Why Does FPL Want To Ruin My Pizza?

Sundays.  They have turned into Pizza Day.

Specifically, one half 7 cheese, one half 7 cheese with Mushroom, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Grilled Onions.

Made from scratch.  Scratch Crust, Scratch Sauce, and the toppings are my own mix.

I have this pizza recipe down.  The dough is Pat’s Pizza Dough.  The recipe comes from my sister.  She had it in a recipe book that she was given when she got married back in The Nineties.  I sat at her table with a stack of little square pieces of paper and wrote a whole bunch of recipes down and kept them.


I still have the original square paper for this.  It’s faded, water spotted, stained, and just about everything else you can think of that can happen to a piece of paper after some 20 plus years.  But the recipe is bullet proof.  Never fails.

Oh sure, I have adjusted it for Florida Conditions.  Bad water that comes out of the tap slightly brown and tastes like it has been sitting in a garden hose in the heat.  Flour that is commercial high grade, and rather thirsty and seems to like brown water.

Instead of what the recipe says, I’ve bumped it up to 12 ounces of water.  I know what the dough “feels” like when it is right.  Every experienced cook has a recipe they do By Eye and get right.

Pizza is mine.

In fact, I’ll put my own pizza up against anyone else’s on the island now.

The dough makes 1400 calories of bread, I weigh that in grams, divide by 10, reserve 30 percent and that makes one crust.  The cheese is exactly 6 ounces.  Sauce is exactly 7 ounces and is a home developed clone of the best sauce on the island from a closed Pizza Shop.  Yield is a pizza that is just about 1000 calories total depending on whether I go with 30% or 33% of the dough.

The point of that is I Know This Recipe.  It goes well with a single beer for Sunday Lunch.

I start this all at 9 AM.  Make the dough, weigh and separate it out.  This pizza was 30% crust, allowing me to make 6 rolls out of the remainder.  101 grams per roll.

It got rolled out and allowed to rise in a protected place.

11:30, I put the pizza together.  The vegetables were sauteed to drive out the moisture. Cheese mixed.  Sauce layered, followed by the cheese, and finally the veg.

I reached into the refrigerator, grabbed a fine ale, and sat down to enjoy a brief rest as the oven came up to temperature.

About 20 minutes later I hear the oven snap.  “It’s ready!  I guess I should get up.  The pizza will be ready in …”

BOOM.  I hear that apocalyptic sound of a “Pew” as capacitors in all the appliances discharge.  The fans stop.  It is silent except the ticking of the mechanical clocks.

You see this part of Florida, Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale, and Oakland Park is in Broward County.  The East side.of the county was built up first and it was built to the edge of the Everglades National Park until no more room at the inn.

Florida is full.  If you’re moving here from somewhere else, don’t think it is an open place of palm trees and wading birds.  It is, but those places are usually redneck, infested with evil things like alligators, mosquitoes that would carry off a large car, and Republicans.  Swamp People.

Broward is nice.  It’s diverse, having lots of interesting people from lots of interesting cultures, and everyone is from somewhere else.   The Native Floridians here are comparatively few on the ground.

But all that demographic nonsense?  You see what happens is that every so often we get, yes, a Hurricane.  The last one that hit here was Wilma in 2006, and we’re overdue.


The telephone poles look like they were here before Wilma.  You may ask, how can I tell?  Simple, they all seem to lean slightly to one side.  They’re almost all sun-bleached on the South side as well.  Southern exposure here is redundant, they’re kind of a grey color.   I know, I’m looking at one now.

Motley assortment of old beat up infrastructure.  Old Beat Up Infrastructure fails.  Randomly and spectacularly at times.

That would be that boom I was talking about.  It happened as I was just out of my chair and took my very first step across the living room to the kitchen.

What caused it was a two or three year old repair to a High Voltage wire on a pole about 100 feet from my house.  We were told it was “done badly” and “it just let go”.

I walked into the kitchen.  Oven temperature was 450. It was dropping.  I slid the pizza in anyway, and went into the living room.
“I really don’t want to finish this off in the grill.”

Crappy infrastructure means we have backup plans here.  In places where the weather is more gentle, like, say New Jersey in my sister’s native Cherry Hill, you talk about power outages, but they never last more than two hours or so.

