Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday...

Hype. I saw on the news that 1 in 4 Americans will be out early on Black Friday. Really? 1 in 4? I have never participated in that madness. Last night, Joan and Steph made plans to hit the sales early... they are on a mission to get the most for the buck for the kids on the Angel Tree. I can't believe I let them talk me into this...

At 3:30 am, Joan was up showering. I figured brushing my teeth would be enough, 'cause I have no doubt many of the early shoppers will have passed on even that. Shortly after 4:00, Steph and Dan came by to pick us up. I fed little Izzy just before heading out... she staggered out with her eyes half closed, "What are you people doing??" Smart cat.

First stop: Wal-Mart. Are you kidding me? The parking lot is packed! Apparently those 1 in 4 Americans all came to this particular store. When we went inside, it didn't look like a shopping event, it looked more like a looting! People were running about, grabbing stuff haphazardly, clothing and food stuff was laying in the aisles, people had that crazed look in their eyes. And then, the lines... there was a line with at least 400 people in it running through the produce section... big sale on bananas??? No, I asked and was told, "That's where the line forms for the big sale on TVs."

Of course, that makes perfect sense: let people go all the way to the back of the store to get to electronics, where the big sale item WON'T be, then send them to the produce department. And people were putting up with this crap! Close to 5:00, a store employee let people in the back 4/5 of the line know that they were out of the TVs... I heard one guy say to his wife, "Let's get something else - I'm not leaving here empty-handed!" That attitude has to be good for sales. I get it; I got up this early and wandered into this mad-house, I should get something to show for my stupidity!

From there, we moved on to Kohls. As we drove into the parking lot, I saw that there were people standing in line at the JoAnn's Fabric store next door. Standing in line to buy fabric? At Oh-dark:30? The lines in Kohls were even worse than Wal-Mart; may have something to do with the fact that they had only two check out lanes open... and the line to PAY wound around 3/4 of the store! Yes, really. We walked back to the furthest corner to get to the toys... I saw people in line to pay who had a sheet. Yes, a bed sheet. One guy had two pillows. These crazy-ass people got up in the middle of the night to buy a sheet or pillows? And then were willing to stand in line for hours to pay for them? I wouldn't stand in line for hours even if the sheets were FREE!

I guess I don't have the Christmas shopping spirit. Or maybe I don't understand the big fun in standing in line in the cold to get into a store, then fighting mobs to get this season's big deal, then standing in line for hours to pay for whatever that big deal was.

I voted for the next destination: Waffle House. No line there. On the way, we drove by the traffic jam in front of Best Buy. If you have to have police directing traffic in front of the place, what must it be like IN the place? On the bright side, we didn't have to wait at Waffle House... but I had to listen to the waitress talk about the crowds at Best Buy.

With our bellies full, it was off to Sam's Club. Apparently, we were late for the melee here - we found a parking place near the door. Steph and Dan found something they couldn't live without, and there were virtually no lines at the check-out. "You shoulda been here earlier," the checker said. Glad I missed it.

Apparently, my "You Have To Be Kidding Me?" outbursts were putting a damper on the shopping festivities. I was told we'd only be a couple hours at JC Penney's for the next round. I suggested that Dan drop the girls off by the door... and then drop me off back with Izzy at the RV park. No protests; in fact, it was universally accepted. Perhaps I tossed out one too many, "Bah - Humbug"s? Maybe it was the, "Two pillows? Are you serious?" comment to the guy in Kohls? No matter, I consider it time off for (slightly less than) good behavior.

Just before 11:00, I got a call from Joan, asking me if I wanted to join them for lunch. Izzy and I were in the middle of a good nap on the couch, but it was time for turkey sandwiches. I may be forgiven my shopping extravaganza faux pas if I'm willing to put in more time wrapping presents.

'Tis the season.


