The ethics of fat

2009 June 16
by Stace

Three or four years ago, I checked out an audiobook from my local library which was a sort of detective novel. This is strange because I’m generally not into detective novels, but I had already listened to most of what actually interested me, and that left me with genres I normally avoid. I can’t remember the name of it now, unfortunately. I do recall that the detective was a woman who was also an avid member of a society of philosophers, and I think the author was the man who writes those charming “#1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” novels.

Large sections of the novel revolved around the protagonist’s internal debates regarding ethical questions posed by her fellow members, and by the situation of solving whatever mystery it was that she was pursuing (I have no memory of the mystery whatsoever).

My one specific memory of the book is her debate about whether or not, in a world where people are starving, it is moral to be fat. She concluded that it is unethical to overeat and be fat in a world where people are without food and are starving to death. She then proceeded to eat much less cake than had been her habit.

It’s silly, really, this sort of debate. But I clearly recall my first reaction to her decision was that I had been offended. I’m fat, and I overeat, yet I certainly do not consider myself unethical for it. It’s bad enough that being fat gets you labeled as ugly, lazy, disgusting, weak-willed, stupid, and a host of other insults. Now I’m unethical, too? Come now. Enough is enough.

I got over it within a few minutes, naturally, debated the issue within myself for a while, then went on with the book. The funny thing about it is that all these years later, the question of the morality of being fat still pops into my head occasionally. It probably recurred recently because of my reading of “Banker to the Poor,” and my being on the new diet.

As many times as I have argued the question with myself, I have yet to come to a conclusive judgment.

On the one hand, it does seem somewhat callous to spend so much of my money on more food than I need to survive, when so many people don’t even have the minimum amount of food to stay alive. Callousness is unethical, in my opinion. Therefore I am unethical for overeating and being fat.

However, my eating less food certainly does not mean that starving people will receive the food I did not buy. In fact, it is certain that they will not. So how does my eating less have any impact whatsoever on starving people? It seems to me that it must have an impact of some sort on the starving people, or otherwise what is the point? That I am simply not eating as much in order to disprove my callousness? Some sort of empathetic abstinence which would make me instantaneously moral? Nah, that sort of thing doesn’t serve much purpose, and I’m of the camp that morality should serve a solid purpose.

Therefore, limiting my eating is only useful if it has some impact on those my overeating supposedly harmed. In order for it to have an impact, I would have to save the money I did not spend on overeating, then buy food with that money to give to starving people. In this way, food that I would have eaten unnecessarily, will now be utilized by people who actually need it. The conclusion would then be that I had eradicated a bit of personal unethical behavior.

And yet …

I can’t remember when, but it was well over a decade ago, everyone got all up in arms because this incredibly rich man spent countless millions of dollars on a gigantic birthday bash. I can’t remember his name. I only remember that Elizabeth Taylor was one of his pals.

Anyway, many people in this country were outraged that he spent so much money in such a frivolous fashion when there were hordes of people in the world who didn’t have a roof over their heads or food to eat. They believed he was immoral for wasting such huge amounts of money.

I didn’t agree, at that time. It was his money to do with as he saw fit. He had no obligation to the poor unless he chose to have one. Period.

I could apply this same argument to the ethics of fat. It’s my money. If I wish, I can spend it on overeating, or I can spend it on iPods, or I can save it, or I can give it to the poor. How I spend my money is not a matter of morality. Some people don’t have a pair of pants, so does that mean I should only own one pair of pants until everyone in the world has a pair? Ridiculous. It’s my money. I earned it, so it’s only about me. I feel badly that some people are starving, so doesn’t that alone prove that I am not callous to their situation? Besides, charitable works do not necessarily prove morality. And we cannot all be Siddhartha Gautama.

So, using that as a guideline, being fat and overeating does not make one unethical, no more than having two pairs of pants or two televisions makes one unethical.

And yet …

I come back to the wealthy man who squandered a fortune entertaining other bored, rich people. The kind of thinking that led me to defend him way back when, is the kind of thinking that has led us to many of the problems we see today. The gap between the rich and non-rich is widening every day. Unrestrained greed has led to a monumental financial crisis that no one really knows when and if it will end.

I think the majority of people would agree that the movers and shakers behind this crisis were grossly unethical, for their lack of social conscience, if for nothing else.

And that brings me back full circle in the question of the ethics of being fat, which is really all part and parcel of the ethics of having while others have not.

I’m beginning to doubt I’ll ever find a resolution; I’ve always found it impossible to view the world in black/white terms. Still, it’s interesting to think about when it makes its occasional appearance in my thoughts. Pointless, I suppose, but interesting.

And anyway, I’m on this diet at present, which leaves me ethically home free … sort of. Maybe. Oh hell. Here I go again.

Drive, sleep, drive, repeat

2009 June 14
by Stace

When we deliver our current load around midnight, we will have driven over 5,800 miles in a bit more than six days. Ordinarily, I’d be begging off such madness, demanding a break from dispatch, but we’re trying to save up to get our own truck, and we’ll be needing every penny if we’re going to pull this off by October.

Lots of teams drive this many miles and more, on a regular basis. I don’t know how they do it. They must be better at sleeping while the truck is bouncing over our crummy roads than I am. And they must not mind never getting any time for some entertainment, like watching a movie, or reading blogs, or much of anything. After so many days of little to no entertainment, other than my audiobooks while driving, I’m seriously feeling the crunch.

Anyway, got a bit of time today while Hedon is driving and before I try to get some sleep, so I thought I’d bop on here and write this and reply to some comments. That’s pretty much it.

Oh, except I’m really proud of myself. Running this hard is usually the perfect excuse for me to eat at will. But not this time. I’ve stuck to the diet, not comforting myself with food. And that is a big accomplishment for me.

I was so terribly tempted yesterday. We had to stop to fuel at a Love’s truck stop, and they had a Carl’s Jr. and a Subway. I so wanted to get a big guacamole burger and fries from Carl’s Jr., or maybe that giant taco salad with the crispy, yummy fried shell if they had some Green Burrito stuff on their menu. I could imagine how happy it would make me to eat it. And I’d been working so hard. I deserved a reward.

I wound up getting my usual Fresh Fit Sub from Subway. I can’t say it made me happy to eat it, not right then anyway. Today I’m happy, though, because I didn’t give in. And that’s what I have to remember the next time temptation threatens to seduce me. And it will threaten. Often.

Every day, every meal, it’s a choice. I won’t always make the right one. When that happens, I’ve just got to be sure to make the right choice at the next meal. That’s always been the most difficult aspect of dieting for me. When I fall off the wagon, I decide “screw it” and spend the next few years in the gutter. I think the diabetes is going to make a difference in how I respond to failures.

In the meanwhile, I’m just happy I resisted that guacamole burger. Damn you, guacamole burger and your tasty goodness!!! Fiend! Bad, bad burger! Ohhhhhm. Yea though I walk through the valley of fast food, I shall fear no guac burger.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

2009 June 11

Two reviews in one! Both Hedon and Stace are reviewing “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” in this post. First up is Stace.

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I finished listening to the audiobook of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austen, of course), before we went home. It has taken me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to say about it.

If you’ve read this blog for long, you probably already know that “Pride and Prejudice” is my favorite novel. I’ve read the book numerous times and have several different audio versions. But as much as I love the book, I am not averse to people “sullying” it (as Austen purists would put it), by writing sequels, or the hundred other ways that have been found to reap the profits of Austen’s popularity. I only ask that the sullying be done well, an admittedly tall order for most authors dabbling in Austen’s works.

When I heard about the Zombie version of P&P some months ago, I was amused. I thought it could be very funny if it were done right. So now that I’ve read it, do I think that Grahame-Smith did it right?

No.

The novel has some very funny moments, but how could it not? I mean, Lizzie Bennet and her sisters are kick-ass zombie killers. There’s bound to be humor in that. And there is. The problem is that it’s a one-trick pony. Not too long into the book, after the second fight scene or so, it’s not as funny.

Here’s my problem with it: Grahame-Smith did not change enough of the novel. I would guess some 80 to 85 percent of the book is lifted straight out of the original, word for word. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover he wrote this over a three-day weekend, that’s how little he added to the novel.

I imagine his process was something like, “Read, read, oh look, they’re taking a carriage ride. Let’s have zombies attack them.” A short fight scene ensues, then it’s back to “Read, read, oh look, they’re going for a walk. Let’s have zombies attack them.”

Really, now, how much creativity does that take?

Only a few of the characters’ fates are actually changed, and some of them nonsensically so. Don’t get me started on what he did with Charlotte Lucas. I’ll just say it was occasionally funny, but completely out of character. I presume the characters’ fates he changed, Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Collins and Mr. Wickham, were meant as repayment for their being asses, or dull, or whatever. Okay fine. Punish away. But have it make sense, please. Even in a zombie story.

He did have one success, and that was his treatment of Lady Catherine De Bourgh. I’ll say no more, except some of that was good stuff.

Certain things which might have been funny, such as Mr. Darcy’s oft-repeated innuendos about “balls,” to which Lizzie always blushes, don’t work. They don’t work because Mr. Darcy’s character, zombie hunter or not, isn’t changed enough that he would ever, in a million years, make any reference to testicles, no matter how veiled, in a lady’s presence. Probably not even in another man’s presence. I was basically left going, “huh?”

It’s too bad. This was a very good idea, and could have been really great. Unfortunately, this one was phoned in. Grahame-Smith didn’t put in the work necessary to make this a success for me. I’m glad I picked it up for free at Audible.com, thanks to some coupons they sent me. If I had actually paid something for it, I might be a bit peeved.

So I don’t recommend buying the book, but if you can check it out at a local library, or pick it up for free like I did, then go for it. It’s good for a few laughs, some of them pretty loud, and since most of the original is there, that part is always worth the read.

I saw out on the web that Grahame-Smith’s next book is going to be “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” I wonder whose work he’ll use to make up the 80-85 percent of the novel he can’t be bothered with writing.

Oh, and they’re making a movie of P&P&Z. Also, I hear that Elton John’s production company in the U.K. is coming out with a Pride and Prejudice and Predator movie some time in the future. Oh boy. Predator. In Regency period England. Oh boy.

Jane could never have imagined how much money she would make for so many people, in so many silly ways.

*********

And now Hedon gets her say:

How to review “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” as I am having trouble finding the exact words I would like to use… Let me first say that I, too, thought it sounded like a fun idea. I admired Grahame-Smith’s balls for taking on what is arguably the greatest novel ever written. Then I read (listened to) the book.

I think Grahame-Smith should be hunted down and placed under lock and key. And twice a day every day he should be dragged onto the village green of some small town in England and flogged mercilessly. This should continue until every single paperback, hardback, and audio version of this “book” is gathered together into one giant pile and torched into a blazing heap of excrement. Then, when that’s done, the ashes from that bonfire should be gathered up and taken to a crematorium where they can be burned in an even hotter fire so they are reduced to grey dust particles. Then the dust from the crematorium should be gathered up and shoved into a metal canister that would then be shot into space. Once in space, the crematorium dust should then be released to orbit the earth as a nebulous cloud of excrement-dust that floats until the end of time constantly bombarded by naturally-occurring space radiation. After all that is accomplished, and not one molecule of Grahame-Smith’s work remains on the earth, the public flogging could stop I suppose.

But every single dime Mr Grahame-Smith earned from this outrage he calls a book should be seized and used to fund some sort of monkeys-in-diapers-in-a-room-with-typewriters program. I feel certain that in a very little time several of the monkeys could surpass Grahame-Smith and produce a work that is superior to his in every particular. If nothing else, the monkeys would probably at least read the work and try to understand it before they got busy attempting to cash in on Ms Austen’s popularity — something Grahame-Smith clearly couldn’t be bothered to do.

Speaking of Grahame-Smith, he should be kept under close watch for all the remaining days of his life. As a simple nod to justice, he should be required to write, “I’m so sorry, Ms. Austen, I don’t know what I could have been thinking… please forgive me” three thousand times every day. It should also be made quite clear to Mr. Grahame-Smith that if he is ever caught “writing” even one page of “fiction” in the future his fingers will be bound together and super-glued to his naked butt cheeks.

I hated it. There aren’t even words for how much I hated it. I suppose it may not actually be the worst book ever written, but it is without a doubt the worst book I’ve ever read and I’ve read thousands. No… wait… I’m just going to say it… based on all currently available information it is in fact the worst book ever written.

My day at the mall

2009 June 10
by Hedon

As you know, we had planned to go visit the YoungOne this last home-time to help celebrate her graduation. In the end, because we had so little time at home this month, Stace wasn’t able to go since she stayed home and kept working on all the things that have to be done to get ready to head back out on the road for a month. I got to spend the day with them though, and had a really good time. Found out after I got there that the YoungOne did get the internship position that she had been hoping for so we ended up having even more to celebrate. She is really doing well.

The YoungOne seemed really happy with the graduation present we had decided on and shopped the hell out of that mall. She ended up getting a lot of really nice stuff that looked great and left the mall tired but happy and quite fashionable. Then it was on to the shoe store where she picked up several pairs of really cute shoes to top the whole thing off. I think she is going to look great at the office.

Since shopping tends to give me hives after a very short period of time, I mostly entertained the LittleOne so her Mom would have some quality free-mom-time to shop. It wasn’t exactly a burden… I mean seriously… look at that little face…

Eight pounds… well maybe

2009 June 9
by Hedon

I’m not sure that I actually lost eight pounds. The afternoon that we got home I immediately stepped on the scale and it said I had GAINED two pounds! GAINED TWO POUNDS!! After three weeks of eating salads and DRINKING WATER!  Oh… hell… no!!

Now as you might imagine… I was a bit peeved… one might even say that I was on the verge of a conniption that at the very least included carting fancy-pants new scale down to the river behind the house and flinging it as far as my apparently two-pound-heavier arms could manage.

Not wanting to go through the hassle of waiting for me to buy another — more user friendly — scale, Stace suggested that I wait until morning and try weighing again then. Reluctantly I agreed. During the rest of that night I shot enough seething vengeful looks at fancy-pants scale that even an inanimate object could figure out that self-preservation required immediate action to appease the very large very angry woman.

The next morning I walked slowly up to fancy-pants as if we were facing each other on a dusty street at high noon. Just to give fancy-pants every chance of surviving the next few minutes, I stripped down to only boxers  –  my thought being that the few minutes it would take to get enough clothes on to head down to the river without horrifying the neighbors might be all that stood between fancy-pants-$45-scale and a watery grave if it still insisted that I had gained two pounds. Hearing the traditional gun-fight music soundtrack in my head, I paused for a moment, took a deep breath and then stepped up. I stood stock still and waited for the little digital display to determine fancy-pants’ fate.

“372″   Ok then… eight pounds… that’s more like it. You survive another month, my friend, well done.

We’re back!

2009 June 9
by Stace

We’re back out on the road, and back to being able to use our broadband card. We actually came out on Monday, but it was a crazy day.

Turns out the culprit in our phone line problem at home was the TiVO! I guess its phone dealy was messed up somehow or the other, so it kept mucking up the line somehow. I don’t know. It’s likely not particularly complicated, yet I am mystified all the same. Whatever.

Wound up having to buy a new DirecTV receiver with a DVR in it. So it’s goodbye to my beloved TiVO, and hello to the new DVR. The new DVR has basically the same functions as my old TiVO unit, which means I hopefully won’t be too taxed trying to learn the new system. Ha. Stupid having-to-learn-new-things.

The only other items of note that happened while we were home was that we got the results of our first month dieting. Hedon lost 8 pounds and I lost 12. Yay!

My doctor was very happy with the weight loss, and how I’ve been doing with controlling my blood sugar. He decided not to increase my medication, and said he thought it was possible for me to get a decent enough A1C before I go for the renewal of my medical card. Hope he’s right. Then, he froze and nipped off a wart I had gotten. I think that was his weird idea of a reward for the good work. Sadly, I’m of an age now where I, too, saw it as a reward.

So, 12 pounds and one wart lighter, I headed back out on the road.

Oh, by the way, the NutriSystem diet isn’t going to work out for us. We had no idea how much food they want you to add each day, items which are extremely hard to gather every day on the road. If we were doing this at home, it would be okay, but out here in this truck, not a chance. We’ll just keep using the common sense approach we did last month, basically limiting calories and making healthy choices (and for me, counting carbs because of the diabetes).

Since we paid for all that NS food, we are eating it as it fits in our day. And, uh, it pretty much sucks across the board. Apart from the herb snack mix, we haven’t found anything yet that we can eat without a considerable amount of wincing and grimacing. Sorry, NS, but I’ll take a Fresh Fit sandwich from Subway any day over your entrees. And it’s a damned sight cheaper, too ($5 for a footlong, and that makes two complete meals).

Yum … a Tuscan chicken Fresh Fit sandwich on whole grain wheat bread, with cheddar cheese, tomatoes, raw spinach, onions, green peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, peppercinis, vinegar and a bit of olive oil. Could go for one right now.

Never thought I’d see the day I’d actually crave a Subway sandwich … well, one that wasn’t drowned in ranch dressing and loaded with bacon, at any rate. Maybe there’s hope for me after all.

One for Michele

2009 June 5
by Hedon

When I was just starting out in trucking, I hadn’t really been anywhere before. Well I had made a few trips to Atlanta and one memorable vacation journey to Florida, but really that was it. I had never visited the northeast and hadn’t been west of Kansas City as far as I could remember.

As you can imagine, when Michele, my trainer, was driving, I would sit in the passenger seat of the truck for miles and stare at everything like a slack-jawed yokel. I remember several times when Michele would point to something particularly beautiful or awesome and say something like, “That’s why I drive a truck. I wouldn’t have been here to see this moment if I didn’t.” She had been driving for three years at that point, so I thought it was especially cool that the sights of our country still moved her even though she had to have seen the same view many times before.

I hoped I would be the same way and not slide into taking all the beauty of the road for granted just because I’d seen it so many times. I’m happy to say for the most part I’ve kept my innocence on that front. Sights still move me. Sunsets over the Nevada wastelands still make me smile. Babbling brooks running along the highway still demand my attention. And mountains still make me think of Michele. What a good person and a good driver she was, and how lucky I was to have met her when I needed her.

So Michele, this post’s for you:

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

Again, Mount Shasta

Again, Mount Shasta

Raining and pouring or something

2009 June 4
Comments Off
by Hedon

Well we got home twenty minutes before Stace’s doctor’s appointment. Thanks, TWMNBN, great job. So while Stace was at the doctor’s I sat down to write a new installment of: “TWMNBN, Oh my lord how I hate them” but when I plugged in the phone cord there was no dial tone. So sometime in the past three weeks we lost phone service at the house. And our broadband card doesn’t work at home so we have NO INTERNET at all at home! Sigh.

Hope to get it fixed tomorrow, but you never can tell. Right now we are at Stace’s mom’s house having just finished a spectacular meal that she made for us. I mean it was seriously amazing. And utterly healthy. If we could eat her cooking every night, this whole healthy eating thing would be a breeze. It’s clear where Stace gets her mad skills in the kitchen.

Anyway, no internet at home. So if you don’t hear from us until the first of next week you’ll know why. But I will schedule a post I just wrote to publish tomorrow cause that’s just what kind of nice person I am. :)

Summertime

2009 June 3
by Hedon
Welcome to summer, Driver.

Welcome to summer, Driver.

Congress created a dust bowl?

2009 June 1
by Stace

Driving up and down I-5 in California the past few days, I have seen several of these signs along the road.

I know Congress is capable of really screwing things up but creating a dust bowl seems beyond even their powers. What’s up with this?

Great caption goes right here

Congress is extending their powers?

The Young One

2009 May 31
by Hedon

We got a call this week that has kinda thrown me for a loop. To understand where I’m coming from you would have to know some of the back-story so here you go:

I’m not sure if some of you even know this because we have only mentioned her a couple of times, but Stace and I have an all-grown-up daughter. We’ll call her The Young One. We have quite a checkered history with TheYoungOne. I suppose you could say that things haven’t always been very smooth between us… ok… they’ve been pretty rocky at times. Ok… really rocky.

At some point along the way, when she was a teen, TheYoungOne decided that the world should be handed to her on a silver platter. By anyone who was willing to hand it over apparently. I’m not exactly sure where she got this idea because Stace and I have always been of the opinion that it takes an awful lot of hard work to get anywhere in life. And that’s what we tried to teach her both in conversation and by example. It didn’t take. And it’s not like she had ever had a bunch of crap handed to her growing up. She had to earn most of the extras she got by doing extra chores and such around the house. She wasn’t deprived but she certainly wasn’t spoiled, either.

