Sunday, February 28, 2010

I think winter just might be ending in Florida

Saturday, Yesterday, I took my dog out for her morning walk as usual.   This time I was a bit later than normal, getting out at 7 in the morning.  

I had pressed the max clean button on the dying Roomba, snuck a buttercream chocolate from the valentine heart, and fed Mrs Dog so it was time to walk out the door.   After putting on a heavy leather jacket and baseball cap, I started down the drive.  It was at that time I noticed something specific in that the mango tree across the street was in full bloom.   Mind you, it was not just a flower spike here and there, but the tree was a riot of flowers.   When they open up, those flower spikes will perfume the whole area in a strong scent that isn't completely pleasant but it does say that the Mango Tree is Happy and is going to put out some fist sized fruit this season for the neighbors to enjoy.

As I got closer to the mango, the little lime tree next to it caught my eye.   I realized that the white spots I was seeing from across the yard were flower buds so it was getting ready to bloom too.  This was coupled with the hibiscus recovering from the iguana poaching the blooms, my orange tree and the new little lemon tree blooming and I came to the conclusion that we are in spring here.

That may be an empirical conclusion, but it just didn't feel like it was COLD this morning.   Certainly I'll indulge in a South Floridian's view of things and say whenever it gets below 70, it is cold, so at 53 I can justify the word.  However when I was out walking around, the air smelled like things were growing again, the breezes off the ocean that was two miles away smelled sweet, and the early morning sun was warming my black leather nicely.   There was even a flock of cherry headed amazon parrots that were chattering loudly over Hagen Park who were greeting the dawn and I hadn't seen many parrots that early in quite a while.

It just doesn't feel like winter any more.

I'm sure that the folks in the Northeast and in New England will chuckle when I say winter and 53 in the same breath when they just went through a snow storm that dropped a foot on my sister's head in South Jersey and added to the berms along the highway in Long Island, as well as knocking out power all over Connecticut and Massachusetts, but that would be what we get here.   Everything stops growing, you cut the grass only once a month or longer, and it gets cooler. 

So hold on a little bit longer up there in the snow belt, I think relief is in sight!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Bagpiper

Another Joke from Velma... Enjoy!

  As a bagpiper, I’m often called upon to play at weddings, military events, and  funerals.

   Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a grave side service for a homeless man. The man had no family or  friends, so the service was set at the county pauper’s cemetery in the Kentucky back woods.

  I was not familiar with the backwoods and soon found myself lost. Being a typical man I didn’t stop to ask for directions. I finally arrived an hour late, the staff from the funeral home was long gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.

  There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down.

  The vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

  The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.

   And as I played “Amazing Grace,” the workers began to weep.

   They wept. I wept. We all wept together.

   When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car..

   Though my head hung low my heart was full.

 As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mai Kai Night Photography

Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale is an interesting place.   It is a restaurant that is Polynesian themed and has some of the most interesting food and drink that I have ever had.

My Vegan and Vegetarian friends will probably have some difficulty finding food there.

On the other hand, it is a property that is absolutely a riot of things to look at.  The inside has its shows, the outside has the lanai and the gardens.

What you're looking at is what I call "A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day" photography.  I was in the right place, the right time, and knew how to get the picture.   Not all of them are quite this good, but I do post my personal favorites, Copyright 2010 and all rights reserved, here when I can.   This one in the full sized picture is simply amazing.   I was sitting with my arm up on the lanai's bamboo rail, having a "Barrel of Rum" drink, just finished some of the best Barbecue Pork I've ever had, and got the shot.

Waters in muted light glowing jade and reflecting the floods, the foliage picking up some shimmer of lights from the pools, the water forming a curtain in the slow shutter speeds.   I was amazed how beautiful the picture came out, but as beautiful as this is, the place far outshines it.   I'll probably be back in May for my next birthday.  There are more pictures on the camera, and there are many more to take. 

Tripod not included.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sunday was made for convertible Jeeps

The day didn't start out great.   I woke up at 530 and even for me that is early.   It was cool, and I had to get a sweatshirt to walk the dog. 

But it was cool and not cold.   This winter has been strange with iguanas raining from the trees and then disappearing from the face of central Broward county.  The curly tails that were migrating on to my little island have vanished as well.  They both may be back, there are some simple minded people that think that they're "helping nature" by feeding invasive species instead of letting nature take its natural course.

It started to warm up and by 10AM the windows were open on the house and I had stepped into the shower.  Classic Disco playing on the Sirius radio filtered through the breezes in the house and all was well with the sun coming up and not a cloud in the sky.  

I was standing in the shower toweling off and saw the sun in the yard glinting off the pool and I thought that this would be a great day for a drive in the Jeep with the top off.  

It was at this point that I realized that I would be getting my wish as the phone rang....

There was a call asking for help clearing a printer jam.   I tried to talk through the person on the other end and she just was not going to be able to do it.  There are things that people in their 70s can be expected to do but clearing printers out ... just won't happen will it?   So I tried getting in touch with someone else and it was to no avail and I got in the car and drove the couple-feet-short-of-ten mles to the office. 

