Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red America - Be Careful What You Wish For.

I find it interesting that the current unrest that has erupted in the Islamic World seems to be mostly in Islamic countries that had designated Islam as their "state religion".   In the "Islamic States", that is the countries that have incorporated Islam as the foundation of their political and legal makeup, there is less visible unrest, but anyone who has been paying attention knows it boils just under the radar of public scrutiny.  The countries where Islam is practiced by the majority of citizens, but the government is set up as secular with no official religion, well, they seem to be the most stable.

Certainly there are many other variables that would cause a population to be content or unhappy, but often times it is how a government handles  its citizens that brings things to a boil.  Theocratic governments are historically inflexible and stuck in singular mindsets that do not allow for change.  Governments who place an emphasis, or maybe a stamp of approval on one religion over others set up barriers and divisions within its country that cannot possibly be helpful in the long run.  When a government takes no official position regarding the religions of it populace, it only makes sense that this would help smooth out the interactions in country some, by allowing the population to sort out the cultural structure on its own. 

I would hope that the current madness within the Muslim World would cause those Americans looking for more of an official recognition of Christianity  to take a lesson here.  When the government gets mixed up with religion, bad things happen.  Whether the government decides to stamp out religion (USSR, China, Cuba) or make it the law of the land (Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan), their interference is counter productive to that country's healthy progression as a culture.

Religion will never be stamped out.  Nor will it ever be totally embraced by all.  Belief cannot be dictated.  When it is, people get pissy,  people get arrested, people die.  Religion can be a positive force when left alone and kept out of the mundane reality of governance.  But try to incorporate it into state policy and the future is bound to be ugly at some point.  Besides, calling yourself a Christian because the government says so does not make you a Christian if you do not believe. 


Friday, March 25, 2011

In Your Face Dad

My father once said to me, "The damn Rock n Roll, it won't last.  Just a fad.  And a stupid one at that, what with all that pelvis thrusting and gyrating."  I was maybe 7 or 8 at the time, but I remember it well.  I had just come home with my first RocknRoll 45 RPM record, a Buddy Holly tune, "Peggy Sue".  My hard earned allowance of 50 cents a week covered the cost.  I played the shit out of that record.  I wore it out in about a month.  Then I went to work on the B side.

That was 50 years ago.   Yes, the RocknRoll of the 1950s and 1960s is gone, but what it spawned is still going strong.  As is American Blues, American Jazz, American Country and Bluegrass.  Many people around the World might hate our government, but they love our music.  And though our nation's geopolitical and economic influence may be heading downhill, I am guessing that no matter what happens to us, no matter where we end up, our music will persevere.

So I sit here listening to Buddy, Fats, and the Everly Brothers and think of my father.

In your face Dad.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thankfully There is Always Something to Whine About

It's back.  On the surface, it seems the same.  But flip the "on" switch and watch out Mr. Man.  The somewhat dimwitted and slow electrical friend who left for a few days of complete rest which included some much needed high colonics, low colonics, mud baths, and back rubs, has returned re-invigorated, reinvented, and re-adjusted to the point I do not recognize my friend anymore.

I had gotten used to slow.  I had gotten used to it's idiosyncrasies, foibles, and tendency to break wind at the drop of a hat.  Like a comfortable pair of old shoes finally being re-fitted with new soles and heels, it looks the same but once again I find myself breaking those old shoes in again.   Stiff and awkward, the shoes and I will need to become re-acquainted.

Nothing got wiped out.  It is all still there, just slightly out of order.  My friend came back from the Computer Heaven Spa and Retreat with new procedures and routines that insist no matter how old a dog I am, I must learn some new tricks if I want to play with my old friend like we used to.  The relationship has changed.  My friend has changed and is adamant that I change also.

Okay, well, I don't wanna change.  A man gets used to things a certain way, things in certain places, order and chaos set up to his liking and when someone comes along, whether it be a mechanical someone or a flesh and blood someone and changes everything, it is a natural response of a real man to resist, even when it makes no sense to resist.  Real men know exercising futilely is some of the best exercise there is.  Just look at our political system if you are in need of evidence.

