Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Oh, great

I learned today that Middle Eastern men have been surreptitiously videoing people entering and leaving the bigger churches in town.
And the local imam is on the no-fly list.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

An abscess for Christmas

My dental crises are infrequent, but they always seem to come at inopportune times, like the beginning of a weekend.

So it made perfect sense that an abscess made itself known on Christmas Eve in the form of a telltale sensation when I tapped my right cuspid (canine/eye tooth/#6 on the dental charts).

Realizing I had to get from then until Monday before I could see a dentist and get a proper antibiotic prescription, I availed myself of some antibiotics that Maria had left over from a staph infection. My pharmacist friend Charlie opined that it might help, but I needed something more dentally potent ASAP.

I visited a dentist Monday afternoon, had some X-rays and got some troubling news that since the tooth in question is the anchor for a bridge, this would be a costly and complicated root canal project. He gave me a prescription for clindamycin (300MG) and said he will consult with his partner, who last worked on me, and work out a course of treatment.

I took two clindamycin - one at mid-afternoon and the other at bedtime, only to awaken around 11:30 with horrendous indigestion that threatened to turn into acid reflux. I moved to the big black leather recliner in the living room and tried to sleep, but was awakened a few hours later with my stomach on fire. It was then that it dawned on me that the antibiotic had almost certainly wiped out my digestive flora and fauna. I found some acidophilus pills in the fridge and washed one down with several mouthfuls of probiotic Kefir. Ten minutes later the discomfort subsided and I dozed in the chair for a couple of hours before moving back to bed.

So my agenda this afternoon includes a trip to Kroger to load up on Kefir and yogurt to keep my gut in balance for the next nine days of antibiotic treatment.
Still waiting to hear from the dentist.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best granddaughter ever!

Granddaughter Lisa loves the harlequin hoodie we gave her for Christmas.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Streaming the Beatles

I'm listening to the newly-available Beatles catalog streaming on my Amazon Prime account this evening. The high quality headphones have the effect of making almost every song brand new, bringing out nuances that I never heard from either vinyl or CD versions.

I'm a little surprised at some of my impressions. Like most of the songs on the White Album are kinda lame. And I'm reminded of why I never really liked John Lennon because there was a kind of anger bubbling below the surface of his personality.

And I'd never really appreciated the way the Moog Synthesizer was used on some of the Abbey Road tracks. It's no big deal today, but in the late 1960s the first synthesizers were pretty primitive and required extensive programming to get the desired sound.

There are flashbacks, too. Revolver takes me back to the autumn of 1966 when I had my first newspaper job, working as a reporter and photographer at the Tipton (Ind.) Tribune and living in a drafty mobile home a couple of blocks south of the office. I was out in the world, making my way like a grown-up and it was a heady experience. It's a good thing I didn't know what I didn't know or I would have been paralyzed with embarrassment.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Burrito Gigante!

The biggest, best burrito I ever had was one I encountered at lunch on July 23, 2001 at a Mexican restaurant in Gold Hill, Ore.

I was riding with three friends from the Indianapolis BMW Club from the BMW MOA Rally in Redmond, Ore., bound for Eureka, Calif. and the Lost Coast.

It was so big, I couldn't finish it and it became the benchmark burrito by which all subsequent burritos would be judged.

I finally met a comparable burrito - the Burrito Gigante at Papito's restaurant in Jonesboro, Ark. on Thursday. I couldn't finish this one in one sitting either, so I took the last fourth of it home for dinner Thursday evening.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A revelation and a blessing

We got an unexpected gift in the form of a Christmas revelation and blessing last night.

Maria, who is in her first week as a church secretary, took a call yesterday afternoon from a blind woman who wanted to know where the free community Christmas dinner would be this year.

There is no community Christmas dinner this year, Maria told her, and offered to bring dinner to her. It was determined that she would like to have the makings of a dinner – ham, corn, potatoes and no-bake cheesecake. She said she lives in a mobile home with her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend.

So after Maria got off work, I drove into town and met her at the Kroger store where we bought about $30 worth of stuff for the woman, including a very large ham that should feed them for a few days.

The address was unfamiliar so I keyed it into my GPS and we set off, driving north and west of town on back roads I probably would never have seen otherwise.

When we got to the trailer park, we tried two or three trailers before we found the right one – an especially old and shabby mobile home with mud for a sidewalk. We noted that there were no motor vehicles in evidence, raising the question of how these people get around.

The daughter and her boyfriend came out to the car and collected the groceries, thanking us profusely.