No, literally a couple feet short of 10 miles.  If I take a different route home it is always over 10, normally it is just under 10 and in about 4 days, it comes up as 79.9 miles on the car.   Right at 4 gallons of unleaded to take me there too.   A Jeep Wrangler is not known to be gentle on gas and it is rated 15 City.  I get just a couple feet short of 19 miles to the gallon.   Literally... but we've been there before.

I went in, found the form jam was cleared and after a grumble and a call from my Aunt I had an excellent cheesesteak for lunch and headed out of the building.  Then it hit me - the sun that is.   It was brighter than it had been in weeks, and I knew that the roof of the car was evil and must be punished by being folded away for the couple-of-feet-short of 10 miles home.

The only thing left was my turning on the Armin van Buuren track from A State of Trance and headed home.  Absolutely GORGEOUS ride home.   This was why I moved to Florida, to be able to be in the sun in late February wearing shorts, a T shirt, and having the sun caress my light brown hair and make me feel right.

Like the old song said "Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy!  Sunshine in my eyes makes me cry.".

Thanks John Denver, you said it right.   I was driving home with a big silly grin down the street and feeling fine!

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

Sunshine on a winter day in South Florida is excellent!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fort Lauderdale from I-95

In view of the wacky weather that the Northeast has had all winter, this was the view from I-95 I had two weekends ago.  What you're seeing is a marina that is viewable just East of I-95 South of downtown Fort Lauderdale. 

It was one of those days in South Florida that I used to drive 1200 miles to see when home was so grey and ugly.  "Simpsonian" clouds floating by, warm but not hot, very light breezes.   The only thing I should have done that day was to get the Jeep out of the carport and pop the roof off the car. 

Lately the weather hasn't been cold, but merely cool and the weekend was amazing weatherwise.  Mid 70s are really hard to fight.   The windows open on the house are especially nice to deal with at any time of the year.  Nothing better than not having to heat or cool the house.   Since it is late February, the air will go on in a couple of weeks for the rest of the year. 

For now, I'm enjoying Winter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wilton Manors Commission Chambers Picture

Welcome to the New Commission Chambers at City Hall in Wilton Manors, Florida.

This was the view from my seat on the Dais at City Hall when I was at the first ever CAAB meeting.  Since then we've had a couple of other meetings in that hall such as Commission and the other normal City business.

Since this was the very first meeting ever in the new chambers, we needed photos for the Historical society.   I had my camera there and had the chance to photograph the photographer.

The old chambers had a semi-circular dais that was much more conducive to conversations and as a result more intimate.   The new chambers dais is almost linear, as the room is much larger than the old "Two Fire Truck Bay" that was converted and served for 30 or so years.   Other than that, no complaints, it is a beautiful room, and does the City well by its presence.  It is well equipped with all the new technology that you would expect in a modern meeting space.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Learning to become a better skimmer in the Info Age

You know, this stuff keeps coming back again and again.

People have been actively surfing since the the mid 90s.   Now they're starting to realize that it is adding to the "Short Attention Span Theatre" that we've all come to live with.

First MTV came a long with their flickery treatment on Music Videos.  Everything had to be the Radio Mix, no such thing as the 12 inch or Disco Mix, and people ate it up.   Educational Programming for kids predated that with the Sesame Street treatment of short bursts designed to program the mind for learning.  As a result there seems to be an impatience with the long form of things that started growing. 

I have to wonder if Tolstoy could get War and Peace published today as a result.

Then the web browsers came along with this internet thingy.  People realized that as long as they were connected, one really doesn't need to know just how many isotopes there are of Carbon or just how far north you can grow Durian Fruit. 

You can consult Wikipedia very easily for that sort of thing, and I have included links for that above.

I'm quite guilty of this sort of "knowledge" myself.   I am an IT Manager.  I recommend purchases, software, hardware, and staffing.  I have been asked in the course of one particular day to recommend the purchase of Network Switches, Internet Providers, Collaboration Software, PC Hardware and Software, Security Cameras, Security Camera Recorders, Cable both Network and Video and so on.  

That is also done on two major operating system families as well as their server variants and workstations.

How on Earth do you keep all that in your head?  You don't... or rather you don't particularly need to thanks to the web.  While someone of a generation before me would think that is sloppy, after all you do really need to figure out how to do Calculus in your head and paper in daily life, Don't You?, I've come to realize that it is more important to know how to get the answer not the process.  

That is why you have the Web, Superiors, Peers, and Subordinates in the Workplace, and Blogs as well as other things.

I guess I'll just go with the flow and try to be more flexible.   How about you?

Now where was I going with this... I'll start launching Firefox now....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Protection for you and your home

And finally a protection hint from Cindy...

Protection for you and your home
If you don't have a gun, here's a more humane way to wreck someone's  evil plans for you.  I guess I can get rid of the baseball bat.

Wasp Spray
A  friend who is a receptionist in a church in a high risk area was concerned about someone  coming into the office on Monday to rob them when they were counting the collection.  She asked the local police department about using pepper spray and they recommended to her that she get a can of wasp spray  instead.

The wasp spray, they told her, can shoot up to twenty feet away and is a lot more accurate, while with the pepper spray,   they have to get too close to you and could overpower you.  The wasp spray temporarily blinds an attacker until they get to the hospital for an antidote.  She keeps a can on her desk in the office and it doesn't attract attention from people like a can of pepper spray would. She also keeps one nearby at home for home protection... Thought this was interesting and might be of use.

