Friday, June 30, 2006

Scared of Santa!!!!!!

Christmas may be six months away, but it's never too early for The Scared of Santa Gallery.

Good news in the mail

Finally! Some good financial news in the mail. Because of an escrow adjustment, our house payment will be $33.69 a month lower for the year beginning in August.

A Picture Share!

A vente moca frappuccino at Starbucks.

Back to Plan A

My decision to forgo the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America national rally in Vermont in order to ride with my friend Skip and his buddy Bill got reversed today.
Turns out Bill is adamant about wanting to go to the Smokies, which is not all that bad. BUT, he envisions getting a bed & breakfast room southeast of Knoxville, Tenn., and doing day rides of no more than 150 miles a day.
As soon as Skip heard him say it, he knew I couldn't buy into a plan like that.
He was right. I feel guilty if I do less than 500 miles a day while touring and I'd find that routine absolutely stifling.
I was ready to compromise with a series of 300-350-mile days in a ride around Lake Michigan or a tour of the Southeast, but Bill's idea of a motorcycle vacation sounds a lot like sitting at home and flipping channels.
Rather than try to impose my tastes on them - after all, it is Bill's vacation and he's the only one of the three of us with a job - it makes more sense for me to beg off and re-set my sights on Vermont.
The MOA rally will be less expensive, since the rally fee includes camping and - weather permitting - I can camp en route to and from the rally.
Besides, the Northeast is the only region of the contiguous 48 states where I've never ridden a motorcycle.
If I take an extra day to cruise through New England, I'll return home with only New Jersey left to do in the lower 48.
I also suggested to Skip that he and I plan a Colorado trip later this year or sometime next year and, as I expected, he is up for it.
Interesting how he and I are both in our 60s, yet we have a greater appetite for motorcycle miles than the younger guy.

Sent from my Treo

Wedding Music

Blogger friend Totsie over at Malachi Crunch asked for suggestions for wedding reception music.
I can't get her comment feature to work, so I'm responding here.
Check out this site:

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I managed to stay relatively dry on the ride home.
I got lucky and shot the gap between two thunderstorms with lightning flashing on the horizons to the east and west of me.
It was an exhilarating feeling which I'm sure was lost on the car drivers with whom I shared the road. They probably barely noticed the weather that had my full attention.
Here and there, I'd encounter wet pavement where rain had fallen minutes earlier. My pants were wet with spray from the knees down, but otherwise I was dry.
I pulled into the garage just as the storm to the west arrived and began pelting me with fat raindrops.
I quickly discovered that the electricity was off, which explained why the local banki's time and temperature sign was dark when I rode into town.
That was about two hours ago and we're still without electricity.
The storm that hit as I arrived home was a noisy one and a couple of lightning bolts a short distance to the southeast sent Ruthie into a frenzy of barking and Pete into a state of profound terror.
Morgan, who had arrived home from her restaurant job a few minutes earlier, said Pete seemed to sense the approaching storm even before the first rumbles of thunder. He was holed up in his kennel, burrowed deep into the ratty gray blanket that represents safety to him.
Now, with the storm long gone, he's very subdued. His ears are back and his usual Aussie playfulness is gone.
I'm sure he's suffering with memories of the night some weeks ago when he and Ruthie were stuck on the back deck when a thunderstorm swept through and sent him fleeing in terror into the night - a blind run through strange territory that left him lost and wandering our little town for the next 36 hours until we found him and brought him home.
In the meantime, we're stuck without electricity. Morgan just phoned her grandmother on the north end of town to confirm that we're not the only folks without power.
It's getting on toward dinner time and, without the means to cook, we'll likely be forced to drive until we find a restaurant that isn't blacked out.
I suppose I should give Maria a call and see when she expects to get home, so we can make some plans.

Sent from my Treo

A Picture Share!

Dog treats on a motorcycle seat in front of PetSmart. A good excuse for a Wednesday afternoon ride.

I feel like I'm starting to get back up to speed in terms of comfort on my/our motorcycles.
It always takes a few hundred miles every spring to blow out the cobwebs and get back to the point where I'm riding relaxed, but alert.
I'm still a bit tense riding with a passenger. Maria and I rode up to Lafayette for dinner at a barbecue place and I had a heightened awarness of the way a passenger affects handling and performance and was hyper-alert everytime I came to a stop. I supposed that beats the hell out of overconfidence and falling down.
I rode Maria's K75S up to Lafayette this afternoon. The official excuse for the ride was to pick up dog treats at PetSmart for Ruthie and Pete, but we all know it was just to go for a ride.
I left raingear at home and, naturally, I ran into a rainshower at the south edge of Lafayette.
Fortunately, it wasn't a deluge and I rode through it in about 2 minutes without getting soaked. But it was a useful reminder that no summer ride in Indiana is guaranteed to be 100% dry.
I'm riding Maria's bike whenever possible because it doesn't get much use and because I want to save the tires on my K1200GT for long-haul trips.
I need to call Skip later today to arrange a planning session for our upcoming ride to the Smokies.
I also need to fire up the lawnmower and harvest the lawn.
I find the job goes a whole lot easier if I use my in-ear monitors (earplugs with speakers) and my Sony MiniDisc player. They pretty much eliminate the annoying noise from the mower and make it feel a bit less like work. Still, I remember longingly the days when I was an apartment - and later a condo - dweller with no yard work to do. That was always a big point of contention with my first wife. She seemed to have an unnatural fascination with yard work, particularly for me doing it, and I detested it.

