Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bon Voyage

I poached the image to the right from Rocky Beach. The hosts of Rocky Beach, a small coastal community of contrary and classic Maine grumpy gusses, have a way with words. They very seldom use them. Yet they make their point. I laughed hard when I saw this.

All the spin and news both true and false, has been swirling around now for a couple of days. Since Sarah Palin is unknown to most of us, it will take some time to deconstruct the "truth" each side puts out there for us to swallow. As the "truth" gathers momentum, different juicy pearls get spit out.

My favorite is -

Palin's 5th child - Trig (either named after a discipline of Math, Roy Rodger's dead horse, or given her rugged last frontier Alaskan manhood, named for the trigger on her favorite Moose killin rifle) Anyway, someone is claiming the comely governor of Alaska did not have the child. Trig is actually the result of a tryst her 16 year old daughter had. Mom is protecting her virtue by stepping up and calling Trig one of her own. I wonder if this story will grow legs. Damn, I hope so. Not because I wish any ill will to the governor. I am just looking for cheap entertainment. Watching politicians squirm is some of the best cheap entertainment out there. And forgive me if I have no sympathy for her. I have no sympathy for any of them. If you want to play with the big dogs, you have to learn to piss in the tall grass.

Fip & Fluck

It seems fitting that on Labor Day weekend, I would be laboring instead of comfortably stretched out on some fancy Better homes & Gardens lawn furniture looking every bit like a beached whale enjoying the afternoon with friends and family. Instead of sipping on an icy cold Rolling Rock ("33") or maybe even a Sam Adams cooled just right and watching someone else busily burning meat on the grill, I was a beast of burden today. All anyone wanted me for was my body. And it wasn't for fun and games.

The fantasy day that would end with me picking my designated driver because I had eaten 5 juicy rare cheeseburgers with blue cheese and raw Spanish onions with generous amounts of mayo, then washing them down with 6 beers was rudely replaced by me wishing I had a designated driver simply because I was drained, toasted, and beat. No juicy cheeseburgers. No 6 beers. Just seriously sore dogs and 45 miles to drive home before I could collapse. Moving my daughter to a very tall second story walk up near Portland,Maine definitely spanked me hard today.

Memories of my days as a mover humping furniture around Charm City came flooding back like some evil flashback. I had done this before. Many times before. I just do not remember having the bottoms of my feet hurt so much and that left knee never felt like that at the end of the day. That I did it 5 days a week for basically 8 years amazed me when I contemplated my current condition on the drive home. Took 2 mugs of coffee to go and a large Frappachino to keep my eyes open and my pick up between the ditches.

It would not have been so bad had we just dumped all her furniture and 400 boxes of shoes, clothes and books in the right room and then skated. Noooo. Of course we couldn't do that.

Just how does a 25 year old woman of limited resources accumulate so much junk in such a short span of years? Lis did say she had pared down her shoe collection from 75 pairs to around 60. That hardly made up for the mass of boxes containing every book she ever had or contemplated having. Raising a child who loves to read does actually have a downside I guess.

The apartment was not quite ready. Brian, the dirty kid from Maine, had not fulfilled his obligations as landlord. No stove yet. No hood for the stove yet. Bobbi Ann, my wonderful spouse was still painting as we moved in. So every box went up an additional floor to an empty room on the 3rd floor. Have I mentioned how high the ceilings were. Seems there was an extra story crammed in there somewhere for all the steps it took to get up to the attic.

But it's done now and the rest is up to the girls. I don't paint. I don't do curtains, and I definitely do not suggest where anything goes. Let those two duke it out. This beast of burden is looking for the next barco lounger available.

What about the Title of the post Mike? Whazup wid Dat?

A father sends his innocent young daughter away to college. He knows she will conduct herself like a lady and steer clear of the loser Joe college gnarly dudes who would only want to take her virtue and leave her broken hearted and sadly looking out of her dorm window afraid to come home for fear of destroying the image she had taken so many years to cultivate for her dad who she worships more than Life itself. I left my kid knowing she had what it took to avoid all of those nasty college pits I fell into when I went. Yeah right.

I am told it is for the sanity of the family that dads are kept in the dark about what really goes on in college. Especially dads with daughters in college. For some reason, other family members feel the need to protect us dads from the ugly truths of college existence. If I had not gone to college myself, I might agree. Had I not been exactly one of those loser Joe college gnarly dude types dads just love to hate, I might see the sense in keeping the truth hidden. But I did go and hiding the truth only makes it worse when it finally comes out.

At the end of Lis' Freshman year, I packed this odd triangular cushiony thing into the truck. I did not remember bringing it from home in the Fall and I asked Lis what it was. "Oh, that's a portable sleepover cushion for when one of my friends spends the weekend. I also take it with me when I visit other friends." A sensible answer, so I forgot about it.

