Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Patriot Guard Riders mission

PGR mission for the funeral of State Police Lt. Gary Dudley in Brownsburg, Ind.
Dudley and another officer were killed last week while on a charity bicycle ride to raise money for the wives and children of officers killed in the line of duty.
Their support truck was rammed from behind by a box truck and lurched forward striking Dudley and a former Lake County police chief.
It was the largest police funeral I've ever seen in Indiana.
The weather was overcast with mist and occasional sprinkles. Consequently, only 16 of us were present, but we got plenty of thank-yous, including from Gov. Mitch Daniels who came over to greet and thank us and shake each man's hand.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Betcha didn't know this...

Hoosier Journalist William Herschel's "Ain't God Good to Indiana?" meshes perfectly with the tune to Schiller's "Ode to Joy" from the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Let's all sing along, folks:

"Ain't God good to Indiana?
Folks, a feller never knows
Just how close he is to Eden
Till, sometime, he ups an' goes
Seekin' fairer, greener pastures
Than he has right here at home,
Where there's sunshine in the clover
An' honey in th' comb;
Where the ripples on th' river
Kinda chuckles as they flow--
Ain't God good to Indiana?
Ain't He, fellers? Ain't He, though?

"Ain't God good to Indiana?
Seems to me He has a way
Gittin' me all outta humor
Just to see how long I'll stay
When I git th' gypsy feelin'
That I'd like to find a spot
Where th' clouds ain't quite so restless,
Or th' sun don't shine so hot.
But, I don't git far, I'll tell you,
Till I'm whisperin' soft an' low:
Ain't God good to Indiana?
Ain't He, fellers? Ain't He, though?

"Ain't God good to Indiana?
Other spots may look as fair,
But they lack th' soothin' somethin'
In th' Hoosier sky and air.
They don't have that snug-up feelin'
Like a mother gives a child;
They don't soothe you, soul an' body,
With their breezes soft an' mild.
They don't know th' joys of Heaven
Have their birthplace here below;
Ain't God good to Indiana?
Ain't He, fellers? Ain't He, though?"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Farewell, Blackie

Maria wrote this last week and I'm posting it here with her permission:

Blackie died last weekend.
I cried when I heard and I've avoided writing this column because, sure enough, as soon as I wrote the first sentence, the tears came again.
I adopted Blackie, a wire-haired terrier of some sort, about 13 years ago from the Animal Welfare League. She was a tiny pup and I was told she wouldn't grow much bigger. The saucer-sized feet should have been a clue.
She was whip smart and potty trained in a couple days. Blackie would rather have exploded than disgrace herself in the house.
Blackie took care of me when, at age 30, I had a tonsillectomy. I was convalescing in bed upstairs and just about every hour, on the hour, I heard her toenails on the hard wood floors, up the farm house stairs, through my daughter's bedroom and into mine.
Click, click, click, reassuring and steady.
She'd rest her head on the mattress next to mine, doggy breath in my face, wait for me to whisper something reassuring, lick my nose, and go back downstairs until the next check-up.
Maybe she thought she owed me. We suppose she was hit by a car on our gravel road once while we were gone. Whatever happened, half her side was laid open and she was in shock when we returned. I took her to a veterinarian on Sunday, I think, and he had me help him. He couldn't get her all the way sedated. I sat at her head and reassured her the whole time. The vet wasn't sure she'd survive. I brought her home, sat her in a beanbag chair, and we watched television while she made a remarkable recovery.
Blackie had lots of tricks. She was one of those dogs who could bark something that sounded like “I love you,” and other words we pretended to hear.
We weren't sure what she was doing at first when we saw her walking in the harvested fields, cats at her heels. She was hunting for mice. She'd find one, dig it up, and wait for the cats to get it. Then she'd walk on and do it again.
But her silliest habit was rock chasing. Blackie was a rock chasing maniac.
Our neighbor discovered it when we were on a walk. Blackie was in front of us, but backing up and watching our feet. Something had her interest. Debbie kicked a piece of gravel and off Blackie flew to get it and drop it back at Debbie's sneaker. From then on we kicked rocks for miles when Blackie walked with us.
I haven't lived with her for years, but still kick rocks out of habit when I walk.
Blackie collected and chased any rock, even if they were too big. The kids made sure to throw the really big ones in the opposite direction so she wouldn't break a tooth trying to catch it.
I left her on the farm when I divorced. She was at home there and she loved her new mom and the kids who came to live with her.
We got lonely at our new house and went to the shelter for a smaller, short-haired dog. We came home with Ruthie, who is medium sized and has long, woolly blonde hair.
She is also very silly and is a maniac for laser beam chasing. Ruthie barks too loudly and too often. She's mouthy, demands treats and won't be left out of a hug between humans. She makes goofy guilty faces when she does bad things like ripping into the trash - as if we won't know she did it if she turns her head away. We wouldn't trade her for anything.
Ruthie was a great bridge when I re-married. John went with us to choose her when we were still dating. Ruthie loved the kids and she loved John, which made the kids feel better about John until they got to know him better.
Ruthe was a safe conversational topic for everyone. She entertained us by fetching and eventually gutting, stuffed monkeys so she could kill their squeakers. All her toys are hard rubber now.
I don't think anyone should get a dog just to entertain themselves or to help blend a family. That would be selfish if you can't afford veterinary care and keep them confined to your property. But if your home is adequate and you have time for them, dogs sure make life nicer.
And I think shelters are fine places to get them. I'm sure dogs know they are close to doom when you get them there and they are appreciative. Walk through the shelter one time and you'll know what I mean. If I hadn't found Blackie and Ruthie there I wouldn't have all the memories I've shared here and too many more to tell.
We were getting ready to move my daughter to Bloomington for school again this weekend when she called her father. He told her Blackie, who was apparently hard of hearing in her old age, had been hit by a car at their farm.
She crawled to my son's car and waited for him to come out on the way to work. He found her broken, but in good spirits and calm. His father and step-mother sat with Blackie until she passed calmly.
They buried her with a rock in her mouth. It was a choice rock she'd recently brought to the yard.
Rock on, Blackie.

