Each day I receive an email from the Highlands Today newspaper. Well, from the organization. I am fairly sure the paper itself doesn't send anything anywhere, it's an inanimate object that often lines birdcage floors and and finds itself balled up and on fire in a fireplace or wrapped around some fish. Why do people want newsprint on their fish?
Anyway, Sunday's mailing had a link to an article about the most dangerous intersections in this area. It was called, oddly enough:
Highlands is Highlands County where the three cities mentioned exist. I was hoping for a list with the number of incidents at each intersection but I was disappointed. It didn't lay them out in that way. Instead, it randomly jumped around dropping the road names in no particular order. One thing was abundantly clear, the intersections which involve U.S. 27 and have a lot of traffic are the most likely to have accidents. This is no surprise to anyone with a brain, I think. More traffic means more opportunity for mistakes and mistakes create accidents. The following are also no surprise:
"The worst month was February with 258 accident calls reported. The month with the fewest calls was August, with 173."
Time of year makes a huge impact (pardon the pun) here in terms of traffic accidents. I am just a little surprised that October or November or December are not the worst of the lot. October and November are the two months which see the major influx of "snowbirds" escaping the coming winters of the northern states. These folks come down each year and have to remember where things are here. The year round residents tend to dodge and swerve a lot around snowbird cars driving slow and searching for the road to turn onto, or the store or restaurant they want to visit.
It is no surprise that U.S. 27 is heavily linked to accidents. The speed limit through the intersections mentioned in the story is 55 MPH except for the ones in Avon Park and Lake Placid and a short stretch (about 2 miles) in Sebring (50 MPH); those are 45 MPH zones. One would think knowing one is approaching a dangerous intersection would be sufficient to induce an increase in caution. But, sadly, it does not.
I have a friend who thinks the speed limit is too high on 27. I tend to disagree. Primarily because there are two speed limits: the posted, legal, limit and the effective limit. The posted one is obvious but the effective one is determined by traffic flow and quantity. In the winter, the effective speed limit is just over 45 MPH along all of 27. Reading the story, I found something I see all year long:
"A white older vehicle made a right-hand turn off of Sparrow Avenue to travel southbound on U.S. 27. At the same time, a silver sedan made a U-turn at the intersection, switching from northbound to southbound.
The two cars both headed for the middle southbound lane at the same time, but avoided colliding."
The last sentence says it all... We have three lanes in each direction. The law actually states that a driver turning right onto a multi-lane road should stay in the rightmost lane and a driver turning left (or making a U-turn) should stay in the leftmost lane until they reach the speed of traffic. Most people do not follow the law, most swing wide and go almost immediately to the next lane over.
Personally, I think several intersections in our area should have U-turns restricted. Our laws in Florida permit U-turns anywhere that they are not posted as illegal. Because, apparently, we have a lot of places that one cannot simply turn left into but must travel to the next intersection and make a U-turn to get to.
The primary cause of accidents here (and, I am sure, everywhere else) is drivers. And we are not allowed to shoot them.
Tom at "Sightings Over Sixty" has a very good post on retirement which I read the other day and re-read while considering this post of my own. Call it theft, if you must, or be kind and consider that Tom inspired me to write this one.
I did not plan for my retirement, I am not quite ashamed to say (I have very little shame left in me, it seems), I just fell into it... pretty much the story of my life... and found my "niche." I was fortunate. After getting out of the Navy in late 1969 and getting married some months later in 1970, I realized that just stuffing cushions in an upholstery shop would not be a wise "career" for a man with a family. I needed something which paid better, which had some job security, which had some benefits. I found myself applying for a job with Southern Bell (which later became BellSouth which was bought up by SBC which subsequently bought AT&T and became "at&t"... all of which happened after I migrated to AT&T). I was surprised to learn that I loved the work (and, therefore, did not view it as "work").
I did not save much in the early years, nor in later years, toward retirement. I did not think about retirement much at all. After all, I had the promise of a pension in the future, why save? Well, those of us who are retired understand that you can never have enough money in reserve. Those of us under 40 have a hard time imagining that need at all. At least I did.
I moved about over the 34 years I worked within the circle of the old "Bell System." San Diego, northern Virginia (Herndon), Jacksonville (Florida), and West Palm Beach. All the while not planning on my retirement or preparing for it. I saved money because Faye insisted on it but not as much as I now think I should have.
If I had matched my Social Security "contribution" (about 7% of income... BTW, it's not a contribution if it's mandatory) in savings each payday from the time I was, say, 30, I would have had a lot more to "play" with now. Thinking about it, it still would not have seemed enough but it certainly would have helped a great deal.
Do any of you watch "Person of Interest"? I do, it's one of my favorites. Well, it seems like it isn't all fiction. The other day, I (and millions of others) learned that the NSA was collecting quite a bit of data on people.
The premise of the TV show is that the government has a computer which sorts all the data from all kinds of sources (not revealed but hinted at: traffic cams, ATM cams, cell phones, etc) and determines threats to the general public. The computer also finds people who are personally at risk, or are a risk to others. The government doesn't bother with these but a reclusive billionaire (who built the system) named Harold Finch and his associate, a former CIA operative named John Reese, do. Each week, we see how Harold (Michael Emerson) and John (Jim Caviezel) figure out how to save them or their victim(s). But that's not what the NSA does. It just collects as much data as it possibly can, mashes it with a bunch of supercomputers, and tries to figure out what the "bad guys" are up to and who they are. Presumably, the NSA is that government entity which ignores the individuals that Harold and John care about.