 So here I sit in front of my new/old computer and am happy to report that I sit grumpy once again. My machine is fixed, but now it is "too fixed".  Any concerns I may have had at a possible drop in whine factor evaporated as soon as I opened up my "bookmarks".  Nothing was as I left it.  This, which was up here next to that is now down there next to something else.  The seldom visited links I had moved to the bottom out of the way were now gumming up the works at the top, middle, bottom, and everything in between.

Life is beautiful again.  I can still complain about these damn computers with conviction and a false sense of victim hood that comes with the notion that all machines are inherently evil and are just waiting for the chance to ruin my day at any opportunity.

I'll visit everyone soon.  It's back to the bike shop for now...................................
Image has nothing to do with the post.  Just one of my valve caps on my current favorite ride.  Posted for BBC's enjoyment and to let everyone know, this monkey is at play again.

And just because I just today re-discovered this tune I offer up this:

**** Seems my new safety features will not allow U Tube to load onto my blog.  There are also some other issues with things being blocked and refused.  Let me know if this video worked for those of you who might try it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tired of Updates? Well, Get Used To It.

In the face of mounting computer woes here at the home/business computer center, my ability to surf the Web has been cut back to the bare basics.  I can follow no links at all now.  If I try to comment on someone's blog, or say, post some pithy remark after being righteously indignated upon finishing some article, I get spanked back to the BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death).  All connections are cut and I have to start over.  Any remarks or thought I had begun forming into cohesive lumps of words that might make sense were lost.

I can post to my blog if I approach it just the right way.  But I have to be careful injecting images.  I can't upload from my computer anymore, I have to use my Web hoster Picassa.  That seems to work.  But try to visit someone and all I can do is lurk.

I could and probably will.......no I probably won't use the shop computer to drop in and say hey.  Once I hit the bike shop, all my internet time is spent chasing parts, bikes, etc.  When my day is done there, all I want to do is come home.  And I told myself I would not rob shop time for personal time.  At least try to keep it to a minimum.  And having just instituted this new policy, I am gung ho, assholes and elbows trying to impress myself with myself as I don my retailer hat and sell Sanford Maine the bike stuff they need.

My computer is scheduled for a thorough reaming and cleaning this next Monday.  Hopefully I will be back to my usual early AM slinking around your blog or the one next door.  I promise to wear pants.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Grateful for the Problems I Have

Life gets in the way of the things I want to do.  I try to convince myself that what I want to do is what Life should be focusing on.  But no.  Life has its own damn agenda and it more often than not only includes me as so much excess baggage.  I get swept along by events unforeseen and not prepared for.  And suddenly the comfortable little rut I had constructed for myself has become a minefield.
I sidestep as many mines, pitfalls, and incidents that promise ugly outcomes as I can.  I cannot avoid them all......................................................And then I notice that while I have become totally wrapped up in my own puny problems, elsewhere on the planet, folks are dealing with problems of the Life and Death kind. 

Suddenly I feel foolish.  Suddenly I realize that for all the little irritations I have to deal with, there are people right now whose home washed away and their family is missing, or they are on some desert road with their life's belongings on their back and hoping some jet doesn't decide to fling bullets their way, or they are facing some kind of awful death as a disease works its way through their refugee camp.  As bad as I would like to pretend my life gets from time to time, I am fairly sure a sizable portion of the planet's population would love to switch places with me.

Owing more money than is coming in is a laugher when held up and compared to say, being buried up to your neck and watching the village line up next to the rock pile.  Water in my basement seems a minor league distraction when watching a tsunami take out a town of 17,000.  Scowling and cussing under my breath when another ATV/Snowmobile screams by disturbing my peace seems so petty when somewhere over the desert of northern Africa, fighter jets are screaming by and strafing lines of people whose only crime is trying to get away.

