Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodbye my friend – LFB

This week we said goodbye to a family member, friend and companion. No cars or car stories for this blog entry, but a farewell to our dog Crockett. He had picked up a lot of nick names over the years: Poopa, Puppa, Poopalicious, Puppalicious, Grill Guard, Little Fluffy Buddy (LFB), Fluffy White Sausage, White Torpedo, Mr. C, and the infamous Bad Dog. He loved his family, tolerated a few visitors (like my Mom and the people that feed him while we were gone) and hated everyone else.

Mr. C was typical for his breed - America Eskimo. They apparently come with one of two distinct personalities – they either love everyone or dislike everyone (except for their family). We got the latter. Protective to a fault, I am sure to the people knocking on the door, Crockett sounded like a much larger dog.

Pure white and VERY fluffy The Poopa looked like he should be the most gentle friendly dog in the world, and every time we were out on a walk, the people we encountered would say “awww he is so cute” and reach down to pet him (who would not want to pet a snow white fluffy dog), he growled at them. I would warn them…he is not too friendly and they would reluctantly back off. It actually had just a touch of irony.

The Puppa loved his treats (to a fault) and was always on treat or dropped food patrol. It was funny, when we ate a meal, he would sit and stare at me, boring holes in my fork to mouth motion. I would reach down and try to pet him and he would duck away not wanting to be pet as if saying “Hey! I am working here!” But if a morsel of food hit the deck, I would yell “Man Down” and he was on it in a split second. This was okay at the table, but if we were preparing food and something big hit the ground, you had to be really fast to beat him to it and snatch a sure treat away from the jaws of victory.

Like I said, he loved his treats. When I took my vitamins in the morning, he was right there needing his pill too. His pill was doggie dental food, but he thought it was his treat. Bed time? I like to stay up and write until late into the night. Sure enough about 11 PM, he would let me know he wanted to go to bed. What he really wanted was his bedtime treat. A lot of nights, he would have to wait until 2 or 3 if I was on a writing tear. I think he had trained us. But through all his food fixation, he actually had a very delicate stomach and if he did get something he shouldn’t, it frequently came back up a short time later. We cleaned up a lot of puke over the years.

I could go on about the other end and all that fur, but my wife won’t let me, she thinks it is TMI. She is probably right… Poopalicious loved to eat smelly socks, underwear or any other piece of laundry he could get a hold of. One time my wife put a dish-rag in the laundry that she had used to mop up some spilled juice from a roast. We could not find that rag anywhere, we looked suspiciously at Crockett, he feigned innocence. One month later, we finally found the rag, he had puked it up…it sat in his stomach for a month…disgusting!

Not exactly greased lightening, Puppalicious had two kills to his credit, a baby bunny and a baby duck. Hey, I said he was not too fast. Frequently he was a pain-in-the-ass, but mostly he was our dog. Mr. C’s favorite thing? Having his booty scratched; the area along his back near his tail, Crockett would just shimmy and squirm the whole time, a few seconds of pure pleasure. But then he was done and walked off. He only liked pets when he wanted them, in certain ways he was pretty independent (almost cat like).

OK, about the Fluffy White Sausage and White Submarines nick names; frequently when he laid down he would put his front paws straight out and his back legs splayed out behind him, he did this so he could put his belly on our tile floor. With all that fur, he was always hot. So my sister commented one time that he looked like a fluffy white sausage laying on the floor, that nick name stuck. When playing tug–of-war, after a few seconds of vigorous pulling he would flop down on the floor and my boys would pull him along the tile on his belly, like he was skimming through the waves….White Torpedo. Crockett had a lot of personality.

You would figure that he was one tough dog and for over 10 years you would have been correct. The dog books tell us this breed frequently live to be 18-20 years old. We thought he would be with us at least another 7-8 years. But it was not to be. He started acting sick about 6 month ago and we took him to the vet. He had acute kidney failure and was put on a very restrictive diet (even more restrictive than his usual one) and he hated it. He had to take lots of pills, but we wrapped them in this new product called Pill Pockets (we wish we could invest in this company but they are privately owned, it's a great product). He lived for his treats wrapped in Pill Pockets, his bark tone having changed to almost a sharp urgent plea.

