Sunday, May 31, 2009

Seemed like a good idea...


They were blowing out pool noodles at Kroger today, so we bought one as a dog toy. Pete sniffed it and Ruthie completely ignored it.

How does your state rank?

Despite my experience over the past 19 months, Arkansas drivers apparently aren’t all that bad. In fact, one recent study ranks them ahead of Indiana.

GMAC Insurance has released the results of its National Drivers Test for 2009. The test, which measures basic knowledge of driving laws, was given to more than 5,000 drivers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Idaho and Wisconsin drivers ranked first and New Yorkers finished last.

Idaho and Wisconsin drivers tied for the highest average score, with an 80.6.

The point of the test is to measure how much we know about safe driving. And the news isn't good.

In a press release, GMAC explains, "Results from the 2009 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test released today found that 20.1 percent of licensed Americans - amounting to roughly 41 million drivers on the road - would not pass a written drivers test exam if taken today." Most of us have trouble, according to the results, with "questions about yellow lights and safe following distances."

The survey has been given for five years. The average score has fluctuated up and down during that time, but this year it is down - 76.6 percent versus last year's 78.1.

GMAC notes, "In general, geographical regions ranked similarly to previous years, with the lowest average test scores in the Northeast, while the states in the Midwest held the highest averages. When comparing genders, men are still more likely to pass the test than women, but the gap is considerably smaller in 2009 (81 percent of males versus 79 percent of females) than in 2008 (87 percent of males versus 80 percent of females)."

And, "The older the driver, the higher the test score." Drivers over 35 were more likely to pass than those under 35, while men over 45 posted the highest scores, and "the age group with the highest failure rates was young adults (18 to 24 years old)."

The study, of course, begs the question of how much correlation there is between driver knowledge and the level of actual skill and accident rates.

But based solely on the GMAC data, most of my motorcycle rides should be in a northwesterly direction. That’s fine with me. I like riding in the Pacific Northwest and the West. Kind of a bummer about California, though. I’ve been hankering for a visit to Big Sur this summer.

Here are the rankings:










South Dakota
















North Dakota












New Mexico


North Carolina
















West Virginia










New Hampshire














South Carolina








District of Columbia




Rhode Island








New Jersey


New York

Sunday morning nature study

austin turtle  Ruthie woke us up this morning with incessant barking. Maria investigated and found Ruthie yammering at a three-toed box turtle (terrapene carolina triunguis) on the patio.

It was buttoned up tight in the face of her verbal assault.

We moved it to near the fire pit woodpile where Austin and I photographed it until it crawled off and pretended we couldn't see it in the dry leaves at the bottom of the woodpile.arkie tortoise

He's be 118 years old today

colsanders05 Friend Lauri posted a photo of a life-size statue of Col. Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame the other day.

Here's my response: a photo of the Colonel himself on the occasion of his 80th birthday, Sept. 9, 1970. I photographed him at the grand opening of a KFC restaurant on U.S. 31 in Greenwood, Ind.

Col. Sanders died Dec. 16, 1980.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nice, but not THAT nice

BMW k1300GT 09  3This is the 2009 BMW K1300GT, the third-generation of the GT that started in 2003 with my K1200GT.

I sat on one just like this yesterday at BMW Motorcycles of Little Rock. It was fully loaded and the MSRP was $22,245. Add Arkansas's 6% sale tax and the price jumps to 23,579.70.

If I were going to buy a new bike, I'd probably deal with my old Thorntown, Ind. neighbor Larry Parker's son-in-law, who owns a couple of dealerships in Oregon. Oregon has no sales tax.

The young salesman was really keen to sell it to me, but there is no way in hell this bike is worth $23.5k to me. The stripped-down version is $18k, but I'm still not interested.

My '03 GT only has about 43,500 miles on the odometer and I'm really enjoying having it paid off. It was $19,000 and change and I bought it at a time when BMW was offering .9% financing, waiving the first three payments and postponing the first payment for another three months beyond that. That meant I took delivery in early March and my first payment was due in September.

BMW's best offer on the new GT is 2.9% financing for 36 months, ranging up to 4.9% for 60 months.

Nope. No sale and certainly no sale at any dealership in the Mid-South where sales taxes range from 4.225% to 7%.

That said, I'm leaving now to ride my old GT to the post office and maybe beyond.

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

lisa disneyland

My granddaughter Lisa is 5 today. She's 1,000 times smarter than a 5-year-old boy I saw the other day. Good DNA and excellent parenting.

Friday, May 29, 2009


clinton museum01 I’ve been a tourist in Little Rock today.

I went through the metal detector and plunked down my $5 admission fee for the Clinton Museum and strolled through the exhibits being reminded anew how singularly insignificant his presidency was.

Monica’s blue dress is conspicuously absent from the exhibits.

The centerpiece of the museum is probably the reproduction of the clinton museu02Oval Office, which I have to admit is pretty cool.

I also took the free shuttle down the street to the museum gift shop where I noticed a bunch of Obama stuff.

