Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No easy money here

curly20131230_0003A friend inherited hundreds of Beanie Babies from her collector parents that, according to the Beanie Babies Collector’s Guide, are worth hundreds – sometimes thousands – of dollars.

She offered me a deal to list and sell them on my Ebay account for a percentage of the profit, so I went to her house last evening and photographed eight of the most desirable, according to the book.

I got around to researching them on Ebay this afternoon – looking at completed auctions going back three months – and discovered the bottom has apparently dropped out of the Beanie Baby market.

I couldn’t find a single instance where anyone paid as much as $10 for one of the Beanies I photographed and the vast majority of offerings went unsold.

I know she’s over the moon with excitement about the treasure trove she inherited, so my challenge is to gently let the air out of her balloon.

Monday, December 30, 2013

How to get exotic symbols into your text

character map

A Facebook friend posted about her dogs being happy to be outside in 13° weather, except she used an asterisk* instead of the degree symbol.

It occurred to me that a lot of folks don’t know how to get non-keyboard symbols into their text using the Character Map feature of Windows, so here’s how you do it:

Click on the Start Menu>Accessories>System Tools>Character Map. Then find the symbol you want and click on it. If there is a keystroke combination for it, you’ll see it in the bottom right corner of the frame. In this case, you make the ° symbol by holding down the Alt key and typing 0176 on the keypad.

But some symbols don’t work that way. If there is no Keystroke combination, click on the symbol, then click the Select button, then the Copy button. That saves it to the Notepad and you can paste it into your text using the Insert key.

Ralphie and tire pressures

ralphie ornament

We have not had a Christmas tree, real or artificial, since we moved to Arkansas in 2007.

Maria decided we needed one about a week ago and found a good deal on a pre-austin tirelit with LEDs, 6-foot-tall artificial tree on Amazon.com and ordered it, but it didn’t arrive until Dec. 26.

Nevertheless, we set it up in the foyer and this morning I hung the first ornament – a charming image of Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun that Austin and Megan gave me.

They ended their week-long visit this morning and rolled out about 10 a.m. after Austin checked the tire pressures on his Nissan Versa.

They plan to stop at Lambert’s Café in Sikeston, Mo. for lunch and probably a couple of throwed rolls before pressing on to Boomland and ultimately home to Indiana.

We thoroughly enjoyed having them here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Unimpressive free Night Vision app

nightvisionLying in bed about 2:390 a.m. today, it occurred to me that since digital cameras can see in the infrared range, there might be a night vision app for my iPhone 5.

So I checked with the Apple App Store and found a free app called, oddly enough, Night Vision.

I hoped I could use it to photograph Dora the Wonder Pup slumbering between me and Maria, but the camera lacked the sensitivity to register an image.

The best I could manage was this selfie where my face was dimly illuminated by the ambient light from the screen.

Not very impressive, but what can I expect from a free app?

Monopoly night

We had a spirited game of Monopoly last night. Ben won.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I replaced the screen on Maria’s iPhone 5 today

cracked screen

I spent a couple of hours hunched over the cutting table in Maria’s sewing room this morning replacing the cracked screen on her iPhone5.

It got damaged when she didn’t notice it fell onto the floor by the couch and Jack, being Jack, gnawed on it, damaging the Otterbox case and cracking the screen.

I ordered an iCrackedHQ repair kit from Amazon.com for $94.90 on Monday and it arrived yesterday via UPS.

My vision is such that close-up work is best performed without contact lenses and glasses, taking advantage of my extreme near-sightedness. Even so, I had to resort to a jeweler’s loupe for the more delicate operations.

I sequestered myself in the sewing room to be free from distractions from people and dogs after coming to the quick realization that I would end up getting violent if I tried to do the work at the kitchen table.

The repair kit came with detailed instructions, which included the URL for a YouTube video of the process and a set of tools. Even so, I needed a third hand to get the plastic pry tool under the screen while I created a tiny gap by lifting it from the case with the enclosed suction cup.

