Monday, October 31, 2016

I'm calling it a miracle

Maria's wedding ring vanished eight years ago, about the time that she took it off to refinish my great-grandmother's kitchen table.

We worked through several scenarios - she put it into the cardboard box holding the refinishing chemicals and tools, she had it in her change purse when she gave a handful of coins (and maybe the ring) to a homeless woman, she put it into the silverware drawer in the kitchen, and on and on.

Fast forward to this afternoon when the UPS driver delivered the heating element for our Kenmore dishwasher. I struggled to get it out from under the countertop - never did get it all the way out and finally gave up and called the appliance repair people to help me finish the job - but I got it far enough out to find Maria's ring on top of the dishwasher at the very back.

Maria is in Indiana visiting her family and meeting her new granddaughter, so I called her with the news. There is a small gap in the cabinet wall between the silverware drawer and the dishwasher and we think something happened - like closing the drawer abruptly - that made it hop through that gap. What is doubly surprising is that the appliance guy who replaced the heating element in May, 2015 never noticed it when he had the dishwasher pulled out.

I always knew it would turn up someday. Today was the day.

Happy Birthday, Steve!

My son Steve is 46 today. He makes me proud.

Scary news on Halloween

I woke up this morning to find this in my Facebook news feed.

Am I worried? Hell, yes I'm worried.

Later: It seems that the authorities at the pipeline protests are checking Facebook check-ins to target protesters and folks sympathetic to the protest are doing fake check-ins to confuse the authorities. Sean just posted a video of the gas range at his new residence in Portland.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

My K1200GT needs a new battery

The BMW motorcycle battery that I paid $227 (battery and labor) for on May 21, 2012 at Bloodworth BMW Motorcycles in Nashville, Tenn., is on its last legs.

I was mildly surprised when I checked just now to see how old it is - I thought it was a bit newer than 5½ years. That's a reasonable expectation for a battery, so it looks like I'll have to bite the bullet and ride down to Memphis and have the dealer there install a new battery.

I noticed it isn't holding a charge a couple of weeks ago when I rode it to the post office and it seemed to strain to start the bike again for the ride home. I put it on a charger and it seemed ok, but three days later it was flat again.

Thinking the battery was newer than 5½ years, I suspected the new starter relay I had installed about a month ago. Could it possibly be draining the battery? It seemed unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Now that I know the true age of the battery, I think I can rule out the starter relay as the problem.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

D4 and more

I've digitized about 35 vinyl albums since I set up my Numark TTusb turntable next to the desk in my office three weeks ago.

I retrieved my 30-year-old Discwasher system from a box in the garage a couple of weeks ago and have just about exhausted the 1.24 fluid ounce bottle of D4 fluid that was about a third full when I opened it for the first time in three decades. I was happy to discover that D4 Discwasher fluid is still available, the company having been taken over by RCA, and I ordered three bottles of the stuff from I just got a text message informing me that my purchase has been shipped.

I also got a little deeper into the features of Audacity, the free software that I use to digitize my albums and turn them into mp3 files.

I digitized a crude little six-song album by the Delphi High School swing choir, recorded sometime in 1962. The name of the ensemble was the Top 20 because we (I was in it for my junior and senior years) were presumably the top 20 voices in the school choir. The recording is monaural and very low quality, but I dutifully sent mp3 copies to all of the Top 20 alums who expressed an interest.

I revisited the project this morning and achieved a dramatic improvement in sound quality using the noise reduction feature of Audacity. The I tried a trick my recording engineer son Sean taught me years ago: I copied the single mono track to create a second channel. Then I selected the right channel and inverted the sound waves. The effect is a simulation of stereophonic sound. Pretty cool, huh?

I emailed the cleaned up and stereo-ified tracks to my friends, noting that this is undoubtedly the best that recording ever sounded. I won't rule out further tweaks, but I'd done fiddling with it for now.


I found myself standing behind a guy with a white shirt and tie at the pharmacy today.

He had what looked like an old-style pager and this wad of keys on his belt and it got me thinking and noticing that I don't think it's especially cool to hang a bunch of keys on your belt.

I suppose some guys think it's a status symbol, announcing to the world that they are important because they have been entrusted with keys to a lot of important doors.

I, on the other hand, am not impressed.

It made this guy look like a white collar janitor.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Digitized this two-record set yesterday. I'd forgotten how good they were.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I was quite chagrined last night when Maria announced that our dishwasher had crapped out.

I checked my records and found we had identical symptoms - flashing green "clean" light and couldn't make it start - a year ago in May and paid serious money to replace the heating element.

