Friday, March 31, 2006


I had the unpleasant experience of witnessing a motor scooter crash this afternoon.
I was sitting at an intersection when the van in front of me whipped a left turn across the path of an oncoming scooter.
The rider jammed on his brakes as the van darted out of the way, but locked his front brake and did a spectacular endo.
I'd seen the guy riding his blue Yamaha scooter around town for several months and noticed that he never fastened the chinstrap on his white openface helmet.
So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I saw the helmet fly off just before his head hit the pavement.
As he rolled around on the pavement in pain, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911 to report the crash.
Fortunately, I had my camera bag in the trunk and was able to get a few shots as the EMTs bandaged his head, put him on a backboard and then a gurney and hauled him off to the hospital.
The guy clearly had the right-of-way, but was going way too fast into the intersection and did a classic job of "grab and stab" on his front brake.
And, of course, an unfastened helmet is about the same as no helmet at all.

Sent from my Treo

Turns out the guy was astonishingly lucky. He was treated at the local hospital and was released two hours later.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Batboy from the tabloids

This - from a dental perspective, anyway - is how most people with caps would look without their caps: teeth ground down to points.
Good motivation to never lose my caps.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Buzzards out the back door

They’re back.
The sky over our back yard is full of turkey vultures.
They soar silently on huge black wings, seeking out rising warm air and flapping in to a landing in the tops of a line of tall trees that separate a broad expanse of lawn from an abandoned railroad right-of-way.
This is our sixth spring here, but we noticed them for the first time last year. It seems unlikely that we would have missed a roost of 50-or-so turkey vultures for four consecutive springs, so I can only conclude that they relocated to our neighborhood after something forced them to move.
I’ve long enjoyed watching them fly. I used to see them when my ex and I took our sons camping at Turkey Run State Park a few miles southwest of here back in the 1970s. That’s when I first looked them up in Roger Tory Petersen’s "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" and learned they are the second-largest birds in North America - eclipsed only by the nearly extinct California Condor, itself a form of vulture.
I admit I was mildly concerned about all those vultures peering down at my 4-month-old Australian shepherd puppy Pete.
So I went online to learn more.
Turns out, there’s no need to worry. Turkey vultures don’t kill anything. They won’t touch anything that isn’t dead. Besides that, they will pass on dead carnivores like dogs, cats and coyotes, preferring to dine on dead herbivores like sheep, goats and cattle.
The Cherokees called the turkey vulture the “peace eagle” because it soars like the predatory bird, but does not kill.
They are about 25 inches from end to end with a six-foot wingspan. The average adult turkey vulture weighs in at 6 pounds.
The turkey vultures around here are migratory, wintering in the U.S. south or perhaps as far south as Central America.
I remember seeing a humorous piece on the old Disneyland TV show back in the ‘50s about the festivities surrounding the return of the turkey vultures each spring to Hinkley, Ohio, much the same way the swallows come back to San Juan Capistrano on the same day each year.
I didn’t make note of the first sighting here this year, but I think it was around March 8. I’m marking my calendar to start looking for them in early March next year, just to see if and when they show up.
I also discovered turkey vultures even have their own fan club - The Turkey Vulture Society (
Bill Kohlmoos, president of the Turkey Vulture Society, has written a fascinating piece about the birds in which he points out they have a rich social life, like to play aerial tag, and will invite other roosts to join them if they find a particularly large meal.
In California, he said, they’ve even been known to tell condors about major feasts and guide them to the scene.
Among his anecdotes:
“…it was reported by a person who had studied turkey vultures for many years that one would wait every morning for his son, a young school boy, to come out of his house. The vulture would follow the boy several blocks to the school bus stop and then wait on top of a telephone pole until the boy got on the bus. In the afternoon the bird would be back on the pole waiting for the boy's return, and then follow him home.”
“One lady wrote us that she has built a small wooden tower-like feeder in her back yard and puts out food for her friends each day. One day she noticed that after eating their breakfast, the vultures had gone down to the lawn in her yard and six of them were in a circle around a soccer-size ball left on the lawn by her grandchildren. The vultures were hitting the ball back and forth to each other by butting it with their head and beak. Each day thereafter they played this game. And although there were four balls of different colors, they always picked the orange one.”
“Turkey Vultures are affectionate and often make good pets. When a bird is injured and taken into rehab he will become emotionally attached to his handler and follow him around and watch him, much like a pet dog. They love to bring an object to a person and then play tug-of-war.”
“A lady in Southern California wrote that she and her husband would drive their car five miles from town and take a daily walk in the country with their dog. A turkey vulture would join them, soaring above and watching them. And then one day at home she broke a leg and the walks were not possible for a while. One day she was in her back yard on crutches and there was her turkey vulture sitting on the fence, waiting to say hello. He had found her in a town of 12,000 people!”
Turkey vultures are covered by an international migratory bird treaty that makes it a federal crime to kill or injured them or to possess one without the appropriate permit as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Don't you hate listening to people who end sentences with "but..." or "so..." without completing the thought.
It's on a par with "as far as" without "concerned," like, "as far as the weather is concerned."
I'm sitting in the Starbucks at the Lafayette, IN Barnes & Noble, blogging and drinking a vente mocha frappacino and having to listen to a girl having a cell phone conversation in which she is repeatedly committing all three of these linguistic offenses.
Oh, yeah. I'm fucking sick to death with hearing "awesome."
I just came from a soon-to-be-closed Office Max where I scored an
$80 remanufactured toner cartridge for my HP LaserJet IIP for about $40.
And, of course, the sign by the door apologetically informs shoppers that this Office Max store "will be closing." How about "will close" or "is closing?"
Maybe the sign-maker is getting paid by the letter.

