This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tuesday Morning and Bluetooth

I bought myself a radio control (RC) helicopter. I have secretly wanted one for quite some time but they always seemed a bit too expensive. The last place I expected to find an inexpensive (I won’t say “cheap”) RC helicopter was at Tuesday Morning when Carol Ann and I went shopping last week. Tuesday Morning is a chain of over 800 stores that is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. If you have never been to a Tuesday Morning store you have missed something. It’s a little like going to a very large garage sale, except all of the merchandise is new. The merchandise is continually changing because they get it from buying closeouts from other chains, manufacturers, distributors, etc. You’ll find a little of everything any time you visit.

I was trailing behind Carol Ann with the shopping cart as we walked up one aisle and down another. Eventually we split up to look around and I found myself in the toy aisle and I decided to pick up a few small toys for my grandson. I always have something for him when he visits (which is spoiling him because he visits at least once or twice a week). I had already picked out a few things when I spotted the helicopter. There was only one on the shelf and I almost missed it. I picked up the box and through the cellophane window in the side of the box I could see this really neat looking, but small, helicopter. It was a little less than seven inches long, about one and a half inches wide, and four inches high. Made by a company named Propel, it was their ATOM I model. A “3-Channel Helicopter with Gyro Stabilization” and “For ages 12 and up” (that's my age range) it read on the box. I didn't see an RC controller in the box but then I noticed the word “BLUETOOTH” on the box. This thing was actually controlled with an app on your iPhone after pairing it with the helicopter. Slick! It came with a rechargeable battery and a USB charging cable to charge the battery from your computer. It also boasted, “Free spare parts for life!” I was excited about this toy but just knew that it would cost more than I wanted to pay for it. As they say, “The only difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys.” I held my breath and looked for the price sticker. I couldn’t believe it when I found it. Only $19.99! No wonder there was only one left on the shelf. I quickly put it in the shopping cart with the rest of the loot and couldn’t wait until we got home so I could try it out.

Once we were home I plugged in the USB charging cord, downloaded the control app, and began reading the instruction booklet. Carol Ann was in her chair going over the mile-long receipt when she asked, “How much did you think that helicopter cost?”

“$19.99,” I answered.

“Well, they charged you $49.99,” she replied as she picked up the box to check the price sticker. As it turned out the sticker did read $49.99 but the numeral 4 was a little smudged, making it look like $19.99! I’m glad I misread the sticker or I probably would have put it right back on the shelf if I had known it was $49.99. I did check the Internet and found it for $73.48 on Amazon, $116.39 at Sears, and $69.95 from the Propel Flight Club website. So I’m still happy with the price.

The battery was finally charged; it was paired with my iPhone, and ready for its first flight. This shouldn’t be a problem, I thought. After all, I have a commercial pilot license with instrument rating (of course I haven’t flown an aircraft in over twenty years – and it wasn’t a helicopter). I sat the helicopter on the coffee table (it’s an inside toy and would be blown away outside) and slowly advanced the throttle on my iPhone. The rotors began to turn but not fast enough for lift off so I gave it full throttle and in the blink of an eye it had bounced off the ceiling and was flopping around on the floor before I could retard the throttle and make it stop. By then the dog and two of our cats had already taken off in a panic for parts unknown as if the gates of hell had opened and they were being chased by demons. As I walked over to pick the helicopter up I was thinking, “This is why they offer free replacement parts.” But to my surprise it was still in one piece and ready for its second flight.

I placed it back on the table and this time advanced the throttle very carefully until ATOM I lifted off and began a gradual climb. Very nice, I told myself. Then I realized I had to stop the climb and level it off or there would be another encounter with the ceiling. Not yet used to the controls I pushed the throttle in the wrong direction and ATOM I immediately shot up and into the ceiling again. This time it did not bounce around on the floor. It just lay there like a dead bird. I picked it up and examined it but found nothing broken so I decided to try it one more time. 

The third time is always a charm. Right? Well, I enjoyed mixed success. At least there was no violent crash into the ceiling on this flight. I finally had ATOM I flying straight and level. Perfect. It wasn’t headed for the ceiling but it was making its way towards a wall and I couldn’t make it turn right or left so I just chopped the throttle all the way back and let the helicopter fall to the floor. I picked it up, switched it off, didn't see anything broken, looked around to see if anyone was watching (nobody was), and put it in my closet. Hopefully, I’ll get up enough courage in the not too distant future to try it once again. Maybe I’ll wait until we move into our new house. It’s ceilings will be ten feet high.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


NOTE: If you have children make sure they don't catch you reading this! As a matter of fact, if you can't handle hearing the word "fuck," you should stop and back out right now! Don't say I didn't warn you.

My wife and I watched The Wolf of Wall Street (henceforth referred to as Wolf) on DVD last night. It was an excellent movie. However, by the time the credits rolled I was getting tired of hearing the “F-Word,” or “F-Bomb,” or just plain “fuck” (pardon my French). Curious about the number of times the word and its many variations were used in the movie, I went to the Internet. Did you know there are actually people out there who count stuff like this?