I was all set to try to effect repairs myself when I came across a simple fix. By pressing a particular set of buttons, I made the green light go out and restored the full function of the dishwasher. Now I wonder if I really needed to pay for a new heating element and installation in May, 2015.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No thanks

I can remember when it was a big deal when the new phone books came out.

Not so much now.

Here's a stack of them that were rejected by folks who found them in their post office boxes (me included). I haven't looked up a phone number in a telephone directory for years. We have an unlisted number, so we're not in it anyway.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ruthie - five years gone

We lost our beloved Ruthie five years ago today. She was a rescue from Crawfordsville, Ind. and she was a funny, sweet dog. Here she is waiting for Austin Dunbar to come home from school in Thorntown.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

K bikes

BMW motorcycles come in lots of styles and engine types. I happen to favor the K series that was introduced around 1985. It was a radical departure from the horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine that was BMW's standard design since the Bavarian Motor Works began making motorcycles in 1923.

The horizontal twin - known as R bikes - continues to dominate BMW motorcycle sales, however, going through continual refinements. The GS series of R bikes (Gruenwald/Strasse, or Forest/Street) is widely recognized as the Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles - a go anywhere, do anything bike made for global adventuring.

The K bike niche is narrower, embracing sport, touring, and sport-touring with limited off-road appeal.

My first two BMWs were R bikes - a 1971 R50/5 and a 1981 R100RS. I was seduced by the powerful, responsive K bike engine in the spring of 1991 and bought a '91 K100RS that carried me more than 160,000 miles before it developed a terminally expensive engine problem and had to be parted out on Ebay.

I replaced it in 2003 with an '03 K1200GT - a 1,200cc luxury sport touring bike that is about to turn 79,000 miles. In autumn of 2000, I bought a 1994 K75S for Maria. Her enthusiasm for riding has waned so it has fallen to me to keep the battery up and ride it often on local errands.

Fellow K bike enthusiast Jack Riepe, who write humorous columns for the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America's monthly magazine, decided to champion the cause of the (we believe) underappreciated K bike by creating the Secret K Bike Rider's Club, complete with club t-shirts.

I ordered one from him and it came this week. He asked that I send him a photo of myself wearing the shirt next to my K bike(s), so here it is.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Delphi (Ind.) High School had a swing choir in the early 1960s called the Top Twenty because it was composed of the top 20 choral voices in the school.

I and many of my friends were members. We thought we were pretty good and apparently contest judges thought so too, because we won a lot of awards at NISBOVA (Northern Indiana School Band and Vocal Association) contests.

Sometime in 1962, an audio engineer from nearby Logansport recorded us and created a six-track monaural phonograph album.

I've wanted to find and digitize my copy ever since I acquired a Numark TTusb turntable from a friend, with the aim of sharing the files with my fellow Top Twenty alumni and alumnae (yes, I took two years of Latin in high school).

I've been searching through hundreds of LPs in crates and boxes in the garage where they've languished for the nine years we've been in Arkansas. I got serious this morning and moved the lawn tractor and generator out of the way to give me an unobstructed view of a couple of hard-to-reach crates and, wonder of wonders, I found it!

The sound quality is slightly better than horrible, given today's recording and playback technology yielding extremely low noise-to-sound ratios. But even so, it takes me back to a different time and place where we had no idea how innocent we were. Considering the engineer's equipment and skills set, it's an acceptable artifact from more than a half-century ago.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Great White Wonder

Here's Bob Dylan playing with The Band at the I.U. Assembly Hall on Feb. 3, 1974.

In honor of Dylan being the announced winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature this week, I dug out my copy of his 1969 bootleg album, The Great White Wonder, and digitized it.

It's a 2-LP collection of monaural tracks that, I'm surprised to note, is selling used for $167 on

I uploaded my digitized collection of mp3 tracks to my Amazon Music library and am seriously considering putting the vinyl up for sale.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Back at it

I dug this 1964 Kinks album out of the stacks in the garage and also rescued my 1970s Discwasher setup.

I found a YouTube video that refreshed my memory on how to use the Discwasher and was happy to find it still had an ample supply of D4+ fluid with it.

This process gets a little easier with each album.

That is until Audacity locks up while I'm labeling tracks on the Blues Brothers "Briefcase Full of Blues" album.

Saturday, October 08, 2016


After more than a little trial-and-error, I succeeded this morning in editing this little-known classic Levon Helm album and getting it into iTunes and, from there, into my music library.

Helm's self-titled album was released on vinyl in 1978. A more recent CD version sells on for $38.99.

