Donald Davidson visits

Sarah Smith and Donald Davidson share a laugh after Donald recorded the answering message on Sarah's phone.

Sarah Smith and Donald Davidson share a laugh after Donald recorded the answering message on Sarah’s phone.

It is still referred to as the month of May, it is actually only 12 days now. They still have carb day but the cars haven’t used carburetors since 1963. The garage area is known as Gasoline Alley but they haven’t used gasoline in the 500 since 1965.
They still sing “Back Home Again in Indiana”, release balloons and the winning driver drinks milk in victory lane.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hosting the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 this year and all the traditions and history that makes this the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” are front and center.
No one knows more about the events and people that make the 500 special than Donald Davidson. Donald Davidson is the historian for IMS and is presently touring all the counties in Indiana reminding hoosiers of the rich race history.
The Plymouth Rotary hosted Mr. Davidson at their regular meeting Monday. He relayed some history and anecdotes about how special the fans feel about the race. The 500 is more than an automotive race to most of the fans. It is an annual event that brings family and friends from all over together to experience the event.
Donald Davidson himself was smitten with the race at a young age and traveled from his native England to attend the 1964 race. As a young boy Donald took an interest in racing and was learning all he could about the drivers and cars that were popular in Europe. Then he came upon this race in Indianapolis, Indiana that was different than anything Europe had. The drivers names, the cars even the track was different. As a teenager he saved his money and traveled to attend the Indianapolis 500.
When he got here he was able to get a bronze badge which allowed him access to the garage area. He met Sid Collins who gave him a spot on the radio broadcast. The next year he was back as a regular on the radio.
Donald is quick to tell you that he is not a gear head and isn’t as interested in the controversy or politics of the race. He enjoys the people and the personalities that give the race the rich history that it has.
Mr. Davidson took questions from the Rotarians and guests in attendance. Questions covered a wide range of subjects from his favorite spot to view the race, the technology advances the race as brought about and even gave a short history of the infamous “Snake Pit”. He answered all the questions in depth and with details about the people involved without any assistance other than what he described as his Selective Retentive Easy-Access Memory.
One of the subjects that came up was the track personnel referred to as Yellow Shirts. This year with the 100th race the track is preparing for larger than normal attendance and are seeking more people to work at the track. If you are interested in working one day or more contact the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for details.


Low Temps, Hard Water, Big Thrills

Steve Schaub sailing on Lake Maxinkuckee

Steve Schaub sailing on Lake Maxinkuckee

Iceboating has enjoyed something of a resurgence on Lake Maxinkuckee. This winter has provided some wonderful opportunities for the sport. Frigid temperatures with little snow are exactly the conditions that hard water sailors are looking for.
An iceboat glides over the ice on runners similar to ice skates powered by a sail. The runners on ice provide very little drag so the sail quickly transforms into an air foil generating lift. It is this lift generated by the sail that allows the iceboat to travel at speeds 2-3 times wind speed.

On this day Steve and Joe Schaub were taking advantage of some ideal

Joe and Steve Schaub take advantage of ideal conditions for an iceboat sail on Lake Maxinkuckee

Joe and Steve Schaub take advantage of ideal conditions for an iceboat sail on Lake Maxinkuckee

conditions. A steady 6-10 mph breeze out of the east with just a little snow in the air. The ice was mostly clear with only a light covering of snow in spots. Accumulated snow slows the iceboat significantly not only increasing the drag on the runners but the iceboat has very little clearance under it.
This low clearance provides an exciting perspective of speed. The runners over the ice provide some sound but most of the sound comes from the wind. The wind noise can be thrilling, it provides very little notice for others on the ice.
The sailors have to be on constant alert for safety. Other iceboats, ice fisherman and open water are the most common obstacles. As speeds increase the time to react to these obstacles decreases. Things happen fast on an iceboat and that is a big part of the appeal.

More photos are available at

2016 Verizon IndyCar Media Day

Steve Lauretta, President of Chip Ganassi Racing and Scott Dixon unveiled the new look for the #9 featuring the “Bolt” which the team used from 1995 to 2001 seasons.

Steve Lauretta, President of Chip Ganassi Racing and Scott Dixon unveiled the new look for the #9 featuring the “Bolt” which the team used from 1995 to 2001 seasons.

