Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My New Computer

The computer we've been using for, oh, about five years or so, was due for replacement. It had gotten very slow and aggravating, so my son who does all of our IT set-up got us a new one. This is a machine that he built, with lots of (all the things that make it work faster and better that I can't think of the acronyms for) along with a new keyboard, etc, and installed it. The old machine had the XP operating system; the new one skipped over the discredited Vista and has something called Windows 7. Well, it's different but similar. Different enough so that I have to do many things in slightly other ways than I used to and it's really slowing me down.

The new computer is very fast and that part is very satisfying. The downside, however, is the keyboard (or "keyborad" as I've typed at least 500 times by accident). It's not an expensive one, and I'm thinking that if you're going to get spendy on any one thing, it should be the keyborad. The old one I had was a heavy, expensive one. I got it (second hand) because it was just like the expensive one I used to have at work that I liked. Unfortunately, that one wasn't like an army blanket: I couldn't steal it.

Anyway, the new keyborad (might as well do what comes naturally) is a cheaper, plasticky thing that takes more deliberate pressure on the keys and likes to ignore the space bar a lot.

The real point of aggravation is the spacing between the very top line of keys (the F-numbers row) and the second row, the numbers and more importantly, the back space key. When you have a crappy keyborad, you especially need the back space button a lot. My old keyborad had a lot of space between those two rows, like 3/8 of an inch. This new one has about 1/16 so it's really easy to get into the F-numbers row by accident. I discovered that the F-12 key, right above the back space, is the Death Key. At least on this computer. When you hit the F-12, it goes irrevocably into the computer shut-down mode. So for example, if I am writing one of my posts like this, it all goes away.

I'd like to plug my old keyborad back in right now, but it has the round plug. My new computer only has USB sockets. You can get little adapters to go from one to the other, but we tried the $2 one and it didn't work. There is another one for $10 and I may have to get that one. It would be worth it.

Isn't it amazing how quickly expensive electronics become obsolete? At five years of age, my old computer was considered ripe for being done-for, just on the basis of age alone. Not long ago, I was at the Goodwill Outlet store where they sell all the dreck that doesn't move in their retail stores. The Goodwill Outlet store is not like the Donna Karan outlet store, for sure. Anyway, I found a little Minolta DiMage Xi digital camera in the electronics bins for 49 cents a pound; at 5-1/2 ounces, what's that, about 17 cents? This camera came out way back in 2002 and cost $449 new. It's rated at, if I remember correctly, 3.2 mega pixels. Now you can go to Walmart and get a 8.1 MP for what, $50? The little Minolta DiMage isn't worth anything; you can see that quickly online. However, because nobody wants this obsolete item any longer, the special proprietary batteries that it takes are very inexpensive now as well as wall chargers.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So What's the Deal with Bright Headlights?

Used to be, the DOT had national standards for specifications on car headlights that included brightness. For some years now, there doesn't seem to be any standard in how bright headlights may be and they get brighter and brighter with every passing year.

I can't speak for what's going on in other parts of the country, but young pukes around here like to install extra-bright lamp bulbs in their little Japanese cars and blind everyone else. Like with the blue lights, for example. I'm not sure why they do this; a form of aggression I guess, like they have brighter lights that you do, hahaha. Having the brightest light is like having the fastest car; it's a form of oneupsmanship. Or they get a feeling of power from being able to blind other motorists.

There's no getting around it, but for some people their eyes become more sensitive to light as they age. However; I've never liked having bright lights pointed in my eyes at any age.

Remember the days when the police would pull you over for headlight offenses? These days, there aren't enough of them around to waste time on such trivial matters. Also, as bright as headlights have gotten on newer cars, how would they even tell if someone was driving around with their high beams on?

Then there's the deal with fog lights. Lots of people who live in the city and the 'burbs feel compelled to drive around with fog lights on in addition to headlights, in any weather. Just because. I know extra illumination is nice to be able to see, but it comes at the expense of every other driver that is forced to deal with overly-bright lights.

