Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Three years ago…

march 1 snow[3]

This is how our house looked on March 1, 2009 – a helluva contrast from today’s near record highs in the sunny upper 70s.

We had a 3” snowfall overnight and I left for Daytona Beach Bike Week the next morning. Bike Week is March 9-18 this year and I may or may not go, depending on how Maria is feeling.

But I couldn’t resist pulling on the German Polizei jacket, a helmet and gloves and riding the K75S into town for some errands this afternoon. It was absolutely glorious!

Happy Leap Day!


Today is Feb. 29 or “Leap Day,” since 2012 is a Leap Year.

I like this photo as an expression of Leap Day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Tuesday afternoon report

I just clicked the “Send” button to submit the special section story that has copjacketfrontbedeviled me and stolen my time for the last week.

You cannot imagine the feeling of relief – the palpable sensation of a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders.

I’d go for a motorcycle ride in the balmy 70 degree afternoon weather, but I need to high-tail it down to the newspaper office and help with the copy editing chores.

The bright spot of my week so far was the arrival yesterday afternoon of the leather German motorcycle police jacket I bought at I’ve copjacketbackbeen hankering for a black leather jacket I could use for casual wear and the style of this gently used jacket knocked me out. It’s a German XL and is a little snug, but I have serious weight loss ambitions.

It also has the word POLIZEI emblazoned across the back in retroflective material. That makes it even cooler in my judgment, but definitely marks me as eccentric and could annoy cops. My BMW riding friend Charlie Parsons has a complete German Polizei green riding ensemble, similarly marked, that he wears on special occasions like parades and benefit rides, along with a genuine German police motorcycle helmet. This hardly puts me one up on him, but it gets me into the game.

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Americans with guns represent the world’s largest armed force

An old friend sent me an email this morning that I’ve re-written here for clarity, discussing the notion that American hunters represent the largest armed force in the world.

Here’s the essence of it:

A blogger added up the deer license sales in just a handful of states and arrived at a striking conclusion:

There were over 600,000 hunters this season in the state of Wisconsin. Over the last several months, Wisconsin 's hunters became the eighth largest army in the world with more men under arms than in Iran, and more than in France and Germany combined.

These men deployed to the woods of a single American state to hunt with firearms, and no one was killed.

That number pales in comparison to the 750,000 who hunted the woods of Pennsylvania and Michigan 's 700,000 hunters, all of whom have now returned home.

Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia and it clearly establishes the fact that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world. The number of hunters in the state of Texas would be the largest standing army in the world by itself.

The point?

America will forever be safe from foreign invasion with that kind of home-grown firepower.

Hunting is not just a way to fill the freezer. It's a matter of national security.

That's why all enemies, foreign and domestic, want to see us disarmed.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday morning

It’s a quiet Sunday

We had Panera bagels for breakfast, played with the dogs, tried to take them for a walk, brought them back because Jack was playing the berserker and yanking my arm out of its socket, then went for a walk by ourselves.

Maria is cutting fabric in her sewing room, Jack is dozing in his kennel next to a full food bowl, Pete is having his breakfast and strolling into the sewing room occasionally to check on Maria, and I’m sitting at my great-grandmother’s kitchen table blogging and having my second cup of coffee of the morning from a Wallace China Westward Ho Boots & Saddle series cup. The washer and dryer are churning away in the background and the sunny freshly filled bird feeder is crowded with yellow finches.

I got my “newspaper fix” this weekend, with one of my photos dominating the front page yesterday and a profile and photo of a local woman who owns an independent pharmacy in a special section of today’s paper. It’s fun to sneak out of retirement now and then and play newspaper on my own terms.

I’m working on a story for a special project to be published next month and am reminded anew how much I detest waiting for people to return my phone calls. Three women I need to interview held me hostage for three days last week and kept me inside during splendid motorcycling weather because they couldn’t be bothered to return my calls, even though I told them my deadline was Friday afternoon. I knew this was going to happen when I got the assignment, which makes it all the more annoying. The only saving grace is the fact that my wife is the editor and I get a deadline extension.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jack goes to puppy school


Jack will be six months old next week, so we decided it was time for him to go to puppy school.

He had his first session this morning and was a little calmer than I expected, considering that he’s been a wild terror most of the time.

We worked on training with a clicker and teaching him to focus with mixed, but encouraging results. He is one of six dogs in the class, ranging in size from a miniature poodle to a great Dane. He seems to be most friendly/interested in Cowboy, a miniature red merle Aussie with piercing white eyes who lives on a farm a few miles from us. Who knows? Maybe we’ll arrange a play date for them.

I haven’t weighed Jack lately, but he’s about a tall as Pete and probably weighs around 45 pounds.

The classes meet Saturday mornings for the next five weeks at a local pet supply store and the instructor is the kind of woman who exudes a quiet confidence and patience.

We also have the contact information for a local woman who trains Aussies for agility competition, an activity that would also promote human fitness.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Off to the John Deere service department


Our John Deere LA125 mower went in for its annual spring tuneup this morning.

Spring comes early around here – it was a sunny 75 degrees yesterday – and the grass will start growing any day now.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Missing a chocolate lab puppy?


There was nothing in our post office box, but I did photograph this poster on the Brookland, Ark., post office public bulletin board, so it wasn’t a wasted trip after all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Things have changed

des blur

People are crazy and times are strange.

I'm locked in tight. I'm out of range.

I used to care but things have changed.

-Bob Dylan

Motorcycling keeps you young? How cool is that?


ridingMe, staying young.

