Clark’s fish camp

We’d heard about a restaurant on the St. Johns in Jacdsonville a while back and had been wanting to try it ever since. Today seemed like a great day so we drove up to Nancy’s favorite Quilt Shop and then to lunch at Clark’s Fish Camp.

What a great place. It’s quite large with lots of indoor and outdoor dining. The place is decorated with all kinds of stuffed animals – not little stuff, but things like lions and tigers and bears and gators. In addition it was all decked out for Halloween which meant lots of life size animated ghouls and goblins. Intermixed with the stuffed animals, the overall affect was really good.

We sat outside right along the river. Numerous boats pulled up and unloaded for lunch the whole time we were there. The menu was quite large and extensive, maybe 90% seafood oriented with lots of specialty items. We had a calamari appetizer, onion rings and soft shelled crab sandwiches. Spectacular. As we were eating, I noticed a guy at the table next to ours working on what looked like a prime rib roast. I had never seen such a large hunk of meat outside the grocery store. As we were leaving, I asked our waiter what it was. He identified it as the Joan’s cut which is slightly smaller than Jack’s cut. He said it was 2 1/2 pounds. I checked the menu and it was $22.95; Jack’s was $24.95.

When we finished up, Nancy pitched a piece of her roll over the side. It looked like a school of piranha attacked it – some monstrous size bream.

It’s too far to go on a regular basis but anytime you’re near Jax, put it on your “must do” list. It’s maybe 5 miles west of 95 on the south side of Jax so maybe next time we head up to SC, that would be a good destination eating spot.


Last January we visited the Burmeisters in California. I noticed that Fred was fully engaged working puzzles in the newspaper and wondered what that was all about. So I tried one of the Sudoku puzzles and was instantly hooked. Unlike crossword puzzles, it required nearly zero knowledge, just the abiliity to think logically. On the surface, the puzzle concept is simple and like any other puzzle, some are easy and some are hard so as you gain experience you drift up in complexity. And that’s been my experience so when we buy puzzle books, I move right to the ones labeled tough or demanding or challenging, or tricky, or diabolical – any of the adjectives that indicate a tough puzzle. I leave the easy and moderates to Nancy who is not nearly as engaged in solving these puzzles as I am.

But here’s where I have some difficulty. I also do the ones in the newspaper every day. These are graded one to four with one being the easiest. So throughout the week I do a few ones, a few two’s etc. What I find is that sometimes I breeze through a “four” and other times I get stuck on a “one”. It makes me wonder how they rate the complexity.

The most obvious thought would be that a simple puzzle has more filled in starting numbers and a more complex puzzle would have fewer. But I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Some of those rated most difficult have 20-22 blocks filled in (out of 81 possible); some of those labeled simple have 22 – 24. But if you think about it, if it were true that the more numbers you have filled in the easier the puzzle, then with each number you add the puzzle would get easier. For example if you started with 20 given locations and added another 10, why is that any different that starting out with one that has 30 numbers filled in and even the ones labeled super easy have fewer than 30 filled in to start with. So it stands to reason that once you had 30 filled in, the rest should be child’s play. Wrong!

Another something I noticed is that after getting totally stuck on a puzzle, if I erase it and start over using a different starting point, the puzzle sometimes melts away with ease. For example I usually attack the square in the upper left corner and then move left to right, top to bottom, exactly as if reading a book. After going through all 9 blocks that way, I systematically attack it on a column by column basis, again left to right; then on a row by row basis, top to bottom. I will deviate from this circular approach to pick up gimme’s but nominally I continue the rotation until it comes up blank. I have another technique that I use beyond that but I won’t get into that detail. But when I start say from the lower right hand corner block and work backwards, then do rows before columns etc – I don’t hit a stop at the same point. I may get way further one way and even solve one that had me tearing out my hair. Meaning that the sequence with which I attacked the puzzle rendered it either difficult or easy. That just defies logic – or at least my logic – but I’ve tried that on several puzzles and it seems to bear out. It doesn’t mean that I solve one that had me stumped but it does often enough to assure me that there’s something to the sequencing. And even when I don’t solve it the second time, my total count when I hit a stop point is different than it was originally. Telling me that sequencing surely has something to do with it.

So how do the creators of these puzzles decide which ones are easy and which are not quite so easy and which are brutal? Inquiring minds want to know.