That’s ironic, considering how Obama has neutralized Hillary’s political potency by putting her into a limited cabinet role. As Dick Morris pointed out in a column today, George W. Bush called on Bill Clinton to help with high profile projects like relief for the Asian tsunami victims and the victims of Hurricane Katrina, while the best Obama can do for him to to send him to Haiti and cut off his income from foreign speaking gigs. Whatever.

macarthur hatI also checked out the Douglas MacArthur Museum in (what else?) MacArthur Park. The melting one in the song, of course, is in Los Angeles.

It’s full of MacArthur stuff, including Doug’s famous hat.

And now I’m tired of Little Rock, sitting at Starbuck’s again, and waiting for Maria to call to be picked up for the drive home.

Little Rocking

lrstarbucks Greetings from Capitol City, as the rubes might say.

We’re in Little Rock today because Maria has a media day at the Arkansas Supreme Court and I’m killing eight hours.

Specifically, I’m at the Pike Place Starbucks near the University of Arkansas campus. I’ve got my 20 ounce cup of Gold Coast blend that it stunningly bitter,despite the addition of lots of half-and-half and sweetener. The table to my left is occupied by four Junior League-types who are apparently the planning committee for some charity ball. They look oh-so-sophisticated, but the effect is utterly destroyed by their hideous deep Arkansas accents.

Am I a linguistic snob? Well, probably. After nearly two years here, some people can still hurt my ears.

We rolled out of our driveway before sunrise at 5:40 a.m. The Garmin GPS projected an ETA of 8:20 at the Justice Building in Little Rock. I dropped Maria off at precisely 8:10 a.m., in plenty of time for the 8:30 a.m. start of the day’s activities.

Garmin showed me the way to this Starbucks and next will guide me to the BMW motorcycle dealer where I’ll inspect their t-shirt offerings and ogle bikes for awhile.

I’m using my Sprint mobile broadband cell phone link to access the Internet, rather than the AT&T Wifi at Starbucks.

Austin still doesn’t have a job, but he got word yesterday that the State of Indiana will pay him $240 a week in unemployment benefits, starting immediately. That’s very good news, because he’s been nearly penniless since he bought his car. I gave him $6 we owed him yesterday and he was out the door like a shot to put $6 worth of gas into his tank.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hey, I’m a critic

P5280001 I’m hanging out with a big coffee at Books-A-Million, having returned a rental DVD to Hastings.

I posted my first Vine Program review today – a brief treatise on a hibiscus-based drink called Ooba. I got my free 16 ounce bottle of the stuff in today’s mail, drank half of it at room temperature and the rest over ice and dashed off my impressions.

I also got a DVD copy of the movie LOOK, an innovative indie flick shot entirely on surveillance cameras. Austin and I watched it this afternoon and were impressed. I want to watch it a second time, with the director’s commentary playing, before I write my review.

I’m a little more than halfway through a Vine Program free book and I’ll probably finish it tomorrow.

Oh, great! Another snake story.

Maria passed this on to me this afternoon and it completely creeps me out.

It’s an email one of her reporters received from a friend:

SnakeI have been in and out of the driveway yesterday and today, busy as a bee. Just when you think nothing else can happen, here it comes.

I whizzed in at noon and saw a 5 ft. water moccasin snake by Alvis' garage door. After I entered on my side, I grabbed my camera and the big whisk broom and went out front. I took this photo and then began to whisk him toward the yard. He was not having any part of it. He hissed, struck at me and fought the broom hard. He was trying to wrap around the broom and finally I beat him off. He scurried into the garage and crawled up under my car. Egads, he disappeared.

Needless to say, I sure didn't want to get in the car, for fear he was inside somewhere. The horror of driving along on the highway and feel something wrap around my ankle struck fear in me for sure. I called Alvis at the Caraway for help. He came right home and popped the hood of the car--no snake. He looked under--no snake. He drove it down to Frank Smithee's garage and they put it up on the rack and got under it with flashlights. The snake was wrapped around the underneath portion near the right back wheel casing. The snake did not want to be bothered and fought them. They got hooks and it took the whole garage to unwrap him and pulled him out. Alvis said it was a big one and fat. Alvis said his hands were shaking when he got through.

My stepson Austin, who knows his snakes, says:

It was actually just a brown water snake, unless some one who knows snakes told her otherwise, I am sure that is what it is. Venomous snakes don't wrap and I did some snooping around online and compared pictures and i am sure that is what it is.

Riding the rails

Austin and I are sitting in the lower level of Union Pacific Railroad observation car, waiting to get underway a full hour after the announced departure time.
It's a free ride for the public, so I guess I can't complain.
The trip is meant to dramatize the problem of morons getting killed at railroad crossings.
Maria is here for the paper, so she's riding in the engine with her camera.


The trip was a short jaunt, just a few miles up the tracks to Brookland and back.
During the pause at Brookland, the organizers let those of us on the lower deck of the 1950s vintage observation car Columbine trade places with the folks who had stampeded ahead of us to the upper deck on the outward-bound trip.
There were about 150 of us aboard for the first trip of the day and an equal number of riders was waiting to ride by the time we got back to the station.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chrysler dealer cuts driven by politics, not economics?

