Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Keys News

This time of year was known among British journalists as "silly season" because it was supposed to be the time of year when news was supplanted by fluff, silly stories of celebrities and vacations and pointless minor scandals. Now that all news seems to be directed at diverting us instead of informing us, silly season has spread to the whole year long.

Except in the Keys where the routine of picking the Citizen up in the driveway becomes a daily adventure, frequently of epic proportions. In today's paper four big stories covered the front page and left my head spinning.

The school board has announced as heroically as only men under threat of election can, that administrators must take the next hit as budget cuts continue to slash the education of southernmost Floridians. The janitors ate their lunch this year and next year the board says administrators must eat theirs. Mind you neither group actually pays a penny toward the cost of their own health insurance while teachers pay every month.

Parents are opting for charter schools, they say, widening the ongoing rift between haves and have- nots for a brave new century ahead. We live in unhappy times and the devil take the hindmost, the slow, the crippled, the abandoned have no place in our new New Deal. The smart parents are fleeing the Keys and taking their kids with them. Enrollment drops, funding drops, commitment to public education drops and the future underclass grows up ready to shoulder the burden of labor that only the uneducated will be fit to do. This is how we dismantle the Land of Opportunity.

The son of a prominent lawyer put on a snitch jacket according to the paper and avoided jail time like others in the recently "settled" Rusty Anchor fraudulent fish case. The restaurant paid a half million dollar fine for making God knows how much by buying fish illegally from unlicensed fishermen. Why anyone would eat at a place that made a habit, unknown to the owners they say, of stealing from legal commercial fishermen I don't know. But the lawyer's son cooperated with the FBI and earned a get out of jail free card. The lower caste accomplices got up to a year in clink, poor saps. The restaurant continues to flourish in a world where justice has lost all meaning.

The next piece of news in the delicious irony column is the lawsuit being pressed forward by the owners of the swanky condos at Sunset Marina. When the city's old waste to energy plant on Stock Island was ready for an upgrade they 'persuaded' the city to shut it down and ship trash to Pompano Beach, thus depriving the city of 30 percent of electricity generation for almost free...Now they want the unsightly poor removed from Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter at the jail. The concept of noblesse oblige is entirely dead in our world driven mad by fear and greed.

The irony of this latest social engineering lawsuit is that the Florida Supreme Court in a moment of socialist madness ruled that jurisdictions may not move along public sleepers if the jurisdiction does not offer the human beings an alternative place to doss. In fact when KOTS fills up each night they call us in police dispatch to tell us and we let the officers know so the letter of the law is followed. The gist of the condo owners' suit is the city failed to follow its own permitting process to open KOTS; city officials from the period say it was an emergency. Let the courts decided, but let's hope the condo owners lose.

In the good news column, at the very bottom of the front page the paper reports the bullies of Wisteria Island ballsed up their lawsuit on two maniacs caught walking the beach of the uninhabited island off Key West. The owners lost their trespassing lawsuit "on a technicality" as the paper sniffs dismissively but one trespasser was found not guilty by the jury who agreed with his defense that he was on the beach reading the illegible No Trespassing sign. The reporter on the story had the gall to write "this may not be the trial of the century" which I thought was a nice piece of dismissive editorializing, quite possibly left the final draft by accident, but we should be glad the story ran at all, I suppose. The owners of the island which has been abandoned for decades and used as a dog run by liveaboard boaters, want to get a county variance and put 75 buildings on Christmas Tree Island, as it is known locally. The county general plan allows for two homes. Money talks and all this has been nothing more than a skirmish in the Great Wisteria War of the 21st Century. Expect the homes to be built and vast fortunes to be propagated. They will even promise the property taxes will revitalize our schools for the disadvantaged children of our county.

Like I said, it's silly season.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Mobile Blogging

I have made a commitment to blogging daily with multiple essays and I try never to post without pictures. Indeed I find it odd how many bloggers complain of the difficulties of adding pictures to their essays. Even riding my motorcycle around town with my basic iPad 1 and my modest pocket camera I have a mobile blogging platform, in this case uploading at the Key West library Sunday afternoon.

