Month: October 2017

2017 Hurricane Season Economic Aftermath

The 2017 hurricane season is about over and it was active. In fact, the season ranks in the top ten most active seasons. Of the 16 named Atlantic Ocean storms, 10 became hurricanes. Six of the storms reached major hurricane status. Visit Dr. Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University webpage for statistics. Naturally, many are experiencing an economic aftermath.

Economic aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

The first storm I wrote about was Hurricane Harvey. Even though Harvey lasted only two days, damage is extensive. This hurricane was a rainmaker. A report from Business Insider cites almost 52 inches of rain from the storm in Cedar Bayou. The economic aftermath will include repairing or replacing approximately 20,000 homes due to storm damage.

I met with some Houston residents and former residents in mid-September. Their eyewitness reports were hard to comprehend. The area of West Houston where I used to live and work was heavily flooded. The flooding came in part from engineered release of water from two dams. This intentional flooding is comparable to controlled burns. Minor flooding, while damaging some, saved many more homes and businesses from the destructive force of water. Each person I met with estimated a timeline of years for full recovery.

Hurricane Irma Economic Aftermath

Hurricane Irma followed Harvey. The pictures on this post are from a part of Central Florida Hurricane Irma struck. You can view pictures from just after the storm by clicking here. The economic aftermath was greater in South Florida, but Central Florida shares in the repercussions. For starters, much of the disaster relief naturally centered first on the damage in the Florida Keys.

Central Florida damage was due mostly to wind. Trees and tree limbs remain piled along roads in late October while the storm struck September 11. Blue tarp covers parts of roofs. Eventually, damaged roofs will be repaired even if out-of-area work crews are needed.

During the hurricane and immediately after, laborers lost clock time and wages. Insurance companies treat hurricane areas differently in the form of higher deductibles. Therefore, some homeowners with minor damage such as screens torn by tree limbs may be out-of-pocket for all expenses.

Additionally, small towns and cities will need to pay overtime for the clean-up efforts. The Federal government is paying a large proportion of these costs. In some places out-of-state crews aid local crews. The work crew in the pictures above and the video below hails from Ohio.

Property owners will re-landscape once the debris is removed. Homeowners may want to remove tree trunks. New sod will cover the grass areas killed by the piles of debris.

Destruction from Hurricane Maria

The very destructive Hurricane Maria is still causing hardship in Puerto Rico.  Governmental issues compound the clean-up. One of the best analysis of the economic aftermath can be found in this The Economist article. It is impossible to tell at this point what the long-range impact will be. Thousands have left the island. At least one neighborhood is still stranded. According to the Miami Herald, a zip-line provides access to food and water.

Puerto Rico faces difficulty on many fronts. Since it is an island, individuals could not drive in to help as they did to the areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Additionally, Puerto Rico received a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma prior to the bull’s-eye hit of Hurricane Irma. Back to back storms created a greater need. The infrastructure of the island is in poor condition. Apparently the company hired to repair the electric grid may not have the manpower for a quick fix. Unfortunately, the timetable for restoring electricity to the entire island is Christmas. The citizens of Puerto Rico still have a long recovery ahead.

Natural Disaster Economic Aftermath

Humans cannot control natural disasters. 2017 to date has 15 separate billion dollar disasters in the United States alone. This article and chart from The Weather Channel show the locations and events. In addition to individual preparedness, one needs to heed other factors. Individuals who can choose where to live need to be aware of the surrounding environment. This would include fault lines, fire and flood dangers, and areas prone to blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes.

However, many of us have little choice in where we live. The economic aftermath for those in this category can be mitigated to a certain extent. Buildings along coastal areas can be built on stilt foundations. Furthermore, one can construct hurricane strong rooms. Likewise, buildings in America’s tornado alley can also include rooms constructed to withstand the wind force. Construction codes can fortify buildings in areas prone to earthquakes. Certain types of landscaping can reduce fuel for fires. Thus, advanced mitigation of some factors diminishes economic aftermath of a disaster.


