Thursday, December 31, 2015

Racist Fucks

If you haven't already seen the video, I invite you to check it out.  A "man" in Pennsylvania decided to harass a few protesters.  This guy, who news sources have identified as John Pisone, approached a group who were protesting fracking in Mars, PA, just after Christmas.  

John Pisone - Racist Fuck
Now, Mr. Pisone approached the group, apparently to find out if any of them had ever worked for a living.  "...I do work.  What do you do?"  Because THAT is the one thing that determines a person's right to protest something they believe in.  Many of the folks I saw in the video looked old enough to have retired.  More than once, you can here him telling these people that they are lazy.  

It gets worse within the first minute.  Little Johnny decided that the camera man was a nice target, especially because he was a black man.  After showing everyone his commanding use of the English language by calling him "chimp" and "nigger", and getting admonished by several of the group, he states, "I don't give a fuck.  He's milking my tax dollars."  

Let's consider that the cameraman, Tom Jefferson, HAS a job.  He films and distributes video of events, mainly protests, near his home near Pittsburgh.  His YouTube channel has 311 subscribers as of the time I write this.  People DO make money posting videos to YouTube.  I don't know who his employer is, or if he even has an employer but, my point is, neither does John Pisone!!  He just walked up and started harassing people because HIS job (what job was that?  Oh yeah, "work".) was rained out.

Pisone is the definitive racist, insisting that Jefferson couldn't possibly have a job because the man is black.  He manages to cover most of the racist talking points in the first minute of the video, then prods the cameraman by grunting like a gorilla.  

Patrick Rushing - Racist-in-Chief
Let's move on to Airway Heights, WA, where the mayor turns out to be a bigoted S.O.B.  That's right.  THE MAYOR!  The Young Turks did a piece on this loser back in July that is poignant.    Patrick Rushing is this pud's name, and he was the mayor of this city until August, when he finally caved to pressure to resign.  His explanation?  "...back and forth banter that my friends and I do."  Nice friends, hey?

Airway Heights, according to Wikipedia, is 69.51% White, 10.47% African American, 9.93% Hispanic, 3.20% Native American, 1.84% Asian, 0.38% Pacific Islander, and 1.56% from other races.  I'll lay odds that during the next elections, the people of this city will be asking candidates if they are now, or have ever been, RACIST FUCKS.

More over, as any red-blooded American has done, he's posted his rantings on Facebook, of all places!!  Folks, if you've got something to say that could possibly be considered controversial, YOU DON'T POST IT ON FACEBOOK!!!  Now that he has, though, feel free to run to his page and comment.  In some posts, Rushing also claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  There's a real Christian, hey?

And, finally, just because I think it's funny, I present Dumbass number 4,264,994.  (I made that number up.  It's probably higher.)  This one is out of Florida and features this white trash.

Miss Congeniality
Pretend that she has a clue and listen to what she says.  More than once she accuses these gents of taking pictures of planes and calls it a prelude to terrorism.  Never mind the fact that two of the three guys in the video are/were in the U.S. military and served in Afganistan!  BTW, she's putting their faces and license plates on...wait for it.  FACEBOOK!  Oh, and I should mention that she has "Gawd" on her side.

Ignorance comes in many forms and these are only a scant few of the many examples.  "He's black and he's not in a factory between 9 and 5 so, he must be a lazy n--gger."  "She's black and has a 'gorilla face' that only her 'monkey man' could love."  "They're brown so they have to be 'Middle-Easters' and terrorists."

Isn't America great?  More and more, people who have NO clue go out of their way to become real assholes and preach it to the masses.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

In practice, and now, on paper...


In the last couple years, there've been changes to the headlines regarding marijuana.  We're hearing less and less about federal authorities raiding farms, businesses or homes in search of weed.  Most of the time, there's one of two things happening.  One is, they're raiding a place for something different and find the marijuana. ("Dude rolled up to grab Tommy for stealin' Social Security checks and found his stash.")  The other possibility is that the quantity of marijuana just can NOT be ignored.  ("They busted that fucker with $25,000 cash, a new car and 14 pounds of Kush, but he works at Burger Sling!  That fucker's going down for dealing!" or "DEA agents in Miami confirmed that Pablo Ortiguez was apprehended last night by federal agents, and charged with trafficking more than 17 tons of  marijuana from a port in Mexico...")


One other headline we don't see much of, recently, is the local dispensary getting raided and all of their inventory, their computer records, their real estate and their money seized.  

It's been common knowledge for a while that the federal government has bigger things to worry about, when it comes to drugs, than marijuana.  
Graphic by HuffPo.com
 Since 1996, 23 states have legalized medicinal use of marijuana in one form or another, and three states have legalized recreational use for adults.  In the beginning, there were headlines about the DEA's raids on several (state-legal) dispensaries in California, and on outdoor grow operations.  Farmers in Northern California were used to the sight of DEA helicopters flying in the hills, looking for enterprising people getting back to the land.  

In December of 2014, Congress and President Barack Obama ended the federal prohibition on medical marijuana very non-dramatically.  And, just a few days ago, Congress passed a spending bill that now prohibits the feds from messing with states that have enacted their own marijuana laws.  

But, I'm not planning on buying a sea going vessel and a map of the Colombian coast, either.  It is still illegal to import it.  It is still against the law for businesses hoping to cash in on marijuana to use banks to transfer moneys for their business.  You still can't use the interstate highway system to transport it from one state to another.  

One other thing to consider.  Marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I drug.  This means that in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana has NO medical benefits and does NOT treat chronic ailments or acute illness.  Veterans of our armed forces cannot take advantage of medical marijuana and VA doctors can't even mention the term.  

There's more work to be done...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The facts...

One thing that we're going to see a lot of this season is fact-checking.  There used to be a time where Joe Public couldn't access the information that we have at our fingertips.  As little as 30 years ago, you wouldn't have been able to look at "evidence" cited by politicians who were delivering speeches on the campaign trail.  Heck, twenty years back, many search engines would have had a hard time looking at analyses by think-tanks across the country.