Despite being extremely intelligent, she didn’t graduate from High School because she couldn’t be bothered to go to classes. Then she walked in and aced the GED test with little effort. Later, because we were providing her housing and supporting her while she got on her feet, she couldn’t be bothered to hold down a job. She had no problem getting jobs, but then wouldn’t show up to work and would get fired. I think the longest she made it at a job was about six weeks. Since neither Stace nor I had ever been fired from a job, that string of firings was pretty shocking.

We supported her for quite a while trying to give her a real chance to get on her feet, but never saw any progress on that front. Finally we told her to get a job or we were going to quit paying for her house. She was homeless for a while and lived in a shelter. During that time she hooked up with a bunch of friends who were every bit the shiftless losers that she was acting like. I met several of them when I visited her at the shelter. None of them had jobs from what I could see. She also moved in with one of them… an older woman who lived off of disability payments from the State and had a flop-house style basement full of unwashed older teens who chipped in what money they could scrounge for food and beer and cable tv.

Always being huge fans of education, and not wanting to give up on her, we tried several times to get her into training programs of some sort but she wasn’t interested. We offered to pay all expenses including tuition, room and board if she would enroll in the local community college. She did. She flunked out the first semester because she didn’t go to class because “it was too boring” to keep her interested. That’s when we again set down the law and demanded if she intended for us to keep helping her with expenses she was going to have to get a job and pay part of her own way immediately.

She stalled and put us off with one excuse after another. Eventually we got tired of working our asses off out here and providing her with a home while we never got to see ours. She had a place to live provided by our work and she showed no inclination to get a job and start supporting herself. It felt like we were encouraging her behavior. So we finally gave her an ultimatum. Which she ignored. So we cut her off cold. Even as mad as I was at her by that point and as disgusted as I was with her choices… it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I couldn’t believe it was my kid. It was just too painful to see what she had become. Honestly, her behavior was so utterly opposed to everything I stood for and believed in that I didn’t want anything much to do with her. I pretty much cut her out of my life. I know this is quite the same thing that I had always decried when strictly religious parents would cut off their kid who came out to them because that kid no longer lived up to the parents’ values. Call me a hypocrite. It was heartbreaking to see such potential wasted.

Then came the day when she called to tell us that she was pregnant. Oh my lord. Now… I didn’t have any problem with the unmarried and pregnant angle, but I did urge her to have an abortion or consider adoption. I urged strongly. I simply could not see a universe in which it would be a good thing for an innocent baby to be born into that situation. What if TheYoungOne didn’t feel like she should have to feed the baby day after day after day? What if changing diapers became boring? How were they going to live? What would they eat anyway? How would she earn enough to keep the poor thing in clothes and shoes if she couldn’t hold down a job? Oh good god. No good could come of this.

But she had the baby and decided to keep it. That was almost two years ago. Contact was still pretty rare the first year. Frankly I didn’t want to get all attached to the GrandYoungOne if it were going to become necessary to remove her to another situation. Then a strange thing started happening. I realized over time that TheYoungOne was making a real go at being a good mother. Day in and day out. She really cared about that little girl and was doing her very best for her. Wow. Who would have thought? Was TheYoungOne finally growing up and thinking of someone other than herself? I think she was. It has been really nice to watch her change into a good mom.

Last fall TheYoungOne enrolled in a one year computer training course at a local community college. She said that she thought if she got that training she could get a much better job and be able to provide much better for her family. I applauded the idea, but to be honest, in the beginning I didn’t hold out too much hope that she would complete the course. Their lives were very hard. They have no money and no car and TheYoungOne rides the bus forever every day first to the daycare and then on to her school. Then she reverses the process to get home at night. Then she had to take care of the little one, feed and bathe her and spend some quality time together before putting her to bed and starting a pile of homework. We’re talking about five hours of sleep every night before getting up and starting it all over again.

To make matters worse, she hated one of her classes because it’s god-awful boring as she put it. Which has always been a death blow to whatever she was attempting in the past. With all these things arrayed against her, you can imagine why I might be thrown for a loop when I got the call this week, “Mom, I graduated and I made it on the Dean’s List.”

She stuck to something that has probably been the hardest thing she has ever tried to do for an entire year and saw it through to the completion. She told me several times in the past year that it seemed impossible to keep going on because of one difficulty or another. But she didn’t quit. She solved every problem that would have knocked her out of the program in the past and she kept right on going. Not only did she not quit, she worked hard and made really good grades. Made the Dean’s List. I’m blown away.

I heard something in her voice the other day on the phone that I hadn’t heard in so long. For perhaps the first time in years she’s really proud of herself. She deserves to be. I know I’m so proud of her. It is so nice to see her actually doing something good for herself.

She doesn’t know it yet but this week when we go home we are going down to visit her and taking her shopping for a new wardrobe. We were thinking that getting a new job in an office setting would require a lot of clothes that she doesn’t have and probably wouldn’t buy for herself because there’s always something she wants to buy for the baby. I was also thinking that I have a spare laptop that needs a minor repair to be in good shape. If I could get it fixed up, I think the two together should make a pretty good graduation present.

Stace was talking about, after TheYoungOne holds down a job for a few months and we get our own truck, maybe giving her our car and offering to pay the insurance for her for a while. It’s just an old beater, but it would certainly make her life much easier to not have to take the bus all the time. Can’t do it until we have bought our truck though because both our vehicles are 20 years old and do break down once in a while so we need something as a backup.

We’ll just wait and see what happens next. Maybe she’ll do so well in her new job market that she’ll buy herself a car before we are in a position to give her ours. Maybe not. Either way, I am just enjoying the moment. I sincerely hope that she is, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of enjoying things, check out TheLittleOne’s Easter egg hunt. She loved those fake eggs with the confetti inside. Looks like we may have another artist in the family, huh? And a reader, too. Excellent.

Stock blahrket

2009 May 30
by Stace

Stace and Hedon are bouncing their way across the country. Stace is driving and has hit a boring spot in her current audiobook. As is her habit when bored, she calls back to Hedon in the bunk.

Stace: Whatcha doin?

Hedon: Checking my stocks.

Stace thinks, “Bummer,” but says, because she wants to support her partner’s interests: Oh, how’s it going?

Hedon: I’m up pretty good today. QKB and ZDX are up over 10 percent. XQQ will probably hit its stop soon, though, and that’ll be too bad because I really hoped it would go higher.

Stace: Yeah, too bad.

Hedon: I’ve got a couple others on my watch list, though, that look like they’re getting ready to throw a buy signal. If they do, and I get stopped out of XQQ, I’ll have a quick place to park the money.

Stace: Awesome.

Hedon: The great thing about this system is you can watch your watch list of stocks and you can see a buy signal coming, because what I usually use is the pullback.

Stace: Umm hmm.

Hedon: And the pullback works like when a stock has been rising pretty solidly but then it moves back to between its 20 day moving average and its 50 day moving blah blah blah.

Stace begins thinking her book wasn’t all that boring, not really.

Stace: Hmmm.

Hedon: You just blah blah buy candle, like you know a doji or a blah blah blah blah. When it sends the buy candle if the STO has dropped blah blah blah — buy it.

Stace tries to focus on the road, but the center line is wavering as her eyes begin to glaze over.

Stace: Yeah.

Hedon: To decide how many shares to buy, I take the average true range, blah blah blah absolute expression blah blah blah blah volatility of blah blah blah blah. Once I have blah blah blah blah multiply blah blah blah divide blah blah blah risk exposure by blah blah blah blah blah blah shares I should buy of each stock.

Stace whacks herself on her cheeks a few times, trying to regain consciousness.

Hedon: The blah blah blah blah MACD blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah support lines blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah resistance blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah engulfing blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah high beta.

Stace shakes herself vigorously, then steers the truck off the shoulder where she had wandered and figures it’s time to do something, anything, to solve this dangerous problem.

Stace: Oh no. I think there’s something going on with my ears. I’m having a hard time hearing you.

Hedon: What?

Stace: My ears. I can hardly hear you. It’s probably just the altitude. You know, that wind tunnel feeling you can get. Give me a minute or so to see if I can pop my ears.

Hedon: Okay. Sure.

A few minutes later, Stace resumes listening to her audiobook, grateful for the ADD that makes Hedon totally forget she was waiting to continue her conversation. Stace congratulates herself on once again, dutifully supporting her partner’s interests.

Banker to the Poor

2009 May 28

In my continuing efforts to read more non-fiction, I recently finished the unabridged audiobook of “Banker to the Poor,” by Mohammad Yunus.

Mohammad Yunus is the founder of the Grameen Bank, which began in Bangladesh back in the 1970s. It is now a massive, self-sustained banking institution, serving millions of poor people in Bangladesh and has served as the model for hundreds of other similar programs in other countries. Recently, Grameen Bank opened Grameen USA, in Queens in New York City.

In a nutshell, Yunus describes the evolution of Grameen Bank, and the principles behind his belief that access to credit is a basic human right which no one should be denied. Grameen Bank offers micro-loans (very small, but life changing amounts of money) to the poorest of the poor, requiring no collateral or legal agreements regarding repayment. Since the 90s, Grameen Bank has been self supporting, needing no outside donations to continue to survive and grow. Their repayment rate is greater than 95 percent.

The stories of the impoverished people and the way these tiny loans changed their lives from bleakness to hope are inspiring. Some 97-98 percent of Grameen Bank borrowers are women, married, widowed, single, whatever. They found in the early years that by focusing on women, they were better able to improve conditions of the family as a whole. Men tended, once they had more money, to spend it on themselves. Women, on the other hand, spent new income on the whole family. Also, women are the most helpless, discriminated-against, destitute members of this largely Muslim country.

He had a story of one woman, Amina, whose husband had become ill. Trying to pay for his medical care had left the family destitute. Four of her six children had died of hunger or disease. After her husband died, all that remained to her was her house. She was considered old at 40, in a country where men outlive women. She was illiterate and had never had a job. Her inlaws tried to kick her out of her house after her husband’s death, but she wouldn’t leave.

One day she came home and found that her brother-in-law had sold her tin roof. She had no money to buy a new roof, so when the rainy season started, she and her daughters had no shelter from the rain, and the downpours began to destroy the mud walls. They were cold, wet and always hungry.

Amina turned to begging in nearby towns and one day, when she returned home, she saw that her home had collapsed. She found her eldest daughter buried under the rubble, dead.

When Grameen Bank came to her village, Amina was in total despair. With Grameen’s help, she borrowed enough money to buy bamboo so she could weave baskets to sell, earning a living so she could feed and house herself and her lone surviving daughter. She remained a Grameen borrower the rest of her life, and her daughter is one today.

This was just one story. I found these stories of the women’s struggles, successes and failures to be the most compelling parts of the book, and wished for more.

The author, Mohammad Yunus, is an amazing man who works tirelessly for the benefit of the poor. In 2006, he and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Well-deserved, I say.

The bank has its critics, but in general, the criticisms can be dismissed. The most persuasive aspect of micro-credit, to me, is that it empowers those with the will to change their lives, and very often revives a will that hopelessness had seemingly destroyed. In addition, with Grameen’s insistence on all the children of Grameen borrowers going to school, they lay the foundation for increasing dividends as the years pass.

We have some micro-credit programs in the U.S.A., and President Obama recently created a $100 million microfinance growth fund for small lenders in the Western Hemisphere. Critics say these programs can’t work in “rich” nations, but it’s good to see that some people are trying it nonetheless.

I haven’t done “Banker to the Poor” even partial justice here, so if you get the chance, check it out. It can change the way you think about the poorest of the poor.

Grameen Bank web site — http://www.grameen-info.org/

Man! I love LA!

2009 May 28
Why you should never buy your toupee from the bargin bin

Why you should never buy your toupee from the bargin bin

Hard hat chic

2009 May 27
Comments Off
by Hedon

Overheard in the truck in Miami, Arizona.  Conditions can best be described as “surface of the sun” at the copper mine where Hedon and Stace are getting loaded. Hedon stomped out of the truck a while back completely disgruntled because not only was she required to watch a fifteen minute safety video at the shipping office, she was also required to put on long pants and brace the coils of copper with pieces of wood as they were loaded into the trailer. Hedon finally returned to the truck.

Hedon:  You know, I don’t care what size I am – I totally rock the borrowed-hard-hat-and-safety-glasses look.

Stace (laughing):  You certainly do. Was it horrible in there?

Hedon:  Man! It was gross in there. Tons of machines everywhere and I had to walk on lots of metal catwalks to get to the dock area. Then there was this giant… I mean huge… machine wrapping the copper into coils on the pallets right by me. I mean it wasn’t twenty-five feet away. You wouldn’t believe how fast that thing was spinning.

Stace:  So it was pretty cool, huh?

Hedon:  Yeah, it was pretty cool. And when the big machine was done with a pallet, the pallet would kinda drop down and the guys just had a short time to get the next empty pallet into place. But the machine never stopped whirling so when they got the new pallet in place a big-sized coil dropped down all at once.

Stace:  But what about bracing the trailer? Was it awful? Was it 200 degrees in the trailer? Did you have to use a lot of wood?

Hedon:  I got to use a nail gun.

Stace:  So basically you had lots of fun in there while I was worrying about how mad you were going to be when you finally got back to the truck?

Hedon:  Oh, I’m still disgruntled. It’s still god-awful hot out there.

Stace:  Yes, but you got to wear a hard hat, see lots of cool machines running, and use a nail gun. Oh my god… you just spent an hour in 200 degree heat in the back of the trailer and you’re not even mad are you?

Hedon:  Yes I am. I’m really pissed off.

Stace:  You are not! That’s it. I’m buying you a hard hat for the house but you can only wear it when you’re doing dishes.

Hedon:  See if you can find a purple one, ok?

What a day!

2009 May 26
by Hedon

What a day Memorial Day was for this Hag! Oh sure there’s all the someday dying and such, but I can typically block all that out and yesterday was no exception. Seems like everything was going in my favor. First we blew in to the receiver about 01:00 local time with our Philly to Fontana load and got to drop it right away. Then we found a new hideout which is always nice.

New no name Hidey-hole

New no name Hidey-hole

We have hidey-holes all over the LA area. TWMNBN does have a terminal in the area, but they are such jerks to you once you go into a terminal that we literally never go to a company terminal unless we are running low on log books or trip packs or something. So when we deliver loads in LA we make careful note of places we could hang out at in the future. There’s “Hooker Alley” in the southwest, “Speak Easy” which is more centrally located, “Parade of Flatbeds” in the east and now “New Hidey-Hole Without a Name” which is in Fontana to name a few of them. They really come in handy if you have to wait a few hours or over night before you can deliver your load.

Anyway, this new one was really pretty and fairly quiet. We were able to shut down and get a great night’s sleep without being hassled by the man or having tons of trucks roaring by all night. It was even fairly nice weather. Still too hot to turn the truck off to sleep, but at least the A/C could keep up with the heat and in LA that isn’t always the case.

Sigh.

Sigh.

Then Monday morning we got out of the truck for a while and goofed around there on the street. It was a dead end with almost no traffic so Maggie got to run around a lot. Naturally it wasn’t five minutes before Maggie’s nose led her right to one of the main reasons that nobody wants truckers around anymore. You know, I really don’t understand in what universe it’s ok to pee in a bottle and then fling that bottle out the window.

I mean I understand that you may have to go in the bottle, but why can’t you put the bottle in a trash bag and dispose of it at the next truck stop you come to? Or something. I mean good god and I think I’m lazy… how lazy or just plain nasty do you have to be to run around flinging bottles of your pee out your truck windows?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Healthy as the day is long

Healthy as the day is long

Avoiding that particular spot, we walked around for a while then it was time for lunch. Not just any lunch, either. This was one of the new Hags’ Healthy Habits lunches — which I photographed so I could prove to friends and relatives that it wasn’t just some weird fantasy or something.

Stace and I have probably eaten more salads in the past two weeks than we have eaten in the previous ten years added together. The strange thing is that we have each caught the other one making “Mmmm” sounds over these salads a couple of times. Stace is even eating cucumber slices for the first time in her adult life. And, good god, I’m drinking water… plain water… several times a day. Once I even got a Diet Coke out of the cooler, took a drink and put it back in the cooler and got out a water! Hell is probably frozen solid right about now. Seriously.

Anyway, after a lovely salad lunch, it was time to go pick up our load headed to Mesa, AZ. Our directions were good and we drove right to the shipper. Then the shipper got us in right away and it was a pre-loaded trailer so we headed out right away. It wasn’t even a heavy load and all the trailer lights worked. Sweet!

When we actually headed east on CA-60, I realized it was the tail-end of the holiday weekend and thought traffic was likely to be quite bad. And it was once we got on I-10… for the west-bound side. They had what was probably the biggest back-up I have ever seen in my life. I clocked it at 47 miles but I didn’t get to see the beginning because it was west of where we came onto I-10. For all I know, it was a 100 mile back-up all the way to LA in the west-bound lanes.

But my east-bound lanes were brand-spanking fancy-pants wide open! Wooo Hooo!! What a day!

Poor SOBs heading west to LA

Poor SOBs heading west to LA

Memorial Day, say Og and Ug

2009 May 25

Well, it’s time for another holiday post. We didn’t actually know it was a holiday weekend until we picked up our load in Philadelphia on Friday and the guard there wished us a happy holiday. Figured out from there that it must be Memorial Day weekend.

I don’t know much about Memorial Day. I could look up some info, but as is typical, that seems like way too much effort. Besides, Memorial Day and its accompanying weekend are clearly all about heading to a river/lake/ocean of choice, riding around on some floatable device/craft, while consuming large quantities of alcoholic beverages.

My maternal grandmother, as I recollect, believed Memorial Day was about honoring the dead. She would buy flowering plants (complaining all the while about the outrageous prices the florist was charging), take them to the graves of her dearly departed (complaining that the cemetery staff had done a lousy job of mowing and weeding), stand for a few moments regarding the various monuments and gravestones (I don’t even want to know what she was thinking during those moments), then head back home pleased with having done her duty. You might think she would have had more fun had she taken the drunken float trip option on Memorial Day, but you would be mistaken.

I once knew a lady who, with her sister, had a large number of deceased relatives which the sisters felt the need to honor during Memorial Day weekend. Every year they would order a number of small, hand-held flower arrangements, a number which only grew as time passed. Eventually, they had so many graves to visit in so many different cemeteries that they developed a new system of honoring the dead. They simply drove through the cemetery, got the car as close as possible to the loved one’s grave, flung a bundle of flowers out of the window in the general direction of the grave, then pealed off to the next site. I have long suspected there may have been a bit of Memorial Day alcoholic spirits involved in their method, but I have no actual proof.

I am not at home to honor my dead, nor can I head to a nearby body of water and drink myself silly. Therefore, I propose some Memorial Day honors of a different sort.

I think we should spend some time thinking about the first people to discover the absoluteness of death, their own inevitable mortality. I can see it now …

* * * * * * * * * *

Two hairy, hunched humanoids sit together, next to a river winding its way through the African savannah. They munch a couple of freshly snagged, raw fish. A bit of dinner conversation begins.

Og: Mmmm, good fish.

Ug: I’d say so. Nothing like fresh fish.

Og: It’d be better if it were lightly grilled.

Ug: Perhaps, but there hasn’t been a fire around here in forever, not since that big lightening storm.

Og: There’s never a good fire when you need it.

Ug: We should do something about that. Maybe we could make lightning.

Og: Sure, and while we’re at it, we could make a long pole that will cause all the fish in the river to leap into our hands whenever we want.

Ug: You know, sarcasm isn’t a good look on you.

Because Og cannot think of an appropriate comeback, they eat in silence for a few minutes. A strange look passes over Ug’s hairy face.

Ug: This fish we’re eating … it’s dead.

Og finds no reason to comment to such an obvious statement. He spits out a fish bone, instead.

Ug: You ever notice how lots of things die?

A bit concerned about the inanity of the conversation, Og wonders if Ug has gotten hold of a bad fish. He simply grunts a reply and gives Ug’s fish a long, suspicious look.

Ug: Do some things not die? I mean, does everything die, eventually?

Completely put out with Ug’s denseness, Og snorts.

Og: Of course everything dies, eventually. Nothing’s forever, blah blah blah.

Ug ponders this statement for a moment, then his protruding jaw drops.

