Sunday, August 29, 2004

The fabulous Treo 300 - it's a PDA, it's a cell phone and because it's already been supplanted by the Treo 600, it's ridiculously cheap. Posted by Hello


My wife is pissed at me.
It's because I've spent an inordinately large amount of time this weekend on a new toy.
You may recall from an earlier post that I bemoaned the fact that I was deprived of web access for extended periods when I was on my three-week motorcycle ride through the West in July. I opined at that time that it would be nice to have a PDA with WiFi capabilities - something that would let me e-mail and blog from the road without hauling around a notebook computer.
Recently, I discovered a possibly more elegant solution - the PalmOne Treo family of PDA/cell phones. The premier model at the moment is the Treo 600, which combines the functions of a cell phone, PDA and digital camera. It also costs about $600.
The model it displaced, the Treo 300, has no camera and a bit less memory, but it does most of the same stuff.
I started poking around on Ebay looking for used Treos and found one with a Buy It Now price of $70. How could I go wrong? So I bought it on Thursday and, thanks for the magic of PayPal and the U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, it showed up in my mailbox yesterday.
Since I've never even worked a PDA, this involved a fairly steep learning curve (which I am still ascending), learning to input information, puzzle out the HotSynch feature that links it with my PC, get Sprint to transfer my old cell phone number to the Treo 300, and on, and on.
This, of course, took a lot of time - time my wife thought I should be using in other pursuits.
The major benefit, as far as she is concerned, is that this frees up my old cell phone for use by her daughter, who is a sophomore in college this fall. With the proper Sprint calling plan, she can share in our pool of unlimited night and weekend minutes and talk until the microwaves fry her head.
My Treo being a used device, still had some of the previous owner's setting in place, which kept me from accessing the Web when it was activated yesterday.
So this afternoon, after I got my stepdaughter her own cell phone number, I hooked up with Sprint Tech Support to sort out the Web issue.
In order to get a signal, I had to take the Treo outside, talking to the techie on my cordless land line phone while I fiddled with the Treo.
Naturally, my neighbor chose this time to mow his lawn. He even felt generous enough to mow my lawn, which made an even louder racket while I was tying to peck my way through the various screen commands to get online. In the middle of all this, my dog Ruthie decided there was a dire threat in the neighborhood that required lots of loud barking.
I finally retreated into my car in the driveway as sort of an improvised phone booth and eventually got everything sorted out.
But not before my wife and her son threw me out of the car because they had to get to the hardware store before closing. My stepson, who is in a building trades class in his senior year of high school, had undertaken to install a new bathroom ceiling light fixture and needed a new junction box and some other stuff to finish the job.
Anyhow, the Treo 300 is now fully functional and my wife is sure I've wasted my weekend on something she considers utterly stupid.
I guess I'm glad she sees it that way. Otherwise, she'd probably want her own Treo.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Another Mil-blog gone

Earlier this month, I directed anyone who stumbled in here to the blog of a U.S. soldier fighting with a Stryker unit in Mosul. The soldier identified himself as "CB" and wrote brilliant first-person accounts of firefights, patrols and day-to-day impressions of Iraq.
Before long, he was being read in the White House and the Pentagon as well as by folks like me. His commanding officer called him in one day a couple of weeks ago to compliment him on his writing and to caution him to be careful about including any details that might compromise operational security.
He was freaked out and concerned that he was now known to the upper echelons and was clearly on their radar screen.
He started being deliberately vague, "Today we went somewhere and did something," but his posts still had his distinctive voice and his observations were keen and compelling.
Then NPR got involved.
Reporter Eric Niiler did a piece on the Day to Day program that cast the Army in a very negative light vis a vis military bloggers. CB and the other soldier interviewed, a captain who also blogs from Iraq, weren't particularly pleased with the way the story was spun and said so online.
Now, today, CB's blog is no more. All of the previous content has been removed and the title, which morphed from "My War - Fear and Loathing in Iraq" to "My War," was changed today to "Over and Out."
I have lots of conflicting thoughts about what happened to CB and his blog and how his superiors tried to balance free speech against the safety of the troops and the success of the mission.
But as a professional journalist, I'm crystal clear on one thing: Eric Niiler betrayed the trust CB and the captain placed in him when they agreed to be interviewed.

