Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eye Ball, Eye Ball.

" many pounds am I pushing you, good buddy ? "

Eh ?

Oh come on now. CB radio ? You never tried it ? No ?

Well I did. Back in the 80's of course when it had a very brief introduction into the UK. Like with most things in the UK though, it was quickly ruined by those who didn't have it so didn't want YOU to have it and also by those that had it but spoiled it for everyone else.

I know that in 1983 BC (Before Cellphones), I had my mobile rig and twig for my car. The rig was like a car radio and was fitted near the gear stick so you could fiddle with the knobs (!) and the twig, or aerial, was on the car roof. Naturally.

It was this aerial that was prone to being removed by those that did not have a CB radio and felt that if they didn't, no one else should. It's a British thing. Try setting up a nice ornament in your front garden and see how long it lasts !

Anyway after a couple of years and having to replace 2 twigs, I gave up on CB radio and so did the rest of the nation. I'm sure that was just a coincidence. The kids had taken it over with bad language and stupidity and now they've moved on to doing the same with cell phones but at least only the other party has to hear them. Unless you're on a train or a bus, or in a queue/line, in a restaurant, theatre, supermarket............sighhhhhh. Then you ARE the other party.

So why am I rambling on about CB radio ? Well yesterday I finished my library book and last night, in a moment of bedroom boredom, I downloaded a scanner app on my phone. I installed this particular app a year or more ago but removed it when I needed the space. Now I have the space and just fancied listening in on the exciting worlds of the police, emergency services, airports and radio hams ! Everywhere.

Not surprisingly, despite uninstalling the app a year ago, a list of those stations I'd added as favourites came up after installing it again. So much for a clean uninstall. Anyway it did save me a bit of time and so I was right into the local police "station" from the get go.

I listened. I kept listening. I could hear static but little else. Clearly being in a county where the vast majority of the residents are in bed by 9pm, I wasn't going to hear anything exciting at midnight !

This morning though has been another matter. All sorts of excitement going on.

First up was a report of violence at the local McDonald's after a woman was told she wasn't being given a job after her interview. I found this a bit unbelievable actually.

I'd no idea McDonald's did interviews !

Whilst numerous police officers (and no doubt the local SWAT team) were on their way to stop a possible (sesame) bun fight, there was more excitement. Someone reported a youth firing a BB gun at birds and squirrels and so part of the McDonald's SWAT team had to deploy elsewhere and protect the local wildlife.

It all goes on in Highlands County !

Then came real drama. A car had gone into a ditch (I'd better not say where) and a woman was in serious condition. There were no witnesses to this accident but there were reports of a man fleeing the scene. When the police arrived, the woman had only a faint pulse and the officer was concerned to find a child seat in the car. He reported in that he was now looking for the child.

In the end there was no child and the air ambulance was on route to take the woman to hospital.

UPDATE : just this second had an update that a white male and an Hispanic male were seen exiting the car and leaving the scene on foot.

But I think I need to uninstall this phone app......again. Not because I need the space but because......well I guess it's like watching those tv shows about extreme hoarders. It's a bit sick. Those hoarders need help and not just help to clean up their houses. They clearly have medical issues and why should tv shows be made about them in the guise of "entertainment" ? It's voyeurism on a grand scale.

Having the technology to listen in on police and emergency services around the world is all well and good but it's a bit voyeuristic too. The police aren't usually called to 'happy' events. Same goes for ambulance and fire crews. So when we listen to scanners, we're mostly listening to the personal problems of others. Often light hearted of course but sometimes extremely sad.

As the app doesn't have a 'no traumatic reports please' filter, I guess it has to go. I could just choose to listen to planes landing at obscure airports or listen in on radio hams across the world but unlike with CB radio, scanner listening is just that.....listening.

Now if I could TALK with the pilot as he's landing at JFK, that would be cool. Kinda dangerous, but cool.

"Hey, y'all. Fly me to Cuba."

"WTF !! Who is this and how did you get on this frequency ?"

"Oh go on, fly me to Cuba.....please."

"Get off the air. I'm trying to land this plane."

"Then will you fly me to Cuba ?"

"Are you nuts ? Who ARE you "

"Ahhhhh only joking, man. Land your little plane and we'll talk again later, ok ? "

"Tower.....tower.....TOWER !!! I think I've just been scannered."

So no, the scanner app, like CB radio, is not for me. Been there, done that, liked it for a while.

UPDATE : the woman has been airlifted to Tampa Hospital and the police are actively searching for the two men.