Sent from my Treo

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The call of the road

I've been hearing the call of the road lately.
It's been several months since I went anywhere interesting on a motorcycle - not since late last summer when I did a week in the Colorado high country with friends from the Indianapolis BMW Club.
My longtime Newsie friend Skip called Saturday to invite me along on a trip he and a buddy are planning for the second week in July. They're heading for the Smokies and they're motorcycle touring rookies. Well, Skip did some touring on a small-displacement Honda back in the 1970s before he drifted away from motorcycling. His younger friend Bill has ridden ratbikes and dirtbikes and recently bought a Honda ST1100, which is sort of Honda's version of my BMW K1200GT. Skip's on a large-displacement Japanese cruiser - I think it's a Yamaha, but I'm not sure.
Anyhow, they are looking to me for some guidance and tips on touring and I'm pleased to offer them the benefit of my experience.
I just wish we were headed west instead of east. I'm not all that crazy about touring in the southeast because of the high polulation (i.e., traffic) density and the increased likelihood of rain. Plus, I like the scenery of the west better.
Anyhow, I'm due for a ride.
I'd also been considering the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America national rally the following week in Vermont. I'd love to do both, but finances and our photo business may force me to choose one or the other.
We shall see.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

$2.48.9/gallon for mid-grade (89 octane) gas!!!

An Admiral station about 2 blocks from Maria's newspaper office consistently has some of the lowest gas prices in the state.
And, they usually price the mid-grade gas the same as regular. When I rode past around midday, the rock-bottom price was $2.49.9 for regular and mid-grade.
When I returned this afternoon, they'd dropped the price another cent.
At the same time, the stations out by I-74 were selling regular for $2.73.9/gallon.
Naturally, I seized the moment and filled the tank of Maria's BMW K75S motorcycle.
I made two trips to town today, having to abort the first mission because an powerful storm system swept in from Illinois much faster than I had expected.
When we emerged from the courthouse where Maria had photographed a wedding ceremony, my plan was to go to lunch with her.
But an ominously black sky to the northwest made me reconsider and bolt for home.
As I rode out of town, the wind whipped up to 30 mph or more and the temperature suddenly plummeted 21 degrees from 88 to 67.
The road home is a twisty one, but I flogged the K75S unmercifully, urged on by vivid lightning strikes a mile or so to my left.
I managed to outrun the weather and reached our garage 13 minutes before the storm hit - just in time to offer reassurance to the dogs.
Pete, you may recall, went missing when left outside during a thunderstorm a few weeks ago and freaks out when heavy weather rolls through.
He spent the time during today's storm curled up in a ball at my feet under the kitchen table while I had lunch and used the laptop wifi connection to check the weather radar.

A double wedding

The groom uses his cell phone to remind one of the groomsmen of Saturday's wedding and the need to pick up a rental tux on Friday. The bride and her friends relax in rocking chairs in the circuit court jury room while they wait for the county clerk to perform the marriage ceremony.

We're shooting another wedding this weekend.
But we photographed the couple getting married today at noon.
The deal is that the officiant at Saturday's affair has no legal standing to marry anyone - he's just a friend.
So the couple showed up at the county clerk's office at 11:45 a.m. today to get their marriage license and to be married officially by the county clerk.
Maria got the call, about 15 minutes before they appeared at the clerk's office and hustled over with her camera gear to record the occasion.
We're going to the rehearsal at 4:14 p.m. tomorrow and the lavish faux wedding on Saturday.
Fortunately, the 90-degree heat is supposed to be gone by Saturday. Good thing, since the wedding venue isn't air conditioned.

Sent from my Treo

Netflix – WTF?

On the recommendation of Maria's parents, we signed up for Netflix a few months ago.
In case you haven't checked it out, Netflix is a mail-order movie rental outfit that charges a flat monthly rate. They send you a DVD with a postage-free return mailer. You keep the movie as long as you like, then mail it back and by return mail they send you the next DVD that you've chosen.
You go online and create a queue of desired DVDs and then work your way down the list. We chose the deal where we pay $15.89 a month for two movies at a time.
The only thing limiting the number of movies you can get in a month is the turnaround time in the mail.
And that's where I'm starting to think they're taking advantage of us.
It's only one mail-day from here to the nearest Netflix distribution center in Indianapolis, but it's taking a lot longer than it should for them to turn the movies around.
I got e-mail from Netflix on Monday that our next two movies should arrive in Tuesday's mail. They did not. They weren't in Wednesday's mail, either.
Since the mailers don't have postmarks, there's no way to know if they really got mailed when Netfilx said they did, but if you multiply an extra couple of days by the number of movies requested, it becomes obvious that we're not getting the number of DVDs that we expected to get each month.
We'll probably stick with them, though, because they have a considerably larger selection than Blockbuster, which is our only real alternative for DVD rentals.
Or, I could run a phone line to our DISH satellite TV receiver and check out their pay-per-view selections...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Grandma Maria sews for Lisa

