Tuesday, December 26, 2006
My cookie fortune: "Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals."
Well, to a point...
Sunday, December 24, 2006
TEHRAN - Iran condemned a U.N. sanctions resolution as “a piece of torn paper” that would not scare Tehran and vowed on Sunday to accelerate uranium enrichment work immediately.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose sanctions on Iran’s trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology, in an attempt to stop uranium enrichment work that could produce material to be used in bombs.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said those who backed the U.N. resolution, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany but supported unanimously by the Security Council, would soon regret their “superficial act.”
This is disturbingly close to the League of Nations' feeble attempts to curb the Axis powers in the years leading up to World War II. Will we elect a Neville Chamberlain in '08 or will we have the good sense to choose a Winston Churchill?
Friday, December 22, 2006
I delivered a 100-page album this afternoon to a couple whose wedding we shot Sept. 23. We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to get it to them before they left town for Christmas, but MyPublisher.com came through brilliantly.
We placed the order on Sunday afternoon and the FedEx guy delivered it to our front door on Wednesday afternoon. And it was perfectly printed.
The temperature hit 53 degrees (F) today (that's 11.6666666 for my friends in Canada and elsewhere in the Metric world), which is sort of an early Christmas gift - especially considering the hammering our friends in Colorado got this week.
I was tempted to get one of the bikes out, but I had too much to do and I didn't want to upset the balance of fuel stabilizer to gas in the tank. So it appears my 2006 riding season is over and I can record and report my BMW miles to Harold Patterson, who succeeded Martha Thomas as the keeper of mileage records for the Indianapolis BMW Club. I think I only rode about 6,000-some miles this year, which means I'll fall short of earning one of the club's 10,000-mile awards for the second consecutive year.
One of my New Year's resolutions will be to make the 10k and not let work interfere with my riding.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The fastest I've ever been able to turn around a wedding shoot is four weeks. What a spectacular machine this is.
I finally got my Treo synched with the new machine today. That's the last major thing I had to do to settle in on the new computer.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This Dell XPS computer is freaking amazing!
The Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB of RAM give me enough computing power to do two or three tasks – any one of which would have choked my old machine – simultaneously.
I was able to organize and burn a couple of CDs for the client who hired us to shoot her grandson's high school senior photos and also edit and post a 454-photo gallery from the 1,800 wedding images we shot last Saturday. This is nothing short of astonishing – that I could get both projects done in a few hours of work, in the same day. I have never been able to turn projects around that quickly with the old machine. Whatever anxiety I had about the cost of this setup is evaporating in the light of the time it will save. If our business continues to grow in 2007, there is no way I could keep up with the photo editing and album building with my old machine. (Incredible how much improvement there's been in the less than five years since I bought the old one.)
And this fabulous 24” LCD monitor is like having a billboard-size screen in front of me. Our scenic photos displayed full-screen are so huge, yet so vivid, that it feels like I could walk right into the scene.
I'm running a 1920 x 1200 screen resolution. Everything looks gorgeous and I finally have enough screen real estate to run Photoshop CS with the tool pallets off to the outside of the workspace and still have an enormous view of the image being edited.
I discovered to my chagrin yesterday that the hard drives in my old computer were IDE drives and the new Dell is set up to take SATA drives (no, I don't know what the difference is, other than that they take completely different data and power plugs).
So how to get the data I need to rescue from my old machine without putting the drives back in and dragging the box and big CRT monitor back into the office and stringing a bunch of cables?
I found a couple of solutions yesterday afternoon at Best Buy.
Solution 1 is to get a card that adapts the IDE drives to work in the new machine. That involves getting back into the new XPS box, popping in the card, the two drives and the appropriate ribbon cable.
Solution 2 is to buy a USB external hard drive enclosure – basically a small aluminum box that contains a circuit board upon which you mount the hard drive. Poke it back into the aluminum box, screw on the end piece with its on/off switch and power and USB connections, connect to the XPS and turn on the power.
I opted for Solution 2 because it made it possible for me to use one of the old hard drives as an external storage device for photo files and I was charmed by its elegance. And it only cost $49.
So last night I transferred my iTunes library from the old drive to my new C: drive. But when I synched my iPod, I suddenly discovered that none of my purchased music from the iTunes Store would work because the XPS is not an “authorized” computer. After a moment of panic, I found I could easily go to the iTunes site and authorize my new computer. Phew! Problem solved.
Next, I transferred all of my image files from the old drive to my C: drive. Oops. Now my 300 GB new hard drive is down to 133GB of free space. Maybe it's time to start archiving to DVDs...
Today's work involves putting my other drive – the former C: drive of my old machine – into the aluminum box and retrieving my Treo/Palm desktop and its database. I've misplaced my original installation disk that came with the Treo 700p and, of course, it has stuff on it that I can't download from the Palm website, so I need to continue accessing the old one. I hope I can just copy the Palm folder and program over to the new machine, but I fear it may not be that simple and there may need to be changes made to the Windows registry or elsewhere that only the installation disk can make. That means I may have to keep using my old C: drive as an external H: drive with the XPS, at least until I find the Treo installation disk.
Eventually, I plan to wipe the old machine's second hard drive – the one that had my pictures and iTunes on it – and install the Ubuntu version of Linux that I downloaded last night for free. If I don't like Ubuntu, I can always go back to the Windows XP that's on the old C: drive, if and when I no longer need it hooked up to the new machine. Stick a WiFi card in the old box and voila, we've got an extra work station or another machine in the house to surf the 'net.
Monday, December 18, 2006
He was only six weeks old when we brought him home from the farm where he was born on Dec. 17, 2005.
So, at the risk of seeming to perform the doggy version of one of those hideous annual personnel evaluations that a generation of micro-managers forced upon us, maybe it's time to reflect on how that first year has gone.
Pete has grown into a fine, funny, affectionate dog who charms everyone he meets with his friendly, playful personality.
His toilet training has been a bit, uh, spotty, if you know what I mean. We gave himt he run of the house much too early and, as a consequence, he developed some favorite places to relieve himself when we weren't looking. Like on the stairway landing and at the top of the stairs. So we quarantined him and Ruthie, a golden retriever mix, in the kitchen with only supervised visits to the rest of the house.
But with our encouragement, he has figured out that the back yard is the proper place for his bathroom activities. The only problem was that he wasn't very good at letting us know when he needed to go out.
So about two months ago, Maria hung some decorative holiday bells on the back door doorknob and showed Pete that we would open the door for him if he'd ring the bells by poking them with his nose. To our amazement, he picked it up right away. Like, in one day.
Of course, now he does it whenever the mood strikes him to go outside whether he needs to do doggy business or not.
But that's alright. The accidents on the kitchen floor are much less frequent and pretty much only happen when we don't hear the bells.
But he also has a shy and fearful side and at least one bizarre behavior.
As I write this, Pete is pacing back and forth on the rear deck, looking nervously up at the sky.
He's the only dog I've ever know who took any interest at all in the sky.
I think it's because he thinks the sky tried to kill him a couple of times.
The first time was back in the spring when a fierce thunderstorm hit. Maria and I were away from home and Maria's daughter Morgan was at home with the dogs. They were in the back yard when the storm blew up, but Morgan was unaware of it because she was organizing stuff in the attic and had her boombox cranked up.
It was Pete's first close encounter with lightning and thunder and he fled in terror. A neighbor said he saw Pete streaking down the street illuminated by the flashes of lightning. We caught up with him two days later after a woman who works for the local veterninarian recognized him and called to say we'd find him about a mile north of town.
Pete's second traumatic sky experience was around the Fourth of July when a neighbor's errant bottle rocket crossed into our airspace and exploded over his head. Even though Morgan was standing nearby, Pete bolted and was gone for three days.
So Pete worries about the sky and notices details that might even escape human observers.
Clear, sunny mornings are the worst, because he has an unobstructed view of the southern sky and frets over the criss-crossing jet contrails tracing the paths of east-west airline traffic.
Conversely, he's relatively worry-free on overcast days when there's nothing up there but a blanket of gray.
I'd love to get Cesar Milan's take on it. I'm sure the Dog Whisperer could cure Pete's sky anxiety in short order.
So, on balance, Pete is turning out to be the Christmas gift that keeps on giving love and entertainment.
Friday, December 15, 2006
So I installed Thunderbird, the e-mail client that comes with the Firefox browser and is also free.
It lacks the scheduling and calendar bells and whistles that Outlook has, but I don't need them because I keep track of that stuff with the Palm Desktop, synched with my Treo 700w smartphone.
But it does have a pretty good spam filter that is more efficient than the spam filter than comes with my Norton Internet Security package.
And, by the way, I'm going to dump Norton when the new computer arrives, in favor of Nod32, which is recommended by Leo Laporte and other people I trust as being superior to Norton and McAffee.
