Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebook Worms and some small steps to protect yourself

This morning I was answering some messages from some folks that I know and care about in other parts of the country.  While doing this I was staring at my lap and wondering what sort of pseudo-intellectual blather I'd write about and it presented itself to me.

Facebook has some well known privacy flaws.   I have my own account's privacy settings turned so tightly that the only thing you'd be able to tell about me is my picture, my name, and what city I live in.   I've given that much away here on this blog, and more. 

The problem is that most people sign on and think that it is this warm and fuzzy place to chat with friends near and far and everything is safe.  Links that people post to You Tube about dogs that make demented sounds like this one, links to NPR quizzes about whether you could pass the citizenship test (I got 100%), and links to this blog amongst others.  Those are safe. 

The question is how would you know if they are?

The answer to the question is that you never can be 100% certain.  There are people out there that get their "jollies" at causing others pain.  In the gaming world they're called "griefers".  In psychology there are many names for them, psychotics, sociopaths and deviants come to mind but I am sure you can find other names as well. 

There are some steps you can take though. 

First, I use Firefox.  Others use Internet Explorer which I personally find slow and lumbering.  Both of those browsers have a strip at the bottom of the window (caught you looking, didn't I?) that is called a Status Bar.  The Status Bar is well named since it gives you information on what is happening to the browser at this moment.  See, it tells you about the status.  Well named, right?  Ok, I'll tone down the chirpyness since I have only had one mug of coffee at this point this morning. 

You can check in Firefox to make sure it is turned on by these simple steps:

Click View, and the words "Status Bar" should have a check mark to the left of it.  
If not, click on it.

The Status bar will tell you when you hover over a link what that link points to.  It is up to you to look at that link and decide whether it is safe and that is a judgment call.   If the link is supposed to be to the rather excellent organization that will help deserving dogs and cats and other animals find a way out of a shelter to a forever home called Petfinder and you hover over the link you will see the following text in your status bar:

It is a reasonable link.  However if you find a link to a Russian Site or to something that simply doesn't fit - DO NOT CLICK!

Second you have to be informed.   This is not a "Gas and Go" culture.  This is a computer.  Yes, you can go your entire life and never get hit by one of the nasties out there, but people are looking for you.  The nasties could be as simple as being Rick Rolled and getting to see a video from Rick Astley here.

Go ahead, you can click on those two links and see a discussion on the phenomenon and internet meme as well as the song itself.

The idea is that forewarned is forearmed.   Why it is important to be informed is that this culture offers many benefits to those who are connected.   You can be anywhere in the world, connected on any sort of link or any sort of computer and order something from your favorite store, get a discount over the corner shop usually, and have it waiting for you when you get home from your Holiday in Ibiza if the trip is long enough.  You can transact banking business with your Tennessee based bank from the beach in Key West on your laptop.  This is all well and good, it makes business more efficient and lowers costs and creates savings that are supposed to be passed onto the consumer and usually aren't but it also creates a problem.

The problem is that if you are a "gas and go" computer user you most likely already have a virus or a trojan.  If you have a trojan that reports back to the host your user name and password you have lost your banking security.  Imagine taking your ATM Bank Card and writing your PIN on it in ink so that it may be read.  That is what happens when your details are stolen online and they happen frequently.

A possible solution is to never use a computer for anything but banking and perhaps shopping at "valid" sites, but we're back to that judgment call thing. 

I found another option.   On Facebook I "like"d Sophos.  Sophos has been reporting back to me virus information so I can be informed.  Now you can too.  This link is to their Facebook page.  If you are on Facebook, I suggest you add them and you will get a message or three a day.  I am sure there are others and as I find them I'll add them too.  Their page is also open and visible to the outside world so if you check them periodically and do not have Facebook, you can be informed as one of the many sites that have this sort of information.

These sort of evils on Facebook are all browser based viruses.  You can get them on any modern browser, and the Facebook exploits actually change Facebook to add an application that you do not want so that it can spam everyone and get more widely spread.   If you are on Windows, you can go to  and run a free virus scan but I really recommend getting to Microsoft and installing Microsoft Security Essentials.  I did that when I worked as an IT Manager and since it is free to windows users, you don't have to pay Mc Afee or anyone else and remain protected.

Since it is browser based, you can also get this on a Mac or Linux.  You are less likely to get them there for various reasons, but it is up to you to make sure that you don't have the problem.  I don't run either operating system as much as I could or should, and I have both, but they also get effected.

Good luck.  If you need help, my billable rate for this sort of thing is negotiable.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Friendly Wildlife or how a Nature Park has Results

Sometimes walking around the neighborhood is like being in a Disney Movie.

Yesterday I got up early and knew it would be a strange day when I got to the corner and a bat flew by.  

Not only did the bat fly by once but twice.  I guess at the end of its day, it wanted to know why this moose was walking his dog before six in the morning.   I'm not sure why since bats are not terribly common here.   I've only ever seen two before and one of those was years ago in the porch of my house in Philadelphia. 

Later after finishing my morning rituals and lunch I decided I had seen quite enough of these four walls.   I have a great view of some Screw Palms of various colour and there's a large shade tree accompanied by some tall Palms across the street but that wasn't quite enough for me.   I walked out the door, up to the drive and decided to hit the thrift stores.  

It was the peak of the afternoon, 2 PM, the sun was so bright as to cause the place to look surreal in a riot of intense colour that it hardly made sense.   Normally the birds are roosting in the trees and wilting in the heat like the locals at that time of day but there was one moderate sized flock of parrots that flew by and landed in the parking lot.  Parrots here are about as common as sparrows are back in Jersey, they are always nearby and you can hear them almost every time you go out your door.  This particular flock of a few mated pairs landed and watched the goings on for a while before getting bored to go on to find another place to land.

On the way back from the thrift stores, in front of The Gables on Wilton Drive I got to see the results of M.E. DePalma Park.  I started getting buzzed by butterflies.   There was a small group of them following me along like I was in that Disney Movie I was talking about earlier.  I noticed something on my left shoulder and realized that I had picked up a hitchiker.  I had a Monarch Butterfly sitting on my shoulder taking a rest.  The little critter was flapping its wings and breathing and I was too surprised to consider how unlikely it was until now.  By the time I reached the Shoppes, the Butterfly went in search of some Mexican Petunias to munch and I went on my way on home alone.

I swear all I needed was Bambi and Thumper and some orchestral music in the background and I'd be cited for copyright infringement.

This morning it started again.  I let myself sleep in until all of six in the morning... or rather Mrs Dog allowed it, and I set out the door.   Today was the day of birds.

By the time I reached the midpoint of the walk, that flock of parrots was back behind Hagen Park.   There was one in particular that seemed to take an interest in my dog and I because it flew to the fence behind the conference room there.   The rest of the flock was not happy with it doing that because you could hear them yelling to that one as if to say "Get Back Here, he's Scary!".  Needless to say, I ended up having a conversation with a green bird with a red patch over its nose for a couple minutes.  It wasn't completely one sided.  That bird seemed happy to chatter at me as long as I stood there.

Mrs Dog decided that she liked my chattering to strange birds as much as she likes me talking to my own parrot, Oscar, so she towed me along to the Drive to head back home.

The day of wildlife was not yet at an end.   I got across the street from the little Veteran's Park and there was a small flock of Sparrows that were in the tree near the corner and stop light there.   Most of them had decided that I was coming this way and that was a bad thing.   There was one particular male that thought that he was far enough away that he could leave any time he wanted so he chattered at me.   Wild Birds will sing, but it is usually not so much of a sing as a territorial warning.   I suspect the little guy was trying to tell me to leave his tree so he could have at it.   Every time he whistled, I did a poor imitation back. When he'd hear that he'd cock his head as if to say "You have a lousy accent but lets try again".  Then he'd get a little closer.

By the time we were through with all this singing and chattering, he was within two feet of my head. 

I finally broke this little wildlife encounter up.   It reminded me of the sparrows in Provincetown, MA that would hang out near the little mall they have there.   They'd get fed by the passer's by when they'd land at their feet and chatter.   I fed them myself most lunches when I'd have some chinese food on fried rice while they almost ate out of your hand.

