Look Ma, No Hands! by Chuck Thurston

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Driverless cars are coming. Audi has tested one and others are ramping up. U.S. automakers Ford and Chevy have advance plans; in Europe, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are in the hunt. Google has one on the road, and Tesla can’t be far behind. Many experts look for them to be commonplace in another 4-5 years.

One experiment by Audi had the vehicle drive itself from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas – about 560 miles – and Audi claims that it can navigate through city traffic. We can expect more widespread testing in the near future, but I, myself, would watch carefully before I stepped off a curb, unless these cars have been put through a testing regimen that satisfies me. Here is the Thurston robo-car premium test package:

1) Take that jitney down to Atlanta and put it on the I-285 beltline at rush hour. Put a piece of cardboard about the size of a cell phone in front of one of the front sensors to block part of its vision.

2) Have the jalopy circle the parking lot of a super Walmart on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. Have it compete for the closest parking spaces next to the entrance. It should be able to ignore thumps on the trunk and hood and be oblivious to various vocal commands and suggestions received by shoppers.

3) Send that robo-rod up to the back roads of Pennsylvania deer country after dark during rutting season. Choose a time when many hunters will be going back and forth to hunting lodges with cases of refreshments. For the most effective testing, time the cruise to coincide with a late November snow or ice storm.

Okay, if the car comes back in one piece from this – and hasn’t wiped out any other traffic on the road – send a salesman around to talk to me. He’d better pull up in front of my house hands-off, though.

driverless car

 

 

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Quit Yer Bitchin’ by Chuck Thurston

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chambers bay

I have been watching the 2015 US Open championship at the Chambers Bay golf course in Washington state. The course has a nice industrial landscape cachet about it – you can imagine Duke Power looking it over for coal ash dumping; it might be used for motocross on alternate weekends.

A highly respected senior golfer from the Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino (none of them, incidentally) era said that it was an unplayable disgrace and totally unsuited to host such a prestigious event as the Open.

I take strong exception to that. I think it is high time that professional golfers be subjected to the same indignities that we weekend hackers are. The group I hang around with is not the country club set. We generally look for the low cost option and we know all about scalped tee boxes, unplayable lies on brick hard fairways, and baked greens. Taking divots on the fairways I am familiar with is a calculated risk. Wildlife abounds. A coyote ran across the fairway in front of me as I was teeing off on one course. I know a guy who surrendered a ball to a copperhead; took a drop several feet away, and we didn’t make him take the penalty.

coyote

 

One course that I particularly love is built over an old landfill. Two or three days of rain often bring strange things to the surface. I would not stick my hand in any of the ponds on the course to retrieve a ball. I’m also partial to a course that was developed out of an old dairy farm by the retiring farmer. He had never played the game himself (I assume he had watched some on TV) but designed the course himself and carved it out with his tractor and box blade. It has more moguls than an Olympic slalom course. I know a course where the bunkers are gravel. My golfing pals would feel right at home at Chambers Bay; it would be an upgrade!

golfer in rough

I am not about to take this “unplayable” baloney from a guy who practiced five days a week, didn’t even have to pay for his own equipment, played in highly manicured landscapes, won several majors – and made millions at it!

My advice? Suck it up, dude! Join my buddies and me now and then. We gripe and complain, but we laugh a lot and we fudge the regulations a little. We allow one mulligan per nine holes; a foot wedge to a little tuft of grass perfectly acceptable to compensate for a fairway lie on a rock outcropping; pick the ball up after a triple bogie and count it. Look if we don’t fudge the rules, how in the world are we expected to improve at this game?

Chuck Thurston is the author of the Senior Scribbles series, available on Amazon and Second Wind Publishing.  The 4th in this series “Senior Scribbles Bathroom Reader: Your Results May Vary” will be published this fall. He is an incurable hacker, but loves to hack.

 

 

Gadgetry by Chuck Thurston

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rube-goldberg

I draw near – it unlocks the door;

A button will close it behind.

It shows what’s behind me – and more –

Lets me know when the traffic’s unkind!