Maria's Norton software expired a couple of weeks ago and I replaced it with Nod32 for $39.
The big problem with Norton and McAffee is that they are "bloatware" - big, cumbersome programs that slow a computer down, yet provide less antivirus protection than the smaller, more nimble Nod32. Maria's machine is running a tad faster since I yanked out the Norton stuff.
Nod32 has a package price for two computers for something like $64, so I think I'll take advantage of that deal to protect my new machine and add Nod32 to our Sony VAIO notebook computer.
FYI, the Windows firewall is unnecessary if you're using a router, since the router serves as an even more effective firewall against unwanted internet intruders. Laporte says the Windows firewall should, however, be turned on if you're using your laptop on an open WiFi network away from home, like at Starbuck's or a hotel/motel.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I was stunned this morning to discover that there is talk of a Clinton-Obama ticket in 2008.
There are web sites selling t-shirts for what they're calling the Democratic "Dream Team."
It's actually the dream team opposition the Republicans would love to face - a ticket that would be completely incapable of attracting crossover red state votes.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
I've taken care of a whole bunch of things today that I was putting off.
Maria and I did a bunch of Christmas shopping our favorite way – mousing our way around Amazon.com.
And I finally bit the bullet and bought that new business computer that we've been needing. After weighing the relative merits of Mac and PC, I opted to remain in the PC fold and ordered a Dell through Leo Laporte's web link at twit.tv/dell.
I've dealt with Dell before and, like Leo, find them to be a company I can feel comfortable with.
So I bought an XPS 700 Special Edition Formula Red with Intel Core2Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive and a 24” Dell UltraSharp Widescreen Digital Flat Panel monitor.
It comes with a free upgrade from XP Media Center to Vista when the new operating system is released late next month.
Since the new Dell cases have bays for two additional hard drives, I can yank the two drives out of my old computer and have all of the files on board without having to do a lot of transferring. In terms of familiarity, it should be like my old machine on steroids (going from a 2400 MHz processor to a 1.86 GHz processor) with a display twice as wide as the one I have now.
At last, I should be have a machine that runs Photoshop fast enough to stay ahead of me. I'm stalled out on a current wedding album project because my computer is choking on the big Nikon D200 and D100 images to be manipulated.
And, since the temperature got into the mid-40s this afternoon, I was able to check and correct tire pressures on both cars (the del Sol's little donut spare tire had zero psi) and put fuel stabilizer into the gas tanks of both bikes and the lawnmower.
That little Sears air compressor paid for itself a long time ago when it comes to convenience. I hate crawling around my car at a gas station topping off tire pressures.
If you're on a network like an Ethernet hookup at work or a WiFi network at home or maybe Starbuck's or McDonald's, you can look and play selections from any other iTunes user on the network.
That is if they have the “sharing” feature enabled.
Levy says in his book that sharing is the default setting, but that may be prior to the current v 7.0.2 of iTunes because I had to manually turn it on to get it to work on the computers on my home WiFi network.
So I can fire up the Sony VAIO laptop in the kitchen, which has iTunes with an empty library on it and see the libraries on my desktop computer and on my wife's desktop computer. And I can play any selection from those libraries on the laptop.
Sorta like the feature Microsoft is so proud of on the Zune that lets users “squirt” (yeah, that's the word they use) songs via WiFi to any other Zune in range. The difference is that there is apparently no way to capture the song on the iTunes receiving end other than to play it in real time. The Zune recipient can keep the squirted song three days or three plays, whichever comes first, which makes it a completely different listening scenario.
To enable the feature in iTunes, click Edit, the Sharing tab, then check the appropriate boxes and circles. The resulting SHARED list shows up in the far left column of the iTunes window between STORE and PLAYLISTS.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Click this link to go to the photo above at JPG Magazine's site and vote for my photo of window washers in downtown Portland, Ore. The category is "9 to 5," people at work, and the criteria is (1) does it fit the theme and (2) is it a good shot.
If I get enough votes, I get included in the next issue and win $100 and a year's subscription.
Also, there's a ton of really good photos on the site, of which a few are mine.
Oddly enough, the one that's getting the most attention is a picture I shot in September, 1970 of KFC founder Col. Harland Sanders on the occasion of his 80th birthday in Greenwood, Ind.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Our nearest Buffalo Wild Wings (BW3) restaurant has a wireless online trivia game that lets you compete, not only with other players in the restaurant, but with thousands of players in restaurants and bars worldwide.
Our BW3 is in a Big Ten college town, so you would expect a slightly higher level of play than some place where the average I.Q. is room temperature or below.
But I'm pleased to say that each of the three times that Maria and I have played as a team, we've beaten everyone else in the joint to emerge the local champs at the end of the evening.
We're both highly competitive, which makes winning particularly gratifying.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I wasn't terribly worried, but it's a relief to know for sure. So I don't have to think about another colonoscopy until 2009.
We also signed up for his weight loss program, since all of my problems:
High blood pressure
are consequences of carrying too much weight around.
With any luck at all, I'll be shopping for smaller motorcycle apparel next spring and changing the setting on my bike's shock absorber.
James Kim, the CNet gadget guru who went missing in the Oregon wilderness with his wife and two daughters more than a week ago, was found dead today.
His wife and daughters were rescued a couple of days ago when Kati Kim used an umbrella to get the attention of a search helicopter crew. She and the kids stayed with their stranded car and James struck out on foot last Saturday morning to get help.
I remember him from the late lamented TechTV. My condolences to his family and friends. It's a very sad day for the tech community.
|You Are Guinness|
You know beer well, and you'll only drink the best beers in the world.
Watered down beers disgust you, as do the people who drink them.
When you drink, you tend to become a bit of a know it all - especially about subjects you don't know well.
But your friends tolerate your drunken ways, because you introduce them to the best beers around.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
My grandfather was a township trustee and later the Carroll County (Ind.) treasurer, elected each time as a Democrat. The family archives include a receipt Granddad received for a $1 contribution (that was a substantial amount in those days) to the 1908 presidential candidacy of Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Bryan lost to William Howard Taft, but later served as secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson.
I still revere Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. I went to JFK's funeral in November, 1963, in Washington, D.C.
But the late 1960s saw the party of my father and grandfather drift farther and farther to the left. I guess I date my estrangement with the Democrat Party to the presidential candidacy of George McGovern. Over the past 30-odd years, the party has pandered to a nutball constituency that shares none of my values. The candidates they fielded in the last two presidential elections - Al Gore and John Kerry - were so flaky and devoid of character, I was astonished that anyone took them seriously.
I fervently hope the party comes to its senses soon, but the hype surrounding Hillary Clinton is worrisome. She's not flaky, she's downright evil and scary.
But yesterday brought the news I'd been hoping for. Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana's junior senator, announced he's forming an exploratory committee - a first step toward a presidential bid.
Bayh is the son of a former senator (Birch Bayh), was a two-term Indiana governor and is loaded with poise, style and charisma. His wife, Susan, is pretty and whip-smart and they have beautiful children. It doesn't hurt - from my perspective anyway - that he's among the more conservative Democrats in the Senate.
So I could be comfortable with a Bayh presidency, especially if the Republicans don't come up with anyone better than John McCain.
Evan has my vote, for sure, in the primary.
And, if he is elected, he'll rehabilitate Indiana's image on the national stage after the horrible damage done by Dan Quayle.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Friday's gem was the discovery of Open Office, an open source, free alternative to the pricey Microsoft Office suite that retails for about $400 and has a street price around $330.
I'd been using an obsolete bootleg copy and feeling vaguely guilty about it. Mostly, I was just using Word as a word processor and Outlook as my e-mail client.
I downloaded Open Office and installed it and determined it could, indeed, open and manipulate all of my old MS Office-created files and create files in those MS formats. In fact, I'm composing this post in Writer – the Open Office word processor.
So, without giving it much thought, I deleted Microsoft Office from my computer.
As a result, Outlook – complete with all of my saved e-mails and my e-mail address book – went away.
Fortunately, I have almost all of my important e-mail addresses backed up in my Palm/Treo contacts list, so it's not a complete disaster.
But still, I feel like a bonehead for failing to realize that Outlook was a component of Office.
I no longer had a copy of Outlook Express on my computer, so I turned instead to Thunderbird, the open source e-mail client that came with Firefox when I tried it out a month or so ago.
Thunderbird will be more secure, since it's not so thoroughly hacked as is Outlook and Outlook Express, so I guess I'm better off.
But I know I'll be kicking myself in the days and weeks to come whenever it occurs to me that I need a piece of information that resided in those old e-mails that no longer exist.
BTW, you can check out Open Office at openoffice.org
It's a complete office software suite with lots of bells and whistles that was originally developed by Sun Microsystems.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Turns out the big thing is getting pumped pull of air.
