Thursday, August 31, 2006

Subject: You're Fired

It's comforting to know that the TAMPOA Board is not the only entity whose actions at times seem to be based on lack of forethought. Yesterday, RadioShack Corporation used e-mail to notify 400 or so of its employees that, effective immediately, they had no jobs. What? RadioShack didn't have the time or money for personal phone calls to these workers?

Imagine how you would feel when you sat down with your morning coffee, pulled up your e-mail, and it read: "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated." Apparently RadioShack couldn't imagine how that feels and how tacky it looks.

I'm not sure I want to spend my money with a company that displays such a lack of judgment about its employees' feelings.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wasting Money Again

This time it's the Miami Dade School District that is wasting money. When the schools reopen in the Miami area, perhaps the School Board will want to reconsider one item of wasteful spending. That item is the vote to appeal a federal judge's ruling preventing them from removing a book about Cuba from the school library. The only winners here will be the lawyers who have already been paid $123,000 by the district and the district has budgeted another $127,000 for the appeal. That's $250,000. How many quality teachers would that sum hire?

Of course, the school District forgot one thing. When they lose, they will have to pay the ACLU lawyers who brought the case. Their fees are not likely to be less than $250,000. So the Miami Dade District will have spent $500,000 of Florida citizen's money over a book at a time when most school districts are hurting for money.

Save for the two souls on the board that had the courage to say no to this nonsensical appeal, the Miami Dade Board needs to get its priorities straight and forget about right wing garbage like book banning. Next time this school District complains how needy it is, the Florida legislature should remind it of its litigation folly.

Doesn't this Miami Dade antic remind you of some other boards you know closer to home?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ernesto Now Just A Rainstorm

In typically calm Key West fashion, no one here is too concerned about Ernesto because it is a ways away. The government seems to have taken this storm seriously. The Key West Airport, for example, is closed. So are the state parks and the schools here. As a precaution, the Sanctuary boats have been taken out of the water, here and in Bahia Honda. (If the seas get really choppy, it's not a good idea to have boats banging around.)

The government actions here in ordering tourist evacuations closing schools, shuting down the state parks, and taking other emergency measures are driven by money. If the government didn't act it may not be eligible for certain kinds of emergency relief funds. The truth is that you can't trust tropical storms in South Florida.

However, the weather here is still nice for a summer day. So, today we'll probably bring in some orchids that could get damaged by some wind gusts. We'll probably only get some rain and maybe a few wind gusts but we're not anticipating anything serious. The heavy rain will be up near the mainland. The storm winds are only a max of 45 mph. We get 20 to 30 mph gusts on a typical windy summer day, so you can see why no one here seems real concerned. I've included a link to the Key West radar, so you can watch.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ernesto As of 11:00 a.m. Today

A hurricane watch, which means that hurricane force winds are possible within 36 hours, is in effect for all of the Florida Keys and surrounding waters including Florida Bay. A hurricane watch is also now in effect on the mainland from Chokoloskee Florida to New Smyrna Beach Florida.

At 11:00 a.m. today the center of (currently) Tropical Storm Ernesto was located near latitude 20.3 north, longitude 75.7 west, which is about 445 miles southeast of Key Largo. The storm was moving toward the northwest at about 10 mph. If the storm stays on this track for the next 24 hours, the center will continue to move over eastern Cuba today and then emerge off the northern coast of Cuba later tonight or Tuesday morning. Maximum sustained winds are in the 40 to 50 mph range with higher gusts. The storm may further weaken over land this afternoon, but strengthening as it emerges over water is possible. The minimum central pressure was estimated at 1006 mb or 29.71 inches of mercury.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tourists Ordered Out

It's 89 degrees here and partly cloudy -- a great day -- but a State of Emergency has been declared (at noon today) by Monroe County, and the Emergency Operations Center will be activated at Level One at 6:00 a.m. on Monday. Monroe County Emergency Management has ordered a mandatory evacuation of all visitors and non-residents in the Florida Keys as a result of the Hurricane Ernesto. The evacuation order was to begin at 1:00 p.m. this afternoon.

