Tuesday, October 24, 2017

THIS AFFECTS YOU: Bad Changes for People Saving for Retirement: In New Tax Plan Proposed

The New York Times just published an analysis of the Republican Tax plan, and it adversely and severely affects people (who are not millionaires) trying to save for retirement. 

To understand the magnitude of this, let's look at the numbers. Currently, workers may contribute a maximum of $18,000 to a 401k plan per year, another $6,000 if you're over the age of 50. Republicans want to reduce the maximum contribution to just $2,400 a year, which means an additional $15,600 in taxable income per year. That's how they plan to pay for their tax cuts for the wealthy.

According to Robert Reich, "Meanwhile, top executives continue to take part of their compensation as “deferred income” – often amounting to millions each year – on which no taxes have to be paid until they retire. 

A recent study of industrialized nations finds that income inequality for retirees in the United States is already among the worst in the world. Republicans want to make it even worse."

Here's the article:

Republicans Consider Sharp Cut in 401(k) Contribution Limits

Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/us/politics/republicans-tax-401-k.html
WASHINGTON — House Republicans are considering a plan to sharply reduce the amount of income American workers can save in tax-deferred retirement accounts as part of a broad effort to rewrite the tax code, according to lobbyists, tax consultants and congressional Democrats.
It is unclear if Republicans will ultimately include a cap on contributions in the tax bill that they are expected to release in the coming weeks. Such a move would almost certainly prompt a vocal backlash from middle-class workers who save heavily in such retirement accounts and from the asset management industry.
The proposals under discussion would potentially cap the annual amount workers can set aside to as low as $2,400 for 401(k) accounts, several lobbyists and consultants said on Friday. Workers may currently put up to $18,000 a year in 401(k) accounts without paying taxes upfront on that money; that figure rises to $24,000 for workers over 50. When workers retire and begin to draw income from those accounts, they pay taxes on the benefits.
Rumors have circulated for months that negotiators were debating including a cap as a way to help offset the revenue loss from a reduction in business tax rates that Republicans have put at the center of their plan. Reducing contribution limits would be, in effect, an accounting maneuver that would create space for tax cuts by collecting tax revenue now instead of in the future.
Such a move would be likely to push Americans to shift their savings to so-called Roth accounts, where contributions are taxed immediately, and not when they are drawn out as benefits. That would increase federal tax receipts for the short run.
FULL ARTICLE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/us/politics/republicans-tax-401-k.html

Changes at our Favorite Restaurant: Dunkin' Donuts

We go to a Dunkin' Donuts almost daily, and when we don't, Dunkin' Donusts coffee is brewed at home. I (Rob) grew up in Quincy, MA, the home of the first Dunkin' Donuts and have been drinking their coffee since I was ten (for decades, enough said). It's the BEST coffee ever. Tom drinks their unsweet iced tea, and we agree there are no better.
  We also LOVE their sandwiches- Bacon,egg (no cheese for us) on a bagel is the best. In fact, we eat that sandwich for dinner once a week. The bagels, muffins and of course, donuts are great, too - and if  you eat them in moderation and exercise daily, there's no worry about weight gain and you get tasty treats. 
   Recently, Dunkin' Donuts announced a couple of possible changes!
1) Dunkin' Donuts May Drop the "Donuts" from their Store Name
Sue Ogrocki / AP, File
NEW YORK (AP) — Dunkin’ is thinking about dumping “Donuts” from its name.
A new location of the chain in Pasadena, California, will be simply called Dunkin’, a move that parent company Dunkin’ Brands Inc. calls a test. The Canton, Massachusetts-based company said Thursday that a few other stores will get the one-name treatment too.
The chain wants people to think of its stores as a destination for coffee, although it will still sell doughnuts. Dunkin’ Donuts said it won’t make a decision on whether it will change its name until late next year, when it expects to start redesigning stores.
2)  Dunkin’ Donuts is reducing its doughnut menu at 100 Mass. locations

Dunkin’ Donuts is testing an abbreviated doughnut menu at 1,000 locations nationwide.
A minimum of 18 “core” doughnuts will be available to customers at the chosen spots during a period of testing meant to simplify the menu and improve service. Then the company will analyze customer feedback to decide whether the move will be permanent, according to an emailed statement from the company.
“This test does not impact any Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in Boston at this time,” the statement reads.  A company representative would not expand on which stores are considered part of that Boston market. However, the representative did confirm that the test will include about 100 restaurants in Massachusetts’s Bristol County and locations in the Providence, Rhode Island, market.