I discovered the public library, a fine government institution, keeps it's public access wireless access open when the library is closed. I sat on the steps and uploaded my essays just like any Key West homeless bum! Richard in Alaska asked if I liked my iPad and this essay is the resounding "yes!" I send in reply.

My wife bought me the basic iPad, the first model, refurbished with warranty for about $290. It has no cellphone access which I could add with a mobile router for less than a hundred bucks and a thirty dollar a monthly fee if I wanted- but I don't. I limit myself to wireless access only which worked just barely when I was in Europe and works fine here in the US thanks to libraries, McDonalds, Starbucks and the like.

iPads are notorious for not being compatible with popular blogging platforms but if you like Blogger or WordPress in particular the $3 BlogPress application is brilliantly simple and effective. It's so easy I never even bother to use my laptop at home any more. And yes my wife did buy me a $6 pink iPad case on the grounds I wear pink Crocs and it was the cheapest one available. If it bothers you, too bad; I'm straight and I'm fearless.

For $30 Apple will sell you a photo card adaptor which downloads pictures into the iPad. You can do it direct as I prefer to do or the kit also offers an adaptor that you plug into your camera. The photos appear instantly in the photo page and you can clear the pictures from the card if you like after loading them into the iPad's photo page.

BlogPress is so simple that with one tap of your finger you can pull up the stored pictures, from the "last import" or "all stored" or by a list of dated "daily downloads." One finger tap on the desired picture and BlogPress sticks the picture in the essay wherever the cursor sits. It couldn't be easier. If you make a mistake a do-over is two finger taps away.

I keep my pixels few and picture size modest to make everything easy, both to upload and for people to view. I have noted that I cannot alter pictures in any way, no cropping and no exposure adjustments which was all I ever did on my laptop. In the script I get no italics but I do get tons of accented letters, è,ê,û,ß,æ,ā,ñ,ł, and so forth. It is quite fun to use an iPad, speaking as a former PC devotée.

My modest little Canon SX100 fits in my pocket and takes very decent pictures. It uses Double A batteries and rechargeables are good for several hundred pictures between 40 minute recharges. I carry a spare pair with me and in a crisis I can walk into a convenience store or gas station anywhere in the world and buy alkalines for emergency use. That's my portable studio and news center in a nutshell. Great fun and dead easy and once the equipment is purchased operating costs are zero.

With BlogPress I can write and store my completed essays in the iPad so when I reach a wireless signal I can simply tap them and either publish them directly to my blog or store them in the blog's online storage system and give them a time and date for future publication automatically. If you have thought about blogging from an iPad let me reiterate I am a total klutz when it it comes to computing so when I say this is simplicity itself, believe me, it really is.

One other thing not really related, but anyone who comments on my blog will notice I do not use word jumbles to verify comments. This is because commenting is easier and you would be astonished how well Blogger filters spam, by sending it to my e- mail account where I can choose to publish it or bin the comment at my leisure. If I rate it as spam, blogger will bin it directly the next time it comes. I recommend all bloggers try dumping the word salad verification as an experiment. Your readers will thank you and your blog won't suffer. Besides you may very well decide Russian Porn and Latvian electronics are something you could one day use.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Goodnight Hurricane Irene

People can die on the sandy Outer Banks of North Caroline when strong hurricanes strike those vulnerable islands so they are evacuating as fast as the ferries can haul them. In 2003 a storm cut a hole in one of the islands known ironically as Isabel Inlet, and killed 35 people up the East Coast all the way to Canada, which is a figure that astonishes me.

We have dodged a big one here in the Keys and there is nothing quite so snug as watching a category four churn off in the other direction while life goes on entirely as normal here at home. Good luck to them and all the inexperienced New Englanders who visit the Keys and ask us with pity in their eyes, "What do you do in a hurricane?" They are about to find out first hand.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


My namesake on Margaret Street between Southard and Fleming. The idea was to take our out of town guest to a pretty place with a nice outdoor garden seating area and a good reputation.

