Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Pat

Happy Birthday Pat

I won't tell them how old you are, and I haven't used a picture here.  After all you haven't sent me one to post here.  I could have grabbed one from Facebook but it's for the best.   I don't use my own here after all!

I'm sure Mike's going to take you out for dinner at some point during the weekend.  I bet there's going to be one of those cakes that you like to make that's drizzled with caramel or chocolate squiggles of sugary goodness.

Keep Jonathan out of the icing until you've finished with decorating the cake.

I'll make something over the weekend here, promise!  I haven't sent any baked goods up there yet this year.  I'm working on some recipes for the holiday season.  The old standbys are good at any rate, you've said how much you like them.

The card's in the mail, went out on Tuesday.  If it isn't there today, my guess is Saturday or Monday.

Enjoy your weekend as I am sure you will!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Firefox 7 Upgrade - One Day Later

In a sentence, So Far So Good.

I was having considerable problems lately with Firefox 6.  When I load my morning web pages, all 170 of them, I would get into "the middle" of the list somewhere and notice that things were bogging down.   It would slow.  Then it would just "stop".

I would have a shock as I would now be looking at my desktop and a "helpful" bug reporter saying that it was time to restart my old session or just start over from scratch.   Since I would typically be looking through quite a few web pages all at once in a programmed order, of course it was time to restart.

Now granted it is only One Day Later, but so far so good.  I downloaded and upgraded Firefox 7 by going to their link and clicked on the helpful green button.  I then launched the upgrade by clicking on the program from the download manager window within Firefox.   That is to say I clicked on it around 3 times since I got three windows starting.  Why I did that was because Firefox 6 was getting sluggish again and it was preparing to crash.  I don't have proof that it was going to crash but it "felt like it was". 

Not very scientific I know.

Having gone through my 170 pages plus other open links and a day of emails and other web silliness I can say it feels much more stable.  

Again, not scientific, but I was used to Firefox 6 crashing twice a day during that exercise.  

Firefox 6 was better than version 5 at returning memory to Windows 7.  Version 7 has returned more memory so that when I am through with my pages and I've spiraled down to the usual 20 tabs I keep open, I'm well below 1GB of memory in use.  Specifically I'm watching Firefox 7 use between 15 and 35% of the machine, 840Meg to 880Meg of memory on a Core 2 Duo.

I promise not to be so tech for my normally non-technical reader base.

Bottom line is that it seems like a solid improvement - so far.  I run a lot of Firefox extensions while the browser windows and tabs are up.  A weather watcher called Forecast Fox, an ad blocker and some others are always running.  I can't live without "AdBlock Plus" and highly recommend it, and I have to check radar before the dog walk since I go far enough away in that half hour walk that getting soaked is a regular occurrence in the Wet Season.

I am happy I did it.

Some will insist on using Internet Explorer or Chrome.   I would uninstall Internet Explorer if I could, it just feels bloated and pudgy and with every version that comes out it introduces new annoying tweaks to the way things work.   Chrome may run faster but I have questions whether it isn't phoning home to Google every time it runs.  It's like driving through a part of town you don't know with Chrome - you're always looking over your shoulder. 

If it works for you, either of them, enjoy.  For now, I'll stick with Firefox.   I am just more comfortable with it, I know what to expect and I'm enjoying the improvements.   It's free and a painless upgrade - and it may actually be "pushed" out to you users of earlier versions of Firefox.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Making a Mug of Coffee Trashed the Laundry Room

It started with grabbing the cheery red tea kettle off of the right front burner on the stove.  That's it's home, it's place, and it gets a lot of use.

Boiling water to make the coffee caused a major problem - A Watched Pot Never Boils.  While the water boils, it gives me time to do what I usually do when I'm not actively baking, clean the place.   Remembering that the dishwasher was full and clean, it was time to empty the thing. 

By the time the red kettle screamed for attention, the bottom rack of dishes were placed lovingly in the cupboard, and the silverware caddy was on the counter waiting to be emptied.

Pouring out 2 cups plus one ounce for the grounds, the coffee was started along with 4 minutes and 30 on the timer.  One vigorous stir, and the coffee was on its way.  So was emptying the top rack of the dishwasher.

After a few more stirs, the coffee was brewed and all was right in the kitchen world.   The silverware had to be put away still but there was a later cup of coffee to be brewed and that would be in an hour.   Meantime there were emails to write, web pages to visit, and other online work to do.

When it was time, the heat was turned on under the red kettle, and the next mug of coffee was prepared.  While that happened the bright idea of emptying the silverware tray into the two drawers came to me.  You see that is the problem.   When we moved from that house in Philadelphia, we crammed two adults, a dog, a parrot and 1900 square feet of boxes, possessions, and treasures into an Old Florida 1200 square foot home, a 200 square foot Lanai, and a 100 square foot garden shed. 

If you're from South Jersey you may remember the old slang term "Blivit".  It's appropriate.  See the lead definition.  You see we're still emptying boxes from the move in 2006 and the little kitchen is about a quarter of the size of the one we had up North.

When I reached into that silverware drawer I was stopped.   There simply was no more room for knives.  The last time we were gifted with some steaks from an online steak place, they sent us a complete set of steak knives, un-serrated.  They joined the serrated sets plus two sets of stainless silverware plus the other backup sets that we had been given.

The tea kettle whistled that it had reached its boiling point and so had I.

I went into the laundry room and grabbed a large container that previously contained biscotti, crackers, and now was empty and began to store the "extra" knives in the container. It was big, it looked like a barrel and I couldn't bear to throw the thing out because the plastic screw top lid was in perfect condition.

The barrel was now the new home of some rather nasty looking carving knives.

That did make a dent in it, so I went back into the laundry for a 1/2 gallon drink container and loaded up the shorter steak knives into that and set it on the counter.   We'll use those and place them back in the drawer once they've been run through the dishwasher.   No sense in keeping 40 implements of terror inside of that little drawer.

Making the final stir to the mug of coffee I brought the barrel of knives into the Laundry that is rapidly becoming the Repository Of Extra Things Not To Throw Out and set it on a box on the washer.

That was when it happened. 

Unscrewing the lid that last long knife was slid in point first with the rest.   Being big and clumsy, which aren't necessarily the same thing, I managed to drop the blue lid behind the dryer.

Swearing out an oath to Zeus, Dow Chemicals, and the Japanese that made these fine surplus cutting implements I pulled the dryer forward.

Funny how entropy and inertia work together.  The inertia of placing junk on the dryer from the front pushed the older junk back toward the wall and down into the Black Hole of Dryer Land.  The entropy of the situation caused all of that junk to fall into which ever inaccessible cracks that were most difficult to get at in that tiny space.

In other words, Brother Can You Spare a Reach?

Balancing on top of the leaning tower of junk that sits next to the dryer, it was possible to extract:

  1. 1 Electric Screwdriver
  2. 3 "Dog Bags"
  3. 1 Blinky Light
  4. 1 Box of Terro Ant Bait (I needed that!)
  5. 2 Dog Bandannas
  6. and the escaping lid.

This also caused another oath, this time to the Roman God Janus since the vent to the dryer had popped free of the mount on the dryer which would cause all that hot humid air to be vented directly into the laundry.  As everyone knows, that is Exactly What You Need In Florida:  More Hot Humid Air!

Remembering that had to be put right, I managed to put my bulk on top of the leaning tower of junk and realized that there was no way I was going to get all 6'4" and 224 pounds of me between that little space and guide the dryer to dock with the vent pipe.

I wasn't NASA and this wasn't the Space Shuttle.

The high road was taken.   I began to unwind myself from this cramped spot when Entropy came up from behind and gave me a goose that caused the parrot in the next room to squawk.   You see, my faithful sidekick, Lettie, my Mc Nab Dog had decided that she'd nose the back of my leg.   This was the one that I was actually standing on, with the other leg being used as a counterweight.  224 Pounds of North American Male sometimes needs to balance.

The sweet thing didn't know what she had done.

She unleashed the Pandora's Box of the Laundry Room.

