This past week traveling I happened upon and heard a fellow in North Carolina say that “he didn’t care if it was outlawed, that flag was going to fly at his house”. Of course the flag he was talking about the Confederate Flag. I looked at him rather confused and had to think for a moment if I had missed something. He just stared blankly at me waiting to see what I would say at his perceived defiance to the law. I thought do I tell him or let him go on believing. I figured if I told him he may get offended, but ignorance like that may be worth the expression on his face upon hearing the truth. I said “it’s not against the law to fly the flag, the only place it cannot be put up was at the State House, fly it all you want”. He shifted his weight to his other leg and when he went to speak nothing came out. I’ve heard quite a number of speeches as to why the flag must come down and those speeches always centered on symbolism. Not one person I ever heard gave the history of the flag, just what it had come to represent. Lack of education was why the flag came down. I don’t really have a dog in this fight and whether it fly’s proudly in the South Carolina sky over the State House I cannot comment strongly on either way. I do feel though that the reason was hate. The flag as we all know was turned into a symbol of hatred, on both black and white sides, and that was the real reason it was taken down. I do believe the only flags that should fly over the State House in any state are that state’s flag and the American Flag. After the Charleston shooting the people there acted in a manner that we all should be proud of. That incident could have gone bad in so many ways. The aftermath resulted in the flag being removed. If the people who removed it think for a moment that removing it is going to stop the violence going forward they should be removed from office. You see the shooter had a picture of himself posing with the Confederate Flag so I guess the logic is you remove the flag you remove violent people like him from society?!? Really? Let’s say I’m a lunatic and that flag was the symbol of my hatred or beliefs, now you removed it. Do you think that’s going to make me happier or more prone to a violent outburst? As of today the flag has been down for about six weeks and the number of shootings, whether individual incidents or in mass has not let up that I can tell. I don’t have the numbers but I’d say there’s been no drop off. After all the fuss and muss about its removal, including the woman who climbed the pole to get it down, the removal itself was pretty much said and done quickly, really anticlimactic when you think about it.
Everyone seems to be hearing a helmet when riding anything now! From the smallest child riding a tricycle to grown adults. What’s up with that? I saw a guy pulling his child in a wagon and that kid was wearing a helmet!!! Really? The only time I ever put a helmet on riding a bike was when I was a kid and I took the face guard off an old football helmet and pretended I was riding a motorcycle. We did more bicycle stunts, wheelies, ramp jumps (sometimes over others lying down to see how many we could clear and none of them wore anything more than a worried look on their face), racing in the streets, fields or alleys and it never occurred to any of us to put on a helmet. During the summer we lived on our bikes and hell I crashed as much as anyone and it still never occurred to anyone to put on a helmet. Recalling some of things we did on bikes makes me wonder how no one ever got killed, but still!!! The only serious injury I ever incurred outside scrapes and bruises was a handlebar to the mouth from a runaway bike and no helmet was going to stop that. Oh oh, I suppose now everyone will now go out and buy junior a face shield. Of course junior can use it when he goes to the teeter totter. I heard a guy not long ago say we are turning into a bubble wrapped society. Pretty accurate observation, sad, but true.
Several weeks back I was invited to play golf in a company outing, I was a fill in really, someone to fill in a foursome. Hell golf’s better than work right. Well maybe, then again maybe not. Depends on how long it’s been since you played with any regularity. You see golf is not a sport you just go pick back up where you left off 8-9 years ago, but it was a captains choice so your always playing the best shot hit by the foursome. Hit a bad shot you pick up and play the best shot of the foursome. Although it is pretty cool when your shot is the best of the four. It’s a good way to play if your not that good or haven’t played in a while. Back when I played regularly I was on the cusp of being a single digit handicapper. Now that doesn’t seem like that big a deal but only 4.5% of all golfers are at this level. Hell 80% don’t even break 100. A nine handicap means your shooting in the low 80’s on a regular basis ad occasionally break into the seventy’s. I could hold my own and beat most of the everyday guys, leaving only the fellows that lived at the course as major challenges. Every now and then I find myself privy to golf conversations and the talk is all of the latest equipment, who’s hitting what, gotta get that new driver, what degree is that wedge etc etc. I got to say when I played alot I hit what I brought. It never dawned on me to run out and get the latest and greatest whatever hit the market that week club. I figured out how to hit what I had. I remember several times winning new drivers and and such and I always ended up trading them away because I could hit what I had better. In my book there was no sense in taking the time to figure out a new club to play the same. During this outing I hit some bad shots and some good shots, that is after a few holes and getting back into the midset of my game. Hitting a good shot still feels the same, good! It was a pretty enjoyable time all in all, but towards the end of the round I was ready for it to be over. Hitting the clubhouse grill and bar afterward still feels the same as well, good! Anyway a few days after the outing I realized that my serious playing days are behind me. I don’t have a regular group of guys to play with like I once did and it would take a multitude of weekends playing to get my game back, not to mention the driving range time. I don’t see that happening. I don’t know if I miss it or not but I still stare at the courses I see along the way and have quite a few great memories and stories of when I did. There were times I couldn’t wait to get back out there, but not now. I have other interests now. You see when you let one thing go something else will always take it’s place. That’s how it works.