I sent the following e-mail this morning to the Ombudsman at NPR:

I'm writing to complain about Eric Niiler's Aug. 24 piece about military bloggers in combat zones on Day to Day .
It's clear that the impetus for the story was the runaway popularity of a blog by a soldier in Mosul, Iraq who identified himself as "CB."
As a retired print journalist who has been following CB's blog for the last few weeks, I was angered and disturbed by Niiler's piece. Niiler obviously brought his own agenda to the story and turned it into a rant about Army persecution of bloggers.
The real story, of course, is the online public's enthusiastic response to what CB has been writing and how it's fresher and more genuine than anything we get from the mainstream media, including NPR. An honest reporter would have made that the central point of his story and explored the reasons why it is so.
As it turned out, Niiler doomed CB's blog by calling international attention to it and by divulging CB's name and unit.
I notice this morning that all of the previous content of CB's blog is gone and the name has been changed to "Over and Out."
It probably would have happened eventually, but Niiler's story made it a certainty.
That, in my judgment, is irresponsible journalism - using and abusing a source and distorting the reality of the situation just to have a sexier story.
At the same time, I recognize that once CB's superiors became aware of his blog, they had an obligation and a responsibility to make sure it was of no value to the enemy and did not endanger our troops. In that regard, I think they are right to err on the side of caution, even if it means silencing a voice many of us have come to admire and trust.
But the fact remains that Niiler put his own spin on the story and, in so doing, undermined the credibility of NPR. This is precisely why I and thousands like me search the internet for blogs from Iraq. The mainstream media, including NPR, isn't giving us the coverage we want.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Thank you, NPR

This is an open letter to the programming geniuses at National Public Radio who decided to kick Bob Edwards off of the Morning Edition program he has hosted since it began nearly 25 years ago.
Thank you.
You have made my flight from NPR immeasurably easier and more pleasant.
You see, I have been an NPR listener most of my adult life. Passengers in my car would put up howls of protest when I insisted on learning something from my radio rather than being “entertained” by music I don’t like and harassed by hours of commercial messages.
Earlier this summer, I became an XM Satellite Radio listener, even though they had little or no programming of the type carried by NPR. That was the one shortcoming that kept me sneaking back to my local NPR stations.
The programmers at XM must have noticed this deficit as well, because they recently announced the Sept. 1 launch of XM Public Radio – a channel with much of the same programming carried by NPR.
Like, for instance:
From PRI:
• American Routes
• Mountain Stage
• Riverwalk Jazz
• Sounds Eclectic
• PRI's Studio 360
• This American Life
From American Public Media Programming:
• American RadioWorks
• As It Happens
• The Writer's Almanac
From WBUR:
• The Connection
• Here and Now
• On Point
• Only a Game
And the crown jewel in their lineup, starting Oct. 4, The Bob Edwards Show every weekday morning. Thanks to your shabby treatment, Bob Edwards has a far more promising future in public broadcasting than the arrogant fools who canned him.
Now XM has everything I want in a radio experience – a nearly infinite variety of commercial-free music and all the best of NPR without those excruciatingly tedious local fund-raising campaigns.
Thank you, NPR.

Me, with Korean black hair and a beard clawing its way back to gray. Posted by Hello

