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Sunday, May 31, 2009

To All My "Big 10 Buddies" - Wish You Were Here



The game took 4 hours. It was 8-0 after one inning - and then it got bad. FSU played every player.

Florida State University 37 - Ohio State University - 6

This was a baseball game. video

My Neighbor Steve Mangum Built This Electric Bike less than a Mile from My House



This bike has a 72 volt motor in the front hub. It has a saddle bag with a series of lithium batteries in it. There is even a digital speedometer and "fuel gauge." It has excellent power and top end speed. It goes 45 MPH but I chickened out at 30 MPH. Even very steep hills were no match for its power. You can choose to pedal it if you want exercise or if you run out of battery power. It has a large comfortable seat - good brakes - and a big fun factor.

I plan to built one shortly. Steve knows where to order all the parts.

Watch for the story of the electric Mazda Miata that Steve built. It goes 70 MPH!

Lulu Safely Home from Germany

I don't know how she did it without me - but Lulu had a fantastic week in Germany and good trips back and forth.

She arrived home at midnight last night after leaving Berlin at 3AM our time. All 4 of her flights were on time - the only full one was the Berlin to JFK Airport segment. The flight s to Cincinnati - Atlanta - and Tallahassee were half full.

More news and pictures will follow. It is nice to have her home.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things Lulu Would Like to Bring Home from Berlin







1 - Gummy Bears on your pillow.
2 - Rental bikes you can take from one place to another.
3 - Little walk and don't walk men.
4 - Big bowls of soup.
5 - Hotel room number embroidered in carpet.
6 - Toilets off the floor.
7 - Great trains and train stations.

Time for a Little Tour of Berlin

I'm in Berlin now. Yesterday we toured the Parliament and the Parliament library. Today we were special guests of the American Embassy. The building is only one year old, filled with wonderful American art, and right next to the Brandenburg Gate. I haven't had a lot of free time on this trip, but I did have a few hours tonight. I figured I couldn't leave Berlin without going to Checkpoint Charlie, the most well-known place to cross between East and West Germany during the Cold War. Fortunately for me, getting to Checkpoint Charlie from the University of Berlin involved waking down the Berlin version of Fifth Avenue, Friederichstrasse. Crossing the streets I noticed some neat traffic lights. Instead of just red or green for crossing, or a timer, there were cute little icons. As I got closer to my destination I saw a nice shop and found an entire wall of these guys as sponges, keychains, puzzles, shirts - you name it. I found my souvenier Christmas ornament! Now back at the hotel, I've done some reading to find out the meaning of these symbols. They are called the Ampelmann. According to Wikipedia, "The Ampelmann is a beloved symbol in Eastern Germany, "enjoy[ing] the privileged status of being one of the sole features of communist East Germany to have survived the end of the Iron Curtain with his popularity unscathed." Seems like it's something East Germany did better than West Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ampelmannn acquired cult status as a symbol of East German nostalgia. People protested the governments' attempt at removing it and it was restored. They say seeing the Ampelmann is one way to tell that you are in East Berlin.
Photos: Ampelmann symbol, Ampelmann street crossing, Brandenburg Gate, soldiers near Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie

Hello? This is the U.S. Government. Your mom called




by Brandon Taylor - May 27th

I was showering when the phone rang. It had just passed 9 a.m. Since arriving in Beijing, I was asked to take my temperature before 9 and before 3 in the afternoon, followed by a call to one of the China Daily workers to report the thermometer reading. Today, I had taken my temperature but not made the call – the China Daily person was in Shanghai and told me to just keep track myself. 

Through the bathroom door I heard my roommate call my name. Dammit. I was going to get yelled at. The person on the other line was not from the China Daily. Actually, she wasn’t Chinese. 

“Hello, Brandon?” said the voice on the phone. “This is the United States Embassy. Your mom just called. She said she was worried about your situation.”

Situation? Uh oh. As I had feared, my mom had taken the email I sent home, explaining that someone on my flight had been diagnosed with the swine flu and that we were under a very loose observation, too seriously. 

“There’s no situation. Everything is fine. She worries about everything,” I said. “My mom is just being a mom. She just misunderstood what I had told her about what was going on.”

I assured the embassy worker that nothing was wrong and the conversation ended. 

But now I was worried. My mom had gone and caused a stir with the embassy. The last thing I needed was them meddling with the China Daily or Chinese government about an email taken out of context. I feared I was going to find myself on a plane home, the second time this scare had happened to me in less than a week. 