The NFL recently lost a lawsuit brought on by former players who are now suffering medical problems due to their playing days. The one billion dollar judgment was awarded after the courts ruled that the NFL did a poor job in awareness towards the players in not warning them to the possibilities of concussions and the effects from them. I know football players are stereotyped as not being too bright and this does nothing to improve that status that’s been placed upon them. The most violent sport in the world and you have to tell them that concussions could occur?!? Is the NFL now going to bring awareness to the possibilities of every injury that could occur while playing since these guys can’t seem to figure it out for themselves.
Whatever happened to the days when we target practiced anything and the target was a series of colorful circles with a “bull’s-eye” in the center. Now the target is the outline of the top half of a human torso. Not only that but the vital areas, or kill zones, score higher. Unlike the series of circles where the closer you got to the center the higher the score. Don’t you think in some small way this desensitizes us to shooting another human being just a little bit? Don’t think about it, your damn right it does!
The most valuable thing I carry with me every day, like most people, is a wallet. In it you will find among other things, debit and credit cards, drivers license, social security card, medical cards, etc etc. All are pretty valuable things in the wrong hands and a royal pain if they are lost or stolen. All the phone calls and trips here and there to get them replaced and getting the cards shut down before any major financial damage is done. Not to mention all the calls and trips if you don’t. Yet I don’t physically carry it in my hand all day to ensure it’s safety. What am I getting at? Many people carry a cell phone in their hand all day like it holds global secrets. Lose a cell phone, it’s one trip to the phone store at best. Go figure that out?
Even though what happened in Baltimore was bad for a day or so I think some good did come of it. Many folks stood up to the looters, sided with the police in their actions, got out and cleaned up immediately afterward, and one woman was shown on TV beating the crap out of her son when she observed him acting out against them. Yes it was bad and shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but a lot of good came from it as well. Sometimes you have to go backwards before you can go forward. Maybe the tide turned just a little bit. Hope so anyway.
Budgeting can seem a lot like dieting if you feel like you’re being deprived of something you’ve always had. That’s why so many people never budget to begin with, which I believe is a big mistake.
Habits guide my spending decisions more than my actual budget. When contemplating a purchase, I ask myself a few questions to avoid buying something that I might regret:
- Is this a want or a need?
- Can I afford it?
- Will this enhance my life?
When I choose to buy something after answering those questions, I can do so without feeling guilty. I also don’t need to worry about overspending because of those savings habits I mentioned, which have become personal money mantras.
Here are a few examples to show you how I apply them in my daily life:
Know what things should cost
If you’ve ever watched “The Price is Right,” you know that half of America has no clue how much things cost. Once you understand the way retailers price items, you can decide what’s an acceptable amount you’re willing to pay.
Not all sales are equal
Retailers will plaster the word “sale” on just about anything because many shoppers will trust that they’re getting a good deal if it’s on sale. We know better than that. While I usually buy discounted items, I recognize that the word “sale” is part of corporate America’s marketing strategy to get you to spend more. Be a skeptical shopper.
Reject brand loyalty
Apple is just one example of a company that has enormous power over its customers. This is obvious by folks with perfectly acceptable phones who stand in line to trade-up to the company’s latest and greatest iPhone every September. Apple also has other expensive items to feed your addiction, such as the iPad and Apple Watch, which essentially perform the same functions as the phone. While these products may be great, think about how much money you could save if you considered what other brands have to offer.
Can I fix what I already have?
When something breaks, it doesn’t automatically have to go in the trash can. For example, wear and tear was taking a toll on a pair of my shoes. Instead of spending another $75 for a replacement pair, I used super glue to fix damage to the side of my shoes and then I used Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (generic version) to make them look brand new again.
Shop in store, buy online
A major downside to online shopping is that you can’t try on clothing or shoes before you make a purchase. That’s why I prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores and then go home to search for the best price on Google. This method also gives you more time to think about whether you really want or need the item in the first place, eliminating impulse spending.
Get every discount possible
One great thing about living in the digital age is that we no longer have to wait for a Sunday newspaper to clip coupons or find out what’s on sale. It’s all just a Google search away these days. In addition to maximizing store incentives, I save on online purchases by using TopCashBack, Ibotta, Swagbucks and shopping portals linked to my credit cards.
Banking should be free
Banks need our deposits in order to continue making loans, which earns them billions of dollars through interest. In return, I believe basic checking and savings accounts should be free. After all, the banks aren’t paying out much interest on our deposits, so why pay them? Consider a checking account like Capital One 360 to avoid being hit with monthly maintenance fees.
