Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Little Sunburn Would Be Nice About Now

Here in my temporary Chicago "home" temps are in the 20s. Snow is on the ground (capping lots of ice - you always have to have freezing rain first). 30 mph winds & gray skies (always gray skies - it's been sunny maybe twice). This is not my idea of a good time. Yesterday I spent 45 minutes chipping away at the windshield etc before taking off on a 2 hour drive to the job - normally 1/2 an hour in decent conditions. I had to eliminate the weather update thing on my homepage - too depressing to see what the temps are back home in St Augustine. Why would anyone want to live up here? Hey Oprah - You have enough $$$ to live where it's warm! Are you nuts? Buy Hawaii!! So I'm grumpy. Sue me.

So a few days ago Deb went to Macy's to buy boots - Think they're called UGZ or something weird. She asked my opinion - 2 bad ideas in this scenario. 1st was me going in the store to begin with & the 2nd was Deb asking for my opinion. Gave my opinion (dummy). Deb started 2nd guessing her choice as we left.

Me - "Do you want to exchange them for the others while we're still here in the parking lot?"
Deb - "Nah. These will be fine."
Me - "Uh... Just fine or do you want the other ones?"
Deb - "These are OK."

(Fine & OK are not the answers a guy wants to hear at this point.)
Interlude - We get back to the hotel & Deb tries them on again.

Deb - "I think I'm going to exchange these."
Me - "Uh... OK, whatever you wanna do."
Return to Macy's. Makes exchange.

Did I mention it's bloody cold up here?
Back to hotel.

Deb - "I'm still thinking black would have been better."
Me - "What's the difference? You're only gonna wear 'em here. When we get home they'll end up in the shoe cemetery anyway."
Deb - "Nah, I definitely want the black ones."
Me - (Sigh) "Why don't you just get the black & keep the brown & make it easier."
Deb - "Cause it's a lot of money."
Me - "We've logged enough miles changing shoes - we coulda driven home & back by now. I'm beyond money at this point."
Deb - Laughs at me (very common).
Me - "OK. Let's get this over with, but I want to wait outside."

Go back to make the exchange. They don't have the ones she wants & she returns empty-handed. (This is NOT good)

Me - "Wutzup? Where's the boot things?"
Deb - "Didn't have my size in the ones I liked."
Me - "So why not keep the ones you sorta liked?"
Deb - "Nah - I'll be fine."
(There's the "fine" word again.)
Me - "You need something warmer than what you've got."
Deb - "It'll be OK - don't worry about it.
Me - (Sigh!)

Get back to hotel. Deb discusses her dilemma with the lady at the front desk - I fall asleep in a lobby chair in front of a fireplace while this takes place. She shakes me awake. I'm disoriented.

Deb - "Theresa printed me out directions to another store that has them. If we hurry we can get there before they close."
Me - "Hurry? I'm in the middle of freakin' Siberia, you're handing me Mapquest directions (always, ahem, reliable) & you want me to hurry?"
Deb - "Yeah."
Me - (Another sigh.) Look at the directions head out the door. "I'm waiting in the car again. Maybe I'll read." (I detest shopping.)

Amazingly, I find the place in plenty of time. No wrong turns. Deb returns with a bag & a smile. (Her smile always makes it all worthwhile for me by the way.)

Me - "So you got what you wanted this time. Right?"
Deb "Not exactly, but these will be fine."
(There's that word "Fine" again.
Me - "Great." Face forward - hits the gas.

Santa - If you're out there.... I wanna go home where it's warm. My tan is fading.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Looking Ahead

Do ya ever think about your future? How is it all gonna play out? Ever set lofty goals & make careful plans? Think ya got everything mapped out in ridiculous detail? Lemme make it easier. Here's how it really goes folks.

Which begs the question - What happens if you're not much of a beer drinker? I suppose I'd better develop a taste for the stuff real soon.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


6 weeks of hotel living. It's getting to me big time. Now I know why Jack Nicholson went nuts up there at The Overlook. All that's missin' here are a few corpses, several feet of snow & a creepy maze. "REDRUM - REDRUM - REDRUM" - Where's my axe?

