March Sadness

March 27, 2018

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table

It’s raining and the low barometric pressure has made me sleepy, so I left work after only eight hours, and am having a very small cup of iced coffee.

Thinning ranks:  First, one of my compatriots went on leave for two weeks because his wife had breast cancer surgery; he may have to go home again for her chemo.  Then a friend was rear-ended (the perpetrator left the scene) resulting in her rental car jumping a construction barrier; it was totaled; she is taking leave to deal with her subsequent back problems.  And my boss’s wife, six+ months pregnant, has endometriosis, so he’s gone home to take care of their three-year-old.

Missed blogging for the past couple of weeks.  First Pi Day, 3/14.  A retired Japanese engineer, Akira Haraguchi, born 1946, memorized π up to 111,700 digits in 2015.  I believe that is the latest world record.

Stephen Hawking

Then theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died, the three years he had been given to live after his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) having stretched to 55.  I was one of ten million people who tried to read A Brief History of Time, widely called the most unread book of all time.  His computer-generated voice was known to millions of people around the world.

I remember watching him give a lecture in China. (He could just set his computer for Chinese.)  And I saw The Theory of Everything (which details the life of Hawking) in 2014, for which Eddie Redmayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor.  But I hadn’t realized that Hawking had been on the Simpsons numerous times! Simpsons.

Hawking said he wasn’t sure which was the bigger disappointment: His own failure to formulate a unified field theory, or the Springfield intellectuals’ failure to transform the town.

And he appeared on Star Trek TNG Star Trek TNG, playing poker with Data, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein.  But he had a problem when he recently commented on our president:

Stephen Hawking Angers Trump Supporters with Baffling Array of Long Words

By Andy Borowitz May 31, 2016

LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking angered supporters of Donald J. Trump on Monday by responding to a question about the billionaire with a baffling array of long words.

Speaking to a television interviewer in London, Hawking called Trump “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator,” a statement that many Trump supporters believed was intentionally designed to confuse them.

Moments after Hawking made the remark, Google reported a sharp increase in searches for the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking.”

“For a so-called genius, this was an epic fail,” Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said. “If Professor Hawking wants to do some damage, maybe he should try talking in English next time.”

Later in the day, Hawking attempted to clarify his remark about the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, telling a reporter, “Trump bad man. Real bad man.”

www.newyorker.com

Japanese Garden

Last weekend I went to the Morikami Japanese Gardens.  Unfortunately, the azaleas were missing most of their leaves, the lawns were dried out, and the lakes/ponds were way low.  Hurricane Irma caused “considerable damage” to the Japanese gardens at Morikami Museum in suburban Delray Beach, museum officials say, so most of the problems are hurricane related.  Gee, that was slmost six months ago.

But that shouldn’t affect dry gardens, yes?  The problem, after you’ve seen the most famous dry garden in the world, Ryōan-ji (above – Stephane D’Alu’s photo – I visited Japan sometime around ’86, when photos were taken with a camera and printed, so mine are in a box somewhere), is that few others can hold a candle to it.  Definitely not the Morikami Japanese Gardens.  I guess I was bothered by the lackluster ferns.

A year ago February the gardens had a moment in the international spotlight as First lady Melania Trump and Japan’s first lady Akie Abe toured the grounds.   So the gardens must have looked great then, but you can’t tell by the official photos, which show Mrs. Abe and her retinue, trying to look cheerful, while Melania stares straight ahead, looking like an ice maiden. However, she’s not at all like Hans Christian Andersen’s Ice Maiden.  I think of her as a version of the miller’s daughter who has the run-in with Rumpelstiltskin.  She had to marry the dreadful king.

On the third day, when the girl has been taken to an even larger room filled with straw and told by the king that he will marry her if she can fill this room with gold or execute her if she cannot.

Others that I have visited: The Huntington Gardens 2014/08/10 in LA have a lovely Japanese Garden    The Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is delightful 2014/01/17.  I have visited the Seattle Japanese Gardens (but neglected to put a photo in a blog) and many beautiful botanical gardens, so I am a bit jaded.

