Monday, September 3, 2018

Juuuust right!

 We're now about 6 weeks into our latest bi-annual move.  There is currently a glut of new apartment communities in our area, and they all have some generous incentives designed to entice you to move.  Ours is an urban-style 4-story block of buildings with some amazing amenities.

Immediately off the lobby is a community room with various game tables, a conversation area, and a kitchen with a machine what spits out fancy Starbucks coffees. 

Of course it has the obligatory pool....

...and gym (with a yoga studio upstairs).

 How about a small theater, available first-come-first-serve for private screenings? 

They ticked my hot-button box with a number of gas grills that they keep spotlessly clean.

Jax, however, has figured out what the Paw Spa is for, and he is NOT impressed.

If you somehow don't have a computer (who doesn't have a computer these days?) they offer a business center with 5 Macs, 5 PC's, and printers.

Inside there are four elevators, the hallways are wide, carpeted, and climate controlled...and VERY quiet.  Outside the landscaping is very nice, a greenbelt is just across the street, and a walking trail is just a block north.  Best of all, I don't have to maintain ANY of it!  *happy dance*

...even the mail room is kept spotless.

 They've also ticked my "I like my cars safely out of the weather" box, too.

I wondered why we had so many electric cars (EV's) in the garage.  When I found 2 electric charging stations it all made sense.

As for our apartment itself...our first attempt at downsizing was still too large.  We began to buy more "stuff" again, which defeated the whole purpose of downsizing. On the next try I undershot the mark...we were seriously cramped.  This time, though, I think I found the sweet spot.  The kitchen is more than adequate (just out of the picture is K's "coffee bar"), as is storage space.

 At Kelly's insistence we opted for the "indoor plumbing" package.

It's still only one bedroom / one bath, but with lots of counter space, double lavs, a large soaking tub and a separate shower, too, we're very comfortable.  I even managed to swing a covered top floor balcony, with enough room for a couple of chairs and small tables, and a TV that only receives football games.  *wink*

Downsizing doesn't allow for a "man cave", but I did manage to squeeze in for myself a "man corner".  It works fine.  :)  Kelly has her own "chick space", too.

Oh, and Jax staked out his claim also.

 For those who have kids at home, lots of out-of-town company, heirloom furniture they're married to, etc, this would be an impossible way to live.  All things considered though, for us, I feel we've made a good move.  Cheers!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

My personal John McCain story

In 1996 Sen. Phil Gramm was running for President, and Sen. John McCain was campaigning for him ahead of the first-in-the-nation political primary in Iowa. (I think that would have made this sometime in 1995.) I was attending an airshow in Ankeny, Iowa, participating as the advance man for an invited CAF team. Before the gates opened to let the crowd in, and while my guys were up preparing for their act, I was just wandering around taking in the sights.

Out of nowhere I was approached by Sen. McCain. He said he was a bit early, introduced himself (of course I knew of him already) and we sat and talked one-on-one. He put me at complete ease, acted "normal"...humble even...while we had a nice, casual conversation for about 20 minutes. I mentioned he had been in the Hanoi Hilton with my Congressman, Sam Johnson, and it was like we were long-time buddies. He told stories, I asked some current event questions, and he answered with complete candor, devoid of any two-faced BS the way every other politician I've ever known would have. With sincere smiles we eventually shook hands again and he said he had enjoyed our visit, then he went off to "press the flesh" on behalf of Sen. Gramm as the crowd began to filter in.

Senator John McCain passed away today. I can honestly say I knew him personally and felt he was a sincere man of great integrity. I know he's in a comfortable place now, and I feel better knowing that.

RIP my friend.

A sign of our times

If you've had the opportunity to travel around the US much, and if you've been paying attention, you've probably noticed how much one place looks like every other.  If you want to go out for dinner, you'll find lots of Olive Garden's, Outback's, Chili's, Applebee's, McDonald's and Taco Bell's, but you'll have to look hard to find a Mama's Cafe.

Most towns will have multiple branches of Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, and Wells Fargo, but it's doubtful you'll still find a local First National Bank.  You'll find lots of Chevy, Ford, Dodge, and Toyota dealers that may have a sign that says "Proudly serving _____ since 1974", but if you'll Google it you'll probably find it's now owned by one of the hundred-dealer auto conglomerates.

You probably won't find a local Tip Top Grocery, but you'll find plenty of 7-11's, Quick Trip's, and RaceTrac's.  And almost all sell gas, too, which has put the locally owned and operated 4-pump Exxon's and Texaco's out of business.  Grocery stores are now dominated by big names like Walmart and Kroger's.  Find yourself in need of a pair of pliers or a screwdriver?  You'll likely find a Lowe's or Home Depot before you find a Floyd's Hardware.

Have an unexpected day free for some fishing?  You'll burn up a tank of gas looking for Bubba's Bait and Tackle, while you drive right past Cabela's, Bass Pro Shop, Academy, and Dick's.  Need a dress shirt?  Ken's Man's Shoppe is long gone, replaced by Men's Wearhouse, Dillard's, and Joseph A Bank's.  Rick's Furniture was killed off by the likes of Nebraska Furniture Mart and Haverty's, who are themselves now keeping a wary eye on Wayfair.

