Search This Blog

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Guess Who Is Flying To London This Summer - FIRST CLASS - For Free - Except Taxes

I am flying to London on British Airways.
This is the 6th summer we are going to London. Lulu teaches a course there for FSU at the London Study Centre. I go along to carry her bags and do the laundry. FSU pays for her expenses - I must pay for my own flight. It has been worth it to enjoy a month in London as a resident - especially last year for the Olympics. It was great having a place so our whole family could come to visit.

This year - we will be in London from July 6th to the 29th. We got the same apartment that we had for the last few years - 12A Bedford Place - you can see it on Google maps.

Usually I buy the cheapest ticket I can find - Lulu has to fly coach because FSU pays for it. But because  she is a Gold Medallion with Delta - last year they upgraded her to first class for free. If there is an empty first class seat - they usually let Lulu have it because she flies so much. To be a Gold Medallion you must fly 50,000 miles a year.

Due to some strange quirk - this year the tables have turned. Lulu and I are flying at the same time - but Lulu is flying coach on Delta and I am flying First Class with American Airline/British Airways. Since you all know how tight I am - you know I am not going to pay for it. As you can see here - a refundable first class ticket can cost $19,000!
First class tickets cost from $4300 to $19500.

New York Times - Sugar Is Toxic

This is an editorial in the NY Times yesterday
FEBRUARY 27, 2013, 9:47 PM

It’s the Sugar, Folks

Sugar is indeed toxic. It may not be the only problem with the Standard American Diet, but it’s fast becoming clear that it’s the major one.
A study published in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal PLoS One links increased consumption of sugar with increased rates of diabetes by examining the data on sugar availability and the rate of diabetes in 175 countries over the past decade. And after accounting for many other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Keith and Liz Are At Lake Placid - New York

Keith and Liz spent a long weekend in New York State. Their Hoyas were playing their last game at Syracuse because Syracuse is joining the ACC. Before 38,000 screaming fans - Georgetown had a strong victory. 

After the game in the Carrier Dome - the soon to be married couple went skiing in Lake Placid - home of the 1980 Winter Olympics. 

This is a picture of the frozen lake from their hotel window.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The GEM Electric Car - I Drove One Today

A 2000 GEM Car E4. It goes 25 MPH for 30 miles. 

It seats 4 and has a load capacity of 800 pounds.

If you have been reading my web page - you know that I like electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are quiet - they have very few moving parts - they do not pollute - they are cheap to run. Unfortunately - batteries that last a long number of miles are super expensive. Regular lead/acid batteries are dependable but they have low range.

The is a 2000 GEM Car E4. It has a 4 HP General Electric motor. It operates on six 12 volt batteries. It goes 25 MPH and has a range of about 30 miles. When it runs down you must plug it in for 6 hours to get a full charge. You plug it into a regular wall outlet. 

Doak Campbell Stadium - Florida State University

Retired 10 Years Ago - Where Did The Time Go?

The folks in the high school called us The Rat Pack. This is the Panther Valley Middle School faculty in Sept 1981. The picture was taken in the high school on inservice day. I just returned from spending a year in Orlando FL on a sabbatical leave. I was just assigned the duty of producing a yearbook. Let me try to name the teachers - front row - John Horvath (math) - Bob Henninger (social studies) - Susie Bortnick (gym) - Charles Depuy (math) - Harry Everhart (science) - middle row - Pip Rader (principal) - Bob Gelatko (gym) - Carol Rakos (library) - Lynn Sharpe (art) - Barbara Teno (4th grade) - Ellie Balliet (social studies) - Betty Dietz (English) - Joyce Reichard (English) - Ilona Zubek (science) - Frank DeFebo (English) - Claire Brookover (4th grade) - back row - Tim Havel (shop) - Ted Gauronsky (reading) - Mike Cerimele (reading) - Gwen Brimmer (4th grade) - Jim Szczecina (social studies) - Caz Kosciolek (guidance) - Mimi Reinbold (4th grade) - Dave Pikna (science) - Ann Fada (nurse) - Gene Zubey (kindergarten) - Marty Keenly (4th grade) - Elaine Katchur (home ec) - Jay Hoffman (math). I count 5 dead.

