A New England Super Bowl in Minnesota

Funny how things worked out in deciding the combatants for the 52nd NFL Super Bowl in 2018. Although the Patriots were favored over Jacksonville Sunday it was a hard fought battle deep into the 4th quarter before the Super Bowl champions from 2017 prevailed. In my opinion Jacksonville just ran out of gas as the Patriots pulled out a come from behind victory led by Tom Brady and company. Opponents in the past should have known the Patriots would put on a furious charge in any 4th quarter of a game, especially if they’re behind. New England has a lot of weapons at their convenience and used them all to defeat the talented Jaguars.

Next, I read this morning that the Philadelphia Eagles easily handled the Minnesota Vikings, spoiling their hopes to have the first Super Bowl at a team’s home stadium. No such luck! This will be an all New England affair! πŸ™‚ Eat your hearts out! We’re back!!!!!

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A Blast From The Past

It’s Winter in New England. As such my thoughts turn to memories of good times in my past. My most enjoyable hobby for over 30 years was motorcycle touring so I dug back in my archives to my most trusted and beautiful motorcycle, a 2001 BMW K1200LTC luxury touring machine I nicknamed “The Blue Whale”.

I owned this beauty for 4 years, amassing over 68,000 happy miles on her before a train wreck destroyed my beautiful bike. While living in Graniteville, SC a head-on train collision and subsequent derailment caused a tanker carrying concentrated chlorine gas to rupture, spewing its contents in my sleepy little textile town. I would have been killed but God had other plans for me that day. I was literally in a local hospital in intensive care the night of this tragic train wreck. I had congestive heart failure and watched the newscast of the tragedy unfold on a TV in my hospital room. It happened Jan 05, 2005. The story made national news as there were over 300 injured and half a dozen deaths directly caused by this tragedy.

My home in Graniteville was just outside the one mile radius of the area worst affected by the green chlorite cloud that permiated everything. My BMW K1200 was parked in my backyard and covered with a full touring bike cover. The chlorine gas did thousands of dollars worth of damage to everything metal on the bike causing the insurance company representing the railroad to buy the bike from me. As a result, after being released from the hospital and recovering from a resulting prostate surgery I was forced to buy my next motorcycle, a new BMW R1200RT. I rode that bike for 51,000 miles in the next 3 years after my move to Portland, OR. I still miss my Blue Whale.

2001 BMW K1200LTC – 68,000 miles

BMW K1200LTC

2005 BMW R1200RT – 51,000 miles

2005 R1200RT Tourer

I chose to exit motorcycling in 2015 before moving to New England in October of 2015. I had two other bikes after my BMW days including a 2008 Triumph Rocket III and a Piaggio BV250 Touring scooter. Both were in pristine condition when I let them go.

I honestly don’t miss motorcycling as my reason for hanging up the hobby involved the passing of legislation allowing for legalized marijuana use. The number of car drivers high on dope made motorcycling very dangerous. I don’t regret my decision to quit while I was ahead. I accumulated almost half a million miles on street bikes with zero accidents. Not many can claim that accomplishment.

2008 Triumph Rocket III Power Cruiser – 2300cc triple – 15000 miles

2008 Triumph Rocket III Touring

2009 Piaggio BV250 Touring Scooter – 11,000 miles nicknamed “The Bottle-Rocket”

Bottlerocket 2

As you can see there was a drastic difference in size and displacement between my last full sized bike and my scooter. By the way, I rode the scooter just as I did my touring bikes, long distance and getting 75 mpg on regular gas. πŸ™‚

You’ll notice I kept my bikes clean, spotless, showroom new. I certainly didn’t baby them when I rode and never owned a “Trailer Queen” like some Harley riders. BMW owner ride they machine, hard.

 

Favorite Portraits Revisited

Looking through my archives I’m reminded why I’ve always loved animals. The peace and tranquility we see in their eyes during moments of rest demonstrate their overall health and wellbeing.

I spent a lot of time at the Oregon Zoo studying the big cats on exhibition. Their two Amur tigers, Mikhail & Nicole were incredible specimens. Nicole or “Nikki” led a good life but eventually succumbed to a seizure on a hot Summer day while I was out of town. I averaged around 200 days a year at the zoo, walking their 45 acres and visiting each animal as if they were old friends. I still miss Nicole as much as her twin brother, Mikhail. He was lost for months after his sister’s passing as he howled and searched their outside environment for many hours. He finally accepted that she was no longer there and moved on, returning to his former eating habits that had suffered during his period of mourning.

