Monday, February 27, 2006

Still Alive

Hello, Everyone!

Long time, no blog. Sorry. I WILL get to the next segment of my vacation soon. If I’m not dead from PFOA’s before then.

Shrek 2 – Loved it. Recommend.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Liked much. Recommend.
Paradise Lost (both segments 1 and 2) – Excellent. I am now cured of wanting to move to Arkansas or ever buying another article of black clothing. I’m not saying Byers did it, but if I were guilty, I couldn’t think of a better nut case to have running around to plant the seeds of maybe we got the wrong guy…

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – good, but no Because of Winn Dixie. (Just in case you are wondering, I didn’t care for The Tale of Despereaux at all.)

Listening: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (#4)

Time to Stick It to Teflon

This nice attorney is standing by to assist you with your lawsuit. That is, if you still possess the motor skills to call her...

What Does DuPont Know, and When Did They Know It?

From the Chicago Tribune, 2/20/06

Now, something finally seems to be sticking to Teflon--a nasty environmental tempest that has maker DuPont Co. and cookware companies worried that garage sales in the coming weeks will be stuffed with discarded non-stick pots and pans.

Now if somebody would just publish a report that said Corvettes cause cancer, I’d go to some of those garage sales…

Home chefs have questioned the safety of non-stick cookware since an Environmental Protection Agency advisory board asked regulators in late January to examine whether a chemical that gets slippery Teflon and similar coatings to bond to a pan can cause cancer.

And just to be on the safe side, I’m never going to cook again. With any type of pot or pan.

Both Teflon-maker DuPont and the EPA said cooks had little to worry about. The EPA raised questions about the chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, after studies found it to be in low levels in the blood of 90 percent of Americans, said Susan Hazen, the EPA's acting assistant administrator. Although the source of the exposure is unknown, she said cookware was an unlikely culprit. PFOA is in the non-stick substance sprayed onto cookware. The pan then goes through a heating process in which virtually all of the PFOA is destroyed, according to DuPont.

By releasing it into the air, where 90% of the population absorbs it by breathing. Wonder where they found that ‘other’ 10%? Antarctica? Or did those folks just have something far worse in their blood streams that ate up the PFOA?

Last year, the EPA fined DuPont $16.5 million--the largest administrative fine in EPA history--alleging that the company hid data on toxicity and health effects of PFOA for more than 20 years and contaminated the drinking water supply next to a DuPont plant in West Virginia. PFOA causes liver cancer, reduced birth weight, immune-system suppression and developmental problems in laboratory animals exposed to high doses.

But this isn’t anything to get alarmed about…

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Key 3

Mr. Right continues in his pursuit of an A, leaving me little chance to get near the computer for posts. Only two more weeks! Then I want to try and catch the Pompeii exhibit right before it leaves Chicago. I’ve heard they have already sold something like a hundred thousand tickets to the Tut exhibit, many to people from far away as California. Wonder if I’ll be able to see that at all?

In other news, I enjoyed the book Mixed: My Life in Black and White by
Angela Nissel, author of The Broke Diaries. Very good. I see from the book jacket that she is now working as a writer for the TV comedy Scrubs and noted that is the closest she has ever come to using her medical anthropology degree.

Noticed gas prices were down a little this week – kind of a make-good from Cheney?

Here’s a Tax Law change long overdue: Allow me to declare my cars as dependents. I provide 100% of their support! If people like me WEREN’T buying gas, there’d be complaints about that too, as profits fell. To a mere 14 billion.

Back to the vacation story…

The next morning we went kayaking with
Lazy Dog Tours. They really had dogs all over the premises, mostly Border Collies. After handing out life vests and paddles, our group of ten launched in a mixture of one and two person open kayaks. I’m just really glad Louise was there to do all the work, or I’d still be at the dock splashing in a circle.

Louise was ready to abandon ship five minutes into my not-so-rhythmic flailing with the oar. Only I could screw up left, right, left, right…. Thirty yards from the dock I was pooped. No way was I going to last two hours!

Fortunately all we did was paddle to the nearest Mangrove outcrop and drift along slowly looking for sea life. Whew! Thought Louise would make me sit on a sand bar and issue me a round life preserver on a rope, telling me to hitch a ride back to the marina on the next passing dolphin so she could enjoy the trip.

