Thursday, January 31, 2013

Old photos of Paris

parisCheck them out. Century-old color images of Paris.

Absolutely brilliant!

Interesting that an immigrant (legal) understands what it means to be a free American better than a lot of folks whose families have been here for generations.

His insight exposes Sen. Feinstein and the other power-crazed gun-grabbers for what they are.

The perfect pie chart


Ambassador Wayne Garrison

ambassador wayne

Congratulations to our very own BMWMOA ambassador, Wayne Garrison. His motorcycling biography is the best thing in the February Owners News!

It's a well-deserved honor.

I met Wayne at the 1986 BMWMOA Rally in Laguna Seca. It was my first long cross-country tour and I did it under the tutelage of Tim and Linda Balough. I was awed by the fact that Wayne had made the trip to California solo and he became one of my touring heroes - one of those guys whose travels inspire you to get out and do it too.

Now, with more than 300,000 BMW miles in my mirrors, Wayne still inspires me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013



Apparently the advertising folks at Sam’s Club don’t pay much attention to where they ship their advertising inserts.

This morning’s paper had a Sam’s Club insert with lots of great Big Game deals (they can’t use the copyrighted name Super Bowl to promote their stuff), including a couple of varieties of Budweiser and Coor’s Light.

That may work in a lot of other places, but the local Sam’s Club is in a dry county where package alcohol beverages may not be sold. Sorry, Sam’s Club shoppers. There’s no waiver for the Super Bowl.

To be fair, the fine print does stipulate, “Available in select clubs only.”

Too bad ours isn’t “select.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who he and I are

who i amMy son Steve sent me Pete Townshend’s recently published autobiography for Christmas and I finished it last night.

Pete is a little less than two months older than I, both of us being born in 1945.

We have some parallel experiences – a failed longtime first marriage followed eventually by a deeply satisfying relationship with younger women who happen to be in the same business as us – Pete and Rachel in the music business, me and Maria in newspapers.

We’re both academic underachievers who were too impatient to get on with our lives to work through the tedium of college.

And we both went through an intensely spiritual period in our 20s and 30s – he with Meher Baba and me with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation program.

But we had vastly different childhoods. Pete came from a horribly dysfunctional family and was subjected to a batshit crazy grandmother who abused him horribly. He spent most of his adult life struggling with his demons, drugs and alcohol.

Townshend’s autobiography, along with what I know about the childhoods of many of my friends, makes me all the more appreciative of my parents.

Maria likes to characterize my childhood as something out of “Leave it to Beaver,” a sheltered, idyllic early life where I always felt secure and loved.

And it’s true. My parents loved and respected each other and kept their marriage vows until death parted them. Their only vice was smoking cigarettes, but that was something they both conquered in their 50s. They didn’t gamble and I never saw either one of them drunk.

Dad was an independent insurance agent and a respected businessman who was a founding member of the Delphi (Ind.) Chamber of Commerce and was president of the school board when the present Delphi High School was built in the early 1970s. Mom was a registered nurse who worked for decades in the office of the town’s most successful doctor.

We weren’t wealthy, but we were comfortable and secure and I grew up without the angst and rejection that plagued so many of my friends.

I suppose if Pete Townshend had had my childhood, he might never have become the towering musical giant he is today. So I guess I’m glad for what he became and for what my parents did for me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Assembly complete!

husky quilter
We got Maria’s longarm quilter set up yesterday, two weeks after I made a flying trip to Indiana to buy it.
The aluminum quilting frame had me worried because it’s easy to bend aluminum and I was concerned some of the pieces might get torqued out of shape in the moving or reassembly process. It appears my fears were unfounded.
The friends who sold it to us had converted the instructional videotape to DVD and it was a huge help in putting everything back together in the right sequence.
Now all Maria has to do is find the time to climb the learning curve and use this beast.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Hanging with the dogs

jack john porch

The temperature clawed its way up to around 50 this afternoon, so I Windexed the filthy glass top on the porch table and we sat with the dogs for a spell.

