Friday, October 24, 2008

Moving Blues

The wife and I are moving. We finally decided that the two of us rattling around in this 2,900 square foot three story house is totally absurd! We have two upstairs bedrooms that are only used once or twice a year when the kids come to visit. But, they still have to be cleaned, dusted, vacuumed etc It just doesn’t make sense for us to keep this mausoleum.

So, we put the house on the market, not really believing it would sell so late in the season. We fully expected to be here until next Spring. Guess what! It sold in three weeks. Suddenly, we had to get serious about this moving business.

The first step we started on last summer. We began to get rid of “stuff.” For twenty-one years, we were in the US Navy, and moved every 2-3 yeas. We didn’t have time to accumulate stuff. But, we have lived in this house for 27 years. That’s longer than I lived in my home town. And, stuff did accumulate.

For the past several weeks, the most common question heard around here was “What is this and why do we have three of whatever it is?” I think some of this useless “stuff” was breeding in the dark corners of my workroom. There is no way I could have bought 12 screwdrivers or 14 different sizes and types of nails.

“Stuff” falls into several categories. For example, books: This house has lots of bookcases, so we have books. Thank goodness, the local library has an annual book sale to help finance some of their outreach activities. I have hauled a pickup load of books to the library. I have that many more to ship. Books are heavy. Moving costs are based on weight. There seems to be a lesson here.

Clothes: I have enough clothes to outfit an Army brigade. Again, I am sure they breed in the closet. I am a typical man. I tend to wear a few things over and over, and all the rest hangs in the closet. The local non-profit agencies, like Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries etc. have benefited greatly ( I hope) from this move. I had no problem getting rid of clothes. If I hadn’t worn them in 5-6 years, then they are history. The wife might have a different take on this. But, she doesn’t have near as many clothes as I had accumulated.

Furniture: Here we were lucky. We are down-sizing, so all the furniture wouldn’t fit. The wife was ruthless in this. She said “Out it goes!” Of course, she thoroughly enjoys shopping for new furniture. As I am writing this, I am waiting for a truck from Haywood Christian Ministries to come collect a spinet piano, an oriental rug, two sofas, a mattress and box springs and a large mirror. We had already disposed of a roll-top desk, kitchen table and armoire. Disposing of large items of furniture, such as a piano, is an interesting problem. There is no market for pianos today. Children don’t take piano lessons any more. My tax accountant advised me to give it to a non-profit organization and take the deduction on my income tax.

Computer equipment: I have two computers (plus a lap-top), a monitor, a power control center, a UPS system, a KVM switch, three printers (don’t ask why I need 3 printers), modem, wireless router, different weights and colors of paper, labels, etc. all have to be packed. I hate to be without my systems. I feel cut off from the world. But if I don’t pack the modem and router until last, I can use my lap-top up till the last day.

Little stuff: This is the most intimidating factor. There are thousands of little items that have to be packed. How, where, when? What do you do with a small box of paper clips? You tape it up and put it in a larger box. But all this does take time. There are lots of papers that must be collected into folders, and then put someplace so there is a slight chance I can find them again on the other end.

In today’s financial climate, making a move is a most troubling proposition. The closing on my house is in two weeks. There are many things that can happen between now and then. Most of these things are bad. The absolute worst case scenario is that my household goods would be packed, loaded on the van and on their way to my new house, and the sale of this one would fall through at the last moment. The various moving companies have told me some horror stories of this happening. The purchase of our new house is contingent on the closing for this one. Should the worst case happen, we would be homeless gypsies. I told the wife my alternative plan for this possibility. We would put everything in storage and go on a cruise. That is as good a solution as anything else I can devise.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Picking a VP candidate

I have been watching Presidential elections for a long time, and have been always fascinated by the drama, the pageantry and the utter hypocrisy. This election has really demonstrated the last.

I have been long convinced that the present administration does not consist of a President, a Vice-President and assorted counselors, aides, assistants and various other hanger-on’s and spear carriers. Instead, the real administration consists of a shadowy cabal, a small group of power brokers who meet in a smoky back room and make all the decisions necessary to advance their agenda. I think this same group selected our current President. Eight years ago, they got together and asked each other: “Who do we have that we can get elected and then control?” Presto, like magic we got George W. Four years later, they came up with enough dirty tricks to assure his re-election.

This year, the group had a candidate who was struggling. They knew that even if their candidate was elected, they would not be able to totally control him, so they went to plan B: select a Vice-Presidential candidate who will help get him elected, and who they could control.

The group convened over cocktails and cigars, and embarked on a high-level group-think session. After much group groping around, they finally came up with three firm requirements for their ideal candidate:
(1)There were a lot of disgruntled Hillary supporters out there, so their candidate must be female, in order to capture those votes;
(2)There were a lot of National Rifle Association votes out there in the wilderness, so their candidate should also be a hunter;
(3)There were a lot of the religious right votes just looking for a place to land, so their candidate needed to have, at least, the sheen of religiosity.

They ran the numbers, and lo and behold! Up came the name of Sarah.

If the reader thinks I am overly cynical, then I ask: Can you come up with another logical explanation for this?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The gas shortage

In case you have been asleep or out of town for the past week, you realize we have had a severe gas shortage. On Wednesday, the 24th, it was reported that no station in Waynesville had gas by late afternoon.

Such a shortage does create hardships for many people, especially those who have to commute a distance, or shuffle the kids to school and activities, etc.

But, some good can come out of even really bad things. Maybe some people learned to consolidate their trips, or to realize they really didn't need to use the car so much.

The shortage proved to be a true blessing to me. On Thursday, I was planning to mow my yard, which was in dire need of some TLC. I realized I had no gas for the lawnmower, and there was probably no place in town to get some. Oh, golly gee! What am I to do?