Well I never said I'd uninstall it app today !

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Recipe for Disaster

Last time, I mentioned the bite I got in the line of duty. Well in the line of taking photographs really.

I've still got it. I've doused the area with alcohol to the extent that my left arm is permanently pissed but the raised 'zit' is still there and if I absent mindedly scratch around it, I'm scratching for 10 minutes.

Hey ho. Could've been worst I guess. I could've been bitten by a Cottonmouth snake !

Btw, I loved this advice on a site about snakes...... "Generally speaking, if you encounter a snake and you are unsure whether it is dangerous, or not, you should avoid it."

Brilliant !

Thankfully I rarely see snakes here in the park. There are 'only' 6 poisonous types in Florida but believe me, if I see ANY snake, I avoid it. After trying to photograph it of course !

Gators though, are everywhere. And those cute little lizards. And spiders the size of mice ! And all of them will try and enter the house which is why I always keep the doors locked. So far it's worked as I don't believe any of them can pick a lock.

(And they told me years of watching the Natl Geographic channel was rotting my brain. Ha !)

Anyway back to my sort of diary.

Yesterday we didn't play golf. We wussed out. At 7am it was 31F/-0.5c and us oldies don't go out when it's that cold. If I'm going to slice and hook balls into the water, trees, bunkers and rough and loose about a dozen doing so, I'm not going to freeze to death as well. I want to enjoy it !

So seeing the forecast, Jack rang me on Sunday night to say....lets not. And I agreed.

Instead of playing golf, I played cook instead. Deb had given me a shopping list and a recipe and after driving into town to fulfil the order, I then hit the kitchen. I diced and sliced for 90 minutes and ended up with a shed load of carrots, onions, celery, red and yellow peppers, potatoes, a blister on my left hand and numerous nicks and cuts on several fingers.

Food preparation is freakin' dangerous, people !

The worst cut was from a potato peeler I was using to 'skin' the carrots......with. I went off the end of a carrot and onto the end of my index finger. Owwwwy.

Then there was the knife. A big ass knife. A Rambo knife. I was using this WMD to dice the aforementioned veggies and tried to emulate the chefs I see on tv. Keep the veg still and rock the blade along it with smooth and rhythmic cutting strokes. Oh yeah. It was working just fine till I sensed I was not so much slicing an inanimate vegetable as a very animate finger part.

If Edward Scissorhands and Freddie Kruger had high fived each other, there couldn't have been more blood on display.

Bravely I carried on, deciding not to tell anyone I was adding a 'secret' ingredient to the casserole. I'd blame the red pepper for the unusual colour.

So once the 4.5 lbs of meat was diced and everything tossed into the huge pot, beef broth was added and finally salt, pepper and garlic powder were liberally sprinkled on top. Seven bay leaves were placed artistically and finally it was good to go. With the lid in place, the pot was shoved into the oven and 4 hours later the three of us sat down to a wonderful meal with enough left overs to make about 10 more meals. Just the thing for cool Floridian evenings.

Apart from hacking into body parts, the food preparation had caused even more drama. As you might imagine, the residue from preparing 15 carrots, 6 onions, 12 potatoes, 2 peppers and a butt load of celery put a bit of a strain on the garbage disposal unit and just before the last pile of cuttings went down, it gave up the ghost in a very noisy and watery way.

The meal took 4 hours to cook and the disposal unit took 3 hours to unblock. Dennis and I both had goes with the sink plunger, each taking over from the other when our arms needed a rest. There were encouraging gurgles from time to time but after over 2 hours hard work, all we had achieved was water moving from one sink to the other, depending on which one was being plunged ! Clearly the blockage was further along the pipework and so was impervious to being plunged.

Deciding to take his break, Dennis went to the bathroom and after flushing the toilet, I heard a whooooooosh from the kitchen sinks and hurrah, the blockage was gone and the disposal was disposing again.

Just how flushing the toilet unblocked the disposal unit beats the crap out of me !

I blamed the carrot shavings. They were long and thin and wet and probably not ideal for grinding up and so probably bypassed the disposal unit's 'teeth' and slid along the pipework and came together to block the system. Hey, it's a theory.

One thing I can tell you and this won't come as a shock to anyone familiar with waste disposal units; it gets your heart pumping when you put your hand down one even with the switch off. And boy do you look at that switch a lot when doing it ! Logic tells you that as long as it's in the off position, your digits will be safe and remain attached to your hand.

