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.


The FAAT Book

December 16, 2017

FEMA Acronyms Abbreviations and Terms.  Back in the day,  we had a couple of copies around the AFO. (Yes, it was a small but fat book!) Now I’m talking and thinking in acronyms.  One of the guys in the office today asked if I had done my WIS and ER.  I replied no, that I was working on my ESS for TRS.

Today’s instructional PA meeting was on DAC and PAAP.  (This information was not in the PAPPG.)  That’s so we can explain them at the RSM to help our applicants with their DIs and EEIs.  After that, as a PDMG, I put in a WO for an SI.  Oh – and sometime next  month well be moving from our AFO to the JFO, south of downtown.

Traffic

Driving here continues to be difficult.  The lights last at least two times longer than in Tucson, causing long backups, particularly because many of the main drags are only two lanes!  Half of our group  (such a boring word when there is a murder of crows – this photo, a parliament of owls, from Mother Nature Network1) won’t use I-4;  we can watch the congestion from our window.  I have recently seen the results of two crashes, and (luckily I was going in the opposite direction) an ambulance attempting to get through a few miles of four lanes of stopped traffic!

Regrets about Egrets

Wanted to add this great photo of tick birds in Flora and Fauna in the blog,   fast-and-furious/, but knew that one is required to obtain permission to use copyrighted photos.  Emailed the photographer the end of last month and just got this from him:

Lynne,
I sincerely apologize for not responding sooner. I’m sure you’ve already  made other arrangements, but if not feel free to use my image for your work.

I was in Uganda for 3 weeks, and I did see your message in one of my brief wifi windows, but was pretty busy at the time and it totally slipped my mind after that.

Again, very sorry to have not responded promptly.
Michael Todd
Jackson, TN

What a lovely note!  Uganda is on my bucket list.  (You can click on the image to see it better.)

Holiday Shopping

My children have always been easy to buy for – they just give me lists.  And this year it was gift certificates for specific stores so that they may pick out wardrobe items.  I went to the very large mall a mile or two from here and picked up those and my son’s requested book.  It was actually fun!  And ordered one toy online.  The day after I get home for my Xmas sojourn I’ll take the grandkids out to choose their other gifts.

Cooking

One of my favorite recent (post-divorce) cookbooks has been The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones, who had gotten Judith Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published.  Julia’s had been my second cookbook, many many many years ago, and I bought three more of hers.  But I’ve always thought to write to Judith, because even though I loved the book, the pages fell out almost immediately.   Was thinking of her the other day, and found that she had recently died.  Wikipedia said nice things about her:

Judith Jones (March 10, 1924 – August 2, 2017) was an American writer and editor, best known for having rescued The Diary of Anne Frank from the reject pile. Jones also championed Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She retired as senior editor and vice president at Alfred A. Knopf in 2011. Jones was also a cookbook author and memoirist.

Jones’s relationship with Julia Child similarly began when Jones became interested in Child’s manuscript Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which had been rejected by a publishing house. After her years in Paris, Jones had moved to New York, where she was frustrated with the ingredients and recipes commonly available in the U.S. Jones said of the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, “This was the book I had been searching for,” and she got it published.

More

Moore was defeated!  According to Amber Ruffin (on Seth Meyers’ Late Night), black women pulled that off.  (Check out the video: Amber Ruffin.)  As Portia says in The Merchant of Venice,

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

1 Tanis Thomson/Shutterstock

FEMA Flexible

December 10, 2017

At my fourth desk in three weeks.  First in a “corral” with our entire group from EMI.  Then we were assigned team leaders (TFLs) and two of us were moved across the hall.  But that TFL had too many of us (12 when 6 were the norm), so when a new crop of leaders joined us, five of us (PDMGs – Project Delivery Managers) moved to a different section of desks.  Then a guy who had been working Harvey in Texas joined us and, with our leader, the seven of us moved into a middle manager’s office (which was meant for one.)  But I have a window!  Attached is a photo from “my” window.

This from management:

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria impacted roughly 25.8 million people, nearly twelve percent of the U.S. population. The devastation affected individuals, families, and businesses, and more than 4.7 million disaster survivors registered for federal assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That number is larger than all who registered for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Sandy combined.

