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Friday, April 28, 2006

Chuck Shuck and Gabe

You may recall my student - Chuck Shuck. It seems like he has spent half of his life in Iraq. After 2 tours of duty there - he is back in Texas - training for the canine unit. After he is done training with Gabe - he is back to Iraq sniffing out car bombs and roadside explosives. Leave it to Chuck to volunteer to do one of the most dangerous tasks.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Our Newest RV - Saturday We Go Cruising

On Saturday - we will leave Tampa on a 7 day cruise on "Grandeur of the Seas." The ship will take Nancy and I to Cozumel, Mexico - Grand Cayman Island - Aruba - and Puerto Rico. This is the second time we are going cruising on this ship. Last time was my retirement cruise in February of 2003. It is hard to believe I have been retired that long. So much has happened since then.

Last time we went - we had an inside cabin. It was very nice with a king size bed - and private bathroom. This time we upgrade to a cabin with a picture window. I hope the ship did not change since 2003 - because we had a great time then. The service was great - the food outstanding.

After the cruise - we are flying directly from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania to see all our friends and family back in the Valley. We'll spend the week catching up on gossip and other things going on. On May 15th - we will return home.

While away - Keith will be housesitting and overseeing the building project.

I hope to be able to keep up with the website as we travel.

The Trusses are Installed - The Frame is Complete

We had a very busy day. The crane came around 1 PM - and one by one - they lifted the 13 trusses in place. The trusses make up the upstairs floor - walls - roof - all in one sweep. The roof will be covered with 3/4 inch thick plywood. The upstairs floor will also be tongue and groove 3/4 inch plywood.

The large 8 x 7 door will be a set of pockets door. The pocket doors will have regular windows in them so that when the doors are closed - it looks like a window wall. Above the 8 x 7 door will be a 4 x 10 balcony with a 6 foot French door. The two large doors face the lake.

The Seminole Trusses are Here

By the end of the day - the workshop/guesthouse frame should be complete. The trusses arrived at 9 AM. The crane is supposed to be here this afternoon to lift them in place. Trusses are engineering to withstand a category 5 hurricane. Note that the floor is also included in each truss.

Monday, April 24, 2006

1977 Chevrolet Chevette Pulling Scamp Trailer

It seems like yesterday that we pulled this cute little 980 pound Scamp travel trailer 7000 miles from PA to CA and back. We did it from Jun 25th to July 25th. We spent 30 straight nights in the trailer - a family of 4. This was before Walmarts - so we stayed in campgrounds every night. We averaged 23.6  MPG pulling it with the little 1600 cc engine and automatic transmission. By the way - we did not have any air conditioning in the Chevette. Imagine that in Las Vegas in July. Both the car and trailer were brand new. The car cost $2400 and the trailer cost $2200. It was a great trip - that Chevette pulled like a champ through Donner Pass.

The picture was taken in the Badlands. Note the GE Carry Cool air conditioner in the window that we bought in South Bend for $129.

During the trip - my father was 61 years old. He always wanted to fish in the Pacific before he died. He did and died 5 years later from Miner's Asthma - Black Lung. Son Drew was 5 months old - and wife Nancy was 23. They both later earned their doctor's degrees. Keith would be born 13 months later. I was 29 and just finished my 7th year of teaching. We had just sold our weekly newspaper - The Tamaqua Paper - and bought the new car and trailer with cash. I would trade everything to go back in time to then - do it all over - and be in the hot little Chevette in 100 plus temperature in Nevada. Man - we were alive.

George Dawson Inducted into Hall of Fame

Our friends George and Joel Dawson are in Louisville, Kentucky. George was inducted into his high school hall of fame Saturday. George went to high school at Manual High School near Churchill Downs. George spent his youth sneaking into the race track and playing among the stables.

George was a science education full professor at Florida State University for 30 years. His expertise is writing grants to create interactive science lessons using computers. George has been award over $10,000,000 in grants by the National Science Foundation for his projects.

