New Species: American Homeless Eagle

Homeless, originally uploaded by Doug Lloyd.

Larry Dale and his minions from the Orlando Sanford International Airport continue to destroy eagle nests, thereby creating a new species of American Homeless Eagles.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit to the airport to kill nuisance birds, though Eagles are excluded and are not being killed.

However, the nest destruction has another by-product – orphaned eaglets. Audubon Society workers took the eaglets to the Birds of Prey center, and will try to find other eagle nests to act as foster homes.

Meanwhile, the evicted adult eagles wander the streets like drug addicts kicked out of a crack house scheduled for demolition. Congratulations to Larry Dale and the Orlando Sanford International Airport for re-defining our national emblem for the modern age.

Warranty Repair? Unlikely

Consider this a warning from one home-owner to another. If you hire a contractor or service to do some improvement around your property, resist the urge to give them the final payment until everything is absolutely complete and you've inspected to your satisfaction. The only incentive contractors have to do any work is to get that paycheck. Once they have it, don't count on seeing them again for any warranty repair.

I posted a while back about some home repairs I was doing, including tree trimming and putting up a new fence. In both cases, I made the mistake of giving final payment when they were almost finished. The tree trimmer left before clearing out some remaining branches. More disappointing was the fence contractor – Florida Custom Fence.

When I first contacted Jay York, president of the Florida Custom Fence, he impressed me with his professionalism. Then again, so did another company with a better rate. When I called Jay back to tell him that he came in second, he worked hard to get the bid. He matched the other company's rate and was able to start sooner. I liked his attitude and gave him the job.

Most of the work seemed pretty solid. They didn't bring in pre-fab segments, they built the fence board by board. It looked pretty solid, though there were a couple of errors (including a sprinkler head that was now on the wrong side of the fence.

However, they really screwed up the gate. I gave clear instructions that I wanted the gate to open into the fenced area, and I wanted to lock it from that side. The previous fence worked that way. However, this seemed to confuse the fence builders a bit. They ended up putting the hinges on a different side, and it had a hard time closing flush to the fence. They also had a problem installing the latch, and there was no way to lock it because the latch was up against a 4×4 post. When I called about it, they came out a couple days later with a circular saw and cut a notch into the post.

A few weeks later, the wood on the gate started warping and it certainly wasn't flush. The top leans back and the bottom extends forward from the rest of the fence by several inches – enough for my smallest dog to wiggle out. That sort of defeats the purpose of spending a few thousand dollars on a new fence.

When I called back, there was a new voice on the phone. Someone named Hunter took over the customer service. Ok, it took several calls before Hunter managed to come out to inspect the fence. Several calls and a couple of weeks, and at least one missed appointment. When he finally arrived, Hunter was friendly enough. He agreed the fence wasn't up to their standards and they needed to fix it.

That was the last I ever saw or heard from Hunter.

I called Hunter several more times, another week or so passed. Finally, I e-mailed Jay York. A few days later, he e-mailed back to agree that the problem was covered under warranty. Someone would be out within a week to fix it.

That was a two weeks ago, and it was the last I've heard from Jay York, president of Florida Custom Fence. The professional attitude I admired so much when he was trying to earn my business was completely gone now.

There's no profit in warranty work. It's an expense that a small business just doesn't want to make. For all I know, the time it takes to do it right for the second time may eliminate whatever profit margin he made from me. I already gave him a concession by allowing him to bill me for a check instead of using my AMEX card so he could save the percentage he'd have to pay to the card company.

Now I'm getting ready to search for another set of contractors. One to do some drywall repair and paint inside the house, and another to fix the gate that Florida Custom Fence botched.

Learn from my mistakes. That final payment is your final leverage.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter (not my photo), originally uploaded by beeez.

Things aren't going so well for the Easter Bunny these days. Everywhere you look, there's competition for attention. This weekend, the City of Sanford, FL has two events. One is an Easter Egg hunt for the kids. The other is a birthday celebration for Paw Park – the city's off-leash park for dogs.

