Thursday, December 31, 2009

Geriatric inflexibility

These eight years of retirement have warped my brain when it comes to people messing with my schedule.purple shirt

Most days, I like to pick up the mail at the post office as soon as it’s ready – usually 9 a.m. – then head into town for my morning coffee, blogging and web surfing. It really annoys me when someone or some thing interferes with this routine.

Like this morning, when I got a call from my wife asking if I could shoot some photos at the new Mexican restaurant just down the road. Now, I actually enjoy a photo assignment now and then and usually find that some kind of minor magic occurs when the shooting starts. And I’m usually kinda proud of the results and enjoy seeing them in print.

But I hate, just freaking hate, having something like that on my schedule – blowing a hole in the middle of my day and messing with my routine.

And, of course, my irritation was aggravated this morning by the discovery that for maybe the third time in the 15 years I’ve owned my Honda del Sol, I left the lights on overnight and wiped out the battery.

To the consternation of thousands of del Sol owners, the ‘94 model does not kill the headlights when the ignition is turned off and does not have a dinger/alarm to alert you when you get out with the lights still on. So when I got home yesterday afternoon after driving in the gloomy rain, I apparently had something else on my mind and failed to notice the headlights were still on.

Fortunately, my next-door-neighbor is a friendly helpful guy and he gladly wheeled his monster pickup truck over to give me a jumpstart.

So now I’m comfortably ensconced at Hastings, getting ready for my second big cup of Rio Azul. I just got a call notifying me that the photo gig is set for 1:30 p.m., so I have a couple of hours to hang out.

24% of U.S. voters found to be mentally incompetent

obama_approval_index_december_31_2009 The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 24 percent of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President.

Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -18. Twenty-nine percent (29%) now say the country is heading in the right direction.

58% Favor Waterboarding of Plane Terrorist To Get Information

58% Favor Waterboarding of Plane Terrorist To Get Information

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Beer stein of the Day

tslw1Since it’s New Year’s Eve, what better time to begin a “Stein of the Day” feature, drawing from my collection?

This half-liter stein is from the Technische Schule der Luftwaffe.1 or Technical School of the Air Force-1 of the German Air Force at Kaufbeuren in Bavaria just north of the Alps.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our moral thermostat - why being good can give people license to misbehave

Our moral thermostat - why being good can give people license to misbehave
This explains a lot, like why liberals try to make themselves feel good by buying into the man-made global warming hoax and pretending cap-and-trade is a good thing.
On the other end of the spectrum, we get arrogant types like Obama who believe their own hype and think they're above the Constitution.
And it leaves those of us who are well-balanced on the self-worth scale wondering what the hell is wrong with these people.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sharks in the Mississippi


On February 12, 2006, divers working with Wisconsin DNR Fisheries personnel, caught this five-foot female Bull Shark under the ice on Lake Pepin, part of the Mississippi River. The nearly dormant shark was tagged with a radio tracking device and released. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Bureau of Fisheries Management and Habitat Protection.

Coming home from dinner in Memphis on Saturday night, I mentioned to friends Charlie and Deb that there are sharks in the Mississippi River. I said it as we were crossing the river on the perpetually-under-improvement “new” bridge.

This is apparently news to a lot of people. I learned about it just a few months ago and have since done a little Internet research.

Bull Sharks have been found in the river as far upstream as Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The most extreme example I’ve found so far involves the 5-foot female Bull Shark in the photo above. Ice-diving biologists captured the nearly comotose shark in Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi River. They were responding to reports from several startled salvage divers of a sleeping, “shark-like fish” in the open cab of a pickup truck that had gone through the ice a few weeks earlier. The Wisconsin divers found the truck in about 18 feet' of water with the shark still inside, apparently sheltering from the swift current. The cold water had slowed its respiration and metabolism so much that it was barely alive. After an examination, the fish was tagged with a radio location device and released back into the river (Wisconsin regulations do not allow the keeping or transport of live, non-game fish). I can’t find any reports of subsequent tracking.

Worried about the negative effect on local recreation a man-eating shark might possibly cause, Minnesota officials ordered an immediate sweep of Minnehaha Creek. On Saturday, March 26, conservation officers began their search below the falls using ultrasonic stun devices to drive any fish downstream and into gill nets strung across the mouth of the creek. Despite catcalls and hoots from park patrons, the team worked downstream throughout the day and into the night. It was difficult work with shallow water and an unusual number of recently downed trees blocking the creek.