The day's still young, I could have another encounter.   I know the monarchs like my back yard and I watch them flutter past the front window all day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hurricane Season Starts Tuesday

Ok, everyone, it's that time again!

Time to listen to the media tell you to DUCK AND COVER!!!!

While the houses here are generally built much more solidly than they were up North, it does bear some consideration.  Nothing will survive an Andrew or a Katrina Event, but most hurricanes are not that powerful.

Hurricane Season is upon us and it gives us an excuse to prepare and repair

Everyone here hopes that it will be another gap between major storms like the 80s and 90s.  Fort Lauderdale area went approximately 20 years between major storms, then the season of 2005 that spawned Katrina, Rita, Wilma and stretched on until New Years 2006 happened.  We have had three relatively quiet years, nothing more than tropical storms that were merely Rain Events.  When the Hurricane Season of 2007 hit, we tried all of the shutters on the house, decided they were in good working order, and put them all back in the shed.  The next year, we merely bought food and water, and repeated that in 2009.

This year we won't do anything different.  The books all say 3 to 5 days food and water.  Have Buckets for toilets and extra supplies stowed in case you really do have to evacuate.  There are more specifics that I won't go into. 

They changed the rule of thumb recently to 3 to 5 days.  When I moved here the rule of thumb was a Week To Ten Days.  I then started listening to the Emergency Management Personnel here in the City and what the "Old Timers" had to say about prior storms.  When Hurricane Wilma came through and turned the infrastructure into Barney Rubble, the power on my block was out for two weeks.  There were individual homes that were out for a solid month. 

Wilma was such a slow moving and grinding storm that it convinced everyone here that things had to change.   First, the markets were required to have emergency back up generators.  Good idea in any rate when FPL has such a bad track record of providing clean power.  If you sit in my front room and listen to the music, through the course of the day you will be hearing a mechanical accompaniment.  That would be the addition of the relays in my power conditioner filtering out power spikes because some wire somewhere shorted something out and sent more voltage through than the system is designed for. 

Second, the stores setting up emergency generators resulted in some bright start somewhere getting a great idea.  Lets save money by not distributing Ice!  It was a given during the storms that trucks of Ice would be delivered to central locations and those who needed them could come and get bags of Ice to put in their refrigerator and freezer to try to maintain some cold food. 

This was done away with.  Basically you're on your own and have to go to that store with everyone else and buy ice.  ...if the stores have it.

Once the ATMs have run out of money you're done with Ice because it is questionable that the phone system will be functional.  The cell towers are programmed to knock we the people off in order to give emergency responders priority.  The POTS Network that came to your house on a pole to feed a phone on the wall will be damaged and even if you have a "landline" service.  You may not have that after the coconut tree takes a header into the phone pole and the lines are now draped down into your swimming pool that is green from the algae that will be joining the mosquitoes that are breeding after a couple days.

There will be a sales tax holiday expected in June for certain emergency goods.  This will be when I go out and buy two weeks of food, a tower of bottled water, and fill up the Propane Tanks for the grill.  The reality is that even if they don't have that tax holiday, a trip to the big box stores to stock up is in store.

Time to eat the rest of the frozen foods that you stocked up over winter, you will need the space.

I'm here to stay.  Will you be?  After every storm there is always a flow of people who pack up the U-Haul and go to places that are less dangerous in their opinion.  There is no place in the country that doesn't have some sort of environmental disaster possible.  San Diego gets Earthquakes.  Hawaii gets Hurricanes and has Volcanos so there has to be Earthquakes there.  The North gets snow.  The West does not have enough water for the millions of people who live there.  Forget about Las Vegas in Summer.

We at least get a couple days warning when a Hurricane approaches. 

So it is time to prepare.  Think of it as spring cleaning.  You didn't really want to eat that three year old can of Okra did you?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Automotive Equivalent of a Burqa

A car tends to be a choice here.  A very complicated choice.  You weigh your life priorities, what you intend to do with the thing, narrow it down to some  few models, and then make a choice from that.  If you are lucky you can walk onto a lot and just get what you want and not get robbed too badly.

I drive a Jeep Wrangler.   Not a very efficient vehicle, but fun to drive.   I don't have children, I rarely take anyone anywhere other than my dog.   I got it because I had a friend who had one back in the 80s and really enjoyed the times I shared in it.  So I bought my first and since I would take public transportation I would shrug off the 18 Miles To The Gallon it got, and drove it to places like the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Apple Pie Hill, Atsion Lake, and the "back way" to the Jersey Shore.

That Back Way could save hours and was an almost straight as an arrow shot through some thick forests of pine, on a Fire Trail that was unpaved at about 40 miles to the hour.

I don't drive much now, and I don't intend to.   It does drink gas rather quickly by today's standards, but when I commuted it wasn't so expensive that it felt like the relative cost to the environment of buying new and efficient outweighed the fact that I have a nine year old car with 42,000 miles on it and can get at least another 10 years at this rate.  

I just don't drive much.

Cars do tend to fit your personality though.  I could have driven a long list of off road cars and for the little bit that I would go to the top of that Fire Tower at Apple Pie Hill so I could look at Atlantic City, see Philadelphia, and the lights of New York City from the same spot, all would have worked.  The trails in New Jersey are very easy to drive and I did it once in Mom's old Cadillac Sedan De Ville.

There are some cars that blend into the background.  The Automotive Equivalent of a Burqa.  These cars tend toward the appliance mindset.  I have to go somewhere, I need the room, and I'm going to do it while I cart about my stuff.   Stuff could be the two-point-three children, the Car Pool, or just the little old man with a Fedora driving 45 in the fast lane on the interstate.

When I first learned to drive, we would be on the lookout for a "Hat Car".  That would almost invariably be a Chevrolet Nova or Dodge Dart or similar.   A Sedan car driven by that old man with a Fedora, or a little old lady who you would see the top of some blue hair and perhaps white gloves.  Always driven way too slowly for traffic, and something to get around. 

I don't really drive enough to see that sort of thing.  I would notice that if you had an old Camry here, they almost invariably had a Haitian flag or a sticker from a small Caribbean or Latin American nation on it.  Driving 35 in a 45 zone on Powerline Road in the Fast Lane and choking traffic back.   The Modern Hat drives a 10 year old Toyota Camry or a similar Ford Taurus.

They can be boring but not really anonymous.

I have a neighbor about three houses down.  I truly enjoy them, their children, and the times I've spent chatting with them were truly times well spent.   They're wonderful people... they also drive a Burqa.

One of their vehicles are a Burqa.  They also have a big Dodge Ram Pickup, a real "Cowboy Cadillac" of a thing to haul their Air Boat.   It is Friday Morning and if they've got the day off, they'll be driving down the block shortly with the Air Boat in tow to go west to Weston and launch for a day of Fishing.

I'm jealous but I can't picture myself doing that.  I'd be miserable slapping Mosquitos and getting everyone annoyed as I turn brown then red.  Rehydrating yourself with Bud Ice can be fun though...

So what is this Automotive Burqa and why do I call it that?

They also have a Navy Blue Chrysler Grand Caravan. The Penultimate Minivan.  It has a "Salt Life" sticker on the back and I have yet to figure out what that means.  There are the stickers for each of the kids, a soccer ball sticker has been on it and a university logo from some local university that slips my mind.

Now, Mind You, I am sitting in my house low in the living room and while windows are open I can not see the street or their car down the block.   I have a very vivid memory of that Burqa, er, car, and I also have a mental block.

You see every time it drives past me, I realize that some person in that car is waving at me.  I can never put to mind who that person is.   It always happens once they have completely passed me.   I think it is the fact that the minivan is so much of the background of culture that this, the only one within blocks, just immediately falls into a black hole of my mind and I simply don't see it.

They're great people and I truly enjoy having them and their kids as neighbors but pile them in that big blue black hole and they're invisible!

I laugh at myself and am embarrassed to say, I just don't see them.   Nice people though, and I'll have to tell them this story once I get past my own shyness...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog

I shamelessly copied this posting from the Senior Dogs Project who adapted it from the Labrador Retriever Rescue page.