Ug: Hey, Og. If everything dies, does that mean we’re going to die, too?

Og begins to speak, then suddenly stops, looks confused, then horrified. His fish drops from his hairy hands to the ground at his hairy feet.

Og: Oh no … ohhhhh … we’re going to die.

Ug: I know. That’s exactly what I was just thinking.  How did I not see this before? How could I have been so blind? Think of all the time I’ve wasted doing stupid things like chasing rhinos and grooming nits off your back. I should have been finding a mate and having babies …

Og lowers his brow ridges, giving Ug a menacing look.

Og: I don’t want to think about this death stuff. I’m happier not knowing. We need to forget we ever had this conversation.

Ug: I don’t see how that’s possible. Knowing about death has changed everything. Just everything … we can’t forget now.

Og stews for a few moments, then finally sighs and picks up his fallen fish, brushing off the dust and grass. After a thoughtful bite, he looks up at Ug.

Og: You know what, Ug?

Ug: What?

Og: You’re a real son of a bitch.

* * * * * * * * * *

And thus, paradise was truly lost. And in some way which I have no desire to explain, Memorial Day was born.

So here’s to you, Og and Ug, long since dead and decomposed — thanks for Memorial Day. Though, really, it would have been better if you had just kept your mouths shut.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Hope you had a great weekend.

Piper-paying

2009 May 23

I have been thinking about all this piper-paying to be done in the near future. Mostly as it concerns exercise. Exercise and I have a long and checkered past. I have always been quite large, but when I was a young kid I was extremely active. I would ride my bike for hours every day all summer. I loved the wind in my face. Which would explain why when I got my motorcycle at 15 I was even more in love. Much faster therefore much more wind in the face, but that’s a different story.

Anyway, back to the dreaded exercise. Although I had always been very active, I continued to grow larger. By the time I hit High School I weighed about 200 pounds. Freshman gym class was a nightmare for me and frankly I refused to dress-out so many times that I ended up damn near failing that class. Ugh. Just managed to squeak by with a D- but that was good enough so I moved on with my life.

Our sophomore year, we could choose from several different semester-long PE options. They included things like gymnastics, running, weightlifting, basketball, etc. The first semester the only thing that looked appealing to me was weightlifting. It’s not exactly like I thought it might be fun. To be honest I chose it in part because it seemed less horrifying than any of the other options. The only problem is that a female had never before taken the weightlifting class and the powers that be were none too sure that it was a good idea.

I’m sure that due to the school district’s very clear memory of my mom’s campaign a few years before to open up eighth grade shop class to any female that wanted to take it… the principal decided I could take weightlifting. I bet they didn’t want to have to tangle with Mom again about the state of the country, women’s rights, and how important shop weightlifting could be to a woman’s self-image, etc. :)

Whatever made them change their minds, I was enrolled in weightlifting. I can’t really say I looked forward to it, but I was at least approaching it with an open mind. Needless to say the guys in the class weren’t exactly thrilled to see me walk down the stairs into the weight room, and in the beginning I was pretty much shunned during class. Not that I gave a damn. I was discovering to my wonder that I actually liked lifting. It was really hard, of course, but there was something about the whole just-you-and-the-machine-and-can-you-beat-last-Friday’s-best-weight aspect of it that I found kinda thrilling.

After a while, the other guys loosened up and we all started working together. I worked really hard and made great strides. By Christmas I was out lifting several of them. I was eagerly looking forward to the spring semester. Then disaster struck. I found out that I couldn’t take weightlifting two semesters in a row. Why they had let me sign up for it both semesters I still don’t know. But the school insisted that I had to take an aerobic-type PE class in the spring. And they wouldn’t budge. By that time the only class with spots available was gymnastics.

Now I ask you… gymnastics? I mean I still weighed over 200 pounds. There’s a reason those little USA gymnasts are like 82 pounds. That’s because if someone the size I was tried to do some sort of backwards-flipping-tumbling-handstandy thing their arms would just snap off when they landed in the final position a la SpongeBob. Not a pretty thought. To be honest the whole idea terrified me. I could just see myself attempting a somersault thing and breaking my neck as my giant body crashed down wrong somehow in the middle of it.

Mom went to bat for me again. She didn’t try to fight the no-weightlifting decision because that was their rule and they obviously weren’t going to budge. But she did insist that there must be some sort of aerobic-exercise-based compromise we could reach. Compromise they did. I spent that whole semester running and walking (overwhelmingly walking) for an hour every day around the outside of the gym while all the little thin people did gymnastics. Man, I hated that.

Much as I hated run-walking in gym class, I still enjoyed going to the weight room after school and was still making progress. Then I got an almost full-time job after school and just didn’t have time to go anymore. So between giving up weightlifting and hating being the lone loser walking (and running occasionally for a few steps) around the gym once a day that was pretty much the end of exercising for me.

Until college. Imagine my surprise when I went back to school after the young one was born and found out I had to take two PE credits to get my degree. By this time I was much closer to the 300 pound end of the spectrum than the 200 pound end. Sigh. What the hell was I going to do? I took bowling, of course.  Anyone can bowl… including me. Turned out that I wasn’t a very good bowler but I pulled a respectable “B” out of the class and moved on with my life.

Then I only needed one more credit. Hmmm. What to do. What to do. I ended up choosing “Folk and Square Dancing” because honestly I guess I had taken leave of my senses. Not only was I close to 300 pounds, I was also virtually incapable of “feeling the beat” as they say. Went to the first couple of classes and tried really hard. It was painful. Painful to do and I found out later painful to watch. As the deadline for no-penalty dropping of classes drew near we were trying to learn the Hora. One day the instructor called me into her office. I remember she had some sort of Eastern European accent. She sat me down in a chair and started, “You try so hard. You work very hard but you can not do the dance. You will not pass in this class. Your dance makes all Jews’ hearts bleed with the tears. You must drop this class.” Well. What the hell was there to do? I mean honestly… I didn’t want to be responsible for making all Jews everywhere have their hearts bleeding with tears over how badly I danced the Hora. I dropped the class.

But I still needed a PE credit. I decided on golf. How hard could golf be anyway? It was a summer class and I showed up every day out at the local golf course. Things were progressing right along and, while I certainly wasn’t any good, I didn’t think I was making Nancy Lopez’s heart bleed or anything. I really liked the instructor and found out a few weeks in that he really liked me, too.

One day he said, “Hey, ‘Smith’ I look forward to waking up every morning because of you.”

Somewhat shocked, I said, “Oh really? Why?”

He literally slapped his knee and said, “Well you may not actually be the worst golfer I’ve ever taught in 18 years of teaching, but you’re certainly the most entertainingly bad golfer I’ve ever taught. I laugh about you all night long. Then I look forward to seeing what you’ll do the next day.”

Ever one to capitalize on a situation, I smiled and said, “All that entertainment value alone should be worth giving me at least a “B” don’t you think?”

He just laughed and walked off. I guess Nancy Lopez was sitting alone somewhere with her heart bleeding the tears because someone with no love of the game had handed me a 3 wood. Too bad, Nancy, cause I ended up pulling a “C” out of that class and that was more than good enough for me. All PE credits fulfilled. Oddly enough I also ended up liking golf. I never got any good at it or anything but it was fun. Stace and I bought clubs and used to go play, but eventually life got in the way and we lost interest.

That was pretty much it on the exercise front. And that was like 16 years ago. Now I’m 380 pounds and looking at needing one more PE credit. What to do. What to do. I walk with the dog of course, but not for very long and not very fast. For the foreseeable future I think the prudent thing to do is just work on walking more and faster without keeling over of a heart attack. But eventually I feel like I will have to come up with a sport that I like. I will need something to focus on in order to make it interesting enough to keep after it. I was thinking maybe after we have our own truck and trailer I would have Stace’s step-dad build me a bike. By that time some of the weight should be gone so I could ride again. I used to love riding my bike back in the day, and besides I bet Lance Armstrong hasn’t ever had anyone make his heart “bleed the tears” like I apparently will when I set foot to pedal. It would probably be good for him. It would certainly be good for me.

No idle paws in this truck

2009 May 20
by Hedon
Ms Maggie acting like she doesn't know the camera is there.

Ms Maggie, who thinks it's not really posing if she acts like she doesn't know the camera is there.

While Stace and I may be kinda lukewarm on the exercising part of the new world order, one Highway Hag is thrilled at this exciting new turn of events. Ms Mags is loving getting out of the truck at all kinds of weird hours and just walking around with no apparent purpose in mind while the big ones make hysterical gasping noises and keep cracking her up.

It’s not like she wasn’t already getting to get out of the truck. I can’t remember if I told you all or not, but a few months ago I taught Maggie how to do the DOT-required pretrip inspection on the truck in order to save some time in the mornings. I figured if she could get the hang of it then she could inspect the trailer while I do my log book and we would be ready to roll in half the time.

It was a little rough at first and I wasn’t sure she was going to get it. She seemed to especially have problems with inspecting the inside of the trailer and picking up any trash left by the last receiver. She kept acting like she couldn’t get the trailer doors open for some reason. But eventually she got much better and finally she was doing such a good job that I decided to expand her responsibilities. First, I added checking out the shipper’s facility to her routine and she did a great job of letting me know about potential problems I might face when backing into the dock. Then I thought  –  since she was already out there and all  –  I might as well let her check in with the shipper, too. That’s going great. The wagging tail seems to put most shippers in a good mood so they don’t even mind much that she drooled all over the pad with the pick-up number written down on it.

Right now we’re working on fueling up the truck. She seems to be having some trouble pushing the numbers on the card reader, though. Oh well, we’ll keep working on it. If you would like to see the new pictures recording the life of one hard-working dog, I’ve posted a new gallery over on the Maggie Pics page.

Liars and damned liars

2009 May 19

I once sat at the counter of a Flying J restaurant and listened to an old gas bag convince a newbie driver that he had made the trip from Atlanta to Boston in ten and a half hours. Sounds pretty good I guess until you figure out that he had to average 107.428 mph over the whole trip. Now I’m not saying he couldn’t have averaged over 107 mph… wait… yes I am. Liar.

Another time I listened to the CB while an old boy told a newbie, who was nervous about his first time driving on snow and ice, that what he needed to do was simple. The old guy insisted that the thing to do on ice was to get up to about 50 mph or so. He told the kid, “the faster the better because the faster you drive the hotter your tires get and that will melt the ice.” I mean honestly.

Yet another time an old boy tried to convince me that he was making a killing leased on to Swift for 82 cents per mile. I said I didn’t see how he could be making much more than a company driver if he was only grossing 82 cents per mile. But he insisted that he was raking it in hand over fist. So I asked him how much it cost him per mile to run his truck. He had no idea.  Sigh. He was probably bleeding cash every week but wouldn’t even realize it until he was virtually out of business because he couldn’t afford to buy new drive tires. Trucking requires investment.

My point is that trucking is chocked full of liars. When you combine the honest-but-clueless with the out and out liars, there’s very little chance of finding any information about the state of the industry that you can count on. The newspapers tell us the economy is at the beginnings of a 1930s style depression. Our company tells us freight levels are horrible so they are regretfully going to have to cut driver benefits. Then the next week our company tells us that freight has picked up and we are going to have to start running more miles and quit staying home extra days. Who knows what’s actually going on?

I walked into owning a business once with too little information and no game plan. I’ll be damned if I’d ever do that again. But we need to buy our own truck. Now more than ever. We have always planned to buy one someday mostly because I don’t work well for others. It’s not that I’m a bad employee. I mean I always do a good job for my employers, but I can’t stand working for idiots.  I. Just. Can’t. Stand. It. I’m far from perfect and lord knows I make my mistakes. And I’m always willing to pay the consequences of those mistakes, but I get really damned tired of paying for some dispatcher’s mistake when it’s the third time that week that he’s made that same mistake. Also, frankly, I’m pretty damned smart and feel confident that I could handle my business way better than some punk in Georgia that I’ve never even met and who could care less about me and my needs. Those are a couple of the general reasons I have always wanted to buy our own truck.

But now we have a more pressing reason to buy. It’s quite simple… you can’t control your habits, your routines, or your health if you’re not in control of your loads. Plain and simple. If we run two long back to back FedEx loads that are timed-transit, there may be no time in three or four days of non-stop running to shut down and get decent meals. There’s no time to shut down and exercise… not to mention the hours required to recover from said exercising. There’s no chance for a decent night’s sleep. We have to start controlling our lives if we want to control our health. That’s why we’re going with a self-dispatching company when we buy.

But before we could buy our own truck we needed accurate information on freight levels and freight rates. Have rates tanked? Is there still freight available out there? We needed a real solid idea of the expenses involved in running your own truck. We needed some idea of the length of the learning curve within a self-dispatch system since there has never been any debate that when we bought our own truck we would be going to Landstar. Basically, we needed a ton of nitty-gritty  –  and fairly personal  –  information from someone intelligent, honest and successful so that we could begin to formulate our own plan of attack. Oh hell… I ask you… what’s a driver to do?

Call Salena and Eddie, of course. We talked to them during the debacle of trying to get home so Stace could see the doctor and honestly they couldn’t have been more helpful. They came across with tons of really important information and guided us to more info on the web that they thought would be helpful. They pointed out a few things that I hadn’t thought of that are now included in our start-up plans. Basically, thanks to them we both feel much more relieved about the whole situation and confident that our plans are shaping up to be solid. So… thanks Salena and Eddie… we owe you one.

What we are going to do is buy a Freightliner Columbia with around 400,000 to 500,000 miles or so on it. We can pick up a Plain Jane truck (that hopefully won’t be Mary Kay Pink) in that mileage neighborhood and in good shape for around $29,000 to $34,000. So we are looking at a minimum down payment of only about $7,000 which we can do easily. We haven’t decided yet but will probably put quite a bit more down in order to get the monthly payments as low as possible. It’s a balancing act between getting your truck payments as low as possible and reserving plenty of cash so that you have operating funds if a problem crops up. This is trucking after all so problems will crop up. We aren’t going to buy a trailer right now, so we will just use Landstar’s trailers. You make a little less per load if you use their trailer, but that’s ok.

We will have to get health insurance for ourselves now, but thought we would check into the insurance plan that OOIDA members have available to them. We are already paying close to $50 per week each cause we’re smokers. Obviously we will be joining OOIDA. We also need to file the incorporation papers so that we’re all nice and legal. Then there’s just the permits, licenses, truck insurances, and such to worry about. How exciting!

I am thinking of maybe a quit date at TWMNBN of the third week in October if we can last that long. That would give us plenty of time to get Stace’s blood sugar firmly under control, get incorporated, get all the insurances set up, and buy the truck and get it road-ready. Also, that will be at the tail-end of high fuel prices season so we will have had a chance to see how high they are planning to let fuel get in this economy.

Quitting the third week of October also insures that TWMNBN won’t be able to screw us out of the penny per mile “safety bonus” that they are now holding out of every one’s checks. Out of the blue a few weeks ago they decided to enact a “safety bonus” program. They keep a penny per mile of your paycheck and only pay it to you on the third week after the end of each quarter — if you had no preventable accidents during the quarter. Now you might ask, “Hey Hedon, how is it a bonus program if they are just giving you back the money you’ve already earned?” I would have to respond that you are awfully clever, my young friend. How is that a bonus program? What it sounds like to us is a way to hold back a ton of cash from around 12,000 drivers and draw interest on it for an entire quarter before finally paying it out to the driver who earned it months ago. As a bonus for the company, any driver who has even a minor wreck or quits before the end of the quarter can kiss that money goodbye. With 200% turnover every year, you just know they are counting on a lot of drivers quiting and leaving that bonus check sitting on the table so they can just keep the cash. Screw that. It’s not that I desperately want my $500 it’s more that I don’t want them to have the satisfaction of keeping it.

But we probably won’t make it that long at TWMNBN without heads exploding. I guess we’ll have to see how it goes. I have to say that I couldn’t be happier with the whole process now that it’s finally starting. We have been talking about buying our own truck for so long that we could have already run one into the ground if we had bought it back when we first decided to do so. Oh well… as the trucking mantra goes… better late than never.

Think again

2009 May 18
by Stace

The whole episode with TWMNBN last week made me realize that I owe some drivers out here an apology. And I realized, I had a bit of naivete left in this old bod. Shocking.

I’ve often heard stories from drivers complaining about how their companies treated them in times of need and/or crisis. These stories ranged from things like not being allowed to go home for emergencies, all the way to being fired because the driver got sick.

I felt badly for these drivers, but at the same time, I thought that some of them were likely exaggerating or, that they were treated badly because they were the types of people who always have some emergency or another in their lives. You know the type. Everything is the end of the world. Their lives are filled with overblown conflict and drama. After a while, I could see how a dispatcher might take what they say with a grain of salt.

Also, I thought maybe some of them weren’t accommodated because they weren’t good employees. Maybe they didn’t regularly deliver on time and used sickness as a common excuse. Or maybe they complained about everything, constantly haranguing their dispatcher about perceived problems, etc. If I were the dispatcher of someone like that, I wouldn’t be too likely to fight for them against the higher ups.

I actually believed that being a good employee meant you would be given some consideration in times of emergency or trouble. TWMNBN has showed me this is not true. Go figure. Sorry assholes.

I learned long ago that being a good employee doesn’t make you indispensable, and that if you are too good at your job, bosses will likely take advantage of you. Now I find out doing a fine job doesn’t even necessarily get you a modicum of human respect and decency. At least not at TWMNBN.

Here’s what’s sad — I actually let that little pissant Uriah hurt my feelings. Honestly. My feelings were hurt because he didn’t give a shit about me. He’s the only person at TWMNBN who knows me as more than a number, the only person there who could have cared enough to go to bat for me. But he didn’t. And he hurt my feelings. God, I can be a dumbass.

Live and learn. Don’t assume that because you were given respect and consideration at former workplaces, that you will get it at a different one. Understood. Lesson learned. I apologize to you drivers out there, wherever you might be, for assuming you rather got what you deserved. I’m thinking you likely had every right to be as outraged as you were.

Maybe Ruth Ann was right in her comment suggesting that Uriah and many others are too afraid for their jobs to protect their drivers. I hope you’re right, Ruth Ann. I hope that little pissant can’t sleep at night out of worry that he might be laid off the next day. I hope he pores over his dwindling savings and agonizes over the hopelessness of his pitiful little crap future. Yeah, that thought makes me happy.

So I’m left wondering what exactly is the reward for doing a good job, anyway. Just to hold onto one’s job and not get fired? From what I see out here, all sorts of numbnuts and losers manage to keep their jobs, so being good at one’s work doesn’t seem to be necessary for continued employment. I don’t know. Doesn’t seem to be any reward at all, except for the personal satisfaction of knowing you did a good job. How 1950s. But I don’t have a June Cleaver to make my dinner, do my laundry and darn my socks, so I don’t see why the 50s should get any say in this at all.

Well, our days at TWMNBN are numbered. Very soon, we’re buying our own truck and will no longer be at the mercy of others, and the rewards of doing a good job will be obvious. I think I’ve had all I can take of working for others. It’s time for a risk. But more about that later.

The party’s over

2009 May 17

That’s right. The party’s over. The gig is up. Time to pay the piper. You reap what you sow. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Well, crap.

So I’ve got diabetes. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure that tons of people who know me are thinking, “Well, duh! You can’t go about eating like there’s no tomorrow and sitting on your fat ass 24 hours a day without repercussions. This shouldn’t be a surprise.”

And yet it is. And it has made me think, in ways I rather wish I hadn’t.

I know that what I’m about to say sounds bad, but bear with me. The truth is that I did believe, with every iota of my body, that I would someday have to pay the price for the choices I had made regarding diet and exercise. I thought that one day, I would keel over dead of a heart attack, with no one to blame for it but myself.

I even knew, and know, that at the moment of my death I would regret what I had done to myself. I knew, and know, that I would want to live. I knew, and know, that I would have done the greatest disservice possible to the people who love me, and that would be my greatest sin of all.

But it’s a funny thing, those thoughts. Knowing all of this, I still could not change.

I can’t help but take a deep swallow and fight back these damnable tears as I write a very hard truth … I am weak, and I cannot live for others, no matter how much I love them. And this is why I was able to go about my merry way, blithely eating and smoking myself to death.

This is a difficult weakness to accept because I have always dearly wanted to do right by the other people in my life. But there it is.

So. For better, but mostly worse, I have established that I could, and can accept sudden death as a result of my lifestyle choices. What I cannot accept is becoming an invalid, and a long, slow slide into death.

