Capt’n Randy

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Every since I was a kid watching Flipper, I’ve always wanted to ride in on of those air boats in the everglades. Last week, while visiting my brother in Ft. Lauderdale, six of us went out into the everglades with Capt’n Randy. We drove out to a landing in the everglades and met him beside the water. This was a guy that would be hard not to like, friendly, funny and we found out he knew a lot about the ‘glades.

The first thing he says to me is, “you look just like a friend of mine, JD Gator. I sure hope you’re a lot smarter’n him though.”

We loaded up, the six of us and the capt’n. My dad was up in the highest seat beside the Capt’n. These things really fly, and it doesn’t necessarily need any water either. Mud or grass will do just fine. With a Corvette big block and a composite four blade prop this tourist boat (a little bigger than you would use for fishing or hunting) could do 50mph with virtually no wake.

p2080119We saw a lot of wildlife, mostly gators and birds. The gators didn’t care about us but most of the birds we saw from behind. Capt’n Randy told us about his Grandfather who, in the ‘60s, was changed from an alligator hunter to an alligator poacher. Well, I’ll testify to the fact that there is no shortage of gators out there. They are everywhere. I’d say there are more gators in the everglades than there are deer here in West Virginia where I live.

He showed us some of the camps that have been in the everglades for generations. You can almost hear the parties that some of them must have had, there were very few railings so you know someone got wet.

Randy told us about going out at night. He says the moon is enough light to ride with only your nav lights on. He did say that you needed goggles and a bandanna over your mouth to keep from getting “redneck drive through,” a euphemism for a bug lunch, but he says it’s beautiful, and in the summertime, it’s cool after the heat of the hot Florida sun.p2080127

p2080133On the way back my dad got a turn at driving this beautiful machine. It had dual steering controls; you push the lever down to go one way and pull it up to go the other. He’s good with machines and he did really well. Then my brother took a turn and even though he started out in a narrow little channel he got the hang of it quick. Unfortunately we got back to the landing before any of the rest of us had a chance to drive but I guarantee I’m going back, I gotta get me one of those things.

Slacker Beavers

beaver-damI sure everyone has heard the expression “busy as a beaver.” Well I’m here to tell you that there is a slacker subculture in the beaver community.

I have some beavers in the creek behind my house and they aren’t busy at all. They started building a dam and I was fascinated by how they were going about it. First they pushed up a pile of rocks across the creak. Then the started with the sticks. First I thought there was going to be some interesting instinctual plan but it started to look like they just put their trash on top of their pitiful pile of rocks. Beavers eat the bark off of branches leaving a branch of stripped wood. That stripped wood was piled on top of the rocks all willy nilly like in the yard of the shiftless bunch I’m sure you all have somewhere in your town. Well in spite of this leaky lame dam it did collect a small pool behind it. I kept expecting them to work more and make something larger but they didn’t. They seemed satisfied with the little “one pond shack” they had constructed.

Well then it rained and the water can get up pretty high in my creek, and it’s fast. The next day the beaver’s dam was gone. I expected to see some real action now. I had heard about beavers repairing dam damage over night. I waited, nothin’. Every day I’d go back and look, nuthin’. Now I don’t know if they were waiting for their insurance adjuster or FEMA but it was like 2 weeks before they got around to even starting. I dunno, maybe they were in loss counciling or something. Anyway they have finally started building again, but they are slow. I plan on getting out to see them at night if it freezes so I can get across the creek at night, and I fully expect to see them with their little beaver skateboards or one of the other slacker pastimes whiling away the night when they should be building.

Savings, America’s Capital Depreciation Fund

Peter Peterson, the founder of the Blackstone group is lamenting the lack of personal savings in the US. He says this is a bigger problem than the current recession. He may be right when he says that since there is no domestic savings, foreign countries holding our debt can hold our economy hostage.
Unfortunately he blames our attitude of “want it now” for out lack of savings. Here he is dead wrong. If you go and open a savings account these days you will find out two things.

1) You will likely pay a fee for having a savings account.

2) The interest rate you receive on your savings will likely be well below inflation.

Bottom line, when you save, YOU LOSE MONEY.

I don’t know about you but I can’t see why the interest rate on savings shouldn’t be some percentage of the loan rate, AND it should always be better than inflation. The banks are jerking us around, charging fees everywhere they can, keeping savings interest rates low, and now using our tax dollars to pay exec salaries and bonuses. Mr. Peterson has a lotta sand to sit in his fancy suit and talk to us about how bad we are for not saving.

Maybe in our little way by not saving we are telling the MARKET that we want change. But why should they change, if we don’t give them enough at the teller window, they’ll get it from our tax bill.

http://money.cnn.com/video/ft/#/video/fortune/2008/12/02/fortune.500.peterson.saving.fortune

Consumer Confidence

gift_boxSo today the government decided to try to improve consumer spending by investing in the consumer debt market. Treasure Secretary Paulson thinks that by freeing up personal credit we consumers can go on with Christmas as usual. Come on guys, only a moron would go out on a buying spree in this climate. We are cutting Christmas to the bone. The companies we are bailing out are continuiong to increase fees and premiums while holding posh seminars on our dollars.

Now if you really wanted to boost consumer confidence, instead of investing in companies that have already sucked all we can afford out of the economy, why don’t we put a couple of billion into…education.

Yup, if you want to boost MY consumer confidence you could help me be confident of the college education of my kids. With one in college, one starting next year, and the last the year after, if a couple of billion were spent so every child with say a B average gets a free college education, it would go a long way to improve my confidence. I am a firm believer that education improves society so what’s to lose. Sure we need to make sure it’s not just a party, but the VA and most existing scholarships already do this. Instead of keeping some fat cat in his fine house, lets send our kids to school.

If you did this Mr. Paulson, I’d make my Christmas gift list much longer, I’d even send you something nice.

The Choice That’s No Choice

In a political Spam-mail, John McCain is telling me about his health plan. He’s telling me about choices, telling me how I can make all these choices under his plan. It seems to me that the freedom to choose without choices is no freedom at all.

When in the last 20 years have we had any choices in health care that have not been legislated? Oh, we’ve always had to chose between which provider will hurt us the least, which provider will increase the premiums least, or which provider will pay the plan doctors in a timely fashion (so your personal physician won’t drop the plan or make you pre-pay). These choices are little more than a game of choose the rapist.

This plan smells suspiciously like it will be manipulated to benefit the insurance companies before it’s done. These are the companies that we trust to sell us at a fair price, health care for our families. The company I work at is mostly self insured, a couple of years ago my premiums went up 13%. Of that, 4% was due to increased health costs, the other 9% was an increase in the cost of our insurance carrier’s administrative services, the ABYSMAL administrative services.

If you want to read a real Pollyanna analysis of McCains health care program read: Fortunes’s “Why McCain has the Best Health-Care Plan” It Explains how employers will pass their savings on to the employee…because of the competitive labor market- huh? is that why wages have been stagnant since 2002? It also tells how the magical fairies of deregulation will use their wands of competition and bring the evil price beast to it’s knees. Just think of how these selfless little magical beasts have made life better, airlines, phone companies, savings and loans, banks.

So, I ask you Mr. McCain, what choices are you giving me really?