Friday, September 28, 2007

A place of peace

It opened in 1936 and was a hit for decades, tourists added it to their vacation destination list. In recent years though, it's water shows and gardens found it difficult to compete with the more sophisticated parks in the area.

After almost 70 years of operation, Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven FL closed it's doors in 2003 and then was sold to Kent Buescher. He purchased the Gardens for $7 million with help from the state of Georgia and Polk County in 2004. Adventure Parks Group LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2006, stating that it was $135 million in debt, part of which included $25 million incurred when Cypress Gardens was hit by 3 hurricanes in 2004. Buescher stated that he had been unable to reach a settlement agreement with his insurance company.

In an attempt to lessen the losses, both Cypress Gardens and it's sister park, Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta GA were sold at auction earlier this week. A $16.8 million bid by Mulberry based, Land South Holdings LLC, had already been approved by the U S Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Georgia in Macon. They were designated the "stalking horse bidder" by the debtor and were the bar set for the minimum bid.

It had been rumored before the auction that William Beach, 68, of Miami Beach FL may have his friend Jon Broderick at the sale to make a bid for the park. Beach, the CEO of the Ohio-based K Wm Beach MFG Co. Inc. certainly has the finances to purchase the park but he stated that he was reluctant to invest in such an unsure property.

Beach and Broderick are both former skiers in the Cypress Gardens water show, when they both were young men. That show and the lush gardens within the property were what drew tourists for decades. Both Beach and Rick Dantzler, who is married to the granddaughter of Gardens founders Dick and Julie Pope, share the view that the Gardens can be saved by turning most of the 152 acres into a refuge.

Both men would like to see a venue that is built around the botanical gardens, specialized skiing events and the arts. There is already an $11 million conservation easement that prevents any developement of the oldest theme in Florida, other than as a park to promote the historical gardens. They would enjoy seeing it developed as a place of peace in the rapidly growing surrounding areas with additional funding from the state and county.

The sister park, Wild Adventures Theme Park was sold seperately to Herschend Family Entertainment of Missouri for $34.5 million. They already operate Atlanta's Stone Mountain Park in partnership with the state of Georgia.

It would seem that the older theme parks in the U S will continue to face the heavily financed and sophisticated rides people have come to expect and unless they can compete for tourist dollars, they may well fall by the wayside as several have in recent years.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's a "specialty" breed.......

Someone at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta GA was pretty sharp Tuesday, September 25 2007. The "dog" that had landed on a flight from Germany and headed to Guatemala it seems, wasn't one of those fancy new breeds at all.

Customs agents stated that it appeared that a passenger had brought the horse onto the plane trying to make it appear that it was a dog. The owner of the horse didn't have the proper permits and the carrier it was in, was deemed to be too small for it. They did take the horse out of the crate to feed it hay and water and have it's health checked.

Miniature horses are found worldwide and come in many colors and patterns of coat. They are designated as miniature by their height, generally less than 34-38 inches at the withers. Animals similar to them were described as being in the court of King Louis the XIV in 1650 and they kept as exotic pets.

They are known to be friendly and interact well with people and for that reason, they are kept as family pets. They had also been used centuries ago as work animals and they adapt well to the jobs of assistance and service animals, like guide dogs. With an average lifespan of 25 to 35 years, they can work as a service animal much longer than dogs that are more commonly seen in that job.

The Department of Agriculture said that they would issue a report of violation to both the horse's owner and the airlines. Officials added that arrangements are being made for the horse to continue on it's trip in a proper container.

I do know that there are many new designer breeds of pets being bred each decade but to mistake a mini-horse for a dog..... that is a big stretch I think. I would think that the first time it whinnied, that would have been a big clue that it wasn't a dog on it's way to the plane.

For a slide show of the horse, go here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Vacation destination?

On Saturday, September 22 2007, New York was once again visited by a shark. It would almost seem as though this is becoming a weekend event for the New York City area.

Quogue Mayor George Motz stated that a 20 foot-long basking shark washed ashore on the eastern Long Island town's beach. He added that a police officer and a bay constable tried to remove the dead shark around 8 am in the morning. Evidently, tying a rope to a roughly 1,500 pound shark and trying to drag it up the beach with a truck doesn't work well. Their removal technique failed but the high tide waters swept it back out to sea about an hour after it was found.

Basking sharks, named for their preference for lying close to the surface of the ocean, are among the world's largest fish, growing up to 39 feet long. They are a gentle giant despite their size, since they feed on zooplankton, which includes invertabrate larvae,fish eggs and plankton, a very tiny ocean organism.

They live in coastal regions worldwide and along the east coast of North America, from Newfoundland to Florida. They are highly migratory, in the spring they are in the southern part of their range, while by summer they have headed north to New England and Canada.

There are only three species of large, filter-feeding fish, the basking shark is second in size to the whale shark and the megamouth is the smallest of them. They have few if any predators and are considered harmeless to the passive observer but contact with their skin can cause damage because of the dermal denticles that cover it.

The basking shark is currently listed as "vulnerable" throughout it's range and "endangered" within the northeast Atlantic ocean and the north Pacific Ocean regions. They will be included in the planned international shark fisheries management plans being created by the FAO.
We are surrounded by water and that water holds many creatures, it seems though that New York is the destination for the "fearsome" sharks to make their appearance this year.

For my previous posts, go here.

Of note: map indicates previous shark beachings in New York City NY

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Local doublespeak

Two years ago, Melissa Hensler and her pet "Sundae" won an award from her township for the "Most Unusual Pet." Now it seems, the same township that was well aware of her pet and gave it pet status with that award has decided that she must get rid of him.

It seems that in July 2007, a neighbor of the Hensler's complained to the North Huntington Township officials in Irwin PA, that the Hensler's rooster and eight chickens don't belong in the neighborhood. They have raised them on their property for six years without problems before.

"Chickens are farm animals. You can call them pets if you like, but they are still fowl," stated David Stitt, code enforcement officer.

The township board recently rejected the Hensler's request for a zoning exemption which has now left them considering a lawsuit. Don Hensler stated that he has already spent $250 on the first appeal and the chickens he estimates are only worth $1.75 to $2.00 each if they were sold. He added that he is only asking for an exemption to keep the chickens, which typically live 6 to 10 years, until they pass on.

While chickens indeed are farm animals within city limits, the very fact that the town was aware of Sundae and went to the length of giving him an award makes me wonder........ do they only enforce the zoning codes when a neighbor complains? Why not grant an exemption, that would't open the door for the Henslers to operate a chicken farm on their property but instead, let them live out what probably is only two years of life as the family pets they are.

I told them to just leave him

It seems that it was an active night on Tuesday, September 18 2007 in Evansville IN. The firefighters called for police assistance after one "victim" tried to halt the rescue of the second.

Connie Deweese stated that she had known Alejandro Valencio for about eight months but had recently told him to stay away from her and her residence. She added that she had locked the doors but he had somehow gotten up onto the roof.

Not only had Valencio gotten onto the roof but he had attempted to go down her chimney and was now stuck in there. When the firefighters had decided that they couldn't pull him from the chimney, evidently Deweese wanted no part of their tearing out a wall to remove him.

"I told them to leave him in the chimney and let him die," stated

She did mean it though and the police were called after Deweese actively tried to block the rescue. Deweese was given citations for disorderly conduct and interfering with a firefighter and she added, she had dated a lot of psychos in her life but never one like Valencio. I would have to believe Deweese because Valencio returned to her house after his trip to the hospital. He was filmed by a local TV station while Deweese yelled at him to get off her porch and pelted him with bottles and a garbage can.

"Everyone does stupid things sometimes when they're drunk," stated Valencio.

I would think that maybe he will take the hint that she doesn't want to date him anymore..... just give her the check for the repairs and find someone you don't have to crawl down the chimney to date.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mushuette : lizardus rubberi

In the 21 years he has been a veterinarian, he had never seen anything like it. Mushu's owners brought the family pet to the Riverside animal hospital in Jacksonville FL on Friday, September 14 2007, after they became concerned about an unusual protrusion.

Finley Collins, 7, was excited to think that her lizard was having a baby but her father Jeff thought what they saw may have been the result of eating sand or something. He decided to take it to the vet and John Rossi, the vet who saw Mushu, knew that bearded lizards lay eggs, not give birth.

"The next thing I knew, I was seeing legs and a body and a head. It was very strange to be tugging on this thing," stated Rossi.

Rossi said that he has seen bearded dragons swallow suction cups, dimes and scews before. In looking at the protrubance, he felt they were dealing with a long, rubbery worm of some kind so he didn't x-ray Mushu. The lizard was sedated and Rossi began to gently tug on the protruding bit and by the time the little feet appeared, they knew what had.

Mushu evidently had eaten a rubber lizard "playmate" in it's tank and it had passed through it's entire gastrointenstinal tract. In the end, Mushu, a 12 inch long lizard, gave "birth" to a 7 inch long plastic baby.

