Sunday, November 30, 2008

Target

Ho ho ho.

Toyota vs. Ford

H/T Elgin's Chuck Emmert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

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

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

Sadly, the End.

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

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

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

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

IF THIS WEREN'T SO TRUE IT MIGHT BE FUNNY

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seen on the road this afternoon

goat pickup

Two boys in camo, two caged goats and a powerchair. No license plate visible.

Must be in Arkansas.

Photography

hollands

We shot a series of family portraits for our neighbors this morning. Here's one of my faves.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

They're gone, but we still have an auto industry

amc checker logocrosley plymouth_logoedsel_logo studebaker_logo  NashMotorsLogo  desoto_logo hudson_logo1 kaiser frazer logofrazer logo   

These 11 U.S. auto brands and/or makers have gone out of business in my lifetime. If you look up "defunct automakers" on Wikipedia, you'll find an amazing list of hundreds of extinct car makers.

Nobody needs a Ford or a Chevy or a Chrysler enough to put the whole country's economic stability at risk. If you need wheels, go buy a Saturn or an American-built Subaru, Honda or Toyota. They have a business model that works and deserves to survive.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And it's only $920!

The latest on staff cuts at The Indianapolis Star

November 20, 2008

TO: Star Employees

FR: Michael G. Kane

RE: Update

About three weeks ago, I informed you that we must reduce our 2009 operating expenses in line with lower revenue projections. At the time, I estimated this included the possible elimination of up to 95 positions here.

As we sorted through our options - which included examining every alternative besides reducing staff - I now believe we can limit our reductions to fewer than 55 employees in early December.

This is not easy, but I want you to know where we stand.

I plan on conducting a series of employee meetings in mid-December (tentatively planned for Dec. 17-18) to discuss 2009 plans. In the meantime, you'll be interested to know that Gannett's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Craig Dubow, and U.S. Community Publishing Group's President Bob Dickey, plan to visit Indianapolis very soon to talk about the company's future direction.

If there's anything you'd like to discuss, my door is always open and I respond to all phone calls and emails. You also may contact The Star's VP/Human Resources James Keough or your department head.

Thanks to all of you for the courtesy and professionalism you've shown as we work through these difficult times.

Michael

Buy a toaster, get a free bank!


Who knew the day would come when toasters were worth more than some banks?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

South Park at last!

southpark

We've been starved for Comedy Central and, in particular, South Park, ever since we moved to Arkansas.

Our cheesy cable system is heavy on local access and religious programming, but does not offer Comedy Central, even as a premium channel.

But a wonderful thing happened over the weekend. We discovered the South Park Studios website where you can stream or download episodes from all 12 South Park seasons.

After watching a couple of episodes from the current season on Sunday night on our SONY Vaio laptop, I realized the only thing standing between us and watching this stuff on our 42" Sharp Aquos was a cable.

So I went to Circuit City yesterday and plunked down about $36 for a VGA/SVGA cable, used it and my iPod video cable to link computer and TV and voila, South Park on demand on the big screen with home theatre sound.

We watched five episodes last night and are in South Park heaven. We can also stream previous episodes of The Office and several other TV shows as well as any other Internet content.

Yes, having the laptop on a table next to the TV console is an inelegant solution, but it will have to do for now. The ultimate fix would probably be Apple TV, a box that establishes a Wifi connection between your TV and your wireless router to view anything that's on your hard drive(s) or on the Internet.

Monday, November 24, 2008

CMF RIP

youngchas

My dad died 11 years ago yesterday. I would have blogged this on the anniversary, but my photo archives were tied up with a SpinRite computer repair job.

Dad was 87 and stuck in nursing home hell in Delphi, Ind. My mother visited him daily and I went up almost every Sunday, but I'll never believe I did enough for him. He was a genuinely good man and a solid citizen - founding member of the Delphi Chamber of Commerce, school board president, Rotarian, Elder in the Presbyterian Church.

This is Dad around 1940 heading for his insurance office on the west side of the courthouse square in Delphi. My best guess is that the photo was shot by his friend Myron Johnson, who was publisher of the Delphi Citizen weekly newspaper.

That's the courthouse over his right shoulder and that is the corner where the cornerstone was laid Sept. 4, 1916. That's significant to this photo because my grandfather was a township trustee in Carroll County at the time and my Dad tagged along. When it came time to toss the Democrat Township history into the cornerstone time capsule, grandpa handed it to his 6-year-old son to do the honors. This is the first time I realized that's the cornerstone corner in the background of this shot.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Listening to Leo Kottke

While SpinRite grinds away on my C: drive.
It may be time for major surgery on my computer.
Thank God I have my iTunes backed up on two other hard drives.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

SpinRite again

I came up to the office a few minutes ago and found my computer displaying the Blue Screen of Death for the fifth time in less than a week.
So I started what SpinRite says will be a 29-hour scan of my C: drive and will use the laptop in the interim.

Eat your heart out, Ralphie

redryderLike Ralphie in Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story," I always wanted a Red Ryder BB gun.

And my mother, just like Ralphie's mom, was concerned that I'd shoot my eye out. Her fear was reinforced by the fact that a boy in town about my age by the name of Billy Felix actually did lose an eye to an errant BB shot.

I supposed that Daisy's Red Ryder carbine had vanished into the mists of time along with Hopalong Cassidy and Captain Midnight stuff.

That is until this afternoon when Maria and I stumbled across a case of them on display at a local hunting and fishing joint. They're priced at $49.99, which is doubtless a lot more than Ralphie's dad paid back in the late 1940s or early '50s. But the current model doesn't have a compass in the stock.