Damn! I've spent the past four hours dealing with savage gas pains and cramping and doing my level best to equalize internal pressures.
The doc found and removed three polyps and sent them off for routine biopsy. I get the results in his office Dec. 6.
Another hour or two and I ought a feel reasonably normal again.
I spent yesterday flushing out the pipes with a liquid diet and a couple of doses of an industrial strength laxative. I suppose I should be hungry this morning, but I'm not.
This is not my idea of a good time and I will be deliriously happy to be done with it.
Maria is taking the day off to be with me for the procedure - I'll need a driver to bring me home since they'll wig me out with drugs. That's something they didn't do 38 years ago. I'm supposed to see this as an improvement, but the desire to remain conscious and in control is pretty strong and I'm not eager to relinquish it.
Friends and even strangers tell me this is no big deal and they're probably right. We shall see.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Went to the funeral home visitation last evening for Clint Husted.
I was pleased to see his wife had placed a floral arrangement, including his motorcycle boots and Schuberth helmet on the casket.
There were still bugs on the helmet - the mark of a true BMW rider.
Lots of people there - we stood in line for 90 minutes to express our condolences to Lynnette.
I was pleased to see that the video slideshow of Clint's life included this photo I shot a few years ago in Brown County, Ind. That's Clint on the left and Rich Nathan on the right.
We went to dinner afterward with seven other club members at a restaurant run by the nephew of our club friend Dominick. It's an extremely upscale Mexican place with fabulous food and spectacular presentation. They make fresh guacamole at your table and mix some of the best margaritas I've had.
Unfortunately, Friday night is salsa dancing night and we also got a waiter whose brain imploded when we asked him to calculate separate checks. Forty-five minutes later, Dom siezed control of the situation and declared he'd pay the tab and let us know what our share was by e-mail.
I stuffed myself stupid and slept so poorly that I was in no shape to ride or drive to the funeral which is going on at this moment.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I ordered a Filet-o-Fish sandwich and a medium drink.
What I got was a F-o-F bun with tartar sauce and cheese around a spicy chicken patty.
Tasted odd, but not horrible.
This is the second consecutive day of cold November rain, made even more depressing by the news that Clint Husted, a BMW Club member somewhat younger than I, dropped dead yesterday with a heart attack.
Clint wasn't a close friend and I don't recall ever riding with him, but we socialized at club events and rallies, so he was certainly more than an acquaintance. He had recently taken a buy-out and early retirement from General Motors which begs the question whether there was a connection between ending a career and ending a life.
It's certainly not unusual for guys to die within six months of retiring.
Retirement ranks high in the Life Event Stress Scale, well ahead of sex difficulties, the death of a close friend and a change in residence.
He seemed to be focused on the future. On Sept. 22, he responded to a (retired teacher) club member's e-mail teasing that questioned his usefulness and compentence with, "I can assure you that my teaching skills plus supporting individuals in saving money is still greatly appreciated. I am not like some retired teachers who have receded to the depths of watching daily TV, plus being prodded to clean the house."
I have no idea what other stressors were piling up on Clint over the past year to aggravate what I can only suppose was an undiagnosed heart problem.
Looking back at the year following my mother's death and my early retirement, I certainly had my share of stress points:
Death of close family member - 63
Retirement - 45
Marriage - 50
Change in financial status - 38
Mortgage or loan over $10,000 - 31
Change in residence - 20
Total - 247
A score of 150-299 means medium susceptibility to stress-related illness. Anything over 300 means you're really fucked up and are headed for trouble.
Reviewing the last 12 months of my life, I have to really search for any points at all, so I guess that's encouraging.
Clint's widow Lynnette is at the funeral home in Noblesville as I type these words, so we should have the memorial service information soon. The funeral and burial will be in his home state of Michigan, so I don't expect the club will be asked to provide any kind of motorcycle escort here in Indiana.
Anyway, it's a damned shame he had to check out so early.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Then today I noticed the option in iTunes track Info, letting me designate a track or an album to be skipped while shuffling.
Now I can include everything - maybe even my three CDs of sound effects - and segregate out the stuff I don't want showing up in the shuffle rotation.
Seems like I find a new reason to be impressed with the folks at Apple every day that I use that amazing little device.
So now I have something like 6,400 tracks, plus a whole bunch of podcasts and a smattering of music videos and other videos.
The podcast lineup is constantly changing, since iTunes keeps me current on a day-to-day basis.
So now it's gotten to the point that I feel naked if I leave home without it. All this for a gizmo that I was certain, six months ago, that I neither needed nor wanted.
Thanks again, Sean, Steve and Maria. You hit a home run with this birthday gift.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Undotv.com should be up and running sometime in mid-January with all of the old stalwarts, including Leo Laporte and Chris Pirillo.
I've been getting my geek fix via the various Leo Laporte podcasts, but this will be much better.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Maria spent much of yesterday hunched over her new Bernina sewing machine and tensely complaining there isn't enough light in her sewing room. She's in what is arguably the brightest room in the house with lots of windows and a southeastern exposure with a three-bulb overhead light fixture and a built-in light in her Bernina.
I recognized the complaint as a symptom of presbyopia - the inability of the eye to focus properly on nearby objects, which is a common occurrence in middle-age.
Maria has good vision and has never worn glasses. Her last eye exam was about 13 years ago when she was 30. At that time, her eye doc told her she'd probably need reading glasses when she turned 40.
I've worn glasses or contact lenses since the third grade, so it's no big deal for me, but she was loathe to surrender to the fact that it was time for some vision correction.
So on the way to the Meijer store for our weekly grocery run last night, I explained why people who need reading glasses initially complain that there isn't enough light to see closeup stuff.
There is a phenomenon in photography called depth-of-field. When you close down the aperture on a camera lens, i.e., make the light hole smaller, it makes the light waves more coherent and sharpens the image of objects in front of and behind the point where the lens is focused. The same thing happens with the human eye. When you increase the light intensity, the iris closes tighter and the depth-of-field increases, making closeup objects appear sharper than they did before.
You can get by with adding light for awhile, but eventually you have to turn to reading glasses.
So I suggested we cruise by the pharmacy area of Meijer last night so Maria could try on some reading glasses and see if they helped.
It was, to say the least, an eye-opener for her. The first pair she tried had a magnification factor of 1.75 and she was startled at how much sharper fine print appeared. She tried various lens strengths and finally settled back on the 1.75.
She wore them to do a bit of sewing last night with good results, but refused to take the plastic tag off - keeping her options open to return them (refusing to completely accept the inevitable conclusion that she needs them).
She still has the tag on this morning, but I predict it'll be gone by tonight.
Here's a photo of her taking to her daughter on the phone, eyes closed because she gets disoriented looking at distant objects.
30 minutes later: the tag is gone.
After all, why check a blog that seemingly never gets updated.
So here's the update.
Since we sold our rental property we've been taking care of lots of things that we put off for lack of ready cash.
We threw about $1,800 at our two cars - timing belt for the del Sol and catalytic converter for the Subaru; got Maria's wedding ring repaired (fractured baguette); replaced the waterlogged and ripped 6-year-old hot tub cover and added a mechanical cover lifter; replaced the cabinet-mounted microwave that died about six months ago; bought Maria an 80GB iPod; added a Nikon 18-70mm lens to the inventory, painted the front porch, got a proper desktop docking station for my Treo 700p; and bought a new Mr. Coffee coffee maker to replace the one that was prone to leaks and spills.
Still to buy: a new work computer (mine is six years old and makes photo editing more of a chore than it should be), and a Nikon D200 for Maria.
The bulk of the proceeds are sitting in a six-month CD while we draft a master plan to rip out the deteriorating wood deck behind the house and raze the two ramshackle garages. In their place, we plan a fenced patio and a proper two-car, two-motorcycle garage with an upstairs skylighted photo studio and offices.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
My son Sean is 39 today.
His wife Ruth organized a collaborative gift with me, his mom and his brother Steve.
Together, we came up with enough money for a really good acoustic guitar.
Sean called to thank me this afternoon and it was clear that he was surprised and overwhelmed.
Friday, November 03, 2006
But when she called me in to edit copy and do some other work, I found the cache and attacked it greedily. I also found a bunch of trick-or-treat-size packages of those colorful little chocolate candies that melt in your mouth, not in your hand.
As I ripped one open, my eyes fell upon an apostrophe that I never before noticed.
The name on the package is "M&M's."
How can this be? All sentient writers of the English language know that you don't form the plural of anything with an apostrophe.
What the package designer has done, then, is to declared that the contents of the package belong to "M&M." Which begs the question: M&M's what? Little sugar-shelled chocolate candies?
I was stunned and somewhat chagrined that I'd never noticed this before.
So I fired up Google to find out what, if anything, the Ms stand for in M&M.
