needed. Satellites are used to determine the points and the results are accurate to within a quarter inch, or better. They do have limitations, especially around structures or heavy growth. The required number of satellites to accurately determine a location requires a fairly open unobscured view of the sky. Poor weather, inversions and satellite problems can cause problems.

If enough points are known, or a single GPS transceiver can be placed in an open area, a total station can be used. The lower end total station requires an operator and a rod man. The rod man has a prism pole, which is the reflector for the total station. The higher end total stations are "robot guns" These total stations will seek the rodman, who has instumentation on the rod. The rod instrumentation is coordinated with the total station. A single person can use the instrument to complete surveying. Information is sent from the total station, which reflects off the prism and is returned back to the total station. There's even combination GPS robot guns that use the best of both technologies. The highest end is a three dimensional instrument. Instead of one point being shot and recorded, thousands are recorded and an accurate true three dimensional image can be recorded without a prism. 

For years, a total station was on my "wish list" of things I felt were necessary to purchase. Unfortunately, it took a long time until the right job happened and the instrument, and software were necessary. Since then, I've learned to use the total station and the software involved. It's been a learning experience. Where in the past, I would have to spend hours using everything from mutliple measuring tapes, trigonometry and some creative methods to find points, I can now use the total station to gather, or transfer information in minutes.


More information:

A chain is a ribbon of hardened steel with babbit placed every foot of the length. A mark is scribed in the babbit, which reflects the even foot that was calibrated where the chain was made. At a certain temperature, and measured poundage of pull, the accuracy is certified. If a measurement is incorrect, the user either didn't use the right data to determine how hard to pull the chain, or the wrong temperature. Lengths can be up to 1000 feet, which means careful rolling when finished and a cleaning when necessary. Measurements require determining the right pull for the temperature and using a scale attached to the chain to pull the correct amount.


A transit is a telescope, with crosshairs, that measures azimuth and vertical angles in degrees.  A compass in the middle determines the direction, and tables are used to determine the deflection of magnetic North to true North.  Directions are in degrees, minutes and seconds. The markings on the better instruments requires a small magnifying glass to accurately determine the angles. When placed over a point, the tripod is manuevered and leveled over the point using a plumb bob. Setting up over a point can be an almost flawless manuever or a frustrating repeat of the steps until the tripod, and transit are in a position where when it's leveled, the plumb bob is right over the point.  

A total station has an electronic distance meter, records angles and software for interpretation. Information is either collected or produced by the operator. The prism is on a special pole that can be leveled over a point. The rod height, which is adjustable is recorded by the operator during the data collecting. When being set up, known points are recorded for the instrument to "know" where it's located or new points are collected and preserved for future reference. The telescope on the total station is used to sight the prism, so the information is all coordinated. Since the total station is only as smart as the operator, recording the wrong rod height, or height of the sighting point on the instrument can lead to innacurate readings. There is an optical plumb bob for setting up over a point.

I'll stop here. I could go on for many more paragraphs, but that will have to wait for future posts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pipeline Politics

From what I've read, the Obama Administration decided to not do anything about the fight to allow the pipeline from Canada to Port Arthur, Texas. Otherwise, the jobs it would create and perpetuate will never happen or end. The environmentalists are pleased, but cautious and Canada will bring the oil to market, with China being the prospective customer.

This hurts me personally. The economy Obama is affecting is the local economy and it's suffering due to his apparent lack of concern. The future local economy looks dim and the double digit unemployment will probably go up over the next two years.

You don't hurt the economy of the United States, unless your loyalties are to another country. I doubt Congress investigates, but it's their job and not doing anything is as irresponsible as the cowardly acts of the Obama Administration.

The more I think about this, the anger becomes worse. These political hacks and environmentalists complain, while writing their rants on computers with plastic cases and wearing underwear with synthetic elastic to hold it around their puckered butts. Bastards. The entire bunch is no good. Leave and may your search for another country be full of pitfalls and disappointments equal to the problems you created.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Afternoon Coffee

At around 3:00 this afternoon, I checked the coffee pot, saw there was at least a cup left and decided to have a cup. Since the pot is programmed to shut off to keep from ruining the coffee, I put it in the microwave.....for too long. It boiled over and made a mess, so I cleaned it up and put some cream and sugar in my coffee. It was the perfect mix, so I went and sat at my desk, started working, reached for my coffee and knocked the  cup over on top of my computer. I cleaned that mess, checked to make sure it didn't get into the computer, rinsed my usb hub in fresh water and left it to dry overnight. I'll check it in the morning.

So, no coffee. Maybe that's best. At the rate things were happening, the next step would have been choking on a sip, falling over backwards and ending up in the hospital with a concussion.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Electricity and Other Things That Confuse

I'm not an electrician, although I'm enough of an electrician to know when electrical things are not behaving as they should. Yesterday evening, my mother called to tell me she was having a problem. She went on to explain her kitchen light went out and the washing machine had quit. I left work and made a beeline to her house. I found exactly what she described, so I started looking.

