Full Disclosure:  Published while forced to sit in hallway during tornado warning!


I hadn’t expected to be writing about Hurricane Irma again today; however, an Email that I received this morning made me realize how much, even people in Florida, don’t understand about hurricanes.  The reader, an amateur sailor, appears frustrated since he just couldn’t understand some of the various changes in the storm’s projected path. Frankly, I couldn’t tell how much his problem was in confirming his sailing skills or the regard for his personal safety—since he lives in Irma’s new projected path!.

If there are any Old Salts out there, experienced sailors who might wish to make contact with this young man, in Destin, Florida, in the “Panhandle,” just send a comment to this post. I will forward it on to the novice sailor.  Apparently, he doesn’t have the experience to know when to modify those basic tools to face real-life situations.  Like most any challenge in life, every storm is going to be different!

For instance, although Irma didn’t weaken until its “eye wall”—the central axis on which it spins—was ravaged by the mountains of Northern Cuba; however, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream—along the Florida coast, enabled it to re-group.  The “steering currents,” the regular low-level directional air currents can also cause a shift in direction, as can the “wind shear,” the higher-level wind currents, which flow in opposite directions and, thus, can virtually stop storms in their tracks.

Today, the sudden shift in Hurricane Irma’s projected path—from East Coast to West—has caused problems for the lesser-prepared Ft. Myers/Naples Area of Florida.  One problem, which can fly under the radar screen, however, is the potential lack of sites for evacuation, during natural disasters.

Generally, counties open their schools to house evacuees; however, there are generally fewer schools per capita in areas with a preponderance of senior citizens.  For me, living in a vibrant neighborhood, with young families and schools, can add value to property values for this very purpose.

Whether you live in Florida, or somewhere else, are a sailor or an amateur meteorologist, or for whatever reason you wish to understand the various acts of Nature, just be patient.  With our Government’s disregard for Climate Change, we are now seeing more natural disasters—hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and wildfires—just as I write this!

Learn all that you can about natural disasters.  Think smart, make rational decisions and stay safe!

NOTE:  This linked Op-Ed from the NY Times, which eloquently describes the racist and short-sighted action of eliminating DACA from America!  The harm that that action is causing in Houston, Texas, post-Harvey, will certainly be echoed in multi-diverse Florida, as well as many other sections of our diverse country.  Keep the kids here: they are our future!



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Personally, I believe that establishing a sturdy location, far from the storm surge is perhaps as important as trying to flee, several hundred miles, only to run out of gas, perhaps have an overheated car due to continuous bumper-to-bumper “driving,” and a lack of food, lodging or passable roads.  The linked article, from the Houston Chronicle, reminds me of what happened when many Houston residents fled Hurricane Rita, eight year ago.

The location at a reasonable distance from the initial storm surge is quite evident; however, the degree of security that a particular building—home, public shelter, commercial property—can be difficult to discern.  Since I know nothing of building construction, I am quite happy with a crash course that I received from a couple neighbors, following Hurricane Andrew, in 1992.

As it turns out, they were going to one of the hardest hit areas, just after Andrew, since one of their colleague’s neighborhood was in a shambles.  I went along to help, with our mission being to provide interim roof repairs—plywood, a few struts and tar paper—which would last them until they could get new roofs.  Following major disasters, insurance estimators are completely overloaded!

We were like the cavalry pulling in.  Everyone, but me, was an engineer, and some had expert carpentry skills.  Even I could see that the quality of the damaged roofs, as well as the house plans; which were quite shoddy, and definitely not up to Building Codes.

Since this development was near the bay, the drywall in the homes were ruined, half-way to the ceiling from the storm surge.  Perhaps the plumbing and wiring would need replacement, as well!  The garages sloped downward, probably below sea level at the back, perhaps ruining some cars—but the crabs walking around didn’t seem to mind it. But by far, the most glaring problem was the roofs.

One of the engineers told me that the Building Code required one inch plywood, not the half-inch that the seven or eight ones that I worked on had.  And, the nails in the plywood constantly missed the struts, and a large number of the paper-thin shingles still had the tape on them—meaning that they were not properly affixed to the roofs.  In fact, walking across those roofs felt bouncy, just like walking across a trampoline.  How criminal!

