Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Brown Bagging

Signs, signs. Everywhere a sign.

The signs of a slowing economy are popping up all over Brevard County.

I saw another yesterday, the second this week, outside a once busy lunch spot.

"Now Open for Breakfast."

Is the writing on the wall for small restaurants?

With the high price of fuel passed along in the form of raised food costs to local eateries, guess who gets hits with a little less sandwich that costs just a little bit more?

The customers.

From the signs of the extra hours Mom and Pop are putting in, looks like we aren't buying it...lunch, breakfast, not even a snack.

Has eating out become a luxury we simply can't afford?

Talk to Me.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Born Free?

Every parent snips a lock of hair from their child as a sentimental keepsake, but these days, that loving tradition has morphed into a source of your kid's DNA.

Apparently, when children are finger-printed for identification, parents are also asked to give up a few strands for a DNA collection kit. (Imagine tap-dancing around that question as a volunteer cuts your child's curls. "Mommy, Daddy, how can my hair help the police find me when I'm lost?")

It get worse. A cotton swab to the inner cheek, blood samples and baby teeth are among the kiddie forensics gathered by anxious parents just in case.

Have parents become so paranoid about missing children that handing over their child's personal blueprint with no questions asked is becoming a parenting standard?

England took Kid ID to a whole new level through biometrics, the study of methods for uniquely recognizing humans by one or more physical or behavioral traits. With the English kids, fingerprints were scanned, converted into digital data and recorded. One thumb down on a scanner identified kids paying for school lunch, checking out a library card, all in the name of moving the queue along at a faster pace.

Imagine the possibilities.

But the Brits weren't so happy about giving up their youngster's human stamp. Many felt "this is a part of an enormous softening-up exercise targeting society's most impressionable, so they'll accept cradle-to grave snooping."

After many schoolchildren were printed at school without permission, parents organized and made quite the public row against the government aka Big Brother.

Ban the Scan.

Leave those kids alone.

Back here in the Orwellian States, it's hair today...

...but what will we allow our children to lose tomorrow?

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Jack and Jackie

You gotta love Jack and Jackie.

The Sheriff and the Commissioner never thought the state legislature would take a bite out of the county crime budget.

I'm not certain where Jack Parker and Jackie Colon have been, but a quick peek at the Financial Indicators and Major Revenue Sources report--compiled by the county Budget Office--is crystal clear.

A county is only as strong as its real estate market...

...and Brevard County got a heckuva lot of sand kicked in their face by the property value bully.

The percentage change in property values plummeted from a 26.81% high in 2007 to a low of 4.10% in 2008.

What went zooming up, came crashing down in the form of less tax revenue.

No matter on whom our local sad sack politicians attempt to place the blame, all county agencies--including Parker's office--will take a bite in the budget this go round.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Buy Art

Hey, Brevard County!

This weekend, it's all about...


I'm heading downtown to the Melbourne Art Festival for my annual April shot of culture.

See you there.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Political Squawk

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It's Friday.

Let's Political Squawk.

Chris Matthews hardballed a ridiculous question yesterday to Clarence Page, columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

Will voters vote for "girl next door" Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

Page offered his insight. "All these cutesy questions don't mean much. It's about the economy."

Pointing to Matthews' interview notes, he continued. "I know what you've got on your sheet and I know what I've got on the street."

Matthews tried to swing the discussion back his way, i.e. by ignoring--and interrupting--the remarks of the columnist.

Page wouldn't let up. "I know what you've got on your sheet and I know what I've got on the street."

One more time, but this time, Page was laughing. "I know what you've got on your sheet and I know what I've got on the street."

I'd say Matthews got his page turned by Page.

More importantly--as so clearly evidenced by last week's Pennsylvania debate, why is the media so ready to make the Democratic race all about personalities and nothing about the real issues facing everyday Americans?

Talk to Me.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flashing Red Lights

Unmanned traffic cameras make a lot of people see red.

In fact, J. Willie David III, president of the Florida Civil Rights Association and National Motorists Program, stated that unmanned traffic cameras violate the civil rights of motorists through denial of due process rights and equal enforcement of the law.

He forgot to mention our privacy rights.