Bad hair

My wife got a bad haircut yesterday.
For the last few months, she's had a kind of bob cut - visualize, if you can, the tragic self-destructive Sophie, played by Theresa Russell, in the Bill Murray version of The Razor's Edge.
She was tired of the look and gave her hairdresser instructions that she wanted a different look. Her goal was longer hair, but somehow she and the hairdresser thought they could achieve this "longer" look by cutting hair.
Oh, really?
So he squared off the sides and poofed up the top, taking her from a low/no maintenance hairdo to one that requires blowdryer teasing on the top every morning. This, she says, will assure that she looks like crap after wearing a motorcycle helmet or anything else that will smash it down.
If I were looking for an example of the differences between men and women, I doubt I could find a better one.
Most men's attitude about hair is best summarized by the BMW motorcycle ad showing a guy with tousled, tangled hair and the caption, "I have a new hair stylist. His name's Helmet."
If you frisked every man in America, I'm willing to bet you'd find that fewer than 15% are packing a comb. Most of us just do a "finger comb," running our hand through our hair to organize it in the general direction of a part.
When is the last time you saw advertising for Brylcreem or Vitalis or any other men's hair grease? We just don't care.
Got a bad haircut? So what? It'll grow out.
The last time I paid any attention to my hair was about 10 years ago when I wondered what it would be like to have dark hair. I was prematurely gray - completely silver gray by my late 30s. I asked my hairdresser at the time if it would be a big deal to dye it. Even though my original natural hair color was brown, we decided to go for drama and we dyed it black - about the same shade of black as my Korean hairdresser's tresses. Of course, my beard got dyed too.
(Note to anyone considering this: Do not attempt a radical hair color change like this if you take yourself very seriously and don't have a good sense of humor.)
I spent the first week or so enjoying the startled look on my friends' faces. My ex dropped by during this period and burst out laughing when I opened my front door to her.
When I rode out to Oregon to visit my son that summer, I found he'd gone from natural brown to peroxide blond, so we both had a good chuckle when I pulled off my helmet in his driveway.
I kept the black hair through the summer, going back for maintenance every couple of weeks when the silver lining started to show. By autumn, I was tired of it and went through a few weeks of the skunk look until my hair was long enough to whack off all of the blackness.
Did I look younger? Yeah, I guess so. Did it improve my social life? Not particularly.
In retrospect, it was probably a hair blunder even worse than my wife's cut this week.
But I'm not about to pat her on the head and say, "There, there. It'll grow out eventually."

Friday, August 20, 2004

Nov. 3, 1965 - My first day home after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force. Nice haircut, huh? The dog's name is Snoopy. Posted by Hello

