"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Spooky Monday mutterings, sorta

Today's entry has almost nothing to do with Halloween, actually, except that it is Halloween Day. It was a fine Fall Monday with brilliant sun in the eyes of eastbound commuters like me this morning. Temps once again eased up into the sixties, soon to be a distant memory. Darkness has sent the mercury down a bit, of course, but it's still that rare and memorable no-coats-over-costumes night for trick-or-treating. The few splendid days of Fall that we do get here in Upstate NY must always be noted with the proper gratitude.

One bonus of great weather is the chance for bikers (the motor-kind) to enjoy a last ride or two. I volunteered on a charity dice-run a few weeks back, and we hit a nasty, drizzly day for that one. Sure hurts the turn-out when that happens. The boys were out today, though! One of them passed me this morning during rush-hour at something approaching 100 mph. I shook my head silently and prayed I wouldn't see him farther along the highway waiting for an ambulance (or worse). Much later, during the early afternoon, another motorcyclist (I assume it wasn't the same guy) ended up having a very bad day.

I heard the story on the radio news, and later on the traffic report. The accident was very near my home, on a section of highway I often travel. The eastbound lanes had to be closed, and the westbound traffic had slowed to a crawl in order to gawk at the wreckage. The details took a while to come together, but here's what apparently happened: a lone cyclist flew through a stop sign at a very busy intersection, directly into the side of a large tractor-trailer. Obviously the biker got the worst of this horrible encounter (the truck's driver was unharmed). Motorcycle and rider were separated on impact, and the bike burst into flames. The rider was dragged about one hundred feet, then airlifted to a hospital, with very serious injuries. The truck, filled with paper goods, also burned. I learned this evening, when I stopped in for my take-home coffee, that the truck was headed for my favorite Tim Horton's location. That delivery won't be made today. I hope the biker survives the day. It's far too beautiful a day to die.

Everyone knows that motorcycles can be dangerous. They have none of the modern safety systems featured on cars. No bumpers, no airbags or seatbelts, no roll-cage or steel doors. All a biker has in his favor is spectacular acceleration and maneuverability. The rest is up to the rider. This is not a lesson best learned by experience. Most days, after all, are too good for dying.

Taking a deep breath

Sunday is look-back day, time to reflect on the week and take a breather. I spent Saturday working, putting quite a few new miles on the truck, but enjoying the day's endeavors. Bright sun and milder temps didn't hurt a bit. It's been a very busy week (see The D'Zyne Zone), featuring long hours and multiple work-sites and too little time with my sweet boys.

Today was a nice change, with the sunshine and tee-shirt weather continuing. Lin and I enjoyed some rare hours together, some for work (winterizing the camper) and some for play (continued house-hunting). I've had a chance to put some start-up efforts into my companion work-blog, mentioned above. Wrote some checks to pay for bills not yet overdue (always a good sign). Watched a spot or two of football, mostly mis-matches, and even got to see some of the race. Carl Edwards has added a sweep at Atlanta to his already impressive resume. The kid's amazing, and should have a great future ahead of him. Later tonight I'll get to watch my Buffalo Bills try to win against the Patriots in New England. Good luck to 'em, but I'm not getting my hopes up for a win there.

The week now passed has been filled with changeable weather, early sunsets (soon to be even earlier), some physically demanding tasks and time spent with my favorite work partner, Mike. Got to see my oldest play in a wonderful concert (drums/percussion) and took my youngest to school one day, with a stop at Tim Hortons along the way. Did a ton of driving and lots of tool loading/unloading, along with several skipped meals (due to time and distances mostly). Spent some time with Pete Steltmann, who is moving on to a new position. He will be missed immediately. The coming week should be far less hectic. It's dark now and the warmth is bleeding out of the day quickly. Monday is nearly here, though an hour later than it would have been without the time change. Time to take a break from all this busywork, so I'll head for the couch now for a well-earned respite.


