Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Hawk at the Conch Tour Train Key West Picture

The art of Photography is first and foremost being at the right place at the right time.

I was wandering around and being somewhat creative down near the foot of Duval and wanted to go into some air conditioning at Mallory Square's mall and spotted this bird on the sign.   I've grown used to seeing large birds in South Florida but really did not expect to see a hawk sitting in the middle of the touristy thickly settled Old Town.  On the other hand, you are very close to the ocean at this spot and there are a lot of small islands nearby so maybe this critter needed a rest.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back Seat Driving from the Conch Tour Train Picture

If you do go to Key West and wander through the touristy areas like Old Town or go to see the Southernmost Monument, you're going to see these trams.  They are everywhere going through the streets with a driver in the front giving you some explanation on what you're seeing and where you are. I guess its fun to do first time you're anywhere, there are tours like this in many cities.   As you can tell, I like to walk and take pics instead of having this particular view but this does have its own charm.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cats and Bikes Do Mix in Key West - Picture

There's a particular six toed Hemingway Cat that visits this particular house every day.   The cat adopted the person who lives here and comes and goes as it pleases.  In this case, it seems to have taken up residence on the porch, behind two small fences, a bicycle wheel and a Bougainvillea in a pot to have the best view of a wandering photographer. 

It also is a bashful cat and wouldn't stay put for very long.   I did manage to get this one shot off before it left tying together in one small area some things that you see everywhere in the Keys - Cats with an extra toe, bicycles, and tropical foliage everywhere.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bahama Village Gate Picture

I seem to have managed to get the same picture as the street view for this spot so here is the close up for the sign.   What this is is the gate to Bahama Village in Key West.   I use that sign as a way to get to some restaurants down in the village that I wouldn't go to after dark since most of them are closed, but during the day it's quite safe even if you aren't as tall as I am.

I have always been treated well, and I suspect that there's an interesting cultural difference in that area.   In most suburban areas, you can walk anywhere.  You will be watched and seemingly ignored while people will notice from behind windows and blinds.   Try it in a suburban tract home development and you will see what I mean.  

I've walked through Bahama Village, during the day, and I've noticed that the folks there will actively go out of their way to meet your gaze and say hello.  I have always thought of it their way of saying "Look Mr Tourist, this is my home and neighborhood and there aren't too many things you'd really want to see here but enjoy your walk and if you're lost we can help". 

Much nicer than being ignored any day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Art Wall In Key West Picture

Key West has a reputation for being an art colony.   A place where you can put together all sorts of things in new and creative ways, take them down to the Business District on Duval Street, get into a Gallery and sell them.  

Being from Philadelphia area originally, I'm used to Public Art.   Philadelphia has a law that if you have a new large building in the Center City area, a certain percentage of the cost of the improvements must be made available for public art on the property.   I'm used to it.   Art becomes part of the background.

This little wall was on a private property, not at all public, it was on a corner of the streets, and somewhat incongruous in its location across from the Key West Cemetary.   It was as if the owner of the property had a wall that got partially demolished by a hearse that missed its mark, decided that they could do something creative with it.   So the owner took some mortar, coated the bits and pieces with it, and stuck some mirrors and colourful bits and pieces to the wall.  I'm glad that Art can flourish in small towns and large, and while it is not a polished piece, I'm enjoying it in its "primitive" splendour.  Art can be functional as well as beautiful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Antonia's Alley Key West Picture

Sometimes there are spots that you just wouldn't expect to see right in the middle of it all.  On Duval Street in Key West, in the center of the touristy business district, there's a rather nice restaurant called Antonia's that serves Italian Food.   I've been told it is still a good restaurant, the locals seem to think so.   Since Italian food really isn't my favorite, I passed on the restaurant this last short trip.  

The day I took my pictures, I was looking over my shoulder and saw this alleyway.   Way towards the back there was a rooster and hen scratching around, and yes there are wild chickens roaming "Free Range" in downtown Key West, and I was trying to get a picture of them.   They were too far off but I did get a rather nice view of this alley.   Looking at it it struck me just exactly how peaceful it looked in the middle of all those tacky T Shirt Shops and plastic gimmickry.   Bougainvillea vines to the right, Ferns on the left, chickens ahead on the Brick Pavers and it was a very nice pace to step back out of the bustling crowds before going onwards for more ... of the same.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Global Warming or just a truly bad movie?

I'm sitting here watching this movie called "Where the Hell's that gold?".  This movie is so appallingly bad that I wonder why Encore put it on let alone it got filmed.  Answer would be Filler for Encore and Delta Burke and Gerald Mc Raney needed to make some money.  It could have been so fun with Delta playing "A Painted Lady", a Madam really,  in the old west with Willie Nelson as a love interest and Jack Elam as a Crusty Old Buddy.

