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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Skiing for $15 a Day at Lake Tahoe

Yesterday I got an email from George and Joel Dawson. They are our neighbors with overactive genetics. They are spending a week at Reno and Lake Tahoe - taking pictures and skiing.

The first main idea of the email was - they were happy that the ski resort had a deal that only charged people over 70 years old a discounted price of $15. I wonder if that included helicopter medivac service :-)

The second one was an urgent request to get their girls' season basketball tickets out of their kitchen drawer - bring them along to the airport at 6:30 on Wednesday - taxi them to the Civic Center for the 7 PM game. After a week on the slopes - and 5 hours of plane travel - they just couldn't miss the last home game.

Brianna Barry - ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Taken from
The legend of Brianna Barry grew with another honor Tuesday afternoon.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Former Florida State volleyball star Brianna Barry has been named the 2009 ACC Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford announced Tuesday.
Barry, who graduated in December with a degree in Sports Management after four remarkable years as a Seminole volleyball player, was also named to the ACC All-Academic Team for the fourth year in a row. She was joined on the squad by teammate Stephanie Neville, who made the team for the first time in her career.
To qualify for selection to the ACC All-Academic Team, student-athletes must have earned a 3.0 grade-point average during the fall semester and have maintained a 3.0 GPA for their careers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Camera for the Cruise

For the last 40 years - I have had a string of cameras. Every year something new and so much better comes out - and I can't resist.
My "big" camera is a Canon G9. It takes great photos - but it is impossible to put in your pocket - so you have to walk around with a clunky strap around your neck - or a pouch hanging on your belt. You have a choice of getting great pictures and looking like a pack rat - or stinky pictures that look like they came from your cell phone.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Taking Fred and Manny to a Girls Basketball Game

Cellphone Video of Golden Girls

Last night Lulu was at a conference in Washington and our friends George and Joel were in Reno at a workshop. So I was left with four tickets to see the FSU girls play Virginia Tech. Our girls team's record is 9-2 in second place in the top conference the ACC. The crowds have been getting better and better and I am afraid that ticket prices in the future will be getting better and better.

Called two of my neighbors - Manny and Fred - to see if they wanted to see a game. I assured them that I had tickets - and that I would pick them up 15 minutes before game time. At 6:45 - they were all ready and eager to see the game. Over and over they kept thanking me for the "very valuable" tickets.

FSU sells season tickets to people 55 and older for $15 for a season! That is a total of 16 games - do the math - less than a dollar a game. Tickets for the boys' games are $28 per game per ticket.

We parked in the faculty parking lot - another perk when Lulu is away - I can grab her parking gate pass. We arrived about 5 minutes before tip off - when we entered the arena it was blacked out for the introductions. This was big time basketball - and we stumbled in the dark down a long flight of steps to the front row. Little did Fred and Manny know - that for FSU girls' games - you can sit in any empty seat. I went right to the VIP box - and no one complained as the three "grayheads" took the prime seats right behind press row.

As our butts hit the seats - the game tipped off. FSU played a great game and won by 15. Manny and Fred enjoyed the crowd - the band - the action - but most of all they enjoyed what is in the video above.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Other Seniors Do For Spring Break

Our neighbors George and Joel never sit still. They seem to always have the throttle against the floor.

This morning I put them on a plane to Reno. They will be gone for 8 days. First - it is a  4 day Nature Photography Workshop in Reno. After that - it will be 4 days of skiing at Lake Tahoe.

I won't say their ages except to say they average over 70.

Some people say that who ever has more toys at the end is the winner. In George and Joel's case it will be whoever visited the most places - wins.

Last weekend they spent at Daytona. Their grandson Caleb works for a NASCAR racing team and got them "pit passes." They left home at 6 AM - drove 4 hours to the race - enjoyed the race - then drove all the way home - all in one day. Of course George did not share the steering wheel.

Many times I say that the relationship between Joel and George and Lulu and I is one that is hampered by age. We are definitely too old for them and can't keep up.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Here's How the South Deals with Snow

Since our friends back north were dealing with 3 feet of snow - Keith was enjoying the worst traffic jam ever in Washington - and I-80 was closed through Pennsylvania - Florida had to get into the action. A few towns west of Tallahassee claimed 2 inches of snow - just across the Georgia border north of town they had 4 inches of white stuff. Some people in town reported flurries - but we did not see them.