This was the only time I have been able to use that excuse to not mow the lawn. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Monday, September 15, 2008

OOPS! Wrong word

Writers for newspapers should be especially careful in their word selection, because their work is out in the open for the public to see and criticize.

A recent story in the Waynesville, NC Mountaineer illustrates the point. The headline reads: "Grower rift leads to duel markets." This writer needed to check his dictionary, for he has a problem here with “homophones:” words like “duel” and “dual” that sound alike but have very different meanings.

Duel is a noun, defined as “A prearranged combat between two persons…” Markets cannot have a “duel,” nor can you have a noun modifying another noun, as in this case.

However, you could certainly have “dual” markets.

The writer could have used the present participle “dueling” which would have been correct, for that is a verbal adjective which can modify a noun. But he didn’t, so his error is on the front page for everyone to see.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Vulture culture

My wife came up with this phrase, but it aptly describes the behavior of some of the national media.

Think about a flock of vultures, circling round and round, awaiting something bad to happen. In the case of birds, they are waiting for something to die, so they can have a meal. Vultures are very patient. After they have identified their potential meal, they are content to wait.

During this election year, some of the national media truly resemble a flock of vultures. They too are waiting for something bad to happen. In their case, they are waiting for, hoping for, almost desperately searching for a scandal or a controversy they can milk for two or three stories they can write without having to work hard. So they circle round and round the candidates, the conventions and meetings, like omens of doom, waiting for their chance.

It is almost comical to watch the media vultures as they look, search, probe and dig for a little nugget, something no other reporter has.

If there is nothing hard and fast, then maybe an insinuation, an unsupported assumption, a clever little offhand remark, or a misquote will be enough to create a nugget. Media vultures are usually not too concerned about the veracity of their stories. What is important is that they have a story to help fill those hundreds of newspapers columns and those thousand hours of television time. So what if their story is not exactly true? By the time someone questions it, the reporter is off on another story, perhaps equally untrue.

Do you remember an old cartoon showing two vultures perched in a dead tree? One says, “Patience, hell! I’m going out and kill something.” Media vultures also have been known to kick-start a scandal or controversy, just to their own advantage.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Fantasy

On August 28, 1963, the late Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a magnificent speech on the mall in Washington. His theme was “I Have a Dream.” I’m borrowing from his theme but I call it “I Have a Fantasy.”

I have a fantasy that one day those running for the office of President of the United States will campaign on a platform of this is what I believe; these are my principles; this is my program instead of a platform that says vote for me only because my opponent is a worse scoundrel than I am. I have a fantasy.

I have a fantasy that one day only the best qualified men in American will run for the office of President, and that they will aspire to that high office from a sense of duty, not just to appease their egos.

I have a fantasy that one day a candidate for national office will be judged only by his principles and his integrity, not by his political label.

I have a fantasy.

I have a fantasy that one day I will be able to go to my polling place without having to run the gauntlet of politicians and their supporters imploring me to vote a certain way. My fantasy is that they will realize I have studied the issues and the persons running, and have already decided who should get my vote. They’re not going to change my mind while I walk across the parking lot.

I have a fantasy that one day, by high noon on the Wednesday following the election, all the campaign signs will have been removed.

I have a fantasy.

I have a fantasy that one day, starting a week before any election, all the radio and television stations will announce that they will no longer carry any campaign ads or election news. The media will understand that everything that needs to be said about the election has already been said many times.

I have a fantasy that one day there will be a national election, but I will not receive any phone calls from political support groups claiming to be conducting a poll.

I have a fantasy.

I have a fantasy that one day all politicians will be held accountable for everything they promise during an election.

I have a fantasy that one day we will hold an election for the highest offices in this land. In that election, we will vote for our choice of statesmen, who will be concerned about the next generation, instead of for politicians, who think only of the next election.

I have a fantasy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Big Shoes to Fill

My grandson has some big shoes he is trying to fill. Big shoes are both physical and philosophical. Today he is trying to fill the physical shoes.

I can only hope that, in the future, I leave him some philosophical big shoes to fill also.

Had I known that grandchildren are so much fun, I would have had them first.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My New Laptop computer.

I finally broke down and bought a laptop. For years I have stayed away from these diabolical beasts. My reasons were simple: I hate the keyboards!

For years now, we have known it was physically possible to miniaturize computer components, and build a really tiny system. But, there has always been the one snag---fat fingers. The keyboard has been scrunched down just as far as possible. If we want the systems to be any smaller, but still be usable, then we’ll have to clone a human with really skinny fingers.

I have been in the computer business since 1963, so I have seen lots of computer systems, some very successful and others abject failures. For example, anyone who was working with small computer systems in the early 1980’s will remember the “transportables.” Radio Shack and Kaypro built models of these. They looked like a small suitcase, and weighed about 30 pounds. The case opened to reveal a keyboard built into one side and a small video screen on the other. There were two 5 ¼ inch floppy disks, and a long power cord. These were not true portables—they required a power outlet. Hence the name—transportable. They could “easily” be moved to different locations. To be truly portable would have required a little red wagon full of heavy batteries. But these were the progenitors of our laptops.

It was a physical problem that finally convinced me to really try a laptop. I developed a stiff neck. Not only was my neck stiff, it was painful to turn my head very far. My friendly Doctor and I tried various remedies, including muscle relaxers, heat, and exercises. Nothing seemed to help. Then I accidentally discovered the source of the discomfort. I spend a lot of time working on the computer. My eyesight is failing, because my cataracts are growing. I now have to get my head closer to the screen in order to read. My monitor was mounted rather high. So, I was leaning forward, to get close, and holding my head up at a strange angle in order to get my bifocals aimed properly. That combination gave me a crick in my neck.

So I bought a laptop. The theory is that I can sit on the couch, with some good sports on the boob tube, put the computer in my lap, and look down at the screen. So far it is working.

