Sunday, April 3, 2016

No Name Key Deer

When people ask where they can find Key Deer, the locally produced small white tailed deer now native to the Lower Keys, I send them to No Name Key. And here they are:
 They caused a  bit of a road block  as cars stopped to enjoy the view.
Let's face it: watching deer, even small ones, graze is a bit like watching paint dry but one feels a certain obligation to stop and stare so I did and here are my pictures:
You aren't supposed to feed them or molest  them or run them over with your car. The Key Deer refuge people keep score and you will see notices about how many they have found dead. Occasionally people decide to shoot them and even eat them but for the most part they are essentially outdoor pets.
People whose gardens they wreck tend to dislike them and refer to them disparagingly as stunted white tailed deer and they were nearly wiped out sixty years ago but thanks to endangered status and the institution of a refuge they are now doing quite well and some can be seen even on Cudjoe Key occasionally. They can swim and they do sometimes to establish themselves on islands away from Big Pine Key.
The best story I've read of how Jack Watson saved the Key Deer I have linked here. Much funnier a story than you might expect: LINK 

Crossing the bridge back to Big Pine Key under a blazing evening sun. The bridge leads to No Name Pub a place to drink beer, eat pizza and reflect on Key Deer if you feel so inclined.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Corporate Democrat

From The Intercept the political investigative magazine always worth reading this article by David Dayen who looks at the campaign of the chair of the Democratic National Committee who happens to be based in South Florida and whose Congressional campaign is coming under fire. She faces a particularly tough opponent and for that I am glad as Wasserman Schultz has been guilty of anti-Sanders dirty tricks this year worthy of a Republican campaign. 
Tim Canova the challenger
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the incumbent
PRESIDENT OBAMA on Monday endorsed Debbie Wasserman Schultz, his handpicked Democratic National Committee chair, in her congressional race. What’s stunning about that is that Obama felt the need to endorse a six-term congresswoman running in a heavily Democratic district at all.
Tim Canova, a law professor and Federal Reserve expert, jumped into the Democratic primary in January, challenging Wasserman Schultz from the left. At that time, my Intercept colleague Glenn Greenwald interviewed Canova, revealing multiple contrasts between his opposition to bank bailouts, corporate-written free trade agreements, and the Patriot Act and Wasserman Schultz’s support of those policies.
Populist primaries of entrenched incumbents don’t usually get the attention of the White House, because success for the challenger is so remote. Obama very rarely involves himself in House primaries. That he felt the need to endorse Wasserman Schultz suggests that Canova’s message is gaining traction in her district.
The endorsement comes fully five months before the primary — and days before the end-of-the-quarter deadline for Federal Election Commission reporting. While Wasserman Schultz has never needed help solicitingcampaign contributions from wealthy donors, the presidential endorsement has the appearance of a vote of confidence to ensure the continued flow of money.
“Debbie has been a strong, progressive leader in Congress and a hardworking, committed chair of our national party since I proudly nominated her to the role in 2011,” Obama said in his endorsement statement. “She always stands up and fights for what is right for her district while passionately supporting middle-class families.”
But Wasserman Schultz is more than anything a creature of the pro-corporate Democratic Party establishment. She has been accused of using her position as DNC chair to favor Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary, including by scheduling low-profile debates on weekend nights. Her opposition to a medical marijuana initiative in Florida and sponsorshipof a failed internet censorship bill in Congress have angered progressives, as have her ties to corporate money.
More recently, Wasserman Schultz sponsored a bill that would severely hamper the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed regulations for payday lenders. The bill would pre-empt the CFPB rule in favor of state laws like Florida’s, an industry-backed model that permits borrowers to take out an average of nine payday loans a year at an interest rate of 278 percent.
Payday lenders have cost Floridians $2.5 billion in fees over the last decade,according to a recent report, which has fallen disproportionately on African-Americans and Latinos. Wasserman Schultz also voted for a bill that would have gutted CFPB rules prohibiting racial discrimination by auto lenders.
Activist groups in Florida have run ads against Wasserman Schultz over her support for payday lenders. Canova has made the payday lending legislation a key talking point of his campaign, noting that Wasserman Schultz has taken over $68,000 in contributions from the industry.
The Florida Democratic Party initially denied Canova access to the party’s voter information file, but after pressure from the state’s progressive caucus, it reversed course, allowing Canova to use the data. The situation was reminiscent of Wasserman Schultz’s DNC temporarily denying voter-file access to Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign after Sanders staffers improperly accessed Clinton campaign data.
Canova, who recently announced support from the National Nurses United union, reacted to Obama endorsing his opponent on Twitter, saying, “Our grassroots movement is undeterred and this is our best fundraising day yet. Thank you @DWStweets,” referring to Wasserman Schultz’s Twitter handle.

