Thursday, March 31, 2011


If you want to see what eco-wacko looks like, go visit, the blog of Vanessa, a Toronto journalist, who strives to do at least one new green thing a day. Here’s how she’s saving the planet:

  1. Switching to recycled, unbleached paper towels
  2. Giving up my electric heating pad
  3. Banning all styrofoam
  4. Switching to a recyclable toothbrush
  5. Turning down my thermostat
  6. No more bottled water
  7. Switching to organic conditioner
  8. Switching from disposable tape-based lint rollers to felt ones
  9. Eating ‘locally’ (within Canada and the U.S.)
  10. Making all my bills electronic
  11. Checking tire pressure on my car
  12. Not buying a microwave (yes, disputable, see post for comments)
  13. Switching to natural, biodegradable handwash with recyclable container
  14. Switching to non-toxic, phosphate-free dishwasher detergent
  15. Running outside only (no treadmill)
  16. Using tote bags, no more plastic bags
  17. Switching to recycled toilet paper
  18. Cancelling my cable
  19. Switching to corn-based, biodegradable cat litter
  20. Giving up disposable tissues, using handkerchiefs
  21. Using only natural, organic body lotions
  22. Permanently getting rid of any aerosol cans at home
  23. Changing over to natural glass and surface cleaner
  24. Signing up with my local Freecycle Network
  25. Making sure all the lights are turned off before I leave home
  26. Switching to natural body wash
  27. Using chemical-free, reusable cloth static-cling sheets in the dryer
  28. Unplugging anything that isn’t in use
  29. No more disposable plastic cutlery or plates
  30. Not driving my car on weekends
  31. Putting away my humidifier for good
  32. Using a thermos for coffee and tea
  33. No more gift wrap
  34. Changing all my light bulbs to CFLs
  35. Switching to Eco-Dent floss
  36. Only drinking fair-trade, organic, locally roasted coffee
  37. Using only beeswax candles; or soy-based, as long as there’s no paraffin
  38. Returning my wine bottles to the Beer Store so they’re recycled properly
  39. Switching to natural toothpaste
  40. Changing over to a natural laundry detergent
  41. Eating only free-range, organic, hormone-free (and if possible local) meat, restricting my intake of beef and chicken to no more than once per week
  42. Not buying any more petroleum-based bath poufs and loufas
  43. Signing up at to block junk mail and plant a tree every month
  44. Being conscientious about how much water I use; only turning on the taps at a “trickle” when washing hands or brushing teeth and keeping showers to five minutes
  45. Using the air-dry function on my dishwasher
  46. Consuming only locally brewed beer, organic when possible
  47. No more using paper towels or hand-dryers in public bathrooms
  48. Investing in permanent laser hair removal rather than shaving or waxing forever
  49. Only local and fair-trade chocolate
  50. Turning off my freezer
  51. Picking up litter when I see it
  52. Properly disposing of my used batteries at a local hazardous waste depot
  53. Switching to eco-friendly dish detergent
  54. Changing to natural, paraben-free lip balm
  55. Only consuming locally grown, produced and cellared wine (from within Ontario)
  56. Purchasing “green” baking soda, incorporating it into household cleaning in place of harsher chemicals like bleach
  57. Switching to natural shaving cream
  58. Switching to recycled (and recyclable) razors
  59. Only using one glass per day for water/milk/juice, one mug for coffee/tea and one wine glass
  60. Spending part of each day educating myself about environmental issues
  61. Using stainless steel rather than non-stick frying pan (takes less time to heat up)
  62. Not buying any more Q-tips
  63. Switching to natural deodorant
  64. Recycling my used wine corks through the Bag-a-Cork program
  65. Giving up gum (especially the over-packaged kind)
  66. Not buying any more makeup remover pads
  67. Turning my oven off for good
  68. Using a natural bronzer
  69. Only buying loose-leaf tea in refillable packets
  70. Switching to natural, organic shampoo
  71. Only filling my kettle with the exact amount of water needed
  72. Shutting down my computer every day at work instead of just logging off
  73. Not using the air-conditioning in my car
  74. Following the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…” rule
  75. Using matches instead of lighters
  76. Carbon-offsetting all of my air travel
  77. Using only the herbs and spices I can grow at home
  78. Unplugging my whole fridge
  79. Weekly lobbying, letter-writing and petitioning on behalf of various environmental campaigns
  80. Requesting that my in-flight meals be vegetarian
  81. Not buying books from Amazon or Chapters/Indigo; only local, independent bookstores and only when necessary
  82. Purchasing all my music in mp3 format rather than CDs
  83. Getting allergy shots instead of buying packs of antihistamine pills, eye drops and nasal sprays
  84. Making sure there’s always at least one ‘green’ element in the gifts I give
  85. Switching to an all-natural acne ointment
  86. No more ordering food by delivery
  87. No more take-out, unless I bring my own containers
  88. Always asking for no receipt, unless I really need one
  89. Refilling all possible bottles (toilettries and household cleaning products); bringing my own plastic food containers to the bulk bins at the grocery store
  90. Switching to eco-friendly dry cleaners
  91. Using a PVC-free shower curtain liner
  92. Turning off my air-conditioning during the summer
  93. Recycling anything and everything that can be recycled — no excuses
  94. Switching to natural, minimally packaged eyeshadow
  95. Switching to a natural bar soap and investing in a recyclable travelling case for it
  96. Sleeping naked
  97. Using a natural, mineral-based suntan lotion
  98. Not having any more baths
  99. Letting my hair air dry
  100. Getting rid of face wash and makeup remover, using my bar soap instead
  101. Ordering smaller, more eco-friendly business cards
  102. Not using nail polish (or nail polish remover)
  103. Only watering my plants with greywater
  104. Only going to eco-friendly spas
  105. Picking weeds (in mom’s garden) by hand rather than with pesticide
  106. Using gauze instead of band-aids for minor cuts
  107. Switching to natural cat food
  108. Limiting my use of elevators
  109. Using cloths instead of paper towels for household cleaning
  110. Switching to natural hair dyes
  111. Raising environmental awareness through stickers, blogs and other media
  112. Using GoodSearch instead of Google
  113. No plastic barf bags or packages of Gravol when hungover
  114. Natural healing of sunburns (no more after-sun lotions)
  115. Only renting cars from companies that offer hybrids
  116. Cancelling my subscription to a secondary newspaper
  117. Selling the car!
  118. Handwashing all my dishes
  119. Buying tokens for public transit rather than tickets
  120. Only buying cereal in bulk
  121. Using plastic-free, eco-friendly photo albums
  122. Limiting my ironing time/heat
  123. Not using my hair-straightening iron anymore
  124. Composting
  125. Keeping the light in the bathroom off each morning while showering and brushing my teeth
  126. Using the same fork or spoon I’ve stirred with to eat
  127. Not using any more straws
  128. Cutting my hair and keeping it short (so I need less product)
  129. Buying an all-natural kitchen/bathroom cleaner
  130. Using biodegradable pens
  131. Developing my photos in bigger batches/fewer deliveries
  132. No more Swiffer products
  133. No more tabloids or trashy magazines
  134. Only staying at eco-friendly hotels
  135. Only buying sustainable and/or local clothing
  136. Not drinking anymore canned beverages
  137. Not drinking anymore bottled beverages
  138. Purchasing only fair-trade and if possible local flowers
  139. Giving regularly to a green cause
  140. Only drinking organic hard liquor
  141. Only eating free-range eggs from accountable farms
  142. Restricting myself to organic dairy
  143. No more recreational driving/boating/etc
  144. No more gyms, all exercise must be outdoors
  145. Eating food straight from the pot or pan
  146. Fixing something if it’s broken rather than getting a new one
  147. Bringing my own headphones for the plane
  148. Using corn-based BioBags for the garbage bins
  149. Volunteering regularly with a green organization
  150. Investing in eco-friendly cat litter tray liners
  151. Switching to a natural toilet bowl cleaner
  152. No more smoking whatsoever
  153. Buying organic cotton or bamboo bedsheets
  154. Enforcing the shoes-off-at-the-door policy
  155. Using hand-held fans instead of electric ones
  156. Not buying any leather
  157. Making sure my house sitter agrees to the green rules
  158. Only buying eco-friendly jewellery
  159. Washing all my clothes in cold water
  160. Feeding my cat natural treats
  161. Showering in lukewarm, rather than hot, water
  162. No more gift cards unless they’re homemade from scrap paper
  163. Printing on both sides of the page
  164. Not using anymore Wite-Out
  165. Buying all my spices in bulk
  166. Putting a bottle of water in the toilet tank to reduce the amount used per flush
  167. Only buying eco-friendly shoes
  168. Using a hand-held bicycle pump rather than CO2 cylinders
  169. Using biodegradable soy-based peanuts or popcorn when sending packages in the mail
  170. Not wearing a gown at the doctor’s office
  171. Buying and donating clothes to Goodwill and other thrift stores
  172. Not using staples
  173. Using wind-up or solar-powered flashlights
  174. Getting indoor plants
  175. Only using natural perfume
  176. Only getting hand massages rather than using massage chairs or gadgets
  177. Using services like Brown Paper Ticket for shows and concerts
  178. Declining press kits at film screenings to save paper
  179. Eating only organic tubers (squash, eggplant, etc.)
  180. Greening my dating through or Green Drinks
  181. Not using anymore paper napkins
  182. Preserving jams and canning fruits
  183. Only buying used sports equipment
  184. Using all-natural, locally produced face cream
  185. Using revolving doors wherever possible
  186. Grooming my cat more often to prevent hairballs (and thus use less paper towel and water to clean them up)
  187. Buying alcohol in bulk (ie. kegs, 2L bottles of wine, etc)
  188. Using coconut oil instead of K-Y jelly
  189. Wearing items of clothing twice or more, as long as they’re not dirty or smelly
  190. Taking smaller notes and using both sides of the page during interviews
  191. Not using toilet paper for peeing
  192. Natural bug extermination, ie. drowning fruit flies in wine or syrup
  193. Switching to a natural mouthwash
  194. No more using the Internet after dinner (unless it’s to update this blog)