I guess some of this comes as a consequence of of the lack of civility and manners that keeps creeping insideously into our society. In times past, motorists might've had some consideration for other drivers on the road. Now, it's "I've got mine and screw you, Jack."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Age of Aquarius was Horse Puckey

Now that I've gotten to be an old codger, it gives me a bit of experience and perspective to look back on in reflection. Maybe a little license, too. Sometimes, I hear Boomers talking about the Hippie generation, or the "Age of Aquarius" as if it was some golden time when everybody got along, there was this new awareness, etc. Horse puckey. Being carefree Hippies just enabled some young people to get along somehow in life without having to work for a living.

How about life in the communes? I've heard enough stories about this to know that many of those people lived in squalor and their own filth, too lazy or disorganized or factionalized to make a serious, honest go of country life.

And what about "Free Love"? It was free sex, without taking responsibility for the consequences and without having to make a commitment to a relationship.

How about Flower Power, the "Counter Culture", smoking pot, dropping acid, psychedelic music, weird hair and weird clothes? I repeat, it was all horse s**t no Boomer revisionist will convince me otherwise about all these years later. Just like the Japanese revising the history of WW2, the passage of decades doesn't change what happened.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Incompetence in Government

I've just finished reading the book, Killer Spy, by Peter Maas which is about the CIA traitor spy Aldrich Ames. For some reason, I've been interested in the stories of contemporary American traitors and have read similar stories about Jonathan Pollard (Navy employee who gave secrets to Israel), the Walker family (a navy family that made spying a cottage industry), and James Hall (US Army warrant officer who sold highly classified communications security information to the East Germans and the Soviets) and others. In terms of damage to US intelligence operations, Aldrich Ames has to rate way up there near or at the top of the list. His revelations to the Soviets resulted in the rolling up of numerous CIA intelligence operations which in turn resulted in the deaths of numerous US-recruited agents.

A consistent undercurrent in this story is the downright incompetence, inefficiency and malfeasance of the CIA. Ames fed material to the Soviet Union and later the security services of the Russian Federation for many years. During this time, he was an known alcoholic, flunked agency lie detector tests, left plenty of evidence of spending beyond his means, and the agency was aware that he had failed to report contacts with Soviet representatives. Ames frequently entered counterintelligence sections of the CIA where he was no longer assigned, trolling for information. This was a clear and repeated violation of the simple "need to know" principle of security.

I well recall that during the Cold War, the CIA was the dreaded know-all agency in the eyes of our Iron Curtain enemies. Mention of the letters "CIA" and people around the world would shivver. They did not know that it was just another bureacratic government agency, fumbling along, often with indifferent, sometimes careless employees.

Except for a big jump in the unemployment statistics, were half of all federal government employees to be laid off, most people in the US wouldn't know the difference. When you get right down to it, most government agencies are reactive in nature. Since most of them exist to perform a regulatory function, they mostly wait for events to happen and come to them. For this reason, it's difficult to measure efficiency in terms of work produced. So, an efficient employee who empties his in-box quickly is probably working on the same playing field as a slothful one who drags his feet along and whose in-box stays full. I've heard it all before, "Each individual worker has different capabilities."

Saying it another way, most federal agencies don't produce anything with some notable exceptions. The US Postal Service might be termed a productive agency, in that they perform a service and it's of a measurable quantity. Of course they are
flawed and suffer some of the same problems of inefficiency as other agencies. Other examples of "productive" government agencies might be the Bonneville Power Authority or the Tennessee Valley Authority, both of which actually provide a service, i.e., electrical power. Interestingly, these "productive" agencies that I mention have been reviewed for possible privatization and governmental divestiture in past; that's right, get rid of the only government entities that actually produce something and save money for people.

Many of the other government agencies are either road-block or obstacle creators or they have some purpose for giving money away. Regulation wouldn't be a bad thing in all cases, but so often in recent years we have seen so many examples where such regulation either favored special interests or didn't work at all.

Part of the problem with efficiency in federal employment are worker protections. Some of these go back in history to times when employees could be punished for their viewpoints in a system of political patronage. The protections were put in place to protect them from arbitrary management abuses. The political patronage system went away long ago but not the protections. In the meantime, they have also come under the protection of EEO, unions in some cases, and the nation-wide fear of litigation. Consequently, it's very difficult for federal employees to be let go for cause. Simply being a lousy worker won't do it (as it would in the private sector). Aldrich Ames was a good example. Even before he turned to spying, he was known to be an often ineffective employee and some of this was documented (but not all of it because much slipped through the cracks). Do we really want to retain ineffective employees in our intelligence services? The CIA didn't do any more to shed themselves of employees like Ames than the Social Security Administration might have.