Got “home” and realized that I’d spent not only $13 for the ticket into the gardens, but over $20 for gas, and $16+ for the toll road, mostly one way as I tried to return on back roads.  Then my second phone died.  I had been using them for navigation.  Was going to use one each way but had also used the iphone for photos.  Couldn’t find my car charger before I left; it’s possible that I left it in the last rental car.  This car has a plug-in for the USB cord, but that didn’t seem to work.  I looked it up online (today, not then):

By plugging your phone into a low-power USB port like the one in your car, you allow the device to swallow up power at a rate that’s much too fast for the port’s capabilities. As a result, your phone might stall while it charges, or worse — barely charge at all.  businessinsider

Found a lone gas station on a back road, and swerved right in, as the gas tank was low too, and I pictured myself out of gas in the  middle of nowhere, without even a phone!  Bought another one of those cigarette lighter adaptors.

My Villa

March 13, 2018

Each time we leave on “rotation” we have to check out of our hotel rooms so our flights home are cost-effective.  I decided that I had had enough of the cheerful SeaWorld crowd, and found an apartment in a uge (sorry – I’ll never be able to say that word again without a Trump accent) resort complex, Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa.  I’m in building 90.  (You’ll need to click on this map to read it.) I have a One-Bedroom Deluxe Villa.  Now a villa is supposed to be a large and luxurious country residence.  So they’re trumping up (yes, a real expression meaning concocting especially with intent to deceive) their rentals.

Saturday we were told not to work, so I decided to walk from one end of Westgate to the other.  Took an hour.  I walked out to the Sunset Key Island (top left on the map).  A cay (pronounced key) is a low island or reef of sand or coral, so shouldn’t it just be Sunset Cay?  This photo of the stacks of “villas” is shot from Sunset Key Island.  My “villa” is in the third building from the right.)

 

Quite a mix of people: black, white, older, younger, some with kids, others with dogs, a man in Mickey Mouse ears, most in shorts or bathing suits, but a few women in hijabs.  Didn’t look at all full, but the parking lot was. Took some photos of water birds with my iphone.  Gray heron posing on a fence, limpkin, egret.  And a photo of Sunset Key Island.

I did my usual laundry and grocery shopping and went to the Jewish deli again for bagel and lox.  Then I walked the length of the open-air Marketplace at Dr. Phillips.  65 shops – these are just the restaurants:

Bistro Clo Clo (coming soon), Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, Cariera’s Cucina Italiana, Chamberlin’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Christini’s Ristorante Italiano, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Flame Kabob, Greek Flame Taverna,  Keke’s Breakfast Cafe, Lemon Shark Poke, Lotus Garden Chinese Restaurant, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Nagoya Sushi, Pinkberry, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Stefano’s Grill, Subway, The Dessert Lady, TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli, Which Wich?, and Yogurtology.

Recycling

I don’t see anyone recycling here.  At work we toss a lot of papers, and I used to put them in the blue wastebasket until I noticed the cleaning guy empty them all into the same bin.  I asked and no, we don’t recycle.  Plus there’s a soda machine in the break room, so imagine how many cans and plastic bottles are thrown out daily.  (I refill my water bottle at the drinking fountain.)

I only went to a local sandwich place once because everything was served in or on Styrofoam!

Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and appears to last forever. It’s resistant to photolysis… This, combined with the fact that Styrofoam floats, means that large amounts of polystyrene have accumulated along coastlines and waterways around the world… a main component of marine debris.

It breaks down into those tiny pellets that sea birds and fish accidentally eat, and die with their stomachs full of them.  Plus it’s poisonous.  Read the whole article: styrofoam

When my hotel room gets cleaned, they change my towels daily, polluting more water, even though I hang them up.  And they toss out a roll of toilet paper if it doesn’t have much on it, and small bars of soap that I could easily use for another week.

I also miss my compost pile.  Last night I was peeling a potato and hated to put the peels into the garbage disposal.

Rental Car

I had a slow leak in one tire, so instead of giving me a coupon to have a tire store fix it, the Avis guy gave me a different car, a Hyundai Elantra.  The black Beetle had had Georgia plates; this one has New York plates.  They’re school-bus-yellow, which is lucky, as I’d never find it in a parking lot otherwise – it blends in with all of the other gray Asian cars.  I miss the heated seats on our cold mornings, but I like having a windshield wiper on the back window.  On foggy mornings the windows fog up and I need to see out the back.  Anyway, when he told me that it had New York plates, he said, So be sure to cut people off and honk a lot!  After that we discussed the dreadful Florida drivers.

On a similar note:  we have two armed guards per floor at work, one for each elevator bank (as FEMA is part of the Department of Home Security), and all they have to do is check our badges as we enter and exit.  So each has a television, and the rest of the time they watch the news.  The other day one was watching a snow storm in New York.  I asked him if he’d ever lived Up North.  He said, Yes, New York!  So I asked him where the worse drivers were – New York or Orlando.  Orlando!  We both laughed.