Sleep Like A Baby Book Review

Sleep Like A Baby Book Review

This week I am reviewing a murder mystery featuring the character Aurora Teagarden. I am a little late to the party as this is the tenth novel with this particular heroine. Sleep Like a Baby is the first novel I have read from prolific writer Charlaine Harris.

Sleep like a baby mystery
Spotted at an airport bookstore

Protagonist Aurora Teagarden is a brand new mother. Her husband Robin Crusoe is on the nominee list for a writing award. But he is hesitant to leave because Aurora is coming down with a cold. As a compromise, he arranges for help at night. The cold turns into the flu. So, Virginia, the hired help, is greatly needed.

The plot thickens when Aurora and her half-brother Phillip discover a woman’s body while searching for the missing Virginia. Sleep Like a Baby becomes a fast paced mystery. The flu symptoms leave Aurora unable to piece together the evening’s events.  Matters are made worse when one of the neighbors claims to have seen Robin in the backyard.

Fortunately Robin has the alibi of winning the Anthony a plane ride away. Doubt does play a small role since he rushes home as soon as he hears the news. Furthermore, the dead woman turns out to be a stalker who had tried to kill Aurora before.
Several subplots intertwine with the key murder mystery. Through it all, Aurora has to decide whether to return to work at the library or stay home with Baby Sophie. A dilemma faced by many. Aurora is also hampered in her sleuthing by the constant requirement of nursing.

Thoughts on Sleep Like a Baby

As I stated above. This is my first Aurora Teagarden mystery. My assumption is the large roll of the infant is used to grow the main character. I found her torn desires believable. The adjustments she faces were accurate. Sleep Like a Baby is not only a fast paced murder mystery, but also a statement on the complexities of staying home with a child.

I realize some people don’t see murder mysteries as fun reads. However, some are to me. I would place Sleep Like a Baby in this category. The characters are warm human beings. You want them to solve the mystery while staying safe and much like a T.V. show, you know in the end they will come out on top. Be sure to check out Sleep Like a Baby the next time you visit the library.



Colorado Custom Roofing Review

Recently we had our roof replaced. The golf ball size hail from earlier this fall took its toll as you can read here. Usually I like to use local companies, but due to a supply shortage, we hired a company from out-of-town. I am glad we did. Colorado Custom Roofing did a great job.

Roofing companies popped up in our community almost as soon as the rain stopped. Yards were peppered with signs to the extent that it looked like a Presidential election year. I am not big on promoting others with yard signs. So you will not find a political sign in my yard, and you won’t find commercial signs either.

Colorado Custom Roofing President James Forbus

I was not home when James Forbus of Colorado Custom Roofing first came by. However, he left a business card with a handwritten note on the back. I have long been a fan of personalised messages. This was one of many things making Colorado Custom Roofing the company I chose.

Another thing I appreciated was the thoroughness of his bid. Everything was itemized. Furthermore, he had experience working with my insurance company. Finally, unlike others that tried to change the shingle type, he instead stated he had worked with the Certain Teed Presidential shakes many times. I really like how my roof looks and works and I did not want to change material.

Part of my satisfaction with Colorado Custom Roofing is the amount of interaction I observed between Mr. Forbus and his work crew. While I do not expect the president of a company to complete all the work, I was quite pleased with the oversight. He directed key phases of the work. By this I mean, he was on the roof overseeing the process. I also like how polite the crew was and the cleanup was thorough.

If you need a new roof consider calling James Forbus of Colorado Custom Roofing. His contact information can be found on the website I think you too will be pleased with the workmanship of Colorado Custom Roofing.


One Perfect Lie Book Review

Lisa Scottoline is an author whose works are frequently found on a best seller list. This past spring, One Perfect Lie made some of those lists. I have not read a book by Ms. Scottoline in a while. One Perfect Lie did not disappoint.

