Monday, December 31, 2007

Damn, what a year!

There's an old Chinese curse that goes: "May you live in interesting times."

By the Chinese measure, then, we are definitely cursed and for me and mine, 2007 was a very "interesting" year.

indianaCzbxThis time last year, we were comfortably settled in our big old house in Thorntown, Ind. We had money in the bank from the sale of my parents' house and were looking forward to using some of it to build a two-car, two-motorcycle garage with an upstairs photo studio and office and planned to expand our wedding and portrait photography business.

Maria was closing out an excellent year as managing editor of the Crawfordsville Journal Review, having won a wheelbarrow full of awards at the National Newspaper Association and Hoosier State Press Association contests. And we figured 2007 would be even more professionally rewarding for her.

Twelve months later, nearly everything in our lives has changed. Our garage/studio project blew up in our faces and our trusted contractor ran off with about $15,000 of the proceeds from my parents' house, after taking about $20,000 and leaving us virtually nothing to show for it.

We had a bridezilla who pretty much put me off of wedding photography for the rest of my natural life.

The departure of Karen, Maria's award-winning page designer, plunged us both into about six months of long days and nights at the newspaper, often adding up to six-day weeks and pretty much sucked the fun out of working there.

Then Maria got a call from a corporate head-hunter in Cincinnati who was helping the Jonesboro Sun search for a managing editor. Maria wasn't interested in moving to Arkansas and neither was I, but she decided to play along to see how marketable her skills were.

She's already been offered the top editorial job at another Indiana newspaper, but turned it down because the upper-level management was blind to the problems that were taking the paper down the toilet.

Maria was invited to Jonesboro for an interview and we drove down arkansaE2on Aug. 10 to get our first look at this place. I was strongly opposed to leaving Indiana and couldn't conceive of living in Arkansas. I wanted to dislike Jonesboro and I think Maria did too. But we didn't. It turned out to be a pleasant place full of nice people.

A few days later, Maria got a job offer. Emotional attachments aside, accepting the offer and moving to Arkansas was the only logical choice. The job at the Sun was filled with opportunity and things were only getting worse at the JR, with no sign of improving.

So she took the job and we rendezvoused here on Labor Day - she driving down from Indiana and me riding my motorcycle here after a week in the Rockies with my BMW Club friends - and began our search for a house.

Realtor Stan Dacus must have shown us 40 houses over the next few weeks until we found this place between Goobertown and Buck Snort and knew immediately that it had everything we'd been looking for, and more.

It's about 12 minutes from Maria's office and 4 minutes, 52 seconds from the nearest liquor store. That's significant, because we live in a dry county and the nearest liquor store is across the county line to the north. There's a large fenced back yard for the dogs, a big garage for the bikes and (when we get the boxes unpacked) the cars. The place is only two years old and virtually maintenance-free, in stark contrast to the money pit house in Thorntown.

And the weather is much nicer here - about 10 degrees warmer than in Indiana on any given day, with more days of sunshine than we had in Thorntown.

It was cold (30s) and rainy today in Indiana, but I went for a nice long motorcycle ride this afternoon in sunshine and 57 degrees.

At this point, the only scary loose end is getting the Thorntown house sold before the double house payments and Indiana winter heating bills wipe out our equity.

Yes, life here in northeast Arkansas is good. While Maria's family is still in Indiana, I have little left to tie me to the Midwest. My son Steve, his wife Nicky and daughter Lisa moved from Cincinnati to Las Vegas about the same time we moved here in a similarly unexpected relocation.

So with Steve in Vegas, Sean and Ruth in Portland and us in Arkansas, all of my DNA is west of the Mississippi.

But it still blows our minds that it happened so fast.

Every now and then, we wake up in the morning, look at each other and say,"What are we doing in Arkansas. How in the fuck did we end up here?"

Yes, it's been a very interesting year. It's our hope that 2008 can be an "interesting" year for someone else - maybe for friends in Indiana who we hope will join us on our Mid-South adventure.

My Predictions for 2008

ouija

  1. The Shins' Wincing the Night Away will win the Best Independent Album Grammy and Joe Chiccarelli will be Producer of the Year.
  2. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will win a second term.
  3. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., will be the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, even though he should probably lead the ticket.
  4. Another Bhutto will die in Pakistan.
  5. Nothing will be done to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.
  6. One of the two Crawfordsville (Ind.) daily newspapers will change hands or cease publication.
  7. One of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers will die.

The Sea Refuses No River: Think about it

By Pete Townshend

I remember being richer than a king
The minutes of the day were golden
I recall that when the joint passed around
My body felt a little colder
But now I'm like a sewer channel - running lime and scag
Let me get at the master panel - let me at my stack


The sea refuses no river
And right now this river's banks are blown
The sea refuses no river
Whether stinking and rank
Or red from the tank
Whether pure as a spring
There's no damn thing stops the poem
The sea refuses no river
And this river is homeward flowing


I have seen a trace of strain
In other's eyes, not spoken.
I must admit that I enjoyed their pain
But this time it's me that's broken
I demand for you and His
This must be the time
When we decide what freedom is
Turn water into wine


For the sea refuses no river
We're polluted now but in our hearts still clean
The sea refuses no river
We tried not to age
But time had its rage
We're washed over the stones
From babies into clones of the mean
The sea won't refuse this muddy river
Nor deny the sulphurous stream


There was a fool in a dressing robe
Riding out the twilight hour
Lonely and cold in an empty home
Trying to assess his power
But now he's like a stream in flood
Swollen by the storm
He doesn't care if he sheds his blood
Let him be reborn


For the sea refuses no river
Remember that when the beggar buys a round
The sea refuses no river
And rain fills the gutters
No time for stutters
This is our chance
To sing and dance and to clown


The sea refuses no river
And rivers were sprung to drown
The sea refuses no river
No pecking code respected for the damned
The sea refuses no river
Whether starving and ill
Or strung on some pill
Just 'cos you own the land
There's no unique hand plugs the dam


The sea refuses no river
And the river is where I am
The river is where I am

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saturday evening

At Barnes & Noble.

