Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bicycling For A Cause

I saw the first rider before I ever made it off the ramp that led up to the eastbound lane of the old Northwestern Pike. He was in Spandex, like the ones that come out onto my country road and create safety problems. Unlike them, he was riding on the berm, instead of the center-line. Then, I saw another rider ahead of him, and then another. I thought that it was probably one of the local clubs, out for a week-day ride. Then, I noticed the “chase-car” stopped on the berm ahead, waiting for them to catch up. That’s when I realized that it was something bigger. As I drove further out the highway, I saw numerous cyclists and chase-cars.

At least once a year, some national gathering of bicyclists passes through town, usually doing a coast-to-coast ride for some charity. When I passed the second chase-car, I was able to read just enough to tell that the effort was tied to some cancer research charity. Good cause—wasted effort.

Those who’ve lost friends or relatives to some disease, understandably, want to do something to keep others from suffering through the loss that they faced. It makes them feel like they’re helping others, like their own life is making a difference, and it helps them overcome the feeling of helplessness that came from watching someone that they loved slip, daily, a little further into an early grave. Their efforts are sincere and commendable. It’s just sad that the money, that they work so hard to raise, will go to line the pockets of some already rich “research scientists” and not to the cause for which it was given.

Over the years, I’ve read the columns of a few conservative black commentators. I can’t remember which one did a piece on cancer charities, but he made the wise comment that no doctor or scientist will ever find whatever it is that you’re paying them to look for, since that would end their cash flow. Instead, they “discover” just enough information to keep hope up, meanwhile, searching all around the answer, without quite stumbling onto it. He said that if we want the answer found, that we should not pay ANYONE to search for that answer. However, we SHOULD pay multi-millions to the first person to find the cure. I’m certain that he’s right.

You may understand why I don’t waste money on disease charities. Nor do I participate in “walk-thons and such because I know where the money REALLY goes. So, how do I help sick folks and their families? I pray for them. You can, too. It will do more good than making the doctors gain a tax bracket. © 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

They’re Selling My Truck!

I’ve only driven one truck as my regular truck since I hired on with my employer 11 months ago. It’s a 2006 Mack tri-axle with a 16 foot dump bed. It’s also an automatic. It’s one of only two that I fit into comfortably, and I suspect they’re selling the other one, too. The boss just decided that they’re too expensive to maintain. Whether that belief is based on speculation or solid bookkeeping, I really don’t know. I DO know that I didn’t hear anything about it until my truck blew a tire this afternoon, something completely unrelated to the truck itself. Who’s to say?

I DO know that I’ll miss my little truck. It goes places that some bigger ones won’t go. Plus, I’ll have to get used to driving a standard again, after eight years of driving automatics. And then there’s the problem with most cabs not allowing enough room to adjust for fat guys like me. The other fat guy with the company is driving the twin to mine. He may be out, too.

My years of self-employment had their problems, but they had their good points, too. One was not being completely dependent on the whims of any one person. Sometimes, I miss those days. © 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What’s It Worth To You?

Several years ago, I read a book about personal finances. One of its main ideas was that we should figure the cost of an item not in dollars, but in the number of hours we work to acquire that item. In other words, if something costs $50, and you make $5 an hour, it costs you 10 hours of work to purchase that item. Of course, if you make $25 an hour, it only costs you two hours. It puts things on a rather personal and ACCURATE cost basis. I’ve tended to look at things from that angle ever since.

A case in point was our lunch today. We went to a well-known and popular restaurant that we go to on occasion. The cost there is more than a fast-food joint, so we don’t go there frequently, but ever so often, we like to splurge. Normally, it has cost me about three hours of labor for my wife and I to dine there, and that included the tip. Today, the cost was four hours (again, with the tip), despite getting the same meals that we usually get. I hadn’t looked at the prices when we ordered, so I was a bit surprised, though not shocked.

I realize that prices are going up on EVERYTHING these days, and that the restaurant may have simply adjusted their prices as needed to stay in business. I also realize that their own greed could have played in the higher price to some degree, as well, though it wouldn’t be provable. I know, too, that the rise in poultry prices, due to current disease problems, will cause a rise in other the cost of other meats as consumers switch to those other sources of protein.  However, there are other restaurants that haven’t yet raised their prices to that degree.

