Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Good-day, Paul

Poor Paul Harvey.
He should have swapped his microphone for a rocking chair a couple of decades ago.
I listened to him at noon today on Cincinnati's WLW, which is carried on XM Satellite Radio at Channel 173.
His online biography is a bit vague about his age, but concedes he got his first broadcasting job in 1933 while still in high school. That makes him around 90.
And he sounds like it.
His formerly peppy speech cadence has a creepy geriatric wobble and his perspective is so dated that I was embarrassed for him.
He lays out his opinions in a shorthand way that presumes all of his listeners have the same values and world view that he has. Which they don't because most of the people who shared his experiences and world view are dead.
Think of it - he started broadcasting the year Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his first term as president. Adolf Hitler became Reichschancellor of Germany in 1933 and the U.S. Navy's zeppelin the USS Akron crashed in a thunderstorm that year. And construction began on the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco harbor.
Most of rural America was without electricity and prohibition wouldn't be repealed until Dec. 5 of that year.
He has become, sadly, irrelevant and mildly annoying.
And I used to enjoy listening to him. Before he lost it.

Adios, Gary

This is Maria's cousin Gary.
His mother and Maria's mother are sisters.
Gary is dead.
Gary died sometime Monday at the family business and his sisters discovered his body when they arrived for work on Tuesday.
Gary used to weigh about 300 pounds, but one day he decided enough was enough and he stopped eating and started exercising.
His family says it became his habit to run 15 miles a day, every day.
A couple of weeks ago, he fell at a convenience store and got a concussion when his head hit the concrete.
But Gary hates hospitals and he declined the offer of paramedics to take him to one for treatment.
After the fall, his family said, he had periods of dizziness and cut his running back to about 6 miles a day.
Maybe he should have gone to the hospital.
The family requested an autopsy to pinpoint the cause of death, but I haven't heard what - if anything - came of it.
Visitation is tomorrow afternoon and the funeral is at 1 p.m. Friday.
Gary hated to be photographed and it turns out that this photo I shot at a family reunion a couple of years ago is the best picture anyone has of him, so it's going to be prominently displayed at the visitation and funeral.
I met him a couple of times at family functions, but I don't know that I ever had a conversation with him.


The autopsy showed Gary died of a massive heart attack. He was only 49.

To-ing and fro-ing

Maria bought some much-needed summer clothes Monday evening at the L.S. Ayres & Co. store in Tippecanoe Square Mall in Lafayette, Ind.
It was an unprecedented shopping experience – she usually spends hours in fruitless shopping only to walk away empty-handed and angry that she can’t find what she wants in her size.
But she hit the jackpot Monday evening and bought a bunch of stuff, getting a 15% discount for putting it onto her store charge account.
She decided to wear her new black jacket over one of last year’s summer dresses this morning and organized her makeup for the color combination.
But while ironing the jacket, she discovered the clerk had forgotten to remove the big clunky plastic anti-shoplifter device.
I’d had some success with one of those things about a year ago, using a super-strong magnet originally designed to be mounted on the underside of a motorcycle to trigger traffic signals. The anti-theft devices fasten using a magnetic lock and I got one to release that had been left on a dress that had languished in Maria’s closet for years.
I wasn’t so lucky with the black jacket this morning, so Maria went back upstairs and ironed a green jacket-dress combination.
But when she came down to the kitchen, we discovered another of those damned things attached to the back of the dress.
Needless to say, she was pissed. And late for work.
So I threw the offending garments into an L.S. Ayres bag, grabbed the receipt and headed for Lafayette.
Clerk Erin Parks was working at the service desk and after hearing my tale of woe – wife tried on two outfits and both were unwearable, making her late for work and blowing a hole in my day to drive to Lafayette to deal with the problem – removed the tags and deducted another 15% (about $25) from our charge bill.
I thanked Erin and made a mental note to remind Maria to always check for tags before she leaves the store.
Interestingly, these tags are supposed to trigger an alarm if they’re taken out of the store. But these two tags left the store and returned without setting off any alarms.
So their function seems to be to render the attached garment unwearable, rather than un-stealable.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Happy Birthday, Lisa!!!!!

Today is my granddaughter Lisa's second birthday. She is whip-smart, drop-dead gorgeous and charming beyond belief. Just like her parents.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Son and granddaughter

We drove down to Cincinnati today to see my son Steve, his wife Nicky and, of course, our granddaughter Lisa, who will be 2 on Tuesday.
Like any proud grandfather with a Nikon D200 and a 2gig CompactFlash card, I felt compelled to shoot more than 400 photos of the occasion.
Here's one of my favorites.

Friday, May 26, 2006

You can't make this stuff up

Well, some of it, maybe, but it's still insanely funny.
This morning I discovered Overheard In Chicago, a blog of conversational snippets submitted by people in Chicago.
Here's an example:
Catholic guy: "Aren't you going to eat some pizza?"

