Lydia and I took a trip to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve this last weekend. Despite it being “Winter” there was still plenty to see. The nature preserve can be found on the shores of Lake Maggiore just outside of downtown Saint Petersburg, Florida. It features a Bird-of-Prey aviary, 6 miles of hiking trails, overnight camping, hardwood hammocks, sand pine scrub, pine flat-woods, willow marsh, swamp woodlands, lake shore and it is a part of the of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Look through our photos below and if you like them, subscribe and comment. Enjoy!
This congregation of gators was seen enjoying a warm winter day by hanging out in the warm sunlight near their mother.
Above you will find downtown Saint Petersburg, Florida as seen from a wooden bridge over Lake Maggiore.
For the two ferns below we have not been able to find a name match. If you happen to know what these plants are called, please let us know in the comments.
Today, while I watched the deplorables walk away with another election in Florida I also struck up a conversation with a man standing next to me about voting. He told me he was denied a vote even though he has been an active voter and is registered correctly. I asked him and he showed me his State ID and his voters registration card with his polling location information printed on it.
His story is that an election official told him (at his polling location) that if he wanted to vote he needed to head to another location. The reasoning was that he was not registered at the location printed on his card. Unfortunately (or was it by design) he was not able to make it to the polling place before it closed. In this way, he was denied his right to vote. He told me that he has been registered since 2008 and indeed he had voted for Obama as his first act as a voter. He also had voted in the 2016 election using the address and polling place on his card. So it seemed odd to me that his polling location had changed. I offered to help him out and get him registered correctly. We proceeded to look up his registration on the State’s website and were greeted by some nasty surprises.
According to the state he was registered at the same address on his ID and his polling location is the same location listed on his voter ID card. We also looked him up on the Pinellas County supervisor of elections website.
Once the election is certified by the state (justly or not) it’s over. Your vote will not count. If you are reading this in 2020 and you are told to go somewhere else to vote and you are certain you are in the right place. Insist on speaking to a manager and filling out a provisional ballot
There is no problem with people voting using a false identity. Undocumented immigrants are not voting. That is a smokescreen blown up the asses of deplorable to get their support for racist voter ID laws. The problem is suppression; the problem is mysterious problems with your registration or your minority neighborhood polling location closing. On my facebook post about this I was told that two black voters were told the same thing (the person this article is about is hispanic) and one other person said this:
I found out earlier this week that my own vote in the 2010 election was not counted and I have no idea why. I only found out because I was mailed a voter report card by an NGO.
What can you do?
Register yearly and vote as early as possible. This is really only available to the privileged, but do it if you can.
Help your friends and loved ones register and vote early every single year.
Yesterday I posted the Pinellas county guide and today I thought it would be a good idea to post the Hillsborough county guide. I reached out to the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida to get these guides. I was not paid for this, but if anyone knows George Soros, have him call me.
I had trouble pulling a readable copy of this guide from the Pinellas DPC Facebook site so I am reposting it to this site and some others. A vote for these candidates is a vote for progressive Democrats in your area. Please share the this website and guide with all of your friends. If you can, ask your friends and neighbors if they need a ride to the polls. Make an afternoon of it!
I had a hard time configuring let’s encrypt using Certbot on an instance of Bitnami WordPress in AWS Lightsail. Bitnami wants you to use the LEGO client, but I was not a fan. In fact, the Bitnami document with the correct instructions is currently showing a 404 error. So, I tried this from memory and promptly mauled my server. Somehow Certbot spun up another instance of apache which began my descent into madness. I eventually read over the Certbot docs and came up with this as an easy way to set up Let’s encrypt in Lightsail using Bitnami’s image. I am posting this because my wife pointed out that I would forget this. I was working on the https://fucktrump2020.org server, you will need to replace fucktrump2020.org with your FQDN. By the end you should be able to use let’s encrypt and certbot with bitnami wordpress.
A working Bitnami WordPress instance.
super user access (for every command).
Ubuntu 16.04 (but it should work in bionic)
Install the Certbot repository and application as outlined here https://certbot.eff.org/docs/install.html. Do not run the commands for the automated installer. In fact, make sure the text `–apache` never appears in anything you type into the terminal.
Download your Certs
If you aren’t careful you can mess up Bitnami’s custom apache install. Instead of doing that run this command. It will use the http method to verify your site without taking your site down or running its own apache server at the same time.
We are going to stop the server for the next step. Run the command below:
After backing up the old certs We are going to symbolically link to the symbolic links. Let’s Encrypt keeps living(current) certs in “/etc/letsencrypt/live/” those certs are symbolic links to files in some other folder, usually “/etc/letsencrypt/archive”. Beware the dangle.
People who really like biscuits and perfect gravy (also me).
People with more money than sense (not really me).
People who like hearing yelling in the morning.
People who think southern charm is worth money.
People who come into this knowing it’s not a relaxing breakfast place, but a fast food restaurant with perfect gravy.
The biscuits are soft, fluffy (I hope they weren’t supposed to be flaky) and tasty.
The chicken breading is great.
The Gravy is nearly perfect for this application. Loaded with sausage, salted correctly and with a hint of spicy heat. A good sausage gravy can be hard to find, and this is perfect.
The manager makes an effort to ask everyone how their meal is. Touches like this make a big difference.
The environment is warm and comfortable, with a big but (see below).
The maple syrup is made in the USA, but (see below).
The Chai Latte is made well.
The chicken itself was on the verge of being dry and chewy.
The maple syrup has a bad flavor up front, it goes away and then syrup is good, but it’s hard to get over that initial flavor.
The cheddar cheese tastes like great value brand. This isn’t usually an issue, but you paid so much for it that I feel like I should at least be lied to and told its made in a traditional farmhouse by a southern hipster or something.
Minor complaint, my egg yolk was popped before I got my food. I like to choose where the egg yolk goes.
The bacon is bad, overcooked to the point that it forms sharp little shards of what once used to be a pig and is now just tiny knives stabbing your gums. The manager says that this is because they often cover the bacon with some type of sauce. Mine was covered in delicious gravy and egg, but my gums still got stabbed. This ruins the texture of the biscuits and chicken. The menu says that it’s got pecans in it which sounds amazing, but it really tastes like that flavor you get when you are burying a fire pit and you accidentally get some ash in your mouth, but the ash is mixed with oil and stabs your mouth. The bacon is bad.
The environment is frenetic and loud. This is a breakfast place, maybe it’s just me, but I like a breakfast place to be relaxing. This may not be a problem for everyone. Some people like to hear yelling in the morning.
They ask you a question like, what street do you live on, then yell that answer so you will come up to the counter to pick up your own order. This only adds to the frenetic atmosphere.
You must seat yourself and then order; or order and hope there will be a seat available for when someone yells the answer to the question you probably won’t be listening for after hunting for a place to sit (take someone with you and have them claim some seats). It is every person for themselves and if you are alone you could be SOL.
You must pick your own food up from the counter before or after you hunted for a seat.
Far too expensive. An egg, biscuits, bacon and gravy costs $10. Biscuits and gravy start at $6 on its (single biscuit) own. This is double the cost of a sit-down restaurant where no one yells random street names every few minutes and you don’t have to fight for a table or settle with eating next to someone’s smelly kid. It’s set up like a fast food restaurant, but at quadruple the price. Then add a drink and a meal for 2 people might wind up at near to or greater than $30. That’s diner money, but with the burden of finding seating and listening to yelling put on your shoulders.
What to expect.
Walk in and make sure there is seating available, because apparently in modern America you must fight for a place to sit to eat in addition to everything else. If you enter through the back like we did, avert your eyes from the nigh overflowing trash bin. It’s probably best to enter from the correct side which is the side opposite of Banfield pet hospital, but since there is insufficient parking in the front, you will likely enter through the back. Watch out for all the people eating at the table right next to the door.
If you have a partner with you, immediately set them on a quest to find a seat. This is important because you might find yourself ordering and having nowhere private to sit. If you like sharing a big table with strangers and their kids, then seating may not be a problem.
Once you have staked out a place to sit, go on a quest to stand in queue. Keep queueing there while reading the menu and try to ignore the staff yelling random words, this will become important later, but is just annoying for now and for most of your visit. I think it’s supposed to be quirky.
Wait for your food. Eventually, for southern charm reasons or something, they will yell the answer to a question they asked you when you ordered. Don’t play their games, give them your name. Pick up your food after waiting around 13 minutes which would be reasonable at a diner, but not a fast food restaurant.
Sit, try to ignore the yelling and movement, eat, remove the sharp bacon shards from your mouth and take a swig of water to flush the taste of blood out of your mouth.
An excerpt from my inner dialog:
“Oh god the noise at, least the sound of this crunchy bacon ash I’m grinding between my teeth is helping to drown it out.”
“Oh here comes the manager, he is, explaining to every table that the maple syrup is actually good you just got to kind of grit your teeth through it. So it’s not just my maple syrup that tastes bad.”
“Isn’t that weird, if its good why would you have to explain that to everyone.”
Complete your meal and clean your own table. Or take a stand; you don’t work for the maple street biscuit company and you just paid 4 times the cost of biscuits at most places. Let them clean their own tables. At these prices we should be upset if we find out that the staff is not paid a living wage.
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I don’t usually write reviews, but listen, that bacon is a disgrace and I think it is important to know that this is expensive fast food. if you are like us and visit breakfast diners on the weekends you will be disappointed. If you go into this knowing that it is just breakfast fast food, then your expectations will be set correctly. Knowing this, consider the cost of a biscuit minis at chick fil-a. Even at their inflated prices it is a fraction of the price and still delicious. Lower your standards and you wind up at $4 for 2 Bacon egg and cheese biscuits at McDonalds with no yelling and bacon that won’t cut your mouth.
This first photo is of a bend in the mighty (ish) Alafia river at Alderman’s Ford Park. The Alafia River is a 25-mile long river which drains into Tampa Bay, The River was first documented by European invaders in the 16th century. The land around the area was once the home of the Native American tribe called the Tocobaga who disappeared in the 18th century. The Alafia River branches off to nearly 30 rivers and streams around Hillsborough County. The river was originally named Hunters River, but was later named Alafia which means river of fire, after the algae blooms and dirt which often appear in the river.
This photo was taken at a bend in the river at Alderman’s Ford Park before the beginning of spring. The water level was a little bit lower than usual and if you visit now (late spring) you should be able to see even more flora and fauna. And you know what? You definitely should visit Alderman’s Ford Park, especially if you are a fan of canoeing or simple hiking. Alderman’s Ford Park offers one of the county’s most popular canoe launches and excellent campgrounds. This park also features a long paved trail which is excellent for running and jogging, and since pets are welcome, get that fat puppy out there for a brisk run.
During a trip to this park I actually got lost in the woods and wound up at a fence line next to a strawberry field. Oh boy, what a lovely smell a strawberry field lets loose into the air. Alderman’s Ford Park is made up of over 1,000 square acres and was first settled by europeans in 1848 when James Alderman built his homestead on the river. In the 1950s Hillsborough County purchased the land and made it into the park it is today. The park is also a great place for families, with covered shelters and a large recreation area. On my first visit to the park, I even saw a wedding made up entirely of people in camouflage, I almost ran into them, they were so hard to see.
Like so many of you; my partner and I monitored Irma’s movements with bated breath and a healthy dose of denial. I was in Homestead on August 24, 1992 when hurricane Andrew, the first storm named after a male (a joke I heard for years afterwards), set its plans in motion against Dade County. I was young at the time, but in my town’s utter devastation I learned valuable lessons about how quickly everything can be swept away, how to sleep outside, the best way to season an M.R.E.(Tabasco sauce) and how to start a campfire. I also learned about how people could come together and help one another and I learned to have faith in humans and in human institutions like the National Guard, FEMA and the Red Cross.
These experiences left me with a strong sense community and goodwill towards humans, but they also informed my decision to escape from Pinellas county and head as far inland as I could possibly get. With that choice made my partner and I decided to head to her father’s house in Clermont, Florida. Clermont is a quiet little town not too far outside of either Orlando or Lakeland and its lands are the most ancient in Florida. Long ago, Lake County was an archipelago in a shallow sediment filled sea that became the swampland around you now. As such it has a higher elevation and an ability to ablate storms that head inland, not that we were expecting the storm to head inland.
I think we all know how this story played out( if not, click here ). Hurricane Irma not only came inland, it almost entirely skipped over Tampa Bay and passed its eye directly overhead of the home we took shelter in. Imagine a home full of 6 adults and 8 dogs along with an African Grey Parrot eating chili and watching Mission Impossible. We set the place up for a hurricane celebration of sorts but at 21:59 we were faced with a power outage and the realization that Irma, the most powerful storm in the Atlantic Ocean’s known history was making a straight line for us. A short time before the winds really picked up I realized I needed to be grabbing NOAA datasets out of their THREDDS database to run through the NOAA Weather and Climate Toolkit, which presents the user with images based on raw data and without the unnecessary commentary of the TV Weatherperson. I was needed in other places so I devised this quick and dirty powershell script to grab the updates and place them into a folder for processing.
The storm passed overnight and I will spare you the moment to moment details of all of us huddled together by candlelight fearful of the howling winds and vibrating floorboards and just say that we made it. The next day things were not as bad as you might expect. The storm broke up on its way to us and the first half of the storm was a category 2 with heavy rain, the second half was was just category 2 winds. We were able to squeeze in a couple hours of sleep and then went outside to see what there was to be seen.
In the image above you can see Lake Minnehaha at 10:38 in the morning. From here the only indications of a hurricane are some branches in the street. Do you see the 3 neighbors on the right side? They are discussing what is in the next photograph.
This tree and dark sky stand in contrast to the peaceful view from 180 degrees away. I took a moment to speak with the owner of the property, who informed me that the house out of view on the right, which had some mild damage, had just been closed on by the new owners. He was scheduled to move out the next morning.
Even that photo has a certain static peacefulness to it, which I feel is contrasted in the photo below.
This photo was taken at the shoreline of Lake Minnehaha at 10:33 in the morning. The area was not static and winds made it difficult to walk without a partner to hold onto. Thankfully, I had one with me. Also down by the shore we ran across some marine damage.
I felt sad for the owners of the boat in this photo taken at 13:29 in afternoon. I imagined that they had moved to this central Florida community with dreams of a quiet, easy life on a lake with a small pleasure boat they could take around when the weather was just right–as it normally is in Florida.
Even during all this natural destruction, life found an opportunity to spring up. While cleaning the yard we came across this little mushroom and its friends. It reminded me that two of my favorite things are natural beauty and serendipity so I went in search of beauty amid destruction.
This fallen branch set the tone for the rest of the day. Complex textures could be found all around. Most especially in fallen trees and their branches.
This fallen branch was once a part of a tree that stood on the shore of Lake Minnehaha. It looked as though the tree had exploded from the winds and had been spread across a large area. I especially loved the rusty color of this tree.
This final photo was my favorite from the entire ordeal. It is of a tree that once existed in the lot across from the house we took shelter in. The subtle and complex colors of the tree’s innards coupled with the ligneous textures of the broken surface combine to trigger a sensation I can only describe as umami for the eyes.
Those are the last of the photos I am sharing for now. I took over a hundred photos this day and I used my file organization script for Microsoft Powershell to organize those photos. The article on that script can be found here.
Earlier I mentioned I threw together a quick script for downloading datasets from NOAA. That quick and dirty Microsoft Powershell script can be found here. It was written and run in Kunbuntu Linux but should work in Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX.
The NOAA Weather and Climate Toolkit for interpreting that data can be found here.