Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rain Clouds and Missed Shots

Early in the morning, lately South Florida has had some fascinating clouds just off shore.  I've been trying to take pictures of them, but there has been a problem each morning.

Either the light is wrong - too dark, too light.
Or the Clouds aren't behaving - too few or too many.
Or my hand shakes too much - the dog, the hand tremors on a long exposure, a bird screeches in the dark.

All of the above.  

If you talk to a fisherman, they will tell you about the one that got away that was 'this big'.

I could bring a tripod with me.  There is one that has been lightly used in the house.  It sits in a box stuffed at the back of the closet.  Most folks that enjoy taking pictures will have one around.  My pictures are better than some, worse than others, occasional moments of genius but not quite enough that I thought about gathering them up for an exhibition.

In short, I'm probably normal... or average.

But when you're out with the dog at 6:30 in the morning looking at clouds to take pictures of, you are forced to consider your subject.  Since the county came through a week or so back and sprayed for Mosquito control, I'm able to stand around just before dawn staring up at the sky like a chicken in a rainstorm. 

Since it wasn't raining, I could have my mouth open to catch flies, but I did notice them. 

Here we have very different weather.  It easily could be raining at one side of the street and not where you are standing, and you can get a sunburn at the same time.  I have stood in front of my house and watched the rain come down the block as if someone is drawing on the street with a great big hose.   Sitting in the hot tub in the back yard, the rains once sheeted across the pool in gossamer curtains until the entire yard was being watered.

Walking home, I paid no attention, thinking it was a "Pixel Storm" - something that shows up as a single green dot on the Radar.  Managing to get into the house completely dry, I boiled water for the morning coffee and later iced tea and went about the normal business of settling in to the daily routine.

I didn't even notice that the pixel had arrived until I heard the parrot flapping his wings in the cage in the living room and the dog cozying up to my right leg.  Looking out at the pool it seemed as if there were giant clods of water falling from the sky in a slow motion display of surreal wetness.

The world was dark, green, silver and wet.  A lone gnat was bashing its head against the speckles of the kitchen window trying to get at me or the coffee for its morning breakfast.  The sound of the moment was that gravel against a sheet of metal as the rain pounded down on the tin roof on the lanai.

At that point, barely seven in the morning, one small speck of color floated by.  Completely unperturbed by massive raindrops, flapping parrots and paranoid pooches, I saw a single shaft of color work its way across the green backdrop of the yard.

A Single Monarch Butterfly.

A camera just would not do that picture justice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bring Me ... A SHRUBBERY!

Monty Python References aside, I was out with the camera again.

There is something called The Golden Hour.  This is right after sunrise or right before sunset where the colors change.  This is known as the time to go and get your favorite camera and take pictures.  There will be more gold and orange and fiery highlights at that time of day than at any other.   It is especially apparent here in South Florida because at "High Noon" everything is brilliant and the colors have a surreal technicolor quality that I'm still kind of getting used to.

Taking the pictures at that time means that you get a broader palate of color with the right subject.  This one picture worked out well enough that I dropped it into my background shots directory and will cycle in as time allows. 

I'm not sure what the name of this particular shrub is.  They're very common and very popular here as an accent plant.  They don't get very tall, this specimen is about a foot tall.  People put them in for a bit of color, and they excel at that.   They don't put out any fruit, I've never heard that they spread and I haven't even seen any flowers on them.

Do they really need flowers?

I didn't think so.

This one is next door to M.E. DePalma Park in Wilton Manors, but you can see them all over South Florida outside Banks, Restaurants and other commercial buildings where slow growth is prized.  I've even seen them inside malls up North.  Christiana Mall in Delaware had a row of Palm Trees indoors and a few of these things... basically a plant prison but they looked interesting there.

Here we can let our crazy plants roam free until someone gets a wild hair and says that they're invasive.  Invasive?  Talk about an artificial environment, almost everything that grows here that is showy is imported from somewhere else.

It does make a nice background though...

Update:  I was told by Diane Cline of the Wilton Manors Main Street and Wilton Manors Historical Society that this particular plant is called a "Croton".

Thanks, Diane!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Moon and Mars

You probably have heard some sort of fuss about Mars being so close that it will be larger or brighter than the Moon.


The planet Mars will be at its closest point in a long time, and for many years to come.  It will be brighter than usual, but still just a red dot in the sky.  Venus is the brightest "star" in the sky most nights, excepting the Moon, and Mars just isn't bright enough to steal that honor away.  If you would like to see what it looked like on August 24th, here is a picture of it with a short description from NASA.   Nice shot as well.

It's an internet hoax.  Actually to explain it away, it is more like the Telephone game that we played when we were kids.  If kids still play it, you line kids up in a row, and whisper into one ear a sentence.  That kid whispers it to the next and it gets to the end all mangled up.  Basically Mars was 75 times smaller than the Moon in 2003 when it was at its closest approach then.  If you took a 75 power telescope it would look, to the eye, as if it were as large as the moon with an unaided eye.   In 2003 everyone was looking up, checking out Mars, and if you had a telescope, you had a great view.   If not, you would be looking online like I did for pictures.

If you did get swept up in that hype, don't worry, I did until I caught the APOD link above describing it. 

If you like celestial pictures, I highly recommend APOD.  You get a picture of something connected with the stars and space every day.  I've saved a few to go into my background rotation, and if I ever manage to get an electronic picture frame of any size, they'll end up in there too.

After all, we all need some art in our lives.  Sometimes it is a picture of the skies, other times it is a giant spider or dancing naked women in Key West!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Real Live Spiderman Signal - Picture

Definitely not the Spider Pig
This spider has taken up residence between two slash pines near the house.  This one, has a web that is probably as big as the T Shirt I'm wearing right now, and would cover your entire palm from tip to tip of the leg.

I will pause for you to look at your hand.

To give you an idea, I have a rather run of the mill 8.5 MP Samsung Digital Camera.  Nothing all that special by today's standards.  It isn't an SLR, has a little 3 inch screen in the back that makes it difficult to do true close up photography because I can't discern the detail, and won't accept external lenses.  Model S85.  Mine is black.

The nice thing about this camera is that it is VERY flexible.  I've learned how to use it fairly well as you can see from the pictures you see on the blog.  I tend to be very free with taking pictures now that I don't have to pay for a developer.  The pictures are originally 3264 by 2448 which is large enough that it is bigger than any computer monitor I have ever used.  There's a lot of room to edit out bits.  This bit is about an eighth of the picture, then I reduced it down to 640 by 480.

So why all that blather?   I was standing about 20 feet from this monster bug when I took the shot.  Using the Optical Zoom, I managed to get a nice frame that had all sorts of things caught in the web, then cut it down for here.  Maybe I'm patting myself on the back too much, but I'm surprised how well this turned out. 

On the other hand, it also goes far to tell you just how big this monster is by my Northern standards.  In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, spiders are dinky little things, rarely larger than your smallest fingernail.  I'm just not used to seeing a creature that is large enough to carry off a Buick hanging in mid air.