Instead what I'm doing is sitting here watching them spar back and forth in that "Love Fighting" you see in all of these movies and wondering... Why is it that all these cowboys in Mexico on a train in the warmer season (No steam in their breath) are wearing Jackets AND Vests?  After all, they end up heading towards Del Rio, Texas at the end of it.   The place looked windy and green.   Wet season would be late Spring/Summer, Right?

Then I realized, Burke and Mc Raney are Republicans.   They tend not to be thorough in their ... research.

(Ok, I couldn't resist the Pot Shot!)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Adaptive Re-use in Key West, The Strand Picture

When Walgreens decided that Duval Street needed Yet Another Drug Store To Sell Plastic Crap and other necessities, they bought the Strand Movie Theatre.   This beautiful old building was going to be razed then a faceless building put up in Corporate style would be in its place.   Luckily the people there fought it, had it declared a Historic Place and forced Walgreens to step back and see what could be done.  If I remember the story right, the interior was pretty much trashed from years of neglect and misuse, so it had to be redone.
I was inside the place while in Key West, it looks like just about any other Walgreens anywhere else, although a bit smaller.   Chock full of souvenirs made in places like China made of plastic, towels made in places like China, and so forth.   But step outside and you have the beautiful facade still intact.   It would have been better if the original purpose of an old movie house were left there but if it has to be bought by a big corporation and a drug store put in, I guess this is about as good a compromise as you will get.

At least the Neon signs still work!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Willie T's Bar Key West Picture

Right on Duval Street, there's this Bar.   Willie T's.  For the Geotracker in everyone, the location is right there on the Sign:

Willie T's
525 Duval

You Are Here
N 24 34.3
W 81 45.7
This is Paradise

It must be paradise and one of those places the Locals go to.  Its a bar that serves rather good food, and has thousands of Dollar Bills stuck to the building.  People put more up, they don't seem to lose any to people who don't understand that it would be rude to remove them.  The bills have names and locations written on them, little sayings and greetings.   People come from all over the world to enjoy a little bit of paradise on a scruffy little island in a particularly good bar that seems to welcome all.   Once you get to the island, you will find your internal clock slow down some, you'll be looking at the building next door and think that the peeling paint is "local color" instead of sloppy, and that there's always tomorrow.

All in all a rather nice place for a vacation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Windsor Street Key West Conch House Picture

Hidden among the Palms here is a house.   There's a particular sort of architecture in Key West called a Conch House.   Porch in front and back, overhanging roof to block the sun, and a hallway from front to back on one side to get to the one or two bedrooms.  They are not large, and typically are made of pine.   I tend to feel like a bull in a china shop in one of those buildings.   They're built to withstand storms and allow the breezes to pass through.  When you build them within inches of each other and plant them as thickly as this, I can't see much breeze getting through.

I can hear my Mom's voice in my head saying they are not something a family would live in but they are "quaint".  Besides something with 3 bedrooms in the right part of Old Town Key West would be going for $500K and it would be small, under 1200 square feet.  These little places are really an out building on an estate in size anywhere else and you are looking at almost the entire street frontage in the picture.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bamboo Garden in Key West Picture

Yes, I do like taking Pictures.   There are a lot of things to catch the eye here.   When you have a camera and the time to take a picture, you end up with a lot of "background" shots.

This one caught my eye because of something I had been told of Bamboo.   I was told, although it may be an urban legend, that all Bamboo all over the world blooms all at once and then dies back to grow again.   I was standing on a porch in a back yard in Key West looking over the lush forest that was there and noticed what looked like a flower spike to me growing out of the bamboo thicket.   You can see it in the middle of this picture sticking up like an arrow.   I may not be right about the life cycle of the plant, but here it is for your entertainment.  After reading that link on Wikipedia, it seems that that is just another Bamboo Shoot.   I wonder how it would taste Stir Fried?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Wonder Car of Key West - Picture

What do you do with your car when it starts to get a little older and you don't want to replace it.   Some folks will repaint it, ignore the thing and let it get worse or muddle on with compounds and wax.

Then there are the Art Cars.   There is something of a tradition in Key West of Art Cars.   You could walk all over the island and liberally scattered through out you would find a car decorated with mirrors or little troll dolls or other cars.   Some folks find them weird and detract from the owner's creativity.  I find them always interesting and much better than the Boom Cars with the low profile tires, candy colored metallic paint and over sized stereos that you can hear in the next county.

