Monday, December 31, 2012

Video - Mower

As well as keeping Europe financially afloat, the Germans can also engineer some basic tasks, like keeping the roads and streets neat and tidy.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday's Column - Mojave River Forks Musem

This Sunday we visited a small museum in Barstow.  The town gets a bad press I think as it's sort of on the way to everywhere else, but it has five museums that I know of.  This article is about the first of two I went to the other day.
The Mojave River Forks Museum has a varied collection of stuff from years ago and some of it is outside the actual building itself.  This includes a very nice caboose from the early part of the last century.  There is also a collection of artifacts from the days of mining in the area.  It's easy to get to and there is no charge for admission.  You can read the entire article at

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tirade - Cheap Fares

What the heck is with these airlines?  The other day I arrived early at an airport and went up to the ticket clerk who was amusing herself watching people struggle with the "do-it-yourself" computer in front of her desk - they don't check you in any more, just watch you struggle.  I showed her my printed out boarding card, done at home, of course, and asked if I could get on an earlier flight.  She directed her attention to her own screen and punched some buttons.  "There's one in half an hour."  "That would be great," I replied.  But wait.  "Oh, your ticket is a reduced fare one."  This said as if I had a particularly virulent and visible form of venereal disease.  "There's an additional charge for that, I'm afraid."  "Oh really," I said, "what might that be?"  "$125!"  Good grief!
Now what's the idea behind the penalty. Are we supposed to buy more expensive tickets than the ones they advertise so that we can chop and change around?  It seems a little draconian to me.  Come on People!

Right Track - Unions

So let me see if I've got this right.  It now seems that 75% of the money from the stimulus package in Wisconsin went to union jobs.  This kept those people at work and paying union dues.  As unions pay massive amounts to the Democratic party to keep them in power, they naturally support the closed shop.
Now the "right-to-work" laws in 24 states stops this money laundering and allows people to work without joining a union and therefore contributing to a political party they don't like.  It also stops any thuggery.  No wonder the unions are mad as hell.
Ain't democracy a bitch!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Music Track - Carol

As we're still in the heart of the Christmas holiday, here's a rather different take on Carol of the Bells - see if you like it - I rather do!

Thursday, December 27, 2012


One of the best things about being retired is I don't have to deal with traffic.  Well, we do get our local rush hours up here where manic contractors who failed to get up in time are late for their first and then of course, subsequent jobs. Sometimes we get as many as fifteen cars waiting at one of the lights along the boulevard!
The other day however I had to go down to the flatlands and drive right into the heart of the beast.  I had to go along the 91, 55 and 22, for those familiar with local places.  For the others, let's just say it was travelling the biggest Freeways LA has to offer.  It was OK going but then came the return trip which began at 6 p.m.  This is not a good time.
It was fairly harrowing, but good to hone one's skills which had somewhat atrophied over the years.  The traffic was terrible and now in yet another search for funds to pay for overinflated pensions and benefits, the bureaucrats are doing away with car pool lanes in favor of Fast Track lanes that you pay for.  Unfortunately you can't pay for them at the time you need them - only in advance.  By the time I got out of it I was in need of a serious adult beverage!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Harley - R.I.P.

We had a great sadness in the family on Thursday.  We lost our friend Harley - Simon, Caroline and Evan's big dog.  He was about ten.  He was half boxer and half mastiff.  He was a lot of fun and we will miss him greatly.  On one occasion I was staying with them and there was some sort of domestic disturbance next door.  There was a lot of noise of doors slamming and shouting.  I was asleep downstairs, and Harley came down and sat next to me until the noise was quieted  down with the police arriving.  He obviously thought I needed protection.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Video - The Night Before Christmas.

As it really is The Night Before Christmas, this is a very good traditional interpretation of the poem.
My thanks to Denise in Florida for this sentimental video.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday's Column - Christmas

Christmas in Big Bear is almost always the ideal location for such a time - mostly there's snow on the hills and this year is no exception.  We've had quite a lot for this early in the season.
Naturally we have Santa in the Village - he's got Mrs. Claus around to help with all the requests.  I don't remember Santa had a Mrs when I was young, but perhaps with the years he's needed more help than the elves could provide.  We have Bear Valley Stage giving rides and also we now have a new ice rink.  You can read the entire column at

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tirade - Sandy Hook

Once again tragedy has struck a small part of America, and as usual the media has descended on the town in full force.  Once again they are ready to milk the situation and try and glean every bit of emotion out of the grief that the poor surviving parents are enduring.  And do it 24/7!
Then, of course, comes the perpetual question as to why this happened, and then the implication that somehow our 2nd Amendment rights caused it.  "We have to do something," booms the President.  Gun control talk buzzes around the tables of the Sunday morning political talk shows.  "We have to make our schools more secure," says one.  "We need to look at mental health," shouts another. Sadly we have few solutions for the act of a madman.  Because that is what caused it.  Maybe we should start blaming violent video games!  My solution?  Arm the teachers!  The little bastard would have thought twice before going into a classroom that could have fought back!  Come on People!

