Saturday, December 29, 2007
Recently somone asked me, "What is the Florida state bird?" The correct answer would be mockingbird. But after my 4 short years in Florida - I answered, "the Yardblower."
Everywhere you look in Florida you see them - hear them and smell them. I swear if they didn't make so much noise - no one would ever use them. It is almost as much fun as using the garden hose - but that costs too much money and political correctness.
Nothing gives you more pleasure in Florida than getting out the old yard blower after a hard afternoon of cutting grass - trimming trees - bagging debris - and edging. It is a great feeling knowing that you have relief from yard work for at least a week. Folks up north have to pick up leaves once a year - but in Florida - leaves fall all year around. Still it is better than shoveling snow.
I have tried all sorts of lawn blowers - electrics with a cord - electrics with a battery - some with bags on - others without. But they all do basically the same thing - blow yard clippings and dirt from your place into your neighbors yard. Only kidding.
I have been searching for the perfect yard blower. For the last year or so I have been using a Stihl BG55. Today - I bought what I am hoping is the best of the best. We will see.
I purchase John Deere BH25LE. It is a little pricey about $200. I am using it to replace my Stihl BG55 - which I bought a year or so ago for $140. Consumer Guide picks the Stihl as a "best buy" - then why am I replacing it?
I will start my review with the Stihl. This blower has performed very well for me. It starts every time - provides a lot of a movement - about 400 cubic feet of air per minute. It measures 140 miles per hour at the nozzle. Not bad numbers. What would cause me to replace it? 1. noise 2. stinkey smell 3. pollution 4. mess.
The Stihl is a 2 cycle (2 stroke) engine. That means that you must mix oil and gasoline to fuel it. It also means that it pollutes 80 times the amount of the average car. Yes - 80 times! After you are done using it - you smell like you spent the night at a BP refinery. Also I have had a hearing problem all my life - and I can't hear anything above the drone of this 2 cycle engine.
Green versus green. I considering myself a "Green" environmentalist - that is with a capital G. Conservation makes sense to me when you save money. I do not do it to be fashionable like many folks that spend an extra $5000 on a Prius that will save them $1000 in gasoline over the life of the car. That being said I did not buy the John Deere because it pollutes 1/80 that of a Stihl - I bought it because it is so darn quiet.
The John Deere has a 4 cycle (4 stroke) engine. When I went to the dealer to buy it- the salesmen insisted that no one makes a 4 stroke yard blower - even when I was pointing to the label on the blower. I took my Stihl yard blower along to the dealer to do a comparison. Not only is the John Deere so much quieter - it runs so much smoother - at idle the vibrations are almost completely gone - like a car idling. The John Deere moves about 300 cubic feet per minute of air - and has the same 140 mile per hour nozzle speed.
Of course - this review is biased - I already dropped my money on the new yard blower. The used Stihl will be for sale on craigslist before the sun goes down. I think it is an old Jewish custom to bury someone by sundown - and that is what I will do with the old blower.
A year ago I sold a Vespa 50 that was a 2 cycle to buy a Vespa 150 that was a 4 cycle - so I see a pattern here.
Bear in mind - the reviews rate the Stihl at 5 out of 5 - and give the John Deere only 4 out of 5. It depends on what you want.
Here are the reviews by someone less prejudiced than I am -
My conclusion - if you want a loud - smelly - polluting blower that does a great job - is dependable - and costs a little less money - get the Stihl BG55. If you want a quiet - smooth - easy to start - non-messy - blower that will "save the planet" - get the John Deere. Did I say that it was QUIET?
Your mileage my vary.
Do I get to wear one of those cutsey little green and yellow hats now that all the guys wear around here?
Friday, December 28, 2007
About 45 miles south and west of Tallahassee is Alligator Point. It is the closest large beach to town with really nice white sand.
At about 2PM today - Lulu decided that we would drive to the beach and take a walk. About an hour later - we were strolling on the sand. We had the place to ourselves - walked a few miles.
The water was maybe 65 degrees - and the waves were about 2 feet.
Although there are tons of homes along the water - very few were occupied. Many of them had for sale signs on them. Since the many hurricanes in 2005 - the taxes and insurance have skyrocketed. If I would give the nod - Lulu would buy one of these homes in a second. She would be driving the 45 miles to campus daily - just to live on a beach.
After Lulu took this picture - we drove home in time for 6PM supper.
You missed a great Tapple Computer Club meeting last night. George Dawson called me at 6:30 and asked if I wanted to go to CompUSA and then to the Tapple meeting. Not to look a free ride in the mouth - I walked out the driveway and waited for George's Porsche to come by and pick me up.