Someone had earlier tossed a piece of palm front into that web, and it remained there.  A hand sized piece of palm stem, held up by a T Shirt sized spider web glistening in the sun, and creating a home for a palm sized spider that has been there for months at this point.  That says a lot for just how big all of this is. 

So every time we do yard work, we get the broom and knock down anything that is "in the way".  We don't know if this particular spider is poisonous, but we treat it and all the wildlife here as if it is.  They're not Geckos after all!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fake or Astroturfing Reviews on iTunes

Having read a lot of reviews and having written a few on my own, here and other places, you get a feel for when something is not quite right. 

I worked with someone once who wasn't quite right, well about a lot of things, but he had a good feel for marketing.  His comment was that if there is only one review, it is probably from the company that produced the product.  That tended to make a lot of sense, since the one lone review in a product forum tends to be very positive, if not overly so.  Positive and sweet as a bowl of sugar usually.   Reading that review will lead you to believe that you can cure cancer and poverty and famine merely by buying this little box of crap that was invariably made in China by prisoners.

I have always taken a similar view.  When I do shop for products online, I search for a link for reviews and only read a few of the positive reviews, preferring the negative ones.   They're usually a lot more entertaining and can give you a good idea of what can go wrong with a given product.  If that doesn't scare me off, then I may proceed onto looking at the positive reviews.

The process of having the company or one of its minions write favorable reviews is called Astroturfing.  I guess its from having something look like but not be grass in a field.  Too Perfect of a turf since it isn't real.  The US Federal Trade Commission just decided that Reverb Communications engaged in deceptive advertising by writing fake reviews on iTunes for people to buy their latest game.  This practice is wildly popular and I hadn't realized that it was illegal until reading an article pointing it out.  Certainly it is highly deceptive, but then again, isn't Advertising the practice of convincing someone to buy something that they don't need by deception and suggestion?

Advertising changed dried, spoiled, milk with bacteria and cows intestines enzymes, poisonous artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives, excess salt ... and so forth... into Cheese. 

Can you imagine if everything were quite THAT descriptive?

For the record, I'll probably have an omelet with cheese and some sort of either turkey bacon or thinly sliced sausage for lunch... we could have a field day with the "correct" description of those products.

We consume products that aren't exactly healthy for us every day.  If we were to market cigarettes completely truthfully as a product that will drastically increase your chances of cancer, emphysema, and other diseases there simply would not be a large market for the product. You'll have to decide for yourself whether a cowboy in the middle of the plains of the US West is appropriate to make a decision that will impact your health 10 or 20 years later.

Technology tends to be easier, the item will perform a task, there are quantifiable ways it will do so and it will do it with some very specific aspects.   Screen size, processor speed and type, disc drives and all of that gobbledy gook.  If the consumer chooses to be educated, purchasing technology can become a simple process.  There are brands you would want to stay away from in any "type" of technology, most do come from specific places in the world, some with better reputations for quality than others, and some are more open to being repaired than others.

Wait, do people still repair things?

I do, but I'm ... odd.  I'm currently listening to music on a laptop that I repaired a couple times that is over 12 years old.  It is quite comfortable for the task.  Even if the drawer to the network card is broke, the machine works incredibly well as a table radio and could easily be used for light gaming or surfing the web.

There is an advertisement that I remember hearing that said "An educated consumer is our best customer".  I am afraid that the best help I can give is that you'll just have to become educated.  Reviews can help but take them with a box of salt.  Don't forget your friends, they're most likely to have a good idea whether something is worthwhile or not.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dancing at the Museum in Key West - Picture

Right off of the water, next to where the Angels land and the Fire Jugglers try not to burn the five year old children from Ohio, there's a little museum.  The building itself isn't all that small, and coming from a big city in the North, it only seems like it is a small museum.  On the other hand, there is a wonderful collection of Public Art there.

In Key West, which is a small city, on a small island, on a small planet, there is Public Art. 

There are traditions of public art in many large cities.  If you have a collection of people that crowd into a small place you create the economies of scale that result by simply not having enough space.  Key West should be one of those places.  When you have that situation, you can make certain assumptions.  The assumption is that people have a higher standard of living when there are artistic expressions easily visible.  Think of Paris with the Place de la Concorde, Philadelphia with art literally everywhere in Center City, Chicago on the loop with the Bean off of the Chicago River and the Calder Mobile.  These things happened because there was a conscious decision that there is more to life than concrete and commercial space.

In Philadelphia, there is actually a requirement that a certain percentage of the value of the building is spent during construction or re-construction on public art.  The result is a massive collection of art.  Walking through Center City Philadelphia is like walking through a giant museum of modern art.  Then they take the stuff they can't leave outside and put it in a big barn of a building on top of a hill and let some guy run up the steps.

I think his last name is Balboa.

The next best use for those steps is for tired inline skaters to congregate before their next 9 mile run, trust me!

When ever I go somewhere, I consciously or subconsciously look for public art.  I have found that the quality of life in that city is directly proportional to how many "Pretty Pictures" you can spot by driving down their main street.  Compare "this" city with "that one" and you'll realize which one has a better art scene.  I'd expect Austin Texas to be a better place to live in than say ... Brownsville.

Last trip to Key West was a Working Vacation.  I spent 3 days in a Conch House in New Town doing Virus Remediation and got all the machines back up and running.  When that happened, we took a walk down to see the sunset and I noticed that building.

You see, in Key West I didn't notice much public art that really wasn't more like a shop display.  When I got to this spot I stopped.  Stuck to my tracks, I thought "This is it, I'm home".  Sure, its naked women dancing outside the Children's Museum, and had some real warm flesh and blood women been doing that, there would have been a bit of a "discussion" happening, but there it was, public art in a small city of 30,000. 

I can't really call myself an Art Lover.  I have been to the Louvre, seen Mona Lisa, the Bayeux Tapestries, visited the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Rodin Museum on The Parkway in Philadelphia, but I hadn't realized how much I missed it until I got to see these beautiful pink ladies, prancing in an expression of joy.

At least that was how I saw it.  After looking at the picture above, I'm smiling and thinking the same that I did then.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Speed Kills Key Deer - Picture

Recently I drove to Key West to perform an act of mercy.   I went down there to rescue an Executive Client I have and restored four PCs.  He got hit by a virus that popped up a window demanding that he buy their "product" not once but twice.  I managed to save his data and got all four PCs up to date and running smoothly.

In Home PC Service...

Anyway... on the drive back, I headed through the City of Big Pine.  As you cross onto the island you see this series of signs.  It used to be more than just this, there used to be a series of speed limit signs saying that they ticket for 1MPH over the limit, its expensive, had a traffic information radio station broadcasting why, and so forth.

The Key Deer are a little bit of a thing.  They're deer that are the size of a dog.  I've never actually seen one, although I've been seen by them, and I am fine with that.  If it means they're safe, the better for them.  Now the road is fenced in and there must be less pressure on the little things.  The settled area looks like any other in the Keys - strip malls on US1, homes behind it, water that is bluer than the sky, low trees.  Once you get out of the settled area, the fence starts and continues until you pass out of Big Pine.  Each road that leads out from US1 out of the settled area has grates that are designed to make it difficult for the deer to put their feet on it with little bumps on each ridge.  Seems to work, although I'd hate to breakdown in that area.

