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Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene Drops Giant Locust Tree In Our Front Yard

A tree behind the yard of Tim and Diane Fudge was knocked over by Hurricane Irene. The Fudge house - our old house - then Lee Schilling's brick house are in this picture. Friend George Taylor is standing on the right of way of Catawissa Street. Since we moved in 2004 - Tim and Diane installed the new white deck shown in the picture. The tree just turned it into a "sun deck."

Lots of rain - then some wind - pulled the locust tree up by the roots.

Tamaqua received lots of rain and wind from the storm. Thousands lost their power - some will be without power for a few days.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Mailbox Story Getting Lots of Hits

Mailbox stores mail underground.

Two years ago I wrote a story about a special mailbox I installed in our yard. The mailbox is excellent for someone who travels a lot. It safely stores all of your mail in a bin underground. We have been away up to a month at a time - and the mailbox kept the mail safely stacked and dry. There is no need to notify the post office to have your mail stopped. No worries about a stuffed mailbox letting the crooks know you are away. Even the local newspaper carrier puts our daily paper in the box - instead of having a pile of wet newspaper telling the world we aren't home.

In the last couple days - my web page hits have gone up. It turns out most of the people reading the mailbox story are being forwarded from the web page of the company that makes the mailbox. The compoany that makes the mailboxes in Florida are using my story in their advertisements.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Warren Buffet Says Raise Taxes on Rich - Problem Solved

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett calls for more taxes on ‘mega rich’ as a shared sacrifice

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is calling on the so-called mega-rich to pay more in taxes.

Buffett says in a New York Times opinion piece that he would immediately raise rates on households with taxable income of more than $1 million, and he would add an additional increase for those making $10 million or more.

He says he and his mega-rich friends have been coddled long enough by Congress, and says it is time for the government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

He says he has yet to see anyone shy away from investments due to potential capital gains taxes, even when capital gains rates were much higher in the mid-1970s.

From the NY Times Today

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This war is nuts!

Army suicides set record in July

The U.S. Army suffered a record 32 suicides in July, the most since it began releasing monthly figures in 2009.

The high number of deaths represents a setback for the Army, which has put a heavy focus on reducing suicides in recent years. The number includes 22 active-duty soldiers and 10 reservists. The previous record was 31, from June 2010.

Army officials cautioned that investigations are underway in most of the deaths to confirm the exact cause.

"Every suicide represents a tragic loss," Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, said in a written statement. "While the high number of potential suicides in July is discouraging, we are confident our efforts . . . are having a positive impact."

Over the past several years, the Army has launched a major effort to institute new training to improve soldiers' ability to bounce back from stress, and setbacks in combat and in their personal lives. It has hired hundreds of mental health and substance abuse counselors and has launched a push to convince soldiers that seeking help for mental health problems will not have a negative impact on their careers.

From the NY Times

New Macs For Old -Trying Out Apple's New iMac

On the left - my little MacBook Air. On the right - my iMac Desktop Computer.

Last week I sold two eMac's for $100 each. This one even had a wireless mouse and keyboard. Even at that price they are fully Internet ready with wireless wifi.

I have been buying Macs since 1989 when I paid $2500 for a Mac SE with a 20 MB hard drive. Before that - we bought our first Apple IIc in 1981 for $1500 with no hard drive storage at all. It is truly amazing how the computer performance has increased and the prices have gone down. It has been 3o years since we had our first real computer.

This week I bought Apple's latest desktop the iMac. To differentiate from other iMacs - this one is the first one with Thunderbolt - a new very fast interface. But what truly amazes me is the amount of bang you get for the buck. I bought mine from Amazon - because they discount the price below what Apple charges - they do not charge sales tax - and 2 day shipping is free. From Apple it would cost $1310 delivered. From Amazon it was $1134 total.

So what do you get for $1100. You get a 21 inch wide flat glass color screen. The entire computer is "just the screen." Everything is in that skinny little box. It his a DVD player and recorder. It has a slot that will read your SD-RAM camera chips. It has 4 GB of main memory and a 500 GB storage disk. The keyboard and mouse are completely wireless - they receive signals from the computer by Bluetooth. It has a 2.5 Ghz processor - which means it is very fast. There is also something about a new faster video card for rendering photos and video fast. The Thunderbolt port transfers information to and from external hard drives about 20 times faster.

The new iMac comes with Lion - which is a fancy name for the new System 10.7. This is the latest version of Apple's operating system.