With the start of the 16 race Verizon IndyCar series still a month away, one race in particular seemed to be on everyone’s mind at the IndyCar media day. If you haven’t heard, you soon will, this year’s 500 is the 100th running.
IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are going all in to celebrate. Many of the drivers on hand spoke about how any win at Indy is special, but winning the 100th would be a special milestone.
Doug Boles, President Indianapolis Motor Speedway, highlighted the $92 million remodel that the speedway is calling Project 100. The front stretch grand stands are in the middle of getting a new and expanded roof structure and adding about 1000 seats to the speedway.
The track fence has been replaced with a new mesh that is coated with a smaller filter that you can see through better.
Gate 1 has been changed, there are now 7 elevators on the outside of the main grandstands and 18 suites have been converted to the Hulman Suite Club were people can buy individual tickets for the entire year. Boles stated “The biggest challenge is balancing what makes us special, which is the history and tradition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
While the speedway of course will be celebrating the 100th running, IndyCar will also be looking to capitalize on the anniversary as the series travels to other tracks. Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman and Company which runs the Verizon IndyCar Series stressed how the series is working with the promoters of the other tracks to grow the fan base. The series has enjoyed two consecutive years of TV viewer growth.

Doug Boles, President Indianapolis Motor Speedway, presents IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves with a section of the old fence that has been replaced. The section of fence came from the spot that Helio climbed in celebration after each of his three wins at the 500.

Doug Boles, President Indianapolis Motor Speedway, presents IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves with a section of the old fence that has been replaced. The section of fence came from the spot that Helio climbed in celebration after each of his three wins at the 500.

The schedule for the series has been expanded to 16 races. Phoenix and Road America are on the schedule this year along with a new venue, the Grand Prix of Boston. The Boston race is not without its share of controversy but the series is working with the promoters to overcome the objections. Miles stated that one of the issues that makes the Boston race troublesome is that there are 5 different property owners they are working with.
The same question kept coming up to the drivers, “How special would winning the 100th Indianapolis 500 be?” And the same answer kept coming back, “Any win at Indy is special.”
Juan Pablo Montoya put it as succinct as anyone “If you have to work harder because it’s the 100th, then you haven’t been doing your job.”
Will Power pointed out that as a team it is also special because this will be Roger Penske’s 50th running as a team. “I don’t think you want to focus on the fact it’s the 100th, you want to focus on the race itself” added last year’s runner up.
Graham Rahal’s dad Bobby Rahal won the 500 in 1986. That win “transformed the Rahal name forever” said Graham. Graham won the Daytona 24 overall and the Atlantic Championship 30 years after his father. He is hoping “this tradition continues.”
Other highlights from media day included Honda announcing they will continue to provide engines for at least the next two years with an option for the three years after that. Chip Ganassi Racing unveiled Scott Dixon’s number 9 ride bringing back the lightning bolt from late ’90s. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway presented Helio Castroneves with a section of the old fence that he climbed after his three wins. A final decision on the Honda aero kit changes for 2016 have not been announced yet, but there was some indication that it was only days away.
The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series starts March 13th with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The month of May starts with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. “It’s going to be a special May” as Doug Boles said.

Graham Rahal driver for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team answers questions from the media about the upcoming season.

Graham Rahal driver for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team answers questions from the media about the upcoming season.

A Vote for Happiness

While looking at some data that compared Minnesota and Indiana I learned about the Happiness Index.

More precisely the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is an index that is composed of six areas of a happy, healthy life. The areas are life evaluation, physical health, healthy behaviors, work environment, emotional health, and basic access. The index has been compiled for six years with 2013 the latest year that has been published.

Spoiler alert Indiana doesn’t fair well in the Happiness Index. Minnesota ranked 4th happiest and Indiana was 40th.

On a more local note the index ranks the 434 Congressional Districts. Our own district, IN-2 came in 388th, that is comfortably in the bottom 20% of the nation. The report can be read at Wellbeing .

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Alternative Labor Day Activities