On my 55th birthday - I retired from teaching 33 years in the same school in Panther Valley. I was the science guy - and almost every 7th grader in the Valley had to spend a year with me - some spent many more.

I lived in Tamaqua PA and drove 5 miles to Lansford PA to teach in the old Lansford High School/Panther Valley High School/Panther Valley Middle School - now derelict lump. In hindsight - I had a very nice job - worked from 8 to 3 daily - taught 5 classes - had all the weekends - holidays - and summers off. I never had to work night shift. We had a union that fought for job protection - excellent medical insurance - good pay - and a wonderful pension plan. Some would say I was stuck in a dead end job - I would say I had a wonderful situation to raise my family. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Four Months Later - We Sold The Jaguar

JP Brown holding his license plate - new owner 78 year old Earl Harder with the keys - 6 days after a heart operation - and Earl's father in law

The Jaguar at its new home in Southern Georgia.

Four months ago - JP gave me his 1991 Jaguar XJS V-12 to sell for him. It was sort of a challenge to see if I could sell a high ticket niche item. The car was in excellent condition with only 55,000 miles on it. JP bought it from the original owner 9 years ago.

I started by taking lots of pictures and listing it on my web page.

Click here for original Jaguar story from my blog - Jaguar Story

Then I listed it with and I got plenty of good calls and a few tire kickers came to ride in it. Frankly - some just wanted to ride in such an exotic car. Craigslist is good for pulling in sincere buyers. gets people calling you from all over the nation. Some of them just gets thrills talking to someone that has the car. If every person that called to say they were bringing the money tomorrow - I would have a wheel barrow full of $20 bills.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Destin To Tallahassee In The Pouring Rain

Notice the ground is dry in front of the Dixie Theatre on Main Street in Apalachicola. We were ahead the storm but not by much. Many people from Tallahassee go to the Dixie Theatre for a show - rent a room at the old Gibson Hotel - then drive the 78 miles home the next day.

Lulu loves to take food pictures - I guess because it does not move. This is her oyster salad. 

Lulu's meeting was in Panama City Beach right by these two landmarks on US Route 98.

In the rain - I did not even leave the car to take these pictures of Wonderworks and Ripley's. Notice how busy the highway was.

We have gotten so jaded living in Florida - we complain about driving in the rain. 

Today we left Destin Beach at 8 AM and drove 2 hours through the pouring rain to Panama City - where Lulu's library meeting was held today. The town was desolate - I just watched the rain and stick lightning. When Lulu was done we started the long drive home. 

When we got to Apalachicola - we got ahead of the eastward moving storm. We had just enough time for a walk through the historic district and to find a nice oyster house. Apalachicola is the oyster capital of the world - again according to the sign entering town. Something was different about this town form the last time we visited it - 3 years ago. I figured it out - there was a ton of oil spill money all around. There were many many more businesses open. It was not as busy or big as New Orleans - but it was similar with all the double porches raised sidewalks and people shopping. It was very nice. 

Apalachicola was one time a bussling port. The super wide Apalachicola River comes south from Georgia creating a natural water highway. It was a center of the slave trade - and thousands of paddle wheel boats brought cotton here to be loaded on ocean going ships. You could almost hear the echoes of the slave traders auctioning off workers. 

We found The Seafood Grill right on the corner of downtown's two main streets - and had lunch. Lulu ordered the Oyster Salad. I had chicken. Lulu loved her dish - and I am seldom a food bragger - but my fried chicken ranked among the top 5 I have ever had. You could really tell it was made fresh from scratch. We ignored our normal diet and split a piece of freshly made carmel pie - yes carmel - 2 forks. As we left the cafe and strolled thru town - the wind whipped up and it got black so quickly. We hopped in the Prius and two hours laters we were home. 