For the last year I have been computing with just a laptop - the MacBook Air. I really like that computer and intend to keep it. It is my travel partner and the computer I use to sit by the pool. The MacBook Air is the smallest fully functional Mac. It weighs about 2 pounds and is about 1/2 inch thick. One of the neatest things about my MacBook Air is that it has no hard drive - it stores all its data on a flash drive - or computer chip. This makes the battery last forever - about 6 hours of use - and also the computer does not waste energy getting hot. This is a real lap saver. The MaCbook Air is about the size and shape of the pad but it has a full physical keyboard. Because of the flash drive - it only stores 64 GB of memory - that is only 3000 times the amount that my original Mac Se stored!

I love having the luxury of having two computers - the desktop for reading full newspaper pages and being able to view and edit pictures in giant size. But I am happy not to have to give up the portability of the little MacBook Air - I called it my Airbook.

To show you how far computers have come and yet how much they have stayed the same - I sold two 10 year old eMac computers for $100 each. These desktops are fully functional computers capable of getting onto the Internet wirelessly with the included Airport wifi card. I bought them on Craigslist at a deep discount and passed some of the saving onto two very happy users.

In review - you can buy the state of the art desktop computer at Apple for $1134 complete. The MacBook Air with discounts can be had for $900. Both are fantastic computers. But if one wants to get into action on the Internet - do email - surf the net - they can buy an eMac for $100.

This is Apple latest wireless keyboard and mouse. They are so small and light.

This picture shows my MacBook Air with the iMac's wireless keyboard on top of it. Keyboards are the same.

Friday, August 05, 2011

London to Miami

Thursday morning 6 AM - London Time - this is the Tube stop by our apartment at Holburn. In just an hour or so those escalators will be jammed with people going to work. Here Lulu has it all to herself and her memories. Those signs along the side are show posters - Billy Elliot - Jersey Boys - Phantom of the Opera - Wicked - etc.

Our flight left London Heathrow at 9AM. At 1:30 PM we were landing in Miami. Note the new baseball stadium being built where the Orange Bowl used to be.

This is downtown Miami from our Boeing 777. American Airlines was good to us.

This is the Jackson Medical Center - where Drew worked when he was in Miami working on his doctorate for 5 years.

Biscayne Bay - between Miami Beach on the left - and Miami on the right. Drew lived on an island in that bay - to the left.

We left Miami about 6 PM and landed in Tallahassee at 7 PM plus. Our Friends - George and Joel Dawson were waiting for us in the terminal. By 9 PM we were in bed. It's good to be home.

Normally we fly Delta because we have gold medallion status. FSU pays for Lulu's ticket no matter who she decides to fly with. We chose American Airlines because Drew found a deal where I flew free on frequent flyer miles from a new credit card.

We left our Olympic apartment in London at 6 AM Thursday and were in our Tallahassee bed at 9 PM the same day. I never cease to be in awe of air travel.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

19 Hours Later - Safely Home

We are home!

Two good flights.

London - Miami - Tallahassee

No bumps.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Last Day in London - I Drove This G-Wiz Electric Car

This G-Wiz took me to the train station.

Will was prepping this car for delivery. He offered me the ride to the station.

One of the best things I like about London is the incentives to get people to drive electric cars. Today I drove the most popular production electric car - the G-Wiz by the India Company Reva. In London - the exclusive dealer is in Southall - about 15 miles west of London.

I hopped a train and was there in minutes. I walked the last half mile to their offices and shops. They have sold just over 1000 G-Wiz's in the last 10 years.

The G-Wiz costs 9995 pounds. It goes about 50 miles per hour and has a range of about 40 miles under ideal conditions. In colder weather - the range is cut down a bit. This basic model comes with 8 - 6 volt Trojan batteries. For an extra charge - you can have lithium-ion batteries that cut the weight about 300 pounds and increase the range to 70 miles.

Believe it or not - the car can handle 4 small people. It also has a front trunk for a some luggage and storage. The entire car is warrantied for 2 years - including the batteries.

In order to qualify for the USA NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) Act - the engine must be governed to only go 25 miles per hour. That is both easy to do and undo :-)

I personally drove the car - and got a longer extended ride back to the train station. Of course it is very quiet - but also very responsive. The fit and finish are not as nice as my Prius - but way nicer than the old Citicar electric from the 1970s.

It has a full set of 4 seats belts (they are not kidding about riding in the back). It has all the lights - turn signals - wipers - horn - mirrors - to get it past the safety laws. Since it is a quadricycle by definition - it does not have to have air bags or crash proof bumpers.