For the birds

I was fishing off the dock this morning when a bizzare event occurred. I was casting a white 4” senko worm and had retrieved it back to within about 20′ from me. The lure is very visible so you can watch it clearly even when it’s 2′ below the surface. Out of nowhere a kingfisher bird dove on it. It came from maybe 10′ altitude and was moving fast so it was over in a millisecond, or so it seemed. Somehow my reflexes were good enough or he had misjudged the depth, but I was able to jerk the bait away from him. It really would have been a mess had he managed to pick up the worm and hook himself.

That’s the third unusual bird experience this week. Earlier in the week I was sitting on the dock, under the roof, reading. An Anhinga, a water bird similar to a cormorant, flew toward the dock intent on landing on an outside piling. He slowed down as you’d expect just as his feet hit the top of the piling but I could see he was way too low and crashed gently into the piling instead of landing on it. He came up swimming and stretching his neck in a distressful fashion. It seemed to me that maybe he had a fish or something caught in his throat and was having a hard time swallowing it. He swam a bit and then tried to fly but couldn’t get airborne. He kept repeating this swim then flight trial until eventually he reached shore over by Grover’s. I lost him in the bushes so don’t know if he ever recovered or what.

The next morning I was sitting at the computer when some kind of grayish, songbird crashed into the window about 2′ from my head. Scared the hell out of me. It hit as if it had been shot out of a gun – really hard. I got up and went outside to see what had happened and he was laying there, dead as a doornail.

Have I done something to piss off the bird God????

Great lunch

Nancy and I go out to lunch normally two or three times a week. More often than not we end up over at the beach. That can be anywhere from New Symrna to near St. Augustine – whatever strikes us. We have a few “must return to’s” and many more, “we need to try that some time’s”. We’re a fairly balanced team since Nancy tends to want to return to favorites and I tend to want more explorations. This week was a mix.

On Tuesday we headed to an old favorite – DJ’s under the bridge at Port Orange. We tend to go there when there is a sale at Hancock Fabric. It usually starts out as a trip to the beach and about halfway there, Nancy remembers the sale. Anyway, DJ’s is a hole in the wall right on the Halifax. Outside eating only, so it’s weather dependent. We like DJ’s a bit better than the “Deck Down Under” a few hundred feet away on the south side of the bridge. Deck Down Under is more commercial, quite a bit larger, a bit more crowded and louder. At DJ’s we always have a cup of the fish gumbo, which is the best we’ve found around. Nice and spicy. Along with that we had Buffalo Shrimp sandwiches. Nancy has had the bucket of clams but that’s a special occasion lunch – like the time Simon visited us.

Thursday we headed north towards Flagler Beach. About a month ago we had taken the same route. On that excursion, we did an appetizer of Calamari with a pitcher of brew at a place called AJ’s under the bridge – seems like we do these under the bridge things. This was the SR100 bridge over the Halifax. From there we headed north on A1A about 30 miles to Crescent Beach. I had heard about a place called the South Beach Grill from a guy at Lowes – the conversation had started about electrical fixtures but ended up with a beach restaurant swap. Anyway, we found the Grill just fine but also saw first hand that it was very popular and there was zero chance of finding a table. Along the way there we had spotted a place that looked interesting called JT’s Fishshack. It had quite a few cars but we decided it would be an easier lunch there than South Beach. What a great find. It doesn’t look like much but as soon as you go inside you notice that there’s a nice wine bar, a blackboard with a “wine special of the day”, and good looking food on every table. I ordered a crab cake sandwich; Nancy got a soft shell crab sandwich. Mine was good; hers was totally awesome. TJ’s became an instant “must return to”. So on this Thursday we decided to hit TJ’s. We passed it around 12:30 and it was jammed up tight so we decided to head further north and try South Beach Grill again. Being a Thursday in Sept and after 1PM, probably doable.

It was and we sat outside facing the ocean. Whatever the food, the ambience was perfect. Super menu so it all sounded good. We had a starter bowl of Minorcan conch chowder. There were two kinds of soup, the conch and blue crab. Nancy didn’t have her glasses so she didn’t see the blue crab and I preferred the conch. The soup was great but in hindsight, we should have ordered differently. I ordered a blackened fish wrap – it was blackened in a wine sauce with cajun spices, grilled pepper and garlic. Had a choice of wrap material – spinach, chipolte, tomato, and plain. Pasta salad came with it. Nancy got a steak wrap. This too was made in some kind of a wine sauce with peppers and onions. Both were incredible – maybe the steak was even more incredible than the fish. The wraps were really large as was the portions of pasta salad so we each ended up leaving about half the salad. Next time we’ll order a cup of each type soup and then split a wrap. On the way out we noticed that board had the early bird special – 8 jumbo fried shrimp platter with a bowl of Jambalaya gumbo. This place also had a fine wine bar with the wine served in giant glasses. I’m pretty sure both places – South Beach Grill and JT’s fishshack – are owned by the same people. Totally different menu’s but lots of similarities and in both places there are signs telling you how far it is to the other.