But that was then, and this, of course, is now.  So, it makes you wonder if The Don has anyone on his staff with, say, a smartphone?  I mean, if the guy I work for, when referring to the 9/11 attackers', tells my country that "...the people, the animals that did that, they sent their wives and their families back to Saudi Arabia. Most of them went back to Saudi Arabia. Those wives knew what their husbands were going to do.", I want to check and be sure that the statement is correct and that any of the perpetrators had so much as a PET, much less a wife and/or girlfriend.  I mean, that way, The Don doesn't have a delusional moment and quote his most famous line while looking directly at me.  "No, Donald.  I'm not fired...."

Read Politifact's analysis of this very reference.  Then check out the numbers on more of the things he's said.  (Feel free to browse the statements made by, and about, the other candidates on either side of the aisle.)

I found a great video that exposes more examples of "facts" that just don't match reality.  Follow this link and spend five minutes hearing the REAL facts.

Photo by www.prnewsonline.com
This brings me back to the fact-checkers.  These guys HAVE to get it right if they expect to have jobs a year from now.  "I see you've gotten a degree from DePaul University...13th in a class of 210.  Very nice...oops.  What's this?  A stint with Trump for President?  I'm VERY sorry.  Umm,...we filled that position."

And, for those of you wondering where I got my facts from, here's a list of links that will illustrate my point much better than I:

FactCheck.org
PolitiFact
and Flackcheck.org


UPDATE:  Donald, Donald, Donald.  Can you shut the fuck up?

During a recent speech, The Don was heard to say that Hillary Clinton got "schlonged" when she lost NC during the 2012 primaries against Barack Obama.  Not ready to leave well enough alone, he went on to explain himself via Twitter:  "Once again, #MSM is dishonest. "Schlonged" is not vulgar. When I said Hillary got "schlonged" that meant beaten badly."   #MSM refers to "Mainstream Media".  Now, I'm not going to pretend that our media is totally accurate OR honest.  We've been through too much to believe that.  But, then, to say that "schlonged" means "beaten badly"...   First, get a dictionary in the language that you plan to use.  Second, I hope I'm not the first to make the connection between The Don and his badly beaten schlong...

The mainstream story....

Monday, November 30, 2015

Trump's foot must taste like Cotton Candy

There must be something about Donald Trump's tastebuds that make him crave the flavor of his own foot.  I mean, he sticks his foot in his mouth so often, that's the only explanation that I can come up with.

CNN has a list of groups that he's managed to offend.  They include the disabled, Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists, Blacks, Asians and Women.  The list also includes the other Republican candidates but, that's the nature of the beast when you're running for president.  (You think Kennedy and Nixon didn't exchange barbs?)

And yet, he's still the front-runner as the Republican nominee!!   Sure, his numbers have dropped, but HE'S STILL LEADING IN THE POLLS!

Has the Republican voter worn blinders this ENTIRE campaign season?  I mean, I KNOW that there are black Republicans and disabled Republicans and female Republicans.  There HAVE to be.  And yet, 31% of those polled would still vote for him.  Sheep...

UPDATE: (12-14-2015)  The Don has managed to do it again.  He recently introduced an idea that would prevent ANY muslims in the country.  Now, this may seem relatively harmless except, this will include American citizens!!  That's right.  We're supposed to shut down immigration of muslim people.  Then, muslims already in the country must stay in the country because, if they leave the country for ANY reason, they will not be allowed to re-enter, even American citizens who are muslim!!  And, the real kicker, this may not include our muslim Americans fighting in Iraq and Afganistan, but he feels that we should watch them, or, as he puts it, "be ever vigilant".  

Now, where did I leave my swastika armbands?  

Ben Carson, the current runner-up, can't seem to get support from the one group that he should bet on!  While he leads the Republican field with Blacks, Hillary and Bernie get more support than he does.

Ted Cruz likes to misquote others regarding national issues...

Marco Rubio can't seem to find a fact he couldn't distort, as well.  Maybe I'm just super-sensitive to the failings of the Republican group, but DAMN!!  And, let's look at what other groups are saying about the candidate.

Jeb Bush?  Well...  Sorry Jeb.  You seem poised to lose your place at the big-boy table.

Now, let's look at Hillary's records at FactCheck.org regarding recent statements.  Sure, she's a politician so things are a different shade of gray, but fewer outright untrue statements come from her and/or her campaign.

And Bernie?  Well, he may not get his facts straight 100% of the time, but at least his solutions to the nation's ills make sense!  If you look at his campaign platform, I'm sure that you'll find, at least, five stances that can affect you in a positive way.

One more link.   This points to the New York Times and their take on the public statements made by most of the presidential candidates.  VERY revealing!

Christ, folks.  Vote with your brain.  Vote with your wallet.  Just check what the candidates say and apply it to your own lives and experiences.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

No Trucking

This was my truck.  It's a 2007 Kenworth T-600.  I never gave it a name.
I had to get off the road in 2010 due to a cerebral aneurysm.  It was sudden, and it was taken care of in no time, but it took me off the road, just the same.  Since that time, I've had more than one person ask me if I miss trucking.


Like any job, there were parts that I miss.  Of course, there are the parts that I won't miss at all.  When I moved from Milwaukee to the U.P., there were parts that I missed, parts that I didn't miss, and parts that I never knew I'd miss, but were part of the city experience that just aren't part of life in the country.  Trucking was no different.

I don't miss cranky, and sometimes surly, dispatchers.  I don't miss long waits for loads.  I don't miss Chicago traffic (or Indianapolis, or New York, or Baltimore...).  I don't miss areas where the nearest real truckstop is another 50 miles down the road when you have 15 minutes left on your drive time.  I don't miss the first two or three weeks of winter, as people re-learn how to drive on ice and snow.  I don't miss tarping/untarping a load in -20F weather.

On the other hand, there's no sight like the mountains of Colorado in the winter.  There's nothing like the smell of the citrus orchards of Florida.  There's nothing like watching the sunrise over the fields of Kansas.

