Monday, November 30, 2009

Tap, Tap, is this thing on?

Is there anyone out there?

I write these things from my comfy chair.   I bang them out a couple weeks early, and write away.  I guess, its one of those things you get to do, and if you like it you keep it up.   I'm finding that I do like to do it, but wonder who is reading this.

To my sister Pat in NJ, thanks!  You're my most reliable reader.  You hit this almost every day, and hardly miss a day.  I know this because Google Analytics tells me that I get a hit from your city daily, and that it is always someone who has been here before.

Other than that, According to Google Analytics, I usually get one or two random hits.  Not always from the same folks, so I know it is due to one or two posts that I have written in the past.   Specifically the couple of posts about this Poang Chair and the Ikea shopping trips as well as the other comfy chair, the Barnet from La-z-boy.  I know that because Google Analytics tells me the string that someone uses to find this in Google.

I have been told that someone who reads this on an "RSS Feed" will not show on Google Analytics.   A good friend here, Kevin, reads it when he gets notice in the late day saying this has a new article.  I have a habit of setting these posts ahead of time by about two weeks, and always at 8AM so as not to raise questions at work.

I have a favor of you folks.. if you are reading this via a Feed, drop me a comment.   I'm curious to know how many of you are out there!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jewfish Bridge leaving the Keys

I published a mate to this picture about a month back.  It was the first in the series because it was the first I took when driving South.   This is the Northbound view from just North of the crest of the bridge.   Shows you a good view of the Glades.   Flatter than New Jersey or any other "flat" state.  Green as it gets.   The land is absolutely lush, choked with sawgrass, mangrove, and other tropical foliage, stuffed with wildlife both natural and exotic.   Beautiful area.   Way off in the distance lies the Florida Mainland and Miami to the North.   My home beyond that.

This is a view that you just don't seem to get in many places.   An almost unspoiled view of wildlife.  Untouched lands where there are no farms or buildings for about as far as you can see.  I'm glad I'm so close to something that I was only once able to dream about visiting.  I can only hope that the State is able to reclaim the wetlands that were taken away to build this metropolis that stretches about 100 miles from North to South, about 20 miles from East to West from the Agricultural Interests.  A one of a kind jewel that can not be replaced.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Iguanas really annoy me

To say it politely.   To say it otherwise, this would look like something out of an old Looney Tunes cartoon with punctuation to spell words like  "*$#|{!".

I've been dueling with these creatures for the last year solid and am fed up with it.  They're officially an invasive exotic species here in Florida which means they can be "humanely controlled".   I know of people who go to all sorts of "humane control" measures to protect their properties.   While some people keep exotics for pets, including me with my own Orange Wing Amazon Parrot, most don't let them escape.   With no predators, they will breed until something like the lack of food limits their numbers.

There are products like Iguana Rid that supposedly will protect your plants.  I've had no luck with the stuff since I have actually sprayed one in the eye and it just stayed put.   My preferred method is to chase them away with an 11 foot pole or a border collie.   My Border Collie thinks its great fun to chase things but that is problematic in itself.

I'd like to have a solution for this but I don't think there is one other than keeping an outdoors dog and paving the yard with concrete.   I prefer my dog indoors where she can entertain me and concrete is not an ecological solution. 

The real solution is legislative.  The State of Florida, and others, should not allow the purchase or sale of exotic species in areas that they could live outdoors.   In this state, it is south of the I-4 Line - Daytona to Orlando to Tampa, roughly.   Simply ban them from pet stores.   We don't need Ball Pythons roaming the Everglades, or Iguanas perched in my Bougainvilleas.   If you have the critters, keep them until they live out their lives but don't allow "replacements".   Somehow I don't think that would pass or would work.  If you go to Miami or Dade County, you still see plenty of Pit Bull "Mixes", and they are outright banned there.

So today (I write this stuff ahead of time), I'll move my Hibiscus in a pot out front and hope it doesn't get discovered.  I miss the yellow flowers it has when it's happy and it certainly has been moping for a very long time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Islamorada Hurricane Monument

When driving up US1 from Key West, after about 80 miles or so (I'm doing this from memory so don't hold me to it), you hit the middle to upper keys.   The land and road changes from being East to West to bending toward the Florida Mainland to the North. 

In 1935, on Labor Day, an extremely strong hurricane hit this spot.   What it did was inundate the land and wash everything that was not strong enough to manage the storm surge out to sea.

That hurricane is why US1 goes to Key West and doesn't stop further North in Dade County.   What happened was that the Railroad that was built from Miami to Key West, Flagler's Folly, the Florida East Coast Extension was basically erased.   The storm surge washed out the tracks in the Middle Keys, but left the bridges intact since they were built to last through some rather durable concrete.   To this day you can find remnants of the tracks and a Caboose or two here and there from Islamorada on South, and the bridges were left in place.

