June 23, 2009

Sad Day for Democracy in Hillsborough County

While many of us are still reeling from the epic mishandling of the past election by Buddy Johnson here in the Tampa Bay area, we have suffered another critical blow. Our recently elected Supervisor of Elections, Mrs. Phyllis Busansky, has passed away while at a conference in St. Augustine, FL. See story HERE.

First, I'd like to offer our collective condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues, and wish that all goes smoothly for you while you prepare for the future. She will be missed by many as a friend and certainly as a fierce politician who had a plan to turn around the poorly handled Office of the Supervisor of Elections.

So what comes now you ask? Admittedly, not an hour ago, I wasn't even quite sure of the answer to that question, but thanks to Joe, I am now.

Pam Iorio (D) was the Supervisor of Elections until she won the mayoral race, leaving the SoE position vacant. In this case, it falls to the Governor of Florida (then Jeb Bush (R)) to appoint a replacement. That replacement was Buddy Johnson (R).

Over Buddy Johnson's tenure as SoE, numerous reports were filed outlining the mishandling of the office, including the loss of a considerable sum of money, and federal assistance was requested to cover the deficit. In addition, there were a number of business ventures and real estate dealings that seemed to be less than honest and properly done. See story HERE.

So now, this appointment falls to our current Governor, Charlie Crist (R). I applauded Crist's handling of the Election in the State of Florida, by extending Early Vote hours due to overwhelming response, even though some Conservative camps urged him not to do so. It was an example of putting partisan politics aside and being a good Governor.

However, Crist, despite his good deeds, is still heavily influenced by the GOP, and may be more inclined to appoint another Republican to this position, despite the majority of Hillsborough county favoring Democrats in this past election.

The question remains, with the GOP's tarnished brand of politics, would he dare do such a thing? And what would the benefit be to the GOP in Florida and beyond? Would he risk backlash from the Florida and Hillsborough Democrats? I guess only time will tell.

Posted by Aaron Butts | June 23, 2009 in Current Affairs, Florida, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2009

How to replace a section of screen on a pool enclosure

PoolScreen We've been in our house for 4 years and had recently noticed that some of the screen around the lanai and pool area had started to rip. I searched the web for instructions or pics about how to replace a pool screen, but found nothing. It's not a difficult task, but it did take a little experimentation to figure it out. So in hopes of making this process a little easier for someone else, I've posted pics and instructions on this Flickr stream.

We bought the supplies at Lowe's: a 25 foot roll of screen material, a Pool Screen Tool (spline roller), and a package of spline. The screen material comes in different sizes, different color shades, and with different size openings. It's therefore helpful to snip a little piece of screen from the existing enclosure and bring it along to the store. I'm sure someone who does this for a living would have a section of screen replaced in about 15 minutes; it took me about an hour :)

Posted by Joe Litton | January 4, 2009 in Florida, House | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 07, 2008

Outdoor lights, wreath installed - dip in pool to cool off

PeaceWreath Yesterday I donned t-shirt and shorts, slathered on the sunscreen, and went outside for my annual killer workout of putting up the Christmas lights. You see, we've got a tall peak above the garage. This means that I position the ladder, climb up, put ONE clip for the lights at one location, climb down, adjust the height of the ladder and move it and repeat the process. A lot. And climb up on the roof a couple of times, and try to censor my language as I inevitably break little clips or drop things or whatever ...don't want parents to worry too much about their kids hearing naughty words :)

Oh, and I've been doing this insane pushup workout for months, so my shoulders are always feeling abused, so moving that rather unwieldy ladder is a treat. But the result is worth it. And this year the last thing to do was to grab the hammer drill and mount the 4-foot diameter peace wreath that Shirley made. Very, very cool (click the thumbnail image for a better view). She use flexible water tubing and PVC for the framework, wired on the faux flowers and lights for the wreath itself, and painted a map of the world on some blue nylon and fastened that as a background. She's amazing.

DecPool This being Florida, I was in need of cooling off after a couple of hours of working in the sun, so I had to take a dip in the pool. Even though it was around 80F (27C), and the sun was quite warm, and this is Florida, there's still a part of my brain that has a hard time grasping the thought of jumping in a swimming pool in December. When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, this would have been when I'd have hoped to be skiing in the mountains :)

I'll see if I can snap a pic of the lights after nightfall this evening.

Posted by Joe Litton | December 7, 2008 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 23, 2008

Grill and beer

Chicken Mmmmm... warm Florida evening, a cold beer, and grilling up some chicken ...It'd be a perfect evening ...if I didn't have to log back on and work more after dinner. oh well ...it's a real nice sanity break anyway :)

Posted by Joe Litton | May 23, 2008 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2008

Ah...May is the perfect time in Tampa

MaylanaiHere's the view this evening around 7pm, kicked back by the pool, enjoying a beer while dinner is grilling. It was about 80F (27C) ...and I can tell I am totally acclimated to Florida, because it wasn't warm enough to be wearing shorts. Flip-flops and t-shirt OK, but had to wear jeans. It'll be warmer in a month :)

If you click the little thumbnail image you'll get a better view of the back-yard gardening. Almost all of the lawn is now removed, replaced with drought tolerant, Florida-friendly plants. Less water needed, less fertilizer, more scenic, more hummingbirds and butterflies (and snakes ...oh well :) ...quite relaxing to look at.