A little after midnight, two juvenile sharks were captured along with dozens of rough fish and several spawning Northern Pike. Both sharks were malnourished and docile, but in overall better health than the larger Lake Pepin specimen. The two fish are now in a special hospital tank at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, undergoing observation and a slow acclimatization back to salt water. The staff there have named them Lenny and Frankie, after two of the characters from the 2004 animated feature, Shark Tale.

There are also reports of Bull Sharks being caught in the river near Alton, Ill.

Wikipedia notes:

Bull Sharks are common worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. The bull shark is well known for its unpredictable, often aggressive behavior. Since Bull Sharks often dwell in shallow waters, they may be more dangerous to humans than any other species of shark and, along with tiger sharks and great white sharks, are among the three shark species most likely to attack humans.

Unlike most sharks, bull sharks tolerate fresh water and can travel far up rivers. As a result, they are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks, including many attacks attributed to other species. However, bull sharks are not true freshwater sharks (unlike the river sharks of the genus Glyphis).

Psst, want to buy the hottest warbird in the world?

Su27-Night-Ramp-800 How about a pair of Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers?

Check them out here.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Remembering Ernst Eigener


I dug another box of books out of Box Mountain in the garage this afternoon to add to my offerings on and discovered this box held a book brought back from World War II by my late father-in-law Capt. Phil Kroon.

eigener01It’s called Mein Skizzenbuch (My Sketchbook), a book of sketches by German soldier Ernst Eigener, an artist with Propaganda Co. 637, compiled during the conquest of France in 1940 and published in 1941.

The sketches are mostly black-and-white pencil drawings, but there are a few done in colored pencil, like this sketch of a German mortar crew.

In early October, 1942, Adolf Hitler ordered a shield decoration to commemorate the men of the 6th Army then fighting in Stalingrad and a prototype was created by Eigener.shield

The shield had a pointed bottom with a closed wing eagle on the top. The main body had across the top the inscription “STALINGRAD,”with three silos that were a landmark of  the city beneath the word. In front of the silos there was a dead German soldier with a crown of barbed wire around his helmet.

The prototype was submitted to the High Command and understandably rejected as too morbid. Eigener was killed at Stalingrad in November, 1942.

A second prototype was submitted, but was never instituted because the 6th Army was eventually encircled and destroyed. Fieldmarshall von Paulus surrendered on Jan. 30, 1943 and went into captivity with 94,000 men. Only 5,000 survived to return home after the war.

I think I’ll hang onto Ernst Eigener’s little sketchbook. I don’t need the money that much.

You can learn a lot from printers

I’ve heard a lot of epithets in my days, but for pure evocative energy and crude humor, the one favored by former Indianapolis Star & News printer Loren Ridgeway sticks in my mind more than any other.wec

Loren was a balding, bespectacled, profane little guy who always wore a white t-shirt under his blue denim printer’s apron back in the late 1960s and 1970s when the Star-News composing room was a cacophony of clattering Linotype and Intertype machines and pages full of lead type were built on brass-topped “turtle” tables.

Anyone who provoked Loren, whether accidentally or on purpose, was forever cursed as a “walleyed cocksucker.” He said it with a grin and it was always clear that he was kidding, but it was startling the first time you were on the receiving end of it.

These days, I catch myself muttering Loren’s favorite curse whenever Obama or any of his cronies turn up on my TV screen.

Thanks for your contribution to my repertoire of curses and profanity, Loren.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Same flight, different day

us50Indianapolis BMW Club compadre Rich Nathan, seen here with me at the Return to Shiloh Rally earlier this year, reports that his daughter Nicole was aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit last Monday.

That was a scant four days before a rather unskilled terrorist tried to blow up the plane on Christmas Day.

Rich and I rode the entire length of U.S. 50 (it runs 3,073 miles from Sacramento to Ocean City, Md.,) in 2001.

Jen, over at Demure Thoughts, imagines what she would do if she were president:

“Ok, guys… this seems pretty straight forward.  Let’s blow up all of Yemen for a start.  When can I expect to see some after action reports and pictures of the large craters and shit on satellite?”