Jewish Guy: "No, it's Passover, we can only eat certain foods, but not pizza."

CG: "You're Jewish?"

JG: "Yes, and I've told you this like a thousand times before."

CG: "Aren't Jews the ones that dress up like Ninjas and pray?"

JG: "No, I think you're thinking of Muslims, but they're not really Ninjas..."

CG: (interupting) "Aren't all Jews Muslims?"

JG: " couldn't be more wrong."

CG: "But tell me this. Jews and Muslims: they're all still Christians, right?"

JG: "I don't even know how to answer that."

- South Side

-- Submitted by Mike Routier

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Internet Explorer v7

I installed the beta version of IE7 on our laptop a couple of weeks ago and made the switch on my desktop yesterday.
My copy of Microsoft Outlook, which I use for e-mail, had been running slowly and misbehaving, but it seems to be faster and smoother since the IE7 install.
I realize a lot of folks prefer Netscape or Firefox or some other browser, but I still haven't found a compelling reason to abandon the Microsoft product and the new version of IE suits me. So far.


I just polished off a senior scrambled eggs with cheddar breakfast at Denny's, where Michelle the waitress is fascinated by my Treo 600/folding keyboard setup.
Ordinarily, I wouldn't think of going out for breakfast, but it's a sunny 71 degrees and we're out of milk and the K75S was calling me from the garage.
Holy shit! There's a latino 2-year-old having a screaming fit at the table across the aisle from me and her parents apparently can't figure out how to shut her up. Her dad just gave her a dollar bill to play with and stick in her mouth, apparently unaware that money is about the germiest, disease laden thing we encounter in our daily lives. Better he should let her lick the carpet.
Fortunately, they were at the end of their meal and have now gathered up their stuff and left.
I somehow imagined that crappy parenting was the province of us Anglos, but it apparently transcends cultural boundaries. I guess that's why they call it the "terrible twos."
Speaking of which, my granddaughter Lisa enters that interesting (in the Chinese sense of the word) age bracket on Tuesday. I expect her parents will handle it with grace and style, just as they've met all of the other challenges of parenting so far.
Well, time to fold up my keyboard and go for a ride before the clouds creep in and boil up the predicted showers.

Sent from my Treo

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Larry shoulda knew

I guess I've been under a rock or guilty of some other form of not paying attention because it wasn't until this morning when I browsed my latest copy of the BMW RA's On The Level that I discovered Larry Grodsky, the motorcycle safety columnist at Rider, was killed last month.
He was riding at night in deer country in Texas and, guess what... he hit a deer.
OTL and others seem to be saying that it was one of those rare unavoidable accidents. I have to disagree. The risk factor goes up exponentially at night when your vision is more limited and drunks, deer and other nocturnal hazards are more abundant. Even with high beam and MotoLites, I pretty much never ride at night anymore.
In case you were under that rock with me, here's his obit in the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Double Treat

The shop loaner bike and the Hindu DQ.

Waiting, waiting...

It's 3:25 p.m. in my time zone and 2:25 here in Savoy, Ill., where I'm waiting for the mechanics at Twin Cities BMW Motorcycles to finish with my bike.
The manager offered me the use of the R1150RT loaner bike to go out for a mid-aftenoon snack. He suggested Dairy Queen and the longer I sat here, the stronger the desire for something from DQ b ecame.
I finally caved in and rode over for a medium banana cream pie blizzard.
The DQ is staffed by Indians - Hindus with bright red dots on their foreheads and lilting accents that sound remarkably Irish - a similarilty I noticed a few years ago listening to an Indian woman doing the news on NPR.
After I retired to a booth to eat my blizzard, I heard them jabbering happily in Hindi.
There was an old gray-haired woman (hey, I have gray hair too, but I refuse to be old) in her 70s or older who had finished eating and was sitting about four tables away staring at me.
I suppose I was slightly more interesting to look at than the furniture since I was wearing a red-and-black BMW Savanna jacket with my bug-covered Schuberth Concept helmet on the table along with my blizzard.
At any rate, it was an odd little interlude in what has turned out to be a rather long day of idleness.
I had lunch around 11:45 a.m. local time at a Subway down the road.
The manager of the BMW shop had mentioned there was a good bookstore nearby, so I dropped in to poke around for something worth reading. I finally settled on a paperback copy of Hunter S. Thompson's "Kingdom of Fear."
Thompson was pretty much my political polar opposite, but he was so entertaining as to make it easy to overlook his politics.
Damn! The service manager just announced my bike is done and, pending a successful test ride by the mechanic, will be ready to take me home.
I just hope I can afford gas after paying the service bill.
The tab was $821.13. I'd been bracing for something in the $1,100 range, so this was considerably less painful. Still a lot for routine service, though.
The dealer told me the new K-bike has no scheduled maintenance - just oil changes at 6,000-mile intervals at which time they plug the bike into a diagnostic computer and determine what, if anything, needs attention.