My days often started at 3 a.m. with a walk to the bathrooms, a trip to the coffee counter and a look at the breakfast offerings at the counter.  Mostly, breakfast was a sandwich.  Egg, ham and cheese was the usual fare.  Usually, on an English muffin.

At 4, I walked around the truck making sure that the important things were still working, connected or stable.  I checked the load securements, be it straps or chains.  I checked the tarps for holes and made sure that they were held down properly.

By 4:15, I was on the road, trying VERY hard to miss the rush hour of the nearest city.  I could usually get about 150 miles under my belt before 7 a.m.

At the time, the Dept of Transportation said that a driver had 14 hours from the time he started working to complete his driving.  During that 14 hours, you could only drive 11 hours.  That meant that three hours of your day could include time loading/unloading, meal stops and breaks, but once you had driven 11 hours, you were done behind the wheel.  You could continue to work, but you were done driving.  You could only resume driving after taking 10 hours off-duty, be it sleeping or just lounging around.

Chicago wants your money.  BAD CHICAGO!!
Light loads were always welcome.  Empty, my truck and trailer usually weighed near 29,000 lbs.  This changes from truck to truck, and from trailer to trailer depending on make and model.  The limit for 5 axles (the typical truck) was 80,000 lbs.  A little math tells us that up to 50,000 lbs of freight was possible.  Most of the loads that I carried were around 45,000 lbs.  But, on occasion, loads of 10,000 lbs came along, and those were the ones that made for easy driving.  You passed other trucks on the way up long hills.  You had no problems achieving 7.5 mpg.

Fully loaded, you were lucky to get 6 mpg.  Some will say that 1.5 mpg isn't that much, but when you save that much over the space of one year, that translates to nearly 3000 gallons of fuel (never say "gas" in a room of truckers).  Fuel prices during the time I drove were nearly $4 per gallon.  So, that's a savings of $12,000 per year, if you could get good mileage.

Now, you wouldn't have light loads if it weren't for the heavy ones.  There were loads that nearly maxed the capacity of the truck, and were outright tough to get down the road.  I'm talking about the coils of steel that were always heavy, HAD to be tarped and rarely ran down the road without some sort of attention, somewhere along the route.  Other examples include lumber that towered over the trailer, and I was sure that there was a bridge along the route that would take the top layer or two off of the load, or there was the load of steel bars that liked to slide fore and back because they were impossible to strap down securely in all that ice.


Oops.  Time to consider a job in the food service industry.
You had to watch for the accidents, of course.  Truckers are an odd lot.  Most are conscientious and attentive to the job.  Most of the drivers out there know their stuff.  They know the route they're taking.   They know the bridges.  They know the areas where ground clearance could be an issue.  They know the traffic conditions and they know what parts of which cities to avoid at what time of the day.  I tried to avoid Metro-Chicago after 7 a.m., or before 7 p.m.  If that was impossible, I avoided the downtown streets of ANY city.  As a flatbed driver that wasn't as hard as it was for the van driver.  Those guys deal with deliveries to the downtown stores and warehouses, and I wouldn't have their jobs for anything.

Trucking is one of the few industries where one mistake will cost you your job, your property and/or your life.  Weather conditions, road construction, fatigue and even, bug migrations can affect your daily drive.  You go to sleep one night believing that tomorrow won't be that much different than today, only to find that 18" of snow fell overnight and today's maximum speed will be about 45 mph.  You pick up a load that you've hauled a hundred times before only to find that this one has some nagging peculiarity that causes you headaches with your tarps or straps.  You can pass five Level 1 DOT inspections in a row just to get hit by that one taillight that went out 2 miles before today's inspection point.  There are days where you're either the slowest truck on the road, or you're stuck behind the slowest truck.  I'm not sure which example is most frustrating.
Then there are the sights!!

There were the load origin points and destinations where you were early, only to have to wait for 6 hours before you can load or unload.  There were other points where you couldn't get there fast enough, and once you were loaded/unloaded, couldn't get off the property quick enough.  Load numbers didn't match purchase order numbers, and oversize permits were never available for the next state, but the permits for the last state you'd pass through were ready yesterday.

But, I'd make it through most days, hitting the cruise control, turning on Sirius/XM and watching the world go by.  Howard Stern in the mornings and Classic Rock in the evenings.  Watching the sun come up over the Colorado Rockies, and watching it go down over the Louisiana Bayou.

Peg and I got the chance to see Vegas, something we'd never have been able to do otherwise.  We toured Nashville during a layover.  We saw New York City, Orlando, Dallas, San Francisco and Charleston, all, places we'd never been and may never get to again.

So, do I miss trucking?  Sure.  Would I do it again?  Sure, but I'm here now, and there's no where I would rather be.  I'm a richer man for having experienced life on the road.  I would recommend it for any 21 yr old kid ready to see the country, but if you can't handle shitty hours, hard work and being gone from home for extended periods, consider a life in customer service or manufacturing.

For vids that will illustrate life on the road, all family-friendly, I might add, I recommend the following:
 Indiana Jack Jack has been on the road forever.
Trucker Josh  Josh is a Canadian trucker who comes to visit the states on more than 50% of his runs.  Watch him and his two dogs, Diesel and Sargent.
Jade and John  Husband and Wife team-truckers.  They run from Memphis to the West Coast on a dedicated run.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Grammar Nazis

I am somewhat the Grammar Nazi.  I'm not the best one, I'm sure.  There are, no doubt, several who have read these posts who would attack entire pages of my material with an editor's pencil and kill the entire thing, but I know more of the rules than you might guess.  Punctuation is not my strongest suit, but spelling and usage are.  I try my hardest to use words as they are intended to be used.  "Less" versus "Fewer", for example.  "Good" vs. "Fine", "Your" vs. "You're", and the classic "There" vs. "Their" vs. "They're"...

Compliments of Oxford Dictionary's Twitter page
So it really bugs me that The Oxford Dictionary decided that an emoji should become their Word of the Year.