Both kids and dogs will invade Historic Downtown Sanford this Saturday, April 7th. The kids get to hunt for Easter Eggs and assorted prizes. The dogs get their own “pawrade” (I didn't make that up, they did) through Downtown.

However, the dogs get a bit more attention. They also have a plethora of vendors lined up, obedience demonstrations and something call Flyball demos. I think that's something like acrobatic frisbee catching, but who really knows except the dogs?

My Day at Jury Duty

If it's Monday, it must be time for Jury Duty. In Seminole County, they select all of the jurors on Monday. You may come and sit here for a day without ever getting selected. If selected, you may have a trial today, or later on sometime in the week. I think it'll suck if I get selected for a different day, but I have no problem if I get on a trial today. My assignment is in the Criminal Justice building, so it's a safe bet that I won't be hearing any lawsuits today. At least they have free WiFi in this building.

I got here around 7:45 am, which wasn't as early as I would've liked. The first thing I noticed was the line going out the door. It takes time for the security check. It's just like the airport. Put your keys and coins in the plastic bucket, your bags go through the scanner, and if you're lucky, you don't have to take off your shoes.

Remember, this is a government operation. As soon as you get out of that line, the next thing you do is get into another, longer line. You don't know why you're there, but that's the direction you're supposed to go.

While I'm waiting in line, I look around at the other prospective jurors waiting with me. If you're arrested and tried for a crime in Seminole County, it looks like a jury of your peers is predominantly white. I count only a handful of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or other ethnicities. Most of the folks are average looking citizens, but I'm most impressed with the attractive woman behind me displaying ample cleavage. It's an interesting choice for jury duty.

At the head of the line is a row of four clerks behind a desk. They perform a simple proofing operation by checking your juror notice with your driver's license. Once they verify you are who you're supposed to be and your address matches, you get to pick a spot in the jury room.

It's been a while since I served as a juror. The last time I did was in Orange County when they still used the old courthouse. Even with the asbestos, that facility was far more comfortable than this one. The Seminole County jury room is a fairly large room with lines of chairs all facing forward. You'd think we were waiting for a high school musical.

If you get here soon enough, there are some tables along the walls for people with laptops. At least, that's why I think they're here. The tables are next to power outlets and some data ports. Naturally, a few people without laptops are sitting there with newspapers spread out and coffee cups in hand. I'm lucky enough to snag a table by the front of the room.

The free WiFi in the jury room is highly overrated. Sure, you get a very strong signal. That's misleading, though. The network path getting out to the Internet is excruciatingly sluggish. I don't know if they're sharing this path with others in the building, but it's almost pointless. Trying to load the Orlando Sentinel web page takes minutes. If that weren't bad enough, several of my favorite sites are blocked. I can't get to Flickr or NikonCafe. I guess this is part of the government's belief that photographers are all terrorists.

What is it with jury duty and coughing? If you get a collection of people in a government building, there's always someone who starts coughing uncontrollably. When one person stops, another one starts up moments later. I'll be lucky to escape without some new plague attacking my system.

There are four state of the art TV's hanging from the ceiling. Of course, they were state of the art about a decade or two ago. It looks like a collection of Yugo's hanging from up there. One is right over my head and it reminds me of driving behind a car-carrier trailer. You just know that one of those things is going to pop loose and come right at you.

These TV's are here for a purpose. There's a video that supposedly tells you how to be a juror. What it really does is try to give a little pep rally on what a wonderful place America is to allow you to participate in the privilege of jury duty. While part of me agrees, I have to say that the video is unconvincing and insulting. We know why we're here. I don't mind the change of pace.

If you prepare for spending a day here, it's not so bad. I have my laptop loaded with five movies. My iPod is with me. There's a break room with a selection of unhealthy snacks and plenty of soda. The restrooms are close. The woman with ample cleavage is walking around. She looks good from the other side, too.

We'll have to see how the day goes from here.