This is true for every midsize and large city I've been to in recent years.  It may or may not be true if you're in some place like East Bull Turd, Alabama.  Even then, if East Bull Turd happens to be within 30 or 40 miles of a major city, it will soon be a growing suburb and will see this phenomenon, too.  And if it's too far away to attract city commuters, then it will likely continue to just wither away.

The little guys don't stand a chance these days, and even the big guys are now feeling the heat from the 500-pound gorilla in the room....Amazon.  I guess it's true what they say:  "The only thing constant is change."  *sigh*


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Form vs function

I receive catalogues from many different sources, for products that I have absolutely no interest in.  Furniture vendors in particular.  I guess I clicked on something one day and BAM, I was on their radar as a sucker potential customer.  Now I do like (soft) contemporary architecture and furniture, but much of it just looks downright uncomfortable.  Obviously (to me) whoever designed it placed form over function.

Exotic automobiles are often conflicted by this "form vs function" conundrum, too.  Lamborghini's are decidedly gorgeous, sleek cars....

....but have you ever tried to get into or out of one?  *groan*

The Amish, by contrast, don't even recognize the concept of "form".

Some people are impeccably stylish.  You rarely see England's Prince Charles in anything other than his trademark double breasted suit, and then he's either wearing his polo attire or one of his dress military uniforms.  Do you think he ever just puts on some shorts and a t-shirt and gets in a quick game of croquet out back with the guys?

Donald and Melania Trump's New York apartment is I'm sure considered by many to be Architectural Digest perfect, but if he invites Sean and his pals over to watch the game, where would they sit?  You think he has a man cave no one ever sees where he goes to let his hair down?  (pun intended)

Most of us fall somewhere in between.  We like form, but we like function, and comfort, more.  I can't imagine buying a sofa or a chair from a catalogue.  I insist on sitting on it first.  If it isn't comfortable, I don't care how good it looks, I'm not buying it.  I have an old, decidedly worn looking oversized leather chair in my den.   As I recall it had a pleasant "form" when I purchased it 20+ years ago, but since then it has decidedly conformed nicely to butt, making it's original form almost unrecognizable today.  It will probably join Archie Bunker's chair in the Smithsonian some day.  *snort*

As I look around our apartment I'd have to say I lean 90% +/- toward function.  I own very little that anyone would consider "stylish".  Not our furniture, not our "art", and certainly NOT my wardrobe.  My car, a Mazda, is currently parked in our garage between a Mercedes and a Maserati (no joke).  I wonder if either of those people ever say to themselves, "Doh....I coulda had a Mazda!"  (They probably do, actually, when they're looking out the window of their respective dealer's service departments and see me puttering by.)

How about you?  I'm not saying there's anything at all wrong with being stylish.  To some it's worth the effort.  How would you rate honest now....on the "form vs function" scale?


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Do I know you? No? Great....let's keep it that way.

Have you noticed how UN-social we've become?  People are withdrawing, to one degree or another, from social interaction.  It's been a creeping thing for years, but now it seems to me it's becoming a stampede.  The most obvious example of this....


Given a choice, people....young people in particular, would prefer to not talk to other humans, ever.  Instead of going to see our neighbor two houses down the street, or calling them, we text them.  People go out for dinner, and then spend half their time texting, sometimes to the person sitting right across the table from them!


It's estimated that 20% of American shopping malls will close within 5 years.  People are just not going out shopping like they used to.  Toys R Us, Radio Shack, Circuit City, and Blockbuster, among many others, are long gone.  Sears and Kmart are dead men walking, JC Penny isn't far behind, and even big chains like Macy's are closing stores as fast as they can.  Yet online retailers are THRIVING!  (OK....guilty.  Just this week I placed online orders with Amazon, LL Bean, and REI.)

You can even buy a car online without ever speaking to a live homo sapien!  That is, those who still want to drive can.  I recently read that the average young person doesn't even bother getting their driver's license until they're 19 years old.  In my day (as we old farts used to say) we were at the DMV at 6 am on our 16th birthday to be first in line to get our license.  Auto makers are seeing a trend of "car sharing", where a number of people will buy a car together, then take their turn driving it on the increasingly rare times they have to venture out of their house/apartment.

It wasn't long ago that if you wanted a meal of a slightly higher caliber than a drive-thru joint, you had to go INSIDE, be seated by a human, tell a human what you wanted, and pay a human on your way out.  

Today we have home delivery via Grub Hub and Uber Eats.  Just place your order and pay online, in half an hour open your door up just wide enough for someone to slip your food to you, then slam the door and lock it again.  No eye contact necessary.  *sweet!*

Many local grocery stores are now making home deliveries, and they all allow you to order everything from beans to toilet paper online, then just pull up curbside where they will hand you your assembled order.  (Coming to a complete stop is appreciated.)

If you're feeling puny, you can call any number of online doctors who will examine you long distance (?) and in many cases send you a prescription from a mail-order pharmacy.  (Just hold your camera phone up to your open mouth and say 'ahh'.)  Why go out to see a doctor or to a hospital (oh, many hospitals are closing, too) when you can sit at home and get fixed?