  1. The Cold Wet Nose of my faithful best friend hit right true behind the knee.
  2. The knee buckled from the unaccustomed cold.
  3. My bulk came crashing down on top of the tower of junk.
  4. The left shoulder nudged the big plastic bowl that keeps the dog walk gear tidy.
  5. The dog walk bowl pushed two shoe boxes full of collected computer parts forward...

Onto the floor it went.

On the journey since one thing never goes alone came two large towels, a ceramic plant pot full of old-but-useable batteries, a laundry soap measuring cup, and of course that big barrel of knives.

The dog had run out of the laundry room into the dining room out of harm's way thinking she had done all of this, and I was now suspended just above the floor on my side trying to decide whether to laugh or yell. 

Opting for neither, I took the high road.  You see the trash truck was revving its big diesel engine to pick up the Tuesday Trash and the big blue bin was not out by the swale.  I extracted myself and went on my way.

Later the emergency was cleared by picking up the majority of the mess and leaving the dryer in place.  I'll get help with that later.  By help I mean "Standing in the Kitchen Watching Someone Else Repair The Damage I Had Done".

That blasted little room hates me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Buster's Orange

Having worked on the Jeep it was time to get some new fuses.   The auto parts store is only about a mile away, and Darth Jeep needed some exercise.

I was standing on the front porch, keys and faceplate to the radio in hand when I spotted them, Buck and Buster.   Buck is this guy who is friends with the new neighbor Jack who is watching the house while he's gone.  Buster is the dog.   Specifically he is a fawn colored "Mixed Breed" puppy that is going to be a medium sized dog. 

Cute little thing, and lethal with the tongue.  He really should be called Buster Mc Licky since he's one of those bouncy little things that feels it's his job to lick you and every thing you are carrying.  Buster chasing geckos was more entertaining than the drive so it was time to watch that little bundle of unharnessed energy bounce around.  Buck on the other hand looked more confused than amused.  Confused since he had something so wild and playful.

Around that time Buster spotted me from the next property over and decided it was time to pull Buck with him.  Buck was a powerful man, probably as heavy as I am and solid.  Having a little bit of a puppy at five months pull him onto the yard was more a show of how gently Buck was treating the little guy than anything else.

I had stepped down into the carport and was behind the Jeep when they got to me and after a few fractured sentences, Buster spotted the new toy.  A partially ripened orange that had rolled off the tree this morning was on the ground.   He pulled from the collar and pranced around with this puppy sized fruit, the size of a small tomato, and decided it was his.

Now it was time to corral this little tawny bundle of energy back into the collar, but the problem was that he was just way too fast for big Buck to handle so the little dog ended up deciding it was time for belly rubs.  At that point all was well, the collar was back, the orange was forgotten and we were on our way.

Coming back home, minus Buck and Buster, plus 10 fuses, the orange was still sitting forgotten in the yard.  It must be just the right size for a dog because when it was time to take its picture, my own Lettie decided she wanted to handle it too.  She knows what an orange is so I was a bit surprised when she picked it up off the chair with her mouth, then flipped it in the air and dropped it.

One last sniff, it came to rest in the middle of the living room, forgotten, she needed her attention from me and I was happy to oblige.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How to Have Your Pizza And Diet Too

Sometimes you just have to shrug and say go for it!

Paraphrasing Ferris Beuhler aside, that's what I wanted for dinner.

I'm watching my weight, and have been since I was 19 years old.  Lately I noticed that the formerly baggy cargo shorts weren't quite so roomy any longer and needed to act. 

The result was two months and two weeks later, 10 pounds lighter, and the shorts fit better.   I still need to get more pairs since Cargo Shorts are almost formal wear in South Florida for 10 months out of the year.

Almost.  Not quite.

So after making this pizza and thinking that the calorie count was obscene I decided to sit down and count calories.   It turned out that my mental estimates and my spreadsheet were fairly close.

Yep, I've been counting calories long enough to qualify as being mental.   When I was skating 2000 miles plus a year it was irrelevant since I had some days burned more calories than I took in. 

A second slab of Chocolate Cake? SURE!

I haven't been on the skates for a while, South Florida may be good for casual skating but for distance Philadelphia was heaven with its trail from the Liberty Bell in Old City to Valley Forge and out to Reading PA.

So it was time to shave a few calories off the diet.  By the time I was through I cut my maintenance diet of 3000 calories a day to 2000-2200 a day and managed to lose that 10 pounds in 10 weeks.

When Saturday came along I just shrugged and said I Want Pizza.  It was either the local Humpy's Pizza or I was going to make one.

Making one won out and it really isn't tough.  There's a Pizza Dough Recipe that I have been using for more than 10 years that Pat gave me.  Make the dough in the bread machine or in a mixer with a dough hook.  Allow to rest for 30 mins, roll out, rise for 30 minutes while "decorated" with ingredients.  Cook at 525 for 9 minutes (plus or minus).    My oven doesn't really know what a stable temperature is so I have to guess but the results are above.

That calorie count?  I'm a big guy so 1/4 of that full cookie sheet was dinner.  I used the spreadsheet and counted the calories out to be 3384 for the pie, so that means Dinner on Saturday was 846.  Dough was 1400 Calories alone.  Three Cheeses - Mozzarella, Feta and Parmesan.

Ok, so Sunday either I didn't really do well with the diet but there's always Monday!

Oh and there's none leftover.  It was too good since I had the other two slices on Sunday.  The other half was all cheese no onions or mushrooms.  Subtract 20 calories per meal for that half and it is gone too.

Just in case you were curious... Oh and it was amazing the second day too.  Just use a skillet heated medium.  Put it cheese side down until the cheese melts.  That grease will let you flip the slice then fry it until crispy on the bottom.


The reality is that if you want a really GOOD pizza you either have to find a really GOOD restaurant or do what I did.  Make one from scratch.   It isn't that hard to do, and I will fill you in with one very important secret:  Always.  I mean ALWAYS use fresh basil.  Trust me on this one.  You will thank me later.  Just snip the leaves into the sauce and go heavy with it.  Basil does not add many calories (it wasn't even listed on the package) and it's a wall of flavor that you will love.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sex and Good Grammar - Humor

One of the pleasures of living in this bizarre little city of Wilton Manors is listening to Diane Cline and her off color jokes.  She's one of the few folks around who I know can always be counted on to come up with a story or joke and tell it to break the ice of a difficult moment.   Diane had sent me this one among others.

On his 74th birthday, a man got a gift certificate from his wife.

The certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man living on a
nearby reservation who was rumored to have a wonderful cure
for erectile dysfunction.

After being persuaded, he drove to the reservation, handed his ticket to the medicine man, and wondered what he was in for.

The old man handed a potion to him, and with a grip on his shoulder, warned,

'This is a powerful medicine. You take only a teaspoonful, and then say '1-2-3.'

When you do, you will become more manly than you have ever been in your life, and you can perform as long as you want."

The man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked, "How do I stop the medicine from working?"
"Your partner must say '1-2-3-4,'" he responded, "but when she does, the medicine will not work again until the next full moon."

He was very eager to see if it worked so he went home, showered, shaved, took a spoonful of the medicine, and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom.

When she came in, he took off his clothes and said, "1-2-3!"
Immediately, he was the manliest of men.

His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes, and then she asked, "What was the 1-2-3 for?"

And that, boys and girls, is why we should never end our sentences with a preposition, because we could end up with a dangling participle.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Actual Personals Ad - Humor

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but I have been getting this one from a number of folks.  The first person who sent it to me was Kevin, so thank him for this bit of humor...

Or blame him.  

Either way here we go!

To the Guy Who Tried to Mug Me in Downtown Savannah night before last.

Date: 2009-05-27, 1 :43 a.m. E.S.T.

I was the guy wearing the black Burberry jacket that you demanded that I hand over, shortly after you pulled the knife on me and my girlfriend, threatening our lives. You also asked for my girlfriend's purse and earrings. I can only hope that you somehow come across this rather important message.

First, I'd like to apologize for your embarrassment; I didn't expect you to actually crap in your pants when I drew my pistol after you took my jacket.. The evening was not that cold, and I was wearing the jacket for a reason.. My girlfriend had just bought me that Kimber Model 1911 ...45 ACP pistol for my birthday, and we had picked up a shoulder holster for it that very evening. Obviously you agree that it is a very intimidating weapon when pointed at your head ... isn't it?!