The Gateway Pundit says the Obama administration – not Chrysler – has decided which dealerships to chloroform and is targeting dealers who have a history of donating to Republicans. Dealers who have supported Democrats are staying in business, he says.

If this is true, it should become a scandal of enormous proportions.

Read all about it here.

My Man Mitch back on the national stage

WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today announced Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) will deliver the weekly Republican national address on Saturday, May 30.  Gov. mitch bikeDaniels' address will cap off a week-long nationwide energy reform tour spearheaded by Congressional Republicans, who are calling for comprehensive energy reform as an alternative to the new national "cap-and-trade" energy tax advocated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Washington Democrats.

"Governor Daniels has emerged as one of our nation's leading voices for reform and common sense in government.  I'm very pleased he'll be delivering the national GOP address as Congress prepares to vote on misguided legislation that imposes a new national tax on energy," Boehner said.  "The American people know there's a better way to get to clean, affordable energy, and in Congress and in state capitals across the nation, reformers like Governor Daniels are advocating these better solutions."

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) and members of the American Energy Solutions Group this week are conducting national energy summits in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California.  The summits are being conducted to help the solutions group develop policy initiatives to lower energy prices for American families and small businesses, and create energy independence for the American people.  Witnesses are also discussing the implications of the proposed national energy tax for middle-class families and small businesses.

More minor Arkie drama

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         It's sunny and 81 degrees (heat index of 84), so I decided to enjoy the drive to the post office with the top off of the del Sol.

Nothing in the box but junk mail, but I did learn there was slightly more substance to the Brokeback Barbecue story from last Friday.

Turns out that someone printed and distributed flyers advertising the Brokeback Barbecue and its all-male wait staff, scheduled to open soon in the former A's Restaurant building just down U.S. 49 from us. Some of the flyers were left at the post office for patrons to see.

And the restaurant owner is hopping mad. The word on the street is that he knows who did it and plans to sue.

Different strokes

A woman who used to be a columnist at the newspaper I fired nine years ago for wasting my time, has a blog that I check every now and then.

Like me, she is embittered by what Gannett has done to newspapering in Indianapolis. I enjoy her posts that expose the sleazy management and abuse of talented and long-suffering journalists.

But that's about all we have in common.

She's a rabid Democrat, i.e., reflexive Republican-hater. She loved to bash G.W. Bush and is so myopic that she cheap-shots Mitch Daniels, the best governor Indiana has had in my lifetime. And she actually believed Obama should be president. At least that's what she said during the campaign. She's been strangely silent on the subject of BHO recently, so maybe she's beginning to have second thoughts about the consequences of her vote.

But what really strikes me as curious is her fondness for urban living. She seems to think there is something noble - almost pioneering - about the gentrification of older neighborhoods near downtown Indianapolis.

Recently, she has championed the cause of some guy in a near downtown neighborhood who thinks he was unjustly hassled by the cops in a dispute with a cranky neighbor over where he piled some old bricks.


I think it's particularly telling that she blogs from her rural home in a county some 50 miles west of Indianapolis.

I lived in the city for more than 20 years and whatever charm there was to it has evaporated for me. Urban pioneering strikes me as embarrassingly self-indulgent - something people do more to make a socio-political statement than to fulfill a practical need. Sorta like driving a hybrid car, which has only marginal fuel economy and creates a horrendous environmental problem when it comes to disposing of the batteries. It's all about making them feel good about themselves in a dangerously illusory way.

But that kind of brings us back to the liberal/Obama thing. Those folks want to live in a Utopian world where we worship Gaia, gladly share the wealth, and are so nice to our enemies that they can't help but love us.

Sorry, but I prefer to hang with people who are grounded in reality. I went through my moonbat phase in my 20s and thank God every day that I finally grew out of it. I just hope the loons running the country grow up before they get us all killed.

In the meantime, watch The Goode Family at 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. central tonight on ABC.

What goes around... makes you dizzy

disney04 My son Steve posted this photo of himself and Lisa on Disneyland's Mad Tea Party ride on his Facebook account.

kings2It called to mind this photo of Steve (on the left) and his brother Sean on a similar ride several years ago at Kings Island near Cincinnati. I suspect Steve had that in mind when he and Lisa posed for the Disneyland pic.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Maybe they should send someone else out to update the sign. The person who did it this week can't seem to remember which way a capital N goes, even when they have an 3-foot-tall example right in front of them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sad story


Charles Michael Porter, 14, was drowned Sunday evening when he was trying to retrieve a truck bed liner that had floated away in floodwaters.

Investigators said Porter was sucked into a drainage pipe by the rushing water from a torrential rain. His body was found shortly after 2 a.m. Monday in a drainage ditch a few blocks away.

Family and friends were on the streets today, including this young woman at the intersection of Highland and Caraway, soliciting donations to cover the boy's funeral expenses.

Lisa at Disneyland

space mountain Granddaughter Lisa and her parents Steve and Nicky at Disneyland. Saturday is Lisa’s fifth birthday.


cranky may 26

I’m feeling a bit cranky this morning.