It was super foggy as we tooled up Monroe Street - we got to CompUSA and quite a few of the shelves were empty - we are going to miss that place.
Then we arrived at Raa School and all the gates were closed and the lights off - immediately we realized - no meeting - school locked up.
We decided to go to the FSU girls' basketball game. We went to the box office to buy the $10 gray head senior citizen passes. For $10 - they hand you a book of about 10 tickets for all the home games. I went to the turnstile and handed the collector a ticket that was supposed to be used for the November 17th game - no problems - this is going to be fun.
George and I decided to sit right behind the scorer's table - at girls' games you are allowed to sit where you like.
We were playing Samford of Alabama - and they jumped out to an early big lead. We looked terrible. By halftime - we were losing by about 20. Both of us thought about going home - but our wives needed the "alone" time at home so we stayed on. The halftime show of musical chairs basketball was more exciting than the game.
FSU was handicapped by only having 8 players. Injuries and "breaking team rules" cut the team size in half. Many of the girls were getting their first playing time and it showed.
Something happened in the second half - the girls started clawing back. FSU has a very tall trim girl by the name of Jacinta Monroe. She reminds me of Manute Bol from my old days of following the Sixers in Philadelphia - except she is pretty. She decided to put the team on her back. The score kept getting closer and closer - but would FSU have enough time?
With 15 seconds to go - FSU got the ball behind by one point. We drove the length of the court and put up a shot. It was wide - Monroe got the rebound and put the ball back up - as it left her hand - the buzzer sounded - but the ball went through the hoop. FSU won 52-51.
FSU girls are now 9-3.They play number 7 ranked Georgia in Miami on Saturday.
George dropped me off at the driveway - I walked in and told Lulu about the meeting.
Not a bad Tapple Computer Club meeting.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
After 6 wonderful days of family – parties – dinners – shopping – friends – and games, the kids are gone. The bedrooms are empty – the dishes and laundry are done. It is just Lulu and I – home alone in the empty nest.
Yes – the kids are 30 now – and in a month or so I will be 60 – but I am both happy and flattered that they flew down from their busy jobs up north to spend 6 days in Florida to be with us – just being our kids and tolerating our silliness. But it was special this time.
The best gift of the season was that Drew and Robin gave us the news that we are going to be grandparents for the first time. They are expecting a baby in June. Looking at Lulu – it is impossible to believe that she is old enough to be a grandmother. I guess that is what it is like when one marries a girl as pretty and young as she is. It feels like yesterday we started our life together as newlyweds spending our honeymoon under a Miami moon – and now we welcome another generation.
Next year will be different. It will be baby’s first Christmas. Uncle Keith will be playing on the floor and sharing family secrets with the newest member. It feels like the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. I told my kids at the dinner table on Christmas that every year with them was better than the one before it.
This morning newspaper will be a lot thinner. Boy – I wish it were 6 days ago – and we could do it all over again. But on to the greatest year ever – the next one.
Opening presents Christmas Morning
Keith and Dad
Harry - Shirley's Granddaughter Alyssa in Red Wolfpack shirt - Keith - Robin - Drew
Harry and Wayne ponder living in the garden shed
Friday, December 21, 2007
Keith flew in yesterday from Washington DC and Drew and his lovely life Robin will be arriving today at 4PM. They are leaving a couple of feet of snow behind in Syracuse.
We will celebrate the Holidays - eat lots of food - go see some Seminole basketball games - play some games - visit neighbors - go biking - take walks - shop - and just enjoy each other.
It looks like this Christmas will find most of our friends home. George and Joel just returned from two weeks on the road in Mexico. Wayne and Shirley have family coming here too.
Wayne just build a beautiful deck on his house that overlooks the garden. Pretty soon - a hot tub will grace the backyard. What a nice oasis he has created
There is a leak in our swimming pool - so our party guests will have to stare at an empty hole. Repair can wait until after they have gone home.
The weather is perfect outside for refugees from the north. They have not had 70 degrees in a month and will not see it again until May.
We have all considered piling in the van and going to the bowl game in Nashville. But not everybody is retired and some of us must return to the office.
This is the first time we will not be returning to the hills of Pennsylvania for at least part of the season. Next trip north will be to Philadelphia in early January for an American Library Association convention. Maybe we will sneak in the Valley for a night - if the weather agrees.
Christmas is time for family - we are lucky to have family and good friends together to celebrate this time of "good will toward all women and men." Our only wish is that we could spend some time with all the friends and family back in Schuylkill and Carbon counties - the coal country hills where we were born.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Weldon had been coaching his former team for two years since retiring from the NFL - each year leading the team to the state championship game - with a total record of 23-5.
