Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Pat

Today's my sister's birthday. 

Happy Birthday Pat.   You're 1200 miles from here but certainly not forgotten.   There's something coming from a website for you...

Not this, this message I had planned on doing.  It is after all an open letter to my sister.   I figure at least 50 people will see this just today. 

Everyone pause, stop what you're doing, wherever you are and say "Happy Birthday Pat!".

Thank you!

On Tuesday, I looked up from the dust of the insanity that is going on here around me - the island of calm.  I realized that I hadn't sent Pat the gift I had planned, and missed the day.  It was still two days, but not enough time to get a card to Philadelphia.   I was doing my normal morning surf when I spotted something for her.  It's very Florida.  We see this sort of thing every day and like everything else, they tend to fade into the background for most people.

Not for me.  When I see this item, it brings a smile to my face.

I'm not going to say what it is, it will be a surprise.   Hopefully Pat will like it.  She may even write out a few paragraphs and email it to me when it gets there some time next week.  Take a picture and email that along if you like.  I'll post it all.

Turn this blog for a day from "An open letter to my sister" to "An open letter FROM my sister".

When I was up there, I  never made the trip to visit nearly enough.  Work gets in the way, the distance and the driving time were just enough to make it something to think about.  She visited my house twice - it was in the big bad city... even if it was in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Philadelphia.   People in the region generally don't drive that far.  It just isn't a habit you need to get into.  More than 30 minutes in the car and we get fidgety.   It isn't like here where people just pop down to South Beach, an hour away, and consider that close.

Now, she's happily married to a great guy, Mike.  She's got a wonderful son, my nephew, Jonathan.  She's living in a suburban dream of a split level in South Jersey near where I grew up. 

Nice life Pat.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Microsoft Patch Tuesday - Redesign Needed

Microsoft, don't get me wrong, you did an admirable job with Windows 7.   I have not had a software crash in a while that made the computer freeze up solid.  They happen but they're increasingly rare.   This machine is a five year old Acer Aspire 5610 with 3GB memory running Windows 7 32 Bit Professional.

Professional I think... I don't think it's Ultimate - and I don't need Ultimate.... anyway

See the beef I have, today, is with the way you hid everything. 

In your zeal to make your Flagship Home and Office Operating System look less ugly and more like Mac OSX (Yes, I went there, and you know you did too so stop complaining) you let the focus groups run amok.  The Aero Glass look and feel went too far.  You just went and hid EVERYTHING... in this case, everything means the icon for Windows Update.

What you did was to take all those silly little icons that used to reside next to the clock in Windows XP that most people didn't know what they were, and you packed them up nice and tight into a little ball and put them away.

Away is a little triangle.  Next to the Speaker Icon.  It points up, helpfully.   If you hover over it, it says "Show Hidden Icons".


That silly set of Icons in XP were the "HEY! You in the Meatspace!  LOOK at ME!  I need to TELL you something!".  Those were the Important Message Icons.   Sure they got corrupted.  My XP machine has icons that don't disappear that look like a track pad, and other "things" that the programmers think are important and really aren't.

Windows Update Is Important.  You need to SEE that it wants attention.  It needs to be OBVIOUS.  

Don't get me wrong, I REALLY like that I can dismiss it for variable amounts of time up to 4 hours, but this is the rant today.

The Icon is teeny.  Really Small.  Ok, I have better than normal eye sight, better than 20/20 in one eye.  I support users up to over 80 years old.  How on Earth can they see THAT. 

That's an icon that needs to be in your task bar.  Put a message box up on the screen that you can dismiss that doesn't fade away like that silly pop up balloon.  Make me Click to Clear.

Next thing that annoys me.  Other than Internet Explorer, there are a bunch of browsers out there.  Fully a quarter of the traffic to this blog is on Other Browsers.  Some I have never heard of.  I use Firefox.  Sorry, you lost this guy a long time ago.  Internet Explorer is a Single Point of Failure and a giant Heap Of Code.  It runs slowly, bogs down your complete computer.  When it crashes you may as well reboot because you never are completely sure what broke.

I'm sorry, "Restart".  Ok, so I'm oldschool I still say "Reboot".

When you shut down or "Restart" this computer under Windows 7, the Focus Group got it terribly Wrong. 

Can you hear that Fail Buzzer?  WRONNNNNG!

Applications now will ask you "Save and Quit"?  Firefox does that and will wait for you.  There are other programs that do that as well.   When you Restart your computer it closes what it can.  You end up with a Window Shade of Darkness coming down over everything with an icon for every program still running that it is waiting for and it will sit there saying that it can't restart.  I'd have clicked that "Save and Quit" button but with all those programs closing the computer slows down and the Window Shade of Darkness won't let you get to it.   It is a giant Saran Wrap covering letting you see the food but not letting you taste.

Window Shade of Darkness.   I like that.  Remember where you heard that first.   Here.

Sure... you can click a button letting you go back to the programs and your operating system, but WHY?  Let me have access to that button and I'll do it while YOU wait, not the other way around.

Now that we've redesigned the operating system, Windows 7, with Mac Minimalism in mind, you've gone a bit too far.  Its nice, but just a bit too far.   Now, Mr Code Monkey and Ms Design Team, I'll pat you on the head and tell you go back to your offices and fix it. 

Don't go too far in copying Mac OSX and Linux.  They don't have everything right, sometimes different is merely different.  They do have their own annoyances - just don't get me started on iTunes....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Browser Toolbars - Spyware that should be uninstalled

I was sitting at the development computer, a slower machine that I only use for making web pages and doing my various blogging and Social Media work, after a restart and I was wondering why it was taking so long to start up. 

I keep this machine clean and lean.  No extra fluff like weather monitors or extra multimedia things are installed here.  Google Earth is on another PC.   It runs XP and everything is turned off.  I know intimately how fast this thing runs and it's surprisingly snappy for an old Pentium 3 Class Machine.  I have Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3.6.10 as of today, if you're curious.

The machine had just been restarted for the first time in a couple days, maybe even weeks.  It should have just "started".  It came up with a window by the Update Of The Week club - Adobe Flash.  Flash is a cranky beast, I have to wonder if Steve Jobs may be right by not allowing it on the iPhone and iPad.  It had crashed last night when I checked Google Analytics on this particular blog so I had to force the browser closed. 

After Adobe stopped annoying me with its questions about installing, I launched both browsers wanting to check if there are updates and to get started with banging my head against the keyboard here when I saw it.

The Vile Stench of a Browser Toolbar showed up with an "Ask" near the word "File" on Internet Explorer and when Firefox came up, above the "Most Visited" folder. 

No, I do not like Browser Toolbars.   If I am asked to support a computer, and I see a browser toolbar, I will uninstall it.  If you like them, I'll let you have your fun with them, but I will also stop right there.   Browser toolbars are the warts of computer programs.  They watch what you browse, they take in information, and they give nothing back.   Parasite.   They slow down your computer.   All the search engine companies have them, and they typically are installed when someone puts something new on the PC.  Sure, it's "Free" but the company who provides it gets a kick back when you slip and let this thing pollute your computing experience.

Yes, that is my opinion, but this is my blog and on a slow day I get over 50 people reading here.   Hi Folks!  Welcome back!

Here is how to uninstall it - it is what I did immediately on seeing that thing sit there.

Look at your browser.   You will probably see at the very left of the control stripes at the top under the navigation buttons - a green or grey jellybean with a "<" on Firefox or a blue jellybean with an arrow pointing to the left on Internet Explorer - an icon for a website.  The one that made it here was "Ask".  It could also be "Yahoo" or "Google" or "Bing".   You do not need it.  There is a built in search box in Firefox to the right of the control stripe.  In my case, on this machine it is Wikipedia, but it could be anything you want it.  My Internet Explorer has it in roughly the same spot, next to the Red X, with "Live Search" in it.

You now have identified where the toolbar came from and where you will do your searches in the future.  Remember which icon you see because you will have to close all of your browser windows.  Both Internet Explorer and Firefox will need to be closed, and others as well if you have more than two - some people do.

Now, go to the control panel.  Click Start, and on XP it is on the right pane of the start menu.  Classic start menu it will be there too, but in a slightly different place.

In the control panel, select "Add or Remove Programs" and let the list fill up.  This is a list of all of the programs that you have installed, whether you knew it or not.  Some are things you should never touch, but the ones you are looking for are pretty obvious.

The Wart that was the "Ask Toolbar" had a tiny "Ask" Icon in the list of the installed programs, and was labeled as "Ask Toolbar" in the Add or Remove Programs list.