I seemed to remember the Mars family - the folks who gave us Snickers, Three Musketeers, Milky Way and Mars bars - was involved in it and I was right.
Forrest Mars left his father's successful candy business and struck out on his own, working for a time for Nestle and Tobler in Europe. Some people belive he got the idea for his new candy from sugar-coated chocolate pellets given soldiers in the Spanish Civil War. At any rate, he patented the idea in March, 1941. He did a deal with Bruce Murrie (the other M and a son of Hershey exec William Murrie) that got him access to Hershey's stock of chocolate. World War II was on and chocolate was rationed with Hershey having the enviable position of being the choclatier to the U.S. military.
After the war, Mars bought Murrie out, but kept the M&M name on the product.
Mars died on July 1, 1999, at the age of 95. At the time of his death, his estimated net worth of $4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, made him one of the richest people in the U.S.; his sons, Forrest Mars, Jr. and John Mars are now executives with the company and also said to be worth $4 billion each, along with his daughter, Jacqueline Mars Vogel. Based in Hackettstown, N.J., M&M/Mars employs 30,000 people worldwide with sales of more than $20 billion per year.
But I still can't get over that damned apostrophe.
*And it makes me crazy to hear morons like the counter workers at Dairy Queen prounounce it "Reesy" or "Reesie" cups. Have they never heard of anyone named Reese? Where the last "e" is silent?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Thirty-six years ago tonight, I found myself a father for the second time.
My son Steve was born in Coleman Hospital in Indianapolis on Halloween, 1970.
He took his daughter Lisa trick-or-treating tonight. She's 2½ and was dressed as a kitty.
When I called to wish him a happy birthday a few minutes ago, he said Lisa was deep into her trick-or-treat candy.
"One of her pupils is more dialated than the other," he joked.
Here's a photo from Halloween, 1974 - Steve's fourth birthday and a week before Sean's seventh birthday.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
We arrived at our friends' place in Alma - the highest town in the United States - Monday afternoon for what we expected would be a week-long visit.
But an intense attack of altitude sickness, aggravated by a powerful low pressure system and the threat of a paralyzing blizzard sent us scurrying out of the mountains Wednesday morning.
We did, however, get to visit our friends at the Colorado Mountain Hat Co. in Fairplay where Maria got measured for a very sassy cowgirl hat that just might show up here sometime after Christmas.
We'd also considered the Texas gulf coast and the New England fall foliage as vacation destinations, but it turned out that last week was a crappy time to vacation anywhere but maybe the Pacific Northwest.
Since Maria's vacation days are precious, she was very unhappy about having to abort our mountain sabatical. She was slightly pacified when we noticed a billboard for the Quilter's Harvest quilt store in Higginsville, Mo., along I-70 east of Kansas City. We exited the interstate and found the store where she loaded up on some great fabric that was on sale. So it wasn't a complete wash-out.
Here's a photo of Maria rooting through the bolts of cloth.
I was also able to turn the quilt store ladies onto a fabulous cache of local quilts at the Ray County Museum in Richmond, Mo., just up the road from them, that had previously escaped their notice. I discovered the place while on a Jesse James country tour for RoadBike Magazine about five years ago.
We arrived home about midnight Thursday.
Maria's son Austin had been house/dog-sitting for us and was getting bored since his girlfriend got grounded for being late to school Tuesday morning because she was hanging out here and also because he got downsized out of his pet shop job.
Losing the low-paying pet shop gig is actually a great thing because it forces him to get unstuck and find a better-paying job as a prerequsite to getting out of his dad and evil stepmother's house and on his own.
Me, I'm just happy to have found a sixpack of Hofbraü Maibok beer at Kahn's Liquors in Carmel. It's a wonderful German bock beer with a fabulous rich taste and a kick like a mule.
And now I'm going downstairs to get another.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Maria and I indulged in new Columbia parkas yesterday - mine came with an iPod pocket and a set of headphones in little collar pouches - so we're ready to go looking for winter before it comes to Indiana.
It's still a few minutes before sunrise, but we haven't packed a thing. I took our external hard drive and our photo CD archive over to Maria's parents last night for safekeeping and Maria's son Austin will be here through the week to care for the dogs.
Maria's never taken U.S. 24 across Kansas and eastern Colorado, so I plan to take that route instead of our usual I-70 bullet run.
Well, I must be off.
I will, of course, post from the road.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
And it's handy to just one table in the cafe.
And it's being used by an Asian Purdue University student who's sitting there grinning at his screen.
I'm down to 21 percent battery, so my photo editing is at a standstill until I can access some AC power.
I flopped down in an armchair with a couple of Photoshop how-to books and my iPod and by the time I was through paging through the books, the kid was gone.
I quickly pounced on the table and outlet and, as it turned out, it wasn't a moment too soon. The kid came strolling back and seemed startled to see "his" spot taken. Apparently he has a more robust battery in his laptop because he was able to set up at another table and work.
I hunkered down with our most recent set of wedding photos - 1,700+ images - and winnowed them down to 800 and change for posting to our pay-per-print site for friends and relatives of the bridal couple to see and buy.
I'll give them another go-through tonight and try to get the remainder posted.
On the vacation front, it appears that Austin will honor his commitment to house/dog-sit for us, so we're scrambling to get things together for a Saturday departure.
The del Sol came out of the shop with a new timing belt, oil and lube and balanced and rotated tires for about $600. The timing belt is supposed to get changed every 60,000 miles. I had 189,500 miles on my original timing belt, so I figure I've saved $1,200 on timing belts over the life of the car.
The Subaru Forester, which is our traveling car, goes into the shop Friday afternoon for a new catalytic converter.
I can't image being ready to leave by Saturday morning, but we shall see.
Unless the sky falls, in the form of a blizzard in the plains, our destination is sunny Colorado.
They've contracted it out to Wayport and charge $2.95 for a two-hour time block.
So, while I wait for my Honda del Sol to get a timing belt, I'll stroll across the parking lot to Barnes & Noble where the WiFi still isn't free, but the atmosphere is a bit more refined.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
He's seated across the restaurant from us at the Renaissance Hotel in Oklahoma City.
He carries an Apple notebook computer.
Now I know why the paparazzi don't use cell phone cameras.
His mother should know that he left without finishing his milk.
Friday, October 13, 2006
We're at the National Newspaper Association convention in Oklahoma City where Maria's paper has won several awards. Here's Maria being very pleased that her convention ID badge has a prize winner ribbon attached to it.
Dinner last night was at the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, or something like that. We did an abbreviated tour of the museum - mostly the art galleries - and had a sub-par dinner served at room temperature. Hardly worth the $95 a plate, but we weren't paying, so who cares?
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
With a Treo 700p and a 60-gig iPod, I'm so deep into geekdom it's almost scary.
I keep finding new ways the iPod, which I previously thought I had no use for, is way cool.
We're contemplating a road trip - most likely to Colorado - in the Subaru in a couple of weeks and it occurred to me that it would be nice to be able to play my growing collection of iPod music on the car's stereo system.
So I stopped by Best Buy on Sunday and took a look at the myriad iPod car adapters.
I finally settled on the iTrip by Griffin - a simple tunable FM transmitter/iPod charger that plugs into what used to be the cigarette lighter power outlet.
I passed on models that include a cradle for the iPod, since I use the black rubber-armor case from Speck that would have to come off for the unit to slip into a cradle.
I especially like the Speck protective case because it makes it much less likely that I'll fumble the iPod and drop it. It's taken a couple of short drops without damage, thanks for the case, so I'm pleased with it.
I just went to the Speck website and found they make a similar case for the Treo 700p/w smartphones and I'm thinking about ordering one for my Treo.
But I digress.
As soon as I hooked up the iTrip unit and started playing music through the car' stereo, I realized I had just obsoleted the 6-disc CD changer/player that had necessitated carrying a big case of CDs the last time we went for a long drive.
I suppose we carried 35-40 CDs with us for the changer. With the iPod and iTrip we have (at last count) 5,748 songs, which amounts to somewhere around 500 CDs, plus various podcasts (I'm addicted to Leo Laporte's technology podcasts).
So the iPod, combined with XM satellite radio ought to give us enough listening choices to make Kansas fly beneath our wheels.
I've ripped nearly all of my CDs - just about everything that I'd care to hear on CD (I skipped some lengthy classical stuff, but may go back and revisit that decision) and am now looking for other things to add. Amazingly, the 60-gig hard drive is only one-third full.
Every now and then, I'll hear something on XM or remember some long-forgotten song that I have to then track down on ITunes or - as in the case with today's addition of a Spike Jones anthology and the Beatles White Album - pick up used on Amazon.com.
The song I flashed on over the weekend, then forgot, then remembered and bought last night is a nice additon - Cheap Trick's "Ain't That a Shame." Damn, what a great piece of rock and roll.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
It's amazing how much of a psychological/comfort difference there is between 62 sunny degrees and 56 cloudy/drizzling degrees.
