Friday, December 31, 2010

Gmmxie Google Doodle and a Happy New Year

Its another weird google doodle.  At least they're topical. 

Ok in case you saw it and didn't realize what it meant, in short it's a Happy New Year wish from Google to the users of the world.


Still don't get it? 

Ok MMXI Is the Roman Numeral for 2011 -

MM is 2000
X is 10
I is 1

The fireworks will also clue you in especially if you live in South Florida.   We don't seem to have any "official" firework celebration in Wilton Manors tonight, but all the same you will see plenty.  The neighbors seem to set them off early and well into the night. 

Luckily Mrs Dog's Selective Deafness means that she won't be quite as rattled by whistles, screams and booms as she was in the past.  A 10 year old border collie who used to be very aware of what I'd say to her had to be called five times this morning after being allowed to water the St Augustine Grass before the sun came up this morning... not like it used to be.

So a Happy New Year to all of you.  I'm saying good riddance to 2010, watering the grass legally both by well water and by dog, and will be enjoying the fireworks.

After all what guy doesn't like a good loud BOOMing fireworks display?

Once we've had enough of that, there's also the "flash mob" at the bars on Wilton Drive.

There will be a New Years Celebration at the Shoppes of Wilton Manors tonight.  The City Commission and the Mayor seem to think that they may be able to stop festivals by ignoring them, but when thousands of people have decided you are having a party, you are having a party.  I'm not quite sure what it will be but there were posters up about Times Square on the Drive with New York vendors and a large screen TV to broadcast the Ball Drop at Midnight. 

My house being so close means I'm going to enjoy the party and maybe you will be there... say hi if you see me...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Did You Celebrate Good Riddance Day?

On December 28, 2010, in Times Square, New York City, People were able to celebrate Good Riddance Day.

Good riddance day is a day where you were to gather up your old mementos and take them down to the big shredder truck and have them mulched into oblivion.   Nothing like a little bit of revisionist history to salve the soul, right?

It's not a bad idea.  Cintas was there with a big truck that you could dump old pictures and have them shredded as well as old love letters and other paper objects.  The idea is that you put all those bad old memories into the box and they come out ready to be recycled. 

I remember seeing this sort of thing in a sitcom years ago.  The female lead had just broken up with the boyfriend and instead of cutting his face out of all of the pictures, or using wite-out to blot him out, she gathered up all of the bits and pieces like pictures and letters as well as a teddybear or two and put them into a trash can.  If I remember the story right, she set the can in the middle of the room, tossed in a match and of course the fire got out of control.

This being a sitcom, the woman hooked up with the fireman who came to put out the fire.

Repeat after me... Awwww how cute.

That moment of "squee" aside, its not a terrible idea if it helps you to move on to purge the physical echos of a bad memory.  While you're at it, it is also a good idea to grab those old bank receipts from the 1900s and shred those.  Anything older than 8 years is of questionable worth anyway other than Deeds or Titles.  You certainly don't want to shred your mortgage paperwork until the debt has been cleared, but the Charge bills from your trip to the Beach back in 2001 is not really needed.

I just had this mental thought of hundreds of jilted New York women standing in line with big boxes of papers commiserating over their old relationships and vowing to start fresh in 2011.

Like many people, I've said good riddance to the last few years.  Between world politics, local politics, and other disappointments, things in general have gone with the economy on the broad view.  That is to say, not very well. 

But hopefully we can all just say Good Riddance to it all and 2011 will be the beginning of the next great boom in the economy.  

Sure, and we'll finally be able to come up with a fair progressive tax policy in the US and the world will be full of butterflies and teddybears.

Ok, the butterflies are plentiful in this part of the world at least.   Just yesterday I was out inspecting the flowers and saw another Monarch Caterpillar on the Mexican Milkweed and ...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Going away? Don't be obvious online!

Since Facebook has become the fad of the decade, the CB Radio of the new Millennium, everyone has jumped on here.   I've been fortunate to be able to keep in contact with my family up North, and my friends here in town, as well as those who have moved away.

Social Media is a great way to stay in touch and let those who you care about be involved with your daily life and life's milestones.

There is a problem with that.  Some folks aren't quite so honest.

There is a trend with criminals to watch Facebook, MySpace, Tagged and many other social media for those who are and who will be out of town.  Once you say "Hey, I'm going on Vacation", you may as well put up a sign on the front door saying "Out of town, Help Yourself!".

Lately there have been a spate of robberies of homes by people saying that they've taken the dream vacation.  The vacation was wonderful, we all were entertained with your pictures, but when you got home, we also shared in your loss of your household items.

Being a bit of a security nut, I do not respond to party announcements online openly.   E-Invites are a great way to send out invitations to a lot of your friends, however they fall into the same bucket.  When 150 people know that you are out of the house from 7pm to Midnight for the New Years Party, someone in that list may be considering that the invitation to your new 46 inch flat screen may be just a bit too tempting.

Ok, maybe I am a bit too careful, but these stories are hitting the press a bit too frequently.  Today, there was a write up in the BBC about this happening in the UK.  I have read about this in the local papers in the US as well. 

Unfortunately you can only see the story in the BBC if you are in the UK or have a proxy pointing you there, but here is the link anyway.

Modern life is complex enough, hopefully it won't get any worse by your coming back from vacation and finding your keepsakes gone. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The New Jeep Egret

Generally I don't like things on my car.  This particular critter I could not bring myself to evict.

I saw out of the corner of my eye a bright white flash.  The weather has been cold, but brilliantly clear.  Looking over at the Jeep that graces my driveway I saw this particular character sunning itself on the soft top.

Having two different emotions I did the right thing, I grabbed the camera. 

The Jeep is an older one, 9 model years old, and for the most part it sits under cover.  The threads that hold the tan vinyl top together are aging and on the stress points, some of them have popped.  The rain won't get in the car and even if it did, it won't be the first time.  Mostly, Jeeps are built to be water resistant.  Where a "Normal" car would short out in a rain storm with open windows, I've driven mine through a thunderstorm being saturated with the roof down.  There were no bridges to hide under on that particular day after all.

There are no clouds today, or when I took this picture.  The egret visited the roof of my Jeep today, and yesterday.  Since it was a little warmer today, it decided that the front yard would be a better resting place, so it stayed under the tree in the front of the yard.

Some Florida homes have plastic pink flamingos.  I have a white snowy egret that visits me in front.  The back yard has its Bougainvilleas. In that back yard plant, the rock doves shelter there watch me with their beady little eyes screaming "MEH! MEH!".  I prefer the Egret.  They're silent and merely look regal instead of stupidly judging you with a MEH as they fly off.

Monday, December 27, 2010

When the Dog tells you It's Too Cold

39 Degrees is cold in anybody's book.   Or rather it should be.  If you paid attention in Science Class, you will remember that 39 Degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature that water is the densest.  If it gets warmer, it expands.  If it gets colder it expands then freezes. 

It was colder outside today than it was in my refrigerator.

It was so cold that the dog told me so.

We have lived here for more than four years.  Mrs Dog knows the neighborhood well and we have a route that we walk three times a day most days.  It gives her the mental stimulation she needs to be... well not mental.  Border Collies need that or else they chew up the house, bark incessantly, or just generally become a nuisance.  She enjoys walking past the bars and being told that she's beautiful because she is.  She enjoys hearing about this person's dog up in Ohio that they miss because they had to leave it with the maiden aunt down the road.

I could walk the route behind her without a leash and she wouldn't mind.  I wouldn't do that because she's losing her hearing and becoming selectively deaf but that's beside the point.  The point is that she knows this particular part of Florida very well.  There's a point in the walk she will tug to tell me that she wants to go for the Long Walk and I'm trying to turn because it's 6:30 in the morning and I haven't had breakfast and want to go home.

You see, that is the point.  She likes to be out.  This seems to have changed with the cold snap that we've finally gotten.  South Florida was warned to duck and cover and this would be a cold one.  There were Hard Freeze Warnings for every single county in Florida the other day.  That includes Mainland Monroe county - which also contains the Keys.  They were excluded, but the mainland wasn't. 

I don't know if it really did get to freeze in Mainland Monroe County, but our thin blood thought so. 

Once we were out in our Winter Survival Gear, we realized that the 30 degrees of Cold Tolerance that we lost since moving here was evident.   Add to the 39 Degree "chill" a 12 MPH constant wind and gusts that took things above 20 MPH and you get the picture.  I was walking and talking to Lettie and telling her that she was better suited to the weather than I am because she had a fur coat but there are parts that had to be freezing and exposed.

