See a solar eclipse

So for those who may have missed the memo, the United States had an eclipse not that long ago who was a coast to coast eclipse. Now I knew of the eclipse years prior that it was going to happen and if you were paying any sort of attention to my bucket list you would have noticed the date was listed.

I had no idea it was going to be as far as it was nor did I know how near I was going to be to it. A few years ago I moved to Augusta which was going to get 99.5% but just past Aiken was supposed to get 100%. Not knowing exactly where in Aiken was going to get totality as the maps kept giving information that was not easy to put in the GPS, so I decided to go further to see if I could get something within the appropriate path. So I sized up a few options and went to SC State in Orangeburg which was participating in scientific research since they were in the path of totality.

I will say that the eclipse brought out some of the worst and scientifically ignorant people out there not to mention the rudest. Next time I am going to see if I can rent something in the path of totality because I will never deal with so many rude people again, and no they weren’t all southerners, no one around me was a southerner!

I will say that the eclipse was a beautiful experience so I would see it again, but not with so many rude people!

If you are from the US, where were you during the Great American Eclipse?

Completed : 2017

Categories: Nature, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Swim with the manatees and fish

I grew up in sunny South Florida, so I took manatees for granted because of course everyone would have seen a manatee, who wouldn’t they?

Hence I was surprised to see manatees on the list of “required” viewing even though they are an endangered species. Recently Florida estimated about 10,000 manatees which means it at least doubled from 1996 when it was about 5000.

Any time you went out on the water, especially if you went out on a boat, seeing a manatee was always a possibility. Unfortunately manatees do not move very fast (around 5 mph is cruising speed for a manatee) so any boat could easily hurt them and tear up their skin. They eventually put additional speed limits just for areas where there were manatees, sort of like a school zone.

I remember seeing them several times during educational demonstrations when we were on the very border of their habitat in shallow water and we could see them. Sometimes we would go to basically rehabilitation facilities on field trips. Usually these manatees had recently been injured and were about to be released right back into the wild.

However I wondered if that would even count as being in their natural habitat so when I went down to do my skydive, I knew I was getting places a little early, so I wanted to see what else there was to do in Tampa. I looked on Groupon and found a few places offering manatee dives. Hmmm… Interesting idea! I never thought to do that.

So I signed up with Manatee Tour and Dive.

This ended up being my first time in a wetsuit as well as my first time snorkling as well as my first time being in open water. My mother never let me snorkel and never go into a river or other water like that.

Our first stop was a spring called “Jurassic” where we saw a sleeping manatee and lots and lots of fish.

Then we started looking around for more. We went to “Three Sisters” although no manatees there (only one in the sanctuary), there were lots of kayaks and people who kept hitting me with their paddles. And lots of fish.

We kept looking for more, although we had a manatee find US and it hit the boat.

We saw several backs as they came up to breathe, but they were in not so good areas for us to swim in.

We did see another who came up to the boat, but by the time I got there someone had accidentally kicked the manatee who bolted. Then they tried to track another one down but at a certain point, I was too tired to go back out. We also did see the dolphins jumping though!

Even though the swim with the manatees ended up being a mostly swim with the fishes issue, we did get to see a manatee!

Really though, the captain, who wasn’t too bad looking, said the main reason was probably the huge amount of people and the warm weather was probably driving the manatees out to eat.

Still not a terrible waste of $16 for 3+ hours of entertainment although man was that water cold!

Plus this proved my grandmother and mother wrong.

1) There is anti-fog things out there for masks
2) What she gave me once was not a real snorkel and mask as a proper snorkel mask will completely cover your nose forcing you to breath through your mouth
3) Nothing ate me even though there were sharks in the water.

What do you think?

Completed: I would have no earthly way of knowing when I saw the manatee, 1986?  Swam with them in 2014

Categories: Nature | Tags: , , , , , ,

Learn Astronomy and Read the Night Sky

One of the Things to Do was to “Learn Astronomy and Read the Night Sky” however, there in the book that simply means to memorize all the constellations. This is not the only way to learn astronomy and to read the night sky, after all the constellations only included a few of those present in the Northern Hemisphere not all 88 “modern” constellations, most of which I recognize.

What about those who have a degree in the subject? Astronomy is more than just memorizing constellations and one can read the night sky without it.

I obtained a degree in Space Studies which is like Astronomy without the math, while I know many of the constellations, it helps more that I can identify planets (I have seen all but Mercury which due to the location it is hard to see) and the things that are more helpful to me are astronomical directions which I can understand. I consider this reading the night sky and one that is much more helpful especially considering as though different cultures have different constellations and quite frankly it is not helpful unless you have all of them anyway.

I can, if necessary navigate by just the stars alone, at least when it is dark out. I know automatically where to look for meteors, etc.

I knew I knew how to read the night sky when I was in Iowa and used some basic knowledge (the astronomical directions) to name stars and by that get directions. Now that I have seen Polaris and what it looks like without light pollution, I can always identify it.

What do any of you think about astronomy? Have a favourite planet (I will accept Pluto)? A favourite star? Where is the darkest place you have ever been?