Right Track - Budget Cuts

My thanks to my friend Don for sending this to me.  It's rather sad in a way.

We are cutting back and you may want to also....
We're going to bite the  bullet !!!!
President Obama ordered the cabinet to cut $100,000,000.00 ($100
million) from the $3,500,000,000,000.00 ($3.5 trillion) federal budget.
I'm so impressed by this sacrifice that I have decided to do the same
thing with my personal budget. I spend about $2,000 a month on
groceries, household expenses, medicine, utilities, etc., but it's time
to get out the budget cutting ax, go through my expenses, and cut back.

I'm going to cut my spending at exactly the same ratio (1/35,000) of my total  budget. After doing the math, it looks like instead of spending $2,000 a month, I'm going to have to cut that number by SIX CENTS. Yes, I'm going to have to get by with $1999.94, but that's what sacrifice is all about.
I'll just have to do without some things.  I'll cut out six cents worth of luxuries, and I'll just have to live without them.
Did this President actually think no one would do the math? How idiotic to only cut $100 million out of a $3.5 trillion budget –  ludicrous!!!!!!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

New layout

As we all seem to have survived the Mayan forecast of extinction, it's now the first day of winter, so we have a new layout for the blog.  I hope you like it.

Music Track - Webern

This only takes 4:17 minutes.  But it will strain your ears.  Anton Webern was an Austrian who died in 1945.  He was accidentally shot by an American soldier while enjoying a cigar on the veranda of his house in the woods near Saltzburg.  The soldier, mortified, eventually killed himself due to grief.  Webern was one of the principle exponents of atonal music along with Shoenberg and Berg.  It's tough stuff, and not many people truly enjoy it.  I'm not sure about it myself.  But in the interests of pushing the envelope, here are Five Pieces for Orchestra written in 1911.  As one critic said: It requires the utmost in concentration by the listener.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ear Test

Do you possibly have a diagonal crease across your ear lobes?  This chap doesn't.  It seems that going back as far as 1974, doctors have known about this strange fact, but no one has come up with a reason for it.  In one case, in the autopsies of more than 300 patients who died of cardiac disease, 73% had this ear lobe crease.  There is a Web site where you can see more about this at

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Citroen DS

One of the characters we see regularly on TV drives one of these - A Citroen DS circa 1975.
I only drove one twice (That's "two times" for the less eloquent of you!)  The first time was after a particularly liquid lunch in London with my two colleagues - we had been entertaining our bankers and it was a regular ritual.  Now here I suggest that those with a less than forgiving attitude to alcohol and the law may wish to stop reading as I have a confession to make which might upset you.  Back in the day, it was perfectly normal to go out to lunch and consume quite large quantities of booze and develop happy relationships.  It used to be enormous fun, and I don't regret it at all.  Anyway we rode up to town in this odd car, and I had a fancy to have a go with it.  It had a funny sort of suspension and a single arm holding the steering wheel.  I had no problems and we shot back to the inner suburbs where our office was located.
The next day as we were going out on another trip, I asked again to try it.  It was about 11 a.m. and naturally I was, as the saying goes, clean and sober!  I had a lot of trouble with this thing.  It felt really weird and moved around the road in all types of strange ways.  Which goes to show, if you decide to drive one you better be either French or seriously under the influence.  By the way, I never drive with any booze in me these days - I have S.W.M.B.O. do it!  Ha ha!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


We did get our early snowfall just before Thanksgiving this year.  It's amazing how predictable that is.  It's never a great deal but enough to open a couple of the ski runs for the holiday.
Usually we might get another small one a week or so after and then it's quiet until we get into January when we get quite big falls..
This year, the big fall has come early - 13th of December and it's going to be a lot of snow.
Initially we have had the first of three storms to come through and the first amount at our end of the valley was about a foot by ten o'clock in the morning.
Fortunately I have a number of very good tools to clear it when it eventually stops snowing.
I have an electric blower for the deck, a big snow plough for the driveway and a new shovel for some odd bits.
But my favorite snow clearer of all is this one.  Boy is she good!   Often as I'm enjoying a hot cup of chocolate inside my office sheltering from the cold, I can see the work progressing and it's amazing to watch!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Video - Jackie Mason

