Saturday, June 16, 2018

Happy 103rd birthday, Mom

My mother would have been 103 years old today. She made it to 85.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Battery wars

I bought this battery from Batteries Plus Bulbs in Lafayette eight or nine days ago.

I installed it in our John Deere LA125 and the engine started right up. But when I tried to start it a few days later, it appeared the battery was dead.

I put it on the charger for several hours yesterday. When I turned the key, the headlights came on, but when I tried to start it, the starter made a little err noise and then went dead.

I called the Lebanon John Deer dealership and the service manager said it sounds like I got a bad battery. He invited me to bring it in for testing, so that's where I'm going this morning. I also have the battery receipt in case my next step is to return it.


Battery tested OK. Gotta take the mower in and it's going to be expensive.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Lacking life skills

I managed to coax one more mowing from our John Deere LA 125 yesterday morning after putting the failing battery on a charger for a couple of hours.
Then I bought a replacement battery online and rode up to Batteries Plus in Lafayette to pick it up.
I found myself in line behind a 50-ish businessman wearing an expensive dress shirt with French cuffs and gold cufflinks. He looked like an executive type, but the image collapsed when I saw why he was there.
He'd brought in his First Alert smoke detector because he couldn't figure out how to replace the battery.
Really? It's the same model we had in Arkansas and it's a breeze to replace the 9-volt battery. Even standing on a ladder with the unit on the ceiling.
The counterman managed to keep a straight face throughout the transaction.
I wonder what else he has other people do for him.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Historical t-shirt

Going through my t-shirt archives over the weekend, I found this relic of an Indianapolis BMW motorcycle dealership from the late 1980s and early 1990s. The shop was owned by Greg Polzin and was next door to a Dairy Queen on east 56th Street, just west of Keystone Avenue.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Bike report

The folks at AMA Road Service determined that my BMW dealer, Falcone Powersports, provides free pickup and delivery, so I had them collect my K1200GT Thursday morning.

I called Saturday morning and got good news and, of course, bad news.

The good news is that my battery was replaced under warranty.

The bad news is that my fork seals are shot and will cost $450 to replace. I told them to proceed. The other bad news is that my tires are down to the wear bars. The good news on the tire front is that I have a partially used set of tires for that bike that still have plenty of miles left. They came off the bike in July, 2015 and have been in storage ever since. When I get the GT back, I'll take it to my almost-next-door Gold Wing shop and have the old tires mounted.

Here's a photo of the Falcone trailer hauling my bike to Indy.

Whisper quiet

If you have a spare $600 to blow on a vacuum cleaner, I heartily recommend the Miele Blizzard CX1 Turbo Team Bagless Canister Vacuum.

It's German made and whisper quiet, yet very powerful. Some users say it outclasses their expensive Dyson models.

I got mine from Amazon and now I actually look forward to vacuuming the house.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I'm not really surprised by any of this

I had a 9 a.m. appointment today with the Indianapolis BMW motorcycle dealer to get my faulty battery replaced under warranty.

There's been rain in the forecast for several days as the remnants of a tropical disturbance make their way toward Indiana, so I was sweating having to ride the bike down to Indianapolis in rain.

But when I tried to start the bike, which had been on a battery tender for five or six days, the battery was dead.

So I called American Motorcyclist Association road service and ordered a wrecker. I used them last September for an identical problem and they sent a driver who thought he was picking up a BMW car and lacked the appropriate motorcycle dolly, which necessitated dispatching another wrecker the next day. (See photo above.)

So, true to form, when the wrecker showed up in my driveway a few minutes ago, he didn't have a dolly either. The towing company is now searching for a truck with a dolly as the rain inches closer and closer...

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Circus Minimus

The Culpepper & Merriweather Circus was in town yesterday.

Dora woke us up about 7:15 a.m. after she detected circus folks setting up in the park diagonally across from our house. It was a novel experience watching from our house as they unloaded cages of a lion and a tiger and our dogs fell strangely silent when the lion roared.

The Big Top was up on the Little League ball field by mid-morning and several of our neighbors joined me on the front porch to watch the proceedings.

There were performances at 5 and 7:30 p.m. and the roustabouts (I guess that's what they still call them) started tearing things down before the second show was over. They were gone by midnight.

And, no, we didn't attend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The good news is that BMW warrantees batteries for 2 years

My 2003 BMW K1200GT is headed for the shop.

I rode it last Thursday and then parked it for six days to see if the battery would hold a charge.

I checked it this afternoon and it was flat again.

So I called Falcone Powersports in Indianapois, my local BMW motorcycle dealer, and made an appointment to ride down for service next Wednesday morning.

