General Commentary (May be military related) email: Kudzuacres1@juno.com
Friday, November 01, 2002
If you are an Alabaman and have ever wondered where your tax dollars go, think about this. There are 105 representatives and 35 senators. Each has a $1,000,000 walking around fund (read vote buying fund) to use for "special projects. That $135,000,000 would go far in solving some funding problems, but then Senator Barron and his cronies would not have anything to distribute in their districts. The $1 million is discretionary funding meaning it is not appropropriated for a specific purpose. They still spread the pork around to the really deserving.
Three days to go until election day. I will venture out to vote although there is not a candidate for any office that I find really attractive. I was reared in a yellow dog democrat family, in an area of the state where Republicans were long past being an endangered species since there were none. My Dad usually worked for candidates for local offices, picking the ones he thought would do the best job. As I grew older, I learned that he expected whoever won to take advantage of the office for personal gain. Dad was happy if they did a decent job at what they were elected to do. Thievery was just part of the deal.
Since returning to Alabama after a 28 year absense, I have come to know people who I refer to as "Devout Democrats". They make Yellow Dogs look undecided. These people I do not understand anymore than I understand those who hate all Democrats. I would like to believe that all candidates are running because they want to serve their fellow citizens and think that they can do that best from public office. What I see is people whose family business is politics, people who have simple solutions to complex problems and unfortunately, people who seem to have no program of their own, but who are opposed to someone else's program. None of these encourage me to get out and vote.
This weekend I will look at whatever I can find on candidates positions and vote for those who seem to have a clue. Maybe for the other offices I will write in apolitical friend's names.
I work from a home office. I am involved in writing a contract package that will be a couple hundred pages when finished and which has several components which must be consistent with other parts of the package. It takes a bit of concentration to keep things straight. Windows crashes several times a day which doesn't help in the concentration department, but through automatically saving my work, I seldom lose very much. But there is one thing that is driving me up the wall.
Telemarketers. I get at least a dozen calls a day, always at the wrong time. Since they are calling the number on which I receive business calls, I stop what I am doing and answer only to hear silence for five seconds and then a happy voice telling me I have won a guaranteed prize, asking if I know my insurance needs, do I know how much money I could save by switching phone companies and other such useful questions. But today took the cake.
I answered the phone only to hear a cheerful voice say, "Hi, I am Joe Doe and I am running for state representative". I didn't hang around for the rest of his tale, but now at least I know who I am voting against in at least one race.
The Axis of Weevil Blog Scarefest 2002 is over, but I have a few more scary things to tell you. First, the monthly "When can I retire based on the stockmarket" update. I figure with the conclusion of the best month for the market in 15 years that I am now able to retire by age 100 give or take a couple of decades. Looks like I will not have to work more than a decade or two past death.
I wandered out and looked at the Mini. It is still there. Don't know why I thought it might move since it is on jack stands and my floor jack has sprung a leak and won't rise high enough to get the car down off the jackstands. If any of you plan on stealing the Mini, be sure to bring your own jack. If you will knock on the backdoor, I will be happy to help you. On the subject of cars, Terry at Possumblog has been looking at a semi-abandoned MG Midget down the street from his house with idea that he can resurrect it. He emailed that he needed me to talk him out of his delusion. I had to tell him I was the wrong person since I have not admitted that I have problem. Is there a 12 step program for car nuts? After thinking about Terry's situation, I believe I can save him some money on the Midget. Find out when the owner is not home but his wife is. (Sorry ladies, but women are very seldom car nuts. Shoes yes, but not cars) Go see the wife and offer to tow the Midget away. It will yours for free. If you can hock the kids, you can probably raise enough money to get the Lucas Electric components working. Ten, twelve years at most, you can drive it around the block. Your young'uns, assuming you have gotten them out of hock, will be thrilled watching their old Dad drive his little toy. Of course, they will not be Auburn Grads since the college fund will be tied up in the Midget, but surely they will understand.