I would classify this book as a suspense/murder on the surface. But, the story is much deeper than that. Unlike many of my reviews where I try not to reveal too much of the plot, a key twist comes at only a third of the way in. Thus you have received fair warning. I am about to ruin the suspense of the first part of One Perfect Lie.

Chris Brennan is interviewing for a replacement teaching position mid-year at Central Valley High in a rural part of Pennsylvania. The reader knows right from the beginning that Chris is a fake and not just from the title One Big Lie. Scottoline misleads the reader by writing about the character in such a manner that the assumption is Brennan is really a bad guy. He isn’t. He is actually ATF undercover.

More than One Perfect Lie

Brennan’s true identity is central to the story line. But in my opinion the heart of the tale is found in the three moms. The undercover agent is trying to discern which member of the baseball team is the patsy for a homegrown terror plot is. Yet I felt more involved in the moms of the players. I don’t think this happened because I am a mom.

The three moms are a single mom, a newly widowed mom and the mom who is close to developing a problem with alcohol. I like all three characters. The potential alcoholic mom is dealing with the most lies in One Perfect Lie. The widow has drama from two grieving sons and the single mom becomes the romantic interest to Brennan’s character. But don’t take her lightly, she is determined.

Most importantly, these three moms reach out to the reader. Each has her own hardships and each displays the grit to overcome the problems. For example, the greater adversity the heavy drinker encounters, the less she drinks. All three women are strong. I like books with strong women.

A Civics Lesson

Another small but important point of the story intrigued me. As a class exercise, Brennan has the students choose the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The interconnected writings are defined by the lead character. First is the Constitution, described as the document which creates rules to follow. Then the Bill of Rights keeps authority in check by creating rights for the individual. I have never thought of the two founding papers in this light. Furthermore, it plays a key point late in the book.

Thus One Perfect Lie is recommended on multiple levels. First, the female characters tend to be strong. Second, the plot flows. Third, the writing is well-done. Finally, the book gave me a new concept to think about. All these points are reasons to read One Perfect Lie.

Putting the Fall Garden to Bed

 Putting Away the Fall Garden

We had our first freeze last week so there were quite a few chores in putting away the fall garden. Herbs and vine crops needed harvesting. Some of the root crops were dug up. Vines were added to the lasagna and compost piles. Borders were created for beds.

Harvesting Herbs

The first thing I did was choose which of the herbs I was going to pick and dry. The basil was a given. It is a tender herb which means it is not frost tolerant. I picked one of two bushes which did not show signs of bolting. In my experience, basil acts somewhat like spinach at the end of the season. The leaves begin to narrow and become pointy. This in addition to the flowering indicate the annual plant has run its course.

I turned the basil upside down and placed it inside a paper bag. Using a string, I have the bag hanging to dry. I am also drying some thyme and oregano with this method. Both these herbs are perennials and so they can be harvested most of the winter. But I use both frequently in my cooking. Thus, I won’t have to go without if snow covers the plants.

Fall Garden Harvest

Second I harvested all tomatoes of a decent size. The green tomatoes will  turn red inside the house or they can be pickled. We extend our fresh tomato season by a few weeks by letting them ripen on the counter.

Fall Bounty
Final tomatoes

Sweet potatoes, beets and the remainder of the potatoes were dug. Unfortunately most of my root crops were small in physical size this year. The yield was not large either. Perhaps the hail damage to the foliage had a greater impact on these crops than I realized.

I was gifted some lumber scraps and I made a raised bed area for a new blackberry bush. I also edged the asparagus bed with the lumber so there will be no accidental mowing of the young crop next spring.
Finally, I pulled the vines and plants from the ground. Most looked very healthy still and those were added to either the compost bin or to the new “lasagna” bed I am working on. A few had evidence of either bugs and eggs or disease. Those plants found their way to the trash can.

I still have a few more chores to complete. Carrots remain in the ground. Hoses will need to be put away for the winter. A reorganization of garden tools is a must. I will plant the last of the garlic this week since temperatures will return to the eighties. But my time in the garden is beginning to wind down which means more time will be available for the quilt room.

