Saturday, November 30, 2013

2014 Boscos Mug Club mug

Got it today.

Not sure this is progress


Cruising the aisles of our local Dollar General the other day, I noticed these pocket calculators selling for $1 and $2.

The first calculator I can remember seeing was a too-big-for-a-pocket Texas Instruments scientific calculator that my brother-in-law bought for about $500 while he was studying architecture at Purdue University.

That was in 1972. Adjusting for inflation, that amounts to $2,793.61 in today’s dollars. You see, one 2013 dollar has the purchasing power of 18 cents in 1972 currency.

I’m not sure what to be surprised about – what’s happened to the price of calculators or what’s happened to the value of our money. Four hundred percent inflation? WTF?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving thanks


I’m thankful this Thanksgiving Day for my parents, Charles and Eileen Flora.

The more I learn about other people’s experiences growing up with hideously dysfunctional families, the more I appreciate what my parents gave me.

My dad enjoyed a beer or two but I can never recall seeing him drunk. Both of my parents were smokers during the 18 years I lived with them, but then so was almost everyone else. To their credit, both of them quit smoking in their 50s.

We weren’t wealthy, but we were comfortable. My childhood in the 1950s was straight out of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and “Leave it to Beaver.”

My dad was an independent insurance agent, Realtor, and expert farm appraiser. He was a founding member of the Delphi (Ind.) Chamber of Commerce and served on the Delphi-Deer Creek Consolidated School Board and was board president during the construction of a new high school in the early 1970s. He also served as a deacon and an elder in the Delphi First Presbyterian Church. That said, he was a very modest and self-effacing guy who never sought the spotlight.

My mother was a registered nurse, but she was a stay-at-home mom from the time I was born until I was well into grade school. Then she worked as nurse for Dr. George Wagoner – a job that meant she got lots of calls at home in the evenings and on weekends when patients had problems that they didn’t want to bother Doc Wagoner with.

Being an only child, I got all of my parents’ attention and support.

They were honest, moral, hard-working Americans and whatever good I’ve done in my life, I owe to them and their example.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The end of a 19-year automotive relationship


I said farewell to my 1994 Honda del Sol at 6:40 a.m. today.

My brother-in-law Kerstan bought it and is somewhere in the Missouri bootheel by now, on his way back to Indiana with my car and his son Isaac and daughter Sarah.

With more than 225,000 miles on the odometer, the del Sol still handles like new and has lots of years and miles left in her.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kerstan fells a tree, buys a car


My brother-in-law Kerstan drove down from Indiana yesterday with son Isaac and daughter Sarah to buy my 1994 Honda del Sol.

Since Kerstan has had a tree service for several years, I asked for pointers in cutting down a dead tree along our driveway. The next thing I knew, he was firing up my 16” Poulan chainsaw and making quick work of the aforementioned tree.

delsold02I’m a little sad to see the del Sol go, but it gave me more than 225,000 miles of fun and is going to a very good home.


And, he paid cash which is a welcome addition to our household economy. It will also be nice to have one more space available in the driveway.

Kerstan is excited about getting to drive the little hardtop convertible next spring, or maybe sooner if the weather allows. Whoever ends up with it in his family will have some serious fun.

I mentioned to him that although the Sirius XM radio is not activated at present, Sirius XM is running a promotion – temporarily activating all unactivated radios for free through Dec. 2.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday morning mocha cappuccino and stuff

jrcupIt’s coming up on 9 a.m. and I’m finally getting to enjoy my mocha cappuccino, served this morning in a 2007 Crawfordsville Journal Review cup.

Funny, I never noticed the date on it until I shot this photo.

We’re experiencing a changing of the dogs this weekend. Morgan is going on vacation and we promised to take Samantha J. Bulldog while she is gone. She brought Sam over earlier this week and Sam and Liese took an instant disliking to each other that was so extreme that we separated them immediately and had to re-think our dog-sitting arrangements.

We conferred with Liese’s parents, Deb and Charlie, and concluded the best course is to board Liese with our mutually shared vet until Deb and Charlie come home from his medical treatments in Little Rock on Tuesday.

Consequently, I loaded Liese, her blanket and a Kong into the Lexus at 7:30 a.m. today and delivered her to the vet’s office/kennels.

I had all three dogs in the house last night while Maria did homework in the upstairs office. I was dozing on the couch when she woke me about 10:30 to announce that Dora had dropped more than a half-dozen semi-solid doglogs onto the office carpet about 10 feet behind Maria’s back. I guess Maria didn’t realize anything was amiss until the smell hit her.

She did the initial cleanup, but there were still stains on the rug, so I loaded the Bissell carpet shampooer with water and soap, hauled it up the stairs and scrubbed away the poop stains. It’s the first time any part of the office carpet has been cleaned since we installed it six years ago, so I now have motivation to do the rest of it sometime soon.