This person obviously likes bright colors.   They are in a Conch House, a shot gun house anywhere else, with brightly colored fabric in the front to block the sun and views from the street, and decided to color coordinate the Focus Station Wagon in front to match.   Station Wagons are frightfully boring no matter who builds them, and smaller ones tend to be about as boring as they get... but this one is cute.   Putting Primary Colored circles all over this car turned it into a Wonder Bread Bag.   Ok Wonder Bread is bland and barely edible, so maybe this was what the artist was going for when they designed this, but I do like the result and all the implications.  It certainly diverted your eyes from the scruffy homes around this one place at least for a little bit.

A good friend has said to me that Good Art Makes You Think.   I think I got a blog posting out of it as well as a picture.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Duval Street at 11AM - Picture

Key West used to be much more crowded than this.   This was taken at 11AM on a Friday morning.   Maybe I'm wrong and just up too early for a town that says its a Great Little Drinking Town With A Fishing Problem and the planes haven't really gotten there yet.

I remember back before the incompetent Bush (not his father who was merely average) wrecked the economy with the Republican Recession that at this time of morning, people would be out walking the streets and I'd have problems getting anywhere without having to avoid some tourist from somewhere else in the country.   Now the place was noticeably less popular even at night, and it was full of Europeans speaking German, Slavic Languages, French and the like.   I went to a custard stand at 10PM Saturday Night in the heart of the tourist/drinking district of Duval Street and was able to enjoy my custard in the middle of the sidewalk and not have a problem with blocking other passers by.

I'm standing one block from where the sunset celebration happens every night in this picture.   First Block of Duval at Front Street.   This Street View will show pretty much the same sight, fewer walkers and fewer cars than I remember.   I also noticed that there were more T Shirt Shops with stupid sayings and low end junk shops instead of the art galleries and home made and local made jewelry that I liked to look but "wasn't for me".

I really hope that things start up again soon, there are too many hungry people out there "off work".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

GIMP and Photoshop Red Eye Reduction in Dog Pictures

Lettie the Superdog is shooting Laser Beams at you!  Oooooh!  She pays attention to me and does That Look frequently.  Sitting in the Poang means I'm at Dog's Eye Level and she gets attention when she wants it.
So I grab my camera since she came over to look to see what I was doing with it and take a picture.   While I wouldn't call myself A Photographer, I do take Better Than Average pictures.  Maybe a B or a B+ with the camera.  Occasional moments of genius just like everyone else.   Unfortunately the Red Eye Reduction on my camera doesn't cancel it out and I get glowing yellow Laser beams from Mrs Dog that I have to edit out in GIMP by coloring it in pixel by pixel.   Red Eye Removal doesn't work when you're not working with a Human, and you've got yellow glowy things. 

GIMP is an Free and Open Source project that allows you to do Just About Anything that the proprietary and costly Photoshop will do.   Its not exactly simple to use but it will do what you need when you learn how it wants to be used - you work with GIMP not use GIMP it seems.

Other than just coloring it out to black or charcoal or hitting delete, if anyone has a better idea, I'd welcome it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Backyard Background Greenery

This is my back yard, or at least a piece of it.  Folks here in South Florida would look at this and think that its all nice and normal.   Up North they'd think I got attacked by an Ikea or Home Depot or Lowes indoor plant display.  

Nope, not really.   I have to weed this mess, but that's fine because I have a wall of greenery that looks wonderful on the background of the PC.   All those low lying palms and Philodendron leaves also make for a very secluded back yard when they grow in.   The plants in the lower part of the picture are Philodendron and the leaves are more than a yard or a meter in length.   If I have to trim the plant, I cut a leaf off and stick it in water and use it as an accent in the living room.

I live in a place with plants that people in other places call "House Plants" and fret because they're small.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lettie's Sleeping Picture

Mrs Dog's own Blog Posting.  I had taken this picture of my little girl sleeping the one day shortly after I moved to Florida.   This picture was taken at the house that I moved into for a short time before I bought the place I have now.   She just moved in, sniffed around after the dog that wasn't there, accepted it all and continued to glue herself to my leg whenever I would get up and walk around.

If you can't post pictures of your dog being cute in a Blog, where else can you post them?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Centon Datastick Pro Review - Bargain Basement Storage

In this case, low price means slow.   I bought this Centon Datastick Pro 16GB USB Flash Drive Memory stick at the CompUSA Store in Ft Lauderdale so it could take a VirtualPC image I have.   Its a development environment that is custom crafted to allow me to do all sorts of things that you would need to do in a software development office.  I would have put a direct link to the model stick but the page wouldn't load in Firefox - always a good test for me personally whether to interact with a company or not.

