Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ABS issue with my ‘03 K1200GT

I sent this video to the guys at Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles this morning.
Dave, the BMW technician, says it just means I have normal brakes and not ABS and it’s safe to ride up to their shop. We’re gambling that all they need to do is just top off the rear brake fluid level.
The forecast is for hot and sunny the rest of the week, so I’ll probably do it tomorrow or Thursday.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy 7th Birthday, Lisa!

lisarobe 170

Today is our granddaughter Lisa’s seventh birthday.

lisarobet 162We send her a purple robe, selected from her Amazon.com wish list, and it was delivered to Steve and Nicky’s mailbox on Friday.

It turns out that they hadn’t checked their mail, so we got to watch on Skype as she opened it and tried it on for the first time.

Here she is with Steve on the porch swing they bought yesterday for the patio of their home in Las Vegas. Lisa quickly discovered the monkey bar potential of the porch swing frame.

She is a stunningly pretty and whip-smart little girl and I see my dad’s wry sense of humor in her.

We thoroughly enjoyed our 33-minute Skype visit this morning.

We used to call it Decoration Day–the day we decorated graves

irvin flora

I really miss my parents' "Decoration Day" pilgrimage to the family graves at Ball Hill and Deer Creek with coffee cans wrapped in aluminum foil and filled with peonies.

My cousin Eric and his wife Carol, who live in Greenville, Ohio, made a Memorial Day weekend visit to the Ball Hill Cemetery in rural Carroll County where our grandparents are buried.

They planted the bright red geraniums in front of Irvin and Bertha Flora’s gravestone, and also at the nearby grave markers of our Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary .

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chopped Suey


We’re in the mood to grill some burgers this evening, so we drove down to Bill’s Fresh Market at Hilltop.

I’ll bet you always thought it was Chop Suey. Not at Bill’s.

In their defense, I think they have the best meat in town and we buy it to eat, not to read.

Still at it after all these years

joplin story 01a

My “shoes for Joplin” story is on the front page of this morning’s Jonesboro Sun.

It’s amazing how this got to be fun again after I fired Gannett in October, 2000, for sucking all the enjoyment out of my job at The Indianapolis Star.

Having a good editor (my wife) helps a lot. Her reporters and photographers at the Sun are lucky to have her.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Joplin report

joplin 4103_4_5_tonemapped

The wrecked St. John’s Hospital looms on the horizon in this view into the heart of Joplin’s Ground Zero from the deck of a flattened house on Connor Street.

I didn’t blog yesterday because I was kinda busy.

I was up at 4:45 a.m. and down at Dr. Susan Myshka’s office in time for a 6:15 a.m. departure in a four-truck convoy of shoes, medical supplies and other stuff for tornado victims in Joplin, Mo.

Generous folks in Northeast Arkansas and Jonesboro had donated thousands of pairs of new and gently used shoes over a three-day period. We ended up hauling 10 big washer/dryer cardboard boxes full of them – almost 14 cubic yards of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes – in response to a specific request for shoes from disaster relief folks in Joplin.

It’s about a five-hour drive from Jonesboro to Joplin. We stopped for a quick McDonald’s lunch at Springfield, Mo., and arrived in Joplin a little after noon in the middle of an intense thunderstorm.

My Garmin Zumo 550 GPS guided us to Forest Park Baptist Church where we were turned away because they already had more shoes than they knew what to shoesdo with.

Susan called her contact at one of the Catholic churches and we ended up taking our cargo to McAuley Catholic High School where students unloaded our trailers and trucks of shoes and two pallets of baby wipes and stacked the stuff in the school’s two gyms.

Susan noticed a couple and their little girl standing around looking forlorn and discovered they had been waiting for an hour for some shoes. She led them into the gym and made sure they were properly shod. Here’s Hailey Beaman, 7, with her new shoes.

That’s her mother, Vickie Beaman, behind her.

After several phone calls, it became apparent that things are still in chaos when it comes to accepting donations of medical supplies. We ended up stuffing wheelchairs, neck braces, surgical gloves, several pairs of crutches, arm and leg braces and other items into the SUVs of a nurse and a doctor’s wife with a request that they take them where they’d do the most good.

Father J. Friddel, a priest we met at McAuley Catholic High School, said the community needs a week or two to get organized to properly accept, store and distribute the tons of donated materials and supplies that pour in daily from across the country. He urged Susan and others to be patient and hold off on more donations until things are more coordinated in Joplin.

Our mission accomplished, we split up. The two older couples who participated in the project opted to spend the night in the area rather than do another five-hour drive yesterday.

Susan’s assistant Judy and another woman with whom she rode headed back and Susan and I did a brief tour of the disaster area.

