Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dozing in a sunbeam

Saturday afternoon naptime.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ice Storm - Day 4 (afternoon)

fence2 Ruthie inspects the second hit our backyard fence took. This time on the opposite side of the yard and as the ice was melting this morning.


There was still lots of ice waiting to come down by mid-morning. The tree on the far right is the one that worried me the most because it towers over the west end of the house.

It's about 4:30 p.m. and I'm at the public library, using their Wifi. I had to come back into town because I discovered, while reading the owner's manual for the generator, that it needs an oil change after the first five hours of operation. I've run it about two hours today and I know we'll pass that mark this evening, so I need to pick up a quart of 10W30 motor oil.

I also discovered that the generator is also capable of putting out 240-volt power, which makes it possible to do laundry. Unfortunately, both of our water heaters are hardwired, so we can't have hot water for laundry or showers.

Most of the ice is melted, but there's still too much ice and branches falling out of the trees for it to be safe to stand under them. Things should be stable enough to do some chainsaw work tomorrow.

In the meantime, we can run our TV and DVD player for some welcome home entertainment tonight.

Ice storm - Day 4 (continued)

I'm writing this from the relative comfort of my living room with our new generator droning away in the background.

It turns out Lowe's got two truckloads of generators from Memphis just before dawn today. I was among about 50 people queued up at the front door when they took pity on us and let us in 10 minutes ahead of their regular 7 a.m. opening time.

We filed through the store in orderly procession to the Receiving area where employees had scores of the big blue flat handcarts lined up, each with a Briggs & Stratton generator on it. We each grabbed a cart and wheeled it directly to the checkout lanes and were out of the store inside of 15 minutes.

I stopped at a gas station and filled our 5 gallon gasoline can, which turns out to be less than the capacity of the generator's fuel tank. So I'll take the empty can with me when I go into town and fill up again.

The generator was a breeze to set up and it started on the first pull at precisely 9:15 a.m. Since we have no cable/internet connection, I'll have to wait until I get a Wifi connection in town to post this to my blog.

I found a small electric space heater we had used infrequently at our previous home and have that cranked up, giving the kerosene heater a rest.

We woke up about 2:30 a.m. for a little episode of paranoia. Maria thought she heard a suspicious noise. I thought it was probably Pete shifting in his kennel, which we keep in our bedroom. (Ruthie prefers the bedroom carpet for sleeping and Pete likes the kennel.) Failing that, I supposed it was more falling tree debris.

But we also couldn't discount the possibility of an intruder. After all, it's very dark around here at that hour of the morning and there's always the possibility of crackheads or other miscreants looking for dark, empty houses to burglarize.

So I chambered a round in my .45 automatic, grabbed the insanely bright tactical flashlight and cautiously swept the house and the garage. Of course there was nobody there, but I did discover to my chagrin that I had neglected to lock the front door when I went out to check on falling ice and limbs yesterday afternoon.

Even though we just laid out more than $800 for a generator, the idea of spending another $300 or so for a set of Crimson Trace laser grips for my .45 Colt Combat Commander is gaining traction in my thought process.

I had a fleeting thought this morning about how much money we're saving on our electric bill. Then everything snapped into focus - the kerosene heater and fuel, the generator and fuel, the spoiled groceries, the smashed fence, possible roof damage. Suddenly, the biggest electric bill we got last winter - $220 - seems like a hell of a deal.

Hard hat zone

Watching the thawing ice come crashing down, sometimes with big limbs.

Ice storm - Day 4

It's 5:40 a.m. And I'm sitting in the parking lot at Lowe's waiting for them to open at 7 a.m. They presumably received a shipment of 120 generators overnight and I'm third or fourth in line to fork over $800 to have electricity.
We learned of the shipment from our neighbors last night so I got up at 5 a.m.
The local tv weather girl, simulcasting over a radio station, said the temperature should get to 40 today, but a fast-moving clipper system may "booger" our chances for a major thaw today.
Yeah. That's how they talk on tv here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The neighbors have a generator and their lights are on while I sit here with candles.

Ice storm - Day 3

fenceThis is the worst of our damage, assuming we don't take a late hit - the crumpled fence, photographed for insurance purposes.


Here I am, studying the owner's manual for the new chainsaw. It's so loaded with warnings - dictated by Poulson's legal department, no doubt - that I was almost afraid to touch it. My confidence returned once I got it running and made the first cut on the downed tree in the driveway. The worst thing about this photo is my thinning hair - I had no idea. Pass the Rogaine.

The house is holding heat remarkably well. It was 26 outside but only 54 in our bedroom when we woke up this morning.

I let the dogs out and fired up the kerosene heater and we were soon basking in 64-degree comfort. Well, that's still a little on the cool side, but if you dress right, it's just fine.

I drove into town, stopping at the Brookland Post Office to find an empty mailbox. I could hear the postmistress and her employees on the other side of the boxes still sorting mail and comparing notes on how many layers of clothing they were wearing since there still is no electricity or heat in the building.

The del Sol was running on fumes and there was a huge line at the first gas station I passed, but the new Murphy Oil station had a vacant pump and I filled up for $1.58/gallon.

Then it was over to Hastings Hardback Cafe for a big cup of coffee and free Wifi. I'm also using the electrical outlet to charge my cell phone. My iPod's battery indicator is showing red, so I need to top it off before I leave the land of electricity.

The news from the utility crews is pretty depressing. It appears there are more than 1 million of us without power throughout the Mid-South. There are something like 3,000 utility poles down in our part of Arkansas and it looks like the whole electrical infrastructure is going to have to be rebuilt. Ditto, cable TV, and with it our Internet access. Old timers say this is the worst ice storm they've ever seen.

Maria says it looks like the two-week estimate was wildly optimistic and it may be more like four weeks before we are back to normal with electricity and cable.

Most of the stuff in the freezer side of the fridge is still frozen, but the refrigerator side is only a few degrees below ambient room temperature and something in there is starting to smell bad. We'll go through it this evening and pitch what can't be salvaged, making a list for the homeowners' insurance claim.

We bought about $25 worth of steaks over the weekend at Sam's Club and need to grill 'em and eat 'em as fast as we can.

Fortunately, our new grill has a side burner, so we still have some cooking options. Maria discovered the kerosene heater radiates considerable heat from the top, so she dug out her cast iron skillet and fried up some Italian sausage and potatoes on it for dinner last night.

The temperature is 28, headed for a forecast high of 34, so there should be some melting today. The Weather Channel site says it'll be 41 tomorrow, 47 Saturday and 52 Sunday, so the ice will be gone soon. I'm suppressing the urge to get out with the chainsaw today because there is still a very real chance of getting whacked by falling branches. That's why I kenneled the dogs when I left this morning, rather than letting them do their usual hangout on the back porch and back yard.

