Take It from the Top

lufs01Cincinnati’s official Christmas tree lighting took place Friday night. Though temperatures would be in the 30s, it promised to be a dry evening and I decided to attend. I reached downtown in plenty of time to visit the observation deck on the 49th floor of the Carew Tower. This was the city’s tallest building until the Great American Tower surpassed it in 2010. But, even though the newer tower is taller (665 vs. 574 ft), it sits a bit farther down the river bank and the Carew deck remains, by 79 feet, the highest point in downtown Cincinnati. It overlooks Fountain Square with its ice skating rink in place for the winter. That’s the 1871 Tyler Davidson Fountain at its center and the big green thing at the lower edge of the photo is the 53 foot evergreen that will be lighted shortly after dark.

lufs02lufs03lufs04lufs05These four pictures offer glimpses of the view north, east, south, and west. Looking north, WLW-T’s broadcast tower is visible at about a mile and a half distance. To the east, the building with the “tiara” is the aforementioned Great American Tower and that’s the Scripps Center blocking the view of the Great American Ball Park. South of town, the 1866 Roebling Suspension Bridge crosses the Ohio River beyond the PNC Tower and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Slivers of Cincinnati’s two stadiums are just visible at at the edges of the picture. Baseball’s on the left, football on the right. In the fourth picture, the river heads on west and away from the tangle of interstates.

lufs08lufs07lufs06Here’s a picture of the just-out-of-frame Paul Brown Stadium. The iconic Union Terminal is northwest of Carew Tower so was not included in the four directional photos and I’m including a photo of the Roebling Bridge by itself because it is also an icon and because I just want to.

lufs09lufs10lufs11Before leaving the building, I paused on the second floor to check out the Netherland Plaza’s Gingerbread City and a Tribute to the Shillito’s Elves. There’s a gingerbread Roebling Bridge behind that Great American Ball Park. The displayed elves are just a few of the many used in Shillito’s Department Store displays in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. The third picture is of the Carew Tower lobby.

lufs16lufs15lufs14Outside, decorated carriages were lining up next to Fountain Square and the decorated but not yet lighted tree. On the square, skaters were having a great time while the less adventurous strolled through Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt.

lufs17lufs18I strolled around the square for awhile myself then headed off for some dinner. When I returned the square was packed and rocking and the countdown was only a few minutes away. To even the score, I grabbed a shot of Carew Tower from beside the fountain

lufs20lufs19At the end of a rousing countdown, Mayor Cranley threw a switch and I snapped a picture of the freshly lighted tree through the back of the stage. Fireworks were close behind and I snapped a few pictures of those, too, even though I felt kind of silly taking pictures of fireworks that were being shown on the giant video screen right in my line of view.

lufs21Tis the season to be jolly.

My Apps — Chapter 8
FastStone Image Viewer

fsvboxIn the May 2013 My Apps installment, I mentioned that I had stopped using Easy Thumbnails, the software it described, in 2012 but I did not identify what replaced it. Now, roughly eighteen months after that post and more than two years after I started using it, I’m finally getting around to talking about my “new” thumbnail maker, FastStone Image Viewer.

First some background. I use uniform dimensions for all thumbnail and full size photos on my site. For extremely well thought out and indisputable reasons, full size photos are currently 800 x 600 pixels and thumbnails are 100 x 100 pixels. Because I’ve chosen to use square thumbnails, a little extra editing is required to extract a sensible looking square from a rectangular shaped full size photo. I use PhotoPlus to produce both the full size 800 x 600 jpeg and the square jpeg for the thumbnail. There is no fixed size for the square as it will eventually be resized to standard dimensions. The full size photo gets a watermark style copyright notice applied.

Originally, both the thumbnail re-sizing and the addition of the copyright were done inside PhotoPlus. Sometime near the start of this century, I started doing the thumbnails with Fooke Software’s Easy Thumbnails but continued doing the copyright with PhotoPlus using the software’s macro facility to apply the customized text to a set of photos in a single operation.