But we shouldn’t be laughing about the snow.  A co-worker who follows the news announced at lunchtime today that, The Boston Globe reports 155K without power so far.

Rodeo

February 24, 2018

Every 45 days we get a “rotation” home for a week.  My last was for Christmas with my family.  This week it’s for my yearly dentist and doctors’ appointments.  Plus I took my daughter and grandkids to the Tucson Rodeo:

The first La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Celebration of the Cowboys) in 1925 touted three days of events and competition. Today, the event has grown to a nine-day celebration centered on the Tucson Rodeo, one of the top 25 professional rodeos in North America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Had to explain to the oldest children why the broncs buck.  (Has to do with that back strap on their balls…)  And had to include the top right photo – reminded me of a photo I had taken at the Desert Museum Raptor Flight: the-good-guys-lost

Most of the photos are of broncs because that was right in front of us and didn’t happen as quickly as the roping, for example.  (One photo of the start of the roping.)  I bought my grandson another cowboy hat because he lent me his old one.

Movies

Took the grandkids to see Black Panther, it being the current rage.  Pretty good – I especially liked how important the women were in the African nation of Wakanda, especially the king’s sister:

In the technologically advanced world of Wakanda, it isn’t a man who is behind the kingdom’s latest innovations, it’s the hero T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri1

On my own have seen Phantom Thread, mostly because I like Daniel Day-Lewis.  (I remember seeing him in My Left Foot back in 1989.)   I’ve also seen The Shape of Water, mostly because I liked Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy, although I’ve only seen I and II, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Mimic.  (Can do without his Pacific Rim.)  Both Thread and Water have gotten kudos and both of them are very strange.  Not the kind of film that I think of winning an Oscar.  Well, we’ll see on March 4.

Not interested in seeing Darkest Hour as I’ve just watched John Lithgow portray Churchill in the Netflix series The Crown.  But do want to see Ladybird, the rare film that fully acknowledges the complexity of mother-daughter love2.

I’m leaving on a jet plane..

Must return to hot and humid Orlando tomorrow, with its boring 84° temps (humidity: 63%).  Was kinda getting into “winter” here, with a crisp 37° this morning when I got up.  Great news from this week’s doctors: next visit home I get to have a wisdom tooth out and a cataract removed.  At least the dermatologist only zapped a spot off my nose, and my GP wrote a prescription for my yearly stuffed up/cough condition.  But I did get all of my tax materials sent to my accountant, so that’s something I don’t have to worry about come April 17.

A morning’s stillness
At the feeder a goldfinch
In a patch of sun the cat
Thirty-seven
Winter without snow.

1https://www.refinery29.com/2018/02/191332/black-panther-shuri-women-in-tech
2https://www.thecut.com/2017/11/on-mothers-and-daughters-in-greta-gerwigs-lady-bird.html

Fried!

February 23, 2018

First, it was hard to get used to working full time.  Then working nine-hour days.  And an additional four hours on Saturday.  But a ten-hour day defeats me. My brain works too fast and it’s hard to be bring it down.

However, I do get to sleep in on Sundays.

And I went out to dinner last Friday night (the Bonefish Grill is around the corner from my hotel) and had a martini (okay, green appletini), something I haven’t had in a dozen years.  (12 years ago I was working Katrina, and there was a bar that had not been hit by the hurricane where a few of us would go occasionally after work, with about 100 different “martinis”.  I can’t stand the taste of a real martini, but I love the glass they’re served in, so the bartender made a few for me that didn’t taste like martinis and I zeroed in on the green appletini.)

A side story.  Many many many years ago I was in the Peace Corps in Jamaica and decided to go home at Christmas to Detroit to spend the holiday with my parents.   There was a lot of snow.  One evening we went for a walk around the block.  The snow was crystalline and I think a full moon gave the scene a Norman Rockwell look.  There was a light on at their neighbors’ house and Dad said, Let’s drop in at Joe and Herta’s.  They welcomed me home and in a moment we each had a martini (the middle class drink in those days) in hand.  I had never had one before but I drank it to be polite.  It was strong!!!  I was making snow angels (for real!) the rest of the way around the block.