What I did in the war

Like John Kerry and Al Gore - two hollow frauds who I heartily detest - I was a member of the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War.
For 81 days.
I was a sophomore in college in 1965. I'd joined a fraternity and was working on the student newspaper and, as a consequence, couldn't be bothered with studying or going to class. So I flunked out.
Bad timing on my part, because that meant I lost my student deferment at a time when the war in Vietnam was heating up and more and more guys my age were being drafted.
The dean of students said I could come back, but I had to lay out a semester.
Since the draft pool in my small rural home county was rather shallow, that guaranteed I'd be drafted before I could get back into college.
So I took a job at an RCA TV and stereo cabinet factory and considered my options.
I talked with Army and Air Force recruiters and took the exam that's a prerequisite to becoming an Army officer. I've always been good at taking that kind of test, which is why I set the record for SAT scores at my high school. I did well on the Army officer test too and they were keen to have me join their team.
About this time, I became aware that the combat life expectancy of a second lieutenant is alarmingly short and my instinct for self-preservation kicked in.
I had a fleeting thought of escaping to Canada, as a lot of guys in my generation did, but I immediately realized I couldn't inflict that kind of embarrassment upon my parents and I was way too fond of being an American to change nationalities or become a fugitive.
Wanting to retain at least some control over my fate - after all, they were also drafting for the Marines at that time - I decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. I've worn eyeglasses since the third grade and realized my lack of vision and a college degree assured I'd never be a military pilot, so that meant four years as an enlisted man. The Air Force has no infantry, so I most likely wouldn't have to go tramping through jungles and rice paddies. Most likely, I'd end up with some gig like meteorology or maybe even working on a base newspaper.
So, on Sept. 22, 1965, I showed up at the induction center with suitcase in hand and swore to defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
About 4 o'clock the next morning, I found myself stepping off of a bus in the dark with a couple of hundred other guys at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas.
The next few hours are a bit of a blur. I remember being assigned to the 3703rd Basic Military Training Squadron (BMTS) and an upper bunk on the second floor of a wooden barracks building that had undoubtedly been home to tens of thousands of clueless enlistees before me.
Our drill sergeant was a black guy named Staff Sgt. Maxey. I mention he was black only because in the course of basic training I learned that a couple of guys in my flight were from Alabama and carried Ku Klux Klan membership cards in their wallets. Remember this was back when the civil rights struggle was still going on and racism wasn't as out-of-vogue as it is today.
I vividly remember the humiliating experience of having to pay 65 cents for a GI haircut. I also recall going through the Green Machine - a large building where we got our uniforms, underwear, towels, shoes and duffle bags. The guys working there would cast a practiced eye over you and toss you a shirt or pants or jacket that, more often than not, was a very good fit.
I was mildly surprised a week or so later to notice that new arrivals - pre-haircut and pre-uniform - looked odd to me and to the other guys in my flight. We called them "rainbows" because of their colorful civilian clothes.
Air Force basic turned out to be a breeze - at least for me, especially compared with fraternity pledgeship. Marching, which seemed to baffle a lot of guys, was second nature to me, since I'd carried a Sousaphone for four years in high school marching band and knew the commands backward and forward. We ran a rather unchallenging obstacle course, learned to shoot the old M1 carbine (I qualified as an expert marksman and actually won a ribbon), and spent hours in classrooms learning about the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Air Force organizational structure and a lot of other stuff I've since forgotten. They were out of tear gas the day we were supposed to go through the dreaded tear gas experience.
Early in basic training, we were photographed and fingerprinted for our military IDs and records. In the months before my enlistment, I'd worked as a hand sander at the cabinet factory - using sandpaper to smooth off sharp edges and to remove errant bits of wood glue. As a result, my fingerprints were almost non-existent. The guys in charge of the operation looked at me suspiciously and I'm not sure they believed I wasn't trying to hide my identity. Over the course of basic training, I was called back in on three occasions to be re-fingerprinted and I don't think they ever did get a decent set of prints.
About two or three weeks into basic, we were marched off to a building to be assigned a specialty to match our abilities. It was then that it was discovered the records of my physical exam at the induction center had been lost in transit. They need your physical exam records to assign you to a job in the Air Force. Like, for instance, they don't want to send someone who is colorblind off to electronics school where they won't be able to differentiate between red and green wires.
So I went for a Lost Records Physical, which was much more thorough than any physical exam being done at the induction centers. Remember, this was in 1965 when all of the induction centers across the nation had huge quotas to make. Their screening processes were accordingly less stringent.
So I checked the boxes for hay fever and some other allergies and childhood asthma - all true - got my eyes and hearing tested and went back to the barracks.
I got a call-back a day or two later to report to the allergy clinic at Wilford Hall Air Force Hospital, over on the other side of the base. There, I was given a series of 26 subcutaneous injections of all kinds of stuff - cottonwood pollen, house dust, ragweed, cat dander. I got a reaction to everything, including the distilled water control injection. The allergist was calling people in from the hallway to look at my arm - it was the most dramatic reaction he'd ever seen. I suspected this was an important event, but nothing came of it right away.
Near the end of basic, I got a message to report to a panel of four doctors, all of them captains.
Captain: "Do you plan to make a career of the Air Force?"
Me: "No, sir. I just wanted to get my time out of the way."
Captain: "Would you be upset if we sent you home?"
Me: "No, sir. I think I could handle it."
I was immediately transferred to a "casual" barracks populated by other guys being processed out of the Air Force - some for less savory reasons than medical issues. I turned in all of my uniforms and equipment, keeping only the PT (physical training) shirt and shorts and my underwear and I remember signing a waiver that stipulated that I would never apply for veteran's benefits.
Ten days later, I was winging my way home on a Braniff Airlines jet.
The date was Nov. 2, 1965.
My draft board re-classified me as 1-Y, which moved me waaaaay down the list of draft eligibility, and I went back to college the following January.
Do I regret accepting their offer to return to civilian life?
But, at the same time, I'm haunted by a nagging feeling that I missed out on the Great Adventure of my generation. That feeling goes away quickly when I talk to 'Nam vets whose post-war lives have been a hell of alcohol and drug abuse, Agent Orange illness and the consequences of combat stress.
I thank God that my life has been as easy as it has and I thank them for what they endured out of a sense of duty and honor.
I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., a few years ago. I realized I don't know a single person whose name is etched on those black marble tablets, but I was keenly aware that but for a stroke of luck, my name could be up on that wall.
I have enormous respect for every man and woman who served honorably in Vietnam.
But I have only contempt for those who exaggerate or lie about their service to advance their 21st century political ambitions.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

My granddaughter Lisa with her mom, Nicky, Wednesday after a doctor visit in Chicago. Her cleft lip and palate are closing nicely and she's growing like a weed. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Bucky Fuller has his own postage stamp! The image by artist Boris Artzybasheff originally appeared on the cover of TIME magazine January 10th, 1964.
 Posted by Hello

Bucky who?