I know it probably wasn't fun walking back to wherever you'd come from with that brown sludge in your pants. I'm sure it was even worse walking bare-footed since I made you leave your shoes, cell phone, and wallet with me. [That prevented you from calling or running to your buddies to come help mug us again].

After I called your mother or "Momma" as you had her listed in your cell, I explained the entire episode of what you'd done. Then I went and filled up my gas tank as well as those of four other people in the gas station, -- on your credit card. The guy with the big motor home took 150 gallons and was extremely grateful!

I gave your shoes to a homeless guy outside Vinnie Van Go Go's, along with all the cash in your wallet. [That made his day!]

I then threw your wallet into the big pink "pimp mobile" that was parked at the curb ..... after I broke the windshield and side window and keyed the entire driver's side of the car.

Later, I called a bunch of phone sex numbers from your cell phone. Ma Bell just now shut down the line, although I only used the phone for a little over a day now, so what 's going on with that? Earlier, I managed to get in two threatening phone calls to the DA's office and one to the FBI, while mentioning President Obama as my possible target .

The FBI guy seemed really intense and we had a nice long chat (I guess while he traced your number etc..).

In a way, perhaps I should apologize for not killing you ... but I feel this type of retribution is a far more appropriate punishment for your threatened crime. I wish you well as you try to sort through some of these rather immediate pressing issues, and can only hope that you have the opportunity to reflect upon, and perhaps reconsider, the career path you've chosen to pursue in life. Remember, next time you might not be so lucky.

Have a good day

Thoughtfully yours,


Friday, September 23, 2011

My Feathered Rain Detector Gets His Wish

This morning I was told it was raining.  

Why told?  I had my headphones on, and they're noise canceling.  If you don't have a pair, they are highly recommended.  I was listening to a classical station on Sirius XM and classical music is one of those things I can turn on and use to completely focus on the task at hand.  I've been listening to it all my life and was probably the first sort that I remember along with my father's Swing Music. 

It was either me with the World Service of the BBC on shortwave, the local classical station, or Dad's swing.  

Ok, I've always had some "out there" tastes in music.

With the combination of some Mendelsson and a quiet house, a mentally engaging task, and noise canceling headphones, I was deeply focused.

From behind me in the Poang, over my right shoulder I heard flapping. 

Usually when I hear flapping I look up to see what my old companion of 25 years is up to.  Oscar has been with me since 1986 so I have gotten used to his noises and actions.

Just looking up, I realized that the other sound that was buried under the strings and brass was rain.  I checked radar and there was a little yellow blob that had blown up over head.  Since Oscar was getting excited, I said "Hey Oscar! How about a Shower?!?!" and got his standard "urp!".

This picture was from an earlier rain storm and an earlier post, but if you want to see someone enjoy the weather, put your parrot safely outside in a cage in a rain shower and watch.  This being Florida, we had torrents of rain and sun at the same time so I could watch him from the kitchen window and roast coffee.

Better to have a happy parrot than having him inside screaming at the popcorn popper for 6 minutes and 20 seconds!

Walking out to the back yard, even before I opened the door, I heard a "HELLO!".  Oscar wanted inside.  Happy and cleaner, he's back on his perch in the living room chewing on a popsicle stick.

Great way to welcome the first day of Autumn.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OnStar is why I won't buy a GM Car

Pretty strong statement huh?

I have a Jeep Wrangler.  It's very basic, but it fits.  The Basic-ness of the car means that there are fewer things to break so much less to worry about.  It's just about bone-stock other than the larger tires that I got because I had finally wore out the original ones.  I'm not in the market for a new car and won't be for a while at this point since it is almost 10 years old and only has around 42000 miles on it.

GM has some very attractive vehicles.  I truly like the technology that went into the Volt which is an electric car with a gas powered generator.  If you drive it for short distances and charge it when you get home, you can probably get away with never having to fill the gas tank until it evaporates. 

The reason why I didn't replace my old Chevy Nova (think Toyota Corolla) with another GM car back in 1996 when I got the previous Jeep was that I had been burned with weird things breaking on cars before I got the Nova.  The Nova simply had no problems for the time I had it other than it was cranky to start.  So, I wanted simple and that year was the first for the previous model of Wrangler.

Basically about as simple as I could get it, green, automatic transmission, and a basic stereo.  Air Conditioner was required.  I hate to sweat when I drive.

All the while GM was making this deal with OnStar.  OnStar has their electronics installed in your car, and it works similar to a Cell Phone and a GPS.  They can unlock your doors if you lose your keys, get you out of some very difficult situations, and deactivate your car if you have an accident to name a few features.  If you are lost, they know where you are and will tell you how to get back to the main road.

I have also been told that you can disable the OnStar simply by not paying for the service or cancelling your subscription.

Now, the down side of all of this.  It's just too creepy and Big Brothery to me.

Recently according to This Link, OnStar has changed their Terms of Service to allow them to sell at their option all information that they gather due to their services.  Without Your Consent.

If that does not sound creepy and big brothery, remember this is the same company that has gotten caught in the past listening in on people in their cars supposedly to improve "your service".  Yeah, just what I want!  Some drone in an office somewhere listening to me listen to music and break wind from all the carbonation in the soda I drank 200 miles ago on a long haul.  They got their hands slapped on that one but prove to me that they are not still doing it.

You see the problem with this Selling Of Randomized Information With No Personalized Data is that there is no reasonable way you can cleanse GPS data of where you are going.   GPS Data will track you down to a few feet.  With a GPS tracker, in the right conditions you can tell if you are in your yard room of the house or the back. 

Since this service is tracking where you are going, you can build up a very good profile of the "randomized" person that you are watching.  "Randomized John Doe" parks this "Randomized" GM Vehicle at the address of 123 Your Street, Anywhere, USA.  Random John drives it from that address within 15 minutes of 7AM to an office block at 4321 North Commercial Street, Springfield, USA.  The distance is 15.7 miles and he drives with an average speed of 47mph over roads which are an average speed posted of 40mph.  The car sits in the address for the day until around 530pm Random John drives back to the house where it sits for four nights out of the week.  On Friday Night, Random John gets in the car around 630PM and drives to the shops at the local Mall.

I could go on.  You see, the reality is that if you have that information, and the interest to track a specific person, it all the sudden gets very easy to tie this data back to someone and they go from being Random John to a Very Specific John Doe.  After all, we already know it's a GM car in the driveway...

I don't believe that this particular service is worth my selling my location data for.  I'm not interested in making Montgomery Burns a little richer so he can buy that Ivory Back Scratcher when the so-called randomized data is sold.  I'll continue to opt-out of OnStar's "Service" by driving my 9 year old Jeep with 42000 miles and when it's through I'll buy a vehicle without a similar service.  It's just too creepy to me.

The other situation that is possible is that if you own a vehicle like this and you have a legitimate reason to hide from someone you simply can not.  People with restraining orders against their exes would be a prime example of someone who would not want this sort of thing to get out. 

Perhaps it is a bit "tinfoil hat" to be worried about this sort of thing, but personally I find it easy to avoid - I'll avoid the problem by simply not buying a GM car next time around   Sorry GM, you really do have some wonderful cars but this just freaks me out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

User Experience or Why Websites Fail

Facebook is a study of User Experience

There are many people who are paid strictly to improve the User Experience of a website.  So many that they're just abbreviated to UX and UI.  UI stands for User Interface.  Both are quite tightly coupled. 

Every time you change something, you will annoy someone.  The idea is that if you don't change your system/website/front garden you will find that the world will have passed you by. 

Just as a garden is never a static thing, especially in South Florida where if you blink you have weird exotics overtaking your prized Podocarpus, a Static Website will get overtaken quickly.

There is a balance toward adding new flowers to a garden so that it will be appealing to the eye, or just add new plants to make it fill out better, and doing too much and making it overgrown.

The corollary is that software problem you find in things like Microsoft Word where 95% of the people use just 5% of the features.

So why add the complexity?  You just may use it some time, but you can always ignore it.