The locals said that Spring Break starts next week - for the next 6 weeks the beaches will be flooded with college kids. The kids spend lots of money - and hotel room prices triple.

Mileage adds up quickly - we covered 465 miles on the trip - Destin - Navarre - Niceville - Valparaiso - Panama City Beach - Panama City - Apalachicola - and finally Tallahassee. The Prius performed beautifully. On the westbound leg with Lulu driving - she got 60 miles per gallon. On the way home - I only got 47 miles per gallon. I blame the difference on the rain. The Prius is a great rain car - honestly - even if it were not a hybrid - it is a very nice car. I bought it on Craigslist - actually traded our Honda van for it and cash.

Because of the rain - we never took the folding bikes out of the Prius trunk. 

The weather man said that it rained 4 inches in that area. To give you an idea how much that is - our old home in Tamaqua PA averaged under 40 inches a year. Thank goodness it was not the frozen stuff. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Two Libraries and One Air Museum

The stay started early with a drive from Destin to Navarre FL. Lulu had a 9 AM visited at a school library there. While she worked - I drove around Navarre - not too many points of interest to see. There is a causeway bridge out to Navarre Beach - as the sign said - "One of Florida Finest Secrets." It is safe with me.

After that the Eglin Air Base Armament Museum was along the road - so a short one hour stop was in order. This is a fantastic museum that I visited two years ago - but Lulu never had the honor. Since it is an Air Force museum - most of the aircraft were planes that were used in training at Eglin. This base is known for training bomber pilots. Admission free - and tons of planes.

Here I am in an F-15 simulator trainer. I know that the movie Top Gun was about Naval Aviators in F-14's but I  still was able to say, "I am too close for missiles - I switching over to guns!"

Here you can see my Dad's favorite airplane and his favorite daughter-in-law. This is a B-25. That is Lulu - she is wearing her Jimmy Doolittle flight jacket in his honor.

The Army Air Force trained here in Florida for one of the most famous bombing raids. In December of 1941 - the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor - Hawaii. The USA was not in the war yet and our military was in a fallow state. President Roosevelt knew America needed a morale builder. Secretly the Army Air Force trained to launch several of these lumbering bombers from a short aircraft carrier. No one though it could be done - but with training and weight reduction they did it. In April of 1942 we secretly sent the aircraft carrier toward Japan with 16 B-25's and pilots that never before took off from a carrier. The bombers certainly surprised the Japanese with each plane carrying four 500 pound bombs. The planes flew on to China and crash landed there. Japan massacred 250,000 Chinese for helping the US pilots escape.

One of my favorite students - Chuck Shuck served in the Army with his partner Gabe. This memorial honors K-9's like Gabe. Chuck and Gabe served two tours of duty in Iraq sniffing out explosives. 

After the museum - we stopped at a Po Folks Restaurant in Niceville FL. Whiles waiting for our table we noticed the restaurant was selected best in town from 2000 to 2005. One wonders what they did to lose the honor. 

After lunch Lulu visited the Valparaiso Public Library. It is located in downtown next to City Hall. While Lulu had her meeting - I listened to the roared of military aircraft. The end of the runway was very close to downtown.

After that we returned to our Residence Inn - spent some time in the hot tub - and here we are. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Destin Beach For 3 Days

Our Residence Inn at Destin

Destin is on a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico

Destin has the whitest sand and blue/green water

Lulu has to visit several schools over here along the Panhandle - so today we drove the Prius over to Destin. Lulu drove most of the way - very little traffic - the Prius must have been very happy because it was delivering 60 miles per gallon. Our eyes could hardly believe the digital readout. 