That was when I was surprised by her insight.  I got to the end of the shopping center near the house and she turned behind it and headed home.  Directly.  This dog who loves a long walk more than anything else it seems, had had enough of her "lady parts" being frozen off and turned home.   I hadn't realized until then that she was slowing down rapidly and it all became evident.  This is the same dog who in a 7 Degree Above Zero Blizzard in Philadelphia would walk behind me in my lee in order to stay out of the wind.  She's not a "Dumb Animal" at all.

The minute that Mrs Dog got home, she curled up on the mat as tight as she could and conserved as much warmth as possible.  

So when your dog tells you that it is too cold outside there really is only one thing you can do.  Listen!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Palms Swaying Backwards

Yes, they really can sway backwards, but it depends on just how you define "backwards".

In this case, the palms are a symptom of a weather front.  Up North from Boston to North Carolina, they've gotten significant snowfalls.  There are road closures all over the place, it's generally a great day to stay home all along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Here, the result is that as the front came through over night, the temperatures held steady until the morning.  We had some light showers, or rather showers that weren't heavy enough to wake me or the dog.  The roads were covered with a sheen of rain water, and my car that I carefully washed the day before now has water drops on it. 

That's what I get for leaving it out of the Car Port to serve as a Tourist Block for my driveway on a Bar Night.

It is windy now, and quite grey.  Most of the homes around here of this vintage have jalousie windows.  Get too close to one on a windy day and you'll learn why they get replaced.  I was standing in my laundry looking for some items next to the door and I felt the breezes coming in from outside.  Those windows are not very efficient at keeping the weather out, but in an area where power outages happen frequently and the majority of the time you're trying to keep the box of rocks cooler than outside rather than warmer, they're frightfully practical.

Instead of sitting on a beach, in the sun, watching the palms overhead, from a hammock, I'm indoors on a big green chair looking at a patch of areca palms that are leaning toward me rather than away in the breezes.

It could be worse.  I could be trapped in a hotel in Dumfries, VA near Washington, DC.  It is a long way to drive in weather like they got up there and while it is only 3-5 inches of snow that was predicted.  That was yesterday and now the total accumulation predicted to be around 9 inches in DC.   If you extend your travels south to Raleigh NC, they're predicting up to 8 inches. 

I've driven in bad weather down I-95 before, a number of times.  It was always a bad choice.  One car hitting the snow will compact it more and more until you get a corrugated washboarded road bed full of ice and treachery.

To get below the Snow, you have to travel to South Carolina and then you find Ice.

So palms swaying backwards are not so bad.  It will be back to normal for the New Years Weekend.  If you're already here on vacation, enjoy.  Just don't laugh too hard at us Floridians.  Our blood has thinned to water.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Shopping Day

Now that you've opened your new shiny toys what are you going to do with them?

Many people will have gotten things that can be upgraded.  Computers mainly, but there are other items you might need like cables and so forth that you are considering.   Having just gone through that with my neighbors, Mother and Son both getting each other PCs for the holidays, I was asked by both what they may need to use it "better".

The answer is another question - how exactly do you intend to use the thing.  Almost all PCs out of the box are set up with a lot of crapware, trial software and annoyances that once you remove them they go faster.  The exception seems to be the Thinkpad from Lenovo and the Dell Business PCs.  Luckily one of those machines across the street is a Dell Business, the other was a Dell Home.  The difference was night and day.

If you are going to use it to Surf the Web, do Emails, get onto a site like Facebook or any of the other social networking sites, some word processing and spreadsheets, maybe get your finances done, Stop Here.  You're probably good to go with that new shiny computer as it was out of the box.   Maybe stop into a big box store and get some of those memory sticks so you can store your documents and save the money.  Take your family out to dinner with the savings and enjoy your new PC.

But if you've decided that you're going to upgrade that new shiny little PC then today and tomorrow especially and through until the new year will be good times to shop.  You just have to remember to look online and look aggressively.  Don't go to the first big box store's website and pull out the credit card.  One And Done online means you're probably spending more than you should.

I was looking at the online shopping sites and there are a lot of liquidation sales going on, and thought about upgrading one of my PCs since it is the one I use for graphics production.  The memory I need is now $29 a stick for 2GB sticks so for $60 I could have 4GB of memory to wallow around in.  Great, I know that Windows 7 64 Bit will work with that memory and help my video editing and graphics production go faster. 

How do you know if your computer will accept that much memory even at a "liquidation price"?

On Windows, click start and find the "run" box.   Type in the run box "winver" and hit enter.  It will come up and tell you what your machine is running, and may give you more information.  If it says 64 Bit anywhere, you can install as much as your machine will accept - and by now you realize that you will have to find out from your manufacturer by digging into their support sites whether the machine will handle what you intend to upgrade to.  Go ahead and search... you'll need to know.

If you did look and found out you can put in 4GB or 8GB then you may be able to upgrade safely. 

If you have 32 bit windows - it doesn't say 64 bit anywhere in that little windows, you are limited to accessing 3GB of memory.  Don't go past it because you're wasting  your money.

There are a couple of other "don't bother" things to worry about. 

If your new PC is a Netbook it will be very difficult physically to upgrade.  Some of the older ones even had the only memory stick it had soldered to the machine.  Research this and find out whether it is worth the effort.  Netbooks are notorious for being very flimsy - you may get that machine open and never get it working again.  A Netbook simply is not a Thinkpad, they are built for the absolute bottom rung of the market to be sold at a cheap price.  They're the feeder fish of the PC Aquarium.  Great for note taking but don't expect to even use the thing for watching HD Video online.

If you see "Windows 7 Starter Edition" when you started the machine up or looked in winver - don't go above 2GB of memory since it won't address it.  Spend your money on an upgrade to Windows 7 Home or Windows 7 Professional if you're going to use it on a work network with a domain.  Windows 7 has the "Windows Anytime Upgrade" wizard that will do it all automatically, then once your machine is upgraded to a "real" version of Windows, you can fully decide if you want to go with more memory.  Keep in mind, your machine will run Windows 7 Professional slowly if you only have 1GB of memory.  I have a 3 year old Thinkpad that is running Windows 7 Pro with 2GB and it is acceptable and that machine's hardware is still being sold new.

Now that you have negotiated all the Gotcha's where do you find the sales?

I started looking at and and found that is running a sale as well as and which is a good start. 

Dealnews and Techbargains are a good start since they go out and find all those discounts for you and cut some of the work out.  They are those aggregator sites that I was talking about.  They also make sure that the vendors that they are listing are valid and will show you discount codes that may get you free shipping or another discount on top.

Once you order, and the piece arrives, then the fun begins.  If this is all over your head, find yourself a 15 year old kid that will do it for you or throw some money at your neighborhood PC shop.  It may be worthwhile to have someone else do the research for you and just pull the parts out of their parts drawer instead of doing it yourself. 

For the most part, I've had good luck finding on places like instructional videos of how to pull apart machines, upgrade them, and do all sorts of repairs.  If you can find an appropriate video, it will be worth your viewing time.

There you go!  Are you confused yet?  Good and good luck!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Visit to Grandma's Garden

Yesterday I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Grandma's Garden.

Grandma in this case is my Godmother Kathie and her husband Larry who live up in a gated community in the "village" of Wellington, FL.

The visit was our Xmas visit, we were to go out to lunch at a local restaurant, but I had to be On Time since Larry couldn't linger.  Unfortunately he had a Funeral to go to and since they're rarely a pleasant thing, we left for the restaurant almost immediately after my driving up to their place.

As pleasant as Grandma's Garden is, getting there is unpleasant. I have to ask South Florida have you lost your mind?  I could easily make a nice living writing traffic violations everywhere in between Wilton Manors and Wellington.  I've grown used to seeing people not even pretend to see a stop sign.  I am convinced that the mark of a bad driver is the Mercedes Benz nameplate on a car, as well as BMW and Lexus.  Add to all of this, I watched a Delray Beach Police Cruiser speed past me on 441 just to pull into a shopping center and get out to get into a fast food restaurant when I caught up with him later.

All of that aside, my family is a wonderful group of people, and I truly don't visit them long enough or often enough.  It is a 50 mile one way trip, and that is just long enough to make it an annoying trip no matter whether I am being passed by hungry police, or have neighbors in a Mercedes Benz trying to cut me off while merging into traffic on Powerline road.