In the meantime, It's back on the charger.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Stay hydrated

This is what happens when you're pushing 73 and don't stay hydrated on a hot day.

I ended up in the Witham Hospital ER Sunday evening after nearly passing out at home. The initial fear, of course, was that I had a heart attack, so I chewed up the obligatory two low-dose Bayer aspirins while waiting for the EMTs. They did a quick EKG and determined there was nothing obviously wrong with my heart, but advised me to go to the hospital. Maria drove me there and the next stop was the ER (see photo above).

They gave me a chest x-ray to rule out a blood clot in the lungs, wired me up with a heart monitor and decided I should spend the right there.

Twelve mostly sleepless hours and a few blood tests later, they cut me loose with instructions to get hydrated and stay hydrated.

So I did and I am and now my GP wants to see me next Tuesday.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Makes iced coffee too

I got this Russell Hobbs coffee maker from the Amazon Vine Program last October and have used it almost every day since.

But its features conspire to leave me with coffee to thrown away the next morning. It turns off the heat after 40 minutes and most days that's too soon for a second cup. Happily, it only makes 8 cups instead of 12 like many coffee makers, so the waste isn't as bad as it could be.

I was lamenting the fact that I always have coffee left over at the end of the day the other evening when it finally dawned on me to pour the remaining coffee over ice, add sweetener and creamer and voila!, iced coffee.

Now I wonder why I didn't think of it long ago.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Diagnosis pending

The GT spent the last couple of days on the BMW charger and it was showing solid green when I disconnected it and went for a ride this afternoon.

I made a point of unplugging the GPS at each stop - post office, veterinarian's office and DQ. When I went to plug it back in at Dairy Queen, I noticed green corrosion on the plug. I scraped as much off as I could with my fingernail, plugged it back in and rode home.

The bike is sitting in the shed without a charger connection and with the GPS plug out. I'll let it set for four or five days and then see if the battery is drained. If the battery isn't up to snuff after that time, I'll charge it again and take it to the BMW dealer in Indianapolis. It's only eight months old and almost certainly still under warranty.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This poster is on the bulletin board at the Thorntown Post Office. Note the reference to Thornton City Park.

O, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

I took the K75S out for a spin today, convinced that the surgery my neighbor Grumpy performed last week had failed to fix the speedo.

As expected, the speedo needle didn't move during the ride to the post office, but it miraculously came to life when I headed out of town on Ind. 47 and continued to perform consistently all the way to Dairy Queen, where I stopped for lunch.

Suddenly, I am happy with my bike.
I had the Indianapolis BMW motorcycle dealer install a new battery in my 2003 K1200GT in late September.

I had it on a battery tender off and on through the winter, but it was dead when I tried to start it last week. I gave it an overnight charge and it was good to go for a ride up to the Lafayette Sam's Club and down to Aldi in Lebanon. That was last Thursday. It was dead again when I tried to start it yesterday - five days later.

I find it hard to believe that an 8-month-old battery can fail like this and wonder if something isn't draining it. The first suspect is the Garmin Zumo 550 with Sirius XM radio.

So I put it back on the charger this morning and will leave the GPS disconnected to see if it still can't hold a charge. Either way, it's a sure thing I won't be riding to the European Riders Rally in Burkesville, Ky. this weekend.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

It's a Hafner

Sorting through random boxes from our moves to and from Arkansas, I found this Hafner wind-up O-gauge train set that my parents gave me for Christmas around 1950.

It's the closest I ever got to an electric train set, my parents being overly cautious about electricity.

Today, it enjoys a new life on our living room mantel.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

It would seem that I've still got it

Back when I was a suburban bureau chief and reporter for The Indianapolis News, and later for The Indianapolis Star, I covered a lot of primary and general elections and spent several election nights in the Boone and Hamilton County courthouses.

Maria arranged for me to feed vote totals to the Associated Press last night from the Boone County primaries. I got minutely detailed instructions from the AP over the past couple of weeks and was just a little nervous about it since I haven't covered an election in more than 10 years and have never done it as an AP stringer.

I needn't have worried.

Old friends retired Judge Becky McClure and Debbie Ottinger greeted me like a long-lost relative at the clerk's office and Clerk Jessica Fouts did a superb job of feeding us the returns as they came in. The AP folks were easy to work with and the evening went smoothly.

I hadn't planned to take any photos, so I left my Nikon at home.

But when the crowd outside the clerk's office exploded with shrieks and cheers at 8:15 p.m. with the news that Lori Schein had scored the upset of the evening, beating County Attorney Todd Meyer and another attorney for the Republican nomination for judge of Boone Circuit Court, I stepped outside and fired five quick photos with my iPhone. The one shown here dominates the front page of The Lebanon Reporter this morning. I can't recall taking a better election photo in my 30-some years in newspapers. And I did it with a chickenshit little cell phone camera.

