Take That, Hardware Store Man!

You may recall, dear reader, that I had something to say a few days ago about a horrid experience at my local hardware store, having to do with my broken lawnmower.

Well, to put a finish on that dark tale, I went online, found the necessary part, found the operator’s manual for my machine, and multiple Youtube videos on how to replace the throttle cable. Yesterday, the part arrived. In the nick of time, since the wife was ready to cut the grass with a scythe she was so ashamed of the yard.

Behold the record of a new achievement in handiness, a new level of tool skills, and the end of any reliance on third parties for small engine repair…….

Reality Bites

lawn mower

Dreams do come true. At least some of the time. One of my dreams, when I was an itinerant manager for one of my employers, was to live in a house with a yard. I wanted to cut the grass, fertilize the grass, water the grass, and enjoy the calming power of a well tended lawn. Fast forward 20 years. The dream has become a reality, and sadly the reality is not an exact copy of the dream.

Not being mechanically inclined, I have always relied on the kindness of strangers to help keep electro-mechanical devices functional. My lawnmower is such a device. Every couple of years I do something stupid which results in a trip to the lawnmower repair guy. I gladly pay the premium.

Last weekend, in the midst of a lawn manicure, the machine abruptly died. After a minute or two of confusion, I diagnosed the problem as a torn throttle cable. This has happened before. I knew that a professional would be required.

So, bright this Saturday, I and the lawnmower travelled to our repair guy. Down Folly Road, in the company of the thousands headed to the beach. The trip was fruitless; the hardware store had eliminated small engine repairs from their income statement. But, I was told, their other store, on Johns Island, still provided the service. Off we went.

The young man working the counter seemed disinterested in my arrival. I told him what I needed and he said they might have the part in stock. Where was my machine? Did I want him to do the work? What kind of machine was it? Patiently, I explained that I had left the machine in my car, and yes I wanted him to perform the miracle. As to the machine, all I could recall was that the engine is a 6.5 HP Briggs & Stratton. He pointed to the shiny display of machines for sale and observed that the name was written on the chassis (inferring, of course, that my stupid self ought to be able to read and recall such facts). The cross examination, the haughty demeanor of the pimply faced teenager, and my apparent inability to exchange such technical information, all combined to force me into a state of mind that I rarely encounter. I departed the store, telling the manager that I would never darken their door.

But, the grass remains uncut. Not a dream, but reality.

The White Album in Perspective

whitealbum

While checking out at my local grocery store today, I found myself in the slowest line. It was too late to change lanes, as everyone seemed to be getting ready for the Super Bowl. The gent in front of me was no exception, as his buggy was filled with beer, wine, snacks, and the rest of it. The only notable thing about him was that he looked a little old for most of his shopping items, having the hunched back, baggy jeans, and strap-on shoes that tend to mark our senior citizens. My opinion was confirmed when the clerk advised him of the total and he whipped out his check book. I sighed deeply, annoyed that he wasn’t availing himself of a debit card, and irritated that he didn’t start writing the check until he had a total. Typical, my inner voice pouted.

old man writing a check

Finally paid, he said a cheery good-bye to the clerk and everyone else in the vicinity and shuffled off to the exit. My order was quickly scanned, debit card payment accepted, and everything bagged.

As I exited the grocery and parked my cart, I heard the melodious strains of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da coming from a nearby car. Looking around, I saw an elderly woman sitting in a new Subaru Outback, windows down, stereo cranking. It struck me strange. Looking further, who should be putting groceries in the back but the old man slowpoke from the check-out lane? My smile was quick and involuntary, as I started to hum along. As I passed her window, I said. “The White Album – what a great set of songs!”

“What”, she hollered, trying to turn down the volume. “Great song”, I said, smiling.

The White Album is 45 years old. You do the math……..

Old Man Winter

rochester_mn images

The in-laws are on their way to the Mayo Clinic for their annual comprehensive physicals. Hope they took their winter clothes….

Rochester, MN
Currently

9.1 °F
Partly Cloudy
Humidity: 62%
Wind: 1.0 mph from the NW
Wind Gust: 7.0 mph
Visibility: 10.0 miles
Dew Point: -1 °F
Precipitation: 13% Chance of Rain
Pressure: 30.40 in (Rising)
Updated: 1:09 PM CST on January 20, 2013
Source: Quarry Hill Nature Center, Rochester, MN
Forecast
Today

14° | -11°
Monday

0° | -8°
Tuesday

10° | 0°
Wednesday

25° | 10°

That’s a little chilly for this Southern boy……

Happy Birthday, Bobby Lee

relee

The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light

The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.