Maria's grand-maternal feelings are strong and resonant and she's been dying to make something for granddaughter Lisa to wear.
The last time we were down to Cincinnati to visit Lisa and her parents - on the occasion of Lisa's second birthday - Maria took measurements.
She bought some patterns and some fabric and when Steve stopped by here Monday night en route home from his Uncle Bob's funeral in suburban Chicago, Maria gave him her first creation - a yellow and blue sundress - to take home to Lisa.
Always the dutiful son, Steve e-mailed this and three other photos of Lisa in the dress today with the report that it's a perfect fit, albeit a bit snug in the tummy because Lisa has been eating well lately.
Maria shrieked with delight when she opened her e-mail and saw the photos.
"She's so cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!!!!" was the appraisal.
So get ready for more dresses, Lisa. Now that Maria has the precise size information, your parents may not have to buy you any new clothes for the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Picture Share!

NOT a fishing vest.

Powers of observation

I stopped at a convenience store Friday evening for some Gatorade after Maria and I spent a sweaty couple of hours scoping out the un-airconditioned venue for Saturday's wedding.
I was wearing the fabulous, exotic and no-longer obtainable Willis & Geiger Skeleton Coast photographer's jacket with the zip-in sleeves removed.
The lumpy youth behind the counter rang up my purchase and inquired, "Goin' fishin'?"
Yeah, for morons.
And I just caught one.

Sent from my Treo

The Pros and Cons of Wedding Photography

We shot the bejeezus out of a wedding last Saturday.
The groom is a police officer and the bride works in a city office and they opted for our $750 package which includes two shooters (Maria and me) for eight hours and all of the images on CD-ROM. (Our $1,299 package includes two shooters for unlimited time, all images on a CD-ROM and a hard-cover bound album with the photos printed on enamel stock magazine-style paper. The album typically has about 50 pages and more than 200 photos.)
Like most weddings, it was a fun gig. The bride’s parents are divorced. Her dad has remarried and her mom was there was a date and there were some slightly awkward moments. There were also plenty of relatives who tried to commandeer our shot setups with their point-and-shoot cameras and all of the attendant chaos that you come to expect at a wedding.
But it was a straightforward business proposition in which we required one-third of the fee at the time of booking, the second third two weeks before the wedding and the final third on the day of the wedding.
Last year, when we were still not quite in business as wedding photographers, Maria offered our services free to a girl who had been her protégé at the newspaper and had since moved to a larger nearby paper. Our photography was to be Maria’s wedding present to her friend.
I groused and told her this was the last freebie because, while I enjoy photography, shooting a wedding is a full day of intense work and pressure. Plus the preparations, ceremony and reception took place in buildings without air conditioning on an insanely hot day.
A short time later, another young woman in her office announced her engagement and expressed a desire for us to shoot her wedding. Implicit in the request was the assumption that it would be a freebie.
No fucking way, said I, reasoning that we are now officially in the wedding photography business, have our rates set and don’t want people thinking they can work a special deal.
Nevertheless, Maria caved in and offered them a shoot for $500 - $250 up front and $250 the day of the wedding.
At the same time, this young woman has adopted an increasingly casual attitude about her job at the paper, taking time off for her second “job” as a cosmetics distributor and making a habit of taking three-day weekends by calling in sick on Fridays and Mondays.
She’s also blown off tasks that were requested by the publisher, created her own hours by misusing sick days and compensatory time off and proved to be increasingly unreliable.
It came to a head yesterday when she showed up late and left early, having accomplished little of value to the paper.
Oh, and I should mention that she comes to work in pajama pants, fuzzy bedroom slippers and a t-shirt.
The situation had become intolerable and it was made even more awkward by the fact of our photographer-client relationship with her.
So we decided to sever that relationship in order to clarify Maria’s employer-employee relationship with her. I wrote a $250 check refunding her deposit and Maria plans to snap things into focus for her when she comes in today.
For myself, I’m tremendously relieved. It’s a gig I never wanted, even at our going rates, because I think she’s an immature, manipulative user and her fiancé is an utter moron.
I like making money, but not that much.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mom's Ham Loaf

My mother was an okay cook, but there were a couple of things she made that were world class.
One was her pumpkin pie and the other was her ham loaf. Here's the recipe for Eileen's Ham Loaf:

2 pounds of cured ham and 1 pound of lean fresh pork ground together
½ C milk
1 C cracker crumbs
1 egg
1 can tomato soup
1 t lemon juice
Shape into a flattened half-football configuration, cover and baste with glaze

