Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Palm Trees and Blue Skies

While the North has had a significant snow the last week, we've been enjoying days that look like this. 

The season has started.  Temperatures in the low 80s with few storms and few clouds in the afternoon.   This was on Veteran's Day, but I could have taken the same shot today. 

Other people seem to have the same idea.   The parking lots are more full, the bars are getting tougher to get served in, there are more out of state license plates on the roads.

Of course in 6 months and a few days, we're going to be talking about the start of the Hurricane season.  For now, it's time for us to enjoy the weather, get the outdoor chores done in the cool of the morning, and even wonder where we put our winter "coats" at.  

Snowbirds are arriving.  Enjoy your snow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Excited Border Collies love MONKEY! MONKEY! MONKEY!

You never know what will send someone flying.

What we have here looking like road kill is a Flying Monkey.  This toy just narrowly missed getting shredded by an overzealous Border Collie after being launched across a living room by a rather large Moose.

The Moose, being me, learned that the Border Collie, being Lettie will have a mental meltdown every time she sees this toy. 

The toy in question has a sound box in its torso that when vibrated will scream like a howler monkey.  The arms are thin covers to a rubber tube that I've used in First Aid Certification Class as a tourniquet and they stretch out as long as your forearm.  Put your fingers in the hands of the monkey, pull back on the legs, and off the monkey flies into the screen of the window screaming all the way.

All this excitement means that all I have to do is hold the monkey by its head and shake it so the legs move and Mrs Dog, the non barky dog, starts to bark ... over and over.  I haven't made her hoarse yet but I am sure it's on its way.  She's not the type of dog that goes crazy, and she rarely barks. In fact I call her the "Stealth Dog" because she's generally a quiet creature and usually is quite non verbal.

Just show her this toy and she will bark non stop until you either put it away, make it fly, or she manages to catch the thing.  What she's going to do with it I have not a clue because every time she gets it, she brings it to her mat and sets it down as if to wait for it to do something on it's own.  By that time I am able to get the thing away from her.

Needless to say, the white velcro on its hands means the Monkey is safe hanging from a hook well out of Dog's Reach.

Keeping a Border Collie mentally stimulated means you don't have a dog that is destroying the house.  Every so often, going way over the top with the dog and getting her over stimulated is a good thing - in moderation.   Only once or twice a week is all I need to keep her quiet and happy.  But when it happens... WOW!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Post Apocalypse Construction Picture

More of this Post Apocalyptic Stuff?

Kind of. 

The construction has started on the old Wings and Things site again.  This picture is about a month old and I thought I'd get it out before things change too much.

I'm in the process of doing some publishing and graphics work for Wilton Manors Main Street . That means that I have to go around the City taking pictures.  When things visibly change on the Wings and Things lot, I'll make it a point to get a few digital shots off. 

The view here is through an arbor that is on the South side of the lot from the back.  I'm not quite sure what the intent is, but it looks like an Arbor was intended and it would be outside seating.   When Main Street did our "reimagineing" of the drive for the Two Lane Initiative, there's a view of this porch covered with vines and seating under it.  I am truly hoping that this will be the end result of all this construction.  It should be a beautiful site.

For now, I'm hoping it will be as Delaware DOT says - Temporary Inconvenience, Permanent Improvement.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Parrot Curiosity Killed the Xmas Lights - Picture

Strictly speaking it didn't kill the Xmas lights, I caught him in time.

Back in 1986, I bought Oscar from a pet store in Pennsylvania.  I've had him ever since.  He was an adult when I got him, and is named Oscar because he's always been a green grouch.  He's mellowing with age so the name isn't quite as fitting as it once was.  I've kept him around through all the moves because he's manageable as opposed to having a telephone booth sized cage with a cockatoo in the house.  His antics are entertaining, and he's actually engaging in his grumpy ways. 

Realizing that he's not really a grouch, just a fearful bird, I tend to take a hands off attitude with him, allowing him to play on top of his cage as I do my own thing around the house.  The cage is in the middle of the room on a room divider that is just the right height for me to use as a workbench.  Every time I pull apart a computer to build a Dumpster Server or work on something that needs room to roam, it tends to be on there. 

Standing with the project to the left, the bird cage to the right and Oscar comes out and climbs up on top so he can preen my hair and my ears.   He's learning to be more friendly and with that comes more curiosity. 

Yes, preen my ears.  Maybe he's saying hello, but this is pretty common behavior now.

This being the holiday season, we tested the lights and found one string of LED lights didn't work right.  They change color through the rainbow and are C6 size.   They also look "retro", and since the house was built in 1968, they work really well here.  The one string that didn't work right was coming on red and staying red so we sent that one back to the vendor and got a new string.  That one string seems to work but was out on the room divider.  Oscar was out of the cage and he decided to explore while I was allowing them to "burn in" for testing purposes.

Putting things on top of the room divider is a great way to get this old buzzard curious.  He'll climb out if the door's open and walk over to what ever is there, look in and handle it.  I've ended up with screwdrivers on the floor and cables bitten through as a result.  He hasn't chewed the wood... yet, but he has "handled" it. 

Needless to say, parrots are the Perpetual Two Year Old of the animal kingdom.  "Mine!" and "No!" are in their clownish little heads as they try to explore the entire house.  Luckily he has avoided Mrs Dog, and she wants nothing to do with him.  

I watch them all closely.

Sitting in the Big Green Chair doing my own thing, I hear rattling as the C6 bulb taps the glass.  Looking over I give the Big Green Bird the Evil Eye and say "I'm Watching You!".   That's quite enough for him, he pads over to the cage and climbs back in... for a while.

We went through this twice more when I decided that he might be safer without electrical appliances with mains voltages running through them, and I rather like having the little green clown safe around the house.

Burn in period is done, Oscar's fine, the lights are fine, and all is right on the room divider now that the projects are done.

You just never know what your two year old will get into, even if he is 24 years old by the calendar.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Simple Lemon Pie Recipe and Review

This pie is SO simple that it could become a treasured childhood memory as you make this with your elementary school child.

It is SO simple that someone who "burns water" can make this.

I mean it REALLY is simple.   Three ingredients plus a ready made pie shell and an optional topping.

Here are the ingredients:

  1. 1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
  2. 8 Ounces Cream Cheese
  3. 1 Can (14 ounces) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  4. 1 Graham Cracker Pie shell.  

That's all.... Oh how to "cook" this?  That's the beauty of this pie, you don't.

  1. Mix together the ingredients in a big bowl until they're smooth.
  2. Pour Ingredients into Pie Shell.
  3. Chill in refrigerator until set.

Yes, you too can make a pie.

Now here's the review: 

I made this for Thanksgiving.  I was pressed for time after churning butter, making biscuits, cookie dough, lunch and some other things were tossed in the mixed the day before Thanksgiving.  I had some "backup" cakes in the refrigerator that were ready-made so I was safe if this turned out badly.  I wanted quick!

It took me all of 10 minutes and that was because I dawdled.   You can put it all in a blender to make the filling silky smooth.  Next time I will because I used low fat cream cheese and it clumped more than I like. 

I also used Meyer Lemons which are amazingly juicy but a milder flavor than "regular" lemons.  One lemon gave me 1/3 cup juice which is an awful lot in comparison with the "regular" lemons.  I'll use two next time and add a little cornstarch to thicken the mix a little more.

The pie's taste was like a Lemon Cheesecake.  It was rich, tasted like a no bake cheesecake that I've had before.  I will make it again, especially since it was so quick to make. 

The only draw back I found was that since it was a No Bake pie, it wasn't truly "firm".  The texture was a wee bit looser than I personally prefer, but it did set up perfectly.  When my piece was served, it was also warmer since it was sliced and set out on the counter for 30 minutes.  I recommend serving this cold.

Variations include more lemon juice, use lime or another citrus juice, add a meringue topping, add whipped cream, mascarpone cheese, and finally low fat cheese.

Don't forget the Cherry on top!  Enjoy and best of luck!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving - Picture

Happy Thanksgiving from Ramblingmoose.com
Today, I expect... you may not get to this.  So I threw together the picture you see here.