Being the typical American human,  focusing first on my problems rather than anyone else's is predictable if not understandable.  Average Joes such as myself tend to do this.  But then we really have to focus on what's in front of us.  It's all we have and for the most part all we can do.  We rise to occasions as needed and fall back to normality when the fires have been doused.  Dealing with the mundane is what keeps everything afloat.  Dealing with disaster is what we do to try and get everyone back on the boat so the focus can again be directed to the routine problems of keeping a society cohesive and moving in a good direction.

Anyway, just some Monday morning thoughts after watching catastrophe once again visit some fellow humans.  Sadness settles in with that second cup of coffee and I sit stunned.  My only consolation is my gratitude for the relatively peaceful existence I have been blessed with.  No matter how bad we think our lives are unfolding, there is always someone else carrying a burden we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy.

Keep it 'tween the ditches..............................................

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


The following whatever it turns out to be will a much needed expulsion of pressure from my spleen as I sit  and try to type and drink my way through the violent internal turmoil brought to full steam through my own mishandlings.  I know what I would like to do, but can only sit here frustrated and SCREAM.....silently! 

The following was written last night after a close encounter with almost insane rage and then posted tomorrow, which by the time you read it will be at least today,Wed 3/9/11.  Delaying publication will leave me some time to review what I wrote before I make a fool of myself and post it out there for all to see.

Okay, Okay.  I know.  The fool ship sailed a long time ago.  I'm comfortable enough with my flaws and ingrained clueless demeanor now that posting more of it is just more of Mike's character anyone who knows me already knows.  You might as well know too in case you didn't know it already.  Call it a replay of tendencies I cannot seem to lose.  If I wasn't a bonehead at least once a day, I probably would take my temperature when I got home and crawl into bed.

First a shot glass of Rebel Yell and some Papst Blue Ribbon beer poured carefully into my favorite Pub glass I haven't used in so long there is 1/2 inch of dust in the bottom.  I will rinse out the worst of the dust first though.  

Ah that's better.  Where to start?

It all begins out there in the heavens, the beyond, the not here and now when  Universal Realm Operator 12 connects Darkside Out Post #4 with my Bad Karma HQ, allowing my Shitty Day side to link up from out there in whatever Hell hole they all exist in.  Though their secretive communication was beyond the range of my hearing, my radio and TV reception, and any telepathic inclinations I may have, I know this is how the conversation went down earlier today prior to what happened later today.

 "Out Post # 4?"

"Yes HQ.  OP #4 here."

"Mounting frustrations instigated here at HQ with things mechanical, electronical, and unsatisfactory encounters of the long distance phone kind of your client, one Mike Macrum, have racheted his stress level up better than 40% above normal over the last two weeks.  The target is now primed and ready to be taken to the final level, just shy of Meltdown.  This is a check,,1,2,3,4.....Check?  Are you ready to proceed OP #4?"

"Check HQ.  Everything's a Go here."

"Okay, implement final procedures to bring subject to full boil."

"Roger Wilco HQ.  Final countdown to meltdown on my mark........Mark.......10...9.....8."

This conversation early this morning between HQ and Op #4 set the stage for the moment I was not waiting for around 6:15 PM as I tried to make sense with one more phone voice, this time named Helen who was located somewhere not close.............Pause....Need some music.  And a picture or two if I can remember how the self timer gizmo works.

Backing up some here - Over the last two years, I have done what I considered a much better job of running things down to the Bike Shop.  I actually was beginning to feel I had a grip.  I was watching all the lines, not just the bottom one.  I felt oh so smart and on top of it when I caught over a $grand mistake in my bank account the same day it happened and stopped disaster before it even lifted off, I almost sat back satisfied.