I was surfing while watching a Britcom, and listening to my dog, Lettie, snore in her sleep.   This says much that I had said when I adopted her.  She was just past being a puppy at a year and a half and is now nine.

I'm honored to have known her these years.

Top Ten Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog

1. Older dogs are housetrained. You won't have to go through the difficult stage(s) of teaching a puppy house manners and mopping/cleaning up after accidents.

Won't chew inappropriate items     2. Older dogs are not teething puppies, and won't chew your shoes and furniture while growing up.

Focus to learn     3. Older dogs can focus well because they've mellowed. Therefore, they learn quickly.

Know what "no" means    
4. Older dogs have learned what "no" means. If they hadn't learned it, they wouldn't have gotten to be "older" dogs.

Settle in with the "pack"     
5. Older dogs settle in easily, because they've learned what it takes to get along with others and become part of a pack.

Good at giving love     6. Older dogs are good at giving love, once they get into their new, loving home. They are grateful for the second chance they've been given.

WYSIWYG     7. What You See Is What You Get: Unlike puppies, older dogs have grown into their shape and personality. Puppies can grow up to be quite different from what they seemed at first.

Instant companions     
8. Older dogs are instant companions -- ready for hiking, car trips, and other things you like to do.

Time for yourself     9. Older dogs leave you time for yourself, because they don't make the kinds of demands on your time and attention that puppies and young dogs do.

A good night's sleep    
10. Older dogs let you get a good night's sleep because they're accustomed to human schedules and don't generally need nighttime feedings, comforting, or bathroom breaks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2 For The Drive - Commission Meeting Summary

Quite a lot happened last night, the meeting ran until 10:30 which is a good judge of things.

The easiest bit first, the Stop Sign was retained on NE 7th Ave at NE 22nd Drive.  The Pedestrians and the Children of this neighborhood are safer as a result.  There was a petition of 60 neighbors presented to the Commission who felt that public safety was a higher priority than one specific person's gripe about having to tap his brakes and stop. 

As for the Wilton Manors Main Street Two Lane Initiative, that's still moving along.

The Commission was treated to a solid hour of citizens and business owners speaking in public comments for the Drive Initiative.  The only dissenting opinion given was Paul Kuta, who objects on Financial Grounds.   I can understand that there isn't any money in the budget for new initiatives, but I am sure if you have read my writings you will understand that I think this is a Must rather than a Can do situation. 

The short description of the situation is that the resolution to place this on the ballot was canceled by the Commission with only one dissenting opinion, by Tom Green.  Commissioner Green believed that it should go onto the ballot in November for a referendum saying shall the city take back the drive or not.

I think what happened was that the last two weeks the Commissioners got to hear from the people in the city, and the business owners and are going to get an earful of opinions.  This process won't stop, there seems to be a lot of momentum behind it, and the vast majority of the vocal people in the community want to see the narrowing of the drive to go through. 

I'm sure that there are some who disagree.  There are those that look at the cost and can't find a way to fund it. 

There are those who say that they don't want to throw more money at "Those People" who use the Drive as their play ground.

There are those who like the idea of driving through our city to get to other places and do so at speeds exceeding the speed limits.  To those I suggest Boomers or that place on Powerline - go get in a go cart and go nuts.

The consensus at this point of the Commissioners is that they need to do this plan at some level, but are not sure how to make it work.

I have pages of notes that I had taken in the meeting itself on my trusty handheld Zaurus computer.  Watching the proceedings I think I saw the consensus go from We Can't to We Must But How. 

I stand strongly by my previous appraisal.  If we do not improve parking on the drive, some other city will realize that our business climate is tapped out and the economic engine of this little city, the entertainment district and the bars within, will wither away.  If that happens and they move to Oakland Park or Ft Lauderdale, the elected officials have themselves only to blame. 

The money can be found and must be found.  The most cost effective way is to perform Phase One of the plan and use the revenue from Phase One to prepare to perform the later phases.  That costs approximately $140,000.  The return on your investment will be the same number of parking spaces that demolishing old City Hall and building a multiple level parking garage would at $4 Million.  Chen and Associates agree with Wilton Manors Main Street that the numbers that we have come up with on Phase One are accurate but as was said on the Dais last night, The Devil Is In The Details.

Find the Money.  This is the FOURTH time this plan or similar have been presented to the Commission and Mayor since 2000.

The result of the meeting was that the question will not be on the ballot.  Not due to Intellectual Elitism but the understanding by Three of the Commissioners plus the Mayor that you just can't pack something this complex into 70 words.   30 seconds of speech.

The plan now is to bring this all up in the Town Meeting to be held in Hagen Park June 15th, 2010.

If you live here or own a business here or just love this quirky city, make your opinion known.  In my case, I will continue to every time I get a chance.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Commission Meeting Tonight - Parking and Stop Signs

I'll be there at City Hall, in my Semi-Assigned Seat.  How about you?

Semi Assigned... with these knees, I need to stretch out.  That's the only thing I miss about the old chambers, that little step that I could put my left leg up...

Tonight there will be more weighty things to discuss other than my knees.  They're going to be reviewing our stop sign at NE 7th Ave and NE 22nd Drive.  They will also be discussing Parking.  I'm sure the stop sign isn't the most important thing, but it is certainly important enough for them to discuss and leave in place.

They also will be discussing the Parking Solution as proposed by Wilton Manors Main Street.  That is a good thing and it is a massive change to the way the city is laid out in the central business district.  The problem arose back in the bad old days when desperate to make some sort of change to Wilton Drive, they had to do something.  What they did was to widen the drive and make it easier for people to get to and from the place.   Great idea, for a starter, but the problem was that it became too successful for its own good.

Before the change, the saying as I will paraphrase Commissioner Scott Newton, You could have fired a cannon down the drive from one end to the other and never hit anyone.   Now we have a Drive with a four lane highway running down through it, inadequate parking, and it is choking on its own success.  Any given bar night (Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday Evening) the immediate neighborhood around the drive is stuffed with cars seeking parking, people walking to their destination, and people leaving after having their fun. 

The reason for the parking problem was that the design guidelines as set out in the code for the city was intended to pack in as many opportunities for retail space as possible.   Since there were no open shops or practically none in that time, parking was not considered.   We have 7 wildly popular bars on the one mile of road, and parking for approximately 130 cars.  That was by design.  

Personally I think any business who opens shop without securing parking for themselves at their own cost has to have their business plan turned down.  On the other hand, that is what code here says - open up and worry about parking later.   We all partially created the problem in order to get this place started.   The crime rate was out of control, there were no businesses, and you couldn't walk out of your front door without taking the attitude that you may have to Duck and Cover.

Since the code worked, but was admittedly incomplete, the Plan addresses the problem.  Using the most conservative of numbers, the Plan will produce a profit within the first year, and will allow the City to improve the drive by the end of year three so that we can have parking pay for the lot on the old City Hall site, trees in the medium, and curb cut improvements that are adequate for the task.

All of that can happen if the money from parking revenue is allowed to be earmarked for the improvement of the Drive and not siphoned off for other purposes.  That will be a tempting low hanging fruit and with the large looming drop in tax revenue here I am hoping that the City will allow that revenue to remain on the tree and used for its intended purpose.  It can help other areas of the city as well, but it has to be allowed to run its course.   Three years down the line we would have a Drive brought to another level, and the discussion will be that now that we've got a surplus how about putting on a second level to the City Hall garage at Hagen and other improvement projects.

We just have to get through tonight. 

The other aspect of the discussion is putting this on the ballot.   I don't believe that this is the right place for the discussion.   The Plan is an amazingly complex plan.  It requires significant understanding and discussion of the details, funding methods, and drawings.   The law in this state says that you have to state the costs and do so in a very short amount of space.   It does not require the statement that this plan will produce a surplus of money to the city nor will it allow full discussion of the benefits. 

