Some Monday Morning Thoughts

One of the things I criticize Governments about on a regular basis is that in a lot of cases they don't seem to have any clue where they are and how to get where they want to be.  As Dan Stanley, our acting City Manager leaves, he articulated the Topeka situation fairly well and a good road map to get where we want to be.  Like a good politician, he did say that the road to the accomplishment of our goals is bumpy and would take at least five years to get better.  I am proud to say I live in Topeka, KS in spite of all the warts on her butt. Now if the City manager we hire will just try to spend some time understanding the big problems and not let the small one's overwhelm him (or her).  

There is a management style called the fighter pilot.  He pretty much understand he has some bigger things to do, but he stays pretty busy flying his plane.  These are managers that fly their "in box" like that and fail to see the big picture.   They don't crash but just get the job done.  My management style was to try to look at the big picture and help articulate it to the staff.  I would fly my in box for a limited period each day and then try to see every person once a week to get an update.  I would sit down at the end of each day and make up my schedule for the next day.  I would list the must do's, would like to do's and try to include one or two things to take a bite out of on the long term list.  I was far from perfect, but that's the best I could do.

Yesterday we went to Kansas City to have a Memorial Day Picnic with Dan and Carrie Craig.  Their boys, Owen and Joe were home from attending classes at Washington University in St. Louis.  Owen graduated this year and is headed to Washington  D.C. for his first job.  I am proud of him and know he worked hard to get to where he is today.  His brother Joe has a couple of more years and someday we'll be proud to see just where his rocket ship career will take him.  I'm sure that we'll see more of his accomplishments on the Political stage as he is so well liked by everyone that meets him.  

This morning I woke up and went into the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on.  It looked like Hurricane Denny hit the joint and there were pots, pans and dishes everywhere.   I loaded up the dishwasher and tackled everything else.  There is just no way two crock pots were going to fit in anything but my hands and the sink.  I had forgot what dishpan hands felt like.  But, with that said, it is all clean for now.  Next I will start to work the plan to clean up the joint for next weekend.  Dave and Barb are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary and several of the family will be in town.  I love to cook and entertain people that are visiting.  Barb has worked hard to get the outside looking pretty darned good and I hope the weather will let us use the inside and the outside to do so.

I had a pretty good talk with Owen Craig, a Summa Cum laud graduate in Finance and Economics. he is going to work for Capital One in Washington, D.C. starting in late June.  We discussed the effects of Bank using Government guaranteed (as in FDIC) money in their investment portfolio.  I think he agrees with me that they should use the money they take in selling stock to "speculate" and that way the stock holders that understand risk and reward and not the Government should be in charge and "At Risk."  No risk, no gain should be written on the hand of every investor.

Speaking of investments,  Barb and I discussed some of the rules that have seriously changed since we started our financial journey 40 years (+) ago.  When we started out, the rule was buy a house and keep moving up.  When you arrive at retirement, it will be a sizable part of your investment portfolio and worth more than you paid for it.  With all the bubble bursting in the real estate market, I am pretty sure that is not one of the strong tenets of the investing advice I would use.

When we started out, having a good job that had a retirement program with it was a great idea.  Civil Service, Teaching and the Military were on our list of ways to live well at the end of our careers.  It is fairly clear to all of us that if you want to have a good retirement when you do retire, we can't depend on Businesses to pay for it.  Even the Government has gone to a program where the majority of our pay out is self investing in 401(k)s and what other tools you use.   I am sure that the return on such programs is pretty evident to all of you.  

I have tried to base my investments on the principle of, "The return of my money is as important or more important than the return on my money."  We also have a rule that we don't loan money to relatives, we gift it.  If they return it, that's great but we never gift more than we can afford to walk away from.  I fight to keep from making a tally of who we gave money to and why.  Barb has a much better head for the "no harm or foul" in gifting than I do.  But, she is a much better person in the Mercy or Justice league.  I talk a good game but sometimes am just Petty, wonder why?



Cooking Indian Style

When we were at the parade in Lawrence Saturday,  we ate at an Indian restaurant.  the food was good, spicy and a different taste to what has been on my diet for a while.  I decided to try to make an onion curry to take to the lunch in Kansas City.  So far it is  pretty good but hasn't quite come together yet.   Instead of using a curry powder, I used the spices and cooked them together.  I am thinking that the ginger I used might have not been quite spicy enough.  I'll keep at it. I am going to also take some smoked chicken legs and see what people think of a BBQ "griller" version of Hot Wings (or legs) version. 

I think next year, I will take our recumbent bicycles over to Lawrence and ride in the parade.  I will have to practice riding slow or get some good training wheels.  My bike rides best at about 12 MPH and the parade went much slower than that.  

This is the parade sign leading the parade.
I think one of the most interesting cars in the parade was the one at the end.  Someone took a 54 BMW and put it on a frame with an aircraft engine and pushed the car.  I'm pretty sure that the original car got about 45 MPG and now it would be lucky to get 6.  If you try to walk behind it, you had better stay at least 15 feet or it will blow crap in your eyes. 

better run and try to get the flavors adjusted on the curry.  Need to also make some rice.



BBQ 101

I have been working on BBQ or grillin' as it is known by a lot of people for years.  I think I have found about the best way and just for memorial Day, I will share my secrets.