The president of the school - Rev. Randy Ray - claimed the firing was "God's will." He will not give any other reason for the firing.
The community is up in arms. Coach Bobby Bowden has voiced his support for Weldon.
Weldon's four kids attend the school - he is astonished by the decision.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
It is the time of the year when sports pundits tell us about this team or that team being the greatest ever – like the New England Patriots or the Green Bay Packers. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.
I do not read as many books as I should. I always said that when I retired I was going to read more books – but other chores and things to do around town eat up my days. But I just read a fantastic book about the greatest football team ever – so you will have to suffer through my review.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN’s – The Magazine. He also covered the NFL for 6 years for Sports Illustrated. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter. He has recently started a crusade to right a wrong that has lingered in sports history for 82 years. In 1925 – a young upstart team won the NFL championship. A few weeks after they won the title – they were accused of breaking an NFL rule – and the league took the title away. The team has faded into obscurity.
Fleming’s book is called “Breaker Boys.” It is published by ESPN Books. It can be purchased at amazon.com for $16.47 with free shipping. It is a fantastic Christmas gift for a husband or boyfriend that loves football and history – especially for the guy that does not read many books. I guarantee that he won’t put it down until he has read the entire thing. There is just enough romance and tragedy to keep even the most uninterested football widow turning pages.
The title comes from a term used in coal country to describe boys that were hired to work in the breaker – a building used to break coal into various grades. It was the job of the breaker boys – underaged workers – to pick slate out of the coal as it passed between their legs in chutes. Many times older men would return to being a “breaker boy” after spending 40 years working in the deep, dark, damp coal mines. This is where the saying, “once a man, twice a boy,” got its beginning.
Lulu bought the book for me and I loved it. I am a bit prejudiced. You re-call I grew up in a little coal mining town in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. That county still boasts the world’s largest supply of clean burning Anthracite coal – the fuel that fueled the Industrial Revolution. As I was growing up – there was always this myth that at one time we had a National Football League team. One never knew for sure if it really existed. Fleming’s book collects all the facts and presents the story in a simple manner that even the most naive “coal cracker” could understand.
In 1925 – Dr. John Streigel paid a franchise fee of $1500 to buy a team in the fledgling NFL. This was when Jim Thorpe was president of the league. Stars of the time were Bronco Nagurski and Red Grange. The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame were dominating the golden years of college football. The NCAA overshadowed this upstart professional league considered by many to be a gathering of thugs.
The NFL’s greatest team was The Pottsville Maroons. I spent my “wonder years” in Tamaqua – a small coal mining and railroad town about 12 miles east of Pottsville. All roads and buses went to Pottsville. In the 60s - we actually thought The Monkees were singing, “Take the Last Train to Pottsville.”
The team was made up of an odd collection of coal miners and college “has beens.” Many of them worked in the deep Anthracite mines during the week and strapped on their leather helmets to battle on the weekend in the NFL.
During that season for the ages – Pottsville defeated teams from Buffalo, Canton, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Columbus, and Providence. They even traveled on overnight train to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to trounce Curley Lambeau and the Packers – 31-0. After beating the Chicago Cardinals – 21-7 – for the title – they beat Notre Dame in an exhibition game in Philadelphia. Many historians claim that beating of college national power Notre Dame that day – 9-7 – gave the NFL the credibility that launched it into being the national pastime that it is today. Many headline writers called that game in Shibe Park in Philadelphia – the Greatest Football Game Ever Seen.
At the end of the 1954 football season – Red Grange was speaker at a sports banquet near his hometown. He was asked, “What was the greatest team and who was the greatest player?” The folks expected him to cite himself and his Chicago Bears.
The Galloping Ghost told of a day in Pottsville, PA – when he was playing an exhibition game for $500. This was when a new car could be purchased for $700. On the first play he was welcomed to coal country by being knocked cold.
Fleming writes, “The crowd went silent. This is the man that attracted 70,000 to the Polo Grounds. While playing for the University of Illinois he had run for touchdowns of 95, 67, 56, and 45 yards against the University of Michigan.” He was out cold.
Although dazed on the first play – he put his leather helmet back on and lined up for the next play. Again the coal miners knocked him out. An eyewitness claimed when Grange was revived he said, “The hell with the $500 – it ain’t worth it,” as he walked off the field.
Today when we award athletes millions of dollars for playing a game and then have to put them in prison for “hanging dogs” – “murdering girlfriends” – “and taking drugs to break records” – it is fun to romance about a time when common everyday men played the game for fun.
The people of Pennsylvania are currently petitioning the NFL to return the 1925 championship to the team that won it on the field. The Pennsylvania Legislature just passed an appeal to have the title returned to Pottsville.