  195. Not buying anymore DVDs
  196. Decreasing the margins on my Word documents
  197. Not going back on the birth control pill
  198. Signing up with a CSA for weekly delivery of local, organic produce
  199. Only purchasing ceramics from potters who recycle their clay
  200. Reusing envelopes
  201. Using towels a minimum of five times before washing them
  202. Eating only ethically raised and caught fish
  203. Cutting the end off the toothpaste tube when it’s almost done to scrape the last little bit out
  204. Hanging the Do Not Disturb sign on hotel room doors so housekeeping doesn’t need to vacuum, change linens, replace toilettries, etc.
  205. Using incense or candles instead of artificial room fresheners
  206. Using chalkboards instead of whiteboards or flip charts
  207. Watering my outdoor plants at night instead of during the day
  208. Shaving in the sink instead of in the shower
  209. Cooking at a gentle boil instead of a rolling boil
  210. Using only sustainably made cutting boards
  211. Using water or homemade saline solution instead of synthetic eye drops
  212. Using Lunapads rather than disposable pads
  213. Getting my ice cream in a cone instead of a disposable cup
  214. Sticking to designated paths while hiking
  215. Working from home at least two days a week
  216. Towelling off in the shower before stepping onto the bathmat
  217. Smiling at one person I don’t know every day
  218. Using parchment paper or cheesecloth instead of cling wrap
  219. Only buying wooden hangers, preferably used
  220. Swimming in natural bodies of water, not public pools
  221. Pulling the shower curtain open when finished so it dries properly and requires less cleaning
  222. Turning down the temperature on my water heater
  223. Using cash instead of credit or debit to minimize receipts
  224. Getting cooking smells off my fingers with used green tea leaves rather than soap
  225. Voting for the Green Party
  226. Making sure I don’t pour grease down the drain
  227. Borrowing and sharing
  228. Soaking my dishes overnight so less water is needed to clean the tough stuff off
  229. Navy showers
  230. Letting my clothes air-dry on a rack, not in the dryer
  231. Not taking anymore supplements, vitamins, detox shakes, etc.
  232. Using scouring pads made from recycled plastic
  233. Only buying organic cotton underwear
  234. Making sure to use every last bit of shampoo/ketchup/etc in the bottle, using the “hit and swish” technique with some water
  235. Consuming every part of the pumpkin I carve for Halloween
  236. Going by the 10-second rule whenever I drop food on the floor
  237. Sharing my living space with a roommate whenever possible
  238. Using the Diva Cup instead of tampons
  239. Bringing my own reusable bib to the dentist’s
  240. Setting my desktop wallpaper to black, which uses less energy
  241. Eating my apple cores (and pear cores, etc) to waste less food
  242. Only buying and playing eco-friendly games
  243. Chopping food up extra small before putting it in the food processor
  244. Not using anymore hand sanitizer
  245. Making a Halloween costume/decorations from clothes I already have
  246. Not using Post-It notes; scrap paper instead
  247. Emptying lint traps, cleaning filters on a regular basis
  248. No more Dustbuster
  249. Natural aloe-coated condoms instead of Trojan or Durex
  250. Not using any toothpicks
  251. Not buying anymore cheap umbrellas; using a sturdy big one and sharing it whenever possible
  252. Getting others to do green stuff that I can’t
  253. Drinking green tea instead of prescription drugs when having a nervous breakdown
  254. Enforced quiet time (no radio, stereo or other music)
  255. Using old socks and T-shirts for dish rags
  256. Switching to a natural carpet cleaner
  257. Not using the fan in my bathroom
  258. Properly disposing of electrical waste like old computers and cell phones
  259. Backing up my work with a USB stick rather than CDs
  260. Not bothering with any rubber charity wristbands or ribbon campaigns
  261. Reusing old floppy discs as coasters
  262. Driving the speed limit when I rent a Zipcar
  263. Drinking straight from the bottle
  264. Not using fruit and veggie wash or rinsing things for more than a second
  265. Knitting scarves instead of buying them
  266. Holding my hair up with a pen, chopstick or rubber band from my newspaper instead of buying more elastic bands or other hair accessories
  267. Polishing silverware with baking soda
  268. Cancelling magazine subscriptions, donating extras to the doctor’s office
  269. Buying used furniture and recovering it rather than getting new stuff
  270. Learning to sew and mend my own clothes
  271. Reusing a fake Christmas tree from last year, not buying ornaments
  272. Asking that others only buy me eco-friendly gifts
  273. Keeping my addresses on my computer rather than buying a paper notebook
  274. Using an all-natural shoe polish, like coconut oil
  275. Making my own soup broth instead of buying it
  276. Not using anymore tape
  277. Not shaving my legs anymore
  278. Not consuming anything that contains or is manufactured with genetically modified corn (ie. high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, ethanol, corn-fed beef, etc)
  279. Not using soap to wash my dishes unless there’s oil residue
  280. Only buying my beans dry, in bulk
  281. Having a regular “inside day”, staying at home and not buying anything
  282. Adding an eco-friendly tip to my email signature
  283. Only drinking fair-trade tea
  284. Not buying any individually wrapped food
  285. No more downhill skiing (unless I carpool there, then haul my own ass up the hill)
  286. Only taking cabs fueled by natural gas
  287. Sticking to organic, raw honey
  288. Using couriers that use bikes, walking or public transit instead of cars and trucks
  289. Letting my dishes dry in the dishwasher rack with my houseplants beneath to collect the excess water dripping off
  290. Hand-whipping my whipped cream instead of using an electric blender
  291. Only buying organic, unbleached cotton towels
  292. Using up my change at the cash register
  293. Using a broom and dustpan instead of a vacuum
  294. Packing carry-on rather than check-in luggage
  295. No more paper towels
  296. Using scrap paper as bookmarks instead of buying new ones
  297. Using manual tools rather than electric or battery-powered ones
  298. Using natural lipstick
  299. Organizing my stuff so I don’t lose things (and therefore don’t need to repurchase them)
  300. Going to the bathroom before I go on the plane
  301. Only using a crank-up and/or solar-powered radio
  302. No more highlighters
  303. Making my own cosmetics and beauty products
  304. Using old books and shoe boxes as storage containers
  305. Only purchasing used kitchenware and appliances
  306. Restricting myself to cold water only for washing hands, face and dishes
  307. Using biodegradable chain lube for my bike
  308. Not buying anymore plastic whatsoever
  309. Choosing to use the subway transfers printed on recycled paper rather than the ones that come on laminated coloured paper
  310. Using a soap dish made from reclaimed chopsticks
  311. Collecting the elastic bands from my newspaper each morning and returning them to the delivery boy/girl
  312. Opting for a green-minded real estate company when buying/selling my house
  313. Only eating at restaurants that serve local and/or organic food, and offer eco-friendly take-out options
  314. Using Coccoina, an all-natural glue
  315. Getting used boxes for moving day
  316. Using organic cotton produce bags and bulk-bin sacks
  317. Framing my art with reclaimed barn board and recycled glass
  318. Buying 100% recycled CD sleeves instead of jewel cases
  319. Going to an eco-conscious bike repair shop
  320. Shopping at green malls
  321. Only using the small burners on my stove
  322. Sending out electronic invites rather than paper ones
  323. Making fenders for my bike from old water bottles
  324. Having a green moving party — using cargo bikes, trolleys. man power and other carbon-free alternatives to vans and trucks
  325. Eating all my skins (potato, carrot, cucumber, etc)
  326. Switching to an eco-conscious accountant for tax season
  327. Only buying handmade, bamboo or organic cotton blankets
  328. Commenting on other people’s decisions that aren’t very green, educating them about why it’s important to consider alternatives
  329. Learning shorthand, so I take smaller notes and thus save paper
  330. Squeegee my shower tiles each day to prevent mildew and mould
  331. Enrolling in a butchering class to confront my meat-eating ways
  332. Only consuming organic maple syrup
  333. Buying a used mattress and boxspring
  334. Screening my future tenants to ensure green practices throughout the household
  335. Signing up with Bullfrog Power, which puts wind and other green forms of power back onto the main energy grid
  336. Using a natural pumice stone to remove pilly fluff from sweaters instead of sending them to the drycleaners
  337. Planning out my routes, double-checking maps and directions to avoid getting lost on road trips (and thus preventing excess CO2 being emitted by the car)
  338. Shovelling snow and using sand instead of corrosive salt or antifreeze
  339. Installing a dual-flush toilet
  340. Buying low-VOC paints
  341. Setting up a rain barrel to collect water for plants, etc.
  342. Not wearing anymore makeup
  343. Using real, leftover wood for fires instead of artificial firelogs
  344. Not running lots of applications on my computer at once
  345. Restricting my diet to food within Ontario
  346. Using rechargeable batteries
  347. Closing my curtains at night to insulate the house
  348. Signing up for the local PeakSaver program to minimize pressure on the energy grid during peak hours
  349. Only buying recycled glass
  350. Taking the most direct flight instead of cheaper ones with stopovers
  351. Using natural, homemade furniture polish
  352. Purifying my indoor air without using a plug-in air purifier
  353. Tucking my pants into boots/socks to prevent them getting dirty
  354. Buying recycled wallpaper and homemade glue, or using stencils
  355. Using a service like Green Map when touring a city
  356. Going skinny dipping
  357. Helping push stuck cars out of the snow
  358. Covering holes in the wall with pictures instead of buying plaster
  359. Writing an eco-friendly funeral into my will
  360. Making my own stamps, or using lickable ones instead of stickers
  361. Writing poetry in haiku form only
  362. Recycling my old running shoes
  363. Deleting all spam and stale emails from my Gmail inbox
  364. Only buying fair-trade vanilla products
  365. Fixing other people’s green mistakes
  366. Sleeping more

