Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Of course, this makes my landlord issues irrelevant

Earthquakes Still Swarm Yellowstone Supervolcano Caldera

ash Ash distribution patterns from previous Yellowstone eruptions, compared with Mount St. Helens.

December 31, 2008 09:07 AM ET | James Pethokoukis |

Earthquakes. Supervolcanoes. Calderas. The End of Civilization.  Not the usual subject matter of this blog, but I go where the news takes me. I just checked the last data from the University of Utah's seismograph station in Yellowstone. The earthquake swarm seems to have reintenstified a bit  over the past 24 hours. During Dec. 27 and 28, there was a swarm of earthquakes under Yellowstone in the 3.0-3.9 range. Activity then dropped off to quakes less than 2.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. But now we are again seeing quakes above 2.0 and even a 3.5 shaker earlier this morning. Again, the University of Utah puts this all in perspective:

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that a notable swarm of earthquakes has been underway since December 26 beneath Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, three to six miles south-southeast of Fishing Bridge, Wyoming. This energetic sequence of events was most intense on December 27, when the largest number of events of magnitude 3 and larger occurred. The largest of the earthquakes was a magnitude 3.9 (revised from magnitude 3.8) at 10:15 pm MST on Dec. 27. The sequence has included nine events of magnitude 3 to 3.9 and approximately 24 of magnitude 2 to 3 at the time of this release.

A total of more than 250 events large enough to be located have occurred in this swarm. Reliable depths of the larger events are up to a few miles. Visitors and National Park Service (NPS) employees in the Yellowstone Lake area reported feeling the largest of these earthquakes.

Earthquakes are a common occurrence in the Yellowstone National Park area, an active volcanic-tectonic area averaging 1,000 to 2,000 earthquakes a year. Yellowstone's 10,000 geysers and hot springs are the result of this geologic activity. A summary of the Yellowstone's volcanic history is available on the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory web site (listed below). This December 2008 earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years and is centered on the east side of the Yellowstone caldera. Scientists cannot identify any causative fault or other feature without further analysis. Seismologists continue to monitor and analyze the data and will issue new information if the situation warrants it.

And here is what the Discovery channel has to say about Yellowstone and other supervolcanoes:

One way of looking at the power of volcanoes is what scientists call the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI) — sort of a Richter scale for eruptions. And like the Richter scale used to measure earthquakes, the power of an eruption increases exponentially from number to number in the VEI index.

The VEI scale runs from zero to eight. The higher the VEI number, the bigger — and less frequent — the eruptions. On one end there are the burbling, rather gentle eruptions that happen on the big island of Hawaii. These happen daily on Earth, and even with their occasional impressive fountains of lava, they rate a zero on the VEI.

At the other extreme is the Yellowstone eruption of 2.1 million years ago, which is described on the VEI as an eight: mega-colossal, with a towering ash cloud 10 miles high that pours out at least a thousand cubic miles of ash. That Yellowstone eruption had 10 times the ejected material as a VEI 7 volcano, which modern humans have never seen either.

In fact, the last VEI 7 eruption was in Toba, Indonesia, 74,000 years ago, and it caused such global cooling that some scientists think it nearly drove humans to extinction.

The largest known eruption in the last several thousand years is believed to be that of Tambora, Indonesia, in 1815. It was tens of times more massive an eruption than Mount St. Helens in 1980. Despite pouring out 7 cubic miles of ash and causing short-term global cooling, Tambora was small fry compared with any of Yellowstone's big eruptions, or even the eruption of Toba 74,000 years ago.

No eruptions of this magnitude have happened since the dawn of civilization, about 10,000 years ago — which is lucky for us, and perhaps one reason civilization has been able to develop.

Why I hate being a landlord, Part 548

Tomorrow is the first of the month and the due date for our renters' first monthly rent payment.

Tomorrow is also a postal holiday, so today's mail was the last opportunity for their rent check to arrive on time.

Naturally, there was no rent check in today's mail.

Now if I were starting a new rental relationship with a landlord, I'd be keen to make a good impression and prove myself a reliable, responsible tenant by making damn sure the rent check arrived early - not on or soon after the due date but a day or two early. So I don't understand the mindset of people who don't view their contractual obligations with the same degree of seriousness as I.

So this leaves me struggling with concerns that we have just turned our house over to a pack of deadbeat squatters who will have to be evicted. Their lack of responsiveness and follow-through worries me. They failed to respond to an email and a phone call earlier in December. They also wanted early access to the house to do painting and other cosmetic work. We okayed the request, but they never showed up to do the work they said they wanted to do.

The rental contract stipulates that they will owe an additional $125 if the rent check doesn't arrive by next Tuesday's mail at the latest. I hope it doesn't come to that because my experience is that small claims courts are notoriously unreliable when it comes to enforcing terms of rental contract.

The crumb of good news is that my father-in-law reports the plumber - who promised to be at the house two days ago - is working in the basement this morning to repair the fractured PVC outflow pipe from the sump pump.

My father-in-law also reports that the renters have begun the move-in process, which we authorized, and their stuff is scattered all over the house.

It has not escaped me that I am worrying needlessly, based on the Tenant from Hell who made renting my mother's house a long-running nightmare. The check is probably in the mail and they'll probably pay on time, every time, and be ideal tenants.

I hope so. I really do want to be able to relax about this and focus on other things.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Especially prune juice! I hate prune juice!


Hard to beat

I just got home from lunch with Maria and errands in town.

It's so warm, I had to turn on the AC in my Honda del Sol.

And I filled the tanks on both cars at Sam's club for $1.24/gallon.

My to-do list

Got a full plate of stuff to do today. Here's a partial list:

  1. Have insurance company send proof of new policy to mortgage holder on Thorntown house
  2. Schedule in-home repair of our build-in microwave oven
  3. Prep about 200 images from neighbors' family photo shoot and burn seven CDs for the households involved
  4. Ship two CDs sold on over the weekend
  5. Buy replacement water filter for refrigerator
  6. Buy dog waterer (old one froze and cracked)
  7. Buy ink cartridges for printer

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shooting the neighbors


Our neighbors - the ones whose family portraits we shot a few weeks ago for their Christmas cards - apparently like our work.

They invited us back this afternoon to photograph their extended family. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get this many people to face the camera and not blink?

But we got it done.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's, um, you know, Princess Caroline

What Princess Caroline Kennedy actually said:

“And so, I, I’m an unconventional choice, I, er, understand that. I haven’t pursued the traditional path. But I think that, um, in our public life today, we, you know, are starting to see there are many ways into, to, public life and public service and it’s, uh, not as, um, all our institutions are … less, um, hierarchal than they used to be, and so, you know, I think that, you know, I bring, you know, my life experience to this and, you know, that includes, you know, um, being a mother, um I understand sort of those choices that women make that includes, uh, being a lawyer …”

How the AP cleaned up her rambling  statement:

“I am an unconventional choice. I understand that. I haven’t pursued the traditional path. But I think that in our public life today, we’re starting to see there are many ways into public life and public service,” she said.

Nice day for FURminating

groom It's a breezy 67 degrees this morning, so Maria and I sat on the back porch and took turns using the FURminator on Ruthie.

Ruthie is so woolly that she looks like a little yellow sheep and her undercoat is coming out in big clumps all over the house.

Our friends Charlie and Deb recommended the FURminator and it's turned out to be the best dog grooming tool we've ever seen.

We bought the medium size. I don't remember what Maria paid, but you can find them online for as little as  $29.99.

The tool combs out the loose, dead undercoat with astonishing efficiency. I didn't photograph this mornings FURminating, but this picture from an Ohio animal clinic is a pretty good representation of how much hair you can comb out of the average long-haired dog.