Then one day it broke. It didn’t just break by itself, of course. It broke when I installed a new version of PhotoPlus. The recording of macros simply did not work in the new release. I contacted support who verified the problem and logged it. They also helped me move my previously recorded copyright macro to the new software which would take care of things until the end of the year, when the date would need changing, or the bug was fixed. I started using FastStone’s product long before year’s end and don’t know if the bug ever was fixed.

fsvsc1Like Easy Thumbnails, FastStone Viewer is a whiz at batch processing. The long list of supported functions includes the ability to add text or graphic watermarks. I use text which is really easy to change when a new year rolls around. I can even change it temporarily when I occasionally use a photo someone else has taken.

FastStone Viewer also supports re-sizing and it wasn’t long before I started using it to create thumbnails. As I said previously, I had no issues whatsoever with Easy Thumbnails. But Viewer also does a fine job of re-sizing and, since I was already using it for adding copyright notices, I decided to kill two birds with one FastStone. I now use PhotoPlus to create the individual files then fire up FastStone Viewer and, with two quick passes, have a set of properly sized thumbnails and watermarked full size images.

My Apps – Chapter 7 — FeedForAll

Faux Fight at Franklin

I decided to make an official road trip out of a run to the reenactment of the Battle of Franklin at almost the last minute. The first day’s journal is posted and covers a fairly unplanned drive to and through Nashville, Tennessee.

The trip journal is here. This blog entry is to make blog-only followers aware of the trip and to provide a place for comments which are very welcome and appreciated.

Doug Dickey Honored at Garst Museum

dougdfbDouglas Dickey never got to be a veteran. He barely got to be a high school graduate. Less than two years after graduation, Doug’s life ended in Viet Nam. He was twenty years old.

A Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded, as so many are, posthumously. There was no question about it being deserved. Doug’s actions that day were exactly what we think of when we think of unselfish bravery. They might even be what we think of when we think of the Medal of Honor. To save others, he threw himself on top of a live grenade seconds before it detonated. While we might think of that as the quintessential Medal of Honor worthy scenario, I don’t believe it’s typical. I haven’t read every Medal of Honor citation and I have no supporting statistics but my impression is that the majority of these medals are awarded to men who do a considerable amount of damage to the other side, usually in defense of the defenseless, while disregarding all personal danger. Defending the defenseless is exactly what Doug Dickey was doing when he died and the fact that he destroyed no enemy gun positions and killed no attackers places his actions neither above or below those of other Medal of Honor recipients. It just makes them a little different than many.

dougd1Doug Dickey was a classmate of mine. He has been mentioned before in this blog and in my trip journals. This entry is prompted by the dedication of a greatly improved museum exhibit organized around a newly acquired display-only copy of his Congressional Medal of Honor. That dedication took place on Friday, November 14, at the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio.

dougd3dougd2The featured speaker was Major General James E. Livingston, USMC (Retired), who is one of just 79 living Medal of Honor recipients. General Livingston’s speech was stirring and his presence certainly added to the prestige of the event but preceding comments from Lt. Col. Tom C. McKenney, USMC (Retired) were, in my opinion, more gripping. Neither man had ever met PFC Dickey but McKenney had heard his story back in 1968 and was instrumental in obtaining the Medal of Honor being placed on display. Some of the story he had heard all those years ago had stuck around in some corner of his mind. A visit to Darke County and hearing it again had pried that memory loose. He had heard the story from someone who was there and who had described the quick motion of Doug’s eyes from the grenade to a wounded and immobile soldier to the corpsman treating him to the platoon leader. Although the time it took to make his decision was hardly more than that involved in an instinctive reaction, there had clearly been a decision. There are other Medal of Honor citations that end, as Doug’s does, with the phrase “He gallantly gave his life for his country.” It’s quite clear that Doug did literally give his life and that he knew what he was giving. I’m pretty sure, though, that he didn’t give it so much for his country as for those individual human beings he barely knew.

dougd4One of them was Greg “Doc” Long, the corpsman. He is, in fact, the only currently living member of the group that was in that crater. He did not speak during the ceremonies, only stood when McKenney introduced him, but I don’t think I’m alone in appreciating his presence most of all.

dougd7dougd6dougd5The event was well attended and the display is extremely well done. It includes glimpses of many aspects of Doug’s short life and a video, with footage from the 1960s and 1970s, that was shown as part of Friday’s program. Kudos to all involved.

dougdaAddendum 18-Nov-2014: I hinted at other mentions of Douglas Dickey on this site but did not identify them. In correcting that oversight, I realized that I’ve not posted a photo of Doug’s grave anywhere. A photo of the grave marker is at right. The only other blog mention is here.

