Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

...and a Mere Month Later

Sorry for the long pause, but in my defense I was out of internet range for at least half of the time. The other half? Not sure what the story there was. I do know it involved a lot of mowing and weed whacking. That seems to be most of my life anymore.

Anyway. We spent the last couple weeks up in the Great Frozen North, otherwise known as Michigan. We flew into Bishop Airport in Flint, which has several advantages. One, it isn't in Detroit; two, it isn't really in Flint; three, it's small enough to get off the plane, grab the luggage and rental car and be on the road in a half-hour or less; and last-but-certainly-not-least, there's a coney place with Koegel's right down the street. Serve the Curve, baby!! They also shoved that stupid modern art piece-o'-crap paper airplane thing out of the middle of the lobby and brought in a sweet Buick Roadmaster:



The first week we spent with my parents, getting their place ready for our family reunion. We managed to get into Traverse City for the Blue Angels on Sunday:



But after that it was just work, work, work, work, work. We built a swing set:


We trimmed trees:


We sat around hoping that gnomes would pitch in:


We watched other people putting up the tents:


And then we spent Saturday afternoon yakking and eating ourselves silly:





Unfortunately, we got a call Friday that Debbie's mom had been taken into the ER and admitted with possible heart problems. So Saturday, we had to eat-and-run instead of hanging around the reunion, and zip down to Saginaw to relieve Debbie's brother and his family, who had been living at the hospital since Friday.

Now, maybe it's been a long time since I've had someone in the hospital, but I don't seem to recall the necessity of at least one family member being present 24 hours a day just to make sure that the hospital staff doesn't kill the patient, that the patient has the assistance necessary to get from bed to toilet and back, that the patient gets meals and meds when necessary (and not the ones for the patient two doors down the hall), that the floor gets mopped, etc. I seem to recall that there was hospital staff who were paid to do those things and do them correctly. I must be miss-remembering, or maybe it was something I saw on TV about how hospitals are run in one of those First World countries in Europe. Cause it sure ain't how they do it here in 'Merica. Anyway, Debbie's mom is home and everything was more-or-less back to normal by the time we had to fly back to Florida.

And just so I can clear out some of the open tabs that have been accumulating over the last month:

We all know that Facebook manipulates its users for its own personal benefit. Whether you see a post or not, or where in the list it shows up has nothing to do with what you want and everything to do with what will make Mark Zuckerberg more money. But some of what has come to light recently seems to cross a line:
A new Wall Street Journal story probes the frequency and casualness with which Facebook ran experiments with the explicit aim of manipulating users’ emotions. Some commentators pooh poohed the concern about the study, saying that companies try influencing customers all the time. But the difference here is that manipulation usually takes place in a selling context, where the aims of the vendor, to persuade you to buy their product, are clear. Here, the study exposed initially, that of skewing the mix of articles in nearly 700,000 Facebook subscribers’ news feeds, was done in a context where participants would have no reason to question the information they were being given.

Facebook’s conduct fell so far below acceptable standards for conducting research that it would have been criminal if funded by Federal grants.

Emphasis is mine. I'm pretty sure that most people of average intelligence would assume that something that is illegal to do using federal grants, would at least fall on the wrong side of ethical, even when the funding is private. Yes, every ad on TV tries to manipulate your emotions, as does in-store displays, the color, shape and size of the packaging the whatsit comes in, and so on. (That is the greatest disease ever! How d'ya get that?!? That disease comes with a hot chick and a puppy!) But we expect this. Or we should. We know ads are supposed to make us want to buy stuff. We know stores exist to sell us stuff. We probably don't know, nor should we expect, that Facebook is trying to manipulate voter behavior during a congressional election.

One of the commentators pooh poohing concerns about all this is Scott Adams of Dilbert fame:


So I guess if anyone has any concerns about the conduct of Facebook, that make him "knowledge impaired"? You sure are quick to defend a corporation, Mr. Adams, given you've made a rather comfortable living by mocking corporate management for its abuse of both employees and customers. Ah well, I guess it doesn't matter; Mark Zuckerberg could be videotaped feeding puppies into a wood chipper and one-seventh of the world would still log on to Facebook everyday.