I have yet to find a way to impart good hickory smoke while using a gas grill.  If you are cooking burgers where you can put onions and garlic salt in the meat, a gas grill is OK.  If you really plan to do some serious meat, you need a charcoal grill. 
One Weber Grill Used for many years

 For my preference, there just isn't anything better than a Weber except two of them.  I have some friends that soak hickory chips in water and put them in a packet of aluminum foil to smoke.  You might try that. 
Two Webers

Tools - Yes, you need long handled tools to be able to stand the flare ups when you open the lib.  Don't go into the kitchen and borrow the short one your wife uses.  Get some long handles spatula, a fork and good tongs.  I also have a black long handle wire brush to wipe the grill with.  I find that if I clean it right when I am finished and then wipe it down before I use it again things are pretty good.  Close the dam smoke holes on the lid or you will have a rusty grill after the next rain.  If you have to get anal about clean, spray the grill with cooking oil and wipe it off with paper towels.  Throw the towels in the trash, they will create a fine ash that gets into everything if you burn them in the grill.

Chimney Starter

I use one of those metal chimneys as a starter.  You put one piece of newspaper crumpled up under the coals and I put just the smallest amount of starter fluid on the paper to help get it started.  I put in the briquettes and light the paper. The amount of briquettes is dependent on how hot you want your grill. About 2/3's full and it will cook at about 350-400.  As you let it get going and use the intervening time to get your tools out to the grill.

Crap, I left out a very important step.  Most meats will get better if you marinate them The only exception to the rule is Brats, they don't need no marinade.  I will pre-cook them in boiling water because i put them on the back of the grill.  Mostly I use Dale's marinade for beef and pork and some kind of lemon pepper marinade for chicken.  I have used the pineapple and soy sauce for chicken with mixed results.  Try some different kinds and that can be your secret.  As I grill the meat, I will pour a little of the marinade over the meat as I turn it over.  I don't use BBQ sauce except as a finish right at the end as it will burn and give things a bad flavor. 
Fire in The grill with Chicken on the side
Put the Lid on and the fire turns to smoke

I have a Hickory grove right here on the farm and I use hickory when I cook.  I try to cut one hickory log to keep the coals on one side of the grill and a few chunks to make smoke.  I never put the meat directly over the coals except to sear steaks right at the first.  Then I move it to the indirect heat side of the grill.  The secret to smoking with a Weber is that when you put the lid on, the flames go out and you get lots of wonderful smoke.  If you have hickory chunks on the coals and there is no smoke, something ain't right.
Shag Barb Hickory

Barb doesn't like copious quantities of red meat so I always have some chicken to cook.  I start the fire, let it wait until the coals are covered with ash and then put the chicken on the grill.  I will also put some brats way back in the grill and try to turn the chicken over about once every 15 minutes.  I had a bad experience with undercooked chicken once and I never, repeat never serve it in any shape but done to the bone.  No red juices or pink on the chicken.  That means about 45 minutes to an hour of indirect smokey heat.  I put them in one of those aluminum pans and put them with the brats on the griddle in the house.  I cover them with aluminum foil and  turn the griddle on low.  

I go back out and clean the grill with the wire brush and a lot of times I will spin the metal grill around so the fire will cook the chicken off the grill.  I use the part that was over the coals to put my steaks on.  I have been known to sear the steaks and chops on that side and then spin the metal grill around.  I am not one of those people that has to have grill marks on my steak.  It is the taste I go for not the appearance. 

I generally turn the steaks over after about 15 minutes and if you want them medium rare at 15 more, take them off.  If you like yours done well, turn them once more.  Cut one to see what you think.  Different thicknesses of meat will take different times.

I hope this helps you make your next cook out great.  I will let you know about the grilled hot wings tomorrow night.



Saturday Update

Things here at Rabbit Run are great right now.  The outside is shaping up well and we are having a good time working outside.  So far it hasn't been too hot and there is always a nice breeze.  We have even taken the bikes out for a ride or three and man, that sure puts smile on my face.  I love to breeze along at just about 12 MPH and say "Howdy" to the people I pass.   We could use a couple of inches of rain as things are starting to brown up just as it is starting to turn warm.

As a Veteran, I often forget that Memorial or decoration day has morphed into a tribute to Veterans.  As someone that participated in a War, I should be more mindful of the cost and price paid for Freedom.  I am truly turning against the kind of Governments that cause things to be settled by War.  With that said, I will always be proud of the young men and women that are thrown into the conflicts and often don't understand the reasons but go because they were asked to pay the ultimate price.  As a child, each Memorial day we would drive to Eldorado, KS and pick Grandma's flowers to put on the graves of my Grandfathers.  Their graves were just a few feet apart in the small cemetery by the Skelly Oil refinery gate.  I have a picture of my mother as a young woman standing there near the graves.  

Mom in The Eldorado Cemetery  
I had better close soon and go see if I can put a smile on Barb's face.



Reach out and Hug Someone?

I am not sure if it is because I miss the interaction with people or what, I talk to people standing in line at WalMart.  I deliberately look for lines with small children and love to talk to them and their parents.  Most of them reflect the smile I have right back and talk to me as much or more than I do to them.  My niece, Becky, wrote in her blog that met a lady that had a button that said I survived cancer and gave her a hug.  I'm not sure I'm in to hugs, but I will try to smile and meet as many people as I can. With that said, I have seen the site called People of WalMart.  There are just some times that my motto just kicks in.  "Don't sweat the Petty Things and don't Pet the Sweaty things."  