Me as a Simpsons character

Ever wonder what you'd look like as a character on The Simpsons?johnsimpson

Go to simpsonizeme.com, a site sponsored by Burger King and The Simpsons Movie, upload a representative color photo of yourself and have at it. There are lots of ways to tweak the image, so you can probably come up with something that's reasonably accurate.

You can download and/or e-mail the resulting image.

And it's freeeeeee!

Here's what I might look like as a Simpsons character.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The best shots of last night

westsidewins Westside High School's boys basketball team upset Jonesboro High School in the NEA Tournament. It was the first Westside victory over Jonesboro since the 1974-75 season.

faveseq

And this dunk sequence.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More basketball

Shooting 3 more games tonight.

Fucking Savages!

benazir_bhutto_prime_minister

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan - Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, a party aide and a military official said.

"At 6:16 p.m. she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was taken after the attack.

“She has been martyred,” added party official Rehman Malik. Bhutto was 54.

A party security adviser said Bhutto was shot in the neck and chest as she got into her vehicle, then the gunman blew himself up.

A senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, confirmed that Bhutto had died.

Her supporters at the hospital began chanting "Dog, Musharraf, dog," referring to Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf. Some of them smashed the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit, others burst into tears.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene of the bombing could see body parts and flesh scattered at the back gate of the Liaqat Bagh park where Bhutto had spoken. He counted about 20 bodies, including police, and could see many other wounded people.

The road outside was stained with blood. People screamed for ambulances. Others gave water to the wounded lying in the street.

The clothing of some of the victims was shredded and people put party flags over their bodies.

Security had been tight, with hundreds of riot police manning security checkpoints with metal detectors around what was Bhutto's first campaign rally since returning from exile two months ago.

Bhutto had planned an earlier rally in the city, but Musharraf forced her to cancel it, citing security fears. In October, suicide bombers struck a parade celebrating Bhutto’s return, killing more than 140 people in the southern city of Karachi.

Parties across the country were stepping up campaigning for the Jan. 8 elections after a Muslim holiday late last week and a holiday on Tuesday for the birthday of Pakistan’s founder and revered first leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Western allies hope the election will restore stability in a nuclear-armed country vital to their battle against Islamist militancy. The three-way race had pitted Bhutto against the party of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and a party that backs Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup.

The elections are for provincial parliaments and for a National Assembly from which a prime minister and a government will be drawn.

In recent weeks, suicide bombers have repeatedly targeted security forces in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital where Musharraf stays and the Pakistan army has its headquarters.

Before the rally, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, Bhutto had met with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the end of his two-day visit here.

“We too believe that it is essential for both of our countries, and indeed the larger Muslim world, to work to protect the interest of Islamic civilization by eliminating extremism and terrorism,” she said after their meeting.

Bhutto served twice as Pakistan's prime minister between 1988 and 1996. She had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shooting basketball

Here we are at the NEA tournament at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center.
I never considered myself a sports photographer, but that's the assignment today.
These high school teams are playing to very sparse crowds. Apparently they dont't take their basketball as seriously here as we do in Indiana.
No cheerleaders, no fans in school colors, no painted faces... No enthusiasm.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss


I'm working for Maria again - this time at The Sun rather than the Journal Review.
I'm a photographer and photography consultant here for the next couple of weeks. The job is a consequece of the photo manager jumping ship last week.
I'm glad to be back in a newsroom, even if my first day is 4 p.m. to midnight on Christmas Day.
So far, I've been busy prepping photos in Photoshop and reading page proofs while Maria builds pages.
Nothing to shoot so far this evening, but I expect to be out with a camera tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ho Ho Ho

It sure doesn't feel like Christmas Eve here in the Mid-South.

Of my 62 Christmases, this will be only the third I've spent outside Indiana. The other two were in the 1980s when my parents wintered in Florida.

As odd as it feels, I can honestly say that I'd rather be here today than in frigid, snowy Thorntown, Ind.

As I write this, it's 27 degrees with a wind chill of 14 in Thorntown, going to a high today of only 33. In stark contrast, it's sunny this morning at our place between Goobertown and Buck Snort and the temperature is 30 (no wind chill), heading for a high today of 51.

It feels so little like Christmas that we didn't bother with a tree or any decorations this year. I'm not a big Christmas tree guy anyway. When I was single living the life of a rogue elephant in my apartments and condo, I never bothered with a tree or decorations. And after Maria and I got married, I left the tree decorating to her and her kids, particularly because her ex was an extreme control freak when it came to Christmas trees and never allowed her to touch the lights on their trees.

We got into the habit of driving over the the Dull Tree Farm (the family's name is Dull and their trees are anything but dull) north of Mechanicsburg, Ind., and cutting our own. The Dulls are old friends of Maria's and we became their unofficial photographers. The Newfie pictured here with red velvet antlers belongs to a Newfoundland club from Ohio who bring their dogs over to Dulls' the first Saturday in December to pull tree-laden carts in from the fields for customers.

Maria and I have already done our mutual gifting. We agreed that the 41" Sharp Aquos HDTV we bought the weekend after Thanksgiving would be our present to each other.

So Christmas morning will find us holed up in our cozy new home in the woods with our dogs.

Of course, I'd love to be with my sons and their families, but since Sean and Ruth are in Portland, Ore., and Steve, Nicky and Lisa are in Las Vegas, that's not feasible this year. Maybe we should all drop in on Steve in Vegas next year for a Christmas in the desert.