I’ve seen widespread tornado devastation before when I was a reporter for The Indianapolis News, in particular the Super Outbreak of tornados in April, 1974, that flattened much of Monticello and Rochester in Indiana. But the devastation at Joplin was significantly worse. I was particularly struck by one house we saw on the edge of the affected area where the whole house had been carried away and smashed, leaving the basement exposed. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have survived in that basement.

We saw a few families picking through the debris of their homes and a crew of yellow hard-hatted emergency workers busy with what looked like a body recovery in what used to be a house.

Signs advertising free food are everywhere and we noticed a fitness center offering free laundry service and free showers to the newly homeless.

A little context from the local FOX channel:

Officials in Joplin, MO have upped the death toll from last Sunday’s massive tornado to at least 139 people. The updated total that was released Saturday rose by seven. The state has been working to pare down the list of people missing and unaccounted for in the wake of the disaster. The original list of 232 had dropped to 156 by Friday.

More and more of those killed in the storm are being identified. On Saturday, the state of Missouri released a list of 31 individuals whose next-of- kin had been notified of their deaths. The victims ages range from 6 to 92.

The tornado was the deadliest single U.S. twister in more than six decades.

After a so-so buffet dinner at a T/A travel center (truck stop), we treated ourselves to a quick tour of the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. It’s the mothership of Bass Pro Shops and the sign over the front door proclaims it”s “The Granddaddy of all Outdoor Shops.”

bassproshopsAnd, yes, it is. We only saw a fraction of it and noted they have two more buildings under construction at the complex there in Springfield.

I contented myself with buying 50 rounds of 9mm Luger ammo for $16.24, tax included.

I got home a few minutes before midnight, hit the sack and was up about 9 a.m. today.

Now I have to write a story about it for the paper.

Thanks to all of my Facebook friends for the kind words and encouragement on the trip.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shoes for Joplin


Our friend Susan Myshka’s Walk a Mile in My Shoes project to take donated shoes to Joplin, Mo., tornado victims is succeeding beyond anyone’s expectations.

Volunteers are sitting outside her office on South Caraway Road this afternoon sorting shoes and loading three trailers.

The convoy will leave for Joplin at 6 a.m. tomorrow. I plan to tag along to help, photograph and maybe write a few words for the paper.

In the meantime, I helped Susan work out a route that bypasses the somewhat sketchy Black River bridge at Black Rock and doesn’t involve any road closures due to flooding.

We cleaned out our closet and drawers last night and bagged up three pairs of shoes, about 20 pairs of socks, and more than a dozen T-shirts, including some pocket-Ts with the Indianapolis BMW Club logo on them.

Storm report


We survived yesterday afternoon’s outbreak of tornados, but folks around here are still pretty freaked out about the weather this spring.

I was able to track the advance of the storm cells with the Discovery Channel Real Time Weather Tracker site and monitor the locations and transmissions of several of their linked stormchasers.

When confirmed reports started coming in about a tornado on the ground, heading northeast toward Jonesboro from Newport, I decided it was time to take friend Susan up on her invitation to shelter in her basement. I gathered up the dogs and stuffed them into my two-seat Honda del Sol and made the 15-minute drive to Susan’s house where we watched the local TV meteorologists track a tornado churning away about three miles north of us.

It was all over in less than an hour and the dogs and I were home by 6:15 p.m., driving back in bright sunshine. There was, of course, no damage to our property or neighborhood.

The bad weather has moved on to the east and our extended forecast has a 20% or less chance of rain for the next six days.

No slack from the British press


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Weather update

Nothing like a few hundred tornado fatalities to put people on edge.

We’re under the following tornado watch:




We’re in Craighead County.


The weather radar shows a line of storms in south central Missouri that’s tracking generally east and north and doesn’t look like it’s headed for us. Of course we all know conditions are right for supercell storms to pop up anywhere in the region, so the 1:30 p.m. radar picture doesn’t mean much.

A lot of people here are in full freakout. Several schools are dismissing at 2 p.m.  so kids can go hunker down somewhere safer. In Jonesboro, a couple of elementary schools with hardened shelter areas are being promoted as safe places to go.

Since we have no basement, our friend Susan has invited us to hang out in her basement if things get scary.

So I’ll keep an eye on radar and the TV and the Weather Channel web site and be ready to grab the dogs and go.

We were expecting some heavy weather after midnight last night, but the storms fell apart before they got here and the rain gauge was dry for the first time in a couple of mornings.

Shoes for Joplin


Our friend Susan Myshka, a Jonesboro chiropractor, wanted to help the victims of the Joplin, Mo. tornado, so she phoned a couple of Joplin churches.

One of the most urgent needs, she learned, is shoes. Hundreds and hundreds of people lost their shoes when their homes were destroyed by an EF5 tornado Sunday evening.

That was yesterday. Today Susan is busy collecting shoes, used and new, for a project she calls Walk a Mile in My Shoes.

