Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

17 July 2013

My Very Last Blogpost....on the Trayvon Martin shooting

Astonishingly, Neighborhood Watch guy George Zimmerman was found not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Well knock me over with a feather! I’m just gobsmacked.

Look, here’s the thing about George Zimmerman: He was innocent…of murder. Lots of people wanted…dearly, dearly wanted him to be guilty of…”something.” ...Like that screeching British idiot who’s filling in for John Stewart on Comedy Central. What a friggin’ moron. Stephen Colbert too. Bleeding-heart liberals who’d already made up their minds on the case, and by God no jury was going to convince them otherwise!

What Colbert, the guy who’s filling in for Stewart, and many like them do not understand is that the State of Florida charged Zimmerman with murder for a reason…that reason being that they knew they could not win. Remember, the cops didn’t want to charge Zimmerman at all in the first place! They could see it was simple self-defense…no “stand your ground” needed. Neighborhood Watch guy, doing what Neighborhood Watch guys do, gets into an altercation with another man. This other man ends up knocking Neighborhood Watch guy to the ground and starts bashing his head against the pavement. Neighborhood Watch guy pulls his LEGAL pistol and shoots. Self-defense. End of story.

But no, Florida’s governor told the State Attorney Angela Martin to charge Zimmerman. And charge she did! With murder. If the state had gone after Zimmerman for a lesser charge, they would have looked weak and soft in the eyes of the black community, which we all know is vehemently anti-racist. And what if the state couldn’t even prove manslaughter? What then? Come on, they knew they did not have a strong case. Better to go for the gold, and charge Zimmerman with a crime they knew they couldn’t prove. Either way, they still looked good. “Hey black people, we tried!”

Also, people still believe that Zimmerman hunted down…chased down Trayvon Martin and shot him in cold blood. Nothing could be FURTHER from the truth. As soon as Zimmerman got out of his vehicle, Martin took off at a high rate of speed. “He’s running,” Zimmerman says on the tape. “He’s gone.” But Martin doubled back. And that’s when the fatal confrontation happened – NOT when Zimmerman got out of his truck.

And another thing: It's not against the law to be a racist or for a citizen to do racial profiling. It's not nice, and we might not like it, but it doesn't automatically make you guilty of murder if you kill someone.

Here’s yet another thing…and possibly the most bizarre thing about this whole case. Many people want Zimmerman to be guilty because if he’d been black instead of Hispanic he would have been found guilty. In other words, if the shoe was on the other foot (or the gun was in the other hand), the black guy would’ve been convicted and not set free, and on the basis of that, Zimmerman should have been found guilty. THIS MAKES NO SENSE. In this case the justice system worked correctly. Why hold it against the guy who was found innocent? Ohhhhhh, that’s right! Because a lot of people already had their minds made up that Zimmerman was guilty!

Only George Zimmerman knows what really went down that night (other than Trayvon Martin). Nobody denies that Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. He’ll have to live with that for the rest of his life.

My takeaway from all of this is simple: In Florida, be careful about with whom you pick a fight. They might very well have a gun. Normal citizens are allowed to own guns in Florida. If you have a big, big problem with this, then do not live in Florida. There are plenty of other states in which only the criminals have guns. Feel free to pick one and move there!

11 July 2013

Technology Troubles: The Cell Phone

One thing about being up here in central Washington State is that I’m rather isolated from civilization. The other pilot (my friend Brandon) and I spend our days at our landing zone (“LZ”) where we babysit our helicopters and wait for rain. This LZ is…well, if you can imagine the middle of nowhere, this is close.

Washington is an incredible state – strikingly, surprisingly beautiful. The trouble is, nobody lives in the middle. Either they live on the coast, like over in Seattle…or they live on the east side in Spokane. I’m “near” the town of Okanogan, which is kind of in the middle. Actually I'm up the hill between Okanogan and Twisp.

Brandon and I are living in RV’s provided by our employer and hooked up to connections provided by the farmer to whom we’re contracted. Internet service is not provided with these hookups. We rely on our phones for contact with the outside world…like watching the weather radar.

In choosing a cell phone carrier a year and a half ago I looked at both AT&T and Verizon’s coverage maps. Both are a little vague in this area, but both depicted 4G service. I went with Verizon and an Android phone because I’m not one of those annoying Apple converts. It was a Big Mistake, as my annoying iPhone-owning friends are quick to point out. Where I’m at here, Verizon actually has only 3G service no matter what it says on their coverage map. Sometimes it shows 3G with two little gray “up and down” arrows underneath that should be red and green but aren’t. Sometimes it’ll show 3G with a little capital “D” underneath, whatever that means. Often it just shows Zero-G.

