Thursday, April 24, 2014

Scanning my brains out


When Windows 7 was released, those of us who upgraded found ourselves shifting from a 32-bit operating system to a 64-bit operating system.

Most of our software could handle the change, but some of it could not. That was the case with the driver for my Nikon Coolscan IV ED negative/transparency scanner. And Nikon, apparently trying to force Coolscan IV users to buy a new scanner, declined to write a 64-bit driver for it.

There were various workarounds, including upgrading to Windows 7 Professional which has an XP Mode which creates a virtual machine running 32-bit Windows XP. I bought it and was able to install the last version of Nikon View and had my scanner back. For awhile, anyway, until it got wonky and stopped working.

Some serious Nikon geek, not affiliated with the company, wrote a 64-bit driver for Nikon View, but I never could get it to work.

Finally, a few weeks ago I did what I should have done a long long time ago.

I went to and bought the $80 professional edition of their VueScan, which works with my scanner and about 100 other brands and models.

I absolutely love it and wonder why I was so hung up on Nikon’s software, which is really lame by comparison.

I got out my black & white negatives from the September, 1969 crash of an Allegheny Airlines DC-9 southeast of Indianapolis and decided to scan all of the images. Thanks to VueScan’s batch scanning feature, I was able to make high-res scans of 106 images in a little under 90 minutes. That would have been an all-day job with Nikon View.

VueScan will also run my Canon flatbed scanner, but I prefer to use the Canon software. For the time being, at least.

To say that I love ViewScan is a serious understatement. It’s given me back my photo archive. Like the photo above – Leonard Case and his family, owners and operators of the Cherry Hut in Beulah, Mich. I shot the photo for a travel story I wrote for The Indianapolis Star in 2001.

The electric wire is up and it’s hot


We have high hopes that our fenced back yard is now escape-proof and Dora’s tunneling out days are over.

We haven’t seen Dora get zapped, but Jack had a shocking experience last evening.

Maria was in the yard with him at the time, but wasn’t watching when he yelped and ran from the fence. Her guess is that he peed on it. To my way of thinking, that’s about the worst way to experience an electric fence.

The fence charger Charlie gave us is obviously working just fine, which eliminates the need for any further spending on the project.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Missions accomplished


Charlie and I hauled bikes up to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles today, got them fixed and returned home about 5 p.m.

I got a diagnosis on my K75S steering head bearing issue – it will need attention in a year or two and will cost about $550 – and got fixes on my speedometer cable wonky connection and non-functioning accessory plug. Cost: $142 and change.

Deb’s GS got its electrical wiring problem sorted out.

capemeI spent a couple of hours hanging out at the dealership among a wide range of new BMW models and didn’t see anything that really lit me up. I like the technology on the new GTs, but don’t like their bulky look.

Turned out that Charlie had an electric fence charger that he no longer needs, so I rode down to his house and picked it up.

I connected it and Maria reported Jack had a shocking encounter about an hour later, so we know it works and we have the electric wire properly installed.

Multiple problems solved at minimal expense, so it was a good day.

Two steps forward, one step back


We sweated and strained most of yesterday clearing away the log barricades and filling in Dora’s escape tunnels, preliminary to installing an electric fence wire.

Friend Charlie gave me the remains of a fence kit he had used, which involved setting plastic stakes to hold the wire. There were only 10 stakes left, so I bought enough half-inch PVC pipe at Lowe’s on Sunday to make 50 2-foot-long stakes, into which I drilled holes to hold cotter keys as a channel for the wire.

We set them out yesterday and strung wire through about five of them before we realized they were too flimsy.

So it was off to ACE Hardware where we found yellow plastic insulator clips that fasten onto the chain link fabric. We installed them all around the yard, strung the wire, hooked up the charger and ground stake and waited for a yelp.

No yelps.

But we didn’t see either dog approach the fence the rest of the day and evening.

I’m waiting for Charlie to pick me and the K75S up to go to Cape Girardeau for some service, so I got out the circuit tester to check the fence.

No current on the wire. Checking the charger, I find it isn’t working.


No time to drive to ACE and get a new charger (the one I have was bought from Amazon in January and can’t be returned more than a month after purchase) and still make our appointment at the BMW dealer in Cape.

So Dora will have to spend the day in her kennel and I’ll get on the fence problem as soon as we get home.

It’s always something.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do we need another dog?


This is Ginger, a stray dachshund who showed up at our friend Susan’s house.

Dachshunds tend to be stand-offish and skittish, but Susan’s daughter Maggie made a friend of her and now she lives with Susan and Maggie and their two big black poodles and a female pitbull.

The poodles are high energy dogs who play rough and Susan is afraid little Ginger will get injured, so the idea was floated that she might come to our house – Ginger, that is. Not Susan.

My ex and her family had a dachshund named Ginger back in the 1960s. That Ginger hated me. She was the only dog I can recall that never warmed up to me.

