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 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.