Monday, October 24, 2005

Legend of Zorro

I got a ticket to the sneak preview of "The Legend of Zorro" tonight... It's good... Could have been better, was kinda predictable and had obvious jokes and gags, and was not as good as the first one, but it was good. And the movie is well worth seeing just for Antonio Banderas and that gorgeous Andalusian!

***Slight non-specific spoilers beyond this point... nothing one couldn't get from paying very close attention to the commercials and trailers***

I just have to say this is a movie is very obviously set in 2005 masquerading as 1850. In the movie there are terrorist sleeper cells throughout the world trying to destroy America and the American way of life, an evil Frenchman and crazy Bible-thumper, weapons of mass destruction, and a government organization that is behaving in a semi-illegal and suspiciously similar to Homeland Security kind of way... not to mention extremely independent and outspoken women who can kick butt in a corset and petticoats and Catholics doing things that good Catholics in 1850 would *so* not do... So in the end, this is another semi-historical movie that ends up just using an historical background to tell a modern story. ::yawn:: Next!

Oh! And can anyone tell me what Abraham Lincoln was doing lurking in the background at the ceremony to officially include California as part of the United States? And why were the "southern bad guys" wearing outfits that looked like Confederate Army uniforms in 1850?

Bright and sunny day

It's been bright and sunny here since right around noon. I went out to get a wig for Halloween and to get some yarn for a Christmas present and to take back some that I didn't end up needing for a different Christmas present. It is windy as all get out, but all in all a very nice Fall day.

And that's the real change that Wilma has brought to this part of Florida. Today has been the first day since it officially became "Fall" this year that the temperatures have been low enough that one can wear a sweater all day without regretting it by mid-afternoon. I wore the one I made from Jenna Adorno's Tempting pattern that is available on (Btw, I've found that I'm allergic to processed wool. I can come in contact with soft, handspun wool and I can spin wool myself without my skin freaking out, but *anything* commercial just causes my skin to get all red and start to swell. Not good! I've been told by people who know more than me that a lot of people are allergic to the chemicals used in wool processing, either in the dyes or in the wash they use to remove the natural oils. So in order to finish the felting project I'm working on, I'm going to have to wear latex gloves while knitting it.)

Which brings me to some news... Knitty's 2006 Calendar is now available through their cafepress store. You can see it here: . A few of the photos are really good (I particularly like January), and with a few I'm wondering how exactly they were deemed good enough (I know better than to mention them though)... And most are kinda ehh... I do see what they seem to be looking for though. I've got me some ideas involving Hillsborough River State Park now. Only thing is the shoot will have to be when it's still cold enough that the sweaters won't make the models miserable, the mosquitoes aren't insanely everywhere, and the gators aren't very active... so before the end of February. And, oh boy, if we go to Callaway or Cherokee next summer on vacation! My mind is already reeling!! I need to get around to knitting "Cleaves."

I need a digital camera. I've been thinking about it for several weeks now. I just really need a digital camera. I'm taking too many photos to keep developing film. I know Ms. G said that you have to use film like it's toilet paper, but it's freaking expensive toilet paper to be using it like toilet paper. So, I need to look into this megapixel business... the sooner the better!

Which brings me back around to post-Wilma news. No damage to report, which is good. I went up to the county line today, driving around, taking in the thing called "Fall" in Florida. There's a lot of new construction going on up north of here. I was surprised to see a Walgreens where all my life cows have grazed. And what was a palmetto and pine savannah is now being leveled for... something. I drove down Lutz Lake Fern to see if one of my favorite houses was still standing, and indeed it is. It's now called "Tara Acres," the driveway is renamed "Fiddle-Dee-Dee Lane," and they do horse back riding lessons. I tried to snap a photo from the road, but I couldn't slow down enough to quite get a good one. (It's a 50 mph zone right through there.) The front 2 acres haven't been kept up; they've gone totally wild, so that the house is only visible from a few angles. (The stables and rings are in the back of the property.) I tell you it looks worse than Tara did after the War! It would cost Rhett a fortune to get it back to what it used to be. Fiddle-dee-dee indeed!

What Wilma's up to...

The eyewall of Wilma has come ashore down around Naples and Marco Island. They're taking quite a pounding. I went to bed early last night and was woken up by the rain and wind around 4am. Here in Carrollwood (see star on map below for Carrollwood's location), we've been experiencing what is called "squall" conditions over the past 8 hours or so. What that means is that the rain never really stops, but it slows down a bit sometimes and other times, even if it were light out and I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to see the mailbox from the front window. The wind is high up in the trees for the most part, but sometimes the gusts approach 40 mph. It's all expected to clear sometime around mid-afternoon and total rainfall is expected to be only about 2 inches... Watching it come down, it's hard to believe that that's all the rain we're going to be getting this morning, but that's the official prediction. I'll probably have pictures of any damage or non-damage around noon.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

National Novel Writing Month?

Apparently, it's National Novel Writing Month in November, at least according to Blogger. So all you novelists out there, get your notebooks, pens and computers ready. Read more about it here:

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Yet another Wilma update

Looks like it won't be making landfall in FL until Monday morning. It has slowed so much over the Yucatan. I feel really sorry for the people who live there, having a Cat 3 hovering overhead for 24 hours. What a nightmare! One of the usual blessings of a hurricane is that it blows through fairly quickly. When it sits like this, it just gives the wind and rain more time to do damage.

It's expected to make landfall down around Naples sometime on Monday morning as a Cat 2, but the exactly location of where it hits all depends on when it turns East. We've already been getting scattered showers from the outermost part of it over the past 2 days. This is one massively large storm! The rain bands are stretching out as far as maybe 100 miles or so North of the Bahama Islands it looks like, and a high surf advisory for boaters has already been issued for the the Tampa area. I borrowed the image here from The Weather Channel's website.

I'd also like to mention that yesterday, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida went up in the Hurricane Hunter G-IV airplane for an 8-hour trip above the eye of Wilma. I couldn't believe they let him do that! He's a good senator and has a respectable voting record (according to me). We don't need to be risking his life like that. But he went up because he used to be an astronaut, so I guess he could handle it, and he was actually working, doing storm calculations and stuff.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wilma update

As of the local Bay News 9 report at 10:49pm, if Wilma stays on the expected track, it will be a Cat 2 when it hits Florida on Sunday afternoon, and it will be far enough south of us that we will have very little weather from it. That is, if it stays on it's currently expected track... You never know with hurricanes. But if that's so, we won't have to evacuate or anything. We are continuing to watch it though.