Today I was answering my wife's query about what exactly was left in the storage space in south Sanford. I told her just some stuff to come home and that odd triangular sleepover cushion.

"You mean that "Flip & F*ck?"

I thought I had not heard her right. My wife doesn't use that word. Well I guess she does, but it always surprises me when she does. So I asked, "Fip & Fluck?"

"No, Flip & F*ck. That's what the kids call them. Don't you wish they were around when you were in college?"

"Fip & Fluck", I repeated. I was bone weary and when that happens, my mouth has trouble with certain combinations of words. Today it was the combo, Fip & Fluck. "That's not what Lis called it back when she was a freshman. It was a sleep over ....... Ah, I get it." Being so tired had me seriously slow on the uptake.

"Do you think you would have wanted the truth when she was a freshman", my wife asked?

I was quiet for a moment. More because I was still slow processing because of fatigue. But I focused everything I had, thought about it and finally said, "Uh, probably not. Deluding me was most likely the wise choice."

Fluckin College kids.


Friday, August 29, 2008


Recently the topic of Heroes popped up on my inner radar. Maybe it was the buzz of the conventions. Maybe it is all the ads and trailers some network is bombarding us with for the returning series about people with odd abilities who save the planet from some evil something or other. Maybe it was Toklas23's post about one of her heroes passing recently. And certainly Dawn's fine tribute to Ted Kennedy had some influence.

Heroes are an odd bunch. Some of them deserve the moniker. Some of them don't. Some heroes are fabricated. Many heroes go unnoticed. There are heroes for a day or a minute. There are heroes who live heroically for a lifetime. I would guess each one of us has done something heroic, even if we did not notice it.

I once stopped a runaway truck in a parking lot just before it hit the cab of another truck with the driver inside doing his logs. I had to run along side of the truck, jump in while it was moving and pull the emergency air brake plunger. Banged my knee so hard on the steering wheel, the swelling did not go down for weeks. I got out and continued backing my rig into the dock. It was a week later when my dispatcher approached me about it. No big deal for me, but they made it into one. Damn embarrassing. I have pulled some folks out of the water before. No big deal. It needed doing. Besides, it was my job as a lifeguard. I had a grown young man approach me a few years back and thank me for getting him into cycling. He contended that if not for his involvement in the sport as a 15 year old, he might have not made it past high school and ended up like his buddies. Meth heads and no job losers.

Was I a hero? I didn't and still don't think I was. I saw emergencies and bad situations and I dealt with them the best I could. I honestly do not feel I should be held up as a standard for anyone. I figure I still owe some good deeds for the years I was such an idiot back in my druggie days. And I will never be able to rise to the level of the heroes I have created in my own mind. They rock and will always make me humble.

But this is not about me. Okay, okay. Some it it was. But definitely not my main point.

Heroes are not really people. Heroes are conceptual renditions we form about a person. The criteria we use is sometimes universally accepted like the heroes who charged into the Towers to try and save people on 9-11. But most heroes become heroes based on internal triggers we create for ourselves. How they affected us as individuals in my opinion is a type of hero. The people who influenced our lives and helped us become better people. They could be fictional or real. It does not matter. A hero can be just someone who makes you feel better for having them in your life. My mom and dad would rate up there. My wife and daughter certainly. But me, no way.

100 words on Evolution - Mother Nature

Regaining control of the ship as it cleared the black nothing of the hole wasted precious minutes before she could take her bearings. Sirens screamed, informing Star Traveler she had only 20 hours of air left to find it.

Yes! She had done it! Found a system with a G2 sun. She knew what to do. There, the blue one. The third planet. She changed her heading.

The broken ship melted into the emerging ice cap. Star Traveler opened her veins and let her blood drain onto the ice. “How will we turn out this time?” She closed her eyes.

Another entry in Velvet Verbosity's "100 words" contest. I do not even care how I do. This is so much fun. Trying to tell a story or make a point in 100 words. It definitely goes against my normal way of putting pen to paper. Instead of my usual rambling long way around, the 100 word limit makes me get to my point quickly and without the clutter that usually clogs my posts. Maybe I will learn some discipline from exercises like this.

This time I will get it in on time. I was allowed to enter the "faster" one. I am guessing it was a sympathy thing because I'm the dufus new guy. Anyway, again, who cares? This 100 word gig is way cool. I may just make it a once a week thing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Two Sides of the Same Coin

The torture of the national conventions, Democrat or Republican, could pass without my notice and I would be happy. Since I have a TV and actually watch it, I cannot ignore the conventions. Since I have a blog and actually am now reading other blogs, I cannot ignore the conventions. No matter where I turn, I am told I should either be breathlessly excited over a done deal or outrageously indignant over the bozos taking the stage. The pundits and hacks of both sides are all trying to get my attention and support for a process I hate and have hated for 28 years.

