Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Book Signing With Tim Dorsey

Tim Dorsey's latest novel Gator A Go Go was recently released by the publisher and today I attended Tim's signing for the book held at Circle Books on St. Armand's Circle. Anyone going to the Circle today was confronted with a mass of humanity attending their annual art fair. Parking is tight on the Circle at the best of times. Today there were cars parked as far east as Ringling Bridge just to get people to the Circle. Fortunately not everyone was going to Tim's book signing but there were still enough people there to stretch out of the store and into the street.

You can read a bit about Tim Dorsey's background here:

Tim Dorsey was born in Indiana, moved to Florida at the age of 1, and grew up in a small town about an hour north of Miami called Riviera Beach. He graduated from Auburn University in 1983 with a B.S. in Transportation. While at Auburn, he was editor of the student newspaper, The Plainsman.

From 1983 to 1987, he was a police and courts reporter for The Alabama Journal, the now-defunct evening newspaper in Montgomery. He joined The Tampa Tribune in 1987 as a general assignment reporter. He also worked as a political reporter in the Tribune’s Tallahassee bureau and a copy desk editor. From 1994 to 1999, he was the Tribune’s night metro editor. He left the paper in August 1999 to write full time.

Tim has since published eleven novels in several languages: Florida Roadkill, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, Orange Crush, Triggerfish Twist, The Stingray Shuffle, Cadillac Beach, Torpedo Juice, The Big Bamboo, Hurricane Punch, Atomic Lobster and Nuclear Jellyfish. His next novel, Gator A-Go-Go was released Jan. 26, 2010

He lives in Tampa with his family.

His main character through all twelve of his books is a likable yet deranged psychopath named Serge Storm who probably knows more about Florida history than most Florida history professors. Serge's answer to almost every situation is to kill someone. As someone standing in line today said "Serge is the most inventive murderer in modern literature." Yes, and he's funny as hell also.

Several years ago I was on a flight from Miami back to Washington National Airport (never EVER call it Reagan National Airport). American Airlines had me seated in the starboard bulkhead window seat. I was reading Dorsey's newest book at the the time, a book in which he introduced the character "Haywood Yablowme." I remember reading that name and then thinking about it. Finally the name sunk in and when it did I broke into uproarious laughter, so much so that I fell out of my seat and onto the floor of the plane. I was laughing so hard that a flight attendant thought I was having a seizure. I was but not the typical kind.

There is at least one situation like that in each of Dorsey's 11 earlier books. I'm betting there is one in Gator A Go Go also.

Today I brought with me six of his earlier books that had not been signed earlier. Tim very graciously signed every one of them so I now have a complete collection of signed and inscribed first editions of his 12 books. Most other authors will only sign their earlier books - they wont put any inscription in them. They reserve that only for the current book. Not so with Tim Dorsey. When I asked him to sign the earlier books he put things like "To Craig, Best Wishes Always, Tim Dorsey" on the title page of each book. To me that's a class act.

When you read his books you get the impression that Dorsey is some crazed lunatic like his main character Serge Storm. However last year when I met him in the parking garage of the Fort Myers International Airport I was shocked to find that he's actually a very introverted almost shy individual. Maybe Serge is his altered ego?

If you can find the book where you live get it from an independent book seller like Circle Books. I promise you'll have more than your share of laughs from this latest Dorsey tome. I'm already anxious for next year to get here so I can buy the 2011 edition of Serge's adventures.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Book Signing with James W. Hall

I just returned a little while ago from attending a book signing for south Florida author James W. Hall's new book "Silencer." You can read a little blurb about the book at this link, and you can learn a bit more about James Hall at this link. The book signing was held at Circle Books on St. Armand's Circle just over the Ringling bridge from Sarasota. Unfortunately Circle Books does not maintain a website or I'd post a link to it here.

"Silencer" is James Hall's 20th published work (well 18th if you don't count his first two works of poetry published in soft cover back in the 1980s). I started reading his work in 1992 when I was on loan to the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges and picked up a copy his 1991 work "Bones of Coral." It was his fourth book and sixth publication. I was hooked on his writing style and his story telling before I finished the book. I continue to be hooked to this day.