Of course now that I can have one, I don't want it. I'm shopping for an AK-47 or an AR-15 before the government tells me I can't have one because I might shoot my eye out.

Sam's Club

It just keeps getting cheaper. For now, anyway...

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Tomb of Doom - woooooooo

tomb of doom

It's a scary funhouse on the midway of the Indiana State Fair in August, 2006.

No, I didn't go in.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

At the liberry

My stepdaughter Morgan works at a public library in a college town and routinely has amazing stories about the bizarre behavior of patrons.

So I hope she enjoys this item i found on Overheard in Chicago:

Seriously. Our future.

Girl: "We want Terminator 2 Sarah Connor."
Librarian: "You mean the older movie with Schwarzenegger?"
Guy: "No, the one on TV."
Librarian: "The Sarah Connor Chronicles? The TV show?"
Guy: "Yeah, that one."
Librarian: "Ok, we don't have it, but I can order season 1 for you."
Girl: "No, we want season 2"
Librarian: "You mean the one that's on tv right now?"
Guy: "Yeah, that one."
Librarian: "It's on TV. It's not on DVD yet."
Guy and Girl: ...
Librarian: "They don't release the DVDs for a season until after the season is over."
Guy: "You mean you can't just get it for us? Like burn it onto a DVD for us?"
- Riverside Library

The heat is on

Tonight's low temperature in Thorntown, Ind. is supposed to be 21, with a low of 19 forecast for tomorrow night, so it's time to turn on the furnaces at our Thorntown house.

I phoned Maria's parents, who live a few blocks away and asked her dad to fire up the twin Rheems and hang around long enough to confirm thermostatthat they're not going to set fire to the house.

The house was built in 1903, long before central heating was in fashion there so when they made the change, they put in two furnaces - one for the main floor and one for the upstairs. It seems excessive, but it's actually more efficient since we use programmable thermostats to fine-tune how much heating energy goes where and at what time.

I've been luxuriating in low gas bills since last spring. I wrote a check for $24.24 yesterday for the October bill. I had hoped we could get renters into the house before the heating season began, but alas, we're going to have to heat the joint until Jan. 1.

I asked Maria's dad to set the thermostats for 53 degrees, which should be enough to keep the pipes from freezing.

The treadmill report (continued)

I'm cooling down from my daily treadmill hike and can report that I'm still very happy with our sidelong lurch toward fitness.

I've been on it every day but two since I took it for its inaugural spin on Nov. 3, striding along to a specially prepared playlist on my iPod.blue shuffle

I feel better, have more energy and am down a belt notch as a consequence.

It's amazing how much the right music can energize a person - well, this person anyway.

Maria and I have been using our Classic iPods - mine is a 60GB and hers is an 80GB - but we find them a bit cumbersome and clunky.

So now that we have the illusion of financial solvency, I broke down today and bought a blue 1GB iPod Shuffle at Circuit City for Maria and me to use on the treadmill.

I loaded up my 76-song Walking Music playlist (the 1GB can accommodate about 250 songs), clipped it to my shirt and did a 25-minute, 1-mile-plus stroll and feel completely justified in spending $49 for the Shuffle.

Maria likes to go for extended sessions of 50-60 minutes. I prefer shorter, more intense workouts and have been bumping up the speed and the slope to get my heart rate into the upper ranges of my aerobic target zone. Among other things, I've noticed my heart recovery time is getting shorter and shorter as I creep toward an approximation of fitness.

Superficiality and the City

sex_and_the_city11

We watched the movie version of Sex and the City last night, courtesy of Netflix.

It was wasted on me. I didn't hate it. It just failed to engage me on any level.

One of the first things a movie should do is give you a reason to care about one or more of the characters. Sex and the City just didn't do that for me. If this were a slasher movie, I would be supremely indifferent about any of the characters getting hacked to bits.

From left to right in this photo we have rigid and angry, slutty and narcissistic, self-absorbed and immature, and dim and flakey.

Maybe it's my age or my Midwestern values, but I just can't force myself to give a damn about these women, their glamorous but empty lives, or the oh-so-fabulous places where they live and travel.

I've been to New York City, thought it was interesting and kinda fun, but have no desire to ever go there again. I certainly don't envy anyone who lives there.

And yes, I realize it's just a movie spun off from a TV series. Maria tells me the whole gal-pal thing comes through a lot stronger in the TV series, making it more engaging from a woman's standpoint. And yes, I'm fully aware that I am not even close to their target audience.

But I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Sarah Palin thinks Sex and the City is stupid too.

I told you so

The Israeli Air Force is ready to attack Iran's suspected nuclear weapons project if diplomacy fails to persuade the Islamic Republic to halt uranium enrichment, said Commander Ido Nehushtan in an interview published Tuesday.f-16i camo

The news comes as the U.N. watchdog agency reports Iran is probably at the point of being capable of making a nuclear bomb.

"We are prepared and ready to do whatever Israel needs us to do and if this is the mission we're given then we are ready," Nehushtan told German magazine Der Spiegel.

A strike against Iran's nuclear facilities "is a political decision," the IAF commander said, "but if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table ... The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us."

Asked if the Israeli military would be able to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, which are spread around the country, with some built underground, Nehushtan said, "Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question."

While Israel has fought all its immediate Arab neighbors, its pilots have had limited capabilities to carry out missions as far away as Iran. A strike on Iraq's sole nuclear reactor in 1981 was an extraordinary exception at the time but analysts say the F-16I has made long-distance strikes more possible.

"Air power has been a major player in every war we've fought since 1948," Colonel Amon, who in line with Israeli military rules did not give his surname, told Reuters during the unusual opening of the Ramon desert base to the foreign media.

