Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Do You Do With An Overexposed Headshot - Picture

What do you do with an over exposed head shot anyway?

The picture is pretty good overall, it was taken with an iPhone 4 and sent to me as is.  I didn't retouch it at all.   The white towel Lettie is resting on is bleached by the flash and the eyes are glowing with a peculiar gold glow that the tools don't do well in correcting.   Red Eye is a bear to get right.

I guess I should be honest, after sitting in the chair doing my daily routine with the laptop and the third mug of coffee, she was entertaining me by running in her sleep at around 140 beats per minute.  I could have made a good Youtube video with a Happy Hardcore Techno music bed out of it.   But the reality is that it gave me an excuse to post a picture of my dog online. 


Twice.


Here is how I fixed it.   Simply bring it into my favorite picture viewer and convert to black and white.   I've seen countless profile pictures fixed like that over the years.  

I guess it's my turn to post one.  Of my dog. 

Maybe I've been looking at too many "Lolcats"?


After being stopped by a couple in their car and their two point three kids yesterday and being quizzed about whether she was ok with kids (somewhat, Mc Nab Dogs and Border Collies require a "soft hand") and whether they were loud (if they don't get enough mental stimulation they can be an absolute terror), I told them that the breed is hands down the most intelligent breed around and that this particular dog is a life saver. 


Kids?  Don't know, but for someone who has a very active lifestyle and is willing to get a dog that will learn you better than you know yourself, they're an amazing breed. 

I'd absolutely do it again.


For those who come to this blog looking for Border Collie information (I get about 10-20 hits a day on Border Collie Related Stuff), and how she's doing after the second stroke... She's doing well.   She is an older dog now, 10 1/2 and the stroke has taken her energy down.   We don't do the three 1 mile walks we did until recently.  Now its around 2 miles a day total, and it is on her terms.  She doesn't seem to like the walks in the 90 degree Florida Sun, but you put on a black fur coat and see how you like it.  We have specific walks for specific times of day to maximize cooling shade.  She's content to curl into a dog ball and sleep with one eye open while sniffing the tip of her tail for now. 

We're in it for the long haul.  I'll have her as long as I am able. 

Like the Bumper Sticker says "Who Rescued Who?"

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Visit with Uncle Sal at the Airport - Picture

Back in 1977 the French Club took a trip to Paris, Nice and what felt like most of France.   It left out of JFK Airport in New York for one of those trips you will never forget if you have never been overseas. 

It was my one and only trip over the ocean to another country.  Sure, I've been to Mexico and had such a fun time I'd like to go back but I think that was more because I was with a good friend, Tim, who showed me around. 

When I was a kid we drove to Montreal and took a very cold trip on too small of a "cruise ship" to Gaspe and St Pierre and Miquelon.  The latter was a trip to what the BBC calls the last French Territory In The New World.  Interesting trip, but it convinced me I don't have very good sea legs.

In this case, Mom, Pat, and I spent a few hours sitting at JFK cooling our heels and visiting with My Aunt Betty and Uncle Sal.  That's Betty's head in the foreground talking to Sal and Mom.  Mom and Sal are gone, but the pictures remain.

See, they were all great people.  I miss them both.  Betty is up in New York giving orders and being the wonderful woman who will whip up a meal out of leftovers that you couldn't find anywhere else, give you the recipe that you will ask for, and while you're at it have one of the most wonderful conversations you've ever had.

Some of my best memories of childhood were with these three people.  There isn't a day that goes by that I think of them well and fondly.

Just like now.

Hey Sal, love the hat!  That fedora was his trademark back then.  Now the hipsters have taken it over, ironically, but to Sal, it was The Thing To Do.  Somehow I think he'd like it that they are back in fashion.

Arrogance and Grandma - Jokes Galore

Velma's been my joke writer for a while, and today's the second day in a row.  

Hey!  It's a Holiday! 

So enjoy and think of me out back by the pool under the Lanai waiting for the Shish-kabobs to be done on the grill.  Yum!  Grab a beer before you head on out.  The Yuengling is in the fridge, and it's ice cold!


The Arrogance of Authority

A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas , and talked with an old rancher.  He told the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs."

The rancher said "Okay, but don't go in that field over there.....", as he pointed out the location.  The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, "Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me!"

Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher.  "See this badge?!  This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish.... On  any land !!

No questions asked or answers given!!  Have I made myself clear......do you understand ?!!"  The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the  DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher's big Santa Gertrudis bull......

With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he'd sure enough get gored before he reached safety.  The officer  was clearly terrified.

The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of  his lungs.....(I just love this part....)

"Your badge, show him your BADGE........ ! !"



 Subject: Grandma Still Drives
Grandma is eighty-eight years old and still drives her own car. She  writes:

Dear Grand-daughter,

The other day I went up to our local Christian book store and saw a 'Honk if you love Jesus' bumper sticker ..

I was feeling particularly sassy that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting..

So, I bought the sticker and put it on my bumper.

Boy, am I glad I did; what an uplifting experience that followed.

I was stopped at a red light at a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord and how good he is, and I didn't notice that the light had changed.

It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus because if he hadn't honked, I'd never have noticed. I found that lots of people love Jesus! While I was sitting there, the guy behind started honking like crazy, and then he leaned out of his window and screamed, 'For the love of God!'  Go! Go! Go! Jesus Christ, GO!'   What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus!

Everyone started honking!   I just leaned out my window and started waving and smiling at all those loving people I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love!   There must have been a man from Florida back there because I heard him yelling something about a sunny beach. I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air.   I asked my young teenage grandson in the back seat what that meant.   He said it was probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something.   Well, I have never met anyone from Hawaii , so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign right back.   My grandson burst out laughing. Why even he was enjoying this religious experience!!

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking towards me.   I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but this is when I noticed the light had changed.  So, grinning, I waved at all my brothers and sisters, and drove on through the intersection.   I noticed that I was the only car that got through the intersection before the light changed again and felt kind of sad that I had to leave them after all the love we had shared. So I slowed the car down, leaned out the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time as I drove away. Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!!

Will write again soon,

Love, Grandma

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Two Jokes for a Sunday Morning

These two jokes come with the Velma Seal of Approval (TM).  Think of it as an internet Good Housekeeping seal for humor.
 
Or not, but do enjoy.


I did. :)

Oh and that second joke, well, I'll just say I was thinking of two specific people when I read this one.  


Don't Lie To Your Mom!
John invited his mother over for dinner. During the meal, his mother couldn't help noticing how beautiful John's roommate Julie was. She had long been suspicious of a relationship between John and his roommate, and this only made her more curious.

Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between John and the roommate than met the eye. Reading his mom's thoughts, John volunteered, "I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you, Julie and I are just roommates."

About a week later, Julie came to John and said, "Ever since your mother came to dinner, I can't find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don't suppose she took it, do you?"