Bearded lizards have overtaken iguanas in popularity as pets in the U S according to recent reports. They originate in Australia but are readily bred in captivity and can live 8 - 12 years with proper care. They are considered an opportuntistic omnivore, eating a variety of vegetation, spiders, insects and the occasional small lizard and rodent. In captivity, their diet will consist mainly of leafy vegetables and insects, mostly cricket..

They are very trusting and docile and will also be very curious and friendly and this makes them very desirable as pets. They enjoy interacting with humans and rarely, scratch, bite or otherwise attack humans which makes them very suitable as a pet for younger children. It is recommended that they not be housed together because, even if they get along, one will generally get more food than the other.

Mushu evidently found it's playmate more along the lines of dinner and I am going to guess that there won't be another rubber lizard companion in the near future. According to Rossi, the mother lizard is home resting comfortably and the baby, Mushuette, category lizardus rubberi, remains under the care of the vet's staff.

Of note: photos from Will Dickey/The Times-Union

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Someone's seeing red

Wayne Johnson of Killingly CT looked across his yard as he was getting ready to head out to work in his landscaping business Friday, September 21 2007 and noticed the animals. He thought that the bull and steer had wandered over to graze on the 5 acres of grass behind his Wright Rd home at 8 am.

The steer continued to munch grass and watch as the bull took off running, not running away but instead, charged Johnson's house. He flipped a heavy picnic table, ripped off clapboards, rammed on of his cars and started to tear down part of the fence around his in-ground pool. At that point, Johnson, who used to keep dairy cows, went out to scare the bull away from the pool before that too could be damaged.

"I didn't know what he was saying. I have never heard of that. That was a first for me and I worked in Vermont for four years," stated Trooper R J Evangelista, the desk officer at Troop D, who took the call.

The bull was slamming the house so hard that Evangelista could hear it over the phone when Johnson called. The trooper called the Department of Agriculture where he was told that they needed to find the owner of the bull and have them calm it down. Now that is a real urban cowboy, officers in NYC recently roped a loose cow, evidently in Connecticut, you get "helpful" advise.

Fortunately for Johnson, one of the neighbors was familiar with the bull and came over with a large bag of grain. That seemed to catch the bull's attention and the neighbor and Johnson were able to lead the bull and steer back home. They didn't believe the bull was ill since it happily followed the grain sack back to it's farm. Johnson did state that he will have to get together with his neighbor to discuss repairing the damage.

As for an explaination for the home attack..... Johnson is at a loss for the cause, his house isn't painted red, it's kind of greyish blue he said.

For a related post, go here.

Hope you like your Daddy...

His page described him a "handsome, educated, professional, experienced Daddy. I love younger girls." When he stepped off the plane in Detroit Michigan, Sunday September 16 2007, he was taken into custody without incident.

"This is the person that was behind the computer that was typing on the computer, indicating that they wanted to have sex with a child," stated Sheriff Mark Hackel.

John D R Atchinson, 53, of Gulf Breeze FL had originally sent an IM to on August 29 2007 to Macomb County sheriff's Detective Linda Findlay who was posing undercover as a woman of minor children who was interested in allowing men to have sex with them. Investigators state that from his first message that he was "very much a family man," they have records of his daily online chats with Findlay. He stated that he wanted to have oral, anal and vaginal sex with her 5 year-old daughter.

Atchinson was indeed educated and a professional, he had been admitted to the Florida in 1986 after completing degrees at the University of Florida and the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University in AL. He is an assistant U S attorney in Northern Florida, based in Pensacola, handling mostly asset forfeitures in criminal cases and civil cases since his hiring in the late 1980's. His online profile had also stated that he would like to "pamper, spoil, change and take care of girls," something he may had practice at while raising his own three children.

He also was the president of the Gulf Breeze Sports Association, a volunteer community group focused on youth sports such as baseball, football, cheerleading, soccer and softball. Mike Mabry, vice president, has stated that Atchinson has been placed on leave until his case is resolved and added that they are trying to move forward by putting it behind them.

Several days before traveling to Michigan for the meeting, he told the undercover officer, Findlay, to tell her daughter that she had found her a sweet boyfriend who would bring her presents. Atchinson then took a Continental flight from Florida to Houston, changed planes and then arrived in Detroit at 4:52 pm. When he was arrested he was carrying presents for the girl which included a doll and earrings and sexual materials.

Atchinson has now been charged with attempted enticement of a minor using the internet and aggravated sexual abuse, both of which carry a maximum of 30 years in prison. The charge of traveling across state lines to have sex with someone under 12 years old was added and that has a maximum of life in prison if convicted. Monday, his Gulf Breeze home on Shoreline Dr was searched and what was found there has been sealed by authorities at the moment. His wife Barbara, a science teacher at Gulf Breeze High School has taken time off and has been unavailable for comment.

Atchinson is an attorney, well aware I would think of the uses of computers in sting operations and the trail they leave. The very thought that a 53 year-old man would want to have sex with a 5 year-old girl that badly that he would fly miles away for the opportunity is sick. He may have been an educated man but he is far from educated in controlling himself and his sick desires and has proven to be dumb enough to pursue them online. One can only hope that he enjoys many years in the future with his new "daddy" cellmate.

Disguise to fit any budget

The grand jury had first indicted him on one charge of conspiring with three others in a string of convenience store robberies this past spring. Earlier this month though, those charges were upgraded to four counts of robbery in addition to the original charge.

The suspect though, Matthew Maskell, 27, has denied that he is the "Backward Bandit" authorities want for the string of Chittenden County VT robberies. That bandit was well known for the cheap but clever disguise he had, a sweatshirt turned backwards with eyes cut in the hoo..

If Maskell is convicted of all the charges, he faces up to twenty years on each robbery charge and 20 years as well on the conspiracy charge. At least he remembered to cut eye holes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hop aboard mom's taxi

The Fulton County GA police have arrested at least 25 teens and more arrests are possible. It seems that they may be linked to at least one hundred home break-ins over the past several months.

Most of the break-ins have occured in newer subdivisions off of Camp Creek Parkway outside the I-295 Perimeter during the middle of the day, when people are at work generally. Police state that the juveniles are basically kicking in the doors or entering through unlocked ones and looking for any kind of electronics and guns, things they can get easy cash for at a pawn shop or on the street.

In one break-in January, the victim had a surveillance camera and was home during the robbery. The cameras showed four young people outside, preparing to break in. One of them repeatedly rang the doorbell while the others walked around the house, attempting to see if anyone was home. It then shows one of them kicking in the locked front door and the youths ran inside to steal a couple of large screen TVs, a gun and anything else they could carry to a waiting pickup truck. Not only was it caught on video but a woman was inside, hiding after seeing what was on the video screens and she called 911.

"We did find where the mother was actually contributing to the burglaries in the area," stated Fulton County Police Captain Brian Weaver.

Weaver identified the mom involved as a "person of interest" and they are now seeking her after her 12 year-old son was arrested. Lakechia Woodward, 36, is said to have possibly driven the kids and a car full of stolen merchandise, to a pawn shop in the West End of Atlanta. Woodward, whose's nickname is Kiki or Kee-Kee, is five foot two inches tall and weighs between 130 and 150 pounds. She has an arrest record that includes charges of fraud and was not at her last known address when police went to interview her.

Now I can understand how parents easily get caught up driving their kids from one after school activity to another but this certainly is taking it to an extreme. I would find it hard to believe that she may have thought it was legal part-time work for these kids.

Of note: anyone who may know where Lakechia, "Kiki" Woodward is, contact the Fulton County Police @ 404-699-4210

It was pretty ugly

According to reports, motorists traveling the Southern California highways are used to viewing as much a variety of roadside debris as New Yorkers. What is alongside the Hollywood Freeway though, isn't the ordinary, clothing, luggage or furniture remnents.

Patrick Richardson, 45, had gotten an oversized load permit from the California Department of Transportation and on Saturday, September 15 2007, set out to move his house from Santa Monica to Santa Clarita. For some reason, he decided not to use the authorized Santa Monica - San Diego - Golden State freeways route for his house towing. He chose instead to head through downtown Los Angeles and then onto the Hollywood Freeway.

Cailfornia Highway Patrol Officer Jason McCutcheon stated that the wheels started to fall off while Richardson was in the downtown area. Richardson made some repairs to it and he was off and rolling again, house in tow. If he thought his trouble was over, it wasn't, as the roof of the house struck an overpass and he was forced to pull over.

The authorities towed the house from it's location in the Cahuenga Pass, which seperates Hollwood from the San Fernando Valley, to a more roomy shoulder near the Hollywood Bowl. It will have to sit there, surrounded by orange cones, until Richardson can safely move it again. Caltrans spokeswoman Maria Raptis stated that the house is in bad shape but since there is no definate rule as to how long it can sit there, it will stay indefinately.