Ruthie has coarse hair and is more of a struggle to FURminate, but I think it will get easier the more we use it. We gave Pete a good going-over early this year and he's required only occasional touch-ups to stay sleek and tidy.

You can learn more about the FURminator at

Here's a video that speaks volumes:

Friday, December 26, 2008

You do know how it ends, don't you?


Despite mixed reviews and my disdain for Tom Cruise, my interest in World War II history requires that I see Valkyrie. I'm curious to see if they get the uniforms and accouterments right and to see if I can learn anything about the story that I don't already know.

I saw the trailer on TV this morning and was suddenly struck by a shocking (to me, anyway) thought: There will probably be people in the audience who don't know how it turns out.

The state of history education in this country is such that there will doubtless be young people who walk into the theatre thinking Col. Claus von Stauffenberg actually succeeded in killing Hitler.

I am reminded of this general lack of historical knowledge from time to time. Like a few years ago when a young reporter at the Crawfordsville Journal Review went blank at the mention of Iwo Jima, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"How are we supposed to know Japanese?" she asked.

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

My new Therm-a-Rest LuxuryCamp air mattress is inflated and standing against the bedroom wall as part of its recommended unpacking process.cc_luxury_camp_xl

It was a Christmas gift from son Steve and his family and will be very much appreciated the next time I embark on a motorcycle camping trip.

Most of my motorcycle camping in recent years has involved BMW rallies. I rode to two of them this year - the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America International Rally in Gillette, Wyo., and the Return to Shiloh Rally near Savannah, Tenn. Indianapolis BMW Club friend Dennis Shelley had a new 2½" thick LuxuryCamp at the Shiloh rally and his raving about its comfort convinced me it was time to upgrade, so I put one on my wish list for Christmas.

My usual camping routine involves setting up my Eureka tent, taking my Therm-a-Rest out of its stuff sack and unrolling it onto the tent floor, leaving the air valve open so the foam-filled mattress can self-inflate over the next few hours while I'm out and about. Since I like a little more air support than the self-inflation process provides, I blow it up the rest of the way just before I go to bed. That is, after dinner and several beers.

And it always occurs to me, when I strike camp on Sunday morning and deflate my Therm-a-Rest, that my air mattress would surely fail a breathalyzer test.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Now I gotta go to Missouri

We stopped at an I-55 gas station south of Sikeston on Monday afternoon to use the restroom.

I felt kinda guilty powerballabout not buying any gas, so I tossed a couple of dollar bills at the girl behind the counter and bought two chances on Powerball. I consider the lottery to be the tax on the stupid, but this was mostly a social gesture.

I remembered the purchase a few minutes ago and went to the Missouri Lottery website to make sure it was okay to pitch my ticket. Turns out I won $7.

So if I drive over to Mr. T's - the 24/7 liquor store just across the state line near Cardwell, Mo., I can cash it in and buy some Christmas cheer.

And, no, there is no lottery in Arkansas. Yet. The voters approved a ballot initiative last month as a first step to having the Legislature consider a lottery to benefit education in the state.


Crap! I misread the Missouri Lottery website. Those numbers would have won me $7 in the July 30 drawing. They're worthless for the Dec. 24 drawing.

58 years ago today


Christmas Day, 1950, 609 E. Franklin St., Delphi, Ind. I hit the jackpot on cowboy stuff.

I never could get that damned rope to coil right.

mariapiano And here's Maria on Christmas Day, 1965.

Merry Christmas to all of my readers, be you regulars or accidental visitors.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Comforter-in-Chief

From The Washington Times:

For much of the past seven years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have waged a clandestine operation inside the White House. It has involved thousands of military personnel, private presidential letters and meetings that were kept off their public calendars or sometimes left the news media in the dark.

Their mission: to comfort the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to lift the spirits of those wounded in the service of their country.

On Monday, the president is set to make a more common public trip - with reporters in tow - to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, home to many of the wounded and a symbol of controversy earlier in his presidency over the quality of care the veterans were receiving.

But the size and scope of Mr. Bush's and Mr. Cheney's private endeavors to meet with wounded soldiers and families of the fallen far exceed anything that has been witnessed publicly, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials familiar with the effort.

"People say, 'Why would you do that?'" the president said in an Oval Office interview with The Washington Times on Friday. "And the answer is: This is my duty. The president is commander in chief, but the president is often comforter in chief, as well. It is my duty to be - to try to comfort as best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish."

Mr. Bush, for instance, has sent personal letters to the families of every one of the more than 4,000 troops who have died in the two wars, an enormous personal effort that consumed hours of his time and escaped public notice. The task, along with meeting family members of troops killed in action, has been so wrenching - balancing the anger, grief and pride of families coping with the loss symbolized by a flag-draped coffin - that the president often leaned on his wife, Laura, for emotional support.

"I lean on the Almighty and Laura," Mr. Bush said in the interview. "She has been very reassuring, very calming."

Mr. Bush also has met privately with more than 500 families of troops killed in action and with more than 950 wounded veterans, according to White House spokesman Carlton Carroll. Many of those meetings were outside the presence of the news media at the White House or at private sessions during official travel stops, officials said.

The first lady said those private visits, many of which she also attended, took a heavy emotional toll, not just on the president, but on her as well.

Another Christmas Story


Santa telling me I'd shoot my eye out if he brought me a Red Ryder air rifle. This was at the L.S. Ayres & Co. downtown Indianapolis department store, circa 1950.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I've been casually following the Gannett Blog, an independent blog about Gannett Co. Inc., which is probing the suggestion of misappropriation of money from the company's foundation by an exec to endow a scholarship in his and his wife's name.

Today's post makes reference to Gannett's "chief ethics officer."

The mind reels.

Home again, home again

After 1,030 road miles and more than 18 hours in the car, we're home and our dogs are back from the kennel.

We had a splendid time with Maria's family and our friends Lauri and Jim up in bleak, frigid Indiana.

The thermometer at Maria's parents' home read zero when we loaded the Subaru Forester and rolled out in the dark at 7:45 a.m. EST yesterday. We paused for gas and a McDonald's breakfast at the Greencastle-Cloverdale exit on I-70 and continued west watching the sun rise in our mirrors.

It was sunny skies and clear roads all the way, although the temperature stayed in the single-digits through Indiana, in the teens down the length of Illinois and finally broke into the 20s by the time we got to Missouri.

We had hoped for a taste of Culver's frozen custard at Effingham, but we got there too late at night on Thursday and too early in the morning yesterday. So our consolation prize was a lunch yesterday at Lambert's Cafe (the home of the throwed roll) in Sikeston, Mo.

Stuffed to the gills, we topped off the gas tank and continued south, arriving at home about 2:30 p.m. CST. We unloaded the car and drove into town where we retrieved Pete and Ruthie.

I found a large, but curiously light, FedEx box on the front porch, which I suspect contains a Christmas present, so I'm waiting until Christmas to open it.

As I write this, I'm watching morning TV and our local station just informed me of a fatal crash on (according to the on-screen graphic) "icey" pavement.

They earlier referred to "the new president elect."

It's Arkansas. What can I say?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hunkered down in Thorntown

Good God! It's 6 degrees.

Waiting for Maria's brothers and their families to come for our early Christmas exchange.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ho Ho Ho

lauri apron

Lauri models the apron Maria made for her.

We had lunch with Lauri and Jim and the kids at BW3. The service was horrible and we won't be back, but the company was delightful.

We are, as you might suppose, in Indiana for the weekend.

We got forced off the road at Effingham, Ill., last night by icing conditions. After a snooze at Motel 6 and a breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we hit the road this morning in 52 degree sunny weather and drove to Crawfordsville for lunch.