Click on the name "Ask Toolbar" - or Yahoo or Google or which ever and the line will highlight and give more information.  It will also give you the blessed grey "Remove" button.

Click the "Remove" button to achieve computing nirvana.    It will then ask you if you really want to remove it.  Take exquisite pleasure in clicking "Yes" and the vile thing will be removed from your PC after windows does its work.

Remember, this is your machine.  You do not need that program, it really does spy on you and it really does slow you down.   I went from having a computer that was barely useable to a machine that is spry and snappy and it is a 10 year old computer.  Yes, I know how to "tune" the operating system, and Yes, I have newer machines, but why upgrade, I've already paid for this machine.

Hey, if you want to send me a machine to review, I will more than happily do so, but ... well I didn't think so did I.  The typical person with a 2 year old machine who gets a new machine because it is slow doesn't realize how much software is running on "Old Paint" and how much of that is just bogging them down.  The fastest machine I personally have is a Five Year Old Laptop.   If you have an old Core 2 Duo machine, its actually an upgrade for me to give you an idea.

Once all that is done, you can repeat that for any other toolbars that snuck onto your machine.  When they're all gone restart and your machine will be faster.  That is of course assuming that when they put that there they didn't damage your operating system by replacing parts of it to do their dirty work.

Of course as always, you get what you pay for.   Instructions on the internet are as good as the writer.  I went through these steps and immediately started on this rant.  If your machine is broke after doing this, I made a good faith effort at making sure the instructions are correct - but I do not warrant that they are so.  You can never be sure that a program that was installed by a sneaky method when something else was installed is making a good faith effort at being open and above board and a good citizen when it is removed.

If you want me to go through your machine at your house to clean it up and you're nearby I can do so at a reasonable rate...  I've done so before for others and they're generally happy with the end result.

Monday, September 27, 2010

When Lemon Meringue Goes Bad

I got into a baking mode yesterday.  Sundays tend to be and I find it a great outlet for my creativity when I settle in and bake something special.

It started with us buying a package of 6 ready made graham cracker crust pie shells a couple weeks back.  That means that either I learn to love Graham Crackers or I make six pies. 

A pie in a ready made shell is trivially easy to make.  You can go the route with the boxed pudding or canned fruit and prepare.   Chill and set and you're done.

On the other hand, if you really want to do it right, you need to learn how to make the filling yourself. 

I used to do this frequently back in the 80s.  I had a recipe for a Key Lime Pie from scratch.  I secretly ignored the pie crust instructions, prepared the filling mixture and meringue and popped it into the oven.  I remember those pies were usually a masterpiece of taste.  Toasted meringue, creamy and tart key lime filling served cold after chilling.  They never went bad in the refrigerator because my friends and I would tear into them.  Through a couple moves and a couple decades, I kept the recipe.   It is here in the house... I just can't seem to find it.

I need to.

Yesterday I attempted a new recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie.  This one was from Alton Brown on the Food Channel.  Great, I've done his recipes before and they always turn out fine if you follow things literally at least the first time. 

Lemon Meringue is similar to but distinct from Key Lime.  This recipe is different from what I'm used to since you are using corn starch to thicken a water and sugar mix then adding in the lemon juice and zest.  He says bring it to a boil.  I thought I *had* brought it to a boil, and not being familiar with the recipe, mixed the mess back together, added my lemon juice and then poured it all into the crust.  It will thicken up and set, right?

Lemon Meringue pie filling is a gel.  It is translucent and bright yellow.  It looks bright and almost artificial when you get it in a store and I assumed that they used food coloring.  After making this recipe, I realize all that is natural.  The color comes from the egg yolk and the lemon juice.  The base gel is off white, even grey and translucent.  Add the egg and juice and it turns brilliant yellow.

It also requires that you cook it fully.   Partly from Salmonella since you're making something from eggs, but mostly because the gel that you're making won't set off of the heat.

While the lemon and egg mix was sitting on the stove, I turned around and turned on the big mixer to raise the meringue.  The meringue recipe was much less sweet than I am used to which is not necessarily a problem.  It raised beautifully, if a bit too firm.  That comes from not watching what you're doing.

There's the problem right there.  When you are cooking, pay attention.  Don't take shortcuts when you are doing it the first time.  I got cocky and ended up with Lemon Pudding with a meringue floating on top.

We had a third of it last night, and it was quite tasty, but needed to be in a bowl.  I'm too stubborn to waste food, so it will get eaten.  

With a spoon.

At least the Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies I made turned out perfect.  That was from the home churned butter and cookie recipe I made a while back and left one pound of mix in the freezer.  How can you go wrong with Slice And Bake when the batter is home made?  

If you leave the dough in the freezer long enough, it ends up getting freezer burned, that's how.

I guess this weekend was more cleaning out the freezer than making wonderful treats, but at least I can try again.  Next time I promise to pay attention...  I'll most likely have to make up some of those cookies again.  A Batch makes around 100 cookies, 5 pounds of dough, and it also makes for some very happy folks when I show up with plates of them at a pot luck party.

Now, lets see... how much butter do I have in the refrigerator...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Crema D'Roma Restaurant On Wilton Drive Review

I finally made it there, and I'm glad I did.

I'm not a true Italian food fan.  I grew up with Mom's Home Made Spaghetti Sauce - a thick Marinara that she'd start cooking on Saturday morning for Sunday Dinner.  She'd start parts of it Saturday, assemble parts into this pot that you could bathe an infant in on Sunday morning, and perfume the house with the thick scent of tomato sauce cooking with garlic, spices, three kinds of meats.  I had it so many times that I got bored with it and stopped eating anything with red sauce in the 80s.

What a fool, I'd kill for some of her sauce now!   My sister had been making this same sauce after Mom died but knowing that I had enough of it, when I came by for a visit, the menu was changed and we didn't have anything even remotely like that. 

Lately, I've been on a search for something that "Tastes Like Home".  The food here is different, not bad, just different.   The bread tends to be a bit too pedestrian for my tastes, although I have not tried one of the local artisan bakeries that I'm friends with on Facebook.  I'm planning on it, I have this craving for a sourdough bread with a thick crunchy crust and I haven't had any decent sourdough since I moved to Florida.

We have a recipe here for a bolognese sauce that is good, but not quite the same.  I don't know what it is, but the sauce wasn't quite "right".  Good but not "right". 

When I sat down at the restaurant I began looking at the menu and noticed that the sandwiches were interesting.  They had a good collection of Paninis and sandwiches and "you could have it on a hoagie roll".  

Note the word "hoagie"... That is originally particular to Philadelphia and the region.  Comes from the sandwiches that the Italian families made when Momma would send Dad to Hog Island in and around the First World War made on a torpedo roll.  People from other places call it a "Torpedo" or a "Zepp".  Wrong.  Sorry, Hoagie.

Linguistics aside, I knew that I had the Real Deal.  I looked deeper and the owner came over and started talking about how we could have anything we wanted on that famed Hoagie Roll and I was intrigued.  Noticing that he had the real ingredients for a Real South Philly Italian Hoagie, I was ready to jump. 

On the other hand, I have a very firm rule.  If the owner of the restaurant chats with you about how great a specific dish, You Must Order That Dish.  He's a fascinating character, in the way this little island is stuffed with People of Character, and he was quite animated and excited... about his Lasagne.  

Describing the love that he put into the sauce, and how he got the Sausage from New York City because it wasn't quite the right spice mix here in South Florida, I was sold.   We talked about that perfect Italian Hoagie and how I wanted to try that some day but not today.   I ordered the lasagne. 

Rom went off to the food prep area and prepared two samples of the sausage, a dark brown meat that promised of the spices of South Philly or Brooklyn or Queens.  He was right, this was truly the best Italian Sweet Sausage that I had had in years.  It was also promised to be throughout the Meat Lasagne in chunks. 

If you're a vegetarian, you can have that variety but you'd miss that garlic and sage taste exploding all over your tongue in warm savory goodness.

He also brought by a basket of bread with some extra virgin olive oil sprinkled on it.  Bread with Olive Oil hasn't been my favorite, until now.  I'm the guy who makes his own unsalted butter to bake with, and bread just has to have butter.  Its traditional, but I'm learning that Rom was right.  This stuff was amazing!

There's a reason for that.  It's not made here.  Not even in Philly or New York.  This bread was made in Tuscany and flown in from Italy.  Yes, I had the Real Deal... Tuscan Ciabatta Bread.   Oh Holy Cow this stuff was good!

The Lasagne arrived, and I had to say to Kevin - this sauce is better than yours!