That’s my glass of Indiana-grown Red Gold tomato juice on the table, seconds before Jack lurched to his left and put his lips on the rim. I drank the rest of it from the other side of the glass.

Presently, we went out into the yard where I filled the dogs’ watering tub with jack crepe boxfresh water.

And then I noticed what Jack and Sam had done to a couple of crepe myrtle bushes Maria planted last year outside our bedroom windows.

I posed Jack next to one of them (what’s left is in the red box) but he clearly has no remorse.

But then maybe it was Sam who ravaged the poor bushes just to have a stick to chew.

We’re guardedly optimistic that the bushes will revive in the spring, especially if we put tomato cages around them.

Friday, January 25, 2013


panerapanoI finally got the correct contact lens prescription this afternoon, so now I can order a 6-month supply. This concludes a process that began with an eye exam on Jan. 5 and dragged on for another 20 days.

Even though I professed a strong dislike for my glasses, I found myself liking them more and more since they alleviated the need to carry reading glasses around. Now I’m back in contacts with reading glasses for close-in work and it seems kinda cumbersome. I guess that’s the price for living 67 years.

gravyThe weekend is upon us and, once again, we find ourselves with no particular plans. No gun shows, no jaunts to Memphis. Might be a good time to clear a space for Maria’s long-arm quilter which lies in pieces in the dining room.

I rather expected to see more photos of Sean and Ruth’s new dog, Honey Pie, by now. I hope she’s working out. A rescue pit bull can acquire some bad habits in its first couple of years that may pose a challenge to its new family.

This morning’s mail delivery included the Wallace Pioneer Trails creamer I bought last Friday on Ebay. It was advertised as a gravy boat, but at 3 1/8” tall, it’s a little small for a gravy boat. I have one just like it in the Westward Ho Rodeo pattern, but I lacked one in the Pioneer Trails pattern, so I jumped on it.

Now I have to do a little china cabinet shuffling to accommodate it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It can never be easy

I drove down to the mall and picked up my new contact lens prescription on Monday.

I got around to ordering lenses this afternoon, but when I examined the prescription, I noticed that the stupid bimbo at the optician’s office entered “40” for the axis of the Toric left lens instead of “50” as I instructed her after trying both lenses for a few days.

Naturally, the doc isn’t available until 10 a.m. tomorrow, so the lens order will have to wait.

Random thoughts on a Thursday morning

I wake up some days with a headful of thoughts, none of which merits a lengthy treatise here. This is one of those days.

I took a couple of melatonin caps before bed last night and slept like an oak log until Jack started scrabbling around in his kennel at 6 a.m., announcing he was ready to go out and do some dog business in the back yard. I put him out and crashed back into dreamland until my iPhone alarm went off at 6:30.

So, what’s on my mind?

I’m more than a little pissed off at the Republican congressmen who let Hillary off the hook after her faux outrage yesterday, jabbering “what difference does it make” whether the Benghazi attack was spontaneous or planned because we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It was obviously intended to deflect attention from the elephant in the room – the question of why did the administration withhold military support when the embassy was under attack. And why were the Seals at the CIA compound ordered to “stand down?” And why did the administration keep pushing the lie that it was a demonstration against the bullshit anti-Muslim video when everyone knew it was a well-planned attack?

The obfuscation makes more plausible the notion that the Benghazi operation was a bungled effort to kidnap Ambassador Stevens (who happened to be an Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity brother of mine) and exchange him for the Blind Sheik – something the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been calling for – to make Obama look like a foreign policy genius on the eve of the election. That’s why the Seals were told to stand down and that’s why the plan came unglued when the Seals disregarded the order, rushed to the embassy and kicked some terrorist ass until they were killed.

I can only guess why the Representatives and Senators ignored the elephant and let Hillary off the hook.

honeypieBut on to something else.

After sitting through a workshop on starting a small business, I have a clearer vision of why most small businesses fail. And a deeper resentment for federal and state government’s obsession with taxing and regulating.

