Friday, September 30, 2011

ARRRRRR! It's the Big Nurse!

Some time ago I posted about the humorless Big Nurse made me realize that I have the worst luck with the people the doctor hires. I often seem to wind up dealing with humorless huge Nurse Ratched types.

These are the type that insist that they have to know things like how your mother died at the age of 89 so they can know what to look out for in your future. Yeah, right. WHile my dad died at 57 this IS a good thing to know, I got into it once because I left the 'cause of death' blank on my mothers side of the form blank as she died at 89.

When the Big Nurse made an issue of it I put down 'knife fight in a strip club'. That started a minor donnybrook. I posted about that some time ago.

Then again, I seem to have pretty good luck with the doctor himself. I do well with doctors. I seem to hit it right off with them and seeing that I wind up with pretty good doctors I will not complain too much.

Neighbor Bob reports the exact opposite. He seems to get along pretty good with the staff but his insurance people seem to send him to doctors that do not really know what they are doing. It's scary. When I hear he is going in for an appointment I cringe.

One of these days I swear he's going to go in for a colonoscopy and come out with a lobotomy.

I figure I make out a whole lot better than he does when it comes to doctors.

Then again, maybe I can parlay the bad luck I have with these big moose type nurses and make a few bucks by selling these big women antlers.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The mob gas prank

Mob gas!

In all of the years I have worked on the water I can truthfully say I have never been asked to do anything criminal which is a good thing because I wouldn't. Neither would most of the guys I work with. In truth most of the guys out here have families and are busy trying to do a halfway decent job of raising kids. The last thing they want is to get involved with anything criminal.

Yet the reputation of the seaman being little more than a criminal that can't find a bank to rob still persists to this day to a small degree. It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you realize that the Coast Guard does run background investigations on applicants for Merchant Marine credentials, but the reputation is still there to some small degree.

While I am sure that over the years a number of unsavory characters have shipped out here and there, you have to remember these were back in the days before computerized background checks. While I'm certain there are a number of people here that have missed a class or two of Sunday School, the average seaman is just another guy making a living.

Of course, once in a while the stories go around and unless a youngster has a close family member in the business to set him straight, the average newbie that enters this business with just a small tinge of doubt in his mind as what to expect. It is just the tinge of doubt that I have seen played on with funny results.

"Hey, I hear we're tied up for the weekend," said the Chief Engineer. With that he gave me 'the look'. "DiCenzo called."

"Can I go up the street? asked the newbie. The chief and I ignored him.

I looked over to the Chief. "What's he want?" I asked. I knew immediately what the jig was when I caught 'the look' from the Chief.

"He needs 45K of regular unleaded moved over the weekend." said the Chief.

I knew we had a routine job scheduled for the weekend. We were supposed to move 45,000 barrels of regular for a major oil company so I knew the Chief was up to mischief the second he said we were tied up for the weekend because just ten minutes ago I had spoken with the office.

The Chief looked at the kid, "Want to make some real money?" he asked.

"What's up, Chief?" asked the kid.

"If you can keep your damned mouth shut we can clear a tidy sum. You in? We do this every so often."

This was almost 20 years ago, the only cell phone on the rig was one of the early ones the company had installed. It wasn't for general crew use as back then minutes were expensive.

"What are we doing, Chief?" he asked.

"Runnin' mob gas," he said. "Untaxed gasoline. Lissen, Kid, you gotta keep your mouth shut!"

"What do I have to do?" asked the kid.

"Just do your job," replied the Chief. Then he got up, looked at me and gave his head a flip. I followed him out on deck.

"Call in your times from the dock phone," he said. "No use letting the kid know what's going on and ruining a good jape."

I knew what he meant. Generally I radioed the times and amounts in and anyone within earshot could hear what was going on. "What about dispatch?" I asked.

"I already spoke with the weekend dispatcher and he knows what the jig is. He thinks it's pretty funny," explained the Chief.

"What's the skipper think?" I asked.

"Dickie said he'd just keep his mouth shut," he answered. "He'll play along. He likes the kid and so do I but I'd like to see what he is made of."

We went back into the galley. A minute later the sound powered went off and the kid answered it, listened and hung up. "Fire 'em up, Chief." the kid relayed.

Ten minutes later we were underway and about an hour later we were tied up at the dock. An hour after that we were loading product. I had disembarked and ran up to the phone booth and called in the times to dispatch.

When I got back on board there was the kid pacing the deck an nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. I went below and watched him from out the hatch. It was funny to watch. Every time someone came into view of us he would come charging up to me and dutifully report it and nervously ask if it was some kind of law enforcement type.

One time I told him that the person he had spotted was the plant manager and he was 'on the pad'. He nodded nervously. I explained he was the guy that had quietly leased the shore tank to the mob by declaring it unfit for use to his higher-ups and that they were going to repair the tank soon and we had to get the gas out of there. In fact, the guy in question was actually a scout leader and an official of some kind in his church. He'd have probably thrown a fit if he knew I had pointed him out as some kind of mob guy.

Eight hours later we were loaded and underway and about a couple of hours later we were at the discharge dock and shortly after I was pumping off. I guess the kid had managed to get a fitful cat nap somewhere along the line but when I started discharging he was there acting as a self-appointed lookout.

I was stripping the last tank and the kid reported seeing someone new on the dock. I glanced out and put on a pretty good look of concern. "Get the Chief!" I snapped.

The Chief showed up and I nodded toward the guy on the dock, who in reality was another shoreside terminal employee I knew.

"I smell a rat, Chief," I said. "FBI or Revenue?" I nodded toward the guy ashore.

The Chief looked at him from the side of his eyes so as not to be noticed.

"DiCenzo," said the Chief. "Never saw him show up on a job before. Wonder what this is all about?"

The kid got a bit shaky.

"Chief, have a word with this kid," I said and turned and continued stripping the last tank.

I didn't get to hear what the Chief said, but the when the kid reappeared he looked visibly shaken. I think he must have told the kid that if he collapsed under questioning and ratted us all out he'd become part of the foundation of a new office building in northern Jersey.

In less than an hour we had disconnected, done the paperwork and were underway. The Chief told the kid he could relax now and that we had gotten away clean. An hour and a half later we were tied up at the company pier, it was about 0230 on Sunday morning and we had nothing to do but unwind until sometime Monday.

Now the Chief lived in the Philly area and occasionally on his time off he drove a limosine and I guess he was pretty good friends with the owner because Sunday at noon, shortly after I woke up, the Chief came by and told me to hop into the limo that had magically appeared and go grub shopping.

I heard him tell the kid I was going to get paid as I headed down to hop into the biggest black limo I had ever seen. I'd bet the kid thought I was hopping in with Vito Corleone himself! He probably invisioned some Marlon Brando look-alike saying, "You have performed a very important service for me and I am grateful," and expected me to return with a briefcase full of new, crisp hundred-dollar bills.

You have to remember that almost 20 years ago the streeotype gangster was more along the Godfather line. The Sopranos were not yet even an idea out in TV land, so I suppose that was what the kid pictured in his mind as I hopped into the limosine.

In sure he had a hearful of visions of some big guy in a suit with huge lapels, wearing a black shirt and a white tie covered by a huge fedora, complete with a northern New Jersey accent ala 'corner of toidy-toid street an' toid abenoo' sitting there waiting for me in the limo.

A couple hours later I returned.

I got out and the kid came up to me as I got out. I looked at him and glibly said, "We wuz robbed."

That's when he figured out he had been had and that the so-called mob gas run was just another regular company ordered routine job for us.

I'll give him credit, though, he recovered fast and helped haul the grub aboard.

Seeing he took it so well we also made sure he got enough sack time to catch up on the sleep he lost.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Twenty bucks buys a throwaway cell phone.

That ain't a bad deal when you even begin to think about it. In fact when you think about it, it is pretty incredible. It wasn't all that long ago that a telephone was a device attached to a wire that generally sat on a table or hung from a wall.

The monthly bill was fairly expensive, too when you adjust it for inflation.

Now phone service is a bargain. I now get a whole lot more minutes than I can use for thirty bucks a month, which is for many takes about an hour or two to earn. It would be interesting to look at an old phone bill from back in the day and compare it to an old paycheck stub.

I'm quite certain you had to work a whole lot more hours to pay a phone bill for a whole lot less convenience back then.

There is an awful lot of throwaway technology going around these days and it really amazes me. I read somewhere about how the average guy changes cell phones in the neighborhood of almost annually.

One thing about the old telephones is that they lasted literally for decades. In my family home we got the upstairs telephone back about the time we moved in back in 1955 and it was still there working like a charm fifty years later when we moved her out. I would not be the least bit surprised to find out that the people living there today are still using it as I suppose stuff like that has some sort of retro style value these days. Considering the phone lasted through five kids being raised in the house, it is nothing short of amazing. It speaks highly for the Westeern Electric people that were the guys that made it.

Back when I was growing up a call from more than an ajoining town was considered 'long distance' and was an additional fee for the caller. When a call from my aunt or grandmother would come in, my mother would get excited and shout, "Quiet! this is LONG DISTANCE!" and we would flee the room and stay silent two rooms away or even go outside.