Can we truly call something that would be unrecognizable as a word without a computer translating it to a visual representation a "word"?  What happens when there is no computer between the person writing the "word" and the receiver of the message?  Then, an emoji just becomes a sequence of symbols that, alone, make no sense.  :-(

We called them "emoticons" until the intervening computer translated them into graphical representations of that sequence.

OD defines "word" as: "A single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed."  I suppose that an emoji can be considered a word if you use this definition.  It seems to meet the requirements.  It is a distinct element, it is often (though, not usually) used as part of a sentence.   But, is it still a word?

A list of the most recent Words of the Year include a hashtag, and the word "hashtag", itself.  While one might fit the definition of "word", I'm not as sure about the other.  Just as nominating a specific emoji might make me wonder if OD should start to use it's own definition of "word" when announcing their "Word of the Year".

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A new idea for Social Security

I don't know how many people are aware that our country's millionaires are NOT paying their fair share into the Social Security fund.  There is no easy way to explain it, but here goes:  If you make money at a job that deducts FICA from your paycheck, you're paying into Social Security.  You continue to pay a percentage of your income up until you make $106,000.  At that point, you stop contributing to the fund!!  You can make several million per year, but you stop paying FICA after the first $106k, each year.  That means that our country's richest citizens are not paying their fair share.  Most of us are encumbered by this throughout our working years.  Yet, CEOs who make a million a year will only pay %10 of what should be their fair share.

Many people, if they thought about it, would know that our problems with SS would be alleviated simply by telling the "1%" to pay up.  "You were fortunate enough to make this kind of money, therefore, you should be able to contribute to those of us who were not as fortunate as you, to compensate for your good fortune."

Elizabeth Warren - D, Mass.
Japan has an informal policy regarding the pay offered to CEOs.  What ends up happening is, the CEO of the average Japanese corporation will only take 1000% of the average worker's pay.  In other words, if the average pay for a factory worker in Japan was USD$65,000, the pay of the CEO of that corporation would be approximately USD$650,000.  When was the last time you heard of an American CEO making that seemingly low wage?  I heard about this practice several years ago, and I can't say that the practice is still in effect, but it sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?

Elizabeth Warren is the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts.  She has a new plan for those of us on Social Security.  She lays out her plan this way.  I say that it's high-time that there was a cost-of-living increase that reflected the real numbers that those of us on SS have to deal with.  Medications cost more.  Utility bills are going up, steadily.  The only reason that SS hasn't seen a COL adjustment is that gas prices are going down.

Bernie Sanders - I, Vermont
Democratic Presidential Candidate
Bernie Sanders came up with a plan to improve our healthcare.  This plan does one thing.  It removes two words from the Medicare prerequisites.  Those words?  "Over Sixty-five".  Basically, give Medicare to EVERYONE!    Now there are those who believe that this will raise taxes to compensate for the cost.  Listen folks, you already have deductions from you check for health insurance.  The average cost of the average taxpayer is near $150 per month.  That's $1800 per year.  As a Social Security recipient, I already have to pay $104 each month for Medicare.  If every worker in America paid into the fund, that amount (the $104) would go down, and the average worker would see an increase in their net pay.

Once again, I'm going to ask you to check the Republican plan for SS and Medicare.  Do the research and tell Washington D.C. what you want to see in your future...

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Final Update and a look at Election Season

I'm going to dedicate the first paragraph to our recent issues at home. By the time they were done disrupting our routine, the folks downstate made right with us regarding our complaints.  I'm not going to say that EVERYTHING is fixed, but the emergent and important issues were finally dealt with, and we're happy enough to stick around.  That ought to make a few of the folks around here REAL happy (level of sarcasm to be determined).  Episode over...


DONALD TRUMP IS A FARCE!!  Were I a member of the Republican Party, I would have sued the leadership, long ago, to disavow this joke!  Republicans, REAL Republicans, should be embarrassed that he decided to co-opt their party.  The best analogy I can find to fit him is, he is the most mean-spirited version of Ross Perot.  Oh, sure.  He's great at pointing out that there is a problem.  His description of the problem is colorful, and, sometimes true.  Where Trump really shines, though, is in providing a supposed solution, something Ross couldn't do.  And he comes up with real doozies.  It's too bad that they don't really address the problems.

The number of people that he insults every day is outrageous, and many of them don't realized they've been insulted.  And, the ones that don't realize it are the biggest cheerleaders he has!!  Seriously.  People who say that they would vote for Trump CAN'T be listening to a thing he says.

80% of America cannot afford to be Republican.  It's just a fact.  The Republican Party is not out for the little guy.  Odds are, if you're reading this post, you cannot afford to be a Republican, either.  It's an assumption, but it's as close to true as I can manage.

And the Republicans cannot afford Donald Trump.  There are SO many viable candidates that are genuinely concerned for party policy; what they consider the will of the people.  They don't get the exposure they deserve.  The Donald is only concerned with the will of Donald Trump. His exposure is foremost in his mind.  He doesn't need to hear the electorate because they should be listening to him.  He continues to waste the party's time by diverting attention from the real issues that the real candidates are busy tending to.  It's high-time that one of the other Republican candidates told him, "Sit down and SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

I'd love it if it were Carly Fiorina.  I don't believe that she'd be any better at running the country, but she would be my choice for telling Trump where to stick his tower!!

I'm so liberal, I'm nearly socialist (little 's').  My choice, if the election were held today, would be Bernie Sanders.  What's not to like?  Universal health (although social medicine would have worked for me), expanding Social Security, labor rights, minimum wage...  Bernie will probably never get the nomination, but it'd be nice.

UPDATE:  I think this article at CNN ( GOP Candidates can't settle with debate sponsors ) addresses the exact problem with Republican politics.  I'm not saying that CNBC did right by the candidates in their debate, and I don't think that Fox "News" (the quotation marks should be mandatory, BTW) will be any better.  But, it's that last paragraph that bugs me.  "As we have for the previous three debates, the Trump campaign will continue to negotiate directly with the host network to establish debate criteria that will determine Mr. Trump's participation," a spokesperson for Trump said...     
What's to negotiate?  
(Begin Snark Mode) "Hey, ask The Don (Which, by the way, is how he is to be referred to while on camera) about his immigration package.  You're gonna love how crazy he gets in front of the camera!  Please DON'T ask him about his failed marriages, or the failed businesses he was involved with before his daddy came and saved his ass.  Oh, and that little 'package' that we promised you will be on your doorstep.  Don't spend it all in one place.  :::snicker:::."

