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.

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Morning Rain brings Barky Showers

I awoke at 6 in the morning as it was my habit to do.  I was even able to get partially dressed before Mrs Dog decided that she heard me and came to investigate. 

The pleasures of an older dog.  When they’re puppies they’re under foot and don’t know why it is a problem.  When they’re adults, you tell them they’re under foot and learn not to be quite so close.  Now that she’s 10 and her hearing is getting selectively worse, I’m noticing that she isn’t quite as aware of what I’m doing any longer.  I can even get out of The Poang Chair and get standing before she opens her eyes.  Sleep is the number one activity.

I got out of bed, dressed, and padded my way into the Kitchen to roast a half cup of coffee beans.  Seven minutes in the roaster cum popcorn popper and I had time to feed her and grab all the gear we needed for a walk.

Finally, we were able to step outside and were greeted by a light mist of rain.  More like someone was standing on the roof and spraying a bottle of water into the air above my head.  I called to Lettie, and she decided that she didn’t hear or really didn’t need to hear what I was saying so I pulled her back into the door.  Inside the door is where we keep our umbrellas and this was going to be a wet walk.  We got to the corner where the 25 year old grey and maroon umbrella was opened and we walked into the progressively degrading conditions. 

By the time I rounded the corner the fourth time, I could see the sun rising over the ocean front condos, the ocean itself, and the Bahamas.  It was still raining but not so hard as I didn’t take the time to close the umbrella and use it to knock two mangoes off the tree on the corner on the rental property.   The people who live there are from Minnesota, they won’t mind, they don’t know what good mangoes are!

I walked inside and prepared a mug of coffee, a biscuit and a chicken pattie and continued to watch as it got progressively worse.  The rain danced across my swimming pool making the little rubber duck thermometer that floats there look as if there was someone draping some gossamer sheers past it in rapid succession.  The pool lost its sheen and the water’s surface became a uniform layer of grey from the droplets.

It was this time that I realized that this little storm would have the weather alert radio in Philadelphia sounding off about heavy storms and low visibility, but here in South Florida, the land of Hurricanes, nothing.

Then it began.  My little summer shower flexed its muscles.  While I had a mouth full of biscuit, chicken, and coffee, the world flashed brilliant white and the note of a giant bass drum sounded off.   The lights in the house flickered off, then on again.  My power conditioners snapped into use while the shoddy FPL infrastructure surged into the forefront of my consciousness. 

And the dog started to bark.  Barking from Mrs Dog is a rare thing.  Even when she was young she almost never barked.  I never quite understood why dogs bark at thunderstorms but it is a thing I’ve grown used to and accept as I have this wonderful creature living with me.   If she barks, I pay attention.  There’s a reason for that.

One dog trainer I read at some time in passing said “Make Storm Time, Fun Time”.  So I reached over onto the counter and found the Pumpkin Orange bottle of soap bubbles.  Now Lettie was barking for joy.  Not just one bark when the BOOM! happened, but a steady stream of baritone barks that showed she was really happy to play and take her mind off of the horrible maelstrom outside.

Not really a maelstrom, I can only imagine how she’ll be when we get a hurricane…

Holding the bubble wand near my lips I blew out a stream of about 20 bubbles and she leaps for joy snapping at each and every one while jumping like a puppy.  Reminding myself to blow bubbles out away from my body, I watched her ivory teeth chomp each impending bubble as a lightning strike happened with the BOOM! and she merely went on happily chomping away at soap.

I doubt that having a dog eat soap is a good thing, but the tiny amount that she gets in from snapping at bubbles and only occasionally getting one can’t be a life threatening situation, I swallowed more shampoo last night after I climbed out of the shower after using the pool.  She seems to enjoy it greatly, and its mental health benefits outweigh the little bit of soap that are in those shimmering spheres of soap that mysteriously fall from the sky.

Here we are, an hour and 45 minutes later, the storm is beginning to fade.   The sun is now higher in the sky, the Bahamas are sunny with only scattered red blobs over the radar near Freeport, over 60 miles away.  Our own rain storm will fade away into canine memory and the rainbow over Wilton Manors won’t be so redundant.

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.