Hasty Ruminations

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina Is Angry

Here are memorable sayings Monday morning from three people in New Orleans who were too sophisticated, too cool, and too smart to listen to orders to evacuate Sunday night:


“I’m not doing too good right now,” Chris Robinson said via cell phone from his home east of the city’s downtown. “The water’s rising pretty fast. I got a hammer and an ax and a crowbar, but I’m holding off on breaking through the roof until the last minute. Tell someone to come get me please. I want to live.”

On the south shore of Lake Ponchartrain, entire neighborhoods of one-story homes were flooded up to the rooflines. The Interstate 10 off-ramps nearby looked like boat ramps amid the white capped waves. Garbage cans and tires bobbed in the water.

Two people were stranded on the roof as murky water lapped at the gutters.

“Get us a boat!” a man in a black slicker shouted over the howling winds.

Across the street, a woman leaned from the second-story window of a brick home and shouted for assistance.

“There are three kids in here,” the woman said. “Can you help us?”


When it was safe to get out, these three and others said, “Screw you”. Now they expect a bunch of people to risk their lives during the storm itself to save their sorry a**es.

I would reply to them with the question Bill Cosby asked in his “Noah” act:

“How long can you tread water?”

Sunday, August 28, 2005

It's Getting Weird

I just watched the Cindy Sheehan clip on the Internet, as she spurred on her crowd. One of her Junior Wackos managed to block the camera view of Cindy every time Sheehan drew a breath by waving an American flag enthusiastically in front of the camera. Come to think of it, the hand holding the flag looked like Condi Rice's.

How about Mom having a stroke? That means the rumor of Don R. plying Mom with 14 Tequilas at lunch probably wasn't the cause.

Cindy said this week that she's delighted that "the universe picked me" to stop this war. I will acknowledge that Joan Baez had just left, an unsettling presence for anyone, so Cindy may have just gotten caught up on all of that LSD / Flower Power / Age of Aquarius stuff Joan was pushing.

Did you see what Cindy's helpers were doing during the Rant-In? Mixing Kool Aid for the crowd. I think the big pots were labeled, "Property of Rev. Jim Jones. Return to Jonestown."

Next they're all gonna go talk to Tom Delay. Good choice; he always tells the truth. Especially to the Senate Ethics Committee.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

A few years ago, I did some work for a major pharmaceutical company in Miami Lakes, Fl. So, this morning, I checked out the area on the web to see if Katrina had hit my old friends. This is what I found:

"I didn't think it would be this serious," said North Miami Beach resident Larry Hall, who used the lull of Katrina's eye around 8 p.m. to run to Popeye's Famous Fried Chicken in Miami Gardens in search of the dinner a power outage had denied his family. "I thought it was supposed to be a brush. When it started knocking down trees in the yard, we decided we had to find some food."

Now, my reaction would have been a little different. Instead of "find some food", I would have said, "get the heck outta Dodge!"

What will they do when it tears the roof off their house? Fill the dog's water

Monday, August 22, 2005


I am way overdue for a good post, and I have one for you; it's just not written yet. It's about my weekend trip to Monterey CA: Lamborghinis, sea otters, itinerant workers and a poor man trying to buy lunch. And, of course, John Steinbeck and Cannery Row!

But I had to write this quickly: the news tells me about Joan Baez at Camp Casey in Crawford?! You gotta be kidding me. I didn't even think she was still alive!

Now here's what it made me think of: a way to nail Osama. We invite Joan's buddy, Hanoi Jane Fonda, to go "protest" the war in her inimitable way: buddy up to the bad guys, sit on their anti-American-airplane rocket launchers and guns, ridicule American POW's and show their secret scraps of paper to their tormentors, and appear in photos with Head Bad Guy. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh; in Afganistan: Osama!

Should be easy at that point to target a precision bomb at Osama... and Jane, before she crawls away again! In view of the eastern tradition that you spend eternity with the person you die with, this is a gift which keeps on giving. To both of them!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Darwin Rules

Check out the Darwin Awards (click on the link in my sidebar) to find other great stories like this one:

Mining for Elephants
2005 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin

15 February 2005, Rushinga, Zimbabwe

The elephants were trampling Christian's maize field, which he planted on an elephant trail of long standing. He had to find a way to fight back! Fortunately, there was an old minefield nearby, on the Zimabwe-Mozambique border. Christian figured a few landmines planted around his field would soon teach the elephants a lesson they would never forget.