Driving

The lanes are narrower here – the body of the truck in front of me hovered over the double yellow on one side the edge white on the other. Parking places are narrower too – and I’m driving a bug! Plus we got this from management when we arrived:

Snow

A cold front rolled through here Friday, but only brought us rain, and 37° (feels like 33°).  The rest of the South, to Texas, got a blanket of snow.  The wife of our TFL sent him a photo of their house in Baton Rouge. An inch-and-a-half of snow and all of the schools closed.  (Photo of Baton Rouge from Reading Eagle).  It took three feet of snow overnight in 1967 to close Michigan State for a day.

Flora and Fauna

Because the squirrels have no natural predators here, they get their adrenalin rushes by racing across roads.  Other “wildlife” consists of small lizards darting about the tiny (maybe 6′ x 8′) laundry room here at the R.I.

I looked up this plant, at our Residence – Hawaiian ti.  There are also birds of paradise, a hedge of holly, another of ferns (why trimmed rectangular?), fan palms, short and tall, rhaphiolepis, privet.

Electronics

Maybe because I grew up in a time when phones were attached to the wall in the kitchen by a chord, but I am getting a kick out of my phones.  With my personal android I can slide my finger about the screen instead of trying to type with my thumbs, the new handwriting.  (But predictive text sometimes does not understand me.)  My FEMA iphone needs to read my thumbprint before letting me in; I think that’s so cool, rad, or whatever is said today.  Need to insert my FEMA badge into the laptop to turn it on.  Gee, when I studied computer science, we used punch cards.

Politics

I can’t listen to the news or even the news filtered through Seth Meyers, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, or SNL.  Or through my friends on Facebook.  This cartoon says enough:

Orlando

December 3, 2017

Haven’t been to Disney World since I took my kids there about 25 years ago, but did remember enjoying Epcot Center and the Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios).  Today it’s Walt Disney World Resort, covering 27,258 acres, featuring four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-seven themed resort hotels, nine non–Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping centre Disney Springs… the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of over 52 million.  (This info from Wikipedia, which keeps asking me for money.)

When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, we could afford to visit my maternal grandmother in Los Angeles each four years, during summer break, in the days before AC in cars – a hot drive.  We were there in 1956, the year after Disneyland opened.  There was a ride in conestoga wagons through the “painted desert” (much more colorful than the real thing, but Disney was into fantasy).  Imagine kids liking anything so slow (or hot under the canvas)!  Postcard above.  The ride was discontinued – not fast enough throughput.  Now they have rides like Splash Mountain, just quick fun.  But Tom Sawyer’s island is still there, which is a walk, not a ride.  I remember the suspension bridge and the pontoon bridge, and the rocks which were spray-painted in primary colors with what looked like the screen and toothbrush method.

We also would go to Marineland, best known for its performing killer whales (before we knew how bad that was), which was open from 1954 until 1987, when SeaWorld San Diego bought it and moved the orcas as well as dolphins, sea lions, harbor seals, sharks, and a variety of other related sea creatures to San Diego.

There is a SeaWorld Orlando, a theme park and marine zoological park, including Discovery Cove and Aquatica, and many neighboring hotels.  Also in Orlando is Universal Orlando, the second-largest resort here after Walt Disney World Resort.

Friday night got out of work late (meeting), so skipped dinner for a 45-minute drive on I-4 for Christmas with the Basilica Choir ($25) in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe.  Three of my four applicants are PNPs (Public Non-Profits), Catholic schools, so I thought it would be nice to see the basilica.  The small orchestra was marvelous with or without the choir (as in the Sleigh Ride).  Especially liked the choir – seven men and eight women – when they sang a cappella.  During half-time they called out the raffle winners.  First prize was champagne and truffles. (Christ might be turning over in his grave.)  Fourth prize was a Santa pillow and some other like stuff.  The second half had a singalong, which I was looking forward to, but started (after the Sleigh Ride) with the choir singing Hark! the Herald Angles Sing.  I wanted to sing along!  So I envisioned myself singing awesomely at my seat.  The choir would hear me and peter out.  I would be ushered from my row to the front where I would be given a microphone to finish the first verse to much applause.  I would be, of course, a famous opera singer such as Kiri Te Kanawa, who I heard sing when I was in Taiwan.  (My brother should get a kick out of that, because he knows that I have been the only dreadful singer in the family.)