But I still hate the keyboard! Anyone know how to miraculously develop skinny fingers?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Prime Time Radio

I guess you must be as old as I am to remember it: Prime Time Radio. I was just a lad of 10-12 or so, but I remember it. Saturday night, the family gathered around the radio in the living room. What a radio it was! The console was probably 4 feet tall, and at least 2 feet wide, designed to be a piece of furniture, not just some electronic gadget. The actual radio and speaker took up very little room. The rest was empty space, but space with a purpose. The bottom 2/3 of the cabinet had a removable front, designed to accommodate something called “television” when such a dream actually became available.

We gathered around, and we listened to “Prime Time Radio.” Ah, the programs! “Amos and Andy,” “Fibber McGee and Molly” (with the famous overstuffed hall closet), “Inner Sanctum” (with the creaking door), :Kay Kaiser College of Musical Knowledge”, “The $64 Question (I have a lady in the balcony). There was one other that I have forgotten the name, but one of the main characters was Parkey Carcus. Maybe someone else can refresh my memory.

We sat on the floor, we listened and laughed. It was a dream world of make-belief, but without pictures, color, animation or grandiose special effects. We had to provide all those in our minds. For a couple of hours or so, we were transformed to another world. But then, it was bath time, for tomorrow was church.

What a difference now. Just the wife and I rattling around in this big house. She is up in the den watching Oprey or a news show, I am down in my office watching sports. We do listen to radio together in the morning during breakfast. But that is for the latest news, not for entertainment.

We’ve come a long ways, but we have lost a lot in the process.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


“You ain’t from around here, are you?” How many times I have heard that question? Usually I hear this whenever I have the audacity to suggest that Haywood County is not a reincarnation of the Garden of Eden, and that its native population is not necessarily the most brilliant, the best educated, the most articulate or the most polite people on earth.

Not long back, the editor of a local newspaper wrote an editorial defending the opinions expressed by a high school student. This student questioned the use of mascot symbols deemed offensive by some racial and ethnic groups. The editor was defending the right of this student to express her opinions. Letters immediately besieged him, shrilly demanding that he go back to whereever his origins. The consensus of the vocal minority seems to be that anyone who disagrees with the established norms must be from somewhere else, and should return there.

Who actually determines these norms of thought and actions? Apparently this same vocal minority! I have often heard the statement “If you don’t like the way we do things then go back where you came from.” Who is this ‘we,’ this elite group that makes the rules?

From what I can determine, to be a member of this group means you have to be a ‘local’ someone born in Haywood County. Now you didn’t have to actually be born in the county. A hospital in Asheville counts, so long as your parents lived in the county. The only exception to this rule seems to be that if your father was in the military, and you had the misfortune to enter this world in some heathen place like California or Texas Of course if you were born in Florida you don’t tell anyone.

More recently a letter to the Editor of the Asheville Citizens-Times dared to suggest something different. Immediately there was another letter demanding that this writer should immediately return to some other place. The amusing thing about all this was that the original writer is a native of Haywood County, second generation. But because he dared to suggest something different, the immediate ‘knee-jerk’ reaction was that he must be from someplace else. I wonder if the natives ever realize how much they are putting down their own birthplace. Their assumption seems to be that no native could ever possibly suggest a new idea. This sounds to me like they are insulting themselves.

The really amusing thing about all this is that the only true ‘locals’ were the Cherokee Indians and their predecessors, but they don’t count in the great hierarchy of local royalty.

I have lived in Waynesville for twenty-seven years, but I will never be a ‘local.’ Not only was I not born here, I also don’t meet the second criteria. I ain’t got no kin here! This amazes the locals. They just can’t imagine anyone living anyplace where they don’t have relatives. Actually I am rather self-sufficient, and have lived in nine states, and two foreign countries without the benefit of having relatives around.

Whence came this belligerent attitude? My researches have not been extensive, but I have uncovered two possible theories. First, this area was settled mostly by a people known as the “Scots-Irish.” Historically, they came from a society where occupation, domicile and marriage were all determined by the rules of their clan. As these people settled into the coves and hollows of the mountains, they settled in family groups, for mutual protection against possible hostile natives, and for companionship. Over time, the extended families took over the place of the clan. The isolation of their environment created a sense of self-dependence, where they had little need of the outside world. They became very distrustful of anyone not from their immediate family, which also meant not from their particular cove.

The interesting rebuttal to this thesis concerns settlement in the Western territories. Here, many of the early settlers were from the same origins; they faced even more hostile native Indian tribes and climatic conditions much more severe than in these mountains. Yet the group sociology in the West developed in the opposite manner. Outsiders were welcomed with open arms. There was never the feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ only all of us against the harsh environment. Perhaps it was the vastness of the western territories that made any neighbor welcome.

Another theory says that this is the result of the Civil War and reconstruction. Prior to the war, the culture of the South was dominated by a small minority of slave holding plantation owners. This elite group painted a picture of their world that was as idyllic as that of “Tara” or “Five Oaks” from Gone with the Wind. This was pure fiction, as any realistic history of the South shows, but it was a fiction to which all poor, grubbing subsistence farmers yearned to achieve. Then came the war, and suddenly those leaders of society became masters without slaves, and plantation owners without land. To add insult to injury, there was an invasion of foreigners, Yankees from ‘up North’, who were telling them what to do. These outsiders could not possibly understand the rules of that wonderful but imaginary society, which had been destroyed by the war.

Either these theories can account for the extreme distrust of anyone not considered a ‘local.’ But one local pundit suggested a more simple explanation. He reported that in the early days of Haywood County, there was only one cobbler, and that cobbler only had one last, so all his shoes were one size. Therefore, most of the settlers went about their work with shoes that didn’t fit, and this just naturally made them cranky.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Froma Harrop, a syndicated columnist, is usually good, but her latest column is far off the mark. She has made a glaring error in her logic, the result of not bothering to check the dictionary.

