Click here and watch the video.
It's not right-wing propaganda and everything in it is fact.
Yesterday's mail brought the announcement of the 45th anniversary reunion of the Delphi High School Class of 1963.
It will be Oct. 25 at the Carroll County Country Club in Delphi and I almost certainly won't be there.
I just can't justify spending 16 hours in the car and burning about $150 worth of gas for a four-hour event. This would be the first one I've missed since graduation, but my heart's just not in it this year.
The only circumstance that might permit it would be if there is some compelling reason for us to return to Indiana that weekend in connection with our house being sold, leased or rented.
If the world doesn't end in 2012 (some people read the Mayan calendar as predicting the end in December 2012), I'll plan on catching the 50th anniversary reunion in 2013.
Considering that I haven't set up my 100-disc Pioneer CD player since we moved here a year ago and considering that I hardly used it in the three years since I got an iPod and loaded all of my music onto it, and considering that my enormous CD collection was still in boxes in the garage, and considering that we're bleeding to death financially from two mortgages and rising prices, I decided it was time to sell some CDs.
So I dug out a few boxes of CDs and started listing them on Amazon.com and suddenly I was flooded with orders. I have a big U.S. Postal Service basket loaded with about 30 orders to ship this morning and have about 200 titles listed with lots more to add.
Nothing goes out of here that hasn't been ripped to mp3 or m4p, so I'm not really losing anything and I'm gaining some cash and garage space.
But what if my computer crashes and I lose all of that music in my iTunes folder?
The answer came yesterday when I scanned the Office Depot insert in the Sunday paper and noticed they were blowing out Seagate Free Agent 500 GB external hard drives for $89.99. And the Free Agent comes with backup software.
As I write this, my new Free Agent is backing up the iTunes folder from my C: drive and will continue to do so every day at 1 a.m.
Now I'm off to the postoffice.
My stepdaughter Morgan has revived her blog, titled "A cat walks into a bar..." It's one of the cleverest blog titles I've seen and is based on real life - her cat Henry was a stray who showed up in a bar in Bloomington, Ind. and ended up living with her.
Welcome back to the Blogosphere, Morgan! We missed you.
Yes, it's very fast.
This is our 1903 home in Thorntown, Ind. It was built by the guy who owned the sawmill in town and has the best wood available in it, including the original quarter-sawn oak floor in the living room, parlor and dining room. It has an all-new kitchen with a lovely skylight (that we put in), curved plaster walls, a pocket door, a new deck on the back with screened hot tub, four bedrooms upstairs and a full, useable attic.
And we can't sell it.
We lived in this wonderful house for 6½ years and would have been content to live there the rest of our lives had we not been forced by circumstance and opportunity to move to Arkansas.
We put it on the market at the first of the year, dropped the price twice, offered it as a lease-to-own and are now looking for someone to rent it - anything to stop the financial bleeding before the winter heating season begins and completely wrecks our finances.
And, of course, this comes at a time when the whole freaking world is in financial meltdown because a bunch of criminally insane greedheads noticed nobody in government had the wit or will to stop them from making and reselling bad loans, cooking the books of major corporations and generally sucking all of the value out of our economy.
So anybody who might have wanted to buy our house is screwed because they won't be able to get a home loan in this increasingly tight credit market.
There is a limit to how long we can keep making double house payments and if I squint my eyes, I think I can see it.
That, my friends, is freaking scary.
In case anyone doubts that Israel is prepared to launch a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, consider this from the Arms Control Association (armscontrol.org) site:
On September 6, 2007, in a surprise dawn attack, seven Israeli warplanes destroyed an industrial facility near al-Kibar, Syria, later identified by the CIA as a nearly completed nuclear reactor secretly under construction since 2001.
According to the CIA, the unit was built with North Korean assistance and was modeled on one used by North Korea to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.
The CIA declared that it had only “low confidence” that Syria was pursuing a nuclear weapons program, however, because the agency had not unearthed evidence of other key facilities that would be needed for such an effort, in particular a plant to fabricate fuel for the reactor and one to extract weapons-usable plutonium from its spent nuclear fuel. Nonetheless, the CIA acknowledged that the reactor was not suited for the production of electricity or for nuclear research, leaving little room for doubt that the unit was intended to produce plutonium for nuclear arms. Although the location of the plant would strongly indicate that it was part of a secret Syrian nuclear weapons program, a recent story in the German weekly Der Spiegel, suggests another possibility: the article cites “intelligence documents” as indicating that the unit was in fact part of a multinational nuclear weapons effort led by Iran, in which Syria and North Korea were collaborating. Both Syria and Iran are non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits such parties from developing and producing nuclear weapons.