First problem was that the stick was formatted FAT32 like the old Windows 98 Hard Drives.  The problem is that the environment image was 10.2GB of space.   Ok, not really a big deal, just logistics, right?   Newer versions of Windows use NTFS, and 10GB files are no problem there.   Had to reformat that little stick and now I have to remember to eject the stick under pain of death of data.   FAT32 you can just pull out of the USB slot but you really *should* eject it.

The second problem then hit me in the face.  Or rather rubbed itself slowly in my face.  I started the copy dinner time and thought that it would take maybe an hour, two tops.... BZZZT!  WRONG!   I'm writing this at 930AM the next morning and it has just finished copying.   So now I have this big ol' copy of a Virtual PC image sitting on a stick that I can run like another computer and I'm wondering whether it was worth the effort.

The eventual start up time was 10 minutes, with 1 minute alone to play the default Windows XP start up sound.    It took over 20 minutes to get quiet enough to interact with it and shut it down.  I will copy it onto the host PC's Drive in the future.  Running from my laptop with adequate memory it starts in 2 minutes and runs "well" enough for me.

The moral of the story is that if you need extra storage for important papers and pictures, recipes and music, a low end low cost USB Flash drive will be fine.   Store your papers on one, then drop it somewhere safe.

If you need one with high speed, don't go low end.   Either spend some extra after doing your homework and finding a high speed drive, or get yourself an external Hard Disc with a real internal Disc that hooks up to USB and you'll be fine.

Even CDs are faster than this little guy for big files.   I think I'll put my E-Books on there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Florida Everglades at 45 MPH Picture

This picture was taken at the same time as the one at Jewfish Creek bridge.  The view here is Southerly looking towards the Gulf of Mexico over the Jewfish Creek.  That is the body of water between the the island that Key Largo is on and Jewfish in Monroe County.  If you see the map of the area it is just at the south end of an 18 or so mile long causeway.   Either side of that causeway is lined with Mangrove trees and other scrub trees that can grow in the Saline soil there.   This is where you cross into the area that is like no other, The Florida Keys.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Today's the Day

I start work today as the IT Project Manager for a local Mall with their Management Team here in South Florida.  

To say that should give me some outlets for my technical knowledge would be like saying that a Hurricane is a bit of a shower.   Its going to give me a place to grow, to learn, and to help others.   When I met everyone in the two interviews (3.5 hours and 1.5 hours respectively) I was highly impressed by these folks and with the sheer level of knowledge that they have on their particular area and in others.

It is a challenge to meet this excellence and I shall rise to the occasion.  I am humbly honored to be invited to join their family.

Wish me luck! 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jewfish Creek Bridge, Florida Keys picture

This is one of the first tall bridges that you hit when you are driving South on US1, The Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys.   It is a recent structure, a replacement for a drawbridge that was only a few feet above the water level and a welcome improvement.

Actually it is a welcome improvement to all except the few businesses that are down on the little island that it soars over.   I suspect that they will close since when you drive past them, you really have no idea that they are there.

It is a rather pretty land although it is somewhat stark in its appearance.   Clear blue water, green grass, wildlife but a very flat environment.   Miles of beauty if you stop to see it, miles of flat straight boring road if you don't.   The keys are a place that are best seen outside of your car, not at 45 MPH. 

Oh and stay out of the Shell places.   They're tourist traps that sell bags of shells that are imported from somewhere else and cheap plastic toys that are certainly not made in the local areas.  The local handicrafts are there, but you do have to hunt them out.  If there is a sticker on the bottom saying "China", you do not need it.

So get out of your car, walk the beach and look for your own shells, you will be glad you did.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gold Medal Flour - Extraordinary Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe

I promised you a simple and bullet proof biscuit recipe when I posted the butter recipe a few days back.   Here it is.

This is right off of the back of the Flour Bag.   Go to the supermarket and get Self Rising Flour.  Make certain that it is "Self Rising Flour".   That's important for this recipe.   I used Gold Medal Flour the first time and the biscuits turned out perfect, I used store brand Self Rising Flour from Publix and it turned out perfect as well...

You also need the Buttermilk from the Butter Recipe, so if you haven't broken down and tried it, you should.  Otherwise you can substitute Whipping Cream or Milk.  Don't go for skim, it needs the fat to make them taste right.

Ingredient list:
2 1/2 Cups Self Rising Flour - Make certain that it is Self Rising Flour!
2 teaspoons of Sugar
1/2 cup of Butter - You did make this yourself, right?
3/4 to 1 cup (or more) of Buttermilk - Again, you did make this yourself, right?

Ok, I'll believe you there...

The recipe from the Gold Medal Self Rising Flour Bag is simple.