I'm going to be having a Pot Roast today.  They sold the Prime Bottom Round that we were going to roast out from under us, so today we're having Sirloin Tip roasted.  I don't know what this will be like, and I'm writing this "yesterday afternoon" so if Plans Change, I'll let you know.

I'm sitting in the Big Green Chair researching recipes, and I think what I'm going to do is make a Lemon Pie with three ingredients plus a Graham Cracker shell (Ready Made - Don't Tell!).  If the pie comes out well, I'll report on that later.

There's going to be biscuits which means there will be extra butter for making cookies... that all has to happen "yesterday" so since "today" I'm taking off... Enjoy your holidays!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pregnant Turkey - Humor

Sure, its two days in a row posting humor.  This one is from Velma.  I liked it so much that I have to share it.  Being an "Above Average" cook, I may try this some day... I'm not so happy with most stuffing anyway!

Since we're having a Prime Roast in Port Wine Gravy instead, here's my turkey for the day.  Thanks, Vel!

Pregnant Turkey

*This is priceless - would love to do this.*

One year at Thanksgiving, my mom went to my sister's house for the traditional feast. Knowing how gullible my sister is, my mom decided to play a trick. She told my sister that she needed something from the store.

When my sister left, my mom took the turkey out of the oven, removed the stuffing, stuffed a Cornish hen, and inserted it into the turkey, and re-stuffed the turkey. She then placed the bird(s) back in the oven.

When it was time for dinner, my sister pulled the turkey out of the oven and proceeded to remove the stuffing. When her serving spoon hit something, she reached in and pulled out the little bird.

With a look of total shock on her face, my mother exclaimed, "Patricia, you've cooked a pregnant bird!" At the reality of this horrifying news, my sister started to cry.

It took the family two hours to convince her that turkeys lay eggs!

Yep..................SHE'S BLONDE!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things You Can Only Say On Thanksgiving - Humor

Since we're coming up on the giant gorge-a-thon that is Thanksgiving, I'm posting a joke that I got from Velma.  Feel free to repeat it on Thanksgiving - but only then because it would be weird. 

Things You Can Only Say On Thanksgiving.................

1. Talk about a huge breast!
2. Tying the legs together keeps the inside moist.
3. It's Cool Whip time!
4. If I don't undo my pants, I'll burst!
5. That's one terrific spread!
6. I'm in the mood for some dark meat.
7. Are you ready for seconds yet?
8. Its a little dry, do you still want to eat it?
9. Just wait your turn, you'll get some!
10. Don't play with your meat.
11. Just spread the legs open & I'll stuff it in.
12. Do you think you'll be able to handle all these people at once?
13. I didn't expect everyone to come at once!
14. You still have a little bit on your chin.
15. How long will it take after you stick it in?
16. You'll know it's ready when it pops up.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Elephant Ear Flower in Bloom - Picture

Being a chilly day (for us) I wanted something bright to look at.  It should be tropical and not terribly common.

I went through the most recent photo libraries that I had around and spotted this one picture.

I've heard them called Elephant Ear plants but after doing a bit of digging I found that it's also Taro which the Hawaiians eat as Poi

The flower itself came and went, glowing in the evening setting sun.  The leaves are still there, as the plant is grown as an ornamental here.  There is a rather large stand of them next door.  Standing waist high these giant leaves make for a pleasant and showy display. 

Reading the description, it seems that you can grow them readily as long as they're kept warm and planted in rich soils.  Protect from cool weather under 50F/10C and you are good to go.

So, Pat, you can grow them outside, but you'd have to pull them up over winter.  If you really want an exotic plant, I know of a couple palm tree species that will grow up there in the New Jersey Prairies and overwinter outdoors...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Dumpster Server

I have been building PCs for about 22 years now.  I haven't bought a new in the box computer since the 1980s.  I know the hardware intimately, and if anything assembling a desktop computer is getting easier.

You would expect me to say that but the truth is that as they put more parts on the motherboard, there are simply fewer pieces you need to put on that motherboard to get a workable low end or mid level desktop computer running.  

Laptops are different.  I've repaired them and the smaller hardware is always more difficult to work with.  You don't pull a motherboard in a laptop, they're not designed for that.  Other than swapping out disc drives, memory and a few other parts most people need to keep the screwdriver away from their laptops.  Leave that to some guy with the tools and most likely a magnifying glass.

I've pulled dead laptops apart and replaced the LCD a couple times before, and while it is always annoying, it can be done.  Replacing a CD ROM with a DVD burner is an annoying upgrade but for the most part if you're patient and have the repair documentation you can do it yourself.

All that might explain why I have contempt for services like Geek Squad's $199 in home set up of a PC.  If you do that and you're near me you're going to get a lecture, especially since I could use the cash.  In Home PC Set Up is a dead simple exercise if you can Read The Friendly Manual and that manual has been reduced to a single sheet of paper these days when you buy a brand new PC.

I have a rather large pile of cast off PCs here too.  Since we have a network, I use an old desktop machine as a server because it is safer than putting the "750GB Craig Drive" in an external box and plugging it into the USB port that gets stepped on by the dog or worse, me.

For the most part, people will have their machines for about 2 years, then buy a new one because the old one is too slow.  Without realizing that it is installed things like "toolbars" and other "crapware" that hitchhiked onto their machine when they installed something that they really needed by taking the "Express install" instead of the "Custom install", the machine slows down with each piece of software until that 2 year old machine joins the other one that was in the closet from 4 years ago.

I live near a shopping center.  In the back of the center there is a dumpster that has a habit of having an interesting amount of electronic hardware of all sorts.  Since I can solder a new switch onto an old board, I've salvaged some interesting things out of that dumpster.  The latest was a practically new office PC.  By which I mean lightly used, almost no dust inside, treated like it was a religious object then sent to the thrift store who put it in there.  I got it home, plugged it in and it turned on happily and went to an almost empty desktop.

After reformatting the hard drive from the recovery partition, the machine was fully functional and happy as a clam.   I added extra memory and realized that while it is a Pentium 4 3GHz machine, slow by today's standards, it had a few benefits for me.   The motherboard itself was a small one - about the size of a sheet of letter paper with some of the bottom trimmed off.  The machine now had 1GB of memory and running Windows XP and was quick by even my standards.   Sure, it was built in 2003, but it had a lot of life left.

All that took me about an hour of actual "work".

It gave me the opportunity to move the hardware inside that big black IBM case into a little cube of a case I've had here.  After moving everything along, I dropped the Craig Drive in there and now I have a server.

Why is that important?  You can't stuff a desktop disc drive in a laptop no matter how hard you try.  If you are using a Cable Modem and High Speed Internet, having a network is nothing more than adding a little hardware and configuring the machines to work together.

The price was right, and it fit very nicely under my hutch on my pine desk out in the Florida room.   If it were a little newer, I'd tell you how to enable Wake On Lan so you can get your machines to start remotely... but since it isn't I'm happy with walking out there to press the On button when I want access to that big drive.

Dumpster Servers can be real nice, if you know how to make them work for you.  Speaking of which, it's time for me to "do a backup" of this laptop.   When is the last time you did a backup of your PC?  Hmm?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Post Apocalyptic Wilton Manors - Picture

If they blew up your city would it look like this?

I was going out to take pictures that could be used to illustrate different things about Wilton Manors.  Right in the middle of town is the Wings And Things restaurant.   It's "sleeping".  The construction project is on hold and promised to begin again.  They even have a name for it, called Sushi Rock, it promises to open with something new and shiny.

Some time in the future.

So for now we wait and use it for practice on composition and photography. 

There are always construction sites around and in cities.  Sometimes you have full access and can get on the grounds and get some spectacular sites.  In my case, I'm 6'4" and have really long arms so access was not needed.  Standing on the outside of the construction fence, I was able to adjust the focus to zoom in on the doorway.  Something about the view was interesting to me, how the stripes of shades come down in a regular pattern on a 45 degree angle like some sort of Construction-Henge monument to Chicken Wings long past.  It almost looks as if it was planned that way.

With my apologies to Stonehenge.