Merry Christmas to everyone. May you get everything you really want and may every gift you give be exactly what the recipient hoped for.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cough

I've coughed so much in the past two days that my abdominal muscles hurt and it feel like I could cough my way into a stroke or a detached retina.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Out, damned spotted carpet!

badrug1

Oh, well. What's another three weeks with a garage full of boxes?

We examined the new "bonus room" carpet again this morning and all of the spots were still there. Also, on close examination, we found the installer actually damaged the carpet in an effort to remove the worst of the spots.

I called him to say we are not satisfied with the condition of the carpet and it will have to be replaced. He asked if I would agree to let a professional carpet cleaner take a shot at it, but gave up on that idea when I pointed out that there's a partial hole worn in it from a cleaning attempt (see inset).

So he called Lowe's and they're going to order more carpet.

This job commenced on Dec. 1 when we placed the carpet order and it took 20 days for Lowe's to get the carpet and have it installed.

So there will be no moving of office furniture and computers to the bonus room this weekend, or probably any other weekend until mid-January.

As it turns out, I'm down with a second cold bug or having a serious relapse from the first one. I've got painfully pressurized sinuses, a faucet for a nose and a codeine-resistant hacking cough that make me want to just sit quietly and wait for my life to get better.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Where's our money, George? Where's George?

george01

This is George O'Dell, the contractor we trusted to build a two-car, two-motorcycle garage with a second-floor photo studio.

He's holding a piece of the $9,000 concrete pad we bought that had to be ripped out because the concrete guys George hired didn't bother to dig proper footers and because it would have gone to pieces if we had stuck a garage and vehicles on top of it. (The tattoos represent the birth dates of his children. Isn't that darling? What a loving, Christian parent. At least that's what he professed to be.)

The photo was taken on May 3, two days after we gave George a check for $14,920 to buy construction materials for the garage. He presumably was going to complete the demolition of the faulty concrete pad and have a good one poured.

George and his crew made their last appearance at our place the next day. On June 28, we hired another contractor to remove the remaining 20 percent or so of the concrete and grade the back yard.

George had told us he used our money to buy our construction materials at Menards. A check with all of the area Menards stores showed that no such transaction took place.

About a month or so after George quit returning our calls, Maria left him a voicemail saying we needed the promised revised garage plans, proof of bonding and insurance and a receipt from Menards for the building materials. We're still waiting for a response.

So after three months of silence, we filed a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Attorney General's Office. Several lawyers told us we were guaranteed a victory if we took the matter to court, but that we would never see a dime of restitution. The only way to get leverage on people like George, they said, is to attach the threat of criminal prosecution to the case, which is what happens when the Attorney General gets involved.

It's been a couple of months since I had a conversation with the young law clerk in the Consumer Protection Division to check on the progress of our complaint. I'll call her tomorrow.

In the meantime, we're thinking bitter thoughts about George.

The King has left the building... almost

samking

This is Sam King, assistant managing editor at the paper where Maria was managing editor before our move to Arkansas.

Sam gave notice this week because he has landed a better-paying job at a substantially larger and better-run newspaper only minutes from his apartment. And it's in the sports department, which is Sam's first love.

Sam never really wanted to be an AME, but he did it anyway because Maria needed him to, and he grew into the position quickly and well. The experience will be valuable as he continues his journalism career.

Carpet at last. Or not.

In case I needed reminding that home improvement is rarely easy, we got our "bonus room" carpet installed today.

But there are three or four dark spots on it.

The installer said he had treated the spots and they looked dark when I went up to inspect the job this evening because the carpet is still wet in those places.

He opined that the treated areas will dry clear.

I declined to sign off on the job - I'll be damned if I'll sign off on a $1,682 carpet job that isn't perfect. I told him I'll let it dry overnight and if the spots are gone tomorrow, I'll go down to Lowe's and sign off on the work.

Of course, this means we can't move any furniture or equipment into that room tonight or until we're satisfied we won't have to have it ripped out and replaced.

Fuck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Almost ready...

bonusroom

This is the "bonus room" above our garage.

We were supposed to get carpet installed there today, but the crew from Lowe's ran into problems with another job yesterday and our job got pushed back to Thursday.

Whatever.

Once we get carpet on the floor, we can move our computers and office stuff up there, which will break up the log jam of boxes in the garage and eventually make it possible to park our cars in the garage.

It will also make it possible for me to finish the wedding album for the couple whose wedding we photographed on July 14. It's an ongoing source of embarrassment for the that I haven't been able to get it done and that's the first thing on my agenda once the computer equipment is in place.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Sun in her future?

sunpicIt's 8:20 a.m. and our friend Lauri just rolled out for the drive home to Indiana with her two boys, Jacob and Judd.

The house is eerily quiet after a couple of days of happy chaos. We had a great time shopping, hanging out, watching DVDs, drinking Margaritas and rum and Coke (not the kids). We did a quick raid Saturday afternoon on Dillard's Clearance Center, where we all scored some great deals, even though the inventory isn't what it was a month ago.

The Crawfordsville Journal Review, where Maria and Lauri worked together and Lauri still toils, invites readers to submit photos of themselves on vacation in exotic locations with a copy of the Journal Review. Here's a shot that probably won't get published.

Lauri is one of the top graphic artist newspaper ad designers in Indiana and her talents would doubtless be welcome at Maria's new paper here in Arkansas.

Needless to say, we'd love to see her and her husband Jim and the kids join us here in the temperate Mid-South.

The winter weather in the Midwest was an ever-present background to the weekend. Lauri had planned to drive down Saturday morning, but left Friday evening instead because of concerns over snow and freezing rain sweeping across Missouri and into Illinois. She managed to beat the snow and ice, but spent the last couple of hours in heavy rain before arriving here about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

We'd hoped the winter storm, which amounted to just a gray day in the low 40s here Saturday, would be severe enough to make her stay an extra day, but it was not to be.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Is it just us?

arkpark

Parking where there is no designated space.

