Monday, September 29, 2008

Checking Account

Wow, I am really confused. All the news about the economy sure sounds bad but the proposed fixes sound even worse. Since I grew up on a red dirt road and never got a degree in macro- nor micro-economics, it is necessary to simplify the discussion for my understanding. I can't even picture how big a pile $700 Billion is. Isn't the largest bill printed these days the $100? If so, would the pile of money be as large as a living room? A house? A block? Montgomery? They are saying that it is not a bailout, but rather an investment. If that is so, do I get some kind of receipt? Do I own a couple of houses in Miami? Or 5% of 30 houses? Who is going to keep up with my return on investment? What if I decide not to invest in real estate or mortgages at this volatile time? Can I just withhold my taxes for a couple of years? What will the government do if I refuse to pay taxes? Put a lien on my house? So what? I am not going to be paying the mortgage anyway. Why should I struggle to make a mortgage AND pay taxes when the government is paying for much nicer houses than mine? In fact, I think I will just let the government buy my house as part of that $700 billion investment and pick out.....say a $800,000 house. Wouldn't my friends be more impressed if I were behind on a $800,000 mortgage than on a $36,000 mortgage?

This is not helping me understand at all. Can somebody explain why the CEO of a failed company that needs government help to remain solvent is given a multi-million dollar severance package? Is this the business world's version of paying farmers not to produce crops? Man, I wish I could bankrupt just one company and retire as a millionaire.

So what would happen if we looked at the government budget like you and I have to look at our checking account? You know, where you can only write checks for the amount you have in the account. What would happen if everybody actually had to pay for the items they purchased? What would happen if everybody knew that ahead of time--before signing for a mortgage beyond their means? On the other hand, what will happen if there is always a bailout and we know ahead of time that if we can't pay, that somebody else will?

And finally, how is it fair for me to have to pay more in taxes to service a debt created by elected officials in order to remove bad mortgages from the books of aggressive lenders? How is it fair that many live in much nicer houses and will be subsidized by my tax money when I have stayed in a modest house I could afford and get no help with my mortgage? How is that going to encourage financial wisdom and discipline in the future? Am I really the only one that is so confused?

Sunday, September 28, 2008


First, let me get the eating of crow out of the way. The "blackout" by the Georgia Bulldogs last night turned into a "knockout" by Alabama. So any hope of a perfect season is out of the way and I don't feel compelled to watch all the games now. I am still a Bulldog fan and will still use that to aggravate Auburn and Alabama fans--but not so much the Bama fans this year.

Second, I apologize for the dearth of posts recently. I am in that part of the ongoing cycle where I have comitted to more than I have time to do. One of those activities is the Coosa River Challenge. It is a multi-discipline race involving trail running, mountain biking, kayaking, rapelling, street running, dirt road running, and some "special challenges" we will not learn of until the day of the race. It is a 4 to 6 hour race, so it is not something to decide the day before that you would like to give a try . I will not list my current responsibilities that compete with "training time" but as the October 4th date draws near, the realization of insufficient training is becoming a very concrete reality. On top of that, as I stretched in preparation for running the Swayback trail Thursday after work, I injured my back. Yes, it is ironic (but not funny) that after mountain biking and crashing and running over hills and rocks and roots that my first injury would come while preparing to run. A trip to my doctor Friday (first day I have called in sick in about 10 years) netted some strong muscle relaxers. Maybe I can get in two more workouts before race day and be well enough to keep moving Saturday. It is also ironic that the trail is named for Swayback Bridge over a section of Lake Jordon that is designed to have a shape very much like my new posture. Turns out, having a swayback does not make you faster on Swayback Bridge Trail. Here is a picture of the famous bridge;

Third, I want to tie my feelings as a college football fan to my thoughts about the Coosa River Challenge. I mentioned my disappointment over Georgia's loss and I do feel a little sense of personal loss, which is silly. I don't have any real relationship with the Georgia football team other than being from that state originally. In fact, after living the first third of my life (so far) in Georgia, I have lived twice as long now in Alabama. When I came here at the tender (and naive) age of 18 people tried to force me to choose between Auburn and Alabama. It seemed that a prerequisite for living in the state was declaration to one team or the other. When I mentioned being from Georgia someone said "So you are a bulldog fan?" Been one ever since. That is about as deep as it goes. However, I have discovered that fans relate very strongly to their chosen teams. If the team is a winner, it indicates that the individual is a winner. Just for having a bumper sticker or window flag. When the team looses, it is devastating for some. I find myself falling into this trap at times. I have sat and watched 18-22 year old kids make mistakes and been frustrated because they did not try harder. I would no doubt be much harder on the kids if that was all I did--sit and watch. Thankfully, I have had opportunities (even as an old guy) to participate in sports competition that motivates me to get out and work my body as it was created for. That competition also forces me to be aware of how difficult it is to keep going at times--when your mouth and throat are parched--when the breathing can't catch up--when you are so hot you think you might throw up--when muscles ache--and when you ask yourself "What difference does all this effort make?" When announcers mention that a linebacker is playing injured, it is just words until I compete while injured. The quarterback has had the flu? He should just suck it up--until I try to run while sick. The more I do myself, the more I appreciate what those players do. And the more I want to be a participant, not just a spectator.