George is the professor that hired me in 1988 to work on a project using interactive video disks to teach middle school earth and space science. We have been good friends ever since. George and Joel have been our Godparents ever since we moved here. We selected this house because it was three doors away from them.

They will be driving their Volkswagen Microbus home tomorrow.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ben and Carol Houser Fishing in New Zealand

Ben Houser is my friend and eye doctor from Tamaqua. He owns a home in the Keys - one in New Brunswick - and also spends time in New Zealand every year. He still spends his summers in his Normal Square farmhouse near Tamaqua. Ben and Carol love to fish - as you will see by their pictures.

Ben is also a MacNut. He loves taking pictures of his fish and showing them on the internet using his Powerbook and G4 desktop.

Ben retired early when a hand injury - limited his surgery practice.

  • Ben's Fishing Pictures
  • Saturday, April 22, 2006

    Some Walls Up - Remove Oak Tree and Stump So Crane can Deliver Trusses Monday

    Friday was a very good day. We got a lot done. Two walls are up. We will get the other two walls up on Monday. Then Monday evening - we intend to set the upstairs floor and roof trusses. There will be 14 roof trusses on two foot centers.

    The crane driver came to visit the site yesterday and said that a certain oak tree would have to go. The crane truck must fit between the building and the fence - so the "Woodland Resident Stump Grinder" moved into action. First we tied a rope to the 60 foot tall oak tree. Then we tied the other end to the truck. While putting tension on the rope with the truck - we cut the oak tree - then gunned the truck and pulled down the tree. It was like a field goal - we didn't touch the fence or building. Good thing it wasn't "wide right" - that often happens to Tallahassee people.

    After the tree was down we quickly cut it up into little chunks. But the stump still remained. But after one hour of grinding with my trusty Praxis Stump Grinder - the truss crane will have no trouble getting in place Monday for the "big show."

    At no time did Harry climb up the tree.

    Friday, April 21, 2006

    Florida Number 1 Destination

    From 2000 to 2004, the number of people moving to Florida from within the United States made the Sunshine State the national leader in population gain from domestic migration.

    From 2000 to 2004, many more people moved into Florida than moved out. It was tops in the nation for gaining new residents.

    Florida remains a magnet for those relocating within the United States, according to the Census Bureau. A study released Thursday found that the Sunshine State led the nation in average yearly net gain of new residents from other states between 2000 and 2004.

    Nancy and I relocated to Florida in March of 2004.

    Rally for Justice - Jesse Jackson - Al Sharpton - Harry Everhart

    I just got home from the "Rally For Justice" held at the Florida State Capitol this morning at 10AM. It was a beautiful day - a nice crowd - and a splendid setting in the area between the old and new capitol buildings.

    Martin Lee Anderson - age 14 - was killed by the guards at a Youth Prison Boot Camp on the first day he was admitted. Video tapes show the guards beating and kicking the frail young black kid as his hands were tied. No one has been arrested for the crime.

    Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton encouraged America to "watch the video" just like they do when the watch a replay in the NFL to see if there was a foul committed.

    The crowd was vocal but peaceful. They were appreciative of the 1% of the crowd that were white people. The morning started with peace marches from the FSU and FAMU campuses.

    I went there on my 200 mpg scooter - the capitol is less than a mile from our house.

    Pictures - a white girl passed out from the excitement - picture of Anderson in coffin - Jackson - Sharpton - black t-shirt marking the event.

    FSU Girls Sets NCAA Pole Vault Record - over 15 Feet - Second Best in World

    FSU's Lacy Janson Breaks NCAA Pole Vault Record In Taking Fourth ACC Crown
    The five-time All-American becomes the second women in NCAA history to clear 15-feet.

