Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Birthday, Steve


Thirty-six years ago tonight, I found myself a father for the second time.
My son Steve was born in Coleman Hospital in Indianapolis on Halloween, 1970.
He took his daughter Lisa trick-or-treating tonight. She's 2½ and was dressed as a kitty.
When I called to wish him a happy birthday a few minutes ago, he said Lisa was deep into her trick-or-treat candy.
"One of her pupils is more dialated than the other," he joked.
Here's a photo from Halloween, 1974 - Steve's fourth birthday and a week before Sean's seventh birthday.

New Who


Endless Wire, the first Who album in more than 20 years, was released today.
Got it on Itunes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Strange vacation

This time last week we were bearing down on a cheap hotel near the geographic center of the United States in north central Kansas, hauling ass for the Colorado high country.
We arrived at our friends' place in Alma - the highest town in the United States - Monday afternoon for what we expected would be a week-long visit.
But an intense attack of altitude sickness, aggravated by a powerful low pressure system and the threat of a paralyzing blizzard sent us scurrying out of the mountains Wednesday morning.
We did, however, get to visit our friends at the Colorado Mountain Hat Co. in Fairplay where Maria got measured for a very sassy cowgirl hat that just might show up here sometime after Christmas.
We'd also considered the Texas gulf coast and the New England fall foliage as vacation destinations, but it turned out that last week was a crappy time to vacation anywhere but maybe the Pacific Northwest.
Since Maria's vacation days are precious, she was very unhappy about having to abort our mountain sabatical. She was slightly pacified when we noticed a billboard for the Quilter's Harvest quilt store in Higginsville, Mo., along I-70 east of Kansas City. We exited the interstate and found the store where she loaded up on some great fabric that was on sale. So it wasn't a complete wash-out.
Here's a photo of Maria rooting through the bolts of cloth.
I was also able to turn the quilt store ladies onto a fabulous cache of local quilts at the Ray County Museum in Richmond, Mo., just up the road from them, that had previously escaped their notice. I discovered the place while on a Jesse James country tour for RoadBike Magazine about five years ago.
We arrived home about midnight Thursday.
Maria's son Austin had been house/dog-sitting for us and was getting bored since his girlfriend got grounded for being late to school Tuesday morning because she was hanging out here and also because he got downsized out of his pet shop job.
Losing the low-paying pet shop gig is actually a great thing because it forces him to get unstuck and find a better-paying job as a prerequsite to getting out of his dad and evil stepmother's house and on his own.
Me, I'm just happy to have found a sixpack of HofbraĆ¼ Maibok beer at Kahn's Liquors in Carmel. It's a wonderful German bock beer with a fabulous rich taste and a kick like a mule.
And now I'm going downstairs to get another.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Breakfast

At a cafe on the east edge of Norton, Kans.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

We're off

We're pulling things together in preparation for a long-overdue trip to the Colorado Rockies.
Maria and I indulged in new Columbia parkas yesterday - mine came with an iPod pocket and a set of headphones in little collar pouches - so we're ready to go looking for winter before it comes to Indiana.
It's still a few minutes before sunrise, but we haven't packed a thing. I took our external hard drive and our photo CD archive over to Maria's parents last night for safekeeping and Maria's son Austin will be here through the week to care for the dogs.
Maria's never taken U.S. 24 across Kansas and eastern Colorado, so I plan to take that route instead of our usual I-70 bullet run.
Well, I must be off.
I will, of course, post from the road.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Can you believe it?

There's only one electrical outlet situated for easy laptop use at Barnes & Noble.
And it's handy to just one table in the cafe.
And it's being used by an Asian Purdue University student who's sitting there grinning at his screen.
I'm down to 21 percent battery, so my photo editing is at a standstill until I can access some AC power.
******************************
I flopped down in an armchair with a couple of Photoshop how-to books and my iPod and by the time I was through paging through the books, the kid was gone.
I quickly pounced on the table and outlet and, as it turned out, it wasn't a moment too soon. The kid came strolling back and seemed startled to see "his" spot taken. Apparently he has a more robust battery in his laptop because he was able to set up at another table and work.
I hunkered down with our most recent set of wedding photos - 1,700+ images - and winnowed them down to 800 and change for posting to our pay-per-print site for friends and relatives of the bridal couple to see and buy.
I'll give them another go-through tonight and try to get the remainder posted.
On the vacation front, it appears that Austin will honor his commitment to house/dog-sit for us, so we're scrambling to get things together for a Saturday departure.
The del Sol came out of the shop with a new timing belt, oil and lube and balanced and rotated tires for about $600. The timing belt is supposed to get changed every 60,000 miles. I had 189,500 miles on my original timing belt, so I figure I've saved $1,200 on timing belts over the life of the car.
The Subaru Forester, which is our traveling car, goes into the shop Friday afternoon for a new catalytic converter.
I can't image being ready to leave by Saturday morning, but we shall see.
Unless the sky falls, in the form of a blizzard in the plains, our destination is sunny Colorado.