Will dermatology eventually become an extinct medical specialty?   Today dermatologists are in their heyday, treating all of us who regularly went outside when we were younger and now have skin cancer.  Soon we won't go outside enough to absorb any of those evil rays that give us problems 30 years down the road.  *note to self:  sell all suntan lotion stock*

Are we just getting lazier, or just more scared to interact with others?  Gee thanks Gates, Jobs, Bezos, and Zuckerberg.  *sigh*


Monday, July 23, 2018

That's all folks!

Do we dare hope?  Is Robert Mueller about finished with his investigation?  Please?

With congressional mid-term elections just a little over 3 months away, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will either have to wrap up his investigation soon, or hold it over until after the election.  A final report out immediately before the election is not going to happen, particularity after Comey botched a similar situation back it '16.  The Democrats are probably hoping for the former.  Both say their position, whether pro or anti Trump, will be vindicated.  I predict....only Robert Mueller knows. *wink*

Seriously, it seems to me Prez Trump's only hope to avoid the political guillotine is for the economy to continue to boom.  "It's the economy, stupid" has never been more true.  That's overwhelmingly what the 40% who avidly support him tout about him.  Truth is, he has indeed helped the economy stretch its 10 year rebound from the Great Depression of '08, but he is really just riding the recovery coat tale.  Not that Obama fixed it either....the economy had little place to go but up after our $%^&# crooked bankers nearly tanked us all.

I think Trump and his team will be in a world of hurt when Mueller makes his findings known publicly.  There is ample evidence that at least some of those around Trump were duped by Putin and his intelligence people.  The Russians originally recruited Trump's team, not the other way around.   Still, Trump's team didn't walk away, and may have even taken the Rooskie's bait to Trump personally, and when the "implied" offer of help was accepted....BOOM!  Putin has likely been reeling him in ever since.  Or Trump's vulnerability may go back several decades with Russian money financing his businesses after US banks told him they'd had enough of his fast-and-loose financial shenanigans.  We'll see.

And if Mueller does in fact indict some of Trump's team, or his family (Jr, Jared?)....well, the plot thickens.  With something like a 95%+ successful prosecution record, the smart money will be betting on Mueller to win this one, too.  And that's IF Mueller and the DOJ (Rosenstein) agree a sitting president can not be indicted.  If they puncture the presidential shield of prosecution....YIKES!....Watergate redux!  Look for popcorn sales to skyrocket!  *snort*

But not to worry.  We'll survive this, too, whatever happens.  I'm pretty sure.  :)


Thursday, July 19, 2018

What has happened to the Republican Party?

It wasn't that many years ago that the "Republican Party" and "Ronald Reagan" were synonymous.  Conservatives were proud to say they were "Reagan Republicans".  He would bend and compromise if necessary, but NEVER when it came to the Soviet Union.  He stood firm, gave them no quarter, worked with and within NATO, and eventually backed them down.  Ronald Reagan was tough!

The USSR officially collapsed on December 26, 1991, on GHW Bush's watch, but it was all due to Reagan's perseverance.  Reagan very famously said, when talking about our arms control treaty with the Soviets, "Trust, but verify."  He did not say, "Well, they said they were abiding by the treaty, and that's good enough for me."

Early in his Presidential term a very naive George Dubya Bush once met with Vladimir Putin and said, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy....I was able to get a sense of his soul."  Later, a much more experienced and worldly Sec Defense Robert Gates said after he met V Putin, "I....looked into Putin’s eyes and I saw a stone cold killer."

It's now said the GOP has become Donald Trump's party as [brilliantly] designed by former advisor Steve Bannon.  Rank and file Republicans rarely say anything negative about Trump.  His brag, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any voters" has been proven essentially true.  President Trump met with Putin in Helsinki recently and fawned all over him.  He had just been briefed on the 12 Russian intelligence officers who were indicted for meddling in our 2016 election with Vladimir Putin's express approval, but said he believed Putin's denial instead.  

Republicans began to stir uncomfortably, Trump backpedaled his sweetness weakly, and his faithful seem to have gone compliant again.  Their stock, canned comeback to any criticism is "well, Hillary did a lot worse."  For the record, Hillary's emails, Watergate, Teapot Dome, etc, were all criminal scandals, no doubt, but none of that has anything to do with the way Donald Trump is behaving today.  A bank robber can't use as his defense, "well, I only got $500....Hillary got $1,000."

I have many very intelligent, good friends who resemble the description of the Trump Republican I just described.  I encourage them to continue to present their positions on health care, immigration, tax reform, etc.  Those are all things we can reasonably debate.  Kowtowing to Russia and the thug-killer Vladimir Putin should be beyond debate.

I suggest you refresh yourself with the Steele Dossier (here) that was in the news last year.  The jest of it was that the Russians/Putin had some incriminating evidence on Donald Trump that they could someday use to blackmail the new President.  Given the recent strangely cozy US/Russian relations, I expect you'll see this topic soon re-enter the news.