Friday, May 30, 2008

Politics, Bars, & Skateboards

My apologies to the Independent Truck Company for poaching their logo to make a point about politics. If anything though, the product they make is used by as independent a group as there is in this country. So using their logo is a kind of irony. I have always identified with skateboardin punks. As a group I like their KMA attitude. As individuals, well, I treat them as I would any other individual.

I made the mistake recently of visiting some political blogs on both sides of the fence. After the intense political awareness programming I went through as a kid, you would think I would know better. But I cannot deny my roots. I am drawn to political discourse (some call it fighting) like a drunk staggering out into the parking lot to watch a couple of inebriated gnarly dudes pound each other into the dirt.

My problem is I cannot keep my trap shut. An opinion offered deserves to be countered by or supported with my opinion. I am not content to just nod my head and say, "I see. Yeah many people feel that way. I am not sure yet." No, I seem to have an opinion on just about anything and a willingness to expose it publicly. Whether this is a good thing or not, it is what it is. And at 56 years of age, I have no inclination to rein in this sometimes irritating habit of mine.

I was bouncing back and forth from blog to blog. Commenting here and there. And receiving a notably chilly reception from several, let us say, harder core blogs from both sides. One commenter on a conservative blog even attempted the tired brainless go to retorts of using Bleeding heart Liberal, left wing cowards, all those words that have next to no value in a discussion other than to inflame. I am immune to insults like that. I actually laughed each time one was used as I goaded him into using more. Entertainment for me, serious business for him.

I grew up a Republican. But my strong dislike of Ronald Reagan from his California days made me quit the party in 1980. I tried the Democrats. A lively crew who seemed to want the best for all of us, but only after they had determined just what it was that was good for us. I became disillusioned with both parties after deciding that both were more intent on being in charge than actually governing. Getting elected and staying elected number one on their to do list.

So it began, my life as an Independent. And so far I like it. Able to tweak the noses of both when it suits me. Able to agree with either when it suits me. And never feel a pang of regret that I might be stepping outside the parameters of some platform other than my own. Instead of looking to a group to make up my mind, I look to make them convince me to change my mind. And I have been known to do just that. Change my mind.

A note to any of the party faithful out there from either animal group - Never has my opinion (read vote) been more important. If either of you expect to see your horse come in first, you need the support of Independents like me. People not trapped into accepting the directives of a leadership that is completely out of touch with what most of us experience as we toil our way through each day. You want to win, you need to listen to those of us outside your insular walled off world. For once, your rigged system needs the people who refuse to be part of it. I love it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Precious Metals

Some folks hoard Gold. Some folks hoard Silver. Me, well, I hoard aluminum. Not just any aluminum but only the finest extruded, billet, and cast aluminum made. In other words, I have a fine collection of bicycles, broken down with their plastic and steel parts discarded. In buckets, bundles and boxes I have stashed and organized oh, maybe a 1000 pounds of the shiny stuff.

Jim of Jim-Jim insists I should cash out now. I know my wife would love for me to. She long ago gave up ranting about my collection and now just suffers in silence. It would make sense to haul it all down to Punsky Scrap Iron & Metal in Sanford and bring home some folding money. Yeah, it would be the logical thing given the price per pound my stash of shiny bike parts would bring.

When I started hoarding these bike pieces, their value was so low, the collection seemed just another dumb Mike idea. 15 years ago, the price of clean extruded aluminum might have been say, 40-50 cents per pound. With each rim weighing in at approximately a pound, I was sure it was worth the effort. Or would be at some future time.

I started bringing home the tired and broken wheels from the shop and cut their spokes and hubs out. Hubs went into a bucket labeled "Irony Al", the spokes went into the steel bucket to take to the dump for disposal in their steel container, and the rims were carefully flung into the pucker next to the house. Several hundreds of wheels later and the small portion of my collection you see up at the top is the result.

Who's laughing now? The price is well over $1.25 per pound today and even if I take a hit by having someone pick it up, I stand to clear around $600 easy. Quite a bit more if I find and organize all the other alloy parts I have scattered hither and yon.

But is my collection about the money? The fact I have not cashed it in after 15 years would indicate there are other factors about my collection that must be considered.

There is the collecting mindset I need to be cognizant of. That once this collection has been discarded, what will I fall back on to get my fix? What group of things will I latch onto that will satisfy an urge I have carried with me since I can remember. I long ago gave up trying to fight this urge. I know something will have to take it's place......... That jar of pennies could use some topping off.... Hmm.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

I have spent some time perusing different Memorial Day posts. In deference to all the heart felt words posted today, I thought I might just highlight several that struck me in different ways.

By far the best one in my opinion was Presterjohn's over to Rocky Beach. Given my conclusion that war is nothing to celebrate, his post of an Aussie song pretty much sums up how I feel about bullets flying and young men and women dying stupidly.

Noah had the right idea. He posted a very good picture of a flag at half mast that said all that needed saying. This day is for taking a moment to remember those who fell and those who lived through it. Nothing else. No politics. No chest thumping patriotic posturing. Just a simple picture.

Oatney opened with a "proud to be conservative" rant and the U-tube speech by George C Scott in the opening scene of "Patton". The classic stereotypical "Rah Rah America, we don't coddle our enemies and today is all about fighting the good fight." Remembering those who had fallen a token note at the bottom of the post. I was underwhelmed and left his blog without comment. I saved it for here.

Thinking About..... was more the typical note on Memorial day. A post about whatever and then some words from the heart about the men and women who are affected by war. Nice sentiments without any ax to grind, just remember the dead. They died for us.

