another business gone

Don Pablo’s in general, and this one in particular, have been a staple of the family’s restaurant eating for as long as they’ve been in Orlando. I’ve literally watched them come into Orlando, and over the past ten years, since the start of the Great Recession, I’ve watched them leave one-by-one. This particular Don Pablo’s was on International Drive, and is the second to last to leave. The only other DP I know of is the one still open up in Sanford. Here’s the interesting sign taped to the front door.

Which begs the question of how this all went down. The last sentence is quite telling, as this indicates that not everybody knew this was coming.

Ever since the Great Recession started in 2006, the Orlando economy has been fragile, with “first mover” companies such as Don Pablo’s leaving behind behemoth buildings such as this one to be occupied multiple times by different businesses. The Don Pablo’s built over on University near UCF went through three different local bars (with the word Knight or Knights in the name) until it was finally bought and converted into a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar. The Don Pablo’s next to West Oaks Mall had its interior built out into three long stores, one of which is out of business again. The architecture is distinctive enough that you can still recognize them dotting the landscape, just like the old Circuit City stores.

I used to write about this on my old blog. It would appear I may start writing about failing businesses again, especially with the election of Donald Trump.

the new political reality

Ass Clown of the United States (ACOTUS)

The 8 November elections have delivered what I feared, Donald Trump as president. He is without a doubt the biggest ass clown we’ve elected to public office, and we’ve certainly elected quite a few since 2000 (Ted Cruz being the worst before Trump). The fact we elected him to the most powerful political office of America, if not of the world, is a slap across our collective face of how far we’ve sunk as a nation.

I could go on about how this group or that individual contributed to the loss we Democrats suffered, but to be brutally honest we have only ourselves to blame. We’ve been ineffectual and out-of-touch with the real issues starting with Ronald Reagan’s presidency and moving forward. Many  forget that when Obama was elected in 2008 that the Democrats also had majorities in both houses of congress. That majority has started with the 2006 mid-terms when Democrats gained Senate and House majorities during the second Bush term. The 2008 elections increased the majorities the Democrats held. Yet, in 2010, the House switched sides back to Republican control, and it’s been there ever since. And the losses to the Democrats were the highest not seen since the end of the WWII. Furthermore Republicans picked up more governorships and state house seats than at any time since the late 1920s. 2010 was a huge wakeup call to Democrats, and yet the Democratic party behaved in, at best, a lethargic manner.

The problem with both Democrat’s and Republican’s political legitimacy has been the loss of economic and political power in the middle class. The Democrats in particular deserved this stinging rebuke because they abandoned the middle class that helped propel them to power, as well as many key demographics, especially African-Americans. Whether it was Occupy or Black Lives Matter, Democrats in general and Obama in particular looked the other way. We expected that from the Republicans, but the Democratic apparatchiks were too busy raising funds on Wall Street and Hollywood to care about who originally took them to the dance, to know what was happening or to care. As far as they knew everyone was living large, just like them.

The one Democrat who tried to sound the alarm for the Democrats was Michael Moore (5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win), who’d seen what decades of unfettered capitalism had done to what we now refer to as the Rustbelt of America. That’s Michigan and Ohio and Iowa and Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, big reliably Democratic states from the Twentieth century that first swung to the Republican column at the start of the Twenty First, and then simply voted for Trump as a repudiation of both Democrats and Republicans. Moore’s been documenting what the economic policies of both Democratic and Republican administrations, starting with Reagan, have done to the American middle class. This started with “Roger and Me,” a documentary about the regional economic impact of General Motors CEO Roger Smith’s action of closing several auto plants in his hometown of Flint, Michigan starting in 1986. All you had to do was open your eyes and truly see what was happening, and had happened, in those once staunchly Democratic regions, cities and states.

As for African-Americans, the fact we even have a Black Lives Matters movement shows how ineffectual the Democrats have been for their causes, which is to live in peace now without getting killed while [fill_in_the_blank] Black. The current state of affairs has its roots in the 1994 “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act” written by then-Senator from Delaware Joe Biden and passed by Bill Clinton. The upshot of this law is that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are in federal prisons (not to mention that with only 5% of the world population we have 25% of the world’s prison population). In hindsight it now appears that a large subset of African-Americans did not vote for either candidate. Can you blame them? (And before you say anything, Hillary did not label African-American youth as “super predators” in 19960.)