My present cell phone is in its third year which I understand is well above the national average of about sixteen months by a factor of about 2.5.

While there is a lot of technology out there that is simply amazing, all I ask of my phone is simply to take basic 'Hello, Pic?" phone calls although these days I sometimes get a text message which is somewhat annoying because I am of the school of if you want me, simply call me up and pass the necessary information on.

The other thing I did last summer was to figure out how to check my email on the phone and occasionally I do that but with a basic numerical touch pad I generally head to the nearest computer if an email needs attention. Even if I did have a small qwerty keyboard I would probably be loathe to email a message of any length from a phone. It is far easier to use a full sized keyboard.

Still, all I really want out of a phone is basic oral communication. The rest is gravy.

Last I heard the Tracfone people were getting about a dime a minute for one of their prepaid phones, but that was a while back. I suppose 1000 minutes would cost about a hundred bucks, but with the simple Wally World plan I have I'm getting my airtime for about three cents a minute.

Although when I started using a cell phone a while back (I was one of the last guys in the fleet and getting one was rammed down my throat) I could get by for peanuts, it didn't take a whole lot of time before the term 'emergency' got redefined.

I had one for emergency use only and we all know what an emergency is these days. These days an emergency is something very earth shattering like having to find out that Neighbor Bob bought a case of Pabst instead of his usual Coors.

If you want to know how fast the term 'emergency' can get redefined, simply give your kid a credit card when they go away to college and tell them it is 'for emergency use only'. You give it to the kid envisioning that the kid may get stuck out in the middle of nowhere because his pal got tanked and refused to let him drive so the kid bailed out and needs a ride back to the campus.

When the bills start coming in you discover that an emergency is now not having the right color sweater to wear out on a date or some such crap.

After wasting a lot of time explaining to the world what MY definition of an emergency is, I simply gave up and got the Wally World plan because it wound up being a whole lot cheaper.

Any why not? God gave me two ears. I simply let most of the crap that comes in on the phone go in one ear and out the other.

Most calls people make are really nothing more than a bunch of hot air which often makes me think that I ought to buy myself a balloon to float around in and figure out a way to propel it off of the hot air that is generated by most peoples cell phones. Piccolo the balloonist, powered by Sprint.

Eat your heart out, David Niven. Around the world in a whole lot less than 80 days, compliments of cell phone technology. Remind me that I need a manservant to come along with me.

On the other hand, with gas costing what it does these days, a cell phone can save money. Over the years I have been at, for example, a supermarket and have either called or been called over snapping up an item or two and saving a trip. That at least makes sense.

If course, it didn't take a whole lot of time before some evil genius figured out that this same amazing technology can be used for evil purposes and that they can be used to trigger IEDs. I heard a while back that some Taliban wannabe somewhere got picked up because he wanted to buy a bunch of throwaway cell phones.

I suppose like everything else they can easily be abused and the prepaid ones, if paid for in cash can provide a certain amount of anonimity unless you do something to the Navy. If you do something to the Navy with one you are screwed because Gibbs, Abby, Ziva, McGee, Denozo and Ducky of the NCIS team will figure it ot in about an hour, including commercials and you will wind up being shot or Kung Fu'd pretty good and be taken directly to jail and not be able to collect $200 if you pass 'Go' on the way. If you get shot, then Ducky gets to cut you up so he can explain the bullet damage to the court.

Still, I'd bet a whole lot of crime goes on via prepaid cell phones and I suppose the day will come that someone tries to stop it.

In fact, when I first got my number and for quite some time after I was getting calls looking for someone and the people calling didn't sound like they were running for sainthood. My guess is the former user of the phone number was a drug dealer/pimp, judging by the calls. Over time it stopped and it has been quite a while since I have had one of these calls.

Still, although this technology is a very nice convenience, it is nothing more than a convenience and not a need. Recently I found out about a program that gives everyone on any kind of public assistance a free cell phone and I got livid. It's just one more thing I am paying for to give to someone that pronbably really doesn't need it.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Piccolo's Presidential speech to the American Public.

My fellow Americans, as many of you are aware, recently such and such a place has permitted the forces of evil to conduct training exercises within their borders. This training has cost the lives of several United States servicemen and three civilian relief workers.

As it stands now we are sending X number of billions of dollars to that country in the form of foreign aid.

I am not going to make the decision of what to do about this. You are.

Over the next thirty days you are requested to contact your congressman and let him know if we should continue sending foreign aid to these people or if we should use the money to fix domestic problems.

Make it clear to your elected official that their job depends on this.

I'm leaving this decision up to the American public.

In one month I will report the results to you and and then we will discuss as to whether we are going to continue with welfare as we know it and continue to support illegal aliens or fix the programs in this country that reward hard work, engenuity, and frugality.

Thank you, and God Bless.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

While we are on the subject of criminal behavior...

There is a little more to the dead stripper in the trash can story that ought to be told. It began out here at sea when a couple of us older guys were talking about things in general and the subject of trash collection came up a couple of years ago. Like I am facing now, one of the guys mentioned that he was having a hard time getting rid of things.

The chief engineer told my cohort to bring the whatever into work and toss it into the back of his pickup as his town had service that would haul anything away.

"Hell," he said. "I could stuff a dead stripper into the can with her feet sticking up and they would stuff her into the truck without batting an eyelash!"

For some reason that tickled my funnybone.

A couple of days later a green deckhand appeared and there was something a little too nosy about him so I decided to have a little fun.

When he asked me what got me into this line of work, I told him it my parole officer got me hired in this business after I got out of the joint.

"WHat did you do?" he asked.

"Four to seven for arson," I replied and watched my cohort smirk and sneak away to keep from busting up and ruining everything. I did notice that he stayed in earshot because he didn't want to miss this one.

The deckhand looked shocked and changed the subject a bit and sort of stepped back nervously.

About an hour later he came into the galley and heard my mate, a rather twisted gentleman and I chatting. The conversation was for his ears as we had noticed he was gullible.

"Ah, you know how it is," I shrugged. "Louie came by with a six pack and after he left my old cell mate dropped by with a jug and we hit that pretty hard and that's when Jimmy Three Fingers came by and broke out the coke and off we went to the bar. A couple of snorts later it was the strip club and the next thing I remembered is that I woke up puking, and sick as hell, sweaty and I was wondering why I smelled like cheap perfume."

"Hey, " I continued. "We've all been there. You know how it is. When I went into the living room there she was, stiff as a board. Then I remembered. She was pretty wild and said she liked it a bit rough so I put my forearm against her throat and then I heard something go pop and she went limp. I guess I thought she had passed out on me so I stumbled off to bed and passed out."

The kid was pretty scared overhearing this, but kept quiet. "What you hear on the boats stays on the boats. Got it, Kid?"

He gulped. "Yup," he said.

My mate looked at me. "Howdja get rid of the stiff?" he asked.

"I just stuffed her in the back of the pickup and dumped her in a dumpster," I replied. I turned to the kid, "You better get back on the tug."

He did and went straight to the chief engineer, a man I have known for years and commented to the chief, " I never knew Piccolo was a convict," he said.

"Where do you think I met him?" asked the Chief. "I was pulling two to five for assaulting a police officer when we met. I hurt him pretty bad. For a while we were cell mates."

The chief and I go back for years and he is pretty quick up on the uptake. In fact, he's the North Carolinian that offered to take the trash from the other deckhand that had just gotten his new trash program and had caused the him to make the comment that started this whole pile of shenanigans.

Two minutes later the Chief was over on board my vessel and asked me what I had fed into the kid. I told him. He grinned. "I'll add onto it," he said.

About ten minutes later the other deckhand and the Chief were talking trash in the galley.

"Yeah," said the chief. "He was toasted at the seminar and that night he went with a couple of the boys down to the club. Next morning he drug me into his room and we had to wrap this broad up in the bed spread and stuff her into the damned dumpster and cover her up. He was sick as hell, but managed to clean up in time for class. How Pic pulled that one off, I'll never know!"

The green deckhand listened quietly and was silent for about two days. When he finally approached me he asked me, "How did you get licensed with a criminal record?"

"You're learning, Kid." I answered. Then I walked off.

A couple of hours later the kid looked up at me. "You don't have a criminal record," he said in an accusing tone. "If you did, you wouldn't be here. They ran a check on me when I got my card and if I didn't pass I wouldn't be here!"

"There it is, Kid. You're learning." I calmly replied. "Let's see what you have learned."

"I've learned that you guys stick together," he said. He seemed a bit hurt.

"You've learned a lot more than that," I said. "You are learning to think and reason. You are learning to question something that just doesn't look right or sound right. Most of the things that don't look right generally aren't so you investigate a bit. Look out at the tank tops. What do you see?"

"That one is open," he said.

"Good eyes. Keep using them, along with your brain. Now go close it," I said.

The Chief is now on another boat but from time to time when our paths cross we chat. The subject of the kid comes up every time and I keep hearing he's making out OK.
If I get time I'll write up another post about the time we had another new deckhand convinced we were running untaxed gasoline for the mob.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of the new trash removal policy, dead strippers and the neighborhood cop

"I wonder what I am going to do if I get coked up again and wake up with another dead stripper?" I asked Neighbor Bob as a certain nosy neighbor was walking by.

