Monday, February 28, 2011

Industrial Amaryllis - Picture

In my yard I have a lot of plants that would normally be considered an indoor plant anywhere colder.

There's a phrase about the tropics.  If you drop a seed on the ground it will grow.  Pretty much anywhere.

I have Mother in Law tongue under my hedges despite my best efforts to get rid of them.  Scrub palms in the margins along with Asparagus Ferns, and a lot of strange plants that I would like to know the story of. 

This picture has me scratching my head.  On the side of my house there is a little pathway.  It's a quiet little corner, tucked away from view.  My bedroom window opens onto it and I see a fence.  All of about 10 feet wide, there really is nothing there but the air conditioning compressor and the irrigation equipment. 

This little spot isn't exactly what you think of when you think of Clean Green Florida as the road maps used to call it back-in-the-day.  

Behind the equipment, one of the previous owners planted a flower.  This Amaryllis comes up every year, and blooms.  If you are looking for a better description of the old saying "Bloom where you are planted" I can't think of one. 

There are a couple red amaryllis on the property.  Each are planted in strange spots that I have to watch for when I'm out there gardening.  This one is behind the irrigation valves, and you have to know it is there to see it.  Another is behind a light pole and under the hedges just in a spot that the weed eater gets every time no matter how careful I am. 

But strangeness of place aside, their beauty never fails to please, it never fails to surprise, and it never fails to make you anticipate the day that Mother Nature takes what you give her and returns your care with great results.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Cardiologist's Funeral - Humor

A good friend Diane is recuperating in the local version of Shady Pines.  The place reminds me of the series Golden Girls where they kept threatening Sophia, the oldest in the group, to be sent to the home when she was just a little too feisty. 

Heck, the place is even called Manor Pines!

In the case of Diane, she's way too feisty to be held down, even in jest, for very long. 

Our Diane is well known for her jokes.  Rarely are there any that we could tell in church....

... that is just the way we like her.

I don't think she will get a chance to read this until she's at home healthy so if you haven't gone to visit her, you'll have to tell her this joke... everyone... over and over.  I am sure she'll blame me for it.

In the case of this joke, it's from my sister, Pat... and I thought I'd borrow it.

A very prestigious cardiologist died, and was given a very elaborate
funeral by the hospital he worked for most of his life.

A huge heart...covered in flowers stood behind the casket during the
All the doctors from the hospital sat in awe.
Following the eulogy, the heart opened, and the casket rolled inside.
The heart then closed, sealing the doctor in the beautiful heart forever..

At that point, one of the mourners just burst into laughter. 

With all eyes staring at him, he said, 'I am so sorry, I was just thinking of my own
I'm a gynecologist.
The proctologist fainted.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Faster Defrosting Meats for Immediate Use

I do it this way all the time, and yes, I am being VERY specific with my phrasing.  Like anything on the internet, it is always At Your Own Risk... on the other hand, there's a big silver pan of water thawing out my lunch right now.

If you are running late and have a Steak, Chicken Parts, Pork Chops, and need to defrost them for the grill, here is a simple way to do it. Usually for steaks or a package of hot dogs, it will take about an hour and you're ready for the grill.

Obviously you don't want to do this if you are planning on letting it sit around. 

It also does not work as well with larger meats such as a whole chicken or a large roast but it will help speed things up some.

First you will need a large bowl or clean your sink out of dishes and left over "stuff".  I usually scour mine until the Stainless Steel shines with soap and a scrubby pad.  The volume of the bowl should be large enough that you can fit the meat in the bowl with no piece of meat covering any other and no meat should be exposed to the air by hanging over the edges.

Second you will need your meat.  I'll let you choose what kind you will be using.  The meat should be either cutlets, or individual steaks, or parts, chops ... that sort of thing.  In the case of what is working for me now are individual steaks that are wrapped.  They're going on the grill for lunch.

Third you need plastic bags.   Paper will not work.  These should be ideally water tight however a little leakage won't really be a harm.  The bags should be large enough to fit one of the pieces of meat in it without rolling it up.  The idea is to get as much surface area in contact with the plastic bags.  You can put more than one piece in a bag, but make sure they can lay flat inside and are not piled up on top of each other.  It's that surface area thing.

Now, take the meat and insert it into the bags.  Tie the bag so that they're closed up.  If the meats are already sealed inside of their own pre-fab vacuum packaging, they are already sealed and it works this way as well.

Fill the bowl or sink with water.  It should be enough for you to submerge the bag in the water.  It doesn't have to be filled and I always use cool water.  If the water is hot, you are risking bacterial growth. 

Next, submerge the bag in the water.  Saw that coming huh?

If the bags float you probably have too much air in the bags, so let the air out.

That's pretty much it.  You may want to set a timer.  Check it in 15-30 minutes, and if they're properly thawed you can just put the meat in the refrigerator until you are ready.  Today, I had two 5 ounce steaks in about 1/2 gallon of water.  The steaks were frozen at 0F.  It took 15 minutes to come up to "thawed" temperature.

How this works is simple, just like the ice cubes in your drink on a warm day, the pieces of meat are trying to cool down the water to freezing.  Water holds heat energy better than meat does.  The end result is that the water pulls the cold out of the meat and keeps cool.  The average temperature seeks that of the average of the mass. 

I will let you know about that steak and Au gratin potatoes later if you ask...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Breast Milk Ice Cream

I was reading through this morning's articles and noticed a write up about Breast Milk Ice Cream on The BBC.  I read the article and shuddered thinking as apex "predators" human beings pick up a lot of nasty chemicals through the course of the day.  Lately with the comments about Tuna Fish being a Once A Week food because of the amounts of Mercury, I count myself lucky that I don't have a deadly Peanut Allergy and can eat a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich on Banana Bread for Lunch if I like.

Yes, it is before lunch and I'm already plotting out the day's menu.

If you think about all of the chemicals we are exposed to in the course of the day, how long they take to get out of our system, and how many artificial colours and flavours we take in, the stuff just flat out can not be organic or even pure.  Breast Milk Ice Cream could even be classified as a toxic substance it the source lived in certain places where there is a lot of heavy metals in the soil or a high pollution level. 

It's geared for babies as well.  There are some certain definite benefits to breastfeeding an infant, so why take the next step and proceed into this step?

The mothers are given 15 Pounds Sterling, about $20 US for 10 ounces of milk.  That makes the stuff pretty expensive when you think of the "wholesale cost" of the ingredients. 

Free Range Mother's Milk in a nation that has more than the average Cancer Clusters throughout would be a questionable treat for me, but I suppose that you will see Andrew Zimmern show up there some day for Bizarre Foods, London.

The Baker in me on the other hand has me wondering about how the ingredients would churn into butter... and then my mind slips onto what else are passed through Bodily Fluids and it stops right there.

No thanks!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is it Interference or is it in the Driveway

I listen to a lot of music while I do my thing.  I listen to music from many different cultures, many different languages.  If it bounces I will probably like it.

Early this morning I put on my headphones and I thought I heard some buzzing.  These are some "Refurbished" noise canceling headphones that I got at a deal for $17.  Living in a noisy environment, I hear a lot of oddball noises from the neighbor chasing after the dog that gets loose at least every other day, to the airplanes going to FLL or FXE, to the railroad thinking that it's appropriate to blow the whistle when they go through South Middle River Terrace at 5AM until they cross through my town and into Oakland Park.

Ok, the railroad only did that once.   I have to assume someone was on the tracks when they should not be.

I started with the headphones that dropped the noises by 1/2, then switched on the noise canceling and lost another 1/2 and put on some "Euro Dance" station on while beginning the morning routine.  I had the feed on for over an hour before I got to the point where I considered another mug of coffee - being in the "Disco Cave" with these headphones helps you to lose track of time easily.

After the coffee, it went another hour of bouncing with an occasional phrase being said in different languages, not always my own.  The windows are open in the house, and while you snowbirds come down here for the weather, having the treat of them open is something to look forward for us Floridians.

They do bring the sounds and smells of the city in on the air, like the police siren that is playing in time with the 4/4 beat - just like in the clubs.  This one was real because I just watched the WMPD cruiser go past the house.