I’m glad that I was able to capture their portraits during my 10 year stay in Oregon. I like the overall composition of the photo below. I always did prefer having my subject in front of a darker background so I could adjust my exposure to the highlights in their fur. The shot below had just the right amount of sharpness in the area of her eyes as everything faded to a softer light behind her.

Photo 12

Living With “Echo Dot”

Amazon Echo Dot 2

It’s been just over a year now since I bought my Amazon Echo Dot 2. I got it on sale during the Christmas shopping season for $39.95. Since then it’s become a part of my daily life. How did I ever live without it?

The first thing I did with the Echo after it’s purchase is buy two GE Smart A19 bulbs that are guaranteed to work with Alexa or Echo Dot devices. The one thing they don’t tell you is that you also need to buy a Hub such as the Wink Hub I purchased to control those lights. Everything ties into your home’s power system and wifi network. Both the Echo Dot and the Wink Hub need to communicate with their manufacturer’s website to function as well as receive product updates. No AC power or no wifi internet and nothing will work. You’ll actually have to reach over and turn the light switch on and off manually. How primitive!

When not controlling your lights, thermostat and door locks the Echo Dot can do a ton of other tasks. Examples include voice controlled timers and alarms. These really become useful in the kitchen when you need a timer or reminder that your soft boiled eggs are done or your pizza in your oven is just perfect. I set alarms all the time for naps, reminders of when it’s time to leave for appointments and when to take blood sugar tests for my diabetes.

Next the Echo Dot can read your books or magazines to you. If you’re into a bible study it will read a quote requested by you be it a sentence, paragraph, chapter or an entire book of the bible. I lie down before going to sleep and have Echo read a favorite book until I’m ready to fall asleep. You can also set a time limit should you doze off while listening.

The Amazon Echo Dot can be extra versatile if you have an Amazon Prime account. Then you have access to your stored music collection or a selection of over 250,000 pieces of music from Amazon’s huge music library. Your Echo can be paired to your stereo or bluetooth amplified speakers for high quality sound. It’s great during Christmas when you simply tell Echo to play “Christmas Music” by Elvis or Burl Ives.

Echo Dot will do shopping for you with your Prime account or allow you to make a detail grocery shopping list for use in the store of your choice. It’s also great for setting reminders such as birthdays, anniversaries or doctor’s appointments. My Amazon Fire 8 tablet comes with Echo built right in so I can take those shopping lists with me wherever I go.

Echo Dot, like Siri, is smart too. Ask it anything and you might be surprised at how much information is now at your fingertips. How many ounces in a quart, gallon or any size container you happen to have or need? It’s like a portable encyclopedia ready to give you answers in an instant.

So, after my first year with my Amazon Echo Dot I’m hooked for sure. They keep getting cheaper and more powerful. Manufacturers are coming out with more and more smart devices to use with either the Alexa or Echo personal assistants. I love mine, “Right Echo”?Β  “Right”!

 

Down With The Old, In With The New

I tire of insurance companies that suddenly jack their rates up for no apparent reason. When confronted with a 21% increase I had the nerve to question why, what had I done as a Premium Platinum member to bring this down on my head? The representative of Progressive Auto Insurance replied simply that my zip code had made an “adjustment” in rates. Their final statement doomed them in my eyes. They told me to “take it or leave it”! Given that ultimatum I started my quest to find another insurance carrier immediately. It took less than 24 hours to change insurance companies.

I simply started asking around at my Senior Center who had an affordable, reliable insurance company and the answer was USAA. In the past the best company used to be Geico but then they became greedy as they grew to flood the airwaves with commercials insisting they were the best. Those TV ads cost money and they eventually had to get your money to support the myriad of new ads that were to come. The same can be said of Progressive Insurance with “Flo” and her cast of dimwitted characters that worked with her.

I called Progressive to see what I had done wrong to be treated so poorly. They quickly started spouting statistics of how my area had been singled out for a rate hike.Β  Keep in mind that I live in Uxbridge, MA, a sleepy little town of 3200 souls that has every reason to leave town in order to buy anything. The traffic jams are seldom coming into Uxbridge, only outgoing traffic suffers. A 21% rate hike is totally unacceptable.