"Ghost Hunters" and my own experience

I've been watching "Ghost Hunters" on Sci-fi while working on knitting Christmas presents off and on today. I've got two more dishcloths done! (Yay!) I'd post pictures but I don't want recipients to possibly see them. Anyway, as I've been watching "Ghost Hunters," I got to thinking of a few incidents I experienced when I was in the Carolinas this summer. Haven't really told anyone about them, but I figured I should take the opportunity to write them down somewhere and this seemed as good as any. To preface, I've been going to historic properties all my life, from darn-near everything in Washington, DC and the surrounding area, to Gettysburg, to Oak Alley in New Orleans and a whole mess of places in between. Never felt or seen a thing in any of those places that I can remember. Although at Gettysburg, because I was in charge of picking hotels on that trip (when I was 11), I made sure we slept several miles away from all the action, outside Tarrytown... I'd heard the ghost stories and I *did not* want to chance it. Did the same thing in Concord, Mass (when I was 14) when we stayed at an inn older than the United States that was reputed to have several ghosts... I made sure my mom told the concierge when making reservations that we didn't want a room anywhere near where ghost activity had been known to occur. So I've purposely avoided ghostly activity pretty much all my life...

The first incident this summer was at the Borough House in Stateburg, SC in "Aunt Rinda's House." The older part of the house is one of the oldest buildings on the property. Only the main part of the big house is older from what I understand (?). Also from what I think I remember from stories of the property, it used to be the home of the kitchen slaves for the big house, and Aunt Rinda was either born a slave or within a few decades after the Civil War on the plantation, she took care of the family's children and worked and lived in the house that bears her name and died there in the first half of the 20th century. Please, correct me if I'm wrong. Now, I didn't know all of this going in. All I knew was that it was an old house called "Aunt Rinda's" and Aunt Rinda had lived, and probably, died there, and I knew some about the structure (which I think is *so cool!*). I went to visit and was given what I later found out was Aunt Rinda's room. Early in the evening, I went to go sit in the small parlor room, which was a part of the old kitchen, I think, and I got a strong feeling that I shouldn't go in that room, that I wasn't welcome, almost as if something was trying to bar me from it. Then, when I went to go to bed that night, I was preparing for bed and I started to get an uneasy feeling everytime I passed her door. There are two bedrooms on that floor and the other didn't cause that feeling. I told myself this was silly and I needed to chill, and went to turn the lights off, got in bed, and within minutes the uneasy feeling had grown to the sensation of being watched and I ran across the small room to turn the lights on again. I was, of course, the only person in the room, but I couldn't bring myself to turn them off again and fell asleep several hours later after reading and praying that no bad things would happen. I woke early the next morning, when Jason knocked on my door. By then, the light from outside was illuminating the room enough that I felt comfortable turning the light off and went back to sleep until breakfast was ready, if I remember correctly. I really wanted to chalk up the whole thing to sleeping in a new place, but I'd never reacted to sleeping in a new place like that before.

We left to go up to NC to where my younger siblings live for two weeks and then came back. I slept in the same room again, and although I still felt like I was being watched, the feeling I was getting wasn't causing me to be afraid and I was able to sleep with the light off without any problem. The next morning as Jason was making us breakfast, he asked how I had slept the night before. I said, "Fine." And I'm pretty sure that the conversation went something like this... He said, "You know, that was Aunt Rinda's room you slept in." "Oh really?" "Yeah, you know, she's still here." "What?" "Oh, yeah, both me and McKenzie have heard her walking around up there." I think I kinda blinked at him, like, "And I slept in there?" Then he said, "I've been in bed at night and heard her puttering around in there, or I'll be down here and hear her upstairs. I usually just tell her that it's late and to go to bed and the sounds will stop. But I haven't heard anything since we got the cats." I think Susan came downstairs at that point and that discussion stopped, but about an hour later while I was taking photographs outside, Jason brought me an old photo album and showed me a picture of Aunt Rinda. She looked like a very nice older woman, very caring, and she was cooking over an old cast-iron stove, I think. The look she was giving the camera struck me as a little funny, like she must have had a good sense of humor. He also showed me a picture of what the house looked like when she was still alive too. It's changed a lot. I was surprised at how much. After getting home, I wondered if my little sisters, who sleep in that room when they are there, have ever seen or felt anything. I doubt it, but I'd be interested to find out.

Then, before that day, when I was in Charlotte at the Rosedale Plantation, I got some creepy feelings. Funny enough, it was not when I was on the back porch where the tour guide said the possible haunting was. It happened twice. The first time was when we were walking from the master bedroom on the first floor up the stairs to the loft where the daughters of the family lived in the 19th century. As we were walking up, the hair on the back of my neck kinda stood on end, like a draft had gone across my neck or something, but it didn't really go away up in the loft. It was pretty steady. I walked around a little bit, looked at the furniture and architectural features of the loft, and then when we went back down, the feeling dissipated just as steadily as it had come on. In the rest of the house, I felt nothing out of the ordinary. Then we went down to the basement, which was the old kitchen. We went down from the outside, I noted as we exited, on the same side of the house that the loft is on. As we walked down the steps, passing under the area where the loft is above, I felt it again - same feeling, just as fleeting. Nothing concrete, but... creepy... Don't get me wrong, it was *very* cool... but kinda creepy.

Watching "Ghost Hunters," I think it would be really cool for TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) to do a study on the Borough or Rosedale. I think it would be cool if they found anything, or proved that it was all nothing, since that's what they do best. They've gone to North Carolina before, to survey the USS North Carolina battleship and the Mordicai House in Raleigh. They didn't find anything at the house, but they found lots of bizarre things on that ship.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Holy... Hurricane!

Check the weather just a minute ago. Overnight Wilma has been upgraded to a Cat 5 with winds of 175 mph. That's right, a Cat 1 to a Cat 5 in a little over 12 hours. The latest pressure readings are, if they are accurate and they are double-checking, the lowest ever recorded in a hurricane. The projected path has deflected a little bit southward in relation to where it was projected last night, but Tampa is still on the northern edge. Considering how accurate they were in projecting how it would intensify, I'm not really taking their word for the projected path. Evenso, it's still not moving any faster, and we have to wait and see where it wants to go.