The entire railroad right of way was sold to the state of Florida for a dollar, and the road was paved over the tops of those bridges.   In places you can tell that the road was built on a right of way since it is slightly elevated, and absolutely flat.   Others, you get on the more modern replacement bridges and can look down on the old Flagler FEC bridges and see the road bed.  They're used for Fishing platforms for the most part and are quite popular.

This monument stands for all those who lost their lives on those days in 1935 in that horrific storm.   It ruined a railroad but made the lower keys what they are today, Accessable... after a LOT of work.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

No turkey in my house.   Won't happen.  I'm having some folks over that the idea of serving Turkey means "I'm calling out for Pizza".   So what's going to happen?   Instead of my favorite stuffing with walnuts, orange slices and raisins, I'm getting Mashed Potatos.   Instead of the turkey itself, we're making a Pot Roast with Port Wine Gravy.

Yep, Port Wine.  The Drink of Choice of all Pirates.   Arrrrr!   Well that or a bottle of rum but rum gravy wouldn't be quite as good.   The trick is to slow roast the pot roast in a broiling bag with all the vegetables and a cup or two of Port Wine.   It doesn't have to be good wine, merely average will do.

When it comes out, the pot roast will fall apart, the carrots are literally like candy, the potatoes are smooth as silk and sweet.   Mash them all down with some sweet butter, unsalted, and preferably Home Churned, and you have an excellent meal.  

I may not get my Turkey Dinner, but I will be eating amazing sandwiches all month of December and I will make Cornish Pasties out of the bits and pieces left over.   I'll also have one very jealous Network Admin looking at that sandwich.  Home Made Bread, a slab of beef, and a bit of extra sharp Vermont Cheddar.


Or like the Officer said the other day when he had a cookie "It looks like we'll all need some extra road work now!".

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blue Skies meet the Florida Straits

By this time I had left Key West.   Beautiful day for a drive.   When you get out on the bridges on that thin ribbon of concrete you see blue and palm trees.   That's about it, but boy was it a lot of beautiful blue and palm trees.  
You just don't get these kind of views up North.   The water is clear and blue because it is too warm for the Algae to live in it.   Green seas are what you get when you cool down the water as anyone in SC or NJ or MA could tell you.  It doesn't necessarily mean the waters are any cleaner in FL although they are for the most part, it means they're just warmer.  The rare days it would get to 72 in the ocean at the Jersey Shore, everyone would be sweltering in the heat and running to the "warm" waters.   When it is 72 in the ocean off of the Florida Keys, it is winter.  

But as I said, there are only a few Keys Trip Pictures left, so enjoy!   I've been back in Ft Lauderdale at the time of writing for more than a month and just putting these up so family can enjoy them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cookie Dough Therapy - The Return of Cookies

Yes, Cookies Start With C as Cookie Monster used to sing.

The cookies all got baked.   64 Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies, out of Four Pounds of dough.   You can estimate the calories for me, its kind of scary.  About an ounce per, so that's about 100 calories on average.

I took about 1/2 of them to work the next day.   6 went to my Network Admin, 24 found their way to the kitchen.  They were put on the counter with care, and a note saying enjoy.   They also didn't last too long and were mostly gone by lunch.   We have an office of under 20 people so that meant everyone could have one and some could have two.   Since there are a few who are on a more holistic or healthy diet than Full Butter cookies would allow, there's going to be a few with two or even more. 

The best scene was watching this big hulking BSO K9 Officer munching on a cookie with a wild look in his eyes of total enjoyment.   Think of the LOL Cats and caption the scene "Nom nomnomnomnomnom!".  After that saying "Now I'm going to need extra road work!".  Yep, we all need a few miles running after all that.

Oh I did reserve two for myself.   They'll be eaten with some rather good Ethiopian blend coffee from the company coffee pot.   I'll need the Caffeine since I've been sugar-crashing lately.  Eat too many of those things and one or two hours later you're looking to get out of the office for a walk!  Luckily I have an excuse to get out and survey the building as the IT Manager and make sure that there are no obvious problems.   I've got four departmental Laser printers, two on each side of the building about 1/4 mile apart.

So, where's my second mug of coffee!  :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tropical Paradise or just another Weird Cemetery?

When you have an island that is made out of solid Coral stone, and practically no real soil to speak of you make allowances.

This is the Old Town Cemetery in Key West.   They made allowances for all of this by building little crypts on the surface of the ground like they did in New Orleans.  Having a gravedigger with a shovel is normal elsewhere, but in this situation you end up with a very frustrated person with a bent up shovel. 

The other thing to keep in mind is that they don't really have a lot of real estate there.   This place is literally crammed solid with crypts and graves.   I'm not one for claustrophobia, but walking past the place I found myself looking for open spaces.   This was the most open view I could find, the rest of it was literally packed like sardines with old tombstones from the 1800s and beyond. 