All in all, I felt that the cost of our meals had exceeded my willingness to pay. I had to pay for today’s meal, of course, but I have a choice to make the next time I feel like dining there. Will we go to a less expensive restaurant, or will we simply choose to eat at home. Since my wife likes a break in the kitchen on weekends, I suspect that I already know the answer, but it’s a decision, nonetheless.

So what would YOU do? Is there a “test” that you use to decide when your willingness to pay has been misused or abused, or that something is simply beyond your means? © 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Not A Good Week

I thought that I was going to have a little extra cash last week to apply toward bills, but I ended up using it Sunday to go to the quick clinic. I finally realized that I was into my yearly sinus infection, and every hour that I put it off would increase my suffering and recovery time. So, there went $100. According to their records, I’d skipped last year. I hadn’t realized that.

At work Monday, my truck went on the fritz as I was leaving the lot, and the owners decided to take it to the dealer a few miles up the river. Since I wasn’t feeling well and I would have been put in a different truck, I chose to go home, though I only had two hours in at the time.

Tuesday, I waited a couple hours to even be assigned a load, and then had to take the truck of a guy who was working evenings. It was hard for me to climb into the big Volvo, plus it was a standard. It’s been eight years since I’ve driven a standard regularly, and I’m VERY rusty. Shockingly, I didn’t rake a lot of gears, but I did miss a few completely. I had to stop my day a bit early to return the truck and get it ready for the night-shift guy. I felt lousy all day.

Wednesday, I waited three hours for a load and then was assigned yet another standard Volvo. I had the same problem getting in, and the seat-belt in that one choked me even worse than the one from the day before. I felt even worse than the day before, plus, my water pills were going wild and I needed to pee about every half-hour to 45 minutes. Twice, I couldn’t make it to a john and I had to improvise. Once, I settled for a big bush on the access road to the landfill. The other time, I had to answer nature’s call behind a pickup parked in the storage shed of the waste-water treatment plant. The former wouldn’t have been so bad, since I grew up on a farm, but it was pouring rain, plus, I fell down on my hike to the bush and got soaked from head to foot. From the odor of my urine, I finally figured out that I have a urinary tract infection to go with my sinus infection. I thought that was a female thing! Oh well, the same antibiotic should cure them both. I felt lousy all day.

Thursday, two other guys and myself were sent home after waiting three hours for a load that never came.

Today, Friday, there were ten of us that suffered that fate (again, after a three hour wait), but at least we had our paychecks when we left. I noticed I’d gotten a 45 cent raise (I’ll have to give the bosses a thank-you card). Every little bit helps, but rain-free weather would be a bigger boon to my pay right now. Construction jobs shut down when the mud gets too deep.

I’m sore and achy in the shoulders and hips from making those 20-24 inch steps to drag my overweight carcass into the trucks I was driving the last couple days. I hope I have my truck back Monday, I could use some comfort and some good news. © 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yep, It Works! (pic)

Click image to enlarge.

I finally got around to trying the maul that I made a while back. It works fine, as you can see from the split piece of firewood. An axe of some kind is still needed to severe splintered sections, of course. My little log-marking axe is shown here.

The advantages of a maul are three-fold. If you're traveling to the backwoods, you save the weight of carrying a sledge-hammer. You can make it yourself, with only an axe, once you get there. Plus, it doesn't distort the base of steel wedges that you may be driving with it. Still, I don't plan on giving up my splitting maul, though I could get by without it.© 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Greed Ultimately Destroys The Product

I’ve seen it often over my nearly 60 years of observation. A product fills a need and gets popular and profitable. The company gets rich, but has visions of getting even richer. They start “new and improving” the product, each time finding a way to make the process cheaper, or to leave out a part or ingredient entirely. Eventually, this affects the usefulness of the product and people start buying it less, or move to competing products. Faced with declining sales, the company finds ways to make the product even cheaper, often by sending the work overseas. Eventually, the product becomes so poorly made as to be worthless, and the company goes out of business. This happens quite frequently when the second generation takes over a family-owned company. They didn’t work and sacrifice to create the company, and often don’t have the pride of name and quality like the founder.

I’ve noticed the same downward spiral with restaurants. They offer a good menu, fair prices and good service. The public responds by flocking to the establishment and spending their money. However, the owners or stockholders get greedy and want more, more, more profit. First, they try to get by with fewer wait staff and less skilled cooks. Soon the food quality suffers. I’ve seen quality get so bad that my dog wouldn’t eat the stuff! Then, they close their doors.