Evidently, having your house parked alongside a freeway doesn't prevent the local graffiti artists from using it as a canvas....... it does though, give you a great view of the current traffic conditions.

I just went for the food

He was arrested while traveling in Hong Kong in May 2007 and has been fighting extradition since then. On Monday, September 10 2007, his lawyer, Giles Surman, told the Hong Kong court that his client had decided he will end the extradition battle.

Kenneth John Freeman, 44, a computer adviser, bodybuilder and reserve sheriff's deputy was charged in Benton County Superior Court in Washington state with three counts of child rape and jumping bail. He had fled his Seattle home last year after his 17 year-old daughter told her mother that he had raped her four years earlier.

He flew from Vancouver Canada to Hong Kong in March 2006 and then to China according to U S Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Investigators from the U S worked with Chinese authorities and found Freeman in the Chinese city of Suzhou near Shanghai. He was believed to be working as a computer consultant for a U S based compnay there. They waited to arrest him at Hong Kong's border with mainland China because China has no extradition treaty with the U S while Hong Kong has it's own government and treaties.

According to Freeman's attorney, he maintains he is innocent of the charges. That may prove to be difficult to maintain in court now that his daughter has told her story on national television. The U S Marshall's office stated that after doing that, his daughter was identified as the victim in a series of child pornography videos that were on the internet. Freeman now faces federal charges of production and distributing child pornography and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted.

I am sure that Freeman, in his warped and twisted mind may have felt that he could beat the charge by convincing his wife he did no such thing........ but to videotape it and put those videos out on the internet? I feel he deserves any time they can give him. Not only did he assault a child but it was his own child and to think that it was ok to make videos of her available online........ even more sick.

Friday, September 21, 2007

We have to blame someone

"There's no excuse. We should have done better," stated Joe Armstrong, President of Boston Culinary Group.

After all the hype and then the season opener, serious problems were found with the amount of water that was available to fans within the new UCF stadium. The President of UCF, John Hitt, had now come out and blamed the concessionaire for last weekends failure and warned them that they would do better in the near future ot their successor would.

It is always nice to see those in charge, shift the blame as quickly as they can, to someone else. Armstrong admitted that his company, which has an exclusive 10 year contract, had underestimated when it stocked the amount of water it had for the season opener. Not only did fans discover that there were no water fountains in the new $54 million stadium but they also were unable to buy water in the third quarter, when it had run out.

"They are not the most efficiant way to hydrate people. At least we won't be fixated on water fountains," stated Hitt.

UCF is said to be rushing to spend $125,000 to install 50 water fountains, something they evidently didn't feel was a good use of money when they began building the stadium. Grant Heston, spokesman for UCF, stated that there should be 10 installed by the next game and possibly as many as 16. Heston added on Thursday, that some of those fountains would be installed outside of the stadium. The stadium has a no re-entry policy, which is wise but that also makes those fountains inacessable to patrons within the stadium.

Officials for Boston Culinary have stated that they plan to have 135,000 bottles of water available for sale at the next game. They also have said that they plan to have another 11 employees working, in an attempt to end the long lines which fans had also complained about. The Boston Culinary Group handles for dozens of companies and several large stadiums. They added that they had informed UCF officials that they believed stocking only 30,000, 20 ounce bottles of water would be sufficient for the game that day and no one evidently at the university did any simple math. They certainly should have notified the company that there was no other water source in the stadium except the faucets and toilets in the bathrooms.

Once again, I have to wonder..... they are putting in water fountains that I feel, as well as many others, should have been there when it was built. Now they are even going to install some where they will be of no help during a game. I don't buy that both the company and the university believed that 30,000 bottles for almost 45,000 fans was enough and forcing fans to pay $3 a bottle is certainly a great way to make a profit.

For my previous post, go here.

No soup for you!

The rules posted in his store had inspired similar on the television program: The line must be kept moving. Pick the soup you want! Have your money ready! Move to the extreme left after ordering! The chef on the show though was known to yell, "No soup for you!" at those who failed to follow instructions.

Soupmaker Al Yeganeh closed his Manhatten soup shop in 2004, famous for those strict rules and the character he had inspired on "Seinfeld," so that he could focus on franchising his Original Soupman stores nationwide. The company introduced it's frozen soups to grocery stores and launched almost 40 stores in it's first two years. There is now a group of franchisees who feel they have been taken for a ride by the company.

Original Soupman opened it's first stores in 2005, using both the popularity of the Seinfeld program and trying to distance itself from it as well. While he certainly enjoyed the publicity that episode brought him, he discouraged the franchisees from mentioning Seinfeld or from saying "No soup for you."

At least eight stored have closed permanently, two others are closed for the moment. Stores in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Canada are closed permanently, three stores in New York city have closed temporarly and two stores have asked to be released from their contracts so that they may try staying open as a different type of business.

"They are just trying to get as many stores open as possible, and they aren't supporting them whatsoever," stated Kevin Long.

Long, who's Scranton PA franchise lasted just one winter, accused the company of misrepresenting how much it would actually cost to open and run the business. He added that the company had difficulty early on with bowl and cup sizes that allowed the customer to get more soup than they had paid for and never providing the promised summer product line.

Original Soupman spokesman John Rarrick stated that many of the early problems were due to "growing pains" and that the early owners knew that there was risk involved with a new franchise idea. He added that the company has fixed the bowl sizes, delayed the plan to open 50 franchises in Britain and has exchanged the early idea of operating the stores as inexpensive carts and kiosks for hybrid stores associated with Cold Stone Creamery.

Not only are they trying to sell a product that definately does well in the cold months and terrible in the warm months, I know for me....... the prices of $7 to $11 for a 12-ounce bowl of soup doesn't have me rushing anytime soon for their store, no matter how good the soup is. I probably will stick to the "buy one can - get two free" sale at the grocery.

It wasn't my fault

"I bet you'll think twice about doing that again. If you would have stayed home you wouldn't be in this trouble," stated Warren Gundberg.

The call came into the Underwood MN that stated they needed to make a rescue from a well. When they arrived at the site of the dry, abandoned well, they realized it was going to a bit more difficult a rescue than they may have thought. It appeared that the animal had wandered away from it's farm and onto the boards that covered the well. When they broke, the poor thing had fallen in and was trapped.

Bruce Huseth, fire chief in Underwood, stated that the firefighters quickly realized that the donkey, which belongs to Warren Gundberg, couldn't just be lifted from the well. Landowner Bryan Nelson gave his approval for the firefighters to do whatever it took to free the donkey alive. He then watched as they used a tractor to pull away the dirt and then take the well apart, brick by brick last Thursday, September 13 2007.

Once the well wall had been taken down, they put a harness on the donkey and led it out to safety. Huseth stated that they have rescued cows that have fallen through the ice but the donkey rescue was a first for them. Gundberg got his donkey back, to happily munch grass again but cautioned it that it wouldn't have happened if it had stayed home in the first place.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Honey, I'll be with "the guys"

"Over my dead body was I going to give the state another dollar for the tolls," stated Jensen.

Thomas Jensen, 68, of Braintree MA, was driving to his New Hampshire summer home when he attempted to pay the toll with his NH tokens. The toll worker refused to accept them and the state trooper at the plaza told him just to give the employee 50 cents.

Jensen had purchased the tokens before they had been phased out by the state of New Hampshire in January 2006. He told the trooper who wanted him to pay 50 cents rather than the two tokens that had no value now, that he had paid...... with the tokens. He ended up receiving a citation for not paying the toll.

It was this Monday, September 10 2007, that Jensen had his day in court of the difference in token opinions. The judge told Jensen that he had a choice of three days in jail, community service or a $150 fine for his conviction of theft of services for continueing to use the phased out tokens.

Jensen is a man of his word because he did the three days in jail rather than accept either other sentencing option. He told The Patriot Ledger after his release, that the jail was a new, clean facility and the food was better than he had expected. He added that he spent his time there talking with the other inmates.

It was after his release on Thursday, that he stated that he was considering a lawsuit against the state in regards to his now worthless tokens. It also was when his wife found out from a television news reporter, that he had been in jail the last three days.

Not only does it seem that Jensen is a man of his word but I am just guessing here but I think the state must have spent more than $150 to keep him housed, fed and enjoying the company of his new friends.

They let kids fly alone

He booked a flight from Jacksonville to Wisconsin in June 2007 as he had seven times before without a problem. This flight though, he wasn't allowed on.

"I was humiliated. I was frustrated. There's no words to express how I felt that day," stated Andy Gates.

Gates suffers from a neurological disorder that has him confined to a wheelchair. He booked his flight on U S Airways just as he has in the past but this time he wasn't allowed to board. Some of his unassisted flights have been on U S Airways in the past but this time the airline told him that he was too disabled to fly alone and refused to let him board.

