Monday, December 31, 2007

Universal Studios Florida "Grinchmas"

Last Saturday after the Sanford Farmer's Market, Cindy and I met up with AnnMarie, Jason, Mikey and Heather at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure to go see the "Grinchmas" show. Mikey decided that the Grinch looked a little too scary for him, so Cindy and I went to see the show while everyone else went to some of the fun rides for the little ones. Afterward we enjoyed a nice dinner together at Friday's restaurant.

Here's a pic from that afternoon. More are over on the Flickr badge in the right hand column.

Back In Louisiana

I arrived back in Lake Charles this past Saturday. Not much had changed during my absence, except that the Burger King marquee misspelling of "Wopper" was corrected. Maybe the district manager came into town. I do love the new Burger King "freakout" commercials, especially the one where the guy who looks like the subway ghost from the movie "Ghost" is caught on camera saying in a VERY forceful voice, "You get back there and you make me a Whopper!"

Ok, you're a Whopper.

Sorry, old joke.

I just uploaded the pictures I took last Saturday while Cindy and I were at the Sanford Farmer's Market. You can click on the Flickr graphic over in the right column to see the rest of them.

Next post: photos from our trip with the grandchildren to Universal Studios and the "Grinchmas" Show.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Merry Yule. Happy Kwanza.

Whatever and however you celebrate, Happy Holidays from our home to yours.

Heather's shirt says it all...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Fun

Here's a fun puzzle that my mother-in-law showed me earlier tonight at the annual family Christmas Eve Dinner Party. See how many Christmas carols or songs you can guess from the visual clues below. If you'd like to leave a comment with your guesses, that would be great. I'll try to post the answers in the next couple of days.

P.S. Click on the picture if you need a larger view.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"I'll Be Home For Christmas..."

I'll be home for Christmas;
You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love-light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.

Thankfully, in more than my dreams. Today I'm flying a small commuter plane to Houston and then a nice large jet home to Orlando for a few days, which means I'll Be Home For Christmas. And boy, am I looking forward to it.

Not sure how much I'll be posting while home, so let me take a moment to wish all my family, friends and loved ones who I may not get a chance to see this year, a very HAPPY HOLIDAY!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Favorite Holiday Song

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have It Your Way

Apparently, judging by the photo below of a Burger King marquee here in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the Burger King company really is doing away with the Whopper, as their new ad campaign points out, but they're replacing it with the...Wopper.

Seriously, do you think the king (who is just as creepy as the Wendy's mascot I posted about here, regardless of what my daughter thinks) is pleased that his subjects have no clue when it comes to the correct spelling of his signature product?

The sign has displayed this misspelling for the past 16 days. I'm not holding out hope that it will be corrected any time soon.

P.S. Funny, even my spellchecker kept alerting me that I spelled "Wopper" wrong.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Old Man And Castle of The Glass Head

Ok, ok. I'm just being a little sarcastic. Below is the official movie poster for the fourth, and probably last, Indiana Jones film; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I know my daughter will be happy to see it as she is a huge Harrison Ford fan. I think it's because he reminds her of me, of course.

Opening May 22, 2008. Seriously, I can't wait to see the old man do it again.

Vampires Beware!

There I was, sitting at the desk in the hotel room pounding out some kind of worthless drivel on the laptop with the TV on next to me when I heard her say "Vampires Beware!"

Now, of course, that WOULD get my attention because sometimes I consider myself to be, if not a vampire, then at least sympathetic to their... lifestyle. After all, my internal body clock has always been set to sleep during the day and do my work at night and, before I married my beloved Cindy, I was known for being extremely attracted to beautiful female necks. Plus, although I'm definitely NOT, I always felt like immortality might be pretty cool.

So, when those words, "Vampires Beware!" penetrated my concentration, I swiftly looked toward the TV to see what is was they should beware. Ya know...just in case. What I saw was an attractive blonde female on the right lower corner of the screen with a local car dealership in the opposite corner and various vehicles in the background. Then she repeated her earlier warning. Except this time, with the added visual assistance and my concentration focused on what she was saying, I realized what she had said was...

"Van Buyers Compare!"

I swear it's these darn local Louisiana accents.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lake Charles Photos

Back on December 2nd I was able to walk around the North shore area of Lake Charles (the actual lake, not the town) which is right across the street from the hotel I'm staying at here in the town of Lake Charles. Last night I finally had time to get 124 of the 213 photos I took uploaded to Flickr (if you're wondering about the difference in numbers; I didn't think the others were really good enough to put out for all to see. Heck, these 124 may not be good enough either).

If you start by clicking on the photo of the map in the lower right corner of the set and work your way back through the previous shots (because somehow that's how they uploaded) you can follow my route on the map.

It was an interesting walk and encompassed the city's Veterans Memorial Park, one of their earliest cemeteries (where they added the "Millennium Christ" statue back in 2000), Harrah's Casino and Hotel, which were closed by hurricane Katrina, and some of the interesting things found along the beach/shore of Lake Charles as well as the 135 tall I-10 bridge in the background of several of the shots.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Family Day At Disney

Today is our annual "Family Day at Disney" gathering. It's usually Cindy and I, her mom and dad, Ann, Jason, Mikey and Heather, Amber, Jeremy, Ed and Pam. This year, we get to add Wendy, Jeremy's significant other, and take away....ME.

Yes, since I'm still in Lake Charles, LA I did not get to participate in one of the most enjoyable things we do each year; meet at one of the Disney parks, usually (...hmmm now that I think about it, always) at Disney-MGM, enjoy a few shows or rides, have lunch at one of the nice-sit-down restaurants, have our family portrait made, spend a bunch of money on Disney merchandise and stay until it gets dark so we can walk through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights display on the Disney-MGM (soon to be Disney's Hollywood Studios) Streets of America backlot, which my mother-in-law and I love to see.

