Today is an important day around here and, I suspect, in many places around the U.S. It is the last day of what is called "early voting". I voted a few days ago. Tuesday, it was. I once thought that early voting wasn't needed. I mean, how hard is it to get your pampered rear-end to the polling place on one day out of a year? Truthfully? Not all that hard. But then I found myself in Palm Beach County, Florida in the year 2000. That year changed my mind.
I have come to realize that we are a sorry lot, we Americans. We don't vote in great numbers. Since 1968, the turnout has been less than 61% for presidential elections. Almost every other nation (that gets to vote) has a greater turnout than we do.
There are a number of reasons given for this. In my opinion, they are all bogus. The truth is, we are pretty apathetic when it comes to actually doing something. But not so much that we don't complain about the outcome of elections.
We are apathetic because we don't think our little votes matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. To a certain degree, that's a valid position. If a candidate wins by a large margin, that one vote is lost in a vast sea. And I have never seen, or even heard of, a race being decided by a single vote. Except in the movies.
Elections are decided by blocs of voters. And in the number of voters that stay away. In a sense, that's an expression of the country's mood also. Low turnouts are the result of a feeling of powerlessness by the electorate. And, in that sense, they are self fulfilling prophecies. The less you vote, the fewer people the politicians have to convince they are the right people for the office, the less they need to follow your wishes once in office.
I have believed for many years that the best thing we, as a people, could do is to vote out all incumbents each election. Regardless whether they are doing a good job or not. This is based on the concept that no elective office should be viewed as a "career." Some say we should have term limits. Maybe that would be helpful. But I don't think so. The career politician would just go from office to office much as they do now. Local council member to state legislator to US Congressman to US Senator to whatever.
Nope, much better to vote for the name you do not recognize as the office holder. Keep them on their toes. Don't allow them to build up a personal politcal organization or "machine." I once dreamed of a law that says anyone attempting to run for re-election would be committing a felony, subject to 10 years in prison.
I don't have much hope for any great numbers to follow my philosophy. I am enough of a realist to understand that. And it probably would be chaotic if it was followed. Maybe even border on anarchy. But do we really have anything much better than that now?
The best I can hope for is that when you vote, if you vote, that you actually think about who and what you are voting for. Too many do not. Too many voters just vote along party lines, just look at the other candidates as "the enemy." Too many people vote as their friends do or as some celebrity tells them to do or out of habit.
And then they wonder why so many crooks and weirdos are holding office.
I drink coffee on a daily basis. Most Americans do. In fact, most who drink coffee do so on a daily basis and to excess. My usual daily intake is 1 to 2 cups in the morning. That's it. I will occasionally have coffee after dinner when we eat out but, more often than not, don't.
I was not always this way. I used to drink it by the gallon.
I had my first cup of coffee, that I recall, when I was about 8. I am sure my mother let me taste it from time to time much earlier than that. My mother drank it with milk and sugar, as she drank her tea. So that is how I thought it was supposed to be. Enough milk to make it blonde and two teaspoons of sugar. I would have said "cream and sugar" but we never had cream in our house. The only time it was with cream and sugar was at restaurants. But even though I first drank coffee at 8 years old, I didn't drink it a lot until I was in my early to mid-teens. That was when I began "hanging out" at the bowling alley and the Mr. Donut.
Mr. Donut was a lot like the early Dunkin' Donuts. It was primarily a bakery that had a few cramped booths and a lot of counter space. Not so strangely, a lot of cops also dropped into Mr. Donut's. They watched us, we watched them, humorous insults were traded, but it was mostly a "neutral zone" where both sides could relax. Yeah, we each viewed the other as "the enemy".
It wasn't until I was in the Navy and living aboard ship that I began to drop the extras from my coffee. After a ship has been to sea for about 3 days, the fresh milk is used up. I could put in the powdered milk concoction that followed but I hated that stuff. I also had been using less and less sugar. For some reason, I was getting tired of the sweet taste of things. (As a child, I would have put sugar on my Frosted Flakes if no one was watching.) By the time we headed out for my first WesPac (trip to the lovely waters off Vietnam and other points of interest), I was drinking my coffee "naked"; no milk/cream and no sugar. But I was drinking more of it.