He has recently filed a lawsuit against U S Airways for $1 million stating that the airline should allow people like him on their flights. He added that he is very mobile for a person in a wheelchair and he has flown by himself in the past.

U S Airways originally issued a statement that said : "U S Airways personnel determined that he would not be able to assist in his own evacuation in the event of an emergency. We feel that our employees acted appropriately and followed both company and federal policy in this situation."

Gates returned to the airport two days later and flew to his destination without assistance or problems on another airline. He did state that he hopes that U S Airways will change their policy so that no one else will have to go through what he had.

It would seem that some airlines lately are choosing their own policies in barring customers from their planes. In the past weeks, two women were told to change their outfits because they were too "skimpy" and now Gates is barred from boarding at the gate. I don't believe this is a frivalous lawsuit, he had flown on the same airline before without a problem. The airlines don't seem to have much of a problem with young children flying alone, at least Gates is an adult.

Where do I sign up?

It is commonplace to have the front rows at the fashion shows dotted with celebrities. The bigger the names and the larger the number that pack a show, add to the glitz and publicity.

"Given that the front row is what everyone sees, you are going to want celebrities there representing your brand, wearing your clothes and getting their picture taken. You can imagine how important it is," stated Lori Levine, founder of Flying Television.

It's also an open secret that a majority of those "A" listers are not there just to watch the new fashion designs strut down the runway. What I hadn't known, was the incentives they receive for agreeing to take that front row seat. I had expected the normal gifts and a few bits of clothing but it seems, some celebrities get first pick on their favorites before they hit retail or free run of the store as a think you for gracing the front row for a designer.

Some of those gifts are quite expensive......according to an Armani representative, Katie Holmes isn't paid to sit front row at her husband's favorite designer's shows. She did though, receive her wedding dress, reportedly valued at $2 million, as a gift from Armani.

More and more designers and stars are getting into the "celbrity clothes horse" show it seems. Some feel that the designers have become more open about competing for consumer dollars and if a star sells their brand, all the better, while some stars are enjoying the perks that come with it more.

While it is more of an open secret that many of the celebrities in the front row aren't their just for the view, designers are still less open about how much they may have paid the star to be there. Yes, paid, as in this could be a great job opportunity and add some quick cash to the bank account. How much they are paid is still secret but estimates run from $50,000 for Katie Holmes to sit front row, $40,000 for Nicole Kidman and $25,00 for Mischa Barton to grace the front row seats.

Heck, at that kind of money, I would quit my day job and look absolutely, totally interested in the fashions strutting by me on the runway.

H/T to Kia

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Urban cowboys

The 911 calls began coming into the police station around 10 pm Tuesday, September 18 2007. The reports were from Union Ave, Queens NYC, New York and the surrounding areas.

By the time Dimitri Mitropoulous, 45, called 911, there had been numerous reports of the animal cruising up the road. He called to report a near collision with a cow as he drove past the parking lot of Queens Hospital. He added that it had come out of nowhere but it must have found some grass there to feed on before he drove by.

The operator he got when he called 911 must have thought he was a prank call because he stated that she asked him what color cow it was. Mitropoulous answered her by stating, "Are you joking? It's a cow in New York City." Someone finally made the decision that there indeed was a cow loose in Queens and they began to track Mitropoulous with his GPS while he followed the cow through the streets.

Mitropoulous followed the cow for about 2 miles and at times he said he was going about 20 mph to keep alongside the cow. The cow finally took a wrong turn and was cornered in a yard at 85-22 144th St around 11 pm, where a dozen squad cars and Fire Department vehicles boxed it in.

The cow, by now named "Queenie" was not interested it seems in "going along quietly." Dozens of people climbed lightpoles, climbed on trucks and garden walls to watch the urban cowboys work their "magic" with lassos. Even after they had roped her, the cow wasn't giving up....... she bucked, kicked and mooed up a storm as they wrestled her into a waiting NYPD horse trailer. To add to the scene, the onlookers, clearly on the side of the cow began chanting "Attica,Attica" while others just enjoyed the laugh.

One exhausted officer was asked after the cow was finally loaded, where did it come from. He just sort of smirked and answered,

"I don't know. It's not talking."

It hasn't been determined yet where "Queenie" escaped from but there are a number of halal butchers in the area who keep animals for slaughter according to Islamic law. There also hasn't been a report as to where she is headed now but a similar case in 2000 ended with the cow spending the rest of her days in an upstate animal sanctuary.

I am sure that there were some who only saw hamburger on the hoof but after the attempt she made at escape, she should be given a chance for a long life of leisure.

Update: posted September 20

Maxine, as she is now known, is headed on one last trip after her 49 minute gallop through the city. She is headed for the 175 acre Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen NY, to live out her life with the other approximately 1,000 animals there.

The initial call came in about a cow on a highway in Queens around 9:45 pm and after 10 sightings and being trailed by a car, she was cornered around 10:30 pm in Briarwood. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stated that the NYPD was used to corraling all types of animals and from previous reports, even sharks.

"We do have the cow. The cow is in custody," Kelly had stated.

Maxine, estimated to be about 1,100 pouinds and worth between $800 to $1,000, is believed to have escaped from a live market and may have been being led to slaughter because of the tag that had been glued on her. The city has more than 75 markets where a buyer can select a live cow and have it butchered on the premises. They are legal as long as they have been licensed.

Susan Coston, sanctuary director, stated that Maxine will be the second cow to escape death in NYC and enjoy life-long care with them. In 2002, Queeney made a run for it as well and was rescued by the santuary as well. Coston added that Maxine was quite happy to munch clover in the trailer before her trip began. While Maxine may have been in custody for a short time, it would seem that her "sentance" will be an enjoyable one for many.

We can't profit if it's free

This past weekend, the University of Central Florida unveiled it's new stadium and unfortunately, a rather interesting plan has been uncovered as well. Over sixty fans suffered the consequences of their oversight, eighteen of which were taken to the hospital.

The new on-campus stadium was designed to hold 45,000 fans for a game and according to UCF spokesman, when it was designed, it was built to all applicable codes. The $55 million, 43,323 seat stadium was put on a fast track to be built after coach George O'Leary was hired in 2004. It's 2001 design met the plumbing codes then that did not require any water fountains to be installed. The 2004 codes though, require one fountain per 1,000 people, less if bottled water is available, something that would have been noticed I believe, if someone looked for it.

"For regular residents who live here, it is important that you keep taking fluids in," stated Orange County fire official Anthony Williams.

The problem arose when the venders ran out of bottled water, which evidently had been the planned method of keeping fans in a hot stadium in a hot southern state, hydrated. The university states that their vendor had brought an inadequate amount of water - 28,000 bottles and had sold all of them out.

As a result of this lack of water, 60 people were treated for heat related issues and 18 had to be treated with more than free water from emergency crews, they were taken to the hospital. The university as promised that there would be four times that much water for the next game and it suddenly has decided to install water fountains, ten of which they promise will be there by the next weekends game.

"I think it's downright cruel to lure people into a stadium for a sporting event and then make them pay for water," stated student Nathaniel Dorn.

That is correct, fans were not allowed to bring food or drink in from outside the stadium and without any water fountains with free water available....... they were faced with spending $3 a bottle for water. Not only do I find that idea crazy, $3 for water but by doing some simple math...... they had over 43,000 people in the stadium and had 28,000 bottles of water available. That leaves a good number of people without water or stuck sharing a bottle with someone.

The university may have been entirely correct in their designs for the stadium on paper but it seems to me that they were either incredibly dumb or entirely driven by the profits that can be made selling water....... something we used to just drink for free from the tap. It would almost seem that the university felt that a few dozen fountains would have taken a large chunk of their profits away and the only reason they have abruptly changed their tune comes from a huge public outrage.

It's mine....

O J Simpson is back in the headlines but lurking on the sidelines seems to be the ever-present, Goldman family. The basics of his arrest seem to be very simple but as more evidence surfaces, that may not be the case.

Simpson is still being held in jail following his very public arrest in Las Vegas this past weekend. On Tuesday, September 18 2007, Walter Alexander, 46, has also been charged with the same crimes as Simpson for his participation in the incident, stated that it is his belief that it was all a setup. He stated that the dealer who had tipped Simpson off about the items also was the one who had recorded the entire encounter.

Simpson is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center on six felonies, including two counts of robbery with use of a deadly weapon. There are witnesses who have stated that they did not believe he had a gun but that some of the men with him did.

What seems interesting to me, is that David Cook, attorney for Goldman, believes that the request they plan to file in Superior Court Tuesday will be in their favor. Goldman once again is on the path to get whatever money he can from Simpson to fulfill the $33.5 million wrongful death settlement they had won. It is reported that the Goldman family wants to have the disputed memorablia turned over to them.

