Monday, May 31, 2010

The wrong trousers

airborne Sitting here in Seat 22D of American Airlines Flight 1142 some 34,000 feet over New Mexico, I find myself wondering what I’m going to say to the clowns at Magic Touch Cleaners in Jonesboro, Ark. tomorrow.

The saga began a week ago Thursday when I dropped my black suit off at a branch of Magic Touch for dry cleaning. It was promised for 5 p.m. Friday, but the truck bearing that day’s cleaning didn’t show up before the store closed at 6 p.m. Friday, not to open again until Monday. Don’t worry, they told me. You can pick your suit up at the main location at Caraway and Race on Saturday.

So while Charlie Parsons and I wrestled two new Michelin tires onto my bike on Saturday, Maria went to Magic Touch to get my suit. But there were spots on the pants that required further treatment. Come back on Monday, they told her. Since we were scheduled to fly to Arizona on Tuesday morning, this was cutting things a bit thin.

We picked up the suit on Monday morning, packed it into a garment carrier with Maria’s clothes for Morgan’s wedding, and were on our way to Little Rock and points west.

Fast forward to 11:30 a.m. yesterday, the day of the wedding.

I took the suit – still in its plastic bag from the cleaners – out of the garment bag and laid out the pants to attach the suspenders. But I couldn’t find the suspender buttons. WTF? Had they removed the buttons? Then I noticed the Hart Schaffner & Marx label. My suit is not a Hart Schaffner & Marx. It came from Men’s Wearhouse. The label in the jacket says so.

Holy crap! They’ve given me the wrong pants. Breathlessly, I pulled them on and found they actually fit a little better than my suit pants did when I tried them on prior to going to the cleaners. Fortunately, I had brought a black belt as insurance against suspender failure.

When I stepped into the bright Arizona sunshine, it was obvious that the pants and jacket were not an exact match – close, but not quite.

What the hell, I thought. Everyone is going to be looking at the bride, not at me.

So I went to the wedding, helped give away the bride and did my photography duties in some other guy’s pants. I can only imagine what was going on in my suit pants.

Someone suggested that the Magic Touch dopes wrecked my pants and deliberately substituted a pair of similar waist size and inseam length in the hope that I wouldn’t notice.

Well, I noticed. And I expect them to move Heaven and earth to reunite me with my suit pants.

Beware the Palo Verde Inn in Tucson

Free Scheduled Airport Shuttle.

I used Priceline last week to book a reservation for last night at the Palo Verde Inn in Tucson, so as to be near the airport for this morning’s flight home. The price for the room, with two queen size beds was a mere $53, which impressed the hell out of me.

However, Room 114 had some problems. Besides reeking of cigarette smoke (we asked for a non-smoking room):


The smoke detector was functional, but dangling from wires.

palo02The decorative artwork was hung upside down and a chip of glass was missing.

P5310115 The faceplate on the air conditioner was askew, a knob was missing and it was inefficient and noisy.


Cigarette burns in the blankets.


Sliding door security bar was non-functional.


Suspicious (blood?) stain on the bathroom wall.


And the real capper – no hot water!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Morgan’s wedding day begins

wedding morning

My stepdaughter Morgan is getting married today.

Her best friend Christy and mother Maria crawled into bed with her this morning for this portrait.

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

lisa is 6

Our granddaughter Lisa is 6 years old today.

Here’s a photo her dad Steve shot at her birthday party at school.

She is the smartest, prettiest 6-year-old girl in the world.


It’s a tethered aerostat radar system


We noticed a white object hovering high above Sierra Vista as we approached from the north on Tuesday afternoon. I spotted it when we were 20 miles or more away. As we got closer, it became obvious that it was a tethered blimp, but it seemed to be impossibly high.

Through conversations with locals and online research, I learned it’s a tethered aerostat radar system flying about 10-12,000 feet above Fort Huachuca. It is about twice the size of the Goodyear blimps and is a platform for radar to detect illicit drug smuggling by air from Mexico. You can read all about the program here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010



Maria often speaks wistfully of the red cowboy boots she had when she was a little girl.

So this morning, after breakfast and after watching the Sierra Vista Fire Department put out a car fire next to Denny’s, I took her to the Spur Western Wear shop where I bought my cowboy hat on Wednesday.

Her eyes went directly to this pair. As fate would have it, they are her size. I figured it was destiny, so I insisted she let me buy them for her.

Here’s the car fire scene.


Austin and Jen have arrived in Denver, about the same time Maria’s brother Kerstan reached his layover spot in Dallas. They’ve been conferring and it appears they may arrive in Tucson around the same time. That would be particularly fortuitous because Kerstan plans to rent a car and he could bring Austin and Jen to Sierra Vista, therefore eliminating the need for someone (most likely me) to drive up to Tucson and pick them up and consequently missing the rehearsal, which takes place in two hours.

Makes you want to honk your horn, doesn’t it?


We found ourselves behind a Toyota with this annoying bumper sicker while on our way to breakfast at Denny’s this morning.

dennysI felt a strong urge to lay on the horn, but our little rental Hyundai Accent has an exceptionally feeble horn. I also got a little twitch in my accelerator foot while sitting at a stoplight.

We’re at Denny’s now waiting for our food and listening to the clatter in the kitchen next to our booth. I am wearing my fabulous new Tombstone Epitaph t-shirt.

Austin called earlier to say he and his girlfriend missed their flight out of Indianapolis this morning because the airline listed the wrong gate on the flight display. He said they admitted their mistake and have him and Jen on a later flight to Denver where they will fly to Tucson on standby. This means they will miss the rehearsal, but at least they’ll be here for the wedding.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tombstone – the town, not the pizza


We drove over to Tombstone this morning for some serious Old West tourism.

