This file contains all our news for
October 2005

Tuesday, 31 October 2005

    Well, Boo! Halloween has come and gone. Karen came over to keep an eye on me and make sure none of those 38-year-old blonde trick-or-treaters got their hooks into me ;-) I had a medieval executioner's black hood on, but all the kids thought I was a Ninja! Heeeeeyah!

    It seems to me that they just must not be making kids anymore ;-) I mean, when I was a kid we were straining at the front door waiting for permission to get out on the streets and start to rush every house in the neighborhood, and then on to the bordering neighborhoods! Relieve them of their candy! There would be hundreds of kids - everywhere. We'd come home with 2-3 large shopping bags full of "stuff' and it would take days to sort through it all to see what you had! Now you can barely hear them coming, as small groups come down the street, get their bags out, take their candy and disappear. Others will show up as onesey-twoseys in the back of a pickup, and be driven off into the blackness. More silence, broken only by distant squeeky voices somewhere up the line. Perhaps another few will show up in 15-20 minutes, follwed by a larger group of 3-4, and then -- nothing.

    Dale got a phone call from the Red Cross asking if she would be willing to deploy to Louisiana for three weeks and help run the shelters that are taking care of the Hurricane Katrina victims. So, on Thursday the 20th, we got up at 4AM and were at the airport at 5. Her plane took off for Baton Rouge at 6AM but when they arrived that city was fogged in, so the plane had to land in New Orleans to get gas. Once in Baton Rouge, she bumped into one of the Myrtle Beach Red Cross people as she was walking to a Mall to get some lunch, but other than that she knew no one. She had to go through hours of "orientation" briefings and then she and 8 other volunteers from all over the States were driven to Alexandria, Louisiana.

    This has not been a powderpuff assignment by any means. The Red Cross vounteers work and sleep in different places. They work at various shelters where the Katrina victims ("clients") are, and they usually sleep at facilities provided by various local churches. Once she tells me where she works and sleeps, I use Google Earth's computer program on the Internet to locate satellite photographs of each location. It's just like flying the satellite (or an airplane), looking at the buildings from a few hundred feet in the air! I can see images of all the streets and buildings, trees, etc.

    Her first job was working with clients at the Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria, Louisiana. She says that the people that she is helping really do need help - the elderly, disabled, etc; they're not a bunch of layabouts lining up at the trough, so-to-speak. The Rapides Coliseum shelter was supposed to officially close soon, and the Red Cross would move all the volunteers to a different location. She didn't know when or where. She and several other women Red Cross volunteers have been put up at a place called the Woodmen Youth Camp, 16 miles south of Alexandria, LA. There are 8 bunk beds (space for 16) which she shares with 8 other women so they have plenty of space. They have good drinking water, electricity, hot showers, and a cafeteria of sorts. The beds are soft so she's happy!

    Somewhere around the 25th or so Dale was transferred from the Rapides Coliseum (only 12 clients left) to work at the Southern University F.G. Clark Activity Center, also called the "Mini Dome". Lots of security - FPS and other cops all around. She was assigned to the 7:30PM - 7:30AM shift. They are one hour behind us (I forgot that). Her new Staff Shelter (where the volunteers are put up) was located at the Blackwater United Methodist Church, Baker, LA. All the volunteers, men and women, were sleeping on metal cots set up side-by-side in one huge room which turned out to be a basketball court. She got a real taste of the old miltary, open-bay barracks style of living at this assignment! She says that security is good: two cops walk around their Staff Shelter/sleeping quarters to make sure that they are safe when they're sleeping. On the 28th I found a satellite shot of the United Methodist Church with several buildings in a complex at 10000 Blackwater Rd! I was talking to Dale as she walked around the church complex (many buildings) while I described the scene to her from the satellite photo I was viewing simultaneously. What a great program ! Fun!(Google Earth).

    The Blackwater United Methodist Church must have needed their basketball court, so Dale and the others were moved once again on 30 October, yesterday. Since Dale worked the night shift, and the Methodist Church Staff shelter was so noisy during the day that she couldn't get much sleep, she looked forward to the move. In the new place, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, they have separate sleeping facilities for the men and women, as well as for married couples. She says that she's learning a lot, and the people who are still in the evacuee shelters have worse conditions. Most of the people do have jobs and go to work, but have nowhere else to go, so they come back to the shelter (Clark Activity Center) and try to sleep, etc. Those who work at night are in a real jam because of all the noise during the day. Families with kids, etc.

