Category Archives: Tallahassee

What is Noise?

I know you’ve been dying to know.
The City of Tallahassee is trying to come up with an anti-noise ordinance. The real reason is that they have erected an amphitheater next to an old, very nice residential area. Dear Old, Very Nice Residential Area People: this will not help you, because that amphitheater has been designated a Special Entertainment Area and will essentially be exempt from the imaginary noise ordinance. So sorry.
But other noises are not protected. Think, driving down the street, the car next to you is blasting some genre of music which makes the whole car vibrate, while the driver bounces up and down so that the whole car bounces. Car dancing. And your windows are rattling too. Is that noise?
Here, for your edification, is the definition of noise: “Any erratic, intermittent, or statistically random sound which causes a disturbance”. Statistically random? What the hell does that mean?
Next question: What is a noise disturbance? “Any sound which disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensibilities and exceeds the sound limit level set forth in this division”. Division? What division? Apparently the sound limit level has something to do with decibels. But how many? For how long? Reasonable people? Normal sensibilities? Give me a break.
This ordinance is doomed.
Noise is like pornography. You know it when you see (hear) it.
The best protection against noise is being deaf. Or wearing earplugs.
But let me say that I’m opposed to noise, whatever it is. When I used to live in New Orleans, there was a bar across the street from me called Dot’s Peppermint Lounge. It was fine when they kept the doors closed, but in summer, they were so packed with people and had such a weak air conditioning system they would open the doors. then I would start calling the police. Eventually I just started calling Dot’s in person saying, close the doors or I’ll call the police. We developed a friendly relationship.
In that case though, I lived just outside the French Quarter, where there is a mixture of residential and commercial everywhere. I could have moved. Not easily, but I could have. So I get that.
By contrast, I now live in an area where despite our best efforts, they built a Walmart. Before that happened, I could sit in my back yard and commune with bats. I love bats, because they eat mosquitoes, but I also love them just because they’re bats. The noise from the construction of Walmart drove them away, and they’ve never returned.
I’m not all empty talk and whining . I participated last week in a meeting between my County Commissioner, the County Administrator, and the head of Planning, and some fellow environmentalist type people. Planning Guy and I got into a little bit of a snit. But when I talked about the bats, he took notes. When I said, this is a wildlife corridor you can’t disrupt, he took notes. When I said, if you disrupt the environmental protections in this area, then you will shoot yourself in the foot. Nobody will want to live on a dead lake. When I said, development has always been allowed here, and whatever future development you envision here, it should enhance the lake, not detract from it. He took notes.
Go me. Go Bats. And go Planning Guy.

Home Sweet Home

I just love where I live, which has not always been the case.  But over time, the things I appreciate about where I live have changed.  And I’ve lived in a lot of places.

Since 1996, I’ve lived in a house, as opposed to an apartment or a duplex (semi-detached if you’re in England or Canada, a double if you live in New Orleans).

I liked apartment/duplex living way back when.  You connect a lot more with your neighbors.  But as time has passed, I find I don’t want to have that much of a connection any more.  However, there is something about living in a house, especially if it’s in a suburb, that tends to isolate people. But it also gives you more privacy.

Let me contrast just two suburbs I’ve lived in.  For about a year, I lived in a suburb of West Palm Beach (Royal Palm Beach, which is about 12 miles from the beach, go figure).  I was thrilled. It was on a manmade lake.  Officially that means it was a borrow pit.  It was on the edge of the Everglades and in order to build there, they would dredge a big hole in the ground to pile up enough soil to build, leaving a lake (borrow pit).

It’s a despicable practice, but when I moved there, I didn’t know that.  The birds didn’t care, it seems.  If there was a water hole with fish and bugs in it, they didn’t much care how it got to be there.  In the back yard, I grew a tiny vegetable garden.  I had a plumeria bush in the back yard, a giant croton and some gardenias in the front, and on one side, a mango tree and a couple of tangerine trees.  This did not turn out to be such a blessing, since I eventually learned that rats love fruit.

I bought a lawn mower of my very own, and mowed my tiny postage stamp front yard myself.  (Trust me, this is relevant.)

