Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A few thoughts on politics...

There have been many mornings when I've started (or at least thought about starting) to write a political post, but then I decided that it just doesn't feel like a good way to start the day. Then, rather than writing something else, I just don't write anything at all.
I suppose that is why I have posted so few times in recent months.

Today I decided that perhaps the best therapy will be to go ahead and post a few thoughts. Maybe writing some things down will begin to lift the oppression that has kept me from writing and let me move on.

While there is certainly much to be said of the administration and all of the drama that surrounds it, I think I will choose to ignore the scandal and the divisiveness that is coming from the White House and move on to the two Houses of our Congress.

I'm really wondering when these people will understand that there is going to have to be some working together if they are going to fulfill their role in governance. For years, the Democrats cried about the majority Republicans that acted as obstructionist to everything President Obama wanted to pass. Now it is the Republicans that see the minority Democrats as the ones causing the seemingly endless gridlock.
When the extremes rule the parties, nothing gets accomplished. Even within the parties there are constant intimidation tactics and power struggles between competing factions.

Let's just look at healthcare --
Healthcare takes up a huge portion of our national budget -- ONE SIXTH, and yet the divisions over how it should be managed is divided along party lines and further divided within the Republican party (and to a lesser degree, the Democrats).

That means that within every representatives state and district, there are people that will be both helped and hurt by the decisions they make. Why can't they come together to maximize the number of people being helped and minimize the number of people being hurt?
From the chair in my modest living room, it seems like the simple answer to that question is that the hurting people don't have any money to send them to buy their votes and the corporations that seek to profit from their votes have lots of money to send.

And healthcare is just one of the many important issues that is on the Congressional agenda.

As the current minority party, the Democrats have no choice but to work with Republicans to pass legislation. Without 60 votes in the Senate, Senate Republicans need to find some common ground with Democrats to pass legislation. Until they realize this, it really doesn't matter what distractions come out of the White House as far as legislation is concerned. Do Nothing will continue to be the status of our nation's legislative branch of government.

I'm going to need a long ride to relax and re-center my mind on more important things like burgers on the grill and the struggling St Louis Cardinals -- but that's another rant!

John <><

Monday, May 29, 2017

My Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day in the USA.

Memorial Day is a day that is set aside to honor those that have given their lives in service of our nation. It has been said that Memorial Day is a day of observation, not a day of celebration.
Many veterans recognize that this is not their day; it is a day to honor the ones that didn't make it home.
I think that we should also remember the ones that made it home, but are a part of the 22 veteran suicides per day.

To the family and friends of these fallen heroes, you have the gratitude and sympathy of this humble citizen.

It is customary to use the holiday weekend to give summer an unofficial kickoff.
Although the celestial beginning of summer is still three weeks away, this is the weekend when swimming pools open, lakes will be crowded, and many bbq grills will be fired up.

No special plans for us as Chris is working today.
During my career as an air traffic controller, there were many holidays that I was working while others enjoyed holiday time off. Today there is little difference from one day to the next. One of my senior cousins fed me this little bit of information as I entered retirement -- You don't get days off in retirement.

He was right.
I guess if I am to take a day off from retirement, I'll have to get a job.

While Chris is working today, I think I'll take a nice ride on the motorcycle.
I also need to take care of a couple of household chemistry projects in mixing some homemade weed killer and some mosquito repellent for the lawn.
The weed killer is made up of white vinegar, salt and a little bit of dish soap.
The lawn spray mosquito repellent is made up of cheap beer, blue mouthwash and epsom salt.
I've not tried either yet, so I'll let you know how well they work.

During your holiday activities, take time to remember.

John <><

Friday, May 26, 2017

Good day for a lunch run

I had originally planned on a lunch run to St Louis on Thursday but decided to use the nice day to to finish some yard work around the house. The original forecast was for rain on Friday (today), but it turned out to be a great day for a ride.

I needed to make a quick stop in Springfield before getting out on the road. I really had no idea where I was going to end up. Heading west out of Springfield I found myself on a portion of Historic Rte 66 and decided to stay with it. It went from a four lane highway down to two lanes and then it was just a paved country road. The section in Springfield still had some of the old buildings that housed business -- motels, restaurants, gas stations. As I rode through the more rural areas, most of the old buildings were abandoned and in varying states of disrepair.

