What’s Your Position at Retired?

Oh…I don’t know…semi reclined in front of the TV? I cleaned up a few minor “alternate facts” on my FaceBook profile and when I logged in I got the question “What’s your position at Retired?” The last time I answered the question “CEO” and I became the CEO of retired. I must have thought it was funny because it stayed that way for years. It’s not true that I spend my days semi-reclined in front of the TV. I’m busier than I’ve ever been. The biggest difference is that I’m mostly busy doing only the things that I enjoy and I don’t get paid.

We’re one month in and I’m excited about 2017. I’ll turn 64 in a couple of days. We’ll sing Karaoke and eat pizza. Soon I’ll be spending a week on the University of Arizona campus helping the Secular Student Alliance when the travelling evangelist, Brother Jed Smock, comes to visit. March is Nancy’s birthday and another Karaoke party. I won’t tell you which one but she reminds me every year that she’s X years younger than me. Of course I point out that percentage wise we’re getting closer. I’ll celebrate the fact that Arizona doesn’t have daylight savings time by NOT changing any of the 47 clocks that we have around the house. Normally the American Atheist convention is on Easter weekend but not this year. This year the convention will be in North Carolina during the total Solar Eclipse in August. We might travel to the California Bay Area for the annual Maker Faire in May. I’m already excited about attending for my fourth time as a camp counselor for Camp Quest Arizona in June. We’ll be building Beetle Bots. Nancy and I plan on participating in the Annual International Aerial Robotics Competition during August in Georgia along with the AA Eclipse Convention. Hopefully, we should no longer be landlords in September when we transfer our last rental property to new owners. Then comes my favorite month—October! I’ll spend the entire month in my workshop preparing for Halloween and the party the night before. Not much happens during November but we always end the year with our Winter Solstice celebration.

In addition, there are the monthly meetings of the groups that I organize, house and vehicle maintenance, and all the other things that must be done on an “as needed” basis. I know quite a few retired folks and almost to a person I hear the same thing, “When did I have time for work?” Happy New Year (a month in).

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Interesting Times, the Battle of the Bulge, and Another Take on Atheism?

“May you live in interesting times.” Apparently we’re living under “the Chinese curse” and will continue to do so for quite a while. It is often difficult to stay apolitical. I usually only allow partisan discussions in my group when politics interfere with the secular character of this country. Now there is little that I can do to prevent political discussions from dominating many of our local activities. Whether or not the Chinese curse story is true, we ARE stuck with a political situation that will dominate our lives, at least for a while.

It’s the end of January and I’m still working off my “party pounds” from December. I’m almost 64 years old and it seems that gaining weight is easier than losing it. My battle of the bulge includes daily walks and reduced calorie intake. I’ve learned that it takes both but long walks take time. To ease the boredom I listen to a wide variety of podcasts. The subjects of the podcasts I listen to include Atheism, Humanism, Science, Skepticism, Renaissance and Oldies music. I listen to most of them at 1.5X speed—not the music ones of course that would be weird. I also track down Geocaches that are within a couple of miles, pick up trash, and on occasion I walk to the hardware store (2 miles) or Walmart (3.5 miles) to pick up small items that are easy to carry.

While avoiding the political discussion, walking for my health, and listening to a science podcast, I heard something that never occurred to me before—scientifically, cold is not a thing. Hot and warm are real and measureable but there is no such thing as cold. It is in fact referring to a “lack of heat.” Perhaps in a similar way Atheism isn’t really a “thing.” It’s at least not a religion. Can you measure Atheism since it is most accurately described as a “lack of belief?”

Thoughts?

Posted in American Atheists, Atheist Action, Religion, Retired--A Day in the Life, Science and Technology, Skepticism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Freddy

I just saw a small video on FaceBook that reminded me of our dog Fred (Freddy). In the video, a young man serving in Afghanistan finds a dog, names him Fred, and brings him home to the States after his tour is over. It was a heartwarming story that was eerily familiar to me.

161225-goose-bay-locationIn 1968, my family was stationed at Goose Bay Air Force Base remotely located in Labrador, Canada. The base was a bit North of Maine. Imagine how cold it must get there. I was the oldest kid in the family and attending high school. My sister Christine was two years younger.

 

 

 

 

christine-and-freddyOne very cold day near Christmastime, Christine opened the front door to our house and let in a funny looking black dog. She named it Fred but we mostly called him Freddy. He was incredibly short for his size. He was as long as a typical German Shephard but as tall as a Bassett Hound. His ears were pointed and stood up on his head and you might imagine that he had a bit of Corgi in him. He was skinny back then and amazingly well behaved but he was great at begging for food so he didn’t stay skinny long. Before long the family grew attached to him. However, we were on a remote assignment and this situation was not destined to end well. There would come a time when my dad’s tour was over when we would have to leave Canada and say goodbye to Freddy. In order to stave off the inevitable heart break, my father decided to do the responsible thing and find Freddy a new home. He packed up the toys from the chair that Freddy had adopted and took him to a neighbor not far away. Not far enough anyway, Freddy was back sitting on our snow covered porch waiting to be let in the next day. Once again, Dad packed up Freddy in the ’58 Chevy Station Wagon and delivered him to his new owners. Freddy came back and that was that, we definitely had a dog. Why he chose us to stay with us will always be a mystery but it was clear as to why my dad grew attached.