Wasp And Hornet Spray
On the heels of a break in and beating that left an elderly woman in Toledo dead, self defense experts have a tip that could save your life.

Val Glinka teaches self-defense to students at Sylvania Southview High School  For decades, he's   suggested putting a can of wasp and hornet  spray near your door or bed.

Glinka says,  "This is better than anything I can teach them."

Glinka considers it inexpensive,  easy to find, and more effective than mace or pepper spray.  The cans typically shoot 20 to 30 feet; so if someone tries to break into your home, Glinka says, "spray the culprit in the eyes".  It's a tip he's given to students for decades. It's  also one he wants everyone to hear. If you're              looking for protection, Glinka says look to the spray.

"That's going to give you a chance to call the police; maybe get out."

Maybe even save a life.

Please share this with all the people in your life.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


More helpful hints from Cindy...


1. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

2. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

3. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

4. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

5. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

6. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address.

7.. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

8.. If you don't answer  when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Friday, February 19, 2010

13 Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You:

This one was making the rounds as a helpful hint email.  I got this one over the last weekend from Cindy here in Wilton Manors, and I think I'll post it in two parts...

13 Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You:

1..   Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2.   Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week.  While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste ... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove  it.

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If a decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy..

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom-and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door-understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to   clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

11. Helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

12. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system . If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates  the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Attack of the French Onion Soup

Hey!  Lets make French Onion Soup!

Warning:  This may be contrary to the Geneva Convention!

That was where it started.   I had some onions that were getting a bit old and instead of wasting the things, I wanted to make soup.   I have a loaf of crusty italian bread that was a day old, and all the ingredients save the Cheese for the top.   I got into the car and we went to Whole Foods for a bit of gourmet shopping.

When we got back, the marathon of cooking begun.   There's only one problem.  When you make French Onion Soup, you have to slice up some onions.  French or otherwise, they still need to be sliced.   I thought why not just tear into it and then put the chunks into the food processor.

These were onions the same way that peppers are related to Mace.  As in Lets Mace this Person because they're a criminal Mace.   My house now reeks of burning sulphur that was disgorged from these evil white devils.   The onions in the food processor put out so much sulphur that I was distracted from the task of chopping them and instead ended up with a slurry of Onion Puree.  That slurry had to be browned in a saucepan with a quarter cup of butter and then put into the crock pot.  While that was cooking, your eyes are running, your nose running and you're running around opening windows.   In the middle of a cold snap in South Florida you're letting all your expensive electrically heated air blow out because it is now resembling something you'd do in crowd control.  Oh there's no vent in the kitchen either, so you open up the door just to make sure the house would be inhabitable.

Quick, stir the onions, letting loose another cloud of brimstone, trip over the dog and start to pour 7 cups of water into the crock pot with 8 servings of "Better than Boullion" to make the beef stockish looking stuff.  Now that you've got the beef stock all smooth, pour the evil onions into the crock pot and then put the lid on.

Grab a beer from the refrigerator and go out on the front porch and let the air clear.   The dog will follow and its a good thing she will because she's whining from the burning in her eyes too.

I'll let you know how it turned out when it comes out of the crock pot in 2 hours... it cooks at high for four.  Two hours into the ordeal, my eyes are still watering and I'm sitting in an open window!  I think maybe I'll stick to sweet things...  this was punishing!

The recipe at Cooks.Com I followed is at the link, but here is the text for convenience sake:

2 lb. onions (about 5 c. sliced)
1/4 c. butter
7 c. hot water
8 beef bouillon cubes (or 1 can consomme & 7 bouillon cubes)
Toasted croutons
Grated Parmesan cheese
Hazmat Suit
Emergency Eye Wash

Peel onions and slice thin; brown lightly in butter in frying pan. Pour sauteed onion slices into crock pot. Add water, bouillon cubes and consomme. Set cooker on low setting and cook for 7 to 8 hours. Or cook on high 3 to 4 hours. Serve with croutons and Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic Sports or Olympic Entertainment

Hey, I'm with the latter I'm afraid.

Yes, I am the guy who looks at it all and shrugs.  Ok, the pagentry can be fun.  The particular sports men and women are amazing and at the top of their game. 

But the reality is that the act of watching it is merely entertainment to me.  I'm fortunate enough to have been and am a long distance inline skater, even now when the sport has "died".  If you still skate you either are someone who has kids and wants to "bond" with them or you're serious about getting a workout.  I do the latter.  I've skated 21,000 miles to date, and that is a lot of time.  I have actually made some beer money training people to inline skate and have had a phone job interview while on skates doing so.  

Couple that with my volunteer work with the City of Wilton Manors and my Regular Job as IT Manager for a Mall Holding Company, and I just don't have time to watch someone else run around a track or throw a javelin.  Nice, but it doesn't give me anything back but entertainment, and frankly I'd rather watch a movie or something a bit more educational.