For now, I'll practice at getting interesting shots.  When they start to build, I'm sure I'll be out there taking occasional photos...  I already have the "before" here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shrinking or Enlarging Icons in Windows 7

I just stumbled across this Trick.  I'll ramble on a bit then give an executive summary at the bottom.  K?

Remember I'm using a laptop with a track pad.  I can scroll within lists using the right side of my track pad.  Your mileage may vary if you're using a mouse or a track ball... but play around, you can't hurt anything!

I have a beater laptop.  It is about 5 years old, and it has all my "stuff" on it.  I back up the important "stuff" to memory sticks and a beater of a server that I built out of dumpster diver equipment.  Anything I'm doing here on Windows 7 you can do as long as you have Windows 7, I'm not splitting the atom here...

Windows 7 out of the box has a shiny interface.  Rounded Edges and translucent title bars.  It's called the Aero Glass interface.   This may work on other interfaces, and should also work on Windows Vista.  Oh if you have Vista and you can get Windows 7 drivers for your PC you will want to upgrade, you will be happy you did.  You'll get a faster PC out of it and I have been consistently happy with Windows 7 even on this old Core Solo Acer Aspire 5610.

Salesmanship for Microsoft aside...

I was moving "stuff" off of my little lap-warmer and onto the memory stick as a part of doing the monthly finances and paying the AMEX card.  Once I balanced the check book, I thought that I had a couple recipes that needed to be off of the desktop.  I have a printer that I send everything to that turns all my printed pages to PDFs so I can store them forever and ignore them in big folders.   Put  the big folders onto a memory stick then lose the memory stick...

Oh wait, I seem to have a problem there.  Well they can go onto the server can't they?   Problem Solved!

Anyway on the desktop, I have some pictures.  They were Icons, you know the regular size.  Small enough to give you an idea of what they are but not big enough to be distracting.  As I was moving them along, I had the Control key (CTRL) held down and brushed against the right side of my track pad.  Since I was doing a down stroke the icons shrunk.

(Pulling the finger toward my belly - Hmmm got to do some road work...)

The reverse works too.  Select the desktop, hold control and do a swipe upward toward the back of the trackpad and they'll get larger.  This is useful in a folder with pictures.  I want to see just what they are but am too lazy to go into the view menu in Explorer... No Problem, Control, swipe and Oooh Big and Shiny!

This works within Explorer windows and it works on the desktop.  They work that way because in Windows they're actually the same thing, your desktop is nothing but an explorer window.

Ok, I promised you:

Executive Summary - Use a Track Pad Gesture to make  your icons bigger and smaller

Select a folder or the desktop. 
Click once inside the folder or desktop.
Hold down Control Key.
Swipe the trackpad along the right side and the icons will get larger or smaller:
    Larger - Push the finger tip along the right side of the Track Pad away from you
   Smaller - Draw the finger tip along the right side of the Track Pad toward you

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Broken vs Shiny Picture

Wilton Manors has a wart on its nose.   It is the old Wings and Things Property.   This was a failed redevelopment project that happened as the property values everywhere went bust. 

The Property was bought, plans filed and begun.  They started building walls and extensions to the place to add value and extra outdoor seating, a raised platform and three grand trees.

They then ran out of money. 

The trees survived, although I would be willing to bet that who ever starts work on this place will cut them all down since most of them only got so much water in the first month before the water got turned off and were left to fend for themselves.

The structure in the front was to be a grand arbor encased in Bougainvillea vines.  This actually fared quite well and I'm surprised.  You can see that the plants are rooted and mature and flowering over the arbor.

In the background in stark contrast to the Wings and Things wart, you have the Gables Wilton Park buildings.   This property was built just before Wings, and completed a large, professionally managed apartment complex.  It is intended to be high end housing, and having been in the place, it is obvious that the buildings are built to last.  Thick concrete block walls sanded satin smooth and finished with a loft or semi industrial appearance gives an air of permanence.  I get the same feeling when I'm on South Beach and look at the old Deco District buildings.  They will be here long after we all have gone. 

Watching the property go up, I saw how the drainage retention pond was buried under piers and a thick layer of concrete is trussed up over it like a bridge.  The Bridge was paved over with a thick layer of asphalt and concrete.  It is clear that the Gables Company does not mess around, they intend to be a part of the community and intend to produce a durable product.  The quality of construction and materials made that quite obvious. 

Hopefully now that we have signs on the Wings and Things property implying that construction will begin again, the place will be finished off and we will have something soon that will be worthy of sitting in the shadow of Gables' large residential and commercial space.   Sitting in the middle of this picture, under the arbor in the Gables building is the home of Wilton Manors Main Street

Wilton Manors expects and deserves excellence on the Drive.  We want a better city for all of us.  Here's hoping the construction will rise to that level.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Not a Moth at That Time of Day

The morning dog walk can be an interesting time. 

I tend to get out just before dawn, the skies a progression chart from the stars of night to the oranges and reds of the sunrise.  The colors are just beginning to pop but it isn't quite light enough to see clearly what is out there.

I find that I have to bring a small LED flashlight with me for this walk, and at this time of year, every other dog walk.  There are street lights, in fact so many that most of the stars are blotted out in the evening.  Street lights usually do a terrible job at color representation, so the sunrise is a shift like in the Wizard of Oz.  We go from the Monochrome of Kansas to the Technicolor of Florida in the span of an hour. 

Starting out the door, I have a gecko fall onto my outstretched right hand.  Stunned, I shake my hand and it falls to the ground.  It recovers and runs into the shrubs in front of the house. 

Looking out at the conditions, it is a cool and clear morning, the Moon and it's stellar companions just beginning to fade away for the oncoming day.

I have noticed the crepuscular rays of the sun coming up over the ocean and between the high rises at the beach, and watched them shift as light floods in from the Bahamas, the Beach and eventually, home.  If you are up at sunrise, you will see them as well as the clouds will block the sun for a while going from grey to orange and to cotton candy. 

Walking out of the house and down the block, I am usually half asleep.  It was about as quiet as life in the South Florida Sprawl can get.  There were no trucks delivering at the shops, belching diesel generators and chillers were not breaking the morning.  The bus hadn't arrived and the cars had been in a gap.  The only thing I heard was the science fiction audio book in my ears chattering about a future that might yet be.

Nudging Mrs Dog along past the phone at the corner of the shops, I walked her over to the swale and the plantings there.  The Night Blooming Jasmine has been particularly floral these days and the shabby little shrubs were a shock of five petaled white blossoms making a scent that even my weak nose could notice.  The corner smelled like the tea you can get in a Chinese Restaurant or Market, as well as the usual moisture and organic matter of the tropical air.

At that point Mrs Dog decided to add her own organic matter back to the biosphere when a small flick of motion shot into my notice.  First, I thought they were moths but they just aren't out at this time of day, and certainly not out into the gloom of the predawn light.  I later realized that this shabby little shrub with dozens if not hundreds of flowers was being visited by something I almost never saw before getting here - Hummingbirds.

I was witnessing the morning feeding of not just one but at least four tiny birds flitting around from blossom to blossom.  I was fascinated as they performed an aerial dance that was unparalleled in my experience.  What was even more impressive was their single minded purpose.   Here I was with my dog.  We walked right up to the same spot and they ignored us intent on their own business of getting the morning nectar.  At one point Lettie brushed against the little shrub and the birds didn't even move away. 

If this were daytime my first thought would be grab the camera and get a picture.  As it was, I stopped bringing it along because the walks in the morning just does not have enough light for my camera to get a proper fix.

Since it wasn't daytime, my mind wandered to what it was that brought these little jewels to the neighborhood.  Hummingbirds being a niche creature, require very specific conditions.  A concrete jungle does not a habitat make.  The nearby nature preserve at M.E. DePalma Park as well as the efforts of many people in getting their homes certified for nature preserve status has been having their effects.  Monarch Butterflies are a daily occurrence, not a once in a while thing.  Now the Hummingbirds are arriving and there have been more egrets and storks showing in the water. 

Completing my morning circuit I later caught some motion in my one eye.  Out on the Middle River, there were a group of Muscovy Ducks paddling behind the buildings.