Another side story.  Went to a TexMex restaurant here in Orlando and ordered a margarita, but up, not on the rocks, as it was winter and I was cold.  It came in a water glass!   Went to another restaurant a week later (I have no recollection which one it was) and ordered a margarita.  Guess what.  It came in a water glass!   I asked the waiter whether this was a Florida thing and he said it was because I’d ordered it without ice.  They think that the margarita glass would look too empty?  Never going to either of those places again.  (Imagining someone serving a martini in a water glass!)

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

You have to have read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, (which is really silly but I loved all four volumes of the “trilogy”) to understand that or the screen on the dashboard of Musk’s Tesla.  This in Wikipedia:

Arthur C. Clarke said Douglas Adams’ use of “don’t panic” was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity.  On February 6th, 2018 SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy rocket, carrying Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster which had “DON’T PANIC!” written on the screen on the dashboard.

A NASA database includes our solar system’s eight planets and their moons, more than 755,000 asteroids, 3,500 comets — and, as of this week, one cherry red sports car that belonged to a Silicon Valley billionaire.

Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, put on a stunning show Tuesday with the inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which became the most powerful operational rocket in the world.  spacex

i thought the greatest part in this video falcon 9 is The falcon has landed, right on the bullseye!

We watched the launch, albeit from a distance (I took this photo of the contrail from my office  window).  One of the guys asked why Musk would “waste” a Tesla.  Advertising!  Tesla’s advertising budget is $0.  Of course, Falcon Heavy cost $80M.  But in 2011, Ford Motor Corp. had over two billion U.S. dollars in advertising expenditures.  ford-advertising

Death in the afternoon

Wednesday I woke up and turned on NPR as usual.  Unfortunately this fair state had made the news again.  They even quoted the Onion (a satirical newspaper), which runs the same headline with each mass shooting, ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens’.  The article remains the same; they just change the particulars.  This from Time (remember that we’re only half-way through the second month of this year).  The bold is mine:

Nikolas Cruz, the expelled student suspected of killing at least 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others at his former high school in Parkland, Florida…

… [this] shooting is the 6th school shooting resulting in injuries this year. There have been 17 incidents of gunfire in schools this year.

…Cruz used an AR-15 rifle — a semi-automatic assault-style rifle that has been used in numerous other mass shootings…

These events took place a week apart near where I am presently working.  What’s the difference?  Elon Musk is an immigrant!  And there is that thing about the semi-automatic assault-style rifle which I guess a hunter needs to kill a deer?  And gee-whiz, our elected officials are debating both.  Are they coming up with the correct answers?  Seems the only sensible answers are from the students who lived through it.

Technology

Every morning when I exit the hotel for work the doors open automatically for me, and I think of a boy in Jamaica when I was teaching there (with the Peace Corps) 40 years ago.  I was assigned about a dozen elementary schools, teaching elementary school teachers (most of whom had only finished high school) how to teach math.  Anyway, the first time I went to one school in “da bush”, up a very bad road (when something falls off the car, you stop and retrieve it, in case it’s important), past Firefly Estate, where Noel Coward is buried (and that’s another story), I pulled up at the school and the children flocked around my car.  I think some of them had never seen one.  A boy asked me if the window rolled down, and I demonstrated for him.  “Tis a wonder,” he commented.

I can just imagine how’d they’d be with escalators, airplanes and other marvels.  (Although one time my own son, about three, had a window seat, and when we took off he looked really scared, “Mom, the wings aren’t flapping!”)

Worst State in the Country

February 3, 2018

I was surprised when NPR’s Whad’Ya Know? (a two-hour comedy/quiz/interview) host Michael Feldman asked this question this morning, What is Florida worst at? and the answer was Everything!  Newsweek published Florida Has Been Ranked the Worst State in the U.S. (I added the internet photo of an I-4 traffic jam.)

Florida is officially the crème de la crappy of all 50 states, ranking dead last on a list of best to worst locations in America.

Thrillist released a definitive ranking of the states in July with a… ranking system based on, literally, “everything,” …contributions to America: important, well-known people, inventions, food and drink, and unique physical beauty and landmarks.

So what makes Florida so god-awful?

Could be the humidity, the atrocious traffic and… “Florida is where bath salts and Creed and the Great Recession all got their starts. It’s where Donald Trump has chosen to hang out for seven solid weeks during the past year. I mean, c’mon.”

“When putting together a list such as this, there can be some temptation to defy popular expectations and go against the grain,” the site said. “However, Florida’s awfulness résumé is so staggeringly impressive that it couldn’t go any other way.”