I sit low in my seat with my laptop on my left leg warming it somewhat, the music thumping in the deep background.  It's a rather nice way to slog through the morning job search of what has grown to 160 web pages of jobs in the area.   When your city has a 15% unemployment rate, and many jobs posted to the job boards, you have a lot to go through - at least 3 hours on a slow day.  The music definitely helps and I choose it to help when I'm working on the web sites that I work on, or some of the work I do on Social Media and Search Engine Optimization.

This particular piece of music had some phrases being spoken.  It started as unintelligible babble that gradually got louder and solidified itself into a conversation.  Looking up over the Mac laptop that I am reinstalling for a client, I realized that there was an argument in loud Haitian Creole taking place.

The strange thing was that in all of South Florida, these two loud women decided that they would drive their cars to Wilton Manors, down my street and park one in my driveway.   When the driver of car number two though she'd add some strength to her argument and leap out of her car, I decided it was time to act.

No, I didn't go outside and scare them, nor did I turn the sprinklers on or anything that assertive.  I merely said four words.

"There's Someone In Here"

Loud enough for them to hear it completely stopped the "discussion" dead in their tracks.   The one who lept out of the car raced around the back of the old Toyota Camry with the Jesus Saves stickers all over it, apologizing all the way, lept back into the car and drove off leaving the other loud Haitian woman standing in my driveway on the phone yelling at someone else and looking confused and foolish.

She then got into her old Toyota Camry and drove off after the other woman, head scarf flapping in the breezes.

Do they ever drive anything other than Toyota Camrys or Mini-vans?

I'm so happy they chose to brighten my morning.  It was an amusing episode that led me to do one important thing...

I changed the music to an instrumental Trance channel on - if I hear voices again I'm calling the front desk at City Hall.  They're nice people there.  I wonder if they'll mind if I put a gate up?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Devil Ducks on Wilton Drive

One of the things you do when you have a convertible car is to debate whether to leave it locked or not. 

I have a Jeep, although this one is not mine.  The roof is basically vinyl held together with marine thread and the windows are a thick clear plastic that is now scratched over 8 years of use.

I call it Saran Wrap and Velcro.

Not meant to do more than keep the rain or the sun off of you, it's not the most secure vehicle on the planet. 

I will tell you that they're a blast to drive. 

This is my third.  I used to keep a fabric Gecko on the dash, made with a filling of little metal balls, it held things in place as I bounced through the open air. 

For the most part, the safest way to keep your "open car" is with an alarm set, nothing in it you wouldn't mind losing, glove box open, and the doors unlocked.  Let them get in, look around, realize it's a waste of time, and they move on.  When I lived in Philadelphia, people slashed my windows to get at what wasn't in the car after the alarm went off.   Having "more than some" graphics arts skills, I made up a sign that looked like a child wrote it on the computer that said "No Money in Car and No Radio in Car" with a picture of the car next to it.

It never got molested again.

Luckily here, right in the heart of Wilton Manors, things are for the most part safe.  This particular person with their Devil Ducks had their Jeep completely open for the span of the afternoon.  I should know, I walked past it twice. 

It's the Security By Obscurity mindset.  Let them think nothing is there and you won't be bothered.   Hide things in plain sight.

Oh and my particular Jeep?  I have a stereo in it, but every time I leave that face plate is in my pocket with all the rest of the crap I bring with me.  Right now in the driveway, it sits with literally nothing but dirt in the ashtrays since I do not smoke.   Usually I disable the car so that it can not be started since I never drive the thing.  There's this one engine Master Fuse that I can pop off the housing and I'm safe.. its just a big planter made in Toledo.

Now, if I lived in Fort Lauderdale, only five blocks away, I doubt I would have been left to keep my Jeep.  South Middle River Terrace scares me...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Night at the Art Walk

Ok, no opera, but I did get to enjoy myself.

I was one of the folks who staffed the Wilton Manors Main Street Office for most of Friday night.  I did manage to slip out and enjoy the cool Friday night air while the Island City Art Walk was at it's peak and I have to say it was a resounding success.

Press release speak aside, if you have never been to an Island City Art Walk in Wilton Manors on Wilton Drive - get here.  It's a wonderful time in a wonderful place.

The idea (in the most general of terms) is that many businesses host artists and their art and get some great exposure to a public that will appreciate what is offered.  It shows off the art and the businesses in a complementary light and you get to actually speak with the artists which is something that doesn't always happen.

Wilton Drive is a place unlike any other, and I have seen this sort of affair done in a Mall many times, and it just never felt right.  Too one thing or another.  On the other hand, through the efforts of Mary Ellen Charapko and every one else participating, the atmosphere felt like everything just went right.  That ease and pleasure happens with a lot of behind the scenes preparation work.  Nothing ever really just happens on that scale without being prepared, and the quality of all of the exhibits and the venues were obvious.

The other thing that stuck with me was that I kept overhearing comments.  The comments from the patrons were that there were more people and it "Just Keeps Getting Better".  I think they're right.  I'm looking forward to next month.

Monday, February 21, 2011

M.E. DePalma Blooms Again

If you build it they will come.

Our own field of dreams is having its effect.

While I was writing this particular blog posting as well as another, I was interrupted by a phone call.  I have a habit of standing up and walking around when I'm on the phone.  I don't know where I got that from but I wandered into the kitchen.  

After passing the parrot cage and his saying hello to the phone, I ended up at the sink looking out the back window.  Floating over the pool was a Monarch Butterfly.   I went from living in a place that they were a rare sight to one where I can expect to see a couple a day. 

I then remembered that I had this particular picture.   I have gotten the habit of taking my digital camera with me everywhere I go because everywhere you go there are things worth taking pictures of.  In this case, it is the reason why I have all these Monarchs in my neighborhood.   The little vest pocket M.E. DePalma Park is in bloom now with riots of color both insect and floral.  If you walk by the place at the right time of day, there can be flocks of butterflies, bouquets of flowers, and all of them are sparkling in the sunshine. 

Being where I am, all of this beauty spills out into the neighborhood and into my yard.  Looking out the front window I am smiling at the palm trees that are waving in the ocean breezes today and floating by is another one of my orange and black friends. 

Natural is always better than artificial, especially if it is near your house.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Some Advice for Office Depot

In full disclosure, I am a Project Manager.  I do Web Projects.  I do Desktop Publishing.  I do Graphics.  I do all those things that people need in small businesses when their computer goes "oops".  I've done education in a corporate environment.  In fact, I'm a rather good trainer - I can give references. 

The resume is very long, very detailed.  It's typical for an expert in certain pieces of technologies to have a long detailed resume like that.   I'm the guy who after a beer at 9:00 at night can tell you why you need to run a Virtual Computer using VMWare or MS Virtual PC at home to surf so that you won't get hit by a virus and then tell you to order me another so I will explain why it is safer.  

Some really esoteric stuff huh?

Well all of that takes technology.  I have some rather old technology here, but it's all like an old VW Beetle - noisy, slow but gets you there.

Just like that old VW Beetle, some of my technology is beginning to wear out.  I suffered a hardware crash this week on my Desktop Publishing Laptop in front of a client.  My "daily driver" all purpose laptop has a questionable memory chip reader and is starting to have weird freezes due to heat.  It clearly is time for me to upgrade.

I watch the "deal" sites VERY closely.  As any of my friends on Facebook know, I tend to share the links when I think the deal is good.  I'm Platform Agnostic - I'll recommend Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux compatible hardware from any hardware vendor if I think it will do what the person needs.  I've got a very good record at that, and even tell the person on the other end of the line if there are compromises to be aware of and why it is important to consider them.

The whole ball of wax.

So when I personally shop, it is a big deal.

I have been looking for a very tight specification for a laptop.  Must run Windows 7 64Bit.  Must have at least 500GB disc space or a 128GB SSD.  Must be fairly light, and no larger than 15.6 inches.  Must have an i7 Processor.  Price must be below $800. 

The last bit just knocked about 95% out of the running... so I will sit back and wait and limp through until I find THE Buy since the market hasn't quite hit my price point.

But here's the problem... I surf a LOT of eCommerce Websites.  I have some knowledge on how to implement an eCommerce Website, administer them and how to get the Web Developers to do things in a timely fashion.  I did all of that on my own in a Virtual Machine - yeah that weird software stuff again.