McWiFi

No more free WiFi internet access at McDonald's, at least not at the McD at Tippecanoe Mall in Lafayette, IN.
They've contracted it out to Wayport and charge $2.95 for a two-hour time block.
So, while I wait for my Honda del Sol to get a timing belt, I'll stroll across the parking lot to Barnes & Noble where the WiFi still isn't free, but the atmosphere is a bit more refined.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Breakfast with Al Roker


Well, kinda.
He's seated across the restaurant from us at the Renaissance Hotel in Oklahoma City.
He carries an Apple notebook computer.
Now I know why the paparazzi don't use cell phone cameras.
His mother should know that he left without finishing his milk.

Friday, October 13, 2006

OK in OKC


We're at the National Newspaper Association convention in Oklahoma City where Maria's paper has won several awards. Here's Maria being very pleased that her convention ID badge has a prize winner ribbon attached to it.
Dinner last night was at the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, or something like that. We did an abbreviated tour of the museum - mostly the art galleries - and had a sub-par dinner served at room temperature. Hardly worth the $95 a plate, but we weren't paying, so who cares?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

En route

Sitting in a plane in Memphis, waiting to take off for Oklahoma City and a newspaper convention.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

iStuff


With a Treo 700p and a 60-gig iPod, I'm so deep into geekdom it's almost scary.
I keep finding new ways the iPod, which I previously thought I had no use for, is way cool.
We're contemplating a road trip - most likely to Colorado - in the Subaru in a couple of weeks and it occurred to me that it would be nice to be able to play my growing collection of iPod music on the car's stereo system.
So I stopped by Best Buy on Sunday and took a look at the myriad iPod car adapters.
I finally settled on the iTrip by Griffin - a simple tunable FM transmitter/iPod charger that plugs into what used to be the cigarette lighter power outlet.
I passed on models that include a cradle for the iPod, since I use the black rubber-armor case from Speck that would have to come off for the unit to slip into a cradle.
I especially like the Speck protective case because it makes it much less likely that I'll fumble the iPod and drop it. It's taken a couple of short drops without damage, thanks for the case, so I'm pleased with it.
I just went to the Speck website and found they make a similar case for the Treo 700p/w smartphones and I'm thinking about ordering one for my Treo.
But I digress.
As soon as I hooked up the iTrip unit and started playing music through the car' stereo, I realized I had just obsoleted the 6-disc CD changer/player that had necessitated carrying a big case of CDs the last time we went for a long drive.
I suppose we carried 35-40 CDs with us for the changer. With the iPod and iTrip we have (at last count) 5,748 songs, which amounts to somewhere around 500 CDs, plus various podcasts (I'm addicted to Leo Laporte's technology podcasts).
So the iPod, combined with XM satellite radio ought to give us enough listening choices to make Kansas fly beneath our wheels.
I've ripped nearly all of my CDs - just about everything that I'd care to hear on CD (I skipped some lengthy classical stuff, but may go back and revisit that decision) and am now looking for other things to add. Amazingly, the 60-gig hard drive is only one-third full.
Every now and then, I'll hear something on XM or remember some long-forgotten song that I have to then track down on ITunes or - as in the case with today's addition of a Spike Jones anthology and the Beatles White Album - pick up used on Amazon.com.
The song I flashed on over the weekend, then forgot, then remembered and bought last night is a nice additon - Cheap Trick's "Ain't That a Shame." Damn, what a great piece of rock and roll.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Done

It's official: we're out of the landlord business and my parents' house is sold.
Feels kinda strange.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Chilly riding


