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Thursday September 6, 2012

A frolic in the middle Keys


Labor day weekend I spent a few days down in the middle keys with the family of a friend. There was some serious lounging, a lot of drinking, not a little fishing, and quite a bit of eating. While Key West holds on to its bohemian let-everything-hang-out party culture, this side of the Keys has a casually posh, almost Hamptons-style thing going on.

See the full article and 18 photos


Sunday July 20, 2008

Coast Guard target practice

Coast Guard target practice boat. The drawbridges on the Venetian Causeway instantly go up for the Coast Guard boats that cruise the neighborhood regularly, but this was my first time seeing this boat, presumably used for deep-sea target practice.


Tuesday April 22, 2008

The new ginger-bread house bridge in Hollywood.


Tuesday April 8, 2008

Evening air.


Monday March 24, 2008

Back from the Keys. Whole story later, for now, here’s a picture from somewhere around Marathon. Life would be easier if they put mile markers on maps.


Thursday March 13, 2008

A crocodile lives by the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, and that’s where he’s staying, because a “normally acting crocodile under six feet does not pose a threat to people’s safety.” Ahh, man and nature living side by side in perfect harmony.


Tuesday February 26, 2008

Do not go out on the open ocean, dump bloody fish parts in the water to attract sharks, and then jump in the water after them. (Unless you absolutely have to.)


Monday January 28, 2008

“I mean we’re on land and we don’t take it seriously how insane it is out there. You’re at the beach throwing a ball around laughing in the sand and out beneath the waves there is this slaughterhouse, this horror movie. Shark week forever. It’s amazing the ocean doesn’t just run blood all the time.”


Wednesday January 9, 2008

dried up lake okeechobee The water situation, she is not good: Lake Okeechobee at historic low levels, and it’s time for the South Florida Water Management District to take some action. Specifically, they’re spending $1.5 million, of a $25 million emergency fund, to purchase pumps to allow the continued draining of the lake for surrounding farm irrigation (and for the few surrounding towns). I guess you do what you have to do, but this sounds pretty bone-headed to me. The rest of the money will go to fixing up the floodgates around the lake in case, you know, the water ever comes back. [Photo from scouttster’s lakeoceechobee tag. Recommend checking out and reading the captions for some crazy details.] Update: This is more like it: a half million to accelerate the opening of a water treatment plant in Palm Beach. Let’s use the water we already have.


Thursday December 13, 2007

The South Florida Water Management District is working on ranking the priorities of various elements of the Everglades restoration project, so that they’ll be ready as the budget of the program gets slashed. How’s that half-full glass looking, there? (And speaking of whom, we have a Rick sighting.)


Thursday November 29, 2007

Quit wasting my water

australian toilet

Well, rainy season is drawing to a close, and suffice it to say that it wasn’t a washout. We’re fine for now, but our water levels are lower then we want them, and there’s trouble ahead. We can wait for panic to set in, and then start frantically talking about forbidding anyone else to move to Southeastern Florida (to recap: it’s a pointless idea because the problem is already severe, and it’s a useless idea because it will never happen). Or we can start talking about some real long-term solutions.

Luckily, we’re not inventing the wheel here. Other parts of the world experience much worse droughts, and have come up with clever ways to deal with the problem. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Australian toilet. A more efficient design, and with two flush buttons. How simple is this: you use a half-flush for pee, a full flush for Well-You-Know™. This alone saves a staggering amount of water (8,500 gallons per household per year (also, btw: no clogs)), but of course there’s a lot more: special shower heads, washing machines, dish washers, strict water restrictions, and yes, expensive water treatment plants (Hiaasen has this exactly right).

It’s all tied together with a progressive pricing system, where water gets more expensive the more you use of it. Use a modest amount, your water bill is low. Waste, and it spikes sharply. All the gadgets in the world don’t help unless the people using them are motivated to save water, right? A lot of this is cultural — once people are constantly reminded of all the ways water can be saved, it becomes the expected behavior, and social pressure brings in line those who, say, can afford to be wasteful. What we need is a cultural shift, but it needs to start with the legislature.

