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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Little Electrical Advice

I was helping a friend replace a light switch. The wiring worked, but there was something I found that always concerns me: The neutral was switched, not the hot. Otherwise, it was wired backwards. This is a no-no. If you don't know enough about electricity to know the correct way to wire a switch, a wall socket, or a breaker, then don't. The life you save may be mine.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Collateral Damage

With the threat of the Affordable Care Act being thrown out as illegal, there is a political reaction, which appears to be an effort to soften the blow. This reaction includes the White House calling the law a bi-partisan bill and a "Republican idea", which is a downright lie because there was no opportunity for members of Congress to read the bill before the vote and not a single Republican voted for the bill, which eventually was passed into law after the President's signature.

Included in this reaction is re-branding of the individual mandate to "the personal responsibility clause", which is what brings a question: Do they realize that the use of "personal responsibility" opens up a can of worms? Personal responsibility demands an avoidance of dependence on the government. It, also, demands ethical behavior and being responsible by reading legislation before signing. Neither of these things were the goal of the Congress at the time the bill was signed and the result is a country that is now demanding relief from the burdens of the entitlement class and government intrusion.

I wonder how they're going to handle the collateral damage from their foolish statements?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oh The Horror

I was thinking about the possible ruling on  the Affordable Care Act may end in the total nullification of the law, or just the forced insurance mandate. Either way, the proponents in Congress will be left with the task of reading the thousands of pages if they want to discuss the issues involved. Considering some of the people in Congress, reading the law might be beyond their capabilities.

I Figured It Out

It will probably take some time, but I will eventually work out the details.

* I thought I did, but I was wrong. I will

Something the Media is Ignoring

A famous director tweeted an address of an old couple in Florida with the hope it would lead to the apprehension/kidnapping/lynching of a man that shot another man during a struggle. The address was wrong, but the intention can't be ignored, which leads to the following section of the Texas Penal Code:

 § 22.07. TERRORISTIC THREAT. (a) A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to:

(1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;

(2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;

(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance, or other public place;

(4) cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;

(5) place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or

(6) influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.

If Florida has similar laws, will there be formal charges?

The Supreme Court Plays With My Future

It's a little sad that politics, greed, bureaucracy and the agonizingly irresponsible behavior of our government led to a voluminous pile of steaming crap legislation called the "Affordable Care Act". Besides the fact the Congress critters never read the thing, it's full of legal extortion including the individual mandate, which demands I buy insurance, whether I want to, or not. The only option is a fine, which translates into "violating a Federal Code".

What's even sadder is listening to the Supreme Court Justices toss around my future like it's some philosophical exercise. It's pretty clear to me. There's nothing in the Constitution that gives the government the power to force me to buy  any product or service. Since this is true, throw the entire pile of crap out, since the law depends on the individual mandate for funding.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I'm Sorry. I Didn't See You

It was around 2:00 am; the time when the bars close and the drunks wander to their resting place for the night.. Since it wasn't "ladies' night" and the middle of the work week, I didn't expect many drunks, which was good. I was parked on the shoulder to check a location and catch up on some paperwork.

We were building "mow strips" around the posts on guardrail. This involved excavating the dirt, placing forms, placing reinforcement steel and pouring 4 inches of concrete. The end result was a section of the highway that didn't require hand trimming. In the long run, pouring the concrete was cheaper than paying the crew to keep the grass cut.

We'd prepare a section for concrete overnight and pour as soon as we were allowed to close the highway the next evening. Work hours were 8:00 pm to 4:00 am, so to prevent the expense of keeping the concrete plant open for a special pour, we'd only pay a little more for the concrete and avoid the thousands of dollars required for the equipment and crew.

It was a quiet night. After 10:00 pm, the traffic had really settled down. An occasional car would pass down the inside lane we left open. The outside lane was closed for our equipment and trucks. I'd dropped back to check a finished location, so the setup, and crew, were about a half mile ahead. It was getting to the point they would start winding things up, so there wasn't any need for me to stay on location and supervise.

The location I was checking was perfect for stopping and doing my reports. The area between the main lanes and service road was dry and I could park behind the guardrail. Years of highway work taught me to keep something between me and the traffic; guardrail was best.