DATELINE 10/28/2005: ExxonMobil posts all-time record third-quarter revenue and earnings. (Source for all quoted statistics, IndyStar.com/Business/, Oct 28 ‘05). Corporate gross revenues and the resulting net profit for the world’s largest publicly-traded oil company set a new high for any single-quarter in industry history. Exxon is the first company to ever earn $100 billion in a fiscal quarter. The oil giant’s resulting profit from those sales, $9.92 billion, also marks a new line in the sand. While these numbers may not match the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, they certainly provide ample fodder for conversation and consternation.

Millions of Americans, inspired by emotional news coverage of the Gulf Coast’s calamity, poured out their hearts and their hard-earned dollars to help aid enormous relief efforts there. More than one billion dollars has been donated by both private citizens and corporate boards, largely to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Little kids and school groups held car washes and bake sales. Celebrities sang and entertained and answered phones on numerous televised specials. Rotaries and ministries organized major charity fund-raisers. Regular folks made small sacrifices in their daily routines to divert a few hours’ pay to Hurricane victims. People with deeper pockets wrote very large checks and sought minimal publicity for their largesse. The nationwide display of caring and generosity reassured us all: we are a country that takes care of its own. We answer the call, big time.

Meanwhile, Big Oil was raking in money faster than it could be counted, literally. Taking windfall revenues and profits from the same citizens who had already pitched in more than their fair share. Wildly escalating retail gasoline prices created high stress and market anxiety, sending ripples throughout the nation into every nook and cranny of our economy. Gas station operators and employees, ordered to raise retail prices as much as fifty cents per gallon each day, suffered the mid-directed wrath of frightened consumers. Small business owners desperately tried to figure out how to cope with uncontrollable fuel costs, knowing it would be nearly impossible to pass on such outrageous price increases to their equally-stressed customers. The entire U.S. economy see-sawed on the hard edge of panic. All the while, the oil conglomerates tallied-up the take.

After the two hurricanes had wreaked their havoc in no less than four states, in towns and cities big or small, thousands of people were left homeless and hundreds lost their lives. Power outages darkened whole regions, and unprecedented flooding saturated thousands of homes and businesses. Americans lost their homes, jobs, cars, pets, cherished possessions and priceless records. We watched heroic rescues and listened to heart-rending tales of trauma. Rich or poor, white or black or whatever race, young or old, single or married — no demographic escaped this tragedy, despite attempts by some in the news media to slant the story somehow. The rest of us, not directly affected by the storms, reached out with our hearts and our paychecks.

At the same time, consumers coast to coast poured billions into their gas tanks, without recourse. We still had to drive to work, to school and soccer practice, to the store or to Grandmother’s house. Deliveries still had to be made, busses and taxi services had to run, planes had to fly and trains had to keep their schedules. Factories burned fuel and made crude oil into the thousands of products we all need to live. Farmers tilled their fields and brought in their harvests. We do, after all, have a country to run.

The money had to be spent for the barrels of fuel we had to burn or consume. For the three short months following nature’s fury, the numbers posted by Big Oil boggle the mind. ExxonMobil gross sales grew more than 30%; profits soared 75%. Royal Dutch Shell, next in line, jumped 68% with $9 billion net for the quarter. BP banked $6.5 billion. ConocoPhillips (up 89%!) and Chevron (a 53% jump) each added more than $3.5 billion to the pot. The industry as a whole is on pace to earn nearly ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS for the fiscal year. That’s $100,000,000,000. It’s a number that won’t even fit in most spreadsheets. Furthermore, it’s a number most of us cannot even comprehend.

Let’s think about all these zeroes for a minute. Third quarter, 2005: oil profits totaling somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty billion bucks. Is that really so much money? Aren’t they entitled to a fair profit, just like anyone else in business? Yes, and yes. We live in a free-market economy, where money-in-your-pocket is the reward for taking risks and tying up capital. But, thirty billion dollars? My fifth-grader can do the math: that’s THIRTY times all the money raised by all the big hearts and open wallets in America for disaster relief. Profit. Bottom line. Net Income. That thirty billion is what’s left over after all expenses and write-offs. It’s an amount greater than the GNP of smaller countries like Zimbabwe or Cameroon. Yeah, that IS a lot of money.

