Saturday, May 31, 2008

It's all good

Cooter is a small town in southeastern Missouri.
It sits between I-55 and the Mississippi River and has a population of about 440. There are a couple of explanations for the town's name. One holds that the town was named for an abundance of ducklike aquatic birds called coots. The other contends it was named for the Coutres, a prominent local family.
But if you look the word up in a dictionary of slang, you'll find it is also another name for vagina. (It's also a slang term in the Southeastern U.S. for the snapping turtle.)
So you can imagine our consternation when we turned to the sports page in today's newspaper and saw the headline:


The story was about Seams Sports Academy winning the Fat City Classic American Legion Baseball tournament by beating the team from Cooter, Mo.
While the team in question was sponsored by the local American Legion post and not affiliated with the high school, it is interesting to note that the Cooter High School nickname is the Wildcats. It begs the question whether the "cat" reference was meant as a subtle double-entendre or purely accidental.
Cooter, as you may have noticed from the map, is close to Gobler and Braggadocio.
I could never make this stuff up.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

Today is my granddaughter Lisa's fourth birthday.
She is, without question, the brightest, most beautiful and most charming 4-year-old girl I have ever seen.
I'd like to claim some of the genetic credit, but while she's a Flora, she's also a Williams, and a Kroon, and a Carnes, and a whole bunch of other DNA strains.
But I see my father's smile whenever she grins.
Happy Birthday, Lisa!

Gonna be a hot one

It was 72 degrees when I fired up the John Deere LA125 and attacked our 1.23-acres of grass, trees, sticks and assorted vegetation.
I finished about 90 minutes later, during which time the temperature shot up to 82.
The forecast is for the low 90s today, so I'm glad to have the lawn out of the way early.
Now to my other tasks, which include packing and shipping some Ebay sales, banking and whatever else comes to mind.
I promise to have something more interesting later.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lunch at Fuji Japanese Steakhouse

We had the scallops. Damned fine lunch.

It's about time

A lot of people I know don't wear a wristwatch.

Maria is one of them. The last time I checked, my son Sean was still not wearing one.

I'll be the first to admit that there are lots of things in our environment that tell us the time, the cell phone being chief among them. But I've worn watches since the first grade when I got my first Mickey Mouse watch, and I feel off balance without a wristwatch.

Like now that I have a gauze bandage wrapped around my left wrist to cover the stitched-up cubreitlingt I accidentally inflicted upon myself last Monday afternoon.

I can't count how many times since then that I've glanced at my wrist to check the time and found it's bandage time.

The bandage is too bulky for the bracelet band of my Breitling Chrono Avenger.ADVIZOR

I took to wearing my Suunto Advizor digital watch on my right wrist yesterday, but it just felt weird and I still looked at my bandaged left wrist for the time.

I've moved it to my left arm this morning, next to the bandage. I feels a little odd being that far up my arm, but I think I can deal with it for a day or two before the bandage comes off.

$2.98 computer repair

I pushed the on/off button to restart my Dell XPS desktop computer after a storm about a week ago and felt the button click the switch, then keep going into the interior of the computer.

Uh, oh.loctite glue

I wasn't in a hurry to tackle the problem, so I didn't shut the computer down for several days - just taking it through the restart cycle every now and then to keep things running smoothly.

(And, yes, I'm still running Windows XP SP2 and have no immediate plans to change - I still don't think of it as "upgrading" - to Vista.)

I finally forced the issue Saturday when I shut it down before going to Mountain View with Maria, her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend.

That meant that Sunday was Fix The Button Day.

I disconnected all of the wires and cables and put the big XPS tower onto a table for easier access. I determined that the button base needed to be glued back in place. I also concluded it was a really lame design and wondered how many other XPS users have had or will have the same experience.

While we were at Lowe's in Paragould buying the Table of Drama (see earlier blog entries), I bought some Loctite  Super Glue. The switch base has five little pins and corresponding holes, configured like the dots on the number 5 on dice. I put a dot of glue into each of the five holes, held the parts together firmly for 30 seconds and then went off and did something else for awhile to give the glue time to set up/cure/do whatever it does.

An hour or so later, the switch was working like new and I was back in operation. It's not often that you can fix computer hardware for less than $3.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Missed photo op

Last Saturday, an outdoor wedding along Piney Creek near Dover, Ark. - about 64 miles northwest of Little Rock, ended with an apparent stranger shooting and wounding the bride and groom and a couple of bystanders.
Witnesses said he just walked up and started blazing away with a 9mm pistol.
The police caught up with him in nearby Russelville a short time later.
No photos of the shooting have surfaced, begging the question of whether there was a photographer present.
I can guarantee you that if Maria and I were there, we'd have snapped into News Photographer Mode without hesitation.

Motorcycle record-keeping software

Product review in the March 2001 issue of Motorcycle Tour & Cruiser page 85

By John M. Flora

If you're anything like me, your motorcycle records are chaotic at best. When my bike was new, I tried to keep orderly accounts and stuffed the paperwork from services into a file folder. But over the years, I got sloppy. The paperwork, often as not, landed on my desk. There it sat, until it got in the way one too many times and was pitched.

That left me guessing how many miles I rolled my last set of tires. Could it really be 7,000 miles since my last oil change? How long ago did I install that aftermarket shock absorber? Wouldn't it be nice to have that information a mouse click away?

That's what David Portugal thought when he created For Two Wheels Only Motorcycle Management Software. A 40 year-old Gold Wing rider from suburban Chicago, this computer consultant and software writer created the FTWO program to fill his own needs. Last year, he logged over 28,000 miles, which included a tip to Alaska and the Arctic Circle.

