Misty Photos

Add strong sun to fog and a marina, and you can get some striking pictures.
I took these at Southall Landing in Hampton, VA.


Mice on Main

Continuing on the theme of fun in Greenville...
A student from Christ Church Episcopal School conceived an idea for casting a series of metal mice and siting them in public-but-inconspicuous locations downtown. With inspiration from the children's book Goodnight Moon, he arranged the founding and installation of nine mice. Now, visitors to the city can pick up a hint sheet and go looking for these l'il guys while enjoying a walk down Main Street.
We finally made the hunt in October. It was a unique and entertaining hike, even if it was marred by realizing some of the mice had been stolen or damaged and that we were seeing replacements. (Also, one was temporarily resited while construction proceeded at his station.) Here's our proof:

Nearby Greenville

One of the delightful things about living near Greenville IS Greenville! Recently my sister Porter and her husband Chuck visited with us, and we made several forays downtown.

"Fall for Greenville" is a multi-night orgy of al fresco samplings from local restaurants, along with street entertainments like musical groups and improv troupes. The streets of downtown fill with merrymakers.

You can cool off in the fountains over near
The Lazy Goat.

You can stroll across the Liberty Bridge
and enjoy the view of the Reedy River Falls.

And you can stop by and enjoy
numerous sculptures. Here, Charles
Townes, Greenville native and
inventor of the laser, reveals his
secrets to us!


Another Title on Traveling Classics!

In February I wrote that a new group that produces an app for the Apple iPhone (www.travelingclassics.com) had launched with eight audiobooks, one of which was my version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I just checked back with them to see their current catalog. They're now up to 33 audiobooks, and one of the added ones is my rendition of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. Of course you can get all LibriVox audiobooks for free at www.archive.org, but if you don't want to wait on a download, or like to be read to on your iPhone (with the text scrolling in sync), Traveling Classics is the way to go!


A Cautionary Tale

Two weeks ago we finally put our house on the market. A day after it appeared on Zillow.com, we got an email inquiry from a fellow in Edinburgh, Scotland, who was with the U.N. Development Corporation and was being posted to the U.S.. He liked what he saw, but had questions: Did we have weatherstripping? Were there cracks in the walls? Other maintenance issues?

After about five more exchanges of emails, the man and his wife were sure: they wanted our house. They had recently sold their own house and could offer a cash contract (no contingency, hurray!) They would be in our state by the end of July to sign a contract, but they would have the New York office send us a binder immediately, taken from his hefty travel allowance.

Then we heard that he was posted to a 3-day conference on AIDS in Benin (Africa), after which he would visit the New York offices and then fly on to see us.

A few days later, a Fed Ex package arrived with three money orders of $950 each. It was never our intent to accept a binder to take our house off the market, and we had told him that; nevertheless, there it was, and it was more than the $1,000 he had said was coming.

So the next day we got an urgent email. The secretary had screwed up and sent more than she had been directed to, and now our would-be buyers were going to have trouble with getting to the States. (Are you beginning to get an uneasy feeling here?) So would we please wire the overage of $1,850 to his travel agent in Benin?

My wife, bless her, politely replied that there was no way we would send money, his or ours, to a travel agent in Benin. I probably would have been less politic.

Did you get the scam line? Send money to Africa. Yeah, sure, like we never heard of the Nigerians who wanted to sneak stolen government funds out of their country and only needed a little help from an American contact, for whom they'd split the take. (If you have ever fallen for such a scheme - I'm sorry for reminding you of a sore subject. I betcha wouldn't do it now!)

We started this exchange with the worry that it was "too good to be true." An Internet bite for a full price contract on our house the first week it's up for sale, in this market?? We decided to treat it as legitimate unless or until the other party revealed his desire to have us send money somewhere or give details of our bank accounts. But across half a dozen contacts, each with homey concerns like, "My wife is a school teacher. Will she be able to work in your state?" we began to trust. When the URGENT email came, although we knew not to follow the directions, we grieved some for a deal we hoped was going to be legitimate. Ah, well.

So I hope that this exposition will help YOU avoid being bitten by this clever scheme that relied, not on our sense of greed, but the building of a bond of trust.

Postscript - Some other things we discovered once we looked online for evidence of this scheme. We felt kinda good that the other guy was out the money for his Fed Ex package. Probably not so. It turns out these mailings are usually funded through stolen credit cards. So, if your identity was stolen, it might have been used to facilitate a scam to get major money out of someone else. The money orders? Faked. Close examination revealed giveaways, and online research shows that denominations of $950 are very common in scams, for some reason. There were over 3,000 complaints in one forum about faked money orders. Suffice it to say we ascertained that there is no such payee as shown on the money orders we got. Indeed, people targeted like us for scams are sometimes arrested for trying to cash these fake money orders. Check out Craig's List, read about money order scams there - you'll never want to accept a money order for anything, ever again!