I was mildly surprised to find the camera, phone and other functions are working fine now that the new screen is in place and all of the components are reassembled. I had serious doubts during the two-hour surgery.

The Apple Store (the nearest one is in Memphis) charges $149 to replace a broken screen. Now that I’ve done it, I’m confident that I could do it again if I have to, but I’m in no hurry to relive the experience.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Last weekend's rain event.

Good golly, Miss Molly!

molly fixed

Molly, the Border Collie whose four legs were broken last week when she was hit by a snow plow in Manchester, N.H., looks pretty chipper today.

She got her $5,500 surgery on Saturday, paid for by people all over the country (including us). The appeal for funds ended up raising ten times the amount required.

Her owner is an Iraq War veteran who couldn’t afford her care.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Saved our bacon. And brisket, and ribs, and salmon…


The Lacrosse Alert wifi sensor I got from the Amazon Vine Program several months ago saved us again yesterday.

Beginning a little after noon, I started getting notifications on my iPhone that the temperature in the garage freezer was climbing. By last evening, it had reached 27 degrees and showed no signs of dropping, so I went to investigate.

The door was firmly shut and sealed, but when I opened the door I noticed the light didn’t come on.


Turns out something caused the garage circuit breaker to trip and judging from the  data collected, it happened sometime early in the afternoon, probably the result of a power surge associated with the heavy rain and thunderstorms that passed through here.

We have several hundred dollars worth of meat in the freezer, including some really choice brisket, ribs and turkey breast from a Texas barbecue place that Steve and Nicky caused to appear on our doorstep this week and it would have been a tragedy if it had spoiled.

This is the third time this Lacrosse sensor has alerted us to a freezer problem – twice because the circuit breaker tripped and once because the door had not been properly closed.

A very handy device indeed!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Saturday before Christmas


We ignored the deluge and drove down to Morgan’s house this morning for a Christmas get-together with her and her boyfriend Ben and his daughter Maya. Here they are with some of the gifts Maya opened.

To her credit, Maya didn’t get overwhelmed or freaked out by all of the stuff as many kids her age would.

Morgan served up a splendid lunch, including a pumpkin pie that rivals my mother’s recipe.

Ben suggested a free iPhone app called Perfect365 that can be used to modify and enhance portraits. I didn’t realize it until I fiddled with it a bit, but it’s only for photos of women and girls. Here are a couple of very creepy examples of what it does to me.



Friday, December 20, 2013



There’s rain on the way – a lot of it tonight and tomorrow – but we have lots of warm moist air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico today that’s pushing the temperature up into the upper 60s.

That was all the prompting I needed to dig the K75S out of its niche in the garage and get in one more ride before 2013 comes to a close. Actually, it was two rides – one to the post office earlier and another down to Dollar General for milk and eggs just now.

What a nice way to close out the Fall season, which surrenders to winter a little after noon tomorrow.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chip in to help Molly. We did.

We responded to this call for help yesterday. Read the following post, copied from Facebook and if you are moved, call the number and donate a few bucks. They hope to take Molly to surgery on Saturday.