I understand that I march to a different drummer.  I was that kid down the block who would rather listen to shortwave radio when everyone else was tuned into the local top 40 station.  I could quote facts on European Parliamentary procedures when many kids could only tell you about Parliament Funkadelic.  I'd listen to P-Funk in the car or when I'm doing something on the PC ... like now.  When I was a pre-teen I had to begin to get into sports and finally got into a good group of friends in High School that taught me the benefits of being active were.  I got very good at bike riding well before distance biking took off as a sport. Later, I eventually took up the weight lifting that I wanted to do when I was in Jr High as well as running.  

Cardio is fun, but I digress...

The point is that not everyone watched the Superbowl or the World Series or now the Olympics.   I prefer my fireworks more close to home and not half way around the world.   If I am going to watch sports I will want to get something out of it that I can apply to my own sport or I'll do so waiting for My Turn To Go In Coach.  Sports Bars are an interesting phenomenon, but definitely not my scene.  Amusing after a beer or three but I'm not a heavy drinker.

I know, its just my opinion, and I do understand that I'm not the only one around that feels that way.  I've always been "Non Herd Mentality" and I probably won't change.  On the other hand I really do enjoy a good tailgate party so if you are having one, have me over and try to teach me why I'm wrong.   I may just come a little closer to the fold, but for now....


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday Morning Fog

Or rather steam.   Winter this year has been weird for many people.   Repeated Blizzards in the Northeast, snow in every one of the 50 states in February, Rain in the dry season and Iguana Killing Cold in South Florida.

So what am I complaining about?  I'm not actually.

This Sunday morning I woke up and it was 42 in Wilton Manors, FL.  Colder than normal but not shockingly so.   I put on a heavy shirt, sweatshirt, and leather jacket and took Mrs Dog out for our morning mile.   We walk every day between 2.5 and 3 miles.  Today was a long one, as are all the walks if she has her mind to do so and it is what she considers cool.  We got out before sunrise, and came home just after.   While it was cold, the drunks weren't frozen on the sidewalks like they would have been Up North and there were precious few people out and about so the walk took a reasonable 30 minutes.   After all the girl had to sniff some trees, right?

I got back in the house, and proceeded to make my favorite Weekend Big Breakfast of a bagel grilled with home churned butter, and three scrambled eggs all nice and custardy.  I finished up with a pot of half caff sweetened with hazelnut and cream.  

After walking back to the coffee table and setting down the mug I decided I wanted to get the shortbread cookies to go with it, so I walked back to the kitchen.   When I came out mug in hand, the back yard caught my eye.  You see when it is 42 out, there was steam everywhere. 

We're inexplicably still under twice a week watering for the yard.   It has been more than a year now, and the grass doesn't seem to mind.  I have ground water and a well to water the yard, so when that water hits the air in a spray, it forms steam.   Ground water at around 65 will steam because it is more than 20F warmer than the air.  All my plants in pots, my grass and the hedges were all coated in a gentle fog that was rising, and the sun was up now.  All that resulted in millions of little jewels coating Nature's Beauty with rainbows. 

Rainbows, in Wilton Manors?  Sometimes they're not just on the cars!

Always they're beautiful.   So who knew winter wasn't All Bad?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dogs and Yogurt, Who knew? Picture

Of course it is an excuse to post yet another picture of the most amazing former shelter dog ever...

She's my shadow and my constant companion whenever I'm home.  She follows me everywhere except into the shower or the pool.  For some reason she's a rare Border Collie/Mc Nab Dog since she doesn't care for water.   But all this following has me watching what she does as much as she watches me. 

The image of a dog in the kitchen with doe-eyes staring back at you wanting what ever it is that you are eating is a common one.  Lettie is food motivated.  If there's a shop, she'll sniff around for attention but if you give her a cookie (COOKIE!!!!!!) she'll stop by even if the place is cold and shuttered.   She did that when I lived in Philadelphia, she does it here.   Being arguably one of the most beautiful working dogs I've ever seen, people tend to want to pay attention to her and pet her even while drunk.   So needless to say there is a tendency for the food-feedback cycle to work.

Even with me.  Lettie knows that if I say "Not For Dogs" not to bother.  When I bake, I have to say that and she will curl up into a dog ball and watch with half an eye open as I bake or cook.  And cook I do! 

On the other hand, in the morning, after I walk her, all I want to do is go on auto pilot and make my Chicken Pattie on a Biscuit, Grits, and Yogurt and not think about it.   I don't have that every day but easily four out of seven, that is what is on the menu.  She knows not to beg in the morning, and while I am a morning person, I'm not a particularly cheerful one until after I've eaten.   She gives me a little room until I open that one drawer in the refrigerator where I keep the pots of yogurt then she's glued to my calf and BEGGING! for some.  I have been told a teaspoon a week keeps them regular and I do it infrequently so I do give in.  Yes, Pavlov, you can have some so stop drooling on my right boot, OK?

Lately I've been getting the cases of Activia from BJ's wholesale.  Its fruit flavored yogurts are good, not excellent, and they're fairly cheap and low calorie if you get the "Light" variety sweetened with Something Artificial and Cancer Causing.  When I have Activia I have two little pots of the stuff for a total of 140 calories.   I find that their Vanilla flavour is EXCELLENT.   Apparently so does Mrs Dog because when I have the vanilla, she's practically climbing the wall for a taste.  

