Monday, March 31, 2014

Another reason to like Qdoba

Free mouthwash dispensers in the restrooms.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

There were heroes all around us

Growing up in Delphi, Ind. in the years immediately following World War II, I felt at a disadvantage regarding some of my friends because my dad didn’t go to war.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. He and his best friend Marshall Wagner went to enlist shortly after Pearl Harbor. Dad was rejected because of his age (31) and a heart murmur. They took Wagner, who fought in the Pacific, survived the war and had a post-war career with the Indiana State Police.

But our next-door neighbor at our first home was Jay Taylor, who had been a bombardier on B-17s. When we moved to a new house in 1954, it was next door to Bob Popejoy, who had been an Army cook in the China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations. Down the street was Merrill Plummer, who startled me one spring day in the mid-1950s by hanging out a couple of huge red-white-and-black German flags on his backyard clothesline, airing them out as he and his family prepared to move to a new home.

Most of my male teachers had been in the war. Charles Geheb, who taught chemistry and physics, was in the Army Air Corps and flew over Hiroshima a few days after it was flattened in the world’s first atomic bomb attack.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised this week when longtime friend Lonnie Miller sent me a link to the obituary of Chuck Ritzler, who was Carroll County Surveyor for almost 30 years.

Ritzler, it turns out, was in Co. D, 501st Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. and jumped into Normandy early on D-Day, distinguished himself in combat during the Market-Garden invasion of Holland, and was wounded at Bastogne. I this sounds familiar, it’s because his sister company, Co. E, was the subject of Stephen Ambrose’s best seller, “Band of Brothers,” that was subsequently made into an HBO miniseries.

chuck ritzler

Here he is with a buddy getting ready to climb aboard a DC-3 on Sept. 17, 1944 bound for Holland.

And here is his obituary from the Lafayette, Ind. Journal & Courier:

chuck ritzler02Charles J. Ritzler, 92, of Delphi, died Mon.-Mar. 24, 2014 at 4:50am, at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Center-Delphi.

He was born June 3, 1921 in Three Oaks, MI, to the late Charles E. & Sylvia Borders Ritzler. His marriage was to Norma Jean Yerkes in Flora, on Dec. 23, 1945, and she preceded him in death on Apr. 29, 2009.

He graduated from Three Oaks High School in 1939, and graduated from Purdue University in 1950, with a degree in Civil Engineering.

A WW II Army Veteran, he enlisted in the airborne division, and was assigned to the newly formed 501st Parachute Regiment in Toccoa, Ga., for basic training. He qualified from jump school in 1943 at Fort Benning, and began intense training at Camp McCall in North Carolina.

Late in 1943 he arrived in England, and in the early morning of June 6, 1944, he jumped into France (D-Day), returning to England to regroup in July-1944.

He then jumped into Holland on Sept. 17, 1944, under British command. After 50 days of frontline fighting, the regiment was withdrawn to Mourmelon, France, to again regroup.

The 101st Airborne was suddenly rushed into Bastogne, Belgium, on Dec. 19, 1944, to stop a push of the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. Wounded from that conflict, he spent 3 months in hospitals recovering.

He received the British Military Medal from Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery on Mar. 26, 1945, for his actions at a railroad bridge at Veghel, Holland, where he and his machine gun squad, held off the German soldiers for a day and a half, until reinforcements arrived.

He was discharged on Dec. 5, 1945, at Camp Atterbury. He served his apprenticeship with Arthur Ritchie & Robert Brown, civil engineers, in Carroll Engineering Service from 1950-1954. He then served as deputy county surveyor, from 1954-1956, and then was the Carroll County Surveyor from 1956-1984.

After retiring from office, he started Ritzler Engineering Inc., from 1984-2005. He was registered in the State of Indiana as a professional Civil Engineer, and as a land surveyor.

He was a life member of the Delphi American Legion Post #75, and the Delphi VFW Post #9383, and the #13 Hoosier State Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, 101st Airborne Division Assoc., the Airborne Static Line and Geronimo (501) Regiment. He was an endowed member of the Mt. Zion #211 F.&A.M. Lodge in Camden, and the Murat Temple and Shriners in Indianapolis. He was a member of the Purdue University Alumni. He was an ardent fisherman, having fished all over Canada from 1948-2005. Surviving: daughter-Tara & Jay Rivinius of Sacramento, CA; grandson-Grayson T. Motsch; stepsister-Diana & Bill Burge of Niles, MI. Preceded in death by his son Charles J. Ritzler II.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. Online condolences: abbottfuneralhome@frontier.com. Abbott Funeral Home-Delphi, in charge of arrangements.