Hall's main character is a "vagabond" named Thorn who lives on Key Largo (surprise, Jim Hall used to live on Key Largo). Thorn is rather quite and reserved (surprise, Jim Hall is also) and makes his living by tying some ass-kicking flies for fly fishermen. Despite his rather introverted personality (surprise, Jim Hall is also) Thorn finds himself in all manner of harrowing situations that result in him investigating and solving mysteries set in the Keys, the Bahamas, and as far north as Lake Okeechobee. When I met Jim Hall today I asked him "Is Thorn your alter ego?" Jim smiled and said "Good guess"!

I am lucky enough to own a complete collection of first editions of every one of Hall's 20 published works, including the hard-to-find first two that deal with poetry. My copies of the poetry books and his 10th book "Body Language" had been signed by Hall earlier (I purchased all three signed copies at Key West Island Books on Cayo Hueso) so including the new book I had 17 unsigned first editions in my collection. I asked Debbie at Circle Books if Jim Hall was the kind of person who would sign an entire collection for his fans. Debbie told me "Jim would love to." My friend Jon Andrew who collects Jim Hall books also mailed me the nine copies of his work that he had in his collection so this afternoon I showed up at Circle Books with 27 copies of Hall's books (including 2 copies of Silencer purchased today). I asked Jim about signing them and just as Debbie had predicted he said he'd be happy to do it for me.

I talked with Jim as he worked his way through all 27 copies of this work and told him how much I enjoyed his books, especially because of his focus on south Florida wildlife and south Florida habitats. I then handed him my business card that carries the US Fish and Wildlife Service logo plus my name, email address phone number and blog address. I told him "this is why your concern for the environment is so important to me." Without batting an eye Jim asked if it would be OK to contact me when he has biological questions in future works. I told him it would be an honor to help him out.

The line of fans for this signing was nothing like what it will be on March 13 when mega writer Randy Wayne White shows up at Circle Books to sign his new tome. Still the turn out was more than respectable. Of course nothing will ever compare to the circus that happened when my friend Ramona Polk and I went to the signing for Al Franken's excellent tome "Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them - A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." The signing, held at a Border's Books in suburban Washington DC was a madhouse. When Ramona and I arrived there were more than 5,000 people in line to get in the store. Yes, that's right five THOUSAND people. Border's was letting people in the store in groups of 50 at a time. After three hours of standing outside waiting to get in (plus having a bladder on the verge of exploding) I told Ramona I'd see her at work the next day and left. And I never got the book signed because Ramona gave up shortly after I did.

After packing up my books and Jon's and getting ready to leave I shook Hall's hand and told him it was an honor to meet him. I added "I look forward to seeing you at the signing for next year's book." He smiled, thanked me and said "don't be surprised if you get an email from me with some questions only a biologist can answer for me."

I look forward to it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The 2009 Minor League Baseball Season Finally Ended Today

One of my goals during the 2009 Minor League baseball season in Florida (Class A Advanced - the Florida State League) was to watch a game between each of the 12 teams in the league played in each of the 11 stadiums they call home. The reason 12 teams play in 11 stadiums is that both the Palm Beach Cardinals and the Jupiter Hammerheads play in Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. But I digress.

Besides seeing a game in each of the stadiums I also wanted to purchase a baseball cap that was identical to the caps that the players wore on the field (does the phrase "simple things for simple minds" fit here?). I wanted to get both as proof that I saw the games and was in each of the stadiums so I kept the tickets for each stadium.

The 2009 season was the final season for the hapless Sarasota Reds. They played their final home game in Ed Smith stadium on September 3 and then played the last game of their existence in Port Charlotte against the Stone Crabs on September 6. I kept the tickets for each of those games.

Rather than have these tickets sitting around collecting dust and maybe getting lost I took them to a local frame shop to have the collection matted and framed so I could hang them on my wall as a constant reminder of what a great summer I had in 2009 watching endless baseball in person.

The frame shop called yesterday to inform me that the framing job was completed. I picked it up this afternoon after lunch. The photo above taken with my Blackberry doesn't really do it justice but all the tickets are there including those for the final games of the Sarasota Reds lives.

The Reds are gone now. They have moved to nearby Bradenton and become an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2010 they will be known as the Bradenton Marauders. I'm trying to get season tickets (72 games) for the Marauders season. Still I don't think anything will compare with the incomparable 2009 season traveling around the state heckling teams, watching the Reds lose more than random chance would suggest, and ultimately getting the idea for my first novel that is almost completed.