Then we come to the Department of Defense. There isn't a valid argument for eliminating this agency, as a structure that provides for a national defense will always be needed given human nature. However, this one is overripe for reform. Many years ago, I worked with a Regular Army Major who espoused that the armed services, in addition to their normal function in providing national defense, also performed a service of social welfare. One facet of this service was to provide an employer of last resort for the unemployed and for youth with a lack if direction in their lives. The other main facet of this theory was that defense expenditures kept defense contractors in money, which not only enriched companies and corporations, but provided jobs for those employed by such enterprises. As time goes by, this theory is more and more supported by facts in evidence as we continue to maintain a large standing military.

There are plenty of arguments for not keeping a large standing force, number one of which is a serious reappraisal of defense priorities. Number two would be a realistic look at what can be financially sustained. Three and beyond involve considerations as to how warfare is likely to be waged in the foreseeable future. The days of elaborate and fantastically expensive super weapons systems might logically be considered a thing of the past. Laser beams nor scalar weapons are going to be any good against a suicide bomber with a dirty nuke in a suitcase. Reducing the active force and rebuilding the National Guard and reserve forces as true week-end warrior outfits might help offset the argument for having a force in place when it's needed in a hurry. In recent times, the reserve components have been looked upon as mere pools of easy manpower for the active forces.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We mourn the loss of our pets

Back around 1958 or '59, we had two cats, which were both white. One was named Frisky, and the other was named Homer. Frisky we got as a kitten from I don't remember where, and Homer was a stray that had come around where my dad was working and was brought home. We had a neighbor lady across the street who didn't like cats, and one day made a pointed complaint that our two cats had been in her yard and messed things up and what was my dad going to do about it? Well, in those days most people didn't think about keeping cats strictly indoors. My dad was angry about
this complaint, not at the cats but at the neighbor. Nevertheless, he wanted peace in the neighborhood (which most people were still interested in in those times), so he took both of our cats to the pound (which it was called then, not the "animal shelter") where they no doubt were destroyed. He didn't feel good about it, because he liked cats in general and these animals in particular but at the time, he didn't see another solution to keeping the peace with this neighbor. I was very upset at the time, but of course the passage of time heals wounds especially when we are young. Still, I think about and kind of mourn the loss of these two animals all these years later.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why Home-grown Terrorists?

Home-grown terrorists aren't much of a surprise. This happens when people substitute their own self-interests with an ideology and abandon allegiance to a support system. We've had the American communists way back to the '30's through the '60's, some of whom spied for Russia. We've had the German-American Bund before WW2, and later the American Nazi Party. These are examples of groups who choose an ideology over their own national interests. Now we have terrorists of different stripes but mostly Islamic types. They reject police protection, fire protection, all the government support network that they get here, for a nebulous attraction to some terrorists who can't do anything for them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Warbirds are darkening the skies again...

It's that time of year. The weather gets nice and the warbirds come out at Paine Field in Everett, WA.

For whatever reason, Paine Field has become something of a concentration of warbird activity. There are two flying collections, plus a restoration facility for the Museum of Flight in Seattle. There are other privately-owned warbirds stored there as well.

The Historical Flight Foundation opened their doors not long ago with their flying collection. Since then, there has been a B-25D (old USAAF number 43-3318) in the air most days and making numerous flights most weekend days. Paul Allen's P-47 and P-51 have been zooming around lately as well.

I'm starting to wonder about the safety of all this flying of 65 plus year-old planes. I know these planes are well-restored and maintained, but still the fact remains that on average over the past 20 years, there have been about ten warbird crashes every year in the US. All those B-25 flights keep piling up against probability. I know some morning, I'm going to pick up the newspaper and read about a splash-down. It's going to be on take-off or landing, and it's going to be by a low-hours pilot.

Not too difficult to understand is that buying, restoring and flying warbirds is a millionaire's hobby. But we see some of these people at the gun shows all the time, it's just that they don't have the millionaire's money. They watch "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers" and the first thing they've got to do is buy an M1 Rifle so that they can be "part of history." I'm thinking this may be the same deal with wannabee B-25 pilots. I'm sure that pilots with plenty of experience are flying that B-25 much of the time, but I also imagine that there are interested people lined up to get "checked out" on the B-25 so they can say they too are a B-25 pilot. It's going to be one of those guys in the right seat.

