Sunday, November 4, 2018

And Then There Were Tornadoes…

Home in Holiday / Tarpon Springs area, FL

Storm Friday, November 2, 2018

This year we have faced…ICESNOWFIRESHURRICANES…and now this past Friday…TORNADOES.  Well, at least we missed the Earthquakes!

Storm Friday, November 2, 2018

As I have said in previous blogs, we have been watching side channels of local over-the-air channels…ones which don’t have political commercials, show older shows.  But on Friday I went to Google to look for something and WOW, there was a Tornado Warning for our area!  We had just heard a few distance thunder claps coming off the Gulf.  I turned to Fox-13 (I know, above says ABC, but they all had the same type of live graphic going), and sure enough, a huge storm hitting the coast from just below Tampa to about 20 miles north of us.  When it hit our area, it was strong…straight-line winds and rain, but in under 10 minutes, the storm had passed.  The actual tornado warnings were 10 miles to our south, and 10 miles to our northeast….with what I counted as six different warnings…

Storm Friday, November 2, 2018

The latest report that I saw had the actual tornado count at 4.  These tornadoes were short lived, unlike the ones I was use to in Arkansas which could go on for miles.  A EF-1 tornado touched down Friday afternoon in New Port Richey, around 10 miles to our north.  Tornadoes were also confirmed in Spring Hill, 30 miles to our north, Seminole , 30 miles to our south, and Land O'Lakes (20 miles to our east).

Storm Damage Friday, November 2, 2018    Storm Damage Friday, November 2, 2018

The pictures above are from a condo community in Seminole…their clubhouse took a pretty hard hit, and some condos were damaged too.  Thank goodness this was not our condo area!

image   Storm Damage Friday, November 2, 2018

Storm Damage Friday, November 2, 2018

Storm Damage Friday, November 2, 2018   Storm Damage Friday, November 2, 2018

There was widespread damage in various areas along the “RED ZONE” of the storm.  Fortunately, we have not heard of anyone that we know having any damage.

Bubba at Motorhome   Bubba at Dog Park

I wanted to make sure that the motorhome was ok, so I picked up Bubba, went by the motorhome (upper left picture Bubba is sitting in Marcia’s passenger’s seat), and then over to the Doggie Park (upper right, the person in blue is petting him) where there were more dogs than we have seen all year.  Bubba did his three or four laps slowly around the dog park, then he sniffed a few of the dogs, then did one last lap before we left.  He sure enjoys those Dog Park trips.  We sure wish the Condo Association would allow Bubba to live with us too….Sad smile

Note:  All but the last two pictures of the blog were taken from Google and most from news reports. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Voting, A Walker, More Condo Association Stuff

Home in Holiday / Tarpon Springs area, FL

Library

Today we got around to voting…five days before voting day.  Line was non-existent…which was great.  We vote at the Public Library.  The picture above is the front of the Public Library…but they want voters to go around to the back.

Library

We proceeded to the back, parked where the red and blue lines meet in the parking area.  Not seeing that if we followed the blue line, back by the dumpster, between the dumpster and the air conditioning units, behind the AC units, we could have avoided the red route over the grass.  However, there are NO SIGNS telling you that this blue route exists.  So Marcia struggled over the grass to the back door.  Now….how much would it cost to put in 15-20 yards of a concrete path?  Or put up signs showing the route along the sidewalk, by the dumpster, behind the AC Units…something any disabled person loves to do considering this could be a hiding place for someone with evil intentions to attack older, disabled patrons.  Anyway, we voted, and I showed Marcia the way through the Library to the front door, and I drove around and picked her up…and before she got in the car she got the sand out of her sandals from the sandy grass she walked over earlier. Voting early was easy…no line...staff was nice…and other than struggling to get inside the building, all was well.  BTW, the front door had a sign telling voters to use the back door…even though it is an easy walk through the front door to the meeting room where the voting takes place.  So instead of having Library Displays showing all these voters the benefits and resources of the Public Library…they would rather have their patrons (remember, all county residents are their patrons) to walk around back, vote, and walk back to their cars without visiting the library.  (Ok, I will get off my Library Soap Box…but after 23+ years working in a library, nearly 23 in a Public Library as a Director, I just can’t help it.