A quick check of the washer indicated the gear box, or motor were broken. When I pulled the knob to make the spin cycle start, the lights dimmed and I could hear the motor loading up. The kitchen light was a puzzle, so I went to the breaker box to check.

None of the breakers were thrown, so I checked the voltage, which led to the start of the confusion. One leg was 121 volts; the other was 134 volts. I went into the house and unplugged some appliances and went and checked again. The voltage was now 128 volts on one leg and 124 on the other. I went back to check the washer. When I started the spin cycle, it wasn't such of a drain, but it still wouldn't start. I had a hunch, so I checked the microwave, which I thought was on the same circuit. It started, the lights dimmed in the kitchen and the lights in the dining room became brighter. This is strange, so I called a neighbor who is a retired master electrician.

We went through the process of what I had already completed. We went outside, checked the voltage at the main and found much of the same as what we found at the breaker box. I went back to the breakers and turned them all off. Now, the voltage was 126 volts on both legs. We went back to the breaker box and started turning on breakers. As we started flipping on breakers, the voltage became uneven again on the seperate legs. He watched the voltage as I went in the house and tried the washing machine. He reported the voltage on that leg dropped to 114 volts, but that the lights had become brighter in the garage. We did the same thing with the microwave, which was on a different circuit. Again, the voltage dropped, the lights in the kitchen became dimmer, the lights in the dining room became brighter and he reported the lights in the garage became brighter, also.

We talked about the problem. As we were talking, the heater came on. When he went to check the washer, it started and completed the spin cycle. After a little more discussion, he confirmed what I was suspecting, which is that there is something wrong with the neutral. We checked connections at the main and the breaker box. Everything was tight, so it's down to either the house neutral (Unlikely. Why would it suddenly have a problem?) and the power company neutral (More likely. The wiring in the neighborhood is old and the last two hurricanes weren't the best thing for the power grid)

I called the power company this morning and now I'm waiting for one of their representatives to arrive. I hope he makes a quick glance, has a "ah ha" moment and goes right to the problem. As far as the kitchen light: it's flourescent, so I'm thinking it's the ballast, if anything at all. I'll wait until after the other problem is fixed before I made the determination.

Update 1:  The problem is the neutral to the pole, or the neutral on the poles. The lineman was a troubleshooter and alone. The crew to handle such things will arrive in the next hour or so. The will probably bring a small machine, which will allow them to complete their work.

Final outcome: They changed the service wire from the weather head to the pole. Everything is round again. The washer is working as it should; the microwave is working as it should and the voltage is reading 125 volts on each leg for 250 volts across both legs. The only problem left is the kitchen light. First thing is to go buy some new bulbs to make sure the simplest problem is not the only problem. After that, it's either trying to find a new ballast or replace the fixture - whatever is cheaper.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Conversations With Veterans

I've had many conversations with veterans about their time serving the country. Some of the conversations have led to stories that include incidents of being stabbed in the leg by a "dead" enemy soldier and a night in a fire base during the Tet Offensive. They were close to death, while the majority of citizens they were serving slept in a warm bed and carried on with their lives.

So, today is their day and it's a good thing to thank them for their service.

Traffic Sucks

At 4:30 this morning, I was tailgated by some ass that must have been in a supposed hurry. Miles of empty paving and all they had to do was pass, but no, they wanted to tailgate me; I guess they were showing me how important they are and how I should hurry, too. I didn't. In fact, I slowed down just a little so they could enjoy a little more high blood pressure.

Traffic's been bad for the last few days. I'm thinking it's due to the proximity to the first week of the month. People scurry from under their rocks, go to the mailbox and find the check they've been waiting for. After they make their plans, they're off to Walmart to spend some money and screw up traffic on the way. There, they'll block aisles, talk on their cell phones and ignore anyone that's trying to get by.

So, if you're out and about today, watch carefully. Be ready for people to cut you off, veer from their lane, run stop lights, stop on entrance ramps, pull the nose of their vehicle into the outside lane, take up two parking spaces and generally prove that some people should stay at home and not be allowed to drive. If you're one of these people, go home. Wait until tonight; join the drunks and other crazies that roam after sunset. You'll be in good company. They understand and will welcome you with open arms.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Ravages of Time

I spend a lot of time at my mother's house. She's not completely unable to take care of herself, but she can't be alone all the time. After a TIA late last Spring, the entire family wondered for awhile if she was gone forever. She was incoherent, very weak and we shared staying with her in the hospital.

She has a pacemaker, which prevents a knee surgery she needs, but she doesn't let this overwhelm her thoughts. Her short term memory isn't like it should be, but she manages. She's worked her way back to doing her daily bridge and word games in the paper. Her small circle of friends still play bridge one day each week and she insists on watching her favorite show, "Wheel of Fortune" every evening. These things are part of her regiment to use her mind and not allow the ravages of age to take away her ability to think.