But in your mind, you just know it's like sticking your hand into a nest of sleeping Cottonmouth snakes.

Best avoided.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Don't Bite The Hand That Photographs You.

When I go on my (almost) daily walk around the park, I do just that. I walk along the outermost streets ending up back 'home' and that's just short of a 3 mile walk...which I currently do in about 45 mins.

Not very fast I know but I have to build up speed slowly or else I get a bit of 'exercise asthma' when my chest feels tight and then it never leaves me the whole walk. If I start slowly and don't get the tightness, then I can gradually speed up till my little fat legs are just a blur and stunned residents think they've been passed by a mini cyclone !

This route doesn't take me along either of the internal nature trails, one that goes along the water channel leading to the lake and the other that goes along a path more likely to be infested with gators, snakes and all sorts of creepy crawlies.

So when I'd finished my walk and still had some energy left, I got on my bike and went along the channel trail. This trail goes to the lake and then follows it along past the pier, the pickleball court, the bocce courts, the shuffleboard courts and finally into the shady grove where the numerous trees provide relief from the sun and sitting at wooden picnic tables affords lovely views of the lake.

I took a few photos around the grove area and then 'played' with one or two on Photoshop to make them a bit different from the norm. But first up is a standard photo of a little lizard that was posing on one of the weird stumps which are by the lakeside at the grove.

I try not to overuse Photoshop as you can end up with a totally different photo but now and then, hell it's just fun. I'm also very conscious of the fact that I've posted so many photos of the same views over the years and the blue lake and blue sky and green trees.....well it can all get a bit repetitive !

Here are two I 'shopped' from yesterday.

Different I guess ! I think they're not as good as the originals when viewed small size and look much better when full screen so feel free to click on them. May not be full screen but the extra detail you'll get should help.

Whilst taking the photos, I used a tree as a stabalising 'device' and later I found I'd been bitten by something...maybe a fire ant. This morning the bite area had swollen quite a bit, topped with a nasty coloured puss spot. I burst the spot and dabbed the area with alcohol (probably shouldn't have used gin !) so I'm hoping that'll do the trick. It's not sore or itchy but it's right under my watch band and so it's mostly just irritating.

So as I'm suffering for my art, the photos are that much more important !

I realise Buttonwood Bay Grove isn't exactly Helmand Provence but as with my walking, it's all a case of building up slowly.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

And So To Recap.............

Today I got the same number of socks out of the washer/dryer as I put in.

Yep, it's been a good day !

Yesterday was good too. Very good. I played golf and got 5 pars. Yes 5 !!!!!!!!!!

That's about....ahhhh.....lemme see now, 5 more than usual. Well certainly 4 more. Maybe 3 on a good day. I even got a par on the evil Par 5 17th which has water guarding the green. And I went in the water - as usual. The ball that is. Not me. And I STILL got a par.

Woohoooo. I was on fire.

Sadly only one person saw me get that par. Actually even he didn't quite see it as for some bizarre reason, when both of us hit our 4th shots onto the green close to the hole (he'd gone in the water too), he wandered off to look for balls at the edge of the water and so wasn't watching as I holed my putt. When he eventually returned and dropped about 7 reclaimed balls onto the green, he 2 putted for a 6. Ha ! Clearly he was no longer in 'the zone'.

And the moral is : it doesn't take a lot of balls to hole a short putt.

The reason for only two of us playing the 17th was........rain.

Our normal foursome was half way down the 15th when we actually saw the approaching rain sweeping across in front of us like a Saharan sandstorm. Deciding to go the way of our tee shots, we headed off the fairway and found some trees - although it has to be said that palm trees don't give much cover from rain. Sod all in fact. But psychologically at least we felt better and after a few minutes, the shower passed and we played on.

The dark clouds quickly formed again and with them came more rain. This time Barrie and Jack decided to throw in the towel and zoomed off to the clubhouse and its bar. Blair and I used our towel to wipe off the cart seat and again, played on. Seconds later the rain eased off and then stopped as it often does in Florida.

Maybe it was because after the showers we pretty much had our part of the course to ourselves (and the bar was packed) and we were able to relax and take our time, but I played the last 4 holes in 3 over par...quite an achievement for me as there are two par 5's in there.

Of course when recounting my exploits to Jack and Barrie in the bar, they cast doubts on the accuracy of my scoring as they hadn't been there !! Me ? Cheat ? I blame the drink for such a scurrilous suggestion.