You see, the “green” thing doesn’t have a damned thing to do with helping the environment or conserving natural resources. It’s all about feeling good about yourself and feeling smugly superior to people who actually know what matters.

Old dog learning new tricks

sony-bdp-s580-blu-ray-disc-player-black I took a day off from the blog yesterday to climb the learning curve on our new Blu-ray player.
It’s a Sony BDP-S580. We saw one about a month ago at Best Buy and were ready to pull the trigger then and there until the salesboy discovered they had only the display model, it wasn’t listed in inventory and it was apparently not yet available. Never mind how they happened to have one on display. He didn’t know either.
So we put the idea in the “future” file. Until last Friday when I discovered the unit, which has an MSRP of $199, could be had on for $168. Shipping was free, thanks to our Preferred Membership.
Well, alrighty then.
I pulled the trigger and the UPS guy delivered it late Tuesday.
It has built-in Wifi, which is what got our attention at Best Buy. That means it can “see” our wireless router Wifi signal and access the Internet, making it possible to stream all kinds of Internet content, including Netflix, huluplus, Movies, YouTube, Pandora Internet Radio, CinemaNow, Vudu. It can even read 3D content. All for about half what we paid for our first Blu-ray player a couple of years ago.
But the entertainment center is in the living room and the wireless router is upstairs in the office at the other end of the house, separated by about 50 feet, a floor and three walls. Consequently, the Blu-ray’s Wifi showed only two of five bars of signal strength and that led to interruptions in streaming media. The Linksys router is at least five years old and I wondered whether I should get a new router and/or a remote signal booster.
linksys Then I remembered the Linksys WRE54G Wireless-G Range Expander that I bought about three years ago, but could never get to work. It was still on the floor under my desk, so I pulled it out, dusted it off and Googled up the instructions. They seemed straightforward enough, so I took it down to the living room, plugged it in, stuck a paperclip into the “reset” hole, and pressed the “automatic connect” button. The monitor lights showed it was working correctly. I played a YouTube video and was pleased to see that the Blu-ray Wifi now showed a full five bars of signal strength. Woo-freaking-hoo! Problem solved at no extra expense.
I suspect a newer “N” router and repeater would be better, but as long as everything functions well, I’m not going to worry about it. Besides, with technology the longer you wait the better and cheaper it gets.
Several of the Internet content providers like Netflix, huluplus, movies and others require the user to first create an online account via a regular computer and then synch the Sony unit with it. So far, we’re synched with Netflix, YouTube and movies. I’m going to look into a huluplus account this morning before I get serious about a final attack on clutter in anticipation of the arrival of Maria’s parents from Indiana this afternoon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Crop dusters


The crop dusters are out this morning, making their turns over our little wooded subdivision.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What I’m reading tonight

bunker hill
I’m reading a review copy of The Whites of Their Eyes, an examination of the Battle of Bunker Hill, that was the first major clash of the American Revolution.
I’m two chapters in and it’s a real page-turner.
It’s scheduled to be released on June 7.

Another reason to like Arkansas

terrorist permit I noticed this sticker on the back window of a Dodge Dakota pickup truck outside Walmart this afternoon.

Why do we have to learn about this from a British newspaper?

Where the hell is the American news media on this story? From the Daily Mail in the U.K.:

By Simon Neville

An aide to Vice President Joe Biden has apologized to a reporter who was locked in a closet for hours after he was invited to cover a Florida political fundraiser Veteran reporter Scott Powers was locked in the closet for most of the event. He emailed from inside 'sounds like a nice party'because they did not want him talking with the guests.

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said the decision to hold local reporter Scott Powers there was a 'mistake'.

And she claimed an inexperienced staffer had put Powers in the closet instead of a 'hotel room' as was their normal practice.

As the unaware $500-a-head invitees dined on caprese crostini with oven-dried mozzarella and basil, rosemary flatbread with grapes honey and gorgonzola cheese, grilled chicken Caesar and garden vegetable wraps, last week, the veteran reporter was locked away.


Imprisoned? Powers snapped this image of the closet in which he was held and posted it online

Imprisoned? Powers snapped this image of the closet in which he was held and posted it online

The Orlando Sentinel reporter was ushered into the closet inside wealthy property developer Alan Ginsburg’s Winter Park mansion, after being told that Joe Biden and Senator Bill Nelson had not yet arrived.

They were due to speak to the audience to raise money for the 2012 elections.

He was told he could only come out when the politicians were ready to give their speeches.

The event was being held for Democrat senator Bill Nelson. Powers emailed from inside the closet: 'sounds like a nice party'

Powers told The Drudge Report: ‘When I'd stick my head out, they'd say, “Not yet. We'll let you know when you can come out.”’

After 90 minutes he was allowed out to hear Biden and Nelson speak for 35 minutes, before being taken back to the closet for the remainder of the event.

From inside his temporary prison Powers emailed his office from his cell phone: ‘Sounds like a nice party.’

When Ginsburg – who has supported both Democrat and Republican candidates in the past – learnt of the treatment that took place in his house, he called the reporter.

Powers said: ‘[Ginsburg] said he had no idea they'd put me in a closet and was very sorry.

‘He said he was just following their lead and was extremely embarrassed by the whole thing.’

Today Ms Alexander followed suit.

She said Power has accepted her 'unequivocal apology' made shortly after the fundraiser.

'This was the unfortunate mistake of an inexperienced staffer and the vice president's office has made sure it will never happen again,' she said.

She said pool reporters are usually given 'hotel rooms' when the Vice President speaks at private homes.

She explained that the closet was chosen because of its 'close proximity' to the room where Mr Biden was speaking, and that it had a table and chair where the reporter could work, as well as open space.

But she clarified: 'A hotel room, however, should not be a storage room'.

Some guests were shocked by the Vice President’s staff.