Monday, October 23, 2017

5 out of 5 stars: A Fun Dog Rescue Story! A Tail of Two Doxies A Skeeterville Cozy Short Sto

I just finished a great novelette on Kindle called "A Tail of Two Doxies A Skeeterville Cozy Short Story: Seniors To The Rescue! (Skeeterville Senior Mysteries Book 3)" it 's by Teresa Quill. It's only available as an E-book, and it was such a great read. Such wonderful characters!

This is such a fun Dog Rescue Story!  There is nothing better than a dog rescue story and this one had lovable senior citizens, a great message about caring for pets correctly and great characters!   5 out of 5 Stars!

ABOUT THE BOOK: Irene and Gretta dognap two abused dachshunds in the dark of night only to find that one can't walk and the other is pregnant. Their apartments only allow one pet per apartment. Mean Eugene is on a mission to get rid of all of them. But why is Eugene so mean? And what about all those puppies? Enjoy this special Skeeterville short story between the novellas.There's no dead bodies in this one, but hang on, there will be in the next one!


Teresa Quill writes with two dachshunds at her feet, a parrot on her shoulder and a world of characters in her head. Her personal hero ignores the voices she hears and enables her to enjoy her writing trips to Skeeterville where the senior citizens are ornery and active, and the deputy scratches his head in wonder at their antics.

As a longtime member of Romance Writers of America and Maryland Romance Writers, she was writing a lovely contemporary romance when the secondary characters took over. Instead of fighting them, she let them run the show. Sometimes it's surprising where the seniors take her. They know that death happens, but they always want to know why. Teresa just follows them on their adventures.

Teresa asks if you read her books, please leave a review or visit her website. She loves to hear from readers. www.TeresaQuill.com

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cool Wedding, Fun Reception, Special Cake

L to R: officiant, Greg and Rich
Here in Maryland, the weather was perfect on Oct. 21, which marked the wedding reception for our friends Greg and Rich (who were married this past January in New Mexico). They held their reception outside in 76 degree Fahrenheit sunshine - a perfect and unusually warm October day here (average high is 62F). Oct. 21st marked 14 years together - an appropriate day to celebrate. 
  I (Rob) counted backward and remembered that I met them 10 days after their first date in 2004. (Tom met them in 2005 when he and I started dating).   
Rob and Tom 
CEREMONY AND READINGS - Not your average ceremony- Much more memorable!
  The ceremony had three readings (by Victoria, Jeff and Julie), and they were a mix of native American and Buddhist sayings. We loved the Native American references to Mother Earth and Father Sky. The ceremony was special and touching. 
  Their reception was held on their long front lawn (they live in a country-area) surrounded by a long drive. They rented a tent and hired a caterer, and a friend acted as a deejay. We enjoyed a great barbecue meal.
Wedding cake with 4 birthday names

Wedding cake w/photo of Rich and Greg January 2017 N.M. vows

3 birthdays on the cake: Rob, Judy and Jeff

Greg and Rich

A SPECIAL CAKE - The cake was fantastic. It  was three layers, and using fondant frosting was made in the design of an Aspen tree. - Since they plan on retiring in New Mexico years from now, and go there often,  they love the local aspen trees. Cool idea. What we didn't expect was that they purposely had 4 names of friends written on the back of the cake, because this week marked 4 birthdays: Rob's (mine), Jeff (Greg's brother), Judy (their long-time friend) and Mike (whom we didn't know). How thoughtful and special of them to do that. 
the big tent for the reception

God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor mother-earth and ask for our Marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons;
Kevin and Jeff
We honor fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask we sail through life safe and calm as in our father's arms; We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship - that it may never thirst for love; With all forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony and true happiness as we forever grow together. 

