Saturday, January 30, 2016

Refunding ATM user fees

I was perusing a brochure about our checking account with Centennial Bank this morning when I discovered a hitherto unknown (by me, at least) feature.

If I use another financial institution's ATM and am charged a user fee, Centennial Bank will reimburse the fee if I present them with the ATM receipt within 60 days of the transaction.

Pretty cool, huh?

Wonky starter button wonks out completely

The starter button on my 2003 BMW K1200GT has an intermittent malfunction that goes back more than five years to the summer of 2010. I took the bike up to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo. on July 8, 2010 and they replaced the right combo switch for about $500 in parts and labor. Less than two weeks later, the problem reared its ugly head again when I tried to start the bike after a night in Steve's hot Las Vegas garage.

The turn signal cancelling button, also part of the right combo switch assembly, went wonky on the ride home from Vegas, but has behaved itself since after getting some attention at Grass Roots.

But despite the replacement of the switch, the starter button problem as continued off and on for the past five years. (I made this video in August, 2014 to document it and solicit diagnoses from the BMW motorcycle community.)

Early on, it manifested itself when the bike sat for an extended period or overnight in a hot place. But in recent months, it showed up after the bike was parked overnight in a cold garage. So much for my heat thesis.

The last time I rode the bike was about a week ago for a quick run down to the post office and it took about 35 presses of the starter button before the engine fired. Today, I can't get the engine to start even after more than 150 presses of the button.

Recalling some of the suggestions I've received - that it had to do with a defective sidestand shutoff switch - I went down to the garage a few minutes ago and tried to start the engine with the sidestand up, but it remains inert.

I'm hopeful that it remains inert, so the technicians at Grass Roots. can more effectively troubleshoot the problem that eluded them in the past due to its intermittent nature.

I had an encouraging text message exchange with my local BMW friend Charlie about hauling the bike up to Grass Roots and he said he thinks his schedule will allow for a trip in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, the '94 K75S is my ride on pleasant days.

Friday, January 29, 2016

DNA in the mail

Steve and Nicky gave us a pair of DNA kits for Christmas and we finally got around to collecting samples and packaging them for shipping, which will occur when I go to the post office this morning.

I will, of course, share the results here when they become available.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gun stuff

We went to the Jonesboro Police Department at noon today and got fingerprinted - the last hoop to jump through before mailing in our concealed carry handgun permit applications.

I just got back from the post office where I sent the stuff off to Little Rock, which will likely take six weeks or so.

In the meantime, I got some tips from a friend who is the chief operating officer at the Gunsite Academy to correct my tendency to shoot low and to the left with my new Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield semiautomatic pistol.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, K75S

Today is the 22nd birthday of our 1994 BMW K75S. It was born on Jan. 27, 1994 in Berlin.
I bought it used from Revard BMW Motorcycles on Oct. 31, 2000 with 2,417 miles on the odometer and a ridiculous looking too-tall windscreen.
I bought it for Maria to ride but she never felt really comfortable on it and a car accident a few years later in which a woman with macular degeneration totaled the Buick Maria was driving undermined her confidence.
So it has fallen to me to ride it regularly and keep it in good condition, which has turned out to be a pleasure.
I’ve never toured on it, mainly because it lacks a luggage rack. The longest trip I’ve taken on it was Sept. 28, 2007, when I rode from our home in Thorntown to Jonesboro in preparation to buying a house and moving to Arkansas.
The Sargent seat isn't as nice as the BMW Comfort Seat on my K1200GT, but it wasn't awful, either.
Aside from the chilly start, the weather for the ride down was perfect. It was a warm, but not oppressive, 82 degrees when I rode down through southeastern Missouri and into Arkansas.
The bike performed flawlessly and delivered something like 44 or 45 miles/gallon. I stopped at Boomland for my final fill-up and savored the last 110 or so miles to Jonesboro.
I left the bike with Charlie and Deb Parsons, who were already storing my GT, and caught a ride home the next day with Indianapolis News compadre Skip Hess.
The bike has 18,363 miles on the odometer as it sits in my garage today. It continues to be a joy to ride.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hard to beat an old Beetle for handling in snow

Last weekend's East Coast blizzard reminded me that the best snow car I ever owned was also my first car - a Fontana Gray 1965 VW Beetle (seen here outside the mobile home I rented while working my first newspaper job at The Tipton (Ind.) Tribune in the winter of 1966-67.