Florida Senate Race     Florida Governor Race

The BIG races in Florida are for Senate and for Governor…and they are both very close, well within the error margin, so who knows who will win.  Today we had no less than 14, yes 14 political flyers…all ended up in the garbage bin.  We have over-the-air TV, and normally watch either GRIT-TV (old westerns), MeTV (old sitcoms, Perry Mason, etc) or Laff (comedy sitcoms) …and thank goodness they don’t run political commercials.  However, when we turn it to the news (rarely), Blue Bloods (won’t miss it) or Last Man Standing (Tim is not the only funny one on that show) we get bombarded by political commercials.  And the radio as we drive…well, many times it is just turned off.  Now that we voted, we had hoped that this would all stop…but they won’t.  And the worse thing…one of the candidates for Florida Chief Financial Officer has sent out text messages to my cell phone.  This is against the law, FCC website says:
Political campaign-related autodialed or prerecorded voice calls, including autodialed live calls, prerecorded voice messages, and text messages, are:
  • Not allowed to cell phones, pagers, or other mobile devices without the called party's prior express consent.
I reported them to a TV Station, to the Tampa Bay Times, and to the campaign directly…but still got another today.  GRRRRR….  Why would anyone want to vote for the CFO of the State when they openly break the law like this???  Saw articles today that other politicians in other states are resorting to this tactic too…shows just how dirty politics are today.

Walker

Last Monday Marcia finally broke down and we bought a walker for her.  Over the past few years, it has been harder and harder for her to walk with her cane.  On the way back from Bible Study a week ago Monday, we stopped at a Medical Supply place so that she could look at what they had…and she liked one very similar to the one above.  Under the seat is a pouch to hold her purse, Kindle, or whatever she needs.  It folds up real easy and fits in the backseat or back of the HHR.  She is walking much better since we bought it, and it is probably the best thing we bought for her disability since we got the electric scooter.  She has rarely used her cane since we bought it…only in the walk-in closet where the walker does not fit. Even with this walker, getting over that grass at the Library was pretty hard…something she could not have done with her cane.

HOA Restrictions

Yes, another Condo Home Owners Association situation.  Today we got a mailer…sent out to EVERYONE.  Seems that some of the units (not us) have people under the age of 55 living in them…not visiting (limited to 30 days) but living in them.  I have noticed this since we got back, but have not said anything because it does not bother us.  Well, the letter they sent out says the following:

The state requires the enclosed survey from be completed every two years by each resident.  If more than one resident resides in a household, all residents must be listed with date of birth.  ALL RESIDENTS MUST BE 55 TO LIVE AT [CONDO NAME] AS STATED IN THE DOCUMENTS.  Any refusals to complete the survey form will be turned over to legal counsel.  Please drop off or mail…[gives unit number/address]

Well, I understand what they are trying to do here…but the Librarian in me says, “I wonder if there really is such a state law.”  So far, I have not found one.  Also, not only do they want ages and vehicle information, they want actual birthdates, occupation, an emergency contact name and number, and the final question:  “ARE YOU IN AGREEMENT WITH THE RULES AS STATED TO YOU AT THE INTERVIEW?”  (YES OR NO)

HOA Fight

Frankly, I am tired of a Condo Association which thinks they are “God” and act more like “Hitler”.  Yes, they need to verify the age of occupants.  However, when we went through our “Interview”, which was first called an interview until I said something such as, “You mean you can decided ‘if’ we actually can live here or not even though we own it???”  At which time he (old President) said, “It is more like an orientation…if you are over 55, then you can live here, but we need to orient you to the rules.”  Anyway, at this “orientation”, we actually were asked, and we consented to, showing them our Driver’s License.  Of course now, they know just how much older Marcia is than I am…which I think was his intention to begin with.  So “WHY” do we need to provide our birthdates now?  And state if we are married or not. (we are), but it asks “Married, Single, Divorced or Widowed”.  WHY do they need to know this???   What an invasion of people’s privacy.  This is going to take a bit more research…and perhaps a call to a state agency or to HUD.  (Just because someone has to take a stand….)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Auto Insurance – Saving Some Bucks

