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, I started another blog:

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, December 31, 2011

I'd feel like a derelict...

...if I didn't write anything at this time of year, so I will.

The last year was full of pitfalls that were totally unexpected. My mother suffered serious health problems, I lost a brother and the total economic climate sucked. That was the bad part. The good part was that I feel I've endured some things that would have taken a greater toll in the past. Maybe that's what age and wisdom bring: Patience and endurance are far more than just important.

So, there's a new year creeping into our lives. I have no idea what it will bring, but I'll face it with optimism and hope. I have no real predictions, although I do feel the winds of change. What they bring will be important and life changing.

Happy New Year and may the next year be better than any you ever experienced.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Suggestion

I have a suggestion for supermarkets. I'm sure they'll ignore the suggestion, but I think it's a very good idea:

Before anyone can take a basket, they are required to count to 20. After that, if they have more than 20 items in their basket when they go through the 20 item, or less, line, a trapdoor opens and they're whisked away (in a tube like at the bank) to the place where they first received their basket.

Of course, this would need to be videotaped so their surprised expression could be placed on the evening news for everyone to see.


I was looking at the search keywords that lead people to my blog, This one caught my attention:

define "gimlet ass"

I haven't found any definition, but if I do, I'll post it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Today, I'm Irritated

I've been sitting and thinking about a few things that really piss me off:

-Politicians rarely do their job. Entrusted with money that's supposed to be only for what's absolutely necessary - as dictated by those that pay taxes - exorbitant waste is reported daily and the culprits are politicians. God has a special place in Hell for most of those critters.

-The Federal Reserve screws with the money supply, which lowers the value of the dollar, which reduces the spending power of my paycheck, which means all my efforts to improve my financial condition are wasted. God, in my opinion, should reserve them a place next to the politicians.

-I pay way too much for the gasoline in my pickup. Included in this cost are taxes (see politicians above) extra fees for ethanol (which is subsidized with tax dollars) and the unseen costs due to regulations by the jackbooted EPA.

-Food prices are steadily increasing. Part of these increases are due to the shifting of corn as a food product and allowing better prices for farmers through subsidies, which are paid by tax dollars, or tax breaks, which are directly attributed to the mandate of the use of ethanol, which wouldn't exist on the market without the crooked efforts of the government.

So, these things piss me off. Those and the fact that the government never trims their spending. Instead, they push their grubby little hands deeper in the pockets that are running out of money. In my mind, the government is the problem, not the solution. I don't think I'm the only person with this my opinion. In fact, I think the majority of the people that pay taxes in the U.S. feel the same.

Be Careful Today

A news report this morning described a terrible accident that happened yesterday. A woman lost control of her car, crossed the highway median and crashed head-on into a pick up truck. The driver of the truck was killed instantly.

Years ago, while working on a highway project, I needed to speak to the inspector about a problem. I stopped at the field office and was informed he was up at at the scene of a wreck. Part of his responsibilities were to make reports of such occurences, so he went to the scene to examine any traffic control problems or road conditions that might have contributed to the accident.

I found him standing on the shoulder of the access road. Emergency vehicles were still on site, but there were no ambulances, wreckers and only enough officers to control traffic. People were walking up and down the shoulder with plastic bags and latex gloves on their hands.

I asked what happened. He explained two college girls were killed. Their car crossed the median and collided head-on with another car. Both died instantly. Why they crossed the median was not evident, but it was later reported they were going back to school and had driven a long distance before the accident. It was assumed the driver fell asleep and lost control.

I asked what the people were doing with the plastic bags. He answered: "Picking up pieces". I then noticed one of the workers bend over, reach down and pick up a piece of bloody flesh. I told the inspector I'd find him in about an hour. He nodded and told me he'd be in the field office.

So, be careful today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Continuing My Big Number Research With 10,000 Hits Daily

I'll see what that post title lures to my site. I'll know at 10:00 am tomorrow. That's the time when the Russian and Google robots seem to prowl.

Chasing Fiction

I noticed a television program that has a crew of experts that roam around the world looking for things such as the Loch Ness monster and elves. I'm a little mixed about the show.

 They were using a set of cheap walkie-talkies for communication on the show I watched. I know it was a short segment of the whole show, and there was probably an explanation, but give me a break. I've run into a box store and purchased the same set of walkie-talkies and had over fifty in change from a hundred. Where do they get their cameras? Walmart?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Power of the Thermostat

Thermostats are switches. Nothing more; nothing less, although they're far more in most homes. The power wielded by the user is ruthlessly abused in the wrong hands.

I've had arguments with people over thermostats. They're uncomfortable, so they set the thermostat to a position that's unreasonably different than the current setting and then become adamant their relief will come faster than changing the temperature setting by only a degree or two. My logical explanation that this isn't true  falls on deaf ears. Anger arises and everything I've learned is dismissed. In some situations, I've been ridiculed. Otherwise, they don't want to be confused by the facts; my knowledge is useless and I'm foolish to think that physics, electrical engineering and common knowledge have proven that the thermostat is a switch and has no magical power to rapidly change the temperature in a room like a throttle on a powerful engine.

When you move the control on a thermostat, a circuit is completed, current is supplied to a contactor, a blower motor starts and either an air conditioning, or heating unit, starts. At this point, air is moved over a heating plenum or the evaporator coils on an air conditioner. Changing the setting to some ridiculous setting, such as 80 in the winter, or 60 in the summer only changes where the entire operation ends. It's not like there's some special extra part of the system that turbocharges the system and creates more cold, or warm air. I'm right about this. Do some web research or read a book or go to a technical school and take a course to become an expert. You can't prove me wrong.

Another thing: When you diddle the controls with your grubby little fingers, you change much more than you realize. In you effort to selfishly change the temperature of an entire house, the temperature of everything in the house will need changing to completely balance the system. Your little effort to become instantly comfortable may mean 24 hours of increased utility costs. Even then, the final effect may mean the changed temperature is uncomfortable for everyone else in the house and their frustration may lead to their diddling with the thermostat and starting the entire cycle over again.

So, why am I writing about this? I can't win the argument with many people, but I can complain in writing. That adds credence to my argument and, more or less, insults those foolish enough to argue with me about this subject. Call it throwing down the gauntlet. They're wrong and I'm right and the argument is over......I win!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas - and I hope Santa Has an Umbrella

It's raining and the forecast if for the rain to continue through Monday.

