Monday, October 31, 2005

Skipping Halloween Altogether This Year

En route to work today, I noticed a sign advertising "Driving School and Income Tax." Now, there's a business proprietor who doesn't have "stress avoidance" at the top of his priority list.

It was a very windy ride to work this morning--I was going straight into the wind and it wasn't easy. Coming home was better.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday: Church and Carl Hiaasen in the Paper

Dawn came an hour earlier today. At about 7 a.m. we discovered that we had no running water. I immediately sank into depression and apathy, unable to interest myself in the solar cooker project. When the water returned, 45 minutes later, my recovery was instantaneous, too. I set up the new, improved, version 1.1.3 of the cooker, but by the time everything was in place, the sun was behind a big cloud. As it turned out, we had clouds off and on all day. As of 2 pm. I had succeeded in heating 3 quarts of water to 125 degrees. That provided a pleasant afternoon "bath" but it is not "cooking" yet. Just wait until we have sun all day. Today we did have bubbles forming on the surface of the cooking pot; that was a first.

I went to church at 10:00 a.m. The church property sustained some damage. At the spine of the roof a panel was loosened. At each gust of wind it flipped up, revealing a small patch of sky and emitting the sound that comes from backstage when King Lear is on the heath in the storm. Theater-thunder. The minister joked that it was "either an amen or a hallelujah" as God Himself commented on the proceedings.

After church I explored the neighborhood and found a grocery store that had just gotten its power restored. Since I was on my bike, I didn't get ice or water, but I picked up a few things and continued my explorations. I found a Supercuts that was open but by then I was ready to go home. It's next to a laundromat, so maybe we can work that into an expedition sometime this week.

Carl Hiaasen had the award-winning commentary on the storm today--much funnier than Dave Barry or Fred Grimm. Fred came in second. His theme was, okay, its' been nice chatting with the neighbors but enough already. I'd rather have cable. Ha.

The Hiaasen link has already expired, so here's the article, reproduced in its entirety:

Miami Herald, October 30, 2005

We Were Fabulously Prepared for a Hurricane--Weren't We?

by Carl Hiaasen

(Rejected first draft of Gov. Jeb Bush's candid post-hurricane remarks.)

My fellow Floridians,

Let me begin by taking token responsibility for the delays in delivering supplies to areas hit hard by Hurricane Wilma. The effort could have been swifter and better organized.

But, hey, didn't I warn everybody to keep 72 hours' worth of supplies on hand? Didn't I tell you to build a 15-gallon gasoline depot in your backyard?

Still, I know that millions of you still have no electricity, no food and no fuel in your cars--and I'd like to assure you that the situation is improving rapidly.

I'd like to, but I can't. The truth is, you're screwed for now.

this morning I spoke with executives of Florida Power & Light, who sounded like they'd been drinking heavily. They said they're awaiting a large shipment of Legos and rubber bands so that they can repair the substations supplying power to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

When I pressed for a timetable, the FPL officials explained that electricity would be restored on a "grid-by-grid" basis, using the same giant dartboard left over from Hurricane Andrew.

Obviously, these are difficult times. Florida has been through something like 83 hurricanes in the last 14 months, causing approximately $987 jillion in losses--and that's not including the fraudulent claims.

A major concern is, of course, the fuel supply. The good news is that South Florida has plenty of gas. The bad news is that we can't get it out of the ground.

Apparently, service stations actually need a flow of electricity to operate the gasoline pumps. It would have been nice if somebody had told me sooner.

Next time, I promise, we'll rent truckloads of exorbitantly overpriced generators from politically connected vendors and provide them to gas stations in advance of the storm.

Since I've been getting calls from the travel industry, let me take this opportunity to urge tourists not to cancel their vacations to South Florida. The weather is fantastic, the beaches are gorgeous, and the traffic is, for obvious reasons, exceptionally light.

You will need to bring your own siphon, ice, refreshments, and possibly a large-caliber handgun to protect yourself from desperate civilians.

Speaking of desperation, many of you are listening to me now in your car, waiting in line for $20 worth of high-octane that will barely get you home. Some of you may even be trying to put your foot through the radio, you're so pissed off.

All I can say is: Who the heck knew?

Wilma was no Katrina. It was supposed to blow down a few trailers, not cripple the infrastructure of our three most overpopulated counties.

Only days earlier, I'd bragged to a congressional panel about how fabulously prepared for hurricanes we were. Florida knows the drill, I said. Don't worry about us.

Now you turn on the tv--if you're lucky enough to have juice--and there's bedlam in the streets. How do you think that makes me look?

A few so-called experts say they aren't surprised that Wilma caused such a mess. They say it was inevitable, with six million people crammed onto the tip of a low-lying peninsula in a hurricane zone.

I'd like to promise that we'll do a better job of managing coastal development in the future, but who am I kidding? We don't have the stones to say enough is enough. We'll let 'em keep on building subdivisions until every last acre is gone.

In other words, you don't want to be around when the Cat 5 hits.

Finally, I know some of you were nervous to see my brother fly in last week for a tour of the storm damage. Let me assure you that there will be no repeat of what happened--or didn't happen--on the Gulf coast after Katrina.

So far, FEMA has done a stellar job on the Wilma front. For example, none of the relief supplies set aside for South Florida have been sent to Guam or even Utah by mistake.

Yes, there have been delays, bad information, and mass confusion. Too many distribution sites have run short of ice and water, leaving thousands of people angry and empty-handed.

But don't blame the federal government, especially not my brother. Haven't you been reading the polls? Leave the poor guy alone.

You want to blame somebody for Wilma's mess, blame me. Or better yet, blame yourselves for not listening to me. Didn't I tell every homeowner to install an industrial-sized walk-in freezer with a propane-powered ice-making machine?

A long road lies ahead. Just remember that today will be about the same as yesterday, tomorrow will be no different than today, and next week will probably be the same dull, grueling blur.

As your governor and the leader of hurricane recovery, I'd like to urge Floridians not to get to discouraged, depressed or homicidal. I'd like to tell you that, but I can't.

This is the absolute pits. I am so glad to be up here in Tallahassee, you have no idea.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Life Goes On--Miami Herald Resumes Delivery

The newspaper was delivered today!!

