Environment Health Politics

Daylight Savings Time Is A Waste

Does “daylight savings time” save energy? Does it save money? Does it save lives? Does getting up when the sun is lower in the morning sky mean you have more time before you go to bed at night?

“One hundred years ago when they first proposed this, they said it was about saving energy,” said Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. This has never been realized no matter how many times they say it.” Daylight Saving Time is relative

A University of California study has shown that DST doesn’t save anyone any money at all. In fact, it’s costing consumers extra, to the tune of $3.19 in extra utility bills per year. The study was made possible because of the peculiarities of the state of Indiana, which was only partially on DST until 2006. When the whole state finally went DST (to sync with the national business day), some comparisons vs. the prior method were made apparent. The study calculated that the shift costs Indiana residents an extra $8.6 million in electricity bills in total.

If the justification for DST has always been energy savings, why isn’t ‘saving daylight’ burning fewer light bulbs and saving energy?


Whole House Lightning Protection

Hurricanes are not the only weather phenomenon that makes summers in Florida occasionally dramatic and potentially dangerous. Strong thunderstorms with accompanying lightning are common in the heat of summer as hot moist air masses collide between land and sea breezes. Fortunately, it is possible to take precautions that greatly reduce the risk of personal harm and for ways to safeguard your electronics with whole house lightning protectors or in-line surge and lightning protectors.

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As a recent reminder that Anna Maria Island is close to Lightning Alley, the corridor between Tampa and Orlando, which receives more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the United States, our immediate next-door neighbors, all too dramatically, were struck by lightning in almost the same place twice.

A strong thunderstorm seemed to be approaching our area, and I wondered whether it would be good to keep my distance from the kitchen window. Right at that moment, the view out the kitchen window filled with solid white light and the sound of a violent clap of thunder accompanied by a loud “clank” sound. The sound seemed to come from the neighbors’ direction, so I looked out the window at their flagpole, trees, house and boat. At first glance, everything looked as it usually did.

Only later did I learn that the boat on the lift had been struck. The electrical system was fried, metal parts were thrown from the boat, both outboard motors were destroyed, and, searching for the shortest way out, the lightning blew a hole through the hull. The insurance company decided it was a complete write-off. Not only that, the concrete seawall had been split where an electric chord crossed from the boat toward the house. They and we both lost televisions, and several homes in the neighborhood lost television cable service. The neighbor who lost the boat described a strange smell in the air when this happened.

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Ten days later, when we were not at home, our neighbors experienced a second similar experience: simultaneous lightning and thunder, with an additional loud sound. They were certain lightning had hit either their house or ours. We came home to find our cable out again, with more damage to electronic devices connected to it. Our neighbors also lost more electronics. Fortunately, that was the extent of the damage this second time. My computer, which I had left plugged in, and turned on, was spared.

After all this, I was curious to learn more and did some research. Although I did not need confirmation that our properties had been struck, I was interested to read that the experience of a strike in the immediate area are a simultaneous flash and crackle, along with an additional sound, described as a snap. And there is a strange smell, which is attributed to ozone.

Lightning is a discharge of atmospheric electricity. Sixteen million lightning storms occur world-wide each year, and 70 percent of these are in the tropics. In Lightning Alley, between Tampa and Orlando, there are 20 lightning strikes per square kilometer, per year. It’s amazing to know there are places on earth that experience even more lightning than central Florida. (The highest number of strikes occurs in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where there are 158 strikes per square kilometer, per year.)

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Of all the states, Florida has by far more deaths from lightning than any other state. In the years 1990 to 2003, there were 126 fatalities from lightning in Florida. The second-highest number of deaths for that period occurred in Texas, where there were 52.

These figures and more are posted on the Web site of the National Lightning Safety Institute in Louisville, Colo. The institute lists safety tips, which it urges people to reprint and distribute:

Lightning Protection Tips

  1. PLAN in advance your evacuation and safety measures. When you first see lightning or hear thunder, activate your emergency plan. Now is the time to go to a building or a vehicle. Lightning often precedes rain, so don’t wait for the rain to begin before suspending activities.
  2. IF OUTDOORS…Avoid water. Avoid the high ground. Avoid open spaces. Avoid all metal objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, power tools, etc. Unsafe places include underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees. Where possible, find shelter in a substantial building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck or a van with the windows completely shut. If lightning is striking nearby when you are outside, you should: A. Crouch down. Put feet together. Place hands over ears to minimize hearing damage from thunder. B. Avoid proximity (minimum of 15 ft.) to other people.
  3. IF INDOORS… Avoid water. Stay away from doors and windows. Do not use the telephone. Take off head sets. Turn off, unplug, and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools, & TV sets. Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside equipment.
  4. SUSPEND ACTIVITIES for 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.
  5. INJURED PERSONS do not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. Apply First Aid procedures to a lightning victim if you are qualified to do so. Call 911 or send for help immediately.