Read the rest of it here.
It's IMPACT, a single-copy newspaper sales box made by Bellatrix Systems of Bend, Ore. and it makes all other coin newspaper boxes look like junk.
I had the pleasure of chatting that day with Rich Candland, vice president for business development and finance at Bellatrix, mostly about our shared interest in BMW motorcycles.
The boxes have an electronic mechanism rather than the clunky, malfunction-prone mechanical operation we're used to seeing in newspaper coin boxes. The boxes had gone through North Dakota winters and South Florida summers without failure, proving their reliability under extreme conditions.
But the slickest feature, from a newspaper standpoint, is the custom vinyl wrap that displays the name of the paper and creates advertising space that can be sold.
Like for instance, you sell ad space on a couple of boxes to a hospital and put them near the main entrance and ER entrance of said hospital. The advertising revenue pays for the cost of the box. The space can be resold after the initial contract period and now the box is generating a brand new revenue stream.
It's a natural for advertisers like hospitals, banks and shopping malls.
And the Bellatrix web site says they're working on a model that will take credit cards in addition to cash.
The Tampa Tribune went all out with the boxes. Here's their explanation:
One of their primary goals was to “let people in the market see their lives reflected on the racks.” Whenever possible, panoramic photos were taken at each site creating continuous three-sided graphics that were then applied to the IMPACT cabinets. Tampa is an active, outdoor environment so some of the "newsrack billboards" depict scenes of sports activities and entertainment. Others focus on community services and activities like hospitals with strong emotional themes such as newborn babies and children.
If I teach my digital photography class again, I'll begin with what I did last night in the third session of the current class - the file architecture of the PC.
Fortunately, everyone in the class is using a PC running either Windows XP or Windows Vista, so we're all on the same page as far as operating systems go.
It's becoming clearer with every session that the real problem for most of my students isn't how to take a picture, but how to get it into their computer and then how to find it later and work with it.
During the first class session, one woman summed up her course goals, saying, "I just want to be able to take a picture, get it into my computer and email it to my friends."
I'm working with people who have little or no computer skills, but bought cameras that demand a certain level of computer knowledge.
So when I loaded images from their memory cards for review and critique last night, I did it on the projector screen, showing them step-by-step how to insert the card into the card reader, how Windows recognizes the connection and offers choices of running a slideshow, copying the images, etc., how to click on Start, My Computer, and the card reader icon, and how to select the images to be copied to the hard drive.
I was startled to discover that most of the students didn't know you can select a batch of files by left clicking on the first one, scrolling to the end and doing a Shift+left click to select everything in between.
I could spend a whole class session on how to do the basic Windows stuff as it pertains to images. In fact, I think that should be next week's class. The sooner this problem is addressed, the sooner we can get back to the subject of taking good photographs.
And yes, there is some progress. The woman I thought might be hopeless - the one who mistook the power button for the shutter - brought in a card with photos of her home and her husband. So she's gone from not being able to take a picture to shooting scenes she likes.
Skip Hess passed on this observation about reporters:
Andrew Ferguson, writing in The Weekly Standard about the Newseum in D.C. says this about reporters:
"What do journalists do? They call people on the phone, they ask questions, they talk, they type, they read newspapers and magazines and boring government documents, they type some more, they go one place or another to look at something or other, they jot in their notebooks, they type some more, they think a little, they pause for a minute to sip coffee before they go back to typing. The dough's not very good. The hours are erratic. Most of your colleagues are slobs. You'll never have a proper office unless you become an editor. Your fellow citizens assume you're an arrogant ass."
I'm up against a 2 p.m. deadline today on a story for the Sun's progress section on a local bank.
It's pretty much a no-brainer short story. They're doing one on every bank in town.
I had hoped to make the calls to get started on this thing last Friday, but I felt so wretched with sniffling, sneezing and coughing, that I took Maria's advice and put it off until today.
Now I'm stuck in the loop, waiting for a call-back because the person I need to talk with is in a meeting. Other than hating to work for Gannett, this is one of the main reasons why I got out of newspaper writing - you never, ever can reach somebody on the first call. Never.
So you spend your time sitting by the phone waiting for them to return your call and hoping they call soon enough to make your deadline.
I'm still waiting for a call from the public works director. I called his office last Tuesday or Wednesday and was assured he would call me back. That was for a story I turned in Friday.