As we drove away, I was struck and humbled by the contrast of their home and ours. I don't know when I've seen our blessings in such sharp relief. We are living like royalty compared with those folks. We have a comfortable three-bedroom home, two cars and two motorcycles, two beautiful Australian shepherd dogs, a closet full of more clothes that anyone really needs, a downtown office building that pays for itself, and on and on and on.

It was an honor to be able to do something for those folks and was the best Christmas gift we've received in years.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday report

I still haven't found good software for composing blogposts, so I'm stuck with the crappy format that Blogger dictates.
Here we are on Dec. 23 - two days into winter already. It seems like only last week that I was in Harrison, Ark. for the BMWRA Rally. Now I'm looking at the 2016 calendar to pencil in my rally and travel aspirations. As always, Daytona Bike Week is a possibility, dovetailed with a visit to Indianapolis News compadre Skip Hess's place in suburban Tampa. Then there's the European Riders Rally in Burkesville, Ky. in May, the BMWMOA Rally in Hamburg, NY in July, and the Falling Leaf Rally in Potosi, Mo. in October. The BMWRA Rally is a possibility, but the venue hasn't been announced yet.
The early part of the calendar could be in doubt because the wonky starter button on my K1200GT, which previously took multiple pushes when the bike stood for a long period in hot weather has started misbehaving in our now-cold garage. The last time I took the bike out for a ride to the post office, it took 35 presses of the starter button before the engine fired. The solution is elusive and probably expensive and I'm not eager to embark on a long trip without getting it sorted out.
I haven't tallied up my 2015 mileage - something I'm leaving until New Year's Day. It will be considerably less than the 10,000 miles needed for an Indianapolis BMW Club 10k award, but I think I'm going to beat my pathetic 2014 total.
Maria has changed jobs and is working as a church secretary for one of the largest churches in town. It's a job that is spiritually fulfilling as well as more financially rewarding than her previous job. It's nice to see her coming home at the end of the day with a smile on her face and a spring in her step.
And it will be good to get out of the fiscal fetal position after more than a year of extreme austerity.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Jack is fascinated by the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why the silence?

One of the reasons I haven't blogged much in the past week is the fact that my favorite blog writing program, Windows Live Writer, has lost its ability to post to Blogger.
It's a much more elegant piece of software than the built-in editor that comes with Blogger and offers a greater variety of formatting and layout features. If I don't find a suitable replacement for it, I may have to move my blog to Wordpress or some other platform.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Merry Cherry Christmas

This week, I sent Christmas reminders to both of my sons and my two step-children of time they spent in the lovely Michigan village of Beulah and especially the Cherry Hut – my favorite midwest restaurant. My first wife and I took Sean and Steve to Beulah in the early 1980s where we rented a cabin on the shores of Crystal Lake and swam, fished and sailed for a week. A month after Maria and I were married in 2001, we took Morgan and Austin to the same resort for a week, dining several times at the Cherry Hut. I think I was around 5 or 6 years old the first time my parents took me to Beulah and the Cherry Hut. I have a fuzzy memory of sitting at an outdoor table next to a white picket fence enjoying a turkey sandwich, followed by hot cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. It was a blissful memory and I’ve recreated the experience at least four times since. That’s why Cherry Hut gift boxes are becoming a blended family tradition at Christmas time. Morgan received hers on Wednesday and Austin, Sean and Steve got theirs from FedEx this afternoon.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Taking the day off

Our free range porch cat is conspicuously absent from his regular spot on the wicker loveseat today.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Red Rebel Rooster

I’ve been eyeing this curious piece of folk art for several days and finally took the time to drive down to the farm produce store a mile south of our house this morning to photograph it properly. The place wasn’t open for business, so I wasn’t able to find out how much they’re asking for it and I had to photograph it from the berm of U.S. 49. It stands about 4 feet high. It’s one of those odd things I think is really cool, but have no idea what I’d do with it if I owned it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Christmas surprise


My son Steve took me completely by surprise with a most generous Christmas gift yesterday.

He bought two Geno 2.0 DNA kits for Maria and me and they landed on our front porch yesterday afternoon.

I’ve run the Flora/Flory genealogy back to Switzerland long before the American Revolution and Maria’s maternal ancestry is Italian.

Now we can have definitive proof of our genetic roots.

I will, of course, share the results with Steve and his brother Sean.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

52 years ago tonight


Fifty-two years ago tonight, 23 young men accepted bids like this one to become pledges of Zeta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.

ATO was the newest and most vital fraternity on the Indiana State College (later Indiana State University) campus and I was proud to be invited to be part of it.

I don’t remember much about that night, but I do recall that we signed cards declaring ourselves to be white Christians. (ATO was founded at Virginia Military Institute where Stonewall Jackson taught and the three founders fought on the Confederate side in the Battle of New Market.) The white ato pledge pinChristian clause is long gone today.

