Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Steve!

steves14 My son Steve is 39 years old today. Here he is blowing out the candles on his 14th birthday.

He makes me very proud.

To the Cape and back

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         We retrieved Maria's '94 K75S from Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo., this morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         We were up at 6 a.m. and on the road by 7:25 a.m., arriving at Grass Roots sometime around 9:30 a.m.

Maria entertained Cleo, the shop dog, while I settled up. The bill OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         was  more than expected (of course): $421. But that's about all we've spent on maintaining that bike in the past five years, so I guess we  can't complain.

I'm way out of practice when it comes to riding in chilly weather, having been spoiled by the 10-month riding season here in northeast Arkansas. I figured I would be comfortable in the low 50s with a turtleneck, Gerbings heated jacket liner and BMW Savanna jacket and pants. I also had my Gerbings heated gloves, but chose not to plug them in because they get too hot in all but the coldest weather. Hah!

The heated liner generated a pathetic amount of heat and I felt uncomfortably chilly for the first 96 miles of the ride, which took us to the Dairy Queen in Kennett, Mo., hometown of Cheryl Crow. Fortunately, Maria had brought her new Columbia fleece jacket, which she lent me for the rest of the ride. It made a huge difference.

It I'd had my wits about me, I would have worn one of my windstopper pullovers over the turtleneck, and then my old First Gear TKO jacket with the Gerbing-wired liner, which performs way better than the stand-alone liner.

We got home about 1:30 p.m., in plenty of time to get down to the paper by 3:30 p.m. to photograph trick-or-treaters in their costumes for a couple of hours.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bringing the K75S home

mariafullc The rain stopped a couple of hours ago and the parking lot outside Hastings is dry. The weather folks say that’s all the rain we’re getting for a few days, so that means a road trip early tomorrow morning to Cape Girardeau, Mo.

That’s where the Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles mechanics have restored Maria’s 1994 K75S to good health after it started hemorrhaging gear oil several months ago.

We’ll try to be there shortly after they open at 9 a.m. I’ll ride it home and Maria will lead/follow in the Subaru. It will be kinda brisk tomorrow morning, what with the cold front that came in behind the two days of rain, so Gerbings heated clothing will be in order for the ride home.

I love that little bike. It’s so nimble and fun to ride. I prefer it to my K1200GT for city riding.

Pray for the general

obama mccrystal Click on the image to see it full-size. Feel free to copy and circulate it.

Dogette rules

I come across exceptional blogs every now and then and this morning was the best this fall - maybe this year. And it's actually a rediscovery - I already had it in my recommended links over there on the right side of the page. I just didn't recognize the name.

It's but it's been redesigned under the name of "The Blair Dog Project" and the author goes by the name of Dogette. She commented on one of my posts this morning and I followed the electronic trail of bread crumbs back to her revamped blog and was stunned anew by her entertaining, snarky cleverness.

Here's an excerpt to pique your curiosity :

I was working up a post about the dog farting every afternoon at the same time, over by a certain window. Then I got distracted with something else so my plans for a bigger more in-depth post on this have been tabled.

That first sentence is the funniest, most whimsical sentence I've read this year.

If you enjoy my blog, put The Blair Dog Project on your daily reading list. Just don't forget to come back here when you're done.



I think it's working...


The cortisone seems to be working. I have a little more feeling in the left side of my lower lip and chin. The problem, stemming from Tuesday morning's dental surgery, involves the green nerve and maybe some of the orange and yellow branches under it.

The cortisone is supposed to act as a king hell anti-inflammatory to enhance the healing process. More on this later. I know you're fascinated.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ready for the deluge

breitling hat I’m hunkered down with an insulated cup of Rio Azul at Hastings, waiting for the deluge to begin. I’m dressed for the occasion in my Gerry Gore-Tex anorak.

And I’m drowning out the crappy music on the PA with my comprehensive Steely Dan collection on my iPod. God, I love Steely Dan. The music is so cool, catchy and clever and the production values are absolutely impeccable.schnee

In the meantime, friend Tim Balough just sent me this photo from his deck high above Alma, Colo. where the sky has been falling for the last day or so. He said he got the last of his fleet of motorcycles into the shop just before the snow started.

Puzzling evidence

The stitches in my gum came out this morning and the good news is that the incision is healing nicely and that I have yet to experience any post-op pain or even mild

The bad news is that I’ve got some nerve damage. I have no feeling on the left point of my chin and radiating up to the left side of my lower lip. The endodontist gave me a prescription today for a steroid, that he thinks will probably reduce the inflammation and let the nerve return to normal.

At the same time, my left foot plantar fasciitis (Christ! Have I got enough ailments?) has mostly gone away. How bizarre. I had an appointment with a podiatrist this afternoon but considering that my symptoms are mostly gone and that I’m taking a steroid for the nerve problem and that it’s probably what the podiatrist would use to treat plantar fasciitis, we decided to scrub the afternoon appointment and reschedule if the problem recurs.

Could the nerve in my jaw have some connection with the nerves in my left heel? Seems improbable, but the fact that both went painless on Tuesday is certainly curious.

Gargen variety misspellings


Yet another gem from the post office community bulletin board.

Does this guy actually go around talking about his “gargen” tractor? Or his “equiptment?”

Looks like rain

curwx_600x405 328 AM CDT THU OCT 29 2009











Bovine Benediction

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         JONESBORO, Ark. - I got a wave from the Chick fil-A cow yesterday morning as I left the Mall at Turtle Creek with my dead computer in the trunk.