Just like I do.

On a lighter note, a couple videos from the Japanese dance troupe, enra:







And that's probably enough for one day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

More Projects

We're still cranking on house projects while dodging the daily thunderstorms. The main one this week was a bit of a redo. When we first moved in, there was a hall closet that was seriously misconfigured. The rods were too close to the wall for a standard hanger to fit, and were so close to the floor that Debbie's long dresses were all puddled up on the carpet. Simple enough to fix, thinks us. We decided we only needed closet rod on one side anyway, so we ripped everything out and put up a rod and shelf on one side and pantry shelving on the other. We've hung hundreds of feet of Closetmaid, so this should be easy, right? Heh. The "walls" are only 2x2's and the thinnest paneling that you can buy. No way the paneling would support the vertical rails once we started loading things up. That meant we had to position the rails on the studs, but that put them too far in from the ends. It worked as long as we were careful to keep things balanced. At the time we had about 100 other things to do, so we just decided to live with it for now and fix it when we got a round tuit.

A mere two years later:


We pulled everything back out, screwed 1/2" B/C plywood right over the paneling, slapped on a bit of paint, et voilĂ ! Now we have a wall sturdy enough to put things together correctly. And while we had everything pulled out, I decided to do something about the nicotine-stained ceiling:


When it's all done, we now have and extra four feet of closet space:


And repeat on the other side:


And rehang the shelves and fill with Stuff:


A neighbor somehow acquired a display rack from the local Sweetbay when it shut down. She thought she would use it for something, but never did. She gave it to us a couple months ago along with a bunch of cuttings from her plants. It fits perfectly on the back wall and makes a great can shelf:


We now have enough space to do mega-Sam's-Club shopping and have a place for everything. Even the super-giant-sized tub of animal crackers!!

Speaking of new plants, the rain is really making everything jump:

Lantana planted a year or so ago.

My parents' hibiscus that we are plant-sitting for the summer.

No clue what this is. Even the googles couldn't help.

One person told us this was angel wing begonia, another said it was dragon wing begonia. What came up on the googles for either of those looked nothing like this until I added the word "spotted". This is a spotted dragon wing begonia.

Variegated kiwi vine? A bit upright for something called a vine. We'll see.

Some random plant from Home Depot. It was stuck in a pot with other plants and wasn't looking too healthy, but we planted it anyway. Now it's going like crazy.

Gardenia.

Variegated philodendron.

Hollyhocks, recently relocated. These should have set flower a long time ago, so I relocated them to a spot with more sun to see if that helps.

Some sort of miniature iris that pops up all over this part of the park.

Coleus

Rose bush of unknown type. 
Ginger, growing a couple inches a day.

Spider plant

Agave, plumeria and aloe.

American beautyberry.
We also managed to kick out a couple outdoor projects as well:

One dumpster-dived rusty wire rack + one can Rustoleum navy blue paint = one serviceable end table-ish dohicky.
More Rustoleum navy blue paint applied to the peeling, multicolored light pole, and it now goes with the siding.
We got a bit of a surprise when we began seriously cleaning up the light pole: the glass was clear, not frosted. It took about a half a bottle of Windex to find that out, but the scum eventually came off. Now I just have to find the little rod with the dingleballs on either end to go through the hole (like this), and the light pole will be good to go.

Well, off to start work on the next project.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is on a Friday this month. It's a full moon as well, which means it's the day for teenagers everywhere to run off into the woods, consume massive amounts of alcohol, lose their virginity, then be gruesomely murdered. By a werewolf.

I'm doing this because right now it's raining. Again. Or maybe I should say, "Still." At least all our transplants are loving this weather. Everything seems to have taken hold and is doing well. We've made some other changes in between rainstorms, but we haven't had a chance to take any pictures. So instead, here's what our view from our porch has been for the last few days:



Last weekend, we had enough time and dry weather to finally get the coat closet roughed in enough for us to start using it. We still need something smaller for the paper recycling (the big blue thing sticking out in the room), and the whole Florida room needs paint and paneling, but for now, it'll do:


That mostly clears out the closet part of our pantry/hall closet. Because our walls are nothing but 2x2's and paneling, I wasn't able to put up the shelf and rod correctly when we first moved in; now with it mostly empty, we're going to beef up the wall the rod and shelf are attached to and position the brackets correctly. If the rain gives us a break, we can probably get that cranked out this weekend. (Big "if" at this point.) Then most of my clothes will get moved out of the bedroom closet into the hall closet, making the bedroom closet somewhat less crammed full. Fun, fun, fun!

