New tech toy..

This blog can hardly be called a “Tech Blog”  Maybe I would fall into the “Travel Blog” or the “Walk a mile in my shoes” blog.  Writers are supposed to write about what they know, right?  I like my electronic toys.  I try not to follow the current trends, but when I do, I try to run to the head of that trend’s pack.

About a month ago I bought a Roku 3 for our family’s Samsung HD TV. Back when we bought the TV, money was real tight and the cost difference between the Smart and non-Smart TV was enough that we bought the “dumb” TV. Smart vs. Dumb, what does that mean? A Smart TV can go on the Internet and view content that might only be available on-line.

An example of that would be ESPN 3. This Internet only channel broadcasts some of the second market or smaller colleges men’s lacrosse games. I can watch ESPN 3 on my phone or laptop. Neither of them have a real HDMI output. The phone has one, but the picture does not come out well when plugged into the 55 inch HD TV. And not just lacrosse, ESPN 3 covers a HUGE range of sports from all over the world.

The ROKU 3 (purchased from Amazon with free delivery) delivers HD content from the Internet. That assumes that the content is HD to start. We have also watched via Livestream other college lacrosse games.  Since we also own a VIZO  Smart TV (for the kids), we have a Netflix account.  The Roku and Netflix play well together.

Are you a tech (geek) with a HD “dumb” TV? Buy a Roku 3 with confidence. The Roku people have thousands of channels available. Some are free, some are subscription based. They even have an “adult” section that they don’t advertise but a quick Google search will show you how to find you way there (if that is your thing).  And you can play games like Angry Birds on the Roku 3!

Thanks for reading and enjoy having 1000’s of channels to watch with nothing on!



Two for the price of one..

Tonight you get two posts.  Here is the new story that I have been hinting about. Thanks for reading..


The Story of Pelican Pete

The blinding white light from the spotlight illuminated the center of the stage. It was just me and the microphone. I cupped my hand over my eyes and looked to my left where the story master was sitting, just off stage. He mouthed, “You’re on, kid” in a wordless voice that only I could see. So it begins…

     “Do you believe in reincarnation?”  I asked of no one and of everyone at the same time. As I looked around at the assembled group, I hoped that I had not just blown my chance to tell my story and maybe get a seat at the big table for the rest of the year. I was the youngest of the group and this was my first time telling a story. I had been watching and listening to the men (and some women) tell their stories for the last five years. I had never before had the courage to get up and throw my hat in the ring.

     Not until tonight, that is. Why tonight? I guess I would have to blame my late grandmother’s ghost. To think that I am standing in front of this group, ready to pitch a story about reincarnation, and I am thinking about my grandmother.  She told me the story, so I am going to give credit where credit is due.

     “Ladies and gentleman,” I began, “this story is about my grandfather, Pete (Pelican Pete) McDougal. He was a fisherman by trade in his early years and a bartender in his later years.  He and his wife had three children, all boys. The children are all alive to this day, each of them in their 90’s.”  A murmur rose through the crowd at the mentioning of my uncle’s ages. Most people in these times were lucky to make it past 55 years of age. 

     As I looked around at the assembled faces once again, my heart was racing, I was really doing it!  I remembered the words that my grandmother had told me about public speaking or performing in public. She said to smile, pick someone in the crowd and tell them the story as if the rest of the room was empty.  I looked in the back of the room for the toughest looking person I could find. If I could sell them the story, the whole room would be mine.

    “Get on with the story, boy! Or sit down if you can’t figure your words out”, shouted the toughest looking guy in the room.  I nodded my head and replied in a low voice, “the story I am about to tell you is true, my grandmother lived this story.”

    Back in the 1980’s my grandfather Pete took to fishing for a living. He enjoyed the outdoors and working with his hands. He had a smile on his face and a good morning for everyone he met each day. He started out working on a long line boat catching tuna and swordfish.  He used to tell stories of the largest swordfish caught in 1982. The fish was twelve feet long and weight nearly 1000 lbs. That fish held the commercial fishing record until 2010 when another boat caught a bigger one.