Sent from my Treo

Unclaimed Funds

Got a letter yesterday from Joel Maul, who calls himself a “Relationship Manager” with EquiSearch, a White Plains, N.Y. outfit that helps people recover unclaimed funds.
Mr. Maul wrote to me about a year ago on the same matter - some unclaimed stock owned by my late mother.
EquiSearch is cagey in that they don’t tell you what and where the funds are - only a general hint about the amount, like “the current value of this account exceeds $X.”
After reading the fine print and discovering that EquiSearch takes 35% of the funds they recover, I decided to handle the matter myself.
EquiSearch apparently counts on people being too lazy or too stupid to do the recovery work themselves, but being a retired journalist with the skill and inclination to find out pretty much anything I want to know, I wasn’t about to give them a piece of the action.
It really isn’t all that hard to track down stuff like this. The Indiana Attorney General’s office has a website dedicated to helping people recover misplaced funds. Every state has such a mechanism and it doesn’t take much Googling to find the right sites.
So I recovered the funds and, in the process, found a bunch of unclaimed money belonging to friends and, incidentally, my ex wife. There’s about $405 worth of stock from her dad’s estate waiting for her to claim it and, as the executrix of her parents’ estate, it should be she and not one of her two sisters, who goes after it. I e-mailed her about it last year when I turned it up but a check of the Attorney General’s site last night shows she still hasn’t retrieved it. I suppose I’ll e-mail her again, mainly because I hate loose ends.
So I was surprised when I got Mr. Maul’s letter yesterday, considering that the funds he’s offering to recover are no longer out there. I think I’ll use his postage-paid business reply mail envelope to thank him for the heads-up.

Why can't we just get along?

Here's why:
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - An Afghan man facing a possible death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity may be mentally unfit to stand trial, a state prosecutor said Wednesday.

Abdul Rahman, 41, has been charged with rejecting Islam, a crime under this country’s Islamic laws. His trial started last week and he confessed to becoming a Christian 16 years ago. If convicted, he could be executed.

But prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari said questions have been raised about his mental fitness.