"Yeah. That might be a problem, Pic," said Bob. "Might think of going into rehab."

"Rehab is for quitters," I snapped back. "I've never quit anything in my life."

This, of course, is a bunch of crap because I do not do illegal drugs, but it got the nosy neighbor's attention and as usual she played right into my hand. She thinks of herself as a good citizen and thinks the police department likes her. Truth is they consider her a pain in the ass and wish she would go away. They also probabaly wish I would go away because I constantly feed her misinformation and watch her make a fool out of herself. I also do this to another person that walks past the house every so often and asks nosy questions.

I got chewed out for this several years back when she 'overheard' me talking about burying a couple of magazine selling kids in the back yard that supposidly interrupted my nap. She raised cain and called the chief when she found out that nobody had dug up my back yard until a resourceful cop grabbed his black Lab from home and walked him through my back yard, passing it off as a trained police dog. When the officer asked if he could, I said, "Yeah, sure. Go ahead."

I was incontrite then and will continue to be so because this stupid woman is truly dangerous. Under the guise of being 'helpful' she will tell anyone that comes to her door anything about the entire neighborhood, including what they do and their schedules. She is the criminal's best friend and she is too stupid to know it.

It has taken a long time, but now she simply says, "The guy in the white house is a nut that has a bunch of guns and is always trying to kill someone." That is a VERY good thing. I have worked on attaining this status for years with this woman. The last thing I want her telling strange people is my work schedule.

We are getting a new trash service in about a week or so and they have just issued us new trash cans that are pretty hefty. There are also a whole lot of new rules and regulations about what you can and can't throw out. In addition to that, the recycling policy has changed, too. So has the Piccolo recycling policy. The city now gets nothing that I can sell for scrap.

Bob and I were discussing what we are most likely in for as far as the future of trash removal in the Piccolo neighborhood goes. I see that we're going to have to start ditching what we refer to as dead strippers in an alley or maybe stuffing them into the dumpster behind the convenience store at least for a while until I can corrupt the new guys that will be picking up our trash come 1 October.

The guys that we used to have were trained pretty well because I did a pretty good job of taking halfway decent care of them. Had to get rid of a set of old tires? No problem! Leave them out next to the trash can with a quarter-pint of Jim Beam taped to the inside of the lid. Gone, both the Beam AND the tires.

It's cold and I am up when I hear the truck? Pour a couple styrofoam cups of coffee and add cream and sugar. They appreciate it on cold mornings. It's hot? Grab a couple cold Cokes. Bam! There goes the junky old toilet you have yanked out and replaced that you were wondering how to get rid of. A room full of sheet rock and old 2x4s? No problem! Gone!

Anyway, back to the nosy neighbor.

"So whaddya think about the new trash cans the new company gave us? asked Bob. "They look like they ought to hold two dead strippers."

"Yeah, maybe two of those emaciated little flat-chested coke whores that come up to you with a white Hitler moustache offering you a free lap dance if you repack their nose, but no way in hell can you stuff two halfway decent busty strippers in one of those new cans and still have room left for a week's worth of rubbish," I shot back.

Nosy neighbor turned pale and kept walking by. She stepped up the pace.

A few minutes later the neighborhood cop drove up. He scowled. "Quit talking about stuffing dead strippers into the trash," he said, in a mildly annoyed voice.

"We were talking about the new trash deal the city came up with," I explained. "You know who was walking by and musta overheard us. Coffee?"

"No, thanks for the offer, though. Just finished a cup. Most likely you two were talking about the game or something when she walked by and you changed the subject to stuffin' a dead stripper in the trash again. It's getting old," he said.

"So what do you think of the new trash deal?" I asked.

"Sounds like a pain in the ass," said the cop. "More work and bigger trash cans to deal with."

"Yeah, and still not enough room for two dead strippers." I said, smirking.

"I told you, that's getting old," said the cop. Then he grinned. "The Bangalore torpedo thing last June was pretty funny when you think of it. Dispatch wanted to call EOD, but I headed them off when I found out who had called in on you...Hey, where does this dead stripper crap come from, anyway? What started it?"

"It is what we call stuff we put out in the trash that we're not supposed to, like an old toilet or a couple of tires. It comes from a guy I work with from North Carolina that once commented that back where he came from he could stuff a dead stripper in the trash feet sticking up and the trash guys would take it without batting an eyelash."

"Gotcha." He looked at the new cans." Hmmm. Maybe two if they're skinny," he said. He hadn't really totally lightened up yet, so I decided to go in for the kill.

"Hey," I said. "We're not talking about a couple of those skinny little emaciated Auschwitz survivor types, the kind with white Hitler coke moustaches and boulders falling out their noses or even the skinny little meth monsters. We're talking about a pair of onest to Christ lusty zuftig types like Anna Nicole Smith!"

"I don't know about a pair of Anna Nicoles," said the cop, with a trace of a smirk. "One, easy. But I don't see..." Then his mouth ran away with him. "At least not in one piece."

"You can't fit two Anna Nicole Smiths in those new cans. You have to leave room for trash to cover the bodies a bit." interrupted a woman's voice. It was Lois from across the street. She had ambled over and listened for a bit before she made her presence known. She looked at Bob and I. "I know who you two were talking trash in front of! She went straight to her cell phone and dialed 911!"

Lois is one of those rare women that is comfortable around men and knows the rules. She is queen of the embarrassed yet amused female blush. It is a red face that means she knows that she is still a lady but shows she has a pretty masculine sense of humor. She can express amusement without losing her feminity. It's a rare gift only seen by women that have been raised with a strong male influence. Lois had been raised by her father along with three brothers, having lost her mother at a young age.

Now the cop blushed a bit. Lois had made him feel a little sheepish. Like most officers he didn't like being caught in any kind of unprofessional behavior, and talking trash with a couple of old men like Bob and I was pushing the edge when you think about it. Then again, sometimes Lois makes a guy feel a touch uncomfortable until they figure her out. Then they really open up to her. She can be really funny.

He turned to me.

"Why are we talking about this?" he asked. Then he looked at me. "Besides, aren't you getting a little long in the tooth to be dragging home more than one stripper at a time, Pic?"

"It's been a while," I said, smirking. " I got a couple of flings left in me before they park me in the Old Folks Home. Then again, it's been a while since I woke up sick as a dog, puking, all sweaty, stinking of cheap perfume and covered with glitter!"

Lois turned red and laughed like hell. "How long, Pic?"

"Try over 30 years ago," I confessed. "The day I woke up with her is the day I gave up tequila."

The cop looked at her for a couple of seconds and I think he had her figured out. I could see he had relaxed a bit. Good cops can read people fast. He looked at me and shook his head. "If that happened to me I would have probably quit tequila, too," said the cop.

"Hey, I hope our little mischief didn't ruin your day," I said to the cop.

"Hmmm... I'll admit you two are sometimes a pain in the neck, but at least you guys are interesting," he said. "Which reminds me, thanks for the 'Go to jail' cards. I actually used one on some wise-ass the other day."

It was a reference to the time I handed him a stack of cards I had made up on my printer a while back. I copied up a bunch of Monopoly cards that said 'Go to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect $200' and gave them to him several months ago, much to his amusement.

"What was she like?" Lois asked me.

"What was who like?" I replied.

"The stripper you woke up with." she answered.

"Oh. her. Hot. Like you," I replied, smugly. Then I turned very cheerful. "But a LOT trashier. You even couldn't come close to being that trashy after six quaaludes and a Jerry Springer Show remake. Why do you think I have never made a pass at you? You are nowhere near close to being trashy enough for the likes of me."

Lois really turned beet red. "I thought it was because you were afraid my husband would shoot you," she said.

"That, too," I replied."But if you were anywhere near close to being that trashy I would have risked it."

She turned redder but I know she was amused.

"Quaaludes? What do you know about quaaludes?" interrupted the cop.

"I grew up in the 60s," I answered. "I haven't heard of them floating around for years but when a drug gets the nickname 'panty droppers' you tend to remember it."

"They're still around," said the cop.

"I thought they stopped making them years ago," I said.

"The companies did, but there are still places you can get them." he replied.

"Figures. It is certainly nice to hear that quaaludes are still out there dropping the female panties of the planet one pair at a time," I replied in a cheerful voice just dripping with sarcasm.

Then the cop shook his head. "All of you guys are sick!" he said and rolled up the window. Then he unrolled it. I was quick when I saw the window go down.

"Hey, how long was it in your career when you stopped being disgusted and started being amused? I asked him. I was treated to a smirk, but no answer.

"Hey, where do you get those little bottles of...Oh, never mind." he said.

He knows about the small bottles of whiskey I occasionally tape to the inside lid of my trash can when the guys do me a favor. A couple of years ago he said something to me about it. I suppose it is illegal, but the rules are that the trash guys have to be over 21 because of some insurance rules otherwise I would not have done that. I'm not stupid enough to give liquor to minors and besides, I had a quiet word with the trash guys and made sure they didn't nip on the job. I don't want to do something nice that can get a guy canned.

In fact, when I first started this they would stash the bottles under a rock and pick them up after work. I don't really tape the bottles to the lid anymore, I generally leave a note to check under the rock after work.