A lot more. It was a constant, as it seemed to be for most sailors. There was always coffee available on the mess deck. And there were few places you couldn't bring a cup of it with you. I learned to climb ladders, up or down, with a full cup of coffee. Since I was drinking so much coffee, the caffeine no longer had any real effect on me. I could wake up, go on watch and drink 5 or six cups in 4 hours and then go right back to sleep after being relieved. And we made our coffee strong in the Navy.
I kept up that habit after leaving the Navy. 12 or more cups a day, easily. When I began working night shift, I drank it all night long.
And then a strange thing happened. I would sleep in on my days off and wake up with a massive headache. The headache would disappear about the middle of my second cup of coffee. Being a clever and observant person, I caught on to the pattern after several weeks. Right after I read an article somewhere about something called "caffeine withdrawal."
I began to cut back. First, I stopped drinking coffee after 4 AM while at work. Then I cut that back to 2 cups all before 2 AM.
Now? Now, as I said, I drink one to two cups a day. But I love the smell of coffee brewing, I love the first sip. There is nothing else short of sex that is better.
As I drag my brain slowly into consciousness while sitting at the computer in the morning (any morning that I do not play golf, that is, where not being conscious can be helpful), I peruse the national news through our friend Google's news links and then I peruse the local happenings through a website for a local version of the Tampa Bay Tribune called "Highlands Today." Highlands is the name of our county.
Highlands in Florida is not a mountainous region. We have no mountains on this peninsula. We barely have hills and not this far south in the state. The name comes from the fact that our county is situated on what is called a "ridge", making us "higher" than our neighboring counties. I am guessing at this, it just seems logical though.
Why am I boring all of you with this? Because when I peruse the local news, I get a little "gadget" or flash product or something that rotates through the 5 stories the site's editor(s) think are most important. The five were:
Plenty of Halloween Events Being Planned
Synthetic Pot Being Sold Legally in County
Six Days Until Elections
Valazquez on to Regionals (high school diving star)
Titans Topple Red Devils (Local volleyball team loses in tournament)
Why are these stories so important? Because we live in a pretty quiet town and county. But there's another reason I bring them up. Each of these headlines has a little link that tells you the number of comments so far, if any. If there are none, it says "Be the first to comment".
Guess which story had the only comments.
There may be another reason this is called Highlands...
On occasion, I get emails from people who do not read this blog. I suspect they do not read it because the emails are usually requests for adding an advertising link to their commercial website, an invitation to join some group or association having to do with being an aging citizen or a member of the Baby Boomer generation, or an endorsement/mention of whatever it is they represent.
I don't know how to handle these politely so I usually just ignore them. This mostly works. But, once in a while, a petitioner will send me a follow-up email. The context seems to be that I must have overlooked the first email because how Icould I possibly jus ignore such a fine opportunity? Well, it's pretty easy as far as I am concerned. The following is a response to a Mr. Dempsey who wrote to me about helping support something called Retirement Living TV. I would not have sent this reply if he had left a sleeping Douglas lie... I left the text of Mr. Dempsey's email intact because I do not want anyone to think I oppose his premise. It's just not my cup of tea. I might oppose his politics, or not; it isn't clear what they are. I could guess based on the names mentioned and the style of the request but I will leave that up to you.
My theory of life and politics is that I will do my own research, my own analysis, and reach my own conclusions. I learned this at a young age and am too old to change now. I am not a member of a "bloc" of like-minded people. I am just another human being... equal to most, better than some.
I thought that perhaps my not responding might have been a sufficient answer. I did some examination of the proposed channel/network and find it not to my tastes or my needs. Please try to understand that my blog is not so much about being a Baby Boomer and problems of reaching "senior" status than it is about commentary on events and instances that shape our lives. In other words, it's more about the "Musings" than the "Boomer".
Additionally, I am not interested in what Sam Donaldson or Cokie Roberts have to say about anything. I was never a fan of those two or of the mainstream media. I learned a long time ago that no organization, no person, is without a bias that leaks through into their work. That includes journalists.
Though I am a member now of AARP, it is solely for the purpose of gaining access to some discounts. If those discounts turn out to be worth less than the dues, I will be dropping out of that organization. In fact, I may drop out regardless if the organization continues to support government policies which I believe are not good for the country.
You may disagree with me but this is my blog and my musings and I decide what goes into it and what does not. No amount of pressure or repeat efforts will change that.
