Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oh, Canada

Canadian Customs doesn’t like me. I’ve never had a smooth crossing. Why, I don’t know. I’m always polite, always have my car papers in order, always have I.D. Almost always get sent to a parking spot and my vehicle checked. Aargh!

In the early 80’s, my employer had an assembly operation in Chilliwack, BC that was part of my responsibilities. The required two or more visits a month from our Seattle area base seemed to always be a hassle.

A client was hosting a meeting at the Empress Hotel in Victoria the January 1982 Super Bowl weekend. Decided it was a good idea to arrange child care for the weekend and bring my wife. Not my best idea, as it turned out, but the intentions were good.

One of her less endearing traits was finding great amusement in my minor trials and tribulations.

We arrived at the Blaine crossing with time in hand to cross and make the ferry sailing at Tsawwassen for Vancouver Island. Traffic was very light. There we met the bitch from hell. For an hour we walked around my car. Everything was checked, to the point of removing the spare tire, while I waded around in the slush in street shoes. Finally, it was decided I needed to post bond on some brochures and samples. A value was established in Canadian dollars and the paperwork filled out. I asked them if they accepted US currency. With an affirmative answer, they met my loud Ugly American persona. “How much is it in Real Money?” “Can’t you find more things to waste my time?” Suddenly, they wanted me gone. While all this was going on, the wife sat in the car and giggled behind her hand. Onward to the ferry terminal in time to see the ferry sailing away. Next ferry, ninety minutes. Ninety minutes, wet shoes, restaurant closed, sitting on a wind swept rainy parking lot with someone to whom my feelings were not fond and loving at that moment.

Fast forward to the hotel. She didn’t like the room. “Dear, the damned place was built in 1903. Our stay is an adventure in yesteryear. British Empire and all that, pip, pip, pip.” Yeah, right.

The hotel was hosting a hockey convention. These guys had all played years before but were having a great time replaying the games out in the hall, late at night, loudly. A call to the desk didn’t receive a satisfactory response. My personal tactful request that they, “Haul your drunk beaver fucking asses somewhere else; I’m trying to sleep.” wasn’t accepted with good cheer. In fact, they seemed offended. Again, the wife was amused.

Enjoyed the hotel “tea” and brunch; great food. The city was wonderful. Even better, in later years, sharing it with someone I liked. The meeting went well, order books were filled. At the border, checking my items against the bond was fast and smooth, Of course, the BF’s made the refund by check three weeks later (in Canadian dollars).

Would have been better if the Niners hadn’t won. My employer was headquartered in San Francisco. A year of listening to how great the Niners were got old in a hurry.

My last crossing into Canada was three years ago from North Dakota. SSDD.
Over the years I’ve crossed many borders. Never a problem, except Canada. I’ve rarely had a problem with US Customs.

One of the more amusing aspects of living in Western Washington was the ongoing salmon wars with British Columbia.

In 1994 the British Columbia Premier had national aspirations. He engineered a scheme where USA fishing boats transiting Canadian waters would be required to pay a $1,500 fee. The only other option was a long trip out to the Pacific Ocean and around Vancouver Island. He hadn’t counted on Mike Lowry.

Mike Lowry was the Governor. He was a long term Congressman who only served one term as Governor due to a little head thinking for the big head problem. He was a liberal Democrat who never backed down. What you saw was what you got. He was highly respected by all as a man who kept his word. You may not like where he stood but you knew where he stood.

Lowry’s response was to turn the Washington State Patrol loose on the Canadian truckers hauling lumber to California. Every truck was inspected and turned back to Canada if even one light was out. Soon the border crossings were jammed. In addition, the county deputies got involved. Canadian speeders no longer got to sign a promise to appear; they got to post a bond. DUI and Canadian? Think Tijuana Jail.

Lowry was catching heat from the US State Department, both US Senators, and others but he held his ground. Very soon the Canadians dropped the $1,500 fee and refunded the ones already paid.

I never had a dog in that fight but I ever so much enjoyed those Canadian Customs folks dealing with that mess.

For the most part, I like Canadians. I do find them to be just a bit full of themselves.

What do Canadians think of me? Do you think I really care?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

My buddy, Dirty Al, is complaining about too many political postings. Due to ongoing statue of limitation restrictions, I can't tell more Dirty Al stories.