Probably an appropriate place for me to end my travelogue, in a cemetery.  I've finished with the pictures of the island, and have only a few more on the trip back.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cookie Dough Therapy

Anyone who knows me knows that I bake.   I think it is fair to say that I am better than average and I bake quite a lot.   For the last few years I baked Cakes, Cookies, Candies, Brittles and so forth for gifts for friends and family.  Money was tight and I did so much of it that I was able to enjoy it and get my favorite recipes down perfect.

Florida has some wonderful things about it but one thing that I am missing is good bread.  The locals sigh and say "I know, there's something missing in the water".   Not much more you can say about that.   My tried and true bread recipe is a recipe that my sister Pat gave me for Pizza Dough.   Toss the ingredients into the bread machine, remove the dough and allow it to rise and it made for a wonderful loaf or two.  But it just doesn't taste right.   Kind of "flat" and not as crusty as it did with that Schuylkill Punch we got out of the tap in Philadelphia.

So I was feeling muddle headed from reading about technology at work all day on Monday and when I got home I thought that since I had been promising the ladies at work a chance at my cookies, I'd make the dough.   I made up four pounds of Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie Dough from the internet recipe for Mrs Fields, and they're chilling in the refrigerator.   There's a trick to this stuff.   When it comes out of the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer that I swear by - Roll it out like a sausage in some Plastic Wrap or Parchment Paper and chill it until it firms up.  A half an hour should do it in the freezer, or just wait until tomorrow.   If you don't, cookie dough gets awfully sticky and hard to manage.

Since a good cook rarely gives away their recipes, I'll keep my Top Secret Recipes to myself, and suggest you search for one of your own.   Other than that feel free to ask for hints.  One I do like to do is double the vanilla in any recipe.   More Bang for the Buck! 

Yes, there's an obvious hit in the last two paragraphs where to find the specific recipe if you look for it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Transportation in the Tropics

This picture ties together a couple things about Key West.   The place is a little 3 by 5 mile island in the tropics.   Well, technically speaking it is 70 miles North of the Tropics, or 2/3 the way to Havana Cuba, but we'll allow that. 

When you live in a warm climate, you have to make allowances.  If you read the post I made the other day about Raining Iguanas and Cold being anything under 70F/21C then you'll understand where I'm coming from.   Houses here have big porches and awnings so direct sunlight do not come in and heat up the home.  They're built to allow the breezes to flow through and cool without Air Conditioning.   It never really gets as hot as it did in Philadelphia in August although it stays hot much longer.

When you are on a small island that is for the most part self contained, you end up walking everywhere.   If you want to use Mass Transit, it comes in smaller forms.   This Pedicab in front of the Conch House Style home says it well.   Its only about a half mile or a KM or so from the central business district so normally you walk.   Even Americans who have a reputation of not liking to walk will do so in Key West.   Or they'll hop on the back of this contraption.

After all it is Mad Dogs and Englishmen who go out in the Noonday Sun.   The rest of us have a shade over us on a pedicab.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Cold in Florida - Iguana Rainstorms

Now it really hasn't been "Winter" here yet.   Anything below 70 and the locals, and acclimated newbies like me become cold and grumpy and don't like it.  We slow down and turn on the heaters in our cars, and shut the windows.   Mind you, when its 60 in the morning, it means it will be almost 80 in the evening.   When that happens, the roofs come off the cars, the windows fly open, and we're all smiling because we're in just about the most beautiful place in the world.

Then 6pm happens, its dark and it begins to cool off and the cycle happens again.

We do get winter here.   But its a Florida Winter.   Florida Winter means that we get two solid weeks where the temperatures can get into the 30s, and depending on just where you are in relationship to either the Atlantic Ocean or the Everglades, it could drop below freezing.   Even near Ft Lauderdale. 

When the temps drop below 45, we have a strange effect that I call an Iguana Rain.   Iguana Rains happen because the reptiles that were eating your Bougainvilleas and Hibiscus lose efficiency in their muscles.  Since Iguanas are respectively large and heavy, when they lose their muscle efficiency, they have another problem - they lose grip and fall out of the trees.   Now animal rights activists may be concerned, but for the most part Iguana Raining from the trees will land and merely be stunned.   How you can tell they're stunned is beyond me since they're moving so slowly due to their cold blooded systems almost shutting down, they look dead.

You can nudge them with your shoe and they won't move.   You can pick one up and toss it into a trash can and they won't move.   You can startle them when you close the lid on top and they won't move.  All of the above happened with me the first time I discovered a four foot reptile on my pool deck.   I picked it up and thinking it was dead dropped it into the trash bin.

There was a problem with that.   It was still alive.   When the sun hit the trash can it warmed up (they're blue here) and the creature came back "to life".   I then had a four foot iguana angry and fearful and wanting out of the bin when I went back to it a couple hours later wanting to empty the trash from the kitchen and running in circles in the bottom of the trash can.