Is that a sufficient answer? (Rhetorical question)
-------------------------------------------------- From: "Lowell Dempsey" Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:29 PM To: Subject: Following up on my last email
> Hi again Douglas > > I sent you an email last week but I hadn't heard back so I wanted to try you again. AARP is predicting 84% of people 55 and older will vote on Election Day. Yet candidates seem to be focusing all their energy on young voters. John Erickson, Chairman of RLTV and founder of Erickson Retirement Communities, wants to make sure that Americans 55 and older aren't ignored. > > The Huffington Post and Fox News both reported about John's initiative last week and I'm hoping this is a story that you and the readers of Boomer Musings would be interested in as well. John's goal to bring attention to this powerful group of 70 million Americans can be found here: > > http://johnerickson.tv > > John has also led the way on RLTV with Prime Votes, which features nightly updates with Sam Donaldson and John Palmer, as well as two national forums hosted by Cokie Roberts. More about Prime Votes, as well as John's discussion of many important national issues, can be found at the johnerickson.tv site. > > If you need more information or would like to interview John, please let me know and I will make it happen. If you are able to post or tweet, please send me the link so I can share it with the team. > > Thanks so much, > > Lowell > > -- > Lowell Dempsey > Johnerickson.tv > RL.tv > @johnericksontv > @RLTVLive >
There are so many things of importance to write about today that I feel overwhelmed and inadequate to the task. These are pretty much accurate feelings. I probably am overwhelmed and inadequate to the task. In fact, I am often inadequate to a lot of tasks. And feeling overwhelmed is a constant state in my life. I like to say that is because I always try to take on more, push myself to the limits. Just fooling myself, I suppose. Maybe not even fooling myself. I know I procrastinate and am inherently lazy. In fact, I have taken laziness to new heights since my retirement. I have never been overwhelmed by laziness.
Still, there are things to comment upon. One of these is seismic activity. I have mentioned this before. Actually, more than just once. Yesterday (or maybe it's tomorrow, I cannot figure out that whole International Dateline thing), Indonesia suffered a Tsunami as a result of a large earthquake. This one struck a small island. Indonesia is made up of a lot of islands, both small and large. And it sits on the western edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring has been quiet for some time but has recently kicked up a bit. But we've also had some odd seismic activity in Wyoming, of all places. We tend to forget that there are some major fault lines inside the US (other than California and Alaska... which are on the eastern edge of the Ring). Missouri, for example has the New Madrid Fault. And Yellowstone is the site of a Supervolcano which, if it ever blows (and some say "when it blows") will pretty much wipe out North American civilization and severely impact the weather for the rest of the world.
So, being a little paranoid, I fret about these things whenever I see an increase in seismic activity. Or see odd seismic events occur (like that Wyoming thing).
It doesn't help that I am in the throes of some freakin' flu bug.
Well, it is good to be back. I think. Somehow I managed to pick up a bug while we were in San Diego. I probably caught that at a Jack in the Box restaurant. I like Jack in the Box restaurants, it's a pity there are none in Florida. I am not sure why I like them, they haven't treated me all that well over the years.
They were the first fast food places to come out with breakfast sandwiches. They had a Breakfast Jack. This consisted of an egg, cooked over hard in a little metal ring so it was round, a slice of Canadian Bacon, on a regular hamburger bun. It was a great idea. But the first one I bought had a large piece of eggshell on it. Which I found after biting into it. Numerous times afterward, they would foul up the order I would give in the drive-thru lane. That's pretty much understandable if you consider just how bad those speakers and microphones are. Only they couldn't be this bad. Not this many times.
Still, I never miss a chance to patronize them when I am in an area that has them. They have a Meaty Breakfast Burrito now that I crave just thinking about it. It probably raises my cholesterol to 300mg all by itself but... I just don't care.
I have digressed, have I not? I was talking about illness, not food.
The drive home had me coughing and sniffling most of the way. Not terribly but somewhat. The day after I arrived home, it turned worse. It added a fever (mild) and few aches. I felt a bit better by Sunday and today I will ignore it to play golf. I do have my priorities after all.
Still, it is good to get home. Pleasant to sit on the sofa in front of the TV. Nice to know I can grab some iced tea (green tea with lemon, honey, and ginseng) from the fridge and settle down with the computer to do all the puzzles I like to do. It just isn't the same in a hotel room. Even in one of those mini-suites they have now.