States I've visited on a motorcycle

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

I've traveled in all 48 contiguous states, but I have this little New England gap in my personal motorcycle map. I'd hoped to fill it in when I went to the BMW MOA national rally last month in Vermont, but time and weather interfered.
I've also ridden in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Howdy from HA, via QC, HH, DC, AA, SA and AB

I was putting a fresh pad of checks into my checkbook the other day when an age-yellowed card dropped out and reminded me of something a lot of Hoosiers have forgotten or never knew.
Indiana’s passenger car license plate numbering system is pretty straightforward, making it easy to tell where a car was plated. The first digit or digits correspond with the issuing county’s name in an alphabetical list of Indiana’s 92 counties.
Adams County plates are 1A, 1B, and so on, while Whitley County – the 92nd in the list, starts with 92A. Since there are more cars in Lake and Marion counties than the 45 and 49 prefixes can accommodate, there’s an overrun with Lake County getting 94 and 96 and Marion County taking 93, 95, 97 98 and 99.
Of course things get more ambiguous when it comes to specialty plates because they don’t indicate county of origin.
But for the most part, it’s a logical, understandable system.
Not so before 1963.
Which brings me to that card that fell out of my checkbook.
It’s a little pocket reference to Indiana license plate prefixes, published by Robert Hall’s IGA Foodliner in my hometown of Delphi circa 1961.
Look over the listings and you’ll realize immediately why there had to be a change.
The old system used double-letter prefixes that were assigned without any particular rhyme or reason, other than the fact that Marion County being the most populous got all of the “A” prefixes. After that, it was pretty much random.
Old timers around here will recall that Montgomery County plates had TA and TB prefixes. Neighboring Fountain County was XJ, XK and XL, while Boone County drivers got to laugh it up with HA and HB. No correlation with county or county seat names, population or alphabetical sequence.
Here is the pre-1963 Indiana license plate prefix scheme, courtesy of the late Bob Hall:

AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, AF, AG, AH, AJ, AK AL, AM AN, AP, AQ, AR, AS, AT, AU, AV, AW, AX, AY, AZ, BX, BY, BZ - Marion County (Indianapolis)

BB, BC, BD, BE, BF, BG, BH, BJ, BK, BL – St. Joseph (South Bend)

CA, CB, CC, CD, CE, CF, CG, CH, CJ, CK, CL, CM, CN, CQ, CR, CS, CT, CU – Lake (Crown Point)

DA, DB – Whitley (Columbia City)

DC – Tipton (Tipton)

DD, DE, DF, DG, DH, DJ, DK, DL – Allen (Fort Wayne)