I left home for errands in Indianapolis under cloudy skies with the promise of a sunny high this afternoon of 62 degrees.
It's 2 p.m. And I haven't seen the sun yet. And I ran into drizzle as I approached downtown Indy.
And I was running on fumes when I got to Carmel, hoping to get to the gas pumps at the Meijer store before I ran out of gas. Naturally, I got caught up in a gawker jam going past a the aftermath of a car-truck tangle in the other lanes. The gas gauge on my BMW K1200GT was reading below empty and I ended up putting 4.82 gallons into the tank - about as close to dry as I've ever come with this bike.
But I have the two cameras I came to pick up and am warming up with a vente mocha at Starbucks.
Going back south through the crash scene to the Interstate is out of the question, so I'll take local roads home.
BTW, this is the first photo from my phone's 1.3 megapixel camera that I've posted on the blog. Sure beats the images I got with the Treo 600.
Today is the sixth anniversary of my mother's death.
I had moved her into a retirement home/nursing facility near my home about six months earlier after she injured her leg in a fall at home.
She was in good hands and with people who cared about her, but she desperately wanted to get back to her house in Delphi where she had lived most of her adult life.
I got a call from the head nurse about 8 p.m. that day telling me my mother had just died. I couldn't believe it. She was in good condition, I thought.
Turns out, the arthritis medicine she'd been on caused internal bleeding and she died in her sleep.
I still blame myself for not spending enough time with her.
And we're selling her house tomorrow.
Well, not tomorrow after all.
Slow paper-shuffling has pushed the closing date to next Monday. Whatever. That means the tenant owes me another $75 in rent before the house is hers.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Maria, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, is a quilter. A serious quilter who has written for various quilt magazines and who walks the walk as well as talks the talk.
She's knocked out a whole bunch of quilts in the last couple of years, especially after I bought her a Bernina sewing machine.
She visited her favorite fabric store last Saturday, a store that also happens to be a Bernina dealer. She got seduced by the aurora 440 QE, which has a revolutionary stitch regulator - apparently the first machine to ever have it.
She likened it to BMW's groundbreaking antilock brake system for motorcycles introduced in the 1980s.
The machine was on sale with a special 18-months-same-as-cash deal.
Well, only a fool would pass up a deal like that.
So I drove down to the Bernina store yesterday afternoon and bought her one and now she's a very happy camper, er quilter.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
Seems like every fall, I get a hankering for a new cell phone.
First it was a flip-phone that my friend Tim Balough sold me very cheap because he'd given up on having Sprint cellular service at his home in Alma, Colo.
Then I got beguiled by the Treo series of phones and picked up an obsolete Treo 300 on Ebay. I used it for a year until I stepped up to a more advanced, but also obsolete by this time, Treo 600.
That was last fall. I really loved the 600 and bought a folding keyboard for it to do blog entries and e-mail while traveling. The built-in camera was crap, but I bought it mainly for e-mail and blogging and phone communications.
The 600 started going crazy on me last week. It wouldn't respond properly to screen taps or keyboard input. I thought it might have a virus or some other data corrpution, but then I noticed it started doing funny things when I wiggled the stylus around in its silo - a clue that the problem was mechanical and, therefore, not something I could fix.
So on Saturday I bit the bullet, went to the Sprint store and stepped up to the top of the Treo food chain (for the moment, anyway), the Treo 700p. (I read this morning that the 750 was released last week in Europe and Asia.)
Anyhow, it does everything better than the 600 and has the advantage of a user-replaceable battery and a 1.3 megapixel camera, plus video and TV.
However, for some mysterious reason, it doesn't interface with my Sprint PCS e-mail account, so I had to create a new account with Gmail, the Google e-mail service. That necessitated changing over with Blogger.com so it would recognize blog entries from my new phone.
Now I have to pick up a folding keyboard and some styli that have ballpoint pens hidden in them. The 700 is Bluetooth-equipped, so I can now become one of those annoying people who walks around with an earpiece seeming to carry on a spirited conversation with themselves. But I promise that if I get a Bluetooth earpiece, I won't do that. Honest.
Monday, September 25, 2006
I'm sitting in a McDonald's in Southport, Ind., a southern suburb of Indianapolis, where I just finished lunch and am killing time until my 1 p.m. dental appointment.
Lunchtime at a McD is usually pretty chaotic, especially when the place is full of kids like this one is.
However... I'm on my motorcycle and brought along my in-ear stereo headphones that I use while riding to listen to XM satellite radio.
I'm also carrying my iPod.
So I stuck the earphones into my ears, plugged into the iPod and am listening to a Leo Laport podcast from Aug. On KFI radio in Los Angeles.
I've been a Leo Laporte fan for a few years now, ever since I was helping Tim Balough move stuff to his new home in the Colorado high country. He had a satellite dish of the old variety and we spent hours upon hours watching Leo and his friends on Tech TV.
Unfortunately, TechTV got bought by some greedheads who wrecked it. Now, the only place you can see Leo on TV is Canada and Australia. But he's on the radio in LA and has lots and lots of podcasts.
Leo is a genius when it comes to explaining all of the arcane details of computers, software, cell phones and other such technology in a friendly, understandable way. If you haven't heard him, Google him up and see what you've been missing.
Sent from my Treo
Friday, September 22, 2006
We've had the Nikon D200 for a few months now, just getting used to it and exploring the features but it wasn't until this afternoon that I got around to checking out some of the elements of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS). The SB-800 speedlights we've been using for a couple of years are CLS-capable, but the D100s we were using were not, so it wasn't until the D200 showed up that it became an issue.
We shot photos for a furniture store ad earlier this week in which I tried to get the SB-800s to act as remote/slave flashes without success.
I downloaded a primer on the subject from the internet this afternoon, read and re-read the pertinent passages in the flash and camera manuals and discovered that I needed to change a camera setting so it would tell the flash what to do. The results were encouraging and I convinced Pete the Aussie to sit for a few portrait shots, one of which is posted here.
Maria just called to say she's on her way home. We have to be at a wedding rehearsal in a couple of hours and tomorrow will shoot our third wedding in three weeks.
Fortunately, we have nothing booked for next weekend, but the weekend after that is yet another wedding. If we're not careful, this could turn into a real business.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Summer yields to fall this week and my world is full of changes.
My mortgage lady friend says we could conceivably close on the sale of my parents' house late next week.
That house has been in my family since April, 1954 when my parents and I moved in. I was in the third grade and it was a very big deal to move from the only home I'd ever known to this neat new house where I would have an upstairs bedroom.
I last lived there in the months between my discharge from the U.S. Air Force in early November, 1965 and when I returned to college in January, 1966. So that makes it more than 40 years since I called the place home.
My dad died in a nursing home in November, 1997, and we moved Mom to a retirement community in April, 2000, after she injured her leg in a fall.
It stood idle until the late summer of 2001 when my first tenant moved in. It's been a rental property every since and I've known from the start that I was never meant to be a landlord. So I'm only a little sad to part company with the place, very relieved not to have to worry about flood or fire or other calamity theere and delighted to have the money from the sale.
The additional cash will make it possible for us to make a lot of long-delayed improvements at our own house and pump some much needed revenue into our photography business.
Plus, we desperately need a vacation together and I hear Colorado calling ever stronger with each passing day.
Sent from my Treo
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
It's freeware and it's amazingly diverse.
It was created by a Bosnian-born programmer named Irfan Skiljan who lives in Vienna, Austria and it shows stills, plays movies and music and includes some basic photo editing tools. There are also tons of plug-ins that can also be downloaded for free.
If you haven't tried it, you really should.
Check it out at www.irfanview.com
Monday, September 18, 2006
Saturday's wedding shoot turned out to be closer to normal that I'd expected.
Yes, the bride had the dry heaves at the hairdresser's on Saturday morning and was on prescription drugs much of the day.
And there was a flying trip to the tux rental warehouse some 80 miles away because of a size screw-up for one of the groomsmen.
And the tent/chair rental guys showed up to collect their stuff a couple hours before the wedding. (It was a mistake - they had misread the pick-up time.)
And the bride arrived more than 90 minutes later than originally planned.
But the ceremony went ahead on schedule, nobody freaked out and the wedding party rode motorcycles bareheaded the three miles or so to the reception without incident.
We only charged them $500, which was hideously cheap and I have decreed that it's the last of the cheapies for friends or coworkers. This is too much work to let it go that cheaply.
And yes, the aisle runner was white fake fur and the bride and her attendants all wore flipflops.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
That's German for White Castle and that's where I am at the moment, having polished off 4.5 cheesburgers.
White Castle is funky and no-class, but I love the taste and have to have them every now and then.
I've been hooked since around 1964 when college friends introduced me to the little square burger in a box.