Can't Touch This

I discovered the other day that MC Hammer has a blog here on I always liked the guy and enjoyed his music and videos. He struck me as more wholesome and less menacing than the "gangsta" types and I liked it that a lot of his stuff had a very positive spiritual vibe.
Does that make him a less authentic voice for the African-American community? I really don't care. I think he's an authentic expression of the American experience.
His blog isn't a load of showbiz hype and glitter. Rather, it's full of day-to-day experiences and stuff about his little boy's upcoming baseball season. He has a Sidekick and loves mobile blogging with text and pictures.
You can check him out at

Monday, March 20, 2006

More on the PGR

Good Morning America did a piece on the Patriot Guard Riders and their work to shield the families of U.S. military personnel from wacko protests at their funerals.
Sign-ups surged today as a result of itand the membership is up to more than 19,100.
Click here to see the ABC News report.

Router Wars

It has often occurred to me that we misunderstand the supposed master/servant relationship we have with computers and that it is we who serve the computers and not the other way around.
When I went to check my e-mail Saturday morning, I discovered my DSL internet connection had gone wonky. This happens from time to time and sometimes it’s my equipment and sometimes it’s the ISP’s fault.
Living in a small (population 1,500) rural community, I suppose we’re lucky to have highspeed internet at all. It’s provided by the local Frontier Telephone Co. and is called Frontiernet. Turns out, Frontiernet is in various places all over the U.S. and Canada.
So, after rebooting the computer and cycling the modem and wireless router, I called Frontiernet’s tech service. It didn’t surprise me that the techie who took my call had a Canadian (“oot” and “aboot”) accent.
We checked my connections, did a lot of DOS prompt PINGing, turned the Norton security software off and on, took the router out of the loop and fiddled around for about 45 minutes before he came to the conclusion that my D-Link wireless router is hosed.
Since our photo and writing enterprises depend heavily upon having a reliable internet connection, buying and installing a new wireless router went to the top of the day’s To Do list.
Maria and I bade farewell to our dogs and drove the 35 miles to the Best Buy store in Carmel, Ind. I had also decided to look for a replacement for my 5-year-old Speedstream DSL modem on the assumption that there must be faster modems out there. The Best Buy sales guy directed me to a combination modem/wireless router that had the SBC-Yahoo logo on the box. He assured me that it wasn’t a proprietary unit and would work with any DSL connection.
When I ran the software installation CD, I found it gave me no choice but to create an SBC-Yahoo account. Since my town isn’t served by SBC, that made the unit useless to me, so we drove 35 miles back to the store and swapped it for a D-Link wireless router.
By the time we got home, having driven 140 miles on our quest for a reliable internet connection, it was past time for dinner and I was in no mood to mess with installing the new router.
I was reading the specs on the router box over my breakfast the next morning when I started wondering if maybe I needed a faster router than the one I’d just bought.
I had a non-networked internet connection for my desktop computer only, so I did a little research and concluded that it was probably plenty fast, since my DSL data transfer rate is only 1.1Mb/sec down and 750Kb/sec up. Just for the hell of it, I reconnected my old, supposedly hosed, D-Link wireless router and - wonder of wonders - it worked fine. I came down to the kitchen and fired up the laptop to see if the Wi-Fi was working and, sure enough, it was cranking at 5 bars.
So, it seems, the problem wasn’t on my end after all.
Maria and I were driving up to Lafayette to do a bit of grocery shopping, so we included the Lafayette Best Buy in our route and returned the unneeded new router.
I went online later and found an ISP discussion forum with a thread devoted to the experiences of Frontiernet customers. I was not at all surprised to find complaint after complaint about spotty service, disrupted service, and tech service people who will never ever concede that the problem might be on their end.
At least I didn’t get stuck with a wireless router I don’t need.


Tuesday, March 21
I went to the D-Link website today and downloaded the newest version of firmware for my router, which includes such enhancements as Super G Turbo speed and extended range.
I installed it configured the router for passsword security and it's working better than ever. So much for Frontiernet's diagnosis.