I eventually solved it by putting the kitchen trash down out of reach, rolling the trash can out to the driveway, then flipping the thing to let the creature out and run away.   I couldn't hurt them so I guess I'm a bit soft hearted that way. 

These things do literally fall from the sky when it gets properly cold.   A stunned iguana and a cold and grumpy Floridian make for a story that never fails to amuse my sister back in New Jersey.   She still doesn't believe they're free ranging iguanas in the trees here, but there was a picture a couple weeks back on this blog that was taken a block from my house to prove it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Old School - Key West Style

When I got to Key West, I was ready for the slightly scruffy look that I'd see just about everywhere in the lower keys.   It is incredibly expensive to live there, pay is low, and unless you work in one of a handful of jobs you're waiting tables or in hospitality.

The place has some incredibly beautiful properties, but they're usually owned by someone with a lot of money.   The locals, Conchs, tend to be a bit more modest.

When I was out walking that one day, I was expecting a bit of that scruffy look but this was something of a shock to me.   This was one of the old schools in Key West.   I used to work for the School District in Philadelphia, and while they had some buildings that were old, they weren't typically abandoned - money was too tight.   Here was this building that I have to assume was a high school at one point just walked away from.   It reminded me of a place in one of those post apocalyptic movies that you'd have people huddled against zombies with wires draped from the ceilings - all on a multiple acre lot that could be sold for literally millions.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cold Weather in Florida?

Yes, it really does happen.   But like the "Shrinks" say, it is all relative.

Or as my relatives would say, Are you nuts?

Nope not really.  I've been living in South Florida, Broward County to be specific for more than three years now.   I've always liked warm weather, at least for the last 20 or so years I have, and when it got cold I went into hibernation.   There was a time where I could go out into below zero Fahrenheit weather in a pair of jeans, boots, flannel shirt, and a shearling jacket and be comfortable but later I got into shape.   You lose fat, you lose insulation and your tolerance for Sub Zero weather wanes. 

Before I moved here I started to get truly annoyed at anything below about 40 degrees and tried hard to stay inside.   The dog was much more tolerant, and she would be fine down to 10 but she'd have a fur coat on and walk so that I would shelter her from the winds. 

Now that I have been here for three years, I haven't been in anything colder than 50 degrees and that was inside of a BJ's Wholesale club refrigerator.   I'm living in a place that says "We keep Ice where it belongs... In our Drinks!" and means it.   This weekend was the first day that I have been in what I'd consider cold weather in a long time (I'm writing this on Sunday Night), and I didn't like it.   It was 60 when I walked the dog today.   Long sleeve shirt, jeans, heavy shoes and a leather jacket, and it was 60!   Oh yes, I was cold.

See it is all relative.   When you're used to walking around during the day in shorts and a T Shirt, having to even put on long pants feels weird, and a Jacket is a shock to the psyche.   So when you say "Tsk Tsk you have turned soft..."  I'll just hand you a snow shovel as I go for my leather jacket because it's cold.  I mean heck I can't take the roof off the car because...

...its below 70.

Complaints from Northerners start ... NOW!  :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Even More Jokes from Velma

Ok, so I split up the one joke email in two parts.   If anyone else has one that might be fun, let me know but this one is from Velma...

The Best Way To Pray
    A priest, a minister and a guru sat discussing the best positions for prayer, while a telephone repairman worked nearby.
    "Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray," the priest said.
    "No," said the minister.  "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven."
    "You're both wrong," the guru said.  "The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor."
    The repairman could contain himself no longer.
         "Hey, fellas," he interrupted.  "The best prayin' I ever did was when I was hangin' upside down from a telephone pole."

The Twenty and the One
   A well-worn one-dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty-dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation...

   The twenty-dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the country.  "I've had a pretty good life," the twenty proclaimed. "Why I've been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City , the finest restaurants in New York , performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean "

   "Wow!" said the one-dollar bill. "You've really had an exciting life!"

   "So tell me," says the twenty, "where have you been throughout your lifetime?"

   The one dollar bill replies, "Oh, I've been to the Methodist Church , the  Baptist Church , the Lutheran Church ."

       The twenty-dollar bill interrupts, "What's a church?"

Goat for Dinner
    The young couple invited their elderly pastor for Sunday dinner. While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the minister asked their son what they were having.
         "Goat," the little boy replied.
         "Goat?" replied the startled man of the cloth, "Are you sure about that?"
         "Yep," said the youngster
         "I heard Dad say to Mom, 'Today is just as good as any to have that old goat for dinner."

Lord, keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Southernmost Junk Picture

Every city that has anything interesting has one monument somewhere that someone has decided is worthy of making out of Lead, Resin, Tin, Plastic or some other material and selling for ten dollars or less.

