"Crotty News" Postings for: February 2008 !

Hi From Us 'Young' People!
We're not doing much these days; mostly staying in the house and working on various projects.

    Friday 01 Feb - I've finally "had it" with the crazy stock market stealing money from my 401(k) at Northrop Grumman. Every fund has been bleeding money (losses) for the past several weeks with no end in sight even when the news reports say that it is "rallying". Bull! I've decided to cut my losses and do a Direct Rollover to an IRA at our credit union (TFCU). I sent in the forms today. I won't make much but at least it will be something instead of being at the whim of every shyster, manipulator and broker!

    Also received news that there will be a second San Vito reunion in San Antonio this 25th of September. It's scheduled for the same time that the old USAFSS Freedom Through Vigiliance group has their reunion. Don't know if we'll make it since we'll be in Italy in August and may be "traveled out".

    Sunday 03 Feb - Super Bowl Sunday - Patriots and Giants! This morning I finished making our flight reservations for 02 March through 02 April. We'll be flying from Myrtle Beach to Los Angeles on 02 March and stay for a week with Susan and Dany. Then it's off to see Tracey and Alana in Waikiki for three weeks, lazing about on the beach and listening to Slack Key Guitar music at the Chart House, Dukes, Shorebird, Moana Surfrider, Hilton Hawaiian Village and other locations.

    Went over to Bobby & Robin Mager's new home for a Super Bowl Party. First time I've ever been to one like this: TVs set up in every room, including the garage and the outdoor patio. Lots of food. Of course we were rooting for the Patriots and were surprised that they didn't make it 19 straight wins for the season. What a disappointment! Wait'll next year!

    Monday 04 Feb - Received an e-mail from Tom Tharp, full of pictures of him and friends reeling in sailfish off Key Largo, Florida. He's been living there for several years now.

    Tuesday 05 Feb - I got an e-mail from Enza today. She says that everyone's fine. She's on vacation for a week, and her brother Davide and his girlfriend were at the house (chaos & fun she says). She's off to visit some friends in Salerno sometime this week, but can only stay for a day. Her former husband (Davide) and his girlfriend are going to have a baby (it'll be a girl, and Davide is all excited). I keep in touch with everyone. I started reviewing my italian again. Over the years I've bought several italian language instruction books but I always started my reviews/refreshers with my original class book from Bruno Calo's italian class. This time I am using a new book and I like it a lot. Hopefully I'll stick with it and study regularly.

    Also checked the Internet for news of our musician friends on Oahu. I found Harry Koizumi, my old guitar instructor in Kailua. He is also teaching Alana to play guitar. He now has a web site (www.harrykoizumi.com) and has two new CDs out. I'll pick them up when we're there. Our other friend, Ellsworth "Ells" Simeona also appears to be doing very well -- playing at all the luxury hotels as well as a few of the hot spots of the younger crowds. I just sent him an e-mail telling him we're coming.

    Wednesday 06 Feb - Cleaned the garage again. Now I can reach my workbench and tools ;-) Installed another long row of small yellow and red bins for small tools, nails, etc. Went to Lowe's and bought seven purple lantana plants. Purple is an unusual color for lantanas - I couldn't find them the past couple of years.

    Thursday 07 Feb - my computer tells me that it is currently 24 degrees in New Hampshire and that it is snowing. I hate to mention this (hah :-) but it's 72 here. I was just out in my T-shirt taking down a few strands of Christmas lights that I had missed last month, and I'm about to plant those purple lantana plants. Also went to the local Lowes store in my Corvette this morning, with the top down. Luverly weather for February! Bought some quarter-round molding that I am going to stain (walnut) and use as a frame for those tall rubbings of 600 year old english brasses (knights in armor) that I mounted on stained plywood years ago.

    Friday 08 Feb - Installed some oak molding under the oak shelves in the half-moon openings between the dining room and living room, above where the sliding glass doors to the patio used to be. At Christmastime Dale had her miniature village and several nutcrackers up there. Now she has some decorative vases.

    Saturday 09 Feb - Got up before O dark Thirty and picked up Karen & Chuck and brought them to the airport. They're going to Ft Lauderdale, Miami and Key West. Lucky doggies. It's still dark outside - unusual for me to be up so early these days ;-) I finished editing photographs for November 2007 and January 2008 and uploaded them to the web site.