Christian may have gotten the idea of using the mines from a couple of incidents that had recently transpired. A local resident had been injured after picking up a landmine while herding cattle the week before. A week before that, another Rushinga man had lost part of his leg after stepping on a landmine. The other villagers saw the writing on the wall, and avoided the landmines.

But Christian realized they were just what he needed! Clearly, these mines could cause great damage to an elephant! He dug up five that had been exposed by recent heavy rains, and began carrying them home.

These unstable mines detonated, killing Christian instantly.

The total number of elephants injured? Zero.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Accidents Happen

You'd think you'd be safe doing tandem sky diving with your instuctor.

You'd be wrong.


Wyoming Woman Dies After Her First Skydive

OGDEN, Utah (Aug. 14) - A woman died making her first skydive - a tandem jump with her instructor, who was seriously injured in the fall, authorities said.

Julia Bond of Evanston, Wyo., died in a hospital after the jump Saturday and Jon Vancleave, of Roy, was in stable but serious condition, police said.

Some members of Bond's family witnessed the accident, making it "particularly tragic," said Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Splinter.

Some witnesses said a gust of wind caught the pair as they came down and pushed them into a building at the north end of Ogden Airport, Splinter said. Others said the pair missed the building, but the wind caused the parachute to collapse and the two dropped about 20 feet. Bond was flown by medical helicopter to McKay-Dee Hospital Center in Ogden with severe head trauma and chest injuries and was pronounced dead.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A Good Start

Started last Monday at the new client in Vacaville. For once, the client was ready for me: ID badge within an hour, cubicle, computer, and everyone I met knew who I was! The work will eventually focus on validation (proving a process makes the product to specification, as expected), but for now there is a lot of engineering, documentation and work on operating procedures to do.

My cuppa tea.

It’s hot – over 100 degrees F every day – but cool at night, in the 60’s. Plenty of shopping, with over a hundred outlet stores (including Black and Decker and men’s stores).

A feature of the trailer is a nice refrigerator with a freezer, nice but small. Sears is having a sale. Coincidentally, I got a storeroom at the campground this week, 64 square feet, so I have stored all of the stuff I have been tripping over all month. Now, if I store a little more, I will have room for the small chest-type freezer I ordered on sale from Sears. Five cubic feet, with a drop-in from the top and a slide-out drawer on the bottom. When I get it, I will not have to shop every other day for dinner. Once a week would be nice, and would fit my schedule.

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The trailer has adequate power wiring for all of this, but campgrounds do not, I have found. Each site has a 30-amp service, with a breaker on a pole. The breaker is exposed to weather, and over the years the breakers start to trip at lower and lower currents; they weaken. So running the trailer air conditioning and starting the microwave, I have found, will never trip the trailer circuit breakers but will usually trip the campground’s breaker. I have taken to running a heavy duty extension cord separately from a small breaker on the campground pole to the microwave, and the problem has been solved. I think that I will now make a permanent connection for that second feed in the trailer, and hook the freezer into it.

The freezer will get power whenever I connect to campground power. When I disconnect power to go on the road, the freezer will turn off. But since it is a drop-in style chest freezer, and since cold air is heavier than warm air, I think that it will keep the contents very cold for 10 hours of driving, until I plug it in again.

It's fun to have projects!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Wouldncha Just Know It?

"Supported by more than 50 shouting demonstrators, Cindy Sheehan, 48, told reporters, 'I want to ask George Bush: Why did my son die?'

"Sheehan arrived in Crawford aboard a bus painted red, white and blue and emblazoned with the words, 'Impeachment Tour.' Her son, Casey, 24, was killed in Sadr City, Iraq, on April 4, 2004. He was an Army specialist, a Humvee mechanic.

"Sheehan, from Vacaville, California, had been attending a Veterans for Peace Convention in Dallas. She vowed she would camp out as close as she could get to the president's ranch until Bush comes out and talks to her."