By Todd Halterman

Riding a motorcycle every day might actually keep your brain functioning at peak condition, or so says a study conducted by the University of Tokyo. The study demonstrated that riders between the age of 40 and 50 were shown to improve their levels of cognitive functioning, compared to a control group, after riding their motorcycles  daily to their workplace for a mere two months.

Scientists believe that the extra concentration needed to successfully operate a motorcycle can contribute to higher general levels of brain function, and it’s that increase in activity that’s surely a contributing factor to the appeal of the motorcycles as transportation. It’s the way a ride on a bike turns the simplest journey into a challenge to the senses that sets the motorcyclist apart from the everyday commuter. While the typical car-owning motorist is just transporting him or her self from point A to point B, the motorcyclist is actually transported into an entirely different state of consciousness .

Riding a motorcycle is all about entrance into an exclusive club where the journey actually is the destination.

Dr Ryuta Kawashima, author of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain, reported the outcome of his study of “The relationship between motorcycle riding and the human mind.”

Kawashima’s experiments involved riders who currently rode motorcycles on a regular basis (the average age of the riders was 45) and  ex-riders who once rode regularly but had not taken a ride for 10 years or more. Kawashima asked the participants to ride on courses in different conditions while he recorded their brain activities. The eight courses included a series of curves, poor road conditions, steep hills, hair-pin turns and a variety of other challenges.

What did he find? After an analysis of the data, Kawashima found that the current riders and ex-riders used their brain in radically different ways. When the current riders rode motorcycles, specific segments of their brains (the right hemisphere of the prefrontal lobe) was activated and riders demonstrated a higher level of concentration.

His next experiment was a test of how making a habit of riding a motorcycle affects the brain.

Trial subjects were otherwise healthy people who had not ridden for 10 years or more. Over the course of a couple of months, those riders used a  motorcycle for their daily commute and in other everyday situations while Dr. Kawashima and his team studied how their brains and mental health changed.

The upshot was that the use of motorcycles in everyday life improved cognitive faculties, particularly those that relate to memory and spatial reasoning capacity. An added benefit? Participants revealed on questionnaires they filled out at the end of the study that their stress levels had been reduced and their mental state changed for the better.

So why motorcycles? Shouldn’t driving a car should have the same effect as riding a motorcycle?

“There were many studies done on driving cars in the past,” Kawashima said. “A car is a comfortable machine which does not activate our brains. It only happens when going across a railway crossing or when a person jumps in front of us. By using motorcycles more in our life, we can have positive effects on our brains and minds”.

Yamaha participated in a second joint research project on the subject of the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation with Kawashima Laboratory at the Department of Functional Brain Imaging, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University.

The project began in September 2009 and ran until December 2010, and the focus of the research was on measurement and analysis of the cause and effect relationship involved in the operation of various types of vehicles and brain stimulation. The study measured changes in such stimulation over time by means of data gathered from a long-term mass survey.

The reason for Yamaha Motor’s participation in this project is pretty obvious and not a little self-serving, but further research into the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation as it relates to the “Smart Aging Society” will certainly provide some interesting results.

The second research project was divided into two time periods throughout 2009 and 2010 compared differences in the conditions of brain stimulation as they related to the type of vehicle and driving conditions. A second set of tests measuring the changes in brain stimulation over time involved a larger subject group.

Yamaha Motors provided vehicles for the research and made its test tracks and courses available for the study. What the study revealed is that what you’re thinking about while you’re riding – and your experience on the bike -  changes the physical structure of your brain.

Author Sharon Begley concurs with Kawashima’s findings. In her tome, Train Your Mind – Change Your Brain, Begley found much the same outcomes.

“The brain devotes more cortical real estate to functions that its owner uses more frequently and shrinks the space devoted to activities rarely performed,” Begley wrote. “That’s why the brains of violinists devote more space to the region that controls the digits of the fingering hand.”

And you may also get some mental and physical benefits from just thinking about going for a ride on your machine.

A 1996 experiment at Harvard Medical School by neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone had volunteers practice a simple five finger exercise on the piano over five days for a couple of hours each day. Pascual-Leone found that the brain space devoted to these finger movements grew and pushed aside areas less used.  A separate group of volunteers were asked to simply think about doing the piano exercises during that week as well, and they dedicated the same amount of “practice time.”

Pascual-Leone was somewhat take aback to discover that the region of the brain which controls piano playing finger movement expanded in the same way for volunteers who merely imagined playing the piano.

Along with the obvious benefits of riding motorcycles; like saving money (motorcycle insurance is relatively inexpensive), motorcycles take the edge off the grind of the daily commute, and that appears to make your brain a better place to be…

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In today’s mail


Today’s mail more than made up for the fact that there was no mail delivery yesterday because of the Presidents Day holiday.

I received two Ebay purchases for my Wallace China collection. The first and most majestic is a 15” platter in the Pioneer Trails pattern. I won’t gloat beyond saying I got it for about half of what antique dealers are asking.

The second package contained two soup/chili bowls in the Rodeo pattern made by True West. True West acquired the rights to reproduce the various Wallace China Westward Ho lines after Wallace China went out of business in 1964. I already had a couple of these bowls, so now we can serve chili to a party of four.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Livin’ large in the Mid-South

cost of livingThe average cost of living figure being 100, Jonesboro’s cost of living is substantially lower

I’ve been doing some writing for a special project Maria’s newspaper does every year about this time and have come across some pretty interesting facts and statistics.