We've been in Arkansas a couple of months now and have decided there is a subtle but very real difference in the way we and our neighbors* process information and interface with reality.

With a few notable exceptions, it seems that the farther east you go in this country, the higher the vibration at which people function. New Yorkers who visit Indiana find us remarkably laid-back and slow-paced. Conversely, my visits to New York left me with the impression that most New Yorkers are tweaked up and exploding with nervous energy.

And so it is for us in the upper right corner of Arkansas. We noticed it first in people's driving habits. Nobody seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere. I'm not known for jackrabbit starts from stoplights, but I have yet to be beaten off the line by anyone here. There is consistently a five-second or more time lag between the appearance of a green light and any forward motion by a vehicle with an Arkansas plate. If the driver is on a cell phone, it takes them even longer to wake up and move. And if it's an old person in a Buick, you can expect them to be just slightly faster than a house plant.

When it comes to cornering, people here creep around corners like they think they're on black ice. Nobody accelerates through a turn. And when turning into a parking lot, they often come to a dead stop at the end of the turn, presumably to decide what to do next. God help you if you just started a left turn into that same lot and are left hanging in the oncoming traffic lane.

Of course, hardly anyone uses turn signals. They must think that projection on the left side of the steering column is there for decoration.

The people, we have found, are nice to a fault. They can be maddeningly naaaas ("nice" in Arkanese). Workers in fast food joints welcome you enthusiastically and wish you a naaas day when you leave with such conviction that you feel compelled to respond.

And damn near everyone wears camo. We had lunch at an all-you-can-eat catfish buffet and had a contest to see who could spot the most items of clothing in camouflage pattern. Counting jackets, caps and shirts, I came up with more than 10. You see whole families in camo, even little toddlers. I bought a camo hat at the Boomland fireworks store/gas station as a joke, but it's a joke nobody around here gets. I just look normal to them. There's even a hunting/outdoorsman store here called the Camo Store.

People here are crazy about hunting, especially deer hunting. The local paper runs whole pages of photos of hunters hunkered down next to the deer they killed. There was even a story about a 4-year-old girl who almost accidentally drilled an eight-point buck through the forehead with a .22 while sitting in a deer blind on her grandmother's lap.

This is also the "buckle" of the Bible Belt. About 89 percent of the folks in this county who claim a religious affiliation belong to Evangelical Protestant churches and the overwhelming majority of them are Southern Baptists. A professor at the local Arkansas State University campus, who just moved here from the East Coast, remarked to my wife that the first thing people ask him is, "What church do you go to?"

As Catholics, we're probably regarded as Satanic agents of Rome, so we avoid discussions of religion.

There are, of course, some quick, witty, alert people here - folks with a bit of an edge to them - and we delight in discovering them. And we're looking for more of them.

 

*When I say "neighbors," I don't mean our next-door neighbors. We don't know them well enough to include them in this rant and, therefore give them the benefit of the doubt.

Company's coming!

lauriface

Our friend Lauri is coming tonight for a weekend visit, along with her two boys, and we're very excited.laurisimpson

Lauri as a Simpson character.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Reading at Barnes & Noble

Maria with her new glasses at Barnes & Noble.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Shins win Grammy nomination!!!

Wincing_the_Night_Away 


Wincing the Night Away,
the Shins album my son Sean helped engineer, is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album in the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.

Producer Joe Chiccarelli, with whom Sean worked on the album, is also up for Producer of the Year on the strength of the Shins album and three others.

The Grammy Awards will be presented on Feb. 10, 2008.

seanshinsc

Marty Crandall, Joe Chiccarelli, James Mercer, and Sean Flora in the studio.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Working late

Maria, who got glasses last week and can see her monitor much better now, edits copy in her office while I wait patiently to go to dinner.
Not having been our of the house all day, I was getting stir-crazy and decided to drive into town for dinner.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A happy observation

I paid our utility bills for our first full month in the new house and they were remarkably low.

The electric bill, which includes heat and air conditioning, was $103 and the water bill was $27, for a total of $130.

Reviewing our utility bills for the Thorntown house for 2006, I find we averaged $285 a month. I realize last month was unseasonably mild and winter hasn't even started, but these look like numbers I can like.

The previous owner said the highest electric bill he ever had was something like $180, so if that's as bad as it can get, the higher house payment won't be quite so painful.

Of course, we're paying to heat the Thorntown house until we sell it, not to mention continuing to make payments on it, and God knows how long that will go on.

Maria called a cleaning woman (Reinemachefrau) and arranged for her to give the Thorntown house a good going-over late this week. Then we can bring in the Realtors, let them take their photos and get that mo-fo onto the market.

Friday, November 30, 2007

One last jump

evel Any newspaper editor worth his pay will start the story of Evel Knievil's death on the front page and jump it to the back page.

Seems a fitting tribute, don't you think?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lisa in Portland

lisaruthsean lisasean

Granddaughter Lisa and her dad Steve traveled to Portland, Ore., over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit Uncle Sean and Aunt Ruth.

In the top photo, Ruth shares a book with Lisa. Sean is sporting what looks like a shawl-collared sweater - something I haven't seen in years. Don't know if it's vintage or if they're coming back. I always liked the look.

In the lower pic, Sean and Lisa stroll through the Japanese Gardens in Portland's Washington Park. Steve shot the photos with his iPhone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Feeling like crap

The cold Maria and I brought back from Indiana seems to be hitting me a little harder than it did her.

I was hacking and wheezing so badly last night that Maria evicted me from the bedroom about 1 a.m. and I slept in one of the guest bedrooms so she could be reasonably rested for work.