Read the whole thing here.

Dining with the RATS



We rode to Memphis last night with BMW friends Charlie and Deb for dinner at Boscos with fellow members of the Road Animals Touring Society (RATS).

The congenial group is an extremely unstructured BMW motorcycle club chartered by the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America and we are delighted to be included as members.

We got there first, hence the empty places at the table in the panorama shot.

Dinner, as usual, was delicious and the presentation was without peer. I had the pasta special, which was Asiago chicken and pasta, washed down with a couple of glasses of Boscos own porter.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Saying goodbye to another hero

Robert L. Howard, believed to be America's most decorated living soldier, died Wednesday in Waco, Texas.

Howard served five tours in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation's history to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of bobhowardHonor three times for three separate actions within a thirteen month period. Although it can only be awarded once to an individual, men who served with him said he deserved all three. He received a direct appointment from Master Sergeant to 1st Lieutenant in 1969, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971. His other awards for valor include the Distinguished Service Cross - our nation's second highest award, the Silver Star - the third highest award, and numerous lesser decorations including eight Purple Hearts. He received his decorations for valor for actions while serving as an NCO (Sergeant First Class).

Howard grew up in Opelika, Ala. and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 at age seventeen. He retired as a full Colonel in 1992 after 36 years service. During Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the super-secret MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group) also known as Special Operations Group, which ran classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. These men carried out some of the most daring and dangerous missions ever conducted by the U.S. military. The understrength 60-man recon company at Kontum in which he served was the Vietnam War's most highly decorated unit of its size with five Medals of Honor. It was for his actions while serving on a mission to rescue a fellow soldier in Cambodia, that he was submitted for the Medal of Honor the third time for his extraordinary heroism.

Here is his Medal of Honor Citation:


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 30 December 1968. Entered service at: Montgomery, Ala. Born: 11 July 1939, Opelika, Ala. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Howard (then Sfc .), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. 1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer's equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant's belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. 1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours 1st Lt. Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. 1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. 1st Lt. Howard's gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Merry Christmas


Thursday, December 24, 2009

A liter is a lot of beer (something I would not have conceded when I was in my 20s)

liter of beer I’m marking Christmas Eve with a full liter of Beck’s Dark beer from the generous cache of imported beer that Austin gave me today.

I’d forgotten how much a liter of beer is. It took 3 bottles of Beck’s Dark to fill this sucker.

We had to rescue Austin last evening when his ‘95 Chevy Beretta crapped out on the way home from work in Paragould. Fortunately, he was able to park it in the small lot of an insurance agency along U.S. 49. It had been raining all day and we did a fair measure of hydroplaning on the way up to Paragould about 8:30 p.m.

It rained all night (the Weather Channel says Brookland got 1.87” Wednesday) and was still raining like a mofo when we got up at 8 a.m. to begin the Beretta recovery process. I called the U.S. Auto Club towing service number and asked them to dispatch a wrecker to haul the car a mile or so south to Gateway Tire. Then we hydroplaned up to Paragould (still raining like a mofo) and waited about an hour for the wrecker guy to show up.

We finally got things sorted out and the Gateway guys replaced the serpentine belt and tensioner right away, so Austin has a working car over the holiday weekend.

We stopped by the post office and found parcels from Lauri and Jim and from Sean and Ruth. I wonder what’s in them…

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Make your own embarrassing font


Memo to Facebook users

Remember that update that Facebook started bugging you about a week or so ago?
If you're still ignoring it, YOU HAVE NO PROTECTION AND ALL OF facebookYOUR INFO AND PICS CAN BE SEEN BY THE PUBLIC whether they're friends or not. I've been looking at the info on several non-friends' pages just to confirm that the SECURITY WAS TURNED OFF about a week ago.

Click on the Settings menu up there in the blue bar across the top fo your Facebook home page. It’s between your Facebook name and Logout and review your Account Settings, Privacy Settings and Application Settings.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Moment in Time: The Solstice Seen from Newgrange @ AMERICAN DIGEST

One Moment in Time: The Solstice Seen from Newgrange @ AMERICAN DIGEST

Admit it – You want one

Zeitlupe Dienstag (slow-motion Tuesday)

No pithy observations from me today. I just can’t come up with 164603anything profound, or even semi-profound.