I am in the middle of the urban sprawl, but nature will show its head where ever you look.  All you need to do is give it a little room.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making the Urban Look Rural in Photos

If you manage to be at the right place at the right time, you can get the right picture.

It may be about positioning and the art of making the camera do it's thing, but a lot of the art of photography is simply location, timing, and post production. 

I have been lucky with that.  I use a camera that is fairly simple, and does most of the work for me.   Having an optical zoom is a requirement - that digital zoom stuff is for the birds and you can digitally zoom in by using the crop tool on a dozen different programs.

When you have the right view, you are mentally cropping things for the camera to begin with.  I think I all came together here.  This photo is unretouched, but it was shrunk down for the web.   I don't put the originals up because of the limitations of all the pieces with the blog - Picasa and Blogger.  Eventually I'll run out of space but for now, 640x480 is more than enough.

Pat if you want any of the originals, let me know. :)

Going out on a photo safari, I was walking around the park at the bottom of town and thought how pristine this looked.  I'm in what has to be very close to the middle of the sprawl of South Florida.  One of the 10 largest metro areas in the nation.  Cars and trucks screaming by, airplanes growling overhead and all the other elements that add to the cacophony of urban life when I saw this scene. 

Gently rippling water reflecting light, exposing the little minnows under the surface.  For a moment I could forget that I was standing on a boat dock just under the Wilton Drive bridge into Fort Lauderdale where speeders reigned supreme.  I could be transported back in time to before they started building up this particular part of paradise for better or worse.

I stepped back into the beauty of nature, forgetting that I was being watched by some folks in the crowded condos across the river in Fort Lauderdale I felt at one with the world and alone and happy with the company.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Are Being Watched - Picture

Granted, there are better pictures that I have posted.  A jumble of green and grey won't make for a good background picture, but this shows three of my favorite things to shoot.

You are being watched.  Or rather I was here. 

I went out on a Photo Safari the other day.  It was a brilliant afternoon, and I managed to get about 1/2 of Wilton Drive pictured for Wilton Manors Main Street.  I have a brochure that I have to put together, and the first step was going out and just getting pictures of everything and anything. 

Some I knew would just not fit.  This picture is one of them.  In the 92 pictures I took in the afternoon, I'd say about 1/2 of the shots were done to show the wildlife in Wilton Manors.  Plants, Trees, Flowers, naturescape, and animals. 

Deep within the bowels of this Tillandsia, itself a beautiful plant there is one single, golden ring.  That ring belongs to a lizard - anole that is watching me from its hiding place against the trunk of a rather sturdy palm tree.  The anole saw me and ducked under cover for safety, which they're known for doing.  On the other hand, you can see a lot of people here with geckos and anoles tattooed to their legs.  Every time I garden it seems that I find one clamped onto my calf thinking it isn't connected to that hand that came down out of the sky after the weeds it was hiding in. 

Can you tell that I'm entertained by the little insect eaters?  In fact, one is watching me right this moment as I write about them.  Out on the front porch, climbing up the leaf of a screw palm is a male anole flapping its dew lap...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Help, I'm Stuck

Right arm in the refrigerator, hand on the cold cuts that were to become my lunch, the phone rings.

"Hey its an emergency!"

Turns out that Mr Expert ran out of gas.

After having to hear lectures from someone who adopted my theory of automotive purchases and then how wonderful it was that HE thought of the idea of getting a Diesel powered Mercedes SUV for years, I was being asked to come to the rescue.

See, I'm a great fan of Diesel powered cars.  If I could I'd be driving one, but I won't be trading in the Jeep soon.   Diesel has the benefit of giving back on average between 1/3 and 1/2 better fuel consumption.  The price of Diesel tends to be about the same as premium gas.  Another 10% better.  Eventually you end up paying for the motor by having spent less on fuel.   If you have bad luck with your motors burning out because you forgot to change the oil for four years, they tend to be more sturdy and since they're burning oil and not something that can be used to remove paint they will not wear out as soon.   It is not unheard of to have a Diesel car run 500,000 miles.

But they do need their fuel.   This beast of a vehicle in question is a Mercedes-Benz ML300 CDI.  Seats 5 comfortably, will haul all sorts of things in its cavernous enclosure and typically gives you 25MPG in the city.  He gets 40 to the gallon on the highway in something that easily would be considered a large car by all but the most jaded of Excursion drivers.

But they do need their fuel.

He went up to Maitland Florida for a business meeting on Friday, and came back on Saturday.  I was getting regular calls all the while on his progress down the turnpike as he rode in comfort with the cruise control set at a safe but high speed.

But they do need their fuel.

To my surprise as I was getting my own lunch, I get this panicked call.  "Please Come and Rescue Me".

Ok sure, but they do need their fuel.

I went to the shed, chased the spiders and geckos off of the red plastic container, and went to the Hess Station on Andrews in Oakland Park.  They have Diesel there, and that is the biggest problem with using an efficient and quiet diesel vehicle - the availability of Diesel Fuel.  You just can't get the stuff at any station.  On the other hand you get quite used to driving a full month of normal distances without having to fill up.   You build a mental database of where the stations are, fill up when your little light comes on and all is well.   Some of the common vehicles like a Jetta TDI will get 40MPG city and 50 Highway no matter what the EPA tries to tell you.  The dance of acceleration and shifts can be learned without any hypermiling tricks and giant battery packs in the car, and still get amazing gas mileage.

But they do need their fuel.

I went into the little shop and was greeted by Jimmy who was working the place.  A real nice guy, very personable, he asked me where the car was broke down - the big red plastic can was a give away when I launched into this story.  After years of being told how great it was that HE thought of getting a Diesel and how getting 40MPG was so wonderful and so forth... he ran out of gas.  3 miles from home.   Jimmy was enjoying my rather energetic description and laughing with me at this kook who was standing by the road at Powerline and Prospect waiting.  Jimmy agreed, not the best place so I should fill the can with $5 of Hess' best diesel and be on my way.

See, they do need their fuel.

I did that and got back into the reliable old Jeep and gave the can to him when I got to the out of gas vehicle and told him just how much fun we were having at his expense.   Since this was the closest stop, and there was no charge plate on the diesel pump he would have to visit Jimmy so I suggested that when he gets to the Hess that he enjoy the camaraderie of being the focus of attention, even if was due to an admitted mistake.  He poured the $5 of Diesel into the tank, and I waited until he got the car started and moved on his way. 

You see... well you get the picture don't you?

All day long I was asking Kevin " are you sure it's filled".  Not just the car, but the back of the car, the oven, the microwave, the shopping cart at Whole Foods, and the dishwasher.  It got to be a meme in the house yesterday.  If you see Kevin, ask him if he has any fuel in the tank.  He'll enjoy the joke.

You see the thing was as we later went to Whole Foods, the Whole Story came out.

As he was driving down the Turnpike, the light saying "Feed Me" came on.  He saw the light.  It usually comes on Yellow and then changed to Red according to him as it gets REALLY low.  Insisting that he could "Drive to Key West on Yellow" he usually waits for the Red.  Instead of getting the red light I think he was waiting for a different shade of red.  Maybe a little graphic of an angry German person shaking a beer stein at him to get some Diesel, Schnell!  

Because, as you now know...


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dear Tide - Humor from Velma

I got this joke email from my friend Velma.  I thought I would share it with you today


Subject: FW: Dear Tide

Dear Tide:

I am writing to say what an excellent product you have. I've used it all of my married life, as my Mom always told me it was the best.  Now that I am in my fifties I find it even better!  In fact, about a month ago, I spilled some mustard on my new white blouse.  My inconsiderate and uncaring husband started to belittle me about how clumsy I was, and generally started becoming a pain in the neck.

One thing led to another and somehow I ended up with his blood on my new white blouse! I grabbed my bottle of Tide with bleach alternative, to my surprise and satisfaction, all of the stains came out!  In fact, the stains came out so well the detectives who came by yesterday told me that the DNA tests on my blouse were negative and then my attorney called and said that I was no longer considered a suspect in the disappearance of my husband.

What a relief! Going through menopause is bad enough without being a murder suspect!  I thank you, once again, for having a great product.

Well, gotta go, have to write to the Hefty bag people.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Boom, That wasn't good...