Here is the link if you are interested in the race. Come out and play! And here is the quote from Helen Keller that is on the website; "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

LaWanna is going to serve as cheerleader and photographer so we should have some pictures in a week. Hopefully, there will be lots of smiles. Wanna said she plans to watch us come through the transition area twice and then go wait by the ambulance. People have different ideas of what a cheerleader does.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Any Given Saturday--or Thursday

Nana na na, nana na na, hey hey, goodby!

That is what the college football fans of the nation are singing to USC this morning. Well, except for the left coast. Yes, I have a prejudice against California. I would love to (and plan to) visit the state to enjoy the incredible natural beauty. It is just that many citizens of the state seem to take on an arrogance that insinuates "our state is superior to yours and since I was born/moved here, I must be superior to you". That would not be so bad if the rest of the country did not buy into it. If it is from Hollywood, the nation accepts that it must be glamorous. If it is from Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive it is elegant and trendsetting. What happens in California will happen in the rest of the country--later--when the simple folks catch up. One icon that represents that attitude, at least to me, is USC--the University of Spoiled Children. The amount of money, natural beauty, and glamorous image of the state enable the school to buy, I mean recruit many of the best players. Some of them (remember O.J. Simpson) never get over the better-than-everybody-else attitude. This assertion, and national acceptance, of superiority carried over into the college football rankings AGAIN this year as USC was ranked #1 in the nation and everybody assumed they would cruise unbeaten into the national championship.

Apparently, the folks from the less glamorous west coast state of Oregon did not get the memo. Last night Oregon State AGAIN beat USC. Yes, that is correct. Unranked Oregon State--not even considered the best college football team in tiny Oregon beat the team considered #1 by a score of 27-21. And that was no fluke. Oregon State actually led 21- 0 at halftime. While USC should drop far out of the top 10 and be out of the title hunt based on one loss and a very weak schedule, that will not happen. Most teams will have at least one loss and this one will be distant history by the end of the season.

For now though, the four SEC teams in the top 10 will gain more respect for having to play each other and will be MUCH better by the end of the season. That is why bowl season is so much fun.

So, games like Saturday's match-up between Alabama and Georgia (likely 2009 national champions) become much more important. And fun.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What's the Big Ruckus?

Do you know what the Big Ruckus is about? Somehow I almost missed it. Thankfully, I discovered it in beautiful downtown Wetumpka, Alabama. And I have pictures.

This is a Honda "Big Ruckus". It is a scooter that was made in Japan 2005-2007 and sold in the USA as 06-07 models. Surprisingly, they are not selling them now. Timing is critical and if they were widely available while the gas prices were over $4 per gallon everywhere, the near 80 mpg probably would have made them attractive to folks that don't normally crave a motorcycle.

In the above picture you can see the "Road Kill" vanity tag. I am not sure of the owner's intentions, but I would guess that it has to do with the fact that the scooter is so utilitaritian and unrefined (no plastic panels anywhere) that its ugliness becomes its cuteness.

Notice that the cool, wide backrest actually folds down to become the passenger seat. The bike has a 250 cc engine which is plenty big. My first motorcycle was a 160 cc and my second was a 250 cc. I rode both many, many miles and had lots of fun on them. The 1100 cc (like I have now), 1300, 1600, 1800 and larger are just overkill to appeal to the vanity of would-be easy riders. This little scooter is obviously not about showing off engine size and chrome--or great style for that matter. The downside is that it is heavy for a scooter and the ride is not as smooth as a larger bike. The price is almost as much as a regular cruiser bike. In fact, you can get a nice, well-equipped dual purpose bike for about the same price. Since its main appeal would be simple economy, the price probably prevented it from becoming a best-seller. I hope they come back, however. There is a place in our traffic future for this cool little scooter.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Harley riders have PASSION! Good taste? Not so much. But lots of passion for motorcycles.

Friday, September 12, 2008


As Texas braces for hurricane Ike to come onshore tonight, the rest of the country braces for the effect it will have on gas prices. There hundreds of oil platforms in the gulf near the Texas shore and a large portion of the nations refineries are in Texas. Many of those have already shut down in preparation of the storm. Depending on the amount of damage from the hurricane, they could be shut down for days or weeks. What does that mean to you and me?