And then I looked at the credit card processing fee on the bank statement................Hmm.   At first that is all I had.......Hmm.  I set the statement down on the counter and poured some more coffee.  In mid pour, I realized what I was Hmming at.  Two charges for processing, not one.  I dropped everything and chased down my processing statements online.  But first, because I had wiped my computer clean when it recently died, I had to re-register to see the account.  An hour and two or three phone calls later I had my recent statement staring back at me.  $76.50.......Hmm.....I look at my bank statement.........Yep, it's there.  But what about this one just under it and just after almost in the same electronic breath on the bank statement, this $110.50?.............Hmm.........I sit on the stool sipping coffee and feel myself winding up as I try to make sense of this.

Back on the phone at 6:30 PM with ,now it's Angela, she informs me that the $110.50 is not going into their account.  Angela continues talking, but I have tuned her out.  I realize in an instant, a flash of recollection, the code words my previous credit card processor had used to deduct my hard earned money and make it theirs.  The codes on the bank statement were the same as I remembered.  I say to Angela,

"Uh Angela?"

"Yes sir."

"When did I sign on with you people?"

"Mr Macrum, let me bring that up on the screen..................You came on board September, 2009."

I feel sick.  Any delusions of grandeur about my business acumen disappear in an instant.  I have just been caught being extremely stupid.  Expensively stupid.  Outrageously stupid.  Mindlessly stupid. 

"Mr Macrum?  Are you still there?"

"Uh Yeah , I'm here.  Angela, I have to go now.  I have a door to kick in.  See Ya......Click."

I punch the off button and toss the phone on the sales counter.  I first stare at the phone, then the bank statement, and finally back at the online e-statement.  My nausea passes and slowly turns into a growing, erupting, boiling over anger.  I turn back the recall roll in my brain and try to remember how this might have happened.  I remember the sales rep who got me to switch told me they would take care of turning off the spigot to the old processer.  I then remember making sure by telling the bank to not deduct any more money to that account.  Yet I sat there realizing that by not following up, I had been screwed.  And screwed out of at the least several thousand dollars over the last year and a half.  Feeling chumpish and rube-ish does not even cover how I felt.

"Okay HQ, subject Mike Macrum is now ready for meltdown.  HQ?  Are you there?"

"Yes OP #4, we are monitoring his stress levels.  The question to your there, I mean after all it is you who is there with boots on the ground.......Will this incident be enough to push him over the edge?  We would like to include your opinion as part our final judgement of when to pull the lever."

"HQ, I would say given his history, we are wasting our time."

"Why is that OP #4?"

"Well, you could give him a few more hours.  But I don't think it will make any difference.  He seems impervious to his own stupidity.  He is more resilent or is it dense than you might think.  Pushing him off the edge might just be wasted energy for not much gain.  Most likely he'll just lay there a lump and take up space.  You will gain no beneficial returns."

"Okay OP #4.  Keep us posted.  HQ out."

Distracted to a state of almost not making it home safely because some idiot pulled out in front of me as I was lost in some dark fantasy about me, the CEO of the criminal processor company and some ropes and stones applied in excruciating ways, I finally got it under control and decided there was no better reason to take a drink than because of what just went down.   That and I hadn't tipped one back in a month or so.

I had previously unloaded my sad sack story to my wife over the phone.  I obviously had exhibited the right amount of pitiful me sorrow for being such a dunce, that she didn't lay into me.  She just said, "So you fix it and move on."  Or maybe she could sense just how tense and clearly ready to implode I really was.  Whatever, she cut me some slack.  I truly appreciate that.

So with my third beer and a second shot of Rebel Yell sourmash warming my belly, I feel comfortable and cozy once again.  The alcohol has dulled the pain the sharp jagged searing edge my self inflicted stupidity cut into my ego.  I remember the why of what it is I carry as I go forth into the madness and wilderness that is always just around every next bend.

Money can always be made again.  Mistakes are but something you try to not repeat.  And always remember the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers - "Pot will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no pot."

Of course with no money nor any pot, it's the thought that counts.  Just remembering Phineas, Frank, Fat Freddy and his Fat Cat conjurs up very pleasant and soothing THC tinged flashbacks.  An almost satisfactory contact high is located, downloaded and allowed to join the alcohol charged memories recent and long dog gone.