I am sending out this email to those I think may be able to spread the word about Molly, a 3 yr old Australian Shepherd, hit last evening by a plow truck. She presented to our emergency room in her owner’s arms, unable to walk and bleeding. A quick assessment demonstrated that she was mentally okay (and even wagged her tail!) and did not appear to have serious internal injury. X-rays however, revealed that she has broken all 4 limbs.
The owner stated when he arrived to the ER that he had no means to care for Molly’s injuries and asked about taking her home to die. The doctor on duty discussed humane euthanasia. I was spending the night at AVC with my children as the storm meant that my husband would be plowing and clearing the walkways for the evening. When we returned from dinner, I met Molly, heard the story and saw the syringe of euthanasia laying on the counter beside her. “Is there another option for her” I asked myself.
So with confidence that we could get a group of people to help Molly we offered surrender to the owner, to allow us to make decisions for her. The owner, in tears, agreed to give her up. He left the building crying.
As Molly’s owner drove away, the receptionist who was clearing the walkways, noticed the license plate, “Veteran.” This man came to us with no money, no plan and no expectation. I want to give a veteran something wonderful for Christmas … his dog. Will you help me get the word out?
I am looking for 200 people to contribute $20 or 400 people to contribute $10. These are fractures that I cannot repair myself and will need to bring in a surgeon. I estimate our cost to the surgeon will approach $4000. We feel that Molly’s injuries are treatable.
All Better Pets is our 501(c) non-profit, created for abandoned, injured, homeless animals. To date we have cared for and placed over 200 pets. If you or someone you know would like to make a donation for Molly’s care, please call (603-669-2002) or email (info@avcnh.com) or even better, stop by to see us!
*If requested we can send you a receipt. Any donation can be claimed on your tax return.
Dr. Deborah Kelloway


This just in. As of 11 a.m. CST:

We have reached our goal! Thank you everyone for your support for Molly! She is doing great. Surgery is scheduled for Saturday. We anticipate she will need about 2 weeks in the hospital to recover.
All Better Pets has nothing in reserve. In the past, the shelter has been funded by Dr. Kelloway and volunteers have generously given of their time (walking, feeding, bathing, nursing care). The shelter is extremely careful with how it uses any funds. If you would like to give additional donations these will be put toward the shelter fund in anticipation that another pet will come through the emergency room with only 1 option ... euthanasia. While we do not believe in unnecessary suffering, we will never refuse to care for an abandoned pet in need. This is not possible without the wonderful support from all of you (financial, emotional, physical, spiritual!).

Food? What food?


We feed our dogs once a day, in the morning.

Unlike Jack and other dogs we’ve had, Dora doesn’t wolf down all of her food at once. She prefers to revisit her food bowl several times during the day and sometimes goes to bed at night with something left in the bowl for a late night snack.

But she doesn’t want Jack or any other dog staying with us to know she still has food, so she takes great pains to cover it with the old beach towel she keeps in her kennel.

Sometimes she’s a little sloppy and some of her kibble gets dumped out onto the bedroom carpet. If it doesn’t get cleaned up later in the day, she’s likely to wake us in the middle of the night with the sound of scrabbling around in her kennel, trying to reach as much of the kibble as possible by poking her tongue through the bars.

Aussies can be quirky dogs and covering her bowl is a pretty cute quirk.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yes, I’m crazy about our Aussies


I finished the 2014 Adventures of Jack and Dora Calendar on lulu.com this morning and advertised it on my “Adventures of Jack and Dora” Facebook group.

Actually, I made two calendars. The first was the deluxe size which I was chagrined to realize would have to be priced at $24.99 to turn a modest profit.

So I went back to the lulu.com software and created a standard size that I’ve priced at a more reasonable $14.99.

You can view them here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



Dora and Jack are inseparable – Best Friends Forever. Their personalities shine through in this iPhone photo.

Monday, December 16, 2013

No cookies for Christmas


An oven, it turns out, is a bad place to hide a plastic container full of cookies from big counter-surfing dogs.

Maria and a neighbor boy made a huge batch of Christmas cookies last week while schools were closed for ice and snow. It was clear that they could not be left out on waxed paper on the kitchen counters pending icing because Liese and Jack are tall enough to reach stuff on the counters.

So, as an interim measure, Maria put them into a plastic Ziploc container and a Pyrex baking dish and stashed them in the oven.

Fast-forward a few days when Maria was preparing to cook something in the over and set it to 350 degrees to pre-heat. The next thing I knew, she was shouting about a fire in the oven and the house was filling up with nasty smelling smoke from the burning plastic.

oven02The melted plastic fused to the oven rack and dribbled down onto the oven floor. We left it in place for a few days while we busied ourselves with other chores.

