Speed.

During my work day at home I often go for a 15-20 minute walk in the morning and again in the afternoon. My walk involves walking along the shoulder of our fairly busy road because we don’t live in an area with sidewalks. I’m not sure that I would want to live in an area with sidewalks, what with being a farm boy at heart and all that.

Traditionally, not having a sidewalk hasn’t really been an issue; folks would simply move over a little bit to give the pedestrian a little bit of breathing space. However, I have noticed that over the past year or so, people haven’t been driving in as friendly a manner down the road and they’re driving a lot faster. I need to leave the shoulder of the road and take refuge in the adjacent lawn at least three or four times a week. This makes my walk less enjoyable than it is intended to be.

The county Department of Works must have noticed that tendency of motorists speeding down the hill as well, because a week ago they added an electronic speed indicating sign. Random observations during my walk have confirmed my suspicions. People are driving faster than the posted 45 MPH speed limit.

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I’ve noticed that quite a few drivers are slamming on their brakes when they see that they’re exceeding the speed limit by 10 or 15 MPH. I fully believe that they’re afraid that the display has some sort of camera embedded in it, but I don’t believe that it does. I think it’s just a velocity indicator and nothing more.

Nevertheless, I wish people would use some common sense and slow down just a little bit to keep our quasi-rural area somewhat enjoyable. Actually, I wish people would just start using common sense, period. But I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Priced Randomly.

So earlier this year my primary physician awarded me a year’s supply of Norvasc, a medication used to treat high blood pressure. As my luck would have it, he has the pharmacy dish this out on a monthly basis, however, as I mentioned, I did win a year’s supply. Earl likes to call this my distemper medication.

Shortly after starting the Norvasc, I received a letter from the administrator of the company prescription plan, advising me that I needed to get routine and regular medications in 90 day increments by mail. I was discouraged from using the local pharmacy, because apparently that’s a more expensive proposition. I was told to go online, use the provided credentials to register with the mail-order company, and then I would reap the savings in medical costs.

The website is wonky at best.

The provided credentials don’t work.

I lost interest.

Squirrel!

I decided to ignore the directive from the company prescription drug program and stick with the local pharmacy. The cost varies from month to month and I end up paying anywhere from $6.00 to $9.95. The name of the mail-order prescription drug company is emblazoned across the label from the local pharmacy, so this tells me that somehow the local pharmacy and the mail-order provider are in cahoots.

Despite the cahoots, I continue to receive letters from the company insurance provider, reminding me that effective the next refill, my prescription price will skyrocket unless I use the mail-order plan. This has been going on for months. Tonight I refilled my prescription at the local pharmacy and it went from $9.50 to $4.75.

Somehow, somewhere, the cahoots are on my side.

I don’t know how people with crappy medical plans, well crappier medical plans than what we have at work, and multiple medications, keep all of this rigamarole straight. It’s bad enough that I have a deductible on my body, like I’m made up of front fenders and rear quarter panels, but I’m sorry, I’m not going to rely on the US Postal Service to deliver my medications in a timely manner. They can’t even get a package from 75 miles away to my house in less than a week, and even then the tracking information indicates that it’s been routed through Bogalusa, Louisiana on it’s way from one Upstate New York city to another, why on earth would I trust them to get my medication on time.

Once upon a time we relied on our friendly neighborhood pharmacist. I refuse to give and I will continue to do so.

Seasonal.

On the drive to work this morning I heard a mention on the radio of the fact that the “holiday season” is getting ready to be in full swing next week. Retailers are very excited because there’s 4% more disposable income this year versus last year. Consumers are ready to spend, spend, spend all in the name of myrrh.

Since when does the holiday season start October 1? If I start hearing “Jingle Bells” or, even more horrifying, “My Favorite Things”, on tinny little PA speakers next week, I am going to be very, very hostile in any given retail environment.