I spent a couple of hours working out a thorny software/hardware problem with my netbook this morning and would still be spinning my wheels were it not for my computer mentor Tim Balough.

Tim, a longtime BMW riding friend, has turned his knowledge of and interest in computers into a second career since he and wife Linda “retired” and moved to Alma, Colo. from Plainfield, Ind.

Tim runs Hoosier Computer Help and has rescued more of his friends and neighbors than he can count. Likewise, I can’t count the number of times he’s bailed me out when I found myself baffled by my computer(s).

While the business name may seem odd for someone working in Colorado, it makes perfect sense – Tim is an expatriate Hoosier living in the shadow of Hoosier Pass. I promised him a case of beer the next time I’m out there as payment for today’s guidance through the thicket of SSD partitioning. And thanks to him, my Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is running better than ever.

Oh, yeah. I had a decent book-selling day on I sold a 75-cent paperback copy of “Stuka Pilot,” the wartime experiences of Hans Ulrich Rudel, the premiere Luftwaffe tank-buster on the Eastern Front in WWII, for $33. (It’s out of print and hard to find.) And I unloaded another 40-year-old 50-cent paperback for $2.49. Not exactly high finance, but way better than trying to unload all those boxes of books at a garage sale or used book store.

And I just noticed that Jen (Temple of Jennifer) is back after nearly a month’s absence from the blogosphere.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How the French soldiers see our troops in Afghanistan

This comes from Blackfive and is well worth your time:

We at Blackfive have a long history of showing love to our French allies. Actually since Sarkozy was elected it has been kinda fun to have them back on the team. Here is an article about what their troops think of ours. Good stuff.

Subject: French view of US Military by Jean-Marc Liotier
American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman
  The US often hears echoes of worldwide hostility against the application of its foreign policy, but seldom are they reached by the voices of those who experience first hand how close we are to the USA.  In spite of contextual political differences and conflicting interests that generate friction, we do share the same fundamental values - and when push comes to shove that is what really counts.
  Through the eyes of that French OMLT (Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams) infantryman you can see how strong the bond is on the ground.  In contrast with the Americans, the French soldiers don't seem to write much online – or maybe the proportion is the same but we just have less people deployed.
Whatever the reason, this is a rare and moving testimony which is why I decided to translate it into English, so that American people can catch a glimpse of the way European soldiers see them.
Not much high philosophy here, just the first hand impressions of a soldier in contact - but that only makes it more authentic.
  Here is the original French article,  and here is my translation:
  "We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while – they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other.  But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing "ordinary soldiers thrust
into extraordinary events".  Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day?
  Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.  They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English.  How many times did I have
to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word?  Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.
  Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine (Heh.  More like Waffle House and McDonalds) - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo.  Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.
  Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley.  Honor, motherland – everything here reminds of that: the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels.  Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location: books, chewing gums, razor blades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission.

  And that is a first shock to our preconceptions: the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.  And they are impressive warriors!  We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be.  Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of
them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how.  Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest.  On the one square meter wooden
tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger.  No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days.  At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence
of a soldier on the move.  Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.
  And combat?  If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay.  That is one of their tricks: they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes.  Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting: they just charge!
They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.
  This is the main area where I'd like to comment.  Anyone with a passing knowledge of Kipling knows the lines from Chant Pagan: 'If your officer's dead and the sergeants look  white/remember it's ruin to run from a fight./So take open order, lie down, sit tight/And wait for supports like a soldier./
This, in fact, is the basic philosophy of both British and Continental soldiers.  'In the absence of orders, take a defensive position.'  Indeed, virtually every army in the world.  The American soldier and Marine, however, are imbued from early in their training with the ethos:  In the Absence of Orders:  Attack!  Where other forces, for good or ill, will wait
for precise orders and plans to respond to an attack or any other
'incident', the American force will simply go, counting on firepower and SOP to carry the day.  This is one of the great strengths of the American force in combat and it is something that even our closest allies, such as the Brits and Aussies (that latter being closer by the way) find repeatedly surprising.  No wonder it surprises the hell out of our enemies.
  We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit.  A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been
given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.
  To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America's army's deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of
them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The doggy style show continues…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Maria knocked out the second polar fleece dog coat for Ruthie this morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is more expensive, heavier fleece and has a more elegant look to it – more of an outdoors garment than the polka dot pajamas.