The officiant
Above you are the stars, below you are the stones. As time does pass, remember,  Like a star should your love be constant. Like a stone should your love be firm. Be close, yet not too close. Possess one another, yet be understanding. Have patience with the other for storms will come, but they will go quickly. Be free in the giving of affection and warmth. Make love often, and be sensuous to one another. Have no fear, and let not the ways nor the words of the unenlightened give you unease. For the Great Spirit is with you, For now and always. 

Nice fall decorations in the yard
more fall yard arrangements 
Jeff doing a reading

Saturday, October 21, 2017

In the News: Hiring freeze shrunk National Weather Service staff before hurricanes hit

Hurricane Harvey's  Devastation in Houston  Cr: Elite daily
If you think that you're being served well by the Trump Administration, did you know his hiring  freeze shrunk National Weather Service staff before hurricanes hit?
  It's true. We need MORE scientists, more science and better satellites and more people at FEMA to help with recovery efforts.. NOT LESS.
  REMEMBER:  YOU can change things for the better by voting for Independents and Democrats.
FACT:  The Republican party does not support science (or emergency response personnel, so keep that in mind... ESPECIALLY if you live in Hurricane-prone areas.  Oddly, Texas and Florida voted for Trump. When tornadoes ravage the southern states, they will also be wishing for more scientists, forecasters and emergency responders. Something they won't get if they keep voting for the Republican Party. That's a fact.

Source: Washington Post
Ahead of what would turn out to be a potentially record-breaking hurricane season, the National Weather Service had 216 vacant positions it could not fill due to a governmentwide hiring freeze imposed by the Trump administration, according to a recently released document.
Some of those Weather Service vacancies listed in the document, obtained by the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act and shared with The Washington Post, were in locations that would be hit by the major hurricanes that barreled through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
Staffing levels at the federal government’s weather bureau, responsible for tracking hurricanes and warning the public about hazardous weather, have fallen since 2010 when the agency employed more than 3,800 nonmanagerial and nonsupervisory employees. Staffing had declined so much that the Government Accountability Office wrote in May that employees were challenged in their ability “to complete key tasks.”
The Weather Service’s head count finally stabilized in 2016, with the forecasting agency starting and ending the year with about 3,400 on-the-ground workers.
But the staffing dip resumed in 2017, falling from 3,425 in December to 3,368 in August, according to data from the National Weather Service Employees Organization, a union representing meteorologists and other NWS employees.
“There's no question that the hiring freeze had an effect,” said Dan Sobien, NWSEO president. “But really it was the straw that broke the camel's back.”
He added, “The camel was already weighed down to the ground.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Weather Service’s parent agency, said the hiring freeze played a part in the recent decline in the agency’s ranks ahead of the triplet of intense storms — Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
“Yes, the hiring freeze was a contributing factor” for renewing that decline, NOAA spokesman Christopher Vaccaro wrote in an email.
But NOAA said its forecasting ability was not hampered by the shrunken staff.
“As already demonstrated during Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, NOAA is prepared for the hurricane season and is operating at full tempo,” Vaccaro said. “Our forecasters at NOAA's National Hurricane Center, local Weather Service offices, and river forecast centers and elsewhere in the agency are fulfilling the agency's mission of protecting lives and property as they issue timely and accurate forecasts.”
The Weather Service vacancies that could not be filled because of the hiring freeze, which ended for the agency in April, include two meteorology positions at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Those posts remained unfilled as of mid-August, the agency said, right before Hurricane Harvey struck Houston.
The freeze also prevented the Weather Service from hiring for two meteorology positions in Jacksonville, Fla., one meteorology position in Tampa and an electronics technician in Key West. 
   NOAA said all those posts, each in cities hit by Hurricane Irma, have been filled.
Ahead of the storms, the Weather Service readied “preselected backup offices” to handle forecasting for offices in the path of hurricanes in case communication was severed, Vaccaro said. For example, the field office near San Antonio covered the duties of the Key West office when Irma hit. The Miami office stepped in for the San Juan office in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria struck.
The Weather Service said that 248 positions remain vacant at the agency. Six of those vacancies are at offices in Florida. 