    April 20, 2006

    Winston-Salem, N.C. - The first day (April 20) of the 2006 Atlantic Coast Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships started on a great note for the Florida State (No. 1/1) men's and (No. 15/16) women's track and field teams in Winston-Salem, N.C. Redshirt senior Lacy Janson (Sarasota, Fla./Cardinal Mooney) won her fourth crown with a height of 15'0.25" (4.58m) in shattering a handful of records and moving up in the world rankings as the number two pole vaulter on the planet.

    Thursday, April 20, 2006

    Foundation is Complete - Now We Build

    Wednesday was a busy day. We poured the sidewalk - floor slab - foundation wall insides - and ramp. It took 6 guys 6 hours. It looks really great. We put in the pipes for water - sewer - and electric. The concrete has fiberglass in it. It was poured over a steel lattice.

    Things are moving faster now - materials are arriving and they are already starting the exterior walls. They are using 2 x 6 boards for the wall studs and frame. It will be then covered with a layer of plywood and a layer of hardiboard siding. Hardiboard is a hot item down here - it is like concrete - does not rot or get termites. It is 1/2 inch thick and takes paint well. It had a grain pressed into it when manufactured. They will use treated plywood for the first 4 feet of the exterior walls.

    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Five Seniors Will Play Their Last Game for FSU Tomorrow

    I like to attend Women's Softball games at Florida State for three reasons -
    1. It is a fast game with plenty of action and the players work very hard.
    2. It is free.
    3. It is great seeing college kids play a sport for the fun of it.
    The five seniors in the picture will be playing their last home games at 4 PM tomorrow - a double header against Troy State.

    All five seniors have been on the ACC Academic Honor Roll at least once during the career with a total of 12 awards with Brieske, Galuppi and Jacob making it onto the list all three years of their career. Last year Jacob received Second-Team Academic All-America honors while she and Galuppi were named NFCA Scholar-Athlete All-Americans in 2005. Keith made that honor roll back in 1997 when he attended FSU.

    Foundation Floor Ready to Pour

    On Wednesday at 8AM - we will be pouring the foundation floor - foundation walls - sidewalk - and ramp. The building inspector will be here tomorrow to make sure the steel reinforcement is correct and the sand is properly tamped.

    They will use the concrete hose method of pouring the slab and filling the walls. That's right - the floor will extend down into the concrete block walls - filling every cavity. What are they expecting here - a hurricane?

    In the first picture - you are looking north. There will be an 8 foot wide French door to the right of the palm tree. A ramp will lead up to that door. Above that door will be a 4 x 10 yodeler porch that will have a 6 foot wide French door on it. The sun will come in both of those door sets.

    In the second photo - you are looking south - toward the woods and lake. You can see the pool screen room on the right. In this view - the steps and entrance to the second floor will be. There will also be a service door going from the workshop toward the house via the pool screen room.

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    FSU Ranked Number 1 in Track

    By Jack Corcoran
    The Florida State men's track and field team has taken over the top spot in two national polls.

    The U.S. Track & Field Coaches Association and Trackwire Top 25 rank FSU No. 1 this week ahead of perennial champion Arkansas.

    With Walter Dix (100 meters), Garrett Johnson (shot put), Tom Lancashire (800 meters) and Rafeeq Curry (triple jump) ranked No. 1 in their events, FSU appears poised for a run at the NCAA outdoor title.

    "There's not a day that goes by that we don't analyze what we have to do," FSU track coach Bob Braman said.

    FSU finished third in March at the NCAA indoor championships behind Arkansas and LSU. The Seminoles were tied for fourth at the outdoor championships last season.

    The FSU women's team is ranked 14th in the coaches poll and 15th by Trackwire.

    The FSU track teams return to action April 20-22 at the ACC outdoor championships in Winston-Salem, N.C.