Susan is accepting donations of shoes for men, women and children at her Myshka Chiropractic office at 2817 S. Caraway Road from now until 6:30 p.m. Thursday (tomorrow). All kinds of shoes will do, except for high heels.

She’ll haul the shoes up to Joplin early Friday morning for distribution by churches there.

She can be reached at 870-761-5661 or at sm@nex.net.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Correction: Make that “don’t trust anyone UNDER 30.”

Bob Dylan, who once admonished us to not trust anyone over 30, is 70 years old today.dylan and the band02 72[4]

I think the best advice today, knowing what experience has taught us, is to not trust anyone under 30.

I shot this photo of a 30-year-old Dylan and The Band performing the night of Feb. 3, 1972 at the Indiana University Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Dylan’s talent and creative energies have never flagged. He’s better today than he was in his youth.

True then, true now

Monday, May 23, 2011


abs indicators

I rolled my 2003 BMW K1200GT out of the garage yesterday afternoon because it was blocking access to the lawn tractor. After mowing, I put the tractor back and decided to take a little spin down to the post office, ostensibly to mail a Netflix movie, but really just to have a little ride on a pleasant afternoon.

Under normal conditions, the #2 warning light glows red until the bike reaches 3 mph, then it goes out, signifying that the computer has run its diagnostics on the Antilock Braking System (ABS). This time, however, the light did not go out. It began flashing in alternate sequence with the #1 warning light (ominously named “Brake Failure”).

WTF? The ABS computer failed on my 1992 BMW K100RS several years ago and, had I not enjoyed a cordial relationship with my dealer, it would have cost me well over $1,000 to replace. Was I looking at a repeat of that horror show?

I turned the possibilities over  in my mind as I rode to the post office. Once there, I switched off the ignition in the hope that all would be right when I switched it on again. Nope, the two lights continued their alternate blinking at a rate of 1 Hz (1 per second).

Maybe it’s trying to tell me one of my turn signals or brake lights is out, I thought. But just to be sure, after I turned off the highway onto the paved county road where there was no traffic, I jammed on the rear brake and felt the reassuring chunk-chunk-chunk of the ABS. But still the lights blinked.

I pulled into the garage, dropped the door and in the semi-darkness confirmed that all of the signal lights were working.

OK, check the Rider’s Manual. I found a troubleshooting chart on page 81 that included my symptom:

abs diagnosis

The brake pressure is OK at the levers and the brakes are functioning, fore and aft and there is no sign of leaking brake fluid.

I checked the front brake fluid reservoir sight glass on the right handgrip, with the bike on the centerstand and the bars turned full left, like it says in the repair manual. The level was right on the center dot:

abs front resHowever, when I inspected the rear brake reservoir, I found the level was just a smidge below the MIN(imum level) marker:

abs rear res


Checking the work order from my bike service last month at Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo., I confirmed they replaced the rear brake pads and brake fluid.

My possible conclusions:

  1. The technician didn’t put enough brake fluid in the rear reservoir, or
  2. The technician left something loose that permitted brake fluid to escape from the rear reservoir, or
  3. Something else I haven’t thought of or accepted – like the ABS computer going nuts.

At any rate, it is an apparent failure of a system that the technician at Grass Roots worked on recently and at the very least they owe me a brake fluid top-off and an inspection.

So it’s off to Cape Girardeau on the first sunny day to set things right.

The beginning of wisdom

Facebook friend and fellow blogger Venomous Kate posted the following observation on her Facebook wall this morning:

Teenaged girls ought not to cop an attitude with the parent who pays for their car.

It took me back to my late teens or early 20s when I had the startling realization that all of this is my parents’ stuff. I need to get my own stuff.

It was the beginning of wisdom.


daisyDaisy, the faithful and gentle pit bull – the nicest example of the breed I’ve ever met – died last weekend.

Daisy was 12 and belonged to my son’s wife, Ruth Greenberg. Daisy loved to hang out in Ruth’s ceramics studio and Sean’s recording/mixing studio at their home in Portland, Ore.

Sean called me Friday afternoon and told me they were going to have to put Daisy down on Saturday because she was suffering with cancer. I could tell by his voice that he was miserable about losing her.

I checked in with them about 6 p.m. PDT on Saturday and he said they were expecting the person who would administer the drug at their home in about an hour. He texted me later that night to reassure me that they were at peace with the situation.

Daisy was the ring bearer for Sean and Ruth’s wedding on Sept. 27, 2004.

New Lady Gaga album for 99¢. Really.

Today (MAY 23) only and while they last, Amazon.com is offering downloads of Lady Gaga’s new album, “Born This Way” – just released at midnight last night – for a mere 99¢. The download includes the pdf digital booklet.
Look for the AMAZON DEALS box over on the right side of this page, click on Deal of the Day, then click Buy Now!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Propane and dogs


We went to a farm auction up near the Greene County line this afternoon with our friend Susan.