And here is my Memorial Day photo and words about this. This is my nephew Bobbie. He did not come back from the Middle East. Rest in Peace Bobbie. I think of you often.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

24 hour Break

I was supposed to meet -Jim of Jim-Jim for a ride this morning at 8:00 AM at the bike shop. Yesterday I had met both Jims of Jim-Jim for a ride at 6:30 AM at the other Jim of Jim-Jim's house. Prior to that I had commuted by bike to the shop twice in a row. I can tell that I am over that pyschological block of getting back into shape I suffer with every Spring. The problem now is I am having trouble dragging my sorry ass body with me over this pyschological mole hill. So today, I called up -Jim of Jim-Jim and canceled. My body is insisting on 24 hour break to locate some energy for tomorrow's long ride with a bigger group.

Needs a break? What the Hell is up with that?

This aging thing is really starting to make an impression. Used to be I could blast out 10 hours of hard physical labor after a night of no sleep and intense libation. Or drive a load 1200 miles in 24 hours and still use a pallet jack to unload the 40 grand they just had to have yesterday. Now I feel lucky to wake up and have the energy to go to the dump with a bag of trash.

Maybe I used up all my "you can be stupid and not pay for it" credits. And maybe, my body has just decided my brain is full of shit and now refuses to get with the program. Regardless, I am sitting here instead of on my bike where my brain would like to see me. My body is happy as if it had a brain. Not just content that it has one-upped my brain, but actually giving itself high fives for finally over ruling what I assume it feels is an explotive and over demanding leader. The proletariat has risen and tossed the decadent and graft infested monarch out.

De-frocked and defamed, I slink into my office and type out my whining tale of woe. Does this post make me feel better? No. But it does prove that by the physical act of typing, my brain has not lost all of it's influence. There are still muscles and sinews in here who will answer the call.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Twenty things, or Therabouts

Just about the time I get all misty eyed and feel some Kum-By-Ya sniffles coming on after writing a recent post, I get meme-d by gjg over at ThreeScorePlusTen. Another damn "tag and your it" blog thing. Okay, so you caught me at a vulnerable moment. After getting all touchy feely the other day, I guess I oughts to play the game. What with all my talk of feeling connected and how special I think everyone is out there in the internet ether.

I wonder what the cool kids would do in this situation? Do the cool kids even blog? Damn. I never even considered the cool kids when I got into this blog thing. And I can't unring the bell. I cannot suddenly stop comin round and go hang at the corner smoking butts and looking sullen. It would take too long to get back their respect.

I did absolutely no checking on the "cool factor" of blogging. I guess some things never change. I never was one to catch onto hip until after what was hip had already hopped. So gjg, here's the meme. Enjoy.

The Meme

1. Last Movie you Saw in a Theater:
Apparently it made an impression on me. I cannot remember what we saw. But I do remember the date. New Year's Eve - 2007. I know because since my daughter was little, my wife and I blew off the partying and libation and turned New Year's Eve into a family night of dinner and a movie. I have seen a movie every New Year's Eve for over 15 years. I have also been damn near alcohol free those 15 plus years.

2. Favorite Board Game:
Back Gammon or Cribbage I guess. But it has been more than a few years since I played either.

3. Favorite Smells:
Right now it is my front yard. A mystery bush blossoms every year roadside and inundates my dooryard with the most pleasant flower aroma. Like fireflies, something I always look forward to.

4. Favorite Sound:
"It's Dinner!"
Of the natural world or sounds I hear regularly, uh, guess I'd have to say the church bells down the road every Sunday at the Congo church. While I am not much of a church go-er anymore, I still like the sound of church bells. They help to keep me connected to the community I live in.

5. Worst Feeling In The World:
The moment after I came home from my best friend's funeral and Bobbi told me my father had died. That was one tough weekend.

6. Favorite Fast Food Place:
Pollock Johnny's in B-more. Nothing better than a "Pollock All the Way" at 2:30 AM after the last bar cut me off. If I ate at Pollock's before crashing, I usually did not wake up with a hangover. Friends told me it was in my head. But I know better. A "Pollock All the Way" is garnished with magic no hangover dust before the "All the Way" is shoveled onto it.

7. Finish This Statement. “If I Had A Lot Of Money I’d…”
The Bare Naked Ladies come to mind. No, not bare naked ladies, but the group Bare Naked Ladies. What's that? No, no no. Not a group of Bare Naked ladies...... Uh, but if I had a lot of money, uh well a group....... never mind. If I had lots of cash, I'd probably spend a good charge of it on a regular basis. I'd most likely give a bunch away also. I mean we're talking a lot of Money, right?

8. Do You Sleep With a Stuffed Animal?
Just because I have to inflate Madge doesn't make her a stuffed animal. I keep wondering why she can't seem to get that OH look off her face. So, no, air filled, a stuffed animal does not make.

9. Storms-Cool Or Scary ?:
Most times I consider them very cool. I can remember laying in my bed as a youngster looking out on the East Range of the Rockies from my window in Colorado Springs and watching miles of thunderstorms lined up barking and spitting as they spilled over the endless ridge. That was cool. Living through a hurricane like I did in Florida was not cool. It was damn scary.

10. Favourite drink:
Jack Daniels. That's why I haven't partied on New year's Eve for over 15 years.

11. Finish This Statement, “If I Had The Time I Would …..”
ride my bike the length of New Zealand and back again. Both islands.

12. If You Could Dye Your Hair Any Color, What Would Be Your Choice?
I'd turn it back to the brown I grew up with. The beard anyway. The Santa jokes are starting to wear thin.

