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Expat wanderer

ECUA Water/Sewer “Averaging” in Pensacola

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My third year in Pensacola, I got a huge shock. My water/sewage bill jumped, jumped horribly. I knew we had used a lot of water in October and November of the previous year, because we had installed some new landscaping in October which needed watering in, but I had no idea why EVERY month my bill was so high.

Then the fourth year, the bill came and it was so low, I called and said “I think there has been a mistake.” I didn’t want to be getting a huge bill the next month to rectify the mistake. The wonderful customer service woman asked me if I didn’t know about “averaging.” No. I’m new. I don’t know about averaging, and I have never heard anyone talk about it.

She explained that in November, December and January, they average water use and then use it to estimate the sewage bill for the entire year, since they can’t separate water used for watering lawns and water used that goes into sewage. Most people, she explained, turn off their outside water around November. Evidently, horrified by my huge bills resulting from watering in the landscaping, I had been extremely careful in the last year, and was greatly blessed with much smaller water bills.

As it turns out, it’s not just new people who don’t know about “averaging.” There are a lot of people who have lived here their entire lives who don’t know about it either. Last year, aware of averaging, I watched for the announcement, which wasn’t really an announcement. In the ECUA newsletter, buried deep in one of the columns, was a mention that averaging would begin in November, depending on your billing, on or around the middle of November.

You can call ECUA Customer Service (850-476-0480) and find out close to when your meter is checked in November – for you, that is when averaging starts. Averaging runs November – December – January and measures how much water you use and uses that to compute your sewerage amount. If you are careful about your water use in those three months, you will lower your water bill for the entire year.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Customer Service, Environment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola | Leave a comment

“Pesto; The Quiche of the ’80’s”

It’s still hot, hitting the nineties, but something is changing. You can see it in the angle of the sunlight, especially at sun rise and sun set, the directions have changed, the angles have changed, and the colors are richer.

 

Time to harvest the basil. This is not my garden, nor my basket, nor my garden, but the resemblance is uncanny, and this is a great photo for illustrative purposes.

 

 

IMG_1710-1 herb basket of basil BEST

 

 

IMG_2070-1 spicey globe basil

 

We grow a lot of basil, pots and pots of basil. After early church, I hit the pots with my garden shears. I trim off all the little flowers on top (I’ve been doing this all summer, but I never seem to keep on top of it) and then I trim back the branches, laden with basil. I have an entire basket full of Genovese, which, after picking off the leaves, washing them and spinning them dry, come to 12 cups of basil.

 

Doesn’t everything go better with a little pesto? I love to smear a little on my BLT’s, I love to pop a spoonful into a soup, and oh my holy tomato, basil pesto on pasta, to die for.  I know what I want to do, but I want to be sure I get proportions right, so I go to The Silver Palate Cookbook, it came out years and years ago and has a lot of basic but really really good recipes. So, how old is this cookbook? When I was looking at the Pesto page, there was a box that said “Pesto – the quiche of the ’80’s” or something like that which implied pesto was the newest, most wonderful thing – in the ’80’s.

 

“????” I thought.

 

Isn’t pesto one of those classics? Maybe it’s because we frequented Italian restaurants when I was going to high school in Germany, but I remember pesto. It’s not like quiche (which, by the way, is my grandson’s favorite thing), it’s no passing trend, pesto is classico!

 

I made all the  batches with garlic, lots of garlic, about triple what the recipe calls for, and I roasted it before I tossed it in. One batch I made with almonds, one batch with sunflower seeds and the last batch with my all time favorite, walnuts. I labeled little snack bags, put globs of pesto in them, sealed them up, put them all in one big gallon sized plastic bag and sealed that up and put the whole lot in the freezer, to pull on on those days when I need a pop of flavor and a taste of the long hot summer.

 

Here is my variation on the Silver Palate recipe:

 

Basil Genovese Pesto

4 cups basil, packed, washed, dried in salad spinner (or whatever) still fresh and green

8 – 12 cloves garlic, peeled, roasted

2/3 cup really good olive oil

some salt and some pepper. The best thing is coarsely ground salt and coarsely ground pepper that you’ve ground yourself.

about 1/2 cup nuts. Pine nuts are classic, as are walnuts, but pesto is one of those dishes with a lot of variation based on what God’s great earth hath provided. I don’t even measure the nuts, just eyeball it. I used walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds in separate batches.