Altamonte Springs

The Residence Inn where I’m staying is in Altamonte Springs, one of the northern suburbs of Orlando.  Altamonte means high mountain.  We’re 85′ above sea level – go figure.

There’s a baseball tournament this weekend, ages 7-18, the Winter Bat Freeze, and the Residence Inn is full of families, many of them speaking Spanish.  The pool has been full of young boys, as the basketball half-court has been, and last night they were playing soccer in the parking lot.

There is a huge building under construction right next to I-4.   (My photo from down the street from my abode.)  I looked it up; according to the Orlando Sentinel:

Altamonte tower entering year 16 of construction may be completed this year

…the owners of the 18-story office tower… would like to finish the structure this year. The iconic structure stands as the tallest between Orlando and Jacksonville.

For years, SuperChannel 55 President Claud Bowers has said he plans to complete the self-funded, pay-as-you-go project within a year to 18 months.  On Friday, he said the city asked for a best-case timeline to complete the work and Bowers said he told them a year. He added that he needs to raise about $10 million to finish the project.

“The patience of the community and city officials is just amazing and appreciated,” said Bowers, who next year will be a 40-year veteran of Christian television programming.  In the past, he has raised funds on his Christian television station and also got a settlement from the state for some land in the path of the I-4 expansion.  altamonte-tower

$$$$$

I’m almost in tears.  How could our Arizona senators, Flake and McCain, vote for this tax bill?

JOHN MCCAIN CLAIMED HE CARES ABOUT “HONOR” IN THE SENATE. HIS TAX VOTE SHOWS HE LIED.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN of Arizona joined 50 fellow Republicans on Friday night in voting yes on a Senate bill that slashes taxes on corporations and billionaires, while enacting the largest tax increase in history on many poorer Americans.

…the tax bill… directly benefits McCain and his family in obvious ways. His wife Cindy McCain’s estimated $100 million fortune is largely based in her ownership of liquor distributor Hensley Beverage, which would gain from the bill’s cut to alcohol taxes. It also will allow the McCain children to inherit $22 million tax free, doubled from the $11 million exemption under current law.

Jon Schwarz, The Intercept

But maybe his children will take their $22 million and provide full college scholarships ($120K total for four years at a state university) for 183 students in need…  And that’s only their tax free inheritance.

In the $$$$$ category: I was almost out of gas after the Christmas concert, so I stopped at the nearest gas station.  $5.99 a gallon – took $77 to fill the bug.  I had to laugh, it was like I was in another dimension.  I figured out that prices are high there because it is next to the airport.

Miscellaneous

Garrison Keillor?!

Fast and Furious

November 30, 2017

About forty newbies from Wave 11 showed up at our AFO on Monday.  We scrambled to find enough tables and chairs, and the PA TFLs (Team Field Leaders) were stretched to manage more of us.  Our feet are being held to the fire to get our calls, meetings, and documentation done quickly and the applicants’ paperwork finished and to the feds before the Christmas holidays.  I started off behind, as my first applicants were schools, I arrived at the AFO on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, when all of the schools had a week off for break.  (I did not get an entire week off to join the Native Americans in their National Day of Mourning, nor did my children or grandchildren.)  Our applicants have already waited almost two months for disaster relief from our government.  BTW – According to Wikipedia, Irma’s damage is almost $64.66 billion – Unofficially the fifth-costliest hurricane on record, which makes this a good time to cut taxes.

