A Magical Place

June 4, 2018

Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothin’ ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Weather most foul…  No – not that bad yet.  Hurricane season does not start until June 1.  But…
Today is the official start of the rainy season; Tropics: hurricane forecasters give 30 percent chance to Gulf disturbance.   florida rain


I started writing this a few weeks ago, but never finished it because not only am I burned out from work but I’m also tired from exercise.

I am presently going to exercise classes during my lunch hour MWF at the Y down the street from work.  They had a 50’s luncheon last week. (No, I did not attend.)  Heard in the locker room: I bought this dress at Goodwill and shortened the skirt to make the jacket.

On TuTh I go to a Cardio Strength class after work at the Y a couple of miles from the hotel where I’m saying.  Heard two women in class talking last week: I’m so excited about the cruise!  Yes, I really enjoyed it.

Diocese of Orlando

All of my Applicants are PNPs.  Some are schools in our diocese.

William Borders, the first Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando, claimed in 1969 to Pope Paul VI that the then-active 1917 Code of Canon Law placed newly explored territory under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the port of departure, making the Diocese of Orlando responsible for the moon following the flight of Apollo 11. (Wikipedia)

However, their insurance policy does not cover:

11.  Satellites and spacecraft while on the launch pad, or after time of launch…


I figured that since I’m living next to SeaWorld I ought to go once.  (Had offered to fly my daughter’s family here, with my frequent flyer miles, for Spring Break, but she said they couldn’t afford the amusement parks once they were here.  Orlando is a magical place. But I hadn’t even looked at prices.  Walt Disney World and SeaWorld – $100 per person per day!  How was it that the place was crowded with families?)  The previous weekend it rained, but my phone’s weather said overcast for this Saturday, but no rain.  So Friday I got sucked in by the Visit SeaWorld for one day and save $20 when you book your tickets in advance.  $80.  Plus tax.  You guessed it: my phone still said no rain, but yup, there was precipitation.

So I did my grocery shopping and laundry and went after lunch, when my phone said it was raining, but it wasn’t.

They still work with orcas – six.  One of their tricks is to make sure that the audience in the Splash Zone gets wet.  (And they must be messy eaters because a couple of egrets hang around.)

And they still show the standard dolphins doing tricks, and it’s amazing how they can stand straight up in the water working their tail fins.  The trainers are super agile.

They also save a lot of manatees.  Hurricane Irma was hard on them – many stranded pups separated ftom their moms.  And sea turtles – on the right.  (Had a closer look when I took my kids, when they were young, to Costa Rica and we watched a larger one lay her eggs, up close and personal.)

Here’s an injured dolphin, healing, that is fascinated by umbrellas, and on the right a sea turtle.  (Had a closer look when I took my kids, when they were young, to Costa Rica and we watched a larger one lay her eggs, up close and personal.

It’s funny taking photos of fish here, as the displays I’ve seen while scuba diving were far superior, but I never bought an underwater camera.  Yellow tang.  However, I’ve never seen a wobbegon shark (right) in the wild.  (Have seen many sharks – even went on a shark dive in Fiji.  Shark dive)

Another funny thing – my favorite show did not involve sea creatures; it was Pets Ahoy!  (Might also be because  it was the end of the day, I was tired and glad to sit down.)  These are official SeaWorld photos – much better than mine.  All of the animals in the show, dogs and cats, a rat, ducks and doves, and a potbellied pig, were so well trained and the skits were Laugh-In -style funny.

It starts with a (cute) rat, running onstage, then through a small door, a cat in pursuit, followed by a little dog, coming out a second door, going through a third, and so on.

What got me were trained cats!  That is a cat weaving through her legs as she walks.  (An undersized dog does it too.)  Have you ever owned a cat?  I thought I was doing well getting mine to come when called!  They has something like a dozen trained cats!  Amazing!

What’s especially nice is that, All of the animals that star in Pets Ahoy! have been adopted from local rescue shelters and given a new home at SeaWorld.

Political Commentary

May 11, 2018


The Arizona teachers were on strike for a week.  My daughter, at home with three kids because of it, took them to Phoenix one day to join in the protest.  What a great thing to do!  Education in Arizona is poorly funded because the Republicans, who often send their kids to private schools, would rather pass tax breaks.  Here’s why I left: phew!  You can read that blog and the ones preceding it.