I didn’t plan to buy anything, but she bought a couple of propane tanks, one of which she let us have for her cost of $27.50. Checking the home improvement store prices, I see that we got a pretty good deal since they cost about $50 new. And this one still has some propane in it.

It will come in handy as a spare and eliminate situations like I experienced last week when the grill ran out of gas about a minute before I flopped a big steak onto it. I had to disconnect the tank, throw it into the del Sol and dash down to the Citgo station where I had to show a clerk there how to sell me a full tank of propane. Now, we’ll always have a tank in reserve.

Here are a couple of “found dog” posters from the Brookland Post Office public bulletin board.



Friday, May 20, 2011

It’s a long way across the Mississippi River today

I rode over to Memphis for bagels from the City East Bagel Co. and took the video camera along to document the extent of Mississippi River flooding.

The river covers hundreds of thousands of acres on the Arkansas side, as you can see in this video. It starts about the time I reached the edge of the water and ends shortly after I got to the Tennessee end of the Interstate 40 bridge.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Peterson J. Dog

With a cameo appearance by Ruthie the Wonder Dog

Happy Birthday, Pete Townshend

pete townshend in indy

Today is Pete Townshend’s 66th birthday.

This is how he looked the last time I saw him – the evening of March 6, 2007 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

He is, in my judgment, the greatest rock guitarist. Ever.

And I feel a special kinship with him since we were both born in 1945.

who ticket

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where did I park my stationery bicycle?

yakkayhelmetWriting for the trendy Garden & Gun magazine, a genteel, trendy, upscale Southern publication, Jessica Mischner has discovered an equestrian-inspired bicycle helmet. It’s called the Yakkay helmet.


I think it’s kind of silly looking, but what really caught my eye was this passage:

The New York City–based bike boutique and e-tailer might be old news to in-the-know cyclists, but I'd never heard of it until this morning when I saw the Yakkay helmet (pictured above) in a fashion mag (which I was perusing while riding the stationery bike at the gym, ironically).

No, Jessica, I don’t think you were riding a bike made of writing paper. More likely it was a stationary bike.

And while we’re at it, she doesn’t understand irony: the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.

Seven years of blogging

My blog passed a milestone unnoticed on May 10.

I launched this exercise in self-indulgence seven years ago – May 10, 2004 – just a few weeks before the birth of my granddaughter Lisa.

I’ve averaged about 540 posts per year since then, this being my 3,75th entry.

MSM: “Nothing to see here. Move along…”

I didn’t need any further proof that the Obama “birth certificate” is a fraud after downloading the White House copy, studying it in Adobe Illustrator and seeing the layers, but this takes it a step further.

Where are this generation’s Woodward and Bernstein? There’s Pulitzer Prize here betting to be won.

Practice, practice, practice

I’m climbing the learning curve on Corel’s VideoStudio Pro X4 and trying new features. This time I used one of their intro templates and music from the extensive library that came with the software. I pulled the ambient sound down, but not quite enough. It gets a little distracting when I get onto the highway and the wind and engine noise compete with the music.

I shot this yesterday afternoon on my daily run to the postoffice, mostly to try a couple of camera angles. The GoPro video camera has a spectacular wide angle lens that makes it possible to mount it on the front side of the windscreen and still see past both mirrors. The suction cup mount has a phenomenal grip. I clean the mounting surface first to ensure a good seal and then clamp it down. (Even though it’s always been rock solid, I always have a little anxiety about it falling off at speed.)

I’m looking forward to being able to take the camera on the road this summer and shoot videos in more interesting places.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A lame attempt to smear Mitch

I guess the prospect of a Mitch Daniels run for the presidency has some people worried.

imageAn effort is being made to link him to a controversial Indiana Supreme Court decision that people do not have the right to resist if police illegally enter their home.

The link is Daniels’s appointment to the Indiana Supreme Court of Justice Steven David, who cast a decisive vote in the 3-2 ruling last Thursday. David is a former Boone Circuit Court judge. We previously lived in his county, so I know who he is and consider him a generally competent jurist.

Critics also claim Daniels, as governor of Indiana, could or should have directed the Indiana Attorney General to drop the case and moot the appeal, claiming that this somehow demonstrates that “he is not qualified to run for President of the United States.”

That assertion neglects the fact that the Indiana Attorney General is elected to his office and is not answerable to the governor or to any other elected official.

I think the decision is wrong and will be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Whether I have the right to resist an illegal police home invasion is absurdly academic. I think most rational people believe we have an inherent right to resist an illegal police home invasion, but it’s probably unwise to exercise that right. Your heirs will probably win the wrongful death suit that follows, but that’s no comfort when you’re dead.