On edit: The Angel Tree shopping is done. Joan and Steph are amazing; Joan's organization and prep combined with Steph's style and shopping ability got them through everything on their list. On the busiest shopping day of the year. And Dan is to be commended for his patience and strong back in carrying all the packages. Fa la la la la.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wishing all a happy Thanksgiving...

Joan and Steph have started the cooking prep (night before) with pies. It is great to be with the kids for this holiday.

I spoke with my Mother's physical therapist today, and she says Mom is progressing well... she is working hard on her therapy and is on-schedule, maybe even a bit ahead. Much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Love Shack has landed...

That's the name of our 5th wheel, btw. After totally blowing away our 2/2/2 routine the past few days, we are down for a while in sunny Arizona... we backed into our site just in time for the rain to start. After all the driving I've done in the past 10 days, I am SO looking forward to some down time.

Joan and Steph have started the planning for the Angel Tree shopping... that down time may have to wait.

Another long day

Well, the day has the same number of hours in it, but we covered plenty of miles... and made it a three state day: through Texas, across New Mexico, and into Arizona. The plan is to make it another 180 miles today and then settle in for a while near our daughter and son-in-law.

We enjoyed a morning without wind (and decent fuel mileage), which (of course) turned to a strong headwind by afternoon. The speed limit across west Texas is 80 mph, and lots of folks drive that. We usually keep it around 60-65 while towing. LOTS of RVs on the move.

We are anxious to see Steph and Dan.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Meanest hombre west of the Pecos...

(That's a Yosemite Sam reference)

LONG driving day today, covering 500 miles with Big Red, the Love Shack, and the cargo trailer. 25 mph headwinds made for some lousy mpg. Down for the night at an Escapees Park west of the Pecos. Another day of driving and we'll be out of Texas. Uneventful, except for little Izzy dropping a "surprise" in the truck - a first. She was embarrassed, we were grossed out, but no harm done.

I once made a disparaging remark about west Texas and offended a gentleman on the C-Brats whose Grandfather homesteaded in the area... so, I just won't say anything besides: plenty of natural resources - they seem to have an endless supply of blowing dirt. More wind farms along I-20; might as well make use of that ever-present headwind.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back to the Lone Star State...

... but only over-night before we head out again. Mom is settled in and working on her rehabilitation. The break is painful; as the pain subsides some, her physical therapy will increase. The therapists are hopeful, and Mom is now focused on getting her mobility back. I have seen her make good progress over the past few days. She wants out of that nursing home, so that is good motivation.

We will be back to our wandering ways and will be ready to head back to the frozen northland when needed.

Monday, November 15, 2010


No matter how nice they try to make 'em, nursing homes are tough. And this is a nice one... but my Mother is totally dependent on the folks here for every need. She had some physical therapy and occupational therapy today. I had to ask what kind of job she'd be looking for when she gets out (occupational... get it?) At almost 90, she sees it as a nearly impossible task... I keep telling her "one step at a time"... and she reminds me, "I can't STEP!" So, right now, my occupation is cheerleader.

And "tough love administrator." At one point, she said to me, "Get me a Kleenex." It was tough to do it, but I said, "It's right behind you. Turn your chair around and get it yourself. There's nothing wrong with your arms."

After the initial shock, then anger, she came to realize that I was just trying to show her what she CAN do, instead of what she can't. Still, it makes me feel like a meanie.

I have to keep encouraging and reminding that she is here for the "rehabilitation," not as a place to spend the rest of her days. So, now when family and friends call to check on her, I tell them about "Mom's rehab." "Yep, she and Lindsay Lohan... one day at a time."

Sitting with the little old ladies at the meal table, I can't help but feel like Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Coo-Coo's Nest"... just hope we can all make it through this without a frontal lobotomy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A 6 state day...

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and into South Dakota. Whew! No wonder I'm tired. Made it in time to visit my Mother this evening.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Heading north...

I will be heading to the frozen northland. My Mother took a fall and is going to need to be in a nursing home. Hopefully, that will be a rehabilitation situation and not permanent, but I'll evaluate that when I get there. The poor ol' gal is nearly 90 and is afraid of any new situation or change... and this has been one heck of a change.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2/2/2 rule violated...