Glaze: 1 C brown sugar, ¼ C vinegar, 1 C water: boil together for 3 min before basting

Bake at 350° until the glaze is bubbling and the top starts to brown, or to your liking. There's a wide range of okay here.
It's spectacular served hot and pretty damned tasty cold from the fridge.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Adios, Bob

I got the official word on Thursday and the details from my ex yesterday about the death of my former brother-in-law, Bob.
And I searched my archives for a photo of him and came up with this from about 1972 when he would have been about 21. That's Bob sitting in the grass on the hill behind my ex-wife's parent's house with her parents at the end of the table. That's my ex, Diane, in the foreground, next yougest sister Janice and then middle sister Kathy, who is now Bob's widow.
We had a wedding to shoot yesterday and a lot of post-production stuff to do today, whick kept me from traveling to Chicago with son Steve to the visitation today and the funeral tomorrow.
As per Kathy's wishes, we made a donation in Bob's name to the American Diabetes Association.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Going fast

Thanks to Netflix, we received a rental copy of "The World's Fastest Indian" on the day it was released in DVD format.
That was Tuesday. We found time to watch it last night.
Several of my BMW-riding friends had seen it earlier this year when it was in theatrical release and raved about it, so I was eager to see what I'd missed.
For those who don't already know, it's the story of New Zealander Burt Munro and his obsession with tweaking an outrageous amount of speed and power out of a 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle that he bought new when he was 21. Munro perseveres in his shed in Invercargill, the southernmost city in the British Empire, to the point where he's ready to take it to the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1962 to assault the world speed record for bikes under 1,000cc piston displacement.
He gets there with the help of friends and strangers and manages to rack up the first of a series of speed records, the one set in 1967 still standing today.
At one point, he gets the bike - largely rebuilt with homemade pistons and other parts - up past 200 mph.
And he was in his early 60s when he did it.
One of the things I like about seeing films in DVD form rather than in a theater is that you get lots of supplemental materials, like the documentary made featuring the real Burt Munro back in 1973.
Among Burt's memorable observations is a statement that you live more in five minutes at speed on a motorcycle than some people live in an entire lifetime - or words to that effect.
I know a little about speed on a motorcycle, enough to be in awe of Burt Monro.
My personal best is 146 mph, according to the speedometer on my old '91 BMW K100RS. I did it on U.S. southwest of Tonopah, Nev. It was a stretch of road that ran laser-straight across a shallow bowl of a desert valley that gave me a good view of the road for miles. The landscape was devoid of any vegetation large enough to hide a deer or other large animal, the sky was clear and there was no traffic on the road.
So I gave the bike her head and watched the speedo needle swing to the right past 100, 110, 120, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145...
The mile markers were whipping past at a rate of one every 20-some seconds and my Shoei helmet was generating enough lift that it felt like the chinstrap was going to choke me. The wind was a river of noise flowing around me and the road beneath me was a gray asphalt blur.
Finally, after a few seconds above the 145 mph mark, I decided I'd had enough. The bike had more speed left, but that was enough for me.
Backing off the throttle, I watched the speedo drop to 120 and had the distinct impression that I was now going painfully slow. 100 mph felt like crawling, so I wicked it back up to 110 and rode the rest of the way to Tonopah.
My current ride, an '03 BMW K1200GT, not to be confused with the much-improved K1200S, which holds the world speed record for its class.
I opened it up a couple of years ago on U.S.,50 in Nevada, but only could manage 135 mph because I had a big waterproof duffle bag lashed crosswise on the luggage rack, acting like a giant airbrake. I'm still curious to see what the bike will do in a more aerodynamically clean configuration.
But that will have to wait until the next time I'm in Nevada.

Sent from my Treo

Not my problem

I'm vastly relieved to discover that my recent difficulties in uploading photos to my blog is due to a issue and not a problem with my beta version of the new Internet Exploder.
It appears I can still do uploads from my cell phone. The only way I seem to be able to add a picture from my PC is to go through the regular upload process, but now the HTML doesn't appear in my post composition box.
The image actually went to the server, but the HTML didn't get created.
So I go to an older, successful photo post, copy the HTML and paste it into the new blog entry, changing the image name to correspond with the picture I just uploaded.
Then, when I click "Preview," I usually see the desired image in place.
This is, of course, a major timewasting hassle and I sincerely hope gets it sorted out pronto.
Before I discovered this is a problem many other users are having and that is under review by the geeks, I learned that I have 300mb of server space for my images, but apparently no way to check my usage level and see how much space remains. is obviously a work in progress.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Godspeed, Hugh Rutledge

I received an e-mail this evening from former co-worker Art Harris telling me that former Newsie Hugh Rutledge died this morning.
Hugh was a first-rate city government reporter and a pretty good pool player. He had a pilot's license and was the only guy in the newsroom who could juggle.
He also had a great sense of humor.
He was one of the people who made The Indianapolis News a great place to practice journalism.

Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven's Door

My son Steve called today to update me on the condition of my former brother-in-law Bob. (See earlier post for details.)
Bob's wife Kathy says Bob's body is showing some improvement, although he is still considered brain-dead. Kathy has decided not to have him moved to an extended care facility and is considering having him removed from life support if and when the docs think his body has a chance of sustaining itself.
So it's a wait-and-see situation with undertones of Terri Schaivo and lots of misery for everyone.
About an hour later, I got a call from former Indianapolis News colleague Gerry LaFollette telling me that another old Newsie, Hugh Rutledge, is near death.
Hugh was a city government reporter who was already established when I joined The News staff in 1969. He always wore a bow tie and was the only guy in the newsroom who could juggle.
He and Art Harris used to square off against me and David Mannweiler for after-lunch games of Eight Ball at the old Indianapolis Press Club. Mannweiler and I defeated them for the club championship in 1976. Oooops. That's 30 years ago.
I remember Hugh being rather pleased with a story he'd beaten the competition to. I remarked, "That'll look good in your resume."
"What do I need a resume for?" he said with a smile. "I've already wasted my life at The News."
On another occasion, he and I were walking back to the office from a Press Club lunch along with WRTV newscaster Howard Caldwell. We were strolling around the northwest arc of Monument Circle and somehow the conversation turned to the price of men's shoes.
"I paid $70 for these shoes new," complained Caldwell.
"New?" Hugh exclaimed. "You buy used shoes?"
I often recall that conversation when I'm discussing the difference between broadcast journalists and print journalists when it comes to a mastery of the language.
Anyway, Hugh has advanced Parkinson's Disease and is being cared for by his daughter in her home, which has been turned into a hospice. Gerry said they've stopped feeding him and death is expected soon.

Me and the in-laws

The gang at Maria's family reunion last Sunday at the Amish brother's home in north central Indiana. The Amish bunch is pretty easy to spot. I'm in the back row to the left and Maria is in the bottom right.
It's one of the rare occasions when I found a use for the self-timer on a camera.

Why I can't be a Protestant

Ok, you're gonna have to be really bored to wade through this one.
As I wrote earlier, my ex and her family came from the Dutch Christian Reformed Church culture.
Although I was raised a Presbyterian, which by their standards is a variant on the same Calvinist theology, I never understood the Protestant preoccupation with fine points of belief that gave rise to the myriad denominations.
That's probably while I feel so comfortable with my conversion to Catholocism. And why I now regard all Protestants as looney adherents to nutball made-up religions.
So when I went online this morning to see if Google could find an obituary for my presumably late former brother-in-law Bob, I found a link to an item in The Banner, the Christian Reformed magazine, giving notice of his parents' wedding anniversary.
On an impulse, I clicked on "Editorials" and found this gem: a perfect example of the "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" mindset that characterizes those folks.
When we were first married, my ex and I had a subscription to The Banner, a wedding gift from her parents, and I used to marvel at this stuff with every issue.
Here, see what I mean:


God First
by Bob De Moor

I respect and value Baptists. I even dated a girl from Moody Bible Institute when I attended Trinity Christian College, near Chicago. We were supposed to stay a foot apart the whole time, but that lasted only three minutes.

Baptists make important contributions to the body of Christ. They inspire us with their evangelical zeal. Their adults faithfully participate in rigorous Sunday school training. We should learn from them.

But not in all things.

The Reformed expression of the Christian faith also makes important contributions. We emphasize the biblical teaching that when it comes to salvation, God acts first in grace and only then can and do we respond in faith.

Why bring this up? Because increasingly Christian Reformed church councils are tilting toward a Baptist approach to baptism—allowing parents to have their children dedicated, rather than baptized, so they can undergo “believers baptism” when they reach “the age of discretion.” These councils have laudable motives: to accommodate parents who don’t accept the biblical teaching that in the sacraments it is God, not we, who speaks first.

By all means, let’s be patient with parents who wrestle with infant baptism, and especially so if they are new to our church. Let’s teach them in all humility, gentleness, and love. Let’s not force them into it. But let’s not introduce pseudo-sacraments into our worship. The covenant rituals our Lord commanded us to celebrate together are baptism and his supper. He didn’t include dedications.

So why is this Baptist practice of dedications being considered? Maybe because by requiring a public profession of faith before allowing participation in communion, we’re already Baptist in our practice of the other covenant ritual.

Strange. In 1986 a carefully studied report to synod (our annual convention of CRC leaders) argued persuasively that Scripture nowhere requires a prior public profession of faith of children before they participate in communion. But for church-political reasons it stopped short of recommending that we drop that requirement. CRC congregations are still prohibited from returning to the biblical practice of the early church. How Reformed is that?!

One regional group of churches, Classis Holland, is asking Synod 2006 to mandate a study committee to take another hard look at allowing all covenant children to the Lord’s table. In view of the present erosion of our Reformed confessional view of the sacraments, it’s high time.