EA, EB, EC – Hendricks (Danville)

ED – Union (Liberty)

EE, EF, EG, EH, EK, EL, EM – Vanderburgh (Evansville)

EJ – Jefferson (Madison)

FA, FB – Clay (Brazil)

FC, FD – Vermillion (Newport)

FF, FG, FH, FJ, FK, FL – Madison (Anderson)

FM – Martin (Shoals)

GB, GC – Wells (Bluffton)

GD – Switzerland (Vevay)

GF – Jasper (Rensselaer)

GG, GH, GJ, GK, GL, GM – Elkhart (Goshen)

HA, HB – Boone (Lebanon)

HC, HD – Posey (Mt. Vernon)

HE – Warren (Williamsport)

HH, HJ, HK, HL, HM – Vigo (Terre Haute)

JA, JB, JC – Adams (Decatur)

JD – Scott (Decatur)

JF – Warrick (Booneville)

JJ, JK, JL, JM – Delaware (Muncie)

KA, KB, KC – Johnson (Franklin)

KJ, KK, KL, KM – Wayne (Richmond)

LA, LB – Jay (Portland)

LC – Decatur (Greensburg)

LD – Jennings (Vernon)

LL, LM, LN, LP – LaPorte (LaPorte)

MA, MB, MC – Greene (Bloomfield)

ME, MF – Newton (Kentland)

MG – White (Monticello)

MM, MN, MP – Tippecanoe (Lafayette)

NA, NB – Gibson (Princeton)

NC – Putnam (Greencastle)

ND, NE, NF – Benton (Fowler)

NN, NP, NR – Grant (Marion)

PA, PB, PC – Noble (Albion)

PF – Dubois (Jasper)

PP, PW, PZ – Howard (Kokomo)

PY – Perry (Cannelton)

QA, QB, QE – Lawrence (Bedford)

QC – Carroll (Delphi)

QD – Pike (Petersburg)

QP, QQ, QR, QS – Henry (New Castle)

RA, RB, RC – Shelby (Shelbyville)

RD – Pulaski (Winamac)

RN – Owen (Spencer)

RR, RS – Kosciusko (Warsaw)

SA, SB, SF – Hamilton (Noblesville)

SC, SD – Ripley (Versailles)

SE – Orange (Paoli)

SG, SH – Dearborn (Lawrenceburg)

SJ, SK, SL – Jackson (Brownstown)

SP – Spencer (Rockport)

SS, ST – Cass (Logansport)

SU – Steuben (Angola)

TA, TB – Montgomery (Crawfordsville)

TC – Fulton (Rochester)

TD – Franklin (Brookville)

TT, TU, TW – Knox (Vincennes)

UA, UB, UC – DeKalb (Auburn)

UD – Hancock (Greenfield)

UE – Parke (Rockville)

UT, UU, UV – Huntington (Huntington)

VA, VB – Wabash (Wabash)

VE, VF – Rush (Rushville)

VK, VL – Starke (Knox)

VV, VW – Monroe (Bloomington)

WA, WB – Clark (Jeffersonville)

WD – Washington (Salem)

WF, WG – Morgan (Martinsville)

WW, WX – Floyd (New Albany)

XA, XB – Clinton (Frankfort)

XD – Harrison (Corydon)

XE – Ohio (Rising Sun)

XG, XH – Daviess (Washington)

XJ, XK, XL – Fountain (Covington)

XX, XY – Porter (Valparaiso)

YA, YB – Marshall (Plymouth)

YD - Lagrange (Lagrange)

YE – Brown (Nashville)

YF, YG, YH – Sullivan (Sullivan)

YX, YY, YZ – Randolph (Winchester)

ZA, ZB, ZF – Bartholomew (Columbus)

ZC – Fayette (Connersville)

ZD, ZE – Blackford (Hartford City)

ZG – Crawford (English)

ZX, ZY – Miami (Peru)

The passing scene

Sitting at a window table of a downtown coffee shop watching the passing scene.
Dark-haired young woman in a black SUV stopped at the light, left arm danging out the window with a cigarette and right hand holding a cell phone to her ear.
Older couple on bicycles waiting for the light to change.
Old woman in a gray Buick stopped at the light. Glasses, both hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 o'clock. Nervously glancing left and right before making a left turn.
Guy in early 30s in a dark gray business suit, dark blue tie and light blue shirt. But wearing brown shoes.Carrying a briefcase and heading for the courthouse. Must be an attorney with a flawed sense of style. Hey, buddy. BLACK shoes with that outfit.
Woman in late 60s in a red Plymouth. Staring straight ahead waiting for the light.
Guy in twin-cab silver Ford pickup truck with the name of local dealer on the door.
Bald guy with glasses and wife at his side driving a silver Dodge diesel pickup with red stripes and a horse logo on the side. Wife just tossed a small bit of trash out of her window.
UPS guy in summer uniform (shorts) stacking packages on a handcart on the sidewalk outside a jewelry store.
BMW sedan with heavily blacked-out windows waiting for the light.