After  a little over 2 hours - we pulled into the parking lot at our Residence Inn. They give you a little apartment that is pretty plain - you get a nice breakfast - free wifi - and today they are having an evening supper. 

There is a nice upscale shopping center in this complex and we had lunch at PF Chang's. After that we walked on the beach. Destin Beach has the whitest sand you could imagine. When you walk on it - it feels and looks like snow. Your feet leave very distinct prints and the sand squeaks like you are hurting it. We came across a beach campground where your camper wheels literally sit in the sand. 

The temperature is 57 degrees - there were some people in bikinis braving the surf.  As I get older my motto is if the water is below 80 you drink it - above 80 you swim in it. We have become spoiled living in Florida. The beaches are nice near Tallahassee - but nothing compares to this white sand and light blue water. It reminds me of the Bahama beaches from our cruise last week.

Lulu just loves lying on the beach - but her second favorite thing is shopping the outlet mall here. It is an outdoor mall and Lulu is convinced that the variety and the prices are fantastic. 

We brought along our folding bikes - my flu crested yesterday - so we are hoping to do a little bike riding while over here. There are several nice bike paths and everything is level.

There is a Roadtrek motorhome over here I wanted to see - but I am guessing I will pass it up. They wanted $13000 for it and accepted my offer of $8000. Then they called back to say they wanted $9500. With gasoline at $4.00 a gallon - motorhomes are not selling well. Roadtreks sometimes get 20 MPG - with my luck I would get a dud.

I am looking forward to our 4 days here - enjoying some planning time while Lulu works. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seminoles Beat North Carolina Tar Heels 80-73

We just got home from the one o'clock beating of the North Carolina girls basketball team at the Tucker Center. Before the score finally settled at 80-73 - the game was close the whole way. The Seminoles only gave up the lead once and led by one at the half.

5 of the top Seminoles are seniors this year - including Leonor Rodriguez (above) who scored 21 points in the game. She has played the last three years for the Seminoles after matriculating from her home in the Canary Islands - Spain.

Although we arrived at the opening horn we were able to find 4 seats right down on the rail across from the Seminole bench. At the girls' games you are allowed to sit in any empty seat.

There is one more home game left against Maryland on February 28th.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

3 Days Later Our New Roof Is Complete

The garage roof is relatively flat. 5 nails went into every shingle strip.

Since our old roof was 22 years old - we figured we could not sell the house without putting on a new one. Dave Parker Roofing gave us the best deal. It took 3 days but now it is done. 

The new shingles were delivered by a truck with a conveyor belt. Each pack had to be loaded by hand at the bottom and taken off by hand at the top.

It is a labor intensive job. All the old shingles - nails - and tar paper must be removed by hand. Then the plywood sheeting is inspected. Several sheets had to be repaired because of rot. Next a plastic membrane is placed over the plywood. Then all the metal flashing is replaced. Finally new shingles are installed with 5 nails per each shingle strip. Last but not least - all the debris must be hauled away to the dump and the ground magnetically scanned for nails.

We were lucky to get 3 rain free cool days for the project.

The workman have come and gone. No one has shown up yet to collect any money from us. This company is very trusting. 

I guess the house is good for another 20 years - we plan on selling right away and build a new house on the lot we have down the street 5 doors.

Final Cost was $8200. That price included replacing 10 - 4 x 8 plywood roof panels.

The delivery truck unload via a conveyor belt. The delivery crew put down boards to prevent damaging the driveway.

All of the old roofing is hauled away in a trailer. The trailer ended up being filled to overflowing.

The shingles are called rustic black anthracite. They are architectural pattern to look random. We chose black to hide any future tree stains.

The back roof pitches steeply toward the pool. All roof vents were replaced with squirrel proof ones.

Many of the plywood panels had to replace with new wood. The one replaced wood damaged by a leaky porch vent.

Most of the flashing is a dull black color to blend in with the shingles. The previous stuff was galvanized metal color. Note the 3 new black vents.