"This is the most capable aircraft in the Middle East," said Captain Grisha, a fighter pilot in his early 20s.

The Jewish state, widely believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, has said it will not tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb and has refused to rule out a military option.

Speculation of a U.S.-approved Israeli strike on Iran, fueled by an Israeli attack in Syria last year and by reports of long-range bombing exercises this summer, has faded as the Bush administration prepares to hand over power to President-elect Barack Obama.

Iran, which has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction, said on Tuesday it aimed to commission its first nuclear power plant in 2009. Tehran insists the program has only civilian aims.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not what it seems

raggedyann01 Here's one from my Indianapolis News archives, dating back to the spring of 1985.

That was the year a cheesy theme park named Old Indiana opened near Thorntown, Ind. As chief of the Metro North Bureau of The Indianapolis News, I was invited to a preview day when area residents were admitted free as a kind of dress rehearsal for the grand opening a week or so later.

The park owners had licensed the use of Hoosier writer Johnny Gruelle's beloved characters Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. They had elaborate costumes made for the characters and hired a couple of college students to wear them around the park.

Another reason for the preview day was to get some patrons into the park for the purpose of shooting video and stills for TV commercials and print advertising.

Which brings us to this photo - Raggedy Ann on a ride called the Paratrooper. Raggedy Andy is on the ride too, but outside the frame.

Those of us on the ground shooting photos thought the girl and boy in the costumes were doing a terrific job of being animated - kicking their feet and waving their arms wildly. It made for great video and stills.

What we learned later was that they were becoming violently ill inside their stuffy, claustrophobic costumes. Imagine being stuffed into a trash bag and then flung around in loopy circles, soaring 30 feet into the air and plunging back toward earth.

What we took for joyful exuberance was a couple of college kids screaming and waving for someone to stop the freaking ride. Their screams, of course, were muffled by the giant character heads and their gestures were completely misunderstood.

To their credit, the two recovered and didn't quit. But on the condition that they didn't have to go on any more rides.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Al Roker: Sounding the alarm or spreading the myth?

al roker on iceI was interested to see the TODAY show's Al Roker standing on a glacier in Iceland yesterday morning and bemoaning the presumed fact that global warming is menacing our planet.

So how come Alaska's glaciers are growing?

By Dennis T. Avery
MichNews.com
Oct 28, 2008

Alaska’s glaciers grew this year, after shrinking for most of the last 200 years. The reason? Global temperatures dropped over the past 18 months. The global mean annual temperature has been declining recently because the solar wind thrown out by the sun has retreated to its smallest extent in at least 50 years. This temperature downturn was not predicted by the global computer models, but had been predicted by the sunspot index since 2000.

The solar wind normally protects the earth from 90 percent of the high-energy cosmic rays that flash constantly through the universe. Henrik Svensmark at the Danish Space Research Institute has demonstrated that when more cosmic rays hit the earth, they create more of the low, wet clouds that deflect heat back into outer space. Thus the earth’s recent cooling.

Unusually large amounts of Alaskan snow last winter were followed by unusually chilly temperatures there this summer. “In general, the weather this summer was the worst I have seen in at least 20 years,” says Bruce Molnia of the U.S. Geological Survey, and author of The Glaciers of Alaska. “It’s been a long time on most glaciers where they’ve actually had positive mass balance (added thickness).”

Overall, Molnia figures Alaska had lost 10–12,000 square kilometers of ice since 1800, the depths of the Little Ice Age. That’s enough ice to cover the state of Connecticut. Climate alarmists claim all the glaciers might disappear soon, but they haven’t looked at the long-term evidence of the 1,500-year Dansgaard-Oeschger climate cycles. During the Little Ice Age—1400 to 1850—Muir Glacier filled the whole of Glacier Bay. Since then, the glacier has retreated 57 miles. But the Little Ice Age was preceded by the Medieval Warming, the cold Dark Ages, a Roman Warming, and a whole series of moderate warmings and coolings that extend back at least 1 million years based on the evidence of the microfossils in the world’s seabed sediments.

The real question is whether today’s warming is different than the previous Dansgaard-Osechger warming cycles. I think that the difference, if any, is slight. Most of our Modern Warming occurred before 1940 and virtually all of our human-emitted CO2 came after that date. The temperatures in 1998—the recent peak—were only 0.2 degree C higher than in 1940. After the temperature drop of the past 18 months, the temperatures are now cooler than in 1940.

The 1,500-year cycles usually start with a sudden shift of 1–2 degrees—in temperate zones—and double that in Alaska. Then temperatures erratically rise and fall with the sun’s total irradiance changes, often in 11-year cycles. At the end of the warming, comes another Little Ice Age; or, every 100,000 years, a Big Ice Age that will drop temperatures about 15 degree C. That’s when insulation will truly become the most important invention in history.

The sunspots are now predicting a 30-year cooling of the earth. That would thicken the Alaskan glaciers somewhat, but probably wouldn’t refill Glacier Bay with ice. That’ll have to wait for the next icy age.

The sunspot index has a 59 percent correlation with our temperatures (with a roughly ten-year lag). CO2 has only an “accidental” 22 percent correlation with our temperatures, which should be grounds for dismissing CO2 as a major climate player.

All this is radically different from the 5-degree C warming predicted by the computer models. However, the scientific rule says: if actual observations tell you something that’s the opposite of your theory, change your theory.

 

DENNIS T. AVERY is a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and is the Director for the Center for Global Food Issues. (www.cgfi.org) He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mitch Mitchell has left the planet

mitch-mitchellMitch Mitchell, the drummer with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, died last Wednesday in a Portland, Ore. hotel.