Home in Holiday / Tarpon Springs area, FL

Autos

Our HHR is nine years old, ten in just a few more months.  We have had it since March 2011, and in nearly eight years, we have put on around 90,000 miles, with the most miles put on in the first 13 months of ownership as I was driving back and forth from Arkansas to Florida a few times each month when Marcia was not staying in Arkansas with me after we got married.  Our auto insurance has been with the same company all that time…never had a claim, never had an accident, never had a ticket (or even pulled over).  Yet our car insurance has more than tripled during this same time period…with largest increases these past two years and for the upcoming year.  Well…time to look into this…

Auto Insurance Quote

The Internet is great for finding car insurance quotes.  However, amazingly so…I did not even give it a try.  Why?  Just did not want to deal with the massive amounts of phone calls this would produce, and because they are out to sell ‘cheap’ insurance, and I wanted good coverage at a good rate.  So I turned to our motorhome insurance company. 

Diversivied Insurance Management

We have used Diversified Insurance Management ever since we had our first motorhome in November 2011.  We like both of the insurance companies that they hooked us up with.  Blue Sky took care of our “Storage Fire” incident with pure professionalism, and a fair settlement.  Last year in September Diversified informed us that Blue Sky was no longer going to offer motorhome insurance coverage to us because their underwriter, RLI, "...made a significant corporate decision to discontinue providing insurance policies for recreation vehicles...decisions like this are not uncommon..."  They found us an equally good company, Foremost, and we have been happy with them.  In fact, even with the change in companies, our costs are essentially the same as back in 2014.  So I contacted Sarah, our contact person, and asked about auto insurance.  She gave me a quick quote with Progressive, without all the facts as to where we live (since we store the motorhome off site all she had was our PO Box), and it looked pretty good.  However, after she put in our Holiday Florida address, it was still 1/3 less expensive than our current insurance company…but I wasn’t sure it was going to be the best.

Brown & Brown Insurance

Marcia has been using Brown & Brown Insurance for her insurance needs for a few decades.  They are our agents for our condo insurance through Citizens (State of Florida owned Insurance Company) and our flood insurance through Wright Insurance.  So I contacted them via email late yesterday afternoon, and today Hamlet, a nice lady who works under our primary agent Rick, provided a quote from Auto-Owners Insurance.  This quote is like 1/3 our current price, and includes $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident for liability coverage, and a $500 deductible on our car which, frankly, would probably be totaled in anything but a minor accident.  There are a few other things…but good coverage, and equal coverage to what we sought with Progressive.  Another thing, currently we pay monthly…we will now pay every 6 months via credit card.

Auto-Owners Insurance

The difference being…Brown & Brown are here in Florida and deal with Florida related insurance companies.  Auto-Owners is actually in Michigan…but they cover insurance for Florida.  Florida has some stipulations with insurance companies…for instance, front window glass replacement can have no deductible attached to it.  Florida Statute 627.7288 requires auto insurers in Florida to replace or repair their policy holders damaged windshield with zero deductible, or, in other words, for “free.”

Happy Driver

I guess you all know how we feel about this change…

Yes, it has been 10 days since my last blog post.  We have been weathering the heat, enjoyed a bit cooler temps on a few days and nights, and in another few weeks I think the majority of hot humid weather is behind us.  Hurricane season is all but behind us now.

National Hurricane Center

This being the first time being in Florida during Hurricane Season, the National Hurricane Center has been my go to place to watch for possible problems.  Today there is just one situation in the Atlantic, it is moving north, and has a small chance of becoming anything, and even smaller chance for us to have to worry about it. 

1.6 Billion Lottery Winner

Other than a quick trip up to South Carolina for something…we have not been doing to much around here. 

Spanking




Just a JOKE mom, not a lie…
We didn’t win, but did get 2 numbers.

