Friday, November 30

"I Think The Fat Lady Has Sung!"

This being the last day in November, it's official: the 2007 hurricane season ends this date at midnight. We've had it easy again this season, so a collective sigh of relief is in order.

This marks the second season in a row when major storm predictions didn't measure up with initial expectations. No one is complaining. But do these two seasons of reprieve cut any slack with the insurance companies? Hardly. The original prognostication released by Colorado State University's, Dr. William Gray, anticipated 17 named storms, 9 of which would develop into hurricanes, and of that nine, five would be classified as "major." In actuality, the season produced 10 tropical storms, two of which were subtropical, and six blossomed into hurricane strength. As Mother Nature would have it, the worst of the hurricanes steered well away from our continental boarders. Nevertheless, the insurance carriers who issue home owners policies considered this season to be yet another banner year in justifying why they should cancel dozens of existing policies and raise the premiums significantly on those policies still in effect. It appears that reality has very little to do with actuarial calculations: the perception of a potentially devastating hurricane season holds more validity than the reality that it did not.

There is a heated debate on-going among weather prognosticators as to whether or not many of the tropical waves should be elevated to tropical storm status, so minimally organized are each, lacking in wind speed and lower barometric pressures. It is being suggested that the threshold for measuring tropical storms needs to be revised in order to be more precise in elevating marginal depressions to tropical storm status. The insurance industry is lobbying strenuously that such reclassification criteria be shelved so as to not minimize their reasoning that minimums are equal to maximums. The more named storms the more reason the insurance companies have to cry potential loss and raise policy rates. It's all just a game and it is played for money...the consumers money. It is played to the benefit of the insurance companies profits and to appease their stock holders.

When we purchased our home 23 years ago our home owner's insurance coverage yearly was a little over $600. We have been "dropped" twice and are now insured by the State of Florida, playing an annual premium of over $3,000. Not once in that 23 years have I ever submitted a claim on my policy. But because I choose to live in a state prone to hurricane landfalls, I am considered a high risk even though our home is miles away from the coastline. Guilt by association.

I am most certainly glad that the 2007 hurricane season has come to a close. For a while now we may breath easier. That is until January rolls around and we receive the renewal notice for our home owner's policy. I don't know which is more discouraging...a category 5 hurricane bearing down on our coastline or a letter from our insurance carrier. I despise and fear both.

Thursday, November 29

"Hot Air Blows Through St. Petersburg..."

Last evening ten Republican wannabe Commanders-In-Chief took center stage at the Mahaffey auditorium in my hometown, St. Petersburg, Florida. Like the fellow who went to a basketball game and watched instead a hockey game break out, those who had hoped to witness a spirited debate attended a cat fight instead. The end result after two hours of back and forth bickering wasn't so much who won, but who came away less personally and politically scarred.

The real losers in this continuous debacle was once again the American people. It is no wonder that the average American voter is so thoroughly apathetic and disgusted with such pointless spectacles, as they serve no viable substantive interest other than to afford additional fodder for the mass media to report and the political pundits to dissect ad nauseam. Those who otherwise relish such in-close combat are the self-serving entourage of each candidate and the fanatic adherents to narrowly defined agendas. Any attempt to address the myriad of maladies that face our nation with comprehensive policy positions could not be found among these candidates, so busy were each trying to convince the audience that they had performed effectively and admirably previously in their own select spheres of influence. One-up-manship was the rule of the evening, both in trying to categorize themselves as competent and their opposition quite to the contrary.

In my opinion, it was a sad evening in St. Petersburg and an equally sad evening in America. Our nation cries out for leadership that understands and embraces the day-to-day struggles our work-a-day men and women face as they try to stretch their weekly paychecks to keep body, soul and family solvent while our bloated, over-reaching, and inefficient government on all levels reach deeper and deeper into our pockets to underwrite their out-of-control entitlement programs and ill-conceived pork barrel projects. Our representative form of government has been eroded by special interest collectives and political action committees that place personal gain over the benefit of the greater good. We the people are languishing in a leadership vacuum that is being filled not by incompetents, but by old guard politicians that seek power, influence and a more secure place at the trough of the America's tax-supported largess.

When asked, "What would Jesus do?" former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee correctly quipped, "Jesus would have the common sense not to run for political office." Would the majority of the current crop of presidential candidates, on both sides of the political spectrum, follow this sage observation, the future of our country might look considerably brighter than it did last evening in St. Petersburg.

"What's Up With Brooklyn?"

I recently added a new counter to my blog. Let's me keep track of who is stumbling upon my literary efforts by design or happenstance. I usually check the offered statistics once or twice a day just to get a feel for the amount of traffic that may have recently come my way. I think my ego may be involved.

I am particularly enamored with the geo-location feature of the counter, allowing me to visually see who has accessed my sight world-wide. Slowly but surely I am witnessing "hits" from all around the globe, most, admittedly, stopping just long enough to determine they need to go elsewhere. Understood...different strokes for different folks. However, I do seem to have a few locations, particularly in the U.S., that have repeatedly visited my blog, most notably around the Atlanta area. I'm pretty sure that's my newest blogging acquaintance Coffeypot, as he is kind enough to read and comment frequently.

I have also noticed, with a great deal of interest, that I am also getting a huge amount of hits from someone or somebodies in Brooklyn, N.Y., the number now pushing close to fifty. My curiosity has been peaked. A person doesn't just repeatedly visit a particular WEB site by accident unless they've left their computer off the hook, so to speak. So, naturally I would like to know who this person is or persons are who find my blog so alluring, if alluring is the correct descriptive. Bottom line...whether you wish to come forward and say "hello" or remain anonymous, either way I say "Thank You." My ego enjoys the daily boost.

Wednesday, November 28

"Lessons Well Worth Learning..."

Defining the difference between a dog and a cat... "A dog thinks it is a member of the family. A cat thinks the family is the hired help!" I've got nothing against cats. We have two. The older is very affectionate, liking nothing better than to be rubbed vigorously 24/7. So needy for affection is she that neither I nor Judi can close the bathroom door for some cordial privacy that "Sweetpea" isn't butting her head on the outside of the door demanding to be admitted. "Wait your turn!," I tell her, but to no avail. The younger, Callie, on the other hand, could care less if anyone gives her a sideways look. She is contented to wile away the hours sitting on the dinning room window sill watching the world go by from sun up to sun down. Only after Judi climbs into bed to call it a night will she cuddle next to her for a little personal attention. I'm not sure if Callie dislikes me or indeed thinks I'm just the hired help. I nevertheless get the distinct impression that she regards me as a non-person. I think she may have learned that behavior from my daughter...after I've told her "No" in regards to something she really wants to do, go or buy. Megan, however, refuses to sit on the widow sill.

Like I said, I like cats, but I really like dogs. Our last dog, Cubby, passed away a little over two years ago. I still miss him. I wanted another dog. I was to zero. Cats came into our lives because Judi decided that another dog was going to be too time consuming. Cats, on the other hand, she assured me, "pretty much take care of themselves." I long as their taking care of themselves didn't involve me. I figured that was a fair compromise. So far so good.

I like dogs because if you really allow yourself to observe their individual personalities, they can teach you so many valuable life lessons. A friend sent me the following, a dissertation on lessons dogs can teach we humans. I concur wholeheartedly.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up an opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When it is in your best interest, practice obedience.

Let others know when they have invaded your territory.

Take naps & stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play a little every day.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will suffice.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shade tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you may be scolded. don't buy into the guilt thing and pout,

but run back and make friends.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Be forever loyal. Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you most want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

I can't add to that list of living life well, nor should I. It is only for me to emulate as a human what a dog does so naturally....and to believe that if there are animals in heaven that I wouldn't be surprised to see a faithful dog lying in an honored spot beneath the throne of God. As for cats, I hope there are plenty of window sills.

Saturday, November 24

"Another Candidate For My Avenging Iron Skillet..."

There are some people in this world that are just a royal pain in one's posterior! I had the distinct misfortune to bump into one of these insufferable fools last evening when I traveled to Tampa to pick up wife Judi and daughter Megan at the airport arriving home from their short three day visit to Cincinnati.

As anyone knows, who is well acquainted with the arduous task of flying commercially, boarding a flight at any major airport constitutes being subjected to a series of hurdles that are at best time consuming and at worse borderline invasions of privacy. Still, given the ever-looming fact that there are certifiable crazies in this world who would like nothing less than to kill each and everyone of we Americans if given half a chance, a little extra time to endure a series of security checks is not unreasonable. Most such measures are performed by security personnel in an expeditious and courteous manner. I appreciate both and, to reciprocate, I am happy to cooperate fully. It is when neither criteria are met that I become more than just a little bent out of shape. This was the case last evening.

Tampa International Airport has a rule that states that when one is dropping off or picking up a passenger from the main terminal, the driver of the vehicle must remain with the vehicle at all times and may remain minimally parked at the curb only as long as it is required to physically drop off or pick up one's passengers. Normally there is a little latitude and discretion exercised by the airport security police who oversee the vehicular traffic that utilize these two areas. As stated previously, I was at TIA to pick up my family, whom I had just called on my cell phone to confirm that when I pulled up the the curb they would be exiting the terminal posthaste. I pulled over to the curb, disembarked from the vehicle, opened up the hatch of Judi's SUV, and looked inside the terminal windows to see daughter Megan retrieving her luggage from the conveyor belt. I estimated that she and Judi would be exiting the building in perhaps 30 to 45 seconds.

I had just stepped up on the curb when I was immediately confronted by an individual perhaps in his mid to late twenties, looming a good five foot six inches in height, dressed all in black, his uniform hat pulled so tightly down over his ears I thought his ears would scream out for mercy at any second, and was armed with the obligatory club of a flashlight, radio, and what appeared to be a taser stun gun. This John Wayne wannabe wasted no time in invading my personal space.

"What do you think you're doing?" were the first words our of his mouth.

By the incredulous look on his face he could tell by the look on my face that I was totally taken aback by this ridiculous question. To me, it was obvious. Before I could muster up a reply he advised me that I had to move my "vehicle immediately!"

"Sir," I finally found some words to reply, I just this second drove up and my family is just inside retrieving their luggage. They'll be here in just a few more seconds."

"Are they here now? So far he was batting a thousand on asking stupid questions that had obvious answers.

"I can see them through the window. They're pulling off their luggage now from the conveyor. I'll be out of your way in 30 seconds."

"Move this car now and drive around!!

"You're kidding me!!" I was quickly transforming from being mildly irritated to full fledged ticked off.

"Move your vehicle now, sir!! I don't like people questioning my authority!!"

I'm thinking that must happen a lot, but I didn't say it. So, I lowered the hatch, opened the door to the car, fumbled with my keys, all the while watching the rear view mirror. Fortunately, Bruce Lee had moved to another individual parked in front of me and was proceeding to bless this poor sole with his special rendition of the riot act. Another glance in the mirror and I see Judi and Meg hurrying to the car. They too had witnessed my one-sided conversation with Mr. Personality. They threw open the rear hatch as I climbed out of the car again and shouted, "Hey Junior, my family is here. I'm going to load their luggage, if it isn't too much of an affront to your sense of protocol!" I think the label "Junior" ruffled his feathers. He leaves the other guy staring at the ground and begins walking briskly towards me as I am making my way to the rear of the car.

"Are you getting smart with me!?"

The following was my best line, and one that probably should have gotten me tasered. ""Sir," said I, "I don't think that is humanly possible!"

He didn't get it! Flat did not get my insult to what little intelligence he possessed. He just looked at me with a blank stare as I closed with, "Have a nice evening."

That's when I decided he had won hands down the most cherished awarding of a solid and profound "BONK" of my virtual cast iron avenging skillet to the back of his empty cranium. A more deserving individual I have yet to meet.

Tuesday, November 20

"From Whom All Blessing Flow"

The father of a childhood friend of mine had a favorite saying which he recited every time anyone sat down at his dinner table: "Get all you want, but eat all you get." I passed that little homily along to my daughter as she was growing up and to her many friends who often frequented our dinner table in the hopes that she and they would learn the parallel lesson of "Waste Not, Want Not." I can't speak for daughter Megan's friends, but at age 22 I am assured that she has learned that lesson well and will one day impart that tidbit of wisdom along to her own children.

I am often reminded of my friend's father's saying, particularly at this time of the year, when I stop in our neighborhood supermarket, one of dozens of such establishments scattered throughout our city, and walk the aisles consciously in amazement at the endless selection of edible consumables that line to the brim every shelf as far as the eye can gaze. As citizens of this fallible yet so great a country, we are in deed so very blessed. We are a nation of insatiable consumers and, unfortunately, too often squanderers in equal measure. We throw away more in a day than some families in desolate parts of the world will ever have an opportunity to consume in a life time. We have become so accustomed to such renewable bounty that we give little thought or care to just how much we casually discard as unsatisfactory to maintaining our inflated sense of entitlement. It's not that we are deliberately callous in embracing such a caviler attitude, it's just that we are absentmindedly accustomed to being spoiled by the many blessings of our birthright.

Every child has no doubt heard the stern admonishment from a parent when the child stubbornly refuses to eat a particular food item that was placed on their plate: "You need to eat the rest of your peas, young man. There are children in China who would kill to have such good food as your are wasting." The wise crack reply, wisely withheld in abeyance, "Well, name just one and we'll wrap up these little suckers right now and ship them on over!" The fact of the matter remains, whether the peas eventually get eaten or left on the plate, there are so many far less fortunate souls in this world that will be going hungry yet another day as we sit before our Thanksgiving banquet on Thursday. This obvious observation is not intended to be a downer for that day, but an appeal to each of us to be mindfully thankful for all that we receive as a sustenance blessing on that day and all of the days that follow which are provided through the unmerited graciousness of our God in Heaven. Whether by spoken prayer or the reverant bowing of one's head, look to your heart and be thankful for family, loved ones and friends, and remember also the men and women that serve each of us in our armed forces. Their families won't have them at their family banquet this year. Pray that they will be welcomed home soon to celebrate next year's Thanksgiving. What a blessing that will be.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19

"Want To Get Away?"

Tis the season to be traveling. Judi and daughter Megan leave Tuesday morning to fly to Cincinnati to spend Thanksgiving with her son and our two granddaughters. Not me. The cats and I are staying right here in St. Pete. I'm saving what few vacation days I have left in case our University of South Florida "Bulls" land a "close by" bowl game over the Christmas holidays. Besides, it's cold in Cincinnati and the only sudden blast of frigid air I want to feel is when I open the refrigerator door.

Personally I don't envy anyone who is flying this time of year. It's a gauntlet of fits and starts in the best of times, but add in half the nation trying to get from here to there and that adds up to a scenario for gigantic frustrations of incalculable proportions. I recognize that the airlines do their very best to minimize air travel hassle...some do a better job than other carriers. I particularly like Southwest. They are certainly no frills, but occasionally mix in a little levity and nonsense. Some Southwest flight attendant crews are more creative and free-flowing in the jocularity than others. Arriving at the conclusion of one flight I was on the flight attendant announced, "Okay, we're here. Get off!" When crammed into a tin cylinder for hours on end, a little humor goes a long way...and I do appreciate creative humor.

As an example, click on the following WEB link: for a very funny Norwegian Airlines commercial. It's not one you are ever going to see on American television. Reminds me of some of the Southwest Airlines TV ads that have the final tag line, "Wanna Get Away?" Believe me, if the guy in this commercial could "get away" he wouldn't hesitate to do so.

If you are flying this Thanksgiving, you've got infinitely more patients than do I. The cats and I wish you quickly through check-in, air port security, and boarding. Everything else is a piece of cake...unless you are not particularly fond of waiting on the tarmac while the other 193 flights ahead of your plane wait to take off. Your realtives will keep the turkey warm until you get there, I'm sure.

"It's Official!!"

Finally, the results are in. Yesterday's Sunday edition of the "Neighborhood Times" devoted an entire page to the plight of the Muscovy ducks in Kenneth City. They well as all the other "wild animals" that now have the misfortune to list their home address in that burg.

With only one dissenting vote, the following ordinance was placed into law by the Town Council: "It shall be unlawful for any person in town to feed or distribute grain or food of any kind or nature to any wild flocks of birds, fowl, including chickens or ducks, livestock or mammals of any kind or nature, whether or not they tend to assemble or herd themselves together in a concentrated area."

Fifteen residents spoke before the Council to voice their opposition to the ordinance, many carrying copies of the yard signs that had been planted all over town that read "Attention Kenneth City Hall, I Support Muscovy Ducks. Respect My Property Rights." To add visual interest there was also a nice little silhouette at the bottom of the placard of a Mama duck and three ducklings trailing behind. One of the female dissenters, known locally as the "duck lady," spoke passionately in defense of the Muscovy ducks, citing God and a Hitler reference pretty much in the same breath. So concerned was the council members that the hearing would be contentious that they placed a Kenneth City police officer at the back of the room and the "acting" chief seated himself conspicuously to one side of the dais. No mention in the news article was made as to whether or not either officer was wearing a flak jacket or who was patrolling the rest of the town while their entire police department was in attendance at the meeting. On the opposite side of the question attempting to bolster the proponent's side of the debate, council member Al Carrier read an excerpt from a brochure issued by PETA that said it was cruel to feed wild animals. He failed to also read the brochure's follow up statement that pronounced that once animals have gotten use to being fed, it is equally cruel to stop doing so. Convenient omission.

So, what's next? Bird feeder patrols and no doubt a petition "to throw the bums out of office," would be my guess. It wouldn't surprise me to see one or two of the more adamantly opposed citizens to defy the new ordinance by throwing caution to the wind along with hands full of bird seed just to test the laws validity. Headline: Kenneth City - "Duck Lady" Jailed Kicking And Screaming." I smell a court test in the offing. I'll keep you posted on further developments.

In the mean time, I think I'll take a ride over to Kenneth City this afternoon to see if any of God's animal creatures are heading out of town with their belongings tucked under their wings.

"No Way To Start A Monday..."

I've been violated!! Someone or somebodies stole my new company cell phone! It's partly my fault. I must have forgotten to make sure I had locked my truck on Saturday and some time late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, a perpetrator decided to see if there was anything worth stealing. Fortunately, only the cell phone.

I didn't realize that it was missing until I climbed in the cab this morning to head for work. I reached up to the driver's side sun phone. This explains why my daughter Megan called home last evening to ask if I has sent her a one word text message at 5:45 a.m. Sunday morning that rhymes with "Witch." I assured her that I hadn't. She agreed saying, "You don't even know how to text message." Sad, but true. My secretary also received the exact same eloquently phrased message. I haven't checked with Judi, but I'm sure she'll get the identical "greeting." Seems they only sent this one word missive to the females on my contact list, which, fortunately, only numbers three.

It was a simple matter to cancel the phone service, after it was reported stolen, and activate a new one. The phone's records show that no calls were made, but a bunch of games and pictures were downloaded. I'm not going to be charged for those. Now whoever has the phone can no longer use it. Good! I'd still like to catch the SOB's and "BONK" them unconscious with my cast iron avenging skillet! Would serve them right! Wouldn't hurt if I also check and double check to make sure I have locked my truck. Better yet, I think I'll just make sure that the phone accompanies me into the house each day. Better safe than violated again.

Friday, November 16

"Smells Like A Weenie Roast To Me..."

Some times you can't just make this stuff up. Dateline: Pasco County...just north of St. Petersburg and Tampa. St. Petersburg TIMES headline: "Fire Damages Home In Nudist Resort."

"A two-story home in the nudist resort Caliente caught fire today. The fire appears to have started in an RV parked in the home's garage. There might be damage to the home's roof, and the fire may have gutted the garage." Seems to me that there was a great deal of speculation going on here. No one seems to know, nor apparently care, what exactly happened or to what extent was the resulting fire damage. Makes one wonder if there may have been other activities going on that were serving as a larger distraction to the main event.

Continued the news report... "Bowing to the chilly weather, residents of the resort gathered around the home in sweatshirts and sweatpants to watch the blaze." That's how the story concludes. No mention as to whether or not a local fire department responded to the fire, and if one did, were the fire fighters disappointed or relieved that the spectating residents were more modestly attired? Perhaps it is a fortuitous thing that the fire occurred when this part of Florida is experiencing its first real spell of much cooler weather. Had the the fire broken out at the height of the summer, no doubt the house would have burned to the ground. Firefighters are dedicated and brave individuals. But let's be reasonable: If there was a bunch of totally naked people standing around gawking, wouldn't you have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand?

Like I said, "Some times you just can't make up this stuff up."

Thursday, November 15

"No News From Kenneth City..."

I checked today's issue of the St. Petersburg published report on the last evening's scheduled vote on the proposed city ordinance that would prevent citizens of that wide spot in the road from the feeding of any wild animals on private property. I was also hoping that last evening's 11 o'clock news would have in depth coverage of the meeting, replete with video showing adherents to the opposing sides "bonking" each other over the heads with bird feeders. No such luck. I can only surmise that the issue was settled amicably, as neither was there a report that the riot police had been summoned to quell a mass disturbance in that part of Pinellas County.

I will purchase another newspaper tomorrow morning to hopefully determine the outcome of the meeting. Should a follow up article not be published, I will utilize my contact at the TIMES (he's a janitor) to see if I can get any inside dope...I mean information. I realize that you, my fateful readers, are awaiting, as am I, with great anticipation the final result. The fate of every Muscovy Duck and grey squirrel hangs in the balance.

"Well 'HO' Your Own Self!!"

Just when you thought "political correctness" couldn't possibly become any more absurd... Date Line: Australia. The Daily Telegraph in London, England has reported that an Australian recruitment company, charged with the responsibility of screening and hiring dozens of in-store St. Nick's for the up-coming Christmas season, has ventured well beyond assuring that these imitation jolly men aren't closet ax murderers, but has inserted an additional edict in this year's edition of policies and procedures for Santa Claus conduct.

Are you ready for this? All St. Nicks have been directed not to utter the age-old "Ho, Ho, Ho" belly laugh. Why? (Mind you this is happening in Australia) Because this word is "too similar to the American slang word for a female prostitute." (I'm waiting a bit to let that sink in...)

I would love to meet the person or persons who formulated this preposterous policy so that I could once again unsheathe my trusty and highly reliable cast iron avenging skillet and gleefully (in the spirit of the season) "Bonk" each and everyone of them soundly across the back of their obviously empty skulls. This is so idiotic that it defines any attempt at rationalization. What could possibly be next in this head-long and maddening excursion into political correctness? Perhaps banning Santa Claus from wearing his traditional red suit for fear that some other idiot of even lesser intelligence would suggest that that color is also the color that is associated with a "red light" district. Can't you just see it? Dozens of Santas dressed in Madras?

Fortunately there have been many good citizens in Australia, who possess even a molecule of common sense, that have risen in mass objection to voice their vehement rejection of such a silly pronouncement: stating that those whom the policy is designed to protect are, after all, only children, and wouldn't (or shouldn't) have any fore-knowledge of the word "Ho" in triplicate of having or implying any other connotation but one of joyous merriment. Why am I amazed that such an explanation and leap of common sense would even require further justification?

On the other hand, should some few adventurous and perhaps amorous Mothers decide themselves to climb on Santa's lap, perhaps the restriction of Santa's in-kind remarks of apprecation might best be in order. I'm only saying. Santa...let's be careful out there.

Wednesday, November 14

Virtual Affirmations

There have recently been numerous printed articles and news stories that discuss the pros and cons of the proliferation of personalized WEB pages, such as Facebook and MySpace. The gigantic downside of sites such as these is the indiscriminate publication of "personal information" replete with photographs and video clips that reveal in-depth information about the individual owner of the site that at best should remain private. Many such "pages" proudly revel in risque behaviors that once published on the WEB are "out there forever." The consequences of such revelations are that anyone with access to a computer can view these pages and make less than flattering judgements that could jeopardize the individual's opportunity for future employment or be justification for a present employer to terminate a current employee post haste. An even more sinister consequence is the realization that there are untold numbers of sexual predators who ply these sites, lurking in the shadows of obscurity to formulate plans to realize their sexual fantasies either in privacy or, God forbid, via real life encounters.

A number of observers of this phenomena are now suggesting that the utilization of these sites, now populated by individuals principally under the age of 30 and primarily by teenagers, will diminish and fade away: calling it a "fad." What the young owners of these sites are seeking is a measure of fame, acceptance, inclusion, and popularity among their real and virtual peers. It is anticipated that with growing maturity the juvenile pursuit of these quests will evolve into more conventional and conservative methods to maintain contact with only those select persons that add meaning and of value to their lives.

Which brings this discussion to another Internet phenomena; the "Blog," an instrument of self-expression and communication that has, at last calculation, over 600,000 participants and growing exponentially every month. The content of these on-line exposes are as varied as the seashells in the world's oceans, but all share a common goal of wishing to be embraced by the largest possible audience. "If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?" Thus, I would suggest, a similar mantra should be in vogue for every blogger: "Why produce a personal blog if no one reads it?"

My Dad had a favorite saying, "Some people talk just to hear their heads roar!" As much as I would like to convince myself that my personal observations and opinions are as illuminating and erudite as those of Gandhi, Estine and Ralph Waldo Emerson (to name but a few), I still seek collaboration and general agreement that what I have to say is appreciated, enjoyed and doesn't just literally "suck out loud!" I don't think that's too much to ask.

So, for those fellow blogers who have stopped by my fledgling attempts at entertaining discourse and have expressed appreciation for my efforts, "Thank you." For the thousand who have yet to do so... You don't know what your missing...if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, November 13

"That's Two!!"

The age-old adage "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while" applies here. Seems I've somehow managed to impress yet one more individual blogger to add my bog to their list of favorites...and no money was exchanged...yet. That brings me up to a grand total of two! I'm over-whelmed!

First to recognize my blogging attempts as being worthy of a regular read was a San Antonio, Texan lady that goes by the moniker "I Am Norman." This week I was awarded "favorite" status by a gentleman who resides in Woodstock, Georgia (cool name) and who goes by the blog handle of "Coffeypot." Coffeypot's blog may be accessed by going to: I haven't yet learned how to create my own list of Blog favorites. I need to do that in order to reciprocate in-kind for Norman's and Coffeypot's listing of mine. Maybe Coffeepot will send me instruction on how to do that. I'm always afraid to try anything technically new on my blog for fear it will wipe out the entire blog. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," I suppose.

It is always rewarding to have other people, who pursue with equal enthusiasm the same interests as do you, to pronounce their appreciation for your efforts...unless, perhaps, they are accomplished axe murderers. I wouldn't want that to get out. Still, I've been told that I possess some unique writing gifts (my dear Mother being among that small, but devoted group), and being encouraged to continue in that pursuit by folks not associated with my immediate family just adds further impetuous to hone that skill. Not that I'll ever make a dime for doing so...but that would be "like work,"and where's the fun in that?

So thanks Coffeypot for the salute. You're words of wisdom have left an indelible mark on me. I too have elected to give up reading. It was getting in the way of my heavy drinking!

Monday, November 12

Trouble In Kenneth City!!

Kenneth City is back in the local news this week and doesn't really care to be there. I previously highlighted this postage stamp sized community in my blog entry dated June 27th and titled, "You're Kidding Me...That's It!?!" With only 4,400 citizens residing within the city limits measuring just 7/10th of a square mile, every one's business becomes every one's business.

The latest city-wide squabble is centered upon the feathered fowl pictured above: the Muscovy Duck. This particular breed is the beet of the duck world: you either love them or hate them. There's no middle ground. As far as "good looks" go, these birds rank on a scale from one to ten a minus three. Their indiscriminate breeding give minks a run for their money, their personalities are in a word "aggressive," and their appetites voracious. It is the "end result" of this latter attribute that is causing the turmoil in Kenneth City. Seems flocks of the Muscovy Ducks are leaving their calling cards in large deposits upon the lawns of those citizens that are anything but enamored with these unwelcome gifts for free fertilizer.

Into the fray enters the the city fathers and mothers of the Kenneth City Town Council. Their solution? Propose an ordinance that bans the feeding of wild animals on private property. On first blush this proposed solution sounds reasonable until one focuses on the words "private property." "Release the hounds, Mable. There's blood in the water!" The good but bewildered Mayor, Muriel Whitman, trying her best to smooth the increasing number of rumpled feathers, quipped that she doesn't hate ducks, thinks they are "cute," but need to stay on the ponds and in the wild where they belong. Adding further, "When people feed them, they congregate and irate some homeowners because of the mess they leave behind." Thank you Mayor for stating the obvious.

Not everyone shares the Mayor's sentiments, especially since no one to date has thus far mastered Muscovy and thus convince them to remain "out of sight, out of mind." Said one city resident, "The proposal interferes with the rights of homeowners, who should be able to toss bread to the ducks" on their own property. See? I told you this was going to get messy. Said one of the more outspoken opponents to the new ordinance, "The wording of the ordinance covers all wild animals. That means bird feeders - human and contraptions - would be banned, as would the tossing of a nut to a squirrel." Them's fighting words, Harvey!