Mitchell, born June 9, 1947, was 61 and had recently completed an 18-city national tribute tour, Experience Hendrix.

The Mutnomah County Medical Examiner's office concluded Mitchell died in his sleep of natural causes in his room at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two thumbs up

bicycle_thief

We recently rented The Bicycle Thief from Netflix and were absolutely blown away by it.

That shouldn't be a surprise, since it's routinely rated in the top 10 or 20 movies of all time. It's just that we had somehow managed to remain ignorant of Vittorio De Sica's 1949 materpiece about life in post-war Rome.

I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it. Just check it out.

Arkansas. Shit!

arkansas shit

Yes, some mornings I feel like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now! when he peers through the Venetian blinds in his hotel room and confirms that he's still in Saigon and not back in the jungle where he feels most comfortable.

There are still moments like that when I ask myself, "What the hell am I doing in Arkansas?" and the full realization hits me that this is not just a vacation or odd little excursion - I really am living in Arkansas, some 500 miles from my various Indiana homes.

I've been here a little more than a year now and most of the weirdness has subsided.

I love our new house. It's such a pleasure to go from a century-old Victorian where something always needs fixing or upgrading to a three-year-old house where everything is new and works just fine.

I even enjoy mowing the lawn, since we stepped up to a John Deere riding mower from the self-propelled walk-behind model I used at our Thorntown, Ind. house.

Just about everything cost less here - water, electricity, gasoline, clothing, groceries.

And we proved we could survive the blazing hot days of summer. Now we're in the prolonged glow of an Arkansas autumn and heading for another mild (by Indiana standards) winter. We only had an inch of snow on two occasions last winter and it was gone the next day.

So maybe I'm getting over the shock of being uprooted and flung into the Mid-South. If I were back in Indiana, chances are I'd be squinting out into a gray frosty morning from my bedroom window, muttering, "Indiana. Shit!"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stand up straight, boys

Alex Ron About 62

I like this photo, even though - or maybe because - there are so many things wrong with it.

This is from a collection of family photos from Maria's mother and the attached information says it was shot around 1962. Maybe I like it because it looks so much like the kind of photo my mother used to take with her Kodak reflex camera - tilted, off-center and stiffly posed. The angle suggests it was shot from waist-level with a reflex camera, rather than from eye-level with a straight-through viewfinder.

My best guess is that these kids are dressed up for church on Easter. The trees are still bare and in those days most people only took a kid's picture on holidays and special occasions.

The car is a no-nonsense daily driver without whitewall tires or anything fancy. It has a two-piece windshield, which dates it to the early '50s, but it the photo was shot in 1962 that explains the faded, flat appearance of the paint. The older boy seems to be a bit more emotionally invested in how cool he looks. The younger one looks like he's just going along with the joke. If they're still alive, they would be in their 50s now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bake sale Christmas cookies - mmmmmmmmm

cookies01 Here's are Maria's contribution to the office bake sale today. These are my favorite Christmas cookies, made with my mother's recipe.

Fortunately for me, the cooking process generated a few "eaters" for my casual consumption.cookies02

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Aussie Power!

woof

Doug Hunt - a real newsie

Doug Hunt with Spc. Billie Grimes at Western Boone High School on Jan. 6, 2004. Time magazine named the U.S. military its Person of the Year for 2003 and Grimes was chosen as one of three soldiers to appear on the Person of the Year issue cover. She was a graduate of Western Boone and the whole community turned out to welcome her home from Iraq.
Photo by John Flora

This is Doug Hunt, the most senior guy in the newsroom at the Crawfordsville (Ind.) Journal Review, back in January, 2004. He's interviewing Spc. Billie Grimes, who was on the cover of TIME magazine along with two other soldiers when TIME declared the U.S. military its Person of the Year for 2003. Grimes, who served in Iraq, was a graduate of Western Boone High School at Thorntown, Ind. and the whole town turned out on Jan. 6, 2004 when she came home for a visit.

The reason I'm writing this is because I learned today that Doug is in a hospital on life support and things look pretty bad.

Doug has been living with a transplanted cadaver kidney for several years, developed bleeding ulcers and anemia and has been in declining health since I first met him about six years ago.

Maria worried a lot about him when she was managing editor at the Journal Review and forcibly sent him to the hospital on two occasions. Both times, he was gravely ill, but wanted to keep working.

Doug is the quintessential small town newsie. He grew up in Montgomery County and the Crawfordsville area and knows damn near everybody. He has been the institutional memory of the JR for a long time.

We're all pulling for him to come through and beat the odds once more.

AOL

aol

I ran across a couple of people with aol.com email addresses today and it gave me pause to reflect on how things have changed.

I got my first computer in 1991. That was back in the days of Windows 3.0 and big-ass floppy disks that were really floppy.

I think it was a 386 with maybe a 2 or 4 megabyte hard drive (I'm writing this on a two-year-old Dell with an Intel Core 2 Duo that runs at 1.86 GHz, has 2GB of RAM and internal and external hard drives totaling about 2TB of memory.)

The World Wide Web was in its infancy in those days. The true geeks were playing around with a web browser named Mozilla and the rest of us were subscribing (via ultra-slow dial-up modems) to online services like CompuServe and Prodigy. I started with Prodigy.

America Online soon eclipsed Prodigy in terms of quality and subscribers. I had an AOL account from around 1993 until maybe 1997 when I realized it was just too limiting.

One writer has described AOL as a kind of "walled garden" on the Internet. I like to think of it as the Internet with training wheels. Either way, AOL has become soooo yesterday.

AOL membership peaked at around 27 million in 2002. Since then, it's plummeted to somewhere close to eight million. I have no idea what their demographics are, but I'd bet the average AOL subscriber is old enough to belong to AARP.