Driving the Jeep through there, I'd note the signs, slow to 44mph during the day, and watch intently hoping to see one of the little guys first hand.  Maybe Next Time, I'd tell myself and plan to actually visit Big Pine on the next trip so I could see them.

Who knows if there will be a next time for me in Key West, but I do hope that the Key Deer will continue.  A one of a kind creature in a one of a kind ecosystem, they deserve to survive.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Superglue helps protesters in Edinburgh

I am amused.

Apparently, in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, there have been some climate protests.  People who are genuinely concerned about where our world is going so they've taken to the streets.  Finding a corporate shill that they believe is a partial cause to our global warming, the protesters have taken chaining themselves to it to another level.

They superglue themselves to it.

Superglue is a fairly common item in the US, and I would imagine in Scotland and the West.  I assume there are few people who haven't used it, but if you are that person, there's a problem with superglue.  It sticks to "everything", especially skin.  The glue is watery and clear, has a pungent odor, and will bond immediately to your skin.  To remove it or unstick yourself from yourself, you either use nail polish remover (acetone) or you pry gently apart the afflicted items with soap and water and perhaps a spatula.  Make sure that you don't breathe in the fumes directly.  Some folks can become quite allergic to the fumes and they result in flu like symptoms in about 5% of those exposed.

Once I was working with some superglue in my house.  It was summer, I was in the third floor bedroom of my old house in Philly, and it was warm.  My shoes and socks were off and my bare feet were resting on a heavy plastic floor mat that my chair rolled on.  Of course, I spilled the superglue on my feet and was almost immediately stuck to the floor. 

That will teach me to use the stuff when I'm sipping on a beer, right?  Three beers is even more stupid...

Luckily the floor was a little dusty due to the cockatoo dust from the bird next to my desk and my feet came up after a little bit of surprise and annoyance.

Going back to the protesters, these folks are sticking themselves to buildings, fences and former Prime Minister of the UK, Gordon Brown's suit coat.  Mr Brown merely removed his coat and was freed from this person, so sticking yourself for Shock And Awe is something that you should do carefully or else your effectiveness is going to be reduced.

Stick to sticking yourself to a Tesco supermarket instead of a former PM.  Much more effective, and annoying too. 

As for removal, I've always found it somewhat painful to remove my foot from a floor, so I can imagine these folks are in for an uncomfortable episode.  I'm sitting here amused and wondering if it might just be best to cordon off the area and allow the stuck individuals to stay put until they remove themselves from the item - and not allow them help.  Cordon them off and allow people to point and laugh.  After about 8 or 16 hours, Nature would call I'm sure...

"Hey Charlie, you're still stuck to the Tesco's front door, it's been three days, don't you wish you brought along the nail polish remover?!?!?"

Ahh the work of a protester is never done!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Durian, Scourge of Mass Transport!

Sure, its a bit dramatic but read on...

If it is from Asian cuisine, most likely I will eat it.  Cruelty free of course, and there are some things I think I may pass on, but for the most part, I have yet to have had a bad Asian or Asian inspired meal.  Thai food can be sublime, Indian is hot and savoury and probably the best vegetarian food, and Chinese food is commonly available and the worst of it is better than the best you'll find at some fast food chains on the roadway.

I'm talking to you Golden Starches.

Lately we have been watching a lot of shows from the Travel Channel.  The wonderful, pixieish Samantha Brown and the Crazy Big Brother Anthony Bourdain have been wandering around Asia.  Both have hit the same spots, and I think if I ever hit the lottery they have convinced me that I have to go to a Hawker's Market in Singapore and have some local delicacies.  Both presenters seem like people who would be a fascinating person to spend a lunch with, and you had better follow their suggestions because I'm sure they'd find something in your own back yard that you never knew existed and is now your favourite for the next year or three.

Having moved to Florida, I noticed strange and wonderful trees with fruit here that you only see in stunted varieties or very seasonally back in Philly.  I've written many times about my love for Mangoes.   I have a Mango tree in the yard, along with a Banana, Lemon, and of course a Honeybell Orange.  In the neighborhood, there are Papaya trees with fruit the size of a honeydew, a few Soursop trees and some others that I can't describe. 

Luckily there are no Durian.  They won't grow here because it gets below 72 and they require full tropical conditions - Fort Lauderdale is not tropical, that starts 20 miles north of Havana if you are being particular. 

Durian is something that has been described as a custard strongly flavored of almonds.  The problem is the smell.  They are banned from hotels and public transport in Singapore because the smell of them when opened is more aptly described as a stench of mouldy sweatsocks mixed with carrion.  Certain varieties are worse, others not so bad.

Notice where this picture is taken - on the hood of the car in the driveway.  This is not even a true Durian, and is only "flavoured" by Durian. 

Why on the car?  Notice that there are three missing on the left, and there is a very heavy plastic bag the whole package is sitting on.  Saturday I found an excellent Asian Market and went shopping.  Got my Oolong Tea which is my first choice for tea both hot and iced.  I got some wonderfully odd candies there flavoured of tropical fruits, some Kimchi, and of course these wafers.

You aren't going to find Durian Flavoured Cream Wafers in a Publix. 

So why on the car?  I'm getting to that!  Chill!

I got all my prizes back from the market and decided it was time for a snack.  I had heard about all the dire warnings of how pungent Durian could be, so I smiled thinking I had beat that by getting a confectionary made from something resembling Durian.


With the scissors piercing the mylar wrapper, I was assaulted by what can only be described as a wall of smell.  I'm thinking that there were fruit scents mixed in with Skunk Cabbage, Sewage, and perhaps a little pepper just to make the eyes water. 

Just who knew you could eat Skunk Cabbage too?

I had three little wafers, wrapped the rest up in that bag and had a laugh.  It was about 3 hours later that I noticed that the house still smelled of Durian when I was coming back from the dog walk at 6.  Luckily I had been given some green coffee beans and started roasting them for the neighbor across the street.  I did three cycles of roasting over the next hour and a half, and when I came back in to the house, the pungent smell of coffee roasting was fighting that of the Durian and I knew that it was going to be that way for a while.

Sunday morning, for a snack, I grabbed that bag and had some Durian wafers out on the car.  Even opening the bag a day later was a feat.  For two days, after eating those wafers on top of the flavors of the food that I normally ate, I tasted Durian.  After burping, I didn't taste chilis from the leftover Chinese Food that I doctored with Sriracha Sauce, I tasted Durian.  Trust me, Sriracha Sauce is one of the strongest spices I keep in the house!

Until Durian.

Fast forward to Sunday.  I woke up and didn't notice anything awry, went through my motions and even prepared a Pizza with scratch crust, four cheeses, Peppers, Onions and Ham.  After we had our pizza, I took Mrs Dog out for a lap around town and when I got back there it was in the air, under the Pizza and Coffee smell the house usually has... Durian.