Austin’s promised two-week repose at our house will hit the four-week mark next Sunday.

The plan was for him to get a new car, a job and an apartment by May 16.


He got the car last week, but has no money for gas and doesn’t want to drive it any significant distance until he gets the oil changed and replaces the spark plugs and plug wires (see earlier post).

We had a line on an ideal one-bedroom apartment in an excellent neighborhood and at a reasonable price, but the job hunt is stalled and there can be no apartment without a job to support it. As June 1 approaches, the likelihood of that apartment still being available has dwindled to near zero.

And I just spent $18.50 on next-day delivery for paperwork related to his unemployment payment from the State of Indiana. It arrived on  Saturday with the admonition that they required a response by tomorrow (Wednesday) for him to remain eligible. Monday’s postal holiday forced us to spend the extra bucks for next-day delivery. The postmistress suggested it would be cheaper to use the post office’s fax and call to confirm its receipt. That would be a great idea, except that the paperwork listed only a phone number for fax – none for a voice line.

Add to this my annoyance that three days of torrential rains stole my holiday weekend and you begin to see why I am not happy with how things are going right now.

Oh, and a colony of tiny black ants discovered the chocolate chip cookies that Maria baked for a friend of Austin’s serving in Afghanistan. They were being closely inspected by a patrol of ants as they lay on waxed paper on the kitchen counter this morning. Fortunately, the other half of the batch was on cookie sheets on the stove and had escaped the ants’ notice. We sprayed around the base of the kitchen cabinets, which meant keeping the dogs out of the house for the morning. And, of course, the dogs objected.

So I’m at Hastings, trying to think positive thoughts and wondering if I can escape for a few days on the bike.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Oops! A belated happy birthday to Bob Dylan


He turned 68 yesterday. Like fine wine, Dylan gets better with age.

Here's a photo I shot at the Indiana University Assembly during the 1974 "Before the Flood" tour with The Band. That's Robbie Robertson behind him.

This is your brain on crack

Damned air dam

austin beretta Austin's new '95 Chevy Beretta still hasn't gotten an oil change or new plugs and wires, but it's not for a lack of trying.

Austin initially discovered he can't get under the car to work because it's frame is too close to the ground.

So he decided he needed a pair or ramps. Our BMW friend Charlie has a pair and he dropped them off Saturday evening. But when Austin aligned them with his front tires, he noticed the plastic air dam was in the way and would be damaged  because of the steep incline of the ramps.

I observed that there was about a 2" drop off of the end of our concrete driveway, which might lessen the problem. We checked it out and found he still needed another inch or two of clearance.

So our neighbor brought over some thick pieces of wood that looked like they would do the trick when placed on the concrete, snugged up against the edge.

Austin lined up with the ramps, crept forward and up, the air dam clearing the ramps. Then he stopped about half-way up. The neighbor and I motioned for him to creep up a little farther. Instead, the car lurched forward and over the ends of the ramps, hanging by its frame.

After some discussion about the relative risks of jacking the car up and removing the ramps, of enlisting the neighbor's brother-in-law to use his tractor's front-end loader to lift the car by its frame, I noticed the one on the driver's side of the car looked like it hardly had any weight on it. With the neighbor lifting on the left front wheel well, we were able to slide the ramp out.

The other ramp was pinned, but Austin freed it by jacking up that side of the car.

It started to rain about this time and Austin decided it made more sense to just pay someone to change his oil, plugs and wires.

He did, however, change one plug and concluded the engine now runs smoother.

The morning after

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         No fire in our new fire pit today. It's full of water.

This is the 6-foot-wide, foot-deep fire pit Austin dug a couple of weeks ago. We still need to ring it with decorative stones and array 6 or 7 stump seats around it before we'll call it finished.

But after last yesterday's deluge (I didn't have my rain gauge out, but it had to be more than 2 inches), the fire pit is now a maternity ward for mosquitoes. The shot also shows three of our four woodpiles, reminders of the January ice storm. They're also a work in progress, since we still have more chainsaw work to do.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Did I mention that it rains here?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         It's a rainy, sleepy holiday weekend Sunday.

Pete and Ruthie ran out into the pouring rain first thing this morning and promptly got soaked to the point that we didn't want to let them back into the house.

Our house has no gutters and there is a valley in the roofline near the back door that channels rainwater into a veritable cascade. It apparently strikes Pete as a bad thing, because he attacks the stream of water and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         bites it. (See photo above.)

We went to 10:30 a.m. Mass and then to Lowe's where Maria bought a small can of paint to try out a new color for the guest bathroom.

Then there were naps and the last half of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and now we're getting cabin fever and preparing to sally forth again in the deluge to rent a DVD and maybe buy more paint.