When a site is done right, I can drill down and see Just The Right Item and buy it.  If it is done wrong - I get angry and yell at the laptop and scare it.  Not the nicest thing to do to an old friend, is it?

Done right is - I surf that site FIRST for any deal after I have found the "best buy" on another site.   Its not TOO big like Amazon, although I prefer Amazon for "regular person reviews".   It's not too small like some others and it has some very good technology on it.  The nicest thing about www.NewEgg.Com is how I can go to laptops for example, select it by processor with a couple clicks and see all the i7 Intel based laptops and then re-sort by price.

Nobody believes that "featured" makes any damn sense in this day and age of price wars and bad economy.

Here is where  has a problem.  Say you want a laptop.  You want an i7 based machine, although you can easily select any other processor.  You have decided that you want to see a specific selection of one particular grade of i7 you can do that easily.   They are basically trying "too hard".

What if you want to see more than one grade of i7 based laptop?

You can't do that easily.  I have to ask, did their Project Manager in charge of Web Quality Assurance actually test the changes to the site themselves?  I sincerely doubt it.

Here is the direct link and go through the steps and you shall see why I was annoyed.... Oh wait, I can't give you a direct link because they store your Session ID.  Yes, they're tracking you by step through the web site.  Partly that means you will get better service.  In this case I have to tell you how to get there:

1) Surf
2) Hover the mouse pointer over "Technology" and find Laptops, then click on Laptops

In the case of the link above, there was no Session ID tracking... so they're not overtly following through with that basic task, but anyway...

3) Page down and under the words "Shop Technology" there is a Processor Model link - click it.
4) Now this isn't all the Processor Models that you can surf and compare so you will have to click "See All Processor Model". 

Ok, The Grammarian In Me comes out - it is "... Processor Models" not "... Processor Model" but that is minor.

5) A big long list opens up.  You really can't help that, although to do a category for each type of processors would be best like "i3" "i5" and "AMD" for example... So select one processor.   I selected "i7-820QM".  I may as well live large since it was the fastest.

Here is the first problem.  The page reloads.  Who wrote that?  RELOAD?  Come on... ok, so now we go onwards.... because I don't want JUST that one processor, I have to go back and start over.

6) Select "See all Processor Model" and grumble at the lack of the "s' at the end.
7) You are presented with the list again.  Select "i7-740QM"

And the page reloads. 

You see the problem.  You, the person sitting at your desk should be able to see the list, click a whole bunch of items and then click a button to "go" and have it go fetch all at once.  It works that way on most other "Ajax" enabled sites.  The situation is so painful with all the reload that my next step was to:

8) Click close and surf another company's website.

The problem is that while Intel has been great at supplying us with so many grades of processor, there really isn't THAT much difference to the consumer between grades of processor.  The biggest difference is speed, not whether it is an i7-740 vs an i7-760.   The ideal would be to show each grade of processor and allow them to select that, then allow them to refine the search if they know enough between the grades to continue.

It can be easily fixed, I trust.  They are just giving the user too fine a list.  The person who will need to know the specifics of the processor will be at the tail end of the decision process, not the casual surfer - and there's a search box to further refine what to include.  It was much easier for me to do a search on "i7", select computers, select laptops, and then sort "low to high" and find what I was looking for than go through the menu on the left. 

It is my opinion, and only an opinion, that when you are surfing a website you will not use a search box first. Most folks will click away happily but they won't go to the search box unless they're frustrated.  Why?  Because they're lazy and won't want to move their hand off the mouse or trackpad. 

Of course I had to click on view all because that's just the way I roll...

That is what got me started on this blog piece here...

I am a lazy surfer as well and will either click or type and don't want to do both.  I suspect that the little old lady living in a farm house outside a small town like Stanton Nebraska, surfing on a website to buy a computer with the grandkids for the first time will be just as lazy if not more so.  Every step is important because it is a step for that dear sweet grandmom to step away from your site to someone else because it's confused her and the Cherry Pie has to come out of the oven anyway.

All that reminds me I have to put the Barbecue in the crock pot for dinner...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Border Collie Psychology at 4:30 in the Morning

I wear earplugs to sleep with.  All I hear in the middle of the night is my heartbeat and the ringing in my ears that was brought on by aspirin when I was a child.

I just picked up some brand spanking earplugs and they blocked out all the background noise.  For the last two nights I have gotten some very sound sleeps.  That is a very good thing because I have been waking up at 4:30 in the morning about 1/2 of the days in each week.

I had no idea, and assumed that it was one of a thousand things that was waking me up.

Bladder, gas, blanket falling off, the train on the FEC Line about a half mile away were all suggested as possibilities.

This morning I found a new possibility.  The judicious planting of a dog's head under my hand.   At 4:30 in the morning.

My trusty little 10 year old Border Collie needed attention so her head popped under my down arm's hand and nudged it until I pet her.  She still sleeps through the night without needing to use The Tree, so I figured she was just feeling lonely and wanted to be closer to me.

I sleep on my side and she decided that that hand draped over the side of the bed was just too tempting.

This went on for a little while until I decided that I had enough and wanted to get to sleep.  But what to do?

Mrs Dog never sleeps on the furniture or on the bed.  I was warned not to let her sleep on the furniture and since we've got new chairs and couches I'd rather keep them intact.  I stopped her from sleeping on my bed because when I first got her, I didn't realize that the old saying was completely correct:

"If you lay down with dogs, you will get fleas."

Those welts eventually healed and she stopped sleeping on the bed.  I also was able to wash the sheets less often since dogs don't stay as clean as you or I do.  Lettie will not tolerate a daily bath, but I luxuriate in hot water from 7 feet above the ground that pours from a jet in the wall.

Today is Friday, as of this writing.  Friday I tend to run all the laundry so I thought that it didn't matter what I did to the sheets.

Rolling over just a little further than her insistent head, I was able to scoop her up with one arm under her chest onto the bed.

Lettie did not like being spooned.  In the slightest.  I on the other hand didn't care and fell asleep.

With one arm draped over the dog, the other draped under her, she settled in, kept me warm and I didnt' realize that time went by until I was awakened.

There was a low rumble that woke me.  It filtered in through the orange ear plugs, and was just enough noise to bring me to consciousness.   Opening my eyes, I found that it was my customary 6AM wake up call anyway, so I lifted the arm that is over my dog's furry warm body ever so slightly...

Out like a shot, Lettie bounded from the bed with a grumble.

I rolled over and gathered the sheets from the other side of the bed, grabbed all the linens, and followed my dog's wagging tail through the house and past the parrot to the washing machine.

None the worse for wear, I had found a way to stop Mrs Dog from waking me up at 4:30 by assuming she'd tolerate being treated like a dog.  After all many dogs like to sleep with their people.  The bed is much more comfortable than the mat on the floor and certainly warmer.  Even in South Florida, a Concrete Slab leeches cold into a dog's older bones.

Mrs Dog did not appreciate being picked up, she never does.  She didn't really want to be on the bed because it was "weird".  Weird means anything out of the ordinary.  I sincerely believe that Border Collies are a breed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - everything has to be Just So and In It's Place.  Weirdness is Not Just So and must be Fixed. 

Perfect dog for me, a Project Manager, since I live an ordered life with certain things happening in a certain order.

Just don't pick her up or else she'll grumble and pout.  On the other hand since it is 5PM now, I'm getting the evil eye to get her dinner.  First.

Tonight she gets her way but tomorrow at 4:30 she may have a rude awakening if she puts her head under my hand again!

Friday, February 18, 2011

British Advertising

I have a good friend in Key West, David.   He's a British Ex-Pat who sent me this joke email that I wanted to share with you... 

You have to love British humour!
These are classified ads which were actually placed in a U.K. newspaper:

8 years old.
Hateful little bastard.

1/2 Cocker Spaniel,
1/2 sneaky neighbour's dog.

Mother is a Kennel Club registered German Shepherd.
Father is a Super Dog, able to leap tall fences in a single bound.

Also 1 gay bull for sale.

Must sell washer and dryer £100.

Worn once by mistake.
Call Stephanie.

**** And the WINNER is... ****

Complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 45 volumes.
Excellent condition, £200 or best offer.
No longer needed, got married, wife knows everything.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Never Trust a Backup

I got caught again. 