Stopped by the offices of the Tombstone Epitaph, the historic newspaper that’s still published today, had lunch at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, and took in the $10-a-head reenactment of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Here I am with Terry “Ike” Clanton, a descendant of Ike Clanton, one of the brothers who shot it out Oct. 26, 1881 with the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday.

Maria’s parents rolled in from Indiana about 4:30 p.m. and now we’re off to dinner at a Mexican restaurant that comes highly recommended by the in-laws.

Here’s a cheesy video of the actual firefight, minus the melodramatic prelude:

Scary stuff

This is taking place a few miles north and east of here. Note the passage I have highlighted in bold face italics:


By Leo W. Banks

They spent ten winters hunting quail in the sun. But those halcyon days ended last week for Terrie and Glen Stoller. Smugglers -- armed, numerous, and brazen -- have frightened them off their southeast Arizona property.

The couple is selling their home, 45 miles north of the Mexican border in the notorious Chiricahua Corridor.

"Last winter," says Terrie, "as we walked the hills looking for quail with our dogs, I kept thinking, ‘What if we come upon a drug encampment? What's going to happen to us?' I carry a camera, my husband carries a 12-gauge for quail, and we have four hunting dogs. It'd be the end of us. It'd be no contest against drug runners carrying rifles and big weapons."

Glen likens the family to frontier homesteaders loading a wagon and returning home. "Cochise has won," he says, referring to the Apache chief who made the Chiricahua Mountains his homeland. "The Indians are running us off."

I drove out to the Stoller place for moving day. Their winter retreat is a modest, Santa Fe-style manufactured home west of Highway 80, at the mouth of Horseshoe Canyon.

The couple, both 71, made a party of their last hours in Arizona. Terrie had lunch ready for dear friends who came to help pack. Others drove to the barbed wire fence around the property, threw their arms wide and said, "Let's have a goodbye hug."

It was a sad day, made more so by events in Washington.

At the precise moment Americans citizens were saying a wrenching farewell to their friends and property, President Obama stood on the White House lawn and listened as Mexican President Felipe Calderón criticized SB 1070, Arizona's own effort to deal with a state under siege.

Obama offered no correction or objection, and what a shock to see an American president acquiesce to a foreign leader's interference in the affairs of sovereign Arizona.

But Obama and his cabinet have had plenty to say about SB1070 on other occasions, and most of it has been nakedly political, uninformed, and demagogic.

The day after the Stollers' move, we were treated to a second spectacle -- Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, most of them, standing to cheer as Calderón repeated his slanders against Arizona.

Do we even need to mention the shameful treatment by the government of Mexico of migrants passing through that country -- the rapes, beatings, and robberies to which they're routinely subjected?

Do we need to mention Mexico practically shoving its people out of the country to take advantage of their hard labors here, and the billions they send back to shore up the economic and human rights basket case Calderón oversees?

The hypocrisy bends the mind.

Finally, this week, two months after Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Republican Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl asked for help to defend the state's border, the president agreed to send "up to 1,200" National Guard troops and request $500 million in supplemental spending for added security measures.

More money is always welcome, but everything hinges on how it is spent. The troop commitment is more symbolic than real, and the details here are critical, too. How many of the "up to 1,200" will be sent to Arizona? Our border with Mexico is 380 miles long. Our representatives asked for 3,000 soldiers in Arizona alone.

Will the National Guard be stationed right on the line, with bullets in their guns and the authority to defend themselves? Almost certainly not. The border is a "combat zone," says T.J. Bonner, head of the Border patrol agents' union, too dangerous even for Border Patrol.

You read that correctly. Without armored vehicles to protect them, Bonner opposes putting Border Patrol agents on the border itself.

But the Stollers and friends kept Washington's alternate reality far away this day. They worked, chatted, and reminisced as the moving trucks filled up. It was a blue-sky morning in this rural valley on the Arizona-New Mexico line.

The landscape here is among the Southwest's most beautiful, big beyond imagining, with waving grasses, dirt roads that never end, and hidden canyons that twist through the Chiricahuas and their sister mountains, the Peloncillos, on the New Mexico side.

But smugglers of both people and drugs now control those ranges, and these dangerous men have transformed life here. Some residents carry weapons inside their houses. Others grab a firearm to step out to the garage or the storage shed, or to go to the market.

The Stollers own a nursery in California and grow grapevines for farmers and wineries. When they began wintering in Arizona, they never locked their doors, even though they encountered illegals who'd ask for water or food, sending Glen to the fridge for leftovers.

"We didn't feel it was our job to turn them in. We felt sorry for them," says Terrie. "Work is hard to find in Mexico, and they're just trying to feed their families."

But that began to change several years ago as break-ins mounted, with reports of guns stolen. The Stollers themselves were broken into in May last year and again in June, and in January, a retired couple living a mile north suffered a home invasion by two illegals, one carrying a machete.

"It all built up," says Terrie. "The Apache School was being totally ruined and trashed and everything taken out of it. Then Rob Krentz was killed March 27, and he was just down the road."

One of Terrie's pressing fears was for her beloved Llewellin setter hunting dogs.

At night, the animals would often respond to a coyote and charge out the doggie door to investigate. Terrie says she'd lie awake listening for their return, hoping she wouldn't have to "go out and find them with a bullet in them next morning."

"It didn't happen, thank goodness," she says. "But we didn't want it to happen, and we became fearful enough we finally said, 'That's it. We can't stay.'"

The Stollers could be forgiven for harboring bitterness. But it's not in their nature. Terrie acknowledges feeling some anger, although her primary emotion is sadness.

"We don't know who to blame," she says. "Is it the government's fault? Is it people taking drugs in America? Is it Mexico for allowing it to happen? There's no use blaming anyone. It's just a sad state of affairs. We've met so many wonderful people in Arizona, and we're just keeping our fingers crossed nothing happens to them."