Fitness

Walked to the Subway for lunch today – 0.8 miles each way, according to Google maps. In anticipation had slathered with sunscreen in the morning, as the clouds have finally receeded.  But I had forgotten that when the humidity is 75%, you’re damp when you return.  However, I need exercise, and walking up and down the stairs to my second floor “residence” (It’s not a room,  it’s a residence), plus walking up and down the stairs to the third floor office aren’t enough, but getting up to exercise before work (starting time 8 am at the latest) does not appeal to this not-a-morning-person.  And after work I’m tired.  (Remember, I haven’t worked full time for almost ten years.)  Nevertheless, the RVD Athletic Club is near, and at 5:30 pm they offer Group Core:

Train like an athlete in 30-action packed minutes. A strong core, from your shoulders to your hips, will improve your athletic performance, prevent back pain and give you ripped abs! Motivating instructors and music will coach you through functional and integrated exercises using your body weight, a weight plate, a towel and a platform – all to challenge you like never before. REACH YOUR PEAK with Group Core!

Hahahahaha…

Flora and Fauna

Our office is in a beautiful office park (photos here from the Web) with mature trees (with leaves! unlike those in Tucson), some laden with Spanish moss.  (Click on the one at right for a view.)  Walkways wind along masses of green – azaleas, some blooming, society garlic, also blooming, large swaths of giant philodendren, liriope larger than I can grow in Tucson, New Zealand flax, all in large beds, manicured hedges,  low walls covered with ivy or moss, and large ponds, some with water lilies.

Already mentioned the plethora of squirrels, the vultures and the hawk, but forgot the cattle egrets (tick birds we used to call them in Jamaica, as they had a symbiotic relationship with the cattle, keeping them relatively free of bugs) – about five of them sitting on a hedge, as there are no cows around.  And a solitary egret in one of the ponds, looking like a statue among the flock of ducks, mallards and white peking, enjoying the water.  No segregation here.

No Frolicking

We were sent an email about Rental Car Unauthorized Activities.   This was one:

Frolicking- doing things that are for recreation, sightseeing, movies, bowling, concerts, bar hopping, going to the beach or amusement parks; if you are having fun you are unlikely to be in the scope of your employment.

Having fun is definitely not in our scope of work.

Speaking of rental cars, ours are to be cheap, and mine is a two-door VW beetle.  But a bit snazzier than the delapidated one my boyfriend had in college. Because it’s a turbo, the first time I hit the gas I nearly got whiplash!  And it has heated seats, which I’ve used on two “cold” mornings.

Disaster

November 26, 2017

PA

First, let me clarify the difference between PA and IA, Public Assistance v. Individual Assistance.  I’m working PA, assisting three schools (public facilities), rather than helping individuals with their homes, cars, and other possessions. This explains it well: understanding IA and PA.  But it’s way different from what I did for Katrina victims, three school districts off the coast where the hurricane had spawned tornadoes, and then on the coast out of Biloxi, with an elementary school with so much damage and the dreaded black mold that it had to be razed.  Now I’m managing the federal paperwork (which isn’t paper but electronic) and am the single POC (Point Of Contact) for each applicant; others  such as SI (Site Inspectors) report to me on the damage and yet others do the estimation of cost, both of which I had done previously.

Another acronym: FEMA is under the DHS (Department of Homeland Security).

Holidays

We got this notice two weeks ago:

The spirit of the holiday season is once again upon us and I wish you all the best during this special time of the year. This year, FEMA’s official holiday celebration will be observed on Thursday, December 14, 2017. We encourage each of you to take time to enjoy the season, share goodwill with coworkers, and spend quality time with family and friends.

A few of you have asked about Thanksgiving.  A woman in the office put out a sign-in sheet, ordered the food from Boston Market,  and 30 of us paid $17 and gathered at one of the extended stays that had a conference room.  Nice community of people.   [In Mississippi the boss asked me to organize Thanksgiving.  We (PA) shared an exhibition hall at a county fairgrounds with the distribution warehouse for IA which housed water, MREs – Meals Ready to Eat, mattresses,  blankets,  and so on.  So the truckers deep-fried a few turkeys (marvelous!) and I ordered large amounts of coleslaw, potato salad, and whatever else the local grocery’s deli counter had, as well as pies.  We moved our tables together in the hall and about 40 of us ate on paper plates.  Think the boss may even have waived the prohibition on alcohol.  Don’t remember.  But he had FEMA pay for the whole feast.]