I was a student at Indiana State University - well, actually, it was still Indiana State College at the time - in Terre Haute, Ind.
The nearest White Castle was in Indianapolis, which was nearly a two-hour drive east on U.S. This was years before the Interstate highway system existed around here in any major way, so it was down the old National Road to the White Castle.
Naturally, after driving so far, we stuffed ourselves stupid on these White Castle runs.
Burgers were a mere 12 cents then, compared with today's price of 49 cents. But today's White Castle hamburgers and cheeseburgers still taste the same - greasy and tangy with onions. They still start with square little hamburger patties with five holes in them - arranged like the spots on the five side of dice - presumably to make them cook faster on the grill.
I remember visiting a White Castle in Jeffersonville, Ind., with a college friend back in the late '60s and being dazzled by the speed with which the girl at the grill could flip, bun and box the burgers. It was a beautiful thing to see, made even more beautiful by the fact that I've only seen that kind of White Castle expertise a few times since.
Today's WC burger flippers approach their work with a nonchalance and indifference that borders on being an insult to the customer.
When I started my career at The Indianapolis News in 1967, there was a tiny little White Castle restaurant with maybe 10 counter seats and three booths up Delaware Street by the Indianapolis Public Schools Education Center. Bob Basler, now of Reuters fame, and I used to make the two-block hike on a regular basis for lunch.
They used to have a stainless steel pocket-type rack by the door stocked with copies of the White Castle House Organ - a regularly published magazine filled with articles and letters written by WC employees around the United States. Bob and I thought it was somewhere between funny and pathetic, but we always read it. I haven't seen one in years and can only suppose it went the way of the motivated employees like the girl in Jeffersonville.
The service may have gone to hell - I spent 20 minutes sitting outside the drive-up window of the Lebanon, Ind., White Castle a few weeks ago waiting for my order (and I was the only person in line) - but the burgers and cheeseburgers still call me back.
Sent from my Treo
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
We shot a wedding last Saturday night and a portrait assignment the next day, generating something like 3,500 big digital images in a single weekend.
We have three more weddings lined up over the next four weekends and probably another portrait job or two in the works.
All of this is heavily taxing our combined hard drive capacity - the 80GB on our Sony VAIO laptop and Maria's and my desktops, both of which have two hard drives.
It's also a big hassle to burn usable CDs or DVDs to transfer the images from the laptop, where we dump them in the field, to a desktop computer for final editing, client CD burning and album composition. I've tried doing a copy/transfer via the wireless router, but it's too slow for my taste.
Plus, we've been concerned about how to create a portable storage medium that could be relocated offsite as insurance against distaster.
I stumbled upon the solution the other day while browsing through the aisles of a Staples office supply store - an external hard drive.
The one that caught my attention is the My Book unit by Western Digital. I've used WD hard drives for a long time and have been pleased with their reliability. The My Book I bought today for $158.98 (sales tax included) has a 250GB capacity and takes up very little desktop real estate. It's 6.71" tall, 2.25" wide and 5.55" deep and looks like, well, a book standing on the desk.
This model connects to the computer via a very robust cable and USB 2.0.
I've just now copied last weekend's images and will now take My Book up to our office and copy the images to my desktop computer.
I love technology.
Friday, September 08, 2006
That's breakfast in German and that's what I'm doing at the moment, although you won't find much German food on the menu at Denny's.
It's Friday again and I've come to the county seat to pay what I fervently hope will be the final $100 child support installment to Maria's ex.
With any luck at all, her son will find his spine and move out of his dad's house during the coming week. He's been under tremendous psychological pressure from his father and stepmother, but I have confidence that he'll find the strength to get out and be a man. Especially when he realizes his girlfriend is watching.
It's a glorious sunny September day and reminds me of Sept. 11, 2001 - along with all of the news/talk shows today.
I was en route to the BMW motorcycle dealership in Indianapolis when the first plane hit. When I arrived, the head mechanic - the only mechanic I've ever known who listens to NPR all day - growled about some assholes flying a plane into the World Trade Center.
The only TV in the place was a small portable that was used to view promotional videotapes and they didn't have a cable connection. So they pulled up the rabbit ears antennae and got a passable over-the-air signal. Good enough that we were able to watch the second plane hit and the two towers collapse.
I remember Tom Brokaw saying exactly what I was thinking: "This is war."
And it still is.
Too many Americans never really got their brains around that. Maybe they are so conditioned by stupid disaster movies that they unwittingly think of the 9/11 attacks as some kind of unreal TV show.
But those were real people raining down from those towers and, for them, it was as real as it gets.
They thought they were safe that morning, just as we think we're safe today. But as long as there are wacko dirtbags like Bin Laden out there, none of us is safe.
So, five years into this war on terror, I'm delighted that the battleground is in Iraq and Afghanistan and not in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago or Indianapolis.
End of rant.
Sent from my Treo
Thursday, September 07, 2006
This is about the town where I grew up, not where I live now.
I'm selling my parents' house - funny how they've been dead for years and I still think of it as their house rather than mine - and rode my motorcycle up to take a sales contract to the woman who has rented it for a couple of years.
Riding down the leafy streets of my childhood, I recalled seeing those streets and houses from the saddle of my bicycle.
About a block from the house, I passed a guy watering the lawn in front of a low one-story frame house.
He was about my age, dressed in shorts and an untucked sport shirt.
I looked a little closer and realized he was in my high school graduating class.
John, like me, was an only child. But he was an athlete - a gifted basketball and baseball player who was short on academic ability but long on boyish charisma.
His parents gave him pretty much everything he wanted, including a new Plymouth Fury when he turned 16.
He was a kind of golden boy in high school and doubtless expected the rest of his life to be equally charmed.
He went off to Ball State University, but didn't finish, and married his high school girlfriend.
I remember bumping into hiim on a street corner in Indianapolis a year or two after I'd begun my career as a reporter with The Indianapolis News.
He made sure I knew he was doing well and had earned "5 figures" ($10k or more) the year before. Yeah, that was more than I was making.
I lost track of him over the years, reconnecting at five-year intervals at class reunions and getting the occasional scrap of gossip from friends.
He got divorced and drank a lot. I heard a rumor that he was a professional gambler. Pretty much every time I saw him at a reunion, he was drunk and hiding out from his ex, who was also in our class.
Over the last 10 years or so, I heard he was living with his widowed mother and there he was, at the house of his childhood, watering the lawn with little to show for the 43 years since we collected our diplomas and began our lives as grownups.
John is, for me, emblematic of that town. All of the real achievers left and only come back to visit.
Ou friend Jack is an executive with major trailer manufacturer.
My friend Lynda is obscenely wealthy, living in Louisiana with her hometown husband who got rich closing banks after the Louisiana oil economy crashed.
I'm sure this pattern was repeated by every class since mine and a lot before it and it created a growing intellectual vaccuum in the little county seat town of 2,500.
I was reminded of that later when I stopped at the town's McDonald's - my nomination for the worst-run McDonald's in the world.
As I tried to enter, I found the inner door blocked by an oblivious woman who was chatting with an equally oblivious McD employee. With another customer standing impatiently behind me, I finally shouldered my way past them, but neither gave any indication that they realized they were blocking a doorway and inconveniencing others.
So I wasn't particularly surprised when my request for an M&M NcFlurry was answered with a dull stare and the explanation that the "McFlurry machine is broke down."
Of course it is.
I was reminded anew that my local attorney friend who has lived in that town all of his life, told me he has never set foot inside the McDonald's.
I seem to be doomed to re-discover the wisdom of his attitude everytime I go there.
Sent from my Treo
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
This must be job applicant day at Wendy's.
I'm sitting in a corner booth watching the hapless fucks maxing out their reading and writing skills to complete the Wendy's job application.
Nearest me is a couple - he's a skinny little twerp in his 30s with jeans, a wifebeater and an Indianapolis Colts blue cap.
She's maybe 10 years younger and twice his weight, but looks significantly brighter. I find myself wondering what they've been doing with their lives that brings them into the job market at this level. I'd bet that he can't pass a drug test.
A young woman in her early 20s is hunched over a job app at a table over by the window. She looks pretty intense about it, with her glasses and wild black hair. She's wearing jeans, a black tanktop and lots of silver jewelry, including a big boxy silver cross. She also has tattoos - big ones - on her chest and right bicep.
Now Mr. Colts cap has advanced to the interview stage.
"Have you ever worked fast food before?" asks the manager. I can't catch his answer but it hasn't occurred to him to take off his cap.
He's smiling a lot and seems to be maintaining good eye contact, so he may have some people skills after all.
He's nervous. Has his hands clasped as he leans on the table on his elbows. Hands clasped - opening to gesture - clasped again.
"Did she break up with him?" asks a woman talking on a cell phone, ignoring the man sitting across the table from her.
Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" plays on the ceiling speakers and the manager dismisses Mr. Colts cap. He and his woman friend step outside for a cigarette.
Sent from my Treo
At some point, it stopped responding to the Turn Off procedure of holding down the Play/Pause point on the control wheel for a few seconds.
Consequently, it was perpetually on. That was no big deal when it was docked because it was getting recharged through the USB 2.0 connection.
But when I carried it around, the fact that it couldn't be turned off meant the battery was getting needlessly drained. I was starting to worry about possible damage to the battery, which is not user replaceable.
I decided to attack the problem last night and went to the iPod support site. I downloaded v1.1.2 of the operating software (it came with v1.1.1), installed it and then wiped the memory clean with a Restore procedure that put it back to the factory settings, albeit with v1.1.2 in the driver's seat.
This all occurred after 11 p.m. I was tired, so I decided to let it restore the 17.3 gigabytes of music and other data while I slept.
So I was delighted this morning to see the welcome "fully charged" symbol on the display. And the Turn Off feature is functional once again.
O, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!
At the time of the previous post on the subject, Stepson had not yet told his dad and stepmother of his plans to move into a vacant house owned by his paternal grandfather.
Sometime Monday, his dad and stepmother figured it out or wheedled the information out of him.
As we expected, they cranked up the psychological warfare, telling him he was sure to fail if he struck out on his own. They also said they would stop paying for his technical college schooling if he moved out. That, of course, is a lie, since the most recent support agreement requires both parents to contribute. Where the kid lives is of no consequence.
My wife took the support agreement to work this morning so as to make a copy for her son to demonstrate (a) that the money will be there and (b) that his dirtbag dad and evil manipulative stepmother are lying to him.
He's a reasonably sharp kid and I fully expect him to put all of the puzzle pieces together and return to his earlier plan to move out this coming Saturday.
I sure hope so, because I'd like last week's support payment to be the last dollar I send to that house of snakes.
He's been talking to his mother and his sister and last night asked about certificates of deposit my wife has been holding for him in a bank safe deposit box. This shows he's not caved in to his dad and stepmother and is still working on an escape plan.
This could be his watershed moment where he stops thinking of himself as his father's child (property) and begins to think of himself as a independent functional grownup. He'll be 20 in November and there are soldiers younger than he fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it's high time he got up on his hind legs and started making his own decisions.
Fortunately, his girlfriend is also pushing him to be a man and move out and I'm pretty sure he wants to make a favorable impression on her.
Stay tuned for further developments.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was killed this weekend when a stingray he was filming put its tail barb into his heart.
It kinda figures, considering the level of risk-taking he enjoyed, but it's still a bit of a shock.
He was 44.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
We made a long-overdue pilgrimage to Cincinnati yesterday to visit my son Steve, his wife Nicky and, of course, our granddaughter Lisa.
We haven't seen them since shortly after Lisa's second birthday at the end of May, so naturally Lisa has grown in every dimension.
She exudes wisdom beyond her years and seems to have the ability to recognize when a bad mood is overtaking her and pull away from it.
Maria and Steve and I took her to a park near their home where she had a great time climbing and sliding and swinging and running. When it came time to leave, her face clouded up and she stuck out her lower lip in what - for a lesser child - would have been the prelude to a crying fit. She was riding on Steve's shoulders at the moment and Maria stuck out her lower lip in challenge. Lisa apparently realized how she looked, decided that was not cool and then flashed a sunny smile, proclaiming, "Now I'm happy!"
She also spontaneously used her fingers to pull her mouth out of shape, a move her dad and his big brother Sean did when they were kids. (See lower picture of Steve when he was her age.)
The visit took place against the background of cell phone drama with Maria's son, Austin, who is scheming to escape from involuntary servitude at his father's house.
As I mentioned earlier, Austin has finally realized his father and stepmother want him living with them mainly as free labor and on-demand babysitting for the stepmother's three feral children. They told him that his studies at an area vocational technical school are paramount, but keep him so busy with chores that he doesn't have time to study.
His presence in their house is also costing us $100 a week in child support, something that I feel particularly angry about since the father spent 10 years hiding income so he could under-pay on child support when Maria had custody of both kids.
Austin has gotten the go-ahead to move into a vacant house owned by his grandfather and Maria and I met him and his girlfriend there Friday to determine what needs to be done to make the house livable.
He opined that he can't move until he saves enough money to keep himself afloat. Seeing an opportunity to free her son and annoy her ex, Maria offered that she would much rather pay Austin than give money to his father and asked how many weeks he would need to save enough money to make the jump. He guessed five weeks, so she agreed to give him the $100 a week for five weeks, since we'll stop paying her ex as soon as Austin is out of his house.
He called late last night to say he'd been studying all day and wanted to go out with his girlfriend last night, but his dad and stepmother forbade it because he hadn't done any work for them during the day. This is a kid who will be 20 in November, who has a job, a car and is going to school. He asked Maria if he should just force the issue and bail out immediately.
She advised him to chill out, stick to his plan to move out next Friday and not let his emotions force him into a hasty uncontrolled departure.
He saw the wisdom in the advice and took it.
He's working at his pet store job today and Maria is over at his new home cleaning up the hideous mess that his idiot cousin Adam left after living there for a couple of years. Adam had adopted a gimpy stray cat that peed on the carpet and made the house reek of cat piss. I have a cat allergy and could only take about 30 minutes inside before my chest started to tighten up and I began to wheeze. So that's why Maria's cleaning and I'm not.
I can't tell you how delicious it is to know I've made my last trip to the county clerk's office to make the unjust support payments. Austin's premature departure means the ex will get about $6,000 less than he expected. It also means that his legal expenses will come close to canceling out any gain he got from extorting support payments from us.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
PGR mission for the funeral of State Police Lt. Gary Dudley in Brownsburg, Ind.
Dudley and another officer were killed last week while on a charity bicycle ride to raise money for the wives and children of officers killed in the line of duty.
Their support truck was rammed from behind by a box truck and lurched forward striking Dudley and a former Lake County police chief.
It was the largest police funeral I've ever seen in Indiana.
The weather was overcast with mist and occasional sprinkles. Consequently, only 16 of us were present, but we got plenty of thank-yous, including from Gov. Mitch Daniels who came over to greet and thank us and shake each man's hand.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Let's all sing along, folks:
"Ain't God good to Indiana?
Folks, a feller never knows
Just how close he is to Eden
Till, sometime, he ups an' goes
Seekin' fairer, greener pastures
Than he has right here at home,
Where there's sunshine in the clover
An' honey in th' comb;
Where the ripples on th' river
Kinda chuckles as they flow--
Ain't God good to Indiana?
Ain't He, fellers? Ain't He, though?
"Ain't God good to Indiana?
Seems to me He has a way
Gittin' me all outta humor
Just to see how long I'll stay
When I git th' gypsy feelin'
That I'd like to find a spot
Where th' clouds ain't quite so restless,
Or th' sun don't shine so hot.
But, I don't git far, I'll tell you,
Till I'm whisperin' soft an' low:
Ain't God good to Indiana?
Ain't He, fellers? Ain't He, though?
"Ain't God good to Indiana?
Other spots may look as fair,
But they lack th' soothin' somethin'
In th' Hoosier sky and air.
They don't have that snug-up feelin'
Like a mother gives a child;
They don't soothe you, soul an' body,
With their breezes soft an' mild.
They don't know th' joys of Heaven
Have their birthplace here below;
Ain't God good to Indiana?
Ain't He, fellers? Ain't He, though?"
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Blackie died last weekend.
I cried when I heard and I've avoided writing this column because, sure enough, as soon as I wrote the first sentence, the tears came again.
I adopted Blackie, a wire-haired terrier of some sort, about 13 years ago from the Animal Welfare League. She was a tiny pup and I was told she wouldn't grow much bigger. The saucer-sized feet should have been a clue.
She was whip smart and potty trained in a couple days. Blackie would rather have exploded than disgrace herself in the house.
Blackie took care of me when, at age 30, I had a tonsillectomy. I was convalescing in bed upstairs and just about every hour, on the hour, I heard her toenails on the hard wood floors, up the farm house stairs, through my daughter's bedroom and into mine.
Click, click, click, reassuring and steady.
She'd rest her head on the mattress next to mine, doggy breath in my face, wait for me to whisper something reassuring, lick my nose, and go back downstairs until the next check-up.
Maybe she thought she owed me. We suppose she was hit by a car on our gravel road once while we were gone. Whatever happened, half her side was laid open and she was in shock when we returned. I took her to a veterinarian on Sunday, I think, and he had me help him. He couldn't get her all the way sedated. I sat at her head and reassured her the whole time. The vet wasn't sure she'd survive. I brought her home, sat her in a beanbag chair, and we watched television while she made a remarkable recovery.