I can't get away from controversy...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Space Shuttle Thoughts

Discovery has undocked from the International Space Station after everyone got a tour of the space station. It was a good break for the shuttle crew, who voted to rename the shuttle "HMS Bounty" after the spacewalk to rip loose the loose insulation. They are convinced that EVERY shuttle was built by GM on a Friday. (They were built in different states, so whose Lemon Law applies?) There was some reluctance to leave the space station, some folks opting to wait for the next Russian resupply rocket. In fact, the shuttle commander, Eileen Collins, picked up a new nickname - "Phasers on Kill" - because she had to set her phaser on the highest setting to "coax" her crew back to the shuttle, where she found good use for those handcuffs and leg irons thoughtfully provided by NASA.

I have long thought that this shuttle stuff was a huge waste of time and money. Instead of building on Apollo successes and the momentum we gained, NASA (which could stand for "Not Always Swift or Accurate") tried to turn itself into Greyhound Spaceship Company, but without the romance of a long bus ride.

So, we've lost three decades, two crews, and a few billion dollars. Retire 'em, fire 'em, and disband NASA. Start a new agency, finish the space station, and load up for Mars and the Moon (Redux).

Friday, August 05, 2005

More Help From Upstairs

On Thursday, Lacy and I took Big Ride out to Vacaville. We stopped in Davis, CA., to shop in Borders Bookstore where I got the latest Harry Potter book. I bought it in hardback, instead of my usual CD audio book, because I should be spending less time in the truck in the near future. I like the small town of Davis, home to the University of Callifornia Davis Campus. School is in session; they look so young!

Back on the road, we headed for our new post office. The new p.o. box contained only a piece of junk mail (coupons). I sent some religious items to my sons and daughter which I had picked up for them in Wisconsin, and a calendar of Glacier National Park for 2006 to my sister - to help her plan our trip back to the park next year. Stunning pictures!

Back in the parking lot, I looked up the hill and found CostCo, the membership food warehouse. It was on my list, so I was delighted to find it so easily. We drove by, but I didn't want to leave Lacy in (a) the hot truck on a 100+ temperature day, or (b) in a running locked truck with the a/c on where someone could bash a window and just drive away, if they had a pocket full of Milkbones.

We then went to the discount store area, which in Vacaville is huge. I found a place to get a bathing suit ("We only have six left, because while it is August and 100 degrees F outside and prime swimming season, those things are out of season now." In the desert?! When are they going to wise up?), and lots of other stores, too. We shall return. From there, I found my bank, and then we went back to the campground where I am on the waiting list.

I decided to drop by, in the hopes that I could improve my standing on the waiting list and to ensure that they had not overlooked me if someone had moved out early or had cancelled a reservation. I'm glad I did: they in fact had a newly opened space big enough for Big Easy, available now! So I put down the deposit, and I plan to move in on Friday. Excellent timing, because I had paid for only one week at KOA in Sacramento and the next payment would be due Friday. The new place is on the front of the campground, next to a country road which is not busy. The place has a store, swimming pool, and all the hookups. And a monthly rate which is significantly less than what I was paying in Sacramento.

On leaving there, I looked on my new Vacaville map and found a back way to my new client's plant. It is 2-1/2 miles from the campground; I can ride the bike to work! According to my trouser's belt, which is recently on the tightest hole and is now loose again, daily bike rides will only help!

Lacy and I got back to the trailer by 6:00 pm, ready to grill a London broil which I have been marinating all day. But, too tired, so after a bowl of cut fruit and a few crackers (and of course Lacy's chicken) we called it a very, very good day!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Big Ride, Big Stress #2

I rode in the tow truck to the Ford truck dealership. Once they saw the truck come in on a tow, they threw out the schedule and started work right away.

In about half an hour, the service manager told me that the oil didn't really drain out. One of the oil pump high pressure seals blew out, and the pump sprayed the oil out. The engine died, and refused to start again, because the low oil pressure switch did its job and protected the engine.

The good news was that the pump is covered by the extended warranty. I would have to pay the $100 deductible, and for the consummable parts used in the oil change (oil filter, air filter, etc.) but they will charge the oil to Ford. I also paid for the tow, but my insurance will cover that (after another deductible). So I got over $800 worth of repairs for a fraction of that.