In Philadelphia, it could be the LOVE statue, Independence Hall, or a number of other sites.  New York has the Statue of Liberty (Really in New Jersey), the Skyline, Empire State or some other long list of buildings.   Indianapolis has the monument in the circle downtown.

Key West has the monument you see on the top shelf here.   Its a Concrete plug that is at the traditional southernmost point of the continental United States.  They painted it as you see here, and people go to see it, touch it and look toward Cuba only 90 miles away.  

If you look at Google Earth much, and I do, you'll notice that it isn't quite the southernmost point on the island, let alone in the Continental US.   There are a few other small islands just south of Key West but since they're not inhabited, the Conchs tend to ignore them.   I won't tell.... or will I?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Jokes from Velma

Velma's my Train Friend from Philly.  I may never ride that train again, and certainly not at 7am, but I've grown to enjoy her "spam".  

Here are more jokes from Velma:

The Picnic
A Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest met at the town's annual 4th of July picnic.
Old friends, they began their usual banter.
"This baked ham is really delicious," the priest teased the rabbi. "You really ought to try it. I know it's against your religion, but I can't understand why such a wonderful food should be forbidden! You don't
know what you're missing. You just haven't lived until you've tried Mrs. Hall's prized Virginia Baked Ham. Tell me, Rabbi, when are you going to break down and try it?"
The rabbi looked at the priest with a big grin, and said, "At your wedding.."

The Usher
An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps,  "Where would you like to sit?" he asked politely.
         "The front row please," she answered.
         "You really don't want to do that," the usher said "The pastor is really boring."
         "Do you happen to know who I am?" the woman inquired.
         "No." he said..
         "I'm the pastor's mother," she replied indignantly.
         "Do you know who I am?" he asked.
         "No." she said.
         "Good," he answered.

Show and Tell
A kindergarten teacher gave her class a "show and tell" assignment. Each student was instructed to bring in an object to share with the class that represented their religion.
    The first student got up in front of the class and said, "My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David."
    The second student got up in front of the class and said, "My name is Mary. I'm a Catholic and this is a Rosary."
    The third student got in up front of the class and said, "My name is Tommy. I am Baptist, and this is a casserole."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Northwest from Mallory Square Key West Picture

I was standing there at the water near the harbour at Key West thinking that this looked like Gilligan's Island.   The reality is that this place is what most of the folks will see when they are finding a webcam for the Sunset at Key West so they can have a little bit of the party where ever they are.

This is Northwest of the Square, and is a little plot of land disconnected from the island by a small channel.  Looking from overhead, it is a couple blocks of land with some expensive homes.   In reality there aren't really any cheap homes on Key West, but these are rather private.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Spam from Velma

Velma is an amazingly fun and warm person who I was very happy to get to know in Philadelphia.   She's one of the best Train Buddies you could have, and always sent me to work with a smile on my face.

Vel also sends me a lot of messages, and while strictly speaking, they could be considered spam, they're always worth reading because unlike some folks I know, they're very well targeted and always get me to think or chuckle or ...

Well here's an email from Velma.   I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks Vel!  :)

Words of Wisdom.
"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a Mystery to be lived."

Noah's Ark Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah's Ark . .

ONE: Don't miss the boat.

TWO: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

THREE: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.

FOUR: Stay fit. When you're 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

FIVE: Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

SIX: Build your future on high ground.

SEVEN: For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

EIGHT: Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

NINE: When you're stressed, float awhile.

TEN: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

ELEVEN: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.

Most people walk in and out of your life......but FRIENDS leave footprints in your heart!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Roosters of Key West

They run free, everywhere.   This was actually a rather friendly bird, and they do get semi tame since people are so amused by seeing them that they will feed the birds.

If you see one, the hens will be protective of the chicks, so do be careful.   The birds have been there for years back before it turned into a tourist town wandering around and feeding themselves off of random bugs.   Of course the locals then didn't have a problem with catching one and tossing them in the stew pot.   I don't doubt that it still happens but isn't quite so frequent these days. 

The city of Key West was hunting down the birds for a while but gave up when people put up a fuss.   There are a bunch of websites out there telling the story of the chickens and how the Conch's that live there wanted them to remain.   Its more local color and frankly I'm happy they're there.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Virtual PC 2007 instead of XP Mode for Windows 7

Not technical?   Did you just say Huh?

Ok, Microsoft is being generous to us who still have XP or want to keep what we have in XP.   Windows 7 doesn't like a lot of software although everything I personally run works on Windows 7.  I have moved from a trusty and rusty old Dell Inspiron 600m Laptop that pretty much doesn't want to be a laptop any more since the Left Mouse Button isn't working well.  Sound familiar?  That's what happens to laptops after a couple years, the Left Mouse Button dies and your Battery fails to take a charge for more than a quick run across the house to plug it in somewhere else.   I've been there, trust me.