Yesterday I was stuck going to Jury Duty.  Never mind that I'm probably not the best person for a Jury, I'm way too analytical and can't turn off my training.  I had to make sure that I had everything I needed to get the bare minimum done for the day.

I took all my documents that I needed to work on during the day and pared them down to a memory chip.  An old 256 MB SD Memory Chip.  I'm a fan of these things.  They're small, light, easy to hide, easy to use.  Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX compatible.  You can get them cheap at around $1 USD per GB.  Less if you catch a sale.  

Don't laugh at those prices if you read this in 2012 or later.  That's the going rate in February 2011 for bargain basement chips.

This wasn't a bargain basement chip, it was a big deal when I got it for an old camera.  Since it is a SanDisk chip, I should try out the lifetime warranty and whether I can get a new one with a minimum of fuss.

I had my documents on the chip and put it on the laptop that I needed to take with me, and old machine that is slow.  I figured if it got stolen in the den of crime that is a courthouse, I would be annoyed but I would still have my work. 

I made a backup of my Firefox bookmarks and then installed them onto the little Thinkpad Z60t and went through a day of work with it.  It's a comfortable machine for me, 13 inches and ample keyboard, I am sure it went for a big chunk of change when new.  Now it's faster than a Netbook, so that would price it around $200 in the after market.

Any tool that works is the best tool for the job.

I went through the day surfing pages I had pre-loaded at 530AM that morning.  I even applied for two jobs (Yes, I am a Project Manager and Yes, I want a permanent position) as well as writing a blog posting or three.  When I went home, the little Z Machine stayed on my lap until I was through doing work stuff.

I guess what I'm saying is I got a full day out of it.   The computer is functional, no hardware glitches, it runs XP adequately well if slow by today's standards.

This morning I pulled the memory chip out of the Z, walked it out to the living room and went through the motions... only it didn't read right.

Memory chips are much more resilient than optical medias like CD or DVDs.  You can drop them on the floor from a "reasonable" height and they won't shatter, scratch or generally become easily unreadable.  What they are sensitive to are Static Shocks and questionable readers.

It could have been either.

Knowing which specific files I needed off the chip, I was able to recover the directory tree.  Folders to the newbies, the data was safe. 

On the other hand, I now have a laptop, my Acer Aspire, that is acting flaky and showed it by eating the chip.

It won't format, It won't read in the Aspire, and I've decided the safest place for me to put an SDHC chip in that machine is in an external USB Caddy and forgo the internal reader. 

Yes, my five year old Acer is beginning to go senile.  Unfortunately it is also my fastest laptop so it's going to be a hinderance.

What is the moral to the story?

If you trust your backups, you had better test them.  I was in a place where I had to live with a subset of my data and only one copy of the changed files exist.   Luckily the changed files were intact, but my backup did not work.

In corporate world, if there is time, you always do multiple backups.   When I managed the financial software systems that I had control over, I made it a point to have more than one copy of my data.  This was a "special case", but it also serves as a warning. 

If you aren't backing up your data you are saying it isn't worth keeping it in the first place.

That reminds me, I have a private server with 250GB of data that needs a backup... Ooops!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Growing up without a cell phone

My sister sent this to me the other day.  I wonder if she's trying to tell me that we're getting older... NAAAAH!

Growing up without a cell phone
       If you are 36, or older, you might think this is hilarious!

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning.... Uphill... Barefoot... BOTH ways...yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!
But now that I'm over the ripe old age of forty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today.  You've got it so easy!  I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!  And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don't know how good you've got it!

1) I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet.  If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!! 

2) There was no email!!  We had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen!  Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there!  Stamps were 10 cents!

3) Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us.  As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our ass! Nowhere was safe!

4) There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes!  If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself!

5) Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!  There were no CD players!  We had tape decks in our car.  We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless.  Cause, hey, that's how we rolled, Baby!  Dig?

6) We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting!  If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it!

7) There weren't any freakin' cell phones either. If you left the house, you just didn't make a damn call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". OH MY GOSH !!!  Think of the horror... not being in touch with someone 24/7!!!  And then there's TEXTING.  Yeah, right.  Please!  You kids have no idea how annoying you are.

8) And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was!  It could be your school, your parents, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, the collection agent... you just didn't know!!!  You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

9) We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics!  We had the Atari 2600!  With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'.  Your screen guy was a little square!  You actually had to use your imagination!!!  And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen.. Forever!  And you could never win.  The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died!  Just like LIFE!

10) You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing!  You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!!  NO REMOTES!!!  Oh, no, what's the world coming to?!?!

11) There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning.  Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards.

12) And we didn't have microwaves.  If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove!  Imagine that!  
13) And our parents told us to stay outside and play... all day long.  Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort.  And if you came back inside... you were doing chores!

      And car seats - oh, please!  Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on.  If you were lucky, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place! 

      See!  That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled rotten!  You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1970   or any time before!

The Over 40 Crowd

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Slow Centon Memory Stick and a Fast Alternative

Memory has a speed.  I won't get into the technology behind it here because, frankly, people would glaze over and tune out.  For the home user or the casual computer person, it doesn't really matter, but when you start moving really big files around, you need to be careful.

A while back, I bought a 16 GB Centon Memory Stick.  I wrote about it, and people keep coming back to the post.  Basically I was disappointed in the thing and was confused as to why.  The stick was a "Standard Speed" memory stick that even now is one of the cheapest ones on the block.

Stay Away From Standard Speed.

This isn't all that apparent, so if you're going to spend money on a memory stick in a blister package either do some research on the speed, accept the Russian Roulette aspect of things, or consider the alternatives.

Typically a known brand name like Kingston Memory will be better than a no name dollar store memory stick.  They have a great reputation and they seem to keep after the standards.   With USB 3.0 coming on the market, you're going to have a better time with the speed of a USB 3.0 stick than a USB 2.0 stick.  Whether that new shiny USB 3.0 memory stick will work in your creaky old five year old laptop is another story that I have yet to find out the answer for.  You may end up out of luck until your next computer when USB 3.0 will be the standard.

If I ever get a new computer, or am given one to review, I'll certainly write about the experience here.  But until then, I'm with you folks stuck on the slow PC bus.  This machine does work and is a steady performer but the machine you got Grandma for xmas is faster.

The alternative that I basically stumbled across was a happy accident.  I have a couple micro SDHC chips here.  8GB.  One I found, another I found in a broken phone in front of the bars near my house.  Since the phone looked like it was driven over by a fat girl in a semi truck, I didn't bother to try to return the thing to the owner.  No way to know who that was since it didn't turn on any more, I snooped around and found a tiny little chip that actually worked.

Simply put you can tell the speed of a chip by looking for the Class of the chip.  A Class 2 SD or SDHC memory chip is slower than a Class 6 SD or SDHC chip.  I have seen some Class 10 chips out on the market and those are the best.  Typically the faster ones are a little more expensive than the slower ones - so why buy a slower chip?  I can't see a reason.

You need at least a Class 6 SDHC chip in your camera to do HD Video, and you really should have a Class 10 - I won't recommend anything less for video than a Class 10.

How do you tell? A SD or SDHC chip will be roughly postage stamp sized with a notch cut out of the upper right corner on the label side of the chip.  The pin side of the chip is normally blank. 

Look for a capital "C" with a number in it.  That will tell you the speed.  I have everything here from unmarked standard speed though one with a C encircling a 6 - Class 6.  That was the 8GB that I harvested from the broken phone.

How do you use an SDHC chip on your computer?  Either there will be a built in reader that looks like a little slot built to take the chip, or you will have a USB SDHC adapter.  I have both.  I had found that my internal reader on the laptop is slower than the chip and chip reader combination. 

The Chip Reader I bought looks like a translucent thumb drive.  Blue, and it is nothing special.  I went to Meritline and got the cheapest USB Chip Reader I could find.  Less than 50 cents.  It is faster because it isn't limited to the speed on the internal chip reader on my five-year-old-laptop.  There may be something in this, and if you can find a cheap chip reader like that, you may want to buy one.  You're out less than a buck if it isn't working and a proper USB stick works in more places than your camera.  You can always remove the little postage stamp sized SDHC chip from the stick in order to use it in your camera or car if it is supported there.