Now this house was in a real subdivision with rules.  I didn’t know what those rules were and nobody bothered to inform me, so I picked up things here and there.  One rule I knew about early on was that if you had a work truck or van with a logo on the side, you weren’t permitted to park it in your driveway.  I guess the idea was to keep the neighborhood from looking like a blue-collar, white-trash sort of place.  It already was that kind of place, but they were making a valiant effort to hide it.

So one day in late winter I came home and there was a giant warning notice pasted to the door of the garage.  A “courtesy” notice from Code Enforcement.  It was too early to mow, but a few spindly weeds had sprouted that were apparently over 12″ in height (What?  You brought a tape measure?)  This is not permitted.  So I got a weed-eater and whipped those offensive little weeds into submission.

As an aside, I’m also reminded of my neighborhood in New Orleans.  I lived on a corner, and there was a rule that if you parked on the street (such as, right in front of your house), you had to park at least 8 feet from the corner.  How are you supposed to know that?  I learned it the way I almost always learn these rules, by breaking them.  I got a ticket, and had the same reaction I had to the lawn police.  You brought a tape measure?

Now contrast this to my  current neighborhood.  It too is a subdivision, but it’s one that time forgot.  It used to have rules too, but no one enforces them and we are all pretty laid back unless there is some blatant issue.  I cannot imagine anyone here calling code enforcement because you have three 12″ weeds.  Your trash container is still at the curb 24 hours after pickup?  Who cares!  As usual, I discovered one of the rules after breaking it.  “Fences may not extend past the back wall of the house”.  Really?  I don’t have a back door, only a side door, so I erected a fence around the side door so I could let the dog(s) out without having to put the dogs on a leash for the two foot walk to the back yard. However, no one has complained.  I just read the rules long after I put up the fence.

Several of us did complain when my next door neighbor left a burned out, wrecked, hulk of a car in his yard for months.  (“Vehicles may not be parked in yards and must be in the driveway or in a garage”. )  I also complained when the same neighbor left his three dogs outside rain or shine, with no shelter, food, or water.  Chained to trees.

So the occasion is that yesterday I took a short drive through the neighborhood to the liquor store.  Normally I leave that for Sundays, but I had a wine emergency.  The liquor store is about a half mile away via the backstreet, dog-leg method of travel.

One of the first things you’ll notice is the speed limit sign announcing that it’s 30 mph because it’s a residential area.   Or you might notice it if the wind is blowing just right, because the sign is completely obscured by a tree limb.  But speeding is not a problem here.  It’s a dead-end neighborhood.  Nobody is rushing to get anywhere from here, because there’s no Where there.

Just around the corner from my house, I have a neighbor who owns twin Sea-Doos, which he parks on the street in a nifty twin trailer.  Which takes up half the street.  I just burst out laughing.  One day I’m going to be tempted to knock on his door and say, You are so lucky not to live in Royal Palm Beach or New Orleans!  We’re in Tallahassee, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!


The New Baby Wheels


My new car–a 2012 Toyota Yaris.  Until Friday, I owned one that looked almost exactly like this.  The difference is that the “old” one (a 2010) had a manual transmission and only two doors.  Excuse me.  Three doors.  They count the hatchback as a “door”.  Don’t ask me.  But by that logic, the new one officially has five doors.  Also the new one has an automatic transmission.

I’ve been stressing out for the last week or so, because my rental car has to be returned on the 15th of February.  I’m wearing a pneumatic boot on my left leg, and have to keep wearing it until the 28th, when I have my next doctor’s appointment.  So what to do?  Extend the rental for another couple of weeks?  The problem with that was there is no guarantee I’ll be able to STOP wearing the boot then.  And I couldn’t drive my car with the boot on.  Or maybe even with the boot off.  I just don’t know, and the decision had to be made now.

The only logical thing to do was to trade in my car for one with an automatic transmission.  I was depressed about the idea.  I love driving manual transmission cars.  They’re more fun.  You feel as if you have more control, though that’s probably an illusion.  But this I’m fairly sure of:  you have to be more alert to drive a car with a manual transmission.  It’s much harder to “zone out” when you have to do more than just apply the brake or the accelerator.  But trust me, I didn’t waste too much time on being depressed about it.  When you have no choice, being sad about what you can’t do is just wasted emotion.

