I’ve Gotta Wonder


I’ve been using this 1963 Gibson Melody Maker lately. I bet this thing was $50 new. They were designed to be beginner instruments and I bet thousands of them were just tossed. Now they’re worth plenty. What amazes me is the great sound. Probably has better tone than half of the stuff I use that costs a whole lot more..

First Dates

Ok, I love reality TV.  For a few years now  I’ve been enjoying the dating show First Dates thats been airing in the UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. (I have a note elsewhere on here about how I do that via Kodi) Pretty basic show where we get to observe actual blind dates in a restaurant run specifically for that purpose. I find it fascinating. My wife and I used to go to a couple of places that were known as blind date hangouts just to overhear some of the conversations. Actually we met on blind date so I know a little about it myself.

Even though First Dates does have some class, I always wondered why we didn’t have the show here in the U.S.

There is zero age discrimination on this show. There other day I saw a UK Blind Dates show where the guy was 90 and the woman was 88. You might expect different reactions but there’s no difference  between 18 and 90 when it comes to dating.

There is no gender or sexual orientation discrimination on the show either. None. It’s just great that way.

Big surprise it was to find First Dates finally showing up here on NBC a few weeks ago. Same exact format as in the other countries I mentioned too. No scripted fake drama inserted, just blind dates we get to listen in on. Looks like Ellen DeGeneres is behind the U.S. version so many thanks to her.

There aren’t a lot of actual reality shows around but Blind Dates is one of them.

Kodi Time

I found out about Kodi recently. If you don’t know what it is and you like to browse Internet TV and movie content you’ll be interested in Kodi.

Kodi comes in a small box that connects to your home router via wifi or hard wire and instantly gives you access to, literally, the world.  It’s open source so I’m not advertising anything here. You could download Kodi software right now for free and use it on your computer but buying a small box with Kodi and many free viewing apps pre-installed from one of many online retailers makes it a whole lot easier.

There are hundreds of thousands of programs and movies available via Kodi and a lot of it is actually legal to access.  Although you’ll have access to just about everything shown anywhere on any service, network or theater, you’ll have be careful not to infringe anyones rights of ownership.

One look at Kodi videos on YouTube and you’ll soon understand the scope of what I’m talking about here. It’s truly astounding. Yes, there’s a rather steep learning curve but with semi-moderate computing skills and/or interest you’ll be enjoying a world of entertainment you didn’t know existed.

Without getting too technical I’ll say there are two important things to have once you choose a Kodi box. One is a virtual privacy network, VPN. Gotta have that to protect your anonymity just in case you screw up and watch things that infringe the rights of those that own it. The second is a Debrid service like Real-Debrid or AllDebrid.  Basically a debrid service is an unrestricted downloader that allows you to quickly download files hosted on the Internet or instantly stream them into an innovative web player like Kodi. A debrid service will reliably speed up your streaming. Gotta have one. Both the VPN and debrid service are extremely inexpensive.

As for the Kodi box just do a little research and read the reviews before you choose one. They’re cheap. I have one box that came fully loaded and cost me under fifty bucks and another that was around seventy bucks. The only difference I can see is one box looks pretty sleek and fancy and the other is a little ugly square thing about the size of a pop-tart. They both work great.

Lots and lots of international programming available so if you like shows from the UK or Australia for example you can watch all their shows. Many, many other countries as well. I haven’t seen anything from North Korea yet but it might be there and I’ve just missed it. Sports fans will love Kodi. So, if you love new TV programming both domestic and international plus a new and exciting source for movies, check out Kodi.

On the Road

I love to drive and it’s a good thing because I hate to fly. Last week I took a 1,600 trip from Albuquerque back to the mid-west. It started out interestingly enough when I discovered that I-44 through Missouri was closed due to flooding. Naturally, I found out about this the night before I departure. That left me with some major re-routing so I ended up driving mostly two-lane roads for 10 hours. That prospect seemed pretty bad until about 3 or 4 hours into it I noticed I wasn’t seeing anyone else on the road. That was good news. I have a supercharged pick-up that likes to get up and go and with all the empty roads that what I did. I think I averaged higher mph than I would have on the interstate. Extra added bonus was zero police presence on all those deserted roads so the old radar detector never made a peep.

In addition to tunes I usually load up on many hours of pod-casts prior to trips like this. I like Strangers and Risk quite a bit. If you’re into true stories those two are very good. There are others of course but those two come to mind.

A week later on the return trip I-55 and I-44 though St. Louis were mostly open again so I was back on the interstates but I sure missed the lonely two lane roads.

Things have changed on the interstates over the years. The sheer volume of heavy trucks is astounding and as far as the drivers of those rigs go, well it ain’t like it used to be.

I’m going to talk a little bit here about a few drivers so don’t go nuts on me because it’s just a few. But, a few out of hundreds of thousands ends up being quite a few.

Now I know drivers have a job to do and they want make good time, and hate to down-shift for any reason and in all fairness the majority are decent. But, dang  so many will pull out directly in front of you. Then you’ll sitting behind them at 60 mph in a 75 mph zone waiting for them to clear whatever slower rig they’re trying to pass. If you’ve been out there you know exactly what I mean. Nobody behind me, (that they can easily see) and they just pull to the left and sit there. Besides being dangerous it’s incredibly inconsiderate.