What could you do with $30 billion? You could commission and deploy six brand new aircraft carriers, and pay the salaries of all six crews for a year. (No other country on Earth can do that.) You could build an entire city for 10,000 residents, from survey to streetlights. City Hall, firehouses, schools, hospitals, factories, malls and movie theaters, and even a couple of adult bookstores; houses for everyone. Cars for everyone. With money left over to pass around. You could pay out a $150 million Powerball Jackpot: two hundred weeks in a row! You could buy a new Chevy Silverado (much nicer than the one I own) for one million of your closest friends. You could buy-out Donald Trump, Mark Burnett (creator, "Survivor" etc.), and Martha Stewart, too. Or you could finance research into cures for cancer, AIDS, MD, MS, CF, and heart disease, and have enough left to run a national advertising campaign for The United Way for a year. You could send more than one and a half million kids to an Ivy League school for four years. (There isn’t room for that many.) You could give every single person in the United States a crispy new $100 bill, and still buy an aircraft carrier with the change.

OK, it’s a lot of money. It’s an insane amount of money. Even Donald Trump would be impressed. The rest of us should be outraged. We all gave to this cause, willingly or not. We gave until it hurt, and still kept giving. I gave today, and I’ll give again next week. So will you. If I was the Chairman of the Board of any one of these gargantuan oil firms I would feel shame at the level of greed I had fostered. I would give some of it back. I would vote to give most of it back. I’d build a few new refineries first, and give my employees raises (not just the bosses), pay out some dividends, bank some capital for the future, and then give the rest back to the country that donated so much. I’d help rebuild New Orleans, along with a hundred other devastated communities. I’d help a few thousand displaced, distressed storm victims rebuild their lives. I’d buy them some ice cream, and some blankets. I would do all that and more, long before Big Government stopped by with insincere indignation and demanded I pay some sort of stupid Windfall Profits Tax. Because one thing is true about thirty billion dollars: it’s just a drop in the bucket to the raging monster that collects our tax dollars. But for the rest of us, it’s enough to make a difference.

[Copyright 2005 all rights reserved, Jim Bessey -Spencerport, NY 10/29/2005]

Friday Song: Strait shootin'

It's Friday again, and time for my Friday Song nomination. This week I'm going to backtrack slightly to mention the latest release from George Strait (the Chairman of the Board, Country music). Mr. Strait generally has no less than one song working its way up the Billboard Top 100, and this month is no exception. What is exceptional is this record's message. The song's called "She Let Herself Go," which superficially might seem to be another sad ol' country ballad. This one has a bit of love-gone-wrong in it, but steers immediately toward a happy ending. We don't know for sure who "she" is, but we do find out just how far she has let herself go: to New York City, to Vegas, to the beach, to a new adventure with a new friend. She's doin' just fine, thank ya. But what is a man doing singing this song? It's exactly what we might expect from Terri Clark or Jo Dee Messina, or maybe Reba or Martina. The fact that Mr. Strait chose this composition for himself makes this up-beat Anthem for a Modern Woman all the more compelling.

Country music is filled with songs by men whose ladies left them, and likewise by tunes from girls whose guys have done 'em wrong. It's all very familiar, even comfortable. When the man who sets the bar for male country vocalists releases a powerful work in support of women he shakes up that comfy familiarity. Strait isn't breaking any new ground here. There has been a real trend lately for established artists to tackle more difficult subjects from fresher angles. Kenny Chesney has done a superb job during the last couple years, tempering his Unkle Kracker combo with some solid social messages. It's refreshing to see Mr. 50-Number-Ones (the title of Strait's current CD) join the movement. Strait's voice lends credibility and repectability to whatever "cause" he might choose to sing about. She Let Herself Go reminds us all that life can bring us good things on the heels of bad times, whatever the circumstances. That's a good thing to remember when you feel like your own life is stuck in a bad groove on a worn-out record.

