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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Torque

I believe in maintenance. When you maintain things, small problems are less likely to grow into big problems.

For example, I get myself checked regularly by an assortment of medicos. Not just my GP, but the dermatologist, the ophthalmologist, and the periodontist. If something needs fixing, in me or on me, I want to know about it, pronto.

This philosophy also extends to my vehicles. I take them in for regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly and, knock on wood, head off serious issues later.

My mechanic is a life-long local, a soft-spoken family man of about 40. He’s a pro, very conscientious, well regarded hereabouts.

But sometimes, stuff happens.

One morning several years ago, I took my Subaru to his shop for an oil change. It’s a fairly large operation for this little town, with half a dozen mechanics working in the bays. While I waited, one of them would change the oil, inspect things, and rotate the tires.

After about 30 minutes, the deed was done. I exchanged pleasantries with the owner, paid the bill, and drove away.

100 yards from the shop, the car suddenly lurched and pulled to the left. I stopped immediately.

When I got out to investigate, I discovered that the left front wheel was askew on the wheel studs. Three of the lug nuts were loose, two were missing.

For whatever reason, the technician had failed to tighten that wheel. As I drove away — fortunately at low speed — the nuts had unthreaded themselves, and the wheel was on the verge of coming off. Yikes!

I walked back to the shop and gave them the news.

My friend the mild-mannered owner blew his top. He was as angry as I’ve ever seen him — close to breaking things

Finally, he calmed down, collected himself, and dispatched a truck and two employees to retrieve the Subaru.

Fortunately, no damage was done. They made things right and triple-checked the work. The owner offered a heartfelt apology and said I was ready to go again.

“You know,” I told him, “This surely was a freak thing. Your guy probably just got distracted. You can bet he won’t let it happen again. Don’t be too hard on him.”

“No, this is unacceptable,” he said. “He and I are gonna have a come-to-Jesus meeting, and then I’ll decide what to do.”

And there, for me, the episode ended.

Since then, no one at the shop has mentioned that particular unpleasantness. A few times, I was tempted to make a joke about it, but I always stopped myself. Too touchy a subject for levity.

But last month, while I was at the garage for an oil change on my current vehicle, I got curious and decided to ask.

As I was preparing to leave, I said to the owner, “Got a minute? I’d like to ask you something.” I turned and went outside, indicating that I wanted privacy, and he followed.

“Remember that time a few years ago, ” I said, “when I drove away, and the front wheel on my Subaru –”

“You bet I remember,” he said. “It was a nightmare. A low point for this business. ”

“Well, I never knew who did the work that day. You said you planned to read him the riot act. How did things work out?”

How things worked out was a bit surprising.

The come-to-Jesus meeting was brief, animated, and, no doubt, one-sided. But the mechanic had been a steady and reliable worker, and he kept his job.

More importantly, the shop put new procedures in place aimed at preventing similar screw-ups in the future.

First, the shop’s standard work order was changed to include new checkboxes about lug nuts and the proper torquing thereof.

Under the new rules, mechanics are required to look up the manufacturer’s torque specifications, tighten the lugs as recommended (it was 75 ft-lbs in the case of my Subaru), and record it on the work order. Individually for each wheel.

After that, a second mechanic is required to check the work and add his initials to vouch for it. Four wheels, four initials.

Yikes.

The moral: preventing human error is a tough and never-ending job.

It’s pretty much hopeless, but you have to try anyway.

Torque

 

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— In 2006, a 37-year-old Scottish man suffered an epic hangover that stands as the worst ever recorded. Over a four-day period, the man drank 60 pints of beer. Following a non-stop, four-week headache and steady loss of vision, the man went to an emergency room for help. It took six months of blood-thinning treatment to get rid of the headache and restore the man’s vision.

— In 1953, at age 10, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was a choirboy who sang at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

— The deepest hole ever drilled is the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia. The Kola was drilled between 1970 and 1989, and it reaches 40,230 feet (7.62 miles) into the Earth. The Kola’s purpose is to learn stuff about the Earth’s crust.

— It’s a warm spring day, and you plop down in a field of shamrocks (a plant in the genus trifolium, “tri” meaning three) in search of a four-leaf clover. Your odds of success are one in 10,000.

Clover

— During World War II, with great numbers of men in uniform, some American sports teams faced a shortage of players. Thus, in 1943, the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers combined rosters and played as the Steagles. In 1944, Pittsburgh merged temporarily with the Chicago Cardinals and played as the Car-Pitts.