I have been planning to upgrade the truck, to get better fuel mileage: a Banks power system to upgrade the horsepower, a new exhaust braking system to reduce wear and tear on the mechanical brakes, etc. But I found out that they invalidate the extended warranty, so I will time the upgrades to the normal expiration of the warranty.

I will tell you: someone Upstairs is definitely looking out for us!

Not only that: they got the work done by 3:00 pm the same day, including a complete manual wash to get rid of the oil and all of the other dirt!

On Thursday (today) I went back to the dealership, and met with the General Manager. I asked him to bring in the service manager, because I wanted to tell them something. (Of course they were expecting the worst.) I told the story, including my engineering and maintenance background, and I told them how completely pleased I am; that they had exceeded my expectations. Of course, they are now having a good day!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Big Ride and Stress

Monday, I found a Ford truck dealer and pulled into the service area for an oil change. The truck has been working hard, towing Big Easy across the country and up and down mountains, so I wanted to change the engine oil and filters, and check the transmission.

They couldn't take me, they said, for three days. Way behind.

So I asked what time they opened, and when they told me 7:00 am, I said I would be there and I would stay until they could fit me in.

Monday night, I noticed that some oil had sprayed up on the tailgate of the truck, but I couldn't see where it had come from. I made a mental note to check it on the lift when they changed the oil.

Tuesday morning, I got up early, and started driving the truck to the dealer. It went 100 feet when the engine killed, and it wouldn't start again. I checked the engine, and found that the oil level didn't register on the dipstick. I was pretty sure the engine wasn't damaged, since it had just run and it wasn't seized; but the truck would not start. So, that's where the oil came from that was sprayed on the bottom of the truck.

I called a tow truck, who took the truck to the dealer 2 miles away.

This is pretty stressful, as you can imagine. How much will it cost? How long will I be without a truck? How can I get to work, and move the trailer?

All this time, Lacy was asleep at Big Easy.

I'll tell you how it turns out later.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Well, I'm on the waiting list for a new campground closer to work, and cheaper.

I found a place which will change the oil in the truck and will stop an oil leak which just started.

Lacy got a bath today. I appreciate that the shower stall in the trailer is large enough for her and me to be in there together for that project. Otherwise we'd be in the dirt at the oustide shower, and it would be a "shower" without the "er". I use Johnson's Baby Shampoo on her, because it doesn't burn her eyes. And she smells nice for several days afterwards.

And, I rented a post office box today so I can transfer my mail out here.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Accident Update

Here is an update from the Reno Gazette Journal on the accident I described on I-80 last Friday. The Nevada State Troopers are blaming it on swirling ash and dust from a previous wildfire, and I recall seeing acres and acres burned in the area. One of the trucks was hauling fresh onions. They were all over the road, and the scent was very strong.

California or Bust!

We started our trip from Glacier last Thursday, July 28. That was three weeks to the day since we left North Carolina. I took it slowly up and down numerous mountains at grades up to 7%; no need to overheat things.

We headed south from Glacier through Helena toward Salt Lake City, and spent Thursday night in Pocatello, Idaho, at a small campground. The first thing I noticed was that we had returned to the land of normal summer temperatures: it was in the high 80’s, and it took some time for us to adjust. The campground offered a special snack for the evening: baked potato with any toppings for $3.99. I thought that was unusual until I remembered the state where we were.

Friday, I drove to Salt Lake City, about 15 miles past the turn off for our route to Sacramento, so that I could visit Camping World. They run a bunch of stores across the country which specialize in RV camping supplies. I wanted a sanitizing kit for the RV’s fresh water system, a small propane tank (1 gallon) for the barbecue grill, and one of those hokey maps of the U.S. where you stick the states on which you have visited. I have had the trailer four months, and it’s been in nineteen states so far! I’ll post a picture of the map when it is done.

After shopping, we backtracked north to I-80, which we took west toward Sacramento. That brought us through Salt Lake City (the Mormon Temple is visible six miles away from the Interstate, and it is very impressive). There is a huge industry to harvest salt from the lake, and Morton, Cargill and others have huge factories on the south end of the lake. Wal*Mart trucks make direct pickups there, probably of water softener salt. Mountains of it!

