Fort Lauderdale Beach at Sunrise Blvd

For most snowbirds, this is one of the first views that you get of Fort Lauderdale Beach.

The oil hasn’t gotten here, yet.

It is still clean, there are still people coming to the beach.  It is summer, and while it is what most people would consider hot, it has been hotter in the big cities of the Northeast. 

The summer isn’t the time most people expect to go to Florida, this is a “cold weather destination” – people come here when their own places are miserable and it is beautiful here. 

I call this our secret season.  This is when the locals come out to play and bring a few select friends.  The water is still blue and warm.  The breezes are still refreshing.  The sand still gets between your toes.  You can walk the beach without having to step over too many college kids from Michigan and Iowa and you can get a seat at any restaurant you like without too much trouble.

Sure it rained all weekend, but this is the Wet Season.  There are four areas to watch in the Caribbean Basin and the Gulf of Mexico, but nothing is going to amount to anything here yet.  It may later, but for now it is all clear.

After all, its nice to go outside dressed like that guy and walk out to the beach on a “Beach Day” and play tourist.  Millions have.  Millions will.

How do you start a Lawn Mower

I’d really like to know.

The problem with this mower is not that it is a dead machine.  The motor is strong, it will start.  The mechanisms are fine, however there is one wrinkle. 

It is old.

Specifically, it is an old Lawn Boy with a Two Motor that requires that you mix oil with the gasoline at a 40 to 1 ratio.  Not necessarily a problem so far because the world has used Two Cycle Motors for decades, if not centuries.

The problem is that with oil in the gas, the motors tend to be harder to start.  To combat the harder to start motor, there is a primer bulb on the motor somewhere that you are expected to squeeze once or more per run.  I have the same problem with the string trimmer that I use.   It has a bulb that you press, and it injects fuel and oil mix into the combustion chamber.

Normally they will start with little effort, however I have found that in order to start that little strimmer, I have to take the spark plug out and scrape the plug clean of deposits and then replace in order to get it to run.  It hasn’t run in a month because after a half hour of trying to get it started, I gave up with a stiff right arm.

The lawn mower eventually started after working its pull rope for about 10 minutes, but it resulted in our getting quite tired.   I’m sitting inside while someone else is mowing the lawn.

I’m thankful that the lawn’s getting mowed by that person.   My allergies won’t allow my doing it.

On the other hand, the problem isn’t the motor specifically.   It is that little bulb.  The thing cracked through years of use and needs replacement.  A small soft vinyl or rubber bulb that most likely snaps in place and costs a dollar or less means that this lawn mower will either have an expensive repair or it will end up being replaced.  Since it is running well at this moment, I don’t want it replaced. 

Hopefully the part will be easy to find.  It does reflect on our disposable society though.  I have a lot of appliances that through the years have been replaced.  Sometimes they have been patched together and gave many years of service like that lawn mower.  On the other hand, I am sure that if the TV or Stereo started acting up, I’d make a token attempt at a repair and out it would go.

The quality of equipment has not gotten appreciably better over the last few years, although over the last couple decades it has.  When all the manufacturing of electronics moved out of the United States, some got better some got worse. It all depended on country of origin.  

Now I look to see where something is made before I buy.  If I have a choice between Made In China and Made Anywhere Else, even if the Chinese made item is cheaper, I leave that on the shelf and look for something made anywhere else.  With people jumping off of roofs at the Foxconn Factory so we can have Apple Products, I think we may have to reconsider our priorities as well.   At this point, in the middle of the Second Great Depression, we have a good reason to step back and leave Chinese Junk on the shelf.

At least I have a good chance of repairing my lawn mower.  My Television Set won’t ever get repaired.

Hurricane Season Starts Tuesday

Ok, everyone, it’s that time again!

Time to listen to the media tell you to DUCK AND COVER!!!!

While the houses here are generally built much more solidly than they were up North, it does bear some consideration.  Nothing will survive an Andrew or a Katrina Event, but most hurricanes are not that powerful.

Hurricane Season is upon us and it gives us an excuse to prepare and repair

Everyone here hopes that it will be another gap between major storms like the 80s and 90s.  Fort Lauderdale area went approximately 20 years between major storms, then the season of 2005 that spawned Katrina, Rita, Wilma and stretched on until New Years 2006 happened.  We have had three relatively quiet years, nothing more than tropical storms that were merely Rain Events.  When the Hurricane Season of 2007 hit, we tried all of the shutters on the house, decided they were in good working order, and put them all back in the shed.  The next year, we merely bought food and water, and repeated that in 2009.

This year we won’t do anything different.  The books all say 3 to 5 days food and water.  Have Buckets for toilets and extra supplies stowed in case you really do have to evacuate.  There are more specifics that I won’t go into. 

They changed the rule of thumb recently to 3 to 5 days.  When I moved here the rule of thumb was a Week To Ten Days.  I then started listening to the Emergency Management Personnel here in the City and what the “Old Timers” had to say about prior storms.  When Hurricane Wilma came through and turned the infrastructure into Barney Rubble, the power on my block was out for two weeks.  There were individual homes that were out for a solid month. 