There's a Chick fil-A restaurant on the northeast corner of King and Stadium.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Computer thoughts

blackwidowBalcXDuet 2 My Dell XPS 700 lies dead in the trunk of my del Sol as I sip Sumatra coffee at Barnes & Noble.

I’m resigned to using laptops until I can decide on a desktop computer purchase, so I bought a Thermaltake BlacX Duet dual hard drive docking station for the two SATA drives I’ve pulled from the massive XPS case. It will give me access to much if not all of the data I had at my disposal when the XPS was still working when I link them with the Sony VAIO laptop.

The 7GB solid state hard drive in my Mini 9 is running out of space, thanks to constant use and frequent Microsoft updates to Windows
XP. Consequently, I’m on the cusp of replacing it with a 32GB SSD. That should serve my netbook computing needs until the next drop in SSD prices when I can crank it up to 64GB or beyond.

(Moore’s Law, promulgated in 1965 by Gordon Moore of Intel, holds that technology advances at a consistent pace, making it possible to double the number of transistors on a chip every 18 months. This is often paraphrased to read: The processing power per unit cost doubles every 18 months.)

Applying Moore’s Law, the money I spent in December, 2006 on my XPS system, should buy four times the computing power today. Or, conversely, the same computing power for one-fourth the cost. I’m about to find out where I want to be on that continuum, since I don’t plan to spend so much this time.

Still numb

The left side of my lower lip and nearby jaw area are still numb, 24 hours after yesterday's dental surgery.

The endodontist said there might be a problem with a nerve, but left the impression that it would be temporary, so I'm not worried yet. The good news is that my tongue is back to normal and so is my sense of taste. And the lack of sensation has been accompanied by a complete absence of pain.

I got a call yesterday afternoon from the Geek Squad wanting a final verdict on what I want to do with my old XPS with the broken motherboard. I told them I'll pick it up today, so that's where I'm heading now.

More later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We're giving 10% of our swine flu vaccine to other countries? WTF?

( – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Wednesday that one in 10 doses of the swine-flu vaccine purchased by the U.S. will be donated to other nations before the U.S. demand for the vaccine is filled.
Sebelius also told a Senate committee that vaccine production is well behind demand. 
“What we said is once we have 40 million doses (of the vaccine), the donation can start,” Sebelius told “There’s an obama_and_sebelius agreement (of) 10 percent donation that 11 nations have made,” she said. 
HHS has ordered about 250 million doses of the vaccine, so the donation would begin after the U.S. received just 16 percent of its original order. 
Sebelius made the remarks at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the government's preparations for dealing with the H1N1 flu virus outbreak. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also provided testimony at the hearing.
The nation’s top health bureaucrat said the government would still donate to foreign nations part of the stock of vaccine purchased by the U.S. government despite delays in getting the vaccine to American citizens, which she said puts the nation “at the point where demand is ahead of the yield.”
“We will do our best to ramp up the production and continue to push it out the door,” Sebelius said.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) asked Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebilius why the United States should get vaccinations ahead of people in other countries, including those in countries that are producing the vaccine for the United States. ( Starr)

When Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) had his turn to question Sebelus, he raised the issue of whether the United States was "entitled" to the vaccine more than other nations. "Why should we be more entitled, the U.S. be more entitled to that vaccine than some other country in the world?"
Sebelius responded: "Well, I think the balance is difficult. The president clearly has made it clear that his priority is safety and security of the American people, and immediately he also adds that we're a global partner. So we have joined now with 11 nations in terms of 10 percent of the vaccine will be made available to developing countries."
Sebelius said that Congress had “wisely” included funds in the last supplemental appropriations bill to allow HHS to place large orders of the vaccine well in advance. 
“The orders are filled in priority terms, so we are really at the front of the line with some of these (manufacturers) in terms of getting the vaccine as it is produced,” she added. 
When speaking with after the hearing, Sebelius also emphasized the needs of developing countries. 
Asked whether Americans should be prioritized over foreigners with the stockpile of H1N1 vaccine that HHS has ordered using taxpayer funds, Sebelius said: “Well, I think that we are trying to do both things simultaneously--participating is part of our partnership with 11 other countries in terms of donating to developing countries.”
“There’s an agreement (on) 10 percent donation that 11 nations have made, at the same time trying to get the vaccine out to Americans," said Sebelius. "What we said is once we have 40 million doses, the donation can start.”
Referring to the production delay for the vaccine, Sebelius told “We had hoped that that would be a little earlier, but we are working with these 11 nations through the World Health Organization (WHO) to help get the vaccines to countries particularly who can't purchase them. I mean, that’s really the issue is the countries who don’t have the wherewithal to purchase vaccines. We need to make available some of the vaccine that is available to the developed nations.”
When tried to clarify whether the donation would happen once the delay in production was over and all of the U.S. demand had been met, Sebelius said that was not the case. 
“Well, no," she said. "Forty million doses was the initial benchmark and so once that is in this country, then 10 percent of the (doses are donated), and we’ll make up the rest. That’s what the other nations are doing too--England, New Zealand, and Australia and Germany and Spain are all participating in this kind of global effort.”
HHS has ordered about 250 million doses of swine flu vaccine, both in injection and nasal mist forms, which they expect to administer through the spring. The U.S. population is about 307 million.

Helluva way to spend a Tuesday morning

I'm back home after a stressful couple of hours with an endodontist.

This morning's exercise in discomfort was a apicoectomy and  retrograde filling.