We live in Craighead County, Arkansas, of which Jonesboro is the county seat. The economy went to hell about the time we got here in the autumn of 2007. But while conditions were getting really bleak in other places – Maria’s son got laid off from his job in Indiana in the spring of 2009 – it wasn’t nearly as bad here. Austin came down to live with us and found employment, thanks to our BMW motorcycle friend Charlie to manages a pharmacy in Paragould. But the fact is that he found employment here.

Throughout the economic downturn, northeast Arkansas in general and the Jonesboro area in particular, have proven to be an odd little pocket of prosperity.

Home construction is on the rise and the construction of a major new NEA Baptist Medical Center on U.S. 49 north of Jonesboro has spurred a boom in commercial development along that corridor.

The past two years have seen the opening of an Olive Garden, a Longhorn Steakhouse, a Red Lobster, a Cheddars, a Panera Bread and there are more restaurants under construction. Sissy’s Log Cabin, a premiere jewelry store, will open soon next door to Panera.

Nordex, a German—owned wind turbine company, opened its North American manufacturing facilities here a couple of years ago and existing industries are thriving.

Consequently, the unemployment rate here is well below the national average, as this graph released recently by the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce indicates:


My point is that this place turned out to be a remarkable economic success story.

Worth reading

A high school friend forwarded this to me. I think it’s worth posting here:

The following is a copy of an article written by Spanish writer Sebastian
Vilar Rodriguez and published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008. It
doesn't take much imagination to extrapolate the message to the rest of
Europe - and possibly to the rest of the world. This is hardly propaganda,
as the facts speak for themselves.

Date: Tue. 15 January 2008 14:30
By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez
I walked down the street in Barcelona , and suddenly discovered a terrible
truth - Europe died in Auschwitz .... We killed six million Jews and
replaced them with 20 million Muslims.
In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed
the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful
people who changed the world.
The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art,
international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These
are the people we burned.
And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to
ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates
to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious
extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness
to work and support their families with pride.
They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into
the third world, drowning in filth and crime.
Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan
the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.
And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred,
creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and
We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their
talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to
life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed
by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and
What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe ...
The Global Islamic population is approximately 1,200,000,000; that is ONE
BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world's population. They have
received the following Nobel Prizes:
1988 - Najib Mahfooz
1978 - Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat
1990 - Elias James Corey
1994 - Yaser Arafat:
1999 - Ahmed Zewai
1960 - Peter Brian Medawar
1998 - Ferid Mourad
The Global Jewish population is approximately 14,000,000; that is FOURTEEN
MILLION or about 0.02% of the world's population. They have received the
following Nobel Prizes:
1910 - Paul Heyse
1927 - Henri Bergson
1958 - Boris Pasternak
1966 - Shmuel Yosef Agnon
1966 - Nelly Sachs
1976 - Saul Bellow
1978 - Isaac Bashevis Singer
1981 - Elias Canetti
1987 - Joseph Brodsky
1991 - Nadine Gordimer World
1911 - Alfred Fried
1911 - Tobias Michael Carel Asser
1968 - Rene Cassin
1973 - Henry Kissinger
1978 - Menachem Begin
1986 - Elie Wiesel
1994 - Shimon Peres
1994 - Yitzhak Rabin
1905 - Adolph Von Baeyer
1906 - Henri Moissan
1907 - Albert Abraham Michelson
1908 - Gabriel Lippmann
1910 - Otto Wallach
1915 - Richard Willstaetter
1918 - Fritz Haber
1921 - Albert Einstein
1922 - Niels Bohr
1925 - James Franck
1925 - Gustav Hertz
1943 - Gustav Stern
1943 - George Charles de Hevesy
1944 - Isidor Issac Rabi
1952 - Felix Bloch
1954 - Max Born
1958 - Igor Tamm
1959 - Emilio Segre
1960 - Donald A. Glaser
1961 - Robert Hofstadter
1961 - Melvin Calvin
1962 - Lev Davidovich Landau
1962 - Max Ferdinand Perutz
1965 - Richard Phillips Feynman
1965 - Julian Schwinger
1969 - Murray Gell-Mann
1971 - Dennis Gabor
1972 - William Howard Stein
1973 - Brian David Josephson
1975 - Benjamin Mottleson
1976 - Burton Richter
1977 - Ilya Prigogine
1978 - Arno Allan Penzias
1978 - Peter L Kapitza
1979 - Stephen Weinberg
1979 - Sheldon Glashow
1979 - Herbert Charles Brown
1980 - Paul Berg
1980 - Walter Gilbert
1981 - Roald Hoffmann
1982 - Aaron Klug
1985 - Albert A. Hauptman
1985 - Jerome Karle
1986 - Dudley R. Herschbach
1988 - Robert Huber
1988 - Leon Lederman
1988 - Melvin Schwartz
1988 - Jack Steinberger
1989 - Sidney Altman
1990 - Jerome Friedman
1992 - Rudolph Marcus
1995 - Martin Perl
2000 - Alan J. Heeger
1970 - Paul Anthony Samuelson
1971 - Simon Kuznets
1972 - Kenneth Joseph Arrow
1975 - Leonid Kantorovich
1976 - Milton Friedman
1978 - Herbert A. Simon
1980 - Lawrence Robert Klein
1985 - Franco Modigliani
1987 - Robert M. Solow
1990 - Harry Markowitz
1990 - Merton Miller
1992 - Gary Becker
1993 - Robert Fogel
1908 - Elie Metchnikoff
1908 - Paul Erlich
1914 - Robert Barany
1922 - Otto Meyerhof
1930 - Karl Landsteiner
1931 - Otto Warburg
1936 - Otto Loewi
1944 - Joseph Erlanger
1944 - Herbert Spencer Gasser
1945 - Ernst Boris Chain
1946 - Hermann Joseph Muller
1950 - Tadeus Reichstein
1952 - Selman Abraham Waksman
1953 - Hans Krebs
1953 - Fritz Albert Lipmann
1958 - Joshua Lederberg
1959 - Arthur Kornberg
1964 - Konrad Bloch
1965 - Francois Jacob
1965 - Andre Lwoff
1967 - George Wald
1968 - Marshall W. Nirenberg
1969 - Salvador Luria
1970 - Julius Axelrod
1970 - Sir Bernard Katz
1972 - Gerald Maurice Edelman
1975 - Howard Martin Temin
1976 - Baruch S. Blumberg
1977 - Roselyn Sussman Yalow
1978 - Daniel Nathans
1980 - Baruj Benacerraf
1984 - Cesar Milstein
1985 - Michael Stuart Brown
1985 - Joseph L. Goldstein
1986 - Stanley Cohen [& Rita Levi-Montalcini]
1988 - Gertrude Elion
1989 - Harold Varmus
1991 - Erwin Neher
1991 - Bert Sakmann
1993 - Richard J. Roberts
1993 - Phillip Sharp
1994 - Alfred Gilman
1995 - Edward B. Lewis
1996- Lu RoseIacovino
TOTAL: 129!
The Jews are NOT promoting brain washing children in military training
camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of
Jews and other non Muslims. The Jews don't hijack planes, nor kill athletes
at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants. There is NOT
one single Jew who has destroyed a church. There is NOT a single Jew who
protests by killing people.
The Jews don't traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death
to all the Infidels.
Perhaps the world's Muslims should consider investing more in standard
education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems.
Muslims must ask 'what can they do for humankind' before they demand that
humankind respects them.
Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the
Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more
culpability on Israel 's part, the following two sentences really say it
'If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence.
If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel ."
Benjamin Netanyahu
General Eisenhower Warned Us It is a matter of history that when the Supreme
Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims
of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for
the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps
and even made to bury the dead.
He did this because he said in words to this effect:
'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because
somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that
this never happened'
Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school
curriculum because it 'offends' the Muslim population which claims it never
occurred. It is not removed as yet.. However, this is a frightening portent
of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving
into it.
It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended..
This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the, 6 million
Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests
who were 'murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and
humiliated' while the German people looked the other way.
Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be
'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people.. Be a link in the
memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.
How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center 'NEVER
HAPPENED' because it offends some Muslim in the United States ?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why Right to Work makes sense to me