Lasagna Garden Experiment

I like trying new techniques. One of the garden ideas I researched this year is the lasagna garden. Many people assume this means planting the ingredients for lasagna. However, this is nowhere close to the true meaning of a lasagna garden.

As you can see in the photo to the right, I have an area in the lot that needs improvement. I had several options. I could extend my raised bed areas, I could roto till, or I could enrich the area through a lasagna garden and have a great location for spring planting.

Building the Lasagna Garden

I chose the latter. The first step in creating a lasagna garden is laying out either newspaper or cardboard. Since some cardboard was in need of recycling I started my base layer with the more durable material. This serves two purposes. The cardboard makes a thicker barrier against the existing planting and is less likely to blow away with the high winds we experience on the Great Plains.

Base layer
Cardboard base

After the cardboard was placed w I wanted it, I hosed it down with water. Next I added a two to three-inch layer of lawn clippings. A few days later, I soaked the bed again. Then over the next few weeks I have added compost material from the kitchen as well as material from the garden. If you have prolonged dry spells you will need to soak the lasagna garden manually.

Brown vs. Green

While grass clippings are green and fall into the green category and the cardboard falls into the brown category, it is not the color that determines whether an item is brown or green. The basis for brown or green category is the chemical content. Nitrogen rich products are green compost and carbon rich products are brown. It is important to have a mixture in your compost.

Some of the kitchen scraps included banana and tomato peels as well as other fruit peelings. Eggshells are a great addition but it helps to crush them before adding to the compost. I also like coffee grounds, but with only one coffee drinker in the house, I do not have an abundant source.  I do not place meats or fats into my compost.

Garden materials are items such as leaves and pine needles. The pine needles are very acidic and can alter the PH balance of your soil. At the end of the season plants can be added. But be sure to check for disease or eggs from various pests which are often on the underside of leaves.

I may need to cut through the card board in the spring in order to plant. A lot depends on the winter moisture. However, I think the bed will be enriched from the start.

Lasagna Bed
Compost layers added

Curious Minds Book Review

Janet Evanovich is one of my favorite writers. A fellow Zontian at the 2004 Zonta International Convention in New York recommended Evanovich’s work for fun reading. I have been reading her novels ever since. Recently, Evanovich began collaborating on novels. Curious Minds is a collaboration with Phoef Sutton. Sutton is an acclaimed writer with Hollywood connections and ties to one of my favorite college campuses.

First of a Series

Curious Minds is the first of a series. Evanovich and Sutton create a zany cast of characters. Protagonist Riley Moon is in her first real job after graduating with multiple degrees from Harvard-on a scholarship and student loans. She drives a Mini Cooper because her parking space at work is miniscule. Riley grew up in West Texas and has expressions and mannerisms to prove it.

Emerson Knight may not be a complete opposite, but it is close. He is a trust fund eccentric with multiple cars and no driver’s license. He also wants access to the family gold. As in actual possession of the gold. Thus begins the story line.

The firm Riley works for is steeped in traditional Washington-New York family power. The family has one outcast brother Gunter Grunwald. Gunter was Riley’s mentor before he disappeared. The prologue shows Gunter face-to-face with trouble in a vault of gold. The disappearance is tied tightly into the plot. It is unclear if Gunter will play a continuing role in the series.

Curious Minds Supporting Cast

The supporting cast of characters for the most part are down to earth. Emerson’s Aunt Myra and cousin Vernon hail from the Harrisonburg area of Virginia. An area a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. filled with everyday people. Vernon works as a blogger on a website, Mr. Mysterioso, sometimes co-authored by Emerson.

Riley’s Texas roots have a background in law and order. Her dad is a retired cop and the one family member appearing in the book is a brother who followed his father’s footsteps.

The backgrounds for both Riley and Emerson create likeable characters. As with many books which begin a series, back stories are detailed. In the case of Curious Minds, the zany characters are appealing to the reader.