Hey Mercedes Drivers here's a hint... If I'm in front of you, I have the right of way.  Furthermore, if you're in Wilton Manors on NE 26th St near the Library and the Elementary School and you are behind me, I'm driving 30MPH or less because of the safety issues that we have here.  Tailgating me only makes me slow down.  That particular driver of the Silver C Class was a neighbor from the Central Neighborhood who I have seen around many times before acting like... well a Mercedes Driver.

I'll allow you to use the appropriate four letter word, I try to keep this blog Safe For Work.

At the restaurant we spent a pleasant half hour in the shade of the building eating our lunches and discussing the changes of the world, and making some rather complete plans on how to do things as diverse as restructuring the economy, the demise of the political system into one party in the United States, and of course how to make a perfect cup of coffee using the Turkish Method.

Boil water, add four scoops of espresso grounds to 16 ounces of boiling water, stir for 30 seconds, rest for 30, stir for 30 more and allow to sit for a minimum of 3 minutes.  Strain the coffee, or just pour it until you start to see more grounds than you prefer.  Sweeten and Cream to taste.

After all of that, Kathie and I climbed into the dusty old Jeep Wrangler to go back to Grandma's Garden.  Every time we visit, we have the chance to walk through and see what changes she has seen over the years.  Larry and Kathie are fortunate enough to have a home that backs up to a Nature Preserve.  It is an unnamed little area, and is expected to be left as Nature Intended It.  That means don't plant hibiscus in it, don't mow the grass down... in short leave it completely untended.  Since Wilma went though I have watched the area rebound and begin to green up.  The citrus trees that the neighbors have planted to the edge of the area may be ragged, but the palms and sawgrass are coming back and it is harder to see the homes on the other side.

However there is a little garden that borders the "non-property" that Larry and Kathie and the neighbors have maintained of mostly Florida Native species.  Kathie proudly pointed out that the plants that were added since they have come to live in this little patch of South Florida are mostly Natives and told the story of how they are watching the Landscapers from the Home Owner's Association to make sure that the weed killers they use are not used on the Natives.

The Coleus won't go in that plot, they're reserved for their little walkway by the cracked stone in front of the house.  We are replenishing our own little corners of the world each in our own way.  Taking cuttings with us as we go back and forth, she sent me home with some cuttings of a native plant that was encroaching on the walk way.  I was told to make sure it was truly a Native since she was proud to give me something from her world and suggested I show it to M.E. De Palma for her park.

All of her cuttings are in Wellington waiting to root, and mine are gracing the window waiting for that time as well.  For now, we will wait to see what survives the next cold snap.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Emergency Coleus Delivery

A side effect that we've had with all this cold weather that we had last week and will have again next week is that a lot of the Exotic Species have died off. 

The last time I saw an Iguana in my neighborhood was before the last cold snap, last winter.  The last cold snap was just about as cold so I suspect that most are gone.  We'll never get rid of the things but here's hoping.

I noticed that my Poinsettias in the yard were a little freezer-burned with the edges of the leaves being crispy.  They were in excellent color, but the things are damaged.  A lot of plants have the same problem being plants from a full tropical area. 

I'm in an area that is not supposed to freeze, but I am on the Northern and Western fringe of that area.   The wind blows normally off the ocean and I can tell that the winds are correct today because the trees are bending in the breezes to the West.  That will keep our area a degree or two warmer than the areas over West of I-95.  Move much further inland and there's the bottom of the zone that can see frost, although it really does depend on the wind direction.  If it is coming from the North instead of the East, it is entirely possible we'll have strange cold spots in places like Plantation. 

Go even further out to Sunrise or Weston and the Everglades will moderate the temperatures warmer in Winter. 

Got all that?  No problem... I didn't think so either.  Weather is a subtle thing.  If you go just a little bit in one direction you will find a place that is consistently a degree or two warmer or colder and that can mean the difference of a plant surviving or not. 

Where I lived in Philadelphia I was considering to try to grow a palm tree.  They will grow outside if you have one of two species where I was at, Saw Palmetto or a Needle Palm.  Move to the bottom of that hill or to the East and there were six palms that would survive a sheltered spot over winter.  They won't grow fast but you will have bragging rights that you too can grow a Needle Palm in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Here my most fragile plant is the Coleus.   I grew whole bunches of the things in offices and indoors over the years up North, and they're all over the place here.   The plants can't really survive just a few miles North, they'll get frosted over in a cold snap if they're exposed. 

All of the Coleus I have are from clippings, and I just break a piece off and stick it in the ground where the sprinkler can find them and hope they take.  Mostly they do. 

In the last cold snap I didn't lose any but some of the more exposed ones look more ragged than I'd prefer.  This morning walking outside to look at the Screw Palms and Poinsettias that I keep sticking into the ground to make sure they survive, I noticed that they all looked fine.   I came back in thinking that the Coleus looked Leggy and needed a trim but didn't think too much about it.

Then after checking the Email this morning, I had a message from my Godmother.  Seems like up in Wellington which is about 60 miles North and 15 miles inland, it got too cold for them.  I had a request for an Emergency Coleus replenishment shipment.   So along with the Coffee and Cookies, I  will be bringing up for Xmas three varieties of Coleus Cuttings stuffed into an old Parfait glass.

Driving a Jeep with a giant feather duster worth of Green and Red foliage will be interesting but they'll make it.  Most importantly it will make someone who I care deeply about very happy.

Now just how will I secure those silly things?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Triaging the Gingerbread Man Amputee Ward

After making all this food, somebody has to eat it, right?

I was sitting at the dining room table having lunch and thinking just that.  Working my way through an excellent-if-I-do-say-so-myself BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwich I surveyed the damages of the holidays. 

On the table is two bags of Gingerbread Cookies.  Wonderful things, but after you've had an army of them march through your front door on the way to parties along with Pizelles, Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies, Pecan Brittle, and other home baked wonders, you end up with the leftovers.

Gingerbread cookies are a tricky thing to prepare.  Having watched three batches of the things march their way outside to do battle with the belt line since the holidays got into full swing, I came to realize that it is a wonder that you ever see them in a shop at all.  If done correctly, this recipe tends to be a little soft.  I like soft cookies, in fact I prefer them over crunchy ones for the most part. 

The problem is that Gingerbread Men have little dangly bits hanging off their torso.  Now, do get your mind out of the gutter, the dangly bits I'm talking about are the arms, legs, and head.  You roll the dough out while it is cold, use the cutter to make a large cookie of around 4 ounces, then gingerly slide them onto the baking parchment.  If they break while you are moving them, just wad them back up to be rolled out later because they just won't bake back into one piece without having that break become the death of that ginger-man in transit. 

The trick of getting these off the parchment paper is minimal in comparison to getting them to the destination in one piece.  You see, they will break if you look at them crosseyed.   If you make them thicker it is an invitation to leftovers because they're quite massive.  This explains well enough why commercial gingerbread men are usually hard enough to break a molar since they want to be able to sell them instead of discounting body parts.

I just weighed one and it came out to 4 ounces which would place it at a minimum of 440 calories per.  Watching the scale inch it's way upward since October, I'll be weighing out portions from now on out.

That little recovery ward is a bit too accessible.  Ginger Body Parts easily pop in the mouth every time you pass the table giving a spicy and sweet lift.  Meant as a conscious treat, they've become a subconscious necessity. 

Thankfully the holiday season is winding down.   I got to visit the Oakland Park, FL main post office on Oakland Park Blvd. yesterday and shipped off a box full of goodies to my sister.  There will be no Gingerbread body parts shipped though.   Last year the pizelles that I sent up there became pizelle flour because I didn't use anything to stop the motion.  This year the box is chock full of goodies again, but each type is isolated somehow from the rest. 

Only two more pounds of cookies are to be baked from the original batches.  I know where they're going and I'll be baking one more time before the weekend.  I'll just have to make sure that I don't leave them on the Dining Room Table. 

The Gingerbread Men may be jealous.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Barbecue Pork Tenderloin in a Crock Pot

We have found a recipe here, or rather pieced it together out of parts of others that has been amazingly flexible.  Never really having used a crock pot before, I didn't know how simple it was to make a meat and sauce sort of dish.  I tend to be the baker in the family, and other than grilling, if I am going to make dinner, it will be baked in the oven.  Typically serving sized pieces are all around 400F and around 30 minutes depending on thickness and cut and type of meat.

On the other hand, we have been experimenting with the crock pot that has been languishing in the kitchen under the counter gathering dust.  The recipes for stewing meats seem to be fairly standard.  Brown the meat in the skillet if you want a crust, put the pieces in the crock pot and cover with liquid that works like a marinade.  How much more basic can you get than that?