Translated, that means he sliced into the gum on the outside of my lower back left tooth and scraped away the jaw bone to excavate a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         pocket of infection below the root that was the result of a botched root canal a few years ago by an Indianapolis endodontist. Then he filled in the crater and stitched up my gum with a half-dozen sutures.

All for a mere $727.

I was offered nitrous oxide, but declined. I hate the smell of that stuff.

Now, three hours later, the left half of my jaw and my tongue are still numb, but I can feel an occasional twinge of pain that tells me this could get ugly soon. Time to refresh the ice pack.

I get to go back Thursday morning to have the sutures removed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Buick furniture van

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         JONESBORO, Ark. - Who knew you could move a couch and recliner with a Buick?

We spotted this woman southbound on Stadium at Highland about 1 p.m. today. The back seat is jammed with cushions and the trunk is up, blocking her rearview mirror. It looks like the rear suspension is close to maximum compression. And to make it even more challenging, she's talking on her cell phone.

Bad news from the Geek Squad


Ok, so the picture’s a little dramatic, but it adds up to the same thing – my three-year-old Dell XPS 700 is probably hosed.

Tim with the Geek Squad called this morning with the bad news: I need a new motherboard ($200+$300 labor) and there’s no guarantee that the motherboard failure hasn’t fried the processor (another $200 or so). So that’s at least $500 plus the $200 I paid Friday for a copy of Windows 7 to get me where I want to be. And I would still have a mostly three-year-old computer that may have other stuff on the verge of failure.

He says he can put me into a comparable system at Best Buy for $800-$900 and that’s with Windows 7 already installed, so I could return the unopened package and knock $200 off the out-of-pocket cost, so we’re talking about an additional expense of $600-$700.

I told him I need to think about it.

The first thing I need to do is go to the Dell web site and see what kind of system I can put together that will have the capabilities I want for less than what I’d pay at Best Buy. That scenario also lets me return the Windows 7 package for a $200 refund.

Anyone have any other suggestions (no Macs, please)?

My Man Mitch

From today’s Washington Times:

By Frank Donatelli

Imagine a two-term Republican governor from a state carried by Barack Obama who turned an $800 million deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus by cutting overhead and bringing sound business principles to his state's government even as he provided new health benefits for poor citizens. Imagine no longer. Indiana Gov. Mitch mitch bikeDaniels accomplished this and more, and he did it all while enacting the biggest tax cut in state history.

Despite a long career in public service, Mr. Daniels is not nearly as well-known as some of his colleagues. He worked for several years on Capitol Hill as chief aide to Sen. Richard G. Lugar and served former President Ronald Reagan as political director. After a 15-year stint in private business, Mr. Daniels became former President George W. Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget and then won back-to-back gubernatorial races in 2004 and 2008 in Indiana. His second victory was won with the biggest vote total of any candidate for any office in state history.

Despite his relatively low public profile, Mr. Daniels has been a successful, reform-minded, conservative governor. He took office in 2005 with a huge deficit and state spending growing at an unsustainable 6 percent rate.

But Mr. Daniels is not one to kick the can down the road. He immediately went to work finding savings wherever he could. Cost-cutting and businesslike practices cured the state's operational deficit, but Indiana, like virtually every other state, also faced a huge shortfall in capital infrastructure funds. Mr. Daniels tackled that with the largest public-private partnership in U.S. history, a lease of the Indiana Toll Road, which brought the state nearly $4 billion for investment in transportation plus billions more to modernize the Toll Road itself.

In an interview, Mr. Daniels explained the impediments to conservative reform. "One is the public-sector employee unions who benefit from higher government spending and oppose pro-taxpayer reforms such as contracting for basic services."

There is also the need to convince employees and state legislators who are often "far more comfortable with preserving the way things have always been rather than seeing what we could do to make things better."

Mr. Daniels also reformed health care in Indiana, including organizing at no public expense a program that connected 250,000 low-income people with free or heavily discounted drug programs. His Healthy Indiana Plan is on its way to providing 130,000 more families with low-cost health insurance in a consumerist, Health Savings Account-like format.

Mr. Daniels continues to play Cassandra with his warnings about the continuing financial crunch states will face in coming years. As he recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "We're facing a near permanent reduction in state revenues that will require us to reduce the size and scope of our state governments."

Mr. Daniels says sales-tax revenues will not increase nearly as fast as in previous recoveries and that states will not be able to count on huge revenue increases from high-income earners to finance ever-higher government expenditures. Always the reformer, though, he notes, "This gives us another opportunity to show Americans the virtues of smaller, more effective government."

On the national level, Mr. Daniels believes the time is right for Republicans to make a fresh appeal to young voters (he won the youth vote by wide margins in both his races). "Our deficit levels threaten the well-being of the next generation," he said ominously. "We are stealing from our sons and daughters."

He also believes Americans are ready for a frank discussion about the real role of government, "Are we a nation of free individuals who take responsibility for our own actions, or should we just forfeit freedom and turn everything over to the federal government?"

Here he pivots to what really drives his governing style, "We need to be talking not about ideology, but practical results. Government should do fewer things than it tries to do today, everything, but we should make sure that it does the very best job possible on its core responsibilities. I am interested first and foremost in what works and what improves the lives of the citizens of my state. We always have to be on the side of change. We intend to be the drivers of change right up until my final day as governor of Indiana."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No desktop computer for 5-6 weeks

The Best Buy Geek Squad guy called about 8:30 p.m. yesterday to say they need the power cable for my Dell XPS 700 because they don't have any power cables heavy enough to run it.geek_squad_logo

So I took it to them shortly after they opened at 10 a.m. today and one of the techies dove into my computer in search of the problem (no video output).