If you have a new PC that was build with a newer processor, you can still run XP within a window in XP Mode.   I've done it on a newer laptop at work, and it works real well.   There was a posting I did a few days back that explained all that and what to download.   You'll want to find that post that I wrote on November 8th if you think you qualify.

On the other hand, if you are like me on this older but still useable Acer Aspire 5610 then you can go a different route.   That will mean you will have to install Virtual PC 2007 at that link.   Virtual PC will let you install a completely new copy of XP within a software window.   Works great, I've used it for years now... well various versions of  it.   Its free. 

How this will help you and I run XP on our shiny new copy of Windows 7 is that you tell it to install that new copy of XP that you have somewhere lying around and you can use it like you would any other PC.   It's not perfect since you're running it in "Emulation".  You might not be able to run EVERY piece of software you have now, but that you will have to check that on your own.

There's one last helpful hint here.   Somewhere you have an older XP computer.   You don't want to throw it out because there's something on there or some piece of software that you've installed that you don't have the discs.   Here is why you want Virtual PC.  You can make a full copy of that machine, as long as you have the hardware to do it (Get yourself a big external drive, you'll be happy you did), and be able to run that PC within a window just like any other XP machine.

Without going through a lot of fiddly details, the software you can use is all over the web, it makes a big image that is as big as the used space on your old machine.  You put that image (Called a VHD file) on the new Windows 7 machine and run it in Virtual PC 2007 and you're back where you were.

The imaging software is at this link among others.   I haven't used that one, or have I used this one, but there are a lot of them out there.   Good luck at finding one that works.  The google search that I used to find both was this one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Duval and Front Street Key West Picture

I find myself stopping at this spot every time I am in town and looking exactly at this view.   At my back was a building that used to be a Gap.  On Duval Street.  I can't really think of a worse place for a Gap.  Imagine getting on a cruise ship and going to your port and saying "Hey, I want some knock off of Levi Jeans to wear when I get to Cozumel"!   Neither could the tourists since the place closed and is now a no name clothing store like all the rest.

To the right is Zero Duval street where the Sundown Celebrations happen every evening.  Its a great excuse to rub shoulders and have a beer and soak in the vibes as the sun gives its performance over the islands and the sea to the Gulf of Mexico.

Forward is Mallory Square, where the Conch Train and the shell shops are there to separate tourists from their pocket change.  Always a nice place to cool off and you can get a drink if you need it while exploring.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, Key West

I seem to remember that this church was featured in one of the James Bond movies.  The movie I'm thinking of is License to Kill where they flew an airplane into the old Seven Mile Bridge near Pigeon Key in the middle keys.   Bond isn't really my favorite, and the bridge still stands, just like this gleaming white church.
This would be the St Paul's Episcopal Church and is a beautiful building to see.   It must be since I and many other photographers are all milling around taking pictures of the place.   The day I was there, there were at least 4 other people taking pictures, in fact you can see the head of one in the lower left corner.  I'd photoshop it out if I were to do anything with this other than post it here. 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

XP Mode install on Windows 7

Now that I had installed Windows 7 on my Acer Aspire 5610, I set about this new thing called "XP Mode".   If you have a lot of XP software, and who doesn't, you will be considering this.   What it does is set up a way for you to run your old software in a box that looks like a Windows XP desktop within your Windows 7 machine.

It looks just like your current Windows XP desktop, if you're still on Windows XP.   The way it works is that Microsoft is going to give you free for download a copy of Windows XP called XP Mode that will only install on a Windows 7 machine.  You will download that (Its a big one, 1.4GB of disc space) and a copy of "Windows Virtual PC 7" which is fairly small.   This only runs on Windows 7 so if you haven't gone that route, this discussion won't help you.   If you're on a Mac I'd suggest looking elsewhere like VMWare Fusion 3 that I'm evaluating for my boss at work.

There is also another wrinkle.   Windows Virtual PC 7 will ONLY run on specific computers and only after you twiddle with your bios to turn on something called Virtualization.   If you have that you will have a great experience, if you don't I'll have a later post on what to do there, since I had to go that route for this machine.

To test this, surf over to this link and run the program that is on the page called the "Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor".  That link will give you an idea of first whether your machine will run Windows 7.

Further you will want to look at this link which will tell you if you can run Windows 7 XP mode.  You will download a program and it will run and look at your hardware and tell you whether you have that little bit of extra goodies in your computer that will work with XP Mode.   The program is called "havdetectiontool.exe" as of this writing.

In my case it said no.   It would have saved me time surfing some really confusing pages on Acer and Intel had I done that but I'm hard headed.

Assuming it says yes, then surf the XP mode page here and select your language and version of Windows 7 that you have, and yes you do need to know that.   In my case it was Professional 32 bit and English.

Step 4 says download XP mode, and install it.   When that is done, download and install Windows Virtual PC.  

