Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Common Sense in Kansas

From a dictionary: Sage One venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom. adj. sag·er, sag·est 1. Having or exhibiting wisdom and calm judgment. 2. Proceeding from or marked by wisdom and calm judgment: sag From a thesaurus: Sage - a mentor in spiritual and philosophical topics who is renowned for profound wisdom Hakham - a Hebrew title of respect for a wise and highly educated man mahatma - (Hinduism) term of respect for a brahmin sage mentor, wise man - a wise and trusted guide and advisor From Conchscooter: dear cpa : Spring in Kansas must mean there will soon be lots of people out protesting aginst common sense. Photos please. One day, quite innocently, I had left a comment on Conchscooter's fine blog, The Key West Diary. In my comment I had merely stated that it was just beginning to feel like spring here on the plains after a cold winter. What you just read above was part of his response. Little did I know how omniscient Conch was. That same day I received this notice. By E-Mail.

Yup! Spring is almost here!

. And Sarah is coming to town!

. Will she have notes on her hand?

Will she bring her rifle with her?

Will she sell out our new arena?

. Will parking be a problem?

. Will she be treated like a Rockstar?

Will she try to answer questions that she is not prepared for?
. Will she say "You Betcha"?
. Will she call for Jihad against all she finds offensive in the world? .
Will she come out swinging?
And finally;
. And the most important question;
. Will the "all knowing" Conchscooter, the Sage of The Key West Diary, suddenly emerge as the Messiah that the civilized world has been waiting for?
. How did Conch know that there would be a total abandonment of common sense in Kansas this spring? Makes me wonder!
. So many questions.
. I may miss the Sarah Palin event.
. I am going to go for a ride on Max!
. Your thoughts?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pure Sport

I love the Olympic Games. The athletes are living out a dream that few people ever get a chance to experience. The stories of their lives are fascinating. The sacrifices they make are immense. Their efforts are almost unbelievable. They don't do it for the money. Yes, some receive endorsements, but most do not. I guarantee you that the thrill of the competition is the motivation. Many professional sports, in my opinion, have been ruined by the money involved. I prefer watching amateur sports because generally the participants do it for the love of the sport, not the money. Okay, I know they now have professionals in the Olympics, but what is coveted is that gold medal. You can have your Super Bowl rings and other baubles from other sports. In my opinion there is nothing like an Olympic medal. Nothing! As I am writing this, I am watching Lindsay Vonn literally crying with joy after her gold medal in the downhill. She overcame injuries and unbelievable sacrifices to pursue her goal. They showed 3 women having spectacular crashes in the Women's downhill. Big time wipe outs. Nobody seriously hurt, luckily. But speeding downhill at 70 mph could be considered a bit crazy. Hate to even mention the Georgian bobsledder, what a god-awful shame. Why the hell do they do it? My guess, and I think I have a little experience here, is that it's absolutely thrilling! Dangerous? Sure! Scary? Absolutely! Insane? Maybe (to some people) But what a friggin RUSH! Somehow, I think we can all relate to this. Nobody can deny that motorcycling/scootering is at times a bit dangerous. Perhaps that danger is part of the thrill we all experience. Dan Bateman (Irondad) has referred to me a couple of times as the "Daredevil Accountant". I am not at all sure I deserve the designation, but it is the result of some comments, discussions and fun we have had with each other, essentially about this very subject. I am really a pretty boring person in many respects, but I do have a history of doing some things in my life that many might consider out of the ordinary, even dangerous. When I was in junior high I got the bug to become a pole vaulter. I took a couple of pieces of wood, put some nails in them at 4" intervals, poked them into the ground, a bamboo pole served as a crossbar, dug a little hole and my vaulting pole was an old tether ball pole. I spent hours and hours out there in the back yard practicing, experimenting and imagining that someday, maybe I, too, could be an Olympian. When I got into high school I used a fiberglass pole, learned to bend it and had immediate success with it. I earned a silver medal at the state meet during my sophomore year. The dream of someday possibly becoming an Olympian grew and I started to get real serious about it and trained very hard for a couple of years. Long story short, I never made it, never even close, but the dream was very real to me. I have no regrets about never making it big. It was the dream and the spirit of competition that motivated me. When I was a senior in high school, a couple of pole vaulters from Sweden were setting new world records. They attended a track meet at the University of Kansas and I and some other high school age vaulters were allowed to sit on the floor of the stadium and watch these guys vault. They were like gods to us. I remember vividly looking up at the crossbar set at 17' 10", literally in awe of their ability. Now, you must realize, that pole vaulters are sometimes considered the crazies on the track team. They must have a screw loose somewhere. A teammate of mine actually broke his back by missing the pit one day. Recently, in a small town near Wichita, a high school vaulter sustained a serious head injury. Many wear helmets now, which is an excellent idea. I myself had some injuries as well from these endeavors. Why did I do it? Because it was such a blast! Almost like flying. See where I am coming from? Riding on 2 wheels is a blast, too. Almost like flying! Is it that much different to blast down a highway at high speed? Or really lean into a curve. I became good friends with a lot of the guys I vaulted against. We gave each other tips and ideas, helped each other out. Except for that one guy from Lawrence High, he was a real asshole. There was a sort of common bond between us. That bond is similar to the ones I feel with other Riders. Maybe that is part of the reason we wave at each other. Or blog with each other. Or give each other a bunch of shit sometimes. Riding is a Pure Sport. We don't get paid for it. We do it because we love it! Not unlike Olympians in some respects. PS. The only bad thing about the Olympics? Those damn Russian judges!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Averages? Smaverages!