…The state that likely broke most every prediction by topping the list was Michigan.

Despite Detroit’s bad rep, the site argues that Michigan has more coastline than any other state, except for Alaska. The site also mentions the undeniable beauty of the Upper Peninsula and its residents’ willingness to apologize for their creation of Kid Rock.   florida-worst-state-country

Was surprised also when Michigan, where I grew up, got best.  We lived in Detroit (between 7 and 8 mile, which Eminem rapped about).  Back then, before it got its bad rep, Detroit was the fifth largest city in the country, the Motor City.

I graduated from a nationally recognized high school in downtown Detroit, Cass Tech, which had been built in 1917, and have good memories of that.

Sorry I never got to the U.P. to see its undeniable beauty.  A cousin of mine went to college there, where you could ski to class!  Nostalgic about camping trips to Interlochen State Park, in the upper part of the Lower Peninsula, near the internationally renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts.  You could see a solitary musician, such as a french horn player, sitting in the middle of the forest, practicing.  I was never a good clarinetist, never getting past second clarinet in our high school band (it was an excellent band – our director left to lead the Michigan State marching band) but my brother was great at the saxophone; too bad we couldn’t afford to send him there.

However, I did take art classes at Cranbrook Academy of Art, outside of Detroit, in Bloomfield Hills, at one point.  Had a junk sculpture of a fawn next to a painting  by Picasso in the Cranbrook Art Museum.  Beautiful campus, with many sculptures by Henry Moore, buildings designed by Eliel Saarinen.  But, sadly, in 1972 they sold off some of the academy’s art collection, including works by Henry Moore… a way of increasing the endowment.  I remember photos my father took of this pond.  (Dick – do you have them?)

Our little patch of Arizona did  get attention from elsewhere.  The school district  where my children attended, CFSD, was rated best in the state (see left).

The Mail

Airlines completely lost a suitcase of mine back in ’68,  and have misplaced suitcases on at least three occasions, for up to a day (which they then delivered to my door), but never, to my recollection, was mail lost.  So when the 9×12 manila envelope that my daughter sent, with my letters she’s been collecting for me, I figured it was the fault of the hotel.

But it contained documents for my taxes and coupons to pay the HOA fees on my land.  And I did not remember the name of the accountant to whom the HOA dues are paid.  So I did some sleuthing.  My bank looked up the account the checks went to, and as that was in the same bank, gave me the name of the accountant; I called him, got the amount due and the address to send it to, as it was due the end of the month.  The secretary said that she would send more coupons.  Phew!  The hotel, of course, had the envelope the next day.  I pointed it out to the man at the front desk, who said he couldn’t read my name on it because it was written in cursive!

Kudos

After Brock’s “Grip and Grin” visit (see my blog never-a-dull-moment) he emailed us this:

As I walked through FEMA Headquarters and spoke with employees yesterday, I was impressed by the positive attitude of the FEMA workforce and your flexibility during times of uncertainty. When I spoke with Regional Administrators, I heard the same stories throughout our Regional offices and facilities across the country. Thank you for being a workforce that demonstrates integrity and professionalism..

Brock

Rodney Dangerfield

An article on him (nee Jacob Cohen) in last week’s NY Times Magazine:  rodney-dangerfield.  This video of him on Carson (for those of you who are not old enough to remember  Johnny, it was the Tonight show) from 1979 is pretty good: dangerfield

Seagull

As I was walking to lunch Friday,  saw a seagull flying.  I thought they stayed by the ocean.  This photo from Rennett Stowe on the Internet.

A Rainy Sunday

January 28, 2018

Every Sunday I get the one copy that the local Walmart has of the New York Times, make myself a latte, and try to read the whole thing, as it’s gotten quite expensive (although I am saving four dollars a day by making my own lattes) and I’m trying to get my money’s worth.  I even read the Sports and the Business sections.

In this week’s Business section was a  interview with Bill Gates and Steven Pinker (mind-meld-bill-gates-steven-pinker).  As I often do, I get distracted, and when Gates said that, “If you’ve never seen Eddie [Izzard] perform his stand-up routine… you’re missing out,”  I had to watch a few videos of Eddie Izzard.  Enjoyed Stonehenge, but was really Laughing Out Loud at Eddie Izzard – Learning French.