Maria took Pine Log Road west to work this morning and warned me to stay off of it with my no-traction-on-ice del Sol. She said it was narrowed to one lane by debris in several places.

I took it east to the U.S. 49 Brookland business route this morning and found places where low-hanging, ice-covered branches forced me into the oncoming lane. As I approached Brookland, I came up on a semitrailer truck stopped in the southbound lane while the driver tried to figure out how to get around a low-hanging power line.

So far, we've been able to treat this as a big adventure, but I can see that it's going to wear thin pretty soon. Fortunately, our BMW motorcycle friends Charlie and Deb will have power soon at their home in town and they've offered us the use of their bathroom for showers.

There was enough hot water left in the guest room water heater for me to get a shower last night, so I'm no longer gamy. We're also going to run out of clean laundry before this is over, but that's a concern for another day.


Kerosene heater - $140, 5 gallons of K-1 kerosene - $40, heat in a cold house - priceless.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two weeks?!?!?

Maria just emerged from an editorial planning meeting where she learned that it may be as long as two weeks before power is restored to our neighborhood.
We're gonna have to get really good at improvising. Fortunately, the temperatures are supposed to climb into the 40s by the weekend.

Report from the Ice Palace

We drove in to the post office at Brookland about noon. The sign on the door said they were open, but there was no mail in our box, so maybe nobody sent us anything.
A walking tour of our neighborhood showed nobody's house got hit when the trees were snapping last night.
Last night was like being under an artillery barrage - one loud shotgun-like report after another, many followed by a heavy thud as a tree or big branch hit the ground. After a few hours of this, you start to wonder if the next one will be the one to cave in your roof or smash your car.
I woke up about 2:30 a.m. and slept fitfully until about 4 a.m. when I seriously considered getting up to survey the damage. I decided against it and managed to doze until about 7 a.m.
By then, the sky was clear and the rising sun revealed a landscape of crystalline chaos. The reason the bangs and crashes had stopped wasn't because the rain had stopped so much as it was that everything that could break had broken. It's hard to find a tree with its top intact. I remember a similar ice storm in north central Indiana in April, 1991, that took down major electrical transmission lines and left some communities without power for weeks. This was apparently on that scale to our north and west, but even so it may be several days before we get electricity again.
The kerosene heater turned out to be a stroke of genius. It's not enough to heat the whole house, but it does provide relief from the chill. I'm blogging from the newspaper office and the temperature in our house was about 57 when we left at 2 p.m.
We're looking at an overnight low of 19 tonight, so it will be plenty chilly in the house tomorrow morning.
Maria got enough hot water out of the water heater in the garage utility room for a hot bath before bedtime last night. I'm counting on the water heater that serves the guest bedrooms to have enough hot water left for a shower this evening.
Fortunately, we have a good supply of batteries for our flashlights and we scrounged up several candles as well. Maria dug out her grandmother's kerosene lamp, which has a brand new wick in it, so we're better prepared than we were last night.
Fortunately, Maria had today off, but we came into the office this afternoon to charge cell phones and she's reading page proofs to help get tomorrow's paper out.
The Walmart supercenter on the southside was closed today because they were sold out of groceries, People have bought up all of the available generators and heaters and more are on the way to stores tomorrow. The electric utilities are warning people not to hook the generators directly into their homes' electrical systems without the proper circuitry because they can backfeed power into the grid and injure or kill linemen or anyone else touching a downed power line.
Emergency shelters have been set up at area churches and hospitals where electricity and heat are available and apparently most of them are full or filling fast. Our neighbors dropped by last evening to say they had rooms reserved at a Jonesboro motel and wondered if we wanted to come along. We thanked them, but begged off because we needed to stay with our dogs, and promised to keep an eye on their house.
I've been meaning for months to gas and prep the chainsaw that I bought more than a year ago and the downed tree across the driveway forced my hand this morning. Fortunately, there was enough gas left in the lawnmower gas can to mix with 2-cycle oil and crank the sucker up. I suspect the whole neighborhood will contract with a tree service to clear away the wreckage because there is way too much fallen lumber on any one lot for the owner to cope with using just a home chainsaw.

Arkansas chainsaw massacre

Got the driveway open. I kinda like the arch effect.


Looks like the first thing on the agenda is firing up the chainsaw to deal with this tree across our driveway.
We have another tree on the backyard fence, but that seems to be the only damage.
No power or hope of it for a day or so.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Candles & flashlights

The power went out at 5:44 p.m.
I unpacked, assembled & fueled the new kerosene heater.
Maria is bringing home Domino's pizza for dinner.
I'll manually open the garage door and move the del Sol outside to accommodate the Subaru.
I can hear tree limbs snapping like rifle shots all over the neighborhood.
Gonna be a long night.
Of course the phone lines are out too, so all we have is cell phones.

So far, so good

Lots of big tree limbs down in the back yard and the entire town of Brookland is without electricity.

But we still have power, cable and Internet. We've had occasional dropouts, but no sustained outage yet.

All that could change at any second, of course.


While the icing seems to be slowing, or even melting here, it's obviously getting worse west and north of here.

Mel Coleman, CEO or North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, sent the following email to news outlets a few minutes ago:

In the last 30 minutes, North Arkansas Electric Cooperative’s outages have doubled…to 5000.  I think we are about to go over the cliff.  This is not good……

Followed by:

10:30am update:

Estimated Number of Members Out of Power:  12,000

Salem District:  Approximately 5,000 . . . with about a thousand additional down now to replace a substation fuse

Mtn. Home District:  Approximately 4,000

Ash Flat District:  Approximately 3,000

Cause of outages:  limbs, trees, weight of ice on structures. 

Beginning to see a few transmission and substation issues.  Small fire at one substation took the entire station down.

Some minor, future concerns regarding supplies and food for the crews in the field

No end in sight as of now…..


Mel Coleman

CEO, North Arkansas Electric Cooperative

The best panhandler in New Orleans

The sky is (kinda) falling

We woke up at 6 a.m. to find we still had electricity, but our cable TV/Internet service was out.

There was about a quarter-inch of ice on the trees and fence and it was raining steadily.

Then, wonder of wonders, the TV/Internet came back up about 7:30.

I walked out to see if we had a newspaper and found the concrete driveway merely wet - no ice. And we had a paper.

I rearranged the stuff in the garage yesterday so we could get the Subaru Forester under roof, so Maria had a hassle-free start when she left for work. She called about 12 minutes later to say she found no ice on the road - not even on the bridges - on her drive to Jonesboro.

The weather radar suggests we're on the southern edge of the ice storm and could even see a break in the rain in 20 or 30 minutes.

Keeping in mind that things could turn ugly in the next 24 hours, it may be that we dodged the bullet.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thank God for TV

I'm certainly grateful for the room temperature IQ TV reporters who feel compelled to tell me how to drive on icy pavement.