Preheat your oven to 450F
Stir together your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl:
2 1/2 cups Self Rising Flour
2 Teaspoons of Sugar

Using pastry blender or fork, cut in  1/2 cup butter until mixture is crumbly

Stir in 3/4 to 1 cup of Buttermilk until dough leaves side of bowl.   If dough is dry, add buttermilk a teaspoon at a time until it looks right.  Depending on how thick your buttermilk is will determine how much you need - thick buttermilk means you need more.   I had buttermilk before that was more like Yogurt and ended up using 1 1/2 cups.

The recipe calls for you to roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface.   Since I shoot for a sticky dough I  have a 1/4 cup measuring cup that I use to measure out biscuits.   Pack this dough down into the measuring cup, I'm always a little generous with it, and scoop it out onto your cookie sheet.

When the oven is at temperature, put the cookie sheet with the approximately 10 to 12 biscuits into the oven at 450.  The Recipe calls for 10 to 12 minutes.   I found that my oven runs "hot" and I end up baking this recipe for as much as 15 minutes.  I would check the biscuits every 2 minutes past the first 10 minutes until you learn what the biscuits "want".   

Bread Baking is an organic, and living process.  It is always a little different every time.

Be patient and remember, it is a living thing, treat your bread and biscuits with care.

Now that having been said, I have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.   I have a nasty habit of tossing all the ingredients in there, turning it on until it looks right, then spooning them out onto the cookie sheet.  I know, I KNOW!, there's some dear Southern Woman who is aghast at the idea that someone would make biscuits in a mixer that way but this really is a forgiving recipe and will turn out if you do it that way in the big ol mixer.

I promise, really I do.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Entering the Florida Keys

Driving down to the Florida Keys you get to see this.  Rather a lot of it.  Two lane black top highway.  To the left there's the Florida Straits (to the South).  To the Right, there was the Everglades.   This was right after the car crossed into the Keys.   Florida is widening the road to four lanes through the upper keys and I hope it will go all the way to Key West.   Unfortunately this will take ... a little time.  At this point, the picture was about 120 miles from Key West.   200KM if you're from a Metric Nation like we should eventually be.   You do tend to move along at moderate speeds of 45 MPH or roughly 75KPH, with short bursts of frenetic driving to pass that car that is in front of me like I did.   Imagine a sports car driving under the speed limit.

I did make it without hitting any endangered species or violating any speed laws... or at least creating a public nuisance.   I also learned that when my speedometer reads 55MPH, I'm really going around 48MPH, Courtesy of Monroe County, FL, Sheriff's Slow Down And Arrive Alive Billboard.

No wonder why Jeeps have a reputation for going slow in traffic, the speedometer reads low!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Home Churned Butter Recipe - In 5 minutes?

Sure... and it works. 

I have been teasing people with this for a couple weeks now.   There's a viral web video running around talking about how you can make butter in your own kitchen.  Being boring and not having a real life helps when you're looking for weird recipes, and I was bored enough to try this one out.

The recipe is dead simple.

1 Pint of Heavy Whipping Cream.
up to 1/2 teaspoon of salt - Optional but it helps preserve your Butter.  Your choice, and I used 1/4 tsp.

Add both to the Cuisinart and Turn on.

The trick in this is knowing when to stop.   The mix will splash, turn into whipped cream, cottage cheese, then start to thicken and eventually turn "butter yellow".   While you're watching this, if you see things pile up on the walls of the cuisinart, stop it, scrape the sides, and push it all back into the goo at the bottom of the mixing bowl.   Then turn it all back on again.

We all know what Butter Yellow is and that is where you should stop. 

Now, you will have some Butter Yellow Solids, and some milky liquid inside the mixing bowl.  Pour off the liquid into a jar.  That is the buttermilk.   Fresh Buttermilk!   Don't throw this stuff out, please!   Make Biscuits from the buttermilk.  I never had the stuff until 2008 and it is wonderful for baking.

You're not quite done yet.   Now that it is drained, scoop out your butter into small containers and squeeze out the extra buttermilk while you're doing it.   Doing so will let your butter have a longer shelf life and you will have more buttermilk for your biscuits.   Yes, Biscuits.   I'll give you a short, bulletproof recipe in another posting.

The butter will freeze, the buttermilk will not.   Leave out enough butter in the refrigerator for a couple days or up to a week of normal use.   Freeze the rest.  This butter will be a little less firm than you're used to but that's perfectly OK.  I did say that, Freeze the restOnly leave in the refrigerator what you need for a couple days.   There are no preservatives and this is some of the best and freshest butter you will ever taste unless you live on a farm and make your own.

It is a bit more expensive since Heavy Cream runs at $2.65 at Publix for the pint or $3 a quart at GFS.  Do this for a party or for someone you truly care for and wish to impress.