It was 28 years ago I decided the 2 party system in this country sucked. I decided the system was rigged in favor of two power houses that really were not that different from each other in the long run. Their main concern was not good sensible governance, but control and power. Either attaining it or protecting it, and all the time intensely focused on wielding it. Two sides of the same coin. With no 3rd party to keep either honest, they have gerrymandered and sleazed the system into one that gives no outside movement a chance in Hell of breaking through and having any meaningful impact. It is not a level playing field and most of America does not realize it. And if they do, they do not care.

The fact that the election cycles never seem to stop or take a breather indicates I am not far off the mark. US representatives begin campaigning for reelection the day after they take office. Presidential wannabes start lining up and jockeying for position in the next presidential cycle at the previous conventions. All of them work harder raising funds everyday of the week than they do legislating. Any real legislating type work is almost an afterthought for most of these boneheads. The laws passed are often just badly considered knee jerk responses to the hip hysteria of the day. We continue to get a bad product for our dollars, yet we still buy them tickets to the show.

To strengthen their two handed grip on power, these two parties have rigged the primary process so that only they can effectively field candidates that will get noticed. Any outsider who is noticed must scale almost insurmountable obstacles to mount an effective campaign during primary season.

Then there is the electoral college. What a sham. I wonder why I even bother to vote. Oh I know why really. Long dead Republican ancestors would rise from their graves and smite me down if I did not perform what I was raised to believe is the least I can do as a responsible citizen. I do it, but I don't have to like it. And since I do vote, I feel more than empowered to whine and complain about it.

So forgive me if I do not get excited over Michelle or Hillary preaching to the choir. Or don't forgive me. I could not care less. I have made up my mind. I am voting for Obama. Not because he is a Democrat. But because he is not a Republican. And no matter what they do or say between now and November, I am using my vote to punish the party honchos I feel have been the most abusive to the citizenry in recent years. I know it is hard to tell which crew is worse usually, but today, right now, the Republican leadership wins that dubious title hands down.

I would gladly change my tune if I saw any movement from either side they are interested in fixing what is obviously broken. But neither seem interested. On the issues that really matter, all we get is lip service from both. They continue to create false issues that deflect our attention from the issues that affect most of us every day, no matter which side of the fence we hail from. I'm sorry but issues like reproductive rights, gay rights, gun control, flag burning, immigration, and school vouchers to name a few are not the ones we should allow to run the elections. There are more basic problems that need fixing first, yet neither party seems interested in addressing them. Health care, our crumbling infrastructure, overall education reform, sensible foreign policy, an aggressive and sensible energy plan, and our sliding status in the international business arena should all be up in front of anything else. Nuts and bolts boring stuff that this country absolutely needs to work better is getting the bum's rush while they dangle emotionally charged issues for us to bite into. And like brainless moths circling that bright porch light, we get burned every time.

As disgusted as I am with the system and the crew running it right now, I am more disgusted with our population. We deserve what we have. We do not insist on better so we get the clown dance we have had for at least most of my lifetime. Instead of voting for those who tell us what we should hear, we vote for those who tell us what we want to hear. Yet we do not often hold them accountable when they fail to deliver. We sit back apathetically and allow what amounts to a minority run things for us. The power we have so willingly ceded to an elite few has turned this country from a representative republic into an oligarchy.

My two cent rant is now over. My blood pressure seems to be leveling out. Sometimes I really do wish I did not care. It would be so much easier.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Code of Conduct

I began my journey into the belly of the Internet back in the 1990s when I joined my first newsgroup. It was a newsgroup dedicated to the activity of cycling. The interaction with strangers was both educating and entertaining. I was hooked. I joined a political newsgroup. That is where I learned to flame like a champ and take it like a man. The political newsgroups were take no prisoners web ghettos.

Newsgroups evolved into forums. The platforms became so easy to use, suddenly any average Joe with a computer could join in. And they did. In droves. I wandered around these battlegrounds for the next 5 years doing battle. I fought the Civil War for awhile on a forum out of Alabama. I stood up for gays on another, all the while being accused of being a faggot lover. I had my ass handed to me on a forum that should have had an IQ test before entering. Those boys and girls knew how to tear you apart. And I loved it. I never took the animosity personally as I considered it nothing but a game of wits where nobody was hurt.

I grew tired of the senseless flaming back and forth. A good shot was fine, but when the threads consistently degenerated into flame fests and the topic was lost, I became bored. I also did not like where my head was going. I found myself being sucked into the flaming rather than the subject matter. So I looked elsewhere for my "fix".

In the Fall of 2004, a fellow forum rat had posted a thread about their blog. I had heard of blogs and actually checked out a couple. I was not impressed. Little did I know they were more than Suzy Q rambling on about the boy she lusts after in math class. I did not do enough digging to understand that blogs were run by every type of personality under the sun. Their authors were not just kids or whackos standing on a soapbox. But I was looking for a new outlet for my opinions and thoughts. So I started one.