While his sauce isn't moms, Kevin's sauce is head and shoulders above anything I have had in a restaurant in a very long time. The sauce that Rom has at Crema D'Roma is simply better.   Chunks of Garlic, Tomato and spices and all of it baked with tender Lasagne noodles, cheeses and that amazing sausage.

Go there and try this stuff, it's wonderful.

Next time I go, we decided to try to re-create that South Philly Italian Hoagie.  He "Gets" that stuff.   The place actually has Proscuitto and Soppressatta on the menu in the listed ingredients.  This is the Real Deal.

A Classic Hoagie on a Honest To God Tuscan Ciabatta Roll?  Oh Heck YES!

When you walk by the place,  you'll see the collection of the Gelatis that he has on order, plus the desserts like German Chocolate Cake and a Cannoli that I remember from 7th and Sears in South Philly when I was a kid visiting Grandmom... I'll try the cannoli next time.

Crema D'Roma is at
2150 Wilton Drive
Wilton Manors, FL 33305

Be sure to say hi to Rom Marchisotto the owner.  Rom will take good care of you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trust in Dog

Trust in Dog

Trust in Dog, she will keep you dry in the face of evil rains.
Trust in Dog, she will lead you out of the darkness into the light of Wilton drive.
Trust in Dog, she knows best.

This morning, after waking up and feeding Lettie, I put some coffee into the roaster and walked outside to inspect the weather.   This being the Wet Season, we get days where it could rain at any moment and the storm won't show on the radar.  I didn't think much of the weather and walked back into the house, after all the coffee beans were due to come out of the popcorn popper cum coffee roaster.

After setting the beans out to cool, silencing the smoke detector, and turning on the fans to clear the air, I gathered up the necessaries and stepped outside into the morning with Mrs Dog.  She walked past me and onto the grass in front of the house and stopped cold.   Sniffing the air she looked from side to side.  It looked like she was sniffing out impending doom so I started looking too. 

Still seeing the same clouds I had seen mere minutes ago, I shrugged and grabbed the umbrella and set out into the Florida Morning.  

We have a set route in the morning.  She could do it on her own, blindfolded.  She knows which driveway apron I like to cross onto the verge of the street from the sidewalk, and where on it I do so.   She knows which route at which time of day I take.  It is all a part of having an intelligent dog with you and not a furry lap warmer or a yapping lump. 

We do not do tricks, we have "Behaviors".   I tell her "Show Me" and she will take me to what she thinks needs my attention and it is not always a food or ice cube treat.  If you have never had a dog, a Border Collie is a handful but what you get back is orders of magnitude more than what you put in.  She knows me better than I know myself, and she's also a better judge of character around strangers which is quite useful living in a resort city.

Walking out the Usual Morning Route, she got to the second intersection and stopped.  Sniffing the air again, I watched and said, Lets go! as she looked at me and then to the street of the "Short Walk" and back to sniffing.  "OK! Show Me!" and she turned down the Short Walk Street and led me onwards.

We got two properties down that block and the rain started.  I couldn't hear it coming but she certainly did. 

Trust in Dog, she will tell you if you only listen.

Walking through the rain, we did what we had to do and got to the end of that block, wet.  The rain petered out to a drizzle, and she turned back into the Sniff Monster that she could be.   At one point, someone with a Cocker Spaniel overheard me say "Rain, Go, Walk" to Lettie.  Not being used to an intelligent dog, he said "Yeah, right like they listen".

As Lettie immediately stopped sniffing to "Rain, Go, Walk" the only response I could have said is "She knows more than I can guess" and walked onward.

By that time the rain had ended and she wasn't buying my trying to rush her around town any longer.  (sigh) Ok, up to Five Points and then home.

Trust In Dog, She Knows Best.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why does Wilton Manors smell like Wet Dog and Coffee

Another one of those early walks.  I was up a bit early so the whole schedule slipped early.   At least up until this point since I'm back on the schedule.

I managed to get out the front door and looked up at the conditions.  There was a mackerel sky - clouds that were "broken" toward the South and West, and thought nothing of it.  There was a scent on the air, the usual Florida humidity was joined by the scent of fresh coffee.   Being early, I had just taken the time to roast up some coffee beans and they were cooling in the kitchen while I was out.  The process of roasting coffee does tend to perfume the air, the upholstery and everything nearby.  Since I was the one doing the job, I was perfumed as well.  What amused me was that while I was wearing the finest Decaffeinated cologne money could buy, the air smelled like coffee.  I pointed my nose into the breeze and realized that I had gotten my neighbor across the street starting to home roast coffee, and this must have been her day roasting too. 

Cologne loves company.

I had decided that today Mrs Dog needed a long walk.  A long walk for us is a full mile, exactly.  From the house, down to the bottom of the city, and back past the bars on Wilton Drive.  She needs the walk because she's put on 3 pounds in the last couple months.  Three pounds is not a lot for me, or you the reader, but for a 47 pound dog, its like my putting on 10 pounds.  The equivalent of going from a comfortable pair of pants to not being able to put them on.

She doesn't like to walk at 5pm, the dog walking hour, because the sun is still high and she's almost all black.  White and some tan accents, she's a border collie.  In this climate that also means she's a solar panel that retains heat.   The 5pm walk has been getting shorter and shorter as a result through the summer. 

It doesn't take much to put on weight.  100 calories more taken in per day and a month later you put on one pound.  Do that too often and you become a bit unhappy.   With the dog it's our duty to watch that sort of thing on our own.  When she hit 50 pounds, I decided that the next day her morning walks would be longer.

That was today. 

I did manage to get past the park near the house and looked up over the trees and houses and noticed that the full moon was now fully covered by clouds and still thought it looked fine for a walk. 

When I got past NE 21st CT, about a quarter of the way through, the sound track of Earth Wind and Fire was playing as I waved to the officer I know in the cruiser.  With a chirp, he passed... and as I turned to watch him pass, I noticed that the clouds were building toward the Ocean, only 2 and a half miles away.

We finally got back to the Drive and noticed that there was a fine mist in the air.   I managed to stand between two buildings and looked at the new light poles on the Drive.  They're intended to put light on the sidewalk and they do an excellent job of that.  I could easily read in that light.

The problem came right then and there.   The skies opened up fully.  

This being Florida, there are little storms that may not even show on radar that float through.  The radar site that is at the Fort Lauderdale Airport doesn't always show on the weather sites I look at so I end up interpolating between Miami and West Palm Beach.   Someone needs to plug that one in because we're in an almost dead zone at this point.

The storms hit and pass in the span of 10 minutes and you're able to move on, so I made use of the generous awning in front of the New City Hall.   Knowing I'd be there for a while, I decided to sit down against the wall under the awning and watch and wait.

Usually Mrs Dog is very anxious when it rains, but this time she was smiling contentedly.

Still the smell of coffee was on the air, perfuming my shirt, her wet fur and the immediate area. 

But as I've said for a while now:  It's Florida, You Get Wet, You Dry Off, No Problem. 

Umbrellas not required.

I think I'll have another mug... double sweet, single cream...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Challenges for the New Administration in November

I should have said as seen by and my readers this week.

The reality is that of the top five topics here, a blog that is billed as an open letter to my sister, three of them were strictly about Wilton Manors.

Sure, people like my pictures, and they hit my posting about the Mexican Petunias, but that was not the majority by a long shot.

I am a Project Manager and Web Developer as well as a lot of other things, so my posting on how to stop Hotmail from annoying you by using the delete key to delete emails was even more popular.  I guess I still can write technical documents - That's going to be brought up in my next interview, and I am ACTIVELY looking for work.

60 Percent of you came here for information on what is going on here in Wilton Manors.  I find that to be the norm but a bit of an obvious prediction. 

I am active in the volunteer effort here.  I have met some very interesting people, some are quite capable.  Others like one particular person that I have the misfortune to run into, is dismally incompetent in what she does.   Luckily she is a volunteer and she's getting paid exactly what she is worth.  That is an almost direct quote from a Commissioner here...

We have a lot of people adding their opinions to the discussion, and while some are right and some are wrong, it is always a judgment call as to which one to follow.  We cast our votes around the modern oracle of Delphi, and the best critical path to proceed is chosen.

The problem is that while the critical path has been chosen, the results do not show that the plan has been followed. 

We say we want to do something about the problems at hand, but there hasn't been a lot of vision on how to proceed to get results from the Administration here in Wilton Manors. 

