Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting the property tax run-around

Let me preface this rant by accepting a portion of the blame for my latest headache. I suppose I should have noticed that my property tax bill hadn't arrived. But, I didn't.

Fortunately, my mortgage company was kind enough to inform me of the situation.

The Orange County Tax Collector certainly made no such effort, though I believe Florida statutes include that responsibility in their job description.

Of course, this may be due to the fact that the guy in charge of that particular looney bin is pushing 100 years of age . . . . literally. I mean, this guy has been taking our hard-earned money in this little corner of heaven since before Disney World was a twinkle in Walt's eye.

That probably explains why he mailed my tax bill to the wrong address. But, even though it was promptly returned to his minions by the post office as undeliverable, no one over there bothered to make any attempt to get the bill to me. If they had simply mailed it to the address they were taxing, I would have had it in a matter of a couple of days.

Anyway, I talked to the kind folks at the ASSESSOR's office (who, by contrast couldn't do enough to help me and were very kind on the phone), explained the situation, and got things straightened out so this won't happen again next year. And, they told me to call Mr. Wood's office and ask them to waive the late fees that have accrued.

But, when I called over there, I had the displeasure of dealing with a nameless "customer relations specialist" who could barely speak English and her manager Cathy, neither of whom gave two whits that their incompetence (coupled with my obliviousness, admittedly) was the root of the problem. In fact, they gave me the added good news that they wouldn't accept my personal check or credit card to pay the bill. Now they expect me to trot down to the bank and get a cashier's check!!!!

And, bureaucrats wonder why they are so loathed . . .


I need to find a good tea party this afternoon . . .


Saturday, May 30, 2009

How sweet it is!

The Magic's big victory over King James and the Cavs tonight (103-90) brought back a flood of memories from the last time Orlando seized the Eastern Conference championship and headed to the NBA finals.

That was way back in 1995. You know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Nick Anderson were on the Magic roster.

I remember that night very well, not so much for the game itself but for the raucous celebration that ensued immediately after the final buzzer.

I was driving my first real new car, a 1994 Chevy Cavalier. (How ironic is that, by the way?!)

I had my kid sister riding shot gun, and my cousin in the back seat, and we were doing Chinese fire drills at every red light on Orange Avenue until OPD told us they were going to start issuing tickets to any car they caught going thru the same intersection more than 3 times. (Fascists!)

Anyway, I remember we were honking my horn so much, and so hard, that the center of my steering wheel eventually popped-off in my hand . . . and, I was so deliriously happy that I didn't care until the next day.

Oh, how times have changed.

Tonight's victory will be celebrated more simply and quietly, with a couple o' phone calls and some cherry cider.

But, at least ye 4-wheeled transportation device in my driveway is safe from rowdies.

And, let's hope LA doesn't do to us what Houston did back in the day . . .


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Friday, May 29, 2009

My deep matrilineage

Well, ye socks, modern genetics has finally accomplished what many years of genealogical sleuthing on my part have been unable to do: trace my mom's side of the family to the other side of the pond.

Until today, my earliest known maternal ancestress was an Irish immigrant named Elizabeth Gallagher who lived in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1840s and 50s.

Unfortunately, there is a tremendous dearth of available documents on 19th Century Irish ancestors . . . oh, who's kidding who . . . there's a dearth of documents on Irish ancestors of any century.

But, now my friends at tell me that Elizabeth Gallagher and all her matrilineal descendants (yours truly included) belong to the haplogroup H, a great big clan that traces back some 20,000 years to the Dordogne River valley in southern France. (The people who painted all those bison on cave walls, etc.)

That's kinduva big leap from 19th century Brooklyn, no?

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ignoring basketball for the evening

Nothing worth posting here tonight. Things in Cleveland did not go as one would have hoped, but at least the guys in blue and white will be bringing the series back to Orlando this weekend and can close it out in front of the home crowd.

In the mean time, I can give ye socks some advance copy on what will be posted in my ephemeracollection blog tomorrow. My genea-sleuthing has resulted in a BINGO! After much searching, I believe I have identified our mystery diarist. Check it out at:

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ephemera collection

For ye socks who give 2 hoots about such things, I have created a new blog space about all the odd items I've collected at flea markets, estate sales, etc., over the years.

