Best Rock Song of All Time

Credit: Wikipedia
I've been hearing people say Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven is the best rock song of all time since  the 1970's. I'm here to say they are all flat wrong.

Contrary to what you might think, Stairway to Heaven is NOT the best rock song of all time. Not even close. Stairway to Heaven is a ballad. While it's not a bad song it's really only fit for listening while recovering from a hangover. Or if you're pining for a lost lover. Stairway to Heaven does not lead up like a real stairway. Just the opposite. It just sends people into a downward spiral of depression and self-loathing.

The best rock song of all time and in all of history is Humble Pie's version of I Don't Need No Doctor. Specifically the version found on their 1971 album Performance Rockin the Fillmore.

Anyone who hears I Don't Need No Doctor instantly recognizes that it is superior in every way.  Especially the part about 8 minutes in when the band comes back from the quiet interlude and explodes with the refrain and the crowd erupts in cries of ecstasy. Lead singer Steve Marriott is possessed by Satan. The entire band is not singing the song but shouting it at the top of their lungs. The experience is like shooting adrenaline directly into your heart.

I Don't Need No Doctor was written by R&B geniuses Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson (Ashford and Simpson). That's what makes it so soulful and amazing.  Zeppelin ripped off Randy California to get Stairway to Heaven, while Humble Pie made I Don't Need No Doctor their own by using raw talent and sheer rock force That concludes my TED Talk. Thanks for coming.


A New Book

I just submitted a book proposal to a publisher. It's a story about a slick-talking Manhattan conman who travels around the country promising country bumpkins everything they desire. At first they believe him but after a couple of years realize they've been taken for fools. My editor rejected the idea because no one would believe it.


Despite What You Believe, Gravity Is Real

I've always loved history. Learning how people coped with problems in the past will help you cope with today's problems. In World War II the US was in danger. Real danger.  Our leaders were wise. They valued intelligence.  They turned to scientists and engineers to create the guns, planes and bombs needed to defeat the Nazis and the Japanese. Our country valued science and intelligence.

Mars Vanquishing Ignorance, Antoon Claeissens
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It's now more then 70 years since the end of World War II. Our country escaped the war relatively unharmed and has been the pre-eminent super-power in the world since then. As the greatest generation dies off, the lessons of that time are being forgotten.

As demonstrated in the run up to the 2016 election, some of our fellow citizens are tired of being ignored. They want their ideas to be thoughtfully considered. Despite facts, they believe climate change isn't real, evolution isn't real, abortion causes cancer, the earth is only 6000 years old, solar and wind power won't work, etc, etc.

We now have a parallel social and political system, propped up by right-wing media, where society's losers have devalued intelligence and assured themselves that their ideas are just as valid as the educated elite. I'm reminded of crying Fox viewers the day after Obama's re-election in November 2012. They were just certain Mitt Romney would win because their TEEVEE told them so.  And when he didn't, like naive children, they wondered why.  But instead of questioning why their "news" channel lied to them, they continued to watch and believe in the continuing Fox Fantasy.

They have elevated ignorance to a paramount level and so now you get president Trump.  These are people that can't or won't change. They can't or won't compete.  I've known people like these. They want the world to be the same as it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

These fellow citizens fail to realize they are being ignored because they have stupid ideas.  It took me a long time to understand the motivation behind many of these ignorant people. They vote against their own  healthcare. They vote against most economic and social progress.  It's baffling why they consistently vote against their own self interest.  It's because their affiliation with their tribe (aggrieved white people) is more valuable to them than facts. You could drop them off a building and they would deny the existence of gravity if they were told to by their "leaders".

This is the same reasoning a suicide bomber uses. If we let the losers of society rule us, if we keep allowing the ignorant to control the political process where will it end?  It will end with the destruction of the United States.

Just because you don't believe in something, doesn't mean it's not true. Like World War II, this country is faced with so many real, serious problems. We are going to need the best scientists and engineers to help solve them so this planet can survive. We can't afford to ignore facts and cater to the whims of the least intelligent of our neighbors.  They will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the future.

If allowed to go unchecked, conservatives would destroy this country before they will compromise.  These losers will have to be completely and utterly crushed at the ballot box.  They have to be so completely defeated so their stupid ideas never gain a foothold again.