Indiana recently passed a Right to Work law that lets workers opt out of union membership and frees them from having to give a dime of their pay to unions.

I have some friends who think this is a horrible thing and will cast the state’s workers into some kind of low-wage slavery.

Here is the essence of an eloquent and succinct post from that goes to the heart of the argument:

I have a great job. I like it a lot. I have a tremendously flexible schedule, rewarding work that is used by thousands of people, respect for my skills … what I don’t have is a hope for a raise, promotion or merit rewards because the company is in “hunker down and wait for the asshole in office to get ousted before making any financial changes” mode and they ARE ALL LIBERALS WHO VOTED HIM IN OFFICE!

I? Am the only conservative working for the entire company that employs over 6000 people, all liberal. I’m the only one who is out of the closet, anyway.

I’m like a cute little pet to them, I suspect.

No one is getting a real raise or a promotion for the foreseeable future. It’s not just me. It’s not personal. It’s not punitive because I’m a freak, conservative.

So it was not an unwelcome phone call that day two weeks ago when a company I have worked with called and asked me to apply, no resume required because they know me and they offered me a 17% increase over what I am currently making with all the flexibility and benefits I currently have.

I know! JUMP LIKE A BUNNY ON CRACK! Right? Take the job!

The pitch was good, man. Almost irresistible.

“We pay for talent. Our salaries are higher than anywhere else around here and we have great benefits. We reward results and if there isn’t a position to promote you to when a promotion is merrited, we’ll create a position.”

The company is in the news every day on the verge of financial ruin, but it can’t go under because it is the resource of last resort for the poorest residents and state and local government pumps money into it. They just laid off 500 people but the IT department is safe because they are understaffed and critical to operations. It’s a safe bet.

But it is a union shop.

Their deal with the union requires all employees, union or not, to kick back 5% of their pay and a new deal will take another 3% . Take your salary and subtract 8%. That’s half of the increase over the current job pay rate. Take the amount you would make over what you are currently making and cut it in half just for the union deal. Every raise you get will be a percentage kick back to the unions.

The raise jumps you into the next tax bracket so take your salary before you subtract the 8% because that’s not pre-tax deduction, you’re paying taxes on the money you give to the union, calculate 28% of the remaining half and you get to keep about 30% of the original amount or about a 3% raise over what you are making now in reality. My current job gives a “by rote” 2% increase every year to quell the qvetching, so the reality is that 17% pay raise for switching jobs would actually net me 1% more a year and if the deal doesn’t go through with the Unions next month then they will do furloughs next year, killing off the 1% that was left.

That’s a 17% pay raise eaten alive by the unions and the US government.

I never really thought about it like that before until I had to run real numbers and could not fucking believe I was turning down a 17% pay raise to take a job I actually wanted. I COULD NOT BELIEVE I DECLINED IT.

So, you know? I’m bringing back the “hate cat”.

