Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A wake-up call

As horrific as it was, the Sumatra tsunami was just a ripple compared with the megatsunami waiting to scour the U.S. East Coast.

I've posted on this subject before, but there has never been a better time than now to raise awareness of the ticking time bomb at La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Earthquake-generated tsunamis are nothing compared with those triggered by massive landslides and volcanic islands are the primary cause of these rare but inevitable cataclysmic events.

The trigger will be the collapse of the western flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma. There is already a massive fracture that slipped a short distance during an eruption in the latter portion of the 20th century. The speculation is that the next time the volcano cranks up, a major eruption will cause all or part of the western flank of the volcano to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists predict the collapse will generate a train of a dozen or more very large waves spreading out in an arc that will strike the eastern coasts of North and South American, as well as the Caribbean.

As we saw with the Sumatra event, the wave height increases as it moves into shallower water. It was estimated as high as 20 feet and reached as far as a quarter-mile inland in the Indian Ocean tsunami.

A La Palma megatsunami would generate waves as tall as 160 feet (8x the Sumatra size) that would reach as far as 12 miles inland all the way from Greenland, down the densely populated U.S. East Coast to Brazil and beyond.

It is estimated that the northeast coast of Brazil would feel the impact first, some six hours after the collapse, with Haiti, Cuba and the U.S. East Coast following in rapid succession.

Take a look at a map of the U.S. East Coast and notice how much population is concentrated within 12 miles of the shore from Maine down to Miami and you begin to appreciate the almost inconceivable destruction.

Think of the massive traffic jams caused by Florida residents fleeing hurrincanes and then imagine the futility of trying to evacuate that danger zone with little more than six hours' warning.

Scientists say there is no way to predict when the La Palma collapse will occur - only that it will occur. Maybe in 1,000 years, maybe tomorrow.
Here's a place to start to learn more:

Friday, December 24, 2004

Maria and I bought her daughter a Zire 72 for Christmas - PDA, camera, MP3 player - way cool. Just the thing for a college student, eh? Posted by Hello

Christmas 1967: My parents opening presents 37 years ago. Dad loved to look goofy for the camera. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Ghosts of Christsmas Past: Sean (left) and Steve relaxing in their Winnie the Pooh chairs amid the debris of a Christmas gifting frenzy. Posted by Hello

Monday, December 20, 2004

Yes, we really did wait until 6 days before Christmas to get a tree. We had to wait that long for it to snow at the tree farm. It was 10 torrid degrees when this picture was made. Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A motorcycle orphan again

Whatever cheer I might feel this Christmas is tempered by the knowledge that my local BMW motorcycle dealership is going out of business.
This is the third BMW motorcycle dealer to fail in this city since I started riding BMWs in the early 1980s.
My friend Bill will end his 4½ years as a BMW dealer at 7 p.m. Wednesday. I’m sad for Bill, who really gave it his all, but in the end was brought down by a weak economy and a corporate shell game that forced him to take motorcycles from BMW faster than he could sell them – all because the top management at BMW Motorcycles USA wanted to make their numbers look good and never mind what it did to the dealers.
I’m also sad for myself because, with more than a year to go on my K1200GT’s three-year warranty, I now have to ride more than 100 miles to the nearest authorized BMW service department for maintenance and repairs.
I have plenty of company. I estimate there are at least 500 other BMW motorcycles under warranty in this area and their owners are in the same fix.
Bill announced his decision to close last Tuesday morning and sent out the word that he’d rather sell his inventory of parts, accessories and apparel at cost or a loss to his regular customers than hand the stuff over to some inventory liquidator. Consequently, my friends and I have been doing our level best to help him while, at the same time, behaving like respectful vultures.
I helped him dispose of a couple of used bikes that would have otherwise been turned over to the liquidators and also found about $350 to spend on a new rear tire, luggage and other assorted stuff.
All this comes at a time when he is going through a very unpleasant divorce. He sold his house this month and moved into an apartment with his two young sons today.
I gave him his first dollar in business and desperately hope he can get through this with his sanity intact.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Overrated stuff

Old Navy anything. It's become the uniform of the Ordinary American - people with follow-the-crowd sheep mentalities. The styles are ho-hum, the workmanship is purely Third World and the colors are consistently unattractive (to me, anyway).