The GPS trip data

Total miles: 459.5

Total time: 9:46

Moving time: 8:20

Moving average speed: 55.1 mph

Overall average speed: 47.0 mph

Maximum speed: 73.3 mph

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Party on, dudes

With as many as 4 million people expected in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, the District of Columbia Council last night passed an emergency measure to allow bars and restaurants to stay open around the clock and serve alcohol until 5 a.m. from Jan. 17 through Jan. 21.

Mayor Adrian Fenty said he will sign the legislation.

What could possibly go wrong?

Christmas shopping with mouse and keyboard

It may lack the personal touch of going to the store, plunking downamazon cash or plastic, taking the item home, wrapping and tagging it, and handing it to the loved one, but is a godsend for  people like us whose families are hundreds, even thousands of miles distant.

I did my Christmas shopping for my sons and their families this morning. We all cooperate in this Internet enterprise by posting wish lists on It takes the guesswork out of gifting and assures the recipient gets something he or she wants.

It also eliminates the need to fight the crowds at the malls, trample Wal-Mart employees, pay Arkansas's exorbitant sales tax, engage in road rage, flounder around with wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, box it all up and haul it to the post office.

Just a few mouse clicks and the presents are on their way.

By the way, if anyone is feeling ridiculously generous, here's my Wish List.

(Did you ever notice that the logo features what at first glance is a smiling mouth, but can also be read as the online merchandiser having everything from A to Z?)

Winter, Arkansas style

This week's sleet storm and resulting icy crust would have been a minor, short-lived inconvenience in Indiana.
But it's an ongoing crisis here in a county that has both snowplows out on the road.
Yeah, two snowplows.
And, of course, only Yankees know how to drive on snow and ice.
I drove Maria to work this morning because I need the Subaru to haul a bunch of Ebay packages to the post office. Its all-wheel drive and ABS make it a good choice, but we still have to watch out for the dopes who don't realize 4-wheel drive doesn't mean you can stop any better on ice.
I'm at McDonald's with my coffee and yogurt parfait, reading the Sun and getting ready to get on with my day.
Oh, nice dog photo on page 1.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the subject of UFOs and aliens

Terrorist dogs!

Afghan Revolutionary Front plants dynamite at Paris department store

arf The Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.

PARIS — A group demanding that France withdraw its troops from Afghanistan claimed it planted dynamite found Tuesday at a major Paris department store, officials said.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said sticks of "relatively old" dynamite tied together but without a detonator were found in the Printemps department store, a favored shopping destination for tourists, and a Christmas season attraction because of its festive window displays.

Police said the explosives were found in the third floor restroom of the menswear department. Police and judicial officials said five sticks of explosives were found together.

French news agency Agence France-Presse said it received a letter from a group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front saying that several bombs had been planted in the store.

Alliot-Marie said the group was "totally unknown" to police but that the claim was being studied.

In the letter, the group demanded the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan before the end of February, and threatened attacks if France refuses, said a judicial official informed on the contents of the letter.

Officers cordoned off streets around the building. Anti-crime brigades and bomb squads were called in.

Further details were not immediately available. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the case publicly.

I love the sound of ice scrapers in the morning

scraping This is what happens when your garage is so full of stuff that you have to leave your cars out in an ice/sleet storm.

We dodged the bullet on a really destructive ice storm last night, but second prize was about an inch of sleet that formed a very hard crust on the ground - so hard that I left no footprints when I went out to fetch the paper.

I'd had the presence of mind to wrench the driver's door open on the Subaru when I hauled out the trash last night, so it opened without resistance this morning. I let the car warm up for about a half-hour before I attacked the ice on the windshield and windows. The hardest part was hacking away the ice from the wipers.

This needless drama underscores the importance of getting the treadmill upstairs into the bonus room over the garage and completing the dresser refinishing job. Clearing those two items from the garage will make it possible to get one car under cover.

My ice-encrusted del Sol isn't going anywhere today. As I mentioned yesterday, it's a freaking nightmare on ice. Besides, the doors freeze shut at the slightest hint of freezing rain. I don't expect to be able to get into it until tomorrow when the temperature climbs into the 40s.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow in Las Vegas

vegas snow

My son Steve just emailed me this photo of snow falling on his street in Las Vegas. This is the first snow in Vegas since 2002, he said.

Just a little liquor store in Colorado

Friend Lauri blogged over the weekend about discovering a bakery in Pendleton, Ind., named Stud Muffins.

That jogged my memory about another business with a somewhat edgy name that I noticed a few years ago in Colorado.

I'd been to the west coast and was heading to Alma, Colo. to visit my BMW riding friends Tim and Linda when I happened to glance to my left along I-70 near Avon, Colo. - just west of Vail.

I couldn't be sure at 70+ mph - I think it was raining at the time - but I thought I saw a sign for a liquor store called Beaver Liquors.

After reading Lauri's blog post about Stud Muffins, I did an Internet search and confirmed my observation. There really is a Beaver Liquors at 110 E. Beaver Creek Blvd. in Avon, Colo.

And, naturally, they have a huge assortment of t-shirts and caps. This is one of the more conservative designs.beaver01

I also discovered that owner Rick Cuny would like to see a Beaver Liquor store in your town. Here's his franchise pitch:

A Beaver Liquor Franchise is a fun and exciting opportunity for you to make additional profits from the sale of Beaver Liquor merchandise at your existing or new liquor store.
All you have to do is file a dba (doing business as) and change the name of your liquor store to Beaver Liquors, Anytown, USA.
I will provide you with all of the point-of-sale and merchandise with your city name dropped on it. You will be able to mark it up 100% and enjoy the profits and the free advertising.
The entire in-store display and point-of-sale package takes up 100 square feet. You remain the sole proprietor of your store. Our agreement will make me responsible to supply you with merchandise at a guaranteed price.
This concept has already been proven. Beaver Liquors, Avon, Colorado has been enjoying the success of it for over 20 years. Please
contact me for further information regarding Beaver Liquors franchise opportunities.

You can check out the merchandise at their website:

There's another Beaver Liquors in East Dubuque, Iowa, and a Beaver Cleaners dry cleaning business (on Beaver Ave.) in Des Moines. And don't forget Beaver Liquor Agency, Beaver Cleaners & Laundromat, Beaver Sanitation, and The Beaver Press in Beaver, Utah and Beaver Cleaners in North York, Ontario.

This is all starting to feel so junior high school.

Here it comes

freezing rain

Freezing rain - one of my most dreaded two-word combinations.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning until 6 a.m. tomorrow for our part of the world. They say freezing rain and sleet are on the way and the radar confirms it.

Here's the cheery forecast:



A half-inch accumulation of ice should bring down a few limbs around here, so I'd better get the chainsaw ready.

I've made my post office run and my Honda del Sol is parked in the driveway waiting for the onslaught. With its big fat tires, the del Sol is pretty much useless on slick pavement. My wife drove the all-wheel-drive Subaru Forester to work, so she's much better equipped to deal with slick pavement.

We only get a couple of inches of snow every winter, but ice storms seem more frequent here than up in Indiana.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


xmas cookies01 Today was Christmas cookie day. This is just part of the effort. We've already prepared gift plates of cookies for the neighbors.

Don Jose, Olé!

don jose We checked out a new Mexican restaurant for lunch today - so new the paint is barely dry.

Today was the second day of business for Don Jose Mexican Restaurant. We'd noticed the former Mr. D's was undergoing some kind of transformation with a colorful new exterior, but today was the first time we noticed cars in the lot and a lighted "Open" sign.

The service was good and so was the food. Alas, they have no private club status so Jonesboro remains without a Mexican restaurant that can offer you a margarita or a beer with your meal.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy 60th to the Nuge


Ted Nugent was born on this date in 1948.