While I do believe they have every right to gain money from Simpson, I don't understand how they feel that these items should automatically be awarded to them. They are allowed by law to file for them but if they in fact belong to others, that is where they should be returned. Mr Goldman won a large settlement against Simpson and has dogged him for years to gain any money he can from the man, however, his recent publishing of the book he called horrible and now this move......... I think it just shows how desperate he is to grub for money.

The items may have once belonged to Simpson but unless he can prove they were not gained rightfully, the Goldman family has no right to receiving them. At the rate Goldman is going, I would not be surprized to read that he was filing suit against the "Simpsons" program possibly because O J may actually profit in some bizarre way from the title.

It has been reported that Fred Goldman is entitled to receive Simpson's watch but Goldman must also request each item individually. The judge will rule on those filings by next Tuesday or sooner. Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg did deny Goldman's latest attempt to to grab Simpson's earnings from everything from autograph signings to videogames. Simpson's attorney stated at a news conference afterwards, that the Goldman family has refused Simpson's attempts to set up a payment scheduale, while Cook suggested that the idea that Goldman and Simpson could sign such an agreement is "repulsive."

I find that odd that a dignified, legal payment plan is repulsive, yet the publishing of Simpson's "repulsive" book isn't? Are we next going to be treated to the Goldman's trying to seize his garbage or dirty socks in an attempt to sell them and pocket the money. Simpson was not found guilty of the death of their son, Ron and no amount of money from Simpson will ever bring him back.

For my previous post, go here.

Update: posted September 19

A judge today set bail for O J Simpson at $125,000 after reading the now 11 charges against him. His has and arraignment date for the week of October 22 2007.

The statement that this may have been a set up is not helped I believe now that the "victims" have spoken out. Tom Riccio, the man who made the recording and is said to have sold that tape to the Web site, seems to have been the middleman who brought the two parties together. The Los Angeles Times has reported that court records show Riccio has an extensive crimial history which includes grand larceny in Florida, possession of stolen goods in Connecticut and receiving stolen property in California.

Alfred Beardsley stated that he had been contacted last month by Riccio, would told him that he had a client who wanted to buy some high-end Simpson memorabilia and would pay top dollar for them. Bearsley added that Bruce Fromong provided him with a list of items he could provide to Beardsley for that sale.

Riccio then called Simpson and told him that Beardsley and Fromong had the items and the two agreed to go to the hotel room together. He stated he was shocked when Simpson showed up with all the other men and that he had recorded the incident because he had "problems" before.

As for the Goldman's believing all these items are their property, I agree with the judge, first they have to prove that they belong to Simpson and not anyone else before they can get their hands on them. The rumor that this may have been a set up........just on the surface, things look a bit fishy to me

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It might be the fine cuisine

He had just been released from jail on Monday, September 10 2007, after he had pleaded guilty to conning three women out of thousands of dollars. He had been sentenced to one year in jail and had been released for time served and good behavior.

Edward Magenheimer, 70, had only been out of the Westchester County NY jail for less than 24 hours when he was arrested again. He was spotted at approximately 6:20 am, driving a white 1996 Jaguar in the suburbs about 20 miles north of Manhatten and was taken into custody. It seems that it wasn't his car, he had stolen it when it was left running outside of a deli.

Magenheimer, who had recently had heart bypass surgery, was charged with third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a felony, for the theft of the car. According to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office, he is being represented by Legal Aid.

It would seem that his good behavior only lasted a day or possibly, he just missed the good food and close friends he had while he was in jail..... he couldn't have stolen the car to impress more ladies into handing over their cash to him, I hope.

Maybe whining will help...

"Most of the negative attention was from being an attorney." he

Andrew H Speaker is back on his soapbox whining again it seems. He was released from National Jewish on July 26, his treatment successfully completed following surgery. He now takes 11 pills every morning at 8 am while supervised by public health officials who drop by on their way to work each day. Speaker will have to continue doing that for two years to make sure the TB is fully eradicated.

Now it seems that our globe trotting TB patient is still complaining that people anf life isn't fair enough for him. His newly begun personal injury law practice is floundering and his life is far from normal. Speaker states that his old clients have stuck with him but there have been no new clients since his "ordeal" began. He adds that the perception that he's a selfish jerk who thought nothing of exposing others to a deadly disease lingers.

Speaker also states that his father's practice has suffered as well. Theodore A Speaker has had a practice that has been based on referals from providers of prepaid legal services for 25 years. He claims that those companies have stopped referring clients to his father because of fears the potential clients have of contracting TB in the office he shares with his father.

Speaker is upset it seems because his doctors believe that he may have contracted TB while on a 2006 goodwill trip that distributed money and rice in Vietnam with the Rotary.

"The CDC told everyone that I only care about myself. They made statements they knew were wrong. They intentionally went after my family and out character," stated Speaker.

Speaker is still being sued in Canada, where he is defending himself pro se, since he had been quoted a cost from anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to hire a Canadian attorney, money he doesn't have. Strange how it impacts Speaker when he is the one facing the attorney bill.

Personally, I don't understand how the possiblity of Speaker contracting TB on a goodwill trip makes it somehow better than just catching it while he was hanging out at a Starbucks. As I had stated in my previous post, Speaker knew before he went on his overseas trip, he had a rare multi drug resistant variety of TB and it matters little that they misdiagnosed him as having the most fatal and rare while he was away. He chose to travel after he had been advised not to and he seems to cling to the fact that they told him he wasn't contagious as the reason why he did go.

Speaker still claims that he did nothing wrong and is now whining that the "ordeal" has cost him his practice. I do understand why it has and why people view him as a selfish jerk...... he is a personal injury lawyer and people will hold him to a higher understanding of what legally he did than if he had been a manager at Wal-Mart. There may actually come a day when Speaker will stand up and admit that he was a selfish jerk for his choices and when he does, I am betting that more people will be forgiving of his actions.

For my previous post, go here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mind if I borrow your car?

"She was still on the accelerator and her tires were squealing like she was trying to jump forward at me," stated Detective Matthew Carl.

East Windsor CT Detective Matthew Carl stated the whole building shook at about 7:30 am, on Wednesday, September 12 2007 and he went to investigate what had caused the crash. He didn't expect to watch a driver back up and crash their car into the police station a second time. By the time he had retreated to the lobby, he saw that she had managed to get the car stuck in a narrow opening.

Police Chief Edward DeMarco stated that they had witnesses and evidence that the driver had arrived at the rear of the police station and had approached it with her head and face covered with a blanket. She then evidently drove around to the front of the station and deliberately rammed the car into the front doors, twice.

Lillian Dunn, 68, of Laurel Circle was arrested shortly afterwards and is being held on $250,000 bond. She is charged with operating under the influence, first-degree reckless endangerment, interfering with an officer, fourth-degree criminal mischief, first-degree conspiracy to commit assault and operating a vehicle with a suspended license.

Not surprizingly, the preliminary investigation showed that she had deliberately rammed the police station. She apparently was upset at the way the police had handled an earlier missing person report and she had also called 911 earlier in the week demanding , demanding to be put on welfare. Police report that the front doors are destroyed but there isn't any structural damage from her "assault."

I don't think she has much of a chance of having her roommate bail her out of jail though, since she had borrowed their P T Cruiser for the ramming.

We love NY

The city officials and fish experts state that they have no idea why they have seem to have become the popular destination recently. It seems that this Saturday, September 15 2007, they were once again visited by an ocean friend.

For the second time in as many weeks, a thresher shark had beached itself on Rockaway Beach NY, this time near Beach 55th St. The 3 to 6 foot shark was found on an empty stretch of beach on a cool day and a park manager and police officers again, gently pushed it back to sea. This shark didn't make a commotion or startle swimmers and it was reported to have been last seen, swimming away.

Hans Walters, New York Aquarium shark researcher, stated that sharks rarely beach themselves but he is unsure if this is just a coincidence. Officials stated that they don't believe that there are any environmental causes to blame for the beachings.

I have to wonder though, it is New York City and both sharks tried out the same stretch of beach.......... could it be listed on a shark tourist guide now available to them or are they just trying to enjoy the "Big Apple"?

For my previous posts, go here and here.

What are they thinking?

It seems that on Monday, September 10 2007, Larry Charles, 50, decided to finally think a bit correctly. He pleaded no contest to the charges he faced in Philadelphia PA, the day his trial was to begin.

His plea proved several things........ he is more than a "sick" man and that somehow, he chose to do the "right thing" in not forcing six girls to testify against him. Authorities stated that a sheriff's deputy was making his rounds in the courthouse Jan 15 2007 and looked into the lawyer's lounge. It was then, that he saw Charles, who often worked in the courthouse as a criminal defense attorney, with a naked, 14 year-old girl.

Charles was arrested and charged with rape and related offenses in that case. After his arrest though, five other girls came forward to state that he had assaulted them as well. Some of the girls said that they had been assaulted multiple times over several years. The girls, who were ages 5 to 10 years-old at the time of the attacks, are now ages 11 to 17 years-old. They testified the encounters occurred in Charles's office, in motels, in the lounge, the court anteroom and on the street while trick-or-treating.