And I can now get back to regular blogging. Daily. Except Sundays (usually). Whether you like it or not.
I know this isn't Saturday (my "politics" day) and that I usually refrain from posting on Sundays but some things in the news the past several days built up a banging in my head that wouldn't go away. I suppose I could have just dampened the sound with copious amounts of alcohol, turned off the TV (except for watching the seemingly endless stored programs I missed while on my recent travels), and avoided perusing the news on the Internet. But I couldn't do that. I am masochistic in that way. And then this morning, a friend sends me an email with a link to a blog, the National Juggernaut, and to the following post on it. I took the liberty to embed, as the blog author did, this cartoon from YouTube because I thought it a simple but informative peek at what I grew up with.
Contrast it to the cartoons your child watches today. Consider whether it or the modern cartoons are teaching us anything. Muse about whether we are shaped by our environment (political and social) or whether we develop our view of that environment independently. I apologize for its length. It is a tad over 9 minutes long. But it's worth the watch, I think.
It turns out I am a jealous man. Not regarding Faye, mind you, or that I envy others' possessions. Not to excess anyway. I do engage in the latter but, then, don't we all? Admit it, your neighbor comes home from work in a brand new Mercedes while you are parking your 4 year old Dodge with the bald tires. That gets to you, doesn't it? Eats at your craw, ties the old stomach into knots? Maybe it's just the fact that he has a job that gets to you. But I digress...
I am jealous of eyebrows. I just saw Sam Waterston doing an ad for the brokerage house that pays him outrageous residuals from the enormous amount of money they leech from honest folks. His eyebrows are thick and curve around his eyes down toward his cheekbones. And in spite of the mop of gray hair, they are black as coal.
My eyebrows? Tiny little things, barely an inch from one end to the other. It's my mother's fault, of course. Genetics decided that I would get her eyebrows. Basically, that means I get rapidly vanishing eyebrows. They are shrinking. They used to be full, impressive things; neither too big nor too small. They framed my once expressive dark brown eyes perfectly. No more. Not for many years. And they are continuing to shrink as I grow steadily, relentlessly, aggravatingly, older.
My sweet mother passed away in 2008 without any eyebrows at all. I know, I was there. I watched them disappear over the years and have, of late, realized this is also my own fate.
Welcome to Mississippi! The state where highways are laid by convicts with no hope for parole. Ok, that probably isn't true. It just seems that way. We rolled into Richland, MS around 4:30 PM. That's just a little south of Vicksburg and the site of one of the two decisive battles that led to the end of the American Civil War. It would be almost 80 years after that battle before the people of Vicksburg would celebrate Independence Day.
Mississippi is a beautiful state. It gets a lot of ugly press, though. It's not exactly on everyone's vacation list unless you count Biloxi where gambling is legal. And, of course, that is exactly where we were headed. But we took a different route from San Diego than we usually do. That route took us along I-20 and we took a turn down to Gulfport and Biloxi just after entering the state just outside of Vicksburg. We took one of those highways people used to take before they built the Interstates.
We headed off toward the Gulf of Mexico on US 49 when we arrived in Richland but, first, we stopped for a meal. It was about 3:15 PM and we figured we'd grab dinner so we could just collapse in whatever hotel room we could find and get a good night's sleep. It hadn't been a long day on the road, just one full of slowdowns for Road Work areas (and we actually saw a few people working!) and one crash. That must have been nasty since I couldn't figure out from the debris just how big the truck was that crashed. Very messy.
Makes you wonder... then you just kick it back up to 75 and keep moving.
In Richland, now on that US 49, we took a chance on a Mexican restaurant. C'mon, this is Mississippi and we're going to try a Mexican restaurant? It was called El Ranchito and was nestled between an Arby's and, get this, a Taco Bell. I was wary. Very wary.
I became very surprised. Excellent food. Really excellent food. So we ate like the little pigs we are, scarfing up a really good chicken burrito and a plate of Chili Colorado. The test of Mexican food for me is in the guacamole And the guacamole passed the test. Not the bland version but one you didn't need to spike with the salsa. Thick, tasty, copious.