In writing about the Iowa primary caucuses, she says “.The caucuses …disenfranchised many parents of small children, shift workers and those who couldn’t drive in the dark.”

BALDERDASH! An explanation of the terms is in order:

We are talking about preferential primaries. The key word is preferential, wherein members of a political party state which candidate they prefer to run in a general election.

Primaries are political party functions. The rules are set by the parties. Only those who are members of that party, or those the party has chosen to allow to participate, may state a preference.

Even though preferential primaries use the state voting apparatus (polling places, poll workers, etc.) they are still party functions.

If a political party decides they want to hold caucuses instead of using a ballot, that is their business. If you don’t like it, don’t participate.

Back to the Iowa caucuses. No one was disfranchised (the better term). The word is defined to mean “To deprive (a citizen) of a right or privilege, especially of the ballot.” In more common usage, we consider this as preventing a person from voting.

No one prevented parents of small children, shift workers or those who couldn’t drive in the dark from participating. Had they thought it was important enough, they would have found a way to participate. The circumstances might have made it difficult, but there was no wall of prevention.

Froma Harop goes on to complain that the caucuses are a “deeply undemocratic process,” because they produced no vote count and there were no secret ballots. So what? Such are important only in an election. This (primaries and caucuses) is a selection process, where members of a political party decide which candidate they prefer to run in a following election. For this process, a show of hands is as good as anything else.

As a final error, Froma says that “They (the voters in Michigan and Florida) went to the polls in good conscience. Why are they being punished?” I would think the answer is obvious. The DNC makes the rules. These states broke the rules. Live with it and get on with your life, instead of crying “Foul!”


Monday, May 19, 2008

Junk Mail

Junk Mail

I get lots of junk mail. Most of it is rather irritating. You have to understand that direct mail advertisers work on a 3% return. That means if 3 out of a 100 people buy what they are selling, then they make money. The other 97 of us have to put up with their junk mail.

There are several banks in America that are absolutely convinced that I really need another credit card. I don’t. I have one, and that’s enough! My old Daddy told me a long time ago, “Boy, every man needs one wife and one credit card. He’ll never want another of either.” But I digress.

The funny thing about these offers is that they all emphasize how low are their interest rates. I guess they assume that just as soon as I get my new card, I’m going to max it out. Now that is dumb! Nobody in their right mind pays the interest these people charge. But they are persistent. Every week I get at least one offer for a new card.

This would not be so bad, except that these direct mail solicitors have decided that since they are sending me a letter, and have gone to the trouble of preparing an address label, then they should get full value for all their effort. So I get a thick envelope, filled with pieces of paper, offering me not only a new, pre-approved credit card, but also all sorts of other things, none of which I need or want.

I have become really ticked-off about these unsolicited solicitations. There was a time when I would just deep-six the envelope without even opening it. I am wiser now. The senders often include a return envelope, with prepaid postage. So if they give me this chance, I pack up all their pieces of paper in the envelope, and mail it back to them. After all, they are paying the postage. I was always taught that if you receive a letter, you should send a reply, especially if somebody else is providing the stamp. I do include a note saying “Put this in your landfill.”

Think about it. We didn’t ask for all these wonderful deals they are offering. Why should we have to dispose of their junk? If we send it back, then whoever sent it has to pay the postage; they have to dispose of it; and the US Post Office gets the business, which they need. It’s a win-win situation!

If enough red-blooded Americans would just follow this simple ploy, we could put an end to much unsolicited junk mail. Of course the US Postal Service would lose a lot of business, but they can always just raise postage rates to make up for it.

But then that’s the view of the Resident Curmudgeon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A puzzlement

There are many things in this world that puzzle me. I catch myself saying “Why do they do that?”

Puzzlement #1: On the interstate highways in Virginia, there are signs, which say “Speed Limit Enforced by Aircraft.” Now this puzzles me! They don’t say speed limit monitored or detected by aircraft, but enforced by aircraft!

Just what does that mean-enforced by aircraft? Every time I see that sign, I always imagine a Virginia State Trooper on the radio talking to a Virginia Air National Guard plane. “Hey, Charley, we got a white SUV doing 77 at mile marker 284. What ordinance you got on board?” “Napalm?” Nah, that’s too messy. Got any rockets?” “All right, we’ll teach that rascal not to speed in Virginia. Hit him with a rocket and I’ll call in the wrecker.” If that is what they mean by enforced, then it kinda makes you want to obey the speed limit, doesn’t it?

Puzzlement #2: I have some golfer friends who claim the only reason they play golf is for the exercise. Now golfers, like fishermen, have been known to stretch the truth a bit. But if they are only after the exercise, why is it that every one of them will almost kill for the opportunity to park next to the pro shop, where they will have the shortest walk to their golf cart, which they will then drive around the course so they can get their exercise. I must be stupid, but I don’t think getting in and out of a golf cart really qualifies as high intensity exercise. If they really just wanted to get some exercise, why don’t they park far away in the parking lot and carry their bags to the 1st tee? Even better, why don’t they walk around the course?

I think that I already know the answer. Walking would take too long. They must get their exercise in a short period of time. Of course, 15 minutes on a treadmill will do that. But then whoever said golfers were rationale?

Puzzlement #3: Why do joggers insist on running in the street, when there is a perfectly good sidewalk available?

I actually have an answer for this one. A jogging friend of mine told me the secret. Of course, anything a jogger says is suspect. Anyone who willingly moves faster than a slow walk when there is not a sheriff’s posse chasing them probably should not be believed. But anyway, he said that if you run on the sidewalk, there are driveways and other surface imperfections, and you might turn an ankle.

Now, let’s see if I understand this. Rather than run on the sidewalk, where you might turn an ankle, it is better to run in the street where you can get hit by a car? Now that is a puzzlement!