Do we know how to have fun, or what?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Setting the record straight on Iwo Jima

iwojimaphil[3] This being Memorial Day Weekend (I cringe when I hear some moron call it “Memorial Weekend”), Maria has s fitting column in the paper today.
She recounted the story of how we helped one of the forgotten Iwo Jima first flag-raisers get the recognition he had been denied more than 60 years. Unfortunately, the recognition came a few months after his death, but his family and fellow Marines appreciated the effort.
Phil Ward was a Marine from Crawfordsville, Ind. who was a member of the patrol sent up Mount Suribachi fairly early in the battle for Iwo Jima and at a point where there were still plenty of Japanese holed up in the mountain that had been transformed into a veritable fortress. Ward and his buddies were tasked with raising the Stars and Stripes on the summit of Suribachi, the highest point on the island.
They found a piece of water pipe, tied the flag to it and jammed it into the ground. Ray Jacobs, the last surviving member of that patrol, told me in a phone interview that they immediately heard shouts and cheers from the Marines below and in seconds the Navy ships anchored just offshore took up the din with sirens and horns.
Jacobs didn’t say so, but I suspect it was the high point of his entire life.
A Marine combat photographer by the name of Lou Lowrey was there and shot several photos of the event.
The moment was short-lived however, because they immediately came under fire from Japanese hidden in caves in the cone of the volcanic crater of Suribachi.
Lowrey scrambled for cover and fell a short distance down the slope, damaging his camera.
Later that day, a larger, more conspicuous flag was sent up the mountain. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who died a few months ago, won a Pulitzer Prize for his iconic photo of that second flag-raising.
By chance, Rosenthal’s images were transmitted to San Francisco first and Lowrey’s pictures, however historic, never got the attention they deserved. Likewise, the men in that first flag-raising patrol faded into the mists of history. One man, John Bradley, participated in both flag-raisings. His son James wrote about the second flag-raising in “Flags of Our Fathers,” a best-selling book that Clint Eastwood turned into a major motion picture.
Rosenthal’s flag-raising picture was published on the front page of nearly every newspaper in the United States and was the inspiration for the U.S. Marine War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery. The Marine Corps became so heavily invested in the image that very little effort was made to set the record straight on the men and the circumstances of the first flag-raising.
In fact, official Marine Corps histories denied that Phil Ward and Ray Jacobs were among the men in the Lowrey photos, even though they and their families knew better.
Phil Ward returned home to Crawfordsville where he lived out the rest of his life until he died of cancer just after Christmas, 2005. It was generally known that he had fought on Iwo Jima, but just about nobody in town knew he was among the first flag-raisers.
Maria was managing editor of the Crawfordsville Journal Review at the time. The day his obit ran in the paper, Maria got a call from Chuck Tatum, another Marine Iwo vet living in California, telling her about Phil’s contribution to history on Suribachi.
Knowing I’m a World War II history buff, Maria called me at home and gave me Chuck’s phone number.
Together, and with the help of young historian Dustin Spence, a California theatre student who hoped to play the role of Phil Ward in the Eastwood movie, we unraveled the story. It wasn't easy because Leatherneck, the official Marine Corps magazine, resisted the idea that Ward and Jacobs were in the Lowery photos. The editor of the magazine told me flat-out that they might have been on the mountain, but they’re not in the pictures.
Over the next few months, Spence put together a comprehensive presentation that, fueled by the publicity created by the Journal Review and carried worldwide by the AP, persuaded the Marines to amend the record and officially recognize Phil and Ray as being in the Lowery pictures. Incidentally, it was only through Spence’s research that James Bradley learned his dad had also been among the first flag-raisers – the only Marine to participate in both events. Apparently the elder Bradley never thought it was important enough to mention. Bradley subsequently updated later editions of his book to include Ward and Jacobs.
Jacobs, who went on to become a newscaster in the San Francisco area, was the last surviving participant of either flag-raising. He died Jan. 29, 2008 at the age of 82 of natural causes in a Redding, Calif., hospital.

Saturday morning

I’m enjoying a Saturday morning to myself. Maria and Austin went to the ASU Farmers Market and then off to Walmart in search of a set of car ramps so Austin can crawl under his “new” car and change the flodriveoil, spark plugs and spark plug wires. He already replaced the air filter that was so clogged with cotton that it looked like the car had been driven through a cotton field just before harvest.

The car runs kinda doggy and Austin is hopeful these tweaks will correct the problem and make it a bit more fuel efficient.

In the meantime, I hit the post office and then drove to Hastings where they steadfastly refused to send any one over to the cafe to sell me a cup of coffee. OK, fuck ‘em.

Now I’m back at my usual spot at Books-A-Million where I get 10% off my coffee and don’t have to listen to crappy music.

Friday, May 22, 2009

This should irk all of the right people...

Strange days

Former Indianapolis News compadre Art Harris emailed me a few minutes ago to alert me to a story being carried by the Indianapolis FOX affiliate about a deceased 750-pound woman, whose body was removed from her home on a flatbed truck.

There is apparently great outrage that the Marion County Coroner’s office would be so callous as to haul her down the street on the flatbed.

You can see the video here.

In other odd news, the ladies at the Brookland post office were all a-twitter this morning because someone told them the barbecue restaurant going into the vacant restaurant building across U.S. 49 from the new Citgo will be named Brokeback Barbecue and will hire only male waiters.