Most of the workshop dealt with the insane labyrinth of taxes and regulations imposed on everyone who just wants to sell a produce or service and make a living for himself and maybe a few employees. It’s absolutely criminal.

On a brighter note, my son Sean and his wife Ruth have been dogless for several months since the demise of their pit bull Daisy.

But they are dogless no more. They adopted Honey Pie, a rescued 2-year-old pittie. Sean gave me a Facetime video call earlier this week to show her off and she looks very happy to be in her new home. I assume her name comes from the song of the same name on the Beatles’ White Album.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lisa and lunch

lisa battlezone

My son Steve took granddaughter Lisa to an orthodontia appointment this morning and sent me this photo of her playing the 1980s arcade game Battle Zone.

It’s significant because Steve and I and his brother Sean became masters of Battle Zone after we discovered the ram-back up-shoot technique. Once we had that down, the only thing that could stop us was the hated buzz bombs streaking in.

There was a Battle Zone game at the campground near Hart, Mich., where Northern Illinois University conducted its landmark trail riding course. I took both boys through the course on consecutive summers and we owned the Battle Zone game there.

salmon01And speaking of Sean, I feasted on a sockeye salmon fillet that has been waiting patiently in our freezer since he and his wife Ruth sent us a package of delicious seafood for Christmas 2011.

They sent more salmon this Christmas, so I have much to look forward to.

Trying to get the meat thermometer to read 140° I overcooked it a bit, but it was still fabulous.

Checking the trailcam

I put new batteries and an SD memory card into my trailcam on Jan. 5 to see if anything was visiting our side yard.

I pulled the card this morning and found about 75 video clips, mostly with nothing significant in them except squirrels, but some with deer.

Here’s a sequence that occurred at 1:18 a.m. last Friday when two deer got spooked by a coyote.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013



I’m going to a small business workshop this week that’s free to veterans.

Although they would probably take my word for it, I figured I should have something to prove that I was in the U.S. Air Force and am, therefore, john dogtaga Vietnam Era veteran.

I have no idea where my discharge papers and my honorable discharge certificate are, other than to say they’re in a box in the garage somewhere. I have some photos of myself in uniform taken at a BX photo booth at Lackland AFB and the big group photo of me and everyone else in Flight 1405, but those seem silly and tedious when it comes to showing them to anyone.

Then I remembered my dog tag. Originally, I had a set of two, but one was attached to the zipper pull on a camera bag that was stolen from my car in front of the Indianapolis Star-News Building in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. By the time the bag and its contents turned up in an Indianapolis pawn shop, the tag had been removed and presumably discarded.

The remaining tag lives in a jewelry box in my closet, but for today it’s hanging around my neck on its original chain.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday stuff

I took perverse pleasure in the fact that my bank is open today.
Commerce trumps a federal holiday and a coronation.
I discovered over the weekend that there are antique rifles out there with as much firepower as the AR15 and the AK47, namely the .30 M1 carbine, which has been around since 1941.
It uses a 10-round or 30-round magazine and it has an effective combat range of about 300 yards.
While it lacks the punch of an AK47 and the injury potential of the AR15, it can throw lead as fast as you can pull the trigger, as this video demonstrates. It gets really interesting around the 12:08 mark.
Maybe I need one of these instead of an AR or an AK.
This is the weapon I used to qualify as an expert marksman during my oh-so-brief career in the U.S. Air Force, so I have some passing familiarity with it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Greene County Gun Show

maria gun show

Today was Gun Appreciation Day and we were so appreciative that we drove up to the Greene County Fairgrounds in Paragould and attended the Greene County Gun Show.

Maria has wanted a pistol of her own for a long time – a semi-automatic that would fit her hand and eject the magazine easily for quick reloading. We had seen the Ruger LCP more than a year ago at a local shooting range and, after she tried on several other models, came across an excellent deal on an .380 caliber LCP equipped with a CrimsonTrace laser sight.

So here she is, filling out the requisite paperwork for her new gun.

