Thursday, December 29, 2011

Popular name

jack kennel_0042S

Petfinder has announced the most popular dog names from 2011. “Buddy” continues to dominate the doggy world for the fifth year in a row. The Twilight saga seems to have some influence over dog owners, as the name “Bella” appears high on the list. I’m pleased to see the name we picked for our Aussie pup – Jack – is on the list.

Dog Names

1. Buddy

2. Max

3. Daisy

4. Bella

5. Lucy

6. Molly

7. Charlie

8. Jack

9. Sadie

10. Rocky

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hey, Jack’s in the paper


Maria called yesterday afternoon to say they needed a photo illustration of a dog in a kennel to go with George Jared’s story on the Women’s Crisis Center partnering with Northeast Arkansans For Animals to care for pets of women who flee abusive homes.

I asked Jack, the Aussie pup, if he would like to help and he agreed. At least I think he agreed. He went into his kennel when I tossed in a treat.

So here he is, 2 columns wide, on page A8 of this morning’s paper.

Cute little guy, isn’t he?

Jack will be 17 weeks old tomorrow. He’s been with us 5½ weeks and is growing like crazy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Checking my mileage totals for the year

I took Maria’s ‘94 BMW K75S for a pleasant 25-mile jaunt on Christmas Day, thinking it may be my last ride of 2011.

But the forecast calls for highs in the mid- to upper 50s tomorrow through the end of the week, so I may get a few more miles in.

My BMW mileage for 2011 stands at a rather pathetic 6,323 miles – down significantly from last year when I logged 9,343 miles – my best riding year since 2004 when I rode 10,163 miles and way short of my all-time personal record of 21,928 miles in 1993.

My Christmas Day ride was inspired by a visit earlier in the day by Jonesboro BMW riding friends Charlie and Deb Parsons, who showed up on their GS bikes to meet Jack the Aussie puppy. Also, it had been a month since my last ride on the K75S and I want to keep the battery up. I’d put it on a trickle charger, but the accessory plug isn’t connected to the battery and the battery terminals are buried under body work and mechanical stuff.

It was a pleasant ride up U.S. 49 to Paragould, then back roads to home along Crowley’s Ridge. Other than being blinded by a sun low on the horizon, it was a nice relaxing experience. Hardly any traffic and the delightful surprise that I’ve lost enough weight to let last summer’s uncomfortably tight First Gear Kathmandu riding pants fit, even with the quilted liner in place. It had me entertaining thoughts of riding to Daytona for Bike Week, even though I don’t much like Bike Week. It’s the ride to a warmer clime and a chance to sit by the ocean at Flagler Beach that lures me. We shall see.

I’m in town, having a free (I finally accumulated enough punch card holes) cup of coffee at Seattle Grind and getting ready to drive over to Petco for a fresh bag of IAMS puppy food. Then it’s off to pick up Maria for lunch.

Monday, December 26, 2011


I had my iPod on shuffle the other day and “Citadel,” the second track from the Rolling Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request” album came up.
The album, which was a huge departure from the Stones’ roots as a blues band, was released in the U.S. on Dec. 8, 1967 and was considered their psychedelic response to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that came out six months earlier.
A lot of Stones fans consider it a horrible aberration and hate it, but I love it and play it every couple of months.
The track took me back to the winter of 1967-68 when I was 22 years old and in my first year at The Indianapolis News. Specifically, it took me back to an evening when Bob Basler and I were working in his photographic darkroom in the basement of his mother’s house in the Broad Ripple section of Indianapolis. We were smoking weed and listening to this album, with special attention to the funky break that comes at about the 3:08 mark in “2000 Light Years from Home.”
It still sounds cool to my ears 43 years later.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Loving the Internet


The fancy-schmantzy ignition/entry/do-everything key to my Lexus is falling apart.

The case is supposed to fit flush to the key, but as you can see, it’s all whopper-jawed.

My first thought was about what a hassle it’s going to be to drive to the nearest Lexus dealer (Memphis) next week and spend an insane amount of money for a replacement. And, of course, this happens on the Saturday morning of a holiday weekend.

Hoping to learn what it will cost me, I Googled “2004 Lexus RX330 replacement key” and found where I discovered I can buy just the shell (which is the only thing that’s broken) for a ridiculously reasonable $19.95. Assuming they are working Monday, it will ship then and be in my hands by mid-week.

Dealerships charge $175 for a replacement key.

I love the Internet.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Pete report

pete santa0272Lab test shows Pete with a 280 reading where 100 is considered high, but it's been higher in the past.

Doc says go back onto the liver pills. We had a brand new box when he stopped taking them last summer, so we're well supplied.

He thinks Pete has a mild case of canine epilepsy - too mild to require medication. The seizures are too infrequent and too mild to make medication worth the effort and the toll the chemicals take on the body.

Only three years ago


These were the gas prices advertised at the Kroger store in Jonesboro, Ark. the afternoon of Nov. 8, 2008.

That was four days after Obama was elected and two months before he took office.

What are you paying now?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Philco Model 41-295


Meet the Philco Model 41-295 console radio. It used 11 tubes and received AM as well as shortwave from 2.3 to 7 mc, 9 to 12 mc and 13.5 to 18 mc. It had eight pushbuttons; seven for preset AM stations and one for off-on control. It operated on 115 volts, AC only. The cabinet was a wood veneer and it stood 36 inches tall. The original price was $100. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $1,538.98 in today’s money.

I stumbled across one of these on Ebay this afternoon. The seller wants $125, noting it’s non-functioning and useful as a “parts” radio for someone restoring a 41-295.

These pictures brought back a flood of memories for me. My parents, who were married in April of 1939, had one of these radios. Since this model was made in 1940 for the 1941 market, it’s entirely possible my parents listened to broadcasts about the Pearl Harbor attack on their Philco.

My dad was a Ford guy and he favored Philco electronics because Philco was owned by Ford. Our first television, purchased just before Christmas of 1953, was a Philco table model.