I hear a lot of very good plans from the Volunteer space.   Within the various groups that I have been involved in, I have been a part of fixing one of the problems with those who are on Wilton Manors Main Street and we have presented the plan to the City Commission.  The plan itself is self funding however there has to be seed money.  That is what the whole Tiger II grant discussion is about.  Main Street has taken that original discussion that we brainstormed and with some amazing help from volunteers, the plan has gotten to the point where it can solve the parking problem in Wilton Manors.

The question is why hasn't it been done before?   Things seem to work, after all so why change it? 

That description is incorrect, it doesn't work well.  Parking in Wilton Manors is dysfunctional.  People flow into town to use the bars, they park all over the few spots that are available, and then spill out into every available nook and cranny and use that melted butter to winkle themselves into places where cars should not be.  People's front yards, vacant home's driveways, blocking driveways, and double parking happened - all last Thursday Night and this is the Off Season.  When the Snowbirds arrive, it gets worse.

We all agree Parking in Wilton Manors must be fixed.  The question is when will it happen?

I have only seen three possible reasons for Parking to be fixed in town.

1) The Elephant in the Room is Gay vs Straight.  The Old Guard here wants it to be the way it used to be .. back in 1955.  Sorry, there's no place in the South Florida Sprawl that even remotely looks the way it did in 1955 and it isn't happening.  Mom can't afford to stay home and bake cookies in that perfect Pleasantville way of life.  There is much more equality these days, and we have a horrendous amount of work to do.   This is not a Gay City, and it is not a Straight City.  It is OUR city, we ALL live here and if you are of the mind set that you want them out, let me suggest that I-95 runs just west of town.  Get on it and keep driving until you find a nice backwards place to live - whether you're straight or gay.   Leave it for the vast majority who wants to live here and work together for our best common good.

2) Inaction.  That will have to end in November.  The prior administration has been hand wringing on a number of issues, parking is one of them.  I moved here 4 years ago and I keep hearing about Parking Parking Parking.  There have been a number of steps taken recently, all of which are bandages to keep things from getting markedly worse, but all are temporary.  Meters are to pay for the lots that will have to go in places they aren't while people decide what to do.   You have a plan, you know what to do, budget for it and move forward.

3) Finances.  The market has crashed.  The bubble has burst.  We are in the Great Republican Induced Recession.  Fortunately those who visit here are still coming.  If something hasn't been done substantial to fix Parking Parking Parking, they won't come back.   The temporary lot at Hagen Park is a start.  Striping the Drive for Phase I of the Wilton Manors Main Street should be Priority Number One for who ever gets in to the Commission in November.  We are under what the economists call The Economic Order Quantity for parking revenues.  We don't take in enough to make a large enough surplus or profit to make the business worth going into.  This is called by either too few hours or not enough spaces.  In Wilton Manors, the solution is to add spaces and hours, Both.

The time to act is now.  There are other organic economic problems with the way that Wilton Manors Business functions, but this has gone long, so I'll save that for another day...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Disco in the New Millennium

Disco in the New Millennium?

Yep we're still out there.   We're still listening to the music you blew up in Comiskey Park, some of us never stopped.   Some of us progressed through the years into Hi-NRG, Trance, Techno, Rave, Goa.  Some went into World Music and discovered the "Speed Guitar" sounds of West African Music in Souskous, Zouk and that of Trindad's Carnival's Soca music.

I've done them all, and I do them all, probably on a daily basis.

There's also a significant amount of Classical music slipped in there and that's how I got my start.  More specifically on the BBC World Service, every evening on Shortwave.  5610KHz Caribbean Relay.  CBC on 9625KHZ out of Sackville NB.   I don't have to go through all that rot to listen to Classical although I still listen to both BBC and CBC on a daily basis in South Florida via the Net or Sirius Radio.  

I'd learned my English from BBC at the age of 2 1/2 as well as my taste for music was carved into my brains at that age.   I listened to Classical when everyone else was listening to the British Invasion.  I had my own.

After I started into High School, I discovered more contemporary forms of music, but they all had something in common, a lush orchestral sound - I still couldn't STAND rock music, but my black friends in High School turned me onto Soul, RnB and Disco.

As Disco was still yet to put on its Polyester suit and dance on that lighted floor in Manhattan, the music hadn't yet gotten over commercialized into formula and "Cheese".  There was still this sound from the music that was only done within a large acoustical orchestra with only a bit of synthesizers in the background for spice.

I still listen to that today when I'm not listening to a European DJ spinning Trance at 130BPM.

Mostly the Disco I remember are the European Sounds of Cerrone and Alec R Constantinos.  Love and Kisses, that sort of thing.  These tracks were so lush that you could practically build a house on the orchestrations.  

Hmmm, House Music... Yeah I do that too... I even DJed for an eyeblink ...

So basically its extremely rare that music from the Disco Years escaped my notice - Dance Music for me is anything from 1973 and Soul Makossa to today and Armin van Buuren. 

I started listening to a webcaster as a whim.  There's Diva Disco and Diva Funk and what shocked me was they play the music that I remember that WCAU played in Philadelphia when they were one of the powerhouses of the format in the 70s.  Wonderfully obscure tracks that you only heard once and could never find again. 

So last night when I walked in from a Photo Op with the Pink Truck for Breast Cancer Awareness, warm from the South Florida Sun, I heard this track that grabbed my attention.  As if to say it went inside my head and did what every good dance track does - rolled around and stopped me from doing anything until it was quite over.  I walked over to the Squeezebox and saw that track name - and immediately wrote it down.

Alec R. Constantinos - Synergy

What?  A Disco Track from an artist that I Know very well that I had never heard before?  Click that link above and you'll see what I mean...  Something that is lush, has the same contra-puntal interwoven melodies in it like a Bach orchestral piece but was written in 1979?  And I had never heard it but once before? 

Dude, I'm there!

Turning up the music, I stood under the fan telling Kevin that had he not been there, the windows would be rattling.  The dog left the room and all the sudden the violins, flutes, and trumpets playing at 110 BPM were accompanied by a raucous Orange Wing Amazon.


Ok so thanks to Diva Disco, I'm stuck again on a Disco Groove.   It's before 8 in the morning, I hope I'll get out from under the headphones before the phone starts ringing at 9am but until then, I'm queuing up next a Cerrone track - Love in C Minor...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Flowers in Bloom at M.E. DePalma Park

The other day I was walking through the neighborhood with Mrs Dog and these caught my eye. 

I guess its a "Stop and Smell the Roses" moment here, except they aren't roses and I can't smell all that well - never could being the kid who grew out of his asthma at age 23. 

In the middle of the small park near my house, there's a plinth.  The park is a preserve, semi-natural slice of Old Florida Native Flowers and trees.  These are most likely Natives since I know M.E. DePalma well enough to know that she just would NOT have invasives in that little park. 

From my height, they didn't look all that showy, but for some reason I did something different.  I got close and took a second look.   Close up, as you can see in the picture, they're quite pretty.  Tiny little things in comparison to the flowers that many people grow here, the blooms were smaller than your pinky finger nail, so it really does prove that if you stop and take notice you can find beauty everywhere.

I've always been a fan of parks.  Coming from Philadelphia, I had access to the nation's largest municipal park in Fairmount Park.  It was within 3 blocks of the house and I was there almost every week at least once.  The manicured sections were where I skated, but when you stepped back you got to wonder if this was what it looked like before someone put their hand on this land and guided it to its present form. 

One day I walked off the trail in the middle of a workout and headed toward a thicket and thought how naturally beautiful this little tree with the undercover was.  I thought it was all native and beautiful, then I realized that it was a Golden Delicious Apple Tree right in the middle of the park. 

May not be natural, but it was a great snack!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reboot Once a Month Whether You Need it or Not

Actually most people should do that more often than once a month, but that wasn't where I was going with that topic...

It is more of a measure of how busy I have gotten in the last couple weeks than it is a helpful hint. 

Back in the bad old days of Windows 3.0 or 3.1, you would reboot or reset your computer when it crashed.  The Mac's had their own problems with little cartoon bombs popping up and they'd do their own dance, but Windows was notorious for being unstable back in the day.

You learned the keystrokes for forcing a save on your files, which typically is where you hold down "Ctrl" and "S" and it would save for you.  To this day I still do a Control S fairly regularly, especially on those programs that I find unstable.   Almost every program where you Can save a file Will save a file if you do those key strokes, even in these days where the big spreadsheets and word processors force a save every so many minutes to a backup file.

Ok, there's your helpful hint - Control S.  Keyboard shortcuts are fun because only the power users tend to use them - surprise someone by using one!