Ahhh, those weather people. On average we get about 13" of snow each year. We have had about 11" so far this year. On average the middle part of February has high temperatures of 45 to 47 degrees, with lows about 25 degrees. Not This Year! It has been much colder. For some reason I seem to feel obligated to take a picture of Max next to a pile of snow that has been moved around to clear a parking lot. I took a picture like this last year too. I wasn't able to ride to work at all last week, until Saturday. We had about 4" of snow early Monday that didn't melt off very fast. On Saturday though, most of the snow had cleared. It was in the 20's on the way to work, but about 50 degrees for the ride home. Nice!!! My sister in law lives near Washigton DC. They got about 30" of snow in the first round, and she sent me a couple of pics by email. Then that 4" snow we had was the precurser to another 10" for her and her second email to me began with "WTF"! I don't think she can even open up her front door. Maybe I should not complain about the snows we have had. What gripes me though is that we have had 4 small snows this year and each one has taken a long time to melt. I was able to ride a lot more last winter than this year. Oh Well!
Mini Max likes to ride too.
Near our house is a busy street. With temperaures like we have had after a snow, a little melting occurs during the day, but then re-freezes at night. There is a low spot on that busy street that gets wet during the day as snow melts. Cars will splash the water for a block or two, which then turns into an ice rink later that evening. There have been some pretty mean car accidents. Wichita is very flat generally and this scenario repeats itself all over town. The point is that even though the streets appear to be generally clear, sometimes you never know.
Then there is sand! Well I have learned to deal with that pretty well. Be careful where you put your feet down though. That can be very sandy too. I almost slipped and dropped the scooter last year when I put my feet down in some sand. Learned to watch out for that very quickly.
Here's Max parked at the office. Looks slick, but really wasn't.
The paper is really starting to fly at the office these days.
The weather looks better for riding this week. That will help me.
Why? . Because I am more awake when I get to the office after riding. I can still feel the need to wake up when I drive the car to work. I feel more ready to "get at it" after a ride.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Morning Thoughts

It is supposed to rain and then change to snow today, Super Bowl Sunday, and expecting maybe 5-6 inches by tomorrow evening. We'll see. May not be riding for a few days. Didn't ride at all this week. Snow first of the week, and took awhile to melt away. I decided to make coffee.

My thoughts turned to a couple of events of the past week. First, Conch had posted a link on his blog to an article about money and influence peddling in congress. Second, the author of that article was on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS the next night along with a Libertarian. Then finally, again on TV , last night was the renowned Sarah Palin speaking to the tea party convention in Nashville.

Hmmmm. Lots to digest from the week.

Liberal views, Libertarian views, conservative views.

What do I think?

I'm not a big fan of Sarah Palin. There were some things she said that made perfect sense and I couldn't disagree with. Washington is dysfunctional, etc.