Durian, at least in the case of these wafers, was not an unpleasant taste.   It tastes like ... Durian.  Distantly like Almonds, somewhat sweet with a strange undernote of something almost chemical.  I really don't know how to explain it.  The people in Singapore are right, this does NOT belong on Mass Transit.  Leaving one open inside of a car on a hot day would mean the car would be a total wreck and a write off.  But the flavour is something that you just can't describe. 

At some point, I'll go back to the Asian Market.  I've learned if you can find good Kimchi, Oolong Tea, and Durian Fruit, it is an Excellent Market, should be patronized and happily so.  The people at the market were helpful and I found everything I needed.  They also have, right by the door in mesh bags, Durian fruit. 

So the next time I go back, I may get one Durian.  They grow to the size of a large papaya - about a foot long, although the ones I saw were about the size of a softball - six inches.  Trust me though, when I get this fruit that is covered in spines and has a rough woody skin, I'll open it outside and seal it up inside of a glass jar.  Not something you particularly want inside your house..

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rainbow's End is Wilton Towers - Picture

This morning, after all the rain of last night, I realized that I really should bring my good camera every time I leave the house.

You can find beauty everywhere, and a cell phone camera does not always do it justice.  For a blog posting, I'd say this is fine, after all, it is shrunk down to the size of a "standard def" TV screen.  The fog that is in the picture is probably due to the junk that the lens gets on it from riding around in my left pocket.

But enough of that waffling about right?  Spilt milk and all that...

There was a lot of rain last night.  My pool is filled somewhat, my yard watered although the sprinklers kicked in which means the orchids got their water.  The streets were cleared of the dust that collects and everything had jewels that sparkled in the early morning light. 

At the midpoint of this morning's walk, Lettie stopped to sniff yet-another-interesting-smell and I looked up.  There was a full rainbow.  The end of the rainbow happened to be at the middle of the roof of the Wilton Towers, and the other side was towards the Wilton Drive.  Some might say that it is redundant, rainbows over Wilton Manors.  Others say it is a good omen, after all it was centered over new City Hall and the lot that used to be old City Hall.  At 7AM sunrise, it was a nice moment.

Nobody is up at that time of day but the dog walkers and people on bikes going through town.  It is quiet.  All the partiers are back at their hotels or passed out somewhere under cover.  There weren't any people banging around trying to get somewhere before traffic, and the Beach Volleyball Court here more resembled a sandbox devoid of attention.  One of the routines of owning a dog is that you must for their sake walk them three times a day.  If your dog acts up, walk them.  Mine gets three miles a day, never a problem which is saying something for a Border Collie.  One of the benefits of going through that slog every day is that you get to see your own city at an intimate level that you flat out don't from inside a car.  After all that is why urban police departments still perform patrols on foot. 

I'll remember to bring the camera more often.  The "real" camera just takes better pictures.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sunrise in Wilton Manors - Picture

In the still of the morning, the only sounds that I could hear were my own thoughts.  I was contemplating the lecture series I was listening on Ancient Chinese History, the lecturer speaking on Confucianism and Taoism.  The former seeks positive and constructive change, the latter seeks stability or perhaps reactionary conservatism. 

Being someone who seeks constant improvement and positive change, I found myself rounding the corner contemplating why someone would not want to make their lot better and improve things for all.  All the while, my dog was taking me through the still and coolness of a late summer morning in South Florida.  Coolness is always relative, I find a house at 76 cold these days. 

Thinking of the description of life in an ancient Chinese village with the dogs barking at your approach and the roosters on the wall crowing in the morning, I realized that I was mentally in the same time of day as was that picture.  3000 years ahead in time, half way around the world I was walking thinking of an unnamed farming village looking at the sunrise here in South Florida.  There aren't any roosters in this neighborhood, this isn't Key West.  There are plenty of dogs, all of which seemed to hear my footfall as the last bits of the inky night melted away. 

I rounded a bend in the road and the sun had just peaked up over the distant horizon enough to be in my eyes.  The shock of the morning grabbed my attention like the squawk of the parrot in the palm above my head, I looked up at it and thought, this is a pretty sunrise.  Very few clouds in the sky, not even the clouds that are almost constantly just off shore, the last few stars were winking out to hide for the day. 

At the corner, I paused for a bit, watching this natural sight and decided that I'd pull the camera phone out and take a picture.  Lettie wanted to sniff on, but corralling her close to me, she watched as I framed the shot and took the picture.  The palm framed the sun, Mercury or Venus trailed behind as they danced their celestial morning dance, greeting me with their light.

Another morning begins in South Florida.

Friday, August 20, 2010

An Angel at Sunset Picture

It is probably bad form of me to post this, but it does give you an idea of what goes on in Key West at Sunset.

Among all the jugglers, fire eaters and singers that have rolled downhill to a stop at the end of US1 in Key West, there's an island of quiet.   I was having trouble hearing what my friend and host had to say until I reached this bit of performance art.  Here, a woman dressed as an angel stands on a small pedestal.  She moves only very slowly.  When she moves, it is with an ethereal calm and grace.  One would expect that of an angel, and she did it well.

The little girl in the foreground was as entranced as I and the others were.  While she stood there watching the feathered apparition, the angel reached out, slowly to the child.  The child was too confused to touch her hand until someone said she could.  The look of awe was apparent on her face as she reached out and - gave the angel a dollar bill.

I guess even Angels Have to Eat.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Foggy Day for Mosquitoes

When I was a child, I lived on a river.   The river was not a large one, we called it a creek.  More accurately The Crick, in the South Jersey accent of the day.  I doubt they call it the "Coopah Crick" any longer. 

Before my day, people would swim in the water and eat the fish from it.  I've been told it was a beautiful river. 

People then moved out from Philadelphia and built homes along it's banks.  By the time that I was around, The Crick was turned green from the algae because of those homes.  The homes had lawns, the lawns had fertilizer, the fertilizer grew the plants both aquatic and not. 

Businesses came with the people and light manufacturing sprung up upstream.  That meant you didn't really want to drink the water.  We were told not to swim in it although I have no proof that it was poisonous.  My generation was the ones who stood by the banks and wondered why we couldn't instead of why not.

As we stood by the banks we'd get bit and that was our signal to go home.  Being South Jersey, the state bird was the Mosquito.  The county would take care of that.  In summer, the trucks would come around and spray a fog through our little neighborhood to "control" the mosquitoes.   I didn't really see the difference since I'm that person who would be a feast for them.  I have "sweet blood". 

The fog was thick and white and chemical.  As kids, we didn't know that if it could kill the mosquitoes, it could be nasty for you.  I probably still carry some of those chemicals in my body to this day because we'd all run around in the milky fog not understanding what it was.  It didn't really help and then the DDT ban hit and we stopped seeing this childhood memory of the future.

Fast forward to today and South Florida.

Today Lettie took me for a drag around Wilton Manors.  Lettie and I came off of Wilton Drive, passed the Java Boys, Alibi, and Poverello and the rest of the Shoppes.  When I rounded the corner I saw a yellow flashing light and a large pickup truck with some mechanics on the bed.   Lettie didn't care, she was happy to be out and was running out of power herself on the last leg of the walk. 