The highway is loud. During peak times, the noise is around the 80 decibel range, which requires ear protection.You don't realize the effect it can have, until you find how irritated you've become over time. Constantly raising your voice and the cacophony of organized chaos eventually grates your nerves to where they're raw.

It became very quiet. This, when you're on the highway, can be as unnerving as the noise. Absolutely no traffic may mean there's a wreck stopping the traffic. Since the crew was down the road, I knew it wasn't due to our activities, but I still stopped to pay attention.

In the distance, I could hear the engine on the light tower by the crew. After about a minute, I stared having the feeling that something was wrong. Light traffic is understandable, but no traffic is disconcerting. I kept listening, and finally heard the sound of approaching cars. Looking in my rear view mirror, I saw two cars almost pacing each other as they crested an overpass about a quarter mile away. With my thoughts now settled, I went back to my paperwork.

I glanced again in the rear view mirror and saw the two cars still pacing each other. This pushed my "what a bunch of dumbasses" button. If you don't have to, you don't pace a car. A blowout, or weave can cause a wreck. Even worse, if a drunk is driving the wrong way on a four lane divided highway, the inside lane is where they usually drive. If you're in the outside lane, your chances are better on not having a head-on collision. Pacing a car gives you nowhere to go.

I looked down at my paperwork and heard the thump, followed by the sound of grinding metal and tinkling of glass being scattered on the pavement. As soon as I looked up, an early 90's Firebird tore through the guardrail about 50 feet in front of my pickup. The tail end was first and it came to a rest about 20 feet after passing through the guardrail. Immediately, the passenger door opened and all I saw were elbows and the bottom of shoes. The man was in a sprint towards the neighborhood on the other side of the service road. The driver was sitting with a stunned look on his face.

As my mind was registering the scene, a blood curdling scream shattered the calm. Looking across the highway, I saw the other car in the wreck. I bailed from my pickup and ran across the highway, expecting to find mayhem. Since there was no damage on the passenger side of the car, I was dreading finding some woman with an arm torn off from the impact between the two cars. I figured she was driving with her arm resting on the window seal and the impact removed her left arm.

I ran around the car to find the woman sitting in the drivers seat, her cell phone in her right hand and her left hand gesturing wildly as she loudly talked to someone on her phone. I asked if she was okay. It took a few moments, but she said she was.

I crossed the highway and called 911. The operator told me the accident had been reported. I'm guessing it was the woman. Why she was screaming still baffles me. I'm guessing she was scared; I know I was.

The driver of the Firebird was now out of his car surveying the damage. He looked rattled, or drunk. I asked if he was okay. He was, but I could tell his once prized car was now a few hundred dollars worth of scrap. He didn't have anything to say, so we quietly waited for the patrol cars that arrived within a minute.

I stayed at a distance from the officers. They questioned the drivers of the vehicles and didn't have any questions after I told them I only heard the wreck. After a few more minutes, a wrecker arrived. The cops finished their questions, the woman drove away in her damaged car and the officers handcuffed the driver of the Firebird. After placing him in the backseat of one of the patrol cars, the car left, leaving the other officer and the wrecker. It didn't take long for the wrecker to pull the Firebird onto the back deck. He left, the officer left and I stood in front of my pickup sorting through my thoughts about the last 30 minutes.

I'd picked the spot on the shoulder because I thought it would be a nice quiet place to write reports with minimum distractions. Man, was I wrong. Only two cars on the highway -  going in the same direction -  and they manged to wreck. To make matters worse, the supposed safe spot was only safe because they waited a few moments to wreck. Fifty feet earlier and I'd been t-boned by the Firebird.

I had a few extra cones in the back of my truck. I threw them out to mark the twisted guardrail and left the scene. I finished my paperwork at the office.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Night on a Bridge

I was riding shotgun with my boss, so I had time to observe the scenery as we headed north. A phone call from officials required us to go to a bridge about 80 miles north to see what we could do about a log jam.

The woods were a far different sight than the year before. It had been that long since I traveled the route and hurricane Rita changed the landscape tremendously. With 120 mph sustained winds at landfall, little wasn't affected and the damage was still obvious.