I think this is the first Christmas I can think of being a long rainy event. Considering the long drought, the constant wishes for rain and the fact that it is Christmas, maybe Santa is rewarding us for being good during the year. We'll take it, although some may not feel the same.

Somewhere, where it's a little colder, the snow will bring a white Christmas. I've only seen one, but it had a certain magic that would have been more memorable if I had been a child. Still, it was one of the best experiences in my life. With that in mind:

Merry Christmas to all that happen to wander into my little corner of the internet.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Lament of the Concrete Sawyer

I learned to saw concrete by the method common in the late seventies: "Here's the saw. These are the controls. Get to work and don't screw up." It wasn't a completely new experience; I had watched the process, so I wasn't completely unfamiliar with sawing concrete.

We were pouring a new street. Four lanes of concrete was the final result, but it required long days of preparing for the eventual concrete pour on Friday. Usually, it was a single lane of concrete approximately a thousand feet in length. The pour started at daylight and lasted until around 2:00 pm, except for me.

Concrete is guaranteed to do two things: get hard and crack, which requires controlled cuts in pavement for the cracks. The cuts are usually around a quarter of the way through the concrete and an eighth of an inch wide. After the concrete is completely cured, the joints are cleaned, a backing rod is placed and the joint is sealed to prevent water infiltration. The sealant is flexible, so that the concrete can expand and contract without losing the seal.

After the first pour on the project, I was asked if I knew anything about sawing concrete. Young, fairly energetic and not really wanting to go back to setting paving forms, I agreed to place the saw joints in the concrete. The job, which is called "green cutting" required marking the proposed location of the joints with a chalk line and sawing the concrete, which due to the concrete thickness, was two inches in depth. Another hand helped me start the sawing process by helping pop chalk lines. Eventually, I learned how to remove the need of a helper; they could be unreliable and not hold the line in the right place.

The concrete at the first of the pour was set to the point I could run the saw on the surface without marring the finish. The saw, which was common at the time, was a 65 horsepower saw manufactured by Target. Self propelled, heavy, awkward and loud was the only way to describe the saw. The big Wisconsin engine had it's own peculiar bellow that was unmistakable. To this day, I could pick the saw out with my eyes closed. 

I propelled the saw to the first joint location. Stopping the engine, I placed the diamond blade on the arbor. The 14 inch blade was heavy, and had signs of wear. The diamond segments were half worn, but the blade would last for a few pours, if I insured the right amount of water was on the blade and didn't try to "bulldog" the saw. Low water, or pushing the blade would cause the blade to wear too fast, which meant hundreds of dollars were wasted by a negligent sawyer.

I hooked the water line to the saw, opened the valve on the water truck pulled next to the pavement, started the saw, adjusted the throttle and pushed the control to lower the blade to the pavement. I was not in line, so I wrestled the heavy saw back and forth until the blade was right over the line. I opened the water valve on the saw and lowered the blade to touching the pavement. Adjusting the gauge, I lowered the blade to two inches and eased the direction control forward. I was now a sawyer, whether I liked it or not. Considering I had 1000 feet of paving to saw, with the paving joints every 15 feet across the 12 feet of paving, it was time for me to get busy. I worked until dark and finished the next morning.

Over time, I learned how to speed up the process. The saw became more familiar and I learned shortcuts for sawing. The saw became a cumbersome appendage, which I would move without thought. The mindless repetition of sawing allowed hours of time to think, so the distraction of sawing was soon eliminated by instinct. I became an expert, which has it's good points, but it was tedious, which is not my strong point. Sawing became drudgery and the only thing I liked was the overtime. 

I eventually taught someone else to run the saw. There was a bridge to build and I had the most experience with such things, so my sawing days ended until years later on other projects. It's an honorable trade and the pay is good if you have the experience, but sawing always involves long, strange hours. I know some that relish the job and they're poetry motion while they saw. Me, it's not my favorite, but I know that it's a skill I can still peddle if required.  Hopefully, I never have to make that decision.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Over 10,000 visits

I'm still experimenting. So far, there seems to be a correlation with numbers in the title and site visits. I'll keep you posted.

Sand Trout

I could see the jetties from the main platforms when I worked offshore. They were a dark line on the horizon. When the weather was rough, the waves would break on the jetties and send plumes of spray dozens of feet in the air.

In the Winter, stong southeast winds will cause extra high tides, which will allow conditions where the jetties are right under the surface. Inexperiened, or ignorant boat skippers will find they've made a terrible mistake when they run their boats on to the jetties. The relatively shallow water allows most of the boats to be visible for years if they come to rest on the outside of the jetties.

I was watching the jetties on a January afternoon. A front had passed a few days before and the sky was  a sheet of gray, which signaled an approaching weather system. The wind was dead calm, which made the Gulf almost completely flat. If it wasn't cold, someone could think it was summer, when the Gulf was usually calm.

I could see a small boat approaching. It had navigated through the small boat gap in the jetties and was heading towards the main platforms. As it approached, I realized how small it was. This was odd, since it was an unwritten rule that small boats didn't head into the Gulf during the winter. The rapid changes, and strong winds could stir up swells over 10 feet high or a chop that was over 5 feet. Even in the summer, the guidelines dictated not heading to the Gulf if the wind disturbed the leaves on a tree early in the morning.

After about three quarters of an hour, the lone boater pulled his small flat-bottomed boat to the living quarter platform, dropped anchor and proceeded to rig his fishing pole.  Within a minute, he baited his hook, dropped it in the water and winched it a few turns after it reached the bottom. He slowly raised and lowered the bait which caused an instant strike. Quickly, he reeled the large sand trout into the boat, re-baited his hook and repeated the process.

Over the next hour, the fisherman caught around 30 healthy sand trout. Satisfied with his catch, he pulled his anchor, fired up his motor and was gone. I watched as he headed straight back to the gap he had come through only two hours before. Within the hour, he had passed through the gap to the safety inside the jetties.

I never saw that happen again while I worked offshore. Not that it didn't. Unless someone was really paying attention, they'd miss the entire episode. I'm thinking the fisherman knew exactly when and where to go, which allowed him to fill his freezer with another year's catch of sand trout. Still, he took a risk. If his motor failed, and the weather changed, his final lonely hours would have been fighting to survive the wicked waves and cold.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

10,000 Visitors and More

I had an abnormal amount of visitors today. Quite a few were from robot servers hunting for revenue. I'm thinking there is something about placing large numbers, such as 10,000, and adding "visitors" to the title that  tickles a search function in the code.

