Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

First, I am grateful to be sitting in my warm 5th wheel. Especially since temps are in the low 40's and it has drizzled all day. I use holidays as milestone/memory markers as it is easier on my addled brain. Thanksgiving is not especially remarkable this year; but, as always, it reminds me to be grateful. This year I am both grateful and concerned. I am grateful to live in a great country, to be able to put food on the table and to have steady work. I am also grateful for a loving family, my fiancĂ© and my furry companions; along with all my friends and acquaintances. I don't want to muddle the holiday up with politics. However, I am concerned with the direction this country has taken. It is problematic to me when the government shoves a program on its citizens and then threatens them with monetary penalties if they fail to comply. It is also troublesome when we have a polarized Congress, immersed in partisan politics and obstructionism. Far worse is the knowledge that we have an electorate that continues to put these folks in office. I do remain hopeful, given that our country has lived through much worse. Here's hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that better times are ahead.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Day that Personified a Decade

It is very hard to believe fifty years has come and gone since that fateful day in Dallas. Generations have come and gone and some of the latest barely know of John F. Kennedy's assassination.  It is a shame that the event and events surrounding it are already just a brushstroke in history. Probably no more than a page or two in today's history books. Perspective is everything when interpreting events and to get the proper perspective on Kennedy's death you have to take in the sixties as a whole. The dowdy administration of the Eisenhower's was exiting the world stage and a young, vibrant couple was taking over. Just a look at Mamie and Jackie side by side told the story. The ugly face of racism was sweeping the country and racial equality for everyone would boost the civil rights movement. The Beatles were headed for the United States and most of us know what that meant. Our boys were fighting and dying in a humid, remote hell called Vietnam. The race to the moon was on and the Cold War between the United States and Russia simmered in the foreground; still smoldering from the Cuban Missile Crisis. How ironic that the events in Cuba would change the face of the nation forever as the first mass of fleeing refugees landed in south Florida. It would be difficult to imagine the Miami of today without the Cuban influence. Student unrest would percolate through the colleges of the country fueled by drug use and hatred of the aforementioned Vietnam war. The country was at least unified in its opposition to Vietnam and support of getting to the moon in the decade. The country was being tore apart and never would be the same. Unfortunately the hallmarks of the decade were the assassinations, including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Tragically, toward the end of the decade, John F. Kennedy's brother Robert would be struck down by an assassin. I remember listening to Dion sing Abraham, Martin and John- how poignantly that song captured the decade. Rest in peace JFK.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Annual Holiday Rant

The line between holidays just keeps getting more and more blurred. Some stores started Christmas stocking and decorating in late October. If the Christmas music and carols start any earlier I am not going shopping till it's over. Someone else can get the groceries. I am not a Grinch; so to speak, the commercialism of the holiday has done it to me.
Which brings us to Veteran's day; which seems some what overlooked with the advent of Christmas at or before Halloween. When I was a kid we looked forward to each of the holidays; each with it own ambiance and period of occurrence. The time between them may have been short but there seemed to be some demarcation. Confused? You must be much younger than me.
Back to the veterans who have given so much to our country at great personal sacrifice. It seems a shame that there has been such a need for a grass roots movement to ensure that our vets are cared for and get the benefits they deserve. My question is "Why haven't some of these movers and shakers tried to unify their causes?" Every time I turn around there seems to be a plea for funding for disabled and wounded vets by many disparate organizations. It seems some of these selfless folks could use their valuable time organizing and unifying. I once spent some time in discussion with a crusty Marine vet, trying to get him to support The Wounded Warrior Project. He failed to see the need, stating that that was what Walter Reed and their benefits were for. Perhaps therein lies the problem?