I love being able to play newspaper on my own terms.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Capt. Kroon's V-E Day letter

Seventy-three years ago today, Capt. Philip C. Kroon, an artillery officer with the U.S. Army's 144th Field Artillery Group, took pen in hand in the garden outside an Austrian hotel and wrote a letter to his young bride in Redlands, Calif.
It was V-E Day - Victory in Europe Day - and the young captain from Grand Rapids, Mich., had been in combat since his unit came ashore in Normandy a few weeks after the June 6, 1944, invasion. He was looking forward to coming home, but mindful that the war against Japan seemed far from finished and that he might be needed in the Pacific Theatre.
Here is what he wrote on a sheet of Adolf Hitler's personal letterhead, liberated a day or two earlier from the Führer's Berghof retreat at nearby Berchtesgaden:

My adored wife,
Finally the work of the past year for me and over three years for the nation is completed. The war here is over completely. Of course, we are glad it is over, but to us it is sort of an anti-climax. For nearly two months now, we have completely routed the Germans. During the past few days we have seen steady streams of German soldiers marching to the rear. At some places, even the super-highway is jammed. It was a sight never to forget and one that only happens once in a lifetime. I wanted to get some pictures of it, but my camera was stolen some time ago. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry. I now have another very good German camera that I took from a German soldier, so am better equipped than before.
Now that we are no longer at war here, I should have more time to write you and expect to get off better than one letter every five or six days. In fact, it's now been seven days this time. I'm sorry, darling. I'll try to make it up to you.
About a week ago I went through the Dachau concentration camp. Any pictures you see or stories you hear are only a small part of the picture. The stench was indescribable as well as the actual scenes. I saw some of the toughest soldiers nauseated. I won't tell you any details for they shouldn't be put on paper. It was the most terrible thing I have ever seen.
In contrast, a couple of days ago I went through one of Hitler's palaces -not the one at Berchtesgaden, but an old Hapsburg palace that he took over. It was a paragon of beauty and symmetry. In the two main floors was not a sign of Nazi Occupation except that most of the furnishings had been looted, mainly from France.
The walls were covered with priceless tapestries, the floors with thick pile rugs. We were nearly the first soldiers in the place and looked through it by ourselves. We went snooping in the cellar and came across two storage rooms. One was nearly filled with medals, of which I have a few choice ones. I also found one silver knife (not table) in the house - the only one there, so I suppose it belonged to Hitler. In another room, we found some stationery, of which this is the choicest. His personal. I have quite a bit of it and will send it home. You can give a sheet to various people, but save some of each kind, especially this with just "Der Führer" on it. I also came across some other excellent souvenirs - Onep&j pair of field glasses - the best I have ever seen - fifteen power - this may not mean much to you, but they are two and ½ times as powerful as the ones I and Pop used to have The must be worth three or four hundred dollars. I also have a pair of Luftwaffe swords that are not in the best of shape but will look good fixed up and crossed in my den if I ever have one.
Guess what, Sweets. I shaved off my mustache today - because the war is over. No one noticed it so I guess it couldn't have been so good. I'm not making any plans for a quick return home, beloved, nor am I getting any fancy ideas about it. I would give anything just to spend a few weeks with you, but there is much to be done, both here and in the Orient and I'm sure I'll be one place or the other.
Some will get to go home on their way to the Pacific and rumors are already afloat, but I'm not counting on anything - then we won't have the disappointment.
These Bavarian Alps are really beautiful, dearest mine. They are all snow covered yet, although we are not very high and last week we had snow in Munich. Today was marvelous. The view of the mountains is similar to that from our front yard, though the mountains are much closer and not as high.
During the last mad rush we have been getting practically no mail and I'm way behind, although today I got the letter you wrote on the eve of our anniversary. Sweet - just as they all are - but why not, with the sweetest wife in the world writing them. I wish my letters would get there more regularly. You probably have had a batch since that time, but it is nicer when they come spread over a long time.
Darling, I adore you completely. I don't dream of you often, but that isn't my fault. When I'm awake I can control my thoughts and they always include you. Always I wish you could share the beautiful scenery and the old German cities - Worms, Nurnberg, Augsberg, Munich, Saltzburg and the rest with me. Maybe, in future years, after they are rebuilt we will see them together. Anything we could do together would be wonderful. One thing in particular - I miss you so, Jeanie. I'll always adore you.
Your only Phil
A little picture of you know who.
Capt. Kroon came home six months later. He made a career of the army, taking a reduction in rank to sergeant in order to remain in a downsized postwar military. His last duty post was as an instructor in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Purdue University. Following his retirement, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He died of cancer in 1988. Diane, the first of his three daughters, was born Oct. 30, 1946, and grew up to be my first wife.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Legendary shirt

I rediscovered this legendary Henley this morning while rotating shirts in and out of an under-bed storage bin. The BMW slogan dates from the 1980s.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Happy Birthday, Dora

Our lovely Dora Flora is five years old today!