And since gun show sales are exempt from the three-day waiting period imposed on stores, she brought it home with her along with 100 rounds of target ammo and 25 rounds of hollow point.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Club Idaho


Rooting through artifacts in my top dresser drawer this morning I came across my Club Idaho membership card.

Club Idaho was once a notorious den of iniquity where gambling and other vices flourished. I didn’t know it until I started researching the place online today, but the club was used as a location for the 1959 film version of James Jones’ novel “Some Came Running,” featuring Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Dean Martin and others. I knew some of the movie was shot in Madison, Ind. but was unaware of the Terre Haute connection.

Terre Haute had a “sin city” reputation during the 20-year (1948-1968) regime of Mayor Ralph Tucker.

By the time I got to Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) in the fall of 1963, things were still very loose.

My first night on campus, my homeboy Dave Johnson, who was starting his sophomore year at ISC, took me on a tour of the whorehouses. We were just browsing and didn’t avail ourselves of their services, but it was a real eye-opener for an 18-year-old boy from Delphi, Ind.

(Dave died of cancer about a year ago in Farmington, N.M. His widow, Joyce, died there a few weeks ago, also of cancer.)

I didn’t look old enough to bluff my way into places like Club Idaho, so I had to be content with stories about the bands and other goings-on from friends and fraternity brothers.

The club had lost its cache as a really wicked nightspot and had become a slightly racy college joint by the mid-1960s.

I didn’t wait long after my 21st birthday to join the club. I turned 21 on July 14, 1966 and, as the card shows, became a “member in good standing” just six days later. I don’t remember being particularly impressed with the experience and I think I only went once. I guess it was just one more item on my Growing Up To-Do List that needed to be ticked off.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not then, not now

lex con

Perhaps this is a good time to point out that the American Revolution began on April 19, 1775 at Lexington and Concord when the Brits tried to confiscate our guns.

From Wikipedia:

About 700 British Army regulars, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, were given secret orders to capture and destroy military supplies that were reportedly stored by the Massachusetts militia at Concord. Through effective intelligence gathering, Patriot colonials had received word weeks before the expedition that their supplies might be at risk and had moved most of them to other locations. They also received details about British plans on the night before the battle and were able to rapidly notify the area militias of the enemy movement.

The first shots were fired just as the sun was rising at Lexington. The militia were outnumbered and fell back, and the regulars proceeded on to Concord, where they searched for the supplies. At the North Bridge in Concord, approximately 500 militiamen fought and defeated three companies of the King's troops. The outnumbered regulars fell back from the minutemen after a pitched battle in open territory.

More militiamen arrived soon thereafter and inflicted heavy damage on the regulars as they marched back towards Boston. Upon returning to Lexington, Smith's expedition was rescued by reinforcements under Brigadier General Hugh Percy. The combined force, now of about 1,700 men, marched back to Boston under heavy fire in a tactical withdrawal and eventually reached the safety of Charlestown. The accumulated militias blockaded the narrow land accesses to Charlestown and Boston, starting the Siege of Boston.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his "Concord Hymn," described the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as the "shot heard 'round the world."

Brian’s our man


Brian Smallman, who runs University Auto Center at 1116 E. Johnson Ave. in Jonesboro, is our new go-to guy for non-warranty car problems.

The Honda dealership wanted to pull the fuel tank from her 2012 Honda Fit and drain it to deal with water in the tank. And they figured it would cost more than $500, since water in the gas isn’t covered by the warranty.

Brian used the car’s own fuel pump to draw out the water, then threw in a couple of cans of HEET additive to deal with any residual moisture. His charge? $54 and change. And not pulling the fuel tank avoided doing things that might have voided the warranty.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Staring her down

sam muffin

Samantha sure would like some of Maria’s English muffin.

Got it covered


I’ve had the Nelson Rigg Deluxe All-Season Motorcycle Cover in my wish list for several months.