This hidden roof vent replaces a gaudy old metal one.

Note the black trim - also all of those lower plywood panels had to be replaced. Damage was the worst where tree droppings laid on the roof.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Putting A New Roof On 1607 Seminole Drive

The roof on our home at 1607 Seminole Drive needs replacement. It is 22 years old. Dave's Roofing is doing the job. If the rain holds up - they should be all done in 2 to 3 days.

We are going to use black architectural shingles. It will give the roof some depth and also hide stains that are caused by the nearby trees.

The quote for the job is $7000 but it may cost more if any plywood sheets have to be replaced.

After the job is done - I plan to take plenty of pictures and list the house for sale. Keep you eyes on this web page for more information. When we sell this house - we will move into our brick house down the street at 1816 Seminole Drive. We will then start building the new house behind the brick house. After it is all over - we will tear down the brick house.

5 PM - After a day of work for 5 workers - all the shingles are removed. the roof is covered by a plastic membrane. If the weather holds - this job will be done tomorrow - two days total.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Where is Disney's Castaway Cay (Key) in the Bahamas?

Disney Dream docked at the manmade harbor at Castaway Key - Disney's private 1000 acre island in the Bahamas.

If you take a cruise on any of the 4 Disney ships - you will spend a day at Castaway Cay (pronounced Key). If you dream of sun - warm sand - clear blue waters - palm trees - and warm temperatures - in a completely controlled environment - you will love this place. For years cruise companies would ferry customers from foreign port to foreign port - it did not take Disney long to realize that they could avoid port fees and have the tourists put even more money in their corporate pockets. 

Many tourists spend a few days in Disneyworld - then board a Disney bus that drops them off at the Disney gang plank to one of their many fine ships. Finally - they set foot on this private Disney Island to complete the Trifecta.

The island is about 200 miles east of Miami. It is midway between Freeport - Grand Bahama and Nassau - New Providence Island. They are the two main stops on a visitor's tour of the Bahamas Islands. 

My first trip to the Bahamas was in 1976. One could board a plane at the Allentown Airport at 6 PM and get a free 12 hour trip to Freeport as long as you had $500 in your pocket and you changed it into casino chips. The next morning at 6 AM many of the passengers returned to the ABE terminal with most of the money left behind in the Bahamas. 

There are separate beaches for families - teenagers only - snorkeling only - and even a serenity beach for adults. That beach leans more toward grayheads - I did not see any nude bathing.

Castaway Key is a 1000 acre private island about 3 miles long and 2 miles wide. Disney bought the island in 1996 - and dumped $25 million into it to make a beautiful destination offering all sorts of family fun - protected by a cover charge of anywhere from $350 to several $1000. About 3000 visitors go onshore - 3 times a week - so any crime is the guests eating their own. Lulu and I found our deal on the net - we paid $325 - after rebates.

A harbor was created by dredging out a channel and using the material to set up a breakwater. Disney did not have to apply for any zoning permits nor environment impact statements. 

Castaway Key was named Gorda Key up until Disney bought it. It has a colorful history which included heavy use of the 2400 foot runway for smuggling drugs.  Now tourists taxi up the runway turned into a tram road used to ferry passengers from ship to the many beaches. 

There is evidence that real pirates in the 1700s would hide in the coves waiting for ships carrying silver and gold back to Spain from Mexico. A 70 pound bar of silver was found here - one wonders if it was planted by Disney to give their "pirates" street cred.

Lulu and I loved the 80s temperatures - the bright sun - white sand - Bahama breezes - clear water - especially when all our friends and family back North were experiencing 2 and 3 feet of snow. While they were shoveling snow we were snorkeling and swimming with schools of colorful fish.

The logistics of the island are amazing. They have a tourist area but also a private area for the help. 70 people live there permanently. They have 3 diesel generators for electricity and have 2 desalting plants to make fresh water our of sea brine. Thanks to satellite radio - television - and internet - they have all the comforts of civilization - minus relatives and major sporting events. The Disney ships have plenty of room to keep the island refrigerators stocked. 