If I can't figure out a way on making money on my research, Ill let you know if it worked.

Reading the Instructions

We were wrapping up a project, which was building a small pre-engineered metal building in an industrial facility. The only thing left was the roll up door. The building was a kit, so unlike many buildings we built, the roll up door was our responsibility. I preferred a subcontractor for this task, but that wasn't the situation this time.

I'd watched doors assembled a few times, so it wasn't like I was completely ignorant. Still, I spent some time reading the instructions and followed the steps as explained. It was fairly simple, but there were some warnings about dangerous things that could happen.

After fastening the brackets, we placed the heavy sectional door on the brackets and proceeded to start tensioning the spring, which is designed to offset the weight of the door during opening and closing. I was concentrating on keeping the pipe wrench from getting loose and smashing my hand against the frame, or whipping around and hitting me in the face. Since I was on a scaffold, my attention wasn't on one of my helpers.

One caveat in the instruction was to NEVER remove the banding around the door, until the spring was tensioned. Since the door weighed hundreds of pounds, removing the band would allow it to unroll, which wasn't a good thing; especially if you're under the door.

I didn't like the method we were using to tension the spring, so I loosened the spring and climbed down to re-group. I felt we needed to have someone on the other side to help in the operation, so I was in the process of doing just that by moving a scaffold to the other side and finding another wrench. I didn't pay much attention to the helper, who was asking about some tin snips.

As I moved about around the door, the helper found the tin snips and with the best intentions to be productive, snipped the band around the door. Instantly, the door unrolled and slammed against the floor - missing me by inches. I was speechless for a moment and then looked at the helper. I didn't need to say anything. The sick look on his face meant he realized how bad he screwed up.

Anyway, instructions are important; so is communication. If I had spent a few moments explaining the entire process, the helper would have had a better feel for the importance of not removing the band. Not that this would have prevented the accident, since the helper wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least the right methods would have been applied.

You live and your learn. In my profession, learning can be lethal.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Over 10,000 visitors...

...stopped by my blog since August, when I started my journey into the blogosphere. That's more than the populations of many towns, so the number is significant; at least I think it is. Some are regulars, many probably came by mistake and a few are only electronic efforts by computers to look for revenue. Still, I think a "thank you" is necessary.

Thank you. I'm honored by the visits.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rolling Along

We were setting forms for a large headwall on the end of a concrete box culvert...kinda. The crew was setting forms and I was using my powers of observation to determine their progress. They were using their powers of telekinesis to wish me away. It must have worked.

Something caught my attention. I don't know if it was something I saw out of the corner of my eye, or a noise, but I looked up to see a complete tire and wheel from a semi coming down the center of the highway. It was pretty well staying right on the centerline and approaching at around 50 mph. I told the crew "Heads up", which caused them to look up to see what was happening. Those that didn't realize what was happening figured it out quickly from the pointing and comments.

We all had a few of those moments when you really don't know what to do. Should you move? Or, should you just stand still and see what happens? We all chose the latter and watched the wheel travel past, veer off to the shoulder and bounce into the woods; taking a few sapling down in the process. We stared for a few moments and looked down the highway to see a loaded semi limping to the shoulder. Since I was the closest person with any authority, I climbed in my truck and went to see what I could do.

The rig, since it had lost the front left steering tire, could only pull to the left, so the driver had pulled his rig onto the shoulder in front of a closed diner. As I pulled in, he was just climbing down and starting to survey the damage. Meanwhile, the old man that was selling vegetables in the empty parking lot was still staring at the truck and down the highway. He had a ring side seat and must have been thanking his lucky stars the wheel didn't travel straight in his directions. He wouldn't have had any time to react; the wheel could have been the last thing he ever saw.

In the next few moments, a state trooper whipped into the parking lot, bailed out of his car and that's when things got strange. I expected him to immediately see if anyone was hurt. I was wrong. He proceeded to tell the old man to move his vegetables. He went on to explain this wasn't the first time and he was through with warnings about his vegetables on the state right-of-way.

His face red with anger, the  trooper continued giving the old man the fifth degree, while walking in circles. When he headed towards his car, I got back in my truck and left. I'd seen all I wanted to see. As strange as things were progressing, I didn't want to find out how strange they could be. If he wanted to know anything, he could find me on the side of the road about a quarter mile away.

I went back to the job site and told the crew what I'd seen. They made a few comments and went back to work. I stayed on site until the trooper drove away and then left to go about other things I had on my plate. I told the crew to get the wheel out of the woods, which they took two of them to wrestle the heavy wheel out to the shoulder. That's where it was when I left that evening. It was gone the next morning. I don't know where it went, but I'm just about sure it wasn't where it was supposed to be.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

All We Are and Shall Be

Today was one of those winter days when it's still and the high clouds are a sign of a weather change. These type of days seem to give me long moments of introspection, which led to thoughts about legacies.

I was thinking of a great-grandfather. He was probably born after the end of the Civil War, so his father lived during the war. He had a farm in Illinois that was considered huge at the time. At 180 acres, it required the entire family to help with the chores. My grandfather, for whatever reason, left to fight the first World War and eventually ended up on the Gulf Coast. He didn't stay to inherit the farm. I never knew the reason he chose the path he chose. He never said and I never asked. He's gone, so the question will remain unanswered forever.

Anyway, back to legacies: my great-grandfather's final legacy was his farm was sold after his death and the house that held so many memories was bulldozed. All that is left of him and his children are a few pieces of furniture and memories that will become substantially thinner after my demise. Time will progress and only dust will remain. The summation of generations will be as inconsequential as a limb falling from a tree on a windy afternoon.

In a way, it all fits, but in another, it makes me realize that I need to pass something on to future generations. I don't want to fade away forever after a short conversation at a future family gathering. I don't exactly know what to do, but I'm thinking writing will be the path. Maybe a book, or a collection of memories to give to heirs. Who knows, but it's time to get started.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Presidential Debates

I've caught part of the Republican President candidates last night. It was interesting, but like all before, it was another scripted show with the contenders, standing in makeup, posturing and answering the questions from self described experts who formulated the questions  to show their intelligence.