It was the middle of spring, so the underbrush was thin, which revealed the piles of trees and snapped branches in the woods. Old growth pines might be snapped a few dozen feet above the ground. The remainders stood like strange posts left by a determined giant. Below, the tangled remains of branches and upper trunks cluttered the ground. Chaotic was the best description. Anyone that tried to walk through these woods would have a tough time. In the upcoming summer, it would be suicidal. If the snakes or insects didn't get you, the heat would, as you fought through the poison ivy, honeysuckle and blackberry vines.

Rain ended right before we received the call, which was the end of days of torrential rains. We'd told the crews to go home that morning, since there wasn't anything we could do. We wondered about the next few days. Watersheds were full and the ground was soaked. It might be days before it was dry enough to work.

We arrived at the bridge late that morning. The Sabine River was at the top of its banks and full of dead trees and branches. We walked onto the bridge and peered down at the jam against the columns. There wasn't much to see, but we knew we could clear the jam. Our plan was to start the following morning, but after a phone call, we were told to mobilize and start as soon as possible.

I spent the entire trip back making phone calls to line up equipment and people. We needed a long stick excavator to reach and clear the jam. I found one and arranged for a heavy hauler for delivery. It would arrive during the late afternoon.

We had the changeable message boards and a light tower. The flaggers and advance warning would be subcontracted, so I just needed an operator and a few hands for support. By late afternoon, everything was arranged, equipment was hooked to our trucks and we were off to work until the logs were removed. I phoned my wife to let her know I'd be home whenever. A stop at a convenience store was a must. I needed the first of the numerous cups of coffee I'd need before the night was over. I'd been up since 4:00 am; it would be a long day before the night was over.

We arrived as the light was fading. Heavy scud clouds were lifting, but no clearing was forecast until after dark. Traffic was light, so setting up the message boards didn't take very long. Before I was through, the excavator arrived and was unloaded. We immediately closed the highway, the flaggers took control of traffic, we walked the heavy machine out on the bridge deck and the light tower was placed in the best location. We only had minutes before the only light we'd have would come from the light tower or hand lights we all carried.

Our long excavator had 60 feet of reach, so it was limited to what it could move. We'd kicked around the idea of using a crane with a grappling hook, but realized the danger of the hook hanging on something and pulling the crane into the river. The excavator, since it only had a bucket, could maneuver the debris from the columns and release anything too heavy.

The operator started the process of moving the tons of debris. On one side of the center span, it didn't take but a few minutes to remove the debris, find the larger tree and release the entire mess into the flow. The other side was different. The debris was thicker and extended further up the river. It would take some time to remove enough to see what was jammed against the columns and causing the jam.

For the next few hours, I'd take turns with my boss as we directed the operator to the different spots we felt would contribute to getting us to whatever was lodged between two columns. The operator couldn't see the river below, so he relied completely on our hand signals. It was tedious at best. The only thing to break the monotony was watching one of the helpers work off the caffeine of two energy drinks. He was worried about falling asleep, so he'd downed the two drinks without eating. He was wound tighter than a three dollar watch and paced continuously.

During our work, the skies cleared and the wind changed to the north. What was a pleasant cool breeze during the day was now uncomfortably cold. I found a jacket and spent some time just looking at the sky. The stars were beautiful and the cone of light that was our work area appeared surreal.

We finally reached what caused the jam. As we neared this tree, we'd found larger and larger trees to remove from the pile. The big problem we now faced was that the tree was mostly submerged. We had no idea how large it was or how it was lodged. We knew it was big; the excavator was having a hard time with even budging the tree, so we were beginning to wonder if it would require more equipment.

Finally, my boss had an idea. Since the excavator didn't have the strength to swing the large tree away, he decided to push it upriver, and try to walk the machine towards the center span. If successful, the end of the tree would be caught in the current and the other end could be held from the column to prevent further lodging.

The first few tries were futile. A few "feels" with the excavator revealed another small tree deep underwater. This tree was holding the larger tree. After a little manipulation, it was released and the big tree was now free...if we could move it.

The hydraulics squalled on the excavator as the operator pushed the tree away from the columns. With a little maneuvering of controls, the operator was able to inch the tree towards the center span. He continued and I crossed my fingers it wouldn't find something else to hang on. After a few minutes, enough of the tree was caught in the current so the end started downstream. The operator quickly released the end and hurried to the other end to insure it wouldn't hang on the column. He pushed on the end of the tree until it was clear. It was now free to move downstream.

