Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Boat Parades

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Last Saturday was twelve-thirteen-fourteen.  It was also Santa Lucia day, the most delightful holiday of the year in Sweden.  It was also Libby's birthday.  It was also the day of the Boot Key Harbor Boat Parade.   We watched the parade onboard Carpe Diem with friends.

Many of you who live in colder climates have never seen, or perhaps even heard of a Christmas Boat Parade.  They are only held in those places warm enough to be out on the water in December.

Too many times I have tried and failed to get pictures or videos of boat parades.  Night photography from the deck of a boat doesn't work well.   Therefore, I collected some pictures and videos from around the country and the world for your enjoyment.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

In recent years I've become increasingly aware of the dual populations of land birds versus sea birds.

When we first moved onto the boat, it never occurred to me that we would be so cut off from the sights and sounds of song birds.   Nor had I ever stopped to think that no sea birds (as far as we know) are song birds.  Upon reflection, I suppose there is a reason.  In woods, separated birds can not see each other.  They need the songs to locate fellow members of their species.  Over the water, songs aren't needed nor are they effective.

I mostly miss the call of my favorite; the mourning dove.  Our friend Mari doesn't like mourning doves, but Libby and I do.  Hearing that sound in dawn's first hour is very soothing.

But on the boat, we see and hear only sea birds.  That not only applies on the ocean, but even on Lake Champlain.

My least favorite water bird is the duck.  They QUACK QUACK loudly all night long.  Frequently the quacking ruckus is due to duck rapes.  Did you know that rape is the only form of reproduction for ducks? When we witness it during the day, the violence is scary.  It is not uncommon for the female to drown in the attempt.

Osprey are the water birds we most admire.  Their skills at flying and fishing are truly awe inspiring.

But the ones most fun to watch are pelicans.   They look stately when sitting still on a post.  They patrol the sky flying formation in squadrons.   They dive bomb fish from above in startlingly swift attacks.  We've seen the dive attacks from above the surface and from below.  They are spectacular.  Unfortunately for the pelicans, the dives addle their brains.  Pelicans become "punch drunk" and die early because of the brain damage.

During our migrations, we have learned that certain spots are favorite hangouts for pelicans.  Year after year, there will be a flock of pelicans in exactly the same places.  Usually, the size of the flock is invariant, as well as the white/brown racial divide of pelican species.   We also see that even when whites and browns live alongside for many years, that it is true; birds of a feather flock together.

All the pictures below are best enjoyed by clicking on the picture to see it full screen.

In the long wide picture below, you can see about 6 brown pelicans on the left side.  Every year, the browns are on the left side. That flock lives near Amelia Island in northern Florida.

This flock lives near Matanzas Inlet

This island at the south end of Daytona Beach is always covered with pelicans.

CLose up of the island above

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

As I said here often, both Libby and I have excellent health.   One consequence of that is perhaps non-obvious; we learn about health issues late in life.   Libby's only allergy is pencillin. Until now, I never had any allergies.  At the doctor's office I always answer "none."

For the past year or two, I've been bothered by a runny nose every morning.   It comes and goes, but it doesn't go for long.   In the past 6 months, I've also been bothered by blurring and tearing that makes it impossible to read in the evening.   At this point, I'm sure many of you are slapping your foreheads, saying "Allergies idiot. Duh."   But my mind just didn't think along those lines.  It never occurred to me.

The epiphany happened this week when I came across a 4 year old bottle of anti-allergy eye drops in our medicine cabinet.   I put them in and found instant reliet.  AHA!

Next step is allergic to what?   Well, it seems to be something on the boat because I'm usually not bothered when ashore.  Without specific knowledge we need a broad brush approach.  

First we bought new hypoallergenic bed pillows.  Then new throw pillows.  Then we stripped all the covers on all the cushions and wash them.  We also aired out the foam rubber from the cushions.  Next was a spring cleaning of wooden surfaces with chlorine.   That is hard to do on a boat where all the cubbies are full of stuff.   Compare it to cleaning the upholstery in your car while speeding down the interstate with 4 people on board.

When the weather is nice enough, we leave the hatches and port windows open.

Now my nose and eye problems are much improved but not gone.    Next step will be to repaint the painted surfaces in the cabin with mildew resistant paint.

We would welcome any other suggestions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Room To Be Yourself

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL

The media image of computer dating is that finding a mate is all about discovering how compatible two people are.  The more interests they share, the better.   We married folks know different.  Successful living with someone else has more to do with tolerating incompatibilities.  I'll go so far as to say that it is impossible for two people to live together without irritating each other in numerous ways.