Sent from my Treo

Almost mine

The K1200GT that got away.

Bleeding money at the BMW shop

I'm sitting in the open-air break room at Twin City BMW Motorcycles in Savoy, a southern suburb of Champaign, IL while my K1200GT undergoes a 24,000-mile service and gets a new front tire.
My friend Harold Patterson, who also has a GT, warned me that this won't be cheap - probably around $700 before the tire.
I checked the dealer's website yesterday and noticed he has a new GT in stock and came over here with the thought of maybe trading my bike in on it. The new GT has a completely reworked engine and suspension and is a vast improvement over its older namesake. About the only things the bikes have in common are the BMW roundel and the GT name.
Unfortunately, the dark blue GT in his showroom has a "sold"tag hanging on it and at least one other guy in line to buy it if the first buyer backs out.
I got on the road about 7:45 a.m. to make my 10 a.m. appointment about 100 miles away. The temperature was in the 40s when I left home and I could see my breath as I walked to the garage. I made good use of my Gerbing heated jacket liner as well as the heated seat and heated grips and got to the south side of Champaign about 9:20 - just in time for a McDonald's breakfast beforte riding the remaining couple of miles to the dealership.
It occurred to me that, other than visiting BMW of Daytona a year ago, this is the first time I've been in a BMW motorcycle shop since Revard BMW Motorcycles went out of business in Indianapolis.
I'd heard a lot about this dealer from Harold, who bought his GT here, but wasn't prepared for just how small it is. The showroom has about 20% the floorspace that Revard's had and the inventory is pretty sparse.
The guys seem friendly enough and they've offered me the use of a bike to ride to lunch when the time comes - maybe in an hour or so.
So far the only mechanical surprise was the revelation that I have an engine/transmission seal that is seeping. The service writer assured me it would hold through the '06 riding season. He said the repair involves about $20 worth of seals an about 10 hours of labor (at $70/hour).
"It's a winter job," he opined.
OK. I'll be happy to wait. Maybe by then, we'll have a dealer in Indianapolis.
My friend Skip, who I helped to re-enter motorcycling last spring after an absence of more than 30 years, had originally planned to make this trip with me. He called on Sunday to say he and his wife were planning to fly to the Grand Canyon on Thursday morning and his schedule was getting too crowded to permit a day ride to Savoy. So it goes. I'd been looking forward to having company, but I understand.

Sent from my Treo

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Zooing with Lisa

Steve and Lisa watch dolphins frolic underwater.

Friday was a day when all of the tension of a chaotic week got dissolved.
We were reunited with the prodigal Pete after his 36-hour walkabout and I finally got to see my lovely granddaughter Lisa in an excursion to the Indianapolis Zoo.
It was my son Steve's first visit to the big modern zoo that replaced the cheesy Washington Park zoo of his youth and it was a new experience for his wife Nicky as well.
We hit most of the attractions, including the spectacular dolphin facilities, but agreed the performance was the lamest dolphin show we'd ever seen.
Lisa seemed to enjoy the outing. She got to see what an elephant's skin feels like and especially enjoyed watching the penguins diving and swimming underwater.

Pointing at the penguins.

Gazing at the giraffes.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Return of Pete