It’s also a mistake to think that Gov. Daniels necessarily agrees with every decision Justice David has made or will make in the future.

As to whether Daniels is qualified for the presidency, I’ll put his administrative and personal credentials up against those of the incumbent any day.

Red Lobster


Sunday was our 10th wedding anniversary, but we saved the celebration for Monday evening and the grand opening of Jonesboro’s new Red Lobster.

Now a Red Lobster isn’t a big deal where we come from. They’re so common that we hardly ever ate at Red Lobster. The last time I ate at a Red Lobster restaurant was Aug. 31, 1999 in St. Joseph, Mo., when I was riding from Indianapolis to Alma, Colo. I had dinner at the Lobster because it happened to be right next door to my motel.

But a Red Lobster is a very big deal here, just like Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse were, and continue to be, very big deals. That’s because, thanks to an accident of geography and the arrangement of the interstate highway network, Jonesboro -  the fifth largest city in Arkansas - isn’t on the way to anywhere. We’re about 50 miles from the nearest interstate highway (I-55). (The closest thing we have to an interstate is U.S. 63 which is four-lane divided freeway from here to I-55. It’s supposed to evolve into I-555 someday. The sticking point is the lack of a frontage road for farm traffic from Payneway to Marked Tree.)

That’s why we don’t get many drop-in visitors. Our traveling friends have to make major deviations in their travel plans to come here.

In spite of the isolation or because of it, Jonesboro continues to thrive and be an odd little pocket of prosperity in the midst of economic chaos. The 2010 Census showed the city’s population has grown 21.2 percent in 10 years, up from 55,515 in 2000 to 67,263. For whatever reason, the city limits signs still have the 2000 Census figure.

The city’s industrial base is remarkably stable, being largely focused on food products, with the recent addition of Nordex wind turbine’s U.S. manufacturing facility.

Consequently, major franchises like Best Buy, Office Depot, Hilton Gardens hotels, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster – just to name some that have opened since we moved here less than four years ago – see Jonesboro as a good place to be.

As far as last night’s dinner at Red Lobster goes, it was a great dining experience. The wait staff, bolstered by trainers from throughout the Red Lobster network, was friendly and efficient and the food was good.

I got there about 5:15 p.m., signed in and got my remote buzzer with an  estimated waiting time of 55-60 minutes. Maria arrived about 5:40 p.m. and we were seated at 6:15. The weather was pleasant and we had fun sitting on a bench outside and watching people while we waited.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May just isn’t the same in Arkansas

After more than six decades in Indiana, the month of May seems strangely empty here in Arkansas.

Like most Hoosiers, I have a personal bond with the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.stp_turbine_print

My first Indy 500 was in 1964, the year Eddie Sachs and Dave McDonald were killed.

Those were the days when the race was held on Memorial Day, May 30, instead of the Sunday races of recent years.

When I joined the staff of The Indianapolis News, I quickly learned that the race was our day to show what we could do. We had nearly all of our reporters and photographers at the track with all of the accoutrements of mid-century newspapering including a photographic darkroom and courier service from the track to the main office downtown.

My first 500 at The News saw me tasked with arranging for taxicabs to get all of our people to the track. I also had the job of listening to the race on the telephone as Sports Editor Wayne Fuson at the track and I at the News city room hammered out a running story of the race as it unfolded. That also involved compiling a list of cars out of the race and other details.

We trucked several editions to the track during the race with updated front pages and our final edition, with a photo of the winner in Gasoline Alley, was in the hands of thousands of race fans before the left the track.

The 1967 race saw the debut of the STP turbine, brought to the track by STP CEO Andy Granatelli. We could borrow pit badges from the sports department on our days off in May and hang out at the track with total access to the pits and garage area. I thought the turbine car was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen and I was disappointed when Parnelli Jones coasted the turbine car to a stop with mechanical failure after 490 miles.

Granatelli fielded two turbine cars in 1968, driven by Art Pollard and Joe Leonard. I had Leonard in the office pool and was sure I had a winner. My hopes were dashed when Leonard, who was leading the race on the 192nd lap (of 200), pulled off of the track with a broken fuel shaft.

I hated it when they changed the race to Sundays, because we were a Monday-Saturday evening paper and had no Sunday edition.

I still miss the excitement of Indianapolis in May – the 500 Festival, the parade, qualifications and the race – and I still watch the race on TV.


lauri skype

Our friend Lauri had Wifi access this morning at her favorite smoothie place in Crawfordsville, Ind., so we gave her Skype software, which we installed on her Macbook when she was here last month, its first long distance test.

It works fine. And the service is free.

I love Skype.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lisa learns to ride her bike

Granddaughter Lisa learned to ride her bicycle today.

My son Steve wisely recognized it’s much less painful to fall on grass than on asphalt. Lisa celebrates her seventh birthday May 30.