After 2&1/2 years of blogging in total anonymity, I decided to actually look at the community I was part of. I began to seriously seek out blogs I could handle. So many of them just did not do it for me. There were supposedly 100 million bloggers out there. Surely I could find some to connect with.

I did find some, no make that many who I could relate to. I had to go through some self improvement to do it. I had to step back from the high opinion I had of my own words in order to appreciate the words of others. They had audiences. I did not. They spoke of everyday things and feelings we all have. Relating could be done once I realized I was just like them. Not better. Not worse. Just there speaking my mind like the rest of them.

So here I am now blogging more often and interacting more often. And I am enjoying it more than ever. I still miss the forum battles and will visit a few from time to time. But my interests have shifted to blogging. I like the generally more civil atmosphere and the control I have over my own space. A sign of maturity? Who cares. I definitely have changed my mindset. I like me better now than I used to. I am not so quick to write hatefully anymore. And that is a good thing.

Which brings me to my point. A point I could have made much earlier. But like so many posts I start, I never know where they will go until I get there.

I googled "blog" and came up with the wiki definition. Once again, wiki filled me in on details I never even thought of. Blogging is really only about 10 years old now. Mainstream blogging anyway. As it has evolved in the anything goes enviroment of the WWW, excesses of many kinds have reared their ugly heads. Excesses that now have legal types looking into ways to punish or make money for clients over what a blogger says, does, and copies. People have lost their jobs because of their blogs. People have been threatened with bodily harm because of their blogs. And then there is the ever watchful eye of government to consider.

Blogging gurus have come up with a code of conduct for bloggers that deals with trolls and negative comments. That they even think a code is needed is not a good sign. Common sense civility should be part of everyone's interaction with others. No matter how diverse their views are. I am currently posting comments on a very conservative blog that I like. I don't like the politics of the author, but he writes well and we have had some lively exchanges. But never has it gotten to flame throwing. He is civil. I am civil. We are beginning to respect each other I think.

And that is the only code of conduct I embrace. Respect. Differ on the subject but respect the author's right to say what they want. So, if I am ever out of line, please let me know. But be respectful. And I will return the favor.

Extraneous Note

As I was typing this post this morning, my computer was going through it's daily AVG check for heebie jeebies that might have crept into the guts of my hard drive since yesterday. The check up slows down the computer, but allows me to continue to use it while it runs it's program. I am typing along, happy as if I had a brain, and this message suddenly appeared and the puter locked up hard -

"Test cannot be started because it already does not exist"

Now this is funny. I just love the composition skills of computer geeks. It already does not exist? What is that?

Another note - The picture has nothing to do with the post. I could not find one that related, but I found this one and I liked it. Not sure why, but well there it is.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hmm. Another challenge. Another blogging contest. The winner gets bragging rights and feels good for a moment or two. Velvet Verbosity runs the contest. It is simply called "100 Words". 100 words on a subject picked weekly by the host. This week it is "Faster". Here goes.

"Who do you think is faster?"

Said Slug to Caterpillar as he scurried past.

"Why me of course", Caterpillar said. "I have many legs, you have none."

"Is it so important to be fast", Slug wondered. "Think of all you miss moving at such break neck speeds."

Caterpillar turned, twitched his antenna in that condescending caterpillar way and huffed, "Anything I do not see cannot be worth seeing. So why slow down?"

Caterpillar picked up the pace just as Slug shouted out, "Well slowing down can be a lifesaver." And Caterpillar was lost under the heel of a passing boot.

In Passing

It appears I was too late to submit this for consideration. Reading rules and instructions has never been my strong suit. But after spending more than what some folks would consider a sane amount of time on it, I am damn well going to post it here anyway. Damn rules. It was a tough one.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Pot Belly Orange Wobbler

A rare sighting


This male Pot Belly Orange Wobbler was sighted fording a local stream a month or so ago here in southern Maine. Not really unusual to catch a glimpse of one I guess. But getting one captured on film is indeed a rare treat.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Upscale Maine Living

I first ran across this fine example of Upscale Maine Living back in the mid 1980s. Back then my trucking career was winding down. I spent the last couple of years delivering corrugated products around Maine and northern New England. I would pass this palatial compound several times a month when heading to Fryeburg and Conway with boxes for local craftsmen to ship out their handworked wooden gadgets and gizmos in.

The property did not have that finished and elegant look you see before you today. The family still lived in the building in the foreground. That high falutin single wide had not made an appearance yet. It's appearance indicated a family that was upwardly mobile. The dish was most likely in your face notice to their neighbors that these Jones-es would, could not be kept up with. The satelite dish told everyone in town this home had a TV inside and most likely it turned on in living color. It's appearance caused quite the stir. There was grumblings down to the villiage store laced with words like persnickity, uppity, and snooty. But I think they was just jealous cuz all they had was Channel 6 and 8 that came in clean all the time with Channel 13 only making a snow free delivery when the weather came out of the Northeast.

