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Saturday, June 30, 2007

iPhone - Therefore I Am

Last night I got an email at about 8 PM. It was from my oldest son - Drew. The subject line said, "Check Out My New Umbrella."

When I opened the e-mail - there was a picture of my son - all glassy-eyed - holding up his latest toy - the iPhone.

I guess it is sort of an umbrella - it covers so many things - phone calls - showing pictures - music - videos - text messages - surfing the net - taking pictures. All in one skinny little handful.

His wife, Robin, said, "I am so proud of him - he held out for a full 2 hours."

Like every other Apple user - Drew thinks he is the foremost Apple guru. He has the running shoes with the little chip in them that sends feedback to his iPod - I guess it counts his steps. He has the shiny silver iBook - it just goes on and on.

Normally - I find both of my sons pretty level-headed. Before Drew buys anything - he does extensive research on the Net. He has a sixth sense when it comes to finding great deals.

Drew is a research scientist. He has a bachelor's degree from Duke in chemistry. He then got his PhD in molecular pharmacology from Miami. Now he is doing research on diabetes at Syracuse.

Part of his research includes playing videos to rats. He is studying the effect that sugar has on the eyesight of rats. He puts the rats in this little box and watches how they react to the videos he plays. And guess what the sides of the box are made of - flat screen computers of course.

When it comes to Apples and computer technology - the Trailing Spouse becomes a Trailing Father - a very proud one. Enjoy your latest toy son.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Guess Who is Allergic to Bee Stings?


Today we were celebrating the completion of a major landscaping project. In the last couple of weeks - we have removed many trees - installed a new driveway - had the entire property graded - had a sprinkler system installed - mounted driveway lights - had 8000 feet of sod installed - transplanted several trees - had a stone path run to the lake - and stone driveways around the barn.

Lulu decided she would go to Esposito's and pick out several trays of flowers to plant in her new flower beds.

There were plenty of bees flying around the flowers - and one decided to nip at Lulu's foot. She had been stung by bees before - but this time was different. Within seconds - her entire body was covered with hives. I never saw anything like it. Just a couple of week ago she had a bad dose of poison ivy - and now this. She could even feel her throat tighten up a bit.

We called our doctor - and they took her right in. She received 3 shots - steroids - epinephrin - and I forget the third one. At any rate - the hives went right away.

The doctor told her she would have to carry one of those "pens" in her purse in case it happens again. He said usually the second time is worse.

As we drove home - a storm was brewing - so we left the flowers in the back of the truck. What is nice about being the Trailing Spouse is that there is always tomorrow in Florida. Now on our trips - I will have to carry Lulu's bags and her eppy pen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Last Night We Visited with Bonnie Our Friend from Orlando in 1980

It has been a long time since we saw Bonnie - we spent a year in the same apartment complex in Winter Park/Orlando in 1980. She has 3 kids the same ages as Drew and Keith - so we spent a lot of time together - amusement parks - trips - hotel - and visitng each others' homes.

Bonnie now has a home on Ormond Beach - about 2 miles from Daytona. Bonnie and Nancy were pool and beach bums together - and spent hours on the beach catching up on old times.

Katie - Bonnie's youngest daughter is graduating from nursing school - so we will be in Orlando the next couple of days for that event.

Here are two pictures of Bonnie's home - just across the road is the Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On The Road in Ormond Beach

Today we drove from Tallahassee to Ormond Beach - next to Daytona - via Gainesville and Palatka. We are staying in the guest room of our friends - Bonnie and John. In 1980 - Bonnie lived in an apartment next to us when we lived in Orlando for a year while Nancy got her masters at UCF. At the time Bonnie had 3 little kids - the same age as Drew and Keith. We all used to travel and play together.

Bonnie and John have the sweetest beach house here.

In the next couple of days we are going to see a lot of our old friends.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Best Part of Living in Florida is Visitors From "BackNorth"

Last week Nancy's sister - Lori - and nephew - Tyler - came for a visit. They flew from Philadelphia to Jacksonville. Nancy picked them up at the airport.