Since there was no traffic, I hurried across the bridge to watch the tree as it left. When I reached the other side and shone my flashlight toward the water, I saw the upper end of the tree start to pass underneath. Hurrying back to the other side, I looked down to find at least twenty feet of the trunk, including the large root ball still on the upstream side of the bridge. Doing some quick calculations, I realized the tree was over 80 feet  in length. I went back across to watch as it passed.

It took about a minute for the tree to finally reach a point I couldn't see it by flashlight any longer. I wondered if it would be caught on the next bridge, which was over 30 miles to the south. I doubted it would; there were too many places for the tree to hang on the winding river. Even if it did, we would be glad to move it, but they had to let me get some sleep.

It was after 4:00 am when we finally had everything off the road and hooked back up for the trip to the office. The haul truck would be called in the morning. We left the excavator on the shoulder and headed out.

I stopped at the first store that was open for a cup of coffee and something to snack on. It was a poor second to my choice of a hot breakfast, but in the boonies, there's little to find at that time. Still, it tasted good.  The coffee was fresh and much better than the stale crap available during the hours before. I was ready to get home, but I had to drop a message board at the office first.

We arrived at the office a little after five. By the time everything was stored and accounted for, the sky was getting light to the east. I gave a hand a ride to his house, so the sun was almost up when I finally started for home. I was glad I was heading west, since my eyes felt like they were full of sand and the thought of driving into the rising sun was far from a pleasant thought.

I had time to think as I drove home. I thought about the power of the river. the hurricane that provided the lumber for the jam and how the things that are familiar can change overnight. That, and catching a few hours of sleep. We still had other jobs going on and I had things to do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Campaign Thoughts

Campaigns are important. They allow the potential candidates to tell the common folks what they're up to, even if these common folks don't believe the majority of what's said. So, the campaign rules need to be strict and no exceptions allowed:

-No candidate shall be allowed to campaign on television, or on the radio. The internet is acceptable, but spamming a potential voter shall cause immediate disqualification. Use of the United Postal Service is acceptable, but all mailings shall be by individual stamps applied by the candidate. This process shall be certified by affidavit.
-All candidates shall write their proposals on a legal pad and deliver this information to potential voters personally. Photocopies are acceptable, but the photocopies must be made by the candidate and certified by affidavit.
-All public appearances shall require the candidate to provide lunch, shade and the media shall not have any cameras, or any other device which records the event.
-Incumbents shall not campaign except for the last 20 days before an election.
-Incumbents shall not use any public conveyance, employees or materials for campaign purposes. Any campaigning during the regular business hours of the incumbent shall result in immediate termination of their public service. Misuse of public funds shall be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I know this sounds a little harsh and would require a tremendous amount of work, but that's what we want. Public servants that are willing to work for their money and honor their constituents by personally allowing them to vet the candidate.

You can't really judge a person, until you look them in the eye and shake their hand. Personally, I prefer someone with a strong, firm handshake. The thought of a potential President with the handshake of a little girl upsets me. As it is at this point, I have no way of finding out if this is true.

Be Careful For What You Wish For

We had severe drought conditions last year. There was a constant wish for rain, so the wish was granted. Six inches plus fell in the last 24 hours. I really don't know what the real total was because the rain gauge overflowed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Arrogance

Most everyone I know has a concern about their finances. Between the lack of raises, the devaluation of their money, shaky investments and the thousands of extra dollars required for fuel due to unbridled speculation, the outlook of relief is cloudy at best. Meanwhile, hard earned confiscated tax dollars are being wasted for this Spring Break.

The worst thing about this is the fact this isn't being reported by the U.S. media.

I've thought about this some more. From what I've found, the story is not being promoted, which indicates many in the media understand the negative impact of this information. This will only increase the speed of demise of many outlets. They can't hide everything; their efforts are exposed and in the end, the United States citizen will be even more irritated. Call it the beginning of the end for this administration. The next step will be the desperation of the media to increase revenue - at any cost. I don't think the current administration will like the price. 

This is getting fun. Apparently, the WH asked for removal of the story for security reasons. Okay...the security of the nation? Or, the security of knowing you've allowed a 13 year old to go alone on vacation with costs to the taxpayer?  