I a week or so, I am going to start the renovation at our rental house in earnest.  I will start with the bathroom and perhaps a good coat of paint.  I am going to hire Austen to give him some summer work and help me out with some slave labor.  I think back to the days as a young teenager when I worked at a collection of odd jobs to earn money for strange things.  I mowed a lot of yards and cleaned a lot of windows.  We'll see how things work out.  I have hopes that he will have a good time as well as earn a little extra pocket cash.  I haven't decided on a wage yet.  I'll see what he's worth and put it somewhere between $5 and $7.50 and hour.  I will also provide transportation for him and feed him lunch.  

This weekend, we will go to KC to visit our grand cousins, one of which, Owen, graduated from Washington University in St Louis this past weekend.  He is stepping out into the real world of work and I am looking forward to hearing great things about his success.  His brother, Joe, is still attending classes there and I'll bet he attends Law School or some post secondary school.  He has politician written all over his face as he meets and greets people as easily as I do.   Both of the guys would make any parent proud.

Better get running.  Lots to do and time to do it if I get moving.

PS  Here are a couple of pictures I took last night as I took out the trash cans.
The only thing prettier than a sunset in Kansas is
The sunset reflecting off thunder boomers to the east of us.



Workin' on the Truck

Hello Boys and Girls,

Whenever I start working on an easy project on the truck, it always turns into something more than I expected.  We dropped a Chevy 350 motor in the 53 pickup and because of the height of the motor and radiator, I put an electric fan on the radiator and left off the metal fan on the engine.  The thing is, I do need the water pump to circulate the antifreeze and support the alternator.  I bought a new pump thinking that it would be a 30 minute project. Yeah Right!   Getting the old pump off was no big deal and I was probably only 30 minutes behind when I got it all off.  

I did have to run to the hardware store to buy some 1/2 inch, 5/16ths bolts to hold the pulley on but no big deal.  I got it all back together and found there was a dribble leak and I could not see where it came from.  I yard-ed it back apart and discovered the paper gasket on the bottom of the pump got knocked askew and was leaking.  I also noticed that the bolts for the water pump were just wrong.  I picked up the right bolts and some of that silicone gasket sealer to help it hold water when I got it back together.  All's well that ends well.  For some strange reason there was a good new paper gasket for the right side of the pump there in the garage. 

Yesterday here was about 95 degrees and there was about a 30 MPH wind blowing.  Dust and grit in everything and it didn't aid in my efforts that it was so hot.  I think it is getting me ready for July here in the heartland.  It is cloudy today but so far it is still dry.  We need about an inch of water a week and we are a couple of weeks behind.  Barb does have a drip irrigation system on the garden and everything is mulched.

Barb just said the magic words, "Bike Ride."   Better go get the bikes in the truck.  I think I need my smile renewed today.

It was well up in the 90's yesterday and it was 76 when we got up.  At 10:30 it was still 76 and windy.  That is about the perfect weather for me to ride.  Barb took her camera and stopped in the gardens by the lake.  I'm sure she will have many beautiful pictures on Facebook later.  Going to go have lunch with the kids in a little while.  I get to watch the hollow leg teenagers fill up.  



Life at Rabbit Run

I hope you have a summer planned out to get a lot done where you are.  We have been busy and things are starting to look pretty good.  It has made me want to get a lot more accomplished and Barb has always had a lot of good ideas for what the end state of the place will be.  I assume I will soon have to make a run to the rock place and get some rocks for a retaining wall.  I could take down the old wall and use those rocks but not sure what the vision of the end state is.  If I know Barb, she will want rustic rocks and not those finished cement block look.   Spell that with the words heavy "som bitches" in there some where.  Another load of rock and a load of dirt will be in the mix somehow.   I will do structure and Barb will do pretty.  She has a great eye for that I do rocks well. 

My Ransom mower has not been running well lately.  I have been having a tough time getting it to run up to speed. A a slower speed, it doesn't do a good job of mowing even.  I had the fuel tank boiled out a few years ago and it is now rusty inside.  I had to replace the metal tank with one of those plastic tanks.  New tank, lines shut off and fuel filter and things are back to the good side.  I think I have finally found a mower shop that will take the time to look on his shelves until he finds a part that will do.  At the price I pay, they should be glad to see me. 

My diet has been going pretty well but it is holding right about the 250lb mark.  I have had to cut new holes in all my belts and things do look a bit baggy.  Another 20 lbs and I'll be right where I want to be.  The question is will the Doctor be happy with me at that weight.  We'll see.  Most important is the delay in having the diabetes develop.  I hate the thought of having to prick my finger to test it all the time. 

Better get moving and see what rocks Barb will want.  May have to have them delivered.  We'll see.



Dieting 101

I am trying to live new rule for eating.   Eat breakfast like a king.  Eat lunch like a commoner and dinner like a pauper.  I am trying to find a new way to live life so I don't have to go on a "Diet".  I am sure that my life must include more exercise in the off season.  Right now, I am getting enough work in to make a big difference.

I am going to work out a system that allows me to have splurge days worked in and ways to make those days far enough apart that they don't hurt me in the long run.  I love some fried chicken now and then.  There is the occasional  hamburger and a steak if I just can't stand green vegetables any more.  The good news is that I also love a good salad.

It is 50 this morning and cool enough to want a jacket if you are out long enough.  I went out to fetch the paper in my shirtsleeves and it is just too cool to be out like that.   I'm sure that the garden is doing OK with the drip irrigation system working and the cool weather.  If it was hot and dry things just wouldn't do well.  Last year was a crappy year for tomatoes here in the Heartland.  