The weather was clear, but a little windy. Stange how ominous a breeze can feel--a little breath of air that would have been innocuous a week ago, now seems potentially dangerous.

My solar cooker is continuing to improve. It still hasn't cooked anything, but I heated two batches of water today, one for "bathing" this morning and one for washing my hair this afternoon. Tomorrow if it is sunny all day, I'll have a shot at really heating something up.

Today I made earrings, inspired by the discovery of 100 or so little gold gift boxes that Tocci had decided to throw or give away. I said, why don't you put jewelry in them and sell them? He said (grumbled) "I don't have money for jewelry." but we do have findings and beads--glass beads and semiprecious beads--and today I have something unusual: TIME. So I made about three dozen earrings. It was fun. Now it's getting dark so I have to stop.

Reading: more about Harold Pinter. He was a conscientious objector in Enland at age 17 (just after the end of WWII) Just because, he said, "I smelled a rat." Not on strictly "pacifist" or "religious" grounds--more, I'd say, on "artistic" grounds--in the sense that an artist's first duty is to serve the truth.

This afternoon I rode my bike to Sears, Lowe's and KMart. All three appeared to be under full power. There were batteries for sale, but no clothespins. Also, solar lights, meant for the yard--they charge all day and give off light all night--but they aren't very bright and prices start at $35. I'm doing okay with candles, and we're looking for an oil lamp. I'll try to order one from the internet Monday.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Back to Work, Friday

I rode my bike to work today--left at 7:00, which is later than I would normally leave, but it's the time of first light. No traffic lights, so all the intersections are four-way stops, a little tricky for a bicycle among cars. But the traffic was pretty light. When I got to the last intersection, the lights were working and when I got to work, everything was powered up--I turned on my computer happily. I was able to get some work done, avert a couple of crises, and catch up on reading the Achenblog. I couldn't quite get to the point of caring a lot about what is going on in Washington, or even what everybody is reading this week or writing in their respective blogs. The apathy is a result of being disconnected all week and the feeling that nobody outside of Florida cares about what is happening here. We have our own situation and we have to deal with it ourselves. That's okay, but dealing with the destruction and lack of conveniences here takes up most of our energy so we (I) can't get worked up over whether Scooter Libby did or did not lie when he was or was not under oath. Give me time, I'll come back to it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wilma Aftermath, Day 4

At 7 a.m. I hiked up to the pay phone to call work. I didn't have any success reaching a live person, but did confirm that the resort still has no power. To get to the phone I passed by a line of cars waiting for gas, so after I made my calls I walked up to the gas station--the BP station at Sample Road and NE 3rd Avenue--and then walked the line and counted the cars. I've heard of "a line a mile long" before, but this is the first time I've actually seen one. I counted over 300 cars--all the way from Sample to Copans Road on 3rd Avenue, then east on Copans to Dixie Highway, and stretching north on Dixie--growing all the time while I was watching. This line was a result of a rumor that the gas station was going to open at 10 a.m. I spoke with the woman who was last in line as I came around the corner on Dixie. I told her how many cars were ahead of her and gently suggested that she might be wasting time and gas by getting in the line. She was desperate and determined. In addition to the cars, there were dozens of people in line on foot, with gas cans.

I walked home, tightened up the wobbly back wheel on my bike, and set off on a sort of scavenger hunt--my list included tape, aluminum foil, matches, a phone, and oil lamp, and AA batteries.

I got to Walgreens first and I didn't have to wait. There were two lines. About four people were in the "pharmacy" line, and nobody in the "regular shopping" line. there were no lights inside the store, so an employee with a flashlight took me to the location of each item. They had plenty of AA batteries, candles, and matches. I wasn't optimistic about the phone but they did have a whole bin of them--really nice, with caller ID and speaker phone for just $9.99. Luckily I did have cash--they were just adding everything up by hand and counting out the change from an open cash register.

I curtailed my exploring for the time being and rushed home with the phone. I was able to call work and get a little information. Maybe I could go in tomorrow; maybe they will get power on Suday. We called Key West and heard a first hand account of the damage there: mostly water damage, 80% of the island was flooded. Fantasy Fest will be postponed, rather than cancelled. I heard on the radio last night that tourists will be allowed to drive into Key West beginning tomorrow, but most people don't have gas at this point and very few gas stations are open.

Yesterday, after I finished It Looks Like a President..., I read the frst 100 pages of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter. This morning I read some Steinbeck ("The Crysanthemums") and some Edith Wharton ("Madame de Treymes") from my little mini Penguin books that were published on the 60th anniversary of that august institution--they are so fun to hold and read. I wish I had bough the entire collection. I think there were 60 of them and they cost 60 cents each. They are 3" x 4", good quality paperback binding. I have "To Build a Fire" by Jack London and "Truckstop" by Garrison Keillor, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by S.T. Coleridge, and the U.S. Constitution. Everybody should own a pocket-sized edition of the U.S. Constitution, in my opinion.

I also did laundry again this morning. I'm actually washing the clothes faster than we're getting them dirty.

We had mail delivery today for the first time since Saturday. Smithsonian and Wired magazines kept me occupied for a while. About 4 p.m. I set out on my bike to see what was going on in the world. One of our corner drug dealer associates passed close by my bike so I said, "hi" and he said, "How's it going, ma'am." Good public relations for his little enterprise. Their business is not suffering from the storm, apparently...

So, I started to got to the BP gas station that was the subject of so much anticipation this morning, but there was no longer a line so I assumed they probably ran out of gas, or else they never opened at all. I headed for the nearest shopping center to see what was open there. As I approached, I smelled fried chicken. That got my attention and I followed the scent to the supermarket, but they were just selling canned goods. Next door, the China Buffet was doing a cash-only, takeout-only business. Eureka. So I hustled on in and got two dinners to go and biked them straight home. We had hot food for dinner and no cleanup. As I was leaving the shopping plaza, I saw a little bar that was open and had a sign out: "Coffee. Wings." So I guess that was the chicken I originally smelled that led me serendipitously to the China Buffet.