As I got closer the truck growled to life, a loud mechanical hissing sound happened like a great snake or a steam leak from the industries long gone to China to fuel Target's greed.  It pulled off before I got within a block, hissing away and leaving a fog in the early predawn light. 

Rounding my corner, the east end of the block looked oddly familiar.  Like after the fog trucks of New Jersey, there was a distinct haze to the air.  Broward County has begun spraying for Mosquitoes.

Despite the questionable results of what we had in New Jersey back in the day, I'm all for Broward County spraying here.  I could not walk outside unless it was full sun in the middle of the day unless I was either fully clothed in jeans and a shirt, or constantly moving in shorts and T-Shirt. 

I've donated quite enough blood to those things.  They bear diseases, and Dengue Fever has been found in Broward.  Last night there was a Mosquito laying eggs in the toilet. May Broward be successful.  Back in the 90s when I was here as a snowbird, I never saw a mosquito. It could also be that I tended to stay on the beach with everyone else.  No mosquitoes on the beach that I have ever seen even today.

I understand they stopped spraying around that time when the environmentalists got to ban the last effective pesticide.  If it is a choice between me and the Mosquitoes, I know who I want to win.  Dengue Fever is a nasty sickness. You don't die, normally, but you wish you had.

Maybe I'll get a bug zapper... I know they don't work against the mosquitoes... but...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nationwide Egg Recall

The other day it was the chicken, today it is the egg.

Go to the kitchen and get your egg carton.  There's a stamp on it with a plant code - typically a letter and three numbers.  The numbers was the day of the year it was produced.  The letter was the plant that produced it.

If your egg carton is stamped with a "P" followed by a number that is anywhere between 136 to 225 you will want to be careful.   Mine are "J" eggs and now that I know how the stamp works, I can be a better shopper - always find out what day of the year it is or just grab the eggs with the highest number on the stamp.  That number is known as the Julian Day but that's another story.

Wright County Eggs of Galt, Iowa is proceeding with a voluntary recall due to a salmonella outbreak.  You know if you have their eggs with the "P" stamped on the carton.  Take them back to the store and get a refund.

In my case, I have 2 dozen eggs in the refrigerator and they're safe which is a good thing because I have a LOT of banana bread to make... seems I bought too many bananas and they're all going overripe at once.

If you want to read more on the egg recall, check the CS Monitor link here.  For me, I'm safe.  Whew, important when you bake as much as I do!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If You Take a Picture Please Leave A Tip

To be fair, the sign was for the left of this scene but it fits in well.

In Key West there's a grand old tradition of going down to "Zero Duval Street" and saying thank you by watching the sunset. 

This was not exactly the right time for the picture for a sunset, I should have come back about an hour later, but this works in its own way.  Sunset Key is a little ways off shore to the west of Key West and serves as the plate that the poached egg of the sun will settle into.   The Sunset Festival happens every day and where you have people you have street performers.  This view excluded the buskers and the rest.  There was just a very helpful family sitting by the little dock watching the water and the fish therein. 

When Nature puts on a show, all you need to do is to wait for it. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunset Through the Screw Palms Picture

Last night sunset was beautiful.

I was sitting in the big green chair drinking a Rum Punch and looked west out the front window and saw this scene.  The picture may say a thousand words, but it didn't capture all of the beauty.

Parking on the plastic chair in front of the house, I aimed the camera at the sky.  After taking some flash pictures that didn't look quite right, I found the automatic setting for the camera, turned off the flash and got this shot. 

We have been getting these sunsets lately that have been amazing.  Bright burnished copper, "a subtle hint of Mauve"*, and a shock of colo(u)r that has been worth pausing and taking note of.  There may be too much artificial lighting here to see the Milky Way, but the sunsets are spectacular.

*Two points if you know where that quote is from...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Key West Chicken Picture

So why does the chicken cross the road?

In Key West you get to see why for yourself.

While down on "The Rock In The Middle Of The Ocean" also known as the Conch Republic I got to see this chicken strut across the street.  This was at the same corner as the bike on the balcony from the other day, so there was a lot of out of the ordinary happening all at once in one little corner of the world. 

These chickens go about their business for the most part unmolested.  The city of Key West goes through periodic fits and starts about clearing the island of the birds but for the most part nothing happens.  Why?  Because of a healthy dose of laid back anarchy that goes on under the surface on the island.  After all, they're descended from pirates.. er "Wreckers" and the chickens were their game cocks and not pets and certainly not raised for food.  Too tough I've heard it said.

It certainly gives the place a bit of an exotic air about it.  I can't imagine raising chickens here in Wilton Manors, someone would get all fussy and have a "hissy fit".  I know it was actually legal to have them in Philadelphia but I didn't want the extra work.  After all, the Parrot I have is certainly enough mess. 

It's nice to have them down there.   After all, you don't often get to see a hen on her eggs under a small bush at a traffic light.  They don't seem to be terribly afraid of the tourists and for the most part they are harmless. 

Except for the occasional 5am wake up call...

Not having been raised on a farm, I didn't realize that the birds will call in the middle of the night.  Walking out of a bar at 2AM and hearing Cock-A-Doodle-Doo was a bit different.  Hearing someone shout "Shut UP!" was worth a laugh.

Now, where did I put my recipe...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Political Phone Calls Have Run AMOK!

This year, the robo-calls have been much worse than usual. 

I am what they call a Super Voter.  One of those people who files in on all the Off Elections, makes a tick in the box and moves on with a little sticker.  I count as my friends elected officials in the city of Wilton Manors, and respect the work they do for the most part. 

This next election there are a number of folks who are trying to get my attention by calling my cell phone.  Friday Night alone, I got 12 robo-callers from various politicians.

If you're listening, I'm not picking up any more. 

I got your message, and I have already made my mind up.  But I Am Not Picking Up ANY MORE!

Thursday the calls started, right at the dinner hour, and I got 8, Friday 12, so we're up to 20.  Since the State of Florida allows "early voting", this will run up to the election. 

I finally picked up the phone in frustration, said hello to the silence and when someone picked up at the robo call center (someone's kitchen no doubt) I said "Please stop calling me, this is the ninth time this number has called my phone in two days!".  The woman apologized and I hung up in mid sentence.

The call did not change my mind.  It only made me angry.  Advertisements do not change my mind, they are something I press a button to skip.  I don't see adverts on the web because I run a combination of Firefox with Adblock Plus and a Hosts file to block most of them.  When I see an advertisement on the web it is a call to action to find and block the pest.

My phone is on the national Do Not Call List and if yours isn't I have to ask Why?!?!?  It is free, you are opted out of all of the legitimate telemarketers and if you get one you get to scare the person on the other side of the line by taking their info and then reporting them to the feds, although I doubt it does a lick of good.

Political calls are excluded from that sort of thing and should NOT be.  Especially when you get 12 a night.

Caller ID is a wonderful thing and when you get one that is blank, ignore it.  Unfortunately these evil doers with their vile machines need a kick in the pants from Batman or which ever super hero is around to make them stop.  781 843 3832 is a company that does not respect the Do Not Call list and I have them in my phone as "SPAM" and merely hit the Ignore button.  I've gotten the other one where the phone number is invalid as 954 000 0000 with it being from my area code as if I would want to waste my time with that sort of thing.