South Beach Grill is right on the beach entrance, about 100yds south of the highway 206 causeway. It’s a drive-on beach so a great day would be to get there in time for lunch, do the beach all afternoon, and then head back north on A1A and do dinner at JT’s.


I have a mental image of Al Gore banging his head against the wall, trying to end it all. The 2006 hurricane season is shaping up as a total disaster for the global warmsters. For the scientist kind of warmsters, this is no big deal, just another datapoint. But for Gore, this is career crushing. He knows he’s a loser but he needs another shot. To get it he has to hook onto something that trumps all other problems and be way, way out in front of it. He and most everybody else on the planet understands that the average surface temp of the earth has been rising for a bit, I guess it would qualify as a trend. But nominally Earth is dynamic and always changing one way or the other so in it’s 4.5B year history, chances are there have been zillions of micro-micro pico- micro trends of a few decades. So it’s kind of hard for me to get too emotional about any new “trend”; Probably made more difficult having lived through the mini ice age and the predicted return of the glaciers as far south as Florida in the 50’s. But big Al decides to forget issues like taxes, immigration, and other such trivia to latch onto global warming. He writes a book; makes a documentary – all designed to portray him as the lone political voice able to recognize the looming disaster and put the US on the path to lead the world away from the crisis. The hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, record seasons, were enough of a trend line for Al because he probably truly does believe the warming is man made and inexorably heading towards a world of floods and natural disaster. He’s smart enough to know that even if it’s true, there’s nothing he can do about it, but what the hell, maybe he can use it as a shield to put all the loser stuff behind him and look like a visionary. What he needs is a couple of Katrina’s in 2006 and 2007 to catapult him back into the White House. And all the weather guys are forecasting 2006 to break all records for numbers of storms and intensity. Lots of Class 5’s and perhaps, just maybe he could luck out and hit a class 7.

But reality is setting in. Midway through hurricane season, nary a storm worth mentioning. Even with the super hype and giving names to good rain storms, it’s starting to look more like an average storm year – a few close calls and some good blows between mid Sept and mid Oct. It’s still possible that he can recover but the window is starting to close. Hence the mental image of Al banging his head against the wall. A loser again.

But what about the lack of storms. I predicted that – but just because statistically we’d had two bad seasons and I didn’t think it likely that we’d have 3 in a row. Also we’d had very wet springs the seasons prior to the stormy hurricane seasons and this year was much drier than normal so I supposed that overall the weather patterns had changed. That plus I bought a generator and put lots of effort and money into hurricane prep this year.

The thing I really like is that it proves, at least to me, that there is no hard link between global warming and bad hurricane seasons. Either that or the climatologists are holding back information that the earth cooled this past year. They are a little boxed in. If the earth did warm and we didn’t have the forecast storms, then maybe there is no link. On the other hand if the earth cooled a tad, that would reinforce the link between the temp and storms but would ease people’s concerns about warming as long term trend and also destroy the theory that burning fossil fuels is the source of the warming since we certainly burned more fuel this year than the year before.

My fading image is big Al meeting with Indian Medicine Men contracting for some rain and storm dances. Promising new casinos if they will only produce another Katrina, maybe making landfall on Long Island – wiping out Clinton headquarters.

reel finale

Final word on the reels

I put in a solid week fishing with the 2650 and can see for sure why I loved it so. It would be easy to write this model off as wimpy and lacking features but for light fishing – what a beauty. For sure it lacks the centrifugal and magnetic spool braking systems making it a more difficult reel to cast. Even for me, the first few casts had me sharpening up my backlash removal skills but I was soon laying them out consistently 100′. I matched it up with a 5′ Shakespeare light action rod. The combination was incredibly light, even compared to my next lightest Shimano outfit. The retrieve is slow – low, low gear ratio and tiny spool which makes it unsuitable for buzzing over grass and as light as the whole outfit is – not really well suited for fishing over top of grass in any way. But for fishing small top water lures or slow sinking worms, perfect. It doesn’t have an anti-reverse feature which means that for worm fishing, you don’t have to overtly disengage the spool to let a fish run. That’s a nice feature (actually a lack of a feature) when a fish hits the worm early and hard because you can instantly create some slack. With the normal spool disengagement system, you can lose a fish when the line tightens prematurely before you can hit the button. I’ll probably put it away for a while since the fish are still way back in the grass and this rig is definitely not suited for hauling them through the bushes.