So, as a new customer of USAA Insurance, I hope to stay with them until they get too big for their britches. Then my annual rates will suddenly rise as they try to milk every red cent out of a dying cow. Living on a fixed income demands a watchful eye, even if I only have one that presently is seeing clearly. πŸ™‚

P.S. – As a side note a local insurance company was supposed to get me a quote by yesterday and failed to call me back. If you snooze, you lose. I have no patience when people don’t fulfill their promises.

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Just A Quick Note…

Just in case there are folks wondering where my photographs are lately I need to remind everyone I’m hampered by eyes clouded by cataracts. My right eye is all but unusable and my left allows me to use a computer but not focus my camera well enough to use it. I’ll be getting cataract surgery before too long and correct all of this. Until then I’m stuck with primarily text, BIG text. πŸ™‚

Sunrise On A Snowy Day

We’ve already had our first blizzard of 2018. We had over a foot of light & fluffy snow along with 50-70 mph winds that caused deep drifts everywhere. That was totally different than this morning’s snowfall that is still coming down.

I was awakened to a light snowfall that fell straight down, no wind, no drifts. I drove carefully on snow covered roads to Whitinsville where i enjoyed my usual breakfast with my two breakfast buddies Terry & Ed. In the return drive to Uxbridge I couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous scene that had developed since starting my day. Every tree limb, every twig and every inch of ground was covered in a thin coat of clean white snow. It reminded me of a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting, picrure postcard perfect.

In full disclosure it’s been decades since I’ve lived in a snowy environment. We’re not supposed to get much more than 3-5 inches worth today but it’s how and when it fell that makes it so beautiful. Locals find even the word ssnow as offensive but they need to think outside the box and enjoy the beauty of God’s work.

Shopping for better rates

When my car insurance company suddenly jacks my rates up 20% for no reason I must instantly start looking for another carrier. I’ve been a Progressive customer for many years. I’m now considered a “Platinum” valued customer. I drive less than 4,000 miles a year in my well maintained SmartCar. I live in Uxbridge, MA, the equivalent to the mythical “Mayberry, RFD”, population 3,200. I drive locally to the Senior Center, grocery store and church. I rent a government housing unit for 30% of my total monthly income. In the past 2 years my COLA for Social Security checks has gone up .3% in 2017 and 2 % in 2018. In that same two year time period my car insurance has gone up 21% with no tickets, accidents or location changes. That’s unacceptable. After an online review of my policy and perfect driving record they claim I’m getting the best rate they can offer, in other words “Take it or leave it”! I don’t bluff! Once I start shopping and find a better deal Progressive will be history.Β  Time for me to start shopping for a better company. If this is how they treat their “Platinum” members, with a “Take it or leave it pricing policy” I think I need to move on. I told the online agent as much before ending our conversation. I told her my next correspondence with Progressive will be the cancellation notice and my new carrier’s name. End of business.

I can’t afford to play games on a fixed income. I will not allow myself to be screwed by a greedy company. I have a better driving record and zero cause for that 20% rate hike. As the saying goes, “There should be a law against rape”!

Share Your World – January 15, 2018

Share Your World – January 15, 2018

Complete this sentence: I’m looking forward to….

my two new pair of Haggar denim pants. It’s been years since I bought my last 4 pair of Wrangler jeans that I had fitted with brass suspender buttons for my leather suspenders. They are just about worn out, with holes worn into the wallet pocket on each pair. The new pants look good and should last me for years. I love the Haggar brand.

What is your favorite comfort snack food?

That’s a tough decision as I love junk food. I’ve been know to become practically addicted to sunflower seeds in the shell. I’ve broken free of that craving and returned to fresh fruit. I must be careful with that craving due to my diabetes.

What was one of your first moneymaking jobs (other than babysitting or newspaper delivery)?

I cut grass at Scott Air Force Base in my hometown of Belleville, Illinois. It was a 40 hour a week job, my first. I burned myself to a crisp the first week on that job and wound up in the hospital with serious sunburn.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?

I appreciated a break from the frigid cold spell we’ve experienced for weeks. After a full blown blizzard that dumped over a foot of snow in my area we changed gears and watched it all melt with high temperatures near 60 and two days of rain.