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Foundation Block Work Done - Now Filling It With Sand and Pouring the Floor

    We have not had any significant rain in 3 weeks - perfect for construction. The foundation construction is moving along nicely on our workshop/guesthouse. The block work is done. Now they are filling it with sand. Then they will tamp the sand down and pour a 4 inch slab floor on top of the sand. The floor will have reinforced fabric in it. Note all the steel that was required in the block walls. First - there was a steel cage in the footer - then vertical rebar rods - and finally a lattice between every layers of blocks.

    The 3 palm trees that I transplanted seem to be blooming - hopefully they will survive.

    We got the doors for the building - all four doors will be glass French doors with blinds inside the glass. We selected windows at Lowes last night. They will be bronze colored aluminum windows - single hung - with brown lattices in between the two glass layers. The building will have 6 windows - 2 service doors - and 2 sets of French doors. One French door will be wide enough for a car.

    In the first picture you see some of the steel lattice work in the block wall. In the second picture - it shows a view of the south wall that faces the lake. There will be a ramp there going to an 8 foot wide set of French doors - above that door will be a 4 x 10 balcony and a set of 6 foot wide French doors entering the upstairs.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    One of My Students Makes News as a Teacher in Florida

    This story appeared in the news here in Florida. I love this picture. It is of Steve Simchak the father - taken by Steve Simchak the son - both were my students. The three women are Natashia - Alexis - Amber Simchak. They were all my students and two of them are teachers. Natashia on the left teaches here in Florida and this story is about her.

    School Considers Building Housing for Teachers.

    Lee County schools could someday build a dormitory or manage an
    apartment complex exclusively for new teachers and school workers who
    are being priced out of Southwest Florida's red-hot real estate market

    Colonial Elementary teacher Natasha Simchak, 23, never expected the
    financial struggles she's felt since moving here last summer. She
    feels stuck in her mold-ridden apartment because its $620 monthly rent
    is about all she can afford after paying utility bills, student loans,
    auto insurance, gas and buying food.

    "I don't spend a lot of money; I'm pretty frugal," Simchak said. "I
    used to like paying bills because you feel self-sufficient. But now
    it's so stressful."

    At the end of a month, Simchak said she's left with about $40 of
    spending cash. This weekend, she's using that money to participate in
    the Disney World triathlon that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma
    Society . . .

    . . . Reality has sunk in for Simchak. She'll probably stay in Lee
    County only another two or three years.

    "I'll never be able to afford a house by myself, unless I move North,"
    Simchak said. "Up there, you can buy a mansion for the price of a
    regular home down here."


    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Tamaqua Pennsylvania Makes The New York Times

    A story appeared in the New York Times on Sunday about our hometown - Tamaqua PA. A lady who came to Tamaqua to teach a course at the local community college - wrote this story that of course has the "natives" restless.

    Tamaqua was a booming town - when coal was king - but today there is very little work in the town - and most of the kids must move away to get work. When the mines closed down - my Dad had to commute to Philadelphia - 90 miles each way - to find work. He did that for 15 years while I was growing up. One time he put a deposit down on a "fancy" house in Fairless Hills/Levittown - but my Mom threw a hissy fit and refused to leave the "valley."

    I spent most of my life in Tamaqua - 55 years - and taught in the local schools for 33 of those years. When Nancy was recruited to be a professor at Florida State University - I could no longer justify staying in "the bubble."

    As much as I can see "both sides" of the Tamaqua story - I am proud to say I spent most of my life there - and I love the people and the place dearly.

    Here is the New York Times story -

    Coal Miner's Granddaughter

    Over lunch one day, I tell a friend that I'm taking a teaching job at a community college in Tamaqua, Pa., not far from where I was born. After a lifetime of staying away, I moved back to the state two and a half years ago and now live in Allentown, but I haven't been back to the coal region since I was 18.

    My friend, an antiques dealer who goes picking in the area, says he drove through there last Tuesday. "It looks like there was a nuclear accident in Tamaqua and the survivors stayed on," he says, and laughs. I pretend to laugh with him, but it feels as if he's making fun of my mother. I can do that. He can't.