With its rear engine and narrow tires (read small contact patch), that car could go practically anywhere in snow and ice. I bought it on Aug. 1, 1966 at University Motors in West Lafayette, where it had been a demonstrator and frequently used by the wife of the dealer. Diane and I took it on an extensive road trip through Canada in 1968. I finally sold it in the early 1970s with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. That was a lot of miles for a car of that era, although it doesn't seem all that impressive by today's standards.

Conversely, the worst snow car I ever owned was my 1994 Honda del Sol with its fat tires and giant contact patches that turned into skis on slick pavement.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Not even close

I drove over to my favorite liquor store in Cardwell, Mo. this afternoon in search of Leinenkugel Snowdrift Vanilla Porter.
They had none, so I settled for this stuff instead. I shouldn't have. It lacks the flavor and smoothness of Leinenkugel.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Problems at the Flora Building

Now that winter is here in earnest, the weaknesses in our commercial building's heating systems are revealing themselves.

I just got a call from the north half of the building which I thought was fixed in mid-December, saying nothing has been done.

This after we did repairs on the heating for the south end of the building last week.

We're expecting the first snow of the winter tonight and I hate to think our tenants aren't comfortable.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Magazine loading made easy

Meet the MagLula Uplula, a loading device for semiautomatic handgun magazines. It's made in Israel and I first saw it in YouTube videos by Hickock45, a Murfreesboro, Tenn., firearms expert.

This particular model works with calibers from 9mm up to .45, which includes .38.

I bought one a couple of weeks ago to help with loading the magazines for my Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield because the magazine springs were insanely tight and made for slow and painful loading. Loading with the Uplula is easy, fast and painless and it will be my constant companion at the range from now on.

I tried it with my WWII Luger, but the rounded bottom of the Luger magazines makes it awkward. Happily, the Luger loading tool, which attaches to the exterior spring compressor, is still the best way to load Luger magazines.

I got my Uplula for about $35 from Midway USA. They come in other calibers too.

Icy start

We awoke to an icy glaze on our cars and on the roads with local TV telling us it's dangerous to drive.

All of the area schools were closed, but Maria's employer was open for business, so she decided to go in a little late. Our next-door-neighbor, who is a teacher whose school was closed, noticed me warming up the Subaru and scraping the glass and called Maria to threaten to kick her ass if she tried to drive on the slick roads.

Maria, who after all learned to drive in snowy icy Indiana winters, assured her she would be careful and went to work. She texted me a short time later to report she arrived safely.

Now it looks like we may get snow Thursday night, which is way better than ice. The only problem with snow and ice here is that Arkansas drivers lack the slick pavement competence of Indiana drivers and become hazards to themselves and each other.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Never a dull moment

We arranged to take Morgan's boyfriend's son to the movies around noon yesterday.

But as we prepared to leave, Maria discovered her wallet was missing. This set off a frenzy of fruitless searching that ended up with me calling the bank debit card center and shutting off her checking account debit card and business account debit card. All of this took us past the start time for the first showings of the movies in question - The Revenant for Maria and the boy and Star Wars for me.

Finally, Maria was able to reconstruct her to-ings and fro-ings and guessed she took her wallet out of her purse while searching for a key in Morgan's garage. We stopped at Morgan's house on the way to the theater and, voila, there was the wallet. Maria loved The Revenant. I enjoyed Star Wars but found it predictable with only one real semi-surprise, which I will not reveal here.

This drama made it necessary for me to go to the bank the first thing this morning and get new debit cards issued.