As an experiment, I left more blueberry in the pot and less in the vanilla side.  They come attached in a sheet of 2 by 3 pots and I have them attached.   She would sniff at the blueberry then attack the vanilla not returning to the other until the vanilla was well and truly licked. 

I guess good tastes are universal.  I'll have to give her some of the vanilla more often since she likes the stuff, but now I'll have a Beggy Dog.   There goes my Dog Training Award, right down into the bin with the empty pot of Vanilla Activia Yogurt!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Poang Upgrade - The After

I'm sure that anyone who isn't interested in these chairs is wondering why I'm banging on about this.  There was one early post about the Poang and it gets hit more than any other post.   So this is the conclusion of the Upgrade.  The Pay Off...

Mrs Dog, the Spokesmodel shows you what I ended up with.  The chair now has a chocolate brown leather pillow and seat cushions.  They are much more firm than the fabric ones that were on it before.  While you may say that its because the old ones were ... old, I'll disagree.  The stuffing in these pillows are much more firm than the cloth covered ones.  I've tried a bunch of them in the store.  I am one of those guys that you see sitting in these chairs, feet up on the ottoman with a goofy look on their face.  Every Ikea I have ever hit was the same, a row of Poang Chairs and Rockers with about 1/2 of them full of people and they're disproportionally men.  Everyone who sits in them has the same blissful look on their faces.

I've had this chair now for about 8 months, the cover is now about a month old.   It is truly the most comfortable chair I own.   If I had an office to decorate, it would be a small table and a couple of these chairs.   They're not for everyone, some people find them too firm.   In my case I can sit in the thing for hours on end and not have back pain and I have had two major and one minor vehicle accident.  My back is a mess, but I can forget about it with my laptop on my lap and bouncing contentedly on my Poang.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Death of a Roomba and my Dog - Picture

Yes, I have a roomba. 
Yes, it is dying. 
Yes, I am disappointed.
Yes, it is way too soon.

Ok, Enough Dr Seuss type prose!   I have had a Roomba for about a year, maybe more like 14 or 15 months.   As you can see my house has floors, not carpets.  I also have a dog.   If you look closely, you see a spot near her yellow toy.  That was a piece of fluff that was missed by the roomba that morning.   It never was all that efficient at keeping the house clean, more like a sweeper.  It worked, but it would have to be run daily.  Now that the batteries are dying on the thing, I'm thinking it gives me an excuse to get a real vacuum and stop using the "Toy" to clean up after the dog and myself.  

The biggest problem that I see with the Roomba was that it never was easy enough to clean.  Not the house, you just press a button and it would stumble around seemingly randomly and get the place clean enough to pass as long as the place was mopped.   The dog hair though would get caught up in the wheels and the works of the thing and jam up the machine.  Now, if you could unbolt parts and brush off the bearings and so forth, you could recover from the dirt and let it work more efficiently.   When you have to get out a screwdriver and a knife and cut the fur off the spindles and worry the dirt off the wheels, you know you have a major design flaw.

Would I recommend a Roomba?  Only very conditionally:

No furry pets - cats or dogs in the house mean this thing will die early.
Make sure you clean the filter at least weekly.  Soap and water works well, and I'm still on the original filter.
Inspect the machine frequently and make sure that all bearings and wheels move freely.
If the Roomba looks dirty, clean it.
Make sure that there are no wires or small objects on the floor that can get caught up in it.
Expect your dog to hate it.  Mine did until I trained her not to.
They are noisy, and they run for about a half hour at a shot.
No Carpets.  Anywhere.  Ever.
If you have a place that something can get under, it will and you'll wonder where it went.

I wouldn't get another, and luckily mine was very cheap.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Poang Upgrade - The During

This is the second of the Poang Posts.   Since the first Ikea Poang Chair review I did was so popular I thought I'd do this and break this up into thirds.  Give you Poang Addicts something to read about.

The prior post showed you the before.   Here's what it looks like during the shift over to the new Poang.  The brown frame is the bentwood frame that you get with all of the Poang Chairs.   The thing is amazingly sturdy, and mine is at this point over 7 months old since I bought it at a Thrift Store.  It looked used before I got it, but the frame was solid.   It has no creaks, no rattles, it is about as sturdy as you can get. 

The dog next to it is 48 pounds, and she likes the chair as well and will climb onto my lap while I'm on it.  That brings it up to about 275 pounds and it hasn't collapsed yet.   The black fabric on the seat portion is a net that is used to hold the padding in place and give it some support without being hard like a brick.  Next to the chair is the leather seat padding that will replace the old beige flowery stuff that I had before.   Just like the old one, you can unzip the new leather seat and get the padding out so it can be cleaned.  There is a stripe of Velcro that you can see on the chair on the second horizontal bar from the top.  It is black, and it is probably the weakest link of the design.  It holds it in place but I have sat down in the chair and the Velcro has given away.  Not a big problem because at this point, the chair still holds the leather seat in place and I've had the new upholstery for about a month now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Geckos are returning - Picture

This little guy watched me have dinner at Mai Kai in Ft Lauderdale.