In one respect, the Stollers are fortunate. They've found a likely buyer, a fellow who grew up here and wants to return to the valley in retirement. Selling the place through a real estate agent to someone just coming in, without local ties, would've been impossible.

"Nobody in their right mind would even look at it, knowing what's going on here," says Terrie.

Property values are plunging across the borderlands. I got an e-mail last week from retired Cochise County judge Rich Winkler, 71, who always dreamed of owning a cattle ranch. He lives outside Rodeo, six miles from the Stollers and fifty miles north of the Mexican line.

His ranch is in the Peloncillos. Here is what he wrote:

Mary and I have worked all our life to pay for this place, and now they tell me it is worth nothing because no one will buy it. I don't blame them. Helen Snyder sells real estate in the area and she said that since Rob's death, the market is dead it the water. I can't believe my country would leave me high and dry like this.

If the heartbreak Winkler feels doesn't leap from those words, read them again. Heartbreak is everywhere here, every day.

Wendy Glenn, with husband Warner, lives on a ranch right on the border east of Douglas, and she's a throwback, as tough as they make them. But she choked up likening the Stollers' moving day to a funeral.

As she carried boxes out to the truck, Glenn said, "This is God's country, and it's being taken away from us."

Leo W. Banks covers the border for the Tucson Weekly.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Loose talk

Conversation fragment overheard yesterday in the Sierra Vista Target store:

“So he turned them all loose in the house before he went out of town and he caught them when he got home. He counted all of the snakes before he left, so he knew how many to catch.”

It’s OK, we’re legal

border patrol

We ran up to Tucson today to pick up Morgan’s lifelong friend Christy who flew in from Chicago for the wedding.

Driving north on Ariz. Hwy. 80 from Sierra Vista means passing through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. In our case, that involved stopping at the designated spot with driver’s window rolled down and greeting the Border Patrol guy. He peered into our car and decided Morgan, Maria and I looked like solid citizens and waved us on.

We got to the airport as Christy was snatching her luggage from the baggage carousel, so we didn’t have to kill time circling the terminal since you can’t stop in front of the building unless the traveler you’re picking up is actually standing on the sidewalk and ready to go.

Lunch was at a soup and salad place, then to Sam’s Club for wedding rehearsal dinner and reception stuff, then back to Sierra Vista.

NOTE TO WOULD-BE BURGLARS: Our neighbors are watching our house closely and they have guns. And they don’t mind using them.

morgan&christy Morgan (left) and Christy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tourists in Bisbee


Today’s big adventure was a visit to the picturesque copper mining town turned gigantic antique mecca of Bisbee.

bisbee02We traipsed up and down the hilly streets peering into shop windows. Many of the shops were closed, including one with an “open” sign on the door and egg separators in the window, one of which would have surely gone home with Maria if the shop had been attended.

We also paused for ice cream (see photo).

Morgan emerged from a public restroom with toilet paper stuck to her shoe (see other photo).

On the way over, we realized that mountains in the near distance were in Mexico, because we were within 10 miles of the border.

The Hyundai Accent (which I’m sure some people call “Accident”) we’ve rented from Enterprise is hideously underpowered, especially with three adults aboard. If the passenger in the back seat shifts quickly, the car lurches violently to one side or the other. On the plus side, it has a splendid air conditioning system, which is extremely useful in this climate, and sound system AUX and USB plugs for iPods, and a cavernous trunk that swallowed all of our luggage and begged for more. On the minus side, it has crank-up windows, no cruise control and manual door locks.

My Garmin Nuvi 200W is a huge asset when it comes to getting around in a strange town. It led me to the Spur Western apparel store for my new hat, to Walmart for a cheap Winchester multi-tool to see me through a week without my trusty Swiss Army knife, a pair of khaki cargo pants, some nail clippers, and potato chips, and to Morgan’s future father-in-law’s office for coffee and conversation.


An eclectic shop in Bisbee. If I weren’t so lazy, I would have cloned out the powerline that mars an otherwise OK photo.

All hat and no cows

strawhat I went shopping this morning while Maria and Morgan made wedding bouquets.

I failed to pack enough pants and am on a quest for a sufficiently provocative Arizona t-shirt, plus Maria needed some Static Guard to keep her protected from static electricity in this low humidity environment.

Now, we’re off to Bisbee to do some sightseeing.

And I found a Western wear shop and this stylish $26 straw hat.


andrew goobertown

We brought Morgan’s fiancee Andrew a Goobertown t-shirt in our effort to spread Arkansan culture wherever we go.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Together again

maria & morgan SV

We’ve arrived in lovely Sierra Vista.

Fixin’ to fly

lr airport I’m watching the Early Show on CBS and Harry Smith is clearly out of his depth interviewing a drag racer whose car exploded in flames.

The guy walked away from it because he knew what to do and because the onboard fire control system worked. Anyone who knows about drag racing knows it looks way worse than it was. But, of course, the Early Show producers and witless Harry Smith were stuck in the “gee whiz, miraculous escape from certain death” perception. Consequently, Harry comes across as a complete moron. But then he is a complete moron.

Their musical guest this morning is Jewel, who still hasn’t got her teeth fixed.

We’re hanging out at the Little Rock National Airport (notice “national” and not “international”) waiting for our flight to DFW to board in about two hours. We have a bit of a layover and then fly on to TUS (Tucson) where we pick up a rental car and motor on down to Morgan and Andrew’s place in Sierra Vista.

Considering all of the camera and other electronic junk in our carry-ons, getting through security was surprisingly easy. I startled the TSA guys by thanking them for what they do.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

New tires for the K1200GT

charlie tire

Charlie Parsons and I spent about five sweaty hours cursing and puzzling yesterday but eventually managed to remove my worn-out Metzelers and replace them with new Michelin dual composition Pilot Power 2 tires.