Here's where I sound even more like a cranky old man.
About every fifth kid you see at the mall here is wearing something emblazoned with the Hollister name and, of course, there is a Hollister Co. shop in the mall.
I would bet next month's Social Security check (how's that for staking my claim to geezerhood?) that 90 percent - maybe more - can't find Hollister on a map.
The ones wearing the Hollister Beach Club shirts strike me as the most clueless because Hollister, Calif., for which all this stuff is named, is about 27 highway miles from the nearest beach.
Hollister was created by parent company Abercrombie & Fitch to market Southern California surfing lifestyle-inspired duds. According to Wikipedia, a study by U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray found the Hollister brand ranked first for four consecutive seasons since 3007 as the top clothing brand among teens.
I've been to Hollister, which makes it even more puzzling to me that kids have seized upon it as some kind of surfer lifestyle glamour destination. Hollister is a dusty little California valley town of about 34,400 people. It's just down the road from Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world and northeast of Salinas (the hometown of author John Steinbeck that shows up in the song "Me and Bobby McGee). The town was named for W.W. Hollister, a rancher in the area.
If you want a closer look at Hollister, go there via Google Maps where you can take a street-level photo tour of the whole town. Let me know it you see anything that suggests surfing.
The national spotlight fell upon Hollister over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 when an estimated 4,000 motorcyclists took over the town, wrecking bars, fighting and generally raising drunken hell. The incident inspired the classic Marlon Brando movie, "The Wild Ones" and was a strong influence in the evolution of the biker lifestyle. Which has absolutely nothing to do with surfing.
Our cable TV provider, IncCo with offices in Batesville, Ark., is also our Internet service provider.
We have what is presumably high-speed Internet, but lately it's been no-speed Internet.
It ranges from frequent drop-outs during the day to sub-dialup slowness in the evenings to the point of unusability.
The speed drops off sharply after 4 p.m., which makes me wonder if I'm not fighting my neighbors for bandwidth.
I tried calling the cable company this morning, but they've changed their voicemail menu to eliminate the options of calls about Internet or Cable TV.
We've all seen these things, set up at various websites to foil computers posing as real humans.
They're CAPTCHAS. That's a somewhat contrived acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and HumansApart" coined in 2000 by the geeks at Carnegie Mellon University and IBM who created them.
There was a cold remedy commercial years ago with the theme, "A summer cold is an ugly animal."
I'm supposed to be working on a freelance story that's due on Monday and I need to make some phone calls, but I'm loathe to do it when I may explode in a spasm of sneezing or coughing.
The cold was an unintentional gift from my wife, but she is disappointingly unsympathetic.
She soldiers on in the face of illness like most women do. I collapse into a whining puddle like most men do. It's our nature. Deal with it.
I think I'll put my phone calls off until after lunch and see how I feel then.
I'm only a few ad-clicks away from the threshold for getting paid through AdSense.
I get a few cents for every click on those little ad boxes under the first three blog posts and when the total hits $100, they cut me a check.
As of this moment, the total stands at $97.38.
So if you have a moment, do me a huge favor and click an ad or two.
My Windows Live Mail email client went "plink" a moment ago and I found spam from BMW telling me about their run-flat tires.
"Resilient rubber-reinforced sidewalls and heat-resistant rubber compounds allow you to travel up to 150 miles at 50 mph with a punctured tire," they say.
That's all very nice if your BMW is a car. My BMWs are motorcycles and I sure as hell could have used this kind of technology a couple of months ago when I had a flat rear tire just outside Kit Carson, Colo. and required a tow truck to haul my bike 100 miles back to Colorado Springs.
From the tone of the email, one might conclude that the stuffed shirts on the car side of BMW don't even know the company makes motorcycles.
I was right.
One of the guys in the class lent me a copy of the Magic Lantern DVD instructional series on the D200 and I'm about a third of the way through it.
I knew most of the stuff, but there are some tricks buried deep in the nearly 100 function menus that are new to me.
Like, for instance, I never realized the camera has a setting to shoot in black-and-white. So what, you might ask. Why not shoot everything in color and use Photoshop to make black-and-whites? True, but this makes it possible to use long-neglected B&W filters - like red to make white clouds pop in a dark blue sky - and get black-and-white images that might not be possible, or at least not easy, with Photoshop.
Sorta reminds me of when I was a motorcycle instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I learned something new every time I taught a course.
As I suspected, the digital photography class I'm teaching at the Senior Life Center is turning out to be as much about computers as it is about photography.