Tomorrow, or well, later today, armed with righteous indignation and a hangover I will march into the bank.  Before I leave, this situation will be a memory. .............Hopefully one I won't soon forget.

Later Gator.............................................................

An Afterword - I have now spent wasted my whole morning getting the thief off my back.  We will see if they comply.  If not, I know where Addison Texas is.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

And Another Update

Apparently my computing woes are not even close to being rectified.  Well, I am feeling somewhat rect-ti-fied in an anatomical way I guess after the money I have spent recently to clean up this mess.

My linking process has shit the bed.  I can only link to another blog through outside links like Google or from another blog.  This adds to the time I normally waste and so it has become more cumbersome than it is worth.  I am also on occasion being tossed off the Internet in the middle of commenting.  The bugs, they just seem to be hanging on. 

I'm heading to work now.  I'll see if the Bike shop computer is doing the same thing.

Anyway, I'm still struggling here.  So bear with me.


Monday, March 07, 2011

The Rafter of Turkeys

The local rafter of Turkeys that made it through the worst of winter visited me last week.    Their Fall membership of over 20 birds had shrunk and there were no wee ones scooting here or there.  All presented adult plummage and size.   It was a tough winter and I was pleased to see the 10 or so birds strutting on top of the hard 2 foot snow pack in the yard.

They went through instinctual motions probably engrained by millions of years of evolution and pecked repeatedly as if there was something to eat on the snow.  Or maybe they were just nervous tic's resulting from them being so out in the open.  All the while their one eye facing me bore into me hard.

Wild Turkeys, like most birds, have fantastic eyesight.  Usually if they sense any movement inside the house they scatter instantly.  This day, they sensed me but only moved quickly to another spot in the yard.  It seemed they were waiting for me to get my camera.  I did and when I put it against the window, a couple of the bigger ones moved closer.  "Yeah, look at us.  We made it.  We're the badasses, yeah that's right.  We cool."

They paraded around for several minutes and then as if on cue, all took flight and were gone.

One more sign Mud Season is almost upon us.  Spring is just around the corner.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Our Government at Work

I was just going to give myself one half of an hour this morning to cruise some headlines and visit a couple of blogs.  Then off to the bike shop.................... I should know better.  Damn Internet.

I have always enjoyed a bit of chaos.  The self inflicted chaos I have created for myself over the years is testimony to that.  Rigid order is fine for British gardens and smoked filled men's clubs, but out here where us loose dogs exist, random acts and erratic behaviour keep the ruts from getting too deep.

There is more than one kind of chaos.  Relatively harmless chaos like spontaneously stripping your clothes off and running across the infield at Fenway, and the ugly kind of chaos that apparently has Mexico by the short hairs right now.  The drug cartels, border hopping, and the efforts of both governments to stop it.  I hear and read Mexico is now a very dangerous place.  Monthly death tolls are not counted in double digits, they are counted by the hundreds.

As much as I believe we should be able to move about and do what we want without lawmen interfering, I do understand that when there are no rules, or rules that are not enforced, some people will take advantage and the results are usually ugly.  So, I begrudgingly acknowledge that we do need some order, a few rules, and some punitive measures just to keep the few idiots from completely overrunning the rest of us.

The ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Agency) is one arm of our government's many arms that attempt to contain chaos of the ugly type.  The ATF is tasked specifically with curtailing chaos created by guns.   Illegal arms sales, illegally upgraded weapons, trafficking of guns, pretty much anything to do with guns that fall outside the multitude of US laws on the books pertaining to guns.  I am supposed to feel safer with the ATF on the job.

I pretty much stopped feeling safer a long time ago.  My safety is up to me.  The government can only give the appearance of providing safety.  It is really up to us to provide our own safety on a day to day basis.  Besides, controlling guns inside the US is an exercise in futility.  There are just too many guns out there.