I don’t believe I sinned by dating a Baptist girl (except for breaching Moody’s rules by holding hands during a scary movie). And I’m unrepentant about my admiration for the Baptist tradition. But I believe it’s wrong for Reformed churches to water down what the Spirit allows us to contribute to the body: the precious biblical teaching of God’s awesome sovereignty—of a God who sweeps us up and enfolds us into his loving arms long before we know or can say that we love him back.

No spiritually dead people of any age can confess until Christ makes them alive first. Then they can spend a lifetime confessing his goodness.

Come on, synod. Let’s take another serious, communal look at whom Jesus would have us invite to his table. What’s another few grand in committee costs when it comes to a treasure so deeply rooted in our confessions?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Maria!

I took Maria to dinner tonight at her favorite restaurant for her birthday. The tiramisu is a religious experience.

Birthday Girl

The birthday girl at Buca di Beppo.

What About Bob?

My former brother-in-law is brain-dead and, by now, they probably have pulled the plug on life-support.
Bob was married to Kathy, the eldest of my ex's two younger sisters. And he was only 55.
My ex came from a Grand Rapids, Mich., Dutch family. Her dad was career Army and chose Lafayette, Ind., to raise his family in the late 1950s. He taught ROTC at Purdue University as his last active duty military assignment.
The Dutch/Christian Reformed Church bunch are a pretty tightly knit cultural group. The more hard core among them go to Calvin College in Grand Rapids and marry within the group. So it was with Kathy, who went to Calvin for a year or two. I don't recall where she met Bob, but he ended up studying architecture at Purdue and Kathy became a registered nurse.
I was an outsider, marginally acceptable because I was raised Presbyterian, another variation on the Calvinist theological theme.
But Bob was the real deal - a straight-arrow Christian Reformed Dutch lad with a good attitude and a solid work ethic.
My ex never hid the fact that she wished I was more like Bob - more devoted to family and church and more interested in home improvement.
Anyhow, Bob got a job with a company that designs and builds parking structures - you know, the big parking garages where you get Severe Tire Damage if you try to sneak out the "in" ramp without paying.
The job paid well and he and Kathy raised their two daughters in a comfortable style, first in Grand Rapids, then Rockford, Ill., and later in suburban Atlanta, and most recently in St. Charles, Ill.
In the last year of my marriage, my wife and I spent a week with Kathy & Bob in a condo on Sanibel Island.
I always had a friendly, cordial relationship with Bob, but our interests and values were so wildly divergent that we had to struggle to keep a conversation going.
The last time I saw him was in March, 2001, at my son Steve's wedding. Bob was diagnosed with diabetes in his 20s or 30s and had controlled it with running and lots of other exercise.
So I was startled to see him looking decidedly paunchy. His youthful mop of hair was gone and he was balding. He'd also just had a heart attack.
I was up at my Amish brother-in-law's house Sunday when I checked my cell phone voicemail and found a message from Steve.
It seems that Bob's blood sugar got way out of whack in the middle of the night a few nights ago and he suffered a seizure, vomited and aspirated some barf. Kathy awoke to find him not breathing.
Steve said the medics lost him, then brought him back, but as of Sunday he had no brain activity and they were waiting for his parents to arrive from Michigan before they pulled the plug on life support.
I remember my ex predicting 15 years ago that Bob would die young because of his diabetes. She was right. Fifty-five is way too early to cash in.
Every time someone close to me dies, it's an occasion for self-examination and a reminder of how important it is not to waste the time we're given. My mother's death was that kind of a reminder and it gave me enough leverage on myself to bail out of a newspaper job that had stopped being fun. She died on Oct. 5, 2000, and I quit/took early retirement five days later on my first day back after the funeral.
I think the message I'm getting from Bob's death is to start taking my own diabetes more seriously.
So far, it's under control with medication, but the real solution is weight loss and this is a splendid time to revise my eating and exercise habits.
Godspeed, Bob.
And thanks for the reality check.

Friday, June 09, 2006


A quite acceptable shot of Gov. Mitch Daniels, but I look like crap. Gotta lose the cap and 40 pounds and put on a smile.
About 80 of us rode with Gov. Mitch Daniels this morning as he led the way from the west side of the Indiana State House up to Kokomo.
I arrived at the staging area as Mitch was conducting a press conference with a gaggle of mostly clueless reporters and photographers.
The point of the event was to promote motorcycle safety and motorcycle awaress among the driving public. As far as the press was concerned, it was all about the novelty of the governor of Indiana riding a big bad Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
As far as those mopes are concerned, the only thing they "know" about motorcycling is Harley hogs, black leather, loud pipes and a bad boy image.
The eary story on The Indianapolis Star website omitted the obligatory hyphen in Harley-Davidson. The reporter's lede paragraphy was pretty much lifted verbatim from the press release for the event.
I rode in right behind a guy on a BMW cruiser and met a couple of other BMW riders from South Bend/Mishawaka when we stopped for lunch at the Kokomo Elk's Club.
I left home later than was prudent and made a four-minute pit stop for gas at the T/A travel center at the Ind. 334 interchange on I-65 on my hurried way to downtown Indy. I decided not to spend the time on getting cash from an ATM in the hopes that lunch would either be free or someplace that took plastic, since I only had two $1 bills in my wallet.