I tackled the problem yesterday morning. We dumped the contaminated cookies into the trash and pulled both racks from the oven.

I got out the owner’s manual and determined there are three self-cleaning cycles – 2, 3, and 4 hours. I set it for four hours and minutes later the residual plastic on the oven bottom burst into flames. The oven was blowing pungent smoke, so I turned on the exhaust fan above the range and opened a couple of windows before turning to the task of chipping the melted plastic from the bottom oven rack.

I got almost all of it, except for a little residue, so we put the racks back into the oven this morning and ran a 2-hour self-cleaning cycle to get rid of whatever plastic remained.

Now, I can get to work on replacing the screen on Maria’s iPhone that Jack chewed and broke the other night.

Working out

On the treadmill.The earphones that came with my iPhone 5 don't fit my ears and keep falling out. Makes me crazy.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday morning update

jack tv

The fact that I have not blogged since Thursday has not gone unnoticed. I am mindful that the best way to get readers out of the habit of reading your blog is to not post fresh content daily. I have no excuse except to say I was uninspired and was busy taking care of Maria who is ill and requires lots of bed rest, fluids, and electrolytes.

When she’s not in bed, she’s on the couch or in a chair in the living room, while we watch hours of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Jack, as this photo from last night attests, is very interested in videos with dogs in them. He is the first dog I’ve ever had who can perceive images on a TV screen. Happily, Dora has the same ability. For all his brilliance, Pete was never a TV watcher and neither was Ruthie.

BTW, the little ceramic Christmas tree on the curio cabinet belonged to my mother. It used to have a golden plastic star on the top, but it is broken and lost. We haven’t put up a Christmas tree in the six years we’ve lived here, so Mom’s little ceramic piece will have to do.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Back from the dead

subaru charger

I had the Subaru battery on the charger all day yesterday, pulling the plug last night when the arrow moved into the green “Finished” area.

I let it sit overnight to see if the charge would hold, then fired it up about 10:30 a.m. to drive to the post office. The engine started quickly and it appeared the battery had plenty of cranking power.

I’m guardedly optimistic that it has several months of life left, which will spare us the expense of a new $100+/- battery. I’ll toss the heavy duty jumper cables into the back, just in case.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

To-do list

I have two things to accomplish today and there is urgency attached to both:

  1. Buy and install a new battery for the Subaru Forester
  2. Set up internet banking with Centennial Bank, which bought Liberty Bank where our finances live. Until I do that, we’re flying blind when it comes to tracking our cash flow.

I must be off.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ice wars


I got a call around noon yesterday from one of the businesses in our downtown building expressing concern over the parking lot being ice-covered and insanely slick.

So Maria and I went to Lowe’s and bought 120 pounds of rock salt (they had to bring down a pallet of 40 pound bags for us) and a couple of 50 pound bags of calcium chloride ice melting compound which is supposedly less damaging to concrete.

Then we spent a perilous hour spreading the stuff on the sidewalks and asphalt in the hope that it would clear the lot by morning.

Unfortunately, it did not.

We checked about 9:15 a.m. and there was no significant improvement, but the tenants appreciated our effort and agreed the only thing to do was wait for the sun to melt the ice. The temperature is expected to reach 33 today and 43 tomorrow, so the end is in sight.

In terms of inconvenience, this has probably been the most significant weather event we’ve experienced here in northeast Arkansas since the Great Ice Storm of 2009.

I’m guardedly optimistic that I can get the ice off of the Subaru hood and open it to charge the battery before the sun goes down today, but I rather expect that all three of the school districts where Maria subs will be closed again tomorrow and she won’t need the car.

We shall see.

Monday, December 09, 2013

50 years ago tonight


I became a pledge of Zeta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity 50 years ago tonight.


There were 23 of us on Preference Night when this photo was taken at the Tirey Memorial Union Building on the Indiana State College (now University) campus. Three guys, whose faces are blacked out and whose names I don’t recall, dropped out.

I’m the guy in glasses in the front row.