I printed out the pages of my K1200RS service manual that pertain to wheel removal while I was waiting for Charlie to arrive yesterday morning to pick up the Michelins from our garage. By the time he arrived, I was sufficiently intimidated to suggest we just let a dealer do it. He looked over the instructions and decided it was worth a try. Turns out he was right.

It was Charlie’s first serious project with the No Mar tire changing equipment he bought at the 2008 BMW MOA rally in Gillette, Wyo., so we spent some time watching the instructional DVD, some sections multiple times. The rear tires were a bear to get off and on but we prevailed. Mostly Charlie prevailed with me helping, since it was his shop.

The front tire change was complicated by the fact that my K1200GT rests on its front wheel when on the centerstand. We solved the problem by having me sit far back on the passenger seat, levering the front end up while Charlie removed the wheel and put a big log, supported by an aluminum case, under it to hold the bike up.

I took the bike for a 5-mile test ride on the new tires and was dazzled by how much better the bike handles. Of course going from a clapped-out set of Metzelers with 11,650 miles on them to a brand new set of Michelins should be an impressive change. It was like going from squared-off car tires to round-surface motorcycle tires. They’ll have to wait until we get back from Arizona to get scrubbed in, but I think I’m going to enjoy them.

And the price was right - $221.98. Free shipping and free do-it-yourself mounting and balancing. That’s less than half what I paid for the Metzelers two years ago at the Colorado Springs BMW dealership. I am thoroughly impressed with the deals at Motorcycle Superstore online.

Charlie came over later for beer and brats, but he and I were both wiped out from the day’s exertions in the hot garage. I dozed in front of the TV for about an hour after he left, then went to bed about 9:30 p.m.

Charlie was up early this morning. When I opened the garage door, I found his pressure washer – delivered as promised. So now we’re going to blast away the dirt and wasp nests from the front and back porches.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Insufficient data

friday fish 

This note turned up today on the community bulletin board of the Brookland, Ark., post office.

Unfortunately, there’s no clue as to when and where this lunch or dinner is to be found. It’s not attached to or near any restaurant or church flyer. Just hanging there by itself.

One more Arkansas mystery.

At last, someone is asking us!

Main Image

Here’s your chance to tell someone in Congress what programs you think should be scrapped from the bloated Federal budget.

Here’s how GOP Whip Eric Cantor explains it:

YouCut – a first-of-its-kind project - is designed to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. It allows you to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House enact. America is at a crossroads and the choices we make at this critical time will determine what kind of country we want to be. To get back on the right path, Congress must start to make some choices that simply can't be delayed any longer. While we won't be able to solve our deficit problems overnight or with one silver bullet, we can and we must begin to replace the culture of spending that now dominates Washington with a culture of savings. Just imagine if your government was as focused on saving money as it is on spending money.

Here are today’s choices:

  1. Byrd Honors Scholarships
    $42 Million in Savings in the First Year
    ($420 Million Over Ten Years)

    The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarships program provides grants to States to provide $1,500 a year scholarships for up to four years to high-performing high school students entering an undergraduate course of study. The Obama Administration proposed terminating this program in their annual budget, stating "Byrd Scholarships are only available to a small number of elite students (around 0.3 percent of first-time postsecondary students receive the scholarship), and States are prohibited from considering financial need when awarding the scholarships. Reliable performance data are not available, and the design of the program suggests these scholarships do not generally facilitate postsecondary education opportunities that would not otherwise be possible for awardees. Given the high academic performance of the students who receive the award, many of these students would still enter an undergraduate course of study and graduate even without receiving the scholarship."
  2. Eliminate the Proposed Federal Employee Pay Raise
    Approximately $2 Billion in the First Year
    (Approximately $30 Billion Over Ten Years)

    As part of his budget, President Obama proposed providing federal civilian employees with a 1.4% pay raise next year. This year Federal employees received a 2% raise and since the year 2000 have received raises averaging 3.6% a year. USA Today recently reported that the typical federal worker is paid 20% more than a private-sector worker in the same occupation (median salary). This doesn’t include the value of benefits like health care and retirement. This proposal would expand upon the just enacted legislation to prevent Members of Congress from receiving a pay raise. This proposal would not impact the scheduled 1.4% pay raise for those in the military.
  3. Suspend Federal Land Purchases
    $266 Million in Savings in the First Year
    ($2.66 Billion Over Ten Years)

    Last year Congress spent $266 million acquiring additional federal lands at the Departments of Interior and Agriculture. This is a 138% increase over the comparable amount of funding just four years ago. Given that the federal government already owns 29% of the land in America and has a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog to maintain current land holdings, suspending new federal land purchases for five years would permit the government to focus on maintaining existing property while also saving taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
  4. Terminate Funding for UNESCO
    $81 Million in Savings in the First Year
    ($810 Million Over Ten Years)

    Last year the administration proposed deleting the Department of Education’s attaché to UNESCO saving approximately $632,000 a year. Terminating U.S. support for UNESCO entirely would save taxpayers $81 million annually. The U.S. had not supported UNESCO for 19 years prior to the decision by the Bush Administration to rejoin in 2003. UNESCO routinely undertakes activities that are properly the responsibility of individual countries and their governments, including reviewing and making recommendations in areas related to education, arts, culture, ethics, science and technology, and historic preservation. UNESCO recently came under fire for their proposed International Guidelines for Sexuality Education. Membership provides little benefit to American taxpayers in light of the overall cost.
  5. Eliminate Mohair Subsidies
    Approximately $1 Million in Savings in the First Year
    ($10 Million Over Ten Years)

    Federal price support for mohair was first enacted in 1947. The National Wool Act of 1954 established direct payments for wool and mohair producers. The purpose of the program was to encourage production of wool because it was considered an essential and strategic commodity. According to the Congressional Research Service, no similar purpose was stated for the mohair program. While this program was phased out in 1995, ad hoc payments were provided in 1999 and 2000 and the program was reinstituted in 2002. Eliminating this program once again would save taxpayers approximately $1 million a year. (Also proposed as part of the RSC Sunset Caucus.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tina’s back at the Journal Review

I was pleased today to hear that Tina McGrady has been hired as managing editor of the Crawfordsville (Ind.) Journal Review.