I most likely passed this no nonsense complex dozens of times before I noticed it. Must have been about the time the big honking satelite dish appeared that it caught my eye. It may have been one of the first satelite dishes in Maine. It certainly was the first one the folks in Cornish had ever seen. Like some evil genius James Bond deathray popping out of the ground to wreak havoc worldwide, it just appeared one day.

The addition of the newer and improved single wide may have spoiled the over all effect somewhat at the time of it's erection on site. But the folks living here have proven their their visionary abilities. In the 12 years since the wheels came off that trailer, that single wide has settled into the property like it was stick built right on site.

The contradiction of new vs old and traditional always made me smile. Here we have a family who knows where their priorities are. They have proven they are indeed part of the new world of gee whiz tech. The addition of the smaller dish shows their commitment to staying tuned in and turned on to the latest and greatest in multi-channel delivery systems. As long as they pay their power bill, they will have 500 channels of the finest entertainment America has to offer. I heard from someone who knows, their only complaint is no Tractor Pull channel. Their minimalist approach to landscape layout and their nod to the state custom of never tearing down anything still standing shows their sensitivity and concern for local cultural norms.

All in all, A damn fine effort. But like any arm chair landscaper worth his salt, I would have done some things differently. Their over use of the lawn mower in front of the single wide detracts from the the postcard look I think they were aiming for. Less mowing and more weeds would move the rating from good plus to outstanding. Besides, some folks feel the trimmed up dooryard does take away some from the overall "Maine Look" many of us try to maintain.Some locals even consider it borderline snobbish. I would suggest maybe an older John Deere tractor peeking out from under a slightly tattered blue tarp from Mardens next to the dish. And maybe some animated sculpture attained by chaining their big black mutt to the base of the dish with 3/4" link logging chain. Give a good dog a chance and they can cut dirt circles to rival any made by man. The contrast of dirt against the taller plantings might just take the viewer's eye and mind off the flaw of a too narrow of a lot.

Regardless, it is an excellent start on a work in progress. A few more years might just be the touch it needs to mature into something worth entering over to the Fryeburg Fair some October in the homes and woodlot contest sponsored by the local Ladies Auxillary.


Side note, post note, or maybe request note - take your pick

I pushed my imaging skills into new territory with this post. I figured out how to beat the auto sizing function of blogger. It was not done with genius. It was not done with knowledge. It was done because I finally stumbled onto the right combination of procedures to beat a system I am convinced was created to confuse the confused. If this works for every computer out there and I can remember how I did it, then I guess I am still confused. Only less so than before.

What I would like to know is this - Does this bigger image play well on your screen? Does it sit in all it's glory without the need to use a scroll bar? Or have I overreached myself again?

Keep it 'tween the ditches.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympic Notes

Falling off a horse, or in my case a more appropriate analogy might be after falling off a bike, getting back up and remounting it can be daunting sometimes. Falling out of my blogging rhythm had the same effect. I have started more than a few posts in the past 10 days only to let them die of inattention as I found my ability to be coherent somewhat blunted from the overall exhaustion that has settled in. The fact I am posting again indicates I may have turned a corner. Thoughts are coming with better clarity now, even if the subject matter is not.

The Olympics

NBC has managed to present more hours of coverage than I remember anyone doing in the past. I have missed most of the prime time coverage of the typical glory events, gymnastics, swimming, track & field etc. My recent health issues caused me to be awake more when others slept and asleep when others were awake. So I hung out watching the early morning hours of Olympic coverage on the USA channel. Water Polo, ping pong, and yesterday morning 3 hours of the 50K power walking marathon. 31 miles of men walking faster than most people run. I will admit it did not keep me on the edge of my seat. But I did come away with a deeper appreciation for the commitment these people make to their given sports. In a world where the worth of an athlete is based on how much money they make and not so much on their talent, I find it reassuring that there are athletes who tirelessly pursue perfection in sport not based on dollars. In my opinion, it is the unnamed and unsung participants of sports we only hear about every 4 years who can claim honest ownership of the Olympic Spirit. The rock stars of sports we see every day in the news or on TV would be nothing without them. So the next time you meet a power walker, don't snicker. Tip your hat and say thank you.

My wife told me that China did not allow clergy of any kind to travel with their various teams. Given China's well documented dislike of religion in general, I don't find this surprising. But what I do find surprising is the willingness of the rest of the World to accept this. I heard the Chinese promised to allow demonstrations in specific places around but not too close to the venue. Groups wanting to demonstrate had to register first. Just having to register first had to be a deterrent, but then I was informed that almost all those who registered were refused and some were arrested or deported for just filling out the application. And again, no one seems to pay this much attention. China has indeed become a powerful country when what we used to publicly call them on the carpet for is now quietly ignored. And yeah, it pisses me off. Not about what China is doing so much as no one seeming to care. Or is it no one seems willing to dare to care?