13. One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You:
Up until he tagged me, I felt gjg was a tolerable nice fella. Even if he was located on the left coast. Now I guess I have to re-evaluate our relationship. But I am sure the nice guy that he is, he will understand.

14. What’s Under Your Bed?
Things that go bump in the night. Usually ends up being one of the cats.

15. Would You Like To Be Born As Yourself Again?
Only if I was able to carry with me a re-cap of what I did the first time. It would be handy when trying to avoid some of the stupidity I got myself into the first go around. I haven't been bored so far. So why not? Yeah, I'd do it again as myself or someone almost like me. A little taller would be a nice touch.

16. Morning Person Or Night Owl?
Driving over the road turned me into a zombie. Anytime is the right time. Sleeping is for losers anyway.

17. Over Easy Or Sunny Side Up?
Over easy without a doubt. And just like gjg, greasy nasty in bacon grease is the best there is.

18. Favorite Place To Relax:
On my bicycle in the woods

19, Favorite Pie:
My Aunt Helen's home made cherry pie.

19. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
What's in the freezer?

20. Of all the people you tagged this to, who’s most likely to respond first?
Noah. The last time I tagged him, I don't think I even had time to get back to my own page before he responded. Of course, I am not sure I will tag him.

So there it is. 20 things about myself. I did notice eventually that the number 19 was repeated. Whether inadvertent or by design, I decided to not raise a stink about math skills, or why is gjg being sneaky. I just answered the question and moved on. Now I will really move on. It's 3:30 AM and I have to wake up in one and one half hours. Should be an interesting day. Should also be interesting to read this after some real sleep.

Guess I'm sleeping alone. Don't have the energy to inflate Madge. Probably just as well, my wife has issues with Madge.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Smell Ya Later

These flowers are some of the most pleasant smelling flowers I have ever had the privilege of smelling. I look forward every year to their blossoms. The overall visual is nice and all, but it is their aroma that really completes the package. Two fair sized bushes make the 175 foot road frontage of my property and my whole yard a very nice place to smell by.

They will stay in bloom for a month at the least. They are the super bee magnets in the neighborhood. I love standing close while hundreds of bees of varying sizes and temperaments busily do their bee thing. So intent on scoring some of the wonderful nectar, my presence is ignored.

They are very rugged bushes. Anything that survives roadside here has to be rugged. Snowplows will push them back and pile up to 15 feet of hard packed snow banking on them before Spring thaw sets in. They laugh at my puny efforts to keep them under control. But then I hesitate to prune because I love the flowers too much. I'll take out the occasional dead branch or infiltrator that blocks my lawn mower from it's appointed rounds. But for the most part I leave these plants alone.

They are natural stars in my yard of winners and losers. They grow slow. They are resilient to the point I think they may be unkillable. They look great and smell good too. Some of my other plants and bushes could take some lessons from them.

But no, most of the greenery in my yard works hard to make my life miserable. It either grows too fast, spreads where I don't want it too, dies when I don't want it too, or refuses to die when I want it too. A well behaved plant that takes pride in it's appearance is a rarity here on Sam Page Road. I have a yard full of slobs.

Yeah, yeah yeah. A yard is a reflection of the owner. Blah, blah blah. My only excuse is there are way more of them than of me. David and Goliath. Custer's Last Stand. A puny human with pruners clutched in his hand, surrounded by savages painted up in green war paint. With no one at his back, they sneak up from behind and fling their seeds or roots at me. With no back up, it is a war I am losing. The best I can hope for year after year is an armistice, cease fire, stalemate.

So here is my question. My request for information. What the Hell is this plant's name? My father I think, planted them back in the 1960s. They may be older. I have asked locals who stop by but every answer is different. I made a token effort of finding them in several of the many yard and garden books my father collected. I would find something close, but never any plant that fit perfectly. So, if any of you know what it is, drop a comment.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Something Happened, Something Has Changed

Maybe it was inevitable. Maybe it was not. The blogger I started out as is definitely not the blogger I am becoming. I have no clue as to what I am becoming in this world of words and ideas. All I know is I am not the same as I was when I began.

At first, I just wanted to have a Mike-Proof safe deposit box for the journal entries I have kept off and on since I learned how to spell. A blog was a place I could spill my mind, my guts, my coffee but not worry about the boring details of keeping it organized,neat, and actually legible.

That first year I only came to write. I spent next to no time visiting other blogs. And when I did, I usually just lurked without saying "Hey, how ya doin. This is what I think of that." I will admit I was underwhelmed by most of the blogs I did read. Not because they were in my mind less than mine. But because they were too different from what I was interested in. Many were one trick ponies. Politics, religion, scrap booking or what boys in Biology were the cutest. No one's take out here has anymore worth than anyone else's. We are drawn to different blogs for a myriad of reasons and interests. There is an audience for the poster opining about the cute boys in Bio class.

I found a few blogs that played around with ideas from every corner of the poster's mind. These appealed to me. And I began to come back to some on a more regular basis. Before I knew it I began to visit other blogs before I began to write. I began to look forward to what this guy or gal had on their mind this day. I became engaged in the whole process, not just one part of it.

What others write is beginning to have real meaning for me. I feel connections to folks I did not know or would ever know if not for the blog. And it is odd to feel it. But as with most things in my life, I will go with it and see where it takes me.

The picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. It's just a close up on a valve cap that was part of a pair my daughter gave me for a birthday or Christmas present back in the 80s. She was so young, Mom probably bought it for her to give me. Anyway, just another old friend made of material world plastic.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Typical Sunday in Acton, Maine

I was bored. That is I was bored and looking for something new to poke my nose into. But.......earlier.....

I had been spanked properly by Jim-Jim, Keith and Chris yesterday morning on an off road ride that was supposed to be a "take it easy" ride. It ended up anything but.

I have lived in this town called Acton, Maine for many years. Closing in on half my life now. No, make that almost exactly half my life now. Wow! Time flies when you don't pay attention.

I have ridden every road and probably every trail many times. You would think I would not conveniently forget that a "take it easy" ride is not possible. Acton is not flat. Mostly it is either going uphill or downhill. Today we seemed determined to only go on the uphill trails. If we had some down strokes, I missed them. Must have been while I was trying to reinsert my lungs from that last grind in granny up that last 90 degree hill.

So I came home with all the piss and vinegar pumped out. My planned yard man to the masses day was shot in the butt. I collapsed into the blue over stuff and I think I may have moved a muscle in the next two hours but I am not sure. It was the cramps in my quads that got my attention about 4 in the afternoon.

Cramps so vicious, I immediately suspected my wife of sneaky behaviour while I sat passed out in the blue over stuff. She had not said much about my slacker ways following my earlier assurances that after my morning of frolick and fun, I would be the dutiful nose to the grindstone hubby toiling with dirty and cut hands in the fields outside. She might have made her point by injecting something just to have a chuckle watching me stiff leg it around while beating my legs in a frenzy to make the pain go away. Of course she was not at fault. But the fantasy of blaming someone else for my own stupidity is a constant flirtation. Just another typical Sunday here on Sam Page Road.

Whenever I get cramps, I remember the words of cycling wisdom I always forget, and the cramps remind me of in their unkind way.......Hydrate or die.

I never drink enough and I pay dearly when a hard effort has been stupidly undertaken. And as usual, I promise myself that next time, I will drink enough.

It's getting old, this trying to fool myself. I never drink enough. And yet I will promise to drink more the next time. One of those cycles I never seem to be able to get out of. I should just resign myself to a post ride life of mind numbing cramps and suck it up like a man.

A shower helped. More fluids would later help in the future. But my evening was locked in. Muscle twitching and involuntary cussin when a muscle would contract was the story of my post ride agony at home.

Between the moments of muscular discomfort, I visited some web sites I have not visited much recently. Sites I have linked on my blog, but once linked, visited rarely.

I careened through several and then Did You Know caught my attention. Yesterday's cutting and timely daily piece was about Resources, natural and otherwise. They explained about renewable resources. They mentioned Non-renewable resources. They pointed out that every country has some resource that helps them interact in the world wide economy. Seems every country has something to trade. Something dug, grown or just found at the dump that can be used to secure hard currency for the masses at home.

At the end of the narrative, they provided an alphabetical list of every country and what resource it has to trade. Some countries seemed to have more than their fair share of real top tier resources. Some had very few, but they were the big ones. But most it seemed had at least fish or guano to trade. Very few were without resources.

I looked through the list a third time. I came to the Isle of Man and next to their title in the column marked "Natural Resources" was the word "none". Maybe it was my recent depletion of electrolytes and energy stuff inside my guts combined with 27 years of being considered just slightly higher on the food chain than a slug by my lovely wife. But somehow, that word "none" seemed so appropriate nestled in the Natural Resource column next to the Isle Of Man.

Let's just say I could relate. I felt a connection from my sorry empty self to their sorry empty island. And then my legs went into panic contraction mode and the connection was abruptly broken.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't Piss Off my Wife

Don't piss off my wife. I should get a T shirt silk screened with that emblazoned on the front. Wear it whenever we travel so that anyone in the service industry who comes into contact with her will be forewarned. The effects of our trip to UNC at Chapel Hill, NC are still being sorted out. Like waves from a stone tossed in the pond, ripples are now still hitting the shore.

I would not normally even mention the all too common inconveniences that are frequently dealt with when traveling. The run ins with rude people. The indifferent attitudes met on the way from here to there and back again. But I felt the urge to write about my wife's experience with one motel desk clerk if only because of the ripples that have now come home here to our pond in Maine.

Graduation weekend in the Chapel Hill area is a big deal for all the motels, hotels, campgrounds, vacant lots, and any other place that might have room for another family of a graduating senior. Reserving a room a year in advance is common. We did it and were glad we did. The double room rate of $199 with a 3 night minimum was hard to swallow. If we wanted to be close and not spend half our time trying to navigate the labyrinth of 6 lane suburban highways just to get to our daughter's apartment, then we knew a stiff fee would need to be paid. Paying up front months in advance to avoid the extra hassle made sense.

Our first 2 nights were uneventful. Check in happened as it should. The room was like every other room in every other hotel/motel from a big chain. Standard issue towels, comfortable beds and a TV that worked. We slept and showered there. That was about it.

On the second night Bobbi's brother and his wife stayed there so we could all be ready for the graduation madness that kicked off early on Sunday. Sunday was a whirlwind of activity that meant being up, fed, and ready to roll by 6:45 AM. So we do the graduation thing. 8 hours later, we return to the room to change into casual clothes, maybe catch a shower and then head out again for post grad celebrations.

The key card would not open the door. John, my brother in law, tried his. No go. Back downstairs and wait at the desk to get that straightened out. Back upstairs and into the room. 8 hours and the room still has not been cleaned. Dirty towels were all there was to use. So I am miffed but hey, who cares. Lis has a shower and towels at her apartment.