One emailed the paper saying: ‘I was in attendance at the Fundraiser and enjoyed a nice lunch.

‘If I had known there was a reporter stuffed in the closet, I would have been compelled to stand up and demand answers.

‘I would also like to know if this is actually legal to treat people like caged animals. I’m disgusted by these actions.’

Florida state law says kidnapping entails ‘forcibly, secretly or by threat confining, abducting or imprisoning another person against her or his will and without lawful authority.’

Alan Ginsburg's home was awash with 150 guests - none of whom seemed to know Scott Power was being held under guard in the closet

Powers said of his treatment: ‘It was frustrating and annoying that I was not given a chance to do my job fully and properly.

‘This was an extreme, and extremely inappropriate way of handling the press… it was essentially a rude and uncomfortable way to treat a reporter.’

He attempted to play down his treatment calling it ‘hardly unusual or shocking’ and confirmed that he received an apology from Ginsburg.

But he said the Vice President’s staff emailed him an apology which ‘I found far less satisfying than Ginsburg’s.’

The incident is especially embarrassing for the administration because it comes at a time when the White House has been condemning the treatment of journalists trying to report in Libya.

Just ten days ago, President Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: ‘journalists should be protected and allowed to do their work.’

The Vice President’s office did not respond to requests for comment.



I never waste my time on reality shows, but I seem to be making an exception this spring. We’re hooked on Celebrity Apprentice.

It happened quite by accident. Our Sunday night TV watching usually starts with the Simpsons, but the new
FOX Sunday night lineup now has Bob’s Burgers following the Simpsons and we absolutely, positively, hate Bob’s Burgers and can’t imagine it surviving to a second season.

I never thought much about Donald Trump until recently. I encountered him once, back in the ‘90s when we passed on the escalators in Trump Tower. I’m sure he went home that evening and said to his then-wife Marla Maples, “Hey, guess who I saw on the escalator today.”

But I digress.

I initially saw him as an improbable presidential candidate, but American politics is full of improbabilities. I can’t conceive of a more improbable candidate than the incompetent America-hater who holds the office at the moment. Trump’s executive experience and achievements stand out in sharp relief against Barack Obama’s dubious accomplishments as a community organizer and legislator (who the hell votes “present?”), even after his two years of on-the-job training in the Oval Office. And I find myself agreeing with everything Trump says.

But the fascination of Celebrity Apprentice is in the interactions among the players. We cheered last night when the poisonous Dionne Warwick got fired. The women’s team is a hormonal holocaust, full of enormous egos. You expect a cat fight to break out at any moment, especially when Warwick was in the mix.

Gary Busey The men’s team seems to win every week in spite of Gary Busey. Busey is a likeable goof, but unless you have a job that calls on his acting skills, he’s the guy you have to work around to get things done. He’s the best argument for motorcycle helmets I’ve ever seen. Here’s what Wikipedia says about how he got that way:

On December 4, 1988, Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in which he was not wearing a helmet. His skull was fractured, and doctors feared he suffered permanent brain damage.

At the recommendation of Dr. Drew Pinsky, Busey was seen by psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey's brain injury has had a greater effect on him than realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental "filters" and causing him to speak and act impulsively. He recommended Busey take a medication called Depakote, to which he agreed.

Marvin Aday, aka Meat Loaf, finds Busey particularly exasperating and last night’s previews foretell a major blowup between the two on next week’s show. We can hardly wait. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wasting our time and money, I hope…


When you live this close to the New Madrid Fault, the fault responsible for the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the United States, and when you hear that big quakes have occurred on this fault every 200-300 years, you can’t help but think about it now and then.

That’s why we got earthquake insurance when we bought our house and that’s why we’ve been laying in emergency food supplies. Following a friend’s lead, we bagged 50 pounds of rice, a bunch of beans and other stuff and sealed them in 5-gallon buckets from The Home Depot today.

We already own an electric generator, thanks to the ice storm of January, 2009, along with a couple of chainsaws and various other potentially useful things.

We’re amateurs compared with our friend, who has more than a year’s food stockpiled, along with hundreds of gallons of fuel-stabilized gasoline, firearms and a secluded redoubt in the southern Missouri woods.

I hope we never need this stuff and it ends up never being used, like the survival rations that stocked fallout shelters back in the 1950s and ‘60, but it’s like guns – it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Big Sur, with a cameo appearance by Elizabeth Taylor

Dated and kind of cheesy with a bit of overblown Richard Burton prose, but this is still my favorite place on earth. So far.

I’m a Butler fan

Brad Stevens

I quit paying attention to college basketball when the evil Myles Brand fired Bobby Knight from his coaching position at Indiana University 11 years ago.

Except in March, when I study the NCAA Tournament brackets for someone to root for.ato coat of arms

It’s easy this year, since Butler University is carrying the banner for Hoosier basketball at the national level.

And I’m doubly engaged in the outcome now that I know that Butler coach Brad Stevens is my Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity brother. Stevens, who grew up in Zionsville at a time when I was covering the community for The Indianapolis News, went to DePauw University at Greencastle, where he became an ATO.

That’s why I was up late last night watching Stevens coach the Butler Bulldogs to a 61-54 victory over Wisconsin. I was particularly annoyed at half-time when chubby Charles Barkley opined that, even though Butler had done a brilliant job of taking Wisconsin out of their game in the first half, the Bulldogs didn’t have the stamina to play at that level for a full 40 minutes. Therefore, Barkley declared, Wisconsin would rally and win.

In. Your. Face. Charles. Barkley.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

No, we can’t be friends

I don’t like to think of myself as a vengeful person, but I was scanning the “friends of friends” list on Facebook this morning and was mildly surprised at how many of the suggested people that I don’t want in my friends list.

Mostly, I didn’t know them well enough to want to reestablish contact. But in some cases, I’m still holding a grudge for something they did, usually to one of my friends.

Two guys in particular from my Indianapolis years have requested inclusion in my friends list repeatedly. I clicked the “ignore” button each time and will continue to do so. I consider them to be, as Mark Twain would put it, malignant imbeciles who were promoted well beyond their professional competence and who thwarted the career aspirations of people far more talented than they.

They probably don’t even know who they are or that they have earned my everlasting enmity. So be it.

It happened again

From Hot Air:

Via the Blaze. Believe it or not, this one’s even harder to watch than Serene Branson’s babble for the ages. He’s slightly more coherent than she was, but … he just goes on, and on, with no one in the control booth willing to put him out of his misery by cutting back to the anchor. Note the look on her face when he finally finishes. Excruciating.

No word yet on what the cause is. Paramedics swooped in to check him out but it sounds like they found nothing seriously wrong. He’s following up with his doctor but has no news to report yet. Did this ever happen on news broadcasts years ago or are we really seeing lightning strike twice in the span of five weeks? And no, “Dan Rather always sounded like this” isn’t an acceptable answer.

Spring comes to the Mid-South


After a high temperature near 80 yesterday, a cold front has us in the mid-40s this morning with a forecast high of only 52.

But I’m still thinking spring when I hear the cheerful spring song of the cardinals and gaze out my office window at the redbud in bloom on the wooded unsold lot next door. Our neighbors’ forsythia is also in full bloom.

Maria and I inspected our redbud02tree plantings from last spring last evening and determined three of the seven Kwanza cherry trees are budding. Alas, last summer’s blazing heat and drought killed the other four, along with a dogwood we planted near the garage.

We’re eager to see blossoms on the Kwanzas. They should be more spectacular with each passing year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What a retriever sees

The dog’s name is Sugar

A retriever’s view of duck hunting.

Thank God for friends with trailers

I was feeling pretty sunny when I rode my 2003 BMW K1200GT in to Seattle Grind for coffee and internet this morning.

After all, I sorted out my Zumo 550 GPS XM Navweather problem yesterday and even learned why the proprietary cradle locking screw wouldn’t come out when it was clearly unscrewed all the way.

By way of explanation, the Garmin Zumo 550 GPS locks into its motorcycle mount with a latching mechanism that is made completely secure by tightening a locking screw that requires a special proprietary screwdriver. The special screw/screwdriver arrangement is a pain in the ass for geezers like me who have trouble seeing tiny objects up close. That’s why I bought a knurled replacement screw last summer from Touratech – so I could dispense with the screwdriver tedium.

After all, if someone wants to steal the setup, all they have to do is undo the RAM mount armature, untangle the wires and walk away with the whole thing, including the XM antenna.

The secret, I learned yesterday on, is a tiny o-ring that keeps the unscrewed screw from falling out. I got out my Bausch & Lomb loupe, found the o-ring, removed it, and replaced the screw this morning.

