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Monday, June 30, 2008

Bottle Water Fraud

From the Washington Post -

The push to turn water into the new wine is a marketing phenomenon:
The bottled-water industry is engaged in an intense effort to convince
Americans that the stuff in bottles is substantially different from
the stuff out of the tap.

But empirical tests have repeatedly shown that they are generally the
same. In blind taste tests, many people who swear they can
differentiate between bottled-water brands and tap water fail to spot
the differences, and studies have shown that both are fine to drink,
and both occasionally can have quality problems.
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Experts who study bottled water as a cultural phenomenon say
differences between the two are largely marketing inventions.

"Taste for water is as much an effort of imagination as it is an
objective fact," said Richard Wilk, a professor of anthropology and
gender studies at Indiana University who studies the phenomenon. "The
labels have springs and waterfalls and mountains. The latest waters
are from Antarctica and Iceland; there is glacier water and iceberg
water and water that is a million years old and water from 3,000 feet
down off Hawaii. All of these things promise an untouched nature far
from human beings."

There is abundant irony in such marketing: The supply of clean
drinking water across America and in many other countries is an
underappreciated scientific and technological achievement that in many
ways rivals putting a man on the moon. Trillions of dollars have been
spent to get clean drinking water to people at virtually no cost --
and it is people in precisely these countries who seem willing to pay
premiums of 1,000 percent to 10,000 percent for bottled water.

FSU's Walter Dix Earns Spot in Olympics

By Steve Ellis
TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT

EUGENE, Ore. — Tyson Gay, the fastest American ever, exhaled before
settling into the starting blocks. Next to him, in lane three, Walter
Dix was already a study of concentration and — as everyone would soon
find out — confidence.

Embattled by injury concerns and technically unsound starts, the eight-
time NCAA champion for Florida State wasn't even supposed to be here.
The 200 meters, run Friday, was supposed to be Dix's opportunity to
become an Olympian.

Dix had other ideas. Just before the starter's gun went off, he told
himself:

"I'm here. I'm ready. Let's win."

For Dix, the here was the 100 meter finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials
on a warm Sunday afternoon at hallowed Hayward Field. Decked in his
alma mater's garnet and gold, Dix needed two months and an NCAA team
championship to distance himself from a mid-April night in Tallahassee
where a hamstring injury suustained in the Seminole Invitational had
planted doubts about his Olympic future.

Dix completed the journey in a blazing but wind-aided 9.8 seconds to
claim second place in the 100 meters. His reward for enduring a
difficult season was a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and an embrace
from Gay at race end. From there Dix dashed toward the stands crammed
with more than 20,000 fans. A quick Seminole chop and then onto the
podium. "It felt real good to be out there — the only collegian out
there and representing Florida State," Dix said, who held off at
Darvis Patton at the line and finished behind Gay's 9.68 — the world's
fastest time, but a mark that won't be a record due to a wind at his
back that measured at 4.1 meters per second.

"Walter Dix is a tough competitor," Gay would later say of Dix during
the post-race media conference. "He's proved a lot and reminds me of
myself a lot. He stayed in the (Florida State) uniform and just
focused on what he needed to do and got it accomplished."

Dix will represent the red, white and blue of the USA in Beijing, and
maybe in three events — the 100 and 200 meters and 4x100 relay. But on
Sunday, he was spectacular in garnet and gold. And proud of it.

"We're already three national champions deep," Dix said. "I don't know
if you can say anything else."

But FSU athletics and Seminole fans can. One of their own is a U.S.
Olympian — the first time for a male FSU track and field athlete since
Arthur Blake participated in the 1992 and '88 Olympics. Kim Batten
participated in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.

Dix may not be the only FSU graduate to make the U.S. team. Lacy
Janson is one of the favorites in the pole vault that begins Thursday.
Long jumper Joe Allen finished seventh in his event, but will not earn
a spot on the Olympic team.

"It's great for the university and the community," said former FSU
track coach Terry Long, who has worked with Dix this season. "It's a
tribute to all the Florida State coaches.