Oh well, better get on with the day.  You all play safe out there.



Talking Heads

As I sat in the Wal*Mart parking lot, I listened to a little of the Dennis Miller program.  One of his callers made my head hurt.  After saying that Bush was a lousy President, they went on to say what a great guy Obama is.  On their watch, Government has grown to 24% of the GDP from 18%.  In 3 1/2 years the national Debt has gone up 5 Trillion dollars and we are well on our way to having spent a Trillion dollars more than we took in this year.  Can we freely admit that both of the Presidents have things mucked up.  Throw in a Congress that hasn't passed a budget in the last 3 1/2 years and it is no wonder to me that no one has even the remotest idea what the hell is going on let alone who is in charge.

What worries me is that there are people that think that Obama has done a wonderful job.  Just how long would your credit line last if you spent 1/3 more each year than you take in.  Can we say bankruptcy boys and girls?

The other day a realtor was playing talking head on TV and he said that for over 100 years the value of real estate has gone up a steady 2-3 %.  In 1997, the prices spiked about 10-15% and then the next year the bubble burst and it fell about 20%.  He said the value of real estate is back on the trend line and we aren't too far off the growth rate for a century.  Tell that to all the people in California and Vegas that are so tipped over that they may never recover.  I read the other day that people have just walked away from so many properties out west that the for sale signs are on every block. 

On the good side of things, Barb and I agree that we have done as many projects this year as we did in the last 10.   Perhaps we can make the same progress inside this winter.  



Finances 101 for a Government

Let me start by saying that life is not fair.  There are people that want the government to be involved in every facet of life and make it so.  When one of the largest Investment banks this week posted a several Billion dollar loss, people say that we need more Government Involvement.  What about all the new initiatives we installed in the last round of problems.  Just how much more money can the government spend to tell these investment banks that they need to fly right.  I contend that if people make profits, they sometimes can lose their money.  If you don't like losses, don't Invest. 

Gov Jerry Brown of California was on TV today and said that the people of California must approve his referendum to raise taxes this fall or be subjected to mandatory cuts.  California cannot spend 16 Billion more then they take in.  He said that the expression of Government to the people of California is Highway Troopers, Nurses and Teachers.  There will be cuts in these areas unless the people all step up and pay more taxes.

People must be asleep out there if they believe that we can continue to make life more equitable (or fair) by having bigger Government.  The weight and cost of the bureaucracy is far outstripping what we can afford now. The Congress at all levels must focus on either finding ways to cut spending or raise taxes.  

The Kansas Legislature did not get their work done this year and are spending a lot of money to extend the time they are in session.  I for one do not think they would let this happen if there was a clear message that they will be in session without pay until they get the job done.  There were two things they had to do a balanced budget and a redistricting plan based on the new census.  They passed a bill that leaves a several billion dollar hole if left in place for four years and the courts are now being drug into the drawing of the battle lines.  Leave everything else alone and do your most important job first.  I think they feel that if they hold the budget until the last minute, they can sneak out of town with a less than stellar effort made.  

Barb agreed that I needed a tractor here at Rabbit Run and I have been trying to perform some landscaping projects to make the tractor pay for its self.   Here are just a few examples:

Big Red Glacier Rock in the Garden
Another big rock
Front Garden Bridge
I am going to mow today and clean up some of the mess I have made.  



Just a few thoughts

Miles to go before I rest. For a couple of days, I have worked in the yard and probably have lifted too much. This morning my back feels tweaked and it hurts when I do this (Note from my Doctor - Don't do that)  I have several errands to run today and I think I am going to take the day off. If I hurry, I probably can get them done in a couple of hours.  But I'm in no particular hurry. (1 Hr, 30 minutes but I did forget one thing)

 The other day a friend asked when we thought he should retire. The real question is when can he retire. If he has enough money to do what he feels is the good stuff, for heaven's sake retire. If working for a couple of more years will get him to that goal, work a little longer. He like many of my friends did one of those start /stop things (called Divorce) a few years back and I have no idea how that hit him from the financial side. If you don't think the American male doesn't believe in freedom, just look at the divorce settlements. In a lot of cases, the guys will give up the gold mine and get the shaft.

 Is it just me or does spring time bring in more dirt for the kitchen floor? Every year about this time there is dirt and stickiness from fruits and vegetables that seems to track in in large quantities. It might have to do with the fact that we are outside more and just haven't been keeping up with the floor. Oh well, what the hell, what the heck do I care? Today in the Topeka Capitol Journal there is a series of word puns and I really like to play with words. "How does Moses make tea? Hebrews it! "It was the bear that made Mel Famey walk us." "People that live in grass huts should not store thrones" I think I have this election all figured out. It comes down to an old saying my father used. "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull shit!" The issues in this election are so muddled that anyone with a clear idea of what the real issues are is lost in the minutiae.

I think that I am going to start writing down all the "Good Answers"  I hear out there.  Here are just a few.

Always think about all sides of an issue before making a decision.  Today a lady called Dave Ramsey and said that her husband is having mixed emotions after giving a $5,000 check to a real estate agent as a deposit.  She asked, "Will I lose that $5,000."   Well Duh, what do you think a deposit is?  The time to think is prior to writing the check not after.