Bobbi on the other hand is not happy. She starts in about the extra money, the advance booking, the fact that 8 hours is way too long to wait for maid service. Squaring her shoulders, she turns around and heads for the stairs. John and I just look at each other and we smile. We both know that look. Bobbi is going to vent and someone is not going to have a good rest of the day.

We head to the car and Bobbi heads to the front desk. A few minutes later, she comes out and I know it has not gone well. "She gave me attitude. Can you believe that? Attitude! I don't need to pay $199 a night for attitude. I get it for free from you." And she glares at me.

So we finish our UNC visit and head home. The desk clerk really got under Bobbi's skin. The experience was rehashed more than once on the drive home. The day after we returned Bobbi fired off an email to the sales office of Holiday Inn Express. The itch just had to be scratched. She explained her displeasure in that business like no bull shit way of hers. Two hours later the owner of the Holiday Inn there called me wishing to speak to Bobbi.

Which gets me the long way to my point.

In this age of indifferent service costing exorbitant money, I have to say, the owner's quick response and real concern over her experience was a breath of fresh air. There are actually people in the service industry who do care how the service provided by them is perceived by the public who pays them for it. So just call this an "Atta Boy" to that Holiday Inn Express. You folks turned a dissatisfied guest into a fan. The rebate of one night's cost and a comp for a future night's stay was but icing on the cake. It was the response that really impressed us.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reader's Pole

Okay, here it is. The question. Seeking opinion. Looking for some input.

First some background.

I have been at this blogging thing for awhile now. Many of the Blogs I visit on a regular basis always have some new hook, look or gizmo that keeps their pages hip and with it. Others have strict structure and focus. I often close the page experiencing serious blog envy. Whose is bigger, sharper, or can jump the highest. When I come back to this dust gathering dark corner I get tired of looking at on a regular basis, I know it would be a pissin contest I am sure to lose.

It's not really a contest, but I often think I could jazz this blog up. Problem is I am a pretty lazy guy. If something is working, I can become comfortable with the same ole, same ole.

To attempt to break a bad cycle and bring fun and excitement to accompany my life altering words of wit and wisdom, I look to anyone out there with an opinion to do the work for me. Remember the lazy part.

I have some basics down. I am not a cripple contrary to what Bobbi Ann says. I have some abilities. You are reading this and what about that enticing photo at the top? So the question is what should I do?

This blog is a perfect representation of my character. No focus, no rhyme, no reason.......Another Loose Dog Lost in the Bozone. Should I screw down the lens and tighten my field of vision? Would not being such a scattered brain be a plus?

How about video? U-Tube stuff. Oh yeah, remember the lazy part.

Break my posts down to a structured Monday is Politics, Tuesday is introspection, Wednesday-spank the monkey, Thursday is for deep emotion to pour forth and make you cry, Friday - try to make you laugh, and Saturday, well Saturday would be guy day. Crack a few beers and talk Duct tape and the 500 uses for it. Something along those lines?

All five pieces of Blogging wisdom I have read indicate that a blog allowed to go stale will eventually see a drop in the number of visitors. I'd hate to lose the 6 people who stop by on occasion.

And what about making money? I hear there is serious jingle out there in the ether just waiting to be picked up like change form a wishing well. Adsense? Turn this beast into a money maker? Add some beer money to the coffers?

A visit counter with geographical locator, time stamped, and what their favorite color is? One of those fancy scrolling types to show folks yes, I have someone from Pakistan stopping by on Wednesdays.

The short of the long of it is what works for you? What didn't? I know I could visit one of the 3000 forums on the subject. But remember. The lazy part.

Post Script/Disclaimer/My excuse

This post started with the picture. I looked at it for several minutes. Paused when I remembered that tittie bar in Dallas and a woman on the pole I fell in lust with. Odd I should remember her. Anyway, she faded as my fingers began to type in time with Joan Armatrading, Hot Chilis, Devo, Hendrix and the Talking Heads. And what you see came out. That was fun.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Crime & Punishment

Michelle over to Scribbit has once again gotten my juices flowing with her "What Do You Do When Your Child Lies" post. I left one of my patented long winded comments but felt like I had but touched upon the subject. Rather than bore her and her fans with more, I figured I'd bore you here.

My comment went something like this - We need to ask ourselves first if we acted in similar ways that our children are acting now. As adults we need to be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with them. Essentially my point was honesty is the best way to deal with bad behaviour. The punishment should have been well laid long before a situation pops up to warrant it's use.

I did not touch on the penalty phase or what type of consequences should be utilized. In my opinion, adults focus entirely too much on punishment and not enough on pre-emptive measures that can often avoid the situation in the first place. Once the fear of punishment is instilled, the normal reaction of the child is to hide any action they may feel would bring about punishment. Lying is an obvious go to tactic.

My feelings about this were supported immediately with the second comment that did focus on punishment and what kind seemed to work for them. Just what is our problem? We know from our own actions as children that reactive punishment often did not change behaviour. Yet, we insist on continuing to use it once we have little tackers of our own. If it did not work on us, what makes us think it will work on our own kids? Knowing this about my own childhood experience, my wife and I set limits and tried to build as much of a before the fact foundation as we could.

My comment on Scribbit also talked about my "Drug Talks" with Lis starting when she began to bring DARE material home from school. Over the next 5 years or so, I laid bare my own experience with drugs and the life long consequences I deal with today. I hid nothing, not even my brushes with the law. It was often painful for me, but I felt I owed her the truth. Especially if I was to expect different behaviour from her. I assume it helped. As far as I know, she is drug free and will continue to be in the foreseeable future.