They include series of old letters, diaries, and photos.

I like to keep my genealogical sleuthing abilities sharp by trying to identify the writers and posers, and sometimes even succeed in reuniting the ephemera with surviving descendants.

Check out the first post:

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Magic beat Cavs in overtime!

Stuff was happening at the Amway Arena in downtown Orlando tonight!

The Magic had to go into overtime to do it, but they took a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Championship series with LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers!

Once again, "King James" proved that one man doesn't make a team. He scored a whopping 44 points, including 2 free throws with less than a second remaining in regulation. He even came close to pulling a repeat performance of his recent buzzer-beating 3-pointer. But, ultimately, the rest of his team just let him down.

Final score: MAGIC 116, Cavs 114.

If . . . nay, WHEN . . . Orlando wins Game 5 up at the Quicken Loan Arena on Thursday, the guys in blue and white will be making only their 2nd NBA championship appearance in franchise history.

That's right, ye socks, this hasn't been done since way back in 1995, when guys like Shaquille O'Neal and Nick Anderson were on the Magic roster. (It was nice to see both of them attended tonight's game, by the way . . . wonder where Penny Hardaway was . . . .)

Anyway, the atmosphere in O-town tonight is nothing short of electric.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

A Magical Memorial Day!

Well, ye socks, you'll have to forgive me if I'm not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning.

It seems yours truly was more than a little jazzed after last night's concert and couldn't go to sleep at a decent hour.

Besides, I had to hang on til after 11:30 to get the final word on the big game at the Amway Arena.

Good news: THE MAGIC WON! (Convincingly, even: 99-89)

But, while we celebrate that victory and wave our Blue and White flags on our ways to the multiple BBQ's that will dot the Central Florida landscape today, let us not forget the purpose of this holiday. Take a few moments to contemplate those who have given us so much. For, while it's always great to be a Magic fan, it's infinitely greater to be an American.

Now, I think someone around here mentioned some ribs . . .

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

5 Greatest Moments of the National Memorial Day Concert

(in no particular order)

1. Lawrence Fishburne's reading of a letter by Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by violin soloist Robert McDuffie playing the theme to Ken Burns' "Civil War" series.

2. Denyce Graves' rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

3. The team of Diane Wiest and Katie Holmes interpreting the writings of a mom and sister of a disabled vet . . . all three of whom turned out to be in the audience.

4. Trace Adkins' song at the end. I need to see if I can get that CD or download the single . . .

5. The anthems and color guards of each branch of the military, but particularly the US Air Force. . . off we go, into the wild blue yonder . . .

I wonder if folks who have no direct ties can ever fully appreciate what the men and women in our armed forces and their families sacrifice on behalf of this nation?

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is that a patch of blue I spotted up there?!?

Yes, ye socks, the rain drops quit falling on my head for a brief moment this morning, and I really didn't know quite how to react!

Will it hold off long enough for me to fire-up the lawn mower?!

The yard could definitely use a good trimming. All this precipitation around here has turned the once-manicured lawn at Ye Historic Halley House into a veritable jungle. And, the weeds are creeping up between the bricks in the front sidewalk. Curses on them!

Ah, well, I suppose I should just be thankful that said lawn and walks are in this particular little corner of heaven, and not up the road apiece in Volusia County, right?!?

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Friday, May 22, 2009

What's with the officiating tonight?!

Ok, this is NOT just sour grapes posting here tonight . . . although, I am bitterly disappointed that our Magic lost by one stupid point with yet another buzzer-beating dagger to the heart.

This time, the death blow was delivered by LeBron James, to put the Cavs over Orlando, 96-95 in Game 2 of their big Eastern Conference Championship series in Cleveland.

I'll get over it, though. The Magic did manage to split the two games up at the mistake by the lake, and will enjoy home court advantage here in The City Beautiful later this weekend.

But, what I'm having a difficult time getting over is the poor officiating we saw up in Cleveland tonight.