The following are trip journal references:


fwtwAnother Marine I know, along with a bunch of other folks, has been putting a lot of energy and sweat into a feature length movie helping some of today’s veterans tell their story. They have reached the point where their own sweat isn’t quite enough. Click on the picture to check it out and maybe chip in a few bucks if you can.

A Fast First Five

cmandmNovember 13, 2009, was my last day of gainful employment. I started to say last day of work then remembered that the day was not exactly filled with hard labor. It was, not surprisingly, a short day which I spent, as I assume most people leaving office jobs do, saying goodbye, being debriefed one last time, turning over keys and passwords, and twiddling my thumbs until time to head to the party.

Technically I retired from Solarsoft who had purchased Mattec, the company I helped start in 1983, a few years earlier. I worked there more than twenty-six years. I got the ring in the picture, one of the first pair made, after ten years. The pin next to it came after five years at Cincinnati Milacron. I was there nearly fourteen years and must have received a ten year pin but the five year version is all I could find. My only other full-time job was at R. L. Polk where I spent a bit more than two years before moving to Milacron. Over forty years, those three jobs, all involving some sort of software development, brought tons of satisfaction, pounds of irritation, and immeasurable amounts of fun. Now what? Five years ago I was as uneasy as I’d ever been starting a new job but, as I was soon telling anyone who asked, I think this retirement thing is the best idea I ever had.

The last five years have gone by as quickly as any in my life. Age, of course, has something to do with that. I’m convinced that some part of our brain measures things in relative rather than absolute terms and, as each year makes up a smaller percentage of the whole, it seems shorter. Another reason is the old observation that “time flies when you’re having fun”. Ain’t it the truth?

cm10pinUPDATE 8-Dec-14: While looking for something totally unrelated, naturally, I found that Cincinnati Milacron 10 year pin. The figure on the pin is a burly metal foundry worker but he had been nicknamed long before I joined the company. At five years, employees received a “bronze fairy”. The ten year award was a “silver fairy” with a “golden fairy” coming at (I believe) fifteen years. Beyond that, diamonds were added at five year intervals.

Did It Again

dav5k2014_01I have now participated in every one of the Cincinnati DAV 5K events. All two of them. Entries were up a little in the second 5K Run/Walk/Roll/Ride and it now has a companion event in San Diego. Cincinnati’s second DAV 5K took place yesterday, November 8. San Diego’s inaugural DAV 5K is scheduled for today, November 9.

dav5k2014_02dav5k2014_03This year, a long line of motorcycles roared past the waiting runners and walkers a few minutes before the starting gun was fired. Most, if not all, were ridden by veterans most of who would park their bikes and stand near the end of the course to cheer and thank those on foot.

dav5k2014_05dav5k2014_04As I did last year, I started (and finished) near the back of the pack. This year, however, I was alone. Dave, who had sort of recruited me for the first event, was on his way to Akron. A couple of weeks ago, when we last spoke, Dave told me he would be dashing off to something as soon as the walk was over and that it would be best if we drove separately. I sent a text when I left home to start coordinating a starting-line hook-up only to learn that he had forgotten the walk and had started his dashing early. I was left all alone except for the couple of thousand runners and walkers surrounding me.

dav5k2014_06As expected, those bike riding veterans were lined up near the finish encouraging and thanking everyone that passed by. As I explained last year, I walk similar distances often enough that I didn’t really need the encouragement but I still appreciated it and, even more so, the shouted “Thank you”s. I exchanged hand slaps and thanks with many of those standing by the road. But there were several people, especially in the trailing part of the herd I traveled with, who no doubt welcomed and benefited from the words of encouragement as well as the cheers. Quite a few people were pushing wheelchairs or strollers or walking with a cane and for them a 5K outing was far from easy. Those people were not, incidentally, all behind me.