Turn And Face The Strange

Credit: By Talmoryair [CC BY-SA 3.0
from Wikimedia Commons
The theory of evolution is not the best framework for explaining the situation America is in today. But I'm not going to let that stop me from trying.

Species die out because they cannot cope with new climates or cannot compete with a more aggressive species. Some people also fail to cope with change because of the choices they make. Most successful people choose to respond to change by adjusting their strategies and goals. Like learning new skills or pursuing new careers.

After World War II my parent’s generation could get a good job with little education and stay in that job their whole lives.  There was little pressure to change.  But by the time I got out of high school in 1975 that world was already fading away.  We were using electric typewriters in my college classes in 1988.  Just 7 years later the personal computer revolution had put PCs in nearly every office and home. The internet was the newest rage. I didn't know how to use a computer in 1988 but I had learned by 1992.  In 2007 along came the iPhone and today everyone walks around with these little hand-held computers.

The world changes a little bit every day. The change is gradual which makes it hard to notice. 
But once in a while that change becomes apparent -- like if your job gets outsourced to Mexico -- or your neighborhood has dozens of vacant homes due to foreclosures or maybe a black guy becomes president. After Obama was first elected president I was surprised at the number of people who were frightened of our changing world. A lot of people woke up in November 2008 and didn’t like that change. Fear is quite a motivator.

I think this is where conservative philosophy fails it’s followers. Conservatism opposes change. It would like to stop change or in some cases, reverse change. Trump's slogan is Make America Great Again. He looks back to the way things were in the past.

However, change occurs whether you like it or not --whether you’re ready for it or not. No one can ever stop the world from changing.  It has always changed and it always will.

Our world is not going back to the 1950s. The United States will never again employ tens of thousands of workers making Studebakers or in steel mills or in coal mines. We’re not going to push our gay and lesbian citizens back into the closet. We’re not going to re-segregate restaurants and schools or deny women the right to vote.  People who oppose change and fail to acknowledge it will always be angry and will never understand why.  So, back to my theory of American political and social evolution. Those who won’t adapt will be left behind to perish.

Conservatism is a dead philosophy. It's a complete fantasy.  A liberal world is already here and liberal policies and politics brought by a new generation are poised to take over the United States. Trump supporters are in for a world of hurt over the next 30 years or more. They are not going to like how it goes down.  People that adapt to the new world will survive. Those that let the world change around them will die out. So, conservatives might as well go shout at the tide, because change is unstoppable.


Fence Project - Phase One

Large sections of our fence nearest the barn were and are a disaster. At nearly 30 years old it was simply rotting away. Certainly not safe for good horsekeeping. The question was: Do we repair the fence or replace the fence? 

Photo by Chris
Repair of a single section would take 2 or 3 weeks. The cost would be minimal. But it wouldn't last more then a few years and would then need to be replaced anyway. We decided to invest time and money now to replace, rather then repair the fence.

For the corners we used posts that are 6 to 7 inches in diameter and 8 feet long. For the line posts we used posts that are 4 to 5 inches in diameter and 7 feet long. All are pressure treated.

The corner posts are sunk about 43 or 44 inches below the surface. I pour about half a 50 pound bag of  Quikcrete around the post, douse with a bucket of water, then back fill. I use a 7 foot line post for a cross brace and anchor them with 4 inch galvanized lag bolts. Finally, I crisscross steel brace wire and twist it as tight as possible. That pulls the posts together.  The line posts are sunk to a depth of about 32 or 33 inches. I put them in as deep as possible while leaving enough up top to staple the fence securely. No concrete is used.

We use "OK" brand Max Tight fence.  Phase one included removal and replacement of about 350 feet of fence and took 7 weekends.  Although there's about the same amount of fence, phase two may take longer. There's a lot of brush to clear before the old fence can be removed and to make way for the new posts.
I didn't get a "before" picture. This video shows the area after removing the old fence and posts and after installing new corner structures and line posts.  Now we have a fence that is safe and strong. It's sure to last at least another 30 years. 


Everyone's NOT an Expert

Photo by Chris Howell
I'm going to throw out a half-baked theory.

Media, especially radio and cable TV, should stop doing almost all interviews with non-experts. If the first duty of a news organization is to create a better informed electorate, then the non-expert interview is not helping and in some cases hurting.