Sadly, we've become used to Mo Williams running his mouth with nothing to back it up. But, what's with him launching balls at Dwight Howard in the first quarter?

And, how many times did "King James" get away with traveling or charging?!?!

All that being said, it should give fans of the old blue and white a lot of hope. Even with all the cluelessness of the refs and the undeniable abilities of the league MVP, the Cavaliers only BARELY eked out a win on their home court.

Methinks there will be a very different story floating around this dryer come Sunday night . . .


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yes, that did just happen!

For ye socks who were unable to stay up past your usual bedtimes last night, there was a heckuva ball game up at the Quickens Loans Arena in Cleveland.

And, the Orlando Magic did something no other team has been able to do in the post season.

They beat LeBron James and his Cavaliers. The final score was 107-106.

James put up a blistering 49 points on the Magic, but the game came down to the last 15 seconds.

First, Rashard Lewis hit a 3 to put Orlando on top. (They had trailed by as much as 16 points.)

Then, Cleveland's Delonte West tried to respond with a 3 of his own. He failed. And, a brawl ensued.

The result of the brawl was a jump ball between James and the Magic's Hedo Turkoglu.

The league MVP was able to swat the ball to teammate Mo Williams. But, Williams could do nothing with it as time ran out on the Cavs.

As the Magic relished their victory, James was seen limping from the court, his right knee bleeding. It looked to me like he was cramping up, too. Or, maybe, that was just the look of shock. Not used to seeing that kinda look on his face, so I'm not sure about that . . .


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Time for some genealogy lab work?

Ye socks with roots in the Sunshine State, especially those of you with a genealogy addiction, will no doubt be as pleased as yours truly was to discover new records online at:

The above link will take you to the pilot site's home page.

Then click the "Canada, USA & Mexico" portion of the world map.

This will bring up a list of records the lab volunteers have indexed/digitized. (They put a red asterisk next to the most recent additions.)

Among the Florida-specific stuff are death records from 1877 to 1939, and state census records for 1885, 1935, and 1945.

I know, not everyone is blessed with Florida ancestry. Guess that's why they've posted records from other necks o' the woods, too . . .

Happy hunting!

Oh, and if you're interested in volunteering, the lab is looking for socks like you to help them index/digitize more records. Something to consider, if you've got some spare time.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2 summer reading suggestions

One of the joys of vacation, at least for yours truly, is the time it allows you to catch up on your leisure reading.

I have to admit I had a glut of books stacked up in the home office lately, waiting for me to get around to them.

Well, I finally finished two of 'em, one fiction and one non-fiction.

The first was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won Junot Diaz a Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year. It is the story of a Dominican kid struggling to overcome an ancient family curse. Diaz peppers the story with amusing and edifying footnotes on Dominican history. While the book does have some dark themes, it is not one ye socks are likely to read and forget.

The second was Outliers, by pop sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, who presents some interesting theories on why certain people achieve amazing successes while others are doomed to failure. He peppers his arguments with great statistics and anecdotes that will really get you thinking. But, what I liked most about it was how Gladwell tied everything back to his own Jamaican ancestry in the last chapter.

So, if you're trying to put together your own summer reading lists in time for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, consider adding one or both of these books. You won't be disappointed!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Giddy in the City

I'll admit it. I'm still giddy over the Magic's big win last night up in Boston.

Made it back in town just in time for tip-off. I'm ashamed to admit that the Survivor finale was a designated back-up form of entertainment, because I had tuned-out the play-offs during my roadtrip--probably because I thought all was lost.

Oh, me of little faith.

Last night, the Magic got back to the style of play that got them into the play-offs to begin with. Hedo Turkoglu was the go-to guy, throwing up a whopping 25 points.

And, yet, as late as the 4th Quarter, it was still either team's game, with Orlando leading Boston by only 66 to 61.

Then, Coach Van Gundy must've flipped a switch, because the guys in blue and white erupted all over the Celtics--racking up a 23-point lead at one point.

Demoralized, Van Gundy's predecessor Doc Rivers pulled his new team's starters out of the game with 2:30 left on the clock, signalling Boston's surrender.