The guide knew his water critters, showing us a sea hare, starfish, conch, sea cucumber and horseshoe crab. A few of the paddlers were squeamish and took a pass at touching some of the slimier offerings, but not us! We couldn’t get enough of holding and photographing anything short of a sea snake. I was pretty disappointed we didn’t see any sharks. The deadly bull shark can be found in those waters, but we were so shallow (at times touching sand) there were none to be found. The guide said sometimes they saw nurse sharks (more docile; I would have ventured a touch).

No sea turtles either; they feed deeper, so not much chance of touching one of those. Nothing like admitting your loftiest goal in life is to harass sea creatures, but this seems to be a thing with me. I really want to touch wild sea turtles and sharks. Captives will do in a pinch.

We got more than our promised two hours and had a pleasant time. Some day I will have to try the whole kayak thing again, perhaps in my own craft. Nothing like capsizing to teach one how to paddle correctly.

By the time the tour ended we were famished and ended up in Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant for gulf shrimp. True to form, the place had a heck of a gift shop. The island was one big gift shop – most of it too big to fit into my suitcase. Among some of the goodies I had to leave behind: the sea turtle candle, sea turtle wall sculpture, sea turtle carved cabinet, sea turtle coffee table… you get my drift.

Locals there were in very good shape – all ages rode bicycles and looked very fit. It was easy to spot that the fat wheezy ones were tourists. I found the chickens charming and honestly didn’t see droppings on the sidewalks, so perhaps they weren’t much of a nuisance in the areas we visited. The houses were very close together, only the fanciest had yards of any sort.

We visited the Key West Aquarium, but I was disappointed it was so small. Cost $10 to get in – everything was pretty much $10, except for Hemmingway’s house, that was $11. Go figure. Had to give off an ‘exclusive’ air? No time to see everything, and I’m glad we concentrated on the animals instead. The Aquarium had a sea turtle who kept surfacing right in front of the Do Not Touch sign. Now, what genius puts her right next to the Touch Pool? This was the pool where the public was encouraged to touch everything in the display. Barely 24 inches away is ET the sea turtle looking for her dinner. I wondered just how much of a Tips Appreciated would be needed to get the guide to look the other way…but I kept my hands to myself.

Then followed a leisurely afternoon of shopping, culminating with the turtle races at
Turtle Kraal’s.* It’s this dockside bar that puts little numbers on box turtles then lets them race down a wooden dragstrip for the amusement of dumb tourists like myself. I was holding a winning ticket and then had the opportunity to pick a key. If your key opened the treasure chest, you would win the money in the kitty; that night it was up to $325, but no one won that evening. We watched sunset from their upper deck and then hunted for some chocolate covered Key Lime pie (which comes on a stick, no less) and shopped yet more before heading back to the hotel.

*Former site of a turtle cannery, est. 1849. Yep. I stood where the carnage occurred.

Tomorrow: Is there a beach around here?

Pell Lake Isn't That Big

Sick society

Publication Northwest Herald
Date February 17, 2006
Section(s) Opinion

To the Editor:

I read with interest a recent story about the turtles that are holding up the development of property. It's probably costing the developers, and their employees and subcontractors, tons of money.

Do you think there might be something wrong with a society that makes laws to save a turtle that practically no one has any interest in, and wouldn't make any difference whether it became extinct, yet, also passes laws that permit the murder of an unborn human being - created by God and with the opportunity to make a significant difference in this world?

If we want to find out whether a merciful, yet, just God does in fact judge nations with immoral priorities such as these, then we should just keep doing what we are doing.

We'll find out one way or another.

Larry Thompson

Pell Lake, Wis.

Dear Larry the Loser:

Allow me to introduce myself: I am your worst nightmare. I am an agnostic turtle-loving abortion rights activist, and I VOTE. The first order of business is to vote YOU off the island. I want to live near sweet peaceful reptiles, not the cold blooded development freaks like yourself. Move to Schaumburg, you pavement-craving idiot! The biggest nature walk and exercise experience in your life can be from the parking lot to the automatic doors at Ikea while eating your Cheesecake Factory confectionery. See you at the polls!