I visited our little postoffice this afternoon to mail a gift to my new granddaughter and it occurred to me that we could use more 37¢ stamps.
Responding to my request for "something interesting" in the way of stamps, our postmistress (Can you call a woman a postmaster?) whipped out an assortment of commemoratives - Olympics, Disney characters, Louisiana Purchase... and then offered a sheet of 20 depicting "some guy named Buckminster Fuller."
Some guy? Bucky Fuller is "some guy?"
Trying to control the incredulity in my voice, I patiently explained that R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was, among other things, the inventor of the geodesic dome. She had never heard of him.
I let it go at that and didn't bore her with the fact that I once met Bucky Fuller in the course of covering one of this lectures for my newspaper.
Fuller was one of the most brilliant men of the 20th century. He coined the word "synergy" and designed houses and cars that had qualities that actually made them so superior to what was then available as to be too advanced for public taste.
Checking the U.S. Postal Service website, I discovered the stamp was issued on July 12, which was the 50th anniversary of Fuller's patent on the geodesic dome. It would also have been his 109th birthday.
You can learn more about Bucky Fuller and his legacy at the Buckminster Fuller Institute website.

Slow touring

Five guys left Seattle a little more than a week ago, determined to take a Segway - one of those battery-powered scooters - across the country in 80 days or so.
They're calling their trip "America at 10 mph" and are documenting it online with text and videos at
As of today, they've covered 301.5 miles and are in Dayton, Wash.
The Segway needs a battery change about every hour and they've made 32 battery changes. The batteries take about 7 hours to recharge, so they have a support vehicle full of camera gear, the four non-riders and charging batteries creeping down the blue highways in search of America.
They say they've had 127 invitations to stay with people. At 10 mph on something as unusual as a Segway, you can't help but meet a lot of people.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Today is Friday, the 13th. Whenever the 13th falls on a Friday, I always think of Walt Kelley's long-running (1948-73) comic strip, Pogo. The 13th got mentioned in the strip almost monthly, whether it fell on a Friday or not. The typical reference would have Pogo Possum or his friend Albert Alligator observing, "Friday the 13th came on a Tuesday this month." I suspect the short Pogo and the tall Albert were the models for Calvin and Hobbes many years later. Posted by Hello

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Here I am on that last tour aboard my '91 K100RS, riding into Red River, NM for the BMW Riders Association rally in July, 2002. Posted by Hello

Parting out an old friend

I've been taking advantage of the unseasonably cool weather this week to return to my otherwise beastly hot garage and take more parts off of my slowly disappearing '91 BMW K100RS.
As you may recall from previous posts, I'm parting it out on eBay to make payments on its replacement - an '03 K1200GT (which now has 18k on the odometer).
Today's project will be the draining, removal, cleaning, photographing and listing of the gas tank. It's the last painted part and the last clue that the bike was once a gorgeous pearl silver piece of mobile sculpture.
Disassembling this bike has been almost like butchering my own child. It's interesting how attached you can get to a motorcycle. A friend of mine had a similar attachment to a BMW he named "Old Blue." He crashed it on a Memorial Day Weekend club ride in Missouri several years ago and wrote a moving piece about the bike for the club newsletter. A few days later, another club member started ribbing him about his sentimentality, saying, "It's only a machine." My friend blew up, stomped out of the restaurant and nearly quit the club over it.
Here's what I wrote about my bike in 1997 when it turned 100,000 miles:

I kept a promise to myself this year.
On June 24, 1991, when I rode my new pearl silver 1991 K100RS out of the dealer's parking lot, I vowed that one day I'd see the odometer turn over 100,000 miles.
I remember chuckling at the audacity of BMW to put an odometer on their K-bikes that would read so high: Most bikes are junk long before their odometers need a sixth digit. But I knew this bike could do 100 grand and lots more.
I really wasn't in the market for a new bike back in the spring of '91. I had 80,000 miles on my 1981 R100RS and still had big traveling plans for that elegant graphite twin that had shown me so much of the country. I figured I'd eventually replace it with another R100RS, since the RS riding position suits me so well.
One afternoon, just to humor my local dealer, I took one of his new 16-valve K100s out for a demo ride. In less than 15 minutes, I was utterly seduced by the power and the handling of the new K. As I headed back to the dealership, I was doing the math to buy one of these amazing machines.
Luckily, this seduction came at a time when my finances made the purchase possible and the new bike was soon mine.
A few weeks later, I headed west for a week in Breckenridge, Colo., with BMW Club friends and then on to the Top O' the Rockies Rally in Paonia, Colo., then down through southern Utah to the BMW MOA National Rally in Flagstaff.
I remember how proud I was riding into the rally at Flagstaff. Heads turned. Riders gathered around to ogle the bike whenever I stopped. This was, after all, the new flagship of the BMW line – the latest example of the legendary BMW engineering prowess.
In the intervening six years, the bike carried me through 31 states and two Canadian provinces.
We've climbed the highest paved road in the United States to the summit of Mount Evans and we've screamed across the Nevada desert at just under 150 mph.
It's performed reliably in temperatures ranging from 20 below zero to 115 above.
Together, we've carved twisties from Deal's Gap to Big Sur, endured savage Kansas crosswinds and Wyoming hailstones. We've split lanes in Los Angeles freeway rush hour traffic and passed solitary hours cruising the Natchez Trace and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We've raced thunderstorms across Utah wastelands and probed California redwood forests so deep and dense it was dark at midday.
This magnificent machine has carried me across the Golden Gate and down Highway A1A to Key West and up the backbone of the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Jasper.
My memory is flooded with images from the saddle:
* Endless fields of North Dakota sunflowers at sunrise, each turning its golden face to the rising sun that warmed my back.
* The haunting tragic sadness of the Shiloh battlefield.
* Riding the white sands of Daytona Beach.
* The incredible intoxicating sweet aroma of desert flowers after a Wyoming thunderstorm.
* Mount Hood shining at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge.
* An unseen Ponderosa pine forest filling my helmet with fragrance as I rode into Flagstaff at midnight.
* The snow-clad majesty of the Colorado Rockies as I-70 ascends to the clouds west of Denver.
* The hellish sulfur pits of Yellowstone.
* Dodging rubber shrapnel as the car in front of me shredded a tire and veered to the median of a California freeway.
* Climbing to the snowy summit of Independence Pass before attacking the twisty road down to Aspen and lunch at the Woody Creek Tavern.
To be fair, there have been problems. This bike, like many of its generation, had chronic exhaust system problems. It liked to break welds between the header pipes and the muffler and did so in the summers of '92, '94 and '95. In the summer of '93, it broke a baffle in Nebraska. Each time, BMW replaced the $1,800 exhaust system under warranty. Finally, when a weld failed at Mount Rushmore in 1995 and BMW couldn't get a replacement to me quickly, I rode to California BMW at Mountain View and stepped up to a Staintune. A year later, the Staintune ripped itself apart 60 miles west of Oklahoma City. It was replaced under warranty with what was touted as a more robust version. A year later, the header pipe developed a spiral crack and was replaced under warranty in what proved to be the final fix.
The top end of the engine had a bad exhaust port and was replaced at 30,000 miles. I replaced the alternator in Portland, Ore., in 1996. The fan quit in Tennessee in October, 1997, shooting a geyser of coolant out of the right side cover.
When I took delivery of the bike, I only made two minor modifications – I added a front fender extension to protect the radiator and belly pan and I installed a luggage rack.
I love the clean, sculpted look of the bike and took care that subsequent tweaks preserved the look. I upgraded the headlight with a 100/80-watt bulb, added a Hyperlite flasher to the brake light, replaced the right bar end weight with a Wrist Rest cruise control, swapped the stock clock for a Fuel Plus clock/fuel calculator and replaced the wrung-out stock shock absorber with a Works shock. I also replaced the stock black saddlebags with custom painted matching pearl silver bags.
I estimate I've gone through 26 tires – 16 front and 10 rear – and filled the tank about 450 times.
I could go on to tally the quarts of oil and how much I've spent on service, but that's stuff for the bean counters.
And I hate bean counters.
So that's why, when 99,999 yielded to 100,000 at 5:10 p.m. Oct. 19, 1997, all I could think about was how rich in experience and spirit this fabulous machine has made me. It was, without question, the best deal I ever made.
Now, let's see how soon we can get to 200,000.