Rolex watches. Was it the James Bond connection that made them so desirable among the unimaginative? Maybe they're ok for women, but the men's styles are foofy. Give me a Breitling any day. Now there's a man's watch.

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Great, if you want a heart attack, but certainly not worth the damage it does to your cardiovascular system.

Godiva chocolate. Gimme Lindt (& Spr√ľngli) from Switzerland. The previous item notwithstanding, I could eat Lindt chocolate until I explode or lose consciousness.

9mm handguns. Give me the knockdown power of a .45 any day.

O'Charley's. What a stupid name for one more chain of fake Irish bars.

Nike sports shoes. They're just shoes. You're paying extra for the logo.

Sheriff's Capt. Ken Campbell uses an electronic metal detector to check out a student at my stepson's high school this morning. Everyone coming into the building got "wanded" as a result of a threat received yesterday afternoon. Yes, it's finals week and some idiot kid apparently thought this would be an amusing prank.& Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


As I drove down the interstate this afternoon, I found myself thinking about how absolutely astonished I would have been if, at the age of 10 or 12, someone would have told me what was coming in the way of technology.
Take cars, for instance. When I was 10, we had a 1955 Ford. It was a freaking deathtrap by today’s standards: hard steel dashboard, no seatbelts, no airbags, drum brakes. It lacked power steering and power brakes and you actually had to crank the windows up and down. And, oh yeah, no air conditioning. The sound system consisted of an AM band radio and a single speaker in the dashboard that reflected its sound off of the inside of the windshield. Radial tires were decades away, so the handling and suspension were pretty much garbage.
Imagine my surprise if I had known that my future held a sleek 2-seat car with removable hard top, complete with power steering, power brakes, radial tires, AC, power windows, seatbelts, airbags and a four-speaker stereophonic sound system that played discs read by a concentrated beam of coherent light and got digital stereo radio signals from a pair of satellites more than 22,000 miles out in space. Absolutely unbelievable then, but utterly ordinary today.
Or what if someone had told me most people would have pocket telephones and that I would have one that electronically held hundreds of phone numbers, a powerful calculator, my appointment calendar and to-do list, a couple of games and the complete texts of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and James Joyce’s Ulysses? And it gave me instant access to a worldwide computer network and the vast information repository it represented, not to mention the ability to send electronic mail instantly to anyone on the planet. Of course my pocket phone is a bit behind the times because the newer models have more storage capacity and include a color digital camera.
Can you imagine how amazing that would have been to a kid living in a small town where we were still making operator-assisted phone calls and paying long distance charges to phone someone in the nearest city of any consequence, only 20 miles away?
I suppose this shouldn’t really surprise me, considering that my father was born just seven years after the first transcontinental automobile journey and the Wright brothers’ first flight. Dad grew up on a farm without electricity and indoor plumbing where much of the field work was done with horses. That sounds like something out of a Third World country, but we’re only talking about a couple of generations ago right here in the United States.
One of the interesting consequences of being around nearly 60 (ack!!!) years is the perspective it gives you. My wife’s teenage kids have never known a time without home computers, cell phones, compact discs, ATMs, video games, fiber optics, lasers, microwave ovens, color TV, cable TV, pocket calculators, TV remote controls, FM radio, cordless phones and halogen lighting. These are all things that have come into being during my lifetime and I’ve only been around since 1945.
Assuming technological advances continue at the same rate – or at a constantly accelerating rate – the future world of my 5-month-old granddaughter will be every bit as inconceivable from a 2004 vantage point as today’s world was from 1910 or even from 1955.
How cool is that?

Monday, December 13, 2004

How to make a cop shoot you...