He is mentioned several times in “Hell’s Highway,” George Koskimak’s book about Market-Garden.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Nurse Dora

nursedora72

Maria took a spill in the bedroom, slamming her right knee into the corner of the bed frame, that had her writhing in pain on the carpet at the foot of the bed for several minutes.

Both dogs were in their bedroom kennels having their breakfast at the time.

By the time Maria got up onto the bed, still in considerable pain, Dora had stopped eating and was yipping to be let out.

Once released, she jumped up onto the bed and devoted her full attention to licking Maria’s face and ears, obviously concerned and doing her best to help.

“There’s nothing like a dog tongue in your ear to take your mind off of pain,” Maria said later, after Dora spent several minutes licking and snuggling her.

It was clear to us that Dora understood Maria was hurt and was eager to do whatever she could to make things better.

A doctor friend came over and checked her out and put Maria in a knee brace and on crutches until she can get an X-ray on Monday. We don’t think anything is broken, but we have to be sure.

In the meantime, we have Dora.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Another reason to love Photoshop

chickens old cropped

Here’s a color photo my mom shot of me with a couple of Easter chicks, probably around March or April, 1950.

As is the case with most color prints of that vintage, the Kodak dyes have deteriorated badly, giving the image a washed-out brownish cast.

But turned into a digital image with a flatbed scanner and tweaked with Photoshop – mostly just Auto Tone and a little increase in color saturation – and it is restored to its original colors, maybe even a little better than the original.

chickens new sat

And, of course, it can be cropped tighter to get rid of the extraneous detail.

chickens new sat cropped

Too bad the camera’s optics weren’t good enough to make a tack-sharp image.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The fledgling Cub Scout

johncubscout

It was 1952 and I was in the second grade and joined the Cub Scouts (Den 7, BTW).

Here I am in my new uniform. Most kids just wore the shirt with jeans, but my parents bought me the pants too. Looking closely, I see that I hadn't acquired the official web belt yet and I had yet to earn my first award, the lowly Bobcat Badge. It was a little round bronze pin in those days. I think it's a fabric badge now.

I went all the way through the Cub Scout ranks - Wolf, Bear, Lion, and Webelos, but I stalled out when I got into Boy Scouts and never got close to Eagle.

I still have the ceramic items in the bookcase. The rectangular thing on the wall is a mail slot right next to the front door. My dad made the bookcase when he was in shop class in high school. Sadly, it does not survive today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jeannie and me

johnjeannietaylor

Here I am, looking dapper in my bib overalls and slouch hat, on my swingset with neighbor Jeannie Taylor, sometime around 1948 or 1949.

Jeannie lived in a big brick double across the alley from our house and she was my first girlfriend, or friend who was a girl, or something.

Her dad was a bombardier on B-17s in World War II and kept his Colt 1911 in a desk drawer. I didn’t understand how to work a semiautomatic pistol, so I never knew if it was loaded.

Jeannie’s family moved to Rossville, Ind. sometime in the 1950s and I lost track of her.

And now for something completely different…

dentures

A guest at my parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary reception in April, 1989, who shall remain nameless (mainly because I don’t know who she was).

I think one of my sons shot this sensitive portrait, but I’m sure I would have shot it if I had the chance.

My first BMW motorcycle

johnseanr50

I bought my first BMW motorcycle – a 1971 R50/5 – from a guy in Brownsburg, Ind. in the spring of 1981. I think I paid $1,100.

It was originally sold by the now-defunct Roman Cycle Shop in Youngstown, Ohio.

I added the Plexiglas fairing and trunk. Here are a couple of photos from the summer of 1981 when Sean and I rode it up to my parents’ house in Delphi, Ind. from our Indianapolis home. (My mom shot the photo with, of course, was off-center. I cropped out all of the extraneous stuff on the right side of the frame.)

I think the longest trips I ever took on it were two rides from Indianapolis to Beulah, Mich.

dadr50

My dad seemed to enjoy sitting on the bike, but I never got him to go for a ride with me. (I shot this photo which, of course, is properly framed.)

I sold it in the late 1980s to Steve Burford.

My next bike was a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 that I bought from a friend of a guy I did motorcycle skills tests with for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

It came with a clunky primitive fairing that I replaced with a Rifle fairing.

stevejohnkaw02Here’s Steve and me with my dad on a subsequent ride to Delphi, probably around 1984. (Yikes, that’s 30 years ago!)