A short time later, he called me back behind the plastic curtain to see what he had found. He'd pulled the dual video card array and then discovered a loose motherboard part lying on the bottom of the case. It's a little lozenge-shaped silver gizmo with black numbers on it - about the size of a ladybug - and he showed me where it had originally been secured to the motherboard. I believe he said it's a resistor and he seemed to think it was associated with the video circuitry.

So I signed off on the $69.99 charge for complete diagnostics and left the machine with them to finish a thorough check of all systems to determine if anything else was amiss. They are to call me later today or tomorrow with their findings and recommendations.

At this point, it kinda looks like the whole thing will have to go to their service center in St. Louis and I'll probably need a new motherboard which could amount to about $300 in parts and labor. And the guesstimate is that it will be out of my hands for 5-6 weeks.

Oh, well. That's a whole lot cheaper than buying a new system.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Roach patrol

“I finally got on the roach situation under control,” said the woman on the cell phone sitting behind me at Barnes & Noble. “You don’t know what it’s like to live with that.”

“And the mouse problem too,” she added. “I used an inhumane trap.”

“Where am I gonna find a good-looking handyman? I found one, but he’s like 13 years younger than me. No. I go older than me. Not younger.

“I got the grant information from the school. I cannot become a registered nurse unless somebody pays my way. I cannot work and do my internship. Need to find someone to pay my bills until I’m done…” she said, droning on.

I’m sitting in Barnes & Noble, having dropped off my computer with the Geek Squad at the new Best Buy. They’re swamped, this being the first weekend the store is open, and the guy said it may be a couple of hours before he can get it onto the bench and find out why there’s no video output. We seem to agree it’s probably the video bath&bodyworkscard that chose this morning to crap out. But we shall see.

I deserted Maria at Bath & Body Works. She finds the place relaxing and refreshing. It makes me fidgety and wanting to scream. So I excused myself, got my netbook from the car and set up shop here in B&N where I could listen to other people’s banal conversations.

It can never be easy, Chapter 458

xpsinside It all seemed so simple.

My plan was to pull the wonky C: drive and the backup H: drive out and move the unused 500GB drive up to the C: drive position. Since I installed XP on that drive several months ago, I planned to format it with the appropriate DOS commands and install the copy of Windows 7 I bought yesterday at Best Buy, then use it to access data and programs on the old C: drive, rescuing all that stuff at my leisure.

What could possibly go wrong?

I rolled the printer and its stand out of the way, replaced them with a low table and lifted the computer box up onto the table.

I pushed the start button and everything seemed to fire up properly.

Except. The. Monitor.

I checked all of the obvious stuff: monitor cable connections, power connections, monitor power button on… The monitor informed me that it wasn’t receiving any video signal from the computer. Just to be sure, I hooked it up to my netbook. It worked fine.

I tried every other possible video output on the back of the computer box, all without success. My best guess is that my video card crapped out at this crucial moment. But I have a call in to my computer mentor, Tim Balough, in Colorado, for a little diagnostic help before I do anything that will cost money – like go nuts and buy a new computer. And, no, I’m not going to buy a Mac.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Defend it, don’t shred it

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Reconcile the oath of office with this quote from Barack Obama’s Columbia college thesis:

"... the Constitution allows for many things, but what it does not allow is the most revealing. The so-called Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy."

Pause here for a sharp intake of breath…

Yes, we have handed our country over to a man who hates the Constitution. No wonder his first nine months in office are rife with unconstitutional acts. Let the court challenges begin and pray that the U.S. Supreme Court still loves America.

Country Music Is the New Rock ‘n Roll

From FOX Business:

By Elizabeth MacDonald

A general consensus is forming in the music industry:

Country music is displacing rock ‘n roll as America's most popular brand of music.

“One thing is for sure: if country is not the new rock ‘n roll, it's getting close,” says Thomas Valentino, founder and head of The Counsel, a law firm that represents top music industry artists including Kid Rock, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson and Uncle Kracker.

dwight_yoakamNashville is as rock n roll, if not more, than New York or LA. Just ask the Kings of Leon, the hottest rock act in the world,” which has its roots in Nashville, Valentino adds.

Now, why is it that country music could be displacing rock 'n roll in popularity in the US?

Could it be that music listeners are sick and tired of the fulsome, industrial-strength self-dramatization, the twisted acting out in rock ‘n roll songs that take on a relentless, infantile, perverse logic all their own?

Could it be that music listeners no longer want any part of the excruciatingly annoying culture of excessive, self-righteous self-indulgence, of narcissistic self-entitlement cemented in many genres of rock 'n roll?

Where listening to these songs is like chewing on Reynolds Wrap tin foil? Where you have to apply Novocain to your nerve endings as soon their songs are over?

Is it that consumers want more, they want to connect, they want music that quite purely and simply tells stories that move the heart and provide a compelling narrative about the human condition?

"Country Music is the White Man's Rap"

“Country music is the white man’s rap,” says Tony Powell, sportscaster on the Don Imus show on the Fox Business network, (a razor-shania_twainsharp, smart and truly funny comedian, Powell has racked up appearances on “The Chris Rock Show,” NBC’s “Showtime at the Apollo” and a stint as the studio warm-up act for Bill Cosby).

And the country music industry is “a community, they share their music and they share their songs,” adds Woody Fraser, top executive producer at Fox News’ the Huckabee Show.

Fraser notes that when he produced the Mike Douglas talk show in the '60s, “it was hard to book a rock star with another rock star on the show to perform, because none of them wanted to share the stage with each other.”