After over eating, we found refuge in a motel just down the very bumpy road in a town called Magee (which the Garmin called "mah-gee" with a soft "g"). We slept in. Not real late but enough. We figured to kill some time with a good breakfast somewhere. You see, we were about 2 hours from Biloxi and didn't need to get there until mid-afternoon. Check in time at Biloxi hotels is usually 4 PM. I did mention Biloxi before, didn't I? There's gambling there. Faye likes to gamble. I like to keep Faye happy. I don't think she'd take a car trip across country without gambling being involved.
We needed a place to eat. There weren't many choices and hunger was beginning to distort our thinking. We even looked at a Hardy's in desperation. But the Garmin told us about a place down the road called the "Main Street Cafe" in a town called Collins [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collins,_Mississippi]. We took a chance on it. It turned out they didn't serve breakfast. Just lunch and dinner... buffet style. Family owned and operated. And it seemed like everyone in this bustling metropolis of 2700 or so was a regular customer. But we arrived first. All you can eat of really good southern cooking for $8 ("Tax included"), including good coffee or whatever you wanted to drink and homemade dessert.
I have found a new route from California to Florida...
Next time, we'll even visit the National Park up in Vicksburg.
My name is Clyde. I am a fly. An adolescent fly. Clyde is not my real name, that would be "bzzzz-zzzzzz-zzzzt", but Clyde will do.  I was born a week or so ago (time is not my forte') in a trash receptacle in Gila Bend next to a Dairy Queen. How I came to write this is that these two humans stopped in to get some of that sweet smelling stuff like I was born and thrived in as a larva before I grew into an adult with wings and legs and stuff. So, naturally I was attracted to them when they came out the door.
I followed them toward this big metal thing. When the male got in, I joined him. Then I couldn't get out. I could see out but there was something in the way that stopped me from flying back to my home at the trash can. It was weird. The air got cooler. That almost never happens, except at night, in Gila Bend. And it was quick. Then the world that I could see started moving, faster and faster. I could see the Dairy Queen moving away and other stuff was moving toward me. And there were other big metal things around us while the world kept moving toward us and away from us. It was quite confusing, I can tell you. I really wanted out and I think the humans wanted me out too because they kept opening some of the barriers when I would fly near them. But the wind turbulence was too much for me and would push me away. So I tried to stay up where the barrier was but there was something I could land on. Then I would sometimes explore all around the inside of this metal thing looking for food. Couldn't find any though. They didn't leave any food bits lying around. I got awful hungry.
After a very long time, the metal thing stopped and got quiet. I was afraid so I hid while the humans moved around and took things and then shut the metal thing up again. I was still trapped inside. It seemed like forever. It got dark and then light again before the humans came back. When they did, I thought I might escape from the metal thing but missed my chance. They didn't stay long but went away again. But not for as long. When they came back, the place got noisy and the world started moving again.
After a long time, the world stopped moving again. The humans got out but I missed my chance to escape the metal thing. Again! After some time, the metal thing opened again and the humans got back in. One of them had something that smelled like food but I couldn't get at it. The next thing I know, I was being pushed by air outside the metal thing. Man, was I glad to get out of there before the world started moving again. But I have no idea where I am. It smells familiar, though, I think I will see if there isn't a trash can around here. Maybe I can find a sweet female fly and couple with her so she'll lay a few hundred eggs. I don't know why I want to do this but it just seems the right thing to do.
I do know one thing, I am not getting inside one of those big metal things again!
One of the highlights of a trip that reaches California is Mexican food. Since Faye was born and raised in San Diego, she has a decided preference for the style that is found there. Greasy tacos are her special favorite choice of nourishment.
I am not a taco fan. I blame this on the first taco I ever ate. The shell was crisp and the first bite basically shattered it, spilling the contents all over my shirt and the ground. Major turn-off. I later discovered burritos and all was well.
I soon discovered The Food of the Gods, aka guacamole. It is an acquired taste, I am told, by those who do not like it. Of course, that is because it looks amazingly like baby poo. And, perhaps, because those who do not like it probably have never tried really good guacamole. Such as what I make. I use the very secret ingredients I found at a grocery store chain. Lawry's is the brand. They suggest using two medium or small avocados. That's just silly. I use one moderately large one or sometimes one medium one. It doesn't matter what type (I didn't know there were several types and still do not care), diced tomatoes (about a half a medium size tomato), and add salsa that is marked with a radioactivity symbol and which should be handled with well insulated gloves. I add only a spoonful or two. Just enough to cauterize your tonsils, assuming you still have them. You can add cilantro and/or diced onion for extra taste. Some people add sour cream or other filler but these people are properly called Philistines.