Finally, as if to again prove the 'ramblingness' of this blog, here is a photo I took on Sunday from my armchair. I often see tiny lizards scuttling across the concrete but this one was sitting sunning itself on top of a sprinkler block just a few feet away from the window. It would shake its body and then fan out the loose skin under its throat which I assume would normally be a procedure used either during mating or to warn off potential attackers. Or both. It did it over and over before I decided to get my camera and it continued to do it long after I'd taken a few photos and a video clip and then got bored with it ! Very odd.

So there you have it. The highlights of the last 3 days here. Yes there was a big football game during a Madonna concert and a load of people died and even more were born and a bit of snow fell in the UK but come on...surely stories about socks, golf and lizards give the finger to all those events ?

Too soon ?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Return Of The Peckers.

Around this time last year, I blogged about woodpeckers in the park. They pecked on wood as is their nature but they also realised that by pecking on our house's "tin" roofs, they'd get their message out much further.

If it's one thing I've learned from shows like the BBC's Earthflight, it's that birds are clever and adaptable. Even so, I'm still not sure if the park's woodpeckers rat-a-tat on the roofs to amplify their "mating pecks" or if they're just too stupid to tell the difference between wood and metal !
It has to be the former as how stupid do you have to be to make the same mistake over and over.

I mean they're birds, not politicians.

Anyway they're back. A couple of mornings ago I heard the familiar sound on wood and then a few minutes later, the same on metal. So far, the bird or birds are not as close as last year which is fine by me. I'm ok hearing their noise at 7am when it's around 3 on the volume scale but when they were on next door's roof last February, it was more THX than Bose and it was as jarring as waking up to Jonathan Ross on the radio.

Still, there is a sort of comfort in this avian continuity. I like when animals and birds return every year. Clearly these woodpeckers like the park and why wouldn't they ?

Or maybe it's just the quality of our roofs !

Heavy metal woodpeckers. Darwin would've been proud.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Watching You, Watching Me.

So we went into town 6 hours !

Actually it was mostly fun as the trip included having breakfast and going to the library where I left with a John Grisham and a Tom Clancy. Woohooo.

For a small town, Sebring has a fabulous library with every modern facility imaginable from free internet on numerous workstations to bar code reading 'do-it-yourself' checkouts. You don't need to interact with a staff member at all.

So after we had breakfasted and libraried (my blog, my made up word, ok ?), we went to the first of 3 furniture stores to look for a new reclining chair and to checkout dining tables and end tables and.....well anything furniturey really (yes, yes, same rule, see above !).

Now I donno about you (obviously), but the sales people in furniture stores drive me nuts. You go in and one will always appear as if from a nearby hidden closet.

"Hello......welcome to Chipboard City. Can I help you today ?"

"Ah no thank you. We're just looking".

"That's fine. My name is Pushybitch......just give me a shout if you want any help."

And that SHOULD be it. You SHOULD be able to wander around the store, safe in the knowledge that should you need to know how to use a chair or find out how a dining table works, Pushybitch will be at your side should you call for her.

In reality it seems these people don't believe you can work chairs and tables on your own and so they lurk. Some do more than lurk, they stalk. Oh if you turn around quickly they'll suddenly find a cushion to plump or a table arrangement to move an inch but really they're desperately listening for the slightest opportunity to close the gap and give you unwanted information.

Me : "I donno. I don't like this colour or fabric." Pushybitch appears as if by magic.

Pushybitch : "Oh it comes in different colours and fabrics, sir. We can order whatever your little heart desires and it'll be delivered in 6-8 weeks."

Then they fall back again but are still within earshot and follow you around as if you're going to try and get a 3 piece suite out the door without being seen.

Manager : "We seem to be losing stock at an alarming rate, Pushybitch."

Pushybitch (sobbing) : "But the customers told me they're just looking and I believed them."

Manager : "WHAT ??!! Yer fired."

We went to 3 different furniture stores today and I'm pretty sure I spotted the salesperson from the first store following us in the 3rd store !

In one store, we thought we'd escaped by going out a door into a sort of quasi outside area full of recliner chairs and were pretty sure we'd made the move unseen. Not so. A few minutes later the door opened and in walked the salesperson with a triumphant look on his face. I half expected him to say 'my turn now' and ask us to count to 100.

And it's no use asking them to let you walk around alone. Oh no. They're wise to that devious tactic. They pretend to be doing an inventory which amazingly involves taking the very same route around the store as you.

It was so bad at the 2nd store that I walked past a chair and then decided to try it out and when I backed onto it, I found myself on the salesperson's knee !