Luckily during the day I don't get these calls.   If it is from outside of South Florida, I don't usually answer because its normally a headhunter in Mumbai India asking if I want to work in Minneapolis or thinking Jacksonville is just inside commuting distance.  It would be if I owned a plane so go back to what you were doing and don't bother me! 

Oh and buy a map of Florida - or just surf for one, there are plenty.

But that is a different story.  So for now, I'm hiding from phone calls I don't know at night.  If you've called me, and I don't pick up leave a message.  I'll get it later.  The phone my be on silent or turned off.  At 6pm until after elections.

The only good thing that it has done is that it has made me contact those who normally call me instead of the other way around.  Wouldn't want to tick off a friend now, would I?

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Need A Raise - Humor from Velma

My friend in Philadelphia, Velma, knew that I needed some humor to lift my spirits... I'm sharing... I'm that kind of guy...

A:     Well sir, as you know, I have been an employee of this prestigious firm for over ten years.

B:     Yes.

A:     I won't beat around the bush.   Sir, I would like a raise. I currently have four companies  after me and so I decided to talk to you first.

B:     A raise?   I would love to give you a raise, but this is just not the right time.

A:     I understand your position, and I know that the current economic down turn has had a negative impact on sales, but you must also take into consideration my hard work, pro-activeness and loyalty to this company for over a decade.

B:     Taking into account these factors, and considering I don't want to start a brain drain, I'm willing to offer you a ten percent raise and an extra five days of vacation time.  How does that sound?

A:     Great!   It's a deal!   Thank you, sir!

B:     Before you go, just out of curiosity, what companies were after you?

A:     Oh, the Electric Company, Gas Company, Water Company and the Mortgage Company!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hurricane Food Can Be Fun - For a Dog

One of the things that I didn't have to prepare for Up North was bizarre weather.  Sure, we'd get some bad rains but they'd drain off downhill to someone else's place.  We'd get 5 months of winter, three of which the grounds would be frozen solid.  For the most part nothing was strong enough to make us want to store up two weeks of food and water "just in case" things got bad.

In South Florida, and I suspect the rest of the Gulf Coast and the state, we are told that it's not a matter of if but when a hurricane would hit.  Katrina started over that way about 25 miles off shore, rolled over head, and did a beautiful city with a rich culture a world of hurt.  Wilma started in the Gulf and came over land and visited here for about two solid days.  New Orleans is still recovering, and I notice here in Wilton Manors that the power "pops" at least three times a day with surges due to the creaky infrastructure caused by Wilma.

So in June, off to the big box stores we all dutifully go, getting the Extra Large containers of food that won't spoil without refrigeration.  We draw down frozen food supplies, and watch the weather to know if we're under the gun.

One of the quirks that gives us is that we get to buy "weird food" that normally we would not eat.  Last year I got Kimchi Taste! ramen that was so fiery hot that I couldn't eat it with the spice packet.  I was down to about 1/4 teaspoon of spice per bowl.  I'm sure that the Koreans love it, and I enjoy Kimchi if I can find a good Korean Market, but not here in Broward.

Everyone here who doesn't have a food allergy toward the stuff has a container of Peanut Butter.  Quintessentially American, people eat the stuff in many different ways.  Every so often that leaves us with a big "empty" jar to be recycled.

By Dog.

Show me a dog who does not like Peanut Butter and that will be the first one I have ever even heard of. 

Having a border collie means finding new and interesting ways to keep her entertained.  Here's a trick for you.  When you finish that plastic jar, show the dog what it is and place at least one "cookie" inside of it.  Rattle the jar around so the cookie gets stuck to the peanut butter that you can't get out of the jar and then set it on the counter in view.  The dog will watch it like a hawk then eventually walk away.  I can keep that game up for a while, but eventually when she gets the jar, she'll work on it for about a half hour.  Mine will toss the jar in the air and get the cookie out when it bounces off the ground, but it can take a lot of time, especially if you have rugs.

I don't, and every time that jar hits the ground it bounces around loudly.  Don't try this late at night!

The standard peanut butter jars, she has learned to open in around 15 to 30 minutes.  This year for hurricane supplies we got the Extra Massive Size Jar from GFS.  I discovered that I prefer the GFS Store Brand jar of crunchy peanut butter to the big names.  Just as much flavor, if in fact more than the national brands.  This jar is the size of a small melon - 80 ounces.  I can't even get both hands around that jar and I'm a big man - 6'4" and 225 pounds myself. 

I took a small bit of peanut butter on a butter knife, put it on a cookie, stuffed all that in her Kong toy and then sealed it all up inside of the jar.   Rattling all of that together, it got glued to the bottom of the jar with the most impossible of all glues - Chunky Peanut Butter. 

Watching me intently, I set the jar on the floor.   Lettie being a Mc Nab Dog is incredibly patient.  She waited watching the jar wanting to be released from this torture by the magic words.


She tore into the jar but couldn't figure out the lid so after an hour of her trying to chew this up, I took pity on her and removed the gnawed thing.

Remember Do This Under Supervision!  The jar lid did crack so when that happened, that was when I pulled it off.  A softer plastic would help, and the National Brand lids are better for this particular task.

That wasn't the end of this task since the Kong was still glued to the bottom of the jar with a Peanut Butter Death Grip that super glue would be proud of!  She then stuck the edge of it in her mouth, picked it up and flipped it in the air.  When it came down, the Kong stayed put so she thought I'll just lick the peanut butter off the jar and try later.  

This went on for another 45 minutes.   We're at an hour 45 now!

Finally, the Kong's suction broke and it popped out of the jar.   She went after the cookie inside for another 15 minutes and cleaned it out.  No more cookie, no more peanut butter, Lettie decided now it is time to go back after the jar.

She daintily picked up the jar and licked all the easy peanut butter off then realized there's more goodies down deep and stuck her head inside the jar and licked away.  Had her head been a little smaller, I'd have to get the shears to get it off so it is a judgment call on your part as to whether this is safe - if your dog's head gets stuck in the jar, it is on you.  I got lucky that all the parts were just the right size.

If you do end up with a dog stuck int he jar, you may have the next viral video on your hands.... I'm just saying ....

Obviously, larger dogs will shred the thing.  Smaller ones may just climb inside.  My dog is a 47 pound dog, a nice medium size.  Everything fell into place... but remember the dog's safety first.  Don't try this if you think there's a chance your dog will get hurt.  This is obviously not a "normal" or "intended" use for a peanut butter jar so I'm not recommending it, GFS is not recommending it.  A "shatterproof" plastic jar is only shatterproof under intended use

If it works though, your dog will love you for it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Dawn for a Demolished City Hall

Sometimes the Camera Phone is just enough camera.  Polaroids were never the highest quality pictures, but the foggy or slightly out of focus pictures that mom would get out of her camera were just right for the family subject matter.  This morning I remembered that I hadn't remembered my good camera so I took these shots at sunrise of the demolition of old City Hall.   The building is down now, all that is left is the concrete slab and the rubble.