As I sat down today I realized that my laptop was completely shut down and turned off.  For me, that is not normal.  The nice thing about having a laptop, even this 5 year old "beater" is that you can sleep or hibernate it, and it comes back up with your programs "where you left them".   It is the Roll-Top Desk of the age.  Hibernate is something that I heavily use because I have many projects running at one given time.  I'm involved in the political campaigns of three people here, closely, two more on the fringes and I am doing volunteer work for most of them.  One of my fellow volunteers, Nick, was joking about how I had more free time than a person who is actively working at a, you know, sit down real daytime job, and then commented how he may not be right about that depending on what the other person did.

At the end of the night I tend to just hibernate the computer, set it aside and at around 7AM I start it and begin my daily brain dump, here, with everything just where I left it at 10:30 last night.

To give you an example, just after starting the laptop, I have Firefox up and running with 15 pages tabbed, a copy of Notepad that I use as a scratchpad, a copy of Open Office Calc for my spreadsheets.  That is just inside the physical PC.  I have a virtual PC running that I do all my blogging from which is running Firefox and another 10 tabs are open there.  To restart the computer is a complex task for me since I have to save all my work, close all those browser windows and the 25 or more tabs, save all those spreadsheets, database files...

Ok, enough, right, you get the picture!

So here I sit, Monday morning with a clean restart of the PC.  The last time I started this thing was back at least two weeks ago.  Can you imagine trying that with Windows 95?

I am running Windows 7 on this particular machine.  I am very happy with it, but then again I was very happy with Windows XP.  There's that Virtual environment that I use as a Blogging Safe Room which is running Windows XP but it could easily be Linux since I do some Web Development on that platform as well.

Last night I got back from the dog walk, started answering emails and closing tabs as I went along.   After I got down to the last 15 tabs I thought it was a perfect time to do that Orderly Shut Down. 

Waking this morning after the dog walk, its up and making my right leg warm running on fresh copies of everything.  It pretty much guarantees that tomorrow on Patch Tuesday, Microsoft will want to install Yet-Another-Critical-Update that requires me to restart the computer yet again, and I'll ignore that for another week cancelling their nag screens and cursing the Programmers, Microsoft for writing code that way, the evil Hackers, Lewis and Clark for discovering Washington State, and others who are more or less connected in my alleged mind.

Then I'll reboot and be back to this state again.

Its like when you were a kid and you came home and Mom had made your bed while you were out.

Thanks Mom.  Thanks Microsoft for giving me the chance to think of a warm childhood memory about Mom.  Now please stop making me reboot!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It is about to get busy politically

And that is an understatement!

Today there are three political fundraiser kickoff events. 
 The first is a brunch at noon for the Joe Angelo for Mayor campaign,

followed by an Ice Cream Social for the Celeste Ellich for City Commission campaign,

followed by Wine and Cheese for the Steve Zollo for City Commission campaign.

This is NOT a political announcement and I am NOT receiving anything for this... but it does show what's going on in town!

It's going to be a busy day. Plenty of food, drinks and socializing all day if you are involved with any of the campaigns, and even if you aren't its a good chance you'll see someone who you have missed and want to get caught up with.

Followed by that on
Tuesday evening, Scott Newton will be having his Political Kickoff fundraiser 530PM at the Alibi
and Ted Galatis has his on Wednesday at 530PM at The Manor.

That's a lot of politics for such a small city but we're looking to turn over everyone on the City Commission except Tom Green.  Tom's got another two years on the job before he has to get back on the trail should he decide to run again.

My suggestion is that if you are planning on hitting all of these events, skip a meal, head to them and make it to the mall later... you're going to need pants a size larger!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The View from Inside of a Tropical Mayberry

I am involved in this City.   I have always said that I wanted to live in a small town, get involved, learn about my neighbors, do my own thing and help out where I could.  I guess I watched Mayberry on TV too many times but the idea of being able to go out to the river and fish and walk all over town, get intimately acquainted with everyone on the way seemed like the way to live a life. 

I never picked up a fishing pole in my life, but it is nice to know that I could.   The kids down the block go out to the Middle River, two blocks away, and have Family Time there fishing and have some success while doing it.  I watch the entire family, from the smallest to Mom and Dad walk past the house on the weekends using an old red wagon full of bait and fishing gear on their way down to the river spend some time and walk past the house on the way back home.  They almost always have a cooler with them, so I can imagine that this is their own little weekend picnic lunch. 

These folks are intimately involved with the upbringing of their children.  It truly is the way it should be, children get so much back from having parents take an active part of their lives.  Better than being parked in front of the TV watching old cartoons or playing the latest game on the console, these children are going out and seeing what life is about. 

I know I won't see this scene today since their pickup truck rolled past the house early with the Air Boat in tow.   They will go out to the west side of the county and float around for a while doing some more fishing and having some family time, Mom, Dad and the boys enjoying the Florida Sun out in the Everglades.   This is more of the Journey being worth more than the Destination, but it is nice to know that people still get out and see the natural side of life. 

South Florida is densely urbanized.  In this part of the county, there are more than 6600 people per square mile.  Once you get past the western expressway, the Sawgrass, the urbanization abruptly stops and the River of Grass that is the Everglades begin.   Since that is a heavily protected environment, there will be opportunities for people to get out and experience it again in the future.

I used to have a river that ran past the house when I was small.  I'd get out and go exploring every so often, find myself by The Pond or back in The Swamp looking for frogs or turtles.  I didn't have a very clear idea of what I'd do with them when I caught them so generally I'd just annoy them by moving them out of their home, take them to mine, then release them out by the river before nightfall.  We couldn't eat any of the catch from those polluted waters so we didn't bother fishing. 

I am glad children still do that sort of thing.  It makes me feel like my childhood wasn't that out of the ordinary.  If you listen closely you may hear someone whistling a tune with a 10 year old boy walking by, fishing pole up on his shoulder as he heads back into town...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wilton Manors Main Street Party last night

That was fun! 

I'm a member on the board at Wilton Manors Main Street.  The group is here to help give ideas and feedback to the City of Wilton Manors and work with them, and everyone else in the city who lives, works, and plays here, as much constructive input on the way we see things should progress.

Being a Project Manager - I know this process as being "Gap Analysis".  We're here, we want to be there, how do we bridge the gap.

I'm not the only Project Manager type person on the Board, there are at least two others and a fascinating mix of political and business people who are on it as well.  The meetings are fascinating to witness.  There's such a broad scope of personalities and strengths that I find myself listening to some of the plans and hopes and wonder how I can help with what I know.  Then out of left field, Bang! There's the idea and we run with it.

Building anything is a series of steps.  You do that "Gap Analysis" and you start to look where you want to be in the future and form your plans to get there.  You simply can not do it all at once.  If someone sits you down at a table and gives you a toy model and says "build it", that is a very different thing than if that same person sat you at the table with a built model and said "Here, its yours".

One of the big steps was forced by the demolition of Old City Hall.  How do we manage to get ourselves established in a new home and proceed to do our work?  Let me tell you it took a lot of planning and a lot of hard work.  We now have a year in a really very beautiful office.  It was an empty shell when we were given it, so we ended up having to get it painted and furnished. 

Lets thank the Gables Residential company for the office space first off.  Prime commercial space right on the drive where we will be able to see first hand whether what we are doing works!

Then there's Doug Mc Clure who did the painting and headed up the team who finished the fitting of the space.

Once we got the place built, we found that Island City Traders gave us a generous donation of the furnishings in the space. 

So last night to thank the people who aren't on the board, and of course our contributors, we had a bit of a party.  Our best guess was that there were 250 people in and around the office enjoying each other's company and treated to some excellent food from Crema d'Roma just down the block at 2150 Wilton Drive. 

I have never had Roast Beef quite so good! We will be back!

We had our Ribbon Cutting Ceremony last night, dignitaries were there helping us christen the space and welcome everyone.  It was also a volunteer and membership drive and I was told that we did pick up some Corporate Sponsorship.  Once I get the details, that will get posted on the other blog that I contribute to - the Wilton Manors Main Street Blog.  I have a lot of pictures, and I will be putting them up through the next few days to let everyone see.

If you missed the party, I invite you to stop into the offices during the week.  They're almost always staffed weekdays, and sometimes on the weekends during the day as well.  I will be in there from time to time, so if you see me sprawled out there working on the laptop, feel free to pop in and say hi!

Wilton Manors Main Street offices are at
2164 Wilton Drive
Wilton Manors, FL, 33305

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Light's On and Somebody's Home - Picture

Can't you just hear the 3 year old kid next to you tugging on your pant leg...

Mommy?  Why is that light on?  Its DAYTIME!

Specifically it was almost 6PM, rush hour.  As you can see, it was a brilliant blue sky, a bright South Florida afternoon.