As a resident I want this to be funded so that in no way I personally pay more in Taxes and that in no way I lose services.   I can see that being achieved in one of two ways, excluding just doing the job out of the rainy day fund since it will be so profitable.   First a Revenue Bond.  It can be set up to allow the revenue from parking created by striping the drive in the first year being earmarked to pay off the costs in the second year.   Yes, that is a big oversimplification, but that's the very high order description.  The other second alternative is to have a special assessment or one time tax on those properties within the Entertainment District.  Tax them enough to pay for the first phase of the drive and do so based on the square footage of the buildings in the district.  I would like to see the numbers on that, but I suspect that most business owners would be willing to pay in to get the parking they need and get things moving again.

In this age of neo-conservative revisionist politics and spin doctoring that results in a right of center President being called unfairly, a Socialist, and people wanting short sound bites, the ballot is not the place to discuss complex matters.  I believe that this is not a more democratic way of making the decision and I find that admittedly ironic. 

The City has been given the opportunity to pass this sort of Plan in the past many times.  They have been urged to move forward by the business community and residents alike.   Those who are against the idea of widening the drive are out of step with the rest of the community, and need to be talked to but the plan must go through. 

If not, we'll be back discussing this next year and the year after until someone in another city begins to get critical mass and the businesses move away.   At that point we will be scratching our heads and looking for a cannon to test Commissioner Newton's quote.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cherry pie for the week


My favorite! 

As anyone who knows me personally will tell you, if there is something I like, I'll try to do it myself if it is reasonable.   That would explain away a lot of this foodie nonsense that I keep posting. 

Last weekend while my friend from Key West was here, we made up an amazing Roast Beef with Port Wine Gravy meal.   We took some of the leftovers and made up a very simple pastry dough and some Cornish Pasties were the result.   Quite good but I realized that I had to make my favorite Cherry Pie.

You see the results. The crust started with Cream that was churned into Butter and Buttermilk, added salt and flour to the bowl, mixed it all together until it was like modeling clay and chilled.   Had I not churned the butter, it would have taken all of 10 minutes so far, and I'm being generous.   Making your own Pie Crusts are dead simple!

Two hours in the refrigerator to allow it to harden enough to be workable, and the crust came out.   I rolled it out until it was the right thickness, laid it out on the pie pan and formed it.   I was not really going for beauty here, but taste.   I got what I wanted.   The pie and the two little leftover jelly stuffed things went into the oven and baked.

 Here is the result.  I came to a few conclusions.   Churned butter here was not necessary.   Don't get me wrong, the crust was amazing, but you can't really taste the butter in this crust.  Since you get about 2 cups of butter out of four quarts of Whipping Cream, you're basically paying $3 a pound for butter.   Save that stuff for biscuits, cookies, and other baking where the butter taste shines through.  Churned butter perfumed the house and made it out to the street with a smell that simply was amazing, but not really to the tongue.

Next time I bake a pie like this, I'll remember to leave it in the oven just a little more.  The center of the crust on top wasn't quite done to my standards and was just a little under done.  My mistake but it still turned out great!

I made some biscuits from the rest of the buttermilk and there are still some butter balls in the freezer.   I can see I'm going to have to thaw some of that butter out and make cookie dough or bread... I'm floating in the stuff!

The two little jelly tarts I made turned out interesting.   They too could have done with a little more oven time, but they were fine.  I have some Hurricane Jelly in the house.   A big box of those jelly packets you get in pancake restaurants is in my kitchen and I wanted to use some of that up.  I made one Grape and one Strawberry.   The ooze that got onto the pan was an interesting treat, basically it was Fruit Rollups made out of cheap jelly. 

Not as good as the Cherry Pie, but worth doing.   I'll do it again, but for now, I have 3/4 of a pie to eat in the next few days. 


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why question a needed Stop for Safer Neighborhoods?

Thanks to the Commission and the Mayor of the City of Wilton Manors, we had gotten our stop sign back at the intersection of NE 7th Ave and NE 22nd Drive. 

It had gotten taken down and the reason we got was because there were some traffic studies done that determined that it wasn't needed.  Too little traffic, too many speed humps and the lot.


I can sit in my rocking recliner in the front room of my house and get a clean view of the intersection.  I watch people go through there every time I use that particular chair, it can be entertaining actually.  It points out a few problems with these So Called Experts.

First and most important, they never parked a warm body at that intersection and watched how this intersection and the surrounding streets are used.  This neighborhood is used as a thoroughfare by many people going from the Shoppes of Wilton Manors to the adjacent neighborhoods just over the line in Ft Lauderdale.


Modern technology can read the car traffic but there is no way that you will get to count the number of people who walk through there ON FOOT.  Many hours there are more pedestrians that walk through that intersection than cross it with a car.   

Go ahead re-read that last sentence.  

The 800 pound Gorilla of the Wilton Manors Economy is that shopping center.   It has two LARGE bars, a very popular coffee house, some clothes stores.   A significant number of people Walk Home.  Many of them are not exactly sober when they walk through there, and others just aren't paying attention.   This being Florida, there are inadequate sidewalks so people walk in the street.  It is an accepted fact of life here.  If you make it more difficult to go to these shops and bars, you are going to lower the taxable income of the city, and also harm the economic viability of this town.

Yes, all because of one measly stop sign that takes a mere seconds to blow through on your way to your semi gated community of Kensington Street on Townhouse Isle.

I wonder what George and Jackson of Georgies' Alibi would think if it were put to them that way?

Second, if you don't like the patrons of those bars and shops, consider the residents.  There are actually significant numbers of children in this neighborhood.  It is a RESIDENTIAL neighborhood despite how close it is to a dangerous four lane highway and all the COMMERCIAL activity that goes on there.  I am happy to see that my neighbor's children are playing on my little street.   They use it to ride bikes, skate, run Remote Controlled Cars, play ball and do things that are normal in our society for children to do.  These children often have to worry about the high amount of traffic through what should be a quiet residential street, break from what they're doing, dodge traffic that blows through that intersection and zooms up the street to where ever they are going.  The Stop Sign slows them down.  They actually do stop there.  It is having an impact, people are slowing down on NE 7th Avenue and NE 22nd Drive.  It is obvious to the neighbors who live there and overwhelmingly appreciate the fact the stop sign is there.

Furthermore, the intersection is a logical place for a stop sign.  Seeing the intersection without the sign, there was a chance to observe the normal pattern there.   People still stopped.   People then would get into an accident because they were getting rammed from behind by someone who didn't want to stop because there was no sign there.   This behavior continued until the sign was replaced.  Having the sign there actually lowered accidents because it was respected.   It wasn't universally respected, but people did see it and at least slow down for it while considering whether to risk getting caught breaking the law and running it.

So why question the stop sign?

Turns out that someone in the semi-gated community is bothered by it.  He now can no longer drive the three blocks down NE 7th Avenue comfortably without having to touch his break pedal.  The only way in and out of that development is to come out at the South end of NE 7th Avenue at NE 20th Street and hit the four way stop there. The street that serves that condo community is still shown as being connected.  That is because it was connected and someone in the community at the time didn't like the fact that Those People From Outside walked through their neighborhood and sometimes caused crime. 

You know who Those People are don't you?  Coded Language?  Seems so...

So they put up a giant and ugly Berlin Wall at the end of the condo community and cut off the few houses that are on the street that are not within the condo's Home Owner's Association and turned their back on the City.  They're sticking their head in the sand and saying we can live here without interacting with the rest of the city while dictating what the rest of the city does with the traffic flow and threaten the children of the neighborhood just outside and the patrons of the shops of Wilton Drive.

It isn't like we don't have enough to worry about these days with the economy being wobbly and everyone wondering whether the burst housing bubble won't pull the country from Recession to Depression.

Hopefully this will be the end of the whole Stop Sign question.   If you support it I look forward to seeing you at the Commission Meeting on Tuesday.  Oh and there's going to be a little discussion about parking there. 

More on that parking thing later... I just needed to get this rant off my chest.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why I don't live on a Plantation

Not necessarily A Plantation, but Plantation.  The city in South Florida called Plantation.

Perhaps it would be better to say the Idea of Plantation.

Actually it looks like a nice tidy middle class suburb when I drive through it.  I just don't really have a reason to be driving through it or going "there". 