She makes us very happy and Jack loves her dearly.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Bike problem, easy solution

I rode the 1994 BMW K75S down to the Lebanon License Branch this morning and shuffled the papers for an Indiana title and license plate.

When I started the bike in the BMV parking lot, the battery seemed weak. Riding away, I noticed the ABS warning light stayed on after I applied both brakes - a move that usually turns it off. Stopped at a traffic signal, I tried a fix that always worked before - turning the engine off and restarting. It started very feebly, died and restarted even weaker and the ABS light stayed on.

Fearing I might not have enough battery for another restart, I rode straight home, ruminating on whether my ABS was dead - I lost the ABS on my 1991 K100RS several years ago and it was very expensive to replace - and whether I should plan to take the bike down to the BMW dealer in Indianapolis. The speedo was also 99 per cent dead, with a little needle movement now and then. I'm pretty sure I know where the loose connection is for that problem.

Then, about 9 minutes into my ride, I realized I don't have to hassle with the dealership because I have reliable motorcycle service just four doors up the street from my house - Grumpy's Gold Wing Service. Grumpy repaired gummed up fuel injectors on the K75S several years ago and also installed new tires on my 2003 K1200GT.

I stopped at the entrance to my driveway and killed the engine, hoping a re-start would solve the ABS problem. The battery just barely turned the engine over and, of course, the ABS light stayed on. I stopped a few yards short of the shed where I keep my bikes and removed the saddlebags so the bike would fit with its younger brother and with our lawnmower and other shed stuff. Then I put it on a trickle charger in the hope of getting a final start, either into the shed or over to Grumpy's.

Grumpy remembered me from when we lived here 10 years ago. He looked up the appropriate battery and ordered it for me, saying it should be here next Thursday. Then we spent the next hour chatting. I was interested to learn he and I were at Indiana State University at the same time. He lived in Sandison Hall and I was next door in its twin, Gillum Hall in the 1963-64 school year. He also thought he could probably remedy the speedo glitch.

The charger did its job and I was able to fire up the K75S and ride it into the shed where it will languish until Thursday.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Back in the saddle again

There's nothing like a break in the weather to get me moving on outdoor projects.

Today I petitioned St. Anthony to help me find the Arkansas titles to my two bikes. After going through a couple of file boxes and all 27 drawers of the steel cabinet I inherited from my dad, I dug deep on my desk and found a yellow folder labeled "Vehicle Titles" and there they were.

So after lunch I rolled my 2003 BMW K1200GT out of the shed, aired up the tires, put on the saddlebags and the Garmin Zumo 550 GPS, topped off the fuel tank at the Marathon down the street, and rode down to Lebanon and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. I walked out about a half-hour later with a temporary paper plate and title. The Arkansas plate will remain on the bike until May 1 or the arrival of a metal plate, whichever comes first.

Weather permitting, I'll take the K75S in for title and plate tomorrow.

I pretty much lost my 2017 riding season because of our move back from Arkansas and having the bikes in storage much of the year. I have higher hopes for 2018.

Porch cam

I set up a trailcam on the front porch to photograph birds at the feeders yesterday.

I pulled the card this morning and found 1,452 images - almost all of them of passing vehicles and pedestrians and only about 5 of birds. This cardinal is the best of the bunch.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Getting charged up

My high priced BMW motorcycle battery charger/tender charges my bikes through the accessory plug. It also has a cable with conventional battery terminal clamps, but the cable got separated from the charger in the move from Arkansas.

I've done fruitless searches for the cable through boxes in the house and conclude it must be in storage somewhere.

In the meantime, the grass is growing and our yard sprouted hundreds of dandelions over the past few days. It was clear that I had to find a way to charge the flat battery in our John Deere LA125 mower and I had to do it in time for the first decently warm day.

Today was that day, so I drove in to the Lebanon Walmart and spent $30 and change on a battery charger with the desired terminal clamps. It showed fully charged after a couple of hours, which came as a great relief because I figured the battery was probably done for after seven months of inactivity, much of it in freezing temperatures in the shed. I fully expected to have to drive down to the John Deere dealership and buy a new battery.
But wonder of wonders, it started.

I backed the BMW K75S out of the shed to make room to get the mower out, put a couple of fresh AA batteries in my Work Tunes headphones and attacked the yard. We have less than a quarter of the 1.23 acres I'm used to mowing in Arkansas, so a riding mower almost seems a little silly for such a small lot.