According to the National Westher Service at 2:00 p.m. the Center of Ernesto was located near lattitude 17.8 North Longitude 73.9 West or about 680 Miles southeast of Key West. The hurricane is moving toward the northwest at about 9 mph, and this general direction is expected to continue for the next 24 hours. The center is expected to pass very near the southwestern tip of Haiti during the next several hours, then near the southeastern coast of Cuba on Monday morning. As the hurricane passes over land, (Haiti and Cuba) it may weaken. Currently the maximum sustained winds are near 75 mph which is a Category 1 hurricane. Another weather bulletin will be issued later this afternoon after a check of the winds by hurricane hunter aircraft.

If you are a tourist, you have been ordered to leave. If you are not here and you are a tourist, you are not likely to get here. Because there is only one highway off this island, tourists are always evacuated earlier than others, and that is done in stages to avoid as much congestion as possible. The authorities will try to err on the side of caution -- better to evacuate tourists than not. Also, all the "staff" of businesses that serve tourism will need care for themselves and their families, so if you are a tourist, please understand when you are asked to evacuate.

For residents, it is not too early to check your Hurricane Plan and make sure you have needed supplies if you haven't done so. Most of us are pretty relaxed about this, but we all appreciate what we must do. We'll start by making sure that we have a full tank of gas in the car and that all cell phones, computers, flashlights, and other gagets that need charging are fully charged and have extra batteries. We'll be making sure that at least one portable radio that will bring in a Miami station is working properly. We'll be keeping watch on the track of the hurricane, and will act accordingly.

By the way, if you are a resident and are away, it may be time to put your backup preparation plan into place -- finding someone to button down your home if you didn't do that before you left and you think you might not get back in time to do your own preparations.

Do You Have A Hurricane Plan?

In my last post, I noted that the Director of the National Hurricane Center, who is retiring in January repeatedly has urged everyone to have a Hurricane Plan and that it's too late to plan once the hurricane is here.

Do you have a plan? I don't mean just some vague idea, but a real plan. Does each member of your family know what to do? Who will do what? What will need to happen if you get separated? Where you'll meet? When? How will you communicate? What about your pets? What if you are out of town or on vacation when the storm arrives? Have you rehearsed your plan?

If you don't have a plan, you need to make one NOW. Those who are here know the drill. You know we won't have power, might not have potable water, and need an evacuation plan. At least 5 gallons of drinking water, flashlights, batteries, gaffer's tape, a fully charged cell phone with an extra charged battery (although don't count on the phone working), a portable radio capable of reaching a Miami station (since weather radio currently doesn't work once the storm hits), a first aid kit, all your medicines, cash (the ATMs won't work), a full tank of gas in your car, and a packed small "escape" backpack, are just a few of the essential items you'll need. That isn't all. You need a complete plan for how you'll deal with a real emergency. There are lots of web sites out there that have all the information you need to develop your plan. DO IT NOW.

The need for a plan doesn't just apply to Truman Annex full timers. It applies to those Annex residents who live here part of the year and are sitting somewhere where it's not 90% and 80% humidity. Failure to button down your Annex property -- bring in the stuff on your patio, porch, and decks; trim your coconut trees; take care of your rotting wood; fix your roof; and do other chores -- endangers others during a hurricane. Deck stuff, coconuts, rotten wood, pieces of roof, and other debris become 80 mph missiles in a hurricane and can go through windows, do other damage, and even kill somebody. So all you Annex folks who are not here but return in Winter and Spring, please do your part to help those who are here now or year round. If you haven't buttoned down your property, get your rear end down here and do so, or get it done somehow. DO IT NOW. It's not fair to put your neighbor's lives at risk just because you don't live here all year.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hurricane Man Retires

Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center, will ride off into retirement sunset in January, 2007, after 34 years with the Center. He has served as Director since 2000. He will be missed.

Max, like other Directors before him, has continuously warned the issue during hurricane season is not IF the big one will come, but WHEN. He has urged everyone to have a Hurricane Plan, and has repeatedly emphasized that waiting until a hurricane strikes to plan can, and probably will, endanger your life.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Take It To Bed

"Screw the computer" may become a literal phrase as more men take their work, i.e., their laptops, to bed. With his wife sleeping next to him, the N.Y. Times reports that groping for his laptop instead of his mate, when a 3:00 a.m. insomnia attack strikes, may be bad for his relationship. (The writer of this story has obviously not been sleep deprived.)