I awoke feeling somewhat better - enough better to drag the trash out for collection. A carpet measurer from Lowe's came about 9:45 a.m. and took measurements of the stairway and bonus room over the garage. I expect a call sometime tomorrow with cost estimates for the three grades of carpet we picked.

I felt good enough by midday to have a bit of lunch, shower and venture out to the postoffice and Home Depot. I also stopped by Dillard's Clearance Center, but just poked around and didn't buy anything.

We bought each other our Christmas present on Sunday after noticing in the newspaper inserts a flyer from Sam's Club advertising EP21927134a Sharp Aquos 42" LCD HDTV for $866. It normally retails for $1,499. So we ran to Sam's Club, bought a membership and snapped up one of the three remaining 42" Sharps.

The armoire we're using for a living room entertainment center has an inside width of 48" and the 26" tube TV we had in it looked a little lonely.

Of course, our cable TV provider doesn't offer any HD programming, so we'll have to wait on that. In the meantime, it sure is nice having such a big screen.

Too bad there's nothing on.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thankful to be back home

We rolled in about 1:45 a.m. (CST) today from a whirlwind Thanksgiving trip to Indiana and woke up eight hours later with head and chest colds.

We didn't get out of here Wednesday evening until about 7 o'clock and arrived at our house in Thorntown sometime around 5 a.m. (EST), grabbed a couple of hours of sleep on an airbed in our mostly empty house and made it to 9 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Lebanon to help celebrate Maria's parents' 46th wedding anniversary.

Then it was back to her parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family - Maria's kids and her two brothers and their tg072eight of their nine kids. I suspect that's where we picked up the cold bugs.

By the time we left her parents' place in late afternoon, I was starting to freak out over the remaining work to get our house ready to market. Maria, however, insisted on a nap, so we crashed, picked up Morgan around 7 p.m., had a quick dinner at Denny's and worked on the house until about 1 a.m.

More house work Friday morning, culminating in a clusterfuck of a lunch at the new BW3 in Crawfordsville. What was supposed to be a festive family lunch with Maria's kids and parents turned into an ordeal because of general incompetence among the kitchen and wait staff.

It took more than an hour to get our food, despite the fact that all around us were being served. I occupied myself with the wireless trivia game where I narrowly beat Austin and Morgan.

After a long absence, our waiter began reporting to us that our food was nearly ready. First it was my Black & Bleau burger that was the holdup. Then he came over to say we were just waiting on the wrap.

"Nobody at this table ordered a wrap," I told him, fixing him with an icy glare and growling, "We want our fucking food and we want it Goddamned now!"

Morgan and her grandparents were off to the restroom at the moment. Maria looked horrified, while Austin grinned and suppressed a laugh.

It was one of those time when I just freaking snapped. As I was flaming the hapless little fuck, I found myself thinking, "Wow! Where did that come from?"tg071

Eventually, the food arrived and a few minutes later, the owner came over, apologized profusely and told us half our bill would be comped.

Before we left, I changed the six-character player names on our wireless game pieces to NOFOOD and SERVUS.

The restaurant had opened six days earlier and they were apparently working with a staff that had not been properly trained and prepared for business. Oddly, our friend Lauri said she and  her family were there on opening day last Sunday and reported the service was prompt.

We drove Morgan down to Bloomington, threw a couple of quarts of oil into the Subaru engine after it flickered the oil pressure light at me, took Ind. 46 to Ind. 59 to get onto I-70 south of Brazil and were off on another Friday night long haul to Arkansas.

We were forced to leave a few items in Thorntown that should have come with us, but we'll be back at least once more before the house sells and we can retrieve them then.

The dogs are still at the kennel - I'm picking them up at 3:30 p.m. - and now I'm going to whip up some soup for lunch before Maria heads for work at 1 p.m.

The photos are my nephew Marek with a dinner roll and my mother-in-law Sandra studying the BW3 menu.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"E, A, D, G... What time is the gig?"

lisastevestrings

Granddaughter Lisa and son Steve tuning up.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Where are we?

Close scrutiny of the map shows our house is about halfway between Goobertown and Buck Snort.

Really.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

Thank God for my telephone headset


I'd be in serious neck pain right now if it weren't for my wireless telephone headset.

I spent more than an hour this morning sorting out a screw-up on our first AT&T phone bill for our new home in Arkansas.

When I was looking for phone/cable/high-speed Internet service back in October, my first call was to AT&T. With their assurance that I could make changes at will, I signed up for bundled service for all three with AT&T. The bundle included satellite TV and Internet service with DISH - with a $49.99 credit card charge - and I did it with the fervent hope that my next couple of phone calls would lead me to DSL or cable high-speed Internet.

I found the local cable system has high-speed Internet, so I called AT&T back and told them to cancel the DISH part of the package. A couple of days later, I got a call at our new home from a DISH installer, saying he was on the way. I told him to cancel the visit and make another phone call to DISH. They assured me they had canceled the order and my refund was in the works.

Sure enough, a $49.99 refund rolled into our bank account on Nov. 7. I assumed that was that.

Until I got our first AT&T bill yesterday showing a $49.99 charge for DISH service.

I'll spare you the details and just say that I spent more than an hour on the phone, talking with no less than five AT&T and DISH representatives, before I was assured that the charge was removed from our account and won't show up on next month's bill.

I'll believe it when I get next month's bill.

BTW, satellite Internet is crappy at best and our year-long experience with DISH satellite TV made us absolutely joyful about going back to cable.


BTW, the telephone headset I love so much is the RCA ViSYS. It's a pleasure to use.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Squeezably dead

charmin

Dick Wilson

July 30, 1916-Nov. 19, 2007

Dick Wilson, the character actor who played grocer Mr. Whipple in more than 500 Charmin commercials from 1964 to 1985, died today of natural causes. He was 91.