On Thanksgiving morning I moved into new digs.  Had only reserved the room at the ESA (Extended Stay America) for one week, and it didn’t have much room for clothes; I’d been living out of suitcases for three weeks – two at the Econo Lodge in Frederick (one star), and one here in Maitland.  A few women at work said that the Residence Inn had a three-drawer dresser under the television.  I called but was told that there was no room at the inn.  Forgoing a manger, I got on their 800 number and after almost half an hour booked a room for the next six months.  Had to spend one more night in the ESA, hence the Turkey Day move.

We worked Friday.

My handlers (at my contracting firm, a subsidiary of Fluor) are doing a cost-benefit analysis of my possible Christmas leave.  If I move out of my room, store my bags, and they don’t have to give me per diem for a few days, I may get six days off, two of which shall be spent flying.   BTW – google Florida and per diem 2017.  The GSA (General Services Administration) gives us up to $129/night for accommodations.   The Residence Inn is $119 but shall be going up to  $129, as many others are doing.  At the far right of the list is M&IE (Meals & Incidental Expenses).

Speaking of which, I have to do my expense report for tomorrow, which has also been a learning curve, taking photos of paper receipts, turning them in to pdf’s, which then have to be attached pages in the WIS ( think it’s a Weekly Input Sheet), a spreadsheet which also needs to be converted to a pdf (Portable Document Format).  And three estimates of plane fare to and from Tucson for the cost-benefit analysis.  So must stop typing for today.

Driving around Orlando

I-4 is the main drag north of the center of Orlando. It is under construction and a big mess, but I have only seen one steam shovel at work. At 1:10 in the afternoon it was bumper to bumper. An hour and a quarter later it was bumper to bumper in the other direction.  Plus could never find anything if it weren’t for my trusty Waze.  One of the guys in our group recommended it; he likes it better than google maps ’cause it also mentions a disabled car at the side of the road, or a cop ahead.

We were just given a phone list of our compatriots here. 488 on the list.

Wildlife

Looking out the window at work (we’re working in a “bull pen”, ringed by windowed offices for the higher-ups, but one office hasn’t been filled yet and we use it for phone conversations) I saw a red-tailed hawk glide over the large pond next to our building.  It was a rainy day – many of those, many others overcast.  You would think that they could do without the sprinklers on the lawns.

Going to breakfast yesterday (not bad here at the Residence Inn,  as opposed to granola bars at the less expensive ESA) saw three vultures hunched over on dead branches at the top of a tall tree,  huddled against the heavy fog.  Today there were about 8 of them circling overhead.  Wonder what I don’ t know about this area.  Lots of cute squirrels.

 

Just to brag.  My son went as Jon Snow (albeit with less hair) to a costume party and got first prize.  (I used to love costume parties, although I did have my mom around to sew the outfits.)

The Call

November 25, 2017

Yes, this blog is two weeks late, but I’ve been busy.

Travel

Many of you know that the international  A/E  (Architecture/Engineering) firm that I had worked for called me in June to ask if I’d like to be put on a bid for FEMA.  (Large companies bid for federal disaster relief contracts and the new bid is to be for five years. When Hurricane Katrina hit 12 years ago, Fluor had committed 10% of their work force. There were 60 in our Tucson office, so six of us left for DC where we went through two weeks of concentrated FEMA training.  Then I was deployed to Mississippi, off the coast.  But those are other stories.)

Then it was mid-August and Harvey hit.  First responders go in – first.  So I waited. Irma slammed in, followed by Jose and Maria.  After a few weeks I called.  No word yet. More weeks went by.  Then a call on Thursday night, October 31st:  we’d be working Irma.  Possible deployment on Sunday but don’t make reservations yet. An email on Friday Possible deployment on Sunday but don’t make reservations yet. Got The Call 10:30 Saturday morning while I was in the shop getting my car fixed: make reservations for the next morning. So I made plane reservations (6:30am) drove my cat up to relatives north of Phoenix (almost five hours round trip), my daughter and her family came over with the pickup truck to take all of my outdoor potted plants, as they weren’t on the drip system, and food that wouldn’t keep, called my housesitter who would water my indoor plants once a week, ran the dishwasher,  and packed.  Had already bought a cheap small duffel bag as I had to pack both cold weather clothes for Maryland and warm weather clothes for Florida.  Scheduled an Uber for 4:30 am and got a bit of sleep.