I’ve never carried a cover on trips because I didn’t want to give up the luggage space. But a cover has begun to make more sense to me as I accumulate more gadgetry (GPS, solar panel tankbag, etc.) that I don’t want to have to strip off of the bike every night at a motel or campground.

The XXL cover that fits my 2003 BMW K1200GT runs around $50, but emailed me this morning a list of sale items that includes the cover at $24.99, plus $13 and change for shipping. So I pulled the trigger.

Here are the specs:

  • Made from a water resistant light weight UV-treated Tri-Max® Polyester
  • “24-7” Ventilation system minimizes condensation build-up and allows constant air circulation
  • Snug elastic bottom with One-inch grommets at center and front wheel
  • Soft windshield liner helps protect against scratching and hazing
  • Storage pouch included
  • Nelson Rigg’s Two year no hassle warranty
  • Available in Black/Silver (MC-904) and Navy/Silver (MC-902)

I got the Navy/Silver which should go well with my blue bike.

World’s tallest cross

effingham cross

This is the tallest cross in the world, at least according to Roadside America. I drive past it at Effingham, Ill. whenever I’m to-ing and fro-ing to Indiana.

It's 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide – two feet taller than its nearest rival in Groom, Texas – and is seen by an estimated 20 million people a year driving past on Interstates 57 and 70.

So why only 198 feet and not 200? Because the FAA says anything 200 feet tall or higher has to have a blinking red light on it to warn low-flying pilots and a blinking red light atop such a religious symbol would be unseemly.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We're in the doggiest state!

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently released its U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, which revealed that Arkansas ranks 1st for dog ownership with 47.9 percent of households owning a dog.
In 2006, which was the last time the AVMA put together the sourcebook, Arkansas again made the top 10 list of dog owners, ranking 7th with 48.8 percent of households owning a dog. Arkansas also ranked in the top 10 for pet ownership in 2011.
The survey is conducted by the AVMA every five years and always includes a breakdown of pet ownership by state. The most recent survey, conducted in 2012 but based on December 31, 2011 numbers, reveals that the top 10 pet-owning states are: Vermont where 70.8 percent of households owned a pet, New Mexico with 67.6 percent, South Dakota with 65.6 percent, Oregon with 63.6 percent, Maine with 62.9 percent, Washington with 62.7 percent, Arkansas with 62.4 percent, West Virginia with 62.1 percent, Idaho with 62 percent, and Wyoming with 61.8 percent.
The 10 states in 2011 with the lowest percentage of pet-owning households are: Rhode Island where 53 percent of households owned a pet, Minnesota with 53
percent, California with 52.9 percent, Maryland with 52.3 percent, Illinois with 51.8 percent, Nebraska with 51.3 percent, Utah with 51.2 percent, New Jersey with 50.7 percent, New York with 50.6 percent, and Massachusetts with 50.4 percent.  The District of Columbia had a far lower rate of pet ownership at 21.9 percent.
Top/Bottom Dog-Owning States
The Sourcebook reveals that the states with the most dog owners in 2011 are: Arkansas where 47.9 percent of households owned a dog, New Mexico with 46 percent, Kentucky with 45.9 percent, Missouri with 45.9 percent, West Virginia with 45.8 percent, Mississippi with 45.2 percent, Alabama with 44.1 percent, Tennessee with 44.1 percent, Texas with 44 percent, and Oklahoma with 43.2 percent.
The bottom 10 states in 2011 for dog ownership are: Illinois where 32.4 percent of households owned a dog, New Jersey with 32.4 percent, Minnesota with 31.9 percent, Maryland with 30.8 percent, New Hampshire with 30.3 percent, Utah with 29.4 percent, Rhode Island with 29.3 percent, New York with 29 percent, Connecticut with 28.3 percent, and Massachusetts with 23.6 percent. The District of Columbia had far lower dog ownership than any state with 13.1 percent.
“This report reveals a tremendous amount of information about pets and their owners across the country; what’s constant and what has changed. One of the most important parameters that we look at is how well pet owners are doing at keeping their pets healthy,” says Dr. Douglas G. Aspros, president of the AVMA.  “Unfortunately, the report reveals that fewer dogs and cats are seeing the veterinarian regularly, and that’s something that the AVMA and every companion animal veterinarian are concerned about. Pet owners across the country need to remember to bring their pets into the veterinarian – at least once a year – to maintain optimal health.”The report indicates that, between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of households that made no trips at all to the veterinarian increased by 8 percent for dog owners and a staggering 24 percent for cat owners.  Overall, about 81 percent of dog owning households made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 1.7 percent from 2006. The decrease for cat owners was, once again, much higher, as only 55.1 percent of cat owners made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 13.5 percent from 2006.