I spent hours in front of our Philco console radio in the late 1940s and early ‘50s. Much of the time, it was tuned to WBAA (AM, of course. This was years before FM broadcasting), the Purdue University station in West Lafayette, Ind. We lived about 20 miles east of West Lafayette in Delphi.

One of the highlights of my day came at 5 p.m. when the Storytime Special came on the air and I got to hear a story read by the “Story Lady,” a Purdue coed, probably a radio or communications major.

I remember listening to WBAA afternoon jazz programming and wondering why they played so much stuff by the Art Van Damme Quintet. Maybe it was because he was a Dutchman from Michigan and there was, and is, a large Dutch Reformed community in Lafayette. Van Damme was considered the father of the jazz accordion.

Saturday nights, WLS in Chicago carried the National Barn Dance. One of the acts was Captain Stubby and his Buccaneers. Captain Stubby’s real name was Tom Fouts and he grew up with my mom in eastern Carroll County.

I had a little oak rocking chair, decorated on the back with a decal of a penguin, and I sat and rocked while I listened to Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet and lots of other programs that you can hear today on the Old Time Radio channel on SiriusXM satellite radio. (I still have the rocking chair. It sits in a corner of our living room and is the repository for dog toys. Every now and then I allow a visiting child to sit in it.)

Winter and Pete’s seizures are back

Winter came to Arkansas at 11:30 last night without me noticing it.

I generally don’t like winter, but I find Arkansas winters less objectionable than Indiana winters. I had 62 Indiana winters and that’s enough for me.

It’s raining here this morning and will continue all day with a predicted accumulation of about ½ inch. That means we won’t see the sun, which weighs heavily on my mood. At least the daylight hours will increase, starting today through June.

Pete came over and laid down on the kitchen floor next to my foot as I made my morning mocha cappuccino and it took me a moment to realize he was having a seizure.  The tipoff was the way he pressed himself up against my leg.

I knelt and comforted him until it subsided. He looked so freaked out and helpless lying on his left side, his right front paw trembling. This is the first seizure we’ve noticed since the summer.

He asked to sleep with us in our bed last night, which is kind of unusual and, given what just happened, makes me wonder if he wasn’t feeling good last night. He always comes to us when he’s not feeling well or about to have a seizure.

I’m going to take him to the vet this morning for tests. I suspect it’s time to resume his liver meds that the doc said we could suspend a few months ago.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



My new (to me) Lexus has a couple of driver-accessible power outlets – one next to the radio on the dash where you’d expect a cigarette lighter, the other on a floor-mounted tray between the dashboard and the center console.

The lower outlet was dead, leading me to conclude that its fuse was blown. Consulting the owner’s manual, I was impressed to discover the car has nearly 70 fuses. Most of them are in a fuse box in the engine compartment and the rest are under the dashboard on the driver’s side.

The fuse in question turned out to be #64, bottom row, third from the right in the interior fuse box.

I first supposed it was an ATO fuse, but the illustration in the owner’s manual showed a min fuse. Since Toyota makes the Lexus, I reasoned I could get the requisite 15 amp mini fuse at the local Toyota dealership.

Not having found a fuse-puller in either fuse box, I had not removed the offending fuse and inspected it, so I trusted the owner’s manual and plunked down $1.80 for a 15 amp mini fuse.

When I got home, I used needle-nosed pliers to pull the fuse and discovered, to my dismay, that it was a low-profile mini fuse.

So it was back to Central Toyota where the parts department guy swapped me for the right fuse. I stuck it in the #64 slot and voila! the outlet works. So much for trusting the owner’s manual.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


    1. Wrath
    2. Greed
    3. Sloth
    4. Pride
    5. Lust
    6. Envy
    7. Gluttony

These are the Seven Deadly Sins, also known as Cardinal Sins. I can understand and plead guilty to six of them, but one – Envy – baffles me.

This comes to mind because there are a few of my Facebook friends, younger men, who are eager to let us all know how much they hate rich, successful people. Especially rich, successful people who want to hang onto what they’ve earned.

I can honestly say I don’t envy anyone for anything they are or have. Yes, I’d love to have more money – a summer home in the Colorado Rockies and a winter home in the Sun Belt and, just for the hell of it, a really nice place in Big Sur. There are lots of people who have all that and more and I’m happy for them. Either through hard work or karma or inheritance, they’ve come by it honestly. They didn’t cheat or steal to get it. And I don’t see how any rational person can begrudge them what they have. (If they did get it by dishonest means, I’d be crazy to envy them for something that will eventually destroy them.)

I guess it comes down to how I was raised. The message I took from my parents was that it was up to me to achieve and earn for myself, according to my level of ambition and desire.

They also taught me that jealousy and envy are shameful emotions and bespeak a poverty of spirit. So when I see these guys posting stuff about the evil rich – the same kind of horseshit you hear the Occupy Wall Street morons spouting – I feel profoundly embarrassed for them because they’re telling us about something really sad and weak in their character.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Like an early Christmas present


I occasionally throw out a low bid on an Ebay item just for the hell of it, expecting I will be outbid and that the item will go for a much higher price.

But once in a blue moon, I win the auction.

Such was the case a week or so ago when I placed an opening bid of $19.99 for this pair of Wallace China Westward Ho Boots & Saddle pattern cups and saucers.

These should have gone for upwards of $80, but apparently the Westward Ho collectors had their eyes on other stuff.

I’ve admired the Westward Ho line ever since I was 10 years old and my parents took me on a vacation in the West where we dined at restaurants that used this distinctive dinnerware decorated with cattle brands.

I rediscovered it on Ebay about 15 years ago and have since built a modest collection, mostly in the Rodeo pattern. Maria gave me a rather expensive Boots & Saddle dinner plate for Christmas several years ago and this was the first really good Boots & Saddle cup and saucer set deal I’ve seen in a long time.

It arrived, well packed in bubble wrap, this morning and made me very happy.

Phony tears for an evil dirtbag


This has to be the largest display of phony grief in the history of the world.

The pictures coming out of North Korea following the death of Kim Jong Il show hundreds upon hundreds of people, some of them standing at desks in what appears to be a classroom, wailing and sobbing in creepy synchronization. Do the North Korean propagandists really expect us to believe this obviously staged charade is a spontaneous, albeit regimented, outpouring of grief and despair?