Reality is a bitch and this creeping blob creature that is the unholy marriage of the Federal Government and the Unions is eating us alive. Soon? There will be nowhere left to work that will let you keep what you earn. Their motto should be: You make it? We take it.


I told my current boss … and I really negotiated this, cross my heart and hope to fucking die … “I just turned down an offer for a 17% pay raise if I would move to company X. In exchange I want some decent pens and business cards for everyone on our team.” We have no pens and the company won’t buy business cards because they are laying people off weekly. I figured business cards would at least provide the illusion of stability and improve moral, and pens? Well. I like them and it pisses me off to have to buy my own for work.

He said he’d think about it and get back to me.

And this is my life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Barbecued and fried bologna sandwich!


Maria’s daughter in Arizona somehow got wind of a barbecue restaurant in Memphis that serves barbecued and fried bologna sandwiches on white bread, garnished with their own mustard slaw.

So we rounded up our local BMW motorcycle friends Deb and Charlie and headed for Memphis and Payne’s Bar-B-Q for lunch today.

A drug deal was going down in the parking lot as we pulled into Payne’s, a former garage/service station. Once inside, we surveyed a medium-size dining area with maybe nine tables. Heat came from a row of electric space heaters along the back wall of the dining area.

I opted for the pulled pork sandwich plate with beans and mustard slaw on the side. Maria went for the ribs plate and a bologna sandwich which she shared with the rest of us.

I wasn’t that impressed with the bologna sandwich, but it should be noted that the TLC TV network featured the sandwich on the "Sensational Sandwiches" episode of its "Best Food Ever" show.

Michael Donahue, writing on the web site reported:

On my last visit to Payne's, I ran into another friend, Markus McNeil, who is now in culinary school at L'École Culinaire. I asked him what he was ordering. "Just some bologna," he said.

His dad told him about Payne's barbecue bologna 10 years ago. McNeil now eats two Payne's barbecue bologna sandwiches a week.

Deb and Charlie are certified barbecue contest judges and know their barbecue. Charlie opined that it would have been better without the sauce and they both agreed with me that the sauce is too heavy on vinegar. That said, it was a tasty lunch and a fun culinary adventure.

Afterward, we adjourned to Boscos for dessert and libations.



I like Nicholas Cage, but the new Ghost Rider movie is lame


“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” opened yesterday, so Maria and I took it in at the local Malco Theatre last night.

I loved the first Ghost Rider movie because it had some delightful surprises, like Peter Fonda – a permanent motorcycle icon for his 1969 biker classic “Easy Rider” – playing the Devil, and the venerable Sam Elliott playing a gravedigger who turns out to be Nicholas Cage’s predecessor as an earlier Ghost Rider.

Fonda and Elliott are absent from this sequel and the story line is thin and hardly credible. The acting it spare and the film relies too much on frenzied action and 3D special effects.

I had high hopes for this flick, but found myself bored and disappointed.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just one more great deal and I’ll find something else to write about


I’ve noticed that I spend a lot of time here gloating about good deals that come my way. I never realized how happy it makes me to get good stuff really cheap.

While my posts on the subject are probably starting to get tedious, please indulge me with just one more.

I’ve carried a Lowepro Nova 5 camera bag for more than a decade and it’s showing its age. The main zipper has gone wonky and the vinyl on the carrying handle is cracked and flaking away. On one hand, it has that cool “combat veteran” look, but on the other hand it’s embarrassingly shabby.

Lowepro’s comparable model these days is the Nova 200AW. The AW stands for “all weather” because it has a cleverly designed built-in rain cover. It also has a more ergonomically padded shoulder strap.

It’s always tempting to buy a bag that’s bigger than my immediate needs, but the Nova 5/Nova 200AW is plenty big enough to accommodate enough lenses, cameras and gear to paralyze my shoulder after an hour or so of walking around.

Since I’ve found no camera stores in northeast Arkansas, I had two choices – hope I could find a bag in Memphis or buy one on

If I shopped in Memphis, I would probably have to pay the MSRP of $109.99 plus the local and state sales taxes amounting to another $10.17, for a total of $120.16.

But has the Nova 200AW for $79.95, with free shipping since I’m an Amazon Prime member. That’s an overall saving of $40.21.

One mouse click about 10:40 a.m. yesterday and the order was placed with Amazon.

The FedEx guy delivered my bag about 24 hours later.

Yes, I truly do love

Thursday, February 16, 2012

$1,285 worth of pocket bling


Let me say at the outset, nobody really needs a ballpoint pen that costs $200 or more.

But it sure is a cool thing to have peeking out of your shirt pocket.

I was blissfully unaware that such absurdly expensive writing instruments existed until a bank president buddy of mine flashed his Mont Blanc about 20 years ago and casually mentioned what he paid for it.

I was suitably impressed and decided it would be a nifty thing for a big-time professional journalist like me to whip out at interviews and press conferences. I shopped around and picked one up at an office supply store for about half the $200 price advertised elsewhere.

When I took it out of its case, I was impressed with the craftsmanship and heftOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of the pen. Clearly, this is no Bic. Or even a Cross. It's a Fine Writing Instrument, made for the writing of IMPORTANT WORDS.

I got over that feeling quickly enough and was soon using it to scribble notes on cocktail napkins and grocery lists on Post-It notes.

It wasn't long before I decided I had to have the rollerball, and then the fountain pen. I got them for under $100 each on Ebay.

I've come to think of the ballpoint as a classy accessory, a piece of masculine jewelry that actually comes in handy when you need to write something.