There were other things she said that I cringed at. The politics of fear that terrorists are constantly out to get each and every one of us.

The tea party could be an interesting movement, but I think it is doomed to be a fringe movement within the republican party, unless it does a few things different.

For one thing, I saw only white people in the audience. And they still are very republican party oriented.

But to me, the frustration with Washington is the fault of both parties. Congress is essentially for sale. Votes can and are being bought all the time. Both parties are at fault. And corporate interests have become more important to congress than the intersts of simple human beings.

Sarah does a fairly effective job of tapping into that frustration. People stood and applauded many times during her speech.

My frustration is that I am simply not real impressed with people who complain about everything, but do not offer up new potential solutions. The tea partiers are like that to me. To them it is like their way or the highway.

Hell, the democrats aren't much (any) better.

A lot of different types of people (liberals, conservatives, green, yellow, etc) are disenchanted with how things work in Washington these days. Is there more common ground than most people think there is? Or is the big money able to keep that concealed for their own advantage.

I have a brother that lives in Finland. We sometimes use Facebook to communicate with each other. He says that Finnish people generally like America, but not real impressed with what we did in Iraq.

Sometimes I wonder about the good old USA.

We are nearly bankrupt. Our leaders are for sale. Action on problems seems incredibly slow.

If I moved, where would I go? Canada? New Zealand? Australia?

It is a lot to consider over Sunday morning coffee. Ahhh, maybe a little too heavy for this day. Jayna had a birthday this week, hence the flowers. We are planning soup, salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden for lunch with all of the family. We get together almost every Sunday for a meal together. We will probably take in the Super Bowl later today too. I didn't get in much riding this week, but the week before I was able to ride every day to work. With the predicted snow today, it may be a few days again before I will be riding to work. Sometimes I think my life partially revolves around my decisions to ride or not to ride to work. Occasionally, thoughts about the world, politics, health care, philosophy, tax laws, religion and other sundry matters cloud my mind. I admit to not being able to provide all the solutions to the problems of the world. Just maybe some opinions. The decisions to ride or not to ride are a little simpler. Tech notes. All pictures today from new blackberry (3.2 mp camera). First post from home with the new laptop. Somewhere in the neighborhood is a free wifi link. I am not complaining. I just hate to pay for stuff that I can get for free.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Central and Oliver

This is an intersection that I travel through almost everyday when I ride to work. We have also lived near here for close to 30 years and we have seen many changes over time. Some changes for the better. Some, not so much. The northwest corner has a rather new and large convenience store. I get gas here often because it is on the way to work and convenient. Many years ago there was a gas station here as well, but it was more of the type you would have seen 50 years ago. Just sold gasoline and had a bay for minor repairs. Eventually that service station became a tire store before that was eventually torn down and the convenience store was built. A little further down the street you can see a strip center. These are all over the place and this area is no exception. There is a restaurant, a jewelry store, a cookie store and a fish store. Ahhh, Progress!
Just on the north side of the convenience store is another building that has housed many things over the years. Originally it was a smaller convenience store. Then a client of mine, who was sort of semi-retired, but who had a dream of owning a coin and stamp collecting shop, rented this place for many years. Some years he did pretty well, some he just got by, but he loved his hobby and spent many years running the coin shop. He was a great guy and I always enjoyed working with him. He has long since passed away, but I still remember him fondly as I pass by the place. The northeast corner has a lot of history to it as well. For now it consists of a vacant building (which I failed to get a picture of) that used to be a liquor store. It was operated for many years by a couple that we got to know a little bit. The husband passed away and his wife operated the store for many years. As liquor stores go, it was fantastic. They had a lot of very fine wines in addition to the normal liquor store fare. They were always good about making suggestions for wines to go with certain foods and for certain occasions. The wife eventually sold the store to one of the employees. But eventually that person had a sick older relative in another state that they needed to go care for. The store has been vacant ever since. There was also a small movie theatre on this corner. In its day it was quite the place. It didn't survive the industry's gravitation to multiple screen complexes and eventually closed. For many years there was a restaurant in the front part of the theatre. It was called Dr Redbirds Medicinal Inn. They had great and unique sandwiches. One of the first video rental stores in town opened up later in the main portion of the theatre building. Remember renting VHS tapes? They were there for many years until a Blockbuster Video opened up about a mile away. The local store couldn't survive the competition with the big chain store nearby. The theatre building has since been demolished, and the area is essentially vacant land, except for the new Burger King. Ahhh, Progress! A new place where you can get way more calories than you need in one sitting. I noticed this car for sale on the corner. Sign says it runs good. It was a bit ironic to me because this how I sold my car a couple of years ago, albeit at a different location. Place it in a busy or well seen parking lot with a sign on it. Someone eventually saw it and called me. The southwest corner of Central and Oliver has seen many things over time as well. I like to refer to it now as the place where people can be taken advantage of. The building right on the corner houses a furniture, electronics and appliance rental store. It is one of those places where you can buy something and eventually pay 2 or 3 times the amount of money for an item before you completely own it. They prey upon people with bad or no credit. this building was once a dress shop for many years, then a Dollar Store before the rental place moved in. Next to it is a place where you can buy supplies for your swimming pool if you have one. So the place is sort of an area for both high and low income patrons, each getting their desires fulfilled.

