Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Report from 10,500 feet

I'm starting to feel like I'm on vacation.
I left Saturday morning with four BMW club friends. Rather than take I-70 west to Colorado, we opted to pick up U.S. 36 at Hannibal, Mo. and follow it to eastern Colorado. We made about 700 miles before calling it quits shortly after sundown in Smith Center, Kans. It rained overnight but was clear when we rolled out about 7 a.m. Sunday. We rode 40 miles before we found anyone to pass, so empty was the road on a Sunday morning.
We picked up the hated I-70 at Byers, Colo. and made quick work of the last 100 miles or so to our friends Tim and Linda's place at Alma.
Yesterday was consumed with trying to adjust to the altitude and running a few errands capped by a viewing of Kevin Costner's Open Range on DVD.
Today, we set out around 8:30 a.m. and rode Cottonwood and Independence passes, coming home by way of Leadville, I-70, Frisco and Breckenridge.
Our riding group consisted of 13 people on a dozen bikes and I was quickly reminded that I have lost my taste for riding in large groups. The blast up Cottonwood Pass was done at speeds in excess of 70 mph, despite the fact that the posted speed limit was 30 mph and the road is lined with horseback riding facilities and campgrounds, plus the occasional bicyclist. Everyone else seemed to enjoy the romp, but it scared the hell out of me and I opted to ride at the back of the pack the rest of the day. I didn't feel completely comfortable until I was riding solo back from Leadville.
Now that I'm back at the chalet and the bike is unloaded, I'm prepared to kick back with a tumbler of Cutty Sark and ice and watch the mounting chaos in New Orleans.
God help those poor fools who didn't evacuate.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On the road again

The 20th Annual Mid-Life Crisis Tour is on.
I rendezvous with a group of BMW motorcycle friends at a nearby interstate interchange at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and we're off to Alma, Colo. for a week of riding in the Rockies.
If conditions are favorable, i.e., no crises at home, I plan to make a run for Big Sur the day after Labor Day. My itinerary does not include my son's place in Portland this trip because he and his wife may be out of town on business.
I will, of course, blog when possible.


I got Maria set up with a new computer yesterday. I spent the afternoon hooking up peripherals, transferring the Adaptec SCSI card that runs her aging flatbed scanner and negative scanner, installing software and rescuing data from the two hard drives in her old machine. In the process, it occurred to me that I've learned a considerable amount about computers since I bought my first one in 1991. I paid about $2,400 for that machine. If memory serves, it had 4MB of RAM and maybe a 60MB hard drive and maybe a 16k modem, with Windows 3.0. It used two sizes of floppy discs.
I just used the calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and determined that, adjusted for inflation, that $2,400 had the buying power of $3,443.17 in today's dollars.
The package I bought yesterday at Best Buy - 1GB of RAM, 200GB hard drive, two CD/DVD drives - one of them a CD/DVD burner - a built-in memory card (CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, etc.) reader, 15" flatscreen monitor, speakers, an inkjet printer, and Windows XP - cost me (after rebates) $650.
So what it took to buy a piece of crap computer in 1991 will buy five vastly superior machines today, with a couple of hundred dollars left over.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gateway to Hell

Maria's 6-year-old Gateway computer shut down sometime early this week and resisted attempts to re-start it with the start button. I checked the power cord and it was connected on both ends and plugged into an active power strip.
This morning, on an impulse, I moved the power cord plug to a different connection point on the power strip and, voila!, it started up. About 30 minutes later, Maria noticed the smell of something very hot and maybe burning. We traced it to her computer and yanked the plug.
Since she lived through a barn fire at her farm during her first marriage, she is very fearful of fires and says she no longer has confidence that the computer won't torch the house. It's been upgraded once to handle Windows XP and has been running very slowly lately because her son made a point of loading every conceivable game on it and using it to surf zillions of porn sites. Being the ADD/HD poster boy, he also had a habit of clicking on-screen buttons without reading the accompanying text, which caused myriad process interruptions and nasty challenges to the software and hardware. So I'm inclined to get a new computer.
I checked with my computer mentor Colorado Tim and he confirmed my belief that the eMachines Desktop with AMD Athlon™ 64 Processor 3400+ that Best Buy is selling for $650 is a good solution. It will give her 1GB of RAM and a 200GB hard drive.
I doubt that either of her hard drives is damaged, so I should be able to rescue the data from the smaller one and install the larger as a backup drive on the new machine.
This is all happening, of course, because I recently claimed about $3,800 worth of stock that was overlooked from my mother's estate. First it was an unexpected bill for the stepson's trade school tuition, then a $1,200 dental bill for a failed bridge and now another $650+tax for a new computer.
This has been a karmic reality all of my adult life - whenever extra money shows up, it is quickly followed by enough unexpected expenses to claim most or all of it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Steak n' Snake