Oh, yeah... Wilma

Well, it looks like we just might get a hurricane before the end of the season yet... I hope not, but there is definitely enough reason to worry, watch and prepare. Wilma's projected path comes right across the state from the Southwest by the weekend. When the bad storms hit the Gulfcoast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas such a short time ago, Mom said that we would have to evacuate if a 4 or higher came this way. Not because our house is in particular danger, we're on pretty high ground here (even coming straight up the Bay, it's highly unlikely that there will be flooding in our neighborhood ::knocks wood::), but because Mom would rather be safe than sorry and doesn't want to deal with possible power loss or supply shortage. So if the storm gets to be a 4 or higher, or maybe even just a really strong 3, and looks to be headed this way, we'll be packing all three (or four, if Josh is back home by then) of the cars with the pets and whatever we can take and heading North. Don't know where our destination might be yet. Will update later in the week.


I was watching "The Ellen Show" just now while checking my e-mail and whatnot. She had a guest on there, Jason Karol, who claims he has a photographic memory and that he can project ideas into other people's minds. He demonstrates this through card tricks, basically. He had Ellen shuffle the deck, then he looked at the cards fanned out for literally all of 2 seconds, and then he had Ellen hold the deck and overturn the cards in order as he said out loud what they were. He got through the first 20 before he started going so fast Ellen couldn't flip the cards before he was three cards ahead of her and Ellen stopped him. It was amazing! He did some similar tricks, and then at the end of the show, he came back on and gave Ellen a closed deck of cards while she called her brother, Vance, on the phone. There was one card reversed in the deck and Jason knew which one it was because he'd put it there and he claimed that he was going to project it into Vance's mind through the phone. Jason asked Vance to imagine a deck of cards in his mind, to imagine that he removed one card and then placed it back somewhere in the deck face-side down. I followed along and imagined taking out and reversing a 3 of Hearts. Once he'd done that, Jason took the deck of cards from Ellen, opened it and took out the cards, fanned them out, and flipped the one reversed card. It was a 3 of Hearts. Without revealing that, he asked Vance what his card was, and Vance said, "3 of Hearts." I was blown away! Now, the thing with Vance could have been rigged, but there was only a 1 in 52 chance that I'd think of the same card... Woah!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

County Commissioner Update!

Well, this is just wonderful. I've said it many times, and I will say it once again: Joe Redner is a pretty cool guy. Joe Redner hates the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa City Council. He's never hid that fact.

For those who don't know, Joe Redner is one of the most notorious businessmen in Tampa. He owns at least 2... maybe 3 strip clubs in Tampa, and I think I heard somewhere that he's also opened some in New York City and Las Vegas. The ordinance that the City Council passed a few years ago, the also notorious "6-foot Law," was passed because they were trying to hurt his business, specifically. But while they have tried to charge both women and patrons with violations, none have ever stuck, and Joe has paid all legal fees. He did a lecture in an American Law and Justice course I took several years ago. He apparently, lets the women at his clubs set their own hours, provides day-care for their kids, encourages them to go to college and helps with tuition, and by all accounts, he's the classy kind of sleazy... more like Hugh Hefner than Larry Flynt. He also ran for City Council in the 2000 and 2004 election years, but didn't win.

Now, Mr. Joe Redner is suing the 6 County Commissioners who have consistently supported anti-gay legislation over the last several months, lead by Rhonda Storms. What he's siting exactlty, I don't know. But the papers are to be served tomorrow during the morning Commissioners' meeting.

Well, he's off my list...

... of 'not too bad Republican politicians.' Who, you may ask? John McCain. I used to think he wasn't so bad for a Republican politician in Washington... not too radical or crazy. Well, I just heard him speaking at a Chamber of Commerce thing on CNN. He basically wants to make it easier for illegal aliens to not only *stay* in the United States and *not* be deported, but to also have the same rights as United States citizens without resorting to fraud (and without paying taxes or making any kind of contribution). How could a guy from Arizona have enough constituent support for a move like that?! ... I'm disgusted...

Monday, October 17, 2005

::fanfare:: Hear ye! Hear ye!

Midterms are officially over!

::ecstatic cheering a la Kermit the Frog at the beginning of "The Muppet Show"::

::big sigh of relief:: I am so glad that's all done with. I crammed most of the day and just finished my Geology midterm with 16 minutes to spare. It was an online test, covering 10 chapters (almost 300 pages), 80 questions in 90 minutes. There was less than 2 minutes left on that clock, but it had to be completely finished by 12 midnight, no matter what time it was started, and I finished at precisely 11:44pm. Nice thing about an online exam is that the program grades it right away so there's no waiting to see how well or badly you did. I got an 82.5, which is a B... I'm told also that my Prof rounds up, so it will be probably go into the book as an 83. If I get a high enough grade on the pre-final exam, I won't have to take the final. I still don't know what my Archaeology midterm grades are. I'll probably find out tomorrow.

Also, Knitty has their Fall issue surprises up. Since I didn't get a contest notification, I guess I didn't win anything, although the honorable mentions are still not up. The new stuff can be found here: , , .

Two things...

First, isn't this cool?!?!

Second, another reciepe... They're a little bit sweet, but not overly so.

Rachael's Pumpkin-Bran Muffins
yields about 2 dozen

1.5 cups oat bran
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup flaxseed, ground
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 small cans of pumpkin (or equivelent - approx 3.5 cups)
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup of oil (take your pick - canola, flax seed, Smart Balance, etc)
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare muffin pan as usual (grease or use paper muffin cups).
2. Combine all dry ingredients, except sugars, baking soda and spices, in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine all wet ingredients, brown and white sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix until well blended.
4. Add wet ingredents to dry and mix until well blended.
5. Fill muffin cups at least 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool several minutes in pan before transfering to cooling rack.
8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 for second dozen.

Preparing for Winter

Two days ago, Tampa saw temperatures in the 60s for the first time in over 7 months. It was only 68 degrees and that was over-night low and we probably won't see highs in the 70s for another month, but still, it's a change and sign of things to come.

Seems like only yesterday, we were preparing for Fall (and weather in the low 80s to upper 60s is, sadly, what Fall in Florida is like), but it's already time to start seriously planning the December and February plantings. In December, we'll be getting some fruit and nut trees from a very nice place in Georgia, Aaron's Nursery ( We'll have pears, apples and peaches, as well as pecan trees, and maybe a few other types, as well as several berry bushes. We need to plan exactly where those are going to go because they'll need to go into the ground pretty quick. We might have mild winter weather most of the time, but if there's a freeze or even a near freeze, those trees will have to be in the ground if we want even half a chance at keeping them alive.

