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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Snakes, Trains, "Insurances," and a Story of Faith

A Visit with Snakes

I noticed a snake in the plantings at the side of my house the other day and identified it as a yellow rat snake.  It is not poisonous and beneficial in that it devours other pests which might be harmful to your plants.  For some very readable information on snakes, and if you live in Florida, check out http://floridabackyardsnakes.com/index.html which contains a lot of information as to which snakes are venomous and which are not.  Here is a file picture of the kind of snake I saw.

Yellow Rat Snake file photo

I’ve also spotted king snakes in my driveway and in my trash can on several occasions.  Here’s a file picture shown to best illustrate the color as well as a photo of one taken at the threshold of my garage last year.

King Snake file photo

 King Snake entering my garage

Note that the red and yellowish bands on a king snake are separated from each other by black bands.   This snake is not venomous, but if the yellow and red bands were adjacent, it would probably be the highly poisonous (it can kill you) coral snake. (This is the kind of mimicry which occurs in nature when a species develops an appearance similar to a more dangerous one to ward off predators who might not know the difference, resulting in the survival of the species.) As the old adage goes, “red next to yellow, he’s a baaaad fellow.”  Compare the pictures above of the harmless king snake  with the file photo of a deadly coral snake shown below.

  Coral Snake

Jack Lippman


What's With "Insurances"?

One of the things that bugs me are those signs in doctors’ offices indicating what “insurances” they accept.   Insurance is one of those words that never takes a plural in English because it is not countable.   Someone cannot claim to have three insurances, one covering their life, one covering their car and one covering their residence.  They have three insurance policies!  The sign in the doctor’s office should list what “insurance” they accept, in the singular.  If they are insistent on using the plural, to show how many different companies they accept, they should list “insurance companies” rather than the grossly incorrect word “insurances.”


Perhaps I am sensitive to this because I worked for 45 years in the insurance industry and never once heard the word “insurances” used until I retired to Florida.  I conjecture that since many doctors’ employees here have Hispanic backgrounds, they may be using the word “insurances” in the plural because that is the way it is used in Spanish where an insurance company is a “compania de seguros,” reasoning that if it is plural in Spanish, it probably should be plural in English as well.  They are wrong. 

Trains in Our Future ?

The State of Florida is busily planning to create two new railroad lines.  One, a privately financed venture, will run several fast express trains daily from Miami to Orlando, with the promise of an ultimate expansion to Tampa as well, with only two stops along the way, at Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.  Even though this project is not a government operation, the state and municipalities along the way would end up spending generous amounts on grade crossing improvements.

The other line will be an expansion of existing Tri-Rail commuter service, which presently runs from West Palm Beach to Miami, with many stops along the way.  This line runs along the CSX tracks which generally parallel Interstate 95, and does not serve the downtown areas of the communities on its route.  The expansion would provide similar service, but along the better located Florida East Coast tracks, which generally run through downtown areas and which would also handle the express trains from Miami to Orlando. 


When the train is coming, the gate goes down.

There will be, unfortunately, many delays at the many grade crossings along this route with these two new services being added to the existing freight trains traffic using these tracks.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few accidents there as well. But that is the price of progress.

The existing Tri-Rail service is a relatively successful operation, taking many people back and forth to 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/26/Tri-Rail_at_Delray_Beach_Station.jpg/300px-Tri-Rail_at_Delray_Beach_Station.jpg A Tri-Rail Train

work and school In Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties.  There are limited parking lots at its stations and taxis and sometimes buses are available to enable passengers to start and finish their journeys.  This will probably be the case on the similar service proposed for the Florida East Coast tracks, but many users of this service will be able to walk from the trains to work because of the downtown location of the FEC tracks.  This will be a necessary and long-overdue improvement in commuter rail service in South Florida, once the bugs resulting from the increased usage and grade crossing problems are worked out.
The Miami to Orlando express service, however, is a waste of time and money.  Express train service between major metropolitan areas works when automobiles are taken out of the equation.  That’s why it is so successful in Europe, China and Japan where car ownership is not so common as it is in this country.  Express train service such as Amtrak’s Acela which covers the corridor from Boston to

 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4c/AmtrakAcela2035atNewHavenUnion.jpg/325px-AmtrakAcela2035atNewHavenUnion.jpg  High Speed Acela Serving Northeast Corridor

Washington deposits its passengers in the middle of crowded cities where they have excellent public transit available, or make use of taxis to get where they are going.  No one thinks of driving to get somewhere in downtown Boston, New York or Washington.

However, that is not the case in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach or Orlando.  Once off the express train, final destinations will still be far enough away to necessitate expensive cab rides or more likely, car rental.  A family vacationing in South Florida which decides to take a train to Orlando to visit some of the many things to enjoy there is going to need to rent a car, unless they would be satisfied with a shuttle to a resort hotel and being dependent on the hotel shuttles to visit attractions.  Renting a car would make going out to eat and visiting various tourist attractions easier, particularly since parking would be more available than it is in big northern cities.  So, in all probability, they would end up renting a car for the entire trip, travel on Florida’s Turnpike and forget about the express train.  The same goes for Central Florida residents who want to visit South Florida attractions. Businessmen would probably do the same thing, using their cars, unless their destination happened to be a short distance from the railroad station.  But in Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, that is rarely the case.

View of Downtown Orlando 

When that express train line gets built in Florida over the next five years, and is bankrupt five years later, remember that you read about what was going to happen right here in Jack’s Potpourri.  
Rope of Faith

(A True Story)

Harvey Sage

When things get tough and life seems devoid of hope
Tie on a faith knot and hang on to the promised rope
The One who loves you is beyond despair
He’ll be there for you with His love and care.

There are times when we are sorely tested. Will we be weighed in the balance and be found wanting? Or will we remain faithful to our Creator? 

My friend Jack Hines was a jolly man. He was blessed with four children and Becky, his wonderful wife. He had good reason to brag that God was good to him. Then Baby Mark became ill. The doctors ran tests and concluded that Mark needed an operation. Operations cost money, and even with insurance there was the co-pay. The Hines didn’t have it. 

Jack had an ailing painting business and money had dried up like a pond in the Sahara. The Hines were making ready to move from their very nice rental to a less expensive one across town. Jack shrugged the news off with a smile. “He’ll take care of us,” he said. “I’m just excited to see how He does it.” He gave his wife a reassuring hug. Then he wrote a check to their favorite charity. That night the family went seeking cardboard boxes to use for packing.

Behind stores in a strip mall they found boxes which they flattened and, after putting them in their car, came home. Going through the boxes Becky spotted an unusual one which she opened. “Jack honey, look at this,” she cried. Becky turned the box over and emptied it. A pile of money fell out on the bed, like manna from above, enough for Baby Mark’s co-pay!  They rejoiced momentarily till they realized something. The “gift from God” belonged to someone else, someone who had lost a large sum.

The Hines family drove to the police station to return the treasure. As they were filling out the report a man walked in to tell the police how he’d misplaced a large sum from the weekly receipts of his business. Informed that his money had been found, it was his turn to rejoice.

Well, I told you all that to tell you this. The local newspaper, The Breeze, which was right around the corner, sent over a photographer and reporter. The story was front page news next morning. The TV news stations told the state, country and world how obedient the Hines family was. The doors of heaven swung open wide and donations poured in.

The operation was paid for many times over. Jack’s painting business prospered. Becky became director of a non-profit.  And Baby Mark was healed. God is good!



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