Got this tale of woe from some friends over the weekend. It's always good to pay attention when credit cards are involved:
We had a bad experience Friday. Yesterday 5/3rd bank called and said there
was excessive use on our bank account. We found out that a girl working the
drive-up window at the Steak N' Shake at 5400 N. Keystone had switched
Nancy's debit card for a blank gift card. When she handed Nancy the
receipt, it was wrapped tightly around what she thought was her debit card.
She then started handing Nancy the food so she would just put her card back
in her purse without looking at it.
The next day the girl went apeshit with it and so far has racked up about a thousand dollars in charges. The bank is going to replace the money. We wouldn't have known how it got away from Nancy except that she still had the card wrapped in the receipt. When she went to verify that she still had her card, she discovered the substitute.
We have to file a police report today since the amount makes it a felony.
Needless to say, Nancy is highly upset. Verify that you have your debit
card when you get it back, wherever you use it. Valerie said the rule is at
Steak N' Shake that they hand you your card and your receipt separately.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Charlie & Martha

Charlie and Martha Thomas, circa 1940
Charlie Thomas was an early member of the Indianapolis BMW (Motorcycle) Club.
The club was founded as an all-male organization back in the early 1960s. The guys would go off on day rides and long trips together and once a year, on the Saturday night before or on Valentine's Day, they put on a banquet to thank their wives for letting them go riding.
Charlie was married to Martha. He took her for her first motorcycle ride the day she turned 20 back in 1939. Martha was reluctant to go until her mother said, "If you don't go for a ride with him, I will."
"My folks could hear me screaming for a block after we pulled away," Martha recalled years later.
By the time they returned more than an hour later, Martha had calmed down and was enjoying herself.
And so the courtship continued and they were married before Charlie went into the Navy at the start of World War II. He'd had two or three Harley-Davidsons by then, but sold his last bike before enlisting.
After the war, they set up housekeeping in Indianapolis and raised a son and three daughters. Charlie got back into motorcycling and they rode whenever they could.
Charlie loved having Martha on the pillion seat as much as she loved being there.
So when Charlie showed up for a BMW Club ride with Martha aboard - a clear violation of the men-only rule - he let it be known that if they wanted him along, Martha was part of the deal.
That was the end of the guys-only arrangement. Pretty soon, all of the guys were bringing along wives and girlfriends - presumably not at the same time. It was only a matter of time before some of the women got their own bikes. By my unofficial count, the club has had three women presidents and it's a rare club ride that doesn't include a woman, either as a rider or a passenger.
By the 1990s, Charlie wasn't riding much. But that didn't stop him and Martha from attenting every montly club meeting or traveling hundreds - sometimes thousands - of miles to the annual BMW Motorcycle Owners of America national rally.
In fact, Charlie was a grand prize winner at the 1994 BMW MOA rally in Oshkosh, Wisc., claiming a brand new blue BMW K75LT.
Charlie died in January, 2000, at the age of 83.
Martha was desolate, but she pulled through and continued to be the club historian, statistician and all-around inspiration.
She bought one of the first Chrysler PT Cruisers when they first came out and let her grandkids stick magnetized flames on the sides. She was always around and she was always upbeat and cool. She took computer lessons so she could e-mail her grandkids.
She only let a few people know last June when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Those of us who did know, fully expected her to beat it.
So it was like a body blow Aug. 9 when she died.
The club turned out in force at the funeral home visitation and her family was deeply touched at how much we cared about Martha and considered her a second mother to us all.
We offered a motorcycle escort to the cemetery and were grateful when the family enthusiastically accepted.
Consequently, a week ago yesterday about 30 of us gathered at Little Flower Catholic Church on the eastside of Indianapolis. I had the honor of riding the second bike in the procession that totaled 16 motorcycles as we preceded the hearse down the leafy streets of her old neighborhood and on to a southside Catholic cemetery.
This was no rolling thunder Harley-Davidson loud pipes affair. This was a staggered line of elegantly quiet gleaming autobahn burners with properly attired riders - all helmets, boots and jackets.
We learned later that Martha had requested such a sendoff and we were honored to have made that last ride with her before sending her off to ride into eternity with Charlie.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bridge out