My Internet research suggests it’s an attempt to replicate the Gordon, Ancient Scottish clan tartan. As with any design attempted in polar fleece, things get a little fuzzy and muddy, but I still think it looks pretty damned good.

Ruthie seems to like it, too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Warm dog


Ruthie got relief from the cold this evening, thanks to Maria’s sewing skills and a sale on polar fleece at Hobby Lobby and Hancock Fabrics.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maria found a suitable Simplicity pattern for a dog coat and bought this polka dot, a plaid and a solid for three distinctive dog-warmers of which this is the first.

I think Ruthie likes it. She’s stopped shivering, at least and isn’t trying to get out of it.

What is "olioscourge?"

Back in 1977, we had a correspondent at The Indianapolis News who specialized in writing about the tiny towns in suburbia.
She fell ill and it was determined we'd keep the series going by assigning these stories to reporters.
So, when my turn came, I got out the official state highway map and looked for someplace I'd never been. I settled on a spot on the map called Olio.
But when I got there - the intersection of 126th Street and Olio Road - I found there was no town. Just a couple of houses and a defunct auto repair shop. A big new suburban high school stood just down the road. So I ended up writing a piece about Olio being the town that wasn't there. And I called the people at the State Highway Department to let them know they had a non-existent town on their maps.
"Yeah, somebody calls us every now and then to tell us about a place that isn't there anymore," the PR guy said. "We'll take off of next year's map."
Sure enough, when the next year's official state highway map came out, there was no Olio.
Consequently, I can claim to have wiped a whole town off the map.
My coworkers suggested I could refer to myself as "the Scourge of Olio." I kinda liked the ring of it and decided to use it when the software pressed me to choose a domain name.
So now you know.

McDonalds offering FREE Wifi, starting next month


McDonald’s Corp. has announced it will soon offer free wireless Internet access at most of its U.S. fast-food restaurants as it tries to broaden its appeal still further.

This will be a huge boon for travelers. I’m forever looking for a place to post a blog entry over breakfast, lunch or dinner when I’m on the road on my motorcycle and the creation of 11,000 new free Wifi hotspots is fabulous news for me.

“We’re not just about hamburgers,” said Dave Grooms, chief information officer for McDonald’s USA. “We are about convenience and all kinds of value.”

The world’s largest fast-food chain has offered Internet access for about five years.

In mid-January, it will lift the $2.95 fee it has charged for two hours of Internet access at 11,000 of its 14,000 U.S. locations. There will be no time limit after the fee is lifted.

“McDonald’s is about value – value in our food, value in our services,” Grooms said. “It’s a natural fit.”

It’s also a good fit with the company’s growing coffee business that has upped the chain’s competition with Starbucks Corp., which also offers free Wifi. Coffee and the McCafe line of drinks at McDonald’s have helped drive its sales and increase its market share in the U.S.

The company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., has not released sales data for the McCafe line but said recently that its coffee business has grown from 2 percent of the chain’s overall sales to 5 percent in the past few years.

Grooms said McDonald’s – traditionally known as a quick stop – has become more of a destination with new products and a new look and feel at many of its restaurants, with improved lobby designs and finishes.

The 18th happiest state

According to a recent study, I should be significantly happier now that I’ve moved from Indiana to Arkansas.

Arkansas ranked 18th on the “happy scale,” compared with 48th 49thranked Indiana. It also beat out Colorado (23rd), Oregon (30th), and Nevada (39th), which is where my sons and several friends live.

People in sunny, outdoorsy states - Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida - say they're the happiest Americans, and researchers think they know why. A new study comparing self-described pleasant feelings with objective measures of good living found these folks generally have reason to feel fine.

The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things like climate, crime rates, air quality and schools.

The happiness ratings were based on a survey of 1.3 million people across the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It used data collected over four years that included a question asking people how satisfied they are with their lives.