Yesterday, I spent most of the day on the road, driving back over to Lake Mary to pick up the new lenses for my glasses, drop off/pick up stuff for Debbie at her office, and hit one of my doctors for my quarterly check-up. News was less than ideal, which, in keeping with our wonderful medical-industrial complex, means spending more money I don't have just to confirm that indeed, I'm gonna die someday, just like everyone else. (I don't recall if I ever said, but I have yet-another chronic, life-shortening disease. No treatment needed for decades, but it must be constantly tracked. For reasons. Please hand your credit card to the lady behind the window. See you in three months.)

Anyway, it's lunch time.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Rain Arrives

So after I whined about a non-rainy rainy season, we got dumped with over 3" in less than an hour later that night. It rained a little last night, and we thought we were going to get some tonight, but it all somehow missed us. At least all the plants got some good water instead of chlorinated hose water. Everyone has their fingers crossed that this is the beginning of normal (15-20 minute thunderstorms every afternoon) and we won't go back to the hot and dry we've had the last month or so.

Today I stumbled across an article listing the 10 deadliest cities for pedestrians. In what will shock exactly no one who has spent more than five minutes driving in Florida, the four worst cities were Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami. The article puts all the blame on badly engineered roads, which is completely true, and not just for pedestrians. Every place we've been in this state has at least one intersection or stretch of road that was intentionally engineered to cause accidents. Maybe the road engineers are getting bribes from the 1,001 law firms that endlessly advertise on TV, billboards, etc. It cannot be accidental. For one, it's far too common, and two, it's so damn obvious. When we lived in Sanford, there was one intersection where there were two left-turn lanes turning onto a side street. No big deal until you are halfway around the corner and you realize there is only a single lane for the two solid lines of cars to turn into. I went through that intersection on my way to work. I never remember there not being fresh broken glass there. Narrow, twisty residential roads where little kids are getting on and off school buses have 35 mph speed limits. Every city loves to block sightlines at intersections with trees and bushes. And on and on forever. So sure, the morons in charge of the roads are part of the problem. But certainly not all of it.

When we first moved to Sanford, there was some big deal on the news about all the Orlando school kids getting hit by cars on the way to school. A dozen or so in the first few days of the school year, if I recall. There was all the usual hand-wringing about poorly-marked crosswalks and careless drivers not keeping an eye out for children. However, the real problem was that the parents didn't want to wait at the light to turn into the school, then wait in line to drop them at the "safety zone" at the door. So the kids were bailing out of the cars in the middle of an 8-lane highway and making a run for it. All the fancy crosswalks in the world can't fix that level of stupid.

Another big stink was made about a rash of bicyclists being found dead on the side of the road every morning from hit-and-runs. Now yes, hitting someone with your car and not even slowing down is pretty bad. But I've encountered these bicyclists both in Sanford and here in Zephyrhills. First, they insist on riding into traffic, even on highways. They ride between lanes. If they see someone they know on the other side of the road, they just make a hard left and start riding across the traffic. They ride around at night in dark clothing and not even a reflector let alone any lights. They run stop signs and red lights. Again, all the bike lanes and PSA's urging motorists to "share the road" can't fix that kind of stupid.

And of course, the same stupid people who shove their own kids out of the car in the middle of a highway and ride their bicycle after dark without any lights also drive cars. The Florida driving test must be, "Can you fog this mirror?" The completely idiotic things I see people do down here every time I get in the car would fill volumes. I would rather have a root canal without anesthesia than drive anywhere. It's that bad.

So yea. Have at the piss-poor job the road engineers have done and are still doing. But a lot of other people need to be fish slapped.