An average amount of miles for a year is about 4000 miles. That would be about 10 miles every day. The thing is just over 8 feet long and just over 4 feet wide. You can easily put two - end to end - in one meter space. A 12 foot long Mini Cooper looks like a giant compared to it.

It has 4 wheel drum brakes - on the newer models - they are offering disk brakes.

According to Philip Maria (0208 574-3232 / - the manager - none have been imported into the USA.

They had a few used cars there selling for around 3000 pounds. I was thinking maybe I could get a deal on a used one with bad batteries - then import it to the USA and buy my own batteries. Battery sets weigh about 500 pounds. The same batteries in the USA power our golf carts and run appliances in motor homes. The cars weigh 1100 pounds so almost have the weight is lead.

It is our last night in London. This little G-Wiz was a great way to end it. We are happy to be going home - but sad to be leaving here.

Hatch back up and seat folded forward.

Wide doors for easy entry and exit.

A guy with this kind of masculinity problem should never be driving a G-Wiz. Do you remember the old ad about being conceived in a Volkswagen?

All the cars were plugged into a 220 volt outlet. It takes a little over 2 hours for an 80% charge. That would get you about 40 miles. There are no quick charge systems for this car. It has rear wheels drive.

In London - the government offers a ton of incentives to drive an electric car. They advertise one penny a mile. Also there are some free charging stations in London.

They made have had 40 cars on the lot. Mostly it was just different colors and graphics.

This is the repair and prep shop.

This is a full set of Trojan batteries 8 x 6 volts = 48 volts.

Can adults fit in the back seat - yes - if you push the front seats forward - you can even put your feet on the floor.

In the front trunk there is room for luggage. Quesiton is - where would you take a suitcase 30 miles?

This one was in downtown London enjoying free parking that is usually very expensive. I talked to a "meter man" as he was giving out tickets. He will only give a G-Wiz a ticket if it is illegally parked - like in a no parking fire zone. He enjoys zapping them then.

Check out the G-Wiz website.

My First Piece of London Mail

Mitsubishi Miev.

My first piece of London Mail - Mitsubishi Sales Booklet.

I just received my first piece of UK mail. I want to go to see the new Mitsubishi Miev - the latest new electric car.

The car costs - $42,000 US here - and you get a $7500 US grant from the government - bringing the price down to $35,000 US.

The car goes 81 miles per hour and a range of 93 miles per charge. You can quick charge the battery in 30 minutes here. It only has 45 horsepower - but with the torque an electric motor has from the start - it can beat most car away from the stoplight.

It has a 16 KWH lithium battery - this makes the car much lighter than the old lead batteries. Lithium batteries are designed to last 10 years.

It has alloy wheels - AC - heated seats - power windows - gps system - blue tooth phone system. It seats 4 comfortably. Four doors.

This car is exempt from all road taxes - parking fees - congestion fees. Registration fee is low. Insurance is low. It cost about 2 cents a mile to run in the USA. Also - there are free charging stations all over the UK.

I want to bring one home.

Suzanne and Marjorie Are Going Home

Cab to airport - Suzanne and Marjorie.

As they leave - Lulu's class was just to the left - getting ready for the Grand Tour of Buckingham Palace and the wedding gown.

Two of Lulu's very good friends from back home are going home. They are sisters and they were touring the UK for 3 weeks. They used our spare bedroom as a base - and they would take trips from here. We would all gab over wine at night - reviewing each other's day. Marjorie has been an airlines hostess with Delta for 40 years. She still serves the Atlanta to South Africa flight weekly. It is so much fun hearing the stories in the life of a stewardess. What do you do when you discover sex on a plane??? We were rolling in the aisles - laughing.

We had six guests this time - Dan and Ann - Keith and Liz - and Susanne and Majorie. I wonder what it is going to be like next year when we have this apartment for 3 weeks of class and 2 weeks of Olympics.

No wonder they needed a cab to the airport - they had 6 very heavy bags.

Disaster at Hampton Court - Praise Britain's Socialized Medicine

Cassie's ambulance and Kingston Hospital.

Lulu at Hampton Court spinning and turning into Wonder Women.

One of the grand finale's of Lulu's program in London is to take the students to Hampton Court - the home castle of Henry VIII - yeah the guy with all the wives. I had other plans - so the class boarded the train at Waterloo Station and headed 20 miles up the Thames River.