We were each presented with a pledge pin that featured design elements from the central panel of the badge worn by active members: a gold crescent moon over three gold stars on a disc of white enamel.

It was to be worn on the upper left chest of any shirt with a collar whenever we were out in public for the duration of our pledgeship, which lasted until late March.

The occasion was called “preference night” when each of the six or seven fraternities on campus accepted their pledges and as was the custom, each fraternity paraded its new pledge class through the Grill, a casual cafeteria in the Tirey Memorial Union Building. Then we went upstairs to one of the lounges where we were photographed for the rotogravure section of the Terre Haute newspaper.


That’s me in the chair on the left of the front row. Three guys dropped out during the pledgeship period and their faces are blacked out in the photo, their names lost to history.

Afterward, we were driven to a union hall along U.S. 40 east of Terre Haute in the little town of Seeleyville where the actives got us all very very drunk. My most vivid memory of that part of the evening was watching Alan Freeman, the fourth guy to my left in the front row, chug beer, sucking it out of the can faster than it could be poured. A local boy, Al clearly had some drinking experience. (He now lives in his ancestral home of Lithuania.)

We surrendered our pledge pins when were initiated into active membership. I have one now only because I found it a few years ago on Ebay. Maybe I’ll pin it to my shirt at 7 o’clock this evening.

And, yes, it was all very much like Animal House.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Ralph Peters calls Obama 'a total pussy' on live television

FOX News, apparently concerned about reprisals from Obama's FCC, suspended Col. Peters for two weeks for his exquisitely articulate vulgarities.

God bless Col. Peters.

Monday, December 07, 2015

How my parents heard about Pearl Harbor


This is a Philco Model 41-295 console radio. Seventy-four years ago, my parents listened to news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on a radio just like this.

It used 11 tubes and received AM as well as shortwave from 2.3 to 7 mc, 9 to 12 mc and 13.5 to 18 mc. It had eight pushbuttons; seven for preset AM stations and one for off-on control. It operated on 115 volts, AC only. The cabinet was a wood veneer and it stood 36 inches tall. The original price was $100. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $1,617.95 in today’s money.

I spent hours in front of our Philco console radio in the late 1940s and early ‘50s. Much of the time, it was tuned to WBAA (AM, of course. This was years before FM broadcasting), the Purdue University station in West Lafayette, Ind. We lived about 20 miles east of West Lafayette in Delphi.

One of the highlights of my day came at 5 p.m. when the Storytime Special came on the air and I got to hear a story read by the “Story Lady,” a Purdue coed, probably a radio or communications major.

I remember listening to WBAA afternoon jazz programming and wondering why they played so much stuff by the Art Van Damme Quintet. Maybe it was because he was a Dutchman from Michigan and there was, and is, a large Dutch Reformed community in Lafayette. Van Damme was considered the father of the jazz accordion.

Saturday nights, WLS in Chicago carried the National Barn Dance. One of the acts was Captain Stubby and his Buccaneers. Captain Stubby’s real name was Tom Fouts and he grew up with my mom in eastern Carroll County.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Merry Christmas to us–early

samsung 32

What with Maria changing jobs in a couple of weeks and work interruptions for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, our December cash flow isn’t as robust as we would like, so we’re being frugal about Christmas buying.

That said, I noticed a 32” Samsung smart TV on sale at Sam’s Club on Wednesday for about $260. Maria agreed it was just the thing to replace our old analog 26” Sharp beast of a TV in our bedroom.

The CRT Sharp became a VHF-only TV when our cable provider switched to all-digital upper channels. I was too cheap to rent or buy a converter box, so we just watched channels 2-13 on it.

It’s been awhile since I bought a TV. The last one was a 42” Sharp Aquos we bought for the living room in late 2007. It was pretty heavy and unwieldy. The new Samsung is amazingly light and easy to move.

The daughter of Maria’s employer was pleased to take the old 26” Sharp off of our hands to use for a video gaming display.

We decided the Samsung is our Christmas gift to each other.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Sticking with Cigna and Sam’s Club

I got my Medicare card five years ago when I turned 65 and chose Cigna as my supplemental insurance for prescription drugs.

I’ve stayed with Cigna ever since, but recently decided to review my coverage to see if there’s a better deal out there.

BMW riding friend Charlie Parsons, a retired pharmacist, recommended a woman who works in an insurance agency in Paragould and I consulted with her earlier this week.

She determined an outfit named Wellcare offers a better deal and will save me about $190 in annual premiums.