Final score on the board: 101-82, MAGIC WIN!

This is huge, ye socks. Orlando hasn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 1996. One more hurdle to go before making it to the NBA championship series. Of course, we Magic fans can't get ahead of ourselves. Cleveland and their MVP LeBron James will be no minor hurdle.

But, for now, I suppose we can indulge ourselves in a little bit of giddiness . . .


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Headed home

Ok, I've decided South Carolina isn't a complete waste of space, but I'd warn ye roadtrippin' socks not to bother venturing north of I-26. All the sites worth seeing seem to be confined to that stretch of Highway 17 from I-95 to the crab shacks beyond Mount Pleasant.

The capstone to my current jaunt thru the Low Country was Frampton Plantation.

Really, it was just a glorified tourist information center, but after the torturously long and slow drive from Charleston, it was at least a welcome opportunity to stretch ye olde legs.

Turns out the original plantation home was burned by the dastardly Yankees during the War Between the States. The current structure was erected on its (smoldering?) foundation in 1868, and you can see the remains of the earthworks residents threw up in the back yard in their vain attempt to save the home.

The grounds featured some awesome magnolia trees with the best smelling blossoms I've found north of the St. Mary's River.

There was also a huge, moss-laden oak tree to contemplate from the "joggler" on the front porch.

Touring the house and grounds is self-directed and free of charge. But, they did get me to buy a jug of cherry cider to tote back to the Sunshine State.

Hope to get back before the rains start!!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ye Palmetto State

So, after a later-than-I-would've-liked start to the day, I-95 did eventually carry us out of North Carolina this morning.

For ye socks who have never enjoyed that experience, you're missing out on several thousand entertaining Billboards by Pedro along the way.

Bypassing all the tourist schlock, I figured a stop at the South Carolina Welcome Center was in order.

I though--rather foolishly, as it turned out--that someone there might be able to give us some suggestions as to where would be a good place to kill a few hours since ye rendezvous in Mount Pleasant wasn't scheduled until late afternoon. You know, maybe a town within easy driving distance of 95 or 26 that had some historic site, some decent restaurants to choose from, etc.

The recommendation: "Well, um, I 'thank' they's a Shoney's in Dillon . . . they's got a buffet . . . it's only $4.95!"

I do not have a poker face, which evidently led to the second recommendation: "Maybe, you'd like Florence better?"

Florence, for ye socks unfamiliar with this little corner of . . . well . . . South Carolina, is a fairly decent sized town. There weren't any of those brown and white signs one usually sees along the roadway to point out interesting historic sites. But, it was full of a bunch of national chain restaurants, hotels, and gas stations. Just great, because we don't have any of those in Orlando . . .

So, lunch was had at the Cracker Barrel. (Chicken and rice for me, thank you, followed up with a chocolate cobbler.) Not altogether the unique traveling experience I was looking for, but it did fill the void and carry me thru to this afternoon's rendezvous.

Spending the night here east of ye olde Cooper River at my sister's place, chillin' with the Simmons clan. I'll try to get a few pictures posted. If not here, then on facebook.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Touring ye Tarheel State

The early morning hours found me approaching North Carolina's capitol city: Raleigh.

Nice place. They call it the "city of oaks" for a reason. Lots of construction going on here, but that's not the reason for my visit. I was bound for the National Genealogical Society's annual convention.

Parking was easy to find, and much more reasonably priced than I expected after so many years of being at the mercy of parking garages in Central Florida.

The brand new convention center (opened in September) was amazing, easily navigated, and welcoming.

Saw a lot of cool things on the convention floor. Some of it wasn't even genealogy-related (i.e. "Happy Feet" insoles?!?) I have to congratulate my self-discipline in avoiding the purchase of any new books. But, in a moment of weakness, I did give in to the urge to buy a souvenir t-shirt.

