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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trailing Spouse Gets a Good Look at "Mrs. Robinson" - And So Does George

Last night - ZONTA (the women's service club) - was sponsoring a night at The Little Theatre on Thomasville Road to see The Graduate. The show will be playing quite a bit in the next 2 weeks - but it is always great to see opening night.

Lulu and I saw The Graduate on Broadway about 5 years ago - but that time our seats were in the balcony - almost the last row. Lorraine Bracco was Mrs. Robinson and my 55 year old eyes did not see much of the "action" in that dark theatre. This time I was determined to see it all - as I made a beeline to the front row center - saving seats for Lulu - George - and Joel.

George had hurt his back yesterday doing some heavy lifting. I saw him about noon as he was writhing in pain on his sofa. I thought that he was not going anywhere for a couple weeks - but a strong painkiller and his desire to see the show - had him gabbing away as my front row accomplice.

If you are too young to remember the movie from the 60s - Dustin Hoffman was Benjamin - a kid fresh out of college that got caught up in a love triangle with a mother and daughter. The movie was earth shaking even during the Swinging Sixties.

Last year - ZONTA had sponsored The Full Monty - a show that included full frontal nudity of several men - although they were obscured by some excellent lighting. Having that show in mind - I wanted to make sure they didn't trick me again - and they didn't.

The comedy included Mrs. Robinson in the "all together" and with my nearsightedness I was happy I insisted on the front row. For my wife's sake - that is the closest I have been to another person in that state of clothing - ever. But the hilarity of the situation had the Tallahassee Bible Belt crowd enjoying every minute of it - and also feeling pretty smug that they were able to enjoy it in mixed company with the darkness of the theatre hiding their blushing faces.

I am sorry to dwell upon the nudity but - "no Buck Rogers - no bucks." The play moved very fast - the actors superb. The costumes and sets could get any baby boomer into the mood - for a trip into the past.

Lulu could have played a perfect Elaine when we married back in 1971. Today - she would be a better Mrs. Robinson. Of course - then and now - I would have given Dustin Hoffman a run for his money - insert little typo smiley here.

I am sorry that I did not get a playbill last night to mention the leading actors today - but this does not detract from the fine job they did and the mood they set - telling us how it might have been in the 60s.

I give two thumbs up and hope you get out to see the show. You will not be bored. I wonder how George's back is today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Trailing Spouse Gets to Talk to Senator John McCain

Lulu is at a conference near Busch Gardens and for some unknown reason I decided to tour downtown Tampa on our last day of a 6 day road trip. My GPS led me to 200 North Tampa Street to see a photography exhibit. After a quick sandwich for lunch as I walked down the street this bus with "Small Talk" written on the side pulled up next to me. 3 or 4 folks with video cameras were waiting around - and I put 2 and 2 together - someone important must be in that bus.

So I stood around for a minute with my camera ready and out pops Senator John McCain and his wife. I was amazed at how informal it was and the lack of security save one giant football player size guy in a dark suit. As the two cub reporters went up to the Senator and asked him some lowball questions I figured quickly that I had an "Artie Bremmer" moment. I said, "Howdy Senator my name is Harry." He joked for a moment and I figured I had my chance to tell him my view on things.

After taking a few pictures for proof - I told him I respected him but I did not like his stand on the Iraq War and how he backed Bush so much. I told him I did not like Bush running up all this debt on my kids' credit card. He was heading for lunch with his pretty wife and I did not want to hold him up. I was looking for someone dependable to get a picture of us together - but the crowd was very small.

As a kid - I got to touch John Kennedy as he passed through my hometown of Tamaqua, PA. In my town at the time - you were either Catholic or you didn't want a Catholic to be president. I remember Principal Curt Steigerwalt - holding the school doors closed when the kids tried to re-enter the school after taking a long lunch hour to see Kennedy - so much for a positive history lesson.

A few years later - I was enamored by Richard Nixon as he popped up out of his limo on the way through the campus at Kutztown State Teachers College in 1968 as he asked for my voted even though at that time I was 20 and still not old enough at the time. I liked him because he claimed to have a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War.

A few years later, Lulu and I slept in our car in Washington and withstood 10 degree temperatures to see Nixon be sworn in as Pat held the Bible for him. A year later he would resign in disgrace for cheating in that election.

Then in 1980 - my Dad and I caught a Ronald Reagan appearance at Sea World although I think I voted for John Anderson that time.

So chalk this up as another adventure in the life of a trailing spouse. I do not plan to vote for a Republican because of the job they have done in the last 8 year - but if a Republican wins - this guy seems to be the smart kid in the dumb section.

I do not pretend to be an impartial reporter.