Well, on our ride back home, one engineer who lives around the corner from us, said that, when he and his wife were home-shopping, he went into the attic and noticed that the underlying roof—below he tar paper and tile—was tongue-and-groove lumber.  He said that he whispered to his wife that, if she wanted to, she should buy the house.  Additionally, the gabled shape deflects the wind somewhat.

So, I’ll take the reasonable sturdiness of our home, as compared to taking our chances, and possibly getting stranded on one of Florida’s few major North-South highways.  That’s another problem for an attempted evacuation is that it would take 400 miles just to leave Florida and, then, Georgia is also preparing for evacuations, and dealing with shortages, as well. “Tongue-and-Groove,” by the way, means the edges of the alternating individual pieces of lumber are concave and convex shaped, so as to inter-lock—further strengthening the entire roof.

Now, the only remaining challenge is to keep everyone in the house loose.  Stay tuned!



For the past 40 years, we have lived in South Florida, in Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale), immediately north of Miami-Dade County.  Our home is approximately ten miles from the Ocean, at an elevation of approximately six feet above sea level. Normally, this would place us in a fairly good situation for the so-called “Average” Hurricane; however, who knows what “Monster-cane Irma” will be packing, when she comes ashore?

There are also so many intangibles that cause one storm to differ from another, in addition to the size and strength.  Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey, several years ago, during a combined full moon, high tide and storm surge.  The triple whammy!  Hurricane Harvey’s strength was enhanced since it was carried directly up Galveston Bay.  Similarly, Katrina was positioned dead-on to devastate New Orleans’ levies in 2005, as well as travel straight up Mobile Bay, in Alabama.

Much of the evacuation orders in South Florida have been for the barrier islands—such as Miami Beach, and the Florida Keys—and other low-lying areas on the Mainland. Barrier islands, by the way, are the protective areas that Nature has given us, as well as various wetlands.  Of course, real estate developers have profited nicely by building luxury high-rise condo communities along these islands.  In essence, developers have been building million dollar homes on the railroad tracks, and now, here comes Hurricane Irma!

Besides the obvious flooding that low-lying barrier islands attract—and that’s sometimes even on sunny days for Miami Beach—remember that the sea water, seeking its lowest level, generally inundates the other side of the island, as well.  That means that many bridges and causeways—the primary escape route to safety—might be submerged.  But, as many Beach luxury condos have plenty of underground parking, your escape route might be blocked before you even start.  Oh, and you’ll enjoy descending the 20 flights of stairs in the dark, wheelchair, walker and all.

No doubt that you have seen the devastation that Monster-cane Irma has already wrecked on numerous Caribbean Islands.  (See NY Times article below.)  Keep in mind that many of those islands are very small, with little or no infrastructure or public services, and the buildings are often made from quite basic materials with uncertain building codes.  However, no one really knows, as yet, what the direction, wind speed, storm surge and speed with which Irma will first impact Florida—and when she will leave.

Stay tuned!  Perhaps later today, as I have time on my hands, I will let you know why I feel relatively comfortable in staying put.

NOTE:  As I publish this post, I just saw that Irma’s wind currents are spinning between 145 and 150 mph.  If it touches the mountains of Northern Cuba, that might slow it down a bit more, and a slight “wobble” can shift it from its anticipation path—right up the middle of the State of Florida.  Time will tell!



Danny Westneat is a columnist for the Seattle Times.  This column is a wonderfully written story about a husband and wife team–he a Soldier, and she a Riveter (fastening B-29 wings)–who are members of “Our Greatest Generation.”  And, as the Matz’ question, with Donald Trump, do we truly have the commitment to insure that the Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and other Hate Groups do not succeed this time?  In essence, Silence is NOT golden!


‘Greatest generation’ is fading, but it’s still got choice words for our own

Remember the greatest generation? The ones that beat back the Nazis?
Recently I sat down with two of them, to talk about everyday persistence, about stability, about things that abide.

But we weren’t five minutes in when it veered in the exact opposite direction — to the rise of neo-Nazis in the news today, the demagoguery of a certain president and to an eerily familiar chill.