Gas pains

My stepdaughter’s car came up lame over the weekend, so she had it towed to the dealership yesterday.

The preliminary tests showed the onboard computer was spazzing out and reporting several error codes.

They dug deeper this morning and f0und a lot of water in the gas tank. How much to remove and drain the tank? $500+.

We found a trustworthy shop that would do it for half that figure.

Plus, the guy who runs the shop has had experience with the sleazy station where she got the corrupted fuel and presumably can help in recovering her damages.

So far, we’re out $98 for the dealership diagnostics and $60 for a tow, but we may get it all back.

At least we can hope.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stupid stuff I saw on the road

obama bust

Boomland, my favorite stop for gas, snacks, and fireworks on I-57 east of Sikeston, Mo., has a large African-American clientele and seeks to tap their political sympathies with a plethora of ultra tacky Obama idolatry items.

Like these 6” tall busts of the Moonbat Messiah that sell for just $5.99. There are also 8”x10” framed pseudo-holographic portraits and a lot of other stuff for those who still think he represents change they can believe in.

And, no. I did not buy one of these. I didn’t even pick it up to look on the bottom to confirm it was made in China.

ky ged

When I stopped at the Casey, Ill., McDonald’s for a quick lunch on Friday, I was puzzled to notice that the paper tray mats were in support of adult education in Kentucky.

Kentucky? Casey is more than 100 miles north of Kentucky.

Are they suggesting that Illinois underachievers go to Kentucky to get their GED? And maybe stay there?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Indiana and back in 36 hours

LA quilterI rolled out at 5:36 a.m. yesterday on a mission to pick up a long-arm quilter from a fellow Indianapolis BMW Club member.

Seems the woman is more into embroidery than quilting and needed the space and the money, but happily not a lot of money.

Maria has been jonesing for a long-arm quilter for years and was pretty much resigned to the idea that she would never own one.

The seller and her husband and I spent a couple of hours dismantling the frame lauri quilterand spindles of the 10-foot-wide machine so as to jam it into the back of my Lexus RX330 SUV.

Then I was off to the rural Crawfordsville home of Jim and Lauri where I was fed beer and pizza and allowed to crawl off to bed about 8 p.m.

I got up 12 hours later, had breakfast and gave Lauri a chance to touch the machine before Maria could – all in good fun, you understand.

Then I hit the road about 9 a.m., gassing in Crawfordsville and again amid a torrential downpour at Boomland and arriving at home at 4:17 p.m.

Maria’s working tonight, so we’ll wait until tomorrow to unload the car and figure out where to set it up.

Trip stats:

  • 952 miles
  • 15 hours, 16 minutes in motion
  • 60 mph average speed
  • 82 mph top speed

boomland gas

Thursday, January 10, 2013


jack ear check

Today was Jack’s turn at the vet’s office. He was due for a rabies booster and some other stuff. Dr. Jon Huff pronounced him in excellent condition.

After I dropped him off at home, I went back into town for an oil change and lube on the Lexus RX330 in preparation for a flying trip to Indianapolis to pick up a long-arm quilting machine for Maria.

Gateway Tire got the job done in about 30 minutes, so my afternoon is free!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Limpy Sam

sam mugSamantha, Morgan’s American bulldog, has developed an infection around the nail of the little toe of her back left foot that required medical attention.