I put guacamole on everything Mexican and many things that aren't. Faye will attest to this but not publicly... or without blushing.
I also like rolled tacos, sometimes referred to as "taquitos", if they are smothered in good guacamole and cheese and there is some tasty salsa handy. These are best purchased at small take-out stands with names ending in "berto" or "tia". I am not sure why. Most seem to have no health department approval.
I am partial to chicken or pork dishes. They seem to have more flavor than beef. My favorite pork dish is called "carnitas". I think that only translates to "little meat" and I am not sure why it is called that. But it is roasted pork chunks and that's all I need to know.
Contrary to popular belief, refried beans are not really fried twice. Just once... with a unhealthy load of lard. After they were already cooked the usual way and then mashed a bit. Of course, spices are added. Guacamole is not usually added to refried beans... except by me.
When I was a young man-child at school, a teacher impressed me with an explanation of why spices were important enough to lead to the "discovery" of America and had made Marco Polo famous. It seems that back in the 11th to 16th centuries (and even later, I am told) no one had refrigerators. This meant that meat and other foods went bad before all of it had been prepared and eaten unless it was a hard winter. Spices helped preserve the meat and covered up the taste of what went bad. Spices were most popular in warm climates like the Mediterranean area. You will notice that Norwegian food is not spicy. This is because they live in refrigerators.
Spices became so popular that it spawned an age of exploration which eventually led to Christopher Columbus hocking Queen Isabella's jewelry to finance a trip westward in search of a new route to India, China, and the Far East where the spices could be had. As we all know, Chris stumbled into the Americas instead and ruined things for the natives for the next few hundred years until they got permission to build casinos.
As I mentioned before, I recently purchased a Garmin Nuvi. Well, I actually said "GPS unit for the car" but I thought I would reveal the brand and model. So you could avoid it, or not, as you are so inclined.
These things "speak" to you. The voice is odd, inflections don't seem to fit the words properly. I mean when it is reciting less commonly known city names and streets. The reason for this is in how they record the voice for the machine. It is an exercise in phonetics. They record the phonetic sounds the letter combinations make and then piece them together on playback. Letter combinations produce certain sounds but they are not consistent and the machine must choose which sounds are appropriate. An "e" can be "ee" or "eh" or even a long "a". I will use my town of Sebring for an example. It is pronounced see-bring but the Garmin calls it sehb-ring. It sometimes adds to the confusion.
They use a woman's voice. I suspect there are two reasons for this. One is that a woman's voice is deemed more pleasant than a man, more passive than aggressive. The other is that we males are used to be told what to do and where to go by women.
I experienced a couple of problems with the unit. One is that it got an address wrong. It told us a hotel would be on the right side of the road when it was actually on the left. The other was when it had me exit the I-15 freeway and then re-enter it again. It went something like this (think sexy, but not too sexy, babe voice)...
In point 2 miles exit right on the ramp to [something, something] road. [pause 10 seconds] In point 2 miles take on ramp to I-15 south.
Whenever you make a wrong turn or turn into a fast food place or whatever as you are traveling under its "control", it tells you it is "recalculating...recalculating" and then begins giving you directions to get back to the designated route. This can be a little annoying. Mostly because it is like having a mother-in-law (or a wife) in the car directing you and "recalculating...recalculating" is a euphemism for "You moron! I told you to turn left back there!"
These "recalculating...recalculating" comments, of course, caused me to fall into my modified Walter Mitty mode...
In point nine miles, turn left into oncoming traffic. (turning right) I told you to turn left. You never listen to me. How am I supposed to get you to your destination if you won't listen to me? (heading for the nearest bar) You shouldn't be drinking this early in the day, you know. Not to mention it is illegal to drink and drive. And you know how you get with a couple of shots under your belt. (pulling into parking lot) Mother told me you would do things like this but I wouldn't listen. No, not me, I knew better. I said you'd change but noooooo... (Pulling to a stop and getting out of car) You can't just leave me out here. I have a good mind to call the highway patrol and report this. And I would if it wouldn't be so embarrassing.