That said, I continue to be impressed with the Bissell ProHeat 2X machine. It was an excellent investment and has lifted more pet stains than I can count.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter is back!

leinenkugelsnowdriftvanillaporterI discovered Leinenkugel’s winter beer – Snowdrift Vanilla Porter – about this time last year when we were in Indiana.

Being a seasonal brew, it was only available through January. I checked the Leinenkugel web site this week and noticed they are only making it in November and December, so I needed to move quickly if I wanted to enjoy it again this year.

I’ve been checking at the Party Store up on the county line, but all they have is Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest and Orange Shandy. They don’t stock Snowdrift Vanilla Porter at the Hilltop or Holiday liquor stores in Paragould, so I phoned Mr. T’s Riverside, just across the St. Francis river in Cardwell, Mo.


They had plenty, so I hauled ass over to Mr. T’s this afternoon and bought a case.

Most of the online beer snobs aren’t impressed with it, but I think it’s the mellowest, smoothest porter I’ve had.

So there.

It was history in the making and I was there

JFKI was a freshman at what was then Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) 50 years ago today.

I’d just had lunch in the Gillum-Sandison Hall dining room when I walked into the Gillum lounge and found a crowd of guys glued to the black-and-white console TV.

The news from Dallas was grim and we learned minutes later that President John F. Kennedy was dead.

I was a Kennedy Democrat at the time and thought of JFK as my president. So the news of his death was like a body blow.

Nobody knew what to do or say. Classes were cancelled and we all just wandered around like – well, to use an overworked word – zombies. The local rock and roll station, WBOW played funereal music all evening.

I ended up driving to Washington, D.C. with five other students. We drove all night and crashed at the University of Maryland Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity house. We were somewhere in Maryland, approaching Washington, when we learned Jack Ruby had gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald. Reed McCormick, whose parents’ car we used, was an ATO active and I was a couple of weeks away from becoming an ATO pledge at the time, which got out couch space in the ATO house lounge.

We stood in a chilly line all the next night to file past the casket in the Capitol Rotunda and stood along the funeral procession route the next morning. It was a surreal experience. I had a cheap little box camera with me and got a few shots of the funeral procession, including the caisson and the horse Black Jack, with the boots backward in the stirrups.

That's me on the left, then Reed McCormick and then Steve Dolbow. Reed died of a heart attack in his Arizona home a year ago last April. Steve lives across Chesapeake Bay from the Capital in Easton, Md.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trying a new job on for size


I spent a good chunk of today learning about how pilot car drivers escort trucks with oversize loads on Arkansas highways.

It was the first step in a training process aimed at turning me into an escort driver, if I decide I want to continue.

I was up at 4:30 a.m., packed an overnight bag in case this turned into a two-day excursion, and drove down to one of the pilot car company owner’s house south of town.

We drove from there to West Memphis with another of his drivers in a second pickup truck where we got rear tires for the other guy’s truck.

From there we hooked up with a woman who also works for the company and our three vehicles continued to a truck lot near the Memphis Airport on the southside of the city. The two other drivers were introduced to a trucker hauling a huge piece of earth-moving equipment and after conferring about the route, set off to escort him to Davenport, Iowa.

Our load and truck driver were waiting for us at the westbound I-40 weigh station in West Memphis. He was hauling enormous dump truck tires that made for a 14-foot-wide load.

He was bound for Texas, but only needed our services as far as Little Rock because state authorities had routed him onto two-lane roads in a couple of places to avoid construction on the Interstate.

My mentor gave me a crash course in keeping the trucker advised of choke points and other tight spots on the two-lane by running out in front of him a couple of hundred yards and how to run interference for him from behind on the Interstate. It’s a job that takes a lot of focus and awareness, but I think I was catching on.

He cut us loose east of Little Rock after 129 miles because the rest of his trip in Arkansas would be in Interstates where no pilot car escort was required.

We drove home in rain – very heavy at times – and I made it to Panera by about 2:30 p.m. to check out the offerings on the Amazon Vine Program site. The pickings were slim and I ended up requesting a package of Cascade dishwasher soap. Maybe I can do better next week.

Do I want to be an escort driver? Maybe. It’s intimidating and the stakes are pretty high if you screw up. I’m open to learning more before I make a decision. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book review

edgeofthemapI just finished reading the Kindle version of “Riding off the Edge of the Map,” mostly because somebody on the BMW MOA  Facebook page mentioned that it could be downloaded for free.

What the hell? I like a good ride story and David Bryen’s account of a ride into Mexico’s Copper Canyon region sounded promising.

We all bring our own life experiences to books like this and I came to it as a 68-year-old retired newspaperman who has been riding motorcycles about 35 years. I have more than 300,000 miles in my mirrors – almost all of them on BMW motorcycles. I was a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor for 10 years, from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s and taught more than 1,000 students the basics of riding a motorcycle. I was among the first examiners when Indiana instituted skills testing as a part of motorcycle licensing. I also went through the Northern Illinois University Trail Riding Course in the 1980s. I took it twice – once with each of my sons – and would have bought us all trail bikes if there had been any public land open to off-road bikes in Indiana at the time.