So I had the bike and GPS functioning as it should as I rode down U.S. 49 to town.

After an hour or so of coffee and internet work, I put my netbook into my saddlebag, fired up the ignition and put on my helmet and gloves while the engine warmed.

But just as I was ready to swing my leg over the saddle, the engine faltered and quit. Efforts to re-start it were fruitless. The starter cranked normally, but the engine refused to catch.

I knew I wasn’t out of gas because I topped off the tank on the way in to town, but everything pointed to the engine not getting fuel.

Flustered, I phoned my friend Charlie Parsons, who said he was just getting KRS Fusesready to leave home for work in Paragould. Charlie offered to hitch up his motorcycle trailer, swing by Seattle Grind and pick me and the bike up and drop us off at home. What a guy!

Listening carefully to the sounds that accompany turning the ignition key, we both concluded we didn’t hear the characteristic sound of the fuel pump engaging.

Charlie has a diagnostic computer that he’ll bring by to query the bike about what’s ailing it, but everything points to a fuel pump failure. Charlie suggested I take a look at the 15 amp fuse that runs the fuel pump and check it for failure or corrosion. I’ve determined which fuse it is and will give it a try later today.

If it is a failed fuel pump, the good news is that the K1200GT’s fuel pump lives in the gas tank and can be replaced without the expensive labor to remove the tank and fairing components. Even so, the fuel pump for that model retails for $350.

The bike is due for a 12,000-mile service, so the timing is right to haul it up to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and get everything sorted out.

In retrospect, it couldn’t have picked a better time or place to fail, so I consider myself lucky. Sorta.

Scary thought for the day

While the horrors of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are fresh in our minds, this is a good time to consider that the East Coast of North and South America may someday be devastated by a megatsunami from a volcano collapse in the Canary Islands. Here’s what I posted back in December, 2004m after the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries:

la_palma_erdrutsch_tsunami_01 As horrific as it was, the Sumatra tsunami was just a ripple compared with the megatsunami waiting to scour the U.S. East Coast.
I've posted on this subject before, but there has never been a better time than now to raise awareness of the ticking time bomb at La Palma in the Canary Islands.
Earthquake-generated tsunamis are nothing compared with those triggered by massive landslides and volcanic islands are the primary cause of these rare but inevitable cataclysmic events.
The trigger will be the collapse of the western flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma. There is already a massive fracture that slipped a short distance during an eruption in the latter portion of the 20th century. The speculation is that the next time the volcano cranks up, a major eruption will cause all or part of the western flank of the volcano to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists predict the collapse will generate a train of a dozen or more very large waves spreading out in an arc that will strike the eastern coasts of North and South American, as well as the Caribbean.
As we saw with the Sumatra event, the wave height increases as it moves into shallower water. It was estimated as high as 20 feet and reached as far as a quarter-mile inland in the Indian Ocean tsunami.
A La Palma megatsunami would generate waves as tall as 160 feet (8x the Sumatra size) that would reach as far as 12 miles inland all the way from Greenland, down the densely populated U.S. East Coast to Brazil and beyond.
It is estimated that the northeast coast of Brazil would feel the impact first, some six hours after the collapse, with Haiti, Cuba and the U.S. East Coast following in rapid succession.
Take a look at a map of the U.S. East Coast and notice how much population is concentrated within 12 miles of the shore from Maine down to Miami and you begin to appreciate the almost inconceivable destruction.
Think of the massive traffic jams caused by Florida residents fleeing hurricanes and then imagine the futility of trying to evacuate that danger zone with little more than six hours' warning.
Scientists say there is no way to predict when the La Palma collapse will occur - only that it will occur. Maybe in 1,000 years, maybe tomorrow.
Here's a place to start to learn more:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First day of issue: March 25


This U.S. postage stamp celebrating America’s jazz heritage will be issued on Saturday at New Orleans.

It’s a “forever” stamp, which means you can buy it for 44 cents and use it anytime in the future as a standard first class mail stamp, regardless of how crazy the postal rates get.

If my son Steve has any use for stamps, this may be a good one for him to stock up on.

From the Craigslist Rants & Raves section

I guess they don’t like their new hometown:

I found the bottom of the US landfill

I moved to a town west of Jonesboro a few months ago and it was the worst decision I think I have ever made in my life. The people in the town are the laziest slobs I have ever seen there's garbage lying everywhere people don't put there dogs on leashes and this is in city limits when I have seen people walking thier dogs they don't even pick up the after their dogs. The women walk around in their pj and slippers and don't even cross them I got the pleasant experience of meeting one of this special women by pushing my shopping cart from H--ys grocery store and someone backing out of a parking spot she hop out of the car and wanted to fight...and these people make fun of the north I don't ever remember seeing a dead fish in someone's driveway up north ( that was a week ago in arkansas and there were three) or where someone had thrown out pork steaks by the side of a highway. So ya'll can take this town and cram it

An amazingly simple fix

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you may recall the hassles I went through last year to get XM Navweather working on my Garmin Zumo 550 GPS.

I spent what felt like hours on the phone with SiriusXM Third World customer service reps, trying to activate this additional feature. The big problem seemed to garmin-zumo-450-966be that they had no clue how the Zumo 550 works and exactly what buttons to push on their end to achieve the result I desired.

So you can understand why my heart sank last week when, on my ride to Memphis and back, I discovered that the Navweather feature had quit working.

I dreaded having to call SiriusXM and wade through that technical morass again.

So I decided my first move should be to take a look at and see if anyone else had this problem and solved it.

Sure enough, several Zumo 550 users reported their Navweather crapped out over the last couple of months.

And most of them discovered that when they hooked the unit up to their computer and got into its files, they fixed the problem easily by deleting the three .wxd files in the WX folder.

I did the same thing and got the same good results. Everything is working like it should .

O, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

Why it’s never necessary to polygraph dogs

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy 101st birthday, Dad


My dad, who died just before Thanksgiving in 1997, would have been 101 years old today.

To say I miss him every day is an understatement. There are so many things I wish he could see today. Like, for instance:

  • What spendid men his grandsons have become.
  • What fine women his grandsons married
  • What a brilliant great-granddaughter he has, who inherited his sly and ever-present sense of humor
  • Our new home in the sunny mid-South
  • Our two dogs – Ruthie the sweetheart who seems 6 years younger since her haircut, and Pete the snuggly Aussie

Sitting here on our screened back porch, with the warm breezes carrying the woodsy scents of spring, I’d love to pour him a cup of coffee and catch up on everything that’s happened since he left us on that cold November day 13 years ago.

Happy birthday, Dad. Tell Mom I said hi and give my regards to everyone where you are.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dixie’s just down the road


I rode over to Cardwell, Mo. yesterday afternoon for a six-pack of Samuel Adams Cream Stout and a bottle of Bacardi Gold rum. I didn’t know that’s what I was going to buy. I like to browse and surprise myself.

And I took a roundabout route, Pine Log Road east to the Brookland “business route” of U.S. 46, then Ark. 220 to Dixie (see photo above), then Ark. 135 north OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         to U.S. 412 at the east edge of Paragould, and on east to Mr. T’s Riverside just across the St. Francis River (and state line) in Missouri.

In case you’re wondering about Dixie, it’s nothing more than a crossroads out in the Mississippi Delta. Just a couple of houses, nothing you’d recognize as a town, but they get to pretend they’re a place with a name.

Yesterday was mostly overcast with a high around 65. Today is a different story, being the first day of spring and all. It’s sunny and already 70 degrees by 11:30 a.m. and I’m going to have to try hard to think up a valid excuse not to do some yardwork today.

The grass is getting long but I need to hitch up the wagon and do a sweep of the yard picking up fallen limbs and sticks before I can mow.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This nuclear plant is about 100 miles downwind from us

No, Pam. Radiation is measured in millirems, not milligrams. Twit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My first weekend motorcycle ride

Last weekend was one of those late winter weekends with an unseasonably warm and sunny Saturday, followed by a cold and rainy Sunday.

It reminded me of one such March weekend back in 1966 when I was a student at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

My friend Steve Dolbow, a TKE at ISU, had a small Japanese motorcycle. I think it must have been a 250cc or maybe a 350cc.

I don’t remember whose idea it was – probably mine since it involved friends of mine – but we decided it would be fun to ride his bike up to Crawfordsville and go drinking with my Delphi High School buddies Ed Cook and Gene Snipes at their Sigma Chi Fraternity house on the Wabash College campus.

It was my first motorcycle trip of more than just putting around town. Steve had a spare helmet, so I figured I had all I needed.