dav5k2014_07There were 2147 people who crossed the finish line this year compared to last year’s 2035. A fellow in a hand-cycle covered the course in 14:01. The fastest runner did it in 17:14. I did it in 1:08:29. That’s a little quicker than last year’s 1:12:41 but I can explain. Part of the difference is that it was noticeably colder than last year and I was probably moving a little faster. But I have little doubt that the main reason for the more than four minute difference was that Dave wasn’t there setting the pace and giving me the proper motivation. There were almost forty people behind me this year. I can do better.

dav5k2014_09dav5k2014_08The brief closing ceremonies included a few awards and some words from DAV National Commander Ronald Hope. Bigger — and no doubt warmer — post-race celebrations immediately followed with different Banks area bars set aside for “reunions” of the various branches of the military. This draft dodger slipped away feeling a little better about myself and with a deep appreciation for our veterans.

I Care Not How. Only If

yvyvWe fought a war to get this country going then gave every land owning white male above the age of twenty-one the right to vote. A little more than four score years later, we fought a war with ourselves that cleared the way for non-whites to vote. Several decades of loud, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous behavior brought the granting of that same right to non-males a half-century later and another half century saw the voting age lowered to eighteen after a decade or so of protests and demonstrations.

dftv1Of course, putting something in a constitution does not automatically make it a practice throughout the land and I am painfully aware that resistance followed each of those changes and that efforts to make voting extremely difficult for “the other side” are ongoing today. I don’t want to ignore partisan obstructions and system flaws but neither do I want to get hung up on them. I meant my first paragraph to be a reminder that a hell of a lot of effort, property, and lives have gone into providing an opportunity to vote to a hell of a lot of people. Far too many of those opportunities go unused.

There are so many ways to slice and dice the numbers that producing a fair and accurate measure of voter turn out may not be possible. A Wikipedia article  on the subject includes a table of voter turnout in a number of countries for the period 1960-1995. The United States is at the bottom. The numbers are nearly twenty years old and open to interpretation so maybe we’re doing better now or maybe we shouldn’t have been dead last even then. But even if you want to think we are better than that, being anywhere near the bottom of the list and having something in the vicinity of 50% turnout is embarrassing… and frightening.

dftv2In the title I claim to not care how anyone votes. That’s not entirely true, of course. I have my favorite candidates and issues. I’ll be disappointed in anyone who votes differently than I do but not nearly as disappointed as I’ll be in anyone who doesn’t vote at all. I’m reminded of parents working on getting their kids to clean their plates with lines like, “There are hungry children in China who would love to have your green beans.” I’m not sure what the demand for leftover beans is in Beijing these days but I’m pretty sure some folks there would like to have our access to ballots and voting booths.

Orange You Glad It’s Autumn?

autdr01In The Soul of a New Machine, a true story about computer development in the 1970s where microseconds are a common measuring unit, one of the engineers explains his abrupt abandonment of the team with a note left on his computer terminal: “I’m going to a commune in Vermont and will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season.” I recently thought of that line as I read Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash and thought I’d use it in my review but did not. Ara and Spirit, the writers of Freedom…,  essentially live on the road and adjust their travels to be in the cooler north during the summer and in the south for winters. On occasion they have to deal with calendars and even clocks but the only unit of time they deal with on a regular basis is the season. I sometimes like to think that I deal with no unit of time less than a season but it’s not true. I also sometimes like to think that I’d like to live where the temperature is a constant 75 degrees but that’s not true either. I’ve been watching the seasons change for too long to quit now.

autdr02Trees around here seem to be changing color later or maybe I’m just anxious. A burst of warm and sunny days can do that to you. A burst that promises to continue through Monday started on Thursday and I took advantage of it to do some country road cruising. It wasn’t just aimless driving, though. I headed to nearby Greene County and followed a covered bridge driving tour described in a brochure I picked up some time ago.


