Turtles In Florida

Turtle

I understand that May is the month when giant sea turtles crawl up on the beaches in Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, to lay their eggs.

This is NOT one of the giant sea turtles. She’s several miles inland from the Gulf, and lives in fresh water, not salt. But she’s the largest turtle I’ve ever seen. I’d guess the shell is about a foot long from front to back, and adding the head would make it perhaps 14 inches in length. Just guessing. She probably qualifies as a North American terrapin. They live in fresh or brackish water.

She crawled from the swamp behind my apartment during the first week in May and climbed to the top of the steep hill to lay her eggs under the big tree just beyond my patio fence. She was digging a hole with her hind legs as I watched. Of course, I was careful not to approach or frighten her, but she seemed to take no notice of me.

I’m thinking this is one very old terrapin, perhaps ancient. She looks old, anyway. Her shell seems to be covered with who knows what, perhaps collected over a period of years. And something green is growing on the front edge of the shell and on top of her head. The green stuff appears to be right over where her eye would be, perhaps blocking her sight.

Life goes on.

I’ve spotted several similar turtles of various sizes sunning on a log in the water at the bottom of the hill this spring. But the turtles on the log startle at my slightest movement or sound from way up the hill, and slip quickly into the safety of the water. This one seemed intent only on digging a hole for her eggs, and not inclined to be aware or afraid of anything.

I wonder why she selected this spot? Is it possible she was born at this very place, many years ago?

The turtle was gone when I returned about an hour later. I hope her eggs are safely buried. In due time, if all goes according to plan, a bunch of little turtles will hatch and scurry down the hill to the relative safety of the swamp. I know they will be easy prey for the many ducks and other waterfowl in the neighborhood. I hope at least a few survive.

The largest turtle I ever saw in Maryland was perhaps half this size. Except for the terrapin statue in front of the library at the University of Maryland, where the athletic teams are nicknamed the Terps. I suspect there may be large terrapins I’ve never seen living in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

And that is everything I know about turtles. Everything.

— John

Turtle2

Signs Of Alligators In Florida

Gator

In Florida, you might see a sign mentioning alligators in the neighborhood. Believe it. Any neighborhood with a pond or a swamp. In Florida, you’re usually within walking distance of a pond or swamp. Walking distance, even if you have short, stumpy legs like an alligator. I hear they can run fast, but I’ve never seen it. They usually don’t stroll too far from water’s edge. And the few I’ve seen appear quite timid and ready to slither back into the slime from which they came.

Good iPhone photo of the sign, not so good of the alligator, who I believe is a juvenile. Not very big. He/she/it lives in the swamp about 25 yards down the hill behind my apartment. A stout little wood fence separates my patio from the hill. Now why would anyone want to block that lovely view with a three-foot fence? Or a sign?

Gator2

iPhone photo quality does not improve when you zoom in. But with alligators, zooming is better than trying a closeup, IMO. I’ve got to get my real camera working. He/she/it seems to live in mouth-wide-open mode. For what it’s worth.

— John

Gas Prices In Florida Continue Down

gray industrial machine during golden hour

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Gasoline selling as low as $1.93 and $1.91 in my part of Florida on Friday. It’s less than a week since gas prices broke the $2 barrier. Welcome to a strange New Year.

Most stations in my area, north of Tampa-St. Pete and near the southern edge of the Nature Coast, are attempting to hold the gas price line at about $1.94. The ground in Florida is sandy, so you can consider that a line in the sand. A line that’s already been crossed. If gas prices break below $1.90 a gallon next week, will it become a price rout? Probably not.

Today I also noticed that one gas station in my neighborhood has closed since Christmas. Closed for renovation or reconstruction? Or closed for good? Or would that be, more accurately, closed for bad?

With both Ford and General Motors going out of the car business, I wonder how many dealerships will close or consolidate this year and next? How many autoworkers will be laid off? For the record, the companies will continue making a few old-fashioned cars, such as the Ford Mustang. And Ford and Chevy will remain very much open for business. But not Buick. Not sure about Cadillac.

American automakers are simply giving up on sedans and focusing on SUVs and trucks, which remain popular and profitable. American automakers are surrendering to Japanese and Korean automakers. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler can’t compete, or don’t have the will to compete.

Are falling gas prices and rising popularity of large SUVs and trucks mutually reinforcing trends?