You've seen or heard these people mostly on MSNBC or FOX or NPR. Talking heads giving their opinion.  They are given air time not because they have some sort of special knowledge but because of who they are. They could be from the White House. They could be political pollsters. They could be Senators or Representatives.  They are asked to give us their opinion, to tell us how they feel. In almost every case it's not informative. Outside of knowing how someone feels, the listener doesn't get to the end of the interview with any new or useful information.

If new employment numbers come out, have a guest who can tell us what the numbers mean. Interview an expert who can tell us why employment is up or down and what it means for the future. So we can decide if we agree with the policies our political representatives are promoting. Expert analysis informs us when we go to the ballot box.

Don't air the lies of a White House staff member about how the president's policies are responsible for increased employment (when employment is down).  When you do I'm a dumber voter. ESPECIALLY DON'T INTERVIEW SERIAL LIARS.

Whenever a claim is made, reporters should demand proof.  As a listener you should employ Hitchen's Razor.  "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"  The burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of a claim lies with the one who makes the claim, and if this burden is not met, the claim is unfounded, and its opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it.

These interviews should be with real experts. Someone as far from politics and as close to science as possible. Show us the interview subject's experience and credentials so we can decide what their bias may be.

I would allow very limited exceptions to this rule for the man on the street interviews. Man on the street interviews should be done rarely and only by local media. They should be broadcast only if they give the listener a fair representative sample of how most people in your community feel.  It's not easy to do. But do the hard work. As a reporter you have a duty to inform!

I'm not encouraged that media outlets will suddenly stop interviewing non-experts so they can help create a better informed public.  One, they have all that time to fill. And two, each outlet has carved out an audience who already agrees with their slant. Having someone on TV spout an opinion you agree with makes you feel better, keeps you watching and therefore, sells more advertising. Unfortunately, it's doesn't help make better informed citizens.

P.S. Yeah, the above screed is just a theory and my opinion. I don't know if I'm an expert but I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University and more then 20 year's experience as a writer and radio news reporter.


Feeding the Cranes

I was reminded last week how much I loved my old Flip video camera. I had the first generation back in 2007. I was surprised to find some refurbs still for sale on Amazon at very reasonable prices. So, I bought one just for fun. I got the Flip Ultra HD. It takes two hours of HD video and had 8 GB of built-in memory.
The face of welfare dependency. Photo by Chris

I took it for a spin this morning and captured the crane family that's been hanging out here for a few months. A mother and father and their "teen" crane are in this clip. They have this cute thing where they "purr" a little when I come out with bird seed.


Goodbye Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain Peabody 2014b

I'm really saddened this morning about the news of the death of Anthony Bourdain.  I am amazed at Bourdain's precise descriptions, his phrases and his storytelling.  He was a first-class writer. And he did it with a rock and roll attitude.

In many ways his life story was similar to mine. I also worked in restaurant kitchens in the 1970s and 1980s. We were both creatures of our times and like him, I also enjoyed experimenting with mind-altering substances.

From Bourdain's writing I learned that there are no boring subjects, just boring descriptions. He could make a simple sandwich sound significant.

If you watched any of his shows and listened to his dialog you could tell those were his words. He agonized over them. He nurtured them. He had a great writing style that I'd love to emulate.

Thanks for taking us along to all those parts unknown. Goodbye Anthony Bourdain.
Photo credit: Peabody Awards / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)


Reporters Acting as Stenographers

I'm sick of White House reporters acting as stenographers and simply repeating the administration's lies verbatim. Instead, they should take every statement, prove or disprove it before reporting on it. If it's true and verifiable then great. If not, then report the lie, not the statement. Actually, this should be common practice for every journalist covering any government official.

The first duty of a reporter is to the citizens of our country. You don't serve citizens by letting the ludicrous lies of Kellyanne Conway, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Sanders and all the Trumps go unchallenged.

The people of this administration are criminals. In the past, reporters could simply report what the administration said. Reporters could be relatively sure the White House wasn't lying with the goal of perpetrating a fraud on the American people.  Not any more.

Part of the problem is the competition that drives every reporter to be first, without regard for the truth. This behavior has to stop.  It's more important to be right, then be first. Real, good journalists have a lot of work to do to regain public trust.  They can begin by not telling us the administration's lies but by telling us about the lies.