Gentrification

Then went out for my Sunday lunch of bagels and lox, taking the Magazine.  It started pouring before I left,  so had to stay and read another article, this on gentrification, when-gentrification-isnt-about-housing.  In Tucson I was aware of the gentrification of the barrios, guacamole, and burritos, even kale and pho, but had just heard of the trending raw water  (unfiltered, collected from the natural environment).

Exercise

I’ve been missing my daily hour of exercise class at the Y.  This hotel has a workout room next to the laundry, so I do some fast walking uphill, lift weights (the smallest is five pounds and I hadn’t done that with my right arm since my last shoulder injury, but I’ve just got a very sore neck), and use the elliptical trainer, good for the arms and legs.  However, it’s boring by myself, so I asked a friend at work what she does and she says that she swims lap around the Spring Garden pond on weekends at the De Leon Springs State Park.

The outstanding feature of the 625 acre park is the spring, overlooking beautiful Spring Garden Run, producing 19 million gallons of water a day at 72 degrees year-round…  swimming nine laps around the pool would be about a mile.

She says there’s a fence around it, so there aren’t any alligators (!), and it’s a bit chilly, so she always wears  a wetsuit.  Brrr – I prefer an 80° pool, or the Caribbean. 

Surf Expo

Because I have a kitchenette in my hotel room, I usualy fix my own dinner, as restaurant meals are usually too large for me.  But Friday nights I often go out,  and if there’s a wait for seating, I eat at the bar.  The Bonefish Grill bar area has a length of bar-height tables, and there was one seat vacant at the end so I asked the good-looking young guy on the next stool over if anyone was sitting there and he answered, Yes, you.  (!)  Started to chat and he said he was here for the Surf Expo, www.surfexpo.com, selling T-shirts.  Then the old guy (my age) across from me piped up that he was here for the Expo selling T-shirts too.  Funny.  I got an earful about merchandising and how much Amazon has cut into it.

Politics

I really don’t want to comment on Trump today, and no, I am not going to read Fire and Fury, but I enjoyed Trevor Noah being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, turning Trump’s words into a bad reggae song (and I do appreciate reggae, having lived in Jamaica for two years in the Bob Marley era): Trevor Noah’s reggae.

Future Disasters

Had a meeting with our Fluor rep the other day.  This is what I was recruited for last June, before all of the hurricanes hit and the Feds postponed the decision.  The country has henceforth been divided in thirds, so one contractor gets the West, with fires, floods, and mudslides; another gets the Midwest with tornadoes and ice storms; and third, we get the East, with hurricanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded three companies positions on a potential five-year, $610 million contract for advisory and assistance services to support FEMA’s emergency response and disaster recovery missions.
Fluor Corp., Serco Group’s North American subsidiary and CH2M Hill will perform technical assistance and infrastructure support work the agency has divided into three geographic zones for each individual awardee.
Fluor was selected for the Zone 1 portion that covers 19 states primarily along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Serco Inc. was chosen for Zone 2 that covers 17 states primarily across the Midwest. CH2M Hill was picked for Zone 3 that covers the remaining 14 states including those along the Pacific Coast.
fema-response-contract

Never a Dull Moment

January 21, 2018

What a roller coaster ride this last year.  Never boring.  Just this last week, Hawaii thought it would get nuked, it was reported that Trump “entertained” a porn star four months after Melania had Barron, for which his lawyer paid $130,000 hush money just before the election, he was also quoted as calling African nations, Haiti, and El Salvador “shitholes”, and the Federal government has just shut down.

Well, I and my compatriots happen to work for the Feds.  “FEMA is ordered to execute an orderly shutdown and we will furlough non-exempted employees,” emailed our Director, Brock Long.  Luckily, our group is exempt, so we shan’t have to leave our hotel rooms and move into our office spaces.  Hah!

Speaking of Brock (who signs his emails to us with just his first name, no title or anything else), he visited us last week.  He gave a talk on the seventh floor, broadcast to us on floors four through six.  The video onto a sheet.  With such tiny speakers we could only hear a fraction of what he said.  Embarrassing.  But he did come downstairs and shake hands with all of us, thanking us for our work.  Quite a personable guy, and one one of the few of Trump’s appointees who is actually qualified for the job (as opposed to Betsy DeVos), and doesn’t think that his department should be gutted (as Rick Perry, who said he wanted to abolish the Energy Department, and Scott Pruitt, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency but is a known climate change denier and coal industry supporter).  This from FEMA:

Mr. Long has more than 16 years of experience assisting and supporting local, state, and Federal Governments with building robust emergency management and public health preparedness programs…

From 2008-2011, Mr. Long served as Director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency (AEMA)… and served as the State Coordinating Officer for 14 disasters, including eight presidentially-declared events. Mr. Long also served as an on-scene State Incident Commander for the Alabama Unified Command during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Women’s March Orlando Anniversary

The weather is still up and down – Thursday morning it was 28°, and now it’s 78°.  That doesn’t seem to be helping my cough.  But I take meds, go to work, and vegetate on the weekend.  Didn’t feel up to joining the Women’s March Orlando Anniversary yesterday. (Photo by Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)  It was reported that thousands gathered.