Now to the 4500C. I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with the spool engaging/disengaging reliably. I could get it to work at times and then it would fail to engage. After about a dozen assemble/dissamble cycles with no clean solution, I gave up and took it to my reel guy in Daytona. I was convinced that a main gear was worn – even though I couldn’t see it. I did have a little nag on my mind that it was still gribby in one particular area that I was nervous about taking apart. I remembered from many total reel breakdowns, that one area in particular was loaded with little, tiny, teeny weenie, spring loaded parts. In my prime I could take down even that area and put it back together easily. I also know that I don’t see as well as I did and thatmy fingers don’t work nearly as well on little parts. I cleaned around that area, dunked it liberally in WD 40, and made it look clean to the casual observer. Still, I would have felt better to have really got in there and scrubbed it down. So I wasn’t too surprised when the repair guy called and said the reel was fixed and that all it needed was a good cleaning in the disengagement mechanism. That was kind of embarrassing since I told the guy that I’d cleaned it and pinpointed the gear I thought was a problem. I went over to Daytona to pick up the reel. The guy cranked over the reel a few times and it worked just fine. He was telling me how it just needed cleaning while I cranked a few times. After half a dozen successful engagements it slipped and missed a half a crank. It then did that a few times and the guy told me that was normal since this reel was not a double engagement do dah. Meaning it could take a full turn of the handle rather than half a turn. Hmmmmmmm. That’s BS – same gears as in my 5000’s. Then it hung up for a couple of full turns and in a few more cranks it was back to the same problem I had experienced – just wouldn’t engage the spool. He said, “well I guess it’s those springs or the gear” and vowed to fix it properly. We left the reel there and I told Nancy that I felt vindicated and relieved that my cleaning skills were not at fault. She thought I was a bit wacko since I was happy that the reel was still not working. Not really – I would have felt really great if he had fixed it properly and found a hard fault. But finding it to be my inability to clean it was a hard pill to swallow. I guess I need my reputation/self confidence more than I need the reel. They called again while I was in the hospital and we didn’t get around to it until right after Labor Day. It checked out fine at the tackle shop so on to the lake.

How does it fish? I had never fished with this model before and my initial expectation was that the light weight , centrifugal braking and narrow spool would make it a great reel. And the star drag would make it better suited for some of the heavy water I fish. I also figured I wouldn’t like the slow retrieve from the factory installed gear ratio and the small, two knob handle. I always modified my reels for both these deficiencies but doubt seriously any of those secondary market parts would be available today. There’s a possibility I could break down one of my 5000C’s to rob the parts but that’s a long shot. Anyway, I got the reel and entered the flight test phase. Smoooooooth! Casts like a dream. I hooked up a 4” senko on a 2/0 hook – so it was a nominally light terminal rig. The bearings clearly make it superior to the 2650. It is heavier than I’d ideally have and I do hate the dual knob handle but without a doubt it’s the smoothest of the Ambassadeur series for me. I’m confident I can drop down lure size into the 3/16 oz range and still cast well. I like the narrow spool better than the 5000D so between the two, it’s a toss-up which I like best. If I were designing, I’d take the 4500, drop the star drag so it would approach the light weight and feature set of the 2650 but with the bearings of the 5000’s. And comparing them with the modern Shimano’s – I like the thumb bar spool release of the Shimano’s and know the modern reels are more forgiving in terms of casts but I enjoy the round reels and will mix up useage in the future.

golf story

Just heard a local news item that I thought I’d share since I kind of doubt it will go much further than here.

It seems that the Deland Mainstreet Association sponspered a golf event at the Victoria Park course. On a particular day, anyone getting a hole in one on the 12th hole would win $10,000 in cash. 150 people lined up and made the shot. One guy nailed it. Now it gets interesting. Turns out there’s an insurance company called Hole in One that insures these events. The sponser buys insurance so that in the event someone actually makes the shot, they insurance company pays the prize. The insurance company cuts the guy a check for $5000. Naturally he’s upset and feels ripped off. Just like anybody would. What we then learn is that the insurance policy called for the hole to be 212 yards from the tee but the actual layout was 174 yards. They’re willing to pay only what the odds and the premium charged would say are appropriate. Of course the Deland Mainstreet Association is “outraged” and will never use this insurance company again.

In my opinion the insurance company is right and the Mainstreet Association should make good and award the golfer another $5000 since they set up the tourney and advertised the prize. So far no sign that the guy is going to get anything more than $5000. Of course the TV article is making the insurance company the bad guy.