It is a cool winter day in South Florida.  Since everything is relative the windows are open and we're in shorts in the house. 

The morning semi quiet was disturbed by the normal sounds of a Friday.   The radio was on playing some quiet classical music from an internet radio station.  The drip feed irrigation was watering the pots.  The water for my coffee was just at boil and I was taking it off the burner. 

Getting ready to pour the water over the grounds, the lights suddenly cut off.

The house was in an instant quiet.  There was a "PING!" noise like you hear in a Hollywood post apocalyptic movie.  At the same time, there was a distant BOOM! as if something just got hit. 

I hear from the other side of the house "Uh Oh, That wasn't good!". 

Setting the teapot back on the cooling burner I came out into the main house and surveyed the damage.  The TV Computer was restarting.  It hadn't been enough of a power pop to restart the stereo, but the internet radio had just rebooted itself with a cheery "Logitech" logo streaming across its face in florescent cyan.  Ceiling fan was spinning back up to speed and the washer was burbling in the laundry room for the Friday Laundry-Fest.

Sensing all was normal, I padded back into the kitchen.  Pouring the hot water over the coffee, and stirring it to make the morning half-caff, I notice there are now sirens screaming in the distance.  

Apparently someone had hit a pole on the raceway that is Wilton Drive.  With our creaky power infrastructure here, any time that happens, the side of the city grid that that pole is on goes dark for a second or two then back on.  Not enough to stop you from making breakfast or that coffee pot that I am enjoying now, but just enough to restart sensitive electronic equipment like computers and internet radios.

This side effect of having a raceway in the middle of the city is a minor one.   We have a four lane highway running through the heart of the business district.   It is placed to move people from Downtown Fort Lauderdale to Oakland Park.  It is a bypass of Sunrise Boulevard.  People use it and see it as a good alternative to sitting at the lights next to Holiday Park.

This being South Florida, the speed limit is merely a suggestion at 30 MPH.  People seem to change their tires at speeds higher than that.  They also strike down pedestrians and cause a fatality at speeds higher than that.

A good argument for narrowing the drive is to watch the people fly past all the businesses on their way to somewhere else in rush hour.  An even better argument for doing that is to watch them fly past at 9pm on a Thursday Night.

The power pops we have here are usually only an annoyance. I have lost a significant amount of electronics since moving here.  Not enough of a reason to expect a city to rebuild its central core.  But it is yet another reason.  The accidents, not my electronics.

Hopefully that person who was in a rush to get from one side of our little island to the other didn't kill anyone or cause too much damage when they caused that accident.  At this time of day, someone's work day will be messed up.  Luckily few people are out walking their dogs at 7AM.  At 7PM it is a very different story.

This sort of thing happens at least once a week.  It is fairly predictable.  It is completely preventable.  Leave 10 minutes earlier, reduce your speed to legal limits, and chill out South Florida.  My neighborhood will thank you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How Language Changes

In the 60s and 70s, Black Music was one of the biggest creative forces around.  Whether it was Motown or some of the other more obscure labels, it was easy for a person in or near a big city to hear the beauty of RnB floating out of the inner cities.   Parliament Funkadelic called it the Chocolate Cities and the Vanilla Suburbs.

I guess I was in a very vanilla suburb that had a taste for chocolate music.  

I've always liked bouncy dance music, and back then it was Funk and Disco.  Both came from the tradition of Black Music, and they morphed into many of the forms of music that we listen to even today.  Disco didn't die, it became Rap and Trance and all that bar music you hear when you're out on a Saturday Night.  Tony Manero couldn't have danced without it back then and his kids couldn't do it today without the valuable contribution of the Black Communities in this country and the world.   We owe an artistic debt to those people that may never be repaid.

Listening to a retro dance station today still has that division between funk and disco.  Disco stations tend to have calcified into the same 50 or so tracks, but luckily I've found a good one at Diva Disco that plays the obscure tracks that I listened and enjoyed much more than the standards.  This is typical of any given "oldies" format.  Tune into a 50s station and you'll soon hear Elvis and some of those old doo-wop songs that were derivative of the Black Music of the day.

Being a music of sub-culture that influenced the greater culture from within, you would have some interesting bits of that culture pop out and become common for a while.  Even the word Funk itself had a much different connotation back then.  You still hear people say that something is funky, but rarely is it because it moves you.  If it does move you, and it is Funky, it is to drop it in the washing machine and run it through a hot wash.

That was the point.  Pop culture having the life span of a Mayfly will make things prominent that in 10 or 20 years sound funny.

Listening to a particular song, We Got The Funk by Positive Force this morning wasn't anything new.  Its a cute piece of pop that always has me smiling.  Today I found myself quoting it.

Bernard's got the funk, he's got the funk, yeah!
Kitchee's got the funk, she's got the funk, yeah!
We all got the funk, We got the funk, Yeah!

And as I'm quoting it in a deadpan baritone, I hear from the other room "Maybe they ought to clean it, it sounds like that funk is spreading!".

Laughing about it, I thought today I'll get some cleaning done to get rid of some of the funk while listening to the funk!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Commission Meeting November 9, 2010 Highlights

Last night's commission meeting was a short one.  After the swearing in of the elected officials and some light refreshments preceding the event, there was the selection of Tom Green as the Vice Mayor for the City. 

Congratulations, Tom and best of luck.

The meeting was a short agenda but there were some highlights.

During the comments from the Commissioners there was a call from Commissioner Scott Newton for the City to "Invest in the closure of the drive for next year's" halloween party.  This is an excellent idea, since it will enhance the event and increase safety.  It fell through last year because of the collapse of the original event's sponsors and by the time that Wilton Manors Main Street was able to pick up the event, it was too late to close the Drive.  The timing was just not right.  With Commissioner Newton's backing, an early closure of the Drive may be assured regardless of which group handles the event.  Since Wilton Drive is in fact a four lane State Highway, Florida DOT is required to be notified and there are costs with closure.  With the Drive closed for an event everyone wins.  According to Commissioner Newton, during the four days of  Wicked Weekend there were only two related police calls with no arrests.  Events here tend to be a very safe affair.

Vice Mayor Tom Green voiced an interest in the City holding a St Patricks day festivity for next year.  Hopefully they will be able to pull something significant together for this as it is already getting late for any plans on a large scale event to fall in place.  Most likely it will be a small community based event instead of a large festival.  Having watched multiple festivals being planned and realizing that a large one with closing of the drive, parades, booths and other public space events would be difficult, I wish them well and would offer my assistance in any way reasonable.  I don't expect that they have much time before they run against logistics problems.

Vice Mayor Tom Green also reiterated his desire for traffic cameras on Wilton Drive.   I see some problems with this.  Washington DC had tried these cameras and began removing them.  The reason is that people would spot the signs at the intersection, jam their brakes on and cause more accidents than would have happened without the cameras.  It would be more effective to enforce existing laws such as speeding and aggressive driving and get the word out that Wilton Manors is not a place to drive through, but a place to drive to.  If you stand on Wilton Drive and watch the intersections for any length of time, you realize that speeding is the real problem and not people running lights or trying to get through on a "Stale Yellow Light".

The real solution to speeding on Wilton Drive is to narrow the drive down to two lanes and proceed with the two lane initiative as discussed by many people and championed by Wilton Manors Main Street.  It is very difficult to speed when you have only one lane, there is parking everywhere, and the speed limit is 25MPH.  It is easy and the norm now with four lanes of traffic plus a turn lane at all intersections.

With the proposed Beer Garden going in on NE 6th Ave just above Wilton Drive planning on using valet parking, the idea of adding parking on the Drive with striping in the first phase is needed.  The idea that there is anywhere to park a vehicle for a new bar is questionable, and it should be a requirement that they provide adequate parking sufficient for peak periods.  A beer garden would be a fun change from the usual noisy bar scene, but if you add to the nightmare of parking in the city, you're going to have problems keeping the business going.  I share Vice Mayor Green's concern that the plan for valet parking for the Beer Garden parking at the Dairy Queen, 1/2 mile away, is prohibitive from the practicality standpoint.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Plumeria in Bloom Picture

Apparently this plumeria is the most beautiful flower in the world.