It was Tina who hired Maria away from The Indianapolis Star and Maria replaced her as managing editor of the Journal Review when Tina left a few years later. Tina worked at the Danville, Ill., paper and her return to the Journal Review is great news for the community and everyone but the competing local paper. I expect she will prove to be their worst nightmare.

It’s not a siphon, you morons!

If I hear one more TV twit say BP is siphoning up the oil escaping from its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, my head may explode.

These ignorant jackasses apparently have no idea of what a siphon is and how it works.

Here’s how defines siphon: A tube or conduit bent into legs of unequal length, for use in drawing a liquid from one container into imageanother on a lower level by placing the shorter leg into the container above and the longer leg into the one below, the liquid being forced up the shorter leg and into the longer one by the pressure of the atmosphere.

You cannot siphon from a lower level to a higher level, like from a wellhead a mile below the surface to a tanker on the surface. That’s not siphoning, that’s pumping.

To illustrate, if you can suck a fluid to a point lower than its intake, then gravity and atmospheric pressure take over and will continue the flow.

In most cases, these are the same people who think “decimate” is synonymous with “devastate.” To decimate is to reduce by one-tenth. When the Romans had to severely discipline one of their legions, they’d line everyone up and call out every 10th man and kill him. They called it decimating from the Latin word decem or ten.

Good news

I finally got around to trying on my black suit this morning - the one I need to wear for my stepdaughter Morgan’s wedding a week from Sunday. I haven’t worn it since we moved to Arkansas nearly three years ago. I think the last time I wore it was for Morgan’s graduation from I.U. in the spring of 2007.

I was concerned that it might have shrunk hanging in the closet all those years like many articles of clothing do. In which case, I’d have to hustle over to Joseph A. Banks Clothiers at the mall and lay out some serious money for a new suit and hope that they could make any alterations quickly.

But, wonder of wonders, it fits. Now all I have to do is find a good dry cleaning establishment because there is a big stripe of dust where the pants draped over a hanger and more dust on the jacket shoulders.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Here’s your chance to know something Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano don’t know

The full text of the new Arizona immigration law.

No ambiguity here

I can’t control it

I have no control over those little thumbnail ads that Google AdSense sticks below the top blogposts. I noticed one this morning for Arkansas Atty. Gen. Bill Halter, who now faces Sen. Blanche Lincoln in a Democrat runnoff primary three weeks hence. I’m not interested in promoting either of them, but I’m stuck with mixed messages thanks to Google.

That said, go ahead and click on the stupid things. I get a penny or two for every click.

Lying weasel

Fred Thompson, speaking on Fox and Friends this morning, called Blumenthal “a lying weasel.” I think Thompson showed remarkable restraint.

And what about those guys sharing the stage with him? Do they dare show their faces at their local American Legion or VFW hall today?

My faves lost, but I still win

My choices for the GOP nomination for Senate and House of Representatives lost yesterday, but I take consolation in the knowledge that the Democrats are still going to lose those seats in November.

Arkansas election law requires a candidate to get 50 percent or more of the votes cast to be declared the winner, so yesterday’s primaries merely narrowed the Republican and Democrat fields for Senator to the top two in each party with a runoff election in three weeks.

I suppose there is an odd democratic logic to the process, but it still seems silly to someone raised in Indiana where the candidate with the most votes wins the nomination.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A shameful spectacle

Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal’s remarks today about how he “misspoke” about his Vietnam era military service were about as ridiculous as Eric “Otter” Stratton’s defense of Delta Tau Delta in Animal House.

Not counting most of Obama’s public utterances, it was the most disingenuous load of political horseshit I’ve heard in years.

I listened to the press conference on XM satellite radio on my way home from Cape Girardeau. It was mind-numbing how this pathetic weasel tried to spin the issue as an attack on his service record. He did everything he could to avoid confronting the fact that he knowingly and deliberately lied when he repeatedly claimed to have served in Vietnam when, in fact, his six years of service with the Marine Corps Reserve were all stateside. I was in the U.S. Air Force briefly during the Vietnam era, but have way too much admiration and respect for those who fought and died to ever, ever pretend I was anywhere near Vietnam and actual combat. It’s unfortunate that tarring and feathering has gone out of style.

I couldn’t hear the reporters’ questions very well, but it was clear that they weren’t buying it despite the applause from the Blumenthal shills in the audience. And I heard at least one reporter suggest that Blumenthal lied instead of simply misspoke.

That The New York Times broke this story is particularly telling, given their penchant for overlooking the sins of Democrats.

The old riding pants will have to last another season

oldpants This was supposed to be the first of a two-photo comparison of my old BMW Summer Pants and the new Summer Pants2 that awaited me at Grass Roots BMW in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

But despite the fact that they ordered three different sizes (S, M, and L), I was out of luck because the Large was too small. And the legs were way too long. An XL, had they ordered one, would have been just as bad because they only come in one inseam length. I have a 28” inseam, which means there is no way I could wear any size of the Summer Pants2.

So there was no second photo and we gave up on riding pants for the time being.