Adventures in Furniture: I have a plan to make the modern mattress fit the antique bed. It involves power tools and Home Depot so I may not survive the weekend. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you are better for it.
Thursday, October 31, 2002
I grew up in a very rural area of Alabama. The people were hard working, mostly small subsistence farmers or families who worked on the farms. The only educated people in the community were the teachers. For lawyers and doctors, we had to elsewhere. About a third of the people were members of a religious group who believed in healing through prayer to extent that they never went to doctors under any circumstances. Although the rest of us thought they were a little strange, it did not keep us from practicing a little alternative medicine.
If you had warts you went to old Andy who by casting a spell removed the warts. Now I read everything I could get my hands on as soon as I learned to read and by the age of ten or so, I had become a sophisticate and did not believe in such hokum. Old Andy was fun to hang around however since he had the best stories of any of the adults I knew. I had a string of warrts on the back of my left hand that had been there for several months. One day I was visiting with Andy when he happened to see the warts. He asked to see my hand. Holding my hand in one of his, he waved his other over it and muttered something I did not understand. I forgot about it until a few days later when my Grandmother mentioned that she was happy my warts were gone. I looked and there was no sign that I had ever had a wart. Did Andy remove the warts or did they just run their course?
I told some friends this story at lunch a couple of years ago expecting to get laughter and a little fun poking. Instead, they got strange looks and were obviously uncomfortable. Assuming I had said something to offend them, I started to apologize. They stopped me and said that the reason they were a startled, was that one of their co-workers could remove warts and other skin blemishes merely by touching the area. No one who worked with her believes she can do it, but they all see her for their warts rather than going to the doctor. These people are well educated and work in a high tech research and development facility. Their education and training tell them that no one can remove warts with a touch, but they have seen it happen.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
This is not a scary story but rather one about a man who was cursed. Somehow he seemed destined to kill people. Now before you start to think that I know people who are serial killers, I do not. My friend was an Arizona State Trooper back in the 50s. He spent a year riding with a mentor before he became a full-fledged trooper and got his own gun. His mentor gave him a .357 as a gift for becoming a real badged policeman. In the picture taken at the graduation ceremony, the gun is almost as big as Jim who stands all of five-three.
Every night during the training period, Jim and his mentor stopped at a roadside tavern, one of the hundreds that still stand at the intersections of otherwise deserted country roads in the Southwest. Jim's job was to go into the bar and buy two cigars for the evening's patrol. Over the year of training, the routine became: Jim enters mostly empty bar. Barmaid yells "Hi Jim", Jim yells back. Jim buys cigars, says bye and leaves bar.
First night with Gun: Jim enters bar, barmaid ignores him. He is a little taken back, but then sees that patron at bar is pointing a pistol at the barmaid. Jim draws .357. Patron starts to turn. Jim sees second man with gun off to his right. Jim blows head off man at bar while falling to the floor and rolling to get a good shot at other man. Shoots second man. Stumbles outside and starts throwing up. Partner runs up wanting to know what in the hell he has done. Jim is suspended during investigation. Time on job as full trooper: one hour. People killed: 2.
Fast forward two weeks. Jim is reinstated and will be working the next night but on the night in question, he has driven his personal car to attend a college class. On the way home he is run off the road by a bunch of kids. The kids back up and Jim starts to get out of his car to give them a good chewing when he sees that the two who have gotten out of their car have guns. Jim draws trusty .357, exits his car as the shooting starts. He loses his windshield before he kills both assailants. Time on job as full-fledged trooper: still one hour. Number killed: 4.
During the second suspension, Jim joined the Army as an electronics repairman where he stayed for the next 26 years. See Jim can't stand the sight of blood. It makes him throw-up every time and it looked like the life of a trooper would be just one big upchuck after another.