This from Wikiedia:

The 2018 Arizona teachers’ strike was held from April 26–May 3, 2018 by 20,000 teachers to protest low pay and cuts to school funding.  Arizona Governor Doug Ducey had approved a proposal giving a 20 percent raise to teachers by 2020 with a 9 percent raise in 2019; teachers rejected this proposal as it did not provide increased funding for schools themselves or raises for support staff. It has coincided with a similar strike in neighboring Colorado.

The walkout occurred after similar actions in West Virginia and Oklahoma, and is the third in the ongoing wave of teachers’ strikes in the United States…

The strike ended on May 3, 2018 when the Government of Arizona conceded to increase funding to increase salaries for support staff and to decrease student to counselor ratios.

…Before the walkout, teachers’ salaries in 2018 were between $8000 and $9000 lower than teachers’ salaries in 1990, when adjusted for inflation. Wages for teachers in Arizona are some of the lowest in the United States, averaging $48,372 per year. In 2017, Arizona ranked last of all fifty states for average elementary school pay, and second to last for teacher pay at the secondary level

But the strike ended with only a few promises.  Someone asked, What happens now?  One of our state  senators answered:

Steve Farley — Arizona State Senator for District 9, April 29

As the son of two public school teachers and the father of two daughters who got a great education in Arizona public schools, I know we need to increase pay for all K-12 public educators, including support staff, as well as restore funding for textbooks, computers, and building maintenance…

We need to do it now. We are in an unprecedented crisis in which more than half of our teaching positions are either vacant or held by someone without proper qualifications, because so many teachers have left teaching entirely or left the state because they could not afford to teach in Arizona. Our future as a society and economy depends on adequately funded and well-run public schools…

The Governor’s “plan” still does not have details in legislative form, so we do not know how he is claiming to fund the proposal. From what we have seen so far, this is not financially sustainable beyond the upcoming fiscal year, and nonpartisan legislative economists project a $300 million deficit within two years.

In the past when deficits have happened, this Governor and this legislative majority have traditionally voted to cut public education…

While the legislature is famously unpredictable, here’s my best guess on what the upcoming week might look like, so you can be prepared to act when necessary. There are no set times for any of these steps to commence.

This could be the last week of session if there is a budget deal, as the Governor has asserted. If there is a deal, it will only be with Republicans because neither legislative Democrats nor the leaders of the Red For Ed movement have been consulted.

If there is a deal, it will be a part of the overall state budget (including all funding for all state agencies and many other policy changes, not just education) and the first bills will be introduced on Monday.

Most of the action will take place on Tuesday, starting with Appropriations Committee hearings on all budget bills, with an opportunity in both House and Senate for public testimony. It is likely that the committee chairs will severely limit public testimony — in the past they have asked for three people in favor and three against with as little as one minute each. This is the only opportunity for the public to be heard in a formal setting. Not my idea of true democracy…

Later that day, there will be a Committee of the Whole on the House and Senate floor. This is where the bills will be debated by elected members and the public can watch in the gallery. Please pack the galleries. As your elected official, I need you to witness this. We as Democrats will attempt to amend the budget bills to address the true priorities of Arizona, including sustainable education funding. Our amendments will likely be voted down, but we will make the case for investing in ourselves instead of giving taxpayer money away to out-of-state corporate interests. This often happens in the middle of the night. Sometimes from midnight till 6am. I’m not kidding.

Then on Wednesday, the final vote will be tallied for or against the bills, they will be submitted to the Governor for signature, and the session will likely end.

Other bills will be voted on throughout these last days as members try to get their other priorities through, and bills once thought dead could come back to life, so I will be watching for those carefully. I suggest you do too.

Keep up the pressure. Your advocacy is working. Thank you for helping to revitalize our democracy, and stay involved. It’s worth it.


Does anyone know how it went?