Sent from my Treo

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Osama likes McGyver. It figures.

This is just too rich! From the London Daily Mail:

Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is so obsessed with singer Whitney Houston he thought about killing her husband, Bobby Brown, it was claimed last night.

The suggestion is made by Sudanese poet and novelist Kola Boof, who claims she was bin Laden's sex slave for four months 10 years ago.

In her autobiography, Diary of a Lost Girl, she writes: "He told me Whitney Houston was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen."

Boof, 37, who claims bin Laden raped her and held her prisoner in a Moroccan hotel, says he could not stop talking about the songbird, even though he disapproved of music.

"Osama kept coming back to Whitney Houston," she says in the book, excerpted in the magazine Harpers' Bazaar. "He asked if I knew her personally when I lived in America. I told him I didn't.

"He said that he had a paramount desire for Whitney Houston, and although he claimed music was evil he spoke of someday spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try to arrange a meeting with the superstar.

"It didn't seem impossible to me. He said he wanted to give Whitney Houston a mansion that he owned in a suburb of Khartoum.

"He explained to me that to possess Whitney he would be willing to break his colour rule and make her one of his wives.

"Whitney Houston's name was the one that would be mention constantly.

"How beautiful she was, what a nice smile she has, how truly Islamic she is but is just brainwashed by American culture and by her husband Bobby Brown, whom Osama talked about having killed, as if it were normal to have women's husbands killed."

Boof, who once claimed she had to take her son out of a Los Angeles school after rumours surfaced that bin Laden was his father, also claims the Al Qaeda mastermind read more than the Koran.

"In his briefcase I would come across photographs of the Star magazine, as well as copies of Playboy," she writes.

She also says his favourite television shows were The Wonder Years, Miami Vice and MacGyver.


When it comes to getting things accomplished, I've felt like I was spinning my wheels lately.
But today I got some traction.
I finished a wedding album I've been sweating over for a couple of months. Yeah, I know. I'm going to have to get faster and more efficient if I'm going to keep up when business picks up. This one is really deluxe, with lots of cool graphic design elements and has 243 photos on 100 pages. I'm confident it will blow their socks off and that both sets of parents will absolutely have to have a copy. The $1,300 wedding photo package included one album. Additional albums are $300 each, so there is probably a bit more money to be had from this gig.
Anyhow, I finalized the work - we use MyPublisher.com - and transmitted the album.
My other imperative to-do item today was to collect all of the returnable components of our DISH satellite TV setup, pack them in the box the DISH sent us over the weekend, and send them home to Georgia. Besides the remotes and the tuner box, they wanted the sensor gizmo that uses the dish to collect the satellite signal. That involved dragging a ladder out of the garage and removing three screws from the dish that's mounted about 15 feet up the side of the house.
It's their policy to leave the dish attached to the house, presumably as advertising and an enticement for the next occupants of the house to sign up with their service.
I think it'll be better advertisement sitting at the curb waiting for the trash collectors. I fact, I may yank it back just before they get here, so I can put it out on several successive Fridays to make sure as many passersby see it as possible.
Why do I dislike DISH? I'll spare you the trouble of searching for the previous post that addressed this issue and just say my rate was about to go up and I was tired of losing the signal everytime it storms - rain or snow. That's precisely when I want to be able to check with Indianapolis TV stations on weather conditions.
So it's back to basic cable.

Friday, August 18, 2006

C'mon, ladies... Smile!!!

Freak Out!