I spent pretty much all day yesterday putting up posters and driving around town.
Except for an hour or so when I had to drive 20 miles to bail out Maria who locked her keys in the Subuaru at the new Super Wal-Mart.
Yesterday evening, Morgan came home with a kid who lives up the street who reported seeing Pete on the loose twice - once during the storm when he was streaking down the street in terror, illuminated by the lightning flashes as he flew over a fence, and again about noon yesterday when he ran flat-out into the side of the barn where they kid and his dad have a shirttail trucking business.
"He hit so hard, we thought he broke the particle board," the kid said. "At first, we thought a car had hit the building."
He said they thought they might have to take him to the vet, but he gathered himself up and tore off again.
That last sighting was less than a block from our back yard, but Pete was apparently too freaked out to navigate on home.
I slept on an airmattress on the dining room floor again last night, wanting to be able to respond if he banged on the back door.
I woke up a little after 4 a.m. and walked out onto the rear deck to call into the darkness for him, but there was no response.
Then I heard a faint yarking. It was the same sound Pete makes in the mornings when he wakes up in his kennel and wants to go outside.
I walked down the driveway a ways and determined it was coming from some distant point to the west.
I woke Maria and we dressed and headed out to follow the sound.
Walking through the darkened town, we tracked the sound - losing it occasionally when the dog fell silent or when it was obscured by the pre-dawn chirping of the birds roosting along the tree-lined streets.
Finally, some eight blocks away on the far west side of town, we found the source - a small dog chained to a mobile home. It was a huge disappointment and Maria, in particular, was bummed out. I promised her that we'd find Pete today, even though I had no idea how.
We walked home and went back to sleep - Maria upstairs in bed and me on a downstairs couch.
Morgan came down about 7:30 a.m., carried some trash to the curb for Friday morning pickup and then continued out for an early morning foot search.
At 7:46 a.m., we got a call from Andrea Smith, who works for our vet. She said she was driving to work just north of town when she recognized Pete in the road. She drives a big Ford SUV and, but the time she got turned around, he was gone. So she drove on to work and called us.
We grabbed a leash and bag of dog treats and flew out of the driveway, heading north. We spotted Morgan about a mile from home and picked her up, continuing toward the place where Andrea reported sighting Pete.
Cresting a hill, we saw him about a quarter-mile ahead standing in profile in the middle of the road. It was unmistakably Pete.
Not wanting to spook him, Maria and Morgan got out of the car with leash and treats and walked toward him, calling his name.
He regarded them warily and, when they got about 100 yards from him, he turned and started trotting away.
A driver who had pulled up behind me figured out what was going on and held back.
I pulled even with Maria and told her I was going to try to drive past Pete to box him in.
But as I approached in the Subaru with windows down, I started calling to him.
I don't know if it was the car or my voice or the scent of home, but Pete stopped in his tracks and then began running excitedly around the car.
I got out and scooped him up in my arms as Morgan and Maria ran to join the group doggy hug. All the while, Pete was licking my face and making little puppy noises of excitement. It was one of those moments where your heart melts in joy and gratitude and you feel like the weight of the world has suddenly been lifted from your shoulders.
We drove to the vet's office where we took Pete in and tried to get Andrea to accept a check for the $100 reward, but she graciously declined.
Pete was deliriously happy to get home and gorged himself on food and water while Ruthie looked on in disdain.
He's dozing under the kitchen computer table now, obviously worn out from his day and two nights of scary adventures.
He's got a slight limp and the pads on his feet are worn, but otherwise he seems OK.
Thanks to everyone for your kind supportive thoughts and prayers. It's great to have the prodigal son back home!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pete is missing

Pete is gone.
Maria and I had to be at her paper's high school sports recognition banquet last night, leaving her daughter Morgan home with the dogs.
A thunderstorm with heavy rain swept through about 8 p.m., but Morgan was too busy with her compulsive reorganization of our attic to go downstairs and let the dogs in.
When we arrived home about 10 o'clock, Ruthie was there to greet us but Pete was not.
Our conclusion was that Pete got freaked out by the storm and bolted into the night in terror.
When Ruthie was a pup, she did the same thing and was found later cowering on the steps of a church a couple of blocks away. Seems like Morgan should have remembered that...
Anyway, we mounted a fruitless late-night search of the southeast quadrant of our small town. Maria spoke to the cops, one of whom had been to our house on a routine call about a month ago and consequently knew what Pete looked like.
We left the front and back porch lights burning and I slept on an air mattress near the back door so as to be able to hear if Pete returned and banged on the door in his usual manner.
I woke up at 3 a.m., stepped onto the back deck and called for Pete, but he wasn't there.
Ditto, when I got up at 7:30 a.m.
I just finished printing about 60 of these posters - inkjet color for indoor posting and laserjet black and white for outdoors where rain would bleed inkjet colors. I gave Morgan a handful of the color posters to put up in downtown businesses, but she just called from her waitress job to say she'll be too busy to put them up. So I'll do it.
I'm hoping that once he's done with his big adventure that he'll show up at the back door today, wagging his 4" stump of a tail. And I'm doing my best to suppress the idea that he's dead or hopelessly lost and we'll never see him again.
It's astonishing how attached you can get to a dog in just six months. He really is a member of the family - one who depended on his humans to keep him safe and protect him from harm. We failed him and I feel like I just got punched in the stomach.
So far, I've not lashed out at Morgan because I know she feels badly too. But part of me really wants to scream at her for being a negligent, self-absorbed moron who has quite likely caused us to lose Pete. I pray that he comes back because that will make it possible for me to forgive her. If he doesn't, this will fester for a long long time. If I am able to forgive, I damn sure will never forget and will never trust her with anything important again.
If any of you are inclined to prayer, I'd appreciate anything you can do.
Now, I'm off to plaster the town with these posters.