It would be one thing if I were in an accident and lost my legs or if I were paralyzed. This would be through no fault of my own, and perhaps I could find the strength to endure so much dependence upon others.

Losing my feet, my eyesight, my kidneys, because of diabetes, because I wouldn’t stop overeating … that’s entirely another matter. I could not bear knowing every moment that I was responsible. My stomach turns at the thought. There would be no end to my shame.

So I have to change the way I live. I have to find a way to defeat an enemy that I surrendered to about six years ago — food. My passionate addiction.

I will try my best. Hedon is on board the program, supporting me all the way and joining me in the fight to get healthy. She does not have to do this, but when I tell her so, she only looks at me like I’m crazy and says that there’s no other choice for her. Of course she has a choice. That she does not see this, says much about her character.

We have ordered the Nutra-System diabetic diet for me and the regular one for Hedon. The packages didn’t arrive before we had to leave, so we will have to wait until our next time home to begin the programs. In the meanwhile, we’ve made a number of preparatory changes.

I’ve already seen some great improvements in my blood sugar levels thanks to the meds and the early changes we’ve made, so I feel encouraged.

It’s important that I get this thing under control as soon as possible. My job depends on it. You cannot get a medical card with out-of-control diabetes. No medical card means no driving the big trucks. And we all know what no job means. My current medical card expires August 2.

I have a ton of fears. There’s a lot on the line. Mostly, I’m mentally focusing on changing the way I look at food. This is no short term diet I’m looking at here; this is the rest of my life. I wonder. Can I find a way to make myself love vegetables? Vegetables that aren’t swimming in fat? And can I learn to enjoy exercising? And, well, a legion of other things.

While it’s a scary time, it’s also oddly exciting. We plan many changes in the coming months, changes which can only better our lives. We’ll talk about those later, though. This post is long enough as it is.

I’m going to stay as positive as I can. You never know. Diabetes may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to us.

Another LTL post

2009 May 16
by Hedon

Once again it’s an LTL post cause I have stuff to say but not about any particular subject. I guess the first thing is that I decided to get rid of Driver’s Lounge at least for now. As it turns out it was a lot of fun to create and figure out how to set up but not fun at all to update. What with already having one job I don’t like and all, I decided to just take it down. No big deal.

Another thing is that I remembered that we have a Road Pics page that I haven’t updated in forever. Not that I haven’t been taking tons of photos, just that I usually post them here and forgot that I was supposed to be updating that page until Belledog reminded me. So there’s a new set of pictures over there on Road Pics taken at a shipper we were at yesterday in New Jersey. You might be able to guess before you even click the link that those pics aren’t going to look much like this pic of the receiver we delivered at in Arkansas before we went home. Except that they each have a bridge and they both have train tracks, they could be from different worlds.

View from the docks of our receiver in Arkansas

View from the docks of our receiver in Arkansas

Let’s see… oh you’ll be happy to know that Belledog is in the process of setting out on her trucking journey. There are already a couple of posts over on Road Test and I’m sure more will be coming soon. She is busy getting ready right now to head off to trucking school in a couple of weeks so lots of exciting experiences are heading her way in the near future. I’m sure all of you old pro drivers can remember how nervous you were when you started out, so I hope you will all pop over and visit her. Your insights and advice could make this transition period go as smoothly as possible for someone who really wants to become one of us and to become a credit to the craft. If nothing else remember that in a couple of months she could be the driver backing into a tight space next to you at the Flying J in the middle of the night and think how much better you’d feel then if she were as knowledgeable as possible. :)

On a different note, have been having a ball with the stock market. Was up a couple hundred dollars until the other day when I was forced to enact a new rule. If you were awake all day and then up all night driving an eleven hour shift… no more buying stocks the next morning until after you’ve slept. Seriously. Only lost a few bucks thanks to pretty tight stop-orders, but what a bonehead move, huh? On the other hand, I got bumped out of a couple of stocks I wanted to hold because my trailing stop orders were too tight and they got hit during a drawback. I’m going to have to keep working on where to set my stop orders for maximum protection but still loose enough to let winners run. On the bright side, I’m getting a lot better at reading the chart indicators which is nice. You’re all starting to nod off right now, aren’t you? I can feel it. Ok. Ok. We’ll just move on.

"I've been everywhere, man... breathed the mountain air, man..."

"I've been everywhere, man... breathed the mountain air, man..."

Well, we can’t just move on because I can’t think of anything else to say. And besides, how is it that no one but me finds the stock market interesting? I mean fortunes are made and lost… battles rage… traders pit their wits against each other in a zero sum game. What’s not to love?

Oh yeah, I took this wild photo in Jersey. I was trying to get a shot of the guy backing right by the nose of the truck because he was having to cut by us so close but the map reflected in the windshield. That is his tandem tire showing through the map on the right hand side. Seriously weird looking, huh?

Dead to me

2009 May 13

Well. When last we left our heroes, they were in the middle of a major brain-melting pile of boobery the likes of which they had rarely seen. Unfortunately at the time they were not at liberty to really post about the whole situation using the flaming geysers of invective the despicable sub-humans at TWMNBN so richly deserved. Now they can. Let’s join the action as it happened:

Saturday 05/02/09   Olive Branch, MS (aka Memphis)

08:00  ~~~  Stace and I woke up early to go take our CDL physicals. Taking special care to avoid caffeine, we strove mightily to keep Stace’s blood pressure at a reasonable level for the test.

09:15  ~~~  My physical was fine. Got my two year card. No problem. Stace’s blood pressure was fine. No mention of irritating sleep apnea tests. They found sugar in Stace’s urine. Follow up blood tests determined her blood sugar was very high. The doctor gave Stace a three month medical card but said her blood sugar was dangerously high and insisted that she needed to get home to her personal doctor ASAP for further testing and to begin treatment immediately. Welcome to the world of diabetes, Hags.

09:30  ~~~  Freaking out.

09:45  ~~~  On hold with TWMNBN to explain the situation and try to get moving toward home. At this point we were 320 miles from the house and could have been home in less than 6 hours.

10:10  ~~~  Still on hold.

10:11  ~~~  Still freaking out.

10:20  ~~~  Explained entire situation to weekend dispatcher aka Trained Monkey. Trained Monkey screwed everything up. Predictably. Trained Monkey told Safety Department that Stace had been denied a medical card and was suspended pending medical review. This meant TWMNBN now thought Stace was no longer qualified to drive a truck.

10:45  ~~~  At nearby truck-stop faxing entire three pages of Stace’s medical long form to Safety Department to prove Stace is legal to drive. Also on phone trying to clear up misunderstanding.

11:00  ~~~  Finally everything was straightened out and everyone understood that Stace was legal to drive but needed to get home absolutely as soon as possible to meet with her regular doctor. Everyone seemed to be on the same page so we settled in to wait for a load or repower to get us home.

12:30  ~~~  Freaking out again.

13:00 thru 22:00  ~~~  At regular intervals throughout the day we contacted dispatch politely to check on getting a load home and were told they were working on it. Debate the merits of contacting her family by phone, but finally decide to keep everything quiet until we get home and Stace has seen the doctor to have more information about the situation. Also it’s just not the kind of news you want your mom to hear on the telephone or to read from your blog. After long stressful day finally went to bed about ten pm.

Sunday 05/03/09   Still in Olive Branch, MS (still aka Memphis)

10:30  ~~~  Contact Trained Monkey to check on a load headed home. In the message I mentioned, “…as you know Stace needs to get home asap…” Trained Monkey responded, “Why? Why does Stace need to go home?”

10:32  ~~~  Called Trained Monkey. Sat on hold forever. When she finally answered the phone, I explained — in my most calm and reasonable voice — the entire situation again and stressed that we need a load home immediately so we can be at the doctor’s office first thing Monday morning. Trained Monkey made odd garbled sounds that — while not quite speech — seemed to indicate that she understood the situation.

11:08  ~~~  Slightly freaking out but trying to pretend I’m cool and not worried. Stared really hard at Stace when she wasn’t looking to see if she was having a blood sugar episode or something. Realized I didn’t know exactly what a blood sugar episode was… cursed Fernando soundly.

15:00  ~~~  Got a message that TWMNBN has no freight heading toward home, but if we’ll just run a load to Dallas they can get us something in Texas that will get us home. We were still somewhat freaking out about the whole situation and frankly didn’t want to go to Texas, but finally decided that if that’s what we needed to do to get home we would run the load.

18:20  ~~~  Stepped on Stace’s toes to check for feeling in her feet. No problems there. Whew!

Monday 05/04/09   Dallas, TX

08:00  ~~~  Delivered the empty soda cans to the Dr. Pepper facility and prepared to head toward home. They had set us up with a load running from Dallas almost to the house that picked up that evening and would have us home the next morning. We weren’t thrilled to be getting home on Tuesday, but were still doing a fairly good job of controlling various tempers.

17:00  ~~~  Got a message that they had taken our load home away from us and that we needed to run a load from Dallas to Louisiana that would deliver on Tuesday. Then we could pickup a load in Louisiana that would go to western Kansas and deliver late Wednesday and “they would work something out” on getting us home sometime soon.

17:02  ~~~  Brain began melting from the effort required to avoid calling TWMNBN and quitting. Or driving to Corporate Headquarters and unleashing a vengeance strike of massive dimensions on everyone involved in the whole situation.

17:12  ~~~  Finally got through to Uriah who has been our regular daytime dispatcher for over a year. Explained the whole situation again. Pointed out to him that in the entire time he has been our dispatcher we have never asked for anything special in the way of getting home. We have never complained when they got us home two or even three or four days late for our once a month home-time… which they did every single month. Now we were asking for his help because it was really important to get home asap due to a medical crisis. Also pointed out that we were already supposed to get home on Wednesday so it wasn’t like we were asking for a lot… just to get home one day early. Uriah said he would see what he could do.

17:15  ~~~  Got message from Uriah — who will henceforth be known as Sorry Fucker Prick Bastard or SFPB for short — that there was nothing he could do for us and we had to run the load to Louisiana. Due to the fact that we got the message apologizing that he couldn’t help us less than three minutes after he hung up I began to suspect perhaps the slimy little pissant hadn’t really put a lot of effort into his assistance attempt.

17:20  ~~~  Rage of mammoth proportions poured from every cell. Still able to think clearly while livid, Stace pointed out that we couldn’t just quit because for the first time in over two years we might actually need the insurance we’ve been paying $50 a week for at TWMNBN. Hatred seethed.

19:00  ~~~  Shocked to find that in spite of towering rage still had plenty of time and mind capacity left to totally freak out once again.

Tuesday 05/05/09   Louisiana somewhere

10:00  ~~~  Delivered whatever the hell we were carrying to whoever the hell and prepared to pick up our load going to distant Western Kansas which was routed through… wait for it… are you ready… Dallas. So once we picked it up and started rolling we would be right back where we were before we came to Louisiana — and not a mile closer to the house.

12:30  ~~~  Picked up load.

12:35  ~~~  Just driving and freaking out. Driving and freaking out. Oh… and seething… lots and lots of seething.

13:30  ~~~  Traded loads with another couple who had picked up a load at the same place we did the same morning. But while the load we picked up was heading to Kansas, their load was heading straight toward our house. Load was to deliver on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday 05/06/09   Headed home

09:00  ~~~  Delivered load and finally headed home. Thanks to small town life, Stace managed to set up an appointment for later that afternoon to see her doctor.

So Stace saw her doctor and is now on meds and doing better. She will post all about the whole thing soon. As for TWMNBN… well… they are dead to me. Seriously. As you know, we were already planning to buy our own truck in some hazy distant future. That future is upon us since I have already quit TWMNBN in spirit if not yet in fact. Their actions through the whole affair were despicable and they can rot in hell as far as I’m concerned. But more on that front at a later date.

Melting brain

2009 May 6
by Hedon

Do you remember in the original ”Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the Nazi dude’s face melted at the end? (If I’m spoiling the movie for you then honestly where the hell have you been all these years?) Anyway, that is a visual reference for what my brain is doing due to the force of how very much I hate TWMNBN right now. I despise them with a force that is hard to even describe. Actually it’s impossible to describe since I can’t blog about it yet. But I can’t think about anything else, so I got nothing for you. Sorry.

Oh wait, I can post the pictures of a shipper we were at recently. They made empty soda cans. It was an awesome warehouse — with virtual canyons of cans. Sorry the pictures aren’t better. It was in Mississippi and had just stopped raining. It was so hot the inside of the warehouse was steamy.

Can city

Can city

Wonder if anyone ever gets lost?

Wonder if anyone ever gets lost?

Large stack headed for our trailer

Large stack headed for our trailer

Over the line

2009 May 4
by Hedon

I understand that we are all in difficult financial times. And I understand that we should all cut back where we can. I applaud TWMNBN for knocking off the constant truck washing. I don’t blame them for no longer supplying our little trip notebooks. I guess in a general way I can even understand putting teams into Crapscadias. It all makes good business sense.

But this new plan where they replaced all our weekend dispatchers and load planners with trained monkeys wearing diapers may just be over the line. Or maybe I’m just not being open-minded enough. We’ll have to see how it all works out.

LTL post

2009 May 1
Look at all the pretty colors!

Look at all the pretty colors!

You know how in trucking when a shipper doesn’t have enough freight to fill a whole trailer they will often call a LTL trucking company for their shipment? Then the LTL company combines several different loads into one so that the driver ends up moving a full trailer? This post is going to be an LTL post — not enough blather on any one subject to make a post but if I combine several subjects we may just have ourselves a full load.

I’ve spent the past week happily pondering stock charts which is a great thing for me since I love stock charts. But it’s a really bad thing for Stace. Usually when she’s driving and calls “What are you doing?” back to the bunk it will produce something interesting that we can talk about for a while so she can take a break from her audiobook. Now I really love talking about stocks… unfortunately on the third stock-market-related sentence out of my mouth Stace’s eyes glaze over and by the sixth sentence she’s nodding off. This makes it a poor conversational subject while she’s driving. Or anytime really. Except when she’s having trouble getting to sleep. If she really can’t fall asleep she can always lean over and say, “Tell me again about ‘simple moving averages’ and ‘volume indicators’ or whatever.” Does the trick every time.

So today I was updating my new May stock watch-list and getting all involved with looking at the various charts when I suddenly realized it was kinda weirdly dark outside considering it was only 16:30. I looked up to see that I really should pay more attention to our surroundings. The storm was rolling in fast and furious:

Who knew?

Who knew?

Hell I can't think of a caption... it's clouds for christ's sake

Hell I can't think of a caption... it's clouds for christ's sake

Anyway, the storm finally blew over which is a good thing cause we need to get rolling down to our yard to drop this load. Stace and I have to take our CDL physicals tomorrow. Oh joy. We are at least going to get to take it where we wanted to even though they tried twice to get us to take loads that would have had us just rolling on instead. Stace’s medical card expires on the 6th so we are already up against the wire on this but if TWMNBN had had their way I guess we would finally be left alone long enough to get one done at 11:30 pm on the 5th. Jackasses. Idiots. No wait… no raising the blood pressure… long deep breaths… ok… feeling good again.

That actually is a slight concern as Stace’s last physical her blood pressure was slightly high. Actually, it was right on the line so could have gone either way but the stupid woman only gave her a one year card instead of the normal two year card. Hopefully it will be at least one point lower this time. I mean we are already resigned to the fact that we are going to have to go take the sleep apnea test thing that all fat drivers are now going to have to endure. And we will probably fail it even though neither of us has trouble sleeping. Then we will have all this equipment crap that we will have to find a way to fit in the truck. Sigh.

Well that’s about all I got. No wait, we found an excellent new restaurant today. I took some pictures so hopefully there will be a review soon. Like I’m not the one in charge of that. Like the restaurant review fairy is overdue and we’re all hoping she’ll get here any time. Whatever. You know what I mean.

Nothin’

2009 April 30
tags:
by Stace

So, I’ve got nothing to say. Haven’t had anything to say for days and days. It’s not that I’m depressed, or mad. I’m just boring as hell.

A couple of months ago, thanks to an unfortunately timed bump in the road, I accidentally spilled about a quarter cup of Diet Coke into the keyboard of my laptop. As a result, the tab, caps lock and control keys no longer work, and one of my USB ports is iffy. Some of the liquid must have hit my display as well, since now there are about 30 black pixels scattered about the bottom of the screen.

About the same time as the spill, some little piece of god knows what crawled into my keyboard, and is now spending its time wedging itself under random keys. Some days, it may be nearly impossible to type a “9,” while on other days, it may be the “Y” or the “S.” Today, it’s the “L.” I have to pound and pound on it to get it to register, all the while a kind of crunchy noise comes from the key. I’m thinking I’ll eventually grind this tiny piece of annoyance to dust. Or that’s what I’m hoping.

I have no point in talking about my computer problems. Like I said … boring.

I’ve had my computer for two years, and until the unfortunate Diet Coke incident, it still looked and ran like new. I hate that it is no longer pristine. I suppose there is a bit of anticipation each time I turn it on, wondering which key the piece of god knows what will be lodged under. But other than that, ugh. Surprisingly, of all the non-working parts, I really really really miss the tab key.

Yeah, I could send the laptop off to Apple to have it fixed, I suppose, but that would take forever because I’m home so rarely.

Geez … boring. I thought something would come to me by now. I should be all brilliant or amusing or something by this point.

We have a fly in the truck. Ordinarily, this drives me nuts, and I would hunt it relentlessly until I had smashed it and chortled triumphantly over its flattened little body. But that was my modus operandi before we got Maggie. I don’t kill flies in the truck anymore, because Maggie likes to hunt them. Anything which entertains the dog gets special dispensation from me, since that means I’m not the one having to do the entertaining.

I presume that beagle eyesight isn’t very good, since I can usually track the flies better than Maggie. She depends on her nose to do her hunting, sniffing all over the truck, with her tail madly wagging, seeking out the wily fly. I can’t help but wonder what a fly smells like, not having ever noticed an odor myself. I figure it can’t be good, what with the way flies barf on their food before eating.

Of all the flies which have enjoyed our hospitality, Maggie has only actually caught a couple of them. In general, they toy with her, performing daring feats, like sitting on Maggie’s head while she sniffs cluelessly around the truck. I wonder if flies share some genes with cats.

Oh lord … still boring.

We were listening to the radio yesterday, and they were blabbing on and on about some woman who had hidden a bunch of money from her husband in a secret bank account. They were, supposedly, debating the ethics of what the woman had done. Since Hedon and I have been advising a friend to do just that thing for years and years (she has no access to her husband’s bank account), it’s easy to see who we’re behind in this debate.

Still, they talked and talked and talked. Clearly, it’s not just here in the truck that things are boring, if they’re spending so much air time on an issue like this one.

Speaking of boring air time, I think I’d best call this one quits. Geez, you’d think something interesting would have kicked in. Nope. Nada. Nothin’. Damn.

Squalor to splendor in 24 hours

2009 April 29
by Hedon

Well the crack hos and the drug dealers may have had a good night’s sleep in Newark, but not these truckers. We got stuck on a stand-by load that left the shipper at 03:20 am for Boston. Loaded miles were 250 and it had to deliver in Boston by 08:00 so it was a tight run to put it mildly. Four and a half hours for that trip is too tight especially when you are dealing with Boston morning rush hour traffic, but we made it with 12 minutes to spare. WooHoo.

Had planned to shut down in Boston and get some proper sleep after we were unloaded, but we were immediately put on a load that was to pick up in New Hampshire the next morning and decided it would be better to head north to get closer to the shipper before shutting down. Got within about 30 miles of the shipper and shut down for a good long sleep. Woke up fairly early that evening and got to grab a decent meal and shower then headed on into the shipper so we would be on the spot in the morning.

Turned out to be a pretty awesome facility. It was one of those massive old buildings that they just don’t put up any more. The shipper said it was constructed in the 1850s and was made of poured concrete. He said local lore was that there was a severe shortage of concrete workers at the time so a crew was brought in from Italy to do the work and that only one of them spoke any English. After the building was finished, he was the only one who went back to Italy while all the other guys stayed there locally and raised families.

Milton, NH factory and the trees of Maine in the distance

Milton, NH factory and the trees of Maine in the distance

At one point they used the train trestle to the right to back coal cars over the ravine and dump the coal onto giant hoppers to power the factory operations. Then they “went green” and converted to a hydro-electric operation which is still used today next to the river at the bottom of the picture.