I read many genres and many authors. Prolific writers like Evanovich often team up with co-writers. Sometimes it works as is the case with Curious Minds. The voice created by Evanovich and Sutton flows as one. I will keep my eye open for the next Knight and Moon book to hit the new arrivals shelf at my library.

Helicopter View of Kilauea Volcano

Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour

On my trip to Hawaii last summer, a highlight was a helicopter flyover of the active volcano on the Big Island. I do not like flying and the thought of a helicopter ride scared me. But I am trying to get out of my comfort zone. So I scheduled a flight for late afternoon the day before we left. This gave a little room for rescheduling in case of inclement weather.

We landed in Hilo about two hours before our scheduled flight. We used the extra time to pick-up the rental car and checked into a hotel. Since Hilo is a nice sized city we were able to accomplish everything in plenty of time to arrive back at the airport for the Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour.

The afternoon was perfect. We were lucky because Hilo has a lot of rain. The amount depends on what part of the city you are but ranges between 130 and 300 inches. Therefore Blue Hawaiian Helicopters Hilo location recommends back-up times in case the tour needs to reschedule. Fortunately the weather was perfect.


There were eight of us on the flight. We had to estimate our weight when we signed up for the flight. However, Blue Hawaiian Helicopter did not leave anything to chance. We were weighed upon check-in. It is important to distribute the weight.

Wes the pilot was fantastic. He put me at ease before we ever left ground. Maybe he could tell just how scared I was! We loaded one at a time and I entered first. My assigned seat was next to the pilot. Even though the placement scared me at first, it was a good decision. No way was I going to fool around with any of the controls.

Once we were all loaded, Wes reassured us that the weather would be monitored closely and if conditions warranted we would return to the airport immediately. Next, he explained what the flight would entail. Kilauea Volcano was our prime target. We would look at the lava flowing into the ocean near Kamokuna before a flyover of the crater.

On the way to the volcano we flew over cropland. The Big Island grows coffee, tea, vanilla, bananas and avocados just to name a few.  If it weren’t for the active volcano, I would consider this an ideal place to farm.


After the crop land, the ground transitions to rock. Blue Hawaiian Helicopter is a great way to see the lava flows. From the air you can see how irregular the lava flow is. The lava rock envelopes islands of vegetation. There is even a spot where you can see a road that has lost both ends to the flow. The active volcano is a constant threat. Places on the island such as Pahoa Village, which was threatened in 2014, are always at risk.

The ocean entry near Kamokuna draws sightseers both in the air and on the water.  The helicopter ride makes the view safe. This is the youngest part of the island. The interaction of the hot lava with the ocean is dynamic. The molten debris is unstable and creates dangerous conditions. At times, the rocks slide into the ocean.  Additionally, the hot steam can cause problems.

After a few passes of the ocean entry point for the lava, the helicopter headed to the crater. On the way we saw several areas of steam rising from the land. In these spots lava was just below the surface. In some areas vegetation is trying to re-emerge.

The aerial view of the crater is unbelievable. We were fortunate because the activity was high on the day we toured. As you can see in the pictures, multiple areas were erupting. A video camera would show the actual bubbling and Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours creates a video of each flight. I could have circled over the crater for hours. The helicopter approach is the only way to safely see the lava erupting from the base of the crater.

On the return to the airport we flew over one of the many waterfalls on the Big Island. The view from the air was impressive, but I have hiked safely around water. I do not think I would hike to the edge of an active volcano. I am very glad I challenged myself. The helicopter ride ranks in my top five experiences of my Hawaiian trip. I highly recommend Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours.