But who knows. Maybe the Marauders will suck like the Reds did and I'll get another idea for a follow on book.

A Cacaphony of Red-shouldered Hawks

If the amount and volume of squawking and calling and carrying on that is happening outside this morning is any indication, January 21 must be the peak day of the year for Red-shouldered Hawks to be displaying and establishing territories. Whew it's noisy out there this morning!

This Buteo is quite characteristic of lowland hardwood forests in the eastern half of the country from Wisconsin and that state with the purple football team south and east. There is also a small population of them in California.

Here in Florida, Red-shouldered Hawk is by far the most common and widespread hawk nesting in the state.

Probably two weeks have gone by since I noticed the first pairs of Red-shouldered Hawks doing their aerial acrobatics. However yesterday and especially this morning they seem to have put everything in overdrive. Most species of hawks are not very vocal - Red-shouldered Hawk seems to make up for all the others. You can hear its calls at this link. Imagine having heard that call non-stop since sunrise this morning. I hope they get this out of their system soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Birding Florida's Pine Flatwoods

One of the bird species of Florida that is most enjoyable to see and especially hear is Bachmans Sparrow. This denizen of pine flatwoods has, without doubt, one of the most beautiful voices of any North American songbird.

Non-descript as they are, simply nothing beats a Bachmans Sparrow when it comes to voice. You can hear its voice at this link.

I left Sarasota at 0 dark 30 this morning and headed east on Fruitvilile Road to the north side of Myakka River State Park where I took Clay Gully Road east for about 8 miles. This road traverses a variety of habitats including forested wetlands
that should have Cottonmouths swimming around were it not so damned cold outside! However at this bridge crossing I found a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks very actively displaying as they prepared to establish a territory for the nesting season.

Not far east of this forested wetland the habitats opened up into an expanse of Florida prairie that was teeming with sparrows. Looking at this prairie it dawned on me that were it not for the Cattle Egrets all over the place, this patch of ground could have very easily been a wet meadow along the incomparable Platte River in Nebraska.

I spent probably 30 minutes kicking around in this sort of habitat this morning and chased up a nice bunch of sparrows including Grasshopper Sparrow, a migrant from more northerly climes that hangs out in the abundance of grasslands here each winter.

Birds on this side of the state are not the highly endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow that is restricted to several counties in central Florida.

Included among the sparrow fauna today was a Vesper Sparrow that was a complete surprise for me because of how far south it was. Unfortunately it was not in Sarasota County so I couldn't add it to that list but it fits nicely on my Manatee County list as well.

After traveling through a lot of wild Florida I arrived at Sugar Bowl Road and took it south toward State Route 72. The road traverses some excellent forested habitat including one place where I found Florida Scrub-Jay in the pine/scrub interface.

I searched the area in Sarasota County along Sugar Bowl / Sidell Road but there is no habitat there whatsoever that even resembles Bachmans Sparrow habitat. Instead its more like the endless agricultural habitats of the Red River of North Dakota. However there is an abundance of Bachmans Sparrow habitat along this road in Manatee County and I was able to get one bird to sing for me.

By noon I was starting to feel famished so I began my return to Sarasota along much the same route I followed out in the morning. At one place along the road I found a feeding flock of 18 or 19 Pine Warblers hopping around in the grasslands.

On my return toward Sarasota I stopped at an expanse of wetland along the Myakka River that sits on the border with between Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

Here among a host of herons and egrets I found a pair of Crested Caracaras displaying. I wonder if they are going to stick around to nest here or if they will move backward toward the center of the state where most Caracaras nest?

On returning to Sarasota I stopped by a developed area along North Cattlemens Road near the Sam's Club to look for an American Bittern that had been seen here in recent weeks. Not finding it I was most pleased to drive up to and damned near touch a pair of Florida Sandhill Cranes handing out in the parking lot of this development.

After all those years working with Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska I had come to believe that this species was one of the most wary and elusive of all North American birds. You can't come within 100 meters of a Sandhill Crane in Nebraska without it taking flight. Yet here in Florida they are quite accustomed to humans. It might be part of the philosophy espoused by my old office mate Hal Kantrud at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown North Dakota who said in the summer of 1978 that the future of bird's in the world was "adapt or die". Unfortunately Florida Sandhills have had to learn how to adapt.