John said, "Well, I doubt it, but I'll write her a letter just to be sure."  So he sat down and wrote:

"Dear Mother,

I'm not saying you 'did' take a gravy ladle from my house, and I'm not saying you 'did not' take a gravy ladle. But the fact remains that one has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.

Love, John."

Several days later, John received a letter from his mother which read:

"Dear Son,

I'm not saying that you 'do' sleep with Julie, and I'm not saying that you 'do not' sleep with Julie. But the fact remains that if she were sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the gravy ladle by now.

Love, Mom." 


A Mule, a Donkey, Or A ...?
A preacher went to his church office on Monday morning and discovered a dead mule in the church yard. He called the police.
Since there did not appear to be any foul play, the police referred the preacher to the health department.  They said since there was no health threat that he should call the sanitation department.  The sanitation manager said he could not pick up the mule without authorization from the mayor.

Now the preacher knew the mayor and was not to eager to call him. The mayor had a bad temper and was generally hard to deal with, but the preacher called him anyway.  The mayor did not disappoint. He immediately began to rant and rave at the pastor and finally said, "Why did you call me anyway? Isn't it your job to bury the dead?"

The preacher paused for a brief prayer and asked the Lord to direct his response. He was led to say, "Yes, Mayor, it is my job to bury the dead, but I always like to notify the next of kin first!"
      
Badges, dont need no stinkin' badges......hilarious

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Old Italian's Tomato Garden - Humor

Being an "old" Italian who once lived in New Jersey and who is alone in the house at the moment, I can post this joke without any fear of offending anyone but myself.


Now if you really want to know where the bodies are buried...


Old Italian's Tomato Garden

An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard.

His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

Love,
Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried.

Love,
Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.
That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Papa,


Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love,
Vinnie

Friday, May 27, 2011

What is on the Table for Memorial Day

When I was growing up, there was always a neighborhood picnic.  We lived next door to the house that was going to host it and it was fascinating to see it set up and people arrive.   It was a collection of folks that to my childhood brain was overwhelming.   Being that guy who never can remember someone's name without a lot of effort or some very distinct reason, it is pretty much a swirl of faces and food.

This weekend being Memorial Day we are having over the neighbors across the street, Billy and Lisa.  Great folks.  So there's beer in the fridge, and I'll have to figure out something to bake for dessert.  They're bringing over some Shish-Kabobs and corn on the cob.  I'm waiting for someone to suggest how to make the corn and we'll tell them our patented burn it on the grill method. 

No, seriously, you soak the corn in the husk for a while before hand.  It refills the ears with water and makes them come alive.   Then you heat up the grill and cook them inside the husk, water and all.   The corn cooks sweet and tender while the husk looks like something that has been through a fire, basically because it has.

Since this is South Florida, we're all looking at the weather for the old saw that it always rains on Memorial Day.  After all it is the wet season, and they do have "passing showers" predicted.  No big deal, it rains, you get wet, it rinses off the outside of your beer bottle.

Now, where is that recipe for dessert...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Noise Canceling Headphones or Isolation Booth, You Choose

A while back, one of my "finds" was a pair of headphones.  When the List Price was 120, the "refurb" price was originally 60, and you can find them for 16 it's worth buying.   Especially since money is tight and I spend most of my day with headphones on and music in the background.

I picked up a pair of Sony MDR-NC7 headphones, put in the battery, flipped the switch and was immediately impressed.  Noise Canceling was not perfect but for $16 they didn't have to be.  Then I plugged in to the MP3 Player and noticed that I didn't have to run the volume quite as high to get the same effect.  Yes, a pair of noise canceling headphones can actually save your hearing.

For a while, I would walk around the house with the music off because the effect nulled out droning noises like the computers or the air handling units and I was transported from the Noisy Quirky Island of Wilton Manors to the inside of a library.  Once the novelty wore off, I took them for granted and used them like any other pair.  

Not outdoors, because if you were trying to cross the road, you may end up being road pizza.  Just enough silencing to be dangerous.

About two weeks ago, I was given someone's old iPhone 3GS.   Since I don't have ATT or a Data Plan on my cell phone contract, I use the thing like an iPod Touch.   It watches my professional email account, plays music, and allows me to do limited surfing.  Sure, all of that can be done on the laptop, but this slips in my pocket and I can listen to music too pretty much all day if I need to.

That would be one of the drawbacks.   I caught myself listening to this iPhone all day and didn't realize that the iPod applet had a nasty habit of resetting the volume.  I haven't gotten a good idea where it does the reset or why but I'm watching now.  All the sudden its volume slider is "in the middle" where someone at Apple decided it should be and not at 15% where I wanted it, and I'm listening to Armin van Buuren's dreamy trance music a bit louder than I'd prefer.

No, not that "Hey Get Off My Lawn and Turn Down That Noise" kind of volume, but more of a "you are enveloped in A State Of Trance and you can't hear a bloody thing" kind of volume. 

When the washer sounded off it's beeper, I didn't hear it.
When the phone rang, twice, in an hour this morning, I didn't hear it.

Only Armin. 

Or at least until I slipped off the headphones slightly bending over to pick up my cargo shorts after using "The Facilities" and I heard the phone in the other room sing out that I had a message.

Hmmm.... Not one but two I had missed... in 30 minutes.  OOPS!

Ok, I'll be more careful.  The music's back on, I've got on Armin van Buuren again and it's down where I like it, around 15%.

Gees, Mom was right!  I really should turn that damn thing down!

Anyway, the headphones are highly recommended.  You can find a pair for around $16 as a refurb, and if you pay more than $20 come here so I can tell you how you messed up.  The iPhone you'll have to get on your own.  Since it's locked to ATT (at least this one is) when they swallow up my T-Mo, I'll be able to use it there.  For now, it's a pretty good little iPod even if I am forced to use that horrendous iTunes.

Personally, I think iTunes should die a horrible death and I want to do a Dr Johnny Fever with a baseball bat on the source code of that piece of crap, but hey, WKRP in Cincinatti aside, it gets the job done.   Badly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hungry Yet? Banana Nut Recipe Returns - Picture


Hungry Yet?  I was.

I had finished off the last bananas this morning.  Why do they all ripen at once and all way too quickly?  I had three ripe bananas left and had one with a mango and a chicken pattie on a bagel for breakfast, that left me with two more.  

I decided it was time for the banana nut bread recipe.  This time I made it with Pecans and no chocolate chips.  The base recipe is simple, add bananas to a bread machine or mixing bowl and puree until smooth.  Add all the rest of the ingredients one at a time to the bananas.  Mix until smooth.  Add an Optional Cup of Pecans to the mix.  Bake at 350 for 50 minutes plus.  Mine took exactly 63 minutes today since my oven knows no set temperature.