The Census Guy

By now, you should have had a visit from The Census Guy.

What?? Isn't the decennial census next year??

Well, yeah. But the Census Bureau is running a big effort this year to update addresses and find all the new homes constructed since 2000. Not to mention: tents, boats, and railroad cars, if people are living in them.

Yours truly was a Census Guy. For six weeks I walked the streets, ringing doorbells and verifying addresses. The effort (at least in my area) is now complete and my pith helmet is retired.

Total addresses verified: 5,015.
Total locations mapped: about 1,800.

Getting Serious About the Move

It's been our intent to finally move "back home" once the kids were both off in college. Following Christmas, we started making good on that promise.

There's a real sense of inevitability once your belongings start disappearing into boxes. Finally, it's not just a plan - it's a project!

But once you've assessed your house and resolved to change the things that have annoyed you all along - like ugly wallpaper installed by the last owners - you start to wonder: "Exactly WHY are we moving?"

Because that's the plan, of course!

Well, the five-page checklist has shrunk to just a few items. And soon we'll open the nicely refurbished front door to...?

All the people out of work and foreclosed on?


One Million

A million is a largish number - especially if it relates to individual decisions by a population.

They give gold records in the music biz to commemorate a million sales. After all, the revenue generated is substantial. There are no gold anythings in the free publishing biz. That's OK - "free" is not "worthless." When a million decisions have been made to visit the literature of the past, that's a lot of hours invested in hearing the thoughts of great writers.

I've been proud to be a LibriVox reader (for three years, this month, in fact). And I'm prouder for having brought to the homes and cars of many people a total of one million listens to my solo readings, a goal I hit today.

If you've been a listener - thank you! And I hoped I've entertained you. Stay tuned. there's more choice from the old masters coming!


Coming Now to an iPhone Near You!

It's been strangely gratifying to see LibriVox recordings I've made for sale on EBay (What? Hadn't you noticed that yet?) "Strangely" because all LibriVox audiobooks are free for download from www.archive.org. But if people want to burn those downloads onto CDs and offer them for sale, that is actually an activity we LV'ers encourage, since not everyone has the patience for what can be long downloads.

Add to EBay a new outlet: http://www.travelingclassics.com/
Traveling Classics is a new application for your iPhone or iPod Touch which reads a classic book to you while scrolling the text on the screen, synchronized to the narration. As an application available at the iTunes AppStore, Traveling Classics has to submit all its intended content to Apple for permission.

On its opening day, February 12, Traveling Classics launched with eight audiobooks, one of which was my "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." So now, for a limited time only, you can have me read to you for over seven hours for 99 cents!

Cool, huh? Not quite free... but the feeling that gives me: priceless!


Myrtle Beach Off-Season

Myrtle Beach has a reputation for being a big party beach. (And golf - don't forget golf; there's over 100 courses in and around Myrtle Beach.) But come the Fall and the crowds go away, and the beach shows its more contemplative side.

We made two sallies to the beach, in October and November, playing share-and-share-alike with relatives and timeshares.

Here are a few of my favorite memories.


Sea Oats - Sunlit Waters
Quiet Enjoyment

Atalaya - Conch

With sister Porter & wife Brenda

The changing sky


I know of two world-class sculpture gardens on the East Coast. One is Storm King, near West Point, NY. Its collection runs to huge outdoor pieces, dozens of feet high. Most are fairly abstract. I've read it described as the best undiscovered secret in the state, and I agree. I was last there in 2005, renewing an acquaintance I began in 1973.

The other is Brookgreen Gardens, south of Myrtle Beach, SC. Originally the preserve of Anna Hyatt Huntington, herself a world-class sculptress, this collection runs from table-top to life-size and is strongly representational. We had the pleasure of visiting Brookgreen again in October.

The pumpkins are not sculptures! The Gardens were getting ready for a festival.

Children pledge allegiance.

Sancho Panza acquires a guest.

This guy is carrying a torch for you!

Young ladies find uncomfortable perches.

If this face doesn't say "Joy!" then nothing will!

October might seem to be a poor month to find floral color, but not at Brookgreen. Even the butterflies stick around late in the season.

For whatever reason, I have a long-standing interest in shooting interesting textures. Here, even the live oaks get into the act at Brookgreen Gardens.