“I remember back in the ’30s and ’40s, it was like people were hypnotized,” says Wilma Matz, 93. “I worry all the time it might be happening again.”

Numerically speaking, Wilma and Harold Matz are rarer around here than the endangered northern spotted owl.

At 95, Harold is a World War II vet, a medical technician who pulled the maimed off the line of the war’s bloodiest fight, the Battle of the Bulge.

All but 3 percent of his 16 million mates who beat back fascism are gone. The greatest generation has dwindled to just 0.2 percent of the American population.

Even rarer, Wilma was a Rosie the Riveter. She drove fasteners into the wings of B-29 bombers for Boeing in the 1940s, one of 300,000 bandana-wearing women who came out of housewifery to take over the nation’s airplane-factory work. Only about 10,000 Rosies are still alive today.

Then there’s this: As of Wednesday, the couple has been married 75 years. Fewer than 0.1 percent of all marriages in America are so enduring.

“It’s like they hit the trifecta,” says their daughter, Laura Matz.

When I caught up with them in their Normandy Park apartment, though, they couldn’t help contrasting their own stability with the turbulent state of the news today.

Harold was telling how they had to hand-haul thousands of wounded Allied soldiers out of the Battle of the Bulge on the border of Belgium and Germany, when he interrupted himself.

“This president today, if he’d been the president back then, we would have lost the war in the first three months,” he said.
Ouch. Why?

“No steadiness, no resolve,” he said.

Wilma said she’s been appalled that any American leader would wink and nod at Neo-Nazis, considering the lengths her generation went to fight it.

“I don’t know if he really means it — he seems to say whatever pops into his head — but this country sacrificed a great deal back then,” she said. “It feels like that’s been forgotten. It’s hard to describe what it was like. It was all hands on deck.”

When Harold was shipped to Europe in the fall of 1943, she, just 19, immediately signed up to help build bomber parts at a temporary Boeing war factory in Chehalis. At the peak of production, more than 70 percent of the workers there were women. It was her first job.

“I often maintain she did more to beat the Nazis than I did,” laughed Harold, who went on to become a chiropractor in Des Moines after the war.

Recently Tim Egan of The New York Times called these last living fascism fighters, quiet people like Harold and Wilma living out their years in senior homes, our “real American heritage.” As opposed to the statues and symbols people are fighting over today.

His point is that the monument fight is for phony patriots. We have among us a few “living memorials” to the best American story. The one where we were unambiguously on the right side of history.

It turns out it was about living old values. Such as persistence.

Speaking of which: What’s the secret to staying married for an incredible 75 years?
“I like to have someone to sleep next to,” Harold shrugs.

Wilma just rolls her eyes, and smiles. When you’ve beaten the Great Depression and the Nazis and made it three-quarters of a century together, no way a bad joke is going to get between you and the finish line.



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Donald Trump has threatened to shut-down the Government, by Vetoing the Debt-Ceiling increase if his Wall is not funded through the FY2018 Federal Budget.  Those are two unrelated, idiotic ideas, but in two totally different Bills.  Where did Donald study Government: Trump University?

Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell do not want to be blamed for a shut-down since—when their party controls both Houses of Congress, and the White House—they would have no one to blame.  And, such shut-downs never accomplish anything!  But, let’s consider what the inter-action is between the Budget and the National Debt and whether the Debt Ceiling is even necessary.

The Budget, as passed by Congress, cites how much the Nation is expected to spend, broken-down by Department, throughout the coming fiscal year (starting October 1). The Treasury Department monitors the respective in-flows and out-flows, making adjustments, as required, within existing Law.

Depending upon whether the actual Net Cash Flow is higher or lower than expected, the Treasury will either Pay-Down existing U. S. Treasury securities, if there is a Surplus, or sell more bonds when the Net Cash Flow is in a Deficit.  The Debt-Ceiling, established in 1913, is truly an anachronism, and serves mostly as a political football, since Total Spending can be controlled through the Budget Process!