A fellow fresh out of the Navy is living with his parents and he and his wife have a 10 month old child.  He makes about $25,000 a year and wonders if he should buy a house.  Well Duh, NO!  Find the cleanest cheap one bedroom apartment and start saving for a house.  We started out with an 8X38 foot mobile home and did that until we had enough money to move up to a one bedroom apartment.  When we both had our degrees and a job, we then bought a house. 



Class Warefare

Has anyone else noticed that Obama is waging class warfare on the rich and he is rich?   Instead of a positive note about how even the working poor has the opportunity to be better, he is telling everyone that it is those pesky rich people that are hogging all the money.  It is not the taxes that is all wrong, it is the spending.  If you are spending a trillion dollars more each year and going broke doing it, STOP!  Try to grow the economy by spending on education and making the climate for small businesses better.  Another 10% from those at the top won't fix what ails us, a balanced budget will.  

How did you become un-poor?  I started from a neighborhood called Dog patch and my parents had little to give me as I climbed out of poverty.  My wife was the same way and together we got our educations, worked hard, saved money and climbed up the ladder to where we are today.  We weren't frugal in the broadest sense but we didn't spend money without a good reason.  

I am incensed that the President of the United States has the poorest record of about any president and he is being heralded as the savior of the poor folks.  I don't get it and I refuse to be told that I am part of the problem.  People like me are the solution.



After 44 years of marriage, I am not much better at understanding women than I ever was.   I guess I will try to do my best and move on.  

Yesterday I looked for an old pair of jeans to wear while working outside.  I looked and either all of the old stuff was dirty or they were too nice to really get down in the dirt.  Yes, that was the problem.  One day I had to crawl under Dave's home and fix a broken PEX line and another day I had to dig up a rusty pipe.  Both were not just dirty problems, but muddy one's also.  I had to clean up the wash machine after I did a load of laundry.  I didn't know that was a problem.  Either I have done too much laundry or too little.  

When Dave moved into his home just up the road from us, there was a second deck built next to the first one.  It was one of the worst decks and severely in need to tearing down.  There were several long treated lumber boards in a pile that I have been trying to figure out what to do with.  Barb wanted an arched bridge across a garden feature in the front of the house.  I did buy some boards for the main structure but cut the left over boards into 3 foot sections for the decking on the bridge.  Now I need to figure out how to make the hand rail curve like the bridge deck.  I am thinking about that and I'm sure I will find a solution.  Either that, or I have way too many tools. (or nearly not enough garage)

Speaking of tools, have you noticed that just when you add a major tool to your collection, you find that there is a new tool with a better feature you just seem to need?  And, after cutting enough tiles a couple of years ago, your tile saw is just setting there like a lump of mud.  I also have a collection of extension cords that are either too short or too long.  I hate working on a job and tripping over a pile of cords.  Then there is always the problem of when you pick up the cord, it never seems to unroll out without having knots and  places where it ties its self into a smaller cord than you need.  I have a cord over at the rental house that is on a hose reel.  I should bring it here but it was cut into segments and patched so many times that I should take the old cord off and throw it away.  My mother had spirea bushes and they grow like mad in Kansas.  About once a year while trimming the bushes with the electric hedge clippers, the cord would get cut in two.  

Oh well, I guess I 'd better get moving or just grow lumps right here.



Investing 101

I just want you to know that I am going to skip the IPO for Facebook.  My forays into the stock market have been something less than successful.  I bought stock in a rock mine/storage area under the bluffs in North Kansas City called great Midwest Corp.  About a year or so after I bought it for $10 a share,  I got a letter from a company doing a buy out and they told me that if I didn't take 7.50 a share for my stock, when they bought the Company it would be worthless.  I also had some stock in a company that made guitars in the 70's and moved into the hand held radar guns.  When they were sued for bunches of money, the stock was virtually worthless.  I bought 10 shares and then rounded out the portfolio with 90 shares for about what I paid for the first 10.  Total loss.  The crowning blow was my GM stock that under the bankruptcy was made valueless.  In all, I managed to lose less than a thousand dollars but that is the kind of risk I don't need.

Do you understand what risk is?  If an investment is paying significantly higher interest or rate of return, it is more risky than putting your money under the mattress.  The higher the return, the bigger the chance you will not get your money back.  The old saying I listen to is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  
I also have a value that states that the return of my money is more important than the return on my money.  

 Back in the days when I was working, I bought rental property with an eye to have it paid off by the time we retired.  That way, the investment would pay a dividend after taxes of 6 to 10 %.  It is a hassle but so far it has been paying fairly well.  One of the properties needs a lot of work this year and I won't  make much for the year but  I can always use the tax write off.

Normally, I get a nice card and flowers or candy for Barb on special occasions.  It is usually sitting on the breakfast table on that day.  Yesterday I didn't and spent most of the day in hot water for not recognizing Mother's Day to her standard.   Note to self. don't do that again.

Today i am going to work on the bridge over the front garden.  I am having trouble making it work the way I want but I hope to make it work anyway.  I need to get cracking.



Mother's day

As Mother's day opens, I realize that we only have Barb's mother now and it makes me miss my mother a lot.  No, I don't want to convince you that my mother was perfect, in fact it was all her imperfections that made her as great as she was.  Mom could out sing, eat and laugh most people.  I have often described her as being the Earth Mother and a hug from her could last all day.   I think she was a talented person that never hit the end of the new things she could do.  