Sean at work

seanatwork Here's my son Sean (red circle) recording a musical performance.

The sky is falling, Part 2

This message went out to the media this morning from the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative:

Subject: Ice Storm Alert for the Media and Key Accounts of NAEC

The weather forecasters seem to be in agreement that there is a good chance of a significant ice storm for North Arkansas, in particular all the areas served by North Arkansas Electric Cooperative. They do however disagree somewhat on the amount of ice accumulations, with predictions ranging from .5 inch to 1.5 inches. The latest word we have from the National Weather Service is that the precipitation will begin late this evening, and continue through the night into tomorrow.

Engineers design our systems to withstand a .5 inch layer of ice @ winds of 40 mph .At that level and beyond we begin to see widespread problems. Anything approaching an inch or more, we will see major problems, with significant structural damage to the electric distribution system resulting in outages lasting days (or longer depending on the coverage).

This morning North Arkansas Electric Cooperative is making preparations for the worst case scenario, including contacting cooperatives in south Arkansas to have crews on standby to assist us.These crews will be underway at the first sign of a major ice event.

At this time we are hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. We urge all cooperative members and area residents to be equally as prepared, especially for lengthy, sustained power outages...heater

Again, we are in full alert mode awaiting whatever cards the weather deals us. We hope it's only an exercise, but will be ready to respond to our members needs.

Based on that cheery note, we went to Lowe's at noon and bought a 23,000 BTU convection kerosene heater and a 5 gallon can of kerosene.

The instructions say it heats up to 1,000 cubic feet and runs 12 hours on a single filling. With any luck, we won't have to take it out of the box, but we've got it if we need it.  

Sunrise at Isle Royale

s&sisle These are my sons Sean (left) and Steve back in June, 1976. They're watching the sun rise over a trail at Isle Royale National Park. Isle Royale is the biggest island in Lake Superior and it's home to the least-visited national park in the midwest.

No motor vehicles are allowed on the island and it's a great backpacking destination. You get there by ferry or seaplane.

The island is also home to moose and wolves. I suspect it's buried in snow right now.


atlanta Sign on the door of an Atlanta Burger King.

The sky is falling!

We don't get much snow here in northeast Arkansas, but we see a lot more ice storms than we got in Indiana and there is apparently a big one moving in this afternoon.

Issued by The National Weather Service
Memphis, TN
4:19 am CST, Mon., Jan. 26, 2009







Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shuffling along

It's absolutely amazing how much energy I can get out of this little 15.6 gram bit of shuffle

Of course, it depends on what's playing, but I could walk for miles on our treadmill to Carlos Santans's "Corazon Espinado."

I bought a red one for Maria for Christmas to use on the treadmill or wherever because she wasn't all that crazy about my "walking" playlist.

At last - a Hoosier Miss America

missam It only took 88 years, but an Indiana girl finally won the Miss America Pageant.

Katie Stam, 22, Seymour, a senior at the University of Indianapolis studying broadcast journalism, was crowned last night at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

I remember when the Miss America Pageant was a big deal - absolutely must-see TV. I'll venture that most Americans didn't even know the pageant was going on last night.

When I was a kid, it was done in Atlantic City and it was hosted from 1955-79 by game show host Bert Parks. They still play a recording of Parks singing, "There She Is, Miss America" when the newly crowned winner walks down the runway. Parks died of lung cancer in 1992.

Happy Birthday, Nicky!

nicky Today is my daughter-in-law Nicky's birthday.

She is, without question, the best thing that ever happened to Steve.

Steve, unfortunately, has the flu this weekend but is continuing to play his gigs in Vegas.

Happy Birthday, Nicky!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

At the Memphis quilt store

We're at the premiere quilt store in the Mid-South that Maria learned of at the BMW club meeting a couple of weeks ago. She's been going through quilt store withdrawal since our visit to Indy a month ago.
I'm blogging from the car while she shops to her heart's content.
We also learned the store is on Elmore Park Rd. rather than Elmore Road, which explains why the Garmin GPS couldn't find the address.
About 3 minutes after we arrived, two more women from Jonesboro walked in fortheir first visit.
The plan is to have lunch at an Olive Garden with the gift card we got for Christmas from Maria's parents, then beat it back to Jonesboro for a 4 p.m. ASU basketball game.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stupid or crooked?

geitnerturbotax I've used tax software - TurboTax and TaxCut - since the early 1990s and for Timothy Geitner to claim his non-payment of income tax on payment he received from the IMF was an "oversight" is patently absurd.

He got paid, didn't he? He knew it was income, didn't he?

The guy is either stupid or crooked. Either way, he's got no business being secretary of the Treasury. This the genius who's going to solve our financial crisis?

It looks like Obama's people are vetting his appointments with all of the zeal and thoroughness that the press vetted Obama.

God help us.

Islam trumps free speech in Holland

First, follow this link and watch the 14-minute film, "Fitna:"

Then read about the Dutch government preparing to prosecute Geert Wilders for making the film.


The Dutch judicial authorities are going to prosecute Geert Wilders, one of the 150 members of the Dutch Parliament, for making the movie Fitna. In this short documentary, which explains what happens if a number of verses of the Koran are taken seriously, Mr Wilders compares the Muslims’ holy book to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He claims the Koran calls for violence against Jews and other non-Muslims. Fitna can be seen here.

The Amsterdam Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that the views of Mr. Wilders

“constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law … both because of their contents and the method of presentation … as a result of which hate is created. According to the Court of Appeal most statements are insulting as well since these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers … by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.”

The Court is of the opinion that

“a criminal prosecution and a possible conviction later on … does not necessarily conflict with the freedom of expression of Wilders, since statements which create hate and grief made by politicians, taken their special responsibility into consideration, are not permitted according to European standards either.”

The Court also states that

“the instigation of hatred in a democratic society constitutes such a serious matter that a general interest is at stake in order to draw a clear boundary in the public debate.”

Since Mr. Wilders is the founder and leader of a political party, the Dutch Freedom Party PVV, which currently holds nine seats in Parliament and whose popularity is rising fast, the Court also addressed the question whether approval or disapproval of Mr. Wilders’ opinions should not be left to the electorate.

The Court says that it, indeed,

“prefers the political, public and other legal counter forces rather than the criminal law … However, the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with ‘Mein Kampf’). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree to a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.”

The Canadian lawyer and author Ezra Levant, remarks that, “Hatred is an emotion. Apparently in Holland, ‘making’ someone feel that emotion is a crime.”

Mr. Levant has himself been the victim of an official ‘hate crime investigation’ in Canada, following complaints by Muslims for republishing the so-called ‘Danish cartoons’ about the Prophet Muhammad. In Mr. Levant’s case, the complaints were dismissed.