For those of you following the last few blog entries, THAT was nearly slander.  Not quite, but close.  Except, I'm not a reporter, and the snark was satire.


UPDATE #2:   The sheer stupidity of Ben Carson's pyramid theory makes the mind wobble. I suggest that everyone read this article.  Especially, if you're in high school and need to find a way to show your instructors that you don't need to know history to run for president.  In the linked article, he is quoted to have said, "Some people believe in the Bible, like I do," Carson told reporters. "And don't find that to be silly at all and believe that God created the earth and don't find that to be silly at all. The secular progressives try to ridicule it anytime it comes up and they're welcome to do that."

"Grain Storage"?  That's his theory?  Really?  I have to say, for a prominent surgeon, a man dedicated to science, Carson's theory is about as laughable as....  well, there aren't many things as bad as this.  Never mind the fact that scientists, for the last hundred years, have known that the pyramids were tombs.  They can prove it from the bodies found in the tombs.  Not one shred of evidence exists that points toward "grain storage" inside the pyramids.  I think the next time I need Neurosurgery, I'm going to have to ask my surgeon what the pyramids were for.  The answer may save my life.

Two GOP candidates down, 9 more to go.  And that's just at the big kid's table.  The candidates that didn't make the cut, last time out, include Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham, and they're being joined by Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee.  And, now we're down to seven.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The story with Ironwood Estates

In August of last year, we rented a trailer in a modest trailer park in the township.  The same park would not, and could not, exist within the city limits due to ordinances regarding the layout of new construction or construction of prebuilt homes.  They have to be a minimum of 28 ft. wide to pass muster.  The average trailer is only 15 ft. wide.  But, I can't blame the owner for having bought in to a park that is outside the city limits.  I mean, a guy can't help where the park was built when he buys it.  And, so what if he exploits the fact that the above mentioned restriction doesn't apply outside of the city limits.  It's the same tactic used by corporations who move entire workforces overseas, where government oversight and government regulation of child labor laws and fair hiring practices are lax.

At the time we moved in, we were given a checklist of things to go through as we moved which pointed out the things that required attention and maintenance, as well as covering us for damages to materials in the trailer that were made before we moved in.  I'm not responsible for the rip in the living room linoleum caused by the previous tenant, for example.  On that checklist, we noted several things that should require an immediate fix, as well previous damage similar to the example.  We went over that list with the manager of the trailer park who told us that the big things would be taken care of in time.  That included, at the time, soft spots and sinking spots in the floors, and windowpanes that did not have all of the glass in them.

That was two managers ago.  Keith, the guy who managed the place at the time we moved in, told us he was moving on because, while he'd like to get some work done in the park, the owner, Bob, refused to pay for, or deliver, the materials needed.  We were sorry to see him go.

Bob decided to bring in one of the hotshots from downstate ( Michigan East Side Sales ) who would come in and take over.  Now, Bob was coming up from downstate with a crew about once a month in the months prior to the winter of 2014/2015.  It turns out that a veteran of those trips, Brad, was taking over the park in November.  We approached this situation with skepticism due to Bob's reported history.  As it turns out, Brad was another nice guy who wanted to get things done around the park.  Unfortunately, none of those things were in our trailer.  Oh, our snow was plowed.  Brad was more than happy to talk to the neighbor about his wandering dog  (more on this subject, later).  But, the smell from under our kitchen sink remained even after two "fixes" by the park maintenance workers.  There were still soft spots in the floor of our kitchen, our hallway, our living room, both bathrooms and our guest room (literally ALL of the rooms in the house!).

Then, January hit.  Shortly after the first of the year, we noticed that 3 out of 4 of the windows on the east side of the house began seeping water.  This water, when it contacted the cold glass of the outer pane, froze in to the most delightful icicles and icebergs, the largest of which, ultimately, measured 22 inches, side to side, and near 5 inches thick against the glass of the window!!  Now, I just want you to imagine an icicle that is 22 inches around.  I could grab the thing around the middle with both hands and my fingers wouldn't touch.

January is also the time when the electric/heat bill flew through the roof.  I know, you'll tell me, "Of course the bill went up.  It's winter in the U.P."   I know it was winter.  The temperature in my bedroom was a brisk 40 degrees all season long.  And, I'm being liberal with that estimate.  I know, I know.  There are little tricks to moving heat into a room.  We shut down every heater vent in the rest of the trailer and left only the three servicing that room open.  That didn't do anything.  We slept with the door to the room open and a fan moving air through the door.  Okay, that warmed it up slightly at night, but I don't keep my bedroom open to the world during the day.

So, as any good tenant does, I contacted Brad, the Manager.  Brad says this sounds like a roof leak, or possibly a leak in the siding between the roof and the window frame.  Either way, neither theory could be tested until spring.  I didn't like that revelation, but it it's winter, there is snow/ice on the roof and I don't need a hole in my wall while the mercury indicates a balmy -20°.

Brad mentioned in January that he didn't have a list of maintenance issues in our trailer.  I told him that we gave a list to Keith in August.  Brad said that the list must have been lost, and he needs one to make a list of materials that Bob needs to buy.  He had a hard time getting Bob to buy anything, but he wanted to get an idea of what was needed.  Okay, I thought, let me make another list for you.  And, in February, I did, again mentioning all of the major items as well as the little nags that I didn't want charge against me (remember that linoleum?).   Added to the list; a new hole in the porch where a board had broke.  The hole was large enough to swallow our small dog or break the ankle/leg/knee of anyone misplacing a step.

So, I eagerly anticipated Spring.  By the end of March, Brad informs us that he is leaving the park and going back downstate due to personal issues.  That brings in a new manager.