NASCAR Decline

I've been reading a few articles on the decline of #NASCAR and I have a crazy theory. NASCAR is the canary in the coal mine for the economic decline of the middle class BECAUSE of economic inequality. The rich will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

"... it could be an even bigger indicator that NASCAR’s mostly self-induced problems aren’t able to be solved by those currently in charge. 
And boy, are there a lot of issues. Racing costs have skyrocketed as stock car racing has become a sport dominated by engineers. Car sponsorship used to cover racing costs but NASCAR’s declining and aging audience and companies’ move away from a traditional advertising model with the proliferation of the internet has made an owner’s business-to-business connections more imperative than ever."


It All Started With a Dream

A dream to write something meaningful on the internet for my friends and family.

In 1996 I heard that you could use Microsoft Word to create web pages. I think you can still see some of my old efforts at The Howell Report on the Internet Archive. It was crude but I was intrigued by the power. I could write something at home and anyone in the world could read it! Amazing!

Before long I was using HTML editors like Adobe PageMill and Microsoft FrontPage then quickly graduated to Dreamweaver, Homesite and BBEdit. Now I do most of my work in Notepad++. I have made my way through a variety of blogging platforms. Starting with Movable Type. I've used WordPress (both .com and .org), Tumblr and many other's I can't remember right now.

Now I'm back to Blogger. I got tired of constantly updating my WordPress installation to stay ahead of the hackers. Not that they can't hack this stuff either. It's just harder and the payoff is so much lower. So, no reader comments, no dynamic content of any kind. Just a bunch of stuff I've written.


Like a Phoenix

It's In The Cards
Rising from the ashes is The All New and Improved The Howell Report. I had this mess on self-hosted WordPress. I got tired of fighting the hackers. Going to give Blogger a try.

I exported my database to an xml file. It would not import into Blogger. So, I'm going through my old database line-by-line and entering each post into Blogger.  There's only a few hundred so It shouldn't take too long.

The Howell Report is really, now more then ever, more then you wanted to know.


Gold Wing Tire Installation

I put two new tires on my 1982 Honda Gold Wing in 2015. Now I have about 14,500 miles on them and they are worn out. Guys writing on the Gold Wing forums said they are only getting about 7,000-10,000 miles out of their tires, so I did great with these. I'm putting on the same brand again. Shinko 230 Tour Master 120/90-18 on the front and Shinko 230 Tour Master 140/90-16 on the rear.

You have to deflate the tire to get it off and to get the new one back on.
When I installed my first set of tires in 2015 I used little plastic beads. You put them inside the tire after it's mounted. They are supposed to roll around in there and "self-balance " the tire.  The beads didn't work for me.

New Shinko Tour Master 140/90-16

Rear Wheel

This time I went back to the old tried and true method. I used wheel weights to balance the tires and wheels.  I bought a wheel balance stand for only $65. The Tusk Motorcycle Wheel Balancing and Truing Stand.   I used these weights. It was super easy to do and it made a world of difference.  I have a much smoother ride now.  Search YouTube for videos on how to use a motorcycle tire balance stand.

New Rear Tire Installed

New Front Tire Installed


The Grand Army of the Republic

President William Taft at Grand Army of the Republic
Convention  Rochester, NY,1911 Photo credit: Wikimedia

The media spotlight has been shining bright on the removal of Confederate monuments and statues. Getting less attention is the sacrifice both black and white Union soldiers made to help preserve the Union and end slavery.

For this story I talked to Associate Professor of History at UCF, Barbara Gannon, about the shared sacrifice of black and white Union soldiers and the post-Civil War veteran’s organization called The Grand Army of the Republic.

 Click to listen to The Grand Army of the Republic.

2018 12 Hours of Sebring

The 66th annual running of the 12 Hours of Sebring was Saturday March 17. A Nissan prototype won with a whopping 12.4 second lead over the Cadillac prototype. I was lucky to attend with my lovely wife and 6 of my dearest friends in the world. It's the most fun I've had in a long, long time.
The Whole Gang

Bill and Gwen Patterson

Diana and Michael DuMolt

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Me and Rick Fugitt
Charlotte and Chris