A family friend is a gifted writer and poet. He wrote this poem to commemorate the death of my brother-in-law.

Behold a Pale Horse
by Hal Swift

My buddy, Duane Laeger, just took off an' went
without even sayin' a word.
It just isn't like him to mount up an' ride.
You'd think that somebody'd have heard.

Then all of a sudden I hear a wild shout.
I look all around for the source.
An' here comes ol' Duane just a whoopin' it up,
and ridin' a borried pale horse.

It must've been borried because I've not seen
a horse like that here on this spread.
His mane flowed like honey, his tail did the same.
Ol' Duane had just give 'im his head.

Duane rides that there pony for straight where I stood.
He looks like a horse that I knew.
I hollars, "Hey Duane! Where'd you find that there stud?"
An' he says, "You don't, he finds you!"

That's when I knew where I'd once seen this horse.
Old Death had been ridin' him then.
An' that's when Duane hollered, "Be seein' ya, boy!'
And then he rides off on the wind.

I know that pale horse is out grazin' somewhere,
just waitin' for someone to bid.
Then he'll come an' get 'em, an' they'll ride away,
the same as ol' Duane and him did.


And I looked and behold a pale horse;
and his name that sat on him was death.
Revelation 6:8

You can learn more about the poet at


Come to think of it, there are some potential blog posting involving Duane. Will check with my sister.

Amazing Airline Story

Flew from Atlanta to Denver via Chicago today. Went through TSA in Atlanta in eight minutes. Flight left Atlanta on time; landed at O'Hara early. Flight to Denver pushed back from the gate two minutes early. Arrived in Denver early. Both legs had the seat I reserved. Room in the overhead for my carry on by my seat. Stopped and bought lottery tickets on the drive home.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

DC-3 Crash

A recent discussion with an old flying friend about a fatal crash we observed started some research. We watched a Frontier Airlines DC-3 stall and spin December 21, 1967 at Denver Stapleton Airport, killing two. This was the original Frontier. The name lives on but three different organizations have used it (bankruptcy, merger, etc.).

This accident was the end result of many miscalculations; the worst being a takeoff with a control lock still in place. You can read the official report.

One glaring error in this report is the removal of the passenger seats. They were not removed and the cargo sacks were not installed over the seats.

I was working for TWA at the time as a cargo handler (attending college). Our airfreight facility was next door to Frontier and they had the DC-3 parked in the cargo area. This was unusual as most loading was done at the gates. Being an all cargo flight was also unusual. This meant I watched the plane being loaded. Being a pilot, I was interested and stuck my head inside.

At that time, the Denver area was home to several carnation flower growers. The carnations were packed in 3’x3’x5’ heavily waxed boxes. The DC-3 was loaded with mail tossed between the seats. Boxed flowers were placed in the aisles. Nothing was tied down. The pilot and co-pilot had to clamber over all this to get to the cockpit.

The following is for non pilots so the rest of this makes more sense. The movable controls on aircraft have smaller movable controls generally called trim tabs. These are adjusted to balance the controls so the pilot isn’t constantly working against pressure on the yoke/stick and rudder pedals. The small horizontal wing at the rear of a DC-3 is called the elevator and controls the pitch of the aircraft; that is, nose up or down. The elevator has a fixed section in the front and movable section in the rear. In the case of the DC-3, the fixed section has a limited range of adjustment. This give the pilot far more options in trimming the aircraft. The way weight is distributed within the aircraft is important, being referred to as weight and balance or center of gravity. This must be within certain limits or the controls won’t have enough force to control the aircraft.

My friend and I were at the TWA and Western gates facing North, he at the Western gates just West of TWA, when the DC-3 took off on Runway 35. Pilot can’t help watching takeoffs and landings. You could plainly see they were in trouble. In fact, the tower already had the fire trucks alerted as the DC-3 pitched up, then dropped the left wing and went in on the West side of 35 just North of the I-70 underpasses. The flames were enormous. One of the bravest things I’ve ever witnessed was the first fire truck on scene. Spraying foam, the driver went off the steep side of the taxiway directly into the wreck. They had the fire out almost immediately.

What I think happened was the flower boxes slid to the tail due to the high nose up attitude. The pilot may have been able to save it with the elevator trim had the cargo not shifted. Way too much rear CG to overcome.

