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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Deja Vu - Jack and Harry

Son Drew is going for the record of the most pictures taken of a newborn child. Jack is about 9 weeks old now - and he is growing so fast - all documented. On the latest update to the Jack page - one picture jogged my memory. The older you get - the more memories fade and come crashing back. After looking through my picture file - I found this one. The more things change - the more they stay the same. The difference is - I have about 5 baby pictures of me to sort through.

Although I was raised "Republican"- note the elephant - I have a sneaky feeling that my Dad voted for Harry Truman in 1948. Dad got to play "Stars and Stripes Forever" on the piccolo in Truman's Inaugural Parade in Washington - Truman looked right into Dad's eyes and gave him a big smile. Dad could smile right back while playing his favorite solo. The Coaldale Victory Band was dressed in bib overalls and miner's helmets. It was sponsored by the United Mine Workers' Union.

The last paragraph was not a necessary part of the Jack Story above - it is just one of those thoughts that fly through a 60 year old brain. The more things change - the more they stay the same - except that the mess Bush made of this country has turned me into a Democrat.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Joe Biden - Ich bin ein Coal Cracker!

DENVER - Fresh off accepting his party's vice presidential nomination, Sen. Joe Biden put a charge into Pennsylvania's Democratic delegates today, telling them at a breakfast speech here that "you are going to [see] a whole hell of a lot of me" during the next two months.

"We cannot win without winning Pennsylvania," Biden said. "It is that simple. … You are going to have all the resources this campaign has available to it."

Biden laid his Scranton roots on thick in the 13-minute speech, telling the crowd how he learned his "political consciousness" in the coal country while listening to his grandfather talk politics at the kitchen table.

"You know, Scranton never leaves you," he said. "Pennsylvania never leaves you."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Many of "Yous" Have Been Asking Me About GPS's

Hi -

Many of my friends have been asking about "What is a good GPS?"

There are a lot of good ones out there.

I am going to tell you about the Garmin Nuvi 200. It is a great GPS - but also comes with a nice price. I had one of these for almost 2 years and loved it. I sold it on ebay. Why? Because I bought the Garmin Nuvi 270. The only difference is the 270 has the maps on for both europe and USA. The 200 only has the USA on it. Of course the Nuvi 270 costs more.

Here is the Germin Nuvi 200 - see it on -

It costs $157.00 - a great price. Also you do not have to pay sales tax or shipping fees. Another thing about Amazon is that if you have buyer's remorse you can send it back.

This GPS does talk to you. You can change the voice to about 10 different people - male - female - British - etc.

It is very easy to use - all of the controls are on touch screen menus. After a couple days - you are an expert - everything makes sense on it.

It comes with a 12 volt cord for the car - you can also plug it into your computer to charge it. You can use it as a hard drive and store and view pictures with it. You can even put your favorite photo on the screen as a starter photo.

It comes with a bracket to suction cup it to your windshield.

One of the best features to me is that it is very thin. You can put it in your shirt pocket and use it while walking. It tells you how far you walked - how fast - what direction. When I am on my bike - I do not have to see it - I just hear the voice coming out of my pockets saying "turn right in 100 feet."

This is an excellent gift for a loved one - a kid going to college - a guy that goes fishing in strange areas. You can never get lost with it - even in the woods - because it shows you which way to go.

It has a nice gauge on the screen telling you when you are locked onto a satellite - also telling you how much battery is left. You can extend the battery life by dimming the screen in 10% intervals. You can also turn of the sound or turn it up loud - something I do often.

I love Garmin GPS's - this is my 5th one - each time I traded up for something better - and sold my old one on ebay. They are hot ebay sellers. Also Drew - my son - has stock in Garmin. I like to think of the Garmin GPS as a good match for my other Apple products - like the MacBook and iPhone.

My Garmin was a big help to Keith and I in our travels through Germany this summer.


Drew just wrote to say - there is a $50 off coupon good for any Garmin at Best Buy. Email me - - for the coupon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

These Burglars Were Caught One Hour Ago

I guess the burglars waited until Monday morning after the storm when everyone went back to work. It happened two blocks from our house. I swear I saw this kid casing the neighborhood last week on a bike.


This morning, at approximately 9:30AM, the Tallahassee Police Department received a
911 phone call in reference to a reported burglary, located at 845 Circle Drive. Upon
arrival, officers discovered two suspects inside the home stealing electronics and other
valuables. The suspects, later identified as, seventeen year old Isaiah Reeves and twenty
year old Rashard Price, fled the home upon observing the police. Reeves ignored the
officers' commands to stop and a taser was utilized to prevent him from escaping. Price
attempted to run from the scene, but gave up when he realized officers had surrounded the home.

Both Reeves and Price were taken into custody without further incident. Officers later
discovered that an observant neighbor saw the two thieves prying open the victim's door.
The neighbor then phoned police and continued watching until police arrived and arrested
the pair. “I am very proud of the citizen who took the time to be observant and became
involved by calling us. This is true community involvement and another example of how
citizens assist the police in keeping the community safe,” said Chief Dennis Jones.