See more pictures at -

Monday, January 28, 2008

Beach House at St Petes Beach


This weekend we visited our friends Wayne and Shirley at their beach house in Gulfport FL. Gulfport is just west of Saint Petersburg between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. St. Pete's is considered the sunniest city in the USA - receiving 335 days of sunshine a year. At one time - the St. Petersburg Sun newspaper used to give away the paper on days when the sun did not appear. So you got the Sun - one way or the other.

Shirley teaches at the Stetson Law School - the oldest law school in the state. They gave her this beach house to use while she teaches there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

FSU Comes From Behind to Beat Virginia 69-67

Tonight Lulu and I went to see FSU play Virginia. With a record of 1-3 in the ACC - it was not a very big crowd at the game. About 15 minutes before the game - I held up two fingers - and a nice fellow handed me two free tickets - not a bad start.

We got inside with about 5 minutes until game time. The announced attendance was 7400 - but there were plenty of empty season ticket holder seats.

Florida State started out in the hole as UVA went ahead 12-2. It looked like a very bad night. Our team looked tired and lethargic. We managed to inch ahead by 1 point at the half.

As the second half started - we again fell behind by 9. It looked like the season was ending early for the Noles. With about 6 minutes to go - the breaks starting going for the boys - and we won by 2.

I know it was only Virginia - but a 2-3 ACC record looks so much better than 1-4. On Saturday - NSCU is here for a 1:30 game. With a little luck - the Noles could be 3-3 in the league.

FSU must at least play .500 ball in the league to go to the NCAA playoffs.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Down 17 - Went Ahead - then Lost to Duke

Last night Lulu and I enjoyed the annual Sellout against Duke. The last two times they came to town - FSU won. FSU played well but lost a hard fought game. Duke ended up winning by 12 points - but that score does not tell the story.

FSU fell behind by 17 in the first half due to key 3 point shots by Duke. but FSU got it back to 10 behind at the half.

With the anticipated sellout crowd - they had scheduled a great halftime show. The arena was sold out - but about 3000 season ticket holders chose to stay at home either to watch the game on ESPN or avoid the pouring rain. Almost the entire row next to us was empty for the whole game.

One of the highlights of the game for me was watching the couple in front of us consuming so much beer. The 16 ounce cups were lined up - she had 3 and he had 6 - if you count the one he spilled all over. I doubt that they will remember much of the game.

In the second half - FSU put on a strong push tying it at 48 with 8 minutes to go. FSU did pull ahead for a second - then the roof caved in. Duke scored a pile - Echufu - a key player fouled out - and Duke won by 12.

By the time the gave was over - the rain stopped outside. We beat most of the people to our car - and were home in 10 minutes.

FSU showed some bright spots. They are leading the nation with 80% foul shooting - they are great ball handlers. They lack size in the middle - but they do not quit.

I am guessing that this game will be the only game with a crowd over 8000. We are 1-2 in the ACC now - and wonder if we will make the first division - and the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

After One Week in Pennsylvania at home at midnight. All is well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Apple Laptop Introduced Today

Apple demonstrated the new Mac Book Air today - the next generation of laptop computers from the most innovative company in the field. It weighs 3 pounds. It is super thin - less than 1/4 inch on one end and less than 3/4 inches on the other. It has an aluminum case and it is so thin you can put it in an envelope.

It comes standard with 2 GB of RAM and an 80 GB hard drive. The screen is a very bright LED 13 inch display - conserving on battery life. It will function 5 hours on a charge. It features a magnetic clasp to close it and a magnetic power cord. The keyboard is of standard size but the track pad is much larger.

The list price is $1700. This computer did not replace the standard Mac Book - which is still available for $1200.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Little Cars - Now and Then

There was much fanfare when India introduced its new $2500 car - the Tata Nano. It is a very small car that has a 2 cylinder engine and can hold 5 people tightly. It gets 50 miles per gallon - has no air conditioning - and a miniature wheel and tire on each corner.

It reminds me of a car that Lulu and I bought back in 1972 - a car that was ahead of its time. It was the Honda 600 Sedan.

In 1972 - I had just finished my second year of teaching - and Lulu was entering college. We needed a small car for her 80-mile round trip commute to Kutztown State College.

When I started teaching - I was making about $6000 a year. That June - my school district paid me all my summer salary at once - $1500. We were in hog heaven - we never had that much money before.

Lulu and I went to Philadelphia with the intention of buying a new car. Believe it or not - the first car that Honda marketed in America cost only $1525 - this was even before the Civic.

You guessed it - we plopped down our cash and bought a brand new yellow 1972 Honda 600 Sedan. It was really ahead of its time. It had a 2 cylinder air-cooled engine with 4 speed on the dashboard. It held 5 people and had 10 inch wheels and tires - one pushed all the way to each corner. It only held 6 gallons of gasoline - but one could easily go 300 miles on a tank. At the time you could fill the tank with $1.50.

After getting home from purchasing the first new car we bought together - we realized we were going to have to earn some money to live on for the rest of the summer.