I think someone is yanking their chain. It’s working. They were really scandalized and outraged.

Giving the Subaru a taste of something new

GTX_HighMileage_1Qt_Generic_CLR_300The Subaru needed 2.5 quarts of oil to bring the level back up on the dipstick.

Austin reminded me yesterday that there are special blends for high-mileage cars that accommodate looser engine tolerances, so I drove to Auto Zone and bought three quarts of Castrol GTX High Mileage motor oil.

I’ll check the oil level daily and will be interested to see if we use less of this stuff than Pennzoil I’d been adding.

Easy Reader

ativa 52 I think I may have found the ultimate memory card reader, especially for laptops and netbooks.

Office Depot had the Ativa 52-in-1 Memory Card Reader on sale for $10 off the regular $29.99 price. And what’s even better, it’s also a 3-port USB 2.0 hub.

I’d been thinking my Mini 9 could use a USB hub to augment its three ports. The hub also comes with a power cord that the manual suggests will assure “stable power” while in use. I’m working without the power cord at the moment and suspect I’ll never need it.

As the name suggests, it has four slots that accommodate 52 types of digital memory cards, most of which I’ve never heard of. All I have at the moment is CompactFlash, SD and xD, but who knows what our next gizmo will use?

Anyhow, it’s a lot of extra functionality for only $19.99, even if the 8% sale tax bumps it up to $21.59.

One problem solved, another persists

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Here's one of the first photos shot with my new Olympus Stylus 850SW. It's Maria, of course, as she was leaving for work this morning.

I've been hankering for a small, rugged digital camera to complete my travel electronics/blogging package and I found it last night for $158 at Sam's Club.

This is a slightly less robust and lower-res version of the camera I recommended for my BMW friend Charlie for his motorcycle trip to Alaska850SW last year. I shoots 8 megapixel images and is shock (can be dropped from as high as 5 feet) and water (down to 10 feet) resistant, hence the S (shock) and W (water) in the name.

Like all point-and-shoot digital cameras, it's menu-driven, which means I'm studying the manual to figure out how to make it do all of its tricks.

I'd hoped to get a camera that used a conventional SD memory card. This uses a smaller, Olympus xD card, so I'll have to buy a card reader to download photos to my Mini 9 rather than use the built-in SD card reader. In the end, the advertised ability of the camera to take abuse on the road trumped the inconvenience of an oddball memory card.

I got interested in the SW line of Olympus Stylus digitals through the blog of Jill Homer, an Alaskan newspaperwoman who posts spectacular photos of the places she rides her mountain/trail bike. Check out her blog: Up In Alaska

Maria drove the del Sol to work this morning because the oil warning light is flickering again on the Subaru.

I was under the impression that this problem was solved with the installation of a new PCV valve at the Memphis Subaru dealership just before Maria and Austin make their Indiana trip last week.pennzoil10w-40

I asked Austin to check the oil regularly and, if necessary, add one of the two quarts of Pennzoil 10W40 I sent along with them. Driving home from Walmart last night, I noticed the oil light flickering and discovered that, through some miscommunication, nobody had checked the oil during or after the trip - a situation that led me to believe the problem was solved. Maria thought Austin said he had checked it and vice versa. And just to make sure I couldn't top it off with those two quarts of Pennziol, Maria gave them to her father in Indiana because it looked like they needed the room for Austin's stuff.

So it's off to Auto Zone again this morning for more oil. And the mystery of the disappearing oil continues. No leaks on the ground and no blue smoke from the tailpipe. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thursday, May 21, 2009


cmf office fisheye This fisheye photo dates from around 1972. It’s my dad and his secretary in his insurance agency on the north side of the courthouse square in Delphi, Ind.

The multi-drawer cabinet behind the secretary’s desk now stands beside my desk at home.

"What are you people doing up here?"

uganda ENTEBBE, Uganda (AFP) – Africans must travel to the moon to investigate what developed nations have been doing in outer space, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Saturday.

"The Americans have gone to the moon. And the Russians. The Chinese and Indians will go there soon. Africans are the only ones who are stuck here," Museveni said, addressing a meeting of the Uganda Law Society in Entebbe.

"We must also go there and say: 'What are you people doing up here?'"

Museveni urged the assembly of Uganda's top lawyers to support East African integration, arguing that one of the region's goals should be to develop a space program.

"Uganda alone cannot go to the moon. We are too small. But East Africa united can. That is what East African integration is all about," he said. "Then we can say to the Americans: 'What are you doing here all alone?'."

Museveni has vocally campaigned for a common East African economic and political zone.

Negotiations to establish a tariff free trade zone including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda have been ongoing for months.

Museveni on Saturday also called for enhanced political integration among the East African nations, suggesting the region would be strengthened by becoming one country.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Breathing easier

austin chevy I'm breathing easier today for a number of reasons.

First, Austin found his tax check, which we deposited immediately into his local checking account.