The fear turned to anger. Constantly worrying is what my mom does best. We’d had countless discussions before I left for China on safety and health issues and anything that could possibly go wrong on my trip. For most of those talks, I just nodded my head and agreed. I was a big boy and could take care of myself. 

I was typing away a nasty email, about how her actions could have jeopardized my stay in China, when I stopped. What was I doing? I was going to yell at my mom for being concerned about her son, who she was unable to call since he just happened to be on the other side of the world. I calmed down, erased the email and started from scratch. 

Logging onto AOL Instant Messenger, I had one of my friends from Brooklyn call my brother, who would relay the message to my parents that I was fine and that they should check their email ASAP. 

My parents were irate, my brother informed me through the instant messenger service. Apparently, my mom was going to “kill me,” my brother quoted, for not emailing sooner, an action that provoked her to call to the American embassy. 

I thought about it and laughed. My mom had pulled out the big guns, enlisting the U.S. government to save her son. What a great mom. 

I too often shrug off my parents’ constant badgering, relying on myself for my own well-being. I’m 22 and being completely independent of my parents could not come soon enough. But even with other Americans around me, I’m still in a foreign country that I’ve never been to before and don’t speak the language. 

So what would I do if I were seriously hurt? I’ll tell you what I’d do: I’d call the embassy to call my mom. My stupidity had come full circle. Once again, my mom was right and I was wrong. Wrong to be upset with her and wrong to not worry myself. The swine flu may not be all its made out to be (only younger children and old adults have been truly affected) but it’s still a serious matter, especially when traveling abroad. 

For this excursion in general I have been very laid back, almost uncaring if anything went wrong and not making the necessary planning, an act that has only caused my mom to worry more. Essentially, she was worrying for the both of us. 

That made me glad. Glad that I had a mom who hadn’t just shrugged off her son’s lack of enthusiasm in ensuring his own safety on a lengthy trans-ocean trip after he basically ran off to that foreign land with his head in the clouds. I was glad she hadn’t waited for me to email her back, since the situation could have been more serious and I could very much have wound up in a hospital if it had been. I was glad she had acted like a mom. 

I thought over the matter again and laughed. At least now I know if I wind up in a prison somehow, I can count on my mom.

Thanks Mom.

What's Better than a Basketball Court and a Swimming Pool?




A basketball court in a swimming pool.

After 18 years - it was time to replace the screen on our pool room. It did not take more convincing to get the contractor to hang up our basketball court above the pool.

After a quick trip to Walmart to find a backboard and hoop - we hung some aluminum rails from the rafters. Our pool guy did an excellent job of cutting the just including all of the angles. 

The bottom of our pool is flat with 4 feet depth all over. With a little luck - the rim ended up exactly 10 feet from the pool bottom. 

With the average summer day hitting 90 degrees here and the humidity sometimes getting even above 90% - one can't shoot baskets at a regular court without being sweat drenched. Usually a session is follow by a quick dip in the pool. So we decided to avoid the middle man and swim as we play.

See the video below for Harry making the first 10 baskets.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Brandon Taylor is in China

Someone asked Brandon Taylor what he was going to do after graduating from Penn State University with a degree in journalism. Some kids would say, "I'm going to Disneyworld."  Not Brandon - he said, "I am going to China."

Yes Brandon is serving as an intern on a China Daily Newspaper written in English. He will be there for 2 months.

You can follow along with him at - 

http://btay200.blogspot.com/

Brandon will publish pictures and stories there. I intend to follow along daily with him. 

Welcome to the Everhart Screened-In Stadium



The screen room over our pool was 18 years old - time for a replacement. While the crew was up on the scaffold - we decided to hang a basketball goal from the rafters - Lulu's idea.

The pool is 4 feet deep all over making a nice level floor for playing games.

Next step - a volleyball and badminton net.

Cologne Germany - Schools of Applied Sciences

I'm on the four-hour train ride between Cologne and Berlin with some time to reflect on the past few days. So far we have visited two colleges and met with their faculties - Stuttgart Media University and the University of Applied Science Cologne.  At Cologne, a presentation by one of their faculty members highlighted the differences between schools of applied sciences and universities.  The main difference is reflected in the name.  Schools of applied science are very practice-based and hands-on.  They are also easier to get into than universities and the degrees take three years to complete instead of four.

The students complete several internships during their degree program and are expected to solve a problem for an institution (like a library) and then write a "dissertation" on the process and their solution.  In Stuttgart, one of the students explained her two projects. One was to study the signage system for a library, make recommendations for changes, implement them and study the impact.  She completed another project designing a teen center in a public library which was a total overhaul.  She even attracted funding to buy new furniture and equipment.  I was quite impressed at the results for such a young person.  I'm sure the faculty was highlighting some of the students' best work, but still - it was quite an accomplishment.  

We didn't learn a lot about the other curricula in Cologne, but in Stuttgart we got a full campus tour by their Rector (equivalent of a college president).  The other two programs at Stuttgart Media University are Print Media and Electronic Media.  It was somewhat comforting seeing huge printing presses and TV and radio studios as we peered into the classrooms.  I wondered how their "library school" was perceived by the other programs.  

I sometimes feel like a duck out of water in a university setting.  I firmly believe that my teaching should be based in practice rather than theory.  I want my students to be able to tackle their first job armed with real-world skills.  I write a column called, Research into Practice, for school library media specialists.  I'm also pretty proud of the fact that I have been the first university faculty member to win an AASL presidential election over a building-level media specialist.  Therefore, I really appreciate the approach of the schools of applied science.  I also like that young people can commit to a career in librarianship at an undergraduate level. They can  still get a master's degree for professional advancement, but they don't spend years wallowing around.  I suppose that is part of the German culture coming through.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sony's Camera That Makes You Smile



I just came back from Best Buy. It is close to our house and I like to go over there to look at all the latest goodies.

This item really made me smile - literally. There is a display there that has a Sony Cybershot camera pointed at you. The camera recognizes how many faces are in the frame. Then the camera waits until everyone is smiling and it takes the picture.

I must have spent 10 minutes trying to trick that camera. I would frown and frown - the camera would wait. The second I smiled - FLASH - it caught me.

The camera has all the other functions of normal cameras - but this smile feature could be interesting.

The camera costs $200.

Cologne

Today we traveled by train from Stuttgart to Cologne. Cologne has a famous cathedral. It jumps out at you when you come out of the train station. The cathedral is really huge. According to Wikipedia it took over 600 years to build (1248-1880) and was the world's largest building from 1880-1884. We didn't get to tour the cathedral until after we went to the University of Cologne and met with other Library Science professors. They all have an interest in working with U.S. faculty. Our guide Brigitte from the Goethe Institute has been great - arranging all our travel and housing. It' also pretty good to have a translator travel with you at all times. I'm really enjoying how the Germans stay to a schedule and time limits. Everyone in our U.S. group is doing the same and it makes for a very enjoyable atmosphere. Tomorrow we must get up early and go to Berlin. I will miss the Trailing Spouse on this part of the trip especially since I know he really wants to visit Berlin. I'll take a lot of pictures for him. Photos attached: Traveling companions; my dog and pony show, Cologne cathedral, Cologne cathedral and me, pretzels with chocolate and almonds.

Liberated and Unhappy Women - Thinking of Lulu in Europe

From Today's NY Times

By ROSS DOUTHAT
American women are wealthier, healthier and better educated than they were 30 years ago. They’re more likely to work outside the home, and more likely to earn salaries comparable to men’s when they do. They can leave abusive marriages and sue sexist employers. They enjoy unprecedented control over their own fertility. On some fronts — graduation rates, life expectancy and even job security — men look increasingly like the second sex.

But all the achievements of the feminist era may have delivered women to greater unhappiness. In the 1960s, when Betty Friedan diagnosed her fellow wives and daughters as the victims of “the problem with no name,” American women reported themselves happier, on average, than did men. Today, that gender gap has reversed. Male happiness has inched up, and female happiness has dropped. In postfeminist America, men are happier than women.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stuttgart Media University

Today I toured Stuttgart Media University. In addition to Library Science they have two other concentrations - one is in printing media and the other is in electronic media. It was neat to see a college with rooms full of big Heidelberg printing presses, a TV studio, and a radio station. The German students were very professional and their education at this University is very hands on. They have to produce and market products on a daily basis. Germany is still the world center for printing. Although printing is on the decline in some areas, such as newspapers, there is a growing demand for packaging printing. One of the assignments was to create an attention-getting package. Thus the "Sexy Peanuts" label and package. We were escorted through the campus by the president!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Photos from Stuttgart

I had some time this afternoon to wander around Stuttgart. Harry and Keith wanted me to be sure to see some of the sights that they saw last summer without me. First off, they stayed in one of the nicest hotels in the city - the Le Meredien. I had a look around it was beautiful. The breakfast buffet they raved about had already been taken down however. I then took the walking bridge across the highway to the Biergarten. It's in a very nice park and they had live Latin music. It seemed strange to be sitting in Germany and listening to La Bamba. It was a beautiful day here which ended with me meeting the rest of our group and having a nice dinner with our host. My only regret is that my colleagues told me there was huge flea market today right near our hotel and I completely missed it.

LuLu Made it to Stuttgart Germany

I just got off of a video chat with Lulu. She was in her hotel at Stuttgart. She has a small room in an older hotel. Everything in Germany is so clean and tidy she said.

She already visited the beergarten where Keith and I ate many of our meals there last summer. Lulu loves sauerkraut on hotdogs and of course the German beer. She also visited the La Meridian Hotel where Keith and I stayed last summer.

It is already 5 PM there and she meets the other members of her group at 6 PM for dinner.

She will stay at this hotel tonight and tomorrow night. Tomorrow she visits the University of Stuttgart. The next day she has a 4 hour train ride to Cologne (Koln).

She said the plane ride over was uneventful and that she slept most of the way.

Lulu has internet in her room - so she can keep in touch with everyone - also watch her TV shows on slingbox - and update her facebook and twitter pages.

It looks like she is in store for one great adventure.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lulu is Winging Toward Stuttgart Germany Right Now Without the Trailing Spouse


Today I dropped Lulu off at the Tallahassee Airport. She was wearing her new London Fog raincoat - pulling her new Beans luggage and wearing her fancy new walking shoes.

For the next 8 days - she will be touring Germany as a guest of the Goethe Institute. Six library people were selected to represent the profession in Germany. She will be an ambassador of sort - and will also visit the American Embassy in Berlin. The entire week is choreographed tightly - too tightly for me to go along and carry her bags.

Lulu plans to report back with stories and pictures. I will post them here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Woodland Drives - Our Neighborhood Named Best in Leon County

Woodland Drives has been selected as the BEST neighborhood in Leon County. It received this great honor at the CONA awards reception on Monday. It won this award because of the volunteerism that’s thrives in our neighborhood. Government leaders recognize that a vibrant neighborhood relies on the people who make the area better and better.

See full article here -

http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20090512/NEWS01/905120322/CONA+honors+neighborhoods++residents+at+annual+meeting

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Harry's Next Bike - Vespa Piaggio Will Release New Hybrid Three-Wheeled Scooter




I love electric vehicles and have been looking for an electric bike that is practical. Imagine my excitement when my favorite scooter company - Vespa Piaggio - introduces a hybrid scooter. Then throw in an extra front wheel for stability - and I am in nirvana.

At first it looks funny. They do offer a gasoline version of the scooter in America now. When riding that 3-wheeler - the safety and stability are amazing. An extra plus is that you do not have to put your feet down at a stoplight.

The hybrid is supposed to get 140 miles per gallon. But according to the articles I have read - you can choose to operate it in electric only mode for 30 miles. Then you can plug it in or use the engine to re-charge the battery. You can also operate it in gasoline only mode or high performance both engines at once mode. In the both engine's mode - it will do 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds - faster than most cars except rides like a Corvette or Porsche 911. Another neat feature is that when you apply the brakes - the energy to re-charges the battery extending the range.

Lulu does take our Vespa 150 to work sometimes - especially when parking is at a premium on campus. With this added stability - I'll bet I will be fighting for the keys.

On our trip to Europe this summer - we plan to visit the Vespa plant in Pondetera, Italy. Maybe I get have get a test drive.

Here is a review of the trike from the New York Times -

According to Paolo Timoni, president and chief executive of Piaggio Group Americas, the new MP3 plug-in hybrid will have a 125cc engine and a lithium battery pack, yielding something like 250cc performance. The size of the battery pack is yet to be determined, but Mr. Timoni said Piaggio is estimating 140 mile-a-gallon fuel efficiency, which is considerably higher than the 70 to 80 m.p.g. possible from the company’s existing gas scooters.

The price for such efficiency? Mr. Timoni said the MP3 Hybrid, which is what the scooter will be called when it is released in Europe this summer, will cost between $9,000 and $10,000 when it arrives in the United States, probably around the first quarter of 2010.

“The concept came about because certain European areas are reserved for zero emission only,” said Mr. Timoni. “So if you have one here you can drive in from the New York suburbs in mixed mode, then cruise on Fifth Avenue in electric only.”

There are currently three conventional Piaggio MP3 scooters in the American lineup. The technology and details of the MP3 Hybrid are being kept under wraps for now.

Other motorcycle companies, including Honda and Yamaha, have shown hybrid concepts in the past. Honda, which showed a 50cc hybrid prototype in 2004, reportedly considered a hybrid motorcycle using a version of the new Insight’s powertrain.

According to Ben Nakamura, a Honda spokesman, “Of course, we are developing many kinds of motorcycles now, not only hybrid but also fuel cell and electric and so on.” Takeo Fukui, Honda Motor Company’s president and chief executive, said in his year-end remarks in December that Honda “is currently developing a battery-powered electric motorcycle which emits no CO2 during operation.”

Kevin Andrews, a brand manager for Vespa and Piaggio, predicted that more of the Piaggio hybrid scooters will be sold in Europe because of the sheer volume of scooter sales there. But the popularity of hybrid cars in the United States may mean that hybrid cycles will grab a bigger share of the smaller market here, he said.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cheney is Right - Torture Worked - It Got Us Into the Iraq War

Al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was captured trying to escape from Afghanistan in late 2001. He was sent to Egypt to be tortured, and under duress alleged that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda agents in chemical weapons techniques. It was a total crock, and alleged solely to escape further pain. Al-Libi disavowed the allegation when he was returned to CIA custody. But Cheney and Condi Rice ran with the single-source, torture-induced assertion and it was inserted by Scooter Libby in Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations.

Stolen Email Quote

"The Post Office announced that the price of a stamp is going up to 44 cents. This is getting out of control. Yeah. If there were just some other way to send written messages that were free and a million times faster. If you guys think of something, e-mail me."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fort Lauderdale - Grand Opening of W Hotel














Last week - we visited Fort Lauderdale to have a family gathering. Really - Drew was there for a convention - so all 6 of us stayed at the W Hotel to spend some time together. The W Hotel was having its grand opening. It is a luxury hotel that normally would be too rich for my tastes at $375 a night. Luckily - we were able to land some rooms at the government rate of $118 a night.

It seems that the W Hotels cater to folks in their 20s and 30s. The decorations were pretty - maybe a little too trendy. The help was over the top with being so nice - maybe a bit too nice for me. Everyone was asking if there was anything they could do for me. They refused to allow me to park my own car - it sometimes was a pain waiting for them to get it for me. At $30 a day - I was tempted to try to find a meter on the streets - at least I could just put the key in and drive away.

The center piece for our family was the pool - and a beautiful pool it is. First off - the water was heated to almost hot tub temperature - about 98. It was fun swimming in the bath tub temperature water anytime day or night. Jack - our grandson simply loved it. He is used to taking a bath with Drew - and this was the next logical step. It was almost a fight - with everyone wanting to hold Jack in the water.

The pool is maybe 80 by 80 feet and 4 feet deep all over. Around the whole edge was an overflow. To me - it was an engineering feat to construct a pool so level that the water would overflow evenly in all directions. But the "center piece" of the center piece was the grand stairway in a glass tunnel going right down in the middle of the pool to the living room lobby. There were also windows in the bottom of the pool that gave new meaning to the words "floor show" for the people in the living room.

Almost all of the rooms had glass balconies - except for 4 rooms out of maybe 300. Guess who got one of the 4 rooms? Yes - we did - must have been the government rate room :-)

Glass dominated the whole hotel. In the guest rooms - the showers had glass walls - both on the bathroom side and the bedroom side. Yes - you could take a shower in plain view of everyone in the room. Our room had shutters to close off the shower - but Drew's room had nothing to close off the shower - nothing.

On the negative side - each room had a fully-stocked bar - refrigerator - and snack tray. During the whole visit - the kids were pretending they were snacking on these highly priced items. Not funny.

We found plenty of places to eat all along the beach. We also brought our bikes along to cruise up and down the parkway. There were plenty of budget-priced hotels along the strip that were relatively cheap - had free internet - and you could park your own car - for $69. Yes - they did look like the motel where Nancy and I spent our honeymoon in 1971 for $8 a night.

It was sad taking Keith to the airport - and even harder to put Jack down to load up the van and drive home. We broke the 10-hour drive home up with an overnight stop in Orlando - where Nancy had a presentation at the FLA Convention - Florida Library Association.

We can hardly wait for Jack's big one year birthday party. It will be held in his new home in Providence RI - where Robin will do her doctoral internship at Brown University. The sun has made its one year trek through the heavens and will be back to its highest point in the sky. Another summer will begin - and Jack will start his second time around the circuit. The next 40 days will fly by like lightning until we all gather for that big event. Is there a W Hotel in Providence?