As it turned out, I rode about 300 miles today for two bolts – a painted replacement for the silver bolt I got at the former Wichita, Kans. BMW shop to replace the one that I’d lost from my saddlebag mount – and a spare. While I was there, I ordered a new starter relay for Maria’s K75S, but that was something I could have done over the phone.

What the hell, it was a nice day and I squeezed another 300 miles out of my nearly bald tires.

And I got home in time to ship a couple of books I sold on before the post office closed for the day.

I voted


This was the scene at the Brookland Fire Station at 8:10 a.m. today when Maria and I voted.

The guy in the background is a poll worker who is setting up a voting machine for the woman standing next to him. He didn’t crowd me or try to see how I was voting, so there was no reason to raise a fuss.

Now I’m off to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles at Cape Girardeau, Mo., to see a man about some pants.

More later.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thanks a lot, kid. Now get out of here.


I got an automated phone call this afternoon from Bill Clinton, whose people apparently think I’m going to vote in the Democratic primary tomorrow. I’m not, but I’ll get to that later.

A few days ago, I would have expected Clinton to try to talk me into voting for Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who is running against incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln. After all, Halter, seen in the photo above, was apparently a “marvelous help” to Clinton when he worked in the Office of Budget Management during the Clinton administration. And Halter has made much of his connection with the Clinton presidency. I got a live call from the Halter campaign a week or so ago which the caller proudly announced was paid for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU – Obama’s thug army) and I supposed that the Halter campaign had the all-out support of the big-name Democrats.

So imagine my surprise when Clinton began his pitch in behalf of Blanche Lincoln.

Our answering machine took a similar call over the weekend from President Obama, also campaigning for Blanche.

If I were voting in the Democrat primary tomorrow, I’d vote for Blanche because I feel sorry for the way some in the party turned on her. She’s done a lot of good stuff for Arkansas. In my mind, her vote for Obamacare disqualifies her from serving another term, but I’ll concede that she has helped her state in some areas.

lord-farquaadI’ve met her and Halter and heard them debate. The experience left me wondering what anyone could see in Halter, other than hope that he might be a useful tool for the Socialists. He reminds me of the kind of arrogant twerp you see running for student government office on a second-rate college campus like Indiana State University. I’ve also heard him likened to Lord Farquaad from the first Shreck movie.

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter who wins the Democrat nomination. The winner will be swamped by the Conservative Tsunami in November.

Which leads me to who will get my votes in the GOP primary tomorrow.

Of the eight Republican senatorial aspirants, Randy Alexander is my pick. He carries a copy of the U.S,. Constitution around with him and we share the same understanding of what it means and how it must be protected and defended. I’ve got his bumper sticker on the back of my Honda del Sol and I’ve put up several of his signs at area intersections.

My choice for the Republican nomination for the Arkansas First Congressional District is Princella Smith. She’s one of several black conservatives who have the potential to transform or destroy the Congressional Black Caucus. (After all, would we tolerate a Congressional White Caucus?) And she has the endorsement of Newt Gingrich. Nuf sed.

And if one of those dipshit poll workers tries to look over my shoulder while I’m casting my ballot on the electronic voting machine tomorrow, there’s gonna be trouble.

Breaking news from Weather Central


You know it’s a slow Monday morning when all you can think of to blog about is the 0.15 inches of water in your rain gauge.

No more rain in the forecast until Thursday, so I may be able to put a few miles on the nearly bald tires on my bike.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I’m a believer – O frabjous day, calloo, callay!

zout Zout laundry stain remover saved my TravelSmith safari jacket

I was certain the nasty ink stain from my Mont Blanc rollerball pen would never ever come out of the patch pocket on my jacket. I used rubbing alcohol and cold water with dubious results – mostly it just spread the stain to my fingers (see yesterday’s post). Then I saturated the stain with Zout, let it set for an hour or so, then scrubbed it with a toothbrush dedicated to laundry use. I ran it through the washer and found it much improved, but still noticeably stained. So I gave it a couple more Zout soaks and toothbrush scrubs and then a final ride in the washer.

And to my utter amazement, the ruinous ink stain was gone. Completely gone.

They say their triple enzyme formula is guaranteed, but I figured that was just so much hype. I still suspect there is some kind of stain out there that this stuff can’t touch, but it rescued my favorite jacket and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Happy Anniversary to us


Today is our 9th wedding anniversary.

I am reminded of what the late Edwin O. Park said after his father’s funeral as he flashed his dad’s watch:

“I came out pretty good in that deal.”

And I did.


Betrayed by an obscenely expensive writing instrument

inkstains I love the unique turquoise ink that passes for “blue” in the Mont Blanc rollerball pen world. I like it so much that I bought the entire blue rollerball refill stock of an Indianapolis jewelry store that was liquidating its Mont Blanc stuff.

But I don’t like it on my fingers and I don’t like it on my clothes.

Which is why I’m in a foul fucking mood this morning.

The Mont Blanc rollerball is a two-piece affair with a cap like a fountain pen. And the cap on mine has become increasingly loose over the years. I was sitting at my desk about an hour ago when I noticed turquoise ink stains on the inside of my left forearm. Then I noticed that they came from my forearm contacting the left breast pocket of my Travel Smith safari jacket (the sleeves were rolled up and buttoned, leaving my forearms bare). The pen and cap had separated and the ink wicked into a hideous stain at the bottom of the patch pocket.

Following Maria’s advice, I soaked the stained area in several solutions of rubbing alcohol, flushed it with cold water, hosed it down with Zout, and threw it into the washer. I suspect, however, that the stain will still be there with the spin cycle ends. And that really pisses me off because that was my favorite jacket.

And now my fingers are covered with turquoise ink stains.