"And this certainly exemplifies the unique nature of Walter Dix. He
stayed and got his education, finished his Florida State career pretty
emphatically with his eighth individual title and third team title."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trailing Spouse Sees Rosetta Stone and Police in Same Hour




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Sunday afternoon at 5 PM - Lulu decided to take a little nap. So I strolled down the street to browse through the British Museum. I sleep literally 1000 feet or so from the Rosetta Stone - pieces of the Greek Parthenon - and a statue of Venus from 200 AD. The door is wide open and there are no guards to frisk you - you just saunter into history.

After about 45 minutes - I return home for supper. Lulu proceeds to tell me we are going to go to a concert in Hyde Park. Lulu has only about 2 or 3 CD's in her car - and one of them is Sting and The Police. Sometimes he is just Sting and sometimes he is The Police - I am not sure who decides which one he is - but he can really write and sing rock and roll.

We quickly eat and get on the bus to Hyde Park. I am a bit apprehensive because tickets for the event are 65 pounds - or $130 each. I had no intention of dropping $260 of Lulu's hard earned cash. We got to the park and lots of people were milling around. 35,000 people were inside the fence - but through some pretty poor engineering - one could watch the concert from the low crowd fence. So for over an hour we waited on the grass "along the rail." When the concert started - to our surprise - we could see the big screens and hear the music clearly. Lulu was very happy because she got to watch and listen to 2 hours of Sting and Harry was contented to keep his wallet (and the moths) safely tucked in his front pocket.

Here is a picture of the stage from our view - a news report from Lulu at the concert - and photos of Venus and the Rosetta Stone.

How much culture can a trailing spouse stand in one Sunday afternoon in London? Too bad it wasn't the Rolling Stones at the park - I could have called this story - The Rolling Rosetta Stones.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lulu and The Trailing Spouse See "The Lion King"






Lulu loves to go to the theatre and last night it was the Lyceum in London for "The Lion King."

"The Lion King" is one of my favorite stories - and I may be one of the few folks that like the movie better than the Broadway or the London productions. While Lulu was marveling over the costumes and dance routines - I never could "get" the dancing grass. I guess I am a guy that does not "get" nuance - you have to hit me over the head even with the word subtle.

Having just turned 60 - and holding my grandson Jack less than a week ago for the first time - tears come to my eyes with I see Musafo holding up Simba on Pride Rock. The Lion King is based on a song - "Circle of Life." Like someone once said, "there are no new stories - just different names doing the same thing." This week I was doing my best Musafo impression with Jack on Pride Rock. - 30 years ago my Dad held up Drew - now Drew is the 30 year old father - and I am the grandpa. There is a certain sadness in the Circle of Life. A few years later - my Dad was gone. Also as men get older - they have more estrogen in their bodies :-)

It was nice walking along the Strand in London seeing everyone dressed up and going to the shows. It was also nice not having a bunch of ghetto blasters blaring away from park benches or passing automobiles - and we did not see a soul with his jeans down to his knees and his cleavage showing. In my opinion - London is a more civilized New York City. One feels very comfortable roaming around at midnight although I still keep my wallet in my front pocket.

After the show - we went to a pub called "The Coal Hole." England was built on a culture of coal miners - the industrial revolution made Britain a world leader for over 100 years. It felt like being back in the hills of Pennsylvania where there used to be a pub on every corner in town.

The FSU Study Center provided tickets for all the students. It was full house at the theatre - and The Trailing Spouse went along to carry Lulu's tickets.



Pictures - Lyceum theatre - Lion King tickets - Simba on Pride Rock - Sarabi, Mufasa, Simba, Lion King - Visiting the Coal Hole.

Friday, June 27, 2008

FSU Study Center in London




When Lulu was hired by Florida State 4 years ago - we visited the FSU Study Center in London. From that day on Lulu wanted to teach a course at the Center. With a lot of hard work and planning - she finally got her wish. Her first class is Tuesday.

The Center is on Great Russell Street just down the block from the British Museum. One can roll out of bed and stroll down the street to look at the Rosetta Stone in minutes.

Without too much history - Florida State University bought the Center a long time ago. Sandy D'Alembert - former FSU president and current professor at the Center - said he enjoyed the FSU Center when he was a student back in 1958. Florida State owns the center but does allow other schools like Penn State - Georgia - and Southern California to send students here to study.