Ingredients:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
2 Bananas Peeled and sliced

Optional - 1 Cup Chopped Pecan

Puree Bananas as smooth as you like.  Can be done in a mixing bowl with a fork.
Fold in other ingredients one at a time.  Add the Pecans last so they don't turn to dust.
Pour the batter into greased and floured bread pan.
Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until Toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center.

Alternately, this recipe will bake in a bread machine.  I used regular cycle and it comes out fine!

Enjoy.  I'm having mine with Peanut Butter and Home Made Jelly (Thanks Cousin Bill!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Have You Ever Had One Of Those Days?

Have you ever had one of those days?

Getting out of bed on Sunday Morning was difficult.  I looked at the clock, early, since neither I nor Mrs Dog had been raptured and sent to our heavenly reward.

Just like the other 7 billion souls on this planet.

I got dressed and took her out for her morning walk around town.  We saw nobody.  It literally was a ghost town.   The city was deserted, and it felt like I was in the middle of one of those Post-Apocalyptic movies that I like to watch.   You know, where everyone is gone due to a zombie apocalypse or a giant tomato from outer space collected people up for some weird spaghetti sauce?

Hey, a good Sci Fi movie requires a nuclear blast somewhere!

Everything looked normal to me, and that is to say that Wilton Drive was covered with bar flyers from bars that are not in the city, and other businesses that want the people who visit here to go elsewhere.  That always leaves me scratching my head wondering why the City of Wilton Manors doesn't simply fine those businesses that are out of town for littering and charge them an onerous fee for "cleaning, recycling, and manpower time".

Getting back home, I finished my coffee, turned on the music on the iPod, and settled in to do some work. 

Time marched on, and I had my second mug of coffee.  You can set your watch by that, it was around 9AM and I needed to finish the breakfast.

Some time around 10AM I had finished the morning routine as it was Sunday Morning.  Morning Routines are what they are and this one felt kind of pointless in a comfortable way.  Getting up out of my chair, I set the laptop aside and looked down and saw what you see in the picture above.

Yes, I had walked all over town with one grey shoe, one white shoe.   Not to worry though, I have another pair just like this one. As problems go, if this is the worst thing that happens to you in the course of the day you're doing quite well.  I'd say it ranks up there with having the waist band of your underwear showing over your belt, although that is acceptable now these days in the "droopy drawers" crowd.

I'll just chalk this one up to "Diversity of Footwear" and say I'm starting a trend.   Maybe I'll do it again some day, but if I do I doubt anyone will notice.   Tolerance can be an amusing thing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Confessions of a Data Pack Rat

The nice thing about the digital age is that clutter has become virtual.

I got a deep discount on a case the other week.   It's an external drive box that allowed me to put a hard drive on the network instead of inside of a PC.  My largest drive is around 3 years old, and is a 750GB drive.  All those numbers aside, it's tough to put a desktop drive into a laptop.   The technical word for it is a NAS or SAN drive.

NAS - Network Addressable Storage.
SAN - Storage Area Network.

This way I treat the thing as yet another drive when I'm sitting at home on the network and keep a cache of the most needed files in places like a memory stick or on the hard drive of the laptop so it's available immediately when I need them.

Think of it this way, if I'm at home, I have a new drive that pops up and will be accessible if I need it. 

The case is small, and will be put somewhere better than being hid under clutter, and it's about the size of a small hardback book.  For $12, it's a steal.   One of those external cases without the network "upgrade" would be around $30.  They sold out of the one that I got, especially at $1 plus $11 shipping.  If you are looking for something like it, the place I ordered from has a replacement for $23 with free shipping at this link.

Getting that little case to work on the network with some rather odd software that came with it meant I could look around and put files where the belonged.  There's one thing.  I have a lot of files.  Specifically picture files.  I post a lot of pictures on this blog, and will continue to do so.  On the other hand, I just found out that I have around 3,308 picture files. 

I'm not talking about stuff I "collected" on the web, this is a directory of what I have taken myself over the years.  That translates to 5.08GB according to Windows 7.

I've never found anyone who has a "lot" of pictures that had a good suggestion of how to store them.   I use my own pictures here and try to make sense of how they're stored, but the reality is that it's kind of tough to remember 3300 of anything.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I have three million three hundred eight thousand words.

Give or take a syllable.

A stroll down a memory lane like that will take quite a while, especially since the Achilles Heel of this drive is that it doesn't like to do more than one thing at a time.  In fact what got me started writing about this is that I made the mistake of starting a copy to the drive and hit delete on one of the folders on the drive at the same time.  Now, it's stuck churning its way through all of that.   SLOWLY. 

Ok, but it's cheap right?

At least if it is doing just one thing at a time, it's quick.  It's about as quick as any other networked drive, in fact it's quicker than trying to grab a file from one of the other machines here.

In the drive, just like any other folder is the "Pics" folder.  Inside that they're all labeled in sub folders by date and description.  Hundreds of folders.  Bloody hundreds of them. 

If anybody has a better way to categorize this stuff, I'd entertain your suggestions since its rather a lot. 

On the other hand, a casual stroll down that particular memory lane has some things on its swale that may help with writer's block if I ever get it again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Head - Humor

Since none of us got raptured and went away in a puff of smoke or lights and harp music, it's time we all get back to work.

It's the weekend, and I tend to post jokes.  Fewer folks read this blog on the weekends, but on the other hand they do like Velma's sense of humor...

So enjoy!




BEST JOKE OF THE DAY!

P.S. Don't shoot the messenger : - )
The Head

A man is waiting for his wife to give birth. When the doctor comes out, he informs the man that his son was born without a torso, arms or legs. His son is just a head! But the man loves his son and raises him as well as he can, with love and compassion.
..
After 21 years, the son is now old enough for his first drink. Dad takes him to the local bar and tells his son that he is proud of him and orders up the biggest, strongest drink for him. With all the bar patrons looking on curiously and the bartender shaking his head indisbelief, the boy takes his first sip of alcohol.
...
Swoooop! A torso pops out!
...
The bar is dead silent; then bursts into a whoop of joy. The father, shocked, begs his son to drink again. The patrons chant, "Take another drink"!
...
Swoooop! Two arms pops out!
...
The bar goes wild. The father begs his son to drink again while the patrons all chant, "Take another drink"!
...
By now the boy is getting tipsy and with his new hands he reaches down, grabs his drink and guzzles the last of it.
...
Swoooop! Two legs pop out.
...
The bar is in chaos. The father falls to his knees and tearfully thanks God.
...
The boy stands up on his new legs and stumbles to the left.... then to the right.... right through the front door, into the street where a truck runs over him and kills him instantly.
...
The bar falls silent. The father moans in grief.
...
The Moral of the story???
.
.
.
;

(wait for it)
.
.
.
.
.

(Are you ready?)
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

(don't hate me)
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

"He should have quit while he was a head!"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Neighborhood - Humor

Velma does know what I like. 

She sent me this one over the week so I could send it out over the weekend by request.