It was just a wonderful visit. They stayed in our guest house. We did a lot of swimming - toured the Capitol - went to museums - went bike riding to the coast - picked blueberries - went shopping - and just enjoyed each other's company. One of the highlights was the jungle cruise at Wakulla Springs where we saw tons of alligators. The water is so clear there that they filmed "The Creature of the Black Lagoon" and "Tarzan" there a long time ago.

Nancy spent the last 2 days with them in Saint Augustine - where they stayed on the beach - toured the town - went to the Fountain of Youth - and Ripley's Museum. After drivng the car onto the beach - they had to catch an early morning flight back home.

We hope they come back soon - especially in the winter. Next time we hope niece Dana comes along. Dana is the closest thing to a daughter that Nancy has. Dana looks like Nancy back when I married her.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Property Tax Crisis in Florida

Try this web page on for size -

It is a neat little page that tells you what your property taxes will be if the new "tax laws" pass.

But if you really like gossip - it is so easy to type in your neighbor's name or address and find out what their tax bill is. Yes - you could do that through the county page - but this page is neater. Looking up your neighbor's taxes also show you how screwed up the Florida tax structure is.

As an example - my home has a market value of $231,000 - my tax bill in 2006 was $3319. Under the 3 new plans - my tax bill under the 3 proposals would be - $2356 - $1922 - $2866. Of course one is always happy to see their taxes drop. But when I looked up the taxes on my neighbor's properties - I was amazed at how much less they were paying for houses similar or bigger than mine. North neighbor pays $1494 - east neighbor pays $1425 - south neighbor pays $2007 - and down the street friend pays $596 on a new home but the taxes did not change yet. Only northwest neighbor paid more $3474 because he bought his house one year after we bought ours. Somehow - it does not seem fair for some people to pay more taxes than others on similar houses.

There is a new home being built about 4 blocks form my home - on Merritt Street. It is an excellent location -even closer to campus and Lulu's job. It is 3800 square feet and will cost $440,000. My wife and I decided to buy it. We love the neighborhood but wanted a nice new home. So we had a meeting with the 2 realtors and the builder. We were ready to sign the papers - pick out the colors and appliances. Then I called the county to see what the taxes on the new home would be. I fell out of my chair when they said $7500!

When Lulu and I married in 1971 - we built a cedar house from a kit. We lived in that house for 30 years - it was only 1000 square feet - as a family of 4 we lived in our "dream house" - and finally the kids were gone. Now after retiring and moving to Tallahassee - we are considering a 3800 square foot home. Something is wrong with this picture. Here is a picture of my first dream house - and then my last dream house.

All of the proposed new tax laws would have us paying less taxes - in one proposal out taxes would drop 40% to $1922. Being as a former school teacher - with a salary that went from $6000 to $60,000 in 33 years - I wonder what effect the tax cut will have on our public school system. Schools are expensive to operate - and Florida spends around $7300 a year per student. With that figure - we are always fighting it out for the cellar with Mississippi to see who can spend the least in the nation per student.

Compound our school cost problems with the constitutional amendment that will have a hard limit on the number of kids per classroom - and we have a tremendous financial crunch coming.

I think Thomas Jefferson said this - I am not sure but am too lazy to look it up - Democracy will be over the minute the people realize they can vote themselves a dole out of the treasury. I wish there was a politician out there that would tell us the truth. You can't give everyone these big taxes cuts and offer them all the services we have and want. Someone has to pay the piper.

So - instead of buying a new house - I think the Trailing Spouse will just put another coat of paint on the old one.

Nancy and Eliza's Project LEAD has Big Week in Tallahassee

You may recall that Nancy and Eliza were awarded a federal grant of $1.3 million to run Project LEAD. It is a program that prepares 30 Florida teachers to be Federal Board Certified School Library Media Specialist Leaders - boy that is a mouthful.