It was most enjoyable being out in the wild of Sarasota and Manatee Counties today enjoying the birds and the habitats. The most sobering part of the experience was realizing that most of the maps of potential growth in Florida show that by 2030 - just 20 years from today - the only parts of the state that will not be developed are areas that are now in public ownership whether its a National Wildlife Refuge, a state park or county sensitive lands. That's it.

I don't have to worry because 20 years from today (and probably a lot less) I will be dead so it wont matter to me. But I can't help but wonder how angry our children will be 20 years from now when they drive down Clay Gully Road to Sugar Bowl Road and instead of seeing wild Florida they see nothing but houses and they wonder why we didn't do a damned thing to stop it when we had a chance.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Boat Drinks

Jimmy Buffett's smash hit party song "Boat Drinks" contains this verse:

Lately, newspaper mentioned cheap air fare
I gotta to fly to Saint Somewhere
I'm close to bodily harm

Twenty degrees and the hockey games on
Nobody cares they are way too far gone
Screaming boat drinks, something to keep em all warm

Right now its 35 degrees and raining in Sarasota. It snowed between Tampa and Mickey the Rat World in Orlando this morning. Today is the first day since February 25, 2008, that I have worn socks (still refusing to put on long pants, however).

I'm also checking airfare to Nicaragua. Its always hot on the Pacific coast of that little Central American gem. And as Jimmy says, "I gotta go where its warm."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Verizon Wireless" and "Customer Service" - Two Mutually Exclusive Concepts

I just returned from wasting the second hour in two days waiting for customer "service" at my local Verizon Wireless store. I think if Samuel Beckett was still alive he should re-name his novella Waiting for Godot to Waiting for Verizon.

For about the last week I have been unable to receive emails on my Blackberry. I'm not sure what button I touched to make this happen but it happened. I have searched all the application icons on the Blackberry and simply cannot find one that allows me to reload email onto the phone.

Logic dictates that because this is a Verizon Blackberry and I pay Verizon a hefty sum every month to use their Blackberry and receive my email and since part of that hefty sum goes to pay for customer service, that visiting a Verizon Wireless store would be the logical place to receive that customer service.

In the case of Sarasota, Florida, guess again.

Last night I stood in line a little over an hour waiting for my name to come up on the check-in board as the person to be helped. I was 13th in line and there were three people doing customer service. After an hour I said intercourse it and came home. I thought I would return tonight at an earlier hour and maybe get some customer service.

Guess again.

Tonight I arrived there at 5:45 p.m. and promptly signed in for phone trouble shooting. There were 8 people ahead of me on the sign-in board plus two others receiving customer service from the alleged customer service agents behind the counter. I will say up front that one of the customer service agents was dealing with a man who could best be described as dumb as a rock. She should get a bonus for working with this idiot. But I digress.

As I stood around waiting for my name to be called, four more people came in and signed up for assistance after I did. Two of these people apparently knew how the system works because they were standing in the right place when customers left the service desk and these people who arrived after me were taken care of. Their names were never called or were any of the names on the sign in board removed.

Nope. They just were in the right place at the right time. The rest of us stood around with our fingers in our ears waiting for a flood of customer service to begin.

Guess again.

Disgusted and fed up after wasting 1 hour and 15 minutes to get customer service from Verizon Wireless I said intercourse it again and left. I was still number 8 on the list of people waiting for help.

Being a glutton for punishment and also wanting to get the service that I'm paying Verizon to provide me I will return tomorrow to this Verizon Wireless and hope that some miracle will happen and I'll get some customer service. I will bring a book to read this time - maybe one of Michner's mega productions with 900 pages in it. If the last two nights are any indication I'll likely finish the book before my name gets called.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Byron Dorgan (D-ND) Announces His Retirement

Today, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced that he will not seek re-election in 2010. Its a sad day for North Dakota politics.

I remember so vividly in 1980 campaigning for Byron Dorgan when I lived in Jamestown. My old friend Rich Madsen was a huge Dorgan fan and he got me to support him and campaign for him. I remember several times eating breakfast with Byron in the restaurant in the Jamestown Holiday Inn (now extinct) talking with him about policy issues and how to go about convincing people in dripping red Republican North Dakota to vote for an intelligent person for Congress.