Isaiah Reeves, B/M, 17 yoa. Charges: Burglary of a Dwelling, Possession of Burglary
Tools, Grand Theft, and Possession of Cannabis less than 20g

Rashard Price, B/M, 20 yoa. Charges: Burglary of a Dwelling, Possession of Burglary
Tools, Grand Theft, and Possession of Cannabis less than 20g

We Were Lucky with Fay

Fay has come and gone to our section of Tallahassee. The only inconvenience we had was 3 hours without electricity. Since we have a backup battery and generator - even that had little effect on us. We were still able to watch satellite TV and use our iPhones to get on the Internet.

Our neighbor's rain gauge said we got over 15 inches of rain. Really - the gauge holds 5 inches of rain - and he had to empty it out 3 times - so it may have been more.

Although many sections of town were flooded - we live on a slight hill with a lake/pond in the back about 30 feet below house level - so our house stayed dry. A few well-placed drains and heavy sodding during our landscaping project removed any standing puddles.

As I write - Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Depression Fay moves west across America. We feel like we just sat down in a football stadium as the wave passes and moves farther down the bleachers - someone else is feeling it. The worst part of living in Florida and worrying about hurricanes is that you must wish it hits someone else instead of you. You know someone is going to end up to their neck in a swamp full of gators.

Two days later - 500 homes in Tallahassee are still without power - down from the 15,000 two days ago. The city owned utility company is doing a wonderful job with most workers going 16 hour shifts. Some housing developments with only one entrance are stranded - people being taken out by boats. Tallahassee - the tree capital of the world - has hundreds of felled trees - some falling on peoples' homes and cars.

Three things make the trees come down. 1 - all the rain makes the trees heavier. 2 - all the rain makes the ground makes the sandy soils very soft. 3 - the extra heavy wind does not help much either.

Yesterday - Lulu and I cleaned up a bit around the lot. There were lots of leaves and pine needles on the pool screen room. A few needles made their way into the pool. It took a couple hours to clean that up. We started on picking the twigs - branches - leaves - needles - pine cones - out of the grass. It will take another day to complete - because it started to rain again before we finished.

From June to December - you learn to live with this mess. I keep reminding myself that 15 inches of rain could be 12 feet of snow back home in Pennsylvania. I'll take my chances with the sunshine and hurricanes - I hated that snow shovel.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hall of Shame - One of My Students

Internet sex sting Judge in Cleveland sentences Coaldale man in 2007 case

From The Times News

A Coaldale man was sentenced by a federal judge in Cleveland to more than seven years in prison after he traveled to Ohio last August with the intention to have sex with a teenage girl that he met over the Internet.

The 14-year-old girl was fictional and the person he met was actually an undercover agent posing as the "girl's" mother.

According to court records filed Aug. 13, in the Clerk of Courts office in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Lonnie Ray Kerestes, 37, of Coaldale, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Christopher A. Boyko on Aug. 11, to serve a total of 87 months in prison for travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. He must also register as a state sex offender and provide a DNA sample. Federal charges were applied in this case because Kerestes crossed state lines to commit the act.

On Aug. 13, Kerestes filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit challenging the ruling.

According to a memorandum by Kerestes' attorney, Carlos Warner, on Aug. 4, he states "Lonnie Kerestes traveled from Coaldale, Pennsylvania, to Canton, Ohio for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with a person whom he believed was 14 years of age. Mr. Kerestes met the undercover officer posing as a 41-year-old mother who was seeking sexual partners for herself and her fictional 14-year-old daughter. Mr. Kerestes was involved in e-mail, Internet chats, and telephone correspondences with this person which culminated in Mr. Kerestes' travel from Pennsylvania to Ohio for the purpose of meeting the females in Belden Village Mall."

Kerestes, who is a father of five, was apprehended by FBI agents and Jackson, Ohio police officers around 9:40 a.m. on Aug. 8, 2007, at the food court in Westfield Belden Village mall in Stark County, Ohio.

He was charged with felony counts of attempted unlawful sex with a minor and importuning with a telecommunications device as a result and a $100,000 bond was set in Massillon Municipal Court. At the time of his arrest, he was employed as a mechanic for the U.S. Department of Defense at Tobyhanna Army Depot.

On Feb. 26, Kerestes pleaded guilty to the indictment that charged him with traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

Living Thru a Tropical Storm - Not Bad This Time - Saturday 4PM

We are still getting lots of rain from Fay - but the wind has not been too bad around our house.

According to the news - we have had 14 inches of rain so far and it is harder than ever now. That would be 12 feet of snow back in Pennsylvania. My friend Dave Pikna of Melbourne set a record with 26 inches of rain in one day - but his solid concrete house was fine.

