Monday, October 31, 2011

After The Rains Come The Blooms

Apparently last night we had a bit of weather.

When I am awakened by the rains, it is rather out of the ordinary.  The National Weather Service said that we had gotten a rain of 4 inches an hour around 3 in the morning.  Total rainfall over 5 inches was most likely, and as always your rainfall will vary.

This morning I went outside for the dog walk and found nothing really wrong.  There were still large ponds of water waiting to percolate through the sand that we call soil here.  It's more like a sieve.  People had their mulch wash away and into the street.  Wilton Drive was covered with the mulch of many businesses along with the plastic cups from the parties at the bars the night before.  There was a tent in front of the bar that served drinks and it had collapsed in the rain and lay there rumpled.

For the most part, while the Northeast suffered massive power outages from downed trees we had very little to mention.  Once you got off of the island that is the majority of Wilton Manors, the story changed.  Many homes were flooded and some cars will be a wreck as a result.   Here at arguably one of the highest point on the island, we were high and dry.


Later I went out to inspect the damage.   One or two new palm fronds got knocked off the tree.  My Baker Christmas Moose figure was knocked off of the table by the pool.   It didn't even shatter.

So with Camera in hand I snapped this picture of the Orchids.  You see, up North I struggled to get Phalaeonopsis "Moth Orchids" to flower until I discovered one micro-climate window that they liked.

Here they grow like weeds.  The maroon flowers I have were from a "seedling" we bought in a garden store on discount.  House plants that produce beauty simply when tacked to a wall and fed ground water on a drip feed irrigation line. 

In case you're following this sort of thing, the storm that was Hurricane Rina broke into three pieces.  The Low Pressure Cell lost all of its rain.  The rain broke into two parts, one went to Belize and had a few drinks on the beach.  The other half of the rain went through the Keys and dumped rain there and last night hit here.  If you are going to get a hurricane, this is the best way to do it.  I'll take five inches of rain and a few blasts of wind over a full category whatever hurricane any day.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Haircut

Not so much Humor as this would be an allegory.   A Story designed to state a point.  Velma had sent me this particular one and I thought it was deep enough to hang onto.  Over the last few weeks, it seemed even more so.

Since I don't have any more Halloween-y posts, I thought this would be a good day to post it.

The Haircut               

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you , I'm doing community service this week.' The cop was happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I can not accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Congressman was very happy and left the shop. The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

So, what are you doing on Halloween?

If you're like everyone out there who procrastinated, you'll need some suggestions on what to dress up as for Halloween.   I'm set, how about you?

A bald man with a wooden leg gets invited to a Halloween Party.  He doesn't know what costume to wear to hide his head and his Leg, So he writes to a costume company to explain his problem.

A few days later he received a parcel with the following note:

Dear Sir,
Please find enclosed a pirate's outfit. The spotted handkerchief will cover your bald head and, with your wooden leg, you will be just right as a pirate.

Very truly yours,
Acme Costume Co.

The man thinks this is terrible because they have emphasized his Wooden Leg and so he writes a letter of complaint. A week goes by and he Receives another parcel and a note, which says:

Dear Sir,
Please find enclosed a monk's costume. The long robe will cover your wooden leg and, with your bald head, you should really look the part.

Very truly yours,
Acme Costume Co.

Now the man is really upset since they have gone from emphasizing his Wooden leg to emphasizing his bald head, so again he writes the Company another nasty letter of complaint.

The next day he gets a small Parcel and a note, which reads:

Dear Sir,
We have TRIED our very BEST
Please find enclosed a bottle of molasses and a bag of crushed nuts. Pour the molasses over your bald head, pat on crushed nuts, stick your Wooden Leg up your tail and go as a caramel apple.

Very truly yours,
Acme Costume Co.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Show Me - Training Dogs for Freethinkers

Not that the picture particularly shows intelligence, I just like it.  You see that dog over there is mine.  She's a McNab Dog which is a breed derived from the Border Collie.  McNabs were bred for intelligence from an intelligent breed.  I got her from a shelter and picked her because she's just a beautiful dog and the picture spoke to me.

However, she is amazingly smart.  Just like the breed says.   I've got no proof she's a purebred McNab other than she looks like one, acts like one, and is smart like one.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

She even has the webbed feet and opera gloves.

That aside, there was a question on the "Mcnab Dogs Are The Best Kind of Dogs" group on Facebook that was asked by one of the admins "Have you taken advantage of your dog's intelligence?". 

While I try not to make this into a Dog Blog, I realized I write a lot about my Lettie simply because she gives me so much to write about.  That was followed by my mind flashing back and forth between the different ways I have taken advantage of her intelligence.  In fact, if you want to see just how much I write about dogs, search one of the labels at the end of the article.  They're all tagged with Border Collie or Mc Nab Dog, or just Dogs.