Tuesday Trivia: Music miscellany

Innocent Ears?
I was thinking about "one-hit wonders" and wondering what happens to artists who don't keep it coming. Then I got off-track a bit, listening to my favorite radio station ("The Bee, WBEE" here in Rochester NY: see Links, at right). A new song came on, one I had only heard once before, a week or so ago. It's a catchy little number by Ray Scott (new to me, never heard of him). His song's called My Kind of Music. The gist of it is, he meets the "perfect" girl, got the ring picked out and all, until he finds out... She doesn't like country music!

The best verse in this song goes something like this:
(almost, but not quite, to the tune of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer")
I asked her if she'd ever heard of Alan Jackson.
She said, "doesn't he sing that 'Where Were You?'?"
I said, yeah, but girl, that man's a living legend!
She said, "Really, I thought he was new."

I can relate to this verse from both sides of the coin. Five years ago I knew almost nothing about country music. I was pretty sure I didn't like it. At the time, I had no idea just how "country" some of my favorite artists were: bands like The Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd and such. A couple of pretty serious life changes led me to change my entire music-listening concept, and I ended up very much caught up in modern country music. Not the older stuff, which still seems way too twangy. I started with the obvious crossover artists like Faith Hill and Lonestar, and got deeper into it from there. I have to admit that until 9/11 and "Where Were You?" I didn't really know who Alan Jackson was. Now I can only laugh at the verse I quoted above, thinking about how ignorant I was then. If you want to get me started, ask me about Allison Kraus and Union Station... man, they are just amazing!

Which brings me back to Trivia, the long way around. You wondered where all this was leading, didn't you? Here's my question: Is Rap and Hip-Hop really as bad as I think it is? Or am I just as ignorant about these genres as I was about Country? Twenty years from now will there be "Oldies" stations playing Kill the White Bitches and Gang-rape your Motha? Will there be a whole slew of dudes with -daddy attached to their names in some sort of Hall of Fame? Will The Game Show Network play "Name That Tune" in three F-bombs or less? Should I just go ahead and let my little boys (well, not so little anymore...) listen to this, um, crap? Or is it genius? So tell me, and be honest, do I sound just like my father when I tell my kids, "That's not real music!"? Is this just one more example of the Circle of Life swinging 'round to bite me in the ass?

ooooooh, I hate when that happens!

Mondays are reserved for crabbiness. Not officially or anything, but that seems to be a common thread. In order to properly celebrate this theme, tonite I've decided to post some plain old rants. Not the long rambling kind, but the familiar one-liner kind. Here goes.

You know what really drives me up a wall? Lemme tell ya. I hate when the light turns orange just when I've decided it's gonna stay green. Do I stop or do I go? Will I spill my coffee if I stop? I hate that. I hate when I'm trying to back into a parking space (extended cab pick-up, mirrors only) and somebody drives right up behind me. Whaddaya think the two bright white lights under my taillights are saying? No, I can't see you in my mirrors now, either! I hate it when I'm just walking across a parking lot, minding my own business, and someone hits their little blipper-thingy and makes their car beep at me. I always seem to get caught off-guard by that one. It's embarrassing.

Other stuff: Waitresses who refill my coffee, just when it was finally cool enough to drink and I had the cream and sugar just right. Speaking of restaurants (diners, anyway), how about when they don't add up your check for you? How'm I supposed to figure out the right tip? Why should I have to be the Math Guy? I think it's funny when I order breakfast ("scrambled eggs and wheat toast, please") and the waitress says, "Don't you want the homefries? They come with it." No they don't. The cook puts them there. I don't want them. You eat 'em.