My friend works for the power company in Atlanta.  When I tell him what I go through here with the power, he shudders and says “Southern Company would never accept that sort of failure rate” and then segue into a long conversation about how awful the power is here in Florida.

When I moved here, I lost two computers because of the twice daily “Power Pops” I get.

Trust me, it really is that bad.

Six minutes passed.  The pizza was actually done.  A wee bit under, but since I opened the oven, I lost the rest of my heat.  It was now down to around 300F.

“Well, lunch is served.  I’ll put the rolls on the grill.”

The pizza was actually quite good, better than most here.  But it wasn’t exactly a crispy cracker crust I obsess over.

Freaking FPL.

I go outside and put the rolls on the grill and close the lid.  I know exactly where to turn the knobs to get the grill to heat to 430F.

Setting the timer for 11 minutes, I come back later.

The first rolls are done.  Surprisingly good looking for something that was cooked under the Lanai.  I put in the second set.   They come out perfect too.

Actually the grill hot spots, so I will remember next time to put bricks in the grill to keep the cookie sheet up off the actual grill work.

“Now what?”  We were without power.  Full but no power.

“Luckily the house has hurricane glass and new roof.  We’ll have to see”.

The day went up to 92F here.  I watched the indoor temperature inch up a degree an hour or so.  It started at 76, and by 5PM it was up to 84.

We had some small battery operated fans for when it was warmest, but it served to remind me that while we do have a generator, it won’t power the Air Conditioning in the house without some more work.  Yes, we’ve got more hurricane prep to do or else it’s pile the dog and the parrot in the Jeep and drive North in case of a power outage.

Wilma did that.  My block was without power for two weeks.  I was told this over and over.  Two weeks of sitting on a floor and using D Batteries to power a small battery powered fan in an emergency is not fun.

So please, FPL, fix your infrastructure.  I don’t want to get used to baking rolls on a grill.

Computer Hygene 101 – Checking Your Disc For Errors

Every so often you’ll get a message that your disc drive may have corruption.  Windows has been getting better at automatically checking this sort of thing, but sometimes it gets confused and you may have to do it on your own.

Since I live in the Florida Power and Light area of Florida, and we get a lot of what I call “Power Pops”, we also get a lot of files that get corrupted.  Since hurricanes have hit South Florida before, the infrastructure here can be quite creaky and things surge and break.  That “ate” two of my computers when I moved down here and I have two different filters on this computer I am typing on.

My own opinion is that a computer is safer on a power strip or an “Uninterruptable Power Source”, and a laptop will tolerate power fluctuations better because the wall current runs through a brick that takes some punishment as well.

From time to time you may have to run a “chkdsk” on your hard drive.  That’s a program in Windows that will look at the hard drive and attempt to fix any errors found.  My own opinion is that if chkdsk can’t fix it, you’re best to consider your options – however make sure you have a good backup of what is on that disc. 

After all Data is more expensive than Hardware!

Since Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are slightly different in the way you run chkdsk, I’ll treat them separately.

Relax, it only looks difficult!

Windows 7:

  1. Click on the Start Button – or hit the Windows Key on your keyboard.
  2. Click on “All Programs” to expand the menu.
  3. Click on Accessories to expand the menu.
  4. Find Command Prompt and Right Click on the item.  You will know you have done that correctly because you will get a pop up menu to show. 
  5. Click on “Run as Administrator“.  This will let you have more control over your computer.  It also will allow you to do things like delete your windows files – so be aware of what you are doing.
  6. “User Account Control” will grey your screen and pop up a window asking “Do you want to allow the following program to make changes to this computer?”.   Click on the “Yes” button.
  7. The “Administrator: Command Prompt” window will open.
  8. In the command prompt, type the following command:  chkdsk c: /f and hit enter.
  9. You will get a message saying “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process.  Would you like to schedule this volume to be checked the next time the system restarts?  (Y/N)
  10. Type: y 
  11. Hit enter.
  12. Type: exit
  13. Hit enter.
  14. Restart your computer. 