Or so I have been told.  

Ok, they're beautiful flowers, but The Most?  I don't know, I have a personal preference for Hibiscus or orchids in general...

Around this neighborhood in a state named after Flowers, there are plenty of blooms all year.  In order for me to look at the back yard from the living room, I have to look through the bougainvillea blossoms and the vines.   Truly a beautiful place if you like flowers. 

Plumeria is an odd looking plant here.  We may be at the Northern part of the range for them.  They sit in the sun all year looking like a hat rack with a few lone leaves at the end of the plant.  Eventually they get productive and out come these beautiful flowers.  When they drop off, at least here in South Florida, you end up back with a place to hang your shirt. 

They're also called Frangipani, which I have heard more often.  Walking into one of those "Earth Stores", you'll see piles of little brown bottles of incense, and almost always they have Frangipani.

On the other hand they are pretty.  The flowers that is, not the bottles.  The bottle I got wasn't Frangipani but "Cool Rain" what ever that is.  Also known as Old Car Smell but that is a story for another day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Friday is not the deal it seems

Lately there have been a lot of Black Friday advertisements leaked out into the wild.  You're getting to see what the company will be selling on the day after Thanksgiving in the stores, and this way you'll be able to plan to grab that goodie for your loved one.  There may even be a door buster, and since there's a limited quantity you'll be able to get it before the next guy because you'll be camping out.

Please tell me you don't believe any of this?

First off, the real "Leaks" are rare.  A company does put together an advertisement that will get sent out to the newspapers and magazines and they'll get printed.  Sometimes they get out to the public early.  That's the nature of the beast.  On the other hand the latest trend is false leaks.  There are some specific companies that will "leak" an incorrect advertisement that will get everyone stirred up over the latest gadget at a knock the next guy over price and will have the lines stretching down the block.   Why?  Because it gets people to their door and not the competition.  You get there at 3AM, start downing coffee and get into the Earlybird special at 6AM to find out that the ad has changed, and it was all a hoax or the price was 25% more than the "leak" was.  Oh and the leak was fake.  This happens every year at one of the large national office supply stores and has been reported over the blogs. 

Second, the prices are not all that great, and can even be higher than they were just a week ago - or any other arbitrary time span.  This is the reality of the marketplace.   Retailers know you're going to shop.  It is called Black Friday because in many cases a retail store won't make a profit until this day and every day forward until the end of the year.  This is why many stores close after xmas - they're just scraping by.   A large computer hardware superstore, one that I personally shop at when I need something, leaked its Black Friday Ad and many of the products were inflated over their October prices.  One person responded in a tech blog that the parts for a computer he was planning building all went up by 10%.

Third, isn't your time worth more than that?  If you work and make $50,000 a year you're pulling in $25 an hour.  Planning on getting to a store at 3am to sit overnight to get that new gadget?   The store opens at 6am for the earlybirds?  Add $75 to the price.  Is that $10 price cut worthwhile?

Ok, I won't be sitting outside this holiday season.  If I have to buy anything for anyone, I'll be sitting in front of a PC and surfing for deals.   I won't look at the price without adding shipping, and if the company charges tax, add it in.  You have a Mac?  Linux?  Windows PC?   Start the calculator program and do the math.

There are a number of websites I look at every day.  As a part of staying up to date in the job market, I look at over 1000 jobs a day online.  I look at over 150 web pages full of them.   Some of those 150 or so pages are tech blogs, and others are shopping pages.  It's a good way to learn what is in the "Spot Market" - what the real price for your deals are today.  Not tomorrow, today.

Here are two sites I highly recommend.   They both follow a format of a long list of sales that are good today, and the list changes daily.  Tomorrow this buy may be better or it may have expired.  Sorry, you should have jumped in that case and bought if you REALLY needed that new shiny object.  It takes some studying, but you can do it.  It can be a game.  If all you do is surf at work, then I'm giving you another two sites to snoop every day. 

First site is Dealnews.  Dealnews is user friendly, has bright shiny pictures and will give you some amazing price cuts.   A friend needed a laptop and I went and searched.  After a while, I found the perfect machine for him and a code that gave him an added discount of $250 with free shipping.  Thanks Dealnews, I watch your notices on Facebook every day.  Oh and you aren't limited to Tech because I bought my sneakers through them. $19.95 for $50 sneaks? MINE!

The other one I look at on a daily basis is Techbargains.  That is the link to the "RSS Feed".  Don't worry, its the very basic version of the page and cuts down on the clutter.   Their home page is confusing and I rarely go there directly.  Just too much information when you're just wanting to know what the deal is.  They also have items that are not technical spread throughout. 

The two pages along with the search engine of your choice will help you beat the dis-information campaign that the shops put out every year around this time.  As for me you won't see me in the mall until January most likely.  I can handle the crowds but the usual supply and demand boost of prices we get every year is not worth the time.

Good luck and Happy Shopping!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spring Ahead, Fall Back

You're going to read this a lot but here we go, today's the first day of Standard Time in the US.  If you're here, and most of those people who read one of my pages a day are, it's time to set the clock.

Pat, go talk to Mike.  He'll do it for you.  :)

Usually I set my watches when I go to wear one, the PCs and network attached appliances like the Squeezebox set themselves.  I have some old fashioned wind up clocks that I either wait for them to stop, set the time and wind again, or just move the hands back like on my Russian Submarine clock.

At 6am I caught myself staring at the clock radio doing the mental leap and realizing that it was actually 5am.  That did not stop the irrigation system from running, so I decided to take that "gap hour" and lay there listening to the surroundings.  

It proved that I'm in a noisy place.

I noticed that there was the pump running and could hear the hissing from the sprinklers in the front yard, the refrigerator off in the distance was humming, and the dog was snoring as normal but starting to stir. 

After a while of this it got boring.   Time to get up and start on the day early.  I thought that other people would be confused as to when it was, but pets would have their owners up early because the body does take a little time to adjust.   A nation on Jet Lag, if only an hour.

Padding out the front door to the walk, I thought that I should leave the audio book at home and enjoy the quiet since it was still before 6am. 


I forgot that I live almost in the exact center of the great South Florida Sprawl.  Half of the irrigation systems in the neighborhood were running and way off in the distance I could hear the traffic on I-95 heading to Miami or the cities to the North.  Two miles away and I could hear trucks way down in the general noise.  Overhead, at that same time that the Big Rig decided to down shift, a jet passed overhead air braking.   Walking up to Wilton Drive, I noticed that someone had started a compressor that later I found was the beginning of a power washing job.

Mrs Dog and I walked roughly in that direction and the person who does the maintenance of the Shoppes gave me a big smile and a wave and we waved back.  Me my left hand, Mrs Dog her tail.  Smiles all around I got to the drive and noticed one of the officers I know from the Wilton Manors PD.   We waved at each other, most of the officers are quite approachable and friendly while very professional.  He started of in gear shortly after and went off on a call, secondaries kicking in and rumbling the big V8 into the distance.

At that point from the South came another car, this one a beater.  The car was in need of service as it was rumbling down the drive sounding like pieces were about to fall off.

Turning at the next block, it was back into the quiet of the residential neighborhood.  I-95, two miles away was still rumbling, another jet air braked overhead flying into FLL, and a row of homes with sprinklers all irrigating the beginning of the Wet Season away.

Waving to Gina and her two dogs, I got a friendly "Hello!" and I headed on home.

Things were quieter when I was listening to the Audio Book... or at least they seemed so.  Getting the dog out for her walk an hour early was quieter but I didn't realize just how well sounds carried here in the flat lands of South Florida.

It is all part of modern living, you take the good with the bad.  Now, let me turn on the Disco station on the Squeezebox and add a layer of my own to it all.  Ahhh, Much Better!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Are you Mad?

I had another email from Velma the other day.  I'm sure that some folks will be sent this.  It sums up a lot of what I and many others have been saying over the last two years. Sure, the words are a bit strong, but then again, "well behaved people don't make history".

Keep your Tea Party. I'm going for Coffee.   There's more common ground in the Center than there is on the Right or the Left.

ARE YOU MAD?       