In February, I'll be starting the Spring vegetable garden. I'll definitely be planting field and sweet corn, cucumbers, several types of summer squash, peanuts, bush beans, and we'll have the second year asparagus to look after. I might be persuaded to plant some other things as well, but the okra, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant did really badly this year and I think perhaps giving the land a break from them for a year might exhaust some of the pests that ruined them without resorting to chemicals.

What I have to do as soon as possible is find some black plastic sheeting. I'd rather not have to mail order it. See, in the local garden centers, all I've been able to find is the weed blocking fabric, which is either just thick paper or it has holes in it. It's totally useless in killing grass to clear land. I've tried and it only works for killing weeds (and definitely not grass) that have not already taken an area over. Last year, I was able to find tons of black plastic in local stores. We had 6 rolls, each 10 x 50 feet, but the down side to black plastic is that it only works for one season because the sun and elements make it become very thin and brittle. So what we've got from last year will not work for this year. I need some more... I don't know why no one seems to have stocked it this year. Next weekend, I'll have to check the feed stores. There's one at Nebraska and Bearss about 7 miles from here called "The Feed Depot", and then there's "Fox's Corner" out in Odessa (or as the developers are calling it now, "Keystone Heights"), it's been there *forever*. (On maps made 30 or more years ago, when there was nothing in that area except farms and Fox's Corner, "Fox's Corner" was marked on the map, and it's still there now.) It burned to the ground about 5 years ago. I remember people could easily see the column of smoke over 10 miles away, and everyone figured the owners would probably sell the property and someone would turn it into a Texaco, but they didn't. They stayed, rebuilt it, diversified their inventory and now it's even bigger than the original. Awesome place! If it weren't over 30 minutes from my house, it would have been the first place I went. They have hardware supplies, tractors, feed, hay, bait for fishing, and they sell chicks, ducklings and baby rabbits during the Easter season (and every year I try and every year I haven't been able to get my parents to let me get any). They might have black plastic... After all, strawberry farmers seem to swear by the stuff.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Boiled peanut recipe

One of my favorite snacks is boiled peanuts. They take a long time, but they are so worth it! Here's the recipe that I have developed:

Rachael's Slow-Boiled Peanuts

Read entire recipe before beginning.

1 lb. raw peanuts (green in the shell or shelled dried)
1 bottle Michalob Honey Lager (or your favorite fermented barley product)
6 cloves garlic, minced (dry or fresh)
1.5 tbsps Kosher salt or salt to taste
dozen or so whole peppercorns or pepper to taste
Optional: For added spiciness - 1 jalapeno pepper, or if you're suicidal, 1 habanero pepper.

Boil peanuts slowly for 2 hours.
Add salt, garlic, lager and pepper(corns).
Cover and let them sit in the pot on stove overnight to cool.
At least 12 hours later, return peanuts to a slow boil for at least 2 hours.
Add optional jalapeno or habanero during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Test for taste and texture. Adjust seasoning and boil as long as need be for correct consistency. Don't worry, it's very difficult to over cook these.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Green Acres is the place to be...

My mom told my dad and I this evening at dinner that, now that the remod on our house is done, she's thinking that my dad and she should look into buying a vacation property/retreat somewhere (of course, my dad's response was "With what money?"). She loves our home, so she doesn't want to move or anything, but she's really missing the farm she used to have in Brooksville. She said it's always been a dream of hers to have a lovely, 5- 10 acre property in the Carolinas or Virginia that she could eventually keep horses on... maybe some goats. She said no chickens, which is disappointing. She's worried about the bird flu thing, silly as that is. As someone with a degree in Biology, she should know better. (added 10/16/05: When I asked mom if she was serious about the no chickens because of the bird flu thing today, she laughed and said she had just been messing with me and that by the time we were ready to get chickens, the bird flu wouldn't even be remembered by most people. ::sighs:: She's been hanging out with dad too much, starting to develop his sick sense of humor.)

I started looking around on the internet to see what I could find and I didn't find much. Mostly listings for way too much property or smaller parcels at $8,000+ per acre. If anyone knows good places to search, please let me know.

If only we could win the $1,000,000 Lake Lure, NC home that HGTV will be giving away in January... ::sighs::

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yom Kippur

heads-up, this is going to get kinda theological according to some people's way of thinking, and maybe even a bit deep... just to warn ya...

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. I was able to fast the entire 24-hour sunset-to-sunset period for the first time in years. (Woohoo!) It was a good day. Kol Nidre services were Wednesday night from 8:00pm to nearly 10 pm. There were lots of children sleeping in their parents' arms before the closing hymn was sung. Thursday morning services started at 10am and continued until just before 1pm. Children's services were at 1:30. There was a discussion group at 2:30, a choir performance at 3:30, and afternoon services started at 4pm on the dot. They included Yitzchak (memorial) and N’ila (concluding) services and continued until 7pm. Needless to say, a break-fast followed in short order. I went to everything except the children's service and discussion group... to keep myself from thinking about food if nothing else.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is the day when all Israel comes together to pray for forgiveness from G-d for all their sins and human failings of the previous year... together as a nation, as families, and as individuals. It’s a very emotional and moving day for a lot of people. The tradition says,

"Let us proclaim the sacred power of this day.
It is awesome and full of dread...