Donald Trump has lately been lashing-out at Senators on both sides, and he has especially been attacking the Intelligence Community.  Even his own Republican Party in Congress has passed an Economic Sanctions Bill, in response to Russia’s interference in our Presidential Election.

The vote in both Houses, on the sanctions,  would easily overcome a Presidential Veto.  Similar Veto-proof legislation has been passed to make it virtually impossible for Trump to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.  And, Senator Charles Grassley has also stated that he would not hold Confirmation Hearings, in the event Trump might need to replace a fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

More recently, Donald Trump has been at odds with a majority of Americans, as he sought to give support to White-Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and other Hate Groups, after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va..  Surprisingly, each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—the heads of the four armed services—Tweeted their condemnation of Hatred and Racism.  Citizens of most countries tend to support their militaries; because, they are perceived as the apolitical representatives of The People.

Recently, the discussion has shifted from Trump’s ideological viewpoints and disruptive management style, toward his irrational behavior and temperamental mood swings.  It has risen to the point that Donald Trump has allegedly asked the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the NSA to push-back against the FBI, which leads the Russian Collusion Investigation against his campaign.  They both refused!

James Clapper, who had served as President Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, and in every administration since Jack Kennedy, has recently come under fire from Donald Trump.  Based on watching various speeches, as different as night-from-day, Clapper has questioned whether Trump is fit for the job. Furthermore, Mr. Clapper wonders about the insanity of Trump having access to the Nuclear Codes!

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I laughed to myself when I saw a NY Times headline, suggesting that Donald Trump’s Afghanistan Address, on Monday evening, had been “Masculine”.  My reaction was—Yes, with other people’s kids!   I have previously revealed my contempt for so-called “Wartime Presidents”: those who avoided service themselves, while keeping their own sons home. Let the Poor go to war:  What do they have to lose?  DUH!

One of Trump’s key themes, on Monday evening, was that we are going to help the Afghanistan people take control of their country back.  Really?   Afghanistan’s government has little relevance, once you venture outside of the capital.  Various Afghan presidents have often been jokingly referred to as the “Mayor of Kabul!”  That seems similar to the government of Iraq, where that nation’s leaders rarely strays outside of the Green Zone!

Very poor, pre-industrial nations such as Afghanistan, rely mostly on ancient agricultural practices, barter and the common person fending for themselves, and their families.  The per capita Gross Domestic Product of Afghanistan was only $594.32, in 2015.  There is one other agricultural crop, however, which for some reason, just doesn’t seem to be included in the usual GDP Statistics.  Poppy production!

One species of poppy, Papaver somniferum, contains the opium derivative, known as alkaloids, which is found in morphine.  Such opioids are currently a major cause in drug addiction in the U. S, and in other Western nations.  Afghanistan produces 555,750 acres of poppies annually, which is almost four times that of the next highest producer, Myanmar (formerly Burma), at 143,321 acres, followed by #3, Mexico, at 37, 056 acres. Would Afghan poppy growers really take money, to kill the means of their sustenance?

The poppy crop is so pervasive in Afghanistan that, after the imams warn that it is forbidden, they still take their ten percent.  Perhaps tithing is just tithing, huh?

I had written previously about traveling on a dirt road, in a very remote part of (then) South Vietnam back in 1968, and realizing that that one man, working his own rice paddy, was all by himself.  I could only assume that he had no idea who was ruling in Saigon, and surely, the government there knew, nor cared, little about his needs—infrastructure or personal.  But he was surviving—war zone, and all!

This is how the average person survives in such poor nations.  In fact, while these rural peasants are totally on their own, there are groups—somewhat like organized crime families in the West—who provide certain basic services, especially protection.  The local warlords and such, always receive their pound of flesh, however, in return for their “services rendered”.

We in the West cannot adequately understand what it means to take one’s country back, especially when our very presence there might have provided the very cause for its disarray.  The various groups that we assume to eradicate are not the ones causing the death and destruction that the people fear the most.  And when they and/or we are gone, there will be other groups, offering to help.  And that’s the way it has always been!

NOTE:  Another recent blog post, “Does foreign aid really work, or is it just another form of bribery?” takes another look at the life of the average rural resident from a different perspective




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Lesson 1: History repeats itself.

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