"Is this a really long dental appointment, or is it just me?" asked my dentist as he prepared to install a temporary bridge in the upper left side of my mouth.
I was well into my second hour in the chair this morning as he worked to replace a four-tooth bridge that he had made for me 17 years ago.
My first clue that something was wrong came after lunch yesterday when I discovered I had what felt like a whole bunch of loose teeth. I got an emergency appointment and was at his office about an hour later, despite the fact that it's about 55 miles from my home to my dentist's office.
He glued things back together to get me through the night and set me up for a 9:10 a.m. appointment today.
My wife, who worked for several years as a dental assistant before she got serious about journalism, tells me I'm very fortunate to have gotten 17 years out of a bridge, saying 10 years is the average life expectancy of one like mine.
His office manager is trying to get the dental lab to put a rush on the ceramic work in hopes of getting it in my mouth before I saddle up for Colorado and points west a week from tomorrow.
If not, I am assured the temporary bridge he put in today will hold up until my return.
The bill? About $2,400, with my wife's dental insurance picking up about half, if we're lucky.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


One of my favorite bloggers had a post today about the NCAA's recent decision to ban college teams with Native American nicknames and/or mascots from post-season tournament play.
Like the Florida Seminoles and a whole bunch of other teams.
This, presumably, is because such references are offensive to Native Americans.
Why, then, is there a sign outside Red Mesa High School at Teec Nos Pos, Ariz. - in the heart of the Navajo Indian Reservation of northeastern Arizona - that proudly proclaims it "The Home of the Redskins?"
Time for the NCAA to get a get a grip and focus on real issues.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

On the Road Again?

Night falls on a ride from CaƱon City, Colo., to Ely, Nev. during my July, 2001, Mid-Life Crisis Tour. The scene is the Border Inn, just west of the Nevada-Utah border.