For you with kids: If you didn't realize you could send your kids, with an entourage of 25 Secret Service agents to Mexico when they were thirteen, I'm afraid you just missed out. The offer is over.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Something You Should Have and Run

You should have an anti-malware program. There are some really good ones on the web that are free.

 So, why did I write this post? A close relative, after describing a really, really slow computer with memory errors, asked for my help. After running an anti-malware  program, 350 spying critters were found to be running around in her computer. Not only were they slowing down the computer, they were contributing to bandwidth, which costs extra money when the monthly allowance is depleted.

Due to some glitch with Blogger, I can't comment so I'll answer the question.

I use Malwarebytes and Avast. Both are the free versions, which don't have all of the features or support. Still, they're what I need. 

Also, I use Ccleaner to get rid of the garbage Windows accumulates and keep the registry fine tuned. 

Freedom and Rights Lesson for the Occupiers

Freedom and rights are two important things, but really useless if they don't apply to everyone. I know this sounds silly, but the reality is that no matter how much your rights give you the freedom to say, or do just about anything, as long as they don't harm others, neither give you the right, or freedom to annoy, block my way, ruin my day or mandate I smell your unwashed body. Otherwise, your liberty ends at the tip of your nose. Take a shower and go find a job.

It's Monday

The start of another work week, which as usual, will require a tremendous effort on my part to not tell some people they're fat, lazy, selfish pukes and are warts on the ass of decency.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

Yep. The Red Buds are blooming; as well as the Azaleas. The grass is starting to grow, pollen is found in drifts on the windshield of the car. The temperature is reaching 80 degrees and the mosquitoes will carry off a newborn calf, if you don't tie it to something.

I know Spring has an entirely different feel in many other places, but not here. It's the start of the oppressive heat and humidity that won't end until late in the year. Until then, it's sweat and yard work that never seems to end.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Local Craziness

Yesterday, a man on trial for aggravated sexual assault, left the courtroom during a recess, retrieved a gun from his pickup and started shooting at family members. The tally? One dead innocent bystander; four shot and the gunman is wounded, while attempting to flee. He made it to his truck, while the local law enforcement officers shot his truck to doll rags. 

After his truck was disabled, he ran to a local construction fab shop, where he was disarmed by workers and eventually given to the police. He ends up in the hospital for treatment of minor wounds and is now in jail with one count of murder and whatever else they can pin on his sorry ass. 

Reports indicate this man had other felony convictions, including firearms possession, which is probably associated with him being a convicted felon. 

So, how the hell did he get to walk around free, when he had prior felony convictions and was dangerous? My theory? Some piss-poor judge allowed bail, which was probably paid by some ambulance chaser looking to add to their record of wins. I don't know for sure, but in the end, this pistule on the ass of society shot four people, ran over his wounded daughter while escaping and left a woman that was only at the courthouse for license tags dead at the front door. 

Personally, I think they need to make the officers that returned fire take some extra time at the range. They need to learn how to shoot through cars and guarantee the local county will not have to pay to for prosecuting these types of reprobates in the future.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Newspaper Story on a Hot Summer Morning

It was a tough month. My mother had a T.I.A. and I was still shifting through legal documents, shuffling temporary care and wondering where it would all lead. There is no preparation for such things, unless a close family member with experience is available for reference. I didn’t have this, so I was fumbling through the entire mess.

Work was an added burden. I returned a few days after my mother was home, but I was still on edge with the details. I spent too much of each day with thoughts of how overwhelmed I was. All I could do was plod on and work with what was available.

I arrived to work one morning to catch up on things and spend a few minutes reading the news. During this process, a local article caught my eye: “Local Firefighter Missing”.  I examined the article and found my brother’s name.

I spent a few moments determining it was spelled correctly and then dialed his cell phone. After a few rings, I reached his voice mail. I dialed his home, which led to his answering machine. A call to his wife ended with the same results. I told the secretary I was leaving, with a brief explanation. I was at my mother’s house within a half hour.

I called my wife, who was with family at the beach. She had heard, but was too upset to call immediately. Her family tried to find more information but was unsuccessful. We spoke for a few moments. I told her I would keep in touch.