    Sunday 10 Feb - Today I am going to work on updating the NEWS section of my web site. I have let it go for many months. Luckily I have enough notes to write about each of the currently-missing months and get it up to date before we go to Hawaii next month. I also am converting 30-40 music CDs (.CDA format) to .MP3 and .WMA format for Dale. I bought her another MP3 player, a SANSA M250, one that can accept the smaller .WMA files. She loves to listen to her music on these miniature devices (the players are only a few inches long). Converted 462 songs so far and she still has about 45% of the storage space available.

    Lois Hanson says that it was minus 22 degrees outside this morning in Minot, North Dakota where she lives! They've had very little snow however. I know where it is! Alice and Charlie Peterson (Dale's cousins) sent us pictures with the snow piled three feet high on the roof, and huge mounds of snow all around the house. (I'll upload those pictures to my web site soon). Our weather here in Myrtle Beach is "bright sunshine". It's about 70 degrees outside and I just planted those purple lantana bushes yesterday.

    Monday 11 Feb - Tracey and Mike have put a bid on a home in Kailua. She says it needs a lot of work, but feels they can handle everything. Steve and Barbara Graham just returned from their Caribbean cruise, including the island of Tortola which is now my favorite. They are already planning a three day trip to Venice, Italy, in May.

    Tuesday 12 Feb - I'm itching to do some gardening but since we're off to Hawaii next month it'll have to wait until early April. I went out and watered the lantanas this morning, just to make sure they had enough. Of course it rained later on. Lantanas grow very fast and they bloom all summer long on hard, thin wooden branches, making a mound of flowers about a foot high and a spread of about two feet wide or more. The only maintenance they need is to cut them back about twice during the growing season to keep them looking neat. I've now got about 30 of them planted in various locations around the yard. All different colors: mostly yellow, some muti-colored like a butterfly bush, and now the purples (I had one large purple plant already).

    I'm going to take Dale's old MP3 player and re-do it with Hawaiian songs and Guitar music for my use (I can now create smaller digital files for her old player than the ones I loaded onto it a few years ago).

    Wednesday 13 Feb - I just went to Lowes and bought five more purple/lavender lantanas and planted them next to the others, so that I'll have bigger mounds of color.

    Don't know if anyone else has noticed, but if you use Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE7) as your Internet browser, the last few "updates' from Microsoft seem to have caused IE7 to refuse to display web pages and other things that it thinks have a script "Error on Page". I've had to bring up Netscape, which has no problem displaying the "offending" script at all. I'm getting a bit peeved at IE7 and if it keeps up, I'll just use Netscape as my browser and be done with it.

    Susan works at ImagicLA and they make these fantastic works of art used to "wrap" vehicles (usually buses and trains but also cars etc). The art work is done on their computers and then printed out on wide, heavy material (I guess almost like giant reams of "sticky paper" that housewives used to lay down on shelving). Susan just sent me a picture of an orange NYC bus that had been wrapped with artwork advertising Jim Carrey's new film, "Horton Hears A Who". So, if you're in New York and you see a bus with an elephant lying on its side (and crushing the roof), that's hers!

    Thursday 14 Feb - Valentine's Day - I hung paintings in the morning, then edited more of the 31 Dec New Year's party photos from Karen & Chuck's party. Dale went to the gym, something that neither one of us has done in a while (I haven't for a LONG time). For Valentine's Day - Dale made reservations at the Bonefish restaurant on US-17South, just a few miles from here. It was CROWDED but the food was excellent. Then we drove to Club 2001 in North Myrtle Beach to meet with Bonnie & Rick Neal, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary! Jay Holder, our Shag Dance teacher showed up , as did several other of their friends. Craig Woollard Band was playing - they're good!

    Susan says that they are going to look at a house for sale in a place near them called Eagle Rock. She says it's small and she just wants to get an idea of how to visualize that size in person.

    Friday 15 Feb - Karen just phoned from Ft Lauderdale, Florida. They're at the end of their vacation and getting close to the airport. They went to Miami to see Doc Antle's compound there (T.I.G.E.R.S.) and also drove down to Key West. From her description of their trip ('Great') they saw more of Key West and Ft. Lauderdale than I ever did! I picked them up later in the evening at Myrtle Beach airport.

    Saturday 16 Feb - I found camcorder tapes from 2005, 2006 and 2007 that I hadn't converted. I had to relearn how to do it (I wrote the instructions down this time), but I actually discovered a better way to do it than I had done before, so it wasn't time wasted.

    Sunday 17 Feb - Months ago Chuck told me that he used Windows Movie Maker to make videos from his camcorder tapes. It converts to the .WMA format while my other programs use the .MPG format and then transcodes to make DVDs. However, the Windows Movie Maker is easy to use and gives you many choices for different formats, so I used it to make video clips suitable (small size) for sending via e-mails as attachments.