A police officer friend of mine killed a 20-year-old kid yesterday morning.
T was one of two Special Response Team (i.e. SWAT) guys who fired when the kid pointed his weapon at other officers. Only one bullet hit the kid and I’m betting it was T’s. He’s thoroughly professional, has a firing range behind his house and trains almost constantly.
It all started about 4:30 yesterday morning when an officer noticed this kid speeding in a nearby county seat town. Over the next hour, he led police from several departments on a three-county chase, running over several stop-sticks that punctured three of his tires. He was running on three rims by the time he abandoned his car along an interstate about 14 miles west of where we live and struck out on foot.
Officers said he was waving a pistol and a knife as he ran through corn stubble and harvested soybean fields in the darkness.
They followed him about a mile and a half, crossing a state highway and moving north on a county road. As he walked along the county road, a sheriff’s deputy followed at a discrete distance, illuminating him with the patrol car’s headlights while a police negotiator tried to persuade him to drop his weapons.
The kid was jabbering incoherently and cutting his arm with his knife.
All the while, T and another SRT member were following along with their M-16s – T flanking him in an open field and the other officer walking up the road.
In an apparent moment of clarity, the kid told the officer, “Tell my mother I love her.”
Then he raised the pistol and brought it to bear on the negotiator.
True to their training, T and the other SRT officer, raised their assault rifles and fired to protect their brother officer.
One shot went wide, but the other caught the kid in the chest. He was pronounced dead minutes later at a nearby hospital.
The autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending, but the kid had needle tracks on his arms and his behavior was consistent with that of a meth head.
The kicker is that his pistol turned out to be a pellet gun.
My wife and I took a plate of cookies over to T’s house last night and it was clear that he was taking it kind of hard.
“I arrested that kid a week ago, but I didn’t even recognize him this morning,” he said.
Turns out the kid had been admiring a friend’s stereo just hours before it was stolen and it turned up in the kid’s garage, so he had a burglary charge pending when he committed “suicide by police” yesterday morning.
It wasn’t until two hours after the shooting that T learned the kid was waving a pellet gun.
“It looked like a long-barreled .357 to me,” he said.
We won’t know who fired the fatal bullet until ballistics tests are done.
Either way, T is going to be unhappy. He doesn’t especially want to have the distinction of being the first officer on his department to kill a perp in more than a quarter century. But, on the other hand, he doesn’t want to be known as the guy who missed.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

My granddaughter Lisa is ready for her first Christmas. I got her to cooperate for about 250 photos yesterday afternoon. Posted by Hello

Monday, December 06, 2004


Just in case anyone cares about my astrological pedigree, here's the poop:
Sun 21° Cancer
Moon 18° Virgo
Mercury 16° Leo
Venus 7° Gemini
Mars 24° Taurus
Jupiter 23° Virgo
Saturn 15° Cancer
Uranus 15° Gemini
Neptune 4° Libra
Pluto 9° Leo
Ascendant 18° Taurus

My first wife was a Scorpio, as are both of my sons. My second and final wife is a Gemini.
If you have a Palm Pilot and are looking for astrology software, I heartily recommend Delphi v2.01. Astonishingly, it’s free and you can get your copy at
It calculates natal charts with great precision, including angular relationships and synastry. Runs on Palm OS 3.5 and later.
Way cool.

I wonder if Richie Havens ever got dentures...