I finally was given the cell phone of the local fire official that was heading up the search for my brother. He explained my brother was in the process of finding a lost radio controlled airplane for a friend the evening before and never returned from the marsh where it crashed.   They had searched all night, but were unsuccessful. I couldn’t do anything, so I called my older brother to tell him what was happening.

We talked for a few minutes. We were both a little surprised on the term “firefighter” as a description of my brother. He was between jobs, but he’d been in industrial maintenance and marine electronics his entire career, except for his time in the Coast Guard. We both knew he was a volunteer fireman for a rural community, but as time went on, we found it was much more than a part time job. 

I ended my call with my brother with the promise to keep him informed. As I was collecting my thoughts, my wife's niece called to offer her sympathy for my loss. I could only say: “I guess they found him and he’s dead.” She apologized for breaking the news. She thought I knew already, since the news reported a Coast Guard helicopter found the body.

Unless you’ve had this happen, there’s no way I can explain what goes through your mind at a moment like this. Hope fades like a winter sunset and the cold logical knowledge you can never speak again to someone you love becomes a harsh reality. 

I spent a few moments composing my thoughts and called my wife. She could hardly speak. She knew before I did and was overwhelmed with grief. She wanted to call, but couldn’t. I understood; we’d been through a lot and this was a shock to both of us.

After a few more minutes, I called my brother. I think he, like me, might have suspected the worse and we made plans on when he would arrive. We agreed to not tell my mother until he arrived. She was still recovering and her mind wasn’t as clear as it needed to be.

I made more phone calls to family. I really don’t remember who, or the details. My mind was absorbed with other things. I dreaded telling my mother; she’d buried another son only three years before.

Eventually my brother arrived. My mother was surprised by his appearance, which led to me telling her my brother was gone. She asked the details. I explained, although I knew she didn’t really understand. She was having a hard time just functioning. My niece, who was staying during the day, hugged her and held her for a few minutes. I wandered the house wondering about life and how it takes unexpected, and unwelcome, paths.

Over the next few hours, more information became available. I eventually spoke with my sister-in-law. Her grief only added to my own. She had spent the entire night with the search party and was a wreck. I could only offer my help, which meant very little at the time.

Family arrived to help and console. Eventually, my sister-in-law arrived from Florida with my nephew and his fiancé. They would stay at my mother’s. Her daughter would stay with friends. Her children were too much for my mother, although I don’t think anyone, except me, realized how much it did. She was as fragile as a human can be and the young children were too overwhelming.

The next few days passed in a fog. I know there were many visitors, food from neighbors and the general feeling of helplessness while a funeral is planned. The viewing was set for Friday and the ceremony would follow on Saturday.

The viewing opened my eyes. I knew my brother was a volunteer fireman and was working on his second level of E.M.T. certification. I had no idea how much he contributed and had made a mark on his colleagues. They loved and respected him as much as I did. I was overwhelmed and proud, although I felt as though I was discovering facts about a stranger. 

The funeral was a ceremony only. My brother would eventually be buried in the Veteran’s Cemetery in Houston. I didn't go to the burial. My mother couldn’t go, so I stayed to insure she would be okay.

During the ceremony, Boy Scouts honored my brother with a song. I knew he had been involved with his son, but I didn’t know how much. People spoke with fondness about knowing my brother. Friends I hadn’t seen in years stopped to offer their sympathy. My sister-in-law spent a long time detailing my brother’s successes in life, including his time in the Coast Guard, his pilot’s license, time in the Boy Scouts and many other things that most people never knew. It seemed to drag on, but I knew this was the last time she would ever see him- even in death - and I understood how she was grappling with the loss. It was too sudden; she was so fragile. 

Eventually, the firemen held a short ceremony that I can only remember as “Last Call”. The chief called the dispatcher with words that they were signing off. The dispatcher responded and I broke down. He was gone. Only memories remained and they deepened the sadness.

As I left the funeral home, I looked towards the fire trucks that filled the parking lot of the funeral home. Every local city was represented. I had no idea how many lives my brother had touched, but there were many and the respect was obvious. The setting sun held the trucks in silhouette, which was fitting. A life was over, so was the day.

I've spent many a moment wondering what happened. My brother was in exceptional physical shape, knew the dangers of hyperthermia and was trained as a first responder. He was found with an empty bottle of water at his side. The autopsy only revealed “Death by Environmental Exposure”, which indicated the horrible heat on that day claimed him before he realized it was too late.