I've sat many times and thought of the near future. I wonder how it will be when she passes. I hope it's quietly in her sleep and she never has to spend any more time in the hospital. When she was there before, her daily request was to go home. I think she wants her final time on Earth to be where she is comfortable and surrounded by those she loves.

So I wait. She might live for decades or for the night. I'll never know until it happens. Until then, I'll do what I can and hope her remaning time is with dignity and without suffering. I see her trepidation in enduring what's left and know she is fearful of things that she never feared before. It's hard to see and maybe, if God wills it, I'll be there at her last moments to see her off.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The more things change...

...the more they remain the same.

My grandfather came to this area before 1920. He served in the Army Air Corp during the first world war and was stationed in Lake Charles Louisiana. After his service, he went home, married his sweetheart and returned to work at the Gulf Oil Refinery. He didn't stay and went on to sell real estate and insurance. The area changed.

One thing that changed was a local tidal lake, which went through several major changes. One, was the loss of most of the large cypress trees at the northern end. I've heard many explanations, including the construction of chemical refineries. I don't know, but there is probably someone that does.

One change my grandfather told me about was end of salt water species that would be found in the lake during late Summer and Fall. He told of emerald green water and salt water fish such as mackerel, ling and sharks. The lake, as he described it, had a sand bottom and was similar to Galveston Bay. I've tried to imagine the lake as such many times. It's usually brown, except for rare occasions, when it will become a murky green. The bottom is muddy, which is the result of dredge spoils and the controlled water releases from lakes to the north.

A local paper reported anglers are catching salt water fish in the lake, including makerals, sharks and even a blow fish. It's like the past, which can be explained by the drought and lack of fresh water from the water poor lakes to the north.

I'm sure this will all change over time. The drought is forecast to start ending next year, which will fill the lakes and allow the constant flow of fresh water. Until then, fishing from the past will be found in the present. I'm thinking it's a once in a lifetime event that will fade from memories after my generation. Hopefully, the past changes in dredge discharge and containment will allow the lake to once again have a sand bottom. It won't happen in my time, but maybe some future generation will see the lake as my grandfather once did.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Afternoon Drowsiness

I get it, so I did a little web searching about the causes.

One train of thought is that lunch has a big influence. Too many carbs or an alcoholic drink can cause drowsiness, so there are tons of different diet tips to help prevent becoming sleepy.

Another reason is lack of enough sleep at night. That I can understand, but I usually get around 6-1/2 to 7 hours each night. Even with a lot of sleep, I still can get drowsy in the afternoon.

After the little research I made on the condition, I realized the suggestion of a nap was missing. Otherwise, doing what the body is demanding is not an option. I'm guessing this is due to the fact it's taboo in our society to sleep while at work. After all, just because every damn species besides humans will nap shouldn't be considered to be a sign that an afternoon nap is part of our genetic imprinting.  We can't be so stupid as to think napping is healthy and necessary.

So, if you, too, get sleepy in the afternoon, don't worry. It's all part of being human, denial and gentics. Eat a good lunch, get enough sleep, avoid alcohol and ignore the feeling. We're too evolved to sleep when we're sleepy, unless it's when we're supposed to sleep.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Occupy Whatever Update

The newest news reports have reports of rape, robbery, assaults and other activities in the OWS locations throughout the country. Some places have quit allowing reporters and all have developed a code of "ethics", which don't allow reporting these crimes to authorities. In a less polite society, this would be called anarchy and the only parallel would be the pirate communities of the Caribbean in the past.

So, what's next? Where is the line drawn? When are the candy-assed mayors, police chiefs and other authorities going to step up to the plate and do the job the're paid to perform? What are they afraid of? Criminals? Anarchists? Cowardly punks that are too lazy to accept they have to work if they want to eat?

Screw them all. May their protest end peacefully, even though I think the entire bunch should be chased away with attack dogs, fire hoses, mace, rubber bullets and tear gas. The party's over. Society demands they be held accountable and face the consequences. Keep them in a pen until tomorrow morning. After that, give them brooms and make them clean up their mess.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Things Some People Don't Know

I was in a lumber store this afternoon and was a little surprised by the ignorance of one of the clerks. I had the change for the purchase, which included a dime that had lost most of the exterior metal. It was the color of a penny, which prompted me to comment about the lack of silver. When I explained there hadn't been silver in dimes, or any coin, since 1964, they were surprised. I further explained the value in a silver coin is far in excess of the face value of the coin.

Judging from the expression on the face of the clerk, I realize they had no idea of the devaluation of U.S. currency over the last five decades Their ignorance is exactly what was planned. We've been robbed and few people realize how much was stolen.