I did leave a few details out.  For the Pork Tenderloin, since I did the recipe yesterday, I'll give them to you but that is only half of the story.  I recommend starting the recipe, then going to work.  You will be chewing your legs off by mid afternoon.  Around 2pm there was so strong a Barbecue sauce smell in the house I opened the windows to "blow out the house"!

The raw ingredients for this recipe were:
  1. 2 2/3 pound of Pork Tenderloin, uncooked.  This is approximate and you can go up or down as your needs arise.  I did NOT brown the Pork since it won't be served as a piece of meat and will be shredded.
  2. 2 cups of pre-made Barbecue Sauce.  I used the excellent traditional Barbecue sauce that I get from GFS Marketplace. If you are not lucky enough to have a GFS Marketplace nearby either move or use your favorite recipe sauce from another vendor.  I suggest moving.  GFS is a wonderful store and I enjoy visiting the people there.  Vanessa is Great!
  3. 2 cups of water.
That's it.

Now keep in mind, what you're trying to do is get the tenderloin covered mostly with liquid.  You may use more sauce and water if you have a larger tenderloin, or less if your crock pot is a smaller one.  My pot is really quite large and swallows up the dishwasher when I try to be lazy and clean it there.   Recipes will go all the way up to 4 or 5 pounds in a crock pot so this is one of those Judgement Call Recipes.  It doesn't have to be floating in the pot, merely covered with the top peaking out is fine.

Start your crock pot on low heat.  If you use high heat it will get tough.  Remember you don't need 160F for whole pork, only ground pork.  I've seen recommendations varying from 140F to 155F.  Low worked out fine for me, and I'm alive to tell the tale!

Cook the meat for 8 hours in the crock pot. Mine has an automatic warm cycle and will turn the temperature down when it has hit the right amount of time.  If you are home while this happens you can check it from time to time rotating the meat, but it shouldn't be necessary.

When the meat has hit the warm cycle and is properly cooked, drain most of the liquid into a sauce pan. You will be left with your pork in the crock pot mostly dry.  Leave a little puddle in the bottom of the crock pot so it doesn't dry out.

Cook the liquid down on medium heat until most of the water boils out and the sauce returns to a proper consistency.   I had to do this last night because it was too wet.  The alternative is to use more BBQ sauce and less water, but the 8 hours of cooking will boil off a significant amount of water on its own.  If you use all Sauce and no water, you may end up with a caramelized goo in the bottom of the crock pot.  This worked for me, and the step took around 15 minutes or so at medium heat - a 5 out of 8 on an electric range.

Pour the reduced sauce over the pork and shred the pork with a fork. Mix well and have fun.  The pork should be very easy to shred with a standard dinner fork.  Mine literally fell apart while doing this and left me with the results in the picture even though the picture looks like its Already Been Chewed.  You know, the ABC food you joked about when you were a kid.

Serve and enjoy!

The end results were amazing.  I haven't had more tender Barbecue Pork ever and I have some excellent barbecue joints around here in South Florida.  This was about as painless a recipe as you can get.  I'll be having pulled pork barbecue sandwiches for the next couple days, and froze half of it in a ziploc bag.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting Up To Speed - Humor

Usually when I post humor, it's from my friend Velma up in Philadelphia.  Today instead of being an "Open Letter To My Sister", this posting turns my blog into an "Open Letter From My Sister".

Pat's responsible for this posting.  Thanks, Pat!

 (I like WAITT and ROFLCGU personally)

In case you want to *try* to GU2SPD (Get Up To SPeeD)....especially
with the rise of social media, more and more of us  'senior citizens' are texting and tweeting. Here is a guide to some of the codes they use in communicating with peers:
ATD: At The Doctor's
BTW: Bring The Wheelchair
BYOT: Bring Your Own Teeth
CBM: Covered By Medicare
CUATSC: See You At The Senior Center
DWI: Driving While Incontinent
FWB: Friend With Beta Blockers
FWIW: Forgot Where I Was
FYI: Found Your Insulin
GGPBL: Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low!
GHA: Got Heartburn Again

HGBM: Had Good Bowel Movement
IMHO: Is My Hearing-Aid On?
LMDO: Laughing My Dentures Out
LOL: Living On Lipitor
LWO: Lawrence Welk's On

OMMR: On My Massage Recliner
OMSG: Oh My! Sorry, Gas.
ROFLCGU: Rolling On The Floor Laughing and Can't Get Up
SGGP: Sorry, Gotta Go Poop
TTYL: Talk To You Louder
WAITT: Who Am I Talking To?
WTFA: Wet The Furniture Again
WTP: Where's The Prunes?
WWNO: Walker Wheels Need Oil

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time to Replace the Dying Hard Drive, or More F. U. FPL

It seems that that power spike that I had hit me the other day did some lasting damage.  Now it is time to spend money that I don't really have to spare on a new hard drive. 

What happened was that the other day, the laptop just "quit".  No warning ... just on one second, dead the next.  There were various appliances that were blinking, flickering, and coming back on line so it wasn't just the laptop going strange.

It's an old beast, about 5 years old, and it can only take so many power surges. 

Yesterday I went after some files and found that they had been corrupted.  Windows 7 just could not read them.

So here's the drill in case you're in the same place.

First, on Windows you need to run a "Check Disc".  Back in the old days you'd be in DOS and type in CHKDSK C: /R and walk away and it would create some more files out of the bad sectors, mark the old ones and you'd be good for a while.   Now you basically do the same thing.  Open a command prompt (you know that old window that you never really need any more) and type that string in.  It will argue with you and say hey dummy you're using the machine how about I do this on the next restart.  Ok, I'm a dummy, I'll do it that way. 

Close any programs, windows or other "stuff" you have running.  You will want full control over your machine.

Click Start, All Programs (Or Program Files), Accessories, Right Click on Command Prompt and come down the list and select "Run In Administrator Mode".

If you got an access denied message, you forgot to run the program in Administrator mode.

Your screen will go blank and ask you if you really want to run this (User Access Control window) so click yes.

Now type that in again... and you'll get the restart message.  Type "y" and hit enter.

If you have a hidden partition on your disc drive, and many do, you can do the same on that one.  Since mine is the "E" Drive, I type in "CHKDSK e: /R" and hit enter and it happily went on it's way.

Ok, now you have a hidden partition checking, and a scheduled check for your C drive.  If you have a data partition on this drive, you probably are too advanced for this exercise but thanks for reading - you know you'll want to do this on all of your hard discs, so select them one after another.

Second, when your checks are done, and you have done your data back up to another computer, it is time to restart the computer with the problem drive.  Go make some coffee, tea, or bake some bread because this will take a lot of time.   When the computer comes back up, a program will start and begin to take you through the five steps of a proper Chkdsk.  You may have errors, you may not, but it will take time.  It easily could take hours. 

This is something that you really should do once in a while, on a regular basis.  I'm going to be doing it today once I do an orderly shut down... You see, my backup last night failed on a file that was corrupt.  I'm lucky that that one and another were two small files that will not be a problem if I lose....

Wish me luck!  I'll be out at the computer store today or tomorrow pricing hard discs.  Ugh... I already know what newegg wants for it.  500GB SATA 7200rpm 16mb cache laptop drive at $70 per.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Am Why Radio Died

As I sit here, I am listening to Christmas music on a radio station in St Lucia in the Caribbean.  I had changed over from an excellent Soca Radio Station in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  Earlier I was listening to a Disco internet station broadcasting from London, UK.

During the week I also listen to Stephanie Miller for Progressive Talk.  I have to listen to Green 960 in San Francisco, California in order to do this. 

When I want contemporary dance music, I hop onto and I have my choice of dozens of music formats.

So why do I do all this?  Why are all of these channels, plus my Sirius subscribed channels all programmed into our Logitech Squeezebox Classic?

Simply put, Radio in the US Stinks.  The RIAA and Clear Channel have killed it.  The internet made it possible for people to leave broadcast radio stations behind. 

Why is that all important?  Billions of dollars were lost when the new markets of internet radio were created.  With a little effort, I can listen to a Souskous radio station in the Congo.  It's an African music format that most people in the First World haven't ever heard of so why not listen to it from it's home?