What else drives me nuts? Oh, yeah, I know: people who say, "That drives me nuts!" Maybe you better see a doctor. Either you're nuts, or you're not. Nothings gonna drive you there. You probably are nuts, since you said that. Pop-up ads, spam email, blinking banners promising free computers. OK, those do drive me nuts. Or maybe I'm just imagining things. Mostly I just ignore useless crap like that. Keeps me sane.

Back to parking lots: how about when all the spots are painted just the right size for a Cooper Mini, and I'm driving the big truck? Or when there's sixteen handicap spots for one stinkin' store? You know people are cheating on those, big-time. How about this: those stop-signs in parking-lot crosswalks. Are you really supposed to stop...or not? Or do you only stop when there's a person in the way? Seems to be about fifty-fifty, judging from personal observations. Is there a speed limit in parking lots? Is it the same for all parking lots? Can you get a ticket for going fifteen in a "ten"? How come some stores make their employees park in the very farthest-away spots, waaaay over by the dumpsters? Wouldn't it be better for them to park nearby, like there was some serious business going on inside? Just wondering.

How about you? What drives you nuts? Gotta pet-peeve? What is a "peeve" anyway? Talk to me. (I hate it when people say that!) That's all I've got for tonight, which is a heck of a lot more than I had last Monday. Fair enough. (I know, I know: you hate when people say that!)

Hey, you, whaddaya want?

How's that for a fine and friendly greeting? I'll bet it sounds familiar, though. If you ever have to leave your warm and cozy home to visit the rest of the world, you're sure to hear something akin to this from some disgruntled counter-person. Maybe at McDonald's. More likely, you've suffered similar salutations at a "convenient" store or gas station mini-mart. Those places tend to hire relatives of the owners. In businesses which feature a permanent Help Wanted sign taped to the front door, chances are a frowning clerk awaits you. Pepsid-AC won't solve this problem, either.

My work requires a lot of local travel. I buy my breakfast on the road, and buy cigarettes from whichever gas station is on the way to where I'm headed. If I need a restroom, that's another gas station. I can't stand thermos-coffee, so I pick that up wherever I'm working at the time. So I meet a wild assortment of folks who spend their shifts dealing with dozens of transient customers. I find plenty of smiles and even the occasional friendly eye-contact. The dreary "wish I was somewhere else" personalities, however, seem to hold the majority. Why should this be true? Are there really so many people who simply hate their jobs? (Or do they hate their whole existence? I hope not.)

I'll admit that I do remember holding part-time jobs I didn't like. Most of us have to pay those dues as we find our way to our true callings. I'll also acknowlege that there is no shortage of miserable customers who prey on poor, weary workers. Unpleasantness can be dangerously contagious, though. There-in lies the rub: crabby customers help create crabby clerks, who spread their crabbiness to otherwise happy customers (and so on). The whole process simply isn't healthy!

Part of the blame must rest on miserable managers, who insist their employees repeat scripted lines endlessly. That's got to be depressing. How many times a day could you say "Have a nice day" and mean it? I say, let 'em say it their way, as long as the message stays on-track. The most engaging clerks I've run across express themselves less rigidly, and at least give the impression of being happy to be of service. I have to think that those folks who smile and offer snippets of unscripted thoughts are good for business in the long run.

Which encounter works better for you? First example: surly clerk stares blankly at a spot high on the wall and asks: "Can I help whoever's next?" That sentence is usually followed by zero-eye-contact and something like, "--take yer order?" Contrast that to a mildly pleasant "Hi, you're next. What can I get for you?". The person I quoted first has followed the script, but radiated no warmth at all. The second clerk, who might get fired for deviating from said script, is actually projecting "I'm almost glad you're here." Maybe after you place your order with the second clerk you'll even consider coming back again. I've heard somewhere that repeat customers are good for business. Or maybe that was "crucial for avoiding bankruptcy."