I hope I'm wrong.

Anyway, there's big money in the warbird business, and as I said, it's a millionaire's hobby. It seems that they are now scouring the jungles for warbirds that crashed in WW2. Here's a link to an interesting article about that.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

The time I saved the day in Vietnam

On the softball field. I worked in the headquarters of the 79th Maintenance Battalion in Long Binh. Some of the athletically-inclined soldiers in my unit played softball against teams from other units. One day a game was scheduled with another unit, the team was loading up to go play and discovered one of the players was missing. I was still piddling around in the building and one of the men on the softball team rushed in, looking for a live, breathing body - any body - to avoid a forfeit of the game due to not having nine players. I wasn't a softball player and wasn't really interested in the whole deal. Still, they grabbed me and hauled me along to the game. I was sent to the place where I was likely to do the least damage, left field. I had no glove as the regular players brought their own. I was cannon fodder, a body being used to plug a hole in the line. After a couple of innings, I was standing out in left field, watching the birds fly across the sky when I heard a commotion and a lot of people yelling at me. I shifted my gaze to the game and noticed the ball was aloft in a high fly coming right at me. I put my hands up in a defensive gesture and the ball fell right into my bare hand and by some miracle didn't fall out onto the ground. As it happened, the opposing team had men on base and two outs. My astonished would-be team mates were pleased with my unexpected and accidental performance. After that, I commanded a little more respect from the softball players.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ladder Work is My Least Favorite

I avoid it as long as possible. At long last, I got down to some of this work this week. The ladder I borrowed from one of my sons-in-law has a fully extended length of 21 feet. My own extension ladder is in two sections of ten feet each, but only telescopes about 16 feet. The one I borrowed is of the design where it is hinged in the middle, and has extensions on both halves. This is a handy feature, as it can be folded up and transported inside my station wagon. Regular extension ladders are longer and more cumbersome. I think this product is called "Gorilla Ladder"

It doesn't help that I just read in our local newspaper recently about an incident where a homeowner was trimming a fruit tree, fell from a ladder, and broke his pelvis in three places. Ladders must rate up there pretty high on the CDC list as causes of household misadventures. Right up there with table saws and chainsaws (more about that below).

So, the work in part entailed trimming back some low-hanging cedar branches that were crowding my deck. They haven't always been thus, but trees have a way of growing over the years. Appropos of nothing, that phrase reminds me of a line in the movie "The Maltese Falcon" with Humphrey Bogart. While explaining a situation to the police, Sam Spade (Bogart's character) says something like, "...and the gun went off, as guns sometimes will..." Yes, don't they.

Anyway, I don't climb trees as a means of trimming. There are plenty of skilled climbers who have the equipment, the training, and the bodily strength to do it, but I cannot and will not. The closest I can get is with a ladder. When I run out of ladder, that's the limit on how high I can go.

One of the pieces of advice that comes in the instructions with a new chain saw is, "Never use a chain saw from a position on a ladder" or words to that effect. I do have hand saws for trimming trees, but I've decided that hacking back and forth while on the far end of an extension ladder is nigh as or more dangerous than trying to use something in some ways easier and many times faster. After all, the sooner you get the cut made, the sooner you can move on and maybe not fall off the ladder. That said, I'm not comfortable carrying up and operating from a ladder anything with both a gasoline engine and a moving, linked blade. Of course, you don't go up the ladder with the chain saw running. But when you get up there, you've somehow got to get the thing running, and of course you still wind up with the whirring saw chain nearby. As to getting the saw running, yes, of course you fire it up on the ground to make sure it will go, get it warmed up, turn it off, then hod the thing up the ladder, hoping it will replicate its performance up the tree. Chainsaws are supposed to operated upside down and at all angles, but there are times when they don't like to be tipped this way or that. What I'm saying here is, even after being warmed up, once you get one up a ladder, sometimes chainsaws get balky and don't want to start. Then you find yourself 20 feet off the ground, trying to yank the starter rope, etc. Not my idea of fun. Another obvious point is that gas-powered chainsaws are not as light as a pair of pruning shears, so you're also dealing with the weight of the machine up on the far end of the ladder. Yes, the pros who climb carry a chain saw suspended on a rope hooked to their belt. Sorry, I can't and won't do that. Mostly young pros who climb, etc, etc.

