Archive for the ‘Orlando’ Category

My Villa

March 13, 2018

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recycling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rental Car

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

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

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

Fried!

February 23, 2018

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

However, I do get to sleep in on Sundays.

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

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

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

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death in the afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

Technology

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

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

A Rainy Sunday

January 28, 2018

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

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

Gentrification

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

Exercise

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

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

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

Surf Expo

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

Politics

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

Future Disasters

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

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

Never a Dull Moment

January 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s March Orlando Anniversary

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

A Glimpse of Beauty

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

Immigrants

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

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

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

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

SeaWorld

January 16, 2018

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

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

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

Alt Right

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

Fire and Fury

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

Korea

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

The Move

January 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

But no frozen iguanas!  They’re farther south.

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

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

by AJ Willingham, CNN, Fri January 5, 2018

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

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

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

 

Home for the Holidays

December 29, 2017

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

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

Shopping & Ice Hockey

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

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

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Lights in my daughter’s neighborhood.


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?!