There is a state of mind in any given city.  If you live in Manhattan, you are there because you like the bright lights and big city aspect of things.   Florence, SC was a small little burg with an Old South look to it that I'd drive to and stay because it was half way to South Florida or half way home, so it had the whole small city thing going for it - if that was what you liked.

Plantation is a whole lot of suburbia here in South Florida.  It was built in the 70s as one of the OTP towns that sprung up once the cities East of I95 got full.  OTP is Over The Turnpike.   As in Way Out There.  They built their own malls, their own schools, and have a nice Brady Bunch look and feel to the place.   There are a lot of gated communities out there and I think that might be the problem I have with it.   Being a city of that era, you end up having a lot of homes that are not well designed for the environment of being in South Florida, rather being designed to be Up North.

I grew up in South Jersey, in one of the 1950s suburban tract homes that exploded out of Philadelphia onto 1/2 acre lots that took over the farms that were there before it.  It was a very Brady Bunch way of life.   The Wonder Years were my childhood.  The little pin oaks that grew there when the place was built now are 40 to 50 feet tall.  All the homes look the same-ish, differences in trim or plantings.

That is what Plantation looks like to me, Express your Individuality by living like Everyone Else.  Homes that all look somewhat The Same in Gated Communities.  Perhaps I'm wrong, and I don't really have a good view of the place.  I Never lived there because I Never wanted to go back to Keeping Up With The Joneses. 

On the other hand, Plantation is starting to experience the same problem that all gated communities are finding.  The Barbarians are at the gate.  Where the Gates on the Community were there to keep the Barbarians (you and I who are here to live together and not apart) out, they now are finding that as people are walking away from properties, the Barbarians are now locked in.  People who are upside down on their mortgages are walking away, renting properties to who ever will pay and they're taking a small loss in order to hang onto something while living in a smaller place.  Look up Lehigh Acres and you will see an excellent article of what happens to a gated community and the association when half of your city blows away on the trade winds.

The result is that your nice tidy Brady Bunch experience has a biker meth lab next door or worse. 

If you are living in a stereotypical gated community, you also have to deal with the Private Ownership issues such as roads which may or may not be city roads, police presence which may not happen because they're not allowed in unless called in (See Wellington in Palm Beach County).   All of that tends to lock the problems in and make it that much worse than it would normally be.   Here, our little Police Department and Code Enforcement would find out quickly because crime does not flourish if it is able to be seen.

I live in Wilton Manors, which is a very different place than anywhere else in the world.   The people who live here actively want to be here.   The people who I run into every day actively want this city to be better tomorrow than it was today.  We work hard to make sure that the city is that way, and that shows with a strong spirit of activism and volunteerism.   All this hard work shows in crime stats that are "normal" for the country and 1/3 of that of a neighborhood that is just a short 10 minute walk South.  Neighbors talk, and problems get known quickly.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a gated community, you are not fortunate enough to live in Wilton Manors, except that silly little Jenada Isle, whose gate is all show.  You can drive through there at any time you like.  I think next time, I'll park my Jeep at a convenient spot and use the little community to skate since it is much easier to get to than driving up to the airpark in Pompano.  That little triangle of land is easy to carve out a mile course and during the day I could go nuts doing 20 laps of it.

I guess this rant is a whole lot of To Each His Own, but I think the whole Gated Community experience is highly overrated, and if you have a lot of them in one area it is easy to generalize.  This housing bubble that has just burst turned a lot of things on their heads, and I think paying for a big fancy fountain and guard house is one of those things that will go away for a while.  

Why pay to a Home Owners Association when you are already paying taxes for the same services provided by the city?  You aren't going to get a discount on taxes are you?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dry Pool Work Done

I guess you would call this the Reveal if you were watching this on HGTV. 

The work took two solid days and two men were in the pool all day yesterday.  There was no rain and it was a typically hot late spring day here in South Florida.   This picture was taken at 4pm, well after the heat of the day was done, and you can see how intense the sun was by the corner of the picture.  That isn't white, that's the pool.  

I went down into the dry pool to inspect their work and literally came out blinded when I went back into the house after 10 minutes out there.   It took about 15 minutes for my eyes to readjust to the indoor "gloom".

But that having been said, they did an excellent job.  I'll find out just exactly how well they did it by watching the water levels when the pool is filled, of course, but it looked complete. 

We were left with a pool with three of these Frankenstein's Monster's Scars through it.  They dug it out, put in 39 staples made out of rebar, epoxied them into place, then covered it with Gunite and some Diamondbrite.   This morning it isn't terribly obvious that the patches are there since they did an excellent job of matching the colors. 

I can't imagine doing this sort of job as a DIY Project.   Yes, it seems simple, but the sheer amount of work that they went through was punishing.  We will have to fill the pool over the weekend once we take a measurement of how much water we have used already, so we can estimate how much it will take to fill.  I've heard it is 22,000 gallons of water. 

Constance is probably right, a green back yard full of native flowers, trees, and butterflies is more ecologically sound, but when we go to sell this house in a couple decades, the next snowbirds who buy it will expect a pool. 

Just don't fill it with ground water.   Too much iron in the water.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dry Pool Work In Progress - Frankenpool

Remember those pics from the last posting?   I do.  There was one in there that showed a close-up of the most complex crack.  That is the first picture here.  Think of this picture as the Before.  It tells the trained eye a few things.  Since I wasn't trained, I'll fill you in with what I learned.

We were lucky when the pool cracked the way it did.  It told the leak finders that the pool was constructed in a way that you can repair it.  Dig a hole, line with a lot of concrete, and finish it with "DiamondBrite".  If this were not the construction the crack would not have ended up looking like this. 

This crack is a fork, and none of them are in a perfect line.   That means we do not have a pool that was built out of concrete blocks.   Those pools crack in a stair step pattern.   They also can't be easily repaired.   The method of repair of a crack is like going to the dentist, they remove some of the damage in order to create a clean seam and then fill it in with a patch.  With a stair step concrete block crack, you run into the problems of whether they filled the blocks with sand or not, whether the blocks are broken, and whether you can drill down deep enough to actually have a structurally sound seal.

This is the During Picture.   Since I don't have a stair step pattern, the repair was done like I described before, drill out the crack until you get good concrete. 

The horizontal bars you see in the crack are where the staples will get put.   Inside each horizontal bar are holes into which a U form of reinforcing bar will be placed, then cemented in place.   The whole thing will be covered over with patch and eventually hidden by DiamondBrite.  The triangular area toward the bottom is the crack detail in the picture at the top of the posting.

He was here in my pool all day through rain and gloom working.  He worked hard all day, and the sound of carbide grinding wheel on my concrete were evident until he broke at 4pm looking like he had earned that rest that was forthcoming.  

Today he will return around 9AM and I'll see him working while I am here with a client discussing web pages.

That reminds me, I have to get the vacuum out before ....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How can you swim in a dry pool?

I am taking it easy on one of my faithful readers.   She likes my food postings and I didn't want to tease her with talk of a Cherry Pie... Once I get to GFS and get some Cream to Churn some Butter... Watch out!  :)

We have finally decided that enough was enough.  The pool has got to be fixed.  

The thing had developed a slow leak a while back and we didn't know why.   One day the pool was very low, down about a solid six inches, to the bottom of the tiles that you can see in the detail.  We knew something was wrong and went out to take a closer look and discovered that we had a number of cracks in the walls of the pool. 

Very uncomfortable feeling, and as it wasn't the right time financially we decided that we had to let things roll for a while and see what was going to happen.   The walls looked sturdy enough and there wasn't any expansion of the cracks or new ones appearing so we left things go as it was.

Things got better when I got my job as an IT Manager, and we started the plan to get the repairs going.   I had lost that job and now we're a month later.   The cracks hadn't magically disappeared and we simply had to have it fixed.  

I was concerned that the constant water pressure on the cracks was forcing too much water into the soil underneath the pool and undermining the whole structure.   When we drained it I was scared the whole thing would just crumble like a house of cards. 

This picture is the detail of one of the worst cracks.   What had happened was the water flowing into the cracks would pick up dust and soil from the pool and suck it into the crack.   We actually got to the point where the water loss daily was negligible. 