Welcome Back

Wordpress

After months of inactivity and the relentless torrent of monthly bills for hosting and domain name ownership, I have made the move back to WordPress. My hope is that I can continue to write on subjects that you and I enjoy without the expense. We’ll see.

I am going to play with the site a bit, so if you notice changes, or want to offer suggestions, just email me.

As always, thanks for reading…..

Neptunus Lex

I lost a friend yesterday. His name was Carroll LeFon, and he was a retired naval aviator. He leaves behind a wife and three children, and thousands of fans who knew him as Neptunus Lex. He was one of the first bloggers I followed when I became aware of and gained access to the internet. I knew him as well as anyone can know someone they have never met. We had similar interests, and he was what I had once wanted to be, so it was easy for me to think I understood every word he ever posted.

Rest in peace, Captain. 

Student Loans and STEM

Blog 21 Oct 10 student debt

Random thoughts generated by observing all the PYTs (pretty young things) in the grocery store on a Sunday evening:

How many of the people just graduated from universities are hamstrung by their student loans? Anecdotally, most students graduating from college are saddled with about $20,000 worth of debt. If they’ve just graduated from law school, or earned an MBA, or gotten a Ph.d. in the sciences or liberal arts, it is likely double that. At a minimum, they have to figure out a way to come up with about $300 every month, for at least 5 years.

Easy enough if they are computer science majors, or hard science types whose diploma is in high demand. Not so much for your basic English Lit. major, or, even worse, those gender studies folks. For the latter, it’s likely a struggle to find any job, let alone a job that comes with a salary sufficient to meet the debt obligation.

So, for a lot of them, it’s a future that doesn’t include a shiny new car, or saving for a few years to accumulate a down payment for that first house. No, it’s back to the parents, or slumming with a few room-mates in that edgy part of town where the rents are low enough for a group effort to pay the landlord. Last year, the Washington Post reported that the total outstanding student loan debt was $865 Billion.

Every year, our institutions of higher learning churn out thousands of graduates whose educational achievement, for the most part, doesn’t promise a future of movement up the social ladder.

It is such a waste.

Here’s what I think. First, instead of wasting more money on crony capitalism, investing in solar panel plants, and lending money to Brazilians so they can sell oil to China, let’s write off existing student loans, subject to a few simple rules. Give each debtor a 2-1 tax credit for ever dollar invested in short term Treasuries. Suspend debt repayment while saving is occurring. Once the debtor has accumulated sufficient savings and tax credits, write off the debt. Allow the student to transfer the accumulated funds to savings program created for the establishment of a 10% down payment on a house or condo. I don’t think I have to spell out the benefits to our economy of such a program.

STEM2

Second, going forward, student loans would only be offered to students enrolled in a STEM degree. Remember, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Those degrees just happen to have the highest starting salaries for new employees, represent the hardest degrees at most universities, and are those programs most needed for the US to continue as a dominant player in the world economy.

Want to major in gender studies, women’s contemporary literary issues, or African-American history? Feel free, but don’t expect a dime from the US taxpayer. Because you likely won’t be able to pay your debt, and you most likely won’t be able to find a job to support yourself. Which means the degree is essentially worthless. And that is a luxury this country cannot afford any longer.

Jack Frost

Jack Frost
Jack Frost announced his annual visit to our fertile land with bolts of lightning, peals of thunder, and buckets of rain, behind which came the brisk winds of the North Land.

What a welcome visitor!

The windows have been pried open from their locked summer state, and the thermostat has been turned to a lower setting. The HVAC system thanks me for the welcome break, while the power company wonders where all the demand went. If I had a solar grid, I wouldn’t be selling the excess…

The daily constitutional won’t soak my exercise togs, and it may be that extra covering is called for. On the down side, walking in the dark is not really very much fun; part of the stimulation is looking at the other exercise hounds doing their thing, discreetly, of course.

Brown whiskey, my old friend, is now acceptable; perhaps even necessary to ward off Jack’s little friends, chills and cold feet.

Football games seem better.

But, best of all, the grass will soon be dormant, which means that your scribe will not have to waste valuable Saturday mornings on mundane things that take away from sports time.

Yea!