Way More Accurate Than I Suspected!

I'm a Dodge Viper!

You're all about raw power. You're tough, you're loud, and you don't take crap from anyone. Leave finesse to the other cars, the ones eating your dust.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Would You Like a Rant With That?

Ingredients: Beef Tallow, Gluten, High Fructose Corn Syrup,
Heroin, DDT, Asbestoses, stray peanuts and Palm Oil
May contain trace amounts of genetically modified potato starch.

(Not intended for: Vegetarians, people with food allergies, lactating mothers, women who are pregnant, women who want to become pregnant, women who could become pregnant and children under 12. See your doctor if shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat,
weight gain, loss of vision or Wrong Happy Meal Toy Issued occurs.)

First my government lies to me, and now my fast-food provider. After being pilloried for not reporting the correct amount of trans-fat in their French fries comes news that McDonald’s has finally acknowledged their fries are not gluten-free either. Coming on the heels of my viewing the movie Insider, I think we need a Hamburger U scientist to step forward and reveal that crack cocaine is a main component of the side dish.

Taking Aim

Where Are We Going So Fast, and Why Are We in This Handbasket Dept.*

Now, should I be feeling a sense of irony that the Vice President shot
someone? On his own ‘team’? (Here’s a conspiracy theory: he was about to defect. One can only assume Scalia saw reason.)

Or is plain old hysterical laughter acceptable? Enjoy a compilation of jokes on the topic

What are we to take away from this incident? Cheney can’t be trusted with a gun? Little trigger happy, that’s for sure. He originally thought the other hunter was going to fire on him, so he shot first. Yeah, that’s it. Can’t wait until it later comes out that Whittington wasn’t armed at all. He wasn’t even with the hunting party.

The only thing that could have improved this story is if he had shot the President. Now that would have been entertaining. What of his delay in announcing the incident? Sounds like there were witnesses to shut up, bodies to bury, etc. All this from the man who said Kerry was a threat to gun owners – ha!

No, really, what was Cheney waiting for? If the guy died, he was commandeering Air Force Two and getting the heck out of Dodge?

And remember, the VP did not shoot Whittington, he sprayed him with buckshot. There’s a big difference there, you know, like the difference between having a car battery in your garage or a nuclear weapon. They’re both dependent on chemical reactions, and either can get your garage invaded in a pre-emptive strike, just depends on who’s spraying the buckshot.

What really rankles is the fact that both Cheney and Whittington lacked a $7 upland game-bird hunting stamp. He’s hunted enough in Texas to be familiar with their requirements.

Did Cheney have a Lawyer Stamp? Bet open season is about 12 months on that one. It’s probably the only non-endangered species he shot at all day.

I am a big supporter of hunting, when done by the rules. Not having the stamp is saying you are above the law. I’m sure I’m the first person to accuse the VP of that….

Cheney’s disregard for the preservation of wildlife habitat doesn’t sit with his being an avid hunter. Most hunters are conservationists who want all to enjoy the outdoors and be responsible stewards of nature. Cheney can’t be bothered with getting the proper permits to hunt quail since the rules don’t apply to him.

Surprised he has time to get out at all, seeing how busy he is trying to overturn the Endangered Species Act to fundamental rule of hunting: know what is behind your target. I’m sure the insurgents of Iraq can attest to that one as well.

I hope Cindy Sheehan shows up to his next speech wearing blaze orange. Will they escort her out for that too?

You Don't Win a Silver,

lose a gold.

You do realize she will be forcibly sterilized and exiled to a far northern Harbin* to do laundry for future Olympic teams the rest of her life...

*Hmmm... I just did a search for 'political map of China' so I could get that name, and Google blew up - said no page could be displayed...Coincidence? I think not!

Thanks to Yahoo and Infoplease for the help.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Key Too

The next morning I checked to see if my eyebrows were plucked (as that was the only view in the mirror) and tried to shave my legs standing on one foot. It’s nice to travel with another woman for a change of pace; we were so meticulous about hair and makeup, packing neatly and reviewing the sights we wanted to check out that day. And did I mention we left the hotel at the pre-agreed time? Yep. This sure isn’t a Mr. Right extravaganza.