Since I had the K75S out and standing in the driveway, I aired up the tires and went for my first motorcycle ride of 2018 - just a short spin of a couple of miles - but enough to get my blood flowing.

Now I have to figure out what I did with the Arkansas titles to our two bikes so I can get them titled and plated in Indiana.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tesla time

I got a call from my son Steve early this afternoon.

He was cruising down I-215 in Las Vegas, on his way to pick up a bass, in his self-driving Tesla. He sent me this image of his dashboard display, showing the relative position of nearby vehicles as well as speed, posted speed limit, temperature, and the fact that he was on the phone with me.

Outrageously cool.

Adios, memory foam mattress

After sheltering the free full size bed and box springs on our porch for four days, we put it out at the curb last night for trash pickup this morning.

We also put out a king size memory foam mattress that we no longer need.

Someone took the conventional mattress and box springs overnight, so the trash haulers only had to contend with the memory foam.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Free bed

Somehow, we find ourselves with an extra bed that must leave the house to let us configure the upstairs to our liking.

In the past, we've been able to put cast-off items like appliances, furniture and other stuff at the curb in front of our house and someone would come along and help themselves to it - sometimes in less than an hour.

Not so with this bed. Maria and I wrestled it down the stairs and out the front door yesterday afternoon and put it back together at curbside. Then we waited for it to disappear. The Little League Baseball season is underway in the park across the intersection and there was lots of traffic up and down our street, but nobody took the bed. We even advertised it on three local Facebook pages.

Finally, as dusk approached and it looked like rain, we hauled it up onto the front porch.

I suspect the reason nobody wants it has to do with the disgusting lifestyle of the people who rented our house for nine years, up until last August. When they moved out, they put a huge pile of trash at the curb and it reeked so badly that neighborhood kids crossed the street rather than walk past it. It could be that townspeople, knowing what kind of animals lived in our house previously, don't want the bed because they think it is filled with bedbugs and/or hideous stink.

I amended the advertisements to emphasize that it's clean and we brought it with us when we moved here from Arkansas and that there's nothing wrong with it, we just have one bed too many.

If nobody takes it before Friday, we'll put it out for the trash collection.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Happy Birthday, Morgan!

My lovely and brilliant stepdaughter Morgan is 34 years old today. I'm very proud of her.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Happy birthday to a friend

This is the first April 13 in 75 years that my friend Doreen Tracey isn't alive to celebrate her birthday. Cancer and pneumonia took her in January.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Porch furniture

I'm evaluating this piece of patio furniture for the Amazon Vine Program.

It took me about 90 minutes yesterday afternoon to assemble. I could have probably done it under an hour were it not for windy conditions on our front porch.

I think I like it. Maria loves it.

Pardon the porch floor. It will get a new coat of paint soon.

Damned Chinese spammers

I just spent the better part of an hour deleting spam from the comments on my blog, left last night by some asshole in China.

In the process, I found hundreds of other posts from spammers.

I am seriously considering turning off comments.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Gross blog negligence

I'm assembling a profit and loss statement for our commercial building in Jonesboro, Ark. in preparation for filing a tax return for our LLC.

In the process, I've been using last year's blog posts to refresh my memory about what improvements were made and when. I am also reminded of how badly I've neglected this blog, largely because we spent pretty much all of 2017 moving our stuff back to Thorntown, selling our Arkansas house and un-doing the horrible damage done by our Thorntown tenants in the nine years they lived here. I only posted 132 times last year, making it the least active year since I started the blog in the spring of 2004.

Last year's focus on getting back to Indiana also reduced my motorcycle mileage to double digits.

Sunday, April 08, 2018


What can you do with a closet that's 3 feet deep and 19 inches wide?

It turns out that the IKEA Algot storage system is a perfect fit.

Maria and I spent less than $100 on components yesterday morning at the Indianapolis IKEA story, assembled the lower unit in the afternoon and finished the upper shelves this morning. Maria did all the hard work on the upper shelves.

The closet was a nasty, dirty little space with crumbling plaster when we moved here. Maria wallpapered it a few months ago and we completed the project today. Woo-hoo!

Friday, March 30, 2018


A message from the Thorntown Toan Board president was included with a recent utility bill advising that prominently displayed house numbers are needed to help emergency personnel to respond to calls for help.

Our house at 515 S. Pearl St. is among the offenders. I don't recall if it was us or the renters who did it, but there were stick-on numbers - they looked like the numbers the Department of Natural Resources requires on boats - on the north side of our mailbox. They faced north and couldn't be readily seen from the street and the "1" is missing. I peeled them off and threw them into the trash.