Here in Pleasantville we celebrate the great achievements of labor with a 4-5 day festival. And just as the modern labor movement has faded from its once proud place in America, the local festival has lost some of its luster.
Attendance at the festival is always a record, and there is supposedly a waiting list for booth space for vendors wanting to sell hand crafted, NCAA licensed bath decor and designer sunglasses.
In exchange for the 100s of thousands of people visiting our little hamlet of around 10,000 residents most of the civic, youth, religious and school groups raise most of their annual operating funds. Parking cars, selling food items and holding different events with entry fees are just a few of the ways the groups raise the funds to operate.
While all these groups bemoan the amount of hours required and the difficulty in getting members to work, they also like that “outsiders” or visitors are who the bulk of the money comes from.
Private businesses have mixed results with the festival. Some claim an increase in business with the crowds and just as many claim that for them it is detrimental. There is no debate that vehicle traffic that weekend makes it tough to travel to some of the places in town.
The locals seem to either love the festival or despise it.
The festival has evolved to the point that it requires every inch and more available in the park. To the point that any improvement or rearranging of the facilities done at the park the first question is “How will this affect the festival”. It also requires exclusive use of the park for over a week for set-up and clean-up. In exchange for this year round priority and exclusive use the festival is contracted to pay the park about $30,000.
There is some history behind this contract, the festival used to donate items to the park in exchange for its use but there came a point when the money would be of a lot more use to the park and a yearly lease would make it easy to budget. Now fast forward several years, park managers, festival organizers, successful festivals and marginal festivals. This contract has become a thorn in the side of all parties involved.
The festival has quietly shouted that they are considering moving the festival to another community. Several of the more vocal members of the festival board used this leverage to question how the local school system was spending money on joint projects with the city for facilities in the park system.
My first thought was does this public lobbying put their 501c3 status in question as a charitable organization. This type of behavior falls under a political action committee and the tax laws are different for those two types of organizations.
The second thing I did was vow to spend as little time and money at the festival as possible. Finding alternatives to the festival was easy and enjoyable. Monterey, Indiana has a festival, the US Nationals are in Indy, the Original Root Beer stand closes for the season offering outstanding deals, College football opened the season, all of these items are good alternatives.
You hear so much during other holidays “remember the reason”, either honoring our veterans, use the word Christmas instead of Holiday.
I decided to “remember the reason” and quietly celebrated the advancements that labor has made in our society. 40 hour work week, child labor restrictions, safety advancements all items that we take for granted today but were hard-fought with real blood and lives. I know that this is not a popular sentiment in this community, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that it is referred to as the Blueberry Weekend here.
Next year when the festival is enjoying record crowds in a new community, I will be here in Pleasantville wishing everyone a happy Labor Day!

Eutrophication of a highway.

county roadMuch like a Lake becomes a pond, wetland, scrub and finally forest, what are the stages that a highway transitions through? That question came to my mind in my attempt to find out what the Indiana Department of Transportation planned to do with State Road 17 in Marshall County.
As anyone living in Culver can attest this thoroughfare is if not the most popular route to and from Culver it is of utmost importance because this is the route to the nearest hospital. County and state law enforcement also use this road as a direct route from the county seat. Most importantly I drive this road almost daily.
This past winter has been particularly hard on the road surface. The section of road between State Road 8 and the city limits of Plymouth seems to have suffered the worst of the damage. The roadway consists of potholes and crumbling or broken asphalt. There are several road cuts that have settled creating dips in the road, one at the apex of a curve. Lumps of cold patch that were used to fill potholes previously in the road have started to crumble away. In all I would conservatively estimate that the majority of the road surface (greater than 50%) is made of these elements.
Returning home Saturday morning driving on this former highway I wondered why nothing had been done to the roadway this spring and if anything was planned for the repair. Then it dawned on me that this section of road is outside of 465 and INDOT my not be aware of its condition. So I took upon myself to let them know.
A quick look at and I found the INDOT webpage. And there on the front page was a link to “Report a road problem or hazard”. After giving my personal information they provide a field to describe your concern with a limit of 400 characters. So it requires that you be succinct with your description.
With this in mind I thought what few issues am I going to highlight to get their attention. So of course I mentioned it was unsafe and let it go at that. Then I mentioned how it was slowing traffic and creating inefficient travel times. With the amount of money that is being spent on the US 30 bypasses by the state to save 20 minutes in the travel time from South Bend to Indianapolis I thought this would help.
Next I remembered all the foreign travel that state officials have made to encourage foreign investment in the state, I thought pointing out that the world renown Culver Academies heavily rely on this route. Potential investors from all points of the globe travel this road that currently resembles something from a 3rd world nation.
Finally I remembered the new tourism catch phrase and the amount of money and resources that went into developing it and thought surely that combined with every politicians desire to leave a legacy would get some attention. so I wrapped up my message with the line, “‘Honest-to-Goodness’ the current condition of this section of road is an embarrassment to the present administration.”
It was just a matter of time now I thought. I expected INDOT trucks lined up Monday morning to be starting work on State Highway 17.
And when that didn’t happen I realized that even if they did make it priority number one it would take several days to put together the engineering and resources to start repairing this road in the horrendous condition it currently is in.
Then late Monday afternoon I received an email from the LaPorte INDOT office. Of course the local head quarters was emailing me to thank me for bringing it the attention of the officials down state and how would I feel if it was no longer known as State Route 17 but simply the Greg. But that wasn’t what was in the email. I wasn’t a boiler plate email but it was close. No name, no number to follow up with, just a thank you for the notification and that they are currently accessing roads in the district and determining what should be fixed and when.
What?! If there is another road in this state that is in this condition or worse then somebody or several somebodies need to be replaced at INDOT. And any talk of building new roads should be halted until the department can repair the roads currently under their jurisdiction.
Highway, road, trail, two track, cow path and finally just a dashed line on a map somewhere.