Of the many US Olympians testing themselves in Beijing, at least 7 of them hail from the great state of Maine. And of the 7, 4 have medaled and will be bringing home 3 golds and a bronze. Adam Craig (at left) is slated to race his mountain bike in a quest for one more. Ranked 10th in the World right now, he has a very good chance at pulling it off. Adam is one of those gifted riders who makes riding in the woods look easy. Yet he does not rub your face in how good he is compared to us mortals he often rides and hangs with. He rides for Giant Bicycles as a pro, but later today he will be riding for us. I wish him luck and hope to see him on the podium. Congratulations to all of them for even getting to the Olympics. The time and dedication to compete at such an elite level is awe inspiring.

And one last note for the night. I thought about how the Summer Olympics have always been followed by a Presidential election. That when I see the flame in August, I know the political studs shooting flames at each other are not far behind. I had hoped and still do hope that there is some kind of kernel or astute observation I can draw from this 4 year confluence of events. But try as I might, worry the idea like a dog with a bone, all I can come up with is -

Both have worldwide ramifications and both are watched closely worldwide.

Both are chock full of political intrigue and drama.

The Olympics can boost our spirits or dash them. The election seems to have a similar effect.

One boosts the economy of a country and the other sucks a large chunk of the economy out of a country. Either way, cash flows. And from what I have been led to believe and taught, Cash Flowing is always good for someone.

The efforts wasted in the pursuit of either end up being an exercise in frustration for most of the participants, leaving a very select few to bask in the glow of victory.

Both attract talking head couch coach experts like flies to cow pies.

Conjecture and predictions bloat the atmosphere of each driving the emotions of the faithful almost to madness.

That's it I guess. Not really much there after all. Just another series of days on the planet that offer us a few moments of distraction from the daily grinds we all exist in.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Watching Tents Dry

Okay. I took some time off. There are excuses ready made and convenient. Real reasons why I have avoided writing and posting in my blog. Listing them would be nothing but sitting through the same movie over one more time for me. So, no excuses. I just took some time off. Besides, whining explanations or blow by blows about how my life has hit a few small bumps is not why I started this blog. Shit happens.

Recapping recent and not so recent events-

24 Hours of Great Glen

The 24 hour race turned ugly for me. I have never not finished a race before. Ever. I guess it had to happen at some point. Too bad it had to be in a race that my DNF meant disqualification for 4 other team members. But I could not ride after smashing my knee my first trip out. Hobbling the 6 miles back to the start told me I was done. Which meant the team was done. So I sat around, camped, ate, threw wet wood on this really great portable fire pit Dave the Punk brought with him, and watched the tents dry. The rest of the team fell into leisure mode. They still went out and did their laps, but not with any intensity.

It was interesting to be a spectator rather than a participant for a change. I had a chance to observe the racers camped around us come and go from their various lap duties. Everyone takes on the same haggard look over the course of the 24 hours whether they are just doing a few laps or riding solo. No one sleeps really. Not even the support crews or disabled grumpy gusses who drop out. And though the course was absolutely in the worst condition I have ever raced on, everyone stayed upbeat. Including my teammates who continued to do their laps, even though they knew we were no longer among those who counted. In all a fun weekend. Just not the one I had planned.


I met my first blogging friend in person last week. Eric from over to Roadside Manners stopped by at the bike shop. He was on his week down from his last three weeks over the road trucking for Schneider National. He drives one of those big orange rigs we see all over the lower 48. It was so very cool actually meeting one of the people I interact with in this blog world.

We talked trucks and swapped tales of life on the road. He is now a seasoned long haul trucker and settling into a unique lifestyle that is no where near as romantic as the country songs wax poetic about. I thought I might be missing the road more after talking with him. But no. My time there is over and I have no desire to return to that life. Although it would be so cool to drive one of the new rigs that are common today. I guess they are more like like RVs than trucks now. What with the TVs, the micro waves, double bed sleepers, plush suspension and built in computer hook ups. And with all the new computer enhanced safety features, they are, as Eric put it, almost idiot proof to drive.

An Old Adversary Comes Back

The week following the race, I began to feel fatigued. As much as I did not want to admit it, I knew in the back of my mind, my chronic liver problem was back. When that happens, my health takes a dive, my happy factor takes a hit, and I fall into a funk that can sometimes be a deep pit that is tough to climb out of. The duration this time seems to be only a brief visit. I may have lost only a couple of weeks instead of the often month or longer duration I am used to. I am really just starting to come to accept this as part of my life now and accept the physical limitations it seems to insist on. The shitty attitude that accompanies the physical hit seems harder to turn around than the chronic fatigue.

