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.

Friday, February 02, 2018


I finally got a new Indiana title and Indiana plate for the Subaru. I worried that the fact that Arkansas plated the car, but never issued an Arkansas title, would cause huge problems.

But it didn't and I was in and out of the license branch in Lebanon in less than 30 minutes.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Trickster Euchre

Euchre is, arguably, Indiana's official card game.

It's played in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, maybe Kentucky and in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

But it seems to be unknown in the South. When we lived in Arkansas, the only way we could get up a euchre game was to import Hoosiers or try to teach it to the locals.

These day when I have some time on my hands and a computer (or my phone) handy, I fire up the Trickster Euchre app where I can play against other people.

My name in the game is olioscourge. Say hi if you see me.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Exorcising the demons

More than anything else, last night's State of the Union address struck me as an exorcism.

The demonic Democrats were obviously intensely uncomfortable. Illinois Congressman Gutierrez even had to flee the chamber when people started changing "USA, USA."

I truly believe those people are under a Satanic influence and are bent on destroying everything good and righteous in the country.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Eye Caramba!

I got a bill this week from the surgical center where my cataract surgeries were done last month.

It appears that the bill is just for the left eye surgery that was done on Dec. 12. The total cost is a staggering $13,232! Happily, all but $197 is covered by Medicare. That's the same Medicare that was deducted from my paychecks since 1965.

I assume another bill will be forthcoming for the right eye surgery performed on Dec. 26, raising the total charge to $26,464.

So it wasn't really free. I paid for it over the 52 years I've been contributing to the Medicare fund.

Whatever. I now have perfect vision for the first time in my life.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

One year ago today, the world changed

Politically speaking, this may have been the happiest year of my life.

President Donald Trump has yet to say or do anything that I haven't liked and he makes all the right people crazy.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Best Civil War book I've read so far

I've been reading a lot of books about the Civil War, including biographies. Being a Hoosier in exile in Arkansas can do that to you.

The most interesting one I've read is the one I'm savoring now on my Kindle Paperwhite -
Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence
by Heros Von Borcke.

Von Borcke was a Prussian cavalry officer whose appetite for adventure inspired him to run the Union blockade and join the Army of Northern Virginia where he became a friend and confidante of the legendary J.E.B. Stuart. His dash and elan in battle earned him the admiration of such luminaries as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee (whose 211th birthday is today).

He apparently kept a journal filled with exquisite details of the ebb and flow and the day-to-day life of a Confederate officer. He distinguished himself in combat and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before he was gravely wounded in fighting leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. Following his recovery, Confederate States President Jefferson Davis sent him on a diplomatic mission to England where he was serving when the war ended in April, 1865.

After the war, he returned to Prussia and eventually bought an estate where he flew the Confederate flag over the battlements.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I should have taken better care of it

My 1973 North Face daypack has a terminal case of mold and mildew, so out it goes for tomorrow morning's trash collection.

Out of curiosity, I took a look at the North Face website and was stunned to see that they have the 1968 version of the daypack, brought back out of nostalgia, for $275. That's almost enough to make me trudge through the snow to retrieve my 45-year-old pack, mildew or now.


I left it on top of the trash can, in case some passerby wants to snag it before it goes to the landfill.

Bang & Olufsen is releasing new and improved versions of their brilliant H8 and H9 headphones. The H8 is an on-ear headphone and the H9 is an over-the-ear 'phone.

I was fortunate enough to receive review copies of both of the originals. Now, I'm hoping I get to get a chance to review the new H8i and H9i. It makes sense (to me, anyway) to let me review the new headphones, since I have a basis for comparison.

We shall see.

Checking the mail

Box 101
Thorntown, IN 46071-0101

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sitting here at my desk, listening to music on my fabulous Bang & Olufsen H9 headphones when a song from the first Jefferson Airplane album comes up in the random rotation.

And I am suddenly transported back to February, 1967 in my first apartment - Apt. 1A, 3360 Meadows Court - in Indianapolis. I had just started my career with The Indianapolis News at the tender age of 21.

Ahh, if I had only known what I know now. I can't recall those early days at The News without cringing over how naive I was.

The B&O headphones reveal details in the music that were hidden by the limitations of vinyl records and my rudimentary RCA console stereo - the only good thing to come out of my soul-numbing time as a drone in an RCA cabinet factory in Monticello, Ind.

I was newly engaged and living in rudimentary bachelor squalor. My 1965 VW beetle was parked in snow at the curb in front of the apartment building.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Monday morning stuff

The temperature rose above freezing yesterday for the first time since Christmas.

As a consequence, the snow is melting and the frozen water line to our dishwasher thawed. We can wash dishes automatically once again and can put away the plastic plates and knives, forks and spoons.

It is my fervent hope that we can get some proper insulation in the east wall of the kitchen before next winter and make frozen pipes a thing of the past.

In the meantime, I finished the course of eyedrops for my left eye this morning and have only a couple of weeks of daily drops to go for my right eye.

When we moved to Arkansas 10 years ago, we lost the homestead tax credit deduction on our Thorntown house, as it was no longer our principal place of residence. We moved back last August and I applied for the deduction two months later with the county auditor's office, with the understanding that it would take effect Jan. 1. I supposed that the auditor's office would communicate with our mortgage holder and we would receive a new coupon book reflecting a lower (by about $200 a month, I think) mortgage payment.

That doesn't seem to have happened, so I called the mortgage holder this morning and have subsequently sent them a PDF file of the homestead tax credit application.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

I can see clearly now!

Last night was the first occasion I've had to evaluate my night driving vision since my cataract removal/lens replacement surgery.

The cataracts had compromised my night vision to the point where it was a struggle to maintain proper lane position on poorly marked two-lane rural highways. It was bad enough that I abdicated my night driving responsibilities a couple of months ago to Maria and became a passenger.

The surgery was transformative. I see amazingly well in the dark and Maria remarked how much more confidently I maneuvered in Indianapolis traffic during a trip down to the Peyton Manning Pavilion of St. Vincent Hospital. We made the trip to deliver a dinner of comfort food to friends whose young son is in the hospital.

BTW, that's not me in the photo.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Organization in the face of sub-zero weather

We've been juggling several remote controls for months and I hope I've found the solution - a remote caddy from

In addition to the remote that came with our Sharp Aquos TV, there's one for the BluRay player, one for the Sony soundbar, one for the Metrolink cable/TV, and more recently the Amazon Fire TV Stick. All five fit nicely with room for more.

In the meantime, we remain in the grip of near record cold. The water supply line to the dishwasher has been frozen for about a week and we fervently hope it doesn't leak when it thaws. We had Maria's extended family here on New Year's Day and got by nicely with paper plates and plastic cups. I think the coldest morning was Tuesday when it was -13°F. The good news is that both cars have started and run in this insane cold and the house is reasonably warm. We are oh so glad we got all new windows installed before the bottom fell out of the thermometer. This 114-year-old house is the tightest it has ever been, which isn't saying a lot. We'll know more when we get the next gas bill.

The forecast calls for highs in the low to mid-30s for a few days starting on Sunday and it can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

DIY again

The Whirlpool microwave that our renters installed crapped out a second time last week - bad switches in the door.

I called the appliance repair guy who worked on it the first time for about $100 and he determined we needed another $175 worth of parts.

We decided that was a bad move - we'd still have an old microwave after spending nearly $300. So we went to Lowe's in Lafayette on Saturday and bought a handsome Samsung model that was on sale for $269.

Maria insisted we could install it ourselves and damned if we didn't do just that on Sunday.

The old Whirlpool goes to the curb for trash collection Friday.