David's program, which comes on a CD-ROM and runs on the Windows platform, lets you track every conceivable detail about your bike or bikes. The idea is to save money and time spent tracking maintenance records, accessories purchased, trips, events attended, and more.

The maintenance section lets you record all the parts and labor data from dealer services. There's a folder for tire information that calculates the cost per mile of your tires. (The Dunlop I just retired from the front wheel of my '91 BMW K100RS went 7,940 miles at a cost of 2.1 cents per mile.) The Insurance folder gives you a way to access details of your policy quickly and track rate changes.

Perhaps my favorite is the Trips/Events folder, where I can create a daily diary - complete with a photo for each day of the journey, a "notes" field for a running account of the tour, and data fields for mileage, tolls, food, lodging, recreation, and so on. This folder includes a trip/event summary that looks at the daily diary entries and compiles totals for the entire trip, including the cost per mile and per day.

If there's a downside, it's that you have to keep a thorough log as you go. For the Fuel folder, that means jotting down your exact odometer reading (required by the program), the amount of gas, and the cost of each fill-up. You also can record the name and location of the station, the octane, and how you paid. The good news is that the program helps you get into the habit by providing printable forms for the data, which you can stuff into a pocket or tank bag.

You also can print out detailed reports of all of the bike data you amass over time. And, the name notwithstanding, there's nothing stopping you from using FTWO to keep records on your four-wheeled and other vehicles as well.

David says that motorcyclists like the program for lots of different reasons. But his largest constituencies are folks who customize and/or restore motorcycles and want to track part sources and prices. And, of course, touring riders like me who want to record their trips and keep meticulous maintenance records.

The software installation went smoothly on my Win98-equipped PC. And even inexperienced computer users should get up to speed quickly on this straightforward program.

When I first clicked through the folders and saw the level of record keeping it entails, I thought it was a bit (well, maybe a lot) obsessive. But that was last night.

Tonight, I can't wait to finish this review so I can get back to reconstructing my vacation expenses from my last ride to the Coast in the Trips/Events folder.

May 28, 2008: As a footnote, I'm still using FTWO to maintain my motorcycle records seven years and another bike later. And I still love it.
You can get a 10-day free trial copy of FTWO from David's website.

More "tired" than I realized

I was poised to call Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo., this morning to book service time for a new rear tire and a check of engine/transmission seals on my BMW K1200GT in anticipation of an active 2008 riding season.
But just to be sure, I went down to the garage and checked the tread depth on my Metzeler M6 Roadtec back tire.
To my astonishment, it was within safe tolerances. I say astonishment because my records indicate that tire was installed May 23, 2006 by Twin Cities BMW in Savoy, Ill., a suburb of Champaign-Urbana. That means the tire has rolled more than 10,400 miles. That may not sound like much in a world where radial tires on cars routinely go 40-50-60,000 miles, but 10k is a lot of miles on a motorcycle tire.
Why? Motorcycle tires have to work harder because bikes lean where cars don't. A motorcycle tire has to work in more dimensions than a car tire and that generates heat and heat is what kills tires.
So, assuming the seals aren't seeping substantially worse than in '06, I can put some more miles on the back tire before replacing it and dealing with the seal issue.
The front tire was put on last Aug. 38 by Foothills BMW in Denver and only has about 3,000 miles on it, so I'm good to go.
I just returned from lunch with Maria and, with her help, puzzled out why my rear tire has so much tread.
"Didn't you have an extra tire set aside?" she asked.
Of course! That's it!
In the final days of Revard BMW Motorcycles in Indianapolis, Dec. 14, 2004 to be exact, I bought a rear tire at dealer cost and stashed it in the garage until I needed it.
I keep (almost) all of my motorcycle records on For Two Wheels Only, a motorcycle-specific computer program, and neglected to log the fact that I had Grumpy, my Thorntown neighborhood bike mechanic, mount that tire last Aug. 7. So it only has about 5,000 miles on it instead of the 10,400 I calculated earlier. And I also recall that Grumpy didn't notice any problem with leaking seals last August.
So the mystery is solved and my seal anxiety is assuaged.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's Toosday

We've noticed the TV newspeople and others around here pronounce Tuesday differently than we Hoosiers.
They say Tyewsday - not Toosday or 2sday - but with a "yew" twist to it.

Table of drama

This is the cause of yesterday's drama. Or one of the causes, anyway.
It's the Dockside 42" square table with tempered glass top and it came hermetically sealed in plastic wrap.
The Lowe's website has it priced at $70 and we got it on sale for $50, but when you factor in a trip to the ER, that $20 saving goes away very quickly.
I finished unwrapping and assembling the parts this afternoon in what must be 99% humidity and an unnaturally hot-feeling 80 degrees. The job is done and I'm sweating buckets.
Ready for the next disaster.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Spilling my Type B+ blood