"the still, small voice is heard;
the angels, gripped by fear and trembling,
declare in awe:
This is the Day of Judgment!
For even the Hosts of Heaven are judged!" (From the "Unetaneh Tokef")

And mostly because of that, the Rabbi's sermon during the Yom Kippur morning service is debatably the most important and anticipated sermon of the year. Every year, people wonder, "what will the topic be?", "will it be about social justice, or current events, or a more traditional topic, like human mortality?" (Because of the sometimes depressing and down-right macabre nature of the Yom Kippur sermon, children are usually sent out for an alternative service led by the head of the religious school, which lasts from after the Torah and Haftarah portions are read until just after the sermon.) Our rabbi, Rabbi Zimmerman, is a master at crafting sermons. Nearly every year, he brings me to tears at least once. He is *the* best I've ever seen... and while admittedly, that's not many, even the senior citizen members of the congregation seem very impressed by him, and my grandmother of blessed memory thought him completely wonderful. He is wise well beyond his years (he's, I'd guess, in his mid-30s), and he always seems to know exactly what to say. Sometimes, he talks about things his children have taught him about the world, sometimes he talks about the significance of current events, like in 2001 when the High Holy Days were only days after 9/11... Many times, he speaks about social justice and why we're obligated as Jews and as human beings to do something about it. A major precept of Reform Judaism is the concept of Tikun Olam, which means "Repair the world," and another is the idea that if anyone is denied rights which we hold dear, everyone is denied those rights, including us... It comes from the Exodus concept that if one man is enslaved, the entire world is enslaved, and no one is really safe or free. So social justice is very important in Reform Judaism. At least, it's supposed to be. But as human beings, we are apt to be hypocritical, to exclude certain people, whether consciously or unconsciously, from our awareness of the oppressed.

Today, Rabbi Zimmerman talked about an incredibly taboo subject in American society, especially taboo in a religious setting, unless it's put in a negative light, according to many people's thinking. Rabbi Zimmerman said today that "gays are the new Jews." He got around to that point in a brilliant way too (as usual). He started with historical anecdotes about how throughout history when Jews have been oppressed and persecuted, it was often not motivated by hatred on the part of the people who began it. It was motivated by politics. The Inquisition, the pogroms, the ghettos of Europe, the Holocaust itself, all had their roots in the politics of the day. He told a particular story about how the Czarist government about 100 years ago sponsored a writer to compile a (they claimed) non-fiction book about how Jews were honest-to-G-d trying to take over the world. It wasn't because *they* hated the Jews in Russia per say, rather the Jews in Russia were a convenient distraction from the real problems plaguing Russia at the time. The government could say, "Hey, all you peasants, look over here. See this book! This is what it says! Look, the Jews are ruining your lives, not us! We love you! We‘re trying to protect you from them!" And then, just when people were thinking, 'okay, so where's he going with this?', he brought up the last Presidential election, how with all the problems plaguing our country and world at large, the one topic that got so many on both sides of the aisle up in arms and their power-bases riled was gay marriage. Why was that? Because the US is really in danger of being ruined by gays? Or because they are convenient scapegoat minority, who no one will speak up for unless they are one? It soon became obvious that he decided on this topic because of the recent bad business conducted by the County Commission. He actually said that "Rhonda Storms is a bad Christian." (I smiled. She’s a bad human being, if you asked me, her religion doesn't even get a chance to enter into it.) He said he could do that because, as she told our Cantor in (so he said) the *only* repeatable sentence in the letter she sent in response to the one our Canter sent as a community religious leader asking her to reconsider her position on the anti-gay ordinance, Rhonda Storms doesn't represent our county district. But it was about more than what the County Commission has done...

He reminded us that inappropriate joke are the beginning... Rude gestures, name calling, negative associations... Assuming most gay men are pedophiles, that there's something *wrong* with them, that they are a *them* and not *us*, that the phrase "that's so gay!" is equivalent to "that's so stupid" in American vernacular these days... reminding us that it's no different than saying, "I hope you didn't get jewed when you bought that car!" thereby equating Jews with being cheated. (He made several more pretty graphic analogies throughout the sermon.) The words of those who demonize and differentiate, no matter how outlandish they are, become accepted by more and more people as likely to be facts... Next come outbursts of violence, which become more and more frequent, more and more tolerated by the general public, the excuses by those who agree with the perpetrators that the victims somehow brought the violence upon themselves for essentially not being the same as everyone else become more acceptable... This has happened in this area in the last few years... Several gay men have gone missing in Hillsborough County, one of them just 5 miles north of my home, in similar enough ways to make authorities wonder if there's a serial killer stalking gay men in the area and openly gay men and women have been warned to be extra aware of their surroundings and to try not to go out alone... Every few months there are news stories published that a gay man or a lesbian has been assaulted, several have been in their own front yards or at their businesses... (And I remembered specifically about 2 years ago, during Gay Pride, there was an all night circuit party, a "White Party," for gay men at the rented-out Florida Aquarium... In the wee hours of the morning, as it was winding down, a lot of guys were walking to their cars parked in the garage across the street. A group of five or six angry, young straight guys, armed with crowbars and chains, attacked one of them from behind as he reached his car. He didn’t even have a chance to defend himself. They yelled, "Stupid fag!" and other obscenities as they beat him and kicked him, but he was already unconscious and bleeding on the cement floor by then and didn't hear them. Some of the other "fags" in the garage heard, I think in a turn of divine justice, the commotion and came running. Since the attackers were drunk, and not really in shape (unlike the vast majority of the kind of guys who would go to a White Party, let me tell you), when they reached them, those attackers got the snot beat out of them and were subdued while the police were called and ambulances arrived. The attackers had broken bones, busted lips and bloody noses, and were arrested and charged with some nasty felonies... The young man who was attacked was in a coma, but thankfully came out of it after a few days and, after many months of physical therapy, made a full recovery. And the gay men who came to his rescue, happily, weren't charged with anything, since the attackers had been armed and obviously the aggressors. Even though it ended well, given the situation, it started in the first place when it shouldn't have at all.)

Rabbi Zimmerman pressed on: Then, the little laws get passed... This anti-gay ordinance in Hillsborough County and many others like it in communities across the country, it's a sign. It's a sign as much as the first anti-Semitic laws in Germany were a start. The slope is slippery and if no one but those who are persecuted care or cry out, the snowball will turn into an avalanche, people will loose their lives and the world will become dimmer for the spilling of innocent blood.

And, just when the sermon was getting to the point where some might have been wondering when it was going to end, he brought it back home. He said, "And I'm sure many of you are sitting there thinking, 'Rabbi, what does *this* have to do with me and Yom Kippur?' Well, I can tell you there were many good priests in Europe and North America who gave sermons during Christmas services in 1939 just like this one, and many of their congregants probably asked the same thing."

The point was we know what's happening now, we've seen it before, as a people we lived it before, and we know that's it's wrong and it's wrong to be silent. Being silent in the face of injustice is as serious a sin as actively participating in the injustice. Are we going to stand by and watch? We know we shouldn't, we know we must speak out for all those who have been silenced and all those who would be silenced. I’ve known this for years and that’s why I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida since I was 16 in 1999. I vowed to myself then that I would not be silent for all those who are forced to be. And still, even with all this commitment and effort and calling friends out on the mat for casual thoughtless homophobic comments, telling them, exactly as the rabbi said, that such comments are not harmless, and bearing their anger at my censure on more than one occassion, I know in my heart there is more I could have done.