In those cases, Charles was charged with multiple counts of rape, sexual assault, corruption of a minor and other charges. He entered a no contest plea to all the charges and his bail was revoked and he was sent to prison pending his sentencing on December 20. The prosecution plans to recommend a sentence of 25 to 50 years in jail.

Not only is he a sick man for assaulting several children, he seemed to not even think of where the assaults were occurring..... the courthouse is a good place for that?

At approximately 11 am, Monday September 10 2007, a groundskeeper from the Fairlane Green shopping center in Allen Park MI, discovered a man's body in a nearby wooded area. The 41 year-old local man evidently had been dead for two days before he was discovered.

"I can't even tell you how long it must have taken him to construct. This man obviously was very determined to end his life," stated Allen Park Deputy Police Chief Dale Covert.

Covert stated that they found a roughly six-foot tall guillotine bolted to a tree that had a swing arm. He added that the man had to have made several trips carrying the wood and metal parts to construct it. They found several store receipts for the materials but didn't find a suicide note with him.

Not only was he very determined it seems but for some reason, he chose to construct this outdoors and not within his own residence that was within walking distance from the woods.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Make way for the trainwreck....

It seems that word has leaked that Britney Spears may lose custody of her two sons, as early as tomorrow. Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred evidently is bringing the "secret" witness who could could make that happen.

Allred has already filed a signed declaration from this witness, who is described only as a man who's had close observation of Spears behavior with her kids. Commissioer Scott Gordon, the judge hearing the closed custody hearing, reportedly has the declaration and doesn't have to rule on it. He can choose to enter it as evidence, since it is considered testimony or the witness could in fact appear in court if Spears's side wants to cross examine.

The reports are that this witness has observed Spears's drug usage in her home and in front to her two sons. It has also been said that Spears and her attorney, Laura Wasser, know the witness's name and he is not a drug dealer, he is just someone concerned about the children.

That could be just about anyone though, who isn't close to either Spears or Federline. For months, people have watched the continuing trainwreck that has occured with both of them. At the moment though, Federline may have a slight advantage, though I don't feel he is any better a parent than Britney.

Federline is the ex-dancer who left his then girlfriend pregnant with his second child, to marry Britney. In the time he has been with Brit, it seems that the only employment he has had, other than a money-sucking attempt at a rap career, has been to spend Britney's money. He hasn't given up his partying and money spending to find a stable job and care for his boys. He has though, managed to listen to at least one person.. someone who explained that the gravey train was ending soon unless he got the boys and a hefty support check.

As for Britney.......... the trainwreck that her life has become in the past months is of her doing. I am sure that I am not the only person who is surprized that her two boys have made it this long. Both of them still party to the wee hours, though Brit just doesn't seem to "get it." She has to do it publically where more than a few people can observe behavior rumored to be exactly what is reported the "secret" witness has testified to.

If Britney does lose custody of her boys, it is her fault but I find it a large stretch to say that her unemployed, partying ex hubby Federline, is a much better parent......... at the moment, he may be marginally better.

Fast and oh, so fresh

It began with what should have been a very simple traffic stop at about 2 am, Friday, September 14 in Sheboygan WI. That was until the 34 year-old man tossed a cigarette pack out the window of his car and then tried to run.

The Sheboygan office gave chase to the suspect and when he caught up to him, punched him in the head and knocked him to the ground. At that point, the suspect probably should have chosen to stay down but he didn't. He tried to run again and a second officer approached while he was struggling with the first. Either the second officer was not very good with a stun gun or he just was covering the bases, he ended up getting both of them with it.

The report doesn't state how the first officer did after getting stunned by his "brother in blue" but the suspect had to be stunned a second time before he could be handcuffed. The cigarette pack he had tossed from the car was found to contain three-fourths of an ounce of cocaine. His vehicle was searched and police were a bit surprized to find a live chicken in the trunk which the suspect claimed he had just gotten from a local fast food restaurant.

I hadn't realized that "live" was included in the new suggestions for restaurants to improve their patrons health. The suspect ended up being taken to the hospital where he got six stitches for two cuts to his face and the police recommended charges including operating while intoxicated, resisting arrest and cocaine possession with intent to deliver. The chicken was taken to the Sheboygan County Humane Society and there was no report of it being charged with anything at this moment.

She lay hidden for 100 years

They began their search of the depths for answers in the loss of one and discovered instead, another that had always puzzled historians. They will have to wait a bit longer though, to see if the lake and this wreck will give up those answers.

A team with the Great Lakes Historical Society had set out searching for the freighter D M Clemson that had sunk in 1908, while transporting coal to Duluth, Minn from Lorain OH, on Lake Superior. She cleared the Sault Ste Marie locks with the steamer J H Brown at 9:30 am on November 30 and the last anyone saw of her was on Dec 1 near Whitefish Point when the two ships parted company.

The ship they found in August 2007, 460 feet deep and eight miles north of Deer Park, a village in Michigan's eastern Upper Peninsula, was the Cyprus. The 420 foot-long freighter had sunk October 11 1907 while carrying iron ore from Superior WI to Buffalo NY, in what was not considered much of a gale. She as well had puzzled historians becasue she had been only 21 days old and sank on only her second voyage on the lake. Unlike the Clemson, who went down with all her crew, there had been one survivor from the sinking of the Cyprus.

The Cyprus had been built in Lorain OH and launched on August 17 1907 and was described as seaworthy as any vessel that had built in a lake shipyard. The gale that she ran into was considered to be so moderate that only small vessels had sought shelter while the big steamers continued on their journey.

Charles G Pitz stumbled ashore some seven hours after the sinking and his is the only record of the event. Pitz, the second mate, stated that the Cyprus was pounded by northwesterly waves and had gradually developed a worsening list throughout the afternoon. The engines finally stopped and crew members headed for the lifeboats with lifejackets on. Pitz, the captain, F B Huyck and George Thorne, the first mate and watchman gathered near a forward lifeboat.

Pitz then stated that at 7:45 pm, the Cyprus capsized and sank, throwing the three into the water. They climbed aboard the raft and by 2 am, after overturning several times, they were within 300 feet of shore. He washed ashore, cold and exhausted and continued a long career as a mariner until 1961, when he died. All but two of the 22 crew member's bodies were recovered, including Thorne, who was found still strapped in the liferaft.

What caused her to sink has been a matter of debate for years beginning with news reports that speculated the water had entered the hold through the hatches, wetting the ore and causing it to shift. Pitz had insisted that the hatches were properly closed but his great-niece Ann Sanborn states that she believes that it had. The captain of a steamer that had passed close to the Cyprus before she sank had said that she was trailing a reddish wake. That would indicate that water had entered the cargo hold and was either seeping back out or was being pumped out.

Fred Stonehouse, marine historian and author offered another theory which stated that the Cyprus was doomed by engine or rudder failure and was unable to steer out of the troughs that can capsize a ship. Tom Farnquist, executive director of the society, said that they would be sending the underwater cameras back to the site for further study. The two previous inspections have shown that half the pilot house is missing and that wreckage is strewn 270 off the bow. He added that the location that Pitz had estimated the Cyprus had gone down in, was 10 miles further from shore than where she was found and he feels that is why she had not been found sooner.

The 5,530 ton steamship D M Clemson was the ship the society had been searching for when they discovered the Cyprus. She was the largest U S ship lost worldwide in 1908 and there were no survivors. Capt S R Chamberlain had chosen the southern and most direct route to Duluth and headed west with the Clemson when the two ships had parted. The Brown headed north around Isle Royale feeling that it offered more protection from fierce gale winds that could spring up that time of year.

The Clemson had been built in 1903 and at 468 feet in length, she was considered to be among the giants of her day. Nothing is known of her journey after that but weeks after that final sighting, debris such as flotsam, pieces of the ship's cabin, 23 of her red wooden hatch covers and several bodies washed ashore along the 40 mile stretch of coastline between Crisp Point and Grand Marais. Only the bodies of two of the 24 crewmembers were recovered, watchman Simon Dunn of Dublin Ireland and second mate Charles Woods, of Marine City MI.

The debate as to what happened to her continues and as with the Cyprus, many believe that the hatches failed in some way. Some pointed to them washing ashore as proof that they had failed and she sank. Others believe that they could have been blown off from the air compressed in the holds when she broke apart. Whatever the cause, the fact that few bodies of the crew were spotted or recovered, leads many to believe that she went down too fast for them to put on lifevests.

Probably the most famous of the thousands of wrecks in the Great Lakes is that of the S S Edmund Fitzgerald, who sank in 1975 and was brought to the attention thousands by Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 song. She was built in 1957 with the stipulation that she be the largest on the Great Lakes and was launched on June 8 1958 and named after the president of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, her owner. At 729 feet in length, she was the largest on the lakes until the 1970's and spent 17 years carrying talconite from Duluth MN to other ports along the lakes.