Mom the mechanic

I feel like one of the most lucky guys in that my mother and my wife loved me and they liked each other.   

Baby Boom 1948

That's me in my mother's lap second row left.

Barb in the woods

Because of these women, I have had a great life of life, love and laughter.



Saturday Musings

This morning I ventured out early to get the paper to find my neighbor, John, shuffling up the drive.  A couple of  weeks ago, he had surgery on his neck.  After years of manual labor a vertebra just wore out.  They actually went in and replaced the bone with a cadaver bone.  He is having swelling in the spinal cord and has not got back the full strength in his right arm.  He feels a little better each day but I'm sure he is working way too hard and not resting it enough.  He was with his faithful companion, "No Nuts" and this time I beat him to my paper. For some reason the dog thinks it is a great game to grab my paper and run away.  John said that they gave their daughter a night off last night and they kept the new granddaughter.  Evidently the baby is on a reverse cycle and they didn't get much sleep.  

Yesterday, I went over to my rental house to see if I could find the leak in the old water pipe.  A few years back, I cut the line to the smaller rental house and put it on it's own meter.  The pipe was leaking and I cut and capped it.  Evidently it made a new hole and I had a back hoe come over and dig it out.  Sure enough, right out by the end of the pipe there was a hole and when the guy opened the hole, it played fountain and put about a foot of water in the hole.  I bailed the hole down to where I could cut the pipe and put one of those frost less yard water pipes on the end of the pipe.  I checked and the little red triangle on the water meter was not moving when I turned it all back on.  I did make a hell of a mess but life is hard.  I probably will take a bale of the old garden straw over today when I go to fetch my shovels.  Don't ever let anyone tell you that being a land lord is easy or not a lot of work.

For Mother's day, we are going for a walk on some prairie tomorrow.  The details are up to Barb as she has some plan and I will do my best to facilitate that plan.  She did think we should go out to lunch but I think that eating in a restaurant on Mother's day could be a two hour deal.  I offered to fix a brunch here.  I think our daughter-in-law is going to come with us.  Not sure if the son has the day off.  We'll see.

The other day, a PEX line under Dave's home decided to let go.  At least the little plastic part didn't break, the hose clamp broke and the hose just popped off.  I went to Ace hardware and their wonderful wall of PEX parts was gone.  They had a cabinet in the corner that was just full of the replacement parts.  I was able to put a clamp on it and it will do for now.  Thursday when I was in the hardware  store, I asked one of the people if they knew where the display went.  Finally one of the guys that has been there as long as the store has been open said he thought it was in the "cubby hole."  He led me back into the room where the main light switches and power panel for the store is and right there on the shelf was all the old PEX parts.  What had been parts for $6.00 was tags on the cabinets that said they were marked down to $2.00 I bought an assortment of the parts I know I needed and went to the cash register.  When the clerk rang them up most were 80 cents.  I should have just gone back and bought the entire assortment.  I'm sure that I will need most of it when I start replacing parts on Tuesday.  Oh well, I know now where they are.

Better get moving.



Smoke Screens at Election Time

If I were the incumbent President, I too would try to find any issue that support any group of people and make it an issue to deflect what the big problem really is.  Do you really think that whatever the President feels about Gay marriage has any effect on the real world?  Truly the law will have to start in a State and spread up.  It will not be a top down solved issue.  I often tell this story:
Boy 1 - "My Foot hurts!"
Boy 2 - "Which one?"
Boy 1 - "Can you really do anything about it?"
Boy 2 - "Not really"
Boy 1 - "Then what difference doe it make?"

I hear people ask the Presidential Candidates how they feel about abortion.  Clearly, the President won't change the law of the land and his feelings aren't worth one piece of spit in a rainstorm.  I hate the concept of anyone removing a viable life from their body as a way to stop a life.  By the same token, I do not want the Federal Government making law about what to me is an issue between a woman and her Doctor.  All this talk about abortion, contraception costs are all things out there to deflect the real issues.

Why has the President stopped the idea of a pipeline across the USA?  It would bring oil and jobs to us as the Canadian oil would flow to our refinery.   They make a big issue out of passing a bill that will call for cars to get 50 MPG in 10 years but have no good way to help develop our own oil and or alternative fuel sources.  

there was a Hugh outcry when the Koch brothers offered to give millions of dollars to the Republican party.  Where is the same outrage about the millions of dollars provided by a Hollywood fundraiser last night.  Hello, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  

I for one would replace 1/3 of the Senate this election with a promise to change 1/3 in two years if they don't get busy finding the solutions to some big problems.  Lets get a budget that addresses the past, the present and the future.  Start paying off the National Debt,  Solve some of today's big problems and get Social Security back in the realm of the possible.   Don't blow smoke up my skirt over a few minor issues and tell me it is a forest fire.  I don't think you are asleep out there and this election will be a reflection of true feelings of concerned people.


Mental Image

The other day I read a magazine article about "What is your ideal weight."  I have a mental image of myself that I am about 200 Lbs when the reality is about 250.  By the same token, I am still a kid and able to leap tall buildings in a single....  No, I don't think I'm Superman, just not old.  Again the reality is that there are times I stagger (completely sober) when I have an image of myself as I have a swagger.  But, with that same image, I am able to work fairly hard but not as long as I once did.  I am also really fond of afternoon naps.