The Ring, Part 2

The day after Maria’s wedding ring turned up in the bathroom jewelry box - a place she says she never puts it - we were having breakfast in the kitchen when she noticed she wasn’t wearing her ring.
That was especially startling, considering the anxiety we’d just gone through leading up to its discovery.
She dashed upstairs to search, only to discover the ring was back in the jewelry box in the same drawer, in the same spot in the drawer.
Again, she swore she had absolutely no recollection of having taken the ring off or of putting it into the box.
This, of course, left us with a couple of possibilities:
1. The painkilling drugs she’d taken a week earlier in the wake of her hysterectomy were still kicking around in her nervous system and making her do things she normally wouldn’t do and couldn’t remember, or
2. There was some supernatural explanation.
I’m not ruling out either scenario.
She hadn’t had any of the pain meds for at least a week and wasn’t having any other noticeable lapses in memory of judgment.
At the same time, she and her daughter claim to have sensed the presence of my late mother in the house at various times and the central stone in Maria’s wedding ring did come from my mother’s engagement ring.
Her daughter Morgan said she’d “seen” my mother a couple of times when she was sick - once when she was recuperating from oral surgery. Mom was a Registered Nurse and I suppose it would be natural for her to show up when someone in the house needed nursing. And, of course, Maria was recuperating from a hysterectomy.
I’ve always been blissfully oblivious to these “presences” and apparitions, although I sometimes think Mom takes possession of our dog Ruthie when I catch Ruthie giving me that reproachful look that Mom used to shoot me whenever she disapproved of something I’d done or said.
Maria says she’s seen and experienced ghosts and spirits numerous times since her childhood and I don’t disbelieve her. I just don’t see them.
Maria’s mother also claims to have been “visited” by the spirit of her mother. Over one period of time, she said, she found a succession of face-up pennies on or around her desk and recalled that her mother considered it good luck to find a face-up penny. After that, she said, she began finding diabetes blood test strips around the desk and between the pages of books. She took it as an indication that her mother was visiting and saying hello.
Whenever Maria has found the presence of spirits bothersome, she tells them in a loud, firm voice to leave and apparently they do.
In this most recent case, she said she had a chat with my mother and told her it was okay to hang around, just stop messing with her wedding ring.
Now, five days later, the ring is still on Maria’s finger and we’ve had no more problems.
I’m withholding judgment. I learned a long time ago to believe nothing and believe everything.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

O, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

Two days of tension and anxiety ended yesterday afternoon.
Maria's wedding ring went missing on Sunday. She normally puts it into a large makeup box by the bathroom sink when she's applying hand cream or doing anything else that she wants to protect the ring from.
Aside from being a substantial investment - it was custom made by one of the top jewelry designers in Indiana - the ring incorporates the main stone from my mother's engagement ring, so it has a lot of emotional weight as well.
She did a search of the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and every other place she thought she could have put it and eventually we came to the conclusion that Pete the pup might be involved in the disappearance.
While scouring the bedroom and bathroom floor for the ring, we also considered that me might have swallowed it. After all, he chews and gnaws on everything he can get his paws on.
Maria called the vet's office and determined an X-ray would cost $75-100. Failing that, she was advised to keep an eye on his poop for the next day or two.
So we put the ongoing housebreaking training on hold and made sure he pooped in the house for the last few days, Maria taking on the task of gathering it up in a plastic wastebasket liner and suppressing her gag reflex while kneading it and feeling for the missing ring.
We had outgoing mail that didn't get picked up yesterday, so we decided to run it down to the postoffice in the county seat and also get bite to eat. Freshening up before leaving the house, Maria opened the top drawer of the jewelry case she keeps in the bathroom to pick out a pair of earrings. And there, where it had been all along, was her wedding ring.
Pete, for all his mischief and destruction, was off the hook for what could have been a deal-breaker for the little guy.
So we celebrated with dinner at White Castle and a bad movie from Blockbuster (Kicking and Screaming - formulaic and predictable and not all that funny).
I'm chalking it up to the effects of Maria's post-surgery painkillers that have left her slightly off-balance for the past week. She's pretty much back to normal, but still has the occasional lapse.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Got an e-mail over the weekend from the stock photo agency where we list our pictures, saying the Jimi Hendrix people want to license one of my shots from his May, 1968, concert in Indianapolis.
Seems they're working on a book and I'm the only shooter they could find who was at that particular concert. Actually, I know of at least one other - he was with me - but I'm not telling him about it until I have the check in my hands.
Not that it's all that much money - $132 (my 60% of the $200 licensing fee) - but I don't want to blow an opportunity.
This is the first sale we've see after more than two years with this outfit and I was beginning to think we'd wasted our time sending them more than 1,000 high-res images.
You never know what's gonna sell, but my insistence on never throwing away anything that could conceivably have value continues to serve me.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Who was Tom Fox?