A piece in Variety (January 2, 2013) reported that Wolf used the F-Bomb 506 times. This was picked up and repeated in Time, Rolling Stone, USA Today, the Guardian, Fox News, and the Today show. Variety says the number came from Wikipedia but where Wikipedia got the number is a mystery. Wikipedia’s source was a blog (and you know you can’t believe anything you read in a blog!) but I was unable to find the Wikipedia page cited by Variety. I entered “fuck” into Wikipedia’s search engine and the result was 8,098 pages on which the word appears. I only looked at one, a list of films that most frequently use the word “fuck,” and it reported the word and its many variations were uttered 569 times in Wolf. But, hey, who’s counting? Well, that would be Forrest Wickman, a journalist at Slate. He tallied 544 uses of the F-Bomb while watching Wolf. Not to be undone, Gilbert Cruz, a writer for not only counted the F-Bombs but every single curse word in the movie! Counting all variations of the word "fuck" he came up with a total of 569 F-Bombs (confirming the list on Wikipedia). He also counted 79 “shits,” 22 references to male genitalia, 9 to female genitalia, and 8 “bitch”/”bitching.” He broke it down further to show which characters said the words.

It doesn’t matter whether the number is 506, 544, or 569. Wolf would still set a record for the most F-Bombs in an American, mainstream, non-documentary movie. Any of those numbers is far greater than the previous record-holder, Summer of Sam from 1999, which had 435 F-Bombs. The 2005 documentary, Fuck, holds the overall record at 857 and Fuck has a running time of only 93-minutes versus the 180-minutes for Wolf.

I’ve seen a lot of movies without paying much attention to how many times the F-Bomb was used. But I must admit that I was somewhat surprised to find that, according to the list I found, GoodFellas was only ranked at number 9 (not counting the British film, Nil by Mouth), with 300 F-Bombs. Even more surprising was to learn that neither of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction made it into the top 20. They are listed as numbers 24 and 25, respectively.

I’m no prude, certainly no saint, but I found it difficult to understand why the word had to be used so many times in one movie. So I decided to look into this phenomenon and I found that it is one of the most versatile words in the English language. The word “fuck” is one of the few words with so many legitimate grammatical usages. For example:

As a transitive verb:  "John fucked Shirley.”
As an intransitive verb:  "Shirley fucks.”
As an adjective:  "John's doing all the fucking work.”
As part of an adverb:  "Shirley talks too fucking much.”
As an adverb enhancing an adjective:  "Shirley is fucking beautiful.”
As a noun:  "I don't give a fuck.”
As part of a word:  "Abso-fucking-lutely,” or: "In-fucking-credible”

As such, the word can be extremely useful and efficient in conversation. There aren't too many words with the versatility of 'fuck'. For example:

Fraud:  "I got fucked at the used car lot.”
Dismay:  "Aww, fuck it!"
Trouble:  "I guess I'm really fucked now.”
Aggression:  "Don't fuck with me buddy!"
Difficulty:  "I don't understand this fucking question.”
Inquiry:  "Who the fuck was that?"
Dissatisfaction:  "I don't like what the fuck is going on here.”
Incompetence:  "He's a fuck off.”
Dismissal:  "Why don't you go fuck yourself?"
Compliment:  "You’re one smart fucker."

Since completing my research I have gained a much greater respect for this remarkable word. Perhaps you have also.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Forget About Comparing Guns to Cars

There have been many comparisons made between guns and cars in the continuing argument over the pros and cons of attempts to reduce the number of accidental gun injuries (over 100,000 a year) and accidental gun deaths (over 30,000 a year). They both kill about the same number of people each year, but they don’t look anything alike and I have never seen a hand-held car.
People like to point out how all cars must be registered, all car owners must be licensed and have liability insurance, and how car makers must conform to manufacturing safety standards and be liable for defective or unsafe products (gun manufacturers are exempt from civil liability so they don’t have to make safe products).
So forget the car analogy. Let’s compare guns to something that looks a lot more like a gun and can be hand-held. I think a hand-held hair dryer would be an excellent comparator. Hand-held hair dryers look a lot like guns and are, like a gun, hand-held. Hand-held hair dryers are also very dangerous, though nowhere as dangerous as guns. As a matter of fact, hand-held hair dryers are currently killing an average of less than one person a year.
But in the mid 1900’s there were hundreds of electrocution deaths by hair dryer and something had to be done to reduce these numbers. This effort began when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) set the first standards for hand-held hair dryers in the 1970’s. The number of deaths per year dropped drastically afterward. From 1980 to 1986 there were only 16 deaths per year by hair dryer.
In 1987 the CPSC added another safety standard for the manufacturers of hair dryer and the average number of deaths dropped even lower, from 16 per year down to 10 per year during the period 1987 to 1990.
Then in 1991 the CPSC mandated that hand-held hair dryer manufacturers include ground fault circuit interrupters in their products and from 1991 to 1997 the average death-by-hair dryer was only 2 per year. The rate dropped even further during 1998 to 2004, when the average was only 0.3 deaths per year.
Even with such a low death rate, hand-held hair dryers were placed on the federal “Substantial Product Hazard” list in 2010. This list identifies products with the potential to cause substantial injury or death should the product be defective. This makes it even easier to sue the pants off the manufacturer if you are electrocuted by a hair dryer.
In June of 2011, based upon the CPSC’s 4-year review of a study that covered 27-years (1980 to 2007), the CPSC announced it was once again increasing its mandatory minimum standards for hand-held hair dryers. It is too soon to know if the average number of deaths by hair dryer has dipped even lower than 0.2 per year. 
By the way, the CPSC also estimates that it saves 270 lives a year by regulating the flammability standards for mattresses.
Forget about treating guns like cars. Let’s treat them like hand-held hair dryers and mattresses! That should take a sizeable chunk out of the number of injuries and deaths by guns every year.