We just had a 3 hour power failure. We were able to power our home with a big old motor home battery and an inverter. the battery stores 250 amp hours of electricity - enough for 3 days if we only use lights - small TV - refrigerator - satellite dish -satellite radio. We have a Honda generator to charge the battery if it runs low - but we did not have to use it.

The power is back on for us - but 14,500 homes in town are without power. The news says 73 streets are closed by trees falling including Monroe Street - one of the main ones.

Lulu and I decided to take a swim in the pouring down rain. There is no lightning - and the screen room disperses the big rain drops to a mist. The pool has stayed clean and it has not overflowed.

Our yard is filled with pine branches - leaves - and oak twigs.

Tonight at 7PM - George and Joel are having a storm party. It should be fun to just get out.

You can see by the radar map - we are getting pounded by the red bands of rain. The news reports keep trying to scare you with "possible tornado" reports - but it has been calm here. Every now and then you heard an electrical transformer pop or ambulances going.

Fay's Eye Just Passed - Saturday 6 AM

It is raining outside - pretty hard - but is is basically coming straight down. Every now and then you hear a harder wave of rain on the roof. There doesn't seem to be too much wind right now.

We have not had any power outages at our house. All the drains outside are working fine. The pool is not above the normal overflow level.

Fay is moving pretty fast now - 7 MPH.

The Tallahassee Democrat keeps updating the news on their web site.

At 6 AM - Fay was back over the land after crossing the water near St, Marks - a small boating village where the St. Marks River and Wakulla River meet near the Gulf. Water levels there are about one foot above normal. During several hurricanes this village was under several feet of water. Our favorite Riverside Cafe has markings on the wall showing how high the floodwaters were for each hurricane.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fay Report from Tallahassee - Friday 9 PM

Tropical Storm Fay is slowly traveling west across the top of Florida. It is almost like a parade because it is moving so slowly.

So far - we have not had a power failure here - but 4000 homes in the area are without power. A power company worker was killed when a tree fell on him while he was trimming and repairing power lines.

We are having very steady heavy rain - but very little wind right now. The wind comes in waves. There are lots of small branches - twigs - and pine droppings in our yard. Our new sod and landscaping really hold the soil nicely from erosion.

We are as prepared as we can be. We have a Honda generator - a big house battery - a power inverter - and lots of flashlights. If our power fails - our big battery will power the refrigerator - television - satellite dish - and a few lights. The house battery - would probably wear down in 3 days. Then we could use the generator to re-charge the battery or power the refrigerator directly.

Lulu and I just took the umbrella and walked down to George and Joel's house. To our surprise - they were not home.

They are predicting 8 inches of rain. If the storm keeps traveling as slow as it is - we will probably get lots more.

The televison just reported a tornado watch for our area.

More reports later.

Looks Like We Will "Enjoy" Tropical Storm Fay Saturday Afternoon

All eyes in Florida are on Fay. She is currently sitting in Gainesville - giving the Gators a needed bath.

Near Daytona Beach - they got 24 inches of rain in one day yesterday. That has to be some kind of record.

Predictions say the storm will be over Tallahassee on Saturday at 2 PM. It looks like the eye will pass south of town along the coast. That would mean we would get more rain after the eye passes because the winds would be coming from the south over the 90 degree Gulf of Mexico waters.

We will on a gentle grade on the side of a hill. Our property slants from the road down to our lakes - with about a 30 foot drop in elevation. We will have quite a bit of runoff - but no standing water for flooding. We are prepared with a giant house battery and inverter to power our refrigerator - lights and television. The house battery would last several days if we need it. We also have a Honda generator to re-charge the battery if necessary.

We expect 50 MPH winds and lots of rain. These are predictions and your mileage may vary. We are ready.

My Buddy George Dawson Worked with Bill Haast at the Miami Serpentarium

by George Dawson

Our good friend Bruce Buckley sent me a picture recently of a water moccasin eating a black racer. A conversation followed about snakes and he gave me a link to a collection of stories about Bill Haast who owned the Miami Serpentarium As I once worked there I wrote of some of my experiences and submitted it that web site.

Here is the story.

Seeing this story of Bill Haast brought back many good memories of my working for him from early September 1957 through March 1958 when I left his employ to return to college. He is one of the most unforgettable people I have ever met.

I wrote him a letter in the summer of 1957 asking him if I could come to work at the Sepentarium. I had just finished my AA degree in biology at the Florida College in Tampa and wanted to attend the University of Miami. He offered me a job at $70.00 per week for a six-day week. I took it and moved my pregnant wife from Tampa to a mobile home park about 100 yards to the north of the Serpentarium. Immediately the adventure began.

The workday began with cleaning the compound of every bit of trash. Haast’s eye didn’t miss anything. He micromanaged my sweeping and showed me how to move the broom more efficiently and faster than the way I was doing it. We workers wouldn’t dare sit down to rest and he didn’t either. In fact, he only left the compound one time in the seven months I was there. He drove to Ocala to attend a meeting of attraction owners and operators. He even had a person come to the Serpentarium every couple of weeks to cut his hair!