It was a tad cold for my taste but we wandered the grounds, checking out all of the fiberglass circus animals strewn between the cottages. Breakfast was a dirty coffee pot of mystery sludge with a pitcher of watered down orange liquid on the side. That tepid water wouldn’t have passed as orange juice in Illinois, let alone Florida. Where’s the fresh squeezed goodness? The main entrĂ©e was a packet of generic crumb cakes. I tore open the two-pack, noting all of the crumbs had migrated to one side and looked like lemurs trying to leap off the spongy yellow cliff to their death. Upon returning to our room we found a tiny gecko and took photos of it: our first Florida herp of the trip! It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized we were in the Gecko Room. Cool. Free Gecko. Where’s the Marlin room?

We decided a real breakfast was in order and stopped at a nearby diner for actual food – that came with a side of grits. Then we proceeded to check out a huge gift shop, another perk of traveling with a girlfriend. Mr. Right would have spent all of 20 seconds accelerating past “Shell World” pretending not to hear my pleas, had he been driving. Louise screeched to a stop and we spent the next two hours browsing two floors of ocean-themed goodies. My lack of a U-Haul was the only thing between my and bankruptcy, but I still managed to overspend the whole trip budget on day one. Didn’t see any sandals, however.

We made our way down the Keys, seeking out the elusive and rare Key Deer. The Key Deer is a distant cousin of the white-tail, much smaller and more trusting than any around us in ‘shotgun season’ land. I did however, wonder if tiny venison loins were extra tender.

There were long stretches of highway and bridges on the way down where speed limits were low and passing not allowed. Oh, Mr. Right would have loved that! Especially the Burma-Shave style signs that said patience is a virtue only three minutes to the next passing zone. Now that taunt alone would have killed him. He’d have to pass just to prove he could. 45? His vehicles don’t idle that low.

Stopping at a visitor’s center, some kooky lady behind the counter told us the deer looked like ‘Dobermans with antlers’, and they could be seen anywhere on the island. They don’t, and they aren’t.

Drove around for awhile and stopped at a little nature viewing spot at the edge of the road. Walking up to the little wooden platform over the wetland, I heard a huge ruckus in the leaves. Muskrat? I asked. Then we saw them: wild iguanas. In the water below were two alligators, about 3 to 5 feet. We also saw a green heron and small anole. Thrilled, we pressed on for the prize: Key Deer in their natural habitat.

Another trail head looked promising, and we hiked the 2/3 mile trail with high hopes. The placards along the way weren’t exactly encouraging. They told of poison trees, rattlesnakes, alligators, and a whole host of other things that could kill you on the way. Not one item, friendly or otherwise, was anywhere near the sign advertising it. Dejected, we arrived back at the car a little tired and in despair of ever seeing a deer.

Driving to the furthest reaches of the island, we were rewarded with a gaper’s block of dumb tourists photographing deer. The tiny deer were practically asking for a ride in Trashy Mom’s SUV while her two sons Dumb and Dumber were chasing the deer around with blades of grass saying they were ‘just feeding them grass’, so all those signs about Don’t Feed the Deer don’t count.

It was pretty obvious why they are almost extinct, with no fear of humans or cars. They were cute, and I took some photos. Unlike the Trashy’s we didn’t harass the animals or call them over to us as there was no need. We left before the deer were abducted or worse, and headed towards that evening’s hotel. After the first night, I was containing my enthusiasm to say the least.

Fortunately, Parmer's Resort, in Little Torch Key was very nice. The rooms were very spacious and clean, the grounds included a dock and pool, not to mention huge cages of colorful tropical birds of every sort between the buildings. The staff was great and we enjoyed an incredible breakfast bar in the mornings. MUCH better for the next two nights.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at a bar and restaurant down the street while watching the Super Bowl. It was the first of forty-seven times that week that I would eat conch (giant snail). This was a chowder, but it tasted too tomato-y and like a stew. I guess I was expecting a cream based soup. Oh, and Key Lime Pie. It’s like city ordnance, they won’t let you finish a meal without it.

Tomorrow: Oars Not Touching the Water

Sunday, February 12, 2006

But Will He be Buried at Sea?