In a nice large food processor, put in nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, oil and then pack in 4 cups of basil. Process until you have a gritty ball. You won’t be able to see any leaves, but you will be able to see specks of white. Spoon into freezer containers in usable amounts and freeze.

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Recipes, Weather | 2 Comments

Bonefish Grill in Pensacola for Saturday Lunch

Not a lot going on at Bonefish Grill on 12th Avenue in Pensacola, near the airport, at least at lunch time. We’ve been here on week-end nights when the wait is an hour or more for a table, but today, the place is almost empty.

 

We are seated, and service is, as always at Bonefish, superb. Some establishments really know how to train and how to maintain their high levels, and no one can ever fault Bonefish on service.

 

We went for appetizers and salads. Our son introduced us to Bang Bang Shrimp when Bonefish first opened, and it has been a big favorite ever since:

 

 

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I had the Caesar Salad with grilled salmon – yummy, but not the best in town.00BonefishSalmonCeasar

Adventure Man had the house salad, which he said was delicious, but a little boring.00BonefishLunchSalad

Since we had filled up on Bang Bang Shrimp, we both had salad to take home with us. What is not to love about Bonefish packaging :-) just a nice little extra touch.

 

 
00BonefishPackagingWe were frankly disappointed. We had been happy to discover Bonefish open at lunch, but disappointed at the limited menu selections, and the lackluster appearance of the restaurant. There was another issue. Sometimes in Florida, in some stores you will smell a smell that I can only describe as “these floors were washed with dirty water.” AdventureMan does not smell it, but it is so loathsome to me that it spoils my shopping, and, in this case, my meal. There was a very faint smell of that not-quite-clean smell, and it distracted me.

As mentioned, the service was, as ever, superb but we won’t be hurrying back any time soon.

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant | | Leave a comment

ISIS: Follow the Money

I wish I could say that I had written this, but no, this is an article by Howard Shatz, published in Politico and brought to my attention by Digg, who sends me remarkable items:

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President Obama is laying out his strategy to counter the Islamic State, whose rampages across Iraq and Syria have riveted Americans’ attention on a zone of conflict that many had hoped to forget. Many are urging him to step up military action. But if Obama wants to defeat the jihadis, he will need more than airstrikes—he should follow the money.

For all that ideology, religious belief and perhaps a lust for violence and power might motivate those who fight for the Islamic State (known variously by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL), money is what keeps the group going. As with any state, ISIL has bills to pay and mouths to feed. Even for the world’s richest terrorist organization—which, by all available accounts, ISIL is—money doesn’t grow on trees, and nothing in the world comes for free.

So where does ISIL’s money come from? As part of my research at the RAND Corporation, since late 2006 I have been studying the finances, management and organization of the precursors to the Islamic State—Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq—using their own documents, manuals and ledgers. More recently, Rand has teamed up with scholars from Princeton and Emory universities, as well as analysts from other organizations, to study more than 150 documents produced between 2005 and 2010. Although our work is still not yet done, we can draw a number of conclusions.

The most important thing for U.S. policymakers to remember is that ISIL now possesses the financial means to support a long-term fight—some $2 billion, according to a recent report in the Guardian, citing a British intelligence official. At the same time, ISIL’s preferred fundraising methods and many financial commitments create vulnerabilities. The organization was badly damaged by late 2009, thanks to a combination of coalition and Iraqi forces, as well as intervention by the Iraqi government, and it can be badly damaged again. But without the establishment of a widely accepted, legitimate political order in Iraq, ISIL cannot be eradicated—and will continue to seek out and mete out cash.

ISIL raises most of its money domestically in Iraq and Syria. Its income streams include oil smuggled to other countries in the region, extortion, taxes—especially on non-Muslim minorities—and other essentially criminal activities.

Oil is ISIL’s biggest source of revenue but also presents the biggest problem. ISIL controls about a dozen fields in Syria and Iraq, in addition to a number of refineries, including mobile refineries. Based on media accounts, RAND has estimated the total production capacity of these fields to be more than 150,000 barrels per day, although actual production is estimated to be much lower: The website Iraq Oil Report has reported that exports for the month of August at about 2.4 million barrels per day, for instance.

ISIL smuggles this oil out in tanker trucks—clearly visible from the sky should any drone pass overhead, so the smuggling is not particularly furtive. The group then sells the oil to whoever will buy it—reported in the media to be buyers in Syria, Turkey, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and possibly in Iran and even Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, among other countries. Sales take place at rates deeply discounted from world prices. But even so, revenues have been estimated in the media at $1 million, $2 million or even $3 million per day.