The perk was, I got four doors.  The thing that annoyed me to no end about the “old” Yaris is that you could only get into the back seat through the passenger side.  Not that I hardly ever used the back seat (in fact, maybe never) for actual people, but in my previous car, the Camaro, I was used to pulling the driver’s side seat back forward and tossing groceries in the back seat rather than putting them in the trunk.   With the “old” Yaris, I took to putting groceries in the passenger seat and floorboard.

And there were more perks.  My favorite is that you can operate the controls for the radio from the steering wheel. It has Bluetooth built in.  (I’m not sure yet whether I’ll use that. Probably not, while driving, unless I’m stopped when I answer it or make a call.)  It has electric locks and windows and side-view mirrors.  Here’s a funny fact:  this is the first time in my life, in 46 years of car ownership, that I’ve owned a car you can lock and unlock from the buttons on your key.  Fakename graduates to the 21st century.

Here’s another funny fact.  I bought my Camaro in 1995 after a major flood in New Orleans totalled the car before that.  During that flood, two Tulane students drowned in their Lexus when they drove under an overpass with standing water in the road.  What they didn’t know was that that water was 20 feet deep. (When they tell you, “Don’t drive into standing water”, you should pay attention.)  They had automatic everything, which immediately shorted out, so they couldn’t open the doors or the windows. Therefore, when I got the Camaro, I purposefully got manual everything so that I could open the doors and windows.  I guess I’m over it now.  Not to mention that it takes work to find a car without electric controls these days.

There are other perks.  For example, you could sit in the back seat without having to have both legs amputated to the knee first.  The seats are much more comfortable.  It has cruise control (I missed that from the Camaro).  And God forbid I should fail to mention that it has 9 airbags.  The salesperson was obsessed with that.

But here is the most important thing:  it’s really cute, and bright and shiny 🙂

I picked up the car on Friday the 8th, and here is another perk:  I got to enter a drawing for a 2 week vacation for two for anywhere in the U.S.  Airfare and hotel included.  If I win, I’m taking Fakesister.  Where you wanna go, Fakesister? I pick NYC.  The thing is, I have a lot better chance than usual, because you had to buy a car to enter, and I think the contest is only 10 days long.

I leave you with a photo of me (and my Kindle) at the dealership.  The salesperson took it when I was not expecting it, although frankly, no amount of preparation would have made me look any better that day. I refer to this as my “deer in the headlights” pose.


Fakesister, the Saint

She might dispute the title of Saint Fakesister, but shouldn’t.  When we parted on Saturday, I told her there were not enough words to thank her.  She told me just to get well…and there was one more thing I was supposed to do, but I forgot what it is already!

So maybe now I can come up with a few words, which will have a limited (but world-wide) audience.

I called her from St. George Island, and said, You know all those previous times you offered to come down and help me?  Well, this time, I really need you.  At first I thought I would have to go to Atlanta, but she said no, she would come here.  She lined up a hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn, and my friend Brenda and I were to meet her there around 1:00 P.M. on New Year’s Day. (Happy New Year to us, right?)

When Brenda and I pulled into the parking lot of the Hilton, we were behind an SUV which was towing a trailer.  Brenda said, “Could that be your sister?  Because I think that thing on the trailer (shrouded in a tarp) is a wheelchair.”

It was my sister, and it was a motorized wheelchair.  By a strange coincidence…and hold on here, it’s about to get messy…my sister’s husband’s sister’s husband’s mother had had it.  Told you that was messy.  The mother had passed away a couple of years ago, and the chair had sat unused in their garage or something.  So the chair has its own story

When they turned it on, it wouldn’t work, because the battery was dead, so Fakesister’s mechanically inclined husband, along with, I presume, his brother-in-law rigged it up to two lawnmower batteries, and it worked.