The importance of taking precautions even when inside a structure is illustrated by the fact that almost 3 percent of deaths by lightning occur via the telephone.

While being aware and keeping yourself and family safe, you can also protect valuable electronics, TV, cable boxes, Internet modems, and telephone equipment from damage by lightning strikes and power spikes by using in-line surge protectors and whole house lightning surge protectors.


A Favorite Island Fruit

When we bought our home on Anna Maria Island ten years ago, we did not know what was in store for us. There were a few unpleasant surprises, such as termites, but most of the surprises were good ones. For example, the delicious flavor of the bananas that were growing along our property line.

I’ve written before about these bananas. We continue to enjoy the delicious fruit they produce. Although we usually get fruit in summer, for some reason we have lots of fruit forming on the trees as Christmas approaches. What a wonderful surprise gift to us during the holidays.

Our bananas are extremely tasty, perhaps because they contain three kinds of sugar: sucrose, fructose and glucose. But this is healthy food, too … an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and fiber.

The first sign that fruit is on the way is the large, deep red banana flower that grows out on a stalk from the plant. Behind the flower, a bunch of bananas eventually forms. One bunch is made up of a series of “hands,” which is the usual unit in which we find store-bought bananas. The bananas that grow in our yard are much smaller than store-bought, and there are more of them in a hand. The skin is thinner, so the fruit is actually bigger than one might expect, based on commercial bananas with their thick skin.

Eating home grown banana But the most wonderful difference between our bananas and store-bought is the amazing flavor. It was described by my elderly father as tasting like banana with additional fruit flavors, such as strawberry. It is, indeed, a complex flavor and very sweet if one waits long enough before eating them. In researching different kinds of bananas, it’s not clear which kind we have, but I think it’s likely that it’s the Manzano banana. This is described as having strawberry and apple as part of the flavor. Furthermore, the Manzano is ripe when the skin turns black. Although we do not usually wait that long, we have noticed that it’s necessary to wait a long time before these bananas taste their best. The Manzano is described as being short and stubby. But there is another small variety often called “baby” or “nino,” and this also could be what we have in our yard.

Timing of when to harvest the bananas is slightly tricky, because people are not the only creatures who love these tropical delicacies. The longer the bananas stay on the stalk, the plumper they become. But the more likely they are to be sampled by the general animal public. Fortunately, even when they are picked very early, very green and small, they still usually ripen to have a good flavor. We have found that once the bananas turn deep yellow, it’s good to wait an additional few days before peeling and eating them.


Skin Cancer Signs Come With Sun Coast Living

All of us who enjoy the outdoors need to take precautions and be alert to noticing our own skin cancer signs. Anna Maria Island is so lovely year round, and the sun usually shines most days. It’s very challenging to avoid the UV rays that age the skin and cause skin cancer symptoms.

It’s been said many times before, but it’s very important to try to stay inside or in the shade when the sun is overhead, from 11 to 3. It’s important to wear sunblock and a big hat to protect both the face and the back of the neck. The beach can be enjoyed from under an Australian pine, an umbrella, or at dawn or sunset.

skin cancer signs The key to surviving skin cancer is to catch it early and have it treated. Another huge benefit of early detection is that the extent of the surgery will be less, and there is less potential disfiguration. Skin moles, freckles, discolorations and small bumps are all worth checking with a doctor, because a surprisingly high percentage of them turn out to be skin cancer.

The most important skin cancer sign to look for is change on the skin. A sore that doesn’t heal, a mole that changes in size or color, or a new growth … all require attention from a doctor. Many skin cancers are reddish, starting either as lumps or flat, scaly spots. Others are pale, smooth or waxy looking. Some are dark, with irregular edges. Anyone with any of these skin cancer symptoms should visit a dermatologist for a check up.


Island-Grown Delicacies

Although I love the thought of eating food fresh from the garden, the fact is, some foods taste no better when you grow them yourself. For example, I’ve never thought a home-grown carrot tasted any better than store-bought. It makes it hard for me to want to spend the time involved in gardening, especially during Florida’s warmer months. However, there are some foods that grow here with almost no attention, and they taste far better than store bought. We acquired two such delicacies with our Anna Maria Island property when we bought it ten years ago.

When we met at the lawyer’s office to close on the purchase of our new home, I asked the previous owner if it were necessary to water anything in the yard. Completely new to Florida, I had absolutely no experience or knowledge of landscaping and gardening on Anna Maria Island. “If you want bananas, you’d better water those,” he said. That was all.

Anna Maria banana Since then, we have done very little watering, including of the bananas that grow along the property line. Every once in awhile, when it’s been extremely dry, we give them a little water. Every year or so, we give them a little fertilizer. When we cut off the old, tattered fronds, we leave them under the banana trees and they act as mulch, holding in whatever moisture may be in the soil.