Friday, May 12, 2006

#1 Son (With apologies to Charlie Chan)

I guess I've been remiss in not saying much about my oldest son, Sean, who is a music producer and recording engineer in Portland, Ore.
I got around to checking out his site on My Space this week and came away very impressed.
He has a couple of tracks available for your listening pleasure on the site and the one by Kaitlyn ni Donovan blows me away. The acoustic ambiance is right up there with Daniel Lanois' studio work, maybe better...
He also has a list of artists he's recorded or mixed. I showed it to my college junior stepdaughter and her eyes got very big and she then showed me a magazine with one of the groups - the Yeah Yeah Yeahs - on the cover.
Here's the list:
Music Producer and Engineer Sean Flora has recorded and/or mixed:
(partial list)

Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) and Janet Weiss (Quasi, S-K)
Ken Stringfellow (Posies, REM)
Franz Ferdinand
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
She Wants Revenge
Richmond Fontaine
James Mercer (Shins)
The Minders
Paper Cameras
Richard Butler (Psych. Furs)
Katlyn ni Donovan
Little Sue
Teeming Masses
3 Leg Torso
James Angell
Cheralee Dillon
Daniel Riddle+King Black Acid
The Altarboys
Storm Large
Roy Tinsel
Pepe & the Bottle Blondes
Vagabond Opera
Stephanie Smith (Kleveland, all the dead horses)
Hungry Mob
The Joggers
8 Foot Tender
Crack City Rockers
Morgan Grace
Sam Henry (Wipers, Napalm Beach)
Chris Newman (Napalm Beach)
The Prids
Michael Vlatkovich
The Kingdom
The UpsideDown
March Fourth

I noticed that he put his own group, the Crack City Rockers, well down the list.
(And by the way, I'm inordinately proud of this portrait shot of Sean.)

Absolute Beginners

One of my favorite bloggers is a young Canadian woman who writes Totcetera. She recently wrote about her love for the 1974 movie Phantom of the Paradise. Never having seen the film, I put it on my Netflix list and it showed up in my mailbox yesterday.
I watched it last night and could immediately see why it has developed a cult following. It's a quirky. cleverly made movie that can get into your consciousness and refuse to go away. It was made about the same time as Tommy and, at times, has a similar look and feel to it.
I suspect that if I had seen it at the right time in my life, I would have the same affection for it that Tot does.
My favorite movie musical, however, remains Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners. It's been called the first music video movie and a lot of it looks like a music video, particularly the ones Temple did for David Bowie (who, incidentally, has a significant role in the film). It's typical Temple in that the colors are vivid and the lighting and camera angles are inspired.
The soundtrack CD - the British import, not the abbreviated U.S. release - is the most listenable movie soundtrack album I've ever owned. It's got Bowie, Sade, Ray Davies, Gil Evans - a great range of pop and jazz.
I practically wore out my VHS version and now have it on DVD with Dolby 5.1 sound for my home theatre sound system.
I won't trouble you with a plot synopsis other than to say it's set in 1958 London when the youth culture emerged from the drab post World War II years.
Ok, Tot. I watched your movie. If you haven't already seen it, check out Absolute Beginners and tell me what you think.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Am I a lucky grandpa, or what?

My son Steve and granddaughter Lisa at the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati, checking out a butterfly exhibit.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Picture Share!

My favorite ride to one of my favorite stores.

Happy Birthday, Blog!

My blog is 2 years old today, which makes it just slightly older than my granddaughter Lisa whose birthday is May 30.
I'm in Lafayette, Ind., again this morning on some errands and to keep the battery up on my K1200GT. I needed chlorine for the hot tub and some printable CDs and blank DVDs and they provided the perfect excuse for a ride.
There's rain coming up from the southwest, but I'm keeping track of it with some new Treo software and should be home before it arrives.
Maria and I did about 40 minutes in the hot tub this morning. It's nice to greet the day with a cup of coffee while soaking in 101-degree bubbling water while the dogs chase each other around the backyard and occsasionally peer over the side of the tub to say hello.
I probably ought to change the water - it's been 6 months at least and, while I keep it pH balanced and sanitary with chlorine - it think the water gets "tired" after so much chemical treatment. Sounds kinda unscientific, but fresh water somehow feels different, better.
Ruthie is going in for a long-overdue haircut and nail trimming Friday morning. I think she's put on some weight since Pete arrived in December because she's taken a liking to his fatty puppy chow. That, plus her winter coat of fur makes her look like a little yellow sheep. She usually looks positively skinny after a good buzz cut, so we're curious to see if she looks a little fatter after pigging out on Pete's food.
Pete, on the other hand, helps himself to her geriatric dog food, but also gets his fill of his own stuff.
I'm blogging this from a Barnes & Noble while drinking a vente moca. The sound system is playing Bruce Springsteen and I am reminded that his nickname is "the Boss." Well, he's not my boss. I never could get excited about Springsteen. He is to New Jersey what Billy Joel is to Long Island, Bob Seeger is to Detroit and John Mellencamp is to Indiana. So it's no particular surprise that Mellencamp's music resonates more with me than the others. But then Michael Jackson is a native Hoosier too and, as far as I'm concerned, he's from another planet.