Highly recommended and when you tell them where you got this at a party, you will become a Kitchen GOD!

Since you're going to be a Kitchen GOD, feel free to click on an ad and become even more divine.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Key West Trip

I am heading to Key West for a few days away.   I've been planning this trip since last June (2008) when my good friend came by to stay and got called home way too soon for his and my own good.   I'll be back on Monday just in time to start the new job the next day.   

When I am there, I'll continue to think up some stories to ramble on about.   I'll probably write them, and interleave them with the ones I have in backup.   I tend to take a lot of pictures, and as you may have noticed, my picture postings tend to be a much shorter variety. I try to keep at least a week or two in backup so if anything keeps me busy this moves on its own for a little bit.

For now I'll leave you with these links from Google.   

Street view of the Southernmost Monument isn't available.   The bozo who took pics for Google missed the block.   I'll have to take the stereotypical shot of it when I get there... 

I started playing around with street view to give you a link and thought you'll do better if I wait for later...  Despite what they Conchs say, KW is not technically the southernmost point in the US.   There's some island south of Key West that is uninhabited still on the continental shelf.   Tell that to someone from there just to annoy them.  :)

If you want to see the southernmost point of US1 it is at Whitehead and Fleming Street.  The Mile 0 sign is on the right of this view, with the big brick building behind it.   The other end of that "street" is in Fort Kent, ME and a world away.

By lunch I'll be in the Big Black Jeep Named Darth and hopefully heading south listening to some really schweet RnB from 1982 on the iPod.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Basic Firefox Security Hint: Don't Save Passwords and User IDs

This was first going to be a rant against my bank.  I started here with a Washington Mutual Account.   When their loans went bust, like many banks they got bought by a larger bank.   Chase got them, and me in the bargain.

This month when I went to do the banking and balance the checkbook, I logged into WAMU and was told that Wamu is becoming Chase.   When I got to the check account it said go to Chase.   Chase said that basically they couldn't find a cookie and that made them a Sad Panda.  I could make them happy again by jumping through hoops and registering my laptop with them by their putting a brand new spanking cookie on my machine.

Oh Freakin' Joy.

What this misses is that I am security conscious.   I have a laptop.   They get stolen.   I keep very little on this machine and I have Firefox set to delete all cookies when I close it.   So next month, I'll go to Chase and will have a Sad Panda... Again.    Bloody stupid pain in the bollocks.

Ok, So Security training has gotten me irked.   But it brings up a very important problem that the banks cannot solve this way.   Saved Passwords.


Why?  Because Criminals will break into your house and look for your computer, CPU, Desktop, Laptop, Mac, what have you and make it their own.   If you save your password, and you save your cookies because the bank is more needy than your 16 year old girlfriend when you were in High School, then they turn it on, start up your browser, find your history and links ... you're toast.

I have a very comprehensive list of saved bookmarks.   In fact its so big I have to back it up so I don't have to try to recreate the thing.   But nobody has my user name or password.   I have to remember them myself.

On the other hand, even I don't have a saved cookie so I'm the Sad Panda. 

So If you find this interesting, useful or entertaining, feel free to click on an ad.  Heck, even if you don't... You'll make me happy when I look at the stats.  Thanks!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 can be annoying

I am sure that they have legions of programmers and marketers and psychologists working there.   They're all there for one goal - to get you to buy something.   So why are they trying to annoy me?   Am I missing something?  Do they need to be shown how to properly write a website?

Marketing Rule Number One - never annoy your customers.

I went back to for the first time in a very long time today.  They had the best price for K9 Advantix.   Living in South Florida, having flea protection for your dogs and cats is a requirement.  It is simply not an option.   If your pet goes outside, your pet needs to be protected.   I had run out of the stuff so I took to online to find the best price.  Out of all the local big box stores, and the vet prices, they were the best by about $20 for a 6 month supply and that is significant.  

I hadn't gone back for so long that they had dropped my sign-on so I re-added myself.   First annoyance is that they insisted that I had lived in another city and wanted me to confirm that I really really really did live in Wilton Manors.  One of three zip codes and they're all shared with adjacent cities. 

I went to confirm the address and there was no OK Button.   Turns out that my ad blocker was blocking the OK button.  When I turned that off, I remembered why I didn't like Amazon.  Not only do they have their own merchandise, they insist that you look at advertisements for OTHER merchandise.  Now I'm assaulted by their advertising for themselves and the latest and greatest crap from every other bozo that gets loaded in there.

