"Crotty News" Postings for: August 2006 !

31 August 2006

Hi All Y'all!

    Here's the wrapup for August (since our last posting on 07 August, included below)! It was a very interesting month. Kathy, Tom & Jessie came down for a visit! Old friends Jerry and Norma Braunstein dropped by! Dale busted her wrist. I helped clear Karen & Chuck's overgrown front yard gardens and I ended up playing in poison ivy and poison sumac!! I "paid for it" -- big time! The plans for our house addition are just about finalized. We heard from an old friend in Italy , Tony Esposito, via e-mail and we might sponsor his niece on a trip here next summer. So ... on with the "show", and the details, below!

    Where to start? Well, Dale has been going to the gym regularly, with good results! Looking good! I hooked up the treadmill in the garage but the weather is still so stifling hot I've not kept up with it, and really need to do so. With all the yard work I've been doing in this heat and humidity I've lost up to 15 pounds, but usually put a few back on. Supposed to get cooler in the evenings but it's still hard to breath when you go outside. The air seems "heavy" (and hot). I find that when I go somewhere I am willing to park 3 blocks away if I find shade !

    I've been spraying all my plants with Miraclegrow fertilizer and the results are spectacular. Hedges and bushes that I just planted are filling out and up at an amazing rate!

    As we "reported" in our June news, we put our Florida residence up for sale. We've decided to make Myrtle beach our permanent residence once we sell the condo. No nibbles on the condo yet but we don't expect any action until the Snowbirds return. The mortgage rates just went down (first week of August) for the second week in a row so that seems to be good news. Hope it continues. We still love Florida but Manatee County had the fastest rise in property values in the entire nation (Sarasota was number two)! Even though we own the place free-and-clear, it was costing us over $900 a month to maintain. Between taxes, condo fees, homeowners insurance, etc. we had to decide if we wanted to really downsize and get rid of the Myrtle Beach home (which was actually a second home place to stuff/store the majority of our belongings) or bite the bullet and sell the FL place, make a big profit, pay off the Myrtle Beach home, make an addition to the Myrtle Beach home, and still have scads of moolah left over to take three or four (or more) vacations a year --including Florida - with all the money we'd save. We might return to buy a home in Florida in the future, or even perhaps Hawaii if we can afford it.

    Our friends and neighbors here in Socastee, Bev and Joe Moon, moved to Phoenix last month and I've been kidding them about moving from the frying pan (HOT/muggy HERE!) to the fire (always hotter in Phoenix). But I guess 105 degrees without the humidty isn't as bad as our Myrtle Beach mid 90's with LOTS of humidity ;-)

    The second week of August we finally had a downpour. It lasted for an hour or so, with lots of thunder and mucho lightning!! A cold front moved through and sucked up all the moisture in the air. The lawns and plants really needed the rain so we hoped that we would have cooler weather for a while. The mid 90s with high humidity is been really terrible. Didn't really happen. Respite for only a few days. In fact I had been "digging" my own weater well by pounding two inch PVC pipe4s into the ground, trying to find the water table (should be about 35 feet down and I'm currently at 22 feet). Anyway, the heat and humidity has stopped me. The energy required to pound the top of the pipe goes quickly. The heat just drains you immediately, and sweat starts pouring off your body. I'll probably not get back to this project until late September or October.

    On 13 August I finished replacing the wallboard in the guest bathroom (ripped it out months ago when we found termites!) and was waiting for the first coat of joint compound to dry. After it dries, it'll be ready for wallpapering. Dale already bought the new wallpaper - it'll look nice when we finish. Then we'll re-do the master bathroom too.

    By mid-August I finally "caved in" to the SPAMMERS and changed our e-mail address! They had us on so many SPAM lists it was unbearable. We were getting another SPAM message every 10-20 minutes! Sometimes more! The SPAM itself was very sophisticated. They send their "messages" as GIF files (images instead of text) and then load up the e-mail (SPAM) with non-displaying text giberish, using the same color for text as used for the e-mail background. The text fools the spam filters and the image file looks like text when you display the e-mail on your screen. Penny Stock offerings; Russian women who want to meet me; etc.

    Susan had left ImagicLA to take a position at Variety Magazine (Wilshire Blvd, LA) and was working there for several weeks when she got a call from ImagicLA offering her a great deal (pay raise; benefits) if she would return. Apparently they had two others in her former job and decided that they wanted Susan back. Susan is now happy as a bug in a rug, very busy (which she likes) and apparently has found her niche!