What happened was that before the internet age, you were limited to what was broadcast from your nearest cities.  If you were stubborn like I was, you could get a shortwave radio and listen to other nations at night, but that was difficult.  Later when the wrong policy of allowing businesses to buy up a majority of the radio stations in a given market happened, consolidation of music meant that you ended up with 10 radio stations owned by Clear Channel in one given city, and they all sounded the same.  If you wanted variety, for the most part you were stuck.  Those stations that were owned by minorities were bought up and the music became much less diverse, much less listenable, and much more corporate.

An example of that was WDAS FM in Philadelphia.  An EXCELLENT radio station serving the African American Community, it was widely listened to by both black and white folks and was an engine for showcasing black artists and making the beauty of black music to the broader audience.  Clear Channel bought it up and within a year it was... bland. 

I haven't listened to it since I moved to Florida and would prefer to remember it as it was ... before it died.

The internet started up, people started downloading music and the music companies freaked out.  They still haven't realized that according to most independent groups purchase of music continued to increase and their monopoly continued to give them income.  It didn't pay the artists any more, but they were getting rich and giving nobody any value.

As radio station property values crashed, the trend was to go to cheaper formats and centralized broadcasting.  All the sudden the contests that were run out of your city were national contests with slightly more money but you had to compete with someone from Idaho and Texas and call a toll free number in New York or somewhere else.  It was completely depersonalized.

So if you're listening to something that has been dumbed down and depersonalized, why not look for something else.   The final straw was when they pulled the plug on Progressive Talk for me.  There was a very good Progressive Talk station here in Miami.  The so called brains at Clear Channel swapped the format for sports talk.  How many sports stations does one market need?  There are now five.  I guess you listen to a different one each morning on the way to work.

Or you do what most people do, find other ways to get your music or talk fix.

The increase in first MP3 Players like the iPod, then the Smart Phone Revolution meant that you could carry a lifetime of music on your phone and plug it into your car stereo and forget the rest.  I know of people who simply forgo bringing CDs or listening to "terrestrial radio" while driving locally let alone for a long trip. 

Personally I am lucky.  There are three HD radio stations here in the Miami radio market I can listen to to get my fix of in car entertainment so I don't have to bring along a lot of equipment. 

But for most, Broadcast Terrestrial Radio is a study in how a marketing engine lost it's own market.  They left their audience, so the audience left the market and demanded iPod compatibility and an "Aux In Port" in the new cars.

So for now, I'm about to switch over to an all trance music station on ... care to join me?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Back your data up - or F.U. FPL

I am not having a good technology day.   It started yesterday mid morning around this time. 

I was making a serving of grits in the microwave and it boiled over.  Spectacularly so.  There was grits all over the microwave that dried into a concrete that the city of Portland would be proud of.  I managed to clean that up, and promised to really clean the inside of the microwave later. 

After spilling the boiling water over the top of the coffee maker and making a mess that later cleaned up easily, I settled in to do the morning routine. 

Later I took a break and set off the smoke detector while roasting some coffee. 

Some would say that I'm being clumsy and should get out of the kitchen so I did.

I settled in the chair with the old creaky laptop and went through the rest of the morning and the lunch hour, without incident.

Part of the morning routine is maintaining a spreadsheet of everything I have done in the Job Search.  There's a significant amount of data on that sheet, and I tend to back it up on an infrequent schedule.  The last time was November 29, as I was going to go to Key West.   When that trip fell through, I thought nothing more of it, since I could keep that little SD card inside the slot securely.

Not so very securely it turns out.

I was sitting in that same chair, surfing, looking at job sites, considering whether to write something for the blog, and listening to some music online.  Trinidad All Stars, a wonderful competition that happens annually in Port of Spain Trinidad was playing some bouncy Steel Drum music through the speakers on the laptop when "it" happened.

The laptop shut off.

I don't mean it went through an orderly shut down.  It didn't say "Battery is low" and wanted me to plug it in.  It didn't do the windows 7 shutdown routine.  It was as if some invisible ghost unplugged the laptop from the wall, removed the battery, and off it went.  I still can get more than an hour out of this battery and the laptop is more than 3 years old.

Uh Oh.

There was more to it than that.  At that very moment the music shut down on the internet radio, the stereo amplifier snapped off, and the house was briefly filled with the hum of the refrigerator - coming back up to speed.

We had taken yet-another power hit. 

This power hit also reset the clock on the microwave and some other clocks in the house.  They were flashing 12:00 at me and let me know that what ever happened, was big.

I'm used to this, I have lost two desktop computers in FPL's very dirty power.  I have written about this before, and moved to laptops because I thought them safer with the power going through a brick on the floor that is plugged into a surge suppressor power strip.  This took out the music - which didn't come back until much later when I unplugged the Logitech Squeezebox Classic and the stereo amp from the power conditioner.

I was NOT happy.  I didn't see anything wrong with the laptop but had to go through a couple restarts before it felt stable again and didn't realize that there was more to happen.

What happened wasn't discovered until this morning.  The old Acer Aspire laptop has a small slot.  The slot is for an "SD Chip" and that was where I kept my job search data.  Last backed up November 29th.  I couldn't get to the chip on windows 7 and it helpfully asked to format it.  NO!  After unplugging it and plugging it and cursing FPL, Thomas Edison, IBM, and the Chinese for making most of this technology, I put the chip in an older windows XP machine. 

Still nothing.  I had a "fried" memory chip.

I have two others.  The other chips are 8GB each, this one was only 256MB.  I was thinking that if it were fried, I got enough life out of the little Sandisk 256 Meg chip so I could toss it and move onto one of the 8GBs.  Finding that none of them had a more recent backup, I formatted the chip and got on with life.

If this could happen to me with many years of expertise in PC and Computer technology, it can happen to you.  Florida Power and Light is notoriously unstable in this are so if the data is worth keeping, it is worth saving.

Here is how I will do that henceforth:

1) I have moved the data backup onto the laptop hard drive and will work from there as the "master".

2) When through the daily work, I will copy the data back out to the 256MB chip and then remove the chip.  It will now be my daily backup not the daily source of the data.

3) Weekly copy the data from the laptop to the other two 8GB chips I have hidden.

You see, backing your data up is very important.  It can get anyone. 

If you're moving into South Florida, get yourself some power conditioners and preferably a power conditioner with a battery backup.  They aren't terribly expensive and will save you what I went through.  The power conditioner will take the hit and you will be able to recover without spending extra time or money on new equipment. 

Remember my own personal experience and my own personal opinion - FPL has Dirty Power.

The first time I wrote about it is here for Part 1.  The second time for Part 2 is here

Good luck keeping your data safe!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Helpful Hints for Winter Car Care

Here is a list of helpful hints I got sent today about care care for cold weather.  While we all "froze" here in South Florida last week, it isn't going to Ice Up in Wilton Manors.  We just don't get a freeze.  But for those of you who are driving North for the holidays, and you know who you are, have a close look!

Thanks, Velma!

Helpful Hints For  Winter

Keep  your headlights  clear with  car wax! Just wipe ordinary car wax on your  headlights. It contains special water repellents  that will prevent that messy mixture from  accumulating on your lights - lasts 6 weeks.  ( I used this one a lot on the windshield.  It made the wipers more efficient too since water beads off! Bill)

Squeak-proof your wipers with  rubbing alcohol! Wipe the wipers with a cloth  saturated with rubbing alcohol or ammonia. This  one trick can make badly streaking &  squeaking wipers change to near perfect silence  & clarity.  (Rubbing alcohol will dissolve rubber so you're basically "sharpening" them by removing the oxidized bits.  Bill)

Ice-proof your  windows with vinegar! Frost on it's way?  Just fill a spray bottle with three parts  vinegar to one part water & spritz it on all  your windows at night. In the morning, they'll  be clear of icy mess. Vinegar contains acetic  acid, which raises the melting point of  water---preventing water from freezing!  (Just keep it away from the paint to be careful.  Bill)

Prevent car doors from freezing  shut with cooking spray! Spritz cooking oil  on the rubber seals around car doors & rub  it in with a paper towel.  The cooking  spray prevents water from melting into the  rubber.  (It creates a barrier so the water will bead up since Oil and Water Don't Mix.  Bill)

Fog-proof your  windshield with shaving cream! Spray some  shaving cream on the inside of your windshield  & wipe if off with paper towels. Shaving  cream has many of the same ingredients found in  commercial defoggers

De-ice your  lock in seconds with hand sanitizer! Just  put some hand sanitizer gel on the key & the  lock & the problems solved!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Adopt a pet for the holidays - Really Cute Video

Saving Lettie from the no kill shelter was one of the best things I ever did.   So when I saw this video today, I was laughing like a fool and had to share it.  