Fakesister also brought me a walker and a cane.  She let me stay with her in her hotel room for four days, and fed me.  She took my dog Pippin to my vet to board, after the poor little beast had to spend the night in her Dodge Durango.  It was New Year’s Day–no place was open, except the Animal Emergency Clinic, and they wouldn’t take him.  They said they might have made an exception–normally they don’t do “boarding”–but they didn’t have the kennel space.  Holidays are terrible for both animals and people–we eat things we shouldn’t and get sick, or we injure ourselves doing wilder and crazier things than usual in strange environments.

Then my sister took me to the orthopedic clinic, where she watched the process of my cast application with great interest, and offered moral support when I picked “glow in the dark” as my choice of cast color.  It was the only white color they had. Black was too gloomy.  All the others were colors I was pretty sure I would get sick of after only a week, much less six, which is how long I have to keep the cast on.  A little boy two tables down from me got a purple one on his arm.  I noticed he was wearing a purple T-shirt, which I guessed is one of his school colors.  How cute is that?

Then, my sister rented me a car–for six weeks.  She and her husband almost bought a car for me–which I would of course have returned when I no longer needed it–but the logistics of that were too overwhelming.  The doctor said I could drive, but not my own car which has a manual transmission.  It’s my left leg that’s broken, and I can’t operate a clutch.  When I bought this car in 2009, Fakesister said…get an automatic.  I hereby apologize for not following that advice–but the manual was $2000 cheaper.

When she got home, her husband had a giant vase of roses for her.  Now that is truly fabulous.

If all these things don’t qualify her for sainthood, then I don’t know the meaning of the word.  So, Fakesister, thank you.

Fakename Sees the Orthopedist

I went as soon as I could, on Wednesday January 2nd.  The first thing that happened was that I and the receptionist almost had to rumble.  To be specific, I was ready to come out of the wheelchair and go to the mat with this witch.  Plexiglas screen or not.  The issue was whether or not I had sufficient proof of insurance.  I said she could call to verify it, and she said she didn’t have time to call, but I could do it if I wanted to.  I said, “I won’t be calling, because I don’t think I should have to.”  She said, if it isn’t verified, I’ll have to put you in the computer as uninsured.  I said, “I don’t care how you put me in your computer.  It makes no difference to me.”   I was pretty sure that when the time came, SOMEBODY would verify that I had insurance.  Like when it was time to send out the bill.  I was, in a word, furious. This was not the way to start a new relationship.  The receptionists at my veterinary hospital are head and shoulders above this woman.

I grumbled all the way back to where my sister and I parked, and I said, “I am not accustomed to this kind of treatment”.  My sister said something along the lines of “What?  You expect them to behave like serfs?”  I was stung to the core.  NO!  I’m just accustomed to people being helpful.  Which one of us here has the broken leg?  I’ve been told no before.  Like no, I know it would be more comfortable for you to lie this way on the treatment table, but you can’t.  We need you to lie this other way.  Sorry.  I never had anyone tell me they didn’t have time.  If she doesn’t have time, she either needs help, or she needs a different job.

Very shortly I was called into the treatment room, which is a huge open area where many patients are in various stages of cast application or removal.  Fakesister said, “Oh my.  It’s an assembly line.”  Gulp.  I had heard this about Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic before, that it was an assembly line.  Impersonal.

But it turned out, it was merely efficient, and not at all impersonal. I saw a physician’s assistant and dutifully handed over my X-rays from the Apalachicola ER.  I had to have one more X-ray–a gravity X-ray.  You hang your foot over the end of a cushion.  If it droops more than it should, it means one of the ligaments is damaged too.  I was fine.

Now let me count the ways I was lucky.  The fibula fractured right between two ligaments which hold the bone together.  No matter what I did, I could not make the bone break “worse”.  I did not also break the tibia, which often happens when the break is that far down toward the ankle where the tibia and fibula are connected.  Not breaking the tibia is a major perk.  It’s the weight-bearing bone for your entire leg.

Small anatomy lesson here…and thanks to Fakesister for it.  You know your ankle has two “bumps” on either side?  The one on the inside of your ankle is the end of the tibia.  The one on the outside is the end of the fibula.

But thanks to my good fortune, I got a walking cast right away.  The PA said I could put as much weight on it as I could stand, which would not be much for the next several days.

