Friday, September 30, 2016

Hedge apples, aka Osage Oranges


I just had a flashback to the autumn of 1969 when I was a reporter for The Indianapolis News.

Another reporter was doing a series of profiles of wives of Indiana college presidents and I tagged along as a driver/photographer.

I have a vivid recollection of the day we went to visit Polly Seymour, wife of Wabash College President Thaddeus Seymour. She had a bowl of hedge apples decorating the bar in her kitchen. I suppose I should have been familiar with hedge apples, but they were new to me and made a lasting impression.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Today's cool autumnal weather reminds me of autumn in Delphi, Ind. when I was a kid - specifically about time spent after school on the way home.

There was a large buckeye tree next to the Monroe Street entrance to the Delphi City Park on the city's eastside that bore its seeds/nuts around this time of the year. My friends and I would stop on our way home from school to fling sticks up into the branches and knock down as many buckeyes as we could before it was obviously time to head for home.

I used to collect a cigar box full of buckeyes every fall and just as regularly, my mother would throw them away.

I haven't seen a buckeye or a buckeye tree in years and, according to the map of the tree's range, I'm not likely to see any here in northeast Arkansas.

Interesting Volkswagen history

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


I pulled the seat off of my 2003 BMW K1200GT this morning to secure a strap for the tank bag and discovered that somebody forgot to re-connect the cable for the heated seat when the guys at Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles put my bike back together last week.

No big deal. I easily found where to plug it in and it works fine now.

Dogs gone, dogs returned

I mowed the lawn yesterday afternoon, including the fenced section of the back yard where the dogs hang out.

This necessitates bringing the dogs into the house and putting them into their kennels so they are out of the way and so they don't bolt through the gate that I have to open to get the John Deere LA 125 lawn tractor in and out of the enclosed area.

Once I finished mowing, I parked the mower next to a hose spigot, attached the hose to the mower deck and activated the blades for two minutes to flush out whatever grass was stuck to the underside of the mower.

Then I turned off the water, disconnected the hose and parked the mower in the garage.

I let the dogs out into the yard and sat down with an iced tea to watch TV.

About an hour later, I thought I heard a voice in the back yard and saw Jack come onto the porch through the dog door and get a drink. Moments later, I noticed someone at the front door.

It was Tony Micenhamer, one of our neighbors, asking if I was OK. He said our dogs were out and the gate had been open. Yeah, I forgot to close and cable lock the gate before I let the dogs into the yard.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Tony said Jack showed up at his house, prompting him to come over and see if I had some kind of medical emergency.

With Jack secured in the back yard, we set out to search for Dora. Tony went south and I went north, up into the newer section of our small wooded subdivision. I went to the end of the road and turned around, scanning in all directions.

As I crested a rise, I looked over to my right toward the back of the house that sits across the cul-de-sac from our place and saw Dora standing inside the neighbors' fenced in-ground swimming pool area. I parked the car and walked to the pool with Dora's leash in hand. The gate was open, but Dora seemed stuck at the other end of the pool enclosure, apparently creeped out by the tarp covering the pool. She seemed glad to see me as I snapped the leash to her collar and led her to the car.

I thank God for protecting our dogs from my carelessness and making their recovery so quick and easy.

Our first Aussie, Pete, went walkabout a couple of times when we lived in Thorntown, Ind. and was gone for a few days each time, creating horrible anxiety. I'm very grateful that we were spared this time and am doubly grateful for Tony's alertness and help.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another big adventure

We drove up to Cape Girardeau this morning to retrieve my 2003 K1200GT from Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles where they did a major clutch overhaul, new rear brake pads and replaced the exhaust system that had a broken header pipe. The cost was $2,492.96. Could have been worse. A new exhaust system costs $1,700 but one of the employees had a used one he let me have for $250.

Maria was following me home when she called my cell phone, Bluetooth linked to my Garmin Zumo GPS. I have no microphone for the setup, so all I can do is hear the caller in my in-ear monitors. Seems she had a flat tire and was on the berm about 4 miles behind me. I stopped under an overpass around the 44-mile marker on I-55 and called the USAC road service we pay for through Shell Oil Co. I doubled back and found her around the 48-mile marker. There was nothing more I could do, so I rode about 10 miles south to a rest area and checked in on her. The road service guy had arrived and was working on the tire change.