—  The largest bat in the world is the flying fox bat of Australia, with a wingspan of up to six feet. The smallest is the bumblebee bat of Thailand, which is smaller than a fingernail.

— Before John Glenn became an astronaut and a U.S. Senator, he was a Marine fighter pilot. During the Korean War, he flew 90 combat missions and earned the nickname “magnet ass” for the enemy flak he attracted. For a time, Glenn’s wingman in Korea was Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who interrupted his playing career and returned to active duty in 1952-53.

— Statistics show that one-eighth of American workers, at some point in their lives, work for McDonald’s.

McDonalds

— Roy Sullivan (1912-1983), a ranger at Shenandoah National Park, survived being struck by lightning seven times, apparently an all-time record. The strikes happened between 1942 and 1977, mostly while he was on duty in the park, a storm-prone area in a storm-prone state.

Sullivan always got spooked when the weather was threatening, and often, he would try to leave the area. The lightning seemed to get him anyway. Most of the strikes set his hair on fire, so he began to carry a container of water with him at all times.

— Elvis Presley, Lenny Bruce, and Orville Redenbacher all died in the bathroom.

— In 2012, 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair conducted a poll that asked Americans who they would pick to compose a new national anthem. Bruce Springsteen came in first. Dolly Parton was second.

— In 1984, screenwriter Robert Townes was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for the film “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.” To protest the radically rewritten version of his script, Townes altered the film’s closing credits, removing his own name as screenwriter and adding “P. H. Vazak,” the name of his Hungarian sheepdog. The Academy never knew the difference.

Tarzan

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Phenom

In 2006, during high school volleyball competition in North Carolina, a kid named Dana Griffin set a record (as far as I can determine) by serving 48 consecutive points.

That’s 48 straight points while serving, not points scored during play. He did it over the course of three games won by his team 25-0, 25-1, and 25-6.

Impressive, yes, with the caveat that in any sport, fantastic streaks happen only at the lower levels. In college and the pros, the talent is too good to allow it.

I mention this because young Dana’s record of 48 points may not last much longer. Don’t be surprised to see it broken by Maddie “Mad Dog” Smith of Jefferson, Georgia.

At age 12, my granddaughter Maddie is a volleyball phenom in the making. On the court, she is steady and effective. She understands the game, plays smart, and gets better every day.

Three years ago, she started playing on a team at the Jefferson Recreation Center, and it quickly became apparent that volleyball is her sport. Today, she plays for her middle school team in the fall, and she plays “club volleyball” in the winter.

Her winter team, Lanier Volleyball Club, is affiliated with the Junior Olympics organization, which prepares girls 10-18 to play in college. Maddie and her teammates are serious, dedicated, and surprisingly good. Many of them, including Maddie, also take private lessons.

Last weekend, Lanier participated in a regional tournament featuring a dozen clubs from around Northeast Georgia. The entourage of parents, grandparents, and other supporters packed the stands, and the noise level was high.

Saturday morning, Lanier won its first game and lost the second. As the tie-breaker was about to get underway, I moved to a spot on the sidelines to take photos. Sports photography isn’t my thing, but I take so many photos that some are always worth keeping.

As I watched the girls practice, a man and woman in their 40s arrived, got settled nearby, and nodded a greeting.

“Our daughter plays for Fayetteville,” the woman said. She pointed at one of the players. “That’s her, number 11. Where is the other team from?”

“Gainesville,” I told her. “My granddaughter is number 16.”

The three of us chatted for a few minutes about the girls, the gym, the weather, and what-not. Then the teams took their positions, and the game began.

Fayetteville served first, and the ball was out of bounds. Lanier was ahead 1-0.

Maddie, who has a killer serve and is the designated opener, approached the line.

She served, and the ball dropped neatly between two defenders. Lanier 2-0.

She served again with the same result. 3-0.

“My goodness,” said the lady from Fayetteville.

Maddie proceeded to serve and score another 12 points straight. Some serves were returned, and several volleys occurred, but each time, Lanier managed to score and retain the serve.

In the end, Lanier won the tie-breaker 15-0. Maddie had served 14 consecutive points.

The couple from Fayetteville walked away without speaking. Maybe they had to be somewhere.

Serving 14 straight was just the beginning. During the next round, Maddie extended her streak by scoring another 24 points in a row. In all, 38 consecutive points served.

After the games, when I rejoined my relatives and the contingent of Lanier supporters in the stands, everyone was abuzz about Maddie’s scoring streak.