I was westbound on Hwy 96. As I crossed Hwy 39one intersection, I saw a sign for the Hanger Kafe with an arrow pointing north. As I cruised through the intersection, I thought that I should have turned and tried it out for lunch.
No worries. A few miles down the road I was coming up to another crossing highway and recognized another sign for the Hanger Kafe. I made the turn and rode about four or five miles before being directed back to the east for a couple of miles and then saw the drive for the restaurant.

As you may have guessed, it is in an old airfield hanger. There is still a small functioning airstrip and a sky diving business. Although the restaurant is pretty small, it was packed for lunch. I overheard one guy on his phone. He told his wife, "I'm not really sure where I am. I'm at a little restaurant in the middle of nowhere."
Yep. That's right where I was, too!

I'm a sucker for a good tenderloin sandwich so when I saw it on the menu I had to ask about it.

Me: Tell me about your tenderloin sandwich.
Waitress: We're kinda famous for it. It's about this big (as she gestured with her hands).
Me: I'm in!

She hadn't indicated that it would be a monster tenderloin and that was fine. I didn't need a monster sandwich for lunch. I was slightly more than the diameter of the bun one way and about twice that the other way.

Under the sandwich was a thick slice of onion that matched the size of the bun, a smaller tomato slice, several pickle chips and leaf of lettuce. The tenderloin itself was thick and tasty and worth going back for another one on another day!
I skipped dessert. The list on the white board said -- carrot cake, pumpkin pie, blackberry cobbler, and mixed berry pie.
Yum. Pretty tempting.

I took a more scenic way home and ended up with 122.5 miles for my lunch run.

I'm going to call it a good day!

John <><

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cutting the Cord ... well, the cable.

Yes, it is that time.
We are joining the multitudes that have cut the cable!
Our local cable media monopoly is Suddenlink. We have them for both internet service and our cable TV package, and the cost has gotten out of hand. Interestingly enough, Suddenlink's retention department had lots of incentives (including a lower price for our current package) to keep us to stay with them.
Too late!

In the end, we increased our internet speed and dumped the cable.
We also now have a streaming plan with Sling TV. The increased speed and Sling TV will be about 60% of what we've been paying for slower internet and cable. Plus I get to take it with me and can watch on my phone anytime.

In truth, other than sports, I don't watch a lot of TV.
I mean, it's often on, but I'm not really watching. I enjoy some old series reruns, but it isn't like I really need to watch them. The channels that Chris usually watches are available on our base package with Sling, but I'll be giving up all of the ESPN channels. I could add them, but most of the Cardinals' and Blues' games are on Fox Sports Midwest.
And I think the a la carte menu will work well if I want to add them for a big game.

There are a few other channels that I won't have, plus some that I gain. Overall, I doubt I'll see a big change in my TV habits. I am looking forward to the savings in the budget!

It's a small step in simplifying things.

John <><

Saturday, May 20, 2017

More thoughts from the highway

There are very few stretches of flat, straight roads through northern Arkansas. When encountering a sign like this one ... makes me stop and think.

Most signs for a hill are the picture type of signs.

And these are the signs I'd been seeing on my way to Memphis.
Encountering HILL made me wonder -- Is this an old sign that hasn't been replaced or is this hill going to be longer or steeper than the ones I've been riding?

It turned out that it was most likely the first as the hill was pretty typical for the Ozarks of northern Arkansas.

But it did get me to thinking...
Why don't we see signs that warn us of going uphill?
A Google image search will show that there are such signs, but I'm not sure that I've ever really seen one. I know that there are slow lanes for trucks on many uphill climbs, and signs that instruct slower traffic to keep to the right on uphill grades, but I don't recall a sign picturing a car or truck going uphill.
Maybe I just haven't been paying attention and those signs have gone unnoticed because they have little effect on me.

Just a thought...

John <><

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thoughts from the highway...

It is spring and the sounds of baseball are in the air!
Last weekend, I was sitting on our deck and could hear the sounds of parents and kids playing wiffle ball. Our back yard has enough trees that I couldn't see them, but it was fun listening to them and knowing that they were having a great time. They played until well past the time when they could see well and the sun was past the horizon.

In looking for summer rides, I decided that I needed to take in a Cardinals' AAA game. On Tuesday, I rode the 285 miles (one way) to Autozone Park in Memphis to watch a Memphis Redbirds' day game. It was a little before sunrise as I started my day and just after sunset (total of 575 miles) when I arrived back at home.