It's amazing how much of a psychological/comfort difference there is between 62 sunny degrees and 56 cloudy/drizzling degrees.
I left home for errands in Indianapolis under cloudy skies with the promise of a sunny high this afternoon of 62 degrees.
It's 2 p.m. And I haven't seen the sun yet. And I ran into drizzle as I approached downtown Indy.
WTF?
And I was running on fumes when I got to Carmel, hoping to get to the gas pumps at the Meijer store before I ran out of gas. Naturally, I got caught up in a gawker jam going past a the aftermath of a car-truck tangle in the other lanes. The gas gauge on my BMW K1200GT was reading below empty and I ended up putting 4.82 gallons into the tank - about as close to dry as I've ever come with this bike.
But I have the two cameras I came to pick up and am warming up with a vente mocha at Starbucks.
Going back south through the crash scene to the Interstate is out of the question, so I'll take local roads home.
BTW, this is the first photo from my phone's 1.3 megapixel camera that I've posted on the blog. Sure beats the images I got with the Treo 600.

Mom


Today is the sixth anniversary of my mother's death.
I had moved her into a retirement home/nursing facility near my home about six months earlier after she injured her leg in a fall at home.
She was in good hands and with people who cared about her, but she desperately wanted to get back to her house in Delphi where she had lived most of her adult life.
I got a call from the head nurse about 8 p.m. that day telling me my mother had just died. I couldn't believe it. She was in good condition, I thought.
Turns out, the arthritis medicine she'd been on caused internal bleeding and she died in her sleep.
I still blame myself for not spending enough time with her.
And we're selling her house tomorrow.
***************
Well, not tomorrow after all.
Slow paper-shuffling has pushed the closing date to next Monday. Whatever. That means the tenant owes me another $75 in rent before the house is hers.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sew what?


Maria, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, is a quilter. A serious quilter who has written for various quilt magazines and who walks the walk as well as talks the talk.
She's knocked out a whole bunch of quilts in the last couple of years, especially after I bought her a Bernina sewing machine.
She visited her favorite fabric store last Saturday, a store that also happens to be a Bernina dealer. She got seduced by the aurora 440 QE, which has a revolutionary stitch regulator - apparently the first machine to ever have it.
She likened it to BMW's groundbreaking antilock brake system for motorcycles introduced in the 1980s.
The machine was on sale with a special 18-months-same-as-cash deal.
Well, only a fool would pass up a deal like that.
So I drove down to the Bernina store yesterday afternoon and bought her one and now she's a very happy camper, er quilter.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Monday, October 02, 2006

New phone


Seems like every fall, I get a hankering for a new cell phone.
First it was a flip-phone that my friend Tim Balough sold me very cheap because he'd given up on having Sprint cellular service at his home in Alma, Colo.
Then I got beguiled by the Treo series of phones and picked up an obsolete Treo 300 on Ebay. I used it for a year until I stepped up to a more advanced, but also obsolete by this time, Treo 600.
That was last fall. I really loved the 600 and bought a folding keyboard for it to do blog entries and e-mail while traveling. The built-in camera was crap, but I bought it mainly for e-mail and blogging and phone communications.
The 600 started going crazy on me last week. It wouldn't respond properly to screen taps or keyboard input. I thought it might have a virus or some other data corrpution, but then I noticed it started doing funny things when I wiggled the stylus around in its silo - a clue that the problem was mechanical and, therefore, not something I could fix.
So on Saturday I bit the bullet, went to the Sprint store and stepped up to the top of the Treo food chain (for the moment, anyway), the Treo 700p. (I read this morning that the 750 was released last week in Europe and Asia.)
Anyhow, it does everything better than the 600 and has the advantage of a user-replaceable battery and a 1.3 megapixel camera, plus video and TV.
However, for some mysterious reason, it doesn't interface with my Sprint PCS e-mail account, so I had to create a new account with Gmail, the Google e-mail service. That necessitated changing over with Blogger.com so it would recognize blog entries from my new phone.
Now I have to pick up a folding keyboard and some styli that have ballpoint pens hidden in them. The 700 is Bluetooth-equipped, so I can now become one of those annoying people who walks around with an earpiece seeming to carry on a spirited conversation with themselves. But I promise that if I get a Bluetooth earpiece, I won't do that. Honest.