Lulu and I also visited a private beach in Haiti owned by Royal Caribbean. It was very nice too - but it is a piece of the larger country - fenced off by barb wire. Locals are not allowed and the guests are not allowed to visit inland. It was very similar to Disney's but having a "private island" has a certain cache.

Castaway Key - black dot is adult beach - orange dot is the dock - red dot is private town for workers - magenta dot is the snorkeling area - green dot is the teen beach - blue dot is the 3500 runway now used as a tram road.

About 200 miles east of Miami is Castaway Key - Disney's private island.

As one gets older one seems to become more cynical. I do not want anyone to think I am running this place down. Lulu and I both loved it. It is so nice visiting places and just a half mile away is a ship as nice as any 5 star hotel with all your clothes hung up - with the finest food - fantastic room - and super security. We liked Castaway Key so much - we returned to the beach right after we went "home" for a noon room service lunch and watched a basketball game on ESPN.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saturday on Castaway Key - Our Own Movie Set Deserted Island

After a busy Friday at Nassau - Saturday was a wonderful change. The Disney Dream pulled into port at Castaway Key around 8 AM.While we had breakfast on the top deck - the crew was readying for our grand excursion. In the 1950s - Castaway Key was a fishing kingdom - it even had its own airstrip. With the cruise ships multiplying - Disney needed places to visit - where they could control the action. They were able to control everything - even the weather. The island is north of Paradise Island - the weather is superb - 80s and lots of sunshine all year around. 

Castaway Key has snorkeling beaches - family beaches - teen beaches - and "Serenity Beaches" for grayheads. Some folks are just content to lie in a hammock all day.

Lulu got a waterproof camera for Christmas. It looks like it works very well -but you must remember to charge the battery. By the time we worked our way out to the busy reef - the camera died. This is Harry in his snorkel vest which at first he thought was silly - but was clinging to for his life after an hour in 10 feet deep water.

The farther away from shore you got - the number of fish and size of fish increased.

Harry's camera was safer away from the water.

Lulu got the hang of her waterproof camera quickly.

A good book on the ipad - a big umbrella - and the Bahama breezes kept Harry on the beach longer than usual.

...also just 100 feet from Harry's umbrella was anything to eat or drink possible.

Castaway Key still has a long runway they use as a road for the trams that haul people from ship or the beaches.

They call it the Aqua Duck - a flume ride that snakes aorund the top deck for about 1000 feet.

While everyone was on the beach we sneaked back for a room service lunch and a chance to see the FSU basketball game. Alas - ESPN was carrying the Michigan/Wisconsin game. No big deal - FSU got pounded.

The Disney Dream visited the Castaway Key every week. The island is like a movie set where Disney controls everything.

The difference between a ship and a boat - you can carry boats on ships.

Give Lulu a beach - any beach - it brings smiles. This was the snorkeling beach.

The family beach at Castaway Key has tons of chairs and umbrellas - 3000 people enjoyed the day here.

The Skyline lounge features screen that show famous city skylines. With a few drinks - it does not take much imagination. A flash lit up our faces -

Without a flash - our caprihana's lit up the room. That is Hong Kong in the background. A few minutes later - we were in New York City - Rio - Chicago - Paris - all cities we have visited.

Every night after dinner we walked the track on deck 4 - right by the Titannic chairs.

We dressed for dinner and a Disney show every night.

Harry and Lulu - Lady and the Tramp

Coming in from a day on the beach - Snow White greeted Lulu.

4:45 PM - just got home from the long drive north from Cape Canaveral. The Prius is an excellent highway car. We got 52 MPG on the way home on state highways - 45 MPG on the way down on Thursday on Interstates. We left the boat at 8 AM and stopped to see John and Bonnie in Daytona Beach.