On a boat, with only 200 square feet of living space, the problem is the same qualitatively, but the magnitude is intensified.  Many couples are likely to say, "We could never do that."  They're probably right.  Finding three astronauts to fly a two year mission to Mars is going to be very difficult.

I observe that living in close quarters requires giving your mate extra generous room to be himself/herself.  That does not mean suffering/stewing in private as you keep your mouth shut, because pent up emotions eventually erupt (especially in close quarters).  It means being generous enough to be comfortable with your mate's idiosyncrasies without resentment.

Evidence suggests that Libby and I are pretty good at that.   Individually, we are no less annoying than anyone else.  But we get along really well; even in extremely close quarters.  

Having said that, if you find  an annoyance that is really persistent and will not go away, then you must bring it up.   I've learned from Libby to express my annoyance is the gentlest possible words when necessary.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Two Modest Proposals

[TLDR?  If so, skip to the bottom. Bullets 1) and 2) tell the meat of this essay.]

Like most Americans, I am very aware of the recent national controversies involving victims, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, and Trevor Martin.   I also believe that I am in the majority saying that I sympathize with the viewpoints of both sides.

Most recently I read the report about the Cleveland Police Department, and the accounts of the behavior of the Albuquerque NM Police Department.  Add to that the almost daily postings to seeming to show police abuse of power.  I am sorry to say that evidence of widespread and systematic abuse of police powers is now well documented.  What does that mean for us?

Very much of criminal law and court review has to do with the word "reasonable".  What would a reasonable person do in the same circumstances?   That brings us to cases involving confrontation between police and citizens.    Police have the right to use force, including deadly force, to execute arrests or to assure compliance with lawful orders.   Citizens too have the right to self defense.  Put those two rights together and the net result is explosive.  Indeed, I've never seen a public discussion attempting to balance these rights.   Among taboo subjects, this subject is taboo to the highest order.

We must be aware that the exposure and publicity resulting from these incidents affects people's perception of reality.  In court, only the facts matter; at least in theory.  But when judging "reasonableness" in a legal context, a persons perceptions (right or wrong) are what count.   To the extent that extensive publicity changes our perceptions, it changes the standards of reasonable behavior.

To be brief, let me condense this essay to the case of James Boyd in Albuquerque.   He was ordered to march down a steep hill, while three policemen aimed their weapons at him with the safeties off.  What should a reasonable man do in those circumstances?  Walking down a steep hill means that there is a high probability that you may make sudden involuntary movements with arms or legs to keep your balance.  Any such movement might be interpreted as resistance, justifying one of those police killing you.  The police would be unlikely to be deterred by the risk of accountability because if you are dead, only their version of events will be told.   In those circumstances is it "reasonable" to obey police orders or to attempt to flee or to defend yourself with whatever means are at your disposal, perhaps including deadly force?   How horrible that we must confront ourselves with such a question.

President Obama has ordered 50,000 body cameras.  Cameras should help, but 500,000 are needed,  plus huge budgets for managing the petabytes of newly created public video records.   Obama also called for more and better police training.  That also sounds good, but no such proposal in the past has affected substantial change.

In politics, I usually argue on the theoretical (ideological) side.  Today, I speak to the pragmatic side. It is horrible that we find ourselves in this state, but what can we do about it?   I have two modest proposals.  My son David first told me about the first.  The second is my own idea.  I am not repeating something I read on The Internet.

  1. Keep all police laws, rules, and existing protocols unchanged.  Just require that swat and riot police vehicles, clothing, and weapons, plus the firearms of all police,  are colored shocking pink.  Dave's idea is directed at the surges of adrenalin and testosterone that most certainly, influence police behavior.

  2. Keep all police laws, rules, and existing protocols unchanged.  Police must be able to protect themselves and the public.  Real life situations are too varied to predefine behaviors in written detailed rules.  I propose that use of deadly force should be a once-in-a-lifetime event for any policeman.   After any such incident, the policeman involved must be reassigned to duties that do not require carrying a weapon, nor would they be authorized to use a weapon officially ever again.  It would not be a demotion.  It should not result in reduced pay or promotion opportunities, nor should it carry a stigma.   I believe this proposal is a reasonable balance, between the needs and rights of police on the streets and the needs and rights of the public to protect itself against abuse of authority.