North Korea

Education was last week’s News.  This week it’s North Korea.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was just there and brought back three American “detainees”.  Yesterday I heard Associated Press reporter Matt Lee (who was one of two journalists allowed to accompany Pompeo) on NPR’s All Things Considered (Copyright © 2018 NPR):

KELLY: … I want to ask you, Matt Lee – this is not your first time traveling to North Korea, not your first time traveling there with the U.S. secretary of state. You went along on the plane with Madeleine Albright when she traveled in 2000, and I’m curious what differences you saw… as you’re driving by … what do you see out the window? What’s it look like?
LEE: We arrived early in the morning, like what would be rush hour in a normal city. There was more traffic than certainly there was 18 years ago… Most of the morning commuters that we saw were either on bicycles or on foot – farmers, soldiers, people who are potentially office workers and lots of children in school uniforms walking to school along the side of the road. The city, from what I remember from 18 years ago, was not a sprawling metropolis of skyscraper-type buildings. That has changed.
KELLY: Suggests money is coming from somewhere to pay for that.
LEE: Exactly, exactly. Despite …severe sanctions on North Korea… the city is still growing up and out.

That made me think of an article I had read in the NY Times Magazine last Sunday, bank-heist

The New York Times has reported that North Korea is believed to maintain a network of about 1,700 computer hackers around the world, aided by 5,000 trainers, supervisors and other support staff. Many operations are aimed at harvesting intelligence from South Korea; others, as in the case of Sony, are intended to avenge slights, or others to reap financial gain. North Korean hackers have become especially adept at targeting the weak links in the financial system: banks in developing nations, especially those in Southeast Asia. “They are easy prey,” says Vitaly Kamluk of Kaspersky Lab, which found Korean-language coding embedded in some Lazarus Group malware and claims it definitively linked the Lazarus Group to North Korea, through an I.P. address that the group briefly used during a wave of attacks in Europe and Central America in 2017. “These central banks often cannot afford good security, good software, or hire a proper specialist to configure their network,” Kamluk says. “They are low-hanging fruit.”

Seen Today

A church across the street from the office has three Sunday morning services.  The first is in Creole.

A woman waiting in line ahead of me at a store Pickup had her hair in about 30 narrow braids.  Asked her how long it took – 10 hours!  Her son, age 7 he told me, was shuffling around doing basketball moves the entire time.  A woman leaving the store behind me had two children; the daughter, who looked about eight,  was bouncing sideways, perhaps a soccer move.  Kids have such energy!

Each evening, when I get home from work, I get a glass of wine and the newspaper and sit on the patio overlooking Sand Lake.  Much better view than my last place, which was mostly plants, although it was interesting to see a squirrel in a palm.

English Proficiency

Can you tell what this quote refers to?

“Against the luminous sky the rays of her halo were spikes of darkness roweling the air; shadow flattened the torch she bore to a black cross against flawless light — the blackened hilt of a broken sword. Liberty.”

Backstory from the New York Times: Thousands of German Students (taking pivotal final secondary-school exams) Protested ‘Unfair’ English Exam … which they said was absurd, with obscure and outdated references.  Kudos for my seven-year-old grandson who knew the answer!  english-test

Past our Shelf Life

A friend of mine in her mid-80’s, whose husband had died a few years ago, had moved to a retirement village.  This last year she hooked up with a fellow retiree whose wife had just passed away.  Serendipity!

Another friend, 94, who lives just outside of DC, and whose husband passed away a year ago, broke her hip a week ago, tripping on a carpet on her way out of exercise class!  It is DC, but I didn’t ask her if she exercised with the Notorious RBG.  (Here is a video of Stephen Colbert working out with her: RBG.)


April 22, 2018

I do so like being home, spending time with family and friends, and working in my garden, even if it only is for a week of “rotation”.  Harvested four round carrots (easier to grown in the desert hardpan soil), two stubby bell peppers,  five small japanese eggplants, and one ripe cherry tomato.  The squash is in bloom and there are dozens of green cherry tomatoes, but the brussel sprout plant is not producing yet.  These are all plants that didn’t die back in the winter.  I’m working my own compost (produced by slow but steady worms) into the soil to plant more on my next visit home.  The Abert’s towhee is enjoying water in the birdbath; fun to watch him revel in it.  Quail investigating the yard; guess they haven’t had chicks yet.  And lots of collared lizards enjoying the sun.