The actives then took us to a union hall in Seeleyville, about 2 miles east of Terre Haute on U.S. 40, where we all got thoroughly drunk. One of my few memories of that night was watching Alan Freeman (front row, second from right) sucking beer out of a can faster than it would flow on its own. Al is a retired college prof living the life of an expatriate in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Being an ATO was probably the proudest achievement of my rather spottyato pledge pin college career. I still cherish the memories and the friendships and I can name most of the guys in the photo.

We had to surrender our pledge pins when we were initiated into active membership in the Fraternity, but I bought one on Ebay years ago. Maybe I’ll wear it today to mark the occasion.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Saturday, December 07, 2013


lexus garage

The wipers on the Lexus froze in mid-stroke yesterday morning while struggling against sleet and freezing rain.

I tried to thaw them out with a hairdryer but to no avail.

So I cleared a space in the garage last night, scraped enough ice from the windshield to see where I was going and humped the car over the frozen sleet-drift in front of the garage door to bring it inside for the night.

I’m about to fire it up and see if the wipers work or if the motor is burned out. I know it didn’t blow the fuse, because the driver’s side blade continued to twitch after they stopped making full sweeps.

The Subaru’s doors were frozen shut last night, but I hope sitting in the direct sunshine will thaw the driver’s door today.


LATER: The defrosted wipers are working. Unfortunately, Maria forgot to turn off the dome light in the Subaru Thursday night when she went out to retrieve her cell phone, so the Subaru battery is dead and the hood is sealed shut with ice. Hoping the sun helps us out so we can get a jump start.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Dora’s first snow!


It's Dora's first experience of snow and she loves it. Jack spied a birdfeeder Maria made from a 2 liter soft drink bottle and dared Dora to take it away from him. Hilarity ensued.



Thursday, December 05, 2013

Bad weather on the way

The digits have flipped on the temperature: it was 73 yesterday and it’s 37 right now as we await the freezing rain.

The leading edge of the freezing rain is just west of Walnut Ridge, which means it has to creep another 35 miles or so to reach us, probably sometime after 6 p.m.

I gassed up the Lexus this morning and filled an empty 5 gallon gas can, giving us about 20 gallons or so to run the generator if we need it. My guess is that we won’t need it, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Maria is subbing for our neighbor Sophie in her history classes today because Sophie had a death in the family that requires her attention. Maria just texted me to say there are no plans to close the school early.

But considering that we will get some unpleasant weather overnight, it’s a safe bet that all of the schools here will be closed tomorrow.

It looks like the same weather mess is headed for friends and family in Indiana and may reach them about the same time the crap hits us.

Nothing to do but wait.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

This could be the last time in ‘13


It was 73 degrees this afternoon – just two degrees short of a record high for Dec. 4.

With a winter storm headed our way on Friday, this looked like the last really good day for a ride this year.

I left about 3 p.m., which means the sun was diving toward the western horizon already, so I only got in about 40 miles.

But they were quality miles, up and around Crowley’s Ridge. I stopped at Lake Frierson State Park for this iPhone shot, then worked my way back east to home.

The K75S performed beautifully, of course. I think it enjoyed a nice little romp before the weather goes to hell for several weeks..

It’s painfully obvious that Cigna doesn’t want to talk to its customers

My friend Charlie noticed the Cigna Medicare Part D card in my wallet last Saturday and mentioned that he has Cigna and his premium is going up significantly.

Since I have until Dec. 7 to change insurers, I called customer service several minutes ago and am now enduring their music-on-hold.

The voice messages are crystal clear, but the classical music is hideously garbled to the point of being painful to listen to. I can only conclude that it’s intentionally distorted in an effort to drive callers away. I’m willing to bet they hired a recording engineer to create this hideous noise, masquerading as music, to discourage callers from remaining on hold.

It’s like listening to a weak station on a short wave radio with a tinny speaker where the signal fades in and out, but is never clear and distortion free.