My answer to the problem described above was to buy an electric chain saw just for doing pruning from a ladder. These typically are much lighter than gas saws and therefore easier to handle, and they don't have the prospective problem of being balky once you get up on the ladder. They have the disadvantage of trailing a cord, but I've found that this is worth the trouble for the pluses received. Once you have the extension cords properly knotted, you just press the trigger on the electric and it goes. Along this same line, I have a tree pruning blade for my reciprocating saw ("Sawzall" or "demolition saw") and this works quite well.

It might be suggested that I look into those small chainsaws that are attached to the end of a pole for tree trimming. I have. These are suitable for pruning fruit and other roundish-shaped trees, but not much use for 75 to 100 foot conifers that go straight up. The reach on the pole of these machines can only be X far before they are either two "wavy" or sufficient pressure cannot be brought to bear with them.

I do not like working from heights, be it on a roof or on a ladder. I'm not afraid of heights, but I'm not comfortable working from them either. After while, you do get your "roof legs" but I never really like it.

After the tree pruning work was finished, I had the job of cleaning the roof and rain gutters along the tallest side of my house. The house is what is called a tri-level, with one side of the house being two storey, and the other side an intermediate storey with stairs up or down to the two storey side. It's a design that lends itself especially to sloped lots, and we are on a gently sloped property. The westerly side of the two storey section is about 50-some feet long and the rain gutter is 19-1/2 feet up. I hate doing this chore, and always have to push myself to do it. I've found that the borrowed 21 foot ladder to which I fit a stabilizer on the top end is just about the right combination for this job. I can rake about 2/3's of the lower part of the metal roof and clean the gutters out at a rate of about five feet at a time. That means that I have to reposition the ladder about ten times to clean this 50-some foot long section. I spread a tarp out on the ground as I go so I don't scatter the gutter compost around too freely. The U-shaped ladder stabilizer works as its name implies, and instills a bit more confidence in you when you're 20 feet up there. The stabilizer also keeps the ladder rails off the gutters because it sits on the edge of the top of the roof. It's also good for standing the ladder away from the wall when you are working on walls, painting, etc.

My ladder chores for this year are nearly caught up now. I still have a few maple branches that I want to get at before I surrender the ladder. If I were to suddenly become wealthy, one frivolous thing that I would spend money on would be to have a barber come to my house every day and give me a shave. I don't like to shave, but I don't like to be unshaven either. I don't want or need a yacht or a private jet; what I do need every day is a shave. Another little luxury I'd engage in would be to have someone come out and clean my gutters and roof for pay.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Goof-Proof Consumer Products

I wonder when the day is going to arrive when the risk of making and selling a consumer product will be so high that companies will no longer make anything. The risk/reward ratio, driven by product liability will just be so great so as to stymie all production of any kind.

Here is an old product that became unsafe. It wasn't unsafe when it was made, and it still does what the manufacturer intended and the consumer wanted at the time of manufacture.

This is an old three speed oscillating fan. I say old, but it hasn't been used all that much from its appearance. It works fine on all three speeds and the oscillation feature works. It weighs about twelve pounds, and has a cast aluminum base; all parts are metal of some sort or another. It has a nice, industrial-type heavy electrical cord. The motor head has a little built-in handle on the top of it for carrying.

This fan is dangerous and no longer suitable for use. The reason for this is because the fan blade guard is not idiot-proof. When this fan was made, it was supposed that normal, thinking people wouldn't put their fingers in between the spokes of the blade guard to "see if the fan was running." Fans were made this way for a good number of years, but the lawyers hadn't gotten ahold of the issue yet. When they did, fan manufacturers had to come up with fan guards that had many more spokes in them to keep idiots and children's fingers out of them. Back in the old days, thinking people would place a fan out of the reach of children, but like everything else, we now must have everything in life made safe for us lest we not have the common sense to hurt ourselves.