I tried to sign up with them yesterday morning, but their systems were on the fritz. I called back this morning and spent a tedious half-hour answering questions over and over until it developed that I can only use pharmacies from their preferred list.

And Sam’s Club is not on their list.

The Jonesboro Sam’s Club pharmacy is the friendliest, most efficient and competent pharmacy I have ever dealt with and I’d rather pay more for my insurance that suffer the indignity and inconvenience of going somewhere else.

I’m sticking with Cigna.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

ROK Straps to the rescue

rok strap

I needed to glue the back panels of one of the dining room chairs I inherited from my parents.

I don’t remember when my parents bought the dining room table and chairs, but it has to be well over 50 years ago. So it wasn’t a great surprise when the glue joints on one side of the back let go awhile back.

I finally got out the Gorilla Glue this afternoon and re-glued the joints. After fumbling for a few minutes with a 15-foot long strapping device it dawned on me that ROK Straps are a whole lot easier to use.

And they are.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Two bars in one day

sullys 01

We made an ultra-rare trip to a downtown bar last night to join Morgan and her boyfriend Jason to listen to local country artist Lauren Richmond.

I can’t remember the last time I was in two bars in the same day. Showing my advanced age, I sipped iced tea.

sullys 02

Old mug, new mug

mug day old new

Yesterday, being the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, was New Mug Day at Boscos Squared in Memphis.

It’s the day when Boscos Mug Club members retire their old mugs and are issued new ones. The old mugs are taken home, while the new mugs – with the owners’ numbers inscribed on the bottom – go into racks above the bar.

Here are my most recent mugs – the 2015 mug on the left and the 2016 mug on the right. Perks that go with Mug Club membership (which is limited to about 250 people and costs $60 a year) include an inaugural free first beer and larger portions of beer at reduced rates on subsequent visits over the following year.

As I told a USAF C-135 pilot seated next to me, it’s only slightly more exclusive than membership in the National Geographic Society (which you get when you subscribe to the magazine).

Charlie Parsons, my original Mug Club sponsor and mentor, and I drove down to Memphis in filthy rainy weather for the occasion.

mug day pano

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Holiday flashback

egg nog

When I was a kid growing up in Delphi, Ind., my mom always bought a quart or two of Dean’s Egg Nog around the holiday season, usually in the Christmas-New Years period, but sometimes for Thanksgiving.

Even though the company is based in Pennsylvania, Dean’s always felt like a local brand to me and I especially loved their egg nog with its delightful nutmeggy flavor. I remember sitting in the living room, gazing out at the snowy vistas and savoring each wonderful sip.

I’ve gone through a couple of quarts of other brands – Prairie Farms and Kroger – in the past few weeks, but was very pleasantly surprised to find Dean’s Egg Nog in the dairy case at Aldi yesterday.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

52 years ago today


I traveled to Washington, D.C. with four friends from Indiana State College for the funeral of President John F. Kennedy 52 years ago this week.

jfk01 (1)I shot this photo of the caisson bearing the late President’s body down Pennsylvania Avenue using a cheap little point-and-shoot camera that I got free for empty Viceroy cigarette packs.

Not bad for a plastic lens and no light metering or shutter/aperture control.

Here I am with ATΩ Fraternity brother Reed McCormick, who died a few years ago in Arizona, and TKE Fraternity friend Steve Dolbow in front of the Capitol Building after the funeral parade.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Eighteen years gone


I was sitting at my desk in the Indianapolis Star & News Metro North Bureau in Carmel, Ind., 18 years ago this afternoon when I got a call from St. Elizabeth Health Care Center in Delphi telling me my father had just died.

To say I was stunned would be a horrible understatement. I drove as fast as I could over snow-covered secondary roads to the nursing home where my mother was waiting in a state of shock.

Dad had been a patient there for several months after suffering a stroke that compromised his ability to swallow food, necessitating a feeding tube into his stomach. The nursing staff told me there was a problem with the tube and they were preparing to take him by ambulance to St. Elizabeth Hospital in nearby Lafayette to correct the problem when he checked out.

There is no doubt in my mind that he deliberately dropped his body rather than suffer any more such indignities.

My mother, who arrived at the nursing home after he died, swore that he stuck his tongue out at her when she walked into his room. Knowing his playful nature and the kind of relationship they had, I’m sure that’s what she saw.

The man who was born 87 years earlier on a farm in Carroll County, Ind., lived a rich, full and responsible life as a father, husband, independent insurance agent, Realtor; elder, deacon and choir member in the First Presbyterian Church, founding member of the Delphi Chamber of Commerce, and member and president of the Delphi-Deer Creek Consolidated School board at the time the present high school was planned and built.