In Memoriam

Peter Benchley


More on the Topic

People we did not see in the airport

Mr. Right has been hard at work on his internet class (that’s so ethical of him) and tied up the computer Friday and Saturday. Well, actually, Friday night I watched the final four episodes (ever? Perish the thought!) of Arrested Development, as Fox has canceled it. Yet they can keep absolute garbage (like what passes for journalism on their nightly news) on indefinitely. Why having my intelligence insulted still bothers me, I don’t know. Does that mean my intelligence is actually falling?

Anyhoo, I spent Saturday watching movies, so here’s a quick synopsis of my reading/listening/watching of late:

Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin, read by Cassandra Morris – a magnificent audio book about a fifteen-year-old girl who dies and feels cheated her life on earth was so short. Sounds like the afterlife is pretty cushy, so I don’t think even at that tender age I’d have been too terribly crushed. Excellent writing, excellent narration, highly recommended although I’m not yet done with it.

Flush, by Carl Hiaasen. Good book for young people about the Florida Keys and pollution. See why I took it on vacation? Not quite done, but again, recommended for budding conversationalists.

8 Mile – I enjoyed this movie although I know nothing about Detroit (played by Toronto) or rap music (Eminem, playing essentially himself). Rating: Recommended.

The Big One (Michael Moore) – a cute look at making a book tour while having another agenda. Loved the Rockford segment! Wish I would have gone to his book signing! Shows Moore at Media Play being told Barnes and Noble (a block away) did not have his book, sales were only 3% of attendees and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick was not home. Of course, Moore disproves all of the above! Best tidbit: TWA uses prisoners as telephone ticket agents. Rating: OK, not great.

Napoleon Dynamite – Silly fun, but what’s the big fuss? No plot. Adequate look at teen angst, cute retro-angle, but so what? Lack of true dilemma or solution killed this one for me. Falls short of greatness, but a must-see for its cultural reference. At least now I understand the Pedro for President t-shirts. Rating: Recommended with reservations.

Alexander – Oliver Stone. Not impressed. Was it truly the topic? It’s a huge, complex, little-documented story to tell, and Stone comes across as more History Channel than Conspiracy Theorist, to his great detriment. Something tells me he needs to watch Brokeback Mountain to see how it’s done. Starts out as Alexander’s story told by an old man who was one of his generals reflecting on the past. It then becomes a flash-back within a flash-back when the story skips back a decade to flesh out little tidbits that occurred earlier in his life to influence the ‘present’ point of the story. Not good. A better script would be my first starting point. Perhaps his life is too big to tell. Stone should have concentrated on just the death of his father, Phillip. Lots of unsolved intrigue and conspiracy there. On the plus side, Bucephalis is played by a beautiful Freesian, but I didn’t agree with his death in battle or like the omission of Alexander’s creation of a city named after his favorite steed. Alexander’s human side was killed by lousy acting. Who cast Colin? Barf. Jolie made a good crazy mom, but she’s what, four years older than Colin? They did nothing to ‘age’ her, such as grey hair, etc. and instead played up the Oedipus angle to the hilt. Cop-out. Rating: Not Recommended.

Sunday Mr. Right asked for the movie Insider as it was recommended for his ethics class. I could certainly see why, and strongly recommend this movie. Heck, it has Al Pachino, so right there it gets my endorsement! Fantastic movie. Really makes you want to be a whistle blower so you can be harassed the rest of your life and live in poverty (which may have happened anyway, it just compounded it further). Rating: Strongly Recommended.

Let me tell you in excruciating detail about my exciting trip to the Keys….

Flew out of O’Hare and the experience was unexpectedly pleasant. The American Airlines check-in was painless: a computer terminal guides you through the process and a clerk weighs your bags. Louise’s bag was overweight so we crammed some of her stuff into mine to avoid a $25 surcharge. I thought I over packed. Ha! (More on what all was brought later…)

This is the lamest new revenue source for the airlines, the imaginary Too Heavy Tax. First off, can you trust their scale? Secondly, as you will hear later, the whole luggage handling crew is a scam. Post-911 air travel was new to me, as I never go anywhere, and hadn’t done the whole Lockdown thing before. I remember the good old days when you could see someone off at the gate and be there when they arrived. Now you can’t use those cute little luggage locks because everything is opened and peered at. Great, I will now spend the whole fight terrified my bag will pop open and spew underwear all over the tarmac. The plane was about an hour late, but as this was not a connecting flight or some sort of business meeting, I wasn’t stressed about it. The staff was kind enough to seat us together and we ate some of my provisions on the way down.