We're back from about three hours in the NEA Baptist Hospital emergency room where a doctor from Indiana repaired the damage I did to myself with my Swiss Army knife.
We bought a patio table (some assembly required) yesterday at Lowe's in Paragould so as to have a suitable dining space on the screened back porch.
I decided to put it together this afternoon and discovered, to my chagrin, that the Third World wage slaves who packed the parts, went completely nuts with the bubble wrap and shrink wrap. I was down to the fourth and final leg, hacking away with my pocket knife when I made a stupid move and put a 1½" slash to the outside of my left wrist.
I thought for a moment that I'd only knicked myself until I noticed the blood - lots of it, running down my hand and dripping onto the concrete porch floor.
I pushed the back door open and yelled, "Help!" loud enough for Maria, who was working in the upstairs office, to understand immediately that something serious was afoot.
We flushed the cut with tap water in the kitchen sink and wrapped my wrist in a couple of clean dish towels, secured the dogs and headed for the ER.
This being Memorial Day, the ER waiting room was packed with other hapless fuck-ups who couldn't get through a holiday weekend without hurting themselves.
The most interesting of the bunch was a guy with a nail sticking out of his left bicep about three inches above the elbow - an obvious casualty of a nail gun. He was jabbering about wanting to pull it out but being afraid it might have hit an artery. He opined that he could cauterize it with a welding rod.
There was a guy with a cane who looked like Snuffy Smith from the comics page who was there with his fat wife. We think the wife was the one with the problem. She seemed very agitated and rocked back and forth in her chair. They apparently got tired of waiting because they left after about an hour without being seen by a doctor.
There was a teenage girl whose left wrist was bandaged like mine, but with the added feature of an ice pack, leading us to suspect a sprain or possible fracture.
An older couple was there with their young grandson who had somehow got poison ivy or poison oak all over his groin and privates. They left without being seen too, announcing they were going to a drugstore to see what a pharmacist could do for the boy.
It was a mildly entertaining way to spend three hours on a Memorial Day afternoon, capped by seven stitches.
And I left home without my cell phone, so I don't have any gory pictures to share.

Radio Ga Ga

Someone presumably cares about our radio listening habits.
I got a call from Arbitron a week or so ago, asking if I would participate in a week-long radio listening survey.
What the hell? Why not?
So I agreed and a couple of days later, I received a letter from Arbitron with a crisp new $1 bill telling me to watch the mail for our radio listening logs - one for me and one for Maria.
They showed up in Saturday's mail and I finally got around to opening the package this afternoon. The logs are for the week beginning on Thursday (May 29) and each one included two crisp new $1 bills. How nice.
They include internet and satellite radio stations in the survey, so I will have something to log even though I just about never listen to terrestrial radio.

Avoiding Kroger

I'm avoiding Supermarket Hell.
Maria has mercifully excused me from shuffling up and down the aisles at Kroger, so I'm hanging out next door at the bookstore and listening to a Leo Laporte podcast.
No big Memorial Day plans - certainly not on the order of what I did about 10 years ago when I led a 14-state motorcycle ride with five Indianapolis BMW Club friends.
We started Saturday morning and did a lap around Kentucky and Tennessee.
The sequence was:
Overnight at Huntsville
North Carolina
South Carolina
Overnight in northern Virginia
West Virginia
We put our tires in all of these states in about 21 hours of riding.
Later, we figured we could have added Pennsylvania and still do it in under 24 hours.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

You can't see us

Morgan and I are invisible. It's the camo hats.

Two thumbs up

Saw it this afternoon.
Liked it. Good summer fun movie.

Road Trip

We took a 120-mile road trip yesterday to Mountain View where we left Morgan and Lance to camp and hike for a couple of days.
This is Blanchard Creek Falls where the creek emerges from a cave of the same name.
Much of the trip was on 2-lane state roads, with lots of twisties and elevation changes, which explains why it takes three hours to go 120 miles. We got deep enough into the Ozark area to appreciate how different the terrain is from here.
Everyone but I took the cave tour. I've been feeling a bit claustrophobic lately, didn't want to shuffle through a cave with a bunch of annoying old people and found the idea of dozing in the car with my iPod pretty attractive. So I did. And when Maria and the kids returned, they regaled me with horror stories about annoying, slow old people.
During the course of the afternoon, we also met a gregarious guy in bib overalls who was on a mission to deliver a chilled glass gallon jug of homemade liquor (aged a whole day) to a friend. The friend turned out not to be home, so he gave each of us a sip of white lightning before he returned it to its hiding place in a white plastic grocery sack and went on his way. I just wetted my tongue, since I was driving, but the 100 proof stuff wasn't all that bad.
Dinner was a the Anglers where we feasted on catfish. Excellent food and excellent service and the view of the creek is spectacular.
We left the kids with their rental car to roam around the mountains for the next couple of days and Maria drove us home.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The picture that won't die

Twenty-two years later, this picture just won't go away, Tim.
This is Tim Balough, borrowing some gas from wife Linda's R100CS, to get his K100RS to the next gas station.
We were on our way home from the 1986 BMW MOA Rally in Monterey, Calif., and Tim had just led us through Salt Lake City. His gas gauge had fried out and he was using his odometer to estimate his fuel level. Bad idea.
Linda and I had been eyeing gas stations at several exits, wondering if Tim would pull off. We were using helmet-to-helmet commnicators at the time and finally Linda called to Tim, "When are you planning to stop for gas?"
"Right about now," said Tim, as he rolled to the berm, out of gas.
For the record, we made it to the next gas station and passed a pleasant evening in Vernal, Utah, home to a whole bunch of anatomically incorrect concrete dinosaurs.

Easily amused

I don't know why, but I love these stupid things.
I have no idea what you call them - wind puppets, maybe?
The first one I ever saw was about eight years ago at the Long Beach (Wash.) International Kite Festival. It was yellow and I thought its floppy gyrations were funny as hell. I guess I'm easily amused.
I photographed this one today with my Treo smartphone camera while on a pre-holiday weekend beer run to Mr. T's, the always-open liquor-and-lottery store just over the state line in Missouri. It's the nearest place I've found that stocks Spaten Doppelbock beer. I also picked up a six-pack of strawberry ale for Morgan.
At last report, she and Lance were about a hour north of Cairo, Ill., and the Illinois-Missouri state line. That would put them about 3½ hours out, with an ETA of 4 p.m. CDT. That's assuming they don't get lost in the fireworks aisles at Boomland.
We'll see how accurate my estimate is.