Windows 8 and 8.1

  1. Go to your start screen.
  2. In the upper right there is a search box.  
  3. In the search box type: cmd
  4. You will have a list of items.  Find Command Prompt and Right Click on the item.  You will know you have done that correctly because you will get a pop up menu to show. 
  5. Click on “Run as Administrator“.  This will let you have more control over your computer.  It also will allow you to do things like delete your windows files – so be aware of what you are doing.
  6. “User Account Control” will grey your screen and pop up a window asking “Do you want to allow the following program to make changes to this computer?”.   Click on the “Yes” button.
  7. The “Administrator: Command Prompt” window will open.
  8. In the command prompt window, type the following command:  chkdsk c: /f and hit enter.
  9. You will get a message saying “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process.  Would you like to schedule this volume to be checked the next time the system restarts?  (Y/N)
  10. Type:
  11. Hit enter.
  12. Type: exit
  13. Hit enter.
  14. Restart your computer.

A High of 84 in the Living Room

If you want to move to South Florida, you have to like it warm.

You also have to understand that things are different here.  The stability that you have in some other areas isn’t completely guaranteed here.

Things work for the most part, but when they go wrong they leave you scratching your head. 

In the seven years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen water spouts, tropical storms (weak, and I’ve been lucky), thunderstorms that threatened to fill the street in front of the house, power “pops” on a daily basis, and wildlife that really shouldn’t be here.

Don’t get me started about the iguanas.  I’m thinking about finding that recipe they had in the little restaurant in Port of Spain, Trinidad for Iguana Tail Soup.

When life gives you Iguanas, make Iguana Tail Soup!   Skip the Lemonade, I’ll be in the kitchen for a while.

There isn’t a “perfect” place anywhere in the United States.  Even San Diego has earthquakes (minor ones, but they’re there) and it’s a near desert climate.  If utilities were completely cut off in Las Vegas, the interstates would be clogged with SUV’s loaded up like the Clampetts heading off to Bev-er-lee within a day or three I would wager.

But here on our quirky little island smack dab in the middle of the South Florida Sprawl, you get to expect weirdness.  Nothing terribly threatening, although a tornado would ruin your day. 

When Wilma came through, my neighbors tell me, power was off on my block for two weeks.

I guess then waking up warm and sweaty at 5:30AM the other day was a minor inconvenience. 

It was 79, in the house. 

Air Conditioning is a requirement here.   We go from cooled house to chilled car to cold offices, stop off at the refrigerated mall for lunch, and reverse our paths to come home at night to our climate controlled comfort.

Sure you adjust to the heat some.  I keep my house at 78 during the day if I forget to turn the air conditioning down to it, otherwise it goes up to 80.   Meh.

But at that time of morning I knew something was up. 

We had had a shower come through, and I slept in blissful ignorance.  The dog doesn’t seem to mind the weather, and the parrot is off in the living room too far for me to hear.

Every time we have a storm, we have a power surge.  I swear if you can put a personality to the power here, Mrs. FPL is a menopausal middle aged woman with bad knees and a limp.   Wilma slapped FPL’s infrastructure around and it left the power creaky at best.

If we have a power surge, then anything can happen.

In our case, even though everything is on filters, the house, plus each major appliance, the router went mental.  It stopped working for us.  

It also weakened a capacitor in my air conditioning.  That capacitor took a couple days to finally blow.

Knowing the symptoms, I got a late in the day appointment to get it fixed and made sure there was plenty of ice for drinks in the house.   If it got too bad, I’d grab the dog and take him somewhere more comfortable.   As it was it only hit 84 indoors by the end of the day.

It’s not even getting into the 90s yet which is a bit late by my memory for this time of year.

So while I was scrambling to restore my daily driver computer that got hit by a virus, we had to figure out the a/c and the wifi router.  

Busy day.

It was interesting to watch the dog get thinner as the day went on.   He planted himself in the middle of the living room, under the ceiling fan, on the tiles.  Spreading himself out as wide as he could get, he melted into the Florida Tiles on one side, caught as much of the breezes as possible on the other.

Just one day without A/C.  Not a major problem, and the temperatures weren’t too terrible.  After all, this isn’t the desert with 110 or 120F heat. 

Our Crusty Old Compressor got fixed by our Crusty Old A/C guy with a couple interesting stories about how it was Back In The Days.  One thing he said was that he’s heard stories from other A/C people.   Down here, A/C repair is a racket.  They know they have you.  Billboards scream “Your Wife Is Hot” and in smaller print it says “get your A/C fixed today”.  That company I have been told is a ripoff, and you really have to have a recommendation from a friend for repairs here.