There were only three of us working at the Serpentarium at the time other than Haast and his wife Clarita: Jim Lowe, myself, and a sales clerk/ticket seller in the gift shop. We knew Clarita as C. L. Whenever Jim or I were giving tours the other was picking up trash inside and out of the cages and enclosures, sweeping or cleaning glass on the cages. We did the outside glass and Haast did the inside. We would alternate the touring duties. We, like Haast, wore white uniforms and shoes. C.L. did the presentation for all milking demonstrations. This demo came at the end of each tour. She was very good at building tension and a sense of excitement about the handling of the snakes.

As some of the writers of comments mentioned he had two daughters with C. L: Naia Hannah and Shantee. Naia hannah was given this name as it was an early name of the King Cobra. The King Cobra was later renamed Ophiophagus (snake eater) hannah. Our daughter was born on January 10th, 1958, while I was at the Serpentarium. We liked the name Hannah so much we also named our child Hannah.

Haast could take a good joke. Once Jim Lowe, and I found a warbler dead on the grounds. We decided that we would play a trick on Haast. We kept the bird in a freezer for a couple of days and started talking when we were in the presence of Haast about how fast my reflexes were. One day when he was working with us on a project around the pits, we placed the bird on a branch hanging over the pit wall. Jim pointed to the bird and said “George see if you can catch that little yellow bird up there.” I climbed up and along the wall, acting as serious as I could and then leaped up and snatched the bird off the branch. Haast was jumping up and down and saying, “He did it, he really did it,” until I dropped the dead bird in his hand. We all had a good laugh.

Another time, just after we had lowered the pit walls by knocking out the top two rows of blocks and refinishing them with a stucco to appear as stonework, Jim cut out footprints from avocado skins. Avocado skins turn black when they oxidize. Early the next morning Jim placed the cutouts on top of the wall on the fresh concrete making it appear as if someone with tarred feet had walked on the wall. Haast about went crazy thinking of the time and expense it would take to fix the wall. When Jim peeled the skins off he did not see the humor at first but came around to enjoy the trick.

One last story about the Serpentarium is about my TV debut. The first time I appeared on television was when the big Nile crocodile was delivered. We had a plan to get it into the compound. This big guy weighted 1400 pounds and was about 11 feet long. He was in a trailer that came, for some reason, from Louisiana. It had wooden sides, and a temporary top nailed to the sides. The truck and trailer pulled up on the front lawn of the Serpentarium and a few boards from the top were removed. All was calm for a moment but suddenly the croc exploded upward. He had his month taped shut and was banging his head to the right and left sides of the trailer resulting in a tooth being knocked out. The plan was to get a bag over his eyes, which will often calm crocadilians, and then get a rope around his snout and the bag. After a few tries we were successful. A few minutes later the trailer gate was lowered and the croc was on the ground and calm. Step two of the plan was to roll him into a giant stretcher made of two metal pipes several feet longer than the croc with a heavy canvas sling between the pipes. Several of us would jump on the croc, pin him down, roll him on his side, work the sling under one side, and roll him to the other side, hopefully getting the sling under him. One of the local TV stations had been alerted and had cameras running.

On the count of three 8 of us jumped him including a truck driver who was passing by, heading south on U.S. 1. I somehow ended up at the top of the tail, with my knees jammed against the crocs legs. All was well until the croc started thrashing and tossed off the rope and the bag covering his eyes. Everyone took off, but I had my legs folded under me and was the last to leave. As I was practically digging a trench with my fingers and churning feet, that big tail came around and sent me sprawling. It was all on the evening news. When friends saw me on TV, I was teased about being reduced to a white flash on the screen. I don’t recall what it took to get the green stain out of those white uniforms.

Eventually we got the crocs eyes covered again, picked him up with the sling and carried him though the front door and gift shop to the pit and slid him into his new home. If my memory is correct, this was not the croc called Cookie that killed the boy years later. I think Cookie was the American Crocodile exhibited there at the same time.

There are other stories I could tell about such as the father who put his three or four year old over the wall of the croc pit to retrieve a toy that had fallen in, the time that Haast got wrapped up by a python and the masochistic kid who came frequently with a bodyguard to keep him from hurting himself, the time Jim and I convinced Haast his eyes were turning orange due to his diet, his sleeping with his head down on inclined planes and his birthday party in the tortoise and iguana habitat.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

FSU's Walter Dix Wins Bronze Medals in Both 100 Meter Race and 200 Meter Race

Seven time All-American Walter Dix has won two bronze medals so far in the 2008 Olympics. In both races - it took a world record by Jamaica's Usain Bolt to beat him.

Dix has one more chance to get a gold medal - the 4 x 100 meter relay.

Dix recently signed sponsorships with Nike Sportswear and Oakley Sunglasses.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Florida State's Walter Dix in 200 Meters Final at China Olympics

FSU All-American sprinter Walter Dix advanced to Wednesday's finals in the 200 meters at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Dix, seeking a second Olympic medal after winning bronze in Saturday's 100 meters, finished third in his heat in the semifinals this morning.