Great find

I found a Polartec fleece pullover at the Jonesboro Goodwill store for $3.50 yesterday. Killer deal!

Where I got my photography gene

momviewfinder

During my parents’ lives together, Mom was the family photographer.

The only times I can remember Dad shooting photos was when he used a Polaroid to illustrate real estate appraisals.

I can’t recall a time when Mom didn’t own a camera. She did her best work early on when she had a Kodak double-lens reflex camera that was used at waist level and you framed the photo by looking down at a screen.

Things went to hell in a handbasket when she started using cheap cameras with eye-level viewfinders. For some reason I never could understand, her subjects always ended up skewed to the left of the frame. I was reminded of that this morning when I looked through a bunch of old prints from a box in the garage labeled “Flora Family Archive.”

She also made the classic amateur photographer mistake of standing too far from her subject.

Robert Capa, one of the truly great photojournalists of the 20th century, liked to say, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not getting close enough.”

I don’t think Mom ever heard of Robert Capa.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mom was a Registered Nurse

eileennurse

My mother was the first in her family to go to college, graduating from the Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis in 1939.

She worked briefly in a hospital, but most of her career was in the office of Dr. George Wagoner in Delphi, Ind.

She took her work seriously and always wore a starched white uniform and white cap. She considered today’s scrubs a scandalous relaxation of standards and hated seeing nurses wearing them.

She spent her last five months in a retirement/nursing center and often was seen with her wheelchair pulled up next to another resident’s wheelchair, checking their pulse.

Small wonder that we buried her in her best white uniform and cap.

Here she is at a reunion of her nursing class. I think it was the 50th in 1989 and that’s her holding the sign.

eileenclassreunion

Chillin'


I'm holding down a chair outside of a fitting room in the ladies department of Dillard's while Maria shops.
Thank God for my iPhone.

Monday, March 24, 2014

20 years ago

johnk100rs

I’m rooting through my travel albums, looking for photos to scan for various BMW motorcycle groups on Facebook, and I found this one shot by Jane Washburn in the spring of 1994.

And I also just realized that I have visited Devil’s Tower three times, on a different bike each time.

The first was in 1990 on my ‘81 BMW R100RS, the second was in 1994 on this gorgeous 1991 BMW K100RS, and the third was in 2008 on my current ride, a 2003 BMW K1200GT.

I’ve owned five BMW motorcycles and this was my favorite. It carried me more than 160,000 miles before it succumbed to a terminally expensive engine ailment that resulted in me parting it out on Ebay.

If memory serves, I rode this bike in every state west of the Mississippi and a whole bunch of the Midwest and Southeast, plus two Canadian provinces.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Looks like our back yard

mud6Well, not quite, but it’s pretty bad thanks to Dora’s passion for digging.

Unless she finds a new hobby, I despair of ever having a decent, mowable back yard.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy 104th birthday, Dad

johnchas

My father, seen here at Niagara Falls around 1954, would have been 104 yesterday. He died in 1997 at the age of 87.

I always loved this photo of him looking cool and stylish in his vacation duds. I was still a work in progress.

The last of the Old Guard

C&M13

The last of the most senior early members of the Indianapolis BMW Club, Helen Byrkett (bottom right) died last Monday.

Helen was 94. She joins Charlie and Martha Thomas (left), Kenny Jagger (center) and her husband Paul in Eternity.

Godspeed, Helen. It was great knowing you.

Meet Batman

batman72

His nametag said Batman, had two phone numbers on it and the inscription: Please send the Batsignal to my mommy & daddy.

We heard him doing his characteristic beagle bark off and on all night as he chased critters – real and imagined – through our woods.

We noticed him just outside the chain link fence about 8 a.m. and coaxed him around into the garage, where we read his tag and gave him a scoop of dog food.

He was nodding off from his long night’s adventure by the time his mom showed up. She was visiting family just down the road when he wandered off last night and she was overjoyed to get him back.

Nice start to a weekend.

batmanA72

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vernal Equinox stuff

It’s sunny and 64 degrees and I’m spending a little time this first afternoon of spring on a ride to town and a free dark roast coffee at Starbucks (free with an empty Starbucks coffee bag).

This was the hardest winter we’ve endured in our 6+ years in Arkansas and I paid the highest electric bill we’ve seen yesterday. Then I turned off the furnace. Happily, April and May are some of the best months for electric bills, since we can go without heating or AC most of the time.