The five covered bridges in the county, pictured in the order I visited them, are the 1887 Engle Mill Road Bridge, the 1883 Ballard Road Bridge, the 2013 Charleton Mill Road Bridge, the 1877 Stevenson Road Bridge, and the 1886 Grinnel Road Bridge. The brochure describes an 1883 bridge at the Charleton Mill Road location but that was closed, for safety reasons, in 2011 and what looks to be an exact duplicate opened there in 2013.

autdr05autdr04autdr03None of the bridges were surrounded by the glorious fall foliage I had hoped for and I never did find one of those walls of intermixed red, orange, and yellow that trigger oohhs and aahhs like some fireworks display, but I did find some nice touches of color around several farm houses.

autdr06I did some more country road cruising on Friday and this time it was pretty aimless. Still no big walls of bold color, though. No biggie. At the end of the day, I was more than satisfied with the warm temperatures, blue skies, and the occassional splash of orange. I think the guys in the boat were, too.

On Saturday I helped friends celebrate a wedding anniversary. I was best man at their wedding and have joined John and Sherry for some sort of merrymaking on most anniversaries. Over the years, both the level of partying and the degree of scheduling precision have lessened. This year it took us nearly three months to work through scheduling conflicts but we did eventually make the distillery visit that was originally planned for July.

icd03icd02icd01Indian Creek Distillery near New Carlisle, Ohio, is home to the oldest operating stills in the United States. In 2011, Joe and Missy Duer brought back to life the nearly 200 year old copper stills that Missy’s ancestors used to produce Staley Rye Whiskey in the early nineteenth century. The stills and other equipment had been hidden when Prohibition hit. Now they are installed in an old looking new building and making rye whiskey the old fashioned way from the original Elias Staley recipe.

Book Review
Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash
Ara Guregian and Spirit

fobeoth_cvrI really looked forward to the publication of this book. I certainly enjoyed reading it and expect to enjoy reviewing it once I get started but reviewing a book that is near impossible to describe isn’t all that easy. Saying it is the story of a man and dog traveling around the US on a motorcycle isn’t wrong but it sure is incomplete. The man, Ara Gureghian, and the dog, Spirit, have been traveling around the US on a motorcycle since November of 2006 with no plans to stop. I’ve followed their blog since April, 2007, and I have no plans to stop, either. When they started their journey, they were not leaving a home where they planned to someday return. They did acquire some land fairly early on and they do spend winters there but even it is more of a base camp than what most would call a home. From the beginning, Ara had called his online journal The Oasis of My Soul and the ten acres of Texas that his mother bought for him instantly became known as The Oasis. One definition of oasis is “something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast” and that is something both man and dog needed. Ara had suffered the painful loss of his son and Spirit has suffered abuse from a previous owner. Almost everything — the riding, the writing, the sunrises, the stars, the sunsets — is therapy to some degree but the writing is particularly therapeutic. Ara wrote, and continues to write, his journal for himself. He writes about his travels, his surroundings, and his thoughts. This book is something of a “Reader’s Digest” version of the journal. Neither book nor journal actually tries to be a travel guide or provide insights into living. Nonetheless, they do both.

In an introductory section of Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash called “About Us”, we are told that “This book has no chapters, a continuous life story.” That is one of two big differences, in addition to the major condensing, between the journal and the book. The journal, by its very nature, is broken into pieces clearly marked by dates while the book isn’t broken into pieces at all. In Ara’s words, “There really is no beginning as there will be no end.” The story is told in chronological order but with no artificial breaks or numbers or headings. The other big difference is the photos. Ara started his journey as a very good photographer and developed into an even better one. Journal entries almost always contain several photographs. They typically aren’t directly tied to the text but provide an often stunning view of what Ara was seeing during the time he composed and posted an entry. I believe Ara’s decision not to include any photos in the book is a good one. Trying to do justice to the photos would have really complicated an already complex task and they would not have really illuminated the text in any case.

Ara Guregian was born in France and spent time with relatives in Egypt and other parts of Europe and North Africa. Although he is quite fluent and comfortable with it, English is not Ara’a first language and he is not an English wordsmith whose product one devours for its own sake regardless of content. On the other hand, he can describe a sunset or a valley view in a a way that not only allows you to visualize it but that makes you want to go to that spot and experience it the way he did. That’s impossible, of course. There is too much of Ara in his experiences for anyone to have a shot at duplicating them.

