Tuesday, July 28

Property inspection and good readings

Sometime it is a delight to look our the window and see your front yard being inspected. This Heron recently walked around our front lawn and then decided to inspect our neighbor's yard. So off he went walking tall on the gravel stone walkway up to our neighbor's front porch.

I completed two good books this month: The Billion Dollar Spy, a true story of Cold War espionage and betrayal by Pulitzer Prize winner David E.Hoffman. He recounts in exciting detail how a Soviet engineer volunteered to spy for the CIA in the heart of Moscow. His tales of clandestine meetings put you on the street evading KGB surveillance and your heart pumps during fifteen minute meetings in darkened nights. (Doubleday Publishers, available on Amazon.com.)

The second book is a memoir from former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, (with Bill Harlow) who was George W. Bush's briefing officer for much of Bush's presidency. The Great War of Our Time, The CIA's fight against terrorists from Al QA'IDA to ISIS, takes the reader inside the White House and the offices of the CIA from 9/11 to the present. (Publisher: Twelve - A Hacherte Book Group, also available on Amazon.com.

Take either or both of these books to the beach on the mountains on your vacation and you will have serious narratives; especially read Morell's memoir if you are at all concerned about terrorism. 

Friday, July 3

Man and his automobile

Henry Ford's development of the assembly line in 1913 was one of those moments Eastman Kodak had been waiting for since it began mass production of the personal camera in 1888. Man and his new automobile have possibly been the subject of more photos over the last 100 years than scantily clad beauty queens at Atlantic City. Not one to break an American tradition, here is me and my new car purchased on Thursday. (The wife is the official photographer.) The auto is a 2013 Lexus ES 350 and easily the finest automobile I have ever driven. which includes a BMW and a long line of Lincoln Towncars (official car of the Mafia).

It will take a while to learn all the wonderful things in this car but already I particularly like the rearview camera which shows a picture on the dashboard of what is behind me when I back up. The built in GPS will be a great aid to getting around, and eliminates the need to carry a portable GPS on long trips.  I've keyed in the garage opener to a button on the bottom of the rear view mirror and will dispense with clipping the opener on the visor. This model is a front-wheel drive, and this eliminates a large hump on the floor in the back seating area; thus seating three comfortably. 
Now, all I have to do is pay for it. Isn't America a great country?

Comments to: arch@archibald99.com

PS: My earlier blog about a boat lock should have noted it is only one of three such locks on the East  Coast. Two are on Hilton Head Island and the third in Jacksonville, FL. 

Thursday, June 18

A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney, likable curmudgeon of the 60 Minutes show on CBS who began “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” in 1978 and kept at until October, 2011, also wrote a newspaper column, TV shows for others and more than a dozen books, most of which were best sellers. His skills were honed during World War II when he was a correspondent for the Army’s Stars and Stripes.

I have not read all of his books, perhaps two or three prior to this latest reading but I remember them generally as good reads. This most recent read, “Years of Minutes”, Public Affairs, New York. (523 pages), was originally published in 2003, and I picked it up in the lending library where I live.

The book contains many of the Minutes essays aired from 1982 to 2003. I found in several of these comments that struck me as especially keen or humorous insights. Here are just a few (quote marks omitted):

You may not think driveways are important, but let me give you one figure. A car parked behind another car in the driveway, with the keys removed and temporarily misplaced, is the third biggest cause of divorce in America today. (1985)

And the one thing that makes us all like America better than any other country…there are more Americans living here than anyplace else. (From Good Things, 1988.)

President Bush gave his health speech the other day and he talked about the kind of health care people want. Well, I can tell him what we want. We all want the kind of health care a President gets. If the President faints, there are two doctors taking his pulse before he hits the floor. That’s the kind of health care we’d all like to have. (1992)

August is the only month without a real or fake holiday. That’s because we don’t want to waste a day off work during our vacation. (Official Holidays, 1996.)

Does anyone read Time, Newsweek and U.S. News?   I mean all three? (Wealth of Information, 1999.) I subscribed to and read all three in the 90’s. What does that say about me?

First, we learned that the United States spent several hundred million dollars digging a tunnel under the Russian Embassy in Washington so we could spy on them. Does this make you proud to be an American.(Most News is Bad News, 2001.)

The (New York) Times gets about $75,000 a page Sunday…multiply that by 250 pages. This edition would bring in $18 million. (
The Sunday Paper, 2001.)

Andy died in November, 2011, following complications of surgery. He was 92 years of age. 

Saturday, May 23

Lock at Windmill Harbor

The boat lock at Windmill Harbor is the first and only one I have seen on Hilton Head Island. When i went to the boat show earlier this month it was an interesting surprise. An attendant told me the lock had been closed last year for about three months for repairs. When this happens the boats in the anchorage are locked in and those outside are locked out. Not a happy time for boaters. This was all the more interesting because before my visit I read a story of how British forces blocked and blew up a lock built to accommodate Germany's largest battleships. When this happened in March,1942, the lock was not usable by the Germans for the duration of World War II. 
The gate to the lock.

Inside the lock.

The anchorage.

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Sunday, May 10

My Sister Carol

Today at 11:12 in her home in The Villages, Florida, my youngest sister, Carol, died with three close friends in attendance. She had declined chemotherapy and radiation a couple of months ago. This was her third bout with cancer and it was too much for her. I visited her in April along with my son, James. 