Students can attend a 6 week summer course or a full fall or spring semester. During the Holiday season - faculty often fly over to vacation in the Center.

Prices in London compare to prices in New York City or Washington DC. Grocery prices are in pounds (two dollar = one pound). Lulu enjoys shopping at the ASDA - the British Walmart's. Prices are reasonable - we bought a toaster for $12 although one could be purchases one for $6. We had to take the subway quite a distance to get to the closest ASDA store. Lulu took a group of her students shopping there today.

A neat feature in the store are the 4 wheel drive shopping carts. All 4 wheels pivot for easier navigation. When someone is in your way - you just push sideways and you are around them quickly.

In the store picture Lulu is holding a miniature can of Coke. The other 2 pictures are the FSU Study Center.

Watching American Television in London Using the Slingbox and Computer



When traveling to foreign countries - it is always nice to see their newspapers and television programs. London media has a flavor all its own. Of course - there is lots news about soccer - but there is also a large amount of gossip. They do cover quite a few stories about America - particularly Hollywood.

Thanks to a great new invention called Slingbox - one can view television programming directly from one's home. A slingbox is a small piece of hardware that you connect to your television service at home and also connect it to your internet service. In our case - we have a satellite Direct Tivo at home and Comcast cable internet.

No matter where you travel - as long as you have an internet connection - you can see and tune your home television. Even if you are on the internet wirelessly squatting on someone else's signal - you can watch the TV programming directly from your home and the old USA.

Our London apartment has wireless internet. Using our laptops macs here - we can watch our home television live or view programs that our Tivo digital video recorder has recorded for us. We can also set the recorder to record other programs right from our computer screen here.

I like to watch The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Lulu loves to watch All My Children.

I forgot to mention that our Slingbox cost $120 - but you do not have to pay any monthly fee to operate it. Many times we have watched football games or nightly news while sitting in airports or even sitting in a rental car. You do not even need a clear view of the southern sky.

First picture is Jay Leno on the Mac Book Pro. Second picture is what a Slingbox looks like - about the size of a paperback book.

After touring all around London during the day - it is great to catch up on the news back home or watch a movie on HBO. We are very surprised with the clear picture and quality sound.

Now we are all ready for hurricane season back in Tallahassee.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mum-Mum Sings to Grandson Jack

Jack was already 4 days old when we had to leave Syracuse. Nancy does not sing much - but when she is really really happy.....

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.....she is an angel.

Trailing Spouses Lands in London

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Lulu is teaching a course at the FSU Study Center in London. For the next 7 weeks - this little apartment is our home. Although it is small and spartan - it is a great location right in downtown London near the British Museum (their Smithsonian). Hotels in this area cost $300 a night - so 50 nights in this pad is saving us $15,000! We are in Apartment 2 of the Janet Poole House at 105 Gower Street. It seems like all the houses have names over here - I guess it is so you can tell them apart. Dr. Sandy D'Alembert - former FSU president - is staying in Apartment 4 - he is teaching a course on International Law here.

Our trip over here went from Tallahassee to Atlanta to Syracuse to Cincinnati and finally to London. The last leg of the trip was overnight - it was a very pleasant flight because Lulu got us exit row seats - and they were near the bathrooms. We also made a 3 day stop in Syracuse to see Jack - my grandson.

Lulu's classes are Tuesday and Thursday. So we have 5 days a week for touring - with 4 day weekends. We plan to go to Liverpool - Brighton Beach - and Cornwall. Lulu's grandfather's family came from Cornwall.

Keith is going to visit us the last 2 weeks. He is a fan of the Arsenal Soccer Team. He already bought tickets for a match in Germany against Stuttgart. We will be visiting Tubingen, Germany - where Duke Eberhard lived and founded a university. We might get to see Volkwagens - Porsches - or Mercedes being made.

Once we got to Gatwick Airport in London - we took the express train to downtown - then took a little black London cab to our flat.

As you know - Lulu does the work to earn all this travel. I carry her bags - this time it was a real task - we had 8 different bags and some were very heavy. As usual I am too tight to pay a porter - so the Trailing Spouse was earning his keep. Cheerio.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lulu is a Grandmother - she looks way too young for that



We are on our way to London - Lulu is teaching a course at the FSU Center. When we bought the plane tickets - we were hoping that Jack would be born before we flew across the Atlantic. It took a lot of planning but we had scheduled a 3 day stopover in Syracuse "just in case." We were lucky - Jack followed the schedule and we got a chance to hold him while he was still little.