We decided to drive our new car to Miami, Florida - a mere 1300 miles away. We had honeymooned in Miami the year before and planned to re-live that wonderful summer.

It was a hot June day - as we cruised south without air conditioning - but that didn't bother two kids in the spring of their lives - Lulu in March - Me in May.

South Beach was different then - the hotels were run down and occupied by senior citizens paying rents that ranged from $50 to $60 a month. When we tried to get a room there - even though we had newspaper ads in hand - the rooms were not available to newlyweds. We ended up in a small apartment in a home in downtown Miami just off Biscayne Avenue. The landlord wanted $125 but settled for $70 a month. We were Miami residents at least for a month.

Lulu got a job at KMart announcing the Blue Light Specials. I went to the Honda dealer to buy an oil filter - and they offered me a job - selling Hondas. After a month that included attending both the Democratic and Republican Conventions - we got homesick and returned to the Hills. We returned to the Valley richer than we departed. Lulu became a freshman at Kutztown State and I returned to teaching at Panther Valley.

Pictures - the red car is the Tata Nano - the yellow car is the 1972 Honda 600.

Honda stopped selling the Honda 600 the next year - federal safety standards prevented it - so they introduced the Civic.

The Tata was designed to be a car for the masses in India similar to the Model T in America. It is a bare bones car hoping to get people off their bikes and into cars. For that wonderful summer - our Honda 600 got us to Miami on $8.00 of gasoline - 1300 miles away.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Harry Visits His Field of Dreams


The last time I saw Connie Mack Stadium was 1956. I was 8 years old and had just finished my first year of organized baseball, if you can call biddy league organized anything. Tamaqua had a well-organized baseball system - that included biddy league, minor league, little league, junior league, teener league, and legion league. At the end of the season, they took all the players on a 100 mile train ride to Philadelphia to see a major league game.

The train left my hometown at about 8 AM for the 3 hour ride to Philadelphia,, which at the time was the third biggest city in the country. The Reading Railroad of Monopoly fame followed the Schuylkill River from its source at Tamaqua, through Reading, Pottstown, Valley Forge to our final destination, the North Broad Street Station, and then a couple miles to its mouth on the Delaware. I thought to myself, we left the station on Broad Street in Tamaqua and arrived at the North Broad Street Station in Philly, why didn't we just walk down Broad Street to the game?

When we arrived in Philadelphia, one of my coaches unwound a long rope with the command, "Grab onto the rope and do not let go for anything." So I grabbed on with the several hundred other kids and off we marched to the ball park. It seemed like miles through the busy crowded neighborhoods of the big city.

Several blocks away you could see this giant building. It looked alot like a cathedral, getting bigger and bigger as we walked. Someone said that this was Connie Mack Stadium. I thought, "Why would they name a baseball park after a girl?"

My dad told me that I was going to see the New York Giants and Willie Mays. He was half right. When we got inside the stadium, I didn't see any giants, but I got a good view of Willie Mays's butt because we sat in the sun drenched wooden bleachers in center field after paying 25 cents admission, right behind Willie. Being a bit near-sighted and refusing to wear my glasses because ball players never wore glasses, I couldn't see much of anything else. Every now and then Willie would catch a fly ball with his classic basket style but I could not see the batter swinging about 475 feet away.

I looked forward to the long August train ride home because at least we would be in the shade. Best of all, the train stopped in Valley Forge where they loaded cases and cases of little glass bottles of chocolate milk, my favorite.

Not much of a memory of my first visit to a major league sporting event.

Now 50 years later, I have a chance to spend a week in downtown Philadelphia as the Trailing Spouse. It reminds me of the joke - first prize a one week visit to Philadelphia - second prize a two week visit to Philadelphia. I would have lots of time to see new things, but the more I looked the more I wanted to trace my old footsteps.

A Google search on the Internet said I should go to 21st and Lehigh Street. This would be north and west of city hall, not far from Temple University. So I hopped on the subway to the North Broad Street Station. The weather was gray and overcast when I got on the subway, but was pounding rain and wind when I came out of the tunnel. The neighborhood looked pretty sad, I was tempted to just snap a few pictures, say I was there, and return to the tunnel like the Punxetawney Phil groundhog after he sees his shadow.

Instead, I pulled my jacket over my head and walked west. Little did I realize that I was walking past the site of the Baker Bowl - the first home of the Philadelphia Phillies on the corner of Broad and Lehigh Street. Ironically, my favorite hangout back in my old hometown was Broad and Lehigh along the railroad tracks in Tamaqua at the foot of Lehigh Street - the street where I lived my early years.

It was hard watching my back as I trudged forward into the wind with my coat over my head. Every few steps I was spin around to watch my six. The street signs passed quickly, 15th, 16th.....19th, 20th. This must be it.