I wonder how they would answer my questions:

What are you going to do about the no-ass congress members that abused their power, wasted taxpayer money and will live the rest of their lives on my dime?

Will you turn the dogs loose on the former administration and find where the bodies are buried?

Will you fly around in a small airplane, instead of wasting millions of dollars to fly a Boeing 757 around like a taxi?

Will you tell every S.O.B. that's in charge of every agency to cut their staff and budget by 50%?

Since you'll make a million on your memoirs, will you refuse a salary and pension?

Will you tell the rest of the world we aren't their parents and they need to take care of their own problems?

When it comes down to brass tacks, will you have the nerve to send the military to kick some ass?

I have a lot of questions. I have the feeling they'll all remain unanswered.

So Now What?

If you examine the problems with "Fast and Furious", it doesn't take you long to realize that some serious law breaking was undertaken by the United States government. Not only were laws broken, higher officials either turned their backs on this illegal activity, or were directly involved with the criminal operations. To add insult to injury, the highest officials of the United States government in the justice department are either stonewalling, or directly making an effort to hide information that ties them to the operation.

So, now what? A special prosecutor? It's not looking much like that will happen. Anyway, that's a horse crap excuse for rooting out rotten politicians. Too many of the people that should still be investigated still have their hands in the process. With one lying and the other swearing to it, there's no justice or preservation of the rule of law.

Congress can impeach Eric Holder. Whether their cojones are large enough for this task is the big question. So far, chihauhaus have them beat in that department.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Construction Travelers

Have you ever wondered where they get the workforce to build large buildings and industrial facilities?  It's construction travelers, which are a huge group of people, with special skills, that travel around the country to the big projects and work until they're completed, or their particular skill isn't needed any longer. Some are union, some aren't. They may have a home, where they stay until another project starts, or they may live in a travel trailer they pull to each location.

Besides working these huge new construction projects, many work what are known as "turn arounds", which are maintenance, or repair projects. Usually, these last a few weeks, or months and the work schedule is twelve hour days, seven days a week. The money can be very good, but the trade is limited family time and a toll on health. Working that many hours without days off isn't sustainable. What few times I've worked those hours left me completely apathetic in less than a month.

Still, they're out there and working every chance they get. They know every day is one day closer to unemployment. It can be a hard life, but you'll find few that are slackers or not good at their trade. You have to be. If not, you're the first to go when the culling starts. If there isn't any other job in sight, it can be a sobering experience to be in a strange town, with strangers and not enough resources to move on.

So, why am I writing about these workers? They are a very important part of the work force that makes the United States happen. There's no community that requires people with their skills at any one time, so they need places to go. They're a valuable resource and their skills aren't found by searching universities or work centers. All the bureaucrats in Washington D.C. couldn't replace a dozen of these workers. They know where the jobs are, but their jobs require a vibrant economy. If attrition reduces their ranks, the time needed to replace them is too long, which requires either taking a chance on unskilled workers or filling their ranks with people from other countries. You may never notice them, but they're the reason you have plastics for your computers, gasoline for your cars and the electricity that keeps the critters away at night.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Retail Sales Forecasts

I've arrived at the opinion that retail sales forecasts are determined by throwing dice. If you read the job number statistics, projected sales reports and other boilerhoused documents used for arriving at these forecasts, you realize the projected numbers are created from data that is as reliable as dice. So, a smart man would throw some dice, or flip a coin to make the determination. I know I would; why waste the time?

What really amazes me is that these numbers are even considered news. Every year it's the same doom and gloom up to Christmas, which leaves some retailers patting themselves on the back and others damning the economy. Neither has a clue of why they were successful, or not, although the news media always reaps some benefit. News is money, whatever the source.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Night I Found a Car

Late one night, we had just finished detouring traffic, placing new temporary lane markings and moving a few dozen concrete barrier walls, when I found a car. Not that it was a perfectly new car; it has a few scrapes and dents that were probably not there a few minutes before.

Night traffic on the interstate can be light; especially at 3:00 am. That's the reason most interstate repairs are done at night. In the day, the traffic can back up for miles, which leads to frustration, road rage and way too many calls to the local highway office. When you add the increased number of accidents, the best solution is to mandate lane closures are performed at night. Besides the lessened traffic flow, the officials are sound asleep, so they don't receive any nasty phone calls.

I was making my final return to the start of the setup to verify everything was placed correctly. This involved about a four mile trip, since the area was rural and there were few places to cross to the other lanes. The approach to the setup was near an entrance ramp, so as I climbed the slight grade and reached the top of the ramp, I found a car. It was skewed in the left lane at the end of the taper, so it was out of traffic. I pulled into the lane, climbed from my truck and approached the car. It was empty.

I thought for a few moments, then started looking. Since the section of elevated interstate was at the start of a bridge, the first thought I had was that the car hit the rail, spun around and the driver was thrown over the railing. I walked to the rail, shone my flashlight around, but didn't find anybody. There was water below, so I started wondering if the driver had drowned in the water below.

I heard a car approaching and found a sheriff deputy pulling into the lane closure. Somebody had seen the car hit the rail and called. I explained what I had found, we made another look around and the deputy called a wrecker. The wrecker arrived within minutes, pulled the car onto the flatbed and left, with the deputy right behind. I made sure the barrels were straight and left to join the crew as they readied everything for the next shift.

I never found out what happened. I did read the paper to see if there was a drowning, but nothing was reported. I guess it was a drunk that figured it would be easier to explain leaving their car on the highway instead of spending the night in jail. It was that, or outstanding warrants. Either way, the driver, obviously, didn't want to explain their situation to the law. Still, I'm curious. I wonder what happened.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Exit Ramps

This evening, I had one of those moments that make you wonder if you will make it home.

I took a usual exit ramp. Everything was fine; the pickup in front was exiting smoothly at a safe speed....until they decided to turn right at the bottom of the ramp. That's where the moment started. I had nowhere to go, the car that had the right of way in the right lane was oblivious of what was happening, so I had to slam on the brakes and watch the cars in my rear view mirror do the same. The truck darted behind the car and I was able to accelerate from the cars rapidly approaching in my rear view mirror.