As soon as we stepped off into the Miami terminal, things took a turn for the scary. The smell of mold assaults you immediately and our trip to the restroom was horrific. They haven’t remodeled or cleaned this airport since
Amelia Earhart’s visit. Heck, I think I saw her wreckage in that creepy restroom. We waited forever for our luggage while I took the opportunity to play “Spot the Drug Mule”. I was scared of the airport staff, and don’t even get me started on the patrons.

The weather was ok, not really warm, low sixties. They had a cold front move in right when I decide to visit, of course.

After waiting forever for a shuttle, we got to the car rental place and were soon armed with an inaccurate map and on our way south towards the Keys. And yes, the streets are filled with tons of traffic, mostly young men with cars that thump, bounce and have spinning wheels. I knew this. I did not need to see this.

Once underway, we passed the largest car dealerships imaginable*. Are they the only ones of Miami-Dade County? It looked as if everyone in the state bought there cars there, that’s the only way you could justify such monoliths. Is there some program whereby Cuban refugees are issued a new car upon arrival that I don’t know about? These dealerships were huge: four- or five-story high parking garages filled with vehicles. They had names like Planet Dodge. I think a few had their own zip codes. Several were right in a row, looking like Woodfield Mall. Spooky. Prediction: with the failure of Ford and the dominance of Wal-Mart, I think Wal-Mart will start selling discounted Fords, and when they can’t produce them cheap enough, they will switch to GM, etc. etc; down the line until Wal-Mart is the number one car seller in America – of Daewoo’s.

So we proceeded down a highway punctuated by Drive Safe signs that served as little highway memorials (crosses, flowers) and warnings about Crocodile Crossings. (There are saltwater crocs in the area, although the American Alligator is much more common and not endangered. Guess that’s why you don’t have to slow down for them.)

We saw some signs for a sandal outlet, which led me to question, what constitutes a ‘second’ in sandals? A flip-flop missing the little thing that wedges between the toes?

Arriving in Key Largo quite late, we were told by the staff of the
Hungry Pelican Hotel that they were overbooked and we had to be moved to a smaller room – one big bed, not two. At this point we were so tired, we really didn’t care. After seeing the room, I cared. Guide books lie!!

Now this was tiny. I could hold up my arms and touch fingertips to each wall. The mirror in the bathroom was so high, I could only see my eyes. Couple that with the fact it had not been painted or cleaned since Bogart was in the area, and I was getting downright unpleasant. After bumping into each other a few times and wrestling with the suitcases, we managed to shut the door. No worry about anyone breaking in, the luggage blocked the doorway. There was no phone in the room, so ‘road blog’ was out. Heck, there wasn’t a light bulb over 40 watts in the room, or a flat place to set anything down. Grumbling, I fell asleep quickly.

Tomorrow: What Continent Serves This for Breakfast?

Check this out! The fire happened the day we landed and was all over the news! Looks like the dealership ‘took care of it’. Can you say Conspiracy Theory?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

So Now You Know

Hi! I’m the adorably cute Key Deer! I’m almost extinct! Let me wander right up to your car and tell you why…

Well, I suppose the trip could have ended worse...

Back to Blog

Chickens everywhere.
Cats everywhere.
Dogs everywhere.
Kooky people everywhere.

Yes, I survived a trip to Key West.

(Motto: With New Orleans out of the way, we’re the strangest city by the sea!)

Too tired to type about it now, but suffice it to say it was an adventure. In germs. Salt water was the healthiest thing I touched for days, I’m sure. No road blogs, as I’m not even sure the internet reached Key Largo yet…well, it has, but when you haven’t renovated (or cleaned) your hotel since Bogart dropped by, it’s mighty hard to come by. Much like flushing toilets, plungers or window squeegees….

Anyhoo, more tomorrow when I recuperate!