A Glimpse of Beauty

Was driving “home” Friday, following Google Maps suggestions of shortcuts around backed-up streets, grimacing at some of the worst “architecture”, if you can even use that word, and then there was a four-and-a-half foot sandhill crane, standing in the grass on one leg, glancing at the traffic.  With a red head and dove-grey wing feathers, blending into its white neck.  Wow – so elegant!  Obviously couldn’t take a photo of it at 40mph, but Dannie Polley gave me permission to use his photo from the Web that looks just like it.

Immigrants

Practically everybody I know is a descendants of immigrants.  (I have worked with a few Navajos, who also migrated to North America, but about 3,000 BC+, so we call them Native Americans.)  Anyway, this from Nicholas Kristof’s column in the Times last week:

In 1885, a poor, uneducated 16-year-old boy arrived in our country from Germany at a time when immigrants were often looked down on by affluent Americans.

This boy was ambitious and entrepreneurial, and, despite language problems, he earned some money and then traveled up to the Klondike during the gold rush to operate a hotel that became notorious for prostitution.  He prospered, and today his grandson is President Trump.

Please read the whole column: Mr. Trump, Meet a Hero You Maligned

SeaWorld

January 16, 2018

With a title like that, guess I ought to see it, but I’m just living across the street.  We had the day off for MLK Day, so I went to Disney Springs this afternoon; it’s a large shopping mall with numerous themed stores – T-shirts or hoodies or pajamas with Mickey or Minnie, with Star Wars characters, with Marvel superheros, with various princeses. And numerous themed restaurants,  most serving french fries (except for the Japanese one).  Went to the Raglan Road Irish Pub for dinner; had a bad cold for the past two days (not the flu that’s killing babies and those over 65 – I’ve had my flu shot) and, as moving got me coughing, had spent a day and a half in bed with a box of tissue, cough drops, and a NY Times, so figured some comfort food would be nice – shepherd’s pie.  And stout, reminiscent of my month working in Dublin, where we drank Guiness every evening.  The Irish singers and dancers were fun.  (Their photo. I didn’t take any.)

But the cold is biting.  Thursday it hit 82° here.  Then another cold front rolled in and yesterday morning it was 39°.

Moved to a Residence Inn closer to the new office.  That hour in stop-and-go traffic on I-4 was wearing; to think that my father did it each way every day for 30 years in Detroit.  Spent Saturday packing, doing laundry, driving, then unpacking and grocery shopping.  The room is similar but I have a large window next to the bed that looks out, from the third floor, to a scraped lot, which shall no doubt be another high-rise in a few years. Within a few miles of my digs are at least 62 other hotel and apartment buildings which all look about the same.   I looked for places to eat and stopped counting at 110.  (See red dots on map.)  Grocery stores near here?  Zero.

Alt Right

There was an article in last week’s Times about how many white supremacist men marry Asian women (alt-right-asian-fetish).  Kinda typecasting.  Then I thought of Doonesbury.  Not alt-right, but geek.  Guess times have changed.

Fire and Fury

At least one friend is reading Fire and Fury, but it was depressing enough to just to listen to Michael Wolff’s interviews on NPR, and with Stephen Colbert, as well as commentary by “Melania Trump” on the Late Show.  (Well, Laura Benanti’s not depressing, she’s hilarious: Melania.)

Korea

Despite the false alarm in Hawaii (and another in Japan two days later!), Kim Jong-un won’t be pushing the “nuclear button” anytime soon, as North Korea shall be joining South Korea in the Winter Olympics.   Who would have thought that Trump could bring those two countries together?