"To aid residents with updates to their homes Boy Scout Troop 743 plans to provide decals and help with installation if necessary as part of an Eagle Scout project," the notice says.

Rather than wait for the Scouts to bring me cheesy-looking boat numbers, I bought some fancy brass numbers at Menards and installed them to the base of a front porch column last week.

As far as emergency responders are concerned, we are a little more than 500 yards east of the Sugar Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department's main station, which also includes an ambulance. We can see the station from our front porch.

I was reminded of that about 4:30 a.m. today when Jack and Dora howled long and loud in response to a siren from the fire station, waking us from a sound sleep.

Friday, March 16, 2018


I'm testing the AcuRite 5-in-1 weather station, courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program.

The mounting site on the privacy fence between our house and our utility shed isn't perfect, but it seems to work OK.

It took me about an hour from the time the UPS guy delivered it until I had everything set up and functioning, which is pretty good.

So far, the rain gauge hasn't gotten any action, but that should change overnight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Disaster averted

The Samsung microwave oven we bought on Dec. 30 and installed the next day, began emitting an odor suggestive of burning or melting plastic when we used it last week.

We used it sparingly for a couple of days, then stopped using it altogether, pending inspection by a service technician. It is, after all, under warranty from Samsung in addition to a Lowe's extended warranty.

The tech showed up yesterday afternoon and discovered that one of the plugs had been incorrectly installed at the factory in Malaysia, causing a short circuit that was melting the plug and would eventually cause a fire.

He didn't have the replacement parts with him, but I expect him back today or tomorrow to complete the repair.

Thank God, we didn't burn the house down.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Hard day's night

I covered the graveside services for Boone County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Pickett this evening.

It was the most technically challenging shoot I've had as long as I can remember. I shot more than 400 frames and ended up with only 9 that were worthy of publication. The problem was low light because the funeral procession didn't start to arrive at the cemetery until sundown. But the time everyone was in place, it was full-on dark. If it hadn't been for lighting provided by the TV stations, I wouldn't have gotten anything at all.

I was shooting for the Lebanon Reporter and Maria said she was pleased with the images, but I am painfully aware that my 12-year-old Nikon D200 was right at the edge of its capabilities. If I'm going to keep shooting, I want a new camera. The guy standing next to me had a digital SLR that sounded like a machine gun to my bolt-action Nikon.

This is my favorite shot of the evening. A trumpeter playing taps.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the turkey vultures are back in Thorntown

They’re back.

The sky over our back yard is full of turkey vultures.

They soar silently on huge black wings, seeking out rising warm air and flapping in to a landing in the tops of a line of tall trees 74 yards behind our house. The trees separate a broad expanse of lawn from an abandoned railroad right-of-way that is now the Big Four Trail, a hiking, biking trail that runs from here to Lebanon.

We noticed them for the first time in the spring of 2005. It seems unlikely that we would have missed a roost of 50-or-so turkey vultures for the four consecutive springs that we lived here, so maybe they relocated to our neighborhood after something forced them to move.

I’ve long enjoyed watching them fly. I used to see them when my ex and I took our sons camping at Turkey Run State Park a few miles southwest of here back in the 1970s. That’s when I first looked them up in Roger Tory Petersen’s "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" and learned they are the second-largest birds in North America - eclipsed only by the nearly extinct California Condor, itself a form of vulture.

I admit I was mildly concerned about all those vultures peering down at my 4-month-old Australian shepherd puppy Pete back in 2006.

So I went online to learn more.

Turns out, there’s no need to worry. Turkey vultures don’t kill anything. They won’t touch anything that isn’t dead. Besides that, they will pass on dead carnivores like dogs, cats and coyotes, preferring to dine on dead herbivores like sheep, goats and cattle.

The Cherokees called the turkey vulture the “peace eagle” because it soars like the predatory bird, but does not kill.

They are about 25 inches from end to end with a six-foot wingspan. The average adult turkey vulture weighs in at 6 pounds.

The turkey vultures around here are migratory, wintering in the U.S. south or perhaps as far south as Central America.

I remember seeing a humorous piece on the old Disneyland TV show back in the ‘50s about the festivities surrounding the return of the turkey vultures each spring to Hinkley, Ohio, much the same way the swallows come back to San Juan Capistrano on the same day each year.

My first sighting back in 2006 was on March 8 and here they are on March 8 again.

I also discovered turkey vultures even have their own fan club - The Turkey Vulture Society (

Bill Kohlmoos, president of the Turkey Vulture Society, wrote a fascinating piece about the birds in which he points out they have a rich social life, like to play aerial tag, and will invite other roosts to join them if they find a particularly large meal.

In California, he said, they’ve even been known to tell condors about major feasts and guide them to the scene.