There is nothing more boring than someone telling you how perfect their grandchild is - so you won't here that from me. But you will hear from me about the great parents my son Drew and his wife Robin are going to be.

It was about 30 years ago when I held my own two sons like this. So many wonderful thoughts were going through my mind. Now - in reflection - it was even better than I thought. When I look at Jack - I see the wonderful future he is going to have and I see the face of Drew.

60 years ago - I was born to an anthracite coal miner in the hills of Pennsylvania and his housewife. We lived in a farmhouse without plumbing - I was born in the upstairs bedroom - on a freezing cold February night. The doctor arrived late at night in a horse drawn sled - I am not kidding. The roads were too icy for cars. The doctor rolled up his coat to make a pillow and he slept on the couch. By 5:00 AM - I was ready for a grand entry. Everything went well - and the doctor charged $15. Some people would say it was a bargain - others would say they got gyped.

Now - they have sonograms - birthing rooms - and all sorts of helpful inventions. In the old days babies were breast fed because it was a bargain.

We are enjoying this short visit - holding our grandson - it is still hard to use that term. Already - I feel the reality of being a grandfather 1000 miles away.

His name is Jack - named after his two great grandfathers. Jack Robinson - was at one time a minister in Tallahassee. Bobby Bowden told Lulu that Jack "saved" him. Jack also got a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics playing basketball. Jack Cox - Lulu's dad worked as a Tasty Kake delivery man. His claim to fame was only missing 2 days of work in 40 years - that included Saturdays and starting at 3 AM every day. I hope Jack is like them.

Jack's middle name is Robert - named after his grandfather a pathologist from Balitmore. Bob must have been pretty excited to be a grandfather - because he drove all the way from Baltimore to Syracuse to greet Jack on the first day.

The last name - Everhart - comes from me. This side of his family is not a illustrious. I was a middle school science teacher. My Dad was a coal miner - and his father tried many thing before joining the Merchant Marines and dying at sea at the hands of a German torpedo.

All of this stuff which pretty boring to anyone but me - Jack is here - and we are very very happy.

Tomorrow - June 24th. - we fly from Syracuse to Cincinnati - to London. Lulu and I will be celebrating our 37th. anniversary mostly on the plane. We will bridged between two wonderful adventures - meeting our first grandchild and Lulu teaching her first class abroad. We are all very blessed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Everhart Name Lives On With A Summer Solstice Baby - Jack Robert Everhart




June 20, 2008 - is the first day of summer - often called the Summer Solstice. This evening at 11:59 PM - the sun will reach its highest point on its travel into the Northern Hemisphere.

The Summer Solstice is considered by some scientists to be the start of the astronomical year - and this young man started our year with a bang. It is also the start of a new wave of Everharts.

At 11:31 this morning - Robin and Drew had our very first grandchild. It's a boy! He weighs 7 pounds and 6 ounces.

This fella is the latest carrier of the Everhart banner and he is the leader of our next generation. In two days - we will be flying to Syracuse to see the newest love of our lives.

Doesn't he just look like a Little Duke Blue Devil?

Jack Robert Everhart

All three are doing fine. Robin snapped the eyes wide open picture.

When I asked Drew how are the facilties at the hospital he said, "Great - they have free wi-fi here."

Click Pictures to Enlarge.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Our Waterfall

Seminole Sunshine Waterfalls

My Favorite Hobby Is Buying and Selling Stuff on Craigslist

This topic is so juicy and sinister that it has been banned from my other blog in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is an interesting service that has virtually taken over my interest in eBay. It is called Craigslist.org. With that web page - you open up a new world of saving money and discovering hard to find items to purchase.

Unfortunately - if you do not live in a big city - Craigslist might have limited service for you. But if you live in a city like Tallahassee or Allentown - consider yourself lucky. 

Simply put - Criagslist.org is a very simple - text based - database. It is completely free - no sign up fees - no insertion fees - no sharing your sales profit with company.