It was BYOG


We did some shooting off a friend’s deck last evening. It was a BYOG (bring your own guns) dinner party.

Maria is absolutely lethal with an assault rifle, be it the AR-15 or the AK-47.

The Judge, which fires .45 ACP or 410 shotgun shells (seen resting on the rail) is an excellent home defense weapon.

She’s pretty good with the 20 gauge shotgun, too.

I favor the .45 Colt Combat Commander with CrimsonTrace laser sight, but the AK-47 is a lot of fun and surprisingly accurate for such a cheaply made weapon.

Our friend called the neighbors before we arrived to let them know there would be some shootin’ going on.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Need a bigger boat…


Happy Anniversary, a day early


Tomorrow is our 10th wedding anniversary and Maria gave me a gift early this morning – a pound of dark roasted Kona Cloud Estates Coffee from Hawaii and an ultra cool Kona Cloud coffee mug.

The company logo is “glaze engraved” into the surface of the mug. The accompanying card says the Deneen Pottery folks of St. Paul, Minn. deneenpotteryinvented the process by which “original art is cut directly into the clay and filled with glaze, achieving an extraordinary level of clarity and detail.”

As a bonus, they say “all Deneen Pottery is lead and cadmium free, microwave, dishwasher, oven, and freezer safe and very very durable.”

They’re online at www.deneenpottery.com

The coffee is pretty damn good too.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Who knew how disruptive a 30+ hour crash of Blogger could be?

I’m just glad it’s back up and running.

I’ve got to admit it’s getting better

longhorn Jonesboro’s culinary choices were pretty limited when we came to town four years ago, but the transformation of the city’s restaurant scene has been dramatic and it continues to expand.

Four years ago, you had few choices outside of “brown” (fried) Southern fare of barbecue and catfish. Yes, there was an IHOP, an Outback steakhouse, what could pass for some of the world’s worst pizza places, a pretty darn good Italian restaurant, a stellar steak house, a few Oriental buffets, a decent Japanese place, and a trendy burger bar downtown. There were several Mexican restaurants, but since it’s a dry county and none had the requisite “private club” liquor license. And there were a bunch of McDonald’ses and an unnatural number of Sonics.

Since then, the restaurant scene has exploded downtown with several eateries, a faux Irish pub and a Thai restaurant. We even got Chipotles, a Mexican eatery with a club license, so it’s now possible to have a Dos Equis or a margarita with your dinner. Things got even more interesting last year with the opening of an Olive Garden, followed this spring by a Longhorn Steakhouse and, beginning next Monday, a Red Lobster.

We had lunch yesterday at Longhorn Steakhouse. We’ve visited Longhorn Steakhouses elsewhere, but my memory had blurred them into a mishmash with Texas Roadhouse and Lone Star Steakhouse.

I had the black and bleu burger with bleu cheese, which was pretty good. We split a piece of spectacular Key Lime pie for dessert.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Absolutely outrageous!

Perhaps Comrade Obama would like to have us all microchipped like dogs. I’m keeping my old cell phone if this is what you have to put up with when you buy a new one.

By Alex Spillius, Washington 11:54PM BST 10 May 2011

From next year, new phones and other hand-held devices will be required to be fitted with special chips to receive the alerts, which will also be sent by state and local authorities. Users will be able to opt out of every type of alert except those from the president, said the Federal Communications Commission.

The system will include alerts about missing children and will supersede all other phone traffic to avoid delays.

Mr. Obama, who has been dubbed the "texter-in-chief" thanks to his devotion to his BlackBerry and heavy use of text messages during his 2008 campaign, may face criticism from libertarians for the compulsory nature of the presidential alerts.

But officials see the system, known as Personal Localized Alerting Network, or Plan, as a logical progression from alerting the public via radio and television.

"The lesson that was reinforced on 9/11 was the importance of getting clear and accurate information to the public during a crisis," said Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, where the scheme will be deployed first next year. It will then move to Washington and most other large cities.


He called the alerts a "quantum leap forward in using technology to help keep people safe."

The warnings will have a unique signal and vibration, said officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The announcement of the new emergency alert system came in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death and a subsequent rise in security concerns in the city al-Qaeda attacked to devastating effect nearly ten years ago.

From The Telegraph.

Pete’s Little Liver Pills


Pete, our 5-year-old Australian shepherd, has a liver problem.

It was diagnosed when he was a pup by our vet in Thorntown, Ind. Since moving to Jonesboro, Ark., we’ve had him on medication, but according to tests our local vet performed over the weekend, we have to increase the dosage.

Our Jonesboro vet explained that we’re all born with about 1/3 more liver capacity than we need. As we age, liver cells die and are replaced and the rate of replacement is supposed to be equal to the rate of loss, or at least close to it. Pete’s problem, which is not uncommon in dogs, is that his rate of replacement is lagging behind the rate of cell loss, resulting in diminishing liver capacity.