The photograph in the paper the next day was taken from the rear of the wreck. Covered with foam, you could plainly see the gust lock.

I have no intention of judging the crew. The facts speak for themselves. The man in the left seat was a very senior pilot with management responsibilities. How much that clouded his thinking we can’t know but is alluded to in the official report.

So Hal, this is how I remember it.

On the road Saturday so limited blogging. Flying back from Atlanta (oh, joy).

Monday, August 22, 2011


Part of being open minded is listening to opposing opinions.

(Full Disclosure: Functioning heterosexual male still interested in the opposite sex)

The supporters of our current President give themselves away by calling him “Barry”, usually with a soft, fluttery tone, and a fond smile. They have a ready excuse for any and all his shortcomings.

Next election, they will still vote for him and work for his campaign. From where I sit, they will have far fewer Democrats working with them. My ward is home to both a state senator and a state representative, both Democrats. In recent weeks, both have referred to him as, “President Obama”, and, both with stiff upper lips.

I hope the GOP can come up with a worthy candidate. So far, the only one I like is Ron Paul.

In the end, the election will come down to votes, especially Electoral College votes. The Obama machine will carry the big cities, by fair or foul means. Small towns, medium cities, and rural areas must get out in force to counter the fraud. Please, register to vote. Get an absentee ballot if necessary. Consider becoming an election judge. As an alternative, reconcile yourself to four more years of “Barry”.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sleep Apnea

A relative suggested I write about my experiences with obstructive sleep apnea. You can find more information at

I have always been a heavy snorer. This caused many personal problems with other people trying to sleep in my vicinity (camping trips, house guest, military barracks) and was a huge negative in my marriage.

My father died in his sleep at age 64. He was very fit. His Levi’s waistband was probably within one inch from his twenties. In later years, with better information, we now realize he showed all the signs of classic sleep apnea. He was a loud snorer. If you know someone who snores, who stops breathing for a minute or two, then snores again, they need to be checked. That minute or two is the only time they are completely asleep.

By 1995, my problem had grown so bad I fell asleep at red lights. I once fell asleep on a test drive; my customers woke me up. My general manager called me in. He pointed out we had HMO health coverage. He flat put it to me, get tested NOW or get fired.

Boring, but typical story, navigating Seattle Group Health’s rat maze, finally got me to the sleep order clinic. Much arguing led to me taking the equipment home, attaching the various leads, etc. and returning the equipment the next day (hint: Do shave the area the stickum adheres to).

Later the next day I start getting calls from the lab; they want to see me now. I’m busy and try to stall them. They finally call my boss. He explodes, tells me, “You damn mule, get your ass over there.”

At the lab, I meet the MD who is in charge. He starts off nice, showing me video screens with colored line and explains what they represent. He sees I’m not convinced so he smacked me with a 2x4 with the following.

“Mr. ______, I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that within six months you will have a major medical event. It may be today, next week, next month, but within six months it will happen. If you are lucky, it will kill you. Otherwise, you will be an invalid. You do have available to you, don’t you, constant nursing care for years to come? No, well you will require it.” Silence. (As a salesman I admired his closing skill) Finally, I said, “And my options would be?

Two days later I was using a CPAP. Other than one trip where I forgot it, one trip where I forgot the power cord, and a few nights when the power has been out, I’ve slept with a mask on my face and air blowing up my nose every since.

CPAPs and masks are a pain. You nose itches and sweats. Moving around the bed is restricted. You must make up your mind that you will use it, period, no excuses or rationalizations. CPAPs add new considerations for travel. Security check points, weight and space problems, and where is an outlet? I pack a 25’ drop cord to insure reaching an outlet. As an aside, I end up looking behind night stands and under beds for outlets. Rarely are those areas clean in the motels. Camping, or sleeping anywhere with out power, is a problem. Most CPAPs are set up to run on 12 volts. How far do you want to pack a battery? After one night, how do you recharge it?

For me, the biggest hassle has been dealing with the medical folks and, especially the medical appliances folks. Need a replacement anything? We want a prescription. Prescription? Need a new sleep study (at about $5,000 or so).