First Sunday

Sunday was an 18-hour day, but only because there was a two-hour time difference.  Three shuttles to the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) in Emmitsburg, Maryland from the Baltimore airport, at 2, 5, and 7 pm.  Of course my plane arrived at 2:05. We had to show two pieces of ID before we got on the bus (I now carry my passport to travel around the US), when we were on the bus, when the bus reached the security gate at the NETC, and when we were processed. The NETC was already full (five dorms housing over three hundred) as it serves as an interagency emergency management training body for the EMI (Emergency Management Institute), NFA (National Fire Academy), and USFA (United States Fire Administration) and there were firefighters there (they were the ones in short-sleeve shirts with bulging muscles) as well as FEMA Wave 9 (we’re Wave 10 of 12), so we were housed in three inexpensive motels in Frederick, half an hour bus drive on a freeway each way.

BTW – the history of the campus is interesting: NETC

Training

Monday: In a meeting filling out MORE forms. 1600 FEMA people already trained here. 300 here now (says lecturer). Every county in Florida needs FEMA. Texas has 20% more debris than Katrina.  Those were my notes on the morning of the first day;  then we got busy with ten intensive days of lecture and practice with our intranet system; all of my notes are in acronyms.

Emmitsburg, Maryland

Too picture perfect, as a postcard or trainset. (These photos are from the Net as I was always too tired to take any.)  Manicured lawns, farms with neatly rolled-up bales of hay, trees gold and scarlet and magenta. No old-growth forests or any animals except for horses and cows. Haven’t even seen a bird or squirrel! Sun just coming up (our bus picks us up at 6:30 each morning), making ponds into shimmering mirrors. Contrail in a light blue sky. 19° – wearing four layers.

In the evening back at my hotel with my feet on the heater to try to drive out residual cold. But it warmed up from this morning to 29° now.  Have tomorrow off for laundry – Sunday, a day when I don’t have to get up at 5:30.

Had six days of rigorous lectures and practice on the computer system we’ll use. Next week “boot camp” for four days to go over the whole procedure again and again. We’re the Program Delivery Managers (PDMG – we speak in acronyms).

Next Friday shall fly in to Orlando and the AFO (Area Field Office) where they’ll decide where to deploy me.  Many interesting people and lots of diversity – old, young, black, white, Hispanic.  A woman from Iraq, another from Guam. Bus driver today from Jamaica (where I had been in the Peace Corps) – had been a teacher there, and was about my age, so after my dinner in the cafeteria (where we eat three meals a day) we chatted for half an hour before the bus left.

Second Sunday

Wow- I could get used to Uber – a variety of chauffeurs. An older friend in Tucson travels this way. Slept in to 9 this am, then turned over and slept ’til 10.  Uber to the main street in this tiny town of Frederick where some historic row houses are hundreds of years old. Cute!  Started at Starbucks for latte and a NY Times (both of which I have missed), on to a laundromat, then a Vietnamese restaurant for summer rolls.  At Spanish place tonight for tapas and wine (which I haven’t had all week).

Lots more to come.  (This is mostly from jottings I email to myself until I have time to compose a blog posting.)

Plastics

November 2, 2017

Many of you are old enough to have seen the movie, The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman.  One of the famous lines was: I want to say one word to you. Just one word… Plastics.

Many years ago, when the kids were young, I took them on a trip to Costa Rica.  We saw the green turtles nesting, among other things, such as a tour of a banana plantation.  (Have you ever wondered why we have 47 varieties of apples in the supermarket and only one kind of banana?  Even though there are over 1,000 banana types, the only one we eat is the Cavendish, which can survive weeks in a ship’s hold, unlike most varieties. Yes, this is going somewhere.)  The plantation (think it was Del Monte) decided that the bananas that can be grown in Costa Rican weather weren’t as good as Cavendish, which needed more heat.  So they put plastic bags around each growing hand of bananas.  But some of the bags get blown off and washed downstream to the Caribbean, where they look like jellyfish, the food of green turtles, who eat them, which causes blockages within their digestive system and eventual death.  So – bad plastic bags!  (These photos are just two of many on this website – plastic-pollution – check it out.)

