More hurricane advice, this time for a cost saving
Although we're a bit more than a week shy of hurricane season, it's time to crank up your lists and start shopping for supplies, thanks to the Florida Legislature.
It's "hurricane tax holiday" time again in the Sunshine State. Let's hope our June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season is a sunny one, but if not, now is definitely the time to stock up on stuff we'll need if a big one comes calling.
There is no sales tax on a whole host of storm-related supplies through June 1. Take a moment and check out your hurricane kit - of course, you've got one, right? - and double or triple up on the stuff you'll need.
Flashlights that cost less than $20? Lanterns of the same caliber? Batteries? Get 'em now, tax free.
Coolers? How about a cell-phone charger? Extra cell-phone battery? Radio? Tarp? Storm shutters? Even a generator ... get the stuff now and save a few bucks.
I'd like to think that the whole purpose of this tax holiday exercise is to get us to start to think about what will be needed before the storm season begins. With that belief in mind, it's an important exercise.
I'd also like to believe that all Islanders have realized the threat we face on this fragile barrier island, and the dangers of living on sand when a big storm approaches.
I want to believe that we've all got our hurricane kits ready, or insurance triple-checked, and our evacuation plans mapped out and confirmed.
Procrastination aside, this is a good week to actually do something worthwhile and save a buck or two while you're at it.
You've heard this before, and you'll hear it all again next week in our annual hurricane section, but now at least there's some financial incentive.
Rummage around in your kitchen junk drawer and see how many batteries you've got and what shape they're in.
Crank up a few flashlights to find out if the batteries have corroded through the handle and if maybe the whole thing needs to be replaced.
One of the best things for those of us who are haplessly linked to electronic gear - cell phones, pagers, computers, anything rechargeable - is a nifty DC/AC adapter that you can plug into your car and power up all sorts of stuff. A good one is less than $100 and, although I don't see it on the tax-holiday list, splurge and get one.
Several storms ago I spent a lot of time running from friend to friend (those with power, anyway) to charge up a laptop. Now, with the nifty gizmo that will charge up my computer in the car, I'm spared that grief.
Lanterns. Battery-powered fans. Heck, even portable AC units to cool your house ... does anybody remember August without air conditioning? We're looking at that type of event if a storm knocks out our power for days and days.
Here's the new word from the emergency management folks for the 2006 storm season: We should be prepared to be on our own for seven days post-storm. The feds aren't going to be Johnny-on-the-spot the day after with ice, water and food - we've gotta tough it out for a week or so before we should expect relief workers to mobilize to provide us some aid.
That means seven gallons of water per person for the week. Food - and don't forget that can opener - for a week. Got charcoal for that grill? Without power, that's going to be your stove for a while.
And what about your neighbors who come by to borrow a bowl of tuna salad to feed their hungry kids because they forgot to shop? You want to slam the door in their faces?
Of course, all this is contingent on there actually being an Island to come back to after a storm. Make friends, good friends, on the mainland, because they may be your roommates for quite a while.
We've all heard this before. There's nothing new here. We all shoulda/coulda/woulda planned for all this.
See you in line for batteries, chargers and spare coolers.
And then there's this mystery
You're going to miss a great party June 2-3 if you're not at the "Mystery Florida: A Conference To Die For" at the Holiday Inn Lido Beach.
The skinny on it is available at www.tgtbt.com/mysteryflorida.htm, but in a nutshell it's going to feature "the world's LARGEST Florida mystery writers' book-signing event" on Friday night at 5 p.m., with more than two dozen authors available for chatting, signing and other gaiety in an event open to the public.
"On Saturday, we have a real coup (in addition to all the wonderful authors, including the LATEST Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America, our ‘own' Stuart Kaminsky): The Sarasota County CSI guys will be doing a presentation," according to the event organizers. "They were all set to do it last year, too ... but a murder interfered and they all had to go do their stuff for real, instead of in front of a bunch of mystery writers, readers and fans."
Authors attending include Wayne Barcomb, James O. Born, Tom Corcoran, Tim Dorsey, Terry Griffin, Kate Holmes, Stuart Kaminsky, Jonothan King, Christine Kling, Bob Morris, Barbara Parker, P.J. Parrish and Randy Wayne White. Music will be provided on Friday by Wendy Wald, featured in White's latest book.
Registration is $99 for the event, which includes a special lunch with famed John D. MacDonald expert Cal Branche and a special award. Patron tickets, which include an intimate dinner with the authors, are $500 per couple.
Proceeds go to the Tingley Memorial Library in Bradenton Beach and the Longboat Key Library.
Send checks to MysteryFlorida at Circle Books, a co-sponsor, at 478 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota FL 34236.
Scary news for the mutts and kits
This isn't a good time for Muffy or Spot to roam: The American Society for the Protection for Cruelty to Animals Animal Poison Control Center has said that "June, July and August are still the most dangerous months of the year for companion animals. According to 2005 data, the center received approximately 10,000 calls in July, making it the month with the highest volume of cases for the year."
No. 1 of the causes comes from animals exposed to pesticides.
"Spring and summer is the time where we see an increased use of lawn care products, as well as slug, mouse and gopher bait and flea and tick products,"said an ASPCA official.
Do you have both Muffy and Fido in your house? Be careful - some products that are safely used on dogs can be deadly to cats, even in small amounts. "For example," according to the ASPCA, "there are more than 18 brands of permethrin insecticide spot-on products for flea and tick control that are labeled for ‘use on dogs only.' These permethrin products have a good margin of safety when used on dogs, but even a few drops of concentrated permethrin could be lethal to a cat."
Rat-killing chemicals, called rodenticides, are also a problem, as are weed-killing chemicals. If the directions include "keep children and pets away from treated areas until dry," follow the directions.
More pet smarts
I've spent a big part of my life letting dogs lead me around, and that isn't even beginning to touch on past girlfriends.
There were a few hard-learned lessons.
I once gave a mutt I had a bite of supper. In the wee hours of the morning, when I got up to ... well ... I found myself skating across the living room in the dog puke caused by my special treat. I guess it was indeed a treat.
The ASPCA has hit on a bunch of tips for pet owners for the summer season. I'll bet you're going to read these and think, Jeez, of course! but ...
Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets.
Do not apply sunscreen to pets or insect repellent products not labeled specifically for animals. Remember that pets lick themselves. A lot. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in "gastrointestinal upset."
Keep matches and lighter fluid out of reach.
Never use fireworks around pets. My previous doggie would curl up into a bowl, all 75 pounds of her, whenever there was a loud noise. My current mutt wants to go bite the noise. Thunder is always exciting at my house - and fireworks is a new kind of adventure.
Keep your pet on his/her normal diet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe indigestion and diarrhea (see above nighttime skating story).
Do not put "glow" jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with them. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestion.
Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Of pets, too.
The hurricane tax holiday includes hurricane shutters of $200 or less.
Remember those nifty plastic shutters you've seen on TV that weigh nothing and take up no room to store?
Remember those big windows in your living room/dining room/wherever?
Remember how your back felt after lugging all that lumber around last time you boarded things up?
Keep your plywood for the smaller windows, and get the plastic stuff for the big windows.