Another corollary is the Automobile.  If they didn't improve things, we'd still be driving the Model T.  Beautiful machine that evolved over its years to be faster and more efficiently built but would not work on the roads of this day.

After all, you really do want a stereo and automatic delay wipers and cushy seats and the ability to be comfortable in 90 Degree Heat as well as 9 Degree Cold.

Applying all this blather to a website such as Facebook you find yourself asking why did they do this?  Part of the problem is that changes just "happen" and you're left confused.  Get off my lawn, young'un I want my grass to grow!  Sometimes the changes do work, but usually those changes are only after people make many complaints.  Simplification of Privacy Options on Facebook are a good example.

Today I was presented with this new and shiny feature in the news feed on Facebook.  Sure, it's their right to use things the way they like and develop new features so we all don't move back to My Space (yeah, right) or some other site.  After all they make their money by being the biggest thing on the block.  If we didn't change, we'd all be using dial up modems on AOL

This New! and! Shiny! Feature! was that of the Top Stories.  For me it's not an improvement, in fact it causes problems with the way I personally use the site.

I use Facebook as a scrolling surf board.  I've liked tech blogs, news sites, and other sites that I tend to hit frequently and it may be the first time I read about something important.  I read about Fukushima's Tsunami on Facebook first after I caught a BBC article slip past.  Things like the Top Stories interfere with that by merging articles in because they were voted more important by your friends.  Now instead of having the most recent articles at the top and merely refreshing from time to time to see if I missed anything important, I'm afflicted with the Facebook Obsessive Compulsive Refresh Disease - FOCR.  Yes, they've turned me into a real FOCR as I hit F5 because there's something in the way that I can't suppress. 

The only benefit I see of this new layout is that everyone else will have the same pain as the flying bird of Facebook lets fly with some new top story only to splat itself on the windshield of your browser.  Spraying Bug Juice over it won't get rid of this new "feature" at least yet.  Hopefully it can be turned off.   Briefly it was only for US users, but it has been spread over the pond to UK English users as well.

Sorry I haven't found the fix for this one. 

Their User Experience Folks need to go back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pavlov's Dog Meets The Plush Duck

Anytime you live around someone, you learn their quirks.

Sometimes you get more quirks than not.  Sometimes the quirks can be thoroughly entertaining.

Shopping for dog toys can be a trial at first.  There are some stores that will allow you to take your friend inside and explore.  First you pile the furball in the car.  No, not you or me, but the dog.  Maybe the cat too, I wouldn't know about cats since I sneeze when I'm around them for any real length of time.

All those who wander are not lost, and when you have a dog like mine, merely getting into the Jeep is a treat!  Taking a short drive to the Gas Station and paying obscene amounts of money just to get down to the shops can be sheer pleasure, and driving to a proper destination is ecstasy.

When you arrive, walk on in and wander the aisles.  Handle the loose toys, your dog will get excited over some toys, and ignore others.

It was that process that I found that my Lettie loves plush toys.  She's much more gentle than I had expected with them, some of these toys are over 5 years old and have survived many trips from mouth to washer. 

Going to the big box wholesale club was a pleasant surprise because for the price of one plush toy I could find a box of three.  Her favorite toy has long been a plush grey squirrel.  It could be because she would tear out of the back door, navigate the two right angle turns and "herd" them out of the yard.

If those squirrels were any slower I have a feeling she'd have one in her mouth just like the plush toys.

The good ones have squeakers in the tail and the body, and biting down on them gives a loud squeak.  It stimulates the prey drive and the instincts kick in.  She'd flip the thing around back and forth while holding onto the tail and knock herself dizzy as it happens.

When I found that box of three we had an assortment of toys, all with electronic noise boxes in them.  One was an armadillo which she didn't like because she couldn't grip it.  When she'd drop it, it would make an odd screech of a sound.   We didn't think that an armadillo actually made sounds but it made the toy better for her.

Once she decided that it wasn't her favorite and had crushed the noise box beyond all recognition, I removed the box, picked up the fluff and let her finish with it.  It mysteriously made it to the trash can later... I have no idea how.  Hmmm...

The deflated armadillo was replaced with a skunk that did the same screech, and she liked that since the toy was similar in size to the departed squirrel and had a tail.  It lasted around a year.

All this time there was one toy she was not allowed to have.  I kept that one for my own.  It was a Mallard Drake that had a noise box that was a pretty accurate sound of a duck call.

Squeeze the duck's back and it would let out a QUACK! Quack Quack QUACK!

Lettie wanted that toy, but since she's a rare creature, a Mc Nab Dog that respects boundaries, she knows it was NOT her toy and would leave it on the headboard of the bed where it ended up.

If you watch TV for any length of time, there are all sorts of animal sounds and weird mechanical noises that will sound distantly like a duck.

I noticed that if there is a duck call on TV, she'll perk and walk over to the duck in the bedroom to make sure it is still on the headboard, two years later.

The battery is almost dead in the unit so I will have to open it up to replace it, but anything that squeaks or makes something roughly like a duck call and Mrs Dog goes into the master bedroom for a search.

Since I almost never watch commercials, it is a rare thing when I see an Aflac commercial, but that loud call from Gilbert Gottfried would get her going.  "AFLAC!" and she'd run out to the bedroom.

Watching the Addams Family was always fun because she'd get up at the beginning and the end.  That old black and white show from the early 60s had lots of wild and wonderful sound effects that distantly sounded like ratchets and duck calls and she would have to check.  It was one of the few shows she wouldn't sleep through because she'd be in that bedroom a couple times in the roughly half hour it was on.

Sound effects in an intelligent dog are just like ringing that bell in the experiment by Pavlov.  His dog was trained to salivate at the sound of a bell.  In my case, I suppose I will have to give her the duck, but for now I like it where it is... On the TV, and on the Radio, and on the headstand of the bed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Grooming Linux for Market Share

I'm not really sure where this article would fit.  I guess it could be considered a rant.  It could also be considered humor.  It certainly won't be technical.  Stay tuned...

I've long believed in the "Third Way".  You do too, most likely.  I'm sure you have used the phrase "The truth is in the middle".  In this case I'm using it figuratively.  When you have two dominant schools of thought with fans on either side, rabidly baring teeth and growling, they are both wrong and they are both right.

With Computers, specifically Home Computers, no matter what you do you are both wrong and you are right.

In the beginning there was the tinkerer.  The tinkerer built machines of a handful of electronic parts, plugged it in, and hopefully it wouldn't explode.  If it didn't explode you would end up with an Apple.

Coming later there was a plan.  The plan was to grab everything that you had sitting around, make a big pile of it all, rearrange it into something useful.  Since all the parts worked, you had something that would be an IBM PC.

The Apple was known as the "Walled Garden".  They had a theory that as long as you stay in the Walled Garden, all will be well and no naughty things will get you.  Live there and they will take care of you improving things along the way.  There are benefits, and as long as you like what they are doing, the gardeners would keep you happy.  

But the Walled Garden has it's problems.  It tends towards a stifled experience since you are limited to how the Gardeners want you to act within the Garden.  Don't bring in outside Beverages or you may kill the flowers.

Sure, it's an analogy but I'm on a roll here... walk with me, I need to go to the store and get some butter and some milk.

Outside of the Walled Garden is a more "Open Approach".  When IBM built the original PC they wanted to make it open.  They sold it with two Operating Systems and it was up to you to chose what you wanted.  Eventually that solidified and the market determined we'd all use DOS and creativity allowed a new business to be created.

But as time went on, some folks decided that DOS wasn't the best way and they decided a more open Walled Garden would be made.  Windows was created as well as it's sister OS/2.  OS/2 was better at the time but due to it's not being marketed well, it failed.  There was also a nasty little argument and sibling rivalry happened to kill the old way of doing things. 

Now Microsoft's Windows is on around 86% of the computers, Apple's OSX is on around 6%.

Hold on you say, that isn't 100%, what's going on here?  Sure, there are still some DOS machines around, some folks refuse to change, and there are even some of those early weird operating systems around.  Together that's still only around 2%.

So there is a third way - remember that?