It looks like my 20th Annual Mid-Life Crisis Tour may happen after all.
Money and time have been in short supply this summer and I had pretty much given up on being able to take my usual three-week motorcycle ride through the West, including a visit to my son in Portland, Ore.
Then my wife got a promotion and a raise and it looks like we're going to get some justice and some payback with her deadbeat ex.
I've been riding my BMW K1200GT sparingly this year, trying to make the current set of tires last as long as possible in case the opportunity for a long ride showed up.
Some of the riding I've done has been on my wife's '94 K75S, which is a good thing since she hasn't felt comfortable about riding a motorcycle in the wake of her car crash in March, 2004. The K75S only has about 5,400 miles on it, despite its age.
I made the costly mistake of letting it sit without fuel stabilizer in the tank over the winter and spring of 2003-04 and ended up having to spend $755.39 to replace corroded fuel injectors.
Both bikes got the standard BMW 6k service just before my local dealer went out of business last December and the K75S has a set of low-profile tires that are less costly to replace than the ones on the K1200GT.
But my combined mileage on both bikes this year is only 2,260 miles - pretty pathetic for this late in the year and a considerable distance from the 10,000 I need by midnight Dec. 31 to qualify for one of my local club's annual 10,000 mile awards. I've earned one every year since 1993 and need a big tour to get to 10k this year.
So when it became apparent that I could be spared for a few weeks, I started thinking about the local BMW club's annual Chalet Week and beyond.
The club has rented lodging in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for a week every summer since the late 1980s. For a lot of years, it was a chalet in Breckenridge that slept about 20. The cost was about $65 per person for a week's lodging, which meant you could hardly afford to stay home.
About four years ago, the Breckenridge chalet's owners decided to make it their permanent home and take it off the vacation market. Happily, that coincided with the retirement of club members Tim and Linda who had purchased a similar retirement home a few miles south in Alma.
Tim and Linda are supremely good hosts and eagerly offered their spacious A-frame home as a base of operations for Chalet Week.
As luck would have it, my change in circumstances this month coincided with the opening of some vacancies in the Chalet Week roster, so I've arranged to buy one of the now-$75 spots from a guy whose wife has developed health problems and plan to spend the week before Labor Day riding in the high country with my BMW friends.
The plan that's coalescing in the back of my mind calls for staying at Tim and Linda's through Labor Day, then making a two-day bullet run for Portland to spend some time with my son and his wife.
Then, time and money permitting, I'd like to swing down through Big Sur before heading east for home.
It's only fitting that Tim and Linda have a role to play in this 20th annual tour, since they were my traveling companions on the first such adventure back in July 1986. I had bought my first serious touring bike - a 1981 BMW R100RS - the previous autumn and was ready to ride to Monterey, Calif. for my first BMW Motorcycle Owners of America national rally.
Tim and Linda were old hands at touring and I was the attentive apprentice. We were all Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructors, so we had the same theoretical understanding of riding, but they had the experience – the Wisdom of the Road – and I determined to learn all I could from them.
The first important thing I learned was how much more comfortable a bike can be at highway speeds when you're wearing earplugs. I rode the first day without earplugs, thinking they were a little silly.
The next day, sometime after lunch and somewhere west of Kansas City, I accepted a pair from Tim and gave them a try. After a first few moments of awkwardness – I worried my balance would be affected, but it wasn't – I realized I could still hear speech and the engine. But the roar of the river of wind around my full-face helmet was muted and subdued and I could hear myself think. I became a convert over the next few hours that afternoon and have carried and used earplugs on every long or fast ride since.
That three-week ride to the BMW MOA national rally at Laguna Seca Racetrack and home again changed my life. Nearly 20 years later, I can still recall every place we stopped and every road we followed.
I remember the thrill of riding up into the mountains west of Denver the afternoon of the third day, effortlessly weaving our way up steep inclines past laboring trucks and cars. My mind flashed back to the line from the Hindu scripture, the Rig Veda: “He moves rapidly following the path of him the much-praised, other goers cannot overtake him though he is moving easily...”
That evening, after settling into motel rooms in Idaho Springs, we rode up to Echo Lake, the jumping-off point for the road up Mount Evans – the highest paved road in the United States. It was my first real taste of mountain riding and I was simultaneously exhilarated and intimidated. I got over being scared, but the exhilaration has never left me.
Lots of moments on that trip became templates for later adventures and benchmarks against which other trips would be measured.
There was the thrill of riding our BMWs as they were meant to be ridden: at autobahn speeds, swallowing up 110 miles of Nevada's U.S. 50 in an hour's time. There was the excitement of racing a thunderstorm across the central Utah desert. And there was the image of a fawn flashing across a forest road in the Sierras behind its mother, pausing to glance at me, then vanishing into the brush. A wispy cloud of dust hung in a shaft of sunlight to mark its passage.
There was the transcendent splendor of the Big Sur coast where the mountains meet the sea in a collision of blues and greens and crashing foam. There was the day trip to San Francisco, climaxed with a ride back around Monterey Bay through fog so thick it seemed like rain.
But the real watershed moment came just after lunch on the seventh day when I parted company with my friends on Lake Tahoe's southwestern shore. They fancied a trip to Yosemite National Park and I was off to visit a longtime friend in Burbank. According to plan, we would rendezvous three days later in Monterey.
We said our good-byes, shook hands and were off. They turned south and I headed west and up and over the Sierras to follow Interstate 5 down the Central Valley to Los Angeles.
It was a supremely liberating experience and, as much as I enjoyed their company and the security of riding with friends, I needed it to grow as a rider and as a person.
I quickly realized, as the road distance between me and my friends widened at a rate of more than 100 miles an hour, that this was what I'd come 2,000 miles to find: The solitude and self-reliance that comes of riding alone and trusting your own knowledge and skill and equipment. As I swept up and over Kit Carson Pass, I felt like a young eagle testing its wings for the first time and I reveled in the experience.
I alone was responsible for choosing a restaurant or a place to stop for the night. If I got off to a late start, it was nobody's fault by mine. Similarly, if I saw six potential photographs in a mile, I could stop for each of them without worrying about inconveniencing a traveling companion. And there were times when I did just that, riding north on the Pacific Coast Highway along the Big Sur coast.
The freedom and responsibility were liberating and set me on a journey that I hope continues for many more years.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Note to Economics majors