Two of the older women in the class were chatting before we got things started last night one one asked the other, "Do you have Vista?"
"No, I have an HP," came the reply.
The HP lady also couldn't figure out how to get her camera's software CD into her computer. She tried poking it through the crack above the CD tray but stopped when she realized it didn't fit and she didn't want to break anything.
She was amazed when I showed her how that little button on the left side of my laptop made the CD drawer pop out.
She's the same one who was having trouble taking pictures last week because she was pushing the "off" button instead of the shutter button.
I fear my dissertation on shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and depth of field was lost on her. And maybe on one or two others.
I illustrated the way small apertures increase depth of field by passing around a piece of cardboard with a pinhole in it and having them remove their glasses and peer through the pinhole. Voila! Everything became amazingly clear.
BMW rider friend Deb is in the class and amazed me by showing up on the dot at 6:30 p.m., having ridden home from Indianapolis yesterday and arriving at her house about 5 p.m. That's commitment.
This is the new logo for Walmart, inaugurated this summer.
I checked the company site and was surprised to find it's the fifth since the company was founded in 1962.
And this was on the storefronts from 1981-92.
Walmart favored this Western-looking logo from 1964 to 1981.
When Sam Walton founded the empire, they weren't picky about fonts. It appeared in whatever font the printer had handy.
The Discount City mark was used in print advertising, on uniforms and smocks, in-store signing and other things, but it was never used as building signage or in an annual report. It was around from 1961-81.
So now you know.
I've been reading "Arkansas: A Narrative History" by Jeannie M. Whayne, Thomas A. Deblack, George Sabo III, and Morris S. Arnold.
I picked it up in a Barnes & Noble in North Little Rock on March 24 while Maria was at a seminar in downtown Little Rock. I read a few passages from the comfort of a bookstore armchair, but didn't feel like paying the $34.95 list price.
I came home and looked it up on Amazon.com, but found used copies were still more than $20.
So when my birthday rolled around in July, Maria bought me a copy and I got serious about learning the history of my new home.
Arkansas was a frontier state for a long time and it was relatively late in getting civilized.
But I was stunned when I read this passage about education in pre-Civil War Arkansas:
If organized religion made inroads into antebellum Arkansas, public education largely did not. From its inception, the state lagged behind much of the rest of the nation in the education of its citizens. While there was no public taxation to support the creation and operation of schools, the federal government subsidized education in the state by setting aside the sixteenth section of every township for the support of local schools and two townships for the creation and support of a university. But the revenue generated from leasing these lands proved insufficient to support a public school system, and the problem was compounded by a haphazard system of organization and administration
The effort to establish a viable school system was further hampered by what one state official described as "the indifference that pervades the public mind on the subject of education." As a result, no viable system of public education was established and no public university was founded in the state before the Civil War. Many wealthy Arkansans employed private tutors for their children and opposed the use of tax money for public education. Many poorer Arkansans had neither the time, the money, nor the inclination to pay for their children's education, through taxes or otherwise. Thus, for the majority of the state's citizens, the education system remained a hodgepodge of public schools and private academies manned by underpaid and often incompetent teachers.
A comparison with Michigan, Arkansas's sister state, is revealing. The two states entered the Union within a year of one another (June 1836 and January 1837) and had at the time approximately the same populations. Yet by 1850 Michigan had 2,714 public schools to Arkansas's 353 and 110,445 pupils in public schools compared to Arkansas's 8,493. Michigan derived $88,879 for public schools from taxes, while Arkansas collected $250. Michigan reported 7,912 adult white illiterates, Arkansas 16,819. In addition, Michigan had 280 public libraries containing 65,116 volumes, while Arkansas had one public library with 250 volumes.
Even by Southern standards, Arkansas fared poorly. As late as 1980, when North Carolina enrolled more than two-thirds of its white school population for an average term of four months, about half of Arkansas's school-age children did not attend any school at all. Most of the rest attended only sporadically.
So, given that historical context, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked Arkansas 44th among the 50 states in its 2007 Education Report Card. (Michigan was 33rd and I'm pleased to say my home state of Indiana was 22nd. Minnesota ranked first.)
Comedian Lewis Black, in one of his monologues, quotes former President Bill Clinton as saying more than 100 times during his presidential campaign that one of his proudest accomplishments while he was governor of Arkansas was to raise the state's schools from 50th to 49th place.
"How do you take a school system from 50th to 49th?" Black asked, "What's the miracle? Pencils?"