I see and hear comments about a viable third political party in the U.S. Wishful thinking, I believe. Thomas Friedman recently wrote about this possibility in a NY Times opinion piece called "Third Party Rising." In it, he speaks of a "radical center" in politics. I would call that an oxymoron but I am not as educated as Mr. Friedman so I might be wrong. Can a "center", a middle ground between Left and Right wing political ideology, actually be radical? I don't think so. It's very nature would be compromise and compromise is anything but radical.
There are other reasons I disagree about the emergence of a third party. Sides have been chosen, for one. That is, Big Labor has lined up on the side of Democrats (include teacher and education unions here) and Big Business has lined up behind the Republicans. That's a generality because a lot of Big Business also backs the Democrats (Entertainment, for one). It's one of those Catch-22 things... a political party has to be viable to attract reliable financial backing and it has to have reliable financial backing in order to become viable. Sure, there is a lot of unaligned money out there in mainstream America but that source is not something one can rely on. The general public can turn on you in a heartbeat. And, when they do, there goes the funding.
I have posted elsewhere that we need a 4 party system. Along with that, we'd also need to mutate into a parliamentary system and that isn't going to happen either. But a 4 party system would allow enough flexibility to allow for transient alliances to accomplish temporary political goals.
No, what we are stuck with is a two party system and we need to come to terms with that. The general public can exert influence by backing the party that best represents their desires and needs at the current political moment. It happened in 1980 where we had what were called "Reagan Democrats". It happened in 2006 and 2008 when Democrats regained control of Congress and the White House. People voted across party lines. It happens more often than is reported. It should happen this November. That is the prediction anyway but it isn't being reported that way. Instead, it is the "fired up" vs the "apathetic." Yet Friedman hints that there is something else going on. That this "radical center" is emerging. Well, wouldn't that naturally take from the two other parties? The so called "independents", the non-affiliated, are not really centrist. They are a mix of far left, far right, the indifferent, and the unwilling to commit.
Let's assume that a viable third party emerges and that this party is made up of the center left and center right folks. That would create a fairly balanced three party system... 1/3rd Left, 1/3rd Right, and 1/3rd Center. If you think there's gridlock now, just image how difficult it would be to get a simple majority to pass a bill. Not to mention a super-majority vote to override a veto or to invoke cloture.
Not going to happen. And even if it did, it would be dumped at the next election cycle. Happily. Hopefully. Because it would grant way too much power to the executive branch.
We can make a 2 party system work well. It worked pretty well until the last 30 or so years. It's being gamed a bit right now but that will shake itself out. When the voters start throwing what Peter Jennings called, in 1994, more temper tantrums. Remember, the political parties aren't just the leaders, they are the members of those parties.
Here I am in Las Vegas. In a hotel room. Puttering about on a computer. I suppose I should be gambling. After all, that's the point of Vegas, isn't it? To pointlessly lose money at a much faster rate than you earned it and call it "entertainment"? I did a little of that last night after dinner. It took me a solid 45 minutes at a $5 minimum Blackjack table to lose $100 while I spent the same amount taking 3 1/2 hours playing golf. Ok, I spent a little more at golf if you include the outrageously priced iced tea ($4) and the outrageously priced Bloody Mary ($6) along with the $99 greens fee. At least there was some exercise and a few rare instances of skill to be experienced in the golf game.
So I am about burned out on gambling. Have been for years really. Faye likes to gamble (which is why we did not retire to Las Vegas or anywhere that has a casino) and has no trouble parking herself in front of a slot machine for hours at a time. I am not complaining. She joins these Player's Clubs that each casino/hotel has and she gets offers for comped rooms on a regular basis. It cost us nothing for a two night stay in Biloxi at the Hard Rock Hotel, nothing for a three night stay at New York New York in Vegas. And Faye doesn't miss me while I take off for a few hours and play golf when we come here (or go to Biloxi).
One of the nice things about Vegas is the "eye candy". What is "eye candy", you ask? That would be the young, nubile women who strut around the casinos and hotels and the strip. That used to be one of the things I enjoyed most about visits to Vegas. Now that I am... ahem... a little older, I find myself aghast at the fact that most, if not all, of the pretty ladies are young enough to be my granddaughters.
I would not actually try to pick up one of these young women. I am a faithful, loyal, husband. That doesn't mean I don't have a fantasy world nestled in the recesses of what passes for my brain. I am a male, after all. It's just that even that gets tainted by the reality of the gray hairs of my beard and hair. It's no fun realizing you are just another old goat that these women are both appalled and amused by.