"Jim Beam? Delaware," I answered. "Want me to pick you up a few?"

"No," he said. "Let's see how this new trash deal works out."

I'm wondering the same thing myself.

I'll keep you posted.

my other blog is:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Again it is the middle of the night

and I am on a different watch and it is a tad rough.

Until a couple of years ago this was my watch for almost 20 years, the night watch and I loved it. A couple of years ago I went to the day watch and I guess I just got used to it. Switching over is a bear as for some reason from 1800 to midnight I cannot seem to sleep.

Next tour I will go back to the day watch and everything will be hunky-dory again I hope.

In a couple of days there will be a new trash removal program in the town I live in and already I am beginning to think that this is simply another scam the city is stuffing down our throat.

Neighbor Bob and I discussed it a day or two before I left and our timing was pretty good as the idiot down the street was ambling by. Bob and I were discussing what we were going to do with ‘dead strippers’, aka those things that are hard to get rid of like old tires. Of course, the idiot overheard us and reported what she heard and we got another visit from our friendly, local neighborhood police officer.

Instead of an ass-chewing the visit was pretty neat. He let his hair down a bit, a neighbor dropped by and he admitted that although being called to my place every so often he didn’t mind it too much because at least a call here is interesting and he knows there won’t be any Jerry Springer stuff to deal with.

I found out that when Nebby Larry called them over the (non) Bangalore torpedoes incident last spring the dispatcher wanted to call the bomb squad but this officer told him to hold off. It probably saved all of us a lot of trouble.

Smart cops are a wonderful asset to any community, and dumb ones given to panic and over reaction are a huge waste of time and taxpayer money. That isn’t restricted to police officers. It holds true in almost all fields of endeavor.

Still, it was funny hearing a police officer say that there was no way we were going to be able to stuff a pair of Anna Nicole Smiths into one of the new trash containers.

Maybe I’ll post that tomorrow.

my other blog is:

Friday, September 23, 2011

gotta learn a new operating system

I now have to learn Windows 7 and to tell the truth I think the best operating system that I have had to deal with is XP. Before that it was Windows 95 which worked like a charm.

Windows 7 seems to use a lot more of the computers speed to run and I suppose that would be a good deal if we were talking about the newest and latest computer but we are not.

We are not talking about some old boat anchor, either. The machine that recently got Windows 7 is fairly new but probably isn’t the newest and fastest thing out there. It is my work computer and not the beat up combat laptop of mine that does nicely on XP.

The whole computer business in a way is pretty much of a scam with the way technology is marketed and people sure bite for it.

Now, I can see a business or maybe a scientific type of outfit chasing technology to stay ahead of the game. Anybody doing 3D work or other graphics can sure benefit by keeping up with the technology but for the average guy keeping up with it is pretty much a waste.

While downloading things had benefited me, there really aren’t a whole lot of things I do on Windows 7 now that I couldn’t do on XP, or if the truth be known, even on Windows 95.

Of course, a lot of people will say that there are security issues etc. on Windows 95 and they are right.

The point is that I don’t do anything more on a computer now that I did a decade ago. Most of what I do on a computer is simply write, do email and surf the web.

Oh, I do sometimes have the need to either watch a DVD or play a CD but that’s about it.

All in all I really don’t need a fast machine to do things.

I was thinking of getting another laptop to be able to use with my ham rig to send PSK 31 on but I found out that all I need for that is an obsolete machine of maybe Pentium One, and I have one in the closet that is a lot faster than that so I guess I am good to go.

I’d have to say that the computer people have really created the need for faster machines by using the old trick of making people feel left out if they don’t have the latest technology.

Detroit has been doing the same thing with cars for over a century. While progress certainly had come a long way with automobiles, the differences have really not been all that major over the past umpteen yeas if you look at a vehicle as simple transportation.

Most of the improvements over the years have been little more than perceptions of improvement to most of us. Although I will admit that the introduction of air bags have improved the chances of survival in an accident, I’d have to say that most of the improvements have been smoke and mirrors.

I would not feel bad about driving around today in the ’88 Toyota I had years ago if I hadn’t plainly and simply worn it out. The old work horse does just what the ’09 I drive today does.

It hauls me and a seabag to work and snags an occasional sheet of plywood or a couple of boards from Homeless Depot. The old ’88 did that and just as well.

Of course, there will be a lot of people that insist they need the latest technology and maybe a few of them do, but I’d bet that most of the people that do say they need it are just kidding themselves.

my other blog is:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

back at it

It is the middle of the night and I am back in the swing of things. For me it is going to be a midnight watch which I have not had in a long time.

I’m glad to actually do this as I worked this watch for years and like it because there are fewer outside interferences. There are less administrative dealings at night and life is a bit slower and things are a lot less formal.

Right now I am sitting and waiting as there has been a transfer delay.

I lead a double life. At home I have little schedule and do not really have to plan a lot in advance, out here it is a disciplines life. All in all it seems to be a pretty good balance.

A lot of us kid each other that we could never do a 9-5 thing and for me there is a lot of truth in that statement because I do not see how I could stay focused on a 9-5 gig day in and day out unless it was damned interesting.

I just caught up on Michael Yon’s blog. It is interesting and he certainly is talented. He and I share one bias; we support the troops.

One of the guys out here has a soon in the Navy. The son made PO-3 in pretty good time. He seems to take after his father who is a pretty squared away guy.

The father has no military background whatsoever and it was interesting watching the father learn about how it’s done. What was interesting was seeing the father look in amazement at how much responsibility the son was given at such an early age. In the civvie world things do not happen that way.

I am posting early as I have the time to do so now.

my other blog is:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Live from somewhere else


caps lock, whatever. This post is a placeholder and I may add to it if I can do so later today

my other blog is:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ready for a day of gearing down and winding up through the mountains

depending on what the weather looks like today.

I have to go back to work and figured out how to load all of my stuff into the Miata and I could use a day in the crisp air, booming and zooming through the mountains.

Still, though, it looks a little rough out so I may just have to put my stuff into the pickup and go with that. We'll see in a couple of hours.

Getting ready to go back to work is generally a morning of preperations and running through a check list to make sure everything is OK and I do not leave the Mrs with any headaches to deal with.

While most of the generalized packing was done a couple of days after I got back, any refrigerated/frozen grub has to be packed up. One of the trucks is to freeze a couple half-gallons of milk to be used as ice.

Milk freezes well and if you have enough patience NOT to get into it until it is completely thawed, a good shaking is all that is needed to get it back into halfway decent shape.

Year of doing this have turned it into a science, yet there is always another trick to learn.

Anyway, I'm going to see what the weather brings in a couple of hours before I decide what to do.
The buzz through the neighborhood these days is the new trash service the city has just started. The contract was won by someone and the inside story is that it was won by a lousy fifty cents a year per house or something.

We just got ISSUED trash cans and recycling bins and what seems to be a pretty stiff set of rules that will probably result in a lot of pretty angry people, as the guys we have now are pretty good and overlook quite a few small things.

From the buzz this new outfit will take away only the most basic of stuff as it is in the contract they have with the city. Anything else you have to put out on the curb and call them and of course, out comes 'The Goouger's Handbook' and the hole in your wallet just got an awful lot bigger.

Every time government comes up with a scheme to save the taxpayers a few cents it always works out perfectly on paper. My trash removal will cost me about a half a buck a year less...unless I decide that I want to put the dinky little end table with the broken leg out. Then it's BOHICA time, as the troops say. There goes the fifty cent savings.

Of course, asking government to think is too much to ask for, and the further up the governmental chain we go, the more insulated they are.

Sometimes I think we ought to simply vote every single one of them out no matter who they are.


my other blog is:

Monday, September 19, 2011

I was asking a few people about a special ham event because I just

sent off for a QSL card from one that was hosted by a club in the Blue Ridge mountains.

They had set up 7 stations along the Blue Ridge Parkway and I managed to QSO 4 of them which I guess means I get a certificate of some sort.

I'd like to host my own special event, a fox hunt.

I'm in pretty good shape for my age and I do believe that with my manpack rig I could hit the fields and hills of SW Pennsylvania and I could stay ahead of a club or two for an entire weekend.

It would be fun to try. I'd just set up the backpack rig, make a few contacts and pick up and move. All contacts I make get a special QSL card.

I'm going to have to think about this, though. Winter is coming on and I really do not want to be tramping around in the snow.

However, maybe this coming spring if I have managed to survive another winter with my health and sanity I might try this. It ought to be fun.

my other blog is:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just some guy I met several years ago.

Recently I did a post on nicknames at sea.

There is another guy with a nickname here that bears having the tale told. I met this guy several years ago in Ohio when I was passing through to Camp Perry. I took a long route as there was someone I wanted to see along the way.

The guy's nickname is Charlie, and you better pronounce the letter 'r' in it correctly. Charlie is pretty proud of that nickname, which his father gave him when he was a little kid. His real name is actually something Laotion. He's a second generation American. His father and mother moved here before he was born.

Interesting character.