Terror Meets Delusion: The Murder of Tom Fox
March 11th, 2006

An American peace activist is slaughtered by Islamists

Yesterday, peace activist Tom Fox was found murdered in Iraq.

Fox, along with fellow activists Harmeet Singh Sooden, Norman Kember, and James Loney was kidnapped in Baghdad on November 26, 2005.

All belonged to the leftwing Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which provided “human shields” in Iraq at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, works side by side with the anti-Israel, quasi-terrorist International Solidarity Movement and takes the standard leftwing position that America, as the world’s biggest terrorist, got its comeuppance on 9/11/2001. CPT’s official motto is “Getting in the Way,” and it ran a program called “Adopt a Detainee,” which was sympathetic to suspected terrorists being detained by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Iraq.

So, the late Mr. Fox belonged to a group that essentially saw the “good guys” as being equal to, if not worse than, the bad guys. He believed he was doing a righteous thing by essentially throwing stones in the path of the U.S., Iraqi and Coalition soldiers, the same men and women who are trying to round up the Islamist terror-mongers washing the streets of Baghdad in blood and misery, terror-mongers like those who murdered him.

Everything I’ve read about Mr. Fox indicates that, though misguided in his worldview, he was in many ways a decent man. Fox played in the United States Marine Band for twenty years. A Quaker, he served as a youth leader at Langley Hill Friends Meeting. His daughter, Katherine, says that while he was in the military, he refused military discounts on principle.

But Fox also harbored hatred for his culture and an overall disdain for America, as indicated by statements he made on his blog. He also suffered from a terrible naiveté:

I think it would be fair to say that a survey of opinion taken from news sources in various parts of the world would find people using the words ‘fear and hatred’ much more often than they would use the words ‘respect and love’ when it comes to describing the United States. Not only in the Middle East but in Europe and in much of Asia and other areas as well. We are seen more as an empire rather than a beacon of hope to the oppressed and downtrodden. We are seen more as a militaristic superpower, bent on imposing our will on others, rather than the keeper of the flame of the hope and promise of democracy,

said Thomas William Fox, ignoring, among other things, the fact that people fear America so much, that they flock to its shores in droves, seeking freedom and peace and economic opportunity.

After reading most of his blog entries, it seems to me that Fox’s tragic flaw, the one that ultimately got him killed, was that he did not really believe that some men are more evil than others.

Crippled by this moral confusion, Fox habitually ignored the greater of two evils. His blog entry on Fallujah hints at as much. Though in his writings he essentially described the liberation of Fallujah as a senseless act, he failed to mention that after U.S. forces chased out and killed the Islamists who had held the town hostage, they made the gruesome discovery of nearly two dozen torture chambers, awash in blood, some with bloated bodies and hacked off body parts dumped near them. Lt. Col. Gareth Brandl, a Marine said,

The face of Satan was here in Fallujah, and I’m absolutely convinced that that was true.

Ultimately, Tom Fox saw that face up close and personal. It is the face of those who commit shocking evil while promising Heaven on Earth. I wonder if, in the end, he finally recognized it for what it was—and is.