It comes from Best Friends Animal Rescue out in Utah.  These are the folks had a TV show on a while back that may return that shows how they're doing The Good Work by rescuing dogs from all over the country that are on "death row" because they were violent or mistreated.   They are also the ones who took in the pit bulls from that disgusting Michael Vick's fighting house of horror Bad Newz Kennel.  The dogs didn't all survive and now that low life is a Philadelphia Eagle, showing just how money talks and the animals lose out. 

If you want my opinion, and since you are here you do, Michael Vick should be sentenced to cleaning out kennels for the rest of his life.  Karma's a bitch ain't it?

I won't put those pictures up, they're too shocking.  Needless to say, there are many dogs and cats that will be bought from pet stores, which means they most likely came from a puppy mill.  Better to not support that business and give a pet a second chance.

One other link to share.  If you really are thinking that you need a new friend for the holidays, hit up Petfinders.  I did and found Lettie out in North Dauphin, PA at Angel Pet Rescue.  I was bored at work and let me tell you once you get hooked reading the stories of these Dogs, Cats, Birds and even Horses, you may end up like I did - with a new friend.  She saved my life more than once and if she'd tolerate another dog I'd adopt one.  For now, we're a one dog, one parrot home.

Enjoy the video and adopt if you're going to get a pet.  Make a day of it and take your loved one to meet the deserving dogs, cats and other animals at the rescue center.  You'll be happy you did.

Oh and a style note.  I know that the video blew out my formatting.  I was going to resize it but I decided to leave it as it is.  Its so CUUUUUUUUUUTE!  :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Out Of Box Experience


This month I have bought two new PCs.  Not for me, but for a neighbor family.  They each came to me one after another and asked if I'd get them a machine for the other.  Mother and Son.  They thought I'd be able to figure it out without all the salesmanship crap that comes along with the Brick and Mortar experience.

The whole process of buying anything big and technical whether it is a computer, TV set, or even a car can be a total nightmare.   Luckily if you play it smart and do your research a lot of that nonsense can be skipped. 

I'm not a salesman, I have done professional procurement for a technical organization more than once.  That's all a fancy way of saying I got nothing but entertainment and I'm not a salesman.

It was heartwarming to watch mother give son the Laptop that I had bought for them with their credit cards.  It arrived yesterday afternoon while the son was out at work.  Mom asked if I shouldn't inspect it and since the box was almost pristine I told her no I think we can hold off.  So last night the son came over and fixed the drippy sink and while he was at that, mom came by to eventually give him the gift.

He needed the machine because he broke the old one.  Rather spectacularly.   He was on the bed surfing and called the dog up onto it.  40 pound pudgy pit bull love sponge waddled over and jumped onto the bed sending the old laptop flying.  Ok, maybe 50 pounds.  I haven't seen the old machine but I suspect I'll end up with it since I can get some parts out of that one to match my old laptop.

He was so embarrassed about having broken two machines that he didn't want to ask me to find him a new one.  The prior desktop machine broke in almost the same fashion when he turned to talk to the dog and he knocked the tower off the desk and onto the floor. 

They don't like that.

The only thing I didn't like out of the whole experience is that when you buy a computer these days complete, you are loaded up with a lot of trial and "complementary" software.  I ended up doing exactly what I do with all new machines - let the new owner get it started and enter in their info, then show them why I'm removing software and replacing things.  Of course you may find some use for some of the software, but in my opinion these things had to be removed.

Off the top of my head, I removed a "Dell Toolbar" that was useless, a cloud based calendar, and McAfee virus scan.  Why a "home user" who does not work in management needs a cloud based calendar I will never know!

McAfee virus scan has porked up into a pudgy ball of crapware that must die.  It used to be free way back in the dusty old DOS days, long before the internet was a gleam in Al Gore's eye.  Then it went subscription based.  Everyone requires a Virus Scanner.  Mac OS users included.   McAfee is a poor choice as well as AVG.  They get in the way of you trying to use your machine, they slow it down being resource hogs, and generally cost money.  

While I was removing McAfee, I immediately went to Microsoft's site and installed the free Microsoft Systems Essentials.   It's fairly minimalistic and I run it on all my machines both virtual and physical, laptop and desktop.  I'm very happy with it and I tend to look at Microsoft second, not first for "new and cutting edge" software.   Just make sure you have a legal copy of Windows XP or newer and it will work quietly in the background helping you hide from viruses.

Removing AVG from an old machine got a noticeable performance boost for that machine, I noticed that by the time McAfee was banished and the Reboot happened, the computer was performing like it was a new machine.  Funny thing, it actually was a new machine!

There are other things that I removed last night such as "Wild Tangent".  This is a group of games that are free.  Everyone plays games on their machine and if they're telling you that they don't, then I'd question their trustworthiness.  It's all in how you define "game" anyway.  One person's needed tool can be just a copy of XP that is running in a window that they're learning how to configure.  Skip over to Windows 7 since the world is.

Wild Tangent is another one of those "must die" applications in my opinion.  The reason is that they are reputed to be nothing more than "ad ware" that watches what you do and reports back home.  They haven't come clean with what they're doing with your information that I have heard and I don't like to be watched for any purpose let alone advertising.

To get rid of these applications, go into your control panel.  In Windows 7 once you have the control panel running, look for "Programs and Features".  It will bring up a list of everything that Windows knows is installed, officially.  It won't show you any viruses.  Locate the things that you know need to go away like any toolbars for Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask or any of the other websites.  Find Wild Tangent, any other thing that you know you don't need like trial programs.   If you doubleclick on the name you will get the option to delete the program. 

Remember all of those programs will slow you down.  It may buy you another year of use out of that computer that you already paid for.  It is your computer, and you have control over it.  Most people who have a computer coming this holiday season will have a new machine that is wildly overpowered for normal every day use.  In fact that machine from last year is probably still overpowered for daily use. As long as it is a full Core 2 Duo processor there's probably no reason to replace it.  The new i3, i5, and i7 machines are great, and you should be able to get 3 to 5 years use out of any of them.  Atom based machines are going to be slow no matter what you do with them so be aware of that.  Anything "netbook" is something you will probably be frustrated with unless you are using it to take notes on a train or in class or perhaps use for light surfing - one thing at a time.

If all of this has you curious and want to try speeding your machine up please be hesitant and prove it for yourself.  Pick a name out of that list, then go over to your favorite browser, do a search on what it is and learn what that program does.   If you don't think you need that particular game or toolbar, you are probably right.

Just be careful because this is where you could delete something that you really do need.  Your mileage may vary and of course, this is at your own risk.  This is how I personally do it and now the neighbor has a shiny new PC that runs even faster.

After all with any opinion or blog posting you get what you pay for and you're reading this post for free.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sometimes a Cigar is Just A Lighthouse

In Provincetown, MA, on Commercial Street there is this wonderful old barn of a building.  Inside there's a shop unlike anything else in the world.  At least it was there in 2000 when I got these cookie cutters.  You see they're light houses.  

The place sold all sorts of Marine goodies like diving gear and ceramic mugs that looked like they were from the Titanic and Deck Prisms and weather monitoring equipment.

So since this was the season to make cookies, yesterday the house was chock full of Gingerbread men.   I've made my chocolate chip, we made pizelles and these gingerbread cookies.  The "A" cookies will go as gifts.  The "B" cookies, the imperfect ones, will stay home and make me fat.

The thing is that the cutters were sold as Lighthouses.  That is my story and I'm sticking to it. 

I've made rude Gingerbread men before.  Some were even anatomically correct... and for equal rights I made anatomically correct Gingerbread women.  Curvy and beautiful in their brown skin, they'd smile at me like a Mona Lisa beckoning me with their belly buttons and their ... ahem, smile.

The Lighthouse cookies on the other hand are unintentionally rude.  Tilt them to their side and they look... well yummy.   I got into a discussion about these cookies with some friends in Facebook when Kevin posted their picture.  It went from G Rated to R in an eyeblink. 

So if you think they look amusing, hey that's what I'm here for.  I'll take a cookie for the team.

But remember as Freud said: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tis the Season to Bake Cookies

It is December.  The Holiday Season.  It means that while everyone else is running round ragged at shopping malls, growling at people who took that last gift that they needed for just that special person...

We're baking cookies.

Last week, we baked Pizelles, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Pecan, and Gingerbread Cookies.   We still have more of all to make between now and the New Year and will be making Pecan Brittle and roasting a lot of extra coffee.