The other 6% of the market is something that "BROADLY" could be called Linux.  That is inexact, there are a lot of smaller Linux-Like operating systems that are out there but they are the vast minority of the 6%.  They include proprietary things like Unix which all the hoards of Linux and BSD are designed to look like and some other truly interesting things but they don't really hold significant market share.

That third way of Linux (And BSD and All The Rest - Lets use "Linux" as shorthand here since that's generally how I say it) is the last Bastion of Creativity in the Operating System World.

Ok everything to this point has been "setting" in this little play.  

So you've decided to try out linux but which one?  There are hundreds of Linux-es out there that all can be tinkered with to suit what you want it to be.  Linux offers you the opportunity of freedom.  It is a Free Operating System.  It will run your old computer as well as your new one (as long as you have the right hardware).   It will run your Phone as easily as your laptop or your Mainframe (IBM went into Linux in a BIG way on those Mainframes).

Linux is also the best place for someone to tinker.  You could literally rewrite the entire system from scratch if you wanted to.  If you didn't want it to be rewritten you could change every single aspect of what you're doing.  It's up to you.

It also has gotten so that it passes the Grandma Test.  Download a file, burn to a DVD and put it in any PC as well as most Macs and it will start and present you with a familiar desktop.

So what's the problem?  Well it's only got 6% of the market.  I have four machines here that run on Linux.  It's a great way to make an old computer live again.  One of those machines was a Dumpster Dived computer that is around 12 years old and it runs faster than some of the faster machines I've seen today.  It just doesn't run all of the software I need.

So how do you fix it?  Well here's the thing, you have to depend on the Comic Book Guy.  The Comic Book Guy Effect is the Problem, not the Solution.  If you look like this guy then you're the problem.

Ok, being catty is never a good way to discuss things, but if you're a fan of The Simpsons, you'll recognize what I'm talking about right off.  This guy spouts things like some article is "Clearly Superior" or "Worst Thing Ever" in a condescending tone, doesn't look like he's "left Mom's Basement" in years, and needs some social skills.

You see if you are trying to tell the world that there's something new and exciting, looking like this guy in the picture that I got from Wikipedia, does not help.

Yesterday I had to laugh at exactly this situation.  It was a beautiful sunny South Florida day.  90 Degrees, Brilliant Sun, warm with gentle breezes off the ocean.  I was hot in my white T Shirt and cargo shorts.  I went to the Fort Lauderdale CompUSA at 2PM on Sunday, September 18, 2011.

I wouldn't be so judgmental if I didn't see the "Clearly Superior" effect of bad marketing laid out in front of me so unselfconsciously.  You see, this is what is holding things back. 

I walked into the store and was looking wide eyed at some equipment that I wouldn't mind having, while knowing that there's a replacement coming to the stores in a couple weeks. 

Yeah I read too much for my own good, what of it? 

I saw going past me in a washed out grey streak the poster child for "Get out of your Mom's Basement" followed by "Grizzly Adams".  "Mom's Basement" had a picture of Tux the Penguin, the Linux Mascot on the back of his washed out and formerly black T Shirt.  Tux makes me smile and I thought there goes someone who uses Linux. 

Then he turned around and I realized what the phrase "Unwashed Masses" truly meant.  You see in the 90F heat, this guy was dressed in that overly worn T shirt in black over black jeans.  Hot and sweaty and unshaven, "Mom's Basement" needed a shower.  His compatriot was a similar character.  Looking like Grizzly Adams and needing some more Grooming, they made the perfect stereotype of the 2011 definition for:


Ok, so there's room for everyone at the table.  It's a big buffet and everyone is welcome.  We NEED geeks.  These are the folks who solve the hard problems.  They will fix your PC and make it better.  Don't ask them to explain what they did or you're in trouble.

And that in a nutshell is what seems to be holding back Linux.  It CAN be difficult.  It IS being worked on so it passes the Grandma Test - remember that?  These Geeks are writing some amazing software that you will never think of but it makes the world go around.

However, would you hire them?  Would you want Grizzly Adams in your posh office whether or not he runs the computer in the back room?   Would you want to be the person to tell "Mom's Basement" that like I overheard the 7th grade Gym Teacher say "Showers are Mandatory" when he boomed into the gym at Heritage Junior High oh so many years ago?

Most likely he'd end up back in Mom's Basement writing some more amazing code that will get used somewhere, and make the Third Way a little more palatable to the general public.  

Why did this stick in my head so well?

Well as I stood looking at the prices on the Hard Drives for my laptop which were too high, I'll look online later, I heard the two of them talk.  It was one condescending comment over "THOSE people who use (gasp) Mac or worse! Windows!" after another.

You see people use their computers for different reasons.   If you're not actually doing graphics or writing the worlds next War and Peace, you can use anything you like.  You could write emails on a phone or an iPad or a desktop computer.   Grandma does not need a gamer's rig of the latest barn burning hardware, she may be best off with an older laptop plugged into the TV so she can see it.  Dad may only want to get on Facebook or play a few online games and catch up on The Scores.  Dad's going to be tougher to deal with because if that Dad doesn't know what he wants, some person in a big box store is going to sell him more than he needs and make the store a bigger commission.

Computers are like shoes.  We all have different needs and different uses.  After a while our new shiny thing will stink just like the year old running shoes that you left on the back porch because you stepped on something rude that some fool didn't pick up from Fido.

Being condescending and rude never works.  Especially if you're making yourself out to be the Poster Child for the Third Way with Tux on your back.

So for now, I have some things to do on my Windows machine.  I wrote this on my 12 year old laptop that was discarded that runs Linux.  Later on I want to get onto the Mac OSX desktop and see if a file is there.  They're all good, they all have their strengths and weaknesses.... and I even showered today too since I got out of Mom's Basement years ago!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Glass Of Wine - In Service to the Community - Humor

 I think Velma was a little thirsty when she sent this one to me.  Now it has me wanting to run the tap through a water filter after reading this one, but you can judge for yourself...

Absolutely no need to thank me for this valuable information

I'll be opening up a bottle of wine very soon - great advice below!!

A glass of wine...
To  paraphrase W.C.. Fields, "I don't drink water, because fish poop in  it."   
To  my friends who enjoy a glass of wine...  and  those who don't..

As Ben Franklin  said:  In  wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water  there is bacteria.

In a number of carefully  controlled trials,  scientists  have demonstrated that if we drink  1  liter of water each day,  at  the end of the year we would have absorbed  more  than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. coli) - bacteria found in  feces.  In  other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of  poop..

However,  we  do NOT run that risk when drinking wine &  beer  (or  tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor)  because  alcohol has to go through a purification  process  of  boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.

Water  = Poop,
Wine  =  Health

Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk  stupid, than to drink water and be full of poop.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable  information:  I'm  doing it as a public service!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Most Recent Signs about the Bad Economic Situation in the USA

I was sent this list of one liners about the Republican Induced Great Recession and thought I'd share it.  Everyone could use a chuckle, even if a few of these are a little dated.

Most recent signs about the bad economic situation in the USA:

The current down trend in the USA economy has hit everybody really hard...

My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

A stripper was killed when her all male audience showered her with rolls of pennies while she danced.

I saw a fundamentalist Mormon with only one wife.

If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," you have to call them and ask if they meant you or them.

McDonald's is announcing a 1/4 ouncer.

Angelina Jolie will adopt a child from America.

Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children's names.

My cousin had an exorcism but couldn't afford to pay for it, and they re-possessed her!

A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.

A picture is now only worth 200 words.

When Bill and Hillary travel together, they now have to share a room.

The Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.

And, finally....

I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc. that I called the Suicide Hotline and got a call center in Pakistan. When I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Told You, No Frog Legs - Picture

Sometimes, the faithful sidekick just does not want to play. 

She's got this old stuffed frog that she picks up and moves all over the house.  When it is time to sleep, that frog is on the mat near her.  If you pick up and move to another part of the house, that toy may well be moved with her when she catches up.

There are times, I guess, when you just want to be alone and the frog just is not welcome.

This must have been one of them.

Instead of my stepping on the toys, I would pick them up, set them near her and she'd accept that.  This day, I got her one eyed frog and set it on her nose and you see the results.

Older dogs have their moods and when you have a Mc Nab Dog, you have the added intelligence to balance things out. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Studio 54 on Sirius XM

I haven't really been a fan of Sirius XM.  I don't travel often, and when I do I tend not to be in the car for a long enough time for me to get the radio and mount it in the Jeep.

I got Sirius about a year before Howard Stern was on the air there, and while Howard was a reason I got the service, I am not a steady listener. 

Actually why I got Sirius was that there was a promo at the time and I found that they had a good Disco channel, a good Trance Channel and a good Dance Channel that had very little chatter.  They also have a 40s music channel that is excellent and have the BBC World Service.

They don't have BBC Radio 4 which would be an excellent addition since it is "Intelligent Talk" and one of the few places on radio that I know of that does actual game shows and has since the days of it's infancy.  Radio 4 is how I learned how to speak English when the programming was actually on the World Service.

Through time, they gained Howard Stern and it was fascinating to see what this amazing entertainer and his side kicks would do if they were unleashed.  Having been able to speak your mind, freely, and not speak like a child which is required by the FCC was a freedom few broadcasters have.  They went through their period that there were many "rude words" on the station until they realized that it wasn't fun anymore and went back to being one of the more intelligent and fascinating discussions on radio.

Yes, even though I don't listen frequently, I still am a fan of their work.

On the other hand, the music channels began to resemble the pablum that you find on "terrestrial radio".  It is amazingly difficult to keep a channel going with fresh music if you are broadcasting an older format of music that isn't particularly popular any more.  If they aren't making any new Glenn Miller music, you just won't have it to play.  Their 40s channel does seem to manage that well though finding things that I have never heard before.

The problem was the Dance Channels.  Since I can't listen to Country and Rock bores me, I can't vouch for those formats.  The paid for service was getting way too "standard radio".  Whoever was programming the channels first deleted the dance hits channel and morphed it into the BPM channel when Sirius and XM merged.  It became basically what was a "Hot Hits" format if you remember that.  Play a song, play a station ID and yell what that was and what's next while talking over the song you just started to play.  Some of the worst offenders of that are the DJs Tim Bauman and "Geronimo". 

The idea of a dance station is to bring the music to you and present it like a live event.  When is the last time you went to a dance club and heard the DJ babbling about something over top of the music?  There weren't any announcements the last time I was in one, nor for the years before.  It's rare that you hear that.  Originally there were two hits stations on Sirius and one was with announcements.  The one I listened to was without announcements and was deleted.

It was about that time when I tired of the recycled 20 songs they played on the old Strobe channel.  They brought in 80s dance music, usually called Big 80s, and it just got unlistenable.  The Sirius radio gathered dust and I've ranted about that before.

Last month they decided that it was time to bring back a Disco channel.  It's almost there.  It still is rotating some of the same songs but not quite "over and over".  I found myself listening to the channel for more than 5 hours a day and only changed it when they put on some specific artists.

To this day I still can't listen to "Lady T".  Blah.  Can't do it.  Tried and didn't like her in the 70s or the 80s.  But that's just me, we all have our favorite artists in any given music format.

However, they did something that was "authentic".  The old disco channels on radio were known for basically putting on two tracks an hour in the evening if they had a long format song.  The "Disco Mix" of a song could be 17 minutes long where the "Radio Edit" would be one side of a 45 and would last about 3:30.  If they play a short version of a song it's a surprise. 

If they could kill the announcements about how some person brought a leopard into Studio 54 and the rest of the trivia, it would help.  They tend to do fewer announcements than they do on other channels which is a blessing, but still more than would be "authentic".  When played, they're not playing these announcements over top of the music which much better than on many of their other channels.

I even heard some of the tracks that aren't generally heard in a Disco station.  Some of the more obscure artists that you'd hear mixed in as a chance to test the waters are still heard.  After all, there's a reason why certain tracks "didn't make it", but it's nice to hear them even still.  It helps to keep the channel from going stale.

So I have a reason now to listen again.  It also gave me a reason to explore what else Sirius has to offer.  I'm again listening to 40s, as well as the classical music I grew up with.  The Studio 54 has been left on for hours, but I'll switch into Jimmy Buffet once in a while and visit Margaritaville. 

They also put on a good R and B station called the Groove.   In Philadelphia in the late 70s, we were lucky.  We had one of the best Disco stations (and scenes) in the nation on WCAU.  We also had a wonderful, locally owned R and B station on WDAS.  If you didn't hear something good to listen to on one, you would switch to the other, and it seemed like the stations knew it and used that knowledge to build something better.  When Clear Channel got massive and finally bought up all the radio stations in Philadelphia, WDAS was one of the last to go.  It felt like something died.  RnB wasn't quite as edgy any more and it felt much more corporate and "cleansed". 

Sirius managed to capture a little of that edge in The Groove.  Well worth the listen if you want to hear some dance and a little RnB mixed in.   I know I do.

So it's better.   I've got Sirius on now playing in the headphones on the iPhone player.  At least I can listen without having the parrot going crazy that way.

It's not perfect but they're on their way.  They managed to make the Trance Channel something less special where they're mixing more formats in instead of sticking with the format.  Electric Area plays around 3 distinct formats of music in a seemingly random fashion, meshing together badly.  At least there is when I need a good trance fix.

Now if only they could get rid of those annoying announcements and DJs on the other channels...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is your Weedeater Improved with Internet Access?

These days you can get the internet on all sorts of things.  10 years ago we began thinking of new ways to apply this technology and laughed at some of the false starts that hit the market.

There were boxes you could hang on the wall in the kitchen to get your email and your recipes online.  That was not quite good enough so they mounted the things in the refrigerator so you could order milk when you ran out.

I wonder what happens if your computer on the refrigerator gets a virus, will it make the science experiment you have in the back turn blue instead of green? 

Come on, you know you have some past date food in the refrigerator, don't even try to say you don't!

Actually what happened with me was that I was busily using the weedeater a week back.  After covering myself in tiny little bits of bougainvillea, and breathing in brush I had to stop my work.  I had run out of "string".  I had only enough string to wind one more reel on the thing so I thought it was a good time to accidentally fall into the pool.

Yes, I checked my pockets, the cell phone stayed on shore - or rather on the Tiki Bar in the Lanai.

Yes, Lanai, it is Florida after all.  The house may only be 1200 square feet but the back yard has a lap pool.

After throwing my "accidentally" soaked clothes out on the deck and cooling down, I went in and showered.

I do most of my best thinking in the shower and came up with this bright idea.  This is how I got the topic after all. 

Weedeaters, Strimmers, and what ever you would like to call them have a fair amount of different styles and uses.  I have a laughably light electric one that uses blue plastic line that I could use to catch a crab off a bridge on the Jersey Shore.  I don't like that because light string breaks easier.

I also have a gas powered strimmer.  I like that term better than the "Weedeater" thing since it rolls off the tongue better.  After all it puts weeds on the tongue when you use it since it is so much more powerful.   We got it from a neighbor when they decided they didn't like pulling a rope 50 times because it wouldn't start.

Here's a Helpful Hint.  If you have a gas powered piece of yard equiment, Petrol to my UK Readers, let the thing run dry when through.  It is always best to underfill the equipment than over fill it especially if it is a 2-cycle motor.  Mine is 2-cycle and that oil remains in the little fuel tank and makes things very difficult for me when I go to start the machine.  Run it dry, and fill with fresh.

The thing is that there are various gauges of line and various constructions of line that you can use in a given Strimmer.   You can always go smaller, and sometimes you can even go larger.   I stopped using that thin poly plastic crap almost immediately and went to this stuff sold by Husqvarna with Titanium in the center.  Tough stuff.

That got me thinking.  Since I didn't have the instruction manuals I didn't know whether I was doing things right.  It was a bear to start and I was constantly stopping the thing to draw out more line.  The "bump feed" was pretty useless since it almost never worked right so I'd stop the motor and do it by hand.

So what would the manual say?  Being a Project Manager, searching for things online is simply second nature.  I have found all sorts of documentation for pieces of computer hardware that were long since discontinued.  I've found ways to rebuild electronics, and one of these days I'll even finish that "performance" crystal radio that I want to build.