My dad was a solid citizen and he and my mother gave me an idyllic stable Leave it to Beaver style childhood.

I miss him every day.

(The photo dates from 1968, when dad was 58 years old and Sean was about 18 months old.)

Saturday, November 21, 2015


This just happened in Greenwood....apparently their human was taking too long in the store. Haha!

Posted by Melissa M. Tonkin on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

Briarbrooks Gentleman Jack Flora

john buddy 02[4]

We drove to Carthage, Mo. four years ago today and welcomed the puppy we later named Briarbrooks Gentleman Jack Flora into our lives.

Jack comes from a long line of Australian shepherd royalty. Two of his grandfathers were Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. His parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all champions or grand champions.

Jack has a regal bearing and what we like to call a “fancy pageant walk.”

He was a good companion during Pete’s last year on earth and showed us a sweet and nurturing side of his personality when Dora joined our pack.


Jack and Dora have been spending more quality time with us in the evenings in recent weeks and after he decides there’s nothing to be snatched by counter surfing, Jack settles down with his favorite stuffed toys alternating between the living room with me and the sewing room with Maria.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Turns out I wasn’t missing anything


One of the cable music channels aired a Door concert at the Hollywood Bowl the other night and it got me revisiting their music.

I remember being impressed with their debut album, absolutely stunned by their second album Strange Days, and let down by Waiting for the Sun which followed.

All told, they released six studio albums before lead singer Jim Morrison died in Paris on July 3, 1971.

Morrison is said to have pointed out keyboard player Ray Manzarek at a gathering, saying, “That man is the Doors,” because of Manzarek’s distinctive sound on the electric piano.

The group released two more studio albums after Morrison’s death that made it clear that Morrison was wrong. The insipid nature of the last two albums prove beyond all doubt that Morrison was the Doors.

I have a vinyl copy of Full Circle, the final Doors album and the second without Morrison. I didn’t think much of it.

After watching the Hollywood Bowl concert film, I discovered the first post-Morrison album had slipped past me.

I searched and found Other Voices and Full Circle are out in a two-CD package, but not as digital downloads. I ordered the CDs and they arrived today.

My first listening of Other Voices may well be my last. It’s freaking horrible. Without the Morrison’s rich dark voice and lyrics, it’s hard to believe it’s the same band. The lyrics are goofy New Agey and the rhyming schemes are sophomoric.

In the years before his death on May 20, 2013, Manzarek teamed with blues guitarist Roy Rogers for a couple of albums. They were disappointing also.

My impulse for completeness dictates I have them all in my music library, but it’s pretty obvious that the Doors died with Jim Morrison.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fake TV


While researching the energy consumption of our LCD Sharp Aquos TV, I discovered the fake TV burglar deterrent.

For less than $30, you can buy one of these little gizmos that mimics the brightness and hue changes of a real TV, but with just a fraction of the power consumption.

The premise is that burglars will not try to enter a house at night if they think someone is awake.

Check it out on at:

Eye and tooth issues

A tiny fiber, too small to be cotton and almost certainly synthetic, attacked my left eye yesterday morning as I sat at my desk.

I ran downstairs to the bathroom, washed my hands and removed my left contact lens, which is when I found the fiber.

I flushed the lens with saline and put it back in, but it was clear that my eye was irritated.

I woke up about 4 a.m. with a dull ache in the outside corner of my left eye, a sure sign of infection. I had a round of pinkeye a few weeks ago and still had plenty of antibiotic eye drops left, so I started on the every six hours routine.

As luck would have it, I had an 8 a.m. dental appointment for a filling.

Now I’m sitting at Panera with coffee and a cherry Danish (they were out of my usual cheese Danish) trying not to drool with my thoroughly numbed lips.

And just for the record, I dumped 4 inches of rain from the gauge this morning. That makes a total of 8.5 inches of rain since a daily sequence of storms began Sunday.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gray days with some bright spots

john midnovember15I suddenly find myself in the middle of November in that time of the year when the cold rains are upon us and strip the leaves from the trees.

We have enough oak trees that hold onto their leaves to keep things looking as stark as they probably are up in Indiana where maples dominate, but it still looks like winter isn’t far away.

With all of the bad news coming out of Europe and the Muslim-infiltrated White House, I’m heartened today to know there are still a lot of people in this country with backbone and a sense of patriotism.

A Tennessee radio talk show host is telling concealed carry permit holders that they now have a duty to carry a firearm.