She told me to go on home and she'd be along as soon as the could. I got home a little after 3 p.m. and checked her whereabouts on my iPhone Friend Finder app, confirming that she was about a half-hour behind me.

Never a dull moment.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Why I hate going to Little Rock

Maria had a work-related conference to attend yesterday in Little Rock, so I served as chauffeur for the 294 round-trip miles.

I was reminded again how much I hate going to Little Rock. It's a 2:20 trip and the Little Rock interstate system is a freaking nightmare. I've driven and ridden through a lot of cities, and I can't think of any with a worse-engineered road network. We get caught up in traffic jam bottlenecks every time we go there, regardless of the time of day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Adios Starbucks, Hola Cafe Bustelo

I bought a 10 ounce can of Cafe Bustelo yesterday at Kroger, noting that it's supposed to be an espresso grind and is about half the price of the Starbucks Espresso Roast beans I've been buying.

When I opened the can this morning, I was pleased to see it truly is a finely ground, espresso-grade coffee, meaning I can put the coffee grinder away.

And it tastes every bit as good as Starbucks, maybe better.

African Violets

I found myself thinking about my mother's African violets this morning.

I have no idea why.

African violets, aka Saintpaulia, come from Tanzania. They are a houseplant that likes indirect sunlight. They have thick, puffy leaves that I couldn't resist squeezing to death when I was a little kid, much to my mother's dismay.

Now, I wouldn't mind having some around to remember her by.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Meet Hayden Marie Dunbar

I became a grandfather again, or at least a step-grandfather, at 2:32 a.m. CDT today when Hayden Marie Dunbar was born to Megan and Austin at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. She measured 21 inches and weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces. She showed up exactly on her due date and, so far as we can tell, is absolutely perfect.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Shooting football

Maria and I went to our neighbor boy's football game yesterday. I got lucky and caught him on his one carry of the game.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

In surgery

My new BMW riding friend from Jonesboro, Dennis Spurlock, who gave me a ride home from Cape Girardeau on Wednesday, was back at Grass Roots BMW today for a tire and sent me this photo of my bike on a lift.

It's being torn down for a clutch overhaul that is estimated to cost me about $2,000. It's painful, but not as painful as paying for a new bike.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

An expensive trip to Cape Girardeau

This is me spending most of yesterday waiting at Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

I rode up there (a little less than 150 miles) to get a fully functional starter relay installed in my 2003 K1200GT, replacing the jury-rigged relay setup they gave me in the spring. Since I'd already paid for the previous relay, this was to be a free visit.

But then I noticed that my clutch was slipping. I thought I'd felt it the day before, but it was really obvious when I got off of I-55 at Cape Girardeau. I hoped it was just a cable adjustment, but I was soon disabused of that notion. The most likely scenario is a leaking seal that lets oil get into the clutch mechanism - something that will require a complete teardown of the clutch. That's a process that will involve an estimated 12 hours of labor, plus parts.

Happily, a BMW rider from Jonesboro was on hand to see the antique motorcycles arriving for a stopover in this year's Motorcycle Cannonball Run. And, more happily, he was on four wheels and cheerfully offered me a ride home. So all I had to do was endure a few hours of ennui at the dealership. He dropped me off at my door about 7:15 p.m., which was considerably earlier than I would have gotten home if Maria had to retrieve me after she got off work.

And it turns out that I left my hi-viz CamelBak at the dealership, which I confirmed this morning and will be waiting for me whenever I claim my repaired bike.

I hate the expense, but at least the problem cropped up at the dealership and not out on some remote stretch of highway.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

When technology stops working

I just spent another 15 minutes on the phone this morning to Ebay trying to resolve a problem that developed yesterday when I found the security code generating token I've been using since August, 2007, no longer works to access my Ebay and PayPal accounts.