Wilson was born Riccardo DiGuglielmo in England and was raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

His free lifetime supply of Charmin, given to him by Procter & Gamble in appreciation for his commercial work, ran out today.

I guess this makes us Arkansans

Maria and I got our Arkansas driver's licenses this morning.

The local Revenue Office got their camera "flashbub" replaced, so they could issue the photo licenses, but the color balance is hideously off. We both look terminally jaundiced - so yellow that we could do guest appearances on The Simpsons.

And, yes, we remembered to transfer our motorcycle endorsements from our Indiana licenses, so we're legal to ride in Arkansas.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Yesterday & Today

Here's Maria admiring Deb's K75 at yesterday's toy run. Maria's shot of bikes filling Main Street is on the front page of this morning's Sun.
It's 57 degrees here at midday on Sunday, which is a helluva lot nicer than the 43 degrees in Indy right now.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back home in Arkansas

After three days of painting, carrying out trash and tying up loose ends, I decided I'd had enough of Thorntown and headed home Friday evening.

I left Thorntown at 5:33 p.m. and pulled into our driveway seven hours and 45 minutes later - a new record for me. I had earlier planned to wait and make the drive this morning, but I'm glad I just sucked it up and hit the road.

We had an invitation from Charlie and Deb Parsons, our BMW rider friends here, to join them at the ABATE toy run and since it was sunny and 60s here (cloudy and chilly 40s in Thorntown), we accepted.

There were about 500 bikes, almost all Harleys. My K1200GT was one of only four BMWs. Maria rode pillion and shot about 66 frames with a D-100, including these.

The procession of bikes, which strung out for nearly a mile, filled Main Street and everyone waved to Crystal Fowler and her bridal party as they posed for photos in front of the First United Methodist Church.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hey, that's Sean's work


USA Today has a story on page B4 about the next generation Zune, illustrated with a graphic from Microsoft showing 3 new Zunes.
The most prominent - the 80 gig - displays the Shins' Wincing the Night Away. My son Sean was an engineer on the album, which I predict will do well at the Grammys.

Tips

Author Elmore Leonard (3:10 to Yuma and other Westerns) has published his "10 Rules of Writing."
They are:
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a word other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said."
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detailed describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Deja vu all over again

..to quote Yogi Berra.
Breakfast at the Lebanon Denny's, en route to Carmel for a bank errand.
I took advantage of the last warm day this week to weed-whack and paint the outside trim of the back door.
This afternoon and evening will see the installation of a new ceiling light in the parlor, painting and wallpaper touch-up.
Also trash hauling, since tomorrow is trash day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Boone Co. Clerk's office

Waiting for a copy of Maria's first marriage license so we can satisfy Homeland Security that we're not foreigners or terrorists or both.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rolling

Heading back to Indiana.

Welcome to Arkistan

We got up early this morning to go to the Department of Revenue office in hopes of swapping our Indiana driver's licenses for Arkansas licenses.

Hah!

We came away empty-handed, me exasperated and amused and Maria in a blind rage.

The experience reminded me of a Third World border crossing where the rules and regulations are subject to arbitrary and sudden change and are interpreted at the whim of whatever petty official you're dealing with. The only thing missing was the solicitation of a bribe.

Maria and I thought we had done our homework. Maria phoned ahead to determine what documentation she needed. I went online and checked the requirements as summarized on the Arkansas page of dmv.org, a site that lists the ins and outs of DMV regs for the various states. Maria learned she needed a copy of our marriage license since she had changed her name when we got married. So she called the Boone County clerk's office in Indiana and spent $4 for them to mail her a couple of copies. DMV.org said all I needed was my birth certificate and Social Security card.

We slogged through a heavy thunderstorm in morning rush hour traffic to arrive at the Revenue office a few minutes before 8 a.m. Walking through the door, we felt lucky that we didn't have to wait for them to open, since the hours posted on the door listed 7 a.m. as the beginning of their business day.

But that was the end of any good luck.

A portly guy in a woodland camo hat and jacket was at the counter listening to the clerk explain why they couldn't issue any driver's licenses today because the "flashbub" was out on the camera and the technician would have to come up from Little Rock to replace it.

Not wanting to waste the trip, Maria asked the clerk to confirm that she had all of the necessary documentation: Her marriage license, Indiana driver's license and Social Security card.

No, said the clerk. Under Homeland Security regulations, Maria needed to present a marriage license for each of her marriages (there was one before ours) documenting all of her names, as well as her birth certificate.

"We don't use Social Security cards. We haven't for a long time," the clerk said.

Maria was fuming because she has to have a valid Arkansas driver's license to make application for a program her newspaper is paying for. And it has to be done soon.

The clerk said the information on the official Arkansas DFA Office of Driver Services website is incorrect.

She said the person responsible for the site had tried to make changes for the last year and a half but can't seem to get it done.

She stared blankly when I suggested that person should be fired and replaced by someone who can do the job. I suspect the concept of someone being fired from a state patronage job is beyond her comprehension.

So the information on the official website is wrong and the information Maria got on the phone from the Revenue office was wrong and the only way to find out what is actually required is to physically go to the Revenue office and be turned away.

Fuming, Maria stalked out of the office.

I stayed behind to learn this clerk's version of how to plate our two cars and two motorcycles and what everything would cost.

We have to jump through an insane number of hoops to get our vehicles plated, including inspections and assessments from the county assessor's office.

But the one that blew my mind was her answer to the question, what is the fee for a driver's license.

"It depends on what state you're coming from and how old you are," she said.

Huh?

I asked if astrological birthsign or blood type entered into the formula and she didn't even blink.

When I got home, I went to the official Department of Revenue & Finance website to compare her information with what is allegedly the official line.