The Fitzgerald left Superior WI on November 9 1975 enroute to Zugg Island near Detroit MI with a full load of talconite. She traveled ahead of the Arthur M Anderson and they both sought shelter along the Canadian coast when they encountered a massive winter storm. The winds were reported at 50 mph and waves were at 35 feet. By November 10, the Fitzgerald had already suffered damage and began to run closer to the Anderson when at 7:10 pm, the Anderson reported to her that they had been hit by rogue waves. Ten minutes after that, the Anderson could neither raise her on the radio or find her on radar.

The Fitzgerald was first found by a U S Navy aircraft designed to locate submarines and in May of 1976, an unmanned U S navy submersable photographed the wreck. She lay in two large pieces in 530 feet of water and it is believed she broke apart when she hit the lake floor. The Coast Guard's report that her hatch closures were ineffective has been debated for years. The other explaination offered is that she may have run aground or scraped a shoal near Caribou Island without realizing it and she began to take on water through damage to the bottom of her hull. That will prove impossible to examine, since she is settled in the mud up to her load marks.

What seems to be the best explaination was put forth in a Discovery Channel investigation. They concluded that the Fitzgerald was likely severely damaged by the first two rogue waves and her radar was further damaged as well as the hatch covers. The third wave overwhelmed and sank her too quickly for any of the crew to escape.

The Fitzgerald, the newly discovered Cyprus and the still missing Clemson are among the approximately 6,000 ships lost in the Great Lakes since 1878, many without a trace. The continued developement of technology and the quest for answers will cetainly bring new wrecks into view in the coming years and possibly answer decades old questions of what had happened to brave family members who sailed the Great Lakes.

Efforts began in 2005 to establish in Washington D C, a permanent memorial to all the lost Great Lakes mariners. At Mariner's Church in Detroit, the bell no longer rings 29 times for the men lost on the Fitzgerald but instead rings in memory of all 6,000 lives lost, five times for the 5 lakes, the sixth for the St Clair and Detroit rivers, the seventh for the St Lawrence Seaway and the eighth time for military personnel whose lives were lost.

Of note: photographs of the Cyprus ( facing left ), as she was in 1907 & is today, the D M Clemson ( facing right ) and the S S Edmund Fitzgerald ( color ).

He said he was stupid...

It began just a bit before midnight this week and by the time the police caught up to them, the stolen goods were gone. The two did have enough with them though to get themselves arrested though.

Authorities state that Lee Owen Shaffer, 27, of Deltona FL ran out of the Sanford Albertson's market just before midnight on September 10 2007. He made his escape with approximately a dozen packages of steak. This is almost understandable if he was stealing them to try and feed himself and his family.

That wasn't the case though because by the time police caught up with him and his getaway driver minutes later, he had traded the steaks for crack cocaine. Seminole County deputy sheriffs spotted the 1995 full-size Chevrolet pickup, that had been reported stolen by Volusia County authorities, just a few minutes past midnight that night. They attempted to block the truck at a stop sign but the driver plowed into the the patrol cars and ended up stuck in the grass nearby.

An Albertson's employee who was driven to the scene of the crash and arrests, identified Shaffer as the man who had stolen the steaks, worth approximately $150. Shaffer is being held on $3,500 and charged with shoplifting, possession of cocaine and possession of a cocaine pipe. Gregory Allen Short, 30, also of Deltona, was being held at the Seminole County Jail on $10,500 bail and charged with driving with a suspended license, aggravated fleeing and eluding, auto theft and aggravated battery of a police officer.

"I asked him why he rammed my patrol car and he stated that he was stupid," wrote Thomas Bronson.

I hadn't realized the value of steaks beyond just eating them but judging from how quickly Shaffer traded them, there must be a fairly good resale value for steaks on the street these days. Short it would seem, was bright enough to admit he wasn't that bright.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Could just be the uniform

I have heard plenty of women talk about the Chippendales or more specifically, the dancers in uniform. I believe it had even gone as far back as the "Village People." The recent collection of arrests may well have something to do with the "lure" of that sharp dressed man in uniform as well.

On Tuesday, August 28 2007, Grand Rapids, Michigan City Manager Kurt Kimball confirmed that he had suspended some city police officers without pay and ordered a discharge hearing for them. He declined to comment on the exact nature of the suspensions and number of employees involved. The city's labor relations manager, George Childers though, stated that between four to six had been suspended.

It seems that a former female dispatcher who had worked at police headquarters, had sexual affairs with up to 10 employees. The four employees that had met with her after work hours remain on the job, while the other five officers and one employee who had sex with her in the police department face firing.

"I don't believe this is minor, there should be discipline. But this is a rule violation that does not rise to the level of termination," stated David Leonard, president of the Grand Rapids police Association.

On Thursday, August 30 2007, Jose Luis Vela, 42, the police chief in Alton TX, was ordered held on $200,000 bond after his arraignment. He was charged with two felony counts of sexual assault.

"This is the first time I've ever heard of a chief of police arrested for sexually assaulting his employees," stated Sheriff Lupe Trevino.

Vela is accused of performing oral sex on a male employee after the man passed out drunk at a party a year ago, in Vela's home in Mission TX. He is also accused of violating a different man with an object, after he had passed out at a party in July. Trevino declined to identify which of the department's 18 employees had been the victims.

Not to be left out, Washington D C's new Fire Chief, Dennis Rubin has asked that the police launch an investigation into area fire departments. He is concerned about a tip he had been given that one of the fire stations had been turned into a prostitution house.

Investigators and city officials wouldn't confirm any details but reports include allegations that there existed a prostitution ring using the name " D C Fems." That name is said to be a play on the acronym for the city's fire and emergency medical services department. They are reviewing whether there is truth to the allegation that female paramedics performed sex acts for money in the fire station bunkhouses.

Everyone involved is taking the allegations seriously, enough that the fire station's unofficial Web site has been taken down. Older posts that remain state that the fire station is the "busiest single house."

I am not sure if it is just the attraction of a person in uniform or simply more cases of adults behaving poorly. It seems fairly obvious to me that sex and the workplace aren't a good mix and if you are in the positions that these people are..... they should have known all that much more, what proper behavior is.

Can we keep it?

The three of them had spent Labor Day, September 3 2007, fishing without any luck. They were headed back to the boatlaunch near Mine Falls, on the Nashua River NH, when their luck suddenly changed.

Anthony Grauslys, 40 of Hudson NH, his 9 year-old son, Ash and Steve Summers, their neighbor hadn't caught a thing all day until Graulys's line snagged something. He initially had thought a pickerel had grabbed his hook and rubber worm and he fought it up to the boat. It only took one look he said, to realize he hadn't caught a prize-winning fish.

"We're city cops. We don't know what to do with these things," stated Lt Bruce Hansen.

Grauslys stated that he realized he had dragged in an alligator and he knew that he could just release it again, since no one would probably want an alligator hanging around. Him and his fishing crew headed for the dock with the alligator fighting the whole way. By the time they had made it to the dock, three Nashua police officers had arrived put the alligator in a large utility box, half filled with water.

The state Fish and Game conservation officer, David Eskeland, stated that the 18 inch, approximately 1 year-old, american alligator is now safe in a Massachusetts facility that handles reptiles. He stated that it would not have survived the winter months and temperatures if it had stayed in the river. They could only guess that it had possibly outgrown someone's bathtub and that was why it was dumped in the river.

Grauslys didn't have to turn the alligator over to Eskeland, it is legal for New Hampshire residents to own an alligator. I'm sure that his neighbors wouldn't be that happy to see him taking it out for a "daily walk" though.

Times are a changin'

It would seem that times are changing and technologies expanding quicker than some can keep up. Almost everyday now, there is some new law in place or the public's perceptions are narrowed.

On August 27 2007, three women, ranging from the age of 22 to 36, confronted that reality when they were hit with criminal charges on Gulf Beach, Milford,CT. Evidently, it is no longer acceptable these days, to remove your bathing suit to "brush of the sand". They were all cited for breach of peace and due to appear, clothed I assume, in Milford Superior Court on Sept 18. I remember a time when most young men would have enjoyed that "breach" at the beach, for all it was worth.

As for technology, it seems that the children of this generation will miss out on the joys of prank calls. Things like Caller ID make a call like that difficult and not as much fun as the old rotary dial and random choice of a phone number from the local phone book.

Wilfredo Rivera, 18, has gotten to learn that lesson the hard way though. He was charged along with several other teens with over the phone harassment, including death threats to his former high school football coach. This September, he was placed on two years probation and will have a clean record if he stays out of trouble during that time.