My loss of confidence in the US justice system was reinforced this morning when I read an article about an ATF agent who blew the whistle on a gun running operation the Feds were involved in.  My less than enthusiastic confidence that US Law is morally superior and rooted on some ethical high ground was reinforced at the same time.  Seems the Feds were allowing huge numbers of weapons to pass across the border from the US to Mexico so they could build an airtight case.  In the meantime while they dragged their feet "gathering evidence", 958 people died violently in March, 2010 inside Mexico.  Everything was fine and good as long as only Mexicans were dying.  But once a US agent died, well, now it was a problem.

Entrapment has always rubbed me the wrong way.  From John DeLorean to a situation regarding Anti War protests involving myself, I have never liked it when lawmen actively encourage illegal behaviour as a means to ending said illegal behaviour.  Of course I understand the logic, but the ethics are lost to me. 

This situation is a perfect example.  The ATF allowed thousands of guns to cross the border to be used by losers to kill other losers.  Of course the losers involved also shot more than the occasional tourist, innocent stand byer, and yes, even some of the cops trying to stop them.  The problem the ATF were tasked to prevent, they made worse. 

The ATF should hang their head in shame.   But they won't.  They will roll a few heads, shake off the bad publicity, and come up with another brilliant plan to put us or someone else in danger.


Friday, March 04, 2011

Agent X6

Yesterday I hated computers.  Specifically I hated mine.  Even after I paid for the sweat and toil of an expert, what I had returned to me from the Computer hospital were two warriors who were weaker and not up to full speed.  They functioned as if in a fog or maybe more like they limped and gimped as they performed their most routine of duties.   Having suffered wounds so deep, the effect would always be part of what life remained inside their copper wired souls.  But they were back and Life was almost back to normal.

I dealt with their failings as long as they did not affect my day to day business.  But I soon discovered that besides not having a CD/Rom player anymore, my USB magical port of call for data transferred from the outposts to the home base was non functioning.

This was unacceptable.  I could deal with slow.  I could deal with no CDs.  There was already hours of music safely saved within the gulliwots of my hard drive.  But not being able to pass documents back and forth on the magic memory sticks was too much.  I called my local computer whiz kid.  He took control of my ailing friend and the screen went mad.  Windows opened.  Windows closed.  Dark recesses were visited by probing mice.  The computer shut down.  The computer started back up.  More windows, more patrols by the mouse patrol.  And then in the utility manager an unknown agent, a sneaky saboteur, an evil program lurked.  His name - "Agent X6".  And he was up and running amok.

Over the phone which was on speaker, "There he is, the little bastard."  Click and the counter agent mouse clicked Agent X6 off.  "You should be all set now Mike......'Puter might not work like you remember, but it works.  See ya."  And my local whiz kid relinquished control to me again.

And now I sit typing while Neil Young's "Southern Man" blasts through my ear phones and the USB port o call is eagerly accepting new cargo. 

Oh Happy Day...................................

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Just An Update

My recent problems with computer malfunctions and the pressures the local cyclists are putting on me anticipating Spring have caused me to remain away from this keyboard.  I have had no computer time other than putting it to use with my business in mind.  I have begun the annual quest for elusive cycling gee gaws winter weary consumers saw in some obscure article on the latest gee whiz bike stuff that will never be available in the real world.   They have fanatsized about how a new ride would feel.  Or if packing a light pocket book, they imagine what upgrade they can afford to at least give their cycling season that needed boost and pyschological edge out of the gate.

The winter weary cyclists have had all winter to fantasize and they are ready to at least do some serious tire kicking.  Repairs are now officially stacking up and I find my time would be better utilized wading through them than typing words that mean little in the cosmic madness we exist in.  It is time to manage some of the madness instead of whining about it.

The computers are back up and working, though not at the level they once were.  Seems both could use some more TLC.  But I need both as my bike shop has become dependent on them working.   That will have to wait.  So............................

See ya soon.........................................