I’m actually a little surprised that folks are thinking about the holiday season already, what with Halloween a little over a month away. Three abandoned stores within a five mile radius of our house have been converted to Halloween warehouses. These establishments have names like “Spirit of Halloween”, “Halloween City” and “Boo, You and A Buck”.

One of the stores have moved into an abandoned Circuit City, which is slated to become a Buffalo Wild Wings, but we have to wait until the Halloween store pilfers way too much money from the sheep before we can get Buffalo Wild Wings. Like an early Christmas, this makes me hostile.

Personally I think Halloween has become completely out of control. People spend hundreds of dollars decorating their house for the holiday. Ridiculously sized gatherings are assembled where people can run around in store-bought costumes and create chaos. Retailers are clamping down on the sale of shaving cream, requiring a license and a credit card dragged across your cheek to prove that you need the stuff. Pumpkins are being hurled from Thruway overpasses and honestly, people are now using Halloween as an excuse to lose their mind before going completely nuts for the holiday season in general.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy Halloween; quite the contrary, I relish the pass I get that for one day I get to go out in some outrageous getup, act all weird and claim that it’s all in the name of Halloween. I mean, when else could a 46 year old man go walking around the mall in a superhero costume? But the mass commercialism and intensity in which people wildly spend money for this holiday is getting a bit out of control. Gone are the days when someone tossed a Tootsie Roll and maybe a pack of Sweet Tarts in your decorated shopping bag. Children have $100 costumes, designer bags and a plan. Throw less than $10 worth of candy into that bag and you’re in big trouble. You’ve let down the Halloween gods.

Earl and I are quite lucky; we have had only one trick-or-treater come to our house in the 18 years that we have been married, and that was the kid of one of Earl’s employees who was afraid he’d be fired if he didn’t cozy up to the boss. Earl and I celebrate the most reasonable way we know how; we turn off the porch lights, lock down the house, throw on some ridiculous clothes and go out for dinner. We then circle around the house and see if there’s any hint of activity in our neighborhood. When we determine it’s all clear, we sneak in the back door and make ourselves at home. We then promptly eat the candy we knew we’d never give out.

That’s the way Halloween should be celebrated. It’s a shame that we can’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner that night, what with “Boo You and a Buck” taking up the store front and all.

Autumn.

So apparently at 10:29 PM (2229 ET), Autumn will have officially arrived in these parts. ‘Tis my favorite time of year and I’m looking forward to the crispness of the air and the magic on the winds.

The leaves are just starting to change in these parts. Not only is it my favorite time of year, it’s also the most beautiful in these parts.

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Sale.

Yesterday Earl and I raised $185 for the Ali Forney Center in New York, an organization that helps provide housing for homeless LGBT youth. A couple of years ago I raised money by shaving off my awesome ‘stache, this year Earl and I had a garage sale and donated all the proceeds to a worthy cause.

Having a garage sale is weird to me, because it strikes me odd that people would want stuff that we are trying to get rid of. Nevertheless, several friends came over and perused through our wares and took home some stuff and we had some folks just stop by after seeing the sign we had out on the front lawn. We didn’t have any prices on the items for sale, we just asked that folks donate what they thought was a fair price. It would seem that folks were quite generous.

We still have quite a bit of stuff out in the garage so I think we are going to have another garage sale next weekend. If you’re in Central New York and interested in stopping by, feel free to drop me a line so I can give you the coordinates of our location.

Kiss.

I have always been intrigued by kissing. There are so many variations on the pleasure of kissing; a kiss can be a quick peck, it can be a way of saying hello or goodbye, it can be a long, passionate affair that says “I love you”. Even the thought of a kiss brings a smile to my face.

Since I learned in my early teens how awesome kissing can be, I have always wished that social norms allowed us the luxury of kissing one another with no strings attached. I once read a story about Elizabeth Montgomery enjoying herself at a party, walking into the another room and giving Dean Martin a most passionate kiss, and then walking away and going back to celebrating with the other party guests. The story goes that there was nothing improper; it was just an impulse, a moment, and it was savored between Lizzie and Dean. To the best of my knowledge, it didn’t go any further than that. But I find it so cool that they were able to have that moment together. I wonder how many people in the world feel free enough to do that sort of thing.