Met some nice people, and received a pin for my volunteer work with

Then, it was a jaunt a few miles west on I-40 to Greensboro to visit a site that played an important role in the history of our family: Guilford Courthouse Battlefield. It was there, on 15 March 1781, that one of my ancestors gave his life in the American Revolution. I've known that fact for a long, long time, but never imagined the site of the battle would look the way it does. It's not some remote field in the middle of the countryside. Instead, it is completely surrounded by urban sprawl.

The NPS rangers, though, did a great job of interpreting the site and were kind enough to look up my ancestor's service record to help me pinpoint exactly where he fell during the fighting. (Or, at least where his regiment was positioned.) Unfortunately, an horrific deluge ensued, and I was unable to walk the grounds.

If not for the rain clouds, the shadows would have been growing long by that point anyway, so the decision was made to head back east. I was surprised that we made it back as far as I-95 before pulling over at a Hampton Inn here in Dunn, NC.

Now, it's time to wind-down and get ready for the big Ghost Whisperer season finale . . .

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

On the road again . . .

Well, ye socks, yours truly is taking this rambling road show on tour once again.

This time around, the Carolinas are in my crosshairs.

I didn't manage to escape work-related entanglements til nearly noon, but eventually put The City Beautiful in my rearview mirror for awhile.

A quick jaunt up I-4 connected me to I-95 northbound in Daytona.

Least favorite part of the trip: Jacksonville (as usual). And, it wasn't nearly as bad as it usually is.

Favorite part of the trip: rolling up on a truck trailering a load of hogs and seeing their pink snouts, floppy ears, and curly tails poking thru the railings. Origin of said livestock has not yet been ascertained. Perhaps a little hog farm I've visited before in a remote corner of the Show-me state?

Anyway, made it to the connection with I-40 west bound, and am now just a few miles short of tomorrow's big doings: Raleigh.

Paid a little too much for a hotel room, but was fortunate enough to catch the tail-end of "Survivor." Glad to see Coach got the boot. Should be able to sleep better tonight, perhaps with visions of piggies dancing in my head?

More roadtrip posting to follow.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Magic fade fast in Boston

If you're like the rest of us in Orlando this evening, you're asking the same simple one-word question I am:


Why do the Magic always seem to fade in the fourth quarter?!?

We were leading by 10 points with about 5 minutes left in tonight's play-off game, then allowed the Celtics to rip off 11 unanswered points.

Once again, we seized defeat from the jaws of victory.

Keep this up, and we'll be watching Boston tangle with the Cavs in the semi-finals . . . wait, that might not be an altogether awful scenario . . .

Go Magic?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Q-tip head makes it official

For ye socks who noticed the thunderous lack of enthusiasm in Tallahassee and elsewhere across the Sunshine State this morning, I am pretty sure that was just our collective gut reaction to Charlie Crist's announcement that he will be abandoning his post at the governor's mansion in a pathetic attempt to become our next junior U.S. Senator.

You know what they say, when the going gets tough, Charlie gets going.

Since the oh-so-tan Crist took office, we've seen unemployment skyrocket to nearly 10%; our taxes hiked to the tune of $2 billion; and state services cut across the board.

And, now, he wants to take that level of achievement to DC, huh?

Well, in addition to his lousy performance to date, Crist has apparently forgotten the very large number of Republican voters who were disgusted by the way he embraced the ObamaNation's "stimulus" plan and its huge price tag . . . going so far as to welcome the Idiot-in-Chief in person at an appearance in Fort Myers. You can bet that picture is going to get some serious play over the next 18 months when the only "stimulus" we get out of that little plan is going to be runaway inflation . . .

Personally, I'm hoping former state house leader Marco Rubio is able to thwart Crist's further ambitions.

Otherwise, that goober is likely to go down in flames against the Democratic nominee the way he did back in '98 when he foolishly tried to unseat Bob Graham.

Will the madness never end?!?

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Big Baby throws a fit

Actually, he threw a 21-foot jumper at the horn to deny Orlando's home team a NBA play-off win last night.

If he was pitching any fits, the Magic back court surely would have fallen in them, anyway. They were just miserable.

Actually, all the guys in blue in white were pretty miserable last night, only shooting 40%. But, Rafer Alston, J.J. Redick, and Hedo Turkoglu were astonishingly miserable--the trio shooting just 18.5% . . .