That describes me and it also describes the my friends with aol.com email addresses.

I suppose the big difference between me and my AOL contemporaries is that I spend a ridiculous amount of time online and Internet surfing with any of three or four different browsers has become second nature to me.

They, on the other hand, appear to have lives.

Full Beaver Moon - who knew?

So says the Old Farmer's Almanac online Companion:

Look up!?

Go outside and see the Full Beaver Moon tonight! This full Moon is a sign of freezing weather to come. For Algonquin tribes, it was a time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Learn more about Full Moon names and see our free Moon Phase Calendar for the exact date and time of full moons.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Watching the mail

We have prospective tenants who have expressed a desire to move into our Thorntown house on Jan. 1.

They presumably signed a rental contract and gave a check for us to a local Realtor and both documents are supposedly in the mail to us as I write this.

Like everything else, I'll believe it when I see it but I am allowing myself to be guardedly optimistic that we can stave off financial disaster.

The deposit and monthly rent are slightly less than the monthly house payment, but this comes at a time when the heating season is beginning and we are loathe to add an Indiana gas bill to our monthly financial burden.

Even so, I'm going to have to call Maria's parents one of these days soon and ask them to turn on the furnaces (one for upstairs and one for downstairs) to keep the water pipes from freezing between now and the end of the year.

The couple has four daughters and inexplicably wanted to remove the shower from the downstairs bathroom to accommodate their side-by-side washer and dryer. Their remodeling plans for our house also include replacing the vanity sink in that bathroom with a pedestal sink, painting the kitchen (which I repainted a few weeks before we moved), removing wallpaper from the dining room and a couple of other rooms and painting the walls. We agreed to everything but the shower removal, recalling how valuable it was when Maria's kids lived with us. We left our stacked washer-dryer unit in the downstairs bathroom and it goes with the house, so they might as well use it.

We also stipulated that they are paying for the changes they plan.

They asked for access to the house two weeks prior to move-in to do the work they plan and we agreed. We'll be up there for Christmas on the weekend of Dec. 21 and will get a chance to see what they're doing.

I have to admit it makes me a little uneasy when tenants are so presumptuous as to want to make major changes in a house that does not belong to them. It's not hard for me to envision a very bad end to this relationship, but we're run out of options.

Indianapolis Star employees can "volunteer" to be fired

building The Star Building - note upside down flag.

 

From: "Kane, Michael G (Indianapolis)"

Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2008 18:46:16 -0500

To: Messages to INI

Conversation: Voluntary Severance Offer

Subject: Voluntary Severance Offer

 

November 4, 2008

TO: Star Employees

FR: Michael G. Kane

RE: Voluntary Severance Offer

The continuing decline in the economy overall and in the business conditions affecting our newspaper in particular requires a reduction in our expenses. You may have heard recently that across the Community Publishing Division, newspapers will be reducing payroll expenses by approximately 10%.

Along with my department heads, I am reviewing all aspects of our operations here at The Star to determine where additional jobs can be eliminated. Those job eliminations are expected to take place in early December, although special circumstances may dictate deferring the effective date a few weeks. Of course, those whose jobs are eliminated will receive severance, which will be one week of pay for each completed year of service, with a minimum of two weeks of severance and a maximum of 26 weeks of severance.

If any employee wishes to be voluntarily considered for this severance, you may submit your name to James Keough, Vice President of Human Resources, no later than noon on Tuesday, November 11, 2008. You would receive the same severance and should expect to depart along the same timetable. Of course, we must also work to preserve our operational strength as we go forward with this process, so I cannot guarantee that anyone who volunteers will be accepted, but your offer will seriously be considered.

Michael

Still Embarrassed to be a Journalist

Back on Oct. 27, I posted a column by ABC News tech columnist Michael S. Malone about how hideously biased the mainstream media had become in covering the presidential election campaign. I didn't know it at the time, but I was participating in a spontaneous movement to circulate Malone's thoughts and amplify his message that the mainstream broadcast and print media had become ex officio mouthpieces for Barack Obama.

Here's what Malone has to say about that column and its aftermath.

By Michael S. Malone

There’s nothing like writing the (momentarily) hottest column in the country to get a sense of the changing balance of power between the traditional and the new media.

Two weeks ago, in my ABCNews.com column, I took off on a brief tangent from my usual technology and business orientation to instead discuss what I saw as shocking bias by the mainstream media - in particular, television network news, newspapers and newsmagazines - in its coverage of the Presidential campaign.

What happened next is, I think, an interesting glimpse into the dynamics of the traditional and digital media now, nearly a decade into the new century, and a dozen years after the widespread cultural adoption of the Internet.

I began writing my ABCNews.com column during the Dot-com Bubble of 1999.  And I’ve been writing it, week in and week out, in good times and bad, for nearly a decade now.  Hundreds of columns, in fact - by a factor of about three the longest single writing gig of my professional career.  And over that time I’ve learned a lot about both column writing and the new media world.  I’ve learned that you can carefully craft a thoughtful column . . .and have nobody read it.  And you can dash out a column just to meet your deadline . . . and set the world on fire.  I’ve learned how to momentarily goose one’s readership (slam Apple Computer) and how to lose it (write about semiconductors).  And I’ve learned that sometimes that one solitary reader out there who understands what you’ve tried to say is worth hundreds who don’t.

The genesis of my media bias column began with a conversation.  Last summer, with two other Valley veterans, I started an on-line tech-business newspaper called Edgelings.com.  This being a virtual enterprise, each morning the three of us hold an editorial meeting over the phone.  Needless to say, it being election season, the conversation often turned to politics - a touchy subject, as one of my partners was an Obama supporter, the other was for McCain.  For my part, I try not to talk about politics.