Now I can sit back and watch the predicted winterish storm this evening, which may or may not paralyze us with freezing rain.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A matter of perspective

The temperature was a brisk 14ºF when I woke up this morning. That's crazy cold for the Mid-South.

It reminded me of when I was filling in as chief photographer at the Jonesboro Sun on on Jan. 25, 2008 and was asked to shoot a picture of a frozen fountain in the front yard of a home on the south side of town. It was, from the perspective of a Hoosier, a nothing shot.

But the editor thought it was such a big deal that it ran three columns wide above the fold on the front page the next day.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Busy Friday

Maria got forced into a curb coming back from lunch on Thursday, resulting in a destroyed right front tire. She managed to limp into the parking lot across from her work.

I drove down to change the tire, but found that the car was on a slight incline which made it want to roll off of the tiny Subaru jack even through I had the transmission in Park and the parking brake engaged.

We chose to leave the car in place Thursday night and I returned yesterday morning and called the U.S. Auto Club road service we have through Shell. The tow truck guy showed up about an hour later with a much more robust jack and had the spare in place in under 10 minutes. I drove down to Gateway Tire, where I buy my tires, and they replaced it under a road hazard warranty for $10.55.

Our cable/internet bill was due yesterday, so I took advantage of the 61º springlike temperature and rode the K1200GT up to Paragould to pay in person. It was my first ride of 2016 and it felt really really good.

Maria gets off work at 3 p.m. on Fridays, so we used the time to go shooting at Black Iron Shooting range. I took my new 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield and she took her Ruger LCP 380 with Crimson Trace laser sight.

I did substantially better than my first outing with the new guy and she demonstrated phenomenal accuracy with her comparatively tiny gun. The laser sight more than makes up for the crappy iron sights on the LCP. I'm not ashamed to say she outshot me. I'm seeking coaching tips from former Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell - now a instructor at Gunsite Academy in Arizona - to correct whatever is making my shots drift down and left.

Here's my best target from this outing:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Happy Birthday, GT

My BMW K1200GT was born/built on this date in Berlin in 2003.

It has 77,321 miles on the odometer as it sits in my garage today, having taken me all over the United States. I've ridden it to 10 BMW MOA rallies, starting with Charleston, W.Va. and including St. Paul, Minn., Gillette, Wyo., Burlington, Vt., Redmond, Ore., and last July to Billings, Mont.

We've been down the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur two or three times, to Daytona Beach Bike Week a couple of times and all over Colorado on several occasions.

The bike, shown here with oversize saddlebags - I left the smaller color-matched bags at home - just south of the Big Creek Bridge in Big Sur, has had a few modifications, most notably the addition of MotoLight driving lights. I started out with the stock halogen bulbs in the MotoLights and upgraded to the brighter, longer-lasting LEDs in July, 2012. I added XM satellite radio in 2004, then upgraded to a SiriusXM-enabled Garmin Zumo 550 GPS in March, 2010.

It's been a great bike and I'm looking forward to another good year of riding.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I need more practice

First time at the range with the M&P9 Shield.

Monday, January 11, 2016

No desire to be a victim

There is disturbing news about Middle Eastern men surreptitiously videoing the major churches in town, including our Catholic Church, coupled with a police officer confirming that the FBI investigated the local imam and Saudi students at Arkansas State University - he said about two dozen Saudi students vanished in one day, presumably heading home, as a consequence of the probe. And there are reports of about 1,000 Middle Eastern "refugees" arriving in Jonesboro last week.

This got us thinking about our responsibility as gun owners to protect ourselves and our neighbors - something that requires getting concealed carry permits. I had a permit when I lived in Indiana, but it lapsed a long time ago and I never bothered to apply for an Arkansas permit, partly because it requires a day-long course and a few other hoops to jump through. I've had a 1911 Colt Combat Commander .45 for more than thirty years or so, but rarely carried it because of its bulk and weight, even after I upgraded it a few years ago with a Crimson Trace laser grip.