Van Gundy's crew trailed almost the entire 2nd half, and I think everyone in the O-rena had that sick feeling the Celtics were going to do what the 76ers did to us twice in the last series: win with a squeaking buzzer beater.

This time, the knife to the jugular was delivered by 289-pounder Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Seriously. They couldn't see this guy coming from a mile away?!

Apparently, not.

Now, we have to drag our whooped butts back up to Boston for a game tomorrow night. Dreading that. But, congrats to you Celtics fans out there . . .

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mom's Day!

Today, ye socks, I am thinking how very lucky I am not only to have a mom in the first place, but how extra lucky I was to get the mom I got!

"Mother's Day" is too formal for this occasion, so let's just call this Sunday "Mom's Day," ok?

Here are a few of the reasons why I think I'm so lucky:

1. My mom is never afraid to try something new, such as making and posting digicam self portraits for yours truly to pirate and post in this dryer!

2. She gave me a leg-up in the world, making sure I could read and write even before I went to kindergarten . . . sometimes using the steamed-up window of our microwave as a makeshift chalkboard.

3. She steamed-up the aforementioned chalkboard while boiling water for macaroni and cheese, one of the many comfort foods that peppered my childhood landscape.

4. She taught me not only how to drive, but to love the adventure of a roadtrip during countless cross-country journeys we made while following my dad's military career from base to base.

5. Going with her to estate sales, auctions, flea markets, and antique shops made history a very tangible thing to me even at a young age and one of my great passions even to this day.

6. I know I can call her any time, day or night, and she'll answer.

7. Ham and cheese!

8. She can beat me in Lexulous, Boggle, and other word games. ("Can" doesn't mean "always does!!" Sometimes, I get lucky!)

9. Music from MoTown to Anne Murray.

10. Osgood and coffee on Sunday mornings.

Wow, I could go on and on . . . this list thing was probably not a good idea, because it's pretty much an endless task . . .

Suffice it to say, like everyone else, I think I've got the best mom in the world, and wish her a VERY HAPPY MOM'S DAY!

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

RIP Glenn Hennig

My thoughts today are with the Hennig family, who lost their patriarch Glenn back on 4/28 and will be memorializing him this morning.

If I hadn't already made plans to be out of town this weekend, I'd be there myself--not just because he was a Gators fan and a distant relative, but because the Hennigs are just good people and had to endure the all-too-familiar battle with Alzheimer's Disease.

The Sentinel published a fairly good obit, which I'll attach to this posting.

Of course, they fail to make the aforementioned genealogical connection to yours truly. So, I'll fill ye socks in here.

Mr. Hennig's mother was Effie Johns Hennig; daughter of John C. Johns; and granddaughter of Rebecca Patrick Johns. Rebecca was a youngers sister of my ancestor William Wright "Dink" Patrick, Orange County's sheriff during the Reconstruction Era.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Magic bring the series home for a big win

Stan Van Gundy has really had his work cut out for him so far in the playoff series with the Celtics. Injuries and suspensions have forced him to get creative as the Magic try to unseat the NBA's reigning champs. So, you have to give the old ball coach credit for his hybrid line-ups.

Tonight, Game 3 saw the return of guard Courtney Lee, who looked like something of a hybrid himself. Following his recent nose injury, he was wearing this freaky face mask. Maybe it along with the hometown crowd was what the Blue and White needed to intimidate the Celtics at the O-rena tonight?

Whatever combination of factors ye socks choose to credit with the win, the 117-96 smack-down of Beantown's best had to be one of the best games of Orlando's postseason. They're really starting to gel, and are in the cat bird seat now.

Should . . . nay, WHEN they win in the same friendly venue on Sunday, they will have Doc Rivers and crew on their heels, 3-1 in the best of 7 series--a deficit they most likely could not overcome with the Magic back to full power and not having to rely on those hybrid line-ups anymore.

Go Magic!

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Contemplating walls

A buddy was telling me this morning about a book called "Spirit of the Rainforest," by Mark Andrew Ritchie. It's an account of a chief of the Yanomamo tribe of Amazonia who was converted to Christianity. In it, he recounts his people's never-ending cycle of war and revenge.