So I came to Bryen’s book with a fair amount of knowledge on the subject of motorcycling and dirt riding.

At the time of his trip, Bryen was a 62-year-old psychotherapist from the Pacific Northwest who had also been an MSF instructor. He and his wife had just moved into a new home in Mexico and he was keen to visit the beautiful and rugged Copper Canyon region on his 650cc Suzuki V Strom. I have friends who rode BMW GS (dual sport) bikes for years and recently defected to V Stroms, so I supposed his choice of bike for the trip was within reason. His riding companions were a neighbor named Jake – a biker lifestyle expatriate from California who rode “a $20,000 BMW” which I guessed to be an R1200GS. Jake’s friend Tom, who flew down from Alberta, had an “$11,000” BMW that was probably an older GS, but I can only guess because Bryen doesn’t tell us what the models were.

Jake is a “ride anywhere” guy, but Tom, also 62, has a hip replacement and vows not to ride in the dirt for fear of crashing and destroying his hip. Likewise, Bryen is keen to avoid gravel or dirt.

If you know anything about riding in Mexico, especially rural Mexico, you just saw some red flags go up.

It appears they did little or no research or preparation and headed out with just a hand-drawn not-to-scale map some guy gave them. There are several companies that run motorcycle tours into Copper Canyon and you can get a pretty good idea about roads and equipment and riding styles by watching the videos on their web sites. Bryen and his friends might have found those videos to be highly instructive.

Instead, they quickly got in over their heads, falling repeatedly on the rutted and boulder strewn tracks that pass for roads on their map. Bryen crashed hard on the second day in the canyon, breaking at least one rib and disabling his bike. He managed to hitch a ride in a passing pickup truck that hauled him and his bike to the next village while Tom and Jake continued on their bikes.

Bryen decided he was done and caught a flight out the next day, leaving his Suzuki in the yard of a local who claimed to be a mechanic. Tom and Jake left town about the same time, but Tom crashed hard a few miles down the road and limped back to town where he gave his bike to a local cop in exchange for a ride back to civilization. Jake soldiered on, completing his ride of the canyon and then riding to Alaska before he came home to Mexico.

There is a newspaper copy editor’s prayer that goes, “Lord, save me from the things I think I know.”

Bryen, in his naiveté, could have used that prayer.

The story of ride – actually just two days of riding hell and the rest was escape and aftermath – is disturbing enough, but being a psychotherapist, Bryen fleshes it out with his internal dialogue and life history in agonizing detail.

Judging from the reviews on, most readers are okay with his inner journey. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t find it particularly interesting. I just don’t have a lot of patience when I feel somebody is overthinking everything.

That said, the book held my interest and I finished it in three or four sittings, so I guess the philosophizing  wasn’t all that off-putting.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Saying goodbye to my ‘94 Honda del Sol. What a fun car it was!


My beloved 1994 Honda del Sol and I are parting company after 19 years and more than 225,000 miles.

It was a sweet little car – a hardtop convertible two-seater with spectacular handling and a killer sound system.

I bought it new in ‘94 from the former Dan Young Honda on East 96th Street in Indianapolis and enjoyed every mile since.

It was remarkably low-maintenance. I had the transmission rebuilt around 60,000 miles, replaced a couple of mufflers under warranty and put a new radiator in a couple of years ago. I put in a new battery last spring, but haven’t driven it since and am putting a charge into the battery this morning. Other than that, it’s been mostly just oil changes and new tires.

It’s taken my son Steve and me to the Colorado high country, Maria and me to Florida once and me to Florida solo and I once drove it to Long Island and to eastern Pennsylvania.

The del Sol is heading back to Indiana where I hope it will be appreciated as much as it was while in my care.

Semper Fi, Fred Ropkey


Fred Ropkey died Nov. 7 after a long struggle with cancer. He was 84.

Fred’s amazing collection of armored vehicles and other militaria constituted the Ropkey Armor Museum east of Crawfordsville, Ind.

I first met Fred in the late 1980s when he still lived on the northwestside of Indianapolis. I shot this photo of him on the tank he made available for the 1984 James Garner film “Tank” for a story in The Indianapolis News. (Garner’s autograph in on the inside of the turret.)

After I retired and moved to Boone County, I was pleased to note that Fred had moved his home and collection to a farm just north of Ind. 32 and east of its interchange with I-74, not far from our Thorntown home.

fred ropkeyI dropped in to photograph Fred and some of his collection for the Crawfordsville Journal Review in March, 2007 and he graciously gave me a tour of his collection and his beautiful renovated house.