May without "500" festivities

How odd to not be in Indiana during the month of May and the run-up to the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
Here's a photo I shot of race driver Dan Gurney conferring with his pit crew during practice for the 1969 race. He finished second in that year's Indy 500.
Gurney, now 77, is still active in racing and is almost certainly in Indianapolis right now, awaiting Sunday's race.
My earliest recollections of the race are from the late 1940s or early '50s when we would listen to the start of the race on the car radio while taking coffee cans of peonies to the graves of my parents' families.
I attended my first Indianapolis 500 in 1964. I listened to the 1967 race on a telephone headset, taking dictation from Indianapolis News Sports Editor Wayne Fuson for the paper's running story of the race. We prided ourselves with having the final race edition of the paper, with a complete story of the race and the winner's photo on the front page, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before most of the crowd had left the grounds.
That was when the race was held on May 30, regardless of what day of the week it was. Since The News was a Monday-Saturday paper, the decision to hold the race on Sundays took us out of the game. We hated it because it was the highlight of our year.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Company's coming

Maria's daughter (my stepdaughter) Morgan and her boyfriend Lance are coming to visit and then tour Arkansas. We expect them sometime tomorrow afternoon.
And we are very excited.
This will be Morgan's second visit and the fourth time we have hosted guests from Indiana since we took up residence here and we loooove to have guests.
(I pirated this image from Morgan's Flickr account and tweaked it Photoshop, so I hope she doesn't mind.)

Hangin' with the dogs

The late afternoon golden light is upon us and I'm hanging out on the back porch while Ruthie and Pete patrol the fenced perimeter.
Got my iPod on shuffle and listening to "Pictures and Designs" by the Seeds.
I had the first Seeds albums in the spring of 1967 when my first wife was pregnant with our first son (that's a lot of firsts, isn't it?). Anyhow, Diane got the Seeds all linked up with morning sickness and probably can't hear them, even today, without getting queasy.


The Dash Express GPS navigation system has the potential to transform the way we get from point A to point B, make our highway infrastructure more efficient and let government spend our road-building dollars more wisely.
This unit takes GPS to the next step beyond being just a "yuppie compass."
You can get all of the pertinent poop from the Dash website at, but here are the salient points:
The Dash Express is a GPS unit that incorporates internet access through WiFi and cell phone communications. As you drive, it gathers data about your location and speed (or lack of it) and passes that information up to the main server. The server is also getting traffic data from every other Dash unit in the area, as well as from commercial carriers, road sensors and other sources. The result is an accurate traffic picture in real time, constantly changing to reflect changing conditions.
The Dash Express also uses its internet link to access constantly updated information about restaurants, gas stations (including where the lowest gas prices can be found), lodging, businesses, attractions, etc.
Check out the video for a demonstration of how it works.
This is a brand new product, just released this year, so it can only get better. The company promises periodic software updates via the WiFi connection.
The implications of this kind of GPS device are profound. It prompted the moderator of to write:
I have been writing about GPS for a little over 5 years and have worked for a GPS software company for a year. The reason I mention this is that in all that time I have never made a statement like the one I'm making now: the Dash Express by Dash is, in my opinion, a paradigm changing machine. Automotive GPS will never be the same after the release of this unit. It takes GPS from a "get me from here to there" paradigm, to a paradigm in which GPS is integrated into one's daily life and becomes just another tool to make all sorts of travel and non-travel related stuff easier and more convenient.
In fact, it may be more cost-effective for governmental units to give these things to their residents, either free or subsidized, as a way to make their streets and highways more efficient and to avoid having to spend money on unnecessary road-building.
My only problem with the Dash Express is that it appears to be just for four-wheeled vehicles. When they come out with a weather-proof model that can be operated with a motorcycle-gloved hand, I'll be all over it.

Creeping out the dog

Pete, the Aussie, is very distrustful of changes in his environment and this morning was no exception.
Back when I was buying lots of cool clothes from the Dillard's Clearance Center for 10 cents on the dollar, I bought this shirt. When I finally got around to an occasion to wear it, I discovered it had a green stain on the upper left chest - probably an ink transfer from some wet piece of paper or tag. I gave it the Zout treatment yesterday. The care tag called for line drying, so I put it on a plastic hanger and hung it from a hook on our bird feeder support.
Then the fun began.
When Pete noticed it from the back door, he started barking and growling and pacing back and forth in an obviously agitated state.
He finally worked up the courage to approach it, albeit warily.
The confrontation ended when it started to rain and I had to bring the shirt inside to dry.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the office.

I'm blogging from the back porch on our Sony VAIO laptop because it's just too damned hot up in our office.
The office, as you may recall, is what folks around here call a bonus room above the garage.
The room was unfinished when we bought the house last year. The previous owner used the space for storage and had it piled high with boxes that had never been unpacked when he and his family moved in two years earlier. Sorta like the wall of boxes downstairs in the garage that we've been working on for months.
Even though there are a couple of heating/cooling vents up there, our inspector opined that they wouldn't work properly because there was no cold air return. So, as part of our purchase offer, we required the seller to have a cold air return installed. That was no big deal, because the furnace/heat pump is on the other side of the wall in the attic.
Even so, the room remained disturbingly cool during the winter months.
Now that warmer weather is upon us, the afternoons have become increasingly uncomfortable up there. Even when I climb the stairs late at night, I'm greeted by stifling heat when I reach the top.
While the cold air return probably helps, I think the real problem is that it never occurred to anyone to insulate the roof above the bonus room.
Considering that we've already thrown a considerable amount of money into woodwork, paint and carpeting, there's really no choice but to call a home insulation outfit and have them see what can be done about getting insulation up there.
We've only seen temperatures in the mid-80s here so far, but we know the summer will bring some triple-digit heat. Nothing like what Steve and his family are seeing in Las Vegas, but hot enough to fry our computers and make the office unusable.