The 30 selected teachers were given full scholarships to earn their school library certification and prepare to take the National Board Certification Test. Passing that test is very difficult and besides making the candidates better school library leaders - it comes with a nice salary boost.

This week all 30 candidates are in Tallahassee for a series of workshops. The complete program will take about 3 years.

Here is a picture of the entire group - also Nancy and Eliza, the "Project Leaders" - and Rachael Mayer, a recent graduate of the master's program at FSU. An interesting aside is that Rachael is a coal miner's daughter - just like the Florida Coal Cracker.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sweet Way to Backup Your Computer Every Night

I bought an 80GB external drive (SATA) and I had a firewire enclosure (ATA). So the plugs did not fit. My solution was to go out and buy another SATA drive.

Greg Covolos had a better idea. He has some neat little SATA hard drive aluminum cases. They have a USB connection and they come with a USB cord and even a little leather case. I took the SATA hard drive to Greg's shop - he installed it into the SATA case.

With an Intel Mac - you can boot from the USB case and hard drive.

I am now using this sweet little hard give (80GB) with the backup program Super Duper. With this setup - I am able to do an updated bootable backup of my mac book hard drive.

I have it set to do the process at 2 AM - every day. Last night - the backup took 7 minutes. With Super Duper you can set it to make a "carbon copy" of your hard drive by only backing up things that you added or changed during the day.

Now - if my mac book crashes or is stolen or lost - I just boot form my little hard drive and everything is in order - mail - bookmarks - pictures - music - files- programs.

Costs - 80GB hard drive - $30 - hard drive enclosure - $22. Piece of mind that your computer files are protected forever - priceless!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Trailing Spouse Plans to Fuel Car on Cooking Oil

When people in Tallahassee usally talk about “going green” they mean to make an effort to conserve fuel or reduce emissions to “save the planet.” When the Trailing Spouse talks about “going green” – he is usually referring to ways to save “green money.”

My latest adventure is that I bought an old Mercedes Benz diesel sedan. It is 17 years old and has 215,000 miles on it. Although it is so old – it has beautiful gray leather seats and a giant sunroof. The EPA says it gets 26 to 31 miles per gallon. Now before the politically correct police jump all over me and tell me that diesels are so bad that California has banned them – let me explain my plan.

There is a rather large movement in America of folks that have bought Mercedes – Volkwagens – and other diesel vehicles – and they are burning cooking oil in them – like the frying oil from Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s. Yes – restaurants are more than happy to have people take their used cooking oil – they usually must pay to have it disposed.

If you google Waste Vegetable Oil – called WVO – you will find tons of articles on people that are running their diesel cars on cooking oil. Here is an example – Lyle Pearl and his WVO car -

When Rudolph Diesel designed the engine with his name – he was running it on vegetable oil. That was over 100 years ago.

Besides saving money – my main goal – cooking oil is a much cleaner burning fuel than regular diesel fuel. It also saves landfill space by using an item that generally has to be carted off to the dump.

There are a few problems with using cooking oil as fuel. First – you must filter the food particles out of the waste cooking oil. Filtering can be done by first letting the particles settle to the bottom and then pouring the oil through a filter. Second – the cooking oil must be warmed up so that it can pass through the fuel lines and fuel injectors in the car. In warmer climates – the latter is not much of a problem. In colder climates – many folks choose to set up a two tank system – one for regular diesel and the other for the cooking oil. They use engine heat to warm up the cooking oil while running on regular diesel fuel – then they switch over to the cooking oil tank. Some folks say the exhaust smells like fried chicken.

The “cooking oil diesel car” will not be my only regular driver. I have a scooter – pickup – and another car. I will probably put less than 4000 miles a year on it. Heck – being a retired trailing spouse with an attention span of 5 minutes – I may not even get the project done. But it is fun to try new and exciting things – it won’t be the first time I failed at anything. Also – starting with a car with 200,000 miles on it – may have “other problems” that will end the project. Besides – Lulu likes the gray leather seats and the big sunroof.