Mr. Levant points out that the Dutch court also considers it a crime to

“incite ‘discrimination.’ Not just discrimination itself, mind you. But inciting someone to discriminate. The Dutch court has not announced the prosecution of anyone who Wilders has ‘incited’ to discriminate. But they’ll charge him with discrimination, once removed - even if that discrimination hasn’t happened, and isn’t logically tied to his political criticisms of Islamic fascism.”

The case against Mr. Wilders in the Netherlands bears a striking resemblance to the 2004 conviction of the Vlaams Blok, another popular political party, in neighboring Belgium. The Vlaams Blok, despite the electoral support of 24% of the voters, was disbanded following a court verdict that it should be considered to be a racist, hence criminal, organization.

The party was convicted on the basis of an anthology of 16 texts published by local party chapters between 1996 and 2000. Many of these texts simply quoted official statistics on crime rates and social welfare expenditure, One of the texts dealt with the position of women in fundamentalist Muslim societies and had been written by a female Turkish-born Vlaams Blok member from the town of Aalst who had herself been raised in such an environment. The court said the Aalst section of the party published her story “not to inform the public about the position of women in the Islamic world, but to depict the image [of non-indigenous people] as unethical and barbarian.”

The court stated explicitly that what the party had written “was not necessarily untrue,” but alleged that the party’s “intentions” in publishing the truth had been of a criminal nature.

The same applies to Mr. Wilders’ Fitna movie. Whether or not it is true what Mr. Wilders says does not matter to the Dutch court. It claims he has committed a crime by making statements which “substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers … by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief.”

A major argument in this regard seems to be that Mr. Wilders compared the Koran, with its many verses that call for murdering Jews, to Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’. Mr. Wilders is one of Holland’s most outspoken defenders of Israel and the Jews. Ironically, his adversaries have on several occasions compared him to the Nazis, but none of them adversaries has been prosecuted for making this comparison. Countless non-leftist European have been compared to the Nazis in the past decades. The European Left has used terms such as ‘Nazi,’ ‘Fascist’ and ‘racist’ to such an extent that the words have become meaningless. Even Israel is regularly called a Nazi state. However, when Mr. Wilders uses the comparison, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal “considers this insulting to such a degree … that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.”

As in Belgium, the prosecution against Mr. Wilders is a political attempt to kill a politician and a party which threaten the ruling establishment. As Dutch public prosecutor Otto Van der Bijl told CNN, Mr. Wilders will be prosecuted because a total of nine (!) people filed complaints against him. One of these is Mrs. Els Lucas of the governing Labour party, a political opponent of Mr. Wilders’ PVV party, and a party which is rapidly losing its blue-collar voting base to the PVV.

What must one call the methods of a court that issues verdicts like the one in Amsterdam? The Wall Street Journal calls them Saudi methods. But perhaps Nazi methods is more appropriate. Or is it a criminal offence to say so because it might incite ‘hatred’ against the Dutch judiciary?

A petition in defense of Mr. Wilders can be signed here.


I'm waiting for a prescription at the Walmart pharmacy along with this mother-daughter pair.
The older woman just announced she needs "one of those things you put over a pie crust... Mypie crusts keep burnin'."
And off they went.
I'm on Maria's BMW K75S because it's 63 degrees. I wore my old First Gear leather jacket with the snap-in liner and I think I'll have to take the liner out before I leave the Walmart parking lot.
I just checked the weather in Crawfordsville and see it's 34 there.
(Insert Simpsons Ha Ha kid here.)
Well, time to pick up my drugs...

Why I got a new debit card yesterday

For More Information:

Heartland Payment Systems Uncovers
Malicious Software In Its Processing System

No merchant information or cardholder Social Security numbers compromised.

Princeton, NJ — January 20, 2009 — Payments processor Heartland Payment Systems has learned it was the victim of a security breach within its processing system in 2008. Heartland believes the intrusion is contained.
"We found evidence of an intrusion last week and immediately cardlocknotified federal law enforcement officials as well as the card brands," said Robert H.B. Baldwin, Jr., Heartland's president and chief financial officer. "We understand that this incident may be the result of a widespread global cyber fraud operation, and we are cooperating closely with the United States Secret Service and Department of Justice."
No merchant data or cardholder Social Security numbers, unencrypted personal identification numbers (PIN), addresses or telephone numbers were involved in the breach. Nor were any of Heartland's check management systems; Canadian, payroll, campus solutions or micropayments operations; Give Something Back Network; or the recently acquired Network Services and Chockstone processing platforms.
After being alerted by Visa® and MasterCard® of suspicious activity surrounding processed card transactions, Heartland enlisted the help of several forensic auditors to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. Last week, the investigation uncovered malicious software that compromised data that crossed Heartland's network.
Heartland immediately took a number of steps to further secure its systems. In addition, Heartland will implement a next-generation program designed to flag network anomalies in real-time and enable law enforcement to expeditiously apprehend cyber criminals.
Heartland has created a website — — to provide information about this incident and advises cardholders to examine their monthly statements closely and report any suspicious activity to their card issuers. Cardholders are not responsible for unauthorized fraudulent charges made by third parties.
"Heartland apologizes for any inconvenience this situation has caused," continued Baldwin. "Heartland is deeply committed to maintaining the security of cardholder data, and we will continue doing everything reasonably possible to achieve this objective."

If you are a merchant or cardholder and have additional questions, please contact 866.399.6228 or

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The die is cast for Daytona


A rat bike at Daytona Beach Bike Week.

I crunched the numbers and decided this afternoon, weather permitting, that I'm riding to Bike Week in Daytona Beach with my Jonesboro BMW friend Charlie Parsons.

I've been to Bike Week - billed as "The world's largest motorcycle event" - twice in the early 1990s. The Space Coast BMW Club used to host a sort of mini-rally at the Bulow campgrounds a short distance northwest of Daytona and that's where I camped in 1993 and 1994.

I rode down from Indianapolis both years. I lacked proper cold weather riding gear the first year and when I rolled out on Friday afternoon, most of Indiana was covered with snow. I was wearing a huge set of Carhart coveralls over my leathers and looked like an overstuffed piece of furniture perched on my '91 K100RS.

I bought a proper cold weather riding suit from one of the Bike Week vendors and rode home in style. The next year, I'd had Gerbings Heated Clothing wire the liner to my First Gear jacket and enjoyed a much more comfortable ride to and from Daytona.

Riding to Bike Week from Indiana is always a dicey proposition because you never know when the weather window is going to slam shut on you and leave you stranded in Florida or somewhere between Daytona and home.