The Scariest Story of All
Mac Thomason has a post on a candidate with a tax plan. Don't they all have one? The Alabama tax code is a truly scary thing. Sales taxes run as high as 10% and are assessed on food and medicine. The state income tax starts at one of the lowest levels of income of any state. Property taxes are relatively low and are further reduced by a "homestead" exemption of 50% but then low wage earners typically don't own property. Oh, I'm so sorry. They own trailors, but the homestaed exemtion does not apply to trailors, does it? If you are a low income person in Alabama (Ha, Ha), the scariest thing this Halloween is the tax code.
For anyone who might actually read this, I am not a low income person. I also am not a leftwing fuzzy thinker. I am a firm believer in the benefits of work and think everyone should pay their fair share of taxes. My emphasis is on the word "fair". In Alabama, the burden is placed unfairly on low income people.
Now For a Real Scary Story
Way back in 1992, I bought a 1960 Austin Mini with the intent to restore and drive it as my daily transportation. The car had been sitting for 7 years and was not in the best condition. The fact that it was Colorado Springs in the middle of a blizzard, 20 degrees and 30 MHP wind really encouraged close inspection of the merchandise. Of course the fact that it had an oversized motor and a five speed transmission made it irresistable. Anyway, I had a friend in England who could go to wrecking yards and buy any used parts I might need. The first thing was to get it home. It quickly became apparent that towing was not going to work since there was no way to hook a regular tow bar to the Mini. I borrowed a boat trailer (you take what you can get) from a friend, enlisted the assistance of several friends and actually got the thing loaded and across town to my garage.
First things first. Obviously, the teacup sized brake drums would never stop the the car from the speeds I envisioned were possible with the 1500cc overhead cam engine that, by the way, actually started after an oil change, WD40 down the sparkplug holes and removal and cleaning of the entire fuel system including the gas tank and Lucas fuel pump. Of course there was a major cloud of blue smoke from several broken piston rings. So my friend in england picked up a set of disk brake front suspension parts and mailed them to me. After being opened by US Customs, not all the parts were repacked and had to be reordered. Of course, the 10 inch wheels with the racing slicks would not fit over the new disk brakes so a set of 13 inch wheels and tires were necessary. Since the cloud of blue smoke continued to appear everytime the engine was started, a rebuild was necessary. Oops, the engine seemed to be the only one ever imported to the US so English friend was commissioned to buy all the rebuild parts.
Are you starting to catch on to the scary part yet?
My wife asks when the car will be drivable and I tell her April. It is January 1993. I did not tell her what year, decade or it turns out, century. Today, the car is sitting on jack stands in my two story workshop built so I can have a place to work on the car. It has a beautiful yellow paint job, a nice rebuilt engine, disk brakes (that I have not been able to get to work properly) and four really nice wheels and tires. It is surrounded by extra parts purchased just because I might need them. The extra parts include the new old stock engine and transmission I bought because it was the second one in the US.
OK, the scary part. I just discovered that my wife has kept a record of everything I have spent on the car and she actually expects me to drive the thing.
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas is rumored to have a number of ghosts. The ghosts are supposed to be the spirits of Indian War era soldiers who lost their lives under horrible circumstances. The most haunted of all the venues is said to be the old Artillery Barracks that have been converted into family quarters for students at the Army Command and General Staff College.
In the mid-1970s, a friend and his wife were assigned a set of the quarters during their year at C&GSC. In those days, the students spent time on field duty as part of their training. During the time that my friend was on one of these field sessions, his wife had what she can only describe as a terrifying experience with something not of the natural world.
My friend is a lover of large dogs, especially aggressive breeds such as Dobermans and at the time had a dog named Saber. Saber was the scariest dog I ever saw. If you were going to visit with the family, you had to call ahead so that Saber could be restrained preferable behind double doors since he would try to get at anything that came into his territory. The dog would attack anything and feared nothing that I ever saw. In fact, he had to be put down because in the end, my friend could not control him and he became too dangerous to keep around.