In my case - my base page is - http://tallahassee.craigslist.org/. When you click on this page - you see several categories to select. 99% of the time I use the "for sale" category - but there are many others to choose. There are "subcategories" like - tools - cars - furniture - household - motorcycles - electronics - CDs.

Most of the time I am buying or selling personal items. I have purchased - cars - scooters - appliances - cellphones - cameras - furniture - tickets - computers - and car parts.  I have sold - cars - scooters - appliances - cellphones - cameras - furniture - tickets - computers - and car parts.

"Craig" lives in San Francisco. He started the list as a hobby. He does charge for real estate and job listings in San Francisco and New York. It has become a multi-million dollar company being run out of an old home in San Francisco. It has about 20 full-time employees - including Craig Newmark. He started it in 1995.

Here is an example of a simple sale. Suppose you want to sell a car. First your register to get a free account. They give you a logon and password. Then you select the category from the list - in this case "cars + trucks." Next you click "post" - and the layout page comes up on the screen. 

On the layout page - there is a box to write the title. There is also a box to put the price. Then you type the body of the advertisement in the large box. This is where you can get very creative. Writing good ad copy is a skill onto itself - but after a few ads - you're an expert. One the best features follows - the place to select your pictures. You can upload four pictures for free from your computer.

If you know how to use HTML to layout pages - you have an even broader choice of tools to tweak your ads. You can change the type fonts - type color - type size - and even access pictures you have stored elsewhere. These pictures can then be enlarged and the number you can use is unlimited in your ad.

Then with the press of one key - your ad is published - and it can be seen all over the world. You can have people contact you by email or telephone.

99% of the time - you meet the buyer in person - let them check out the merchandise - and pay you. If you a trusting person - you can accept a check - I accept cash. If the buyer wants a receipt - you  can type one on the computer.

All the rules of buying and selling are honored. You must be cautious - check out any purchased items thoroughly. "Let the buyer beware" is your motto. Whenever I am buying a large ticket item - I ask a lot of questions - and try to check out the seller by tracing warranties and I even call the dealer where the item was purchased. In my cases you can transfer the warranty to your name.

To get a good idea what the value of an item is - I often look it up on eBay or in Google. 

I have bought and sold over 100 items - and most of the sales are completed with both a satisfied buyer and seller. If at anytime you feel uncomfortable - just cancel the deal and walk away. Tell the customer you changed your mind. The only hint I have had of customers being unhappy was when they later found out  that I paid less for the product - cleaned it up - and sold it for more money. One fellow became very unhappy when I bought a motor home from him - drove it 40,000 miles - then cleaned it up and sold it for a few thousand more dollars than I paid for it. 

Like any other sale - you are allowed to bargain for a lower price. Some folks get insulted when you only offer them $200 for an item they purchased for $1000. Veteran sellers are not insulted - they usually like to bargain the price up a bit. Because of vanity - others would rather throw something away than sell it to you for a low low price. In those cases - I smile - hand them my card with a price on the back. In many cases they call me later - when no else offers them anything. Cash speaks volumes.

Many times I buy an item I just want to "try." After I had purchased an item - and realize I do not need it - I clean it up - take some nice pictures of it - and put it back on Craigslist. Some folks would say it is a waste of time - but this is what retired guys have a lot of. I used to get paid $50 an hour - but no one is paying anything for my time now.

One time I bought a Mercedes Diesel for $2000. We drove it for 6 months. We decided to sell it. I scrubbed it from top to bottom - took 20 pictures of that car - and put it back on Craigslist. I got calls for it from as far away as California. A man from Mississippi eventually bought it for $4000. We still email each other talking about that car. He even told me he fixed the turbocharger  on the car and it can cruise at over 100 miles per hour now and get 35 miles per gallon. Oh well - maybe that is one that got away from me. 

One time a guy called me about a car - he didn't want to buy it. He just wanted to talk to the guy that wrote the ad. That was the ultimate compliment. We were on the phone for 20 minutes.