The last time I saw Fred was Aug. 27, 2009 when I was in Indiana with Charlie Parsons for the Indianapolis MotoGP. Fred welcomed us, turned us loose in his museum and went off to cut firewood.

He was a friend to thousands of veterans and was one of the few people in Crawfordsville who knew that Crawfordsville native Phil Ward was one of the Marines who raised the first American flag on the summit of Mt. Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. I helped publicize Ward’s achievement in the Journal Review in the days following Ward’s death just after Christmas, 2005.

His wife Lani said she will keep the museum going in Fred’s memory, but would welcome financial assistance.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It’s like finger painting, only with muddy paws


It rained heavily the other night and the result was muddy dog paws all around.

Jack and Liese are tall enough to peer through the back door window and here’s the proof.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hiding a favorite dog toy

dishwasher bone

We have a couple of knobby bone-shaped dog toys that our houseguest Weimaraner Liese really really likes.

She likes them so much that she has gotten into snarling barking clashes with Jack over them and has taken to hiding them. I found one next to the toilet in the guest bathroom a day or two ago.

I opened the dishwasher to load some dirty dishes this morning and found this (see pic).

Just to be sure, I asked Maria if she put the dog toy into the dishwasher. She laughed knowingly.

Jack isn’t interested in hiding stuff and Dora, while she hides her food bowl under a towel when she thinks another dog will eat what’s in it, lacks the strength and agility to open or close the dishwasher door.

Dogs never stop amazing me.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I think I just extended my riding season…


What’s the point of this photo of me and my 1991 BMW K100RS at the summit of Beartooth Pass in Montana?

Well, bear with me…

If you’re a diligent follower of this blog, you may recall that my ride to and from Daytona Beach Bike Week last March was much colder than I intended because the accessory circuit on my 2003 K1200GT couldn’t handle my Garmin Zumo GPS and my Gerbings heated jacket liner and gloves without blowing a fuse. Consequently, I was forced to bundle up and make do.

When I took my bike in for service last spring, I had the guys at Grassroots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo., install a Gerbings connector wired directly to the battery.

The temperature this morning is in the low 50s, so I decided to test the connector. With St. Anthony’s assistance, I found my new (bought three years ago in Redmond, Ore.) Gerbings controller and hooked everything up to my aging Firstgear TKO jacket (seen in the photo above) with Gerbings-wired liner.

It worked like a champ and kept me warm to and from the post office. I recall that I was able to ride in temperatures in the 30s in Indiana with the wired TKO liner, so the next step is to test it with the separate Gerbings liner that in bought in the mid-1990s – maybe under my German polizei jacket.

Here’s the story I wrote for RoadBike magazine, which explains the Beartooth Pass photo:

So there we were, weaving up past the tree line on Montana’s Beartooth Pass in the crisp morning air.

My riding companions looked like clones of the Michelin man, bulked up with every sweater and extra Henley they could scrounge from their saddlebags. One guy even had his rainsuit on in an effort to put another layer between his skin and the cold mountain air. I, on the other hand, wore only a T-shirt under my Firstgear TKO jacket and liner. Yet, I was perfectly comfortable. Toasty warm, even.

As we neared the summit, riding between shoulder-high, stark white snow banks, my gloved left hand found the little black knob peeking out of my tank bag and gave it a quarter-turn clockwise. In a moment, I felt a new wave of welcome heat spread out across my back and engulf my arms. “Ahhhh, that’s better!” I thought, turning my attention to the next switchback.

You see, I hate being cold. But I also hate giving up valuable space in my saddlebags to bulky sweaters, fleece layers, or other extra garments that I’ll only need when it gets really brisk. When I bought my Firstgear jacket a few years ago, I found the ideal solution with the help of the folks at Gerbing’s Heated Clothing.

Most of us are familiar with Gerbing’s popular line of heated jackets, pants, full-body suits, clothing liners, socks, and gloves. But did you know that Gerbing also will wire the removable liner of your favorite jacket?

“We don’t promote it,” said Bob Gerbing, discussing the custom wiring offered by the company. “But we gladly do it.”

The company charges $169 to wire your jacket liner, and there’s no extra charge for a pull-up mandarin collar. If you like, they’ll include plugs in the wrists to connect to heated gloves for no extra charge. They’ll also wire a vest for $129, and you can get your favorite pair of lined gloves wired for $79. “As long as there’s an inner liner, we can wire them,” Bob explained.

The turnaround time for wiring jobs is usually about 7 to 10 days from the receipt of your gear. However, Bob told me that when “people have special requests and need something quick because they’re going on vacation, we try to expedite the order to accommodate them.”

Besides the heated garments and custom wiring work, Gerbing’s offers a variety of ways to connect to your bike’s electrical system. The cheapest is the simple $12 on/off switch, but the best solution is one of their electronic thermostats. These devices are actually timers, which meter out measured waves of heat every few seconds, drawing just enough current to maintain the desired level of heat. You can choose from two portable controllers ($59 each), which slip into a pocket or a tank bag. A permanent unit ($69) can be mounted on a motorcycle fairing.