I was glad that Rabbi Zimmerman reminded the entire congregation of these obligations… I could see looking around it was very difficult for many of them to hear. I could feel the tension in the room rise, there was a sense of uncomfortable emotion as the sermon ended on that note, which I think was the rabbi's intent. But I still wondered, as we all watched the children filter back into the sanctuary and were welcomed and hugged by their parents a few minutes later, how many of those parents were glad that their children hadn't heard the Rabbi's sermon this year.

And on a completely different note, but still connected to Yom Kippur, my cousin (by marriage) Stephanie gave birth to a baby girl (and I *knew* it would be a girl. As soon as we found out that she was pregnant last spring, I immediately thought, "it's a girl"... did the same thing when she had Molly, and I knew instantly that Jake would be a boy when she was pregnant with him... Perhaps I *am* a bit psychic... ;D ) around noon on Yom Kippur. She and her husband have decided to name her “Katelyn Rose” (I’m not sure on the spelling, but that’s the name). Poor Steph had a c-section and so she wasn’t up for visitors yesterday, and Katelyn spent her first several hours in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, though she wasn‘t a premmie. My cousin Martin said there was something wrong with the way she was breathing when she was born. We’re praying it’s not serious and she recovers. I’ll post a picture as soon as I get to take them… Hopefully, we will be able to go to the hospital to see them this afternoon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My day and a sad, simple truth...

Well, I had my Archaeology midterm today as well as a midterm paper due (though it's not officially due until Thursday). Proud to say I had it all printed out and ready to turn in at 4:15 am today. Class was at 2:00 pm. I think I did pretty well... Will know in a few days.

After I came home, I went out riding my bike. I got about 2.5 miles from the house and got to a treacherous bit of sidewalk. Live oaks on both sides within inches of the edge of the side walk, lots of roots tearing up the surface, about a 2 - 3 inch drop from the cement on both sides to the ground, and the sidewalk wove back and forth very quickly... Well, I slowed down hoping that would make it okay to get past it, but my front tire hit a weird bump, slipped off the edge of the cement and bam! I hit a tree. My basket is all messed up, and I've got scratches all over the left side of my face and left arm from wrist to elbow... And there's possibly a bruise developing from the side of my knee almost down to my ankle on my right leg. I saw stars... for a second I just hugged the tree and wondered if I had broke my jaw. I didn't, thank goodness. Odd thing is there isn't a scratch on the bike. And then I had to ride 2.5 miles back home. It sucked.

But then, I remembered that Jeff Corwin, of Animal Channel fame, was going to be speaking at USF this evening at 7pm, so I cleaned up, hurried to eat dinner and headed back to school. The lecture was held in the Special Events hall this time instead of the ballroom... a good call 'cause there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. A lot of kids, some looked as young as 3 or 4 too. I was surprised. Jeff talked about his travels and the things he's learned over the last ten years since he started doing tv. He said that the best advice he could give, before anyone could ask, was to find something you love and find a way to make a living off it. He said he decided he wanted to do what he does since he was 6 years old and got bit by garter snake in his grandmother's backyard... and he decided on tv specifically when, having just finished his undergrad work, he was asked by a documentary crew to show them around Bolivia, which he knew like the back of his hand practically because of all the work he'd done there and time he'd spent. He got lucky. It only took him 4 years of persistence and tenacity to land a show on Disney. The rest is history.

He was really nice, and funny, and patient with the little kids, and the whole point of his lecture was to raise awareness of species that are truly endangered... Not the fuzzy, cuddly ones that everyone likes, like pandas, but rather the ones that a lot of people wouldn't mind killing themselves cause they're afraid of them or think they're a nuisance, such as rattlesnakes in the southwestern US.

He's also quite upset, and rightly so, about the "reworking" of the Endangered Species Act. If you haven't already, read up on what the distinguished gentleman from California, Richard Pombo, has done. Here's his version: Really, it's a toothless excuse for a law and will allow developers and other rats to continue to endanger threatened and nearly extinct species (and this isn't the first time Pombo has, pardon my French, bent over for developers and self-serving "special interests."). Every environmentalist in the country knows this... but the vast majority of this country isn't caring about the environment right now. They're too distracted with the hurricane clean-up, and Iraq, and gays getting married, and their own problems... The environment is always there and yet not in their face, so they ignore it. And that really sucks of them. If you're one of those people, I suggest you get up and start writing your local newspapers, your elected officials, tell your friends and get people pissed about this so-called TESRA. Cause those 900 species still on the Endangered Species List was reduced by 4 last month because 4 species were officially acknowledged as having become extinct... gone forever, never to be seen on this good Earth again. And there will only be more, thanks to Pombo, TESRA, every single Congressmen who voted for it, everyone who supported them, and everyone who didn't fight against it with everything they felt they could do. The loss of those 900 species *will* be *their* fault, it will be on *their* heads, every one, and no one else's because when they were able to do *something*, *anything* to stop it, they made the selfish decision to pander or to be apathetic. And that's the simple truth.


I finally finished the quilt I worked on for over six months altogether... I'm told that's fairly quick for a first quilt. It's for Simon, a guy friend from high school who I had a devastating, utterly hopeless crush on for like... Oh, the better part of seven years... Pretty much from the first second I saw him... Sad, very sad... Finally, I had to come to the conclusion that it would never go anywhere and to move on. But anyway, I finished the quilt, which I made in honor of his graduation from college, and sent it to his parents. I think he back-packed through Europe this past summer after finishing a degree in Japanese Culture and Language at Hampshire College. He very well could be in Japan right now. I haven't been able to get ahold of him. I seem to have somehow lost his e-mail address and I can't find his cell phone number, so I sent it to his parents' house, knowing it will get to him eventually.

About the quilt itself... Everything means something... I did try very hard to get patterns that at least shared the same colors and limited them to black, white, silver, red, gold, and blue. The backing is a marigold and red asian dragon motif outlined on black. To the best of my knowledge the fiber content is all cotton and cotton blends, with the exception of the velvets, which have rayon and possibly spandex in them.

::heavenly fanfare:: pictures to share...