It was typical for my brother to help others, which led to looking for the lost radio controlled airplane of a friend. This action was similar to his pursuit of E.M.T. certification and the stories about saving lives and fighting fires. I never knew, but I do now. I can only honor him with a few short paragraphs. It seems insignificant when compared to his life. I miss him and will grieve for a long, long time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

About Being Crazy

After a party, a friend was telling me how his new girlfriend thought I was crazy. I laughed; he became serious, and stated: "No; not funny; know; insane"

I thought about it. At first, I was a little worried. Were there any repercussions if someone considers you insane? Since, my behavior was well within what I considered "normal", I wondered what inspired the perception. Was it something I said? What did I do? Is she the only person that feels this way? 

So, after ten minutes of introspection, I came to the conclusion my friend was pulling my leg, or that it was a little nice to be considered crazy. It keeps people on edge and they generally won't make the mistake of double-crossing a crazy person.

Violence and Other Things You Rarely Think About

Years ago,  while riding around with my brother, and a friend, in my brother's open jeep, we decided to stop at a hamburger spot for a quick bite. They had both finished high school and I was on my last year. Young and dumb would be a good description of the three of us, since we were stopping in a part of town that wasn't nearly as nice as it once was.

We stopped, got the orders and returned to the jeep to enjoy. As we were eating, a crowd of about 15 young ethnic men came out of nowhere and surrounded the jeep. Apparently, a group of young punks in a mustang decided to ride through a neighborhood shouting racial slurs, which irritated the young men. They asked if we'd seen anyone, which returned the answer: "No". We really didn't think much of it, and returned to eating.

Within a few minutes, the leader/speaker of the crowd decided he wanted a bite of our friend's hamburger. His answer was "no", and all hell broke loose. Within seconds, we were pelted with rocks and pieces of asphalt. My brother, who never faltered, started the jeep, threw it in reverse and "hauled ass" in reverse for two blocks. Meanwhile, the crowd followed for the first block, while continuing to throw whatever they could find.

After turning down a side street, and placing a few blocks between us and the crowd, we stopped to access the damage. My brother had a few bruises; I had a cut on my face from a rock that shattered against the roll-over bar and our friend was bleeding like a stuck pig from his mouth. He'd taken a direct hit in the mouth. After a trip to the emergency room, he received a bunch of stitches and the promise of some dental work.

Long story short: the police couldn't find anyone, friends would have burned down half the town in retribution and I could only describe my feeling as sick to my stomach. Between the anger, fear, guilt for escaping with a light injury and the general feeling that the entire group of young men deserved something more painful than burning in Hell for a few weeks, I realized when it comes right down to it, nobody can protect you better than you.

On any other day, we'd have been hunting somewhere, and the young punks would have dealt their "justice" as a thinning herd. Unfortunately, we didn't have a gun - or maybe it was fortunate. I'm thinking the massacre of three shotguns on the group would have left few alive, if we could have reached our shotguns. In an open jeep, there's little to protect you from unruly crowds.

So, in the end, there was only three people to blame. We'd left ourselves exposed, failed to enter a sometimes rough section of town properly armed and learned the hard lesson that such things in life will bring. You live and you learn, but more than anything else: you never forget that violence is only one moment away. Knowing this is important. Protecting yourself is more important and a huge part of protection is being aware of your surroundings and avoiding being a target.

Since that time, I've avoided any type of crowd. Besides making me nervous, I know that any crowd is only as controlled as the dumbest, craziest lunatic involved.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

So, What's The Deal?

I went to examine a project site in my home town. The proposed site is in a residential area that was developed to attract potential home buyers with the money to build large homes. Somewhere during the development, a rather bright bureaucrat, or government official, decided to build low income apartments in the middle of the area. So, now the property values have plummeted, the area is developing the urban blight of closed businesses and anyone with the ability to leave is doing so like a scalded dog.

So, what's the deal? What kind of dumbass would allow such an obvious stealing of worth, tax value and the introduction of people that don't give a rodent's fanny about their neighborhood? How can you expect any positive outcome from displacing people that pay taxes and keep their homes well kept for those that wander the streets, deal drugs, steal at every chance and leave their 44 oz empties up and down the streets?