I got to pick the color of my cast, so I picked the only shade of white they had, which also glows in the dark.  I almost lost my nerve when this resulted in grins from nearby patients and virtual smirks from the technicians.  Fakesister said to the techs, “I’ll bet you’re used to this choice from 11-year old boys, right?”  But she also said she loved it, so I pressed on.

Later that evening, Fakesister tried to take a picture of it with her iPad Mini, but it doesn’t give off enough light to take a picture of it in the dark.  She describes it as a “ghostly greenish glow”.  It’s pretty cool 🙂  I’m glad I stuck with it.

The guy who put the cast on said I might scare my pets with it.  Now that I’m back home with my cat (the dog is at the vet’s), she hasn’t been alarmed by the cast at all.  But she is ultra-scared of the walker.  As far as she’s concerned, it’s a WMD.

A Short Drive Around the Neighborhood

Which is pretty much the only kind of drive you can do around the neighborhood.  It’s pretty short itself, and dead ends.  There is actually more than one way in or out, but you kind of have to know that, otherwise you’ll be driving in an endless maze.  In some cases you will find yourself on a dead end dirt road, with big loose angry dogs and protective roosters at the end.  (Yes, this actually happened to me.) I was actually shocked.  There are dirt roads here?  I live a mile outside the city limits, for God’s sake.  How can there be dirt roads?

So take this little trip with me.  My street is about three blocks long.  So I went from my street to the next one, which is two blocks long, took a right, and then a left onto the “main” road into the neighborhood, and another three blocks to the convenience store at the corner of the main road and the real actual main road, Monroe Street, aka, U.S. Highway 27.  Yes.  I could have walked.

That little convenience store is also a Chevron station,  or primarily a Chevron station, which is a very popular destination, because it normally has the cheapest gas you can buy in Tallahassee.  Lucky me.  When I do buy gas (not often) I go there if I can.  Even I can occasionally be frugal.  The best investment I ever made was buying my current car.  I can go 50 miles on two gallons of gas.  I pretty much hate the car, except for that part.  But I digress.

The station/store is owned and mostly staffed by Africans.  By which, I do not mean African-Americans.  I no longer go there very often, but I’ve been a few times in the last year and never have seen my favorite convenience store clerk ever, whom I believe is from Nigeria.  He’s been studying to be an architect.  But he was there when I walked in today and we were both beaming.  He said, Where have you been?  I said, No, where have YOU been?  He said, in that formal English that immigrants use…I took some time off to concentrate on my studies, and I will graduate next month.  I said, I’ll come back before that month is over.  I’ll take him a present.  And I will find out his name, which sadly I’ve never done.  His circumstances remind me of the book House of Sand and Fog.  Which I hated.  Not because it isn’t a good book, but because it’s so gut-wrenching.

So now we leave the convenience store and travel three more blocks down the main highway to the liquor store.  (Yes, I could walk there too.) Normally I leave trips to the liquor store until Sunday, but I had a wine emergency.  So I walk in the store, and there are two clerks, one ancient guy and a very young woman.  They’re listening to the FSU/Florida game on the radio.  I said, So how are we doing?  The ancient guy says, well it just started and Florida has the ball.  The girl says, I thought you were talking to me.

I love these little random encounters.  Many people hate them and feel invaded by them.  Like, could I just go buy gas and wine and be done with it?  I had a whole conversation once with a guy who saw the book in the bottom of my grocery basket.  (I always take a book, in case I have to wait in line.) And with a different guy in the grocery store while wearing my little clip-on sunglasses that you can flip up.  He said, did you know those were invented by baseball players?

Now, on our short drive, we leave the liquor store and turn left.  We go three blocks and turn onto Cangrove Street, which I can never remember the name of after 12 years in this neighborhood.  I always want to call it Canberra Street.  From Canberrra, we jig left and then right.  We try to time it just right, because you can’t see around the corners.  There are way too many trees and shrubs around here.

And then we are home.  Having made a little tiny circle around the neighborhood.


Politics According to Fakename

First, Florida.  Do you think we could learn to hold an election here?  Palm Beach County, the largest in the state and home of the infamous butterfly ballot and hanging chads from the 2000 election, still hasn’t finished counting its votes.  Not that it really matters.  Obama won, and Romney has now conceded Florida, so let’s just get it over with, shall we?