I have heard it said that Jews make the best comedians and tell the best jokes - certainly about Jews.  So here is on one of the best.  Jackie Mason performing at the Royal Opera House in London.  It takes about six minutes

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday's Column - Cabot's Pueblo

I'm not much of a desert man.  It's too monochromatic for me and also it's damned hot!  But I have to admit there are some interesting places to visit once you leave the mountain top and head a little east and south.
One such place is the amazing place built by one man, Cabot Yerxa.  He became destitute in the 1930's and bought some acreage just outside Palm Springs. Together with his trusty donkey, Merry Christmas, he trudged back and forth to get water each day.  And then he struck water on his own land.  But it was very hot water. Perhaps not what you want in 120 degree weather.
Cabot's Pueblo and Museum
Convinced of the healing qualities he found an investor and then began his great project - building a four story house out of largely discarded materials.  He called it his pueblo.  You can read the entire column at

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tirade - Prank

Am I  the only one getting a little tired of the sanctimonious attitude of the media over this Australian Broadcasting prank that went wrong?  The final straw for me was the tear filled "confessions" of the two DJ's who made the silly phone call to the hospital pretending to to be the Queen of England.  Frankly the female's sobbing performance was worthy of an Oscar nomination.  These two marginally talented people have made a name for themselves by doing this type of stunt before, and I really don't think they could be that upset over what had to be a coincidence.  The woman who committed suicide must have been on the brink to do it - after all she merely put the imposters through to the ward.  I can't see Howard Stern being that upset.  And he is the master of such stuff. Come on People!

Right Track - Arabs

I'm getting a little tired of the situation in Arabia.  And more so by our stumbling around wringing our collective hands.  Now I know we're all supposed to feel everybody's pain in these sensitive times but let's just look at the evidence  here.  These people don't know how to rule themselves.  Surely our experience in Iraq must have shown us that.  We removed a dictator and chaos followed.  Same thing in Libya; same thing in Egypt.  I hope the Pakistanis will forgive me, but it's the same there.  Total disaster!  Now we have good old Basher looking like he wants to gas his people, and that's sent everyone into a panic.  Why?  He'll do as he likes.  For the world of Islam, surely dictatorships are the way to go.  They actually work.  Particularly the really nasty ones.  So let's not get drawn into the tar baby of Arabia again.  They're not like us.  And also let's stop sending them any more money. We can have them hate us for free!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Music Track - Mendelssohn

My father loved Mendelssohn and would occasionally play some of his Songs Without Words.  This is Op 85 Number 4 and is just 2:53 of sheer beauty.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Accident - almost!

I was riding along our North Shore Drive the other morning on my way to an assignment.  Now I don't know what is wrong with this particular two-mile stretch of road, but it seems to me to have more than its fair share of accidents - and many of them with motorcycles.
The speed limit is 40 and I was doing about that when a woman in a red Ford saloon turned out right in front of me.  She was about fifty feet away and at first I couldn't believe she'd done this.  Now fortunately for me Harley Davidson provide excellent brakes on their machines and so I squeezed them both pretty hard.  Unfortunately however, I didn't have quite enough space to stop before I would have hit her.  I therefore pulled over the the crown of the road and would have had to clip a little off the oncoming lane too. 
A truck driver coming towards me saw my dilemma and pulled well over to give me more space, but by then the woman had sped up and I was safe.  She took the next turning on the right - without any signal, of course - and I'm sure she never even knew of my presence on the road.  The truck driver and I acknowledged knowing looks!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interesting Facts - Antarctica

Antarctica is the only land on our planet that is not owned by any country.
Ninety percent of the world's ice covers Antarctica. This ice also represents seventy percent of all the fresh water in the world.
As strange as it sounds, however, Antarctica is essentially a desert; the average yearly total precipitation is about two inches.  Although covered with ice (all but 0.4% of it,) Antarctica is the driest place on the planet, with an absolute humidity lower than the Gobi desert.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The other day I met a man who told me his dog was in fact a wolf.  The animal was outside and it looked pretty tame to me, so I sacrificed a piece of the sausage I was eating and asked the man if I could give it to "Buddy."  He said he would love it.  So out I went to meet him and he was indeed happy with the proffered gift.  He was very tame and I enjoyed being with him.  Now the man had been a personal body guard to some rich client for some time so I didn't want to upset him.  The fact is I don't think it was a wolf at all.  More likely a Malamute, one of which I knew very well some years ago.  Here's a Malamute below, and you can see that he's not much different to the wolf above.