Second, he bought a car. (See photo above, shot with my cell phone's crappy camera) It's a very clean looking 1995 Chevy Beretta with 160,000 miles on the odometer and a decent set of tires. A friend hooked him up with a used car dealer, who knocked $700 off of his $1,850 asking price.

So now the lad is mobile and I can retire again from my chauffeur job while he continues his quest for a job.

And third, the new convenience store/gas station just down the road opened this morning. This is a big deal for me because they have a Subway and I'm giving serious thought to going on the "Jared" Subway diet. At the very least, it's an agreeable, handy place for lunch.

Thanks for visiting

My Feedjit gizmo logs visitors to this blog by city, state, country, and time of day. It also indicates the visitor's browser type and OS.

But the most interesting data to me is how many get here on purpose, rather than stumble across my blog in a Google search or some other referring mechanism.

I can guess who some of you are, but others remain unknown to me.

Here's the roll call of visitors who came in through the front door in the last 24 hours or so:

  • Las Vegas - my son Steve or daughter-in-law Nicky
  • Lafayette, Ind. - Probably Karen T.
  • Fairplay, Colo - Tim B.
  • Carmel, Ind. - Probably Alan P.
  • Bloomington - Either Shaylan O. or Morgan D.
  • Indianapolis - Probably Lauri S.
  • Flora, Ind. - Eric F.
  • Memphis - Probably Tim H.
  • Plymouth, Ind. ?
  • Jonesboro, Ark. - ?
  • Jessup, Md. - ?
  • Walnut Ridge, Ark. - ?
  • United States - ? (Using Windows 98!)
  • Carterville, Ill. - ?

There may be others who are in stealth mode because they clicked the "Ignore my browser" option in Feedjit. I hope not, because I like knowing I'm not just mumbling to myself here.

Thanks for checking in. I hope you find my blog interesting.

Two heartbeats from the Presidency

Enigmatic photo of the day


I have no idea.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy 64th Birthday, Pete

townshend Today is the 64th birthday of Pete Townshend of the Who and arguably the best guitarist in the history of rock.

Happy Birthday, Pete!

What next?

gps networkDavid Coursey, writing in PC World, warns that the GPS satellite system has been so badly neglected by the U.S. Air Force – the agency charged with its maintenance – that it could begin to fail as early as next year.

That’s disastrous news for the U.S. Military, myriad government and private agencies, trucking, surveying, God knows who else, and of course me.

Wrapped too tight

I think I may be wrapped a little too tight. Or have too much caffeine in my system.

Austin, who is still with us after the initial deadline of two weeks, announced this morning that he has misplaced his federal tax refund check for $900+.

I watched him retrieve it from the Subaru when he and Maria returned from Indiana Sunday night, so it has to be somewhere in the house. That check, plus his final paycheck from his last employer, represents his financial resources for the move to

I’m trying hard not to let my head explode or to lapse into lethal sarcasm, but carelessness on this scale makes me freaking crazy. I asked why he didn’t just put it into his wallet. He said, “I thought you weren’t supposed to fold a check.”


On the positive side of the ledger, he swapped the title for his junked car for $25 cash from the salvage yard.

So I guess the news isn’t all bad.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Using my cell phone for an Internet modem

PalmTreo700p_clouds OK, so I don’t need the Sprint 3G wireless dongle and the added $60/month after all.

I went to the Sprint site and downloaded the software that lets me use my 3G-enabled cell phone as a wireless Internet modem. I’m already paying for unlimited Internet connectivity on my phone, so there’s no added charge when I use is as a modem for my netbook.

After a little fumbling around, I got hooked up and am now blogging via a cell phone connection on my Mini 9.

It’s not as sexy as the Compass 597, but it works and it charges my phone at the same time.

How cool is that?

They're baaaaaack

Maria and Austin rolled in about 10:30 last night, the Subaru Forester jammed with Austin's stuff.

They also brought back seven bottles of Indiana-made Red Gold ketchup, a hard-to-find item here in northeast Arkansas. It's our fave. Beats the hell out of Heinz and other lesser brands.

We just finished unloading the car this morning after rearranging the furniture in the guest room to accommodate the big flat-screen TV Steve and Nicky gave him a few Christmases ago, and his X-Box 360.

Having an X-Box in the house could be a serious time-waster for me. I might just go nuts and buy a copy of Call of Duty and re-fight WWII if my resistance fails.

Maria had a great time with her friend Lauri and her family during her return to Indiana. Austin had the predictable unpleasant encounter with his dad and his feral step-siblings. I think he finally decided to say, "Fuck 'em." Maria's ex is bound and determined to remain estranged from his own kids, partially because of the toxic influence of his nasty wife and partially because he's just an emotionally dysfunctional moron.

Whatever. Now Austin gets to have a new life and new opportunities in Arkansas.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The REALLY inconvenient truth for global warming alarmists


Who knew vine-logo_60._V29889782_all of those reviews I wrote on would add up to something?

I logged into my account yesterday and found an invitation to their Vine reviewer program.

It's an offer to those of us who write coherent, useful reviews of stuff sold on, to receive free stuff to review. I'm all in favor of free stuff, so I signed on immediately.