Massive Milton factory and train trestle

Massive Milton factory and train trestle

Wish I could have captured the sheer size of the building and the majesty of its former glory but it’s a lot easier to capture the majesty of crack hos. Oh well. Finally we were loaded and off to the Midwest. I’m not positive but it feels like our miles are taking an alarming upturn lately. What’s up with that?

A trucker’s little PSA

2009 April 26

We’re delivering at a facility in Newark, NJ that we have been at several times before. It is very tight and hard to get around on their lot and I have seen I don’t know how many “unfortunate incidents” involving trailer bumping here. So I thought I would post some tips and pointers in case any of you drivers out there end up delivering here.

Travel the country and see the sights... just like a paid vacation

Travel the country and see the sights... just like a paid vacation

  • 1) Smashed pole that has been hit many times.
  • 2) Fancy trucker’s lounge area
  • 3) A tree grows in Newark… oh sure it’s a mutant-looking ugly tree but still
  • 4) Fancy pants drivers’ restroom
  • 5) Drug dealer corner across the street
  • 6) Crack-ho stoop across the street and behind the chain link fence

First of all, you will be parking awaiting a dock door somewhere over to the right of this picture. When they finally come and give you a door assignment, you will pretty much want your tandems to follow the green path on the ground so you are lined up to hit the dock when you start backing. Because the only forward room you have available is the narrow driveway, you will need to pull farther forward than you would normally think.

Drug dealer corner

Drug dealer corner

In fact, this back works best if you just go ahead and pull right out into the street blocking all four lanes of traffic to give yourself the most room to play with. Don’t worry about upsetting the locals cause they all seem really friendly and patient. Make sure when you pull out into the street that you aim the tractor toward the drug dealer corner not crack-ho stoop. The crack-ho stoop is tempting because it’s straight across from the driveway, but if you are pointed toward the drug dealer corner you will have enough angle to skirt around the other trucks already in the docks directly behind the driveway.

Keep your tandems to the left of the tiny driveway and let your tractor ease down the right side as you start to back into your dock. Don’t get too close to the right side though as the razor wire at the top of the fence will take off your cb antenna if you get tangled up in it. Also, although you will notice from the pictures that the steel pole at the left of the drive has been hit many many times, try to avoid hitting the pole at least with the tractor. If you have to rub it a little with the trailer… well that’s why they invented drop-and-hooks, isn’t it? You’ll probably drop that trailer soon anyway.

Once you get your rear end to the left of the trucks already in the dock, this is a pretty easy dock to hit. Just keep backing slowly at your angle and when you are fully in your lane you might need to take a pull up into the seriously classy driver’s break area at the left of the picture. Go ahead and pull on in there. Those drivers probably haven’t had much excitement in their lives lately and you roaring up to the picnic table will give them something fun to talk about for a while. That should give you the proper line to be able to just slide it straight home with no problem at all.

Just another trucker living the dream

Just another trucker living the dream

Once you are in the dock, settle in for about a six hour wait. Oh they will say it will only be about two hours but they are lying. You might want to go across the street and hang out with the crack-hos cause I bet they’ve got some good stories to tell. Or go on over to the McDonald’s to grab something to eat. You’ll have to go out through the little driveway cause the rest of the facility is chain-linked-and-razor-wired up. I’m not sure if the razor wire is mostly to keep the crack-hos away from the receiver or to try to keep the drivers away from the McDonald’s, but I don’t expect you’ll let it stop you. While you’re at the McDonald’s, it would probably be a good idea to use the facilities cause the drivers’ restroom back at the receiver isn’t exactly anything to write home about.

When you’re finally unloaded and it’s 22:30 in Newark on a Sunday night and there is no legitimate parking within a 200 mile radius… feel free to pull out of the receiver to the right and park on the street. The cops won’t bother you, and I have only heard gun shots a few times while we were there. We’ve never even ended up with bullet holes in our trailer so I wouldn’t let a few guys’ high spirits ruin my night if I were you. Seems like the gun play is usually over by midnight, anyway.

Crack-ho stoop

Crack-ho stoop with actual crack-ho

The crack-hos will last a while longer, but eventually even they will get tired and go off to bed… or possibly pass out in the alley. Which is a good thing because their drug-addled brains don’t seem to be capable of remembering that they just knocked on your door ten minutes ago to ask if you:

  • a) could spare fifty cents so they can get a soda
  • b) could spare a cigarette
  • c) would like to hire them to do some “interior decorating” in your tractor
  • d) would please “run over a big fat stupid bitch named Deelia” cause she “is a stupid whore and deserves to die”

Ahhh… finally… your load is delivered and you’ll probably get the hell out of Jersey in the morning. The guns are all silent and the crack-hos are settled in for a long winter’s nap. It’s a quiet peaceful night. Sleep well, Driver, you’ve earned it.

Plunging back into the market

2009 April 23

Well actually I guess it’s more like wading carefully back into the market like an old lady who doesn’t want to get her beauty shop hair wet. I don’t think I’ve ever posted about me and the stock market because I got out completely about the time we started Hags and I’ve been sitting on the sidelines since. I don’t know exactly why I got out when I did but I had a very bad feeling about the whole thing. Thank goodness.

I love the stock market. Have since I was a kid. I was probably the only kid in our Junior High that read the financial pages and tracked stock prices. Throughout the years I have paper traded and made and lost fortunes. I once bought Apple (on paper) when it had dived to only $8 per share only to watch it hit $117 about 18 months later. Sigh. That was kinda tough.

But I never had any cash to put my various theories to the test until a couple of years ago. That all came about thanks to Stace’s Mom. She had given Stace and I some cash for Christmas and I took my part and opened an online poker account. It wasn’t enough to open a brokerage account with and besides I was seriously hooked on playing poker online at the time. I didn’t feel a bit bad opening a poker account with it which I would have if I had opened an account with “family” money. Suddenly I didn’t have to worry if I lost the whole bank roll cause it was my personal cash and a gift besides. Anyway, I did lose some in the beginning because it was different playing for real cash instead of the free games I had been playing for months.

Eventually I made the adjustments needed and started winning a bit. Then I started winning a bit more. I was having a ball. Then the stupid republicans decided to make online poker illegal. Which while we’re… well… I’m on the subject really pisses me off. I remember them talking about all those poor pitiful people losing all their money so they had to make it illegal to gamble online to protect everybody from themselves. Bullshit. If they are so concerned about protecting people from themselves, why don’t they make it illegal for “preachers” to get on tv and beg for money to keep Jesus from calling them home. You know there are little old ladies all over this country sending money they cannot afford to sniveling televangelists every week. Make that illegal why don’t you?

And another thing, what about all those people who get hooked on QVC and the like and spend tons of money they don’t have buying cheap jewelery and chachkas? Why isn’t that illegal, hmmm? Why isn’t anyone protecting those people from themselves? Why is it ok to go to a casino and blow as much as you want but it’s somehow dangerous or immoral to play the same games online? It still pisses me off that they made it illegal. You can go jump off a bridge with a rubber band strapped to your feet and that’s just great, but when you get home you can’t pass a couple of hours sitting in on a 25 cent hold’em table cause you might lose $6.75 to the sharks. Idiots. Jerks. Assholes.

Anyway, the poker world was closing to me and I was seriously bummed about that. On the bright side, I had doubled my initial stake several times. Now I had more than enough cash to open a brokerage account online. So I did. And it has been all kinds of hella fun. Learning different methods of investing. Learning to really read charts. Reading books by old timers who made killings in various bull markets of the past… and surprisingly in the great bear markets, too. Taking my own little baby steps into the wading pool. I have enjoyed it immensely.

I was seriously bummed when I got so freaked out by the market last summer that I just sold all my shares and parked in cash. I admit that I missed the action. But I had no idea what the proper play was in that environment so thought it was best to stay out of the pool altogether. (Man I’m loving me some water imagery today, huh?)

So now I’ve been feeling like diving back in for the past few weeks… and today I did. Nothing huge just a couple of stocks I’d been watching. I have a very small account, but I doubt if I could love it more if it were hundreds of thousands of dollars… no wait… I would love it more then. But that’s not the point. The point is that I love my tiny little portfolio. Man it feels nice to be back in the game. Guess we’ll have to see if I’m still saying that in a couple of months, but for right now it’s all good. First day and one is up twenty cents while the other is up a couple of cents. I love this game. :)

Hedon’s gravity adventure

2009 April 22

After about two weeks of not posting a single word, I finally have something interesting to say that isn’t just bitching. It’s even something semi-exciting… well at least it was exciting to me because in all my years on the road it had never happened before and that’s always a good thing. Here’s what happened:

We pulled in to the receiver and dropped our loaded trailer in the area assigned. No big deal. Bobtailed around to the shipping clerk cause at this joint you had to get assigned an empty trailer and a gate pass with that trailer number on it. Again, ho hum. Went back around to the empty trailer lot and started looking for the trailer we were supposed to pick up. Found it at the end of a row of trailers.

Now our trailer was about three and a half feet away from the trailer next to it which is a very nice distance. Sometimes when you pick up at these joints the yard dogs have crammed the trailers in so tightly that you can’t even get in between them to raise the landing gear. But like I said, ours was quite a respectable distance away from the trailer to the passenger side and there was no trailer to the driver’s side so it looked like an easy deal. Except, that our trailer wasn’t actually in a real (level) spot. It was tilting wildly toward the passenger side on this sort of steep muddy incline of an apron that circled the empty trailer lot.

If you’re not a driver, feel free to take a moment to go revisit the Hags’ 5th Wheel and Trailer Hooking tutorial to brush up so you can be as put out as the rest of us at what happened next.

I didn’t think much about the slant because I’ve picked up lots of tilted trailers over the years. I knew that as I backed the tractor under the trailer the tractor would tilt at the same angle so I figured everything would line up nicely. I started easing under the trailer. I backed slowly under which lifted the trailer slightly as it should. Then the tractor was stopped short with an abrupt thud. I figured I must have my line off so I pulled forward to try it again. Again I backed under the trailer and again with the damn thud. Muttering under my breath, I got out to see what the problem was.

Fifth wheel slanted too far

Fifth wheel slanted too far

When I walked back to see what the heck was going on, I realized our empty trailer was now about 18 inches closer to the passenger-side trailer than it had been before. Crap. The problem was that I had just greased our fifth wheel the previous day. And it really was a mighty tilt. So every time I eased the tractor under and lifted the trailer slightly the trailer just slid downhill. That meant the kingpin was hitting the 5th wheel about where the arrow is pointing. Now you don’t have to line up the 5th wheel and kingpin perfectly, but you do have to hit somewhere in the green area if you’re going to connect to that trailer.

I had never had this happen before and I have picked up a lot of leaning trailers. Hmmm. I admit I was tempted to just back under it a couple more times until it (gently?!) came to rest against the level trailer parked next to it. If the level trailer had belonged to TWMNBN that’s probably exactly what I would have done, but it was a different company’s property so I didn’t want to risk damaging some innocent bystander trailer.

Much cooler than a rock tire chock

Much better than a chock made out of rocks and Oklahoma's red dirt

I ended up wandering around the lot gathering three large rocks. I slowly backed under the trailer again to let it slide down hill and parked with the kingpin against the blunt (red) edge of the 5th wheel. I raised the landing gear a couple of inches then crawled under the trailer making sure I was below the danger area if the trailer had just gone ahead and slid all the way into the one next to it. Once under there, I used my rocks to build a sort of tire chock to hopefully keep it from sliding the next time I tried to hook up.

I lowered the landing gear back down carefully making sure my rock pile didn’t shift. Good. Then I got back in the truck, dumped the tractor air bags, and pulled out from under the trailer ever so gently. So far so good. I lined up even more to the right and tried again. The rocks held so this time I was able to get completely under the trailer and finally heard the lovely click of the 5th wheel jaws locking into place around the kingpin. WooHoo! Mission accomplished. Finally! All I had to do at that point was move my rock pile over onto the grass and finish hooking up as usual. Then I had to make a real effort to get all the red Oklahoma dirt off my hands, shoes and jeans before climbing back into the truck. Sadly, that adventure wasn’t quite as successful.

The whole thing took about thirty minutes for a process that normally takes me five minutes. But at least it was interesting. Irritating… but interesting. I’ve been so pissed off at TWMNBN lately, that it was nice to have a period to just enjoy being a trucker and solving a problem.  I do love a good puzzle.

Evap-o-ray

2009 April 21
by Stace

Was reading over at Mongolian Girl’s site this evening, and it put me in mind of a conversation Hedon and I had last week. I had been driving, for quite some time, in east coast traffic … and that’s never, ever a good thing.

Stace: Argh! Did you see that moron? He whipped around me then immediately took the exit. I bet I didn’t miss his bumper by a foot. These assholes are going to get themselves killed one of the these days — and I’ll be blamed for it.

Hedon: Yeah. And I’ve got to take us into Philly later tonight.

Stace: Better you than me. I’m past my limit. I’m seriously wishing I had an Evap-o-ray right now. I’d want one with like a distance of a mile in front of me and behind me. By god that’d give me some space. I’d push the button and all these jerks would be gone — instantly vaporized.

Hedon: That’d be sweet.

Stace (after a pause of a minute or so): You know, wishing to evaporate people just to clear out the roads a bit … well … that’s kind of awful, don’t you think?

Hedon: Nope. Serves ‘em right.

Stace: Well, I don’t know. I’m thinking that instead of blasting them into tiny particles, my Evap-o-ray should just poof them back home, into their driveways.

Hedon: The jerks deserve to be blasted to smithereens.

Stace: Not all of them, and it would serve the purpose just the same. The roads would be less crowded and there would be a lot less mourning from the bereaved.

Hedon: Hmph. What bereaved?

Stace: Think of all the people who would be upset that their loved ones had been evaporated. I mean, we may not like these jerks out here, but someone else probably does. It’s amazing how even the biggest jackoffs have people who love them. Besides, it would be funny thinking how shocked they would be when they find themselves suddenly sitting in their driveways, wondering how the hell they got there.

Hedon: So let me get this right … we would have a cool Evap-o-ray, that we can use whenever we want, but its only power is to poof people back to their driveways? Where the hell is the fun in that?

Stace: I’m just saying, if you don’t have to obliterate someone, then why do it? The point here is to get the losers out of our way. A poofing Evap-o-ray would do that.

Hedon: But some of these assholes deserve to be obliterated. I seriously want to be the one to do it.

Stace (after a sigh): You’re not going to change your mind, are you?

Hedon: Nope.

Stace: Okay. Then maybe the Evap-o-ray could have a switch, like the phasers on “Star Trek.” You could choose either setting, “Poof” or “Obliterate.”

Hedon: Excellent.

Stace: I think we should keep it set on “Poof” as a safety measure.

Hedon: Hmph.

Stace: How long do you think we could get away with it? If we had an Evap-o-ray, I mean.

Hedon: Yeah, you’ve got to figure they’d find us eventually, what with our log books saying where we’ve been, and the satellite tracking unit on the truck. Only a matter of time. That’s why we should take advantage of it while we have it. We should “Obliterate” as much as possible.

Stace: Never mind that. I think we’d have to wait to use the Evap-o-ray until we owned our own truck. That way, we’d have more control over how to hide our actions and where we have and have not been.

Hedon: Good idea. That might work.

For a few minutes, Stace silently ponders the future and how law enforcement might discover the Evap-o-ray even if she is an owner-operator.

Hedon: I think we’re missing a big point here.

Stace: Hmm?

Hedon: Well, if we had an Evap-o-ray, why the hell would we still be driving a truck for a living? I’d think there’d be way better money using the Evap-o-ray in other ways.

Stace: You just love to do this, you know. The time I was talking about how I’d love to have a warp drive in the truck, you couldn’t wait to point out that if we could build a warp drive, we would be wasting our time trucking.

Hedon: I’m just saying …

Stace: Yeah, yeah. Whatever. But I don’t see how an Evap-o-ray can make you a lot of money. You can’t manufacture and sell them, since we’d all obliterate one another out of existence in no time flat. Unless you’re going to go all Lex Luther on me, and hold the country ransom or something, I don’t see the money in this one.

Hedon: Lex Luther. Not a bad idea. How about buying an acre of land, calling it a landfill, and obliterating all the trash that’s brought in?

Stace: Oh … okay … maybe.

Hedon: Or we could be really awesome hit women. We wouldn’t have to worry about evidence on the bodies, or disposal for that matter. Yeah, you could really …

Stace: I’m not going to be a hit woman.

Hedon: We could be bank robbers. We’d poof all the bank employees back home, then we’d have the bank to ourselves. That’d work.

Stace: Do you have any ideas that do not involve becoming garbage men or criminals?

Hedon (unconcerned): Apparently not.

Stace: Hmm … now you’ve got me wondering. What could you … Hey! Hold on!

Stace slams on the brakes.

Stace: Holy crap! Did you just see that guy? He nearly took out our fender! Jackass! How hard is it to wait until you’re completely around me before you pull back in?! Numbnuts!

Hedon: You’re wishing you had the Evap-o-ray default set to “Obliterate” right now, aren’t you?

Stace (grumpy): Maybe just a little bit.

Just busy

2009 April 20
by Stace

No, we haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, or been involved in anything tragic, thankfully. We’ve just been busy … and annoyed. It is generally true that when we are busy, we are annoyed. Add in that They Who Must Not Be Named have been particularly disreputable of late, and our annoyance has shot up to a higher level.

Like many trucking companies right now, TWMNBN has been enacting a number of “cost-saving” measures over the past year or so. They’ve gone into high gear in the past several months. While I recognize that times are hard, and that businesses must do everything they can to survive, I’m just fed up with some of the changes being made at TWMNBN.

Several of these moves I consider to be downright immoral, taking advantage of people who clearly don’t understand their options. That I continue to work here, makes me feel party to the immorality, and I seriously do not like that feeling. I’m having a hard time accepting that my labor is profiting this company. It’s a sticky moral issue, and I don’t like it one bit.

Okay, so I’m not responsible for other people’s choices. I know this. And I’m not responsible for other people’s lack of knowledge. I know this, too. And yet … I hate being a part of an organization that is taking advantage of some good, hard-working people, whose only mistake is putting trust in their employer.

I want to give notice and to buy my own truck so badly, I can hardly stand it. But it’s not the right time, and we don’t have enough money saved. I’ve been telling myself forever that we will get there, eventually. It just never seems any closer.

At least freight is picking up (hence the being busy comment above). I’m happy to be getting more miles, but with the changes in pay, of late, I’m not taking home much more money. I know I should just be content that I have a job. Too bad I’m not easily made content.

On a more pleasant note, I have been having some fun, new fantasies of late. One is that I’m at a truck stop, and a blazing mad trucker stomps up to me:

PO’d Trucker: That’s it! I’ve had it!

Stace (who believes strongly in placating large, angry men, though little ones can kiss her ass): Oh? Why is that?

PO’d Trucker: This job is for shit. Only a complete fucked-up idiot would be a trucker. I quit!

Stace: Oh … uh … sorry to hear that.

PO’d Trucker: I’m calling my wife to come get me and my shit. You see that truck over there?

PO’d Trucker points at a lovely, purple Volvo 780 parked nearby. Sunlight glistens off the metal flake paint. It looks brand new.

Stace: Yeah.

PO’d Trucker: Give me $10,000 and it’s yours. I’ve got the title and I’ll sign it over, right now.

Stace: Oh, come on. You don’t mean that.

PO’d Trucker: The hell I don’t. My father-in-law gave me that truck. He just gave it to me to try to ruin my marriage, that ole son-of-a-bitch. I wanna see his face when he hears I gave it away for 10 grand.

Stace: Maybe you want to take a bit to think about this.

PO’d Trucker: It’s a 2008, about 100,000 miles on it. Still under warranty. Got a tricked-out cab and an APU. You want it or not? 10 grand. I’ll take a check.

Stace: This is insane.

PO’d Trucker: Hey, you don’t want it, someone else will. Hey! You over there! You wanna buy a truck — cheap?!

Stace: Now, now, let’s not be hasty. Just let me get my partner out of the truck. She’ll need to have a say, too … Hedon! Get out here! And bring my checkbook!

Oh, the sad, sad impossible fantasies to which I’ve been reduced. I would like to point out, however, that at least I restrained myself enough to make it a regular Volvo, and not an uber-extended wonder-truck like Salena’s and Eddie’s truck. In some strange way, it makes the fantasy more believable.

Gads, I think I’m going crazy. Damn you, TWMNBN! (You can’t see it, but I’m shaking my fist in the air, probably in the direction of TWMNBN headquarters).