The ramp that no one used.  They spent two weeks on this one, while mine sat, waiting on a whim from Bob.
So, fast-forward to April.  There's a new maintenance guy in the park.  "Henry" (who prefers to remain anonymous) tells us that he wants to get some work done around here.  This place has quite the reputation for being a slum and he wants to change that.  It's not like it takes a lot to get these places back in shape.  Then it'll be easier to keep up the place.  I'm thinking, the guy sounds like things might be looking up.  "By the way," I mention.  "I've got work that was promised to start in the spring, and it IS April..."

"Let me get a list of issues you have and I'll get a look at them," he said.

"Nancy," the new manager, "should have the list that we gave to Brad in February."

What's this?  A 10 minute job?
It turned out that Nancy did NOT have a list from either August of '14, OR a list from February, '15.  On May 8th, we finally got smart.  We had gone through the house from one end to the other, mentioning everything we could remember; windows, floors, walls, etc., and gave that list to Nancy, keeping a copy, and mailing a copy to the head office in Alpena, MI.

So, Bob comes to my house on May 10 and Peg explains each item on the list and how it affects how we live.  By the time he finally got around to tell us that he didn't think the windows were a real issue, I had to pipe in.  I told him that we didn't have icicles in our windows all winter.  We had icebergs!  We didn't want a complete deck with a built-in barbecue, we wanted a hole fixed and we wanted the steps adjusted to something more reasonably pitched.  We didn't want hardwood floors throughout the trailer, but we wanted to get rid of the linoleum trampolines that were there now.  In so many words, Bob told us that only one of the items on our two-page, single-spaced, bullet-pointed list of issues would be "fixed".  As of the time I write this, even THAT issue remains un-"fixed".

As of the beginning of September, this year, we began depositing our rent in an account at our bank, and we sent a Notice of Tenant’s Intent to Withhold Rent Due to Needed Repair to Alpena.  I'm not kidding you when I say, we sent the letter on the 2nd, they received it on the 7th, and by the 10th, the maintenance guy is at my door with our May list of issues.  Looks to me like someone in Alpena said: "Oh shit!  They're hitting us in the wallet!  We better look like we're doing something about all of this!"

I wish the lighting was better, but it was SOAKED!
"Henry" says that he's going to start working on our stuff at the beginning of the following week, so that weekend we began clearing the things from a closet that provided access to plumbing for our tub on the other side of the wall.  What do we find there but a soaked wall which had seeped, soaking clothing that was stacked on the closet.  Turns out that the entire time we've been there, water spraying from the hot AND cold water lines to the tub had soaked the wall, the ceiling, the floor under the tub and closet...   Wow.  Just, Wow.  After thinking about it, I've been paying an electric bill for what could be 12 months that included the hot water that was now draining into this wall!




We're into October now,  We've withheld this month, again.

Right at the front door.
The State of Michigan has a .pdf that guides both, renter and landlord, through the process of renting homes  ( Tenants and Landlords: A Practical Guide ), and settling disputes.  In it, there is an example of that letter of intent to withhold rent.  There is also a section that told us that, until ALL of the issues are resolved, we don't have to give our rent to the landlord.  We do, however, have to have the funds available, in that account.  We'll probably be holding payment through November.  We'll see.

I know that there are a few of you who, while reading this, have screamed: "GET OUT OF THERE AND MOVE SOMEPLACE ELSE!!!"
Repairs continue.

I'm sick of moving.  When we got here, Peg said that she liked the layout of this place and could really do something with it.  We were always assured that the work would get done, and we were always under the impression that it was waiting on Alpena to start the ball rolling...

So, yesterday afternoon, Nancy stops us to inform us that Kiley, who apparently runs the park from the Alpena side, wants us to call him.  He's the guy that Nancy and "Henry" report to.  Okay, I think.  Let's hear what he has to say.

Peg called him and they spoke for about 5 minutes.  He mentioned that there was no way he was going to have the windows replaced, and that, as long as there were people working on some of our issues, that we should give him our rent.  We told him that we were considering holding back some of the money to replace ruined clothing from the closet fiasco, as well as money for electric that heated the water that leaked into the wall.  Let's never mind the fact that, all that was needed for the windows were panes of glass that were missing.  I don't need new windows.  Sure, I want them, but we don't get everything we want.  We also told him to begin the process of evicting us.  When the time comes that we get to a courtroom, we think we have a fighting chance of coming out on top.  Most of the lawyers that we talk to agree.  The repairs continue...

The story continues...   Film at eleven.
Water damage at the window

Along the same wall
More at the wall


...and it's layers thick!!

Good thing no one fell through the linoleum
So, fast-forward a few days.  I've been debating on whether to publish a lot of this.  There are/were parts that color some people in a bad light.  I'm not writing this to bash anyone here, at the park, for trying to do their job.  "Henry" and Nancy can't help it if there are no funds available for them to buy the things that would repair our problems.

The thing is, there is one common thread to all of this.  Everyone, from the on-site manager and the maintenance supervisor all the way to the main office at Alpena; everyone tells us the same thing.  They can't get past Bob telling them he's not going to put money into the park.

More layers..
We're the first tenants that they've seen in the park that decided to assert their rights and demand that repairs to our unit are complete before we turn over our rent.  We're the first unit to withhold that rent by depositing it in a bank account.  We appear to be the first unit in recent memory to write-up a "Notice of Tenant’s Intent to Withhold Rent Due to Needed Repair".  It sounds to me like we only have people paying attention to our issues because we did it the right way.  And it sounds like the only way to get anything done is to withhold money.  Hit Bob in the wallet and let the chips fall where they may.

We called the main office and talked to Kiley, again.  He wanted to know when we would be forwarding money to him for the two months rent they feel we owe.  We informed him that we are still holding rent because there are items on our list that are important and haven't been addressed.  We also told him that we feel that, because we've had damage to property due to the water leaks, we'll be deducting the cost of that, as well as the cost of the heating the water that sprayed the wall.  All in all, and considering the huge hassle this has caused here, we think it's fair to hold BOTH months that we've withheld.  I don't think there's a judge in the world who would say that it wasn't fair.