The Utopian fanatics who killed Tom Fox couldn't have cared less whether or not he was sympathetic towards them, or if he hated them or whether he believed in God, or not. They couldn't have cared less if he had a family or friends who loved him. They did not care for his compassion. They did not care that, on some levels, he even empathized with them: they, who held him captive. They did not care that, in his way, he was trying to help alleviate the suffering of their brothers and sisters.

All Tom Fox was to his captors and murderers was filth—a piece of garbage; a weak, vile, subhuman infidel of the Western variety; a creature to be spit on and reviled and, when no longer useful, slaughtered like an animal and then discarded. They treated Mr. Fox like they would treat us all, as stones to be kicked aside while building the road to Paradise. They treated Mr. Fox, and if given the chance they’d treat us all, like the Nazis treated the Jews.

If there are lessons to be learned from the murder of Tom Fox, they are primarily for the Left: Like a person, it is never too late for it to abandon its suicidal march until the moment the executioner strikes.

Thomas William Fox (1951-2006) R.I.P.

Rocco DiPippo, a freelance political writer, publishes The Autonomist website.

Rocco DiPippo

Friday, March 10, 2006

A public relations boon

It occurred to me this week that the Rev. Fred Phelps could be the best friend the sport of motorcycling has had in years.
Phelps, you may recall, is the looney tune Baptist pastor from Topeka, Kans., who calls upon his followers to picket the funerals of U.S. casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan because the U.S. tolerates gays too much for his sensibilities.
Those of us who ride motorcycles have been concerned about the unsavory image our sport has had ever since the 1950s when Marlon Brando appeared in "The Wild One" and the Hell's Angels captured the media spotlight in the '60s.
Most of us cringe whenever the media stereotypes all of us as biker lifestyle types with tattoos, greasy hair, drug and alcohol problems and loud Harley-Davidsons.
But thanks to Fred Phelps, we're enjoying a new resurgence of respectability. You see, his stupidity gave rise to the Patriot Guard Riders - an organization of motorcyclists who have banded together to attend those same funerals, at the request of the bereaved families, to shield the families from the obscene protests.
The PGR include vets, hawks and doves and motorcyclists of all ages and brand persuasions who are united in their belief that the grieving families of U.S. military personnel deserve respect and honor.
The organization is growing like crazy. Membership stood at 8,000 when I joined a couple of weeks ago. It will pass the 16,000 mark this weekend and there's no end in sight.
The media loves us, the cops love us, the military loves us and the families love us. About the only people who don't love us are the followers of the Rev. Phelps and we're supremely indifferent to their opinions.
So, thanks, Fred. You're bringing out the best in everyone except the folks who agree with you.

Sent from my Treo

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Are you insecure?