"I actually have a theory," he said. "I think they shot some dumb kids."
Gail Hatch, a BMW motorcycle rider, member of the BMW MOA board of directors and author of the sheridesabeemer blog featured over there on the right side of this page, is on the cover of the October issue of the American Motorcyclist Association's magazine, along with her 12-year-old daughter Lisa.
And oh, by the way, she rides a blue BMW K1200GT exactly like mine.
The magazine features Gail's first long-haul ride with her daughter from their home in Nashua, NH to the Pacific Coast and back in 2007. Gail and Lisa covered about 9,000 miles in 35 days, riding through 25 states and one Canadian province and they did it on Gail's other bike, a K75 not too different from my wife Maria's '94 K75S.
Go read the background on Gail's blog.
I checked all of the other phones in the house and confirmed our service is out.
So I went online to our AT&T account to look for a number to call on a cell phone. I got, instead, a notice that they are experiencing trouble in our area and expect to have service restored by no later than 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Tuesday. As in tomorrow. As in more than 18 hours from now.
The good news is that I was able to activate call forwarding online, so all of the nuisance calls to our house will go to my cell phone.
I was up at 5 a.m. today thanks to a bad dream and worries about getting the Thorntown house sold.
Maria doesn't have to be at work until 1 p.m., so I crept out of the bedroom and up to the office.
The dogs decided it was time to start their day about an hour later and I walked out onto the back patio with them to savor the deliciously cool morning air. It was 55 degrees - a consequence of the cold front that swept in from the northwest after Ike left town - and it's starting to feel autumnal.
I've got the office window open next to my desk, so I can hear the birds and the traffic on U.S. 49 and watch the banker and his grade school principal wife heading off to work. I haven't seen the newspaper carrier, so I suppose he got there before I took up my vigil.
The rising sun slanting through the trees and painting stripes across the lawns in our little wooded subdivision is gorgeous this morning.
SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.
Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.
Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.
In an interview with Israeli media yesterday he said: “I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”
Sir Paul, 65, should have gone to Israel with the Beatles in 1965 but they were barred by the Jewish nation’s government over fears they would corrupt young people.
Yesterday a number of websites described him as an infidel and suggested he was going to Israel only because of the reported £2.3m fee for the one-off concert.
A message posted on one website said: “Shame on you Paul McCartney for day trippin’ to apartheid Israel” and vowed never to buy his music again.
Bakri, who made his weekly Internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, where he has lived in exile since being banned from returning to Britain, said Sir Paul was “making more enemies than friends”.
Syrian-born Bakri, 48, went on: “I heard today that the pop star Paul McCartney is playing as a part of the celebrations.
“If you speak about the holocaust and its authenticity never being proved historically in the way the Jewish community portray it, people will arrest you. People will you say you should not speak like this. Yet they go and celebrate the anniversary of 60 years of what?
“Instead of supporting the people of Palestine in their suffering, McCartney is celebrating the atrocities of the occupiers. The one who is under occupation is supposed to be getting the help.
“And so I believe for Paul McCartney, what he is doing really is creating more enemies than friends.”
Explaining his comments, Bakri told the Sunday Express: “Our enemy’s friend is our enemy.
“Thus Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call ‘sacrifice’ operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression.
“If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”
Lawyer Anjem Choudary, who last week chaired a meeting in London at which extremists claimed the next 9/11-style atrocity would be in Britain, said Sir Paul had allowed himself to become a propaganda tool for Israel.
He added: “Muslims have every right to be angry at Paul McCartney. How would the world react if he wanted to have a
concert in occupied Kashmir?
“They would not allow it to happen but because it is Israel he can play. A country which, as the celebration indicates did not exist 60 years ago, only exists thanks to stealing and occupying another country’s lands.” Yesterday the comments drew condemnation from Palestinian sources and outsiders.
Omar Barghouti, of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as “deplorable”.
Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former Shadow Security Minister, said: “One could dismiss Bakri as a ranting extremist but history has shown that he has an ability to twist minds, so his comments should not be underestimated.
“If Sir Paul McCartney wants to play at the 60th anniversary then it is the worst form of illiberalism for Omar Bakri to restrict the artist’s freedom in this way.”
A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on the threat, saying: “Paul’s Friendship First concert is about his music. Paul’s is a message of peace.”
Tickets for the concert range from £70 to £230.
Last night Sir Paul performed his first concert in the Ukraine, playing to tens of thousands in the capital Kiev.
Don't believe Hillary or Bill Clinton when they hit the campaign trail for Barack Obama between now and election day.