I'm nearly a week into writing this, and I really don't like letting people in to my household business.  Honestly, however, I've found that writing this has become somewhat cathartic.  This issue has become the topic of nearly every conversation in my home, these days.  I'm sick of hearing it all the time.  I think I should be compensated for the headaches.

I don't get a whole lot of money, these days.  Disability isn't what it used to be, I guess.  So when I lose the necessities, like clothing, to a problem that could have been avoided were it not for the negligence of someone else, I feel like someone owes me.  When I get a bill from my power company telling me that I need to pay for heating the water that was spraying into the walls, I feel like I should get something in return.

And, as long as there are people who are willing to let themselves get screwed like this, there will be people like our current landlord getting rich off of us, while ignoring our well being.  Us?  We're finding a good lawyer.  I figure, if his rates are similar to most, a lawyer will as for 30% of what we win if we should take this to court.  Now, that would motivate me, as a lawyer, to raise the roof and fight that much harder to help us win.  We've heard of cases where the tenant walked away, not only  without having to pay the rent that they withheld, but also with compensation, damages, court fees AND lawyer fees paid by the landlord.

If you're already living here, take our example.  The only way to assure yourself of a solution is to hit Bob's wallet.  Make the complaint, send off a letter of intent, and withhold your rent.  Talk to other residents of the park, and when you find enough of them that are just as unsatisfied, start a rent strike!!

Short of that, the solution is to find legal representation and go to court.  When Bob tells the judge, "They haven't paid me the money I'm owed." we fire back with "Where is our rent going if you're not fixing the homes, paying the water bill, maintaining the park vehicles (I'm waiting for winter to roll in, just to see what his plan for snow removal is all about), etc., etc.

If you're not living here, already,...  well...  don't.  Just, don't.

Rumor has it the entire park is up for sale.  Most folks might say, "Better the devil you know..." but I say, "Bring on the new blood."  Maybe someone with the sense to take care of his renters will buy the place.  Maybe...

GET A CLUE!!

GET INFORMED!!

GET WHAT YOU DESERVE!!

Just one more thing before I publish this.  I won't make any friends once this goes out.  I tried hard to make sure that anyone named in this came out looking, at least, human.  In most cases, my hassle isn't with "Henry", Nancy, Keith, Brad or anyone else working for the park.  (There have been some doozies.)  But, everyone who has worked for the park says that the cause for the problems with maintenance are firmly on Bob's shoulders.  He won't put money into this park, yet he continues to buy parks downstate.  Most of the people who have seen these downstate parks have said that they are orders-of-magnitude better maintained and attended to.  There are rumors floating around that the "shit-trailers" that are found in the downstate park are transported up here.  Now, these are rumors and talk is cheap, but I believe more than 50% is true.

In the end, if we're evicted for some reason beyond our withholding the rent, you can bet that this is where it all started.

Wish us luck...


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gadgets

I have a confession.  Okay, most everyone I know can tell you this, so I guess it's more of an admission.  I'm addicted to gadgets.  If it's coming out in the next few months, I want one.  If I've seen others using a new gadget, I come up with several hundred reasons to have one of my own.  As of now, I have absolutely no need for 75% of the gadgets that I want.  I don't need the gigabit router and I don't need the GoPro Hero 4, but I have imagined several reasons why my life would be better if I had one of each.

That's not to say that I currently buying any of them.  I've long realized that I will never be able to afford all of the gadgets that I want.  And, even if I could afford them, I realize that I may never have a need (or use) for most of them.  But, the ones I could use...  

When cable started offering internet access, I had to have it.  I went from 1.5 megabit speeds, in the beginning, to the current 60 megabits, and I'm behind the times!  I was the first on my block with near (relatively) instant website load times!  Dial-up?  Don't make me laugh!  

I've always had this thing for finding and wanting guitars.  Seeing as one can only have so many guitars before being crowded out of my own home, I've had my eye on Line 6's HD500X multi-effect processors.  I have their UX-2 Studio (one of the last indulgences I succumbed to) hooked into the computer, now.  I can only imagine getting the HD500X out in public.  But, at $500 a crack, I won't see one soon.  

From my previous post, it's obvious that we have a new (to us) car.  Now, all of a sudden, I have a need for a dashcam.  I don't know much about them, but that doesn't matter.  I keep seeing these two guys on my shoulders, one saying: "C'mon.  You KNOW you want one.  Just get out the plastic and get it over with," and the other saying: "Yeah, but you have to eat and pay rent, too."  In most cases, the latter wins out over the former and sanity reigns.  It's the same story with multi-effect processors and GoPro cameras and RC helicopters and...  you get it.

I bought a GPS unit a couple years ago.  It's not like I needed the help getting around.  I spent 5 years running around the country in a semi.  I know how to navigate.  But, you know how, when you see a hotdog, your mouth waters?  And then, to justify having purchased it, I notice that my speedometer isn't all that accurate when compared to what the GPS says.  And, I didn't know that there was a road behind that house.  Interesting...

So now, Apple has come out with a new watch.  I don't even like Apple.  Since the early days of the Mac when I found out that everything they produce is proprietary, I've disliked Apple's business model.  What do you mean, I have to buy the $3000 computer just to get their operating system?  I might have liked OS7, or OS8, or OSX, but I don't want the hardware.  I only wanted a chance to let the operating system impress me and THEN I'd have bought the rest.  So, I've settled for Windows (to replace OSX), MusicBee (replacing iTunes), and Android (as a suitable substitute for iOS).  Mostly, I'm happy with that.  I prefer Android on my phone.  I hate the way iTunes practically takes over my music library.  

But, I think I need a new Apple watch.  I haven't even seen one outside of a website, but the thought won't leave me alone.  The Timex Expedition that I received for Christmas some years ago still tells time, as advertised, but it doesn't sync with anything.  And, how am I ever getting along without Skype on my wrist.  Placing a call?  Heaven forbid I actually use my phone!  How perfectly gauche.  Phones were made to entertain me and to keep my contacts organized.  Just like how my personal organizer keeps my paper receipts in order.  (Who am I fooling?  No one actually owns a personal organizer anymore, do they?  And, paper receipts?  That's what e-mail is for.)