But Fraser says that “when I invited, say, Dolly Parton, everybody in country music wanted to perform with her on the show.” Fraser adds that he routinely booked country music stars who were delighted to perform with each other on the show, leaving their diva acts behind.

Country Music Rock Stars

It’s widely known that rock ‘n roll has its roots in country music, having delivered two of the biggest solo artists in the history of music in terms of album sales, both of whom crossed over to rock in their careers, Elvis Presley, and Garth Brooks.

Like Elvis (the Hillbilly Cat), and Garth Brooks, other country music stars have also crossed over to rock ‘n roll, including Shania Twain, Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Brooks & Dunn, and, of course, Parton.

allman_brothersCountry rock can also claim such stars as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, the Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker, Alabama, The Byrds, Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, The Eagles, and also Poco and Buffalo Springfield. Of course, who can forget songs from The Rolling Stones such as "Honky Tonk Women" and "Dead Flowers?”

The Proof Country Music is Gaining on Rock

Music agent Valentino also cites the following “impressive developments” to show that country music is quickly displacing rock and roll:

According to Inside Radio, country music is by far the most popular format for programming. As of August 2009, 2,014 stations were programming country while 1,323 offered Rock, including Classic and Alternative Rock;

For the last decade or so, country music listening nationwide has delivered a steady 77.3 mn adults each week, according to the radio-ratings agency Arbitron;

In 2008, based upon total earnings, three of the top 10 acts were country--namely, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts and Toby Keith, according to Forbes Magazine;

The Billboard charts for 2008, based upon the number of titles appearing on the charts, lists country music stars Taylor Swift at number five, Miley Cyrus at number seven, Carrie Underwood at number 13, and Sugarland at number 21;

Country music star Garth Brooks appears at a news conference inTwo country acts had albums in the top 10 in 2008: Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift;

The highest grossing musical tours for 2008 included Kenny Chesney, who was number four ($72.2 mn) and Rascal Flatts at number eight ($55.8 mn), according to Pollstar, a publication that tracks music tours;

According to Nielsen, for the first five months of 2009, country album sales experienced the smallest decline of all major music genres and led in growth for digital album sales. The top selling album this year is Taylor Swift, at 1.3 mn units;

Last month, Swift became the first country artist to win an MTV music video award, and her song "You Belong With Me" is the first country crossover to top the Billboard Hot 100 Radio Chart, since Nielsen-BDS has monitored such data in 1990.

Valentino notes this caveat: “Country is genre-specific music, while Rock, categorically, will usually encompass different styles such as ELVIS ANNIVERSARYalternative, classical and modern," which can torque the numbers.

Looking closer, it’s true that country music had a pretty poor showing in 2008 versus other forms of music in terms of revenue, although it was on track to have better growth in the first half of 2009 versus other genres, notes Fox News analyst James Farrell.

And it’s hard to ignore the dramatic ascent of country music in the US, 2006 being a touchstone year when, as album sales of most musical genres dropped, country music experienced one of its best years. In the first half of 2006, domestic sales of country albums increased by 17.7% to 36 mn.

Want More Evidence?

Here you go:

In 2008, country music album sales fell 24% - second only to classical music and compared with an overall decline of 14%.

However, consumers bought about 47.7 mn country albums in 2008 – 8% of them from one artist, the 19-year-old Swift.

And the country music industry sold 2.35 mn digital albums for the year through June 28, 2009 - a growth of approximately 55%. The growth beat all other popular music genres, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Gospel finished second, about five percentage points behind.

Gloomy Friday


It’s a rainy, cloudy, chilly Friday and my mood matches the weather.

My request to have the guest room floor cleared of clothes and other debris by this morning went unheeded, so the cleaning girl will skip that room for another week.

I have appointments with an orthodontist and a podiatrist next week and both will involve pain and discomfort which I won’t detail here.

My desktop computer is inert and it will take a considerable amount of effort to get it back up to speed – effort I’m in no mood to expend, but the need is somewhat urgent since that’s what I use to track our finances.

And we have a weekend before us with no plans to do anything fun or interesting.

Maybe I just got my answer: My iPod is on shuffle and it’s playing the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want (But if You Try Sometimes, You Might Find, You Get What You Need).”

Whatever. I’m still depressed, but it has a good beat and a catchy tune.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Looks nice, but where are the icons?

monitor I think it’s finally happened – my desktop computer’s C: drive is almost certainly hosed.

I probably precipitated it a couple of days ago when I ran a free registry cleaner in the hope of eliminating the 60+ minute boot-up lag. I also uninstalled Dell Remote software that makes it possible for me to run programs on the desktop computer remotely from my netbook – Dell’s version of Go To My PC. The uninstall took more than an hour.

When I rebooted, I found my monitor would display only the wallpaper picture of my granddaughter Lisa. No icons, no Start button, nothing else. I could still launch Windows Task Manager by hitting Ctl+Alt+Delete, and it told me that pretty much nothing was going on in the background. It makes for an elegantly clean desktop, but it’s also completely useless.spinrite green

I ran Spinrite6 in the vain hope of sorting things out, but to no avail.

How curious that this would coincide with the grand opening this weekend of our local Best Buy and with the release today of Windows 7.

I bought a 500GB hard drive some months ago with the idea of making it the new C: drive and installing Windows XP on it. I started the process but was alarmed to discover my computer assigned a different name. I think it was K: or L: (I have several external hard drives connected by USB cables). I gave up and decided to limp along a little longer with my crippled system.