I got it after my PayPal account was hacked in the summer of 2007 and have used it ever since as a third layer of security for PayPal and Ebay. Under this arrangement, I entered my login and password, then pressed the button on the device and it generated a six-digit security code that I entered online to complete the sign-in process.

Apparently it has reached the end of its useful life. At least that's what PayPal customer support concluded yesterday afternoon. They no longer give their clients security code generators. Instead, they send the security code to the user via text message to his cell phone. So they officially deactivated my device and set me up with the text message system.

Unfortunately, their fix does not apply to my Ebay account. I spent several minutes with Ebay customer service yesterday without getting anywhere. The problem seems to be that they don't know what to do if the problem isn't addressed by their scripted flow chart.

I ran into the same thing this morning. The young woman was obviously stymied and unable to find anything in her script that related to the problem I described to her. I find this puzzling, since I'm sure other long-time security code generator users are having the same problem.

She finally ended the conversation, promising she would call me back in one to two hours with a solution.

In the meantime, I have an auction that has closed or is about to close. If my item sold, I have no way to complete the transaction.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Another garage find

Here's another garage find - one of three Indiana University School of Nursing reunion photos including my mother. This one is from May 19, 1979 - their 40th anniversary class reunion.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Hot round, handle with care

I found this bullet among my late father-in-law's effects. Capt. Phil Kroon served with the 144th Field Artillery Group in World War II and ended the war in Austria. He brought back a lot of stuff.

I asked Facebook folks in several WWII interest groups if they could identify this 13mm, 1.2 ounce, 2-inch-long bullet. The results were eye-opening and a little worrisome.

It's a round from a MG131, a machine gun used on several types of Luftwaffe aircraft. It was installed in the Messerschmitt Bf 109, Me 410 Hornisse, Fw 190, Ju 88, Junkers Ju 388, He 177 Greif bomber. The markings indicate it's a high explosive tracer round that has not been fired - just removed from its shell casing. The clean copper band indicates it hasn't traveled down a gun barrel. So it's still very dangerous. Now to decide what to do with it.

Color marking Explanation
Yellow Explosive and explosive incendiary round (HE)
Black Armour piercing round (AP)
Blue Incendiary round (I)
Grey Training round
Red band, light Tracer (T)
Red band, dark Night tracer
Green band Self destruction
Yellow band Armour piercing explosive round (APHE)
Blue band Armour piercing incendiary round (API)

100 years ago today

Today is the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Carroll County Courthouse in Delphi, Ind. I have a special connection to the place and the event because my dad, Charles M. Flora, was a participant.

My grandfather, Irvin Flora, was the Democrat Township Trustee and was invited to march in the parade leading up to the cornerstone laying. My dad was 6 at the time and refused to leave grandpa's side. So when it came time to toss the Democrat Township history into the cornerstone time capsule, grandpa handed it to dad and my father did the honors. That's the cornerstone I'm standing next to in the photo.

Irvin Flora later served as Carroll County Treasurer and my dad was his deputy.

Saturday, September 03, 2016


I dragged the generator out of the garage yesterday and ran its tank dry in order to fill it with freshly treated gasoline.

In the process, I poked around in some of the boxes and found this photo of Bockscar on the airfield at Tinian after the Nagasaki bombing mission, autographed to me by the co-pilot, Don Albury. Cool, huh?

Friday, September 02, 2016

A little snark on a Friday morning

The Memphis Public Library & Information Center has an FM radio station - WYPL (89.3) - that has several hours a day of volunteers reading newspapers, magazine and books, interspersed with some National Public Radio and local TV audio programming.

I listen to WYPL occasionally because there isn't much else to listen to around here other than the local talk radio station that carries Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and others.

But I can only handle a few minutes of the morning readers as they stumble through the local obituaries, articles in the Memphis Commercial Appeal and USA Today.

The afternoon book readers are a mixed bag. Herman Markell, an 82-year-old Renaissance man, is the best reader in the bunch and I always enjoy listening to him give different voices to different characters in the books he reads. I won't name the others because some are embarrassingly bad and obviously not particularly well-read because they butcher unfamiliar words with alarming regularity, putting their impoverished vocabularies on public display.