Completed : 2007

Categories: Nature | Tags: , ,

Blizzards, Evacuations, and Ghosts… Oh My!

In Feb 2015, we had a bit of a blizzard in North Georgia on the top of a mountain. I am not sure how many of you are from up north, but here in the South, we don’t have insulation since we spend the fast majority of our time trying to get RID of the excess heat if possible not trying to keep it in. We don’t have salt or anything of the sort. At one point, I was in a temperature of 1 degree F and a wind chill of -15 degrees. It’s a bit cold and colder if you don’t have something like a heater or anything.

And by blizzard, I mean no one could leave their house so it was a southern blizzard not a Northern blizzard where there was 10 feet of snow. I myself was stuck in my grandmother’s cabin in Blairsville Georgia for and could not do much of anything really. I spent one entire week iced in, then the next week snowed it. For a place where it doesn’t snow (per my grandmother) we sure got a lot of it. In fact, a state of emergency was called for the area and residents were urged to not leave their homes for any reason. Given the cabin is on an unpaved mountain road where no one can get up it or down it safely under the best of times, in the snow one couldn’t even try.

But I thought all of that was ok because I had nowhere else to be for a few days, I had to run down to Savannah eventually but I was planning on leaving on Wednesday. When I found out Monday morning that snow was gone but that it would be coming back in a few hours and that we would be snowed in again making my Wednesday travel plan impossible, I opted to leave almost immediately.

I brought the trash down to the dump, grabbed a few more medications, threw my only half packed suitcase in the car and headed out. I was still in my pajamas which I had thrown clothing over in order to go to the dump. (Don’t judge me I was going to go back to bed). I was not expecting at all to be on the road Monday. I was going to stay in Atlanta on Monday night but it turned out that the snow was going to hit Atlanta as well that night (and it in fact shut down the city) so I tried to sleep in my car in a rest area near Macon (I was a bit late as I was having dinner with a friend), but that turned out to be way too noisy so I checked into an Econolodge.

The next day I arrived in Savannah and spent a few days there exploring the historic district, went on the trolly tour, visited the Jewish cemetery, and the Reform synagogue (third oldest shul in the US). I decided I wanted to go on a ghost tour, but with how the weather was, we had to keep rescheduling my Hearse Tour which was cute. Could have been scarier but then it would have killed the old passengers with me. I enjoyed my time in Savannah. I would have liked to actually go hunt for ghosts though! I could definitely consider living there if the Jewish community had more kosher food.

Have you ever had to evacuate? What did you do and where did you go?

Completed : 2015

Categories: Nature, Travel | Tags: , , ,

Building a house you can’t afford

There is one of the 101 Things to do which was a several in one and given just a little over a year ago we went into foreclosure, maybe now would be the time to discuss it.

In the early 2000s we were living in a trailer park and I was miserable as I was never able to have a dog and there were people all over making lots of noise. I was also next to a train but that is a story for another day. We found a great piece of land (10.5 acres) along the yellow river that had to be given back after 9/11 and we jumped on it. After a few years and much guilt from me, we opted to build a house.

I wanted to use the land in such a way that we were able to use the forest while protecting it and such and that I was going to be able to see the river from my office.  Unfortunately, due to the partner’s desire to be as cheap as humanly possible, we had to build very close to the road which did not allow us to even go back to the river with ease.  In the several years I lived there, I only went back there two or three times because I never could find the path way.  My partner liked the location as we had near constant hummingbird visitors.

The house we built was all the partner’s design which meant it worked for him but not for me.  Total, it was 2000 and then had a 2000 square foot basement.  On the entry level, we had a great room and kitchen (built for someone over 6 foot), a huge master bedroom and bathroom, two bedrooms, a half bath, another full bath, and an office.  Down in the basement, we had a sound-proof media room, a laundry room, another office, two huge living areas, a hobby room, another bathroom, and a storage area that was going to be a secondary master bedroom/bathroom.

Total cost was about 200K, but partner’s ex-wife kept suing him for stupid things and then with his loss of a job, we ended up missing A payment and ended up getting caught up in the Bank of America scandal causing us to eventually lose our home, myself to take to the streets, and giving me post traumatic stress any time a certified mail document comes in.

And now, I am about to build another house this time I am the one in control and it will be half the cost for everything I need.

Bank of America can still go screw itself.

What was your reckless thing?

Completed: 2005


Categories: Achievement, Nature, Recklessness | Tags: , , , , ,

See a lunar eclipse

This is one of the two parts of “Thing to do” #39 see a solar and lunar eclipse.

This is the lunar eclipse I saw on Dec 21, 2010. This was a special eclipse as it came not only a few days before Christmas, but directly on the Winter Solstice. As this was before I was a Jew and my last religion of record was Wicca still I took the time to do a ritual on that day.

I went outside and lit my candles just as everything was starting and I looked up and saw the moon start to turn. It was a very clear night. That is when I started meditating and would open my eyes from time to time to see it get darker and darker. I remember reciting the Hippocratic Oath and stated that no matter what this was binding to me throughout my life. (Despite my conversion to Judaism which effectively negated that vow, I still consider it binding to me.) I also thanked all the various gods and goddesses or whoever sent me my mentor. Then I tranced out. By the time I came out, it was only a few minutes until the moon was very bright again and the eclipse was over. The moon was about to go behind some clouds that just rolled in. It was very spiritual.