There’s not much someone in a smaller vehicle can do about it. I guess I could flip them off but then 100 miles down the road you’re both at a rest stop and then what? So, I’ve taken to carrying a hand held CB radio and discussing the driving techniques of some truckers over the air. Seeing as I have no antenna they have no clue where the comments are coming from but man I let em have it verbally when a trucker yanks a rig right in front of me. Some of the reactions are pretty funny and some not that funny. A few drivers will then sit in the left lane longer than they would have otherwise but the  vast majority won’t and instead pull their rig over to the right fairly quickly. I noticed that my method works a lot better on drivers working for a large cartage company than it does those who are independent.

Some cities have taken to requiring trucks to use the right hand lane only and that’s a huge help although, even then a few knucklehead drivers don’t observe the law. Not many but a few.

I know everyone who’s out on the interstates notices the same thing that I do and it probably infuriates them as much if not more. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a regulation coming that would require trucks to use the right hand lanes only one day. I know a very few members of congress have tossed that idea around a little. It would actually be too bad if it came to that because the majority of truckers are pretty decent out there.

I was more activist about it a few years ago but I guess I’ve come to expect this behavior from a few drivers now. I don’t accept it though so, for now, I’ll keep on talking to those few rude, inconsiderate and dangerous drivers over my secret CB.

Eight Speed Garbage Collector

I had job driving a dump truck one summer. There were a few of us hired by the plant where I worked doing outdoor maintenance, paint, lawn mowing and similar jobs.

One morning the boss asked me if I knew how to drive a dump truck. I lived in a suburb of Chicago and I was 18. How would ever have known how to drive a dump truck? “Yeah, I  can drive a dump truck,” I said. “You know how to double clutch an eight speed?”, asked the boss. “Yeah, I know how to do that” I didn’t know what a double clutch was let alone drive an eight speed.

The boss put me in charge of the truck and gave me a helper and the two of us were to visit each of the many buildings on the hundred-acre property collecting bags of trash and loading them onto the truck.

My personal car at the time was a three speed Chevy with a clutch so I knew what a clutch was but as for a double clutch I had no idea at all. Still, I managed to get the truck into the lowest gear which did make the vehicle move but just barely. Dump trucks are made to carry very heavy loads and are geared in such a way that the lowest gear will get the truck just barely moving at about 1 mile per hour. Then you have to shift to second, third, fourth and so on. When a truck starts out that slowly you really have to be fast at shifting so as not to lose the momentum of the preceding gear otherwise the thing will chug along and usually stall on you.

I managed to get the truck up though the first 4 gears alright but unless I wanted to do all the garbage pickup at top speed of  10 mph I’d have to figure out how the other 4 gears worked and that’s where the double clutch came into play.

I deduced through trial and error that in order to get to gears 5 through 8 I’d have to push the clutch down twice and then go through the normal H pattern of with the shifter. I found out that had to be done quickly just as the single clutch was in order not to lose the small amount of momentum generated by the previous gears.

I stalled the truck and number of times while I furiously tried double clutching and ground the gears pretty well doing it but finally managed to get the truck running. So off we went to collect garbage.

I thought it was great job. I got to drive a large truck around visiting all the buildings on the grounds and meet a lot of people doing it. It was garbage collection but to me it was one heck of a sweet assignment at the time.

After making the rounds we had a rather full load of garbage in the bed of the truck and the truck was loaded down enough so that we actually did need all the gears.

The grounds included a huge pit where clay for brick making had once been dug out. At the bottom of the pit was a huge incinerator in the shape of a tee-pee. We were supposed to dump our large load of trash bags next to the incinerator where later that night another crew would load the tee-pee with all the trash. They did it at night so as not to attract attention to the burning that was probably illegal. Sure saved the company I was working for a lot of money collecting and burning their own trash.

One of the key advantages of a dump truck is the dumping mechanism that lifts the large box full of, in our case trash, dumping it on the ground. It saves having to unload everything by hand that way. Naturally I didn’t know how that worked either but there was a well-marked lever in the cab so it looked pretty easy.

After I got the truckload of trash down into the pit I back it in and prepared to dump it all next to the tee-pee. It looked too easy to screw up. Well, I yanked on that lever to lift the truck bed and it worked like a charm alright but unless you want problems it turns out you need to finesse the load slowly off the truck. I just tried to dump it all at once and ended up unbalancing the load which lifted the front end of the vehicle, including my partner and I, straight up into the air giving us a great view of the sky that day and nothing else. After a moment of panic I returned the dumping mechanism lever back to its starting position as quickly as I’d lifted it and down we went very roughly bouncing off the ground a couple of times in the process. With no seat belts on we of course smacked our heads against the roof of the cab of the truck at which point the value of the mandatory hardhat became quite evident. It hurt a little but that was all.

Soon I learned to finesse the unloading of garbage and drove that truck around like a seasoned pro garbage collector. And now, if I ever run into an eight-speed dump truck with a double clutch, I’ll know what to do.