With large parts of the U.S. government closed on purpose by U.S. “leaders” and many Federal workers no longer being paid, with automakers and gasoline industries closing facilities and laying off workers, and the stock market . . .

I can’t finish the above sentence. My mind is unable to grasp the implications.

Where is the bottom?

— John Hayden

Gas Prices In Florida Last Day Of 2018

The going rate for regular gasoline in my part of Florida was $1.96 a gallon yesterday, Dec. 30, the penultimate day of 2018. And the temperature today, New Year’s Eve, 80 degrees, bright sunshine, delightful. Cheap gas, sunshine, just another day in paradise. Lest you become too envious, New Year’s Day will be only about 76 degrees, followed by a week or more of moderate or falling temperatures.

Seven-Eleven, WaWa, branded stations, all $1.96. A few holdouts were trying for $1.97 or $1.98; probably didn’t have an employee available to change the price.

(Explanation: The average gas station is fully automated. One human cashier for the impoverished or simply backward customers who don’t have credit or debit cards. The convenience stores have two or three other workers, but they’re making coffee or fast food. They have nothing to do with the gasoline pumps. So what’s the  point? Automation and resulting human unemployment is one reason the price of gas is what it is.)

Then late yesterday evening, I saw a $1.94 !! sign at a Citgo station! And, I spotted a lone Sunoco station still stuck at $2.01. Maybe that station is closed? Maybe it’s been abandoned?

Let the record show that all gas prices have that nine-tenths of one cent tacked on at the end. It’s a strange and antiquated marketing custom of the gasoline business. Bamboozling the customer out of an extra nine-tenths of a penny? People have long internalized the ploy. The extra nine-tenths cent has been on gas station signs since at least my childhood, and that’s more than a half-century ago. So, for the unsuspecting reader from some faraway land, such as Antarctica or Pluto, let it be clear. Yesterday’s $1.96 gas was really a fraction of a penny less than $1.97. And who cares?

Who knows what the price is today, the final day of 2018? Not me. I haven’t been out yet, but I’ll update this post later. It’s probably lower. Since about Christmas, the price of gas has been falling about a penny a day. At this rate, we’ll have $1.50 gas by spring. That is, $1.50 gas, BUT ONLY IF prices go in a straight line. Few trends ever follow a straight line. But you knew that.

Will the stock market follow gas prices? Despite the ceremonial wailing and gnashing of teeth by the wealthy class, who tend to be more emotional about money than, say, poor people, there remains a whole lot of profit available for the taking in the stock market when it reopens on Jan. 2, 2019.

All the profit that was in the stock market on the first day of 2018 is STILL THERE.  Everything that happened in 2018 was fluctuation. Up-up-up, and, down-down-down. Turn around, and repeat. Other words, 2018 was a wash, a big NOTHING. The test is yet to come.

So stock market 2019? Can you say profit-taking? Maybe. Or maybe, more inflation of the bubble? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, who wants to bet that the price of gas will be lower on the first day of 2019 than the final day of 2018? I predict gas will hit $1.90, at least, before it goes back up. But my predictions are worth not even nine-tenths of one penny.

Happy New Year to all, whatever it may bring,

— John

 

Gas Prices In Florida

Gas 1.99

GAS PRICE $1.99 FOR REGULAR IN FLORIDA

Gasoline has broken through the $2 barrier in my part of Florida. The photo was taken late this afternoon, Dec. 27, 2018, a little bit north of Tampa-St. Pete, and not far from the southern edge of the Nature Coast. I doubt that such a low price can be found in any of Florida’s largest cities. And definitely not in the cities of the Northeast or California. Just my guess.

So what does it mean?

Is it a harbinger of general economic meltdown? Could be, but I doubt it.

Will prices remain so low? Probably not, but in this crazy time, who can say?

Will the stock market follow the gas price? Don’t know, don’t care. Don’t own any stocks. Or bonds. Let the buyer beware. I just made that up. You can write it down.

What to do?

Fill up now. Remain calm and enjoy driving while it lasts. Probably not a sign from heaven that you should rush out and buy an SUV with a V8 engine. Just saying.

Gas prices will undoubtedly rebound. Unless they crash.

As you may recall, one of the two reasons I moved to Florida was the lower cost of living. The other was warmer winters. It’s been more often cold than warm this Christmas season. But today, as I was transfixed by that $1.99 gas price, the temperature hit 77. Tomorrow, probably 78. Like the gas prices, I enjoy it while it lasts.