Now events have conspired to force me into a real solution. I’m pretty sure all of the data on my C: drive is recoverable – it’s just the operating system that is hosed. So far.

Installing XP is the easy part. Downloading and installing the subsequent updates through Service Pack 3 and beyond will be the real hassle, probably involving about 1,000 tedious reboots. So, windows_7against my better instincts, I’m thinking about starting fresh with a Windows 7 install.

Yes, I know that only a dumbass jumps on a new operating system before the public has had a few months to find most of the problems. So do I want to be a pioneer with Windows 7 Home Premium ($119) or Windows 7 Professional ($199) – the $219.99
Windows 7 Ultimate doesn’t add enough features to be worth the extra expense to me – or do I resign myself to several days of fiddling with XP updates?

Brutally stupid and rude


Moments after I pulled into a space at the Clopton Clinic parking lot this morning, a gray-haired woman whipped into a pair of spaces in this red Pontiac Grand Am festooned with Mary Kay cosmetic logos.

I was there for a routine doctor visit and the red car was still there when I left about 40 minutes later. I have mercifully blocked out the license number. I’m stunned by her careless disregard for other drivers who were forced to park farther away from the clinic door and walk through this morning’s downpour.

The good news is that I’m down 2 pounds from my late July visit and my blood pressure is down within normal limits. In spite of having to share the road with idiots like this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A hostage situation at Hastings

gt kasawaki I’m being held hostage by an excruciatingly slow download and install that I may not even need.

I left home on the bike this morning with thoughts of a long ride to the Arkansas Post National Memorial to collect another stamp in my National Parks Passport.

The Arkansas Post was the first European settlement in Arkansas down in Southeast Arkansas near Gillette.

My previous experience with stamp gathering has shown me that it can be a little tricky finding the exact location where the coveted rubber stamps reside, so I wanted precise GPS coordinates before setting out. (I rode several needless miles earlier this month tracking down stamps in the Tupelo, Miss., area.)

So after I picked up the mail at the post office, I headed for Hastings for coffee and GPS research. I quickly discovered that I needed to download and install the cumbersome Google Earth to get precise GPS coordinates for known locations, not something I cared to do on my netbook.

Google led me to, the National Park Travelers Club web site that boasts GPS coordinates for every spot referenced in the Passport. The problem is that both ways of displaying the information involved software that is not on my netbook – Google Earth for the map and Microsoft Excell for the spreadsheet version.

OK, so we’re back to having to install cumbersome software again.’s office suite includes a spreadsheet program that reads .xls files, so I decided to download and install the suite to my 32GB SD card D: drive. So I started the download to the D: drive more than an hour ago. Here’s the progress so far:


Then it occurred to me that Google Docs may have an Excell reading/creating program up in the Google Cloud. I checked and they do, so I tried to upload the .xls file from several times and each time got a “server error” message.

So I’m back to futzing around with the suite install. And the sky is clouding over, so it looks like the only riding I’ll do this afternoon is riding home.

Oh, great. Now I see the Install Wizard won’t let me install the suite on the D: drive. It would choke the rather limited C: drive, so I’ve just wasted a couple of hours.

Back to trying to upload to Google Docs…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


ged There’s a joke in here somewhere, but I can’t put my finger on it: A blonde studying for the GED.

Or maybe I’m just being an arrogant asshole.

That’s always a possibility.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wild Things


I never read Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story Where the Wild Things Are. I’d seen the illustrations and they didn’t appeal to me and didn’t seem to be the kind of stuff I wanted my two young sons to experience when they were little.

We saw the movie on Saturday night and I’m still not sure it’s appropriate for little kids. I think of my young nieces and nephews and my 5-year-old granddaughter and expect they would find parts of it unsettling, maybe even terrifying.

That said, it’s a brilliant, insightful film that deserves to be in the hunt for an Oscar next year. The characters have wit and sensitivity beyond what I’m used to seeing on the big screen. The choice of 12-year-old Max Records to play Max is absolutely inspired. James Gandolfini’s voice work as Carol was brilliant and I had no idea I was hearing his voice until the credits rolled. Catherine O’Hara was the only other “big” name doing voice work and matched her character seamlessly.

This is a movie for young adults through senior citizens (I got in on a senior discount. Heh, heh.) who can appreciate its subtleties.

We took Austin along and I think he recognized himself in Max based on the emotional rollercoaster he endured during and after his parents’ divorce. This will resonate with a lot of people whose childhoods were scarred by divorce.

But even I, who had a Leave it to Beaver-style childhood, found elements of my experiences in Max’s journey.

So I guess you could say I liked it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Helmet Cam Captures Skier Buried in Avalanche, Then Rescued 4 Minutes Later

This video was shot in April 2008 in Haines, AK. You can't tell from the video but the skier was dragged 1500 feet in just 20 seconds. Luckily for him his right glove came off just before he was covered which allowed rescuers to find him in just four and half minutes which actually is quite fast.

Flawed logic

poop01 Driving home from today’s grocery expedition, we found ourselves following this Chevy pickup truck on U.S.49.

I can’t be certain, but this could be the rudest message I’ve ever seen displayed on the back window of a car or a pickup truck.

And I guess he really did have to poop because he was running 70 mph in a 55 mph zone before he turned into the driveway of a trailer home where we usually see a dark red Mercedes Benz parked.mercedes trailer

The owner was at home today. I just hope the bathroom was free.

Sunday stuff


Today was grocery shopping day and apparently a bad day for this driver.