Blockbuster is gone; the last rental went out a few days ago. Talk about crashing and burning-they were flying high in their day. Of course, I still remember-Atari,  Beta Cassettes,  Video Cassettes, Laser discs, vinyl LPs, 8 track, disco (-; , Pan Am (and Air Florida and Eastern), AMC (they made the Gremlin and Matador), Silly Putty, real books, Montgomery Ward, drive in theaters, the Zenith Commander remote with three channels, rabbit ears, pay phones, Etch a Sketch, The Thing toy bank, the Twist (and the Swim and slow dancing without too much contact-we didn't twerk)...Sorry, I got carried away.

Here's hoping you and yours can keep yourself above all the political mayhem, hinky weather, mass shootings, money woes, health woes and general discontent. That way you can better enjoy the season and appreciate that we live in the greatest country on this planet!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Real Figures from Someone who has Done It

It took Missy and I about two years to find our way to the oil patch. We workamped at three or four campgrounds before Andy (myoldrv.com) convinced me that the compensation was indeed real. If you think we were jaded, you'd be right. Our pay at campgrounds varied from $800 to $1300 per month; not enough to pay the bills, and barely enough to survive on. We still follow the workamping community and the pay has not gotten any better. If anything, it is worse than ever, with more and more campgrounds offering a site in exchange for the work. At some campgrounds the menial work we were assigned to do seemed never ending. We even worked at a campground where the two of us were responsible for maintaining almost three hundred acres. About seventy five to one hundred acres required weedeating and mowing. Did I tell you there were also about a dozen horses that we cared for; which included breaking, tack maintenance, feeding and grooming? Plus we conducted trail rides through the woods and brush that we created and maintained. I forgot to mention that they also had a float operation with canoe, tubes and rafts. Of course there was the store, the reservations, guest relations and the campground to maintain. Then there were the arguments with the owners because we couldn't seem to get everything done without exceeding forty hours. Most campgrounds don't want you to exceed forty hours in a week to prevent you from being considered a fulltime employee. Our only good experience was a well run campground in Branson, Missouri. Being able to attend the shows for free or a heavily discounted rate was a great perk. Still, the pay was awful at under two hundred dollars a week before taxes for each of us. The irony of it all is that the only folks that can really afford to do the work are retirees and folks on disability (or collecting supplemental income from somewhere.) My point is, there are a lot of us who are unemployed and have hit the road in an RV looking for some of that good old American promise with little or no supplemental income. It is a ready and willing work force that some take advantage of. Workampers are not the only ones caught up in this financial trap. There are hundreds of thousands in the work force who are forced to subsist off of government programs and/or charity due to poor pay. Sadly and shamefully, that includes a lot of our military and government workers.  So what is someone to do who wants to pursue his or her dream of seeing this country and living the RV lifestyle? Hopefully some of you dreamers are reading this because you need to start now. Start saving and purchase the largest RV you can afford (no matter what you buy you will find it lacking in room). You don't want those payments saddling you on the road. The used market is the way to go, in my opinion. Spend the time to thoroughly research and shop around. RV'ers are generally a friendly bunch and you can obtain a wealth of knowledge talking to them. Renting a coach for the weekend is also a good way to learn about the RV lifestyle. Although I am generally against workamping, there are exceptions to the norm. Amazon has a loyal following at their distribution facilities with good pay and discounted parks to stay in. There are temporary and long term employment opportunities in construction and energy exploration that you can do while living out of an RV. Some of them, like gate guarding, provide your utilities while working. Whatever your choice is, it will be difficult to make a living workamping without some sort of additional income.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Affordable Care Act Redux

My 200th post and y'all are apparently still reading! Thanks!! I also have 34 subscribers and counting. If you enjoy my take on the world it's easy to subscribe, just click on "join this site" on the right side column. Hey, you can always hit the delete button and it's easier than searching for it.