The final consideration of the ordinance comes before the Town Council this Wednesday evening. I'm seriously considering giving up my Bingo night to witness the may lay that is sure to break out. And you thought that Iran threatening to develop a nuclear weapon was a major crisis. Oh contrair, mon ami. Mused Mayor Whitman, dejectedly, "I really don't need this. I wish we could please everyone." I think I hear Rodney King lamenting in the background, "Why can't we all just get along?" When private property rights and Muscovy Ducks intermingle in Kenneth city, fat chance.

Sunday, November 11

"The Price Of Freedom Is Never Free."

Thus spoke Jan Scruggs, the driving personality that brought forth to culmination the dream of a memorial to honor the forever fallen of the Vietnam war. Himself a decorated veteran of this conflict that claimed 58,000 fellow comrades-in-arms who never returned to our shores, Jan was determined that their ultimate sacrifice and the service of the 300,000 men and women who were wounded during this dark period in our country's history would be forever remembered and honored. His unrelenting dedication to that quest is evidenced by the Vietnam Veteran Memorial's two rows of polished etched granite walls rising solemnly in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. Three million visitors to our nation's capital each year include a visit to this patch of hallowed ground to honor and pay their respect to these men and women who indeed gave the full measure of their devotion to our country.

As a veteran myself, I would be terribly remiss if I failed to use this vehicle of self-expression to offer my personal indebtedness and sincere gratitude for the thousands upon thousands of self-sacrificing men and women who have served and are serving in our country's military. I have walked the length of Vietnam Memorial, running my fingers across the names in prayerful respect, have stood at attention at the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and have wept among the endless rows of white grave makers at Arlington National Cemetery, being touched to my very core with the sobering realization that each etched name and each grave marker represents not just the individual who lost their life in defense of our freedoms and liberty, but the loved ones left behind that stood where I was standing and emptied their souls in unquenchable sorrow. Unless one has personally experienced that confusing and numbing mixture of sorrow and pride, one can never come to fully understand what an ultimate sacrifice demands in payment. Because I cannot relate to that depth of feeling, I am lost for the words to adequately describe. But I am never at a loss to say that the words "Thank You" are never enough.

This nation's indebtedness to these men and women must be held in the highest esteem not just on a single day of commemoration, but should be remembered daily in our prayers of protection for those who serve us faithfully today and in humble recognition for those who have served us so selflessly in the past. Each understands and understood that "The price of freedom is never free." Their sacrifice has and is paying that price in full. I am grateful and I am humbled.

Wednesday, November 7

"Please...Just Go Away!"

You know this person. She's (or he's) the one that tells you to look on the bright side of life just after you've slammed your shin into the side of a desk. This is the same person who will, after you sadly reveal that your significant other has just run off to live a life of uninterrupted sin with the UPS driver, that "Into life a little rain must fall." Were an umbrella handy, you'd beat the living daylight out of her.

Listen, I'm all in favor of maintaining an upbeat view of life. The benefits of an uplifted spirit most certainly outweighs dragging around an Eeyor-type countenance. Being perpetually unhappy seems to me to be a rather poor formula for embracing life, as there will always be enough of those trying times in a person's life when circumstances beyond one's will or power to control will drag us into a pit of despair. Why then spend even one additional dejected moment hiding beneath the bed covers wondering whether or not the sky is going to fall? My attitude? "Buck up, Wilma. Life is passing you by!" That's sound advice. But there is a time and place when such cheerful homilies are more appropriately given and hopefully appreciated.

It's the over exuberant individual that drives me to distraction. These are the people that seem to come out of woodwork at the most inopportune times to spread their special brand of cheer right in the middle of some personal calamity. Your head is throbbing from a late night's embrace with far too many Margaritas and she comes bounding into your presence to announce with unbridled enthusiasm that her guppies gave birth in the middle of the night to a whole school of the little buggers. "How swell for you," you dully reply. "What's the matter with you, sourpuss?" she beams. "Did someone lick all the red off your candy?" "Well, if you must know," your muffled voice dripping with disappointment, "I just learned that our company is down-sizing and I have to let a lot of folks go...and you're first on the list." "No kidding," says she and, without missing a beat, turns on her heels and exuberantly shouts over her shoulder, "Gotta go! Talk to you later! Have a nice day!" Your left wondering if the sky in her world is the same color as yours.

Just one of these "way too much sugar in their coffee" type individuals can be a tolerable cross to bare, but assemble a whole room full of these joyous adrenaline junkies and it's what the military euphemistically calls a "target rich environment." You just want to suck the air out of the room to see if they would even notice. Picture a conference of Amway adherents seriously plotting how to sell their products in the middle of the Amazon and you get a pretty good idea of what I'm trying to convey. A little bit is quite enough, thank you.

So if you don't mind, when I bang my shin on the corner of the desk, don't come charging over to kiss my boo-boo to make it all better. "I appreciate your apparent concern. But I'm a big boy and, if you don't mind, would you just please go away. That's a good scout. You have a nice day too. Mine is looking up already."

"Falling Back..."

One of the best days of the year for me is when standard time "springs forward" to begin Daylight Savings Time. I don't care if it is still dark in the mornings when I roll out of bed and prepare for the day. I know that when I arrive home from work the sun is still scheduled to keep its face shining above the horizon for an extra hour. The promise of spring, with the advancing of the clock hands, has officially, in my mind, come to fruition.