The story goes that with Tropical Storm Chantal looming, and it has since blown out in the Caribbean, they were looking for more money.  You see, storms have lightning.  Lightning strikes the power lines and sends a surge into them.  Those surges blow out the capacitors or compressors and Your Wife Is Hot becomes truth and not a cute slogan.  These bozos were looking forward to “raking in the dough” – his words, not mine.

Now I understand why when a major storm is coming through, people cut power off to the house.  May as well let the next guy watch their dog melt into the floor instead of you having to do it too.

No More Desktop Computer? Same Here!

I moved down to South Florida, Lock Stock And Barrel as the saying goes, in 2006.

Shortly after moving here, Florida Power and Light “decided” I didn’t need that desktop computer that I built.  There was a power spike and Poof! It was gone.

I was “That Guy”.  The one everyone leans on to fix their computer after their 10 year old discovered this cool website sitting on a server somewhere in Russia… that infected it with a virus.  The guy who built computers since Back In The Days of the 486. 

Remember those?

I would say it’s fair to put the number of Desktop PCs I’ve built in the area of 200, perhaps more.  It was never my job to do so, but it was always something that I found fun enough to do that I kept up with the trends.

Until I moved here.

Here is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1200 square foot house.   Down from a 3 and 1 1/2 1900 square foot in Philly.

I kept my skills up, but there were some things that I found I really didn’t care for about a desktop computer.

The main reason why I stopped using a desktop computer was space.   My desk is in The Florida Room, and that room is the warmest one in the house.  The Redundantly named Florida Room would be between 5 and 10 degrees warmer depending on the time of year, and since I keep the house at 78 … I migrated to the living room.

The thing is that it required that I keep a desk out there.   That desk got used less and less and became a thorn in my side that illustrated what was said about Possessions Enslaving You.

While I was migrating off of that old desktop computer, I kept the desk there to do computer repairs when I needed to, but I realized that I was using the laptop more and more.   They got cheaper to the point where the laptop I use now costs less than some of the motherboards that I bought in the past.

Unless you were playing a game, you really didn’t need a cutting edge desktop computer in the home. 

I noticed that many of my friends and clients were doing the same thing.   Why keep a boat anchor next to a desk in a house cluttered with “goodies” when you really wanted to be in the comfy chair in a living room or media room with your feet up?

A cutting edge desktop computer got less expensive as a result.  You can get a good desktop computer from many vendors for less than $500 these days, but when you can get similar laptops for the nearly the same price it led me to ask why.

I still have parts laying around the house.   A spare power supply here, a fan there.   For the most part, that Hardware Closet I used to keep in Philly is reduced down to a box of odd junk and a computer case.   I haven’t been asked to repair a desktop computer in over a year – fix a Virus problem, yes, upgrade a laptop, yes, but fix a desktop?  Nope!

Besides, you’d be shocked how much benefit you’d get out of a couple gigs more memory, and a really hard look at what you have installed on the computer.  If you don’t need it, uninstall it!

It seems that a casual glance in a big box electronics store will prove my point.   Rows of Laptops being hovered over by people, curious folks tapping at a tablet to try to wrap their head around what it is, but the desktop computer aisle is empty.   It’s even hard to get someone to tell you about a desktop computer in a computer store these days. 

There used to be a great amount of strategy that you’d have to employ to get just the right computer.  Now, you pick your price point, buy a laptop, and within two years you start looking to see what’s out there again.

Which is great for me, since I have a nice stack of Hand-Me-Down laptops from people who know I’ll pass them onto someone who needs them.  Your computer “slowing down” is usually because something installed itself on your browser that needs to be banished – toolbars, for example are useless.

For the vast majority of us out there, those home users of the world, you do not need the high end computer that the salesmen of the world push you toward.  In fact, I’d wager if you really look at what you need, a 3 or a 4 on a scale of 10 would be more like it. 

Yes, I’m being deliberately vague there, this isn’t intended to be a specific discussion of what to get now, since many of these articles are re-read in the future.

So if the salesperson is trying to sell you a computer for the home that is a laptop, at least these days, if you’re paying more than around $500 or so, step back and think about it.  You may be happy with the ego side of the purchase, but you probably do not need the extra expense.  The one I’m using to write this on, I paid $225 for in September 2012, and I’ll probably get another 2 years out of it.

But the Desktop?  Stick a fork in them – in the home, they’re done.

Back your data up – or F.U. FPL

I am not having a good technology day.   It started yesterday mid morning around this time. 