On Thursday, two days after the election, Miami-Dade County finished counting its votes.  They blamed the delay on the number of “provisional” and “absentee” ballots they had to count.  So says the Supervisor of Elections for that county, who followed it up by saying, “Still, am I embarassed?  Yes.”  That was entirely refreshing.

Okay, due to Hurricane Sandy, many people in New York and New Jersey had to vote using provisional ballots (for my non-U.S. friends, this means you are voting in a different place from where you are assigned.  An absentee ballot is one you mailed in rather than appearing in person).  On election day, some people in New York and New Jersey were voting in tents, by flashlight.  And they called it.  So why hasn’t Florida been able to get it together?  There is a simple answer to that:  because it wasn’t as close in New York as it is in Florida.  It’s dangerous to jump to conclusions.  Once it got to a certain level in New York, the rest of the ballots were essentially unnecessary.  It isn’t whether Obama won, it’s by how much.  Not so in Florida, where we are a tidy microcosm of a divided country.

Much has been made of the fact that this year the Republican Legislature reduced the number of days you could vote early from 14 to 8.  Early used to mean two weeks before election day, which was November 6th.  And indeed, I’d say it caused problems.  Long lines for early voting.  I personally waited in line about 45 minutes, which is nothing compared to people who waited in line for 5 or 6 hours.  However, again, it’s dangerous to jump to conclusions.

Bill Cotterell, the now-retired political reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat, occasionally writes guest columns.  He pointed out the following facts:  We’ve known the number of days were going to be reduced for almost a year.  While the number of days were reduced, the number of hours were not.  The polls were open for 96 hours in both scenarios.  (Not really a good argument in my view, but it is a point.) 

Yesterday, political writer Paul Flemming had an article in the newspaper headlined “Lord have mercy, Florida voters are sane”.  He is referring to the 11 Constitutional Amendments put on the ballot by the (Republican) state Legislature.  Only three were approved, and they had to do with tax relief for wounded veterans. low-income seniors, and the surviving spouses of veterans and first responders.  As for the rest, Flemming says Florida repudiated the “cynical shenanigans of the Legislature”.  He was surprised.  Me too.  But happily.

Also in yesterday’s newspaper, I learned there is a serious movement afoot to amend the U.S. Constitution to overrule the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  I think this will work.

And now for the Presidential election.  There is an amazing amount of hand-wringing and tooth-gnashing going on in the Republican Party.  Why did we lose?  Also in yesterday’s newspaper there was an editorial by Michael Reagan, son of the late former President Ronald Reagan.  Essentially he argues that Republicans today are not “real” conservatives like his father (well,that’s an arguable point), and that the campaign was a mess and focused on the wrong things (okay, no argument there).

One of the things he said was this:  “First they tore each other to shreds in a bitter primary, smearing their eventual nominee in debates as a rich, uncaring profiteer who put working people out on the street and shipped their jobs overseas”.  Well….?

He more or less concludes with this comment:  “But give credit to Obama’s Chicago Gang.  They ran a much better campaign–on the ground and in the air.  They got out his message of class envy and federal entitlements for all, without any trouble from his toadies in the media [more about toadies in a minute].

Now bigger deficits, higher taxes, and a stagnant economy lie ahead for as far as the eye can see.  And socialized medicine–which my father warned was coming to America 50 years ago–is going to soon become a reality via Obamacare.”

Um, no Michael, that’s not quite right.  Here’s what the deal is: we are breaking up with the Republican Party.  You know that awkward moment when you break up with someone, and you say, “It isn’t you, it’s me”?    In this case, it’s you.

What kept puzzling me throughout the election process was how certain conservatives were that they would win.  I just couldn’t see it,and thought they were wrong.  But I wasn’t certain.  Part of it is the tendency of the media to imply that all points of view are equivalent.  So fringe ideas get airtime or column space, and you never have a real feel for how many people actually agree or believe in ideas other than your own.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It forces you to come to an independent decision. But therefore, I really had no certainty of how the election would go, just an impression.