Almost a year ago, HB 1247-a Florida bill to authorize "traffic infraction detectors" came to a screeching halt upon reaching the Senate Transportation Committee. Many legislators were concerned about privacy rights and rightly so, considering that the Florida 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sided in favor of individuals suing under the Driver Protection Privacy Act. The court ruled, "Damages for a violation of an individual's privacy are a quintessential example of damages that are uncertain and possibly unmeasurable."

Representative Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton insisted his bill--which was DOA by May 2007-- was all about public safety. "When you're in a vehicle on a public highway there's no expectation of privacy."

As I blogged back in 2007
--Red Means Stop--8800 Savannah motorists would think otherwise, having had more than just their picture taken by a red-light camera.

Information snapped was somehow cross-indexed with additional private data in Georgia's databases. Through some weird high tech security quirk-names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers of the lucky ticket recipients-were published on the Internet.

All the personal data was immediately available through a simple Google search on the ticketholder's name.

For seven months.


Run a red light? Lose your identity.

The Melbourne City Council made a wise decision by proceeding with caution through this Big Brother of an issue.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Bouncing Super D's

Although Pennsylvania was declared a victory for Hillary Clinton early Tuesday evening, the pundits stuck around to jockey about the numbers, kvetching about the margin of the said win.

When is a win a not a win?

According to those I know who are in the know...

Ten points over Obama would be considered a big Clinton win.

Anything between five and ten is considered a narrow win and evidence that Clinton is on her way out.

Under five?

As we all know the former First Lady never says never, her win becomes a liability for the Democratic Party.

In such a scenario, don't take your eyes off the bouncing super delegates.

They'll stop the drama by siding with Obama.

At 10:06 PM, 8 points separated the two 54%-46% with 55% reporting.

On to North Carolina and Indiana?

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If Not There...Where?

Be a city planner for the day.

Where would you locate an expanded Daily Bread?

And what--if any--role do churches play in feeding our area homeless?

Read my ideas here.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Yes. Yes. Yes.

HILLARY Clinton has been forced to publicly concede presidential rival Barack Obama could win the White House in November, despite her campaign privately claiming for months he was unelectable.

When first asked the question, she tried to dodge it, talking about her confidence that Democrats would win in November.

But when pressed about whether Obama can win, she said “yes, yes, yes."

Deborah Simmons, columnist for the Washington Times had this to say about that.

"Mrs. Clinton, in her response, sounded more like Meg Ryan's character in "When Harry Met Sally" — saying, "Yes. Yes. Yes." — than she did a fully grown politician running for the highest office in all the land." ( 4/18/2008).

I'll have what Simmons is having.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tool Time

Hey Brevard County! This weekend, it's all about you.

What caught your attention this past week?

Yesterday, I turned on the water in my kitchen sink only to have the faucet handle break off in my hand.


Ever the problem solver, I stuck a pair of scissors in the now exposed thing-a-ma-jig--as noted as Figure C---and presto!

New faucet handle!

I knew all those years watching Home Improvement would pay off down the line.

What's your plans for the weekend?

Talk to Me.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Political Squawk

blog post photo

It's Friday.

Time to get your Political Squawk on.

It's our day to parrot the pundits, to discuss among ourselves one political question pollied about by the Beltway Boys during the week.

Calling Wednesday night's ABC News debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "...another step downward for network news", Washington Post columnist Tom Shales gave the performance of moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos two big thumbs down.

For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.

Describing Gibson as a self-appointed "spokesman for the working class" while intimating that "boyish" George "looked like an overly ambitious intern helping out at a subcommittee hearing, digging through notes for something smart-alecky and slimy", Shales summed up the pair's performance before a national audience hungry for answers on substantive issues in just two words.

Shoddy. Despicable.

Is Shales right on the money?

Was the most fascinating aspect of the debate "waiting to see how low he (Gibson) and Stephanopoulos would go"?

Have our expectations for what passes for debate in this country fallen just as low?

Talk to Me.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thank Heaven for 7-11

Watching the video of the Cheerleader Thrashing was a big mistake.

The bigger mistake was thinking I had witnessed anything like it ever before.

As a teenager, I watched my share of girl fights. I once witnessed a girl chase another up and over the free-standing lockers at Johnson Junior High. But most took place at the 7-11 on the corner of Croton and Aurora. These were the standard "just be there" fights. Big crowds, name-calling, hair pulling, but a couple of slaps into it brought the manager flying out of the store to break the whole thing up. The altercation was over before it began.