The neighborhood is really run down. The once proud row homes were in disrepair, many empty with condemned signs on them. The giant factories had thousands of broken window panes.

On the entire city block between 20th and 21st Streets was a giant new church. It was raining hard as I snapped some pictures of the red brick landmark. Then I found the historic maker, Shibe Park - Connie Mack Stadium.

In 1908, Shibe was the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics. He built the first ever all concrete and steel stadium for his team and named it after himself. A few years later the Philadelphia Phillies moved into the park to share time, American League and National League. For almost 50 years, there was a major league game there every day from April to October, one league or the other.

Imagine, this field was the center of the sports universe. The Negro Baseball League had several World Series games here. The Philadelphia Eagles won the National Football League Championship here in 1948. Babe Ruth hit two home runs that traveled over 500 feet here, landing two streets away. Lou Gehrig hit four homers here, two over left field and two over right - during his fifth at bat he send one straight away in center field that was caught 470 feet from home plate. Rookie of the Year Richie Allen hit two giant homers that left the park and Richie Ashburn was Rookie of the Year and National League Batting Champion as he fouled off 16 pitches before finally delivering one of his patented singles.

The 1925 NFL Champion Pottsville Maroons beat the Notre Dame Four Horsemen here in front of a sellout crowd forcing the commissioner to take away their crown for barnstorming. Thousands of Coal Cracker fans took the matinee train south for the 3 hour trip along the Schuylkill to see this game heard round the world that gave the fledgling NFL respect in the college dominated football universe.

Any kid that lived within walking distance could see 16 major league clubs play there, 8 National League and 8 American League, for loose change if they had it, or by simply retrieving a home run ball and handing it over at the turnstile. Until 1939, all games were played in daytime until this stadium was one of the first to have lights that helped prevent kids playing "hookie" to see their heroes.

Connie Mack coached here for 50 years. Imagine that, 50 years in the same job. It makes teaching 33 years in the same classroom seem like child's play.

I am typing this on the night train as I am returning to Philly after a visit to see my sister in Wilmington, Delaware. The trains are smoother now, cleaner too, but they still have that romantic exotic feeling of a magic carpet ride that takes you from reality into a new an exciting fantasy world somewhere in time. You also have a chance to think back, to an earlier, simpler civilization. A time when an 8 year old kid could hop onto a train just down the street from his home, go 100 miles down the Schuylkill River, step off on the other end, and walk onto his Field of Dreams.

It is nice to have a chance to re-live those times, even if only for a few hours in our minds. Things were different then, the good old days were not always so good. Our selective memories have a way of choosing the good times, and burning them into our souls.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Before There Was "MTV" There Was "American Bandstand"

Every January Lulu goes to the mid-winter convention of the American Library Association. This year the Trailing Spouse gets to visit his old haunts in Philadelphia - the "big city" to his hometown in the hills.

One of the biggest influences on me during my "wonder years" was American Bandstand. It all started at a little TV station - WFIL-TV in Philladelphia. Dick Clark was the emcee - and rock and roll and the kids of West Philadelphia were the stars. It was eventually shown all over the country. From 1956 to 1964 - the Sounds of Philadelphia invaded almost every American home as kids rushed home from school to see what the Philly kids were wearing, how they combed their hair, what dance steps they were doing, and of course the music.

While roaming around town on foot - I started walking west on Market Street from city hall. I knew roughly where the studio was so I walked and walked - 46 blocks. I was hoping something was left from that golden era of rock and roll. At the corner of 46th and Market - sits a lonely little TV studio. By today's standard - it is miniature. It was designed from the ground up for television. A state historical marker is the only thing left that tells the story.

About a block away is West Philadelphia Catholic High School - at dismissal the kids would rush down the sidewalk and into the studio to get ready to be on national TV. A few years back a television show called "American Dreams" followed the adventures of a young lady that went to West Philly High in her plaid skirt and became a regular on the show. Just the sight of this old building brings back things like - Carmen with the streak in her hair, what a scandel - and the music judging contest, "I liked the beat I gave it an 80."

Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Ricky Nelson, Elvis, The Shirelles, The Chiffons, Lesley Gore, Brenda Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Rydell, Billy Cannon - "She's my Tallahassee lassie......down in F-L-A."

Being here reminds me of the words of a song, "I've looked at life from both sides now." I am having a parallax moment.
When I was a kid - Philadelphia seemed such a big, sophisticated, and faraway city. Now - almost 60 years old - as I return from my new home in Florida - it is an old and familiar face. It has a homey feeling. Has Philly changed or have I? Is Philadelphia the same or am I? Maybe its all in your perspective.

It is quiet in this neighborhood now. They are rebuilding the "El" station next door - so the construction site keeps traffic from passing by the front door. The air was still and I was alone with my thoughts. Mom used to say my hearing would go bad because I listened to all that loud music. She was right. But I leaned my ear against that yellow brick building and just for a moment I could hear all the music of the 50s and 60s still vibrating in the walls.