I guess such long rides are not too common for most bikers as I get plenty of comments on different motorcycle forums when I post about them. Since I'm still pretty new at riding, I guess I just don't know any better and didn't realize that most people are just weekend riders and use their motorcycles more for recreation than for transportation.

I have to say that I wasn't too impressed with the Memphis ballpark. Maybe it's just that Springfield's Hammons' Field is an exceptional minor league park. Although it was a very nice ballpark, I was disappointed with the concessions and the overall atmosphere of a minor league game was missing. The between innings, on field entertainment was weak and ... well, not so entertaining. The stadium staff would do well to visit the AA team and see how minor league baseball can be!
It seems odd to be commenting on the parts of the game that aren't really baseball related because my thing is generally the game. I rarely pay attention to the extras on the field or on the scoreboard displays, but it seemed odd that it was so evident that there was something missing from the experience.

I stopped at a roadside BBQ place in West Memphis. I guess it was a local chain (although it looked like it might be an independent shop). Overall, it was average at best. Oh well.
I stopped for gas just west of Jonesboro and spent some time talking to another retired biker. He was on his way from Utah to North Carolina! He had spent the night close to Springfield MO and was getting ready to call it a day at around 300 miles. I think that he was taking his time, staying off the interstate highways and stopping at sights along the way. Other than the allergies (mold is killer after all the rains and flooding), he seemed to really enjoy the Ozarks.

I have to admit that I rarely look for points of interest as I ride. I'm usually just enjoying the ride. As I crossed into Arkansas I did stop long enough at Mammoth Springs State Park to take a picture and enjoy the view before getting back on the road to make it to Memphis before game time. I suppose I should stop more often, see the sights, connect with locals, ...
...or not.

If what I enjoy is riding, why not just ride?
Of course, it is stopping that would give me something to write about...


Until next trip, those are my thoughts from the highway...
John <><

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Writing on politics

From time to time I have considered writing some political post and then reconsidered and decided against it. In today's political insanity, anything I write about that happened yesterday is already old news and there is something deserving of more attention that has happened or is about to happen.

One of the things that I think about is -- How are we going change Congress to the point of being able to function as it was designed to function?
And which comes first -- does America have to become less party oriented to change Congress or does Congress become more interested in the good of the country and less party loyal?

As it is now, the system isn't working and won't work with our current Congress.
If I keep it close to home, my Congressman is a do nothing, suck up to the party kind of guy. He ran on the platform of changing Washington and has won because he is the Republican candidate for the district and the district will always vote for the Republican candidate, and he will do whatever the party leadership tells him to do. He never has a town hall meeting and really doesn't care what his constituents think.

Winston Churchill once said that America will do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else!
Hopefully, that time will come soon.

John <><

Monday, May 15, 2017

Motorcycle to Memphis!

It is a beautiful morning in the Ozarks and today is shaping up to be a warm (mid 80s, 30 for you Celsius folks) and sunny day.

Tomorrow will have a few clouds, but will have about the same temperature.
And tomorrow's weather is of some significance to me because I am planning on riding a few miles to take in a baseball game.
I have been to see the St Louis Cardinals in St Louis and I have seen their low A team the Peoria Chiefs and their AA team that is here in Springfield MO. Tomorrow I am going to see their AAA team, the Memphis Redbirds. Like the Springfield Cardinals, the Memphis team has early day games while school is still in session and local schools have end of year field trips to the ballgame. The early start will allow me time to make it home before it is late into the night.

According to Google Maps, it is 283 miles from my home to the ballpark and should take just under 5 hours. I'll stick to the quickest route for the ride there, but may take a more scenic route on the way home. Depending on the length of the game, traffic and the route I decide to take, I should be home by 9pm and will have traveled around 600 miles. If the ballpark has some Memphis BBQ, I may have to skip the ballpark dog...nah, I'll just have to have both!
Ten hours on the motorcycle and a AAA baseball game sounds like a pretty good day!
With any luck, I'll be able to find the St Louis game on my helmet radio for part of the ride home. That would be a bonus!

On Thursday night, I'll be at the Springfield Cardinals' game (Buck brat night) with a group of guys from church.
Hmmm...should I try for the Wednesday night game in St Louis?
Maybe I'll stay close to home and hit the last weekday day game for the Springfield team on Wednesday and just watch the St Louis team on TV. And no, it's not too much baseball.

Have a grand week!
That's my plan.
(This retirement gig is brutal!)

John <><