My worst fears concerning the Affordable Care Act are developing before my eyes. It is all a vicious circle, feeding itself. The business model requires "x" amount of young, healthy participants in order for everything to work. Without that young component; much less whatever magic number of participants overall is required to make it work, the insurance companies cannot assess an affordable premium. The administration had hoped that the insurance companies would "play" along and set the rates by their projected numbers, but they're not playing along. Their fears are also coming true, as the sign up rate remains abysmal and the majority are older, with pre existing conditions. Come on, people! Did you really think the folks that use over ninety percent of the tax revenue in the collection process to run the IRS could pull this off? How about Amtrak or the Post Office? So here's a typical scenario. Joe Schmo makes about 50K a year and decides on a Silver plan. He or she is between 50 and 60 years of age with a pre existing condition. His or her premium hovers around $500 and $600 a month, which he or she can't afford, so they opt out. Joe Schmo soon receives notice that he or she will be assessed a fine of between 4 and 5k annually. That fine will come out of his or her taxes or they can opt to make monthly payments; the government will even allow them to set automatic withdrawal. If Joe Schmo chooses to ignore the fine, the Act provides that the government can then suspend his or her drivers license. After a period of time things will escalate and ignoring the fine can lead to the loss of assets; including Joe Schmo's home. I can't make this sh*t up people! Finally, the big lie and the even bigger "smoke and mirrors" fix. After an outcry (thank you America, I was worried you'd lost your voice) of biblical proportions over Obamas repeated broken promise that we could keep our current insurance, the "Great and Wondrous Oz" has spoken and apologized. He believes he can wiggle his nose or wave his wand and the insurance companies will comply with his request to reinstate the cancelled insurance policies. Let's see, you're an insurance executive and the man that threatens to destroy the health insurance industry as we know it and has repeatedly shown to have no idea what his failed policy is doing or causing is asking you to do something to help him out. Is that about right? Wait; here's the "smoke and mirrors". If Obama manages to get the insurance companies to play along with him the reinstated policies will only be good for a year. Here's the rub as I see it. Obama is the leader of the free world. He has continually shown to be disingenuous and downright dishonest. The world sees this and the lost respect can never be regained. We have failed foreign and domestic policy, from Benghazi to the Affordable Care Act. Our political system is a laughing stock, polarized and impotent. Just when you thought the damage to the presidency by Clinton couldn't be surpassed, along comes this Bozo-sorry, I meant Obama.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Value of a Brownie

A brief list of some of what we have received for a brownie or a cookie or some bar-b-que or a cold drink...you get the idea.
Help with a flat tire
The use of a compressor
Sewer pump out
All kinds of swag-hats, shirts, promotional items and gifts, etc.
Candy and food of all sorts
Trash pick up
Groceries from town
Safety gear
Man power
Very few; if any of these folks, asked for anything in return. We just offered it. Kindness from strangers is such a wonderful thing. Now our gate has a reputation for almost always having something good to share. Finally; just remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and  resourcefulness is the hallmark of an effective gate guard.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reflections on a lesson Learned

We came down to the oilfield with a Class A Holiday Rambler diesel pusher. In its day it was a pretty luxurious coach; costing north of one hundred thousand dollars new. Most of our problems with the coach centered around its basement heat pumps, which we could  never seem to get to work properly. Every time we called a repairman to look at the heat pumps it cost hundreds of dollars and we were lucky if it cooled or ran for more than a day. We supplemented the heat pumps with a small window air conditioner which helped some, till the ambient temperature rose to over 100 degrees. The straw that broke the camel's back was the failure of a radiator hose and loss of the engine. The repairs wiped us out financially and an additional cash influx failed to correct a persistent overheating problem. All along I was concerned that my less than stellar credit and nomadic lifestyle would prevent me from acquiring a new(er) RV. We had also tried to sell the coach via the internet, including Craig's List, with little or no results. We finally found a dealer that would take the coach in trade and that even turned into a debacle after a wheel bearing failed on the way there. In hindsight I should have cut my losses sooner. The 5th wheel we are in now seems to be a solid vehicle, requiring only minor repairs. Additionally, the repairs we have done have corrected the problem(s) eliminating the need for a repeat visit. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have a solid, reliable vehicle to live and work out of is invaluable.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Items of Note