I've talked to Cindy several times today and to Mikey, Heather and Ann once each, so far. Plus, Ann has been sending me cameraphone pics all afternoon so I could see what the grandkids are doing. Thanks Princess.

Here's a photo I took last year when we were there. My, Heather has grown. I love the look on her face as she stares at her older brother.

I miss being there.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Appetite Has Been Ruined

The new Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers mascot/spokesperson or whatever they're calling it, really freaks me out.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Homer Has Left The Building

I'm sitting here looking at a list of things that I wanted to write blog posts about, but haven't had the time to do so. I probably won't write about any of them tonight either.

I did have some time this past weekend, but fate threw a sort of emotional monkey wrench into the bliss, rendering me unable to really have the ability to focus and concentrate enough to construct any semblance of words strung together to form a coherent thought. I DID spend a lot of time reading and watching TV (mostly CNN, for some reason) in an attempt to distract myself, but accomplished nothing that would stir the muse from its depths. When Monday morning rolled around, I was feeling pretty crappy about wasting time I had to be creative and productive, but there was "day job" work to be done and that could not be put off.

Anyway, though it has nothing to do with the paragraph above, I am happy to announce that Homer Has Left The Building. I can't say much more than that (signed NDA's and all that sort of thing), but those of you who are privy to what it means will smile and join me in a small amount of happiness.

Hopefully, more words will be forthcoming in the days ahead.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Birthday, Heather!

Today is my granddaughter's 2nd birthday. Grandma and Granddad love you Heather. Have a very Happy Birthday.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I Feel Good, Da Da Da Da Da Da Da

The forecast thunderstorms did not materialize here yesterday on my only day off, so I was able to take a Photowalk around part of Lake Charles (the actual lake, not the city), taking some 220 photos. Boy, did that feel good! It's amazing what getting time to exercise a little bit of creativity with your camera can do for your inner child/spirit/daemon.

Now I just need enough time to get them all uploaded to Flickr.

Here's a little something to whet your appetite. Yes, that is an ornament I found on the beach of the lake.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Mist"

I went to see "The Mist" on Thanksgiving Day. Even though Cindy and I have a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas Day, it still surprises me when I see the kind of long lines I saw on Turkey Day for a 3pm movie. Aren't most people sitting down to their Thanksgiving Day dinner around this time? I guess not. I mean, I had the excuse that I was alone, from out of town and just looking to get out of the hotel room. There were several couples, groups of friends, etc. all lined up at the ticket window and concession stand.

It reminds me of when I used to be a bartender and DJ. The bar would open at 2pm on Thanksgiving Day and by 3pm every seat was filled. Don't these people have families to be with? Most of them, it turned out, did not and the rest were in the bar to escape theirs, lol.

Maybe the teetotalers go to movies instead of a bar to escape their Thanksgiving Day family gatherings.

"The Mist" is adapted from a Stephen King short story of the same name and the basic plot is a mysterious fog rolls into a small Maine town (all of King's stories, it seems, take place in Maine) with heretofore unseen and unknown creatures hidden in the fog, trapping a group of people in a grocery store. As is the usual case with King's works, the true horror lies not in the strange, man-eating creatures emerging from the fog, but within the hearts and minds of people who react with fear. That theme is followed from the very first scene to the last in various guises throughout the film.

I read this short story years ago and since my memory is not what it used to be I could only recall bits and pieces. The end, I already knew, had been changed by director Frank Darabont and praised by King as an excellent conclusion; one that he wished he had written. Obviously, I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that at a certain point I KNEW what the end should be...and it was. You'll probably have the same thoughts when you go to see it.

Because, although this is not a blockbuster movie by any means, I do recommend watching it as a study in human nature and group dynamics under pressure. Some, in fact, have suggested that the movie is a metaphor for the condition America finds itself in, reacting with fear and panic to the threat of terrorism emerging from the fog, as it were.

Just be sure to have a flashlight with you if it's dark or foggy when you leave the theater.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Rain Conspiracy

There is a conspiracy afoot here in southwestern Louisiana. Since my arrival in Lake Charles, every time I have a day off it proceeds to rain the entire day. When I'm working, the sun is shining and the weather is clear. When I'm free to walk around taking photos, it rains.

All day.

This weekend, the rain was accompanied by 45-50 degree temperatures during the day, making it seem that much more miserable. I look out my third floor window and see nothing but slate gray skies, heavy, ominous clouds and the constant falling of rain. So much rain that, as of a few minutes ago, Calcasieu (Kal-Ka-Shoe) Parish was put under a flood watch.

Glad I'm on the third floor.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Too Much Time Alone In The Hotel Room

Ok, my daughter sent me a link to this site where she and my son-in-law got "elfed" and I had the people in the next room banging on the wall for me to stop laughing so loud.

I couldn't help it, it was incredibly funny.

Obviously, I have too much time on my hands here alone in the hotel room as I have allowed myself to be "elfed" as well. You can see the full-blown hilarity by clicking here.

If you decide to "elf" yourself after watching me make a fool of myself, please leave the link in the comments so I can laugh at you as much as you're going to be laughing at me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly"

This is one of my favorite scenes from the BEST sitcom ever aired, WKRP In Cincinnati. This scene is from the 1978 pilot-season Thanksgiving-themed episode, "Turkeys Away" and the first time I watched Mr. Carlson utter those famous words, I almost fell off the couch laughing. I still love it to this day.

If you have the time, you can see almost the entire episode on YouTube, or better yet, get the first season DVD from Be aware though, that if you were a fan of the music from the series, you may hear some different songs on the DVD due to copyright issues.

Happy Thanksgiving

This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent away from Cindy since we were married almost 11 years ago. It is a little more difficult than I imagined it might be. I stopped on the way home yesterday and bought a Marie Callender Turkey and Dressing frozen dinner to cook in the microwave for my Thanksgiving dinner in the hotel room today and a small, individual size pecan pie for dessert. They don't make those little pies in mince meat, my favorite holiday pie.

Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Well, you shouldn't.

Don't get me wrong, I DO miss being with my family today, but I am SO very thankful for so many things that I count myself a fortunate man indeed.

My mother, for example, hasn't had my dad around for Thanksgiving since he passed away almost 8 years ago. My father-in-law didn't have his family with him for 6 or 7 Thanksgivings while he endured the torture and imprisonment of being a POW for 6 1/2 years during the Vietnam War. His family, likewise, spent those Thanksgivings without him, all the while hoping and wishing for his safe return. My sister-in-law hasn't had her mom around for Thanksgiving for the past 17 years, following her death in a commercial airline crash.

While I enjoy my frozen dinner today, there are people in this very country who will have nothing to eat other than what they may scavenge out of a garbage can. Some won't even have that and will go to bed hungry. What I have would seem like a feast to some in the world.

I have the love of a woman who is the heart of my life and the soul of my being. Every day, I thank the fates that brought her into my life and gave me her love. I never expected it and know that I never deserved it, but she came into my life and made me happier than I had ever been. I try to show her how much I love her, but fail miserably at every turn. Yet she still lets me stay around. I am so thankful for her.

I have a daughter who is still my "princess", even though she is a parent herself now. She makes me so proud every single day because of the kind of person she is. Despite my horrible example, she grew up to be a person of kindness, integrity and dedication. Her husband, my son-in-law, is one of the finest men I know. He does me the honor of allowing me to call him "son" and calling me "dad." Their children, my grandson and granddaughter, are the lights of my life. As the old bumper sticker says, "If I had known grandchildren were this much fun, I would have had them first." Having all of them in my life makes me extremely thankful.

My mom, even though she faces some health challenges, is able to live in an extended care home that gives her help, assistance and care she could not get anywhere else, while allowing her to remain close to her friends and her church, which is important to her. I am very thankful for that in her life.

My 2 step-children have somehow managed to grow on me over the years. I have watched them grow up, hurt when they have hurt and laughed when they were happy. They are an important part of my life, and not just because they are my wife's children. I have admired them and the way they make every attempt to live their lives in a forthright manner. Growing up and living in this world is never easy and there's always someone or something waiting to cut you off at the legs, but I have watched them persevere and prevail. I am thankful for their presence in my life.

My wife's parents are the absolute best in-laws there could ever be. If someone said, "We need to design the perfect mother-in-law and father-in-law" I would say, "No need, here they are right here" and point to mine. Just being around them and seeing their example makes me strive to be a better example to others. That's the kind of effect they have, not only on me but on others as well. To give you an example of what they are like, here's part of what they wrote in an e-mail to me yesterday: "Tomorrow there will be an empty chair at our house and we will miss the person who usually sits there. You are such a part of the fabric of our family. Not only will your little ones miss you, but your big ones too." I am extremely thankful for the kind of mother-in-law and father-in-law I have in my life.

I'm thankful for technology that allows me to talk to my wife several times a day, to share e-mails throughout the day and to see my grandchildren on webcams and talk to them over the computer. Those things help when you're away. And I'm thankful that, while I AM away and separated from my loved ones, it's nothing compared to how those who are half a world away serving and fighting in a foreign country are feeling on this day when they are separated from their families and friends. I'm thankful for their service.

And I'm thankful to you for reading this. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Photo Rank

Here's a new site where you can post links to your photos and have them rated by viewers, ala Digg. Even if you don't post your own (I'm not sure mine possess the quality needed to make the cut with those who might rate them), it's a great place to see some excellent work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Want One Of These!

This week's Newsweek magazine features a cover article on the new Amazon Kindle, an ebook reader that is so much more.

Not only does the Kindle improve upon the problem of reading electronically with its use of E Ink, which mimics the readability of the printed page, but the reader itself also mimics the feel of a book in its dimensions and weight. The Kindle will hold approximately 200 books on its own internal memory, plus you can store as many books as you like on as many memory cards as you care to own. Aging baby boomers can increase the font size for easier readability; researchers can search for specific words or phrases within a book; the battery will last 30 hours and completely recharge in only two, and you can write notes on the screen or highlight passages.

The biggest feature is that Kindle allows wireless connectivity through WhisperNet, an EVDO broadband connection service offered by cell phone carriers, which means connectivity anywhere, not just in Wi-fi hotspots. You can use it totally independent of your personal computer. Downloading a book is a one-touch process and Amazon currently has 88,000 books in digital format and ready for downloading, with more, including new and past bestsellers, being offered in the future.

You can also subscribe to newspapers (the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Le Monde) that are automatically beamed to your Kindle as the print issue goes to press, magazines (The Atlantic) and selected blogs. No doubt that as the reader grows in popularity, so will the list of daily and monthly publications available for the Kindle. You can also get on the Internet to check out Wikipedia, Google or to follow links on subscribed blogs. If someone sends you a PDF file to your private Kindle e-mail address, the file will appear in your library and be just as readable as a book.

The Kindle will initially retail for $399, but that price may well drop if it turns out to be the iPod or iPhone for the literary customer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Black Friday

Even though I am away from home, I have still been doing some of our household Christmas shopping (as has Cindy back at home). I bought one special item in the French Quarter last week, but so far the rest of my shopping has been done my favorite way; online.

This Friday is Black Friday, the one single day in the year that generally puts retailers "in the black" for their fiscal year because of the holiday sales they offer to consumers who are beginning or continuing their shopping for Christmas. Typically, the sales will begin anywhere from midnight to 9am, with shoppers lining up in cold, dark parking lots waiting for the brick and mortar stores to open their doors for business.

I hate that and have only done it once; 7 years ago when Cindy wanted to get a specific item from a specific place. We haven't done it since. If I have anything to say about it, we won't ever do that again.

On Black Friday won't have a cold, dark parking lot to line up in, but they will have a bunch of great deals to help you and your family and friends get holiday shopping done for less. This year they've created a special Black Friday page for holiday shoppers that you can get to by clicking here. will be offering hourly deals from 6am to 6pm PST along with thousands of products on sale for a limited time. Also, customers will get gift wrapping for $.99 per item. So, don't fight the crowds when you can shop online at from the comfort of your own homes.

Also, just a reminder, if you're shopping at at ANY time, using the link at the bottom of the right column will help this site.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The French Quarter in New Orleans

Last Monday, which was Veterans Day, I took the opportunity that being off work afforded and visited the French Quarter and Bourbon Street while I was still in New Orleans.

Frankly, I was not impressed with the city of New Orleans and, after spending a few hours strolling through the French Quarter, was at a loss to explain why anyone would be attracted to this part of the city either. The only clean part of the Quarter is Decatur Street, which is like a several-block long tourist trap full of little shops selling cheap trinkets, T-shirts and other various over-priced junk.

So, of course, I bought some.

A block or two over is a completely different story. The streets and sidewalks are cracking, crumbling and difficult to walk on safely because of their unevenness. The walls of most buildings are in the same condition. The streets are filled with bags of garbage as well as loose garbage and the air itself is filled with the stench of that garbage. I watched shop owners hosing down the walls and sidewalks around their businesses to wash off the urine and vomit that had been "deposited" the night before.

Maybe it's a different experience in the darkness of night with some alcohol in you, but in the harsh light of day and clear-mindedness of sobriety, it is not a pleasant encounter on the senses.

I have photos from my visit that you can see by clicking on the Flickr badge over on the right column.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Road Warrior

I'm leaving in a few minutes to drive to Lake Charles, LA where I'll be working (at least as of now, things can always change) for the remainder of my time in Louisiana. Lake Charles is about 200 miles west of New Orleans, so I have a three hour drive ahead of me.

Can't honestly say that I'll miss the city of New Orleans.

I did get to go waste spend a few hours in the French Quarter this past Monday. Hopefully I will be able to get the photos posted soon.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Little Lake Harris Photos

The last weekend we spent together Cindy and I were out at Little Lake Harris near Howey-in-the-Hills. Photos from there are over in the Flickr badge that's in the right column.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Orleans' Oldies Station, WTIX-FM

One of my favorite things about New Orleans, so far, is that they have a fantastic oldies radio station that plays a wide variety of oldies (not just the hits). WTIX-FM 94.3 plays on my car radio continuously during my commute to and from work and I've been able to enjoy so much of my favorite music and get reacquainted with some that I had forgotten, like the 1973 debut single, "Heartbeat (It's a Love Beat)" from The DeFranco Family. Clicking the link will allow you to hear a portion of the song (don't want to violate any copyright laws by posting the entire song).

Tim Leffel's Seven Myths of Being a Travel Writer

Award-Winning travel writer Tim Leffel has outlined the Seven Myths of Being a Travel Writer. This is a must-read for all travel writer wannabes.

Veterans Day

To all who have served and all who still serve, thank you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Respiratory Infection

Do you remember that low, guttural "Urrrrrggghhhh" sound that Lurch used to make on The Addams Family? Well, that sound is how I've felt since late Tuesday, when I started to feel some slight congestion in my chest and developed a small cough. Despite my taking Airborne before my flight out here, keeping my hands washed and wiping down surfaces here in the hotel room and at work with antibacterial wipes, as well as doubling up on my vitamins at the first hint of possible illness, something has broken through my defenses and caused a respiratory infection.

The blame, according to a co-worker, is the "Louisiana air."

Granted, I have not been entirely impressed with New Orleans in the few days I have been here, but I'm not quite ready to blame the air in this state for my chest cold.

Anyway, between full workdays and this cold I have not had time to post here. I'm off today, but the cold has kept me in my room and in my bed. I get up for a few minutes to read or send e-mail, then go lie back down for a while. Repeat. Now I'm trying to stay up long enough to post this.

Going to work each day as the sun rises and returning to the hotel room after dark has limited my view of New Orleans to not much more than their road system. I have a theory as to how the design process occurred. Someone grabbed a huge handful of cooked spaghetti, dropped it on the ground, looked at the ensuing tangle of pasta and said, "Let's build a road system that looks like that!"

And so they did.

And, if driving on the Huey P. Long Bridge twice each day is any indication, they used thin spaghetti.

I thought I got used to driving on narrow roadways after motoring around Scotland and France, but at least on those narrow roads there were strategically placed "pull offs" you could move onto when opposing traffic was approaching. Granted, on the Huey P. Long Bridge the two lanes on each side are going the same direction, but the lanes are so narrow that if two SUV's attempted to ride side by side with one in each lane, you'd be hard pressed to see 6 inches of daylight between them. The first morning I drove over the length of this bridge I had to peel my hands off the steering wheel when I reached the other side. I've since learned to try and stagger my compact (thank you, thank you, thank you for a compact car this time) car's position in the empty spots between other vehicles so that we're never driving side by side, but sometimes there's an idiot who wants to race by and is weaving in and out of the two lanes we're alloted. I look dubiously at the rusted railings on each side and wonder if they will hold when my car hits them or if I'll take the 135 foot plunge into the Mississippi River.

I have my doubts.

If you've ever driven across the Huey P. Long, then you know I'm exaggerating a little. The two lanes are a pretty standard 9 feet (each) in width. I think it's just the knowledge that if you go over the rail it's along way down. Supposedly there is a widening project in the works to change the bridge into three lanes that are 11 feet (each) in width going each direction.

In addition to the maze-like tangle of roadways, I've found that a good amount of streets are not blessed with signs identifying them by name. I don't know if this is a not-yet-repaired problem resulting from Katrina or if it's meant to add to the city's charm. I'd have to offer the opinion that if it's the latter, it's not having the desired effect. I've gotten lost a couple of times and probably will again if I go somewhere unfamiliar.

Anyway, I'm off work tomorrow and Monday (Veteran's Day, observed), so I hope on one of those days I feel well enough to go visit the French Quarter and take some photos during the day and maybe hit a couple of jazz clubs at night. I only have those 2 days to do it because in the latter part of next week I'm moving to an office in Lake Charles, La. which is about 200 miles west of New Orleans, near the Texas border.

Back to bed for a while.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Big Easy

Well, I came, I saw, I...nevermind.

First impressions have not been good, but my mama taught me that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

That's probably why I don't talk a lot.

I believe I may get to go down to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street this weekend to take pictures and sightsee, so I hope that is a better experience.

Photos are up on Flickr from the 6th Annual Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire at Howey-in-the-Hills this past Saturday.

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Orleans, Here I Come

I've been absent from this page for the past few days because I've been preparing to depart for New Orleans, Louisiana where I'll be spending the next 90 days, at a minimum, performing the duties that entail what I call my "day job."

In a little less than 2 hours from now Cindy will drop me off at the airport and then my flight leaves a little less than 2 hours after that. This will be the longest period of time that we have ever been apart from each other, so we've been spending as much time together over the past 4 days as we could, in between packing, errands, etc.

In fact, on Saturday we went to a Renaissance Faire up in Howey-in-the-Hills and hopefully I can get the pictures I took there uploaded this evening sometime, once I get settled in my hotel room.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"Buffy" Artist Georges Jeanty Interview

Over at the Athena Comics Guide site, I have my first ever "live, person-to-person" interview with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8" artist Georges Jeanty, which was conducted last Friday night at a local comic book shop.

I felt like Clark Kent!

Drop by and learn more about this talented penciller.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Grammar Vandal

Here's a site that will strike a chord with those of us who seem destined to spot every aggravating grammatical and spelling error within our line of vision.

You know what I'm talking about; the marquee sign that proclaims, "Your our top priority" or the menu that reads, "Lunch Specials Everyday" and the print ad that shouts, "Loose those unwanted inches!"

They vex us. Oh, how they vex us.

But The Grammar Vandal is here to right those wrongs.

This former English major goes out with her camera and her black marker to correct those grammar and spelling mishaps, then posts photos of her good work on her blog site. She also encourages others to do the same and send photos to her to be posted on the site.

I have been tempted.

Plus, it was nice to find out that I'm not the only one who thought Bill Cosby's new book title was missing something; namely a comma.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Photowalking Disney World's EPCOT

This past Tuesday morning we needed to get all the legal papers signed and notarized for the North Carolina property deal so we could Next Day Air them back to the attorney. One of Cindy's co-workers is a notary public and agreed to notarize everything for us first thing in the morning so we could get them shipped back ASAP for the Wednesday closing.

Since she had to witness both our signatures, I drove Cindy to work and after we finished up with all the legal necessities I dropped the package off at a nearby UPS store. Rather than drive home and then back at the end of the day (a 50 mile round trip) to pick her up from work, I decided to save gas and spend the day in the area. I headed over to EPCOT to do a Photowalk and to see 3 parts of EPCOT that I have not had a chance to see.

It was a great day to visit EPCOT; the crowds were very sparse and the morning was less humid than Monday was at Animal Kingdom. Since the World Showcase was not scheduled to open until 11am, I made my way straight over to The Land to see how long the wait was to ride Soarin', which I have never been on before because the wait has always been 90 to 120 minutes. Thankfully the wait on Tuesday morning was only 45 minutes and I was actually on the ride within 25 minutes.

Soarin' is a GREAT ride! There are only 2 things I would have wished were different; that riders could lie on their stomachs so I could pretend to be Superman as we flew over various California landmarks, lol, and that there was a way to block out the disembodied feet of riders in the car in front of you that dangle in the upper field of your view. If you're in the first car you don't see that, but since you're assigned a car it's hit or miss on where you'll sit.

Then I walked over to another part of The Land, the Circle of Life show. It's a simple film about the environment starring Simba, Timon and Pumbaa, all characters from "The Lion King." It's an important message that is directed toward the kids who will be the next generation to deal with our environmental mess, but I did find it ironic that when you walk out of the show you walk right into a fast food area of The Land that is full of plastic dinnerware, cups, dishes, etc.

By the time I left The Land it was almost time for the World Showcase to open. Cindy had suggested I go see the new "O Canada" circlevision experience featuring Martin Short. I'm glad I did. Canada is a beautiful land and the 360 degree film narrated by Short lets you view almost all of our northern neighbor's country in about 14 minutes.

Afterward, I walked around the rest of the World Showcase taking pictures until I arrived back at the front of the park. One more highlight was arriving at the bridge into the France pavilion just as the Space Shuttle "Discovery" was being launched and getting a couple of pictures from that excellent location. Granted it's just a bright light against the blue sky but...

If you're interested, there are 102 other photos of EPCOT. Just click on the Flickr badge in the right column and look for the EPCOT set.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"In My Mind I'm Goin' To Carolina..."

Well, we are now the proud owners (along with the bank, lol) of a piece of North Carolina property. At 3:30 this afternoon the attorney in NC completed the closing process and at approximately 4pm, after a short walk across the town square (one of the plusses of small town living), the deed transfer was recorded at the local county courthouse.

This was the first (and most financially draining/straining) step in our 5 year plan. I hope the rest of the processes we'll be going through over the years will be as hassle-free as this one has been. Special thanks to our real estate agent, banker and attorney for doing everything possible to make this as painless as possible.

"Thanks" to my in-laws, who visited the property twice this week, for these photos.

Now, in the words of legendary musician James Taylor, "In My Mind I'm Goin' To Carolina..."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Headlocked" Writer Mike Kingston Interview

Over at the Athena Comics Guide site, I have my first-ever published interview posted. Drop by and read what comic book writer Mike Kingston has to say about his creation, "Headlocked: The Work of Art."

Photowalking Disney World's Animal Kingdom

Monday morning I met Kelley and Dennis at Animal Kingdom so they could visit the parks during the day. Since I was there anyway, I decided to do a Photowalk and to visit the new "Finding Nemo, The Musical" show.

"Finding Nemo, The Musical" is a different style of show, using puppets of varying sizes that are operated by people in full view of the audience. I've always thought of puppet shows as the kind where the puppeteer is hidden from view and only the puppets are in sight. When the show first started, I thought "Well, this is crap!" but I have to admit after a few minutes of watching it, I was genuinely drawn in and actually enjoying the production. As I told Cindy later, "It was sort of avant-garde and Cirque du Soleil-esque in nature." The skill and talent of the various actors (and I call them actors rather than puppeteers because of their skill and talent) made this so much more than a simple puppet show set to music. Their singing abilities, body language and skill at manipulating their respective puppets are pretty astounding to witness when they are performing and using all of those techniques at once. It's a great show and I recommend it. Get there early if you want a middle (best) seat and of course be prepared to share the show with lots and lots of kids.

Here's on of my favorite pictures from the Photowalk. It is a shot of the Forbidden Mountain, which houses the Expedition Everest ride, as seen from one of the bridges with trees, the river and some structures framing it. The entire "feel", with the slightly washed out look, somewhat abstract sense and framing of the elements, reminds me of the paintings of the late Bob "The Joy of Painting" Ross ("They're happy trees!") who used to be, and probably still is in some markets, a staple of PBS programming when I was growing up. It just really looks more like a painting than a photograph to me. What do you think?

If you're interested, there are 69 other photos of Animal Kingdom and "Finding Nemo, The Musical." Just click on the Flickr badge in the right column and look for the Animal Kingdom set.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mikey and Heather at the Pumpkin Patch

Saturday afternoon Cindy and I drove up to Deltona to see our grandchildren. Well, not JUST to see the grandchildren, lol. We also wanted to see AnnMarie & Jason. After an enjoyable early dinner, we went to a pumpkin patch so Mikey and Heather could pick out a pumpkin to be carved into a Jack O' Lantern for Halloween this year. Ann has the whole story of that in words and pictures here.

Of course I took plenty of photos also. I know that photography, like any art, speaks to the individual. Different people see and feel different things, even when looking at the same piece. The photo below was my favorite of the I just snapped yet it captured so much of both my grandchildren in that moment. It speaks to me so deeply that the feeling is almost visceral; a part of me and my very being. The emotions are incredibly strong.

In this photo I see the thoughtfulness, and even the sometime pensiveness, in Mikey. He is the one who will think and reason and process. Whether that is part of his Asperger's, wholly his own personality or a combination, I do not know. It does not really matter anyway. It is who he is, as I see him. He owns my heart. In Heather I see the impulsiveness, playfulness and recklessness that has identified her life thus far. She will rush headlong into whatever attracts her fancy and there is hell to pay if you get in her way. She too, owns her old granddad's heart. Both of them light up my existence with their smiles and hugs.

If you're interested, there are 57 other photos of Mikey and Heather at the Pumpkin Patch. Just click on the Flickr badge in the right column and look for the Pumpkin Patch 2007 set.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Photowalking Sanford, Florida

Saturday I spent the late morning and early afternoon walking around downtown Sanford, Florida taking photos. Here's one I really liked, because of the wavy reflection in the water of the sailboats.

If you're interested, there are 89 other photos of the area. Just click on the Flickr badge in the right column and look for the Sanford, Florida set.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The 2007 NaNoWriMo program kicks off on November 1st and lasts the entire month. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, was started in 1999 as a creative writing project that encourages writers to pound out a 50,000 word novel in a month's time. For those who have a story in them waiting to get out, the approach is a way to kick-start the process by getting "words on paper" (so to speak) and concentrating on quantity not quality. This is not the time to polish your work, but simply to get it out of you.

The Orlando chapter of NaNoWriMo will be holding a kick-off event on November 1st, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM at Barney’s Coffee & Tea Company, 1790 W Sand Lake Road (across from the Florida Mall, right behind T.G.I. Fridays). Periodic write-ins will then be held around town all month to help keep the word counts growing and the energy levels flowing.

Then, on November 7th, the Orlando Area Writers Group chapter of the Florida Writers Association will have Tina Marie, the Orlando liaison to NaNoWriMo, speaking at their monthly meeting. Ms. Marie is a Communication Technology Specialist for Disney Parks and Resorts by day and mystery writer by night. The Orlando Area Writers Group meets from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the University Club of Winter Park. The University Club is located at 841 Park Avenue North, on the northwest corner of Park and Webster Avenue. The program is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blog Additions

I've made a couple of additions here at Casa de Jeff that I wanted to point out.

Over on the right, directly beneath the photo of the undeniably handsome man who is half-smiling as if he is part of some private joke, I've added a new link and icon for those of you who wish to add this blog to your RSS feed. This replaces the old text link that used to be at the bottom of the blog page, and allows you to add this blog's feed directly into your favorite RSS reader in one convenient click. If you were already subscribing to the feed, I'm told that this will redirect and allow you to continue to receive the feed into your reader, but if something goes snafu (as it inevitably does) you can always resubscribe through this feed link.

Further down, underneath "What I've Read in 2007", is a new ad box linking to In the box you'll see books relating to writers, writing, and other aspects of the field of writing. This a way to refer books to readers of this blog, within that subject matter. But here's the neat thing; you can click on the ad box to get to and ANY purchase you make there (not just the books advertised) will allow me to receive a referral payment. If you're going to make a purchase from Amazon anyway, I'd be grateful if you'd stop by here and use the ad box to get there.