Several weeks ago, he started moaning when lying down and we were very concerned and it seemed that we went to the vet at least once a week. Anytime he showed any symptom that seemed abnormal we would call our patient vet and voice our concerns. Crockett had a lot of tests and it seemed that we had a handle on the kidney issue. Perhaps he learned to be more vocal about his discomfort.

But the moaning continued and it just seemed that he was not all there. He was not the same dog. We video taped how he acted at home and took it to the vet. She was very worried and asked me to bring him in right away. She took an x-ray and she found a large tumor on his stomach. In our hearts we knew it was the end. He had tried to fight through the pain and would come to tell us, as if asking for us to do something. But it was just too much.

We did the humane thing and put him to sleep yesterday. I held him close in my arms while the vet injected him with the euthanasia drug and in seconds his great heart stopped beating. I cried and held him close, not wanting to let go.

Good bye little buddy, I will sure miss you. Sleep well, the pain is gone.

See you all next time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Driver Book I – Decision is now available for sale on my web site and on

After months of writing and waiting, editing and waiting, working with graphics artists and you guessed it waiting and then for good measure, waiting some first novel The Driver Book I – Decision is now available for purchase on my website and

To make it easy to find it, here are the links:

My personal Create Space Web page - 5" x 8" Print version

eBook version available in Kindle format - 5" x 8" Print version

And now for a little teaser, here is an excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 1:

The dark metallic-gray Maserati Quattroporte sliced north along the French A-7 Autoroute toward Lyon. The Driver stayed in the passing lane, flashing his high beams. Peugeots and Renaults moved out of his way as if pushed by a shockwave.
Something was bothering him. Most Engagements were trouble-free drives, taking cargo from one place to another. A Driver seldom knew what his cargo was—it could be things or people or things and people. This Driver’s cargo, a small box, was secure inside the specially built safe in the Maserati’s trunk, surrounded by sheets of soft foam rubber to keep it from sliding around. Rene Dufour had been doing this for a long time and something about this Engagement made him uncomfortable. Usually when he sensed an Engagement was going to be dangerous, possibly life threatening, he knew what was causing that feeling; a sixth sense honed over years of experience. Today nothing; only a vague persistent uneasiness. Glancing in the rearview mirror, once again he reviewed the events that began when he’d picked the cargo up in Marseilles, hoping to identify what it was that was bothering him.
Driving into a rundown and abandoned warehouse near the wharf, the headlights peered through the shadows and dust illuminating three men standing next to a silver BMW 5-Series. Rene had pulled to a stop and got out. He remembered scrutinizing each of them. They had French underworld written all over them. Two wore silvery gray tight fitting suits, buttoned up, the outline of pistols barely visible in their waistbands. The third, in a very expensive black suit and wraparound sunglasses, his dark hair tipped spiky blond, stepped forward to meet Rene. Tattoo’s blossomed up along his neck and up behind his jaw—flames with the tips changing from bright red to yellow just finishing underneath his ears. Classy!
Identities verified, Tattoo Man flashed a pearly white smile visible even in the gloom of the warehouse and brought the small case from the trunk of the BMW and gave it to Rene. Before he could open the Maserati’s trunk, the trio had turned, got into their car, and disappeared with a shriek of spinning tires and clouds of billowing smoke. Rene cocked his head to listen. The BMW continued accelerating until the roar of the engine faded into the distance. Strange, he remembered thinking, usually they watch me leave. Not much to go on, but the feeling of unease persisted. Rene returned his focus to completing the Engagement.
The consummate professional, Rene Dufour never failed to deliver once contracted for an Engagement. His plans were to contact his clients when he reached Lyon and give them an update on his progress and a new ETA for Reims, his final destination. He toggled the switch on the console to his right, activating the rear camera, one of several modifications he’d had specially built into the Maserati. He studied the cars following further behind him, looking for any indication that he may have a tail. So far, so good. He switched to the front. Nothing.
He drove for a few minutes getting his bearings from the GPS in his dash, spotted an Agip nearby on the way to Morieres, and at the last second veered off the road into the service area, just east of Avignon. He pulled up in front of the main building, which housed a restaurant and shop and sat for a moment to see if anyone followed him into the rest area. Not seeing a suspicious vehicle, he turned the Maserati around and backed into the parking place. He exited the car, pulled his ever-present iPhone from the suit jacket pocket and locked the car, also setting the extra security systems before heading inside for a visit to the restroom and to grab an espresso.
Rene stepped inside the restaurant and paused, looking back. The tinted glass gave him excellent cover to observe the cars passing. For the briefest moment, he stared at his reflection in the glass. 1.8m tall, broad chest, and about 77kg, his graying black hair brush cut. He could not see his intense blue eyes, covered now, as they frequently were, by sunglasses. His thick lips and thin nose combined with a slight olive in his complexion to let him pass for French, Italian, Spanish and—with some additional facial hair—Middle Eastern. Vain about his clothes, he too wore designer suits, especially Canali and Zegna, but unlike the tattooed man back at the warehouse, Rene preferred loose-fitting jackets that gave him freedom of movement and concealed his shoulder-holster. His easy, self-confidant movements—second nature after a career in law enforcement—announced to anyone paying attention, ‘Do not mess with me.'
No cars had followed him into the parking lot. Good. Makes things simple, he thought. He went to the restroom to wash up and stopped by the counter. He ordered and paid for a double espresso. When the order arrived, he added several sugars, ritually stirred the espresso until the sugar had completely dissolved, then quickly gulped the hot, sweet liquid down. He looked at the Maserati. It had only been out of his eyesight for a few moments, but he had to check it, he always did. He pulled out his iPhone and ran the security program. The response was quick: no explosives, no bugs, no tampering.
Rene punched another button, remotely starting the car and unlocking the driver's door, which gapped open slightly so that he could enter the car without having to fumble with the door handle. He walked quickly outside and was in the car, putting the Maserati in gear and heading out in less than eight seconds.
Exiting the Agip, moving along the access road onto the A-7, he noticed a staid black Mercedes E55 AMG saloon up ahead idling in the emergency lane. Dark tinted windows, smoke rising softly from the tail pipes, a coincidence this car happened to be sitting precisely at that spot? Not likely. Instantly on full alert, thinking, planning, he quickly pulled into the emergency lane himself, careful to stay about fifty meters back from the Mercedes. Using another modification to the car, Rene used the thumb wheel on the steering wheel accessing the front camera, he zoomed in and snapped a photo of the Mercedes’ license plate. Looking up, he noticed what seemed to be an identical Mercedes coming up behind, now slowing to pull in behind him. They had him pinched in between; no doubt they had assumed they could easily take him down. So it was time to change the rules to their game.