My father had a job that would sometimes require him to go in the darkest coldest part of the night. The phone would ring and he would have to go into work. When Dad went in Freddy would go with him and wait in the car. I think my father enjoyed the company and Freddy loved to ride in the car. Often times it was 20 below zero. When it came time for our family to leave Goose Bay, Dad pulled all of the strings he needed to and spent what he had to so that Freddy could come back with us to California. My father often told friends that he had spent a hundred and fifty dollars (a lot of money to us back in 1969) to bring back a fifteen cent dog but we all knew that he would have spent three times that much.

I lived with Freddy until I left the house for my own Air Force Assignments. After I left home I would come back to spend Christmas with my family and Freddy. Later on, I had a family that visited. We don’t know how old Freddy was when we took him in but he stayed for 14 years until the summer of 1982. 

 

 

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Now we have a sign!

img_3465Tucson Atheists now have a roadside sign. In fact, we have a couple. We earned them from the city of Tucson for cleaning up a couple of miles of roadway in Tucson once a month for over six months. We discovered that the signs were up before we started our 7th cleanup. It’s a point of pride that we had from 12 to twenty volunteers during every cleanup. The road is a mile south of my house and they were scheduled for early Sunday morning. (What else is an Atheist doing on Sunday morning?) We worked for two hours then gathered at my house for sandwiches and cold drinks/ There were no complaints. It’s cooler in the morning and that was very important during a Tucson summer. We’ll continue to do the road cleanup but my guess is that we can start a bit later during the winter months.img_3462

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Signs signs everywhere there’s signs

I think I mentioned that was going out to pick up the roadside political signs. Ya I did. The signs are everywhere and they are “Fucking up the scenery, breaking my mind.” The weather channel has designated our recent local weather as “action days.” That apparently means that the wind is blowing. Picking up signs when the wind is blowing is a bit more challenging. While most are 4 ft. by 4 ft. or smaller, some of them are as big as 4 X 8 feet. However, I found the activity somehow enjoyable and relaxing. I’m way behind in my podcasts so I’m listening to them at 1.5 speed. I have my work gloves on and it’s sunny. For a couple of hours, I was in a special “no pain zone” and I was content to be cleaning up the neighborhood. There was nothing pressing and I could take my time. Each time I used my diagonal cutters I would hear that satisfying >click< as I cut another nylon wire tie. Each sign had four, six, and sometimes 8 ties securing the sign to the rebar stakes. After all the ties were cut, I would literally fly the sign off of the stakes and into the back of my old Red Ford Ranger pickup. I remove the rebar post by clamping a pair of vice grip pliers and rotating it until it’s loose. Then I tug on the post in an upward direction while rotating the pliers back and forth. Most of the posts have been in the ground only a short time so they come right up. However, some are bent and are a bit trickier. I have to find the right angle to pull to get the rebar to come straight up. There are a bunch of smaller signs that are in the ground with very small wire like sign holders. They are generally easy to pull up.

Yesterday, I cleared a mile of roadway which included a very busy intersection with signs on all four corners. Today, I cleared a very popular “T” intersection with a big road. There were many signs and a lot of trash on the big road opposite the intersection. I was able to get most of the signs and posts and I went back on foot with a large plastic bag and a trash pickup tool. However, there are a couple of “T” posts that have been there for a while that are going to take special equipment to remove.

If you need something to get your mind off of the current situation and you have a few hours to kill, I recommend sign removal. You might be getting some useful material while simultaneously cleaning up your neighborhood. Cheers!

Here are the pictures:

Before, after, arrival at home, stored for future use.

 

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Shock and Ahh…Shit

The mourning* after the 2016 election.

The Nightmare before the Election is now possibly the Nightmare after the Election but we’ll have to wait and see how much rhetoric becomes reality as President Trump proceeds to build and manage the Executive Branch of our government. The bad news is that if he accomplishes only half of what he’s promised, we’re screwed. The good news is you can’t totally rely on anything that he says or said. One supporter told me not to worry because Mr. Trump would surround himself with smart people.

Hate to be negative here but firstly, the people he has around him aren’t our best. His vice president is Mike Pence who has advocated for conversion therapy for homosexuals and is against fair pay for women and minorities. Mr. Trump selected Chris Christie to lead his transition team. Not the best choice considering a judge in New Jersey found that there was probable cause to believe that Chris Christie had engaged in official misconduct for his part in the “Bridgegate” scandal. However, Governor Christie is included in his list of front runners  for his cabinet along with a Wall Street CEO, climate change deniers (“skeptics”), Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and other bright lights from the narcissistic right. Even if he does manage to get exemplary members on his team, it’s not clear due to his performance during the campaign that he will listen to any of them. He has said that he is not interested in the experience of the current military leaders. Most of those leaders have gained their knowledge and experience under many different administrations lead by both Republicans and Democrats.