    Around the 18th of August Susan mentioned that she had just finished a photo shoot as the body double for Courtney Cox Arquette's new TV show, DIRT, and sent us a picture of her (Susan) made up as Courtney. The tongue-in-cheek description was "Susan Cox". (Dale always said that Susan looked like her)! The photos will be used in the "print advertisements" (newspapers, magazines, etc.) for the new show, which will air on the TV networks this Fall. The producers haven't decided which photo(s) they are going to use yet, but when they do, Susan will tell us.

    18 August: Our architect was supposed to show up today with the final plans but he had computer/printer problems so we won't see him until he purchases a new printer. We are adding about 1660 sq ft to the (Myrtle Beach) house, plus the upstairs spaces will be stick-built instead of using trusses, so we'll have all that space for extra rooms and/or storage. We hope to have the construction started this Fall.

    On 19 August I went over to Karen & Chuck's to help them clear out two circular gardens at the front of their lot. The gardens had become overgrown and they wanted to have palm trees and some other exotic plants put in. I brought my hedgehog trimmer and we becan to cut the bushes down. Tunred out that there were weeds, vines and really tough ornamental grasses that we all tangled into one huge mat. It took days to get everything cleared out; then we trimmed the 15 foot wax myrtle trees/bushes/hedges on their elderly neighbor's property. We made many trips to the local dump in my little red truck. I salvaged several bushes that Chuck wanted to transplant, and he gave me several others that they didn't want anymore. I planted them in my back yard. Turned out that three of the "bushes" were poison sumac, and I transplanted them along our property line in the back. No wonder I came down with a really bad case of poison ivy/sumac rashes on my hands, arms, feet, belly, etc. I'm now an expert in identifying them both, and am also covered with their dang rash on both arms and legs! Itchy itchy! I bought a lot of Gold Bond, Calamine Lotion, Benadryl and other salves over the next two weeks! Had to remove my rings too! First time since 1962 (wedding ring)! They say it takes ten days for the rash to disappear and I believe that's about right. The only good thing is that the kids' yard is about to be planted with palm trees and ornamentals this week, and I got a bunch of their bushes, ornamental grasses, etc that they didn't want to replant. I planted them in my back yard and they seem to be taking well. In a year or two I should have some nice green "privacy fences" made out of those bushes. Anyway, their place looks beautiful now with huge, gorgeous palm trees, etc. Chuck and I transplanted other bushes on the side, created a pathway, and laid down mulch. What a difference!

    21 August - Kathy, Tom & Jessie arrived for a four day visit! Jessie loved the beach! Went to dinner at Damon's, a really nice place right on the beach with great beach & ocean views through large plate glass windows. Since the tourist season was winding down we didn't have to wait for a table, and got quick service. We also drove to Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach where Karen & Chuck's friend 'Doc' exhibits some of his tigers and other animals. Doc runs an organization called T.I.G.E.R.S., The Institute for Greatly Endanged and Rare Species (or something close to that). In fact the MGM lion is only one of their famous animals. Anyway, once again the "Karen & Chuck connection" worked wonders for us, and Doc's son and the crew working the facility gave the Crotty-Zuback-Bunnell group a great time, getting pictures of everyone holding the tiger and monkey, etc.

    Old friends Jerry & Norma Braunstein stopped by on the 25th (stayed the previous night at the Crown Reef, one of our favorite places when we used to come here for a visit -- Karen & Chuck were married there). Jerry is one of my old NSA bosses, and was my mentor for most of my career. They currently live in Stuart, FL, in one of the most beautifully-situated homes we've ever seen. The "good guys" do win sometimes!

    Saturday the 26th: Dale volunteered to help the local Red Cross clean up their Myrtle Beach offices, but she slipped on a glob of wax when they were stripping the floors and broke her wrist! Luckily it was a clean break, and the doctor gave her a reinforced fabric brace/"cast" that she can take on and off (showers etc). Of course I have to dress her ;-) And do the dishes. And open bottles. And stick those earrings into those holes in her ears ;-)

    22 August - Received an e-mail from Steve and Barbara Graham in England. They've been staying at their second home along the Devon coast and mentioned that they had just visited St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. What a coincidence! The same day that Steve and Barbara visited St Michael's I was watching a travel program on cable TV and they were showing Cornwall - St Ives and then, of all places, St Michael's Mount!! The TV show had scenes that I didn't remember of the inside (must have been of the private rooms of the owners), including a long corridor that supposedly has a ghost. A few years ago, Dale and I stayed a week at an old manor home near St Michael's, and we enjoyed our visit there immensely!