One time - my buddy Darrell bought a Saturn with a pushed in front end for $200. He pulled out the front end and drove it for a year. He asked me to sell it. He said I could keep everything over $1000 of the price. I scrubbed it up and marketed it. I got 40 calls for that car at $2495. The first guy drove it and bought it on the spot. He was so happy he beat all the other callers. While taking him for a test ride - I "got rubber in three gears." He turned on the CD player and out blasted some Buddy Holly tunes. He gave me a puzzled look. I said to him with a straight face, "Cracker music!" He flashed me the widest pearly white grin I ever saw. A year later the "cable guy" came to our house to service the Internet. He looked at me and smiled, "Remember me?" I didn't. It was the guy that bought the car. I asked him how it was doing. He said it was the best car he ever bought. He drove it a year and someone hit him broadside. He was okay - but the best part - the insurance company gave him $5000 for the car! That car just kept giving and giving.

I have lots of Craigslist stories including the one where I wrote a story about "Buying and Selling on Craigslist" for the Tallahassee Democrat. It appeared on their web site for an hour or so - then it mysteriously disappeared. I called the editor of the paper and asked him what happened. He said he would check into it. He called me back and said that no one erased the story. 

In the next breath he said, "You know Craigslist is a very sensitive subject around here." I never brought it up again - until now.

9 Inches to Go - Pool Temperature is 78 Degrees

Bottom of blue tile is the full level. 9 inches to go. It fills about
2 inches an hour.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Just got in Noles game



FSU lost this first game with Wichita State.

Saturday - FSU is winning the second game 12-3.

If there is a third game - it will be Sunday at noon.

The winner goes to the College World Series in Omaha.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Trailing Spouse Considers: Cottage or Condo?























Four years ago - Lulu was offered a job at Florida State and we sold our little chalet in the hills and moved to the big city of Tallahassee. Although we had 8 months advance to look for a home - when a house came up on Seminole Drive - our friends sent us pictures of it and we would have bought it sight unseen except the realtor insisted that we see it. We were told about the house on a Friday - our friends toured it on Saturday and sent us pictures - Sunday we flew down - Monday we bought it. The "big bargainer" of all time settled for list price.

Since then - we build a workshop and a guest house. We made a carport into a garage. We added all new concrete driveways and sidewalks. We installed new appliances - had the place landscaped from stem to stern - and now we replaced a vinyl-lined pool with a concrete one with travertine and marble trim.

Although the house is really nice now - as I turn 60 I am tired of all the upkeep and am too tight to hire others to do it.

From birth - Lulu has been raised to believe success is an inground concrete tiled pool. If a couple of waterfalls are thrown in - she is in nirvana. Most of the time she just sits along side the pool and watches it. Yes - she swims 100 laps a day - but that only takes a half hour. So - now that she has the pool of her dreams - it is going to be very hard to move her.

Since I am much older than Lulu - my ideal home is a maintenance free condo. I have been watching The Plaza Tower being built for the last couple of years. It is within walking distance of FSU Campus and the Capitol. One can gun their car up Jefferson Street from campus and go right in the super secure parking garage.

After pestering the management of the Plaza Tower - they agreed to take my friends and I on a VIP tour of the condo - even though it is not near being completely. We got to ride in the rickety bird cage elevator and visited several condos - some for sale - but most of them purchased.

The condo is 23 floors tall. The penthouses on the top are two stories high. There are 10 penthouses - all sold for $700,000 plus. There are a few 2 bedroom unit on the 21st floor available for $400,000. The least expensive one left is a 1 bedroom unit on the 12th floor for $250,000.

Some units will be ready to occupy in December of this year. The condo is a "union shop" - so all dates are tentative.

Each condo comes with an owned parking space. Extra parking spots are $10,000 each.

One must pay property tax on their unit and also a maintenance fee decided by a condo committee. That fee is 34 cents a square foot a month.

The penthouses are a sight to behold. the views of campus - stadium - downtown - Capitol - are wonderful. The loft bedroom space offers a new dimension.

The condos will be primes painted and the floors will be smooth concrete. Each owner may choose floors and colors. Units went from roughly 900 square feet to 1500 square feet.


Since we travel so much - my idea of peace of mind - is to lock one door and not have to worry about hurricanes - crooks - freezing pipes. Lulu will need more inducement than that - namely a place to swim and a furniture stipend.
So - it looks like I am convinced - but Lulu is going to be a hard sell.