On the night in question, Judy was lying in bed reading when she heard a noise that seemed to come from the living room of the apartment. She assumed it was Saber moving around until he came running into the room at top speed, jumped under the bed and hid. With the dog whimpering under the bed, Judy got up and investigate. The .357 magnum she had provided the courage she needed. When she stepped into the living room, she felt what she describes as a chill from the depths of winter and saw a shadow move along the outside wall. She ran back to the bedroom, slammed the door and got under the covers with her pistol and Saber where she stayed until dawn.
Judy does not know if she felt, heard and saw a ghost, but she never spent a night alone in that apartment again.
I try not to comment on things about which I know nothing, thus the paucity of posts. This is opinion only since I really know nothing, but the comments I see in the Media concerning the Russian hostage situation and the gas are just plain idiotic. I see the situation as similar to the one on Flight 93. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. The terrorists say that they will start executing hostages at dawn if they don't get what they want and when dawn comes, they start killing people. The Russian Speznatz pumps some kind of gas into the building and rushes it. Over 100 hostages die but another 700 survive. On the good side, there are about 50 fewer "freedom fighters" in the world.
You don't like what Putin ordered done, you come up with a better solution. I am sure that the talking heads and the Russian agitators who are second guessing Putin had a plan that would have worked and all could have walked away as brothers and lived happily ever after.
Sorry, but what you learned in play school doesn't work in the real world. You be nice to some people and they will still shoot, stab or whack you and take your money, car house and life.
Update: This stupid cartoon is a prime example of what I am talking about. There were no hostages at Waco, no one threatened with being shot (the FBI negotiators were getting tired) and the government could have waited forever. Putin had to act.
A True Story
The last man publicly hanged in Alabama was from my tiny rural community. He was convicted and hanged for killing a peddler. Afterwards, the jury members said that they were not sure he had killed the salesman, but that since they knew he had killed several other people, he needed to hang anyway. Among the others killed was his brother who he killed for the pay of one hog. The killing was contracted and paid for by his mother who claimed to be a witch. The residents of the community believed her and gave her and stayed as far from her house as possible. The family was just all around nice.
Most of the killings alluded to by the jury took place in a low, treed, narrow spot in the road about a half mile from my grandmother’s house. She always insisted that we never walk through there after dark since the ghosts of the victims were there and seeking vengeance for the crimes committed against them. Of course, such cautions are bait to teenage boys so one dark Autumn evening we snuck off to check it out for ourselves. In the party were my brothers, three brothers who were our best friends and me. Oh, our best friends were the great-grandsons of the hanged man.
As we walked down the road, the corn grew taller on each side of the road and it grew darker as we walked into the low, narrow wooded area until finally, it was pitch black. There was brave talk all around, but to tell the truth, doesn’t real dark scare you even though you know better. Things grew real quiet, until one of the boys screamed that he saw a light moving in the woods. We all looked and there it was, a small light floating towards us from the woods. We could see that it was not a lightning bug, it did not seem to be a flashlight and there was no sound until we heard a low moan.
Well six boys covered the half-mile home in record time, surely breaking the Olympic record for 800 meters.
Later we tried to convince ourselves that it was a joke played on us by some of the older boys or our parents, but we had not told anyone we were going there. Maybe it was a moonshiner scaring us away from his still or maybe it was the ghost of a long ago murder victim. Whatever, we never again went near the place after dark
Monday, October 28, 2002
I heard something week the gist of which was that negative political spots keep thinking people from voting, but the politicians continue to use them because studies show that they actually work in that people tend to remember the negatives more than positives. This morning as a business meeting was breaking up, someone said that he would probably not vote for either candidate in the Alabama governor's race because he was fed up with the negative spots. In about two minutes, we realized that we all felt the same. The average education of the group is a Master's Degree. Apparently we do not fall into the group who vote on the negatives. We decided to write in the name of one of our co-workers for governor. In the rest of the races, we have decided that the non-incumbents may be the the best bets.
To think, Alabamans voted down the lottery, but are obviously not opposed to gambling considering the state of our government.