    22-24 August - we had huge, heavy rainfalls with humongeous lightning displays for two days. Our air conditioning system/compressor blew a heavy duty capacitor during all the lightning. The repairman called me as he was driving to our house that evening and he told me that he valued his life more than the extra bucks for an emergency night repair visit, so we had to use fans to keep cool until the next morning.

    On 24 August we received a big surprise. An e-mail from Tony Esposito, our old friend in Brindisi, Italy. Had last heard from him over a year ago. He was using his brother's e-mail address then too, but we got no response when we e-mailed him back, so we didn't know if it was a good address or not. Anyway, Tony apparently was visiting his brother ("Nino") again and this time he wrote to inquire about having Nino's daughter visit America. We wrote back offering to host her. She wrote to us. "Katia" is 22 years old and a student of oriental languages (Japanese, Mandarin, etc) and also has a very good grasp of english. Dale and I are planning on a trip to Italy next May-June, so we'll meet her and the rest of the family then to work out the details.

    29 August - got an excited phone call from Kathy! She's being elevated to the Senior Ranks (equivalent to a General and Admiral). I'm sure that by now she's already told the rest of you girls, so this is for "posterity" (I save off these newsletters in our photo albums along with all our pictures, so we have a written record -- sort of like a journal or "Dear Diary" record). It was 95 here today. I was working in the yard as per usual. Sweat pouring off my head and soaking my clothes. I drink lots of water all day and I've gone from 221lbs to 206.5 lbs these last two weeks.

    30 August - I bought some "paver" molds on E-bay. I plan to use them to create patios, walkways and possibly even the driveway in the back part of our lot. I can make 48 pavers at a time, so in a few weeks I can produce enough for my projects. A single bag of concrete produces something like 30-35 pavers (I forget the exact numbers). Tropical Storm "Ernesto" is heading for us in Myrtle Beach but is expected to only drop a lot of rain.

    31 August - the rains from Tropical Storm Ernesto started this morning about 9AM. Got heavy for a while and intermittently heavy since then. Winds are fair to strong at times but no big deal so far. It's 3:15PM and the wind and rain have both "picked up" considerably! Just five minutes ago I took down the flag from the flagpole, and rolled up our patio umbrella. The trees are starting to sway (100'-130'+ pine trees) out in the back of the lot, and my oleanders, crape myrtles and other bushes are bending way over. Dale took delivery of her (our) new bedroom set this morning. Luckily the delivery van arrived at 8AM. So we're keeping busy getting the bedroom set up while we still have lights, electricity, etc. The weatherman said it wasn't going to be more than 45mph winds last night. They're already around 70mph and only 4mph to go before Ernesto graduates to a Hurricane (didn't happen).

    The architect is coming tomorrow (01 September) with what should be the final draft of our house addition, minus whatever minimal changes we want to make. We'll probably submit the plans to the local architectural review board just to get that hurdle out of the way, and then submit to the county. We don't expect to start any real building for at least 3-4 months.

Love,     &nbs;       Regards,
Dad & Mom     &nbs;       Barry & Dale

07 August 2006


    I made it! As of today, all our news is up-to-date and "on-line"!

    02 Aug - Using my Wal-Mart DVD Recorder, I have been steadily converting my VHS movie collection to DVDs. I still have several hundred more to go, but I'm not in a hurry. I convert about 20-30 of them each week or so. Early on I noticed that both Amazon.com and a site called IMDb.com have movie reviews and pictures of the VHS/DVD jackets on-line, so when I create a DVD I then do a "Google" search on the movie title coupled with "VHS video movie review poster". Usually the entries for Amazon.com and IMDb.com appear within the first page of search results. I am then able to copy the jacket (cover) picture to my computer from the Amazon.com site, as well as the information about the movie, usually from the IMDb site, and insert those items into my software program that creates color DVD jackets. It's a bit time-consuming but looks so much better than a plain jacket.