But one morning I found myself interjecting, “Well, one thing we can agree on is that the mainstream media is more one-sided and biased than we’ve ever seen it.  I’m ashamed of my profession right now.”

I had never really verbalized that before, but it had certainly been on my mind, especially after perusing the most recent issue of Newsweek, a magazine I’d read since childhood, but which was now so obviously in the tank for Sen. Obama that I swore, on ethical reasons alone, to never read it again.

At midnight a few days later, once again as always up on deadline, after seeing the kids and the pets to bed and saying goodnight to my wife, I sat at the computer in my home office, wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and wrote my column on media bias.  The words, as they sometimes do (in good columns and bad) poured out, suggesting that I had already been composing the piece in my unconscious.  I tried to write from the heart, and at the same time not come down politically on one side or the other - but just to call for balanced, unbiased reporting from my peers.

I finished at 1:15 a.m., filed the piece and went to bed.  At the time I had only two concerns:  that there wasn’t enough tech in the column, and that it was about 200 words too long.  In the morning, once I was sure it was up on ABCNews.com, I also posted it on Edgelings, and scheduled it to also be carried on our media partner, Pajamas Media.  And that was that.  When I checked in at noon, there were about thirty reader comments on ABC and about the same number on Edgelings.  I had no emails from friends about it - which most often happens when I write an editorial for the Wall Street Journal.  So, I basically shrugged, filed the column away in my mind as a moderate success, and then went about my day.

Then all hell broke loose.

What happened next is a lesson not only in the growing power of certain key nodes in the blogosphere, but also the surprisingly enduring cultural strength of the traditional media.

The column seemed to strike a chord in readers, particularly Republicans, for whom the obvious bias of media coverage of the campaign was a growing source of anger.   The first major site to pick up the story was Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs.  Because I could track link-backs through Edgelings, I spotted the story on LGF within minutes of its appearance . . .and watched in amazement as the number of comments quickly grew into the hundreds - the fastest reader response cycle I’ve ever seen.

Meanwhile, the number of comments on Edgelings, no doubt powered by LGF, blew past 100 faster than any story we’d ever written.  Then, just as the attention began to level off, the most powerful one-man blogger on the planet, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, linked to the story.  Glenn has often linked to my column . . . and each time produced what blogospheres call an ‘instalanche” - a sudden and massive spike of traffic.  ABC loves them, as do I.  But this time, Reynolds linked to the Edgelings version, and now the comments there blew past three hundred and climbing (it would finish at 450), while traffic skyrocketed.

While all of this was going on, the blogosphere was lighting up as well.  Scores of blogs, some of them in other countries, now began to comment on my column, many drawing their own collections of comments and reader debates.  But now, for the first time, I also began to see the power of the traditional media when it came to conferring credibility.  As much as what I actually said, what seemed to matter most to many of these bloggers was who I was when I said it:  Mike Malone, of that embodiment of the traditional media, ABC.  I was variously described as a ‘liberal reporter’ who had seen the light, and (briefly on my Wikipedia page) a “right wing journalist”.  I suspect that most of these writers visualized me sitting in some newsroom at ABC headquarters in New York, heroically taking on the media overlords around me - not a middle-aged guy sitting in his den in California.

Many noted the disclaimer at the end of my column (”This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News”) and assumed it had just been put there by ABC to distance itself from my apostasy - and that, once the hullabaloo I had created died down I would be summarily fired and driven off into oblivion.  In fact, the disclaimer was put there years ago (after I called for Dan Rather to be fired in the National Guard letter case) and, though the powers that be at ABCNews.com were a bit stunned by the huge response, in point of fact my editor had merely cleaned up my copy a little and posted the piece.  He knew it was controversial, but he also knew that was my right as a columnist.  Any credit for courage goes to him.

By Friday afternoon, the requests for media interviews began - and that’s when I knew I had touched a nerve.  What is interesting to note here is that none of the requests came in through Edgelings, but rather through ABC or, incredibly, the publisher of my last book.  Apparently, that remains the sole province of the traditional media.

In the end, I only did two radio interviews:  one with a Denver station, the other with Lou Dobbs.  The latter was especially fun, because Dobbs was even more incensed about the subject than I was and we chatted like two old newsies sitting in a bar swapping horror stories.  But after that, I realized that I risked becoming Joe the Journalist, and not wanting my life vivisected by vengeful bureaucrats and fellow reporters, I stopped all interviews.

I’ve been around enough news cycles to sense when a story is winding down, and by Sunday morning I thought it was about done.  Both ABC and Edgelings had a couple hundred comments, I’d probably reached two or three million readers and listeners, and it was time to start thinking about next week’s column.

Then came Matt Drudge - the single most influential journalist in America.

On Sunday afternoon, when I spotted a mention of my column on the Drudge Report, my jaw dropped.  I knew what was coming.  Nobody on the planet, perhaps nobody in history, can move as many readers as Drudge can with a single sentence.  Whatever readership I had before now probably increased ten-fold.  So did the comments.  Because Drudge linked to the ABC version of the column, by Monday morning the number of comments about my column on ABCNews.com had jumped to two thousand.  I was now, despite having gone to ground, officially a news phenomenon.  The next day, after a friend called, I turned on Fox News to watch as Britt Hume, under a photo of me and above a news scroll carrying my name, read from my column to set up a debate with his panel on media bias.  Sean Hannity read a lengthy passage from my column on his radio show.