IDIOTS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the Local township administrative office to request the removal of the Deer Crossing sign on our road.

The reason: "Too many deer are being hit by cars out here!  I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore."

From Kingman, KS


______________________________________________
IDIOTS IN FOOD SERVICE:

My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg. He was a Chef?
Yep...From Kansas City!
______________________________________________
IDIOT SIGHTING:

I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?  To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?"
He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."

Happened in Wichita, KS.

______________________________________________
IDIOT SIGHTING:

The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it’s safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged coworker of mine.  She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for.  I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red.  Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?!"

She was a probation officer in Wichita, KS

______________________________________________
IDIOT SIGHTING:

At a goodbye luncheon for an old and dear coworker this transpired.  She was leaving the company due to "downsizing."  Our manager commented cheerfully, "This is fun we should do this more often." < BR>Not another word was spoken.  We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.

This was a bunch at Texas Instruments.

______________________________________________
IDIOT SIGHTING:

I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the sake of her own life, couldn't understand why her system would not turn on.

A deputy with the Dallas County Sheriffs office no less.

______________________________________________
IDIOT SIGHTING:

When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the drivers side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "its open!"  His reply, "I know - I already go t that side."

This was at the Ford dealership in Olathe, KS.

They walk among us ... and they REPRODUCE         STAY ALERT!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cats are my Kryptonite

When I was young we would go to visit my Aunt Ann and Uncle Frank in Glassboro.

Every Saturday night without fail we'd get into the car, the four of us, and ride through Suburban New Jersey.  The trip was around a half hour and for a pre-teen it felt like it was forever.  Not to worry though because they were good people, family.  It was one of those comfortable routines we'd have until I hit my teens and started getting that "hard wired angst" that we all got.  I'd slowly duck out of sight and then begin to opt out of going by the time I was 13 or 14. 

While family night was all well and good, there was a problem.

Aunt Ann had cats.  Not one but usually a herd of three or more.  She loved those cats and like anything else if you have pets, they are yours.  For others, pets are part of the background.   The cats didn't necessarily ignore me or the rest, they were just going about being cats.  Which is to say fairly indifferent until you had something they wanted and then all the sudden you'd have a friendly being trying to take advantage of your good nature.

That's all well and good but while Aunt Ann had cats, I had allergies.   Specifically to Cats.

My allergies were so bad at one point that my visit to Aunt Ann consisted of going there, saying hi and hanging out for as long as I could then retreating to the front porch to try to decongest.  We tried allergy pills that sometimes worked to help me stay inside for a while but the reality was that it was so bad that when I stopped going, it wasn't so much of why but why it took me so long to assert health.

This allergy got so bad that in my 20s I would call ahead to find out if there were cats at the party and if so I would simply beg off. 

There were a couple things going on here.   In New Jersey at that time, I would have hay fever from Labor Day through the first hard freeze.   I would also be gobbling a Chlor-Trimeton tablet every 12 hours without fail.  It would make me sleepy, tired and somewhat cranky for four months out of the year.   If I suspected that there were cats somewhere I had to go, I'd slip in another tablet at an hour or so before I'd arrive which meant no alcohol.  I was the designated driver before we got a name for it.

One Christmas Dinner at Mom's house in my early 30s I had an interesting conversation.   It drifted onto my cat allergy and that I just had come off of "allergy meds for the season" and was grateful that we had an early freeze.  The couple that sat across the table listened intently and told me of their own problems with allergies and their solution.

The premise was that I was one of those typical kids fed on whole milk and cereal every morning without fail.  Add to that heaping gobs of cheese with dinner and a glass of milk to go with the sandwich at lunch.  Their explanation was simple - your body was loaded with allergens already from your dairy addiction.  Cut the dairy out and your allergies would go away for the most part.

It seemed kind of strange to me that something that the Milk Marketing Board was saying was so healthy could be the downfall of my childhood, but I thought I'd try it next season.  Starting August 1st, I begun to use up the milk in the house and by September 1 I would be completely off of any sort of dairy. 

It Worked.   Completely. 

That first season I had to take exactly three chlor-trimeton tablets.  Three.  In four months.

I was the kid who could not even sit on the front porch of my neighbor, Karen, because she had her black cat there.  Now I was actually able to spend time with friends with cats.  It wasn't that I was able to spend the evening or sleep over, but instead of going there and hanging out for 20 minutes and leaving, I could go and stay a reasonable amount of time, enjoy myself and then disappear.

Since moving here, I've returned to baking with dairy, and if I'm having a hamburger, it will have a slab of extra sharp cheddar on it.  I'm also noticing that I'm not quite as bulletproof around cats as I used to be. 

The moral of this story is that while it may not work for you, it was a life changer for me.  As a result, I am now able to visit with friends for a time where I couldn't do that before. 

It all came to notice to me the last time I went for a visit to work with someone on his website.  There's a cat in the house and I lasted an hour before I had to beg off.  It looks like I'll be using up the cheese and treating it as a once in a while thing instead of a daily requirement.  Between the spring time allergens that we get in South Florida that are beginning to get to me, and the limitations that my cat allergy put on me, it is a small price to pay for the freedom not having to worry about all of that brings me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cloud is Great If You Can Get To It


Today, Second day in a row Comcast / Xfinity had internet connectivity problems.   

I guess they forgot to “Feed the Squirrel” that powered the net here in Wilton Manors.  Creaky infrastructure aside, this shows one very important shortcoming to the Cloud Based Internet and business model we have been migrating to lately. 

If you can’t get there from here, it’s worthless.

Sure, it is great to surf web pages far and near.  I launch 170 web pages every morning, and yes I did count them, in order to job search.   I was in the process of writing an email to a recruiter I have worked with about a position that reads like a perfect fit, Web and Mainframe Business Analyst, when the clock struck 9AM.  At that point my radio stopped.  I was sitting in my chair under the ceiling fan, sipping coffee I roasted from beans that I bought from a company in rural Wisconsin, listening to “Triple J FM” in Brisbane Australia and trying to attach my resume to an email to send to someone in Dade County when it happened.

Yesterday when the net was “down” I went outside like the T Shirt said and spent 90 minutes playing with the weed eater.  Today I went into the laundry to reset the router to no avail, then into the kitchen to make a mug of CafĂ© Bustelo Decaf and empty the Mosquito larva out of the glass that is rooting my cactus pear.

Nothing out of the ordinary there, it is as if I was in Pennsylvania on a normal summer morning instead of here in Florida.

Since it went down at "exactly 9PM" both days, I suspect they're doing some work to "improve our service".  Might make sense to do it at 2AM instead, folks.  If you're running a business or trying to do some work on the web you have just put people out of work for two hours "for Permanent Improvement".

The Cloud is a great place, but it does have its shortcomings.  I build web sites and do social media work, all on internet based applications that I have no idea where the data resides.  You have to trust that those who maintain the Cloud Apps are doing their job, maintaining their infrastructure, backing up your data and hoping it’s all safe.