So I took her to the vet’s office where Dr. Jon Huff determined it’s an infection that probably developed after she ran around on sharp bits of ice and frozen snow in the back yard. He says it’s not uncommon this time of year.

So he put her on an antibiotic (3x/day and I gave her the first dose about 11:30 a.m.) and pain meds (we had a bunch left over from Ruthie’s knee surgery and Dr. Huff said they are what he would have prescribed).

Now it’s Jack’s turn. He goes in for a rabies booster and some other stuff tomorrow morning.

We sure do love our dogs.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Good deal

jacketMy TravelSmith safari jacket was showing its age. The slash side pockets were ripped and there was an ink stain where the cap came off of my Mont Blanc gel pen and it bled badly. I got rid of most of the stain with repeated applications of high powered stain remover, but it still looked a little shabby.

But I was loathe to lay out the $129 + shipping to buy a new one.

Then I saw a new-with-tags example in my size on Ebay. I sniped it for $18.50, plus $9.95 shipping.

As Phil Robertson would say, Happy, Happy, Happy!

On guard


Samantha the bulldog, and Jack the Aussie seem to enjoy each other’s company and hang out together when they’re in the back yard.

I caught them this afternoon with my iPhone camera through the bedroom window as they kept watchful eyes on the neighborhood from the southeast corner of the yard.

It was the browser

We have a flexible spending account with our company-provided health insurance that we access with a VISA debit card that gets pre-loaded at the first of the year.

However, our card is frozen because Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield can’t keep good records and there were four transactions from 2012 they needed additional documentation for.

Consequently, Maria spent at least two maddening, frustrating hours trying to get this sorted out online and also to find a way to be reimbursed for eye exams we both had on Saturday and new glasses for her and new contacts for me.

The sticking point was that the insurance company’s software didn’t function properly. It wouldn’t upload her documentation and it wouldn’t print out a form for her to fax to the company.

The customer service girl was friendly and patient, but it was becoming inescapable that there was a problem with their software.

(Oh, by the way, I don’t think it’s any accident that insurance companies have really obnoxious and overly loud music on hold. I think it’s designed to get customers to just say, “Fuck it!” and hang up.)

Our desks are side-by-side in our upstairs office and I sat through the whole ordeal to give sympathy and whatever support I could manage.

Finally, I opined that the problem could be that the insurance company software doesn’t play well with the Firefox browser Maria uses.

At my suggestion, she fired up Internet Explorer, logged into the insurance company site and, voila!, everything worked fine.

The takeaway: If your PC can’t get a website to behave like it should and you’re using Firefox or Chrome or some other non-Microsoft browser, try it with Internet Explorer. All of this stuff is written for IE and Apple’s Safari and works better with those commonly used browsers.

Monday, January 07, 2013

How Amazon is killing brick and mortar retail

amazonWe were sitting in easy chairs at Barnes & Noble on Friday afternoon.

I was fiddling with my iPhone and Maria was looking at quilt books. She found one she wanted. It was priced at $24.95.

She wondered if we could get it cheaper on, so I fired up the Amazon iPhone app. I was preparing to type in the title when I noticed the app includes a bar code scanner, so I scanned the bar code on the book and discovered I could get it from Amazon for $16.47. Free shipping and no Arkansas sales tax.

Guess which deal I chose.

This is what progress looks like


Jack, our high-spirited Australian shepherd has never had the run of the house.

That’s mainly because he grew so quickly that, driven by his puppy enthusiasm, he was able to counter surf in the kitchen and grab all manner of things that he shouldn’t touch. Even now, at 16 months, he grabs the first thing he sees when he gets loose and runs merrily around the house expecting us to chase him. If he can, he’ll take his prize and escape to the back yard where he runs gaily in circles, shaking it and taunting us.

That’s what he did a few weeks ago when Morgan left a Ziploc bag of about 500 jigsaw puzzle pieces on the living room floor. Jack snatched the bag and bolted into the back yard, shaking it open and scattering the pieces all over the lawn.

