Monday, February 29, 2016

Cognitive dissonance

The news this morning that the Benghazi heroes are endorsing Donald Trump has heightened my feelings of cognitive dissonance.

So many people whose judgment I would otherwise trust have voiced support for Trump or Bernie Sanders - two candidates I see as irrational knee-jerk responses the insanity of American politics. I was shocked and dismayed when Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter came out for Trump, and it only got worse with Chris Christie, Jan Brewer and Mike Huckabee's endorsements.

Likewise a good friend and one of my sons seem to think Bernie Sanders is the answer. How my libertarian, gun-owning friend can embrace a big government socialist baffles me. My son's politics are sufficiently leftist that I can see how Bernie is more appealing to him than is Hillary Clinton, but I still find it troubling that we are poles apart on what America is and should be.

I'm going to the polls tomorrow morning to cast my vote for Ted Cruz, who I consider the smartest guy in the Republican race and the candidate whose understanding of the Constitution is closest to mine. I'm also voting for the incumbent circuit court judge because his opponents want to make changes in court's operations that would threaten one of the tenants in our commercial building. Altruism in one contest, self-interest in the other.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

DCS repaired!

The weather cooperated - 67 sunny degrees with a bit of wind - this afternoon and I replaced seven broken or missing plastic insulators on the Dora Containment System that is an electrified wire along the base of the back yard chain link fence. Now to saturate the base with herbicide to keep weeds from grounding it out.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Happy Birthday to my long-gone K100RS - may your various parts carry on for years to come

My 1991 K100RS was born on this date in '91 at the BMW factory in Spandau, a suburb of Berlin.

I took delivery of it on June 24 of that year and ended up putting more than 160,000 miles on the odometer before it developed a terminally expensive engine problem.

It was a spectacular motorcycle that took me to a lot of fabulous destinations (including Beartooth Pass in Montana, seen here).

I wrote this blogpost on Aug. 12, 2004 when I was in the process of parting the bike out on Ebay:

I've been taking advantage of the unseasonably cool weather this week to return to my otherwise beastly hot garage and take more parts off of my slowly disappearing '91 BMW K100RS.
As you may recall from previous posts, I'm parting it out on eBay to make payments on its replacement - an '03 K1200GT (which now has 18k on the odometer).
Today's project will be the draining, removal, cleaning, photographing and listing of the gas tank. It's the last painted part and the last clue that the bike was once a gorgeous pearl silver piece of mobile sculpture.
Disassembling this bike has been almost like butchering my own child. It's interesting how attached you can get to a motorcycle. A friend of mine had a similar attachment to a BMW he named "Old Blue." He crashed it on a Memorial Day Weekend club ride in Missouri several years ago and wrote a moving piece about the bike for the club newsletter. A few days later, another club member started ribbing him about his sentimentality, saying, "It's only a machine." My friend blew up, stomped out of the restaurant and nearly quit the club over it.
Here's what I wrote about my bike in 1997 when it turned 100,000 miles:

I kept a promise to myself this year.
On June 24, 1991, when I rode my new pearl silver 1991 K100RS out of the dealer's parking lot, I vowed that one day I'd see the odometer turn over 100,000 miles.
I remember chuckling at the audacity of BMW to put an odometer on their K-bikes that would read so high: Most bikes are junk long before their odometers need a sixth digit. But I knew this bike could do 100 grand and lots more.
I really wasn't in the market for a new bike back in the spring of '91. I had 80,000 miles on my 1981 R100RS and still had big traveling plans for that elegant graphite twin that had shown me so much of the country. I figured I'd eventually replace it with another R100RS, since the RS riding position suits me so well.
One afternoon, just to humor my local dealer, I took one of his new 16-valve K100s out for a demo ride. In less than 15 minutes, I was utterly seduced by the power and the handling of the new K. As I headed back to the dealership, I was doing the math to buy one of these amazing machines.
Luckily, this seduction came at a time when my finances made the purchase possible and the new bike was soon mine.
A few weeks later, I headed west for a week in Breckenridge, Colo., with BMW Club friends and then on to the Top O' the Rockies Rally in Paonia, Colo., then down through southern Utah to the BMW MOA National Rally in Flagstaff.
I remember how proud I was riding into the rally at Flagstaff. Heads turned. Riders gathered around to ogle the bike whenever I stopped. This was, after all, the new flagship of the BMW line – the latest example of the legendary BMW engineering prowess.
In the intervening six years, the bike carried me through 31 states and two Canadian provinces.
We've climbed the highest paved road in the United States to the summit of Mount Evans and we've screamed across the Nevada desert at just under 150 mph.
It's performed reliably in temperatures ranging from 20 below zero to 115 above.
Together, we've carved twisties from Deal's Gap to Big Sur, endured savage Kansas crosswinds and Wyoming hailstones. We've split lanes in Los Angeles freeway rush hour traffic and passed solitary hours cruising the Natchez Trace and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We've raced thunderstorms across Utah wastelands and probed California redwood forests so deep and dense it was dark at midday.
This magnificent machine has carried me across the Golden Gate and down Highway A1A to Key West and up the backbone of the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Jasper.
My memory is flooded with images from the saddle:
* Endless fields of North Dakota sunflowers at sunrise, each turning its golden face to the rising sun that warmed my back.
* The haunting tragic sadness of the Shiloh battlefield.
* Riding the white sands of Daytona Beach.
* The incredible intoxicating sweet aroma of desert flowers after a Wyoming thunderstorm.
* Mount Hood shining at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge.
* An unseen Ponderosa pine forest filling my helmet with fragrance as I rode into Flagstaff at midnight.
* The snow-clad majesty of the Colorado Rockies as I-70 ascends to the clouds west of Denver.
* The hellish sulfur pits of Yellowstone.
* Dodging rubber shrapnel as the car in front of me shredded a tire and veered to the median of a California freeway.
* Climbing to the snowy summit of Independence Pass before attacking the twisty road down to Aspen and lunch at the Woody Creek Tavern.
To be fair, there have been problems. This bike, like many of its generation, had chronic exhaust system problems. It liked to break welds between the header pipes and the muffler and did so in the summers of '92, '94 and '95. In the summer of '93, it broke a baffle in Nebraska. Each time, BMW replaced the $1,800 exhaust system under warranty. Finally, when a weld failed at Mount Rushmore in 1995 and BMW couldn't get a replacement to me quickly, I rode to California BMW at Mountain View and stepped up to a Staintune. A year later, the Staintune ripped itself apart 60 miles west of Oklahoma City. It was replaced under warranty with what was touted as a more robust version. A year later, the header pipe developed a spiral crack and was replaced under warranty in what proved to be the final fix.
The top end of the engine had a bad exhaust port and was replaced at 30,000 miles. I replaced the alternator in Portland, Ore., in 1996. The fan quit in Tennessee in October, 1997, shooting a geyser of coolant out of the right side cover.
When I took delivery of the bike, I only made two minor modifications – I added a front fender extension to protect the radiator and belly pan and I installed a luggage rack.
I love the clean, sculpted look of the bike and took care that subsequent tweaks preserved the look. I upgraded the headlight with a 100/80-watt bulb, added a Hyperlite flasher to the brake light, replaced the right bar end weight with a Wrist Rest cruise control, swapped the stock clock for a Fuel Plus clock/fuel calculator and replaced the wrung-out stock shock absorber with a Works shock. I also replaced the stock black saddlebags with custom painted matching pearl silver bags.
I estimate I've gone through 26 tires – 16 front and 10 rear – and filled the tank about 450 times.
I could go on to tally the quarts of oil and how much I've spent on service, but that's stuff for the bean counters.
And I hate bean counters.
So that's why, when 99,999 yielded to 100,000 at 5:10 p.m. Oct. 19, 1997, all I could think about was how rich in experience and spirit this fabulous machine has made me. It was, without question, the best deal I ever made.
Now, let's see how soon we can get to 200,000.