But if you can’t get there from here it isn’t worth a hill of coffee beans in Wisconsin.

Good beans though they are.

I may just have to turn on the broadcast FM radio for music.  Now THERE’S a change for me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Small Town Worries Dispatched Professionally But Clumsily

Wilton Manors calls itself the Island City. 

That is quite true both literally and figuratively.   We are surrounded by the Middle river that forks at the west and flows to the east and the Intracoastal.

We're our own little world here.  That is how we like it.  Fort Lauderdale on three sides, Oakland Park on the North.  That river makes a good fence, and good fences make good neighbors.

Getting up early you see things that happen before anyone else.   We Dog Walkers are used by police departments sometimes as a result for when something happens.  I took mine out as usual around 6:30 listening to an Old Time Radio Show but not before being confused by the low water pressure.

Shrugging, I took Mrs Dog out the front door and she dragged me east up the block.  I followed after her seeing nothing and nobody of any concern, all was well.

Until I got to the Food Bank at Poverello.  They had just closed and moved over to Dixie Highway, and the Thrift will be moving on June 1. 

It looked odd that I saw a puddle and heard running water over the now ending radio show.  As I got closer to the back lot I noticed that water was pouring from the sprinkler system in torrents.

In this bad economy, lowlifes everywhere are preying on people and businesses causing damage everywhere.  At this particular time, Broward County has a problem with one lowlife going around breaking transfer valves off of private sprinkler systems, leaving massive leaks everywhere.   Torrents of water wasting its way down the drain in a Water Crisis.

The police know that there is someone doing it, they have a bad security camera picture of the guy and they are looking.  You can't fault the police because they're doing their job.  In fact, one of the benefits of living in a small city is that you know the police department, or almost every one of them.   Without fail, I've been treated well, and with respect and professionalism.

The problem was that today I spotted the aftermath of a crime, and the crime scene needed to be secured.  With that water pouring out, I had almost no water pressure since I'm on the same leg of the water system as the shopping center as is this half of the Central Area of Wilton Manors.

I called the Police.  Actually I called the front desk as of 7:01 when we found the phone number and knew that we'd get "One Of Our Guys instead of Fort Lauderdale". 

Why was that a problem?  Well strictly speaking it wasn't.  I was handled efficiently by the front desk.  The person forwarded me to the dispatch and then I was handled professionally by them. 

Dispatch was farmed out to Fort Lauderdale years ago as a cost cutting measure.  Universally I hear the same grumble.  It isn't really a problem, more of an observation and one that probably won't ever get solved unless they hire someone who knows us better.  You see, everyone from Wilton Manors who contacts Dispatch ends up speaking with someone from Fort Lauderdale.  They generally do not know our little patch of paradise so you have to give them directions.  At 7:01 AM nobody is at their best on the phone with an excitement like this so I am sure that I fumbled through explaining where this particular water feature is, but I was left with a feeling that it wasn't quite there.  

Like I said, it's a small city and Wilton Manors won't be reclaiming dispatch any time soon.   We are just too small.  With GPS technology and mapping software, this should be getting better as time goes on, so Patience is the solution.  For the most part its really just a mental ten count when you talk to the police, on your part and on the part of the dispatchers.  It's a hard job and not a job for everyone since you have to be right every time and every day.  If you aren't you will have some fool on a blog writing about it or worse. 

I will say that Dispatch handled things and all was well.

With my water feature problem, the solution happened in less than 30 minutes.   Kevin called Director of Public Works directly who has his caller ID and Dave A got the job done and the water pressure is back on my corner of paradise.  I guess it's all part of living in a small town of 12000.  You can't do everything, but calling the right person helps.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Predawn Hunt in South Florida

It is early, before the sun has risen.

The hunter peels the covers off the bed and places feet on the floor.  Reaching down, just as his faithful companion approaches, he places socks on his feet.

It is inky dark in the chamber, light sneaks in through the trees and casts a sodium orange glow on the walls.

After paying attention to the dog in the room, our hunter pads across the tiles to the bathroom.

Closing the door, he settles in. 

Seated he looks over at the switch and absentmindedly bathes the room in light with a swipe of the hand. 

It is time to take account of the surroundings.   Beige tile floor and fur from the shedding dog that shares the small home.  An almost white cotton bath mat.   Looking up at the pine slats on the wall, the eyes catch the screen in the window.   The glass behind is frosted and on the screen is a plastic toy lizard.  The toy is an homage to the creatures that live beyond in the jungle.

There is a flash of movement.

Something out of the corner of the eye and down. 

Searching the brown tile walls, and down into the beige tub there is nothing.

Finally out of the corner a flash of movement.  Pink and Beige with tan accents, the lizard moves.   Trying to climb out, this particular lizard, a gecko was trapped.

The hunter says in an Australian Accent:  "Oi look at you!  You're BEAUTIFUL aren't you? My Friend we have to put you where you belong!".

Stepping into the tub with his prey, our hunter attempts to herd the creature into his strong hands.  After chasing the elusive lizard, his realization in the morning fog is that this isn't going to work.  His rewards so far are one gecko, a wriggling separate gecko tail, and a slightly bemused look.

You, my beauty shall be mine.

Padding out to the other bedroom we get to see the patented Gecko Extraction Tool (TM).   This is a functional device that works well on small lizards, geckos and other things like flying and crawling insects.   It is a 18 inch tall cylinder that is well fit to the hand.   Nearly clear, and soft plastic the object of the hunt is simple... Catch your prey alive so that it may be released freely to dine on the insects that are outside. 

This is a mission of mercy, this creature would starve if left in the house.

Waiting for the little creature to calm down, our hero closes in on the prey.  Getting close to the gecko with the Extraction Tool, he drops the open end of the cylinder over and around the gecko.  His prey is trapped, safely within.

Sliding a piece of paper under the cylinder's edge and moving the lizard onto the paper, he is able to completely contain the lizard within a small room of clear plastic.

It is now that our hunter, the Jagermeister of Lizards, the Bwana of Geckos walks to the front door and releases the creature into the screw palms and the leafy ferns of the South Florida Jungle, minus its tail.

Job Well Done.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why I Won't Switch to a Mac - iTunes

Get ready, rant begins in ...

I was given a new-to-me iPhone.  It was a nice gift, works "well enough" and since I do not intend to use it as a phone, I don't mind that it is an "older" phone.  iphone 3GS.   I intend to use it as a portable internet radio and an iPod.

Mind you I have an iPod, and have since 2006.  The problem is that while I've had the iPod, I have managed to avoid using iTunes.