Lotsa folks would probably say whaddya complainin' about? You have a nice suite in a Chicago suburb - Your wife (she's with me) doesn't have to cook or clean & you can go out for dinner every night & have whatever you want. Yeah - great & I'm gettin' fat as a cow.

I need to get home - real soon. I keep clicking my heels together & muttering "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME" - but it ain't workin'. When I'm home, I eat the right food - less beef, more seafood. I get more exercise. There are always things to do around the house - I can hike through town - ride my bike on the beach - wear shorts & flip flops - swim - STAY TAN. I gotta hurry home so I can build up me 'musckles' - like this guy.

Then there's being cooped up when it's cold n' windy - which is almost every day up here. Writing in a hotel suite is nearly impossible. Forgot to pack the muse I suppose. Heck - I can barely post stuff on the blog. So that leaves TV. I despise TV. But it's worse than that! It's 'chick flicks' aaagggghhhhh!!!! I've seen more of Matthew McConaughy than his own mother. I even bought "The Notebook" & sat through that! But.... being away from home has been tough on Deb too, so I have to cut her some slack, 'specially with the TV & DVD thing. I don't wanna be one of these.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lighthouses & Special "Guests"

We're huge fans of lighthouses. This lamp is a replica of the one in Cape May New Jersey. It sits on a table in the sitting room off the master bedroom.

This picture hangs in our bedroom. It's from one of our favorite places - Cape Henlopen. That was "our beach" when we had our weekend/summer house in Delaware.

If you look closely - there's a ferry boat in the background. It travels across the mouth of Delaware Bay from lighthouse to lighthouse - Lewes Delaware to Cape May New Jersey. We used to hang out on our boat Laffin' Gaff, just out of the travel lane & eat lunch & watch them roll past. We had a visit one day from Homeland Security guys in a Coast Guard cutter. Guess we were suspicious looking characters. They were 'just checkin' on us. After the tough guy start - they were pretty cool.

There's even one here in Chicago.

Here's my favorite - This is in St Augustine. The picture was taken at dusk. Looks like a great place for vampires to hang out.

No matter where you go, St Augustine's LH is on the horizon. This pic was taken from Laffin' Gaff. We have tons of pictures from all angles - but don't want to go crazy posting 'em all.

This picture is included in my soon to be available book, BAD LATITUDE. You'll find it at the start of Chapter 9 Dead Girls.

This is the lightkeeper's house. We've never ever taken a picture there at night without something strange showing up in either the foreground or backgound. I guess you have to expect that from a haunted lighthouse. I can't say for sure if that "stuff" in the picture is a ghost, but it wasn't something added after the fact.

It's only 219 steps to the top of the spiraling iron staircase. No construction workers were killed when the St Augustine Lighthouse was built - but 2 of the construction superintendent's daughters were. I let my imagination run wild with that bit of history when I wrote BL. So what do you get when you mix 4 teenagers, an empty lighthouse at night with 2 dead girls & their long deceased over-protective father? Hmmmm....

I have visited lighthouses from Maine to Florida & I'm always amazed at how they're built & wonder what strange tales & secrets are hidden away in each one's history. It had to be a lonely & difficult life for the keepers & their families back in the day when they had to carry fuel to the top to keep the lights burning. Not a job I would want to do, well, not for very long anyway. I also wonder how many ships were saved from wrecking along the coastline because of their hard work & dedication?

There was a show on TV (Discovery Channel?) about our haunted lighthouse. The 'paranormal experts' were pretty freaked out. Wouldn't it be cool to spend the night alone in one - especially during a storm? Especially if it really was haunted?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Back Cover Copy

So you sit down one day & start writing an adventure story for kids. The 1st draft flows along pretty well - just get the thoughts down. Create the characters & give them personalities. Keep the pace up-tempo. Expand this - cut that. Put it away & let it ferment for a bit. Do the homework about the publishing process.

Start re-writing. Tearing it apart. Slap yourself silly wondering "What's up with THAT?" Revise - Revise - Revise. Make sure you're not loaded up with similes or structure problems. Check continuity. Move portions from one part of the story to another. Put it away & let it ferment for a bit. More homework.

Start editing. Check punctuation. Format. Change words around. (There always seems to be a slightly better way to get a point across. A better way to say it.) Line by line - 9, 10, 27 times. You practically know it all by heart. Is it funny enough? Is it scary enough? OK so it's fiction but is it realistic enough? Put it away & let it ferment for a bit. More homework.

Begin editing again. Make final decisions - who are you sending it to. By now the "book" has been read aloud at least 15 times - looking for that odd word or awkward phrase. Getting anxious & frustrated. Another project is already underway & you NEED to put more time in on it. One last time - put it aside to ferment.

Final tweak. Explain the book in 40 words or less - amazingly, it gets the OK. Final tweak then the really this time final tweak & THEN - Write the "hook" - It's the only chance for creating the 2nd impression (after the cover). Can you consolidate the 67,000 words that you've agonized over into .... 250 & make it interesting without giving away too much or turning it into a blatant sales pitch? Write it & change it 20 times. One last look. 4 more changes. The potential reader will look at the cover - if that gets 'im, the book will be flipped over to scan the description on the back. Will they get past the 1st line? The 2nd? The 3rd - before putting it back on the shelf & moving on?

So here it is - The "Hook" for BAD LATITUDE - A Jack Rackham Adventure. You're a kid now. Would you even THINK about opening the book at this point?

The seaside town of St. Augustine is haunted. Everyone knows that.

For fifteen-year-old Jack, a descendant of the notorious pirate Calico Jack, it was supposed to be a relaxing summer of great surfing, exploring the Ancient City and adventures on his very own boat, Bad Latitude. His discovery of a three hundred year old diary changed all of that.

When the secrets of the old book are unraveled, Jack enlists the help of his best friend Kai, and together, they begin the dangerous search for the hidden fortune buried beneath the abandoned burial grounds of Rattlesnake Island. Digging under the light of the full moon, the boys are unaware that a terrifying menace lies hidden in the darkness, determined to prevent their escape. Supernatural guardians of the island are clawing and dragging their way through the snake-infested marsh grass, surrounding the pair, working to create a deadly ambush, while offshore lurks a mysterious ship, shrouded in an eerie green fog, flying the flag of the long dead Calico Jack Rackham.

Before daybreak, Jack and Kai will face a desperate struggle for survival, ultimately choosing between unimaginable wealth and friendship. Will they put their own lives on the line to save one another from the evil that stalks their every move, or will the promise of great riches lead to tragedy and despair?

I left off the author info - nothing interesting there. It's just about me, I'm nobody special, & it's very brief.

Thoughts anyone?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Strange Maine: Review: Dirt by Mark LaFlamme

This is a great review of a terrific book. It also looks like a pretty good blogspot. Both are worth checking out - since both delve into the creepy stuff.

Hope I'm not sounding like a cheerleader - it was the corpse in the Mustang that got me hooked on this wild tale - that & the fact Laflamme can actually write. Maybe I can also relate a bit because I had a Mustang when I was a kid. No corpse. I knew something was missing when I bought that car. It could have been so much cooler ...

Strange Maine: Review: Dirt by Mark LaFlamme

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mission of Nombres de Dios

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away - I think we're just going to stay in Chicago rather than fight through the airport nonsense. We'll see.

Everyone thinks the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving up there in chilly New England in 1620. Well, that might not be true.

On September 18th, 1565 Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St Augustine on the very site where these photos were taken. On the same date, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales held the first mass on American (then Spanish) soil & soon after a Thanksgiving celebration was held in a combined fellowship with members of the Timacua tribe. That in itself must have been a sight. The local natives were very tall, averaging 7 feet or better. The Spaniards were short - Pedro Menendez was the tallest of the settlers at only 4 feet 11 inches.

The cross was erected in 1965 to acknowledge the 400 year history of the old town. They say that since it was erected - a hurricane has never made a direct hit on the area. Hopefully that continues to hold true.

Here's an inside view of the chapel that sits in the middle of the grounds. It's surrounded by old graves & monuments.

It's open every day & many of the locals visit to say prayers. Had to wait a while to get a picture when it was empty.

This is one of the old graves. Looks like a mason needs to do some repair work soon.

Did I mention the cross is made of bronze??? You can see if from a great distance from anywhere near the coastline, harbor or bridges. So that's the nickle tour of Mission de Nombres de Dios. It's one of many pretty cool places to visit in My Town.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Long Trip North (& South)

What a week. We're still in Chicago. I flew home to Florida on Friday night & returned here yesterday (Saturday). Had to take care of a few things. Fortunately - this trip was faster than the first ride up. Gettin' to lake Michigan from St Augustine ain't easy. Some places aren't very deep & we had to tilt the engines up & row.

Here's a picture of me at the helm on the way north a few weeks ago. Didn't even stop at any gas stations to ask directions.

Yes - it's true. We decided to bring our boat.

Had a nice view of Chicago's skyline on the way in.

So we're all docked up here at the Navy Pier.

What a week for daylight savings to arrive. It's exhausting - makes me delusional.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phils Win!!! Can Ya Believe It???

Phillies 4, Rays 3
Recap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
TAMPA 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 3 10 0
PHILA 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 - 4 8 1

W: J. Romero (2-0)
L: J. Howell (0-2)
SV: B. Lidge (2)

Wow!!! The Phils did it!!! Being a long time Philly sports fan - I have to admit, I was preparing myself for another collapse. It's happened so often.

The last time the Phillies won a World Series, youngest son Chris was less than 3 months old & older son Michael had just turned 4. Me??? I was only 24. So despite the fact that I've littered this earth with my miserable presence for parts of 6 decades - my kids have been alive for the same number of Phillies WS Championships as me. 2 of 'em in 100&twentysomething years.

So here I go with a bold prediction - The Phillies will win the World Series again... in 2036. Chris will be 56, Mike 60 & me, I'll probably be dead.

Enjoy the parade guys....

Monday, October 27, 2008

On The Brink Again.... Phillies Fans

Here we go again - a Philadelphia team is on the brink ... a 3 to 1 lead in the World Series with a chance to win it all tonight in front of the home crowd with their Ace on the mound. I've learned not to get my hopes up. Been there before only to see a Philly team collapse at the end (other than the 1980 series - That was the one where I had 4 tickets for the clinching game but gave the seats away because we were in the middle of moving). It's tough being a Philly sports fan - we've been in positions to win before - Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, Sixers - all making it to the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals, the Super Bowl, & NBA Finals only to fall flat. Could this year be different??? I guess the only thing worse would be suffering along as a Cubs fan.

It's enough to make your hair stand on end - like my grandson Jack.

Go Phils!!! Y'all got 3 chances to win ONE MORE LOUSY GAME!!! We still have faith!!! However misplaced it may be....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Grown Up Kids

This picture was taken outside the Phillies Stadium - it's my son Mike & grandson Jack.... which leads me to today's modified post.....

I was copied on a very sad email today. It was sent from oldest son Michael (32) to younger son Christopher (28). The content was fine - all about investments & what to move where & how safe was this n' that & what kind of returns could be expected. Why is that sad you say? (Maybe you didn't really ask anything but play along with me here.) They're just too grown up now! They don't need me anymore! Well, they do call for advice related to construction issues & contract lingo but, beyond that, they're doin' fine without me n' Deb. Kinda makes me miss the days when good old Dad made loans knowing full well they wouldn't be re-paid. Uh, on 2nd thought, no I don't actually miss that part so much. So let me introduce everyone to my KIDS - Mike, Chris & Christine (Mike's wife). (Sigh) They're all doing so great - without me.

For starters here's Chris (the guy seated in the light blue shirt with arms folded -He's obviously winning) playing poker at a company sponsored function. This was at the last table. His boss had to take him aside & tell him to lose, since it was set up for their clients. Chris was bummed. He was up by quite a bit of Cha Ching.

This is Chris with Christine. They get along more like bro & sis than in-laws. We're very blessed that our kids are so close. Our grandkids LOVE Uncle Chris.

Here's Michael with Isabel (taken last year when they visited us in Florida - she's much more grown up now). She's nuts about her Daddy!!!

This is Mike & Christine. The picture was taken in New York. They're doing a great job raising Jack & Belly. I'm really proud of 'em.

Well, I suppose we must have done a few things right. We gotta get back to Pennsyvania for a visit real soon. Maybe I'll check on airline tickets today. They're still our not so little boys.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This Week's 'Word'

On Monday I received a somewhat panicked call from the Owner of the company asking me to go to Chicago to take over a project that's in deep whatever. I thought he was kidding. I'm just finishing a fast track job & me n' Deb were really looking forward to visiting our kids & grandkids up in Pennsylvania, taking some time off, getting ready for the holidays, planning a 'ghost sail' for Halloween, maybe even a short trip to the Keys or Bahamas. A well deserved rest was in order. After determining that he wasn't kidding, only one word came to mind. After 2 days of back & forth & finally deciding to go ahead & do the job, I still referred back to that same word. Now I'm running around getting everything situated & packing for a 6AM flight on Monday - & that same word keeps popping up. I guess I gotta do what I gotta do. So I'll take this opportunity to explain the "word" that I keep muttering & how that word came to be. It's also sorta related (that's a stretch) to yesterday's post about boats.

Manure: In the 16th and 17th centuries, most everything was transported by ship. These were the days before commercial fertilizer was invented, so large shipments of manure were common.

It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less. Once water (at sea) came in contact with the manure, it not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began, of which a by-product is methane gas. As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles, and since it was common for wooden ships to take on some water in the holds, the manure would become soaked. Methane would then build up below decks and the first time someone went below with a lantern, BOOOOM!

Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined what was happening. Thereafter, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the term "Ship High In Transit" on them, which meant for the sailors to stow the manure high above the lower decks, away from the water.

Thus evolved the term " S.H.I.T ", (Ship High In Transport) which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day - in my case - pretty much on a continuing basis since Monday.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Whatever Floats Your Boat

Boats. We've got a gazillion of 'em down here. Here's a tour boat motoring past the Castillo de San Marcos - the fortress was built in the 1600's to protect the Spanish citizens from attack. Today they fire the cannons for the tourists. I didn't know that when we first arrived. One afternoon, we were riding along in front of the seawall when a cannon went off & we both hit the deck. I thought the engine on Laffin' Gaff blew up.

Mmmmmmm.... Shrimp. This is a picture of a shrimp boat taken last Sunday. They haul in millions of pounds of the sweetest white shrimp from these parts. Because it's local, it's also fresh & cheap. I've paid as little as $2 per pound for jumbos.

The shrimp boats usually travel in small fleets of 4 to 6. There were a few more in the cluster but couldn't get them in the picture. All were just off shore just past the breakers.

This is part of Matanzas bay - sometimes called the St Augustine Harbor. There are some dangerous spots in these waters - obstructions below the surface waiting to tear out a hull. Sandbars can be a problem as well. You have to pay close attention to the markers.

This is another tourist boat. It sails up & down the Matanzas. In the evenings they have 'ghost sails' - where the crew tells ghost stories while guests guzzle wine. The waterway & bay has a reputation for being very haunted (like the town itself). The word Matanzas actually means place of slaughters & they say, when there's a full moon, boaters have seen skulls bobbing to the surface & the water turns red like blood.

This is the ramp that we use to launch our boat &, specifically, a picture of Homeland Security getting set for exercises. There were 6 or 8 boats - all identical - & once in the water there was nothing anywhere nearby that could keep up with them.

Here's a pic of me doing something that I rarely have time to do - fishin'. I'm back to just the goatee now - which is turning gray minute by minute.

Our boat - Laffin' Gaff - sitting on the trailer behind the garage. Looks rather lonely. I left a switch on & both batteries are now dead. More money. B O A T , actually stands for Break Out Another Thousand. The name Laffin' Gaff comes from my sissy-like approach to going to the dentist - They have to use Laughing Gas (Nitrous) even for routine cleanings. I miss not having our boat slip - we had one at our beach house in Delaware so it was convenient. Show up, hop on & in the ocean in 8 minutes. (Sigh!) Nowadays we have to tow the boat, wait in line & & then launch it - so LG doesn't get the use that it should. Hopefully that changes soon.

My first book will be out real soon. Needless to say the story revolves around the haunted city, the beaches & BOATS. The title, 'BAD LATITUDE' is the name of the boat that the kids run around in. The follow up, hopefully finished by early spring, also draws its title from the name of the next boat - an 82' schooner called ___________. I think I'll post about that later, when the editing is finished.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I'm so disgusted with the political system right now. If real Americans ran businesses & households like the cowardly manipulating crooks that are calling the shots in Washington, it would mean jailtime. Just to be fair - the political blame is shared across that magical aisle that all claim to try reaching across.

Unfortunately - blame is also shared by the citizens in this country that are so complacent (until all hell breaks loose). It amazes me how truly uninformed most people are & even more surprised by the total lack of effort expended to study & understand issues & policies before jumping on a particular bandwagon. Everyone seemingly wants to be spoon-fed. The fact that politicking, by it's very nature, is mostly smoke & mirrors, means it's important to read between the lines & promises & uncover the deep meaning & motivation behind the somewhat murky positions that so many of these career politicians never openly state. What's the real agenda? Who is setting the 'stated' policy & what are the guiding principals? How do the positions affect the individual as well as the masses? Who is benefitting the most & who is picking up the tab?

Now the elected officials are trying to fix something that should never have been broken, despite warning signals that were blinking bright red years ago, It also has to be done NOW or the economy will supposedly collapse (it's amazing how this went from a problem that no one wanted to act on to a crisis overnight). In the end we're suppose to swallow this debt, feel the impact of the crunch it will create & trust the Yahoos that put us in the position to fix & monitor the 'recovery'. On top of that - the 2 parties want to make sure that it's BIPARTISAN - so no one has to take the 'blame'. I guess that's their idea now of TEAMWORK. These idiots are scared - the public is 80% against the bailout - so those facing re-election don't want to lose their cushy jobs by voting against what their constituants are demanding. So I hope we see members of both parties teaming up for a photo shoot when it's all said & done. Preferably, it'll look like this:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I'm a ridiculously picky eater. Coffee has to be fresh & strong. Meat has to be trimmed. Can't stand chicken (yard bird). Don't like green veggies - 'cept asparagus. Bananas have to be a little green. Won't try tofu. No microwaveable or frozen anything. No packaged out of the box dump it boiling water stuff. Hamburger has to be lean sirloin. (Oreos w/ milk is always the perfect meal.) Salad's OK, but I like it made with spring mix, little pieces of fruit & nuts - not regular lettuce & dressing. I probably drive Deb nuts & lemme tellya - she spoils me rotten with things like shrimp fra diavlo, blackened mahi, seasoned rib eye, mussels marinara, clams casino, almost anything Italian, yadda yadda yadda. I do compromise when it comes to pizza.

One thing that Deb likes & I absolutely detest is calimari. Dave don't do no calimari. I've got rubber bands in the desk that I'd rather chew on. So here's the deal: We go to a particular place for pizza from time to time. Deb gets the small Mediterranean - which has clams, shrimp, crab, & CALIMARI on it. Yuck. I get a small whatever doesn't have calimari on it pizza. I won't get one medium with her topping favorites on half 'cause I'm afraid a calimari might get loose & wriggle onto 'my side'. So we end up having to buy 2 'specialty' pizzas (same as regular pizza with an inflated price), a coupla Bud Lites & the stinkin' bill is always around 50 bucks - for stinkin' pizza.

There's only one thing worse than calimari, hot dogs, green beans & fake macaroni & cheese in my book - & that would be REDNECK CALIMARI as pictured below. NO WAY!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008


One thing about blogging - you get to "meet" some pretty cool people, &, in my case some pretty good writers as well. Mark LaFlamme is an author that falls into the met via the blog category. He has a new book out called DIRT: AN AMERICAN CAMPAIGN. I decided to read it. It was the least I could do after calling him a "nut", though it was meant in a good way. (He's funny & somewhat over the top. What more could you expect from a guy that's a newspaper crime reporter who takes the week of Halloween off for vacation?)

DIRT is the story of a candidate for President embroiled in the dirty tricks of a heated primary. His daughter-in-law has met an untimely end & the candidate's son, unable to accept her death, retrieves the body from her resting place & begins driving around New England with her corpse. Needless to say, Daddy ain't too happy & sends "a response team" to deal with this potential scandal, which in this man's case, is tame compared with the other skeletons in the family closet. Besides, he can't have the voters investigating the 'dirt' on him - especially when he's busily shoveling the 'dirt' on the frontrunner, the man with the squeaky clean image.

So I posted a review on-line (below) & hope Mark LaFlamme has some measure of success. I'm sure that good sales would be helpful - Halloween is only a month away.

DIRT: AN AMERICAN CAMPAIGN by Author Mark LaFlamme is a well-crafted work of entertaining and thought provoking fiction. The foundation of the story, unique to say the least, causes the reader to examine multiple personal conflicts within the storyline while providing a perspective on the behind closed doors dirty tricks and win at all cost mentality that is the political power grab. LaFlamme has managed to build tension, without gratuitous shock value. His characters are strong, though saddled with weaknesses and tragic pasts. The pace is crisp without sacrificing needed detail. There is nothing predictable about DIRT, including the conclusion and THAT makes for a great story. Well done Mr. LaFlamme.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where To Retire - You Have Options!!!

You can live in Phoenix , Arizona where...

1. You are willing to park 3 blocks away because you found shade.

2. You've experienced condensation on your butt from the hot water in the toilet bowl.

3. You can drive for 4 hours in one direction and never leave town.

4. You have over 100 recipes for Mexican food

5. You know that 'dry heat' is comparable to what hits you in the face when you open your oven.

6. The 4 seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!

You can live in California where...

1. You make over $250,000 and you still can't afford to buy a house.

2. The fastest part of your commute is going down your driveway.

3. You know how to eat an artichoke.

4. You drive your rented Mercedes to your neighborhood block party.

5. When someone asks you how far something is, you tell them how long it will take to get there rather than how many miles away it is.

6. The 4 seasons are: Fire, Flood, Mud, and Drought

You can live in New York City where...

1. You say 'the city' and expect everyone to know you mean Manhattan .

2. You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park, but can't find Wisconsin on a map.

3. You think Central Park is 'nature,'

4. You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multi-lingual.

5. You've worn out a car horn.

6. You think eye contact is an act of aggression.

You can live in Minnesota where...

1. You only have four spices: salt, pepper, ketchup, and Tabasco

2. Halloween costumes fit over parkas.

3. You have more than one recipe for moose.

4. Sexy lingerie is anything flannel with less than eight buttons.

5. The four seasons are: winter, still winter, almost winter, and construction.

You can live in the Deep South where...

1. You can rent a movie and buy bait in the same store.

2. 'Y'all' is singular and 'all y'all' is plural.

3. 'He needed killin'' is a valid defense.

4. Everyone has 2 first names: Billy Bob , Jimmy Bob, Mary Sue, Betty Jean, Mary Beth, etc.

You can live in Colorado where...

1. You carry your $3,000 mountain bike atop your $500 car.

2. You tell your husband to pick up Granola on his way home and he stops at the day care center.

3. A pass does not involve a football or dating.

4. The top of your head is bald, but you still have a pony tail.

You can live in the Midwest where...

1. You've never met any celebrities, but the mayor knows your name

2. Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor.

3. You have had to switch from 'heat' to 'A/C' on the same day.

4. You end sentences with a preposition: 'Where's my coat at?'

5. When asked how your trip was to any exotic place, you say, 'It was different!'

AND You can live in Florida where...

1. You eat dinner at 3:15 in the afternoon.

2. All purchases include a coupon of some kind -- even houses and cars.

3. Everyone can recommend an excellent dermatologist

4. Road construction never ends anywhere in the state.

5 Cars in front of you are often driven by headless people.

But you should be able to add & subtract numbers - so you can save for retirement:

Fifty Years of Teaching Math In The USA 1958 - 2008

Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried. Why do I tell you this?

Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s:

1. Teaching Math In 1950s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit ?

2. Teaching Math In 1960s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

3. Teaching Math In 1970s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

4. Teaching Math In 1980s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Math These Days

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question : How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it's ok. )

Location - Location - Location

I don't like doughnuts - at all, but most of the cops I've met have been pretty decent. Of course, I've never had to wear a pair of those bracelets they carry or do the frog walk either.

When we bought our house, we narrowed the choices down, sort of, to 2. The first was on the island (Anastasia Island - also part of St Augustine), the other a mile inland. The price was the same - to the penny. The cost for flood insurance, for the one on the island, was about $7k per year. The one we chose? - wasn't required.

We bought our house the day it went on the market (after looking at the one on the island the same morning). The first set of sellers were willing to negotiate, so I was in the deal making frame of mind when we walked into the 2nd one. The realtor proceeded inside ahead of us, followed by Deb (my wife). Deb got to the foyer while I was still entering & announced "SOLD" - Totally negated my brilliant negotiating skills. That's OK - The location is great & I'm more than 20 grand to the good on insurance savings. Besides, there's not a doughnut shop anywhere within miles.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Good Education, Good Price, Cool Digs

One of the best educational deals around is located in downtown St Augustine. It's called Flagler College - a 4 year liberal arts school of about 3000 students. Aside from being surrounded by history, great amenities & perfect beaches & parks - it comes with a reasonable price tag - $19 grand a year including room & board. It's also a highly rated school according to U S News & World Report, among others. These are just a few pictures which hopefully show the school's more unique features.

The school was built by Henry Flagler as a hotel - where big-wigs like presidents & Thomas Edison stayed. It was the 1st hotel with electric lights - but that's another story. The fountain (payin' attention?) is surrounded by 12 frogs & the part in the middle represents a sword plunged into the earth. It works like a fountain & a sun dial.

This is part of the courtyard - there's a blend of architectural design throughout. Moorish, Roman, Spanish - all tied together.

This view is from a courtyard across the street - trying to show the roof & the dramatic towers from a short distance.

Ho-Hum, just the ceiling art. Every school should have domes & gold painted ceilings.

If you turned right, from the courtyard where the overall shot of the main building was taken, & walked 50 yards - this is where you would end up. One of many cool shopping & dining locations. It's a pretty clean town dontcha think?

If you said this looked like Tiffany Glass - You would be right - 30 million dollars worth - & this is in the dining room that the students use.

See - Toldja. Imagine kids eating pizza & corndogs surrounded by such expensive art. The chairs in the picture are mostly reproductions of the originals - though there are some 100+ year old chairs (valued at $22K each) mixed in with the fake $2k chairs. There's a secret about how to figure out the difference between the two types. Visit St A & I'll let you in on the mystery of which ones are "the cheap seats".