His dad hit this country running and instantly got a job and headed straight to the nearest English as a second language course he could find and worked his ass off at both work and school. His dad worked hard at learning to speak Engllish, yet I guess could never manage to lose his Laotion accent completely.

Not Charlie, though. Charlie speaks perfect Americanized English and part of the reason is that his dad worked damned hard to make sure his kids learned to speak it well.

Charlie's dad worked hard at trying to be a good American and from what I gather has done a pretty good job. Charlie was pretty funny about it when he told me about his dad and it made me chuckle. His dad wanted to run his own business and wanted to make sure his kids fit in to his newly adopted homeland. He moved his brood to Ohio where the English is fairly unaccented and where he could open a real American business, like a pizza place.

Hey, what is more American than a pizza delivery business, unless it is a hamburger stand?

So Charlie grew up delivering pizzas after school, which is pretty American as far as I am concerned. Working in the family business as a kid is an American value we see a little less of every year which it a little sad. Some evenings he ran the whole business while his dad attended yet another ESL class to improve his English.

He got his nickname from his father as a little kid. His dad was having problems with the letter 'r' as used in the English language so he gave his son a nickname with the difficult letter in it so as to use it often coupled with the thought that he ought to Anglicize his son's name.

So Charlie became Charlie and you had best pronounce it correctly.

He's pretty proud of his nickname and I damned well don't blame him.

While Charlie had grown up and was a salesman when I met him, he still drops by the family pizza place and give his dad a hand. Like a lot of immigrants I'd bet that if Charlie's dad can still walk, the pizza place is still open for business.

No moral, just a pretty neat story about a guy I met on my way to Camp Perry several years ago.
Why I post in this blog daily is sometimes beyond me, but I do it anyway.

Sometimes it is a challenge getting a post off with the internet on board ship because it is sometimes pretty intermittent. It is also somewhat of a challenge to see if I can pull yet another post out of my arse that makes sense and is palatable for public consumption.

This is a discipline for me and there are sometimes days when I simply do not feel like sitting at a keyboard and cranking out yet another piece. I have over 800 posts so far and last summer when I was working in the Gulf cleaning up a mess that BP made I had no internet for days at a time. I wrote anyeway and posted when we got into range.

I guess it just gives me a purpose to get up and feel like I did something that day.

my other blog is:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Idle thoughts as I have my morning coffee

I wonder how Prince Harry is doing these days. He's supposidly headed off to Apache helicopter school out in Nevada which is cool. I hope he does OK.
I'd bet he's going to fly one of those rigs in combat over Afghanistan sometime. I'd like to buy him a good 1911a1 .45 caliber pistol in case he gets forced down and needs a little help. I'm not a big fan of the NATO-issued 9mm which is what he'll be issued.

His brother I suppose is still flying SAR missions which is also cool. I wonder if he and his bride are busy putting beans in the jar.

The reason I thought about these people is because in a supermarket tabloid yesterday I read that Kate has had an affair with a space alien and is expecting twins.

Last night I chided my neighbor for not bringing his son with him when we do things together. The kid is welcome. Part of being an old man is passing things on down to the youngsters. My neighbor seemed pleased that I did this to him. I think he probably thought that an old goat like me didn't want kids around.

Back when I was growing up I spent a lot of time with my dad and older guys. It is one of the ways younger guys become decent men is by watching decent men and how they interact. I guess they call this mentoring tese days but back then it was just hanging out with the old man and his pals.
Elvis is STILL dead.
Last night when I was holding court in te open garage freezing my ass off Neighbor Bob went home without checking out. When we noticed he had left we went hunting for him and accidentally woke his wife when we got there checking up on him. Of course, he caught hell for it.

He was decent enough this morning not to blame us as he knew the rules. Next time he'll check out.
I wonder what today will bring.

I think that today I will see if one of my neighbors wants to sight in his deer rifle at the range. If so, I'll take him to the club. While this is a nice thing to do, it also ought to insure I get a piece of venison.
Yesterday night heating season officially began as I let the furnace rumble itself started for the first time since sometime last early May.
WHile in a while I will be used to the heat it provided there is something entirely different between the heat the furnace provides and the heat mother nature has provided. I like the natural heat an awful lot better.
Fall has been in the air the past couple of days and nights. I took my final pictures of the garden I planted and another neighbor I saw when I was out yesterday smiled and told me she enjoyed the flowers I planted. That made it all worth it.
As I have gotten older I like the way I feel. I am a lot more confident about things and feel I have little if anything to hide. I simply do what I want and the rest of the world can kiss my derriere.

It is fun being an Old School sailor and tough guy and doing things that make people's eyes roll like planting pretty flowers.
Winter is on its way and I wish I had another cat to enjoy, maybe a nice orange one. I seem to get along with orange cats the best.
As I write the furnace rumbled back on and is providing it's unnatural feeling heat. Summer is pretty much over. We might get another good day or two but next time home I'll have to mow the wayback to knock the weeds down.
Yesterday afternoon I noticed the birds seem to have vacated the houses I built for them last spring. Wile I was nooping around looking at them the deer hove into view. Both of the fawns I watched last spring are now pretty big and maybe next spring they might be having fawns of their own. It is amazing how nature works and I hope to see the same thing next spring.
I think that next spring I am not going to grow as big a garden as I did.
There were grasses planted this year and some last year and they seem to be taking over large chunks of the garden and that ought to be a pretty good deal as they are pretty low maintenance.
I think tonight I will play radio operator.
My coffee is finished. Here's today's post.

my other blog is:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Of the PRC 320, insomnia and a police officer

Last night I woke up at about 0200 which is pretty damned rare. I generally sleep pretty well both home and at sea. While some guys at sea have bouts of channel fever, the malady only effects me about every five years or so and doesn't last very long.

I was at home which made this sleeping disorder rarer yet. I think it has been well over a decade since this has happened to me. Anyway, I hit the rack at about 2330 and went out like a light.

BAM! at 0200 my eyes slammed open, I was awake, alert and in an instant I knew I wasn't going to go back to sleep very easily so I figured that I just ought to get up and do something. I know that the last thing I wanted to do was try and fight myself back to sleep because it never seems to work. Just get up and do something until you get sleepy.

I drank some juice and had a bright idea. I'd go to the mall parking lot with my PRC-320 and see who was on the air. I crammed a freshly charged battery in the rig, tossed it in the Miata and off I went. In a few minutes I was on the rim of the mall parking lot, The mall was built on a hill and seemed like a good place.

It wasn't long before I was yakking with a guy on 80 meters from out in Ohio somewhere. I guess a lot of hams are insomniacs or something. He got a hoot out of the fact that I was on the air from a parking lot in the middle of the night.

As I was yakking, I saw a set of headlights and instinctively knew it was a police patrol. I picked up the PRC-320, repositioned the 2.5 meter antenna and my arms in the backpack straps. With the rig on my back I knew it would make it easier to move it around. Then I reestablished contact with the ham in Ohio and told him what was going on and explained to him that if anyone asked him who he was he was to politely give his call sign and hometown.

Sure enough, the car rolled up to me and the officer rolled down his window. As he did, I keyed the headset and told the guy in Ohio to stand by.

"What's going on here?" asked the officer.

"Impromptu Ham radio communication drill," I said. "I'm running portable on this little backpack rig."

"Who areyou talking to?" he asked.

"Some guy in Ohio," I replied.

"On that little military rig? Hey, are you legal? I thought those military rigs were on special channels." the officer asked.

"Nope, if I stay on ham frequencies it's legal. This little rig is HF. A few hours ago I had a guy from Ukraine give me a signal report on this set," I replied.

"Really? Ukraine?" he seemed impressed.

"Yeah, he could hear me, I couldn't hear him. Someone passed the report on to me."

"And now your are connected to some guy in Ohio?"

"See for yourself," I said. I reached out with the handset like it was a telephone receiver and a mischievious snicker appeared on my face. "Here," I said. "It's for you."

I was treated to the look officers give to people that they think are on the edge of being a smartass with them. I simply grinned. "Try it."

He took the handset and I told him that the push to talk switch was sensitive and you had to release it completely. He keyed the set and spoke into it. "Is anybody here?" he asked.

I knew the guy on the other end had answered him by the look of surprise and awe on the officer's face.

He handed me back the handset. "I'll be damned," he said. "That's pretty good, I like that. I gotta go. Stay safe here and be careful. You got a cell phone?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Keep it in your pocket," he said. "This really isn't the place to be at this hour. Just keep your eyes open."

'"Roger that," I said and he drove off.

I continued my conversation with the guy in Ohio for a few minutes and felt myself getting sleepy. I signed off, went home and went out like a light.

All in all my little impromptu DXpedition was a success. I was actually glad the officer was not a ham. I communicate with a Massachusetts police officer quite often and I'd bet that if the officer I met last night WAS a ham that I would have never gotten any sleep at all last night. We would have been up for the rest of his shift talking about guns and radios all night.

my other blog is:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A rainy day

It is early morning and I am thinking which sometimes is not a very good idea.

My 60th year is coming to a close. In a couple of months I will start another one and upon attaining my next birthday I will be absolutely astonished.

This will run alongside the miracle of loaves and fishes as far as I am concerned. I must have scored a few genes from my mother's side of the family which is both good and bad.

