This file contains all newsletters for February 2003

Tuesday, 19 February 2003


    A week or so ago I "reported" that we had had a snowstorm, but I knew that we really had not had any REAL snow! My cousins in Nova Scotia sent me an e-mail which essentially said "You think YOU have snow !!! ..." Well, we just got hit by a BLIZZARD last Monday (our "President's Day" holiday) the likes of which has not been seen in the Baltimore area for over 137 years - the biggest snowfall in Maryland's recorded weather history! Actually it looks about the same (to me) as the storm we had a few years ago, but Baltimore probably didn't get hit that hard then. Woodbine is on a higher level/ridge and we get lots of snow when the Baltimore area gets next to nothing. This time everyone got hit!

    Dale and I love snow, and we've often said that we'd enjoy being snowed in for a few days. I'd paste snapshots in albums, have a fire in the fireplace, and just take it easy. Unfortunately (or, fortunately, as the case may be), we decided to drive down to Myrtle Beach and see Karen and Chuck this particular holiday weekend. We left last Friday morning when the temperature was 31 degrees here in Woodbine. Before noontime we were basking in 60 degree weather in North Carolina, and continued to enjoy our eight hour drive to Myrtle Beach. Saturday was gorgeous (74 degrees), so much so that I had the top down on the Corvette for several hours. The weather in Woodbine was 17-25 degrees. Oh yeah!

    Chuck and a number of other car enthusiasts are starting up a new Myrtle Beach Car Club, and the Hooters Restaurant of Surfside Beach agreed to host a car show on Saturday (see my "PHOTOS" section). Chuck and I drove over in his beautiful purple/lavender Camero. One of the judges, an "almost 30" Hooters Girl babbling about her hormones going wild, took a shine to Chuck's rear-end slung over the Camero's engine as he tinkered with a cleaning cloth. (I had to save him. Well, he did do a pretty good job of ignoring her, but he did look shocked too ;-) I'm jealous!

    Chuck set me up with four new tires, badly needed as I attested to in my previous letter of 07 Feb. The Vette didn't have much traction with the old tires and it turned out that they had quite a bit of dry rot too. The previous owner kept it for years in storage, most of the time.

    While we were enjoying our ocean-front room at the Crown Reef, and contemplating a dip in the indoor pool or the outdoor "Lazy River", the news channels started reporting about the heavy snow hitting West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland. North Carolina and Viginia had ice covering Route 95, and people were being fined up to $1000 for being on the road without a good reason. We decided to stay another day and drove home yesterday instead of Monday. Good thing. The highway roads (Route 95) were all clear until we arrived in Washington, where they were still removing snow. South-bound motorists were backed up for several miles around the Washington Beltway up to Exit 5 on Route 270! Luckily we had only minor delays and were able to get home in nine hours, even with a couple of stops along the way.

    Tom had plowed our driveway before we got back. Lucky for us, because there is no place to park cars on the road. The snowbanks and drifts are 4-5 feet high on AVERAGE! Kathy said that Tom was asked to plow by every neighbor, because their snow blowers couldn't handle the job. The local shopping center has snow piled up to ten feet high, making mazes out of their parking lot. It's like having "rooms" for parking spaces. The snow is wet and heavy, and my roof and deck are piled deep with this stuff. Hope it melts quickly!

    Northrop Grumman does not give us any paid snow days, or the like. If you don't work, even if the "customer's location is closed", you don't get paid. They have allowed us, however, to make up the hours we lost by working longer hours next pay period. Looks like a lot of 10 hour days for a while ;-)

Dad & Mom/ Barry & Dale

Tuesday, 07 February 2003


    We had a snowstorm last night and up to noontime today (Friday). No work today, a great unexpected freebee. It was snowing furiously last night when I got off work. I had discovered that 114 computers that I had sent overseas back in 2001 had somehow ended up on a master list of missing equipment, so I decided to stay late and produce all the documentation that would make some nervous people very happy! By the time I got outside around 8pm it was snowing like crazy at Fort Meade, and it was a difficult time getting home. I had the Corvette, with wide slick tires, so getting up our hill was impossible. I had to leave MY BABY at the bottom of the hill! This afternoon Dale and I went down and shovelled it out. Tom had plowed the hill and a brief spat of sunshine left the road dry to the asphalt, so I was able to get the Vette into the garage.

    Last weekend, Dale and I checked out the Southwest Airlines fares, jumped on a plane on a freezing Friday morning, arrived at Tampa to a beautiful 74 degree day, drove down to the condo in Bradenton, and expected to have the next four days of leisure! Unfortunately she also had this "little job" for me - to rewallpaper the small, guest bathroom. Since I actually LIKE to wallpaper,that wasn't a problem. I'd get it done in one day. Not to worry (hah!)