Fun with signs

hangup and drive

The Great Seal

mcseal Why should Obama with his pretentious, silly "Office of the President-Elect" seal have all the fun?

Go to and make your own personal seal. Here's mine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page dies at 85

bettie page

I first encountered Bettie Page in the pages of Police Gazette, a cheesy men's magazine, at the barber shop when I was in grade school in the early and mid-1950s.

I thought she was the hottest, most exotic woman in the world and she became my unintentional template for women in my life. Ever since, I've preferred brunettes over blondes or redheads. I suspect there are plenty of guys my age who were forever changed by her look. Godspeed, Bettie Page.

Here's the official press release from her agent:

Bettie Page, sweet-smiling legendary 1950s pin-up queen with the killer curves and coal-black bangs, died Thursday of pneumonia at a Los Angeles area hospital. She was 85 years old. She suffered a heart attack one week ago and never regained consciousness.   Her popularity as an underground, guilty pleasures phenomenon has continued to soar despite the fact that the reclusive Page disappeared almost a half century ago, leading many to believe that one of the most photographed individuals of the 20th century was already dead.  

As the model who many have argued raised cheesecake to an art, Page combined exuberant, wide-eyed innocence with confident, sometimes aggressive sexuality. VANITY FAIR praised the playfully seductive Page as “our Uber-pin-up.” The NEW YORK TIMES has declared that today “her star shines more brightly than it did in her brief heyday from 1950 to 1957.” PLAYBOY immortalized Page as one of its inaugural centerfolds and recently named her “the model of the century, yet she remains one of its best kept secrets.”   In a recent poll, Bettie Page was voted the “ultimate sex goddess,” outscoring others such as Marilyn Monroe.

Born on April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tenn., Bettie (spelled “Betty” on her birth certificate) Mae Page was the second child of six born to Walter Roy Page and Edna Mae Pirtle. The family was poor, moved often, and as a child, Page frequently found it necessary to take charge of her siblings. On several occasions they were dispatched to an orphanage. Life was hard. They were raised in the Church. Page owed her extraordinary looks and high intelligence to her parents, but it was a mixed blessing. Her mother did not want her. Her father molested her.

Page and her two sisters grew up movie fans who enjoyed acting out memorable scenes from whatever “picture show” they had just been to see. “I’ve been a movie hound my whole life,” Page said. “That’s how I started learning to pose, when my little sisters asked me to mimic photos of movie stars we’d seen in the magazines and newspapers.” They would experiment with different hairdos and makeup styles. At an early age Page learned to sew at the local community center; it was a skill with a practical application years later when she designed and made her own costumes, lingerie and bikinis to wear while modeling. She was the salutatorian of her high school graduating class. She was also program director of the dramatics club, secretary-treasurer of the student council, co-editor of the school’s newspaper and yearbook, and voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by her classmates.

Her own mother’s jealousy cost Page a scholarship to Vanderbilt University. Instead she earned a 1944 Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Peabody College in Tennessee. It was an uncommon achievement for a woman at that time. She tried teaching school, but her heart-breaking good looks made it impossible for the kids in class to focus on anything else but their pretty teacher. “I couldn’t control my students,” she would say with an irresistible wink, “especially the boys!” Two decades later Page returned to Peabody to work on her master’s degree.

There wasn’t anyone anywhere quite like Bettie Page. She thought for herself. She charted her own course. She was independent. Page was completely self made, bore no prejudice of any kind, and recognized no barrier to personal fulfillment. Always a free spirit, she moved from Tennessee to San Francisco, took her first of several secretarial jobs, but dreamed of movie stardom (her favorites were Bette Davis and Gregory Peck). Plus she hoped for a chance at modeling. In her first work before still cameras, Bettie Page was more than fully clothed; she wore fur coats.

Everywhere she went, whatever she did, people were distracted and dumbstruck by her looks -- the beguiling smile, the raven hair, the flawless figure. Finally in 1945 one of these people arranged for the acting hopeful to visit Hollywood, where, unfortunately, 20th Century-Fox mishandled her screen test. “They did my hair and makeup so that I looked like a caricature of Joan Crawford,” Page recalled in the Southern drawl she never lost, and which Hollywood frowned on. “It was awful. They ran the test for me; I hardly even recognized myself.” She fled the lot when a producer promised a lucrative movie career in exchange for sexual favors. “I didn’t like his looks,” Page said. “I wouldn’t have gone to bed with him anyway. He was a creeeeeeep. He drove off in his big car and scolded me, ‘You’ll be sorry.’ I wasn’t.”

Nor was she interested in the attentions of flamboyant filmmaker, aviator and inventor Howard Hughes, who pursued Page as well. Hughes phoned and had his staff phone her many times, summoning Page regularly on the pretext of wanting to photograph the delicious looking model. She declined every entreaty. “I never returned any of his calls,” said the celebrated pin-up, who surprisingly few could pin down. “I guess people will say I made a mistake. But sex is part of love, and you shouldn’t go around doing it unless you are in love. I certainly didn’t.”

More than once in recent years she did concede that failing to answer a telegram from studio boss Jack Warner about doing a second screen-test at Warner Bros. was the one mistake she most regretted in her life. But her first husband, Billy Neal, was returning home from war in the South Pacific, and Page was focused on trying to save a collapsing marriage. 

Living in New York during 1947 after divorcing Neal, one day at the beach Page chanced to meet a police officer named Jerry Tibbs. He had a side interest in photography. It was Tibbs who recommended she should adopt the trademark black bangs. He also aided in compiling her first pin-up portfolio. Of course Page was from the South; Tibbs happened to be black. Page happened to be color blind.

With her tantalizing face and figure, she innocently and perhaps inevitably drifted into cheesecake modeling as a lark, where Page was prolific. Almost immediately she was the ubiquitous face and figure adorning such publications as WINK, EYEFUL, SIR!,  HE, SHE, JEST, BARE, STARE, GAZE, VUE, TITTER, SUNBATHING, BEAUTY PARADE, CHICKS AND CHUCKLES and scores more. Her saucy pictures ripped from these magazines decorated offices, lockers, garages and all manner of rooms around the world as if they constituted a new Bettie Page brand of wallpaper. Her image was everywhere, and attracted international attention and notoriety.

In posing for such photos (some by acclaimed fashion photographer Bunny Yeager), many who were witnesses recall that Page seemed to command these sessions the way a movie director would. Without intending to (and without realizing it either), because of her ingenuity and dominant personality, Page was effectively the creative force controlling much of her own work.

“I was generally happy posing, and that seemed to shine through in the pictures,” Page explained. “Nobody knew this, but I used to imagine the camera was my boyfriend, and I was making love to him. I had fun teasing the guy with the camera until he was in sync with whatever mood I was in.”

At a time when Marilyn Monroe was studying at the Actors Studio in Manhattan, Page was doing the same at the renowned Herbert Berghof Studios only blocks away. “I wasn’t trying to be an actress at that time, but I wanted to see if I could really act or not.”

The answer was pretty much, no. Actor Robert Culp taught some of Page’s classes, and did a dramatic one-act play with her. The title was DARK LADY OF THE SONNETS. “She was in way over her head,” Culp remembered. “She was nice, but she was not an actress, and had she continued, her thick Southern accent would have been a problem for her.” 

Berghof and his wife, Uta Hagen (both famous exponents of the Stanislavsky method of acting) were impressed by one scene, however, and asked Page what  she was drawing upon from her own experience to create the sense of remorse and tragic reality which she was projecting so effectively on stage. Page told them, “I was thinking of all the wicked things I had done, and how God was going to punish me for all my sins.” 

