Friday, July 24, 2009

Attack of the Tree Frog

All our registrations are expiring soon on the vehicles so we undertook to change the title over to a Florida one and get new plates on the Convertible. This soon became an adventure into "we don't do it thatta way around here" land and our first inclination that it was going to be a unique experience was when we began to look for a place to register our car. There are a couple of courthouse offices to go to and about 20 private "Tag Agencies" in the Miami area. We opted for a courthouse office since it seemed more familiar to us and had heard that Tag Agencies charge an additinal fee and sometime do not get you your plates before the temporary one expires.

When we arrived at the office, we took our number and waited about a half-hour to be called. We had title, registration and insurance documents with us and we knew that they didn't take credit cards so we brought the checkbook along. The lady was helpful, but what we didn't expect was that we needed to have one other document with us. We needed to leave the courthouse and have part of this form filled out by either a Police Officer or Notary Public that would actually look at the car and verify that the V.I.N. on the car matched the V.I.N. on the Title. I don't really understand this, but maybe there are scams around where the Title and car don't match? Hmmmm....

So we dutifully took the papers and had a Notary do the verification for us.

When we returned (several days later) to finish up the process we found that the office had been closed and we were directed to a nearby Tag Agency :(

We got to the Tag Agency and got in line. It didn't take more than 15 or 20 minutes to get helped and the lady providing us service was friendly ... and very, very sick (if we catch something it's likely because she transferred it to us on our plates or papers). She reviewed all our documents and nodded approvingly that we were good to go. She asked the customary questions about what kind of plates we wanted, whose name to title the car to, and what address to send the new title to. We paid almost a hundred dollars for title transfer, a hundred dollars for first-time registration fee and some more for Ageny Fee, use tax, and the actual registration fee. It was roughly twice what we'd've paid in Colorado, maybe closer to 3 times.

She then grabbed our plate and affixed the bright yellow expiration sticker on it. It said "01-10".

We asked her why it was only to January instead of a full year from today's date, she said that Florida registers by birth month! Well .. Robin is January, but I'm in July ... but it was already completed and we'd likely have paid a whole new transfer fee to change the title over to me. (sigh).

We did get a bit of a chuckle out of it though. It's just something else we've run across that signals us that we're not in Colorado anymore. I guess I am kind of closed-minded to about doing things any way different from what I know, but this still seems a bit out in left field.

It does, however, give me a page or two of Blog material for a couple of hours worth of experience :)

After that (we'd hustled home from work to get there) we went to the Firestone Dealer so they could put in an air filter that I'd paid for but they forgot to install. To their credit they waved at us when we pulled up and came straight to our car the moment we drove into the parking lot. Their apologies were accepted and the technician popped the hood and swapped the air filter out in an amazing 31 seconds (yes, we were jokingly timing it ... but he wowed us all).

Then we headed out to the boat for a little visit and to clean up after some pesky pigeons. I'll figure a way to keep them off the mast and make million$ some day :) Then we headed off to dinner at a quaint German restaurant we'd been meaning to try for several months. It was pleasant and relatively quiet with some 'unique' live entertainment. The solo artist played keyboards and accordian as he had apparently been doing for many, many years. He was doing the "Pennsylvania Polka" and some other familiar German and European favorites for a while, but it got kind of weird when the Chicken Dance fired up and then it got pretty laughable when we heard "Margaritaville" on an accordian with a Polka beat.

Still, the food was good and the staff great. The facility is old and decorated in things Bavarian from who knows how long ago. We left quite pleased and with the next day's lunch n our take-home bag.

As is often our custom, we did not take a straight-home route and opted to explore a bit on the way back. It was dark, and pleasant so we put the top down on the convertible and meandered around in an inderect way home (a-la Family Circus). This is a good way to get lost for a while and not let it become worrisome because we actually planned on it :). So, as the streets wandered around and finally dead-ended we weren't bothered and started finding our way back.We were tooling aroung in a mobile home park/area actually and found a waterway blocking our direct route through the park (that happens a lot around here).