Why I have avoided iTunes is because when I got the iPod back in 06, the software was so invasive and so heinous that I swore off of it.  There are alternatives.  I have gone ahead and installed something called "Rockbox" onto my iPod Video 30GB.  Rockbox is one of the best alternatives, and allows you full control over the look and feel, the placement of music, and even will run some software on it.  I think there is a version of Doom that will run on the thing, but I use it for the excellent equalizer and file management.  The wikipedia page for the software goes into deep detail, just consider that you're not locked into Steve Jobs' Walled Garden completely.

See, I'm A Manual Kind Of Guy.  I'm the first one to complain when someone's doing too much for me in software.  In fact, I'm not alone since there are web pages dedicated to bad autocomplete in text - which ironically usually happens on the iPhone.

Ok I've gotten the phone hooked to the cable.  I knew I had to put a copy of that near-virus iTunes onto a computer.  Why not put it on the old Mac G4 sitting in the corner that isn't really being used?  Great Idea!  It was a craigslist find and I got it free from a really nice lady in South Beach.  Putting it to use means that I'd have a reason to use it.   It has been helpful, I've used it as a server and an internet radio before I got annoyed that I couldn't hear the speakers in the front room, but it really never got to be something I heavily used.   Desktop computers in small houses in South Florida are not a good idea.   Laptops sell heavily here and I migrated onto one almost as soon as I moved here.   WAY TOO SMALL.

But I had it and finally got it started.  It runs surprisingly fast for a machine that Steve Jobs thinks is horribly obsolete.  It's just a desktop running OSX Tiger.

Tiger is the second problem - I would have to upgrade the Operating System to OSX Leopard (10.5.8). 

Remember the saying:  "There is no such thing as a free puppy"?

My free puppy of a shiny well treated iPhone is now presenting me with a choice.  Either:

  1. Upgrade the 6 year old Mac to run OSX at a cost of roughly $100 or
  2. Install iTunes on a windows machine.
I wasn't going to spend the money, this was simply going to be a handheld radio or a very light note taker.  I don't use a smart phone for a reason, and that is probably what I'll write about on another day. 

I gave in.  I have my old Daily Driver of a laptop.  It is an Acer Aspire running Windows 7.  I moved the server function off of the old Mac when I got the little HP I'm writing this from in a trade for 3 days worth of computer work in Key West.

I briefly tried to install it onto a virtual computer so I could reload it from backup but backing up my virtual computer would have taken another hour and I wasn't going to follow through with that.

First, install the software.  That was pretty simple, I surfed (with a cringe) http://www.itunes.com and downloaded the dreaded software,  It wanted me to install something called Ping for social media, no thanks since I have the blogs and the websites, I'm busy enough with unpaid work. 

The software installed without a hitch. 

I plugged in the phone and that was where my fun started.  By fun I mean something akin to having my teeth drilled on without novocaine.

iTunes immediately sensed the phone, helpfully downloaded the latest updates and then presented me with its statistics.  In those statistics I had found that it had a phone number assigned.   Next step, research how to remove the SIM from the phone. 

On the iPhone, there is a teeny little hole for you to put in what I call the "Precision CD Extraction Tool".  Basically get a paperclip and bend it to fit the hole and push down lightly but firmly enough to make the SIM slide out.   The hole is next to the earphone jack on my phone.

Take the SIM out and set it on the coffee table to give to the person who gave me the phone. 

Plug it all back together and iTunes now says no phone number.  *whew* I didn't want this to become yet another "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished".

So I walked into the bedroom, got ready for the shower, and begun trying to convince the app store to download the Digitally Imported free radio app.  This was where Apple Annoyed Me ... again.

You see, the vast number of people do not use their iPhones the way I do.  I want to use it as a teeny little laptop and tiny little radio.  I don't want to pay for services or software.  I want freebies!  So now when it presented me with a window demanding personal information, I started cursing at the phone.   I did however fill in email, birthdate and year, address, and told it "None" for my credit card. 

I did not want to buy anything by accident.  They call that "Butt Buying" like when you sat on your phone and had it call your 92 year old Aunt in Lake Ronkonkomo on Long Island in New York at 2AM.

Sorry Betty, I will make sure it's locked!

After I keyed all of this in, slowly since I am not used to the whole soft keyboard experience (I'm a touch typist), it told me that my password MUST have one capital letter.  Great, "Annoyance number 10" means that I have now a NEW password to remember.   Write that one down and put it on a sticky pad under the server laptop...

It then created an account with Big Brother Apple and told me to go to the email account I gave it in the set up for a link to create the account.

I yelled at the software, the phone, and tossed it onto the bed while I climbed into the shower.

Apple, I Am NOT a Fan.

When I got out of the shower, I found the link and it effortlessly went through and validated me.  I was then able to download the DI.FM applet and now have it sitting proudly on my phone.  It is playing Trance now.

After all of that I guess I'll have to see what this thing is all about.  It does see my wifi network so I can use it as a browser and a Skype Phone.  I am one of around 20 people in the US that use Skype, and since it's purchase by Microsoft, it will most likely get more important.  It's quite good software, I use it as a voice phone and a video phone on my laptop and with a good friend (Hi Carter!) we created a one of a kind business between here, the Delaware Shore, Philly and New York.  Great experience being a CIO out of my living room I will say.

Oh and the phone?   It works well enough.  I just need to tilt it to the side so everything is just a little bit bigger!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Five Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do

I'm not sure of all of these, but some of this list sounds plausible.  Mythbusters Lingo Aside, if it works, great, if not.... Ooops!   Helpful hints with the Velma Seal of Approval!


 
5 Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do
 
For all the folks with cell phones.
 
There are a few things that can be done in times of  grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an  emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with  it:

FIRST (Emergency)

The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If  you find yourself out of the coverage area of your mobile network and there is  an Emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to  establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly, this number 112 can  be dialed even if the keypad is locked. Try it  out.

SECOND (Locked Keys in  Car)

Have you locked your keys in the car? Does your car  have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday. Good reason to own  a cell phone:
 
If you lock your keys In the car and the spare keys  are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone.  Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at  your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their  end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to  you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you  can reach someone who has the other 'remote' for your car, you can unlock the  doors (or the trunk).

That last one is dubious since most locks are controlled using a radio link... but try it you may be one of the oddballs.

THIRD (Hidden Battery Power)

Imagine your cell battery is very low. To activate,  press the keys *3370#. Your cell phone will restart with this reserve and the  instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged  when you charge your cell phone next time.

FOURTH (How to disable a STOLEN mobile  phone?)

To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in  the following digits on your phone:      

                   *#06#.

A 15-digit code will appear on the screen. This  number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere  safe.

If your phone is stolen, you can phone  your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block  your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will  be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you  know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either. If everybody does this,  there would be no point in people stealing mobile  phones.
 
And  Finally.....