When the pool was drained, there was a small fountain on the deepest crack on the right side of the pool.   It was a gusher of clear water that went up into the air about 2 or 3 inches and was refilling the pool while I was emptying it. 

Overnight the pool had stopped refilling since the sand on the other side of the wall plugged up the cracks from the back.   Scary to me since the soil here is basically beach sand.

All this moving around should not be a surprise since as a child, my sister and I would go to the Jersey Shore with Dad and sometimes Mom and we would build sand castles.  I took to building moats that were deep enough to hit the water table and needed to be drained.   Some of them got quite complex and at high tide the flow could be significant from just a little bit of water.

When I woke up this morning I was concerned that I might find a large animal in the pool.   I've seen raccoons use it as a washing station.  I've seen opossums on the other side of the glass when I was at my desk, which was to say the least unsettling.

This slug was all I found of all the possibilities of the critters I could have seen in there.  If you look at the first picture, this slug was in the middle of the dry area of the pool, and shows as a small dot in the middle of the bottom of the first picture.  I'd say that slug went a good 20 to 30 feet from the walls, and there's an apron of cement around it that is a good 10 feet wide on either side.   Either a bird dropped an early meal or it had a long walk!

So today I get to watch a crew come in and "staple the crack together then patch it".   The pool won't look nice, but it will hold it together until we can get it patched and repaired completely.  I won't get much else done other than babysitting that crew, but then again, did I really expect to?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why do people buy Pie Crusts?

No, really, Why?  It's so dead simple!

Over this weekend on Saturday I had a going away dinner for a good friend.   We had the Roast and when all was said and done we had to make Cornish Pasties out of some of the leftovers.  It is a good way to get rid of some of the extras and we had a lot of them.   After having one last night, those Cornish Pasties were a good idea on their own.

Now that I had tried it and found out how easy it was to do, I'll be making more Pies.  Cherry at first, since they are my favorite, and I have a Key Lime recipe somewhere on a post card I had been carrying around with me since the early 1980s.

The recipe for the most part is a simple ratio - 1 to 2 to 4. 
1/2 cup water
1 cup shortening (Butter, Lard, what ever you have on hand)
2 cups Flour


1 Teaspoon of Salt.

  1. Mix Flour and Salt.
  2. Cut in Shortening until you get crumbles
  3. Stir in water until you get a ball.
  4. Chill for 4 hours or until it is the right consistency.

Should take you about 10 minutes, 15 if your get distracted.

Mind you, when I mix things, I do it in a stand mixer that has 350W stamped on the side, but there were Farmer's Wives who did this with a wooden spoon for centuries.  I'm just lazy and if you ever watched me bake, I swear by using the mixer to pump in extra air to give extra lift in my pastries...

That's it.  It made something that reminded me of Play Doh.  We shaped it, cut it into quarters, put the Cornish Pastie filling in the middle and baked until golden.

The result was one of the most amazing pie crusts I had ever had.  The pastry was light and fluffy.  I used a vegetable shortening that was organic and therefore "fancy" and that may have been part of it.   I didn't have any of my butter on hand but it is easy enough to use that especially since home churned butter can be softer in texture than store bought.

Since I have been told that my postings are the favorite of some of my local readers, I'll let you know how it went when I make the pie.  I have two cans of Cherry Filling in the cupboard, so it looks like Cherry Pies will be more common in the future.  When I make it though, I will make it with butter instead of shortening.  Despite the fact that the Crust was amazingly light, the extra sweetness from the butter will go well with a fruit filling.

Oh great, and my trying to fight off the pounds without hitting the weights at the gym will only work until I put that first fork full in my mouth!

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to say goodbye to a friend with food from 1975

If you're going to do it, do it right.

If you're going to eat mass quantities, make sure it is good.

I had a friend over for the last couple days.   He's a good friend, a British Ex-Pat who lives in Key West.   We had been planning this visit since April 2008, and he finally got it all together for a short vacation.   I keep telling the man he's working too hard on that rock down there and he could do what he's good at here for more money or less effort but that's beside the point.   If anyone needs a good Property Manager, Concierge, or similar, do let me know.  He'd move here for the right situation....

Ok, enough of that pimping for jobs right?  Since I'm on that bend, if you need a Project Manager, Business Analyst, Systems Analyst or similar in Broward County, let me know.

Shamless plugs over...

I had to do something big for his last dinner here.  We got to work that morning.  The menu would be excellent and if you have a craving for a prime beef dinner that was what I had in mind.  I'd mentioned it to my friend before and he's been craving it for two years.  It fits in with my motto of if you're going to work, make it excellent and the results blow away anything you're going to find in a restaurant unless you have a personal chef or a little old lady who still cooks handy.   People don't want to do this sort of thing, the prep time is a bit high and everyone wants an instant payoff.  From the moment that the beef has been pulled out of the refrigerator until it all hits the oven was about 45 minutes, and the prep time on the other end was another hour.  

For a Saturday dinner when you're out to impress, it was well worth it.

What we served was this:

An organic greens salad with "Open Source" Catalina dressing made from scratch.
Roast Beef with Port Wine Gravy served with baby carrots cooked in the same gravy.
Mashed Potato made from scratch.
And for dessert a serving of Tapioca Pudding, small pearl of course.

What we ended up with was a week worth of food.  Again if you're going to do it, make it worth your while.  My partner went after the leftovers and reserved a cup of beef for what ended up being the lunch for today.  That was a bunch of Cornish Pasties and one small Cherry Turnover.  All were made with Homemade Pie Crust that was some of the lightest Pie Crust I had ever encountered, and not ungodly heavy.

When I had the Pastie yesterday for lunch, I didn't even get heartburn when I served it with leftover veg from the meal before and a good puddle of Port Wine Gravy.

The diet is blown for the week.  I still have enough Pasties and Beef to last me at least another 3 days and that is nowhere near enough for me to tire of that sort of food.

I've mentioned this meal before to many people, and there does seem to be a generational divide over it.  This was common before 1975 for me and those who are over 40 probably will remember a sunday dinner like this or a roast chicken.  Those under just shrug and wonder what the deal is.  You probably just have to experience it.  There are plenty of recipes, and I won't reproduce the Roast recipe here, it simply is too long.  Some of the other recipes I will over the next few days, they make for a good posting and I know that some of my friends here on the Island will want them.

I will say that the roast beef went from being merely good to amazing with that Port Wine gravy and of course a serving of Port on the side.  If you have never experienced it, Port is a strong wine with a strong and sweet flavor.  You need a strong flavor to complement a meal like that, and this fit the bill perfectly.  My personal favorite is only $17 a bottle at BJs and is called Sandeman's Ruby Port.  Tawny is good as well for a milder taste.  People who work in High End establishments call Port the Ruby Relaxer, so if you're going to have some make sure that is kept in mind.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rotary Phones and Tube Radios

I was looking at my page on Facebook today... someone who is a friend of mine on there had joined a group that was called "I am so old that I used a rotary phone".

Count me in.  In fact, I have a couple functional Rotary Phones here in the house.  I've got a bunch of oddball technological toys that I collected over the years that are now so old that they couldn't be fixed if I wanted to.  On the other hand things that old were made so that they would last from then to today even if they were used daily so they're still working.

Complex sentence isn't it?  Maybe a run on or two?

Anyway, I was thinking about the things I have in the house that are remnants of another era technologically and I have been surprised at how long I tend to hold onto things.   I've got two Rotary Phones that are older than I am.  One is a candlestick phone that would work well in one of those old Roaring 20s movies where everyone in Chicago was shooting at each other.  The blasted thing could be classified as a weapon since it is made out of iron and solid brass and has a "trumpet" on the front that is made of Bakelite.   A plastic that would shatter if you dropped it Just So, but since you don't it won't break.

The other phone was one out of a store in Philadelphia called Strawbridges that was bolted to the side of a desk.  The bell on the phone comes in a box that would break your foot if you dropped it from your knee on it, and the phone itself has a handset that is solid iron... or so I think.   Massively heavy and meant to last. 