    Dale doesn't seem to have much time. Initially they were quite isolated from the rest of the world - minimal chances to see a TV and, rarely, a newspaper to find out what's going on in the world. She says they have about 3 hours per day to themselves and use that up quickly just getting settled, laundry, etc. She does have my pocketmail device with her , and when she gets a chance to use it she enjoys receiving e-mails but hasn't been able to answer many. She tries to call me on the phone, but doesn't get a chance to do that except every 3-4 days or so. She called tonight and sounded pretty good. She is halfway through her assignment. Her new Staff Shelter was fine but this time she has asked to move again. It turns out that she is now the only one at this Shelter who works the night shift at the Mini Dome, so she has to drive a Red Cross 8 passenger van all alone through some pretty creepy neighborhoods in the dark. So she'll probably move again in the next day or two. (Note: She moved on 3 Nov to Broadmoor Baptist Church, Goodwood Blvd, Baton Rouge. Excellent facilities, and several other people there who work the night shift).

    On the "plus side", the Mini Dome (Clark Activity Center) has real computers hooked up, and Dale figured out how to access our Myrtle Beach e-mail SERVER and use the server's programs to compose and send an e-mail to me. Now she doesn't have to find a telephone that will recognize the signals coming out of my pocketmail device. Plus she can use a regular sized keyboard!

    So, what else has been happening around here? We returned from Florida on the 27th of September. My plants had been well cared for by my great neighbors, the Medas, and when someone ran into my mailbox and flattened the post to the ground, Joe Moon came to the rescue and set it back up so it wouldn't be so obvious that no one was home! Most of my permanent plantings (crepe myrtles, oleanders, azaleas, etc) made it through our six week absence with flying colors. Brian Meda, the boy across the street that I hired to water everything, did his job well. I did lose all the dwarf oleanders that I had brought back from Bradenton (Red Barn) earlier this Spring, but it turns out that I had overwatered them and their roots rotted away. The Medas were nice enough to buy replacements locally and planted them for me! I began cleaning up our yard and gardens, which were a bit overgrown after 6 weeks of hot Myrtle Beach weather, and filled my little truck to the gills with weeds, dead flower stalks and other stuff I pulled up or trimmed from the bushes and trees. Then, at the dump, I strained my back lifting the tangled mass with a pitchfork from the side of the truck. Mucho pain for several days afterward, and here it is, the end of October, and my back is still letting me know that "it's there". Over the years, when I've aggravated my old injury, the pain usually is gone in 2-3 days, but not this time. Dale and I went to Home Depot and Lowes and I picked out a few more plants to add more color to the yard. Looks nice and neat now.

    We visited our old friends, Tom & Sue Peterson, at their place on Lake Gaston, Macon, NC 9-12 October. We got the grand tour of the surrounding area, including some quaint towns like Warrenton, Macon and others. Reminded me a lot of the small New England towns, which I've always liked! Tom had recently caught a monster blue catfish in the lake, so I accompanied him out for a spin on his beautiful pontoon boat (see October Photos) and we weren't out on the water more than 15 minutes and he caught two more! I never knew that fish made noises! Almost like a "honk"!

    I took over 300 digital pictures on our Hawaii trip and it took weeks to upload them to our web site. I also created a couple of CDs with the original photos and mailed them out to Susan & Dan, and to Barbara & Sam. We hope that everyone who was at the wedding will also exchange pictures that they took. Our local Eckerts Drug Store was having a sale on digital prints ($0.19 a print instead of $0.29 a print) so I selected 290 digital shots and had prints made yesterday. They came out fair to good, but my digital camera is one of the first ones made and isn't in the multi-magapixel range, so I think I need a new camera. Am looking at something called the Nikon 8800.