At that point you're installed, you probably have some reboots to go through and some set ups, but I have seen XP Mode, its worth the effort, and lets you run Windows XP like you were used to.   It runs almost as fast as the Native Windows 7 that you are running as the PC operating system at about 97% of normal speed - from what has been reported.

The only gotcha is that XP mode will only be supported until 2014 so better get going huh?   Well by then you'll have other worries and other PCs but for now it works like a champ from what I saw on my Network Admin's laptop.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fast Buck Freddies - Creativity at work - Picture

What happens when a boring chain store pulls out of a town and leaves a vacuum?

When you're in Key West you get a one of a kind gem known as Fast Buck Freddie's.   The place used to be a Kresge's and when the city of Key West lost its way due to the Cuban Revolution cutting off trade and travel down there, business dried up and the Kresge's closed.

Fast forward a few years later and the place was opened up by a person with some creative intelligence and some truly interesting buyers getting a one of a kind assortment of merchandise that is worth a look.   The link on Google Maps Street View shows the front window in better detail but frankly neither picture does the window justice.   This is one of the most creative window displays I have ever seen and that is true every time I go there.  

If you are in town, skip the shell shops and the other tourist traps and go to Fast Buck Freddie's, its always entertaining and you may go home with something truly worth your time and effort.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Everything is Five Dollars Picture

Local color and Adaptive Reuse.  When you're in a small city that was forgotten for a bit of time you end up having some rather interesting buildings that might have been torn down in an area that was more financially well off.   This rather interesting brick building has survived hurricanes, floods, winds and water only to end up as a shop that sells everything for five dollars.  That would be what the guy standing in the doorway was saying... over and over and over every time he spotted someone.   I could do without the constant huckstering but the fact the building was still standing was a nice benefit.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A week with Windows 7

I made the jump to Windows 7 this week on one of my laptops.   One of the thing I did in Key West other than take a shed-load of pictures was to help a friend out with his PCs.   He had one with over 100 viruses and needed the pictures out of it, another that he used as a desktop machine, a third that was "Dead" and some others in various repair.   I set him up with the three best, set up his router, and came home with the remainder.

The ones I came home with were better than what I had before, an old Dell Inspiron 600m that is fast enough under Windows XP to do anything I want, but I do budget time with it.   Since I hadn't moved into either of the two new machines I had the luxury of deciding "What do I want to do with all this stuff".   Since I am an IT Manager now, I can actually put these things to use.   The widescreen Gateway with the Core Solo processor which is still faster than the Inspiron is now my video editing PC and will get all the things that I do that take time.  Set it up and let it roll on XP.  It is stable and has a 17 inch wide screen, perfect for my web development under Joomla! (yes its a real name), and Video Editing.

I have this machine that was the fastest of the lot, an Acer Aspire 5610 with 2GB of memory.   It is a 2007 vintage from what I can tell, not new, but in physically good condition and pretty much perfect for the upgrade.   I have a (legal) copy of Windows 7 Professional that I won't share so don't ask.   I started the upgrade then went for a dog walk.  Yes, that easy.   I didn't care what was on the machine and just formatted the extra two partitions after merging them and went out with Lettie The Super Dog for a mile around town.

When we got back, about 30 minutes later the Acer was sitting at a prompt asking me for a Key which I have.   I sent it back on its way after a few more prompts, happily installing and set about my normal morning routine.   It finished while I was in the shower and then I restarted it at the Out Of the Box experience screen - or OOBE (Ooo Bee).  Yes, that is what we call it where you enter in your name for a log in.

Basically in short what I'm saying is that if you want a machine that is clean and you don't want a lot of junk running slowing you down, you will want to do a "Clean Format and Install".  Go buy yourself a "Thumb Drive" of about 16 GB or so, it will cost less than $40, a copy of Windows 7 Pro (Skip the Home stuff, they leave too much out), and install it yourself. 

If you have Vista, you can do an upgrade but I decided I did not want to go that way with it.   I didn't care what was on the machine.   If you do, the Upgrade procedure is not completely clean all the time, you may end up formatting the PC and starting over, so make sure you copy your My Documents tree onto that Thumb Drive (USB Key, Flash Drive or what ever name you wish to call it) so you don't lose your recipes and letters to Mom and pictures of the Dog.   Also make sure you have copies of the programs you installed, back up your favorites and bookmarks to the drive, and just have a good long snoop around your PC and make sure you've saved everything you really DO need before installing.

If you have XP, back everything up because there is no way to do this without formatting your hard drive.   The Install of Win 7 will do it for you, but everything on the hard drive will be gone.

Let me repeat... If you are installing Windows 7 on a machine with XP, you will lose everything so back it up first!

I have used Windows 7 since the betas for about 6 or so months, maybe longer.   I've used it on some really strange hardware.   The biggest question is what would you install it on.   If your machine came with Vista, you should be safe - they typically come with 2 or 3 GB of memory and Win 7 is really happy there.