Let’s put the two-flusher into new homes. Let’s make water restrictions permanent, so nobody is ever in doubt about what’s in effect when. And let’s get some of that progressive water pricing going. Because more droughts are on the way, and the future may make this Summer look like a cakewalk. We need to get ready now.

Update: Think about the water you use in a typical day and you’ll realize that the overwhelming majority is for flushing your piss. You just don’t need 3.5 gallons for that. If you go 6 times per day, that’s over 10 gallons saved per person per day. There are 2,400,000 people in Miami Dade. Do the math, and you get something close to 8 billion gallons of water saved per year. Of course it’d take decades to get to universal deployment, but there’s no time like the present to start.


Wednesday November 21, 2007

Urban Development Boundary update: From information received by Boom or Bust, it appears that there are 4 pending applications to open a total of 178 acres beyond the UDB to development. Only one of those is currently recommended for rejection. Please to attend the Miami-Dade County Commission meeting on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, write your commissioner, or at least customise and submit this action alert.


Thursday November 15, 2007

Waterfront parking lot.



Holy crap: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refuses to contribute a dime to Florida water projects to reduce high levels of pollution flowing into and out of Lake Okeechobee, according to a memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Corps claims the state is disqualified from federal assistance due to its continuing violation of minimum national water quality standards, noting that the state ‘is not likely to come into compliance for several decades.’” (via EoM)


Tuesday October 30, 2007

Miami Skylift

Miami Skylift

The Miami Skylift, which, when it opens, will take people on a 15-minute, $15 dollar, 500-foot high tethered balloon “ride” in Bayfront Park. (Here is the rendering of the balloon in operation, and here is the discussion of whether there’ll be anything worth looking up there.) It’s opening in “Fall 2007,” which means “sometime soon, we really don’t know.” Seems like something worth trying once. But I was interested to learn that there is a degree of controversy about the location, the Mildred and Claude Pepper Fountain, designed by the Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi in the late 80s as part of a reworking of Bayfront Park. Michael Lewis laments the decision to shut down the fountain, and provides some history:

Selling the city’s front door to a carnival ride so that the Bayfront Park Management Trust can collect $270,000 a year rent plus a share of ticket and advertising revenues to support the park’s operations reinforces Miami’s pennywise, pound-foolish history. . . .

Designed by world-famous sculptor and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi, the turbulent eye-catcher offered a fantastic computerized show of water plumes — until the city discovered that while it could afford to build the fountain, it hadn’t figured on the cost to operate it, a failure repeated at the nearby Carnival Center for the Performing Arts 15 years later. . . .

To keep water flowing day and night, the trust was told, would cost $544,000 a year, $350,000 more than the total of park revenue from rentals and the paltry $50,000 the chintzy city itself was willing to provide. Even to run the fountain just four hours a day, the trust was told, would cost $61,000 more than the trust could amass. . . .

To save $61,000 a year, the city destroyed the memorial to Claude Pepper, a giant who served Miami for more than 40 years in Congress. It ruined the $20 million Bayfront Park plan by design genius Isamu Noguchi to create a waterfront focal point.

Now the hulk is being commercialized and carnivalized.

Here is a photo of the fountain from the park’s website, obviously in its less glorious, more recent days. (Also, note word: ‘carnivalized’.)


Tuesday October 23, 2007

Fishing, Haulover Beach.

Dusktime fishing, Haulover Beach.


Tuesday October 9, 2007

The sea grass of Florida Bay, damaged by boating, is being restored.


Monday October 1, 2007

The Florida Springs blog.


Wednesday September 26, 2007

Swimmers in Sunday’s triathlon.


Thursday September 20, 2007


Aquarius, 9 miles off Key Largo and 60 feet under water, is the only live-in underwater research laboratory in the world. NBC6 did a live report from the station today, the first ever broadcast from there, including info on what it’s like to live on Aquarius, and what they’re studying. People who live underwater are called ‘aquanauts’! [Photo courtesy NOAA and UNC Wilmington]


Friday September 14, 2007

Not good: Lake Okeechobee continues to set records for low water levels. Expect to see even stricter water restrictions next year.