This is insanity.

I Need to Write Something

I really do, but the words seem to be elusive. Maybe later today or tomorrow. Until then, we now return you to your regular scheduled program.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Natural Disasters

In 2005, Hurricane Rita struck in the area I live. Soon to follow in 2007 was Hurricane Ike. Rita passed about 30 miles to the East; Ike passed about 40 miles to the West. Both storms turned my life upside down - and that's the only way to describe the events.

I ran from Rita. It took 12 hours to get 100 miles from my home. After that, it took another 8 hours to find a hotel, which was full of people just like me: wondering if there would be anything when I returned. The stress, and worry, can't be described. The lack of information, and partial reports of the devastation only made it worse.

I returned from Rita to find minor damage to my house, but spent two weeks without electricity. I was lucky. I had a small generator to power a few appliances, including a small air conditioner to cool one room from the 100 degree heat, which was accentuated by humidity nearly as high.

My work involved cleaning up the mess, so I was "privileged" to see things that can only amaze. Geraldo, looking for sensational photo-ops, soon left when he couldn't find the helpless throngs of people waiting for relief. He could only find people waiting for the government to get out of the way and allow them to start their lives once again. National guard troops were amazed to find roads cleared and opened by industrious people with chain saws and determination. Some, like those in Holly Beach Louisiana, returned to find only a beach with pilings standing like some macabre modern art.

I stayed for Ike. I "knew" the storm would pass far to the west, which didn't happen. Instead, the eye of Ike traveled up the Houston Ship Channel and laid waste to Galveston and the surrounding communities. One community with thousands of homes had less than a dozen that were not flooded by the surge. The Bolliver Peninsula was literally washed away. Those that stayed were either killed or rescued later with stories of horror. Only a few structures survived, but the damage to these was severe.

Since I was 20 feet above sea level, and 30 miles from the coast, the surge didn't reach my home, but it did inundate drainage canals to points above Interstate 10. All fresh water fish died in these channels. The land that flooded turned into a dank, rotten mass of dead vegetation. The smell of rot and decay was overwhelming to those cleaning the mess. Dead farm animals, fish, hogs, and in some places people, littered the devastated areas. The bloated corpses swelled and filled the air with the sickening smell of rotted flesh.

So what was it like to sit through a hurricane? Nothing can prepare you for the experience and words can only touch the thousands of racing thoughts that occur when 80 mph winds howl outside your house. These long moments of rage are accentuated by moments of near calm, which are embellished with the roar of tornadoes approaching and passing. The only description is of a large row of engines on a freight train. The sound doesn't seem natural and fills your thoughts with doom. The horizontal rain is filled with leaves and debris as it passes out the window. The only light is from flashlights that only make the night seem darker. Passing from one room to another leads to the same futile reaction of reaching to turn on a light switch that doesn't work.

Eventually, the storm eases and passes. The heavy rains cease and it's safe enough to go outside to survey the damage, which makes you realize the power of the storm. Trees are snapped in two. The splintered remains make you wonder why you didn't hear them snap. It had to be loud. Was the wind that loud?

After both hurricanes, I found local retail outlets that opened as soon as possible, which was only hours for some. They had limited supplies, but they had generators and trucks of fresh food arrived within days. Cold milk, or fresh fruit were relished after meals of M.R.E.'s or canned goods. The thought of a hot meal became a goal point of hope. At that time, things might just be getting better, since the power was back on, which allowed allowed washing with hot, instead of cold water.  

So, I've only touched on my experiences, but it's to let people have an idea of what the tornado victims are feeling at this point. I know their desperation, fear, wonder and loss. I know some will feel slighted, or ignored by a government that is more willing to insure that millions skate in life and are never held accountable. Many will be starting over. Everything they owned is gone and all their memories are only thoughts tucked away for a future time, when there is time for recalling the things that will never be the same again. They have my thoughts and prayers and should have yours, also.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Summer is Coming.

We've already had some days where it was around 80 degrees. In the near future, the temperature will rise into the mid 80's; then the low 90's and finally the mid to upper 90's.  I don't look forward to this. I'm getting old and the heat kicks my butt. After a long day in the heat, there's not much left and even walking is a task.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Still Busy

There aren't enough hours, or enough time to do something besides work.