Kim Jong Il is the guy who ruined their lives, imposed starvation and slavery on them and made their country a pariah among the nations of the world.

The only conceivable justification for tears is worry that his son and successor will be even more batshit crazy than was the father.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another dog gone

buddyWe were playing Frisbee with Jack in the back yard this afternoon – Jack isn’t ready to catch a Frisbee, but he loves to chase it down and return it – when our neighbor came over to report that their dog Buddy was dead.

Buddy was a gangly young hound who would have been a year old next February. He was huge and getting bigger by the day.

He lived in a kennel behind the neighbors’ house, complete with a dog house. He liked to sit on the dog house roof and survey the neighborhood. His owners would let his run loose occasionally and he got on the bad side of other neighbors when he got into their garage and ate a bunch of popcorn and paper products last summer.

He was big and goofy and full of fun and he came visiting yesterday morning while our dogs were out in the fenced backyard. Pete didn’t much care for Buddy and they kept each other busy pissing on fence posts, one after the other, each wanting to be the last dog to mark the spot.

But Jack delighted in this new playmate and tore around the perimeter as Buddy ran from one end of the chain link fence to the other, back and forth, back and forth.

It turns out that Buddy was on a tether late yesterday while his owners were away from home. Somehow, he slipped out of his collar and went exploring. Unfortunately, his explorations took him to nearby U.S. 49 where he was hit by a car or truck and suffered fatal head injuries.

Our neighbor buried Buddy this afternoon under a pine tree behind their house.

This has been a hard year for dogs that we know. Son Steve had to put down Frank, Sean and Ruth had to say goodbye to Daisy, Free Range Frank died of injuries suffered when he was hit by a vehicle, we had to let go of Ruthie and now Buddy is gone.

Hug your dogs and keep them safe. They deserve it.

Flat Stanley is going home


I’m putting together a package documenting Flat Stanley travels to Memphis for young Jacob Shillings.

Jake, as you may recall, sent Flat Stanley to us a few weeks ago with a request that we photograph him somewhere interesting and return him with some mementos of his travels.

Here he is in front of the Elvis Presley statue in the I-40 Tennessee Welcome Center in Memphis.

I hope to get the package into the mail tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Lexus report

Lexus HDR_0028_29_30_tonemapped

The car I had no intention of buying has won me over.

I’ve put more than 500 miles on the odometer in the past two days – Little Rock yesterday to send my watch off for service and Memphis today for bagels and to photograph Flat Stanley at Graceland and elsewhere.

This is, without question, the most comfortable and relaxed vehicle I’ve ever driven. I returned home both days without the feeling of having done something physically or psychologically tiring. I never realized what a struggle it is to drive my Honda del Sol and even our Subaru.

Now I’m wondering where to drive tomorrow…

(I keep telling myself it’s just a jumped-up Toyota.)


Thursday, December 15, 2011



I took the new car on its first road trip today – a 154-mile whirlwind run down to Little Rock to the only Breitling watch dealer in Arkansas to send my 11-year-old lrTRIP_0010Chrono Avenger in for long overdue service.

That means they send it back home to Switzerland where the watchmakers inspect it and return an estimate of what it will cost to make it like new. Once they have my approval, they go to work and presumably I get my watch back in 40-60 days. I had it serviced once before, back around 2003, and it wasn’t cheap, so I’m expecting a sharp pain in the wallet in a few weeks.

But my wallet was kinda happy when I got back to Jonesboro this afternoon and pulled up to the pumps at Sam’s Club to discover the price of regular was down to $2.94.9 a gallon. That’s two cents cheaper than 24 hours ago. I seems almost miraculous to see gas under $3 a gallon.

The car performed splendidly, although the low tire pressure indicator light came on a couple of times. I looked at the tires and didn’t see any that were conspicuously low, but I’ll check pressures after they cool down from the drive.

There’s heavy flooding in the farmland south of Jonesboro and north of Newport which is great news for ducks. The sky was full of them and at one point the flocks were so dense the sky was almost black with an overcast of ducks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just because…


Sometimes, nothing satisfies like an R. Crumb cartoon.

Remembering a musical genius

Spike Jones would have been 100 years old today but sadly, he died in 1965 at the age of 53.

Weird Al Yankovic explains Spike’s importance in the music world of the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60 eloquently and puts what follows into context.

My parents took me to a Spike Jones concert at the Elliott Hall of Music on the Purdue University campus when I was about 5 years old. I was absolutely dazzled and saved the program from that evening in a scrap book.

Spike Jones and his City Slickers were the funniest thing I had ever heard and even today, I laugh out loud at several of his musical derangements.

Unfortunately, several generations have grown up without being exposed to Spike’s brilliant insanity. That is a tragedy. I can’t imagine a person being musically literate without appreciating the works of Spike Jones.

Here are some samples. Sometimes, they start out slowly, but stick around for the payoff:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I never planned to buy a Lexus. Really, I didn’t.