     My grandfather got the nickname “Pelican Pete” because of his jowls. His neck was pronounced, not unlike the neck of a pelican. Pelican Pete also had one more distinct mark on his body. On his face was a purple birthmark that looked like bird wings or butterfly wings. You would have thought looking at him that he would hide in the crowd, never looking to attract attention to himself.

      After a few years working on the long line boat, Pelican Pete bought an old gill net boat from a retiring fisherman. The boat was as old and tired as its former owner.  Pelican Pete lovingly restored the boat during his last year fishing on the long line boat. Pete named the boat Jessica I, for the daughter that he never had.

     Pete was always the first fisherman on the dock in the morning and the last fisherman on the dock at night. He worked tirelessly catching fish and providing for his family.  As the boys grew up, they started helping their father on the boat when they were not in school.  One of the boys, my uncle Simon, was especially adept at running the boat and catching fish. He wanted to drop out of high school and fish full time with his father, but both Pete and his wife would not allow it.

     After owning and fishing on the Jessica I for over twenty-five years, Pelican Pete decided to quit the sea and make a career on land. What can a fisherman do on land? Especially one with a limited education and a weather-beaten face? Pete approached the local tavern owner where he had been a customer and friend for all the years he had been a fisherman about a job behind the bar.

     “Pete”, the owner laughed, “you don’t know the first thing about bartending”!  Pete agreed but pointed out to his friend that he had enough experience in a bar and would be an honest and loyal employee if given the chance. So, he got his chance to work in the bar.  In the first week, he caught two of the bartenders stealing and stopped three fights with his massive size.  Pete kept that job until the day he died.

     Pete’s one dream was to live in Florida. Situations and complications led to that dream never coming to fruition. Pelican Pete died in his sleep at the age of 66 years old. His final wish was to be cremated and for his ashes to be spread on the outgoing tide.  His wife, three boys and a procession of almost fifty boats made the trip out of the inlet the day that his ashes were to be scattered on the outgoing tide.  Each boat got a small bag of ashes so that all of his friends were able to say good bye in their own way.

     I stopped telling the story and picked up my glass of water, drinking slowly and gauging my audience. I still had most of them. “Where’s the part about reincarnation?” Again, that same tough guy in the back of the room asked the question.  “The reincarnation part is next, actually”, I replied. I took a long hard look at him and he backed down, just a little, well, he backed down enough for me to continue.

     My grandmother continued to live in her house by the ocean as the boys had all moved away. Each of them married and had children. But none of the children wanted to be a fisherman like Grandpa Pete. This was a disappointment to their grandmother.

     About three years after Pelican Pete’s death, the oldest child stopped by the family house one day to invite his mother to make a trip to St. Augustine, Florida. The oldest son, my uncle Craig, had saved a little bit of his father’s ashes and wanted to spread them in Florida. He convinced his mother to make the trip with him. They traveled by jet from Philadelphia to Jacksonville and then rented a car and drove to St. Augustine.

     The mentioning of air travel and rental cars was met by a few polite laughs from some of the younger attendees.  I noticed their chuckles and reminded them that there was a time when people traveled by air and cars were available for rent. Those were very different times, I reminded them.

     After my uncle and grandmother got settled, they traveled to the seaport to look around and find a boat to charter. The plan was to spread the last of the ashes on the incoming tide. This way my grandfather would be spread into the inlet and down the St. Johns River.

     As they walked the fishing dock, they came across an older man who was weathered like a lifelong fisherman.  Craig approached the man and started to discuss the need for a boat. The man looked at Craig and my grandmother and said “Business is best discussed over a beer and some food.” Craig got the hint and invited the man to join them for dinner at the local seafood restaurant.