On television, the biggest thing Page did was a performance in a skit with the star of THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW. She disliked him. “Oh, Jackie Gleason was a tyrant,” Page declared. “That man was inconsiderate of everyone around him, including Art Carney, Joyce Meadows, the director, I do mean everyone. I never saw such screaming and yelling. Some people think I’m crazy! You should have seen this cad in action…although he was sweet to me!”

The pin-up extraordinaire never exploited her incredible figure to work as a dancer or stripper in clubs, but she did appear in three burlesque films that suggested as much: STRIP-O-RAMA (1953), VARIETEASE (1954), and TEASERAMA (1955). “I was terrible,” Page laughed in recalling these low budget grind-house efforts. She also performed for the camera in countless 8 and 16mm so-called “film loops” exhibited in peep shows and sold through the mail. Running only minutes long, many of these were staged and issued by the brother-and-sister team of Irving and Paula Klaw of Movie Star News in New York.

It was for the Klaws that Page gained infamy posing in bondage. “It was all pretend,” Page explained. “According to my arrangement with the Klaws, you had to do an hour of bondage poses in order to get paid for the other modeling work.” Seeing such photos in recent years (now they seem almost tame), she would laugh and comment, “Oh, I look like a meanie here….But honestly, who could take any of this seriously? I never understood how anyone believed those poses were sexy. To be tied up? I don’t get it.”

Enough did, however, so that Bettie Page quickly became the most photographed woman in the world. There could be no doubt, she was a sensation. THE PAGE CRAZE WAS ON.

“You couldn’t walk by a newsstand without seeing a picture of this gal on one magazine or another,” said Hillard Elkins, who for a time represented the aspiring actress on behalf of the William Morris Agency. Without imagining the consequences on any conscious level, Page eventually found that her provocative images violated all manner of sexual taboos during that more Puritanical time, finally invoking a United States Senate Committee investigation into pornography. She was subpoenaed to appear in a Capitol Hill courtroom presided over by Senator (and presidential hopeful) Estes Kefauver, yet was never called upon to actually testify.

Then by 1958 this young and beautiful pin-ultimate pin-up queen was gone – suddenly vanished from view in the prime of her life. Just like Greta Garbo, like James Dean, like Jean Harlow. Gone. Except that the departure of Bettie Page was a mystery. Where and why did she go? Had she died? Was she hiding? Was she incapacitated? No one knew. Page’s disappearance only served to power her notoriety. Fantastic rumors abounded. For decades, fans searched. Even the hard-hitting investigative television program 60 MINUTES tried doing a story.

It took until the mid-1990s before the truth was finally revealed. While battling some fierce inner demons, Page had secretly fled New York for Florida. In 1958 she underwent a religious epiphany. She totally retreated from the public eye, tried marriage again, and gave her life to Jesus Christ as a born-again Christian, working for Billy Graham’s ministry, among others. Incredibly, as yet another riddle in her complicated stranger-than-fiction life, during this time Page remained completely oblivious of her own profound impact upon America’s fast-changing sexuality and pop culture, not to mention the thriving cottage industry that had arisen around her celebrated image – the issuance of commercial products including Bettie Page action figures, calendars, comic books, lighters, incense, towels, DVDs, T-shirts, key chains, playing cards, lunch boxes, websites, and all manner of memorabilia. IT WAS BETTIEMANIA.

The failure of Page’s third marriage in 1978 precipitated some mental instability, violent mood swings, and serious trouble with the law. The sordid details of these travails are no secret and have now been disclosed in books and the tabloid press. At last in 1992 she left San Bernardino’s Patton State Hospital to emerge from this dark period during which she had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Page was living quietly in seclusion in Los Angeles when she discovered her enormous niche market popularity. Playboy’s Hugh Hefner introduced Page to a Midwest lawyer who is credited with establishing the merchandising and licensing business opportunities for many of the famous icons of the 20th Century.   Roesler’s company, CMG Worldwide, was representing several hundred famous personalities, most of whom were deceased, such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Babe Ruth, Malcolm X and others.   Roesler quickly turned the reclusive beauty into a “brand” recognized around the world.     Clothing lines that featured the “Bettie Page” brand sprung up, as did a store called “Bettie Page” on the Las Vegas Strip.   Page  became  increasingly popular  not only here in the United States, but throughout the world.     Her website became one of the most heavily trafficked sites on the internet, getting almost ¾ million hits each day. 

“She was a remarkable woman,” Roesler reflected, “truly someone that changed the social norms, not only here in this country, but also around the world.    While Jackie Robinson was changing the racial attitudes, Bettie Page was changing our attitudes on sex.    She became  a James Dean type of ‘rebel’  figure as she allowed people  to be less inhibited and look at sex in a different way. “     

Roesler said her influence will be on the same level as a Marilyn Monroe.  “Her undeniable influence will forever remain in fashion, films and merchandising,” Roesler declared. “She was reclusive and private, so without intending to be, without quite understanding how, her modeling work made her a pivotal figure in the sexual revolution that began in the 1950s. I was always flattered by Bettie’s continued trust, and happy to play a role in helping her overcome some financial and personal problems in her later years.  To her adoring  she will always be remembered as the ‘Queen of Pin-up.’ “

Roesler was at Page’s bedside when she died peacefully  on Thursday, failing to regain consciousness following her heart attack eight days earlier.

Wearing a Santa hat and nothing else as Miss January of 1955, Bettie Page, like Marilyn Monroe, had been one of PLAYBOY magazine’s initial Playmate centerfolds during its first year of publication. Monroe fit the magazine’s business model, offering readers the (apparently) wholesome “girl next door.” Despite her sunny smile, Page became instead a puzzling “bad girl next door” cult figure, now representing a sort of collective guilty pleasure for admirers, who are not just men.

Images of Bettie Page continue to inspire imitation by curious young girls who somehow – probably through the internet – discover this “Dark Angel” whose personality reflected the lethal combination of sweet apple pie, as well as dangerous forbidden fruit. Judging by the hundreds of millions of hits registered at her authorized website, the magnetic appeal of Bettie Page to young men, and women, appears to be timeless.

“Young women write me untold numbers of letters,” Page explained in 2005. “They look up to me. They thank me for helping them see how they can be themselves, or how they can reinvent themselves, assert themselves, lose their inhibitions, and come out of their shells. Of course just posing for pictures I never intended to do any part of that, but I am gratified to see that what I did so long ago has meant something to so many.”

Apparently what resonates with young women is how Page owned her own sexuality. Whether projecting innocence, or being completely wild and uninhibited, it seemed to be her choice, and either choice, wholesome or edgy, was fine with her, and she embraced them both. She was confident her audience did as well.  

Hugh Hefner says the appearance of Bettie Page in PLAYBOY was a milestone, and that “she became, in time, an American icon, her winning smile and effervescent personality apparent in every pose. A kinky connection was added by Irving Klaw’s spanking, fetish and bondage photos, which became part of the Bettie Page mystique; they were playful parodies that are now perceived as the early inspiration for Madonna’s excursions into the realm of sexual perversion.”

The fashion designers, Madonna, and others can copy the fetish behavior, the bangs and the bullets bras, but only the spontaneous and unpredictable Bettie Page herself was able to project the unique and volatile combination of the playful nice girl -- along with the perilous one. Wholesome innocence one moment, dangerous dominance the next. That quality defined the Bettie Page persona, as well the flesh and blood person few people were fortunate enough to know.    Quietly, steadily, old black and white photos of Bettie Page have continued to stimulate tributes in the form of books, websites, fan clubs, documentary films, and countless licensed products. 