David Dayen

David Dayen is a contributor to The Intercept, and also writes for Salon
the Fiscal Times, the New Republic, and more. 
His first book, Chain of Title, about three ordinary Americans who uncover 
Wall Street’s foreclosure fraud, will be released in May 2016.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

World Autism Day

I came out of my own closet in June 2013 and today is World Autism Day, so here's a re-post.

My Life With Aspergers Syndrome

I was amused to read recently that the American Psychiatric Association has declared that Asperger's Syndrome no longer exists, which is unfortunate for those among us who function passably well with what is now known as high functioning autism. Asperger's was diagnosed by an Austrian doctor at the end of World War Two, not the most auspicious time to be trying to figure out how people's heads got messed up, yet the autism spectrum diagnosis has gained currency and has spread like an oil slick in a time when we are told most people have got mental issues. Consider how we are expected to live, in a world of restrictive standards of attractiveness, declining financial expectations, centralized wealth and manufactured fear and uncertainty spread about on TV by our avaricious and narcissistic leaders...Little wonder is it then that we see people going crazy. Autism? ADD, ADHD and on and on and on. But not Asperger's they say, not anymore.
I was just getting used to the idea that I have Asperger's when the medics pulled the rug from under my diagnosis. I am not at all sure I want to have high functioning autism thanks, not in a world where I think of people with autism as lacking communication skills and struggling to cope with the tasks and irritants of daily life in ways we stereotype but that we feel sure we don't share. People with autism are stereotyped and shunned in our world, the world that reveres youth and social gaiety. People with autism don't function they want to believe, in a society that demands conformity. That's not me, I'm not "autistic" I insist, but unfortunately Asperger's is me, and it makes meeting people and dealing with every day social encounters a high stress affair. Asperger's Syndrome Symptoms in Children, Teens, Adults I can talk, I can communicate, I don't usually flap my hands in public, I trained myself to stop avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. I see patterns where others don't care and I talk too much and too long. I dread meeting people. I have Asperger's Syndrome.