We rolled out of the Tropical Tip today, making 470 miles to the north. And, there's still a LOT of Texas to go. To make some miles, I stayed on the Interstate all day; no slowing down for small towns like you have on the two lanes, although there is always a slow-down in the Austin area. A tailwind kept our mpg in double digits. Uneventful... just what I like when we're just trying to get somewhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Put away...

Wild Blue went into storage today. Too soon. After all the "put away" stuff was done, I gave her a little pat on the stern. It has been said that a great looking boat makes you turn back for one last look as you walk away... Wild Blue does that for me.

Looking at lots of miles.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Things do change. Five years ago, I thought we were done RVing. Traveling by boat was our plan for retirement, at least for a while; along with our house on the water. Then, a couple years into that, the Blonde said, "Let's get another RV." I didn't expect that the focus would change back toward RVing... hey, there's only so much time, even when you're retired. I also didn't know that we'd enjoy the HitchHiker as much as we do. Taking stock of everything, we made the decision that we've talked about for a very long time... today, we listed the house with a realtor.

It's a great little house with a wonderful location, right on the water. My dock is just a few steps from the door. Out the canal and you're into the Intracoastal Water Way, or around the island to the other side and you're heading into the Gulf of Mexico. The only thing the house is missing: wheels. ;)

So, if it sells, we're on our way to being full-timers. Up from the 9 months or so each year we spend away from the house. Just like when we sold our home and business up north, we were both ready.

Now, we'll see if someone else wants a great place to have a boat; in a gated community; with a golf course, tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor pools.

Oh, and I should say that the three of us are ready... little Izzy is totally onboard, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

If you could...

Could you take the results of your lifetime career and cull it down to a space about 4'x4'x4'? And then, further reduce it to one CD? That kinda puts our time on this earth in a different perspective, doesn't it?

Well, 5 years ago when we sold our photography business and retired, I did just that: I kept our family portraits and a collection of my competition prints (the best of my best work) from over the years. I had no idea what I was going to do with those prints, I just knew that I couldn't leave 'em or toss 'em. They represented my finest work. All in a few print cases.

And then there were the family portraits. We had very high ceilings in our house up north, purposefully so we could display large portraits and groupings. I called the hallway leading to our daughter's room "the shrine to Stephanie"... portraits of her growing up. They are beautiful. And the family groupings that took their place of honor above our fireplace; they made me smile each time I looked at them.

These days, people don't exchange photos like they used to... instead, they show each other their photos on their cell phones. That crappy little screen will never have the impact of a beautiful portrait, no matter the size.

Joan has been wanting to "de-clutter." We are considering selling the house, since we spend so little time here. I was able to put off "what to do with the photos" until today. I set up an area on our deck to copy the images... and in a few hours time, I reduced 6 boxes and print cases to one CD. My life's work on a single CD. Kinda makes one feel insignificant.

Not to sound immodest, but when I opened that first print case, I gasped. Now remember, "the best of my best" and in a size appropriate for wall display. These prints are gorgeous. And while we were early adopters of digital technology, most of these prints were from "the olden days" of film. No image manipulation; nice lighting, flattering body positioning, deep rich tones. Damn, I was good! And I hadn't seen these images in over 5 years.

And the family portraits? Most of our portrait clients told us their wall portraits were "priceless." I wonder now if they still have them on display, or if small "digital frames" showing snapshots have taken their place? We even used that in our advertising: A beautiful family portrait isn't expensive... it's priceless!

The photographic industry has changed dramatically since we retired. It seems that much of what photographers display is more about the effect than the lasting quality. Don't get me wrong, Joan and I were both excellent retouchers and very creative with all that digital brought to the table... but, it was also backed with good quality photography. A knowledge of lighting and anatomy. A real desire to be able to show people at their very best. And not having to rely on digital to "fix it later." I told our clients, "If you can imagine it, we can deliver it." But, my favorite work was simple, classic, and flattering.