We all have to assume responsibility. And when I say “we” I mean all the Boomers who produced and put Trump into office. In my case I didn’t work hard enough at a grass-roots level here in Florida to support the Democratic party. Simply voting every two or four years isn’t enough. It never has been. Participatory Democracy such as ours demands full participation, or you wind up with the government you deserve. And by participatory I mean getting involved with people and helping people who really need it rather than closing your eyes, dropping your head, and hurrying past those who aren’t as fortunate as you are. If you want to know who’s responsible look in a mirror. Rather than recoiling and withdrawing, now is the time to honestly assess and get back into the fight. Too much is at stake to let the GOP loose on our country.

lulu is gone

Lulu knew in her own way she was ready to go. She hadn’t eaten since last Thursday, and before that she was beginning to throw up again. The “miracle” of the steroid had run its course, and the cancer in her colon had in all likelihood spread to her stomach. She spent her days in the warmest parts of the house, under the sun coming into certain windows, in all probability because the heat from the sun helped ease her pain. We’d already made the decision that today would be the day to put her to sleep. Today she didn’t put up any fight when the vet tech came over to pick her up. She was ready.

In spite of her pain, she was still holding her head up and was aware of her surroundings. She still had her dignity. When she went it was very peaceful and without any pain for her.

In spite of how much my wife and I will miss her, we’re also aware of what a problem cat Lulu was. She intimidated all the other animals in the house, even the dogs at times, but especially the other cats. She’d been found wondering the streets as a feral young cat (the vets estimated between 6 mos and a year of age) by a friend of my oldest daughter. As a consequence Lulu came into the household as a fighter and never really gave that up. When we needed to take her in to the vets she fought like a wildcat, screaming and fighting until we could somehow wrangle her into the biggest cat carrier we ever owned for any of our cats. We loved Lulu like we have always loved our animals, but the other animals kept their distance. Where-ever Lulu went, or whatever Lulu claimed as her own the others kept away.

And yet, if we let her come to us she could be as sweet a cat as any of the others. I could rub her head and ears and immediately get purrs coming from her. But it was always, always on her terms. And sometimes I’d make a move that spooked her, and she’d turn, growl, and run off. I spent nearly all the years she lived with us trying to figure Lulu out, and perhaps, just perhaps, in the last year, I might have finally broken through. For in the last year Lulu was a lot more laid back, and a lot less skittish, than she’d ever been before. If only I’d figured Lulu out sooner, or if only she’d managed to live a few years longer she might have become the kind of cat we all want, and I have, in the calico and the two gingers. No matter what we loved Lulu unconditionally. I believe Lulu came to realize that.

Lulu’s was an outsized personality that won’t be quickly forgotten. The gingers will eventually forget and re-claim their bed and place in the back bedroom window which she claimed towards the end, which is as it should be. And then the cycle will roll on and we’ll enjoy all the other creatures in this household, dealing with the losses of all the others when their time eventually comes.

If there’s anything positive about these events it’s that Lulu left us in peace. Furthermore, the other animals are a lot more laid back than they’ve been for some time. The gingers in particular are moving around the house without any fear. It fills me with considerable warmth to see them, especially Beau, the shyer of the two gingers. And Ellipses, the calico, spent a good portion of the day either roaming the house or else sitting in my wife’s lap. It’s as it was when Ellipses and Lulu first came to this house Thanksgiving 2007. Calmer times have returned.

I’ve included a few of my more favorite photos of Lulu. The one leading off this post was taken nearly a year ago. I finally got the green in her eyes to show through.

This photo was taken in 2013 and shows those big dark eyes that Lulu had when the irises really opened up. Lulu was up on the kitchen table waiting for cat treats to be dispensed.

This photo was actually taken Christmas 2014, but published the following January. This is my favorite Christmas photo of her, and of all the cats. She was asleep in her chair in front of the lit Christmas tree. Lulu loved the Christmas tree and every year would just sit or lie in front of it for hours, watching the twinkling lights and moving decorations. It seemed to mesmerize her. In this photo she reminds me of a little child dreaming of “visions of sugar plums.”

And this is our closing photo. In spite of her weakened condition the vet and I selected to give her a regular dose of anesthetic gas, as if she were going to be operated on. We waited until she fell to sleep, then took her out and administered the euthanasia drugs. Lulu was a beautiful example of a gray mackerel tabby. At the very end she’d lost weight and her coat had gotten a bit ragged. I wanted this one memory of our final moments together.