As the sun rises on a new day, the old sign of the Historical Society and Wilton Manors Main Street are about all that is left standing of the old building.  Having run into a "Dog Friend" with her Golden Retriever and her little black mix, she described the site as her "Nuclear Bomb Site".

We walked for a bit and talked about the Bomb Site.  She didn't know that this view of the Commission Chambers with New City Hall in the background would shortly become a new temporary parking lot.

We stood in front of the main entrance looking toward Wilton Towers and chatted for a while about the possible plans.  Temporary parking lot will go up shortly.  Within two weeks of the site being cleared of the old building, they will begin work on the grading and asphalting of the plot.

Looking into the Police Doorway is very different now, but we can see where people will be leaving their cars.  If the Tiger 2 grant is given to Wilton Manors, I would be looking into someone's studio apartment window instead of at Wilton Towers.

This view from the corner of NE 21 Ct below Wilton Drive could have another couple hundred people living in apartments and working in shops on the Drive in buildings that "wrap around" a parking garage.

About all that is left of the building is the corner where the Police Gym used to be.  That corner and the steel door are most likely to be gone by tonight.

This view was of the part of the building where John Bold's remains were.  Inside the building was a piece of wallboard that were marked with a big "X".  That was John's resting place for a few years.  Now he and the building both are resting together.  Soon John's residence will be replaced by parking and hopefully apartments and a garage.  He'd have liked that improvement to the business district, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Five O Clock Haiku

Yesterday, I took my dog, Lettie for her evening walk.  We had the landscapers by to thin down the big Sea Grape tree in the back yard,  so after a day of the sound of a flock of dentist drills banging inside my skull, I needed to get away from the house. 

The afternoon was spent talking to head hunters and being online searching for an appropriate job.  In the Bush Induced Great Depression, that's harder work than actually being at a desk is.

Time waits for no dog at five in the afternoon.  I got a wet nose on the left elbow and begun to feed her.  Walking to the back door while she was eating and looked out at the suddenly brighter pool and thought that I was glad it was all over. 

At my left calf, she appeared, eager to get out and go so after some further inspection of important things like the door locks, my fingernails, and supplies, we went out for our walk.  I was so relieved to get out of the house and see the world that it all looked surreal.  The sky was too blue, the hedges too green, and the flowers redder than normal.  Even through the sunglasses, the world looked like a technicolor movie.

I walked down to the corner where the park was at, and you could almost hear the choir of angels in the background.  Everything went into slow motion as the sun shone on my cheeks and the little refuge showed its beauty. 

I grew up thinking that what we called "language class" was mostly pointless.  Learning the mechanics of the English Language was deadly dull, and trying to write poetry as natural to me as a fish with a bicycle.  However, as we rounded the corner and stopped the park spoke to me.  A haiku came to mind, most likely it is original.  I find haiku to be overly stripped and bare normally, minimalism gone riot.  Who knows why this was the thought of the hour but it was. 

Fast forward to awaking at 4:30am and that haiku returned to me as the first thought of the day and as such I am sharing it.

Carpets Green and Gold
On the Wing Orange and Black
Returning Nature

Monday, August 9, 2010

Saving your bike in Key West

I always had a bike when I was growing up.  I was taught by Mom and Dad that when we were through with them, put them away.  Usually that meant open the garage door, roll it in and squeeze the bike into a hole in the "treasures" that were stored in there. 

The garage was a treasure trove of trash and old things we couldn't bear to get rid of.  Things put there when I was a toddler were still in there when we moved out of the house when I was in college, never touched.   It was safe.  Even when the house got broken into, the garage was untouched because it was too much of a mess.   I never conceived of having to do anything more to keep anything safe.

Every time I pass by this building in Key West I'm stopped by it.  The place needs a coat of paint or three.  It has some serious weather damage and wood that needs to be replaced.  I'm sure if it ever got looked at it "wouldn't be up to code".  Knowing Sgt Gary Blocker, and Kim on Code Enforcement here in Wilton Manors, I'm sure of it. 

That doesn't mean that the building is unsafe although it may.  It has been there through countless Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, Thunderstorms and invasions of snowbirds and it still stands.   It looks like it is still inhabited although you can't prove it by me.

One other thought.  That bike.  There's a bike on the second floor balcony that is chained up on the outside of the railing and it has been there for at least five years.  It may be moved off the balcony and used to "go home" at the end of a work day.  My own personal fantasy is that the building is a secret art studio where the next century's treasures of the Louvre Museum are being created and the artist is watching everyone watch his house for inspiration as they scratch their heads about how bikes grow on trees ... or balconies.

I've been told that Key West is a fairly safe place in most areas during the day in Old Town where this place is.  Just don't leave anything out that isn't tied down.  The folks on the job in Police Work call it "Opportunistic Crime".  Bikes are a prime target anywhere, most folks don't have a safe and cluttered garage in a place as congested as Key West to hide their treasure trove.  I've been told that if I don't have a lock on a bike in Key West, don't stop anywhere.  I don't know if it is quite that bad, but it does lend itself toward individualistic and quirky solutions.

Like planting a bike on a building.

I'm sure that the next time I drive the 200 miles to Key West to rescue someone's computer network in what the owner described as "Executive Level Service", the bike will be there.  I hope so.  Quirky is good. 

Hopefully whoever owns that place won't "clean it up" too much.  Part of the charm of Old Town Key West is the wonderfully scruffy look that the place can have.  Duval Street looks like Disney partnered with TGI Fridays and what was born was the result.  Leave the tourist traps behind and the crowds thin out rapidly and you get to see the charm that was everywhere and is slowly being gentrified away. 

You may even see a bike growing on a balcony.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Get Ready for the RAIN!

I used to live in a much more gentle climate.  A small shower that is ignored here would have had the TV and Radio stations in Philadelphia talking about heading for high ground.  I got used to having a weather radio around, and left it on there for a while until I realized that it was very rare that the thing would set off an alarm that you needed to be worried about.  Philadelphia didn't get tornadoes often.  Hurricanes were something that you worry about in the South.  When we'd get snow, there was plenty of warning, everyone seemed to know it was coming and you'd hear from the neighbors.  We even joked that it was similar to a Japanese Monster Movie - LOOK!  It's a LIZARD!  IT'S A LIZARD!!! Run for High Ground!!!

At some point the weather radio got turned off, then put away.  The Internet gave you enough warning and if you would spot something coming, it was three days away in Chicago and it was another front marching eastward.

Fast-forward to today and South Florida.  When the weather here is nice, it is like being in a land of Technicolor.  When Dorothy Gayle opened the door of her Kansas Farmhouse in the Munchkin City, she didn't have quite as much color as we can here in Wilton Manors and South Florida.  The Skies can be a riot of Cerulean Blue and brilliant Magnesium White clouds that the Simpsons can only hope to imitate.  The Palm Trees are swaying in the breeze off the ocean like so many feather dusters stuck in beach sand.  Not to be undone, the flowers on the hibiscus tree in the back yard are shining a brilliant red that a 1940s Pin Up Girl would strive towards and they're not rationing here.