   "I continue to be deeply troubled by the number of unfilled positions at the National Weather Service and fatigued employees working overtime to compensate for these vacancies," Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) said in a statement. Crist, who served at Florida's Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, added that he shared his concerns with the president earlier this year.
The empty desks are not limited to low-level employees.

The National Hurricane Center, a Weather Service division, has been led by an acting director since May. An acting career official is heading NOAA until President Trump nominates and the Senate confirms a permanent replacement. Trump has waited longer than any other president to fill that role.

The union, however, contends there are actually 665 vacancies at the Weather Service as of July, far more than the agency claims, based on its own Freedom of Information response.

In either case, the vacancies at the Weather Service were numerous enough, even before Trump was inaugurated, for the GAO to audit the agency's hiring practices.

In May, it concluded that managers and employees “have experienced stress, fatigue, and reduced morale” because of the staff shortages. Because NOAA higher-ups make only “limited information” available on the status of hiring requests to those running Weather Service field offices, managers cannot “effectively plan and distribute workloads,” the internal government watchdog office found.

“People were literally getting sick from the workload,” Sobien, the union president, maintained.
GAO counted 455 open jobs as of September 2016 at the Weather Service, excluding headquarters positions, adding that worker data the agency provided "did not provide an accurate reflection of vacancies."
In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee wrote in a report that lawmakers are “very concerned with the continued number of employee vacancies” even though Congress has provided enough money to fill them.

"Morale is at an all-time low and these dedicated public servants are exhausted," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is not a member of the committee. "The president's hiring freeze only further compounded the vacancies."
But if the new administration gets its way, the Weather Service’s budget will not remain as flush. The White House has proposed cutting the agency's funding by 6 percent, which would include the loss of $62 million being used to update weather models and enable the agency to predict changing weather further out.
So far, the federal government has received positive marks from the public for its hurricane response. Seven in 10 call the overall response as “excellent” or “good," according to a Post-ABC poll conducted Sept. 18-21.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Some People Will do Anything for Money

Some people will find any way to make a buck. Here's something you don't see every day. There's a guy in the Bahamas who is selling his "mourning acting" services. Really.  I also learned that he has a "GoFundMe" page (with zero donations).
  Just look at this ridiculousness. His "mourning services" even include "jumping in the grave."
Wow. People will do anything for money. ...especially when it comes to avoiding getting a real job.

Internet's In Tears Over This "Professional Mourner's" Ridiculous Services Listing  

His "services"

Thursday, October 19, 2017

In the News: Do the air bubbles in coffee freak you out?

Do bubbles in coffee freak you out?
Do the air bubbles in coffeee freak you out? As a coffeeholic (for Dunkin' Donuts coffee only) I found this  article fascinating. You never know what's going to make people uncomfortable.
   People who suffer from trypophobia are repulsed by clustered holes/circular shapes and that's what people suffer from who can't drink coffee with air bubbles. 
  To me, coffee is something to be enjoyed, and I couldn't care if there were bubbles in it. My suggestion for people who suffer from that is to get take out in a cup with a lid! That way they can't see any bubbles!  - Rob
Thanks to our fellow coffeeholic, Jacquie for sharing it. 