Around lunch - student Cassie - started feeling stomach pain. After a trip to the first aid center at the castle things got worse quickly. Lulu decided to get Cassie on the train and take her back to the safety of our apartments and the local University of London hospital. The two of them got on the train - but didn't get far.

Cassie's pain had her doubled over and she needed quicker attention. Lulu dialed 999 right from the train. They told her to get off at the next station - and medical help was on the way. At the next station - it only took a couple minutes when the emergency team arrived. Before you could say - socialized medicine - they were in the ambulance on the way to the Kingston Hospital.

As they zoomed thru the streets - laughing gas and oxygen were administered. Lulu did not want to be an ugly American - but she questioned why the lights and siren were not going. The driver said is was illegal unless it was a life threatening situation. Almost on cue - Cassie started having number 10 pains and she began wailing. All of a sudden the lights and sirens were competing with her. They were at the hospital in seconds.

Just like Jesus - Lulu had abandoned the 99 sheep at the castle - and stayed with Cassie for the day. More blood tests and urine tests were done. Finally a morphine drip send Cassie to a better place. The pain settled down and Cassie settled up.

Meanwhile - Lulu was in close contact with FSU. She kept calling the apartment for me - but in the confusion - the phone kept dialing a grocery store. Lulu and I had dinner show tickets for 5:30. She was concerned I would be sitting and waiting. She quickly texted Drew back in the states and he forwarded information to me via computer chat. I got the message. You know you hit the big time when you have show tickets you will not use and you don't rush out onto the sidewalk to try to scalp them. Even if the tickets were only worth 20 pounds each (for dinner and show) - we ate them.

Around 6PM - the doctor declared Cassie dehydrated - gave her medications - and send her home. Lulu whipped out the FSU credit card - but the hospital was dumbfounded. All they wanted was the patients name - birthday - and address. Lulu asked for a case number. The hospital said there was no charge and no bill would be sent. Socialized medicine covers all emergency room visits and all ambulance services. Treatment was gratis from the people of Britain!

They caught a cab home. The 40 pound cab fee was more than the entire emergency. Lulu offered Cassie the option of spending the night in our spare bedroom - but she wanted to get back with her friends.

Since Hampton Court has such beautiful gardens - the class assignment included pictures of flowers. As Cassie was leaving the hospital - she got a great shot of the Kingston Hospital sign ----- surounded by flowers.

Click on DISASTER in the title to see Cassie's version of the story.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Follow Up to the Dartford - Jagger - Caterham - Blackberry Story

Ha! Harry you've discovered the cornucopia of luscious blackberries. I picked at least 7lb of them last year and we had home made blackberry and apple pie with our Christmas dinner. Yummy. I keep a bowl in the car and stop off on my way home every night until they are finished. Freezer full of them!

Your website is fascinating and like dipping in and out of a book.

I so enjoyed the story of your visit to Mick Jagger's home. I never knew where it was - and so humble - a tiny semi-detached property.

The strangest thing is that about two hours ago, a youngish man came in on the off chance to ask if he could have a Factory Tour he has been longing to buy a Caterham ever since he was a child. Returning to live in Dartford he is now in the process of buying one.

Guess where he grew up?

Two doors away from Mick Jagger's home. How about that as a coincidence.

Kind regards


England's Motor Homes - London Canal Museum

About 1 mile north of our flat is the Regents Canal. For 200 years - it was the center of commerce. It brought raw materials to the mills and finished products out to the world. For years - Lodnon was heated by coal fireplaces in each room - and this is how they got their coal.

Up until 1930 - canal boats were pulled by a horse being led by usually by a boy. After that - single cylinder diesel engines were used producing 9 horsepower. Today canal freight traffic is virtually gone. But the government keeps the canals open for recreation. People have converted the 7 foot wide canal boats into campers.

There are 3500 miles of canals still open to these old boats. Some of them are over 150 years old - like a floating history book. People have build long skinny cabins on the once open cargo vessels. Each boat is able to haul 40 tons.

There is a London Canal Museum that presents the history and the mechanics of the whole thing. Several companies offer rides.

A canal boat would be an excellent conversion to an electric engine. Hauling all the batteries would be easy. A golf cart motor of about 4 horsepower would be more than enough to keep you going.

This picture shows the end of an era. A 4 MPH canal boat is being passed by a 30 MPH locomotive.

These colorful boats used to haul cargo - now they have "luxurious" cabins.

This is a sample boat at the museum.