I gave both dogs their monthly flea/tick/heartworm meds and observed Dora digging with dogged determination in the yard – not an escape tunnel but an apparent search for the varmints that tunnel all over our property. Just to be on the safe side, I kenneled her before I left for town.

I may be getting a handle on managing my diabetic gastroparesis by following advice I found online to eat several small meals daily, rather than three larger ones. I’ve had a large lunch the last couple of days and just a grilled cheese sandwich for an early dinner and find I am sleeping much better with less acid reflux. Helluva way to live, but it is what it is.

We got our taxes filed yesterday, hiring an accountant to do it because of the complications of owning a commercial property and having an LLC partnership. The refund is dismally small, owing to the fact that Maria only worked about six months last year and, consequently, had substantially less taken out for taxes. Time to step up our efforts to improve our cash flow.

The speedo wiring is still wonky on the K75S. I fiddled with it in the post office parking lot and got it working, but I know it’s only temporary. The real fix will require a ride to a dealership, either Memphis or Cape Girardeau. The problem is in the connector under the right side panel. Either the connector is bad or there’s an iffy connection with one of the four wires going into the junction. I’ve considered removing the connectors and soldering the wires into a semi-permanent connection, but I think I’ll defer to a real BMW technician instead.

I was humping along on the treadmill at the fitness center yesterday morning when I glanced up at the big TV screen and saw Comrade Obama, grinning like the fool he is, filling in his NCAA brackets on ESPN. The Russians are taking advantage of our self-imposed impotence, the economy could collapse any day, high crimes and misdemeanors like Benghazi, IRS, Fast and Furious, etc. abound that ESPN is thanking Obama for taking time out of his “busy schedule” to play their little bracket game. I snorted at that remark and the other guy in the locker room laughed out loud.

And Michelle and her kids are going on vacation in China on our dime.

Is it time to sound the Deguello yet?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday morning

haircutmarrch18
Busy morning – deposit check, get $13 haircut at Great Clips and cash in an empty Starbucks coffee bag for a free cup of dark roast.
And the barista just brought me a sample of their chocolate croissant. And some guy just offered me his newspaper (the mediocre Democrat Gazette). I graciously declined. Life is pretty good here in the last couple days of winter.
A couple of my Indianapolis BMW Club riding buddies checked in with me over the weekend to see if I would be interested in filling in the blank states on my map at the bottom of this page sometime this year. Our finances are unsettled, but I told them I was about 80% interested.
There’s no accident that New England is the last place I’ve wanted to ride whenever I have the time and resources. My only foray up that way was the 2006 BMW MOA in Burlington, Vt. That said, I enjoyed riding through the Adirondacks in upstate New York and the ferry ride across Lake Champlain was fun. I had ambitions to pick up several new states during the rally, but the weather turned ugly and I spent the whole time in and around Burlington.
So maybe this is the year for New England.
But I really would love to visit Sean and see his new digs on Sauvie Island and swing down to Vegas for some time with Steve and his family.
We shall see.
I can't believe how jowly I look in this photo.

Monday, March 17, 2014

BW3

bw3 pano

The Jonesboro Buffalo Wild Wings (aka BW3) opened yesterday and we dropped in for an early dinner this afternoon.

The last time we ate at a BW3 was at the end of May, 2010 in Sierra Vista, Ariz. and much has changed with the Buzztime Trivia devices.

We were mildly surprised to discover the FLORAS account is still active and I miraculously remembered the password.

There was very little competition at that hour, so we had no problem dominating the scoreboard.

We look forward to the next time when we can demonstrate our trivia prowess to a larger audience.

bw3 score

Random Monday stuff

fox sez I didn’t blog yesterday because I was uninspired and felt kind of crappy – took a three-hour nap in the middle of the day.

Morgan and Ben came over last night for dinner an euchre and a good time was had by all. She got a good boost of self-confidence last week at a library conference in Indianapolis, in addition to visiting with her grandparents and brother and cousin. Looking at her photos kinda made us homesick for Indiana.

Apropos of nothing, I am inordinately please with myself for finally flushing the calcium deposits from our two water heaters. I suspected sediment build-up was compromising their efficiency and I was pretty sure the original owner of the house never flushed them in the two years he and his family lived here, so there was about an eight-year accumulation of calcium and other sediments to be blown out.

It was very easy: just cut the power at the breaker box, connect a garden hose to the spigot at the base of the water heater and open the spigot (with the other end of the hose outside, of course). About 10 minutes of flushing did the trick and now both water heaters are producing significantly hotter water on the same settings as before.