I had no thought of buying a car when I got up this morning.
Yes, I realize that our ‘94 Honda del Sol and ‘02 Subaru Forester are showing their age. Both are well past the 200,000-mile mark. The paint on the del Sol is blasted out, thanks largely to having to park it under bird-infested maple trees at our Thorntown house. The window tinting film is bubbling and peeling and there’s a piece of windshield molding flapping in the breeze on the starboard side.
It needs new shocks and new tires, but the engine and drive train are sound and, speaking of sound, it has a killer sound system thanks to the addition of an XM-capable Pioneer tuner/CD player. It’s still a fun car to drive and I figure it’s got maybe 50,000 more miles left in it – maybe more.
But I had to send Maria to work in it this morning because I needed the Subaru’s carrying capacity to haul Jack in a dog crate to the vet for his rabies shot and 14-week checkup. He’s thriving, having gone from 18.2 pounds three weeks ago to 23.6 pounds this morning.
By the time Maria got to work, she had decided that my del Sol is a ticking time bomb, a death trap. Never mind the air bags, she’s sure it affords as much crash protection as a cardboard box.
Not one to ignore what she perceives as a problem, Maria asked one of her reporters – a car guy who restores old autos and dabbles in re-sales – if he knew of any good deals on a used car.
Of course he did.
The next thing I know, I’m test driving a 2004 Lexus RX330 SUV. The car got severely beat up in a hailstorm last summer and was written off by the insurance company as a total loss at 78,000 miles. The reporter’s friend bought the car and smoothed out all of the dents with the thought of selling it to a dealer at a modest profit.
I told him I wanted to think about it and we went to lunch. I whipped out my netbook, checked out the Blue Book values and pulled up the CarFax to confirm what I’d been told about the car’s history.
Everything checked out and, recognizing that we’re probably going to have to replace at least one of our beaters in the next 12 months, the asking price seemed more than reasonable. More like a crazy-good deal. Unless, of course, there is a hidden problem lurking in there somewhere.
So we pulled the trigger and now Maria doesn’t have to worry about me getting smashed by a semi in my little cardboard box on wheels.

How I cured my Restless Leg Syndrome


When I started going to a chiropractor about 18 months ago and gave her my list of medical complaints, I mentioned that I have Restless Leg Syndrome. It typically hits me in the evenings when I'm sitting on the couch watching TV and frequently interferes with my sleep.

I don’t get the extreme burning and tingling that some people have with RLS, but my legs have to move frequently in an effort to get comfortable.

I didn't suppose she could do anything about it, but I was wrong.

She gave me a few packets of ElectroMix with the instructions to dissolve a packet in a glass of water. (Never mind that the instructions on the packet say to dissolve it into a liter of water for use as a sports drink.) That makes for a powerful dose with a pretty intense flavor, but I found it stops my Restless Leg Syndrome cold.

I'm writing this review because RLS woke me up about 3 a.m. today and I was able to get back to sleep easily after slamming down a glass of ElectroMix.

This, of course, isn't how the manufacturer intends for it to be used, but it sure works wonders for me.

The reason it works is that one cause of RLS is electrolyte imbalance and ElectroMix gets puts things back into balance.

If you can’t find it in a drugstore or other store, you can get a 30-packet box for under $10 on

Monday, December 12, 2011

Checking in


I’m making a rare stop at Seattle Grind, having come into town to run some errands.

I won’t stay long because this place is like a freaking sauna. My Swiss Army knife thermometer says it’s 83 degrees. I suppose they have the temperature cranked up to offset the chill from the drive-up window, but 83 is a bit much.

Our tenant is now delinquent on his rent for November and December. He promised to send a check on Saturday to catch up, including late fees. Instead, we got a cashier’s check today for a little more than one-third of the amount owed. With no note of explanation.

This is making my head explode, which is why I let Maria do all of our communicating with this guy.

It’s almost embarrassing how much I love my dogs


I consider myself amazingly lucky to share my home with the two smartest dogs I have ever known.

Pete, the 5-year-old Aussie, and Jack, who will be 14 weeks old on Thursday, greet us every morning with boundless joy and enthusiasm.

Where the late great Ruthie the Wonder Dog accepted Pete grudgingly, Pete seems to recognize a kindred spirit in Jack, also an Aussie. He puts up with Jack’s pestering and play fighting and the only time Pete gets serious with Jack is when the little guy tests Pete’s alpha dog status in the realm of food and treats. Pete gave him a painful nip on the nose over the weekend when Jack contested a particularly tasty treat. Maria rubbed some Vitamin E on the wound and it’s healing quickly.

Both dogs are extremely affectionate and love physical contact with us. They rub up against our legs like cats and lie close, sometimes on our feet, when we sit to watch TV.

We occasionally let Pete sleep between us on the bed. Jack, who sleeps in a kennel in the bedroom watches everything closely and complained loudly the other night when Pete got to sleep on the bed and he didn’t. Get some bladder control, little guy, and your time will come.

Jack loves to retrieve tennis balls or whatever toy we care to toss. I have high hopes that he can be a great frisbee dog and will start his training soon.

living room play_0005

Friday, December 09, 2011

A movie recommendation

milkMaria is always on the lookout for quirky independent films on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or wherever and we found a good one last night.

It’s “The Price of Milk” set in New Zealand. I don’t give away any of the plot except to say it’s utterly unpredictable.

And it includes a dog named Nigel who goes around with a big cardboard box over him because he has agoraphobia.

Check it out.

Into the archives

sanning pics

I’m scanning negatives today, putting together a set of photos of Maria’s ex’s father who is near death in an Indiana hospital.

Bob is a Korean War veteran and a tough-as-nails farmer who, until lately, was still working hard on the family farm. He’s 85 years old.

The photos I’m offering to his granddaughter are from 2002 when we found him with his antique tractor at the county fair and a small town festival parade.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Incompetence at Petco

I had to run in to town this morning for a bag of puppy food for Jack.iams puppy food

I was expecting someone here at the house at noon, so I was determined to waste no time when I left here about 11:05 a.m.

Everything went smoothly until I got into line at Petco with my bag of IAMS. I knew I was in trouble when I noticed the couple at the head of the line were the same people who were there when I entered the store.

The 20-something girl pretending to be a cashier was clearly struggling, but finally completed the transaction. Then, the next person in line had some kind of an issue that completely boggled the cashier. She called for help, so now we had two 20-something girls puzzling over the checkout computer and the line not moving.

The upshot of the thing was that a checkout process that should have taken a couple of minutes dragged out to about 20 minutes.

When they finally opened another checkout line, it was because they had abandoned the original computer and moved the girl genius to the new line. Naturally, she was unable to get the new computer to read the barcode on the $5 coupon I handed her and had to have another girl read the dozen or so digits to her so she could input them.

She offered that she had been fighting that other computer all morning. Looks like she lost.

I made it home about 10 minutes after my friend got there.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Sending the trailcam in for repair/replacement

My Bushnell Trophy Camera Model 119435 is going back to the company today.trailcamreturn

There appears to be a defect in the power switch and maybe more. When I bought the unit back in March, I had difficulty getting the screen to come on in the “setup” position. I had to slide it to the click stop position for “setup” and then wiggle it for several seconds before the screen would light up.