And I'm always a little disappointed when people think I'm just using an ordinary ballpoint pen.

Someone mentioned the other day that Mont Blanc prices have skyrocketed. I went to their web site and looked up my pens. I was stupified at the current prices for the Mont Blanc Classique line of writing instruments.

The ballpoint and rollerball each carry a MSRP of $385 and the fountain pen is a staggering $515. That means the retail price of the hardware lined up in my shirt pocket is $1,285. Jeez, Louise!

That said, you can still get a deal on a used Mont Blanc on Ebay. Within the last week a ballpoint sold for $102.50, a fountain pen for $152.50 and a rollerball for $159.99.

A little more time spent on the Mont Blanc site makes it clear that the Classique pens are considered entry level for their crazy-expensive line of writing instruments. I have no ambition to own any of those.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In today’s mail

dortmunderquarterliterI threw a “what the hell” $5 bid at this quarter-liter stein on Ebay the other day and ended up winning the auction because nobody else wanted it. Whatever. It’s the first quarter-liter stein in my collection.
The German language version of Wikipedia has an article on this brewery, but the online translator leaves much to be desired. See what I mean?
The animal was brewing on 2 July 1854 from the Dortmund merchants Wilhelm von Hovel, Henry Gustav animal and sunshine as a "brewery Hoevel, animal & Co." was founded. The founding of the brewery beast was seen as a consequence of the introduction of the lager brewing process, the Dortmunder Export . In 1875 the family took the entire company shares animal.
After the death of Gustav animal in 1883 the company was young, first by his son Gustav animal. and led the son of Ludwig Freiherr mirror and Peckelsheim. The brewery was renamed the "beast Brewery & Co.". 1888 took the Dortmund entrepreneur Joseph Cremer , the company.
The animal-brewery became involved early on in the sports sponsorship . The local athletics club and former handball Bundesliga club Dortmund OSC temporarily led the animal names OSC Dortmund. In 1992, the takeover of the Dortmunder Thier brewery was carried out by the local competitors Dortmunder Kronen brewery private . In 1996 this was due to the Radeberger group owned joint-stock brewery in Dortmund (DAB) taken. Production was moved to the location of the DAB in the north of Dortmund. A brand of beer "Thier Pils" brewed up today by the joint-stock brewery in Dortmund and bottled.
The administration building and the production of animal-brewery were within the former ramparts of the city of Dortmund. The administration building at Hiltropwall is currently used by the city of Dortmund. The ground floor has a restaurant (Hövels Brewery) until today, the beer is brewed Hövels original. The underlying production building in 2009 for the new buildings of the animal-gallery , a shopping center of the ECE project management demolished.
Animal? I’m at a total loss to know what word is being mis-translated as “animal.” But the gist of it is that the brewery, founded in 1854, has been absorbed by Dortmunder Actien-Braurei (DAB).

Doing our bit for quality control at Panera

panerab&wWe’ve observed a pattern in the level of service of new restaurants here in the past couple of years as the range of culinary opportunities in Jonesboro continues to widen.

They start out with superb service, which continues for a couple of weeks. Then, after the trainers leave, things start to fall apart. Servers get lax, food orders get screwed up, efficiency goes to hell… It happened at Olive Garden. It happened at Red Lobster. It happened at  Longhorn Steakhouse.

And, to our horror, we saw signs of it last night at our favorite bistro, Panera.

Maria’s French onion soup showed up without croutons or the requisite baguette.

Not wanting to see such a splendid place lose its edge, she summoned a manager. Taking care to make it clear that she was not angry and only wanted to see them succeed, she pointed out the lapses. The manager, I think his name was Jerome, seemed grateful for the information and sent her home with a takeout carton of French onion soup and a baguette after getting her order corrected.

On balance, I’m glad we couldn’t get into Longhorn Steakhouse or Red Lobster for our Valentine’s Day dinner last night. Maria recalled that we went to a Panera after our impromptu wedding back in May, 2001. So it was a fitting place to celebrate the occasion.

And just to prove there are no hard feelings, I’m back at Panera this morning enjoying coffee and the Wednesday $1 discount on a four-cheese souffle.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celebrate Valentine’s Day and the Second Amendment today at Starbucks


The National Gun Victims Action Council has called for a nationwide boycott of Starbucks on Valentine's Day because Starbucks allows customers to carry guns in Starbucks stores.

Gunnitors, members of the popular social news website Reddit, are organizing a counter boycott in support of Starbucks recognizing the Second Amendment. The Truth About Guns is also calling for all gun friendly individuals to buy Starbucks Coffee on Valentine's Day.

Gun Lovers, I encourage you to stop by Starbucks and enjoy a latte with your friends today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

In this morning’s mail


This 10½” Wallace China Westward Ho dinner plate in the Pioneer Trails pattern arrived in this morning’s mail.

Maria loves it and has decided this will be her plate when we dine on Western dinnerware.

Coincidentally, Maria went to school with Linda Strong, the Ebay vendor in Lebanon, Ind., who sold me this plate.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Grackle attack!


This is just part of the huge flock of grackles that descended upon our neighborhood yesterday morning.

We first noticed them swooping down over our house and past the upstairs office window by the hundreds to land in the yard and peck away at the ground. Then they would rise in a cloud of flapping wings and alight in the neighbors’ yard.

It was a rather Hitchcockian experience.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Never underestimate an Aussie


Maria was downstairs getting ready to go to the office this morning when she called up the stairway to the upstairs office where I was working to ask if I heard water running.

No, I said, and she opined that it might be the heat pump.