Ara and Spirit cover a lot of territory. There are multiple visits to Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and beyond and between. At one point I thought I would describe their rides as going from here to there without, in many cases, any real idea of where “there” would be. Then, when I really thought about it, I realized that most of their rides were from here to here. It seems as if a majority of their camps are base camps from which they explore the surrounding area extensively by both motorcycle and foot. The exploration is not just to see different things but, perhaps partly because of Ara’s photographer’s eye, to see the same things differently.

Early on I referred to this book as “near impossible to describe” and four paragraphs of not describing it very well bear that out. It’s a little bit Blue Highways and it’s a little bit Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but it is, of course, neither. On the other hand, anyone who enjoyed either or both of those books will most likely enjoy Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash. The book is available from Amazon and other sources at a discount or, for a few dollars more, signed by the authors, through Ara’s Oasis of my Soul website.

Freedom on Both ends of the Leash, Ara Gureghian and Spirit, Ara Gureghian (May 26, 2014), paperback, 9 x 6 inches, 216 pages, ISBN  978-0996083706

Greetings from the UK

Flooded Bonneville Salt FlatsI’ve received a fair number of email messages and even a couple of real mail messages from folks who have read my book By Mopar to the Golden Gate. Some reported an error or two but none have been negative and every one of them put a smile on my face. One, however, had me not only smiling but shaking my head in disbelief. It came from a race fan in England who wanted to be at the Bonneville Salt Flats to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first land speed record set there. His initial thoughts were to fly to the east coast of the US and dash across the country to the event. His wife thought attending the festivities was a fine idea but not so the “dash across the country”. She wanted to see more than a few expressways. They discovered the Lincoln Highway Association website and, in his words, “that was that… the LH was perfect”.

Detailed route planning, it seems, did not go much beyond that. There wasn’t much time and I have the impression that this pair of Brits is rather spontaneous as well as adventurous. After all, the idea of going to Bonneville had been hatched while watching a TV show about the upcoming centennial. He got a copy of By Mopar to the Golden Gate a few days before they left and started reading it on the flight to Newark. I was certainly grinning broadly as I read that but then came the line that led to the head shaking. “Your book was our guide as we did the 2500 miles to Utah”, he wrote.

Surely he can’t mean that, I thought. The book certainly was not intended to be a guide book and I could not now imagine it being used that way. There are no real directions and no maps with resolution much finer than the average county. Eventually, though, I think I understood. From the online map and other sources, they had a pretty good idea of the highway’s course and roadside markers, beefed up in spots for last year’s Lincoln Highway Association Centennial, were quite helpful. The couple wasn’t trying to follow every inch of the old highway. They wanted to get to Bonneville and following the general route of the Lincoln Highway was an entertaining way to do that. The book is about the LHA Centennial Tour which stopped mostly at major highlights so highlights are essentially what appears in the book. It provides a list of some major spots that define the Lincoln Highway and that is the sort of guide that was meant.

Reading the following paragraph gave me more of an ego boost than is healthy but it’s really the road and not the book that prompted the praise.

Denny we had a great time we met fantastic people in all kinds of small towns we stayed in some really cool places such as the Virginian in Medicine Bow and were guided by you and the Valiant mile after mile. We lost the markers from time to time but always got back on track.

Sadly, rains and flooding caused Bonneville’s Speed Week to be canceled (Which is why I started this article with a picture from the book of our similarly flooded out 2013 stop.) but the drive saved the trip. Ian and Caroline are planning to return to the US for Speed Week and the rest of the Lincoln Highway in 2016. Plus, a colleague borrowed and read the book and is now starting to think of his own Lincoln Highway trip.

By itself, By Mopar to the Golden Gate cannot actually guide anyone along the Lincoln Highway (for that I recommend Brian Butko’s Greetings from the Lincoln Highway) but maybe it can identify some highlights along the historic route and introduce it to some folks who know little or nothing about it. I’m ending this with the sentence that ended Ian’s email. It makes me grin every time I read it.

So thank you Denny you gave me a plan and we have had a blast, driving on red brick Ohio lanes and seeing seedling miles (after filling up with gas at the garage) dirt roads drive ins and a sense of adventure.