Conversely, one of my least favorite days is when we revert back to standard time. Sure my body senses for a few days that it is getting extra time to rest, but when nightfall arrives as I am pulling into my driveway depresses me. It wouldn't do for me to live in Alaska. Too much perpetual darkness.

The time change doesn't seem to affect my wife, Judi, at all. Her internal time clock never changes. When 11 p.m. arrives (now 10 p.m.) she's in a dead sleep on the couch. I, on the other hand, have at least a couple of hours to go before I feel weary. She tells me, "It's all in your head." I detest people who state the obvious.

So much am I an adherent to appreciating longer days that I mark on my calendar in red the first day after the beginning of winter. That is the date when the days begin to grown incrementally longer and we begin again the slow but progressive march to the date (also marked in red) when daylight savings time arrives. As of this date there are forty-six days to go before the calendar turns over to December 23rd; the day after this year's date when winter officially arrives. I'm ticking each day off one by one. The promise of spring and longer, warmer days. It can't come soon enough for me.

Tuesday, November 6


I'm not allowed to say "IDIOT!!" anymore. This word is now to be removed from my daily vocabulary. I was informed of this decision by my wife, Judi, who has declared that the word is "offensive to her." Political correctness has come home to roost on my shoulder.

Not that I have ever spoken that derogatory epithet to her or about her. She is indeed a highly intelligent woman and conducts her life in a well reasoned and a detailed "cause and effect" manner. No, it is not that I have directed this diatribe toward her, but have repeatedly spewed it forth in her presence toward those persons who do some idiotic thing to annoy the crap out of me. My tone of utter disdain is what causes her discomfort.

According to my wife, "It's not fair that you categorize a person in that manner when you don't know them personally." On the surface that is a fair statement. Fact of the manner is, if they continue to do the idiotic things that they do, I don't care to become acquainted. Nevertheless, I must agree that a momentary lost of rational thought resulting in a less than brilliant reaction does not necessarily assign them automatically into duncehood. Still, it seems to me that assigning them with a harmless label would be preferable to having me exit my car and "bonking" them across the back of their head with my cast iron avenging skillet! It has now been made pointedly apparent to me that neither option is preferable.

I am now only permitted to comment on their behavior, i.e., "That person in that car over there, who had on their left turn signal and then turned right in front of our car, must be suffering from a debilitating and delusional thought process!" According to Judi that's "okay" because I'm classifying their behavior and not impugning their character. Seems to me to be a rather narrow distinction between the two, if you ask me. But, if my dear wife truly believes this type of behavior on my part lessens her overall respect for me as a person, I'll give it a shot and do my best to forgo the utilization of that particular word. It won't be easy. There's a lot of (fill in the blank") out there.

Monday, November 5

Florida Fall

Halloween is over and done with for another year. Quickly now...discard that grossly deformed pumpkin from the front porch and toss its rapidly decaying carcass in the trashcan. Time is wasting. There's a decided nip in the air that most assuredly heralds the advent of the leaves changing into a pallet of fall colors. The warm summer breezes have given way to sweaters and scarfs being exhumed from their closet lodging and the ground is covered more frequently with a light coating of misty frost.

Wait a minute! What am I talking about? This is Florida! The only frost-like substance we encounter this time of the year is on a cake! There are no changes in the color of the leaves. They cling stubbornly still to the trees that bore them and will not drop until next spring when new foliage has lost its patience to burst forth and flourish. The only noticeable change in color is occurring on my front yard, as the grass transcends from a vibrant green to a dormant brown. My lawnmower appreciates the reprieve.

No, there's not much difference in this sub-tropical part of the world when summer gives way to fall. We're still keeping a wary eye pealed for a late season tropical wave that may defy common sense and develop into an unwanted and most certainly unwelcome calamity. The chances of such an event occurring diminishes with each passing November day. But we've all learned to expect the unexpected and keep the emergency supplies well stocked and easily in reach.

The only thing in my neighborhood that remotely resembles a typical fall in cooler climes to the north is the copious amount of acorns that are dropping like a spring rain from the oak trees. The squirrels that populate my backyard have come out of hibernation from the summer's heat and are feasting on this seemingly inexhaustible bounty. Their constant chatter calls me awake each morning and I delight in witnessing their determined enterprise to gorge themselves on the nutty offering that awaits within each discovered treasure.

This is fall in southwest Florida. Neighborhoods give more time to exchange pleasantries and gossip across fences. The air is filled with the joyous sounds of bicycling children and the barks of their ever-fateful canine companions. The streets before earlier sunsets are populated with couples and families taking leisurely walks to nowhere in particular. Yes, fall does bring on noticeable changes here in St. Petersburg. The air seems cleaner and more invigorating. We now linger longer to breath it in deeply and give momentary thanks that unlike the fictitious frozen community of Lake Woebegone to our north, our men are indeed good looking, our women are stronger, and all of our children are far above average.