This fan is just like the hefty ones we used to have in the army, if we were lucky. If you wonder what I mean by that, just watch "Soldier in the Rain" with Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen sometime. I was lucky enough to have one of these in my hooch when I was in Vietnam. It was mounted high up on the wall, screwed into plywood to discourage theft or some other form of disappearance. I inherited that fan not from someone "who didn't make it" but from a soldier who rotated home and happily left all of his scrounged and acquired comforts of Vietnam behind in his rush to leave. That fan was very dear to me when I needed it while I was there, but when my time came to go home, I forgot all about it and left it for someone else.

Unsafe or not, I'm going to go ahead and give this fan another life here at my home. I bought the fan at the Goodwill "Outlet Store" (yes, such a thing really exists) for $2.99 and I'm sure I'm going to get my money's worth. I think I can refrain from the urge to stick my fingers into the moving blade

Monday, February 8, 2010

How I Wish Sarah Palin Would Go Away

That stupid woman Sarah Palin is in the news again, mouthing off. I can't stomach listening to her. After listening to her speak, I've resolved to stop dropping my g's from -ing endings as I sometimes do. She sounds so hokey and unrefined. I can't understand how so many otherwise normal people on the right embrace her. She's ignorant, uncouth, opportunistic, spiteful, and I believe dishonest. If these same people find "common" refreshing, they've certainly found it in Palin. Recently it's come out in the news via publicly disclosed documents that her stupid-ass, non-elected husband was running part of the show in Alaska. Just how did she/they hoodwink all those Alaska voters in the first place? With all due respect to liberated women, I can't help but think of the old phrase that Don Rickles has used in the past, and that is, "Dummy-broad!"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why does the federal government bother with a budget?

A good question to be asked, since they borrow and create about as much "money" as they want to at present. The still must play-act at having a "budget" for a while longer. It's all done for appearances now. The Congress does set borrowing limits, but the word "limit" has absolutely no meaning in the sense that it's always raised as the need arises. The government couldn't give up on the pretense of a budget; if they came right out and said to the world, "We're just gonna print as much as we want and foo on you," then all the borrowers of the world would know the game was up, the dollar would go down the toilet completely, and what? They'd start all over again with a "new dollar" that would wipe out the existing one. The new one would stink too; no overseas investors would touch it, but it would wipe out government debt and they could start all over again spending money. Think this couldn't happen? It's happened many times all over the world and it's called "devaluation of the currency." Argentina has done it many times. Repudiate the debt, wipe out the currency, start spending all over again.

Are Capsule Hotels coming to your neighborhood?

Not long ago, I posted a partially tongue-in-cheek comment about converting airliner seats to sleeping tubes and I used the "tube motels" in Japan as an example. Just a few days ago, there was a New York Times article about these, actually called "Capsule Hotels." They have these not only at the airports, but around other transportation centers in large Japanese cities. Originally, they were designed for travelling businessmen who might've missed their last train home and needed a convenient and inexpensive place to stay.

If you are old enough, you may remember in the late 1970's and most of the '80's, when we thought we were in danger of Japan buying out the entire USA. Well, they got into some financial trouble of their own and have been mostly in recession for some time. The capsule motels tell some of that story. Homeless people, who were unheard of in Japanese society in the 1970's and '80's, are some major customers for the capsule motels now. The capsules measure a bit over two yards by two yards and are not high enough to stand up in. The rent is about $30 a night but lately owners of these motels have granted reduced long-term rates to the homeless occupants.

People of influence in government and finance in the US had a chance to learn from the lessons of the "price asset bubble" in Japan that burst in 1989 but of course they didn't. At the peak in Japan, prime real estate in the Ginza district of Tokyo was selling for $93,000 per square foot and today some of this sells for one percent of its peak price. In fact, a good deal of the excess liquidity that was created in Japan and needed an investment outlet came to the US and was lent out as easy money, contributing greatly to our own bubble economy. We can hope that the long, lingering non-recovery of Japan's bubble economy will not be repeated here but at this time we can only wait and see.