Do You Have Coffee Bubble Phobia? Scientists Now Know Why

Has something as innocuous as a cluster of coffee bubbles ever given you the heebie-jeebies, even to the point where you might throw up? If so, you're not alone. People who suffer from trypophobia are repulsed by clustered holes/circular shapes. Not sure what that means? Envision the bubbles that float atop your morning coffee, a porous dishcloth or sponge or even air bubbles trapped in an otherwise tasty bite of chocolate.
    University of Kent researchers recently uncovered more pieces to the trypophobia puzzle, with findings published in the journal Cognition and Emotion. The longtime school of thought regarding this particular phobia is that trypophobics react to an evolutionary aversion to poisonous animals, some of which feature clusters of circles in their markings. However, the new findings indicate that trypophobics are instead averse to parasitism and infectious disease that often have clusters of round shapes, such as measles, rubella, scarlet fever, smallpox, tics and scabies.
    They came to this conclusion by utilizing two groups of participants – 255 trypophobics (recruited from support groups) and 182 without the phobia. Each group was asked to view 16 cluster images, with eight being disease-related and eight of regular objects (like holes drilled in a brick wall). The disease-related images were reported to be unpleasant by both groups, however only the trypophobic group found the non-disease images to be truly cringe-worthy.
    "We suggest that aversion to clusters is an evolutionarily prepared response towards a class of stimuli that resemble cues to the presence of parasites and infectious disease. Trypophobia may be an exaggerated and overgeneralised version of this normally adaptive response," they write in the study.
Phobias are often fear-based in response, but the researchers added another component to the study to determine whether this is true for trypophobics. It's already known that disgust is what causes people to steer clear of infection scenarios (think of the last public toilet you used), so it makes sense that the hypothesis of trypophobia as an infection/parasite-averse issue would experience this emotion, rather than fear.
    In fact, trypophobic respondents did report feelings of disgust, as well as related impulses, like the feeling that they might vomit. This occurred even when looking at the non-disease images. Many also said they experienced unpleasant sensations, like itchy or crawling skin, when looking at the images. "These findings support the proposal that individuals with trypophobia primarily perceive cluster stimuli as cues to ectoparasites and skin-transmitted pathogens," the researchers note in the study.

SOURCE: HealthHowstuffworks.com

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Last Week's News You didn't hear: White Asheville Airport bomb suspect wanted 'to fight a war on US soil'

(Photo: Buncombe County Detention Center)
We happened to find this article in the Asheville, NC newspaper online.  We are shocked that it didn't
make national news, and didn't even get Twitter recognition from the WH. Why? It was another white male who was planning a terrorist strike with a bomb he was planting in the Asheville airport. - That is, until a dog discovered the bomb and he was caught. 
    So, while conservatives in the GOP continue to scream that immigrants and people of religions other than christianity are the biggest threats to U.S. citizens, all of these white, christian men who inflict terrorism, like the Las Vegas shooter, and this guy, are ignored.  WAKE UP voters. It's not the people from other countries who are the biggest threat. It's USA-born, white men who are out of their minds and hate everyone other than straight, white, christians. It's disturbing.

Here's the story:

Airport bomb suspect wanted 'to fight a war on US soil'


 The man authorities say left an explosive device at Asheville Regional Airport on Friday morning that contained ammonium nitrate and fuel oil said he was preparing to "fight a war on U.S. soil," according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