The Move

January 9, 2018

I had mentioned, in fema-flexible, that we move a bit.  Well, our office left our verdant setting, where the lease was almost up, to a building south of the downtown area, which I have been told is a hangout for ladies of the evening and purveyors of pharmaceuticals.  Not a place to be at night.  I counted the pawn shops on the road we take from the freeway to the office – five.  Then there are two buildings which advertise “dolls”,  but from the look of them, there are no cabbage patch dolls there.  Another flashes girls, girls, girls.  These, and a McDonald’s.

Yesterday it took me an hour on I-40, in stop-and-go traffic, averaging 20 mph, to get back to my Residence Inn.  I’m moving to a closer one at the end of the week.  We weren’t supposed to move to the new office until next week.

Here is a view from my new, narrower window.  Not as picturesque as the pond.

This is what I shall be missing: from my office window last week I observed, not only the morning fog, but an egret sitting on a duck decoy, daily.  We’re not sure why the decoy is tethered in the pond – maybe to indicate a pipe?  Then a squirrel scampered past on the outside window sill.  Too fast for me to grab my phone for a photo.  We’re on the third floor!  One of the guys said that squirrels can climb up a brick wall.  Why?  Just to check us out, I guess. Two cranes (much larger than egrets) below the window, one making a very raucous cry!  At lunchtime, a cluster of six egrets took a long time to stroll across the road.

Away from the office a hawk darted ahead of me at an office building where I was having a meeting.  Vultures hung in the air above the Residence Inn.  A racoon scurried across the street in front of me last night.

But no frozen iguanas!  They’re farther south.

The cold is causing frozen iguanas to fall from trees in Florida

Because of the cold temperatures sweeping the nation, iguanas are dropping out of trees like overripe mangoes, littering the ground in an apparent state of rigor mortis. One tiny detail, though: They’re probably not dead. They are, however, literally frozen.
Emily Maple, the reptile keeper at the Palm Beach County Zoo, [said that] the cold-blooded animals get “cold stunned” – that is, they basically freeze – if the temperature gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
“If it’s just for a day or two they’ll just get to where they’re completely frozen in time. They’re still able to breathe. They’re still able to do bodily functions just very slow,” said Maple.

by AJ Willingham, CNN, Fri January 5, 2018

Iguanas!  I didn’t even know Florida had them.  Last time I had seen them was in the Galapagos, piled six high.  (This photo © Eric Mohl of Trans-Americas Journey – he sent me a nice email to use his photo.)  So I looked that up.  According to Wikipedia:

Due to a combination of events, the green iguana is considered an invasive species in South Florida and is found along the Gulf Coast of Florida from Key West to Pinellas County. The original small populations in the Florida Keys were stowaways on ships carrying fruit from South America.

Where I shall be leaving there are seven suite hotels on the block (most of them owned by Marriott I think, as they have been buying up the competition), and on the next street, a mall with seven restaurants.  Across  the main drag are sixteen more restaurants, spread over a few miles, from chains (such as Chuck E. Cheese, Denny’s, and Chili’s) to sushi, my favorite, Turkish, and a very good Italian.  Wonder what the next location will be like.

 

Home for the Holidays

December 29, 2017

We get to take a “rotation” every 45 days.  So I was home for the holidays.  And it was a lot cooler in Tucson than Orlando!  When I left Orlando at 6 am last Friday it was 63°, but with the humidity at 98%, even long sleeves were warm.  When I arrived in Tucson at 12:30 (having lost a few hours) it was 57° with 24% humidity.  What a beautiful city!  The air was clear and all four mountain ranges could be clearly seen.  I did like the morning fog in Orlando during the previous week, but I do enjoy views.

After getting Uber’ed home, ditching my suitcase, and picking up my car, went to my daughter’s to make many dozens of Christmas cookies.

Shopping & Ice Hockey

What a marvelous day of shopping Saturday, which I usually don’t like.  First took my youngest grandchild to Toys “R” Us for his choice, then on to the mall and Dillard’s for my son, the middle grandson, and my granddaughter to buy the wardrobe items they wanted.  Already got my daughter and son-in-law gift certificates for their wishes.  And I didn’t even think of all of the dollars flowing from my credit card, ’cause I’m working when I hadn’t expected to.

That night my son took us all to a hockey game, in my daughter’s new SUV.  We may not be the 1%, but it’s a good year for us.  Didn’t even know that Tucson had jump-started hockey again.  The Tucson Roadrunners are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League which began play for the 2016–17 season.  (The University of Arizona had had a hockey team from 1979 to 2011.)  Because my son lives in Vancouver, Canada, he is very into hockey.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Lights in my daughter’s neighborhood.