Also this afternoon I succeeded in placing a call to my homeowners "wind insurance" company--got my claim number and they say the'll contact me within 14 days. That's good enough for me. Everything is going as well as it possibly could go.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hurricane Log, Day 3, and Achenquotes

I didn't set the alarm this morning. Woke up at 3 a.m. and listened to the news. They said that out of a million powerless customers in Broward, Florida Power & Light has restored service to 6,500 so far. At this rate, we should have electricity by Christmas.

Who needs it, anyway. I hiked down to the pay phone at 7, when the curfew lifted. The resort hotline is still saying that employees should report to work, but my department wasn't issuing any information, so I called the main number and they said the hotel still doesn't have power, so there's no point in going in.

At 8:00 I made a trip to the grocery store. Publix is running on generators, so no perishable food or ice, but otherwise they were relatively well-stocked and the lines were no longer than usual. I bought canned goods and cookies and jello. Also cereal and soy milk, we'll see how that goes...

I was home by 9, with a great plan: now I have time to make that solar cooker I saw the plans for on the internet! That took about an hour, then I did some laundry and hung it up in my backyard "solar clothes dryer." Then lunch, then I took my bike back down to the phone to call Artist Alice and let her know her parents survived the hurricane (she probably hasn't been giving it much thought.)

When I got back, I checked the cooker--I had just put some water in to heat, to see how it works. It had been in about 2 hours. I took off the plexiglass cover and tried to take the lid off the pot, but it was too hot to life off without a potholder. That's encouraging. Right now, we don't actually have anything to cook, but at least we can heat water for bathing purposes. Meanwhile, I have my dinner (a can of Campbell's soup) on the dashboard of my car. It will get pretty darn warm there.
This is much easier than camping, since we have comfortable chairs and a bed and running water and walls and a roof. It is abundantly clear to me after two days that what all the timesaving appliances do for us is give women time to have jobs. If I have no job to go to, I have time to do things manually.

Even doing laundry by hand and riding my bike to the store and so on, I had time to read It Looks Like a President, Only Smaller (by Joel Achenbach) from intro to acknowledgments [do I need to mention it's not the first or second time I've read the book?] Here is my favorite paragraph:

Horse-drawn buggies roll down the sides of the country roads, but some are filled with tourists who have paid money to act like an Amish person for an hour. Someday it will be this exploitation of the authentic that is itself the great marvel and attraction that will draw tourists from far away. People will want to see these strange entrepreneurs who sell overpriced mass-produced crafts in someone else's historic village. They'll want to imagine what it would be like to operate a tourist attraction. They'll pay thirty bucks a pop to get into a theme park called Commercialization World. (p. 111)

Here are a couple more selected examples of excellence:

I'm all in favor of denial as a psychological tactic for getting through the day. The last thing you'd ever want is a clear view of the world and your place within it. No one can stand that kind of pain. (p. 42)

There's not much that's democratic about the Democratic National Convention. It appears that the priority for party leaders this week is to hobnob with Hollywood moguls and movie stars. There is a dazzling array of parties to which you, the ordinary person, are specifically not invited. Some parties, like David Geffen's or Barbra Streisand's, are so exclusive you have to be on a special list even to be allowed to think about them. Forget I brought it up. (p. 71)

And here's something Achenbach wrote more than five years before the invention of the Achenblog:

"When online writing is effective, it creates the sense of being at a dinner party with a lot of smart, loud, opinionated people who are still several drinks away from being completely soused."

[the kit & kaboodle, in a nutshell!]

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hurricane Log, Day 2, and a Tom Robbins Quote

October 25, 2005 7:00 a.m.

I reported to work as instructed by our hurricane hotline and my supervisor's recorded message, but the building is on generator power, so: no computers, minimal lighting. I peeked into the cafeteria and saw that there were some people--I guess drinking coffee in the dark--I was like, okay, no thanks.

Nobody has shown up in my department. Most likely people are waiting for daylight before they set out on the roads since all the signals are out. Now that would be sensible, wouldn't it. On my way in, I picked up a co-worker from the warehouse department--he was waiting for a bus. He would have had a long wait because the busses are not running today. I saw someone riding a bike in the dark. My plan for the rest of the no-power days (they say it could be weeks) is to wait for daylight and ride my bike. It's much cooler now than it was before the storm. Good bike-riding weather.

8:00 a.m.

Looking for information, I visited the call center and "Information Services"--I did get some information, but not answers to my particular questions. Apparently, Palm Beach County is just a bad as Broward and Miami-Dade, power-wise. The Palm Beach residents I talked with were wurprised to hear the Dade & Broward had also
been hard-hit. I guess the radio stations are concentrating on local news.

The director of IS told me that the resort is officially open, but I guess they are not checking anyone in. There are 400 guests in-house. The Palm Beach airport expects flights to resume today so I imagine once that happens, our guests will be departing.

4:00 p.m.

I left work a little after noon, having been very little use to anybody, but I was there and available if they'd had something for me to do. Came home, cleaned up the house. Dark comes early when there's no electricity; it's hard to read with flashlights and candles, so I spent some time listening to my Tom Robbins audiobook: Wild Ducks Flying Backward. One passage was so inspirational that I sat in the dark and transcribed it by candlelight, to wit:

Note: The preceding was written several years before the military-industrial complex first seized and then cemented total control of the U.S. government, a coup d'etat that would have failed without the active assistance of a rapidly growing population of fearful, non-thinking dupes--true believers, dumbed down and almost comically manipulated by their media, their church, and their state. So be it. Freedom has long proven too heady an elixir for the masses, weakened and confused as they are by conflicting commitments to puritanical morality and salacious greed.
in the wake of the recent takeover, our prevailing national madness has been ratcheting steadily skyward. The pious semi-literates in the conservative camp tremble and crow; the educated martyrs in the progressive sector writhe and fume. It's a grand show from a cosmic perspective, though enjoyment of the spectacle is blunted by the havoc being wreaked on nature and by the developmental abuse inflicted on the children.

We must bear in mind, however, that the central dynamic of our race has never been a conflict between good and evil, but rather between elightenment and ignorance. Ignorance makes the headlines, wins the medals, doles out the punishment, jingles the coin. Yet, in its clandestine cubbyholes, and occasionally on the public stage, enlightenment continues to quietly sparkle, its radiance outshining the entire disco ball of history. Its day may or may not come, but no matter. The world as it is--life as it is--enlightenment is its own reward.