The two-up (Steve at the controls) ride up to Crawfordsville was a delightful 60-mile lark in the sun. U.S. 41 north of Rockville, Ind., has a lot of fun curves and changes of elevation that continue when you turn east on Ind. 47. It was great fun and I think we got appropriately drunk, as college kids are wont to do, that night.

Coming back to Terre Haute was a different story.

A cold front overrode Saturday’s warm air overnight and we left for Terre Haute Sunday morning in a cold drizzle. My memory of the ride back was mostly of being soaked to the skin and horribly, miserably cold. I suspect the temperature was in the low 50s, but that’s crazy cold when your clothes are wet. I remember we stopped at a laundromat in Rockville to wring out our jackets and to try to fashion some kind of rain gear out of trash bags. By the time Steve dropped me off at my dorm, we were both deep into hypothermia.

I shucked my soaked clothes and shuffled down to the showers where I spent about an hour trying to warm up under hot water. Then I went to bed, turned my electric blanket up all the way and slept the rest of the day and night.

I suppose that would have put some people off of motorcycling for life. I don’t think Steve rides anymore. It obviously didn’t have that effect on me.

Off to Memphis for Bagels and a helmet

memphis bagel

I promised myself I’d go for a ride today, so I did.

I rode down to Memphis and to City East Bagel Co. (formerly Memphis Bagel Co.) and snarfed up a dozen of their splendid, real Jewish bagels.

I’ve been wanting to check out the HJC IS-MAX BT helmet, since my Arai is long past the point where I should have replaced it. The HJC IS-MAX BT has a flip-up face and has an internal drop-down sunshade. And HJC wired it for Bluetooth devices, just to sweeten the deal. Since I use custom-fitted in-ear speaker/earplugs, the Bluetooth feature isn’t that much of a selling point. I had hjc is max bta Schuberth helmet when they first hit the U.S. market and found a lot to like about it, especially the drop-down sunshade. But the new Schuberth  retails for about $700. At an MSRP of $199, the HJC IS-MAX BT is the poor/thrifty man’s Schuberth. Since neither is certified by the Snell Memorial Foundation (whose relevance to motorcycling I have come to question), there’s no sticker snobbery involved in the choice.

When I pulled into a parking space at City East Bagel, I noticed a McDonald’s next door. So after I put the bagels into my left saddlebag, I whipped out my iPod Touch, locked onto the McDonald’s Wifi signal and Googled the HJC web site. Checking their dealer listings, I found Memphis Honda Yamaha. I called and determined they had the IS-MAX BT in the full range of sizes. They were only about 15 minutes away so, after stopping at an Exxon station to top off my gas tank, I rode to the dealership, tried on an XL version of the helmet and bought it. They had it in black and silver. I chose silver because it will be marginally cooler in the blazing heat of summer here.

Like most new helmets, there’s going to be a break-in period and the 87-mile ride home let me identify some areas where the padding irritates the tops of my ears. I think it’s fixable. The helmet seems to vent ok and the visor and sunshade move as they should. The chinstrap buckle needs a little pull-tab (a la Arai) for easier release, but that’s the only fault I can find in it so far.

I feel slightly guilty for not buying a helmet from Grass Roots BMW. They’re my dealer and I believe in supporting your dealer whenever you can. But they don’t carry HJC. So there it is.

I think he’s running…

Do I think Donald Trump has what it takes to be president?

My initial response is doubtful. Then I compare him with who’s in the White House and I realize he has infinitely more real world experience as an executive and a leader than does a “community organizer” with a murky past.

I also think he raises a valid point on the Constitutional legitimacy of the Obama presidency.

Amazing tsunami damage photos

sendai airport

ABC News has a stunning before-and-after comparison of tsunami devastation on its web site.

It starts out with the “before” view of 27 affected locations. If you sweep your cursor from one side to the other, the “after” view is revealed.

This is an aerial view of Sendai Airport, showing the tsunami-scoured landscape on the right.

Click on the hypertext or the image to visit the site.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Suzi Barrett

This is Suzi Barrett, who plays the sarcastic girl in the Esurance insurance commercials.

Most of my blog hits in the past several months have been the result of searches for information on Suzi.
There is a web site - “Who is that Hot Ad Girl?” – dedicated to identifying all of the attractive women who appear in TV commercials and they include Suzi in their listings.

A little perspective

Before we go all spastic about a deadly radioactive cloud from Japan, let’s remember something: atmospheric testing of atomic weapons, which is immeasurably dirtier than what’s coming out of those Japanese reactors, has been going on since July 16, 1945.

To quote Wikipedia:

Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them. Testing nuclear weapons can yield information about how the weapons work, as well as how the weapons behave under various conditions and how structures nuclear_fireballbehave when subjected to nuclear explosions. Additionally, nuclear testing has often been used as an indicator of scientific and military strength, and many tests have been overtly political in their intention; most nuclear weapons states publicly declared their nuclear status by means of a nuclear test.

The first nuclear weapon was detonated as a test by the United States at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945, with a yield approximately equivalent to 20 kilotons. The first hydrogen bomb, codenamed "Mike", was tested at the Eniwetok atoll in the Marshall Islands on November 1 (local date) in 1952, also by the United States. The largest nuclear weapon ever tested was the "Tsar Bomba" of the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya on October 30, 1961, with an estimated yield of around 50 megatons.

In 1963, all nuclear and many non-nuclear states signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, pledging to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. The treaty permitted underground nuclear testing. France continued atmospheric testing until 1974, China continued up until 1980.

Underground Tests in the United States continued until 1992 (its last nuclear testing), the Soviet Union in 1990, the United Kingdom in 1991, and both China and France in 1996. After adopting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, all of these states have pledged to discontinue all nuclear testing. Non-signatories India and Pakistan last tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

The most recent nuclear test was announced by North Korea on May 25, 2009.

The most intense period of testing started two days after I was born and continued through my senior year in high school. People were concerned about the levels of strontium 90, a radioactive isotope of the element strontium, in the milk kids were drinking during those years because of the radioactive crap in the atmosphere all over the world.

We’re still here after all that. So maybe it’s time for the media to get some perspective and ease up on the hysteria.

Shearing time for Ruthie


Ruthie is at the Petco beauty shop getting “the works.”iams-dog-food-weight-control-formul951

Now that the weather is warming and it’s almost spring, it’s time for her annual shearing. I dropped her off at 11:30 a.m. and expect to retrieve her around 4 p.m.

In the meantime, I picked up a 40 pound bag of IAMS Weight Control dog food. We seriously overfed both dogs over the winter. It’s particularly noticeable in Pete’s loss of agility and his obvious girth. I’m curious to see if Ruthie shows any weight gain after her winter coat is off.



Five hours later, after two baths (they couldn’t get the shears through her fur without bathing her twice), a shearing, and nail trim – all for $76 – Ruthie is a changed dog. She even smells nice, which is very puzzling to Pete.

Made about the time I started riding - this video makes me smile


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Had enough?

Trout fishing in Arkansas

nick nicholson

Meet Nick Nicholson, 63, of Jonesboro. I found him fishing from the dock at Walcott Lake in Crowley’s Ridge State Park this afternoon.

It was 2:30 p.m. and he’d caught a good-sized bass and a rainbow trout.

The lake was stocked with 500 rainbow trout recently for a Boy Scout event, but it rained that weekend and the scout fishing event was pretty much a washout. So the public is invited to angle for the trout before the water warms up and they die. Trout aren’t found in lakes around here because they can’t take the heat.

Here’s the press release:

Area residents are invited for a limited time to fish for rainbow trout at Crowley’s Ridge State Park. As part of the Boy Scouts of America Quapaw Council camporee, which was held this past weekend, rainbow trout was stocked in Walcott Lake to introduce Scouts to fishing. Although many of the boys participated in the activity, there are still trout available for local residents to catch. Please remember anyone 16 and older needs to have a fishing license plus a trout stamp. Both are available at the park’s visitor center.

This is a one-time only event and Arkansas State Parks does not plan to stock trout in Walcott Lake in the future.

For more information, you can contact the park at 870-573-6751.

Happy Sunshine Week

President Obama’s only event at the White House that isn’t closed to the press on Wednesday is a ceremony in which he’ll accept an award for being open to the press.

According to his public schedule, Obama has four behind-closed-doors meetings from 10 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.: his daily briefing, a talk with the USAID administrator, a session with senior advisers, and a huddle with his defense secretary. All of the meets are in the Oval Office, and all of them are “closed press,” the White House says.