With that said, I am not unhappy with my lot in life.  I am working hard to accept that "I am what I am." (The Popeye Complex)  I am not ready to move into the nursing home, yet.  I think that it is the slight failure of my memory that bothers me the most.  I find myself walking out of a room and then remembering the thing I was there to do.  I probably had the same failure earlier in life, but was too busy to notice.  I Hope!   On the other hand I did ask the Library to have a new senior citizen Library card.  When You put your card into the self check out machine, and try to check out a book you have already read, it will beep.  I am also the same person that wants a urinary alarm that reminds me to go to the restroom before I go out and get in the car to go somewhere.  It will make the sound "PEE!  PEE! PEE!.

Yesterday my son called us and we weren't home.  We also did not have the pre-paid cell phone with us and Dave needed to get some help with a PEX pipe that had decided to let go.  The good news is that he knew how to shut the water off so it didn't continue to run.  The bad news, I didn't show him how to fix the problem the last time a pipe let go.  The other time it happened, one of the PEX fixtures broke from the hammering.  It was at the point where the 1/2 plastic pipe went down to two 3/8's hoses.  The hammering must have caused the joint to break.  This time, one of the factory metal bands let go and when Dave turned on the wash machine the pipe just came lose.  I am going to do some research today and see if I can find the new PEX  fixtures to fix the problem long term.  I did the short term fix that was a good hose automotive/plumbing hose clamps and as tight as I could get them.   If I can find the replacement pieces, I will crawl back under his house and replace a couple of the PEX fixtures.   The problem joint was under the furnace and it was pretty clear that the water condensing from the AC dripped on the little metal collar until it corroded.  There is another place where the corrosion has me unable to see what condition the metal band is in.  I can imagine that it is a leak going to happen.  

I guess I'd better get on with the day.  I hope you are relatively happy and bright.



Life in the Heartland?

One of the new screens on Blogger shows me where the post I write are from.  I find it interesting that Russia is light green and getting greener.   I know little about Mother Russia other than what I know about their involvement in WWII.  It was described to me that in the United States, we had a lot of families that sent people off to that war.  In Russia, the number of people we sent to war was the percentage of people that died in Russia.  We sent a lot of resources to the fights and we can't possible understand the commitment they had.

A lot of Americans have been brought up on the propaganda that Stalin and Communism was bad for them but we have little frame of reference for the reasons they did what they did.  The teaching point was that the Soviets had a nuclear weapon and might someday blow us up.  We actually had a drill in school where we would get under our desks if there was a bright flash. The question I always had was who had the first one and who actually used it? Didn't they have the right to be afraid of us?  

When we look at the effects of the depression on the United States, we need to remember they too had a depression and then a war that was fought on their dirt.  Perhaps Stalin shouldn't get the bad rap for starving people, as much as he should rewarded for the number of people that didn't starve.  I don't think that we understand the depth of love the people there have for their Mother Russia.

One thing I do know is that because of the National Geographic programs there is one great big beautiful country there.  I am not so fond of ice and snow but I don't live in Minnesota either.   They, because of the horrible nuclear accident have a segment of the country where there are no people because of the radiation.  They are having the opportunity  to watch a large segment of the countryside revert back to a time before man was there to plow the ground, cut down the trees and eat all the animals.  Just the other night there was a program about the wolf population.  the speculation was that the wolves would over populate and play havoc on the number of other animals.  It seems that they have developed a fairly stable population and seem to be developing normally.

I really can't say that I have the need to travel to Russia right now, there is so much of my own country to see.  I will try to keep an open mind and see if there isn't room for an old retired Colonel to better understand the people and not hate or fear them because of what happened in the past.  

 Спасибо вам и до свидания  (Thank You and Goodbye)


Building Bridges

Yesterday I used the tractor to haul some big red glacier rocks for Barb's gardens.  As I drove by one of the sticker trees, a branch reached in and swatted me right on the nose.  It didn't bleed a lot but it hurts.  I godda boo boo on my dose and it hurts mommy!  OK enough of the whine.

Barb has asked me to build a bridge for her front garden.  I am pretty sure that I will have to make a rock run to fill the area by the bridge and then probably do some rock walkway. This all started with my making a different driveway.  Oh well, things change and most of the change is good and I can afford it.

I have a renter that is way behind in paying his rent.  between taxes and insurance, i have paid more than he has.  He called this morning and wants to talk.  I think I'm going to drive by the place and tell him that Money Talks and BS walks.  He knows the drill, in six days he needs to bring me a check or he needs to be gone by the end of the month.  I am not sure what he thinks talking will do for him, but for me, money or the street.

Better get rolling or it will be noon and I won't have accomplished anything.



Book, Book? We don't need no stinking Book!

Can I write a book about personality type by Occupation? 

I described a relationship my niece was in and how the guy was fairly defined by his occupation. I wonder if it is nature or nurture? Was he an engineer because he step by step worked out problems or did he become more planning and completion of the plan oriented because of the nature of his work?  Is there a book that like Meyers Briggs describes people by the major part of an occupation?

 I remember the first time I sat in a science class and was forced to write what I thought the outcome of the experiment was. Was? Hell, I thought people just fooled around until something blew up or some wonderful compound was developed. I could not imagine that something as amazing as that something as complex as Walt Disney's fantasia actually had a script. I was completely blown away when I watched the Mouseketeers watch a cartoon made frame by frame.