Among his anecdotes:
“…it was reported by a person who had studied turkey vultures for many years that one would wait every morning for his son, a young school boy, to come out of his house. The vulture would follow the boy several blocks to the school bus stop and then wait on top of a telephone pole until the boy got on the bus. In the afternoon the bird would be back on the pole waiting for the boy's return, and then follow him home.”
“One lady wrote us that she has built a small wooden tower-like feeder in her back yard and puts out food for her friends each day. One day she noticed that after eating their breakfast, the vultures had gone down to the lawn in her yard and six of them were in a circle around a soccer-size ball left on the lawn by her grandchildren. The vultures were hitting the ball back and forth to each other by butting it with their head and beak. Each day thereafter they played this game. And although there were four balls of different colors, they always picked the orange one.”
“Turkey Vultures are affectionate and often make good pets. When a bird is injured and taken into rehab he will become emotionally attached to his handler and follow him around and watch him, much like a pet dog. They love to bring an object to a person and then play tug-of-war.”
“A lady in Southern California wrote that she and her husband would drive their car five miles from town and take a daily walk in the country with their dog. A turkey vulture would join them, soaring above and watching them. And then one day at home she broke a leg and the walks were not possible for a while. One day she was in her back yard on crutches and there was her turkey vulture sitting on the fence, waiting to say hello. He had found her in a town of 12,000 people!”

Turkey vultures are covered by an international migratory bird treaty that makes it a federal crime to kill or injured them or to possess one without the appropriate permit as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Great series

We like to find an engaging series on Netflix or Amazon to watch in the evenings and just finished one of the best so far.

Babylon Berlin is a tense, dark German-made series on Netflix set in Berlin in the late 1920s.

If you're up for 16 episodes, totaling 12 hours, I heartily recommend it. (It helps if you know a bit about the Weimar Republic and the political turmoil of the period just before the economic crash.)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Police Log

The Carmel, Calif., weekly newspaper has an artist who illustrates items from the police log. Here is one of the most memorable.

Just in time for the 2018 riding season

My Garmin Zumo 550 has a new lease on life.

Released in October, 2006 with what probably seemed like a generous 1.2 GB of internal memory, the Zumo 550 soon lost the capacity to hold a constantly expanding complete North America map database, forcing users to choose the region they planned to travel when they needed to update.

As time went by, the larger regions became unavailable in the update software, until last fall when I needed to update to a region with Indiana mapping, I found the only region available to me was Canada and parts of the U.S. border states. While in Arkansas, I had the SE U.S. region installed, but when I got back to Indiana I found it only had rudimentary mapping for the Hoosier state. It didn't even show Ind. 75, which connects Interstate 74 with Thorntown and had no street level details of the town.

I'd heard that it is possible to increase the map capacity by loading maps onto an SD card and inserting it into the Zumo. I asked for guidance on the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America member forum and, as the photo demonstrates, I can now access all of the lower 48 states.

This comes as a great relief, because I was afraid I was going to have to spend some serious money to replace the Zumo 550. I am loathe to do that because I have it set up with the SiriusXM satellite radio option and the newer models don't offer satellite radio. Dumping the Zumo 550 would require a complete re-thinking of my motorcycle navigation and entertainment setup.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hey, we had a fort!

My BMW riding friend Rich Nathan brightened my day and widened my horizons this afternoon by sending me this photo of an historical marker in Washington, Ind.

I had no idea there was a Fort Flora. Rich and I rode within a couple of miles of this marker when we did our epic ride of the entire length of U.S. 50, which runs from Ocean City, Md., to Sacramento, Calif. in 2001.

According to the Indiana Travel Guide:

During the War of 1812, some American settlers in the Indiana Territory felt threatened by nearby populations of Native Americans--whether justly or not. While many Native Americans remained neutral, there were large numbers who sided with the British and attacked American settlers for a variety of reasons, including intrusions into native-owned land. Unfortunately for settlers of the Indiana Territory, the United States Army was stationed in only three main forts, as the northern forts were lost to the British. In response and to protect themselves and their families, settlers living close together would build small forts. Although these forts could not
withstand the British army, they could offer protection from Native American raids. Fort Flora is an example of this type of fort built, which was built by ten families from the surrounding area. During the War of 1812, ten similar forts were built in the region that is now Daviess County, Indiana. Since these forts were not meant to be permanent defenses they have since been destroyed. The remaining evidence of Fort Flora’s existence today is a historic marker placed by the Indiana Historical Bureau.

The marker stands at the southwest corner of E. Main & NE 2nd Streets in Washington - some 20 miles east of Vincennes.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Both of Maria's parents have the flu.