Did you know that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan studied clarinet at Julliard?
And now he's managing the world's most powerful economy.
Think you might be wasting your time?

57 Channels and Nothin' On

Now that the town government has made good on its promise to remove the three 65-foot-tall maple trees that were menacing the south side of my house, I am able to make good on my decision to dump my overpriced cable TV service in favor of satellite DISH TV.
I tried to get a satellite hookup earlier this year, but gave up after two different installers clambered all over my property and the roof of my house with their little sighting compass gizmos trying to find an unobstructed line of sight to the DISH TV satellite. They concluded it couldn’t be done as long as those three maple trees were there.
The trees came down the second week of July. I waited a discrete interval, so as not to make it look like the only reason I wanted them down was for TV access, and last week ordered the dish.
I opted for the basic service which is guaranteed at $19.99/month for the first year with three months of free HBO and Showtime and the installers set me up last Wednesday afternoon.
We didn’t bother with the phone line connection that is necessary for Pay Per View offerings, but I can see that is coming. I spent yesterday afternoon restoring connections to my RCA home theatre amplifier/tuner that I had to undo so the dish installer could set up his stuff. Because of the layout of our home entertainment center cabinet, there isn’t enough cable or wire slack to pull the various components out far enough to actually see where the various cables connect, so it all had to be done by feel, with the aid of the owner’s manuals for the tuner, DVD player, VHS player, CD player, etc.
I finally got everything working, i.e., playing through the home theatre device and I even got the programmable DISH TV remote set up to run the home theatre volume, but I know my wife is never going to understand how to work this stuff.
When I go on long motorcycle trips, I have to leave detailed instructions on how to work the TV and its ancillary components – none of which she follows.
She’s already complaining about the complexity of the remote and menus on the bedroom TV and the only extra thing that’s connected to it is a DVD player. She’s sure to find the learning curve for more complex downstairs setup completely paralyzing.
As it was, we had an array of five remote controls (TV, DVD, VHS, CD, home theatre) on the coffee table and the simple act of watching TV required the use of three of them – the TV remote to turn on the TV, the home theatre remote to control the volume through the six speakers and the VHS remote to change channels (I had the cable signal running through the VHS tuner so we could tape the occasional program).
Now, the new satellite remote is programmed to turn on the TV and change channels (when the SAT function is chosen) and control the home theatre volume (when the AUX function is chosen, but you have to remember to go back to the SAT function for more channel changing). It’s a little tricky, but at least I’ve got it down to one remote and I think I can program still more component functions as time permits.
Having gone to all of this trouble to presumably enhance our TV experience, I’m reminded of the Bruce Springsteen line of “57 channels and nothin’ on.”
Little seems to have changed with network TV in the 44 years since Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minnow called U.S. television programming a “vast wasteland.”
Here’s the pertinent passage from his speech:
…when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials--many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it.