Hillary raised and spent nearly $235 million in her bid for the Democrat nomination and was in debt by another $20.8 million as of last May. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that she was as serious as a heart attack about being president.
If Obama wins, it could be another eight years before she gets another shot and by that time Joe Biden may be the presumptive candidate.
But if the voters relegate Obama to also-ran obscurity as they did with that Kerry guy and that Gore fellow, she gets to try it again in four years.
Does anyone really think she's given up on her dream?
She won First Place for Best Creative Advertising Designer of all Indiana daily newspapers with circulation between 6,000 and 14,999 Friday evening in the Hoosier State Press Association Advertising Contest.
She's taken home two firsts and a third place award over the last three years, competing against papers nearly twice as large as hers.
There are no words to say how proud we are of her.
Maria's gone grocery shopping and I'm assembling a PowerPoint presentation for my class on digital photography tomorrow evening.
I used to hate PowerPoint, having sat through dozens of insanely tedious examples at school board meetings and other gatherings back when I was an education writer for The Indianapolis Star's Metro North Bureau.
Now I realize the problem wasn't with PowerPoint - it was with the unimaginative dopes who just dumped their talking points onto slides and then read them to the audience straight off of the screen.
For what it's worth, I'm using Impress, the PowerPoint clone that comes with the free OpenOffice.org office suite. I build the slides on my laptop, then burn the presentation to CD-ROM and run it from our laptop connected to a nifty Dell projector.
Tomorrow's presentation will deal with exposure, aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, stuff like that.
What was left of Ike blew through here overnight.
We awoke to gusting west winds and a yard full of tree branches of varying sizes. There was a large limb on the patio - fortunately it missed the grill and outdoor fireplace - but coupled with the still somewhat scary wind, it kept Pete the Timid Aussie on the porch.
I finally walked him out into the yard so he could do his business. I think he was grateful.
It was gusting to about 50 mph up around the treetops and I watched one of the taller trees in the woods west of our house snap. I heard a loud crack, then moments later saw the top 20 feet or so of the tree fall and then dangle by a few splinters.
So I guess I'm finally going to have to fire up the chainsaw I bought last winter and carve the fallen limbs into logs for our outdoor fireplace. The largest deadfall I can see from the house came down exactly where I've been seeing the 6-foot Blue Racer. I expect to see him when I go out to saw the branch into firewood.
It's amazing to consider that the wind energy that made a mess of our yard was born near the Azores and trashed Haiti and Cuba, Galveston and Houston before visiting us.
It's making people miserable in Missouri and Illinois now and will doubtless dampen the spirits of our friends at the MotoGP motorcycle races in Indianapolis today.
I didn't buy one of the new iPods this week - the new Touch is supremely tempting, but doesn't have nearly enough capacity for my needs - but I did install the new iTunes 8.0.
Genius is the big new feature of iTunes 8.0 and it's already having an effect on how I use my 3-year-old 60GB iPod Classic.
Once you've downloaded and installed the new version of iTunes, you activate Genius by uploading data to Apple about your music library (yeah, I had a moment of paranoia about that).
Then, every time you select a song, the Genius panel to the right shows you similar music you can buy from the iTunes Store. I suppose some people will take the bait on that one, but I haven't bought anything from the iTunes Store in months - ever since I took my online music business to Amazon.com.
But the really cool feature for me is the Genius playlists.
Select a song you like, then click on the little Genius spinning electrons logo at the bottom right of the iTunes frame and voila! - you see a 25-song playlist of similar music drawn from your own iTunes library. You can also set it to create playlists of 50, 75 or 100 songs.
Here's an example. I selected Junior Wells' Messin' With the Kid and Genius built a playlist that includes:
That playlist was a little heavy on Stevie Ray Vaughn, so I re-selected the Junior Wells song and tried again. Fortunately, my blues collection is deep enough - I have almost 10,000 songs in my library - that Genius came up with a whole new playlist - this time more diverse and balanced.
The new iPods can generate Genius playlists on their own, but those of us with the older models have to do it in iTunes. I don't mind that minor inconvenience. It's a great addition to an already free download.
We awoke to sunny skies, but the outer cloud bands of Hurricane Ike are moving in. Looking out my office window, I can see low clouds moving rapidly from south to north.
There's no rain on the radar within about 300 miles, so I'll have plenty of time to mow the lawn as long as I get it done today.