The fact is that wolves are truly wild animals and not domesticated to the point where I would trust them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Video - Happy

My friend Keith has been on a roll. He's recently sent me a couple of great videos for the Monday video track.  This one last five minutes but it's a wonderful thing to enjoy - take the time out of your busy day to watch.  I wonder who picked up this fellow's travel expenses?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday's Column - Wolf Fitness

This Sunday's column is about my local gym - Wolf Total Fitness.  I've been going here for about six months since my other gym closed down.  This is one of the problems with smaller gyms, they just don't stay in business.  Chris Wolfe is an ex-CEO of a large corporation and knows what it takes to stay in business, plus he's a fitness fan himself; running marathons and also boxing.  You can read the entire column at

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tirade - fiscal cliff

I don't know about you but I'm getting a little tired of all this fiscal cliff talk and the blame game that our elected officials like to play with us.  After all it is not us that  caused this problem, it is the very same politicians that got us here.  I would like to suggest that the GOP stop all this procrastinating and allow the Dems to do what they want.  Of course, it would be useful if someone with some common sense explains sensibly what is likely to happen to the job market when we stick up taxes and penalise the achievers - read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for a possible outcome.  It might only take about a year for things to go the way the GOP fears, and then they are in a position to say a very large "told you so!"  However, if taxing the achievers and giving free stuff to those sitting in the wagon, works, then hey, let's all climb back on.  This is not tough stuff to figure out.  Come on People!

Right Track - Fiscal Cliff

Now let's see if I've got this right.  Earlier in the year, both parties were unable to agree on how to reduce our deficit and increase prosperity for all.  The Dems wanted to increase taxes, and cut back on the armed forces and defense overall.  The Republicans wanted to reduce our entitlements which will not last indefinitely in their present form.  The solution at the time was to kick the can down the road until the end of the year, when they will institute an increase in taxes and cut back on defense.  This was referrred to as going over the fiscal cliff, as it was generally believed that the policy would cause a recession.
Now it seems as if both sides are back where they were with no compromise possible.  But wait, if we go over the cliff, the Dems get big increases in taxes, and a reduction in that provocative defense budget - which makes the world hate us - plus an added bonus; all the blame can be put on the Republicans.  As for the economic catastrophe, well if you want to end the unfair practice of capitalism, so that the shining white monolith of socialism can rise up, what better method?  I think we have to accept that the Dems are a lot better at the political game than the GOP!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Music Track - Stravinsky

When this music was first played in 1913, it drove people mad.  One man was taken outside after he had been pounding out the rhythm on the bald head of the man sitting in front of him.  It's still pretty controversial today, and made more so when the female dancer seems to lose her shoulder strap.  The BBC is soon about to put on an erotic music live concert in London, and I think The Rite of Spring is to be included. It takes about seven minutes here to see the entire clip of "the sacrifice."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oregon - Gas Pumping

On our motorcycling trip Michael and I learned an interesting fact.  You can't pump your own gas in the state.  We stopped just over the border in O'Brien to fill up, and there loitering at the pumps was a man whose job it was to pump the gas, as it's illegal for motorists to do it themselves.  However he didn't fancy gassing us up and stood by and let us get on with it.  Filling motorcycles can sometimes be difficult, with those little bellows things and the chance of blow back.  He said, the reason for the law was that the governor of the state's son needed a job as he wasn't too bright!  Do you think he might have been joking?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Punch Ups

The other evening, She Who Must Be Obeyed (S.W.M.B.O.) and I were popping out for a quick aperitif at one of our favorite places.  It was about six and all was quiet.  However as we turned into the street there were about six or seven men brawling.  Now this is not the sort of thing one expects at that hour.  I can't comment on later as I'm rarely out then.  But here we were trying to get down the street and fellows were all over the road.  We eventually made our way through and entered an empty bar - everybody was outside watching or engaging in the fray.  Eventually the sheriffs arrived and made a couple of arrests.  One was of a young man who stupidly tried to hit one of the officers.  Not a bright chap obviously.
What was interesting was that the fight was nowhere near as good as those shown in movies.  There everything is choreographed beautifully, whereas in the real world there's a lot of shouting and pushing, a few wild punches thrown that didn't seem to land anywhere and one torn shirt.  Still enough to get the adrenaline up - particularly for the participants!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I was sent this by my friend Geoffrey.  I think it's rather interesting as well as inspiring.