I was able to use the camera in this fashion for the summer and up until about a month ago when I noticed it was creating a lot of corrupted, unreadable video files and re-setting the date and time to different years and times.

Now, I can't get the screen to turn on at all. The last time I pulled the SD card, it appeared that the camera had stopped functioning a week or two earlier, as there were no recent video files despite the presence of wildlife.

So I’m invoking the two-year limited warranty and sending it to Bushnell Outdoor Products in Lenexa, Kans. for repair or replacement. I’m mindful that this camera had wildly mixed reviews on Most users liked it, but several complained about getting defective units. I guess that’s to be expected with a product mass produced in China.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Lots of binoculars and nothing to look at


I’ve had a weakness for binoculars and telescopes for as long as I can remember.

My first binoculars were actually field glasses (binos have prisms and higher magnification, field glasses are straight-through matching telescopes with lower power) that my mom got for me with the S&H Green Stamps she collected for shopping at the local IGA supermarket.

My first real binos were a Christmas present from my parents – a basic 7x50 (7 times magnification with 50mm diameter objective lenses) made by Tasco. I always thought Tasco was a Japanese outfit until I looked them up on Wikipedia and discovered it’s an American company founded in 1954 in Florida. Bushnell bought them and was, in turn, purchased by MidOcean Partners, a private equity firm based in New York and London.

But I digress.

Tasco isn’t in the same league with Leitz or Swarovski or Steiner, but their optics have always been good enough for my purposes. I have a pair of 8x50 rubber armored Tasco binoculars that I bought in the mid-1970s that are still as clear and sharp as they ever were.

I also have a Tasco 34TZ 36x50 spotting scope that is too powerful to use hand-held and has to be tripod mounted.

My most exotic binoculars are a WWII bring-back by my first father-in-law who served as a captain in the U.S. Army’s 144th Field Artillery Group and ended the war in Austria. He brought home a lot of neat stuff, including the most powerful hand-held binoculars ever made by Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar – the 15x60 Campofortit model. The optics are a touch hazy after nearly 70 years, but they’re still impressive.

But I’ve lusted after the Tasco Offshore 36 or 54 binoculars ever since I first saw them because they have a built-in illuminated compass and a reticle for measuring the height or width of an object if the distance is known or the distance if the height or width is known. They’re waterproof and come in the standard marine 7X50 configuration. Steiner makes a compass-equipped bino also, but they can run as high as $1,200, compared with $250 or so for the Tasco. Never mind that the Tasco Offshore binos are out of production. You can still find new and used examples.

I’ve been watching for a decently-priced pair on Ebay for years and finally noticed some a couple of weeks ago with a Buy It Now price of $50. Never mind that the shipping from Virginia was an exorbitant $20. It was still a killer deal.

So I pulled the trigger and they showed up at our post office last Saturday. As advertised, they came without the original case or lens caps and – I discovered yesterday – without the batteries to illuminate the compass at night. But who cares? Fifty dollars, man!

But I quickly realized that living in a wooded subdivision, we have little use for such optics. We have no long views or scenic vistas. If I want to do anything interesting with binoculars, I have to drive someplace where I can see a long distance. And the novelty of having a compass bearing included in your view wears off pretty quickly unless you can use it for navigation. Like on the ocean or a lake.

I guess I’m glad I bought them, but I’m gladder still that I only paid 20 percent of retail. I’d really be pissed off at myself if I’d paid $1,200 or even $250.


My neighbor’s garage as seen from my office window. You can see the very top of the compass inset at the bottom. The 10-foot-high basketball goal is about 220 feet away.

Cleaning house

I took a look at the links in my Cool Blogs & Other Stuff this morning and concluded it’s time to dump some of them.

Some were fresh and vibrant when I discovered them and added them to the list, but those of us who follow blogs know that bloggers can get burned out, run out of things to say, have changes in their lives that make blogging inconvenient, or just stop for any number of reasons. I had high hopes for all of them when I included them in the list.

So say goodbye to:

        • Conservatives who say Fuck
        • Demure Thoughts
        • Liberty Girl
        • Overheard in Chicago
        • Rick’s Outrage Page

There are a few others that haven’t seen any fresh material in several weeks, but I’m keeping them because their old stuff is worth reading.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Flat Stanley goes to Memphis with us


We took Flat Stanley to Memphis yesterday to see the sights and to get a dozen bagels from City Bagel East.

Here he is supervising the selection of bagels.

We left City Bagel East about 10:40 a.m. with a Garmin-projected ETA at Boscos for 10:59. We finally got there about 12:30 p.m. thanks to the enormous traffic snarl created by 18,000 runners, walkers, limpers and gimpers in the St. Jude Children’s Hospital Marathon.

Cops were letting traffic cross the marathon route only when there was a substantial gap between participants. Considering that the vast majority of participants were non-competitive and had absolutely no chance of winning anything and maybe not even finishing, it would have made more sense to have them jog in place while the traffic signals cycled. After being stuck in a miles-long three-lane backup of traffic for more than a half-hour, I turned more cynical than usual and started resenting these self-indulgent people in Spandex OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         who should have done everybody a big favor by donating their entry fee and staying home.

To make matters worse, by the time we got to Boscos and were seated, we found ourselves surrounded by tables full of these people, noisily congratulating themselves on their heroic achievements. Fortunately, our server was able to move us to a much quieter space where we could enjoy our lunch in peace.

I had a mug of Boscos own porter, which Maria sampled and didn’t much care for.

