Thursday, March 31, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Steve and Nicky

My son Steve and his beautiful bride Nicky were married 15 years ago today.

They have turned out to be wonderful parents to our granddaughter Lisa and high achievers in their professions of music and medicine.

We are enormously proud of them.

Good news!

An unfamiliar Jeep pulled into our driveway a few minutes ago and I went outside to investigate.

It was an appraiser contracted by the county assessor's office and he was looking for obvious discrepancies and improvements as part of his reappraisal work.

It turns out that we have been paying property tax based on an erroneous estimate of chain link fence in our back yard. The county thinks we have about 2,300 feet of fence when we actually have only one-tenth that much. He didn't know how much of a difference this will make in our property tax bill.

And he suggested I call the assessor's office to inquire about an adjustment based on eight years of erroneous assessment. I put it on my calendar for next week.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


My son Steve introduced me to Dreamscope, a free iPhone app that does cool things to otherwise ordinary photos. I kinda like what it did to this selfie from my visit this morning to Panera.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hey, they gave me three DVRs

When our cable/internet provider stopped displaying a channel directory on channel 2 recently, we naturally figured it was just another screw-up and would return eventually.

But it didn't. At Maria's urging, I called the office of Fusion Media and learned that the channel guide was now digitally scrambled and we needed set-top boxes (an archaic misnomer, since there is no top on flat screen TVs to hold a box) to see it and other digital content. They are going to change over to all-digital and everyone needs the boxes, even if they already have digital-ready TVs. The boxes, I was told, can be picked up at their office. The first two boxes are free and each subsequent box is $5 and change monthly.

I picked up three boxes last week and installed them to run TVs in the master bedroom, living room and Maria's sewing room. A few days later, I got around to synching the included programmable remote controls to work with each TV.

Playing with the remote this afternoon, I discovered the boxes have a DVR function. Delving deeper, I find that the Motorola DCT6412 III is a rather sophisticated DVR. (It says "Dual Tuner DVR" on the front of the box. Duh!)

It apparently didn't occur to the women at the cable office to mention this. It also didn't occur to anyone there to include an operator's manual with the DVRs. But a little internet searching yielded a 50-page manual for the DCT6412 III that I just printed out, using two-sided printing on my Brother all-in-one printer, copier, fax, etc.

Now the fun begins.

Have we had enough?

If history repeats itself, the Islamofascists only have themselves to blame.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Josies 2.0

Josies, our favorite restaurant in Batesville, was destroyed by fire the night of Dec. 6-7, 2014. We've made a habit of lunching there whenever we drive over to replenish Maria's stash of fabric from Marshall's Dry Goods, which is possibly the best fabric outlet in the known universe.

We made the trip again today and while Maria shopped, I located the Batesville post office and mailed a box of custom made house dresses to Maria's mother. Then I drove over to see if Josies had been rebuilt. To my delight, it's back, bigger and better than ever.

Armed with the good news, I went back to Marshall's and picked up Maria and her purchases.

Then we headed for Josies for lunch, only to discover that they aren't open for lunch on Mondays. So our visit to Josies 2.0 will have to wait until the next time we're in Batesville.

Happily, we had an excellent lunch at a nearby Coltons, then cruised on home.

Josies in flames.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Latest addition to my drinkware collection

A lovely Pilsener beer glass commemorating the 2003 BMW Motorrad Boxer Cup race in Daytona. It's a thoughtful gift from longtime BMW motorcycle friend and former dealer Bill Revard and occupies an honored place among my stein collection.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

24k on a bad starter relay

The intermittent starter problem that has dogged my 2003 BMW K1200GT for about eight years may finally be solved.

You may recall that Charlie Parsons and I hauled the GT and one of his bikes up to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau a couple of weeks ago. I finally got around to calling Brian at Grass Roots this morning and got encouraging news.

It appears the starter relay was the problem with my bike. Brian said they tested the circuitry on the relay multiple times and it failed intermittently. Unfortunately, the original part number has apparently been superseded and they're working with BMW Motorrad to determine the proper replacement part. Due to the Good Friday holiday, they didn't hear back from BMW yesterday and expect it will be Tuesday before they can get an answer and order the appropriate part. The OEM starter relay was priced about $125, so this ought to be less expensive than replacing the combo switch.

That means I have ridden about 24,000 miles with a wonky starter relay that, through the Grace of God, has never left me stranded.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The first dollar

Here's the dollar bill I gave to Bill Revard at the Indianapolis BMW Club's awards banquet the evening of Feb. 19, 2000.

I was stunned to learn that he's carried it in his wallet ever since Revard BMW Motorcycles closed more than a decade ago.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cool stuff from a great friend

Revard BMW Motorcycles, short-lived as it was, was the best, friendliest BMW dealership I've had the great fortune to know in my 35 years of riding BMW motorcycles.