Tomorrow’s gas price?

Only one thing I know for sure. Nobody can predict the future.

— John Hayden

Stand Your Ground And Self-Defense In Florida

Anger over deaths caused by guns is boiling in Florida this summer. And controversy over the “stand your ground” legal principle in the state’s self-defense law is reaching a frenzy.

Please, let’s all take a deep breath, step back, and think about this slowly and carefully. It’s important for us to get the issues and facts straight. Fortunately, the Tampa Bay Times has published on each of the past two days excellent front-page news reports regarding the shooting death at a convenience store in Clearwater and the resulting controversy.

I recommend that everyone read the following two stories from start to finish. Not just the front page but the jump to an inside page. The stories are available on the Times website. Continue reading

One Year In Florida

ducks for blog

THE DUCKS THINK THIS BRIDGE WILL TAKE THEM ACROSS THE BORDER TO CANADA. 

As of Aug. 1, I’ve been a Florida resident for one full year! Driver’s license, car registration, voter registration, all accomplished within the first couple of months. Survived my first hurricane, too. Last week, I signed a lease renewal. Small rent increase, now will pay $699 a month. And my typical electric bill is around $46. Zero commuting time and distance.

Won’t try to write a full account of the year, but if I did, it wouldn’t be long. Compared with the first nine months of 2017, which included putting my financial house in order and removing myself from Maryland to Florida, the past 12 months have been a walk in the park.

I met the neighbors in the other three apartments on my floor. Three lone individuals, like me. I speak to one of them nearly every day. Big improvement over the $900 basement apartment in wealthy Montgomery County, where my neighbors were the storage room, the trash room, and the laundry room.

I soon discovered two excellent public libraries and one big bookstore with excellent discounts. And I tried a few churches. Like everyone else, I shop at Publix supermarket and Walmart. Four cheap restaurants are nearby. They meet my need for simple food and ambiance. But I eat in the apartment a lot. I know where to recycle newspapers and aluminum cans, but not plastic bottles.

Each apartment has its own air conditioner outside. My unit died in early July. No problem. Apartment management installed a window unit to tide me over two days while a new outside air conditioner was installed. It is powerful and efficient. Inside air temperature is NOT a problem, I can assure you! The outdoor temperature, humidity and rain in summer, that’s another story. Don’t even want to talk about it.

You have not seen lightning until you’ve lived in the Tampa Bay region.

Full disclosure requires me to report that I turned 70 in June. I’ve been aging at an alarming rate the past few years. Sleep too much. I accomplished the move to Florida on adrenaline fumes. Did it in the nick of time; not sure I’d be able to manage such a feat five years hence.

Truth is, I’m well on the way to becoming a cynical old man. Possibly I’ve already arrived. If a man isn’t cynical at this point, he just hasn’t been paying attention.

The move to Florida was necessary, and possibly life-saving. I escaped the nasty winter cold and the impoverishing Montgomery County cost of living. I haven’t had bronchitis since departing Maryland. Here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I survive nicely and balance my budget. And that’s enough honesty for one blog post.

— John

New York Times on Florida’s Nature Coast

Finally scored a copy of the New York Times on Friday. I have been sorely missing reading a good newspaper since I moved to Florida. (The Tampa Bay Times is OK, probably better than most  surviving metro dailies. But it is NOT the New York Times or the Washington Post.)

Publix in my neighborhood carries the New York Times, in theory. But only a few copies are delivered to the store, and they are snapped up quickly. As you may know, I’m not exactly an early riser. So the Times is always sold out for me. I’ve been told the customer service desk gets frequent requests from people who would like the store to hold a copy of the NYT. Far more requests than they can honor. I have yet to find any store in my area that carries The Washington Post. I like to think you could find the Times or the Post in Miami, maybe even in downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg.

But where I live, a little north of Tampa- St. Pete, no. Seems to me, this is a growing suburban area. Maybe the farthest northern reach of the Tampa Bay suburbs, but also the far southern tip of Florida’s more sparsely populated Nature Coast. Off the map as a prime newspaper circulation area. Despite the general decline in daily newspaper readership, the New York Times is definitely still in demand here in Florida. The demand is not being matched by supply. Maybe I can do something about that?

— John