Maria got a shot of Flat Stanley and the Memphis Pyramid on the way out of town.

fs pyramid

The dogs were happy to see us when we got home.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Flat Stanley time-travels

fsHitler at Reichstag with Rudolf Hess & Joachim von Ribbentrop1

A tourist from the future visits the Reichstag to hang out with Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Hess.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Flat Stanley arrives in Arkansas

Jacob Shillings, a son of our friends Jim and Lauri, sent us a fun request this week:

I am a fifth grade student in Ms. French's class at New Market flat stanleyElementary. When I was in first grade our class read the book Flat Stanley. He was a boy who was flattened by a bulletin board. Stanley wanted to travel, so his family folded him up and mailed him to California.
In fifth grade, we are currently learning the states and capitals of the United States. Our teacher, Ms. French, wanted to enhance these geography lessons by using Flat Stanley. So, I am mailing my Flat Stanley to you. Please take him somewhere and write me back telling me about his adventures. If you have pictures, postcards, or brochures, please send them back with him. I will share his adventures with my classmates and this will help my classmates and I learn about the geography of the United States. We have a wall display in our grade level for the entire school to view.
Thank you for helping me with this project. Hope you have fun with him!

Stanley is about 9 inches tall. I think he’ll travel to Memphis this weekend for bagels and sightseeing.

"Someone has to be held accountable," she says.

Take a look at what the Democrat Party has created with its decades of social engineering and welfare programs that destroyed the Black family.
Here is the legacy of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and "War on Poverty."
This country is $15 trillion in debt and cannot afford this culture of entitlement.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Why I love Amazon Prime


Having worn a beard most of the time since a June, 1976 backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park, I don’t do a lot of shaving. Mostly, I shave around the edges to better define my beard and under my lower lip.

I switched from shave cream in aerosol cans to shaving soap, mug, and brush in the late ‘70s when I bought a set on closeout at a gift shop called Kittle’s Other Side in downtown Indianapolis. Kittle’s is a local furniture chain and the gift shop was on the other side of Pennsylvania Street from the anchor furniture store.

I retired the mug when I found this Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity mug on Ebay a dozen or more years ago, but still use the Chicago Shaving Co. brush. Since I use them sparingly, a cake of shaving soap lasts me a long time – a couple of years at least.

I noticed I was getting down to the end of the Williams shaving soap recently and made a mental note to resupply the next time I went to Walmart. But, to my surprise, the Parker Road Walmart in Jonesboro, Ark., apparently doesn’t stock shaving soap. I can’t be the last aficionado of hot lather in town, but I guess it’s become obsolete as far as Walmart is concerned.

So I resolved to make a trip to Walgreens one of these days to see if they still carry shaving soap.

But on Tuesday afternoon, I realized I can have my pick of a huge selection of shaving soaps and since I paid $79 to become an Amazon Prime member early this year, I could get two-day shipping free. A few mouse clicks later, it was a done deal. No driving to Walgreens to scour the shaving section for something that very well might not be there.

Then it occurred to me that we could use some new pads for our Shark steam mop. Click, click, and they were in the pipeline.

The FedEx truck pulled into our driveway about an hour ago and the driver dropped off a box with the shaving cream and steamer pads, less than 48 hours after I placed the order.

I’ve bought more than 40 items from this year – ranging from a wheelbarrow tire to a GPS to coffee to motorcycle boots to a trailcam – and almost all of it was shipped free, so the Amazon Prime membership paid for itself many times over. The money I saved by not paying state and local sales tax alone probably covered the cost. Amazon Prime membership also gives us access to hundreds of streaming movies and TV shows.

It really is a brilliant marketing scheme. I get the stuff I need/want without driving the 20-some miles into town and back and I can find almost anything with a few mouse clicks.

Yes, it means I’m not spending my money locally, but that’s how the free market works. As far as I’m concerned, low prices and convenience trump sentiment. Local businesses that offer unique goods and services will do fine.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011



I noticed this monument to idiocy taped to the door at the Mexican restaurant where we had lunch yesterday.

Obviously, the Arkansas State University Department of Social Work put the wrong person in charge of creating the flyers for their World AIDS Day Conference tomorrow and Friday.

I’m used to seeing horrible things done with apostrophes in the creation of plurals. I’ve even seen a sign at a Florida campground expressing “thank’s” to departing visitors. But it takes a special kind of punctuation illiteracy to stick an apostrophe in front of the S in AIDS. Notice that the mistake is not repeated in a later reference to AIDS.

There are apparently lots of people who think any word that ends in the letter s needs an apostrophe. Seems like we all should have learned that in the third or fourth grade, yet we see stuff like this coming out of a university. Shame. Shame.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The rain turned to snow about 6 o’clock last evening and it continued through most of the night to give us the first snowfall of the season.
There’s always something charming about the first snow of the season that later snows can’t possibly replicate because my perception changes from novel and beautiful to cold, sloppy, and inconvenient. I like snow better here in northeast Arkansas because it doesn’t overstay its welcome and generally melts away in a day or two. The overnight temperature never got below 35, so this snow was doomed from the get-go and is melting quickly. The last time I looked, the forecast was for windy weather and a high around 47, meaning the snow will be gone by sundown.
Jack, being only 12 weeks old, had never seen snow before last night. He didn’t seem particularly impressed..

4:55 p.m. -  As I predicted, the temperature rose into the 40s and the snow is gone.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Training and proper gear do make a difference

I attended a toy run weekend before last put on by the Association Motorcycle Club and ABATE of Arkansas.inmemoryof

I saw several local Harley folks with patches on their vests that said, "In loving memory of" and then 2, 3, 4 or more patches below with the names of friends who presumably were killed in motorcycle accidents.

I've been a member of the Indianapolis BMW Club for about 30 years and I can't recall any member of our club being killed in a motorcycle crash. We've had our share of crashes, but no fatalities that I can think of.

I put the question to members who frequent the club message board and, so far, nobody can come up with an Indianapolis BMW Club motorcycle fatality.

Tim Balough came the closest with this:

Yes. I think it was in the early 80s. Gentleman in his 70s had a heart attack on the east side of Indy. he was on the interstate, and after the heart attack, missed a turn and hit an abutment.

I went to visit his widow with another club member, but I can't remember the gentleman's name or which club member.

Given the circumstances, I’m not inclined to count this as a motorcycle fatality since there’s a good possibility that he was dead before his bike crashed.