The wife in this story thinks the bed is a "restorative place" and "not a place to work." As you might expect, according to the N.Y. Times, the opinions of the relationship pundits are divided. Some "experts" believe bringing laptops to bed is a way to avoid intimacy. Others suggest that when couples are in bed with a computer, "they can be said to be engaging in an intimate act." (What do you suppose this pundit would say about watching television in bed?)

The opinions of laptop users vary. According to the N.T. Times, one techie, who switched rather than fight, now says she feels "connected" when she and her mate have their computers in the bedroom and says when that occurs "it's a good night." Another woman named her husband's Treo cell phone "Bitsie;" noted that because of its size it could be "fondled under the covers;" and described it as "a vibrating 24/7 secretary" with a totally annoying buzz.

Let's face it, technology and toys that buzz have been in the bedroom for generations. Most of us are too young to remember the vibrating beds in motel rooms, the kind that would give you 15 minutes of buzzing for a quarter. The hot tub in the motel room is today's equivalent of the vibrating bed. A radio with its buzzer alarm is a staple in all hotel rooms. The TV, the VCR, the DVD player, the computer, the Ipod, the plasma screen on the ceiling (which replaced the mirror on the ceiling), as well as a whole host of sex toys that buzz. vibrate, stimulate, blow up, or whatever are now part of America's sleeping scene. The computer is replacing the TV just as the DVD has replaced the VCR. Some cell phones are replacing computers and have been in the bedroom for years. With each new arrival of bedroom technology some pundits have worried about the impact on intimacy.

I doubt there is much to worry about. Until, that is, they invent a cell phone that is shaped like a condom and in the middle of the Big O will buzz you from within, let you know you forgot your pill, and announce that it will dispense a dose of Plan B if you just press 9 on its remote.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Easiest Surgery

At the AMA convention, four surgeons from big cities were having a discussion with a colleague from Key West about who are the best patients to operate on.

The first surgeon, from New York, said, "I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."

The second surgeon, from Chicago, responded, "Yeah, but you should try electricians. Everything inside them is color coded."

The third surgeon, from Dallas, said, "No, I really think librarians are the best, everything inside them is in alphabetical order."

The fourth surgeon, from Los Angeles, chimed in: "You know, I like construction workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over."

But the fifth surgeon, from Key West, shut them all up when he observed: "You're all wrong. The politicians in Key West are the easiest to operate on. There are no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains and no spine, and the head and the ass are interchangeable."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Night Wonder

Several nights ago a wondrous sight was happening 30 feet below the surface at Looe Key. The coral were spawning. A number of marine scientists from around the world had come to study the phenomenon with the assistance of a crew aboard a NOAA boat. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary staff were there to observe and help.

A night dive was underway. The reef was alive with working divers. Video lights illuminated the event, and a photographer recorded the action. Throughout several nights the scientists worked, gathering samples, then going to the surface and rushing to the lab to continue their studies and record data. Left to spawn the next night were the giant brain coral. Then it was over.

What will we learn from all this? That learning occurs on at least two levels. One is quite spiritual: the rare opportunity to share a special moment in the life cycle of another species. The other level is a practical one. It is not hard to notice that some of the coral at Looe Key, like coral around the world, is bleached and dying or dead. There is also a higher level of bacteria at the reef than in years past. One of the studies going on is to determine what effect this bacteria will have on new coral. Will the coral that is produced as a result of the spawning be more resistant to bacteria, or will the coral be weaker and more susceptible to disease? The answer will have a profound impact on the health of the oceans and the future of life on this planet.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fix Weather Radio

The Florida Transportation Department folks are building eye on pole cameras to watch traffic and who knows what else on Highway 1. They expect these cameras to be weather proof. Maybe while they're about it they could not only allow National Public Radio to transmit from their poles, but also emergency weather radio. It's the first thing to go in even a mild tropical windstorm. Shouldn't it emergency weather radio that actually works be a priority?

All Quiet On The Southard Street Front

While I was away, the quiet sound of back room compromise is taking over the Southard Street wrangling. Maybe cooler heads will prevail. Rationality is probably too much to hope for. Maybe I should travel more often.