Michelle talked about "Human Nature" and how lying is a natural part of this. Maybe I was reading her wrong, but I felt like she was inferring that Human Nature is something we have in us that we are born with. I am of the mind that other than the need to eat, breath, sleep, fornicate, and defecate, everything else is learned behaviour. Not there naturally.

Our culture teaches our kids to behave the way they do. They grow up watching adults lie everyday. From the President to their parents, lying is woven into our society. If it is part of Human Nature, we taught ourselves to do it. I am not condemning the act of lying out of hand. It does seem to have it's place in some situations as a method to help us get along better. But it is used entirely too much to the point that people do it and don't even know or think they are doing it.

I am guilty of it. How many times have I avoided some situation with a small "white lie" just to keep my life running smoothly? Our kids see this and fall right into the same mode of behaviour. "Yes dear, I will get right on it." or "Sorry I am late, but......" Many of us or maybe most of us and maybe even all of us use lying to ease our way through this life on a regular basis.

My father never saw the difference. To him lying was lying. Honesty was the best policy. Blah, blah blah. But he was not being honest himself. He denied or failed to acknowledge some of the lies he perpetuated everyday. Mom was the same way. There is/are gray areas. The trick is to seperate the ones that matter little from the ones that do. All too often folks seem to forget there is a difference and big lies become part of their everyday interactions.

Honesty. It all comes down to this simple idea. If I can be honest with myself, it makes it so much easier to expect it in my child. Then setting limits and consequences for the screw ups often becomes a non issue. Lis would often come to us immediately after blowing it and admit it. She knew that there would be consequences, but not the histronics and hysterical over kill that often follows kids doing stupid things.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Blue B-Model Mack

I ran across this little beauty at a rest stop somewhere in New York or Connecticut on my way back from North Carolina. Talk about a blast from the past. I used to drive a Model B61 Mack. A 1958 B61 to be exact. Only it was blue and did not have a sleeper. I hauled overseas containers from one dock to another up and down the Mid-Atlantic in the early 1970s.

I hated that truck but loved it at the same time. It was slow. The 170 HP Thermodyne diesel engine hated hills. Up or down. The steering was shaky and I was always having to pour gallons of coolant and oil into it's inner workings so it wouldn't overheat at the drop of a hat. The windshield wipers often did not work. Usually as soon as the first drop of rain fell, they would quit. But fire them up when it was sunny out or the mechanic was nearby and they would flop back and forth like they were new. I spent many a mile doing the manual intermittent wipe with an outstretched hand on the driver side wiper. I rigged up a special coat hanger just for those rainy days I might run into. No heat. No AC. No power steering. And only the driver's door window could be counted on to go down and then back up without a hitch.

The one thing it was was dependable. I never broke down in it. It always got me and my load to where me and my load needed to be. I never got a ticket while driving it. There was no chance I would ever get a speeding ticket. But I never received a log violation, an over weight summons, or a safety fine.

The safety fine thing always puzzled me. That beat blue Mack just screamed for a DOT inspection. Yet, the ones I went through, it always managed to squeak by with, "Bub, the air compressor needs some punching up, your tires look close to being worn out and get those brake lights fixed." Warnings, but never a ticket.

I acquired the Blue B Model Mack as a reward for being the low man on the totem pole at the trucking concern I drove for. When I got behind the wheel, it had over 2 million miles on it. At least that was what the mechanic claimed. The drivers seat was busted and tipped to the left. There was no passenger seat, just an old metal school chair someone had stuck in there in it's stead. The paint was faded where there was paint and the frame had long lost it's black color in favor of a dirt colored rust effect.

I guess I logged about 75,000 miles in the Blue Mack. 75,000 miles of hard earned valuable experience that would serve me well the ensuing years I remained a truck driver. Important things like learning to actually sleep draped over the steering wheel without drooling on my shoes. ( take off the shoes, then only your socks get wet and you don't look foolish when you go in for a cup of coffee.) Changing out flats on the old 2 piece rims that could kill you if you got it wrong. Learning to steer straight with a steering wheel that had a dead spot in it 12 inches in both directions from center. And last but not least, backing up into tough holes with no power steering. That one made all my future back ins make me look like a pro.

I loved that truck. Driving it meant I was getting a great pay rate. Driving it meant I was getting experience over the road. Driving it meant a real over the road tractor was a definite possibility in the near future. It represented opportunity and I took full advantage of it.

Once I stepped out of it and into that 8 year old White with the sleeper, I would come back to the yard and spot my old friend retired and rusting in the back lot and I would be sad. But only for a moment. That almost not old White had stolen my heart.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Right Lane Closed Ahead

I have trouble sometimes envisioning myself making a living out here. But I used to. I did it for many years. Lived out of my suitcase. Washed my duds and my diesel fume saturated body in truck stops from coast to coast. 1800 miles of driving over the last week brought it all back to me. I have mixed feelings about the memory.

Maybe it is the 20 plus years of being glued to one place or the road has indeed become a crazier and more hazardous place. My recent trip to Chapel Hill made me ask myself about my truck driving experience, "What the Hell were you thinking about when you decided to punish yourself like this?"

I-95 has always been a crowded and confusing combination of irate drivers, whacked interchanges and non stop construction. If I breeze through New York and New Jersey, DC and Baltimore will piss me off. If for some reason, I skate through them, then Virginia will find some angle to make my trip memorable. And then there is North Carolina. It tosses in some very interesting twists on a regular basis. I never make it the 900 miles to North Carolina without some good excuse to vent my spleen and practice my expletives deleted's.