Now, none of the above are really all that noteworthy except in view of the recent weather we had down here.  We had a cold snap here in January that was about as cold as it gets.   It didn't go below freezing here, but it was only a degree or so above it.  When you're in the semi-tropics, that's a big deal.

Since January I have seen absolutely zero Iguanas.  That's a good thing since I had been fighting them all last year and had a 12 foot tall bougainvillea stripped of leaves, flowers and even spines by those beasts.  

There have been much fewer flocks of Parrots here as well.   The Parrots disappearing are not really a good thing in my eyes.  Yes, they eat the fruit of the palms and drop their leavings everywhere they go, but they don't normally destroy property.  There simply are not enough Parrots around to be that much of a problem.   I would expect to hear them when I was outside, but now it is down to once a week or every other week.

The Geckos and Anoles have been decimated but are rebounding.  I've seen much fewer of the little guys sticking to the walls, and that's notable since they're natives.   The Curly Tail lizards that were moving in from West Palm and Palm Beach County just after Summer have completely disappeared.  Curly Tails were beginning to displace the native Geckos and were rather aggressive since at twice their size, they could be the bully and send them on their way.

With the normal balance somewhat restored, more of the natives are showing their heads.   I'd bet that there are fewer pythons and boa constrictors out in the Glades as a result.   Better to be this way than being overrun by things that simply don't belong!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Poang Upgrade - The Before

This is a series of three posts.  I had done a review of some sorts on my Poang chair a while back.  It gets hit at least once a week, usually every other day.  Ikea does not host reviews, and as a result there are many sites that will tell you about their products, chapter and verse. 

I was at the first store in the United States on the day that it had opened in Plymouth Meeting, PA.  It was there and then that I had sat in one of these chairs and thought that it was a sturdy and comfortable piece of furniture.  I didn't know then that it was an iconic piece and wildly popular.  For my body type, it also is probably the most comfortable chair I have ever sat in.  I'm sitting in it now as I write.

You can see the chair here.   I bought the thing at a local thrift store, and it was almost perfect.  It had a worn seat cushion on it, and it still was comfortable.  I have no idea how long it was used before I got to it, but I could have gone on with it for a long time.   What changed was that I had gotten a job and could afford to get the seat to be the one that I really felt was the ideal one for my back. 

The difference being that the seat cover on that one was brown leather and the pillow on that cover was not snapped to the back of the frame of the chair.  You can see the chair in the picture, and to the left is the package of the seat covers on the right.  Simple packaging, and a flat pack as you'd expect from Ikea.   The cushions are firm, but like all will form to your body after a while.   The original cushions are fabric covered which is removable and machine washable, which I did immediately after purchase.  Leather needs to be cleaned by another method of course.   The cushions inside were of a foam rubber, and there are many options to replacing those as time and your use takes its ravages on them.

What it didn't do was to make the pattern any less odd looking, and I really did want the leather ones.   The whole process of the upgrade took all of 10 minutes, most of that time being involved in taking pictures of the thing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Is blogging so last year and long winded?

I think that question as posed by the BBC in this article may just be a bit imprecise.

As anyone who knows me, and those who have read this blog know, I can be long winded.   Part of that comes from just me being me.  Part of that comes from being in Information Technology since the days of University and before.  I am used to dealing with details, multitasking, and trying to pass information and instructions about issues that are incredibly detailed.  I've been called Black and White, which is not completely flattering, but when one deals with technology you end up having a logical outlook on things and technology commonly either works or does not.

What I think that the BBC article had missed is that it is more a function of intelligence levels and age of the individual.   The latter was alluded to since they are speaking mostly of the young as you may have gathered from the title I've used here.  The slang term "So Last Year" isn't going to come up when speaking with your grandparents unless you the younger of the conversation bring it up.   I can't picture those of the Greatest Generation saying things like that.  They're used to looking at the long view as are anyone who has passed their childhood behind.

The younger generation was raised on short sound bites, MTV, and a dizzying and flickering pace of life.  That helps the mind to be nimble and quick, but will make it much more difficult to retrain yourself for looking at the minute details in life.  Yes, that is a decided generalization, but one that has been said many times before I had tried to raise this point.

I've noticed that pictures do speak a thousand words, and it is easier to have a picture blog with a short paragraph next to it than it is to do a text article.  There have been books written on individual pictures, see Mona Lisa as an example, but having the picture there means that you are leaning on cultural background, education level and the reader's ability to read your mind to form a conclusion.  That is fairly impossible to do on twitter which is limited to the length of an SMS text message.

Part of it is that this is the "Math is Hard, Barbie" syndrome.   When Mattel came out with the Talking Barbie, the original doll had a recording that said "Math is Hard".   I know many women who are of equal intelligence to my own, some who may be more intelligent than I am in various subjects, others who are of more modest capabilities.  I do agree with the feminists who were outraged at what Mattel was teaching the audience of these dolls.  It was telling pre-pubescent girls that they shouldn't try because it is difficult, and therefore to be avoided.  A teenager said that it isn't fun to read a long article.  Some can be, others are boring.  Reading is like weightlifting.  If you want to exercise your brain for greater capacity you have to engage it in tasks you find difficult and take the time to do it right.