For a few moments, I was ecstatic, relieved, alarmed and pissed off enough to find the driver and beat them with a stick.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Decency and Departure

I've followed a few blogs for years. Tractor Tracks has been in my favorites for a long time. I don't remember how I found the link, but her stories about construction caught my fancy, and I've been a fan ever since.

She lost an important family member, call her the matriarch of the family, which left a large hole in her life that can only be filled by the passage of time. From reading between the lines, she was a fine, descent person, loved and admired by many.

Sympathy is all I can offer, although it never seems to be enough.

December 7, 2011

It's Pearl Harbor day. For those that know what that means, or were alive during the event, today should remind that the world is a dangerous place. For those that don't, do a little research.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Little Rain

We had about one inch. Some places received up to two inches, but they were on the wet side of the slow moving front that took all weekend to pass. When if finally reached the local area, the front accelerated and the amount of rain was substantially less than forecasted. Still it helped. I think we're only about 28 inches behind at this point.

Other than that, I'm busy and have little time to write.

Oh, well.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fuzzy Math

From what I've read, if a person stops looking for work, they're not included in the unemployment data. Otherwise, they're not unemployed, even though they are. I'm thinking this is a good way to determine how I pay my bills. Not enough money? Simple answer: I don't have enough money, but since I don't, you don't have to count the money I don't have towards paying the bill. So, you've been paid, even though you don't receive the money I don't have. It all works out; problem solved.

Now, I see there's a really good offer on big screen televisions. I'll have to convince the sales staff they're getting paid, which they can use to leverage their unpaid boss into giving them their commission with the money they never received. A sixty inch screen looks to about the right size.

Something To Brighten Your Day

Soap operas, especially one with the name "Diary of a Single Mom" must be very important. So important, nearly one million dollars of stimulus money was pissed away spent to help with production costs.

I feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing our government is making wise and important choices when they spend the money they borrow without our consent.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merry Christmas

The economy and construction market haven't been very healthy this year, so a frugal Christmas is in order, unless you live in the White House and spend money borrowed from China.

Go Enjoy!

It will warm your heart, if you're a thief, politician or both.

Some Days...

...I have a lot of things to write about. Unfortunately, I don't have the time on those days.


Meanwhile, in Spleenville, entire books are written. I'm not only impressed, I'm envious.

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.

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.


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.


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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

From My Perspective

This is a view from the cab of a 60 ton rough terrain crane.

The boom is in the center. The block is behind the large structural girder.

Here's another view. The blocks are in the center; to the left of the man in the harness.

This is a view from the operator seat. (Yeah. That's a picture of my leg, for the ladies  for reference) The computer is in the upper right hand corner.

This is a better photo of the computer. The readings are 77.4 feet of boom extended, the boom angle is 55.9 degrees and the load radius is 39.5 feet. Total weight on the block is 4000 lbs and the maximum weight for the line configuration (single whip line) is 12,300 lbs.

I can't take pictures of the controls because they're joystick controls on the right and left. Alternate controls for the boom lift and boom extension are on the floor with the accelerator and brake pedal.

So, if you've been wondering where I've been, there you are.

The Golden Rule

You can look it up. There's more than one rendition and links to most all religious faiths. In my mind, it's necessary for a healthy society to function.

I suppose the rule could be subverted like all rules. It could easily be determined to only exist for one segment of society, or to justify unfair treatment of another, but this would be no different than any other rule, or law, that selfish individuals subvert for their own gain. That's the unhealthy part of a society. Envy and avarice have always been a plague and ruins of both are scattered throughout history.

I could write chapters on this subject, but it would only be reiterating what has been written for centuries. In my mind, the rule is what determines if a society survives, or disappears like all before. It's simple and really needs little explanation. Following the rule only requires an honest introspection without rationalization and subversion. That, to me, is the hardest part of following the Golden Rule. Few can be honest and admit they have allowed their weaknesses to justify their actions.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's Fall

Fall means different things to everyone, but it's a special time for me. I deal with oppressive heat for months, which gradually causes an unhealthy state of mind. Sometime during every day there is the longing for relief, which finally arrives when the first cold fronts lower the humidity and bring pleasant clear days with light northerly breezes.

This year is different. Due to the drought, nobody is burning leaves. I'm missing the smell, which accentuates the cool autumn air like an incense. It's integral to the experience, but this fall I'll have to do without. I guess it's a fair trade, since we didn't have to deal with a tropical system, or the torrential flooding that some summers bring. I'll take the trade and enjoy the time of the year I like the best.

I know colder days are coming. I'll be uncomfortable and deal with times when my feet ache from the cold. The cold damp wind will cut to the bone. Sometime during every day, I'll be longing for the relief of a hot bath and a warm bed. Until then, I'll enjoy what I have.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Promise of Rain

The rain deficit is still in the dozens of inches in my area. Even with the changes of Fall, it's obvious all vegetation is stressed and even trees are dying. There is an even chance of rain over the next 48 hours, which is desperately needed. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Arguing With Math

We have a project that requires a 30 degree skew on a pipe discharge. The pipe is around 200 feet, which places the end of the pipe 115.47 feet downstream of a line perpendicular to the outfall from the upstream location.  Since 30 degrees is the minimum offset, which may be a concern due to property lines, a change in the upstream location may be required.

One of my bosses, of course, had to ask if I was sure, so I had to explain. Another, acted like the requirements should be changed, which is out of the question . I know who we're dealing with and they won't vary from their requirements.

So, in the end, the math can't be argued with. What I haven't told either boss is that I think their "seat of the pants" measurement of 200 feet is probably off by at least 40%, which means the pipe will fit. The offset is much less for 120 feet.

I won't discuss this with either boss until I verify the dimensions. They like to argue with math; I don't. Math always wins.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I haz it. The mild headache, fatigue and generally feeling like crap. This evening, I shall take some Nyquil, soak in a hot tub of water and hope I don't catch the damn cold that's been introduced at work.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Advice For Choosing a Candidate

My advice on choosing a Presidential candidate is to think of all the candidates sitting around a table playing poker, when a loud voice from outside the room says: "I can't stand any of you and I'm going to do something about it."

There are a few things that can happen at this point. There might be a comment, such as "Did you hear that? What should we do?" Whoever you think may say this is definitely not be the right choice. A president should never ask what to do in this type of situation.

Someone may say: "I'll go talk to them. A little reasonable conversation should solve this problem." Strike this candidate. They don't have a clue.