Bottom line, check for the speed, you will be much happier... That Class 10 chip is worth the couple of bucks more than the Class 2 bargain basement that I got way back when. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

And a Cynical Valentine's Day to YOU!

Walking the dog before the sun comes up gives me a chance to put some audio books on my iPod. 

I am just as much a creature of habit as anyone else is in a modern society, so when I finished the last series of books that left me feeling unfulfilled, I dropped some comedy bits on the player and considered it a done deal. 

The books were a series of three, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars starting with the colonization of that planet and ending with the Third Martian Revolution some two hundred years in the future.  It suffered from the Sequel Syndrome which in other words meant the first was the best, the second was OK, the third was forgettable. 

Read the first, forget the rest.

After pushing myself through that last audio book, I went out for a walk with my iPod loaded with British comedies and followed after Mrs Dog for a short lap around the Central Neighborhood in Wilton Manors.  Lately she's decided to follow a drunken wobble through the parking lots near the bars and cut the walk very short in the middle, then turn home. 

Today she was not asking for much, but didn't want a full walk, so we went out and wobbled around slowly.  She did however insist on taking me down Wilton Drive.  Before sunrise, the city had an interesting view, deserted and feeling like the description of the place before the bars arrived.  Nobody was awake, few cars were on the road, and you felt like there was someone watching over you.

Good, I would have entertained them giggling as "One Song to the Tune of Another" was being hashed out with "Nothing Compares to You by Prince was sung to the Tulips of Amsterdam" by a singer who would have been quite at home at the same bars.  In other words, if he hit a note, it was by coincidence. 

On the other hand, I don't have many of those sketches, so when it stopped after 30 minutes, I switched over to the local "Personality Radio Program" on FM.  Perhaps I should have put local in its own quotes because it seems like Miami is simulcasting from New York.  Too bad, the local talent here has always been worth listening to and it always seems like you're "Kissing your Sister" when you are listening to a simulcast on the radio.

Sorry Pat, maybe we'll find something better to listen to since Radio in general is not worth bothering with for short listening spells.

But what struck me was that here I was just finishing listening to a rather bizarre and drunken sounding program and I ended up listening to another.  This being Valentine's Day, the bit was some person singing a telegram to somebody and the chucklehead on the radio bemoaning how bad it was.  Cynicism as morning entertainment. 

I'm glad I was only 1/2 awake.

The one cynical remark that will stick with me for a while is what he called today:

Candy Discount Day Eve.

Funny, that is what I call Halloween!

So telling my loved ones about that comment we're going to "hit the shops" tomorrow looking for Whitman Samplers.  At least that way I'll be able to get that one candy I actually LIKE out of that box without it being picked over!

One more thing... to quote a drunk who was standing on the on the steps of the Gifford House in Provincetown back in 1992:

I love you all... Differently!

Have a happy Valentine's Day and tell someone you care about that you love them.  I did.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

First Britney Spears, now Justin Bieber

Ok, so what's the deal with celebs shaving their heads?

I just caught this clip of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show where Kimmel shaved Justin Bieber's Head.  Shawn Puffy Combs was there telling him not to and that Kimmel was drunk.  I don't think that Puffy was serious about that, but they did go through with the shave. 

After seeing the 16 yr old Bieber with his wide eyes and a bald head look like a character in the first Star Trek movie, I just had to smile and say of all the publicity stunts you can pull, this is a harmless one.  Amusing to say the least. 

It's not going to stay that way, girls, in another six weeks he'll be ready for a trim. 

If you're interested, you can follow the link to see the before and after.  It actually was a pretty good interview, Puffy was "deep" as usual.  Like Jimmy Kimmel says, I'm not in Bieber's target market either but I got a good laugh out of it. 

I may be due for a haircut, but I won't go quite THAT short.  Just a #6 on top, #1 on the sides and fade, please!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wet Memories of Ponds Gone By

Today I woke up and managed to get the dog walk in before the weather changed.  Three hours later, it is 5 degrees colder at 51, still raining, and windy.  The skies are grey and the wind is coming in off the front that is settling in.

Sunny Florida indeed.

It's winter and there's always tomorrow.  It will be cool and sunny at least.  It got me thinking that this is the kind of weather that we would have when I was growing up in Cherry Hill, NJ in April instead of Wilton Manors, FL at what is statistically the coldest week of the year.

Much to the parent's annoyance, it would be days like this that Pat and I would get on our jacket and our old clothes and go out to play in the yard.   In the rain, we'd have big puddles that would drain to the Cooper Creek behind the house.  We called it The Crick in the South Jersey accent of the day and it was a draw.  Just like any children of any era, they'd be drawn to the edges of the body of water and go searching, coming back covered with mud but happy with the latest adventure.

Over the years, we explored The Field until it became covered with baseball diamonds, and the gently descending prairie there of tall weeds.  In summer there were Blackberries to be picked and we could hide among the tall grasses until the afternoon wore down until dinner and the mosquitoes chased us away.

Toward the bottom of the field was a spring.  It was reliable and there was never a time that it had dried up.  Feeding The Crick, it was a source of entertainment for all the children of the little suburban neighborhood.  Winter it would freeze solid enough for us to go out with our shoes and skate across it.  One kid or another would be brave enough after testing it for strength, and that would be all it took, we'd all be out there sliding across with our smooth bottomed shoes until tired.  There were always one or more felled trees to use as a bench to rest, and many afternoons would be spent there sliding around until it thawed.

Once the Spring season finally arrived, the tadpoles would begin to hatch and that brought more entertainment.   We had the chance to watch the little things grow and catch them so we could see them closely.  What we would do with them was to look at them, marvel at the speckles on the tail that would be "eaten" away as they grew, look for legs to let us know that they were developing into a mature frog.  Our little pond full of tadpoles would become full of frogs that would be again caught and looked over.  We wondered whether that frog had been caught months before as a tadpole and if it remembered us.

The baseball fields got built and since they need a flat layer of ground, the big trucks came in and leveled the place so the little leagues could move in.  This was all before we realized how productive a marsh could be, nurturing the natural and the minds of children to find out the life cycles of the creatures within.  The fields got built and table flat, but they also left a bit of a cliff to climb.  We now had to get around the cyclone fence to get to The Pond and up to the table of land that was the parking lot that overlooked the left over bit of wetland.

What Man builds, Mother Nature will wear down.  Sometimes over long stretches of time, other times in an eye blink.  The fields were built in Spring, and by Summer, the edges which were not planted with any retaining grass, had silted up most of our precious pond.  By the time that the silting had stopped,  the wetlands were much more dry, the pond had shrunk to a sliver that was maybe a tenth of its former self

Over the years, we stopped going to The Pond.  It wasn't really enough area for us to skate, the kids who were all within a year or three of each other were now into their teens, and it ceased to be a draw.  I remember that our little group of children now would instead of hovering over the natural, went up to the hill that overlooked the little league fields and watch over it for a while like a bleacher.   This hill was the berm that was built up when the State of New Jersey built I-295 from Delaware to its then end at Moorestown, three or four miles North.  We knew that we were 32 miles from Delaware because the mile marker on the southbound side of The 295 was in our own little world, overlooking our homes and what was once the prairie.  We still could use the hill for sliding down it on sheets of cardboard as if they were toboggans, but the area just wasn't as fun now that it was a managed baseball park.

Luckily that kind of construction would be less likely.  A habitat that was left over would be called a Preserve and left to be natural.  The pond would be a protected area so that slivers of the endangered natural New Jersey would not be swallowed up.  The entire neighborhood was once a farm and that little area was left alone because it just wasn't dry enough to be farmed.  So when the homes were built there, fill was trucked in and we had a time where we could enjoy what was left for children to explore.

Even on the cold raw rainy days of April, New Jersey has a lot of land that were left as a preserve.  When I got too old to explore the pond, I started driving.  After a series of cars, I got my first Jeep and did what every Jeep driver tried to do, I went off road.  New Jersey is a beginner's paradise of off roading.  You don't have to go and destroy the natural habitat in New Jersey because the Pine Barrens are set aside for you to enjoy and are laced with fire trails.  There's a large network of abandoned roads, railroads and sugar sand fire trails to drive over and I was able to sate my needs for visiting the natural by not destroying the lands.