On Monday, I played the Disney, Lake Buena Vista course. As usual the starters matched me with three other players. After a few holes we began to get to know each other a bit.
One fellow was rather young and had his wife riding along in the golf cart with him. I noticed that his golf bag had his name on it and after closer inspection it also said "wounded war veterans".  When I had my first chance to chat with him I asked him about the bag. His response was simply that it was a gift.  I then asked if he was wounded and he said yes. When I asked more about this injury, his response was "I'd rather not talk about it, sir".
Over a few holes I learned that he had spent the last 15 months in an army rehabilitation hospital in San Antonio Texas.  His wife moved there to be with him and he was released from the hospital in September. He was a rather quiet fellow; however, he did say that he wanted to become good at golf.
We had a nice round and as we became a little more familiar I asked him about the brand new set of Ping woods and irons with which he was playing.  Some looked like they had never been used. His response was simple. He said that this round was the first full round he had played with these clubs.
Later in the round he told me the following.  As part of the discharge process from the rehabilitation hospital, Ping comes in and provides three days of golf instruction, followed by a club fitting.
Upon discharge from the hospital, Ping gives each of the discharged veterans, generally about 40 soldiers, a brand new set of custom fitted clubs along with an impressive golf bag.
The fellow I met was named Ben Woods and he looked me in the eye and said that being fitted for those clubs was one of the best things that ever happened to him, and he was determined to learn to play golf well enough to deserve the gift Ping had given him. Ben is now out of the service medically discharged just a month ago. He is as fine a young man as you would ever want to meet.
Ping, whose products are made with pride here in America ( Arizona ), has the good judgment not to advertise this program.
God Bless America and the game of golf.
Thank you PING !!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Video - more magic

My friend Keith sent me this five-minute video on a magic act in France, I think it is.  I'm not a great lover of such things but this one is easy on the eye.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday's Column - M/C Trip

I'm glad to report that all is back to normal at The Sun and my weekly columns should now be up on the site.  This week is the second part of the motorcycling trip I took a couple of months ago.
After we "turned the corner" in Oregon we headed for Mount Shasta and this was the view as we left that spot.  A wonderful trip all round and you can read the account at

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tirade - Cowboys

I'm not a huge football fan; I have a few teams I quite like, The Cowboys, Raiders and Broncos, but the other day I was watching the last few minutes of a Cowboys game.  It was down to the last five seconds and the Cowboys had 15 yards to go with two downs left.  They were three points behind and so it was pretty exciting stuff.  Tony Roma snapped the ball and then the program switched off to go to commercials.  Along the screen came some rubbish that "contractual obligations" meant they had to go to another game.  And eventually this other game began with time wasting and the usual kick off.  Now by all that's holy what lunatic writes a contract that allows such stupidity?  Five damned seconds for heaven's sake? Come on People!

Right Track - only in America

I'm grateful to my friend Frank for this.  He warned me that it might send my blood pressure up.  Sadly I am aware of most of these foolish anomolies.

TOP-10 "Only In America " Observations ~ by a Canadian:
1) Only in America , could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a$35,000.00 a plate campaign fund-raising event.

2) Only in America, could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when they have a black President, a black Attorney General, and roughly 18% of the federal workforce is black while only 12% of the population is black.

3) Only in America, could they have had the two people most responsible for our tax code, Timothy Geithner, the head of the Treasury Department and Charles Rangel who once ran the Ways and Means Committee, BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes.

4) Only in America , can they have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have the media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.

5) Only in America, would they make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege while we discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just 'magically' become American citizens.

6) Only in America, could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country's Constitution be thought of as "extremists."

7) Only in America, could you need to present a driver's license to cash a check or buy alcoholbut not to vote.

8) Only in America, could people demand the government investigate whether oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when the return on equity invested in a major U.S. oil company (Marathon Oil) is less than half of a company making tennis shoes (Nike).

9) Only in America, could the government collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation in recorded historystill spend a Trillion dollars more than it has per year - for total spending of $7-Million PER MINUTE, and complain that it doesn't have nearly enough money.

10) Only in America, could the rich people - who pay 86% of all income taxes - be accused of not paying their "fair share" by people who don't pay any income taxes at all.