Licensed drivers moving to Arkansas must surrender their home state license and:

...Arkansas law requires persons obtaining a license for the first time to show proof of legal presence in the United States Acceptable documents are: a U.S. birth certificate, photo military/military dependent ID, Naturalization certificate, a U.S. passport or Visa, an Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) photo document. (Border Crosser documents are not acceptable.) You must also show two forms of identification.

If name is different from what is on the Birth Certificate, applicant will need to bring document which changes name, Marriage License, Divorce Decree, specifically stating that you may change your name, or court order for name change.

Elsewhere on the site, we are told:

Each applicant must show either:

  • An Arkansas Photo DL/ID, or
  • Two (2) primary documents, or
  • One (1) primary document and one (1) secondary document.

Primary Documents

  • Photo Out-of-State DL/ID
  • Certificate of Birth (US Only)
  • Photo INS Documents-(Immigration and Naturalization Services)- (No Border Crosser)
  • Valid Passport (if foreign, INS card or US Visa required)
  • Naturalization Certificate
  • Court Order - must contain full name, DOB, court seal. Includes adoption name changes, gender change.
  • Photo Military/Military Dependent ID
  • Armed Forces Discharge Papers

Secondary Documents

  • Photo Work/School ID
  • Vehicle Registration/Title
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Card/Indian Treaty Card (No Tribal Card)
  • Marriage License
  • Health Insurance Card
    Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser, HMO, etc. (Medicaid card NOT acceptable.)
  • IRS/State Tax Forms (W-2 NOT acceptable)
  • Court Order (Date of Birth not present)
  • Medical Records (from Doctor/Hospital)
  • Concealed Handgun License
  • Cert. School Transcript
  • Pilot's License
  • Parent/Guardian Affidavit
    Parent/guardian must appear in person, prove his/her identity and submit a certified/notarized affidavit regarding the child's identity. Applies only to minors.
  • Court Records
  • Prison Release Document

LEGAL PRESENCE AND IDENTIFICATION DOCUMENTS MAY BE COMBINED
Proof of legal presence documents may also serve as proof of identification. If a person shows a U.S. Birth Certificate as proof of legal presence, that will also serve as a primary identification document leaving only a secondary ID document requirement.

I checked the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles site and found even more stringent identification regulations in place, making it obvious that the Department of Homeland Security is the source of this ridiculous series of hoops through which we are required to jump.

I don't mind playing the game, however silly its rules, as long as the requirements are clearly stated at the outset.

I'm leaving for Indiana in an hour to spend a few days tying up loose ends and doing what I hope is the final bunch of fix-ups and tweaks to get our house ready to market.

I'll stop by the county clerk's office and get Maria's earlier marriage license and see if I can pick up a copy of her birth certificate if she can't find one in our garage full of boxes.

Then we can go back to the Revenue office in Jonesboro and hope we get the same interpretation of the regulations that we got this morning. I'm not counting on it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Here and gone


Our first houseguests just left to return to Indiana.
Morgan, Shaylan and Mark drove down Friday to surprise Maria. I took them shopping Friday afternoon at Dillard's clearance center where they were dazzled with the bargains and loaded up on clothes, an experience we all repeated Saturday morning and then Maria and Morgan went back for yet another round Saturday afternoon.
I arranged to meet Maria for dinner after she got off work Friday evening. She was waiting outside Shorty Small's at the new mall when the four of us came traipsing across the parking lot. Needless to say, she was stunned to see her daughter and two friends turn up unexpectedly in Jonesboro.
By the time they left about noon today, it was a bit of a challenge to stuff all of their new Dillard's duds into the trunk of Shaylan's Saturn.
Now it's Lauri's turn.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Breakfast for lunch

At Cracker Barrel.
Notice how much more relaxed Maria looks now that we're semi-settled into our new house?

Bargains!

Shaylan, Mark & Maria with amloads of killer clothing deals Saturday afternoon at Dillard's clearance center.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Guests!

Morgan, Shaylan and Mark showed up this afternoon to visit for the weekend. The only thing missing is Lauri.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pros and cons

We had lunch today with a local woman who wondered about my impressions of Arkansas and Jonesboro after living here a week or so.

I told her I'm compiling two lists - one of things I like about the place and the other of things I hate about it.

The photo on the right is an illustration of what I hate the most. It's creepera slow-moving mope in a clapped out pickup truck creeping through a left turn at the intersection of Main and Highland in Jonesboro.

It seems that drivers around here refuse to make turns at a reasonable speed. It's like they think they're driving on ice and they're terrified that their cars or trucks will slide out of control or overturn. God knows what they'll do when winter comes and they actually encounter slick pavement. There seems to be an unnaturally high percentage of unconscious slow drivers - mostly hideous potato-faced people on cell phones who don't seem particularly keen on actually getting anywhere.

I also dislike the fact that Craighead County is dry. The only saving grace is the fact that you can drink in several area restaurants by paying a $5 annual "club" membership fee. And it helps that our house is only about 5 minutes from the county line and liquor stores.

I'm told that the women of the county voted it dry during World War II when the men were off fighting the Axis. Imagine their surprise and outrage when they came home and discovered what their wives had done.

And, I'm none to happy that the nearest Subaru dealer is about 80 miles away in Memphis. Ditto, the nearest BMW motorcycle dealership.

On the positive side of the ledger, I love the weather so far. It's been consistently sunnier and warmer than in Indiana. Also, Jonesboro is a very easy city to learn. I've had no problems navigating and I'm also getting familiar with the county road network around our rural home.

The county road numbering system, however, falls into the Things I Hate column. It's capricious and makes absolutely no sense to someone familiar with the numbered grid system developed at Purdue University and in use in most Indiana counties.

Happy 40th Birthday, Sean!

seancopy

Sean, my oldest son, is 40 today.

As Hunter S. Thompson used to say, it gives a man paws.