It couldn’t get much crazier than that - and it didn’t.  In the end, the meme I created took on a life of its own and left me, happily, far behind.  My column had, unexpectedly, accomplished what we columnists dream of happening just once in our careers:  it set off a national debate, and freed people to talk about a topic that had been gnawing away inside their hearts.  Within days, other, more famous journalists came forward to agree with what I said.  Pew and the Media Research Center released surveys that seemed to confirm widespread and egregious media bias - a belief underscored by multiple polls of the general public.  And I noted, with great satisfaction, that in the last twenty four hours of the campaign, the media - embarrassed at last - seemed to try a little harder to balance its reporting . . . only to backslide (as noted even by Tom Shales) on election night.

So, what did I learn from this experience?  That it is possible in this new cyber-world to be a lone writer sitting at his laptop in suburbia and write something that actually changes the course of events and, momentary at least, sets the national debate.  I also learned that the raw power -and the ability to mobilize people — of the Web and the blogosphere is both immense and growing fast.  But legitimacy is still conferred by the traditional media - which makes their duty to be fair and unbiased even greater.

Finally, I also learned that, while it is unsettling to be a momentary media star, it is also depressing afterwards to go back to writing about semiconductors and the Microsoft-Yahoo deal. . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans Day

iwojimaphil

Here are the guys who raised the first flag on Iwo Jima including Crawfordsville, Indiana's own Phil Ward (D). Ray Jacobs (G) is the only surviving member of that flag-raising party. He lives near Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Guns and Religion

guns&religion

This blog has become a bit too heavy lately, what with my concern over the election and now the prospect of a president who wants to spread what little wealth we have and kill the American Dream.

So I've created a second blog titled Guns and Religion where I will post the angry political stuff. Feel free to check it out.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stunningly lame

covers

Just saw a TV commercial hyping the new James Taylor album in which he covers a dozen songs made hits by someone else.

The snippets featured in the commercial are some of the most forgettable music I've heard in years.

And to cap it off, the commercial calls James Taylor "the finest singer-songwriter of our time."

Oh, really?

I guess they never heard of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Prince, Toby Keith, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Pete Townshend, Neil Sedaka, hell, even Weird Al Yankovic.

Yikes!

video

Say Cheeeeeeeeeese!

cheeseplate

We went to a "Christmas in November" party Saturday night, which meant Maria had to come up with something interesting to eat.

Here's what she made - a plate of autumn leaves made of cheese (Swiss, Colby, and cheddar) with a cranberry chutney dip. The cheese leaves were created with the help of a multi-piece cookie cutter set from Hobby Lobby. Pretty cool, huh?

The original recipe called for cranberry relish which, of course, our local Kroger no longer carries. Apparently all inventory decisions are now made at Kroger headquarters in Cincinnati with no regard to regional tastes or preferences. Sounds like the Kroger bean counters are opening the door for regional niche groceries at their own expense.

So Maria improvised and came up with something that, IMO, was better than the original concept.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

The treadmill report

I've done at least a mile on the new treadmill every day this week302_hamster_running_wheel_hg_clr, adding a bit of speed and/or incline every day to make it increasingly challenging.

I'm also using my Suunto Advizor watch with heart rate sensor to record how much time I spend in my heart rate target zone.

There are lots of aerobic target zone calculators online. I finally settled on one between 94 and 141 beats/minute. That's not overly ambitious, because I am an overweight 63-year-old couch potato.

I did 30 minutes on the treadmill this afternoon with an average of 124 bpm (a low of 85 and a high of 140) and 29:46 in the Zone, followed by about 5 minutes of cool down.

Maria has done a couple of workouts on it so far and likes the way it makes her feel.

Like anything else, if you do the work you get the results, so I'm doing my best to make this a daily routine.

Happy Birthday, Sean!

seanboard2

My son Sean is 41 today. Sean and his wife Ruth live in Portland, Ore. where Sean is a recording engineer/producer and Ruth has a burgeoning ceramic/mosaic business.

About guns

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Blahville

Where do you go when your worst political nightmare comes true?
I got on my bike and rode to Blahville.
Well, it's actually Blytheville, but everyone around here pronounces it like Blahville.
It's an ok place to go when you're feeling blah, so I'm sitting on a bench at a gas station and eating a couple of Slim Jims I bought at the liquor store over my past 2 visits to get my bill up to $8 - the minimum amount for a credit card purchase.
There's nothing like a motorcycle ride on new roads in good weather to dispel the blahs.

My Man Mitch!

mitch_pressphoto

I was delighted to see my friend Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels won reelection yesterday.

And he did it with amazing ease, considering that the state went Democrat in the presidential election.

Mitch got 58 percent of the vote, Democrat challenger Jill Long Thompson, got 40 percent and the Libertarian candidate got 2 percent.

Newt Gingrich marveled that Mitch got 25 percent of the black vote in Marion County (Indianapolis), which means a helluva lot of black voters were splitting their tickets to keep Mitch in the governor's office.

Congratulations to Mitch and to the state of Indiana. Since the Indiana Constitution limits governors to two terms, I guess we can start thinking in three years about a Daniels-Palin presidential ticket.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A bit of deja vu

This election reminds me a lot of the 1991 municipal primary in Carmel, Ind.

I was a reporter for The Indianapolis News at the time, covering the north suburban communities from a bureau in Carmel.

Carmel is in Hamilton County, one of the most Republican counties in the United States. I don't think a Democrat has been elected to any municipal or county office there since before World War II. Consequently, all of the political action takes place in the May primary when Republican hopefuls slug it out for the GOP nomination and usually run unopposed in the general election in November.

Mayor Dorothy "Dottie" Hancock was running for a second term and faced a challenge from City Councilman Ted Johnson. Dottie was well-connected with the Hamilton County Republican Party, had lots of developer money behind her and looked like a sure thing to win the primary.