I have often described soldiers that I worked with by describing the job they were best suited for. I had one friend that I know he would repel an ambush or die trying. He wasn't really good at planning but he could execute the crap out of a plan. I had another friend that could write plan in detail about what needed to be done but spent the rest of his days working on that plan when he needed to call it good enough and go repel the enemy as they came through the wire. I guess that in this case, trying to define a person by a job title won't work.

 As a child, I was a "doer". I just conducted my life as it happened and tried to enjoy life to the fullest. It wasn't until much later in my life that I was called to be a planner and I learned some skills that helped me run a more orderly life. I just wish I could have been taught the way to plan and execute in school. Perhaps I just wasn't ready to learn how then. I attended a class in North Little Rock, AR at the National Guard Professional Education Center that was focused on planning meeting and then how to conduct them. It was by far the best class I had ever taken and I learned more in that short class that I did in most of my College years.  I think the class was an MBA wrapped up in flip charts and colored markers.

 I think the one lesson that we learned was that a fair plan executed with vigor is better than a great plan not executed. Kinda like those guys on Omaha beach during the WWII Invasion of Europe found out that the thousands of pages of the "Overlord Invasion Plan" wasn't worth much once the first bullets started to fly. If they hadn't just hustled their butts up that beach they and the Invasion Plan would have died right there where they met the enemy. On the other hand, a good friend of mine, Butch Dowse, would say speed costs money, how fast do you want to go? I think he was always the guy that wanted us to slow down and look at all the parameters of a plan not just the outcome. Little things like cost and the unintended consequences would come back to bite us in the butt if we didn't fully evaluate them.

 I guess I just need to put that book on hold and see if there isn't a  a book that is a little more organized. Or, as people tell me, perhaps a collection of short war stories well told will be good enough.


Move that Rock, Remove that Bolt

Did you ever break a bolt off by tightening it too much?  The other morning I was working on the steering  on the little case tractor and danged if the bolt that holds the steering part on just broke off the head.   I could not remove the housing the threaded part of the bolt was in and I was forced to find a solution. I also doubt that there are parts to replace the housing the bolt broke off in.  Years ago, I had seen a broken bolt removed from an engine with a Tap but I wasn't sure what to do in detail.  I asked myself WWKD? That is shorthand for What would Kenny Do?  That is my brother-in-law that is pretty detail oriented and  very mechanically inclined.   Would he haul it to a repair shop and pay $100 dollars or would he give it the old college try first?   I made a trip to our wonderful world of Ace Hardware to see what wonderful tools they have for broken bolt extraction.  

It was pretty clear that Ace had a tool for removing everything from a small screw to a pretty major bolt. I bought a medium sized extractor and the right drill bit as recommended on the package.  I drilled a hole in the broken off bolt and the first move to insert the extractor just went exactly as needed.  Three short turns and the bolt was well out of the hole and a I just finished the removal with my hand.  I was completely  amazed how easy it was and proud that I managed to get it out.  I replaced that broken bolt with a grade 8 (Super strong) bolt and think that it should not be a problem anymore.  If that bolt breaks off, I am pretty sure that I won't be able to drill a hole in the part left over on a hardened bolt..

There are times that I wonder if that project is not a metaphor for life.   I was talking to my niece and discussing her life now that she has moved into a new relationship.  In her old life she was married to a fireman.  There was very little he wouldn't attack but in true fire fighter fashion, he was quickly the one to put out the fire and move on.  He was very good at starting new projects but slow to finish them in an outstanding manner.  The guy she is with now is an engineer and actually plans what to do and then executes the plan.  She said that it is not that he isn't spontaneous, he just likes order in his life and likes to have things finished properly and the tools put away.  

Do you make a list when you work on a project?  What steps do you use to analyze the steps, cost and outcome?   I tend to work a very short list of things to do and then jump into the execution part of the plan.   Many times I have said, "Good enough for Government work!"  Yes, I have often found my tools right where they were when I finished a job.  In fact, my chains are all out by that big damned rock I am going to drag out for Barb's garden.  I had better stop spending so much time writing this and get on  out there drag that rock where I need.



I just looked outside and noticed that the suet block holder was empty again.  I think that in warm weather they just get so soft that they melt like snow.  I have about five more and then I will stop putting them out for the year.  The woodpeckers will just have to start pecking for bugs in the trees again.  There is no shortage of trees here at rabbit Run so that won't be a big deal. 

Jake the Snake

Just for the record, the picture above is a picture that barb took of Jake the snake. He is a five or six foot long black snake that has been around here forever.  he looks fearsome but he slithers into a hole whenever one of us gets near.  There are old snakes and bold snakes but no old bold snakes.  He has a good sense of self preservation.

I think Mother nature is working hard this morning to let people sleep in.  It is overcast and not windy.  The only sound I could hear when I went out to get the paper was the birds and the rumble of motorcycles off in the distance.  When the weather gets this good, there are rides going everywhere.  Many of Topeka's finest also ride down the turnpike to Cassiday for the breakfast served there.  It is a little town of about 50 people that has several hundred bike riders show up once a month for a breakfast.  I think the restaurant hires most of the people in the town to help out.  Oh, I mentioned to Barb that either this morning or tomorrow the paper would have articles about the riders that had accidents.  This morning a 50 year old was there as he wrecked his bike over on the west side of town.  No helmet I noticed.(Note - On Monday morning there were no new accidents to note)

I hear the Master Gardener stirring so I'll stop writing here.  I'll add more later on today.  We had the kids over for dinner and then had a great long talk.  Sure love those guys.