Monday, October 24, 2005

October 24, 2005 - Hurricane Wilma

October 24, 2005

In deference to Hurricane Wilma, here's my stone-age blog: ink on paper. [All entries were written on paper from October 24 - November 8, and transcribed here November 8]

The hurricane is passing through as predicted. It's about 9:30 a.m. and the winds have been very strong since before dawn. Casualties so far:
(5 a.m.) the electricity went out
(8:00 a.m.) screens gone from the Florida room
The roof over the bedroom patio--it's just corrugated plastic--blew in and took some framing with it.
The orange tree blew over--it's leaning on the roof.
All the plants are severely battered--our neighbor's banana trees blew over early this morning.
Part of our front fence blew over.
No water pressure.

The wind is still out of the south, so it's the first half of the storm.

We are safe and dry inside our cinderblock house.

1:00 p.m.

No phone (our phone needs electricity to work, but the neighbors say their regular phone doesn't work, either)

The second half of the storm took the roof off of our Florida room.

It's relatively calm now, and a lot of the men in the neighborhood have been out in the street, surveying the damage and comparing notes (Tocci says there are some women out there too--but I think mostly the women are staying inside like sensible people)

6:15 p.m.

The water's back on! Yea! I have only the news from neighbors--brief reports: "worst hurricane in the history of Broward County," "two million FPL customers without power." I walked around the neighborhood, found a pay phone that worked, checked on my employment situation--apparently the buildings didn't blow away and I can report for my normal schedule tomorrow "to help with the recovery efforts."

Our cleanup at the house has gone as far as it can. Our pile of debris out front is respectably large--none of our neighbors has a bigger one, so we can't be accused of sloth or lack of neighborhood pride. I cleaned up the laundry room--the window broke when the roof came down. I put plastic over the window but it will blow out if we have any kind of wind. I cleaned the other patio too. The tree on the roof will have to wait until we can borrow a chain saw. Our neighbor, John, has one and he loves to use it so he'll probably be over before too long.

Hurricane Wilma, October 24, 2005

Hurricane Wilma photos, taken the day of the storm

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Thank you, Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiassen has the definitive snakes-in-Florida article in today's Miami Herald. Carl's columns are always amusing, but more than that, they are shocking. I turn the pages of the Herald and it's: news, news, celebrity gossip, news, news, TRUTH, news--double take, go back, what's this TRUTH doing in a family newspaper?? Oh, that's Carl. Somehow he gets away with it. When the politicians are acting like idiots, Carl writes, "These politicians are acting like idiots." And then he proves it, so it's not libel, just the TRUTH.

I had the idea of doing the research and writing a summary of snake incidents, and I've been saving the current articles in a file. But Hiaasen has saved me the trouble--he's been keeping track for a lot longer. Thanks, Carl, I'll just take the day off.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Key West City Commission Race

Key West is a small island--Captain Tony, a local saloon owner and celebrity (and former mayor) likes to remind people that the island is about the same size as Miami International Airport. [I checked; it's true.]

The island is known for its tolerant attitude. You can really be whatever you want to be, and because of that, Key West has a higher per capita eccentricity ratio than most places. It compares to Venice Beach or the West Village or the French Quarter. But unlike all those places, it is not near a large city (Havana is the nearest city, but with the travel restrictions, for practical purposes the nearest metropolitan area is Miami, 160 miles away.)

The exigencies of business have long clashed with the quirky character of the Conch Republic, and free enterprise being what it is, greed gradually gains ground at the expense of the unique ambiance that has been so treasured by visitors and residents through the years.

Some good news: George Halloran is running for City Commissioner, in a race to be decided November 1. George has been working for over thirty years to moderate the forces of greed in the island city. He was instrumental in saving public access to the beach at the foot of Simonton Street ("Save Our Shores") some 25 years ago (that was a fight that has been renewed several times, but today the public access is maintained) and has been involved in every major struggle since, most recently working with "Last Stand", fighting illegal development and corrupt politicians and businessmen.

George came to Key West 33 years ago, on a sailboat he bought and rehabilitated in Toronto and sailed to Florida with his wife and two children. He has worked as a carpenter/builder and community activist in Key West, but he has a degree in English and actually started out as a newspaper reporter in upstate New York. He and his wife Marcia are very special people and Key West is unbelievably lucky to have them. George served in the City Commission once before, years ago when I lived there. He was a shining light, a ray of hope. The Key West City Commission is in some ways a typical small town body, but they deal with much larger budgets and issues than most small towns. When George was a commissioner, he did a lot to facilitate the building of a sewage treatment plant--before his tenure, the city was dumping all the raw sewage into the ocean. That's just one example.

The fact that someone is clearly the most and best qualified candidate is no guarantee of success in politics; in fact integrity can be a real obstacle to getting elected. George's opponent, Mark Rossi, is the owner of several businesses, including Rick's Bar, so it's easy to see him as the personification of business interests, and of course Rossi has lots more money than George.

Key West is a small town that faces some big challenges--this election is important.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Yes, a Sonnet!

Words

Let’s say I’m on an island all alone
And you are on a ship. You sail, apart
And strong across the wide spray-filled, wind-blown
Expanse with no illusions, but a heart
Weathered, fired in the furnace of solitude.
And let us then imagine ink, and parchment,
My message scrawled across and placed in rude
Antique bottle, corked, sealed with tar and sent
In hope or despair, into the emptiness
It reaches you, you read, you answer back
The bottles coming to my shore express
Community, then unity, and lack
Of loneliness—a bridge of words exposed
Connections none had ever presupposed.


=========

I took piano lessons from 1st to 8th grade, from the local small-town piano teacher. What I mostly learned was how to read music under pressure, since I never practiced my lessons and had to try to play for the teacher as if I knew what I was doing. Later, in college, I had a series of lessons with a real pianist, someone with actual musical training, and at one point he said to me, "playing the piano is not like typing." I guess most people would say, duh! to that, but it really surprised me. To me, playing the piano is pretty much exactly like typing. Needless to say, I've never won any awards and never been suspected of having any musical talent. I was reminded of that when I was composing this sonnet--to me, writing poetry is a lot like working a crossword puzzle. And somehow, I have a gut feeling that that is the wrong attitude. But, by gosh, I said I'd have a sonnet here today, and there it is.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Kills 99.99% of Germs with Moisturizers and Vitamin E

I guess this is what they mean when they say "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

I have been working too much this week and my mind is a little lacking in inspiration.