You see if you have one of the breeds that isn't known for intelligence, you can usually train them to do things but it is the trainer that has to be patient.  After all, the dog is excellent at being a dog, you're trying to teach a dog how to be human-like.  "Sit", "Stay" and "Fetch" are for our convenience, not for theirs.  So it stands to follow that the dog has to see a benefit for doing an action that may be quite unnatural.

My little free-thinking dog had a lot of energy when I got her.  She was running all over the house and making everyone a bit crazy like an adolescent dog would.  Obviously that energy would have to be burned off or she'd turn into a mess barking at things.  If there is one thing she isn't, it's a "Barky Dog" - in fact she's so quiet she's the original StealthDog (TM).   How we got her there was another story.

I realized just how smart she was when I had her in Philadelphia in a three floor house.   She had free run of the house and when she was too wound up, I'd wait for her and play hide and seek with someone who wasn't here.   This went on for a year or three, I'd tell her to go upstairs and find someone and she would.  Up and down the stairs she'd charge convinced there was someone else in the house doing a Perimeter search and return with someone and ears perked or ears down when she didn't find the person.  She therefore Told Me that there was nobody in the house.   Useful if I needed to know if the place was safe or anyone else was home.

Later on, the energy changed and she'd stare when she needed something.  Tell the Human by staring.  Not terribly clear but it began a progression.  You see if you start needing the Alphabet, start by getting past "A". 

"A" was stare at the big dumb human and get his attention.

We took it to "Z" with "Show Me".

It started with my standing up and saying "what is it" or "what do you want" and finally "show me what you want".   "Show me" for short. 

Knowing that she hit pay dirt and that big funny looking guy was going to get up and give her something she wanted, her facial expression changed from relaxed to focused and excited.  Ears would perk and she would lead me to whatever she needed whether it was out, food, water, or play.

Granted it can be a little repetitive.  There isn't a dog that won't ask for more food especially if you realized a long time ago that a lean dog is a long lived dog and "right-sized" her meals.  She is right at 47 pounds, carrys only a little fat, and at 11 years after two strokes or episodes of "seizures" she's only now just beginning to slow.   At 4 in the afternoon, that stare and "Show Me" act will get you led to her food bowl. 

She isn't always about food though.   Once there was a guest in my Florida Room here in Florida.  I suppose that could be redundant.   A black racer snake came into the house.  They have no venom and are terrified of humans, and certainly don't belong inside.   Instead of her shredding it like a toy, she came over to me and got insistent.  "Show Me" led me to the Florida Room and after opening the sliding glass door, the snake stopped beating its head against the glass and went back out into the yard where it belongs.

Show Me is a very useful command.  I've taken it for granted, but it was a stroke of luck that we figured out that we were trying to talk with each other.  She does take advantage of me once in a while, but it is that intelligence that makes it an amazing relationship.

In fact, I swear she reads my body language and knows that I am writing about her right now.  She just came over and ... I guess she decided that I'm done here!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Purple Grass in the Park

The day after going to a lecture on the native species that were planted in the local M.E. Depalma Park, I got to thinking. 

Typical yard plantings are basically hedgerows.  Mowed grass cropped close, hedges and flowers along the property lines.  Depending on where you are, it's going to be the same thing over and again.

The problem with that is that a lawn does not lend itself to the ecology.  They are expensive to upkeep.  Think of all that water you pour onto them, all of the effort you have to put into them to mow, the gas, the pollution, fertilizer that leeches into the water table.

Every so often you have someone who has decided to step away from the lawn and do something different.

Different means that you're on your own.  Many cities won't allow you to simply stop maintaining your yard - with good reason.  On the other hand, slowly converting your yard into a meadow of wildflowers has been done.   Pennsylvania, was a leader in this.  What they did was to select areas to start with to do something different.   They removed the existing grass and planted in those areas a mix of wildflowers that would bloom at different times of the year and reseed the area for next year.  It was so successful that many cities and other states followed suit.  You can now get cans of wildflower mix and scatter them in the hopes that you'll have a yard of blooms instead of weeds.

Mostly that can is native or naturalized species and will do well with minimal care.

All those thoughts came to mind when I walked through the park the next day.  Some of the plantings are so successful that they're encroaching on the sidewalk.   When you have something that is perfect for the conditions, that is what you get. 

In front of my house there's a tree that isn't doing so well.  Parts of it got "freezer burned" last year when the temps hit one degree above freezing.  There were snow flurries spotted in the town North of me, Oakland Park.   It was surrounded by some rather nondescript Liritrope grass that did nothing but look uniformly green.  As it was patchy and some of it was edged out by some more vigorous weeds, I was wondering what a little color would do for that spot.  At that point my mind came back to the grass in the picture.

Yes, native species can be beautiful if not spectacular.  They can also replace something bland with something quite easy to grow that gives a shock of color just where you need it, under an old tree.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is it possible to love a hedge that bites you back?

This plant probably sold the house.