Wednesday friend K and I saw an art movie at the Loft, Leaning into the Wind – Andy Goldsworthy.  I love his work, and have two books of it, but now he’s doing a kind of performance art (like climbing through hedges, as in this photo).  Here’s a trailer: into the Wind

The next day we took a tour of University of Arizona’s Environment + Natural Resources Building II by Richärd+Bauer Architecture.  Awesome building which earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – I am accredited in it) Platinum Certification.

The vision for the Environment and Natural Sciences complex (ENR2)… sustainable design. The University’s goals: this project is the centerpiece of environmental research, the building should have a definable iconic identity… serving as a living and learning laboratory, and be the most sustainable on campus…

Organized about a central “slot canyon”; curvilinear anodized aluminum ribbons define the walls of the central canyon, recalling the terra cotta walls of the natural canyon, leaning overhead, and falling away. The vertical striations of the anodized scrim recall the desert varnish pattern of the Navajo tapestry and the canyon walls. As in the natural environs, each terrace reflects the elevated desert floor, with native trees, grasses, shrub, and stone. The canyon floor is a sand and stone dry bed, which gathers the rainwater and guides it into storage cisterns for reuse…


Walked the U (of Az) this morning w/ friend B and her dog, and brunch at the B-line.  Weather lovely: 64° feels like 84°.


You must read 40 Sea Gulls Wrecked His Hotel Room. 17 Years Later, a Pepperoni Pardon.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/14/world/canada/sea-gulls-fairmont-empress-victoria-nick-burchill-pepperoni.html

Florida Art

I’ve not been posting as often because I spend at least 7 3/4 hours a day on the computer at work, so I’m not enthusiastic about working on my tablet on weekends. But St. Petersburg was fun a few weekends ago. I had to go to the Dali Museum. It was built by Reynolds and Eleanor Morse who, in 1943, married, became friends with Dali, and bought their first work of his.  In 1982 they built this museum to house the largest collection of Dalí’s works outside Europe.  The architecture was amusing.  Those colored ropes, trailing from the tree in the wind, are made up of the bracelets we got when we entered the museum.  When you leave, you contribute to art.  The spiral staircase is in the center.

Dali’s style changed with the times.  Here are some of my favorites.  Love this Post-Impressionist scene, Cadaques, 1923.  (Cadaqués is a town in Catalonia, Spain where Dali spent summers as a boy and later made his home as an adult.)

The Portrait of My Dead Brother is huge – 69 in x 69 in.  This older brother was also named Salvador and died at the age of two, before the second Salvador was born.  When you’re close to it you see only the cherries (click on the photo and enlarge to see them) – the two under his nose have joined stems representing him and his brother.  Sorry not great focus – I was using a phone to photograph.  Had to take that one from a room away.

This Surrealistic self-portrait of Dalí surrounded by the elements of war, Daddy Longlegs of the Evening–Hope! was painted in 1939 in the US, where Dali and his wife sought refuge during World War II (The daddy longlegs spider, when seen in the evening, is a French symbol for hope.)  This was the Morses’ first purchase, a wedding present for themselves.

You’ll have to look up this Surrealistic painting, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, to understand all of the references.  It took over a year to paint and is so large, over 14 feet tall and 9 feet wide, I couldn’t get back far enough, with the crowds of people, for a straight shot.  It is amazing.

There is a room where you put on goggles and earphones to move through space made up of symbols in Dali’s paintings.  Sound has been added.  Much fun!

Even the gift shop has Art: this car.

Then the Imagine Museum, a glass museum, which was free that family Saturday, with children doing projects in the cafe area.  Can’t imagine them touring the glass exhibits.  Asked one of the women in charge – she said it was “a challenge.”  I have the names of the artists who did these marvelous pieces, if anyone is interested.

This is not my best photograph.  These are all glass copies of plastic containers.


This is all glass.  Amazing.  I had lots more photos, but can’t find them now.  Took them with my FEMA iphone.


Anyway, am leaving Tucson tomorrow morning to get back to work.  So figured I ought to post this.  Hasta…

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.”


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.


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.


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.


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
Winter without snow.



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.


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!


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..


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


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.


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).


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.


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.

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.


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