I just finished knocking out four product reviews for the Amazon Vine Program, so my plate is clear for new review items this Thursday.

And, yes, I know today is St. Patrick’s Day. I just don’t care.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

Does it all end on April 9?

ftwoscreenshotI’ve been using a program called For Two Wheels Only to keep all of my motorcycling records since August, 2000 and I love it.

When Windows 7 came out, I was flummoxed because FTWO wouldn’t run on a 64 bit system. I contacted the developer of FTWO, David Portugal, and he recommended upgrading to a version of Win7 that included an XP simulator that worked with 32 bit programs like his. I did and it works fine on my desktop computer.

My netbook came with XP and allows me to enter data into FTWO from the road or wherever I happen to be.

Happy, happy, happy.

Until April 9, when Microsoft cuts off support for XP, exposing it to hackers, hijackers, malware, all kinds of evil shit.

So if I want to keep using my netbook on the road in various and sundry Wifi environments, I need to jump up to Win7 which is constantly being patched and protected by Microsoft.

But I won’t have FTWO anymore.

I emailed David this morning to ask if he has rewritten FTWO for 64 bit systems, but he hasn’t replied and I doubt if he has updated his program for guys like me.

So I wait for a miracle.

Miss Dora

chair72

Miss Dora surveys her world from her favorite chair on the back porch.

Memo to self: clean up the porch floor this weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A treasure trove of Lafayette (Ind.) memories

mcgreevy I grew up in Delphi, Ind., where the nearest city of any consequence was Lafayette, some 18 miles west and south.

That’s where all of the good shopping was – department stores, furniture stores, music stores and, of course, the life-altering McHaley’s Surplus.

I spent a lot of time in Lafayette, so it seemed natural to sign up for a Facebook group called “You know you’re from Lafayette, if…”

One of the posts this week was a photo of the old Columbian Park swimming pool, where I took swimming lessons in the 1950s. Looking for more images, I did a Google search and found aerial photos of the pool by Jesse McGreevy. I recognized the name from the days when I read and carried the Lafayette Journal & Courier. A little exploring brought me to a web site lovingly created and maintained by his granddaughter Christy Marks, who is also a professional photographer.

The site is full of amazing images from McGreevy’s archives, including lots of photos of his kids, who were contemporaries of mine. I never knew them, but my ex wife, a Lafayette girl, grew up with them.

If you grew up in Lafayette or near there in the 1950s and ‘60s, or are just nostalgic for the period, you need to check out The Photos of William Jesse McGreevy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The North Face of our house where ice persists

stepsbefore

UPS is scheduled to deliver a package from Amazon.com today, but the front steps remained encased in sleety ice, despite temperatures as warm as 74º yesterday.

So I got out the spade, chopped it into manageable chunks and cleared them away. Voila! We have a front door again.

stepsafter

Digging again

diggingA72

The ice is gone and Dora is back to her digging.

Fortunately, I caught her in time to block the new tunnel with a couple of logs.

We’re waiting for Dacus Fence Co. to repair the damaged portion of our fence, after which we will install a low electric wire to discourage further tunnels. Unfortunately, it will be another week or so before the fence gets fixed, so we have to watch her like a hawk.

She pauses now and then to see if anyone is watching. I was.

diggingB72

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

He rode all the way from Kokomo. In the dark!

The first time I saw a kid anywhere close to my age on a motorcycle was in the autumn of 1957.

I was a 7th grader, hanging out with my friends one evening outside Bob’s Cafe on Main Street in Delphi, Ind.

That’s when a high school aged kid rode up on a motorcycle. This was years before the Japanese bikes showed up in the U.S., so it pretty much had to be American or British. Being a Germanophile, I would have remembered if it was a BMW.

It had a big windscreen and I was astonished and unspeakably impressed to learn he had ridden it from Kokomo. That was 35 miles away and it seemed an impossible distance for a kid to ride a motorcycle.

I don’t remember much about the rider except that he struck me as adventurous to the point of being a little scary.

I wonder if I’ve ever left that impression with anyone.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Daytona dreaming…

beachbar

A year ago tonight, I dined with new friends at High Tides at Snack Jack, a popular oceanside bar and grill on A1A just south of Flagler Beach, Fla.

The best I could manage today was about a 40-mile round trip ride to Mr. T’s Riverside, a mega liquor store just across the state line in Cardwell, Mo. where I bought a six-pack of Dunkel Spaten.