Why pickup trucks are what they are now

The problem with full-size pickups is that over the past couple of decades, they just started building them way too fancy and blown-out. None of the US makers offer a plain-Jane, no frills big pickup. The last time I looked at them at the Ford dealers they didn't even have one with a simple, two-door cab without the extended anything. Buyers are just as much to blame as the manufacturers; they started insisting on having every luxury and gee-gaw on their pickup as they had on their Cadillac. And what manufacturer is going to give up that profit treasure-trove? The styling on contemporary full-size pickups is all "huge" as if, let's see who can build the biggest truck and I'm not talking about the bed, but the cab. But then again, that's a buyer's preference, as look at all the SUV's. Look at the tire sizes. Yes, I know all about ground clearance, but when every soccer mom needs 20 inch tires to clear asphalt, that's the limit.

Yeah, the whole idea of owning pickups has kinda gotten turned on its head. Pickups at one time were "working vehicles" and only people who really needed one bothered to spend the money on it. Nowadays, lots of people buy trucks who don't need them; they just think, "I've gotta have a truck" (to haul that 5 gallon plant back from Home Depot once or twice each spring as an example). I hear the phrase, "I've gotta get me a work truck." Heck, all trucks are supposed to be for work but the buying public has often turned them into something else. The guy who wants to get a "work truck" might have a perfectly good two or three year old truck at home that he's driving already but it's too good for work, I guess. Lots of people around here who do have trucks leave them sit most of the time. Worse than that are the people who use an F-250 Diesel to drive a couple of miles down to the convenience store and back for a pack of Hostess cupcakes.

My cargo carrier is still my '72 Ford station wagon. It's a big fuel burner for sure, but that's about all it costs to run it. Add regular oil and filter changes as required on the 351C engine. No computer, just an inefficient carburetor that I can take off in five minutes and blow the dirt out of. Last year, an axle bearing got noisy and I had to replace that which wasn't too much strain. I've kept a nice Indestro axle puller from the old days. The bearing was made in China and cost $40; the last one I replaced on another car was $25 and made in USA. Off-shoring those parts makes good money for the middleman. Let's see, what else. Oh, the battery was old but still turning the engine over; it was nine years old so I bought a new one at the NAPA store. I don't like to wait until I've gotten my last crank out of one; who knows where that might take place. Once in a while I've gotta replace the ignition points and condensor, but that's about 20,000 miles worth. I let one set go over 40,000 miles once in my '66 Fairlane and when it started acting up, I pulled off the cap and found that the disc on one end was completely burned off. Still running, though. Let's see, door mechanism on driver's side started to not let me in from the driver's door (where else? It gets the most use), so took it apart, made an adjustment so it's good for another who knows how many miles. Nagging little stuff like that.

I can still remember most of the old pickups my dad owned over the years. Let's see, the first one I can remember was a fairly ratty '56 Ford F-100 with a tired 292 V-8 engine (complete with external oiling for the rocker shafts due to bad camshaft bearings). Then he had a '36 Ford flathead V-8 with the long gearshift that came out of the floor; I used to drive that one to high school some days. Next was another tired '56 Ford F-100 but this one had a '57 Lincoln Mark II engine and automagic transmichigan in it. That one was pretty fast, and after while he painted it but sold it shortly thereafter. Sometimes he would fix cars up real nice, then someone would make him a tempting offer he couldn't refuse. After that, he bought a '69 Ford Torino GT Ranchero, which had a 351W engine in it and was pretty fast but not much for hauling loads because after all, it was only a passenger car chassis. The last pickup he owned before he died was a 1979 Ford F-150, the slickside with no chrome on it and small, dog-dish style hub caps. Under the hood, it had a big, thirsty 460 V-8. He bought it new at a very distressed price that year when gasoline doubled in price (think Shah of Iran). He was going to haul a travel trailer with it, and he did some but got sick with cancer not long after and never used it to its full potential. After he died, the truck sat around with only 30K miles on it and various family members would borrow it from my mother every once in a while to move something. She finally got tired of paying the insurance and license tabs for it and sold it with under 35K miles on the clock. I would've liked to have bought it, but at the time I was deep into raising kids and I just didn't have the extra money to do so.

When my dad bought that '79 F-150 new, he took out what they call "loss of income" or some kind of disability insurance, I think it was. The deal was, if he became disabled during the time he was making payments, the insurance was supposed to kick in and pay off the truck. Well, that actually happened. He paid on the truck for about six months or so before he was diagnosed with cancer and could no longer work. So, he got the truck almost for free, but that's a very hard way to get a truck.