When I checked Facebook later that day, all my friends who were in the local area stated they could not see any part of the eclipse because it was overcast the entire night with no break in the clouds for hours before and after the eclipse. It was like it was only clear over my house and people said I should be very lucky. Not that this would surprise me at all!

Have you seen an eclipse?

Completed : 2010

Categories: Nature | Tags: , , ,

Experience a Natural Disaster – Hurricane

This isn’t one of the listed Things to Do which surprises me. The list in the book includes storm chasing a tornado, but yet no experience a natural disaster? Maybe it is because no one goes out of their way to experience a natural disaster which I think everyone should do at least once in their life as it makes people appreciate what their normal day is like.  In addition, assuming you are not surrounded by complete and utter jerks, it usually can restore your faith in humanity with everyone helping each other.

It has been a little over 20 years since I experienced a true natural disaster.

In my case, that was the infamous Hurricane Andrew in August 24, 1992.

Until Hurricane Katrina came along in 2005, Andrew was the most expensive and most destructive hurricane to date with over 60 lives lost (estimated nationwide, most in Florida) and over $20 billion in damages in 1992 dollars. While we were told it was a category 4 hurricane at the time, in 2002 it was retroactively upgraded to a category 5 once they reassessed some old satellite footage and it turns out that it met the criteria.

I remember quite a bit leading up to the storm.  One I remember being very cocky that it wasn’t going to hit because Florida had not had a hurricane for a long time.  I said this even to my old teacher who I ran into in the grocery store.  I did not realize this meant we were overdue, but hey I was 11. What did I know?

I also remember when it was gathering strength and we learned people were going to need to evacuate how it went section by section.  First no one needed to, then up to I-95 (affecting my grandmother, grandfather, and great grandmother), then up to the turnpike.  If it had gone up to University Drive, everyone was going to be spending time with my other grandmother.  As it stands, we had my grandmother and great grandmother staying with Mom and me.  My grandfather Pop-pop didn’t want to evacuate his apartment.  My parents were already divorced so Dad was living a few blocks over.  Since he was in television as part of the skeleton crew, he had to stay at the studio so they could continue to broadcast.  If I recall, he left his dog Mo in the house with food and water knowing that if something were to happen to him and he could not get back to the house we could check on her.  I cannot remember why we did not bring Mo to our house other than the fact was at the time with everyone in my mother’s house we also included another dog, Quantum, two cats, two red-eared sliders, a bird (I think my great grandmother’s parakeet stayed at her house with food and water), two hermit crabs, and several fish tanks.  Plus of course, me, Mom, Nana, and Da.  All in a two bedroom, 1.5 bath house. Nana was on the foldout couch, Da (my grandmother) was in my bed with all the pets she wasn’t allergic to, while I was with my mother and the dog in my mother’s room, the cats generally didn’t get locked up at night.

If I recall correctly since Mom worked in radio (yes a media family) she was working almost to the last minute which was typical. I think Da arrived first, but Mom can correct me if I am wrong.

The hurricane eventually came ashore and some time later we lost power as you would expect. Luckily, given I was raised in Florida, I am used to thunderstorms and power outages.

We had a lot of supplies so it wasn’t that bad. I remember during this time when the power was out that I won my first hand of poker. And yes we start gambling young in this family! I bluffed when I only had a pair of 10s, my grandmother was upset that I didn’t have a pair of jacks or better. I still stand by the fact, it was a legit move. 🙂

I actually slept through the worst part of the storm when the eye went over us. Really it was easy to do as our house was an older more sturdy house that met a strict building code that was in effect back in the day. The more recent homes had a relaxed building codes as builders just wanted to throw them up as fast as possible and were paying off people to lower the code. Unfortunately that is why the damage was so high and why so many people ended up homeless.

When the storm was over, there were tons of trees down, I think at least three or four trees either fell or were about to fall on our house. Again no damage. My grandmother’s house? No damage. My great grandmother’s house? No damage. Those houses were also older houses. I don’t even think there was a broken window despite them not being boarded up.

One of the largest trees on our block fell and blocked the street… no damage to the house it fell on. Hello building code.

If I recall our power was out for about 2 or 3 weeks and some of us had to start school! Since a lot of schools were damaged, the schools that were functional had to absorb all the other students. Needless to say we had some packed classes that year! All of us tried to make the best of the situation. Everyone tried to help each other out to the best of their ability.

Miami Metro Zoo and things like Parrot Jungle and Monkey Jungle were not very happy as a lot of animals escaped into the Everglades. As if Florida did not have a big enough problem with exotics!

Personally, I enjoyed Hurricane Andrew and I have enjoyed every other hurricane that I have been through. I guess that makes me weird, but my father said when he was a kid hurricanes were fun and not as dangerous. There might be something to all of that.

What is the worst natural disaster you’ve lived through?

Completed : 1992

Categories: Nature | Tags: , ,

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