Sigh.

Easters past — w/special guest

2009 April 11
by Stace

Hoorah! It’s another holiday for me to blather on about. This time, I’ve got a special guest — my mom!

I have a number of extremely important questions about Easters past. You know, those angsty type of questions that just won’t go away, and are likely impeding my ability to become a fulfilled and successful middle-aged woman. My mom has agreed to answer these questions.

When I was a kid, the night before Easter was a time to color and decorate eggs. Easter morning was a time to eat myself half sick on chocolate and Peeps. Easter afternoon was when we went to my grandmother’s house, where all the family gathered for a huge meal, where I continued to stuff myself with candy and whatnot. Before the meal, there was an official Easter egg hunt for all the kids, and a number of unofficial ones as well, after the meal. I think someone may have prayed, my grandmother most likely saying grace, but other than that, Easter wasn’t a religious thing for my family.

"Happy Easter Giant" aka young Stace and "Ingrid" getting ready to be pushed around by the baby on the left.

"Happy Easter Giant" aka young Stace and "Ingrid" getting ready to be pushed around by the baby on the left.

Far too mature for egg hunting

Far too mature for egg hunting

In this first picture here, I am the giant among the little folk at a community Easter egg hunt. I was very tall for my age, and chubby to boot. I don’t know how old I was, probably around four or five. I’m clearly in a fine mood, as I so often was at these sorts of events. God, I was a wuss. I let all the tiny children push me around, so that I rarely got many eggs. My cousin, Ingrid (the cute little girl on the right) was as big a wuss as I was. Probably, that baby on the left snagged more eggs than we did.

In the second picture, I am posing in my grandmother’s back yard. This was the first Easter where I considered myself too old for Easter baskets and other childish silliness. To prove the point, I donned a skirt and pantyhose. Clearly, I am grown up. If the pantyhose don’t prove it, then surely the Holly Hobbie shirt does.

It all looks like the perfect childhood, doesn’t it? But no, there are things … hidden things … for which I must have answers, answers only my mother can provide. So here we go …

********

Burning question for Mom #1: I’ve heard rumors on the Internet that there is no Easter Bunny. Is this true?

Mom’s answer: Absolutely not!! I can personally vouch that he/she was alive and well for years around our house. Why do people insist on spreading these vicious rumors?

Personal healing gained from Mom’s answer (out of 10): 10

********

Burning question for Mom #2: At a time when I’m sure money was tight, what in the world made you decide to spend money on a fancypants Easter outfit for me? The dress, the shoes, the tights, even a little hat sometimes. I mean, it would only be worn once. What was up with that?

Mom’s answer: Had to be a mommy thing — the side that wants to see their little girl all decked out in frilly finery. Sometimes you just need to “hang the expense.” And aren’t we glad now. Look at the cute pictures!

Personal healing gained from Mom’s answer (out of 10): 10

********

Burning question for Mom #3: When you and my aunt took Ingrid and I to those community Easter egg hunts, did you ever secretly want to give the pushy kids a little shove so Ingrid and I might actually have a chance to find an egg? Maybe just stick out a foot, and trip them, just a bit? What with Ingrid and I being so wussy and all …

Mom’s answer: Yes, if I’m honest, because the pushy bully types always made me seethe. I knew you had to learn to survive with them, but it’s a hard thing to watch as a parent, and maintain your dignity. Secretly, you’d rather be thrashing the parents for failing to teach them better manners. Perhaps that’s part of what’s wrong with our world today.

Personal healing gained from Mom’s answer (out of 10): 15

********

Burning question for Mom #4: Okay, this is not really about the past, or about me, but … do you really not have a recipe for your diabolically yummy deviled eggs (Hedon’s description, since I’m not into deviled eggs), or are you just holding out on Hedon to try to drive her crazy?

Mom’s answer: I truly don’t, not with amounts, per se. However, on the upside, it is possible that I have an occasional chuckle at Hedon’s frustration!

Personal healing gained from Mom’s answer (out of 10): 20

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Burning question for Mom #5: We always had ham at our big Easter dinners. Was this a subtle way of thumbing your noses at the Jews who killed Jesus?

Mom’s answer: Certainly not that I recall. I don’t remember many, if any, Jews being around. And I have to ask if “thumbing your nose” would have much significance if the recipient doesn’t notice or care. Since they don’t believe in Jesus, it follows that they don’t celebrate his ascension. Therefore, no offense taken. About the ham — I always assumed (and it’s true of myself) that most of the family preferred it to any other meat.

Personal healing gained from Mom’s answer (out of 10): 10 (would have been more, but since she didn’t scold me for being flippant, as was expected, several points had to be deducted)

********

Burning question for Mom #6: Why did you always get me the hollow chocolate Easter Bunnies? My Easter prayer was always for the solid ones. I’m probably emotionally damaged from not getting a foot-high solid chocolate bunny. What do you have to say for yourself?

Mom’s answer: I had no idea you were scarred for life for lack of a solid chocolate bunny. How insensitive!!  I doubt that anything I say can repair that kind of damage. It probably played out that way because I was too cheap to buy the expensive basket — the one with the solid bunny. Well, we’re both paying now — you with emotional turmoil and me with unforgivable guilt.

Personal healing gained from Mom’s answer (out of 10): 25

********

Burning question for Mom #7: Is there anything else you’d like to add about Easters-past?

Mom’s answer: Only that it was rather sad when you became too old for the baskets and egg hunts. Sort of like all the other occasions that went by the wayside as you moved into the teen years and beyond. There was a closeness of family then, before all of you moved on with your lives and went separate ways.

Personal healing gained from Mom’s answer (out of 10): 50

********

Whew! That’s all of them. Thank you so very much, Mom. I’m am now well and truly healed, ready to move forward in my life, a stronger, more capable human being.

And may all of you out there have a wonderful, free from emotional turmoil, Easter. Amen.

It went quickly

2009 April 8
by Stace

Well, we’re back on the road. Home time always goes by so quickly. I’m ready to head back out, though, and get to making some money. Last month was great, and I hope for more of the same this month.

So, once again, I didn’t get around to cleaning out the bathroom cabinets. Gee, that was too bad. On the upside, Brain Wars are over, and Fernando has returned to wearing underwear, for which we are all grateful. I managed to watch almost all of the television shows I had TiVO’d. Big surprise, I know.

I usually have a rundown of what all I watched, but this time, oh … I was just kind of bored. It’s probably just me.

The end of the “Big Love” season was very good. I think this was its best season to date. Other than this show … bleh.

In my eighth year of watching “American Idol,” I think I’m over it. In the past couple of years I haven’t been all that excited about any of the contestants, save Melinda Doolittle, who lost, of course. No one this year particularly inspires me. That Adam kid is an excellent singer (“Mad World” last night was amazing), as is the 16-year-old Allison (who knew a kid this young could pull off singing a Bonnie Raitt song). But I don’t care who wins … like I said, I think I’m over it. Bound to happen eventually.

“American Idol” is a show I could never watch if I didn’t have TiVO. Seems like the commercial to show ratio is 50-50, which drives me nuts, a situation which, thanks to TiVO, I can rectify. And the judges. Argh. They blather on for three times longer than it took the kids to sing their songs. Paula’s critiques feel endless as she stumbles and gasps after every single word. Randy is practically nonsensical. Kara keeps it pretty short, but who really cares. And Simon … I used to agree with him fairly regularly, but not for many years now. Simon makes about as much sense as Randy and Paula do. Thanks to TiVO, I can zip right past that waste of time.

I can watch a two-hour episode of “American Idol” in about 30 minutes.

And the results shows. God save us from the results shows. There is a firm rule in our house: all group songs by the contestants must be fast-forwarded at 3X speed, the goal being to avoid death by sympathetic embarrassment. Most of the guest singers get the fast-forward as well, what with us being old fogies who seriously don’t get Lady GaGa. All recaps of the previous night and all corny Ford commercials must be avoided as well.

I can watch an “American Idol” results show in under 15 minutes.

Now, doing the math, this puts content which is interesting vs. content which is mind-numbingly boring and/or cringeworthy at a ratio of about 1 to 3. With only a 25 percent return on my entertainment home time investment, it is clear that without the TiVO, I would never have survived past the first season of “American Idol.”

I couldn’t watch most of the other reality shows I watch, if I didn’t have the TiVO, as well. I fail to understand why every segment of the show must begin with a recap of what you saw before the commercial break, a scant four minutes ago. Nor do I understand why every segment must end with a preview of what is coming next, four minutes into the future. It’s truly obnoxious. Attention spans may be getting shorter, but come on now … it can’t be this bad, can it? Non-reality shows do not do this. I think reality shows just need to fill up time and that they believe all their viewers have the mental capabilities of a gnat on crack. I feel sure there are legions of people who would agree with them.

On a different subject, have I mentioned lately that Maggie is just the cutest, best dog ever? She was really good this time home, except for the unfortunate diarrhea incident, but that wasn’t her fault. My mom came over and Maggie didn’t climb all over her the entire time — a miracle. She managed to play pretty well with the neighborhood big dog we’ve been using as socializing practice for the last several months, which means she may eventually get over her fear of big dogs — potential miracle. And she didn’t spend her days going from one no-no spot to another in the house — a miracle, truly.

Hedon says she thinks Maggie is just growing up, and I’m in accord. Maggie is over two years old now. There have been some obvious changes in the last six months.

Speaking of babies growing up, Hedon got to visit with our grandkid for a few hours. Our granddaughter is about 20 months old, and Hedon told me she is most definitely a genius. And that’s that. No arguments allowed. And to make sure the grandkid continues her shockingly rapid cerebral growth, Hedon bought her a train she can ride on, with the alphabet in clear view for her early learning needs. Of course, some of what prompted the purchase was that it makes an ungodly amount of different loud noises and sings alphabet songs, guaranteed to drive our daughter half mad within four hours. All I can say is, payback’s a bitch, kid.

It’s good to be a grandparent.

The longest delivery

2009 April 3
by Hedon

If there is a dock in this country that a big truck will fit into, I can hit that dock. The truth is that once they’ve been driving for a while, any driver can do the same. It may take a newer driver longer to hit the dock but the bottom line is if you are slow and careful you can hit it. Period. Well… unless it’s an impossible dock. Speaking of impossible docks…

Fancy-pants receiver facility in Springfield

Fancy-pants receiver facility in Springfield

One delivery to go in Springfield and then we were headed home. We had found our receiver the night before but they had a chain link fence and locked gates. I’m not sure why they locked their gates at night since they were such a crap hole I can’t imagine anyone stealing anything from them, but we couldn’t get in so we headed to a nearby Waffle House to sleep for a few hours.

Woke up bright and early and headed over to deliver our last load before going home. WooHoo! Checked in with the shipping guys and they told me to go back around the side of the building and hit the dock so they could get us unloaded. No problem… around the building we went.

Big problem. As soon as we rounded the building and I saw the dock they wanted me to hit, I thought it was probably impossible. It looked like there just wasn’t enough space between the two trailers. But I’m never one to quit without a good try so I spent about thirty minutes trying to hit the dock. Finally, after much maneuvering, I got myself perfectly lined up between the two trailers. I backed slowly to the point that there was about an inch between each of my doors and the trailers on either side. Problem was that I still had about two feet to go before I actually hit the dock and the trailer on the right was so crooked there was simply no way to manage it.

Utterly impossible dock with crooked trailer

Utterly impossible dock with crooked trailer

Finally I was satisfied that it simply wasn’t possible to hit that dock. I went to find the dock guy to tell him it wasn’t going to work. He said, “Huh… we do have trucks that get in there… maybe you can hit that other one?” And he said it with that “I doubt you can hit either dock if you can’t get in this one… what do you only have like three weeks experience or what… women drivers…” snarky attitude that always drives me crazy.

Now… seriously… this always burns me up. I just can’t help myself. Even though I know it’s stupid to care what some inbred backwards dock guy at a shit-hole tire joint thinks about my driving ability… well… it still pisses me off. It makes me want to try for thirty more minutes or until I cram that trailer into the dock no matter what it takes. Which is utterly silly because at that point I knew it was impossible. Damn it. I ended up just having to suck it up and let the whole thing go and move on with my life. Lord that goes against the grain for me sometimes.

Ultra classy second choice dock

Ultra classy second choice dock

I hit the other dock with relative ease and we waited to get unloaded. About an hour after we hit the dock, I watched an Old Dominion truck drive up and slam right into the impossible dock between the two trailers. Well of course he could hit it — he had a roll-door trailer. We have a swing-door trailer. That means we were probably ten inches wider than he was at the doors. Ugh. It was really hard to resist going up on that dock and pointing out to the snarky dock guy how much wider we were than Old Dominion. Oh well. Let it go. Let it go.

And miraculously I did. Let it go… that is. We just sat there quietly waiting to get unloaded and trying to contain our excitement at going home. Seemed like it took them forever but eventually they were done and we started the longest trip of the month. Finally heading home.

Hand me an Oreo

2009 March 31

Sitting outside a truck stop waiting for traffic to die down before heading to Joliet, IL.

Stace (digging through boxes and cabinets): Do you remember where I put those Oreos yesterday?

Hedon: The Double Stuff ones?

Stace: Yes.

Hedon: Yeah, you put them in the cubby over here.

Stace: They’re not there now. I just looked.

Hedon: That’s because I ate them in the middle of the night.

Stace: Oh.

Hedon: And I drank the rest of the milk with them.

Stace: Oh, well, that’s okay. I’ll eat these other Oreos in the little box. They’re not Double Stuff, but they’ll do.

Hedon: Yeah, but like I said, I finished off the milk.

Stace: Ummhmm. So?

Hedon: Duh! You can’t eat Oreos if you don’t dunk them in milk.

Stace: I never dunk them in milk.

Hedon: What are you saying?

Stace: What I said. That I don’t dunk them. In fact, I don’t drink milk with them at all.

Hedon (clearly appalled): Are you serious? You don’t dunk them? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!

Stace: I find that hard to believe.

Hedon: I tried eating an Oreo the other day without milk. It was disgusting. What’s wrong with you? Who the hell doesn’t dunk ‘em? That’s just ridiculous!

Stace: So I understand. The most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard.

Hedon: God, it’s like I’ve never known you. Or have I always known it and just blocked it out because I couldn’t face the facts?

Stace: Probably the last one. Mmmm, this Oreo I’m eating is really good without milk. Yum!

Hedon: Quiet, woman! If there’s any way I’m gonna get through this, I need time to process the horrible truth.

Stace: <crunch-crunch>

Laramie, WY

2009 March 30

When I first started driving, good god we were poor. Dad used to get bobcat tires for sale and teach me how to handle a tracktor back then. We had spent every dime we had to get me through trucking school and out on the road so training was mostly a PB&J affair for me while Stace and the young-one cut every corner they could manage at home. The pressure to make it through training was intense because we didn’t really have a back-up plan. The pressure may have been grinding and the cash was non-existent, but I had wanted to drive for years so I was happy to be learning a new skill and was looking forward eagerly to the big new bucks I would be making once I got out of training. Finally… we would be moving up in the world.

My trainer, being the kind-hearted woman that she was, used to pretend she was too nervous to walk into a truck stop alone at night and would “bribe” me with a free meal if I would walk in with her. It was taken for granted that I had no problem walking anywhere even in the middle of the night. I’ve always been relatively fearless in that respect and she knew it. Now she was a tiny little woman, but before we met she had been a solo trucker for three years, so I found it hard to believe she couldn’t bring herself to walk through a truck stop at night alone. I tried to refuse the offer the first few times but then she would just sit in the truck and eat peanut butter with me. So while I hated to take her charity… I didn’t want to be the reason she missed out on a meal, either. And I sure did appreciate the meals. Thanks, Michele.

Steer with set of lugnut covers

Steer with set of lugnut covers

Anyway, the point is we were hurting for cash so when I got my own truck I was woefully unprepared to buy all the crap you need when you first start trucking. Things like a cb, cooler, Trucker’s Atlas, fuel finder and the like. Somehow I managed to get the most urgent things, but there was no way I was going to spring for the extras… even though I wanted them.

One of the extras that I really wanted but couldn’t afford was lugnut covers. You can see some on the steer tire in the photo to the left. They aren’t really any big deal just little chrome colored things that snap on over your lugnuts and make the truck look more fancy-pants.

Now I know it may be kinda shocking to those who only know me now to find out that at one time I wanted my truck to be all fancy-pants looking. I mean, while we try to keep the inside clean, these days we rarely even wash the outside of the truck unless Stace suddenly decides it’s a good idea. Anyway… trucking is kinda old-hat now and it was all new and exciting back then and I wanted my truck to stand out due to it’s obvious awesomeness.

Artist's recreation of Hedon's lugnut covers

No-talent artist's recreation of Hedon's ultra-cool lugnut covers

Well… one night I was at one of our company’s terminals and I made an amazing find. Back by a dumpster in the corner of the lot was an entire set of steer tire lugnut covers. But they were in a shape I had never seen before. Each one looked like a tiny little top-hat. They were pretty rare. They were also pretty rusty. Hmmm. I hated to pass them up, but rusty lugnut covers weren’t exactly the look I was going for on the fancy-pants front. In the end, I picked them all up and tossed them in my side box hoping Fernando would come up with an idea.

On the way home that trip, the idea came to me. Good old Fernando. One afternoon at home the young one and I cleaned them all and used her paints to paint each one. We went with rainbow colors so each wheel had two per color and the center was the purple. It was pretty fun to paint them all with her.

And when they were all installed they were utterly unique. The company I was driving for at the time had about 7,000 trucks but I was the only one with rainbow lugnut covers. As far as that goes, there were probably a bazillion trucks on the road at the time… but I was still the only one with rainbow lugnut covers. Cool, huh?

And not only were they flashy, they were also useful. Combined with the rainbow air freshener hanging from my airhorn cord, they told all but the most dense drivers to knock off all the flirty crap cause we weren’t playing for the same team. Worked pretty well and usually got nice comments. Oh sure, there was the occasional nasty reaction, but I never worried too much about that.

Then I drove into Laramie, WY for the first time and had to stop for fuel. With rainbow colored lugnut covers. I tried really hard to avoid thinking. But I just couldn’t keep Matthew Shepard out of my head. As I drove by the rural Wyoming landscape I kept wondering, “Was that the fence?” even though I knew that it couldn’t have been right next to the interstate. I kept seeing that poor kid beaten and lashed to a fence in the cold Wyoming night… and for the first time I regretted my flashy truck. For the first time I was sort of afraid.

I was nervous even though I knew that it was utterly silly to only be nervous in Laramie, WY. I mean I fully agreed with the lyrics of the song*:

We hit snow on the road to Laramie
We all heard about that mess
But that town ain’t nothing different
Than the rest

Poor man do the bidding for the rich man
Those rednecks just doing
What the classy fucker’s thinking
And tolerance it ain’t acceptance
I know you wanted it to be
When you’re out in Laramie

And yet there I was standing in the fuel island of the Pilot with my keys held just so in my hand and looking around constantly to track every single person who was out and about that night. People probably thought I had some sort of nervous disorder by the time I was done fueling and was safely back in my truck so I could relax. What’s funny is that Matthew Shepard had died three full years before I was there but for me the feeling was still as strong as if it had been the month before.

That feeling of fear was so unusual it kinda threw me for a loop and made me really evaluate the risk I was taking in being so blatantly out on the road. It made me think about all the times I was parked alone on a deserted stretch of road and how my lugnut covers might be a red cape waving in front of the rednecks… and the classy fuckers, too. It was a daunting thought.

In the end, I decided to keep the rainbows. Tolerance may not be acceptance, but the GLBT community wouldn’t even have tolerance at this point if it weren’t for all the brave people who came out in spite of huge personal risk. I was only running with rainbow-colored lugnut covers. Pretty minimal risk. And how could I do any less? How could I not stand up and be counted to pave the way for the young ones coming up behind me… especially when the suicide rate among the teen GLBT community is thought to be two to three times higher than it is for other teens?

Every confused and terrified kid hiding alone in their room at night wondering how they are ever going to come out needs every single one of us to stand behind them. I know most of you that will be reading this aren’t in the GLBT community. But have you ever thought that maybe one of your kids is? Or perhaps a niece or nephew? You’re obviously fairly cool on whole the subject if you keep dropping by to listen to Stace’s and my constant blathering. Please make sure your kids know that. If nothing else, just make it clear that you aren’t going to run screaming from the room if they ever do come out to you. Even if you’d secretly cry yourself to sleep for a month afterward.