All the more credit to GarytheTourist for being persistent and pulling me out of my shell to sit down to lunch with him on Greene Street. The food at Solo was an attractant I grant you...short rib beef tacos and fries covered I was told with sugar and salt. Little wonder America is addicted to freedom fries.
Gary had a seafood flatbread, a form of thin crust pizza minus tomato sauce... And over food we talked. Gary lives in Nashville and has had a fascination with Key West for decades. This is where he comes for vacation with his family who makes the most of the seaside, the turquoise waters and life in a small town freed from the stress of normal daily life. As a result he is fascinated by the travails of life in Key West when it is daily life.
I find Gary's life breathtaking in its complexity, his job is to keep people alive yet asleep while they are having their insides reorganized by surgeons, a responsibility that makes me queasy at the mere thought, and on top of that he manages the lives of a family in the throes of maturity not yet attained. For someone like me living in Key West is a piece of cake compared to juggling so many responsibilities at once. If you can do all that, saving lives dealing with college, surviving occasional snow falls, being married and all, why then, living in Key West is nothing. How can he find the interest to follow my meager life in the Southernmost City? Odd that, and he decidedly doesn't have Aspergers.
I offered to have lunch on Monday but Gary couldn't and as he was leaving soon my back up was Tuesday and I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. Of course I started checking the time carefully as the moment approached for us to leave. Being late causes anxiety in most people with high functioning autism. Gary took one spoon of Key Lime pie and left me the rest as we dawdled over coffee. I wanted two more hours instead of having to get on the Vespa and riding across town. That I am Gary's portal to Key West the rest of he year while he is at home freaks me out a bit. He shares none of my political views but he never reproaches me for them. He must be a terrific Dad.
I don't mind the dentist. My logical mind knows that dealing with teeth is better on my terms than on the tooth's terms so I enjoy getting them cleaned and inspected. I have been going to the same office for years and I have no clue what my tooth cleaner's name is. I have learned over the years to pay attention when people tell me their names and I try to create a word/image in my mind to associate the name with the face, and if I remember to do that I am safe. I know a woman called Marion whom I hardly ever meet. I thought of Robin Hood when she introduced herself and her name has stuck. Bloody uselessly, but there we are. This important woman in the dentist's office is one instance where I forgot to do the mind/image trick and now twice a year I let this charming mother and wife and all round cheerful chatty sweet dental hygienist into my mouth anonymously. Lots of people do that but I obsess about my incompetence and shrugging social failures off is hard for me to do. It is a struggle to stop the self defeating tape from playing over and over in my head. My blog rarely features people because they are so hard for me to read and in the end places are easier to deal with. Hence an empty South Roosevelt Boulevard:
I'm lucky, more than I realised for a long time. My wife understands and puts up with these shortcomings. My work is ideally suited to me, my desire for routine, my pleasure in paying attention to details and despite working in a room with two others the demands of the job give me the ability to be alone, to enjoy solitude in the middle of the work shift. I get to work aloneon my screens while also oddly enough being part of the team. I am half the ideal employee, I hate being late, and I take my commitments seriously. Yet my boss knows I will melt down when critiqued and she has taken the time to learn to handle me, which is the most amazing good fortune. I keep asking her if she is thinking of leaving because I know life at work will get tough if she "moves on." She loves a man far away and I dread the day she decides to move.
I started this blog with no real idea of what I was doing or why. I got to hate public internet forums where logic and facts took a back seat to emotion and insults and I wanted my own quiet space that I controlled. so I started a web page of my own with no ulterior motive to sell things or push a point of view. I never imagined I would be feeding the compulsive need of the National Security Agency to immorally monitor my every move. I wish them joy of it and I wish my fellow Americans were more outraged, even slightly outraged that the government behaves this way. My Asperger's mind calculates that three people were killed by the Chechen nutters in the Boston bombing. Four thousand people die every year on motorcycles in this country. 600,000 Americans have died since 9/11 in cars on our roads. Yet we have to be monitored everywhere in violation of the Fourth Amendment for our "safety?" Makes no sense to me, but neurotypicals and their reasoning never make much sense to me. And when I find out how we are being watched not just by corporations but by our elected leaders I figure, what the hell - what do you want to know? Here I am. This is my silly little web page. Enjoy the pictures. Smathers Beach covered in dead seaweed:
I was asked once would I do this blog if no one read it? I guess the answer is yes. The compulsion that makes me post every day as close to the same time as I can make it (midnight Eastern) is the same compulsion that makes me wash up the dishes as soon as the meal is done. I do it because it helps me make sense of things. I see old essays and old pictures and like Maid Marian they trigger memories for me, where I was, what I was doing though not necessarily what I was feeling as those memories tend to make me uncomfortable. It is a diary for me. From time to time I look at Key West Lou's page and I find the constant pursuit of people and stimulation and excitement utterly exhausting just to read. Never mind for me to try to live that life. Key West as seen by a sensible neurotypical: Key West Lou | My Life in Key West the absence of prepositions and pronouns gives me hives but at this stage in my life I know lazy grammar is my issue and my problem. Weird sentence structure and odd word usage are characteristics of Asperger's too, though in the pursuit of accuracy we sometimes come off as stilted and portentous (see what I mean?). Check out my home grown pineapple:
I guess I wrote this essay, uncharacteristically personal, by way of apology. Meeting Gary reminded me that having lunch is a normal activity, and it can be pleasant, enjoyable even. I would never make the first move but if you want to get in touch by all means try. I shall try to overcome my hesitation. I warn you, people with Asperger's Syndrome tend to talk to much, don't understand social cues and don't use appropriate facial expressions. All of which is fine for a 911 operator but makes meeting people hellishly difficult. People usually end up getting pissed off at me, which is a huge encouragement to keep myself to myself, and to write my blog. Neurotypicals don't like to acknowledge Asperger's, most people I know shrug me off as exaggerating or making a big deal out of nothing, or of being trendy (me!) so in my real life I only bring it up to people I care about. They aren't many, to the rest I just shrug it off as a party piece or a joke if it happens to come up when my wife is laughing off my inappropriateness. The worst is when people say I use Aspergers as an excuse to cover that inappropriate behavior. Luckily I have reached a point where isolation actually suits me. My wife jokes that if I were sentenced to prison time I would beg for solitary confinement. She's not wrong either.
I was surprised by some misconceptions Gary had about my life as we talked over lunch. It surprised me as I feel so naked and transparent when I meet people, especially people I've met before. I've met Gary but he mostly knows me via the Web. Partly because I can't read social cues, and partly because I don't know what to say I get far too inward looking. I got a lot out of a two hour face to face lunch. This essay is an effort to pass it on. If you meet some inept human who can't make eye contact the chances are they aren't a serial killer or a child molester. They are just lost and need a little help getting to the other side of the street. In a world dominated by the electronic generation of fearfulness and "terror" that simple human lesson is worth remembering. I wish the NSA were listening. They too could find better ways of doing their job than violating the constitution and spying on their inept little neighbors. At some level we are more likely to have a little Aspergers not terrorism in our DNA.