Bill Revard was a good friend and I was lucky to be able to help out with customer newsletters, photography and other odd contributions. It broke my heart when the Revards went out of business at the end of 2004. One of my last links with them was a pair of coffee mugs with the roundel and the shop name.

So it was like being sucker punched in the solar plexus the other night when Maria fumbled one of the cups and it smashed in the kitchen sink.

She knew how much it meant to me, so later that evening the contacted Bill's sister Josie to see if any more mugs could be had.

Fast forward to this morning when I picked up the mail at our post office and found a large Hewlett Packard computer carton waiting for me.

Inside was a cornucopia of neat stuff including Bill and Josie's personal coffee mugs, a brand new with tags Revard BMW denim shirt, a BMW Boxer Cup pilsner beer glass from the 2003 Daytona Bike Week, a portfolio of ready-to-frame BMW motorcycle prints, a copy of the Indianapolis Business Journal containing the story of the shop's opening in 2000, and a very cool BMW business meeting award in the form of a motorcycle brake rotor mounted on a plaque. But the most touching item was the dollar bill I gave Bill at the beginning of the shop's run as the first dollar earned. He said he's carried it in his wallet all these years.

I am moved.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Art's island

I just spent some time this afternoon going through about eight years of email correspondence with my friend Art Harris, who died earlier this month.

The last thing I got from Art was an item he forwarded - we were always forwarding pithy political and humorous stuff back and forth - about Harry Truman, that Art sent six days before he died.

There were lots of emails about former Indianapolis News colleagues, many of them obituaries, and updates on staff cuts at The Indianapolis Star as it spiraled down into the journalistic abyss.

But the one that struck me the most was a response to a birthday greeting when he turned 72 in 2008. He apparently got my email after he returned from vacation on his beloved Sand Island in Lake Superior.

He wrote, "God, I wish I could stay on that Island forever - such peace and quiet, stars so bright, and only the sounds of wind in the pines."

I like to think he's back on his island.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy 106th birthday, Dad

My father, who died in November of 1997 at the age of 87, would have been 106 years old today.

He was a genuinely good man who was devoted to his family, his church, his community and his country.

I miss him every day.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

One-handed, 20 yards

My best target from yesterday.

I'm beginning to feel confident and semi-competent with my Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield. This was at about 20 yards, one-handed. I shoot much better one-handed than with two thanks to coaching from Ken Campbell, chief operating officer at Gunsite.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Blazing away

We spent another Saturday morning at the Black Iron Shooting Range, blazing away at targets.

I continue to improve with my new Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Shield. Maria bought an identical M&P yesterday at a local pawn shop for a very very good price and put several rounds through it this morning. Morgan gave it a try and decided the recoil from a 9mm isn't as severe as she had expected. We drove back to the pawn shop to let her buy a 9mm Shield, but got there minutes after they closed for the day.

Our range coach Greg also let Morgan try out a Thompson submachine gun - the semi-automatic version - and she proved to be very accurate with it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

I rolled into my driveway about 1:35 p.m. yesterday completing a 994.7-mile journey to Indiana and back to pay my respects to my friend Art Harris.

The church was packed for the funeral Wednesday afternoon, but there were pitifully few Indianapolis News alumni present. Kudos to Gerry Lafollette, David and Lyle Mannweiler, Jerry Lanosga, Shirley Roberts, Jane and Matt Stegemiller and Jenny Labalme for showing up. Shame on those who could have been there but didn't make the effort. I'm pretty sure Art would have turned up at their funerals if the circumstances were reversed.

The service was the Episcopalian version of a Catholic funeral mass and it was beautifully done.

I also had time Wednesday to hang out with Crawfordsville Journal Review friend Lauri Shillings. She took me to lunch at Piada Italian Street Food and thence on a tour of her Fat Atom workplace. Her life has taken a turn for the better and it makes Maria and me happy.

The drives up and back were relatively uneventful. I was on the road yesterday a half-hour before sunrise and made excellent time, pausing only for McDonald's at Danville, Ill. and Kennett, Mo. and fuel at Farina, Ill. I startled a couple of birds on I-57 just four miles east of I-55 and one of them hit my windshield. The windshield was none the worse for the encounter, but it was probably fatal or severely crippling for the bird. The Lexus performed beautifully and gave me about 27mpg. It is, without question, the best car I've every driven for road trips.

Maria's parents hosted me for the two nights I was in Indiana and I repaid their kindness with dinner at Stookey's Family Restaurant in Thorntown where we each had a monster breaded tenderloin sandwich. I try to have at least one breaded tenderloin whenever I return to Indiana, since it's an unknown delicacy here in Arkansas.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Blood sugar spike!