    Although Tamaqua is only an hour northwest of Allentown, it might as well be in another country in another time. On the first day of school, as I drive up Route 309 over Blue Mountain, the car engine strains to make the steep grade, then my cellphone cuts out. On the edge of town, I see a worn sign that says "Coal for Sale" that must be 30 years old. Abandoned strip mines surround and define both the town and the people, who look flinty, dust-covered, squinteyed.

    At a stoplight, I stare at a fat boy delivering fliers to houses from a canvas pushcart. He turns to give me an angry look, then suddenly darts his cart into the street toward me. I lock my car door and plead with the light to change. He reaches the car and rams my door as the light turns green. I shift gears, turn left and gun it up an almost-90-degree hill, zoom over the tracks in front of a slow-moving freight train, past row houses that have been clinging to the hill for a hundred years, crest over a street that is so steep it actually seems to be tilting backward and finally pull right up into the parking lot of Lehigh Carbon Community College.

    The class I am teaching is Technical Reporting. That's what the nice dean told me. "So much real-life experience!" he had exulted over the phone. "Just what these kids need. And being from here, you can relate to them."

    I have 10 students, who are already seated when I enter the classroom. Eight are boys, who slouch low. Baseball hats stitched with contractors' names are pulled down over their eyes. One wears a sleeveless T-shirt and rotates his right arm in front of him, admiring his triceps. The two women are housewives. One has embroidered teddy bears on her turtleneck sweater.

    They are here because John Morgan, who basically invented thermal underwear and made his fortune here, bequeathed part of that fortune to build this campus so that any student who graduated from Tamaqua High could have two years of free college and wouldn't have to leave town. Which is a hell of a booby prize, I think, because my view is that there is no reason to stay. My agenda in agreeing to teach this class isn't to give these students skills to help them thrive in Tamaqua. It's the opposite: to inspire them to leave. I carry totems in my briefcase — bus schedules to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and beyond. Is there anyone more obnoxious than a missionary?

    To get to know them, I ask each student to tell me what he or she wants to be: construction manager, heavy-equipment operator, logistics specialist. "Cop," one housewife says. "Why not D.A.?" I press. She doesn't answer. I tell the boys that unless they are bald or have a scalp disease, I would like them to please remove their hats, which none do. So I move on to my "real-life experience": Army in Germany, real-estate manager for a big insurance company in Boston, small-business owner in Allentown. I have lived all over the world, I say. And listen! I, myself, grew up in a coal patch near here. I name the patch. The hats are pulled even lower.

    The fact is that I come from a long line of people who pick up and leave when things stop working out. My grandfather migrated from Poland to Hazelton, Pa., to mine coal, and when the mines closed, my father hitchhiked two hours south to Bethlehem to roll steel, and when the furnaces shut down, my brother moved to Nigeria, where he drills for oil. It seems natural, American really, to move on. Aren't most of us descended from people who did just that?

    I ask the class to write what they hope to learn from me on index cards I give out, and they hand the cards to me as they file out. How to write a bid proposal. How to create a technical manual. No one, it seems, wants to learn how to escape.

    At the bottom of one card a student has written: "Who do you think you are?"

    Bathsheba Monk is the author of a collection of short fiction, "Now You See It. . .Stories From Cokesville, Pa.," to be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in June.

  • Tamaqua Story in New York Times
  • Dr. Ross Todd Visits FSU from Australia Via Rutgers University

    Dr. Ross Todd - Rutgers University professor in school librarianship - visits the Florida State University College of Information today. Ross arrived in Tallahassee at 2:15 PM today - and by 3:30PM he was at the Shores Building to share his expertise in setting up School Library Centers. Ross will be in town until Saturday.

    Nancy and Eliza invited him to campus. Tomorrow - they will have a mini-conference at Wakulla Springs State Park. It will include a jungle river cruise on the Wakulla River.

    The picture above was taken in front of the Shores Building where Nancy met with Ross. I picked Ross up at the airport in our Miata convertible. Ross lives near Rutgers Campus but he also keeps an apartment in Sydney, Australia and returns home about 3 times a year.

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    It was a Great Day for Pouring Concrete - Footer Done

    The building inspector came at 11AM. He gave us approval to pour the concrete footer over the steel cages. At 1:30PM the concrete truck arrived. It is the first time I have seen concrete coming through a hose. In about two hours everything was done. Next step is to build the block foundation on top of the footer. You will notice that there are steel rods that are sticking up about 2 feet out of the footer. This rods will go inside the holes in the concrete blocks. So far the weather has been perfect for building - no rain - low humidity - temperature in the 70s and 80s.

    FSU Took Two Games from the Gators

    I just got back from a double header. The FSU girls softball team just beat the Gators - 4-0 and 6-5. The games started at 4 PM and ended around 8 PM. I rode the scooter over to catch the end of the second game. FSU was losing the second game 5-3 but came back with 2 runs in the 6th inning and 1 run in the 8th inning. A runner scored all the way from first base on a walk off double. It was a beautiful eveing for a game under the lights - 70s and a mild breeze.

    US News and World Report picks Nancy's FSU College of Information in Top 10 in the Nation

    Everybody likes it when the polls pick their school as the best in the nation when it comes to sports. But FSU's College of Information has something to brag about too. The US News and World Report Magazine surveyed 50 of the top deans of information science schools. And Florida State did very well in the polls.

    The FSU College of Information was selected number 10 overall among all private and public universities. In the category of services for children and youth - FSU was selected NUMBER ONE. So the next time you are watching an FSU football game on TV - when the kids are holding up all their single fingers - you know what they are bragging about.

    Here are a few pictures of some of the "proud parents."
    1. New Dean Dr. Larry Dennis and Dr. Darrell Burke. Darrell recently received the outstanding faculty award given by the students.
    2. Newest faculty member - Dr. Nancy Everhart - and Dr. Darrell Burke. Darrell is the proud owner of that 1956 Buick in a previous article.
    3. Dr. Eliza Dresang and Dr. Bowie Kotrla - you may remember them from our trip to Hong Kong and China.
    4. Dr. Wayne Wiegand - may be the world's expert on the history of library science - also our new neighbor.

  • Here is the full story in the Tallahassee Democrat

  • US News and World Report Article Ranking Schools

  • Click on the pictures to enlarge.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Over 700 Feet of Steel Reinforcement in Foundation

    The workers are busy cutting and installing 5/8 inch steel "re-bar" and installing it in the footer mold of the foundation of our guest house / work shop. All day yesterday the air was filled with the sound and odor of the giant cut-off wheel as it cut through each bar. I am guessing that the workers will finish installing the reinforcements today. A building inspector must sign-off on the structure before the concrete can be poured over the cage.

    The building codes in Florida have become more stringent due to the hurricane damage in Southern Florida. We have decided to use 2 x 6 wall studs instead of the conventional 2 x 4 studs. The exterior walls will be constructed with two layers of plywood.

    The weather report for the entire week is no rain. With a little luck - the foundation will be poured before it rains.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    AAA says it cost $8000 a year to own a car

    The cost of driving: AAA estimates automobile owners pay an average of $7,834 per year to drive
    Some Butte County residents were surprised Sunday to learn how much AAA says it costs to drive a car every year, while others expected the expense would be high.
    The auto association estimates automobile owners pay $7,834 on average to drive their cars about 15,000 miles a year. That cost breaks down to about 52 cents every mile.
    The cost includes vehicle maintenance, depreciation, insurance, fuel and tires.
    Chico resident John McNichols said he guesses he spends $4,200 a year on his Toyota Tacoma because he has paid it off.
    "There are a lot of hidden expenses," he said. "I spend $250 on fuel. It's just an expense you have to bear."