They try to nudge callers in the direction of hanging up by suggesting they call back after 5 p.m. local time.

I endured it for about 20 minutes before I got to talk with a customer service rep. Turns out my premium for 2014 will be less than I’m paying in 2013. How strange is that?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Keeping score


I’m still using the Automatic driving monitor, plugged into the Lexus RX330’s data port, for a month now.

I drive sensibly, so it hasn’t improved my gas mileage noticeably, but being a gadget geek, I love having all of this data at my command.

Here’s the log from last week, which included a Saturday trip to Memphis for Boscos Mug Day. It was the highest-mileage week of the month. At 25.6 mpg, my car is delivering optimum mileage for a week of city and highway driving. That’s just 6 tenths of a mile better than the EPA rating for the car.


Here’s the data for the return trip from Boscos. I lost points for a couple of aggressive stops and for less than a minute over 70 mph, but I still got 29 mpg for the trip.


The Automatic app on my iPhone 5 got updated recently and added this Daily Scores feature. Compared with other Automatic users, I guess I’m doing okay.

I think they like her

Maria has been serving as a substitute teacher in three nearby school districts for the last month or so and she loves it.

She filled in for an elementary art teacher yesterday and brought home several works of art from her pupils. Here are three of them.




Sunday, December 01, 2013

At the beginning of the Long Strange Trip


I’ve been rotating through a bunch of photos of myself as Facebook profile pictures and I hit upon this one to use for the next day or so.

I shot it about this time of year in 1966 with the first 35mm camera I owned – a Minolta HiMatic-7 – mounted on a tripod. The scene was a mobile home I was renting behind a house on South Independence Street in Tipton, Ind. The cigarette was a Viceroy, a brand I favored after bumming several smokes from Jim West, who lived next door to me in Gillum Hall during my freshman year at Indiana State University.

I needed a shave, but it would be nine more years – on a backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park – that I would get around to growing a beard. I was wearing an Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity sweatshirt. I still have it. I saw it this morning while rooting through some storage bins under the bed in the guest bedroom.

I started my first newspaper job on Sept. 1, 1966 as a reporter/photographer for the Tipton Tribune, so by December I had a pretty good handle on how things worked at the paper. My trailer was about a block south of the newspaper office, so it was a pretty short commute up the alley to work in my gray 1965 VW beetle.

I was 21 years old, engaged to be married the following June. Like most 21-year-olds, I thought I knew a lot more than I did. In retrospect, I was embarrassingly naïve about how the world works, which is why I fancied myself a liberal Democrat. I had all sorts of dopey reasons why the Vietnam War was wrong and how peace and love would rule the world just any day now.

And I hadn’t yet had my interview with Indianapolis News City Editor Wendell Trogdon that would lead to a new job as a rewrite man at The News, starting two months after this photo was taken.

Claiming my 2014 mug, bad hair and all


It looks like I was having a bad hair day yesterday afternoon when I drove down to Memphis to claim my 2014 mug and bring home my 2012 mug.

That’s my BMW riding friend Charlie on the right, looking pretty good for the weeks of chemotherapy he’s endured. The guy behind me is also a BMW rider. I forget his name, but he rode his 1990 K1000LT to Boscos for the occasion.

The Boscos mug club is a semi-exclusive organization that costs $60 a year. You get your own numbered mug that is stored in racks above the bar. When you visit, you get a larger portion of the beer of your choice at a reduced rate. And the first beer in your new mug – yesterday was Mug Day – is free.

I opted for Boscos Olde Fool, which is the brew celebrated on the 2014 mug. I had 1½ mugs of it, giving the rest to Charlie because I was getting a bit of a buzz and was mindful that I had a 75.2-mile drive home ahead of me.

I’m starting my third year as a member of the club, although I don’t think I visited Boscos a half-dozen times in 2013. Even so, I guess it gives me street cred as a mid-South resident.

And it’s slightly more exclusive than the Radio Shack Battery Club.