If you have an older machine, I would say that you probably have XP.  Windows 7 runs just a teeny bit slower than XP.   If you REALLY want Windows 7 then you can gauge for yourself but I'd recommend going to 2 gigs of memory first.

I have run it on a Pentium 3 1GHz laptop (IBM Thinkpad A30) with 1gb of Memory and it was useable but slow, however it was slow on XP.   I wouldn't recommend it for long term use.

My personal opinion is that anything Pentium 4 or newer (Core Solo, Pentium M, Faster Celeron, Core Duo and so forth) with 2GB of memory will run fine.   You really want a faster machine.  Something approximately faster than a Pentium 4 2GHz but it will run on a slower chip and if you have a Pentium 4 "class" machine you're due for a newer PC anyway.

I agree with what Microsoft says the following at this link

If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here's what it takes:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Here's the front gate from yesterday's picture

So here you have it.   This is the front gate of the Hemingway House in Key West.   The picture yesterday was a view through the side fence of the place looking through all the foliage. 

Here you see the front gate and front view of the place.   Well you'd see the front of the house if you were on top of it.   There are a lot of plantings there as are everywhere else this far South.   All it takes is for a bird to pass a seed and you end up with a palm tree growing in a strange place in the yard.   Give it enough time without pulling it out and it becomes a feature in your property.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Guess where this is in Key West Picture

I'll tell you tomorrow.   This is what happens when you have a large home in the Keys and decide to go for a more lush or even natural look.   I'd say it is debatable how much of this is natural because most of it is not native, but it is really quite pleasant to look at.   Down here, plants that you would have in a pot up North that have become stunted due to the lack of sunlight and warmth become invasive and will take over.  Still kind of nice to look at though!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Key West Harbour Picture

Hey, this is fun.   Take a lot of pictures and post them on the net.  :)

Actually that day I walked all over the island and at this point I ended up at the Harbour.  Picture Perfect as they say.  The view here was crystal clear, and I swear I heard someone talk about the SS Minnow leaving for a Three Hour Tour.

They've got a rather picturesque harbour there.   You can see for miles between the boats.   Look down and there are fish in the water which is clear down to about your feet.   I had to dodge a Chicken and a Pelican that particular afternoon which isn't exactly what you'd expect on a normal walk.

All in the name of "Local Color".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Good Night, Gracie - My Senior Moment

I was out walking my Border Collie yesterday morning.  Nothing new about that, I do a walk with her three times a day.   Having a Border Collie means that you will be active, or you will have your house torn up.   I was told by Megs at Angel Pets Rescue in Dauphin County, PA when I got Lettie, Walk her as much as you can, as far as you can, for as often as you can and you'll have a wonderful relationship with your dog.  Maybe not in those words but if you have a Border Collie, or for that matter any other dog, they're words to live by.

Those long walks are long enough that I went back to my old skating habit of listening to either Audio Books or old time Radio shows.   Great habit to get into if you want entertainment and have to do something repetitive at 6AM when your mind is not quite there yet.   I have been listening to Burns and Allen for the last few days, and have been enjoying them.   Nice "Light Entertainment" as the BBC would describe it.

For example the exchange between George Burns and Senor Lee, his hispanic (Most likely "Mexican" back then) musician:

Senor Lee "I've been to Missippi"
George "Missippi?  It is Mississippi!"
Senor Lee "Mrs Sippi?  She got married?"

...And other cornball like that.  Well worth a listen if you get a chance.

As I rounded my half mile point and turned home, I ran into a woman who I see at least twice a week walking her Dachshund or as much as you can walk a Mini Dachshund like that.   We chat pleasantly every time we meet, she seems approximately 40 plus, so I assumed we were contemporaries.   She was asking what kind of music I was listening to and that was where I had to explain that I wasn't.   I was listening to Burns and Allen.   She had no idea who they were.   I know George had been quiet until the 80s and 90s but he'd pop up from now and then, he'd made his 100th birthday barely and went to his reward shortly thereafter and doing his trademark dry wisecracks with Gracie in the great comedy room in the sky.

Not only that she didn't know who George and Gracie were (Come in, I still hear "Goodnight Gracie" in sitcoms to date!) but she didn't realize that there were such things as Variety and Comedy shows on Radio back in the 20s through the 50s.  Fair enough, we all come from different backgrounds, and all have different interests, and we are talking about something that predates my own birth by years.   I guess with the era of 300 channels and nothing on, and satellite radio one tends to forget the history of popular culture from before they were born, even if they were taught it by their older siblings and relatives.

*sigh* Then again I'm currently listening to "Its Good to be the King (rap) by Mel Brooks" from 1982.   I had enough of trance for the day...

Who is Mel Brooks?   Well back in the old days when the world was all in Black and White and Dinosaurs roamed the earth....