That concludes my rant for this Saturday night. I cannot offer any easy solutions to problems like these. No one can, really. I hope you enjoyed your stay. Please come again. Have a nice day. ...Next? Who's next?

This week's song: with a Trace

Friday's here and it's time to choose my Friday Song. It's been such a hectic week that I haven't given much thought to this crucial decision. I know that thousands of citizens are waiting with bated (spelled?) breath (whatever that means) for me to make up my mind. As it happens, I had a song in mind as I began to write this post, and had CMT's Top Twenty Countdown playing on the television for background. The next song up turns out to be the one I was thinking about. How's that for serendipity? Or something.

This week's selection, then is Honky-tonk Badonkadonk, by Trace Adkins. Last Friday's song was a poignant one, so irreverence takes the award this week. I can't say that I had ANY clue what a "badonkadonk" was until Trace explained it to me (and the video leaves absolutely no question about it, by the way). Adkins has written some serious stuff in the past, and some funny ones, too. His basso-profundo voice works well with an assortment of styles. But this song. This song! No message, no tears, no lost girlfriends, no forgotten soldiers -- not even a pick-up truck or a gun in there anywhere. This little bar-buster is all about the badonkadonk, and only that. (For the uninformed: a female backside, scantily clad). It's a hard-drivin' foot-stompin' tune designed with the lascivious video director in mind. It's catchy, silly, trashy. And it's got a good beat and ya can dance to it, too! Badonkadonk is also more fun than a man should be allowed to have legally. I'm sure Gretchen Wilson ("Redneck Woman" and more) is rightly proud of Trace's latest.

There you have it. Just some good, clean, sexy fun for this week. What more can we ask for? Readers, let me know if you have a song you love in the current Country music scene. Sharing can be fun, too.

LOST on Wednesday nites

Got LOST tonight, and I loved it! It's such a pleasure to sit down on Wednesday nights at nine pm and get lost in "LOST." Great sets, devious plots, truly deep characters, hot conflicts, and a complete lack of predictability make this one of the best shows on the tube. LOST has everything that makes up a good novel, but with the fun of watching it unfold. I'm sure there are hundreds of websites and forums devoted to this drama, so this posting isn't exactly covering undisturbed earth. Had to get my quick two cents in, though, and call it a night. Wednesdays aren't going to be big blogging nights for me, until the re-runs arrive (soon enough, I'm afraid).

Sunday, sleepy Sunday

"On the seventh day He rested," Genesis tells us. And so did I. Sundays are for kids and dads together. For sleeping a little later. For doing something you wouldn't do the other six days. For doing a little reading, and a bit of couch-warming. Football, for me: specifically my beloved Buffalo Bills. They actually won today, and looked like they meant it!

So I played some Paintball this morning with my boys, padded-up with warm clothing against a stormy sky and falling temps. Bagels and coffee from Tim Horton's, mandatory. Later while the young-un's lounged, my wife and I started a bit of house-hunting, mildly productive. Watched some TV, as noted. Did a spot of research to broaden my understanding of this Blogging business. Surfed a couple other blogs, learned about
Memes -- gotta follow-up on that one. Time for that "resting" thing now. No new big insights from this author. Sweet dreams, all.

of Music and Memory

Thinking about music and specific songs leads me to a topic that fascinates me: music and memory. We are all familiar with the idea of couples having one special song -- "our song." That's almost always a piece that began playing when the lovers first met (or it was a tune that neither had heard until they got together). Researchers have made much of the link between music and evocative memories. I've done a bit of reading on this phenomenon, as well as having plenty of personal experience with it. We all know the power of music is real, but the question remains: why is that so?