If you watch radar here you notice that we get little storms that look like noise on the map.  I call it a "Pixel Storm" because at typical range, the storm looks like a little dot or pixel on the screen.  Is that dirt or is someone's car getting washed?  Just before I woke up, one of those pixels came through and made enough noise to notice.   This being Sunday, I rolled over, growled, and went back to sleep after comforting the dog.

At 6:15 the siren of doom happened. 

Apparently we're going to have our cars washed.  They're predicting 4 to 6 inches of Rain here for late today and tomorrow.  If that were snow, it would be on the order of 3 feet and I'd once again be digging my Jeep out for some Play Time In The Pines.

It isn't, we're in Florida. 

My landscaper was by on Friday and told me about this long before the NWS Wake Up Call.  Nothing had been said on the Weather Channel, but they don't really know that there's a micro-climate effect in Broward County that is pronounced and while they got plenty of rain in the wet season, my Jeep has Beach Sand on it from 2.5 miles away that has been drawn up by the wind from the thunderstorms in Plantation that don't quite make it up this far, and my grass is having some stress.  I guess my Sea Grape tree won't get trimmed.

The National Weather Service Office in Miami or the Weather Channel never asked me.

So "Duck and Cover" and watch out for Godzilla, it's going to be wet for a few days.  You'll see my Jeep rolled out from under the Carport, it needs a bath.  Mrs Dog will hate it and I'll be rooting for my pool to have overfilled.

For your information, here is the warning text I got from The National Weather Service this Morning:











Saturday, August 7, 2010

Entering the Keys on US1 - Picture

Every so often you get to step outside of your comfort zone and do something Different.

How often do you actually get to drive a car through a UN World Heritage Site?

The view you get here is when you're driving South to Key West on US1 the Overseas Highway.  Despite the fact that its bogged down with far too many people that are doing just the same thing it is an amazing drive.  At this point, the border of Monroe County is just ahead of the car, the entry sign is just on the right hand of the frame and those buildings are in The Keys.

The road itself is not my favorite.  Its suffering wear and tear of too many cars, washboarded in spots, potholes to the last surface below it worn in others.  Driving a Jeep Wrangler you get used to a ride that is not exactly soft.  But from this spot, it is another 115 or so miles to my destination and each of them bears watching for diverse hazards.  There are many stretches of bad road, construction and a road bed that is too narrow for the use it's been given.  There are also crocodiles, key deer, and pelicans.  The pelicans are the only thing I've seen close up, and just barely missed having the inside of my car painted by one on the Seven Mile Bridge.

The picture above is much nicer than the one on street view in Google Earth.  That one when I look at it as of this writing is during construction, but it is linked below.  It is an older picture on Google Earth, and the view is much improved since the road construction has moved South.

View Larger Map

You can zoom out and see for yourself how much further I had that day.  It may be a somewhat ugly strip of asphalt but look left or right and you are in an unparalleled one of a kind slice of beauty.  The people in the Keys can paint their buildings pastels, put up signs proclaiming that they're in paradise and try to sell it to you as you drive past with the kids screaming to buy shells, but they have nothing on the natural beauty there.  The road is a mess, it is 106 miles from Key Largo to Key West plus the 16 mile causeway back to the Mainland, but the land it traverses is well worth looking at.

Friday, August 6, 2010

City Hall Demolition Pictures

At this point they are staged to do some more substantial demolition.  The building has been decaptiated, the roof gone, the walls taken down to around six feet, and piles of rubble sorted for recycling.

If you have a mind to, the prior links are here:

Starting the Demolition

Beginning to Demolish the Building - Gutting the interior

Removing the Back Walls

And now to where we are at...

These two pictures are of the Historical Society and Wilton Manors Main Street office.  With the Roof gone, the door blocked open by debris, you can see into the yard at what once was.
The Commission Chambers entry from the Exterior and the view down towards City Manager and Finance.  The door to the Chambers is propped open by debris and you can see into the building through a crack in the door.
Once you got to that door, this was what you saw.  Piles of wood and rubble where people met to create legislation and celebrate life in Wilton Manors.

This was what was left of the wall where City Manager and Finance departments were at.  The roof is gone along with the windows and interior walls.  It now is a cracked wall around six feet tall.
Where you used to walk into City Hall to see Charlie and Joy, there's a big open hole.  A piece of caution tape gave you a warning not to proceed, an interesting metaphor for the building.

The view from the landing at the Police Department shows the interior of the building and the piles of rubble there.

This is a hole nobody thought would happen.  In discussions of what to do with the land after, it was to be asphalted over and a parking lot would be the result.  Nobody expected that the building would have a partial cave in.  In none of the discussions did anyone mention that there was a basement under the old Police Department.  This will have to be filled in in order to be used for parking.

Here is the back yard and the remaining wall of the building.  The recycling is piled up waiting to be carted off to its destination.

Battered and bruised, the doorway remains still with the City logo on it and an American Flag.  It will be recycled with the rest of the metals from the building.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Driving in the Keys

I found myself driving to Key West over the weekend to rescue 5 computers and get someone "back on the air".  The problem with Key West is that it is at the end of a 106 mile cattle chute known as the Overseas Highway, also known as US1. 

The drive goes through many islands, over bridges, and the road itself is beginning to deteriorate.  This being one of the most beautiful parts of the country, you don't notice how annoying it can be to drive there until around half way through.  This was where I hit this particular bridge.  The nice thing about it was that I could hop out and stretch my legs.  I had plenty of time, it took around 10 minutes.

I found myself also on the other side of a discussion.  Here we're trying to turn Wilton Drive into a place to drive to not through.  I was trying to drive through the Keys to get to Key West.  Since the undersea tunnel shortcut was still under construction, I had to share this road with people trying to go about their own daily business.   When the main road through your town is two lanes, and you have only a short way to go, you end up not driving quickly.  For me, the guy in the pickup ahead of me, the Sysco truck heading to a delivery in Big Pine or Marathon, that short hop local gets wearing.  Especially after 3 hours of driving, and two to go.

Seems that the rule of the road in the Keys is always drive 5 to 10 mph slower than you really want to.  You do this because Mom is trying to pull out into traffic without getting caught on the rust covered manatee mailbox or stuck in a line of cars without a turn around.    Like in this picture.  This is the Seven Mile Bridge.  While it is a passing zone, you really don't want to do so because if you make a mistake, you could end up over the edge seeing what the Florida Straits look like close up. 

Mom was stuck in front of that BMW and she was driving 45 in a 55 zone.  I can imagine that all the way to Marathon on that bridge she was "oh my"ing and "Gees!"ing about how she got caught. 

Bottom line is that if you're planning on driving a long distance, have plenty of music on the radio, and expect to be there an hour later than you would normally.  The road was under construction on half of the islands, and the other half it should have been.  Between the washboarding and the need for four lanes, Florida has a lot of work to do just to make that road safe.  No matter that Key West is a destination and there are only 30,000 or so people at the end of that particular road, it needs to be four lanes all the way.  The state is widening it in specific spots, but they've got a long way to go.