We came upon the accident scene about a mile south of Pine Log Road on U.S. 49. Our guess is the driver of this car made an ill-advised exit from the Citgo station across the road and got tagged by cross traffic. Fire fighters had just arrived and we met two ambulances as we continued on into Jonesboro, so there apparently were injuries.

It was the first bright sunny morning in several days, so the drivers involved certainly couldn’t blame weather conditions. More evidence of the ongoing epidemic of bad driving here in Northeast Arkansas.

After a Waffle House breakfast we stopped by the post office drop box to mail a customer evaluation postcard from last night’s dinner at Colton’s. I had the Southwest Chipotle Tips and Maria had beef tips. The waitress brought us salad, but never gave us silverware, despite our asking for it. Maria finally scoured the restaurant and came up with some. Our food arrived after an over-long wait and, of course, was room temperature, i.e., cold.

Then we joined the after-church crowd at Sam’s Club where some minor league version of ShamWow Vince was hustling a crowd of mouth-breathers with his assortment of miracle kitchen knives, guaranteed to stay sharp forever. This, of course, begs the question of how many companies can stay in business forever. So far as I know, it’s never been done.

I also noticed a typical Sam’s Club large volume package of Land O’ minimoo Lakes half  & half coffee creamers called Mini Moo’s. Since the name appears under the Land O’ Lakes Indian maiden logo, anyone familiar with the proper use of an apostrophe would conclude that the half & half belongs to Mini Moo, suggesting that the company it telling us the girl’s name for the first time in the 81-year history of the distinctive logo.

My guess, however, is that it’s just another example of morons trying to for the plural of something with an apostrophe. Probably never occurred to them that the right way to do it would be with a noticeably smaller “s” so as to avoid the impression they were trying to spell “moose” but forgot the “e.”

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the logo:

The Land O' Lakes Indian Maiden holding the butter box was painted in 1928 by Brown & Bigelow illustrator Arthur C. Hanson, who also painted the original Old Style Lager logo. His original art (that hangs in the lobby of the Arden Hills office) was the maiden in a pastoral scene with lakes, pines, flowers and grazing cows in the background. According to the Land O' Lakes official consumer website,The original Indian maiden was "simplified and modernized" in 1939 by Jess Betlach and has undergone many minor modifications since as the enduring logo of the company.

Now you know.

Maria is finishing the shopping at Kroger while I blog and surf and listen to Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile on my iPod at Books-A-Million next door.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Deja vu

obama_toga Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions. … Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the "new, wonderful good society" which shall now be Rome’s, interpreted to mean "more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

I still love my del Sol after all these years

The paint is blasted out, the window tinting film is bubbling and the radio antenna is crimped and hanging on by a thread, but my 1994 Honda del Sol still delivers great gas mileage after more than 215,700 miles.hondo odometer

I filled the tank yesterday and zeroed out the tripmeter, as I do with every fill-up, and I noted I’d gone 323.8 miles on that tank of gas. Dividing 323.8 miles by 9.651 gallons, I calculate I got 33.55 miles per gallon. Not too shabby for a 15-year-old car.

My del Sol spent most of its life in Indiana, but I’ve driven it to Colorado once and Florida several times.

It needed some major transmission work around 60,000 miles and I replaced the radiator a few months ago, but mostly it’s been trouble-free. It’s certainly been the lowest-maintenance, highest-mileage car I’ve ever owned and I’m considering rewarding it with a new paint job and re-doing the window tint. The tint was done by Ziebart and carries a lifetime warranty. Since I’m still alive, all I need to do is find the time to drive to the nearest Ziebart shop (which is near St. Louis) and get it done.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Dylan Christmas album? Really?


If I were to compose a list of things I can do without, a Christmas album by Bob Dylan would be on the list, if the thought of such a thing ever crossed my mind, that is.

I might be able to get my brain around it if it were all original Dylan compositions, but horror of horrors, it’s an album of covers. And, did I mention that I hate Christmas music?

Here’s the track list:

  • 1. Here Comes Santa Claus
  • 2. Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • 3. Winter Wonderland
  • 4. Hark The Herald Angels Sing
  • 5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  • 6. Little Drummer Boy
  • 7. The Christmas Blues
  • 8. Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
  • 9. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • 10. Must Be Santa
  • 11. Silver Bells
  • 12. The First Noel
  • 13. Christmas Island
  • 14. The Christmas Song
  • 15. Little Town Of Bethlehem
  • I know it sounds like a bad joke, but in his defense, it’s a charity project with Dylan donating all of his royalties to Feeding America. Learn more about it here.

    You can provide free broadband, but for God’s sake, don’t call it a “basic human right”

    Finland has become the first country to declare broadband Internet is a basic human right.

    Telcom companies in Finland will be required to provide all 5.3 million Finnish citizens with broadband Internet connection, starting next July.

    (The European Union Parliament has on several occasions stated that access to the Internet is a basic human right.)

    Laura Vilkkonen, legislative counselor for the Ministry of Transport and Communications, said the plan is to provide all the citizens with even faster broadband speeds (100 Mbps) by 2015. “We think it’s something you cannot live without in modern society. Like banking services or water or electricity, you need Internet connection,” she said.

    This, of course, begs the question of whether she thinks nobody should have to pay for water or electricity. And whether she thinks the isolated tribes of the Amazon Basin or New Guinea have a pressing need for Internet connectivity.

    I love free Wifi as much as the next guy, but I also recognize that somebody has to pay for the bandwidth and the infrastructure. The idea that it’s a basic human right is ridiculous.

    When it comes to basic human rights, the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness covers it pretty well.

    What’s YOUR sign?

    ADT_Signbrinks sign






    yardsign Which sign is more likely to scare off would-be intruders?