The above photo shows how the people in the South deal with snow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Looks like Hell is Freezing Over

A combination of rain and snow was falling late Thursday night in Tallahassee. There was no accumulation.
Even if Tallahasseeans see snow mixed in with rain late in the day, no accumulation is expected. Later this morning, the Florida Panhandle is likely to get snow though, with the possibility of an inch of accumulation.
This is pretty strange because the temperature did not drop below 41 degrees all night.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Do Grayheads in Florida Do For Spring Break? - Take a Cruise to Haiti

Our cruise will circle Cuba.

Click on headline above for cruise detail page.

For the first 55 years of my life - I always told people I hated cruises - although I never went on one. I was used to driving a tour bus and did not want to go anywhere that I could not drive. Dale Kline back home once said, "Harry will never go to Hawaii because you can't drive there." For my retirement in 2003 - Lulu surprised me with a last minute cruise. We went from New Orleans to Key West and Mexico. We had a blast.

It is only 42 degrees in Tallahassee as I type this  - Keith and Drew are getting pelted with blizzards up north. This all led us to dreaming about some tropical island beach with hot sun and warm sand.  Before we knew it - we landed a one week cruise.

We will be going to Haiti - Jamaica - Cayman Islands - and Mexico. The ship lands at each port in the morning - and departs that evening. All nights will be spend on the ship - all meals are included with the fare.

We will be sailing on "Freedom of the Seas" on the Royal Caribbean Line. Until 2009 - it was the biggest ship in the world. This will be our third cruise. So far we have visited the Bahamas - Cayman Islands - Aruba - Puerto Rico - a few places in Mexico - and Key West. This is our first time to "Haiti" although - we will be nowhere near the earthquake action there. Royal Caribbean owns a small enclave on the north coast called Labadee. They bribe the Haitian government to leave them alone. It is isolated on a peninsula by a mountain range and private security force - we won't be doing any kidnapping there. :-)

The last time we were in the Cayman Islands - Lulu insisted we swim with the stingrays. A few weeks later - that crocodile hunter guy was killed by a sting ray - ending my swims with those critters forever. Travel brochures now downplay that activity.

While in Mexico we plan to visit Tulum with its famous Mayan ruins that date back to 1200 AD - way before Columbus landed in America.

Our ship will depart and return from Port Canaveral - near the Kennedy Space Center - Sunday to Sunday.  I hope Fidel doesn't get mad as we completely circle Cuba. Someday ask me about the time Lulu and I sneaked into Cuba.

Lulu and I on our 2003 cruise - note our ship and bikes - and my big belly. 

"Freedom of the Seas" - biggest ship in the world until 2009.

Inside promenade on "Freedom of the Seas"

Lulu swimming with the stingrays at the Cayman Islands

Cruise is 3/7.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Keith and The Blizzard - Life Living in Washington

Keith works for the feds and lives in downtown Washington. Having graduated from Georgetown University - Keith is a dyed in the navy blue wool Hoya fan.

On Saturday - DC was covered with 2 feet of snow. Number 2 ranked Villanova was in town to play Georgetown. Many of the fans were staying home - but Keith could not resist. The arena is 3 miles away - so he got the chance to experience the 100 year storm first hand.

Tangent - Georgetown pounded Villanova - just like they pounded Duke the Saturday before. It must have been worth the walk.

He took these pictures of Connecticut Avenue (often called Embassy Row) and the large white building - where he lives in a condo on the 6th floor. The building is called the California House and it is on California Avenue.

This morning Washington is getting a second blast - they expect another one foot layer today. The District and Montgomery County suspended plowing operations about 9:30 a.m. because of the hazardous weather conditions, and Pepco pulled its utility crews off the roads as well.

The federal government has been shut down for 3 full days. Unlike snow days for school teachers - the feds do not make up those days. According to the news - it costs the federal government $100 million for every snow day.

The video was taken from Keith's window less than an hour ago. The last picture was when Lulu visited in December. Nancy - Keith - Liz.

Lulu Thrown Out of FSU Office / Moves Into Our Tub Room

Back home in Tamaqua - we used to have a hot tub on our back porch. Lulu loved spending winter nights out there with her buddies gossiping about life in a small town and school. The neighbors liked it too. With a little wine and voice trying to be heard over the drone of the hot tub motor - the neighbors enjoyed listening to the "hot news" too.