I’ve seen this with cereal brands, clothing companies, cleaning supplies automobiles and other products.

Recently, Grand River, a brand of Chinese-made jeans that I’m forced to buy (due to them being the only ones available in town in my size), has decided to save money by putting less fabric in their jeans. The way they did this was to keep the waist size the same, but skimp on the butt and thigh areas of the pants. Now, I realize that there are butt-less wonders out there that have a spare tire, but no backside to match. I’m not one of them. If their trick continues, I’ll soon be buying my jeans online from a place where one of my coworkers shops. If the big-butted guys like me outnumber butt-less wonders, Grand River may soon find itself a brand of the past.

A couple days ago, my wife set a “new and improved” bottle of Dial liquid soap on the bathroom counter. The first squirt went nearly across the counter. It was like WATER! If the next bottle is like that, it will be our last.

It seems too many companies just can’t make enough money. I always remember John D. Rockefeller’s answer when asked how much money it takes to make a man happy. “More,” was his reply. © 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Me And Music

(If the title is improper English, mind your own business.) ;-)

Parkersburg, West Virginia, Big Red Marching Band, circa 1943. Click image to enlarge.

My taste in music is pretty broad. I like most classical music, folk music from nearly any time or country, “tribal” music, old country and western, SOME so-called country of this day and age (most would have been called “southern rock” in the past, with some being just plain rock. I like blues, swing, soul, bluegrass and jazz. Name any other kind, and I probably like it, too! Just don’t mention rap; it ain’t music. (I have spoken!)

Some of my favorite music, though, is the pop music my parents enjoyed during their younger days. I find music from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s to be either pleasant or poignant, except for the silly stuff, which is okay, too. Mairzy Doats is an example of the latter, and I get a kick out of it. You can hear it HERE. An example of poignant a one is “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” which you can hear at THIS link. The “pleasant’ song that I now love/hate from a week of catching myself humming, whistling and singing is “Bie Mir Bist Du Shein.” You can hear it HERE. I guess you could call my taste in music “eclectic.” ;-) © 2015

If It Ain’t One Dern Thing, It’s Another!

I had a little money left over this week that I thought I could use to pay down my colossal medical bills from a four-hour visit to the emergency room a few months ago. At that time, I didn’t have the money on me to go to the quick-care place and pay the $100 up front, and I sort of panicked when I realized that the cellulitis was moving UP my leg, so I went to the hospital emergency room. I knew that I could go then and pay later. I figured it would run $500-1000. It ended up about $2000, altogether. I should have waited and taken off work and gone to the quick-care place the following day, I guess.

I’ve been having some health problems (caused by my weight I figured), but I finally realized that not all the symptoms were related, and that I had my usual yearly sinus infection. Once they get to a certain point with me, they only get worse, NEVER better, so I have to get medical help. This one was getting to the chronic headache stage, with about a 10-point rise in blood pressure. Surprisingly, the doc told me that it had been TWO years since I’d been there with that problem. That must be a record for me. Regardless, the doctor got my bill-paying money. I got a shot in the hip and a prescription that probably won’t last long enough to do the trick. That may mean another office visit and another round of antibiotics. Only time will tell. © 2015

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Too Tired To Blog

I appreciate the larger paychecks that come from 60 hour weeks, but it sure doesn’t leave me any time to blog, OR do much of anything else. I’ve discovered that I’m not made for such hours. I’m chronically sleepy (a bad thing for a driver) and grumpy (a bad thing for my wife and my dog). I slurp coke through the day to keep from falling asleep at the wheel and take anti-acids to counter its effects on my stomach. No, I think 50 hours is more than enough, but the larger paychecks ARE helping me catch up a bit on my doctor bills.

I started the week hauling limestone sand to fill in part of an old sewage treatment plant. They call it a “waste-water treatment plant” now. I’m not impressed, as a “rose” by any other name,…..well, you get the idea. Interestingly enough, they’re erecting a new medical building next door to it. Maybe the change in terminology WILL serve some purpose! LOL

I hauled some stone to a new medical building going in across the river in enemy territory this week also. I’m glad to see the little town finally get the medical facility that it deserves. Now their ambulances won’t have to bring them across a state line to our town, OR speed them several miles up the river to the hospital in the next town.