Want to read more (I know you do!), you can download the Kindle eBook version or for those of you that prefer to turn actual pages (like me), the print version is available too. Hope you enjoy the book, it makes an excellent gift!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bad Boy Part 2

I just stared and stared at my 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera / 930 as it sat there in my garage. I pulled it front ways first so I could just look at the back of the car, that huge white whale tail spoiler that every teenage boy thought was the biggest, coolest wing to adorn the back of a car since the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. Then I would turn it around and back it in just to look at the front of the car, low and menacing. Sitting so low to the ground, a hunkered down shape that spoke of speed and power, it looked squat, mean and fast from any angle.

And do you know what? In 1976 it was fast, with the exception of the Lamborghini Countach LP400 and the Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxer, there was nothing stock that was faster on the road. Porsche created a revolution when they introduced the Turbo. Let’s face it, cars were pretty sucky in 1976 and with the exception of the afore mentioned exotics, there was not much to choose from. In fact, the 911 Turbo was a revelation. It was funny; Porsche management in Germany actually thought that nobody would buy them. There were so much more expensive than any other Porsche 911 in the range. Every last one of them sold. But they also had a deadly reputation. Inexperienced drivers were not used to that power and there were several that crashed when their driver, after piling on the speed as the turbo kicked in carried way too much speed into a corner and hit the brakes. Not something you do in a rear-engine car. They bite hard when that happens, the rear end would snap around sending the car spinning off the road backwards; often with dire consequences. Even the US Government threatened to do something about these evil fast cars crashing off the road backwards. I knew full well the cars reputation and I respected it every time I drove it. I was always just a little scared when I took it out, but don’t tell my wife…

No other street Porsche had been this fast. I read someplace that the claimed top speed was 153, but I have read other reports that it was closer to 160. No matter, it was fast back then and it is fast today. And it was loud. Bad Boy had been equipped at some point with an after-market “sport exhaust” meaning minimal internal baffling, maximum external noise exiting the huge twin coffee can size exhaust outlets. My wife claimed she could hear the car more than a half mile away as I accelerated up a nice uphill stretch on the back road near our house. Good, I like loud. My boys? They loved it. Today they both tell me it was their favorite Porsche that I have owned. I remember that my oldest son who was in junior high at the time was telling me that he and his friends talked cars every day during lunch. I asked which cars did they talk about…he said my 930. Ahhh, I was humbled, it was still the object of teenage lust, even after all these years.