When ever I had someone from out of state make their predictably tired New Jersey Jokes, I would insist that those places that everyone cringes over are "Up North" and in the New York Suburbs "North of Exit 9" on the turnpike.  Next weekend, I'd drag them kicking and screaming out to The Pines where we'd invariably explore until we'd come across a "Cedar Water Creek" and marvel that there were fish, frogs and fowl in this place that was special and set aside from such things as a developer's plow and baseball diamonds.

The thing that is so special about the New Jersey Pine Barrens that was unintentional is that it is so accessible.  You could go off road in a Cadillac Sedan deVille if you wanted to in New Jersey, I know that because I took Mom's Caddy back there.  You didn't have to shred the land, someone already graded the roads and you could get in and see what it looked like before we got there simply by looking out the window and away from the trails.

Without major equipment you can't drive across the Everglades.  It's more heavily protected, but airboats go through it every day.  I can't imagine driving through the Everglades, but I have driven through the Pine Barrens to get home when the Atlantic City Expressway was jammed simply by getting off at one of the exits, driving through Hammonton to get to the custard stand and going That Way to Atsion Lake and through Medford home.  Each time I did that, I'd have another person with me saying they never knew how beautiful New Jersey could be.

It is all in the view.  Sometimes the best view is out the window of a Jeep Wrangler going up a trail at 30MPH.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Are Suits at Work on The Way Out

In a word, yes. 

We have all noticed it for years.  First it was dress down or casual friday.  Then it was the general trending toward a casual work week.  After all, are we hiring a wardrobe or are we hiring a mind? 

For the most part, its a What Ever It Takes attitude.  In the case of a suit, they're damn uncomfortable.  Many offices are simply too warm to wear a jacket, so for years, the first thing you would do is hang the suit jacket on the back of the door, or the chair or on the cube wall.   Then it rapidly became acceptable to go chinos and polo shirt at work unless you're off to meet customers.

Even the customers would scratch your head if after the first couple visits on a "steady client call" you came in dressed in a suit.

I have a grey suit that I have had for years now.  Embarrassingly long time, but luckily I've been able to hang onto it since I've been told I look good in it.  I wore it to Pat's Wedding so many years ago, and it may be more than 20 years old.  The thing is that the only place I have felt comfortable wearing a suit is to a Funeral, Wedding, or Interview.  For the most part, it hangs there in the bedroom closet with a silent "Send Me In Coach!" for when it's needed.

With the general trend of offices going more casual, you can spot the prospective hire, the sales force, and the newbies.  I found it amusing when I walked into a shiny office block for an interview on Cypress Creek that I overheard a comment.  Being 6' 4" tall and physically imposing, I have The Look.  My friend and former programmer once called it a "Command Presence".  This is a look that I am conscious of and I try to tone it down sometimes.  That one particular day was a cool day for Florida, the sun was out in force, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  I had on my backup mirrored sunglasses as I walked into the building with black portfolio in hand.

One rather pretty woman said to her companion in front of the building: "Hey, do you think we are being raided?"

Now what would you say to something like that?

I looked over, said "Yes." and kept walking.

They packed up and left that particular spot from in front of the building like they were shot out of a cannon.

The interview went well, I started up a relationship with a recruiter and have maintained it for the last couple years.  I walked into that interview amused and was wondering if I wasn't overprepared.  They didn't think so and laughed with me when I told that story.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I had an interview with a small company in downtown Fort Lauderdale.  I sat in their waiting room for about 15 minutes thinking of that story and wondering whether I was prepared and qualified.  I was.  I concluded that I was the outsider ready to make a good impression (I did) and that the existing staff were dressed comfortably.  I should relax.

Another person came walking in and sat down beginning to fill out the application that I had just finished and was dressed just as I was.  Him in his blue suit, me in my trusty old grey one.  We looked like high end security, but it was appropriate.

I guess who ever lands that job will get new chinos and a polo shirt and start work.   At least I still fit in my chinos... or at least I will when I lose another five pounds...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sister Mary Ann's Gasoline - Humor from Velma

Velma did it again.  She sent me joke that had me laugh out loud, literally.  It scared the parrot back into the cage, and Lettie came over to see if anything was wrong.

Thanks, Velma, I needed that!  I miss you and your warm sense of humor, but this cold winter day, I am sure you're keeping the folks in Philadelphia amused too!


Sister Mary Ann, who worked for a home health agency, was out making her rounds visiting homebound patients when she ran out of gas.  As luck would have it, a Texaco Gasoline station was just a block away. She walked to the station to borrow a gas can and buy some gas. The attendant told her that the only gas can he owned had been loaned out, but she could wait until it was returned. Since Sister Mary Ann was on the way to see a patient, she decided not to waitand walked back to her car.  She looked for something in her car that she could fill with gas and spotted the bedpan she was taking to the patient..

Always resourceful, Sister Mary Ann carried the bedpan to the station, filled it with gasoline, and carried the full bedpan back to her car.  As she was pouring the gas into her tank, two Baptists watched from across the street.. One of them turned to the other and said,If it starts, I'm turning Catholic.!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why I Stay With T-Mobile

I got into the whole cell phone use business late.  I see the cell as a desk phone that I just happen to be able to slip in my pocket and go do my thing with.  I don't take calls if I am driving, which seems to be the exception and not the rule.  I don't have a "Smartphone".  Oh if I were given one, I'd use it, but for the most part, I don't need it. 

For the most part I am sitting at a PC, banging away on a keyboard from before 7am until as late as 11pm some nights.  If you need me you have two options, a voice call or email.  My old beater of a laptop is much more flexible than the most Einstein like phone you can possibly have.  I use the power I have, but I am open to change. 

I didn't have a phone until around 2003.  At that point we decided that it was time to move to Fort Lauderdale Area and we thought it would be best to have a Florida cell phone.  When we came to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the beach, we made a survey of the major national carriers and the "deals" of the moment and decided for how I intended to use the phone, T-Mobile was best for me.  In the intervening time I have stayed with T-Mobile through horrendous coverage at my old house, and excellent coverage elsewhere.  If I have a signal I can happily talk away. 

When I was here in Florida on vacation in 2003, I went to the T-Mobile store and was greeted there by the staff after being allowed to browse an appropriate amount of time and we all began to chat.  I decided on a very basic phone which happened to be small so I could fit it in my pocket or my skate pack, and I lived with that phone for another 5 years.  Basically having been treated very well by the people in the Fort Lauderdale Store set me on a good relationship with a large company. 

Corny, I know.

So today I still have the same phone number with the 954 area code.  I still have T-Mobile, and for my needs I get everything I can ask for.  Basic phone got updated about a year and a half ago to Basic phone with FM radio and MP3 player.  I got online to do that upgrade after doing all my research and then calling the company for just the right phone.

It had to be red.

I have that phone now, it serves me well although I find the FM radio is more of a curiosity, and I think I played MP3s with it twice.  There are other ways to do all of that while I am out on a dog walk. 

Today I had an interview, and a client called that phone just as I was putting too much money into the meter and walking into the prospective companies office.  I pressed off and mentally apologized for ducking the call, and went into the office for the interview.

Coming out later, I powered up my little red and grey phone and it booted up flawlessly with a message that I had a message.  When I pressed and held 1 for the voice mail I got a message saying "Sim Not Ready".

Hmmm not good.

Getting in the car, I disassembled the phone and reassembled it.  It booted back up with the same rude message.   Sim Not Ready.  I'm not playing a game here, you need to work first time, every time!

It gave me an excuse to drive to the same T-Mobile store from 2003, they were still there and I think I may even have parked in the same spot as back then.  I was downtown Fort Lauderdale for the interview and that store was the closest.   I stood in line around 10 minutes, being apologized to by the two people who worked there, and waited.  By the time I was served there were another four groups that came in, and there seemed to be an air of pleasant resolve that we'd all be taken care of.

That's the point.  We were taken care of.  Minimum of fuss, pleasant people working the counter, and each person was efficiently served moving to the next.  In the case of my Sim Not Ready, the replacement was free.  The woman who pleasantly and efficiently helped me moved my contacts to the new Sim, gave me back the old one, and told me that I will get a message when I was activated. 

Being thanked I was sent on my way with a smile.  No muss, no fuss, no "retail attitude".