So we did a couple of left turns and found the perimeter road and were happily headed back to the main street when I heard two things simultaneously; Robin's scream and the sound of an impact on her shoulder.

We both knew she'd been hit by something and at first we figured it must've been a very large bug of some kind. We were making about 25 mph and whatever it was hit her hard enough to hurt a little, startle her a lot and , make noise and also hard enough to prove that it wasn't a moth or mosquito.

Slowing, I turned the overhead light on and we started looking for something large and crawly-or-winged beasty of the night. I thought maybe a dragonfly or Cicada, or maybe even a Mantis but we couldn't seem to find anything on or in around the seats.
Robin spotted him unlikely critter in an unlikely spot. A gray-green Tree Frog maybe 3 inches long was sitting on the dashboard, probably wondering what had just happened to him.

He jumped across the dash when I tried to catch him and then I had a second thought because I had no clue about tree frogs and whether there are any venomous ones around here. I know there are venomous toads living around here and they will poison and kill dogs & cats sometimes and make people pretty sick with a neurotoxin on the back of their necks. Luckily we had some paper towels handy and I reached for him a couple more times before I finally got him when he landed on the steering wheel. I tossed him back out and we went on our way, very curious about why such a little fellow would attack such a big silver target (i.e. the car) and even more puzzled about exactly how he got that far into the sky to begin with. You see, we weren't exactly under any trees...

Things that make you go 'huh' in Florida :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fireworks, Shuttles and Rum, oh my!

I can hear it now ... "Gaaaary, you've got some bloggin' to do!!" Dang that inner voice of guilt (oh, and the other pressures as well (grin)).

It's been a good few weeks all told, full of adventure and some trials as well. Altogether it has been a good introduction to the summer and to the future that we have planned.

Along about the 3rd of July we started looking around for a place to go see fireworks. There are so many cities lined up along the 'Gold Coast', 'Treasure Coast' and 'Space Coast' that we didn't really get a handle on what or who would be putting on a big show. We managed to get a three-day weekend out of it since the 'official' holiday was on Friday and we planned on spending some down time puttering about on small projects and relaxing. Since it had been raining pretty much every day for the past 3 weeks we surmised that there might be some washed out shows but dawned clear and stayed clear most of the day on the 4th.

As it turned out we just put the top down on the convertible and drove around for a couple of hours watching pieces of several different fireworks shows and skirting around traffic jams of people trying to get to or from the beaches. Maybe next year we'll watch a couple of shows from a mile or two offshore. The weekend was a rousing succes as far as the relaxation goal was concerned and we even took in a movie at the IMAX theatre located conveniently close to the slip where S/V Robin is docked. For the record, sequels seldom whip the originals as badly as the "Night in the Museum; The Battle for the Smithsonian" did. In our humble opinion (IMHO) it was a far better movie than the first one and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

The work week ensued complete with training, meetings, and coomutes and we made up some plans for the next weekend which included a certain blog author's birthday. :)

On Friday we made an early day of it and headed up to Jupiter, FL to visit with our friends Sue and Chip. What started out as a civil evening of steaks on the grill and a game of cards quickly 'advanced' into what could be construed to be a full-fledged pary when someone (no names here) slipped a litre of dark rum onto the table along with some shot glasses.

Now ... I've been around long enough to lnow better, you'd think ... we did have fun; so I'm told at least ... and I think we quit the card game before it was supposed to be over. I know there was a swimming pool involved and I know I got to sleep before daylight.

Actually: we did enjoy the evening immensely and it was great fun and fellowship. What a nice way to usher in my first year of senior discounts.

Saturday morning we said our farewells and travelled further north because we wanted to watch the Space Shuttle depart. It ws scheduled for a 7:50 P.M. launch and we'd booked a hotel about 30 miles south of the Cape because everything north of that was booked solid. It's great to realize that a Shuttle launch is still popular and exciting enough to draw a crushing crowd to watch it. The media gives it precious little coverage these days unless there is a mishap.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel and checked in we learned that the mission had been scrubbed due to lightning strikes around the launch complex the night before so we suddenly had no pressure to be anywhere and took the time to tour around Palm Bay, Cocoa Beach and Port Canaveral. We were already booked at the hotel for the evening and decided that since the launch was rescheduled for Sunday evening that we'd stay another night and hope to see it go.