I was making a serving of grits in the microwave and it boiled over.  Spectacularly so.  There was grits all over the microwave that dried into a concrete that the city of Portland would be proud of.  I managed to clean that up, and promised to really clean the inside of the microwave later. 

After spilling the boiling water over the top of the coffee maker and making a mess that later cleaned up easily, I settled in to do the morning routine. 

Later I took a break and set off the smoke detector while roasting some coffee. 

Some would say that I’m being clumsy and should get out of the kitchen so I did.

I settled in the chair with the old creaky laptop and went through the rest of the morning and the lunch hour, without incident.

Part of the morning routine is maintaining a spreadsheet of everything I have done in the Job Search.  There’s a significant amount of data on that sheet, and I tend to back it up on an infrequent schedule.  The last time was November 29, as I was going to go to Key West.   When that trip fell through, I thought nothing more of it, since I could keep that little SD card inside the slot securely.

Not so very securely it turns out.

I was sitting in that same chair, surfing, looking at job sites, considering whether to write something for the blog, and listening to some music online.  Trinidad All Stars, a wonderful competition that happens annually in Port of Spain Trinidad was playing some bouncy Steel Drum music through the speakers on the laptop when “it” happened.

The laptop shut off.

I don’t mean it went through an orderly shut down.  It didn’t say “Battery is low” and wanted me to plug it in.  It didn’t do the windows 7 shutdown routine.  It was as if some invisible ghost unplugged the laptop from the wall, removed the battery, and off it went.  I still can get more than an hour out of this battery and the laptop is more than 3 years old.

Uh Oh.

There was more to it than that.  At that very moment the music shut down on the internet radio, the stereo amplifier snapped off, and the house was briefly filled with the hum of the refrigerator – coming back up to speed.

We had taken yet-another power hit. 

This power hit also reset the clock on the microwave and some other clocks in the house.  They were flashing 12:00 at me and let me know that what ever happened, was big.

I’m used to this, I have lost two desktop computers in FPL’s very dirty power.  I have written about this before, and moved to laptops because I thought them safer with the power going through a brick on the floor that is plugged into a surge suppressor power strip.  This took out the music – which didn’t come back until much later when I unplugged the Logitech Squeezebox Classic and the stereo amp from the power conditioner.

I was NOT happy.  I didn’t see anything wrong with the laptop but had to go through a couple restarts before it felt stable again and didn’t realize that there was more to happen.

What happened wasn’t discovered until this morning.  The old Acer Aspire laptop has a small slot.  The slot is for an “SD Chip” and that was where I kept my job search data.  Last backed up November 29th.  I couldn’t get to the chip on windows 7 and it helpfully asked to format it.  NO!  After unplugging it and plugging it and cursing FPL, Thomas Edison, IBM, and the Chinese for making most of this technology, I put the chip in an older windows XP machine. 

Still nothing.  I had a “fried” memory chip.

I have two others.  The other chips are 8GB each, this one was only 256MB.  I was thinking that if it were fried, I got enough life out of the little Sandisk 256 Meg chip so I could toss it and move onto one of the 8GBs.  Finding that none of them had a more recent backup, I formatted the chip and got on with life.

If this could happen to me with many years of expertise in PC and Computer technology, it can happen to you.  Florida Power and Light is notoriously unstable in this are so if the data is worth keeping, it is worth saving.

Here is how I will do that henceforth:

1) I have moved the data backup onto the laptop hard drive and will work from there as the “master”.

2) When through the daily work, I will copy the data back out to the 256MB chip and then remove the chip.  It will now be my daily backup not the daily source of the data.

3) Weekly copy the data from the laptop to the other two 8GB chips I have hidden.

You see, backing your data up is very important.  It can get anyone. 

If you’re moving into South Florida, get yourself some power conditioners and preferably a power conditioner with a battery backup.  They aren’t terribly expensive and will save you what I went through.  The power conditioner will take the hit and you will be able to recover without spending extra time or money on new equipment. 

Remember my own personal experience and my own personal opinion – FPL has Dirty Power.

The first time I wrote about it is here for Part 1.  The second time for Part 2 is here

Good luck keeping your data safe!

Boom, That wasn’t good…

It is a cool winter day in South Florida.  Since everything is relative the windows are open and we’re in shorts in the house. 