I would dearly love to be at Bike Week this week, but it’s no fun solo and nobody I know would be camping with me at the Holiday Travel Park where I usually stay.

So it goes. Marking the days to the first rally my Indy friends will attend that is within reach – probably the European Riders Rally in May in Burkesville, Ky.

The Mystery of Radio Shack

Radio Shack officials announced last week they plan to close about 1,000 stores.

Brings to mind this brilliant piece that ran on The Onion web site on April 23, 2007:

FORT WORTH, TX—Despite having been on the job for nine months, RadioShack CEO Julian Day said Monday that he still has "no idea" how the home electronics store manages to stay open.

"There must be some sort of business model that enables this company to make money, but I'll be damned if I know what it is," Day said. "You wouldn't think that people still buy enough strobe lights and extension cords to support an entire nationwide chain, but I guess they must, or I wouldn't have this desk to sit behind all day."

The retail outlet boasts more than 6,000 locations in the United States, and is known best for its wall-sized displays of obscure-looking analog electronics components and its notoriously desperate, high-pressure sales staff. Nevertheless, it ranks as a Fortune 500 company, with gross revenues of over $4.5 billion and fiscal quarter earnings averaging tens of millions of dollars.

"Have you even been inside of a RadioShack recently?" Day asked. "Just walking into the place makes you feel vaguely depressed and alienated. Maybe our customers are at the mall anyway and don't feel like driving to Best Buy? I suppose that's possible, but still, it's just...weird."

After taking over as CEO, Day ordered a comprehensive, top-down review of RadioShack's administrative operations, inventory and purchasing, suppliers, demographics, and marketing strategies. He has also diligently pored over weekly budget reports, met with investors, taken numerous conference calls with regional managers about "circulars or flyers or something," and even spent hours playing with the company's "baffling" 200-In-One electronics kit. Yet so far none of these things have helped Day understand the moribund company's apparent allure. 

"Even the name 'RadioShack'—can you imagine two less appealing words placed next to one another?" Day said. "What is that, some kind of World War II terminology? Are ham radio operators still around, even? Aren't we in the digital age?"

"Well, our customers are out there somewhere, and thank God they are," Day added.

One of Day's theories about RadioShack's continued solvency involves wedding DJs, emergency cord replacement, and off-brand wireless telephones. Another theory entails countless RadioShack gift cards that sit unredeemed in their recipients' wallets. Day has even conjectured that the store is "still coasting on" an enormous fortune made from remote-control toy cars in the mid-1970s.

Day admitted, however, that none of these theories seems particularly plausible.

"I once went into a RadioShack location incognito in order to gauge customer service," Day said. "It was about as inviting as a visit to the DMV. For the life of me, I couldn't see anything I wanted to buy. Finally, I figured I'd pick up some Enercell AA batteries, though truthfully they're not appreciably cheaper than the name brands."

"I know one thing," Day continued. "If Sony and JVC start including gold-tipped cable cords with their products, we're screwed."

In the cover letter to his December 2006 report to investors, "Radio Shack: Still Here In The 21st Century," Day wrote that he had no reason to believe that the coming year would not be every bit as good as years past, provided that people kept on doing things much the same way they always had.

Despite this cheerful boosterism, Day admitted that nothing has changed during his tenure and he doesn't exactly know what he can do to improve the chain.

"I'd like to capitalize on the store's strong points, but I honestly don't know what they are," Day said. "Every location is full of bizarre adapters, random chargers, and old boom boxes, and some sales guy is constantly hovering over you. It's like walking into your grandpa's basement. You always expect to see something cool, but it never delivers."

Added Day: "I may never know the answer. No matter how many times I punch the sales figures into this crappy Tandy desk calculator, it just doesn't add up."

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Not very welcoming

icyfrontsteps

Even though most of the sleety ice has melted, our front steps are an exception.

Shaded as they are on the north side of the house, they remain impassable unless you have crampons and an ice axe.

This may be why FedEx hasn’t delivered three packages I’ve been expecting from the Amazon.com Vine Program that were due on Wednesday.

Fortunately for us, we do almost all of our to-ing and fro-ing through the garage, to this represents only a minor inconvenience.

The sun is out. but the temperature is only 40 and probably won’t reach the predicted high of 55 today. The forecast is for a high of 65 tomorrow and 73 Tuesday, so we may have front door access again by mid-week.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Free at last!

tow02

Our neighbor Shannon came to our rescue this morning with his big Dodge RAM truck and yanked our hapless Subaru Forester out of the slime and onto solid ground.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The shirt says it all

fuck_shitThis has been a day of frustration.