I guess they're all on commission so don't want to lose a sale to some johnny-cum-lately colleague who happened to be near us when we made our decision. And some people may LIKE having a salesperson walk with them around the store.

I just don't. I especially don't when I've made it clear at the outset that I want to look around by myself. I just wish they'd realise that doesn't mean I want a conjoined twin nattering in my ear at every step.

Mind you, then there is Office Max. We went there too. They've adopted the same policy as WalMart who a long time ago, decided customers know how to work everything from an orange to a laptop computer so why employ anyone except checkout staff.

At Office Max today there was one checkout girl. That was it. And it was wonderful. We looked at 'stuff' and weren't bothered by anyone asking if they could help us. We picked up diaries and Filofax inserts and instinctively knew how they worked. I tried out a felt tip pen as if I was born to do so and although a box of paper clips had me stumped for a few minutes, I did quickly work out how to use them. All on my own. It was a wonderful shopping experience.

So to all sales staff everywhere. If I enter your store and tell you I just want to look around on my own, please respect my wishes.

If I want a stalker, I can find plenty on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

London Calling....Send More String.

Well it's the first day of a new month and already a lot has happened.

Leeds United sacked their manager after last night's embarrassing 4-1 home defeat to Birmingham.

40 people moved into the park.

It's still pretty cold in Europe.

Stocks rose sharply on both sides of the pond.

And I had a bratwurst for lunch.

I firmly believe those last two were influenced by each other !

Actually I'd arranged to meet Debby for lunch down by the cafe next to the lake so I rode my bike down there and ordered the Wednesday Special......a bratwurst, a bag of chips (crisps to non Americans) and a diet Sprite all for $3 (£1.90). A bargain.

Of course the outdoor location in the shady grove beside the lake was priceless and a seaplane landing during the meal provided entertainment too. I'm not sure WHY it landed but it was a short visit as seconds later it took off again and soon became a speck in the azure blue sky.

Did I mention the sky was blue ? And the temp was 81F ? Well they were....and are.

After the meal, I rode around the park to burn off the calories just consumed. It was lovely to be out peddling in the warm sunshine and waving to everyone. Sometimes I felt like Patrick McGoohan going around "The Village" so I kept a wary eye out for errant weather balloons.

There were quite a few residents lying sunbathing around the main swimming pool and one or two in the water. The heated water I'll have you know ! Pampered lot that we are.

As I peddled past, the air was full of coconut sun block cream mixed with Oil of Olay, a heady mix that almost knocked me off my bike. There were two doubles games taking place on the adjacent tennis courts although rallies tended to be over quickly. Any return going back over the net was almost always a winner !

Speaking of sport, last Monday we played golf at a new course for me, the South course at Highlands Ridge. It was out between Sebring and Avon Park with orange groves down one side of some fairways. There is a rumour that as we walked up the fairway on one of these holes, an orange may have been plucked and shared between us.


The course even had slopes on one or two holes and the 18th had a drop from tee to green that I never knew existed in boringly flat old Florida. As we were pretty tired by the 18th, we were glad it WAS a drop down and not a climb up. I mean we had golf carts as usual but even SEEING climbs can be tiring !

I know. I've become a tad lazy and spoiled when it comes to golf now and I'm not sure I could even play anymore without the use of a cart.

Several balls were lost to the waters crossing many of the fairways and guarding even more of the greens. We also spent more time in the sand than a family on an outing to Bridlington and much (technical) cursing turned the air the colour of the sky at times.

But it was great fun. We had a ball.

Sadly we needed several more.

Finally today is Old Scotland Yard Phone Number Day, a little known "day" I just made up around the date if written correctly. Written to fit this tenuous link in fact.

Back in the day, when making a phone call meant tightening the string between two tin cans, phone numbers in UK towns and cities that required more than 10,000 numbers were made up of 3 letters and 4 numbers.

London district names would be shortened to 3 letters and as the original Scotland Yard (the London Metropolitan Police HQ) was in Whitehall, its number became WHI-1212. Bizarrely this never really caught on whereas the full name and number did. On many crime tv shows of the time, the shout would go up to ring Scotland Yard on Whitehall 1212.

So what has that got to do with today ? Well as we in the UK put the day first when writing the date, today is 1/2/12 or....drum roll......1212.

Told you it was tenuous.

One of these days I'll work out how to make this blog entertaining as well as educational !

Until then I'm off to get the sand out of my shoes.

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