Thursday, November 01, 2007

Paradise and Physics

Before I fascinate you with the wonders of the Sunshine State I wanted to mention a new addition to our little peninsula of fun. Paul Levine's son, Mike Levine, just started as an on air broadcaster for WQAM, one of the big stations in Miami. His first day earned him praise from two of my favorite former Dolphins, who apparently, are also Penn State grads.

Congratulations to Mike. We here at the blog are all proud of you.

The Danger of Science

Living Florida offers advantages and challenges unlike most other places in the United States. I was born here but have lived all over the country before I came back and settled close to my hometown of West Palm Beach. Now I live exactly where I wanted to move; on a deep-water lake, ten minutes from the ocean and twenty minutes from downtown West Palm Beach. A suburban dream.

But my dream house is not without drawbacks. Just as weather in Florida can dissuade many from moving here it can also lull residents into complacency. These photos are of a vine that crept up the outside of my house this summer.

The heat and humidity kept the windows closed and the air-conditioning on high. You can see the vine’s intent; to seal us in the house one window at a time.

My daughter and I had a debate about how strong the vine was. I thought that with the hundreds of tiny feelers connecting it to the house it would hold the weight of a full-grown man. My daughter said there was no way it would hold me if I tried to use it to climb the house. I went to Florida State and had every confidence that as a graduate of a school that once employed Paul Dirac in the physics department I could determine the load capacity of vegetation on my own house. She insisted that my assertion and method of testing my theory was wrong. I scoffed at this precocious teenager. The photo below speaks for the results of my test.

And yes, it hurt.

This is what happens when you have to do battle with two-timing vine that tricked you into climbing it and the ones circling the Palm trees. It’s work to live in Paradise.

This is a detail shot of my back yard as the rain build-up to tropical storm Noel dumped a few extra inches of water into the lake. That’s the grass in what used to be my back yard extending a few feet into the water. It’s weird to see bass eating grubs out of grass you had to cut a week earlier.

I’ve never had to deal with snow or earthquakes so little inconveniences like hurricanes and alligators don’t bother me much. Just part of the adventure of living here in South Florida.

What seems natural to you? Crowds? Mountains? Cold? Do you consider it paradise or are you ready to move on?


  1. I've lived all over the place, cities and small towns, and I love living in North Carolina.

    Yes, we have hurricanes and tornadoes. A few years ago we had two feet of snow dumped on us overnight that shut the region down for a few weeks.

    But those are unusual.

    Ice storms that knock out the power for a few days are normal. And it looks like drought is becoming the norm, too.

    But every place has something, doesn't it? LA has fires, mudslides and earthquakes. Chicago has winter and tornadoes. DC has humidity and politicians.

    No spot is perfect.

  2. Loved your James and the Beanstock story. Some jokester once said L.A. has four seasons: fire, mudslide, earthquake, and riot--but I love it here, and for now, I wouldn't live anywhere else. The human spirit is resilient. Most of us deal with local conditions--be they hurricanes or pesky vines--and as long the loss is merely property, we move on in due time.

  3. Here on the coast of Connecticut, we are buffered by Long Island (last hurricane we had that was serious was Gloria in 1985) and we have balmier weather than northern New England. We rarely get tornadoes (I think someone claimed one touched down a few months ago, but I'm dubious; we just have very strong winds sometimes). We get snowstorms, but they're nothing like when we were kids (can you say global warming?). And it rains and it doesn't and then it rains again. No earthquakes, mudslides or fires, either.

    We do have Lyme disease, though. I guess that's how we live dangerously.

  4. Thanks, Jim, for the kind mention of Mike-the-Pipes Levine.

    It's a father/son thing, as you know so well. You nurture them and teach them everything you know (which isn't much), then set them loose like baby turtles on the beach, hoping they won't get eaten alive!

    Back to sports radio. Four Penn Staters are on-air at WQAM in Miami.

    Besides my son, there are three former Dolphin receivers: Jimmy Cefalo, OJ McDuffie, and Troy Drayton. And I thought the cornerbacks were the Big Talkers! (WQAM also has former tight end Jim Mandich of Meech-i-gan and the Dolphins). If the station has a touch football team, I suggest throwing the ball. Perhaps Dan Marino could be their ringer QB. If not, Bob Griese looks to be in fine shape.

    In fact, the 2007 Dolphins could use all these guys!

  5. I live on the Big Island of Hawaii. Of course it is paradise, but we do have to contend with Vog (volcanic ash in the air) from the live volcano. And if you go visit that volcano, you have to be careful where you hike so you don't step into molten lava.

    I've lived in Oregon, Mississippi and all over California; but after living here for 5 years, I can't even imagine living anywhere else.

    David - I have to disagree. "My" island is perfect (even with the earthquakes and active volcanoes) :)

  6. "You can't have everything; where would you put it?"...yes those from SoCal have variances of one,mudslide,earthquake.
    What they no longer have are the Oakland Traitors or the St Louis Lambs.They've moved to "greener mastures."
    However, down in S Fla {is that SoFla?}....... How can you stand it?....the Fish 0 and 8 with no end in sight. Guess with all those PSU alumni and the Dolphins performances, there'll be an infinite amount to talk about on WQAM........That's proof, people can live through almost any travesty.


  7. Jon has hit the real probelm for Floridians. The Dolphins, once the pride of the NFL, have fallen on hard times. Really hard times.

    Aside from that disaster I love living here although I don't discount moving somewhere as a change of pace. I doubt I'd leave the south because I'm a warm weather creature.

    You can listen to Paul's progeny over the internet. Google WQAM. He does soud good.


  8. Tarzan!!!

    We're a little north of you in FLA and get hurricanes, tornadoes, and the usual tropical stuff. TN gets tornadoes, and where I grew up in Colorado is snow country. I love all the extremes, I'm a sucker for weather. I find the Weather Channel a transcendent experience.

  9. I've lived in Michigan for all my life, for better and often worse. In a lot of ways, it's a great state. No hurricanes, no earthquakes, no mudslides, very, very little smog, and we send our crazy and senile down to Florida.

    Sure, we get the occasional tornado, and compared to, say, Minnesota or Wisconsin, our winters are mild, at least in the Detroit area. (Houghton-Hancock might disagree with me, to be sure).

    All in all, though, I prefer warm weather and would consider a jump to someplace like Florida or Texas. The problem with Arizona, as far as I can see, is it's so dry. I love lakes, which makes Michigan a pretty decent place to be.

  10. Dude, that is one scary-ass vine. Are you ever afraid that the vegetation is going to come in through your windows at night and strangle you in your sleep?

    We had a small earthquake in the middle of my writing group last night. Most of us were calm about it, except the two people sitting directly under the skylight. Only a 2.9 though.

    Karen, I remember Gloria. We had no power or water for two weeks (the well pump was electric), but a lot of great stuff floated up on the beach.

  11. South Dakota = Snow. Ice. Sleet. Forest fires. Prairie fires. Tornadoes. 100 degree heat in the summer. 40 BELOW zero in the winter. Mountain lion attacks. Buffalo attacks. Elk attacks. Rattlesnakes.

    Little rain. Dry dry dry.

    It's horrible here, that's why no one lives here. Stay away people, for your own good.***


    ***(That is a bald-faced lie. This is paradise. We just want everyone to think it sucks so they stay away and move someplace warm, like FL and AZ and CA and leave us with clean air, mountain breezes, pristine water sources and NO PEOPLE to share it with :)

  12. Lori,

    Today I was in a traffic jam and I remembered Dorothy Parker's: "Hell is other people."

    I love North Carolina and I'm inordinately proud when I hear someone mention it in a country song, but I am weary of the crowded roads.

  13. Cornelia,
    I saw the quake on TV. I happy that's one thing I don't have to worry about.

    Not to worry. I think people are scared of both Dakotas.


  14. "It keeps the riffraff out." That's what whining about the cold weather does in North Dakota. Been there. Done that.