Sent from my Treo

Sports-testing the D200

One of the great features of our new Nikon D200 is its "continuous shooting" feature that lets you blaze away at up to 5 frames per second for several seconds at a time. The D100, in contrast, could only manage 3 fps and the buffer loaded up after about 5 shots.
The continuous shooting mode is particularly useful for action/sports photography, so I took it over to the Little League ballpark across the street from our house last evening for a test run.
The sky was overcast and it was late in the day, so there wasn't a lot of light. To compensate, I used my 80-200mm f/2.8 lens and cranked the ISO up to 1,000. That let me shoot at shutter speeds in the 1/2000 sec range which permitted a reasonable number of frames per second on continuous shooting.
I was leaning on the left field fence for stability, so I was about as far from home plate as you can get and still be on the perimeter. Consequently, my home plate shots had to be substantially cropped to isolate the action there.
But even with a high ISO and the attendant image noise, I got some pretty decent stuff. Here's my favorite, with the color saturation juiced up and some sharpening added in Photoshop.
Notice, you can even see the stitching on the ball.
Of course, you never know exactly what you're going to get when you depress the shutter button - it all happens way too quickly for you to see what the camera is capturing and it's always a surprise when you review the images on the monitor on the back.
About the only thing you need to know is to start shooting when you think the action is starting and stop when it ends, then see what you got. So all you can really control is your shooting position and the parameters of the exposure: f stop, shutter speed and ISO.
I'm eager to try again under better lighting conditions and from a better vantage point.
I was reminded anew last night that kids at this level of play are pretty awful when it comes to ball-handling. If I were coaching, I'd tell my kids to never swing at the ball because the odds are excellent that the pitcher can't put 3 out of seven pitches through the strike zone.
That's what happened last night. The Knights of Pythias team (blue shirts) must have scored five or six runs by getting baserunners advanced to home plate on walks. The play captured in this shot was one of the rare occasions when a batter got a hit. Even more surprising is that the fielder threw the ball anywhere near the catcher.
Most of the time, balls are thrown wildly and then fumbled on the other end.
A team with a good, accurate pitcher could dominate this league.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Back in the saddle again. For an afternoon, anyway.

A couple of hours on the trickle charger gave the K1200GT enough juice to get started, but it took a remarkably long time for the engine to catch. I put about 30 miles on it last evening and put it back on the charger overnight.
I got a call from my favorite camera store about 1:15 p.m. today telling me that the extra battery for my new Nikon D200 is in. The special grip that gives me a vertical shutter button takes two batteries. Naturally, the D200 uses a different battery type than the D100, so we can't mix and match.
Anyhow, I was pleased to find the bike fired up right away - no hesitation or grinding - and performed flawlessly over the 70-mile round-trip.
I remain mystified about the cause of the low battery and balky starting. It had sat idle for three weeks, which is hardly a long time by BMW battery standards. I plan to ride it as often as possible between now and when I ride it over to Savoy, Ill, on May 23 for its 24,000-mile service.
I called Twin City BMW today to tell them I'll need a new front tire too, so it oughta be a pretty hefty service bill.
My friend Skip has offered to ride along on his Japanese cruiser, which is probably much less expensive to maintain. He oughta be stunned when he sees my bill. I know I always am.
My friend Harold, who also has a GT, said he paid about $700 for a 24k service at the same dealership.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Happy VE Day

Yep. WWII ended in Europe 61 years ago today. I wasn't born yet, but I was working on it.
I'm blogging today from the White Castle on Sagamore Parkway in Lafayette, Ind.
They take plastic, but the Dog 'n Suds up the street doesn't.
I didn't think they did, but I let Maria and her daughter persuade me to the contrary yesterday and suffered the embarrassment of having no way to pay for the tray full of food when it showed up.
I hardly ever carry much cash and neither does Maria.
Apparently this happens enough at the DnS that they have a policy to deal with it: you leave your driver's license with them and get it back when you return with cash for your food.
So we surrendered Maria's license and ate our late lunch while I stewed in silence.
Then, when it came time to go find an ATM, I discovered that the Subaru's battery was flat. I'd turned on the ignition to put up my window when the waitress came with the tray to hang on it and neglected to turn it off again.
It shouldn't have been enough of a drain to wipe out the battery, but it did.
Fortunately, I've been paying my $4.50 monthly fee to the Shell Oil Co. for their USAC Motor Club service, so I whipped out my Treo and called for help. The wrecker showed up about 45 minutes later, gave me a jumpstart and we were back in business.
Then it was off to the Chase Bank ATM and back to the DnS to redeem Maria's driver's license.
We had planned to do grocery shopping after lunch, but chose to abort that mission and head for home in case the problem was with the charging system. Didn't want to end up with a dead car again in the Meijer parking lot.
As it turned out, the drive home was enough to recharge the battery and the car started easily for an evening run to Dairy Queen and again this morning for Maria's drive to work.
So when I got ready to ride my BMW K1200GT to Lafayette this afternoon to deposit a couple of checks, I don't suppose I should have been all that surprised when I found the bike's battery was down and not able to fire the engine. I put it on the trickle charger and rode Maria's K75S instead.
Everyday is an adventure in system failure and fuckup lately.
Our friend Tim is back in Indiana from Colorado to pick up a couple of dirt bikes and we had planned to join him and other BMW Club friends at a restaurant tonight.
But when the plans got changed to Sunday night, Maria's daughter didn't think it was important enough to convey the voicemail notification we got on Saturday.
So the only bright spot of the weekend was Saturday afternoon when I broke down and bought a new Nikon D200 digital SLR. It's a spectacular camera and I'm having a lot of fun climbing the learning curve and discovering all of the amazing stuff it does. I'll post some photos shot with it in the next day or so.