You know for an old car, it was pretty well equipped for 1976 - AC (well at least there was just the hint of cool air coming out of the vents), power windows, power mirror (yes mirror, remember in 1976 most cars only had one, to get the other was an option), full leather, power sunroof, cassette radio and even intermittent windshield wipers(!). It was missing some important stuff too; Porsche did not put power steering or brakes on this first generation of the Turbo. Many people complained about the brakes saying they were not good enough. Actually I found them to be perfectly adequate, but since they were not power assisted, you just had to press on the pedal real hard. The clutch was not hydraulic, so it did not have a slave cylinder to help with the clutch action, just a very long thick cable that pulled the pressure plate directly. The clutch pressure was extreme, taking a lot of force to press the pedal in. It was funny, my calf muscle on my left leg looked like a dessert plate, it was so pumped up.

There were some quirks about the car. The turbo power was like an on-off switch. There was nothing, no torque, zilch zero nada below 3K RPM, but once you hit that engine speed, the turbo clicked on like a switch and WHAM it exploded forward, pushing you back in the seat as the motor pulled all the way to the 6800 RPM red line. It was intoxicating and I hammered it every chance I got, which as it turns out was pretty much every time I drove it. The acceleration felt like the USS Enterprise as it blasted towards another part of the galaxy bending into warp speed. That shock wave of force and sound was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I had perma-grin; the smile of a gear head plastered on my face. Yes driving it was fun, don’t know if I will ever get the chance to experience anything like that again…but man it was a hoot! But there was not a rev limiter on the car so you had to be very careful not to over rev the motor. I am willing to bet that many an early Turbo motor went BANG simply because the motor was consistently over-revved.

Another quirk - I liked to take the car for about a 150-200 mile drive every other month or so. There were some nice back roads that took me north and west of the DFW area close to the Texas-Oklahoma border. One day was glorious with temps in the low 70’s, a few puffy cotton ball shaped clouds in the sky. So I pointed the car west and opened up the sunroof and it retracted all the way back giving me a ginormous 8” slot of open sky above my head. It was great, until I noticed that the oil temp started to creep up on me. Now I would like to say that I was very respectful of the oil temp on the car and a good temp range was 160 – 180 degrees, more than that and the oil was getting too hot. Respectful may not be the right word, more like terrified, yes…that is closer to how I felt about the oil temp. So I watched it like a hawk, like 10-12 times a minute, I would sneak a peek at the temp. And now it was nudging up past 180, I was concerned…

Don’t know why, but I decided to close the sunroof and low and behold, the temp dropped into the normal range. Strange. Later after I returned from the trip, I went online and posted a question on the Rennlist Porsche Forum and someone replied and suggested that I look in the owner’s manual under sunroof operation. I turned to the correct page and there it was…saying something like “Do not operate the retractable metal pleasure roof segment (or some such German translation) over 100kph (62mph) as it may effect the cooling capability of the engine.” WTF?

Apparently with the sunroof open (oops, I mean the retractable metal pleasure roof segment), it created a dip in the airflow as the speed of the car increased, with more air dipping into the interior and less over the vents on the engine bay at the back of the car. Remember that a Porsche 911 (all variants up to the 996) was air-cooled. So that huge fan at the back of the motor did several things – it spun the alternator for one, but it also dumped a huge amount of air onto the top of the cylinder casings, keeping the engine cool (along with copious amounts of expensive Red Line synthetic oil). The retractable metal pleasure roof segment impacted the airflow above 60mph, reducing the effect of the air being sucked into top of the motor by that fan.

Who knew? I will say that the 930 never stranded me. Oh it tried a couple of times, once with a flat tire (about 120 miles from home). I drove home very slowly on the 25 year old donut, people pointing and laughing as they flew by me on the highway; a Porsche going slow in the slow lane. The second time? I will leave that for next time when I finish up the Bad Boy series.

Until then…