    Obviously, it’s not the ADT or Brinks signs.

    ADT and Brinks commercials show women cowering and running for the phone when a guy in a stereotypical burglar costume kicks in the front door.

    According to the script, the woman, and in some cases her daughter, is saved when the alarm goes off and the bad guy (who has been casing the house and knows she’s in there) runs away like a frightened rabbit.

    “Don’t worry, ma’m,” the comforting ADT or Brinks guy says over the phone. “Help is on the way.”

    But wait a minute. If the house is protected by ADT/Brinks, that means there’s an ADT/Brinks sign out front. The subtext of the commercial is that the sign is useless and the bad guys can play “beat the clock” and rape and pillage all they want as long as they can do it quicker than the police response time.

    So what we have is a soft target with a time limit. ADT and Brinks are selling the illusion of security if you’re concerned about protecting yourself and your loved ones from intruders. All it does is assure the police arrive while the bodies are still warm.

    Granted, the home security services have some merit if you’re away from home or if there’s a fire and you have smoke detectors linked to the system.

    But I think the signs and stickers from send a much stronger message when it comes to persuading bad guys to go away.

    Of course, it’s even more effective if you’re prepared to back it up with firepower.

    Several states have a “Castle Law” based on the idea that one’s home is his castle and he has a right to defend it. also has signs that announce, “Castle Law Enforced Here.”

    Here’s what the Arkansas Concealed Carry Association says about the law in the Natural State:

    Two years ago, the Stand Your Ground bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Burris and supported by ARCCA and many others.  This bill did not pass, and in hindsight, it is very good that it did not.  ARCCA has spent the past two years in exhaustive research on the Castle Doctrine laws and cases here in Arkansas, and have come to the unequivocal conclusion that our current laws are outstanding and require no changes. We have spoken with dozens of Arkansas prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, and looked at the bulk of case law to identify any vicious prosecutions criminalizing individuals claiming self-defense.  The results are explained below...

    The Castle Doctrine has two parts, the ability to defend yourself inside your home (Castle Doctrine) and the ability to defend yourself outside your home (Stand Your Ground).  Arkansas criminal statute 5-2-620 codifies our Castle Doctrine and it's very straightforward and easy to read...after doing so you will see that it offers tremendous protection and gives an unprecedented benefit-of-the-doubt to the home owner.  It speaks for itself and there is no other state in the union that can boast a better Castle Doctrine than Arkansas.

    The Stand Your Ground protection is primarily codified in Arkansas criminal statute 5-2-607.  Much of the push two years ago was to remove the duty to retreat of a citizen who is attacked.  Let us first look at the exact duty retreat requirement in this statute. Our duty to retreat has two very important caveats.  The first is that the individual must know that he can retreat, and the second is that he must know he can retreat with complete safety... not some or a predominate amount of, but complete safety.  These two caveats provide exceptional legal protection for the individual using deadly force in their self-defense because the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person claiming self defense knew he could retreat and knew he could retreat with complete safety.  This is almost an unsurmountable burden for the prosecution to overcome, and we have seen this in fact played out in the courts with few cases where individuals were found guilty for a failure to retreat.  The few cases that exist are primarily with gang members killing each other... no loss there.

    After this thorough review, ARCCA feels very confident that our laws and case law supports a phenomenal protection for individuals using self-defense for themselves and others and feels that any changes to the current laws (that have been on the books for over thirty years) would undermine this protection.

    As a footnote, one of the home security system commercials involves a scenario where a young woman is dropped off at her door after a date, goes inside and is ascending her stairs when an ex-boyfriend kicks who has been stalking her kicks in her front door.

    An ex-boyfriend or stalker is clearly a different animal from a burglar. His motivation is not to steal, but to hurt or kill one specific person and his emotional state blinds him to the consequences. The idea that he will heed a Brinks sign or even notice the alarm going off is absolutely laughable. This is clearly a case for a shotgun or a handgun with laser grips.

    So if I post any kind of sign in front of my house, it damn sure won’t bear some wimpy ADT or Brinks logo.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Swedish Piano Stairs

    How to get people to use the stairs (sorry about the X-box commercial at the beginning).

    Wednesday stuff

    hastings pano JONESBORO, Ark. – The Hastings Hardback Cafe is full of computer geeks this afternoon -  more than I’ve ever seen in here.

    Consequently, I had to take a table without access to an electrical outlet and am operating on battery power. My Dell Inspiron Mini 9 gets about 4 hours to a battery charge, so I’m fine with that.

    The termite inspector examined our house about 1 p.m. and declared it free of termites and other pests. It’s good to know, but I’m not sure it’s $181 worth of information.

    Driving in to town on U.S. 49, I met a pickup truck that was burning oilburner oil at a phenomenal rate. Or else he was fogging for mosquitoes. But then it’s a little late in the season for that.

    Our Subaru Forester, on the other hand, has virtually stopped consuming oil. It was using about a quart for every tank of gas back in the spring. I took it to the dealer in Memphis and they couldn’t figure it out – no oil stains on the driveway and no blue smoke from the exhaust. The oil consumption declined sharply after we started using Castrol GTX oil for older engines, so I guess there’s something to their claims.

    Cognitive dissonance

    As the Democrats prepare to completely rewrite the Health Care Reform Legislation to their liking behind closed doors, it’s a good time to revisit this pledge by President Obama.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    What does she have on her head?


    Never mind Anita Dunn's lunatic ravings about FOX News being an arm of the RNC. What's up with her bizarre two-tone hairdo?