My friend Ken Campbell, former Boone County (Ind.) sheriff and now an instructor at Gunsite in Arizona, shared a Facebook post in which Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble opined earlier this year that armed citizens may be the best deterrent to terror attacks. Friday night’s slaughter in a Paris concert venue would have played out very differently if a few people in the crowd had been trained shooters packing firearms. It appears that most of Europe is a gun free zone. Happily, that is not the case in the U.S.

And I am proud that the governors of Arkansas and Indiana have announced that their states will not accept any Syrian refugees. At this writing governors of 16 states have closed their states to such an invasion.

As Greg Gutfeld said over the weekend, it’s not a wakeup call if you go back to sleep. I think the Paris attacks have a lot of us wide awake.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Remembering Pete

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wrote this blogpost three years ago today:

We had to say goodbye to our beloved Pete this morning.

He nearly died in early August but rallied when we put him on a liver cleansing diet. It bought him another three months of life, but we knew his liver was in precarious shape.

He was unable to jump up onto our bed for the last few days. Maria noticed his abdomen was distended last night and it was worse this morning.

We took him to the vet this morning and Dr. Heather Curry determined his abdomen was full of fluid as a consequence of a completely failed liver. He might have lived another week or two with daily draining of the fluid, but there was no recovering and he would have been miserable.

I'm so glad that I lifted him onto the bed last night and he got to spend his last night sleeping with us and poking Maria in the face with his back legs.

He's over the Rainbow Bridge now, getting reacquainted with Ruthie, who died a year ago.

Pete was born Nov. 6, 2005 on a farm just outside Crawfordsville, Ind. His dad was a miniature Aussie and his mom was a full-sized Aussie.

He was the sweetest dog I ever knew and I will cherish his memory forever.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shorter, stiffer, heavier

stanley boot comparison

The Stanley waterproof steel-toed work boots that the Amazon Vine Program sent me to review arrived this morning.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison with the Bates tactical boots I’ve worn almost daily and on all motorcycle rides for the past few years. The Stanley boots are about two inches shorter, but still provide plenty of ankle protection.

They’re heavier and stiffer. They also don’t have side zippers, making them a little more of a struggle to put on.

But, boy, are they impressive in their bulk and apparent sturdiness. They make me feel like I could kick a hole in a brick wall. Almost.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Remembering Pete with our Café Press store


I don't pay much attention to it, but every now and then I get a message from Cafe Press that an item featuring our first and sweetest Aussie, Pete, has been purchased. With the third anniversary of Pete's departure for the Rainbow Bridge coming up on Sunday, this seems like an appropriate time to share a link to our Cafe Press store:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New boots on the way

stanley bootThe Bates Gore-Tex tactical boots that son Steve bought me for Christmas in 2012 (I had them on my wish list) are showing their age as a consequence of almost three years of daily wear.

I’ve been thinking about replacing them lately, but the budget won’t allow purchases like that for the time being.

Then, wonder of wonders, the Amazon Vine Program offered me a pair of these Stanley waterproof steel-toed work boots to review. Most of the time, the articles of clothing they offer me are in a size that is too small for me. This time they were on target with size 11 medium.

The cuff is about three inches shorter than the Bates tactical boots, but it’s still over the ankle and high enough that the waterproof gaiters inside my Kathmandu riding pants should cover it.

They’re scheduled to show up at our local post office on Friday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Testing, testing…

3m cans

I’m auditioning the 3M WorkTunes Wireless Hearing Protector with Bluetooth Technology for the Amazon Vine Program today.

I’ve already reviewed two audiophile Bluetooth headphones this year – the Bang & Olufsen H8 and the Parrot ZIK 2.0. They are superb headphones that perform like you would expect headphones in the $400-$500 price range. They both have noise canceling that works very well under normal listening conditions.

But the 3M cans are a different animal. They are basically a set of industrial grade ear protectors with a rated 24 db noise attenuation into which the 3M folks have packed speakers, a Bluetooth chip and an AM-FM radio.

I’ve used the two audiophile headphone sets on my riding lawnmower all summer with decent results, so I was curious to see how purpose-built noise protectors would work.

After a half-hour of mulching leaves I can report that they are far superior to noise-cancelling circuitry in reducing mower noise. And the sound quality when paired with my iPhone 6 is surprisingly good.

The price on is pretty reasonable at $89.99 (list price is supposedly $140.60). 3M also makes a wired version (without Bluetooth) that sells on for $31.70, but if you’re actually going to use these while working or being active, the wireless Bluetooth version is the better choice.

Paired with your smartphone, the wireless WorkTunes headphones will alert you to an incoming call, but they don’t have a speaker, so you’ll have to take off your headphones and answer your phone as you would normally.