But the primary came at a time when the whole community was up in arms over a proposed multi-million-dollar high school expansion project. The school board had let themselves be led down the garden path by the architects and had agreed to what a lot of people thought were insanely expensive improvements to an admittedly crowded school building. It was the most bitter school building remonstrance I ever saw in my 34 years in the newspaper business.

So when the primary rolled around, a lot of really pissed off people went to the polls. They were in an ugly mood and wanted to lash out at anyone in office - never mind that the mayor had absolutely nothing to do with running the schools. As a consequence, Ted Johnson scored a stunning upset and Dottie never got her second term. Sure, some people voted for Ted because they thought he was the better candidate, but a huge number of voters cast ballots against Dottie, just because they were angry and wanted to punish an incumbent.

Fast forward to 2008.

Other than blacks who are voting their race and leftist moonbats, the people who have made Barack Hussein Obama a serious contender (I'm writing this while they're counting the eastern votes and the West Coast polls are still open) think that by voting against John McCain they are punishing George W. Bush.

Were it not for the pent-up hatred for Bush, I honestly believe this election would be a McCain blowout.

Faulty prediction

Okay, so I was wrong about the Israelis hitting Iran before the election.

The vote is cast

votingThis was the scene when I arrived at the Brookland Fire Station at 8:46 a.m. today to vote.

The line moved quickly and I was in the electronic voting booth by 9:10 a.m.

After voting for McCain-Palin there wasn't much to do. In the Senate race, I opted for Green Party candidate Rebekah Kennedy over Democrat Mark Pryor. Congressman Marion Berry, a Democrat, was unopposed, so I cast no ballot for that office.

There were five referendi (Latin plural for referendum) on the ballot. I'd only heard about one - a measure to block gay couples from being foster parents.

I found this one particularly interesting:

Amendment 1 An Amendment Concerning Voting, Qualifications Of Voters And Election Officers, And The Time Of Holding General Elections.

Description: Amending Various Provisions Of The Arkansas Constitution Concerning Voting And Elections; Providing That All Persons May Vote Who Are Citizens Of The United States, Residents Of The State Of Arkansas, At Lease Eighteen (18) Years Of Age, And Lawfully Registered To Vote; To Repeal The Requirement That The Right To Vote Shall Not Be Made To Depend On Any Previous Registration Of An Elector’s Name; Repealing Article 3, Section 5 Of The Arkansas Constitutional Providing That No Idiot Or Insane Person Shall Be Entitled To The Privileges Of An Elector; And Permitting The General Assembly To Extablish The Date And Time Of Elections And The Qualifications Of Election Officers.
For Proposed Referred Amendment No. 1
Against Proposed Referred Amendment No. 1
  

I was under the impression that idiots and the insane were already voting in large numbers. I think I know which party seeks to enlarge its constituency by extending the vote to the idiots and crazies.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The first mile

One of the Old Dominion Freight Line guys who live in Brookland devoted part of his day off Saturday to delivering our new treadmill.

We had shopping and other stuff to do on Saturday so we put off the assembly process until yesterday.

Maria proposed doing the work while the neighbors were at church so they wouldn't hear me screaming, "God damn! Fuck!" from the garage if things went south.

And they did, but only after we got the beast assembled.

We plugged it in, hit its reset/off switch and put in the key and nothing happened. No electrical hum, no lights on the console. Nada.

I followed all of the troubleshooting tips in the manual to no avail. Dejected, I decided to give up until I could call customer support this morning, have a few beers and watch Stormtrackers on the Discovery channel. (The IMAX cinematographer is an annoying whiner.)

I donned my wireless telephone headset this morning, went to the garage with manual in hand, and dialed the Proform customer service number and worked my way through the menus to reach Taren Christensen, aka Operator 88.

Taren walked me through the various scenarios and finally advised me to pop the hood on the motor assembly and look around for a loose wire. I removed the three screws, got down on my hands and knees and examined the power cord connections, then scanned the circuit board where I found a little red connector plug with white and black wires hovering above a matching socket on the motherboard. Oh-ho!

I made the connection, hooked up the power, flipped the reset switch and voila! The sucker fired right up and the console display came to life.

I thanked Taren profusely and wished her a splendid day out there in Logan, Utah, as I buttoned up the hood.

I then took the machine for a one-mile shakedown walk, covering the distance in a little more than 20 minutes and burning an estimated 105 calories.

So now I can go back to worrying about a bunch of Bush-hating sheep turning my country into Obamaland where only criminals have guns, infanticide is legal, we let Al Quaeda have the initiative again, and what little wealth I have gets spread around to dirtbags who work the welfare system instead of just work.

The ultra-cool Park-n-Move

It's been way too long since I blogged about anything related to motorcycles, but I found this item on my friend Sean Franklin's CycleGadgets.com website and feel compelled to pass it on.

The device goes under your centerstand (sorry, cruiser guys). Since its baseplate is only a half-inch off of the ground, it's not a substantial change from the usual lift up onto the centerstand.

Sean has lots of other great stuff (including products for cruisers) on his site at CycleGadgets.com. Check it out.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

43 years ago today

flousaf  This is me and my parents' dog Snoopy in the back yard of their Delphi, Ind., home the afternoon of Nov. 2, 1965 - the day I got home from my 41-day career with the U.S. Air Force.

I was still sporting my 65-cent haircut.

Here's how I looked a couple of weeks earlier in a photo booth at a Lackland AFB Base Exhange.

lacklandcap2

Just for the record, I enlisted rather than get drafted and received a medical discharge for allergies.