The last time they posted a list of available stuff was April 23, so it was pretty well picked over and down to a handful of books - mostly fiction and heavy on stuff for teens. I did, however, find an interesting book by a guy who got seduced into mountaineering in Colorado and went from an ordinary Joe to a dedicated peak-bagger.

I clicked on it and says today that it shipped to me via FedEd yesterday.

Needless to say, I'm checking regularly for the next listing of free stuff.

According to their data, I've written 71 reviews over the years. A total of 885 of the 1,023 people who offered an opinion about my reviews said they found them helpful, for a score of 87 percent. I am number 7,752 in the "Classic Reviewer" rankings, whatever the hell that means.

Jonesing for the Compass 597

Compass_597_Sprint This makes the Mini 9 netbook package complete.

I went to the Sprint website to pay my cell phone bill this afternoon and found an offer of a free Compass 597 EVDO dongle. Well, kinda free. They claim it's worth about a $250 retail. To get one free, I need to sign a new two-year contract for Sprint service and pay an additional $60 a month.

This thing plugs into a USB slot on a laptop computer and voila, I have the same 3G wireless Internet service that I get on my Treo 700p smartphone. This, plus the built-in Wifi would make my travels with my Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook considerably easier. It would also make it possible to be online while traveling in a car.


This is tempting. Very tempting. But $60 a month is a little too painful at the moment, so it will probably have to wait.

Time flies

How did it get to be afternoon so quickly?

I got up about 7:30 a.m., put the dogs out and the coffee on and pulled on some clothes.

I did a couple of loads of dark clothes and still have some whites and sheets to launder.

I also rebooted my desktop computer in hopes of resetting my DVD software. A reboot take about an hour because of my confused hard drive, so I used the Mini 9 for awhile, checking email and recharging the battery from yesterday morning's session at Books-A-Million.

Maria called to say she and Austin were wrapping up their time in Indiana and plan to come home to Arkansas today.

And I wrote reviews of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook computer and the nifty little neoprene carrying case I use for it.

Now it's about 12:20 p.m. and Pete is nuzzling my left wrist to tell me he wants me to open the back door for him.

So I will.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My exciting weekend takes off

books01 It’s Saturday morning at Books-A-Million and I have my 20 ounce coffee at hand.

I had my Mini 9 set up at another table, but had to move when I noticed the guy at a table directly behind me had a persistent books02productive cough and bad sinus drainage. I don’t like to think of  myself as paranoid about disease, but I’m smart enough to minimize my exposure when I notice it. So I gathered up my stuff and moved to another table on the other side of the cafe.

It rained overnight and there is more rain in the forecast all day, so whatever thoughts I might have had about motorcycling will have to wait until tomorrow. Likewise, no lawn mowing today.

Maria called about 9 a.m. (10 her time) to say she was on her way to Bainbridge to collect Austin and his stuff. Their to-do list includes closing out his checking account at the State Bank of Lizton – something like a $50 transaction, but still worth the time as long as they’re in Indiana.

I served up the last of the IAMS dog food this morning when I filled food bowls, so my to-do list includes picking up another 40 pound bag, probably at Sam’s Club.

I also did some Internet exploring this morning for ways to tweak the performance of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9. I have no complaints, but more memory is always better. I discovered I can double the RAM from 1GB to 2GB for about $28, so I whipped out the credit card and ordered a 2GB chip from Crucial Technology. Happily, the intelligent design of the Mini 9 makes a RAM swap an easy 5-minute job.

The SSD (solid state drive) that came with the Mini is 8GB and I have an 8GB SanDisk thumb drive plugged into one of the USB ports, so I don’t have a burning desire for more hard drive capacity. The last time I checked, SSDs were available in sizes up to 32GB. They can only get bigger and cheaper, so there’s no rush.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Running wild


I’m living the wild life of a bachelor with Maria out of town for the weekend.

After considerable thought and weighing all of my options, I chose the Subway just off of the ASU campus as my stylish dinner venue. I treated myself to a window seat and watched what looked for all the world like a drug deal taking place in the parking lot.

Now, I’m hanging out with a large coffee at Hastings while I plan my next adventure.

That will probably involve going home, flipping channels, drinking a little wine, and going to bed early.

Life off the leash is pretty intense, you know.

I had to go to the post office this afternoon to return some rental DVDs and mail a book I sold on And I went a little crazy and blew $8.80 on a block of the new Simpsons postage stamp. God knows what crazy thing I’ll do next.simpsons stamps

My Man Mitch

mitchrideMy Man Mitch - Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels - has an excellent op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal discussing the ruinous effects of the Democrat-proposed "cap and trade" legislation.

I suggest you click here and read it.

Here's a photo taken two years ago this month when I (far left) went for a motorcycle ride with Mitch (far right) and the Indiana Commissioner of Correction. The guy in the middle was publisher of the Crawfordsville newspaper at the time.

Mitch rides a Harley-Davidson, but he seemed OK with me being on a BMW. He's an excellent rider, BTW definitely not a biker wannabe or a poser.