There might be blank stares and confused looks. Eliminate any candidate you think may behave in this manner. Indecision only makes a poor President.

There might even be an accusation from a candidate. "Which one of your made them mad?" That candidate should be struck from your list immediately. There's no way an honest President won't admit they made a few enemies in the past.

So what is the right behavior? Vote for the candidate you think would stand up, flip off the lights and tell the others: " You better grab a weapon and get ready. Things are getting ugly." That's the person that will make the best President, especially if they add: "And if any of you look at my cards, I'll stomp a mudhole in your ass." That's presidential. They're honest with their self, know they may have to get rough with their enemies and demand integrity of those around them. They, also, have the courage to play poker with a bunch of thieving politicians.

If your choices have been whittled to one or two candidates, choose the one that has some military training, or been something besides a politician. They know that they might get their ass whipped, but they, also, know whoever is out there already made the mistake of announcing their intentions and the odds are not in their favor.

Brake Light Switch

My expert based analysis  gut feeling, tells me the brake light switch on my 2008 Sierra is malfunctioning. It's not the brake lights, but the cruise control that stopped working. Up until the temperature drop, I could jostle the brake peddle with my foot and the cruise control would work. Now, that doesn't do anything, so I need to change the switch.

So, I'll now go stand on my head, fight a clip made in hell to torment mechanics to prevent accidental displacement of the switch and change the switch. Last time I did this on my wife's car, I had a cramp in my foot, which kept me from moving, which caused me to scream for help, which my wife ignored  which my wife never heard. At least the same thing didn't happen during sex. That would be terrible, especially the brake light switch.

Anyway, if I don't post in a few days, you'll know where I am.

It was too easy. One hour, including the trip to the parts house. Now, I'll be looking up all day for satellites.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

They Want My Blood...

...literally, they want my blood. The local blood center just called to hit me up for some blood. I donate now and then, but don't make it a regular habit. I think it's important, but I usually feel like hammered crap for a few days afterwards and the last time brought me a stern look from my doctor when he told me I was anemic. So, it's few and far between for donations, but when you're O-negative, it's the good stuff and they want all they can get.

It's Too Nice Outside To Be Working

It's 65 degrees, the wind is out of the North and it's bluebird clear. In this neck of the woods, this is about as nice as it will ever be. Perfect weather and tonight it will dip into the upper 40's. Fall is here and I'm loving every minute of it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Father and Son Conversation About the Protest

Father: "Son I saw you on the news with a sign protesting Wall Street."

Son: "Yeah Dad. It was cool. We sat around, told them how we feel and let them know that Wall Street won't get away with what they're doing. In fact, I'm calling from the protest. We're going to stay until they listen to our demands"

Father: "It looked more like you were eating pizza and texting"

Son: "I had to let my girlfriend know I would be on television."

Father: "Well, Son. I have something to discuss with you."

Son: "And, what's that Dad?"

Father: "A group of investors recognized you from last years Christmas party and transferred their portfolios to another firm."

Son: "So, what does that have to do with me?"

Father: " That account was about 20% of my annual income, which prompted your mother, and I, to hurry our plans."

Son: "And, what plans are those, Dad?"

Father: "First thing: Your mother and I are moving. We discussed this last month at Sunday dinner and would have liked to tell you then, but you didn't show, or call."

Son: "Well, I was real busy with school and the time slipped away."

Father: "Speaking of school, a counselor called last week to ask why you didn't respond to the letter they sent. I told them I didn't know of any letter, which apparently, pertains to you failing all the classes you took this semester. They called again yesterday. We discussed your grades and the tuition check I sent last month. They wanted to know if they should send it back, or just run it through the paper shredder. I told them the paper shredder was fine. They thanked me for saving them the cost of a stamp and asked about your dorm room. I was a little confused until they explained they haven't seen much of you, needed a place for an Indian pre-med student, so we worked out a deal. They'll pro-rate the time it was used and send me a check for the difference. Since I'm cutting costs, it was too sweet of a deal to ignore."

Son: "So, I guess I'll have to come stay with you and Mom.

Father: "I think we have a little problem, Son. Jim at the office has been bugging me for months to sell him the house. To sweeten the deal, he agreed to persuade a friend to move on selling his town house. Long story short, the movers will be through by Friday, your things are in storage and we'll be in our new  town house by the end of the weekend. It has two bedrooms, but we need one for my office. I'm afraid we don't have room for you."

Son: "So, where will I go?"

Father: "I knew you'd ask, so I talked to the youth minister at church. He said he remembers you from high school and you'd remember him, since he used to work the counter at the chicken place by the mall.  We had real long conversation and he suggested the YMCA. He lived there while he was working on his degree. He said they'll work with you on the cost and offer counseling. What's really strange is that when he told me his degree was in accounting, I suggested he send his resume to human resources. They must be interested. He has an interview tomorrow and from what I hear, it's almost a sure thing, since he's going to school at night to work on his masters degree. Give him two years and he'll be a CPA."

Son: "I guess I can go stay with my girlfriend."

Father: "Isn't she the Debbie from the country club?"

Son: "Yeah. That's her."

Father: "Hmmm. That's strange. I could swear I saw her name in the bridal announcements last Sunday. It must have been a mistake, although I thought I saw her the other day having dinner with an older fellow. Then again, the hair wasn't the same."

Son: "Well, she has lighter hair now and she keeps it shorter."

Father: "Sort of an ash blond?"

Son: "Yeah, I guess."

Father: "It probably wasn't her. Anyway, I have to take this call. It's a new customer that I've been calling for over a week. Bye Son."

Son: "But Dad!"


Monday, October 17, 2011

I Want My Money Back

By my calculations, 40% of the money I've paid in Federal Income Taxes has been wasted, so I want it back. I know just asking would probably bring some nasty letter from the government, so maybe, I should come up with some viable options for them to compensate me for their error. Here are a few I've thought would be fair:
-Cut my taxes by 40%, or allow me to not pay any taxes for 40% of the rest of my working years.
-Deed me a few acres in Yellowstone National Park. I could open a little souvenir shop and a snow cone stand, but it would have to be next to Old Faithful. Oh yeah, I'd get to shoot bears if they dug in my trash. Bears and smelly tourists.
-Let me charge for parking at any White House Event. I'd be fair (just like them) and only charge $50 per car.
-Allow me to garnish the wages of members of Congress and other high ranking officials. "Dear Sir/Madam: Due to wasteful spending by you, and your predecessors, 40% of your salary shall be paid by the tenth day of each month until full compensation is achieved. A fee of 1.5% per month shall be charged for late payments for a maximum 18% annual fee.
-Let me charge any politician for any of my time they waste on television. Again, I'd be fair. If I like you, $85 an hour. If not $200,000 per 30 second spot. Just like the networks. Fair, is fair.