I’m sure if people kissed more freely there would be less hostility in the world.

I have met several people in my life that I’ve just wanted to walk up to them and say, “I’d like to kiss you”, and then go ahead and do it once they have given their consent. This shouldn’t be interpreted as a dissatisfaction with my love life. When I was younger, I was at a party where a guy did just that. He liked redheads, I still had red hair at the time, and he wanted to kiss me. So we kissed. He said that was nice, I agreed with him and he went back to his friends. We didn’t take the next passionate step, we didn’t even exchanged names; we just kissed, we enjoyed the moment together and I look back on the experience with a smile. I hope he does the same.

My husband is a terrific kisser. Even though we’ve been together for over 18 years, I find myself smiling as I think about kissing him as I type this blog entry. There’s no staleness or shelf date concerns with our kissing habits. Our kisses are fueled by the always growing passion of our relationship. I wouldn’t be jealous if someone walked up to him and wanted to kiss him. We’re solid like that. Jealousy comes from lack of confidence or other similar ingredient within ourselves. Jealousy is a projection. I hope that he would enjoy a random kiss and much as I would.

A few months ago, this video made its rounds on the Internet. It documented 20 strangers kissing for the first time. The chemistry between some is electric. I love the vibe of this video. The innocence. The smiles. The shyness. The intensity. It’s all so very awesome to me.

Whew.

So I mentioned a few days ago that I was studying for my FAA Written Exam to become a Private Pilot. I probably should have taken this test a month ago but I wasn’t feeling as confident as I felt I needed to be to do well on the exam, so I delayed it until yesterday. I spent the weekend studying hard and doing nearly two dozen practice tests. On Monday and Tuesday night I was consistently scoring in the mid 90s on the practice exams so I felt confident going into the exam yesterday.

Various sources on the web warned to expect a five to ten point drop from your practice scores. They attributed the drop to a couple of things, mainly test anxiety and the fact that the FAA no longer publishes all of the questions that can be pulled from the bank and presented to you. So while many of the questions that I had on the exam yesterday were quite familiar to me, there were a couple of new ones in there that had me thinking. When all was said and done, I scored an 87 on the exam, which, when you figure in the hypothetical 5-10% drop from test anxiety and such, is still pretty good. I completed the exam in a little over an hour and I even went through and redid all my math and checked my answers before letting the test proctor know that I was completed. All in all, it was a great experience in that it helped boost my aviation confidence considerably and I learned a great deal from devoting myself to the books to feel really prepped for this exam.

The next step in my aviation career is the combination of the oral and the practical portion of the exam. I will be spending the next few weeks with my instructor tweaking and refining my piloting skills. I have all the basics down and most of my maneuvers are well within the standards prescribed by the FAA, but I have some things here and there where I need improvement and I more importantly, I just need to ramp up my personal comfort level so that when I take the examiner on an airplane ride, I don’t think of him just as the examiner but rather as my practice passenger.

I feel really awesome. This is definitely a dream come true for me.

Breaking News.

I am an avid user of Twitter. If you’re not following me on there and you’re all about the Twitter, please feel free to follow me at flyMachias. While I talk about my piloting adventures on there, I talk about a lot of other stuff as well. It’s like a mini-version of this blog but with more frequent updates.

One of the thing I like about Twitter, at least until the company messes up the stream by “curating” what the users see, is that you can get breaking news quickly. A couple of years ago when the earthquake rocked Virginia, and subsequently the northeast, I actually saw it on Twitter a split second before my computer monitors at work started rocking from the same earthquake. When a celebrity passes on, I always see it on Twitter first. It’s like Twitter contains the pulse of what’s going on in the world.

