This file contains all newsletters for
February 2005

Saturday, 26 February 2005


    I am a FREE MAN! Free I tell you! Free at last! My last official day as a Northrop Grumman, NSA-cleared employee was 17 February! I sent in my Northrop Grumman and NSA badges, and signed my clearance-debriefing paper. I never again have to take one of those goll-danged, ratzenfrigger polygraph tests conducted by wiseacre, sarcastic, tricky-dicky security specialists! ("Did you ever sell secrets to the Russians?" Oh no! I took government pens home. Bad boy! Watch that polygraph needle go bananas)! Nervous? Me? Arggghhh! Free at last! Oh Lordy! Free at Last!

    I did drive back to Myrtle Beach on 16 February, and I then returned on the 20th. It was a very pleasant drive, both ways, and quite fast since traffic was light and no accidents, etc. The traffic on Interstate 75 (and many stretches of Interstate 95) runs a consistent 75-85mph, although the speed limit is 70 or less, so I find that it takes just about nine hours to make the 590 mile trip, plus whatever added time is necessary for stops you make for gas, food, bathroom, etc. 18-wheeler trucks are very helpful in moving you along at a brisk pace! They are usually limited to the rightmost two lanes along many stretches of the roads I take, but that doesn't mean anything. The truckers pull right up on your bumper if you dare to be driving "only" 75mph! Since the far right lane is often congested with slow movers and even more trucks playing "dodge-em", you must constantly pull into the passing lane to let the semis by on the right side. That's assuming that you CAN pull into the so-called passing lane. There are so many people (young and old) who seem to think that they own that lane -- as long as they are putt-putting along at the minimum posted speed, or up-to one mph under the posted maximum speed limit! So they don't move over - ever! Even if there isn't anyone in front of them for a mile! And, if there is someone driving in a lane beside them, they usually try to match the speed of that car, thereby effecting a "rolling roadblock", trapping all of us behind them for the next 5-10 miles or more. These are the people who complain about "road rage"; those who just can't understand why people are upset with them; wonder why they are being tailgated; yelled at; gestured at; etc. Poor dears! I believe the posted speed limits include a "grace range" of 4-5 mph ABOVE the posted speed limit (unless I'm driving in Georgia) so I understand ENTIRELY when I read about another road rage incident in the papers! I could NEVER carry a gun in my car, because I KNOW that I'd show them what road rage REALLY is!!! (pant, pant, pant! I'll be fine .... just give me a minute ....)

    Well, Hi there again! Yessiree it was a fun time in Myrtle Beach! Karen dropped over the house just before I arrived, turned up the heat, and left me some nice soup! Mmmm! I spent the next few days puttering around the house and yard, doing some minor cleanup of branches and leaves so that the place looked like someone was living there. I think that I'll probably start planting my garden in April. I doubled the size of the garden before we went down to Florida (raised beds with treated twelve-foot long boards hemming the dirt in). The previous owner created berms and then planted lots of bushes and flowers in several places around the yard. I know that there are SOME plants that are supposed to be planted atop mounds, but all these berms just let the water run off. So I dug out one of them and used the dirt for my garden extension. When we return to Myrtle Beach, probably in early April, I'll dig down the long berm that divides our property from our neighbor, and I'll spread the dirt atop the garden before planting. Our neighbor across the street helped me out once again with my "continuing education" as to how the South Carolina water systems are constructed. Months ago he helped me isolate a severely leaking irrigation system (lawn sprinklers) and fix it. This time he found the main shutoff valve for the house! I had been looking for it since last June. It was buried approximately two inches from (and two inches down) from the water meter "manhole". Of course it was leaking and, since we disturbed something that had probably been buried for years, it started leaking even more! Between this and the irrigation system leak we fixed months ago, I think I have discovered the source of our huge water bills (up to $600 a month last summer)!!

    On one night Karen, Chuck and I went out to the California Ultimate Pizza restaurant on Route 17. This has become a "tradition", usually every Tuesday evening around 7PM. You can choose your own pizza size (personal) and toppings (sausage, olives, canadian ham, artichokes, jalapenos, garlic, pepperoni, etc., etc.). The crust is thin and puffy, and delicious. On another evening we all ended up at the Socastee Station - me, Karen & Chuck and the Magers with their little girl, Haven. The owner treats us like family. The place was packed and they had a live band. Excellent service. Great night!