Well, one of Arizona’s most forward-thinking cities, Bisbee (!), banned the use of plastic bags.  I can go with that; I hate to see them caught on our cacti (I had a photo in one blog), and estimates for the time it takes them to decompose ranging from 20 to 1000 years1.  But our progressive state government (= Republican) said that they could not. As I mentioned in a previous blog (water), last year our legislature passed:

House Bill 2131 restricts Arizona localities from imposing prohibitions and restriction on plastic grocery bags. Retailers, grocery stores and other business interests pushed the measure after the city of Tempe looked to restrict the use of plastic grocery bags.2

So Tempe didn’t do it, but Bisbee banned them; however, last month:

Bisbee’s ban on plastic grocery bags violates state law and must be repealed, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has concluded.
The decision leaves that city’s leaders with a precarious choice: Undo the 2012 ordinance or risk losing vital state-shared revenues that pay for public services.3

Well, the country of Rwanda is more enlightened than Arizona.  In the New York Times last Sunday was an article,  Public Shaming and Even Prison for Plastic Bag Use in Rwanda:

Here in Rwanda, it is illegal to import, produce, use or sell plastic bags and plastic packaging except within specific industries like hospitals and pharmaceuticals. The nation is one of more than 40 around the world that have banned, restricted or taxed the use of plastic bags, including China, France and Italy…

Last month, Kenya put in place a rule that will punish anyone making, selling or importing plastic bags with as much as four years in jail or a $19,000 fine

Rwanda is probably Africa’s cleanest nation and among the most pristine in the world…  Children here are taught in schools… to cherish the environment. Smugglers are often held in detention centers or forced to write confessions in newspapers or broadcast them on the radio. Supermarkets caught selling food in plastic packaging are shut down until they pay a fine and write an apology.4

What’s Wrong with this Picture

On October 1, a white guy killed 59 people and injured another 527. Police recovered 23 guns from his Las Vegas hotel room and another 19 guns from Paddock’s home… [which] were purchased legally.In addition to the 42 guns, he also had bump stocks, which made his semiautomatic weapons fire like automatic weapons.  These also are legal.  This was over a month ago

Has our Congress done anything to make the bump stocks illegal?  Has anyone said that no one should own 42 guns?  Maybe one to shoot deer, but get real!

Turn the page – an immigrant from Uzbekistan plowed a rented pickup down a bicycle path near the World Trade Center, in the name of ISIS, killing 8 and injuring 11, two days ago, and our President tweeted that he…

SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!

While the White House deemed it unseemly to have a policy debate on gun control immediately after the massacre in Las Vegas last month, Mr. Trump was eager on Wednesday to have a policy debate on immigration. He pressed Congress to cancel a visa lottery program that allowed the driver into the country, attributing it to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and called Democrats “obstructionists” who “don’t want to do what’s right for our country.”6

 Hello!  Is anyone listening?  This from the Brady Campaign (remember – 30 years ago a person attempting to  assassinate President Reagan shot Jim Brady in the head, which left him partially paralyzed for life, hence the Brady Bill):

In One Year on Average

114,994 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention.  33,880 people die from gun violence…  81,114 people survive gun injuries…7

We’re not going to ban pickups, but we should ban bump stocks and put a limit on guns!

Virga

I took a picture of the virga Monday night.  That’s a cloud trying to rain, but the moisture evaporates before it hits the ground.  However, after the sun went down, in the middle of the night, we got a drenching, with thunder and lightening.  Quite an event for the end of October.

1http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/bags/
2https://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2016/03/14/arizona-legislature-approves-ban-on-plastic-bag.html
3http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2017/10/24/bisbee-must-repeal-plastic-grocery-bag-ban-lose-funding-arizona-ag-says/795970001/
4https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/28/world/africa/rwanda-plastic-bags-banned.html
5http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-shooter/index.html
6https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/us/politics/trump-new-york-attack-schumer-visa.html
6https://www.bradycampaign.org/key-gun-violence-statistics