FIFTH (Free Directory Service for  Cells)

Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411  information calls when they don't have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone  directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of a problem.  When you need to use the 411 information option, simply  dial:

                 (800) FREE411    or   (800) 373-3411

without incurring any charge at all.  Program  this into your cell phone now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Trip to the San Diego Zoo - Humor

Remember, when you give instructions or directions, be very specific.  I write a lot of things, one article a day for the last almost two years plus a lot of correspondence through the day.  The technical stuff I try to be completely correct.   Sure, I flub the language from time to time, but that's part of writing and it adds a bit of my personal style to it.  For technical writing, it is a challenge to hang onto your audience by not boring them as I am doing now, while making sure that the instructions can be followed like a recipe. 

... Otherwise you risk being the punchline for a joke.


A blonde lady motorist was about two hours from San Diego when she was flagged down by a man whose truck had broken down.

The man walked up to the car and asked, "Are you going to San Diego?"

"Sure," answered the blonde, "do you need a lift?"

"Not for me. I'll be spending the next three hours fixing my truck.My problem is I've got two chimpanzees in the back which have to be taken to the San Diego Zoo. They're a bit stressed already so I don't want to keep them on the road all day. Could you possibly take them to the zoo for me? I'll give you $100 for your trouble."

"I'd be happy to," said the blonde.

So the two chimpanzees were ushered into the back seat of the blonde’s car and carefully strapped into their seat belts, and off they went.

Five hours later, the truck driver was driving through the heart of San Diego  when suddenly he was horrified! There was the blonde walking down the street and holding hands with the two chimps, much to the amusement of a big crowd. With a screech of brakes he pulled off the road and ran over to the blond.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded, "I gave you $100 to take these chimpanzees to the zoo."

"Yes, I know you did," said the blonde," but we had money left over --- so now we're going to Sea World."

Friday, May 13, 2011

How to Backup Data in Windows 7

Happening on a day where the Writer's Block Was Strong, Luke, Blogger informed me that it was closed until it could recover some lost files.

Interesting way to give someone something to write about, but it does raise some questions.

How many people reading this backup your files on a regular basis?

I do, but I also do it on an irregular schedule.  I'll be backing up the machine that I'm writing this on overnight tonight.  I have another machine that I use infrequently that will get backed up next time I turn it on.  I trust the hard drives I have in all three, they're all "new".

You can back up the data to a server in the house, but that implies that you want the headache of having a second or third computer in the house that is set up to do that, get the networking down, and then have the discipline to set up a regular backup or even an occasional irregular one.

When your computer locks up, and even Windows 7 or Mac OSX lock up from time to time, we all have that momentary heart flutter that says "is my data safe?".  I doubt it.

What I do is I have decided that I keep redundant copies of the most important data.  My financial information is stored on a Memory Stick that I back up every week.  Plug the stick into the computer and copy it all off the hard drive.

I have a couple old hard drives that I have scavenged from computers and I put them in a case.  The case can sell for as little as $4 online and will plug into your USB port.   Four screws to hold the thing down, two to seal the case. Plug the thing in and tell your operating system that it will be an external drive.  Then do your backup.  It should be as large as your largest PC.

If you don't have an old PC around for you to take the old hard drive out of, then you can find a 2TB drive online for around $90 to do the deal.

It isn't as complex as it sounds.  Plug it in, turn it on and it's there.  Follow the prompts if it hasn't been formatted.

For Windows 7, The Backup Procedure is  pretty straightforward.

1) Start Button

2) Control Panel

3) Backup And Restore

4) In my case, I had removed the hard drive that I did my last backup on so I had to click "change settings" and wait for the program to launch.

5) Find and then plug in the external hard drive to backup the data to.

6) I then told Windows to refresh by clicking on the handy "refresh" button.

7) Select the external hard drive it found.

8) The next window asks what to back up.  Being that Manual Kind Of Guy, I selected Let Me Choose, then I clicked Next.

9) Data Files - All that showed up.

10) Select all drives that you have inside your computer.   At least the C Drive.

11) Check the box that says "Include a system image of drives:"  It will help you recover if your machine ever goes splat.

12) Click Next and review the information.  This is what windows will start doing for your backup.  If you missed something, click Cancel.

13) Click Save Settings and run Backup.

In my case it immediately ran, but you can also set up a schedule to do this sort of thing automatically.  I guess it is going to happen NOW instead of overnight. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hunting Termites with a Lava Lamp

I couldn't sleep.

Up at 2, then again at 4, I decided at 5AM it was pointless for me to lay in bed any longer.

I got up, walked through the house turning on lights in the kitchen and went back to the other side of the house. 

Getting Mrs Dog ready for her walk, I went out leaving the kitchen light on, forgetfully. 

We had our lap of the shops and came home.  While she was off doing her thing I was standing in the kitchen making coffee.  I noticed the usual host of bugs out banging their senseless heads against the glass redundantly.  Thinking not too much more of it, I finished my breakfast, my coffee, turned off the overhead lights, and turned on the Lava Lamp in the kitchen.

I can sit in the big green recliner on the back wall of the Living Room and go about my business while having a view into the kitchen.  The Lava Lamp was a thing of ambience, it is calming to watch red waxy blobs glow and float up and down the amber fluid.  Even from a distance, it can be calming and beautiful.

By the time I was ready to have more coffee, the sun had not risen, it was still gloomy outside, and the back yard was lit only by the two LED solar lamps. 

Walking back into the kitchen, I snapped on the burner under the tea kettle and filled the coffee pot with four scoops of grounds. 

At this time I was standing in front of the kitchen sink looking outside at the back yard when I noticed what was going on in detail.

The senseless bugs banging against the windows were termites.  There were a few mosquitoes mixed in with the more frequent moth, but the majority of that insect cloud were termites.   Apparently they were swarming right outside of my window.  The termites are a constant problem in South Florida and are controlled by many applications of chemicals, tenting your house and turning it into a Circus Tent of Death with Vikane gas.

There are also natural methods.   Much slower and gentle, we have my friends the Geckos.

It turns out I have a little circle of life out back.  The Geckos have decided that my lit window is a great place to hunt.   Since I enjoy watching the little pale creatures climb, I try to create a habitat for them where ever possible.   There are a lot of places for them to hide, since I'm not exactly the best at keeping the yard free of oddball items, and the area under the lanai is sheltered.  It is onto this that the kitchen "bar window" opens.

The Geckos are drawn by the bounty of food that we have inadvertently created.  All those insects are food for the nocturnal Geckos and the glow of the Lava Lamp helps keep them coming.

Since I'm entertained by Geckos and by Lava Lamp alike, I now have an excuse for what some might consider Eccentricity.  I have pet Geckos outside and they can catch what the Lava Lamp brings them.

It's a win-win situation.  I even get to have that Lava Lamp on from Dusk to Dawn.  How about that?  An excuse to burn a night light.  I never knew...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Visit with Mom and Pat - Picture

This being the week after Mother's Day, I was watching everyone join a sorority on Facebook.

Many folks had changed their pictures to their mom's picture for the couple of days before.  Once Monday hit, there was a note that a couple dozen of my Facebook friends had changed their picture back.