We have seen this before. From 2006 to 2009, ISIL’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq, raised perhaps $2 billion through smuggled oil originating in the Baiji refinery in northern Iraq. This ended as a result of a concerted effort by U.S. and Iraqi forces to destroy the group and create the conditions in which the Iraqi government could exercise its law-and-order responsibilities, as well as vastly improved management at Baiji, owned by the Iraqi government.

So where does all of ISIL’s money go?

ISIL historically has paid its members (yes, it maintains payroll sheets) based on a flat monthly rate per person and then additional fixed amounts for each wife, child and dependent unmarried adult woman in the household. In Anbar, Iraq, the rate was $491 per year in 2005 and 2006, and then about $245 per year per dependent; the rate was similar in Mosul in 2007 and 2008. These payments to family are meant to continue if the ISIL member is captured or killed—a primitive form of life insurance. If enough members are captured and killed, however, these costs start to mount.

ISIL also pays rent for its members in some cases—payments that might be bonuses to high-performing members, although we cannot be sure—and medical expenses for some members and their families. In the past, the group has sometimes hired lawyers to help get captured members out of jail. And it runs safe-houses and has to buy equipment. Guidelines published by a predecessor of the group say that expense reimbursements should be filled out in triplicate and explain where each copy goes within the organization. We don’t know for sure whether ISIL today is making money or even breaking even, but at least in Anbar from 2005 to 2006, the money was being spent as fast as it came in.

As a cash-based organization, ISIL relies on couriers not only to deliver messages among its dispersed leadership but also to move money—follow the right courier and you get to the leadership. Because it deals only in cash, ISIL also needs to worry about the honesty of its members. We have seen instances of skimming for personal enrichment, as you might see in any cash-based criminal network.

As a state, albeit a twisted version of one, ISIL also has administrative expenses. It is responsible for making sure electricity and water flow and the roads stay repaired in the regions of Iraq it now controls—including parts of the Anbar, Ninewa Salah-al-Din, Kirkuk and Diyala governorates. Whether the group chooses to or is able to fulfill those responsibilities creates a vulnerability: A discontented population is unlikely to remain passive under ISIL’s leadership.

Even if ISIL is making $3 million per day—at the higher end of the various estimates out there—then it makes slightly more than $1 billion per year. Just to be conservative, in case ISIL is doing more business than we’re aware of, let’s double that to $2 billion per year. Although exact totals are difficult to find, in 2013, before ISIL’s advance, the Iraqi government spent far more than $2 billion per year running the governorates ISIL now controls, including salaries to civil servants, other costs of service provision and investment spending. That means ISIL likely isn’t keeping up the same level of service that the Iraqi government once did. True, ISIL need not maintain that level—it hardly rules with the consent of the governed. But it’s not only a problem that those under its rule can rebel, as happened in 2007 and 2008; with the exception of oil, the group’s continued revenue-raising also depends on there being enough money to skim and extort from the economy, and this requires some minimum level of services and economic activity.

There is little that outside forces can do to halt the extortion and skimming that take place within ISIL territory. Oil smuggling, though, can be disrupted, at least to an extent. Intelligence resources from the United States, Iraq and any other country that takes on ISIL should be focused on identifying middlemen and buyers for the smuggled fuel and using any means necessary to halt those purchases.

It would be counterproductive to destroy oil field infrastructure, since repairs would be expensive and legitimate governments will need those oil revenues when they reestablish control. But mobile refineries should be targeted, and roads and other pathways that tanker trucks use to transport oil to and from oil fields should be made impassable by military means. The refineries and roads can be easily repaired when the time comes, but for now, ISIL should find it very difficult to move oil from fields.

Stopping ISIL will of course require much more than disrupting its funding. It will have to be defeated militarily, and legitimate, trusted governments will have to be established in Iraq and Syria to defeat the group over time. There’s no simple path to achieving this, but as long as ISIL’s coffers remain full, the task will not get any easier.

 

Howard J. Shatz is senior economist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Fund Raising, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bringing Great Good from the Evil of 9/11

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A reading from today’s Forward Day by Day helps us to cope with the resonating horrors of that monstrous day. We are living in a world where we are more and more inextricably interconnected. Where I am living, I often hear people talk about how “Moslems are killing Christians all over the world!” and my heart breaks, thinking of the wonderful friends I have lived among is so many Moslem countries, their kindness, their hospitality, our long pleasant conversations. I learned so much.

