Friday, May 23, 2008

Fire Sale

In our local news today I read an amazing story. Not too much ever happens here in Nowhereville, Florida. At least nothing that makes the news. A week ago a dog bit a small child, it was one of those vicious Pomeranians. This was the top story for the week.

In weeks past there have been several stories about mortgage foreclosures and the housing market being on the downturn. Many newly built homes lie vacant, even though the builders have reduced their asking price for the properties. Thus lowering the value of the currently inhabited properties.

But I digress!

Today’s top story was about a fire that caused $100,000 damage to a local home. That was probably more than 50% of the home’s value. Fortunately the owners of this house were not at home. A neighbor heard several alarms going off in the home, so the neighbor called 911.

The thing that amazes me is that the firefighters determined that a laptop computer sitting on top a pile of papers in the kitchen started the fire.

Here’s what bothers me about their conclusion. The flash point of paper is 350 degrees C or 662 degrees F. and the ignition temperature of paper is 450 degrees C or 842 degrees F. I have dropped a lit cigarette on paper and it never ignited it just burned a hole through it.

I’m not buying the firefighters conclusion and hope that the County’s Arson Squad doesn’t either. It seems too much like an easy way to get out of a high mortgage on an overpriced house.

The Beach Bum


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Classic Movies

Yesterday was the 100th Anniversary of the birth of James Maitland Stewart better know to all of us as Jimmy Stewart.

In honor of this event Turner Classic Movies (TCM) had a Jimmy Stewart movie marathon. I spent the good portion of the day watching them. Jimmy Stewart is one of my all-time favorite actors.

I saw my first Jimmy Stewart movie when I was 10 years old, watching it on my parent’s 27” Black and White television. It was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. At that time I had a short attention span for dramatic movies; I preferred Westerns and Comedies. I stayed riveted to the screen and got up only once during a commercial. My Mom and Dad were amazed.

Whenever I saw one of his movies listed in the TV Guide I’d try to cajole my Dad into watching it (back in the old days the parents controlled the television – not the children). As long as it wasn’t on opposite Lawrence Welk he usually acquiesced.

The first Jimmy Stewart movie that I saw in a theater was Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. What a spell binding movie. At this time I became a fan of Hitchcock movies. This was also the first time that I saw a Jimmy Stewart movie in color.

After that I rarely missed any of his films.

TCM aired 4 of my 5 favorite Jimmy Stewart movies yesterday; the only one that was missing was The Cheyenne Social Club. I did however get to see 8 of my top 10. I had a great day of television viewing.

The Beach Bum

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Relatively Speaking

My surname is not common. There are probably less that 100 living in the United States and less that 250 worldwide (most being in the Czech Republic).

My father became infected with encephalitis (sleeping sickness) when I was very young. He went into a comatose state shortly thereafter. Several years later he died of Pneumonia. I never really knew him.

My Mother remarried and the man that I call my Dad in these Blogs reared me. I think that he did a good job and I loved him as I would if he was my biological father. He’s the only Dad that I know.

Last Friday I was checking my Stat Counter for my Web Site (not this Blog). There is a “came from” option and I notice that a recent visitor to the site had Googled my surname. I haven’t searched for my surname for at least 8 years. I did so. There were more than 15,000 entries on Google.

All of these people listed must be relatives.

I ran across one entry from the Chicago Sun Times about an 80 year old WWII vet named Edward who lived in North Riverside, IL. I wondered if this could be my cousin Edward (AKA Junior). I hadn’t seen him since I was on leave from the Army before shipping out to Africa (he saw my name tag on my uniform and approached me).I probably hadn’t seen him for 15 years. After my mother remarried, I had very little contact with my birth Father’s family.

I tried to call Edward on Friday night. I got his answering machine and left a message, but it cut me off before I could leave a telephone number. I tried calling back but it cut me off again.

On Saturday, I tried again. We connected!

We had an hour plus conversation. We spoke about my Father (he got choked up- he said that he and my Father, his uncle, were close), the family and what they are doing now.

He will be 83 in October and still is able to run for the bus. I have a hard time walking to the Bathroom.

He is sending me pictures of the family from the late 40’s and early 50’s; including pictures of me and my Father (I have only one photo of us together – when I was a baby).

I’ll be calling him again soon.

The Beach Bum

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Friday, May 16, 2008

A New Phobia

I read an article in last Sunday’s Saint Petersburg Times that frightened me.

A female tourist from Ohio was wading waist deep in the Gulf of Mexico when a Pelican swooped down and attacked her. She required 26 stitches inside and outside of her mouth. This incident happened close to my old home on Treasure Island, Florida.

Unlike Gulls, Pelicans are usually not aggressive birds. They’ll rarely come close to something larger them themselves. I’ve seen Gulls attack small unattended children who were eating a snack on the beach. The Gulls were not going after the child but the food that the child was eating. The worst that the child received was a peck on the hand.

Pelicans can be beggar birds. I have seen them wait patiently for a fisherman to filet a fish and throw them the scraps. But they never come close enough for you to touch them. Herons and Egrets will; some will actually eat out of your hand.

I have never been afraid of birds (Ornithophobia). I have too many other Phobias to worry about. Flying insects yes, but birds no!