So I bought a very carry-friendly Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield semiautomatic Friday evening and, wonder of wonders, discovered early Saturday that the Black Iron Shooting Range near our house was conducting a CCW class starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday. As we were leaving our house, Maria called Morgan to see if she would be interested in the course and the next thing we knew all three of us were sitting in the classroom listening to instructor Jim Magee.

There were 39 of us in the class, ranging from teenagers to senior citizens. The common thread was a realization that we are all responsible for defending ourselves, our families and our neighbors from whatever lawless threat might appear. I don't think any of us is eager to shoot anyone, but neither are any of us willing to become helpless victims like those poor bastards in the rock concert venue in Paris last year.

Terror attacks and a clear signal from the White House that our government won't protect us and is probably on the side of the enemy have spiked gun sales and concealed carry permit applications all over the country and Maria and I are proud to be part of the hardening of American targets.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

High school flashback

I got snail mail yesterday from a long-lost high school buddy who I haven't seen in more than 40 years.

It contained this Polaroid photo of me at the wheel of my parents' 1957 Ford Fairlaine 500 (with the Thunderbird Special engine). I'm wearing the USMC Marine Corps M-1944 HBT Herringbone Twill Utility Shirt/Jacket that I bought at McHaley's Surplus in Lafayette and wore frequently from the summer of 1962 to well into my freshman year in college in 1963.

I'm sure I saw the photo when it was taken, but I have no recollection of it now more than a half-century later.

Thanks for thinking of me, Bill. I have fond memories of our days in the high school band, pep band and dance band and often wonder how you're doing.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

What could it mean?

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield, only $389.99 at Academy Sports. And a CCW course starting this morning at Black Iron Shooting Range, right in our neighborhood.

Friday, January 08, 2016

How to clean a Keurig

My longtime Internet friend Kate Berry writes Housewife How-To's (Yeah, I know the apostrophe is wrong, but the only way to make it readable would be to mix caps with lower case) and has seen a huge surge in web traffic lately because people have discovered her post about how to clean a Keurig, probably because some search engine is sending them there.

Lots of people have a Keurig coffee brewer, including my next-door neighbor and my Las Vegas son. I've used my son's Keurig while visiting last year and found it a quick and convenient way to make a decent cup of coffee. I won't buy one because I prefer cappuccino from the Mr. Coffee espresso machine that same son gave me several years ago. And because of scary stories of bacteria build-up in hard-to-reach places on Keurigs.

Kate demystifies Keurig cleaning and almost makes me want to buy one. Read about it here:

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


The view from the dentist's chair.

I spent $1,000 today and that's just the start. Major dental overhaul underway.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Enchiladas Suizas at last!

I developed a fondness several years ago for Enchiladas Suizas (enchiladas filled with chicken tinga & Jack cheese, topped with tomatillo cream sauce and melted Jack cheese) at a now-defunct Indianapolis northwestside restaurant called Cazuela's.

Every time I visit a new Mexican restaurant, I scour the menu for Enchiladas Suizas in vain.

When we stopped by the recently-opened On the Border for lunch Saturday, I was stunned to discover my favorite dish on their menu. I ordered, prepared for disappointment, but was delighted to find that they got it right, at least for my palate. It was well worth $10.99. The queso and chips were delicious also.

I think I have a new favorite Mexican restaurant.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Not a great year, but the best since 2011

I tallied up my motorcycle mileage last night and found that, although I didn't do especially well in 2015, I had the best riding year since 2011.

I rode 5,812 BMW miles in 2015, counting 4,739 miles ridden on my 2003 K1200GT and 1,073 miles on my K75S. I made it to three of my four planned rallies - European Riders Rally in May in Burkesville, Ky.; BMWMOA Rally in July in Billings, Mont.; BMWRA Rally in October in Harrison, Ark., but had to pass on the Falling Leaf Rally in October in Potosi, Mo.

For the record, I haven't qualified for an Indianapolis BMW Club 10,000-mile award since 2004.

(Crap! I misspelled "mileage" in the graph headline.)