So when I sat down with Hal Hayden and his riding buddy whose name now escapes me, I found myself financially embarrassed by the waitress's reply that they don't take credit cards at the Elk's Club.
No problem, said Hal, volunteering to pick up my $6.50 lunch of porkchop, scalloped potatoes and green beans.
I promised to repay the debt in beer at the BMW MOA Rally beer garden next month in Vermont.
The ride up to Kokomo was uneventful. Most of the guys were on Harleys and without helmets and a few rode like they were unacquainted with the simple rules of staggered-formation group riding. No matter. Nobody crashed and the State Police did a splendid job of escorting us through intersections on their Harleys.
Lou Gerig, a longtime public relations guy who I first met when he was working for the former Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis), and later went on to work for Presidential Press Secretary Jim Brady in the Reagan White House, was there with his Nikon D100 and got the above photo of me chatting with Mitch.
After lunch, Mitch led the parade up to South Bend and I rode home.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How many BMW riders does it take to change a lightbulb?

Well, in this case, more than one.
I rode over to the nearest town with a branch of my bank yesterday to deposit our tenant's rent check and, while stopped behind a panel truck, noticed my headlight's low beam was out.
I switched over to high beam and rode to an auto parts store where I dug out my owner's maintenance manual and determined I needed an H7 12v55w bulb.
I'd watched a BMW service technician change the bulb on a K1200RS a couple of weeks ago over at the Savoy, Ill., dealership and figured it wouldn't be much of a task.
So, with new bulb in hand, I shucked my jacket in the auto parts store parking lot and started poking around in the alarmingly small space under the fairing and behind the headlight.
The first obstacle was a wire bail that held a protective cover in place, kind of like the wire bail on a Ball mason jar. The manual advised to pull one corner down, and then the other. I pushed and tugged and sweated and swore and finally got out my cell phone and called the dealership to ask if it was okay to use a screwdriver or some other tool to pry it loose. I was told that no tool is necessary, and to just pull out and down. Yeah, right. I tried til my fingers hurt and then decided to ride on home and continue the project in my garage.
Back home, I went online and posted an appeal for help to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America K-bike forum.
Minutes later, I had an answer from a friend in Chicago, who had even gone to the trouble of shooting a digital photo of the underside of his K1200LT headlight assembly. I noticed, with some chagrin, that the space behind the LT fairing is absolutely cavernous compared with my GT.
I decided to use the shaft of a short crescent wrench for leverage and sure enough, the bail released and the cover popped right off. After about 20 minutes of maneuvering, I had the cover out of the way and out of the fairing.
The next step was to pull the plug connector off of the bulb terminals. I found there was no way I could actually look at the parts while I worked on them, so it had to be done by feel. The bulb was also in a position where I could only get my fingers on the connector and other parts with my left hand.
It only took a couple of minutes to get a grip on the connector plug and wiggle it loose. Then it was a matter of releasing the two wire retainer clips that hold the bulb in place. The illustration in the maintenance manual was devoid of fine detail, so I had to guess at how they worked and feel my way through releasing them and swinging them out of the way to the left.
The old dead bulb tumbled out and fell to the garage floor - a warning that I'd better take care not to drop the new bulb in the installation process.
I gingerly removed the new bulb from its package, being careful not to touch the glass with my fingers lest I leave an oil deposit that would make a fatal hot spot on the bulb. Noting that the guide flange points up in the bulb installation, I slipped the new bulb into place in the headlight shell and swung the two retainer clips around to latch it in.
But they wouldn't catch. I struggled blindly with them for more than an hour, sweating and cursing until my fingers hurt and my back ached.
I got out a powerful trouble light and peered into the tiny space between the handebars and the fairing. I studied it with the bulb in place and with the bulb removed. I found the clips snapped right into place with the bulb removed, but stubbornly refused to grip with the bulb in place.
Finally, I tried it with one finger of my right hand and I kinda felt like it fastened, but I couldn't be sure.
Fuck it, I thought. This is close enough.
So I put the connector plug onto the back of the hopefully secured bulb.
But try as I might, I couldn't figure out how to work the cover back into place from beneath the fairing. There's no way in hell it will fit coming in from the top and it's turned into some kind of a Chinese puzzle to get it up from the bottom.
When Maria got home from work, she tried her somewhat smaller hand at it, but quickly surrendered.
So I closed the garage door and concluded I'd gone as far as I could.
I was loathe to ride 100 miles to the Savoy, Ill., dealership and pay the $70/hour shop fee to finish the job, but it looked like that was how it would play out.
But sometime in the middle of the night, as I chewed on the problem between episodes of sleep, I remembered a couple of the guys who used to work at the Indianapolis BMW dealership were still around, working at a Triumph shop in Indy and they doubtless had experience with this problem.
So this morning I called my friend Wayne, who used to be parts manager at the Indy BMW shop, and told him of my problem. Wayne gave me the cell phone number of one of the guys and also offered to come up and help me after he got off work if I didn't get things sorted out by then. Good man, Wayne.
So I called Neil Baird's cell phone and left a voicemail plea for help and now I'm waiting for a callback with a flicker of hope in my heart.
And I will never fucking never attempt to change the headlight bulb on that bike again. Never.
Neil didn't return my call until the next day, so Wayne and his wife Peggy drove up and we struggled with the problem.
After much frustrating fumbling, we determined one of the retaining wires was bent, which was preventing it from latching properly. Wayne made the adjustment. We worked out a system where Wayne would sit on my mechanic's crawler stool in front of the bike, hands up the underside of the fairing, while I used a small but powerful trouble light to peer over the tank and under the bars and through an opening in the fairing to guide his fingers and a large flat-bladed screwdriver to force the upper retaining wire into its slot.
That done, Wayne spent about 15 minutes working the cover back up under the fairing to its proper place. Then we spent another 20 minutes or so blindly fumbling for the anchor holes for the two ends of the bail. We finally concluded it was impossible without being able to see more of the interior of the fairing, so Wayne removed the wind deflectors and a couple of interior fairing pieces that gave us a glimpse of the holes. With me holding the light and Maria holding the cover in place, Peggy hooked the bail into its holes and Wayne snapped it back up into place to secure the cover.
All told, counting everyone who participated, I calculate this project took about 8 man/woman hours. If we were making the standard shop rate of $70/hour, that translates to a $560 job. Just to change a light bulb.
When I talked to Neil the next day, he told me he and Bob Lustgarten, who had been a BMW service technician at Revard BMW Motorcycles, were planning to add BMW service to the Triumph dealership where they now work.
Neil said they expect to have the parts and equipment they need in a couple of weeks, after which time they will be able to perform non-warranty service like oil and tire changes, brake pad replacements, and the like.
So guess where I'm going the next time my headlight bulb fails.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Riding with Our Man Mitch