It never made it to 200k. In the middle of a four-week, 6,000-mile-plus ride to the West Coast in 2002, it developed a disturbing noise deep in the engine. I had it checked out by mechanics at the Santa Cruz, Calif., BMW shop and they opined it would probably get me home. My local dealer's chief wrench diagnosed the problem as disintegrating bushings in the output shaft. With 160,000 on the odometer, he said, the parts and labor would amount to more than the bike was worth. And when it was fixed, I'd still have a bike with 160k on the clock and God knows what other old parts getting ready to fail.
Clearly, it was time to retire the bike and buy another.
My dealer said I'd be lucky to get $2,000 out of the bike, so I decided to see if the sum of the parts was greater than the whole by parting it out on eBay. So far, I've made about $2,400 and I'm just now getting down to the mechanical stuff.

Friday, February 26, 2016


I've been feeling shaggy, so I drove in to town this morning and got a haircut at Great Clips. Rachel did the honors.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

First World problem

Over time, dishwasher silverware baskets develop holes. It's happened to every dishwasher I've ever owned and it can become a minor annoyance when you pull out the basket to put away the clean silverware.

Maria and I have a running disagreement over which way silverware should be put into the basket - handle up or handle down. I favor handle up because that makes it a little harder for the silverware to slip through a hole and clatter onto the tile floor of the kitchen.

The holes seem to have grown in recent months making getting silverware into the drawer without falling to the floor a trickier proposition.

I finally decided I'd had enough last week and ordered a replacement basket from Prices fluctuate on Amazon and I was lucky enough to catch a basket for only $23.96 with free Prime shipping. The UPS guy brought it yesterday and I photographed the old basket (red circles around the holes) before consigning it to the trash.

I realize this is truly a First World problem and doubtless seems silly and frivolous to anyone living in more primitive conditions, but it's been nagging me for resolution for years.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Miraculous recovery

I was all set to throw my SanDisk Connect 200GB memory stick into the trash this morning, convinced that I had killed it last Wednesday when I left it in a pants pocket and sent it through the washer and dryer.

But just to be sure, I plugged it into a USB port and was surprised to see the charging light come on. My computer recognized it and I was able to see all of the music, video, photo and document files I'd put on it. But surely, the Wifi feature is kaput. Right?

I let it charge a couple of hours until the charging light went out, then turned on the Wifi and, to my astonishment, everything seems to be working as before.

Naturally, I rewrote my review to relate the miracle.

My only military decoration

I was rummaging through a box of odds and ends from my past this morning when I came across the only military decoration I ever earned.

Yes, I managed to earn one ribbon during my 41-day career in the U.S. Air Force (see earlier blogposts for an explanation of the brevity of my service).

I qualified as an expert marksman with the .30 carbine during basic training at Lackland AFB. I read online that a company is manufacturing the old carbine and I'd love to own one.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday update

The weather was warm and pleasant on Saturday, so I decided to ride a motorcycle to the post office.

On an impulse, I tried to start the K1200GT, which absolutely positively refused to start after more than 150 starter button pushes a few weeks ago.

Wonder of wonders, it started on the 17th starter button push. Crap. I was counting on it being doornail dead to facilitate troubleshooting at Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles whenever I can haul it up to Cape Girardeau.

I rode it down to the Valero station and thence to the post office and, of course, it started on the first starter button push both times.

I notice that Daytona Beach Bike Week starts in less than two weeks, so I can cross it off of my calendar for this year because I can't possibly have a reliable touring bike ready by then. Maria suggested I consider riding the K75S. I guess that might be an option if I plan to leave my camping stuff at home and stay in motels or private homes because is has no luggage rack. It's probably a moot point since the weather is notoriously fickle around the first week or two of March. There have been a couple of recent years when ice and sleet storms made it impossible to even get our all-wheel-drive Subaru Forester out of the driveway.