Third annoyance was when I decided to look at their Gold Box Specials.   These are specials that are supposed to be better than their usual ones so I thought why not give them a chance.  All 323 items, 65 pages of them.   I got to about page 10 and decided that was pointless.   Another chance for a sale gone

Finally I had the last annoyance.   I went into their netbook store and tried to look around.   Sure, they showed you the products but the prices were all "Click to See Price".   No Thanks, I closed the session and I'll go to Dealnews for general merchandise specials or Pricewatch for computer spot prices.  If they lead me to Amazon, I'll go through their idiocy but wny bother going there directly?

Am I missing something?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shoe-Goo Review

Despite sounding like a weird kid's show from the 70s, I'm talking about a product here.  It has a funny name but it works.   Amazingly well.  10 out of 10! what else can I say?

Shoe-Goo is a clear adhesive that comes in a big tube like toothpaste.  Basically this stuff is waterproof when dry, acts like glue and is very durable while in use.   It had been suggested to me back in the 80s for use in giving some favorite sneakers some extra life and it did that too.  Stick a blob of it on the sole of your shoe where your weight wear marks are and the shoes will last longer.   I've used it to coat the heel inside of a pair of sneakers since I tend to wear them out way before the shoes are gone and it helps.

I've also found that Shoe-Goo works better than the normal Vinyl repair kits that supposedly vulcanize a patch to a Vinyl inflatable.   I've been using an inflatable bed for about 3 years now and they really aren't built for that purpose.   Very comfortable but about every other month it springs another leak.  Find the leak, clean off the vinyl, cut a patch to fit and goo up both sides.   I'm good for a while where the patch kit that came with the bed created patches that just didn't work.

I have tried it on various things that need a durable fix, especially since I'm big and tend to break things.   I have used it to waterproof surfaces including electronics since they don't seem to be effected by it and add some heft which may help.   I have an old Wifi "thumbdrive" network card that got broken.  I soldered that back together and used Shoe-Goo to make sure it wouldn't break again.

I only have one complaint.   Shoe-Goo is hard to find.   I have to go out of my way to find an old line hardware store to buy the stuff which I tend to forget which one I bought it at last time out.   As my sister and my partner will tell you, by the time something wears out and I toss it, I've repaired it a couple times, and Shoe-Goo does help.   Now, if I could only remember where that hardware store is, because I'm getting low again!

Shoe-Goo to the rescue!

If you find this interesting, useful or entertaining, feel free to click on an ad.  Heck, even if you don't... You'll make me happy when I look at the stats.  Thanks!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gecko by the Thermostat Picture

What you're seeing there next to the thermostat is a little gecko.  These guys get into the house and you find them in random spots.  They're almost always trying to get somewhere safe to hide, and they're never harmful.   The dog will chase them, in fact she has a war with one spot outside the porch where they like to hide behind the mount for the Hurricane Shutters.  9pm and she's barking at a wall where nothing is hiding because she's barked at them the night before ... for months.

Geckos will keep the insect population low and they'll die inside the house since we keep it sprayed to get rid of the insects.   To see me use the Gecko Capturing Device which consists of an empty clear plastic storage jar from some candy and a sheet of 8.5x11 paper, running after the little things so I can set them free, with the Border Collie trying to climb me, and people in the house saying "Get him! Get him!"... well its a comical sight.

And I'm always VERY careful never to harm them.   They're way too useful, way too entertaining, and I always set them free in the yard to feed on the moths out there.

Sorry, Pat, they do get inside but they eat mosquitos and really do look cute!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Welcome Readers!

At this point I've been doing this a whole month give or take a couple of days.  Yeah big deal huh?

One thing that I had to do when I started this was to make sure I've got enough to read.  Ok, I've got a big mouth and talk way too long on things.   Great qualifications for a blog.   Another is that I can write a coherent sentence, even if I do run on a bit.  My British friends might say "You do bang on a bit don't you?".

Think of this as a view under the hood.  When you clicked on my blog you see my writings, my pictures, and Google's Advertisements.   I did the ad bit with Google Adsense and Google Analytics because I see the results of the Tip Jar get from a website I work on.   Practically nil.   But if you see something you like in the sidebars... I'll appreciate it greatly if you click.

But never mind that.   More importantly its interesting to see that already I'm getting trends.   My readers, most of whom are family, some may become family if I don't get boring, tend to hit this blog at certain times of day.   Go to work, open a browser, do a search and stumble upon ... Me.   The 9AM hour is the most popular time for all you folks to pay a visit.   So if you're sitting in an office, reading this, have a bit of coffee for me and I'll try to keep it interesting.

Otherwise I get another peak in the evening hours.   6 to 9pm or 1800 to 2100 if you use that notation.  Settle in for dinner, have some TV on in background or perhaps music, and read.

It all sounds rather normal to me.   Thats when I do my own surfing so I'll try to keep things interesting for you.   For now, I'm doing one post a day.   If that changes, you'll notice and I'll try to let you know.