(Maybe the Powerball will pay off…)


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fighting Blog and Email Spam

Home in Holiday / Tarpon Springs area, FL

Email Spam

I got my first email address with Hot Mail back in the 1996 or early 1997, I also opened a Yahoo Mail around the same time period…but gave it up just to resurrect a new one around 2007, I still use both today..  By 1998, I had a email server going at the Library, and all full time staff “HAD” to use it.  It was like pulling teeth for the first year.  By the year 2000 communicating via email was standard for everyone in the library, but only a few part time workers were issued a library email address.  Only problem was, by 2001, email spam was killing us, so I started a black list (blocking list) which cut down the spam a lot, and subscribed to a service by 2003 which cut it down even more.  Today, most email services have automatic spam controls, and for those few that get through, you can add them to your spam list real easy and future spams will go right into the spam box.

Email Spam Box

Only problem is, sometimes a GOOD EMAIL gets into the spam box, so you have to monitor it all the time.  Above is a portion of my spam mail box…about half way down you can see one from TWITTER, which I clicked, and it was a good email about a recent logon attempt I did from my computer…so it turned out to be nothing.  However, I have found important emails in the spam box many times.

Different Email Companies

I have two other email accounts…a Gmail and our GoingRvWay email.  Both of these automatically send all email to my yahoo account, all I need to do is go into these to accounts a few times a year and clear out the inbox.  My Hotmail account became my “junk” account very quickly back in the ‘90s.  I still use that account when I have to give an email out to someone or some entity that I don’t want to give my good email to.  In other words, it is all junk….I just clear it all out a few times each year.  My hope is that by the end of this decade, PHONE SPAM will have gone away much like the email spam has.  Yes, I still get email spam, but it is nothing that bothers me anymore…I don’t have to wade through mass amounts of emails just to read the few good ones like I use to have to do.

Blog Spam

Blog comment spam, on the other hand, has grown.  You followers rarely see any of the blog comment spam because most of it gets caught before hitting the blog page…and those few that do, I move to spam very quickly.  This means I have monitor the blog a few times each day.  However, up until earlier this year, all of the comments, good and bad, were sent to my email…but blogger made a change and I don’t get those emails anymore.  I have been writing this blog since March 2012.  I have now written 917 blog postings (counting this one).  I have had around 3,000 comments, and nearly 300 spam comments.  The problem is over 200 of these spams have come just in the past 15 months.  These folks are ruthless.  Here are a few examples below:

Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post. The whole blog is very nice found some good stuff and good information here Thanks..Also visit my page  Travel medical insurance Protect Travel is a travel insurance company. Get your Travel Insurance with xxxxxxxxxx and Never leave your home without a Travel Insurance, get yourself Insured Now!    (link removed)

For more information on mesotherapy treatment gurgaon, please visit our website at: http://www.xyxyxyxyxyxyxyxy.html  (link removed)

Someone Sometimes with visits your blog regularly and recommended it in my experience to read as well. The way of writing is excellent and also the content is top-notch. Thanks for that insight you provide the readers! xxxxxxx travel agents (link removed)

Hey there, How is your marriage going? Be honest…how is it ACTUALLY going? If you’re reading this e-mail right now, then chances are your marriage isn’t what it used to be… and maybe it’s so bad, that you feel like your world is falling apart. You feel like all the passion, the love, and romance have completely faded. You feel like you and your wife can’t stop yelling at each other. And maybe you feel that there’s almost nothing you can do to save your marriage, no matter how hard you try. But you’re wrong. You CAN save your marriage — even if your wife says she wants to get a divorce. You CAN rebuild that passion you felt for one another when you first kissed. And you can bring back that love and devotion you felt for one another when both of you said, “I love you” for the first time. If you feel like your marriage is worth fighting for, then do yourself a favour and watch this quick video that will teach you everything you need to know about salvaging the most important  (link removed)


I Hate Spam

Friday, October 12, 2018

Combating Spam Calls

Home in Holiday / Tarpon Springs area, FL

Spam Calls

The FCC’s website says, “Unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls - are the FCC's top consumer complaint and our top consumer protection priority.”  I have  been following the “Robocall Task Force” for a few years now, and the FCC has instituted the following to help stop these calls:

  • Issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in enforcement actions against illegal robocallers {spam callers}.
  • Allowing phone companies to block certain types of calls that are likely to be unlawful before they even reach consumers.
  • Empowering consumers to use call blocking or labeling services for calls to their telephone number.
  • Working to develop ways that phone companies can authenticate Caller ID to reduce illegal spoofing.
  • Making our complaint data available to enable better call blocking and labeling solutions.