Thursday September 13, 2007

Caution on South Beach


Tuesday September 11, 2007

Dawn over Biscayne Bay.


Wednesday August 22, 2007

Miami Beach is not particularly eco-friendly, but things are changing, slowly. They could start by sending someone to fix this water main, still dripping more then a month later.


Wednesday August 15, 2007

Jonathan’s got a nice photo taken from the Virginia Key bridge. Left to right: Port of Miami, South Beach (tall buildings), Fisher Island (squatter buildings), Virginia Key Beach Park, and the Pusty Relican. The water is the Biscayne Bay aquatic preserve. Don’t miss the link to the big version. Compare also the google map view (the view is roughly East-Northeast).


Thursday August 9, 2007

How to survive a shark attack

“Shark’s teeth face inward, so when a shark doesn’t let go or wiggles its head and the person tries to pull away from the shark, that tissue just gets ripped right out. There are not that many predators under the water that could inflict a bite this size, this extensive.” — Dr. Randy Miller, who performed surgery on a lady who got bitten by a shark on Tuesday.

OK, this happened in the keys, and for whatever reason attacks are much more common there and on the west coast of Florida then on our nice beaches. I direct you to Camilo’s guide to sharks and the nerve-calming links at this post. We can also get some to-the-rescue from a pair of WikiHow articles: Prevent a shark attack and Survive a shark attack. (Short version: punch it in the eyes and gills.) Swim easy.


Tuesday August 7, 2007

Yikes!: Gus and Michelle bought themselves a kayak, and on their maiden voyage were attacked startled by a 7-food crocodile. A pants-browning experience.


Thursday August 2, 2007


Click the picture. It’s Florida. Now zoom all the way in. This is a plane that crashed 26 years ago.


Wednesday July 18, 2007

The City of Miami Beach’s response to water restrictions: this water main at the recently demolished Holtz stadium, has been dripping like this for days.


Friday July 13, 2007

“Other metropolitan areas of Florida are light-years ahead of South Florida on recycling. While communities elsewhere reuse 90 percent to 100 percent of their water, Broward reuses 5 percent to 7 percent of its water; and Miami-Dade recycles 5 percent.” The Herald calls for year-round wanter-use limits.


Thursday July 12, 2007

The water restrictions have just been eased for Broward and Palm Beach counties. Basically, everyone except West Palm Beach, Lake
Worth, Lantana, Dania, and Hallandale is now under Phase II, which Miami-Dade has been under all along. Here’s the nitty-gritty [PDF — a pox on the SFWMD’s house for putting plain-textable information into this godforsaken format]. (Via SotP)


Wednesday July 11, 2007

Flagler Memorial Island cleanup

Flagler Memorial Island

WHL visited Flagler Memorial Island Monday, and found it a mess. “Sadly it is in poor condition and the beach had piles of trash and overflowing garbage cans.”

Sounds like sanitation needs to do a better job of maintaining the island, but first it needs to be brought back to some semblance of normalcy. To that end, ECOMB is having a Flagler Monument Island Clean-up volunteer event on the morning of Saturday, July 21. Volunteers needed! Help your city! Meet people and have fun while doing a good deed! All that; please register ahead of time so they know how many people to expect.


Monday July 2, 2007

Around the Beach

snake palm

I finally got a new bike Friday. In between downpours this weekend, I spent some time riding around Miami Beach. Here’s a slideshow of a few interesting things. Looks like water is going to be the big theme. Water and destruction. Well, water, destruction, and renewal.


Thursday June 21, 2007

The seawall around Miami Circle is disintegrating. Not good. The article has links to two old Herald articles which track the history of what happened, and what was supposed to have happened, to the circle (which looked mighty strange next to each other in my RSS reader, causing a confused early version of this entry).


Thursday May 31, 2007

This is how seriously our leaders are taking the water shortage: when an underground pipe burst in Miramar, it took over a week to get the permits to fix the leak. So much water gushed out that it caused a “small sinkhole.”


Wednesday May 23, 2007

A baywalk is part of Miami 21, but anyone who’s been down to the bay knows it’s a little pie-in-the-sky, since almost all the buildings along the bay have fence up to the water and private yards. Anyway, here’s what the Baywalk would look like if we had a baywalk.


Tuesday May 15, 2007

What's up with the water?

link to water management map

[Last week I disagreed with Carl Hiaasen’s handling of the compensation for wrongful conviction issue, arguing that he should have tackled the general case, not a particular instance. An interesting conversation about the issue ensued: one which could have existed on a much larger scale. Different week, same stink: On Sunday, Hiaasen again missed the point.]

South Florida is experiencing a serious drought. The gap between our fresh groundwater and salty water is tight, and the current Phase II and III restrictions are almost draconian: sub-78° indoor temperatures are banned, farms are restrictions in their crop irrigation, lawns can be watered and cars washed only four hours per week . . . wait a second. We’re close to having dire harm to our water supply (Phase IV = “Permanent or irreversible damage to the water resource,” in case you were wondering) and we’re letting people wash their cars and water their lawns? What’s going on here?

Well, so Carl Hiaasen figured out a solution for us. Too bad that, once again, Hiaasen is wrong all over the place. His solution? Let’s ban building!

One way to gird for the future — and protect families who already live here — would be to impose building moratoriums in those counties where the water shortage is most acute.

This is way too simple and sensible. Moratoriums can’t be enacted unless local leaders are willing to stand up to developers, a rare occurrence indeed. The state is requiring counties to recycle water for nonpotable uses, but that doesn’t curb the liquid appetite of sprawl.

Well, that may work for some message board crank, but when we hear it from a major newspaper’s columnist I feel obligated to point out some flaws in the plan (and make no mistake, “one way to grid the future” aside, this one idea is all he’s got). For starters, Hiaasen appears to have missed the hundreds of condo buildings that are currently and already under construction in Miami. (But that’s probably because he lives 150 miles away, in Vero.) More to the point, what does he have in mind, a border fence of some sort? Sorry, but you can’t stop people from moving where they want to live. It’s proved impossible to prevent people from crossing even national borders when they really want to, and for all the Conch Republic fantasies of Hiaasen’s former life, Florida is not a sovereign nation.

But the hypothesis that overpopulation is the cause of the water shortages has more fundamental flaws. If it were the case, we would expect that the drought would be the worst where population is densest. It’s not. See the South Florida Water Management District’s map (converted to a jpg for your convenience). Note that Broward and Palm Beach currently have Phase III restrictions, while Miami is under Phase II (what’s up with the roman numerals, SFWMD?).

OK, so what’s really going on here? Well, the SFWMD district spells it out pretty clearly: “Too Little Rain = Water Shortages.” You see, the groundwater is part of a cycle. It’s like an underground river. The levels are low because of the lack rain, And while the problem right now is exacerbated by the human population, future water levels will be determined by our future rain, not by our current use, because the groundwater is part of a natural global cycle. I can’t emphasize this point enough, and I ask you to look at the diagram at that link. You saw it in a book when you were a kid, but look at it again.

We’ve had problems with the ground water before, as these data clearly show (but warning, the page loads slowly), and we’ll have them again.* The solution is not to try to ban new people from moving to Florida. The trick is to plan for the shortages better, and take effective steps to lower our water consumption during the crunch. What’s the most effective way to handle that? Some barely enforced restrictions on lawn watering? Give me a break.