Why all of this?  I got started being the odd man out years back when I was getting ready for parties.  I've always had something of an aptitude for baking as those who have tasted my goods will attest.  It got to the point where in the summer I was hearing about last year's cookies and "will you please just give me a box of cookies for xmas?".  I turned myself into "the little old lady with the recipes" a while back and told everyone that they were getting "Care Packages" of baked goods for one holiday and that I encouraged those who were getting one to try to be creative in kind.  Not everyone can bake, but I did get some home made goods that I have to this day from friends and family. 

That was back in the 1980s, and I'm still doing it to this day.  A batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies is around 100 cookies, add pecans and it becomes around 144.  A tray of Pecan Brittle can be as much as 3 pounds of sugary goodness. 

Now when a home cooked meal means stopping in the first aisle by the door in Publix near the house at Five Points and getting a pre-roasted Chicken, some Red Velvet Cake, and a bottle of wine on the way home, a little something truly made by hand can be unexpected.  While Publix is an excellent supermarket, I find that the reality of the profit motive means that they skimp a little and use ingredients that aren't quite as good as I would.  Ironically I do buy my ingredients from Publix as well as GFS, so I do know what they can do if they applied themselves.

Somehow I don't think they are going to be churning butter to make a cake. 

I on the other hand can say "Been there, done that." The home churned butter really does change the flavor of what ever you're baking.  It is well worth the extra 10 minutes.

After all, if you're going to bake for someone for the holidays you had better make sure that it's going to be "Mindbendingly good"... even if I do say so myself!  ;-)

Now all I have to do is decide if I want to send along Decaf or Regular home roasted coffee...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More Blonde Jokes

Yesterday, I did tell the blondes to read this SLOWLY didn't I?   Well here's some more bad blonde jokes for your entertainment.

A highway  patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway. Glancing  at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the  wheel was knitting!  Realizing that she was oblivious  to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper cranked down his  window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled, 'PULL  OVER!' 
'NO!' the blonde yelled back, 'IT'S A  SCARF!'
A  Russian, an American, and a Blonde were talking one day. The Russian  said, 'We were the first in space!'
The American said,  'We were the first on the moon!'
The Blonde said, 'So  what? We're going to be the first on the sun!'
The Russian  and the American looked at each other and shook their heads.   'You can't land on the sun, you idiot! You'll burn up!' said  the Russian. 
To which the Blonde replied, 'We're not  stupid, you know. We're going at  night!'
A  blonde was playing Trivial Pursuit one night. It was her turn. She  rolled the dice and she landed on Science & Nature. Her  question was, 'If you are in a vacuum and someone calls your  name, can you hear it?'  
She thought for a time  and then asked, 'Is it on or off?'
    A girl was  visiting her blonde friend, who had acquired two new dogs, and  asked her what their names were. The blonde responded by saying  that one was named Rolex and one was named Timex.    Her friend said, 'Whoever heard of someone naming dogs like  that?'
'HELLLOOOOOOO......,' answered the  blond.  'They're watch  dogs!'

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Blonde Jokes

A friend sent me some Blonde Jokes.   If you're blonde read them very slowly.  If you're not maybe you'll get a chuckle out of them...

Two blondes  living in Oklahoma were sitting on a bench talking, and one blonde says to the other, 'Which do you  think is farther away...  Florida or the moon?' 
The other blonde turns and says  'Helloooooooooo, can you see Florida   ?????'
A blonde  pushes her BMW into a gas station. She tells the mechanic it  died. 
After he works on it for a few minutes, it is  idling smoothly.
She says, 'What's the story?'
He  replies, 'Just crap in the carburetor' 
She asks, 'How  often do I have to do  that?'
A police  officer stops a blonde for speeding and asks her very nicely if he  could see her license.  She replied in a huff, 'I wish you guys  would get your act together. Just yesterday you take away my license  and then today you expect me to show it to  you!' 

There's  this blonde out for a walk. She comes to a river and sees another  blonde on the opposite bank. 'Yoo-hoo!' she shouts, 'How can I  get to the other side?' 
The second blonde looks up  the river then down the river and shouts back, 'You ARE on the  other  side.' 
A gorgeous  young redhead goes into the doctor's office and said that her  body hurt wherever she touched it. 
'Impossible!'  says the doctor. 'Show me.'
The redhead took her finger,  pushed on her left shoulder and screamed, then she pushed her  elbow and screamed even more. She pushed her knee and  screamed; likewise she pushed her ankle and screamed.  Everywhere she touched made her scream.
The doctor  said, 'You're not really a redhead, are you? 
'Well,  no' she said, 'I'm actually a blonde.' 
'I thought  so,' the doctor said. 'Your finger is broken.'

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Howard Stern's Contract was Renewed for Five Years

Why is that important? 

First off, I have a Sirius radio.  I would not like to see it go "dark" and become an expensive paperweight.  I'm one of those who thinks that the star power that Mr Stern brings to the service, regardless of whether you listen to him or not, means there will be increased "Mindshare".  Increased mindshare means more people considering paying for radio.  More people paying for radio means Sirius may be a going concern. 

Secondly, I actually do listen to Stern.  Once in a while, when I feel I need comic relief, he's a great change of pace.  Whether I agree with him is another matter and usually I agree with him when he speaks politically.  His fixation on the bizarre isn't really for me, so I'll switch off to something else more musical and get back to work... what ever that may be.  Others like that, and great, we all will be able to hear about Baba Booey for another 5 years or how the interns are getting on in NY.  If you never have had a chance to listen to him talk to George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) you are missing something that is a one of a kind experience in Radio.  He has to be one of the best interviewers on the air.

Thirdly I do think that Howard Stern is worth it monetarily to Sirius.   Without him, they would not have the 20 million subscribers that they do now.  For each of them who do not have a permanent subscription (like I do), they are getting $20 a month.  Doing the admittedly sloppy math, that means Sirius is taking in $200 million a month.  It takes Sirius 2 weeks to pay for Howard's old salary for the year. 

Without Howard, Sirius would probably not be a going concern, with him... I can listen to trance, disco, 40s music or Progressive/Liberal Talk without plugging in the iPod.

So for five more years... enjoy what ever you listen to.  After five years... who knows.

Now if they could just get the damn DJs to shut up I could listen to the Sirius radio longer!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Papering the Cookies

A lot of times you find yourself rediscovering things.  They may be commonplace to many people, but a lot of times that sort of thing is one of those 'out of the loop' situations.

I have been baking cookies for decades at this point.  The recipe I use is predictably good and very flexible.   I use home churned butter when I am giving them as gifts, commercial unsalted butter when I'm in a rush.  Home churned butter, or even farmer's butter will make the flavor pop and add depth to the end result.  I've had some commercial butters taste like candle wax so I'm leery of using it.

I bake the way I was taught when I was a teenager.  We all were to go through home economics in Junior High School where we'd bake all sorts of things.  Always being an exacting and scientific person, even if I do say so myself, baking was better for me than cooking.  Baking is a process where adding just a little extra of an item will make the end results turn out flat or inedible.

A rule of thumb - if you have a new recipe, follow it exactly and take special care if you are baking.  You can always "tweak it" the next time.  I have found that Lemon Meringue Pies are particularly annoying for me so I'm taking a break from that....

On the other hand, being stubborn, I bake the way I was taught.  Grab the cookie sheet, line it with aluminum foil and deal with the mess later.   My cookies would stick to the sheet if they were under done or just a soft recipe, so I learned to make sure they were stone cold before removing them from the foil. 

Yesterday I made a gross of cookies.  144 of the things.  That is a lot of aluminum.   This time though I did something different.   I used Parchment Paper.  Ok, sure, you have heard of it, and perhaps seen it in the baking aisle.  I never really gave it any thought because that wasn't how I was taught. 

One use and I am converted.

There are all sorts of new products from non stick teflon cookie sheets to silicone sheets to make this chore easier.  I can't use Teflon because if I scorch it, it will kill my parrot and Teflon will off-gas "volatiles" if it gets too hot.  In order for me to use the stuff, I have to have the windows open and only use low heat.  It isn't possible for me to bake with it as a result. 

The Parchment paper was cheap enough to try so next time I go to the GFS store, I'll look for the Commercial Sized Rolls.   When I pulled the first batch of cookies out of the oven, they actually moved when I banged the cookie sheet against the wall of the oven.  I was shocked how easy they came up off of the paper.

