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!