The temperature climbed above freezing by mid-morning and the heavy mantel of sleety ice has been melting all day, but the ground is still white everywhere I look.

I made an attempt to free the Subaru about 3:30 p.m. and succeeded in backing it about 10 feet farther into the yard before it bogged down in slush and mud.

And our renter, who texted me on Tuesday that he would make his late rent payment this week, texted me this afternoon to say he won’t be able to pay until next Friday, which is two weeks late. I haven’t responded yet because I’m too angry to compose a civil communication.

We went through this a year ago and Maria let him know in very clear language that the next time he played us like this, he’d better start looking for a new home.

Were it not for the tax deductible interest on the mortgage for that house, I would sell it at a loss just to be rid of it and him.

So here we sit, still held prisoner by ice and slush, since I don’t think the Lexus could get out of our subdivision without getting stuck.

Maybe we can get out tomorrow, but more likely Sunday.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Slushed in

subaru stuck

Maria was going to a 3 p.m. meeting in Jonesboro this afternoon, but she never got out of the driveway.

The sun and rising temperatures have melted the sleet/ice into an ultra-slick slush that even defeated the mighty Subaru Forester’s All Wheel Drive.

Maria, like me, learned to drive in snowy, slushy Indiana winters, and she gave it a superb try, but the Subaru and its standard street tires was just not up to the challenge.

The slush is so treacherous that I don’t think the Subaru could have made it out of our subdivision and back. Needless to say, the Lexus would be helpless in this stuff.

So all we can do is wait for the sun to do its work and melt this crap.

Saving bird lives

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The ground is still covered with a concrete-like layer of ice and snow, depriving the birds of much of their natural food.

Thanks to son Steve and his lovely wife Nicky, we are able to let the birds dine in style with this Christmas gift of a bird feeder. This morning, it was swarmed by finches.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Dora

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Dora just turned 10 months old and is everything we hoped she would be.

A year ago tomorrow evening

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This is me, a year ago tomorrow night, putting the cover on my bike outside a motel in Prattville, Ala.

If I look totally fried, it’s because I was after a day of riding in temperatures in the 30s and low 40s without the benefit of my Gerbings electric jacket liner and gloves.

Yes, I rode to Daytona Beach Bike Week and home again last year in miserable cold, kept alive only by the judicious use of windstopper technology.

The problem? My bike’s accessory power circuit couldn’t handle electric clothing and GPS, so GPS won out.

Since then, I’ve had a Gerbings power plug installed that is wired directly to the battery, so there will be no such issues.

Unfortunately, I’ll miss Bike Week this year because it looks like none of my Indianapolis BMW Club friends will make it and I hate camping and touring Bike Week by myself.

Besides, it will probably be Sunday or Monday before the ice melts enough to ride out of our subdivision.

So it goes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

20 years ago at Bike Week

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Twenty years ago, I rode from my home in Carmel, Ind. to my second Daytona Beach Bike Week.

It was before I acquired heated electric gear, so I braved frigid northern winds in a snowmobile suit I bought at the ‘93 Bike Week vendor extravaganza at the Daytona Motor Speedway.

I camped at the Space Coast BMW Club enclave at Bulow Campground, some 15 miles northwest of Daytona Beach, and was delighted to find two of the Bradshaw brothers with whom I had grown up in Delphi, Ind.

On the left is Jim “Bo” Bradshaw, who was living in Atlanta, Ga., and the time, his brother Dick, who was running the family business – Delphi Body Works – and, of course, me. I was living in an apartment in Carmel, Ind. at the time.

The Bradshaw house was a block south of the Flora house in the east end of Delphi. Dick is two years older than I and Jim is a year younger. I hope they are well and happy.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Welcome to Ice Station Dora

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We’re snow/ice-bound in our home in the woods for the next day or three, but the power stayed on and no trees came down last night.

The freezing rain was short-lived yesterday before changing to sleet, but then it sleeted like a mofo for hour upon hour, building up about a 6-8-inch layer of sleety ice before changing to snow.

The crust, covered with about a quarter-inch of snow, is like concrete, which is why the dogs look like they’re standing on a white floor.

There’s a foot-high mound of frozen sleet piled up outside the garage door. The sun is shining on it right now, but the temperature is 13ºF, so we can expect only some negligible sublimation today. The forecasters say the temperature will remain below freezing until sometime Wednesday and Thursday, with a predicted high of 44º, looks like the first day of serious melting.