But then that’s the view of the Resident Curmudgeon.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Car poor

There are several residences in my county that can be classified as “car poor.” Maybe this is the wrong term—maybe they should be called “car rich!” I’m referring to those residences where there are many more cars permanently parked around than there are drivers.

Many of these places probably qualify for the Trash Up the Neighborhood Hall of Shame. To determine whether a property qualifies, I have developed a simple rating system.

Basic score:

Add (1) point for every vehicle (minimum of 5) parked on the property.
Vehicle includes cars, pick-ups, trucks, trailers (with or without a boat),
motorcycles or scooters. Bicycles don’t count.

Bonus score:

For every vehicle parked in the front yard: 2 points.
For every vehicle up on blocks, either in driveway or front yard: 2 points
For every vehicle missing a major body part (hood, fender, door, etc) 2 points
For every vehicle with a body part painted a different color than the rest of the vehicle: 2 points
For every boat not on a trailer: 2 points

Special bonus:
For every garage so full of junk there is no room for a vehicle: 3 points

To qualify for the Hall of Shame, the conditions must exist for a minimum of 30 days. (One time events, such as birthday parties, family reunions or NASCAR race days, do not count.) A minimum of 10 points is required.

Down my street is a genuine contender. At last count, there were 7 vehicles (4 cars, a delivery van, a motor home, and a boat on a trailer) on the property. Two cars were parked in the front yard. The garage is so full of junk that it hasn’t held a car for many years. All these vehicles have been there for at least 6 months. This place, on a major street, scores 14 points.

Recently I saw the ultimate in single vehicle score. It was a blue pick-up with a black driver side door, missing the hood, up on blocks in the front yard, with a john boat in the pick-up bed. By this scoring system, this single vehicle rates 11 points, enough single-handed to qualify for the Hall of Shame. I hate to tell you about the rest of the derelicts scattered around the property.

Look around. There might be contenders in your neighborhood.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Guilt by Association

As I have watched the political campaigning, I had almost convinced myself that it could not get any lower. I can certainly see how people in other countries, watching the our political shenanigans, could easily be led to believe that all Americans are sleaze-balls, unfit to associate with other civilized tribes. But, recent events now convince me that yes, it can get lower.

Politicians have rediscovered the concept of “guilt by association.” If you know someone who turns out to be a crook, then you too are guilty. The fact that you might not have known of his/her illegal actions, and that you thoroughly disapprove of those actions makes no difference.

The Republican Party here in North Carolina have invented a new and sinister twist to this concept. They will put this on the air in a TV ad. So far as I can understand, their (the Republicans) rather distorted logic is as follows:

Barack Obama attended a church in Chicago where the Pastor preached inflammatory sermons.

Because Obama attended that church and knew the Pastor (guilt by association) therefore he must agree with that Pastor.

Obama is a Democrat.

There are two candidates in the primary election for the office of Governor in North Carolina.

These two candidates are Democrats.

Therefore, they must also be guilty of something (guilt by association). Are they also to be accused of agreeing with that Pastor, whom they never met or never heard? Apparently so!

When I was in college, I took a course in Logic. Examples of this kind of reasoning were shown, always to great ridicule.

The Republican Party plan to start running this TV ad next week. John McCain, the presumed Republican candidate for President, has told them not to run it! The state party nabobs refuse. They say, with great pomposity, that these facts need to be before the public. BALDERDASH! What they will do is make any voter like myself say “You people are total idiots, and I wouldn’t vote for any Republican candidate in the general election, whether for the office of dog-catcher up to President.”

Like I said, the tactics can get lower, and probably will.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A polygamous ranch?

The “lamestream” media has done it again. These clowns are notorious for their misuse, misapplication and misinterpretation of the English Language. English is a noble language, rich and full, capable of expressing the most profound meanings when used properly. The national media certainly do not qualify for this.

I am sick and tired of hearing or reading about the “children removed from a polygamous ranch.” Sorry, lamestream media! There is no such thing. As usual, you are guilty of a heinous crime against the language.

A ranch might be arid; desolate; prosperous; abandoned; scenic; run-down; cattle; chicken; dude; large; small; hobby; working or even tax loop-hole, but it cannot be polygamous. There is a very simple reason for this injunction. Ranches don’t get married!

If the lamestream media had bothered to have a short consultation with Mr. Webster, they would have found the following definitions:

Polygamy – n the practice of having more than one wife or husband at the same time;

Polygamist – n one who practices polygamy;

Polygamous – adj pertaining to the practice of polygamy.

Notice that all of these definitions pertain to people, homo sapiens, not to property, acreage or even miles of sagebrush.

The national media seem to have, as a governing concept, the idea that one word, either misused or fabricated, is always better than 3 or 4 words used properly. . It often seems that this same lamestream media are paid, not by the word, but by how many words they can avoid.

They could have said “children removed from a ranch where polygamy is practiced” or “children removed from a ranch where the adults practiced polygamy” or “children removed from a ranch where the adults were polygamists.” Any of these would have been correct. But, the fabricated term “polygamous ranch” is a flagrant foul against the English Language and should be punished accordingly

I often think we need a new law. The lamestream media should be required to hire an English major, and buy a dictionary. The English major will check the dictionary, and then advise the journalists which words they can use, and which misuse of words they should forget. This would make for more serene and restful reading and listening for the rest of us who have some idea of how to use the English Language.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The American Craze for Speed

Is there a strange twist in the American psyche that requires some people to automatically go into hurry mode as soon as they get in their car? There must be such because anyone who drives will very often see this speed craze in action.