Posted by Joe Litton | May 2, 2008 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (4)

November 11, 2007

More bamboo removed - more to go

Oy! This bamboo takes a while to dig up! We're past the halfway point, but that is one bugger of a plant to remove. Today we made it a few feet into it and I broke our old shovel. The good news - I guess - is that I got to pop over to Lowes and buy one truly awesome shovel. Completely steel and made with a much more reasonable design. And that baby is my new friend. But after thinking we'd finish the job today, I'm now thinking that maybe - maybe - if we do a little each evening this week and several hours on the weekend, then we ought to be able to get that bad boy DONE by this time next week. ...and then it's on to planting whatever we decide to use for our new plant screen. I do believe it's time for a glass of wine :)

Posted by Joe Litton | November 11, 2007 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (4)

October 02, 2007

Gator after chomping bird in pond at work

GatorHere's a pic of the gator I saw when I was leaving for lunch today (click the thumbnail image to see the larger pic). When I saw him he had just chomped one of those big black birds that sit near the water's edge with their wings fanned out. Another two chomps and the bird was gone. It's not the greatest pic (taken rather quickly with the BlackBerry from the car ...but you can make out the gator.

So there is the illustration of why one should not stroll too close to the water in Florida. I saw a gator in one of the other ponds at our building a year or two ago, and another gent told me he had seen one crossing the road a while back. It's rather odd to see such an ancient species in the midst of our 'modern' culture!

Posted by Joe Litton | October 2, 2007 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 28, 2007

Hurricane prep: securing pool cage

PoollbracketAround this time of year in Florida (the June through November hurricane season), Shirley and I try to do something each week to increase our level of preparedness. Many months ago, we applied for a free home inspection through the My Safe Florida Home program, and we finally did get the inspection. In general, we're in pretty good shape (we've already installed tracks for metal storm panels to cover all doors and windows, done a lot of caulking around windows and other penetrations in the exterior wall, laid in spare supplies, etc.) One thing the gent did mention (off the record) while doing the inspection was that he used to install pool cages -- for those outside of Florida, that refers to a screened enclosure over the pool area to keep debris and bugs out. He suggested a couple of reinforcements for us to add. The first pic here (click on the thumbnail to see larger image) shows the small "L" brackets we've now installed at the bottom of each vertical post. We used a hammer drill to drill a couple of holes down into the concrete decking to then fasten the bracket with tapcon screws, and we fastened to the vertical post with sheet metal screws. I don't know just how much this will help in a true hurricane, but the parts were inexpensive and it only took an hour to install all the brackets.

Poolsidecable The other suggestion the gent offered was for us to add some cables down the sides of the pool cage. We installed some extra cables along the back of the pool cage last year, and Volker had suggested that we might want to add some cables in other directions as well. So now, a year later, we're doing that. Shirley knew a fellow at a place she used to work, and through his side business (installing pool cages) we had purchased several sets of brackets, cables, and screws. The triangle bracket attaches at the top with 10 or so sheet metal screws, and the cable is strung to a metal strip at the bottom which attaches to the side of the pool's concrete base -- again using the hammer drill (a wonderful tool!) to bore the holes, and tapcon screws to fasten into the concrete.

There's still plenty more we can do, but we're getting there -- a little at a time, we get there :)

Posted by Joe Litton | August 28, 2007 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 30, 2007

Backyard full moon

Posted by Joe Litton | July 30, 2007 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 26, 2007

Saved a bundle on my insurance

Florida insurance sucks. No two ways about it really. Before moving down here a few years ago, we'd read many times that the cost of living is lower in Florida compared to the Pacific Northwest from whence we came. Not true. WAGES are less, but cost of living is more ...and increasing. When we first moved into our house, we paid $800 for a year of homeowner insurance. Just over two years later, we received a notice this past April that our rate was increasing (again) and we would now be paying $2,986 per year.

Fortunately, someone at work mentioned that State Farm was again writing policies in Florida. The restriction was that the home has to be newer (my guess is to have been built to the newer building codes), and that the home has to be at least 500 feet from water (I think that was the scoop ...in any case, we meet both of those requirements, whether they are real or not). So I looked online and sent an email to our local State Farm rep -- who, it turns out, lives in our neighborhood.

Bottom line: we will save $181 per MONTH on our homeowner and auto insurance by switching to State Farm. I signed the papers today, and have contacted our other insurance carriers and the mortgage company.

We'd been paying Universal Insurance Company of North America $2,986 for a year of homeowner insurance, and had been paying Progressive $3,324 per year to insure our cars (Shirley's, Ben's, and mine ...all are 10 years or more old, so none has collision coverage). With State Farm, for slightly better coverage, we will be paying $1,723 per year for homeowner coverage, and $2,413 per year for auto insurance. That's an annual savings of $2,174!!! $181 per month. Wow. I knew something was messed up when we'd gotten notice from Universal earlier in the year about a huge rate increase. We are outside of all evacuation zones. We have metal storm panels to cover all windows and doors. We have a fire hydrant one house over, monitored fire and burglar alarm, newer home, no dogs, etc., etc. We are a good risk. Yet a huge (I think it was 30%) increase, when the news was touting the law changes that should reduce premiums.

It pays to shop around.

Posted by Joe Litton | June 26, 2007 in Florida | Permalink | Comments (1)