But at 2:55 p.m., Obama will emerge to “accept an award from a coalition of good government groups and transparency advocates to recognize ‘his deep commitment to an open and transparent government—of, by, and for the people’ in conjunction with Sunshine Week,” the White House said in guidance to reporters.

And, importantly: “There will be a pool spray at the top.”

The White House didn’t specify what Obama will say, if anything, when he accepts the award. But he probably won’t mention that his administration acted on fewer requests for information last year even as it was asked for more, a tally documented by the AP.

Get to the point

There are a couple of commonly used phrases that, if you give them any thought at all, are desperately stupid and should never be used.

“…will be (going, starting, hosting, traveling, xxxxing…)” Somehow, everyone in public relations and way too many people in the news media think this is an erudite classy way to talk about something that’s going to happen.

No. No. No. Just say, “X will (go, start, host, travel, whatever).” There is absolutely no reason to use such tortured syntax for such a simple concept.

“I’d like to (usually used to thank someone).”

No, moron. Just say “thank you.” When you say, “I’d like to thank…” it implies the desire, but no follow-through.

If you use these phrases, you brand yourself as a dumbass who has no regard for proper word choices.

So tempting…

dog01My neighbor Tony, knowing our fondness for Australian shepherds, sent me a link today to this online ad for an Aussie up in Missouri:dog02

I have a 9 month old Black Tri Australian Shepherd.... he is a male and is papered but I don't have the papers yet but I am in the process of getting them... please call if interested

He’s a good-looking pup. Looks a lot like Pete.

The asking price is $100, which is pretty reasonable. I just don’t think we’re ready for another dog. But then that’s what I said when Maria started lobbying for an Aussie five years ago…