So today, I'm "blogging" on the last thing I read, which happens to be: a bottle of Instant Hand Sanitizer that I keep on my desk. The wording on the label (quoted above) is terrible grammar. Literally, it implies that either it is using the moisturizers and vitamin E to kill the germs or that it kills the germs that have them--no, no, no. Totally wrong.

Anyway, it's a cool product, basically rubbing alcohol in gel form. When I first saw it I was completely disdainful, because I assumed it was a product for people who are basically disgusted by real life and try to isolate themselves from anything related to biology. I'm not like that. But after a couple of airplane trips that resulted in illness, I gave it a try, and the last two trips when I used the hand sanitizer regularly, I didn't get sick. I recognize that washing my hands is just as effective, but it's a little easier to use the sanitizer when I'm at my desk and I don't have to go all the way to the other room to wash with soap and water. It smells good, too.

Starting tomorrow, I'm back on my regular schedule, so I will try to make more effort to be literary--maybe a sonnet?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hurricanes! Snakes! Avian Flu! The End Is Near!

A big hurricane (Wilma) is headed for us, but it could turn or decrease in power.

Large tropical snakes--Burmese pythons, boa constrictors, and so on--are being captured in South Florida at the rate of two or three a week. (It's the ones that aren't captured that you have to worry about.)

The avian flu is in the news--surely if there is an outbreak it will happen in Florida first.

Overall, I guess I'm more concerned with the Shoot First law that the NRA passed through the Florida legislature that says you are free to shoot someone if you feel "threatened" by him.

We all have to take everything one day at a time--heck, one moment at a time. I don't worry about any of these things. I'm just glad to be here.

It's been a hard week at work--I'm on my third 11.5 hour day and I'm starting to feel the strain. Tomorrow will be the last of it and then I'll be back to my more normal life.

I'm very happy about my Tom Robbins cd that arrived yesterday (Wild Ducks Flying Backwards). At the end of a hard day, I put the headphones on, lay down in bed and smiled and laughed for the last 15 minutes of the day's waking existence--then, pleasant dreams...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Okay, go ahead and award him the $1.3 million

I got through a couple of Harold Pinter's plays, and I'm willing to concede that he is some kind of a genius.

The plays are minimalist art. Few words and fewer stage directions. But somehow the complexity lives between the lines, and even reading the plays is an interesting experience. I'm sure that watching good actors create a Pinter reality is very enjoyable.

So. In Harold's honor, I'll just keep this short today.

Cheers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lunch Ramblings

My patron saint of the lunch break is T.M. Shine. In his Timeline column, he habitually writes, "12:07 p.m. Went to lunch. Ate alone." And he brings his lunch from home, usually, and eats by the river in Ft. Lauderdale. He also gave me this valuable tip: If you're going to stretch your lunch hour, it's much wiser to leave early than to come back late. People don't usually notice if you leave early.

Now, once a week when I take my walk at lunchtime, I pass by the City Link dispenser and I stop, take out the paper (it's free) and read Shine's Timeline column. Then I put the paper back and continue my walk. Alone.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Jezebel

Our Bible study group is on I Kings this week, including the story of Jezebel. The theme of the week's study is "Warning." Jezebel is just one of a whole list of Bible Bad Girls; the two others whose names come immediately to mind are Eve, the Mother of All Bad Girls, and Salomé, of "bring me the head of John the Baptist" fame. [I need to read Oscar Wilde's play about Salomé. It's on my list. As of now.]

Queen Jezebel was put to death and left in the courtyard to be eaten by dogs. Her crime? Allegedly, she encouraged idolatry among the Israelites, and had them making sacrifices to the god Baal. Jehovah really frowned on that sort of activity. However, Tom Robbins, in Skinny Legs and All has this to say:

Except in an entirely secondary manner, Queen Jezebel never worshiped Baal. Baal was the ancient Semite word for "lord" or "husband." The god referred to by the Bible as Baal had divine status primarily because he was husband to Astarte. It was Astarte whom Jezebel worshipped.

Who was Astarte? She was a goddess; rather, she was the Goddess, the Great Mother, the Light of the World, the most ancient and widely revered divinity in human history. Shrines to her date back to the Neolithic Period, and there was not one Indo-European culture that failed to remove with its kiss the mud from her sidereal slippers. In comparison, "God," as we moderns call Yahweh (often misspelled "Jehovah") was a Yahny-come-lately who would never approach her enormous popularity. she was the mother of God, as indeed, she was mother of all. As beloved as she was for her life-giving and nurturing qualities, the only activities of hers acceptable to the patriarchs, she was mistress over destruction as well as creation, representing, according to one scholar, "the abyss that is the source and the end, the ground of all being."

Astarte's other names include Isis, Ishtar, Kali, Demeter, and, in the Saxon language, Ostara. The words estrogen and Easter both come from the same root as Ostara. Get it, "Easter EGGS". I am firmly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Jesus (a Jew from the patriarchal tradition) is my personal Lord and Savior, but I am not threatened by the idea of the Goddess, and I find it rather endearing that my religion's most important holiday is named for Her.

So, was Jezebel just a Bad Girl, or a prophetess with a message for us today?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Day at the Fort Lauderdale Library

I set out this morning to go to Fort Lauderdale and check out some books by and about Harold Pinter. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature this week, and I know next to nothing about him--I saw some movies, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Wit, but don't have much idea of why he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

The library was pretty empty, just enough other people there to keep it from seeming eerily deserted. The design of the building is attractive and has won architectural awards; I always enjoy my time there. It's thrilling going to the fourth floor where the plays are because of the architecture--the middle of the building is an atrium and the stairs sort of hang in space so by the time you get to the fourth floor you are looking down 40 feet or so. I am also gripping the handrail at that point, and thinking that my willingness to take these stairs proves indisputably how much I dislike elevators.