    Yesterday was supposed to have been hotter than today here in Myrtle Beach but I gotta tell you that it sure didn't seem that way to me! I started weeding my flower gardens this morning and lasted until about 2PM and I was SHOT! I'd been drinking water but I was starting to get lightheaded etc. Quit for the day, probably just in time! I have a lot of elephant ear plants at the side of my veggie garden and for the past week they've been wilting in the sunshine, even after I watered the heck out of 'em. I got tired of it, and cut most of them down this morning. The remaining ones seem to be doing much better so I'll bet those suckers vie for every drop of water that comes their way. Now that there isn't as many of them they seem to be doing better ;-) I picked some cherry tomatoes today -- off the plants at the back of the garden, the ones that previously weren't doing too well (not enough sun, etc) but they're doing fine after a few weeks of Miracle Grow! The cucumbers I planted in large plastic pots are starting to form real cukes (about two inches long right now). My jalapeno plants are still stunted but they are producing enough to keep me happy. My lawn is doing well considering the hot weather and little rain. I have my sprinkler system set to run on monday, wednesday and friday and I run the six sprinkler heads on each of the six zones for 20 minutes each.

    Went to Rooms-to-Go furniture store with Dale this afternoon. Dale had picked out a new bedroom suite she liked and she'll order it tomorrow. Our existing suite will go into the second guest bedroom (the one I am currently using as an office/library).

    The architect came and we went over the preliminary plans. Added doors, ceiling fans, windows, electrical outlets, etc in strategic places. He's coming back next tuesday with plans that will show the new addition connected to the existing house (rooflines etc) and Dale will get a chance to make sure the doors etc are where she wants them. This project will take quite a while. I don't expect to start building until late Fall, since after the plans are done we still have to go through the Homeowner's Assn Architectural review Board as well as the County Building Dept. Not a real problem to me -- we're cramped for space but we are coping.

    Went to dinner at Nico's with Karen & Chuck and Doug & Eileen Hillmuth, our old neighbors from Woodbine (MD). Nico's is a small restaurant we like, near Garden City, just south of Myrtle Beach. The young owner/Chef is italian from the Bari area, just north of Brindisi where Dale and I were stationed 1977-1980. We're treated like old friends, and the food is superb!

    03 August - Steve Graham is making me homesick for England!! He's sending me pictures of the Devon coastline where he and Barbara have their second home!

    My crepe myrtle trees finally bloomed! (See Photos). I was beginning to think that they weren't going to bloom at all because I pruned them so severely last year (the blooms were so profuse and heavy that the branches couldn't hold them). Crepe Myrtle trees down here bloom for weeks and weeks so we're looking forward to having lots of color. The white crepe myrtle hasn't fully bloomed yet but there are lots of buds ready to burst soon.

    06 Aug - Received an e-mail from Janet Spohn. Her husband is Col. Gary Spohn,USAF (Ret), and he was the base commander at San Vito when we left back in 1980. I gave them the information about the San Vito Reunion. Hopefully she, Gary and Claire Trabun can make plans to attend the SVAS Reunion 28 September.

    I spent the last two days troubleshooting my computer's ability to make DVDs and after removing and then reinstalling bunches of software, and going to a web site to download the latests drivers for my DVD writer, (all to no avail) I believe that the problem is actually a pack of Memorex DVDs that I had purchased. I usually use Verbatim DVDs but had ran out of them. The Verbatim discs work fine but the Memorex don't. I just tested the Memorex DVDs in my Wal-Mart (ILO) DVD recorder and they seem to work, although perhaps with a little loss in color. Oh well, they're good enough for old movies, and I'm still keeping my VHS movie collection around. (Yes, I have a collection of old LPs too ;-)

    GOOD NEWS ! Just heard from Mary Lou Shippe that our old friend Don Shippe is getting better. Don has had more than his share of medical problems over the past few years and has been in and out of hospitals for months. He is now in a rehab center and is making good progress! He passed the "swallow test" last week. He's now on pureed foods and thick liquids, and they're working on getting him off the feeding tube. He is also walking a bit. Don was one of the very first people I met when I joined NSA on 01 July 1966! He took me under his wing and showed me around. He and Mary Lou then became our "sponsors" when Dale and I went on our first grand adventure to an overseas posting at the "Foreign Office", the famed British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, England. Don had a beautiful small dog, a Sheltie. I had never seen one before; it was a mineature "Lassie". He and Mary Lou brought us to the breeder, who lived in the secluded English forest hills south of Cheltenham, where we bought our first puppy, "Garcourt Goldwyn". Years later, when our dog disappeared during our San Vito, Italy tour, Don tracked down a Maryland puppy on the Eastern Shore, from his own dog's line. I brought it back on the plane to Italy with me, to the delight of Italian travelers who couldn't keep their hands off this "Lassie in mineatura"! Keep getting better, Don!


Love,     &nbs;       Regards,
Dad & Mom     &nbs;       Barry & Dale