We've had their bar stool fondue before and we've been to eat dessert including their famous volcano chocolate cake pudding. This was to be a full on dinner and I was rubbing my hands with anticipation.

We got the lovely outdoor seating under a stout canopy, for thunder and lightning threatened mightily, though nothing much came of it. Our appetizers included coconut shrimp which I liked a lot as the coconut wasn't overdone and oysters Rockefeller which somehow lost the flavor of the cooked shellfish in the midst of the other ingredients.

My wife does love her crab cakes and she pronounced this appetizer as good but salty. It seemed fine to me but I am no connoisseur...The main course was to be steak for which this place is famous though I also liked the decor of the men's loo. Very Italian and it should be famous too.

Darkness fell as the leisurely meal progressed apace. We had a refreshing bottle of red, though I'm damned if I know why servers feel like they are doing me a favor by refilling my glass obsessively from MY bottle. I don't like feeling forced to order more wine against my will. It's not like they will pay my DUI costs.

The cheese sauce was not as good as my wife's and she does a bang up job with some smelly cheese and a piece of steak. My sauce tasted more like lumps of barely melted cheese dribbled on the meat, which was cooked through as I like it, against the rules of good taste. That made me very happy as all too frequently we are told that unless our meat is raw we are breaking the rules. Fuck the rules; I'm not French, and if I sound truculent it's because I'm tired of being sniffed at for wanting my dead cow medium-well. I'll let you know if I want blood on my plate, thanks. Michaels did well on that score.

The place was packed as everywhere seems to be in Key West and my wife, who thought I was crazy for suggesting we make a reservation, took back her words when she found we had to take a later sitting...

Which may account for the fact that our much anticipated volcano, shared between three of us, was not piping hot and filled with bubbling liquid chocolate sauce. A tepid volcano is not a suitable ending to a tepid dining experience at full price.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Keys Pix 6

Petronia is a one way street but its narrow and a pedicab can be enough to create delay. More people need to learn the dimensions of their vehicles if they plan to drive in Key West. I see people all the time who are incapable of squeezing their SUVs through any hole narrower than a freeway onramp.

A motorcycle is always best and this guy was enjoying all of Duval Street as he posed to look good.

I never quite understand the fascination with the steps at Wendy's at 335 Duval Street. I am going to have to squat here one day to see what these perennial squatters find so fascinating. Aside from anything else the steps seem somehow rather unsanitary at best ad as a rule I'm not fussy.

Sand fleas are a worse problem in the insect world than mosquitoes, in my opinion and this year the ankle biters are particularly virulent at my home and this young beauty of a saleswoman checking her leg at the MADD display on The 300 Block of Duval put me in mind, unaccountably, of the underside of my home. I am useless at photographing people.

A colleague won an expensive motorcycle at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Raffle so I can confirm it is actually real.

I cannot for the life of me imagine earning a living by sitting in these booths along the street but I am undoubtedly missing something. On the other hand I found the stupid "No Trespassing" sign even more daft, for some reason, at the Palm Reader's empty booth. Then again the idea that your future can be told from the lines on your palm is one of those bizarre notions, belief in which will probably garner you a cabinet position in the Bachmann administration in 2012 when the world ends, they say.

I don't have to read this couple's palms to tell them the next 18 years at least are going to be expensive and interesting and largely sleepless in their immediate future.

Here's another dude, below, struggling with directions. Should I have intervened and helped? Luckily I didn't bother because he was actually operating a phone that was apparently smarter than himself. Which is another reason I don't own one of those gadgets.

I am glad to see the seaplanes to the Dry Tortugas operating again.

Next time I have $160 dollars my wife doesn't know about I will take a half day trip and see the magnificence of the waters from the air. I quite like Fort Jefferson too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad