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.
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