Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We Heat The Brick House With Propane

We bought a house down the street. It is about 60 years old and has a propane gas furnace. There is a 250 gallon tank underground in the back yard. The tank is owned by Plantation Propane - so you are stuck with buying gas from them unless you remove their tank and have another company put a tank in.

Monday - I had 100 gallons delivered to the tank. One thing nice about propane is that if it leaks - you smell it - nothing drips into the groundwater - it evaporates. They purposefully put an odor in the gas because propane is normally odorless - and for safety sake they want to be able to detect leaks.

We have installed a city gas line and meter to the house for the water heater - but we cannot find the parts to convert this old gas furnace over to city gas. The entire furnace and AC unit are outside the house - so no gas lines enter the home - making it very safe. this makes it quiet in the house. When this furnace fails - we will buy a one that runs on city gas.

We will now see how much gas it consumes. Propane cost $3 a gallon when you buy it in bulk. You must take a load of at least 75 gallons.

Considering Buying This Prius

I have always been fascinated by the electric car technology - so we are considering buying this Prius.

They have been making this car now for 8 years. Simply put - it has 2 motors - one electric and one gasoline. When you are going slowly - it is a completely electric car - and virtually silent. When you go faster - the gasoline motor kicks in to give the car extra boost and also to charge the big battery it has.

It supposedly gets 45 mpg in town and 41 mpg on the highway. It holds 12 gallons of gas and can go a maximum of 500 miles on a tank of gas. Some people report they get 55 mpg - but some people love to stretch everything.

This car is a 2008 and has 23,000 miles on it. The warranty on the battery is 8 years - the warranty on the drive train is 6 years. It has leather seats - rear backup camera - super GPS and stereo systems. You can answer your cellphone and play your music through bluetooth - no wires necessary.

We may be trading our Honda van for it plus cash.

MacBook Sold in Three Hours

You may recall that I bought a new MacBook Air at the beginning of November. It is the little two pound computer that I am typing on right now. It is Apple's latest little Mac that sells for $1000 and is sweeping the country. Supposedly - it is so small - that you can go through airport security without taking it out of your carry-on bag. We will see tomorrow when we travel north.

I kept my "old" MacBook for a month just in case I decided that the new little MacBook Air was not my style. But with the old MacBook sitting here collecting dust - yesterday I decided to sell it on Craigslist.

At 3 PM - I took several pictures of the computer and wrote the little sales ad. No sooner had I pressed the upload button than calls started coming in. The first lady wanted it for her high school daughter and they came over right away. I generally do not turn cash down - but the mother and daughter disagreed on a few things - so I sent them to Best Buy to look at all the Macs. Best Buy is less than a mile from our door.

While they were away examining the computers at Best Buy - calls started pouring in - 8 in all. I did something I usually do not do - I held the computer for the mother and daughter team. They did return and bought the computer. I advertised it for $800 - they offered $725 cash - and I took it - even though other callers offered the $800 over the phone. I am getting soft in my old age. A bird in the hand.

I do not like to sell to friends because if something goes wrong - I feel like a crook. But this MacBook has the AppleCare warranty - good until October 31st 2011. That means if anything goes wrong - Apple will fix it or replace the entire computer. I have had that actual experience of Apple sending me a brand new computer when they could not fix the DVD player on a three year old black iBook.

So now I am down to a MacBook Air - an iPad - and an iPhone. I am a perfect example of "all dressed up and nowhere to go." I would have killed for a lineup like this when I had a real job. I guess Ben Franklin would have loved having a Mac too.

You have to love Macs and Craigslist. In 3 hours - I took a picture - wrote an ad - sold a product - collected the cash - and removed the ad from Craigslist. No shipping - no tax - no waiting for payment. Pure capitalism.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Finally After 6 Straight Losses to the Gators - Florida State Wins Big 31-7

Photos and Video from Iphone

For the first time in 7 years - FSU beat the Gators in football.

For us it all started innocent enough. At 8 AM we took our cars over to the stadium area to squat out our usual place to tailgate. It was already crowded and someone had "our area" staked out with a bunch of chairs. After explaining to them that they could not "save" spots for friends - they removed their chairs and we put our two cars and a tent frame up - to stake it out for us.

At 1:30 PM we arrived and the police already had our street blocked off because of the big crowd. After a little fancy footwork with the van - I convinced the cop that our van was full of 12 "slow" people - he looked in - and let us through.