First day From Philadelphia

We had two nice flights to Charlotte - then to PHL. The weather here was great - in the 60s. We took a cab to our hotel just a block south of city hall on Broad St.

First thing we did was go to the Reading Train Terminal Market - over 100 years old - and eat at my favorite Dutch "counter." You are served great Pennsylvania dutch food by amish girls with sugar scoops on.

Then - Lulu went to a meeting at the ALISE convention. I walked east to Independence Hall - took the tour - and then walked back to our hotel. I probably took about 4500 kids on that tour in the past - it never fails to impress me - when I walk into the room where they started our country on July 4, 1776.

Nancy came home at 5 - then we took the subway - the Broad St line - south to the Wachovia Arena. This was our first game we have seen there - right next to the old Spectrum - where we enjoyed many Sixers games. The new arena is spacious and beautiful.

Outside - it is illegal to scalp tickets and it is highly enforced. Several scalpers approached us and the first thing they ask is if you are a cop. They were asking about $75 a ticket - but came down a bit quickly. I told them I would get in for $20 - and sit courtside for that price - this would send them up the wall - whining. After asking a cop if it was okay to buy tickets - they said that they arrest sellers - not buyers. So Lulu and I held up 2 fingers. One nice fella came over with two excellent tickets - $38 face value - exactly at midcourt - row 13. I offered my $20 - and he accepted and walked in with us. He proceeded to the front row at half court - he was a Temple fan for years - reminded me of my old neighbor Lee.

Our seats were excellent and it was 50 minutes before game time. Lulu called her cousin Ruth Ann - and she said she was going to the game. We looked for them and finally found them in their seats. We visited - then went back to our seats for the game.

Duke was good - not great - leading the whole game by about 15-20. Temple made a late run and got it down to 8. It ended with a Temple hoop at the buzzer to make the score Duke by 10. The spread was 11.5 - so that last basket - made a lot of Duke gamblers angry - Temple beat the spread - and Temple fans had won the mob bets.

We got on the subway - and it was packed - they were literally pushing folks in. The Temple students were going back to campus - and must have been happy - because there was a lot of singing in the train. It is always amazing to watch NY and PHL fans interact - they hate each other. All you have to do is wear a Mets or Giants hat here - and the fans give you crap.

It is supposed to be in the 50s here to day and then rain - more what we expected - tomorrow in the 40s.

Our Park Hyatt Bellevue Strattford Hotel is old but great. This is where the famous Legionaires Disease killed all those folks from a bacteria almost 30 years ago. Our room is superb - just way too ornate for me. Lots of patterns.

There is an exclusive shopping mall in the bottom of our hotel - Williams Senoma and places like that.

Today - Lulu has lots of meetings - and I am free to do what I want.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Welcome to Philadelphia at 60 Degree in January

Lulu and I just checked into our hotel - the old Bellevue Strattford - now called the Park Hyatt.

The weather is a balmy 60 degrees - Al Gore was right.

We will be here for 4 nights - then it is on to the Valley - Tamaqua, PA.

I already had a Philly soft pretzel - now off to the Reading Terminal for lunch.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mortgages, Subprimes and Drug Dealing Money Launderers

Back in 1973, when Lulu and I were newlyweds, we saw the house of our dreams in a Popular Mechanics magazine. It was the cutest little honeymoon cedar chalet and we just had to have it. Just two years before, I was a life guard and Lulu was the teenager in a bikini at the pool, and now we were married and considering building our own home.

We bought a set of plans and went to the corner bank, Bank A. We had no money, just plans, and I was a teacher in a local school. The bank invited us to a board meeting and we stood at the table with our plans and hat in hand. They must have trusted us because they gave us $20,000 to build the home, that covered land and all. We had no down payment.

The cedar kit arrived from Seattle and we knocked it together in 3 months and were living in our 1000 square foot Taj Mahal. We had payments of $114.94. After a few lucky business decisions - the house was paid off in 5 years.

Meanwhile, Bank A turned into Bank B, then another name change made it Bank C. Finally a big eastern bank chain bought them out. We remained faithful to that bank even though all the decisions were now made hundreds of miles away at Bank D.

Fast forward 30 years, 2 kids, and millions of wonderful memories. That pretty teenage girl became a college professor. Florida State University came acallin' and we moved to Tallahassee. Since we planned to keep the chalet as a vacation home, we had to get another mortgage to buy our new home in Tallahassee. Funny thing, now houses cost 10 times as much in our new hometown.

So hat in hand once again, we went back to Bank D, the one that changed its name from A, then B, then C. They were more than happy to give us a mortgage. They told us we had an excellent rating and used the word prime a lot. Just like that we joined the world of payment books and monthly checks again.