    First - the old wallpaper wasn't stripable - I had to use hot rags to wet it and scrape it off. Then she asked for a dimmer switch instead of the single pole light switch. No problem - off to Home Depot. The existing wiring was "two wire" with no ground, but the dimmer switch had its own ground wire attached to it so I screwed the wire into the box. POW! All lights off in the bathroom and utility room! No power to plugs in three rooms. I went to main electrical panel but no breaker switch was thrown. Uh oh! I then spent hours tracing every blankety-blank electrical circuit! I unscrewed all the plugs and switches within 20 feet and left them hanging out of their boxes from the walls as I tested for power. No luck. I patched a temporary power wire directly from the main panel and pulled it to the various load points in each room to test out the circuits. All okay - complete circuits, but nothing when I removed the temporary power feed. The next day I'm at my wits end and about ready to rewire the entire place when Dale notices that her hairdryer plug in the main bathroom also doesn't work. It has a ground fault interupt button. It's in the "popped out" position. Argggh!

    For some reason the original electricians ran the circuit from the main panel, all the way back to the main bathroom plug, then back to the main room, utility room and then the guest bathroom. I'd still be down there scratching my head if she hadn't noticed. All's well that ends well, I guess. I wallpapered both bathrooms, replaced all the beige plugs and switches with white ones that I had purchased months before (but had planned to replace them all in a more leisurely fashion, I assure you!). That took up our entire Friday through Monday, so we made the most of our last day (Tuesday) by driving slowly through the Anna Maria, Longboat and Siesta Keys, and visiting lots of places there that we hadn't seen before. We're already looking at the Holiday dates for the next few months, planning for our next trip down!

    I've decided NOT to retire this June. There are just too many factors that keep me bouncing around, so we've decided to focus on one thing at a time. First up is to complete all my projects on the house. The aim is to get the house in shape (paint; finish up the rooms in the cellar; etc) and then decide if we want to put it up for sale. If so, then we'll decide what the next step will be, once/if it is sold.

    My trip to Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), Saudi Arabia (5-14 January) was something that I wouldn't have missed for the world, but I am not anxious to go back any time soon. The best part was actually the return flight, since we landed on the island of Cyprus, then on to Rhein Main, Germany and then to Shannon Airport in western Ireland! They let us off the airplane for an hour or two at each place. Great! (I jumped off the gangway in Ireland yelling "I'M BAAAACK", since my great-grandparents left Ireland over 112 years ago!). As for PSAB, I have the highest respect for the military personnel who are there. The U.S. government has done an outstanding job providing secure, interconnected "islands" of large operations and mini-bases inside this huge desert military base. These work and living quarters complexes are miles apart in several locations connected by slivers of highway, some lined with transplanted palm trees that require attention (watering, etc) by a team of Saudi laborers. Nothing else grows - flat brown dirt/sand as far as you can see in all directions. But, even with the good housing, chow halls, swimming pool, theater, BX, Post Office, computer/Internet access and various other things for their entertainment, the bottom line is that the place is boring unless you're part of a flight crew and can jump on a plane and be off the base for the several hour missions. Because of security concerns you can't drive off the base anymore, so seeing the real Saudi country and culture is not possible at this time. Even if war with Iraq comes, it won't change off-duty time much at all. They already spend most of their time working. Kuwait is much worse - the Marines even come to PSAB for a vacation!!(They take over our day room TV in order to play computer games!).

    Our old English friend, Steve Graham, arrived in town once again for a quick business trip. We met him for dinner at Champps in Columbia, a place we didn't even know existed. Excellent - we'll be going back! (In fact, I;m getting hungry right now ...;-) Dale and I will be going to England in June to attend his daughter Susan's wedding. We just made our arrangements with Aer Lingus to fly via Shannon and Dublin to Birmingham. A few days after the wedding we're flying back to Dublin and will take a week in Ireland. Steve and his wife Barbara are checking to see if they, too, can come over and tour the Olde Sod with us. The Crotty great-grandparents came over from Ireland (Waterford and Cork) in 1885 and 1891, so we're looking forward to seeing those cities in particular.

    Well, now that I've had an unexpected day off, tomorrow I'll be re-starting my projects down in the cellar. I built a new workshop wall, and the new electrical outlets for the power equipment and overhead lighting are already done. Now I need to do some sheetrock and some wiring for three-way light switches. Same for the main recreation room, but I think that will be a multi-month effort before it is finished.

    Keep in touch!

Dad & Mom/ Barry & Dale