Subconsciously, that's likely why such a public place was chosen. Before things got too far out of hand, an adult would step in.

Back then, this unsettling right of passage was more about showing up, proving one wasn't a coward, wasn't chicken.

Premeditation best describes the Lakeland ambush.

Lured to the house, the victim was beat savagely behind closed doors. The hardest part was watching the girl beg to leave, only to be pummeled repeatedly for asking. Her attackers were frenzied in a manic way, just short of out of control, teen sharks swept up in a feeding frenzy, physically intent on taking this girl out.

That's the brutal sociopathic difference.

This fight wasn't about saving face.

This fight was about breaking face.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Floridian Fox Trot

My brother's living the Weather Channel out in McHenry, Illinois.

Instead of facing 100 mile per hour hurricane force winds--weather we're used to--he's looking out the back window watching the Fox River crest.

What does a born and bred Floridian do in such a circumstance?

Calls his Big Sister.

"The waves are breaking, just like Sebastian. Straight on breakers! Good thing I packed light coming out here. I'm ready to go. Got a couple of pontoon boats out back...might have to manage the currents, but that might be the way out of here."

I google Fox River.
Right now, the worst area seems to be homes along the Fox River in McHenry, Johnsburg and south from there. Water in that area is 2 feet above flood stage and about 1 foot past the point where homes are damaged.
Not a good sign.

"Or maybe I should drive out."

Not a good idea.

I ask after his landlady, who lives in the other half of the house.

"She's watching tv."

That sounds promising. What does she think? Is she worried? Does she have sandbags?

My brother sounds aggravated. "She's says she's insured."

I keep googling.
Barring additional rain in the next couple of days, water on the Chain O' Lakes should crest within 24 hours and start dropping later this week...
I relay the information.

He's not listening, bent on planning his escape.

"If I head down the Mississippi, I bet I can find the

I start laughing--my usual reaction when faced with a situation totally beyond my control.

"It's not funny. The river's like 10 feet from the house."

Gives a whole new meaning to waterfront property.


I google Katrina.

Got an ax in the attic?

"I'm going to bed. UPSTAIRS."

Sweet pontoons.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Teen Beat

Never say teenagers don't aspire to greatness.

The eight Central Florida teens charged with beating a 16-year-old unconscious definitely got what they wanted.

Worldwide exposure.

Yet this isn't the first time we've watched Florida teens beat down a peer during a video shoot, visions of fame dancing in their heads.

Back in 2007, the beatdown of a 12-year-old girl was intentionally captured on video for upload to Photobucket.

This video began with one girl fighting a 12-year-old. Two more girls jump in, slapping and kicking the victim until she breaks away, and climbs into a parked green Ford Explorer.

Another girl is captured on the video taking photos.

The victim is pulled from the SUV as the video ends, but another short video posted at the site shows her getting thrashed inside and outside the vehicle.

Then there were these girls.

Back in the 1960's, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten were just a bit older than our Florida teens when involved in the Manson pack attack called the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Imagine if each had carried a video cell phone?

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Plastic Threat?

Last week found us all turning over our plastic bottles in search for the dreaded numbers 3,6,or 7 housed within a triangle.

Some scientists say drinking from such labeled plastics may be hazardous to your health.

(Watch the video here).

Healthy? Hazardous? Hype?


Talk to Me.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008


This weekend, it's all about you.

What caught your attention this past week?

What made you stop and think or possibly, shake your head in disgust?

It's your turn to start the conversation.

I'm listening.

Talk to Me.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Political Squawk

It's Friday. Time to get your Political Squawk on.

It's our day to parrot the pundits, to discuss among ourselves one political question pollied about by the Beltway Boys during the week.

All views are welcome. All parties are welcome.

Read over at The New York Times:

Declaring that the United States had averted failure in Iraq, President Bush said on Thursday that the senior commander there could “have all the time he needs” before reducing troops further.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said the president “refuses to face reality.”

“It’s time for the president to answer the question being asked of him: in the wake of the failed surge, what is the endgame in Iraq?” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement.
Good question.

What--and when--is the endgame in Iraq?

Squawk-it-to-me, Parrotheads.