I flipped over to the ‘60s channel on XM Satellite Radio just now and find myself listening to some Richie Havens concert song.
Richie was one of the featured performers at Woodstock. He was boring then and he’s boring now.
All of which is apropos of nothing in particular.
I had an exchange of e-mails this morning with my cousin Sam, the son of my mother’s sister Ruth. Sam was the youngest of four kids and is a year or two younger than I. His oldest sister, Joanne, was almost a contemporary of my mother. Next in order was Kay and then Susie and Sam.
Susie, who was five years older than I, was all flash and brass. Disarmingly glamorous with a startling directness. I remember my parents being taken aback when she called them by their first names, instead of “Uncle Charles” and “Aunt Eileen.”
I thought she was beautiful and cool and had a crush on her during my pre-school years.
My chronology may be off a bit – I was only in junior high school – but I think she got married during her senior year of high school because she was pregnant.
She married her boyfriend and he went on to be a successful attorney. They moved to Michigan and she occupied herself being a model and doing television commercials.
Somehow, though, it all started to slip and the next I heard of her she was drinking heavily, had crashed her marriage and was living with her widowed father in Indianapolis.
A short time later, my parents told me Susie had attempted suicide with sleeping pills and was in an Indianapolis psychiatric hospital.
I visited her several times, renewing our friendship despite the confusion and memory loss she was experiencing from electro shock therapy, intended to zap away her chronic depression.
After a few weeks, she was released and I lost track of her until one winter night when I got a call from a guy who turned out to be her current boyfriend/drinking buddy. He and Susie were holed up in a fleabag motel on the Westside of Indianapolis and Susie was drunk and out of control. Would I come out and help, he asked.
When my (first) wife and I arrived, Susie was in bed, slamming down vodka like it was water and jabbering incoherently. At one point, she tried to drag her into bed with her with obvious amorous intentions. My recollection is that we somehow got her into detox, at which point I realized she was way beyond my ability to help.
Her brothers and sisters had pretty much washed their hands of her years earlier after she used them and stole from their homes to get money for booze.
The last time I saw her, she was apparently semi functional – the encounter was her father’s funeral and I think it was about 20 years ago.
So when my cousin Sam mentioned this morning that he had passed through Indianapolis last Friday and visited Susie – he calls her Sue – I asked how she’s doing.
His response:
Sue is in an assisted living facility on the westside of Indy, just north of the airport. Health is declining, largely due to her continuing smoking and crippling arthritis. She basically "vegetates," having no interest in anything. All she has is (our) side as her kids haven't attempted contact in years. An extremely sad set of circumstances but, unfortunately, largely self-imposed.
Jeez, the twilight years of the Golden Girl of my childhood. How freaking depressing!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I was very sad when the U.S. Postal Service raised their rates and obsoleted this stamp. Did I mention how much I love Big Sur? Posted by Hello


They don't do no good
They never be workin'
When they oughta should
They waste your time
They're wastin' mine
California's got the most of them
Boy, they got a host of them

Swear t'God they got the most
At every business on the coast
Swear t'God they got the most
At every business on the coast
They got the


They can't fix yer brakes
You ask 'em, *"Where's my motor?"*
*"Well, it was eaten by snakes..."*
You can stab 'n' shoot 'n' spit
But they won't be fixin' it
They're lyin' an' lazy
They can be drivin' you crazy

Swear t'God they got the most
At every business on the coast
Swear t'God they got the most
At every business on the coast
*[Take it away, Bob...]*

I asked as nice as I could
If my job would
Somehow be finished by Friday
Well, them whole damn weekend
came 'n' went, Frankie
*[Wanna buy some mandies, Bob?]*
'N' they didn't do nothin'
But they charged me double for Sunday

You know, no matter what you do,
They gonna cheat 'n' rob you
Then they'll send you a bill
That'll get your senses reelin'
And if you do not pay
They got computer collectors
That'll get you so crazy
'Til your head'll go through th' ceilin'
Yes it will!