My mother's side of the family the people tend to live a little longer, but they go out horribly. On my dad's they simply stop living. It's far more dignified.

Still, when you couple the gene situation with the fact that I have not chosen a safe path to follow in my life the fact that I am here typing is nothing short of a miracle.

You do not spend long periods of your life messing around with boats, airplanes, chasing fish and doing things that push the limits of sanity without coming out unscathed, yet I think that is what seems to have happened to me.

I am nothing less than a fugitive from the law of averages.

Over the years I have heard people tell me that what I am planning on doing is not safe. Generally speaking I have listened to the advice, thought it out and done what I set out to do anyway. Sometimes when I have been warned, though I have rethought doing what I had planned and maybe made a change here and there to at least reduce the adds a bit.

One of the things I consider important to developing myself into who I am today is when I bought a sailboat and taught myself to sail by bringing the boat up to Kodiak from Washington state. It was a learning experience I will never forget and every time I set sail in her I was truly captain of my own ship and master of my own destiny.

I've done a lot of things my way.

While I can say that I have not done everything my way, I have done a lot. One of the exceptions is my career, most of which is spent following orders. Everyone's career generally winds up that way and that is simply the way it is. You go where they send you and do what you are told. It is a part of life.

Still, careerwise, I have made my choice to follow this line of work and it has been good to me.

Recently I went into ham radio and it has been interesting. I am very much doing it my way.

While I have a basic 100 watt transceiver sitting on my desk, it isn't used nearly as much as the little surplus manpack rig I snagged against all advice.

A number of people pointed out that the rigs were underpowered and impossible to get repaired if they coink out and on and on.

I suppose they are right. If the rig craps out either I figure out how to fix it myself or I consign it to the scrap heap.

Still, it is what I wanted to do and the direction I chose to go into ham radio and I am doing it. I like it that way. Every contact I make on the little rig means something to me.

It has also already had its moments. I'll post this one later.

I guess that is a big part of the story of my life.

You can't be out and out foolish, though. You do have to think and do your best to put the odds on your side. When I was sailing I did my best to avoid stormy weather. Of course, I wasn't always successful and I have a few storms under my belt but at least I wasn't foolhardy enough to set sail when bad weather was in the offing.

The naysayers often say, "What if something happens?"

Well, something IS going to happen and it is my job to either control it or deal with it. That's the way it is, no matter what the something is.

One ot the things that I saw hanging up on someone's desk one day said the following:

"You have to sail the wind you have, not the wind you want or the wind you once had. At times you may not have any control, but it is your duty to try your best to have an effective response."

It's true.

Then again, there have been times I have opted to sit something out or maybe approach something from a different angle. Sitting something out sometimes isn't a bad idea. There is no point in being totally foolhardy.

The object is to come out of it alive and learn something from it.

In a couple of months if/when I celebrate my next birthday I think I am going to sit down and shake my head and marvel at my good fortune.

my other blog is:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reasonable expectations

One of the things you have to do when dealing with someone is to have reasonable expectations.

I was in the process of watching a neighbor trying to sell a car that was her dad's and it is pretty funny to have watched some of the people that have come over to look at it.

The car is about 12 years old and has a shade under 60,000 miles on it and I know for a fact that it has been very well maintained. The price is well under the going rate for a vehicle of that model with 100,000 miles on it and the truth is she is simply trying to move it.

I got involved in this one day when I was over her place fixing something.

Some greasy little twerp started in on telling her everything that was wrong with the thing. Actually it was in pretty damned good shape. He went on and on and on about this and that.

I saw where this was going and interrupted.

"How about if we just give you the car along with a check for ten grand AND a bottle of whiskey that you are probably too cheap to buy for yourself. Then we can come by and wash it for you and send over three hookers a week for you and after you drive it off, I will shoot this woman for trying to charge you a less than fair price for a damned good car. Now either cough up some cash or put an egg in your shoe and beat it."

I turned to my neighbor who was also mad at the little twerp. "Call 911."

"The cops?" she asked.

"Nah, get an ambulance...the hell with it, call the coroner's" I replied.

"Why?" she replied, "I have a shovel handy. We'll bury him in your yard."

"Why mine?" I asked.

"Because we buried the last two in mine," she replied.

"Yeah, but that's because I got the three kids selling magazines parked in mine," I answered. "Remember them? They were on the milk carton for months. Besides, this guy is Italian and it ain't right to bury him. You're supposed to throw them off of a bridge in cement overshoes."

"I'd forgotten about that," she said. She looked thoughtfully. "I have a five-gallon pail," she said, brightly.

"OK, here's what you do. Take my truck and go to Lowes and get us a couple bags of Sakrete and while you're gone, I'll ice this little thug," I said, handing her my keys. "Later tonight when the cement sets we'll toss him off the 40th Street Bridge."

He got angry at being mocked and left, and that Saturday was then shot because we opened beer up as soon as he took off because we were laughing so hard. An hour later someone else showed up.

He was a guy with a wife and a couple of kids. He looked at it, took it around the block and took it. He knew a good deal when he saw one. He was looking for a good used car and he saw a good deal on one. He knew it wasn't going to get a whole lot better than this. It was actually better than he had expected to find. His expectations had been realistic and they had been exceeded.

He was so grateful he went down to the beer distributors and got us a case because we were already too toasted to drive ourselves. He even bought it for us.

my other blog is:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The letter

Back when I was in my teens there were a couple of self-appointed big shot neighbors that were getting 'into politics'. What a joke!

I remember one of the neighbors got himself a FOUR DIGIT license plate as a reward for his efforts. He bragged to me that people with four digit license plates didn't get stopped by the police too often because it meant the owner 'knew someone'.

Big deal. I asked my dad about it and he was funny. When I mentioned it to him he laughed and said that there were quite a number of policemen that looked at poeple like that as pelts to be collected. He mentioned that a certain officer used to put tickets that looked like they were going to be fixed on the Registrar's desk and say "Here, fix this!"

Anyway, I thought about it and I think this is what made me think about smoke and mirrors.

It was an election year and I went to the campaign headquarters of both candidates and had quiet words with one of the big cheeses about how all my dad did was pay taxes and work and had to listen to a bunch of crap from some idiot wannabes.

I was wearing a jacket and tie at the time and back then when a young person showed up dressed that way, adults took notice.

The long and short of it is that I wound up with signed letters from both candidates authorizing my mother to "Purchase milk in quart, half gallon and gallon sized containers from the vendor of her choice during business hours"

Of course, the letter meant nothing. It still doesn't.

Immediately after the election I threw the loser's letter away and gave the winner's to my dad who read it and said, "Yeah? Big dea....Wait a minute. Can I have this?"

I gave it to dad and the next time there was a local gathering he brought the letter with him and showed it to a couple of key players. Several of them were concerned and wondered who my father knew that would get the governor-elect to give my mom special permission to buy milk.

I was there and kept mum and watched the interaction and the guy with the four digit license plate who had campaigned for the loser looked a bit sullen over the fact that my dad had the letter. He had a couple of kids and probably wondered how he was going to be able to buy them milk because he didn't have a letter.

It was pretty funny to watch. Of course there were a few people that figured it out and kept to themselves, but I was surprised at the number of people that got all bent out of shape over nothing. After all, ANYBODY could buy as much milk as they wanted, any time they wanted.

Still, when they saw the letter they percieved problems in the future over the simple purchase of a common commodity. Some of the mothers actually asked my mom if she would purchase milk for them with her letter.

Anyway, that was the first time I pulled a smoke and mirror trick and it was not to be the last.

Recently I had a small headache with the idiot nearby that seems to have been making a career out of being a complainer over every little thing. When Bob told her I had a ham ticket she complained that I was going to put up a tower (I'm not) and that the transmitter would ruin her TV and phone service. Of course, it won't.

She complained a couple of times before I even got my rig and made a fool out of herself, but she didn't quit. I could just tell her to pound sand as FCC regs state that all commo gear sold in the US must have te appropriate filters installed to prevent this, but I chose anoter tack.

I simply threw my idea to write a fancy letter out on a forum and boy, did I get results!

One guy created a very official looking watermark from an old WW2 patch, I wrote a vague letter and a couple of other people edited it and tuned up the appendix that I wrote to accompany it. A few keystrokes, a little cut and paste and a final click and I had a very impressive letter that said absolutely nothing, complete with 'Appendix C', the latter being a list of things I am authorized to do.

I printed it up and had Neighbor Bob 'steal' it and show it to her.

She read it wide-eyed, holding the letter in one hand with her other hand covering her wide open mouth.

Here is Appendix C.

Appendix C
1. You are requested to monitor 2182 KHz while ashore. Distress calls of any nature from
any vessel are to be reported to the appropriate agencies immediately.

2. You will NOT be permitted the use of alcoholic beverages while on duty.

3. You are permitted to routinely broadcast at any time on the appropriate frequencies on
the following bands: 160, 80, 60, 40, 20, 17, 15, 10, 6, 2, and .7 meters. Communication
with the International Space Station (ISS) is APPROVED for use on the appropriate
frequencies. In emergency situations involving life or property you are authorized to use
any form of radio or telephone communications at your disposal.