Two examples of how Bettie Page has been re-introduced to new generations of eager young fans: First, Dave Stevens created a comic book hero called “The Rocketeer,” with a love interest clearly inspired by Bettie Page; Disney adapted it as a big budget, same-named motion picture vehicle for Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly. Stevens, recently deceased, became one of Page’s most devoted friends, one of the few she could trust. It was Stevens who escorted Bettie Page to the Playboy Mansion for a private 35mm screening of THE ROCKETEER in 1994. She had never seen the film before. She loved it.

Second example: the noted erotic pin-up artist Olivia, who has been painting Bettie Page for a quarter century (in art books, for PLAYBOY, on limited edition posters, etc.), was the first to successfully integrate her fetish imagery for a high fashion licensee, Fiorucci Jeans. Olivia offered this assessment of the Bettie Page phenomenon on the occasion of her passing: “From Mona Lisa to Marilyn Monroe, pinup icons fascinate, because no one can explain the ethereal nature of their beauty. It comes down to creating magic. Bettie was the action hero of pin-up. Although the fantasy world of fetish/bondage existed in some form since the beginning of time, Bettie reigns as the iconic figurehead, for no star existed in this realm before her. Marilyn had her predecessors, Bettie did not. It was a privilege to know and love her.”
Celebrities and supermodels who have attempted to leverage the “magic” and pose as the naughty and nice Bettie Page include Madonna, Shalom Harlow, Uma Thurman,  Janice Dickinson, Dasha Astafieva, Jenna Jameson, Dita von Teese, Farrah Fawcett, Eva Herzigova, Demi Moore, Laetitia Costa, Christy Turlington, even Renee Zellweger, to name a few. 

Pop culture critic and author Mikal Gilmore has characterized the appeal of Bettie Page in this way: “No matter how much you stare or dream or pray, you could never get enough of what it is that her face and body seem to promise.”

Despite having worked with but a single competent photographer, despite having thousands of her photographs destroyed on purpose following the congressional hearings, and despite so many extant photos surviving only as inferior copies of the originals, the transcendent beauty and playful yet dangerous personality of Bettie Page trumps all else and continues to inspire documentary films, designers’ fashions, artists’ fetishes, and fans’ fantasies. 

For those who understood who Bettie Page was, no explanation for any of this is necessary. For those who did not know, probably no explanation was, or is, possible.

Late in life she shunned the public, and guarded her privacy. But that was always true of the way Page lived, even during her modeling days.

Near the end, she hoped people would remember her as she looked when she was young, and for being someone who, in her words, “changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form. Being nude was something I enjoyed, it felt so natural. There is nothing disgraceful concerning nudity unless one is being promiscuous about it. Don’t forget the Bible says when God created Adam and Eve, they were stark naked. Who can argue with that?” 

Bettie Page was married and divorced three times, bore no children, and of her five brothers and sisters, is survived by Jack Page of Nashville, Tennessee, and Joyce Page of Atlanta, Georgia.

When Bettie Page left the modeling scene, she sought privacy, read widely, enjoyed classic movies, mastered fields which interested her (including homeopathic medicine and nutrition), and lived out her life as a devoted Christian. Many times she told friends, “My long term goal is to live a healthy hundred years.”  

She made occasional visits to the Playboy Mansion to watch old movies and attend private parties with her friend Hugh Hefner and her agent, Roesler.    She was humbled at all the attention she got five years ago, when she attended Playboy’s 50th Anniversary party at the Playboy Mansion with Anna Nicole Smith.   Both Smith and Page made a grand entrance and enjoyed the special attention they received.    That evening they were photographed together in what was said to be the only time in the past 50 years that Page allowed her photograph to be taken. 

Her story is an impossible incursion of near misses, bad luck, contradictions and lost opportunities.   Page was strong-willed, and fiercely independent. She battled long and hard against both physical and mental illnesses. From the 1950s and beyond, when strangers would recognize her, she would deny her identity. “Bettie Page?” she would respond, “Who is that?” And yet to friends, she always told the truth, and would candidly (and sometimes endlessly!) discuss any aspect of her long life, including any conceivable question one might pose with respect to sexual activity. And under the spell of those sparkling blue-gray Bettie Page eyes (at any age), sometimes one was too distracted to even process what she was saying. 

Funeral services will be Tuesday with a private service and burial at Westwood Cemetery a few feet away from her blonde sex icon counterpart, Marilyn Monroe.

For more on the life and legacy of Bettie Page, visit

Living well really is the best revenge


Time is the only irreplaceable thing we have.

I get reminded of that every time someone close to me dies.

I felt it most keenly in October, 2000, when my mother died. I was in a job that had ceased to be fun after 33 years. My newspaper, The Indianapolis News, had been merged with its sister paper, The Star, and we had been subjected to one management upheaval after another, requiring us to repeatedly re-apply for our jobs.

I was working in the Metro North Bureau in Carmel and therefore, thankfully, 15 miles away from the hell that the downtown newsroom had become. But I was tired of people with less experience and less intelligence telling us senior reporters how to do our jobs. I dreaded going to work every morning and had a growing sense that things were never going to get better now that Gannett was running its papers, including mine, into the ground. (If you doubt it, track the decline of Gannett stock over the past decade.)

I was miserable. I knew it, my coworkers knew it and Maria knew it. I wasted a lot of psychic energy trying to figure out a way to remedy my situation. The longer I chewed on the problem, the more obvious it became that there was no fixing it from the inside.

I kept hearing the lines from The Who's Quadrophenia - the song The Dirty Jobs:

My karma tells me
You've been screwed again.
If you let them do it to you
You've got yourself to blame.
It's you who feels the pain
It's you that feels ashamed.


But I was stuck and it took my mother's death to get me unstuck. Just five months earlier, Maria and I had successfully moved Mom out of her home where she had become a danger to herself and others, and got her settled into a very comfortable retirement community. I felt confident she still had several years left. I was completely unprepared when I got the call the evening of Oct. 5 telling me my mother had just died in her sleep.

She had run out of time. We're all running out of time. So why waste it doing something that doesn't make you happy?

So I quit. My first day back on the job after the funeral, I called Human Resources and cashed in my chips on the spot. I cleaned out my desk and was gone before lunch.

Everyone in the company was stunned. The managing editor and the city editor were livid. That was fine with me, since we all had them pegged for arrogant idiots. I like to think my actions were an inspiration for the exodus that followed. With two years, almost all of my coworkers at the Metro North Bureau were gone. The bureau chief took a job with Eli Lilly, Art Harris retired, Scott Miley quit to do public relations for a school corporation, and Diane Frederick just flat quit to devote herself to her painting.

It's been eight years now and I'm still waiting for the panic attack. I'm pretty sure it's never coming because I'm living life on my terms. I take jobs that interest me - like freelance writing for motorcycle or aviation publications, writing the occasional newspaper story or helping Maria's paper bridge the gap between photographers.

I've known lots of other people who finally got leverage on themselves and fired their employers for wasting their time. And every single one of them ended up happier and, in the case of those who went to new jobs, making more money.

If you let them do it to you, you've got yourself to blame.

So far, so good

We have all of our insurance ducks in a row and I've given the go-ahead for our renters to get into our Thorntown house and do whatever wallpapering and painting they deem necessary.

No, I'm not giving them complete carte blanc on colors. They chose a specific color palette that works with the age and style of the house. And yes, they are paying for materials and labor since it's their choice to make these changes.

One of the last puzzle pieces fell into place this afternoon when I signed us up for home warranty protection with Home Security of America. For about $500 a year, we get coverage for all of the appliances and systems in the house, including the plumbing and hot tub. If anything breaks, the tenants call an 800 number and HSA sends a technician out pronto to fix it. That's a whole lot cheaper and (I hope) more reliable than paying a property manager to take care of problems. My in-laws live about 10 blocks north of the house, but we've imposed on them far too much already and I'm pleased to have a solution that doesn't burden them further.