     During dinner the old man seemed more interested in talking about himself and his life than listening to the story of Pelican Pete. Finally, Craig stopped the man and said, “Sir, we’re buying this meal, let’s get down to talking business”.  The old man looked at my grandmother and said, “What can I do for you?” 

     My grandmother told him the story of her husband, Pelican Pete and how they wanted to spread the last of his ashes on the incoming tide. As my grandmother described Pete, the jowls and the birthmark, the old man got a funny look on his face. “What was your husband’s name?” he asked. When my grandmother told him Pete, but everyone called him “Pelican Pete”, they both said my grandfather’s nickname at the same time.

     Craig was startled by the old man knowing his father’s nickname. “How did you know?” Craig asked. The old man answered, “Let me tell you a story, a story about Pelican Pete. The story started about three years ago when a particularly friendly pelican started hanging out at the marina. This bird had a birthmark on its chest that looked like it could have been bird wings or butterfly wing. Like I said, this bird was friendly.

     One day the bird landed on my boat while I was having a bad of day fishing. I was pulling in the empty nets and there was that pelican, sitting on the roof of the pilot house, just watching. He seemed to be smiling. I smiled back and shook my head and kept pulling the nets. All of a sudden, the nets got heavy as a school of fish swam into the netting. I caught more fish that day than I had in the previous two months. I tossed a few fish to the bird in return for his good luck.

     After I pulled the net in and the fish were all in the coolers, I headed back to the fish house to unload the boat. As I traveled in the inlet there on the bowsprit of the boat was that same pelican. He rode all the way into the inlet, just like my old dog, Pete. Funny, that was the day I named the bird, Pelican Pete.

     Each day I when I went fishing, Pelican Pete would stop by the boat in the afternoon, and watch me haul the fish. He would gladly accept his pay.   Then he would ride into the inlet, resting on the bowsprit. It was the craziest thing.  This went on for the last three years. About two weeks ago, Pete stopped visiting me on the boat. I have not seen him since.

     It got quiet in the bar, almost like everyone had been listening to our story. My uncle said, “Two weeks ago we decided to bring my grandfather’s ashes to Florida to fulfill his lifelong dream. I think that he was here ahead of us for the last three years enjoying being a fisherman once again.”

     The next day we spread those ashes right where the old man had first met Pelican Pete.

     Clap, clap, clap. The only sound in the entire room was one person, slowly clapping. I looked up from the floor of the stage out into the room to see who it was that had enjoyed the story. There in the back of the room was the toughest guy in the place, my heckler for the evening. He smiled, wiped a tear from his eye and proclaimed my story the best of the week. Then everybody stood up and clapped.

The End

Good thing I don’t gamble on football..

The NFL wild card weekend is over. The games are in the book.  I picked all four losing teams this weekend.  Dam!  Does it really matter? Does life go on?  No and of course.  I watched most of the Bengals game. I watched a little of the Packers game. I watched no football today.  I was not boycotting after my two Saturday teams lost, I was just busy and it was nice and sunny out. 50 degrees on a Sunday in January is to be cherished. 

Walking, we (DW and I) continue to walk our mile a day.  Today is January 6, 2013. This means we have walked no less than 6 miles this year! Yesterday we walked in the park near our home. Today she did her mile doing  her walking tapes and I played lacrosse with DS1, DS3 and one of DS3’s friends for 90 minutes. That has to be better than 20 minutes of walking. Or at least equivalent.  I was playing catch with DS1 (ex-college lacrosse player) and we were throwing the ball pretty hard at each other and I was slow bringing my stick up and the ball hit the top of my stick head and broke the plastic. Heads cost between 60 and 100 dollars each. It still surprises me how sturdy and fragile they are at the same time.