Been taking pictures like crazy with my little camera phone... These that I've uploaded are maybe a fifth of what I've taken in the last few weeks. We'll see if they hold up better than previous ones.
This is sunset on the evening of September 28th this year, over a parking lot in Citrus Park, Florida, across the street from one of the most pleasant, if not very useful to me, malls in the Tampa area.

As I'm sure everyone knows, Halloween is coming up... I love Halloween! So I tried on my costume that I bought last year. It looks fine on, but I thought a corset under it would make it look that much better, so I got out one of the corsets I bought in high school when I was around 17... I am quite proud to say that I can still get it on. Of course, it would be nice if it actually fit. I had to add extra lacing to it because the person who made it reduced the measurements I gave them by 10 inches all around. They denied that they did it and refused a refund, but my tape measurer and copy of the order didn't lie to me... Anyway, with the extra laces it is wearable, technically. You can clearly see why I'll never have to wear a bumroll and have problems finding skirts and pants of the proper proportion... and with a Tudor period corset, my hips are even more pronounced.

The dress is all lace and panne velvet... Reminds me of the old Bob Hope "Casanova" movie. It's lovely. Got it at Torrid last year.

The sleeves have a slash down the side with laces and long drapes of black lace.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hillsborough County Commission... grrrrrr!!!!

For those who don't know, there has been a battle going on in downtown Tampa for the last four months. It all started when the head Librarian of Hillsborough County ordered two libraries to take down their Gay Pride Month displays of books written by famous gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered authors and books with GLBT themes, after (we are told) *three* (unnamed) people called her office to complain. These were not books that were any different than any other book display they might have, except that it was pointed out that their authors were homosexual (Byron, Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Proust, Alice B. Toklas & Gertrude Stein, E. M. Forster, etc. etc.) . There was considerable public outcry over the issue, since there are Black History Month displays, Hispanic Heritage Month displays and all manner of other seasonally themed displays in Hillsborough's public libraries. The libraries were allowed to put the displays back, but were told by their higher-ups that they were to be confined to the back of their buildings, in out of the way places so as not to cause undue discomfort... to the back of the bus, if you will.

Well, within two weeks of this scandal, serious rumors began that the County Commission was going to ban all gay-themed books from Hillsborough County Libraries. Within days they passed an ordinance that prohibited all County organizations from recognizing Gay Pride Month "in any way" and also prohibited the recognition of *any* event which reflected positively on gay people. There was considerable public outcry once again, and though the previous plan to ban books was confirmed, the County Commission has not yet been able to act on it (probably because they've been told by the NFL that if they actually go so far as to ban books, the NFL will find another place to hold the 2012 Superbowl). Only one Commissioner, Cathy Castor, has opposed these measures. In the week after this ordinance was passed, the County's webserver was crashed at least once by e-mails from as far away as England and Iceland voicing outrage over their discriminatory acts... It is estimated that they received at least 15,000 e-mails in a matter of days. It has been published that the number of e-mails received supporting the Commission have been less than 1% of the total (that's fewer than 150 e-mails for those who hate math).

And proving that the Commission is persisting in the face of public outrage, today, I received this e-mail:

Date: Thu, 06 Oct 2005 20:19:06 GMT
From: "Equality Florida"
To: Me
Subject: Hillsborough Commission Steps Up Their Anti-Gay Campaign

Hillsborough Commission Steps-Up Anti-Gay Campaign
Actions Shine Light on Discriminatory Intent

(Tampa, FL) Today, Equality Florida and the Pride is Back Community Coalition expressed outrage over the Hillsborough County Commission's continuing efforts to discriminate against LGBT citizens, as evidenced at yesterday's board meeting.

First, the commission rebuffed a recommendation from its own Human Relations Board to revisit the exclusion of "sexual orientation" from the protections of the county's Human Rights Ordinance. And in an act that completely removed any doubt of their discriminatory intent, the commission went on the make it more difficult for LGBT people to gain protections in the future.
"For the past four months, Commissioners have tried to deflect widespread public criticism by saying they do not support discrimination," said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. "Given an opportunity today to put those words into action, the Commissioners sat silent. There can no longer be any doubt that the intention of this commission is to discriminate against our community."

The Hillsborough County Human Relation's Board recommended that the Commissioners revisit their 10-year-old policy of excluding "sexual orientation" from the protections of the county's Human Rights Ordinance. Commissioner Castor told her fellow Commissioners that revising the policy would not only heal some of the damage done by the commission's now infamous June 15th anti-gay policy, but would also give Commissioners a chance to prove their previously declared opposition to discrimination. Not one single Commissioner was willing to second Castor's motion, in spite of the Human Relations Board's recommendation.

"The Commission had an opportunity today to begin a healing process. Instead, they escalated their attack on Hillsborough's LGBT community and intentionally tore open the wound of bigotry they inflicted four months ago," said Brian Winfield, Communications Director of Equality Florida, who along with field coordinator Lesa Weikel, attended the day-long session.

In a final slap at the gay community, the commissioners passed a legally suspect resolution that requires a super majority of the commission for the issue to be brought for a vote. When asked, the county's own attorney made it clear that the new policy was legally inconsequential.

"If you're not going to support my motion, that's one thing, but please don't be mean-spirited, Commissioners," Castor begged of her colleagues. Her plea appears to have made an impact on at least one Commissioner. Even Thomas Scott, who has repeatedly toed the majority line in casting anti-gay votes, didn't have the stomach to support Ronda Storms outrageous motion, which went on to pass in a 5 to 2 vote.

Since the Commission's June 15th passage of a policy that bars county agencies from even acknowledging any event that portrays gay people in a positive light, there has been an enormous outcry from the community with unprecedented involvement by individuals, businesses and religious and civic organizations. Their continuing efforts clearly demonstrate that the Tampa Bay community does not support the Commission's discriminatory actions.

At least 15,000 people have taken action by emailing the commissioners, attending marches, interfaith worship services, benefit concerts, read-ins and vigils and supporting the BUYcott. Neighboring cities, such as Dunedin and Gulfport, have shown their support of equal rights and community diversity. On October 4th, the night before the Hillsborough Commission meeting, the Gulfport's city council unanimously passed an inclusive human rights ordinance.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

While driving in the 'burbs...

... I saw this sign, and thanks to my camera phone, I'm able to bring it to you here. ;D

Monday, October 03, 2005


I've been watching "Shrek 2" lately, pardon the reference...

