Saturday, October 29, 2011

Signs of fall in Florida

For many years I lived on the north side of 43 degrees latitude, and you knew without a doubt that fall had arrived. The signs were crystalline, like scraping frost off the windshield in the morning, getting the boat put on its cradle and winterized, and seeing all of the plants up and die leaving a freezing bleak skeletal Cocytus like landscape that will soon be covered in frozen precipitation that lasts for months on end. That nostalgic postcard crap only lasts for about two weeks, then you have to get rid of all of the leaves, order firewood, hunker down, and watch your tan go away.  I still have some shoes with salt line stains on them.

Sensing the arrival of fall in Sarasota, requires a keen eye, for the signs are subtle indeed. The first portent is the precipitous drop in temperature from the upper nineties at ninety percent humidity, to the lower eighties at ninety percent humidity. Just having a temperature change at all makes the local weather persons giddy, and you can watch them sweating on TV while wearing colorful wool coats, sweaters, and fall leaf pins. This also means you still sweat, and smell bad,  just not as much.

The arrival of car carriers parked in the road medians on the barrier islands are a sure sign that the weather in the north is getting crappy, and residents are starting to bail out. 

Very rich dogs start to appear with their servants indicating the season is changing in Florida. I think this one is from Buffalo. These dogs apparently have an allergy to asphalt, grass, bricks, and concrete. You can also see hanging from the handle of his chariot the container that has his scented toilet paper. 

Construction on roads in areas where tourists frequent is always a sure sign fall has arrived. Local governments always start these large projects at the beginning of the fall season so visitors can see that we are all working hard to improve the quality of their stay.

Sagging moldy pumpkins are the quintessential symbol that fall has appeared here. It is still very warm and humid, and by Halloween these turn into truly horrifying half melted biological blobs that have to be disposed of in special red bags. Smart children avoid trick and treating where these diseased, and scabrous things are on display. 

Falling back is the true way we all know fall has arrived, and this year it is on November 6th. The great time lords have decreed on this date that we go back to standard time, and we all set our clocks back one hour. For boaters this is important. Chartplotters use Greenwich time, (GMT, UTC, Zulu) and if you want your local time right, you need to put an offset in. When we go back to standard time, the east coast offset will be -5 hours, and add an extra hour for each additional time zone heading west. It's not that the chartplotter cares, because it doesn't, but failure to have the correct offset in place, throws the tide calculations off by the amount of the time error, and this can possibly have a deleterious effect on your propellers, keels, boat bottoms, and egos. So dig out your manuals, and make the change. Garmin units have an "Auto" feature which only works if it is set to "Auto" so check it also. You folks in Atlantic time don't forget the .5 hour. Since you are reading the manual now anyway, read some other sections. You will learn something new about your systems capabilities.  

The picture above (taken by J. Cohen (Wikipedia)) shows a GPS indicating its position while being held over the Prime Meridian line at the Greenwich observatory. You can see there is a small error, and the GPS is not quite at zero degrees longitude. The reason for this is the GPS actually uses the International Earth Rotation and Reference System, which places its Prime Meridian line about 336 feet away from the Greenwich Prime Meridian location. This is also the same reference that WGS84 uses for its terrestrial mapping reference. A lot of weird and wonderful things happen because of those GPS satellites. 

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