    My Corvette turn signals have been blowing fuses for months, so Chuck took a look. I figured that he'd quickly find a frayed wire or something but it turned out to be a high-tech investigation that lasted about two hours! Not only did I not have turn signals but my backup lights were out also (same fuse/circuit). He had to go under both sides of my dashboard to access the flasher unit and wiring, and incrementally test and isolate which circuits were being affected. After removing the glove box we discovered a nest -- it must have been that dang chipmunk that was "wintering over" in my Maryland garage! The little critter did the same thing to my Chevy S-10, but that was easier to notice! He must have chewed on the wires. Anyway, Chuck disengaged the two wires to the fuse that was blowing, cut the wire to the backup lights and VOILA! I now have turn signals! Now we know that the wire from the fuse panel to the backup lights is causing the short, and we'll just run a new wire when I get back to Myrtle Beach. It was 54 degrees out when I left Myrtle Beach last Sunday. By the time I crossed the Georgia line on Interstate 95 South, it was 76 degrees! Nice! I play with my turn signals all the time now ;-)

    We use our Myrtle Beach postal address instead of Florida, for most bills and official correspondence, because when we are not there Karen can check and forward our mail to us. Dale discovered that the Socastee (Myrtle Beach) Post Office was suddenly forwarding much of our mail to the Albany, NY address of the former owner of our house! The Post Office also notified our magazine and mortgage companies (etc) automatically of our so-called "change of address", so our utility bills, mortgage statements and other important letters (from Florida too) suddenly went missing. The Albany address is actually the daughter and son-in-law of the former owner so they, not knowing who Crotty was, marked the mail as "return to sender; addressee unknown"! The son-in-law told me that his father-in-law didn't like the snow and cold up there, so after the New Year, he temporarily rented a condo in Myrtle Beach. We're guessing that the former owner submitted an additional change-of-address form in January after his normal six month forwarding period expired, and one of the postal employees just started to forward all mail - ours included! I wrote to the Socastee Postmaster to cease and desist but have not heard anything from him yet.

    I've never visited the town of Venice, Florida but it's not too far south of Sarasota so Dale and I drove down last Monday, the 21st. What a nice place! Spectacular residential areas with homes that remind me of California with all the Spanish-tiled roofs and architecture. The spruced up downtown shopping area is similar to Sarasota's old Main Street, with shops and restaurants in older, single story buildings, and parking is abundant and free! Lots of open space with beautiful bushes and flowers. We also found the nearby Venice Pier and beach, and then realized that we had actually been there months before, when our friends the Hanrahans drove us here for lunch at the pier restaurant, Sharkey's! We are just enjoying the heck of of these little day trips. There is just so much beauty to discover around Bradenton and the surrounding towns and cities -- all in our own "back yard".

    Dale's Uncle Bob (Walsh) arrived at Tampa Airport on the 22nd for a two week visit with his sister Shirley. Aunt Shirley (and her daughter Janet, husband Tony and granddaughter Alexa) lives about 30 minutes from us here in Bradenton. We volunteered to pick Bob up at the airport, and then took him for a light lunch and a mini-tour at the famous St Petersburg Pier. It was on our way back to Bradenton (Route 275 S) and is a really pretty place. See the photos I uploaded to the February 2005 photo menu. Aunt Shirley had us all over for dinner that evening. We'll meet up with Bob again in a few days (Tuesday) and show him around the area.

    On Wednesday, the 23rd, Dale and I drove up to see her "aunt & uncle" Hilda and Russ Dahl at their son's condo in New Port Ritchey. They are both in their 80's, and now come down to Florida each winter from their place in Meredith, NH -- leaving all that snow behind!

    On Friday, the 25th we drove down to the Hanrahan's home in Sarasota to attend a gathering of retired NSA friends and to greet mutual friends from Maryland, Bev & Gary Orders. Dale worked for Bev Orders at NSA's Phoenix Society until we moved here. Her husband, Gary, is the one who sold our Woodbine home for us, and made all this "high living" possible! As per usual the weather here in Florida remained in the 70's and gave us a nice reunion day!

    We took our Jeep Cherokee in to our local garage since the front end was wobbling all over the place. Needed new tires. We'll bring it back in later and have the alignment checked out. At least Dale can drive it on her Meals-on-Wheels rounds now, without me worrying that the front end will fall off.