I will close with this close up of one of my campsite buddies. To many of you, just another creepy crawler destined to be flattened by some impersonal boot or compacted into the tent bag when I packed it up. But to me this bug was another example of how Nature will always out trump us when it comes to beauty. Click it to enlarge it and really check out this bug's tats.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Real Weather

I normally stay out of my wife's way in the early morning. She is a creature of habit. I get the distinct feeling my presence is frowned upon as an unneeded impediment to the start of another all out day. Nothing tangible, just those feelings I have developed over the last 28 years of learning her moods and body language. Maybe it's the way we grunt at each other first thing that captures the morning mood here in Acton. Both of us seem to need some private time to get our day rolling along. Well she does anyway. Mine often never gets fired up, but I do usually get it to smoulder into a slow burn.

For some reason this morning I chose to be in her space at the same time she was. I made the coffee. I washed out some coffee cups and some plastic containers for the recycling box. Just some mindless puttering Bobbi Ann usually contends with first thing. I probably should have left everything alone. Just as I finished washing out that last piece of plastic, she walks in the kitchen. After a mutual good morning grunt, I felt immediately uncomfortable. I had robbed her of her warm up chores. I had stolen a small daily ritual from her. Her routine was out of whack already and the sun was not even up. Only the passage of the rest of the day will tell me if there will be payback or not. I definitely should have stayed in here or walked the dog.

The gray light of dawn is just now bringing the yard into focus. There will be no spectacular lifting of the Sun with loud red and pink banners streaking across the sky. Today will be as yesterday was. As what seems everyday for the last 3 weeks has been. Dreary, gray and wet. We are trapped in some kind of maddening weather loop. It's either raining, just stopped raining, or feels like it is going to rain any minute. Double digit inches of rain in the last week alone. As used to real weather as Mainers are, this recent cycle has some beginning to notice and actually comment.

I found it odd as a kid when I first heard a Mainer call what we have here, "Real Weather". Like what went on elsewhere was not "real"? It took me awhile to realize that when a New Englander says "Real Weather", they mean bad weather. We just get so much "real weather", we had to come up with a description that was not so depressing. Enticing the tourists with signs or postcards that say, "Come to Maine, enjoy the wonder of bad weather", just does not have the same hook as say tossing out a challenge, "Come to Maine and experience Real Weather". The trick with tourists is to get them to come. Once they are here, they always spend money. Rain or shine.

The "real weather" and the wonderful economy have combined to make for a sucky summer around here. I have never seen so many vacancies down at the motels on Rte 1. An eatery we like to frequent was almost always full with folks waiting to be seated. 2 weekends ago, we went in and there were some lobstermen at the bar and that was it. We had the place to ourselves. A bad tourist season in Maine means a tough winter will follow. But as usual, we will just tighten our belts, throw on one more sweater and hunker down until next Spring. Dealing with Real Weather translates well to all facets of our lives. With this mindset, any weather can be handled, economic or otherwise.

Which brings me to this weekend. I have a 24 hour mountain bike race this weekend. I will be camping out for 2 nights this weekend. And what have I seen on the news when they do those little daily window predictions for the upcoming days? Rain and more rain. For 2 weeks I hoped we would break the cycle. Apparently not. My 5th race at the 24 Hours of Great Glen will most likely be a wet one. I am now girding myself. Resigning myself to the idea of wet clothing, wet bikes, and wet people everywhere. I have located every piece of foul weather gear I have. I am packing enough clean riding duds to have a dry set for each lap I might do. And I am trying very hard to locate and tie down a happy face to deal with what may be a weekend best spent indoors. Bailing is not an option. Race fees are not refundable. Besides, 4 other people are relying on me to show up.

And since any time between now and when I leave Friday morning to head to the race is precious time, this will be my last post until probably Sunday night or Monday. I have tents to locate. Tarps to find and folsd. Cooking gear, ice chests and sleeping bags to pull out and dust off. Too much left to the last minute. I wouldn't know how to act if it was any other way.

You all have a great weekend. I will try to do the same.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mixed Bag

IN THE NEWS - didi-didit,da dit dit dit............

Israelis still prefer McCain

In this piece from "Politico" - it appears that someone polled 499 Israelis as to who they favored for US President. McCain overwhelmed Obama with a whopping 38% approval over Obama's flaccid 31%. What they did not say was who got the other 31%. But sources nearby in some van at the Ben Gurion Int'l Airport faxed me that the rest of the respondents stated they wished for Golda Meir to be the US president. That she has been dead for 30 years apparently did not matter to them. As one of them put it, "A dead Israeli could run that country better than a live gentile any day." So far, no comment from Ms Meir has surfaced.

Well I don't know about that. But I guess after what we have had these last 7 plus years, I could see them making that assumption.

What I find interesting is that somehow these 499 Israelis and their opinion even rate a mention. But I guess the influence of 499 Israelis has more impact than 100,000 Germans. It certainly gave me a moment of pause until I realized it was just gas. The moment passed.