Bob’s father, Gordon Gerbing started the heated clothing business 25 years ago. It began as a sideline to the machine shop he ran in the little town of Union at the eastern base of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. His original product was a one-piece heated suit.

For several years, his business grew by word of mouth – one satisfied customer at a time. In 1988, Gordon quit the machine shop and went full time into heated clothing for motorcyclists. Around 1990, he and his wife Marilyn hit the road to promote the product line. Gordon became a familiar fixture on the motorcycle rally circuit. “He’d fly to a city and sleep in his rental car,” Bob recalled. “He promoted from the ground up.”

The company is still a family business. “Mom and Dad are both 70, but they still work here,” said Bob, who is in charge of quality control. Bob’s brother Jeff is vice president, and Jeff’s wife, Dottie, is the company secretary. And a small group of sales representatives (often including one or more Gerbings) hit the big events like Americade, Daytona, and Sturgis, as well as lots of brand-specific rallies.

Gerbing’s recently got a major boost, when the company signed a contract with Harley-Davidson to manufacture Harley’s heated clothing. “The new Softail is so smooth that Harley riders can take even longer trips and really need the heated clothes now,” Bob said, chuckling that the contract “is Dad’s plum prize. He’s been working toward it for years.”

While the Gerbing business on Dalby Road is essentially a factory, Bob said they welcome drop-in customers. “We have a rack of clothes in the hallway office. We’re open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and by appointment on weekends. If somebody wants to come out on the weekend, we’ll open up the shop for them. A lot of people have to work during the week, so we’re happy to help them.”

So, the next time you try and cram lots of bulky layers onto your bike for an extended ride through several temperature zones, consider your options. Wouldn’t it be nice to take just your jacket liner and leave the other stuff at home?

I don’t know if the Gerbings folks still do custom wiring, but I suspect they do. Needless to say, the prices have probably changed.


LATER: I tried the Gerbings liner under the POLIZEI jacket and it worked very well. Just a little coolness on the insides of my forearms on the K1200GT.

Friday, November 15, 2013

One year gone


We said goodbye to our beloved Pete a year ago today. He was only seven years old when his liver failed. It still hurts to think of this day.

This note that our neighbor boy, Clay, made for us still hangs on our refrigerator door.


From today’s Carmel (Calif.) Pine Cone


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Silver or aluminum bullion? Or does it matter?

flag front72


These two eagles once comprised the front and back of a banner for the Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (NSRL), meaning: National Socialist League of the Reich for Physical Exercise.

It was the official sports governing body of Nazi Germany and organized the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The eagles are metal (aluminum or silver) bullion on black wool with a canvas-like backing and they measure 18¼” tall and 13½ wide. I bought them in an online auction 14 years ago, but I have no recollection of how much I paid.

The craftsmanship, as with most Third Reich items, is exquisite. I don’t have any emotional attachment to the pair and our cash flow would benefit from their sale, so I’m preparing to offer them on a WWII militaria site for $500.

Why so much? Well, in my nearly 40 years of Third Reich collecting, this is the only such NSRL banner I’ve ever seen and NSRL stuff is very rare.

I took them to a local precious metals dealer this morning in the hope of getting a definitive answer on whether it’s aluminum or silver bullion, but he said he had no way to determine it. Since silver is down to $20.05 an ounce at the moment, its historical value trumps any value in terms of silver content.

Here’s a detail shot of the front eagle’s swastika:

flag detail72

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stock windscreens only, please



I have never understood why someone would wreck the looks of a beautiful motorcycle with an oversize windscreen.

Is the questionable increase in wind protection worth making an otherwise handsome bike look stupid?

Obviously, I don’t think so.

I’ve bought two used BMWs that were similarly mutilated by their previous owners, both of which sat on dealer showroom floors a long time because shoppers thought they looked goofy.

I bought my 1981 R100RS (top photos) from Cycle Werks of Indianapolis in the autumn of 1985. I left the aftermarket windscreen on it through the winter of ‘85-‘86 and replaced it the next spring with a stock windscreen that made it look like it was supposed to look. I never regretted it.

Likewise, when I bought an otherwise gorgeous custom painted 1994 K75S from Revard BMW Motorcycles for Maria in the November of 2000, it had been defaced by a too-tall smoke windscreen. The return to a stock windscreen put things right.

BMW uses wind tunnel technology to design their bikes and the stock windscreens work just fine. I happen to like a windscreen that puts my head up into the stream of air. It makes for a cooler ride in the summer and a quieter ride than if my head were stuck where the pocket of still air collapses into a roaring buffeting maelstrom.

The only good thing I can say about used bikes with oversize windscreens is that it makes most people pass them by so I can buy them at a better price.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We really are better car drivers

I’ve believed for decades that becoming a motorcyclist has sharpened my skills as a car driver.