I have hope that our new president will rise like a Phoenix from this disastrous election season to lead the country to greater peace and prosperity without regressing to meaner times like many progressives fear. However, I’ve already lost a friend because of post-election vitriol. She went on FaceBook and announced that those protesting the election are LOSERS. I’m intolerant of ad hominem attacks strictly because of a difference of opinion. We can’t get through this time intact if we throw gas onto the smoldering embers of this hard fought contest. We must always discuss differing opinions with respect for the individuals involved especially during these trying times.

On a positive note, now that the election is over it is time we got rid of all of those annoying roadside signs. Traditionally, I go out on the day after every election to help in the effort by filling my truck full of them. It’s a bit of a job so I consider it good exercise which is a win but I get a second win because I reuse the plastic sign material and the rebar stakes in D.I.Y projects around the house. Notice in the picture below the use of rebar and plastic sign material in my latest Halloween prop. zombie-pit

In any case, I believe for the next four years (at least) we may be cursed to live in interesting times.

*I meant to spell it that way! I’ll be wearing a lot of black for the next four years.

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The Nightmare before the Election

deadend-cemetaryIt has been a few months. It’s hard to believe that at one time this was a daily blog. Of course back then there were a couple of writers. I’ve still got plenty to say and hopefully there are readers who want to hear what I have to say. So how is it that over four months pass before I publish a blog entry? Notice I said “publish” there were many times that I sat down, started writing, and didn’t finish. It’s like a pressure relief valve. I sit down all fired up and a few paragraphs in the urgency to write seems to fade. I never get back to one I’ve started even though I tell myself that I’ll get back and finish it.

So here it is one day before the election. If I had something to say about the election that might have made a difference, I would have written much sooner. However, there is something almost as scary as politics during this time during the year—Halloween.

Halloween is my favorite holiday and as one of the neighborhood kids says I go “all out.” I’ve enjoyed the holiday since I was very young. One of my earliest memories is winning a hotstuffclassroom costume contest. I was dressed as “Hot Stuff” a comic book character. It was way back in 1960. We had school Halloween parties back then and someone dressed as a little devil could win a costume contest. I wonder if things have changed much since then. As I grew up Halloween provided many opportunities to stretch my creative muscles. There were costumes to construct, of course, but more importantly we had to have a neighborhood tactical plan. We had to get to the most houses in the allotted time and a pillow case was the only acceptable option for collecting the candy. There were rules we had to follow or we couldn’t go. We weren’t allowed to eat anything homemade. All candy had to be inspected before we could eat it and we were only allowed to eat two pieces each day. If we got a good haul that meant we would have candy until Christmas! Finally in our house “Trick-or-treat” ended at the age of 12. After that age, my job was to do the handing out.

So I handed out candy when the doorbell rang. My parents didn’t decorate or get into the spirit of the holiday at all. Dave Michaels was a friend of mine from high school. His dad set up a pumpkin on a pole covered with a white cloth. The pumpkin had an electric light in it and a speaker under it. It also had a large solenoid that would flip up some stubby arms under the cloth. Dave’s dad would hide in the house and watch the kids through the window. When they came up he would talk with them and make the arms go up and down. I only saw it one time and only for a couple of minutes. When I saw it, it didn’t work but that brief encounter changed the way I looked at Halloween ever since.

Eventually, I recreated the talking pumpkin only a bit better and I set it up every year for over thirty years. My pumpkin had a speaker, and a light. While it didn’t have moving arms, the light was voice modulated. When Nancy and I moved to Tucson in 2000 we brought our talking pumpkin. The neighborhood kids loved talking to the pumpkin and would sometimes come back after they finished trick-or-treating just to chat. Many still remember it but now they’re quite a bit older and some even have children of their own. It was our sole display until 2008 when I finally retired from work at Raytheon and the beginning of the next chapter in the “Lacey’s Scary Halloween Graveyard.”

clownNancy bought me a hang up clown display in 2008 and I attempted to make it come out of a box. Mercifully, I don’t have any pictures of that attempt. I started too late and the power automotive radio aerial didn’t have the >snap< I was looking for. In 2009 I started earlier and discovered pneumatics. The Clown and the Popup Ghoul were born and joined the talking pumpkin. Gravestones were put in the garden behind lumps of dirt. It was better but I made a mistake. I invited a few friends over on Halloween night to come over and see the display. It wasn’t a mistake to invite them. It was a mistake to invite them on Halloween night. There was so much going on and I wasn’t able to enjoy their visit, show off the display, operate the display, and dole out the candy.

The current routine started in 2010 when I invited some friends over the night before. Once in a while things just seem to work out. I found a new friend Jack Herron who got into the holiday as much as I did and he donated tons of his decorations to the effort. Having people over the day before was so much better and continued through this year. The “Devil’s Night” party provided me a chance to dry run all the props, show off a bit, and have a party. Things that fail during the dry run can be repaired on Halloween before Trick-or-Treat and the kids get a fully functioning display for the entire time.

I hope that you enjoy Halloween as much as I do. Check out the video and come by in 2017 and see what is new!

ground-breakerzombie-pit-2

mournerswhich-moon-2jacknaomitomb-liftergaseous-ghoul

 

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