Bobbi and I just returned from North Carolina and one more graduation ceremony. Lis now has her Master's in Athletic Training and is already busy chasing down job interviews with any college who shows interest. To say I am the proud Dad would be an understatement. She has fulfilled any and all hopes I could have come up with for her. Well, with the exception of one. Now I want her to lighten up and find some fun. Lay around in the Sun. Take a trip to someplace exotic or new. Just let loose for a change.

She inherited many of my traits, but the ability to kick back and lounge was not one of them. She takes after her mother. Everything must be covered, accounted for, and dealt with before she can relax. This is probably a positive trait, but sometimes I wonder. I mean, being of the mind that things always work themselves out with or without my messing with them, I often just let them find their own flow and fit myself in and around them. Go with the flow. One of the irritating habits of mine that my wife has not been able to completely erradicate from my character.

The weekend in Chapel Hill went well. The gods were kind and decided rain and cool weather were just what was needed for the outdoor graduation of 5000 or so Carolina Blue clad undergrads. I say the gods were kind because the rain cut the ceremony(the torture) by at least a couple of hours. The head Tarheel got up and said a very few words. Basically it went like this.

"Thanks for coming. We already handed out the honorary degrees to some nice folks who deserved them and you undergrads are now officially anointed and can now consider your obligations fulfilled. See Ya."

Thinking I had lucked out big time, I left the stadium in the rain happy as if I had a brain. All that was left was a EXSS department ceremony for the students graduating along with Lis and the rest of the Grad students. It was to be held inside some gym some where.

They provided us with chairs meant for the butts of 5 year olds and then I watched as hundreds of Carolina Blue clad graduates filed in and sat down. Uh Oh. Now the torture really began. Besides the obligatory speeches by the department head, his cohorts in charge, the second and third bananas, the janitors, and some bum they grabbed off the street, each one of the hundreds of undergrads were called by name to walk up and receive a handshake, a pose for a picture and a decreasingly enthusisatic handclap from a ever increasing uncomfortable crowd of big butted parents. 2 hours plus on those chairs was true pain.

Don't get me wrong. I loved my trip to Chapel Hill. Anytime I can watch my daughter receive awards for being who she is is always a pleasure. I gladly sat through it all, drove through it all, and dealt with it all for the few moments of pride that came into my heart and made it swell.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

100 Yards Off Main Street

I finally snapped a recent, freshly baked photo of one of the rides in my quiver. One of the few and far between stop and smell the roses moments I have had during daylight hours in a month or so. This quiet moment was particularly appreciated. Taken at around 9:30 AM this morning after 3 1/2 hours of full tilt boogie as soon as my eyes opened.

My wife and I are headed to North Carolina on Thursday to watch my little girl walk for her Graduate Degree at UNC on Sunday. My wife does not like surprises. My wife likes to have things well planned and organized. Naturally we disagree. I prefer the last minute approach. Never do anything before it absolutely cannot wait another moment. After 27 years of marital bliss, I learned my way meant the highway. So here I was getting instructions and recriminations at 6:45 AM about me dropping my end of the ball for our upcoming trip. A complication with some bank/financial madness we have going on added even more stress.

"Call D at the Bank, don't forget the PM appointment for the truck. And for God's sake get it inspected, it's 2 months out. I will be late tonight. Feed the critters. Get your clothes for the trip together. And pick up dinner, I'm not cooking, I have way too much work to do."

Her words were blurs and settled all jumbled in my cranial void. I tried to focus. I really tried to keep it all straight. But I knew by 7:00 AM I would forget something. So I just tried to keep the schedule and be where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to. Maybe the kindness of strangers would kick in and someone would have my day figured out for me. And I had to jam a day at the shop into all this. I was screwed.

I hit the bike shop and threw my bike in the back. Dropped the truck at Miller Ford and biked back up Main St towards the shop. I was going to just go to work. Plenty of fires needed some attention.

Maybe it was my anticipation index or something just snapped. When I got to the shop, instead of picking up wrenches or the pending Quality order, I grabbed the camp saw and pruners. Re-mounted my bike and struck out on Main St again. I figured I could afford an hour of calming and soul cleansing trail work. "Besides", I rationalized, "I had promised a piece of myself to the Mousam Way Trail Committee too. A few minutes breaking new trail might just get my day back on track. And I wouldn't feel guilty for not getting that new trail started."

Finding the orange tape 3 of us had tied on whatever was close last Sunday, I began to prune branches and kick dead fall to the side. An hour later and 150 yards into it, I took a moment to look around. The pictures don't do it justice, but they almost bring back the moment for me.

100 yards from Main St, where trucks, cars, bikes scurried on their way to the rest of their day, I sat on mossy rocks sucking in a small slice of a glorious Maine Spring morning while black flies busily tried to figure out how to make me crazy.

100 yards off Main St. I escaped for a minute. 100 yards off Main St. one of the many reasons I love Maine was right in front of me. 100 yards off Main St. Nature is busy doing what it does without or in spite of our best effort to screw it up. 100 yards off Main St was all it took to find the center again.

New Feature!

The Officially licensed and sanctioned Lost in the Bozone Compilation of mostly useful but never useless tricks and hints that might just make your day if you try them.

Hint #1 - Have to start with something. Might as well do it with....