    I brought the treadmill in from the porch and set it up in my office. The weather changes back and forth from hot to cold so it's better to have it inside where I'll use it.

    Monday 18 Feb - Exercised on the treadmill this morning. Two miles. Let's see if I can keep it up. Front picture window leaks. Hopefully I fixed it this time (leaked last year too). I used a whole tube of caulk. I renewed our Society of Shaggers (SOS) membership on-line tonight. The membership cards get us into all the Shag Dance nightclubs for free. Contacted an on-line Nursery company today. I'd like to order a lot of their groundcovers (plants), but since we're going to be out-of-state until 02 April, we need to make sure my order wouldn't be delivered until after 02 April. We'll see if they can do that.

    Thursday 21 Feb - I did our taxes today with the H&R Block "TaxCut Federal" software sold at Circuit City (and places like Best Buy, etc) for $19.99. I've been buying this software each year since 2002. Works fine but this year I'm running a different anti-virus program (and Firewall) called AVG, and when the TaxCut software was loading a new printer driver (for .PDF files) it "hung up" and wiped out all my existing printer drivers and programs! I had to contact their on-line tech support, which was actually easy (it sets up a live "chat" link between you and their technician in a window on your computer). He gave me a couple of hints and I was able to find my two disks and reload everything. From now on I'm shutting down my firewall and anti-virus programs whenever I install any new software! Best news is that, after a couple of years of us having to PAY extra taxes, this year we're getting a refund!!

    Saturday 23 February - Well, I did it. Every morning for the past week, as soon as I got up, I first walked three miles on the treadmill. I usually listen to "Una Nueva Mujer", a CD by Olga Taņon that includes a song called Bandolero that I really like. I heard "Bandolero" aboard the Carnival Liberty on our cruise last October and loved it. Took me a while but I found the CD on Amazon.com. It was a Special Edition and came with a DVD too. Wonderful. Now I do my morning treadmill exercise to a great beat ;-) Of course there are no "results" yet, such as weight loss, although it looks like I lose about 3/4 of a pound a day. When I used to exercise all the time (1994 was the last time I think ;-) I remember that it took about 6-8 weeks of conditioning before a body was in good enough shape to do some serious exercising, like weightlifting, so I'm just concentrating on trying to maintain a daily program. When we get to LA and Hawaii I'll just walk around the parks, etc.

    I am STILL waiting for Northrop Grumman to transfer my 401(k) to Tower Federal Credit Union. The paperwork was sent to them by TFCU on 04 February and, since then, my 401(k) continues to bleed money like a sieve!! I've asked them, via their secure e-mail system, to check on the status but have not heard a peep from them. They get their cut no matter which way the market goes, so they're taking their sweet time. Outta be a law!

    My DVD collection is now neatly situated in my office! This last week I removed two shelves in each of three bookcases next to my desk. In the cleared-out bookcase space, I stacked three columns of five mini-crates atop each other, leaving the open part of each crate facing outwards. The mini-crates look like miniature milk crates, and all sides have interlocking pieces so you can stack them any way you like (you can buy them at any Wal-Mart for 99 cents apiece). Then I inserted my entire DVD collection into the mini-crates, about 20 to 21 DVDs per crate. Looks great, costs much less than the DVD holders you buy in stores, and I can access any DVD easily. I've also got room for expansion, as I buy or create more DVDs. In fact when we get back from our trip to California and Hawaii I should have several camcorder tapes of our trip ready to convert to DVDs. I usually also buy DVDs from the local Blockbuster store. They sell their excess stock for $20 for four DVDs, so we get to own the movies that we missed at the theaters for only $5!

    We got a nice surprise this morning. Buzzy's son Allan called! Haven't seen or heard from him for a year or so, when we visited Debbie and the family in Red Springs, North Carolina. He subsequently started traveling all over the USA, including California and Alaska! He is now living in Bellows Falls, VT., has a girlfriend there, and they are going to have a baby -- due in August.

    Thursday 28 Feb - Spent some time writing a letter to the russian couple that we met on our October 2007 cruise. They gave us an e-mail address for them and one for their daughter, neither of which works. Must be a problem with their transliteration; converting from the russian alphabet to english. They called us from their daughter's house in Miamai (the daughter goes tot he Univerity of Miami) on our anniversary, so we had the daughter's phone number, but we only get an answering machine and no responses to messages. Hopefully the letter will be received by them in Khabarovsk. Once we reestablish contact we'll talk about us visiting them next year.