Do I worry about all this spying on us? Not a whole lot. Philosophically, of course, I am opposed to it but a part of me is impressed by it.
A number of years ago I decided that nuclear power plants were not all that good a thing. That came after I looked around at my peers and remembered all the people I had known over the years; realized that almost all cut corners and routinely ignored safety precautions and decided that these people would eventually be the ones operating such plants. I became less confident in the concept of nuclear powered electricity.
That thinking is now popping up in my head regarding the NSA and the intelligence apparatus in the U.S.
Where are Harold Finch and John Reese now that we need them? Today is December 7, "a date which will live in infamy." What a different world we live in today than the one in 1941.
It is Friday morning and, therefore, I am at the golf course chasing that little white ball around. I think of it as mandatory. I am retired, therefore, I play golf. Golf, as you may know, is a difficult and frustrating game.
I was thinking about the hardest parts of the game the other day. That thought came to me as I was leafing through a golf magazine and saw a picture of an amateur golfer competing in the Walker Cup. The caption was "USA Walker Cup team member Justin Thomas gets some help from former President George W. Bush..." on the line of his putt.
Putting is definitely one of the hardest parts of the game. It is a skill that is difficult to learn and to teach. I have spoken of this before; the person must take a number of factors into account, factors that are less than obvious, in determining the break (if any), also known as the "line." and the speed (the force that must be applied) of the putt. The golfer calculates all these factors (or tries to) without being conscious of the math his mind is doing. The slope of the green, the smoothness of it, the amount of dew, the average speed of it, and a few more. But touching the green (to feel the smoothness, for example, which might give you an understanding of the speed the putt needs) is verboten. As is tamping down those nasty spike marks left by the group ahead of you. You cannot teach someone the feel, it is something each of us must learn internally. But putting is only one part of the game. There are many others. let me go through what are the hardest shots in golf for me:
The tee shot. Not just the first tee shot but each of them. The first one seems to have added pressure but all of them are critical. After all, the tee shot is the precursor to the next shot. A man once told me that all of the holes on a golf course are actually par 3's. What he meant was that your tee shot on a par 4 determined the kind of par 3 you would then face; hit that tee shot short and you had a long par 3, hit it long and you had a short one, hit it behind a tree and you have an almost impossible one. And so on. You could call this a strategy... or depressing... depending on how well you can play. Your tee shot creates the difficulty, or ease, of the next shot. On par 5 holes, both the tee shot and the second shot are equally important.
The first iron shot. For me, this one is a little nerve wracking. It is important. It can be critical. And I am almost completely without confidence in my ability to execute it. I have decided that it will fly shorter than my usual distance with whatever club I am using. That's already locked into my brain and, therefore, will be a "self fulfilling prophecy." After assuming that, I still have to execute the shot. Since using an iron is off the turf (except on par 3's of reasonable length), the execution is different than most tee shots.
I have been told that the swing is the same for every club, every shot. I disagree. there are numerous variations; amount of backswing, descending versus rising contact with the ball, face angle, and so on. Factors like wind direction and force also come into play, not to mention those trees in front of you or the low branches on them.
It appears I have ruffled some feathers out there with my post on the unnecessary congratulations for a car purchase. I will probably just get in deeper with this but I will try to explain myself:
When someone I know buys a car, or other pricey item, I might ask, "Did you get a good deal?" If they answer with something like, "Yes, it took a lot of haggling but I got a pretty good deal" then I might say something like, "That's great!' or "Wonderful!" or "Good for you!" but I am highly unlikely to offer congratulations. When someone plays well and wins, I will offer congratulations because there was obviously effort and risk involved and the person persevered against adversity, he or she actually accomplished something. I might offer congratulations to a new husband or wife, I might offer congratulations to someone (father or mother) who just had a child though it often seemed silly to me to offer that to the father... for a number of reasons I will not go into here. Maybe more likely to offer such if the couple had been trying for a child for some time.
My post was about the cultural cheapening of a compliment. Like graduating from kindergarten or elementary school. Or an award for participation in some team or individual contest. These things are routine, we are a competitive species... competing should be expected, not something unusual that needs to be recognized.
This blog is about how I see things and so I muse about various things that puzzle me or interest me in some way. It is, therefore, highly opinionated. And these opinions are mine, not the reader's. I recognize that you, as a reader, might not always see things my way... I hope you also recognize that I might see things differently than you; that neither of us is correct or incorrect.
Now, some of you offered me food for thought on this subject. Mostly, I see it as interesting takes on the subject but not sufficient argument to make me change my mind. Some of it seemed to imply I was being impolite in not responding favorably to the offers of congratulations. Let me assure you that I say "thanks" to these folks, I try not to be rude to them... they feel, apparently, that they are complimenting me. That I might believe differently is unimportant to them.
But I thank you all for commenting. Really. Congratulations!