One of the accounts I follow is @breakingnews. Since I rely on Twitter for news information, it makes sense to follow @breakingnews. They often tweet important things, like the number of people that have died from Ebola, details of a shooting in Europe and details of the latest unrest in the Middle East. This brings credibility to the account, in my eyes, and it sets a certain expectation for me. So imagine my disappointment when not one, but two tweets today were devoted to this drivel:

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Now, I know I’m getting old. At 46 years old, I realize that I am seeing the world in a different way than those of the younger generation and I often my comparisons between my reactions to a given topic versus what my father or grandfather would have said. So, be that as it may, after looking up Rhianna and realizing who she was (she came around after my days in radio), I realized that not only is this woman the epitome of everything that is wrong with the entertainment industry today, I doubt that whether her song is played before a football game on CBS really qualifies as “Breaking News”. I mean, if this is what is breaking news in the United States, then I’d say we have all our poverty, health care, human dignity, governmental, etc., problems solved and we should therefore devote our time to trivial things. But the truth of the matter is, there’s a LOT of stuff going on in the world today, and quite frankly, whether or not this Rhianna woman’s song is going to be played is not even in the Top 200.

I call this “distracting the masses.”

Going through the recent tweets of @breakingnews to research a little bit for this blog entry, I realized that they also have a tendency to include Apple news as breaking news. News flash, unless Apple has had a massive security breach, has been nuked by a terrorist, or has outright purchased the United States Government for a bargain basement price (face it, we’d be on a corner rack in Filene’s Basement if that chain was still around), nothing that Apple does is “Breaking News”. It’s more distraction. And because people are celebrating the steady decline of the average IQ by applauding mediocrity and reducing their world view to a very tunneled down definition, the masses are distracted easily.

So now I’m wondering if I should unfollow @breakingnews and go with something a little less ridiculous. If anyone has any suggestions of another Twitter account of follow, I would welcome the input.

Tests.

So this week I am taking the first of my three required tests to become a licensed Private Pilot in the United States. Admittedly, I should have probably taken this test a few weeks ago, but I didn’t feel pumped and ready for this particular phase of my flight training. So I postponed taking the test until this week. You see, this week’s test is the written test, and this makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I test well, especially with a written test. It’s kind of like when I’m sitting in the doctor’s office and he’s checking my blood pressure. My blood pressure can be 110/80 at home and then I get in the doctor’s office and bells and whistles start to blow, people get nervous and I get antsy. I have high blood pressure because when they take my blood pressure in a doctor’s office, it’s high. It’s never high elsewhere. I can check it here and there and I’m a healthy guy, but get in a doctor’s office and zoom, there it goes.

I just don’t feel like I test well.

I can fly the airplane, I can land the airplane, I can even land the airplane when the instructor pulls the power (gliding is fun!), but because I like to analyze the hell out of everything, I obsess over the multiple choice answers and occasionally confuse myself. When I was a youngster I had the habit of whipping through a test as quickly as possible because I figured if I didn’t know the answer at warp speed, I wasn’t going to know the answer at idle, so why waste the time idling. Later in life I recognized this approach as being unwieldy at best, so I tried to keep it at bay.

I guess what’s making me a little nervous is the fact that I don’t feel like facts stick well in my brain anymore. I can tell you, right to your face, that two different actresses portrayed the older daughter in the sitcom “Hello, Larry” (Donna Wilkes and Krista Erikkson, and yes, I know that’s frightening that I didn’t even look that up) but I have to chant repeatedly “craft class man cat” to remember that an airplane is an Aircraft Classification but an Airmen Category designation. Getting old sucks.

Luckily, there is some excellent exam prep software out there and I have been going crazy with practice tests since Friday (and I had been doing them here and there before then). Yesterday alone I spent eight solid hours just going through the databank of questions that should appear somewhere on the 60 question test and honestly, I think I’m going to do fine but I’m still nervous about it.