Here’s the lineup:

1. Louisiana

2. Hawaii

3. Florida

4. Tennessee

5. Arizona

6. South Carolina

7. Mississippi

8. Montana

9. Alabama

10. Maine

11. Wyoming

12. Alaska

13. North Carolina

14. South Dakota

15. Texas

16. Idaho

17. Vermont

18. Arkansas

19. Georgia

20. Utah

21. Oklahoma

22. Delaware

23. Colorado

24. New Mexico

25. North Dakota

26. Minnesota

27. Virginia

28. New Hampshire

29. Wisconsin

30. Oregon

31. Iowa

32. Kansas

33. Nebraska

34. West Virginia

35. Kentucky

36. Washington

37. District of Columbia

38. Missouri

39. Nevada

40. Maryland

41. Pennsylvania

42. Rhode Island

43. Ohio

44. Massachusetts

45. Illinois

46. California

47. New Jersey

48. Indiana

49. Michigan

50. Connecticut

51. New York

Ruthie’s famous - sorta


Hey, there’s Ruthie the Wonder Dog at the bottom of the front page of today’s newspaper.

It’s always nice to have a dog handy when you need to illustrate a pet story.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh, the humiliation!

pete santa0272 It really is true that most dogs feel embarrassed when you put a funny hat on them. Pete is no exception.

FOX News beats The Star on their own turf

FOX News just reported a gun shop burglary in Avon, Ind. in which four young men wearing ski masks drove a stolen SUV through the simpsons_nelson_haha2front door of the store late last night and made off with three 12 gauge shotguns and a muzzleloader.

They had the woman who co-owns the shop with her husband on the  phone. Avon is a western suburb of Indianapolis.

I checked The Indianapolis Star’s web site for more information and was stunned to see they apparently don’t know about the story. At least they haven’t got a story up on the site.

Maybe Gannett has all of the reporters on furlough today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cold dog

We awoke yesterday morning to find the newly shorn Ruthie shivering on a pile of dirty clothes in the corner of our bedroom instead of in her usual spot on the carpet at the foot of the bed.

We invited her to jump up onto the bed, wrapped her in the cold dogeiderdown comforter and warmed her with a hot water bottle until she stopped shivering and her eyelids drooped.

Clearly, we picked the wrong time of year to shear away her heavy woolly coat.

So we bought her a Woolrich dog coat at Target while we were out shopping yesterday afternoon, but it turned out that she needs an XL instead of an L. I went back to Target to make an exchange, but found there were no XLs in any style. So I went to Petco where I was sure I’d find a dizzying array of dog coats.

But all they had was a bunch of tiny dog fru-fru stuff designed more for decoration than for warmth.

So it was off to Walmart where I found more of the same. On the way home, I stopped at the premiere hunting store in town, figuring duck hunters surely need something to keep their dogs warm in those frosty duck blinds. But all they had was neoprene flotation vests with handles to let you haul your dog out of the water.

Consequently, we made a warm bed for Ruthie last night and she seemed OK with that. The weather is a bit warmer today and Austin is going to work late, so he’s letting her stay inside with occasional trips to the back yard to do her business.

And the search for a good dog coat now moves to the Internet.

My wish list

If you’re feeling insanely generous and want to reward me for my contribution to the tedium of the Internet, feel free to buy me something for Christmas from my Wish List.

To hot, or not to hot? That is the question

to hot I noticed this little note on the post office community bulletin board this morning – another case of to-too-two confusion in extremely low-budget advertising.

Who knew tamales could be a cottage industry here in northeast Arkansas?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Al Gore, speaking at the Copenhagen climate change summit, stated the latest research showed that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years.
In his speech, Gore told the conference:

“These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

However, the climatologist whose work Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast.
“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” Dr Maslowski said. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Invest some time and learn something important

A time for courage

Well, I did my part.

I just sent emails to my two Arkansas Senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, my Indiana Democratic Senator Evan Bayh (since I still own property in Indiana) and to Sen. Joe Lieberman telling them the coming vote on Obamacare could be the defining moment of their political careers if they have the courage to seize it.

It’s clear that the majority of Arkansans oppose the Democrat health care bill and since Blanche Lincoln is up for reelection next year and is trailing all of her potential opponents in the polls, this is a make-it-or-break-it vote for her. Will she take a stand for the people who sent her to Washington or will she let Harry Reid take her political career over the cliff?

She has to know the odds favor a Republican sweep in 2010, shifting the balance of Congressional power to the GOP, who will dedicate themselves to undoing all of the damage done by the Democrats this year, including the health care disaster, should it pass.