The controls are fairly intuitive, letting you toggle through AM, FM, Bluetooth and an optional Auxiliary connection. With Bluetooth, you can pause or play songs and step forward and backward through your playlist. The radio functions include the ability to tag stations for quick access.

Hearing protectors designed for shooters run in the 30-34 db range, so these may or may not be adequate for the shooting range, depending on your sensitivity.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

One visit to the Burlington Coat Factory is enough


A Burlington Coat Factory store opened recently in space previously occupied by the Kroger supermarket.

We got a flyer from Burlington Coat Factory in the mail last week that included a card redeemable for a free umbrella with any purchase. Morgan got one too, so we lobbied Maria to commit to a minimum of 30 minutes cruising the new store this afternoon.

It turned into a life-sucking hour and I think I’m done with that place forever.

My first impression was that it is almost identical to the store next door – a Goodwill Industries store. The clothes are arranged on racks stretching to infinity and organized in a hodge-podge mix of brands and sizes. The only difference is that the stuff at Goodwill is used and of dubious cleanliness, but the prices are better.

Maria bought a Kitchen Aid potato masher and I bought a two-pack of Columbia wool socks. And we got our free umbrella. I feel like we earned it.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Birthday gifts for my sons

irvin framed

Now that Steve and Sean have received framed photos of their great-grandfather Irvin M. Flora, I can blog about them.

The photos show the earliest known evidence of musical ability in the Flora line - Irvin Monroe Flora on a piano bench in the parlor of the farm house where he and his wife, Bertha LaDora Long Flora, raised nine children.

The Flora family farmed 80 acres in southern Carroll County, Indiana. Irvin Flora served as Trustee of Democrat Township and later as Carroll County Treasurer. During the 1920s, my Dad tells me, Irvin had the distinction of being the only farmer on his road who refused to join the Ku Klux Klan.

This photo dates from the late 1930s or early ‘40s and is a remarkable environmental portrait. Given the limitations of consumer-grade cameras and film of the era, it’s an real triumph of available light photography. The lighting is very nearly perfect, coming from two windows. If you couldn’t see the windows, you might think it was a studio shot, so perfect is the light on his face.

My grandfather died on June 21, 1945 at the age of 72. My Dad said he was sitting in an easy chair in the parlor when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

It’s also significant that Grandpa Flora was sitting on a piano bench, because he was a natural self-taught musician who, my Dad said, could play the trumpet, cornet, baritone, violin, and flute.

The only recording I have of my father’s voice was made in the early 1980s when my son Steve had just finished playing a song on his trumpet for my parents.

“My dad was just nuts over music,” my father said. “He had stacks of music that high. He used to buy music for the Delphi Band. He was so good that a talent scout, when he was about 16 or 17 years old, wanted to take him east to some eastern band that played county fairs. My grandparents were Dunkards and wouldn't let him do it.”

Grandpa Flora would be proud of his musical descendants:

  • I was in every vocal and instrumental group that existed at Delphi High School in the 1960s.

  • Sean is a musician, recording engineer and record producer with a studio on Sauvie Island near Portland, Ore.

  • Steve is a cum laude graduate of the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and is a successful bass player in Las Vegas, currently playing in the orchestra at Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers.

  • My cousin Eric was a high school music teacher.

  • Eric’s son Jamie is an operatic tenor, having sung with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York.

If there is such a thing as a musical gene, we all have this man to thank for it.

Sean is 48 years old today!


My elder son Sean drew his first breath in the delivery room of the former Coleman Hospital on the Indiana University Medical Center campus early on the morning of Nov. 7, 1967.

It hardly seems possible that he’s in his late 40s. That makes me feel impossibly old.

He makes me prouder than I can ever say.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Sean’s Rock & Roll Bed & Breakfast won a business award

seansiteThe Portland Business Journal today named Sean’s Rock & Roll Bed & Breakfast their Small Business Award Product/Service of the Year.

Read all about it here:

11 days and about $80 later

grille later

The Lexus RX330 has a new grille and grille badge this morning.

I’ve concluded, based on the remnants of the old grille, that it was blown loose by windblast from an oncoming farm truck Maria met on a 2-lane road coming home from Osceola the evening of Oct. 26.

She said something flew over the car and that pretty much had to be the old plastic grille which, as nearly as I can tell, was only held in place with 2 of the necessary 5 bolts.

All five bolts are engaged on the new grille, so it should stay put.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Jack appreciates art

jack vet art

I took Gentleman Jack to the vet this morning.

He was a little more rambunctious than usual but the big surprise came when we went into the exam room to wait for a vet’s assistant to take him back for his probe.