A mere 0.14 separated the top four finishers in the heat, with all four moving on to the finals.

Fay Heading Toward Tallahassee

This report is made at 5 AM on Wednesday.

Note on Friday at 8PM - that "D" on the map is where Tallahassee is.

Forecasts call for Fay to reach hurricane strength today and turn around with Northwest Florida in its sights. The storm then is predicted to march across land again, soaking and whipping the Big Bend of Florida and South Georgia.

Tuesday evening's National Hurricane Center forecast had the storm striking Northeast Florida with hurricane force, 75-mph winds on Thursday. Then it's predicted to turn into a tropical depression Friday as it continues on land across North Florida and into Georgia.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apple Clobbers Competition in Owner Satisfaction

August 19, 2008 (Computerworld) Apple Inc. trounced rival computer makers selling Windows-equipped PCs by historic margins in an annual customer satisfaction survey, the poll's chief researcher said today.

"We haven't seen anything like this before, where a company scores 10 points over its nearest rival," said Claes Fornell, the head of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), conducted quarterly by the University of Michigan.

Apple's customer satisfaction score of 85, an ACSI record in the personal computer category, was 10 points higher than the closest competitor, Dell Inc.; 12 points higher than Hewlett-Packard Co.; and 13 higher than Gateway, which was acquired by Acer last year.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cheap is Chic

Everyday Cheapskate

Economy is the same old ride

By Mary Hunt

August 18, 2008

It was January 1992. The economy was tanking, especially in California, where we watched helplessly as the aerospace industry melted away in the wake of the Defense Department cutbacks.

There was a sense of panic as the real estate market began to slide, unemployment climbed, and bewildered yuppies wondered whether they'd be able to eat their BMWs or pay their mortgages with Rolex watches.

It was in the midst of this economic chaos that I got a wild hare to create a newsletter to help people figure out how to survive during lean times, and thus, Cheapskate Monthly was born -- the original name for the newsletter that has since been renamed Debt-Proof Living.

U.S. News & World Report published a news story about what was going on here in California, specifically about Cheapskate Monthly. Imagine that. The title of that short piece? ''Cheap is Chic!'' Finally, there was a bright light in the fog of economic doom.

It strikes me just how similar the events of 1992 are to current events. The feelings of unrest, fear and worry were palpable in 1992. I am sensing some of the same now. If the economy were a roller coaster, I believe we would see both times as fairly steep dips -- the kind that take your breath away and make you feel that surely you never will get out of this alive.

Back to 1992. We did get out alive and enjoyed (some of us still are enjoying) the great prosperity of our beloved country. Our homes have appreciated tremendously since 1992. Even if they've lost market value in the past year or so (not all have), values are still way ahead of 1992.

You also might recall the economic struggles of the 1970s. I was thinking about that while watching the recent banking problems, particularly the demise and quick resurrection of the newly named IndyMac Federal Bank. I've heard predictions that another 100 banks could follow suit. At first, I wanted to screech, ''Yikes, what's going on?!'' But then I recalled the 1970s, when this nation had a huge rash of bank failures -- many more than are being predicted now.

Of course, I cannot foresee the future. However, I can recognize this fairly reliable fact: Our economy is cyclical. There are ups and downs. When things are up, we need to get ready, for surely they will go down. It is difficult to imagine, but I just have a feeling that one day I'll write about that economically stressful time back in 2008, when we thought things could not get worse. We'll smile, knowing that sticking it out and not selling our investments and not dumping our homes was the right thing to do.

We'll be glad that we hung in and refused to give up.

Mary Hunt is the founder of and author of 17 books, including ''Debt-Proof Living.'' You can e-mail her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Two Views of Florida

America Sees This Florida

But Here is the Florida I See at This Time of the Year

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quick Trip to South Carolina to See Jack

Still reeling from jet lag after 7 weeks in London - Lulu and I could not resist a 1000 mile round trip drive to see Jack. Our grandson was already 2 months old and we had only seen him one time. So Lulu and I piled bikes - tent - surf board - beach chairs - towels and blankets into the van and off we went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The ride went well and in 8 hours we were there. Jack has grown so much. He holds up his head already a month ahead of schedule. Imagine - just 8 weeks old and having your first jet flight.

It is thrilling seeing Robin and Drew being such good parents. They have experienced all the wakeups for feeding and crying. Jack is a "swing baby" as grandmother Charlotte says. He loves to be moving. Beside swinging - and eating - he loves to get a bath. One of the funniest things - he loves the vibrations of "riding" a clothes washer. Must be a bit of "bus driver" in his heritage. He loves to move. It reminds me of my Mom - Lil - when she used to say, "There is gypsy blood in the Everharts."

One of the best things about the trip was seeing Jack with his great grandfather - Jack. When it came time to lobby for a name for the baby - I liked simple names - and I thought Jack was an excellent choice. Many are called Jack but most of them are really - John's.