Most Annoying

Pitchman Billy Mays gets my vote for the most annoying person on TV.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Who - Dublin, Ireland June 29, 2007

The video show is the same but the arrangement is a bit different from their Indianapolis show three months earlier. Worth a watch, though.
Happy 63rd birthday to Pete Townshend (a day late).

And now for something completely different...

Stuff from the dresser drawer

I dumped the contents of my top dresser drawer - where I have accumulated decades worth of odds and ends - into a box when we were packing for our move from Indiana to Arkansas last fall.
I opened the box over the weekend to see if there was anything there that I might find useful. Not much, really, but a lot of interesting things and memory triggers poured out.
Like this photo.
This is me with my first serious BMW motorcycle - a 1981 R100RS - in the summer of 1986. It was shot in the back yard of our home at 5009 N. College Avenue in Indianapolis. I think my son Steve shot it.
I'm wearing a gray Brown Riding Suit that I bought for the July ride to the BMW MOA national rally at Laguna Seca Racecourse near Monterey, Calif. By today's armored textiles standards, it was pretty flimsy and I'm damned lucky I didn't need it for crash protection. But it was reasonably comfortable through a wide temperature range.
I was the second owner of the graphite gray R100RS and it had about 17,000 miles on the odometer when I bought it from Cycle Werks in the late summer of 1985. It had more than 80,000 miles on the odometer when I sold it in late 1991.
The stockade fence in the background is long gone. Steve and I tore it town with the considerable help of Steve's friend Abe Benrubi. You may know him as Ben Tomasson on ABC-TV's "Men in Trees." He was also a regular cast member in the early years of "ER" and has been in a bunch of movies and commercials.
Here's a photo of Abe from later in 1986 when he played Charlemagne to Steve's Pippin in the Broad Ripple High School production of the musical "Pippin."
Broad Ripple, you may recall, is also the alma mater of David Letterman and Jane Pauley.
I also came across this photo booth picture of Dr. Paul Mark Wadleigh, a professor of communication at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.
Mark is a longtime friend from our days in the Transcendental Meditation program. He helped me negotiate some tricky emotional territory during my divorce in the early 1990s.
This photo is dated Jan. 1, 1980 and was shot in a drugstore in Seattle.
Now that he has his Ph.D., Mark is much more serious.
I also found my old I.D. badge from the mid-1980s at The Indianapolis News.
When I started my career at The News in February, 1967, nobody needed an I.D. badge and people could walk into the newsroom without any real interference from the security guards. To my knowledge, there was never a single incident of a visitor attacking anyone or causing trouble.
Nevertheless, somebody sold the company on the idea that we were in grave peril and needed to be shielded from our readers and the people about whom we wrote. The last time I was in what used to be known as the Star-News Building, I had to be escorted up to the second floor newsroom by a security guard.
We all thought it was somewhere between silly and paranoid to impose such security measures at the time. I still do.

Voting. Again.

We voted this morning and it was the first time in several years that I've requested a Democrat primary ballot.
No, it had nothing to do with the presidential race. The Arkansas presidential primary was back on Super Tuesday.
Today's exercise in democracy was to nominate county-level candidates and there was only one contest for us to decide - a three- way race for county tax collector.
The reason we asked for Democrat ballots is because there were no contested races at all on the GOP side.
The polling place was at the Brookland Town Hall - a modest little structure south of the high school campus that isn't exactly easy to find if you're new to town.
And just for the record, we were required to show a photo I.D. - something Democrats apparently hate because it makes it harder for dead people to keep voting. You may recall that the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of the Indiana law requiring photo I.D. for voting.
I'm reminded of the Mort Sahl line: "When I die, I want to be buried in Chicago because I'd like to stay politically active."
We get to make our third trip to the polls, of course, in November when he help elect President McCain.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another hot flash from Las Vegas

Steve's comment: "Not even sweating."

Out for a Monday morning drive

Maria doesn't have to be at work until 1 p.m. today, so we took the top off of the del Sol and went for a drive.
After stopping at the Brookland Post Office to dispatch a couple of Ebay sales, we went exploring on Crowley's Ridge, cruising up and down county roads we'd not driven before.
The weather is damn near perfect again today - cloudless sky and upper 70s.
Maria cut some roadside honeysuckle with an eye to cultivating it along our backyard chain link fence.
We checked out Frierson Lake State Park, which was mostly deserted. Since we'd left our serious cameras at home, we used my cell phone camera to record the moment.
Here's an intentional "tourist" shot of me and the lake. Notice that the horizon isn't level and that I'm way too far away from the camera, not to mention looking unnaturally stiff and posed.

The second shot was Maria getting it right. The third is Maria in black-and-white taking in the scenery. My Treo smartphone camera often produces photos that require a lot of Photoshop color correction. The one of Maria was so skewed toward the magenta, with other weird imbalances, that I just gave up and made it grayscale.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Just right...

Unlike my son in blistering Las Vegas or our snowbound friends in Alama, Colo., we're enjoying perfect weather here in northeast Arkansas.
We had the outdoor fireplace going this evening while Maria sat on the porch and read by the light from the kitchen.
The temperature is a delightful 70 degrees.
The fireplace is turning out to be an ideal way to dispose of the twigs, branches and limbs our trees have shed over the last six months.

Las Vegas weather report

The latest from Steve.

Helmut's Strudel

Helmut's Strudel is one of my fondest food memories from my decade of running The Indianapolis News's Indiana State Fair Bureau.
Helmut, who was from Austria, made fabulous delicate, multilayered flaky strudel with his grandmother's recipe and it was abso-freaking-lutely delicious.
This is (from left) me, Jane Judkins (now Stegemiller), and Helmut in front of his stand, sometime around 1981.
I think Helmut was living in or around Houston, Texas, at the time. Jane managed to talk him out of a couple of cases of frozen strudel that we used as treats for months later.
The spinach puffs were good too, but the strudel was spectacular.