So why is it on? 

Yeah, Kid, I was getting to that...

See the City of Wilton Manors was able to get these new "people centered" light poles put up on the Drive.  From Five Points down to the South End at Richardson Park, we have these beige poles that remind me of a Art-Nouveau-Repro light standard from the 30s brought back to date.  They're all Metal, so they'll stand up to the South Florida Weather, the lights are not your standard bulb, and they are much nicer looking than those evil looking Highway Lights that are all over the place. 

You know the Highway Lights that I'm talking about - the ones that were used as a design for the Martians in War of the Worlds in the movie back in the 50s?  I see those lights and my mind thinks they can come alive at any moment and shoot sparks at something to make it glow red then turn to dust... BOO!

These are lower, designed to make the light go where we are, to light our footsteps and show where we are to the traffic.  You know, since this is South Florida, it makes us a better target...

Maybe not but they work very well.  Three hours later, I was walking Mrs Dog past the Gables of Wilton Manors and noted that the sidewalks were very nicely lit, there were much fewer "dead zones" and the colors were truer than the ugly yellow Low Pressure Sodium Lights that we grew used to seeing in cities.

The light has been on for the last few days, and they were all on this morning.  The reason is that they're all in their burn-in period.  They are required to be to make sure we don't have any that just don't work or are not installed correctly.  The ones that I have seen are all turned on.  

When the period has ended and they're "normal", they will all turn off at dawn, back on at dusk.  The sensors are set to save us some electricity in our bills as well as the bulbs being higher efficiency than the usual White lights.  They look like they could be a Halide or High Pressure Sodium lamp, but I haven't been told.  The color rendering is excellent at night, we all don't look like weird ghosts.

Another feature is that they're centrally metered.  What you didn't realize is that most cities pay an estimated bill.  Count up the number of lights you have, multiply it by a factor and pay so much.   That works if you use the old ugly lights but our new pretty lights being so high efficiency will save us money by our only paying for what we use.

One last feature - the bulb sockets are normal "Edison" sockets like the one in the table light next to you... if you don't have a florescent light everywhere like I do.  This means that in 5 years when LED lighting becomes cheap we can unscrew the old bulb and put in a fancy-schmancy light bulb that will save us even more. 

That is why it's on little girl.  We're all happy now.  Lets go walk home, ok?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parking hours discussed at the Commission Meeting

Last night, I was at the Commission Meeting.  I had missed a couple of them in a row and was there specifically because I was asked to be there by two of the up and coming candidates, Joe Angelo For Mayor and Celeste Ellich for City Commissioner.

I also was there because as a member of Wilton Manors Main Street I felt it was important to be there to show my support.   We had presented a Business of the Quarter award to the owners of the Alibi last night, Jackson Padgett and Mark Negrete.  Great bar!  It has the best burger in Broward County, a wonderful restaurant with those rolly picnic tables outside under the awning, and some of the friendliest staff around.   A place where everyone is welcome. 

Among other business, the City Manager Joe Gallegos was picked up for another two year term. The law firm that the city works with was renewed for another two year term so we'll get to work with Kerry Ezrol as City Attorney.  I have had discussions and worked with both on the various boards that I am a part of and have nothing but good things to say from my experiences.   Good luck to both of you.

The discussion later in the evening turned to the ongoing saga of parking in the City of Wilton Manors.  The hours of enforcement will be cut back to 6PM to 2AM, 7 days a week.  The meters will still be there, but enforcement will be limited. I am not against this idea, after all, the business district is very lightly used during the day time, and this does cover the sweet spot.   The problem is that the original agreement assumed that we were going to have enforcement 24 hours a day.  In an economic downturn, and in a small business business district like ours, this is not a reasonable assumption.  This thought was realized by the Commission and hours were excluded. 

Unfortunately there's a problem there.  The problem is that the contract with Lanier Parking Systems states that they will get the first $350,000 of parking revenue as a management fee.  Yes, I'm simplifying that but basically the idea is that if the parking in the City does not bring in the needed $350,000, then the City Government will be stuck for the difference.  Add to that the costs of installing and maintaining all that equipment and you see the problem.  I don't disagree with cutting back the hours to the evening, but I don't have a good answer for the alternative. 

There is a situation that has come to my attention and that is that of fees.  I have been told, and I have not confirmed, that the fees for the tennis courts are lower than nearby cities.   Fort Lauderdale has tennis courts and does not charge for parking to use them, however their fees are higher.  The answer there is to forget about this particular fatted calf and raise the fees for the Tennis Courts equal to that of neighboring Fort Lauderdale or higher.  After all, the courts at Wilton Manors are meant to be a Premium surface, and therefore more desirable to be played on. 

I personally don't see why we are subsidizing tennis in the city of Wilton Manors.  It is only one sport among many, and while we do not have room to have facilities for every sport here, it is one that is practiced by a minority, and a well heeled one at that.  It is a rather expensive perk for those who have extra money to burn to have them here and pay less than other places.   If you doubt that, drive by the adjacent parking area and look at the luxury cars parked there.   These few parking spaces are stacked with Mercedes, BMW and Lexus cars every day.  They can afford to pay for parking. 

Unfortunately, the Beach Volleyball which is an open court, is right next to it and that is a much less intense use of the space requiring much less maintenance.  To the best of my knowledge, the Beach Volleyball court is free for all, and not charged by the city so charging for parking may be a good way to reclaim some of the expenses of maintaining that lot, minimal though they are.  The place still has to be raked smooth at the end of the night.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why I Didn't Buy Anything at Office Depot

Retail stinks. 

You go into a typically oversized building with typically loud "Mood" music that puts you into a sullen mood, rubbing shoulders with people who are always looking at what you're looking at, and you deal with people who are scraping by at the bottom of the Sales career ladder.

After all, why would someone choose to work in one of those places making a little over minimum wage and have to deal with the general public.  If they were truly GOOD at sales, they would be selling expensive items on commission and be driving a better car than you or I do.  Even in this lousy Republican Induced Great Depression, people NEED things. 

Monday Morning, Yesterday by my watch, I got into Kevin's car and we drove over to Office Depot on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.  New store, or at least newly redone, its one of those Big Box stores that we all love... or love to hate.  We were in there for about a half hour from start to finish and in a word I can easily describe the experience.


I admit, it is a truly hard job to do Retail.  I did it for a while way back when I was in college.  It was fun for a while but it grew tired and I moved on.  I had the good luck to be able to do a job I wanted to do while I didn't actually have to.   Working behind the counter of a Radio Shack in Delran NJ, I got to meet some wonderful people, the customers.  I enjoyed their quirks when they were pleasant, learned how to watch them when they weren't and up to some no-good, and then I got to meet the people from The Home Office.  It gave me an appreciation for just how nasty some people can be and completely blew away any preconceptions I ever had about people from Texas being Nice.  Don't believe it, in those days the Tandy Corporation had some of the meanest people you ever had the misfortune to know and I avoided those stores for years after I left as a result.

But this is today, and that was back in the day...

Office Depot wasn't rude at all.  The Assistant Manager who was working the register was an amazingly nice person and helped us out with courtesy, respect and was genuinely helpful.

I went about my business as Kevin walked around looking for the goodies he needed.  I may not have intended to buy anything that day but I am one of those people who Recommend Purchases.  People look here, ask me directly and on email my opinion of products and if I like something I certainly will tell them. 

I am also very hard to hide in a store.   I am 6'4" and 225 pounds - a wall of a man.  I walk into a building and almost always someone notices.  I guess it is the Big Guy Syndrome, but if you see someone fill a doorway you'll pay attention.  I'm used to looking over things like displays and noticing whether they cleaned back "there" and where the back stock is.  If it's there, I'll find it.

I'm also a technology junkie.  If you are reading this and want me to do an impartial review send me the item and I'll do so but be aware if it is junk I'll say so.   There's this one pair of Noise Canceling Headphones that I want and would really like a pair to review...

Ok, I didn't think so - so enough "hinting".  The Bose ones are mindbendingly effective but at $300, I'll get the Sony MDR-NC7 instead and they're only $29 new at that link.

But that was what I was looking at - AFTER I spent a solid 15 minutes poking and prodding laptop computers.  The majority of the day I sit with one and have people comment that I spend my day on Facebook.  The truth is that I don't, Facebook is logged on, but it sits behind everything in the dust behind the endcap of what ever I am working on in the big box store of my computer.

Fifteen minutes standing in one aisle looking at laptops is a long time.

Fifteen minutes of being walked past by Office Depot uniform shirted employees trying to do their job is an even longer time. 