That belief was validated today by researchers in England:

Motorcyclists '23% better' behind the wheel of a car

Finally, a leading insurer’s data shows what we’ve all know for years – we are safer behind the wheel than non-motorcyclists

Posted: 12 November 2013
by Steve Farrell

Motorcyclists are 23% safer behind the wheel of a car than non-motorcyclists, according to a leading insurer.

Equity Red Star compared car drivers to car users who also have an insured motorcycle, and found the latter 23% less likely on average to make a claim on their car policy.

The firm also adjusted the figures to take into account the different typical ages of car drivers and motorcyclists, and still found the riders to be 21% better behind the wheel. The results showed motorcyclists were 20% less likely to make a bodily injury claim on their car policy.

The insurer examined 200 million policies between 2007 and 2012.

Rob Clark, Equity Red Star’s Head of Retail Motor, said: “A motorcyclist could, behind the wheel of a car, be said to be 23% better.”

Clark presented the data yesterday at a conference organised by the Motorcycle Industry Association to examine evidence that increasing the number of motorcyclists on the road could actually improve safety.

The conference was held in the offices of the Department for Transport in London.

Read more:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cheap gas and a midget sub

cheap gasI ran in to town this afternoon to get some bathtub drain plug parts and some groceries at Sam’s Club.

I had my groceries in the car and was leaving Sam’s when I noticed their price for regular gas. $2.78/gallon!

Naturally, I topped off my tank before driving home.

Now, here are some more photos of the Japanese midget submarine HA-19 that visited Delphi sometime during World War II as part of a War Bond drive. The photos were shot by Ralph Gerbens and posted on Facebook by Connie Stark.





Sunday, November 10, 2013

The day a Japanese midget submarine came to Delphi


Hey, what’s that Japanese midget submarine doing parked in front of what was later my dad’s insurance agency on the north side of the courthouse square in Delphi, Ind.?

This is one of five photos posted yesterday on a Carroll County nostalgia Facebook page that caught my attention and settled what – for me – was an unresolved dispute I had more than 20 years ago with Indianapolis News copy editor John Rutherford.

Rutherford, who was a boy living in southern Indiana during World War II, was convinced that the German submarine U-505, which is on permanent display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, toured the U.S., including his hometown, to promote the sale of War Bonds during WWII.

I contended that the U-505, at 252 feet in length and 1,120 tons, was much too large to be hauled around on a truck and pointed out that the U-boat didn’t come ashore until 1954 when it was carefully moved from Lake Michigan, across the Outer Drive, to its new berth at the museum. So far as I know, Rutherford still thinks he saw the U-505 in southern Indiana.

What he almost certainly saw was  the HA-19, a 78 foot, 46 ton two-man Japanese midget submarine that failed in its mission to enter Pearl Harbor and torpedo warships. Instead, it was grounded and captured.

The HA-19 was trucked around the country during the war to inspire Americans to buy War Bonds.


The HA-19 was on display for several years after the war at Key West, Fla., and since 1991 has been on exhibit at the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Site in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The building to the immediate right of the alley in the top photo was occupied by Pearson Appliances at the time. My dad bought it around 1953 and made it the home of Charles M. Flora Insurance & Real Estate until his retirement in the 1980s. The Roxy Theater, two doors to the east, was razed in the 1970s and is now the site of apartments.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Synchronous Aussies


Dora and Jack are seldom far apart and this is how they arranged themselves at the foot of Maria’s chair last evening was we watched TV.

Given our love for Australian shepherds, I can’t image two more perfect dogs.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Simply tearable


Posted in the student lounge at Black River Technical College, Paragould, Ark.

Fresh and clean


I cleaned the living room carpet this morning for a couple of reasons:

  1. It was filthy and had pet stains in several places, and
  2. I had to evaluate and review a new Bissell/Febreze cleaning solution for the Amazon Vine Program

I got the 60 ounce bottle of Bissell Deep Clean+Refresh formula a couple of bissellforumlaweeks ago, but was unable to give it a thorough test because a valve on my Bissell carpet cleaning machine was hopelessly gunked up from being allowed to stand for several weeks with solution in the tank. A nasty gummy sludge precipitated out of the solution and gummed up the valve to the point where I had to get a new one from the Bissell folks before I could use the machine again.

Happily, the new valve worked perfectly this morning and I shampooed the bejeezus out of the carpet. The machine scrubs up little lint balls that look a bit like woolly worms – you can see a couple of them in the photo.

As you might expect, the Febreze makes the carpet smell nice and fresh. I’ll know more about stain removal after it dries completely and I run over it with the vacuum cleaner, but for now it looks pretty good.

Now, I’m off to Gateway Tire to have them check out the right front tire on the Lexus which has been leaking air.

And, of course, I got a call from one of our commercial tenants telling me that one of their three heating units isn’t working.