Carol was born on June 7, 1935. She would have been 80 in a month. She was a retired federal employee, a contract officer for the Air Force during her working life. She started with the Air Force in an entry position and worked her way to the top civil service grade short of the Executive Service.

She was an avid golfer for fifty years and won many tournaments and served as the president of her golf club. She was blessed with many friends, among them Carole Tessier with whom she shared her life. They moved in together when their mothers died and owned property together. 

Carol was a friendly and outgoing personality who had a good sense of humor, was smart, liked a beer and cheered the Red Sox and New England Patriots. She was especially voluble when the Sox ended a 100-year drought and won the World Series in 2004. 

Carol was the linchpin of our family She lived with our mother all her life and took care of the business affairs of an aunt and uncle. She was especially close to her older sister and younger brother. Our brother Charlie preceded Carol in death, also a victim of cancer. 

My mother told me that of all her five children, Carol took my father's 1940-41 abandonment of us the hardest. Like all of us she struggled to put herself through college and overcome hardships we all faced. She did this with the same courage and discipline that she refused the final chemo and radiation treatment.

Carol was a lifelong Roman Catholic and received the last rites recently. I have no doubt her soul joined our mother in heaven on this, Mother's Day, 2015.

We, her siblings, my family, Carole Tessier, and the multiple dozens who knew and loved Carol will miss her as we continue to pray for her.

Carol Tessier and Carol Archibald, 2010

Saturday, April 25

Wi-fi pacemaker check and flying wheelbarrows

WiFi pacemaker check:

The technician put a programming wand (resembles a large mixing spoon with a hole in the center on the end of a cord attached to a monitor) around my neck and dropped it over my left shoulder to where my new pacemaker (installed in January 2015) is and then instantly removed it. 
"What's wrong?", I inquired. I've had a pacemaker for over six years and when it is checked (about twice a year) the wand was used throughout the check. 
"Nothing is wrong. See this antenna on top of the monitor? It is reading your pacemaker by Wi-fi." The brief use of the wand established a connection between my pacemaker and the monitor.  
This was not the only surprise awaiting me. The second technician asked if I would like her to monitor my pacemaker continuously from home by telephone. She explained, and I signed on. Some equipment will come in the mail which I will hook it up to the house phone and it will be connected to a computer monitored by the technician. We had some friendly banter about her staying awake 24/7 to monitor me and she assured me it wouldn't be that intimate.
Progress is always underway. Some pacemakers currently have a battery with a 8 to 10 year life expectancy.  Swiss scientists are testing to see if the heart itself could power the pacemaker and make batteries obsolete. 

A fellow retiree in Arlington,VA, told me this story recently:

It has been annoyingly windy up here all week long, preventing me from flying.  And here is where our story begins....


In search of simulated flight today, I headed to Leesburg to use the school's full motion simulator.  With a head full of aeronautical thoughts I set out on Interstate 66, west....

Traveling down I-66 west at the speed limit, because that is how I drive, I was being passed rather frequently by cars and SUVs driven by self absorbed very important people on their way to big and important meetings.  

I was driving in the right inner lane of the four lanes.  Over in the fast lane was a large truck loaded with all sorts of lawn care equipment.  Positioned on top of the pile of equipment were two heavy duty wheelbarrows.  They were positioned such that the tops of the wheelbarrows were facing downward.  

I was boxed in by speeding cars to my left and right with another behind me coming up fast.  Not wanting to be reared ended, I slowed and fortunately the guy behind me slowed too.  We came to a rapid halt as the wheelbarrow now cascading down the interstate headed right for my car.
It must have bounced 5 or 6 times before coming to a halt about 3 feet in front of my car as I stopped.  The wheelbarrow was perfectly upright.  

Think about that:  worked all these years and learned to fly only to be killed by a flying wheelbarrow--on the way to the airport.  Not a way to go.....

I pulled off the road and saw two men get out of a truck behind me and push the wheelbarrow off the road.  As for the truck that lost the wheelbarrow, he never slowed down.

Sunday, March 8

Cranberries Don't Help

Bloomberg Businessweek (March 2-8, 2015) ran a major story on how Kellogg's, after 109 years of being in business,  has lost the breakfast meal. This was of particular interest to me because I have been eating Kellogg's Raisin Bran practically every morning since the decade of the 60s. (By now I ought to be on pension from Kellogg.) For most of that time it was one cup of RB and a half-cup of Kellogg's All-Bran. The latter recommended by my mother "for regularity."

Kellogg's has more than 25 cereal brands, most aimed at kids and parents on the go. Frosted Flakes are their number one seller. Raisin Bran and Rice Krispies are close to the bottom of the revenue stream. 

Efforts are being made ( it's called "a long-term rescue plan") to regain market share, One effort adds cranberries to the Raisin Bran. It isn't working. 

I looked at four stores before I found any on a shelf, and then I used a 70 cents off coupon to buy a box. I needed a magnifying glass to find the cranberries. There were only a few (apparently only raisins come in "Two Scoops.") The bran flakes were lighter in color than in the Raisin Bran without. There was no taste of the cranberries or cranberry flavor.