All we have to do is get serious about getting the word out. First of all, we should ban all lawn watering. It’s the dry season in the tropics, and grasses are supposed to dry out — it’s the way of nature! Don’t worry, they’ll come back when it starts to rain. Next, put out a serious media campaign to get people saving water. This has been done before, but this time it seems pretty feeble. Tell people to stop running their dish washers half-full, stop taking baths, and stop leaving the water running. If that doesn’t work, how about shutting the water off for an hour or two once a week? Not only will that save some water, but it’ll make these idiots realize that this is serious. Oh, and fixing the @!$% pipes wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Of course a building ban will never happen, so calling for it is so much pissing in the wind. Restricting where development can happen is of course very important, and so far the UDB has been more or less enforced. That means more condos and fewer houses being built, and an increase in density. This is good not just because high-rise dwellers use less water then homeowners, but because of the commensurate improvements in energy use, vehicle use, paved surface area, etc. We can’t keep them out, but we can force them to live smarter. Let’s put aside the foolishness and get to the real answers.

Update: John S. has a great suggestion in the comments: a sliding scale where the price of water for residences roughly doubles for every hundred cubic feet of water used.

* Heck yeah, I went all into the DBHYDRO to pull that stuff up.


Thursday May 3, 2007

Holy crap: Part of the water restrictions is that large buildings can’t be any cooler then 78 degrees. That includes office buildings, shopping malls, government buildings, and even the common areas of condominiums. The only thing exempt is homes. Yikes!! (via KaiB)


Tuesday May 1, 2007

10 questions about the drought and water restrictions answered. Lots of good information here.


Friday April 27, 2007

Silver Goose

The Silver Goose. Parked between Palm Island and the MacArthur for the last four days.


Thursday March 15, 2007

Water restrictions go into effect March 22. But nice people start early on this. In fact, nice people don’t water their lawn during the dry season!


Friday January 12, 2007

“How the drinking water aquifer for 2.4 million residents of Miami Dade became contaminated with benzene by rock miners does not rise to the threshold of a news story, or, relevance in the question whether or not to empower an executive mayor, is that it?” Eye on Miami is on a freakin’ rampage.


Wednesday January 3, 2007

Jessica Alba Bikini

Hide your kids, y’all: it’s Jessica Alba frolicking in the temperate waters of the South Beach Atlantic Ocean. More here and here. Apologies to those that thought I wasn’t going to go there. Update: Jorday sez, “I’m not sure who she is but(t) – ah, a woman’s ass! I’m such a heterosmacktual…”


Thursday November 16, 2006

How a marina works

North Beach Marina

I was just driving around, getting into other people’s business, when I drove by a marina on an impromptu trip down the 79th street causeway a few weeks ago. There was a guy washing a car and a big dog, and I snapped a few pictures of boats up on these huge shelfs, more or less expecting to get yelled at even though I was firmly on public sidewalk. Surprisingly, though, he and everyone else at North Beach Marina was super friendly, and I was invited in to stroll around and ask questions.

North Beach Marina

The boats sit triple and quadruple-stacked on these metal frames. There is also a hangar, which is the same on the inside but protected from the elements.

North Beach Marina

A big forklift grabs them from the shelves . . .

North Beach Marina

. . . and plops them in the water. These forklifts are as big as an 18-wheeler cab, can lift as high as three stories, and have forks as long as a car. The marina has two of them.

North Beach Marina

The boats sit on two carpet-covered slats of wood which are so close together that I figured a light gust might knock them all over. I’m told, however, that they stay put even in hurricane-force winds, and during Wilma, there was only one boat they bothered to tie down. No worries, no problems.

North Beach Marina

A slick, James Bond-looking catamaran sits on the bottom shelf. I forgot to ask what its top speed is.

North Beach Marina

Next to the marina, a little marine supply store specializing in boat upholstery. Lots of work on a sewing machine goes on there.

North Beach Marina
724 Ne 79th St
Miami, FL
(305) 758-8888


Monday November 13, 2006

Algae in Biscayne Bay

Algae in Biscayne Bay

We’re on year 2 of a strange blue-green algae infestation of Biscayne Bay. Algae is an important part of the ecosystem, providing food for microscopic animals. But when it goes wild like this, it disturbs the balance of the whole ecosystem. Light doesn’t get down to the grasses that live on the Bay’s bottom, so they start to die off. Then the crabs and fish that eat the grasses start to die. Before long, you could end up with a dead zone kind of like they’ve got in the Gulf of Mexico.