So far, neither of us has any symptoms.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Back in print

I pretty much owned the front page of The Lebanon Reporter this morning with three photos from last Saturday night's chili cook-off at the Sugar Creek Art Center in Thorntown.

I had another two photos on the back page.

Maria and I covered the event. She did the words and got the names of people in front of my camera and I shot the art. It feels good to be back in the game, however tenuously.

Maria has been assistant editor of the paper for a couple of months.

Working on having an all-LED house

I'm reducing our home's use of electricity by replacing all of our conventional light bulbs with LEDs.

So far I've replaced 31 bulbs, including seven 65 watt flood lights in the kitchen and I have another 8 to go. In most cases, the LEDs are brighter than the incandescent bulbs they replaced.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Godspeed, Doreen

I just discovered that my friend Doreen Tracey died on Jan. 10 of pneumonia, ending a two-year battle with cancer.

We hadn't spoken for a couple of years and I was about to email her when I did a Google search today and learned of her passing.

For those of us lucky enough to have memories of the 1950s, the name “Doreen” has a special significance. Doreen Isabell Tracey was an original cast member of the Mickey Mouse Club.

Doreen spent her entire life in the entertainment industry.

She was born April 13, 1943 to Sid and Bessie Tracey. The Traceys were vaudevillians entertaining the troops in England and Doreen was born in London.

The family returned to the States when she was four and moved to Hollywood, where Sid and vaudeville friend Ben Blue opened a place called Slappy Maxie on Wilshire Boulevard.

In a move that would shape his young daughter's life, Sid also opened the Rainbow Dance Studio.

Growing up as a normal American little girl, Doreen had the advantage of an extended show business “family.” Her “Uncle Ben” Blue was a prominent fixture in her life and she lived with him for a time when her mother was hospitalized with tuberculosis and her father struggled to keep his business afloat. Jimmy Durante seized upon her childhood name of “Do-Do” and delighted in embarrassing her by announcing, “Look who's here – it's Sid's little DoDo bird!”

She was an only child, and her best buddy was her cat, Sylvester.

Doreen was answering the phone at the Rainbow Studios that fateful day when the call came from Lee Travers at Walt Disney Studios in early 1955 announcing the search for talented kids for the pilot of the Mickey Mouse Club.
She sang “Cross Over the Bridge” in a Little Bo-Peep costume for the initial audition in March.

As one of the original Mouseketeers, Doreen remained with the show through its entire run.

After the Mickey Mouse Club ended, Doreen went to John Burroughs High School in Burbank where she fell in love with Robert Washburn. The two eloped to Tijuana and, a short time later, Doreen found herself pregnant with a son, Bradley Allen Washburn. The marriage was short-lived and Doreen soon became a single mother.

During the 1960s, she performed with the Andressi Brothers in Las Vegas and elsewhere and appeared on episodes of My Three Sons, Donna Reed and Day in Court.

She also toured Alaska and Vietnam with the USO. Her recollections of Vietnam landed her a job as a consultant on the film "Apocalypse Now!" where she contributed elements of the surfing-under-fire sequence.

Doreen fell out of grace with Walt Disney Studios in the mid-1970s when she did two nude photo layouts for Gallery magazine.

That's when I first made her acquaintance. About the same time as the first Gallery layout, writer Jerry Bowles published a where-are-they-now book about the Mouseketeers called Forever Hold Your Banner High. A press kit turned up on my desk at The Indianapolis News one day with a mail-back postcard to request phone interviews with Doreen and/or Jerry Bowles. I checked both boxes and, about a week later, found myself chatting with Doreen. We hit it off and have kept in touch ever since.

Since the Gallery flap, Doreen and the studios have been reconciled.

Doreen lived in Simi Valley with her son.

In an email exchange in April, 2013, she related that this has been a particularly stressful period with the passing of fellow Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, friend Jonathan Winters and ballerina Maria Tallchief.

“She practiced with the Ballet Russ de Monte Carlo company, as Mr. Balanchine gave instructions to his troupe. He never spoken above a whisper to his beautiful swans. The rehearsals were at Sid's dance studio. I watched in wonder at her dedication. Although, I never achieved the perfection of Ms. Tallchief, she did inspire this lonely little girl to become a good enough dancer to get by.”

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Thanks, Rush!

Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for recommending for custom-made window blinds!

Our big old (1903) house has nearly 30 windows and we sometimes felt like we were living in a fishbowl, especially in the bathrooms.

Over the past couple of months I've ordered 2" faux wood blinds for seven windows at a cost of $270.67 from at discounts ranging from 45% to 50%. All were exactly as ordered and fit perfectly, including the one in the photo which was installed in a walk-in bedroom closet.

Without the discount, they would have cost me more than $500, so I feel like I got away with something.