And I just went through 6 cases of that. From thousands of high school seniors and families. Some magazine covers. Commercial work and even a few weddings. Work that I sold in galleries. And a lifetime of our own family portraits.

All on one CD.

Sunrise, Sunset...

A metaphor? A "Mom situation" has come up that will take us out of the Tropical Tip sooner than we expected. In the meantime, here's another look at my favorite times of the day (photographically speaking)...

Sunrise out the jetties, towards the Gulf...

Last night, we came upon this oil rig heading out the Brownsville Ship Channel at sunset...

These rigs are built in Brownsville and then pulled out by tugs that will take them to places all around the world. Generally, they are pulled by 3 or 4 tugs; one or two to provide the forward motion, two in the back to steer. Imagine moving a skyscraper. The tugs and oil rig move down the ship channel at about 1.5 knots... that's a shade over 2 miles per hour, making that a long trek down the 15 mile ship channel. While that is moving down the channel, nothing else can move up. There were two large tugs pushing barges waiting for hours in the Port Isabel Turning Basin for this to go by...

After days of wind and higher than normal temps, it was a perfect day in the Tropical Tip; almost no wind or humidity, temps in the 70s, and sunshine.

It was also a good day or two to get some painting done around the house. And the packing will begin once again.

And a photo of little Izzy to finish off...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book ship update...

I got word today from Smashwords that Cat On A Leash has now shipped to Apple (iBookstore) and Diesel - should be in their system within two weeks. It went to Barnes & Noble and Kobo (Borders) last week. It has been on Smashwords' Non-Fiction top 10 since the release.

Feel free to send the link below to any of your friends and family who you think might enjoy this tale...

Nice reviews so far. My sincere thanks to all those who have bought the book and taken time to review it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

iPad as Chartplotter...

We've been playing with the iPad onboard Wild Blue, testing out the $20 Navionics app. Here's a look at the iPad alongside the fixed Raymarine E-Series chartplotter...

You can see they are a similar size; the iPad is just a bit wider. Button controls on the chartplotter, touch screen on the iPad. Of course, the Raymarine is more "marinized" by design. And the fixed chartplotter integrates with the radar, depth sounder, autopilot, and the VHF radio. The iPad is the wifi/3G model; it comes with a built in GPS chip, so the chartplotter app is fully functional without an internet connection. With an internet connection, you can overlay Google Earth on the charts. Or pull up weather radar. Check your e-mail. Surf the web. Check book sales. Check nearby fuel prices. Find an Italian restaurant. eReader. Video viewer. All that important stuff.

Interestingly enough, the charting is provided by 3rd parties for the devices. In this case, it is Navionics as the supplier for both. As mentioned above, $20 for the iPad app... $300 for the compact flash chip for the Raymarine... and the territory on the iPad app is larger! I questioned a Navionics rep about this a while back... "It's about the numbers," I was told. Right. And the fact that once you own a Raymarine chartplotter, you are a captive audience. Yes, the Platinum chip for the E-80 is more sophisticated and designed to work with all the integrated stuff... but, the $20 app for the iPad has all the nav aids and is the same charting information. Accuracy on both is similar.

You can't take the Raymarine back into the cockpit to check out your favorite boat forums on the internet...

Since the iPad isn't marinized, if there's a chance of spray while using it, I put it in a plastic bag. The touch screen works fine through the plastic.

For years, the first mate has followed along on our route with a paper chart while cruising. I'm sure we'll always have the paper charts onboard, but the iPad has the same info as the chartplotter and can be used anywhere in the boat.

Plus, Joan thinks it makes a great solitaire game machine. ;-)


And just because we haven't had an Izzy update in a while...

For some reason, she doesn't want to go outside as much when we are here. She is happy to go out with us on the the deck, but doesn't come running when I get the leash out. Might be the big birds here, maybe the warm temps?