Now I’m beginning to wonder. If Pelicans are becoming aggressive, what will other more aggressive birds do?

The newspaper article played the incident down saying it was a freak accident. They don’t want the tourist to be worried about the birds. We already have had Shark attacks, Sting Ray attacks and Alligator attacks here in Florida.

So why does this Pelican attack scare me?

In 1963 I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. It scared me! Every time that I saw a group of birds hanging around, usually on a telephone wire and watching me, I felt nervous. But realizing that it was just the thought of what I had seen in the movie, and not the birds themselves that terrified me, I dismissed this fear.

Now I’ll have to rethink my stand on Ornithophobia.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Free Lunch

Yesterday, my Blog’s most avid fan, Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, NJ, posted a comment to my Blog about Gas Problems. Mr. Feder is a man of few words so he simply wrote “I do believe the time of the "free lunch" is over.”

Now, I have always believed that the term “free lunch” meant getting something for nothing but actually paying for it in other ways. My Dad always said “There isn’t such a thing as a “free lunch” or a “free ride”.

When I was a teenager you could find gasoline for 20 cents per gallon. You didn't have to pump it yourself and the attendants would clean your windshield. On top of this you would get S&H Green stamps at many stations. I, and my boyhood friends, used to buy gas with loose change so that we could cruise the main drag in my Chicago neighborhood. Searching for feminine companionship for a weekend night was one of our favorite pastimes.

I just checked the Inflation Calculator and those 20 cents in 1962 are equal to $1.37 in 2007.

Going back to the “free lunch”, and what my Dad said more than 50 years ago.

It’s now called free dinner.

Especially here in Florida, where many of the restaurants with bars put out free Happy Hour Hors D'oeuvres to attract customers. Some of the spreads are quite elaborate and tasty. Chicken wings, meat balls, fried fish, cheese and a variety of fresh veggies and dipping sauces.

You get all those goodies for the cost of a drink and a tip. For $3 you can leave with a full belly. Okay, it isn’t totally free. But even a TV dinner cost $3 and is not quite as tasty or filling. If you turn off your air conditioning for the hour or so that you spend in the bar, you are actually saving money rather than spending money. Ergo, Free Dinner!

The Beach Bum

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Gas Problem

I have four groups of people from which I regularly receive email. None of these groups are in contact with any people in my other three groups.

The largest of these groups are my old Army buddies from the 1960’s. The second largest group is my Chicago Family & Friends group. Both of these two groups mainly consist of Old Farts like me. The third group is my friends from Maryland (I lived near Annapolis for 29 years). The final group consists of people that I know here in Florida.

It is not unusual for me to get the same “Forwarded Email” from two out of the four groups. But I cannot recall when, if ever, I received the same forwarded email from 3 out of four of these groups.

The email in question concerns the cost of Gasoline. It compares the cost of Gas per gallon to other liquids that we normally consume. Most of the products mentioned were not necessity items. They also used the smallest size of the comparison product to exaggerate the cost per gallon. In addition some of the products listed would not exceed a gallon of usage per year.

It was a well done layout full of visual effects (graphics interchange format). This leads me to believe that it was done by a professional. We all know that professionals don’t work for free. Who would benefit from this seemingly harmless email joke? Gosh, the first thing that came to my mind was “Oil Companies”.

Big Oil is making a lot of profits. That is why their CEO’s make millions of dollars per year. According to Forbes, Ray Irani (Occidental Petroleum) tops the list of Petroleum Company CEO’s at over $80,000,000 in annual compensation.

In the late 1970’s when the price of gasoline was nearing $1 per gallon, the oil companies told us we were lucky to get it that cheap, Noting what people in other Countries were paying for a gallon of gas. And their profits soared, but we accepted it because the Brits were paying twice that much per gallon.

I don’t drive; I don’t even own a car. But the cost of gasoline affects other aspects of my live. The cost of my bad habits (eating, drinking and smoking) is seemingly increasing on a monthly basis because of the cost gasoline.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Illogical Logic

My son-in-law has developed a theory about automobile insurance. He and my daughter have USAA; which is in my opinion the best automobile insurance that you can have.

USAA doesn’t advertise on television and is limited to Military Personnel (past or present) and their families. This company is so good that if they have a profitable year they not only lower rates, but they also send out rebate checks.

Back to my son-in-law’s theory:

There are at least 7 automobile insurance companies that advertise on television on a very regular basis. All of them claim that they will save you money over your current provider.

Some companies claim that they will save you up to $500 per year.

But let’s say that the average savings per company is $250 per year. $250 times 7 equals $1750. This is more than my daughter and son-in-law are currently paying for automobile insurance on their two vehicles.

Therefore by switching companies 6 or 7 times they would be getting their auto insurance for free.

Of course, he was being facetious.

In all the years (nearly 40) that I had automobile insurance; I never filed a claim. I had one fender bender – not my fault - and we settled with cash. Yet I had spent about $28,000 to maintain my coverage over the course of those years. If adjusted for inflation, probably about $50,000 in today’s dollars.

Now that I am no longer driving nor have a vehicle, I feel that I should get at least a 50% rebate. I could really use an extra $25, 000.

Fat Chance!

The Beach Bum

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