Over the years, I’ve come to expect little in the way of affection from dachshunds, so you can imagine my surprise when this Ginger jumped up onto the couch and, after a few nervous minutes, snuggled me and invited me to pet her.

Our vet and dog food expenses are already a bit high for my comfort, but if Ginger comes to live with us, I guess I can deal with it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Memo to snakes: If you must lie in the roadway, lie parallel with the traffic lanes–makes you a smaller target and increases your chances of being missed


This guy was sunning himself on the warm asphalt of Pine Log Road yesterday afternoon when I ran over him with my car.

I didn’t realize it was a snake until a fraction of a second before my right wheels squashed him – no time to avoid.

I hate snakes, but I can’t help feeling a little remorse over accidentally killing a non-venomous snake that does more good than harm.

Sorry, pal.

The most under-appreciated genius of the 20th century


R. Buckminster Fuller was probably the smartest man I ever saw.

Here he is at a press conference at the Indianapolis Airport on Jan. 30, 1973. He had flown to Indiana for speaking engagements at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute and at Hanover College at Hanover.

For those who are among the under-appreciators, Bucky Fuller’s message to the world was that Malthusian predictions of global overpopulation and universal famine are bullshit because science and technology are continually finding ways to do more with less.

fullerstampHe liked to use copper electrical wire as an example. There is a finite amount of copper in the world, but by 1973 it was becoming obvious that fiber optic cable – made from sand, of which there is a near infinite supply – makes communicating over copper wires about as practical as smoke signals or jungle drums.

He was a prolific inventor and his best-known creation was the geodesic dome, which is an elegant expression of doing more with less to enclose space. He also invented the Dymaxion car and the Dymaxion house.

He died in 1983 at the age of 87. He was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 2004 on the 50th anniversary of his patent for the geodesic dome.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It was cutting edge technology in 1978. Now it’s a museum piece.

John Flora, November 1978

The Indianapolis News transitioned from typewriters to computers in the late 1970s and I found this image a couple of days ago – a photo of me at a Hendrix computer terminal shot in November, 1978.

I’ve always loved new technology, so I took to the Hendrix system quickly while some of my colleagues struggled and fought it. A few years later, I was on the transition team that trained the staff on a more sophisticated Atex computer system.

Hendrix was a wide-open system on which you could see everyone else’s files – something a new city editor failed to grasp when he created a series of memos to himself in which he ridiculed his superiors. Curiously, he wasn’t fired over it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Get it, Dora!


My stepson Austin gave me a spectacular dog toy for Christmas - a gun that shoots tennis balls. Maria used it this evening to shoot balls 30-40 feet up, so they bounced upon landing and here's Dora going for it!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

33 years ago last month

Here's the story I wrote following the March 9, 1981, execution of Steven Judy - Indiana's first execution in almost two decades.