I found the Pinter books with no problem, and on the way I picked up a couple of movies, an audiobook, and an assortment of books to browse before I left. I read through most of Dave Barry is From Venus and Mars--I was laughing out loud, trying not to be disruptive, kind of holding it in, but it sneaks up on you--he is really funny.

Then there was a book called Laura Ingalls Wilder Country that had pictures from the locations of the "Little House" books. That always makes me cry; I love those books so much. Laura was a real person, very strong and willing to live a simple life--actually believing that the self-sufficient life near nature is the best, that she wouldn't want to be anything other than a "farmer." And I believe her, too--she had the best life anybody can have on this Earth.

After that, I read one episode from a book of "Fawlty Towers" scripts, and looked at the pictures, so I was laughing again.

After that whole emotional roller coaster, I walked Las Olas Boulevard, looked at the boutiques and art galleries, and grabbed a toasted turkey sandwich at Quizno's--and then it was time to head home. A very pleasant Saturday.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Our Future Speaks Chinese

The Herald reported today that U.S. imports from China are up to a record level, and the trade deficit is soaring. The same article says that our Treasury Secretary is in China, urging them to "undertake faster changes in their currency system"--like it is their responsibility that we are spending money we do not have to buy goods that we do not need. The main driving force in the increase in trade with China is "textiles." If you go to any clothing store today, from WalMart to Saks Fifth Avenue, the product lines are dominated by Chinese imports. And think about it. Americans probably own more clothing per capita than anyone in the world.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are educating their children, working hard, staying organized and focused. The only thing we have in our favor right now is that China, Japan, and Korea cannot get along with each other. If they get organized, we won't have a chance, and we better start learning to write our letters with a brush.

The principle behind Chinese martial arts is that you use the aggressor's own energy to defeat him. The typical judo demonstration starts with the demonstrator telling the volunteer, "Now, come at me like you're going to attack me," and ends, a split second later, with the volunteer lying on the floor. China is doing precisely this with the international economy. The U.S. is rushing all over the world, wasting its resources on destructive military actions and expensive military establishments. Meanwhile, at home, our citizens are running up personal debt at a rate exceeded only by the national debt. China is just going along, taking advantage of our weakness for nice clothes and other consumer goods, making money on every transaction and even lending us the money (at interest) to indulge ourselves. We're getting weaker while they are getting stronger.

America's days of undisputed world domination are numbered.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

You Know You're From Oklahoma If...

You know you're from Oklahoma if:

  1. You can properly pronounce Eufaula, Gotebo, Okemah, and Chickasha.
  2. You think that people who complain about the wind in their states are sissies.
  3. A tornado warning siren is your signal to go out in the yard and look for a funnel.
  4. Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.
  5. You've ever had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.
  6. You know that the true value of a parking space is not determined by the distance to the door, but by the availability of shade.
  7. Stores don't have bags, they have sacks.
  8. You see people wear bib overalls at funerals.
  9. You think everyone from a bigger city has an accent.
  10. You measure distance in minutes.
  11. You refer to the capital of Oklahoma as "The City."
  12. It doesn't bother you to use an airport named for a man who died in an airplane crash.
  13. Little smokies are something you serve only for special occasions.
  14. You go to the lake because you think it is like going to the ocean.
  15. You listen to the weather forecast before picking out an outfit.
  16. You know cowpies are not made of beef.
  17. Someone you know has used a football schedule to plan their wedding date.
  18. You have known someone who has had one belt buckle bigger than your fist.
  19. A bad traffic jam involves two cars staring each other down at a four-way stop, each determined to be the most polite and let the other go first.
  20. You know in which state Mi-am-uh is and in which state Mi-am-ee is.
  21. You aren't surprised to find movie rental, ammunition, and bait all in the same store.
  22. Your "place at the lake" has wheels under it.
  23. A Mercedes Benz is not a status symbol. A Ford F350 4x4 is.
  24. You know everything goes better with Ranch.
  25. You learned how to shoot a gun before you learned how to multiply.
  26. You actually get these jokes and are "fixin" to send them to your friends.

Finally, you are 100% Oklahoman if you have ever heard this conversation:
"You wanna coke?"
"Yeah."
"What kind?"
"Dr. Pepper."

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hope for Haiti

After we went to Haiti, back in the Baby Doc days (early 80's) I read the history of that little country. The first successful slave rebellion in the western hemisphere, they have been "self-governed" for a long time. But it has been a government of might makes right, a series of greedy despots. No history of democracy at all. The Africans who took over from the French seem to have used their former oppressors as a pattern.

The best government in the world would be hard-put to make Haiti a pleasant home for all its citizens. The challenges are huge: inadequate infrastructure; weak, unorganized economic system; lack of natural resources; chaotic social organization; crushing poverty.

I would believe that Haiti is completely without hope, if it weren't for their national character, the energy of the people who live there. I was very impressed by Haitians we encountered in their native land, and my admiration extends to immigrants I know in Florida. These are people who, if a framework can be established, will work to build a viable community. They have already done a lot with very little. I think they need more help from the international community, but I believe that eventually Haiti will come into its own.

The Miami Herald reports that the Supreme Court in Haiti has ruled that a Haitian-born U.S. citizen is eligible to run for president there. I think this is the wave of the future, as Haitians who have spent time in the U.S., made money and learned about democratic institutions here, will return to their homeland and work for improvements there. Our friend James came here from Haiti ten or fifteen years ago. His children are U.S. citizens. James is a hotel maintenance worker and is always looking for extra work. His wife works, too, and they have saved their money and invested in Florida real estate. James is building houses on land he bought, and he will no doubt end up a wealthy man. He wants to return to Haiti, and I think he would be an asset to his homeland, as he is an asset to our country while he is here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Kurt Vonnegut is Alienated, Too

In Kurt Vonnegut's book, Slapstick, there is a presidential candidate whose slogan is, "Lonesome No More!" and the platform is that everybody is going to be assigned to an extended family so nobody will have to get by entirely on his own. I remember he says, you know there are people who spend their whole lives on Earth wondering if maybe they have been sent to the wrong planet. A classic description of alienation. Artificial extended families is a cute idea but they wouldn't cure that kind of alienation.