Jack is 81 - and a real gentleman and sweetheart. He was the minister that married the other Jack's parents. He also has a gold medal from the 1948 London Olympics. He played on the USA Basketball Team. Could you think of a better name for your grandchild than that? Jack's other great grandfather - John Cox - was also called Jack.

One of the best parts of visiting South Carolina was listening to Jack tell stories about sports and his church. He and his still beautiful wife Charlotte - travel all over the world. Shortly - they are doing a 77 day cruise to - Alaska - Siberia - Japan - Vietnam - Thailand - Australia. Let's hope Jack inherits some of that longevity and style.

My favorite story of the weekend was a conversation between Lulu and Jack "the great grandfather." Lulu is still coming down from her whirlwind trip to London and Europe. She just gushes about how civilized London is. Our son Keith often chides her about "name dropping." Right on cue - Lulu started telling about her tour of Buckingham Palace. After her bubbly tirade - she asked Jack did he get to see Buckingham Palace during the 1948 Olympics in London. Like most of us senior citizens - Jack is forgetful about recent details - but he has a steel trap mind about "facts from the past."

Jack said that - yes - he was invited to Buckingham Palace during the Olympics. He met "Princess" Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. He also met the Queen Mother and the Queen Mother before that one. He went on and on about how pretty they were and how gracious they were. More details came raining back from this time capsule. He said both Elizabeth and Margaret had on very plain, simple cotton dresses - each with one glorious string of pearls. It was so much fun for just a moment seeing Lulu deal with some "real" solid historic travel details of the London that she had just skimmed. It was like Chevy Chase's dream sequence in "European Vacation."

After a beautiful sunny day on the beach and a wonderful time visiting more of our Jack's ancestors - our trip was coming to an end. The next day we had another 500 miles home. We did not want to leave. The steady rain that was forecast had already started as we loaded up for the ride. There were dire warnings of downpours and tornadoes all the way down the coast to Tallahassee. After lots of hugs and kisses - and the obligatory group photo - we hopped in the van - set the GPS - and headed south. A couple of times I felt a twitching in my hands to turn the wheel and head back for a few more minutes. Lulu would not have said a thing if I did a 180 and went back for just one more chance to hold Jack.

As we traveled south - the rain let up a bit. But in Georgia we saw a lot of felled trees on or near the highway. But by the time we reached Florida - the sun was shining again. The sky opened up and we "could see enough blue to make a grown man's shirt." Life was returning to normal - and we anticipated our next visit - maybe Thanksgiving - maybe Christmas.

One of the biggest problems with being a trailing spouse is being so far from old friends and family. Three days and 1000 miles of driving - it was all worth it. 40 gallons at $4.00 a gallon - a bargain. Don't even start in about "energy credits."

More pictures of Jack -

Picture -
Front - left to right -
Great Grandfather Jack
Mother Robin and Baby Jack
Cousin Rebecca and Cousin Baby Will
Great Grandmother Charlotte
Back - left to right
Father Drew
Uncle Jay
Grandmother Charlotte
Grandpa Harry
Uncle Travis
Grandma Lulu
Great Uncle Henry
Great Aunt Frances

Florida State's Walter Dix Gets Bronze Medal in 100 Meters

FSU's three time All- American Walter Dix won the bronze medal in the 100 meters at the Olympics this morning.

Dix posted a personal best 9.91 in the finals, good enough for third place.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt won the race and set a world record with a time of 9.69. Richard Thompson, who competed for LSU and is running for Trinidad/Tobago in the Olympics, gets the silver medal with a personal-best time of 9.89.

Walter was just 2/100th of a second from second place.

While at Florida State - Dix led the Seminoles to two straight national championships in track. He recently signed promotional contracts with Nike and Oakley.

FSU's Buster Posey Signs "Best Deal Ever" With San Francisco

Baseball America reported Posey's signing bonus was $6.2 million, which would be the largest up-front bonus in MLB history. The deal is not a major-league contract.
Posey, who was taken No. 5 overall by the Giants in the June draft, won the Dick Howser Award and the Golden Spikes Award that goes to the nation's top amateur baseball player.

He won the ACC triple crown while leading FSU to its first College World Series appearance since 2000. He hit .463 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs.

He also earned recognition as the top scholar-athlete in college baseball.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Giant Solar Power Plant in My Old School District

NESQUEHONING — The largest solar energy farm east of Nevada is slated for construction in the Carbon County community of Nesquehoning.
BY MIA LIGHT of Pottsville Republican

Standing on an undeveloped 100-acre tract of land adjacent to the Green Acres Industrial Park on the west side of Nesquehoning Borough near Lake Hauto, state Rep. Keith McCall, D-122, on Thursday joined landowner John J. “Sonny” Kovatch Jr., Nesquehoning, and John Francis Curtis III, founder and “chief green executive” of Green Energy Capital Partners of Conshohocken, to announce that a 10.6-megawatt-ground-mounted-solar energy generating plant would be built on the site.