I can think of other things, such as a usage fee for any private firm that uses political power to get a sweet deal, like Nancy Pelosi's family.

I want my money back.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's Not Philanthropy

I've been thinking about the protests of Wall Street, which have now - according to the media I don't have much faith in - spread over the world. Otherwise, there's a multi-national group of whining people that are upset because there aren't unlimited resources for their personal gain. They want more and they want those that produce to give up more for their simple reason of selfish greed.

Giving to these people is not philanthropy. It's perpetuating the myth that life is fair and enabling a class of people that can only be described as parasitic. Their demands, and lack of the maturity to realize they don't have a chance in being successful, only points out how the equalization of income and resources only leads to poverty for all. The "Great Society" experiments have failed and the blame can only be given to the governments that thought their meddling would be better than the natural process of free enterprise.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Working on the Railroad.

I've worked on railroads. Not the main line rails, most of that work is by machines, but in industrial facilities. It's simple in theory, but far from easy.

The first rail job I worked on was leveling and tamping storage tracks in a large plastics plant. The pellets were loaded in rail cars, which would either be stored until the market was good, or sent to manufacturers for whatever they happened to do with plastic pellets. The tracks were constantly exposed to varying loads, which included switch engines. The result of these factors were rails that weren't level, or even.

My job was to work with the tamping machine operator. The machine rode the rails, had hydraulic jacks and retractable tamping plates. It could raise the rail and tamp the ballast (rock) that surrounded the rail. As it tamped, somebody had to keep supplying rock to the machine. That's where I came in,  I shoveled rock and tried to keep up with the machine. After about a week, we finally finished, which was about four days past what I wanted. 

The second railroad job I worked on was to help repair the mess of a derailed switch engine. When the flanged wheels fell off the track, the rail rolled on the side and the wheels destroyed a dozen ties. We had to pull the spikes, change the bad ties, re-spike the rail and level the section of track. The entire job was the result of a Friday evening accident. The switch engine derailed, the railroad company wouldn't switch any more cars until the rail was back in shape and we were available. My boss was glad for the opportunity. Me? I was wary. I had an idea what was soon to happen. We'd start repairs at first light on Saturday morning.

Removing the spikes required a large pry bar called a spike puller. It weighed about 30 pounds, had a large crows foot on one end and a narrow chiseled tip on the other end. Using it required some help with a hand spike driver, which had a long tapered head with hammer on both sides. Using the spike driver, the crows foot was driven onto the spike and then the pry bar was used to pull the spikes. It was like using a claw hammer on steroids. Big heavy stuff, which required little brains but lots of meat ass.

We pulled the spikes on the entire section of rail that had lain over. The rail was fine, but one of the joint bars was cracked. The facility had a few in storage, so after unbolting the rail ( with a really big wrench) we replaced the joint bar, re-bolted the rail and started replacing ties. We had a limited work area and our backhoe only had a large bucket, so removing and replacing the ties required digging around the ties by hand and sliding them under the rail with a set of spike tongs. After the ties were in place, the next step was to gauge the rail and drive new spikes.

Rail sits on what's called a tie-plate. It has four square slots for the spikes, which allow two spikes on each side of the rail. Some are flat, with a raised section to fit against the bottom flange of the rail. Others have two raised edges, which are specially made for a certain size of rail. The have a snug fit, which keeps the rail from shifting in either direction. We had an advantage with setting the rail. We had a backhoe, so we didn't have to use rail tongs and wrestle the rail into place. We, also, had a rail gauge, which we jammed between the rails to insure the 56-1/2 inches required for American rail cars.

Old ties have holes, where the original spikes were driven. Driving a new spike is easy, but it won't hold. To solve this problem, there are spike plugs, which are hardwood plugs that are the same size of the spike. When placed before the spike, they wedge the spike and keep the rail and ties firmly attached. Since we had to re-spike many of the same ties, we had to plug the holes before placing the spikes.

We started driving. I'd spent many hours with a sledge hammer driving form stakes, so my aim was good, although it was a different process. One of us would start the spike and then we'd alternate blows until the spike was driven. It was hard work, but it became harder when we spiked the new ties.

The new ties were hardwood ties, so the dense wood was so hard, a missed hit could bend a spike. Besides the demand for accuracy, each blow only buried the spike about an inch. Driving each spike became a much longer process, which only added to the labor that was already what I considered hard.

We eventually finished driving the spikes, which only left using rail jacks to raise the rail and tamping the ballast under each tie. We finished a little after noon. We'd decided we'd work through lunch to finish. It was Saturday, a beautiful summer day, and everyone had something much better to do than work on a railroad.

As I was driving home, I thought of the morning. We'd accomplished in half a day what railroad machinery would have done in about an hour. Our advantage was we were much cheaper than a rail crew, which would have charged a four hour minimum, besides the high rate of the machinery included in the cost.

The manager of the facility was pleased with our promptness, which brought them back in good graces with the railroad company. They rewarded us with the offer to change the bad ties in their facility. So, by the next Wednesday, a truck load of ties arrived and we went to work. After it was all over, I realized I didn't care much for railroad work.

Since then, we've had a few jobs where we had to repair, or modify, rail in different facilities. I tried driving a few spikes on the last job. After my try, I realized I'm not the young man I used to be. I, also, realized if I had to drive spikes, I didn't want to be the young man I used to be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rotten Things That Happen

Somebody forged signatures on the petition to allow Clinton and Obama on the 2008 Indiana Primary Ballot. While I can hope they find this criminal and beat them with sticks until they pee blood prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, I have the feeling the rug will have another lump.

The Protest Revisited

I've been reading reports on how nasty the area has become. People are peeing and crapping like farm animals, the trash is piling up and the shared food is available to any contaminated hand that happens to reach into the pizza box. Some reports even describe dumpster diving. Judging by the dwindling reports from the area, it must have reached the point they can't pay reporters enough money to be exposed to the filth.