Recently I saw a good example of this. I was heading out the expressway, driving a couple of miles over the 60 MPH speed limit. I was certainly not in a hurry as I had lots of time to get to my destination. Right behind me was a lady in a big SUV. She hung right on my bumper for at least a half mile. Then as we were within 100 yards of the next off ramp, she speeded up, blasted around me, suddenly cut back in front and slowed so she could take the off ramp. “Stupid, idiot!” I thought “There is not another car behind us for several hundred yards. Since you had to slow down for the off ramp, why didn’t you just stay behind me?”

Since I was getting off the same ramp, I ended up at the stoplight right behind her. She had used extra gas, made a rather dangerous maneuver, and had gained maybe 10 feet on me, but was now zero seconds ahead of me. Didn’t seem like a smart move. But I decided I would give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was going to the Hospital, or to a Doctor’s office, and this was an emergency. But no, she was headed for Walmart. I followed her into the parking lot, thinking that maybe she was rushing in to have a prescription filled for her sick children. Wrong again! She finished her cell phone call, and leisurely strolled into the store. She seemed to have followed some ingrained rule. She wasn’t really in a hurry, but she was in her car, therefore she had to drive fast. I was in front of her. Therefore, she had to speed up and pass me.

There must be something in the genes, the water or the climate that makes people drive stupid. I see it every day, as drivers speed down congested city streets, zip through school zones without slowing, and run red lights, just trying to save a few seconds.

I would hate to think that my life was so disorganized that arriving somewhere 20 seconds later was going to ruin my whole day.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008



It seems to me that some young males in Western North Carolina now undergo a secret ‘rite of passage’ that was unknown when I was growing up. Sometime between the ages of 11-14, maybe earlier in some cases, a cap is permanently affixed to their head. This may be a baseball cap, but more often it is a ‘gimmie’ cap, one that advertises John Deere tractors or Southern States Fertilizer or perhaps their favorite NASCAR race driver.

These caps must be glued, welded, stapled, nailed or otherwise solidly attached, because they are never removed. It is now common to see caps worn in church, at funerals, or even at weddings. In one case, I attended a wedding where the groom wore a cap emblazoned with a big 3, the late Dale Earnhardt’s racing number. At the time, I thought that qualified as the ultimate in tackiness, but I have since been proven wrong.

On another occasion I took the wife to a very elegant restaurant to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was prom night, and a couple of the local swains were treating their dates to a fancy dinner before the dance. The young ladies looked very lovely, in their formals and corsages. The young gentlemen were somewhat ill at ease, not accustomed to being dressed so fashionable. But they were doing their best to appear suave and debonair in their rented tuxedos. Unfortunately, their caps spoiled the effect. Now, any fashion expert will tell you that a top hat is the only proper head covering to be worn with evening clothes. A cap advertising fertilizer just doesn’t cut it! I had to wonder did they wear their caps while dancing?

I spent many years in the US Navy, which is a rather formal service. One of the absolute dictums of the “Senior Service” is that you uncover as soon as you come into a building. Never, never, never would a naval person sit down to a meal while wearing a hat. Aboard ship this would probably get you thrown overboard. These rules were so drilled into me that now, to see someone wearing a cap indoors is rather shocking. To see a person in a restaurant, eating a meal while wearing a cap, almost makes me ill! Yet, this is an every day sight. Have you noticed that most restaurants no longer have a coat rack near the door? In the old days, this is where you hung your coat and hat. But, since apparently caps cannot be removed, these racks are no longer needed.

Recently, I saw the ultimate in cap stupidity. While swimming at the local recreation center, I saw a young father, with his cap on, come in with his small children! Now, wearing a cap at an indoor swimming pool surely must rank among the top of the all time list of really dumb actions. I will be charitable, and give this individual the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was totally bald, and didn’t want anyone to see his lack of hair. Maybe he had some horribly disfiguring skin disease on his scalp, and was keeping it covered to shield us from seeing the ugliness. But if not, then he proves my point. Those caps are permanently fixed, and cannot be removed.

But then that’s the view of the Resident Curmudgeon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The 2008 campaign

Again, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, "Never in the field of human endeavor has so much been said by so many about so little."
The big political news today seems to be centered on the Pastor of a church that Barrack Obama attends. It seems this particular preacher is a blithering idiot! So what! I have known many preachers that were idiots. I didn't agree with anything they said. Did that place some sort of evil stigma on me because I attended that church? That line of thinking is total BS!

I was taught that the church and its beliefs were above any individual. But, the lamestream media (and certain political people) are working hard to make us believe that because Obama attends this church, he must necessarily agree with this windbag of a preacher. Talk about a charge of "guilt by association!"

This type of left-handed attack convinces me that I will support Obama in the May NC primary, because I cannot tolerate the cheap tactics of the Clinton ticket. However, in the back of my mind, I have the fear that somehow the Clintons will steal the nomination. In that case I will vote for McCain. Anything is better than the other sleazy bunch.

But then, that's the opinion of The Resident Curmudgeon. What's yours?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reginald the Navigator

Reginald the Navigator

Last Christmas I bought a GPS navigation system for my wife’s new car. She had wanting one of these for some time, claiming we always get lost on every trip. That could be debated. There is a difference between being lost and just taking the more scenic route.

The voice on our machine is male, so we named him Reginald. We soon found out that not only does Reginald have no sense of humor, but that we fear he will soon be a basket case due to his frustration with our inclination not to follow his directions. Do you suppose electronic devices can suffer a stroke?

Our first encounter with his frustration came on a trip from our home in Waynesville, in the mountains of North Carolina, to Chapel Hill. I had left Reginald on his default settings, so he assumed we should always take the Interstate Highways. Little could he know that in the past 22 years, we have made this same trip approximately 50 times. We know every thing there is to know about I-40 between here and Chapel Hill. To be very frank, we are just bored to death with this stretch of highway, and get off from it at every opportunity.