In one instance, he describes a clan who fortified their village with two concentric walls and other elaborate defenses designed to stave off a counterattack, only to be massacred in their sleep by one of their own with kinship ties to their enemy.

This called to mind other incidents I've read of medieval castles in Europe, where the walls built to defend people actually proved their undoing.

Sometimes, it was--as in the case of the Yanomamo--a traitor within the walls.

Sometimes, the walls themselves were the enemy, because they prevented the defenders from foraging for food and other supplies.

Sometimes, sadly, would-be reinforcements were also kept from coming to the aid of those within the walls.

Perhaps, it's not an altogether bad thing when walls come tumbling down . . .

Side note: if you want to see some REAL walls come tumbling down, check out the implosion scheduled in Ocoee this Saturday at 6:45am. Supposed to be the biggest such event since the demolition of the old Orange County courthouse in downtown Orlando, forever immortalized in film by the Lethal Weapon franchise.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stunner in Beantown

Well, ye socks, the fellas in blue and white were reminded tonight why the Celtics are the reigning NBA champs.

As Game 2 in this best of 7 second round play-off series drew to a close, the visiting team and staff were left on the side lines either staring blankly into space or shaking their heads in disbelief as the Boston fans erupted to celebrate their 112-94 victory at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It was a frustrating one to watch if you were a Magic fan . . . or player. Just ask Rafer Alston, who let his frustration get the best of him and slapped Boston's Eddie House up side the head. Unsportsmanlike? I'd say so.

Despite the stunning disbelief and frustration, though, we should keep in mind that the hometown team did accomplish their primary goal by splitting the two-game stand up in Boston. Now, they can come back to Orlando with the series tied, regroup, and dish out some payback on Friday.

Go Magic!

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Magic hang on to beat Celtics

Ye socks who were unable to stay up to watch all of last night's opening game in the second round play-off series between Orlando and Boston missed an amazing 4th quarter.

The Magic controlled the game all the way to the end. They were up by 18 at the half, and zoomed to a 28-point lead late in the third (65-37). It helped that Kevin Garnett wasn't playing for the Celtics, and the guys in blue and white took advantage of that and every other opportunity they were handed.

But, then our former coach Doc Rivers turned on the juice, and his reigning NBA champs relentlessly chipped away at that lead.

Memories of Dubai Majesty fading late up in Kentucky this weekend were brought to mind. And, I'm sure I wasn't the only Magic fan in this neck of the woods that thought the hometown team was in danger of blowing their huge lead.

Fortunately, J.J. Reddick stepped up his free throw game and kept that from happening. When the buzzer FINALLY sounded, not a moment too soon for Orlando fans, the scoreboard at TD Banknorth Garden read: Magic 95, Celtics 90.

Breathing a huge sigh of relief now, and getting ready for Game 2 tomorrow night.

Go Magic!

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Monday, May 04, 2009

RIP Jack Kemp (1935-2009)

I was sorry to hear yesterday of the passing of Jack Kemp, who apparently had been battling cancer recently.

Ye socks may remember him from his pro football days, or from his distinguished career in public service (US Congressman, HUD Secretary, etc.)

Personally, whenever his name is mentioned, I always think back to the presidential campaign of 1996, when Kemp came to rally the troops at the Lake Eola bandshell in downtown Orlando.

I don't remember exactly the words he used, but I sure do remember the enthusiasm he brought to what otherwise was a dismal campaign. Many of us in the crowd then, and today even more, wonder what might have been if Kemp had been the party nominee instead of Bob Dole that year.

He was certainly a man of big ideas, more than just a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution as the party's most recent failed presidential candidate is so proud of claiming.

No, Kemp wasn't just a good trooper, he was actually coming up with ideas to tackle the economic mess we inherited from Jimmy Carter's malaise. And, he implemented many more as he served in the first Bush administration's cabinet.

Gone too soon, Jack, gone too soon.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Twin Cage Flicks

Well, ye socks, this week Netflix sent me two random movies because they apparently didn't have enough copies of the ones I actually wanted to watch.