I simply left with the feeling that T-Mobile at Broward and Federal had some excellent people working for the company.   They may move onto other things in the future, but I'll think that when I get in there the next time in maybe another 7 years, things will be just as precise, just as excellent, and just as high a level of customer service.

I guess that is how things should be.   Try that in a mall or a big box store, I dare you!  T-Mobile, if you're listening, promote those two who were on duty today from 11 to 12AM.  They're good!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sorry, I don't do unpaid surveys

This week was an amusing coincidence of mail. 

This was the week where one of the banks that I have checking with, Chase, decided to say that they're going to unilaterally charge a $15 handling fee.  If I see that on my next statement, I'll be in the branch the next day to close the account. 

Checking accounts make money for banks.  People don't actually stand in line writing checks these days, I write about 1 check every two months now and usually it is because I used the wrong credit card and can't get into the website in time to pay it off.  Their logic is that they have extra handling to manage the account, which is frankly nonsense.  Chase swallowed up the bank I was with, Washington Mutual, when that bank failed.  So in order to pay for their upper management's homes on the Hamptons, or their yachts via obscene bonuses, they're going to try to include another nuisance fee. 

There are better answers such as a Credit Union or one of the many competitors out there that have free checking.  They'll make their money by not paying interest on the amount you have sitting in the account to keep the minimum balance for not paying the fee.   Chase needs to cut their expenses instead of that sort of action.

On the other hand a rant by me won't really have that much effect other than my sitting back and saying that every time Chase buys a bank I am a depositor in, I'll close the account and move on.  It has happened three times to me.

The other part of that coincidence was when Chase emailed me a "marketing email" asking if I wanted to be on a survey panel.  For entertainment sake, I sat back and began to fill the thing out.  They promised me a chance to win some sort of discount on some nebulous items or some cash back... but never outright said that for my time I would be directly compensated.  

I got about to the fourth nosy question and clicked the close box.  Realizing that the survey itself was going to take about 10 minutes, I decided that I had donated enough of my time to Chase for the day.

(sounds of my fingers hitting the keyboard opting out of both the website and future "marketing emails")

There are websites to work on, graphics work to do, and a blog article to write.  Why donate time to a bank that makes obscene amounts of money on the backs of their depositors for very little service?

Following that, I noticed that there was this contest on a website that all I had to do was click "like" on facebook to be entered.  That's easy.  There's a facebook group for this blog, and I have my own personal one so it's been liked.

Now how about that free iPad Mr Web Site? 



(Sound of crickets...)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Na Pohybel Janas

I am not really sure what to think about this one.

I was doing some research into search engine optimization and found this term.  Apparently it means "Destruction to the Janas" in Polish.  It's used like "Break A Leg" but it is also supposedly darker.

Over the last couple days, this term has bubbled to the top of the search terms on Google.  With all the banal things people look for, and the whole Superbowl hype, that term showed up.  It's almost like someone is trying to hack google to get the video included.  Any promotion is a good one, I guess. 

Watching the video was pretty ... well it was painful.  Three guitars, a drummer, and a singer.  They all looked bored, and frankly I've heard better music coming out of a garage.  Bad bar band competition I guess.

So if you have a mind to listen to three-and-a-half minutes of what it's like to be a bad bar band in Poland, the link is below... I can't say it's my kind of music.  It even made the dog leave the room.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This is D Cake

Fine, I'll admit it, I'm a carbo junkie.

Worse than that, I actually know how to make snacks and general... junk.  When I set my mind to it, I do it well.  I guess the spirit of competition comes in and I will refine the recipe until it's perfect.   Or at least as perfect as I intend it to be.

Pretty much like anything, if you set your mind to doing something, you'll achieve what you set out.  Throw yourself into something complex and who knows what you will get.

Thing is, that sometimes, you can be too effective.  My freezer is chock full of baked goods.  Yesterday I decided I wanted to have some cake for today, my 19th anniversary.  With no butter in the house, that set off a chain of events that basically emptied the cupboards and the freezer and taught me how to store butter in a tiny little space.

Put a measured 1/2 cup in a sandwich sized plastic bag and flatten.  It will go down to a very thin size and will fit anywhere.  Repeat as needed.

No butter means, churn butter for baking.  I had bought some 36% heavy whipping cream from GFS Marketplace earlier this week knowing I'd want biscuits.  Once I churn butter, I end up with butter and buttermilk.  So... the recipe is simple and I've written about it before.  Takes 5 minutes.  I did it twice.

With the kitchen counters beginning to pile up with mixing bowls and measuring spoons, I set onto the epic.  Three hours of Baking Frenzy.

Now with the butter, I looked at what I would have to do.  The original idea was Cake... but since the oven was going to be hot, I would have to make the biscuits, and it was getting late... Lunch time! 

Getting ahead of myself, the morning was done and the afternoon was filling up.  The list was going to be long but I had to stage everything.
  1. Butter
  2. Biscuits
  3. Lunch
  4. Cake
  5. Icing
  6. Collapse
There's the plan, set out all the butter in little measuring cups in the refrigerator, and then just combine my ingredients as needed.  This would be Bright Idea Number One.

Ok, Bright Idea Number Two, make some Pigs in a Blanket.  There is always a little bit of extra biscuit batter in the bottom of the mixing bowl and if you try the biscuit recipe, it works incredibly well.  Just take the batter, wrap a good quality sausage or hot dog in it, and bake it on it's own cookie sheet with the biscuits.

Breather time... while the biscuits are cooling, rinse everything out.  All of this baking was going to be done one after another and I only have one mixer here.  The Pigs in a Blanket were good, so time to move on.

While being watched for anything that would suffer deceleration trauma on the floor by the dog, I moved onto the cake.   There were 12 biscuits that were cooling and got moved over her head onto the dining room table.

Begin mixing all of this up and  realize I had to figure out how to store all of this.  There was going to be a cake which would glower at me from the refrigerator. By the time the fourth day was done, the cake would be dry and not so very good.   This time things would be different, I would do it RIGHT!  Remember the comment at the bottom of the recipe for the cake itself though, Sift the Flour.  Otherwise it will turn out dry.  But that didn't really decide what to do about having too much of a good thing. 

Bright Idea Number Three instead of making a three layer cake once, make a two layer cake twice.

Having the baking pans in front of me, I realized that it was easier to slice a cake before it is iced to make a smaller footprint in the oven but what to do with the "rest".  I made two 9 inch pans of cake and when they cooled, I put one in the freezer for a couple days.  The other one got sliced down the middle, iced and presented as the picture you see on the page.

I guess that solved it.  We had fresh cake yesterday, we will have sort-of-fresh cake today, and when that one is done we can have another in a couple days. 

Bright idea right? 

Empty the freezer to create space so a 9 inch round slab of cake fits in your own freezer.  I'll wait.  See not so easy!  I now have freezer blocks of "ice" all over the kitchen.  They don't fit with the cake in there, and I couldn't put the cake on top since it would flop over the sides and you'd end up with a Salvador Dali cake, all droopy and melty and that is even before your cake gets out in the rain.

Anyway, the cake was out, I could turn off the oven and make the icing which was an easy recipe.  First rinse everything again, spilling water on the counter, my cargo shorts making it look like there was red wee all over the front from the food coloring that was on the counter, and water all over the dog. Add to it the water from the condensation from the "ice" blocks warming to temperature and I was creating my own "Waterworld".

She didn't like it either.

Icing was a success, it turned out very light and fluffy and it is a bulletproof recipe even when you make it "black" or some other color.  After last week, I wanted white. 

Or did I.  Getting silly with Jimmies is one of the fun things you can do while baking, so I turned it into a big blood orange slice.  I did spill more Jimmies on the floor and there by apologizing to the dog to turning her into a wet sponge for counter slop. 

But the results were tasty, I have extra icing to do it all again and a very full refrigerator.

After all... I have a 9 inch cake layer in the freezer and I know how to use it!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Old Monarch In The Sun

Walking out to my back yard, I have grown to expect to see Monarchs.  I've written about these beautiful guests before, they seem to like living near my aphid encrusted Mexican Milkweed and my Bougainvillea.

This was no exception.