Now, I must be off to pay the light bill, which is due today. I like to hang onto my money as long as I can.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dora goes to the vet

I took Dora to the vet this afternoon, but she didn't go willingly.

She balked at the back door and I finally had to carry her out of the house and through the garage and then pick her up and put her into the car on the front passenger side. She panted nervously all the way to the vet's office and waited uneasily, her perky ears flattened against her head, for the vet to take her to the back to be weighed and probed.

Dr. Heather Curry gave her a bordetella shot and a thorough exam before pronouncing her healthy and fit.

Dora seemed a little less freaked out on the ride home and stared out of the window.

I think she needs a little more time in the car to feel comfortable with going for rides.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Two steps forward...

The plastic electric fence insulators arrived shortly after noon so I set about overhauling the Dora Containment System. 
I raked the leaves away on both sides of the fence and, with the power turned off, tried to install the first replacement insulator. And, of course, it was made for a chain link fence with lighter gauge fabric.
So I arranged to return the insulators and buy the more expensive kind that I know will work.
I hustled down to the UPS Store to return the bad insulators and consoled myself with coffee, cheese Danish and music.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mittwoch report

I went to Tractor Supply and Orscheln farm stores yesterday and neither one had plastic electric fence insulators for chain link fences. WTF?

So I whipped out my iPhone in the Orscheln parking lot and ordered insulators from So much for shopping locally. I ended up getting 25 insulators for $12, with no Arkansas sales tax and free shipping. So there.

I was about to write a review of the SanDisk 200GB Connect Wireless Stick this morning when I reached for it in my pocket and came to the awful realization that it was still in the pocket of the jeans I wore yesterday. Which had just gone through the wash and were now in the dryer. So I can now report that this $120 memory stick cannot survive a trip through the laundry. I'd be really upset if there were some irreplaceable data on it or if it was something I was going to get a lot of use out of, but neither is true and I am surprising myself at how calmly I'm taking this little reversal.

I was able to cheer myself up with a trip to the shooting range where I put about 40 rounds of .45 ACP downrange with more than satisfying accuracy thanks to my CrimsonTrace laser grips. I seem to be more accurate shooting from the hip with the laser than I am viewing the red dot over iron sights in the Weaver stance.

The Arkansas State Police report they have my CCW paperwork and are waiting for a background check before issuing my concealed carry permit, so maybe I'll get it in another week or two.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Wasting time and gasoline

I set out this morning with a couple of errands in mind - to deposit some cash into our bank account and to buy some plastic insulators for the electric fence wire that is attached to our chain link fence.

I determined earlier that the third task - picking up our mail at the post office - wouldn't be possible since today is Presidents Day and therefore a postal holiday.

Turns out the bank is closed today, too, so I wasted a trip to Jonesboro.

And, while Ace Hardware has a variety of insulators, they don't have the kind that attach to a chain link fence. So I'll either have to go to Tractor Supply or to rehabilitate the electric fence system that keeps Dora in our back yard.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday at the range

Maria, Morgan and I went to the local indoor shooting range today and had a splendid time.

Morgan ended up swapping her clumsy .38 special revolver for a Walther P 22 and went from missing the entire target to consistently drilling bull's eyes with a commensurate huge boost in confidence.

I impressed myself with the accuracy of my Colt Combat Commander 1911 .45, shooting from the hip with the Crimson Trace laser grips. (See target above.) I also got decent results with my Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield.

Maria also put several rounds downrange, but seemed to have more fun watching Morgan and me. I think I see a 9mm semi-automatic in her future.

Morgan is loving the accuracy of her new Walther P22.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

New furnace for our commercial building

After two months of searching, my commercial building fixit guy reported this morning that the gas valve needed to repair one of the six furnaces is not available because the unit is too old.

The alternative is to install a new furnace at a cost of $1,900.

It's winter and our tenant's clients are uncomfortably cold in the lobby, so we bite the bullet and buy a new furnace.