I'm a moron, 'n' this is my wife
She's frosting a cake
With a paper knife
All what we got here's
American made
It's a little bit cheesey,
But it's nicely displayed
Well we don't get excited when it
Crumbles 'n' breaks
We just get on the phone
And call up some flakes
They rush on over
'N' wreck it some more
'N' we are so dumb
They're linin' up at our door
Well, the toilet went crazy
Yesterday afternoon
The plumber he says
*Never flush a tampoon!*
This great information
Cost me half a week's pay
And the toilet blew up
Later on the next day-ay-eee-ay
Blew up the next day

We are millions 'n' millions,
We're coming to get you
We're protected by unions
So don't let it upset you
Can't escape the conclusion
It's probably God's Will
That civilization
Will grind to a standstill
And we are the people
Who will make it all happen
While yer children is sleepin',
Yer puppy is crappin'
You might call us
Or something else you might coin us
But we know you're so greedy
That you'll probably join us

We're coming to get you, we're coming to get you
We're coming to get you, we're coming to get you
We're coming to get you, we're coming to get you
We're coming to get you, we're coming to get you...

Francis Vincent Zappa, 1979

This song from Frank Zappa’s Sheik Yerbouti album is on continuous loop in my head today as I spin my wheels trying to get people to do their jobs.
At the head of my list is American Modern Insurance, the company I have paid $962.59 in premiums to in the past 23 months for motorcycle insurance.
When I got rear-ended by a moron in an SUV in California last July, I opted to have American Modern settle my claim immediately, less my $500 deductible, which I expected them to recover for me from the moron’s insurer, Farmers Insurance Group.
American Modern paid the repair bill, less my deductible and then promptly stopped communicating with me.
I’ve sent them three e-mails and left more than a dozen voicemail messages with their Claims Department since Sept. 18. How many have they returned? Zero.
I called again today and got a nervous young man named Travis who, after hearing the elements of my problem, told me I need to speak with Tara Osborne. That’s what I was told Tuesday and I left a voicemail for her that day, I said.
She was off sick Tuesday, Travis tells me, but she’s in today. Unfortunately, she’s on her phone. So Travis promised he would write my name, phone number and issue on a slip of paper and place it in front of her on her desk. He assured me this action would guarantee a prompt callback. Well, it’s 5 p.m. and they close up shop at 4:30. Did I hear from Tara. Nope.
So I roll “Badger American Modern” over to tomorrow’s to-do list on my PDA.
Then there’s the matter of the Ebay vendor who charged me $21.52 for two 2 ounce bottles of KL Homme Eau de Toilette I bought for $6.01 each. Yes, that’s $9.50 for shipping and handling based on a disclaimer that all items are pre-packed for shipping. So how come both bottles showed up today in a single package that cost nowhere near $9.50 to ship? And when I open the package, I find two 2-ounce bottles of KL Homme After Shave, not the Eau de Toilette featured in the ad.
When I e-mailed the vendor suggesting we do an exchange with her picking up the shipping both ways, I got this terse response:
Hello, I was not aware that these were any different from cologne.....I have many bottle of this KL Homme.....some where after shave and some were Eau de toilette...and that informs me of for the shipping...yes it is now I am to refund you all your money.......and I will be out the origianal shipping charge.... the listing fees ....the final fees.....the Paypal fees.....and the cost of you returning the item to me this point and time, I would rather send you the proper item...equivalent to 4 ounces of KL homme (cologne)...this is my offer....I am trying to work with you so that you get your item...and I am not out all the charges that I have allready paid for......
I responded by suggesting that if she is going to peddle this stuff, she needs to know the terms and supplied her with comparative definitions of cologne, eau de toilette and after shave, along with this explanation from
What is the difference between Perfume, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, and Eau de Cologne?
The differences are simply a matter of the amount or concentration of oils in the fragrance. These oils are called "juice." The highest concentration of "juice" is in perfume (or parfum). Next would be Eau de Parfum, then Eau de Toilette, and finally Eau de Cologne.
Actually, Eau de Toilette and Eau de Cologne are generally interchangeable, particularly in Men's fragrances. After Shave has the least amount of oils. The higher the concentration of "juice" the longer your fragrance will last, and the less you need to apply.

Now there’s the matter of reminding the local street department that they were directed by the town council six months ago to cut down the three aging maple trees that shed limbs and menace my house every time a strong wind blows.
And on, and on, and on…

I think I'd like to be back in the Florida Keys today... Posted by Hello