It’s hard to believe a rollerball pen that lists for $375 (I got mine used on Ebay for less than $100) could malfunction like that.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sounds like Indiana's Mitch Daniels

N.J. gov. sets tone for US -

Snow at 10,600 feet

balough snow

I just had a Skype conversation with Tim Balough who reports he has about 8 inches of snow on the ground at his home in Alma, Colo., and it’s still coming down.

Tim is a volunteer with the local fire department and reports they responded to a slew of traffic accidents yesterday. He said visibility was down to about 30 feet at one point during the snowstorm.

That seems hopelessly bizarre when I look around here in northeast Arkansas and see nothing but lush green foliage and breathe warm, humid air filled with the heady aroma of honeysuckle in bloom.

The set of Michelin tires for my motorcycle showed up on the front porch late yesterday, but it will be another week before Charlie and I will be able to get together to mount them, along with at least one tire for his bike.

Thursday, May 13, 2010



Going with the zeitgeist.

An endless stream

borderintruders has placed motion-activated cameras along several trails used by illegals crossing into Arizona from Mexico and what they captured boggles the mind. Go look for yourself.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Absolutely chilling

Bats right, thinks left

kagan softball So Elana Kagan played softball in 1993. Why the gay rights crowd thinks the Wall Street Journal publishing a picture of her playing softball is somehow outing her as a lesbian is beyond my comprehension.

She may bat right-handed, but ideologically she’s a leftie and that’s what I don’t like about her nomination to the Supreme Court.

I’d like to see a list of activities and situations the gay rights folks have decided are stereotypical of gays, considering that they’re constantly lecturing us about being blind to sexual orientation.

Did I mention I hate being a landlord?

There was no rent check in our mailbox this morning and I am not a happy camper.

The rent is due on the first of the month. If it arrives after the 5th, there is a penalty payment due. Maria called the tenant on the 6th and was told that he would “overnight” it on Monday. I find his choice of terms disturbing because I told him some time ago that the U.S. Postal Service does not provide next-day delivery service either from Thorntown or to Brookland. So if he did dispatch it on Monday, it should be in our P.O. box tomorrow. That’s cutting it kind of thin, considering that we’re into the penalty zone on our house payment if it isn’t received by the 16th.

I have the mortgage payment envelope in my pocket and am debating whether to put it into the mail today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cousin Sam reports from Nashville

My cousin Sam lives on the southside of Nashville. I sent him an email a few days ago asking if he and his family were staying dry with all of the flooding. I got this reply yesterday:

We're all clear with the floods as our home is on "high" ground, unlike a couple blocks away from us that had water 1/2 way up the 1st floor levels. Cars were under water, mail boxes had tops only showing.
Our only problem was electricity, being down until last Wednesday.

Who knew?

psychic fair

It can never be easy


The new gel battery for Maria’s K75S arrived about 5:30 p.m. yesterday and I went to work to install it.

But I quickly learned this is way more complicated than it would appear. For openers, you can’t just lift out the accessory/tool tray, undo the battery retainer and cables and lift the old battery out. Oh, no. That would be far too easy.

I called BMW friend Charlie Parsons for guidance, since he has experience with BMW K75 bikes. The accessory tray is locked in place with a retaining pin on the starboard side which also anchors the silver colored Motronic computer box which slips into a slot on the underside of the tray, coming in from the port side. Kinda like a Chinese puzzle. I managed to get all of this stuff out of the way with some struggling and swearing and was finally able to get at the old battery.

Then I noticed that the old lead/acid battery is roughly twice as thick as the new gel battery. Another call to Charlie left me reassured that the new battery will be just fine in the cavernous space. No need for a shim, just secure it tightly with the battery retainer.

Wrestling the old battery out of the bike was very tricky because it just barely fit up through the frame. Even so, I had to remove the circlip holding the lower part of the mechanism that supports the raised seat in order to lift the seat even higher so the battery could clear it.

I put the new battery in and connected the ground terminal. Connecting the positive terminal, I was startled by sparks, followed by the sound of the starter cranking the engine. I checked the ignition switch and confirmed that it was off. WTF?

Another call to Charlie helped me remember something I’d known years ago: When you try to start a BMW K-bike with a nearly dead battery, there is a high probability that you will cause the starter relay points to weld themselves into an open position. That appears to be what happened the last time I tried to start the bike before ordering a new battery. Charlie seemed to think it’s possible to open up the starter relay and fix the problem. The bad news, is that it’s buried deep and can only be accessed by removing the gas tank.

So the bike is back in the garage awaiting a weekend when Charlie can help me finish the job.

In the meantime, I got my stringer check and ordered a pair of Michelin Pilot Power CT tires for my K1200GT from the Motorcycle Superstore. The cost was $221.92 with free shipping. According to their calculations, I saved $127.92 over the list price of the tires. They’re dual compound, with hard rubber in the center for Interstate riding and softer rubber on the sides for traction in curves. And they should be here Thursday. Which will create an opportunity for yet another mechanical misadventure.

Rejected cartoons

This is the latest addition to Lauri’s blog.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rainy Monday


It was pouring when I woke up at 6 this morning and it’s been raining off and on all day. I checked the rain gauge about 3 p.m. and it had 1.5 inches of water in it and there is supposedly more on the way tonight.

Consequently, with the exception of a quick run to the post office, I’m spending the day at home, hanging out with the dogs and waiting for UPS to bring the new battery for Maria’s BMW K75S. The UPS tracking site shows it out for delivery, so it could be here any minute.

Ruthie has some sense when it comes to rain, but Pete gets soaked every chance he gets. He also likes to bite the rain as it cascades down a valley in the roof and onto the patio. So a day like this requires a couple of towels just to keep him semi-dry.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Not my mother’s grilled cheese sandwich


We got out late this morning, still hopeful of getting a late breakfast or early lunch before hitting Sam’s Club and Kroger.