I also got these replies:

I count myself fortunate to ride a BMW. As a medical helicopter pilot in Indiana I have seen my fair share of motorcycle deaths and serious injuries.  None of them involved a BMW. Two nights ago a young man was killed despite some really talented medical professionals doing their best.  

As a helicopter pilot I expect something to go wrong and am always looking for landing spots if the need arises. In 25 years of flying I haven't had the  need yet.  Every time I get on my r1150rt I expect to hit the pavement so I dress accordingly. In 3 years of riding I haven't had the need yet.  I like to think of myself as a pessimistic optimist. Some folks just call this bipolar :-).

Keep riding safely,
Bob Gaudet 

AE-39 base pilot


Hi all: I am Bob Nevitt a fairly new member. My K1200 is my 5th BMW, but that is another story. I can't even remember any serious accidents in the 44 plus years I have been involved with BMW. The Harley guys, and I have quiet a few customers with HD motorcycles, they all break almost every safety rule I have committed to NEVER do. I am a private pilot also, and the "Eight hours from the bottle to the Throttle" is double with my bike. I wont go TEN FEET with out a helmet, gloves and good jacket regardless of the outside temp or weather conditions.

My Harley customers, on the other hand rarely wear a helmet, just the "smart" ones, and where our club motto is "Ride to Eat" theirs could be characterized by " Ride to be free" or more correctly Ride to Imbibe.

I personally witnessed a low speed fatality where at 30 miles an hour, a car pulled out in front, and BAUM. There was no chance.  The rider went about 30 feet and landed on his head. There was gray matter visible.  I got religion there after.  The Harley guys are a less careful bunch and a lot do self maintenance, and that can go either way. But my head won't stop safely at any speed with no helmet protection..
There is  the other aspect of the rougher MC clubs.  They often speed,change lanes, and don't signal intentions, plus all that chrome is heavy and hard to stop.  It is a different world.  I've seen both sides.  What is scary is the crotch rockets with 165 HP at the wheel and 0 to 160 in 12 seconds.  They seem hell bent for destruction.  I didn't get this old by being stupid.    Just a few thoughts .  Bob Nevitt

And this from Theresia Shearer:

As the saying goes…there is old and there is stupid. There is no old stupid.  

The race track performance of the crotch rockets is scary…but the scary part is that the riders often lack of skill, knowledge and experience…see old, stupid.

Unfortunately the Harley stereotype is often earned. On the other hand I have a Harley riding friend who has come very close the last two years to setting a Bonneville speed record for his class on a highly modified crotch rocket.

John, I also cannot remember any fatalities. We’ve had several serious accidents in the club but ”all the gear all the time” had to do with a lot of the folks walking away. Okay, so maybe they didn’t always walk away from the accident but they finally walked away from therapy! In every case that I’m aware of, the riders firmly believed that their use of safety gear made a difference.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Here’s to Boscos


My BMW riding compadre Charlie Parsons bought me a membership in the 2012 Boscos Mug Club at Boscos Restaurant & Brewing Co. in Memphis.

I was issued my official beer mug yesterday, drank two mugfulls of Boscos stout, had one of their delicious Reuben sandwiches and passed a splendid afternoon with Charlie and his wife Deborah.


Boscos 2012 Mug Club membership includes:

  • Your own 2012 Boscos Mug
  • A full mug of beer at the current pint price
  • Mug Club Mondays featuring $3.00 Mugs all day every Monday
  • Mug Club Saturdays featuring $3.00 Mugs until 5pm every Saturday
  • Special Mug Club Parties throughout the year with beer and food specials, giveaways and more.

The mugs are numbered and placed on shelves above the bar, where they will remain for the next year. At the end of the year, you can renew your membership to get a new mug and take your old one home.

Charlie is holding his 2011 mug and Deb is using his new 2012 mug.

The 2012 mug has a Mayan calendar design to mark the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012.



Thanks, Charlie! What a cool early Christmas gift!

A matter of opinion and taste

I subscribe to Robbie Robertson’s Facebook feed and was intrigued last week when he posted about being pleased to be included in the new Rolling Stone list of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time.

I clicked the link and was shocked to see Robbie, who played with The Band, Bob Dylan and has had several excellent solo albums over the past 20 years, was ranked 59th. Fifty-ninth? WTF?

So I explored the list further and was shocked to find Pete Townshend, who I would rank #1, in tenth place.

And Sonny Landreth, who Eric Clapton opined is the most under-appreciated guitarist in the world, didn’t even make the list. That, my friends, is utter and complete bullshit.

The list is a revised version of the one created in 2003 by Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke. He ranked Townshend as 50th in that one.

This kind of thing, of course, is highly subjective but I’m damned if I can understand the logic behind most of the choices.

Here’s the RS list:


Top 100 Guitarists of All Time (2011 version):
1.Jimi Hendrix
2.Eric Clapton
3.Jimmy Page
4.Keith Richards
5.Jeff Beck
6.B.B. King
7.Chuck Berry
8.Eddie Van Halen
9.Duane Allman
10.Pete Townshend
11.George Harrison
12.Stevie Ray Vaughan
13.Albert King
14.David Gilmour
15.Freddy King
16.Derek Trucks
17.Neil Young
18.Les Paul
19.James Burton
20.Carlos Santana
21.Chet Atkins
22.Frank Zappa
23.Buddy Guy
24.Angus Young
25.Tony Iommi
26.Brian May
27.Bo Diddley
28.Johnny Ramone
29.Scotty Moore
30.Elmore James
31.Ry Cooder
32.Billy Gibbons
34.Curtis Mayfield
35.John Lee Hooker
36.Randy Rhoads
37.Mick Taylor
38.The Edge
39.Steve Cropper
40.Tom Morello
41.Mick Ronson
42.Mike Bloomfield
43.Hubert Sumlin
44.Mark Knopfler
45.Link Wray
46.Jerry Garcia
47.Stephen Stills
48.Jonny Greenwood
49.Muddy Waters
50.Ritchie Blackmore
51.Johnny Marr
52.Clarence White
53.Otis Rush
54.Joe Walsh
55.John Lennon
56.Albert Collins
57.Rory Gallagher
58.Peter Green
59.Robbie Robertson
60.Ron Asheton
61.Dickey Betts
62.Robert Fripp
63.Johnny Winter
64.Duane Eddy
66.Leslie West
67.T-Bone Walker
68.John McLoughlin
69.Richard Thompson
70.Jack White
71.Robert Johnson
72.John Frusciante
73.Kurt Cobain
74.Dick Dale
75.Joni Mitchell
76.Robby Krieger
77.Willie Nelson
78.John Fahey
79.Mike Campbell
80.Buddy Holly
81.Lou Reed
82.Nels Cline
83.Eddie Hazel
84.Joe Perry
85.Andy Summers
86.J Mascis
87.James Hetfield
88.Carl Perkins
89.Bonnie Raitt
90.Tom Verlaine
91.Dave Davies
92.Dimebag Darrell
93.Paul Simon
94.Peter Buck
95.Roger McGuinn
96.Bruce Springsteen
97.Steve Jones
98.Alex Lifeson
99.Thurston Moore
100. Lindsey Buckingham