Helicopter Photos

Hawaiian fields
Cropland near Hilo
Overview of Hilo
Lava Flow
Vegetation and lava
Vegetation surrounded
Road and lava
Road to Nowhere
Entry point Lower Left Corner
Steam created at entry point.
Hot flow
Steam from underground vents
Approaching the crater
Smoke from crater
First look of hot spots
Close up of bubbling lava
Crater 5
Last look of crater
Hawaii flight
Flying overland

Hidden Target Book Review

Recent news reminds me of the Cold War. One of the best writers of spy novels, Helen MacInnes wrote most of her books during the Cold War. The Hidden Target is my favorite Helen MacInnes novel. The book is both a spy novel and a love story. Some of my favorite books are re-read multiple times. This is one.

The Cold War made it easier to know who the bad guys were. Thus the suspense in The Hidden Target is not from an unknown predator or predators. Instead, the suspense builds around a time element. Will the good guys catch the bad guys before havoc ensues?

Hidden Target Plot

The plot is fairly straightforward. Russian agents infiltrate a group of college kids studying in Europe. They coax a small group into touring the world in a camper (think RV) starting from Europe. Of course an ulterior motive or two exist.
Nina O’Connell, the daughter of a high-ranking Washington D.C. politician is the target. Nina lost her mother to an early death and is adjusting to her father’s second wife. So, she is onboard with a summer of travel. In fact, she doesn’t even discuss the matter with him.

On the last afternoon before departure, Nina runs into Robert “Bob” Renwick. He is the hero of the story. Their last meeting occurred when Nina was only 15. A first love for her. Unrequited since he is much older than she. Naturally, Bob learns of the expedition.

Bob Renwick works for N.A.T.O. and is setting up an international organization to gather intelligence on terrorism. (Thus my tie in to current affairs.) The chance meeting bothers Bob because of the trip to explore the world. Even though he is busy establishing a new intelligence agency, he keeps digging into the oddities surrounding Nina’s travel plans. Naturally the two-story lines merge.

The Russian agents use familiar techniques to gain their objective. Most of the travelling students are gradually hooked on drugs and become easy to control. Sympathy is shown for encountered groups who use violence to make their point to the public. Anarchy is held in high regard. Even a divide and conquer approach can be found. Unfortunately I see some of the above techniques currently at work in our country.

I highly recommend reading The Hidden Target or any other Helen MacInnes book. The plots are as relevant today as they were during the Cold War when she wrote the stories. One only needs to look back at the 2016 election to understand the current dangers.

Refinishing Wood Garage Doors

Refinishing Wood Garage Doors

One of my big fall tasks this year is refinishing my wood garage doors. I really like the doors because they reduce the sound from the street. Since they face southwest the finish absorbs a lot of heat. In previous years I have just added a coat of varnish but it is time to start anew.

Refinish safely
Protect yourself

As you can see from the pictures, peeling of the varnish is occurring. The bottom of the panels are taking the brunt of the heat. I hope the stripping and refinishing will improve the look of the doors.

Refinishing wood garage doors
Peeling Varnish


The first step in refinishing wood garage doors is stripping the finish. It is important to use correct safety equipment in the stripping process. I am using a Safety Works Half Mask Respirator and chemical grade gloves made by Magid Glove & Safety. The stripping gel is Citri-strip. Other tools are a step-ladder, plastic scraper and a natural bristle brush.

Stripping works best when the temperature stays between 65 and 85 degrees. Therefore, fall is the perfect time for this type of work. Forecast temperatures for this week are within this range. Since this is a lengthy project I need more than just one day of ideal conditions.

Refinishing wood garage doors takes elbow grease. My first task was taping around the glass windows and the rubber seals. I am unsure of the potency of the chemical agent in the stripper. While it may only etch the glass it could eat away at the rubber door seals.

The stripping gel will take off layers, but I have many layers so it is taking more than one coat of gel. The minimum time suggested for leaving the gel on is 30 minutes and the maximum is 24 hours. As the temperature warms, the time needed decreased for me.

Yesterday,I spent about 5 hours on the single door. As you can see by the picture I have a way to go. If the weather cooperates, I hope to have this door completed in 3-4 days. The double door will take more time. I plan to have after pictures and a full report in a few weeks.