He immediately took an interest in the two dog images on the wall – the one on the right first, then the painting on the left – and whined as if to say he wanted to know more about them.

Jack is also the first dog I’ve ever had who recognized images on TV. Dora is the second.

He got his immunization and some shampoo for dry flaky skin.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

It can never be easy…


When the grille ornament showed up in my mailbox this morning, I figured I was all set to replace the grille on our Lexus RX330 that mysteriously vanished more than a week ago.

Close examination revealed that the grille is held in place by five screws and an anchoring device and the ornament snaps into place with a couple of clips and is secured with a screw which was not included with the ornament.

grille nutSo I motored down to the local Toyota dealership (Lexus is made by Toyota and there is some overlap of parts) to pick up two nuts (I recovered three nuts from the front of the car when the old grille sheared off its moorings and flew away) and the ornament screw.

But, of course, it couldn’t be that simple. Jessie Owens (real name) who works in the parts department explained that the fasteners in question have to come from Lexus, so he called the Memphis Lexus dealership and ordered them. They are supposed to be here sometime Friday.

So with any luck, our Lexus will be sporting a brand new logoed grill in time for the weekend.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

I hate it, but I have to pass on this one


I was surprised to see this 16-channel surveillance system show up in my Amazon Vine Program offerings this morning.

It sells for $4,699.99 and would be reported to the IRS as $3,484.18 in income, so it would end up costing me about $1,000 at tax time next spring.

That’s still a pretty good deal, but our house doesn’t have 16 spaces or areas that could be monitored without sticking cameras in bathrooms or other areas where one should be able to expect privacy.

I guess I’m flattered that they considered me a likely reviewer, but I gotta let this one go.


lisa halloween 2015

Steve sent us this photo of his amazing daughter (our granddaughter) Lisa made up for Halloween last night.

I think she looks fabulous!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

45 years ago today


Happy birthday, Stephen Michael Flora.

You make me proud.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Swiss Legend Neptune–a wristwatch for a gorilla

gorilla watch

I’ve been on the lookout for an attractive, inexpensive watch with an easy-to-read analog display that I could wear on motorcycle trips, letting me leave my more expensive Breitling Chrono Avenger at home.

So when the Amazon Vine program offered me a Swiss Legend Neptune watch to review, I jumped on it.

Sure enough, its analog face is easy to read, but good God, it’s absurdly big and heavy.

I thought my Breitling was heavy at 5.5 ounces. The Neptune weighs in at an astounding 10.8 ounces – more than two-thirds of a pound!

I’ve been fiddling with the clasp trying to take some slack out of the band, but it appears the only way to get it down to the size of my wrist is to remove some links. It turns out that link removal is pretty simple and straightforward if you have a set of tiny screwdrivers. Which I do. I removed four links and now it fits my wrist.

I had no illusions that this watch is a fine Swiss chronometer like the Breitling. The back reads “Swiss made movement” but the Amazon listing says it’s from China, which makes sense.

I don’t have diminutive hands and wrists – I wear an XXL size motorcycle glove – but this thing looks and feels ridiculously big and awkward on my wrist.

It would probably look ok on a gorilla’s wrist.

Another Windows 10 installation in progress

maria win10

I’m upgrading Maria’s desktop computer from Windows 7 to Windows 10 this morning. So far, so good.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The good news is…

Plastic grilles for the 2004 Lexus RX330 can be had for less than $30.

Ditto, the Lexus emblem that is mounted in the center of the grille.

And it looks very easy to attach both.

I ordered them this morning.

The State Farm adjuster called this afternoon. I told him to close the file since we have a $500 deductible and the fix will be less than $75.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


lexus grill gone

Maria called about 11:15 a.m. today to say she just noticed the grill is missing from our 2004 Lexus RX330.

We have no idea whether it just fell off or was stolen. Falling off seems unlikely, since one would almost certainly notice when it happened. But who steals Lexus grills?

State Farm Insurance is on the case.

At last! Paper funnels and they were free!

paper funnel

I had given up on finding paper funnels to carry on my motorcycles for use in low oil emergencies.

None of the auto parts stores here carry them and the ones I could find online were crazy expensive and sold in huge quantities.

I bought some paper funnels at an auto parts store several years ago, but when I needed one last July on the way home from Montana, I discovered the glue holding them together had disintegrated.

Then this morning I found myself in Sam’s Club passing a free sample machine hyping Mobil Delvac motor oil and distributing paper funnels – one to a customer.

Happily, three other people decided they didn’t really need a paper funnel and left their freebies lying on a case of Delvac.

Now I can sally forth into the 2016 riding season secure in the knowledge that I have paper funnels.