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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Toyota to Release Prius Minivan at Toyko Auto Show in April


The Prius MPV, or micro-minivan compared to today's standards will be named the Toyota Prius Alpha, debut in March 2011, and a seven-seat configuration will feature lithium-ion batteries. According to Motor Trend, who it looks like is pulling their information from a Japanese auto mag, the lithium-ion batteries will be 1/3 the weight of the nickel-metal pack used in the 3rd generation Prius.

The Alpha's overall length will be stretched by about 12 inches compared to the current Prius hatchback and be widened under an inch. No word in Motor Trend's article on whether the 7-seat configuration will be Japan-only, or if it will make its way to the US. The overall length of the Prius Alpha would be longer than the Mazda 5, so I don't see any reason why Toyota would not bring at least a 6-seat configuration to North America. The 5-seat version of the Prius Alpha will use nickel-metal hydride batteries to save on cost. Motor Trend's source also says that the Alpha will start from 2.5 million yen, which is $27,625 in US dollars.

The all-new Prius Alpha will also use the same 1.8 liter engine used in the 3rd generation Prius, with a combined horsepower of 135 ponies. MPG numbers probably won't rival the Prius hatchback's 50 MPG due to the increased length and weight, but I would expect it to top 40 MPG.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lulu Alone on the Plains on Her Vision Tour

Lulu at Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo

video

Welcome to Beaver Oklahoma - population 1500

Lulu's promise to visit 35 school libraries in 35 different states is winding down.

Today - she visited a town called Beaver in Oklahoma. The town is on the Beaver River in Beaver County. What is so remarkable about it is that "you can't get there from here."

She left Tallahassee Airport at 4 PM yesterday - Sunday. She had to fly to Dallas - then with a big layover she flew to Amarillo TX - getting there about 5 minutes before midnight. Then after a 2 and 1/2 hour drive - she arrived at her hotel in the middle of the Oklahoma Panhandle - nothing for miles except grain elevators and oil rigs. After spending the night - if you call from sleeping from 3 to 6 AM a night - she had to get up - and drive another hour to Beaver - population 1500.

The Beaver School District has 400 kids from K to 12 all in the same building. About 30 years ago - they build a big field house - and put the library in the old gym. This is where she made the presentation to the top school library and librarian in the state.

After that - she drove 3 hours back to Amarillo - but she has to spend the night because the next plane to Dallas is 10 AM tomorrow - Tuesday.

Back in 1977 - when we made the 30 day cross country trip with our Chevette and Scamp trailer - we spent a night in Amarillo. The highlight of the town for me was the Big Texan Steakhouse. The place held maybe 400 people - and they offered a 72 ounce streak for free - if you ate the whole thing in one sitting. If you didn't - you paid for it. Lulu said the place has not changed much in 34 years. She is spending tonight right down the road along old Route 66 passing through this Texas Panhandle town.

Tomorrow - she will fly from Amarillo to Dallas and finally back to Tallahassee arriving about 4 PM - 48 hours - door to door to door.

The Vision Tour can be followed at "outstandingschoollibraries.org" - she has 3 more legs - two I will go along. In two weeks we will do Colorado - New Mexico - Arizona. Next Nebraska - South Dakota. Finally in May - we will visit all the New England states.

I really admire what Lulu is doing on these trips. She is drawing a lot of recognition for school libraries. Everywhere she goes - the legislatures and news media follow along. In a few cases the tour has saved jobs. After her visit to Oregon - a school district voted to restore a position they were cutting.

Personally - I will be happy when it is all over. She spends many a hours alone in airports - or on long drives on strange roads. She has been lucky so far with weather and plane schedules - but every hotel room starts to look the same about now. It gets to the point where you say things like "Amarillo" and she says "pineapple shampoo."

12 more schools - but who is counting.

After the BP Oil Spill - the embroiled oil company president said, "he would like to have his life back." I feel the same way except, "I would like to have my wife back."

I am really very proud of her.



Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sally Sent A Picture of the Mine Geyser

This mine geyser is about 10 miles from Sally Bair's home. She took this picture today. It is like an artesian well set up my snow melt running into the mines.

Mine Geyser


BIG MINE RUN - During the late winter and early spring, residents of Big Mine Run and those who travel through the area see how powerful water pressure can be.

The annual occurrence of a mine water geyser in the Butler Township village can be timed with snow melting from the nearby mountains, heavy rains and drainage from the former Bast Colliery. The height of the geyser has fluctuated over time, but the current geyser reached at least 12 feet from the torrential rains last week. Two weeks ago, there was no geyser, and as water runoff decreases, the geyser will disappear.

The geyser erupts through a hole in a drainage pipe that directs the storm water and mine water from the mountain, under the local streets and into the nearby Mahanoy Creek. Since the water shooting into the air is on the south side of Big Mine Run Road, the water is away from local homes. There is also water coming up through the ground near the geyser that flows into the creek.

From the Pottsvile Republican

Friday, March 18, 2011

If You Built It She Will Come - Lulu Visits the Field of Dreams in Iowa


In her drive thru Iowa - Lulu detoured to see the Field of Dreams

The foul line where the players could not cross

Ray Kinsella's house and the bleachers where his little girl fell

Lulu threw me a curve yesterday when she called from the Field of Dreams

Lulu is visiting several school libraries in the midwest on her Vision Tour. After entertaining her Mom - Aunt - and Cousin here for 8 days - she hopped a plane to Minneapolis to visit a school. This was followed by a 250 mile drive to Cedar Rapids in Iowa - and then back north to Fort Atkinson in Wisconsin.

But what really surprised me last night was an email full of pictures of my favorite place I have never visited.

In 1989 - Field of Dreams was released during spring training. Kevin Costner starred in this epic movie about baseball and the relationships between fathers and sons. No film chokes me up with tears like this film. Imagine - taking a year off from work - to spend time with your sons while your wife attends Florida State University. Imagine buying an old Volkswagen van - and taking your fifth and sixth grade sons on a camping trip to see several spring training grapefruit league games - staying in the van to save money to buy the kids "wool" baseball caps. This was my mind set when I saw the Field of Dreams on that opening day with my sons at my side.

The movie was filmed on a farm in the middle of nowhere near Dyersville in Iowa. The film was pretty simple. A farmer plowed his cornfield under to build a baseball field. He was hearing voices saying, "If you build it he will come." He thought that the messages were saying to build the field for Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 Chicago White Sox that were accused of throwing the World Series. If you have not seen the movie - I will not ruin the ending - but I defy any real baseball fans to watch it dry-eyed.

Anyway - Lulu's travels from Cedar Rapid to Wisconsin took her near Dubuque - and her GPS directed her 40 miles off the beaten path to Dyersville and the Field.

Yes - the baseball field and the farmhouse are there. Yes - you can walk on the field and take all the pictures you want. Lulu was alone as the wind blew across the prairie. As I listened to her describe the place - the corn field - the farm house - the bleachers - I could almost hear the voices as the wind blew through the cellphone. I could almost see Dr. Moonlight Graham stepping across the foul line to give up his one chance in baseball to become a doctor and save a life. I digress.

As quickly as it all started - soon the Field was disappearing in Lulu's rear view mirror. She had hundreds of mile to go to the next stop at Fort Atkinson in Wisconsin. But with that detour she fulfilled a dream of mine. I doubt if it could have been any better if I were there myself.

Field of Dreams

The road where "people will come Ray"

"Go the Distance"

Poster from the movie

This reminds me of the Bungalow Field back home in Pennsylvania where I played

"If you build it he will come"

Ray's Farm

Lulu had miles to go before she slept - but she added these miles just for me.


The Field of Dreams is 2 miles west of Dyersville. "Is this heaven? No - it's Iowa."




Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Monday - Monday - Can't Trust That Day

At the Tallahassee Airport - their bags are a bit heavier - but Dolores Betty and Georgeann made it safely home thanks to Jimmy hauling them over the Blue Mountain to embed them back in the Valley

If you have been reading my web page - you know that Mondays are my favorite days. Usually after a busy weekend - everyone goes back to work leaving my nice quiet world intact. You can imagine how quiet my Monday seemed after spending 8 days with the four "Morgan Girls."

Monday will never be the same. Lulu put her Mom - her Aunt - and her Cousin on the plane and now they are back to being Pennsylvania Coal Crackers. They went from temperatures in the 70s back to temperatures in the 30s. From sweaters and encounters with Gators and Manatees - to overcoats on cindered roads and paying high oil heating bills.

While in Tallahassee - they went to the beach at Alligator Point - enjoyed the Jungle Cruise at Wakulla Springs - and wandered through the halls of the Florida History Museum. But they seemed to enjoy the endless shopping and doing lunch all over the city the most.

Dolores had her first plane ride - and now is a seasoned flight specialist. She has even threatened visiting London. For Betty - a visit to a casino would have made it a perfect trip. Georgeann would not settle for anything except a set of keys to our brick house down the street. For me - the whole thing was worth it to see Lulu showing off her new home - her success at FSU - and showing the new city she loves to people she loves.

Now I am home alone for a week. Lulu is off to Minnesota - Iowa - and Wisconsin - visiting school libraries and presenting at conventions.

My job is to stage our present home for a tough real estate market. We will not start building the new home until this one is sold. That could take years. When it sells - we will move into the brick house and watch our new home rise on the lot next to it. With 5 homes on our street for sale - I have a feeling this will take years. Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

Wakulla Springs Lodge - overlooking the 400,000 gallon a minute spring that creates the Wakulla River. People were swimming with the alligators in the 70 degree water.

This manatee or sea cow nuzzled up to our boat enjoying the warm water in winter

Dolores thought this alligator was fake - before it attempted to pull her out of the boat

After lunch in Wakulla Springs Lodge - a visit to "Old Joe" was appropriate

After a jet and boat ride - 80 year old Dolores wanted driving lessons in Lulu's convertible. Betty is showing her pleasure with that idea.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tamaqua Trotters Meet the Harlem Globetrotters

Sweet Georgia Brown

Ball spinning







Lulu was shopping on Craigslist and stumbled on 3 tickets to see the Globetrotters. They would be appearing at the Tallahassee Civic Center about a mile from home. Tickets were going for $25 each - but she worked this guy down to $15. Even though the Dolores wanted to go to bingo instead - Lulu dropped them off at the arena in the pouring rain.

They must have had good seats because Georgeann's pictures are good. They must have had fun because Betty bought a basketball - and had it signed by the team.

The day before - Dolores wanted to be the first 80 year old stewardess after her first plane ride. Now - instead of playing bingo she is spinning basketballs on her fingers.

In three hours - the magic was over - and Lulu picked them up and brought them home. 5 days left.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Terrible Fire Back Home in Pennsylvania

BLAIN, Pa. (AP) — A fire at a farmhouse killed seven children while their mother was in a barn milking cows and their father was taking a nap in a milk delivery truck, a state trooper said Wednesday.

A 3-year-old girl survived Tuesday night's blaze. Those who perished ranged in age from 7 months to 11 years.

The children's father had left the two-story home, on a working farm in dairy country not far from the state capital, to get his truck around 10 p.m. Tuesday, Trooper Tom Pinkerton said. Two children, ages 2 and 3, were watching television at the time.

The father drove a short distance away to pick up milk and then parked the truck about a mile from home. Then, Pinkerton said, he nodded off.

Soon after, the 3-year-old smelled smoke in the home and ran to the barn to alert the mother, Pinkerton said. The mother told a neighbor to call 911, ran with the child to the father's truck and banged on its windows, screaming that their home was on fire, he said.

By the time the father returned to the home it was fully engulfed by flames, Pinkerton said. Firefighters had arrived and were battling the blaze at the charred home, whose windows were blown out.

The Perry County coroner ruled the children died of smoke inhalation, Pinkerton said.