Talk to Me.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The House Where Jack Wrote

With the price of gas sky high, I've been attempting to justify a drive over to the Orlando IKEA.

For those of you who have yet to visit the Scandinavian super store, the experience slaps Disneyesque--a theme park for the terribly hip and incredibly cool shopper.

Surfing the Internet--in search for what Florida offers in the way of summer writing workshops for the essayist who lives in my soul--I came across a reason to bee-line over.

Jack Kerouac.

The Beat Generation writer actually lived in the College Park area of Orlando during the fifties, where he wrote the manuscript The Dharma Bums.

The house is utilized by writers-in-residence and open to the public for readings throughout the year.

I thought it might be cool to take a look at where the voice of a generation put his thoughts to paper and perhaps if lucky, I'll catch a bit of the Kerouac vibe.

Then I'm On the Road to Scandinavia.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

No Soup for You

Because a few always seem to ruin a good thing for all, the City of Melbourne is forced to deal with the public outcry against the expansion of the Daily Bread.

As the two sides meet to break bread over how to resolve the issue, I'll just state the obvious.

Why not relocate an expanded Daily Bread near a city governmental entity capable of supervising those who don't go home after dessert?

Melbourne PD-- housed out on Apollo Blvd.--would be my first choice. Located away from neighborhoods, the site offers ample room with the added bonus of round the clock law enforcement security as well as convenient access to social service next door neighbor--the Salvation Army.

Or is the real meat of the matter less about the Daily Bread and more about driving the fringe from our community completely?

No more soup for them?


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Launching a Big Controversy

Allow me a moment of shameless self promotion.

Launching a big controversy-Building private liftoff complex not in our best interest
is my second community column contribution to Florida Today.

Here's a teaser.

To read the column in its entirety, please follow the provided link.

Space moves me.

Ever since we lost Challenger, I cross my fingers when the shuttle launches.

Upon re-entry, the signature double sonic boom-BOOM catches me catching my breath in remembrance of shuttle Columbia.

Back in 1967, the sudden deaths of Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee caused me great sorrow. A few years later, the Apollo program folded and my family was forced to relocate to Fort Lauderdale to find work.

As we headed south and I watched my senior year in high school symbolically fade away in the rearview mirror, my heart simply broke. After 10 years of life as a space rat, NASA had let me down.

Here we go again.

Read more here.

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Monday, April 7, 2008


My border collie visited a dog park everyday.

It was called The Backyard.

These days, as dogs sprint past the honorable designation of Man's Best Friend and become more like surrogate children, the fenced area out back just isn't good enough.

It's off to one of four Brevard County dog parks where our canine friends can Benji about, just Lassie around or Rin Tin Tin to their heart's desire.

Yet Kathryn Walthall bemoans the fact that the walk to the park is no walk in the park. She and her bundle of joy must travel twenty miles round trip to cavort about leash-free. This canine leisure activist is circulating a petition to help persuade Port St. John to put 75 grand into doggy park development closer to home.

One glance at her age begs me to Old Yeller one point home.

At 28, Ms. Walthall has likely not lived long enough to experience just how quickly a community can go to the dogs after The Big Dog lays off 6,400 people from their jobs out at KSC.

That's no walk in the park, dog or otherwise.

Until NASA can figure out how best to leash the fall-out of the post-Shuttle years, now is the time for local government to collar needless expenses, such as Dog Park #5.

No matter how much the dogs bark in complaint.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Clinton Tax Returns

Hey, Brevard County.

This weekend it's all about...

...all of us.

Mega shout out to new online friends, blogging about the Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky***Southern Indiana) and The Leaf Chronicle, your connection to Clarksville, Tennessee).

Welcome to the conversation.

Every weekend, Talk to Me opens the doors the online community to coffee talk whatever caught our eye over the past week.

What's caught my attention is the Bill and Hill Clinton income tax returns, released Friday afternoon.

It's not so much the 5,600 percent increase in income made since these two left the White House that perturbs me so much.

It's not really about the Clinton association with billionaire investor Ron Burkle,
who is proud to include the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al- Maktoum as a client who later enlisted Bill Clinton to advise the Sheikh how best to purchase American ports.

Even though--back in 2006-- Senator Clinton opposed efforts by a Dubai-based company to acquire control over six U.S. ports, this blatant direct conflict of interest doesn't bother me the most about the Clinton tax returns.