Sent from my Treo

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Picture Share!

Pete's wearing a Gentle Leader Headcollar that transforms him from a spaz to a cooperative dog while on the leash.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

Sheep shot

Well, a lamb, acutally. Photo by Maria.

Up on the roof

The washer lid is fixed and the chimney work is done.
There was no charge for the return trip to correct the washer lid mistake and the construction company charged me exactly the $1,800 in the contract. Amazing – no overruns or surprises.
Well, there was one surprise.
The guy in charge of the operation, same guy who did some roof work for us in March and gave us the estimate for the chimney work, said we got severe hail damage to the roof from a cluster of storms that blew through here in late April. He says we need a new roof ($4,500) and seems confident our homeowner’s insurance carrier will agree.
If he’s right, that means we get a new roof paying just our $500 deductible.
The insurance company says they’ll send an adjuster out to look at our roof sometime next week, so we shall see.
Like I said, it’s always something.
When I logged onto our online banking connection this morning, I was astounded to see that the check I’d written to the construction company at 4:30 p.m. yesterday had already cleared. I had no idea that was possible.
The foreman must have raced to a branch of Chase Bank – it’s at least 20 miles to the nearest branch – and made the deposit before the 5 p.m. closing.
And Maria’s daughter decided yesterday that she didn’t want to wait until tonight to come home, so we cleared out the Subaru Forester as soon as Maria got home from work and headed down to Bloomington. We managed to jam all of her stuff into the car without a cubic foot of space to spare and hauled it home, arriving about 10:30 p.m.
So our empty nest lifestyle goes on hold for about three months.
Dragging the trashcans out to the curb this morning, I noticed the lawn is overdue for mowing. And it looks like we’re running a dandelion farm. I’ll get on it as soon as the dew evaporates.
The child support agreement proposed by Maria’s ex and forwarded to us by her attorney has been sitting on the center island in the kitchen for a week. Maria finally pulled it out of the envelope yesterday, but has not signed it and we haven’t discussed it.
I glanced at it this morning and stopped reading when I felt my blood pressure creeping up. The item that made me put the paper down and walk away was the requirement that we make the $100/week support payments through the county clerk’s office, rather than directly to the ex.
Back when both kids lived with her, Maria tired repeatedly to get him to make his support payments through the clerk’s office because he was a slow pay, often letting it slide for two or three weeks before catching up. Now the sonofabitch has the audacity to imply, through this request, that Maria and I require court supervision to make timely support payments.
I also read, with some amusement, his request that he be allowed to count their son as a dependent on his income tax return, beginning with the 2005 tax year. As I mentioned before, I discovered last month that the tax laws on dependents changed this year and that neither child can be used as a dependent because the both earned more than half of their support in 2005. I confirmed this with H&R Block and Maria communicated it to the ex, but he refuses to recognize it.
Fine. Explain it to the IRS, moron.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Today is another home improvement day.
The roof repair crew is supposedly en route to my house from Indianapolis right now to fix a faulty chimney flashing job and to remove a redundant, non-functioning chimney.
At the same time, the appliance repairman who was here last Thursday to fix the dryer half of our stacked washer/dryer unit is coming back today to correct a mistake he made in reassembling the appliance. He didn't get the thing back together right and now the washer lid binds and will eventually wear away the enamel and lead to rust and ruin.
At the same time, Maria is lunching with a couple whose wedding we'll photograph later this summer. The bride is a coworker and she's getting a killer deal, but her parents are skeptical and want to know what they're getting. I'm staying out of it because I feel like we're getting ripped off to begin with and it really frosts me to have someone question the value of what they're getting under these circumstances.
Maria's daughter comes home from college for the summer tomorrow evening, which represents what we hope will be the final interruption of our empty nest status. The positive side of the equation is that she's increasingly mature and self-sufficient and she will be able to take care of the dogs and let us actually travel a bit.
I just noticed that we're coming up on the two-year anniversary of this blog on May 10. Maybe I'll reflect on that more later.