We’ve increased the dosage of his medication and will take him in for a blood test in a month.

We certainly hope we can get on top of this situation. We all want our children to outlive us and I feel the same way about our dogs.

But that doesn’t mean I’m in a hurry to check out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


It’s amazing how my outlook improves when the rent check finally arrives. Even when the tenant neglects to add the late fee.

Since the lease runs from June 1 through May 31, so as to coincide with the school year, I’m mailing the tenants a new 2011-2012 lease to sign and return.

I’m having my morning coffee at Seattle Grind after banking the check and ordering a set of 8x10 color prints of portraits I shot recently for a local service club. I fully expect Walgreens to produce less-than-satisfactory results, but I am open to being pleasantly surprised.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Bitch tried to kill me

Coming into town this afternoon, I was riding past the Arkansas State University campus in moderate traffic.

I was crossing Aggie Road on Stadium Boulevard, riding in the fast lane and passing cars and trucks when the thought suddenly came to confirm that the horn button was under my left thumb, in case I needed it.

Seconds later, a young woman whose car I was passing, moved for the left lane, causing me to jam on the brakes and hit the horn. Undeterred, she continued into the left lane as I gestured with my left palm up to signify “WTF?”

She turned left into the next shopping center and I offered a terse opinion of her driving skills as I rode past the open passenger window of her car.

Oh, well. It’s happened to me before and it will happen again. I just have to stay alert and pay attention, especially when I get advance warning like I did this afternoon.

Improving on Nature


I shot some portraits of officers of a local service club a week or so ago and decided they needed a little tweaking.

Remembering that former Sun photographer James Byard got good results with PortraitProfessional software, I went to the web site and bought a copy of PortraitProfessional10 Studio Edition, v10.2 for the very reasonable price of $59.

I’ve been playing with it all morning, exploring the possibilities, and have decided every portrait photographer needs this software. It lets you make profound but subtle improvements. I could do most of this stuff in PhotoShop, but it would be a slow and tedious process. PortraitProfessional10 Studio Edition makes it possible to effect improvements like this in 5 minutes or less.

Here’s an example with a portrait I shot six years ago of a friend in Florida. The unaltered image is on the left, the tweaked image on the right.

This stuff can even make me look good. Kinda.

Monday morning stuff

I drove in to town this morning with Maria to retrieve my Honda del Sol from OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         the Sun parking lot.

It spent the weekend there because it would have been pointless for her to drive home from work to pick me up before we headed south again to the APME conference in Conway.

BTW, Maria was elected vice president of the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors at the Saturday board meeting. And, yes, I am very proud of her.

The Honda was running on fumes, so I took it to the Kroger gas station where I was able to fill the tank at $3.68/gallon with my Kroger shopper discount. It’s hard to believe that $3.68/gallon is a good deal, but compared with other stations around here, it’s a helluva good deal.

I also took the top off of the car and stowed it in its rack in the trunk for the drive home.

Honeysuckle is in bloom here and the aroma is absolutely intoxicating.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Coming home after a weekend at the kennel


We picked the dogs up from the kennel this afternoon after several hours of rattling around the house and noticing the absence of dogs every 10 minutes or so.

They’re always as glad to see us as we are to see them.

Happy V-E Day!


This is my first father-in-law, Capt. Philip C. Kroon, surveying the Austrian Alps from the picture window of Adolf Hitler’s Berghof outside Berchtesgaden around this time 66 years ago.

Capt. Kroon served with the 144th Field Artillery Group.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Scenic views

This is the inspiring scenic view from our window at the Hilton Gardens Inn in Conway, Ark. If there are gardens here, I haven’t found them.
We’re attending the annual meeting of the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors Association.
We had dinner last night at a splendid restaurant in the old downtown area called Mike’s Place. I had the salmon with citrus dijon sauce and am happy to say it’s the best salmon I’ve had since we moved to Arkansas four years ago.
The other pleasant surprise at dinner was the discovery that the woman seated to my right used to be a gardener for longtime motorcycle friend Ted Simon at his home in Covelo, Calif. Becky Harris works at the Log Cabin Democrat, the Conway newspaper, now. What are the odds of making that kind of connection?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Lasagna coyote

We had a 4-inch-square piece of Macaroni Grill lasagna left over from dinner, so I put it – still in its plastic cooking tray – out as trailcam bait last night. I rather expected neighborhood dogs Zeb and Frank to get it, but it lay there unmolested until 4:50 a.m. when a coyote snatched it from the tray and carried it off to eat.

He reappeared about a minute later, his eyes glowing in the infrared light at the right edge of the frame, now wary of the glowing red infrared light source on the trailcam. He apparently didn’t think it was worth the risk to return for the lasagna residue in the tray.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

It’s Farmers’ Market season!

earl duffel

This is Earl Duffel, market master of the Arkansas State University Regional Farmers’ Market, which begins its sixth season Saturday.