Jonesboro's first-ever Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened at 6 a.m. yesterday.

We drove past the place a little before 9 a.m. and there was a line of cars a couple of blocks long waiting for the drive-through. After shopping at Sam's Club and Aldi, we slipped into the Ryan's parking lot next door and went inside where we stood in line for about 15 minutes before we could place an order.

I had coffee and Maria had chocolate milk and we got a dozen doughnuts - four chocolate, custard-filled cake for me and eight standard yeast for Maria. I had two of mine in the parking lot and the other two this morning and I could feel my Type 2 diabetic blood sugar spiking both times. I think I'm done with Krispy Kreme at least for the time being.

Considering a trip to Indiana for my friend Art Harris's funeral this week.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Godspeed, Welton Winans Harris II

I got an email this morning from Indianapolis News compadre Skip Hess alerting me that our former colleague Welton "Art" Harris died yesterday in Indianapolis of a heart attack.

Fellow News alumnus David Mannweiler confirmed the report adding that Art drove himself to a hospital and collapsed and could not be resuscitated.

Art came to The News a year or two after my February, 1967 hiring and covered municipal government for the paper until we were merged with The Star in 1995 and he transferred to the combined News and Star Metro North Bureau in Carmel. His desk was next to mine and he was a joy to work with.

After he retired from the newspaper, he was elected to a couple of terms on the Zionsville town board. My contribution to his campaign was the photo above of him in front of the log cabin he shared with his wife Betsy and his black Labrador retriever Jake. I always thought he got elected because people thought they were voting for the dog. Art had a succession of black Labs which he took duck hunting at a property he owned part interest in near Roselawn, Ind. He was also heir to property on Sand Island off the north shore of Wisconsin in Lake Superior. I know the National Park Service wants to own everything on the island and he may be the last owner before it reverts to the all-powerful federal government.

I still have a couple of books Art lent me before I moved to Arkansas eight years ago. I guess I can keep them.

Art's doctor warned him repeatedly that his Lucky Strike habit was going to kill him. Considering his fondness for tobacco and alcohol, my friend got a fair amount of mileage out of his lanky body.

His father came to Indianapolis to manage the bus and trolley line after a brief career as a professional football player with the Green Bay Packers. Art said his dad scored the first touchdown in Lambeau Field when it first opened in 1957.

Art had a hearing problem that stemmed from a high school summer job working inside metal tanks while they were being riveted together. It got progressively worse as he grew older and he finally yielded to pressure from family and friends to get hearing aids.

Like many newspaper folks, he was a history buff with a particular fascination for the last battle of Gen. George Armstrong Custer. I visited the Custer Battlefield on a motorcycle trip on July 9, 1999 and used my cell phone to call Art at the Metro North Bureau to describe the scene. He knew it well, having worked there on an amateur archaeological dig several years earlier.

I got my last email from him - a forwarded piece about Harry Truman - a week ago today.

The world feels a little stranger without Art Harris in it.

Friday, March 11, 2016

300 miles in the rain

My friend Charlie and I spent much of yesterday hauling a couple of bikes up to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau.

It's about a 300-mile round trip and most of it was done in rain of varying intensity.

I drove down to Charlie's place about 8 a.m. and helped him load his mid-1970s R75/6 onto his trailer, then we came back to my place where we loaded my 2003 K1200GT. Charlie's bike was going into the shop for a transmission problem and mine is going to sit at Grass Roots until they get to the bottom of my intermittent starter button failure. It is conceivable that we'll trailer them home, but it's also possible that they will come home separately - Charlie's bike probably on the trailer - but I hope to be able to ride mine home.

I got a call from my doctor's office yesterday saying, in effect, that I failed my blood test. My average blood glucose reading jumped from around 140 last time to 160 this week. I have been directed to test before breakfast and dinner daily for two weeks and report the results to the doc for a possible adjustment in my medication. I guess my fondness for Blue Bell cherry vanilla ice cream has consequences.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Blood tests and cardinals

I had a bowl of oatmeal at Panera for breakfast this morning, a consequence of showing up at the Clopton Clinic lab for a fasting blood sugar test and other blood work.

Morgan has gone to Indiana to visit her late grandfather's lady friend who is in hospice care. I think it's admirable that Morgan was willing to drive all the way from Arkansas to say goodbye to a woman who has, thus far, been ignored by her grandfather's family. It speaks volumes about her character.

In the meantime, I'm hunkered down for an all-day rain event that will likely result in flooding in low-lying areas. We live on high ground, so it's just another rainy day for us. In between the noises of thunder and deluge, I can hear the sweet spring song of cardinals. The northern cardinal is the official state bird of six states including my native Indiana. No other bird has been adopted by so many state legislatures. Interestingly, Missouri - home to the St. Louis Cardinals - has the Eastern bluebird for a state bird.