That's the beef.  I usually strongly dislike being asked my opinion while IN a store or whether I need help but after about 5 minutes of someone standing in one place with a glazed over look of awe at the next newest shiny toy, you would think someone would say something...

They didn't.  In fact one of those Office Depot Uniform Shirted Employees passed so close to me that their elbow brushed my shirt a-little-too roughly and all I got was a grunt - not excuse me just "unh" and the sound of shuffling feet moving quickly away.

I wasn't dressed well, I looked more like a tourist with a t-shirt and cargo shorts on.   I wasn't dressed like the third person in there was, in corporate drag of chinos and a polo shirt.  Maybe the employee, and I am being decidedly vague, thought "He's not buying anything so I don't have to care". 

I don't know but now I'm sitting here writing out a review as to why I will go to another store next time instead of looking at laptops at Office Depot.  Besides, there's a CompUSA just up the block...

Kevin came back, went off to get more goodies so I wandered a little more... now at 15 minutes or more, I'm actively wandering through the store and had to do a dance to get out of the way of Yet-Another-Office-Depot-Uniform-Shirted-Employee with a grunt on their lips.  I DO tend to take up most of the aisle, after all, because I have a 48 inch chest so I try hard NOT to get into people's ways, but don't GRUNT!  That was twice. 

I was wondering whether I'd run into Charlotte and her Web after all that grunting!

I did find the headphones I was looking for.  Sony MDR-NC7.  They're not terribly expensive at $49 at Office Depot - don't get them there you can find them at Best Buy cheaper at $39, and they're online new as of today at $29 and Refurbished for as low as $16. 

I stood there looking at the box on the shelf for a couple minutes not being grunted at and decided that if I was going to pry open my wallet, I'd wait for the next sale on the Refurbished one and do the shopping from my bouncy Poang chair.

Sorry Office Depot, I won't recommend people shop at your stores.  Best Buy for Consumer goods since you can tire kick and actually talk to someone without having to be grunted at and hunt for them.  CompUSA for Computer goods for the same reason.  Both stores have some VERY helpful people and seem to know when to back off.  In Fort Lauderdale, Both stores seem fairly well balanced between Jack Russell Terrier Bouncy Helpful Sales People and Professional Detatchment - if you don't need help thank them and they'll leave you be. 

But Office Depot?  You need some help.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Blog

Today marks the 366th daily post in a row.

There has been a post a day, each day for a year.  Before that time there were a couple oddball postings and it all started with a rather dry recipe for Hummus.

I found that I can get better Hummus out than that recipe so I've taken to using the Chick Peas in my salad.

If you're going to read my blog, more than half of you do it between 8 and 1 in the afternoon. 

There's an average of 9 per day, but that's misleading since there were 59 page views yesterday and 1/3 of all views in the last 5 weeks.

The most favorite posting is the Ikea Poang posting - really a series of a few.  People search the web for that chair and want to know more.  Good chair, mine is holding up well.

I'm surprised that so many people have found this blog interesting.  For the most part it is a brain dump.  I stare at the screen, think about a topic, and just write.  For those days that I have writer's block, I have just pulled a topic off of Google Trends and write away.

Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but they help me put a posting together too.   I have a habit of walking with my digital camera in my pocket and taking pictures of things that may not be apparent until it is in front of me in full color.  The Muse hits and I go onward.

I'm finding that the open letter to my sister is getting rather photo heavy, recipe heavy.   When I make something in the kitchen, I'll comment about it and sometimes things just take off.  Facebook is an insteresting place to get feedback on what to write about too.   The Key Lime Pie recipe that I posted the other day got a lot of comments in Facebook before it made it here. If you follow that recipe, you will want the Meringue recipe story that followed it the next day.   I'm still annoying people with my recipe for Butter and Biscuits.  It can't be too bad of an annoyance since they're popular postings.

So what is next?   Hey, the pressure is off right?   I can skip a day?  I'll try not to.  I'm actually involved with four blogs and websites so that is a lot of writing.  I will keep plenty of pictures around so I can bang out a posting, and hopefully get a few days ahead like I prefer.  I usually set my posts to go off at 8 AM, plus or minus.

There is an RSS feed, and apparently there are quite a few of you out there reading this blog that way.  RSS will let you know when something gets published, but it does miss Google Analytics, so the count there and on Blogger do not match.  From what I can see its usually around 2.5 to 1 in favor of RSS.

Those web pages that I'm doing?

This one here - is the first.  My open letter to my sister - Hi Pat!  There is a Facebook Group that you can find by searching for Ramblingmoose as well.

I do some web development for Fr John at here in Wilton Manors.  I have a long list of things to do with that site to bring it up to par and add some things... we are thinking about how to extend his reach so that they can help more people.  He has his own blog at and Newdivinemercy has its own facebook group.

I am also the person making the postings at the fairly new blog at after being made the Social Media director with Wilton Manors Main Street.  You can follow our postings there or on Facebook too - we have a group made up there.  I have a lot of help making postings for Main Street which is great because they have a lot of good work to do.  If you are nearby, drop in and chat with us, we'd really like to hear your input and we are looking for volunteers and members.

The last web page is not the least... I'm helping Joe Angelo in his effort to become the next Mayor for the City of Wilton Manors.  Joe is a great guy and has a lot of good ideas.  He's a coalition builder and has a lot of knowledge to share.  After all, the man has gone to Harvard for an advanced degree in Political Science and wants to come back here to help us.  His web page is at and you can also find his Facebook group at "Joe Angelo for Mayor of Wilton Manors" or his twitter feed at gojoeformayor.

Maybe I'll take a break but probably not... there are a lot of pictures to write about.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Gecko Wants A Ride - Picture

Ok so maybe it is an anole or some such.  I call them all Geckos unless I know better.

They're all OVER the place here and that is exactly how I like it. 

I walked outside the other day and was going for a walk to the shops on Wilton Drive, and looked at the back of the Jeep.  There on the trailer hitch was this little critter watching what I was up to as if to say  "Hey Dad!  Where are we going?".

More likely, knowing how skittish they are, the little guy/girl was thinking "Who is this Moose and if he comes any closer I know I can hide in the hitch". 

I did, and so did he but not after I got the one picture.

Either Way, I'm fine with it.  I can see them climbing all over the yard and the house flicking their Dewlap at me in a territorial display or ducking for cover.  That particular one is one of the "Daytime" geckos.  The "Nighttime" Geckos are pink and translucent and remind me of their vampire cousins.  We have the Curly Tails back now and they're just dumb and aggressive.  I had one try to gum my shoe the other day which was as funny as it was sad.

For now, this little guy is safe.  I don't know if he took up permanent residence in my trailer hitch, but since I don't move the car often he's welcome to it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Hotmail Annoyance - Turn Off Keyboard Shortcuts

This one had irked me ever since they went all AJAX and JAVA and the other alphabet soup designations behind modern web 2.0 software.

I use heavily.  It is my personal email site.  I have been using it so long that I have one of those accounts that I can download mail using external email readers.  Probably since the mid 1990s.  I'm used to it, and while it is creaky at times and very cantankerous, it does what I need.

Lately they jumped on the bandwagon of code bloat and feature creep.  If you want to see another site full of that, try Gmail.  There are people who love all the blinkie bits and pull down boxes, but personally I want lightweight, fast, and it should "Just Work".  AJAX is a great technology when used well, but there are a lot of web programmers that really are just hacks.  No Quality Assurance or very little on most web sites means that your hot shot web programmer slaps something together stuffed full of Red Bull and Doritos and goes onto his next project in the list of 30 or so he has to get done.   If he squawks, check for another.

So the end user, you sitting behind a browser, have grown used to flakey software.  Leaving the whole Microsoft world behind, is one that I just don't expect to work, and it is written in PHP.  PHP is another programming language, it is used to make all those nice little windows pop up over top of things but still within your browser, and give you your controls while working in background.  PHP is an interesting environment and I know it well enough to know that it really does require testing.  Facebook does not adequately test their software because it just crashes too often.

All that ranting aside, I had a problem.  Hotmail updated and then turned on some keyboard shortcuts so that it worked like Yahoo/Gmail, or like Outlook.   I didn't want either.   When you change software, the default behavior should be what the last version did and allow your users to discover the new behavior.  Microsoft said "Hey this is cool, lets turn it on!".   WRONG.

Having a couple different keyboards here, I had a habit of missing the home key on my go-to laptop.  I'd hit the delete key.  Now Microsoft has Hotmail deleting "this" email message.  After a grumble, I'd go into deleted messages, restore that one and then try to remember where I was. 