Why not search for the manual for the Strimmer?

Right in One!  I found the manual almost immediately as well as a forum dedicated to String Trimmers.  Yes, people actually discuss these things, I mean you're reading this, right?  Gotcha!  I'll shut up and continue about my toy...

Turns out that I was using the "middle grade" string on my strimmer.  So when I went out to get supplies I was going to get the "super duper extra beefy Titanium line" at .095 inches instead of .080 and weed eat the world!   Just don't go too thick or you will overheat the motor.

I tend to have a lot of problems with the Home Depot on Sunrise in Fort Lauderdale but since it was threatening weather I tried that one first.  This was the one that the overzealous security "guards" would follow you around the store.  I stopped going there because it was unnerving being treated like someone getting ready to board a flight.  All of the Home Depot stores in Broward County were like that for a while and while they did relax, I prefer Lowes.

This time was no different.  After having the security guard walk in front of me to confront someone else, and my scaring her out of her wits by my using The Voice to say "Excuse Me!" so she wouldn't step on my foot, I knew this would be a useless trip.  I could not find the right part, and decided that Home Depot would lose this sale.

We packed up and went to Lowes where we were treated well, as usual.  We also found everything we were looking for as well as being asked by two different employees if we needed help.  I highly recommend the Lowes on Oakland Park Blvd and Powerline in Oakland Park by the way.

I also found my .095 string as well as a Brush Cutter Blade that I am afraid may have to go back.  I couldn't figure out how to get that blasted thing on and since it was basically an 8 inch square of steel bolted to the motor and designed to rotate at something like 1200 RPM I was afraid - afraid the thing may fly off and injure someone.

This week was the week of strimming.  After putting the .095 inch string on the machine and pulling to start, I went into a frenzy of green destruction.  You see, the .080 would break where the extra .015 inch of thickness gave it just enough heft to chew through roots and my boots.

That's why you wear old shoes when you go to do your yardwork.

So yes, your Weedeater is improved with Internet Access, just not how you may have thought.  It pays to read the friendly manual.  RTFM folks, it's worth the research!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two Years of Blogging

Yep, you read that right. 

I've been at this every day for two solid years, and occasionally before that. 

The first posting was a rather dry recipe for Hummus.  Some day, I'll revisit that.  That particular recipe feels like "unfinished business", and I don't care for unfinished business.

There is a steady stream of folks popping in and reading here from all over the world, mostly from the US but a significant number of readers from Israel, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands.  Hi folks!  Some day I may even get off this island to travel...

In case you're curious about this sort of minutia, it's 83% Windows, 6% each of Mac and Linux/Unix which mirrors the market.  I've got all three here at the house and I'm considering what version of Linux to put on some older laptops.  When you have decided that the current machine is old (more than three years) and slowing down, try a reload of the original operating system first and if that doesn't work try Linux.  If you are one of those folks that is a casual user of their computer, all you really need is the Browser for 99% of what you're doing anyway and Firefox is on everything now.

Hmmm maybe there's a topic in that...

The top ten articles of all time - since everyone loves a good top ten list are in descending order:

1) Morning Rain Brings Barky Showers
2) Hotmail Annoyance - Turn off Keyboard Shortcuts
3) Willie T's Bar Key West Picture
4) Parking Hours Discussed at the Commission (Wilton Manors)
5) Merry Xmas, Here's your sign!
6) Gold Medal Flour Extraordinary Biscuit Recipe
7) Ikea Poang vs La-Z-Boy Rocker
8) True Story - 2 Duck Hunters in Wisconsin
9) New Post, New Month, Last Picture
10) Happy Birthday to My Blog

My habit is to sit here with a blank screen and do a "Brain Dump".  Usually it is right off the top of my head.  I'll have the idea and let it gel and write away.  That is when I have an idea.  If no idea, then I have a few sources where I can prime the pump.

The whole deal with pictures, by the way, was a writer's crutch.  I've found that I can usually pump out a couple hundred words on something simply by describing a picture.  Instead of merely saying "the sky is blue" my own sense of style requires my describing the scene down to the last wordy detail.

Why do I do this? 

It is a great creative outlet, that is for sure.  After writing 746 articles including this one, there is a simple pleasure in seeing your thoughts spread out in front of you.

It is a way to tell my Sister and my Friends about my life.  Sometimes briefly, sometimes in excruciating detail.

It is a way for me to keep my writing skills up and to improve them.   I am a Project Manager.  It requires that I am able to take complex topics and write them in a way that I can explain them to those who need to know about the matter at hand.  I have to do it in such a way that I don't get too many basic questions.   If I do get those questions, I haven't quite done what I am supposed to.

It is a Portfolio of Work.  I am not planning on writing a book on "something".  If one comes out of it, this is a head start.  More accurately, I have used this blog as an interviewing tool.  As a Project Manager I have been asked to provide technical writing samples.  I explain this blog obsession to them and I've been asked more times than I expect to provide a link.  Think of that as subtle self-promotion.  I've told interviewers that I have written a series of articles on how to upgrade and "implement" a computer and tell them to come here and read the articles tagged "implementation".  It gives them a place to begin.

It is also on my online resume.  I am careful in that respect and make edit comments - both my own and others.  In some ways, this can be considered an online resume just as much as that word document I send off to people.

So here I am two years on.  I promised myself to allow for a vacation if I need it.  I haven't completely dried up with topics yet, but when that happens, I'll go to low power and take a rest.  After all, there's always that photography thing that I could use.

For now, enjoy the blog.  There's a lot here.  Some are excellent, other articles are just blather.  If I do take that vacation, I'll let you know.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Solving Fear of Thunderstorms in Dogs

Mrs Dog and I were walking this morning at Sunrise, as is our habit.  We had gotten to Wilton Manors City Hall on our way back and I spotted one of the ladies around here that I see from time to time with her two dogs and we stopped and chatted for a while on Wilton Drive under a tree at Hagen Park.

Nice way to start the day.

While our dogs sniffed around and tangled me up, we got onto the subject of her dog's behavior in storms.  She has an older Golden Retriever who is allergic to the heat which is a difficult thing for a dog living in a luxury apartment in Florida.  The Golden also has a terrible fear of loud noises such as Thunder and Lightning.  The big dog has figured out that the flash of the lightning will be followed by the boom of the thunder very shortly and will hide under furniture.  The other thing that this dog will do is to climb on top of my friend's chest. 

At two in the morning having a 70 plus pound dog standing on your chest in fear is a rather loud wake up call.

She asked me what I had done. 

Simply put, my own dog is getting older so her hearing is getting worse.  It's not as much of a problem as it was when I had first gotten my black and white bundle of energy.  However before she lost most of her hearing, I had gotten her abject terror of storms down to a manageable wariness. 

How I did it is that I "Make Storm Time Play Time".  I don't remember where I got that idea from, but it works.  My own girl would freak out and display behavior like barking at the sky and running around like mad when the thunder would approach as well as whining and other fear displays.

That had to stop.

Living near parks meant that I would have a ready supply of tennis balls handy.  Knowing a Mc Nab Dog or any other herding dog like Border Collies and German Shepards simply enjoy chasing tennis balls, I started to work.

I had found a CD of sound effects one day and got a repeating track of Thunder and Rain and put it on the stereo at a low volume to simulate a distant storm.  Since my dog is usually within 10 feet of me, she was easy to distract.  

I stood there, on my tile floor and merely bounced the ball.  Catching the ball repeatedly while the simulated storm sounded in the distance, I had her attention. 

Bounce, Boom, Smile, and finally she caught the ball.  We bounced it a number of times and while she'd pay attention to the distant storm on the boom box, she had most of her attention paid to the fuzzy green ball in her mouth.

When she dropped it I picked it up again and bumped the volume up a little and continued the game.

It didn't happen immediately but over the months of this game, by the time the next real thunderstorm hit, she had began to calm down.