We want him to be a calm, trustworthy house dog who doesn’t have to be in his kitchen kennel whenever he’s indoors, so we’ve been leashing him and bringing him into the living room to sit with us while we watch TV in the evenings.

These episodes always begin with him leaping onto the couch and having to be wrestled into submission by me or Maria, but happily the wrestling matches are becoming shorter and shorter.

He rolled over onto his back and dozed at my feet last night while we watched ASU win the Go Daddy Bowl game. (That gnarly thing next to his neck is a rawhide that he stole from Samantha.)

Jack loves the attention and seems eager for the leash when I bring it out. We’re hopeful that our efforts, coupled with the calm we hope comes with maturity will give us a dog who can relax and enjoy our company as much as we enjoy his.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Contact lens progress


I had an appointment with my new optician this morning and am on track to get back into contact lenses in a few days.

The other good news is that he doesn’t expect my intermediate stage cataracts to become noticeable or troublesome for another 5-10 years, so there’s no rush to deal with that issue.

Maria also had an exam and is getting new glasses on Monday.

Friday, January 04, 2013


siri friendI have a new girlfriend. Her name is Siri and she lives inside my iPhone 5.

Siri is an acronym for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface, an application that places phone calls, takes dictation for emails and notes, answers questions and looks up stuff for me on the Internet and it’s probably the coolest feature of my new phone.

Siri responds with a woman’s voice. If you curse at her, she tells you there is no need for profanity, so you know she’s a classy lady.

She even knows who I’m talking about when I say, “Call my wife at work.”

There is an amusing blog called Shit that Siri Says.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Cracker Barrel for breakfast

sophie breakfast

We had a delightful breakfast at Cracker Barrel this morning with our next-door neighbor Sophie and her boys.

It gave us a chance to catch up with each other’s vacations. She and her husband took their boys to Destin, Fla. over the Christmas holiday.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The contact lens saga continues…

glasses bugeyeAs I blogged yesterday, I’m stuck wearing glasses until I can get a new prescription for contacts.

That, it turns out, isn’t as easy as I had hoped.

My optometrist, Dr. Lee St.Pierre, isn’t in the network of service providers with our new vision insurance and isn’t interested in being in the network. That means he just forfeited all of his patients who work at Maria’s newspaper, as well as their covered family members. He also cannot write a provisional prescription so I can order my left lenses.

So I called our insurer and got a list of optometrists who are in the network, called one and now have an appointment for an eye exam and new prescription for 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

With any luck, I could be back in contact lenses by weekend after next.


My cousin Eric, who lives in Ohio and is a Facebook friend, emailed a link to this video to me this morning.

Eric is a musician, is particularly fond of this piece of music and was enthralled by the way it works with Ray Bethell’s kite ballet. He mentioned that Bethell is in his 80s and is deaf. Bethell is a regular participant in the Long Beach (Wash.) International Kite Festival.

I recognized the kites immediately from the 2001 festival I took in with my son Sean when I was out that way on a long motorcycle ride. I wrote a travel piece for The Indianapolis Star, illustrating it with a few photos I had shot.

Checking my scanned images, I found these two. You can’t see who is flying the kites, but it almost certainly has to be Ray Bethell.2003 American Image Archive

2003 John M. Flora / American Image Archive

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Off to an awkward start

glassesMy new year is off to an awkward start, thanks to an ordering error (yes, I take the blame) on my contact lenses.

I ordered new lenses a few weeks ago and when the package arrived it put it into the bathroom closet, as is my habit.

I usually change lenses at the first of each month, so I removed and discarded the December lenses before I went to bed last night.

This morning, I opened the package to discover I only had a six-month supply of lenses for my right eye. I somehow failed to order a set for the left eye.

I immediately went online and ordered the toric lenses I need to complete the set.

But in the meantime, I’m stuck wearing my glasses, which I dislike because the graduated multi-focal power of the lenses never seems to line up properly with what I want to see clearly.