Tolerance may not be acceptance, but it could be just enough.

*Laramie by Amy Ray

Oh, honestly!

2009 March 28

I swear, I think there’s no hope for humanity. Armageddon won’t come from an asteroid, or a returning deity, or the change of a millennium. It’s just gonna come because, as a species, we’re too butt-ass stupid to survive.

I was sifting through the top sellers on the Kindle yesterday, looking for freebies, when I stumbled across a book which claimed that in the year 2012, Dec. 21, 2012 to be exact, the earth will align with the center of the galaxy and as a result, we humans will either perish in anarchy or be sent soaring into a new age of earthly paradise. Ummhmm.

So, as a form of self-torture to which I am sometimes drawn, I read the reader reviews of the book. They were a perky lot, all pleased that this particular writer was not prophesying doom and gloom in 2012, but instead pointing out that the choice of doom or earthly Eden was ours to make. On Dec. 21, 2012. It turns out this was like the guy’s 10th book on the subject. And he uses science and stuff to prove his points. Ummhmm.

One reviewer blathered on and on about how our DNA is tuned to the galaxy’s core and that this DNA, along with everything else, will revolve itself to align with the spin of the black hole there in the center of the galaxy. On and on he went, then at the end posted links to the books he, himself, has written about the upcoming apocalypse. Ummhmm.

This was the first I had heard that we are less than four years from a critical moment in the history of humankind. So today I popped over to Wikipedia to see what was up with this 2012 business. The brouhaha appears to have started because of some end date in the ancient Mayan calendar. This means we’re all doomed come 2012. Apparently, loads and loads of paper have been wasted discussing what’s going to happen. I won’t describe it any further, since I’m pretty sure that my reading of that article has lowered my IQ by several points, and reciting the nonsense here will only give Hedon a further advantage in Brain Wars VII.

I wonder, though, do people just sit around, day after day, digging through actual scholarly research, looking for some tidbit they can manipulate to scare stupid people? And I wonder, the stupid people who go for these doomsday scenario schemes, are they always the same ones? I mean, are the people who thought the world was ending Jan. 1, 2000, the same people who now think it will happen on Dec. 21, 2012? Or did those year 2000 people just kind of dip their heads in shame and then pretend they never believed it? And this would mean there are just scads and scads of fools who go for this stuff.

That people believe this utter nonsense is a far better sign of our impending doom, than any Mayan calendar could conceivably be.

Normally, I don’t go in for calling people stupid (not in public at any rate), since I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But some days …

I was at Yahoo and one of the featured stories of the day was some fashion faux pas by Jennifer Lopez. I was thinking, how bad can it be? Not that I give a damn what JLo wears. But I’m bored, so what the hell, I’ll go see it. Big deal. Bad pants. Whatever. But then I notice a picture of Kathy Griffin, with, of all people, Paris Hilton. I click for a bigger view.

Now, this gets a laugh out of me, because Kathy Griffin is decked out in this hilarious pink tutu number, complete with pink ribbon in hair, and giant sparkly Barbie purse, walking next to the ever-moronic Paris Hilton. It’s no surprise that Paris is too stupid to understand when she’s being mocked (maybe a staff member explained it to her later, maybe not). But to sell this photo in headlines as a fashion disaster … well, there’s no hope.

People in the comment section were actually debating whether or not Kathy looked good in her outfit. I swear to god. One person said, “kathy is trying too hard to be cool and she’s too old. Paris is being Paris ….i like her she’s real….but kathy????” The few voices of reason in the comments section, explaining what Kathy was doing, went completely unheeded.

Doomed, I say. Yet I’m willing to bet the apocalypse fools won’t go for my version.

Brain Wars VII

2009 March 27

Stace sent me an email. Now there’s nothing quite as fun in the email department as an email from Stace so I got all excited and opened it quickly. This is what it said:

Good lord:

http://www.impossible-quiz.com

I can’t believe I got 15 of 20 right. 91.83 percentile. Woohoo!

Love you,
Me

As I clicked the link several things happened all at once. Fernando jumped up, pulled on a kilt, pulled off the underwear, rubbed several handfuls of mud in his hair with one hand while waving a polished battle axe around his head with the other, and started yelling, “Brain Wars! Brain Wars!” at the top of his lungs.

Oh hell. It’s on. Welcome to Brain Wars VII or so. It may only be Brain Wars VI but who can keep track? Anyway, I’m sure Stace didn’t intend to launch the war, but you can never tell what is going to get Fernando all worked up. Now we’re knee deep in the figurative rivers of blood and there’s no going back.

The situation as it stands right now is a tie but that could change rapidly as a new assault is launched. Here’s what has happened so far:

Impossible Quiz goes to Stace who got one more right than I did. Ugh.

Am I Dumb also goes to Stace who again got one more right than I did.

Free IQ Test goes to me cause I spanked her handily… well if you call four points being spanked handily… and I do.

Cadaver For Sale also goes to me cause I’m worth more dead than she is… oh sure probably just cause I’m so much bigger than her but that’s not the point.

So that’s where the war stands at present. I was thinking this year we could expand to invite fellow soldiers to join us. Or at the very least get you all to recommend new fields of battle to be added to the war. So if you know any good IQ or Knowledge-type testing sites please post a link to them in the comments.

And if you’re thinking it might be fun to join the battle, put on your kilt, rip off your undies and pick yourself a weapon to whirl around your head. Before you decide which army to join though, I thought it was only fair to give you a heads up. So here you go:

1.  We both have a pretty damned solid foundation in math. But Stace has had statistics and probability while Hedon hasn’t. On the other hand, Hedon has had physics while Stace hasn’t. Really though, math is probably pretty much a wash.

2.  Stace is better read than Hedon… at least in the fancy-pants books that often come up in these things. Regardless, they both have pretty extensive vocabularies and each can almost always pick which word doesn’t belong with the other four words.

3.  Back in the day, Hedon was the history major and Stace was woefully lacking in historical knowledge. However, in the past couple of years Stace has been coming on strong in the history arena so I’m not sure who gets the history nod. I would think Hedon is still slammin on the ancient history, but Stace might take recent history… especially recent European history.

4.  Stace’s mind is slightly more logical than Fernando… ok a lot more logical. But Fernando spanks her on the spatial questions like “which picture fits best into the following series” and “if all of these pieces were combined which block would they make” and such.

5.  Stace progresses through each test carefully and methodically answering each question after a logical elimination of the possible answers. Fernando often skips questions intending to come back to them later and then forgets to do it… thus scoring one less than Stace on the “Am I Dumb” test yesterday. BUT Fernando has a cool battle axe and wears a kilt during Brain Wars. He also has a cool battle cry that sounds kinda like a big scary bird of some sort. Stace has no battle cry and insists on wearing underwear even during Brain Wars.

So that’s about all the information I can give you on the armies. I guess there is one other tiny piece of info that might be helpful in picking a team… no one ever knows what causes a new Brain Wars and no one knows why they suddenly end. The one thing we’re all sure of is that Brain Wars never ever end when Stace is in the lead… I’m just saying.

Still reading … er, listening

2009 March 26
by Stace

It occurred to me the other day that I hadn’t written, in quite a long time, about what I’ve been reading (other than “Screwed”). This is because I haven’t been reading much of late. I think there’s two reasons for this. One is that I’ve been on a video game jag. The second is because I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy novels for like, well, forever. They are great books, but they are massive. For some reason, I’ve gotten bogged down in the last book. Not sure what’s up with that. It’s not because it’s not good. I don’t know.

At any rate, while I haven’t been reading many books, I have been listening to quite a few. Hedon and I have been more than thrilled with how the iPod has worked out for digital audiobooks and have been getting most of our books from Audible.com.

Two or three months back, Audible ran a sale of $4.95 for a selected number of first-in-series novels. I picked up five or six of those. This past week, they had a sale of $4.95 on 200 titles. We went a little crazy — bought more than 20 of them. If they keep up these sales, we’re going to have a full iPod in no time.

Here’s some of the books I’ve listened to in the last few months.

“Altered Carbon” by Richard K. Morgan. This is a first-in-a-series, science fiction, hard-boiled detective novel, set in a time when people have the ability to become immortal. The narrator is downloaded to Earth to solve the murder of a wealthy man, a man who is alive, thanks to having had a backup of himself in storage. I liked it okay, though it was clearly written with movie rights in mind. Lots of action scenes, that sort of thing. There are more books in this series, but I’d probably only buy them if they were seriously on sale.

“The Eyre Affair” by Jasper Fforde. Also a first-in-series novel, also sci-fi, also a detective sort of novel, but set in a future where people are heavily into literature. This one is hard to describe, what with it involving kidnappings of fictional literary characters like Jane Eyre and a character from “Martin Chuzzlewhit,” time warp holes popping up in the English countryside, vampires, designer formerly-extinct pets, mass murderers, wacky scientists, werewolves … well, this book doesn’t hold back anything. It was very funny at times, amusing almost all of the time, and I enjoyed it. I bought the sequel at the latest sale at Audible, but haven’t listened to it yet.

“Dead Until Dark” by Charlaine Harris. Once again, a first-in-series novel. We got this one because we really liked the HBO series “True Blood,” which is based on these Harris novels. Sookie Stackhouse, the protagonist, is a waitress from Louisiana who can read minds, and falls in love with a newcomer to town, a vampire. What is it with the vampires lately? Seems like half the novels at Audible involve a vampire in some way or another. Must be the “Twilight” craze that has caused it all. It’s not that I’m opposed to vampires; I love the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles. It’s just that all this vampire stuff is getting to be a bit much. Ah well. Anyway, I thought “Dead Until Dark” was pretty decent, though I like the HBO series much better. Hedon really loves these books, and has already bought the other seven books in the series. She says they get better as they go along, and she really, really loves the reader, Johanna Parker.

“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. This is an oldie but goodie first-in-series. I read this book a million years ago, but never read the rest of the series (the library didn’t have them). This is a time-travel novel, in which a woman in post World War II England is magically transported back in time to the mid 1700s. There are lots of romance novel elements to this book, but it’s better done than your average romance. The hero isn’t your cookie-cutter dark and brooding male. He’s actually likable. As a historical novel, it stands up pretty well. I’ve already finished “Outlander” and “Dragonfly in Amber,” the second in the series, and am now well into “Voyager,” the third novel. It’s good fun. Plus, I have a better grasp of the time period now than I had back in my 20s, knowing a bit more about the history of the Stewart vs. Hanover claims to the throne of England, and this adds more interest. Another plus is that these books are read by the most excellent Davina Porter, one of the finest readers out there.

“Little Dorrit” by Charles Dickens. Lest you think I have abandoned the classics, here comes “Little Dorrit” to save the day, although it is, admittedly, one of Dickens minor works. The great thing about master writers is that even their minor works are typically better than the best of the average writer. This was true of “Little Dorrit.” The character of Little Dorrit is born in a debtor’s prison to an impoverished gentleman and his wife. A large part of the novel is set in this debtor’s prison, but as is usual with Dickens, there are settings and characters galore. He has some pretty fine comic characters in this one, as well. A massive financial fraud in the novel, and the ensuing fallout, made it a particularly timely sort of read, considering world events of late. What do they call that? Serendipity?

I think that’s pretty much it. I will likely be listening to the Outlander series for some time to come. They are lengthy books — the fourth book is over 50 hours long. Past book four, I will actually have to read the others in the series since they are not available at Audible, and you can only get them from Recorded Books, where they cost about $60 each. Forgedaboudit. I paid $8 or less for each of the other four, thanks to sales and membership credits. I know I can get the rest on the Kindle for under $10, so that’s the way I’ll go. I swear, though, I will finish reading that Neal Stephenson book first!

When I’m done with the Outlander series, I have no idea what I’ll listen to next. Probably the Harris books. With all these sale books we’ve gotten, I’m going to have a ton to choose from. Can you believe I got one of my favorites, George Eliott’s “Middlemarch,” for only $4.95? Long live the Audible.com sales!

Geez, I sound like a huckster.

One in a million chance

2009 March 25

I didn’t plan to ever post about this experience but now it looks like it’s going to have to be done. And since I’m writing it I’m going to be participating in Mongolian Girl’s “Finish my Post Challenge” over at The Cusp. So you could go over there and read this. Or you could open both sites at once and read it in stereo. Or maybe you could read one paragraph at The Cusp and then one paragraph here. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter how you read it… the important thing was the writing of it.

It all went down about a week ago during Turn and Burn 1 and I have spent the past few days trying to put it out of my mind. But every time I go back to the place where it happened it forces itself forward to be noticed. Not in a big flashy way… more like how I felt extremely uneasy every time I fueled in Laramie, WY for the first few months after Matthew Shepard’s death. Maybe writing this will ease it into the background for good. That’s my hope, anyway.

We were at our fuel stop in Connecticut. The guy in front of me had finished and pulled forward. I pulled up to the pumps, but as sometimes happens he hadn’t really pulled forward far enough and I had to get quite close to the rear end of his trailer to make sure the fuel hoses would reach my tanks. I think this is sometimes caused by people that have never driven anything but Freightliners. The fuel tank opening on most Freightliners is right under the doors so you don’t need to pull very far forward. They may not realize that the opening on Volvo fuel tanks is back behind the cab so you have to be a lot farther forward in a Volvo. Our new Crapscadia has the fuel tanks’ opening basically in between the two. Anyway I had to pull quite close to his truck to reach the tanks, but there was still just enough room for me to walk in between our trucks easily.

I asked Stace what she wanted from the Wendy’s and got out to take care of business. I emptied the trash. Cleaned the windows. Fueled the tanks. Guy in front of me was still sitting there so I figured it would be a while before he was done and decided I would go ahead and get our food before moving our truck forward. I hung the driver’s side fuel hose back on the pump and stepped toward the front of the truck. I stopped for just a second to lock the driver’s door because it was quite late at night.

Then I walked the couple of steps to the front of the truck and turned right toward the building. My mind was busy trying to figure out what I could force myself to eat from Wendy’s. I took one step between our two trucks when my brain suddenly screamed, “get out!” I jumped backwards and started waving my arms around in the air and yelled. His truck had started moving backwards forcefully. I don’t know if he slammed on his brakes because he saw me waving my arms around in the air or if something else caught his attention, but when he stopped he was about six inches away from our grill.

Wow. Six inches. I would have been completely crushed if I had been between the two trucks. I would have been dead. Six inches between those two trucks. Only six inches.

His truck didn’t just roll backwards. I’ve seen many trucks roll backwards in a fuel island. Hell I’ve done it myself. When you roll backwards you start moving really slowly. That’s not what happened here. He started moving with purpose and speed. All I can figure is that he was really tired and thought he was in first when he was actually in reverse. And he let off the brake and gave it some fuel which would explain why he started backwards so fast. I don’t know what else could explain it.

A big truck is about eight feet across. I had barely had time to jump back one step before he was virtually right against our grill. If I had been halfway across the area between our trucks when he started moving… well… I wouldn’t be here today. I never could have made it to safety on either side of the trucks. I have no doubt whatsoever on that fact.

And here’s the thing… I can’t remember the last time I stopped to lock the driver’s side door when Stace was awake. I always do if she’s asleep, of course, but usually if it’s obvious that she’s awake I don’t bother with it cause nobody is going to mess with the truck while she’s sitting there. It had probably been months since I locked it when she was awake. But this time I stopped and took the two or three seconds that it took to lock that door. If I hadn’t I would have been at least one or possibly two more steps farther into the killing zone when his truck started moving. There are very few things about which you will hear me say, “That saved my life,” but stopping to lock that door is one of them.

It just keeps popping into my head that I was about three seconds away from being one of those tragic stories in “The Trucker” about the utterly freak accident that is such a bizarre combination of events no one could have anticipated it. I seriously don’t want to go out that way. I mean like everyone else I don’t want to go out at all, of course, but I really don’t want to go out in some senseless freak accident.

I’m more grateful than I can say that I didn’t.

Blame Betsey

2009 March 24
by Hedon

Ok… I seriously sat down here intending to write a brilliant — probably earth-shattering — post about something or other. I hadn’t really picked the topic yet but was pretty sure it would come to me once I started writing. While I was waiting for the magic to happen, I decided to go drop by one of my favorite haunts online: Betsey Booms’ Crazy Man Jones. I swear I was only planning to stay for a minute or two and then head back over here and let the awesome post that was floating just under the surface surge onto the screen.

That was the plan. I don’t know if you’ve ever visited Betsey, but if you have you know why nothing worked out the way it was supposed to. In the beginning it was ok. I read a couple of posts. Oh sure I laughed out loud, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I was in control. Then I read a few more posts. And laughed some more. Laughed harder. Then the next thing I knew I was pawing through her archives like a junkie digging through the sand under a boardwalk for his missing hoho. (I don’t know how the junkie dropped his delicious pastry product in the sand and it doesn’t really matter.) The point is that I love Betsey. And she makes me laugh. A lot. So when I saw that she was nominated for some Bloggers’ Choice Awards I had to go vote for her. Obviously. And it takes forever to sign up and all that so they will let you vote.

Then after I had voted for Betsey — who obviously IS the “Hottest Mommy Blogger” out there — I saw that Ask and You Shall Receive had been nominated, too, but not in the “Hottest Mommy Blogger” category which must be a relief for Father Gene, Nutjobber and Key. Clearly I am going to vote for ”Ask” cause I think they are awesome! They must be the “Best Blog about Blogging” out there even if they don’t offer free WordPress themes with kitties on the border. Anyway, voting for them and scouting out their weak-ass competition took a while, too.

Then I just got to reading around at the Bloggers’ Choice site and looking at all the different categories. I decided I was going to nominate Highway Hags for something. They didn’t have a trucking category of course so I checked out the “Travel Blogs” front-runners. Hmmm. Let’s see…

A blog about selling everything your family owns and becoming nomads (although I’d just like to say if they really sold everything to become wandering nomads how are they posting every day, huh? Tree mail? Telepathy?)

A blog about how “we all just picked up and moved to China and now we live in some little Chinese village and we speak some Chinese language. Aren’t we just too cool?” (sigh)

A blog about how hard it is to walk across an entire continent with no shoes and ingrown toenails. (But which continent, huh? Ok… I probably made this one up but only because it doesn’t have a lot of votes yet and I didn’t want to dig that deep)

A blog that not only mentions everyplace the guy goes (a la Hags) but then also gives interesting little lessons and facts about the new place he’s visiting — and apparently his pictures don’t suck ass either (obviously some sort of crazy over-achiever or something)

In the end I decided the Travel Category didn’t appear to be the place for us. The Humor Category won’t work either cause then we would have to spend the rest of the year whoring for humor votes by not posting any rants or stuff… well and trying to be funny and such. You know we can’t go that long without ranting about something or other. Besides, I already voted for Blanca DeBree Blog for best Humor Blog and I really don’t think you should nominate yourself in a category where you would vote for someone else… and campaign for them… and tell all your potential voters to go vote for the other blog instead. And all because Blanca is the only site on the web that once made me pee my pants just a little tiny bit cause I was laughing so hard. Not that you all need to bother remembering that last fact. The point is that I love Blanca and we can’t be nominated as a Humor Blog.

Hmmm… maybe “Best Blog About Stuff” or “Best Food Blog” cause I’m pretty sure that sometimes we write about stuff and I think I’ve now posted two different recipes. Or wait maybe I only posted one recipe and thought about posting another one but never did… how many recipes do you think you have to post before you can nominate yourself for “Best Food Blog?” Probably more than two, huh?

Then there’s “The Blogitzer” category but that won’t work for two reasons. First, it’s for the blogger who demonstrates “the best writing ability on his or her blog” and let’s face it we all know I’m prone to blathering on occasion… like right now for example. Second, Dooce is currently number one in that slot so that about sums that category up.

In the end I think I have it narrowed down to “Best Business Blog” or “Best Entertainment Blog” or “Best Shopping Blog” but I can’t decide which category we would have a better chance in. So I need some help here. Which one should I nominate Highway Hags in? Or maybe all three? Do you think if I go with the shopping category I can get by with just posting about what I bought at WalMart once a month? That would have to be enough cause that’s all the shopping I ever do. But why anyone would care that “this month I had to buy three deodorants instead of just two and two packages of paper plates so I got the ones with the blue pattern cause I think they look more festive than the green ones” is beyond me.

Hmmm. This whole world-domination-through-a-Bloggers’-Choice-Award-category stuff is all very complicated. Let me know what you all think. There’s also a “Best Religion Blog” category and I do say “god” a lot if you think that would be a better fit.