The renters will most likely start work in the house this weekend. We're going up in a week or so for Christmas and plan to move some or all of the bookcases out of the attic and bring as much back with us as possible. The rest we'll stash at the in-laws' place.

It's comforting to know we're out from under the burden of that second house payment, but I refuse to relax completely because things have a way of going sideways on you.

Paying the tax

Arkansas has no lottery. Yet.

A ballot initiative passed last month calling for the establishment of a state lottery to support education.powerball

In the meantime, Arkansans who want to gamble have to go out of state.

So when we were at Mr. D's across the state line near Cardwell, Mo. recently, I threw a couple of bucks at Powerball.

The drawing was Wednesday night, but I didn't get around to checking my tickets until this morning. No surprise. I didn't win anything, so on the basis of my $2 and everyone else's hopeful ticket purchases, the jackpot goes up to $40 million. That's why they call it the tax on the stupid.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Full moon tonight at Lowe's.

It must be working

I got my treadmill workout out of the way early this morning so I could shower and get on with my day.

Here are the numbers: 1.2 miles in 20 active minutes and a 5-minute cool-down. Heart rate: high of 142, low of 91 and an average of 122 over the 25-minute session. I was above my target zone of 94-141 for 4 seconds, in the zone for 24 minutes and 48 seconds, and below the zone for 8 seconds.

It's getting harder and harder to get my heart rate up to the upper reaches of my target zone. I have to punch the speed up to about 3.3 mph and the slope up to 4 degrees before I'm really feeling it, but a good iPod soundtrack makes even the more challenging sessions feel relatively easy. Must be the endorphins.

I've used the treadmill daily - with a handful of exceptions - since we got it at the beginning of November and I'm surprised and pleased with how much better I feel.

I've also gone down a belt notch (haven't been on the scales yet).

Could be one of the best investments we've made this year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It may come to this


I see gold is trading around $800 an ounce today.

If it goes much higher, I may dig out my gold panning equipment and head for Colorado.

This is me back in the mid-1990s, hunkered down on the banks of a creek just west of Fairplay, Colo., trying my hand at panning for gold. The stream was pretty well worked over by a huge gold dredge in the late 1800s, but I still came away with a few flecks of gold - about as much as you'd get in a bottle of Goldschalger. (According to Wikipedia, Goldschlager puts about 1 tenth of a gram of gold flakes in a 740 ml bottle of its cinnamon schnapps - worth about $3.)

I rounded up all of our surplus gold jewelry recently with an eye to turning it into cash, but I'm holding onto it for the time being, since gold is only going to get more valuable.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Three years of Pete

first meeting Dec. 16, a week from today, marks the third anniversary of the day we brought Pete the Aussie home from his birthplace east of Crawfordsville, Ind.

This is his first encounter with Ruthie, the Wonder Dog, later that day. Ruthie has never been the same.

Another quilt top up for auction


I'm selling another of my wife's quilting creations on Ebay. This time it's a baby-size quilt top with 1930s and '40s reproduction fabric. You can view it here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cheap gas

My '94 Honda del Sol was down to about 1/8 of a tank of gas, so I topped it off today at a new Murphy Oil station in Jonesboro where unleaded regular was going for $1.29/gallon.

I paid a mere $10.98! It's enough to make you feel downright giddy!

The most I have ever paid for a gallon of gas was $4.30 for mid-grade at Murdo, S.D. last July 15. I have to track my fuel records back to the summer of 2001 to find prices comparable to today's.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Uh, it's spelled B-E-A-G-L-E


We're dining with friends this evening, so we made a beer and wine run to Mr. D's, the fabulous always-open liquor emporium just across the state line in the Missouri bootheel.

We came across this spectacular example of public misspelling before we even got to Goobertown.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

C'mon down!

S/W Ver: 96.B0.0FRLauri and Jim were out harvesting their Christmas tree up in Indiana this morning and Lauri sent me this camera phone photo from the passenger seat of their car.

ark winter weatherI was seated at my desk in our upstairs office and responded with this view of a sunny Saturday morning here between Goobertown and Buck Snort.

Where would you rather be?

Check his collar for a rabies vaccination tag

bela-lugosi This is from a medical journal published 10 years ago, but I just discovered it on

NEW YORK, Sep 21 (Reuters) -- Mistaken for blood-thirsty ghouls, 18th century European rabies victims may have been the inspiration for the vampire legend, according to a report in the September issue of the journal Neurology.

Not only do people with rabies have symptoms strikingly similar to the traits ascribed to vampires, but the vampire legend also originated in eastern Europe in the 18th century -- the site of a major rabies outbreak in the 1720s, according to the study.

Rabies, a virus usually transmitted via the bite of an infected animal, can be tricky to diagnose, the study's author, Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso told Reuters Health in an interview. Symptoms usually do not appear for at least a couple of weeks, and by then the bite has healed. Once symptoms have appeared, antirabies treatment is ineffective, and the infection is most often fatal.

"Even now we miss diagnoses in cases of rabies," Gomez-Alonso said. Citing an example in his study, Gomez-Alonso describes a relatively recent case in which a man presumed to be a "wandering lunatic" was found to be infected with rabies during an autopsy. "These missed diagnoses probably happened much more commonly in the 18th century," Gomez-Alonso added.

A neurologist at Hospital Xeral in Vigo, Spain, Gomez-Alonso decided to investigate the rabies-vampirism connection after watching a vampire movie in 1981.

"I had never seen a vampire movie before and I was struck by the similarities," he explained.

There are many, Gomez-Alonso reports in the study. For starters, not only people, but dogs, wolves, and bats -- animals traditionally associated with vampires -- can be infected with the rabies virus. Because the virus affects the limbic system, part of the brain that influences aggressive and sexual behavior, people with rabies tend to be aggressive, may attempt to bite others, and are "hypersexual," he writes. Since rabies also affects the hypothalamus, part of the brain that controls sleep, many patients suffer from insomnia, and are up and about in the middle of the night.

Rabies causes hypersensitivity to strong stimuli, as well, so patients are often repelled by light, by bright things -- such as mirrors, and by strong odors -- including the smell of garlic. Rabies victims may vomit blood, Gomez-Alonso explains. And since the disease causes hydrophobia, or aversion to water, they do not swallow their saliva, which can froth at their mouths, flecked with blood.

The disease can also cause facial spasms, in which the lips jerk back over the teeth, in an animal-like snarl. Moreover, rabies is more common among men than women, as is vampirism, at least according to most vampire tales. Finally, rabies, like vampirism, can be transmitted via a bite, Gomez-Alonso writes. The infection, however, can also be transmitted via a scratch or across mucus membranes. Consequently, it can be contracted during sex with an infected partner, or by inhaling air in caves heavily populated by infected bats.

In addition to the medical evidence, Gomez-Alonso provides historical support for his theory. Digging through centuries-old European archives, he found records of a rabies epidemic among dogs, wolves and other animals in Hungary between 1721 and 1728, the time people first began to report sightings of "vampires." There were reports, for instance, of people "who have been dead for several years, or at least several months& seen to return, to talk, to walk, to infest the villages& to suck the blood of their close ones, making them become ill and eventually die."

Gomez-Alonso also found accounts of bodies, exhumed after burial, that appeared lifelike, and were filled with still-liquid blood. This also fits in with the rabies theory, he writes. When people die of collapse, shock or asphyxiation -- as is often the case with rabies -- their blood is often slow to clot. Moreover, the region of Hungary where the outbreak occurred is damp and cold many months of the year, significant because corpses take longer to decompose in the cold. "Their good appearance would also suggest the presence of saponification," he explains. "This process, characteristic of burials in humid places, transforms the subcutaneous tissues into a wax-like substance."

"Much evidence supports that rabies could have played a key role in the generation of the vampire legend," later popularized in Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and numerous other books and films, Gomez-Alonso concludes. "This would be in accordance with the anthropologic theory that assumes that many popular legends have been prompted by facts. Under this approach, saying that the vampire is 'mere fiction' may be somewhat inappropriate."

SOURCE: Neurology 1998;51:856-859.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Christmas parade

Yeah, I know it's a crappy picture.
I was freezing.

More calls for David and Jackie

We had two urgent voicemails when we returned home last night - both from a woman named Jessica with GMAC, looking for David and Jackie, the deadbeats who used to have our phone number.

So I returned Jessica's call this morning, sharing all of the addresses and phone numbers I've found for David and Jackie since I decided enough was enough with the calls from their creditors.

Jessica, who said she's an account manager, seemed very grateful and promised she would remove our number from their database.

So imagine my surprise when the phone rang about 5 minutes later. It was another woman with GMAC looking for David and Jackie.


I told her to talk to Jackie at extension 1701 and not to call our number again.

GMAC, formerly known as General Motors Acceptance Corp., used to be the wholly owned financial services arm of GM. My guess is that David and Jackie have decided they don't need to make car payments anymore. It is my fervent hope that my information guides a repo man to David's home or business.

In case I forgot where I am...

csa ring  Our electric utility is a member of the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, so we get the organization's folksy little monthly magazine.

Besides electricity-related articles, seasonal recipes, health tips and readers' snapshots, they have ads for barn builders, casket companies, hearing aid dealers and nail fungus prodrural arkucts. Pretty much the same stuff you'd see if the little 48-page magazine were published in Indiana.

Except for the full-page ad for the $99 Pride of the South Civil War Commemorative Ring from the Bradford Exchange.

It's sterling silver and black onyx with the Confederate Battle Flag graphics on a shield backed by other flags of the Confederacy. It's a nicely executed appeal to the romance of the lost cause, but there are lots of places in this country where I wouldn't want to wear it for fear of a waiter spitting in my food or worse.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the ring or the ad. As a former collector of Third Reich memorabilia, I know better than most how an interest in the historical artifacts of an unpopular/politically incorrect regime can be misunderstood.

I'm just saying that the ad is a reminder that we're not in Indiana anymore, Toto.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The hit list

Here, from Ruth Holladay's blog, is a list of people who are no more at The Indianapolis Star. (Volunteer means the person chose to leave):

North bureau
James Yee, photo
Joanna Lees, paraprofessional
Diana Lamirand, editor
Toni Copenhaver, paraprofessional
Jason Ballenger, copy editor
Jeff Koszut, copy editor
Jim Gillaspy, reporter (volunteer)

Susan Guyett, features
Christopher Lloyd, features
Whitney Smith, features
Nina Mehta, design
Phyllis Mahoney, copy desk
Martha Strauss, library
Gail Alexander, copy desk
Steve Healey, photo
Abe Aamidor, features (volunteer)
Ellen McKinney, features (volunteer)
John Stiles, sports (volunteer)


I worked with Gillaspy and Aamador and hope they find life after The Star as fulfilling and stress-free as I have.

She does very nice work


As a Cancerian, I have a hard time parting with my possessions. Not so with my Gemini wife.

Since we've been in Arkansas, she's sewn about five or six quilt tops and/or complete quilts. She has this king-size quilt top up for auction on Ebay this week. You can check it out here. But hurry. The auction closes Thursday (tomorrow) night.


Got this from an Ebay member:



Scary stuff in the middle of the night

I'm sitting at my desk at 1:16 a.m., waiting for my throat to feel reasonably normal again and for antacid to do its work following a Acid-Refluxrare - in recent history, anyway - episode of acid reflux.

I woke up about a half-hour ago coughing to clear my windpipe of vomit after I started to barf in my sleep.

This happened to me several months ago and my doctor corrected the problem by putting me on a nightly dose of Nexium.

Interestingly enough, the same thing happened to my wife a couple of nights ago.

What happens is that the esophageal sphincter that normally makes the esophagus a one-way conduit, relaxes and lets stomach contents, including some startlingly corrosive acid, travel back up to the mouth.

If you happen to be sleeping or otherwise unconscious, there is a high probability you could inhale some of this stuff. Aspirate enough of it and you'll die.

That's what happened to my former brother-in-law Bob Teerman a few years ago. Bob was a brittle diabetic, had a seizure and barfed in his sleep, aspirated a bunch of it and died. I think he was around 53 at the time.

So when my wife and I have the same seemingly isolated experience within a couple of days, it's natural to start looking for some commonality. And in this case, the spotlight of suspicion falls upon a particularly rich pumpkin cheesecake she made over the weekend.

It's insanely rich and on both reflux occasions, we each had a piece of it within a couple of hours of going to bed.

OK, no more evening cheesecake and no food within three hours of bedtime.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Falling for The Fall

thefallWe've been scouring the movie rental offerings for hi-def stuff we might like since we bought a Blu-ray player over the weekend.

With a few exceptions, I'm not particularly keen to rent something I've already seen, so that narrows our choices considerably.

We were scanning the Blu-ray rack at Hastings the other evening when my eyes fell up on "The Fall," a film by director Tarsem Singh. Here's the plot as summarized at

At a Los Angeles hospital in the 1920s, Alexandria is a child recovering from a broken arm. She befriends Roy Walker, a movie stunt man with legs paralyzed after a fall. At her request, Roy tells her an elaborate story about six men of widely varied backgrounds who are on a quest to kill a corrupt provincial governor. Between chapters of the story, Roy inveigles Alexandria to scout the hospital's pharmacy for morphine. As Roy's fantastic tale nears its end, Death seems close at hand.

It's an engaging story, and the images are absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful. This is the most visually stunning movie I've seen all year. If you haven't seen it, check it out, whether you have a regular DVD player or Blu-ray.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No, my name is not David and I don't owe you money

We've had our residential phone number for 13 months, yet we're still getting calls for the deadbeat family who had the number before us.

Mostly they're from creditors, but we also get the occasional call from friends and family.

I found their new address and phone number several months ago, which tells me that their creditors and the associated collection agencies aren't very good at tracking people down.

So I will continue to help them whenever they call.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pity the poor greeters

Guardedly optimistic

It's starting to feel like we're getting un-stuck in our two-house bind.

We received a signed contract from the renters and a deposit check equal to the first month's rent late last week, but sat on everything until we got feedback from prospective buyers who looked at the house on Friday morning. They decided not to make an offer, so we signed the rental contract and our new tenants get the keys to the house on Dec. 18 to make whatever cosmetic changes they need to be happy there.

Like everything else, I'm not going to relax until they're settled in and we know there are no problems. But it still feels like progress.

We also took advantage of the after-Thanksgiving sales over the weekend to buy our mutual Christmas present - a Blu-Ray movie player. For the first time in the year we've owned our Sharp Aquos TV, we're seeing real high-definition content. Dang! Looks very very good. It also up-samples regular DVDs to 1080p. "Finding Nemo" and "Open Range" look absolutely gorgeous.

Of course, our cable provider is months or years from being able to offer us HD content, so we'll be watching a lot of Blu-Ray movies from Netflix to get our HD fix.

Now I'm off to run some errands in town.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Ho ho ho.

Toyota vs. Ford

H/T Elgin's Chuck Emmert

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action...

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people rowing.

Feeling a deeper study was in order; American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rowers. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channeled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid-off one rower, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated rower was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles,) so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India .

Sadly, the End.

Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US , claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results:

TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, and collecting bonuses... and now wants the Government to 'bail them out'.