A funny caption for this picture might begin with "How many employees does it take to change the gas prices?" Three employees are changing the price to $3.99 per gallon at the Chevron on Hwy. 231 today. That is up nearly 50 cents in 2 days. In parts of South Carolina, the gas is already at $5.79 per gallon. The wholesale price has risen by $1 per gallon and most of that will likely be passed on to consumers. Much of that is logical and simply the result of supply and demand. Many will accuse stations of price gouging and perhaps rightly so in some cases. However, much of the problem is created by the masses. Every time this happens (and it is not unusual), pleas go out to conserve gasoline by curtailing trips and carpooling--at least for a few days until the storm passes and repairs are made. Every time the reaction is the same. Conservation and concern for community? Hardly. E-mails fire in every direction warning of sharp rises in gas prices and advising people to "fill up as soon as possible". Then everybody does. They fill up not just one vehicle, but as many as they own. There, that should take care of us for a few days, right? Nope, they come back with 5 gallon gas cans and fill them-4, 5, or 6 gas cans. Naturally, this depletes the reserves and stations begin to run out. If we could just learn to have a little patience and be a little less selfish, the result of the storm would not be nearly as severe.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Emotions--September 11

Tuesday night my partner, Donna, and I began our group counseling session with a guided imagery that we have done many times before. It is called "Self-identification". It is too involved to discuss completely here, but part of it guides the participants to realize that "you have a body, but you are not your body" and "you have a mind but you are not your mind" and "you have emotions but you are not your emotions". If we had an hour to talk, it would have much more meaning but you probably can see the direction. Many people define themselves by their bodies--either positively or negatively. Likewise, many rely on intellect and reasoning to portray to others who they are. And, you guessed it, emotions control the world of many as well. How we see and define ourselves largely dictates the choices and directions of our lives. There are many exceptions but the generality is that females lean toward and embrace emotions more and males value logic and rationality. I clearly fit the norm in this way, normally operating from a logical perspective and having great difficulty exhibiting patience with the highly emotional. There are times, though, when emotions drive my thoughts and actions. Today as I drove two hours each way to attend the funeral of a friend's father and listened to commentary on the 9/11/01 attacks, I cried some. Not for the recent death. The end of suffering from cancer was a relief to the deceased and all his family. Not for the loss of time when other, more fun things were planned. What better use of time than to hug a friend and say "I love you" when that is exactly what is needed? Some of the tears were for people who died on THAT day. It makes me very sad and very angry to think of the days, years, and dollars spent in planning to murder so many in order to be heard. This picture from my daughter, Laura's blog ( at this time last year adds another deminsion to the emotions.

Laura is the one kneeling on the right with friends from the church youth group as they pose on top of the World Trade Center. No, this was not 9/10/01 or anything that dramatic--it was 5 years earlier. But it could have been THE day. Somebody was headed there THAT day. Thousands were. Thousands were there. Thousands died. So the possibilities and the realities bring the tears almost to the surface. Then I think about where we are now and all that has transpired since THE day seven years ago. I see that we are a nation given to group-think that reacts based on emotion more than reason. Some political operatives feed information and puppets who think they are "independent thinkers" make accusations that the president of the United States blew up the World Trade Center. What??? Rosie says fire can't melt steel. What??? We take actions to prevent these terrible things from ripping apart other families and those who proclaim tolerance as the holy grail are suddenly intolerant of law enforcement agencies sharing information and actions that require professional, career soldiers to actually fight. It is almost as if half the country does not believe that evil people really lived among us for years and learned from our flight schools how to fly our planes filled with our families into our buildings, killings passengers, building occupants, passersby, and brave public workers who attempted to save all they could. Go back and look at that picture again. The buildings really existed. They are not there now. This is not a movie. And as we stand just weeks from electing the next president of the USA, the general consensus--if you believe the print and televised media--is that the evil ones are George Bush, oil company executives, and Christian conservatives. Actually, it is the "Christian" part that causes so many to hate President Bush. Is he eloquent? No. Is he suave? No. But how could so many hate him for those things? That is not it. They hate him because he will not give a wink and a nod to whatever lifestyle you choose like the president before him and at least one candidate that hopes to follow him. I plan to share my thoughts about the election in a separate post so I will not go further about that now. Obviously, it concerns me that there is widespread resentment for using our national defense to keep the bully out of our backyard. If I were coming into your yard and harming your child--or even your DOG--you would not tolerate it. You would not hesitate to call the police and insist that actions be taken to prevent my return. The irony is that those who most oppose attacking those responsible (as best we can identify and find them) are bothered by Christians who shine a light on sinful lifestyles. These who oppose the actions that have been taken fail to realize that their actions are leading us toward becoming a Muslim country that would cause survivors to remember the good old days of tolerance.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Here's your sign

I discreetly took a picture of this sign a couple of days ago to share with you. I will probably pass on the "Spical Made Jewely" for $1. But I would pay $1 for this sign. We could show it to our friends in Mississippi to encourage them to upgrade their public education system and match the success of Alabama.