After The 8 Years Of The Bush/Cheney Disaster, Now You Get Mad?
You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.
You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.
You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.
You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.
You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.
You didn't get mad when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.
You didn't get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.
You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq.
You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.
You didn't get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.
You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.
You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.
You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.
You didn't get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.
You didn't get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks.
You didn't get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.
You didn't get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.
You didn't get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.
You finally got mad when a black man was elected President and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you, but helping fellow Americans who are sick...Oh, Hell No!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Orchids in Bloom Picture

Last month in the middle of the election insanity, I hadn't had a chance to go out into the yard.   I was just too busy.

There was one exception.  It was when I took these pictures.

When I was a Snowbird, there was a treat I would give myself.  I'd go to the KMart on Oakland Park Blvd and wander through the place looking for supplies and eventually gravitate to the little garden center.  There I would see the plants I couldn't hope to grow outdoors and among them would be a collection of Orchid seedlings.  I'd find the same plants back up north and bring them back to my house to try to grow the things.  They would hang on through the winter and into the summer I'd see some green but usually never anything else.  I just did not have the proper conditions.

These plants were from the same quality that I got at the KMart that is still at the same spot, within a long walk from my front door.  That store being a smaller KMart has slowly but surely dropped their garden shop back to being the bare essentials.  They still have a few of these seedlings so we got a couple of the Cattleya orchids that are the "Corsage" flowers we are all used to.  The smaller Phalaeonopsis also a plant I got there from seedling and it actually "died".  I was down to zero leaves and a flower spike at one point.  This particular plant grew the flower spike, put out a shock of pink veined blossoms, then started growing leaves.  It has been in constant bloom ever since.

Being outdoors, these flowers get exposed to the critters that live in the neighborhood.  If an Iguana spotted them they'd be gone in a salad.  Luckily the big iguanas have not yet returned to my neighborhood but they are in the adjacent areas.  It is only a matter of time.

All I had to do was hang these plants in the partial shade of my shed eave, add a drip waterer from my irrigation system and basically ignore the thing.

Give anything the right conditions and it will grow and prosper.  Sometimes the right condition is to ignore them.  Natural systems, plant or animal, just need to be left alone when they have the right conditions.  Man Made systems always require maintenance and adjustments after a while.  It is just up to the creator of the system to adjust things in a careful way.  With luck and care you end up with some beauty. Even when neglected or placed in a spot that is too hot, you sometimes end up with something that is going to survive despite the neglect or even abuse.  Get rid of the abuse and you may just have a beautiful blooming system.

Natural or Man Made.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Next Wilton Manors

Now that we're set, and the votes have been counted, what is next?

I have sat in the Commission Chambers for the vast majority of the City Commission meetings for the last four years.   I have seen Mayor Scott Newton become Commissioner.  I watched Commissioner Gary Resnick become Mayor and now reelected. 

I could sit here and say I was wrong because it was a two to one majority to put Resnick back. 

I won't.

I've noticed a polarization of people's opinions in this city.  In my opinion, the problems of questionable journalistic practices of the Island City News as well as the alienation of just about every person in the city are somethings that a cohesive city Commission would be able to counteract with ease. 

I moved here at the beginning of the Republican Induced Great Recession.  People were asking each other what is going to happen and there was the beginning of a climate of concern making people grumble more.  Grumbling turned into annoyance.  When you have people questioning what is going on and nothing is getting better in their eyes, annoyance can quickly become outright hostility.

That causes Polarization and Evangelism within the groups.  Basic Sociology is all I've stated here.  Sociology can be boiled down to one major concept and how it works within groups - cohesion.   Cohesion is how closely people bond with each other.  Sure, there are more scientific ways of describing it, but this fits for now.

Sitting in the Commission Chambers, listening to how the two mayors worked with the people I noticed some very strong differences  in style.  Scott Newton was a coalition builder.  He worked with the people on the City, on the Commission, and the volunteer community.  He was able to listen to all, build a consensus and work through some of the problems of the day.  He had some help with then Commissioner Joe Angelo, Current Commissioner Ted Galatis, City Manager Joe Gallegos and many others to name a few.

Now that Scott is a Commissioner, he is able to effect policy more directly.  The reason is that we have a "weak Mayoral" system.  This means that the Mayor has the power to define agenda and has a vote on the decisions at hand, but can't actively suggest that resolutions are placed before the commission for the vote.  It means that Commissioner is a stronger position than that of Mayor.

The Mayor is expected to be a Manager.  The Mayor has his own opinion but must seek the approval of the rest of the Commission.  The Mayor isn't silenced and can voice his opinion in session while hoping that someone else will make a motion to enter some new business.

Now we have entered Resnick's second term.   I have noticed that through the first term, once he got past the honeymoon period, Gary was becoming less democratic and more autocratic.  There used to be two opportunities for public comment in each Commission Meeting, Mr Resnick immediately did away with the last comment session.   With meetings running over two hours normally, points made early would be forgotten.   People would speak their peace then leave and not see what happens because it was either not interesting to them or having said their word, they were happy.   It all serves to minimize the impact of the people of the city of Wilton Manors and insulate the people from their elected officials.  

Autocracy feeds into itself.  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The way I understand that phrase, the more power one gets,  the less responsive to the needs of those who gave it to the one in power one will be.

I have noticed a disturbing autocratic turn of events in the run up to the elections.  There has been outright hostility on the part of the Mayor toward the volunteer community.  Sometimes it would be echoed in the other commissioners depending on the individual, but for the most part it came from the Mayor.

This is a small city, population around 12,800 in 2000 census.  Roughly.  To get done "half" of the things we do here in Wilton Manors, we rely on a strong volunteer community.  Many hours of work in planning and zoning, budget, recreation and other boards as well as affiliated boards such as historic and civic associations are donated free of charge.  Hostility toward a volunteer group is a foolish undertaking.  It only serves to evangelize them, to make them more vocal.  If the volunteer group is not funded by the city, I wonder how much input the city has a right to put into the volunteer's efforts. 

Basically, you get what you pay for, and this is a gift.   Sitting on high and pre-judging someone's effort in gift giving is frankly questionable morally.  Guidance may be necessary, but pre-judgement is uncalled for.

I'm quite afraid that we're going to have another two years of that.  Little progress happened in the City over the last two years.   We've had a down economy and that will slow things down some.  On the other hand, policies put into effect now will effect where the city will go in the future.   Slowing down the economy should not stop policies.  The last two years were marked by a lack of leadership, a spirit of divisiveness, and an imperial attitude.   I fear that the next two will be worse.

Again, all of this is just my opinion.  If you don't like it, my suggestion is simple, get involved.  Sit through the entire meeting.  Sometimes the most important part of what is said is said in the last 15 minutes of the meeting.  I realize it will be hard to sit through more of what now current, then interim Commissioner Julie Carson says with her apparent circular logic but for the most part if you want to be involved, that is how you do it.  You actually have to participate.  Someone else will pick up the slack but you will just have to deal with what they decide to do with it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What was the Local Election 2010 About Anyway

The people who won in Wilton Manors municipal elections won basically because they were able to leverage their messages most effectively.  Say what you will about Gary Resnick and Julie Carson and their behavior before the election, they were effective at leveraging the bird cage liner of a new paper that is called the Island City News.   The ICN has this habit of printing long winded articles that make Gary Resnick look like the Second Coming that will "even slice dice and make Julienne fries".  I doubt that Mr Resnick knows how to make fries, although he may be quite good in the kitchen.  I doubt that the Island City News has printed an accurate article about any of the issues that have happened in Wilton Manors other than perhaps that a meeting happened in the Commission Chambers on a certain night.   Usually after getting that paper it is more like the "Lies in the City News" than anything else because what I read there usually has me wondering what meeting the reporter was writing about.

When you have a someone using the "bully pulpit" on a regular basis, and that is the only message that you hear, you begin to believe it.   Propaganda is a great weapon and if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.  Whether the bully is the publisher of that particular paper or the article writer, I will leave to you to find your own opinion.  I have my own.  This being a blog posting, it is completely unpaid opinion and it is up to you to decide whether to believe me or not.