Your credit card should pay you
Like commercial banks, credit card companies are in the business of making money, but they’re not making it from me — they’re paying me. Right now, there are at least a dozen good rewards credit cards on the market, including some that pay 2% cash back on all purchases. Find a card that suits your lifestyle and pay it off in full every month to avoid interest charges. That’s the only way to go.
It doesn’t matter what other people think
This mantra has probably saved me more money than all of the other things I’ve mentioned in this article combined. My goal in life is to pack in as many experiences as I can, not to accumulate fancy cars, expensive clothing and silly gadgets that “everyone else” is buying. You have to define what really matters in your life and surround yourself with people who share similar beliefs. I’ve never met anyone who was happy trying to be someone else.
1. “Isadore’s Secret” by Mardi Link – The murder of a Nun in the little town of Isadore Michigan in 1907 takes more turns than a dogs hind legs.
2. “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer – A young man’s adventurous side continually pushes him to the limits.
3. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry – Futuristic society where a new seer is needed and found. Hard to believe this sometimes graphic book is aimed at young people.
4. “Tom Watson’s Strategic Golf” – Tom shows you how to play the set up of the course, the do’s and don’ts. No swing tips which you’ll forget anyway.
5. “Lake Wobegon 1956″ by Garrison Keioler – Childhood revisited.
6. “Catch Me If You Can” – Frank Abagnale as the con artist elite.
7. “Commandant of Auschwitz” by Rudolf Heoss – Untold tales of concentration camp life.
8. “The Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang – In 1937 Japan invades China, history you don’t hear much about.
9. “Miracle at Midway” by Gorgon Prange – It really was a miracle we won this battle and turned the tide of the war with Japan. As you are reading you’ll have to remind yourself, “we won this battle”.
10. “Escape from Camp 14″ by Blane Harden – Modern day tale of a North Korean prison camp escapee and prison life inside the so called labor camps.
11. “Survival at Auschwitz” by Primo Levi – Untold tales of concentration camp life.
12. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy – The apocalypse has come and a Father and Son struggle to survive.
13. “When Evil Came to Good Hart” by Mardi Link – The unsolved murder of an upstanding family in Good Hart Michigan in the summer of 1968. You figure it out after reading and being introduced to the suspects.
14. “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy – One chases the other in this tale of hitman -vs.- anyone in his way.
15. “Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo – Leaves you thinking after a young boy momentarily dies and experiences what he believes is Heaven.
16. “At Dawn we Slept” by Gordon Prange – Day by day account on both the US and Japanese sides leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The research that went into this book is absolutely astonishing!
17. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London – Excellently written tale of a kidnapped dog forced to be a member of a sled dog team. When I finished chapter five, I read the last paragraph 10 times it was so well written, and still go back to read it time to time.
18. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee – Very good read of a depression era father and his two children. Wish I had read it before I ever saw the movie.
I saw a hitcher hiker the other day on my side of the road that had his hand and thumb up to a car coming toward me in the other lane, with no luck there he put his hand and thumb up to me?!? He was going somewhere and didn’t seem to care where or what direction. Read the book “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, you’ll find that he romanticizes it so much you can’t wait to get out there. It was set during the dustbowl days and it’s the story of a group of young folk who travel all over this great land by hook or by crook visiting friends wherever they find them. Living and sleeping wherever they find themselves. Good read. It’s also been said that the road is better than the inn. I knew a guy who told me he saw the same guy hitch hiking quite often but never picked him up because he didn’t want to feel obligated every time he saw him. I used to hitchhike quite often when I was a teenager, never had an issue. We have actually walked farther away from our destination to start hitchhiking so there was a better chance of getting a ride because of hitchhiking longer. Quite often with no luck you ended up walking to the place you were going anyway. I always debated at what point do you give up hitchhiking and just walk the rest of the way. You don’t want to get picked up and have tell them almost immediately to drop you at the next corner. How embarrassing is that? Hitchhiking is a lost art. There are the guys who just walk along with a thumb flying in the air. Come on hitchhiking is a form of begging and you’ve got to turn around and look forlorn or sad, you know, put some effort into it. Look that driver in the face and connect with him in the split second he’s deciding yes or no. Actually it’s a no going in but you got a second or so to change that with the right expression on your face. A poorly written sign shows effort I guess. Gives the driver the idea that at least you have a goal for yourself. Don’t put the words Vet or Veteran on the sign. People are leery of veterans who wear a lot of camouflage, appear to be somewhat unkempt walking the highways. Groups are bad. Don’t hitchhike with a group. Does it seems like a lot of hitchhikers have guitars and dogs? Although it’s not as exciting or popular as it once was I still have faith it will continue on as a form of travel for the people of lesser means. However all’s not lost for those that traverse this great country of ours because I heard a serial killer once say that there are people he knew who rode around looking to pick up hitchhikers. So there you go.