I've been loading my CD collection onto my new iPod and rediscovering a lot of music I haven't listened to in years.
This album is a perfect example.
I hadn't listened to the vinyl version for years when I bought the CD to update my library. I think I played the CD once.
Just now, I floated through "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" and suddenly I was back in the autumn of 1966.
I was in my first newspaper reporter job in a small north central Indiana town, making $65 a week and living in a $20-a-week mobile home about a block from the newspaper office.
My college friend Steve Power had recently returned from wandering the West and introduced me to what passed for the drug cluture of the period.
Steve would show up at my trailer on a Saturday evening with an armload of record albums, including this one, and we'd smoke a few joints and down a bottle of Romilar cough syrup each. The active ingredient, dextromethorphan, is a semisynthetic derivitive of morphine and it produces an LSD-like experience. It's not addictive, especially considering that everytime we slammed down a bottle of the stuff the taste became more and more of a barrier. If someone walked into the room with an open bottle of the stuff today, I'd have to leave.
Steve also brought a supply of amyl nitrite capsules - made to relieve the symptoms of angina pectoris, they cause an instantaneous rush made all the more intense by Romilar and pot.
I remember having what I thought was a powerful insight during one such rush and hurried to write it down in one of my college notebooks that were lying around. The next morning, I opened the notebook and discovered I'd written, "There's no bad. It's just a different kind of good."
True enough from a cosmic perspective, but hardly practical advice for day-to-day living.
There were moments while listening to this album and others on my RCA console stereo system when we felt like we'd actually merged with and become the music.
Far out, man.
Anyhow, Freak Out! was an obligatory part of the Romilar trip soundtrack.
And I'm still getting a buzz out of it 40 years later on my iPod.

Bogus photos

It's episodes like the bogus photos coming out of Lebanon and sometimes make me wish I could diasssociate myself from the news media.
The first one to come to light was a photo showing smoke over Beiruit carried by Reuters. Why in the hell none of the Reuters photo editors recognized the telltale signs of clumsy tampering is a the mystery of the year. The plumes of heavy smoke bear the repetitive patters that can only come from sloppy use of the rubber stamp/cloning tool in Photoshop. The photographer's excuse that he was just trying to get rid of dust in the image, but was hampered by bad light just doesn't wash.
I'm reluctant to go so far as to accuse Reuters, the New York Times and AP of deliberately trying to build sympathy for Israel's enemies. I'm more inclined to blame over-competitive and unethical photographers and lazy, careless photo editors.
But the result is the same - a growing perception that the news media can't be trusted to tell the truth or get the story right.
Here's an overview:

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Indiana State Fair

Maria and I spent about seven hours tramping around the Indiana State Fair yesterday afternoon and last night.
We did the obligatory tour of the Home and Family Arts Building to check out the quilting and photography exhibits and were already kind of tired by the time the sun went down and the real reason we were there cranked up.
The Midway - that noisy, dirty, garish preview of Hell that draws kids and their captive parents like moths to a porch light.
It was the first really extended night shoot I've done with the Nikon D200 and I'm very impressed with how well it sorts out the white balance problems and how little noise there is at the higher ISO settings, like 1600. I shot available light all evening with startlingly good results.
This is one of my favorite photos of the night. Darkness had fallen, but there was still enough light in the western sky to spread a beautiful rich blue across the horizon. It was shot at 1/80 sec, f/4.5 at 1600 ISO. If you click on it, you can see a larger version and judge the quality a little better. The photographer in khaki by the railing is a freelancer from California who is putting together a book of photos of carnival and fair midways.
Several of the people we photographed wanted copies of the pictures, so we gave them our business cards with our photo sales site URL and posted an assortment of shots. The gallery went online at 10:30 a.m. and now, about 12 hours later, there have been about a dozen hits but no sales. You never know who's going to buy what, so I don't get my expectations up.
We've sold about $200 worth of wedding photos from the site in the last six weeks and I never expected to sell any, so who knows?
Anyhow, it was the first time I'd been back to the state fair in several years. I handled The Indianapolis News' state fair coverage from 1975 through 1985, spending the entire run of the fair at the fairgrounds, so I know/knew the place pretty well. Not much has changed in the 20 years since I was immersed in the fair. Probably the most significant difference, to my sensibilities, is the whoring out of the building names. The Coliseum is now the Pepsi Coliseum and various other buildings now have some corporate sponsor's name tacked on.
It's so hopelessly cheesy. Just like the monstrous cheese sculpture in the Pioneer seed corn building, formerly the Universities Building.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Picture Share!

Chocolate, thank you.