A large contingent of the BMW Riders of the Mid-South, including our Jonesboro friends Charlie and Deb, rode up to Indianapolis for the MotoGP motorcycle races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Looks like they're going to have a very wet and unpleasant ride home tomorrow and/or Monday. I considered going along, but worried that I might not have time to get back to teach my digital photography class Monday evening. I made the right decision.
Several Jonesboro gas station operators, notably the Kum & Go folks, jacked their prices up significantly overnight. Kum & Go was charging $4.29/gallon this morning while Conoco was charging $3.69. The Super D drugstore/gas station on Stadium Avenue had regular at $3.69 at 9 a.m., but bumped it up to $3.75 by 9:30 a.m.
I gassed about 9:20 a.m. at Sam's Club and paid $3.60, the same price Kroger was charging. By noon, Kroger had raised their price to $3.99.
A mid-afternoon check of arkansasgasprices.com showed the $4.29 being charged by Kum & Go and five other stations in Jonesboro and nearby Paragould are the highest prices reported in the entire statae. The statewide average is $3.82 and the lowest is $3.42 at Sam's Club in Fort Smith. The national average stands at $3.71. (This time last year, Arkansans were paying $2.76/gallon.)
Gov. Mike Beebe invoked emergency price controls, which presumably freezes gas prices and prevents gouging, but it remains to be seen whether the profiteers will comply.
Got this in an email this morning from BMW motorcycle friend Rich Nathan:
10. You refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to beer.
9. You own a $300 machine gun, a $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can't afford shoes.
8. You have more wives than teeth.
7. You think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide.
6. You can't think of anyone you HAVEN'T declared Jihad against.
5. You consider television dangerous, but routinely carry grenades in your robe.
4. You've never been asked, "Does this burka make my ass look big?"
3. You have yet to discover that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs.
2. A common compliment is, "I love what you've done with your cave."
And, the NUMBER ONE SIGN you might be a member of the Taliban:
1. You wipe your ass with your bare hand, but consider bacon unclean.
This is my nomination for the greatest newspaper front page headline of all time, although I would have liked something stronger - like Motherfuckers!
Let the Bush-haters say what they like, Osama and his band of psychopaths have been on the run ever since and there have been no more attacks on U.S. soil.
I started seeing them about three or four weeks ago and they seem to have an affinity for our garage door.
When I came home from having lunch downtown with Maria today, I noticed one on the overhead door and two on the door frame.
There are more than 3,000 species of these bugs that look like a small stick or twig. On closer examination, it becomes apparent that they have four legs (Does that means it's actually not and insect, since insects have six legs?) and what looks like a pair of eyes on long stalks running parallel with a pair of antennae.
The name Phasmatodea is derived from the Greek "phasma" meaning an apparition or phantom, and refers to the resemblance of many species to sticks or leaves.
The lovely Lauri points out that I mistook the front pair of legs for eyes on stalks. Doh!
Then this would be the "face" with brown eyes on either side.
Like a lot of other people, I've been wondering why Google created Chrome, its new browser released earlier this month.
Tech blogger Robert X. Cringely offers the most plausible explanation so far in his blog, I, Cringely.
The short version speculates that the folks at Google - whose lifeblood is online advertising - came to the chilling realization that Microsoft could cripple them, maybe even wipe them out, by simply turning off advertising in the Internet Explorer browser.
Statistics from w3schools.com show that as of last month, Microsoft's Internet Explorer - versions 5, 6, and 7 - had about half of the marketplace:
Internet Explorer 8 has been released in Beta version since those stats were compiled, but its market share is probably still negligible since only geeks (myself included) get involved with Beta versions of new software.
(I'm regretting it already because IE8 is proving to be horribly buggy. I'm bouncing back and forth between it and Chrome. Chrome is simpler and marginally faster and has yet to crash on me, but it doesn't have plug-ins and I really like having my bookmarks on Delicious.)
This is one of the vinyl LPs I most wanted to rescue from oblivion by digitizing it for replay on CD and iPod and I got the job done yesterday.
Mine is a review copy that was sent to The Indianapolis News in 1978, complete with 8x10 black-and-white glossy photo, press release and poster.
I never understood why these guys didn't make it because this is a killer album. As far as I can tell, it was never released on CD. Amazon.com has two used copies of the LP for $10 and $19.99.
Seven of the 10 tracks turned up in 1995 on a kind of greatest hits CD titled His Master's Choice. It's out of print and I found one copy available on Amazon.com for $199.99.
The Fabulous Poodles released their second LP - Think Pink - in 1979 and Amazon.com has one used copy for $9.95.