Downtown Indianapolis - 1968

Here's a noontime street scene from downtown Indianapolis in the summer of 1968.
I was walking east on the north side of Market Street between Monument Circle and Pennsylvania Street with my Honeywell Pentax, with 28mm lens, slung around my neck and a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 ISO film loaded. Without raising the camera to my eye, I tripped the shutter. The young woman on my left obviously thought I was up to something.
The building on my left was the American Fletcher National Bank, which was bought by Bank One and later by Chase - a consequence of the people at the top realizing you could make more money selling banks than by running them.
If we had an unobstructed view east on Market, we could see where Market Square Arena would be built a few years later. It lived out its useful life as a concert venue and the home of the Indiana Pacers and was demolished a few years ago.
It might be interesting to know what became of the dozen people captured in this frame 40 years ago this summer. Notice that everyone is "dressed up" by today's casual standards - dresses for the women and girls, coats and ties for the men. No jeans, no t-shirts, no flip-flops, no scrubs or sleepwear.
When I was a kid, just a decade earlier, it was understood that you dressed up - put on good clothes - to go downtown in Indianapolis.

Riding to Chili's

Maria had to work at the paper for awhile yesterday, so I fired up the John Deere and mowed the lawn.
With some daylight left, we decided to take the K1200GT out for a ride. We followed the Crowley's Ridge Parkway up to Paragould for a light dinner at Chili's.
No beer, thanks - we're riding.
Unsweet iced tea.
Around here you have to specify or they might bring you iced tea that's heavily laced with sugar.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It's always something...

In the interest of freeing up space on my C: drive and regaining some of the speed my Core2Duo processor used to have, I copied my 60GB iTunes Music folder to my newer, larger internal hard drive that call itself H:
Then I went into iTunes and clicked Edit>Preferences>Advanced and browsed to the new folder's location on H: drive and OK'd my way back out. I closed iTunes and re-launched it to confirm that it still saw my music.
After a day or so, I figured everything was working fine, so I could chance getting the original iTunes Music folder off of my C: drive to reap the benefits of this change. Ever cautious, I decided against throwing the now-duplicated iTunes Music folder into the trash and, instead, moved it to the H: drive and renamed it Backup iTunes.
Now, when I launch iTunes, it can't see the relocated music. I've repeatedly gone to Edit>Preferences>Advanced and reset to the new location. I also tried resetting to the new location of the backup folder I moved, all with the same result: a blank iTunes music list.
It appears that iTunes was still looking at the original iTunes Music folder on C: drive, even though I told it to work from the new folder on H: drive. But, being a trusting soul, I figured the re-direction was working.
I'm loathe to move the ITunes Music folder back to its original location on C: drive and give up the hard drive space and speed.
Anyone have any suggestions on how to get iTunes to redirect?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Just the beginning...

Got this iPhone pic from my son Steve in Las Vegas this afternoon.


Running errands in town this afternoon on Maria's K75S, I found myself behind a pickup truck with two stickers on the back window.
One said, "Don't make me open this" with a picture of a can of "Whoop Ass" bearing the Confederate battle flag.
The other said, "Jesus - Don't leave Earth without him."

Superman's hometown in downstate Illinois

With the weekend upon us, what better time to reprise a weekend ride story that I did about 10 years ago for Motorcycle Tour & Cruiser?

It was the weekend and I wanted to go for a ride.

Then it hit me.

What better place could there be for a mild-mannered reporter for a large metropolitan daily newspaper like me to go than Metropolis?

That's Metropolis, as in Illinois.

Metropolis, as we all know, is the mythical home of Superman and the folks there play their comic book connection to the hilt. I'd read about Metropolis' Superman fixation in Roadside America – a fabulous compendium of tourist attractions and cultural goofiness and I promised myself I'd go there someday.

This, I decided, was the day. Consulting a map, I realized a trip to Metropolis is a serious day ride from Indianapolis. The round trip amounts to about 600 miles. Undaunted, I picked up Ind. 67 on the southwestside of town and followed it through Spencer and on to Vincennes where I connected with U.S. 50 and headed west toward Illinois.

As I crossed the Wabash River on the Red Skelton Bridge, I reflected that this is the same U.S. 50 that LIFE magazine once dubbed “the loneliest road in America” where it traverses Nevada. Some friends and I blazed down that highway at slightly sub-sonic speeds in July, 1986, on our way to a BMW rally in California and decided it was one of the most exciting roads in America.

A few miles into Illinois, I exited U.S. 50 to head southwest on Ill. 1 through Mt. Carmel and Carmi to pick up U.S. 45 and took it to I-24 and the sleepy little Ohio River town of Metropolis.

It was mid-afternoon by the time rode by a colorful billboard sporting a flying Superman that welcomed me in the name of the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce.

Metropolis, Ill., looks more like Smallville – Superman's boyhood hometown – than it does the sprawling clone of New York City where Superman/Clark Kent hangs out in comic books, films and TV series. It's an inconsistency the folks in Metropolis apparently choose to ignore.

After a few minutes' search, I found the town square where a colorful 15-foot-tall bronze statue of the Man of Steel gazes down Market Street from behind an iron fence. The statue guards the city hall and stands on a pedestal celebrating “Truth – Justice – The American Way.” I parked my bike next to the fence and dodged a land yacht full of elderly tourists to line up a photo of Superman and super bike.