So, what were the odds that both would star Nicholas Cage?

Perhaps it is symbolic of Nick's career, but one was pretty good and the other was absolute crap.

The crap was "Ghost Rider," based on the Marvel comic series of the same name. Ironically, I thought it was going to be the better of the two based on the supporting cast:
  • Eva Mendes is smoking as the love interest.
  • Peter Fonda plays The Devil. What's not to like about that casting?!
  • Sam Elliott is an undead Texas Ranger who sold his soul over a century ago and serves as a mentor.

There were also a couple of familiar faces--you know, those character actors you recognize but don't know their names offhand. Two of my favorites were Brett Cullen, who plays Nick's dad but is also on just about every CBS drama I watch from "NCIS" to "The Ghost Whisperer" (and was also Alan Alda's running mate on the last season of "The West Wing"); and Donal Logue, whom you may remember from his fairly recent lackluster series "Grounded for Life," but also appears in "The Patriot" alongside Mel Gibson.

Anyway, it's pretty sad when all you can say about "Ghost Rider" is what the cast did *before* they ended up in this stinker. Sure, there's some ok special effects here and there, some explosions, etc. But, at the end of the day, I didn't buy into the overall concept at all. Not worth watching a second time, probably not worth watching the first time.

Okay, now to the second Cage flick, the one I thought would be a stinker but actually turned out to be pretty good: "Next".

Again, the supporting cast is good. Jessica Biel plays the love interest, and Julianne Moore plays an FBI agent who's trying to track them down. Add in some chase scenes, explosions, and an opening sequence in Vegas, and what's a guy not gonna like, right?!

The premise is good in "Next," too. Cage plays a cheesy lounge magician who has the ability to see 2 minutes into the future, and the feds want him to help them locate a nuclear bomb the Russian mob has hidden somewhere in LA.

Bottom line: skip "Ghost Rider," but check out "Next."

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Derby Day!

While all eyes seem to be on Churchill Downs for today's Kentucky Derby, few (in this neck o' the woods, at least) are paying attention to the undercard races leading up to the big event.

Not so yours truly.

My interest was in the Humana Distaff, a Grade 1 stakes race that preceded the vaunted derby. I was hoping to watch my uncle's horse Dubai Majesty win it more than I cared about the outcome of the premiere event.

Indeed, his feisty filly charged to an early lead and seemed to be pulling away from the field until almost the last minute. But, just as she had done in the recent Vinery Madison Stakes at Keeneland last month, she faded at the end--allowing Informed Decision and Temple Street to zip past her and claim the top 2 spots.

Still, 3rd place ain't bad, I suppose . . .

Anyway, I stayed tuned to watch the rest of the racing. Won't fill the dryer with unnecessary laundry, as there's plenty of blog coverage of the big upset in the derby. All in all, though, it was a pretty satisfying day of horse racing.

But, I'm not sure if we'll have a Triple Crown winner this year . . .

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Olive Kitteridge

The latest title to fall in my ongoing quest to read all the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction is actually the newest one on the list.

Elizabeth Strout's novel Olive Kitteridge was just announced a few weeks ago.

It's actually more of a collection of 13 different stories, all of which can stand alone. The unifying element is the title character, who appears (to varying degrees) in each one of these tales about the people who live in the fictional town of Crosby on the coast of Maine.

This book definitely deserves all the accolades it has been receiving.

The only bit of negative criticism I have is that it has a very *CROWDED* cast of characters--105 names by my count.

Fortunately, Olive stands out from that crowd. To be honest, though, she's not very likeable in the first few pages. Dare I say she comes off as a foul-mouthed harpy? No?

Well, just as with the real characters ye socks no doubt encounter on a daily basis, Olive does eventually evoke some sympathy--if not actual admiration--as more aspects of her personality are revealed. At the end of the book, she remains a very flawed human being, but the reader is willing to forgive those flaws after 13 tales explain why she cannot be defined in two-dimensional terms.

Definitely worth the read. Check it out for yourselves.