Although the distance from my Arkansas home to Daytona is comparable to the Indy-to-Daytona ride, the entire trip is done at lower (read "warmer") latitudes, removing a some of the weather worries. I've looked at a couple of routes. One is the shortest, a diagonal across Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The other is longer, but probably warmer, riding down I-55 to Louisiana, then following I-10 east to Jacksonville and then south on I-95.

Bulow is gone and the Space Coasters no longer host the event, but a specially organized BMW Club - B-Cubed (Beemers for Bikeweek and Biketoberfest) - has organized a similar affair at a travel park/campground at the I-95 exit to Flagler Beach.

I lost interest in Bike Week after 1994, but the trip is starting to sound like a good idea again.

Waiting at the bank

I'm cancelling my debit card and getting a new one after learning that my card number is on a list of compromised numbers.
This woman is the only person ahead of me, since I got here ahead of the public announcement.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

She's baaaaaaaaaaaaack


Lovisa Loiselle is a young Canadian woman who started blogging on about the same time as I, back in May, 2004.

I became an early fan and she would occasionally comment on my blog under the nom de keyboard of Count Chocula.

She's a brilliant, funny writer, but she dropped out of the blogosphere after a few years and has limited her online presence mostly to her lovisaFacebook account.

Recently, she teamed with Dan Tobin, a freelance writer in Boston to illustrate Web-based comic

The Urban Blah, "A Webcomic of the Painfully Self-Aware."

I think it's terrific and have added it to my list of cool links over there on the right side of the page. There are three cartoons on the site at the moment and the plan is to update Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays ("With pretty color when you've been good!") So, for God's sake, be good.

Still available after 22 years


This is one of my favorite rude motorcycle t-shirts.

The fine print at the bottom reads, "Subtlety was never one of his strong points."

Riding home with Tim and Linda Balough from the 1986 BMW MOA rally in Monterey, Calif., we spent our final night on the road at a KOA west of St. Louis. I found a copy of Bike, a British motorcycle magazine, in the camp store and discovered an ad for this t-shirt. I bought one and wore it at rallies for a few years until it wore out.

British t-shirts - at least all of those I've seen - are made of thinner, cheaper fabric than in the U.S.

Anyhow, I'm happy to report that this design and several others by British artist Andy Sparrow is still available at his Web site,

Old Gray at Hoosier Pass


It's hard to believe this photo is 20 years old.

I shot it the morning I rode from the Indianapolis BMW Club's rented chalet in Breckenridge, Colo. to Oklahoma City in the summer of 1988.

That's my 1981 BMW R100RS, sitting on its Reynolds Ride-off centerstand (it was a cool idea and I wonder why no aftermarket manufacturer is making them for current models) and my old Eclipse tankbag. The Eclipse was a bit too fat and got in the way of the grips when I turned the handlebars all the way in one direction or the other.

I put about 80,000 miles on the R100RS before I got seduced by the 1991 K100RS. That bike carried me more than 160,000 miles before I retired it in favor of my current ride, a 2003 K1200GT. As my GT sits in the garage this morning it has nearly 41,000 miles on the odometer. Add all of those miles to the 30,000+/- I put on my 1971 R50/5 and that give me about 270,000 BMW motorcycle miles. Hey, I passed the quarter-million-mile mark and didn't even notice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Circuit City

I dropped by Circuit City this afternoon to see what was going on.

Nothing was going on.

They had a store-wide 10% discount, which is hardly a discount - certainly not enough to make me feel like I'm getting a deal.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Save Hyundai the price of a repo man


From Hyundai's commercial and website:

A decade ago Hyundai pioneered America's Best Warranty to show you the faith we have in  our cars. Today, in addition to our warranty, we're introducing Hynudai Assurance, to show you the faith we have in you. Right now, buy or lease any new Hyundai, and if in the next year you lose your income, we'll let you return it. That's Hyundai Assurance.

WTF? They're saying they'll let you participate in the repo of your car. How the hell is this a buyer-friendly policy?

Obama's dirtbag pal refused entry to Canada

From today's Toronto Star:

Debra Black
Staff Reporter

An American education professor, one of the founders of a radical 1960s group known as the Weather Underground, which was responsible for a number of bombings in the United States in the early 1970s, was turned back at the Canadian border last night.

Dr. William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago and a leader in educational reform, was scheduled to speak at the Centre for Urban Schooling at University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. But that appearance has now been temporarily cancelled.

"I don't know why I was turned back," Ayers said in an interview this morning from Chicago. "I got off the plane like everyone else and I was asked to come over to the other side. The border guards reviewed some stuff and said I wasn't going to be allowed into Canada. To me it seems quite bureaucratic and not at all interesting ... If it were me I would have let me in. I couldn't possibly be a threat to Canada."

Ayers made headlines this summer after Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin suggested that then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hung around with domestic terrorists like Ayers. The professor had hosted a meet-the-candidate event at his home for Obama in 1995, during his run for the state Senate. They also worked together on Chicago school reform and served on a charity board together.

Ayers first rose to notoriety in the early 1970s with the Weather Underground. The group claimed responsibility for bombings at the U.S. Capitol, a Pentagon restroom and New York City police headquarters. In 1970, a townhouse in New York the group was using to build a bomb blew up.

Nowadays, Ayers is known more for his work in educational reform. He has written or edited more than a dozen books — including his 2001 memoir Fugitive Days — and travels around the world giving lectures on education.

Jeffrey Kugler, executive director of the Centre for Urban Schooling, is deeply disappointed in the turn of events. For him it's a question of academic freedom. "It's kind of ironic the day before Barack Obama is going to become president this is what the Canadian border security has done," said Kugler. "It seems ridiculous that one university can't have a professor from another university to come and give a lecture on an important educational topic."

Kugler waited for five hours at the Toronto Island airport for Ayers. He was with a lawyer, but the border guard refused to allow Ayers to see the lawyer.

"The entire four or five hours he was not allowed to have representation at all. To me this is an issue of academic freedom. He could not be a threat to anyone ever. Anyone who knows anything about this man – he's a distinguished scholar at the University of Illinois and he has been involved in education reform over the past 15 years. To imagine in any way he was a threat to Canada is really absurd."

Parade shot

mlk parade

A generic parade shot. Lots of marchers, a band, no floats. Sunny and breezy with a temperature in the mid-30s.

Mission accomplished.


Waiting for the parade.

Back to work

Guess who gets to photograph the MLK Day parade this morning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let's hope they keep it to themselves

At least 40 al-Qaeda fanatics died horribly after being struck down with the disease that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages.

The killer bug, also known as the plague, swept through insurgents training at a forest camp in Algeria, North Africa. It came to light when security forces found a body by a roadside.

The victim was a terrorist in AQLIM (al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb), the largest and most powerful al-Qaeda group outside the Middle East.

It trains Muslim fighters to kill British and US troops.