Another thing would be Dad's Radio, a 1956 Blaupunkt AM, FM, Longwave, Shortwave "Hi Fi" tube radio.  I got started listening to shortwave radio as a two and a half year old kid because they did stories on the BBC World Service back then.   It still works.  In fact, that old radio has a sound that is warm and wonderful.   I can still push the button on it and it will warm up and give me sounds from far away if I like, although if the tubes needed to be replaced, there's just no hope.    Tubes predated Transistors and Integrated Circuits and if you look at them when they were powered on they'd have a red glow that would actually make the circuit work.  Electrons going from the Cathode to the Plate through a semi vacuum. 

I don't have to go that far back in history though.  Thanks to a good friend in New Jersey, I have a Zaurus handheld computer.   That machine is about the size of your hand and I use it when I go places like Commission meetings to take down notes, and I have used the thing on the dais when I had my Community Affairs Advisory Board meeting to help us work out the budget.  I don't think it helped the rest on the board, but it certainly helped me keep things right.

Things turn around so fast that now you don't get to know your tools like we used to.  Maybe that isn't always a bad thing since things typically get better and more efficient and sell cheaper.   On the other hand, as anyone who knows me, it also implies that whole Planned Obsolescence thing that I dislike so much.

For now, I'll keep my 1950s phone that is connected up to a "SIP" Box and my network so I can make free phone calls to people anywhere in the US.  It looks great bolted to my desk. 

Oh and the news will be starting on the BBC World Service shortly ... so if you will excuse me...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Post Card from Diane

South Florida Cities are very fond of their Entrance Features.  The City of Wilton Manors had a feature that is depicted in this monument up until the thing fell down due to Neglect back in or before the early 80s.

The picture you see here, er inside the picture, is a depiction of the original feature and is the same feature that is on the City Seal that sits behind the Mayor and the Commission in the chambers in the new City Hall.  It is rendered in Ceramic Tile and the tiles were placed on a waist high wall by the volunteers and children of the local schools.  

The Post Card is the first stage of a feature that if it comes off will be quite nice for the people who come to use that little vest pocket park.  It will have a bench that is made to look like interlocking hands and should grace our city for decades to come.

The little Jaycee Park feature will be created in the vision of a fascinating group of people, but in particular through the energies and vision of another one of our strong and fascinating women here, Diane Cline.  Diane was a former Vice Mayor, the first one when we went to the current Mayor/Commission version of government and was recently appointed Commissioner.   She's President of the Historical Society, on many other boards such as Wilton Manors Main Street where I am honored to be able to see her in action.  She's showing no signs of slowing down, thankfully, because this City needs her vision and energies to help guide us toward the future.

Did I say I am honored to know her?  I did, good, it needed to be said again.

I had promised to get Diane a picture of the monument, and this one isn't quite good enough since while it looks great on my laptop, it won't print out well due to the darkness of the shot.   I'll get out there before Lunch some day and retake it.

Wilton Manors is blessed by many strong women who are here to help guide us.  There are many strong men who stand with them.  The spirit of Volunteerism here in this City make it so very much more than the playground of bars that some think that it should be.  The reputation of the City would be much less stellar if it weren't for the many Volunteers here, and the Mayor and City Commission tp complete the picture.  Agree or disagree with them, people like Diane Cline are a very positive aspect of living in Wilton Manors.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Success in Butterflies Renders a Stumpy Garden

In my neighborhood, a block away from my house, there's a little "Vest Pocket" park.  I've spoken of it before, it is named after one of the more entertaining people that I have met in this town, M.E. DePalmaOn an Island of entertaining people, to be at the top of that particular list is indeed a feat.

The other day I was walking Mrs Dog past the park and there was someone weeding the park, and a dog tethered to that ugly FPL Fibrenet warning post that they put there so I started to weave into the park.  Being horrible with names and not seeing his face, I walked a wide circle around the person manicuring the ground cover past the remnants of the Mexican Milkweed and toward the far part of the park so as to let the very friendly golden retriever have her space.

When I passed he looked up and looked familiar, and being abysmal with names, I knew I knew him but was admittedly sheepish.  I had passed him and was on the way out of the park and ran into M.E. DePalma getting ready to do some more weeding.  She and I were talking about various City events and we both commented on the Milkweed. There are so many Monarch Butterflies in the neighborhood that those plants are constantly down to stumps.  Skip, Her Partner, and the person who was on the other side of the park was saying at a loud voice "Go away Butterflies, let those plants grow!".  Amusing and ironic that in a butterfly park you have a problem with too much of a good thing. 

My Milkweed on the other hand are doing quite well.   The monarchs are finding that the butterfly park has tastier nectar and pollen and are laying their eggs there while flying through my yard to get there.   I sit in my living room and can see a parade of monarch butterflies float past the front window on the way to the park. 

We've got a good thing going there.  It was a property that was too small to be "economic" to develop, and given to the city for this park.  I'm glad it is there, and so are the butterflies.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Dog Walk Hour

Sometimes getting up a wee bit later can be a nice thing.

I've got house guests for the week.  I've been looking forward to having my friend David down here from Key West for two years now.  He finally got his ducks in a row and will be here through at least Sunday. 

I got him and all his livery here last night and we settled down for a chat about old times and how crazy things can be and before we knew it, it was well after 11.   I'm an early riser at any rate, so being up at 11 meant that I'd end up sliding my self out of bed a wee bit later than usual.   In this case it was true as well.  A whole 45 minutes late! 

Big deal you may say... and so do I.  My schedule is quite flexible, so therefore a mere three quarters of an hour is not a crisis, merely notable. 

When you slide your schedule and go "off peak" you may notice differences in things happening if you are observant.  Being an IT Manager, Consultant, Project Manager, Business Analyst - all of which are appropriate depending on which hat I'm wearing, I am very observant.  It is required. 

Most people are rigidly bound to a schedule.   If you walk past a particular place at a set time daily, you will notice that the same car will pass by roughly at the same time.  You will find that you are waving to the same shop owner as they set out their tables and chairs for the day.  Your neighbors are all walking their dogs at the same time in roughly the same pattern daily.

That being said, is the basis for a lot of police work in finding lost people and watching for crimes.  If there's someone strange in the neighbourhood, you may want to take notice.

In my case, I am usually up and out before sunrise since that is when Mrs Dog feels the need to go for a long sniff.  Border Collies need a lot of exercise, and mine is no exception.  I give her between 2 and 3 miles a day walk and she's a very fit middle aged lady of 9. 

At sunrise, there are usually few people out.   I don't tend to run into many people at that hour with their dogs, and since mine is fearful, it is probably for the best.  

Today I got out and did the normal walk a bit later... And I Ran Into Everyone.  This was a pleasant surprise for me, as I got to see some of my favourite people in the city.  Their dogs are usually entertaining, and mine just wants to avoid them or herd them, her choice. 

I did get to see some of my favourite dog owners walking about, and one in particular always amuses me.  This woman is over 30, quite fit, and a very personable person.  I always smile after seeing her.  Her dog is a very passive and fearful mixed breed who has an intriguing habit.  She sees another dog and collapses onto the ground in a crouch and stays as if glued to the spot until you pass with your dog.  So as you're laughing and commenting with the owner, the dog is sitting there with worried brown eyes, my dog is going away as if repelled because she's a fearful dog as well, and we're both ignoring the dogs. 

A brief chat, and I've passed far enough for her dog and she pops up as if spring loaded to walk away happy.  Crisis averted! 

Fun and quirky island filled with fun and quirky people and their dogs. 

As you move on you hear the dogs owner say to her "Kevin, you're a ding dong" with a chuckle then you walk on home and have your coffee and biscuits with a smile on your face.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Public Comments to the Commission on the WMMS Parking Initiative

45 Minutes of 3 minute comments

Last night at the Commission meeting there were 45 minutes of comments from members of the public.  That may not sound like much but when you realize that that represented about 35 minutes of heartfelt backing of the Main Street initiative, this immediately becomes more important.  This was also the third commission meeting in a row that this has happened.

These people who were mostly non resident business owners were able to use the meeting effectively as their only outlet for comment to get the word out about their feelings for the initiative and for the state of the drive.  Along with the remaining residents who spoke on the topic, the statement could not have been more unanimous nor more strongly said.  These people to the last, whether resident or business are all in the strongest favor of accepting the WMMS initiative as the basis for a rebirth of the Wilton Manors Drive Central Business District who spoke on that subject.