On this day, Reginald did just fine at first. As I backed out from the garage, I keyed in the addresses for my daughter in Chapel Hill. Reginald did great. He directed me through several twists and turns until he got me on I-40 at Exit 27. For the next hour or so, he was quiet as we buzzed east on I-40. At Statesville, some 130 miles into the trip, I ruined his day. By that time I was already bored with I-40, and decided to take the lesser byway. I exited and got on US 70, which took us through a part of Statesville I had not seen. Reginald almost went berserk! At every intersection he insisted I turn left, to return to his beloved I-40. I defiantly refused, determined to make my own path. From Statesville east, US 70 is parallel to I-40. At every opportunity, Reginald directed me to turn left and enter I-40. And at each command, I refused, as it was my intention to drive US 70 to Mocksville. There we stopped for lunch, hoping that poor Reginald could take this opportunity to rest and settle his nerves. Such was not to be the case.

As we continued on US 64, he was quiet. But, east of Lexington, he awoke with a vengeance! As we neared I-85 coming up from Charlotte, he insisted we get on it, with the idea of going 20 some miles out of our way to rejoin I-40 in Greensboro. I definitely refused again. A few miles further, we met another road going north, and again he insisted we take it. I was adamant! No deviations. On the west side of Asheboro, he had his last chance. US 220, going due north towards Greensboro, could take us back to I-40. I was steadfast. No unnecessary detours. I wonder if such devices really have a personality. I was sure I detected a note of total frustration and hysteria as he directed me to take the last possible way to return to I-40. I was afraid he was going to suffer a stroke.

Reginald was quiet as we traversed through Ramsuer, Siler City and east towards Pittsboro. But, as we approached Pittsboro, he woke up. Being the good fellow that he is, he found my current location (by some form of black magic) and was now resigned to take me to my destination, even if it was not the routing he preferred. He correctly directed me to exit onto US 15-501 north. Apparently he had given up on his plan to return me to I-40, and was now reconciled to the fact that I was not going to follow his earnest directions. As we approached Chapel Hill, he directed me through several turns, and took me to my daughter’s driveway. Stout fellow, even if we did not agree on the route!

The following day Reginald really proved his capabilities. I had a doctor’s appointment on the north side of Durham, in an area where I had never been. I had no idea how to find the office. I downloaded maps from Map Quest, but I know from experience that these are not always accurate. However, I decided that with the maps, and the help from Reginald, I could probably find the place. I did leave a little early just in case I had problems. As I pulled out of my daughter’s driveway, I keyed in the address for the Doctor. Reginald performed superbly! He directed me through several turns and some on and off ramps. When he announced, rather pompously, I thought, “You have arrived at your destination,” I was at the entrance to the parking lot.

How far have we come? Fifteen years ago, GPS were just coming on the market. Go back another thirty years, when I was riding a Navy destroyer, we sweated over star sights and loran for navigation. Now, anyone can have their own private navigator in a small electronic box that will fit in a shirt pocket. Will wonders never cease?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday

It’s Super Tuesday all through the land

National media says that it will be grand.

Just follow their lead

they’ll tell us how to think

As they make their sage predictions

with a subtle nod and wink.

Talking heads, empty thoughts, just puppets on a string

Prognosticating, prophesying, on each and every thing.

They tell us what is going to be

and how the vote will go.

Unless, of course, the polls are wrong

and then they just don’t know.

Hours and hours every day they ramble, rant and rave

They tell us what we’re supposed to do, and how we should behave.

Follow our lead, here’s how to act

no worry, bother or fuss.

But if the vote should go astray

you surely can’t blame us.

We read the polls, we poked and pried, we questioned everyone

We even have opinions from the chauffeur’s younger son.

His daddy drives the candidate

to every campaign stop.

He surely has some real hot news

that no one else can top.

Where is the scoop, the nugget, the juicy little bit

Something that our network has, but no one else has hit?

It may be true, it could be false

we can’t take time to test.

We’ll just put it on the air

and hope it’s for the best.

If we should be mistaken, in a statement strong

We’ll just ignore the error, for we cannot be wrong.

Pretend we did not say to you

which candidate will win.

Our experts have informed us

that 4 plus 5 is ten.

Should candidate X say black is white, and candidate Y says no

We’ll love that little argument, for we can make it grow.

We’ll twist their words, and mispronounce

whatever they might say.

To keep our job requires we have

new stories every day.

Although we may not always, be exactly true

We are National Media, no one would dare to sue.

So all day long we’ll tell you,

almost man to man

The things you have already heard,

and will shortly hear again..

Wouldn’t it be a strange little quirk

If these reporters really had to work?

If they dug a ditch, built a house

saw how real workers fare.

It would do a lot for Global Warming

by eliminating much hot air.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Roger Clemmons Hearing

I wasted several hours today listening to all this blather. What a circus this was! Supposedly this was a "fact-finding" hearing. HAH! It was soon apparent that the members of the committee already had their minds made up, and it soon became a witch hunt. One sad aspect of all this is that many of the members are lawyers. Yet, the way they acted would never be tolerated in any courtroom.

The first question one must ask is this: What the hell is Congress doing involved in this? This is not a question of national interest.
This is baseball, for God's sake! Congress, get back to work and do something useful.

The most sickening thing occurred at the end of the hearing. Most on the members rushed out to the hall so they could be interviewed by the lamestream media. And there we heard: "The people on the Republican (Democratic) side asked all the wrong question." What the hell does partisan politics have to do with a fact-finding hearing?

I am more and more convinced that most members of our congress should be dismissed and told to go find a job. They all seem to be interested only in furthering their own interests, or their parties position. The facts, the truth, the good of the country just does not enter into their thinking.

This is all indicative of the absurb position of the reactionary (read Talk Show wing) of the Republican Party. These idiots are threatening to vote for a "liberal" Democrat because the apparent Republican candidate has dared to work with the Democrats to get useful bills passed.