My earliest recollection of cardinal song in spring was the spring of 1953 when I heard a cardinal singing outside my second grade classroom. That was in the days when school buildings had windows that could be opened to let in fresh air and spring breezes. I loved the song then and I love it still and am glad there are cardinals in Arkansas.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Saturday, March 05, 2016

I was beginning to think there was something seriously wrong with my ability to shoot my new Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield.

Maria and I put in some range time yesterday afternoon and I finally had the epiphany I'd hoped for. It turns out that I was holding the gun too tightly. I tried relaxing my grip and focusing on controlling it mainly with my middle finger and, voila, the shots started falling where I wanted.

We went back this morning with Morgan. I let Maria shoot with my M&P and after three magazines she was convinced that's what she wants instead of her Ruger .380, even though the M&P has no rail for a laser. I took my 1911 Colt Combat Commander .45 and my WWII Walther PPK chambered in 7.65mm. I also spent more time with the M&P (seen here) and came away satisfied that I've cured a major defect in my shooting. This was confirmed by a text exchange with former Boone County (Ind.) Sheriff Ken Campbell who is now the chief operating officer of Gunsite in Arizona.

And I rediscovered the discomfort of Walther PPK slide bite.

Friday, March 04, 2016

31 years ago today

Thirty one years ago today, The Indianapolis News’ zoned suburban editions went live.

I was chief of the Metro North Bureau, covering Boone and Hamilton counties from a circulation office in Carmel.

Jerry Graff covered Johnson and Shelby counties and Mike Ellis covered Hendricks and Morgan counties. For some now-forgotten reason, the decision was made to omit Hancock County to the east of Indianapolis from the Metro project.

The three of us had been working in our new bureaus for a month, building a backlog of feature stories and getting the lay of the land since early February.

We were equipped with Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 laptop computers – the first practical laptops in the history of computing.

The Model 100 had a built-in 300 baud modem that could transmit over telephone lines. The eight-line LCD screen made writing and editing a bit of a challenge. Incredible as it seems by today’s memory standards, the 24K of RAM was plenty for our day-to-day writing needs. You could also connect a cassette tape recorder to the Model 100 and transfer files to the tape for later retrieval. The Model 100 ran on four AA batteries with an optional AC converter power source.

As primitive as it was, the Model 100 intimidated the hell out of reporters from smaller papers who were still stuck taking notes with pen and notebook. I loved it because I could get quotes down with greater accuracy and speed.

(I still have my Model 100. A friend rescued it from the dumpster when the office was being cleaned out after my retirement.)

I volunteered for a bureau job because inept management had poisoned the atmosphere at The News City Room in downtown Indianapolis and I was eager to have 15 miles between me and the craziness.

Managing Editor Frank Caperton conceived the plan for zoned suburban editions, but he worried we might have trouble filling the space allotted to us. One of his solutions was to publish school lunch menus. I thought it was a desperately stupid idea when there was an abundance of real news to be reported and so did my colleagues. We never ran a single school lunch menu.

But even with the new product, The News remained the unwanted, neglected sibling of the morning paper, The Indianapolis Star.

In an effort to introduce the new zoned editions, it was decided to sample the paper for a couple of weeks – deliver it to homes of non-subscribers to give them a chance to see our coverage of their areas.

The obvious way to accomplish this would have been to give News carriers extra copies with instructions to deliver them to homes of non-subscribers along their routes.

But there apparently was concern on The Star side of the building that we might take some of their subscribers, so the company went to the extra expense of creating a master list of people who didn’t subscribe to either paper as targets for sampling.

And rather than use News carriers, the geniuses in circulation chose to hire temporary carriers to deliver the sample papers.

But the unmotivated minimum wage temps had trouble getting the papers where they were supposed to go.

I realized this when I found several bundles of News sample papers in the dumpster outside my Carmel office.

I reported it, but nothing came of it and the sampling campaign was a failure.

I was still startling people in Boone and Hamilton counties 10 years later with the revelation that The News had a special edition just for their counties.

Despite the lack of support from circulation, running a suburban bureau was great fun, especially after I built up a cadre of stringers – part time correspondents who helped to cover governmental meetings and wrote the occasional feature story.

I ran the Metro North Bureau until October, 1995 when The News was merged with The Star and I got folded into a larger bureau covering Boone, Hamilton and Madison counties from Carmel.

And the fun began in earnest 31 years ago today.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016


I cast my vote for Ted Cruz this morning at the Brookland City Hall.

I asked for a paper ballot just for the novelty of it.

Then I went to St. Bernards Health & Wellness Center and did 1.45 miles on the treadmill.

Now my day is complete.