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Jesse James tour

I used to freelance for motorcycle magazines. Here’s a piece I wrote for RoadBike, based on a Jesse James tour put on by the Missouri tourism folks around this time of the year back in 2001.
jfl_bullethole.tifBy John M. Flora
I stared at the ragged hole in the red-and-white wallpaper and let its significance sink in. That, according to legend, was where the bullet that killed notorious outlaw Jesse James lodged after passing through his head.
jesse james home[5]I realized I was roughly where Bob Ford must have stood when Jesse stepped onto a chair to straighten and dust a framed sampler. My right hand flexed as I imagined Ford silently easing his .45 caliber Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver from its holster and firing the fatal shot at his unsuspecting friend.
“The dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard” flashed through my mind. That’s the only line I remember from the song about Jesse’s betrayal by a James gang member, who was seduced by a $10,000 reward. I’d come to learn about Jesse James and it seemed I was starting at the end of the story.
Road Research
Missouri has always been one of those states I have to ride through to get to more interesting places. Frankly, it was my least-favorite part of the route from my Indiana home and the West. Missouri meant hours of truck-filled, bumpy Interstate 70 with the troublesome traffic of St. Louis and Kansas City at either end.
Counting mile markers to the state line, however, I noticed abundant James-related tourist attractions and began to realize that Jesse James looms large in Missouri history. Since this Jesse James thing represented a gap in my knowledge of U.S. history, I decided to combine a weekend motorcycle trip with some personal research.
Jesse James is a folk hero hereabouts. They name streets, antique malls, museums, and conference centers for him. Hardly the kind of recognition accorded other American bad guys like Billy the Kid, Al Capone, and John Dillinger.
That’s because Jesse fought for the Confederacy (albeit as a guerilla and not as a regular soldier), and came to symbolize the plight of the post-war South, suffering the vengeance of the North and the humiliation of defeat. Tom Goodrich, author of The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation 1865-1866, says many Missourians and other southerners saw Jesse as “the last Rebel soldier.”
“The south was under total Union control,” Goodrich said. “So up comes somebody like Jesse James who a lot of people even in Florida and Alabama recognized as a former Rebel soldier, a guy who had not given up… can you imagine what that did for Southern hearts to see this guy … Jesse James was the only viable option to the suffering they were going through all of these years and they were willing to buy into it.”
Whether it was politics or expediency, the James gang targeted banks and railroads -- the most conspicuous examples of Yankee Republican influence in their part of the country.
Following The Trail
The Patee House Museum in Saint Joseph, Mo., is a good place to pick up Jesse’sST. JOSEPH, Mo. - Old west memorabilia on display in a case at the Patee House Museum in St. Joseph, Mo. trail. The imposing brick structure at the southeast corner of 12th and Penn streets was built as the Patee Hotel in 1858. The house where Jesse James was killed April 3, 1882 was moved to the museum grounds from its original location about a block away in 1977.
People come from all over the world to visit the four-room wood frame house and their fingers have worn away the wallpaper and plaster, enlarging the bullet hole to an opening about 3” by 7”. It’s now enshrined in a gold-colored frame, screwed to the wall.
The adjacent parlor features an exhibit based on the 1995 autopsy and DNA research done by Professor James Starrs of George Washington University. It proved to his satisfaction that the body in Jesse’s grave down in Kearney is, indeed, Jesse. The exhibit includes a reconstruction of Jesse’s skull, which came out of the grave in 32 pieces, showing where Ford’s bullet entered behind Jesse’s right ear.
Outlaw Bound
My next destination was the place where Jesse and Frank began a life of outlawry. An hour’s ride down U.S. 169 and Missouri highways 92 and 291 took me to Liberty, and the site of the nation’s first-ever daylight peacetime bankLIBERTY, Mo. - The Jesse James Bank Museum on the northeast corner of the courthouse square in Liberty, Mo. This two-story brick building was once the Clay County Savings Association Bank and, on Feb. 13, 1866, was the scene of the first peacetime daylight bank robbery in U.S. history when it was robbed of $62,000 in cash, bonds and government stamps by the James Gang. robbery.
The Seth Thomas calendar clock in what was once the Clay County Savings Association Bank is perpetually set to the date of Tuesday, February 13. On that day in 1866, a dozen men rode into town by various routes and gathered in front of the two-story brick building on the northeast corner of the courthouse square.
Two men entered and pointed guns at head cashier Greenup Bird and his son, William. After stuffing over $62,000 in bonds, cash, and Federal revenue stamps into a feed sack, they put the Birds into the vault, and rode off.
During the commotion outside the bank, a young boy watching from across the street was fatally shot. His family later received a letter of apology from Jesse James, who said no one was supposed to be injured in the holdup.
The building is now the Jesse James Bank Museum. For a modest admission fee, you can see where an amazed Greenup Bird was confronted by desperados and peer into the vault where he and his son were left.
LIBERTY, Mo. - Detail of the central panel of a mural on the second floor of the Clay County Courthouse in Liberty, Mo., showing Jesse James with the James Family Farm in the lower left.There’s more evidence that Jesse James is fondly remembered across the street. Born and raised up the road near Kearney, Jesse was a Clay County boy, and is immortalized in the 28’-wide central panel of a mural in the Clay County Courthouse. There’s Jesse on horseback, pistol in hand. The James family farm is behind him. And, if you look closely, you can see brother Frank and the James boys’ mother, Zerelda.
From Liberty On
Lexington was the scene of the James gang’s second daring daylight bank robbery. There are faster ways to get from Liberty to Lexington, but it was a pleasant day and I decided to spend about 90 minutes taking the 46-mile the scenic route up Highway 33 to U.S. 69 through Excelsior Springs.
Jesse and Frank were already outlaw legends when Excelsior Springs got its start as a resort town. In June 1880, a local farmer took the advice of Indians and hunters and let his sickly daughter try the waters at the spring there. After a few weeks of bathing in the spring and drinking its water, the girl was cured of tuberculosis. Others claimed cures for various conditions and Excelsior Springs became known as a place of healing waters.
I took Missouri Highway 10 east out of town, then turned right onto twisty Highway O (I love these letter designations for Missouri’s secondary roads). Winding my way south and east to Orrick and 210, I took Highways T and H to Henrietta. From there, it was a short run on Highway 13 across the floodplain of the Missouri River, over the river on a picturesque iron bridge and up the river’s southern bank to Lexington.
Sharp-eyed visitors will spot a cannonball embedded near the capital of one ofLEXINGTON, Mo. - A cannonball from the Civil War Battle of Lexington remains lodged in a column of the Lafayette County Courthouse in Lexington, Mo. the columns on the Lafayette County Courthouse on Main Street. It’s a relic of the 1861 Battle of Lexington, in which Confederate forces defeated Union troops.
Seven months after the Liberty bank job, five riders appeared outside the Alexander Mitchell & Co. Bank on Oct. 30, 1866. Cashier J.L. Thomas, who was alone in the bank, said two men presented a bill to be changed, then forced him to hand over about $2,000.
Today, the bank building at 827 Main Street is Frederickson’s Fine Wines & Spirits. But you can still walk through the big white double doors the holdup men used to exit with their loot. I picked up a bottle of Missouri wine for later and wrapped it in a sweater in my saddlebag. The next stop on my James Gang pilgrimage involved backtracking up Highway 13 for a 9-mile sprint to Richmond.
By the spring of 1867, Jesse and Frank had been joined by their cousins, Cole, Jim, and Bob Younger. They rode into Richmond on May 22, 1867, whooping wildly to scatter the townspeople. The Jameses and the Youngers burst into the Hughes & Wasson Bank and quickly emerged with about $4,000 in a sack. Three other gang members -- Tom Little, Andy Maguire, and Dick Burns -- waited outside, guns drawn.
Unimpressed by the brazen assault, some townspeople started shooting. When the smoke cleared, Mayor John B. Shaw, Jailer B.G. Griffen, and his 15-year-old son Frank lay dead in the street. The Jameses and the Youngers escaped but Little, Maguire, and Burns were captured.
The old bank building at 201 West Main Street is a dental office now. But Dr. Raymond Finke and his wife Susan welcome visitors with an interest in the place.
Continuing out West Main Street (also old Highway 10), I found Sunny Slope Cemetery. There, near the crest of a small hill, is a small bronze plaque marking the final resting place of Bob Ford.
jfl_bobfordgrave01.tifReviled for killing a folk hero, Ford quickly left Missouri with his reward money and became a saloon keeper in Colorado. He was gunned down in a barroom brawl in Creede, Colorado, on June 8, 1892 at the age of 32. His grave marker proclaims his name, dates of birth and death, and the epitaph, “The man who killed Jesse James.”
Satisfied with a day of chasing the James gang around northwestern Missouri, I picked up Highway 10 west and rode the dozen miles back to Excelsior Springs. There, I checked in at the Elms Resort & Spa.
An Excelsior Springs institution, the Elms hosted President Harry Truman, boxer Jack Dempsey, and gangster Al Capone.
After a hearty Kansas City strip steak dinner in the hotel restaurant and a relaxing soak in the pool-side outdoor hot tub, I sauntered back to my room for a glass of that Missouri wine and a good night’s sleep.
Back On the Trail
Eager to resume my history lesson the next morning, I had a light breakfast, loaded my bike, and followed Highway 10 west out of town five miles to U.S. 69. Turning north, I followed the road another 39 miles north. Although I could have made faster time on Interstate 35 (U.S. 69 crossed its path twice on the way to my next destination), I wanted to avoid the superslab and take my time on secondary roads.
The route took me through Cameron, where members of the James gang boarded a Chicago-bound passenger train the evening of July 15, 1881. I dropped my side stand about 10 miles later at the depot in Winston.
The depot is a museum today. As I studied railroad memorabilia and admired the curved cage designed to keep travelers from burning themselves on the waiting room wood stove, I tried to imagine a second group of gang members making themselves inconspicuous as they waited for the train.
The train pulled out about 10:30 p.m., but traveled less than a mile before two gunmen clambered over the express and coal cars to reach the engine cab. The engineer and firemen jumped to safety and fled, leaving the robbers to halt the train near a trestle where the gang’s horses were tethered.
In the course of the robbery, the gunmen shot and killed conductor William Westfall and also murdered Frank McMillan, an elderly laborer working to reinforce the wooden trestle with stone. Two robbers emptied the express car safe while their confederates robbed the passengers. They galloped into the night with about $800.
Turning back south on U.S. 69, I charted a course for the touchstone of all James gang lore, the legendary home northeast of Kearney. Here, the boys grew up and plotted many of their capers.
I took U.S. 69 about 33 miles south to Highway MM and turned west. About three miles later, I jogged south again on Endicott Road, a twisty little country track that intersects with NE 164th Street after 2.2 miles. Then it was back west again to the entrance to the Jesse James Farm and Museum.
Riding at a leisurely pace, I regarded the fields and farms and wondered how much of this scene Jesse and Frank James would recognize if they could see it today. Surely, the contours of the Missouri countryside haven’t changed much in the 130 years since they haunted these parts. Take away the asphalt pavement, power lines, and utility poles, and you could almost imagine you were riding out to the white farmhouse the locals came to call “Castle James.”
Access to the James house is through the James Farm Museum, a well-organized collection of James and frontier-related displays. It includes a brief film biography of the James family, a detailed James family tree, and such memorabilia as the feather duster Jesse was holding when he was killed. Admission gets you a self-guided tour of the museum and a guided tour of the James farmhouse.
The house, with its rough-hewn floorboards and stone hearth, exudes history. The log cabin portion of the James structure was bought in 1845 by the Reverend Robert James and his wife, Zerelda. Jesse was born here September 5, 1847. The Victorian cottage that forms the front portion of the house was added in 1893.
Frank James surrendered after Jesse was killed and was put on trial for murder the following year. By most accounts, it was a show trial, since the James boys had been folk heroes of a sort.
Frank inherited the farm after the death of his mother in 1911 and lived there with his wife Anna and son Robert. He outlived his younger brother by nearly 33 years and died of natural causes in 1915. Heirs sold the property to Clay County in 1978 as an historic site. I chanced to be there on a day when Greg Higginbotham, a James family historian, was playing the role of Frank James.
KEARNEY, Mo. - Greg Higginbotham, James gang historian, portrays Frank James for visitors to the James Family Farm northeast of Kearney, Mo.While he stops short of calling the Jameses 19th-century Robin Hoods, Higginbotham said, “I honestly believe they kind of picked and chose who they wanted to rob. Frank James, in particular, would look very carefully to see who he was robbing. They say he had an eye for a person and might look at his shoes or shake his hand or listen to how he spoke.”
Higginbotham recounts the story about Frank getting the drop on a man, taking his money and then noticing his victim had rough, callused hands. Frank asked about the man’s work and found he was robbing a farmer. Apologizing, so the story goes, Frank returned the man’s cash with a bit more to boot.
Zerelda James Samuels brought her son Jesse’s body to the family farm for burial beneath a 10-foot-tall stone obelisk in the front yard. The gravesite and house became a major tourist attraction. Mrs. Samuels would let visitors take a nail from the cabin wall for a small fee, hammering in new nails for the next batch of tourists after the previous group left.
But Zerelda fretted that grave robbers might steal her son’s remains and put them on exhibit at fairs and circuses – a fate that befell the corpses of some other outlaws of the period. So, in 1902, Jesse James Jr. exhumed his dad and reburied the body next to that of Jesse’s widow in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kearney.
KEARNEY, Mo. - The grave of Jesse James and his wife, Zerelda, in Mount Olivett Cemetery at the west edge of Kearney, Mo. The cemetery is about 2 miles from the James Farm where Jesse was born and raised and where he was first buried after being murdered April 3, 1882 by Bob Ford.I found the cemetery on the south side of Highway 92 on the west edge of Kearney, across the street from the Big V Country Mart. I easily negotiated the hard-packed gravel lane into the cemetery, dismounted, and searched down the gentle slope of grave markers.
Jesse’s wife, Zerelda Mimms James, a first cousin named for his mother, died on November 13, 1900. So her presence in Mount Olivet Cemetery made it a logical final resting place for Jesse.
Their graves are marked with a simple granite stone, laid flush with the ground. Visitors have chipped away fragments of the stone around the carved letters and numbers. A vertical slab in the style common to Civil War veteran graves recognizes Jesse’s time with Quantrill’s Raiders.
This is the grave Professor Starrs reopened in 1995 for DNA tests. The excavation also yielded a Civil War-era bullet thought to be the one Jesse took in the chest when he tried to surrender at war’s end.
Tom Goodrich’s words came back to me: “Jesse tried to surrender along with other rebel soldiers in June, 1865, in Lexington. He ran into a Union picket post, and they shot him as he was flying a white flag – shot him just above the heart. Jesse recovered, but I think he said from that day forth, ‘That’s all the surrendering I’m going to be doing in this lifetime.’
“Jesse could not come back and live like a normal person anymore. So rather than be run around from pillar to post like a lot of his former comrades, he went to a life of outlawry,” Goodrich said.
While nobody knows the exact numbers, it’s a safe bet that Jesse’s legend has put more tourist dollars into the pockets of his fellow Missourians than he ever dreamed of taking from the banks and railroads of his day.
The Elms
Excelsior Springs, Missouri
James Farm Museum
Kearney, Missouri
Jesse James Bank Museum
Liberty, Missouri
Patee House Museum/Jesse James Home
St. Joseph, Missouri