If you listen to the radio, or to your iPod (or CD player or your Victrola -- whichever), then you've probably noticed that there's a lot more to the mind/music link than just "they're playing our song!" Most of us can recognize songs we like (familiar pieces from a genre we favor) in just a few short notes. You may not be able to "name that tune" or even be sure who the artist is. Many people simply don't feel like storing that information. But you know the song right away. Furthermore, if there's a stronger bond for you (beyond "Dude, I love this song!"), you can immediately gather up a whole batch of associated memories with that record. You may recall exactly where you were when you first heard it, who you were with at the time, whether you were driving or lounging, if it was summer or winter (even daytime or nighttime). If you pay attention to those memories, you'll probably find even more! A certain scent or aroma that links up, too, for instance. You might also remember if you were happy or sad at the time. The point is, given just a few notes from a familiar song, you can lay your hands on an enormous wealth of very clear memories -- even if those memories are decades old! If there is a long-lost love involved, those memories can be downright profound.

Being the curious guy that I am, I'd like to know why! In addition, given this powerful memory tool, why don't we use music to reinforce learning? It certainly has worked for PBS educational programming, so why not in school? Or in workplace training, or adult education? We know that rote learning and dreary practice do get results in classroom situations. Could music somehow make the process better, faster, and funner? I wonder.

Song of the Week

I don't have any traditions here yet, since this blog is only a couple days old. I have something of a new love in my life, however, and I'd like to include that passion here. My new love is Country Music. I came to this genre very reluctantly, after years of mainstream rock. Now I'm hooked. So, here's my easy "count-down" for my favorite music -- one week, one song:

SKIN, by Rascal Flatts. This tune is roaring up the charts, with unprecedented request levels. It was a so-called hidden track, discovered by thousands of Rascals who bought the album (CD?). I'll leave it to the pro's for a regular review; the song is now receiving serious attention. Simply stated, this is a beautiful, touching, sad-and-happy, uplifting composition. Based on reality, never intended for wide release, this record has captured the hearts of tens of thousands of listeners, and not just in the Country genre. I have no personal connection to this song's message, yet it never fails to move me when I hear it played. That's my song of the week, one that will be hard to top next time.

If you stumble across this posting, and would like to nominate a song you love, drop me a comment. For now, country music (contemporary) only, please.

What's a "Compressor"?

I like to think about words and which ones might make good car names. I know, I know, most of the good ones are all taken. Lots of numbers lately, too, in model names. "The NEW Ford 500!!" Big yawn. Still, one has to wonder what in the world inspired Mercedes-Benz (of ALL companies!) to name one of their lovely vehicles Compressor. I'd have to vote for a number instead of that bizarre identity. Does this sedan blow a lot of hot air? Or make a really loud whooshing noise? I just don't get it. Following that lead, then, we might have:

The new Masseratti Table-saw! The Porshe Planer-Joiner! Test drive the exciting 2006 Lotus Drill-press! Cheaper cars, like Fords and Chevies, could have the cheap-tool names. Hammer, chisel, screwdriver -- well, probably not screw-driver.

I do like some of the more recent names applied to, especially, the proliferation of SUV's. (A soon-to-reverse trend?) All the best, cold, lonely, rugged, he-man states are now taken. Ditto for any word describing a trip, of any kind. Volkswagen is still busy inventing words for its cars, as if they were medicine brands. My chariot is called "Silverado," just in case I happen to be a cowboy. That's a cool name for a very ordinary truck, but I like it. It sure beats the heck out of C-1500. How dull is that one?

I'm going to go back now to thinkin' of new cool names for cars. It's a game my kids like to play while we're driving. How about you? Got any good not-taken-yet names you think would be dandy? Drop me a line, and I'll post your ideas another time.

Coffee, Buffalo Bills, Stopsigns

Alright, then, let's get to it. This is supposed to be a place for some Random Thoughts. Here are a few of the marbles rolling around in my mind today:

COFFEE: What in the world would we do without coffee, we who drink the stuff each day? How come the pot I brew at home never tastes as good as the cup I pay for while I'm out and about? For me, Tim Horton's coffee is the very best, but Dunkin' Donuts (spelled?) is almost as good. Have to admit, tho, that "gas station coffee" has gotten better and better in the last few years. Please don't mistake this comment for a shameless plug, however. My money is firmly where my mouth is. I'm afraid to add up what I spend on road-coffee in a year!