But there is a group of people who are married to the idea of only listening to other people who agree with them.  The people who invented the term “Mainstream Media”.  And now we are back to toadies.  The media people whose main goal was to keep their watchers/readers happy so they would keep coming back.   I leave you with this incredible article from The Atlantic.

Go Pink!

It’s that time of year again–October, which is breast cancer awareness month.  So I get to experience, once again, my ambivalence toward the whole Pink Stuff issue.  Like, aren’t we “aware” enough already?  Why must they keep beating us over the head with it?  Plus, there are so many other cancers which don’t get nearly the same amount of attention, but are equally deserving of attention and research money.  And not to mention other diseases, like CFIDS, which don’t even rate in terms of money and publicity.  This makes me cringe.

But, I kind of understand it.  Because it was not that long ago that it was impolite to mention the word “breast” or the word “cancer” in public, and the two together were like unthinkable.

But I think I know why and how that changed.  It was the book Our Bodies, Ourselves.  First published in 1971.  It’s now in its 9th edition (published in 2011) and its focus has changed somewhat.  In 1971, it was revolutionary, and was open warfare on doctors by women.

At that time, the standard of care for a diagnosis of breast cancer was radical mastectomy:  removal of the breast, the muscles of the chest wall underneath that breast  and most of the lymph nodes under the arm.  This was a case where the treatment was nearly as bad as the disease.

And even then it seems, the state of knowledge was that that probably wasn’t necessary.  But the authors of the book said, practicing doctors (who were mostly men) don’t really care.  After all, it’s only women, so who cares?  The whole point of the book really was for women to advocate for themselves and to stop buying everything doctors told them.  They succeeded.

Which falls into the category of “Be careful what you wish for”.  For the most part though, it worked.  The standard of care now is:  radical mastectomies are never done at all.  And a “modified” radical is: remove all the above except the muscles of the chest wall.  And it is now the last choice, not the first.  The downside is that women who may actually need that are more reluctant to do so.  Plus you get Pink Overload every October.

And yet.  I have relaxed a bit about the issue now.  Even if breast cancer hogs all the attention and a lot of the money, a rising tide lifts all boats.

This month, the local newspaper is sponsoring Go Pink!  An awareness effort that other cities are apparently participating in also.  It kicked off on Thursday, October 4th.  That day, driving to work, pink was everywhere. I have never seen an entire city do something like this.  Eventually I had to suspend my embarassment and cynicism about it, and just be amazed.  It made me cry.  A rising tide lifts all boats.

A pictorial history:

 From my drive into work.  The FastSigns store next door to the T-Mobile store.

The pink Poinsettias at Publix Grocery.

The next photos are from the newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat.

Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

The (Tallahassee) Leon County Courthouse.

The State Capitol.

Fakename’s Animal Planet: Domestic Version

Squirrels:  My last post was about a guy who is shooting squirrels in his back yard.  I have mixed feelings about squirrels.  They annoy me, but I have to tip my hat to their cleverness and persistence and comic antics.  I reluctantly admit that my world would be poorer without squirrels.  Once when there was a tropical storm, the wind was so strong that it blew them out of the trees.  I didn’t see a squirrel for a week.  And I missed them.  (You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone.)  I would never shoot them, even if I were in an area where it was safe.  I don’t believe in killing animals you don’t eat.  Oh wait, I forgot.  People here do eat them.

Cats:  At least at night, the weather here is cooling off, and that energizes cats.  Don’t ask me why.  I’m sure there must be some scientific explanation.  But the cat is whizzing around.  That just amazes me, since she is fat as a pig.  Somehow she works up the energy to whiz.  That’s bad for me.  She leaps off the back of the couch and grabs onto me on her journey…somewhere.  I get more puncture wounds than usual.  Plus, I completely cannot empathize.  I’m getting ready to hibernate.

Dogs:  It’s been a real adjustment for me to get used to the fact that I now only have one dog and one cat.  The last time that was the case was 1998.  So I now know for sure that that is a bad idea when it concerns dogs.  (Cats are different.)  But single dogs develop an exaggerated sense of their importance.  Not that they are entirely wrong.  My now Only Dog Pippin is like the winner of the TV reality show Survivor.  Their motto is Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.  And he thinks he has done that.  Well, no, Pippin.  The only part you got right was Outlast.