We expected the visit the old homestead a lot, but after a few winters worrying about freezing pipes, we let the chalet go. Meanwhile, in about 4 months, Bank D sold our mortgage to Bank X in Ohio. From now on they wanted us to send our payments to Columbus. Feeling abandoned by Bank A, B, C, D, we vowed to pay the mortgage off sooner rather than later.

On December 20th, rather than buying a new car for Christmas, we decided to pay off the house. With much fanfare, I wrote out the final check and sent it off to Bank X in Columbus, Ohio. I wanted to have a big mortgage burning party but Lulu thought that was too tacky.

Every morning, I rushed to the computer to watch the payoff appear on the online mortgage account. After about 1 week, I got an overnight letter with my payoff check enclosed. A note said they would not accept your personal check. I was fuming.

I called Bank X in Columbus ready to rip off heads and take names. The person on the other end said that they would not take my personal check. Since they had been taking my checks all along, and they cleared every time, I wanted reasons. The person could not give me one. She just asked for a certified check. I hung up.

My vanity would not settle for that. I called back again, this time I asked for the manager. The manager could not find a reason. So after 30 years of faithful banking at Bank A, that changed to Bank B, Bank C, Bank D, they no longer would take my check.

I called one more time for satisfaction. This time someone said that they could take my personal check if I sent it to their Louisville, Kentucky branch. I told them I was turning 60 soon, and I was hoping to have the mortgage paid off by my birthday. I also said I never had a late payment, and I did not want my last payment to be the first. Still as of Jan 7th, the payoff has not shown up on our mortgage account.

Are you ready for the reason?

I did not make this up. They said, "We will not accept personal checks for the payoff of mortgages from people in Florida. They are usually drugs dealers laundering money."

Top Quarterback in Country Commits to FSU

E J Manuel - the 6-6 towering HS quarterback- announced at the All-American All-Star game in Disneyworld - that he will study biomedical engineering at FSU. He is the perfect combination of size, mobility, intelligence and arm.

Manuel has been the led the offense for 4 years at Virginia Beach Bayside High School. His statistics this season were 114 of 192 passes for 1859 yards. He has thrown 18 touchdowns and 5 interceptions - and also has rushed for 541 yards.

I predict that once he gets the starting nod at FSU - no one will replace him for 4 years.

Many recruiting magazines rank him the top quarterback prospect in the country.

Florida State Leads the Nation in Foul Shooting

FSU Men's Basketball Team is shooting 80% - from the foul line. The puts them at number 1 in the nation after shooting 30 of 32 against LaSalle on Saturday - including 20 in a row in the second half - including 6 in the last minute.

Last year they shot 75.8% after hiring a foul shooting coach - I am embarrassed to say I do not even know his name. The Noles are 12-4 this season and 1-0 in the ACC. They travel to Clemson on Saturday.

Florida State Leads the Nation in foul Shooting

Sunday, January 06, 2008

George McGovern Calls for Impeachment of Bush and Cheney

Why I Believe Bush Must Go
Nixon Was Bad. These Guys Are Worse.
By George McGovern
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Reprinted from The Washington Post

As we enter the eighth year of the Bush-Cheney administration, I have belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment of the president and the vice president.

After the 1972 presidential election, I stood clear of calls to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for his misconduct during the campaign. I thought that my joining the impeachment effort would be seen as an expression of personal vengeance toward the president who had defeated me.

Today I have made a different choice.

Of course, there seems to be little bipartisan support for impeachment. The political scene is marked by narrow and sometimes superficial partisanship, especially among Republicans, and a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians. So the chances of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction are not promising.

But what are the facts?

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.

All of this has been done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

I have not been heavily involved in singing the praises of the Nixon administration. But the case for impeaching Bush and Cheney is far stronger than was the case against Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election. The nation would be much more secure and productive under a Nixon presidency than with Bush. Indeed, has any administration in our national history been so damaging as the Bush-Cheney era?

How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?

It happened in part because the Bush-Cheney team repeatedly deceived Congress, the press and the public into believing that Saddam Hussein had nuclear arms and other horrifying banned weapons that were an "imminent threat" to the United States. The administration also led the public to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks -- another blatant falsehood. Many times in recent years, I have recalled Jefferson's observation: "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

The basic strategy of the administration has been to encourage a climate of fear, letting it exploit the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks not only to justify the invasion of Iraq but also to excuse such dangerous misbehavior as the illegal tapping of our telephones by government agents. The same fear-mongering has led government spokesmen and cooperative members of the press to imply that we are at war with the entire Arab and Muslim world -- more than a billion people.

Another shocking perversion has been the shipping of prisoners scooped off the streets of Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other countries without benefit of our time-tested laws of habeas corpus.