The BUFFALO BILLS: Oh, dear Lord, how do I continue to support this team??? I wear the shirts, watch the games, and agonize over the losses. Our latest "loss" is the aptly-named JP Lossman, quarterback-in-the-rough. The Bills won this week's game without the help of JPL, but it was such a dreary showing! Am I showing my age too much by yearning for Jim Kelly and his gang of gunslingers? Parity, parity, parity -- sure makes dynasties a rarity. Hmph.

And, last, STOPSIGNS (and REDLIGHTS, too). I drive a lot, often over one hundred miles a day. (No, please, don't make me add THAT one up for a year!) Folks, I understand the need to drive thru the yellow. Sometimes you just have to! My truck weighs more than six thousand pounds, so I can't just jam the brakes when the green goes yellow. But the very idea of routinely running thru red lights and stop signs strikes me as suicidal in the long term. I've seen what a T-bone accident looks like. How can anyone want to be a part of that party??

That's all for now. Brain-sweep mostly completed for today.

More about me

Just so you know whose random thoughts you're reading, here's a five-minute history of the author.

Born near Philly shortly before JFK was elected Pres, in a hospital, not a taxi. Moved to New York, the rural Upstate part (not the Big Apple part), when I was a wee lad. Grew up in a very small town, nick-named "Sulfur Springs," in the Finger Lakes region. Hence, my high school was called Midlakes. Mom and Dad, me and two sisters/one brother lived in a thousand-square-foot ranch house on a quiet village street. Dad still lives there today; seems much bigger now than it did back then. I had a girlfriend when I was six, and clueless!

Went to school, got good grades, worked part-time, tried Track. Went to Prom a couple times, different girls, different years. Had a good dog who ran into the side of a too-fast car one day. He died, we cried. Graduated top five percent of my class, still clueless. Went to Community College, got a better part-time job, bought a couple different crappy used cars. Got an even better part-time job and let that one take up way too many hours. Put in my two years at the CC and turned my PT job to FT. Met some wonderful folks, made a bit of money, bought my first new car (Dodge Rampage, go figure...), moved out of the family home at last.

Met a great girl in high school and let her get away (my bad). Met another fine lady in college, but she moved away without me (ah well). Met the girl who become my very first wife on an amazing bicycle tour of the Finger Lakes just a little while later. Tried small construction and big construction, built a couple houses and made some new friends. Our friends started to have kids, and after a few years of leisure, so did we. Moved a couple times, right in the area. Tried a job in Industry. Loved the people and hated the hours. Built a big ol' house for ourselves just before my oldest son was born. The boys are more than half-grown now, living with their mom for most of the days.

Turned forty, got a bit stupid, met a girl I shouldn't have met, moved out and moved on -- had myself a mid-life divorce. Found a truly kind, sweet, loving, delightful soulmate in a new place and began a partly-new life with her and her daughter. Got better at the job I already had. Tried desperately to spend as much time as possible with my two boys. Miss them every minute they aren't here with us. Fixed-up our place, did some traveling, bought a camper-trailer, had a spectacular summer here in upstate NY. Thinking about buying a house. The place I work for is going to close down, so more change is coming soon.

Left out about a million things large and small, but got the gist of it down. Onward from here.

Day One for a brand new Blogger

This is my very first post. Will there be anything usefull here? Probably not. Have to give my fingers a chance to warm up to this concept. I often think out loud, and sometimes I make my wife or my kids laugh. Maybe something funny will occur to me here now and then. Or something wonderful, or ominous. I love that word -- ominous. As in "portent." We all must answer the question "does what I think really matter?" every day, if we are to go on. Wow, that's deep, but true! Of course, as long as what I say matters to me, then I'm OK. And if even one other person in the universe cares, then I am part of the human race. The rest is gravy.