I took a look at the primetime offerings of the five major networks. (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and WB) and compiled this list of shows I have never watched and have no intention of watching:
7th Heaven
8 Simple Rules
According to Jim
The Amazing Race
American Dad
American Idol
The Bachelor
The Bernie Mac Show
Big Brother
Blue Collar TV
Boston Legal
Brat Camp
Cold Case
Commander in Chief
Complete Savages
Crossing Jordan
CSI: Any of them
The Cut
Desperate Housewives
Extreme Makeover
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Fear Factor
George Lopez
Grey’s Anatomy
Head Cases
Hell’s Kitchen
Hope & Faith
Jake In Progress
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Killer Instinct
The King of Queens
Kitchen Confidential
Las Vegas
Law & Order: Any of them
Less Than Perfect
Living With Fran
Meet Mr. Mom
My Kind of Town
My Wife and Kids
Nanny 911
Night Stalker
The OC
The Office
One Tree Hill
Princes of Malibu
Prison Break
Quahog Informant
Renovate My Family
Rock Star: INXS
Still Standing
So You Think You Can Dance
Survivor: Guatemala
Teen Choice Awards
Tommy Lee Goes to College
Totally Outrageous Behavior Caught on Tape
Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy
Two and a Half Men
Veronica Mars
The War at Home
What I Like…
Wife Swap
Will & Grace
Without a Trace
Yes, Dear
Hour after hour of escapist crap. Who’s watching that stuff? Obviously there is an audience, but it doesn’t include very many people I know.
About the only thing among the primetime offerings that I do watch with any regularity is The Simpsons and Reno 911. My taste runs to the History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, TLC, A&E and the weather and news channels.
Small wonder that my personal library is very light on fiction.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Not my Friends

My stepdaughter is obsessed with "Friends."
She owns all of the available full-season DVDs and has the show going pretty much non-stop in her room during her waking hours. Her idea of an evening activity is to persuade her mother to watch an episode or two with her after dinner.
She has today off, so the laugh track of Friends is constantly on the edges of my awareness. I can screen out the dialog, but the laugh track persists like a rock in my shoe.
I watched a few episodes of the show years ago, just to humor her and my wife. It's breezy and clever, but it doesn't appeal to me. The idea of a bunch of bumbling kids learning lessons I learned 40 years ago wears thin very quickly.
On balance, I'm pretty much done with the traditional sitcom and I find a laugh track insulting as hell. I don't need an auditory cue to know when something is funny and, if you pay attention, you'll notice the laugh track thinks everything is funny.
No, these kids are not my friends and they're not even remotely interesting to me.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Yes, I really do own one of these

Were I not photographing a wedding today, on this 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I would be wearing this t-shirt.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

45 years of thrashing the keys

On this date in 1960 - yes, 45 years ago today - I had my last typing (it's called keyboarding now) class in summer school. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.
For a guy who ended up making a living pounding a typewriter, and later a computer keyboard, it was an inauspicious beginning.
I arrived late for the first day of class and was assigned a typewriter that didn't have its keys blacked out. That meant I could sneak a peek at the keys and consequently didn't develop the sure-fingered confidence that some of my classmates acquired.
My teacher was a slow-witted guy who also taught history and driver education and was the varsity basketball coach. He's dead now, as are most of my teachers. I can't help it. The just died. It's really not my fault.
Anyhow, I guess I have the late Oscar Mannies Jr. to thank or blame for setting me on the path of a keyboarding writer.
I did get faster, though. Working at a newspaper will do that to you. On a good day, I'm damned fast.

Help a fellow blogger

Kate (don't know her last name), who blogs at www.electricvenom.com, had a disastrous bicycle accident Monday night, losing or damaging several teeth at a time when she had already committed to some very expensive orthodontia.
Here's the short version:

All told, when I hit the handlebars last night, I lost three teeth entirely, chipped two at the tip, and cracked three more from crown to root. The good news: two of the cracked teeth were already scheduled for extraction. The bad news: two of the teeth that got knocked out were to serve as the anchors for my permanent bridges. The even worse news: the other tooth that got knocked out, the two chipped teeth, and the other cracked tooth will all need crowns now, too. (One may possibly need to be extracted as well, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.)