    I bought the H&R Block Tax Cut Deluxe and Tax Cut State software yesterday. This year you can use a lot of their free software on the Internet but I just feel better having my own copy. I guess I'll get the taxes done next week. Should be relatively simple this year since we have only our retirement as income. We'll have to pro-rate our income for the six months we lived as Maryland residents but from now on we won't have any state income tax to pay. Florida doesn't have an income tax! Oh yeah!

    I can't believe that I've been back from South Carolina for 6 days and I haven't been out to the boat yet! I need to finish up polishing the deck and mending an antenna wire, among other things. Just not enough time in a poor retiree's day!

Dad & Mom/Barry & Dale


Saturday, 19 February 2005


    Our trip to Key West (25-29 January) was wonderful. Lots of sun and fun just walking around. We stayed at the Quality Inn & Suites, just over the bridge coming in to Key West, take a right on N. Roosevelt, and then immediately on the left side next to the Welcome Center. The hotels in this area have plenty of free parking, and it was easier to leave the car there and just buy a three day pass to ride the island-wide shuttle. Key West is actually quite small, but there are still places we haven't seen. If it wasn't for Dale trying to find the B&B where our friends Joe & Sharon King had once stayed, we would have also missed several blocks of waterfront restaurants and local bars just off the end of Elizabeth Street. The next time we go we'll try to visit the local forts and beaches instead of just riding by them.

    On this visit we did manage to walk up and down the main street, Duval, as well as several of the parallel and side streets. There were plenty of people around but not much automobile traffic at all, unlike the last time we visited. At night there were more cars on the roads but certainly no traffic jams or anything like that. Key West buildings are mostly old (many are slightly run-down) one and two stories high, and have that "old time charm". You get the feeling that you can put your "feet up" and just RELAX! The buildings remind me of small Texas towns, but with a waterfront! Like Bar Harbor, Maine! It's not a glitzy Disneyland, but there are a lot of things to do and see, at your own leisurely pace. We left on the 29th and stopped off near Ft. Lauderdale area to meet with old friends, Joyce and Mel Heller from Maryland, who were vacationing in Boynton Beach. They drove down to the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Plantation, FL. and we met there at the Cheescake factory for lunch. I've uploaded a bunch of digital photos to the web site. Look under "January 2005".

    My boat is now back at our condo pier. The Taylor Boatyard here in Cortez sandblasted the hull and painted the bottom and the outdrive with anti-fouling paint, so hopefully I won't have any more problems with barnacles. I'll have the boat pulled out once a year for maintenance from now on. I also had an internal fresh water engine flushing system installed, so I can hook a garden hose from my pier to the engine, and flush out the sea water from the engine after each time that I take it for a spin. Since it was up on blocks and easy to work on, I spent about a week cleaning the hull, removing paint oxidation, compounding and polishing it. The boat is 13 years old and the finish was quite dull, but it sure did respond well to cleaning! The gel coat is now nice and shiny. I can't make it look completely like a brand new boat. but it sure doesn't look like an old one either! Joe and Sharon King arrived for a visit and Joe helped me work on the boat. We drove it back to the condo on Tuesday, the 8th. The new propellers made quite a difference -- we were really zipping along! The next day all of us went out for a spin around Anna Maria Island and out to Passage Key, an island near the main shipping channel. It was a bit too cool to continue at high speed, so we putted along the island coast, passing by our favorite beachside restaurant, The Sandbar, and then all the local beaches, enjoying the sunshine and the sights. Joe & Sharon left on the 10th to visit relatives in Georgia. He took a bunch of high-resolution digital shots and I have copies, which I'll go through to see if I can upload some (reduced file size). I'll also be uploading some more of my photos showing this trip, among other sights. Look in the Latest Photos menu item for February 2005.

    I have finally decided to "pack it in" and retire for real! I sent my "resignation" letter in to Northrop Grumman last week. My official last day is 17 February 2005, the end of their next pay period. Originally it looked like I would have to drive across the state of Florida to Harris Corporation, near Cape Canaveral/Kennedy, but the Northrop Grumman Security person was able to arrange for me to just fill out a debriefing form and mail it in. I have to find my badge and send it with the form. The badge is back in Myrtle Beach, and I also need to retrieve my last year's tax records from my files. I had planned on driving back there every so often to keep tabs on the house, clean the yard, etc., so -- tomorrow morning I'll be on the road back to Myrtle Beach. I'll probably return to Bradenton by early next week.