Wilma was such a slow moving and grinding storm that it convinced everyone here that things had to change.   First, the markets were required to have emergency back up generators.  Good idea in any rate when FPL has such a bad track record of providing clean power.  If you sit in my front room and listen to the music, through the course of the day you will be hearing a mechanical accompaniment.  That would be the addition of the relays in my power conditioner filtering out power spikes because some wire somewhere shorted something out and sent more voltage through than the system is designed for. 

Second, the stores setting up emergency generators resulted in some bright start somewhere getting a great idea.  Lets save money by not distributing Ice!  It was a given during the storms that trucks of Ice would be delivered to central locations and those who needed them could come and get bags of Ice to put in their refrigerator and freezer to try to maintain some cold food. 

This was done away with.  Basically you’re on your own and have to go to that store with everyone else and buy ice.  …if the stores have it.

Once the ATMs have run out of money you’re done with Ice because it is questionable that the phone system will be functional.  The cell towers are programmed to knock we the people off in order to give emergency responders priority.  The POTS Network that came to your house on a pole to feed a phone on the wall will be damaged and even if you have a “landline” service.  You may not have that after the coconut tree takes a header into the phone pole and the lines are now draped down into your swimming pool that is green from the algae that will be joining the mosquitoes that are breeding after a couple days.

There will be a sales tax holiday expected in June for certain emergency goods.  This will be when I go out and buy two weeks of food, a tower of bottled water, and fill up the Propane Tanks for the grill.  The reality is that even if they don’t have that tax holiday, a trip to the big box stores to stock up is in store.

Time to eat the rest of the frozen foods that you stocked up over winter, you will need the space.

I’m here to stay.  Will you be?  After every storm there is always a flow of people who pack up the U-Haul and go to places that are less dangerous in their opinion.  There is no place in the country that doesn’t have some sort of environmental disaster possible.  San Diego gets Earthquakes.  Hawaii gets Hurricanes and has Volcanos so there has to be Earthquakes there.  The North gets snow.  The West does not have enough water for the millions of people who live there.  Forget about Las Vegas in Summer.

We at least get a couple days warning when a Hurricane approaches. 

So it is time to prepare.  Think of it as spring cleaning.  You didn’t really want to eat that three year old can of Okra did you?

Why house plants are silly in South Florida

When I was a wee brat in Suburban South Jersey, I had a room that was full of three things:

and Plants.

The radios never really seemed to mind, but there was a constant humidity in that room that wasn’t in the rest of the house.   It was warm, green, and there was always something moving in the room.   Unfortunately, there were nowhere near enough shelves and storage so my bedroom as a kid was a rather crowded mess.

Fast forward to today.   I have a house in Sunny Suburban South Florida.   There are exactly one house plant in this house and I find myself wondering why I have that one.  Its a “Lucky Bamboo” and it is the last of about four I had a while back.

The first gift that I had gotten when I got this house was an orchid.  I had made it a point to put that plant outside since the irony of having a house in Florida means that you don’t really have direct sunlight.   If you did, your house would be painfully hot and all your furnishings would be bleached and dried out.

The dog would be happy, but the rest would not.

So if you love plants in Florida there are a few suggestions I have. 

One is that if you simply must have plants in the house, get some low light loving plants and see what will grow.   Indirect light is about all I get here.  There is a big drawback with having real plants in the house, even if they are low light plants.  That drawback would be the soil.  Florida has critters that will be inside if they are not there now and the soil gives them a home.   I’ve had visits from fleas, ants and geckos to name a few.   The geckos are completely harmless and sometimes eat the others, but they can’t cope with a plague of insects.  Better to not give them a home!

You could also get some silk plants but really that isn’t for me.  I can’t recommend them because they just don’t look all that realistic.  Plus you just have to clean the blasted things!

Ok so the best suggestion I have is that you do what I did… Strap Orchids to the trees and sheds and irrigate them.  I have a bougainvillea that I have a love-hate relationship just outside the window that I am propagating Spanish Moss on and other “air plants” when I spot one that fall outside of the trees they were anchored to. 

Why care for something indoor when you can create a garden just outside the window that blows away anything you can put into a pot?

Roomba Batteries Suck

… and not in a good way!

I know we have gotten used to a throwaway society, but this is a bit much.

In the past there was a break between goods that were meant to be tossed, and those that weren’t.  Those that weren’t were considered “real” goods, and would last more than a year.  I had kept my vacuum cleaner from my childhood, purchased by my parents in 1968, well into the late 1990s.  Something bought these days just aren’t going to last 30 or so years.

When things cost a third of what they used to, it doesn’t cost to replace them.  They’re made cheap, thrown away, and forgotten.  Flip them over and you will see one very telling motto: “Made In China”.   For the most part, this kind of motto means that it is designed with Planned Obsolescence in mind and don’t expect to give it to your children.