So the issue for Blanche Lincoln comes down to this:

  1. Vote against the health care bill, be a heroine and have a chance at re-election, or
  2. Vote for legislation that almost surely will be revoked and sacrifice her political career for nothing

Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

The full beauty treatment for Ruthie

ruthie woolly I’m back at Hastings, having dropped Ruthie the Wonder Dog off at Petco for the full beauty treatment – dematting, shampoo, cut, nail trim, and tooth brushing.

Ruthie loves going to the groomer, so this will be her Christmas present. She seemed to know where we were going when I opened the tailgate of the Subaru and she hopped in. She rode quietly until we got to Petco, when she got excited. She practically dragged me to the grooming salon entrance and eagerly went with the groomer for her 2-3 hours of pampering.

It’s been more than a year since she had a professional haircut and she’s as woolly as a sheep. We got out the electric shears and gave her a rather inept haircut last spring. It made her cooler for summer, but looked pretty ragged.

As I was dropping her off at Petco, a guy came in with a 9-month-old male border collie who exchanged sniffing greetings with Ruthie. It occurs to me that everyone we visited in Indiana except Maria’s parents had one or more dogs for me to pet: Kim and Kerstan had two, Laurie and Jim had one, Raph and Deb had two, and Skip and Gloria had two. What would we do without dogs?

And three hours and $59 later, here she is!

Some Inconvenient Facts



I’m enjoying a genuine Shaprio’s Delicatessen bagel for breakfast.

To be more specific, it’s an Asiago cheese  and peppers bagel with cream cheese and it’s a rare treat here in northeast Arkansas where a good bagel is damned near impossible to find.

Maria bought 2½ dozen bagels when we were at Shapro’s for BMW Club breakfast on Saturday. We gave her parents a half-dozen and brought the rest home with us.

If you mention bagels around here, they think you’re talking about these:


Monday, December 14, 2009

We can learn a lot from the Swiss

Monday stuff


I’m looking for a suitable place in our office to display the thoughtful and nifty plaque my mother-in-law made for me for Christmas. Thanks, Sandra! (I really like it. The grimace comes from trying to hold the camera steady.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I packed and shipped a total of 14 books this morning. While I was at the post office, I noticed a TV news crew shooting footage at the seedy apartments just down the street. I supposed it was the local station. I’m told the building has electricity, but no heat, forcing the tenants to heat with stoves and space heaters. I’ve seen miserable-looking dogs chained outside the apartments on several occasions. Doesn’t look like any place I’d care to live.

Speaking/writing of which, we noticed surveyors tramping around in the woods behind our house this morning. They said they were laying out the boundaries for the partially wooded and undeveloped lot just south of our house, which suggests to me that it is being purchased and may soon have a house on it.

We rather enjoy it being wooded and vacant, but unless we’re prepared to buy it, there’s nothing we can do to prevent its development. We just hope the house is built to the same standards as ours.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A day on the road

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         We drove home to Arkansas today, which amounts to a full day’s work – a little more than 7 hours of driving plus time spent refueling, eating, going to the restroom and various other non-driving stuff, like checking the oil.

The top photo was shot this morning somewhere on I-74 between Danville, Ill., and Champaign with me driving, listening to my iPod and Maria snoozing.

I don’t recall what time we left, but we got home a few minutes after 5 p.m. CST. I noticed the Garmin GPS switch over to night mode, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         signaling sunset, at 4:50 p.m. That’s just too damned early for sunset and it will only get worse until the solstice in a week or so.

We stopped for lunch at Culver’s in Effingham, Ill., where Maria shot this photo of me waiting for our food to show up at the table.

We kept a watchful eye out for cops on I-57 near Cairo, Ill., and weren’t disappointed when we spotted a pair of police cars sitting in the media at Mile Marker 8.

We stopped again at Boomland for a restroom break and to check the oil (it was fine).

As far as the numbers go, we drove a total of 1,416 miles and spent a total of 26 hours 27 minutes in motion with a top speed of 78 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         mph and an average moving speed of 53.5 mph. It occurred to me somewhere in southern Illinois that you know you’re getting older and more mature when you swap your radar detector for a GPS unit.