When we moved into our home on Seminole Drive - it had a hot tub room and a screen enclosed pool. It seemed a little redundant and we seldom used the hot tub. It was just a pretty cedar lined room that reminded us of our cedar chalet back in Tamaqua.

Lulu was thrown out of her office at FSU. They are doing a major renovation on her building on campus - and for this year - she had to find a place to work. Since the tub room was seldom being used it seemed like a natural to me - but it had this giant tub in the floor. With a little imagination - and a few deck planks - a portable floor was built over the tub. It only took a few hours - and the tub room was converted in Lulu's Seminole Retreat.

We refinished a few old "This End Up" furniture pieces from up north. It is amazing what a glossy clear coat can do. Craigslist provided a garnet colored recliner. The lamps are left over from the Tamaqua Moose Collection - they make the cedar walls look a bit like the Wilderness Lodge in Disneyworld. Add a couple of Seminole rugs - a couple pictures of Lulu and Bobby Bowden - and a "working" fireplace - the office is complete.

The room is isolated like a sound booth - so Lulu can make all the noise she wants teaching her online classes there. In the spring time - she can open the windows - and listen and watch the waterfall on her prized pool. The room is off our bedroom - and when that glass door is closed  it is like the red light on a sound studio - do not enter.

There are many advantages and disadvantages of having your wife "underfoot" 24 hours a day - but at least she has a refuge for other distractions. The question is - will she leave when she gets back her renovated office on campus.

Lulu's sister Lori said last night that she was unaware of the office because it was not on my page - so here it is.

Senator/Governor Bob Graham Spoke at FSU - Said We are Less Safe Now Than Before 9/11

One of the neat things about living near a big campus is all of the famous speakers that drop by.

Tuesday at 4 - it was Bob Graham - the former governor of Florida and US Senator. He was a governor for 8 years and a senator for 18 years - quite an accomplishment for a Democrat in the new "Republican" South. Graham went to high school in Miami - then on to the University of Florida - and Harvard Law School. He also got into the presidential late in 2003 - but dropped out because of low poll numbers. He looks a little bit like Jim Thorpe - the world class athlete.

The small auditorium was packed to standing room only when we arrived. There was a few seats in the front that were empty - but they had signs on. When Lulu went to check the seats out - she found that the signs said reserved for faculty members and guests. She sat down and signaled me to come along. I felt a bit like a celebrity sitting behind Former Governor Robin Askew and his wife.

Graham spoke for about an hour and had the spellbound with his explanation about national intelligence and terrorist attacks. He said we are more at risk of a terrorist attack now than we were before 9/11. For terrorists to fail our government must make thousands of right intelligence decisions every day. For terrorists to succeed - they must only be right once. He predicted a successful weapon of mass destruction - either nuclear weapon or biological weapon by 2013.

Graham also displayed his book, "Owner's Manual: Making the government Work for You." I just ordered it on for $15.

Pictures - Bob Graham speaking at Claude Pepper Center at FSU. In the pictures - the white-headed man in the foreground is Robin Askew. It was my attempt to get a picture of two former Florida governors together in one candid photo.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Watching Television On My Cellphone for Free - Making a Happy Birthday

Picture - in the background is our living room television. In the foreground I am holding my iPhone cell phone - watching the same program as the home TV.

Nothing is more fun that getting a new gadget. For my birthday - Lulu got me a neat little computer program or "App" as Apple likes to call them. It is called Slingplayer Mobile. With this program - I am able to watch television programs while traveling - walking - riding - or sitting in a hotel room. The best part of it is - there is no clock running - no charge for the service - no paying for time.

If you remember back a few years - you will see the story I wrote about a device called the Slingbox. It is hooked to your television system at home and also our cable Internet modem.  With this system one can watch their home TV anywhere in the world - as long as you have an Internet connection. While sitting in our apartment in London - we were able to watch TV shows from America. Since our television at home has a DVR (digital video recorder) - we can control what programs to watch and record from our computer on the Internet.

Slingplayer Mobile takes it one step further. With this App on your iPhone - you can watch your home television from anywhere in the world where you can get a wifi wireless signal.

The picture quality is excellent for a 4 inch screen - the sound is good through the small speakers - but using earphones it is stereo quality. There is a delay of maybe 3 seconds when comparing the TV screen at home and the iPhone screen.

This App only works on a Wifi network right now - but some folks are saying that they have gotten it working on the ATT 3G network with some magic. I am guessing if you use it over the ATT network - you would be using your cell phone minutes.

The Slingbox device on our TV at home cost around $100. The Slingbox Mobile App cost $30.

The only difference between men and boys - is the price of their toys. Isn't it great when folks give you presents that you like rather than presents they want you to like?

2/16/10 - Apple has agreed to allow iPhone's with Sling Player Mobile on them to watch television using the G3 phone network. Now you can choose watching your iphone TV using either wifi or G3. I downloaded the free update - and must admit tht I can't tell the difference between the two. On future trip in the car going down the interstate - it will be interesting to see how the network flips the TV signal from tower to tower. If you are a TV or news junkie - it is a neat feeling knowing you have not only a phone in your pocket - but a TV too. I wonder how it will affect my battery life?

Monday, February 08, 2010

FSU Vacates 12 Football Wins, Track National Championship

Picture - Feds march captured Chief Osceola in shame through Saint Augustine to prison at Castillo de San Marcos - captured under a white flag.

Chief Osceola - the leader of the Seminole Indians was captured under the cover of a white flag during a meeting with the US Army. He was told that they would negotiate a truce for his people. Then they captured him and imprisoned him in the fortress at Saint Augustine where he died.

When FSU's athletic department found out that a tutor was using a previous final exam to help students study for a music course - they put up a white flag and turned themselves into the NCAA. The NCAA praised the Noles for turning themselves in and later passed down the harshest penalty possible - one step below the death penalty given to Southern Methodist University.

With those vacations now official, recently retired head football coach Bobby Bowden will finish his career with 377 wins — still second all-time to Penn State's Joe Paterno.

The Florida State football team lost five victories from the 2006 season (including the Emerald Bowl victory over UCLA) and seven more from the 2007 season.

The men's track team, which won three straight national championships from 2006 to 2008, will give up one of the titles.

Bill Clinton said it best, "Deny, deny, deny."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Seminoles Lose Last Second Heartbreaker to Maryland

Jimmy Valvano once said you know you made the big time when you are playing the 9 o'clock game in the Garden. Last night was pretty exciting playing Maryland in the second game on ESPN. It was not a sellout in the Tallahassee Civic Center - but probably the biggest crowd of the year watched Michael Snaer drive to score in the last 20 seconds - only to have the points taken off the scoreboard for a charge call. Less than a minute later it was all over after the Terps made some foul shots and the Noles lost by 4.

Saturday Wake Forest comes to town and the Seminoles must recover or risk not being selected to play in the NCAA playoffs.

Nancy's friends - Paul and Michelle gave us free tickets for the game - 9 PM was too late a game for their kids. I guess the kids never heard of Jimmy V.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Apple Sent A New Time Capsule

First of all - you are wondering what a Time Capsule is. It is a computer device made by Apple Computers.

It is a small silent 8 x 8 x 1 inch box. It provides two services. First - it is a wireless router that sends wifi Internet signals from you cable modem to any computer within shouting distance. Second - it automatically backs up your computer hard drive wirelessly.

One of the dirty little secrets of owning a computer is that your hard drive is going to fail. It is one of the few moving parts in a computer and it fails from wear and tear. You are supposed to back up your data from time to time - but most users get a little to confident and lazy. They think their hard drive will never fail. The Time Capsule automatically backs up your data - hourly - and daily. It uses a program called Time Machine to store your data. With Time Machine you can go back to any date - and see your computer files on that date. It is like magic - going back in time - thus the name.

I have been using my Time Capsule for two years. It has been silently backing up my computer and Lulu's too. It can back up several computers  at once - until its 500 GB hard drive is full - then it dumps older copies of your data.

Anyway - the other day my Time Capsule failed. It refused to power up. I called Apple - told them about the problem. After checking on the Internet I also noticed this was a known problem. Apple said they would send a brand new Time Capsule to me in overnight mail for free. They asked that I put the old one in the return box - and they would pay the postage to return it. The next morning at 10 AM - the new Time Capsule arrived. I had it up and running in minutes.

The new one has a couple of new settings that are nice. First - it allows you to use N speed wifi and G speed wifi devices at the same time without slowing of service. My iPhone is G speed and my MacBook is N speed. Second - it allows you to set up a "guest" network to limit what a guest user can see. In the past I used to leave my wifi network open to anyone that wanted to use it - but recently I locked it with a password - because I think it was slowing down due to other users.

The Time Capsule cost about $300. At least if yours fails two years later - Apple will send a new one for free.