I'll admit it, I don't know everything, but what I know I share.   Since "Tis The Season" to bake, give it a try, you may be shocked how good it worked for baking.   Just keep it out of the oven if the recipe calls for 425F or more.  Paper will burn at 451F - Remember the book "Farenheit 451"?  After all, the temperature in the oven may not be as accurate as you think it is and there are always hot spots.

Good luck and let me know if you try it!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Coldest Day and the Beach

While the North shivers in their cold, we shiver in ours.  So I thought I'd show you a picture of the beach today. 

You could go down there around mid day and it would look pretty much like this although I doubt very many people would be out under an umbrella.  It won't hit 70 today, in fact it won't for a couple more days and today and tonight will be the coldest day we've had since last winter. 

I used to chuckle at my Floridian godmother's description of how bone chilling weather could be when the high didn't crack 70 and it was all the way down to 40.  Now I understand it.  After living here for four years, my blood has thinned to water and I just can't see going outside if it is below 60 unless I have on a coat that would have taken me down to around freezing when I lived up there. 

If the iguanas had returned, and they haven't to my neighborhood thankfully, they'd be falling from the trees like the mangoes in season.  Instead the neighbors out walking the dogs in the 6AM 40 degree cold were wrapped up like hand grenades inside of fur lined parkas and complaining.  Just like I was. 

So if you're up North laughing at me, it is all relative.   I was laughed at by some guy in a T shirt last night as I walked past the shoppes.  He was from North Dakota and told me that yesterday's weather (High of 70, low of 55) can happen in mid summer while here it is fully winter. 

Then again I don't want to live in a place where soap bubbles freeze outdoors.  If you're up there and your thermometer says it is below freezing, you can try it - blowing soap bubbles outdoors.  They freeze solid and shatter when they hit the ground.  I used to do it all the time in a snow storm.  Sure, it looked "eccentric" but it was fascinating to see a soap bubble shatter and look like an empty egg shell on the pavement.

There you go... Palm Trees and frozen soap bubbles do not mix.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Predawn Tacky Trees Sparkle

We have all seen these things.  Walk through any discount store at this time of the year and you will find a "Prelit Fiber Optic Christmas Tree". 

These trees started out being small and now are as big as a grown adult man or more.  Usually they are about as appealing visually as a bottle brush.  The needles look fake, the fiber optics are very obvious, you can see the support wires for the limbs.

In short they look the Personification of Tacky in a box.

Everything is perspective though, and I think I have found where that ugly little pile of plastic has a perfect use.  Outdoors.

From a distance, that little tree sparkles and shimmers.  It looks like a million lights are coming to life to greet you and dance for your pleasure alone.  This particular tree has a color wheel into which the tree is jammed.  The color wheel goes through the rainbow very quickly so instead of it being all blue, then with a swipe changing to red for example, it shimmers in psychedelic brilliance. 

The picture above is that particular tree, and no I didn't catch it at a point where the color wheel was broken.  The other morning while I was standing outside taking night photos, I grabbed this one.  My camera is an interesting little thing, it has a Night Photography setting.  I had the camera strapped to a tripod, and while standing in the middle of the street in front of the house, I took this and yesterday's picture. 

The Night Photography Setting on my camera gives me a 15 second exposure.  Good luck keeping your hand still for that.  As the tree danced through the rainbow what you ended up with was all of the colors that shone through the fibres.  In this case, the light was the yellowish light of the incandescent bulb underneath the tree. 

It blinded me with Science, or at least the photographic arts.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Predawn Xmas Lights

Sometimes, you just can't sleep.

That was last night.  I woke up at 3am, rolled around fitfully for two hours and hauled myself out of bed at 5.

It should be easier to sleep tonight, I had Decaf today.

While laying there, mental gears engaged, it became a challenge to find something to do with the early hours.  After starting with the laptop and surfing the news sites, I finally at 5 decided it was pointless and I should feed the dog.  She knew I was up long before I turned on the laptop. 

With the cold blast chugging into the Northeast and even making it down here with a week of sub 70 degree predictions, I wanted to step out and see if I could take the then current 57 degrees without a jacket.

Yeah, Right.

I did notice that there was a house lit up with the Xmas tree in front and thought that I'd try some night photography.  15 second exposure on a tripod with no breezes blowing and I was able to get the shots I was looking for. 

This should have been done yesterday because the fingernail moon that was out at the early dog walk was just behind the palm tree with a star that made it look like the emblem on the South Carolina license plate come to life.  I'll be watching for that one shot again since there was no moon out at 530am or so.

For now, it's enough to notice that the blue lights on the blue wall turned things into a creamy light and enjoy that one shot.  There are plenty of semi-sleepless nights to take more.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Coffee Roasting Day is Better in the Cool

I got started roasting coffee about a year ago.  It is now down to a science.   I have my green beans that I get from a web site, pour a measured 1/2 cup of green beans into the hopper of a popcorn popper, turn the thing on for 6 minutes and 45 seconds, then empty them out onto a plate.  After they cool they get ground and set aside.

I've gotten great results, as anyone who knows me personally has heard me say, and those who have had some have universally said that it is excellent.

The draw back is Coffee Cologne.  I enjoy the smell of roasting coffee.  It is an earthy smell, slightly different than the smell of a good coffee when you crack open the can.  Strong but with a green smell underneath it. 

It is that smell that is all over the neighborhood today.   I'm doing my best to share.  I got started roasting some Guatemalan Huehue beans this morning, and now the furniture is beginning to smell like the stuff today.  Winter having hit South Florida, I'm using the breezes we get off the ocean to clear out the scent.  One batch is fine, right now, I'm on batch three. 

If you drink the stuff, coffee has a lot of oils that get into the machinery of the percolator.  Roast that and you have it all indoors.  The aluminum cup that I pour the coffee into inside the popper is a deep chocolate brown and since my hand's too big to get inside, that is how it will stay.

Open the cabinets and dresser drawers and you'll get a faint puff of coffee come up at you the next day.

If you run into me, I'm not wearing Grey Flannel or Polo, I'm wearing a fine Estate Grown Guatemalan.

Oh wait, that doesn't quite sound right.... Hmmm.   We'll just have to have a pot of espresso and think this one over.

Friday, December 3, 2010

National Mutt Day is Today - Surf for a Friend

Today is National Mutt Day.  No it's not a day to celebrate my dog, Lettie.  It is a day to rescue deserving animals from the doom of a shelter to help them have a better life.

If you are considering getting a dog, please consider a rescue dog.  I did, and saved my dog from having a life in a no-kill shelter.  What I got in return was a lifelong friend who has actually saved my life more than once.  She's also the (unofficial) Ambassador to Snowbirds for the City of Wilton Manors since every person here on vacation seems to want to pet her, but that's a different story. 

The goal of National Mutt Day is to get 10000 shelter dogs a forever home and saved from either euthanasia or a life in a shelter.  It helps keep the number of puppies born in the horrific conditions of a puppy mill down because one dog saved from a shelter is one dog that isn't born in a cage or worse.

I found my Lettie in a shelter by surfing online at but you can get more details about National Mutt Day on their website at . Every dog has it's own personality, you can find one that will meet your own lifestyle there...

Oh!  One really nice benefit of adopting an adult dog... 
No Housebreaking!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Inflatable Xmas Palm is Inflatable

Lolcats lingo aside, I got an inflatable palm tree in a Bag of Random Crap from Woot a while back.  

This ugly thing has been sitting around for a couple months now, since September.  I finally decided that I knew what to do with it.

After yesterday's posting about the Xmas Palms on Wilton Drive, and how nice a job they did in setting it up, I thought I'd show you what you get when you have it all in miniature.  This would be the opposite of that display.

I went out to the laundry room where I kept this thing and weighed it down with water in the base.  Thinking it might be tall enough for the holiday, I inflated it.  What do you expect in a bag of Random Crap?  Crappy Xmas Palms! 

The lights were another crappy find I had.  There's this dumpster that is near the house and I found the two strings of LED Battery Operated Christmas lights in it.  Since they were LEDs I kept them around because they will run forever on battery.  Batteries are a wasteful thing to run Xmas Lights on, but I've been running them for about two weeks now on leftovers.  The leftovers were pre-used in my camera.  The camera only goes so far and "used" batteries are all over the house powering these lights, portable radios and other odds and ends.  Much better than tossing the things.

So there you have it.  The lights are finally starting to fade after about 20 or so hours of use, the tree is kind of cute sitting there next to the DVDs for the holidays.  After the holidays... we'll see what we'll do with it.  Most likely it will get stored for another year since the dog hasn't been convinced that it is Canine Indoor Plumbing.