I love Craigslist, Google, and Ebay. All of my replacement CPAPs I’ve found on Craigslist. Those oh so secret adjustment manual the respiratory techs use are on Ebay. Now, I would happily pay the techs for their expertise if it didn’t come with the whole “need a prescription” deal. I can hear them saying now, “But we are required …………”. You are, I’m not. I’m a scofflaw.

The principal benefit to using the CPAP is, I’m still alive. Within the first six months, I lost over a 100 lbs. My blood pressure normalized (for me, 170/95 - bite me). My energy level zoomed. My sex drive became stronger; horny as a teenager (bit of a problem as I was divorced). According to those who had to deal with me, my personality went from “Impossible” to “Aggravating”.

I’ve never used things like humidifiers and supplemental oxygen. My nose won’t tolerate Nasal Pillows. I see ads for non CPAP solutions but have never perused them. What I have works for me.

Hope this can help anyone dealing with sleep problems, themselves or people in their lives. The machines have improved, and their size and weight are down. For some, surgery can help.

For those without health insurance, you may need to go the self help route. Google is your friend. Don’t fear it. My experience is the machines won’t produce enough pressure to harm your lungs. Crank it up till the mask starts fluttering then turn it down a notch or two.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Wise words from my 80 year young aunt.

We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Can I Irritate an Engineer?

“An engineer can only be in one of two conditions” an engineer friend once told me, “Approximately right or absolutely wrong.” He was a retired aerospace engineer who had started with a slide rule and ended up doing CADCAM. Expounding further, he stated, “The ones with the courage to be approximately right are rare. The ones who can only be absolutely wrong are common, and only good for padding a ‘cost plus’ contract.” Harsh word, to be sure.

In my late twenties, I had the good fortune to work for a weird, off the wall, engineer who was also a Harvard MBA. No slack allowed.

He was fired from an aircraft maker for a project gone wrong. He devised a system, using compressed air, to fire fowl at aircraft windscreens. His system worked, but was a public relations disaster, as he used live fowl.

The Russians may not have cared.

He wasn‘t tightly wrapped. Allegedly, at home, he liked to watch television with a unloaded revolver at hand. When there was a gun fight on TV, he would dry fire at the screen. He would use binoculars to examine cracks in his ceiling. He bought a house based on the location of the sun during his commute. Salesmen calling on us would be worn down but the unending questions he could generate. He was also very familiar with distilled spirits.

Many people who worked for him were not happy campers. We got along. I’ve always believed that every day I put my job on the line. He liked that. I gave him accurate information. Often the information was negative. Not all projects were successes and our business was high risk construction. There would be yelling, then decisions made, and we would go forward. I learned many valuable business lessons from him, especially diligent planning. He also gave me near impossible assignments. One was collecting accounts receivables from those lying sacks of shit at Boeing. Another was finding month to month renters for our excess warehouse space. We ended up storing parts for the Unlimited Boat Teams based in Seattle, PACCAR (Kenworth Trucks), and the LSofSs at mother _______ Boeing. Some of my more extreme collection methods were discussed behind close doors and greatly modified.

He might rip me in private but he always backed me publicly. When he and the new stockholders got sideways, I soon followed him out the door.

His replacement was an engineer of the second type. After bankrupting the company in less than two years, he went on to greater glory by screwing up the propulsion program for a new class of state ferries.

There are six steps to a project.

1. Initial enthusiasm.
2. Disillusionment.
3. Panic
4. Search for the guilty.
5. Punishment of the innocent.
6. Praise and honors for the non participants.

Today, my part time job involves working for several engineers. From where I sit, little has changed. You just wait them out as they get tired from running their mental hamster wheels. The good part is the general manager has the courage to be approximately right.

Despite all the barbs, I have a lot of respect for engineers. Takes brains and dedication just to get through the schools. Way smarter people than me. Their problem in dealing with me was decision making. I would make more decisions in the first two hours of a day than they would in two days. As an example, we were vacuum forming a different plastic than usual. The exhaust from the vacuum tank was in the center of the vacuum tank and was distorting the plastic. While they were standing there discussing the problem (at $37 per minute), I grabbed an electrical double wall box, placed it over the vent, and viola!, no more problem. I must have spent at least ten minutes on that. Onward we went, on a six figure project, that, By Gawd, stayed on schedule.