I am glad we believe in a God who knows our hearts. I am thankful for grace, and forgiveness. When we talk about killing, we also need to take account for all the civilians we have killed, trying to bring about peace, trying to eradicate Al Qaeda, Al Shebaab, those who would harm us.

God asks us to love one another. He doesn’t say “Christians, you love just the Christians.” He shows us how to love the Samaritans, the lame, the blind, the mentally ill, the “other”. He tells us, clearly, to love our enemies. The Gospel that speaks the loudest is the gospel of our lives lived to honor him.

THURSDAY, September 11

Acts 15:8-9 [Peter said], “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them…and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.”

Thirteen years ago, this day became one of those days that divide time into what life was like before, and after; one of those days when you will remember, always, where you were, what you were doing—this time when you heard the news that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center and thousands of people had died.
Job asks, “Does not calamity befall the unrighteous?” (31:3), but we learned, vividly, on September 11, 2001, that the righteous and the innocent suffer too.

Psalm 59:6 exhorts God to “show no mercy to those who are faithless and evil.” The terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 forced us to confront the power of evil and challenged us to find a way to respond with forgiveness. Perhaps we can learn something about that in Peter’s response to the heated discussions about Jews and Gentiles, about who could be saved, and how: “God, who knows the human heart…has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:8-9).

Then, as now, there were good people and evildoers on all sides, religions, and races. Now, as then, judgment and salvation comes only through the mercy and grace of God.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual | | Leave a comment

Why Not Pensacola?

Big article in AOL news about Dan Gilbert going to Silicon Valley to pitch moving their offices to Detroit because it’s way cool.

pensacola-beach-pier-home

Excuse me?

While I appreciate his loyalty to Detroit, the things he is pitching all apply to Pensacola – AND. And in Pensacola you don’t have harsh winters. And in Pensacola you are minutes from one of the most beautiful sugar-white sand beaches, uncrowded, in the world. And Pensacola is family oriented. And Pensacola has affordable housing. And Pensacola has a way-cool culture, with parades, symphony, ballet, opera, theatre and restaurants, and world class National Naval Aviation Museum. And people spend thousands of dollars to come visit Pensacola when they could be living the dream – in Pensacola.

Dan Gilbert is a powerful man – in Detroit. Now he wants to convince Silicon Valley to move to America’s Motor City where they’ll have wide open offices, inexpensive living, and access to amazing talent.

Gilbert, the chairman of Rock Ventures and the owner of Quicken Loans, owns 60 buildings in downtown Detroit that house 12,000 employees. He is also an active backer in startups and has been inviting small companies to come bloom in Detroit over the past half-decade.

Why should you move to Detroit?

“The perception doesn’t do it justice. You have a huge talent pool,” said Gilbert. “And the people are way cooler.”

Gilbert believes that the Midwest work ethic isn’t a myth. He said that, despite the rumors to the contrary, the city has an innovative city government and, thanks to his extensive purchases in Detroit, there is space to spare for new startups. He is also working hard to reduce blight around the city, ensuring that city doesn’t look like it does in the popular “desolation porn” that characterizes the city.

The result is a smaller, more compact city that allows smaller companies to gain a foothold in the tech economy.

The city is, arguably, entering a period of renaissance. Thanks to Quicken Loans and Gilbert’s work in the city, most of the blight has been converted to cheap office space. While it does still seem like a wasteland to the average graduate, we saw a city reborn when we visited in 2012 and things are improving immensely.

In short, he said, Detroit is all about opportunity.

“We have great bones,” said Gilbert.

Detroit has good bones? Pensacola has office space, room to grow, a population of workers that can be trained to fill high tech jobs, several colleges, a university, and low stress living. It’s such an easy sell.

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Values | Leave a comment

The Real Housewives of Disney

And these are wonderful, such send-ups of the Real Housewives series, dying laughing! These are the talented comedians on Saturday Night Live:

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Entertainment | Leave a comment

If Disney Princes Were Real . . .

I just laughed myself silly! People are so funny and so creative, and you can see the dancers in the Aladin segment are puffing they worked so hard. This is a VERY witty group of people, and the Princes come off so creepy and pathetic!

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Humor, Mating Behavior | | Leave a comment

Pensacola Drug Sweep Arrests 13 with Warrants for 20 More

Wooo HOOOO Pensacola, getting those dealers off the streets. It’s not like its permanent, but it’s a start. There is one funny thing you will spot in this write-up in the Pensacola News Journal, that the next to last man named had charges that include selling cocaine within 1000 feet of a place of worship.