The Trailing Spouse and former coal cracker presents to you the greatest football team ever – the 1925 Pottsville Maroons of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
TO SEE THE BOOK - CLICK ON THE TITLE ABOVE
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
FSU made it to the final four in the NCAA Soccer Tournament for the 3rd time in a row - only to fall 2-0 to Southern California. Without a trophy - I am sure a bunch of locals will be after some coach's head.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
DEMOCRAT SPORTS EDITOR
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - His question snapped their heads to attention - and forced his players to re-focus on where they were and why they were there.
"Do you want to go home tonight?" Florida State soccer coach Mark Krikorian asked as he looked into the eyes of his players Friday evening.
It didn't take long for FSU's players - namely freshmen Sanna Talonen and Amanda DaCosta - to provide the answer.
Following Krikorian's interrogation during the second-half television timeout, Talonen somehow escaped two Notre Dame defenders and slipped a pass to DaCosta in the middle of the penalty box. DaCosta deftly nudged a slow dribbler past oncoming Irish goalkeeper Lauren Karas - and that goal in the 72nd minute pushed the Seminoles to a 3-2 victory over Notre Dame.
That goal means the Seminoles will play for the national title on Sunday at 2 p.m. against USC. It marks the first time FSU has advanced to the title game after three previous losses in the College Cup.
Friday, December 07, 2007
For the first time in two decades, a large commercial order of local hard coal totaling $5 million is being filled for transport to Europe.
“The industry is experiencing a good period as far as production,” said Dan Nester, vice president of Kobin Coal Corp., Plain View, N.Y., on Wednesday, one of a handful of coal brokerage companies specializing in anthracite.
Nester said the order for 22,000 tons of anthracite to the Dutch firm Anker Coal Co. for commercial industrial used mostly in the steel industry in Ghent, Belgium, will be filled by Dec. 18.
The anthracite is being supplied by eight local coal companies in Schuylkill and Luzerne counties and represents what Nester expects to be the first of numerous orders from Europe in contracts expected to run at least through 2009.
Duane Feagley, executive director of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Council, an industry organization, said the order is truly unique in an industry whose sole exports have been shipments to Canada and Brazil and a single government contract for a U.S. Army base in Germany in recent years.
“Nobody’s sending coal to Europe,” Feagley said.
One reason for the pickup in European business, Nester said, is the comparatively poor performance of the U.S. dollar, making purchase of American anthracite cheaper than before for European companies.
Terrence Guay, clinical associate professor of international business at Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business, said Pennsylvania anthracite is not the only U.S. export likely to be positively affected.
“The economic side of the equation is that the U.S. dollar has weakened considerably compared to the euro and the English pound,” said Guay.
Reasons for that poor performance include everything from low domestic interest rates to a growing federal budget deficit and a growing international pessimism about the U.S. economy.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
PICTURES - The famous poster was taken near Seligman AZ - 75 miles of empty 2 lane roads - Kingman's Route 66 Museum - Lulu with a library diploma - Harry with nose art from one of the 7000 B-17's that were destroyed here
From Seligman, Arizona to Kingman, Arizona is an untouched section of Route 66. You remember the song, "It winds from Chicago to LA - more than 2000 miles all the way." The 75 miles between these 2 towns has been virtually untouched. In most places Route 66 was replace by I-40 - but for this brief couple of hours - it is 2 lanes - bordered by the Santa Fe Railroad. We saw very few cars on the highway - but saw a few of the 80 trains that take this route daily. One could get out of the car - and recline on the highway without much danger.
On each end of the highway - in Seligman and Kingman - there are a lot of hokey places to stop and buy souvenirs. The people are very friendly and provide great service - helping you slip back to the 30s - 40s - 50s when this was the "only" way west. I swear I passed a pickup truck with Ma Joad in the back. John Steinbeck called this the Mother Road and one could feel the history of the trip including the monotony the travelers must have endured.
When we got to Kingman - we toured 2 really quaint museums - and again experienced some nice folks that are trying to make do while the future has past them by. Lulu had a hotel booked in Kingman - but after looking at the map and checking on the computer - we decided to cancel the room and head to Laughlin, Nevada just 30 miles away and across the Colorado River.
As we drove to Laughlin - we were able to see the Hoover Dam up river. The Colorado River seems so pleasant and peaceful here - tamed by the manmade dams that provide - drinking water - power - and irrigation to the desert. We drove up and town the strip in Laughlin - selected the Riverside Hotel and Casino - called them on the cellphone - and got a tower room for under $40.