It never made it to 200k. In the middle of a four-week, 6,000-mile-plus ride to the West Coast in 2002, it developed a disturbing noise deep in the engine. I had it checked out by mechanics at the Santa Cruz, Calif., BMW shop and they opined it would probably get me home. My local dealer's chief wrench diagnosed the problem as disintegrating bushings in the output shaft. With 160,000 on the odometer, he said, the parts and labor would amount to more than the bike was worth. And when it was fixed, I'd still have a bike with 160k on the clock and God knows what other old parts getting ready to fail.
Clearly, it was time to retire the bike and buy another.
My dealer said I'd be lucky to get $2,000 out of the bike, so I decided to see if the sum of the parts was greater than the whole by parting it out on eBay. So far, I've made about $2,400 and I'm just now getting down to the mechanical stuff.

One of my Amish nieces. Is she a looker, or what? She's a very old soul and a powerful presence. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


While reading the blog of one of my occasional readers this week, I found a link to My War - Fear and Loathing in Iraq - a blog by a soldier who is a machinegunner in a Stryker unit in Mosul. The Stryker is an armored vehicle that runs on tires, rather than tank-style tracks, and is proving quite useful in the urban combat engagements our guys find themselves in in Iraqui cities these days.
The soldier, who goes by the name of CB, has been writing the most gripping, true-to-life first-person combat stuff to come out of this war - all under the cover of blogland anonymity. He's developed a huge audience, apparently reaching as far as the White House and the Pentagon.
Early this week, he got called into his battalion commander's office for a talk. Turns out the BC is a fan and wants CB to keep blogging, but asked that he run his posts past his platoon sergeant to make sure there is nothing in them that compromises operational security. Since the BC knows one of his guys is writing the blog, I believe he has a duty to make sure nothing gets onto the internet that could endanger the men or the mission, so I can't fault him for calling CB in for a chat.
CB is, understandably, freaked out by this development and, in his most recent post that described the encounter, left the question open as to whether he would continue blogging.
Being a journalist myself, I understand how intellectually stifling it is to have your words run through someone else's filter. I doubt the sergeant would censor CB unnecessarily, but I suspect this added step in the process kinda kills the spontaneity of the blog. He can no longer just go to the internet cafe, bash out an entry and post it. Now he has to include the sergeant in the loop, which probably would involve saving his post as a draft, getting a printout to run past the sergeant and then going back to the internet cafe to post the approved version. It's probably do-able, but it may make the process so laborious as to discourage posting.
At last glance, he's received more than 200 comments from readers - all of them supportive and most encouraging him to continue.
While his first duty is to the mission and the unit, I hope he can find a way to make this new arrangement work because it's our best window yet on what's going on over there.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Today is the 59th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Here's my stepson Austin shaking hands with Charles Albury, co-pilot of Bock's Car, the B-29 that flattened Nagasaki. Posted by Hello

Go read something important

Please don't waste another minute on my pathetic little self-absorbed blog until you've visited My War - Fear and Loathing in Iraq.
The author is a soldier in Mosul and he's writing the most gripping, real stuff I've seen out of this war.
Go to his blog. Now.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

A more recent portrait of my sons and me. Sean (left) looks a little preoccupied because he had just broken up with a girlfriend. Turns out it was a very good thing because it made it possible for him to hook up with the woman he's marrying next month, who is a much better match for him. Posted by Hello

Steve and Sean trying to rip their faces apart. Posted by Hello

The Flora Boys in the Swiss Army

Me with my sons Sean (left) and Steve wearing Swiss Army overcoats I found in a military surplus catalog. Sean and I got lots of wear out of ours, but Steve didn't care for the style. Anyhow, here we are posing as the Swiss Army. Posted by Hello

I shot this from the window of a restaurant in Flagler Beach, Fla. Across the street (A1A) this kid was having a conversation with a girl's hooters and not being particularly subtle about it. Posted by Hello

Saturday, August 07, 2004

How it is...