Now al-Qaeda chiefs fear the plague has been passed to other terror cells — or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

One security source said: “This is the deadliest weapon yet in the war against terror. Most of the terrorists do not have the basic medical supplies needed to treat the disease.

“It spreads quickly and kills within hours. This will be really worrying al-Qaeda.”

Black Death comes in various forms.

Bubonic Plague is spread by bites from infected rat fleas. Symptoms include boils in the groin, neck and armpits. In Pneumonic Plague, airborn bacteria spread like flu.

It can be in the body for more than a week — highly contagious but not revealing tell-tale symptoms.

Deadly ... the plague bacteria causes horrific symptoms

Deadly ... the plague bacteria causes horrific symptoms

The al-Qaeda epidemic began in the cave hideouts of AQLIM in Tizi Ouzou province, 150km east of the capital Algiers. The group, led by wanted terror boss Abdelmalek Droudkal, was forced to turn its shelters in the Yakouren forest into mass graves and flee.

The extremists supporting madman Osama bin Laden went to Bejaia and Jijel provinces — hoping the plague did not go with them.

A source said: “The emirs (leaders) fear surviving terrorists will surrender to escape a horrible death.”

AQLIM boss Droudkal claims to command around 1,000 insurgents. Training camps are also based in Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria.

AQLIM bombed the UN headquarters in Algiers in 2007, killing 41. Attacks across Algeria last year killed at least 70 people.

In an interview last July, Droudkal boasted his cell was in constant contact with other al-Qaeda “brothers.”

Cool quote

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."*

*-Robert Heinlein*

Riding in the sunshine

It was sunny with the temperature in the 50s this afternoon so I went for a motorcycle ride, just because I could.

It was the first time this year that I've had the K1200GT out. Both bikes are on trickle chargers and it fired up right away.

Now I'm having thoughts about riding to Daytona Beach Bike Week. BMW friend Charlie is keen to go so, weather and finances permitting, this will be my third Bike Week.

The People's Choice

hdr victorian

I have a Flickr account and it tracks the number of times each photo is clicked upon to view in more detail.

This HDR image of a Victorian home across the street from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. has had the most views - 408 as of this writing.

I guess people like it. Or maybe the owner found it and can't get enough of it.

You can see all of the photos by clicking on the Flickr widget over there on the right side of the page.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


ASU Red Wolves home basketball game tonight.


They lost. Because they played badly.

Whatever. It was fun to get out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Another one bites the dust

Circuit City_Exterior - Store Front

Circuit City, Jonesboro's only consumer electronics store (no Best Buy closer than Memphis) is closing.

Company officials announced today they will close their remaining 567 U.S. stores, throwing 30,000 employees out of work.

The has hired a liquidating firm to dispose of its assets. Employees were being told today they are losing their jobs and, if a judge gives final approval for liquidation, stores could begin the closing process as early as tomorrow.

I will, of course, be on high alert for deals on iPods and such.

The company file for bankruptcy protection last year and closed 155 stores in November.

Circuit City also has 765 retail stores and dealer outlets in Canada. Their fate remains undecided, but clouded.

One down, one to go

I just cranked out 21 column inches about tax preparation software for Maria's paper.

My reward for beating the Monday deadline was another assignment - stock market dos and don'ts for these troubled times. Oh, joy.

Actually, it's not too bad. I rather enjoy writing something a bit more complicated that the average blog post and the tax software story got me kinda fired up to do our taxes as soon as the information I need shows up in our mailbox.

The mailbox contents were a bit depressing yesterday - the quarterly statements for our 401Ks. Like everyone else, we lost thousands of dollars in value last year. With the federal government now firmly in the grip of fiscal lunatics, I don't expect things to get any better for a long time.

Now, I'm off to pack a CD I sold on and mail it at the post office. The Weather Channel website says it's a brisk 17 degrees out there right now. At least the sun is shining and the greenhouse effect will have warmed the interior of my del Sol.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

God bless those Canadians!

Israel was right. Again.

I used to think the "Get Us Out of the U.N." people were loonies.

I'm not so sure anymore. This from Joel Mobray at Fox News:

The United Nations agency that administers a school in Gaza where dozens of civilians were killed by Israeli mortar fire last week has admitted to employing terrorists to work at its Palestinian schools in the past, has no system in place to keep members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad off its payroll, and provides textbooks to children that contain hate speech and other incendiary information.

A growing chorus of critics has taken aim at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in recent years, although momentum on Capitol Hill has been slow. But last week’s incident, which Israel maintains was prompted by Hamas operatives firing mortars at Israelis from a location near the school, has prompted some lawmakers to scrutinize the U.N. agency.

Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., introduced a resolution in the fall calling for greater transparency and accountability at UNRWA. The bill called on the agency to make its textbooks available on the Internet for public inspection and to implement “terrorist name recognition software and other screening procedures that would help to ensure that UNRWA staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries are neither terrorists themselves, nor affiliated with known terrorist organizations.”

Rothman said he plans to re-introduce his UNRWA resolution in the coming weeks because, “as timely as this bill was before, it is even more timely now. It is urgent that Congress can be assured that U.S. taxpayer money is not being spent to support Hamas and its murderous activities.”

Bring on the W-2s

I bought the most recent copy of H&R Block's TaxCut income tax software the other day and am watching the mail for W-2s, 1090s, taxcutand other tax-related reports.

I've used TaxCut for about a decade now and can't imagine preparing our tax returns the old way, with a pencil and a calculator.

I remember my dad at tax time. He had a big 30-pound adding machine that he would bring home from his insurance office and set up on the kitchen table, along with what seemed like mountains of paperwork, his trusty mechanical pencil, a pack of Winstons, ashtray and cup of coffee.

He never got audited, so I guess he knew what he was doing.

Before I got a computer in the early 1990s, we paid a tax preparer to handle the annual ordeal.

Fellow reporter Skip Hess did a story on tax preparers for The Indianapolis News in the late '70s in which he took his tax papers to several places, including IRS Taxpayer Assistance and H&R Block. He got a different result with each one. The biggest refund was calculated by Pat Storen, owner of Storen Services, in Brownsburg, Ind.

Word quickly spread through the newsroom and in a few years just about everyone at The Indianapolis News was going to Pat to figure their taxes. Pat was a personable fellow who knew his stuff and had a knack for ferreting out deductible stuff you'd forgotten or overlooked.

He even stood by me the year we got audited. (It's a long story and I won't bore you with it here.) I ended up having to pay, but Pat gave it his best shot.

But by the early '90s, Pat's business had grown to the point where he was farming the work out to employees who weren't as confidence-inspiring and his rates went up substantially.

So I was ready for tax software when it showed up. I used TurboTax for the first few years, but switched to TaxCut because of the promise of H&R Block to go to bat for me if I got audited.