About 20 minutes later, she said she was sure she heard water running and it sounded like it was from the spigot on the back of the house between our two OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbedroom windows.

I went outside to check and, sure enough, Jack the Aussie pup has figured out how to turn on the water and was merrily playing in it. The temperature is 25 degrees and he had ice in his fur from his adventure. And naturally, he had to jump up on me with muddy paws, proving that there is nothing friendlier than a wet dog.

I turned off the spigot, making sure it was tightly closed, but now that he knows how it works this may not be over.

In today’s mail


Thanks to “Come and Get It,” a splendid reference book on western dinnerware by Corinne Joy Brown, I’ve discovered several other manufacturers besides Wallace China who make the kind of stuff I like.

This is a 6” lunch plate from the Tepco “Western Traveler” series with scenes comeandgetitcommemorating the Pony Express. Tepco was a California company that operated from 1918 to 1968. Ms. Brown says the artist’s name is unknown.

Here’s what her book looks like. It’s the most authoritative book on western dinnerware I’ve found and I’ve learned a lot from it. I’ve embedded a hyperlink to its page, so just click on the book cover image to see more.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday morning stuff

paneracoffee I’m having coffee and Wifi at Panera and somebody’s cell phone went off at a nearby table and I was suddenly reminded of how annoying other people’s cell phones are.

At first, I thought it was just that the guy was so lame as to use the default ringtone that came with the phone. Then I remembered how much more irritating custom ringtones can be.

So it comes down to not wanting to hear someone else’s phone ring. Period.

In fact, I usually start swearing when my cell phone rings – not because I hate the sound of it, but because it invariably interrupts what I’m doing. And I hate interruptions.

We’re having a rare taste of winter here this morning. The temperature is 36 and it’s spitting a snow-rain mix. The locals are freaking out and calling the radio stations to report “snow!!!” So? It takes a paralyzing ice storm to get me worried.

We’ve been blessed with unseasonably warm weather this winter. Our house is all-electric and our heating costs are down considerably compared with previous winters. And, no, it’s not global warming, man-caused or otherwise. It’s just weather.

Daytona Beach Bike week is a month away and I’m starting to think about going. As I’ve said before, I don’t really care for the whole Bike Week scene and the Neanderthal biker trash it attracts, but it’s a good excuse for the first long ride of the season and a chance to enjoy tropical sunshine and an ocean view. When I think of Bike Week, I think of sitting on a bench at Flagler Beach with an ice cream cone, gazing out at the Atlantic Ocean.

The last time I went – I think it was three years ago – the weather turned cold and I spent two extremely uncomfortably frigid nights in my tent before I gave up and fled for home. So there has to be a very specific forecast to lure me back – the promise of mild and dry weather all along my route and overnight lows in the 50s. I’ve ridden enough miles in miserable weather and camped enough in wretched conditions to realize that I don’t have anything to prove to myself. I know I can ride long distances in cold rain and sub-freezing temperatures. I just choose not to do it anymore. So there.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Looking out for a U.S. company

I’ve been an admirer of apparel and outdoor equipment made by The North Face for nearly 40 years.

I still have the North Face down-filled sleeping bag I bought during my northfacebackpacking period in the early 1970s and I wear a North Face Denali jacket that is as good as they day I bought it back in the late 1990s.

North Face stuff has tremendous cachet here in northeast Arkansas and anybody who is anybody has something with The North Face logo on it.

North Face stuff isn’t cheap. A men’s Denali jacket retails for between $165 and $199.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I walked into a flea market and noticed a rack of more than 40 Denali look-alike jackets, bearing The North Face Logo and being offered for $60 apiece.

I know the quality that goes into North Face garments and it's completely absent in these. They all have red "North Face" garment tags. Many are marked "made in China," some are odd colors that I seriously doubt have ever been in The North Face's palette and nearly all of the zipper pulls are plain, without a YKK or other manufacturer's mark. Some have a zipper pull emblazoned with Chinese characters.

I asked one of the women who run the flea market if the jackets are genuine North Face products or Chinese knock-offs (I chose not to use the word "counterfeit" so as to keep her from going defensive).

She said the man who rents the space for the jacket display told her they are "factory seconds."

I assume The North Face is sufficiently focused on its reputation of superior quality and would never let "factory seconds" enter the marketplace.

I raised this issue with the Arkansas Attorney General's office and got this response from Heather Richardson in the A.G.'s Consumer Protection Division:

After careful review, we find that the US Department of Homeland Security investigates counterfeit items.  Their web site is and their main operator number is (202)282-8000.  We are hopeful the will be able to assist you.
Heather Richardson

Consumer Protection Division
Arkansas Attorney General's Office

This struck me as a bit of a runaround. I find it hard to believe Homeland Security is charged with protecting U.S. manufacturers.

So I forwarded the information directly to The North Face Customer Service Team.

Let’s see what happens next.

In today’s mail–the madness continues


A leather-clad, cowboy themed sugar dispenser and a creamer made by Wallace China Co. for Rod's Steak House in Williams, Ariz., “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

After years of foster homes, Maggie is welcomed to her “forever home”

maggie ceremony

Our friend Susan celebrated the adoption of her foster daughter Maggie last evening with a big party and elegant ceremony welcoming Maggie to the Myshka family.