I've been feeling increasingly guilty about neglecting my Cincinnati son and his family lately.
We haven't seen them since Christmas and I know that my granddaughter Lisa is growing and developing at an amazing rate. She'll be 2 on May 30.
Steve called yesterday to ask about dirtbike training for a 16-year-old neighbor kid. I took him and his brother Sean through the Northern Illinois University trail riding course when they were in their teens. It was based at a campground near Hart, Mich. and consisted of about 5 days of intensive training in the art of riding sand and mud, threading a bike down a single-track trail where the trees are closer together than the handlebars are wide and surmounting logs and other obstacles, culuminating in a couple of days of riding a great trail system through the Manistee National Forest.
Sadly, the course is no longer offered. But the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, whose beginning RiderCourse I taught for 10 years, has created a dirt riding course and it's offered in Cincinnati.
So I e-mailed him the contact info on the dirt riding course and he sent me a couple of great photos of Lisa that he shot minutes after we got off the phone. Here's one of them.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Weak links

You don't have to be smart to work at a polling place on election day.
I've seen that truth borne out time and time again in my newspaper career.
And yesterday, was no exception.
My county used state-of-the-art touch-screen voting machines for the first time in the May 2 primary. It made voting a breeze and should have made the final tabulation even faster and easier than the previous computerized system.
The county clerk said she hoped to have all of the votes tallied within 90 minutes of the 6 p.m. closing of the polls.
But she apparently had forgotten about the weak links in the election process.
Despite having attended a training session that covered all aspects of operating the new equipment, poll workers in several precincts shut down their voting equipment improperly, not giving the computers time to write the results to a disc. As a consequence, it was impossible to upload the digital voting data to the master computer in the clerk's office at the courthouse. Fortunately, the machines generate a paper backup.
But that meant the numbers had to be manually read out and typed into the master computer.
I hung around the courthouse until 10:30 p.m. When I called about 11:30 p.m., I was told it would be at least another hour.
I'm reminded of the time when a neighboring county introduced computerized voting machines back in the early 1990s. The county clerk, who runs the election process, proudly boasted that she would have the votes tallied by 8 p.m.
But that was based on the assumption that the poll workers would be quick about packing up their equipment and getting the data modules to the courthouse as soon as possible.
The last precinct straggled in around 9 p.m.
Their excuse?
Their polling place was in a church and the ladies of the church insisted on feeding them dinner after the polls closed.
Nobody said democracy is perfect. It's just better than any of the alternatives.
When the results were finally posted this morning, our friend Ken Campbell had won a resounding victory in a three-way race for the Republican nomination for county sheriff. Ken was clearly the best qualified. He's one of the guys who ran the combat pistol course I took a year or so ago and is also an instructor at Jeff Cooper's Gunsite firearms training facility in Arizona. He got 60% of the vote with the other two guys receiving only about 20% each.
In this heavily Republican county, the GOP primary nomination is tantamount to election, since the Democrats seldom put up candidates for the November contest.
I've never had a political candidate's sign in my yard, largely because my previous life as a newspaper reporter required me to at least give the impression of impartiality, but I made an exception this time and stuck a big blue Ken Campbell for Sheriff sign out there.
I guess I need to check Ken's website to see if we need to turn in the sign or hang onto it in case there is a Democrat candidate in the fall election.

What about Bob?

Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour program debuted this morning on XM satellite radio.
I'd marked my calendar and made a point of being tuned to XM Channel 40 Deep Tracks to catch it at 10 a.m.
I'm not sure what I expected. I guess I hoped for something more intimate and self-revelatory. But that's my problem, not Dylan's.
He strung together an hour of music on the theme of "weather," starting off with Muddy Waters and running the musical gamut through the Staple Singers, Judy Garland, Dean Martin and my personal favorite weather-related song, Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind." He also threw in a lot of musical trivia and details, like how "Walking in the Rain" led to the release of the imprisoned black musicians who introduced it and reminding me that Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to "Summer Wind."
For awhile there, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't hearing Tom Petty's XM show, although Dylan sounded a bit more self-conscious than Petty.
All things considered, I thought it was a pretty good first effort. It was interesting to hear Dylan in this role and I hope he loosens up a bit.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pete Report

Pete's home from the vet and recuperating from his ordeal.
I picked him up a little after 3 p.m. and he insisted on lying across my lap for the drive home. Ever try to drive a 5-speed, 2-seat Honda del Sol with a six-month-old Aussie across your lap? Shifting was a bit of a challenge, but we managed.
And, yes, I was right about the cause of our phone problems.
The repairman found Pete's gnawing had damaged one of the phone wires going into the junction box outside the back door.
At least it made for an easy fix. He was only here about 10 minutes.
Pete spent a couple of hours lying next to me on the couch, dozing and whimpering occasionally while I watched TV.


Pete’s at the vet getting neutered and I’m sitting at home feeling very guilty.
Not because of the decision to neuter – the long-term benefits far outweigh the negative aspects – but because of the terror he must be experiencing.
He has a reasonable expectation that Maria and I will protect him from harm and this procedure, however beneficial, represents a betrayal of that trust.
He looked genuinely alarmed when I handed his leash to the vet’s assistant and left him with her in the examining room.
I keep thinking of the John Belushi quote from “Animal House:” “You fucked up. You trusted us.”