And in Pippin’s defense, he is still having trouble eating, because mealtimes do not proceed in the previously normal fashion.  He is having trouble adjusting too.  He just can’t talk about it.  So I feel bad for him.

But in many other ways, Pippin is still the same guy he always was.  He does regular perimeter patrols and is alert to all suspicious noises. (It could be a squirrel fight, it could be an unauthorized person riding a bike down the street.)

He is very protective, at least until he is personally threatened, then I figure he would climb a tree and ask the squirrels if he could hide in their nests.

Neighbor dogs:  I have for many years been the friend and protector of my neighbor dogs Shaka (a purebred Rottweiler), and Sugar and Spice (indeterminate breeds, but look like Golden Retriever mixes.)  And now they have disappeared.  I don’t know what happened to them.  I don’t dare ask the neighbors.  They already think I’m the Wicked Witch of the West.

To them, I’m like the guy who keeps shooting squirrels in the yard.  Annoying, but you can’t get rid of me.  I reported them to Animal Control twice, and Animal Control took it from there.  They seized the dogs 3 times.  So did they do it again?  I don’t know.  But I miss them terribly.

Only in Florida (Or Maybe Not)

Due to our friends, the NRA (with special thanks to Marion Hammer), last year the Florida legislature enacted a statute saying that all gun laws are the province of the State.  Any counties or cities which had their own ordinances were required to repeal them and were prohibited from enacting any others.

So an interesting development has taken place.  In the Meadow Hills neighborhood in Tallahassee, a guy named Lear is complaining about one of his neighbors, Cowart.  Cowart is shooting squirrels in his back yard with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot.  Lear says this is dangerous.  Cowart says he only shoots squirrels on the ground, not in the trees.  Lear and other neighbors dispute this, and say they are finding buckshot in their yards.  It used to be illegal to shoot a firearm in residential areas here, but no longer.   A slight oversight on the part of the State legislature.

So this year, the Florida legislature enacted an amendment to the statute, saying it’s illegal to “recklessly or negligently discharge a firearm on any property used as a dwelling”.  When that happened, Lear complained again.  And you can guess what happened.  Nobody knows what “reckless” or “negligent” means.  For the most part Lear is complaining to the wrong people.  He’s complaining to local authorities.  He did get one thing right.  He complained (filed an affadavit) with the State Attorney’s office.  You are always better off to ask a State law enforcement agency to enforce a State law.

For instance, murder is a State law.  Local authorities are allowed to investigate and arrest suspected murderers.  But only the State can charge and prosecute them.  People, for the most part, do not understand how government works.

The State Attorney cited a State law that it is legal for people to shoot nuisance, fur-bearing animals which cause damage to private property.  And Cowart says the squirrels are eating his wiring.  (I wonder if anybody proved that?) So Lear lost again.  For now.  He needs to get to the right people with his concerns (the legislature).  And just in case you think Lear is some kind of pacifist squirrel-hugger kind of guy, he is a Navy veteran and a member of the NRA himself.

Which brings me to the NRA (again).  I hate them.  If they had a lick of sense, as we say in the South, they would support reasonable gun-control measures.  Instead, they have been hijacked by the all-or-nothing people.  ANY gun control or registration is like the promise of some future Armageddon.  They oppose all efforts to regulate guns, and operate on the Slippery Slope Theory. “When you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns”.  What about the concept of trying to keep guns out of the hands of outlaws?  Granted, that will be imperfect, but it would help.

I decidedly don’t hate gun owners, or hunters. or hunting, or personal protection with guns.  The people I know who own guns are fanatics about safety and aren’t fanatics about regulation, and are members of the NRA.  They would NEVER shoot squirrels in their neighborhoods.

The NRA is in a perfect position to advise and help construct reasonable gun control regulations.  Instead, their position is that no such laws are acceptable.  (See:  Slippery Slope.)  Somebody needs to stage a coup.  What we need is a regime change at the NRA.