Guinness used to bottle their beer in that big brick building. If you look closely you can still see the cranes by the upper doors.

Entrance to a canal boat cabin.

A little hutch in the canal boat - closed.

Hutch opened to a supper table.

This bed goes from side to side. You flip it up and out of the way.

This little coal stove was for cooking and keeping the cabin warm. In the old days - canal families lived in a space about the size of a car. Kids did not go to school - they worked on the boat from age 6.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Today I Visited Dartford - Home of Mick Jagger and Caterham Sports Cars

This is the bottom of the line Caterham 7. For $25,000 you can have a hand built sports car capable of beating a corvette in a drag race. The car weighs about 1100 pounds - and no production car can keep up with it thru the turns. It seats 2 - barely - no trunk.

I weed my paper files monthly. I get some sort of perverse joy out of throwing stuff out. But in my files - under "cars" - are a couple brochures about the Lotus Super 7 that remain from 40 years ago. The car was introduced in 1957 by Colin Chapman - I wrote for sales literature - and it survives to this day next to my orange typewritten sheet from Carroll Shelby's Cobra.

When Lotus sold the rights to build the Super 7 to a company in Caterham England - they changed the name to Caterham 7 - but continued building and refining the car. Today the car is made in a small warehouse in Dartford England - and I got my chance to visit the factory today.

Sharon Wilkinson - the reception administrator - gave me a personal VIP of the production line. Normally the area is a bee hive of activity - but this week everyone is one vacation. The place was in pristine shape - cars in line in various states of production. It reminded me of Santa's toy factory when the elves were away taking their naps.

The Caterham is a superfast and superlight production race car. You can drive it on the street and then right onto the track.

What makes the car so fast is that it only weighs about 1100 pounds. Compare that to my 3500 pound Prius. You can order it with a 4 cylinder engine as small as 1.4 litre and 110 horsepower - or as large as 2.3 litres and 265 horsepower. Prices start out at $25,000 for a 110 HP version that will go from 0-60 in 6 seconds and 120 miles per hour - to a fire breather that puts out 265 HP - goes 0-60 in 2.88 seconds and goes 150 miles per hour.

But the real forte of these cars is the handling - they corner like they are on rails. It is the first production car since the AC Shelby Cobra to exceed 1 G - one gravity - on the skid pad. That means on a corner it is pushing you as hard to the side as gravity holds you down. This is Formula One and Indy quality performance.

For 40 years - I coveted one of these babies. I remember them kicking the crap out of everybody in the hill climbs back in Pennsylvania at Hershey and Weatherly. The SCCA - Sports Car Club of American - banned them because no one in their class could keep up with them. When I first wanted one - I could never afford it - now that I have the money - I am too old to squeeze in one on a regular basis.

You can have the bottom of the line for $25,000 - all the way up to the dragon at the top - for about $70,000. They build 500 of them a year - and there is an 8 month wait if you order one in your favorite state of tune and color.

Lotus has just announced that they are going back into Formula One racing. They have partnered up with Catherham to promote the race program. This is like the prodigal son coming home to work with his daddy. Lotus has slaughtered the finest calf - and look for a big advertisement promotional windfall.

Two of my favorite things - Caterham and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stone come from Dartford - but he is another story.

Sharon Wilkinson - reception adminstrator - was a doll and set up a VIP tour for me. She ended up taking me thru the factory - just the two of us.

Lotus and Caterham have teamed up again for F-1 Racing. 40 years ago- the companies parted - now they are back together - hand in hand.

Some countries only allow the Caterham to be imported in a kit configuration. Everything comes in a big box - you do the final assembly.

They use little 4 cylinder engines - mostly Cosworth Fords - putting out 110 to 265 horsepower.

Nose cones and fenders are made of aluminum or carbon fibre fiberglass. They are extremely light weight.

Note - the cars move on little rollers down the assembly line.

Only essential things are under the hood. No AC - no emissions controls - just raw power.

This one is painted in Lotus race car colors - green and gold - one of my favorite combinations.

The factory is in a little industrial park in Dartford. Two small signs is all that shows what goes on in there. I had lunch at a little bar room about a half mile south - the bar maid had on idea what I was talking about. I showed her the sales book - she had amazed. I told her to walk up the road - and take a peek.

Dartford is 20 miles east of our flat in London. I took the tube and then a train - everything on my Oyster card. Mick Jagger lived in this town and went to two schools here. Sharon - my guide - is a big Rolling Stones fan and loved Mick in her youth.