After an hour and a half of good food and drinks - we all went to the stadium to try to get tickets. Tickets were difficult to obtain - with tons of people buying (fingers up) and few people selling (tickets up). After about 20 minutes of holding two fingers up - a gentlemen walked right up to me and handed me a wonderful pair - 40 yard line - sunny side - row 17. He said he did not want money - he just asked us to keep an eye on his kids who will be sitting right in to front of us. I know it seems hard to believe - but Nancy was right there and can verify it all.

We went straight to our seats - fantastic - except the sun was shining straight onto us. For the first quarter we had to shade our eyes. Then the sun went behind the press box - and it got colder very quickly.

FSU fell behind quickly 7-3 - but that is all the Gators had. Final score 31-7.

While we were celebrating the victory - it was announced that Maryland beat North Carolina State. This meant that FSU is in the ACC championship game against Virginia Tech. The winner of that game get an automatic seed to the Orange Bowl - and a big pay check.

We were home by 7:30 PM - lots of traffic. Telephone reception form the stadium was impossible using our iphone and ATT. So I just got done writing this story and uploading the video to youtube.

It was a great day to be cheering for the Noles.

Here are come great pictures from our free seats - some with the sun in our eyes - and others when the sun went behind the press box.


Biggest game of the millenium and Harry did not have to open his wallet for parking - food - or game tickets.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pennsylvania Passes New Pension Bill - This Will Cover Newly-Hired Teachers

HARRISBURG — Gov. Ed Rendell has signed bills that reduce pension benefits for newly hired state and public school employees and require the establishment of recycling programs for electronic devices, his office said Wednesday.

The pension bill, which also creates an independent legislative fiscal office, buys time for the cash-strapped state treasury and local school districts by reducing the amount they must pay in the near term into the two major public-sector pension plans that serve more than 675,000 current and retired state government and public school employees.

While the bill would not affect pensions of people already in the system, it would reduce benefits and increase the retirement age for newly hired state workers, teachers and other school employees, among other changes.

From The Morning Call

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rare Apple I computer sells for $210,000 in London

The Associated Press

LONDON -- Its processor works 1,000 times slower than the Apple iPad, but the first ever Apple computer has sold for 425 times the price.

The Apple I, one of only 200 such models ever made, was sold Tuesday afternoon at Christie's auction house in central London for 133,250 pounds (about $210,000.) It came with its original packaging and a signed sales letter from Steve Jobs, one of Apple Computer's co-founders and the current CEO of Apple Inc.

When the Apple I was introduced in 1976, it was the only personal computer to come with a fully assembled motherboard, making it ready to use straight from the box - provided the user supplied a keyboard, power supply, and display, Christie's said.

It sold for $666.66 and was available until it was discontinued in 1977.

Bidding on the Apple I came quickly, with the computer eventually going to Italian businessman and private collector Marco Boglione, who made his offer over the phone.

Marco's brother Francesco Boglione, who attended the auction in person, told The Associated Press that Marco's purchase was a testament to his love of computers.

"The first time I had heard of the idea of a personal computer, it was from Marco," Boglione said. He bought it "because he loves computers."

Present at the technology auction, which aslo included manuscripts, prints, and science-themed texts, was Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak, who agreed to add an autographed letter to the lot.

He said the auction was a historic moment for his work, especially when sold alongside such other technological greats as an Enigma, the German code-making machine, and writings of British mathematician Alan Turing, considered one of the founders of modern computing.

"Today my heart went out as I got to see things auctioned off like the Turing documents and the Enigma machine - and the Apple I," Wozniak told journalists after the auction. "It really was an important step, (even though) I didn't feel that way when I designed it."

"I'm very delighted for the gentleman who purchased it," he added.

Boglione said his brother's newly purchased Apple I would likely be returned to working condition - and eventually join a collection of Apple computers.

Inside the auction house Tuesday afternoon, many patrons studied the sale catalog using Apple's iPads and iPhones - a sign of the times, said Christie's Julian Wilson.

"It is a fitting illustration of how computers have revolutionized the world," he said.

Florida State Seminoles Beat 4th Ranked Florida Gators Under Moonlight Swim Meet

It was a full moon last night in Tallahassee and the temperature was in the 60s as the Seminole beat the 4th ranked Gators under the stars at their new competition pool at the Seminole Golf Course just south of town near the airport.