In his book How to be Alone, Jonathan Franzen speaks of "isolates"--these are people who feel more comfortable with a book than with other people, and he doesn't seem to think it is such a bad thing. Franzen does admit that he went through a period of clinical depression, and I can't help thinking that isolation contributed to that situation.

Marilyn French once wrote, "Loneliness is not a longing for company; it is a longing for kind." That describes my feelings pretty much. Nothing makes me feel lonelier than being around a bunch of people who can't understand who I am. But time spent in the company of a kindred spirit makes me happy.

So, I enjoy reading Vonnegut's books, because he and I are on the same wavelength most of the time. In his latest book, A Man Without A Country, he tells a story about Powers Hapgood, a Harvard graduate, a socialist who worked in a coal mine and tried to organize the workers. A judge asked him why he had given up a comfortable middle class life for a struggling working class existence, and he answered, "Why, because of the Sermon on the Mount, Sir." And Vonnegut says, "Hooray for our team!" I'm on Vonnegut's team, too. Hooray for us. Lonesome no more!


=====

[Washington Post Vonnegut profile here.]

Monday, October 10, 2005

Imagine

Yesterday was John Lennon's birthday. He would have been 65. Here's one of his poems.

Imagine

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people
living life in peace

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
sharing all the world

You may say I'm a dreamer
but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

--John Lennon

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Blood Donation

I guess these people thought sticking a large needle into your arm wouldn't be scary enough--they had to add clowns to the situation.

I donated blood on Friday. I'm happy to report that my employer provided a clown-free environment for the transaction.

That I was allowed to donate at all is good news. The last five attempts I made resulted in rejection on the grounds of insufficient hemoglobin. It was always a borderline situation. I'm not anemic. The phlebotomist told me, "You have enough iron for yourself, but not enough to share." But this time, the blood dropped right to the bottom of the liquid in the test tube. I'm giving credit to Kellogg's Special K Red Berries, which I have been eating nearly every single day for the past four months.

My main motivation for donating blood is so I can brag about my blood pressure: 90/52. All right, it's no big deal, but since I'm not going to win any beauty contests or athletic competitions, allow me my pathetic little vanities. My cholesterol is low, too, but this time they didn't test for it. I have to go back to the other county next time (The county where I live, they test for cholesterol. The county where I work, apparently not.)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Snowflakes


Helen Keller was blind and deaf from the age of 18 months. When she grew up, she said she had one sight-memory: the crystals hanging from a lampshade, refracting the light. I often think of that; certainly any time I see a chandelier; it's such a beautiful sight, and somehow we must be genetically programmed to be fascinated by it. Maybe it has something to do with the evolutionary role of fire. Anyway, I had a similar reaction to these photos of snowflakes (click on individual photos to enlarge). I just enjoy looking at them. Hope you do too.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Coincidence? I don't think so...

Achenblog had a big discussion about coincidences a while back, initiated by a Dumb Question of Tom Shroder's. Everybody weighed in on the subject. People in general really want to believe that there is a big plan, or that God is making specific things happen to them, or that there is a reason they are here, and so on. Achenbach has no qualms about debunking these notions. He was very clear about his beliefs. He is a rationalist. So that's why I say there is some divine message in the fact that the letters of his name can be rearranged to spell

CHANCE? BAH!

Right? That couldn't be a coincidence, could it?

[I'm kidding, okay? I completely agree with Joel. I think everything could be explained by logic and reason, if (BIG IF) we were smart enough.]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

John McCain Anti-Torture Amendment

Finally, somebody has taken action to try to stop the U.S. Military from being the world's foremost advocate and practitioner of torture. John McCain, who was tortured while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, authored an amendment to a military appropriations bill. It is the mildest, most conservative language possible. McCain didn't try to define torture or impose any new standards. He cited the U.S. Army Field Manual on detention and interrogation, which was revised in April 2005 to specifically prohibit the abuses that were highlighted at Abu Graib. The amendment would give those rules the authority of federal law. Most importantly, it is a statement of intent by the Senate. It remains to be seen whether the House of Representatives will join the Senate in making this statement to the world. The White House has indicated that Bush might veto the appropriations bill if the anti-torture language is attached to it. That's not something that happens a lot, a military appropriations bill being vetoed. It's a strong statement by Bush that he favors the use of torture, and it is an indication that even if the law is passed it would not be vigorously enforced. Nevertheless, this amendment is a light in the darkness and it lifted my spirits briefly this morning. God bless John McCain.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

John Prine


I never liked the Rolling Stones, but I do appreciate the darker side of life and art. My main man is John Prine. I guess Prine is upbeat in his way; his theme might be, "Life is meaningless and painful, and I am not equipped to handle the hardship that has been piled on me, I am just a poor schmoe who stumbles my way through and it's pathetic to watch, BUT still I can have fun sometimes, and love is a good thing (until your heart gets stomped)" Prine is a poet for the regular people. He was born in Kentucky, and raised in Chicago I think. He was in the Army and worked for the Postal Service. He's not very good looking and his voice is only fascinating, not lovely.

Here's a typical lyric:

"Take it back, take it back
Oh no, you can't say that
All of my friends are not dead
Or in jail..."

Here's one I really like:

"I got kicked off of Noah's Ark
(I turn my cheek to unkind remarks)
There was two of every thing, but one of me..."

Prine has a wicked sense of humor, and his songs make me smile even though there is always pain there too.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Beatles


Kurt Vonnegut, in chapter 1 of Timequake:

"I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did.'"

George Harrison was once asked to sum up the message of the Beatles' music, and he replied, "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

The legend of how John met Yoko was that he went to her art exhibition, and there was a piece that required the viewer to climb up on a ladder and uncover the message written in small letters on the ceiling, and the message was "yes."

The Beatles' theme, "All You Need Is Love"--I can never stop myself from contrasting it with the Rolling Stones, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." Both are facets of the human condition. But which would you choose to be remembered by?

The Beatles had a tremendous opportunity--they were in the spotlight and the microphone was on. The whole world was watching and listening. They didn't waste the chance. They told us, She Loves You! I Wanna Hold Your Hand! "The love you take is equal to the love you make." I think Jesus wouldn't even mind if the Beatles were more popular than He was, during the 60's and 70's. They were doing His work, anyway.