Although the president was advised by the intelligence agencies last August that Iran had no program to develop nuclear weapons, he continued to lie to the country and the world. This is the same strategy of deception that brought us into war in the Arabian Desert and could lead us into an unjustified invasion of Iran. I can say with some professional knowledge and experience that if Bush invades yet another Muslim oil state, it would mark the end of U.S. influence in the crucial Middle East for decades.

Ironically, while Bush and Cheney made counterterrorism the battle cry of their administration, their policies -- especially the war in Iraq -- have increased the terrorist threat and reduced the security of the United States. Consider the difference between the policies of the first President Bush and those of his son. When the Iraqi army marched into Kuwait in August 1990, President George H.W. Bush gathered the support of the entire world, including the United Nations, the European Union and most of the Arab League, to quickly expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The Saudis and Japanese paid most of the cost. Instead of getting bogged down in a costly occupation, the administration established a policy of containing the Baathist regime with international arms inspectors, no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Iraq was left as a stable country with little or no capacity to threaten others.

Today, after five years of clumsy, mistaken policies and U.S. military occupation, Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism and bloody civil strife. It is no secret that former president Bush, his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, and his national security adviser, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, all opposed the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In addition to the shocking breakdown of presidential legal and moral responsibility, there is the scandalous neglect and mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. The veteran CNN commentator Jack Cafferty condenses it to a sentence: "I have never ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans." Any impeachment proceeding must include a careful and critical look at the collapse of presidential leadership in response to perhaps the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

As former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, wrote two years ago, "it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws -- that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. . . . A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law -- and repeatedly violates the law -- thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors."

I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin.

There has never been a day in my adult life when I would not have sacrificed that life to save the United States from genuine danger, such as the ones we faced when I served as a bomber pilot in World War II. We must be a great nation because from time to time, we make gigantic blunders, but so far, we have survived and recovered.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Florida State Beats LaSalle in Hoops

We just got home from the game - we took the scooter - it is about 45 degrees outside.

We were playing LaSalle from Philadelphia - so we just had to see an old home state team.

FSU was winning at halftime by a point - but LaSalle shot out to an 8 point lead with 6 minutes to go. Then FSU got hot and won by 5 at the end.

LaSalle is ranked number 261 on the RPI ratings.

They all count.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Free Wireless Internet in All of San Francisco

Reprinted from the Pottsville Republican

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A Silicon Valley startup is promising to blanket San Francisco with free wireless Internet service, reviving a crusade that crumbled last year after two much larger companies, EarthLink Inc. and Google Inc., scrapped their plans to build a high-speed network for Web surfing.

Meraki Networks Inc., whose financial backers include Google, hopes to complete the ambitious project within the next year by persuading thousands of San Francisco residents to set up free radio repeaters on their rooftops and in their homes. The 21-month-old company is to announce its plans Friday.

The system envisioned by EarthLink and Google would have required installing transmitters on street poles and other public property, a more expensive strategy that also involved more bureaucratic red tape and political haggling.

Since starting its tests about six months ago, Meraki has given away about 500 repeaters - enough to provide high-speed wireless, or Wi-Fi, access to about 40,000 people in San Francisco neighborhoods covering a roughly 2-square-mile area.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"Crisis in Florida" Temperature Drops Below 32

One has to chuckle watching the news and weather on TV after living 55 years "back north." Temperature was predicted to go below freezing and you would think it were Judgement Day.

The thermometer on our back porch says it dropped down to 31.7. I do not know why but it never fails that the temperature in our neighborhood is usually 6 degrees warmer than the airport. I fell for the alarm - and last night I went out and turned our 6 outside faucets on to a trickle. I even let the sprinkler system come on in the middle of the night to "protect the pipes." This morning - I had icicles on the faucets - and my plastic-bagged Democrat had a candy coating like an eclair.

The news on TV was exclaiming that our citrus crops made it through the night - and Florida was spared another crisis. With hurricanes - tornadoes - drought - taxes - insurance - clearing land for malls - and OJ - we have added another disaster to our list.

News back North from my sons calls for a foot of snow in Syracuse and temperatures approaching zero in DC. Somehow the rest of the nation does not feel our "pain."

On New Year's Day - I went to a morning brunch party wearing shorts - only to be greeted by a crowd of people arriving in parkas on a 50 degree day. Don't even get me started about the contrived "wind chill factor" Nancy Dignon likes to throw around to make us feel even colder than we deserve.

For 55 years - I woke up in the "taiga" - the Great White North. On days like today - I was awakened by a call from the principal telling me we were having school off again - and I had to give up another beautiful day in June - to make up for this "unpaid vacation." To make matters worse - I had a bunch of driveways - sidewalks - porches - and decks that I was too cheap to have professionally cleared. My vacation day ended up with sore arms and back.