I figure the worst thing that can happen is that people will make fun of me and I’ll have to take the test again after some remedial training (the wings go on either side of the airplane), so that’s not particularly awful, but since I’m finally doing something I’ve wanted to do all my life, I want to make sure that I do it right.

How Can We Forget.

I’ve been pondering this blog entry all morning. I’ve been trying to decide if I really wanted to share my thoughts but then I figured that it’s my blog and in the spirit of honesty, it would be dishonest to not share my thoughts.

As we all know, today is September 11 and today is the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. Like most other Americans, I vividly remember that day. I know where I was, I know what I saw and I know how I felt.

I remember thinking, as the first tower collapsed, right there on television “the world is never going to be the same again”. Admittedly, I remember thinking, “things are going to get bad.” Actually, my thought was, “well this country is going to go down the shitter.”

9-11 was a horrific day. When I go to memorials, or hear tributes, I still shed a tear or feel a lump in my throat, even though it’s been 13 years since that awful day. I mourn the loss of life that day. I think of those left behind.

Right on cue, Twitter and other social media outlets are streaming the memories from folks from that day. The hash tag “#NeverForget” is quite popular. I have no desire to relive a play-by-play through someone’s Twitter stream; I have unfollowed quite a few people that are bombarding their stream with a minute-by-minute account of where they were and what they were doing. There’s a fine line between sharing a memory and being prideful of the fact that you were on the periphery of the rubble.

The truth of the matter is, how could we forget? As a citizen of the United States I am bombarded by the fact that 9-11 actually happened on a constant basis and that we should be fearful of everyday life because of this. Our government, the media, hell, everyday life constantly reminds us of 9-11 and the existence terrorism. I bet you can’t go a month, or maybe even a week, without hearing a specific mention of 9-11 somewhere. Somewhere someone is going to utter the phrase “9-11″ and the importance of modifying (actually degrading) our freedom in the name of preventing another “9-11″ from happening again. Terror threat levels. Stock up on plastic wrap. Get duct tape. ISIS. ISIL. Whatever the hell they’re called. Al Qaeda. The theme of the United States is now a constant drumbeat of war and that we should all be fearful, fearful, fearful. We must protect the “homeland”. If the goal of a terrorist is to inflict terror on a target, then I’d say the terrorists met their goal. I’ve seen many that act terrorized at the very smallest thing. Just last week there was a power failure in a small town nearby and the newspaper article mentioning it included the sentence, “terrorism has been ruled out.” Really? 500 people in East Bumfuck, New York lose their electrical service and they have to mention terrorism? Did they really think that terrorism was involved with the loss of power for a community of less than 500 people? The folks in the “homeland” have lost their minds.

God how I hate the word “homeland”, especially when it’s used by government officials. It’s a jingoistic word steeped in propaganda. It’s meant to stir up national pride and I think it’s a cheap shot. It works well though for people with an IQ hovering around the speed limit. The naming of the “Department of Homeland Security” has grated on my last nerve since George W Bush came up with that idea back in the mid 00s, and now President Obama is throwing around the word “homeland” just as much as his predecessor did. Why the sudden use of “homeland”, outside of referring to the DHS, again? What happened to that hope and change we were promised? Yeah. Call it our country, call it the United States, call it home, but “homeland”? It sounds like a line from Nazi Germany or at the very least an early episode of Wonder Woman.

I get that there are evil people out there. And I understand that we need to protect our citizens, but please don’t tell me to “never forget”. How can anyone forget? We’re damn near raped by minimum wage workers before we get onto an airplane, we have a whole assortment of wars to serve as a reminder and our liberties that we tout as the gold, shiny ring of why we’re awesome are being eroded away on an hourly basis, all in the name of safety because 9-11 happened. Again, 9-11 was awful, and my heart aches when I think of that day and all the lives that were lost. But trust me, we will never forget, and sadly, the propaganda machine will make sure that we will never forget.