Plant Drops Labor Day For Muslim Holiday

A Tyson poultry processing plant has dropped Labor Day as a holiday and replaced it with Eid al-Fitr, which falls on Oct. 1 this year. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. This change was made as part of a union contract negotiation with the plant workers, a majority of whom are Muslims from Ethiopia. Also part of the contract agreement was installation of a prayer room inside the plant so the Muslim faithful could do their thing twice a day.

I find this situation to be well, I cannot really describe how I feel I guess. On one level it saddens me that certain institutions of our country are being nibbled away at. But on the other, it also represents in a microcosm the essence of what this country is about. Majority rule. It points up that this country of immigrants will never be able to settle down to any long run of stable and predictable interactions. The unfortunate or as some would see it fortunate aspect of all this, is our basic rulebook (The Constitution) ensures that we will always being testing ourselves and changing ourselves as times dictate. We have no national identity that has roots going back thousands of years. Our roots change as each wave of newcomers settle in and become part of us. And those of us who claim first fart status have no choice but to whine and complain or deal with it.

A 24 Hour Race Teaser

Pictured here is yours truly pedaling towards the awards tent after last year's 24 hour race in Great Glen, New Hampshire. Barely awake, I am concentrating all the energy I have left on where I am going. Obviously I had given every bit of myself to the team effort. Keith on the other hand has enough energy to smile for the camera. He obviously did not lay it all on the line last year. I will have have to speak to him about it. This year I will insist that no fun will be had by any of us. This is serious business. This racing a mountain bike in the woods for 24 hours. World events hinge on the outcome.

Blue Job on Monday

We expected rain. After what seemed like 6 or 7 days straight of torrential rain, who could blame us. But Lis and I decided to ride Blue Job (Blue J-oh-b) anyway. Screw the rain. Getting wet riding mountain bikes is to be expected. Blue Job is maybe Lis' favorite ride. She had not ridden it in a couple of years. Damn Grad School.

So we headed towards New Hampshire, skirted Rochester and headed out Meadorboro Road to the Reservoir. We always park at the Reservoir. We could park right at the park, but we don't. The 4 mile upstroke to the top from there has become a tradition. It starts off gentle like and in a series of steps becomes a lung busting leg rubberin grunt that can make you want to puke sometimes. But ain't that some fun.

I vowed to ride easy this last week before the 24 hour race. I did not want to hurt myself and put my participation in jeopardy. Of course my body had other plans. A slow greasy technical uphill before the final grunt up caused me to go down hard. My shin hitting a root sounded like a baseball bat punching one out of the park. Felt like it too. No lasting effect, but the memory still makes me wince.

It never rained on us. And once we reached the top we saw this in all directions. A beautiful day where we were and scattered storms all around us. Blue Job is about my favorite high spot close by.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Everyone Loves Canadians

My recent post about Canadians and the words used to identify them has me thinking about them. I have worked in Canada. I now live in a state that borders Canada. I have friends who started out Canadian and are now not Canadian legally. I have always liked them as a group. Generally friendly and not prone to excess in views to the point of intolerance. And they have the friendliest cops I have ever encountered.

I forget what tour I was on. But we were in Toronto. Toronto has a parking ban on big rigs within the city limits. When we went there, we were supposed to park in secured lots found near the gig. Anyway, the crew stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel. It did not happen often, but we had an extra 3 days to get to Montreal. Being a short 300 mile run on the TransCan, I figured another day or two in Toronto would be just what I needed to fight off the "On the Road Blues". Spend some time being a tourist. Drink in a bar without liggers and hangers on trying to weasel their way into my life so they could weasel their way into a back stage pass. Be normal for a day. Or normal for me at that time in my life.

But I could not leave my truck and trailer in the secured lot. Our rent only covered the 3 days of the concerts. So I parked it out back of the Four Seasons on some side street. Got out. Locked it and began my sailor in a new port thing.

The morning I was supposed to leave for Montreal, I went out to my truck refreshed and invigorated. As I approached my truck I saw a Toronto cop in that classic pose. Head down, ticket book tucked into his belly and a ball point pen furiously filling out all the blanks.

Ready for an ugly confrontation, I approached warily while trying to cop the right punk ass attitude needed when dealing with Five-O. After all I was a truck driver from the US and used to the abuse of cops from my own country.

He looks up and sees me. And then he smiles. Not a "gotcha smile" but more of an embarrassed smile. "I really did not want to give you this ticket. I drove past your truck for 2 days. I tried to give you a break." And then he tossed his head towards his squad car. Inside another cop sat. "But I have my Sargent with me today and he told me to ticket you. I am really sorry guy. I know what you haul and how much it means to our folks here in Toronto, but..... well, have a nice day, 'eh". And he handed me the ticket. $125 Canadian for violating the no truck parking rule.

I just stood there awestruck. Ticket hanging out of my hand as I watched him drive away. I bought a money order before I left town and mailed in the fine.