4. Erection of a transmitting tower up to 200 feet above ground level is APPROVED.
This approval supersedes any state or local planning, zoning and building codes.

5. Transmission on any of the following modes is APPROVED at any time: CW, AM,
USB, LSB, Packet Radio, PSK 31, RTTY, and others.

6. The use of civilian, military or military-type radio equipment, current issue or surplus
is APPROVED so long as it is used with current Amateur radio practices. The use of
portable and mobile forms of lawful radio communications is APPROVED.

7. You are authorized the purchase of service rifles from the Director of Civilian
Marksmanship at current prices. You are also authorized to train American seamen in the
proper use of these rifles in accordance with applicable laws.

8. The possession of automatic weapons and destructive devices under the appropriate

9. Your transmitters are limited to 1500 watts of power and must be used in accordance
with current Amateur radio practices.

10. The use of any force necessary, including deadly force is to prevent the boarding of a
US vessel from piracy attack while at sea is AUTHORIZED.

11. Any information regarding the Anti-Piracy Task Force is FOR OFFICIAL USE
ONLY and to be considered not for public dissemination. Secure all information in a safe
place. You are not permitted to make any statements about your status, public or private
to any unauthorized individual or individuals.

All of these are simply a list of things any licensed ham over the age of 21 with a clean record is authorized to do. It is nothing more than a letter authorizing one to buy milk or authorization to drive 30 mph in a 30 mph zone.

As for part 11, it probably got Bob an Academy Award nomination. When she read it, Bob turned on the 'Leave it to Beaver' innocence and looked at her wide-eyed and said, "Gee! I wonder if this is one of those things that if you find out about it, they have to kill you?"

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Monday, September 12, 2011

We live in an amazing age

It seems that everytime I embark on something I wind up learning a lot more than I thought I would.

My recent venture into ham radio has taught me a lot, even though not much of is is about radio as such.

A coupe of weeks ago I saw a thread on an internet forum asking which type of laptop a guy ought to buy for his radio shack. I wondered why he would need a laptop for a radio shack.

Now I know.

The last night I was on the air the laptop was there next to me running and during the course of the evening I found myself on it several times.

A quick check of the FCC license data base let me know who I was talking to and where he was in just a few seconds. AllI had to do was type in his call sign and hit 'enter'. I was actually filling out my QSL cards as I was talking to the guy on the radio.

It occurred to me that some of these guys on the air might be doing that when I made my first QSO because very shortly after we made contact he was addressing me by my first name which I had not given over the air.

The next night I hooked up with three guys from Jersey and one of them asked me about my rig and when I told him it was a PRC 320 he started asking me questions about it. From the questions he was asking I had a pretty good idea that he had a picture of the little rig right in front of him. My guess is that as soon as I identified the rig he went straight to Google images and got a picture of it right then and there.

When things start happening and you need information fast there aren't a whole lot of things faster than a Google search for finding things out.

It wasn't all that long ago that trying to look something up was a real royal pain in the neck. It was only a couple of years ago I had to go to the library and use their collection of out of town phone books to look someone up. Now it's just a few clicks and a few typed in letters and there you have it, right at your fingertips.

It is simply amazing how much information you can get instantly out of a computer. The old days of having to go to the library to dig into encyclopedias is long gone and what's even nicer is that there are no more encyclopedia salespeople pounding on your door every so often. That in itself is one less thorn in the side of society as they were a real obnoxious pain in the neck. About once every three or four months you would have to hurl one of those sorry bastards out on their ass.

Before I went on the air it had never occurred to me that a laptop might be useful. Now I know, and I now wonder what hobby or field of endeavor isn't enhanced by having a laptop near by.

Every time I turn around I stop and think what an amazing age we live in.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Buying stuff on line can save you a fortune

One of the things I have finally figured out after all these years is that there are an awful lot of things I can use that I can buy through either mail order or by purchasing on line.

I needed a hefty chunk of 550 paracord and I managed to find it at a surplus outfit north of where I live and I Googled directions. The place was about 40 miles north of me. This interprets to about three or four gallons of gasoline at about $3.50 to $4.00 per, figure somewhere between $12 and $16.

I found a 1000 foot spool on line for a little less than the surplus outfit wanted for it, plus another ten bucks for shipping. I simply ordered it on line because I am not in a hurry for it. I figure I saved a few bucks because travel isn't as cheap as it used to be.

I will admit that I am of the Old School and want to see what I am buying and for a lot of things that has not changed. Still, when you are looking at a pretty generic item like 550 milspec paracord it really doesn't matter a whole lot as it is really all the same.

Of course, there are a few el-cheapo outfits there that will try and schlep you some kind of junk here and there, but most of them do not last very long because it doesn't take a whole lot of time anymore before word gets out.

One of the biggies in the internet trade, eBay, even has a feedback section on virtually every seller out there and after he has made a few sales it is easy to see what kind of reputation they have. People don't pull a lot of punches when it comes to feedback and part of this is they can say what they want about someone from the safety of their keyboard. Generally you can figure if a person has excellent feedback the product is going to be pretty good.

Of course, there are a lot of people out there that would gripe if they were hanged with a new rope, but you have to figure that anyway. When Toyota had a recall of sorts a while back after my 2000 Tacoma rusted through they offered me $7200 for it, which is about two or three times what I could have gotten for it anywhere else, someone tried to tell me I was getting ripped off. The Taco was a simple 2 wheel drive rig I had paid a little less than $12K for, new. I had run the hell out of it, well over 180,000 miles. She was tired.

When the complainer told me I was getting ripped off, I told him I was going to renegotiate. An hour later I called them back and told them I was now getting a loaded Tundra, a check for $75,000, free Jameson's and vehicle maintainence for life AND that they took the sales manager out and shot him.

That shut them up.

Anyway, there probably will be a few gripers out there and you have to figure that in when you are dealing with a person's on-line reputation.

I have needed a soldering gun for some time now. The last time I was home my soldering iron, a small little underpowered thing, crapped out on me. I decided to get a halfway decent gun tonight to replace it.

Amazon dot com had it. One click and I could have snagged it for about 32 bucks, plus about $7 for shipping. The only reason I didn't grab it is because one of the guys has one he used once and offered it to me for $20.

In a way it is too easy and my rule of thumb is to wait for several days before I order anything to keep from buying anything I really don't want on impulse. You can sure rack up the expenses by doing that.

You do have to think first, though. There are still a lot of things out there you really ought to either look at or try on and on line really isn't the place to buy them. While most small/medium/large clothes are probably good to go, I sure would not want to buy an expensive outfit on line.

You also have to go with brand names or deal with someone you know gives fair measure because it you don't pay attention you're likely to wind up with a piece of Chinese junk. Paying good money for a bad tool is money wasted.

What has actually gotten me to buy on line as opposed to getting into the pickup and heading out to the store is the ever increasing cost of gasoline. It used to be one of those things you never paid a whole lot of attention to until the past few years and now I look long and hard before I go anywhere to look at anything. Even at 22-26 miles per gallon it adds up pretty fast. My habits are changing.

Anyway, as an old dog I find myself constantly learning new tricks and when you think about it, for the most part it is probably a pretty good thing.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just some leftovers from the pad that never went anywhere

I was going through a supermarket checkout once and there were a bunch of tabloids with headlines about some woman that claimed she was raising the child of a space alien.

I wryly looked at the cashier and asked her if she had any children and she replied she was planning on having one. I asked her if she was planning on having one with her husband or a space alien, on obvious reference to the tabloid headlines.

She smirked and said she was undecided because if she had a child with a space alien she could probably sell the story for enough to put the kid through college. I was delighted to see that she was so quick on the uptake.

The nosy woman behind me wasn't as quick. The look of confusion on her face was very amusing, but what was REALLY amusing is that she started looking at the tabloids and figured out what the conversation was all about. The look of understanding and following look of feeling a bit foolish was worth it.
Speaking of Space Aliens, I am seeing a few programs about how the Germans supposidly had contacts with space people and were getting ready to use technology they gleaned from them. What is next?

Is Elvis really dead or did he just return to his home on some other planet?

Today is 'leftovers for breakfast day' which is one of my favorite days of the entire tour.

This morning's wake up meal consists of a couple of ribs which I will heat up, a pair of chicken drumsticks which I will eat cold, and about a dozen nice shrimp and some peas.

Although I will heat up the ribs, the rest will be yaffled down cold as it is the way I like leftovers like that.

A few years back I had a shipmate that would show up for crew change with a fresh pizza that would go straight into the refrigerator and the following morning breakfast would be cold pizza and ice cold coke which was pretty good.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Piccolo's double your money back guarentee.

Over the years I have had a number of comments made regarding grammar, punctuation and spelling errors I have made in this blog.

Most of the spelling errors are typographical as I am a lousy typist.

As for grammar and punctuation errors all I can say is that if you find one of my posts with a grammar or punctuation error in it you are eligible for Piccolo's double your money back guarentee. I will give you twice of what I have charged you for reading this.

For those of you that are grammar nazis but did not do well in math, I will do the math for you to make things very clear: 2x0=0. Perhaps that requires an explaination. I charge nothing for this. Two times nothing is nothing.