You can see it in their eyes.
You're sitting there at an intersection, waiting for the traffic signal to change when you notice the car next to you.
It's your average family car filled with your average dad and mom and the kids.
Maybe the kid are fussing at each other, but they're probably looking at you and your motorcycle.
Sometimes they smile and wave and other times they just stare. You look at their faces and see that look. It's a look that says if they could trade places with you - suddenly be transformed into licensed motorcycle operators with bikes just like yours - they'd give up their window seat in the back instantly and forever.
Then Dad turns and, if you look closely, you can see the same yearning in his face.
Maybe he's fed up with the yammering of the kids or maybe he's going somewhere he doesn't want to go.
Maybe he's got a motorcycle of his own in the garage at home and seeing you on your bike reminds him of how he'd rather be riding free instead of stuck in a stuffy steel box on four wheels.
But more likely, he's always wanted to ride but never had the time or the energy or the nerve to get into motorcycling. Never mind the reasons. All that matters at the moment is that he would change places with you just as quickly has his kids would.
The scene changes and you're riding along a residential street and suddenly you notice that your passage is a sort of minor neighborhood event.
Kids on bicycles watch admiringly as you ride by.
Their parents look up from their lawnmowers or sprinklers or other yardwork to take note of your passage.
It's an extraordinary car that gets that kind of attention just rolling down the street, but almost any motorcyclist can expect it, even if his bike is well-muffled and whisper-quiet.
And there and there you can see that look again. That look that reminds you you're doing something special. Something infinitely more fun than what anybody else is doing.
The scene changes again and you're riding down the interstate. Up ahead in the distance, through the shimmering waves of summer heat, you see the single headlight of another bike approaching.
Your eyes include the light in their scan of the scene ahead and details of a riding and motorcycle begin to materialize around it. You know that across the median and down the road the other rider is probably watching you and your bike take shape around the white fire of your headlight.
Just before you meet, you see the other rider's left hand come up in a friendly wave and, almost without thinking, you return the greeting.
So why did he wave and why did it seem so natural to wave back at this complete stranger? Chances are, if you knew the guy, you might not even like him.
You don't see car drivers waving at each other as they meet on the highway. If you met the other rider on a sidewalk or in an elevator, you wouldn't exchange greetings.
The reason for the wave and the admiring looks is the inescapable fact that, when you ride a motorcycle, every ride is an adventure, whether it's a transcontinental journey or a trip to the store for a loaf of bread.
Most non-riders sense it intuitively and it's practically an article of faith for those who ride.
Those who ride take a greater risk than those who don't.
But then, how many car drivers look forward to the drive to work and back or find themselves laughing out loud at the sheer joy of the road on a sunny day?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Today is the 59th anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima. I had the honor of meeting Paul Tibbetts Jr., the pilot who flew that first-ever atomic bombing mission, a few years (and pounds) ago at a militaria show in Louisville, Ky. And, yes, I thanked him for what he did for his generation and mine and all successive generations of Americans. Despite what revisionist historians would have us believe, it was a necessary mission. Those who want to kill us today would do well to remember we are the only nation on earth to use atomic weapons and we did it twice. So far, in the war on terror, this has been us using precision munitions and being nice. They don’t ever want to see us in a blind rage.
 Posted by Hello


We were in court again this morning - this time for a hearing to garnish the pay of my former tenant who skipped out last year because I offered her a free washer and dryer (see earlier posts).
Just to bring you up to date (I know this is a matter of grave concern to everyone who stumbles in here), I won a $2,100-something judgment in May as compensation for lost income when she bailed out just six months into a 3½-year lease. A month went by and she made no effort to pay me or even contact me about a payment schedule.
So I exercised my right as a victorious plaintiff and filed to have her employer pay me directly from her earnings, taking her out of the decision-making loop. Under state law, I can take up to 25% of her pay.
Last month, after I requested garnishment, she sent us a $45 payment. We got another $45 from her in yesterday's mail.
In court this morning, she claimed $45 a month was all she could afford to pay. She said the HR person at her workplace told her garnishment could be as much as $290/month, which she claims would leave her with $50 to live on. How sad.
Paying us back at the rate of $45 a month would take nearly four years to cover just part of a loss that we incurred in three months.
After she made her statement, the judge turned to me and asked, "Do you wish to garnish her pay or do you want to make some other arrangement?"
A flicker of compassion flashed through my mind. Then I remembered I had offered her $250 to buy her own washer and dryer and that the judge deducted that same $250 from the settlement.
"I request garnishment," I said.
"Very well. So adjudged," he said, adding, "You're free to go."
Slam dunk. Pay up, Rita.

Quote of the Day

Time flies like the wind but fruit flies like bananas.