Clean Hands and recycling all at the same time

Concsiously choosing a life of blue collar toil to earn my way through this life, I have had to deal with dirty hands most days. Often dirt and grease so deeply injected, store bought cleansers with sandy bits of volcanic rock don't make a dent. They just make me bleed. I resigned myself to a life of scarred, calloused and grease embedded digits.

A few weeks ago I was wincing and whining as I laid pumice laced hand cleaner onto my tortured palms. I thought there had to be a better way. On the back of the sink a sad almost worn out piece of a green nylon scubby sat. One that should have been tossed but had not been yet.

I grabbed it and squirted a generous dollop of Dawn detergent on it and gently began to wipe my hands. Wow! It did not hurt and my hands had not gotten so clean so quickly ever I think.

I figured if a worn out scrubby was this good, a new one would kick butt. I was wrong. A new one felt like Lava on steroids. Use a worn out one, like an old pair of jeans, they feel the best.

This knee jerk post pounded out to the sounds of the Chili Peppers, Paul Simon, Dire Straits, Joan Armatrading, Metallica, Dave Mathews, Sublime, Hendrix, Zepplin, and last but not least by a long shot, Bowie's "Under Pressure".

Monday, May 05, 2008

Another Post about Blogging

Thanks to Michelle over to Scribbit, I found today's subject. Her twist is better balanced and more comprehensive, but here is my take and off the subject detour.

Her post is about nasty comments and how to deal with them. As usual, she covers the subject like a research scientist and by the end of the post, all questions about how to handle nasty comments are well covered. I have not had many, if any, nasty or negative comments on my blog. At one point early on, I would have gladly accepted and been thrilled to read "Your posts suck". Like a kid craving attention even bad attention.

Then I remembered why I got into this blog thing in the first place. For myself. My life long infatuation with the written word has left a pile of disorganized journals, spiral notebooks and hard drive saved ramblings scattered around. I have lost many words I have written because of my loose dog character. So the blog offered a safe and "Mike Proof" way to keep my thoughts handy for future admiration on my part. What others thought mattered not initially.

I switched off the comments for a couple of years. I could then delude myself that the reason no one commented was because I would not let them. There must be frustrated multitudes out there just biting at the bit to have their say after reading mine.

That delusion turned to reality when I did turn the comments back on. I was just another spindly tree in a forest of giants trying to find the sunlight. But I kept and still keep keepin on. Writing is an addiction for me. Since the day I read my first words, I have been fascinated by those words. Reading ideas and thoughts laid down in ways that made me feel like I was there, or inside the author feeling the feelings at the moment they wrote them. I admire those people who can use words to paint vivid pictures in my mind.

I aspire to be like them. Yeah, everyone has a great novel in them kind of thing. But I think it is more than that for me. I just like the attempt. Whether I am successful or not is beside the point. It is the process of putting what's in my head down on paper that I love.

And every so often, I will write exactly what I mean in exactly the way I meant to write it and I will come away satisfied. This is why I blog. To occasionally write something that is not just more words trying to make sense, but my own words doing for me what other's words have done for me in the past.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Rainy Day Whine

So what do I do today? My days off look to be wash outs. 40'-45'F - either raining, ready to rain, or just finished a good run of rain and the clouds are taking a breather. Classic April showers in Maine. Only a month late.

The mud free Spring riding in the woods is gone now. I was feeling uncomfortable about that anyway. Just did not feel natural to be in the woods in April with no knee high puddles or greasy leaves to wipe out on. I do not look forward to dinging myself or my bike up. But I have come to expect it during the early Spring riding season. And when it did not happen, I felt cheated somehow. Seems odd, but there it is.

So now I have had my rain. Over the last week or so, 4 inches maybe. My woods are back to normal. Slick rocks, nice deep sippy holes, and enough mud to bring back a pleasantly nasty mud covered bike.

You'd think I would be happy and stop whining about the weather. But damned if I don't miss those dry trails now. Seems the old saying is true. You never truly appreciate something until it is gone.

A small PS - I have no digitally recorded images of my bike in various states of nastiness. I am still a rookie at this digital camera thing. I never have it around for those special Kodak moments. I still felt obligated to post a picture with the post. I thought this one from 1900 in Maine might just add a little perspective or counter balance................ Stop the BS Mike! I just liked it and wanted an excuse to post it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

Today my father would have been 103 years old. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. My ole man coulda made it this far, but he shoulda followed a less self destructive path and he woulda, or maybe mighta made it to 103. I would be toasting him in person and not his memory.

The picture of my father on the left and his grandfather has always been one of my favorites. As a smart mouthed child, I loved to attempt to get his goat by saying "Daddy used to wear a dress" or "Look at the girly hair on Dad". I would eventually get his goat and be banished from his presence. Not for what I said, but for that irritating kid thing of repeating it endlessly until the adult in the room shouts "ENOUGH". Either one worked for me because usually I was fishing for some payback over a recent parental shutdown of one or more of my activities or planned ones. I was mad, so making him mad seemed the fitting thing to do.

It is odd I always remember my father's birthday. I am not very good with dates of any kind. I have even forgotten my own birthday on occasion. They don't seem that important to me I guess. Just another day on the planet. My father was the same way. One day unfolded pretty much the same as the day before. Why make a big deal of some and not others?

Of course this lackadaisical attitude about dates has caused some friction here at home. My wife is my polar opposite when considering dates. She remembers them all. And when I forget some of the big ones, I can count on a cold shoulder at the least and that death by stare look she uses at the worst. Damn, I hate that stare. If she was even an inch taller, I would fear for my life.

Anyway, just a note to remember dear old Dad and waste some bandwidth. Happy May 1st everyone!