Diagonally across the street from the statue is the Super Museum – a 50,000-item collection of Superman stuff amassed by Jim Hambrick. It was recently named by AAA Auto Travel as the top small-town tourist attraction in America.

Inside, I found myself staring at a dizzying array of Supermanalia. Besides the obvious things like collector pins, t-shirts, sweatshirts, ball caps, shot glasses, thimbles, key rings, squeezy plastic coin purses, comic books, postcards and figural scissors there were unexpected items. There were red and green bottles of Kryptonite Super Hot Sauce with a sign warning, “You’ll run for water faster than a speeding bullet!!!” On the shelves below were rows of Kraft Super Heroes Macaroni & Cheese, offering a choice of Superman, Batman or Wonder woman.

Making my way through the forest of gee-gaws, I found Hambrick’s daughter, Carrie, 20, minding the store from behind a counter that controlled access to the fabulous museum that lay beyond.

Dressed in black, Carrie projected a Gothic style, complete with multiple ear piercings. She looked up from her Anne Rice novel to take my $3 museum admission and answer a few questions.

“What’s your biggest seller here?” I asked.

“T-shirts, magnets… I’d say these Kryptonite rocks are third,” she said, gesturing to a pile of shiny green rocks, each about the size of a child’s fist. The sign next to them announced, “Kryptonite Meteor Fragments from Superman’s home planet! Glows in the Dark! $3.95 each.”

“What are they?”

“Original Ohio River rocks,” Carrie said with a smile. “Painting them is part of my job. I paint them first in dark green, then I take a light green and go over it. Then I take an even brighter green and do a little bit. Then I put glow-in-the-dark paint on them, then I spray them with clear acrylic and then I, like, sprinkle glitter on them and spray them again. It takes about an hour.”

Next to the rocks lay a stack of year-old special Superman Celebration inserts from the local paper, The Planet. Since it’s a weekly, they can’t call it the The Daily Planet, but everyone gets the idea. Metropolis celebrates its Superman connection every year on the second weekend in June with a blowout that draws about 50,000 visitors. The festival has featured appearances by Noel Neill and Jack Larson who played Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson on the 1950s Superman TV series and Margot Kidder, who was Lois Lane in the more recent Superman movies.

The celebration is a big deal at the museum, Carrie said, when serious Superman collectors gather for a dinner and an auction.

“Some of them even walk around in Superman costumes,” she said. “They call themselves the League of Justice.”

The late Kirk Alyn was the first actor to play Superman in a 1948 movie serial and the elder Hambrick worked as his manager in the early 1980s. The Hambricks lived in California then, Carrie said, and “Kirk Alyn was always at our home. He was like a family member… Superman is like my grandfather.”

Turning the image of a grandfatherly Superman over in my mind, I thanked Carrie for sharing and entered the museum section.

The museum is an amazing jumble of valuable Superman memorabilia and toys and Super clutter. The discerning eye will pick out the knitted costume George Reeves wore in the ‘50s TV series. Turning the corner, my heart skipped a beat when I spotted Clark Kent’s horn-rimmed glasses from that series. Suddenly, I was back in the third grade with my first pair of nerdy eyeglasses, telling myself I was really just using them to hide my secret identity.

There’s Helen Slater’s flying harness from the 1984 Supergirl movie, a life mask casting of Marlon Brando's face in his role as Jor-El, Superman’s dad, and some actual “crystals” from the Fortress of Solitude. Mixed in are odd items like Superman suspenders and belts, all kinds of Superman toys, a huge assortment of Superman wrist watches… it goes on and on.

You can even step into a 1960s vintage phone booth, complete with a dial pay phone, and imagine yourself peeling down to the familiar red, yellow and blue costume.

A couple of headless plywood Superman cutouts stand outside the Super Museum as an invitation for passersby to have their heads photographed on Superman's body.

Metropolis got serious about its Super tourist potential in 1972 when plans were unveiled for a $50 million Amazing World of Superman theme park. The project fell through, however, for lack of investors.

In 1986, civic-minded Metropolisites raised $1,000 to install a cheesy-looking seven-foot-tall fiberglass likeness of Superman on the town square. According to Roadside America, vandals wanted to see just how bullet-proof the Man of Fiberglass was and shot him full of holes.

Seven years later, townspeople bought hundreds of engraved paving bricks to raise $120,000 for the present two-ton effigy of the cartoon superhero.

Metropolis' other major attraction is down at the riverfront where Merv Griffin's Riverboat Casino is berthed.

I decided to pass on the casino and, instead, headed toward the north side of town on my last quest of the day. I found it just north of the Metropolis Good Samaritan Nursing Home – the street I knew had to be somewhere in Metropolis.

Lois Lane, of course.

The Super Museum & Souvenir Store, 611 Market Street, Metropolis, IL is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. or later every day of the year, holidays included.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Al dente

We went up to Paragould for pizza this evening, and good pizza it was.
However, Maria noticed an Italian gaffe on the menu: Beef Ravioli - Pasta filled with ground beef and smothered with al dente sauce and mozzarela cheese. served with a side of garlic bread.
Here's what Wikipedia says: In cooking, the adjective al dente (pronounced /ɑːlˈdɛnteɪ/) describes pasta and (less commonly) rice that has been cooked so as to be firm but not hard. "Al dente" also describes vegetables that are cooked to the "tender crisp" phase - still offering resistance to the bite, but cooked through. It is often considered to be the ideal form of cooked pasta. Keeping the pasta firm is especially important in baked or "al forno" pasta dishes. The term comes from Italian and means "to the tooth" or "to the bite", referring to the need to chew the pasta due to its firmness. The term is also very commonly used as a name for Italian restaurants around the world.
So in this context, al dente is meaningless gibberish.