The facility will be the largest solar energy plant in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the nation.

Dubbed “Pennsylvania Solar Park,” the solar farm will generate enough electricity to power 1,450 homes and eliminate more than 320,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of planting more than 25,000 acres of trees, within 30 years of operation.

“Carbon County has always been at the center of America’s energy generation. What we did for the Industrial Revolution with anthracite coal is unsurpassed. Now, we are going to be on the cutting edge of alternative energy,” McCall said.

Plans for the facility include installation of more than 900 solar trackers with 48 solar panels on each tracker. Unlike stationary solar panels, the tracking panels will pivot from east to west, following the track of the sun across the sky.

“It’s going to be beautiful to watch over the course of the day with the moving panels,” Curtis said, adding that Web cams will be installed on-site to make it easy for the public to watch the movement of the panels on the Internet.

A state-of-the-art command and control center will also be constructed on site, offering opportunities for training and education in solar energy to the public as well as future solar energy plant employees.

Green Energy Capital Partners plans to build additional solar power facilities in both Pennsylvania and Ohio, but the Nesquehoning plant will be the largest ground-mounted photovoltaics (solar energy cell) project east of Las Vegas — second in size behind a 15-megawatt facility at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The $65 million project is being financed through a combination of private investors, federal and state incentives and tax credits.

According to Curtis, the majority of the project’s financing comes from private investors, whom he declined to identify due to ongoing negotiations.

Kovatch Enterprises, which will retain ownership of the 100-acre parcel, has entered into a 30-year lease with two 10-year renewal options — for a potential total duration of 50 years — with Green Energy Capital Partners.

Kovatch said the parcel is open space with no history of past use.

“Just weeds and trees, which are green, but this energy project will be green, too,” Kovatch said of the land and the project. “Once it’s up and running, the solar farm will be 100 percent pollution-free and help to reduce our country’s appetite for foreign oil.”

Although precise plans for distribution of electricity generated by the facility have yet to be finalized, Pennsylvania Act 213 requires local electric utility providers to purchase a percentage of the facility’s solar-generated electricity.

Act 213, which was signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell in November 2004, requires that electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers include a specific percentage of electricity from alternative resources in the generation that they sell to Pennsylvania customers. While Act 213 does not mandate exactly which resources must be utilized and in what quantities, certain minimum thresholds must be met for the use of solar photo voltaic resources.

Developers hope to break ground for construction by March 2009 and have the facility fully operational approximately four months after ground-breaking.

“No one loses in this type of project. Everyone wins,” Curtis said.

According to McCall, the county that was a leader in coal energy will now be a leader in alternative energy.

“I will do everything I can in Harrisburg to support projects like the solar farm to make sure we all have a cleaner, greener, more affordable energy future,” McCall said.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lulu Enjoys "The Last Polka" with Her FSU London Class

Class picture in front of Abbey Road Studios.

Just like summer camp - it was the last day for Lulu and Her First Annual London Library Class. No one seemed to want it to end - but what a way to end it. The class got together and wrote an original song - at least the words are original. They sang it like angels.

Summer London Library Tour Favorite Things

Sung to the Tune of "My Favorite Things," by Richard Rodgers
and The Sound of Music

We've lived in London and done all our classes,
More education to bring to the masses,
Websites and podcasts and pictures galore,
We all are hoping to get a good score!

Field trips to Scotland and Buckingham Palace,
More shopping places than Tampa or Dallas,
Pounds in my pocket that quickly recede,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the bees swarm,
When the day's warm,
There's no air in my flat.
I simply remember my favourite things and then I don't feel so bad!

Riding the tube and the bus and the train,
Counting the heads so no one will remain,
Lots of new friendships I know they will stay,
These are the memories that won't fade away.

When the stairs creak,
When the mouse peeks,
When we walked five miles,
I simply remember my favourite things and then I begin to smile!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Trailing Spouse Gets Invited to Buckingham Palace

Lulu had her last class today - so they went to Buckingham Palace. She invited Keith and I along.

During the month of August - the queen spends most of her time at Windsor Castle. While she is away - her "regular" house is open to the public. For about $30.00 - you get to walk through the state rooms on the first floor.

The place is absolutely beautiful with priceless furniture and art. The dining room was set up for about 150 people. Each place setting had about 20 items of silverware and china. Every item was placed using wooden gauges. There are two state dinners a year.

Since I am from America - it is none of my business how the British run their country. But everyone has an opinion - and mine is that it makes no sense to have a monarchy and the waste of all this money. It costs about 40 million pounds a year to have a monarchy and the queen seems to do nothing of value. She is rewarded for simply being born to a rich family. It is simply a welfare for the rich program. I do not get it. It reminds me of riding first class on an airplane simply to sit a few feet in front of everyone else and to arrive at your destination a few seconds before everyone else.