He made it to the House in 1980 and did so quite comfortably. Three years later in June 1983 when I was in Washington DC on a one month detail in the Division of Research Office I visited Byron in his Capitol Hill office and went out to lunch with him. He joked then asking me if I wanted to help him booby trap the entrance to the Capitol Hill Republican Club just down the street. I had my picture taken with Byron as we both stood on the steps of the Capitol. We never booby trapped the CHRC but it wasn't for lack of desire!

The only policy issue I ever really disagreed with him on was his continual, endless, foolish support for the Garrison Diversion Project, a massively wasteful water development project that would destroy or alter 17 National Wildlife Refuges in North Dakota, while providing irrigation water for 0.2 percent of the agricultural land mass of the state but at a cost of billions and billions of dollars. He never budged. However no politician in North Dakota could be a politician without supporting that wasteful piece of crap project.

I last saw him in the Minneapolis Airport in 2006 just before the election. We were both waiting to board a Northwest flight to Washington National. I walked up to him, smiled, asked if he remembered me, and said "So, Byron, are we going to beat the Republicans and take back the Senate this fall?" He chuckled and said "we fucking better or I'm going to quit."

We won and the Republic was saved. Two years later we elected an adult to the White House. But still Byron is calling it quits.

I think I'm going to miss having him in the Senate.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Blind Side - Fifth Time

I just returned a bit ago from watching the movie The Blind Side for the fifth time in the last six weeks. If you haven't seen it at least once by now then we need to all chip in for gas money to get you to the theater.

The movie had its debut six weeks ago yesterday. I saw it the first time six weeks ago tonight. I saw it to a packed house - there wasn't an empty seat in the theater. Next I saw it the day before Thanksgiving at a 1:30 p.m. showing - again there wasn't an empty seat. Then I saw it on Saturday after Thanksgiving at 4:00 p.m. and then on Monday after Thanksgiving at 4:00 p.m. At no time could you squeeze in an extra person.

Tonight was no different. Six weeks after its release there wasn't a single empty seat in the same theater where I saw it the first time.

When The Blind Side came out six weeks ago it was second in box office receipts after some movie called New Moon that I've never heard of. Same story the second weekend. However on the third weekend after release The Blind Side was the number 1 box office draw in the country. No movie has ever accomplished that feat in all the years records have been kept. You can read a bit more about the extraordinary ascendancy of the movie at this link.

There has been so much written about this movie and so much about Sandra Bullock's performance in it that I won't say another word here other than to encourage you to get out to see it. The one thing I will say - again - is that if she is not nominated for an Oscar for her performance then there is something woefully out of place with the nomination system. This is the best freaking movie you are going to see in a very long time. I might go back and watch it again this week just for the hell of it.

My record for the most times seeing a movie is 68 times for Back to the Future Part 1 followed closely by 64 times watching Cool Runnings and 63 times watching 2001 A Space Odyssey (I am STILL trying to figure out the light show at the end of 2001). Gordy Lewis who put himself through the University of Wisconsin - River Falls selilng LSD said on the night that 2001 debuted "There aren't enough drugs on earth to help you understand the light show." More than 40 years later I am still convinced that Gordy was correct.

Something tells me that as soon as the DVD for The Blind Side comes out, my record of 68 times watching Back to the Future Part 1 is going to fall! For Christmas 1998 my oldest daughter Jennifer gave me a sweatshirt that had written on the front "Does Anal Retentive Have a Hyphen?" This movie fanaticism is one reason why I got the shirt - and yes, anal-retentive HAS a hyphen.

Go see this movie. I won't stop bugging you until you do.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Bird Of The Year

Since undergraduate school I have played this little game on New Year's Day where I have sought out and recorded the first species of bird that I found that year. Many times back then I would have a House Sparrow be the first bird of the year - to me always an omen of a bad year coming up!