I have a wireless router as part of my home computer network.
I use the hard-wired side of it to link my desktop computer with Maria's, since our desks face each other in close proximity in our home office.
I used the wireless, or Wi-Fi, side of it to access the internet from my laptop. I'm doing that now as I write this.
When Maria's daughter Morgan is home from college, she uses the Wi-Fi to connect her desktop to the network from her room.
When my friend Tim helped me install our first wireless router - we're on our third now - he did a cursory test of its range by keeping his laptop connected as he backed out of our driveway. He reported he lost the signal about the time he reached the street.
My router is supposed to have a range of 150-200 feet, so it's not inconceivable that someone could park in front of the house and piggyback onto the signal.
I was aware of that possibility but didn't give it much thought - after all, this is a sleepy little country town of 1,500 and besides, our side of the street is posted for no parking.
But when we got the laptop last spring and started connecting to the router whenever we powered up, I noticed that my next-door neighbor in the big yellow house to the north of us also has a wireless router. Occasionally on power-up, our laptop would lock onto his signal at a quite usable strength of 2 bars out of 5.
I immediately realized that if I could see his network signal, he could see ours.
I didn't really think he was any kind of a hacking or snooping threat, but I wasn't eager to be proven wrong. So I decided to explore the encryption instructions that came with my D-Link router. It was a bit of a challenge because the geeks who wrote the instructions assumed that the reader had a working knowledge of the vocabulary of Wi-Fi, which I did not. I went to Barnes & Noble, got a vente mocha and browsed through a copy of "Wi-Fi for Fucking Morons," made some notes and went home to give it a try. I finally sorted it out and now have a secure network with its own name (Pearlsend, since we live at the south end of Pearl Street), accessible with a password.
My neighbor's network appears in my laptop's list of available networks as "linksys," the name of the router manufacturer, and "unsecured wireless network." I discovered last June, as we drove west on our photo safari, that the air in most cities is filled with unsecured wireless networks named "linksys" and "dlink."
That's because most people just plug the things in, make sure they can get a signal, and never bother to use the encryption features.
With so many open networks, piggybacking in an urban environment it a pretty easy thing, especially in apartment buildings where there are lots of tightly clustered living spaces. Other than marginally slowing the host's broadband connection with added traffic, I figured it was mostly a harmless thing.
But then I read a piece by Glenn Fleischman at
He references a recent New York Times story about piggybacking that's a pretty comprehensive look at the subject.
But here is what Fleischman said that really got my attention:
Worse, however, is that a local network is usually given less scrutiny by firewalls and thus a user who piggybacks onto your network and whose machine is infected with viruses and worms could unintentionally compromise your systems. That’s a bigger risk, in my view. Now I feel even better about having a security-enabled wireless network. I might even mention it to my neighbor.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Mission Accomplished

The morons from the Westboro Baptist Church were a no-show today at the funeral of Sgt. Rickey Jones in Kokomo, Ind.
But the Patriot Guard Riders were there and they did a splendid job of showing the Jones family their son's service to his country mattered and was valued.
The funeral came four days after Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a bill making disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral a felony in Indiana. Mitch said he's reasonably sure the law will stand up to judicial challenge.
A dense fog lay upon the land around central Indiana this morning and visibility was less than 500 feet from the vantage point of the church where the funeral was conducted, so Fred Phelps and his gang of malignant imbeciles wouldn't have been visible even if they had shown up. It would seem that God Himself wanted the Jones family protected from their hideous insults.
This morning's Indianapolis Star story quotes Shirley Phelps-Roper, a Westboro spokeswoman, who said protesters stayed home mainly because of the law.
"We're not going to go some place where your government is busy setting a trap for us," she said. "We're not stupid."
Sure. If believing God is kills soldiers because the U.S. tolerates gays isn't stupid, I don't know what the hell is.
Stupid, Shirley. Stoooooooooooooopid.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hey, it's Bike Week in Daytona Beach