Note to Verizon: Your service sucks. Your company sucks too, as do all of your employees, and their ancestors back to time immemorial, and all their future children. Everyone associated with your crappy company sucks.

Note to self: Switch to some other carrier…ANY other carrier when this contract is up in six months. I’ll go with one of those pay-as-you-go phones, I don’t care.

But even when we do have 3G service, using a phone for internet is not all that great. Some websites either do not have a mobile app, or just don’t run well on that tiny screen (compared to my laptop). In the beginning I was able to “tether” my computer to my phone and get online properly. But boy did that cause problems!

My phone had been acting up anyway. (Which friggin’ phone on this planet lasts as long as the two-year contract they make you sign?) In addition to that, right after I got up here, tethering my computer to the phone caused the battery to overhead and quickly die and not accept a charge. It would hover around 9% capacity, allowing me one short phone call or a very brief text message exchange before dying again. Disconnected from the charger, it would die immediately.

I'm ashamed to admit how dependant some of us (e.g. me) have become on our phones. We really feel crippled and isolated when the phone is dead. A simple 20-minute drive to the Walmart in Omak becomes a panic-inducing stress test: "What if the car breaks down along the way? What WILL I do?? I don't even know anyone's phone numbers anymore - they're stored in my broken damn phone!" Which is both true and sad.

Using Brandon’s iPhone (which doesn’t have this battery overheating problem) I went online to a discussion forum and found out that, yep, my Samsung “Piece of Shit” model is prone to this very type of thing. (And other maladies as well – can you say “Rush a product to market?” I knew you could.). Have you tried to buy a cellphone battery locally? You cannot. You have to buy them online. It’s quite a racket.

I found my battery on eBay and ordered it. In the process I had to change my shipping address from Florida to Washington. Okay, no big deal there, I expected that. With that change made I hit “pay” and sure enough my PayPal account popped up. I hit “pay” again and got a nice message that said, “Congratulations! Your purchase will be shipped to…” my address in Florida. D’OH! It seems that when making a purchase on eBay, you have to change your shipping address on BOTH eBay and PayPal. Which is quite a lot of bullshit to go through just to buy a damn phone battery.

Anyway, right away I emailed the seller, asking him to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ship the battery to my Washington address. No response. Couple of days later my friend, Gene who’s staying in my house while I’m gone messaged me on Facebook: “Hey, a package came for you.” So I said, “Screw it” and just ordered a whole ‘nother phone from eBay (yes, the same crappy Android – at least it was cheaper than buying Verizon’s expensive insurance). This time I made sure that all the shipping address fields were correct.

So now I’ve got my “new” phone, and a “new” battery, but I’m still saddled with Verizon’s crappy service. Sometimes you can’t win. At least I'm reconnected with the outside world.

04 July 2013

2013: The Summer Of Bob

Boy-oh-boy, does time fly! I apologize for not keeping this thing more up-to-date.

I left Pensacola during the first week of June, headed for my usual summer gig flying helicopters up here in Washington State. I came solo this time, in my own car. Stopped in to see my friend Taylor Rohde who's flying tours around Mt. Rushmore for a company called Black Hills Aerial Adventures.

I like doing sightseeing rides like those. For most passengers it is their first time in a helicopter - which let's be honest is pretty awesome! And most tour operations are at places that are pretty visually dramatic. So as the pilot you have this incredible opportunity to give the passenger(s) a literally magical experience they'll never forget.

One of my first jobs as a commercial pilot was flying tourists around New York City back in 1984. I'll tell you, that job never got old; I loved it. In fact, it is the one job I would go back and do in a heartbeep. The look on the faces of the passengers as they got out of the machine at the end of the ride was priceless.

Nowadays, I hover over wet cherry trees, and the cherries don't seem to appreciate my efforts very much.

I'm back up at my same spot, living in the same RV, flying my same ship, working for the same grower as the past two seasons. This year however, I'm paired with my good friend Brandon Arago, who is one of the most incredible pilots (and people) I've ever had the pleasure to work with. This kid has more talent in the fingernail of one pinky than I've got in my whole body. At the controls, he makes me look sloppy and rough and careless...and that's when I'm trying to be good!

We had some really rainy days right in the middle of the June. The orchard owners thought there'd be a late start due to the chilly, elongated Spring and so had held off on starting our "stand-by" contracts. But the rains came and panic ensued: We were all put on contract at about the same time as last year. There was a mad scramble to get ships and equipment into place all at once.

I walked through one of "our" orchards this morning. The cherries are not quite ready to be picked yet. Soon, though. We'll probably work through the end of July and I'll go back to Pensacola sometime in August...maybe...I've got plans of stopping in and seeing friends on the way home, one of which is west of here over on the coast.