By The Democrat's Jim Lamar

The full moon. The lights. Packed bleachers. It was an atmosphere never seen before for the Florida State swimming and diving programs.

The Seminoles swept rival Florida in a dual meet held under the lights at the Mor­com Aquatic Center. The victory marked the second time FSU swept the Gators in a dual meet.

“What a beautiful night,” FSU coach Neil Harper said. “Perfect weather. A fun night for Seminoles. Great crowd. It was a meet where two teams went at it and battled.”

FSU’s men, ranked 20th nationally, won 10 of the 16 events, including both diving events and both relays. The unranked FSU women won nine events and swept the diving and relays.

Though the dual meet has no bearing on this spring’s NCAA competition, it was still a huge night for the FSU athletes.

“The atmosphere was incredible,” said junior Stephanie Sarandos, who won the 200-yard back stroke. “I’ve never seen that many fans. Never seen our team that excited. I was shocked. I’m still shocked. I’m insanely proud of what we accomplished.”

Senior Rob Holderness swepth both breastroke events and senior Landon Marzullo won both diving events to lead the FSU men. Holderness said he was amazed at the scene for the outdoor meet.

“It was the most pumped I’ve seen the team -- ever,” Holderness said. “Everyone swam out of their skin.”

FSU diving coach Patrick Jeffrey was all smiles as he talked about his divers performing under the lights.

“The kids really brought it tonight,” he said. “They stepped up.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tree From Coal Cracker Land in Pennsylvania to Grace White House

From The Times News

Yesterday at noon, a 20-foot Douglas fir to be adorned in the White House in Washington D.C. was cut down on a Mahoning Township tree farm. For the second time the Crystal Spring Tree Farm, located next to Mahoning Elementary School, is supplying the tree for the Blue Room of the White House. The tree will be transported to Washington D.C. by Francis and Margaret Botek, and their son, Chris, owners of the tree farm. It is scheduled to be formally presented by them to First Lady Michelle Obama...

This farm is in Carbon County - Pennsylvania.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Selling Our 2004 Honda Odyssey Van

I am selling our 2004 Honda Odyssey EX-L van. It just turned over 100,000 miles and the new car bug has bitten Lulu. She just came back from a long trip of driving rental cars through the midwest - and all of a sudden it is new car time. That's okay with me - I would be happy to buy two new cars every year - so let the shopping begin.

This Honda has been very good to us. All I have ever had to do was replace the tires and battery. Between that and faithful oil changes - this car has pretty much been on its own. We have kept it in the garage - so the paint is in excellent condition. The gray leather interior is also flawless.

This is the EX-L version which means it is the top of the line. Besides leather inside - it has front and rear radios - AC setting for front middle and back - a DVD player with wireless earphones entertains the kids in back - rear seat folds into the floor - and four luxurious captain chairs recline guests in luxury. The side doors are powered and have remote controls. The drivers seat has 8 way power. It plays CDs in a high performance digital stereo.

For performance it has - alloy sport wheels - Michelin tires - 4 wheel disk brakes - 240 HP engine - cruise control - tilt wheel - radio controls on the steering wheel - fuel injection.

We have driven this van north to Pennsylvania - south to Miami - and west to New Orleans. It is a powerful van that is a quiet cruiser - get 24 MPG highway - 20 MPG in town. It was a great party van for tailgating at football games or a fantastic changing cabana at the beach.

Someone Broke Into My Web Page

It had to happen - after 5 years of posting stories - videos - and pictures on my web page - the Florida Coal Cracker Chronicles. Yesterday - when I checked my page there were stories and advertisements from someone selling products like knock off Rolex watches.

I have changed my passwords - but that did not help. This morning there were more similar stories on my page. I am guessing some kind of robot is sending spam because the same story appeared again.

Today - I shut down the ability to publish to my web page from the iphone. Maybe the robot is entering through that access. I have also contacted - but they are hard to reach.

Keep watching here for more news about how the robot has taken over my web page.

As a compliment of - this is the first time in 5 years that this web host page has been violated. Not bad for the price - $0.

Tuesday - Looks like I plugged the leak. The material was coming in through a back door I had for posting to my page via email.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Two Big Games Today For Seminoles

First - at noon North Carolina State play North Carolina at Chapel Hill at noon. Both of those teams have beaten FSU in the last minute of their games. If the Tar Heels win that game - first can move into first place in the Atlantic division of the ACC.

Second - at 8 PM - Florida State plays Maryland at College Park MD. If the Noles win that game and NCSU loses the above game - FSU ends up in the ACC championship game. The winner of that game goes to the Orange Bowl. It has been 5 long years since the Noles have been in a BCS game on New Years Day.

Drew and Keith will be at the Seminoles game.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Son Drew and I Went to JImbo Fisher Luncheon Monday

On Monday after every FSU game - Coach Jimbo Fisher holds a noon luncheon at the stadium. Monday about 200 people turned up - including Drew and I - to listen to the Coach review the game film - break bread - and take questions from the fans.

After lunch - we stopped to have someone take a picture of us near the goal posts that were split by a 55 yard "walk off" field goal that beat Clemson - 16-13 - less than 48 hours ago. Drew and I are about 30 years apart in age - but when it comes to Seminole football we are on the same page.

As I type this - Drew is boarding a plane to go to see FSU play Maryland with his brother Keith. Tickets are provided by my "third" son - UMD master alumni Stephen Simchak.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lou Holtz Writes a Letter to the Tallahassee Democrat About Christian Ponder

This time of year is very special for college football fans every­where who spend their Saturdays cheering every touchdown, field goal and tackle their favorite team makes.

Each week, players will be lauded and praised by coaches, fans and media alike for their amazing performances on the field.

But for me, this time of year is most mean ingful because it marks the announcement of a special group of col lege football student athletes whose talents extend well beyond the playing field. All state and the Ameri can Football Coach es Association (AFCA) have named 22 players from all levels of college football to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for their endur ing commitment to com munity service and vol unteerism.

One of the players on this year’s team whom I want to personally congratulate is Florida State University quar terback Christian Pon der, whose selfless acts of kindness and giving back have helped make a difference in the Tal lahassee community.

Christian is able to bal ance his football and academic responsibili ties and still find time to serve the Children’s Home Society of Florida and the United Way of Big Bend.

Christian is a remarkable individual who represents every thing that is right about college football, and people in the FSU Seminole community should be proud of his efforts.

As I’ve always said, I would rather have my son be named to the Allstate AFCA good Works Team than any All-American team.

Please join me in con gratulating Christian and all members of the 2010 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.


Harry Note - Christian Ponder has already completed his masters degree at FSU.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lulu in Indianapolis

Today Lulu spoke at the Indiana Library Convention in Indianapolis. This picture was taken just after she spoke at noon today. That is her hotel behind her and the State Capitol in the far background. After this picture she drove 5 hours to Kalamazoo Michigan where she is now.

Tomorrow - she will recognize a great school library there. Then another 5 hour drive to Cleveland and another presentation Friday - and then she flies home to me.

Doesn't she look fantastic?

Happiness is My Full Family at FSU's Last Second Victory

There could not have been a better cap to put on our early family Thanksgiving gathering. My "three sons" flew into town Wednesday for an early Thanksgiving. Lulu spent all day Thursday preparing a 26 pound turkey for 14 guests. Then Saturday - we all went to the Clemson versus Florida State football game.

We were lucky to land 4 really good seats together for $15 each. The game was tight throughout the night. If FSU lost - they would be out of the race for the ACC title and a chance to play in the Orange Bowl. With a minute to go - the game was tied - 13 to 13. FSU got the kickoff - drove down the field. With 3 seconds left it would take a 55 yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins - who missed a short field goal last weekend at the end of the game for an FSU loss to UNC.

This time the clock ran out as he kicked the ball through the goal posts 55 yards away. FSU 16 and Clemson 13. This coming weekend - FSU plays at Maryland - and my sons will be there. My adopted son - Stephen Simchak- made sure they have tickets.

This is a picture of our family - an instant after the kick - you can see the players in the background trying to mob the kicker. But to me - it was like having the 4 Beatles back together - for one more concert.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Watch This Pine Tree Fall

Five pine trees - ravaged by lightning - were taken down today to protect the brick house from destruction. Five men - a tractor - and truck worked tirelessly to get all 5 trees down safely. Tomorrow - they will finish hauling the wood away and trim branches from some of the remaining trees.

They pulled this pine tree down falling Southwest - right into the spot of our future living room.

Lulu in Oregon This Morning

West Orient Middle School librarian Erin Fitzpatrick-Bjorn holds up a letter of recognition from American Association of School Librarians President Nancy Everhart (left) during a school assembly Monday morning.

I have to read the blogs to find my wife. This morning she was in Oregon. Come on home Lulu - your family is arriving Wednesday for early Thanksgiving and the Clemson/FSU game.

Pine Tree Three

This one was split and rotted out inside. This one was aimed at the brick house. Lightning had run down it's side.

Pine Tree Number Two Bites the Dust

Our new building lot has about 30 giant pine trees on it. We plan to save a few - but some have to go. Some are damaged by lightning and insects. Others are where we plan to put the barn and house.

Right now we are clearing the spot where the barn will go. As soon as we have the spot cleared and leveled - we will have the barn put up. It will be a 100% steel building - frame - walls - roof. It will go up in two days.

After we sell our present home - we plan to build the new house with the cash.

Removing Five Pine Trees From Yard

Saturday, November 06, 2010

21 Professors at Florida State University Reinstated - Tenure Law Upheld - For Now

During the budget crunch last year - 21 FSU tenured professors were fired without just cause. 12 of the professors belonged to the United Faculty of Florida - the union that supports the faculty. The case was taken to court.

Yesterday - the arbitrator ruled that the firing was unwarranted.

FSU President Eric Barron said the university will rescind layoffs to all tenured faculty, whether they were part of the grievance or not.

"Our view is that the ruling has been made, and we should treat all faculty members uniformly," Barron said.

This case shines a spotlight on the tenure issue in Florida. During this year's session - the legislature passed a bill removing tenure protection from public school teachers. The bill was blocked by a veto from Governor Charlie Crist. With Crist's term ending in December - look for the new governor to sign such a bill into law. Florida teachers will be the only ones in the country without tenure protection.

Florida already holds the record for spending less per pupil than any other state. Think about how cheaply they can run their schools when they fire all the old higher salaried ones without just cause.

When I asked someone in the crowd how they felt about Florida being ranked 50th among the states in the amount they spend per pupil - the response was, "At least we're not last!"

I couldn't say it any better.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Golden Girls Now Have a Guy

Freshman Caleb Keime

Florida State has had a fantastic dance troupe called The Golden Girls for over 20 years. They perform at almost all the sporting events and have been ranked in the top 2 nationally.

At the basketball game last night - something new has been added - a golden guy. He is freshman Caleb Keime and he obviously does his homework. He really knew the routines last night and after the original shock - he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

I really think it is cool. They now call them Golden Girls and Company.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

One Out of Three Is Great in Baseball

Elections Day Blues.

1. Sink lost as governor.

2. Crist lost as Senator.

3. But - an amendment to the class size law failed. No public school class in Florida can have more than 18 elementary kids - 22 middle school kids - 25 high school kids. It is in the state constitution - and has been upheld by defeating an amendment.

All in all - to me - that is the most important one. So I am batting .333. :-)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

We Voted

We just voted at our cute little precinct in the park. Temp was in the 70s and bushes were in bloom.

I voted mainly for three things - will probably lose on two of them.

First - I voted for Alex Sink for governor. She has been the Chief Financial Officer for the state for the last 4 years. She is a Democrat during a Republican administration. She is running again a crook - a hospital administrator that was fined $1.7 billion for stealing from Medicare.

Second - I voted for Charlie Crist for US Senate. Charlie was Republican and is running as an Independent and will probably get hammered. I voted for him because as governor he vetoed a bill that would have removed tenure protection from school teachers - so that they could be fired without just cause. Now the legislature will probably pass that stupid law without him there to veto it.

Third - I voted against changing the "class size" amendment. Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that says no class in elementary school can be above 18 kids - middle school 22 kids - high school 25 kids. This amendment wants to water it down to class average sizes. That is not what the people wanted when they passed it the first time. I like the original constitutional amendment to stand the way it is.

The election was the dirtiest election I can recall. This has been caused by the US Supreme Court's ruling that corporations can spend as much as they want and can hide behind silly sponsor names. As a result - people throw more mud when they do not have to stand up behind it.

Charlie Crist and his bride - from potential vice president candidate instead of Palin - to the dog house in two years. You will never hear from him again.

Alex Sink - I hope she is our new governor.