“I’ve been around volleyball for years,” said one parent. “I never heard of anyone scoring 38 straight points.”

No, Maddie doesn’t deliver that kind of performance every time. She has served 10 or 15 straight a few times, but never more than that.

And, like all the girls, she has occasional bad days. In fact, later that afternoon, Lanier lost twice and finished the tournament in third place. They were bummed.

As you can tell, I’m proud of my granddaughter and her accomplishments at such a tender age. She has genuine talent and the support she needs to strengthen it. For me, it’s a joy to watch.

Next year will be Maddie’s final year in middle school, but she probably won’t play there. Jefferson High School plans to invite the more promising middle-schoolers to play on the JHS junior varsity team, and Maddie is a prime candidate.

Last weekend, the volleyball coach from the high school came to the tournament to assess the play of Maddie and the other Jefferson girls.

Mad Dog picked the right time to show her stuff.

Serve-1

Serve-2

Serve-3

Serve-4

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Living well is the best revenge.

–George Herbert

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No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.

— Abraham Lincoln

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The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.

— Denis Waitley

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Never ruin an apology with an excuse.

— Benjamin Franklin

Herbert G

Herbert

Franklin B

Franklin

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More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

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Differences of Opinion

By Wendy Cope

Cope W

Wendy Cope (B. 1945)

1. HE TELLS HER

He tells her that the earth is flat —
He knows the facts and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

————

The Garden

By Ezra Pound

Pound E

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (1885-1972)

En robe de parade — Samain*

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
Of a sort of emotional anemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.
She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
Will commit that indiscretion.

* A quote from French poet Albert Samain. Rough translation: dressing to show off.

————

A Quoi Bon Dire**

By Charlotte Mew

Mew C

Charlotte Mary Mew (1869-1928)

Seventeen years ago you said
Something that sounded like Good-bye;
And everybody thinks that you are dead,
But I.
So I, as I grow stiff and cold
To this and that say Good-bye too;
And everybody sees that I am old
But you.
And one fine morning in a sunny lane
Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear
That nobody can love their way again
While over there
You will have smiled, I shall have tossed your hair.

** What good is there to say.

————

Acquainted with the Night

By Robert Frost

Frost-4

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

———-

A Summary of Lord Lyttleton’s ‘Advice to a Lady’

By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Montagu M

Mary Pierrepont Montagu (1689-1762)

Be plain in Dress and sober in your Diet;
In short my Dearee, kiss me, and be quiet.

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Sometimes, an improbable thing happens, and you are left flabbergasted. Dumbstruck. Such a thing happened to me, very memorably, about 10 years ago.

Back in the 1950s, when my dad was in the Air Force, we lived in Europe for a few years. I attended a high school for U.S. military dependents in Stuttgart, Germany.

Living in a beer-centric country like that, and being a red-blooded teenager, I was an expert on the numerous breweries, biergartens, and gasthauses in the Stuttgart area. I probably knew as much about the local breweries — the products, histories, reputations, and relative merits — as the natives did.

Breweries were, and still are, ubiquitous in Germany. The German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, of which Stuttgart is the capital, is home to some 175 breweries. Stuttgart itself has many dozens, the largest and most popular being the Dinkelacker brand. (In German, the word Dinkelacker means wheatfield.)

The improbable part of the story came about one weekend not long before I retired, as I was browsing through a local antique/junk store. On a dusty lower shelf, I discovered three brand-new, unopened 50-packs of bar coasters that advertise — I kid you not — the Dinkelacker brewery of Stuttgart, Germany.

I stared in disbelief at the logo so familiar in my youth. I was stunned, practically a-swoon. The fact that I, Rocky Smith, would find a huge stash of those particular coasters 50 years later on another continent — well, it was highly improbable.

It was absolutely thrilling, as well, and I gleefully purchased the three 50-packs for the princely sum of one dollar each.

I’ve been using the coasters freely around the house for the last decade. They hold up really well. Clearly, my remaining stash is a lifetime supply, and then some.

Dinkelacker

At some point, my thoughts about this unlikely occurrence turned to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Specifically, I was reminded of the “Infinite Improbability Drive,” which, according to the book, allows a starship to go anywhere in the universe instantly. A very convenient plot device.

Engaging the Infinite Improbability Drive, you see, suspends “normality” and means that, in theory, anything is possible. As explained here, however, there’s a catch:

But I digress. The discovery, by me, of those bar coasters in that junk store is a hugely unlikely thing.