My New Car is smarter than me…

 

When I’m watching some foreign flick,

And I don’t understand what they say;

It gives me subtitles real quick,

Or lets me back up and replay!

My TV is smarter than me…

 

It tells me the minutes I’ve used,

And let’s me block all the blockheads.

It knows time and date, stops abuse,

‘Cause it knows when I’m due for my meds!

My Cell Phone is smarter than me…

 

My Gadgets are smarter than me.

I’ll bet yours are smarter than you;

Don’t fret, friends – just let them be.

Kick back and enjoy this breakthrough.

 

It ‘s tough to admit it, I know;

And saying it really makes me blush.

I feel more and more like a schmo.

Our gadgets are smarter than us…

Mother-in-Law by Chuck Thurston

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Mother-in-Law

I loved my mother-in-law. There – I said it, and I won’t take it back. The bad MIL jokes never hit home with me. We have a picture of Elli at eighteen – about my wife’s age when I first met her, and the resemblance is clear. She was a dish…the mom, I mean…and it was like mother, like daughter. So I guess my goose was cooked from the beginning.

Elli Drews at 18 1

My father-in-law was a different matter. It wasn’t that I didn’t care for him, but he could be a difficult man. When I later had a daughter of my own, I understood some of his protectiveness. His attitude was probably shaped because his daughter was an only child; my own daughter had two older brothers who required my sustained vigilance. I only had so much time, you understand.

My wife and I had only been married a few years when her parents divorced and my now ex mother-in-law returned to her native Denmark. Elli had not been particularly happy about moving here with her husband to begin with. The United States was not a good fit for her, and the marriage didn’t stand the strain once my wife left to begin a family of her own.

Ironically, we saw more of her after the split. She would fly over from Denmark and spend two or three months with us almost every year. She was the most accommodating houseguest you could imagine. She knew when to inject herself into the life of the household and when to retire discreetly and let the others go about their business without her. She insisted on buying her own beer when I went to the store, and I kicked back more than once and knocked one (possibly two…) back with her. She was worldly wise, with a wonderful sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed her company.

She was still a dish, incidentally, and I had no problems escorting her to whatever events we thought she would have fun at – and Elli managed to find the fun in almost everything.

Heidi_Elli_1983 1

So keep your mother-in-law jokes. Mine was a gem. And I miss her, doggone it.

Rooning it Doing it by Chuck Thurston

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Long ago I heard an expression, “Rooning it doing it!” The “rooning” was a corruption of “ruining” and it described those actions whereby we create a malfunction in the process of fixing one.

A classic case: A small electronics firm turned out circuit boards that were part of a subassembly going into a larger electronic device.

circuit board2

After fabrication, the boards would successfully pass all of the subsequent inspections and tests they were put through – visual, electrical, etc., until they were given a final “OK” stamp and installed in the larger assembly – and then a large percentage of them would fail! Why? Engineers and technicians were puzzled until they made an incredible discovery.

 OK ink stamp

The ink used in the OK stamp contained carbon – an electrical conductor! In many instances, the placement of the stamp bridged a small section of the circuitry creating a high resistance short in the circuit board! In the act of approving the part, the final inspectors were innocently introducing a failure!

My wife and I discovered that life can be like that. Last week we were headed into the Y for our morning workouts when Heidi tripped on the rubber mat in front of the entrance and fell. She managed to break most of her fall, but broke a bone in her right (naturally – she is right-handed) hand.

Now get this: Last year Heidi went through a number of trials – culminating in a terrific automobile accident in November. Another driver ran a stop sign and T-boned our van. Long story short, Heidi went through some serious rehab and began doing exercises at the Y designed to improve her balance and increase her strength and stability.

 2015-06-03 14.23.53

So why is this girl smiling? Well, what else can you do? The doctors say that she will be as good as new in 4-6 weeks. Incidentally, she was back in the Y five days later. Some of her program is on hold to be sure, but she is still able to make a recumbent bike whistle, so life goes on.