The calendar on my Treo smartphone reminded me Sunday morning that this is Daytona Beach Bike Week.
Since I was gazing out my window at snowflakes the size of cornflakes, it's obvious that I didn't go this year. Again.
I went for a couple of years - 1993 and 1994, I think it was. And, of course, I rode all the way both times.
(That's kind of a standing joke for touring BMW riders. After awhile, we get used to people looking at our license plates and asking, "Did you ride all the way from (insert home state here - in my case, Indiana)?"
Yes, of course we did.
I take pride in the fact that I've never trailered my bike anywhere.
We BMW folks like to call it Trailer Week instead of Bike Week because most of the bikes (i.e., Harley-Davidsons) arrive on trailers or in the back of pickup trucks.
The first year I rode to Bike Week, I lacked a proper cold weather riding suit so I went to a farm supply store and bought a $100 set of Carhart coveralls - the big tan thing you see farmers wearing in winter. I bought an XXXL size so it would fit over my leathers and other gear. There was 6 inches of snow on the ground and the temperature was in the 20s the day I left for Daytona and I looked like an overstuffed couch perched on my '91 K100RS. But I was reasonably warm. Of course, I could only turn my head about 60 degrees and couldn't see my boots. I'd left in the afternoon after work and made it to Elizabethtown, Ky., before darkness and spitting snow persuaded me to bag it at a Third World motel.
I was able to shed the suit somewhere south of Chattanooga, Tenn., the next day and never wore it again. Instead, I bought a proper Motoport cold-weather riding suit from a vendor at the Daytona International Speedway complex.
In those days, the BMW enclave was at Bulow Campground - a former KOA operation north of Daytona and a few miles inland from Flagler Beach. The Space Coast BMW Riders ran the operation and we had about a third of the sprawling campground that used to be some kind of plantation.
The rest of the camping area was given over to other brands and, since Daytona is mostly a H-D affair, that meant Harley folks. I discovered that some of them regarded us with a kind of uncomprehending awe since it was generally understood that we routinely ride great distances with little or no regard for weather. It's a consequence of choosing riding gear for its functionality rather than because we want to look like cowboys or Indians.
I was walking to the showers early one morning, plodding along past a sea of H-D rider tents and watching the sun rise over the palm trees when someone back in the BMW compound popped a cassette of Wagnerian opera into the stereo system on his bike. How nice, I thought, humming along.
Then I noticed the biker lifestyle types emerging from their tents and staring with bewildered looks in the direction of the music, heads tilted in puzzlement like dogs. One of them mumbled something about "church music."
It was as if they had just discovered their neighbors were from another planet.
That first trip to Daytona Bike Week was entertaining. Some of my Indianapolis BMW Club friends showed me around. We went to the Jap Bike Bash at Gilley's in New Smyrna Beach where they beat a Japanese motorcycle to death. We went to the Cabbage Patch and watched Reubenesque biker chicks wrestling in coleslaw. We rode up and down the beach and cruised the freakshow that is Main Street.
I rode back down the next year, but it was a bore. After the second day, I was sick of the mass stupidity and the noise. The only thing I liked about it was being able to ride in warm sunshine in early March. And when I rode home that second year, I knew I wouldn't do another Bike Week for a long long time.
When I mentioned Bike Week yesterday, Maria asked if I wanted to go. I didn't have to give it much thought.
The only reason I'd care to go back would be as a photographer rather than as a motorcycling participant.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Blogging from the library

Did I ever mention how much I love Wi-Fi?
I'm at the local public library where I fled this morning to thrash out a magazine piece that is a bit overdue.
I find it very difficult to work at home because Pete the pup requires semi-constant supervision and I can only focus on projects during the brief periods when he consents to nap in his kennel.
Maria kindly agreed to keep an eye on Pete while I adjourned to the library's reading room to sort out my notes and lash the final piece together. Now that I've done as much as I can here at the library, I'm taking a moment to catch up on my blogging.
Maria continues to improve after her surgery Monday, but is still on the heavy-duty painkillers. She recognizes there is a lot of very serious pain just waiting to grab her if she slacks off on the drugs too soon.
She got flowers this week from my son Sean and his wife Ruth, from a young woman whose case she championed in the paper last week and from her coworkers at the paper. Her spirits were also buoyed by a call from son Steve the other night who let us listen to our granddaughter Lisa count to 10 and beyond with remarkable clarity. Lisa, who will be 2 on Memorial Day weekend, started going to preschool shortly after Christmas. She sounds like she's doing splendidly and I'm feeling guilty for not paying a visit to her and her parents since the holidays.
Things are shaping up for a very large turnout Monday for the funeral of Sgt. Rickey Jones, a 101st Airborne trooper killed in Iraq. The loonies from Westboro Baptist Church have promised to bring their obnoxious sideshow to Kokomo for the occasion and they will be counterbalanced by at least 100 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, myself included. The posts to the PGR website - - indicate there will be members there from throughout the Midwest, despite what promises to be really crappy late winter weather.
Maria's mother has agreed to come over and fill in for me as nurse and cook while I'm off doing my patriotic duty.