Wendy's - at least the ones around here - now offer their famous Frosty in two flavors: traditional chocolate and new vanilla.
Being a confirmed chocoholic, I can't get interestested enough in a vanilla Frosty to actually invest in one.
So I'm having a chocolate Frosty to celebrate our landing another wedding job. Our September calendar is filling up and it's starting to look like we'll have a better-than-expected first year in the wedding photography business. Most of our advertising has been word-of-mouth, so I guess that means we have a lot of satisfied customers.

Sent from my Treo

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Maria's Motorcycle

I put about 60 miles on Maria's '94 BMW K75S today and am impressed anew with what a sweet bike it is.
When I bought it for Maria back in 2000, we did a variety of things to make it a better fit for her characteristically female shorter legs. We took a little slack out of the forks, replaced the stock shock absorber with a shorter custom job, sent the seat back to Sargent to have some foam carved out and changed out the stock tires for low-profile Bridgestones.
She rode it a little, but never got comfortable with it. Then she got hit head-on by a blind woman while driving my mother's '91 Buick LeSabre. The airbag and seatbelt kept her from being seriously injured, but the crash dealt a severe blow to her motorcycling confidence. She hasn't ridden the bike in the two years since the crash.
So it fell to me to keep the battery up and generally make the bike feel cared-for.
I've been riding it a fair amount this year on short local trips, trying to save the tires on my BMW K1200GT for touring.
There's a 11-mile stretch of road west of town that has lots of twists and turns through the undulating west-central Indiana countryside and the K75S is a pleasure to ride there.
Everytime I ride it, I'm struck by the pure, elemental nature of the ride. None of the gadgets and amenities of my sport-touring machine - just a nimble little motorcycle that feels right at home being flung into one turn after another.
And I like the one-of-a-kind custom acid green paint job more and more as time goes by.
Getting back into motorcycling isn't particularly high on Maria's list of priorities right now. She has her hands full with projects at her newspaper and our calendar is starting to fill up with wedding photography jobs, plus she has developed a painful hip problem.
So I guess I'll just have to keep her bike in good shape by riding it regularly.

A Picture Share!

I wonder why I never noticed this odd little motorcycle-size half-space in the Denny's parking lot. Just the right size for a K75S.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

You Passed 8th Grade US History

Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!

I hate mowing

It's before noon and I'm having an unusually early beer because I'm cooling off from one of my least favorite jobs - mowing the lawn.
My distaste for yardwork was a point of sharp disagreement in my first marriage and a strong factor in my choosing apartment and condo life after my divorce. I admire a nicely kept yard as much as the next guy. I just don't want to waste my time and sweat on it.
The condo where I lived a couple of years before getting married and moving to my present home had a little garden area by the front door. The previous owner had some flowers and other plantings there, which I ignored and neglected to the point that I became embarrassed by the space. I finally began telling people I was developing a wildlife refuge outside my front door.
During my early childhood, we lived in a small house with a small yard that my dad cut with a hand-powered reel-style mower. My son Sean said he uses one at his place in Portland, Ore., and I had a momemt of nostalgic reverie over it.
When my parents bought a new home in the spring of 1954 with a larger yard, Dad invested in a power mower. I think it was a Lawson. It was one of the few mechanical things he chose to work on himself, and that consisted just of sharpening the blade and changing the oil.
It was during one of those oil changes that he lost his Masonic ring when it slipped unnoticed off of his oil-slick finger into the grass. It turned up a couple of seasons later and he wore it for the rest of his life. Now it's in a little funeral home bag of his personal effects sitting on my dresser.
But I digress.
After the novelty of a power mower wore off, Dad decided I deserved a turn at mowing the lawn.
I thought this was a heady responsibility and great fun for a month or so.
Then I began to develop the attitude that persists to this day.
I don't recall whether I picked it up from Dad or developed it spontaneously, but I mow a lawn in a decreasing radius spiral, rather than the back-and-forth straight row method. It just seemed more efficient to turn a corner rather than do a 180-degree turn after every pass.
I do the first couple of circuits in a clockwise direction, so as to blow the clippings toward the center of the lawn rather than into my neighbor's yard. Then, I change to counter-clockwise, so I don't keep chopping up the same bunch of clippings. It also avoids a build-up of clippings in the center of the yard when I'm done.
The contours of our back yard when I was a kid result in a patch of grass - in the last few circuits - that resembles the shape of Itasca County, Minnesota. We went there on a vacation the summer between my seventh- and eighth-grade years and the map stuck in my mind and transferred to the process of mowing.
Most of my lawnmowing time as a teenager was spent thinking about girlfriends - past, present and hoped-for.
These days, I lose myself in music with an iPod and custom molded earplug stereo speakers that I mostly use for long distance motorcycle trips. It saves my hearing from the racket of the mower and give me a random sampling of more than 3,600 songs.
I envy the guy down the street who has most of his acreage in wild prairie grass and actually gets a property tax break for it.
Unfortunately, I am surrounded by neighbors whose lawns make mine look bad.
They're both named Mike and they both have riding mowers. Mike to the north has a Dixie Chopper that can probably attain speeds up to 35 mph. His son takes about 5 minutes to mow their lawn, which is more than twice the size of mine.
Mike to the south seems to see his lawn as a hobby and keeps it meticulously manicured.
I can't hope to keep up with either of them. I just pray for drought and get out the lawnmower when I can't stand the embarrassment any more.
I bought a new mower last year after a wheel fell off of the one Maria had from her previous home. I had the good sense to put fuel stabilizer in the gas tank last fall, so it started right up this spring.
I've used it maybe four times this year.
I'd hoped to get out before the heat of the day this morning, but in doing so I found myself bogged down in tall, wet grass that stopped the machine in its tracks.
I set the wheels up a notch, scraped the accumulated grass out from under the blade and got it done, but not before I'd sweated about a gallon.
So that beer tastes pretty damned good.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Beach Boy cameo