Hopefully this right and not too long winded.   Perhaps not.  Just my own personal ramblings.

Monday, February 8, 2010


If you haven't seen a dog chase bubbles, you haven't had fun.

I have this little bubble bottle.  Actually there are two of them, one Green and one Orange.  I got them at a street festival here in Wilton Manors I would say about a year ago.  Dinky little things that hold about an ounce of bubble liquid and have a wand built into the cap.  Pop the cap off and you have a wand ready to make bubbles.

If my dog sees the bottle in my hand, she'll bark and act real excited.  That in itself is enough to just keep doing it because my particular dog is a very reserved dog.  What I do then is to just show it to her.  I'll get another volley of barking out of her and then pop the top off and more barking and dancing around.   She truly loves to chase bubbles!

I'll start to blow clouds of bubbles at this point and now I have 48 pounds of mostly black border collie charging around the house, acting dopey, and barking her fool head off at them.   Once they get low enough for her to think that they are close enough to get, she'll start to dive at them.  One problem though is as she's diving, she's snapping at the bubbles.  

Usually she'll start to jump up at the bubbles, snapping all the while, barking and jumping.  While that is normally amusing enough, I will start backing up.  The reason for that is obvious.  Her usual jump at the bubbles takes her up around 36 inches off the ground.  My inseam is 34 inches.  Snapping mouth isn't terribly accurate at where she's going with it, but she's never actually made contact.   I have jumped out of the way just in time every time.

Basically its one of those weird things you do with your dog like balance a dog biscuit on their nose or bounce a small vinyl inflatable off of it while she tries to bounce it up in the air.   Well that and "SOCK ON NOSE!" but I will leave that for another article.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter Temperatures in South Florida

Yes, we do get cold temperatures too.   What you are looking at was the cold snap in January at its worst.   The thermometer says that it is just below 33F, less than 1C.   The thermometer is nicely framed by Bougainvillea vines at the top, and a pair of Vanda Orchid plants just below to the right and left.   All of these plants have survived.   Remember, this particular thermometer is situated in what most would call the Tropics, at 26 Degrees North of the Equator.   Technically the Sub Tropics since they begin at the Tropic of Cancer which is 20 miles North of the Northernmost point in Cuba, or 70 miles South of Key West.

I am posting this today, February 7th, because this is the beginning of the coldest week of the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.   From this point forward, you will be getting slowly warmer until the summer.

For us in Florida, we are only 3 months and 3 weeks away from the start of the 2010 hurricane season.  I'm not a meteorolgist, although I could easily play one on TV.  Therefore, I shall refrain from making predictions.  For those of us who don't believe in Global Warming, then believe in wacky weather instead.  Just join with me in hoping for a calm 2010.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sunset over Wilton Drive Picture

October was a good month for taking pictures.  I'm still posting ones I pulled off the camera from a picture taking walk around town that day in October.

That evening was warm and there were the usual Little Fluffy Clouds floating around town.  That day there were a few Thunderstorms nearby, but not quite this far East.  I remember walking Mrs Dog quite fast that day trying to get home before the skies would open up and shower us and turned around and saw this particular cloud just over top of the shops on the opposite side of the street.

The weather here is nothing like back in Philly, which would be why I moved here in part.   While I am writing this on Sunday 2010-01-31 at 920AM, it is 73 and overcast, breezy and cool for us here.  Back in Philly they just got socked by more snow, and its in the 20s.  Yes, Farenheit, we've not gone metric yet.  Silly Amurricans!

As for the link above, Little Fluffy Clouds is one of my favorite Trippy Ambient songs.   The wikipedia entry tells you more.  Enjoy the music - it is safe for work!

Friday, February 5, 2010

I Want To Say U Hi


Ok, I found some amusing spam.   Sometimes they're so badly written that you just have to laugh.  I saw this and read it out loud in a bad parody of an accent (You can pick your own, I won't share here) and laughed out loud. 

I had someone say "Where are you getting this?"... Spam, the gift of the greedy.

Here you go....

Privet, dear

What the world really needs is more love and less paper work.
Honey, I want to feel a heaven in your kiss. I know the day I find you my heart
will beat madly. And when you hold my hand I will soar to heaven and will not
drift back down to earth again. Our love will become a fairy-tale with a happy
end. I am waiting for you here
  (WEB SITE REMOVED)  my love in order to make our dreams come true.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Palm Frond Picture

I may have posted this picture before.  It is a close up of a palm frond that is on a plant on Wilton Drive.  These are a fairly common palm, I believe it could be a Saw Palmetto, you see them all over the place.

This particular one graces the front of the Gables on Wilton Drive and was in perfect condition when I walked past that day.  It is still there as of this writing, but the frond is no longer this pristine, although the plant is faring well.  The Gables came in and flattened down a beat up nursery and a scruffy little strip center and built a rather large apartment community on the drive.   Viewed from the wrong angle, it looks somewhat utilitarian, although the people have softened that up a bit by putting palm trees on the balconies and some rather nice plantings in some small boxes in front of the building.