A neighbor, Deana Doran, said her dog's barking woke her up around 11 p.m. and she thought she heard someone calling, "Hello! Hello!"

She told The Associated Press she saw the first-floor rear of the home burning and dialed 911. Once she got outside she saw the flames spreading to the rest of the home.

Doran said her 10-year-old son is friends with the 11-year-old girl who lives at the home.

"He played with her every day," Doran said, visibly distraught. "I don't know how I'm going to handle this."

No cause or origin of the fire had been determined by early Wednesday morning. Fire marshals were investigating.

A fire truck and an ambulance remained at the scene while firefighters sifted through debris on the ground floor of the farmhouse, which is surrounded by barns and silos.

The house is one of a cluster of homes near an intersection in Blain, a rural stretch of farm land about 20 miles north of Harrisburg.

Authorities closed part of a highway near the farm because of the fire and the investigation. The highway, Route 274, was shut in both directions, and traffic was rerouted.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Keith Just Called From Washington DC to Say He Saw the Shuttle and the Space Station

Son Keith just called to say he saw the Space Shuttle from his place in DC.

Look quick! According to Frank Roylance at the Baltimore Sun, both the International Space Station and shuttle Discovery - pictured above - will be simultaneously visible this evening:

If the clouds hold off tonight, we'll see a really interesting flyover by the International Space Station [ISS]. The ISS will rise above the northwest horizon at 7:23 p.m., moving toward the zenith (straight up). If our timing is right, the (dimmer) shuttle Discovery will appear just ahead of the ISS, as its crew prepares for landing Wednesday. The ISS will pass almost directly overhead at 7:26 p.m., then slip into the Earth's shadow at 7:27, vanishing near the bright star Procyon.



Monday, March 07, 2011

The Morgan Girls Still Have What It Takes

Betty - George - Dolores - Georgeann - and Blue Berry Muffin



What great ambassadors these guys are for Tallahassee!

The Morgan Girls were on their way to Florida - one of them on her first flight ever. Dolores wearing white here - and you can see her Delta Wings on her sweater - was still gabbing about how she wanted to go to school to be a stewardess on her 80th birthday.

The fellas that shared their lunch on the plane - sent these pictures to me along with this note -

Hey!

Blue Berry Muffin said that he had a good time talking with "the Girls".

Hope everyone enjoys the reunion in Tallahassee.

George

The Morgan Girls Do Florida

Spring Break 2010. Lulu - Betty - Dolores - Georgeann - are enjoying a beautiful sunny Florida Day together.

Now the rest of the story. Back in January I got 3 plane tickets for the family. Betty - Lulu's Mom - is making her first visit to our house since we moved to Florida. Dolores - Lulu's favorite Aunt - never flew before - so it is a special 80th birthday for her. Finally - Georgeann - Nancy's devilish cousin was here a few years ago and vowed to return.

At the airport I was waiting on the sofa outside security. Since the girls were in row 11 - I was counting passengers as they came around the corner. All of a sudden a bunch of noise came out of the tunnel arm and arm with a couple old guys. After a group picture or two - and getting two out of three pieces of luggage - we got in the Prius and headed home.

Lulu is on spring break. She was still lounging in her pajamas as I left for the airport at 11 AM. When we got home - Lulu was still in wet hair.

When we got to our house - I drove the car into the garage. Georgiann walked into the house a few minutes later - and asked to go to the bathroom. Lulu near messed her pants. Then a few moment later - the door bell rang and it was Betty. Finally - Delores - the lady that never flew in 80 years and now wants to be an airline stewardess - came in. That brought the house down.

They left a snow and ice storm in Pennsylvania - went over the Blue Mountain in ice with Jimmy Knowles. He got them to the airport on time. Now they are all mine from Monday to Monday. Looking forward to an interesting week.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

With 18 Seconds To Go Noles 70 - North Carolina 69

Too bad we had to play the last 18 seconds. Carolina put up a long 3 point shot - and the happiness was over.