The dogs, Pete especially, were overjoyed to see us. Pete makes little pig noises when he’s excited and happy and he was unusually vocal as he rubbed up against me like a cat. I love that Aussie.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday report


We started the day with breakfast with our Indianapolis BMW Club friends at Shaprio’s delicatessen. There was a good turnout and raph pizzaeveryone seemed surprised and pleased to see us.

Then it was off to Brownsburg for a visit with Maria’s brother Raph and his boys. Lunch was carryout from Pizza Hut.

We wrapped up the day with dinner at the home of Indianapolis News compadre Skip Hess and his wife skip indyGloria. I had hoped to connect with Skip when I was back here for MotoGP, but our schedules didn’t permit it. Now we have to get Skip and Gloria to come down to Arkansas for a visit in 2010.

Now to check out the weather forecast for tomorrow’s drive home to northeast Arkansas and what we hope will be milder temperatures and a gentler run-up to winter.

With Lauri and Jim

lauri judd booze

We spent a delightful evening with Lauri and Jim, Jacob and Judd and their new puppy.

jim shillingsLauri whipped up mountains of delicious chicken wings and we washed them down with three bottles of wine, a spectacular bottle of Madeira and some brandy.

We spread the drinking out over about a six-hour period, so no one got really blasted, although I did, however, appoint Maria as the designated driver.

We hated to leave and won’t rest until we’ve lured them down to Arkansas to live in the glorious temperate climate of the Mid-South.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lunch with Lauri

lauri lunch01 We had a delightful lunch at Creekside with our bestest friend Lauri.

We chose the daily special, lasagna with a choice of lobster bisque (they spell it bisk on the menu board) or salad. Lauri took the salad and Maria and I went for the bisque.

Lauri seemed pleased to see us and we, of course, were delighted to see her. We’re spending the evening with her and her huttown library01sband Jim and their boys tonight.

I’m using the Wifi at the Thorntown Public Library this afternoon, and I’m writing under the same mural that I could gaze at from my desk in the City Room of The Indianapolis News more than 40 years ago.

ttown library02 The mural (in the upper left corner of this photo) is a photomontage of famous Hoosiers up to about 1965 or so. Consequently, it doesn’t include later generations of famous Hoosiers like Larry Bird, John Mellencamp or Michael Jackson or David Letterman. The mural and others of a similar nature went into storage when The News City Room was remodeled in the early 1970s. It made its way to the Indianapolis Press Club for a few years, but when the Press Club folded a few years ago, longtime Newsie Gerry LaFollette bought it and donated it to the newly expanded Thorntown Public Library. Gerry’s parents were from Thorntown.

The original library building was one of the thousands of Carnegie Libraries built throughout the United States. When it was expanded, the addition was designed to carry out the same design elements so that the central section and the new south wing match what remains for the old building. I’m in the main reading room and you can see the afternoon winter sun slanting across the sturdy oak tables and chairs. It reminds me a lot of the Delphi Public Library when I was a kid. It was a Carnegie Library too.


I’m stealing Internet connectivity every time I log on from my in-laws’ house.

They have DSL feeding their desktop computer, but no wireless router and hence no Wifi. But my netbook can see three Wifi networks in range. Two are secured, but the one belonging to the folks across the street is not. So my netbook sees it and hooks up.

Sitting in the living room, which is the closest room to the street, I have two bars of signal strength.

I suppose I could bundle up and drive a few blocks to the public library and use the Wifi there, but it’s so much easier to sit here in the warm house and blog.

Historically, the FCC has taken the position that the airwaves belong to the public and that we can receive any signal that’s out there. That’s the basis of the argument in defense of radar detectors.

But I’m assuming that, since it’s an easy thing to password-protect a wireless router, the neighbor is OK with sharing his Wifi.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dining at Buca di Beppo

buca INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We had a late lunch/early dinner about 3 p.m. at Buca di Beppo, our all-time favorite Italian restaurant.

There may be better Italian food elsewhere, but we love the buca2tacky tacky Italian decor. And the food didn’t disappoint. The servings were so big we were able to take enough home in boxes to feed dinner to Maria’s parents.

They still have the Pope Room and I was pleased to see they’ve updated the bust on the circular table to honor Pope Benedict XVI.