Bad boys. Bad boys…

2009 March 23
by Hedon

Years ago I had a small t-shirt shop in the little town where we live. We printed t-shirts, caps, jackets and other typical fare for a shop such as ours. One of the groups I did a lot of printing for was all of our local law enforcement entities. We made summer uniforms for the Sheriff’s Department  –  which were fancy black t-shirts with lots of gold prints on them. We did special Sheriff’s Department hats with the gold braid on the bill. Since these guys had to kick in part of the cost of their uniforms and it never hurts to be popular with the local law enforcement folk, I rarely charged them all of the set-up costs that their orders should have included. This seemed to keep me in pretty good graces with the man. Little did I know how important that would turn out to be.

The first night of Stace’s vacation I headed down to this little rib shack several miles away from the house to get our celebration meal. I picked up the ribs and was almost home when I came upon something weird going on up the highway in front of me. It was full dark so it was kinda hard to see. But it looked like the car in front of me was just sitting stopped on the highway and mostly in the wrong lane. Now this was a pretty busy two lane highway and the car was just sitting there in the south-bound lane but facing north. And it was sitting just this side of the little county road I needed to turn left onto in order to get home. Hmmm…

I eased up slowly behind them trying to gauge if I still had enough room to slide around them and turn onto my road. Mostly I was put out that my ribs were getting cold cause of the numb-nuts in front of me blocking the road. Just when I had about decided to go around on the right shoulder, the car threw it into reverse and back right into me. Put a huge dent in the left front quarter panel of the Toyota that is still there to this day since we had better uses for the insurance money at the time. Well luckily the police were there in just a few minutes cause it’s a small town and they didn’t have anything else to do after all.

As it turns out the Deputy, let’s call him Barney, that showed up to work the wreck was one who had just bought a large order of uniforms from me a couple of days before. We chatted for a bit then he went to talk to the other driver. He came back after a while and said that the other driver was completely drunk and had been trying to turn onto my road but had started the turn way too soon and was getting ready to drive down the steep embankment when she realized her situation and stopped. Then she didn’t know what to do which was why she was sitting there when I drove up.

While he was telling me all of this, another deputy showed up, handcuffed the drunk chick and hauled her off to jail. They called a wrecker to come get her car. Deputy Barney said he just had to go back up to his car to finish filling out the accident report so I could collect on her insurance and then I would be free to go. I sat in the car waiting impatiently watching my ribs get stone cold. I might have called Drunk Chick a few nasty names. I called Stace and told her I had been in a small wreck and that I was fine but it would be a bit yet before I got home.

Finally Deputy Barney walked back to my car. I could see immediately that something was very very wrong. He was actually pale. He said, “Uhhh Hedon, I don’t know quite how to say this but I’m going to have to put you under arrest. I sure am sorry about this.”

I said, “Oh come on, Deputy Barney, get serious. Are you done with the report? Can I go now? These ribs are getting ice cold.”

He said, “I’m not joking. Apparently there’s been a warrant out for your arrest for the past nine and a half years and I have to take you in.”

I was speechless. Honestly… sputteringly… speechless. And arrest me he did. He never handcuffed me. And he was a good guy and let me follow him to the county jail in my own car. But when I got there he handed me over to the jailers who frisked me, fingerprinted me and took mug shots of one extremely large extremely pissed-off woman. About the time the jailers were finishing up, Deputy Barney came over and said he had been on the phone with the county where I grew up trying to get them to drop the charges. But they wouldn’t. So they gave me one phone call and then into the holding cell I went. Luckily for her it was a different cell than the drunk tank where the stupid bitch who had hit me was being held.

Obviously, I called Stace with my one phone call. I had just called her about thirty or forty minutes before telling her that I had been in a small wreck and would be a little bit late getting home. Now I was having to call her asking if she would come over and post bail so I could get the hell out of jail. That is seriously not the best way to start your vacation. But she rushed right over and had me sprung in about two hours. Felt like days sitting in that cell.

When we got home, I was still in a daze. Stace thought it was extremely funny. I didn’t quite see the humor yet at that point. Now I think it’s a pretty good joke by the Universe. What had happened was when I moved from my home town years before I had apparently closed my checking account too early and bounced an $11.62 check. I never knew it. I had filed a change of address form but never got any notice that the check had even bounced much less that they were prosecuting me. So there had been a warrant out on me for damned near a decade. Over an eleven dollar check that I would gladly have paid if I had known anything about it.

It was pretty easy to get the whole mess cleaned up. I mailed a money order off the next day and that was the end of it. Well it would have been the end of it if word hadn’t made it to every law enforcement officer in the whole county. I thought I would never hear the end of it when they came in the shop to get uniforms. Finally I realized how to turn the tables on them. When they started razzing me about being a criminal, I started giving it right back. I made it clear I didn’t think too much of their law enforcement skills what with I had been living in their midst for ten years as a wanted woman and all… I think at that point we all just silently agreed to call it a draw and let it go.

The experience did stick with me though. Now I don’t politely sit and wait trying to figure out what a car that’s acting strangely might be doing. I get the hell away from them immediately. And I have never ever closed another bank account. Doubt if I ever will. Also, even if I’m wearing my hat I still comb my hair now before I leave the house. They won’t let you wear your hat for your mugshots and I don’t need any more of me on file looking like something from “The Smoking Gun” gallery of inbred losers. I’ve already got a couple of those, thanks.

You know… that guy

2009 March 22
tags: ,
by Stace

Overheard in the truck yesterday. Stace was driving and listening to her book when Hedon called up from the bunk:

Hedon: Hey Stace, do you remember that movie where the blond kid ordered a pizza?

Stace: Hmmm. No, what blonde kid? What pizza?

Hedon: He was played by that actor who grew up to not really have blonde hair after all. And he actually turned out to be a real actor. He was in that movie with the hot lady from that other movie where the two women run away and then drive their car over a cliff.

Stace: “Thelma and Louise?” You mean Geena Davis?

Hedon: No, not her. The hot one. The one who was also in that movie about the baseball player and is all activist and all.

Stace: The hot one in the baseball player movie. Oh yeah … I know who you’re talking about. Married that big tall guy. No wait I don’t think they’re married. I think they’re just shacked up because it’s a political statement or something. She has red hair. She never has had any plastic surgery as far as I know. I can’t think of her name … wait … Susan Sarandon. You think Susan Sarandon is hot?

Hedon: Hell yeah. I mean she was okay when she was younger, but as she’s gotten older she has turned seriously hot. Anyway, she was in that movie with an older version of the pizza-in-class kid where she was a nun and he was a prisoner.

Stace: She was a nun and he was a prisoner … hmmm … Sean Penn! “Dead Man Walking.” Sean Penn ordered a pizza in class. You’re talking about “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” I think.

Hedon: Yeah? Where Sean Penn was a young blond surfer dude?

Stace: Yeah.

Hedon: Cool.

Stace: …

Hedon: …

Stace: What about it?

Hedon: That kid was always stoned in that movie. I wish we had a big old joint right about now. Remember that Jamaican stuff I brought back from Atlanta that time? That was good stuff, huh?

Stace: Oh good god. That was twenty years ago.

Hedon: …

Stace: It was good stuff though.

Trucking

2009 March 21
by Hedon

Trucking can be a very dangerous job. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that fact. This was on I-80 in Ohio yesterday around 2:50 pm local time. The incident was around the 102 mile marker, but we haven’t heard any more news about it. Hope the driver is ok. You all be safe out there.

Truck fire in Ohio

Truck fire in Ohio

Fire trucks arrived right before us

I think the fuel tanks are involved at this point

I think the fuel tanks are involved at this point

Fire must have started in the cab area

Attaboy

2009 March 20

When I was in trucking school, I had two instructors, both female, one of whom taught us in the classroom and the other who was responsible for the actual driving. My classroom instructor was a great gal who had driven team with her husband for more than 10 years.

She told us that the reason they had left their last job was because after driving for them for over five years, never delivering late and never having a complaint from a customer, not once had their company given her and her husband an “attaboy.”

This threw me. What the hell’s an “attaboy?” Then it clicked. Oh. Shortened form of “That’s a boy,” the back-patting phrase for when someone wants to tell you that you’ve done a good job.

I remember thinking at the time that it wouldn’t be a problem for me, not getting deserved attaboys. I had just spent five years working for a man whose highest form of praise was that he didn’t yell at you on a weekly basis. I never got yelled at, so I figured I must be doing a pretty good job.

Hedon and I both like doing a good job. I’d like to say that most people do, though that’s not really my experience. One thing is for sure, most everyone thinks they are doing a good job, regardless of how much evidence there may or may not be in their favor.

And I suppose that’s why a good attaboy every once in a while from the bosses can be a real help. Let’s you know where you are in the order of things. An attaboy is a good thing, right? Well, not always.

When Hedon first started trucking, she liked hanging out with older drivers at truck stops and in terminals, hearing their stories and learning from their experiences. I particularly remember some advice that one driver gave her.

He told her that of course it was important to deliver on time and be reliable, that this would be noticed by dispatch and they would be more likely to ensure you get miles than someone who has multiple service failures. However, he cautioned, don’t be too good at your job.

He said it might feel good to be the savior on some load that should have been late because the company screwed up, but because of you busting ass, the load arrived on time. It might feel good then, but it won’t feel good later, when the next screwed up load comes along and you get stuck with it. Meanwhile, Loser Larry will get the great, easy load, because he can’t be trusted with anything harder. Because you do a good job, you’ll get all the bad loads.

He said he made it a point to deliver late, on purpose, three or four times a year. It was important, he insisted, that you give no good reason for the late delivery, that you just kind of blow it off as a “I dunno what happened” kind of deal. This would put you where you really want to be — right in the middle of the pack.

I thought this was pretty funny. After having worked in a number of offices where 20 percent of the people did 80 percent of the work, I had learned a trick or two of my own to keep from being overburdened. For instance, if someone asked you if you knew how to do something, you just lie and say you don’t. They move on to the next sucker.

Then there’s the special project some jerkwad passed off on you, which you just happen to keep forgetting to do (“Gawd, I can’t believe I forgot that again. I am SO sorry. I just don’t know what’s wrong with me these days. Here, I’ll write a note and that will remind me”). You then continue to forget to do it until the person who should have done it in the first place is forced to get off his lazy ass and do it himself. Who cares if he thinks you’re in the early stages of Alzheimer’s? Not me.

I haven’t been pushed to much subterfuge in trucking. I know when I’m doing a good job, and when I’m not. And I have learned to enforce my limits on management. I just tell them no, then repeat until they eventually get tired of arguing with me. So while I haven’t had to deliver late on purpose, I haven’t been a total pushover either.

We recently got a sort of attaboy for these loads we’ve been running. Last week, Uriah told us that customer service had told him we had done a great job on the first turn and burn and that they wanted us to do another round, and that Uriah was happy because we’d made him look good. Our thought was, what the hell did Uriah have to do with our doing a good job? He wasn’t even at work half the week. Ah well, we take our attaboys where we can get them, I suppose. And Uriah’s a decent guy, so he can share our “glory” if he wants to. Heh.

He must be happy this week, too, since we have already been given a pre-plan to do Turn and Burn 3 next week. We are supposed to be home on the day of the final delivery in Indiana, but we took the load anyway because this has been the most miles we’ve gotten, consecutively, in about a year. Yay money.

A little praise can go a long way in making people happy. I think I’ll go give Hedon an attaboy right after I finish this. She deserves it. And what the hell. Maggie, too.

Mr. Man’s Fifth Wheel Adventure

2009 March 19

If you aren’t a driver, you may want to go back and read this post first. It will tell you everything you need to know about hooking a tractor up to a trailer. That will make it easier to feel superior and laugh a lot later.

Last month I started writing about the boobery that went down for three days when we tried to pick up a load in LA, but then my computer died and I couldn’t post the pictures that went with part of it. Now I have the pictures, but can’t remember all the other boobery that took place so I’m just going to focus on Mr. Man who was picking up a load at the same place we were the second day.

I had backed our trailer into the dock, dropped it and moved the tractor across the parking lot. Most shippers will let you stay hooked to your trailer while they load you but some require that you drop the empty for whatever reason. At this particular joint there was so little room to maneuver it would have been really hard to hit a dock around trailers with tractors still attached so I didn’t mind dropping since it made it easier on all of us.

Once I got the trailer dropped and had moved the tractor to the bobtail area, I went up on the docks to give the shipping office my pick up number so they could get started on our load. There was a little tiny building there on the dock with a great big sign over an open window that said, “Shipping Office” and underneath it another smaller sign that said “All Drivers.” At least it was easy to find where I needed to go.

When I got to the shipping window there was a line of about three drivers in front of me. No big deal. First guy got his stuff finished and moved on. Then second guy left. About that time Mr. Man comes rushing in from the dock area. He got in line behind me and stood there kinda twitching and sighing and craning his neck to look around in all directions. Then he shot off down the little tiny office building peeking in all the closed windows.

Finally the guy in front of me was done and I stepped up to the window. I gave them my pick up number and while I was waiting I noticed that Mr. Man had managed to knock on a window and get someone to answer him. So he was getting taken care of the same time I was. I guess he was just too good to wait in line at the shipping window like the rest of us. Whatever. Finally I was done and turned to go.

It had been raining all morning and the dock area was pretty slick so I was walking slowly cause I am not the most graceful of drivers. I had just reached these narrow little metal stairs down to the ground from the dock area and was stepping onto the top step when Mr. Man came flying up behind me. He grabbed me by the shoulders and literally pushed me to the side so he could go down the steps first. All without saying a word. Of course my feet slid out from underneath me and I ended up on my ass on the wet dock. He never even broke stride and was around the corner of the dock before I managed to heft my big old ass back up. I didn’t figure I could catch him to tell him off, so I just stomped back to the truck muttering under my breath about rude-ass drivers.

Then Mr. Man’s tractor ripped around the corner of the building  –  driving far too fast for the conditions  –  and he hooked up to one of the trailers sitting in the dock. I was just about to get out of my truck and go give him a piece of my mind when he finished hooking up and started to pull out of the dock. He pulled out about fifteen feet then started to turn left to head toward the exit and that’s when this happened:

Muwahahaha!

Muwahahaha! Idiot!

You’ll notice that arrow number one is pointing to where his tractor should be if he had properly hooked to his trailer. Arrow number two is where his tractor actually is! It’s kinda hard to see back there behind the landing gear, but that’s because the tractor turned left toward the exit while the trailer  –  that was NOT secured to the tractor in any way  –  kept going straight about five more feet forward.

Now I have seen this happen about a dozen times since I’ve been driving. For whatever reason the trailer didn’t get hooked properly and when the driver pulls out and starts to turn the trailer ends up sliding off the fifth wheel onto the tires of the tractor. But that’s only if you are moving reasonably slow. If you are flying like Mr. Man the tractor drives too far out from under the trailer so that the trailer skids forward along the ground. You’ll notice at arrow three that the right side landing gear is on the ground even though it is cranked up. When fully retracted, landing gear are usually about fifteen to eighteen inches off the ground.

Arrow four shows the tractor of some other driver that Mr. Man’s trailer damn near slid into. Arrow five would be innocent bystander driver from arrow four truck going to give Mr. Man a piece of his mind. I think every driver on the lot except us got out in the rain and stood around scratching and wondering how he was going to get that trailer back up onto the fifth wheel. I mean they all stood around out there FOREVER! My god I thought I would laugh myself into a fit of some sort.

Nice work boys

Nice work boys

About an hour later, they finally figured out what to do. The shipping manager came out and brought a couple of his fork lifts to lift the trailer high enough so the yard dog could get his tractor under it. Once the yard dog’s tractor was secure under the trailer, they cranked the landing gear back down so Mr. Man could try to hook up again. You’ll notice Mr. Man’s brake lights at arrow one. Just shows how far out of position he really was  –  only the very left edge of the trailer was sitting on his tires. Also, at arrow two you’ll notice that innocent-bystander guy got his tractor completely out of that area once he heard what they were going to try to do with the forklifts.

So… Mr. Man saved a little time by avoiding standing in line at the shipping window like all of us ordinary drivers. And he gained a little more time pushing the fat old lady out of the way on the stairs. He probably even gained a little time ripping through the parking lot far too fast. But rushing on hooking up to the trailer… man… that seriously cost him some time. Also, I found out later when I was back at the shipping office that they had called his boss at his trucking company to report the incident and to inform them that Mr. Man was now permanetly banned from their facility. Ouch!

I was still laughing about it hours later when we were back over at Hooker Alley eating our favorite Thai food for the second night in a row. I know it shouldn’t be so damned funny, but if anyone deserved what happened I’m pretty sure it was Mr. Man. :)

Trailer hooking 101

2009 March 18

Today we’re going to have to talk about how a trailer hooks to a tractor. All you experienced drivers out there may just want to skip it and come back tomorrow. But if I don’t explain how it all works then the non-drivers among us won’t be able to laugh at the dick-head starring in tomorrow’s post and call him mean names… like idiot and dick-head and such.

King pin under trailer

King pin under trailer

First off, this is the king pin on the bottom side of the trailer near the front edge. It is just a small cylinder attached to a steel plate which is part of the floor of the trailer.

You will notice a smaller channel on the bottom part of the king pin. This is the area that the jaws of the fifth wheel (below) actually clamp around. Then the bigger bottom edge insures that the king pin can’t bounce up and out of the jaws even if you hit very bad roads.

Also, you will notice lots of grease on the bottom of the trailer. Since the connection between tractor and trailer is basically just a steel plate sitting on a steel platform, it pays to keep lots of grease involved in the interaction. Although all that grease can be mighty messy. We once worked for a company that used king pin locks on their trailers a lot. That was a round lock that slid up on the king pin and kept the fifth wheel from fitting around it. Good god was that a mess. Every time I had to take one of those locks off I would crawl under the trailer determined to stay clean and every time I came out I had fifth wheel grease on the back of my shirt, all over my hat, in my hair and on my hands. Ugh! We still have one but don’t ever use it.

Rear view of the fifth wheel

Rear view of the fifth wheel

Ok so this is your fifth wheel on the back of your tractor. It is basically the platform that the front half of the trailer rides on. It is also the pivot point when making a turn. And when the king pin is connected to the fifth wheel it provides the “pull point” or whatever you would like to call the single point where the tractor exerts the force required to drag the trailer around the country.

Right off the top of my head, I can’t for the life of me remember what I was intending to draw your attention to with arrow number one. Maybe I was just going to reinforce that the area arrow number one is pointing at is the actual surface the trailer sits on. Maybe I just like drawing arrows. Who knows? We should probably move on to arrow number two since I know why I made that one.

Arrow number two is the channel the king pin slides through until it engages the jaws to clamp down around it. If you look at the end of the channel you can see the jaws although they are not engaged in that picture. You might think it’s kinda hard to connect trailer and tractor. I know when I first started out in trucking school that was one of the things I was most nervous about. It is surprisingly pretty easy. If you’ll notice, the channel the king pin travels is wider at the beginning and sort of funnels down to the jaw area. So even if you aren’t lined up perfectly the trailer will usually adjust as you back the tractor underneath it.

Important rules about hooking up to the trailer:

1.  Make sure the trailer is actually sitting on the fifth wheel. There should be no gap between them.

2.  Back slowly under the trailer but with enough force that you engage the fifth wheel jaws. In almost every truck I’ve ever driven you can actually hear the jaws engage, but once you are connected you should still do a tug test. A tug test is simply putting the tractor in a low forward gear and easing off the brake. If properly connected, the tractor will pull forward but be unable to move because the trailer brakes are still engaged.

3.  Once you set the tractor parking brake and get out of the truck you should actually duck under the trailer and visually double check that there is no gap between the fifth wheel and the trailer. You should also look to make sure the fifth wheel jaws are actually locked in place around the king pin.

4.  If the trailer is properly secured, go ahead and hook up your pigtail and air lines and raise the trailer’s landing gear. Then proceed to pre-trip the trailer.

It may sound like a lot, but it really takes very little time. I can do a complete drop-and-hook including a good inspection of the new trailer in less than fifteen minutes. And I think we’ve more than adequately covered my lazy streak in past posts, so I assume you will all understand what I mean when I say there really isn’t any excuse for not doing it properly. I mean if I’m willing to do if faithfully every single time how hard can it be, right?

Besides… there are consequences and repercussions to not hooking up properly. Tune in tomorrow for a fifth wheel related laugh.

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