As I type this - Lulu is downstairs gambling a bit - and in a couple minutes the car museum opens with free admission. I'll spend an hour there - and then we hit the road. We will drive south along the river to Lake Havasu - where the famous London Bridge was re-constructed - and then head east on I-10 - back to Tallahassee - oops - I mean Phoenix - and then we take a jet to Tallahassee. Hope we get bumped.
PICTURES - Mt Humphrey over 10,000 feet south of Canyon - El Tovar Hotel on Canyon edge - Inside El tovar Hotel - The Grand Canyon for our hotel
They call it the high desert for a reason. The south rim of the Grand Canyon is 7000 feet above sea level - and gets very little rain or snow. But we got just enough snow to put a sweet icing coat on the rim.
It is the slow time of the year at the canyon - we were able to book a room in the El Tovar Hotel on the rim. The El Tovar was built in 1905 by the Santa Fe Railroad when railroad were the only mode of transportation for tourists. The hotel is a large log cabin with 100 guest rooms. It hangs right on the edge of the canyon.
The Grand Canyon is spellbinding no matter what time you visit. It has taken 2 million years to form and it looks exactly the same now as it did in 1977 when we visited. Then - you had to fight the crowds along the rim trails - but Lulu and I were able to walk the edge with no one else in sight. The colors of the layers of rocks in the canyon are pretty - and they change from hour to hour due to the angle of the sun. Since we werte on the south rim - the sun was behind us - great for pictures. We experienced the canyon at sunset and sunrise when the shadows are greatest and the colors are the reddest.
I am guessing the hotel was 1/4 full. We went to dinner - and they asked did we have a reservation. I said no - and she asked our name - she wrote it in the book - and then gave us the best table in the house - right by the fireplace.
We had two nights left in Arizona - so Lulu and I got back into the car - and headed south.
In Sedona - we did not experience any vortex forces - but we did feel something - terrific head colds. As we climbed up to the canyon - the 7000 elevation compounded our stuffiness - and made us pretty lethargic. so our next stop will have to be someplace lower.
Monday, December 03, 2007
There couldn't be a better way to wake up on a Monday morning. In Sedona - it is still dark - the Arizona sky is bursting with stars. In a few minutes - sunrise and a fantastic natural light show.
First - open up the doors on each end of the room - let the 40 degree mountain air flow thru. We are at 4000 feet - and things feel a little different. Maybe it is the vortex that is nearby. It is supposed to be a place where energy comes out of the earth. Supposedly it can be measured by a magneticometer - but frankly - i think the only metal this town attracts is the cash in one's pocket.
After a quick waffle breakfast - we enjoy the changing colors of the mesas - buttes - and cliffs that surround this town. I take a few time exposure pictures to capture the show without flash - but it is nothing like experiencing it.
Sedona is half way between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. It is about 10 miles off the beaten path. One can choose to shop in the "New Age" downtown - or hike all over the brilliant orange sandstone rocks. It is the off season - and there are very few people staying in our pretty mock adobe Best Western.
1 - Before sunrise - a time exposed picture from our room balcony
2 - Same picture as number - but in daylight Sunday
3 - We climbed up to a vortex to find people "absorbing the energy."
4 - Lulu at the vortex
5 - Downtown Sedona - the pink jeep tours - mountains
6 - Red - orange - yellow sandstones surround this place
Everything is in the perspective. To me - it is hard to believe after 33 years of slugging it out in the classroom on Monday mornings - I am able to be free to be halfway across the country. It is nice knowing that my brother teachers have the day off for snow - and I do not have to call in to use a sick day. I am free to enjoy my wife - my car - my travels - a nice breakfast - the internet - and now on to the El Tovar Hotel at the edge of the Grand Canyon. This would not be possible if I weren't The Trailing Spouse.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
We are enjoying the liquid sunshine of the Sonoran Desert. Normally Phoenix has 10 inches of rain a year. This year so far - they have only had about 2.5 inch of rain. That was until we got here. Yesterday - we got over an inch of rain and it looks the same today.
These 2 pictures are of the rain at our Arizona Biltmore Hotel.
There are 10 swimming pools in our hotel - some of them kept as warm as 104 degrees. The temperature outside is in the 70s - but the sky is completely obscured.
This leaves us plenty of time to plan the rest of our trip.
Lulu is making her big presentation now. After that - we are free to roam.
Sunday we will drive to the enchanting desert town of Sedona. Lulu has booked a Best Western Hotel in the downtown. Sedona is surrounded by beautiful sandstone mountains and formations. Some say it has mystical powers.
Monday we will drive to the Grand Canyon. Lulu was lucky enough to land a room at the El Tovar Hotel. It sits on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Here are 2 file pictures of the El Tovar.