All 10 of the tracks on Mirror Stars are brilliantly crafted, well-performed pop songs that I have a hard time getting out of my head. One song was used by John Entwhistle on a solo album and the whole thing has a Who-ish vibe to it.
Small wonder, since the enclosed biography from Epic Records says the leader, tony de Meur, claims the Who and Tom Waits as influences.
So now I am most certainly the only guy in Arkansas with the first Fabulous Poodles album on his iPod. How's that for a distinction?
I taught my first session of the St. Bernards Senior Life Center digital photography class last night and was generally pleased with the way things went.
I think the final count was about 10 students and, as I expected, there is a wide range of photographic skill in the class, running from the woman who kept pressing the "off" button to take a picture to some folks who used to process their own film. The woman with glasses in the center of the photo is the only one with a digital SLR and she's catching on quickly.
I was able to clear up a lot of photographic mysteries in the Q&A part of the class and we ran out of time before we had a chance to really get into the Looking At Pictures part of the program. No problem. We have seven more sessions and there will be plenty of time to look at photos and discuss what's right and what's wrong with them.
I thought this might be fun and it is.
Maria came along to help and did a good job of filling in the gaps and showing some of our photo equipment to the folks in the class.
I had a long-distance relationship with a woman who lived on Long Island several years ago and it sharpened my awareness of the difference in word choices between Midwesterners and people on the East Coast.
Like bring/take. New Yorkers, especially, flip the use of these words. I would say, "I will take my laptop with me when I go to the mountains," because "take" means to carry something away from the location of the speaker and "bring" means to have something in one's possession while away from where it normally belongs.
She would reverse the usage.
And then there is "going away," which I gather is the operative term for traveling, going out of town, going on vacation, etc. The first time I heard it, it sounded so mysterious and final, sorta like, "I am going to disappear."
And it's clear that New Yorkers don't understand the distinction between "garbage" and "trash." They don't realize that garbage is food waste and trash is everything else you throw away, or take away, or bring away.
I'm going to go away.
I now have four Internet browsers on my desktop computer, having installed Google's new product called Chrome. Chrome was released earlier this month and I learned about it from a podcast while driving to my eye doc appointment this morning.
It looks pretty straightfoward and simple and renders my blog OK. I'll write more after I've had time to explore it.
Speaking of Exploring things, I can report that Internet Explorer 8 is buggy as hell. It locks up tight whenever I try to access my favorites (bookmarks). Fortunately, I transferred all of my IE bookmarks to Delicious.com a week or so before I "upgraded" to IE8. The bad thing about IE upgrades is that they install on top of the previous version and, if you hate the new version you're screwed because you can't go back.
My son Steve swears by Apple's browser Safari - says it loads sites much faster than IE. I've not noticed any significant speed difference with Safari. Leo Laporte says Chrome is build on the same architecture as Safari, so maybe you should check it out, Steve.
I also have Mozilla Firefox 3 and use it occasionally, but I'm not crazy about it.
Opera is the only major browser I haven't tried and I understand Chrome has already eclipsed Opera in downloads.
I guess it's good to have choices.
This is the 40th anniversary reunion of the Delphi (Ind.) High School Class of 1963 back in 2003.
That's me (arrow) in the middle of the back row. Do I know where to stand, or what?
My classmates tried to railroad me into coordinating the 45th anniversary reunion and I dimly recall someone being named my co-coordinator. I checked in with Tina Tyner (brown plaid, second from right in the front row) late last summer when it became clear that we were moving to Arkansas and told her I wasn't going to be able to discharge my duties because I would be living 450 miles away. I told her I might not even make it back for the reunion, much less be available for its planning and execution.
I supposed that the reunion had gone on without me, but I got a voicemail just before Labor Day weekend from the woman who I gather has inherited the job asking if I would be able to help. I left a phone-tag-style voicemail for her explaining my situation and have heard nothing more from her. I learned from another classmate that no date has been set and there are no firm plans.
I'm kind of a reunion/nostalgia junkie, having attended every class reunion (held at five-year intervals) since 1968. I even crashed the Class of 1964's reunion 11 years ago because I had a lot of friends in that class who I hadn't seen in decades.
If I didn't already have my plate full with an unsold house, a digital photo course, a long overdue visit to my granddaughter in Las Vegas and a bunch of other things, I might be tempted to offer my assistance from afar. But I don't have that luxury here in Arkansas and I'll just have to stifle that impulse.
Besides, all of those people are so damned old.