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Backyard explorer


Jack explores the backyard of his new home.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pete and Repete


Here are Pete and Repete (Jack) dozing butt-to-butt in an afternoon sunbeam outside the back door.

Considering the somewhat prickly relationship between Pete and Ruthie, mostly because of Ruthie’s belief that Pete was actually some kind of lesser being brought into the family to make her miserable and less important, this kind of closeness after less than a week is surprising.

Pete is clearly a mentor and someone Jack looks to for cues on how to be a dog in this family. Jack follows him around the yard, running at him playfully and trying to get Pete to give chase. Pete hasn’t played with Jack yet, but we expect he will.

When a neighbor’s chocolate Lab came into the yard yesterday morning while Maria and I and Jack were out, Pete went into a low crouch and went at him like a freight train, barking his deepest, most threatening bark and chased him away. That was the first time we’ve ever seen Pete assume the role of protector, but he has clearly come into his own since Ruthie’s departure.

I think they’re going to be great pals.

Money in the mail!


Well, sorta.

I was a very very minor party to a class action suit against Ebay Motors, claiming that Ebay overcharged seller fees for stuff sold in the Parts & Accessories department between April 21, 2006 and Aug. 26, 2009.

Too bad it didn’t cover sales a couple of years earlier when I was parting out and selling most of my 1991 BMW K100RS on Ebay.

My piece of the settlement fund amounts to $1.52.


Right now it’s just a Gray Friday

wallacerodeocupIt’s a little after 8 a.m. and the sun is a glowing white orb in the dense fog that blankets Crowley’s Ridge.

You can hear the dew as it drops from the trees and hits the leaves covering the backyard.

Jack the Aussie pup was ready to be up at 6:45, so I obliged him, letting Maria sleep. She worked the late shift last night and got home about 1:15 a.m.  I have orders to wake her at 9 a.m. Consequently, I decided to forgo my usual mocha cappuccino and the steamy racket that goes with preparing it, in favor of a pot of Starbucks Italian Roast coffee, poured into my favorite cup – a 1940s Wallace China Westward Ho Rodeo Pattern. It’s big, clunky, restaurant quality stuff and it reminds me of the time my parents took me to Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1955.

Jack continues to impress us with his eagerness to climb a very steep learning curve. He mastered the dog door less than 72 hours after he arrived. He loves to play fetch with a tennis ball. He’s exploring the far corners of the fenced-in backyard. And he knows the coyotes howling beyond the fence are bad news.

However, he still thinks it’s OK to poop on the back porch, so my to-do list for today includes cleaning up Jack shit.

My Swedish motorcycle suit arrived late Wednesday and is a big disappointment. It’s too small – the cuff on the right sleeve of the liner is to small that I can’t get my hand through it. And seen up close, it’s not all that exotic and cool. It’s just odd. So back it goes into the box it came in and I’ll haul it down to the UPS Store to ship it back.

Thanksgiving was just another day for us, having no family within 450 miles. The only familial contact I had was when Sean called from Santa Rosa, Calif. where he and Ruth are visiting Ruth’s sister. It was great to hear their voices.

Maria went to work at 4 p.m., which left me and Pete and Jack to hang out. Jack is getting more and more outdoors time – probably more than he’s ever had – and when he’s in the house unsupervised he’s in Ruthie’s old kennel, strategically placed where he can see a human and not feel abandoned. I’m not inclined to take any chances with our recently shampooed carpets until he starts to catch on that the backyard is his toilet.

Pete’s puppy cuteness saved his life many times when he gnawed a tassel off of one of my best casual loafers and chewed everything he could get his teeth into. The Cuteness Card is working now for Jack as we await his next bit of mischief. He has happily commandeered all of the dog toys and is especially fond of the Friendly Fox (as seen on TV).

Just for the record, I have no plans to do any Black Friday shopping beyond things we urgently need, like trash bags and a gallon of milk.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

14 years gone


My dad, Charles Myron Flora, died 14 years ago today in a nursing home in Delphi, Ind. He was 87 years old.

My mom took this picture around Christmas 1952. That lump in front of me is my dog Spot. I started wearing glasses a year later in the third grade.

Notice the Philco table model TV. We got it for Christmas that year. We could kinda get the one station in Indianapolis (WFBM Channel 6) and on a rare occasion WTTV Channel 4 in Bloomington and even more rarely, WGN Channel 9 in Chicago.

But I digress. My dad was a solid citizen who served his church and his community well. Although he enjoyed a beer or two, I never saw him drunk. I didn’t think that was a big deal at the time, but knowing as many adult children of alcoholics as I do now, I realize it was pretty significant. My sons can’t make the same claim.

I miss you, Dad, and I think of you every day.

Jack gets his microchip


Jack has had a busy day and is napping in his kennel.

I took him to the vet this morning for a physical and to get microchipped.

He was fine up the point where Dr. John Huff inserted the chip. That hurt, but it was over quickly and now he’s got a record of his identity.

Dr. Huff at the Animal Medical Center in Jonesboro pronounced him “perfect” and was very impressed with his lineage.