Consequently, schools will almost certainly be closed through Wednesday and maybe beyond. I have no expectation of being able to drive anywhere until late Wednesday.

That said, we’re comfortable and well-provisioned and very relieved we didn’t have to use our generator and kerosene heater.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Ready and waiting

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I’ve got our generator and our kerosene heater ready for action and we’re waiting to see if the freezing rain, that has yet to start in earnest, will knock out our electricity.

The Lexus is in the garage with a full tank of gas.

My only real concern is trees or limbs falling onto – or through – the roof. Other than that, the much heralded coming ice storm doesn’t concern me that much.

When we left off yesterday, I was waiting for the water heater to drain so I could scoot it away from the wall to accommodate the fiberglass jacket.

That accomplished, I turned on the water and closed the hot water relief valve, but was alarmed to see the valve wouldn’t close completely and a steady dribble continued from the overflow pipe.

Consulting the water heater owner’s manual, I discovered this valve should be tested once a year and, if it won’t close completely, it should be replaced. I have never tested it in the six years we’ve lived here and doubt if the previous owner did either.

Happily, we have a reliable and responsive plumber nearby and he and his wife were here within an hour of my call for help.

He replaced the valve and showed me how to thoroughly flush the water heater tank, which resulted in a huge amount of calcium being blown out. He also checked the hot water relief valve on the other water heater and pronounced it sound. Total cost: $71.

As a consequence, the flushed-out water heater is now much more efficient and gives us water much hotter than we’ve ever had. Once the weather settles down, I plan to flush out the other water heater tank. I figured the knowledge I got about how to maintain water heaters was worth the price of the work.

Then we drove in to Sam’s Club for provisions, stopping at Lowe’s on the way home to pick up a vacuum belt set which I installed after dinner.

So here I sit, watching the Weather Channel website radar and waiting, as prepared as we can be for whatever comes.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Just another quiet Saturday morning

The good news is that my headcold is almost gone. I woke up feeling remarkably good and looking forward to a quiet Saturday at home.

I brought the dogs in and fed them in their kennels, then sat down on the couch with a bowl of cereal.

The first sign of trouble came when Maria decided to put the dogs out and lost control of them. Dora raced into the living room and jumped up onto the couch with me, which is a happy thing.

Then I heard Maria shouting at Jack to “drop it” and saw him charging into the living room via the kitchen, dining room, and foyer with a chewed-open ZipLoc bag of flour in his mouth and laying a thick trail of flour behind him.

We got him stopped halfway through the living room and persuaded him to surrender his prize before being ushered out into the back yard.

Maria went after the flour with a broom and dustpan, fearing the vacuum would create a floury cloud.

I followed up with the Hoover, but once I got to the foyer and adjusted the beater brush for a shorter carpet nap, it locked up and burned one or both belts.

Fortunately, I had a ShopVac in reserve and found it did a better job getting up the flour than did the Hoover.

Flour cleaned up, but now a vacuum to repair, necessitating a trip sometime soon to the hardware store for replacement belts.

We’re expecting an ice storm tomorrow and likely power outages, so it seemed like a good time to wrap the water heater that serves our bathroom with the fiberglass jacket I got last week from Amazon.com.

After clearing away six years of spider webs and accumulated dust, I discovered that whoever installed the water heater put it almost flush against a wall – too close to pass the jacket around.

Fortunately, the water lines to and from the heater are flexible, allowing for the heater position to be adjusted. Unfortunately, a 60-gallon water heater holds 480 pounds of water, making it too heavy for me to shift.

Undaunted, I set about retrieving the hose, which I attached to the drain valve, shut off the water and electric supply to the heater and opened the valve with a screwdriver. But no water drained. WTF?

The water heater owner’s manual, which lives in a large accordion folder with dozens of other operator’s manuals for most of the devices and appliances we own, says to open a nearby hot water faucet to relieve the vacuum. I did, with no significant improvement in the trickle of water.

Then I noticed the hot water relief valve on the upper right side of the heater and opened it. A gurgling sound commenced and I saw water beginning to flow – not gush, just flow – out of the hose onto the driveway.

I was disturbed to notice the escaping water carried chunks of what look like calcium, which suggests this draining is long overdue and may be too little and too late to rescue the water heater from death by calcification.

So now I’m at my desk, waiting for the heater to drain enough to be shifted so I can wrap it in fiberglass, refill it and turn the electricity back on.

Then I can fix the vacuum and prepare for the ice apocalypse.