The good news is that they did make it easy enough for you to change all that and here is how...

Log into hotmail and get yourself to the display for your inbox or any of your folders.
Look at the screen and up at the upper right there's a discrete link for "Options".
Click on options, then in the pulldown that appears, click on "More Options".

On the page that appears you have a LOT of options, but the one I'm looking for is under "Customize Your Mail".  Select the option called "Change Keyboard Shortcuts" and click on that link.

You now have a pleasantly stark screen with very few options.  Their default is "Hotmail and Outlook Web Access".  That is what gets you into trouble.  To "turn off all of the keyboard shortcuts", select the button, then click "Save".

Now when you hit delete, it stares at you blankly.  When you key a "Ctrl N" you get a new browser window and not a new email message.  It works like it used to and you don't have to wonder why it does what it did.

If you don't like that, you can also make your Hotmail work like Yahoo or Gmail.  Nice of them, but personally I want neither, and this behavior will follow you elsewhere... I hope.

No, I'm not Microsoft bashing.  I think they could spend less time on focus groups, more time on making sure the software runs faster on smaller platforms like the old Pentium 4 you have in the back room for Grandma, or that it runs predictably well on the web.  Quality Assurance seems to be a lost art, and to do it right, it requires a person who knows the software better than the person who wrote it, knows the system better than the project manager, and really should be done MANUALLY.   Wow, what a concept!  Manual Software Testing!  Yeah, it is slow, but it gives you software that "Just Works".

Friday, September 10, 2010

Meringue for the Key Lime Pie Recipe

This could be a recipe on how you get started playing around in the kitchen and how things turn out OK, but not quite right...

I had always made my Key Lime Pies with Meringue.  That was how they were when I was a kid, that was the recipe I had taken back home in the 80s when I started coming back, and that is just how it is.  Whipped cream just isn't enough for me.

First the basic recipe - this was the one that I started out with:

Meringue (optional)

  • 3 to 4 egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • dash salt
In a glass or stainless steel bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt; gradually beat into the egg whites. Continue beating until egg whites no longer feel gritty (with sugar)when a little is smeared between two fingers. Spoon onto the hot pie filling, spreading to cover completely to the crust. Put back in the oven and bake at 350° until meringue is browned, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Now here is where I got things a little bit wrong...

First off, that blurb above is for a recipe that is made in two steps.  Bake the pie, pull it out, then dress with meringue and finish it off.   My old recipe was done in one step - decorate the filled pie and bake.  This two step process thickens the pie by cooking the filling and then you put the meringue on and bake that.  This was the Lumpy Pie and how I prepared it by folding in some Meringue first and allowing it to stick to the Meringue you add on top.

Meringue will start to brown after about 15 minutes but that will vary depending on how thick you raise your whites.  That is controlled by how firmly whipped the eggs whites are and what you add to the egg and sugar mixture.

This recipe also does not mention having room temperature egg whites - I have always made meringue with room temp egg whites.  That was what they told me to do... let them sit out for 30 minutes, separate egg white from yolk. 

I think that making Meringue is one of those things.  You make it the way you were taught and everyone else is WRONG.  In other words, if it works, great - you need to get a recipe, then work at it until it is perfect.

My variations here were ... amusing.

First of all, I always used Cream of Tartar when making Meringue.  I don't know why, my first recipe had 1/4 teaspoon added to it to give it body I guess.  So I added that to the mixer while it was turned on. 

Add to that, the Cornstarch.   Cornstarch is a thickener.  You don't really taste the stuff but it adds body.  I keep it in the house because every so often I want to make a stir fry meal with a sauce.  Cook in the wok, pull your food out, then toss Cornstarch in to make it thicker, maybe with a little water. 

Add all that together, put it into the mixer and turn it on until it looks done.  Beautiful stuff, but it was VERY thick.  I could have stopped earlier, and had a lighter Meringue, but I am stubborn.  I'd rather have something that I KNOW will work than have to guess.

Cornstarch plus Cream of Tartar plus the eggs and sugar in a Stand Mixer with a whisk.  I've made Meringue by hand in a bowl - and all of the tools must be scrupulously sterile and free of any grease or this won't rise.  Mine was as you can see.

Just how risen it was is shown in this picture.  You can actually see little building blocks of fluff piled on top of each other with holes and craters.  It looked to me like someone blew up the Meringue with some firecrackers, then scooped it back on top.

I did say I got it wrong didn't I?

This stuff is thick.   I should have stopped earlier and not ended up with a pie from

But hey, I'm not done yet!  The thing still has to be smoothed out and baked. 
The End Result.

It actually ended up tasting great.  The pie was a little loose, and that's easy enough to fix - bake it longer.  I smoothed out the Meringue, tried for a few peaks and decided it was just too thick.  The oven was at 350, and I pulled it out after 20 minutes.  The layer of fluff was about the same as the depth of the pie shell - so next time more egg whites.  My old recipe was 4 yolks to 6 whites.  The recipe above was 3 or 4 whites - not quite enough Meringue for this pie.

Anxious cooks everywhere will realize what went through my head. 

I guess the recipe way above is right - cook the pie for about 15 minutes at 325, pull the pie from the oven, turn the temp up to 350.  Then apply the Meringue, artfully to the top, and place the pie back into the oven and bake until it is done - another 15 minutes.

The next time I make the Key Lime Pie, I will follow the recipe... I promise.  The pie above tasted wonderful, I made enough to go across the street and when talking to the neighbor last night, he was still raving about it a week later.  

Taste is one thing, perfection is another.  When or if I achieve that level of perfection, I'll let you know... I still have 5 more Pie Crusts to go through!  When the mistake turns out better than what you get when you are at the store... I'm willing to make the mistakes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Key Lime Pie Recipe and Picture

Yes, this really is a lumpy pie.

Why?  Well because I took the picture mid preparation and started on the meringue, but I am getting way ahead of myself and I'm saving Meringue and cooking for a later post...

What you're looking at is my lumpy Key Lime Pie.  Trust me, it tasted wonderful and this is what it looks like before you put the meringue on top and pop it into the oven.

Key Limes are a special variety of the fruit.  They don't grow everywhere, they are different since they have thinner skin and a different taste.  More seeds in the fruit mean you're going to have less juice as well.  You can swap out the regular old "Persian" limes for them in a recipe, but you just won't have the same taste.  It won't be "right".  Since it is a smaller and very seasonal crop, you may not be able to find the juice at all outside of the US or even in smaller areas inside of the US unless you resort to online shopping but the taste is truly worth it.

The original recipe relied on the acid in the Key Lime to react with the egg yolks and the sweetened condensed milk to form a custard via that chemical reaction.   You would put it all together and somehow it would thicken.  I've never found a recipe like that and the idea of raw eggs is not appetizing to me.

The pie would be served with whipped cream or Meringue on top.  I always opt for the Meringue since you will have the egg whites left over and it's only a few more steps to make the whites into that wonderful fluff.

Especially if you have a stand mixer like I do.

The recipe I used was simple.

For the Crust: 1 Ready Made Graham Cracker Crust.  

Yes, I cheated.  I went to GFS intending to get one crust, they came in a package of six.  I'll be making a lot of "Weekly Pies" to share. If I decide to make a crust from scratch, I'll post how I did it later but for expedience sake... They work well.

For the filling:

5 Room Temperature Egg Yolks, Beaten.  Yes, Room Temp since the Meringue needs them that way.  30 minutes out on the counter will do it.

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk.

1/2 cup key lime juice - I use Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice.  I always have even when I was a snowbird.  Since moving here, I have met the CFO of the company locally and she gave me a couple bottles knowing I bake.  Hi Jayne!

That is it for the ingredients.

Pretty simple - if you are going to stop here and serve with some whipped cream or just slices of lime for garnish, pour the lime juice into the bowl with the egg yolks and the sweetened condensed milk.

Mix all ingredients until smooth and blended.  

Pour into the mix into the pie crust and bake at 350 for 15 to 30 minutes or until set.  I would check before 30 minutes for done-ness since your oven time will vary and not having the meringue on top will mean for a shorter bake time.  The pie will "set up" after it comes out of the oven and into the refrigerator.  Serve cold.  

I have seen recipes that say to pull this pie out of the oven at 15 and let cool.  Your timing WILL vary.

I promise I'll give you the recipe for the Meringue... later.  It deserves its own post since it was comical the way I made the stuff.   For now, if you want a simple pie that's all it takes.  The hardest part is finding the Key Lime Juice. 

Variations would include using another citrus juice for the pie such as Lemon or Grapefruit.  Tart works well with this recipe.