The Island City News is NOT an official publication of the Wilton Manors City Government in any way shape or form.  They may have pretensions of becoming one, and you can ask them yourself whether that is in the publishers plans, I for one do not believe anything printed in the paper.  When you have a paper that has a questionable grip on reality making the only political recommendations, you end up with people like Gary Resnick and Julie Carson having a significant advantage.

The other issue at hand is the "Phone it In" mentality that some people have with participation in their own City government.  This is where people who never show for a single Commission Meeting will pick up a paper or surf a web site for an "expert" opinion and then use it exclusively.   Generally it is better to ask your neighbors who they're going to vote for and get a reason why than depend on any one given organization. 

No matter where it comes from, an opinion is by definition biased.  If you surf the Democratic Party's website you will get a list of Democratic candidates.   The Republicans will do the same.  The Dolphin Democrats will only recommend a straight candidate if they do not compete with a gay candidate.  Everyone has their own bias.  The people who tend to read one blog or web site will have a common mindset - Birds of a Feather will vote together.  The exception are the League of Women's Voters sites and similar.  Trying to come to an objective conclusion without having ever spoken to a local candidate is next to impossible.   If you have never been to a commission meeting or a political rally, you really do need to.  Getting up off the couch is important.  Unfortunately, those same people who are not researching their votes are the majority and they are the ones who will win the election.

It is the job of the candidate to get out and counter the bias for an incumbent by knocking on doors.  Walking down the streets on Recycling Day you see people walk to the mailbox and drop the political flyers directly into the recycling bin without a glance.  It is much more difficult to put a candidate into the recycling bin.  The candidate needs to concentrate outside of the core group, and if you are an outsider you need to spend time on those people who are most likely not going to vote. 

In this system, it all depends on marketing and getting your message out.  "Putting a spin on things" is so common that I can use that phrase and have it be universally understood.  Unfortunately that also reflects on the dumbing down of the entire process.  We are all busy but there are some things that are important and if you hand away your decision making power to a representative, you need to do so with care and not to a biased "News" source.   On the other hand, Fox News makes a lot of money being a shill for the right so it must work.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Polls are Open, Go Vote

Don't disappoint Joe Angelo, Steve Zollo, as well as Celeste Ellich, Scott Newton, and Ted Galatis.

Go and vote for Progressive Candidates of every party.

If you don't everyone here will frown.

Being involved in the Volunteer effort here in Wilton Manors, I have heard many horror stories.  There is one particular throwaway paper here called the Island City News.   I have yet to read a story in there that I personally would consider unbiased, and that is of course my own opinion.  But the outright slanted stories and the lack of any sort of journalistic ethics (again, my own opinion) in that rag have not been missed by the Legitimate Media.
If you would like to see some of the back story yourself, this article was posted on the Broward New Times Website and it begins to tell the story why so many people want to see Gary Resnick out of office and Steve Kelley's so called newspaper does not belong in our city.

The Article is linked here.  From what I have seen, they are telling the basic story fairly well, and you can only imagine how much worse that paper is.  Its best use is lining my Parrot's Cage, but unfortunately it scares him so I just recycle it.

Again, it's only my opinion, and because we're talking about Resnick and Kelley I feel compelled to state the following:

This is my own personal opinion, I have not been paid by any political candidate.  I have not been paid for any writing on this blog to date.

Your Mileage May Vary.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Post Halloween Calm, Pre Election Annoyance

Getting up before the dawn at what I've heard someone call "Insane O'Clock" with the dog, I headed out of the house for the morning mile.

A hint to those who have a dog who is out of control or a nuisance barker - your dog is bored.  Take the dog for three long walks a day.  If you can't see your toes, your waistline will appreciate that.  I have a Border Collie, the number one breed in boomerang dogs - dogs who end up at the shelter for a second or more time because people don't know how to live with such an intelligent animal.   Almost every dog will benefit from more exercise.  Living in these days, almost every human being would benefit from having a dog that requires three walks of a mile a day each.   So go take your dog for a walk, leave this posting up and finish reading when you get back.

There, wasn't that pleasant?

My first walk this day had me out of the house well before 6AM.  I had my headphones on and was listening to an audio book and taking note of what went on after the four day celebration of Halloween here in Wilton Manors. 

For the most part, the central business district was markedly cleaner than I would have expected.  The last four days were slammed with people walking up and down Wilton Drive at some time or another.  Saturday Night seemed to be the peak of it with cars littering front lawns, parked in other people's driveways illegally, and people walking from their cars to the festivities on Wilton Drive. 

I have seen similar celebrations in other cities.  Places that were more conventional tended to have an almost Post-Apocalyptic look about them.  In other cities, I could find bits of the celebration for months after they happened in corners and alleys if I just looked.  Things may have been picked up but they weren't cleaned up for the residents, and for the most part things were only set right after the nearest home owner or business owner went out and "Flea Dipped" their property. 

Wilton Manors doesn't seem to have that problem.  I certainly attribute it to the demographics of the area.  There were no fights that I saw.  People didn't go out of their way to be rude.  There was a festival atmosphere but there's a spirit of camaraderie that didn't have that edge I had seen in some places. 

It was carried through to the way the city looked this morning.  While we played host to some thousands of people, it was an orderly crowd.  Yes, they were there to party but there were no broken shrubs, no upset palm trees, and no street furniture uprooted and placed on top of cars. 

It was a success, although it could certainly have been better.  Next year, halloween will come.   Wilton Manors will have another influx of people.  Expect it.  Wilton Manors is the place to be for a party on most weekends, and Halloween is an amazing time here.   It has been that way for years, and it will continue as long as we have a City Government that will plan for the future Flash Mobs that will show.  With Wilton Manors Main Street assisting the bars to pick up the ball that was dropped by the original planners, we all made the best of a bad situation.  Wilton Drive could not be closed because the Drive is a State Road.  A State Road closure requires permitting that takes some significant amount of time and the deadlines were passed.  There are some significant fees that are required to be paid as well, and that would require some planning so that nobody is left holding the bag for that sort of expense as well as making sure the Police get paid, the liquor is paid for and people are compensated fairly for their efforts, time, and inconvenience.

Keeping the Drive open was a requirement due to all of the above and more.  It wasn't the best situation but it was managed exceedingly well by a coalition of business owners and civic organizations.  

The only situation that I had heard that was unfortunate was that a woman passed out on Wilton Drive.  Perhaps it was too much partying, but she passed out.  The story I was told about the situation was that she went down in front of Current Mayor Gary Resnick and his partner Eric, and Candidate Joe Angelo for Mayor and his friends.   I was told that Resnick and his partner "ran away" and Joe Angelo and his friends made sure that this woman made it into a bar to sit and revive herself.

Thank you Joe Angelo, the City of Wilton Manors should be grateful that good people like you are here to help others in their time of need.

Walking through the drive and turning down the back streets, I noticed that they were generally clean and cared for.  The neighborhood changed from Commercial and High Density Residential to Low Density Residential fairly quickly.  It took the usual South Florida view of tidy yards and plantings within a block of The Drive. 

This being election season there were yard signs in front of people's homes supporting one candidate or another, as I have written before.   I made it down to one particular lot that had been mowed last week and someone had obtained permission to place some election signs there.  It's on a fairly major thoroughfare and people do cross through daily on their way to and from the Drive.

That plot of land eventually collected signs from almost every politician in the county and every one in the City who is running for office.  When the management company came through and mowed it, they picked up all the yard signs and piled them neatly together in one spot.  The next day, someone came through and sorted out three specific signs and placed them in the ground to see.  That morning they were thrown down.  Someone then picked them up again and by the next morning, they were down again.  This has been going on for around a week now.  I'm looking forward to seeing who keeps tossing the signs down because if I do, I'll make it a point to let the candidates know so they can file a complaint with the police. 

They have left mine alone for the last two days. 

So as clean as the drive has been, the neighborhood is being trashed by overzealous supporters of one or more particular candidates who don't think that their candidate has a good enough message to send by trashing a third party's yard.  This is decidedly not in the tolerant spirit that drew me to this City in the first place.

Thankfully Wednesday November 3 is coming soon and we can all go back to living our lives without having to watch for trespassers.