And of course, right south of the rental store is a PayDay Loan company. The ultimate in financial ripoffs. Imagine paying $45 in fees for a $250 loan for two weeks, until next payday. The effective interest rate on that transaction is astronomical. These stores are all over the place now, seemingly at almost every major intersection in town.

One of my clients used to own a couple of these joints, and made some good money doing it until everybody plus their mothers, brothers and sisters opened up similar stores. They seem to thrive on people that don't believe in banks anymore. The bad thing about these places is that once you get one of the loans, many times the person has to do it again 2 weeks later ($45 again) and the cycle repeats itself endlessly.

The southeast corner now has a boarded up old grocery store. How I miss that store! The size of it was maybe only 3 times the size of the convenience store on the opposite corner. But what a great store it was in its day. The Dillons chain of stores is prevalent throughout Kansas and is now owned by Kroger but still uses the Dillons name.

We used to refer to this as the little Dillons. We lived just a few blocks from here for many years and used to walk over here to get groceries on occasion. A mile north and a mile east is another Dillons we call the medium Dillons, a larger size but still not huge. Then 2 miles east of the little Dillons is what we refer to as the big Dillons, a store we despise because it is so frigging big.

Close to the little Dillons is a little shopping center with a take home to bake pizza place and a bakery/restaurant separated from the old grocery store by only a small parking lot.
On many mornings as I pass through the intersection, I can smell the wonderful aromas coming from the bakery. One of those things you can see and smell and sense on 2 wheels, but never notice in a car. As I was wandering around with the camera, I notice my reflection in the window of the bakery and felt the need to take a picture.
And here is the big Dillons. Damn near everything you want or desire can be found here at this big box grocery store. Not unlike the WalMart Super Centers or the new Super Target stores. Frankly, I can find it very easy to avoid these places. For one thing, the things you need when you go to the store are always at opposite ends of the store, so it becomes a major hiking expedition to visit these places IMHO.
It is hard to see in these pictures how big this place is. There is a new Kroger Finance office here. A recent television advertisement says you can even buy pet health insurance here. I don't even know what pet health insurance is, but can imagine that in most cases it would be a ripoff. Ahhhh, Progress!
Out in the parking lot to the big Dillons is a restaurant and a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop (factory). Krispy Kreme, I believe, originated in Chicago, but now seems to copy what Starbucks did with coffee for the doughnut industry. The world needs a Krispy Kreme on every corner, don't we? Ahhh Yes, more useless calories.
I counted 7 Krispy Kreme trucks in the parking lot. Am I stupid? Is there really that much demand? The store was a bit of a novelty when it first opened up with much fanfare. I haven't been there in a long long time.
Finally a shot of the medium Dillons, the one where we do most of our grocery shopping. Large enough to carry lots of items, but not requiring all day or concerted physical effort to traverse the store. Max loves the medium Dillons. He has been there many times. Alas, I am not sure I could buy pet health insurnce here.
Ahhh, Progress!
BTW, this is the first post generated and posted from my new Laptop. No small animals were harmed during this process.