This has been one of the major changes I've seen since I moved here.   The old Florida buildings are being knocked down and large buildings put up in place.   That isn't exactly a problem since the ones being torn down aren't being maintained properly, so it ends up being a plus for the city.  In the case of the Gables, it is a very large plus.  That and the folks that work there seem to be quite pleasant additions to the community as well.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Banana Leaf Picture

Another one of my Desktop Pictures.   This one was from a Banana Tree that we have imprisoned in a pot.  It has given fruit but because it is in a pot, the bananas are small and not very good.  

I guess that is like all things, give them what they need in life, they will blossom and bear fruit.   Force them into a bad situation and they'll be sour and not quite right.

Rather than launch into a metaphor for social issues, I'd rather just move the blasted plant into the soil where it could thrive.   Some day the house will be expanded, so anything that gets into the soil either will be moved, or cut down.   I couldn't do that to the tree, I rather like having it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One more Honeybell Blossom Picture

This is what they look like close up.  I found this particular picture on the web, and I liked it.  It is in rotation on the desktop on my Windows 7 machine at work, not that I can see what is going on the desktop.

There's a certain time of year, I think it has to be in peak Snowbird Season, February or perhaps March, when these flowers are open.  Not just on my tree next to the carport, but all over Florida.   It is hard to describe the beautiful fragrance that you get when you're driving on any of the roads in Orange Country, generally North of Palm Beach County, South of Orlando, The Indian River Area.   When you drive in South Jersey or North Carolina, there's a pervasive smell of Pine in the air.  In season, you get a fragrance here of Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit and other citrus.   It is simply amazing.

I have a few Oranges left on my tree still.  I got home Friday Night after driving with the roof off the car, pulled into the car port, and saw them on the tree and picked one.  It was still a little green and tasted a little more sour than it should have, but it was something you just don't get to do too often.  There were only about 12 of them on the tree this year, better than the three from last year, but I like having the plant and the luxury of picking one, walking to the sink, biting the top and having Orange Oil make my lips pucker and the scent rush through my nostrils.  It is a caress from Nature. 

As for why I eat a Honeybell over the sink?   As it was, I had to have a bowl under the orange as I ate it, there was so very much juice running down my arm.   I actually considered once eating the thing in the shower.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Good Bye Old City Hall

In this picture, the Sun is rising over old City Hall in Wilton Manors.  In reality the Sun is setting today.  Today is the last day of business at this building for the City.  The police have officially moved to new City Hall as of 7AM although people will be moving their boxes for weeks.  The people of Wilton Manors have paid for and built a new City Hall just on the other side of this tract of land.

Being on the Community Affairs Advisory Board as a member, I have had the pleasure to have been invited at the pleasure of the Mayor and the City Commission to be at the Grand Opening and visit the new City Hall and have a self guided tour, basically an "All Access Pass".  I can say that the new building is a much more modern and up to date structure than the old one, certainly much more up to date, and will serve us in times of good and bad.   The structure is built to shrug off a direct hit by a hurricane with winds up to 160MPH, has adequate storage, more than adequate office space, and is built to accept a Modern IT Infrastructure.

Here you see the old building in a more sunlit view.  The building itself was too small for the people who worked there.  Having visited the place and many of the offices, I found myself wondering how they could have managed through out the time it was there.  Under the trees in the right of the picture is the HR Offices.  Rather, better said the HR Trailer.   Should a storm hit, Wilton Manors HR documents would be spread out from here to the Ocean or the Glades or both.

The building wasn't strictly speaking "Bad" but it was build to service a much smaller city back in the 1950s.  We're now 12,800 people strong here, by the 2000 Census.  Coming from a place who's City Hall was built in the 1880s and is known to be a National Monument, I understand that a building merely 50 years old could have had another 200 years life in it.   In the case of City Hall, to make it work, they'd have to build on wings and double the size as well as run Ethernet Cable all over the place.   The building simply did not work any longer.

My hope is that once everyone has had their things moved, and before the wrecking ball comes to flatten this for a parking lot, someone from the Historical Society, and myself, get full access to the building and take as many pictures as can fit on the camera as possible.  I've been meaning to mention this to my friends on the Commission and the City Manager, my fault, I'll get on that email as soon as I can find the right email addresses.

It is an old building, used up and ready to go, but it would be a shame to have it go without at least a decent recording of what it looks like today.

This would be one of the views I had of the old Commission chambers.  One of the quirks of the building is that it had a little lift for the City Clerk and Assistant.   One of my quirks is that I have bad knees that are pretty much constantly in some sort of pain.  This little lift became a home for my feet in every meeting, it became one of the oddball things that people commented about in the city.   The new chambers will have comfortable padded seats, a brightly lit room with adequate space, and properly set up from an audio-visual standpoint.  Truly a modern Commission Chambers.   The old room was a former two-bay Fire Engine Garage that was converted to that purpose.  Semi Circular dais where the City Commission and the other boards, including mine sat, all wrapped in the most modern wood grained Formica that the 1970s could buy.   The new chambers has painted walls, sound deadening panels, and an almost flat dais which will probably reduce the amount of interaction between board members.   I'm looking forward to Wednesday Night when my board becomes the first board to ever hold a scheduled meeting in that space and see how it all works.   Probably best that they don't have the Commission in there first, we'll report back the bugs and let you all know how it went.