Kudos to John Colas and the USO staff at O'Hare for jumping into action when word came that Marines returning from Afghanistan would be passing through the airport. Mr. Colas figured that after five days of switching airplanes; not to mention returning from the hell of war, the Marines deserved some recognition. Further kudos to the first responders who joined in forming a greeting line to salute the Marines as they passed through. It gets better-the fire department arranged a ceremonial shower for the aircraft as it taxied out. Finally, the flight crew sat six of the Marines down in open first class seats at which time the rest of the first class passengers got up and gave up their seats. OooRah! Now, can anyone explain why it takes five days to return from Afghanistan?
A salute to George Strait on a well deserved Entertainer of the Year award at the CMA's last night. A pox on the CMA for not rewarding him sooner and more often.
I find myself lacking words to describe the recent actions of an Indianapolis police officer who mowed down motorcyclists sitting at a stop light. A breathalyzer test; conveniently forgotten at the scene and given later, still showed the officer's alcohol level to be twice the legal limit. There is no word to describe how depraved a servant of the people has to be when his depravity leads to the death and injury of those he's sworn to serve. This is at least the fifth on duty accident this officer has been involved in.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Sister's Love

In order to describe the relationship that my sister and I have it is important to note that we fought like cats and dogs as children. I'm sure there is some psycho babble to describe our interaction; especially since our relationship was forged through a life of constant change. We are military brats which; unless you have lived it, is impossible to describe. Basically; your friends, schools, homes, etc. are in constant flux as your father/mother travels the world to fulfill his or her military obligation. Amazingly, through all of that, my sister and I grew to be the best of friends. The women of my family personify all that is good in a female. Caring, nurturing, non judgmental, generous, protective, etc. are just some of the qualities my mother and my sister possess. My sister is resilient, having suffered through tremendous loss in her life, and I admire her for it. Even though we are different persons we share many of the same qualities. I know my sister is there for me as she has been all my life. I only wish I could have been there more often for her. I hope she knows that she is in my thoughts and prayers; especially today. Happy Birthday Sis!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Some Thoughts

First, let me say I am for some sort of health care overhaul. The plan put forth by Obama is dependent on numbers yet to be released (which may account for 33 states not participating) and an even greater undisclosed number of young, healthy participants. Since almost no one I know understands the program; (including me) and so many can't even get into the website to study it, the early numbers are not promising. The early results are upwards of 80 percent of those able to sign up are older folks; some with pre-existing conditions. Additionally the program's sign up results have been abysmal, at best. Obama's business model is dependent on an average sign up rate of around 40,000 customers a day (the results to date are far under 100 a day!).  The Obama business model will fail if the trend continues. This program was passed around four years ago and this is the launch we have gotten. The health care overhaul is failing in its infancy because the figures don't add up and there is little faith in its ability to perform as advertised. Whether you know it or not every problem seems to cause yet another; kind of like a cancer. For example, the rate quotes on average are higher than predicted; all because the insurance companies have no faith in the projected numbers of participants. This has led to the biggest, and most overt lie; the promise that folks currently  insured and happy with their plan will be able to keep them. Even as the cancellations mount and/or plans unwillingly change, Obama continues to promise the opposite. To think we could face fines for failing to comply with this charade really gets my hackles up. This is not the rant of some conservative or some Tea Party hack, unwilling to compromise and looking for any way to demean the administration. Not to get off the subject; but that seems to be the standard Democratic/administration response. I am just an average "Joe" who is deeply disturbed by the goings on in our country. Specifically the ineffective, out of control, partisan and polarized government we are saddled with- and I know I am not alone. In my opinion the Affordable Care Act will become just another bloated, underfunded program subsidized by the government-meaning your hard earned dollars in the form of additional taxes. Come on people! Look at Amtrak, Social Security, Medicaid and Welfare. We can only print more money and increase the tax burden for so long. I believe the folks we sent to Washington know that and that is why we are seeing some of them digging in their heels. The unfortunate result is that the welfare of the country takes a back seat to these partisan politics. Seems like "Groundhog Day" to me.