Last year's tax preparation was a little labor-intensive because I had returns to figure for Indiana as well as Arkansas. Not so this year, since we are no longer Indiana residents.

I plan to crunch the numbers as soon as I have all of the pertinent forms in hand. If we have money coming back, I'll e-file immediately so as to get the cash as soon as possible. If we owe, I'll hang onto the money until April 15.

It's -30- for Number 6


Patrick McGoohan, who created and starred in the cult classic TV show "The Prisoner," died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness. He was 80.
McGoohan starred in the 1960s CBS series "Secret Agent," and won two Emmys for his guest appearances on the detective drama "Columbo." Most recently he appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson Academy Award-winning film "Braveheart."
But he was most famous as the character known only as Number Six in "The Prisoner," a 1968 British series about a spy who resigns from the intelligence service, only to be abducted and held captive in a mysterious haven known as The Village. There his overseers strip him of his identity in their attempts to glean information, while thwarting his attempts to escape.
Prior to "The Prisoner," McGoohan starred in "Secret Agent" (also known as "Danger Man"), which debuted in 1964, and whose memorable theme song seemed to speak of the hazards facing the characters in both series ("They've given you a number, and taken away your name").
McGoohan's agent, Sharif Ali, said Wednesday that the actor was still active in Hollywood, with two offers for wide-release films on the table when he died. "The man was just cool," Ali said. "It was an honor to have him here and work with him. ... He was one of those actors, a real actor. He didn't have a lie."
Born in New York on March 19, 1928, McGoohan was raised in England and Ireland, where his family moved shortly after his birth. He had a busy stage career before moving to television, and won a London Drama Critics Award for playing the title role in the Henrik Ibsen play "Brand."
He married stage actress Joan Drummond in 1951. The oldest of their three daughters, Catherine, is also an actress.
After "Secret Agent"'s success," McGoohan pitched to producers the surreal and cerebral "The Prisoner" to give himself a challenge. McGoohan also wrote and directed several episodes of the series.
Although only 17 episodes were made, it became a cult favorite, and its cultural impact continues, as evident by his guest appearance playing Number Six in a 2000 episode of "The Simpsons."
The show is being remade as a series for AMC to premiere later this year.
"His creation of 'The Prisoner' made an indelible mark on the sci-fi, fantasy and political thriller genres, creating one of the most iconic characters of all time," AMC said in a statement Wednesday. "AMC hopes to honor his legacy in our re-imagining of 'The Prisoner.'"
Later came smaller roles in film and television. McGoohan won Emmys for guest spots on "Columbo" 16 years apart, in 1974 and 1990.
His film credits include "Ice Station Zebra," the 1979 Clint Eastwood film "Escape from Alcatraz," the John Grisham courtroom drama "A Time To Kill," "Silver Streak," and "Scanners." He also starred in the 1963 Disney TV film "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh," playing an 18th century English country priest who thwarts the king's minions as a disguised avenger.
His last major role was in "Braveheart," in what The Associated Press called a "standout" performance as the brutal king who battles Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, played by Gibson.
In his review of the film for the Los Angeles Times critic Peter Rainer said "McGoohan is in possession of perhaps the most villainous enunciation in the history of acting."
McGoohan is survived by his wife and three daughters.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dogs vs. Cats

More drama at Gannett papers

Gannett is stealing a week's pay from about 40,000 employees between now and the end of March.

The word of company-wide (except for Detroit) furloughs - time off without pay - came down today in a memo from CEO Craig Dubow.

I've already heard from one Gannett employee who is worried about making her rent payment because of the loss of a week's pay.

It's hardly a surprise that ranked Gannett as 36th in its 50 Worst Places to Work list, based on employee satisfaction.

Is there any of that pie left?

sugarcreampieFriend Tim Evans writes in The Indianapolis Star that State Sen. Allen Paul, a Republican from Richmond, Ind., has proposed a resolution in the Indiana Legislature to declare the sugar cream pie to be the Official State Pie.

He also wants to designate Winchester, Ind., (which happens to be in his district and home to Wick's Pies Inc.) as the Sugar Cream Pie Capital.

Turns out there are two other states with official state pies - Vermont with apple (ho-hum), and Florida with Key Lime.

Sugar cream pie is an Indiana farm favorite and is also known as Hoosier sugar cream pie, Indiana cream pie, sugar pie, or finger pie. It's a pie shell spread with layers of creamed butter and maple or brown sugar with a sprinkling of flour, then filled with vanilla-flavored cream and baked. says:

The recipe appears to have originated in Indiana with the Shaker and/or Amish communities in the 1800s as a great pie recipe to use when the apple bins were empty. You will find somewhat similar pies in the Pennsylvania Dutch County and a few other places in the United States with significant Amish populations. The Shakers believed in eating hearty and healthy food. They definitely must have had a sweet tooth, though, judging by the sugar cream pie.

This pie was also know as finger pie because the filling was sometimes stirred with a finger during the baking process to prevent breaking the bottom crust. People used to skim the thick yellow cream from the top of chilled fresh milk to make this delectable dessert. has six variations, the richest being 541 calories per slice. This is clearly not on a diabetic menu and it's guaranteed to spike your blood sugar bigtime.

Here's the recipe my wife favors:


No big deal for a Hoosier


We're expecting a little cold snap here in the Mid-South.

The local TV news was full of cold weather tips and warnings about frozen pipes costing "thousands of dollars" to repair.

This on a morning when the temperature was 33 degrees, headed for a high of 47. The overnight low is forecast at 10 degrees with a high tomorrow of 25. The temperature is expected to rebound into the 40s over the weekend to near 50 early next week.

But where we come from in Indiana, it's 17 and snowing with a wind chill factor of 2 degrees this morning, headed for an overnight low of -10 and a high tomorrow of 1. The temperature in Thorntown, Ind., isn't expected to climb back out of the single digits until Saturday.

Now that, my Arkansas friends, is real winter weather.

That said, I have absolutely no desire to ever experience the prolonged brutal cold of an Indiana winter again. I've lived through 62 of them and that's quite enough, thank you.

john coldThis is me on the campus of Indiana State University in Terre Haute in January or February of 1966 - lots of layers under my hooded pea coat, heavy gloves, a U.S. Navy cold weather face mask and sunglasses.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Giving Nancy Grace the (extra) finger

nancy_grace-web If you spend much time watching CNN Headline News, you'll be subjected to hype for Nancy Grace and her obsession with the Caylee Anthony case.

The most ridiculous bit - so far - has Nancy proclaiming, "When you point a finger at someone else, you have four fingers pointing back at you."


Unless Nancy Grace is an alien or a mutant, it's only three fingers.

I can see how something like that might slip through, but CNN should have caught it and yanked it before now because it's been running for weeks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Heavy thoughts

gold bar

If someone offered you a cubic foot of gold, would you be able to carry it away?