I bought a bike today. I figured if I can't buy American, the next best thing is to buy for value and quality. I got a Schwinn "Hollywood" on end of the '05 model year closeout (it's like bikes are cars all of a sudden), so got a deal and quality in one. It has aluminum wheels and stainless steal spokes, which are guaranteed not to rust, and a bunch of other "we're better than the rest" kind of manufacturing pluses. So woo-hoo! Now, I can bike up to Publix!

Other changes this week are that I got the fig tree (it's only about 18" tall) and the grapes planted. This past weekend my dad, Joe, and I built a 10' x 20' grape arbor to the Eastern side of our back yard field. Mom says she's wanted one for years, so even though my dad complains about doing stuff like this, he did it anyway. It doesn't look like much yet, but give the vines time to grow, and me time to finish spray painting later this week. And of course, I still have to run the lead-wires across the top.

After we were done building it, I realized that we're finally going to have our own sukkah for Sukkot (aka "the Festival of Booths" or Tabernacles, for those that don't know; it's in the Book of Ruth). Sure, it doesn't have a palm frond roof like they have today, but what on earth could the people in Europe do for Sukkot in centuries past, 'cause I know they didn't have that many palms widely available in the wilds of Eastern Europe or London. There must have been something else... A grape arbor seems good enough to me. There was probably citron and palm available in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages, but in Prague? I seriously doubt it...

(After doing a bit of research, I've found that anything can be used to cover the roof and walls of a sukkah as long as it was grown from the earth and cut off at some point... So this wouldn't techanically be a sukkah, since the grapes would be continuously growing... But, seriously, toss a few tree branches on top, lean enough against the sides to sufficiently cover three of them and the mitzvah is technically fulfilled as long as they won't be blown off by the wind... Although, I still can't find out how the Jews of Medieval Europe were able to fulfill the commandments concerning the citron and palm for the benedictions.)

L'Shanah Tovah!!

L'Shanah Tovah, everyone! That is, Happy New Year! Tonight is Erev Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the birthday of the universe by the Jewish reckoning.

"Rosh Hashanah" literally means "head of the year," "rosh" being the Hebrew word for "head." It is considered to be New Year's Day by the Jewish calendar and also the beginning of the "High Holy Days" or the "Days of Awe." Tomorrow, the shofar will sound in synogogues all over the world. It's hard to explain how this very loud and somewhat awkward sounding trumpet can still bring tears to eyes and big smiles to the faces of young and old alike as it is sounded.

On this day and in the coming week, it is traditional to eat apples and honey for a sweet year to come and to say "L'Shanah Tovah," "For a good New Year," to everyone you meet. "L'Shanah Tovah" is the short version of a longer blessing said in greeting. The blessing says, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." This probably seems quite odd to those who don't know the traditional literugy. The idea is that on this day all humans and the hosts of Heaven are judged by their deeds of the previous year and inscribed for blessings or hardships in the coming year in a kind of heavenly book. On Yom Kippur (literally, "Day of Atonement"), ten days later, after being given a specific chance to repent sins, the book is sealed for the year (because the idea is that up to that point what was written can be changed), hence the "sealed" part of the blessing.
For more on Rosh Hashanah, see . (Note: the graphic I've put here is from the Yahoo!Greetings free greeting selection. You can find many more for any occassion here: )

Mmmm... dessert!

I couldn't pick just one dessert that is my favorite in the world, but bread pudding with vanilla sauce is definitely in the top 10. I first had it when my dad took my brother and I on a cruise to Alaska. (By the 4th day on the ship, the kitchen had so much stale bread that they served bread pudding at the breakfast, lunch *and* dinner buffets for the rest of the week. I didn't mind a bit. It was delicious!!)

Tonight, I just had to use the 2% milk that my brother bought several weeks ago (and never drank a drop of)... It was just this side of going bad. Well, there were 8 cups of it, and I thought... bread pudding! Double the usual amount of milk needed, but... that just means that I had to make double the recipe (yay!).

I used the recipe from my Mom's old "The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery" (published in 1971. A wonderful book! Everyone should have one!) and modified it slightly (and this is half the amount I made), as follows:

4 cups milk
6 slices of stale bread
4 eggs
1/4 cup of Splenda for Baking (instead of sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
butter for bread

Butter one side of bread slices. Scald the milk. Beat the eggs well and combine with Splenda for Baking, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour in the milk slowly, whisking constantly. Pour the milk mixture into a baking dish, place slices of bread (butter side up) on top. Place dish in a pan of hot water and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 - 50 minutes.

Then I made the vanilla sauce, also with a recipe from "The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery" which I slightly altered.

2 cups Half 'n Half (didn't have any cream or whole milk - recipe called for one cup each)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup Splenda for Baking (obviously it called for white sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

Scald the Half 'n Half (or cream and milk). Beat the egg yolks and Splenda for Baking together, then pour the scalded mixture over them, whisking briskly. Return to heat and bring to boiling point without actually boiling. Cool and add vanilla.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

FL lawmakers looking to close Green-belt loophole

Just heard on the local news that FL lawmakers are trying to reformulate a good 50-year old law to make it even better for the people of Florida (yay!!) and stick it to the developers who have been abusing it.

There's a law on the books here which gives working farms a tax break on their land, costing them $500 per acre instead of what it would be for residential zones. Well, savvy developers in the last G-d only knows how many years have been taking advantage of this law by grazing cattle in their construction zones before homes are built and sold. This means they can buy several hundred acres of farm land, graze as little as half a dozen cows that they have rented from "Rent-A-Cow" companies, and pay a fraction of what the land should and will be taxed as soon as the cows are gone. We're talking about land that goes for about $250,000 per acre. Economists estimate that these developers legally cheat the state out of $750,000,000 per year in tax revenues. The American Farm Trust and other such organizations are pushing for reform because they say it is unfair to the farmers for whom the tax break was intended.

On the other side of the issue is Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a State Representative from the Miami district, who is also a developer himself, and he (oh-so surprisingly) doesn't see what the problem is. Here's what he was quoted as saying to FOX13 News: "The developer benefits cause he gets a tax break. The cattlemen benefit because they have land to put their cattle on because they have no where else to go. And the county will end up benefiting as well." Yeah, well, there isn't a sentence there that I don't have a problem with for a number of reasons.

Let's hope that FL lawmakers will actually fix this law and close that loophole.