Have you ever been to a place that’s so well kept and manicured that it’s inconceivable the amount of work that would have to go into it on an almost constant basis. Have you ever been to a place like this that makes you feel welcome and proud at the same time that your there to enjoy it. This place does exist and it’s in Augusta Georgia. I had the pleasure not long ago of crossing off my bucket list a want that’s been building and building for the past several years and finally came to be a few weeks ago. Attending the Master’s Golf Championship! Unless you win the ticket lottery you will pay a premium price for the pleasure. I fortunately didn’t have to do either and am extremely grateful for the opportunity a friend gave me. The Master’s Golf Course is a place like no other I’ve ever seen as a past golfer, and I’ve played quite a number of nice courses. There is nothing out of place, nothing! Looking back I find it’s set up for the “Patrons” or visitors as much as it’s set up for the golfers that play there. Maybe more so. I ended up walking the entire course and took in many of the side events and history the golf club offers. I figured when the day was said and done I had walked more than six miles and only sat one time for about 15 minutes. I made the most of the opportunity and when I hit the car at days end I was spent. Watching on TV is fine, but to experience it first hand and then take it in on TV brings it into a greater context. This course, set up to the way the pros play it would eat the lunch of the average hacker. I stood on many of the fairways scratching my head wondering how I would play certain holes if given the opportunity. I’m still wondering. It is relentless with trips up and down hills with added sloping one way or the other and the greens are just as undulating and lightening fast. TV brings you there but in no way gives you the real feel for what the course offers. All that said it’s no longer on my list, but I wouldn’t mind doing it again. Trying to pass on the experience to others always ends in the same statement “you gotta see it to believe it!
Sure there are times when I need something and have to take that seemingly dreaded trip to Wal-Mart. NPR called Wal-Mart the death of small town America. I guess I don’t have to go to Wal-Mart but hell they have everything, the prices are decent or at least somewhat cheaper than what you would find at other stores. It’s pretty much one stop shopping. Don’t get me wrong I don’t go there to shop, I know what I want, I get it and I’m in and out in short order. That is if more that two of the 50 registers are open. Have you ever seen at least half of the registers in a Wal-Mart open at the same time? Any Wal-Mart, ever? You have a better chance of seeing a UFO. Sometimes I park and check out in the auto department sometimes just to curb the wait time. I was thinking the other day, what ever happened to those benches they used to have throughout the store for old men to camp out on? I guess Wal-Mart figured out old men have money and that bench isn’t going to spend it. That and they needed the space for the $3.99 DVD bargain bin.
Now I find most times I’m not really dressed to go there. I feel so out of place. It seems pajama bottoms or sweat pants are the dress code of choice and all the rage. The only place you’ll see more pajama bottoms is in front of a Netflix vending machine at the convenience store. This with a nice worn-out dirty sweatshirt or hoodie that doesn’t even come close to matching seems to be the required attire. Don’t forget the curlers ladies, and don’t you dare to remove them before going. The pink ones are my favorite. No shoes no problem. Who cares if your feet are hanging off the back of flip flops that are two sizes too small for your feet? I consider this type of dress to be kind of like the “emergency trip to the store” throw on anything clothes? Well there must be a lot of emergencies going on because that’s the norm. Now not all the folks dress up this nicely some come a bit more casual. I had a friend who used to say “just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean you’re supposed to wear it”. I guess if they’re covered they’re happy.
Of course no trip to Wal-Mart would be complete if you didn’t run into Grandma who took every kid and Grandchild she can find with her and then turned them loose like a bunch of banshees. Don’t kids go to school during the day anymore? Of course she has to take them as they seem to be calling most of the shots during the visit anyway. I can’t remember the last time I walked down the toy aisle, that’s scary stuff right there boy! What a mess! Although there usually is a good fight going on between some child and an adult.
Then there are the riding buggy people, the group of folks who have never actually walked through a Wal-Mart. They ride in electric cart comfort. Not long ago I saw two women riding in the little carts side by side down an aisle, shopping, riding, talking and looking. Two rather large ladies, like twin sisters. Consider that aisle closed. I’m sympathetic to any cause but I find that if these carts were designed for the handicapped or injured, every handicapped or injured person who goes to Wal-Mart is overweight. And I know Wal-Mart is sympathetic to the handicapped because how many handicapped parking spaces do you think there are in front of the average store? I’ve tried to count them all, it’s not easy but it’s somewhere between 24 and 30+. Know what else? They’re always filled. As soon as one opens it almost immediately gets filled. It’s one of my pet peeves and it kills me where seemingly fit people park in them and then strut into the store like nobodies business. What’s he rush though, none of the registers are open.
Good luck in there!