Having a monarchy reminds me of India - where many people are starving - but a whole bunch of sacred cows roam around the country and are given special treatment. My answer to India's starving population - eat the cows. To the British - take Buckingham Palace - plow it under and plant corn - or make it into a time share.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Thames River Tunnel As Close to Claustrophobia As I Get

I spent the entire day today on a trip to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich - a section in East London. Since I taught Earth and Space Science for 33 years - I had to visit this mecca of science history. But that story will come later.

My friend J P Brown and I took a boat down the Thames River a few miles. When we got off the boat - we saw this round domed building. It looked a bit like an observatory - but we wondered why is was so close to the river. After reading the sign - we were surprised to find a foot tunnel under the Thames River. We decided that a trip to London would not be complete without using the tunnel. We had a choice to go down 50 spiral steps or use the elevator. I felt like we were descending into the gates of hell - as we went deeper and deeper. It felt like climbing down a lighthouse - except it got darker and colder as we went down.

When we hit the bottom - one could see a very narrow round tunnel maybe 9 feet in high - disappearing into the distance. The tunnel was bowed a bit - so that when someone came toward you - you first saw their feet - legs - and finally their head. This bowing gave one the feeling that the whole thing was caving in on you. The tunnel is about 1300 feet long - and only bravado kept me going. I was not going to chicken out in front of J P. So i kept going - focusing mostly on my feet.

We arrived at the other end - and it was comforting to see that the elevator had an operator that spent his entire day in the tunnel. He was reading a London Tabloid - and hardly lifted his eyes to press the buttons or talk to us.

We got outside and the fresh breeze and sunshine never felt so good. I took a picture across the river to see the Greenwich Maritime Museum - and the tunnel on the other side. One should have posted a sign with the words, "Abandon hope - all ye who enter." I also looked around for an alternative way to cross the river.

Without mentioning claustrophobia - we entered the tunnel again. This time I started a long boring story to tell my friend - to occupy my mind. I also looked down at the ground most of the time so that I could not see the bowed cast iron ceiling nor the headless feet of people coming toward me. After dodging a couple bike riders - we were outside. A sense of relief filled my body. I have been in closed quarter before - even a few deep Anthracite coal mines. I spelunked the limestone caves near my alma mater - Kutztown State Teachers College. But this was as close to claustrophobia as I have gotten. I must take Lulu there.

Leading Spouse Says - Who are Wayne and Julia from Tallahassee?

And why wouldn’t it? I am a huge fan of The Sound of Music. For readers of this blog, you may recall a recent story of how the Trailing Spouse surprised me with front-row seats to the play here in London. And a post from last summer recounted how he humored me on a four-hour bus tour throughout Salzburg, Austria to a number of the movie’s settings. In pre-blog days I drug him to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. It seems like if there is anything related to this wonderful movie, I’ll bite.
You may be wondering what the gist of the Observer story is. It turns out that the former Von Trapp family home has been turned into a hotel and the reporter was the first British journalist to set foot in it. For a mere $400 to $1200 one can spend the night where Maria sung her way into the heart of Baron Von Trapp and his seven children. The 150 year-old house was abandoned by the Von Trapps in 1938 as the Nazis expanded their influence into Austria and was later sold to a Catholic foundation and inhabited by monks. The monks have fallen on hard times and the hoteliers are renting it and helping them transform into a hotel.
The writer predicts it will become the most popular hotel in Europe due to film zealots like herself. Those she met on the bus tour were described for several paragraphs. “We re-enact the film’s more energetic scenes, as one 76 year-old broke her hip doing in the gazebo where Liesl and Rolf sing “Sixteen going on Seventeen.” We travel 31 hours from Australia to Austria, like Don and Mary seated behind us on the bus, miss our connecting flight in Japan, and fork out $3400 just to be here. We sometimes fall in love en route, like Wayne and Julia from Tallahassee, donning matching Florida State University sweaters, and fly back on our anniversary to do it all over again.”
So, does anyone know Wayne and Julia? If so, I would love to meet them! Maybe they’ll bring me along on a trip to stay in the hotel. Because the first words out of my Trailing Spouse’s mouth after I made him read the story was, “I’m not going here!”

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lansford Pennsylvania Makes the British Museum

For 33 years - I was a science teacher in Lansford Pennsylvania. I was able to see the old coal mine where my did worked from my classroom window. So you can imagine how excited I was to see this picture in an exhibit of American work at the British Museum. It could be my dad :-)

The print is called "Miner's Head" by Blanche Grambs. In 1927 - she spent time in Lansford (note the label says Lanceford) documenting the plight of the Anthracite coal miner. One can google her name on the Internet to see more of her works.

Today We Will Go to the London Air Race

Every year they have an air race over the Thames River. Small airplanes going 250 MPH race through a course of pylons - sometimes experiencing 10G's as they turn and zig zag. As they race against the clock - they must go through the sea level pylons or lose points. Most of the flying is done over the water to prevent crashing into the spectators.