The suspect, Michael Christopher Estes, had his first appearance in federal court Tuesday morning. He is charged with attempted malicious use of explosive materials and unlawful possession of explosive materials in an airport.
   He waived his right to a preliminary hearing, answering several of the judges questions with a polite, "Yes, sir." Near the end of the proceeding, Estes, bald and wearing a brown prison jumpsuit, smiled and shook the hand of his attorney, Fredilyn Sison, an assistant federal public defender.
    The federal judge found that Estes is indigent and assigned him an attorney for upcoming proceedings. Sison said that would likely be her.
   The criminal complaint, filed by FBI agent James A. Anderson and read in court, states that airport police officers found "what appeared to be an improvised explosive device" early Friday morning outside the airport terminal. 
   After being taken into custody at the Asheville Police Department, Estes waived his rights and agreed to answer questions, the complaint states. Estes "admitted that he placed the explosive device at the Asheville Airport," the complaint states. "He also explained that he bought the precursor materials at Walmart and Lowe's" in Arden. 
   "Estes claimed that he was getting ready to 'fight a war on U.S. soil,' but also claimed that he did not actually set the alarm clock," the complaint states. 
   The complaint also states that, "Estes described how he created the device using ammonium nitrate and the Sterno as a fuel source and then rigged the alarm clock to strike the matches and cause the flame necessary to trigger the device. Estes admitted to putting the nails in the device as well."
   On Friday, a TSA officer tested the substance in the device and it was positive for ammonium nitrate, a "widely used and regulated bulk industrial explosive," the complaint states. A bomb dog approached the device and "signaled," indicating "the presence of an explosive material.
    "The device at the airport consisted of a Mason type jar with a lid that was locked down by an incorporated locking device," the complaint states. "There were prills -- pellets or solid globules of a substance formed by the congealing of a liquid during processing -- inside the jar and two plastic cups containing an unknown liquid substance, believed to be the fuel source," the complaint states.    "There were pieces of cold compress packs inside the jar."
 Once ammonium nitrate forms into prills, it can absorb the fuel oil needed for an explosion, the complaint states.
"The jar was filled with steel wool that was then wrapped around nails and one shotgun cartridge," the complaint states, noting that it was a 410 gauge. "There was an alarm clock taped to the outside of the jar. There was then a grouping of matches taped to the striker arm positioned between the bells, and the bells were removed."
The clock was set to go off at 6:00.
Video footage from the airport showed an individual walking onto airport grounds at 12:39 a.m. on Oct. 6. He was wearing black clothing and a black cap and carrying a bag.
"Based on a review of the video, the individual walked near the entrance to the terminal, went out of sight momentarily, and was then seen departing the area without the bag," the complaint states.
An airport maintenance worker said a man had come out of a wooded area across the street and to the east of the airport. Investigators found a bag in the woods with Gorilla Tape, consistent with the tape used in the device, as well as Sterno Firestar Gel, believed to be the likely fuel source for the explosive device, the complaint states.
There was also a bag containing shotgun shells.
Investigators went to the Walmart store on Airport Road, where they learned a person had bought Gorilla tape, Sterno Firestarter Gel, a glass Mason type jar, matches, cold compress packs, and an alarm clock on Oct. 3. At the Lowe's store off Airport Road, investigators learned a person had bought Kobalt gloves that were "very similar to those observed in the tool bag found in the wooded area."
The backpack bag found in the woods apparently had been bought at REI in Biltmore Park, and the buyer used a membership number assigned to Michael C. Estes. Estes admitted that the bought the backpack at REI, the complaint states.
Officers arrested Estes, 46, on Airport Road on Saturday, after several people reported seeing him nearby. His last known address was in Asheville.

No one was injured in the Friday incident. The airport's Terminal Drive and part of a terminal were closed for about two hours.
In the complaint, investigators noted that the type of device found at the airport, called "AN/FO" explosives, has been used "in a number of terrorist-related incidents around the world in the past.
"When AN/FO comes into contact with a flame or other ignition source it explodes violently," the complaint states. "Shrapnel or nails or ball bearings are often items added to the device so as to increase the devastation inflicted by the explosion."
Estes told investigators he "staged" in the woods near the airport a couple of days before placing the device at the airport.


An Okay Movie: Swamp Thing (1982)

There's a comic book character that I (Rob) have enjoyed reading for years called "Swamp Thing." It's about Alec Holland, a scientist, working on plants in a research station in the Louisiana Bayou. As a result of an explosion, he is doused with special chemical,, catches fire and jumps in the swamp to extinguish himself. He becomes a living, breathing man of plant-life (who can regenerate).  
   I love the character, and the film as OKAY. I give it a B-. It kept my interest as a fan of the comics.  I know I'm going to get flak for saying this, but I'm not big on Adrienne Barbeau and her performance in this movie.
- Rob 
Swamp Thing the movie came out in 1982... so there are no cell phones. :)  It was written and directed by Wes Craven, based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.
Here's the official 1 min. 30 second movie trailer: 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Excellent series; Timber Creek K-9 Mystery: Stalking Ground

Wow!   I really paid attention when Amazon.com recommended a mystery series that involves dogs. In this case a woman named Maddie and her K-9 in a town in Colorado who has a crush on a veterinarian. What a fantastic series: "Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries" by Margaret Mizushima. I just finished "Stalking Ground" about a woman who is found murdered in the hills of Colorado and the strange connections to her. I can't wait to read the rest in the series. 
  Five out of Five stars! - Rob

ABOUT THE BOOK: When Deputy Ken Brody's sweetheart goes missing in the mountains outside Timber Creek, Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are called to search. But it's mid-October and a dark snow storm is brewing over the high country. And they're already too late. By the time they find her body, the storm has broken and the snow is coming down hard.