Thanks for reading...and keep an eye out for other additions.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day Spotlights The Environment

Today is the inaugural Blog Action Day and bloggers are being asked to either write a blog post about the environment or donate today's blog site earnings to an environmental or eco-friendly charity of their choice.

This blog doesn't earn any money (yet) so I'll take a view moments to post about the environment and the goal that Cindy and I have of building an environmentally-friendly home in the mountains of North Carolina.

As a side note, our real estate agent Kelley e-mailed us today to let us know that the Health Department approved the relocation of our future home, so we will be closing this week on the property. We, of course, are very happy (Jeff does cartwheels across the floor and slams into the bookcase).

I came to the conclusion a while back that, while there was nothing I could do about our President's horrible philosophy and actions regarding our environment, there were plenty of things that I, and you and I, could do in our own little part of the world. Perhaps, if enough of us do everything that we can as individuals, we can slow the headlong rush toward eco-disaster into which we are plunging.

Although we have planned to build an eco-friendly home in North Carolina since we first started talking about moving there one day, now that we are one step closer and have purchased property to build on, we plan to redouble our efforts to find every way possible for us to have as little impact as possible, both initially during construction and through the rest of lives there (we don't plan to live anywhere else after moving there in 4-5 years) on the beautiful piece of land we'll be sharing with nature.

We have been and will continue to spend a lot of time investigating the most environmentally safe ways to build and maintain our home. We're hoping to find ways to use natural insulation, solar power, water power and perhaps even wind power in as many aspects of building and living that we can. We plan to drop down to one vehicle when we move there, because it will have to be a powerful 4-wheel drive truck in order to get up and down the mountain roads. I'm hoping that going from a 2 vehicle home will balance, or even hopefully lessen, the impact of using the kind of truck we'll need up there.

But we're not waiting until we move to NC to try and be "green." We're already been taking steps to be as conscious of the environment as we can. No more plastic cups or plates (to reduce the need to run the dishwasher) are being bought. Those items will now be paper, which is biodegradable. We've long participated in our city's recycling program by batching newspapers and magazines and plastic into recycling tubs. Speaking of magazines and newspapers; if a publication that I enjoy offers an online subscription I'll choose that option instead of a dead-tree product. We try to reduce the number of laundry loads we do (without being aromatically offensive to those around us, lol) and air-dry as much as we are able. I've even been trying to get myself in the habit of taking the cloth bags we bought for shopping when I go to the grocery store, so we don't have to use the ubiquitous "paper or plastic" bags that are offered.

Will what we do change the world? No, at least not in a definable way. But if all of us do whatever we can, we can help make the world our children and grandchildren inherit just a little bit better. And who knows...we might just be the turning point in the environmental health of our world.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Distractions To Writing

I was reading my latest e-mail newsletter from WritersMarket and they had an interesting piece showing the results of a survey from the previous newsletter asking readers who are writers what distractions they have to writing.

The answers are pretty typical; e-mail, web surfing (we call it "research", lol), cell phone, TV and family. I've been a victim of all of those and would have to add my dog and cat in there as well.

But here's what I've tried to do to minimize those distractions. I can multi-task pretty well, so I've discovered I can watch TV and do research or answer e-mail at the same time (especially if I'm watching something I DVR'd so I can rewind in case I slip deeply into a reply or research issue). I also keep my Bluetooth on my ear as much as possible so that I can continue to work handsfree while on the cellphone. If I have errands to run, I try to run them in the morning so I can write in the afternoon or evening, because I am definitely not a morning person and that time is best left to tasks that do not require creativity. I also try to do most of my research in the mornings for the same reason.

Of course that all goes out the window when I am working out of town. Then, nights and weekends become my only time to research and write and time gets drastically compressed.

Bottom line; there ARE distractions, but they can be dealt with if you want to write.

Friday, October 12, 2007


The United States Supreme Court just voted 5-4 to give Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize to George W. Bush.

(I guess I should make note of the obvious; that this post is SATIRE)

Al Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize

The man who should have been elected President of the United States in 2000 was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize today by the Nobel Committe in Norway for his work in trumpeting the challenges we face from our climate crisis.

It's staggering to think about how very different our world and our country would be today if he had become our President in 2000.

Congratulations to Mr. Gore on this well-deserved award.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in observance websites all over the Internet are "Going Pink" to show support. I've already made my annual donation, which this year will support my friend Katrina as she takes part in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk here in Orlando.

It's an important cause and one that touches so many lives, either directly or indirectly. My mother-in-law and my friend Rebecca are both breast cancer survivors. In fact just this week, 7 years after her initial diagnosis, Rebecca was declared officially cancer-free by her oncologist.

I always view my donation as a way to support research that may one day help eradicate this disease that could potentially strike my wife, daughter, granddaughter or other loved one or friend.

There are many ways to Make a Difference. I hope you'll do whatever you can.

Face Time

A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me an invitation to join Facebook. As you probably know, Facebook is a social networking site that originally was limited to students and alumni of schools, colleges and universities, but recently opened up membership to any and all. That allows riff-raff like me to join. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I'm not sure I want to belong to any organization that would accept someone like me as a member.

But I had already been looking into Facebook, so I availed myself of her invitation and joined. I was hoping I could network with other writers, both here in Orlando and around the globe. That is one of the great things about the Internet; global connectivity. For a while she was my only "friend" (everyone that connects to you, whether you have ever met them or not, is a "friend" on Facebook) because I did not have much time to spend searching for either people I already knew or for new "friends." One day I stumbled across a former co-worker, Katrina, and begged her to be my second friend. She graciously acquiesced, mostly because she hates to see a grown man cry. Then my real-life friend Michelle found me there and we became Facebook friends. A couple of weeks ago a friend of my daughter's (whom she has never met face-to-face, by the way...see how the Internet works?) found me and we became Facebook friends. Yesterday I became friends with a young man who is a comic book writer that I am interviewing for a future article over on Athena Comics Guide.