If you’ve ever been to Pensacola, you will understand how hilarious that is. You can’t go 1,000 feet away from one house of worship and not be within 1,000 feet of the next. It’s just like the mosques in Qatar and Kuwait, if you are lost, you can’t call someone and when they ask where you are, you can’t say “I’m by the big mosque/church on the corner!” because there are mosques/churches on EVERY corner! Pensacola has churches everywhere! I just think that’s interesting, that it seems to be an additional charge on the sheets in Pensacola.

An approximate 4-month-long investigation targeting street-level drug dealers resulted in the arrests of 13 people for selling crack cocaine to undercover Pensacola Police officers Friday.

Warrants for selling cocaine also have been issued for an additional 20 people, said Sgt. Marvin Miller, who supervises the department’s Vice & Narcotics Unit. Miller said the investigation targeted areas notorious for narcotics sales.

All of the charges are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison. Additional prison time can be added for selling within 1,000 feet of a specified area such as convenience stores, schools, and places of worship, or if the person is a repeat offender.

Officers from various units within the Pensacola Police Department spent approximately 12 hours today making the arrests.

Arrested today and charged with sale of cocaine and conspiracy to sell cocaine were:

Alfred Peasant, 34, of 1300 block of North Sixth Avenue, Pensacola
Sharon Pickett, 49, of 100 block of North J Street, Pensacola.
David Jones, 24, of 3600 block of Swan Lane, Pensacola.
Demarko Weathers, 21, of 2000 block of West Chase Street, Pensacola.
Minnie Mae Sapp, 54, of 100 block of South N Street, Pensacola.
Terry Crenshaw, 28, of 1000 block of West Hillary Street, Pensacola.
Larry Dornall Knight, 52, of 3600 block of North Ninth Avenue, Pensacola.
Antoine Booker, 34, of 1100 block of West Hope Drive, Pensacola.

Also arrested today were:

Donte A. Brazile, 36, of 3000 block of Torres Avenue, Pensacola. Charged with sale of cocaine.

Dominique Blackwell, 19, of 600 block of North B Street, Pensacola. Charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a place of worship.

Kernist Ferrell, 57, address unavailable; Robert Lee Watts, 23, address unavailable; and Michael Coleman, 33, of 600 block of North A Street, Pensacola.

All three, who are currently in jail, were charged with sale of cocaine.

September 6, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Crime, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Humor, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment

The First Pensacola Dragon Boat Races

Dragon Boat races! What fun! Oh wait – what exactly is a dragon boat? What is a dragon boat race? This is the first time we have seen this done, benefiting the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, but what is it? Organized by the Northeast SERTOMA (Service to Mankind), there are so many people involved, racers, helpers, supporters, cheering squads, food providers, live music, DJ’s, dogs, children, now this is a Pensacola kind of day. :-)

AdventureMan invited our grandson to spend the night, and after breakfast we headed over to Bayview Park, where the dragon boats were loading up with 20 rowers and one drummer/leader in each boat for the first heat of the race:

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There was a drone flying over the races. I am guessing it was a local news drone, but I find drones creepy and intrusive. I think I would like crime-prevention drones, flying around neighborhoods looking for suspicious activity, but in general, drones creep me out.00DragonDrone

I liked this team; they were called the Justice Dragons and were sponsored by a local law firm. Every team had distinctive T-shirts, but this team also had these colorful hats, which as the day goes on, they will seriously be thankful to have.00JusticeDragonTeam

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It is a GREAT day for a race. And for such a good cause!00GreatMorningDragonRace

Coming in for a finish – I don’t know who is having a better time, the rowers or the audience. Hoots and hollers and bells and whistles and yelling . . . . there is a huge crowd at Bayview, and it is barely 8 in the morning.00DragonBoatsNeckandNeck

Three teams are really close as they near the finish line . . . 00NeckAndNeck

 

and then THIS team, below, picks up the pace in a serious way and totally WHOOPS the other two teams, catching them by surprise.00BluePullsAhead

 

 

By ten, it is getting steamy and we head home. There so many great teams and they are having such a great team. This is a really fun event, and they are having a lot of fun. How cool is that, having so much fun, meeting a lot of people and it’s all going towards a great cause?

 

Below is the big win :-)00StuderTeamWinsBig

September 6, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Events, Exercise, Family Issues, Fund Raising, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Parenting | , , | Leave a comment

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