We soon left Utah, and entered northern Nevada. The first thing I noticed is that every hole-in-the-wall has slot machines; and most gas stations are casinos! To be fair, Montana now has casinos everywhere, too. In Utah, we had several very quick, very heavy rainstorms which reduced visibility to a few feet. That forced me to slow to 20 miles per hour, since we don’t stop very fast on wet roads. Unfortunately, some people headed east on 80 kept following too closely, at 75 mph, right through the storms and got into a huge wreck. Seventeen cars and trucks; four fatalities; four helicopter lifts to the hospital and at least five filled ambulances which came east towards us, and unknown ambulances heading west. It happened 15 miles from any town, and it shut down I-80 for two hours before we could move again. Unlike similar wrecks I’ve seen in New Jersey and New York, where everyone fills all lanes and both shoulders so as to be the very first one through when the road is re-opened, here we all stayed in a single lane, leaving the other lane and both shoulders open for the police and fire departments.

One poor, misplaced soul was a fire fighter who was in our pack of cars, which I later measured to be three miles from the scene. She was not part of the emergency response team, and that irked her. I think that she was in her mid-20’s. She put on her official fire hat, and her official, heavy, and very hot fire coat, which she obviously had in her car, and strode up and down the highway near us. Paced. She would walk ½ mile toward the wreck on the left shoulder, and then cross the road to our right shoulder and walk back toward us. She had no cell phone, and no radios, so she was not in touch with the folks working on the wreck; and I could sense her frustration. Because of her coat and hat, people would leave their cars and approach her with questions. I don’t know what she said, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she told them that she had no direct information on this wreck, but that in her experience it would take this long, and that would happen, and so forth. By an hour into the wait, the grapevine reached us that two people had died, and the medical examiner was supervising the data collection, so we knew we were in for a wait. I felt sorry for the Forelorned Firefighter, who couldn’t get into the action. In fact, several police cars passed us, so she could have moved her car off the road and jumped into one of them to get to the scene, but she stayed with us for her own reasons.

Finally, we started moving, and I snapped a couple of pictures. Then, I measured the length of the backup on the eastbound side as we headed west: 5.3 miles. I continued to three towns with campgrounds before I found one open, in Winnemucca NV, with one space left. We got into it at 8:30 PM, and I made Lacy her dinner and just turned in myself.

The next day, the newspaper talked about the wreck which was now 100 miles behind us (to the east), and told about the four fatalities.

We were in the high desert, so temperatures were hot during the day and cool at night. We filled up with more diesel (I’ve used about 1-1/2 dinosaurs so far), and got back on the road Saturday morning for California.

For a western city in the desert with a big older interstate running through it, Reno is surprisingly primitive. I-80 twists and winds through the town with 45 MPH speed limits, and a lot of construction. There are casino signs everywhere. Once we passed through and into California, things opened up again.

I expected a big delay and a thorough inspection of the RV at the California “customs” station. They have historically run a Berlin Wall operation concerning their citrus and other crops. They will take the slice of orange out of your baby’s mouth… well, no, but almost. Anyway, here’s a hint to all of you lemon-lime-orange smugglers: no inspections on Saturday!

We found ourselves in the high Sierras on California’s eastern border, at 7,400 feet elevation, descending for 50 miles to Sacramento. It was a beautiful ride, and we made good time without burning out the brakes. I had made reservations for a change at the campground in West Sacramento, about 18 miles from Vacaville and my new client, so we got to the campground and all set up by 5:00 pm.

It is hot here. 100 degrees during the day, 50% relative humidity, and down to the 60’s at night.

On Sunday, I got to Mass at a little church, Our Lady of Grace, and then Lacy and I drove out to Vacaville to get oriented. It is no longer a quiet country town as it was when John Steinbeck was down the road in Monterey writing Cannery Row. It is one shopping center after another, a huge factory outlet center, and still the center of a fruits and nut growing region. 60 miles to San Francisco, and about 25 miles to Sacramento. We found the client, as well as Staples (I had to send some faxes), a closer and less expensive campground which will give me monthly rates without KOA’s 28 day limit, and a big Sears / Macy’s / Penny’s mall. Today (Monday), I hope to return to get my mail set up and an oil change on the truck.