So now I have 5 Facebook friends.

And I'm looking for more. Some people actually have the maximum amount of "friends" allowed on there, which is 5,000. I don't want that many, it's too much responsibility, lol. But if you're already a real-life "friend" of mine, sign up and be my Facebook friend. If you're already a Facebook member and it looks like we may have some things in common, like writing, be my friend.

A link to my Facebook entry is over on the right. Click on it and let's be friends.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Dancing a Jig

Well, actually the dancing would come later.

We spent almost the entire day on Sunday, September 30th looking at different properties in and around Maggie Valley. It was an interesting way to become somewhat familiar with the area. Our most excellent real estate agent, Kelley, had listened to what we were interested in and had mapped out stops at properties that matched our parameters. We saw some nice places, beautiful views of mountains and valleys and, at Kelley's suggestion, enjoyed a delicious lunch at "Salsa's" in downtown Asheville.

Pictures of our travels in and around Maggie Valley are over on the right in the Flickr badge.

In the end, it came down to two properties; the one that Cindy really liked (and, after seeing it, so did I) on Sheepback Mountain and a nice 3 acre piece up on Crabtree Mountain. After weighing the pros and cons of each, we decided to make an offer on the Sheepback property. Though it is smaller, there are more possibilities available with it down the road including purchasing adjacent property on the south side and/or a nice already-in-place rental home and property on the north side, as well as our original plan of building our own home in a few years.

The Sheepback Mountain property has a lot of trees, a creek flowing along the western edge of the property line and what looks like an excellent location for a house, though we have to wait for the local health department to approve the location and issue a variance. The property is at about the 4,000 foot elevation level on the mountain and though it helps to have a 4x4 vehicle to get to and from the property the roads are good and well-maintained. One of the best things is that I can hike over the mountain in about 45 minutes and be in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the opposite side. Kelley also told us the price was 15 to 20K less than it was worth, making it an instant good deal.

The Crabtree Mountain property was also a good deal; more than 3 times the property at only about twice the price of the Sheepback Mountain property, and had a great view back down into the valley as you can see in the pictures. But the developer had clear cut all the trees, the road was very rough and winding, and the atmosphere was more farming and agricultural in nature.

The Sheepback Mountain property is more like an enchanted forest, and in fact I think that is what Cindy will eventually name it; The Enchanted Forest.

We returned to the realty office in the late afternoon and signed all the papers, making an offer that was about 5k lower than the asking price (although we had already decided that we would accept the asking price) and adding in the contingency that the health department would have to approve the location of the future home. We also left a check for the "earnest" offer and a check to the local health department to pay for the inspection.

I guess I should mention that the health department inspection is needed because the original placement of where a house could be built on the property is farther away from the creek than we wanted and is on a more sloping section of the property. After meeting with a builder and walking the property early Sunday morning, we felt like the house could be built on a flatter portion of the land that is closer to the creek. Environmental regulations require the foundation of the home to be no closer than 50 feet from the middle of the creek. We have no problem with that and are all for being as environmentally sensitive as we can possibly be. In fact, our plans all along have been to be as "green" as we can be in building and living in that beautiful part of nature. This is just a case of needing the health department to reinspect and approve the new location of the home.

That left us about 2 hours to return to our rental cabin and enjoy the sunset and visit with the cabin owners (and their pets) before hitting the sack to try and get a good night's sleep before our drive back to O-town. We were up, packed and on the road by 5am Monday and finally rolled into Orlando about 3:30pm. It was a whirlwind weekend and we were both exhausted.

Tuesday we found out from Kelley that the owners had declined our offer, stating that they had priced the property to sell. We already knew that and knew we would still take it at the asking price, but just felt like we had to take the chance that a lower offer might be accepted. Kelley also already knew to tell them we still wanted it at the asking price. The owners accepted and they also agreed to take it off the market while we waited on word about the financing and the health department variance.

This past Monday, we found out the financing had been approved. On Tuesday Kelley let us know that the health department was scheduled to go out and do their inspection later this week, then they will need time to evaluate and rule on the request. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Greetings From Maggie Valley, NC

I arrived back in Orlando yesterday around noon and by the time I retrieved my checked luggage from baggage claim and my in-laws graciously picked me up, it was 12:35. I then enjoyed a wonderful lunch with them at Cracker Barrel and spent some time catching up before they dropped me at home. My afternoon was spent doing laundry and watching a couple of episodes each of "Weeds" and "Californication" on the DVR, just to wind down some.

When Cindy got home from work we went to dinner at Olive Garden, bought a couple of new bluetooths since ours were dying, and went home to hit the sack.

We were up at 4am this morning and left the house at 5:10am to drive to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. We made the 615 mile drive safely, arriving here at 3:30pm. Our only stops were for breakfast at Cracker Barrel in St. Augustine, FL, lunch at Subway in Columbia, SC and two fueling operations for the car.

By the way, does anyone know why gasoline in South Carolina is almost 20 cents cheaper than it is in both of it's neighboring states (Georgia and North Carolina)? In Florida, Georgia and North Carolina gas is $2.78 a gallon, but in South Carolina the price is $2.59.

Here are some pictures of the outside front and back and inside of the cabin we are staying in for the next two nights.

After getting to the cabin and unloading the car, we left to go meet the real estate agent and then rode together to the piece of property that Cindy really likes. Tomorrow morning we'll meet with a building contractor at the property site to discuss how a house might best be placed and other concerns, then we're off with the real estate agent to look at some other pieces of property.

Cindy and I are enjoying our time together after being apart for three weeks, but this is a very busy weekend.
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