The engineer quoted at the start of the posting taught me a painful lesson. I didn’t want to take the time to learn computer stuff, DOS, whatever. He created a one of a kind program, just for me, that I could use without brain damage. Using that program for preparing bids, we went from apparent low bidder 32% of the time to apparent low bidder 78% of the time. Smack me with a 2x4!

For an endeavor to succeed, all types need to contribute (even bean counters and lawyers). I most admire those individuals whose leadership can blend it all together. They, if not hobbled by the absolutely wrong rules enforcers, can make this country grow and prosper.

During one of the many construction slumps, I started selling cars. The intention was to do that until business conditions improved. Guess they didn’t improve again for the next twenty five years. What I learned from my MBA Engineer boss was to plan, keep records, measure results, and plan again with better data. Worked for me, even thought I did it (and still do) with the willing grace of a pig on ice skates.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blinded by Arrogance???

My sister says I think to much during the hours I spend driving. She may be correct. The only time the radio is on is when I get sleepy.

So I got to thinking about Fast and Furious. The “smart” set that thought this one up, continue to pedal along their predetermined path, even when the whole thing is blowing up around them. The impression I get is they think they are so smart and we are so dumb, they can still pull it off. As a possible alternative, they mainly talk to people who already agree with them. Thus, they don’t fathom the problems catching up to them.

Next spurious thought it this cluster fuck may be typical of all the grand schemes the Lightbringer’s accomplices have created. This gives me hope that all their schemes will ultimately fail.

They have, and will continue, to create a lot of pain, debt, waste, and time consumed to fight, stop, then reverse the country’s course but it is doable.

Then again, I probably think too much, and not too clearly.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Citizen's Duty

Received a complaint my blog has become too serious; that there are too few “foolish” postings.

When my mother became unable to handle her affairs, I started receiving her mail.

One day a summons for jury duty arrived. Since I had already ignored several, decided I had best do my duty and put the date on my calendar.

Arrived, signed in, sat down and waited. Waited some more. Finally, heard my mother’s name called. Yep, I had answered her summons.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Westbound on I 76 overtaking a car hauler with a huge cloud of white smoke coming from the right rear of his trailer. Pull along side the truck and try to attract the drivers attention. He is on a cell phone. He ignores me.
*CSP - hit Send.

"Colorado State Patrol, how may we help you"?

"Calling to report a truck going Westbound on I-76 at Mile Marker 36 with a lot of smoke coming from the right rear of the trailer. The truck is a blue car hauler with a sleeper cab."

"What is a car hauler."

"An automobile transport truck."

"Have you tried to attract the driver's attention"?

"Yes, he didn't pay any attention to me; he is on a cell phone."

INSERT Dispatcher gets my name and number.

"Well, what do you want us to do about it"? !!!!!!!!

"How about you dispatch your guys with the blue and red lights; bet they can get his attention. Hell, he will be in Hudson in two minutes. Call Hudson PD."

HANG UP and start cussing.

Maybe my friends and family are right. Maybe I need Anger Management Classes.

Nothing to see here? Just a brake and/or axle fire directly below a gasoline powered vehicle's fuel tank. Said vehicle is sitting on perforated steel ramps. What could go wrong?

Pesky citizen should just mind his own business.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bullshit Squared

The Lightbringer, in addition to transparency, promised to attack waste and fraud. One of his speeches highlighted the issue.

Tedious to wade through, I assure you, but if the lying crook directed the agencies under his control to accomplish a fraction of what he promised, we would see some help for our economic crises. How much? Try $23.7 billion in 2007 alone.

How about the Defense Department? Billions upon billions.

John McCain, has said we can’t, won’t, and don’t, attack fraud and waste. Bloviating Zeppelin posted one McCain’s speeches where McCain says as much, about 2 minutes into his speech.

May be the only honest thing he has said in years.

Medicare and Medicaid fraud has been documented and exposed over and over. Why is nothing done? Like wise the Defense Department. Yes, I understand $800 toilet seats are a way of funding “black” programs.

May I suggest, campaign contributions? During the Roaring 20’s, the bootleggers paid off the police and judges. Still happens. Want to bet the big operators in the fraud industry are also big campaign contributors?

When the honest men and women in government service raise the issue (Whistleblowers) they get hammered.

Great. The ones thieving from us, payoff the ones who should be looking out for our interests, so all of them can profit.

Term limits, damnit! Vigilantes, anyone?