The morning semi quiet was disturbed by the normal sounds of a Friday.   The radio was on playing some quiet classical music from an internet radio station.  The drip feed irrigation was watering the pots.  The water for my coffee was just at boil and I was taking it off the burner. 

Getting ready to pour the water over the grounds, the lights suddenly cut off.

The house was in an instant quiet.  There was a “PING!” noise like you hear in a Hollywood post apocalyptic movie.  At the same time, there was a distant BOOM! as if something just got hit. 

I hear from the other side of the house “Uh Oh, That wasn’t good!”. 

Setting the teapot back on the cooling burner I came out into the main house and surveyed the damage.  The TV Computer was restarting.  It hadn’t been enough of a power pop to restart the stereo, but the internet radio had just rebooted itself with a cheery “Logitech” logo streaming across its face in florescent cyan.  Ceiling fan was spinning back up to speed and the washer was burbling in the laundry room for the Friday Laundry-Fest.

Sensing all was normal, I padded back into the kitchen.  Pouring the hot water over the coffee, and stirring it to make the morning half-caff, I notice there are now sirens screaming in the distance.  

Apparently someone had hit a pole on the raceway that is Wilton Drive.  With our creaky power infrastructure here, any time that happens, the side of the city grid that that pole is on goes dark for a second or two then back on.  Not enough to stop you from making breakfast or that coffee pot that I am enjoying now, but just enough to restart sensitive electronic equipment like computers and internet radios.

This side effect of having a raceway in the middle of the city is a minor one.   We have a four lane highway running through the heart of the business district.   It is placed to move people from Downtown Fort Lauderdale to Oakland Park.  It is a bypass of Sunrise Boulevard.  People use it and see it as a good alternative to sitting at the lights next to Holiday Park.

This being South Florida, the speed limit is merely a suggestion at 30 MPH.  People seem to change their tires at speeds higher than that.  They also strike down pedestrians and cause a fatality at speeds higher than that.

A good argument for narrowing the drive is to watch the people fly past all the businesses on their way to somewhere else in rush hour.  An even better argument for doing that is to watch them fly past at 9pm on a Thursday Night.

The power pops we have here are usually only an annoyance. I have lost a significant amount of electronics since moving here.  Not enough of a reason to expect a city to rebuild its central core.  But it is yet another reason.  The accidents, not my electronics.

Hopefully that person who was in a rush to get from one side of our little island to the other didn’t kill anyone or cause too much damage when they caused that accident.  At this time of day, someone’s work day will be messed up.  Luckily few people are out walking their dogs at 7AM.  At 7PM it is a very different story.

This sort of thing happens at least once a week.  It is fairly predictable.  It is completely preventable.  Leave 10 minutes earlier, reduce your speed to legal limits, and chill out South Florida.  My neighborhood will thank you.

Sunshine and Palm Trees

My sister, Pat, sent me an email.  It was one of those OMG messages that when you live in one place and your sender lives in another will put out and say “Did you know this happened in your own State?”

Sure it did, and It was a 12 foot Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake being captured by the police.   The St Johns County PD.  I’m in Broward County.  There are Rattlesnakes here too.  St John’s County is 300 miles away.  St Augustine Florida.  Very pretty place, and quite well heeled.

Not to point too much at Pat, sorry sis…, it was just convenient that you wrote me today.  I don’t really like snakes either especially when they sneak in through the back door and freak out the dog.

Before I left Pennsylvania I got a lot of questions why I wanted to move here.   Check the picture out, you won’t get that in the beautiful neighborhood of Chestnut Hill Philadelphia that I had left.  How about Hurricanes?  Yep, we get them here.  Wilma trashed Broward County’s electrical infrastructure and 4 years later, FPL has more surges and pops than a menopausal woman.  I moved here in 2006, a year after that bizarre year that saw Katrina ruin a one of a kind New Orleans, Wilma park over top of Broward and Palm Beach counties and cause damage that the area is still repairing, and Rita pay a visit to the Bayou country west of Nawlins. 

I really loved Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, but yes, still I moved.   South Florida has been in my system since I was 10 years old, riding across the Tamiami Trail in the back of that Buick Limited entertaining my Aunt, Uncle, Mom and Dad, Sister and Cousin at 80 MPH.  Or at least that’s my memory.  I started coming back in college and knew that this was where I belong.  I’m here, much to the chagrin of a few, much to the pleasure of vastly more people.  You can’t please everyone, and you can always avoid those unpleasant folks who you don’t… or you can try!