While Brody hikes down to bring back the forensics team and veterinarian Cole Walker gathers supplies to protect them from the storm, Mattie and Robo find themselves alone, guarding the gravesite overnight in the dead of the early winter. And that's only the first long, dark night in a series of them, because as their investigation develops, Mattie, Robo, Brody, and Cole find themselves in the middle of the killer's stalking ground--where the hunters have just become the hunted.

An effortlessly engrossing read filled with tension, excitement, and heart, Stalking Ground, the second in Margaret Mizushima's lauded debut series, will send a chill down every reader's spine.

Monday, October 16, 2017

We Enjoyed "The Woman in Black" on a Baltimore Stage

L to R: Tom, Jim, Richard, Rob
We don't get to live theater productions very much but this weekend, we got into the "spirit" of the Halloween season by seeing "The Woman in Black," a stage show about a ghost. Our friends Jim and Richard who lived in Baltimore joined us for the production at the Fells Point Corner Theatre in Baltimore. 

THE STORY: The Woman in Black is a 1987 stage play, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt (who died in November 2004 at the age of 57). The play is based on the book of the same name, which was published in 1983 by English author Susan Hill. The Woman in Black was written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel. The plot concerns a mysterious spectre that haunts a small English town, heralding the death of children.
Grayson Owen as Kipps and Sean Coe as the Actor

I sent a note to Grayson Owen, who played one of the 2 leading men (it was a 2 man show and 1 woman who came in briefly)  I told him that we enjoyed the performance and it was brilliant. Sean Coe, the other co-lead was also fantastic.  Holly Gibbs did a great job in making me jump out of my seat (twice!). The directing by Patrick Gorirossi was wonderful and it was a "haunting" show.  

NOTE: This is a small theater and cozy. They didn't use a lot of props, and that didn't sit well with Richard. Tom thought there could have been more props to make it a bit more realistic but he really enjoyed it. Jim and I loved it. We thought it was great and told them it's all about "Theater of the Mind."

Fun Fact - "The Woman in Black" is the fourth-longest-running West End show (11,488 performances) 

BOTTOM LINE - It's a haunting play, well done by these great actors. Don't mind the lack of props, use your imagination.  If you're anywhere near Baltimore, see it before it ends on November 5th. It's perfect for the Halloween mood! 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Howard County Podcast Interview: Rob Gutro, Margaret Ehrlich of Inspired Ghost Tracking

Earlier this month, Matthew Trudel, host of Howard County Podcast Interviewed medium/author Rob Gutro, and Margaret Ehrlich founder of Inspired Ghost Tracking!  (Their interview starts around 43 minutes  in).  We talked about ghosts, how we got into the paranormal, our experiences, the difference between ghosts and spirits, pets, human ghosts and much more!
Podcast Page:

About this Show: HoCo Journal: October 2017

September 28, 2017
Don't miss the Horizon Foundation's Open Streets event on October 1st, and get all the details on their ambitious plan to make our county more bikeable and walkable, plus get to know the Howard County Police Musuem and how the institution has evolved overtime, and get ready for Halloween and beyond as we learn more from pets and the afterlife!

In the News; The Trump Effect: U.S. Hate Crimes on the Rise

 It's no surprise that since a certain someone was elected that hate crimes have been on the rise in the U.S. we call it "the Trump Effect." It seems that some hate groups who support him have felt empowered to commit acts of crime and violence against non-white, gay, non-christian people. 

Here's the story from the news:

THE RISE OF HATE CRIME IN THE U.S.  -"The number of hate crimes rose across the United States in 2016, marking the first time in over a decade that the country has experienced consecutive annual increases in crimes targeting people based on their race, religion, sexuality, disability or national origin," according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. 