Never a dull moment, et?


LATER: Turns out both front tires were dangerously worn, so I got to replace them for about $470. Ouch!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

LifeLock to the rescue

I got an email this afternoon from LifeLock warning me that some of my personal info from my Adobe account has turned up where identity thieves can access it.

I didn’t even remember having an Adobe account, but I guess I created it in connection with my copy of Photoshop.

Here’s the LifeLock info:

Usernames and passwords that were stolen earlier this year from Adobe have turned up on black market websites where identity thieves can access them. We're contacting you today because we have detected some of your personal information on these websites, and we recommend that you take the steps listed below.
Adobe announced last month that some of its customers' usernames and passwords had been stolen.

The company says it reset the stolen passwords and notified its customers. Adobe also says the stolen data included credit-card information for some of its customers. That data was encrypted, and it's not clear whether the hackers have the ability to decode it. What we found on black-market websites related to you was only your username and password.
You can learn more about the breach and Adobe's response by reading the Adobe Customer Security Alert. Please take the important steps below to protect your personal information.

LifeLock Member Services

Interesting that I never was notified by Adobe. I changed my password immediately.

Thank you, LifeLock.

Happy Birthday, Sean!


My oldest son Sean is 46 today.

Here he is with his first dog, Copy in the living room of the duplex we called home at 4829 N. College Ave. in Indianapolis circa 1971.

Sean is embarking on a new chapter in his life, moving into a beautiful home on Sauvie Island northwest of Portland, Ore. which he is transforming into a recording venue/resort for musicians.

He has more good musical ideas in a day than most musicians have in a lifetime and he is an absolute genius in the studio.

I am so very proud of the man this boy became.

Up and running, thanks to the miracle of SpinRite

sr6SpinRite 6.0 finished its work about 11:25 last night but I waited until this morning to see how things turned out.

They turned out fine, as evidenced by the fact that I’m using my desktop machine to write this blog entry.

Over the span of 80 hours and 46 minutes, Steve Gibson’s amazing little 170K (Really!) program examined every sector of my 1 TB hard drive and fixed whatever corrupted data had caused it to crash Sunday afternoon.

When I came up to the office this morning, SpinRite said it had satisfactorily analyzed my hard drive and instructed me to remove the SpinRite CD and reboot the machine. I did and Windows 7 loaded successfully, to my everlasting relief. Anyone who uses a Windows computer needs this tool. It’s saved my data several times.

Here’s the Wikipedia explanation of what SpinRite does:

SpinRite tests the data surfaces of writeable magnetic disks, including IDE, SATA, and floppy disks. It analyses their contents and can refresh the magnetic disk surfaces to allow them to operate more reliably.

SpinRite attempts to recover data from hard disks with damaged portions that may not be readable via the operating system. When the program encounters a sector with errors that cannot be corrected by the disk drive's error-correcting code, it tries to read the sector up to 2000 times, in order to determine, by comparing the successive results, the most probable value of each bit. The data is then saved onto a new block on the same disk; it cannot be saved elsewhere. In this respect SpinRite differs from most data recovery software, which usually provides (and recommends) an option to save the recovered data onto another disk, or onto a separate partition on the same disk.

Gibson Research Corporation claims their SpinRite software will diagnose the quality of a disk drive, and make it work as reliably as possible with future use. Its developer, Steve Gibson, says his software was specifically designed to fix sector problems. However, if a hard drive's circuit board, drive motors or other mechanical parts are defective, or there is systemic file system corruption, SpinRite may be of little or no help. In fact, regarding mechanical issues no purely software-based solution would be sufficient to overcome the problem. When a hard drive has begun to develop mechanical faults, a program like SpinRite may sometimes be able to extend its usable life for long enough to carry out successful file recovery with other specialized software.

SpinRite is declared by its developer to have certain unique features, such as disabling of disk write caching, disabling of auto-relocation, compatibility with disk compression, identification of the "data-to-flux-reversal encoder-decoder" used in a drive, and separate testing of buffered and unbuffered disk read performance. Another important feature is direct hardware-level access, whereby the drive's internal controller interacts directly with the program, rather than through the operating system. This, in turn, allows dynamic head repositioning, whereby, when reading a faulty sector, the reading head is deliberately moved backwards and forwards many times, by varying amounts, in the hope that each time it returns to the sector, it may come to rest in a slightly different position. By performing statistical analysis on the succession of results thus obtained, SpinRite is, according to its maker, often able to "reconstruct" data from damaged sectors; and even in those cases in which complete reconstruction proves impossible, SpinRite is able to extract all intact bits from a partially damaged sector, and to copy them to a new block, thereby minimizing the amount of data lost.

Certain claims made by SpinRite's makers have proved controversial. The program's claimed ability to "refresh" aging drives has been met with particular skepticism, while its "recovery" of sectors marked as damaged by the file system controller is considered by some to be undesirable and ultimately counter-productive.