Monday, March 2, 2015

Back on the road

Through most of the '90's, I didn't own a car.  I lived in the City of Milwaukee and they have this great bus system.  Back then, it won some awards and it wasn't the worst system I'd ever used.  I was happy with this arrangement.  There was a bus stop within walking distance of every apartment I rented during my 15 years in the city, and the busses always went to the places I worked and played.  Most of the times that I needed to go beyond the reach of the bus system, I was usually able to find rides from friends.  This was especially true for camping trips and group activities; out of town shows, visits to friends in other cities, etc...

Then, an amazing thing happened.  I bought a second-hand Isuzu pickup.  Strange things began to occur.  In an effort to anticipate all that could go wrong, I began leaving early for work, and arriving 45 minutes earlier than ever.  I was always the first to arrive at gatherings.  I was the first to volunteer when someone needed a ride.  I was beginning to love my ability to...GO!

I love to drive.  Put me behind the wheel and fall asleep in the passenger seat.  You may wake up to find yourself whizzing through Minneapolis or, at least, Chicago.  My best friend and I arranged a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  The plan was to rent a car and get two other friends to ride along, splitting the driving duties as much as possible.  That plan lasted until two minutes after we left Avis, then I proceeded to drive the entire 14 hours to Louisiana.  After a solid week of frivolity, I drove back, too.  Many is the time I found myself becoming the "designated driver".  You see, I don't drink anymore.  I had a girlfriend who once told me that driving was the reason I quit drinking.  I firmly believe that I didn't need a reason to quit drinking, and there are NO bad reasons, but if being able to continue driving is one of the perks, who am I to argue?

And, for the most part, I'm the safest and best driver I know.  I don't always stay at the speed limit, and I don't always use my signals, but I've never been directly involved in an accident, and I've avoided several by inches that wouldn't have been there had I not anticipated chaos and backed away from potential troublemakers.

In 2001, I moved to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan.  My dad told me, "You're going to have to have a car if you want to live up here."  Who was he kidding?  I would need a car to keep my sanity!  I was amazed that ANYONE could live more than 45 minutes from a Walmart!  Yoopers took all of this in stride.  I hear stories about how, years ago, the natives would drive for more than an hour to get to the grocery store.  Lunacy.  To add insult to injury, the only public transport around would get you to the most necessary places (groceries, hospital, etc...), but never far off of the main road.

That little pickup was eventually replaced by a Chevy S-10.  The mileage wasn't as good, but I had more room in the cab.  The S-10 served me for another 45,000 miles.  During that time, we (the wife and I) took it everywhere.  We visited relatives miles away.  Road trips to national parks and state recreation areas were common.  Add the tedium of a daily 20 mile round-trip commute and the miles just piled on.  Maintenance was vital, and oil changes were many.  I could tell you how long before the next oil change simply by listening to the engine start.

By 2005, I'd achieved a life-long dream of becoming a truck driver.  I was given a brand new 2007 Kenworth T600 after two years with the company.  In 5 years, I put on half-a-million miles!  I hear that's the average a trucker might expect, but to me, it was outstanding.  I got to see more of our nation than most citizens know exist!  With the wife along, I've been to 47 of the 48 contiguous states (Vermont being the elusive exception).  The wife missed a few chances to go to Maine, so she has only logged 46.

But, as all things, my dream job came to an end when doctors told me that a brain aneurysm was going to keep me off the road.  A small bout of depression followed the news and I spent the next couple years staggering through life, aimless.  Yet, the cars came and went.  There was the Malibu that ultimately became the victim of a truck tire that came loose at the top of a hill and came to rest upon the rear quarter-panel.  There was the Grand Am in which I hit a deer.  There was the Buick that was an inherited item from my wife's brother.  And, there was the Chevy Blazer that became junkyard filler after I'd decided to do some repairs on my own.  You see, I'm great driving 'em, but not so good fixing 'em.

That leads me to the most recent time when I didn't have a vehicle.  It lasted nearly a year.  I walked through the snow.  I walked in 80° F. heat.  I walked in the rain.  You see, the one thing that made being without a vehicle painless while I lived in the city was public transportation only feet from my front door.  Now I was being forced to walk for times of up to 30 minutes just to get to a bus stop, and that only worked if I was going to one of the "necessary" places that the bus could get you to.  The "shoe-leather express" is a cruel mistress when you've acclimated yourself to 27 mpg on the highway.

So, let's fast-forward to the near-present.  I've spent the last couple years admiring the 2004 Saab 9-5 that my wife's oldest grandchild had.  So, when he gave us the opportunity to buy the car, I jumped as high as I could to make it happen.  We were getting a deal, and I wouldn't let this one pass us by.  We didn't pay rent that month, and both cable and electricity payments were light by about $100, each.  I didn't care.  We were MOBILE, again!!

Now, I can get to the doctor appointments that require 300 mile round-trips.  Now, we can see family that live beyond the limits of the county that we live in.  My dad tells me, "You're going to have some expensive repair bills with a foreign car."  To which I say, "Yeah, but I'm mobile!!"  And, I plan to constantly and religiously change the oil and watch the other fluid levels.  I plan to have a running account at the car wash.  I plan to...  well, I plan to drive the crap out of the car!

 I joined several forums, online, that are dedicated to the brand.  Sites like SaabCentral and SaabWorld.  On those sites, I've learned that there are things to watch for.  I have to keep my eye on the DIC, and the EGR, and the CPS...  I have learned the difference between my DICE and my TWICE.

This car was built in a country where they put up with weather like ours all the time.  Those boys in South Carolina who are building BMWs have nothing on the boys from Sweden when it comes to building a winter car.  I never thought I'd own a car with heated seats.  Now, I have no idea how I lived as long as I have without them!

We're mobile again, and we're happy.