Is it photo editing or editing photos; both

2013 Blueberry Festival Balloon Glow

2013 Blueberry Festival Balloon Glow

My interest in photography probably started with my junior high art teacher. He was an avid photographer and a neighbor. I used to look through his images and we would discuss some of the technique involved but very superficial.
It wasn’t to long after I got out of school that I purchased a waterproof Minolta so that it could go on the lake, hikes, rivers and just about everywhere I was spending time. I took a good share of photos but that was before digital and processing color and making prints could become rather expensive and after a while I lost interest in taking photos.
But I was still interested in photography as art. I continued to look at a wide variety of photographers and genres.
My job at the newspaper I look at a lot of photos everyday. Good, Bad and surprising a lot of absolutely ugly photos. As photography has migrated away from film to digital files more people than ever are taking photos.
I include myself in that group. The digital camera has really made it possible for me to explore my interest again.
This democratization of photography has had mixed results in the quality of photos I see on a daily basis. For the most part I think people are under the misconception that you point the camera at your subject, press the shutter and low and behold Photoshop will make it look like Annie Leibovitz took the photo.
I would like to teach a post processing class sometime. I think if people understood how much better photos appear and reproduce when you get it right in the camera first they would take the extra time to compose their shots first.

Night race at Charlotte getting ready to go green.
Night race at Charlotte getting ready to go green.

The first thing you should do is editing photos. This is going thru the photos and tossing the bad ones. Everyone has them the photos where either the light wasn’t right or shutter speed too slow. It is nothing to be ashamed of, just don’t reproduce them. In the days of film it was the same way. Sometimes you would shoot a roll of 36 and only get a couple of keepers.
I have seen and know photographers that do very little editing and will publish large numbers of photos straight out of the camera. They may cull the extremely out of focus, over exposed or under exposed but will accept poorly composed photos. It is a rare photo of someone’s back side that is worth keeping. This is especially true in sports photography. Most action shots that show no faces should be culled. Perhaps you remember that fantastic bicycle kick that scored but if the only photo you got was of the line judge’s backside the ball in the air and the feet of the player, cull it.
Backgrounds are another area that gets overlooked a lot. Busy backgrounds are too distracting for the subject to standout from. That is why you see sports photos with the aperture wide open with a shallow depth of field. The busy background becomes a multicolor blur from which your subject will stand out.
Editing photos is just that editing which photos to keep and which to discard. Photo editing is where Photoshop or other software comes into play. This process can take as little or as much time and energy you want to put into it but again rarely is there a file that doesn’t require some touch up.
In the days of film often the developer would make adjustments in the dark room either to the film itself or to the print. Dodging and burning was one way to adjust a photo. You could also crop, enlarge, mask. These are all available in Photoshop and just as much an art form as analog prints were. But Photoshop is not the miracle that people think it is. Sure CSI can blow up a photo from a cell phone to read the phone number on a business card photographed in the dark from 100 yards away. Typically if a photo is out of focus there are a couple of things that can be done to help but most will leave artifacts that makes it worse and the more editing you do in photoshop the less it is a photograph and it becomes an illustration.
All the photos on this website are mine. I decided from the beggining that I was only going to use photos that I have taken. I also know that some of my work may break some of these rules that I have written about. I understand that knowing the rules and techniques are important to learn but sometimes these rules can be broken and can lead to some excellant work but shooting a couple hundred photos at the wrong aperture and shutter speed and then trying to pass it off as Holga lomography is lame.
Just as owning a scalpel doesn’t make one a surgeon, owning a camera doesn’t make you a photographer. This entry has become something of a rant, but it feels a little better to get this off my chest.


Into the Wilds of Middle School

Top of the North American food chain? Grizzly Bears, Timber Wolves, perhaps the elusive Lynx? No that spot is reserved for the Sixth Grade Girl.

While fairly unpredictable as individuals. When traveling in packs they can be absolutely ruthless to not only outsiders but their own as well. A free roaming pack of Sixth Grade Girls should be avoided at all costs. Do not make eye contact, they can smell fear.

The dynamics of these packs are in a constant state of flux as alpha members begin to evolve and splinter packs develop and break away on a daily often hourly basis. This ebb and flow unpredictability is the tactic they use most on the well meaning middle age male as he strolls naively doe-eyed in their midst. Only to be figuratively skeletonized and emasculated within moments realizing that he truly is no longer part of the popular culture.