However, the number of spam calls, as I call them, are up this year over last…and last year 30.5 billion spam calls were made in 2017, up from the previous record of 29.3 billion in 2016.  The number one way to stop these calls is by not answering calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately…but your number will certainly be fed into a “good phone number” database that these type of calls are searching for.

Some phones, like the Apple Phone, have a way to block bad calls immediately after they call you…that must be nice.  Verizon, our carrier, will allow you to block up to three, yes only 3, phone numbers for up to 3 months…and you can re-enter the numbers over and over and over…but that is not very good as far as stop spam calls, although I have used it to stop a few very persistent spam callers.  And Smart Phones can use phone apps which will also block calls…some of the better ones will block calls that many other people using the same app are blocking…these are called black lists.  But, if you have a dumb phone, as we choose to use, you are pretty much out of luck…but there is one way you can survive…

Zspam              Zspam

What Marcia and I do is we add all spam calls to our contact list.  We name the contact as “Zspam#”, with the number getting larger and larger.  We start with the letter “Z” so that they will always show up at the end of our contact list, which we can easily get to by going backwards instead of forwards when we browse through our contacts.  Each contact can hold 5 phone numbers.  And this is the important part…we set each of these spams as a “NO RING”…so WHEN they call a second time, and most of the time they will, the phone will just let out one short yet low pitched “beep” after the call is not answered.  When that happens, we don’t feel pressed to have to answer or not answer the phone…we already know it is spam.  However, sometimes they will leave a message…and that does make a noise…but most of the time they don’t.

Apply

Then on Monday ALL HELL broke loose.  At 9:18 am my phone goes off.  I don’t know them, I don’t answer, but they leave a message.  “Hi Pam, this is Jason from Quicken Loans needing to talk to you about the loan application you filled out, please call me at….”.  Of course, I add this to my spam list.  By noon I had 15 of these type of calls.  By the end of Thursday, I had 90…yes 90 of these spam calls.  Today, I had to do something about it.

Google Phone Number Search

I had started putting the numbers into Google, and never did the number give the company name, even when the company left a message.  Messages revealed that the companies were Ameritrade, Quicken Loans, Reality Debt Solutions, Secure Rights, LoanDepot, etc.  So this morning I called Quicken Loans from the toll free number they advertise in google.  I tell the person my situation, give her the phone number they called from, and the toll free number they told me to call back on, but she did not recognize either phone number…and told me it may be a fraud.  So I called the toll free number they left in the message, and got transferred to Kim.  She said, “If you give me your phone number I will look it up.”  I was calling on our Skruffy Phone, the pay by the minute phone that we put on Skruffy’s back when I leave the Condo so if Marcia falls down, Skruffy will run over to her, and she has instant access to a phone.  I also dialed *67 before I put in the phone number, so they won’t have access to Skruffy’s Phone number.  I kept telling Kim that unless I knew for sure that I was talking to Quicken Loans, I was not going to give out any of my information.  I finally got her direct line, which she said the last five digits is her extension number.  I then called the Quicken number found in Google, put in her extension, and sure enough, it was her.  I gave her my phone number…and five hours later, no more spam calls.  I also did the same for Ameritrade Mortgage, Reality Debt Solutions, etc. 

Spam Database

Now to get all this done, I first made a database of the various phone numbers that I was called from, then I sorted it.  Next I entered the numbers from each of the 90 phone calls that came in the past four days, and then I sorted that list.  Those numbers which called back repeatedly, I called on the Skruffy Phone with *67 at the start, and either the number was not recognized as a good number, they did not answer, or most of the time, I got the name of the company that called.  I then tried to find a good number in Google for that company, and proceeded to do the same thing I did with Quicken.  Twice the only way I could communicate was through a online submission from their website…and of course, they demand a name, phone number and email address.  Well, I used Pam’s name, I used the phone number they called me from, and used Pam@Yahoo.com as the required email address.  In the comments area I explained the situation, told them to stop calling (gave my real phone number) and informed them that if I get another call from them, the FCC would be notified (there is a online way to tell the FCC that I have used before).