Still, those are nice fantasies...
This trip, I ran into some guys who were on a bachelor party visit (a few days of bachelor party certainly beats a one nighter with the requisite killer hangover) at the golf course and a wedding party on the elevator when I got back to the hotel. People come to Vegas for both that last fling before the vows and to take those vows. Was married here myself... twice. It's fitting. What is a greater gamble than marriage?
But fantasies and realities aside, tomorrow it is off to California.
There's always something, isn't there? A mostly uneventful drive across the country gets a sudden desert storm just at the last 30 miles before Las Vegas. A bit of rain, a bit of wind, some hail (yes, hail!) caused a little slowdown amidst a few weather alerts on the radio warning of flash floods. But it wasn't enough to do more than slow us down a little and we were running ahead of schedule anyway.
Before we left on this trip, I purchased a GPS unit for the car. I have decided it may have been a wasted purchase. Not completely wasted but there were some problems. Just north of Dallas, we requested a search for hotels. Picked one out and went for that. It had the hotel on the wrong side of the highway. Not a big problem, just a matter of turning around. Still, it was annoying. There were confusing directions for some other destinations as well but, in general, it wasn't too bad. And it was nice to have a quick access to hotel names and numbers for any destination we chose. The machine's voice could have been a little less grating too.
I am not sure why I bought the GPS. I have made trips across the country a number of times. It is almost impossible to get lost except inside a city... on the surface streets. And I don't bother to stay inside a city while traveling. I bypass as many major cities as I can (especially Houston, Texas!) and look for nice places to spend a night after passing those. When I was young, I would sleep in rest areas or the cheapest motel I could find. Now that I am a bit older, I prefer a bit more comfort. Besides, Faye has a large aversion for rat holes and Motel 6's. We tend to stay at Hampton's Holiday Inn Express, and the like. The GPS unit helped in locating these and also helped in finding restaurants.
Some of you folks with smart phones can use them for the same purpose. I am more into the pay as you go phone so I can't do that.
In any event, we have arrived in Las Vegas without major incident. Faye managed to avoid shrieking too many times while I drove which made it fairly pleasant. The tension in the car increases significantly if I am passing a large truck. Faye has a tendency to gasp if the car 400 or more feet ahead of us taps his brakes. The shrieks start when there is less than 200 feet to that car. She also gasps loudly if I tap the brakes, especially if I mumble something when I do it. I won't go into what I might mumble.
I tend to pay more attention to the beauty (or ugliness) of the countryside. I find it fascinating to descend from the mountains of Arizona (around Flagstaff) down into the deserts. The change in scenery is gradual but almost breathtaking. From tall pines and lushness to sparse scrub clinging to rock and sand.
Two days ago we were in Albuquerque when, just by chance, the Balloon Festival was getting underway. I had been there on loan from my office in San Diego some 33 years ago when I first saw this event. I took some pics and a couple of movie clips but there's something wrong with the clips and I can't play them.
Did I mention I also have a new camera? Still learning how to use it. Not sure how long that will take since I had my last one for a couple of years and didn't learn that one too well in that time.
Tomorrow I will play golf here in Vegas. I play because even at the high rates here it is cheaper than what I would lose at a blackjack table.
Six people sat down to play. The mood was serious. Only 2 would survive to play on. Some wore hats, some had hair. All were ready. The same scene played out on 5 more tables. The dealer was annoying though he thought he was witty. There was little conversation as the cards were dealt and the hands played. I held my own. I played a strong game and increased my allotted $500 easily as we lost 2 players who gambled unwisely. At the end, there were 4 of us and I was solidly ahead. It was on that hand, I learned a valuable lesson.
Sometimes it is worth it to risk it all.
I didn't. I held back. Too much, it turned out. The lady at the end doubled her holdings by besting the dealer's wimpy 17. The smooth character at the other end lost his chance on a bust. To my immediate right, he tripled his holdings with a BJ and I hit one also but not for enough to matter... I was third behind the lady and my opponent to the right.
I could have thrown it all in for that hand because it was win or lose. I should have.
But I didn't. And that is why I am also not one of those who moved on to the next level in the Blackjack tournament.
Faye went on from her table but lasted just that one more round.