I write this for myself and simply open it up so that anyone that wants to can read it.

I boast a regular readership of 36 subscribers which is 34 more than I expected when I opened this up over 800 posts ago. My sister loves me and my nephew does, too. That is about all I expected to have for regulars.

I will be the first to say that I do not always put my round into the X-ring, au contraire, sometimes I don't even hit the paper which I suppose is fine OK every once in a while as nobody shoots perfect scores. All I can really say is that at least I am at bat daily trying to do something to please myself by venting here. It is a lot more than some people do.


To the grammar nazis, out there we ought to look at this from my point of view.

Over half of these posts are written at sea under any number of conditions up to and including our recent hurricane, Irene. During Irene I spent about 30 hours up wondering about little mundane details like if we were going to drag anchor and wind up on the beach somewhere.

At sea most of the posts are nothing more than something that gets squeezed in during some field of activity of one sort or another. I am often preoccupied.

At home I often crank this out while I am having my morning coffee and am still half asleep. I seldom get to sit down relaxed and enjoy writing this blog. Life for me is too hectic. There is too much to do. While I am at sea I am working, while I am at home I am busy catching up with things that need to be done around the house.

Although the deadline for getting my posts out is self-imposed, to me it is still there and very real. I seldom proofread and simply post as soon as it is done.

When you add everything up and look at it I'd have to say that all and all this isn't too bad of a little project, all things considered.

Incidentally, I have not put the mistletoe away from last Christmas. It is affixed to my shirt-tail. If the shoe fits...

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

I guess I opened a can of worms with my post about the college grad

griping about having to pay back her loans on short money.

Oh, well.

One of my neighbors seems to be doing quite well on an unmarketable degree. He knew it was unmarketable when he got it and got it because that was what he wanted to study, but he had a plan. He stuck to it and has done well.

His plan was to join the army and he did.

The army forgave part or all of his loans and commissioned him as an Armor officer and he spent a few years bouncing around in tanks. After he married and had a couple of kids he decided to get out. Sure enough, he got a number off offers in the business world and now works for a corporation that is into sporting goods. Prior to that he was in some other Fortune 500 company.

His experience as an army officer proved a hell of a lot more marketable than the degree he had.

Businesses look pretty kindly to former military officers for a number of reasons. They know how to get things done, they understand personel, logistics and leadership because they have already  done all of this.

A lot of former officers find themselves fast tracked and I'd bet my neighbor is in this catagory.

Over the years I have considered collecting my credits and returning to school, but for the past 25 years every time I do someone points to my diploma from Hawspipe U and says that I already have my degree which to a certain point is true.

My degree from Hawspipe University was issued by the Coast Guard. It says "License to US Merchant Marine Officer" on it.

My first license cost me 720 sea-days, days spent learning the trade, as a fisherman, sailor and tugboater. Based on a school year of 180 days you can say that there were 4 school years spent earning it, almost all of it hands on. Even the few schools and classes I went to during the process were hands on. In this respect I got a good, practical education.

While that certainly isn't a degree from the college of my choice, it has been pretty instrumental in keeping me well fed.

I know a guy that went back to school when he was in his 60s. He was a very interesting character and I'd sure bet he brought an awful lot to school with him. He had made his career as a commercial fisherman and was a really rough and tumble type of guy. I heard his interview was halarious as they asked him what had interrupted his education.

"World War Two," he replied. "The army sent me on a vacation to sunny Italy. Then when I got back, I got married and had to take a little break and raise four kids. Now I got a few bucks saved and I want to go back to school."

I would have laughed my ass off to see that interview. How long his second college career lasted I do not know, but I'd almost bet that it wasn't very long. My guess is that he probably threw some uppity professor through a closed door or knocked some spoiled brat freshman on his ass and got booted out. He was a student of the Old School and probably would have made a pretty good classmate for Pappy Boyington.

There are simply some people you can dress up but you can't take anywhere except to a waterfront dive.

The Rodney Dangerfield movie most likely wasn't half as funny as to what probably happened in real life.

Anyway, when I posted a couple of days ago I had nothing against getting a degree whatsoever. It is a good thing to have. I just thought that if you are going to go into hock for several years to get the degree you ought to at least figure out how you are going to pay for it when the loans become due. It is called planning ahead.

You don't want to wind up being a college graduate werving overpriced coffee to high school dropouts, do you?

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Today I am running for home as my tour is over

My relief just called and I am packed.

I might get a chance to post later on today. We'll see.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Someone recently called me a miserable so and so

 because I want to get a lot of people off of the gvernment tit and accused me of trying to take opportunity away from the poor and disadvantaged. This is nothing new. I get called a lot of things.

That is a bunch of hogwash.

I want people to be successful and reap the rewards that go with getting up off your dead ass and onto your dying feet. Government should help create opportunity. They can start by treating businesses like something other than a cash cow, but let's not go there today.

One of the things I think government should do is make things like job training and college loans available to those that simply want them.

What? Piccolo want's to give government money away?

Guess again. The operative word I used in that statement is 'loan'.

You have to pay it back.

I swear by things like the GI bill that gives a young person a shot at getting ahead and a while back I was chatting with a grunt that is presently enrolled in a bachelor's degree program whereby he attends classes between deployments. He's majoring in public relations which is par for an infantryman. American grunts are well know throughout the planet for their talents in PR. When they punch a hole in an enemy soldier's torso they always do it while wearing a warm smile. Grunts always seem to know that you go further with a gun and a smile than with only a smile. That sounds like solid Public Relations to me. He's now using some army program to pay his tuition which is fine by me. It's a perc of serving.

While there are a lot of student loans out there, there seems to be a shortage of people that remember that the loan they took out is simply a loan. A while ago I read about some crybaby that took a degree in something that didn't pay very well and she found out that her degree and $2.95 bought her a cup of coffee at Starbucks. She found out about this by getting a job there because that was all her degree in Underwater Gay Rights in East Pakistan (or whatever useless major it was she blew her loan on)qualified her for.

While she was probably qualified to work at Starbucks serving coffee to high school dropouts that had somehow learned a useful trade and as a result could afford their overpriced coffee, she seems upset that Uncle Sam wanted their loan repaid.

I really do not have a whole lot of sympathy for her because she wasn't forced to pursue a worthless major. She could have probably become an investment banker or even tried her luck at getting into Law, Medical school, nursing or something else that pays a little more than minimum wage.

It was her choice as to what field of studies to pursue and she simply chose poorly. Nobody forced her to choose her major. It was strictly up to her. She has her degree and now Uncle Sam simply wants the loan repaid.

Still, she has a few opportunities to pay her loan back quickly if she wants. She could cut a deal with Uncle Sam whereby she works for them for a while. With her degree she qualifies to be commissioned in one of the services if she desires and there is a program that will forgive all or part of her student loan. If she is overweight she might have to pay a little visit to the fat farm first, but it is a viable option.

Then again, maybe it is not an option for her. The services have little use for stupid and the fact that she took out a loan for a worthless degree might prove to be a tip-off and maybe the services don't want her.

If so, I may be mistaken but I think there are a couple of other loan forgiveness plans out there, but I'd bet she's not interested because they require some sort of commitment.

OK, she blew her opportunity but there are a lot of other people out there that probably would find a student loan to be a pretty good ticket to success.

Once I took a tanker into the shipyard and stayed the entire time she was in the yard for a pretty good sized overhaul. It was interesting and I met quite a few people there. There was one welder I watched that was so talented he was astonishing. The man was an artist with a torch and a stinger and one day I couldn't resist. I tossed him a cold Coke to go with his lunch and asked him where he learned to weld.

He told me he had learned in a government program somewhere and had simply worked at his trade after the program had taught him the basics. An interesting man. He had come from a pretty grim background and had dropped out of high school. A few years later he saw an ad for job training and went for it. He went through every class they had to offer and got out of the program with a few basic certificates and went straight to the nearest shipyard that was hiring and went to work as an entry-level fabricator.

It didn't take him long to get damned good at what he did and there were pay increases that went along with his growing skills. He had gone from one shipyard to another and finally got hired as a top level fabricator where they could put all of his talents to work and was now earning a pretty hefty wage.

While the work was hot, dirty and uncomfortable and kept him out in the weather, the pay allowed him to have a fairly comfortable life. I respect people like him.

This is a very useful person. He can take steel and make it into useful things which is a lot more than I can do. This man is worth his weight in gold and it is interesting to note that I asked him if he had any idea of what his government funded education was worth. He replied that it cost the government about as much to train him as he had paid in taxes for the past two or three years.

A few of his other certifications like ABS certification had been paid for by his employer, and I think he paid for some other certification out of his pocket.

Now this is one of the few intelligent investments I have ever heard of government making. They sure turned a profit on this guy.

Someone in Washington probably got fired for that one.

I have no problem with that guy. Even though he got somewhat of a free ride in the educational department he had paid it back by using his skills to get ahead and cough up repayment in the form of taxes. He is a tax payer and not just another tax liability.

This guy had enough sense to get himself a marketable skill and now he can afford to go to Starbucks to buy a cup of coffee and be served by a college graduate that owes a fortune on a student loan because she didn't have enough sense to get a useful degree.

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