The simple fact that Hillary Clinton paints herself as the poor man's Savior....that bothers me.

Will Pennsylvania and Indiana call out the Senator on the obvious "I feel your pain" disconnect with those financially strapped voters screaming "We have made no economic gains"?

Check on the returns here.

Get comfortable behind your keyboard with a hot steaming cup of joe.

Talk to Me.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Political Squawk

Friday brings out the best Political Squawk in all of us.

It's our day to parrot the pundits, to discuss among ourselves one political question pollied about by the Beltway Boys during the week.

All views are welcome. All parties are welcome.

Read over at Crooks and Liars:

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is calling on presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) to sign on as a co-sponsor to his GI bill, which would improve educational benefits to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“McCain needs to get on the bill,” Webb told reporters after a Christian Science Monitor breakfast meeting on Wednesday. He said legislation mirroring the post-World War II GI bill should not be considered a “political issue.”

Fifty-one Senators have signed on to the bill. Nine are Republicans.

Why is John McCain AWOL on the new GI Bill?

Why won't the Vietnam vet and champion of veteran benefits sign on for those who signed up?

Politically squawking, what do you think Parrotheads?

Talk to Me.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008


Usually dragons are slain, but Annie--she slayed me.

Not many towns can boast a dragon.

I thought Annie was beyond cool. Yet for years, I took the old girl for granted. She was always out there on point, a loyal harbinger for all who lived within her watch. Our dragon stood statuesque against a backdrop of Paradise and became as familiar as a lighthouse, standing strong in her resolution.

But it's sort of like raising dogs with children. Time has a way of flying by and before long, kids are no longer kids yet the dog ages right along with them, only on the fast track. The muzzle grays, the eyes cloud, the gait becomes a shuffle. The anxious feeling of borrowed time sets in. More love and appreciation is spent on Fido. More pats, more hugs, more special treats. Every day counts because each day might be the last.

We reacted the same to Annie. As news of her decrepit constitution spread, locals were in denial that the dragon could one day be felled. Causeway crossers scanned for and pointed out Annie more often to their friends and family, as if doing so would ward off the inevitable.

But in the end, the elements slew Annie. A strong storm crumbled this creature of local mythological proportions, sweeping her remains into the Banana River.

She was gone.

When I learned of the recent proposal to build a luxury hotel where the dragon once stood, I sensed a rebirth for those cities and towns over whom Annie hovered--Eau Gallie, Indian Harbour, Satellite Beach, Melbourne and the southernmost tip of Merritt Island, her home for so long.

Economic Resurrection.

Annie is watching over us still.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Roll Out the Barrel

Traversing a Florida road on any given day is not all about traffic.

It's about arriving alive.

Road construction projects have local drivers gripping steering wheels and hanging on for dear life, anxiously maneuvering vehicles through a variety of Cirque du Soleil barrel configurations ribboning about Brevard County. The daily commute has us passing through, moving over, along or through these alignments of temporary alternate routes, mazes garnering every bit of vehicular attention to avoid colliding head on with vehicles traveling the opposite direction.

As drivers move over, along and through, eyes focused steadily ahead in anticipation of the next impasse, we pass right by local businesses on each side of the traffic fault line, silent casualties of road improvement projects.

Dodging the travesties of the daily barrel roll to work, the pick and peck for the once familiar yet now hidden entrance to a shopping center to pick up something for the office or perhaps to purchase a morning cup of joe isn't worth the risk of sustaining multiple trauma.

And what about the lunch hour or rush hour traffic home?

Forgettaboutit. The stop for a sub or Chinese take-out just ain't worth the traffic traction.

Speaking of trauma--

How much money have these businesses owners lost due to Road Construction Gone Bad?


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Say Hello

Say hello to my new Florida Today citizen blogger friends.

Jim Manely is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who loves to talk conservative politics. Jim and I served together on the 2007 Citizen Advisory Board for Florida Today. Some people truly have a voice and Jim is one of those people. Jump in the debate. Check him out at Right Turn.

Jack Harris is a business consultant who knows corporate America and government. Now that sounds interesting, considering many feel Hillary Clinton flashes the neon sign for corporate America. Check out his opinions over at Getting Down to Business.

Let's hear your voice.

Talk to Us.

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