That annoying high pitched drone that seems to follow the packs around is not the sound of the industrial accident in process, it is often mistaken for. It is the squeals of delight these packs use to signal their approval of the “boy band” du-jour. In much the same manner that white smoke signals a new pope at the vatican, the Sixth Grade Girl squeal alerts the pack that a new heart throb has been selected and all references to yesterday’s selection should be avoided and any mention of them should be ridiculed by the pack.

This is but one example of the nuanced means of verbal and nonverbal communication that the pack uses. In much the same way that whales and dolphins use a series clicks, whistles and moans to communicate, Sixth Grade Girls signal approval and disapproval through squeals, eye rolls, heavy signs and stares.

These signals are as cryptographic to the casual observer as any algorithm that modern security experts have developed. The key is not to try to decrypt these messages. As you are not a member of this pack or subgroup you can not possibly understand and this will be pointed out to you numerous times in any communication to do attempt to have with this group.

So how do you survive this scourge? You don’t survive unscathed but you hope that the 180 days of six grade doesn’t weaken you to the point that your easy pick’n for the teenage boy (another of nature’s horrors).

Anything but bored

Jacob, Mary and Joshua at White Oak Cabins near Lake Patoka

Jacob, Mary and Joshua at White Oak Cabins near Lake Patoka

Recently my kids and I spent three days in southern Indiana. We visited Holiday World, probably the cleanest family friendly amusement park in the free world.
We drove down Sunday and spent the afternoon evening riding roller coasters and other amusement rides. Proving that it truly is a small world after all (different theme park) we bumped into the Oliver family there. It was nice catching up with them and the kids had fun doing things with others their own age.
Sunday night we made our way to the cabin we rented at White Oak Cabins. The kids really liked having that much room and not having neighbors above, below or beside us.

We were met by the owners chocolate lab Big Red. He was the friendliest dog, not having ever met us but obviously used to strangers coming and going he showed us right to our cabin’s door.
We stayed there two nights and it really wasn’t enough. The grounds the cabin was on were beautiful and begged to be explored. The owner also has another 60 acres on Lake Patoka that we will have to visit next trip.

Monday we headed back to Holiday World to visit the water park. The weather was perfect, mid to upper 70’s occasional puffy cloud to offer some shade but no threat of rain. Mr. Oliver and I had the same idea that Sunday would be crowded but we would have the park to ourselves on Monday. It was a common misconception shared with several thousand other dads. All the park personnel commented that it was busy for a Monday. But that is one of the great things about Holiday World even on a busy day for them the lines and crowds are not that bad. Sure we had to wait for an hour plus to get on their newest and greatest water coaster the rest of the lines and waits were no where near that long.

The Olivers invited us back to the attached campground, where they were staying, after the park closed for dinner. We accepted and I watched over all the kids at the amusement park for a couple hours while they headed back to the RV. All five kids got along great and had fun squeezing in as many roller coasters as they could in two hours. Mary even went on the Voyage which is more roller coaster than I can handle anymore, learned that the hard way last time we visited.

Having walked over to the campgrounds I left my Jeep in the parking lot that is attached to the park and the campgrounds. I never thought they would lock it up especially before 10 p.m., but they did.
After dinner I left the kids at the campsite and walked over to get the Jeep to head out for the evening. Much to my surprise the parking lot was chained and padlocked shut. As I was straddling the top of the fence I thought “A man my age can still scale a 6ft chain link fence in Crocs but should know better.”

I got to my Jeep and began driving looking for a gate open somewhere or hoping security will see me driving around in here and come to let me out. Neither looked like it was going to happen as I watched two city police cars drive by without so much as a glance my way. So I parked by the main gates with my lights on using my phone to find a number to the Holiday World security to find out how to get out. My luck finally turned when a security person getting off work notice me sitting there and stopped to help.

It was really late by the time we got back to the cottage that evening so everyone went straight to bed and slept in a little the next morning. Tuesday we paddled on the Blue River.  The boys were in sit on top kayaks. I never gave this type of kayak much of a look before but the outfitter suggested them for several reasons. Number one was comfort. Sitting on top instead of in the kayak is not nearly as warm. I had never thought about that before but having paddled an enclosed kayak on Lake Max I can attest that they do get warm and stale.

Mary and I were in a canoe which is my preference and this worked out great. We had the cooler and the boys in the kayaks could point out the easiest route through the couple of areas of rapids. The Blue River is a fun paddle. It is more technical than most of the rivers here in northern Indiana. Now it is not that difficult at all but had a couple of rapid sections that were fun to paddle.

It was an enjoyable three days. We had fun doing a little bit everything each of us like to do. I am looking forward to our next adventure.