I would have thought, Rivera would have been a bit more bright, with all the technology kids grow up with these days. I even know, if I need something set on a new gadget, I ask a twelve year-old.

It will just become "cartball"

The protests are spreading nationwide and the two sides differ dramatically. There are those who are protesting the loss of liberty and those who believe that it has to be done to improve the game for all to enjoy.

This doesn't involve a huge rule change in NASCAR or baseball but rather, the requirement by a growing number of public golf courses for the use of golfcarts when playing. The vocal protesters include a man in Florida who has published a book and filed lawsuits, a Long Island woman who is now boycotting her local course and a former golf executive and past NCAA golf champion who feels the change should mean a change to the name of the game as well.

A growing number of cities and counties are now requiring the use of electric or gas-powered cart stating that they are needed to speed up play and allow more golfers to use the courses. In July 2007, Eisenhower Red, Nassau County NY's preimere municipal 18-hole course announced that they would be required there as well. They claimed that the course is so popular that they are needed to speed up play and that residents who want to walk, can do so on the two other adjacent public courses. Of course, for a county that had been close to bankrupcy a few years ago, the additional $29 per cart will certainly help the bottom line.

Adrienne Danzig of Westbury NY, isn't buying the reasons stated by the county. She, like many others have walked the course for years and either just enjoy walking during their game or seriously question whether a cart does speed up play. There are those as well who cite the physical benefits of walking the game of golf, especially theses days when the news is full of reports on the growing obesity in America.

There has always been the option of renting a cart, if someone is of the school of disliking dragging their clubs along for the walk or just enjoyed moving through a course a bit quicker. The debate now is whether cities and counties can or should be requiring them on public courses. Sandy Tatum, a past president of the U S Golf Association and NCAA golf champion, doesn't agree with the explanations and contends that charging extra for carts prevents people from playing. The game of golf is struggling at times to draw in new players and he feels that it shouldn't be preventing people economically from playing.

Dan Zurla, a retiree from Port Orange FL, wrote a self published book called "A Civil Right: The Freedom to Walk a Public Golf Course" and has filed lawsuits against the municipalities of Daytona Beach, Port Orange and Ormond Beach about their cart policies with little success. He wrote an opinion piece in Sport Illustrated last year supporting the rights of those who want to walk the courses and believes that requiring carts on public courses is an infrigment on personal liberties and the government is making it illegal to walk on public land for no good reason.

I believe the premise of their argument is solid....... there are plenty of privately run golf courses that are in the business of making a profit. A course on public land is just that, public.... for those who can't afford the cost of a private club and since it is on public land, it should be available for anyone. Requiring that golfers pay an additional amount to rent a cart only is leaving out a segment of the population, a part that funds those public lands.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Guess it was a lot more than a doorstop....

"Ferrari is satisfied that the truth has now emerged."

The September 13 2007 decision by the FIA, after Ferrari took their suspicions of "spying" by Vodofone McLaren-Mercedes to the World Motor Sport Council, has vindicated them and stunned McLaren and the racing world. McLaren had already been found guilty of violating Article 151c of the International Sporting Code on July 26 2007 but they had not been sanctioned at that time. The decision had cautioned that if new information was found that showed a more widespread violation, the council could move to hand down a heavy penalty. The penalty of the loss of all constructor points and a $100 million fine though, is not as severe as it could have been or may be in the future.

While many reports lead people to believe that the sanctions placed on McLaren are huge, when the evidence and actions of team and it's members are seen, I believe that they have escaped the maximum penalty they deserve. The case began when Ferrari confirmed on June 22, that they were taking their head of performance development, Nigel Stepney, to court in Italy. They stated that it was based on his behaviour and not based on any one event, though speculation was that it was related to a white power that had been found prior to the Monaco Grand Prix.

By July 3, Ferrari stated that Stepney had been dismissed from his role with the Scuderia. That same day, McLaren announced that it had suspended a senior employee (Mike Coughlan) for receiving a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April. That package it was found, was a 789 -page technical dossier on Ferrari cars that Ferrari had been tipped off to being in the possession of Coughlan, after his wife took it to a local photocopy shop.

On July 26, the WMSC released their findings and in it they stated: they were satisfied that Vodefone McLaren-Mercedes had in it's possession of confidential Ferrari information and therefore, were in violation of Article 151c but imposed no penalty because of insuffient evidence it had been used. They also stated that if it had been found in the future, they reserved the right to to have the team face exclusion from not only the 2007 season but 2008 as well.

McLaren, not surprizingly, stated that they found the judgement to be fair and balenced while Ferrari found it incomprehensible that they had been found in violation but received no penalty. By September 5 though, the FIA announced that new evidence had emerged and the "spy case" was again renewed.

McLaren had claimed earlier that Coughlan had a relatively limited managerial role with the team, that the material he was in possession of was not circulated throughout the team, they had neither used, nor benefited from that information. They described Coughlan as a "rogue employee" and they should not be held accountable.

It was the information that came forth after the July 26 ruling that shows that not only had McLaren been in possession of confidential material, they had in fact, continued to use and benefit from it and their contact with Stepney and they had bald-faced lied to the WMSC about those facts earlier.

All three drivers for McLaren were asked for information related to the allegations and they were offered immunity for such disclosures. Hamilton responded that he had no information, while de la Rosa and Alonso stated that they did have information. They both offered up for evidence, e mails that proved that they had received confidential information via Coughlan, that both drivers knew this information was confidential Ferrari information and that they were receiving it from Coughlan via Stepney.

The emails expose that this is not just a case of 789 pages of dossier used for a doorstop within Coughlan's home but that it was an ongoing flow of confidential information that numerous people within McLaren knew they shouldn't be getting or using.

In one exchange of e mails, dated in March are as such: de la Rosa wrote to Coughlan,

"Hi Mike, do you know the Red Car's weight distribution? It would be important for us to know so that we can try it in the simulator. Thanks in advance, Pedro. p s I will be in the simulator tomorrow."

de la Rosa confirmed that Coughlan replied with the precise details as to the weight distribution and de la Rosa passed them along to Alonso. When Alonso questioned the accuracy of them, de la Rosa replied,

"All the information is very reliable. It comes from Nigel Stepney, their former head mechanic - I don't know what post he holds now. He is the same person that told us in Australia that Kimi was stopping in lap 18. He's friendly with Mike Coughlan, our Chief Designer, and he told him that."

McLaren's Chief Engineer, Mr Lowe, testified that decisions related to simulator testing would involve a number of engineering and other staff, as well as those running the tests and it is unlikely that the decision as to what was run in the simulator would rest solely on the driver. Other e mails contain information about the precise aero balence at 250kph of Ferrari's flexible rear wing, a description of the braking system they use and the type of gas that they use to inflate their tires and reduce the internal temperature and blistering.

What is shown clearly by the numerous e mails is that, not only would the information be used by the drivers alone, it is clear that there was no reluctance or hesitation to use the information they received. McLaren had stated before the July 26 decision that Coughlan was "rogue employee" and the only thing he was in possession of was the dossier. The phone records that were presented seem to dispute that as well.

The Italian Police in it's reports "Allegato 18, 9 and 10," found that there were at least a total of 288 SMS messages and 35 telephone calls between Stepney and Coughlan between March 11 and July 3. They also found that the numbers of contacts increased when private tests were being run in Malaysia and before several of the races.

In light of the overwhelming evidence that was discovered after their original ruling, the WMSC has handed Vodefone McLaren- Mercedes something less than the fullest penalty they could have received. They found that while the actions may have originated with a single rogue employee: Coughlan had more information than originally stated and had been receiving it in a systematic manner over a period of months, that information was given to team members and included highly sensitive technical information as well as secret information of Ferrari racing strategy, de la Rosa had requested and received information he knew was illigitimate and shared that information with Alonso and there was clear evidence that the information was to be used by a number of McLaren employees, in their own testing.

After finding that, the WMSC imposed the penalty of allowing the team to continue racing and their drivers to keep their individual points but the team loses all constructor points in 2007. They were fined $100 million and their preparation of the 2008 car will be analyzed before a decision is made for their participation in the 2008 race season is made.

In contrast, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was fined the NFL maximum on Thursday September 13, of $500,000 and the team ordered to pay $250,000 for videotaping an opponent's offensive and defensive signals. They also will lose next year's first round draft choice if they reach the playoffs or their second and third round choices if they don't. Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules.

Vodefone McLaren - Mercedes didn't receive the maximum penalty for their offense while the Patriots and Belichick in particular, did. McLaren did more than tape signals, they had the opposing team's playbook and a significant member of the opposing staff feeding them confidential information for several months. What they received for a penalty I feel, isn't harsh enough after this new information surfaced and Hamilton had better be certain his hands clean or he may have to watch his stellar rookie season go up in smoke.

For the complete World Motor Sport Council decision, go here, here and here.

Of note: ty to F1-Live for the photo of Ferrari, Monza tests 8/07