If you look around some of the thrift stores and some places that deal in antiques and second hand goods, you will find items from Pre Chinese Invasion that are still reparable and quite useable.  Think Electrolux Vacuums and the like.  Few Plastic Parts, and those parts that are there are designed to be repaired.  Yes, they cost more, and in many case much more than the average of the market, but buying something for the home would be something that would be expected to last much longer than the low end garbage we get these days.

Compare the quality of a Hyundai of the 1980s if you can find one and one of this decade.  They were built better because upper management made a conscious decision to make a better product.  It worked with Ford, they’re making a profit while GM is stumbling along.  Simple and sturdy is always better for longevity than is complex and “fiddly”.

So what about that Roomba?   After using it for about six months, I noticed that the rubber flippy bits that swept the dirt into the chambers were pulling loose and that it wasn’t quite doing the job it should have.  Duct Tape helped a little, but really the parts were not made to be serviced so the machine lost its effectiveness well before that first year was out.  It certainly wasn’t that old Hoover that I got from Mom when I moved out!

The other problem with it is the same problem that everyone has with sealed rechargeable batteries.  You can not service the things easily.  In the case of the battery pack with the Roomba, the thing is sealed with screws whose heads are a triangular indentation.  And just where to these people expect you to get a tool to repair that?

They Don’t.

You can buy a new pack if you like, they are fairly available and you can snap one in to the machine in a heartbeat.  I’d prefer it if I could open the pack up and remove the bad cells and replace them.   After all, they’re just garden variety NiCd cells, but that would be too simple.

At this point, I’m glad I paid next to nothing for the Roomba because I’m disappointed in how long it lasted.  It was nice to not to have to chase that old Hoover around the house, but now I’m back to the vacuum that I keep in the hall closet.

Basically it was nice while it lasted but didn’t last nearly long enough.

The Roof is Evil, and Must Die!

Strictly speaking, its already dead.

The roof in this case is a sheet of vinyl that is flapping around in the breeze normally.   It is attached to my Jeep that I trundle to work in every day.  Not the quietest of rides but there are benefits to having this particular car.

It is now more than 8 years old, and has just under 40,000 miles on it.  I’ve had Jeep Wranglers since the mid 90s, and one before that in the 80s when they were the old CJ7.   CJs were a very different vehicle, but that is a different story.

When the weather is just so, and pretty much what everyone would tend to call perfect, I look up at the sky and gauge the conditions.   Hands outstretched, eyes skyward, sensing the breezes on my hands and face, I step out from the building that I work in and lower my gaze to the dusty old Jeep sitting there waiting for it’s turn to shine.

And that is when I usually utter my line:  “The Roof Is Evil, and Must Die“!

I then take care in removing the vinyl top off of the car, stowing it as Chrysler intended, and then get in the car.  You see, this particular day I’m writing about, Monday was as close to perfect for me as it gets.   At 5pm, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, the breezes were light, and the temperature was a beautiful 75 Fahrenheit, or approximately 24 Celsius.  I got in the car for a 10 mile drive home.  Technically speaking my drive is just under that – 9.9 miles and is almost due North-South. 

Never mind that, its beautiful out, I have a convertible car, and I know how to use it!

I turned on a trance set from Armin van Buuren, put on the mirrored sunglasses, and a giant smile on my face.  All that expense of driving a vehicle that I get 18 miles to the gallon (I won’t convert that to metric, I won’t even try!) is worth it on a day like that.  They’re a blast to drive and when you’re in Florida with the right music (pick your own if you don’t like mine) even being stuck in traffic can be fun.

The Pot of Gold is in Mt Trashmore

Last month, I was chasing rainbows.  

The rainbows seem to have a habit of being just out of reach.  In this case, the rainbow’s end was in Mount Trashmore.  Or at least one of the Mount Trashmores we have in South Florida.  

The topography of the land here is amazingly flat.   Someone from Indiana or Illinois would feel it’s normal.   This area makes South Jersey feel hilly, and North Jersey mountainous.  So as you are driving around anything that sticks up over the tree tops you can see for miles.  This is a big city, despite the fact that each of the urban counties here are broken up into little municipalities bordering a large city in each.  All those people, and Broward County itself has more people than Philadelphia City at 1.7 Million, make a lot of trash.   Since you can’t really drop it off at sea like they did back in the bad old days, the solution is to make a giant landfill and keep piling it up.  Behind the trees in the background there is a rather large pile of it.  It is so high that I can spot it from Powerline Road and Prospect Avenue, about 7 miles South of where that picture was taken.   I would guess that the pile is on the order of 50 to 75 feet above ambient elevation.

Pretty tall huh?

You should see the flocks of Gulls that circle the place during the afternoon when the thermals get started.  The whole area around there is full of birds, out of proportion with the rest of the area.

I guess the wildlife will adapt within reason to their surroundings.  Hopefully they still will be able to.  Who knew that a rainbow would be a good reason to recycle?