Exclusive: New Report Offers Proof Of US Hate Crime Rise In The Trump Era 

    Data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, and provided exclusively to HuffPost, shows hate crimes rose about 5 percent from 2015 to 2016.
   The study, authored by Professor Brian Levin, is seen as a reliable predictor of official FBI hate crime statistics, released each year in November. Levin’s 2016 findings amount to the most comprehensive hate crime data to date for the divisive election year, and back up alarming anecdotal evidence of emboldened bigotry in America.  
   According to Levin, the study found “nearly identical” increases in hate crimes across two separate data sets.
   The first data set consists of hate crime numbers reported by law enforcement agencies in 31 large cities and counties, including the 10 largest cities in the U.S. The study found 2,101 hate crimes in those cities and counties, a nearly 5 percent rise from the 2,003 hate crimes in the same places the year before.
  Of the nation’s five largest cities, all but Houston experienced double-digit percentage increases, Levin said.
   Hate crimes in Chicago rose 20 percent in 2016, 24 percent in New York City, 15 percent in Los Angeles, and 50 percent in Philadelphia. The city with the largest increase in hate crimes was Washington, D.C., which saw a 62 percent rise.
    But 2016 was notable for the “significant increases” in hate crimes in the period around Election Day itself, he said.  “What is so unusual about 2016 ― with the exception of the Midwest ― and particularly among the largest jurisdictions with the best data, was a clear and dramatic spike for the election period that was unlike anything I can recall in my professional career,” Levin said.

 Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hate-crime-rise-2016-united-states-trump_us_59becac8e4b086432b07fed8?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=__TheMorningEmail__091917&utm_content=__TheMorningEmail__091917+CID_492767d43de93090ad9e11070da04344&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=HuffPost&ncid=newsltushpmgnews__TheMorningEmail__091917

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Part 3: Rebuilding the Sun Porch: Final Stage

Outside of the new, improved sun porch and Tom's front side design
    Tom came up with the design to upgrade our sun porch into a room we can enjoy year round. This is part 3, the final part. Of course, we started this in June 2017, and it was finally finished in September. The reason it took so long was that Tom did it on weekends and some weekends over the summer we rainy. He did have help from our friends Will and Jeremy, too. Tom framed the second wall and installed the second set of windows, and then he and Will framed the front wall with large all-weather windows. 

Inside the new, upgraded  sun porch
   Tom also put in wiring and insulation. It was a huge job. - If you're wondering what I (Rob) did, well, the demolition of the old windows, and then I made
inside painting started
meals. I'm not good at building anything, just destroying things. :) - I spent my time training and walking the dogs and working on my 5th paranormal book. 
Paneling installed, ready for painting

   But I digress. After all the walls and windows were up, we got the electrical work connected. For the final part, paneling, inside framing and painting the paneling, we hired someone. Enough is enough! :)  So, now we've been able to enjoy the room reading the paper on Sunday mornings when it has been in the 50s outside, since this is heated and a full-time part of the house. What do you think?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Part 2: Rebuilding the Sun Porch: Wall Building

Putting in the first frames
One side Almost all framed!
Tom came up with an idea to make our sun porch a room we can enjoy year round. This is Part 2: Wall Building!
  In the last blog we removed the  the vinyl windows. Framing the new walls was Tom and Will's (our friend and neighbor) job. It took all day to frame up the first side because they had to allow for a window and a wall heating/air conditioning unit. 

After the framing, they had to ensure the 2 square windows fit (it did) and that the opening they made on the bottom (rectangular and horizontal) was perfect to slide in the heating/A-C unit (pictured on the floor). It was!
Starting to add plywood


From the outside
Plywood installed

Weather wrap put on and windows installed

A finished side, complete with windows, heating/AC and 2 Windows!

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

Great Books by our friends

Great Books by our friends
Check out these great books (yeah, Rob's are in there, too)

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next

Podcast of Rob's 50 min. interview on Paranormal Filler Radio 7/13/14