Had we known how fragile the building's HVAC systems were, we might not have bought the place.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Making progress

I'm in my third day with the "flipper" partial upper plate and, while I don't think I'm ever going to like it, I'm starting to come to terms with it.

After a few painful (my gums are still very sore from Monday morning's extractions) attempts, I think I finally have figured out the technique for removing the flipper for cleaning and to rinse my mouth with saltwater.

I feel like I'm learning to eat and talk all over again. I don't know if anyone else can hear it, but I can definitely notice a degradation in my articulation.

But, as I discovered with a $2.49 pizza combo lunch at Sam's Club today, the flipper protects against the dreaded "pizza burn" to the roof of my mouth.

Unless the cost is utterly ruinous, I would much prefer to have dental implants rather than spend the rest of my life with this thing in my mouth.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Some good news

The padded dashboard of our Lexus RX330 has developed multiple cracks - not quite as bad as the damage in this photo I got from a Lexus owners group - but nevertheless unacceptable.

I had resigned myself to either living with the deteriorating dashboard or finding some kind of repair kit that would probably end up making the cracks even more noticeable.

Then last week's mail brought encouraging news. Lexus is extending their warranty program to allow for free replacement of cracked dashboards due to normal exposure to heat and humidity.

I called Lexus of Memphis, our nearest dealer, this morning and asked what I need to do to get the dash replaced. The guy told me that our 2003 RX330 is too old to be covered by the warranty, but just to be sure, he ran the VIN and discovered it qualifies as a 2004 model. Who knew?

The bad news is that replacement dashboards for 2004 RX330s are back ordered and there are more than 200 people ahead of me in line at their dealership. The replacement will be made he assured me, but it will be several months but almost certainly before the end of 2016.

Not a happy camper

I spent a fair amount of the past two weeks, and especially last weekend dreading my 9 a.m. Monday dental appointment and the extraction of two teeth.

This dental crisis began last month when I developed an abscess in one of the teeth covered by a bridge that dates back to the time several years ago when my upper teeth were capped.

The upshot of the whole thing is that my two missing teeth are now replaced with a partial upper plate that still feels unnatural and uncomfortable after nearly 24 hours in place. Plus, I feel like I'm going to need a speech therapist because it interferes with my pronunciation of words with the letters C, S, X and Z.

Here I am yesterday after my dental appointment with a mouthful of gauze soaking up the last bit of bleeding.

More than 30 years ago, a dentist called me a "dental cripple." That's how I feel today.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Catching up

I just noticed that I haven't posted to the blog since Sunday. That's hardly the way to guarantee continued readership. Sorry.

I'm working with the new 200GB SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick for an review this week. It's a 200GB thumb drive that can connect with up to three devices using its own Wifi signal. Among other things, it's a great way to archive photos from my iPhone and it's big enough to accommodate my entire music library, which is well under 100GB. It can stream audio and video and do several things that I haven't yet got my brain around. The thing retails for $119.99 on have versions with smaller capacities for less, the cheapest being 32GB for $24.99.

The warm weather has deserted us again after several days of being able to leave the furnace turned off - a major gift since we have an electrically powered heat pump.

So far this morning, I've busied myself with updating the two Garmin GPS units we use - a 550 Zumo that lives on my 2003 BMW K1200GT motorcycle and a Nuvi 1350 LMT that lives in my Lexus. Speaking of the Lexus, I got mail from the Lexus mothership this week telling me that the cracking and disintegrating padded dashboard is covered by an extended warranty. I need to call the nearest Lexus dealer, which is in Memphis, and make an appointment to get it replaced. They say the process takes about 4 hours. This is great news. I've been stewing about it for months, wondering how to effect repairs.

Just when I think I've received all of the 1099s and other tax documents needed to figure our taxes, another one shows up in the mailbox. I think I'll wait until next week to contact our CPA and get things rolling on the tax returns for us and our LLC.

In the meantime, I'm watching the mail for our Arkansas Concealed Handgun permits and watching the email for results of our National Geographic DNA tests.