    I'm still walking three miles every morning, on the treadmill, and have started light workouts with weights. Not much weight loss but I am breathing easier at night -- no longer waking up in a panic because I can't breath well. Hope to see some weight loss by the end of about 8 weeks.

    Loaded all sorts of software onto Dale's laptop and also onto a small, 40GB portable hard drive that she gave me for Christmas 2006. We should be able to use any computer programs we like while on vacation in California and Hawaii. Dale still has lots of space left on her new MP3 player for more songs, and I expect that we'll buy more CDs from our Hawaiian friends next month. I can use her laptop programs to convert them and load them onto her MP3 player. I'm also almost finished converting CDs containing my favorite Hawaiian Ukulele, Slack Key guitar, and singers and loading them onto Dale's old MP3 player (for me to use on the airline flights). Still have hundreds of VHS movies to convert to DVDs, so I do a few dozen every so often and then add them to my EXCEL master list, so I'll know not to buy it at the flea markets.

    My 401(k) is finally rolled over to my credit union! Turns out Northrop Grumman "does not accept" mail requests for rollovers, so I lost another $2500 waiting while they ignored the paperwork sent from the credit union. I had to phone them directly. However, the woman I talked to a few days ago was excellent -- only took a few minutes to do everything. Unfortunately, the Stock Market plunge took thousands of my retirement $$$ since 01 January, and tens of thousands since my high balance a month or so before that. Northrop Grumman makes it easy to transfer money between their different 401(k) funds, but you can't do it fast, and you're limited to one transfer a day, so it's not like you can compete with the crazy people who cause the market to fluctuate for no reasons.

    The local Rite-Aid store had a sale on flower seed packets. Usually $0.99 to $1.99 apiece, they sold them for $0.10 apiece! I bought one hundred packets of easy to grow marigolds, zinnias, cosmos and wild flower mix. When I get back in April I'll plant them all over the yard. I did the same thing last year and had flowers galore for minimal price. Heard from Tracey. She has a contract on her Waikiki condo! Also more good news: the house she is buying in Kailua came through with a great appraisal - much more than she is paying for it! So, everything looks good for her to buy a home in Kailua, where we lived.

    Out of the blue we got a call from Aunt Helen in Anaheim, California on the 26th! What timing! She had no idea we were flying out there this sunday(I usually surprise her). Also made arrangements to see Marie and, hopefully, Linda and Julie, my "Amirault Cousins". Uncle Ray and Aunt Evalyn live in Washington State nowdays, and Ray just had two operations for an aneurism! Lucky that they found it and could operate on it! We hope to visit them sometime in the late Spring - perhaps when we go to Steve Field's Nevada wedding in May. Speaking of weddings: our old friend Carl Klele, now in Mt. Pleasant, SC, announced that he and Jerry are getting married while we're in Hawaii. We'll all celebrate on our return!

    Also on the 26th I got an e-mail from Enza Esposito. She had been on a week's vacation earlier this month, went to the Salerno/Naples area and found an old friend, Luca, in Formia, near Gaeta. That was the location of the Navy base where we used to go for Brindisi High competitions with other DODDSEUR schools. Luca is Davide Grande's cousin and was the best man at their wedding. She hadn't seen him in seven years. Don't know if she's been in touch with Davide himself. For the past year he's been taking diving and moutain-climbing courses in his State Policeman's job, and that take him away from Salerno for long periods of time.

    Friday 29 February (Leap Year)!! - I'm still exercising on the treadmill. Lost five pounds. Plan to keep exercising while on the trip. Maybe I can get down below 200 before we come back (then again, maybe not ;-) Made a run to the dump in my little red truck today. Didn't want to leave anything smelly in our garage trash bins while we're gone. The cat (Bandit) knows that something is going on because she's seen the suitcases and that usually means we're going to stuff her temporarily in the cage and make her endure that long trip to Florida. So -- she hides all day long, usually with her tail sticking out from under the bed. She's like an ostritch -- if she has her head convered she thinks no one can see her. Karen will take care of her while we're gone. Bought some new sneakers at Wal-Mart for the trip. $15 is a great price! Also found several DVDs in their discount bin for $5 apiece: older movies like Ocean's 12, Robocop 2 & 3, Cannonball Run, etc. I've also been buying DVDs like these on Ebay for $4.00 to $7.00 including shipping & handling. Karen & Chuck came over for dinner and we watched a movie they got at Blockbuster: "I Could Never be Your Woman" with Michelle Pfeiffer. Never heard of it, but it was very good/funny!

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