Dumbasses. Phase 2 will involve a lot of antibiotics.

The newest reports state they'll have to leave Friday, but only temorarily, so they can clean up after the crowd. Isn't that precious? If I lived in New York City, I'd be be pissed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ignorance in Abundance

I think I awoke in the twilight zone. I've heard more ignorant comments this morning than are possible. Surely, some alien force has sucked brain matter from people that should have more sense than a handful of clay. I anticipate the rest of the day. By evening, I'll need a sedative, or a brain transplant.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An Afternoon On The Interstate.

I knew traffic was about to get real heavy. The crew had finished sealing paving joints on the outside lane of the interstate, picked up their lane closure and were making the long loop to set up again on the inside lane. I was changing the message board and the advance warning signs to "left" and they would start setting out barrels when I gave them permission to start. Opening the outside lane had allowed the traffic to "dump", so most of the drivers were back up to 70 mph and determined to hurry on to wherever they were going. We were about to break the hearts of those a few miles down the road. The closed lane would bring traffic to a crawl.

It was hot. The temperature in the shade was around 95, but that didn't mean much on the paving. My thermometer read 105, which was probably about right. Close to the paving, it was around 120 degrees and the paving was pushing 140 degrees. It was tough for working, but the best conditions for sealing paving joints. The hot paving didn't have any moisture, so adhesion was the best it could be.

I called the crew and headed over the bridge that was about a half mile before the setup. The signs were clearly visible, the message board a mile behind was warning the traffic and the visibility was to the horizon. Otherwise, the only weak link in the entire process was the human factor. Drivers jockeying for a position  ahead of merging traffic could cause a problem and probably would. Even though they had over a mile to move to the other lane, they'd push their luck until they reached the arrow board, which sat on the shoulder at the start of the taper.

I knew something was wrong when I crested the bridge. Traffic wasn't merging ahead. It was stopping in both lanes. I pulled to the shoulder and headed to the problem. I really couldn't see what was wrong, but I did know the crew had only partially set out their barrels. When I reached the "crash truck", I immediately knew what happened.

A crash truck is the slang name for a truck with an attenuator mounted on the rear. You've probably seen one. It's a big cushion mounted on the back of a truck. The cushion, which is designed to absorb the energy of an impact, costs thousands of dollars and is usually ruined when it's struck. The cost to repair is too much compared to the cost of a new one.

A late model Buick was buried into the attenuator. The truck was straddling the left outside stripe and traffic was stopped; mostly due to rubbernecking. I pulled into the grass on the right shoulder. I don't  remember if I told the foreman to keep placing the barrels or if he asked. The traffic needed to be moving; emergency vehicles would be arriving. They continued placing the barrels, I motioned traffic into the right lane and headed towards the wreck.

The driver was leaning against the driver side hood of her car. When I was closer, I could see an ugly bruise from her seat belt that went across her neck and disappeared under her blouse. Her legs had "dents" that were seeping blood. The powder from the airbag covered her and the inside of her car. The car was totaled and the attenuator would need replacing.

The woman was in her mid 60's and a little overweight. The intense heat had already turned her face red and she had the confused look of someone that was just in an accident. I thought for a moment on the best thing to do and decided she needed to be out of the heat. I asked if she could walk. She could, but with a pronounced limp. One of the hands stopped traffic and I helped her across the highway to my truck. I helped her into the passenger seat and turned the air conditioning on high. Her face was bright red. I'm sure she wasn't used to much heat and the triple digits on the highway were as dangerous as the traffic.

Emergency vehicles were arriving: Trooper, wreckers, sheriff's deputies and ambulances. I don't remember who called 911 but they must have had given a description of mayhem. I can understand the reaction. When I first came over the bridge, it looked as though there was a twenty car pile-up, instead of a two vehicle wreck. In the orderly flow of the now moving traffic, there was nothing to see but a highway crew, a bunch of emergency vehicles and, if you looked carefully, a really strange "Buick" attenuator truck

A woman EMT walked to the passenger side of my truck and started asking the woman questions. She described how she felt and said she didn't need to go to the hospital. The EMT tried to persuade her, but she was adamant. She would be fine, so I asked if she needed to call anyone. She wanted to call her daughter. I dialed the number she gave, connected the phone and handed it to the woman. She talked for under a minute, reassured her daughter and gave her directions so she could give her a ride home.

As we sat in my truck, I watched the EMT and her partner. They were leaning against the side of their ambulance and appeared to be shooting the breeze. The woman kept glancing our way and it seemed as though they were just killing time. They could have left at any time. I think they knew, more than anyone else, time was on their side. It must have been maddening to wait.

As I chatted with the woman, I could see the pain in her expression. As we talked, it became worse. Eventually, in more of a question, she made the comment: "Maybe I should go to the hospital, just to make sure." I agreed immediately and was out the door before she had time to change her mind. I motioned the EMT's and they were talking to the woman in moments. They knew the adrenaline would wear off and the pain would start. They were waiting for that to happen.

Over the next minute, the ambulance crew made a more thorough examination, she called her daughter to tell her where she was going. and they were gone. I watched them drive away and then went to see what I could do. Troopers had already questioned the driver of the crash truck. He told me what happened. The woman never slowed down. He saw her in the rear view mirror as he was shadowing the crew placing barrels, but there was nothing he could do but watch. She hit the back of the truck at around 55 mph. She had her head turned to see if there was a space in traffic to merge and misjudged the distance to the attenuator.

The wrecker had pulled the Buick from the cushion. The car was totaled and the cushion had performed as designed. The speeding car collapsed the attenuator, which was a controlled collapse. Instead of prying a dead woman from a crumpled car, the woman walked from the accident and would live another day.

Within a few minutes, the emergency crews were gone. The only thing left was the damaged crash truck, which was in perfect condition, except for the attenuator. We decided to get off the highway early. The truck needed a new attenuator and there was time to get another mounted before the evening was over.

The crew removed the barrels, hooked onto the arrow board and was off the highway in a short time. I watched from the shoulder until they had maneuvered through the traffic and reached the right shoulder. I made the long loop to take down the signs and shut down the message board. It was another day on the Interstate. Tomorrow, we'd do it again.