I guess the Sorority reunion had come and gone.

In the case of me, I changed mine to a "confused look" picture I have of myself standing in Mizner Park in Boca Raton.  It was still there as of my writing this and I'm thinking I need some new pictures of myself.

Since I didn't find any good ones of myself, I decided to recover a couple of pictures of Mom.  In this case, the pretty young thing standing next to her in the kitchen back in roughly 1977 is my sister Pat.

You know, the Pat who this is an open letter written for?

This and the other pictures that I have here of the family of days gone by will be done the same way - use the 8 megapixel camera to take a picture of a picture and then crop and reduce for the web. 

As for the two ladies in the picture, Mom finally made it to the web a while back, virtually.  Pat's on here and I'm sure she'll like seeing herself from way back when. 

If Pat or any of the family members want a .JPG copy full sized, email me.

...boy does that kitchen look "dated"!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Smokey Morning, Sunny Afternoon

I guess it's one of those Tail Of The Wet Season things.

This morning as I was taking Mrs Dog out, I stopped on the front porch and sniffed the air.   She did too.   The Everglades were burning again.

We didn't know where, how close or whether it was going to keep  smelling like someone was burning brush down the block all week but it was there. 

By the time we got home, we both smelled like the local Bar-B-Que place had backed up into the yard and we were helping make some ribs.

Mmm Ribs.

Slow cooked or not, the smoke came from more than 25 miles away, in the center of the state in Big Cypress National Preserve.   The winds were just right, a Land Breeze and fairly strong to blow that smell in from all that far off.

As the day gets warmer, the city will heat up.  As Downtown Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding sprawl warms, it creates an area of heat.  This heat will rise and pull in air from the Ocean, since it's only 2 1/2 miles off, and blow this stuff off.

As I look out the window, I can see that is already beginning to happen at 10AM.  The palm trees have begun again to sway but now away from the Ocean, down the block and over the intracoastal.

This effect is pronounced and helps to keep the air in South Florida cooler than it would be if we were all more inland.   The "OTP" areas that are Over The Turnpike are typically warmer until you get back out close to the Everglades, when they're not burning.

It's well known that this effect works and can be a source of non polluting energy if you wanted to stick a windmill in the yard.

Somehow I suspect it would not be acceptable to Code Enforcement, but the idea of sticking a 20 foot tall tower somewhere is amusing in a way.

Or it would be until the next windstorm turns it into a propeller.  Just look at that suckah go... and relocate the house another 20 feet south!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why we need the Two Lane Initiative to Proceed in Wilton Manors

My opinions, and my opinions only here. Then again this is a blog so I guess it should be expected.

With that disclaimer aside, the Two Lane Initiative is progressing.   What it is is a plan to have the City of Wilton Manors take back ownership of Wilton Drive from the State.  The State has said outright that it does not need nor want to keep control of Wilton Drive.  The Plan gave the City a blueprint to move forward with via four stages to basically revitalize the Drive, which is currently a four lane raceway, and re-create the Central Business District as a New Urbanist oasis in the Car Crazy South Florida.  It would be done by Striping the Drive, and three levels of improvements over the years.  None of this can progress without the City taking control of the Drive.

Yes, I have simplified it greatly.   Those of us who live here know the details, we know the story.

Where we are now is that The Plan has been accepted to the point where the City has created a taskforce of volunteers from the Business and Residential Community here to decide how to progress.  They have been given a year to continue, although that seems a bit generous and obviously it would be best if they finished earlier than that.   The meetings are open to the public, subject to public record, and those interested are encouraged to attend to get their feelings out and hopefully effect change here for the better and the long term good.

So why has this come to mind?

South Florida has a peculiar car culture.  It has clashed with Wilton Manors' desire to have a pedestrian friendly central business district a number of times with a fatal outcome.  People have died crossing Wilton Drive both legally and illegally.  People have died merely standing on the sidewalk along Wilton Drive.

That car culture is a situation where there the traffic is continually getting more aggressive.  More people moving here find that they've got to keep up and end up driving illegal speeds on roads not designed to hold the traffic in order to get from point A to point B.  Never mind that they could have left ten minutes earlier and drove the speed limit, this frenetic rush seems to be the way of the world here.   It's not a rural area, it is a suburban if not urban area based on density.  While this isn't Manhattan or Chicago, South Florida is more like Dallas or Southern California - ineffective and insufficient mass transit, bad decisions on road placement and property density.

Another way the car culture here of aggressive driving shows itself is the way Stop Signs seem to be Optional.  In my corner of Wilton Manors, full stops are the exception, and many people simply don't even bother to slow down in order to go through an intersection.

I could make a rather nice income simply by writing tickets at any of the stop signs in the Central Area Neighborhood.  Forget the South Philly Glide, these folks are speeding up since driving is a contact sport.

Another problem with the car culture here that directly effects us is that in general, South Floridians drive way too fast.  While Stop Signs are merely optional, Speed Limit Signs are ignored.   Forget the Ten Plus Rule - where if you're going past that you can expect a ticket, but less than 10 over the speed limit "they'll give you slack".  It seems that in most of the area here it can be Fifteen or Twenty Plus.  The only place I have seen people driving legally is where the speed limit signs are accompanied by a notice saying "Speed Limits are Strictly Enforced".

When you see Fort Lauderdale Police Cruisers flying down Wilton Drive at 645AM well over the speed limit, you expect that they're in pursuit.  The last time I noticed, In Pursuit was not to get to the Dunkin Donuts at Five Points - I've seen them do this at least twice and once through the middle of a street festival. 

That sign won't stop the neighboring police from a carboload, but it may slow down the locals from doing 50 down the 30mph posted Wilton Drive.

Anyone who doubts that a stricter enforcement of the existing laws need only to get their dog out for a walk around 630 on a workday and watch people flying to work.   If that does not prove to you that it is needed, I suggest you speak to the families of those who died on the drive like the chicken crossing the road, merely trying to get across to the other side.

Nobody should die crossing the road, especially on the crosswalks, but in this culture the driver has to realize that they are not those with the highest priority on the roads - it is the pedestrian.

The temporary solution would be for someone to go out at 2AM with some quick drying paint, mark the crosswalks, and post signs everywhere stating that tickets will be given out at 31mph.

A better solution would be to proceed with Phase 1 of the Two Lane Initiative, narrow the drive to one lane each way, stripe cross walks and parking spaces the entire length of the drive, and drop the speed limit yet again.  Perhaps 20MPH would work.  At least they'd be going 30MPH and you might be able to get to cross the drive - Safely and Alive.

There are a few noisy Nay Sayers here in the City who don't want the Drive Narrowed.  They have their own reasons, but empirically it looks like they are the vastly outnumbered minority.   If the Nay Sayers win, People Will Die.   If the Nay Sayers lose, we all will win with a greatly improved quality of life.