SpinRite is written in x86 assembly language, and runs on any PC-compatible computer (as long as it is capable of running MS-DOS—virtually all can), regardless of the operating system actually installed. It can operate on any attached storage device with a compatible interface. Drives in computers with incompatible processors can be tested by attaching the drive to a compatible computer. Spinrite is distributed as a Microsoft Windows executable program which can create a bootable floppy disk or CD-ROM containing both the FreeDOS MS-DOS-compatible operating system and the Spinrite program itself. Version 6 is compatible with hard disks containing any logical volume management or file system such as FAT16 or 32, NTFS, Ext3 as well as other Linux file systems, HFS+ For Mac OS X, Tivo and others, as it operates only on the disk itself.

Version 6 is rather different from previous versions. It offers full access to the entire disk surface regardless of partitioning, Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) parameters and control of partial scanning within a specified percentage range. Version 5 was limited to AT Attachment (PATA, IDE) hard drives; version 6 may, on suitable motherboards, work on newer Serial ATA (SATA) and USB hard drives, and with any other type of drive—SCSI, 1394/Firewire—that can be made visible to MS-DOS through the addition of controller BIOS or add-on DOS drivers.

The price is $89. Documentation can be downloaded free of charge from the SpinRite website:

Monday, November 04, 2013

80+ hours of anxiety


My hard drive crashed yesterday afternoon.

I was trying to launch Photoshop, but it wouldn’t start, so I decided to reboot – something that usually sets things right.

But when I rebooted, the system couldn’t see the hard drive.

Hoping that the problem is just a matter of corrupted data, I tracked down my copy of SpinRite 6.0, set the system to boot from a CD drive and put it to work.

Since we’re dealing with a 1 terabyte hard drive, I expected SpinRite would take several hours to work its way through the drive finding bad sectors and rescuing data. Turns out it’s a job that will take more than 80 hours. That means it won’t be done until sometime Thursday evening.

Oh, well, if that’s what it takes to rescue my photos and other documents, so be it. SpinRite has saved my bacon several times in the years I’ve owned a copy and the $89 pricetag is more than reasonable for such a powerful computer tool.

In the meantime, I have my netbook.

You can check out SpinRite here.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Memphis for lunch


I traveled to Memphis today Charlie (left) and Tom (center) to have lunch at Boscos and for Charlie and me to renew our Boscos Mug Club memberships for 2014.

We get to see our new mugs and take the 2012 versions home on Nov. 30.

I think I look strangely like George Will in this panoramic photo.

memphis pyramidOn the way home, we cruised by the famous Memphis Pyramid on the banks of the Mississippi River where the interior is supposedly being transformed into the flagship store of Bass Pro Shops. It’s hard to tell anything is happening looking at the exterior.

Friday, November 01, 2013

No prisoners

no prisoners

My daughter-in-law Dr. Nicole Flora is a stunningly photogenic woman. She needed some portrait shots for her business and I was happy to oblige when I was in Las Vegas in September.

This one is probably a little too dramatic for her purposes, but I like it. I call it “no prisoners.”

Good day sunshine

k75s workout

Today has been a busy one and sorta productive.

I’m supposed to be evaluating some Bissell carpet cleaning solution with Febreze for the Amazon Vine Program, so I vacuumed the bedroom, fired up the Bissell ProHeat 2X carpet shampooer and went to work.

The problem was that the cleaning formula (read soap) wasn’t getting out of its tank and onto the carpet, except when I pressed the button to squirt a concentrated stream on a trouble spot.

After several minutes of troubleshooting with a Bissell service rep, we determined that the problem was the valve on the solution tank that was hopelessly gummed up because the last person to use the machine (my stepdaughter) didn’t empty the solution tank and the cleaning solution precipitated out a gooey sludge that clogged the valve.

The carpet is still cleaner than when I started, but nowhere near as clean and fresh as it would be using just hot water.

I ordered a new valve for $8.61 and will take another shot at it when the part arrives in 5-7 business days.

And after lunch, I threw my gym bag into the right saddlebag of my K75S and cruised down to the St. Barnards Health & Wellness Center for a thorough workout on treadmill and weight resistance machines.

Now I think I’ll take my iced tea and go sit on the back porch with my dogs.

Pleeeeeeeeease don’t make me get up!

dora dad bed

This is Dora’s preferred sleeping position, sunk deep into the down-filled comforter between me and Maria.

Some nights, she just wants to play and has to be banished to her kennel to sleep. If the stirs and has to go out in the middle of the night, she gets a second chance to be a bed sleeper.

That’s what happened about 3:30 a.m. today. When I lifted her up onto the bed, she greeted Maria with a couple of licks on the face, then she assumed the position and didn’t move for the rest of the night.

Dora is six months old today and continues to be a source of joy. And she and Jack are still in love.