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*08 September 2003 - Once again, I find myself living in Florida*

The disenrolling from grad school in California, quitting of the job in
California, packing of the stuff in California, drive across the country,
unpacking of the stuff in Florida, beginning of the new job in Florida, and
reapplying to a new grad school in Florida keeps you busy. So busy, in fact,
that my inbox is overflowing with unanswered e-mails that are demanding updates
and asking if I'm still alive. Rest assured that I am still alive and kicking.
Just a bit behind on things, that's all.

It didn't take long to get used to being in Florida again. I'd lived in Florida
for about five years before I moved out to California, so I had a pretty good
notion of what to expect when I came back. California moves at a far faster
pace than Florida in many respects (traffic not being the least of these). And
you know what? I'm glad to be back. I can once again exercise my Jimmy Buffet
lifestyle of sitting in a hammock in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt while writing
stupid things on the laptop.

Florida is not a perfect paradise by any means. The weather in California beats
the pants off of Florida weather hands-down. You don't have to watch the
weather channel very often to see that Florida is nature's punching bag. Mother
nature unloads her payload of meteorological fury on Florida with great zeal and
regularity. It's not suprising to see people walking around in the rain,
smiling and without umbrellas, that are exclaiming how great the weather is
because "it's only rained once today!"

When I point out that it rains 1d4 times a day here in Florida (which is not a
weather pattern indicative of paradise), the locals feel compelled to wave a
hand in my direction and state, "That's only because it's the summer". When I
point out that it rains just as much in the winter, they become quiet for a
moment before redirecting the conversation to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since
the volume of rain isn't something I can really control, I'm just going to have
to get used to it. Hell, if it rains in California for any period greater than
ten minutes, there's half a dozen automobile accidents on all the major
roadways. If it rains in Florida for a period longer than ten minutes, it means
it's 10:00 in the morning.

Another thing I need to get used to again is the Florida wildlife. In
California, people go to the woods to hug trees, marvel at owls, and pick
plantlife for potpourri and/or smoking purposes. In Florida, things actually
live in the woods. In fact, they live just about any place they can. People
don't go to visit the critters. The critters come to visit the people.

When I last lived in Florida, I hadn't quite come to terms with the wildlife.
In fact, the wildlife and I had issues that we never really did resolve.

Waking up in the morning and realizing that you couldn't see out your window
screens because it was covered with small lizards is a suprising experience.
This particular issue is a fun one to deal with, since you can flick the screen
with your finger and launch the little guys free of the screen with minimal
effort. I can't figure out why lizards think your window screen is a great
place to camp out, but you think they'd figure out after a week of being
launched from the screen each morning that it wasn't the best place to hang out.
Better yet, you get inhumanly quick at performing the morning window-clearing
after you do it for about a month. Open the window, *flickflickflickflick*,
close the window. Ten seconds, tops.

I used to live in an apartment complex in Florida that boasted two large ponds
that were host to many waterfowl, turtles, fish, and mosquitos. Looking out
your window and saying, "Awwww... look at the turtles!" isn't necessarily a bad
thing. Getting your ass kicked by the waterfowl on a daily basis, though, is.

I had an assigned parking spot in front of my apartment building in which I HAD
to park. If the security guard found my car in an open spot, he'd have it
towed. Since I'd like my car to still be in the same spot I left it when I go
out to find it again, I didn't have much of an option other than to park in my
assigned spot. This wouldn't have been too much of an issue if not for one

My parking spot was situated right next to a parking island that had a light
pole on it. Around the base of the pole was a bush of palm fronds. I never
paid much attention to either the pole or the bush since they didn't really seem
like very noteworthy pieces of landscaping. I guess evil comes from where you
least expect it.

I was stumbling out to my car about five in the morning to head to work, and I
heard an odd hissing noise coming from the pole. I turned my head towards it
just in time to see a large goose explode forth from the palm fronds. I thumped
my back up against the car in suprise as the goose charged at me and proceeded
to tear strips out of me with its beak and wings. Throwing my books to the
ground, I made a break for it across the parking lot. I figured that getting a
few O'Reilly books eaten by the goose was a fair trade for keeping my hide

The goose, of course, could care less about eating a book on pthreads. It was
determined to kill me, and it wasn't going to take no for an answer. No matter
how many hedges I managed to plow through, that damn bird was right behind me,
nipping at my legs and honking at me as if I'd eaten its entire family for
Thanksgiving dinner. After a merry ten minute chase, the bird suddenly stopped
its assault upon me and scrambled back to its ambush spot next to my car.