Even random chance seems… highly improbable.

Normality

 

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The Man at the Bar

Now and then, you get a peek at how the brain of a modern-day political conservative functions. You get a glimpse of how the mental gears mesh, how the thought processes unfold. The experience is always depressing.

Last week, while out shopping, I stopped for lunch at On the Border. Being a party of one, I was ushered to a small booth in the bar.

Sitting here and there around the bar were several other parties of one, all 50-ish white guys. One was chatting with the female bartender. Mostly, I was tuning everyone out, until the man got my attention.

“Did you hear?” he said to the girl. “Obama’s new house in Washington has a damn bunker built under it. A huge compound for illegals. Might be 20,000 of ’em camped out there.”

The girl replied matter-of-factly, but I couldn’t make out what she said. It came across as sort of a wah-wah-wah, like Charley Brown’s teacher in the Peanuts cartoons.

“They’re gonna expand it, so many are crossin’ the border,” the man said. “They’re on Obama’s payroll. He sends ’em to the anti-Trump riots to cause trouble.”

The girl gave another wah-wah-wah reply and departed to help another customer, whereupon the tirade ended.

I thought about the incident on the way home, and it seemed obvious that the man got his information from the right-wing propaganda machine.

The aim of the story he related was clear: to vilify immigrants, vilify anti-Trump protesters, and stick it to Obama, who is still the cartoon evildoer of the conservatives.

I didn’t think it was a Fox News story. It seemed a step too preposterous, even for Fox.

I mean, really. A bunker under a rented house in a ritzy Washington neighborhood? For 20,000 people? Wouldn’t the neighbors object?

Actually, it sounded more like the kind of caustic, over-the-top, conspiracy-theory crapola peddled on talk radio. Maybe from Alex Jones and Infowars.

So, when I got home, I went online and Googled “Compound under Obama house.”

Sure enough, there it was on the Infowars website:

SABOTAGE: OBAMA IS COMMANDING AN  ARMY OF 30,000 ANTI-TRUMP ACTIVISTS FROM HIS HOME 2 MILES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE

The only real fact in the story is that the Obama family rented a house in a D.C. neighborhood. Two miles from the White House? Probably. The rest is baseless nonsense, fabricated from thin air.

The story uses words and images designed to incite the easily incitable — “command center,” “army of activists,” “riots,” “bunker,” “shadow government,” “community organizers,” “global elite.” If your brain functions in the normal manner, you can easily see it as a spin job.

But the man at the bar fell for the story. In fact, he embellished it. And it was interesting to see how much of the message, and which parts, he got wrong.

The article called its fictional subjects “activists.” The man heard “illegals.”

They were described as an “army” under Obama’s command. The man took that to mean they are literally on the premises. Under the house. The idea of  plans to expand the bunker, he seems to have dreamed that up on his own.

Also interesting is that he remembered the number 20,000, which was in the text of the story, not the number 30,000 from the headline. Maybe he was trying to be, you know, conservative. Wouldn’t want to exaggerate or overstate things.

I didn’t hear the man mention the proximity of Obama’s house to that awful Islamic Center, but there’s a story online about that, too.

My point is, the man at the bar is a prime target of right-wing propaganda and a poster child for absorbing the intended message.

I don’t mean to imply that the man is villainous in any way. He probably thinks of himself as a good citizen. He may well be an honest, hard-working, church-going family man.

But, like legions of his fellow conservatives, he gets most of his information from sources that are, on purpose, not factual. Sources that present outright lies as truth.

The man is fed, and he believes, information that is misleading, self-serving, sometimes preposterous, and often easily proven wrong.

But he and his fellow righties are okay with that. They are neither deterred nor impressed by reality, logic, or facts. The truth is, they chose a side long ago, and that’s that.

At this point, they are well-conditioned and do not flinch. If an inconvenient truth slips into the conservative bubble and slaps them in the face, they simply dismiss it. They literally don’t believe it.

What the right-wing has done is cynical and diabolical. But you have to admire the genius of a brainwashing apparatus that has, in just a few decades, successfully rewired the synapses in the brains of millions of people. They’ve managed to train people to dismiss reality and believe the unbelievable.

People like the man at the bar.

obama-house

This is the Obama family’s new home in Washington’s ritzy Kalorama neighborhood. It’s a rental, nine bedrooms, 8,200 square feet. Among their new neighbors: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Secretary of State/oil magnate Rex Tillerson.

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