Not bloody likely. A cubic foot of gold weighs in excess of 1,200 pounds. A cube of gold slightly over 14 inches on a side weighs a ton.

If you want to know how much you're worth if you're worth your weight in gold, go to this site. I'm worth about $3 million.

If it were only good today...


This is a 50 million mark bank note from Germany. At today's rate of exchange, that equals $34,196,683.44 in U.S. dollars.

But this is a Reichsbanknote issued in September, 1923, when German paper money was more valuable for burning than for spending because of hyperinflation in the wake of the collapse of the German economy.

According to Wikipedia, hyperinflation in Germany reached the point where the Weimar government's Reichsbank issued banknotes as large as 100 trillion marks and postage stamps with a face value of 50 billion marks.

When the Reichbank took to printing bank notes denominations in the millions of marks, they didn't even bother to print anything on the reverse side.

Let's hope things never get that bad here.

Here's something you don't see every day

50 pesos

This is a 50 peso note issued by the Japanese government during the time Japan occupied and controlled the Philippines (1942-45).

It's pretty much worthless today.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A milestone

I added Blog Counter to this blog back on Oct. 10, 2007, because I wondered how many hits I was getting on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

It was down for the better part of November and December, 2007, so the regular counting started in January, 2008 - a year ago.

The total hits topped 10,000 about 10:30 a.m. (CST) today.

That's hardly huge - only about 24 hits a day - but considering that this is hardly a high profile blog, I'm gratified by such a milestone.

I added ads from Google AdSense last January in a modest effort to monetize my blogging habit. I made my first $100 from visitors clicking those little ads in October of last year. Again, no big thing, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

If you're reading this, you're adding to the count. If you click on an ad or two, you're putting some pennies into my tin cup.

Thanks to my regular readers for your interest and support. I hope you keep finding something of interest here because I don't think I'm out of stuff to write about yet.

Memphis afterthoughts

It felt good to be among BMW riders yesterday.

I've missed conversations about bikes and travel and great motorcycle roads.

It was a good experience for Maria, too, because she found five fellow quilters in the club and got a line on a quilt/fabric shop in Memphis. She's been starved for good fabric and quilting shops since we left Indiana and this promises to be a fabulous discovery.

Charlie Parsons chauffeured us to Memphis yesterday and, in the process, showed us a quick route to U.S. 63 - the link road to I-55 - that bypasses Jonesboro and its traffic. I'm embarrassed I hadn't figured it out myself from studying area maps, but it's great information and will make the drive to Memphis and back much more pleasant.

The job of editing the club newsletter was up for grabs and I successfully suppressed the impulse to volunteer. I did the Indianapolis BMW Club newsletter for 10 years until other responsibilities in my life transformed it from a pleasure to a burden. I'm not ready to repeat that process here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

BMW club meeting

We're at the BMW Riders Association of the Mid-South meeting at the Sidecar Cafe in Memphis.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Shirtsleeve weather

Sunny and mild here today.
Beats shivering in Indiana.

Confident smile, kind eyes... what more could you ask?

I was going to write something about the Obama "Historic Victory Plate" commercial that informs us this "priceless work of art" features a portrait of the New Messiah's "confident smile and kind eyes" that "are an inspiration to us all."  but I can't top this from

Yep, it’s FINALLY here! The Barack Obama commemorative plate. Watch the whole commercial on the website. I laughed my ass off at the end when the dude and his family are like “I thought this day would never come.” Is he pissed? He sounds kind of pissed. Of course he isn’t pissed! He wasn’t talking about the election of an African-American president. He probably voted for McCain. He was talking about the firing of a ceramic plate commemorating the election of an African-American president. I want the commemorative plate commemorating the first commemorative plate commemorating the election of the first African-American president.

Now that’s a PLATE you can believe in!

I think my favorite part in the commercial is when the guy is at his desk writing a letter or something and he glances over at his Barack Obama Commemorative Plate and nods his head and smiles like he was all “Man I just CAN’T write this letter to the editor of Readers Digest. “YES YOU CAN” -Thanks Barack Obama!!”

Check out the image, they spelled certificate, cirtificate. Now that’s a Spell Checker you can’t believe in!

'waving lunch

lasagna Now that we have a functional, dependable microwave oven again, frozen entrees are a lunchtime option for me.

Today it was Chicken Florentine Lasagna from Lean Cuisine. It was OK. The best thing about it was the four-minute cooking time.

It's mildly surprising how dependent we've become on a kitchen appliance what was practically unknown less than 40 years ago.

Microwave ovens date from the 1940s, but they didn't become affordable until the late 1970s. Since the median age of Americans is around 37, that means nearly half of the population can't remember a time when there were no microwave ovens.

My first wife and I bought our first microwave - a clunky countertop Amana Radarange that came with a hardcover microwave cookbook - sometime around 1979 or 1980.

We never explored its cooking potential with any depth, using it mostly for baking potatoes and popping popcorn. We learned early that microwaves explode eggs and turn bread products into rubber.

I don't remember what we paid for it - probably somewhere around $200. Like everything else in electronics, the price has dropped precipitously and today you can find a countertop microwave for under $50. (That's about $17 in 1979 dollars, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.)

What's so hard about pronouncing "inauguration?"


Those of us who are accustomed to pronouncing English words properly know it's pronounced in-aw-gyh-rey-shun.

But a startlingly large number of people on TV think it's pronounced in-og-ur-a-shun.

The first example of this moronic butchery of the word cropped up shortly after the election in a commercial hyping a commemorative Barack Obama plate. I noted the aberration and dismissed it as an attempt to connect with the New Messiah's constituency.

But as the event nears, I hear it falling from the lips of network news people - several of them - who really ought to know better. These are people who routinely pronounce goofy names like Ahmadinejad and Blagojevich. They should know better.

Or maybe, in this particular instance, it's appropriate.

Fellow acrophobes, avert your gaze!

burjdubaiBabu Sassi, a fearless young man from southern India is the cult hero of Dubai's army of construction workers.

Known as the "Indian on the top of the world", Babi is the crane operator at the world's tallest building — the 819-meter (2,687 ft) Burj Dubai. His office, the cramped crane cab perched on top of the Burj, is also his home — apparently it takes too long to come down to the ground each day to make it worthwhile. When the building is completed, its elevators will be the world's fastest.

Stories about his daily dalliance with death are discussed in revered terms by Dubai's workers. Some say he has been up there for more than a year, others whisper that he's paid 30,000 dirhams ($8,168) a month compared with the average wage of 800 dirhams a month. All agree he's worth it.

The observation deck of the Sears Tower in Chicago creeps me out. I can't begin to get my brain wrapped around what this guy is doing. BTW, 2,687 feet is more than half a mile.