Our hotel was conveniently located next to a Texas Roadhouse and the steaks were as good as we remembered :)

We did some more 'touristy' activities on Sunday morning and gradually worked our way up highway A1A to a spot recommended to us by a co-worker. The place is along the south jetty wall of the Port Canaveral inlet and there are several restaurants along the road with good, unobstructed viewsto the north. Although we were about 11 miles south of the launch pad itself we were only a couple hundred yards away from Cape property and we had an (almost) unobstructed view to the launch site. Cars and people started filling in a couple of hours prior to launch, but we had an hour head start on them and were graced by an air conditioned table with a good view and a great waiter with a pretty good menu. All told, it was a pretty good spot to watch a launch.
While it's been a while since we've spent more than three hours at a restaurant, the staff made it fun and about 15 minutes prior to launch we stepped outside to wait and see. At about T-11 they scrubbed it due to encroaching thunderstorms and while we were disappointed it was still an enjoyable afternoon.

Monday morning we packed up and made the 190 mile commute to report to work. NASA tried again and scrubbed due to weather and then finally made it on Wednesday.
There are only 7 Shuttle launches left. This number actually includes a launch that was not originally going to go up because the first time it was to launch it was destroyed in the Challenger. The entire project has been rebuilt and will finally get to go into space after all.

We hope to find a way to be present for at least some of these launches as they are spectacular.

The schedule for NASA'a launches are here.
You can also get NASA TV broadcasts piped directly to your computer by going to their NASA TV page and choosing which kind of media player to view. They also have a huge selection of videos and images to browse through.
Last week we drove north again; this time to Stuart, FL to meet up with and visit with Jerome from the previous entry's "Contour" story. When last we saw him we were concerned about his taking off across the ocean single-handed this time of year and after we managed to make e-mail contact we found that he'd elected to hang around locally for at least a while until a crew could be found. He'd met up with an experienced and willing sailor named Dave and they will likely be on their way in a few days. It looks like Jerome is going to get a crack at his dream real soon and we wish him (them) the very best of times as they cruise around. We haven't had a hint of hurricane threat yet although the thunderstorms have been persistent and often severe (driving home from Stuart that evening we punched through a very heavy storm with hail and nearly constant lightning. It rained very, very hard and we were thankful to get out of it. I would not've liked it in a boat.)
It's been quite a month for celebrity passings as well. Of all, I will probably feel Walter Cronkite's the most. In conjunction with this week's 40th anniversary of the landing on the moon, his pictures and videos have gotten a fair amount of airplay and it causes me to remember how much of a 'staple' he was during my growing up years. His legacy is a good one.

Robin and I have been actively engaged in training to revive our controller skills. Robin has certified on three "D" positions and I have certified on 1 but then moved to a RADAR position right away (different plans for the different areas of training). I will likely certify on my radar position in a few days.
It has been a challenge and some fun, actually, to try to get up to speed on fast moving sectors and I think I'll survive it after all. Once we are done with this level of training we'll start working on the Supervisory aspects of managing the areas, which is why we were hired. The process has been long and not necessarily logical, but we've persevered this far and will see it through to completion.
On the right is a snapshot of the sector I'm leaning. We sequence 4 streams to three airports (PBI, FLL, MIA (and their satellites) and handle departures from PBI (Palm Beach) and crossing over-flights to and from the Bahamas. Yep, it can get busy ->

The rest of the week(s)s have been filled with mostly mundane chores surrounding everyday life. We watched some "Heroes", worked on the little boat, put new tires on the car and bought tennis rackets (although at 94 degrees and 95% humidity we may wait a bit on that activity :) )

This weekend we will likely spend Saturday aboard S/V Robin and on Sunday Robin departs for a training class in Palm Coast, FL (about 4 hours north of here). We've tried this sort of 'trial separation' thing before and I can tell you it doesn't work so we are already looking forward to our reunion :)