On January 1 1975, in an attempt to break this string of bad luck with House Sparrows, my ex wife and I slid out of bed at 0 dark 30 in River Falls Wisconsin and drove down to Prescott where we perched high on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. It was our intention to sit there and get Bald Eagle as the first bird of the year. Ruth and I sat there freezing our collective asses off (hers being much nicer than mine) as we waited for sunlight to appear. As luck would have it, long before the first Bald Eagle made an appearance we heard the depressing "chirp" of House Sparrows. Once again it was the first species of the year.

My luck changed in 1980 when I walked outside our house in Jamestown North Dakota at 12:01 a.m. and listened. It was way too early for House Sparrows to be calling and instead I heard a flock of Lapland Longspurs migrating south overhead and in advance of an incoming snow storm.

On January 1 1983 I dragged Ruth away from a New Year's Eve party in Jamestown and we went to McElroy Park where we had Eastern Screech-Owl calling just after midnight. Ruth and I separated two months later and I've often wondered if dragging her out into the woods at midnight on New Years could have contributed. Probably not LOL.

As years have passed I have kept this silliness going. New Years morning 2009 I awoke in Naples, Florida, looked out my window and saw a Wood Stork foraging on the wetland in front of my home. This was a sure sign that it was going to be a good year.

For New Years 2010 I had visions of standing on my lanai at sunrise and listening to my flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks that consistently fly over my house each morning, and getting them as my first bird of the year. How cool would that have been??

Those visions faded this morning at 12:10 a.m. when someone blew off some firecrackers nearby and it scared the wits out of every Common Moorhen trying to sleep on the wetland 30 feet from my house. Right on cue what seemed like all of them started squawking and belching and making all sorts of noises like Common Moorhen's make. You can hear one of its most common voices at this link.

So, despite my disappointment at not getting Black-bellied Whistling-Duck for my first bird of 2010, I can be thankful that I didn't get a House Sparrow. I think 2010 is going to be a very good year.

January 1 in Meteorological History

New Years Day 1974 dawned clear and crisp and blistering cold in Rice Lake Wisconsin.

Having not gotten too imbibed the night before I dragged myself from bed and went to our barn to milk cows at 6:15 that morning. Chores completed I returned to the house about 8:00 and as I walked from the barn to the house I remember spitting. Just like in the classic Jack London story To Build a Fire, the little ball of spit was solid ice before it hit the snow. That and the fact that my lungs hurt with each breath I took suggested it was bitterly cold.

Over breakfast we listened to the latest "news" on WJMC radio, at the time THE news source in Rice Lake, (now unfortunately its where people turn to listen to Rush Limbaugh and other purveyors of hate speech - but I digress). During the 8 a.m. news summary good old Dick Kaner reported to the faithful listening in that the air temperature at the Rice Lake airport along Orchard Beach Lane in town was a brisk -62 degrees F.

That was the air temperature not the wind chill. It being too damned cold for wind there was no wind chill. It was that freaking cold.

I waited until about 10 a.m. when the temperature had warmed up to the mid -40's and started my car. This being my regularly scheduled day to check beaver traps I had to make the trek out to see what I had caught in the last three days.

With my then almost one year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever along, we drove southeast of our farm to the north-south road that runs on the west side of the now-defunct Hardscrabble Ski Area. There we parked along the road, I put on snow shoes, and we hoofed it more than a mile through the woods to a beaver colony where I had four traps set. Checking the first two traps after chopping through way too much ice I came up with a goose egg. The third trap yielded a 30 pound yearling and the last trap held a 60 pound female who, unfortunately, was frozen into the ice.

After chopping her free from what seemed like every ounce of ice on that beaver pond I put 90 pounds of beaver in my trap basket and we started the trek back to my car. By now it had warmed up to the -30's. I had worn solid wool and with the exercise and the added 90 pounds on my back I was soon sweating as we hiked. Eventually I removed my wool coat and walked through the forest wearing just a wool shirt and a wool hat on my upper body. Steam rose off me like the plumes of steam at a power plant in winter!

I think of that blistering cold morning every year on New Years Day and remind myself why I'm glad my roots are from Wisconsin but more importantly why I no longer live there in winter!

Contrast that scene from 36 years ago with the current +64 degrees F in Sarasota and instead of that snowy landscape, look at this picture just taken through the screen of my lanai toward the wetland 30 feet from my house. Granted its raining like mad right now but everything is GREEN outside and I'm running around in shorts not wool pants.