Me vs. Technology: I win again

I spent the afternoon fighting technology.
But, by God, I won!
I bought a Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander from Circuit City in hopes of being able to get a stronger WiFi signal up here in our office.
The wireless router is at the nearest live cable outlet, which is in the kitchen. That results in a usable but weak and slow signal in the office.
The alternative was to call the cable company and have them send a guy out to hook up the cable in the office, which would probably cost some serious bucks.
Naturally, I ran into trouble.
I spent about 30 minutes on the phone to Linksys tech support in India until they dropped the connection.
Then I called my tech guru Tim Balough in Alma, Colo. and he talked me through several scenarios for about an hour until we both ran out of ideas.
I finally came back upstairs, worked my way into a corner with the software for my Netgear wireless card, but managed to get a working connection on Maria's computer. Concluding that my Netgear card is hopelessly tangled and not being in the mood to sort out its software problems, I hard-wired the Linksys Range Expander into the ethernet port on the back of my computer, muttered a few incantations and was stunned to discover I now had a working, super-fast internet connection. Finally.


Waiting in the exam room to get my contacts checked...

Just a reminder

Do you wear your seatbelt every time you drive or passenger?
This is a good example of what can happen if you don't.
This crash photo from the 1940s or early '50s in Indianapolis clearly shows where the driver and passenger put their heads into - and in the passenger's case, through - the windshield.
This was commonplace in car crashes and happened years before seatbelts became required equipment in U.S. cars. That came along in the mid-1960s.
The son of a close friend of mine was killed last year because, for whatever foolish reason, he chose not to wear his seatbelt. I think about him often when I belt myself in.

Happy anniversary to us

Today is our seventh wedding anniversary.
We were married under a quilt - quite fitting, considering Maria's love of quilting.
The ceremony was performed by Boone County (Ind.) Clerk Lisa Garoffolo in the rotunda of the Boone County Courthouse in Lebanon.
Suspended above us was the Boone County Quilt, a huge work that was created in the months leading up to the July 4, 1976 U.S. Bicentennial celebration. The quilt was sewn by women from all over the county and represents each community and township in the form of a county map.
The wedding was a small, impromptu affair. We decided on Monday to get married and did it on Tuesday. Maria's family was there, except for her mother who had to work. I put out an invitation to the Indianapolis BMW Club, but only Andy and Jackie Anders were able to respond on such short notice. Maria's flowers came from her own front yard. The reception was at Ice Cream Paradise, a Lebanon drive-in ice cream stand that also had a playground for her nieces and nephews.
The whole thing was in pretty stark contrast to the elaborate and insanely expensive weddings we've photographed in the past three years.
If you go to the Boone County Clerk's office and look up our marriage license, be sure to scan back a few pages to see William Shatner's signature. He married a Zionsville woman in Boone County a few days before our wedding.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Woo-hoo! More space in the garage!

Our old lawn mower, a Troy-Bilt 21" 6.5 horsepower self-propelled walk-behind model that vexed me by always starting on days when I didn't want to cut the grass, left about 15 minutes ago in the back of a pickup truck.
We sold it for a very reasonable price to a young couple who had grown tired of borrowing the husband's father's mower whenever they needed to cut their grass.
It was a win-win situation. They got a good serviceable mower at a great price and we got more open space in our garage.
The tipping point came when we discovered that our new John Deere LA125 will squeeze through the back yard gate with about two inches to spare with the grass chute hinged up. I was afraid it wouldn't fit and we'd have to keep the walk-behind for the back yard.

Doin' good

Arkansas is a state of do-gooders.
Everytime I greet someone with, or respond to, "How're you doing?" I get the response, "I'm doin' good."
It's never "fine (fahn)" or "OK," it's always the grammatically incorrect "good."
So I guess I'm doin' pretty good today.

Back to Devil's Tower

I'll almost certainly pay a visit to Devil's Tower while at the BMW MOA International Rally at Gillette, Wyo. in July.
I shot this the last time I was there - in July, 1995, when I was riding Western highways to Portland and to the BMW MOA International Rally in Durango, Colo.
My first visit was in 1990 during the 'MOA rally at Rapid City, S.D.

Go get 'em, Capital One

I just got a call from Capital One for the people who used to have our phone number. It's the third such call this week.
The guy asked to speak to David.
I explained that the B family hasn't had this phone number for five months and I gave him what I believe is their new number.
"Well, is Jackie there?"
I blew up.
"No, you fucking moron. I just told you the B family - that's David and Jackie - can be reached at the number I just gave you."
"Well, you don't have to get all that!" he responded.
"Yes, I do. And I want you to take this number out of your file for the B family."
Then I terminated the conversation.
I got a call from Capital One yesterday, presumably about a car loan for the Bs, and gave the caller what I believe is the address where they can reposess the vehicle in question.
I'd like to think today's call was the end of it, but we all know it's not.


This is my first 35mm camera - a Minolta Himatic-7 rangefinder camera that I bought in the autumn of 1966 while I was working at the Tipton Tribune.
I don't recall what I paid, but I bought it at the Ayr-Way store on the Kokomo bypass. Ayr-Way is gone and the bypass doesn't bypass anything.
It was a great learning tool and served me well for the next several months until I stepped up to a Honeywell Pentax SLR.
Over the years, I've owned three Pentaxes, a Nikon N90S, Nikon F, Nikon F5, and innumerable point-and-shoot 35mm cameras of various brands. My first digital was an Olympus point-and-shoot. Since then, I've owned a Nikon D100 and a Nikon D200. At present, the inventory includes the Nikon F (a sentimental relic), the F5 (just in case I ever need a serious film camera again), the D200 and an Olympus point-and-shoot film camera that refuses to quit and lives in the tankbag of my motorcycle.