I had gone out to take pictures of our Ponderosa Lemon.  That tree had just thrown itself into raucous bloom and it seemed to be drawing the insects to pollinate them from every corner of our quirky little island. 

Being terrified of Bees, I took my pictures from a distance and zoomed in. 

All the while I heard something I never heard before.  A sound like a tiny helicopter - thwipthwipthwip on the breeze.   I looked up and saw a Monarch and thought that couldn't be it, and went back to trying for the shot with the bees...

The thwipthwipthwip came back, this time much louder as the Old Monarch blew past me circling the pool.  This was clearly not a young insect.  His wings were wrinkled worse than a linen shirt thrown into the wash.  I am used to seeing Monarchs that are young and bright.  His colors were drab and muted and reflecting more light on the sunward side of the wrinkles.  This was a butterfly that had seen better days.

I couldn't get past the idea that he wanted to pay a visit so I watched, quietly in the yard and allowed the sunshine to bake my south side.  Being January, it was brilliant and sunny, warm but not hot.  I could take it.  I stood there in the yard and was circled again by my old friend until ... he landed on the back of my hand.

I'm not foolish enough to believe that something that small has much brain power to have conscious thoughts but this was a rare experience none the less.  Here I was, all 6'4" of me, standing stock still, staring gape mouthed at this old veteran of the flowers and fields. 

When I was younger I used to chase them across the praries of New Jersey, now I invite them into my yard so I can watch them gracefully float across to the flowers and feed.

My orange veteran looked to me as if he was grateful to have a place to rest.  After all when you are older you move slower, and this poor guy looked like he was shredded. 

Suddenly he lifted on a gust of wind that wrapped around my tree, the moment broken, and floated up to the sky.  After doing another few circuits of the yard, he landed up in the Sea Grape and perched on the lone grape that glowed purple in afternoon sun. 

Remembering that I had my trusty and beat up camera, I turned it on and framed this shot.  My friend waited long enough for me to get as many pictures as I wanted, zooming in and moving around at different angles, pretending that I was going to get Just The Definitive Monarch Picture Of The Moment, all the while thinking just how much I was liking this particular slice of paradise at this time.

When the battery ran out on the camera from all that zooming and picture taking, I reached into my pocket to get the backup set.  I save the old batteries for use in radios in the house so they went into a different pocket, and I realized that I had enough pictures.   So did my old friend.  He launched with a thwipthwipthwip, floated down on the breeze for one last pass around my big head and said goodbye over the fence onto his last days in the sun.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Martha Stewart's Tips For Rednecks

After all that Cake, I thought it was time for a Friday Joke... I got this one from Kevin... Thanks!

I especially agree with the first one under "Theatre Etiquette"!

Martha Stewart's Tips For Rednecks


1. Never take a beer to a job interview.

2. Always identify people in your yard before shooting at them.

3. It's considered tacky to take a cooler to church.

4. If you have to vacuum the bed, it is time to change the sheets.

5. Even if you're certain that you are included in the will, it is still rude to drive the U-Haul to the funeral home.


1. When decanting wine, make sure that you tilt the paper cup and pour slowly so as not to "bruise" the fruit of the vine.

2. If drinking directly from the bottle, always hold it with your hands.


1. A centerpiece for the table should never be anything prepared by a taxidermist.

2. Do not allow the dog to eat at the table, no matter how good his manners are.


1. While ears need to be cleaned regularly, this is a job that should be done in private using one's OWN truck keys.

2. Even if you live alone, deodorant is not a waste of good money.

3. Use of proper toiletries can only delay bathing for a few days.

4. Dirt and grease under the fingernails is a social no-no, as they tend to detract from a woman's jewelry and alter the taste of finger foods.

DATING (Outside the Family):

1. Always offer to bait your date's hook, especially on the first date.

2. Be assertive. Let her know you're interested: "I've been wanting to go out with you since I read that stuff on the bathroom wall two years ago."

3. Establish with her parents what time she is expected back. Some will say 10:00 PM. Others might say "Monday." If the latter is the answer, it is the man's responsibility to get her to school on time.


1. Crying babies should be taken to the lobby and picked up immediately after the movie has ended.

2. Refrain from talking to characters on the screen. Tests have proven they can't hear you.


1. Livestock is usually a poor choice for a wedding gift.

2. Kissing the bride for more than 5 seconds may get you shot.

3. For the groom, at least, rent a tux. A leisure suit with a cummerbund and a clean bowling shirt can create a tacky appearance.

4. Though uncomfortable, say "yes" to socks and shoes for this special occasion.


1. Dim your headlights for approaching vehicles, even if the gun is loaded and the deer is in sight.

2. When approaching a four-way stop, the vehicle with the largest tires does not always have the right of way.

3. Never tow another car using panty hose and duct tape.

4. When sending your wife down the road with a gas can, it is impolite to ask her to bring back beer too.

5. Do not lay rubber while traveling in a funeral procession.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Birthday Cake Saga - How Not To Take Pictures

Yeah... I'm almost done with this cake thing.  I had the last piece of it last night.

On the other hand, on Sunday, Kevin's birthday I got a phone call.

David is a friend.  We met about 25 years ago in Key West.  I went home, he moved in there and does Property Management as well as a long list of other odd jobs. Basically any friend of 25 years is one worth keeping so when he called with a simple request I said I'd do it.

He thought we should take a picture of the cake with Kevin and I. 

Pretty basic huh?  Still life?   Nope.

Step one.  Get Kevin out of bed.  It's his birthday, and he wanted to lay in.  Some time around, oh say 11AM, he finally got out of bed and I filled him in on the back story.  That morning I had finished icing the cake, and was just going to decorate it as you see in the picture.  David called with the picture request so go get cleaned up and presentable.  

Step two.  Get everyone presentable.   I got into the shower, and told Kevin it was his turn.  I busied myself finishing the piping on the cake with the prefab icing in a can.  It came with a set of four little nozzles and that way I wouldn't have to figure out where an Icing Bag was with tips to decorate the thing.  The letters were all there and in place, I just wanted to put a ring of little snowy looking things around the edge. 

Step three.  Have Lunch.  Kevin was still on his perch playing on facebook, looking out the door at the dog across the street that is basically tied to a fence all day barking, and some of the other things that go on in this quirky neighborhood.

Step four.  Kevin has finally gotten into the shower.  I begin to do the set up for the picture.  Funny how when you have a cake on a room divider that is waist high you find out how your camera equipment basically ... falls short.  The cake was about 4 feet off the ground when you place it on the glass cake saver my sister had given me years before.  So that means with a minimum focal length of 3 feet, the camera had to be at least 6 feet off the ground.  To get the picture of the two of us with the cake we would have to be in a specific angle, which means...

Step five.  Move all the paperwork, all the junk, and all the "desk toys" out of frame.  Picking up a living room full of junk and stashing it means that I'm cleaning house and making more heat.  The shower is getting extra humidity into the room.  I draw the blinds, turn on the air conditioning and start to pick things up. 

Step six.  Chill the cake.   This all has taken 2 hours and a half.  The cake is no longer "cool" and the icing does something I had never seen it do before.  The piping begins to run.  Kevin is still in the shower - that takes on average 20 minutes in itself... and I have a cake that is getting to look like someone exposed it to Mac Arthur Park.  Donna?  Is that you singing in the background....

Step seven... open the door to the refrigerator, walk into the kitchen with the cake and place it in the cleared shelf.

Step eight.  Swear loudly and give up in disgust.

You see what happened here was a quirk of my eyesight and inexperience of moving my "model" around.  I brushed the half melted piping against the refrigerator door.  Yep!  You guessed it I was screaming at everything from the refrigerator to the oven to Betty and her melty icing.   I was done.  The cake was not going to be pictured, other than the one set up shot.  If you look closely, my amateurish ring of white piping "blobs" around the edge had started to topple off the Death Edge of Cakey Goodness and down to the cliff below.   It was done.

Oh well, David, no pictures.   We'll try again this weekend.   You see, I have a 19th Anniversary to celebrate... and a cake to bake.   Went to GFS last night and got some confectioner's sugar and the rest I need to make some icing.   This time it will be a white cake with red and white jimmies.

Yes, they are called jimmies... this sprinkles nonsense has to go ... just like it is a Hoagie and not a sub or anything else....

Want some cake?  Here you go!