Maybe we really need a quiet revolution.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Dumb national media

I don't know which group is the dumbest, or the most irritating: political or sport analysts? They are both heartily despised by any half-intelligent human being.

This past week, we have had an oversupply of both. Not only do we have the primaries, but we also have the super bowl. We have had 24/7 of talk, talk, talk on both subjects. Can you think of anything on either subject that hasn't been said many, many times.

Both breeds are alike. They are all looking for a nugget, something, anything that no one else has. It makes no difference if the so-called news item is factual, truthful or even possible. The reporters jump on it like a starving wolf on a bone. If their earth-shaking discovery proves to be wrong, as is too often the case, do they apologize? Not on your life! They just go looking for something else.

It's very obvious that both breeds are "scoop" driven. Get it before anyone else has it! In the old days, a scoop might be something to generate an entra edition of a paper, generating lots of sales. That is no longer important, but the the reporters cannot ignore their genealogy. They have to get something unique first.

Even better than a scoop is a controversy. It is often sickening to watch how reporters try mightily to generate a controversy. They are like starving dogs, hanging on to every word, licking their chops, hoping for a misplaced word, a facial expression, a sneeze at the wrong time-anything they can use to generate the illusion of a controversy. Why? Because it makes their job easier. They can get several stories from a simple misunderstanding.

After watching these examples of how reporters/analysts twist words and actions around to suit their needs, it is easy to recommend they should be strung up by their thumbs, on the town square, at high noon.

And they wonder why no one pays attention to them.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Clean, cheap electricity--the myth

A dialogue between The Resident Curmudgeon, hereafter called TRC, who looks at everything with a suspicious eye, and doesn't believe anything the so-called experts tell him, and a neo-conservationist, hereafter called a neo-con, who believes in the tooth fairy.

TRC: A power company wants to build a new coal-fired power plant in NC. It will be state-of-the-art, with emissions much lower than existing plants. When built, the company will close 4 older, much dirtier plants. On the surface, seems like a good proposal.

Neo-con: NO, NO, NO! We can't have any more coal-fired plants. They all poison the atmosphere, and lead to global warming.

TRC: You want unlimited, cheap power. How do you propose to provide this?

Neo-con: It must be clean, green and non-contributory to global warming.

TRC: OK. How about windmills? They are certainly clean and green, but they have some unwelcome characteristics. Have you ever been to Spain, Portugal, or maybe Wyoming or California? There are large windmills lined up across every ridgeline where there is a prevailing wind.

Neo-con: NO. We can't have windmills on our ridgelines. They spoil the view, and they are a danger to migratory birds.

TRC: I don't know about spoiling the view. Just how eager are you for cheap, green electricity? If you have ever seen these, you will know that they turn so slow that any migratory bird that can't fly through the blades deserves to get killed. But, there is another problem. Sometimes the wind doesn't blow. Then, you must have back-up power. What will this be? If it is a coal-fired plant, that creates another problem. A coal-fired plant is designed to run most efficently at about 90% power. That is when it is the cleanest, with the least amount of emissions. But, while serving as back-up, a coal-fired plant is at idle. That is the most dirty condition it can be. It's a question of design. A plant cannot be designed to run at optimum in both conditions.

Neo-con: NO, NO, NO! we don't want any more coal-fired plants.

TRC: Well, how about a nuclear plant as back-up?

Neo-con: NO, NO, NO!! We will not allow any more nuclear plants either as primary or as back-up power. They are dangerous!

TRC: Well, maybe we should consider hyrdoelectirc plants. Of course, that will require that we dam up a few rivers, but it will generate clean power.

Neo-con: NO, NO, NO! We can't dam up any rivers. That will endanger several kinds of freshwater mussels, and interfere with the mating habits of carp and crawdads, besides taking thousands of acres of farmland out of production.

TRC: You have strong objections to any solution I have proposed. Maybe, the anser is to issue a small generator to every household, and let them produce however much power they need?

Neo-con: NO, NO, NO! Those would burn gasoline or diesel fuel, emit very noxious fumes and particulate matter, and create too much noise.

TRC: Well, I have one final solution to propose. Maybe we should move all our generating plants to southern Mexico. There, they could produce very cheap power. They have lots of cheap labor to shovel coal, thus eliminating the requirement for expensive conveyor systems. If the plants were far enough south, then the smoke, dust and carbon would not drift up into Texas, New Mexico or Arizona. Unfortunately, the laws of physics prohibit the efficent transmission of electricity from southern Mexico to New York. One solution might be to move everyone to Texas. Then the rest of the US could become a vast, wilderness preserve. However, if you have ever been there, then you might appreciate why people from New York might not enjoy living in west Texas.

Neo-con: Anything is better than global warming.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Britney Spears

I'm tired on reading stories every day about the latest stupid acts of this zonked-up bimbo. Who really gives a damn? Apparently, only reporters and photographers. These people should get a life. There is a lot of news around the world. Why are these lame-stream media flacks wasting ink and space on the latest antics of this stoned, drunk publicity hound. She seems to think the rules just don't apply to her. We have news for you, honey. When they throw your ass in jail, maybe you will wake up and figure this out.

Today's article breathlessly reports that she "was taken to a hospital in an ambulance that was chased by a crowd of reporters." That crowd of reporters should have been compelled to do something useful. Maybe they all should be issued garbage bags and directed to clean up the freeway.

And the national media wonders why nobody pays attention to them now.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa Caucus

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Never in the field of human endeavor has so much been said by so many about so little.

If we consider the number of newspaper, magazine or other written media people in Iowa, and if each one posts just 1,000 words a day, we have the equivalent of War and Peace written every day.

IF we consider the number of radio, TV etc. reporters, each reporting at least 15 minutes a day, we find a new explanation for global warming--that's a lot of hot air being generated.

Just think: we have almost a full year of this yammering to look forward to. Oh joy!