    To keep myself busy while Dale is away, I've been converting my home video tapes to DVDs. I've been spending many hours watching lava flow over Hawaii's cliffs and into the ocean; Jessie and Alana as babies and toddlers; all four girls as "kiddies", and my mother's old 8mm movies showing me and my brothers, mother, father and neighborhood scenes from the 1950's and 1960's! When I purchased my Dell computer I specifically had it designed with two 80GB hard drives and software for converting home movies to DVDs. Unfortunately some of the software didn't perform well so I've ignored it for about a year. Last week, after much testing, I discovered how to make everything work (let's just say that there were a few critical instructions left out of the user's manual, and I had to discover the process). I've now converted all 75 of my VHS home movies to DVDs and am finishing up the last of my Sony Hi8/Digital8 video cassette tapes. I also made many copies of the DVDs that had Jessie and Alana as babies and toddlers for Kathy and Tracey, so it's been quite time-consuming -- but that's exactly what I needed: makes the days go by quicker. I'm also a nut about learning technical details of things I work with, and the Internet has been a wonderful source of literature about DVD formats, right down to the "bit level". I've learned a lot about the different DVD formats and encryption schemes, but I've only scratched the surface.

    I have cables that allow me to hook any VHS player up to my computer and create a DVD, but I find it easier to use a stand-alone DVD recorder that I bought from WalMart. It's made by a company called IVO (the model is called DVDR04). It reads VHS tapes or the local/cable TV channels or just about any video device (VCR, etc) you wish to hook up to it, and allows me to choose a 2-4-6-8 hours (LP, SP, EP etc) format for recording to the DVD. Use of the standard VHS labels (SP, LP, EP, etc) is just a way to give the user a familiar benchmark. The internal computer actually translates my selection into the DVD compression algorithm and rate, and formats the video straight to a DVD. I could pack several hours of lower quality video onto a single DVD, but I usually just choose the SP (2 hours) in order to get the best quality. Unfortunately the DVD Recorder produces DVDs that do not play on all DVD players (my Zenith, my instance), so I will use it to copy old VHS tapes of movies, instead of my home movies. I want my home movies converted to DVDs that play on anything -- so I'll use the computer to convert them. It's slower but that's OK.

    Tracey says that she won't be able to be here for Christmas but she, Alana & Mike will be arriving the afternoon of 31 December, so everyone get ready to P.A.R.T.Y. (New Year's Eve in Myrtle Beach)! They'll stay until January 4th.

    Oh yes: October 22nd was our 43rd Anniversary! And Dale was whooping it up down there in Louisiana without me! She says she's paying me back for all those NSA TDYs without her ;-)

    Myrtle Beach got a little cool for a while (low 40's and even 30's a few nights) but most of this month it's been very, very nice (70's - 80's)! Yet, down in Florida they were having yet another dang hurricane on the 23rd! WILMA this time! Luckily Bradenton had only moderate rain and wind, and the next day the sun was shining again. For a while there we thought that our friends in Cape Coral would have to flee and come up and use our condo as a shelter.

    I am watching the Lowe's and Home Depot advertisements to see if they'll come down in price on their power washers. I borrowed Chuck's and washed the house and shed a few months ago and knew right then that "I just gotta get me one of these". I also used the house wash from Home Depot. It was cheap and obviously worth every penny. The house vinyl siding looks brand new now.

    I went to dinner at Yamata's at Broadway at the Beach with Karen & Chuck on the 29th. Then walked around. Big Halloween party with a $2500 prize for the best costume; $1500 for 2nd place; etc. Hundreds of people in the nightclub area, many in costume. We went into one of the clubs and listened to a band called Illuzions. Very, very good - all different music and smooth transition from one type of music to the other. Today it is bright sunshine and shirt-sleeves weather. I picked a bunch of hot peppers and small tomatoes from my garden yesterday. That's probably it for the hot peppers but the tomato vines are still green and have green tomatoes on them, so who knows? Home Depot had a sale on their remaining hardy mums, so I bought six large ones and will plant them later today or tomorrow. Bright whites and purples this time (I planted 20 of them earlier this month to give the yard some more color). I still have 6-7 foot high cannas blooming, along with roses, etc.

    I really need to get busy on marking out where I want the the addition to this house to be, and what design we want - how many rooms; where to put them; etc. After we add on to the house I plan to add a separate garage in the rear of the lot for my tools, garden tractor, the truck, trailer, etc.

    That's all the news I can think of for October! See you in the November Crotty Funny Papers (Latest News)!

Dad & Mom/Barry & Dale