What’s causing the bloom? Well, algae feed on phosphorous, so the short answer is that it’s an increase in the levels of the big-P in the bay. How’d it get there? Check out an Appendix to a South Florida Water Management District report [PDF link; here is a text version] looks at that question. They’re sure it’s a combination of factors, but seem to settle on a sort of combination C-111/Wilma theory.

It goes like this: the C-111 collects water from around Florida City and dumps it in the bay. Normally, no problem. But “hurricane disturbances” last year caused a whole lot of that water to flow all at once last year. Right after that is when phosphorous levels, and the algae, first went wild. Normally, the cold weather of the winter would have killed the algae off, and indeed it did help. But when they did some tests in June and July of this year, the levels were back up. Not good.

Oh, and where’s the phosphorous coming from? Scroll to the bottom of this page and it’ll start to make sense: “The C-111 canal drains from north to south through an intensely-cultivated agricultural area between Homestead, Florida and Everglades National Park.” That’s right, el azúcar grande. Thanks again, guys!

(via Curtis Morgan, here and here)

Disclaimer: The photo above may or may not be related to the current algae bloom. I am not a scientist, and I don’t know shit about shit. I love sugar, especially the cheap, delicious, bleached kind. Yum!


Thursday October 12, 2006

“The South Miami-Dade Watershed Study has been an ongoing process to determine the course for growth over the next 50 years. The Infrastructure and Land Use Committee (INLUC) of the County Commission will be present and your voice and attendance is vital to promote sound results that will impact future development and conservation.” A public workshop will be held tomorrow, October 13, from 9:30 am to 2pm. Go to Greener Miami to read how and why to participate.


Sunday June 18, 2006

jet-ski = personal watercraft

These guys are riding jet-skies from Anchorage, through the Panama Canal, and to Miami.


Friday July 1, 2005

The Critical Miami Guide to Sharks

[contributed by Camilo Santana]

Sharks are nearly blind, but they can make out shapes. When they look up and see a surfer with their appendages hanging out over the sides, it looks just like a seal, their favourite food. So they attack by mistake — literally.

The only real danger is that a shark can enter into a frenzy — they go berserk and eat anything, including other sharks, even their own tails. The way to trigger a frenzy? With blood. A shark can smell a single drop of blood a quarter mile away. So you never wanna be in the water with a chick who doesn’t know her period is on – ahem, 14-yr old girl.

(It’s an ugly probability but one that can’t be ruled out simply because we like to avoid that topic of conversation. Lets see FOX handle that angle.)

Oh, and about the second attack? Knee deep in a sandbar 200 yards out. Umm . . . he was fishing (sounds of distressed fish flapping in the water), and I’d gather them fish bleed when hooked and they weren’t using live bait . . . or perhaps they were LOL?

If I go out into the Cali mountains (they’re five miles to the East here) and start dragging a whimpering rabbit behind me while crouched with fish oil smeared all over my skin I think the chances of me falling prey to a vicious mountain lion attack are pretty high. These people need to practice basic safety.

And for the record, I’ve been in the waters of South Beach (back in ’87 or so) within 10 yards of two rather large sharks. I removed myself from the ocean as fast as I could without splashing. It wasn’t that big of a deal. You do get plenty of warning with sharks.

[Previously: Easy there, Little Shark]


Monday June 27, 2005

Easy there, Little Shark

bull shark

The whole world is talking about the girl killed by a shark off the coast of Florida Saturday. Great. Nobody’s going in the water for the next three months for fear of death. As a public service, we would like to remind you that hearing these reports creates a disproportionate perception of danger. The fact is that shark attacks are super-rare. More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks. But what the hell. Stay away from the water if you must. More surfing room for us.

update: Camilo Santana chimes in with the numbers. (Thanks Camilo!) Kitties are oddly absent from the list; Sophie has already killed a few unsuspecting visitors.