My vinyl copy came to The Indianapolis News as a review copy. I didn't appreciate it at the time and probably played it once before shelving it for 38 years, so it's in pristine condition and required virtually no cleanup in the editing process. The album features a stellar cast of musicians, starting with producer Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper on guitar, Tom "Bones" Malone on trombone and Alan Rubin on trumpet - perhaps better known from the Blue Brothers movie.

The last tricky part was importing the tracks from iTunes to the Amazon Music Player library. Amazon wouldn't accept .wav files, so I had to go back to iTunes and make copies in the AAC format.

Wall, now I know how it's done, so onward!

Friday, October 07, 2016


Nothing like a new stylus and cartridge to improve playback.

Those tiny screws and connections are a bit of a challenge for my big fingers and limited focus vision.

Change of plans

Until this week, I figured I'd be riding up to Potosi, Mo. this morning for the Falling Leaf Rally.

Instead, I'm waiting for the UPS truck and a stylus/cartridge combination for my Numark TTUSB turntable.

I chose to skip the rally because it appears all of my Indianapolis BMW Club friends have gone to Barber Motorsports Vintage Days in Birmingham, Ala.

The stylus/cartridge purchase was made on Wednesday when I discovered I wasn't getting both channels accurately when digitizing my vinyl albums. I pretty much ruled out bad settings in the Audacity software and narrowed it down to the stylus or cartridge. Just to be sure, I'm replacing both of them.

And, of course, the weather is perfect for the rally.

I can only hope that Barber Motorsports Park doesn't decided to make this a permanent second-weekend-in-October event.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

More digitizing

Starting out this morning digitizing Reflections in a Crystal Wind by Richard and Mimi Fariña.

The album was released in 1965. Fariña's first and only novel, "Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me," was published in April, 1966.

Two days after its publication, Richard was at a booksigning party at a Carmel, Calif., bookstore. A guest at the event was on a motorcycle and offered Richard a ride down Carmel Valley Road. The guy went into an S-curve at an estimated 90 mph and crashed. The rider lived but Richard was killed instantly. He is buried in Monterey.

Mimi, who died of neuroendocrine cancer at her home in California, on July 18, 2001, was a sister of Joan Baez.

Maria and I have ridden down that road at a more reasonable speed and survived.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

I'm so glad I learned good record-handling habits

I just finished digitizing this album, which I've had since I was a junior in high school.

You would expect a 54-year-old vinyl record to have some scratches, clicks and pops, but my copy is amazingly clean. That, I guess, is a testament to the training in record handling I received from my band director, Rick Laughlin.

While my contemporaries thought nothing of clamping greasy fingers onto the grooves, I took special care to never touch the grooves lest oils from my skin capture dust. I always handled LPs by the edge and made a point of returning them to their jackets as soon as they came off of the turntable.

Consequently, my vinyl record collection is still worth digitizing.


I finally gave up trying to get the sound to work reliably on Maria's Dell laptop and abandoned my plans to digitize my vinyl albums in the living room.

So I cleared a space on the table next to my upstairs desktop computer yesterday, brought the Numark USB turntable up and fiddled with my free copy of Audacity recording software until I got it working to my satisfaction.

Then I went to work digitizing the first four albums - a couple of early Kate & Anna McGarrigle albums, the Blues Brothers "Briefcase Full of Blues" record and a two-record Jimmy Buffett concert album from 1978.

I'm just getting the albums into digital form for now and will go back and clean them up and separate out the individual tracks later.

It's fun hearing music I'd forgotten, some of which it turns out is quite forgettable.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Buckeyes on the way

A thoughtful Delphi, Ind. guy is sending me some freshly fallen buckeyes so that I can try to grow a buckeye tree or two. Or three.

Jim Huddleston, who once lived just up the road at Paragould, responded to my request for buckeyes that I posted on a Delphi nostalgia Facebook page.

Thanks, Jim!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Hoping to see friends in Potosi

I typically go to two BMW club rallies a year - the European Riders Rally in Burkesville, Ky., in May and the Falling Leaf Rally in Potosi, Mo. in October.

The main reason why I go to these is that several of my Indianapolis BMW Club friends usually show up.

I've been getting psyched up about the Falling Leaf Rally, set for next weekend, so I posted to the Indianapolis BMW Club Facebook page asking who's going to Potosi. It turns out that several folks are passing on Potosi and going to the Barber Motorsports Vintage Days next weekend in Birmingham, Ala.


I remain hopeful that some of my Indy friends will go to Potosi.