I spent the last two days hauling top soil and fill dirt from a little power plant up the river to the farm of one of the fellows working there on a building project. It was a fellow that was in school when I was, so we were vaguely acquainted. His first wife was a girl from my French class in high school, plus, I used to do a lot of business with his brother back when I had the sawmill. The thing I’ll always remember most about the guy was that he was on the wrestling team and took on the wrestling bear during half-time at a Globe Trotters game here in town. The funny thing was, the guy WON and the bear got angry about it!

As I looked around that jobsite those two 93 degree days, I noticed that most of the workers were older, like he and I. The only younger fellows were the “educated” kids riding around in the air-conditioned pickups with blueprints and cups of coffee. I couldn’t help but wonder who will do the grunt labor when my generation retires. SOMEBODY still has to get their hands dirty, and the fewer folks willing to do it, the more those jobs will pay. I suspect I know who will be doing that work, and they won’t be speaking English as their first language.

I’ve noticed several small gas-fired power plants going in the region. As much as I think it was unwise to rush the closing of the coal-fired plants, I believe the smaller, more numerous plants are the way to go. For one thing, no one act of terrorism could shut them all down. Also, if one plant has to go down, it won’t affect such large numbers of people. The only problem I see is that they’re still, undoubtedly, tied together with an antiquainted grid system.

There was a bad wreck out on the four-lane a day or two ago. Someone rear-ended another vehicle in a work zone. That vehicle was knocked into a third, which was then knocked into a fourth. The bad thing was, a worker was between the third and fourth vehicles and was crushed to death. He was only in his 40’s. I see people do stupid stuff every day in those work zones, both the folks driving by AND the workers. It’s amazing there aren’t more people killed.

I hit the big six-zero Thursday and, even though we have a “no gifts” policy for us older members of the family, my 85-year-old mother wanted to do something special for me. SO, I suggested she make me a few chocolate chip cookies. I went by today to pick them up and pay her with a hug. She also gave me a hymnal from the old church that’s closing down that has my aunt’s name printed in the front. I’m to give it to the cousin that helped install my water tank, since it’s his grandmother’s name in the book. I saw him earlier today when he put some freon in my pickup’s AC. Guess I’ll see him again tomorrow.

As I came home from town today, where I’d gone to get a haircut, I topped our ridge to find a doe standing right on the center-line nursing her fawns. I stopped the truck, but they left quickly anyway. The doe picked one of her rear feet up as high as her belly to keep from knocking one of her fawns over as she moved. Now THAT’S being a gentle mother! I didn’t have my camera, unfortunately—maybe next time. © 2015

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Duggar Situation Brings Out The Haters

 With all the attention focused on the family, I actually feel sorry for ALL the Duggars, including Josh. He tried to do the right thing by coming forward on his own and trying to stop his wickedness. He seems to have succeeded, with much help. As for the affected girls, the current media circus has violated them far more than the actions of their brother, considering that they were not even aware of what had happened back then, until they were told. As for the parents, I wouldn't wish their situation on anyone. Some folks, though, seem to want to line the whole family up for the firing squad.

I've seen few issues bring the haters out like this story. The hatred isn't reserved just for the Duggars themselves, but for anyone who doesn't think an sdult should be drawn and quartered for acts committed as a young teen. I've decided that much of that hatred probably comes from two sources, though I have no way to prove it. The majority are down on the Duggars at large, not just Josh. I think that's because they're personally at war with God, and the Duggars represent Him in their minds. Therefore, since they hate God for not approving of their sins, they hate the Duggars even more, since they have earthly faces at which they can aim their vitriole. As unrentant sinners, those folks can't know that "winning" a war against God is the ultimate defeat.

The other group is the surprisingly large numbers of people in this country who have, themselves, been victims of sexual abuse, often of the violent type, and feel that no-one who has even harbored a single thought of pedaphilia can be human. Their position is more understandable, but still distorted. The sad thing is, there may never be a way for them to truly heal until they can forgive the individual who violated them. (Remember that forgiveness and approval are two ENTIRELY different things.) The more I see and hear, the more I think this story has tarnished the reputation of the media and general citizenry even more than it has the Duggars. THEY, at least, seem to have some sense of compassion. © 2015