By John Flora
The Indianapolis News

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – Minutes after making a surprise telephone call to a former girlfriend he hadn't seen in five years, convicted murderer Steven Judy died today in Indiana's electric chair.
Judy, 24, became the first felon to die in the electric chair at the State Prison in Judynearly 20 years at 12:12 a.m.
Judy's foster father, Robert Carr, Indianapolis, and his attorney, Steven Harris, were the only two witnesses to the execution, other than Department of Correction personnel who helped carry out the sentence imposed by Hendricks Circuit Judge Jeffrey Boles.
"He called a girl in Texas that he was really serious about a few years ago," Carr said of Judy's final half-hour. "I don't know why. It just came out of the dark. He hadn't talked to her in five or six years. This was about 25 or 20 'til 12.
"They finally located her and got her on the phone... her name is Jeannie. I don't know her last name," Carr said. "He went with her a year or two back in '73 or '74.
"I think she was probably the only girl he really loved," Carr said.
Carr said Judy received about 20 telegrams on his last day on Death Row, all of them from people urging him to change his mind and ask for a stay of execution.
Judy, he said, remained adamant until the end that he would rather die in the electric chair than spend decades in prison for the April, 1979, rape and murder of Terry Lee Chasteen and the drowning deaths of her children, Misty Zollers, 5; Stephen Chasteen, 4, and Mark Chasteen, 2.
Mrs. Chasteen, a divorcee, was en route to the home of a babysitter with her children before going to her job as a supermarket checkout clerk when she had a flat tire along Interstate 465 near Weir Cook Airport. Judy happened by and changed the tire, but disabled her car and lured her into his pickup truck.
Testimony at his trial in Martinsville indicated Judy drove his victims to a secluded area along White Lick Creek southwest of Mooresville where he raped and strangled Mrs. Chasteen and drowned her children in the creek.
"I have all the sympathy in the world for the Chasteen family," Mrs. Carr said after the execution.
"But Mark Chasteen (Mrs. Chasteen's former husband) has put on a veneer as the grieving father and the grieving husband. He never showed one bit of emotion during the entire trial.
"Most men would have to be physically restrained," she said. "Through the entire thing, he sat holding hands with his lady friend and he showed no emotion whatsoever.
"And suddenly he claims to be a devout Christian. But he has made the statement that he would like to be the one to pull the switch. I didn't know that God had granted him that right," she said.
Less than an hour after the execution, Mr. and Mrs. Carr returned to the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge where they and their family have been staying in recent days and told their children Judy was dead.
"We just told them it was fast," Carr said.
"We told them it was finished and he went like a man and like he wanted to go," Mrs. Carr added.
"We told them that he sent them his love."
Carr, who left the prison visibly shaken, said he watched the execution through a glass window. He said he believed Judy was unable to see him through the glass before the mask was placed over the condemned man's eyes.
"I kind of looked for him to maybe throw a hand signal or something, but he didn't," Carr said.
"They gave him a shot at 15 'til 12. It was like a tranquilizer because all of his muscles were tightening up," Carr said, adding that it was Judy's decision to have the shot.
"He wasn't nervous at all," Carr said. "It was just that his nerves were tightening up and he was kind of hyper the last half-hour or so."
Mrs. Carr said Judy broke down and cried on at least on occasion yesterday.
"Even though the public has never seen Steve Judy cry, I guarantee he cries frequently," she said, still speaking of her foster son in the present tense 90 minutes after his execution.
When Mrs. Carr left Judy's cell for the last time she said, "We hugged. We do what you do when you tell people good-bye for the very last time. I'm certain there are very few people who have ever experienced that.
"I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me and was sorry he had put us through so much," she said, adding she and Judy were both crying at the time.
One of Judy's last acts was to give his wrist watch to fellow Death Row inmate James Lowery with whom he had developed a friendship while at the prison.
Earlier, Carr said, Judy had joked about wearing his watch to the execution to "charge it up."
About 60 reporters and cameramen covering the execution were passed through two checkpoints about 11 p.m. and gathered in a small conference room on the second floor of the prison administration building.
As the clock on the conference room wall edged past midnight, the room became noticeably quieter, but there was no dimming of the lights or other indication of the exact moment the initial switch was thrown and the first charge of 2,300 volts passed through Judy's body.
The first official announcement came at 12:20 a.m. when Tom Hanlon, administrative assistant with the Department of Correction, stepped to the podium and, voice trembling, said, "The execution of Steven T. Judy, 24, as ordered by the Morgan County Superior Court, was carried out this morning at the Indiana State Prison, Michigan City, Indiana. The official pronouncement of death was made by the doctors in attendance at 12:12 a.m. CST."
At 2:30 p.m. yesterday, Hanlon said, Judy showered, received new institutional clothing and was prepared for the execution. At 3:31 p.m., he was moved from his cell on Death Row to a holding cell in the execution room.
"He ordered and received supper which consisted of prime rib, lobster, baked potatoes, salad and dinner rolls. He ate at 8:04 CST," Hanlon said, noting Judy's request for beer with his last meal was denied.
"At 12:05 a.m. CST, DOC personnel entered Judy's cell and asked if he had any comments or requests.
"He said, 'I don't hold no grudges. This is my doing. I'm, sorry it happened,'" Hanlon said.
"He was then escorted from the holding cell to the execution room and placed in the electric chair.
The sentence was then carried out. Steve Judy's body was released to the LaPorte County deputy coroner.
Funeral and burial arrangements will be made by the foster family," he said.
After the initial 10-second high-voltage charge, Hanlon said, Judy received a 20-second charge of 500 volts.
Carr said later he was convinced Judy felt nothing after "three or four seconds" and was satisfied the execution was carried out as painlessly as possible.
Asked who actually threw the switch to execute Judy, Hanlon said, "I can only refer you to the Indiana statute which says, 'either the warden or his assistant,'" adding it will never be announced which person carried out the sentence.
At the close of the press conference, Hanlon distributed copies of a statement by Gov. Robert Orr which said, in part, "Now that this difficult ordeal is over, I am at peace with myself because I know I have met my responsibilities under the law and because I believe justice has prevailed."
Henry Schwartzchild, who represented the American Civil Liberties Union in a fruitless attempt to foil Judy's wish to die, told about 200 protesters outside the prison gates before the execution, "The governor, the attorney general, the clemency commission, the judges and the prosecutors involved all have the invisible mark of Cain upon their foreheads.
"Judy's consent to his own execution cannot wipe that stain away, for who would think that our political and legal leaders should follow the wishes of a sick and destructive killer? Like Adolf Eichmann, they say they merely did their duty and like Pilate they say, 'The law took its course and the blood is not on our hands.' It has been a contemptible spectacle."
"The State of Indiana tonight is winning a very sorry victory over us," he said.