Thanks for listening, I do appreciate it!

Friday, October 2, 2009

GFS Marketplace Cherry Pie!

Here is that Cherry Pie from the GFS article.   Yum!  Love a good Cherry Pie and GFS sells a wonderful Pie.   Too bad that was long gone huh?  You can't have any because we enjoyed it over four days!   I didn't even have to go to a restaurant to get it.
Those who know me, know I bake, and I bake a lot.   I got started again because the bread down here in South Florida is frankly rather weak and bland.   I'd love to get a fresh Amoroso's Roll, but there's no chance of that.   There are some good Philly Style Pretzels if you know where to get them from Philly Pretzel Heaven, but I've resigned myself to making Challah and Pizza Dough Bread whenever I need it.

It also gives me an excuse to go to GFS for baking supplies, as well as the other markets to be creative.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

GFS Marketplace Review

In short, I like the place.   In fact I like it a lot.   I just finished a lunch of their Manicotti and have a Cherry Pie in the oven from GFS.  You will see the pie tomorrow.

I have been a snowbird for years, and finally moved here to South Florida in 2006.   I'd be driving around and would see their location on Federal Highway just south of NE 26th Street and would be intrigued.  That link was the building, behind the 45MPH speed limit sign.   Looking at the building, I had always assumed that it was a Wholesale Club or strictly To The Trade.   I'm glad that when I moved here I had checked it out and was wrong.

GFS Marketplace is here in Florida and through the midwest.   If you are near one, stop on in.  I'm also a member at BJ's Wholesale and was a member at Sam's Club and Costco before returning to BJs Wholesale and GFS as well as filling in the cupboards at other markets like the Publix that is within 1/2 mile walking distance to the house.  These days, to get your best value you don't stick with one traditional Supermarket, you pretty much have to shop around.   I do like Publix, I'm OK with BJ's, disappointed with Costco and Sam's Club, but I'm really quite happy I wandered into GFS.

I knew well of their competition Sysco because when I'd drive down to the Florida Keys, it seems like I'd be constantly trying to pass one of their trucks.   Seems like they have a strong presence down there, to the point where all the restaurants have one of their trucks parked unloading at some time of the morning.   I even wondered why should one even bother paying the prices at the high end restaurants when "All the food comes in on the same truck".  Not exactly a ringing endorsement since I've had some truly horrid meals in the Keys, but it certainly isn't the food service distributor's fault no matter who that distributor happens to be.

I started with Wholesale Clubs back in the 80s when a friend said you can get the commercial strength cleaning supplies and large scale frozen foods that some folks like when they go out to restaurants.   To this day, you still see some people who can't qualify for a commercial account at a larger food wholesaler hauling large flat trolleys of food and drink that will be used for tomorrow's sales at a retail restaurant.

GFS Marketplace allows people like me to walk in off the street and get large flats of Manicotti, Pork, and Chicken for example and load up my freezer with the same thing that the restaurants get.   I've seen GFS trucks at loading bays through the area and I know that the quality of the food those restaurants are getting will be excellent.  The way I know is that I buy it myself and cook it myself.   The cupcake picture from yesterday was baked with GFS's Chocolate Cake mix, some of their store brand chocolate chips, GFS chopped pecans, and icing that was mostly from their store brands and BOY was it good!  I'm also particularly fond of their commercial strength cleaning supplies and their frozen foods.

Past the frozen foods, the Staff at GFS Marketplace in Ft Lauderdale has always been, frankly, Excellent.   They are always engaging, open for questions, and seem genuinely happy to help you.   All too often you walk into a shop and are grumbled at by a surly person and I have never seen anyone at that shop in a bad mood.  Bill The Manager (and ALL of the other managers) there are always going out of their way to help you out and have frequently came over to me and offered free samples (try their Macaroni Salad, its great!) and had a chat.

Prices there are normally better than the local supermarkets for the items they have.   You can shop there but they are not a full service supermarket so you'll find yourself going here and there for odds and ends if you try.

This particular store has just undergone an upgrade and I'm looking forward to seeing it all sort itself out.   I was there this week in the midst of all the insanity, uproar, and boxes lying all over the place, and the folks who were on the crew there working to upgrade were watching out for us.   In fact, one actually asked me what I was looking for from a lift station about 20 feet from the floor while he was working on pipes for the new refrigeration plant.  Now *THAT* is what I call service!

Thanks, GFS, you won me over!  If anyone at Corporate sees this, your South Florida staff is excellent, and I include the folks from the adjoining areas of Hollywood and Miami in that.

(Hello Grand Rapids Readers...)

No Complaints At All!