The interesting this is that many of the calls came from the 727 prefix, which is our prefix.  I asked the lady at Quicken how this is done, and she said that they have phones numbers all over the country that they can use.  People are more likely to answer a call from their own prefix than from a 800 number, or a prefix from some major city far away.  She said all their phone representatives are there in Michigan where she was.  One thing I had read about a year ago is that the spam callers, those who are calling without you initiating the phone request (or in my case, where someone gave the wrong number) … that these spam callers are also using local prefixes.  I have been collecting these Zspam numbers for a couple of years now, with over 400 phone numbers now.  In the first 50, only 5 had the 727 prefix.  In the last 50, 35 had the 727 prefix.  Talking to our neighbor a few weeks ago she said that she only answers the local calls…I think I have her convinced to not answer anything she does not know…if it is someone she needs to talk to, they will leave a message.

Shotgun

What to do now?   Time to go find PAM …

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Hurricane Passes 200 Miles to our West

Home in Holiday / Tarpon Springs area, FL

Crystal Beach, Hurricane Micahel, October 2018

Around 6:30 Tuesday night I went to one of our favorite gulf picture taking locations, Crystal Beach Florida.  This is looking out to the west…the group of islands out there is Honeymoon Island State Park…beyond that is the Gulf, and those clouds out there are part of Hurricane Michael.

Crystal Beach, Hurricane Micahel, October 2018

The flag at Crystal Beach, which is a community within Palm Harbor…not really a ‘Beach’ as one would think of Clearwater Beach, or other real beaches in our area…but the flag was flying due west, but it was a light wind…had I got the picture just 15 seconds earlier, the flag was still. 

Condos, Hurricane Michael, October 2018

Last night we have a few downpours, had a constant 10-15 mph wind with a few gusts up in the 20’s to 30’s, and just a few downpours which lasted for very short periods of time…as shown in the picture above.

Crystal Beach, Hurricane Michael, October 9, 2018     Crystal Beach, Hurricane Michael, October 10, 2018

Marcia and I went back around 11 am today to see the difference between last night and today.  Around 1:15 it will be high tide, and they are expecting another foot or so from what it was when we went by.  Above you can see that the pole on the far left with a bird on it does not show up in the picture to the right…and in the picture to the right where a bird looks to be standing on water, it was standing on the pole which is clearly above water in the picture to the left.

Crystal Beach, Hurricane Michael, October 2018     Crystal Beach, Hurricane Michael, October 2018

These two pictures above clearly show how much higher the water is.  Now compare that to the same trees taken back in December 2016 below…

Crystal Beach, December 2016

…the vegetation is much more mature today…but look at how low the water “normally” is!  A vast difference.

Crystal Beach, Hurricane Michael, October 2018    Crystal Beach, December 2016

Here is the fishing pier taken today (left), and the same pier taken back in December 2016.

Crystal Beach, humidity hits the camera lens

And this is what happens when you take your lens off in a air conditioned car, step out to take a picture in the 85 degree, 110% humidity … my eyeglasses did the same thing!

Tarpon Spings, Hurricane Michael

Here is an area in Tarpon Springs.  The boat dock, which does not float, has only another foot or so before it is under water.  The sea wall has about two feet before the water comes over it.  Last night there was a fisherman here and I asked him how high it was last night compared to other times.  He said that last year during the hurricane that passed through to the east of Tarpon Springs, that the water level was way, way down…the winds were pushing the water out away from shore, unlike the hurricane Tuesday which was to the west…it all depends upon which way the wind blows.

Birds near Crystal Beach       Birds near Crystal Beach
Birds near Crystal Beach

As I write this, the category 4 hurricane has hit the Mexico Beach area of Florida, just to the east of Panama City and Tyndall AFB, and just to the west of Port St. Joe and the Apalachicola River Wildlife area.  Devastation is going to huge…wind and storm surge has never hit this area during our the history of our nation.  The storm will do damage all the way up into Georgia..and in the Carolinas.  By Thursday it will be in the Atlantic…leaving a wake of clean-up…and who knows how many deaths.