Just saw Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and thought it was outrageously funny.
Wasn't that Brian Wilson on the right side of the screen holding the champagne bottle in the final podium scene?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dumping the DISH

Today's to-do list includes the following item:
"Cancel DISH TV, re-start cable"
Seduced by the lure of more channels for less money, I converted from cable to DISH satellite tv last summer.
Now, after a year of inconvenient outages, I've had enough and I'm going back to cable.
(The satellite signal drops out everytime we get heavy rain or snow - precisely the time when I'd like to be able to get weather information from Indianapolis TV stations. This happens to every DISH customer I know in this area, so I know it's not just us.)
The triggers for this switchback are the fact that our roofers knocked our dish out of alignment early this week, making our TVs useless, and the arrival of the August DISH bill that is substantially higher than the previous 12 months' bills. That's because the promotional period is over and we will now be billed at the regular rate.
Which, it turns out, is higher than what we were paying for cable.
I spent about an hour on the phone yesterday afternoon with DISH technical service working through the diagnostic programs to confirm what I already knew - the problem was a mis-aligned dish. Their fix is to send a repairman out next freaking Tuesday and to charge me $29 for the service call.
My fix is to tell them to pick up their electronic shit, get their dish off of my house and cancel my service.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mexicans on a hot asphalt roof

Our new roof is nearing completion. A crew of three insanely hard-working Mexicans has spent two dangerously hot (heat index of 101-106) days ripping off the old shingles and nailing down new ones. They started about 11 a.m. yesterday and worked until about 9 p.m., taking advantage of what passed for the "cool" of the evening.
They were back on the roof at 7 a.m. today.
Now at 5:45 p.m., I can still hear them hammering.
They're working over the kitchen, which is freaking Pete and Ruthie out. Pete won't go out onto the back deck because there is a lot of scary-looking shingles and the hammering has him hunkered down in his kennel looking very intimidated.
Ruthie responds by barking hysterically, although she readily went out to the back yard to whiz.
I got a call from a prospective wedding photography client today - said she saw our work in a recent bridal tabloid insert in Maria's paper that we provided all of the photos for. So we're meeting her for lunch tomorrow to show her more of our work and try to clinch the deal. Her wedding is July 14, 2007, which is my 62nd birthday and the day I can start drawing Social Security.
I got my stepdaughter's cell phone number changed today, thwarting the efforts of her dirtbag ex-noyfriend to reel her in again.
Now, if she'll only forget to give the new number to her current dirtbag boyfriend...

Delayed Report

I sent this from my Treo about 1 p.m. July 19 - two weeks ago tomorrow - and Blogger.com posted it this morning. WTF?

I'm taking a lunch break at a McDonald's on I-90 northeast of Cleveland and about an hour from Erie, Pa., which is about an hour from Buffalo, NY.
Nice weather and no construction delays. At the risk of jinxing myself, I gotta say I'm making better time than I expected.

Sent from my Treo