Tonight we (the whole family) went out to eat to celebrate the last family dinner before DS2 goes back to college for his spring semester. We went to Makoto Japanese Restaurant here in Manahawkin.  The restaurant is known for its sushi and hibachi meals.  We have eaten here many times, usually to celebrate someone’s birthday. The food is good, the chef’s entertain and if it is your birthday, the entire restaurant will sing Happy Birthday to you! There are pictures below from tonight’s festivities. The entire folder of pictures from tonight can be found here.

Here are a few of tonight’s pictures.  Enjoy!


PS At dinner a challenge was given to write a fictional first person account of the killing of the last Velociraptor that existed in North America. The challenge will be met and exceeded. Stay tuned..





Day 316, Books and more books..

This week I finished reading Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole. This book (as per the author’s forward) could be considered  The Dark Tower 4.5. Coming in between book four and book five.  I enjoyed the book. It was shorter than most of the Dark Tower (or any Stephen King) books. I don’t think that the story served much purpose to the grand scheme of the Dark Tower books except to tell us more about Roland’s mother.  I think that Stephen King probably had a short story idea and was looking for a way to tell that story so he piggy backed it onto the Dark Tower series. I won’t spoil the book by going into it further. Or, if you haven’t (don’t care to) read the series, then more information would probably bore you. If you want to borrow/read/pass on the book, let me know.

The next book that I started last night is Steig Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I read the Girl With the Dragon Tatoo this summer.  The first book was tough since it happened in Sweden. Why was that tough for me? The peoples names were unfamiliar. Maybe they were the Jones and Smith’s of Sweden. I don’t know. The places had names that I had never heard of and had trouble relating to. And the money was in kroner’s.  That made it hard for me to equate the value being discussed vs. the dollar. The current book picks up more or less where the first ended. I think you could read the second one first but you would be missing some of the context. I will let you know when I finish how this book was.

When I woke up this morning I decided to work from home. The sun was shining and I felt the need to save the planet one less commute at a time. It does not hurt that I save money on gas and tolls to boot. The morning went well. My morning customer had lots of questions and minor requests. This kept both of us busy for a few hours. I ate lunch at home, soup and a sandwich. I kept busy in the afternoon. My DW worked a full day. She came home and caught me planting pumpkins in the side garden. It was after four and I was bored.

DS1 went to the gym this morning. Apparently the gym is having an open house week. He commented on the gym being crowed today. After the gym he went to LBI to go fishing. It was very windy here today and he did not catch anything. He took lots of pictures that he said he would share with me tonight. He has gone to bed without doing this. Maybe you will get beach and jetty pictures tomorrow night. DS2 and DS3, not much to tell. DS3 is getting ready for finals. DS2 has music practice for the commencement mass and the actual commencement ceremony.

Tonight picture are from my parent’s wedding day. Enjoy!




Day 308, and the full moon is not for four more days..

People were crazy today. Somewhat yesterday as well. During my drive home yesterday there were no less than 6 cars broken down or with flat tires. I felt lucky to get home without any issues. This morning there was a car flipped over, two sets of three cars that rear ended each other and a car on fire. All this excitement in 5 miles of the GSP.  If you mix in the inconsiderate (more so than usual) drivers for the rest of my 35 mile commute, you would get an accurate picture of the drive to work.  Why was everybody so crazy? Sunday is the full moon, maybe that is the problem.

Work was ok. The day was fairly structured. I missed my lunch break. I ate while working (not my favorite thing). I was able to leave the building to go to the bank and Wendy’s for a Frosty. Yum!  My DW had a quiet day. She was on the early shift so she got to leave early. DS1 came home tonight. He talked about work. He is getting an education in salesmanship and pricing. DS2 is almost done with his finals. DS3, I picked up a picture off Facebook that his is on. An ROTC picture. Other than that, a quiet day. I started reading Steven King’s  “The Wind Through the Keyhole” So far so good. Back to the Dark Tower.

Tonight’s picture is from Facebook compliments of DS3. Enjoy!


Post 105 starts the novel..