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is, without question, the best friend motorcycling has ever had in Indiana state government.
He's also the best governor we've had since I've been politically aware, and that goes back to the mid-1950s.
Mitch rode his custom painted (state flag logo on the tank) Harley-Davidson in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade last month and he invited a dozen members of the Patriot Guard Riders to escort him. And he wore a yellow PGR amrband for the occasion.
I've had a couple of conversations with Mitch about motorcycling and other things and was struck by how natural and genuine the guy is. I've met a lot of politicians in my 34-year career in newspaper journalism and have no difficulty spotting a phony. Mitch, however, is the real deal. No flash. No spin. No hype. Just a straight-ahead guy who wants to do his best for the electorate. He's no stranger to government, having been chief political advisor to Pres. Ronald Reagan, and director of the Office of Management and Budget under Pres. George W. Bush. He also readily admits spending a couple of nights in jail for a marijuana possession bust when he was in college.
Mitch is inviting Hoosier motorcyclists to take a ride with him Friday and Saturday as he tours north central Indiana.
The ride leaves the west side of the State House at 11 a.m. Friday for Kokomo and South Bend, then makes stops on Saturday in Valparaiso and Merrillville.
I plan to ride at least as far as Kokomo and maybe on to South Bend and have suggested that my friends in the Indianapolis BMW Club come along.
The event is sponsored by ABATE of Indiana, a motorcycle rights group that also operates a rider training program that offers the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's RiderCourse. I was an instructor in the ABATE program for 10 years in the '80s and '90s.
If you ride and have Friday or Saturday open, come on along.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dog School

High 5 at dog school.
Pete went back to puppy school at Petsmart today after a three-week recess that included the instructor's vacation and the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Once again, Pete was the smartest dog in the class.
Unfortunately, the class has dwindled down to three dogs - a 45-pound German shepherd pup with front legs like baseball bats and a fuzzy little bichon frise who is a social butterfly with little interest in doing what her owners want.
Fortunately, the self-absorbed young woman with the annoying pup has not returned since the instructor suggested she control her dog and pay attention in class.
Today, Pete learned to do a High 5, roll over and a couple of other things.
He's also showing an aptitude for Frisbee-catching, when he's in the mood to play. I have high hopes he will continue to develop in that direction.
And, no, that's not a muzzle Pete is wearing. It's a Gentle Leader Headcollar that was recommended by the instructor as a humane, effective way to train him to walk on a leash. And it worked beautifully. He went from a wild dog to a cooperative happy leash walker almost immediately.
Eventually, he will be able to walk on leash without it, but it's an astonishingly effective training device. He used to shy away from the leash. Now, he goes to the antique crock by the back door where we keep our dog-walking stuff and fishes out the leash and Gentle Leader.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fashion Pointer #27

I'm hardly in a position to criticize anyone who is overweight.
But there are some things that just shouldn't be. Like going out in public wearing jeans and a shirt that are two or three sizes too small.
Walking around barefoot on city streets is also unacceptable.
Maria shot this photo on the fly from the window of our Subaru Forester while stopped at an intersection in a medium-sized Indiana city.