On the day after Christmas - when Lulu and I were lonely because we just put the kids on planes north - we drove to Alligator Point and walked on the beautiful white sand with temperatures in the 60s. We felt pretty smug that we lived just 45 miles from such a wonderful beach on the Gulf. In our 4 mile walk - we may have seen maybe 6 other people. One can truly get jaded quickly in the land of sunshine and no income taxes.

Lulu and are I sitting in front of the fire at noon - keeping an eye on our electronic digital thermometer outside - and deciding who will get a shower first and use "the best towel" on towel heater. Woe is life in sunny Florida - even if it is only Tallahassee.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Do you have House Lust?

By Robert J. Samuelson
Reprinted from The Washington Post

Down the block from my home, workmen are finishing a new house. It replaces a bungalow that had measured about 1,500 square feet. The new home has a covered front porch, two fireplaces and a finished basement. It comes in at just under 5,700 square feet. What is it with Americans and their homes?

Everyone knows the direct causes of the present housing collapse: low interest rates, lax mortgage lending, rampant speculation. But the larger force lies in Americans' devotion to homeownership. It explains why government officials, politicians and journalists (including this one) overlooked abuses in "subprime" lending. The homeownership rate was approaching 70 percent in 2005, up from 64 percent in 1990. Great. A good cause shielded bad practices. The same complacency lulled ordinary Americans into paying ever-rising home prices. Something so embedded in the national psyche must be okay.

"House lust" is what Dan McGinn calls it in his book by the same title. McGinn documents -- sympathetically, for he dotes on his own home -- our housing excesses, starting with supersizing. In Sweden, Britain and Italy, new homes average under 1,000 square feet. By 2005, the average newly built U.S. home measured 2,434 square feet, and there were many that were double, triple or quadruple that. After World War II, the first mass Levittown suburbs offered 750-square-foot homes. (Full disclosure: McGinn is a Newsweek colleague.)

"We're not selling shelter," says the president of Toll Brothers, a builder of upscale homes. "We're selling extreme-ego, look-at-me types of homes." In 2000, Toll Brothers' most popular home was 3,200 square feet; by 2005, it had grown 50 percent, to 4,800 square feet. These "McMansions" often feature marble floors, sweeping staircases, vaulted ceilings, family rooms, studies, home entertainment centers and more bedrooms than people.

In a nation of abundant land -- unlike Europe and Japan -- our housing obsession is understandable and desirable up to a point. People who own homes take better care of them. They stabilize neighborhoods. In a world where so much seems uncontrollable, a house seems a refuge of influence and individuality. In a 2004 survey, 74 percent of would-be home buyers preferred a new home to an existing house. One reason is that a new house often allows buyers to select the latest gadgets and shape the design. The same impulse has driven the remodeling boom, which totaled $180 billion in 2006.

"The most exciting thing was just watching the house go up piece by piece," said one buyer of a new, $380,000 home in Las Vegas. The 50-ish couple added a pool, hot tub and deck. They love their home.

Homes are a common currency of status. As McGinn notes, many jobs in an advanced economy are highly technical and specialized. "I could tell you more about (my job)," a woman informed him at a dinner party, "but you won't understand it, and it's not that interesting." By contrast, a home announces that, whatever the obscurities of your work, you've succeeded. There's a frantic competition to match or exceed friends, co-workers and (yes) parents.

Some house lust is fairly harmless. Several Web sites ( http://www.zillow.com provide estimated prices for homes. People can indulge their nosiness about their neighbors', friends', co-workers' or relatives' finances. They can also fantasize about their next real estate adventure by watching a cable channel ( HGTV) devoted to houses, home buying and renovation.

Other effects are less innocuous. Although house prices recently exploded, they have increased only slightly faster than inflation since the 1890s, concluded a study by Yale economist Robert Shiller. The recent sharp run-up may imply years of price declines or meager increases. "Buying a bigger house isn't an investment," warned Wall Street Journal columnist Jonathan Clements. It's "a lifestyle choice -- and it comes with a brutally large price tag." Not only are mortgage payments higher; so are costs for utilities, furniture and repairs.

Worse, government subsidizes these supersize homes along with suburban sprawl and, just incidentally, global warming. In 2008, the tax deduction for mortgage interest payments will cost the federal government $89 billion. The savings go heavily to the upper-middle class and the wealthy -- the least needy people -- and encourage ever-larger homes. Even with energy-saving appliances, those homes are likely to generate more greenhouse gases than their smaller predecessors. As individuals and a society, we've overinvested in housing; we'd be better off if more of our savings went into productive investments elsewhere.

Sociologically, the "housing bubble" resembles the preceding "tech bubble." When people paid astronomical prices for profitless dot-com stocks, they doubtlessly reassured themselves that they were investing in the very essence of America -- the pioneering spirit, the ability to harness new technologies. Exorbitant home prices inspired a similar logic. How could anyone go wrong buying into the American dream? It was easy.