The boom of the lightning bolt shook the building so hard that the Musician sat straight up, no longer asleep.  Damm, he thought, another night shot to hell.  As he rubbed the last vestiges of sleep from his eyes he noticed that the clock radio next to the hotel bed was dark. The through the wall air conditioner so prevalent in these 1970 era roadside hotels was silent as well.  I guess the power went out with that last lighting bolt, he thought. Light or dark, the Musician did not care.  He had stayed in worse, slept in worse and woken up in worse. At least (so far) he was not sleeping in a jail cell tonight.

He pushed the button on the side of his watch to illuminate the face. 2:45 am.  Then the light went out. If anyone had been in the room with him they would have noticed his kind eyes and the slightly crooked twist to his nose.  All battle scars, water under the bridge, he would tell you. As he got up to walk to the bathroom he sensed something was out-of-place in the room. He squinted and slowly looked around. There was no light, not event he street lights were working.  He slowed his breathing down, and crouched down to make himself a smaller target.  And he waited, listening. When he was satisfied that it was only his nerves playing tricks on him he finished getting up and went to use the bathroom. At least the hotel still had water pressure. They must have city water. A power outage would have shut off a well.

As he left the bathroom he stubbed his left foot on something that was not where he left it. Back on alert, he crouched into his tiger stance. Scanning left to right and back again. Still nothing. He reached down and found his bag had fallen off the desk during the night. Wow, he thought, that must have been some lighting strike.  He put the bag back on the table and walked over to the door. He stared at the door, almost willing it to tell him what was on the other side. He listened and did not hear any movement nor did he hear any rain. That was good since walking in the rain was one of his least favorite things. And it was not good for his instruments.

He turned around and quickly got dressed, not wasting motions. Jeans, shirt, socks and boots, all where he had left them just a few hours before. He grabbed his guitar case and his traveling bag and reached for the door. Stopping, again listening. All quiet. He opened the door and quickly slipped out, slightly crouched to mask his height. Down the corridor, down the stairs. Never take an elevator if you can avoid it.  Outside. Yes, freedom from that building felt good. He turned to his right to start walking towards the interstate when he caught a flash of light or a reflection of some sort. He dropped to his knees just as a shotgun discharged from about ten feet away. The belch of fire illuminating the dark night. He felt the wind as the buckshot flew just inches from his face.

Then all was quiet. No talking, no running, no cars, no voices, nothing. The shooter was waiting to see if the Musician was alive, dead or somewhere in between.  Far from in between, perfectly fine. Many might have said his actions in the room and earlier that evening were the tell-tale signs of someone suffering from delusional paranoia. But he was not paranoid, people, person, something was definitely after him tonight.  Comes with the job I guess, he thought to himself. Enough quiet time on the ground, now it was time to turn back his attacker and get moving on to his next gig.

Leaving the guitar case and the traveling bag on the ground where he dropped them, the Musician moved slowly, crouching to his left. Most people move to their right so he was going the opposite direction. Slowly, slowly now he was off the black top and into the scrub grass next to the parking lot. A few more steps and he kicked something heavy and soft on the ground. Keeping his head up, he reached down and felt a man’s right leg. The leg was still warm, but there was a sticky substance on the pant leg. He brough his hand up to his nose for a smell. Smelled like blood, he knew that smell anywhere.  He reached back down and followed the leg to the torso. He felt for a femoral pulse thought the pants, nothing.  This night was getting crazier by the minute.

Screech..  Tires spinning to his left. He dropped flat on his back as a black Crown Victoria Police Special squealed out of the parking lot. The car had been sitting in the dark not twenty feet from the body and thirty feet from where he had dropped his guitar case and travel bag. Weird, had the person in the Crown Vic shot the shooter? As he felt around the body in the dark, he found the shotgun, the barrel was still warm.  He picked up the shotgun and still crouching, walked over and picked up his guitar case and travel bag and started walking once again toward the highway. Sunrise was four hours away.