So as I look out the front window at the clouds that Paula has created and spilled over this area, the palm fronds gently swaying in the breezes, the wild parrots screaming outside over top of the Disco that’s playing on the squeezebox across the room, I smile and think… Maybe that’s why.

It’s October.  I’m in shorts and a T Shirt.  I’m sitting in a big green chair that I can watch the sunsets paint the skies bright orange and red fading to mauve and black.  I can spot the neighbor’s Bird of Paradise and bright red bougainvillea

Wait until February.  When you’re cold up there, so will I be.  It may even drop down into the 50s.


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?

FPL Has Dirty Power Part 2

When I had my board meeting at City Hall, we had a bit of a Bull Session before hand.
It turns out that my experience with FPL’s Dirty Power is common here in Wilton Manors. Out of the seven board members there, and the Board Secretary, every one of us have had a complaint about losing electronics here.   When you have computing equipment plugged into the walls, they can take a Power Hit at any time whether they are turned on or not.   NOAA Weather Radio will tell you to unplug your unused equipment when a storm approaches, but how reasonable is that when some of it is hard wired like your oven, is required to be on all the time like your refrigerator or freezer, or is needed for “normal” life like your Tivo, Cable Box, or electric clocks?
Not that any of my rant will have that much of an effect, but FPL in their great wisdom is agreeing with me.  They have a For Profit group called FPL Fibernet supplying Internet to Downtown Ft Lauderdale at the old ImpSat building at Dixie Highway and NE 20th Drive.  They have agreed with my comment by digging up the lawns on NE 20th Drive and sending the Fibre Optic lines underground.   Wow, underground?   Its For Profit, that would be why, and I’m waiting for the trees that were disturbed on the properties to start dying.  Thankfully the trees on my property are well back from the swales and I am a couple blocks from having my yard torn up.  After all, trees and the neighborhood are not as important as paying customers who aren’t being directly served by better internet access for Downtown?
So when will the power lines go underground?

FPL has Dirty Power

According to the Wikipedia Entry and according to my broken appliances at any rate we do.

Since moving to this house in September 2006, I have lost 2 alarm clock radios, a table radio, a Desktop Computer, 2 Laptop Computers, 3 Wifi Routers, 2 Cable Modems plus one owned by Comcast, 3 Hard Drives (80GB, 120 GB, and 240GB), a cassette tape deck, 2 stereo tuners, a VCR. I’m sure there were other things that were lost in the general background noise of life.

That may sound normal to someone else living here, but in the 13 years I lived in the City of Philadelphia, I lost zero equipment. None, Nada, Zip, Zero. Sure things would wear out but I can repair most of that sort of thing.

We finally got tired of losing equipment. It got to the point where we’d have a twice weekly “Power Pop” where the power would just cut off inexplicably and then back on in rapid succession. Usually around 2 in the afternoon. If there were a storm of any strength, my power would do all sorts of things like dim, brighten, turn off, or strobe. It was like being in a disco or club.

Our final solution to the FPL Dirty Power Problem was to get APC Power Conditioners. APC H10 and APC H15 specifically. They weigh quite a lot, have a lot of heat sinks, capacitors, and blinky lights to entertain the passers by. My house at night has a wonderful eerie blue glow as a result of the things. Those entertaining lights show me just how bad the power is in this city. During a Thunderstorm, the Over Voltage light comes on regularly telling me that instead of a nice 120v, I get 150V Plus. I can be here listening to music and hear a relay SNAP! and the music may or may not get cut off because I will still get a few seconds of power as the capacitors drain into the equipment filtering all the spikes.

I do have to wonder how many pieces of equipment on a daily basis are lost in this area every time the daily thunderstorms fire up and march across the land making mosquitoes and watering the land.

The real solution would be to weather proof the power lines and bury them under the swales of the streets instead of having them strung across the landscape waiting for a flying coconut to hit them in a Tropical Storm. FPL has a reputation of saying they’re trying to keep up with the weather and have a creaky infrastructure as a result of the tropical storms, but if other parts of the country and other utilities made this step, I have to question whether its just a bad decision on the level of their Executive Managers to keep the profits higher and they’ll just muddle through so they don’t have to take the hit on their bonuses.