Asperger's Resources:

I dislike abbreviations, they tend to infantilize, so I don't use the term "Aspie" which is popular. I think of myself as someone with Aspergers, but other people don't approve of that as they feel it puts one in a ghetto. As you wish.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Big Pine Key

It was a muggy overcast day but I figured young Rusty is active enough and apparently unaffected by the heat so we went for a walk. He led the way.
He did his thing sniffing around and I did mine, finding splashes of color and texture in the pine and palmetto woods off Key Deer Boulevard:

I experimented with the panoramic mode on my iPhone camera and managed to take a picture, more or less, of a pine I couldn't otherwise fit into the viewfinder. Slick I thought.
 The trees have suffered disease and fire and are not the biggest of pines anyway.
Big Pine Key refers to the size of the island, the second largest in the Keys after Key Largo. Not the size of the trees.
And sometimes one comes across the remains of Key Deer, which I was pleased to note did not interest my dog. 
 Back to the Boulevard, the heat ever stronger.
Rusty and I plodded back to the car, the dog lurching nervously each time a car passed as though the noise might attack him 

 And so home to tea for me and sleep for Rusty. Well deserved.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Rusty Does The Bridal Path

Cheyenne died about 6 weeks ago and I have been trying to move ahead but I miss her still and taking Rusty to the places we used to visit together has been wrenching. The thing is he seems to enjoy these spots as much as she did when she was younger and more active.
Six years is a long time and it is no fault of Rusty's that I miss her. He is becoming an ideal dog, easy to live with, obedient and very loving, qualities sometimes that you had to look for hard in Cheyenne as stubborn and undemonstrative as she was. Rusty is like a puppy compared to her steady easy self confident walks and as much as I want him in my life I am reluctant to let go of Cheyenne completely. I keep expecting to see her one more time.
Life goes on and Rusty is full of it, even in the heat of the last few days. 
The Bridle Path parallels South Roosevelt Boulevard, twin sandy tracks underneath the palms, the place where supposedly Key West could exercise horses. Sometimes it's misspelled "Bridal" which makes me laugh.
It has a fair bit more to see than we explored on this, Rusty's first visit to the wooded section away from the road: 
Above you see the modern view and below with a little manipulation I made the place look old, with my Labrador looking at me wondering why so many pictures...
...and Rusty doing his thing:
All manner of traffic rushes by on the nominally 30 mile-per-hour South Roosevelt Boulevard.
With a frisky young dog like Rusty the leash is a bit of a requirement as he could be in the roadway in two bounds.

 New arrivals at the airport miles from downtown and not looking for a cab surprisingly.
 All that traffic and a time for a short pause to look at the ocean and contemplate.
 Unless you have a dog to walk.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Coconuts On Duval Street

I stopped for a juice on Duval Street, a reflection perhaps that summer is here. It's hot, no two ways about it. I read of blizzard warnings in the Rocky Mountain states and I have no doubt the prospect of skiing is going to render them almost as giddy as the possibility of enough snow pack to end assorted droughts. Splendid.

Rusty does quite well in 90 degrees but his tongue does come out and he does seek out the shade. He has no taste for puddles and relies on me to supply clean water from the trunk of the car.

You can buy a coconut (complete with a straw) downtown for something around five dollars, a practice I find odd as they offer more than can be he with a straw. They get thrown out with all that white meat tucked inside. When I was a child a coconut was a rare thing, a once-a-year fruit and now I find them falling into my yard at a rate greater than I can deal with them.
Spring Break is winding down they say but you wouldn't know it as traffic on the highway is constant and Duval Street is busy. The heat is the harbinger of summer and this is the time of year one looks forward to the change of season. Then by September one will be ready for that other change of season, back to winter. It looks like endless summer, and sometimes it feels like it.

Rusty doesn't much like Duval Street with all the noise and crowds so I am making an effort to walk him as much as I can. But it is getting a little hot for that.