12,000 fans were hoping for lightning to strike twice in one season. The Noles beat Duke in front of one of the two big crowds this season. Last night there were 14 ties and 11 lead changes. The Noles dropped behind as many as 7 points will 4 minutes to go.

Chris Singleton still had a broken toe and could not play - but the patented Seminole defense kept this game within reach. It was Senior Night - and the Noles will only lose one regular player in point guard Derwin Kitchen. Singleton will also go in the NBA draft - so the Noles return a very good team for next year.

Lulu emailed me from work yesterday. At a faculty meeting - Paul Marti gave us his fantastic lower level corner tickets. When we visited the Dean Dome last month - the face value of game tickets was $55. Here in Tallahassee - the Noles only get $18. What is even nicer is having friends that give you tickets and refuse payment.

This was the last home game for boys or girls here in Tallahassee this season. Lulu likes basketball games better than football games. Your have nice comfy seats - your sit in air conditioning - and the whole thing is over in 2 hours. Also we get home quicker on our scooter.

We expect both teams to make the NCAA playoffs. But as the format expands - who doesn't.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

4 Mexicans X 12 Hours = One Garage

From nothing to something in 12 hours.

"This is the strongest building in the neighborhood," proclaimed the building inspector as he signed our occupation permit. Just 48 hours earlier - nothing was there but a flat spot of dirt. Now a 24 x 26 x 15 foot tall steel garage proudly stands on the high ground surveying Seminole Drive.

Google "Carolina Carports" to review the engineering. You choose your size - select the colors - decide which doors and windows you want. You place a 10% deposit down - two weeks later they are at your site building. When it is done - you pay the final 90%. There is a dealer west of Capital Circle on Tennessee Street called Southeast Portable Buildings. They have about 10 different sizes and colors there. Lulu picked our garnet and gold color scheme.

Although the 4 workers spoke mostly Spanish - it was fun working with them and watching their professionalism. It took them a total of 12 hours. They arrived in crew cab pickup truck pulling a trailer of steel girders - sheet metal - and tools. They put it together like an erector set - no erectile dysfunction. :-)

First they laid out the frame - made completely of 3 x 3 galvanized steel rectangular tube. They bolted it to the ground using 3 foot long anchors that looked like giant corkscrews. After the frame was all square and plumb - they put on the roof sheet metal. Yes - they walked on it staying mostly on the beams - but sometimes they walked right on the steel skin. Then they did the sides - then hung the service door and windows. Finally - they hung the two 10 x 10 steel garage doors and put on the trim. The trim covers hundreds of self-tapping galvanized screws and bolts. Each screw used a metal washer that was laminated to a plastic washer to seal any leaks. All the sheet metal joints overlap and lock together.

The barn sides are burgundy color. The trim and roof are clay color. The doors are white. Today - I washed the garage. I used a hose - bucket - turtle wax - long brush - just like doing your car. It is all enamel on steel.

The building is certified to pass all the Florida Hurricane Laws. It can withstand 150 MPH winds and 10 feet of snow.

We plan to put a standup loft in it for storage. That is the reason the windows are so high. The building will mainly be used to store our truck and tractor. The doors are high enough in case we ever want to buy a motor home - camper - bus - or boat. The garage is less than a mile from the Capitol - as the crow files.

Some people think it is gross to discuss price - but other people would like to know that it cost $8100 including tax. If you use your credit card you also get 9100 frequent flyer miles :-)

They worked non-stop - I did not see them eat........... I did not see them go to the bathroom - and at my age I watch for things like that.


From Seminole Drive - brick house and new garage.


The garage sits on a hill just behind the brick house.


The windows are high on the south side to allow light into the loft.


This is a view of the back of the brick house from the new garage.



10 x 10 doors - big enough for a motor home or bus. Each door has four lockable latches.


The inside is a light gray color. The steel girders/tubes are 5 feet apart.

The garage sits in the northwest corner of the lot. Code requires it to be 10 feet from the side and back boundaries. The man service door is 3 feet wide.