Driving past Olive Garden, we noticed the parking lot was full to overflowing into the Chili’s lot and there was a huge crowd standing outside the door.

Oh, yeah. Mother’s Day.

Ditto Cracker Barrel, ditto IHOP. So Maria suggested the Dixie Cafe, apparently blocking from her memory all of the disappointing dining experience we have with that place.

An hour later, the block is gone.

I had a toasted cheese sandwich that was as bland as a piece of cardboard. Naturally, they eschew interesting cheese like cheddar for American cheese. Honest to God, it looked like a piece of yellow-orange plastic between two toasted slices of white bread. And that’s what it tasted like.

I’m having a cup of Joe’s Choice at the Books-A-Million Joe Muggs Cafe to wash the nasty taste from my mouth.

The upside of shopping on Mother’s Day? There was nobody in front of us in the checkout line at Sam’s Club.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A LEGAL immigrant lectures the Tucson City Council

Capt. Kroon’s V-E Day Letter

pwriteSixty-five years ago today, 26-year-old Capt. Philip C. Kroon, an artillery officer with the U.S. Army's 144th Field Artillery Group, took pen in hand in the garden outside an Austrian hotel and wrote a letter to his young bride in Redlands, Calif.
It was V-E Day - Victory in Europe Day - and the young captain from Grand Rapids, Mich., had been in combat since his unit came ashore in Normandy a few weeks after the June 6, 1944, invasion. He was looking forward to coming home, but mindful that the war against Japan seemed far from finished and that he might be needed in the Pacific Theatre.
Here is what he wrote on a sheet of Adolf Hitler's personal letterhead, liberated a day or two earlier from the Führer's Berghof retreat at nearby Berchtesgaden:

My adored wife,
Finally the work of the past year for me and over three years for the nation is completed. The war here is over completely. Of course, we are glad it is over, but to us it is sort of an anti-climax. For nearly two months now, we have completely routed the Germans. During the past few days we have seen steady streams of German soldiers marching to the rear. At some places, even the super-highway is jammed. It was a sight never to forget and one that only happens once in a lifetime. I wanted to get some pictures of it, but my camera was stolen some time ago. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry. I now have another very good German camera that I took from a mailGerman soldier, so am better equipped than before.
Now that we are no longer at war here, I should have more time to write you and expect to get off better than one letter every five or six days. In fact, it's now been seven days this time. I'm sorry, darling. I'll try to make it up to you.
About a week ago I went through the Dachau concentration camp. Any pictures you see or stories you hear are only a small part of the picture. The stench was indescribable as well as the actual scenes. I saw some of the toughest soldiers nauseated. I won't tell you any details for they shouldn't be put on paper. It was the most terrible thing I have ever seen.
In contrast, a couple of days ago I went through one of Hitler's palaces -not the one at Berchtesgaden, but an old Hapsburg palace  that he took over. It was a paragon of beauty and symmetry. In the two main floors was not a sign of Nazi Occupation except that most of the furnishings had been looted, mainly from France.
The walls were covered with priceless tapestries, the floors with thick pile rugs. We were nearly the first soldiers in the place and looked through it by ourselves. We went snooping in the cellar and came across two storage rooms. One was nearly filled with medals, of which I have a few choice ones. I also found one silver knife (not table) in the house - the only one there, so I suppose it belonged to Hitler. In another room, we found some stationery, of which this is the choicest. His personal. I have quite a bit of it and will send it home. You can give a sheet to various people, but save some of each kind, especially this with just "Der Führer" on it. I also came across some other excellent souvenirs - One pair of field glasses - the best I have ever seen - fifteen power - this may not mean much to you, but they are two and ½ times as powerful as the p&jones I and Pop used to have The must be worth three or four hundred dollars. I also have a pair of Luftwaffe swords that are not in the best of shape but will look good fixed up and crossed in my den if I ever have one.
Guess what, Sweets. I shaved off my mustache today - because the war is over. No one noticed it so I guess it couldn't have been so good. I'm not making any plans for a quick return home, beloved, nor am I getting any fancy ideas about it. I would give anything just to spend a few weeks with you, but there is much to be done, both here and in the Orient and I'm sure I'll be one place or the other.
Some will get to go home on their way to the Pacific and rumors are already afloat, but I'm not counting on anything - then we won't have the disappointment.
These Bavarian Alps are really beautiful, dearest mine. They are all snow covered yet, although we are not very high and last week we had snow in Munich. Today was marvelous. The view of the mountains is similar to that from our front yard, though the mountains are much closer and not as high.
During the last mad rush we have been getting practically no mail and I'm way behind, although today I got the letter you wrote on the eve of our anniversary. Sweet - just as they all are - but why not, with the sweetest wife in the world writing them. I wish my letters would get there more regularly. You probably have had a batch since that time, but it is nicer when they come spread over a long time.
Darling, I adore you completely. I don't dream of you often, but that isn't my fault. When I'm awake I can control my thoughts and they always include you. Always I wish you could share the beautiful scenery and the old German cities - Worms, Nurnberg, Augsberg, Munich, Saltzburg and the rest with me. Maybe, in future years, after they are rebuilt we will see them together. Anything we could do together would be wonderful. One thing in particular - I miss you so, Jeanie. I'll always adore you.
Your only Phil
A little picture of you know who.


The cease fire order for the XV Corps.

Capt. Kroon came home six months later. He made a career of the Army, taking a reduction in rank to sergeant in order to remain in a downsized postwar military. His last duty post was as an instructor in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Purdue University. Following his retirement, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He died of cancer in 1988. Diane, the first of his three daughters, was born Oct. 30, 1946, and grew up to be my first wife.