So, because the teeth which were to serve as anchors for my bridges are now gone, I have to get all-new bridges made — and I didn’t even get to wear the other ones yet! But I can’t get those new bridges made or installed until my injuries heal, so now they also have to make new “flippers” for me.

Meanwhile, I have no front teeth at all on either jaw and, I swear to God, I look like something out of Deliverance. It’s horrible. I can’t bear looking in the mirror — although, considering all the facial bruising I also have, I wouldn’t be looking in it that much anyway.

This is a hideously unpleasant thing to happen to anyone, especially an attractive 37-year-old wife and mother. At the urging of fellow bloggers, she's set up a Paypal account for anyone who would like to ease the financial pain this has inflicted upon her and her husband.
I urge you to visit her site, read her posts and, if you're so inclined, send her some money.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Born to write?

From time to time, I drag out the little 5-year diary I kept during my high school years (well, it actually ran from mid-1959 through Dec. 31, 1963 when I was a college freshman) just to see what I was thinking and doing on this date in my personal history.
It's usually pretty embarrassing - filled with expressions of naivete and trivial concerns.
But on this date in 1962, on the eve of my senior year in high school, I drove to the campus of Purdue University where I took a battery of aptitude tests aimed at narrowing my choices of colleges and college majors.
I was intent on a career in music because that's where I found the most fun in high school. I was in every instrumental and vocal ensemble my small (490-some-student) high school had. I was an undistinguised trumpet and Sousaphone player and a competent singer (bass), but I somehow saw myself pursing a music major.
I also had an interest in psychology, so I figured I'd minor in psych.
So when I took the tests 43 years ago today, I deliberately picked answers I thought would skew the test in that direction.
Consequently, it was no big surprise when the results showed me destined to be a musician.
But guess what came in a strong second, betraying my more truthful responses.
I hated writing. At least I thought I did. I detested writing themes in English class and saw the student newspaper - a 4-page mimeographed travesty - as a waste of time.
But I did journal, finding time almost every day for the better part of my most tempestuous 4½ years to scrunch an account of the day into the five short lines allotted for that date.
Once I got to Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) I discovered I was ill-equipped to major in music. I'd had no classes in theory and only a rudimentary music education in high school.
Psychology 101 left me thoroughly disenchanted with the subject, concluding that psychologists were mostly only guessing at causes and effects.
But I soon found myself hanging out with people who worked at The Statesman, the student newspaper. My first real job at the paper carried the lofty title of Wire Editor. That's what they called the guy who daily serviced the Associated Press teletype machine. I kept it fed with rolls of paper and tore the continuous strip of printed paper into stories, hanging them on wall hooks designated "state," "national," "international," "business," "agriculture" and so on.
Before long, I was writing stories - my first by-line was The Statesman's obituary of Edward R. Murrow, considered by most to be the founder of American broadcast journalism.

I wrote a weekly column and had the bad judgment to become production manager at a time when the paper converted from hot type to offset. For several years, The Statesman was printed by a company with facilities just off campus, with real union printers who knew about layout and composition. Changing to offset meant we got to set the type ourselves using a primitive machine called the Varityper. It was a labor-intensive task and the Varityper was a piece of junk that never should have been brought to market.
The result was an all-nighter for every one of the twice-weekly issues during the second semester of my sophomore year. I learned a lot about newspaper production and typography, but I also stopped going to classes and flunked out.
After laying out a semester, during which time I evaded the draft by enlisting in the Air Force, then was blessed with a medical discharge for allergies, I returned to ISU and my old production manager job. Predictably, my sense of duty to the newspaper killed my index. I think my only passing grade that semester was an A in editorial writing.
So the hook was set.
I succumbed to the destiny that was revealed on this date in 1962. I embarked on a newspaper career that I can't seem to shake. Yeah, I walked away from a 34-year job with the state's largest newspaper after the paper I loved was hijacked by morons. But now I'm every bit as involved in the work at Maria's medium-sized daily and I'm still journaling, but now it's called blogging.