From there on out, getting in my car each morning became a battle for survival.
It turns out that the goose had built a nest in the bush, and she was sitting on
several eggs. I had the unfortunate luck of having my car located next to the
hatchery, so I was going to have to deal with it until the eggs hatched.

I tried to madly scramble around the side of the car, unlock the car door, and
jump inside to safety before nature's fury attacked. This didn't work out too
well, since I'd usually get attacked in the midst of unlocking the car door.
Even my stealthy tip-toeing around the side of the car was enough to alert the
ever-vigilant goose. This approach, more often than not, left me crashing
through bushes and yelling "I hate nature!" while trying to elude the blood-
thirsty waterfowl that wanted to kill me on general principle.

I started unlocking the passenger-side door, reaching through the car to unlock
the driver-side door, and then running around to the driver-side of the car to
try to get in the car before the goose got me. This approach worked pretty well
the majority of the time. One time, I was whipping the car door open so that I
could quickly jump into the passenger seat and avoid my morning butt-biting by
the goose. I heard a loud *thwump* against the side of the car, and I realized
I had just cracked the goose in the head with the door.
Rather than act concerned about the condition of the damaged wildlife, I took
the opportunity to roll the window down a crack so that I could wiggle my
fingers at the goose and jeer at it. The goose began slamming itself against
the window in an attempt to remove the two centimeters of finger I was wiggling
in its direction. I quickly pulled my still-intact fingers back into the car,
rolled up the window, and drove through the parking lot with a goose repeatedly
slamming against the side of the car.

With all these less-than-stellar experiences, you're probably wondering why a
person would move to a region of the country where unprovoked wildlife attacks
your car and the sky is in a constant state of dumping core.

The big reason is the "what you see is what you get" quality of life.
California is picture-perfect in a lot of respects. The medians in the road
aren't just mowed, but also edged. A majority of the populace is good-looking,
tanned, and well-dressed. But that's all superficial. It takes a lot of money
to make all that beauty more than a facade. What you see in Florida is pretty
much what you get. Not a whole lot of pretentiousness goes on with people who
drive pickup trucks that are held together with coat hangers and duct tape.
People of the south present their homes with an I'm-damn-proud-of-my-Christmas-
lights-so-I'm-going-to-hang-them-on-my-trailer-all-year-round attitude towards
life. It might not be pretty, but it's the real deal.

Unfortunately, this openness is often not held in check by the common sense and
tact that you see in California. A few days ago, I had a woman look at the
California license plates on my car, stop me, and ask me if California is
"really full of them illegal Mexican people". Keep in mind that this insightful
inquiry was made by a graduate student in a university parking lot. There's a
reason that the Beverly Hillbillies was such a popular television show, and now
I get to live it first-hand.
For the numerically inclined, Florida is also one of the few states that doesn't
have a state income tax. I don't know about you folks, but my state taxes in
California were 9.3% of my gross income. That's a pretty hefty chunk of change
when you run the numbers. Now you know where the money to mow and edge all
those medians comes from. What's the point of making a ton of money if you turn
around and give it right back to the state?

Even better yet, the cost of living in Florida is roughly one-third to one-half
that in California. A $300,000 house in California costs about $100,000 to
$150,000 in this area of Florida. Florida real estate appreciates at about the
same rate as inflation, which is hardly the obscene 20%-30% annual rate of
California, so you can't really plan on making a fortune as a real estate mogul.
Then again, I just want a place to live where I don't have neighbors. There's a
bare minimum of space needed for correctly hanging a hammock and playing fetch
with your dog, and that kind of space is way too pricey in California to be
practical. In Florida, though, it's not bad at all.

If you figure together the reduced taxes, cheap housing, and loveable-yet-dim
people, Florida doesn't seem like such a bad place. At least, that's what my
reasoning was for moving out here. We'll see how it all pans out.

Now if you'll excuse me, I see some lizards on the window screen that need to be

When this .plan was written: 2003-09-09 10:37:53
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