Since Thunderstorms are born here in Florida, we have the six months of the wet season to practice this behavior.  The end result is that in my Mc Nab Dog's mind, she has made the connection.  Close lightning strikes that would startle me still get my girl to barking but hey, they're loud!  Over the weekend we had a particularly close storm that showed on the radar as a big red blob parked overhead.   Lightning strikes were within four blocks, 1/2 mile.   Lettie handled it well, she only barked at one strike then grabbed her favorite soft toy and came over to me for attention.   I had the luxury of calming her down while she wanted her back scratched, something that she normally will not allow. 

I can't figure out why I can only scratch her back when she is fearful, but I can accept that behavior since it is merely odd and not self-destructive. 

When I told my neighbor of this, her blue eyes lit up and said she would try this and was very excited.   I suggested she go back to the volleyball court since there are normally tennis balls that go astray and her Retriever would enjoy the activity.

"Best of luck, I'll see you later!"

After all, her dog needs the help.  Mine as in this picture above has her toys to pick from when the storms start up.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Idiot - Humor

This one definitely has the Velma Seal of Approval! 

I was considering getting a taser recently, sometimes you just need a little non lethal protection.  Violence is something that I am steadfastly against, but a lot of folks out there see things differently.

After considering it and then dismissing the thought, this particular email came in out of the blue from Velma.

I laughed, I considered it a sign, and I'm shockless to this day.

I mean, if I have maced myself three times, this could happen to me...


I actually received this from a man.................


Just try reading this without laughing till you cry!!  Pocket Tazer Stun Gun, a great gift for the wife. A guy who purchased his lovely wife a pocket Tazer for their anniversary submitted this:

Last weekend I saw something at Larry's Pistol & Pawn Shop that sparked my interest. The occasion was our 15th anniversary and I was looking for a little something extra for my wife Julie. What I came across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse- sized tazer. The effects of the tazer were supposed to be short lived, with no long-term adverse affect on your assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to safety....??

WAY TOO COOL! Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home. I loaded two AAA batteries in the darn thing and pushed the button. Nothing!

I was disappointed. I learned, however, that if I pushed the button and pressed it against a metal surface at the same time; I'd get the blue arc of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs.


Unfortunately, I have yet to explain to Julie what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave.

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two triple-A batteries, right? There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target. I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, and tazer in another. The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water. Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries.

All the while I'm looking at this little device measuring about 5" long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference; pretty cute really and (loaded with two itsy, bitsy triple-A batteries) thinking to myself, 'no possible way!'

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I'll do my best...... I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as if to say, 'don't do it stupid,' while I'm reasoning that a one second burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad. I decided to give myself a one second burst just for heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and ...... HOLY MOTHER OF GOD . . WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION . . . WHAT THE HELL!!!

I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, and my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs. The cat was making meowing sounds I had never heard before, clinging to a picture frame hanging above the fireplace, obviously in an attempt to avoid getting slammed by my body flopping all over the living room...

Note: If you ever feel compelled to 'mug' yourself with a tazer, one note of caution: there is no such thing as a one second burst when you zap yourself! You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor.. A three second burst would be considered conservative.


A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. The recliner was upside down and about 8 feet or so from where it originally was... My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching. My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs.. I had no control over the drooling.. Apparently I crapped myself, but was too numb to know for sure and my sense of smell was gone. I saw a faint smoke cloud above my head which I believe came from my hair. I'm still looking for my nuts and I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return!

P.s... My wife, can't stop laughing about my experience, loved the gift, and now regularly threatens me with it!

If you think education is difficult, try being stupid !!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

How Mil-Spec Duct Tape helped me skate 21,000 miles

I have skated 21,000 miles.  I know the distance because I have always skated on measured courses, or measured the courses and counted laps afterwords. 

My workouts started out normally and extended to at one point a 6 hour marathon that took me 52 miles with breaks and water stops.

One of the problems with inline skates, rollerblading to you, is that with all of that sweeping back and forth, your legs will rub against the inside of the boots.  After all of that rubbing, something is going to give.  If you're lucky, the friction will be taken up by the socks, but in my case it started creating pressure sores.  I would get raw spots and eventually blisters on my achilles tendon and lower calf on some of these workouts.

Some of the workouts, everything would fall into place.  The tension on the socks would be just right, the boot would be tight but not too tight, the temperature was cool but not cold, the sun was bright, the breezes were coming in from the South or the North.

Since my trail was an East-West trail from the Art Museum in Philadelphia, along the Schuylkill River, all the way out to Valley Forge and extended to the Perkiomen Creek in Oaks, Pennsylvania.  In that case, the breezes would cool rather than slow me down on my 33 mile workout. 

Three times a week.   Boy! Do I miss that trail!

Needless to say that if I were to enjoy the trail, I would have to do something about the friction.  Remembering Football in High School, I thought to tape up my pressure points and it worked until the warmer weather and sweat conspired to dissolve the surgical tape that I used.  The other problem was that the boots themselves would wear down from all of this friction and I'd end up having to replace the boots.   For Competition Class skates, $300 would be cheap and they could range up to 10 times that price.

I got the brain storm one day that if I was wearing the knock about daily wear skates, why not try to tape the boot instead of the foot? 

Problem was solved, at least for now.  I would get around 100 miles out of a repair and that worked because in Peak Season, I would have to tear down the skates, degrease the bearings and re-lubricate them as well as rotate the wheels.   It would be a weekly ritual every Monday or so since Saturday and Sunday were spent out enjoying the trails in Summer.   It was then that I would touch up the tape.

I was using this standard silver duct tape, the same stuff everyone has seen for 60 years since it was invented in World War II.  The tape would wear out spectacularly sometimes during the workouts but for the most part I could rely on it.

One winter we were driving to Florida for our annual snowbird ritual and stopped off in a Barbecue Joint in Virginia.  Parking next to a workman's pickup truck, we went inside.  Great meal of pulled pork and afterwords when leaving the parking lot, the truck was long gone.  In its place was a large green roll of extremely heavy duty duct tape.  We picked it up and went on our way.

According to this article, I've just found out that it is typically called "Gun Tape" in the Military as well as "Hurricane Tape" and 100MPH Tape"... I never knew that until today!

Thinking that this heavy stuff might be better than the regular silver stuff, when I arrived at our destination, I replaced the gummy silver stuff with this beefy green tape.   It was so tight and so stiff that I thought I could use it to build body panels on cars.

The next day I went to the park and tested it out.  Not only did it hold, it was adding some needed rigidity and the super heavy vinyl was smooth and slick.   It wasn't teflon but it was nice and slick.

This oddball roll of tape was going to do the trick.

Over the years I've used it for both conventional and non conventional uses.  I have a wallet that I made out of the green stuff that is actually stiffer than is reasonable for use since it tends to pop the magnetic clasp open.  I'll work on that, after all who doesn't need a weirdly shaped green wallet?

The only draw back is that it works a bit too well.  I once was skating out from Philadelphia soon after and went past Valley Forge for a rest at the Perkiomen Creek.  Beautiful trail out there, but the surgical tape failed and it wadded up on my heels.  So sitting on a bridge in the sunshine of a Pennsylvania Spring Morning, with the sun in my face, I pulled out the roll of tape and proceeded to tape my hot spots up.  No problem right?  Sitting with one foot in a boot, another barefoot, the tape forming green rectangles on the open skin, I got myself rested and prepared for the next 15 miles back to the Jeep at the City Line.

The trip home was one of those amazing workouts with no hotspots, the conditions were perfect and all was well.

Until I got back to the house.  You see, all that tape had to come off.  I'm a somewhat hairy guy.  Yes, you guessed it, I was less hairy once I pulled the tape off.  I had at that point a much more healthy respect for what women go through on a regular basis. 

Closing my eyes and gripping hard, the next thing I heard was from downstairs, Kevin shouting "ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!?!?".  That one square of green plastic with the adhesive of doom was holding onto the skin as well as it could before I pulled it.   It also had around 50 hairs stuck inside of the adhesive.  One tug and it ripped them off, and none too easily.

From that point forward, In Season, below the crew socks, my ankles and lower calfs would be shaved.  I was NOT going to go through that again!

Ladies?  Why do you put yourself through waxing?  I just don't get it!  On the other hand, no, I will not let you borrow my mil-spec duct tape since I don't know when I'll be passing through that particular parking lot in Virginia again.  HOLY jumping HANNA! That hurt!