Here’s Maggie with Susan’s office manager and good friend Judy just before she ascended the deck stairs, pausing for prayers by Sister Mary Beth, the nun who persuaded Susan to be a foster parent, Susan’s dad, and a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Jonesboro. The ceremony, which included the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn), culminated with Susan adorning Maggie with a purple robe, scepter and tiara as Princess Magdalene.

quilt revealMaria, working in consultation with Maggie, created a special quilt for the occasion that included figures of Susan (with a crown), Maggie, and Sister Mary Beth (with attached crucifix). Everyone was blown away when I unfurled it.

In the mail today


A Wallace China Co. El Rancho pattern salad plate with a backstamp from the Dohrmann Hotel Supply Co. It’s 7 1/8” in diameter.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Meet Maggie Myshka


Our friend and chiropractor Dr. Susan Myshka today adopted her 7-year-old foster daughter Maggie in Lawrence Circuit Court at Walnut Ridge.

I had the honor of being the official photographer for the affair in the judge’s chambers. Here’s Maggie with the judge, whose name I failed to note. Sorry, Your Honor.

Monday, February 06, 2012

It’s called a line gauge

Here’s something that most of you have never seen and very few have actually linegaugeused.

It’s a printer’s line gauge – a tool printers used back in the days when printing was done with Linotype machines casting lines of type in lead.

Yes, children, that’s how printing was done when I was a young man starting out in the newspaper business in 1966.

Fonts were (and still are) measured in points. There are 72 points to the inch. Back when I worked at The Indianapolis News, our body type was 8 points, set on a 10-point slug. That meant there were 2 points of breathing room between lines of type.

The next most common unit of measure was the pica and there are six picas to an inch, which is why every sixth pica is highlighted on the line gauge. Column widths were measured in picas.

The other side of the line gauge shows inches and agate lines. Agate is the type used for classified and legal ads in the back of the paper. There are 14 agate lines to an inch.

Back in the days of hot type – it was called hot type because the type was cast from molten lead – printing was a craft. It’s pretty much a lost art these days since computers have taken most of the skill out of it. Anybody can create a facsimile of the printed page on a computer without giving any thought to whether they want their text to look like this with what you call a ragged right margin,

or like this with what you call justified type – that is type that has the words spaced within the line to make a straight margin on the right side of the column. The advantage to ragged right is that you hardly ever need to break words with hyphens, which makes the text easier to read.

Newspapers favor justified type because it makes for a clean line of white space (called the gutter) between the columns of type and is a more efficient use of ink.

Line gauges are probably more scarce than slide rules (I still have one or two of those around here somewhere). This one lives on my desk. It’s 12 inches of stainless steel and was made by the New England Newspaper Supply Co. of Millbury, Mass.

In the mail today

A 9” Wallace El Rancho dinner plate depicting settlers traversing Monument Valley.
Or, if you believe director John Ford, this is what all of the American West looked like. All of it, I tells ya.
I got it on Ebay for a very reasonable $19.95.

Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that confetti in your hand?


I kept a sharp eye out last night for my old Indianapolis News compadre Joe Vitti whenever the TV cameras scanned the sidelines at the Super Bowl.

I missed him, but he posted this photo of himself and the rest of The Indianapolis Star photogs who shot the event.

Joe is a helluva good photographer and I enjoyed working with him. After the merger with The Star, he worked at the Metro West Bureau and Maria got a chance to appreciate his skill and personality during her time there.

I’m still carrying the Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens he traded in at Roberts.

And he says he deserves a second term…


Friday, February 03, 2012

Movie time


We went to the movies last night to shake off the craziness of the day (another story for another time) and chose the newest Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Noomi Rapace.

This is the first big Hollywood blockbuster for Noomi Rapace, who starred in the spectacular 2009 Swedish trilogy beginning with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” She owns that role and anyone who goes to see the Hollywood remake is wasting their time and money. Go to Netflix and get the original.

She also has a leading role in the upcoming Ridley Scott science fiction film “Prometheus” which is a kind of a prequel to Alien. It’s scheduled for release sometime this summer.

But I digress.

I think this, the second of the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies, is better than the first and well worth the price of admission. I can say no more.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Hooray for the Susan G. Komen organization! - Media Research Center
Taking flak from the liberal media for cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood.

The Stars and Bars over Pine Log Cemetery


There’s a cemetery a couple of miles west of our house and I drive past it several times a week.

One of the graves has a flagpole from flying the Confederate Battle Flag.

I supposed it was the grave of a Civil War veteran and often thought about pulling over to have a look.

I was out for a motorcycle ride in the fine springlike weather this afternoon and made it a point to turn onto the gravel path that leads to the grave in question.

It turns out it’s the grave of a young man who died last March just a few days short of his 32nd birthday. I did an online search and found a couple of obituaries for him, but no clue about how he died. Or why the Confederate Battle Flag. I kinda like it, though.

Barista at work


I’ve wanted one of these green Starbucks Coffee aprons for years.

You can’t buy them from Their online apparel catalog is limited to caps, t-shirts and a hoodie.

But these things have a way of walking away from Starbucks coffee shops and turn up on Ebay. I got mine for eight bucks and change and it arrived yesterday. I felt a little self-conscious putting it on this morning to make my mocha cappuccino. Then I noticed I could wipe my wet hands on it instead of grabbing a paper towel. Aha. Now I get it. Not such a silly idea after all.

Our neighbor, Sophie, goes chalant* for my espresso and I know she’ll howl with laughter the first time she sees me in the apron.

*If non-chalant means casual, then chalant involves spazzing out with enthusiasm.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ready for a Western dinner

At Maria’s suggestion, we put together a display of my mostly Wallace China Westward Ho stuff over the weekend.
I bought an El Rancho plate on Ebay yesterday afternoon. This could get out of control very easily.