The Word

Lennon/McCartney

Say the word and you’ll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I’m thinking of,
Have you heard the word is love.
It’s so fine, it’s sunshine,
It’s the word love.
In the beginning I misunderstood,
But now I’ve got it the word is good.
Say the word and you’ll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I’m thinking of,
Have you heard the word is love.
It’s so fine, it’s sunshine,
It’s the word love.
Everywhere I go I hear it said,
In the good and the bad books that I have read.
Say the word and you’ll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I’m thinking of,
Have you heard the word is love.
It’s so fine, it’s sunshine,
It’s the word love.
Now that I know what I feel must be right,
I mean to show ev’rybody the light,
Give the word a chance to say,
That the word is just the way,
It’s the word I’m thinking of,
And the only word is love,
It’s so fine it’s sunshine,
It’s the word love.
Say the word love,
Say the word love,
Say the word love,
Say the word love.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Populism

Senator Mel Martinez (my senator, but I didn't vote for him) gave a speech at the Americas Conference last week in Coral Gables and warned the attendees of the dangers of "Populism" in Venezuela. He went on about how the U.S. needs to be "proactive" and "engaged" to prevent Hugo Chavez from spreading his political philosophy throughout Latin America--what, is he afraid that the government will fall into the hands of "the people?"

Martinez is an immigrant from Cuba. I believe that, on the whole, immigration is great for America, but what I've seen of Cuban immigrants in Miami has convinced me that their understanding of democracy is based more on what they hate about Fidel Castro than on any positive love for the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. For example, time after time, cultural exchange programs have been halted because Cuban-Americans threaten violence or disruptive demonstrations in protest of Cuban citizens' being allowed to perform in the United States. These protesters don't really believe in freedom; at least, not for other people. Martinez' remarks have to be taken in that context. After decrying "populism," he has the nerve to quote Lincoln's phrase, "of the people, by the people, for the people"--that is populism! What Martinez hates most about President Chavez is that he is friendly with Fidel Castro, and that he is critical of U.S. imperialism. I am appalled that the word "populism" is going the way of "liberal"--what will be left to us?

Populism has a glorious history in the United States. After the Gilded Age, when the diparity between rich and poor reached an untenable level, a level not seen in the U.S. before or since (until now) it was populism that pulled us out of the spiral and set us back on a more reasonable track, with government regulations to curb the excesses of big business. Populism can be right wing, too--Pat Buchanon and Ross Perot, for instance, are sometimes cited as examples of populist politicians, and white supremicists have appropriated the term for their purposes in recent years. However, historically, populism in the U.S. is associated with farmers, with true "grass roots" politics, and with the defeat of a powerful elite through democratic action. I object to the vilification of the term. It seems to me that in the face of U.S. imperialism and indifference to international law, a little populism is highly appropriate.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Audiobooks

My life used to be simpler. Fewer choices, fewer distractions. In the 1980's, Tocci and I lived in Key West with no television, no computer, no car (do I need to mention, no air conditioning), no extra money. We worked during the day, and in the evenings we talked, visited with friends, played cards or backgammon, and read library books. On the weekends, we spent long hours at the beach. We did some political work, which involved meetings and organizational work, and sometimes we worked evenings at the Sunset Celebration. But in general, the pace of life was reasonable. We had a baby in 1987, moved to the mainland for good in 1993, got our television set in 1998, and our computer in 1999. (The tv doesn't have cable or an antenna; we only use it to watch videotapes and dvd's.) In the past few years, I have started to notice that I'm reading less, especially books. I enjoy watching movies and browsing the internet, and there are only so many hours in the day. One remedy for this situation has been multi-tasking, and for reading purposes that means audiobooks. With books on tape/cd I can "read" while I do housework, exercise, crochet, pull weeds, paint the walls, or drive. At one point when I just started with audiobooks, I had one story on cd in my car, one on tape in my Walkman, and I was reading a third at home in the evenings, an actual book. That got a little confusing, and I only did it once. My audio selections are much more random than my book selections because the choice is more limited--I can't afford to buy/rent them regularly, so I make do with what the library has. That has led to some mediocre experiences (Seabiscuit) some bad experiences (a terrible Stephen King story about a haunted car) and some good experiences that were happy accidents (Sin Killer, by Larry McMurtry). Audiobooks have also gotten me through some books that I probably would not have finished in the print version. Since it's more passive, it's less effort, and I was glad to experience a biography of Shakespeare and David McCullough's John Adams. Recently I have been having trouble finding the chunks of time I need to give Jonathan Franzen's first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City the attention it deserves, so I went to audiobooks.com to see if they had it on cd. They don't, but they have Tom Robbins' latest, and that's something I'm likely to want to listen to more than once, so I ordered it. Amazon.com has audiobooks, too, and sometimes I forget that. I was on Amazon yesterday, too, ordering the latest Vonnegut (A Man Without a Country) and Paul McCartney's newest offering. So now I have something to look forward to. Anticipation is one of life's greatest pleasures. A complicated, busy life can also be a happy one.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Cooler Weather

In south Florida, October means I can stop planning my life around the weather, for a while. We do not use our air conditioner, so all through the summer months--that's April through October--I'm strategically placing fans and scheduling my cooking and laundry activities, opening and closing doors at key times to control the air flow and so on. In the morning, getting ready for work, it's important not to shower too soon. I need to shower just before dressing, in order to get the pantyhose on without sweating. On days I'm riding my bike to work, I can wear shorts and sandals, but then there's the whole separate strategy of getting my clothes to work in the bike basket, folded and protected so they won't be too wrinkled to wear when I arrive.

All this effort saves us hundreds of dollars each year in electric bills. It also contributes to the ecological health of the planet. But mostly, it means that we can enjoy fresh air and breezes, and the sounds of nature, all year round. Sitting at the computer right now, I can hear the sound of water flowing in the backyard fishpond, and the distant call of a hawk, and the songs of mockingbirds, as well as the rumble of automobile traffic and an occasional train. I'm not shut up in a closed box with piped-in air. It's my preference. It's a big part of the reason that I live in Florida.