    I must be getting old! I was bending over the deck on the boat, here at my condo pier, getting it ready for a final polish, then a coat of wax, when my back started to hurt. I waited until yesterday and tried again. No luck. It started hurting even more! Dale went out and bought me a heating pad last night and it helped a lot! So today I am taking it easy (updating this web site, for instance)! When I return next week I hope to be "healed" enough to get the boat nice and shiny!

    We located a very good, reasonably-priced, lawyer here in Bradenton and had our wills updated. Time has zipped by so fast, I didn't realize that it had been so many decades since we had wills drawn up! We were very satisfied with the lawyer, especially since he never rushed us or made us feel that he had something more pressing to do. He interviews you first to ascertain how the wills and other forms should be made out. At the second meeting he goes over all the papers with you to ensure that they are correct. There were a few changes that we had to make, and he made the corrections right there in his office, printed out the final copies, reviewed them with us. He even had a separate form for witness validation, so you kids will never have to worry about "not finding the witnesses" in the future if there should ever be any question about the wills. He also keeps copies, so there is a central repository, so-to-speak, and if we both die at the same time, then you can contact him for guidance. I'll be bringing the originals (wills and other documents) to Myrtle Beach tomorrow so that I can file them in the main filing cabinets in my den/office/library.

    We received a pretty postcard from Barbara & Steve Graham this week. They've been on a carribbean cruise, visiting exotic islands like Trinidad & Tobago, Isla Margarita (Venezuela) and barbados. Their daughter Susan and her husband Simon met up with them in Barbados. Years ago I used to talk on the radio to a guy in Barbados. One of these days I'd like to visit there too! We're now looking forward to Barbara, Steve and their daughter Lucy visiting us here in Bradenton this coming June.

    Also received a postcard from Davide Trisolino, our italian friend from Salerno. He was visiting Prague (Czech Rebublic). The postcard shows a beautiful city (architecture) with many bridges over the Vltava River! Another of the many european cities we'd like to see!

    Well, the Florida temperatures are back to normal, and even a bit above normal. We're having mid-high 70's every day right now. Bright sunshine! Dale went to the pool to "catch some rays" this afternoon, while I slaved over this hot web site!

    My Acadian cousin, Happy Bourque, tipped me off to a combined Muise-Amirault-Doucette-Hubbard geneaology web site. The webmaster/owner also had a couple of other sites so it took me a while to understand that this one was different from the ones I had been looking at. It is hosted by, the same company that hosts the web site for all us San Vito (Italy) members, so I am already familiar with the format for submitting photos, and other items. Looks like it has a lot of interesting photos and information about my Amirault ancestors, as well as the opportunity to know more of my modern-day cousins.

    Our friends Gary and Bev Orders will be in this area (Florida) next week. Bev was Dale's boss at the Phoenix Society Office, and she still runs the place. Gary was our Real Estate Agent who sold our home in Woodbine, and made all this "high living" possible for us here in Florida and South Carolina! We have several mutual friends in this area and also down in Cape Coral, so next week (after the 22nd) should be lots of fun!

    Speaking of old friends, I just received an e-mail from our friend Noel Castiglia (used to live across the street from us in Cape St. Claire before we moved to Hawaii in the summer of 1989). Noel and his grandson are planning on coming to Hawaii (Oahu and the Big Island) this June to do a little sightseeing, snorkeling, etc. He asked for some tips as to places to go and see, etc. I have plenty of suggestions and, Tracey, since you are still living there you might be able to recommend some of the newer atractions!

    We've made our reservations to fly out for Susan and Dan's wedding on 10 September. We'll be arriving on Continental flight #73 on 26 August at 3:25PM. (We're using Northwest Airlines frequent flyer miles, and Continental is one of their "partner airlines"). We still need to make reservations to fly from Oahu to Maui for the wedding, and a hotel on Maui. We'll come back to Oahu a day or so after the wedding and stay until 21 September (depart on Continental flight #2 at 6:30PM).

    Well, I'm running out of news, and I do have to start editing the photos I already have for the February 2005 "Latest Photos", so, I'm signing off for now!

Dad & Mom/Barry & Dale