PPL Park - New Soccer Stadium in Chester Along the Delaware River for the Philadelphia Union

Call me old school - but I did not know that Pennsylvania even had a professional soccer team. Now they are getting a big league stadium.

PPL - our old power company back home in Pennsylvania - has decided to pay $20 million for the naming rights of the stadium for 10 years. The team called the Union starts their season on April 10th - but the stadium may not be done in time. They would play their games at the Phillies baseball stadium nearby - God knows its official name.

Pennsylvania residents are upset that a public utility is spending money for publicity. An electric rate cap has recently been removed from the company and home electric bills are set to rise by 30%. When I was a kid - the company was called Pennsylvania Power and Light Company with its main office in downtown Allentown. They changed they name to PPL now - and to further complicate the situation - a branch called PPL Plus is attempting to sell power in the Philadelphia area in competition with PECO (figure that one out yourself).

The stadium will be next to the Commodore Perry Bridge which crosses the Delaware River on the way to New Jersey - just a few miles south of the Philadelphia  Airport.

I am looking forward to singing on the banks of the Delaware - that's what soccer crowds do in England.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Republican Supreme Court Just Tilted the Political Playing Field in Favor of the Rich and Famous

Usually I agree with Bill Cotterell but this time I think he is wrong. He has a vested interest in this Supreme Court decision and has let it cloud his view of what has happened. The Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the right to spend whatever they want to influence the election of our leaders.

To be sure - this ruling will make it much easier for an election to be bought. But it also will give the newspaper and television industry a windfall of election money. In our modern society - the media is the only way for the public to find out about the candidates. The newspapers are already on life support - so this new found wealth looks great to publishers trying to balance their budgets and stay in existence. As a publisher - the number one task is to be in business the next day - this pot of gold is tempting. But - with this cash comes "strings" and one would be silly to think  that controlling the editorial content would not be the first one pulled.

In Bill's article he goes on to talk about how people do not heed advertisements on television. In the next breath - his advertising sales people at the newspaper tell us what a good investment it is to run ads in the Democrat. I consider myself to be a savvy consumer - but if advertisements do not work - people would quickly stop using them. Of course advertising works - and that is why this is a bad ruling.

I am pretty tight with my money - but on a occasion - I have opened my checkbook to a few politicians. After the donations - I got much more attention from those candidates - and when the moths cleared the check was never for more than $100. Imagine what attention I would get for $1000 or $100,000. For $50 - I expected my candidate to listen to my ideas and put them into play. Just suppose - that Bill Gates wanted a law that limited use to only his products. For a few million dollars - he could control Congress.

This has been going on for years - under the table. Now the flood gates will open. Feeding at the public trough will have a new meaning. Elections will be controlled by the corporations - whether they be owned by Americans or not.

Income Tax Time - Good or Bad - Depending Whether You Have to Give or Receive

The American tax system is confusing. There are all sorts of exceptions and loopholes that allow some folks to pay less than they should and others end up paying more to make up for them. I am not going to argue that our government is wasting our taxes - that is a given. My story will deal with this amazing this law that allows us to calculate our own taxes.

The income tax law is very complex. I heard someone say a simpler form would be - "how much do you earn? --- send it in."

I have been preparing my income tax forms on a computer since 1994. With a simple tax preparation program - you are asked simple questions - you fill in answers - then it prepares the forms.

I used to use a program called "MacInTax." Then a company called "TurboTax" bought "MacinTax." Last year I switched to "H & R Block At Home" because "TurboTax"  started limiting how many forms you could fill out. "At Home" allows you to prepare as many paper forms as you want - but also allows you to file 5 electronic forms for free. So this is the first year I filed our income tax return over the Internet.

"At Home" cost $15. You can buy it on with no tax and no shipping fee. The program works on a Mac or a PC computer. You load the program onto your computer - then click to open the program. Then the program simply asks you questions and fills in the forms as you go. It will retrieve your old data from last year's forms no matter what tax program you used. 

In our case - I filed the simple 1040 form - because we do not have any deductions. Our tax bill came out to $32,000 - we had already paid $37,000 - so the government owed us $5000 back. I wanted to get the money back quickly so I chose to file over the Internet. 

I must admit that it was a little scary pressing the "send" button. Also - if you give them your bank account number - they will deposit it there directly. Supposedly - our money will be returned in 2 weeks. I will let you know when we get it back.