My wife and I have had many animals since we started dating back in 1982. We had a Best Lab (Rhett) at our wedding. I got my very first dog, a black Lab (Katy) from the same breeder as Rhett. Over the years we’ve had Spook (another black lab), Babe (a chocolate Lab rescue) and Max (a yellow Lab rescue, who we put to sleep last year). I’ve participated in all our animal’s exits. I’ve always believed that’s part of the responsibilities of being an owner. And I’ll continue to do this until I can no longer own a pet, which I fervently hope that day never comes. Pet ownership fulfills a vital need in my life, just like marriage and my children. In this frightful world they bring me peace and the belief in something good and wonderful outside of myself. Even Lulu did that.

sunday before election day

While out and about on the Suday before election day, we drove past the local library which is also serving as one of only three early voting locations for Orange County Florida. As it turned out there was enough interesting activity for me to pull into a local nearby parking lot, grab my camera, and go document some of the activities.

First up was Betsy VanderLey, who’s running for county commission, District 1. She’s been out quite a bit on this corner campaigning. She’s a Democrat and I voted for her when my wife and I voted back on 24 October. She seems nice enough based on my very brief encounter with her. I sincerely hope she wins. I’ve tended to vote independent up until this election. This election I voted straight party Democrat across every candidate that identified as Democrat. The Republican party is dead to me, having thrown away principal over wanting to get back in the White House at all costs. Even if it’s the cost of their political souls.

Early voting has been very active since this station/library opened 24 October. Today, being perhaps because it was the last day of early voting, they had carts constantly shuttling voters back and forth from parking lots across Dr. Phillips. The parking lot for the library just isn’t big enough to handle everyone who wants to vote early. And that is a Very Good Thing.

And, of course, no 2016 presidential election would be complete without a collection of deplorables pushing their favorite yankee white trash. They seem to be everywhere these days, like a Biblical infestation of palmetto bugs. I’m truly hoping that Trump and his deplorable minions are dealt a resounding defeat come this Tuesday. I just read where Comey just sent a new letter to Congress stating, “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.” (FBI Affirms July Decision Not To Charge Clinton, After Review Of Weiner Emails, via NPR) This, of course, should really blow the lying bastards of Fox News [sic] out of the water and their story that Clinton is on the edge of being “charged.”

the olympus om-d e-m1 mark 2

Owner: Olympus SE&Co KG / Region: World.Usage: all media.Expiration: unlimited

This is a US$2,000 camera, body only. I’m going to get a copy.

I’m going to purchase a copy because it does everything that a professional body does, especially in the critical features of auto focus and focus following. And it does it in a body that doesn’t need a friggin’ oversized, and overpriced, 35mm sized sensor (what is euphemistically referred to as “full frame”, for a film size that was originally called miniature because of its size compared to medium format).

I’m heavily invested in the µ4:3rds system, including the 12-40mm zoom shown on the body. I have a number of primes, and look to invest in a few more, such as the 1.2/25mm. I’ll concede I already have the Lumix 1.4/25mm, but I want that lens with the extra half stop. And the incredible performance. I might even break down and get the 4/12-100mm. You’ll note the pattern here. These are all PRO lenses. Am I going pro at the tender age of 63? I doubt that, but I’m a stickler for the technical side, and before I’m forced to retire and can’t afford these any more I want to finish out my system. I’ll still have the three E-M5’s I’ve picked up over the last four years (one at full price, the other two heavily discounted, including an Elite Black body for $400).

Folks will tell you that you can get a better deal by buying the Nikon D500 or the Canon 7D Mark II. The problem with this is replacing all that glass I have with equivalent Nikkors or Canon EOS lenses. No thanks. The E-M1 .2 is a highly refined Olympus camera, both for the brand and the camera system in general. It’s overall operability is second to none. With the very fast glass and the enhanced IBIS good up to at least six stops I don’t have to worry about having astronomically high ISO requirements. I’ve seen photos hand held up to 15 seconds that’ve come out sharp and high quality, and in the sizes I like to view and print, they’re indistinguishable from any other camera, including the much more expensive “full-frame” DSLRs.

I’ve waited a long time for this camera. I’m ready to purchase my copy.