Here's Sean in the late summer of 1970 with his puppy, Copy. He was an only child at the moment. His brother Steve was born about three months later.

Sean is an alumnus of Orchard Country Day School and Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis and has a degree in audio technology from Indiana University. He moved to Portland, Ore., after college and pursued a career in music and recording.

He was an engineer on the wildly successful Shins album, Wincing the Night Away. I fully expect the album to earn at least one Grammy. It's that good.

Sean's wife Ruth Greenberg is a phenomenally talented ceramic/mosaic artist.

I am enormously proud of him and don't get to see him nearly often enough. I hope that will change now that Maria and I are off of the Journal Review treadmill and I'll have more free time.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Overwhelmed, freaking out and ready to kill a dog

The garage is full of boxes, many of which never should have been shipped, but they got loaded because I couldn't stop them.

We picked up our bikes this afternoon from Charlie and Deb Parsons's house, where they have been stored in Charlie's shop - my bike since Labor Day weekend and Maria's since I rode it down on Oct. 6.

There is barely enough room to squeeze the bikes into the garage and I'm frantically trying to empty boxes to create enough space to accommodate what's coming out of the last vault tomorrow morning. But I'm getting no help. So I've decided to say fuck it, get drunk and let the car go off the cliff.

I will, however, not permit boxes of kitchen stuff that could be quickly and easily put into cabinets and drawers, displace the bikes and I will throw them into the rain before I'll let the bikes sit out at night.

We discovered this evening that Ruthie has repeatedly pissed on the new dining room carpet, thoroughly soaking it. I am close to killing her. From now on, her life here will consist of her kennel in the garage and the back yard. I will not have an idiot incontinent dog wreck our new house. I will have her stupid furry ass put down before I will let that happen.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I fucked up - I trusted them

Vault SV6669 shipped empty. The loaders were supposed to be loading the vaults sequentially based on their positions in the driveway and yard. When I asked them if it was loaded and ready to go, they said yes, so I locked and sealed it.
I called SmartMove and it looks like we won't have to pay for a vault we didn't use, even though it shipped. The saving grace was that we used their packing/loading contractor.
So we only have 8 vaults to unload today.
But the crew isn't here yet...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

They're heeeeere

The UPS truck with 5/9 of our stuff arrived about 10 a.m.
Got to inspect them and photograph the contents if damaged.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I can quit anytime I want. Honestly, I can...

When it comes to buying clothes for myself - not counting motorcycle riding apparel - I'm notoriously cheap.

I say this as a defense for my recent spending binge at Dillard's Clearance Center, because I feel kinda guilty about letting myself be drawn back there on a daily basis.

But looking back on what I've been wearing for the past few years, I notice that about 95 percent of the time, I'm in jeans and some kind of BMW rally or dealer t-shirt. I imagine some people think that's the extent of my wardrobe, and they're pretty much right.

If you took away all of my BMW-related shirts, I'd be down to a handful of Willis & Geiger and denim shirts, all of which have been worn and washed so much that they're coming apart at the collars and elsewhere.

Likewise, I was down to about four pairs of jeans - some of them threadbare. I recently had to throw away my favorite pair of Timberland shoes because the right sole was separating from the upper part of the shoe.

Fortunately, the packing process unearthed a nice, broken-in pair of Columbia shoes that still have lots of wear left in them and still look presentable. I have no idea why I stopped wearing them and stuck them into one of my armoire drawers, but I'm glad I rediscovered them.

My problem was that if the occasion demanded semi-dressy casual attire, I was pretty much screwed.

So when the opportunity to buy really nice and normally expensive department store casual clothes at insanely discounted prices presented itself, I went a little nuts.

Maria, who loves to indulge me whenever I get the notion to buy clothes, has been more than supportive.

And, after all, in our new life here it would be bad form for a newspaper managing editor to be publicly embarrassed by a husband who dresses like a bum.

So tell the folks at Dillard's Clearance Center that I'll probably be in again today.

Happy Birthday, Steve!

stevelisa2ndbirthday

My son Steve is 37 today.

He says he just found a gray hair on his temple. It runs in the family. I was completely gray by my early 40s. There are worse things.

Here's Steve with his gorgeous daughter Lisa.

Oh, yeah. It's Halloween.

Sitting in my car at McDonald's and I see this apparition coming at me across a field.
Gave me pause until I remembered it's Halloween

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chairs

Imagine living in a house with no furniture. Or more to the point, a house without a chair, couch or stool - where the only way to sit down is on the fireplace hearth or the back steps or the toilet. Or if you're really desperate for a proper seat, you can go into the attached garage and sit for awhile in a car seat.
That's how it's been here in the new house since we moved in on Saturday. Maria is a floor-sitter, but I inherited the Flora inflexibility and find sitting on the floor excruciatingly uncomfortable.
We've been sleeping on an air bed, so I'm getting all of the floor time I can stand.
So we eat, talk, compute and think on our feet.
We decided we can't wait for our furniture to arrive Thursday and Friday, so we started looking for a couple of lawn chairs.
I shopped at Lowe's and Big K-Mart yesterday, but came up empty. Lowe's home & garden shop is devoid of summer stuff and full of Christmas crap.
We went to the Super Wal-Mart after lunch today and found a small cache of lawn furniture in a corner. We settled on these glamorous $16 models and I'm finally comfortably seated on our screened back porch watching the dog explore the yard and enjoy this fine sunny autumn afternoon.
I did another drive-by shopping raid on the Dillard's Clearance Center this afternoon and picked up five pairs of pants - four pairs of corduroys and a pair of cargo pants - two turtleneck pullovers and a rugby shirt with a combined list price of $413 for 8 cents on the dollar.
This is scary because I'm turning into a freaking shopaholic. I go shopping while Maria works. Sounds like a serious role-reversal, doesn't it?