The market at the northeast corner of Stadium Boulevard and Aggie Road will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from now through the end of October.

Beginning June 7, the market will be also open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m.

It’s our favorite place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

Nighttime visitors

We had a couple of visitors to our trail cam last night after I put out a pile of table scraps.

After the neighborhood dogs feasted, a coyote turned up about 12:30 a.m., followed by a fox at 4:51 a.m.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My first project with Corel VideoStudio Pro X4

I obviously still have much to learn.

New lineup, same buttons

SiriusXM satellite radio re-jiggered their channel lineup today.xm-logo-2006

I fully expected it to be a laborious process requiring me to re-do all of the pre-set buttons on my Pioneer XM car radio.

But to my delight, the buttons still call up the same programs as before, they just have new channel numbers assigned to them. I wheeled my K1200GT out of the garage so the XM antenna could see the sky and let it acquire the new lineup too, so I’m good to go.

Now all I need is someplace to go.

Channel the mouse

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The rain is gone and the sun is shining! O, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

After what seems like a solid week of rain, it’s astonishing how much a brilliant sun in a clear blue sky can lift my spirits.

I dumped an inch of water from the rain gauge this morning, then took my time to putter around the house and get my K1200GT ready, then rode in to town for a late coffee at Seattle Grind.

The bike tells me it wants to go for a long ride, maybe to Memphis for bagels, but I think not. I have errands to run – settling up with my bank for safe deposit rental that’s two months overdue (there’s nothing in the box, so I’m not worried about losing anything) and running down to the Honda shop on the southside for a can of their excellent spray cleaner and polish.

I finally quit trying to load my Garmin Zumo 550’s SD card with MP4s – a frustrating process, since the unit can only read MP3s and it clearly says so in the owner’s manual – and now have a selection of my own tunes to listen to, in addition to XM satellite radio. SiriusXM emailed me a couple of days ago to advise they’re reshuffling their channel lineup tomorrow, so I’ll have take time tomorrow to let the Zumo acquire the new arrangement.

I’m ready for the talking heads on TV to move on from the Osama bin Laden story. I was delighted to hear the news Sunday night, even if Obama did use it as a way to cheap-shot Donald Trump by preempting the crucial last 30 minutes of Celebrity Apprentice. But the death of Osama (have you noticed how many times people on TV slip and call him Obama?) has absolutely no relevance to my day-to-day life and all of the speculation about whether this makes Obama a shoo-in in 2012 (Rasmussen polling shows he got zero popularity bump from the killing) or whether Osama’s death will trigger a wave of revenge attacks has become excruciatingly tedious.

The network and cable execs apparently think we can’t get enough of the story and are going to absurd lengths to keep it going at the expense of real news. Like the impending collapse of the global economy and the epic flooding in the Mid-South.

We became more acutely aware of the consequences of flooding here yesterday when the server at lunch said the restaurant was out of certain items because high water road closures kept the supply trucks from getting through.

And human-snake encounters are up sharply since the serpents are being flooded out of their natural habitats. That is a lot more significant to me than whether Osama bin Laden, a snake on the other side of the world, is alive or dead.

Monday, May 02, 2011

BMW bike vs. BMW car–Guess who wins

My favorite front page of the day

osama ny post You can always count on the New York Post for punchy headlines. They went with “bastard” because “motherfucker” wouldn’t fit.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Snake-bit Pete

We think Pete the Aussie was bitten by a snake yesterday afternoon.

He seems OK now, but he went all wobbly and spastic about 6:30 p.m. yesterday. He found Maria in the bedroom, walking funny with his front legs buckling. I was in the garage, reinstalling my tank bag and GPS on the K1200GT when Maria yelled to me that something was seriously wrong with Pete.

I watched him follow her into living room where he collapsed and went into what looked like a mild seizure. While Maria comforted him, I got a flashlight and checked his pupils (they responded properly) and called the emergency number of our vet. We were put through to one of the vets on call who asked the usual questions about whether he might have ingested antifreeze or some other poisonous substance. By the time we were talking to her, he had barfed a small piece of dog food and was coming out of his distress and looking more like himself.

We concluded that he may have eaten something bad. She suggested we keep an eye on him, so we kept him with us while we drove in to town and Maria did a little work at the office.

Consulting with our friends Deb and Charlie this morning, Charlie – who grew up in a farm near Texarkana and is a pharmacist – offered that it was probably a snake bite, since he saw snake-bit dogs when he was a kid who behaved similarly. Our guess is that Pete tangled with a baby copperhead, most likely in the woodpile in the back yard. Consequently, if and when it stops raining, the woodpile will be disassembled and any snakes found will be dispatched.