The Drive is dying the way it is currently laid out.  There are people dying crossing the drive.  The residents and the businesses of the City deserve a progressive change and this will achieve it.  If we pass whatever is needed to reconfigure the drive without delay, we can work with what we have to get the City and the Drive we deserve and need.

The only thing that can stop this other than continued Commission inaction would paradoxically be the ill advised idea that this all needs to go to a non binding straw poll.  Any straw poll will be saddled with the problem that those who will be asked to decide will be doing so with nowhere near the needed amount of information on the topic and a knee jerk action will occur.  If the non binding poll came up as turning down the Initiative, the Commission would then be free to take the slackers course by not proceeding with the initiative. 

As was stated by the owner of the What's The Scoop gelati shop at the north side of the drive, this was planned to be put into force back more than 10 yrs ago when he was "lured here" by then Mayor Jim Stork with visions of a better than Las Olas on our drive.  As a former snowbird, I can tell you that Las Olas is a world class destination. 

We can have that too.  It is time to act... NOW.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Craigslist Scavenger Hunt

Oddly enough, you actually can use Craigslist for things other than exchanging DNA, exposing yourself to social diseases, and things you wouldn't want to explain to grandmom.

Craigslist is a website that is geared towards being a central place for people to post notes.  The notes tend to be categorized toward specific things and are also broken down geographically.   Select your Country, State, or City and you will have the list of items that people wish to talk about, sell, or purchase for that area.  Sometimes a city is broken down to more than one county, or you have a region presented together where you can select down.  South Florida is one of those, being about 90 miles from Florida City in the South to Jupiter in the North presents a need for that.   If you are in Wellington Fl near West Palm Beach, it is silly to drive to Kendall South of Miami for a free Palm Tree.

People do, but people are silly.

I've been reading the site for years now, and it is always entertaining.  When I lived in Philadelphia, I had a neighbor who was giving away an iMac and I got that and used it for a while.   Since I moved here, I upgraded that to another desktop Mac that I got on Craigslist as well. 

I need new tires.   Being out of work, I couldn't see spending the $600-1000 for the tires I really want for the Jeep even at the low end.   I was looking at the Free Board the other day and up in Delray someone had two sets of tires that he wanted to get rid of.  They were for a Jeep and were the same wheels as I have on mine.  I went up and got them not knowing if they'd have the same or better tread on the tires, but this is the Scavenger Hunt aspect of the deal.  It ended up that one set had a tire that was shredded, a second that was bald and two that were approximately as old as the ones I have on the car. 

I took them anyway since my car had tires that were badly out of balance on the driver's side and would shimmy to the point that it was fearful to go faster than 55. 

The end of the story was that I was able to use one as a spare, one on the front driver's side, and my never used original spare on the driver's rear of the car.  I took it out on I-95 here and it rode approximately normally up to "highway speeds".  No they weren't new but they were better than what they had and that person did me a great bit of help by posting those tires.

Thanks, Eric!

You never know how you can help someone and it is better than turning something into bulk trash.

Once I find another job I'll get brand new tires, the car only has 41,000 miles on it and it is a 2002 Jeep Wrangler.  It will run much better on 31 inch tires than stock 27 inch tires too.

If you know anyone who needs a Business Analyst, Senior Business Analyst, Project Manager or IT Manager within commuting distance of Wilton Manors, FL, or other telecommute position, let me know! 

One thing that Craigslist is not good for is buying things that are highly technical.  Yes, sometimes you can get computers cheap or even free like I did.  The problem is that you end up buying something that may be broken or overpriced and suffer buyer's remorse unlike anything you ever have had before.   It definitely is a "Let the buyer beware" sort of shopping.  "Where is, As is" was what they used to call it.

It is worth a look if you need something but go prepared to say thanks, but no thanks to the person and their item since there are a lot of unscrupulous people as well as scammers out there as well as the normal people who think they should just get full price for their 5 year old item.

On the other hand, if I find a bowflex or other weight set, free or cheap... It's mine!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Crabs and the Blonde - Humor Safe for Work

A little humor from Velma.  She seems to know what I like!


Crabs and the Blonde

A lawyer boarded an airplane in New Orleans  with a box of frozen crabs and asked a blonde stewardess to take care of them for him.

She took the box and promised to put it in the crew's refrigerator. He advised her that he was holding her personally responsible for them staying frozen, mentioning in a very haughty manner that he was a lawyer, and proceeded to rant at her about what would happen if she let them thaw out.

Needless to say, she was annoyed by his behavior.

Shortly before landing in New York , she used the intercom to announce to the entire cabin, "Would the gentleman who gave me the crabs in New Orleans , please raise your hand?"

Not one hand went up ... so she took them home and ate them.

Two lessons here:

1. Lawyers aren't as smart as they think they are.
2. Blondes aren't as dumb as many folks think.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mexican Petunia In Bloom Picture

Perhaps this blog has been a bit heavy on pictures lately, I'm not sure.  On the other hand, I've got a lot to take pictures of.   I live in a land named after flowers and people do seem to enjoy looking at them.

When you have a blog or any web site, you can find out what people like to read about by looking at your analytics and web page "hits" and fill in the blanks.  In the case of this site, people seem to hit my posting on propagation of Mexican Petunias.  These Ruellias are all over the neighborhood.  Here they are as common as Hosta are up North. 

I was walking past the neighbor's house the other day and these three purple beauties were lined in a row.  Once I allowed the wind to die down, They lined up and smiled at me as such. 

I am considering my options with these plants.  In front of my house I have a small garden.  I had pulled out all the ferns that grew there as they were climbing up the Japanese Yew that I have on the corners of the windows and would grow outside of the flower box.  Ferns have their own charm but they are only green.  They have no other colour.  In the case of the Mexican Petunias, I'd get that same dark green and a welcome touch of purple to add to it.

Since I am a fan of propagating your own plants, I could go through that box with a weed eater and get rid of what is left and have a nice clean bit of sand that is under irrigation.  That is all one needs when you are trying to propagate Ruellia.  Irrigated soil.   I know this because that was all I had done for a pot of the stuff before.   Cuttings from the garden that climbed inside the fence got stuck into a pot and almost all of them rooted and bloomed.  It looked rather nice for a while until that irrigation line got cut and we went into the dry season.   It took a while before I noticed and now that pot has a trumpet flower tree in it and some other odds and ends like Poinsettia.

So if you're looking for Propagation of Mexican Petunia, take a cutting, stick it in a hole, water well.  The plant should take.   If you have patience that would be about all you need.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hagen Park Yard Sale Today 8 to 2

As we speak the earlybirds are there snooping around!

The park was filling up when I walked Mrs Dog down past there this morning half asleep.  I'm still half asleep, she's on the mat and I've got Haydn playing on the Sirius Radio.  The City is hosting its monthly Yard Sale at Hagen Park and hopefully I'll get to go there.   I'm not sure that I will but its always an entertaining time. 

The place will be chock full of things just like any other Yard Sale, and I seem to remember that the Historical Society will be emptying out some more of the things from Old City Hall.   I can't say that I know that Old City Hall will be open because I wasn't drafted to work that part of the sale.  Good thing because I have a lot of errands and may not make it today.  That's a shame because I always enjoy going there to see the neighbors I have here.  Great bunch of people, and it is always entertaining.

As I walked back from the Park, it was a constant stream of traffic toward it.  One pickup truck after another, station wagons filled with treasures, and people going to set up their goods hoping to pick up some spare change. 

A nice thing about being in a Small Town, Wilton Manors may be almost at the geographic centre of the South Florida Universe but there are only 12,800 people here, is that you get known.  If you're what Chesterfield Indiana calls a "stinker" you may not want that.   I have to assume that if I'm a stinker, I'm a well liked stinker because Mrs Dog and I got waved to by four groups of people on their way to the park.

I'll try to make it, but you should too since it is always so fun. 

Hagen Park, 2020 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, Fla. 8AM through 2PM today.