Blackie had lots of tricks. She was one of those dogs who could bark something that sounded like “I love you,” and other words we pretended to hear.
We weren't sure what she was doing at first when we saw her walking in the harvested fields, cats at her heels. She was hunting for mice. She'd find one, dig it up, and wait for the cats to get it. Then she'd walk on and do it again.
But her silliest habit was rock chasing. Blackie was a rock chasing maniac.
Our neighbor discovered it when we were on a walk. Blackie was in front of us, but backing up and watching our feet. Something had her interest. Debbie kicked a piece of gravel and off Blackie flew to get it and drop it back at Debbie's sneaker. From then on we kicked rocks for miles when Blackie walked with us.
I haven't lived with her for years, but still kick rocks out of habit when I walk.
Blackie collected and chased any rock, even if they were too big. The kids made sure to throw the really big ones in the opposite direction so she wouldn't break a tooth trying to catch it.
I left her on the farm when I divorced. She was at home there and she loved her new mom and the kids who came to live with her.
We got lonely at our new house and went to the shelter for a smaller, short-haired dog. We came home with Ruthie, who is medium sized and has long, woolly blonde hair.
She is also very silly and is a maniac for laser beam chasing. Ruthie barks too loudly and too often. She's mouthy, demands treats and won't be left out of a hug between humans. She makes goofy guilty faces when she does bad things like ripping into the trash - as if we won't know she did it if she turns her head away. We wouldn't trade her for anything.
Ruthie was a great bridge when I re-married. John went with us to choose her when we were still dating. Ruthie loved the kids and she loved John, which made the kids feel better about John until they got to know him better.
Ruthe was a safe conversational topic for everyone. She entertained us by fetching and eventually gutting, stuffed monkeys so she could kill their squeakers. All her toys are hard rubber now.
I don't think anyone should get a dog just to entertain themselves or to help blend a family. That would be selfish if you can't afford veterinary care and keep them confined to your property. But if your home is adequate and you have time for them, dogs sure make life nicer.
And I think shelters are fine places to get them. I'm sure dogs know they are close to doom when you get them there and they are appreciative. Walk through the shelter one time and you'll know what I mean. If I hadn't found Blackie and Ruthie there I wouldn't have all the memories I've shared here and too many more to tell.
We were getting ready to move my daughter to Bloomington for school again this weekend when she called her father. He told her Blackie, who was apparently hard of hearing in her old age, had been hit by a car at their farm.
She crawled to my son's car and waited for him to come out on the way to work. He found her broken, but in good spirits and calm. His father and step-mother sat with Blackie until she passed calmly.
They buried her with a rock in her mouth. It was a choice rock she'd recently brought to the yard.
Rock on, Blackie.
create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.
I've traveled in all 48 contiguous states, but I have this little New England gap in my personal motorcycle map. I'd hoped to fill it in when I went to the BMW MOA national rally last month in Vermont, but time and weather interfered.
I've also ridden in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Indiana’s passenger car license plate numbering system is pretty straightforward, making it easy to tell where a car was plated. The first digit or digits correspond with the issuing county’s name in an alphabetical list of Indiana’s 92 counties.
Adams County plates are 1A, 1B, and so on, while Whitley County – the 92nd in the list, starts with 92A. Since there are more cars in Lake and Marion counties than the 45 and 49 prefixes can accommodate, there’s an overrun with Lake County getting 94 and 96 and Marion County taking 93, 95, 97 98 and 99.
Of course things get more ambiguous when it comes to specialty plates because they don’t indicate county of origin.
But for the most part, it’s a logical, understandable system.
Not so before 1963.
Which brings me to that card that fell out of my checkbook.
It’s a little pocket reference to Indiana license plate prefixes, published by Robert Hall’s IGA Foodliner in my hometown of Delphi circa 1961.
Look over the listings and you’ll realize immediately why there had to be a change.
The old system used double-letter prefixes that were assigned without any particular rhyme or reason, other than the fact that Marion County being the most populous got all of the “A” prefixes. After that, it was pretty much random.
Old timers around here will recall that Montgomery County plates had TA and TB prefixes. Neighboring Fountain County was XJ, XK and XL, while Boone County drivers got to laugh it up with HA and HB. No correlation with county or county seat names, population or alphabetical sequence.
Here is the pre-1963 Indiana license plate prefix scheme, courtesy of the late Bob Hall:
AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, AF, AG, AH, AJ, AK AL, AM AN, AP, AQ, AR, AS, AT, AU, AV, AW, AX, AY, AZ, BX, BY, BZ - Marion County (Indianapolis)
BB, BC, BD, BE, BF, BG, BH, BJ, BK, BL – St. Joseph (South Bend)
CA, CB, CC, CD, CE, CF, CG, CH, CJ, CK, CL, CM, CN, CQ, CR, CS, CT, CU – Lake (Crown Point)
DA, DB – Whitley (Columbia City)
DC – Tipton (Tipton)
DD, DE, DF, DG, DH, DJ, DK, DL – Allen (Fort Wayne)
EA, EB, EC – Hendricks (Danville)
ED – Union (Liberty)
EE, EF, EG, EH, EK, EL, EM – Vanderburgh (Evansville)
EJ – Jefferson (Madison)
FA, FB – Clay (Brazil)
FC, FD – Vermillion (Newport)
FF, FG, FH, FJ, FK, FL – Madison (Anderson)
FM – Martin (Shoals)
GB, GC – Wells (Bluffton)
GD – Switzerland (Vevay)
GF – Jasper (Rensselaer)
GG, GH, GJ, GK, GL, GM – Elkhart (Goshen)
HA, HB – Boone (Lebanon)
HC, HD – Posey (Mt. Vernon)
HE – Warren (Williamsport)
HH, HJ, HK, HL, HM – Vigo (Terre Haute)
JA, JB, JC – Adams (Decatur)
JD – Scott (Decatur)
JF – Warrick (Booneville)
JJ, JK, JL, JM – Delaware (Muncie)
KA, KB, KC – Johnson (Franklin)
KJ, KK, KL, KM – Wayne (Richmond)
LA, LB – Jay (Portland)
LC – Decatur (Greensburg)
LD – Jennings (Vernon)
LL, LM, LN, LP – LaPorte (LaPorte)
MA, MB, MC – Greene (Bloomfield)
ME, MF – Newton (Kentland)
MG – White (Monticello)
MM, MN, MP – Tippecanoe (Lafayette)
NA, NB – Gibson (Princeton)
NC – Putnam (Greencastle)
ND, NE, NF – Benton (Fowler)
NN, NP, NR – Grant (Marion)
PA, PB, PC – Noble (Albion)
PF – Dubois (Jasper)
PP, PW, PZ – Howard (Kokomo)
PY – Perry (Cannelton)
QA, QB, QE – Lawrence (Bedford)
QC – Carroll (Delphi)
QD – Pike (Petersburg)
QP, QQ, QR, QS – Henry (New Castle)
RA, RB, RC – Shelby (Shelbyville)
RD – Pulaski (Winamac)
RN – Owen (Spencer)
RR, RS – Kosciusko (Warsaw)
SA, SB, SF – Hamilton (Noblesville)
SC, SD – Ripley (Versailles)
SE – Orange (Paoli)
SG, SH – Dearborn (Lawrenceburg)
SJ, SK, SL – Jackson (Brownstown)
SP – Spencer (Rockport)
SS, ST – Cass (Logansport)
SU – Steuben (Angola)
TA, TB – Montgomery (Crawfordsville)
TC – Fulton (Rochester)
TD – Franklin (Brookville)
TT, TU, TW – Knox (Vincennes)
UA, UB, UC – DeKalb (Auburn)
UD – Hancock (Greenfield)
UE – Parke (Rockville)
UT, UU, UV – Huntington (Huntington)
VA, VB – Wabash (Wabash)
VE, VF – Rush (Rushville)
VK, VL – Starke (Knox)
VV, VW – Monroe (Bloomington)
WA, WB – Clark (Jeffersonville)
WD – Washington (Salem)
WF, WG – Morgan (Martinsville)
WW, WX – Floyd (New Albany)
XA, XB – Clinton (Frankfort)
XD – Harrison (Corydon)
XE – Ohio (Rising Sun)
XG, XH – Daviess (Washington)
XJ, XK, XL – Fountain (Covington)
XX, XY – Porter (Valparaiso)
YA, YB – Marshall (Plymouth)
YD - Lagrange (Lagrange)
YE – Brown (Nashville)
YF, YG, YH – Sullivan (Sullivan)
YX, YY, YZ – Randolph (Winchester)
ZA, ZB, ZF – Bartholomew (Columbus)
ZC – Fayette (Connersville)
ZD, ZE – Blackford (Hartford City)
ZG – Crawford (English)
ZX, ZY – Miami (Peru)