When I first came here, I looked through the front window, through the house, to the back of this hedge.  It is currently a 15 foot tall Bougainvillea that is on a frame behind the Florida Room and this is the day AFTER all of the trimming.

Beautiful plant really, but the problem is you have to care for them.

There's also another wrinkle.  A Tropical Storm that May Or May Not come in for a visit.

Sorry if this turns into a bit of a rant, but there you are sitting listening to me... so pull up a chair and have a "cuppa" and enjoy.  I'm going to serve some cheese later with this wine.

So it's time to get out the hedge clippers.   Rather, it WAS time.  You see, after a solid week of rain, and a week of growing, the four bougainvilleas in the yard needed attention.   The one that is bound up to the fence had grown so tall that it was forming a wind break and leaned against the fence with each gust of wind that came in off the ocean.  Each lean meant that the whole affair creaked menacingly.  If a wind storm hits, we all the sudden have the neighbor's dogs visiting the pool for a midnight dip.

The one on the fence had grown so tall that it was another 10 feet above the power lines in the yard.  It clearly had run amok.

Over the week I went out and got the weed eater and hacked away at its outside thinking I could do it easily as I walked by.  No way pal!  It was fighting me back.  After getting pinched by the thorns on the plant on Monday, I pulled out the big guns.  The Jeans and Long Shirt and Garden Gloves. 

Tuesday that nasty plant was going to meet it's match.

Climbing on a ladder, all 6' 4" of me was another 5 feet above the ground.  I got to the top of the hedge and lopped its head off.   Each time you chop a limb off this plant, it has a nasty habit of falling right on top of you.  The plant may only have limbs as thick as your finger for the most part, but the thorns are twice as long as it is thick.  With each fall down the pole saw of a limb, it was another scrape down your arm and leg.  Pulling the plant out of your clothing meant you ended up with quite a few scrapes.

Trust me if the storm does hit here and kills the plant, beautiful though it is, I wouldn't mind.

After 3 hours of hacking, I have 40 scrapes that drew blood on my two arms.  I counted.   There were another 20 on my legs.  All of this happened through the jeans and shirt I had on. After finishing on that one plant there were three others.  So much was cut down from the first plant near the power wires that I used the electric hedge clippers on the pile as I climbed down to create a place to step.   Coming down another branch went up the pant leg leaving a nice long scratch on the left calf muscle.

Lovely plant but really it is The Plant that ate South Florida. (cue dramatic music)

The last straw of it was when I cut one limb high off of the last plant near the bedroom window.  It got stuck in the cable pulled "cutter" of the pole saw and had to come down.  One tug and I heard the whole thing go CRACK! 

You guessed it, I nearly fell in the pool as I ran from 15 feet worth of Bougainvillea that was careening down almost on top of my head, thorns and all.  One third of the plant was now on the ground complete with a Grown-Man's-Arm thick trunk.

Time to quit.  Leave the nasty plant to it's own devices.  Next year we get a little man in to trim that monster.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ruined your Cream Cheese in the Freezer? Here's the fix

I bought a 3 pound block of Cream Cheese at the wholesale club a couple weeks back.  Being obsessive and compulsive about keeping food fresh, I thought lets cut it down into pieces and freeze that. 


If you do you end up with some of the whey leeching out of the cream cheese and the texture gets lumpy and gritty.   It tastes the same and you can use it to bake a cheese cake, but sometimes you just don't want to eat a sweet confection. 

Besides I bought bagels with the cream cheese.  Yum.

After suffering through some bagels where the cream cheese was gritty and rolled off the bagel like a pile of sand, I decided to try the only suggestion that sounded plausible.   I put the lot into the food processor and pressed "ON".

It worked.   Not only did I get back my cream cheese in a creamy cheese, but the added benefit was that it was now aerated.  The cream cheese was now easier to spread than the original brick.  It only took about 90 seconds.  You may take longer or not - this depends on just how smooth you wanted it.  Mine looked like a rich fluffy white icing when I was through, much better than that crumbly mess that distantly resembled feta cheese.

It turns out that cream cheese will keep for three to six months in the refrigerator.  You really don't need to freeze the block if you actually do eat the stuff.

So keep it in the freezer, or put it in the food processor to pump some air back into it and make it easier to deal with.  The choice is yours.

I know it worked because the food processor is in the dishwasher now getting cleaned as a result. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nostalgia about French Eggs

In last week's rain, I was walking along talking to Kevin with Mrs Dog.   As conversations will, this drifted on a wild tangent and ended up in France.

Specifically on the Isle of Mont St Michel just off the Normandy Coast.

I had the good fortune to go to Mont St Michel when I went with the French Club on a tour of France.  Near the Abbey there, there is a small restaurant.  As Sr. Stanislaus, my French teacher told me, this restaurant had been there for generations and they had a very special way that they made their eggs. 

In this stone walled room there is a giant copper vessel.  It was a bowl in the shape of a wok that was bright copper color from being constantly used, I remember absolutely no tarnish.  Next to the vessel there stood the epitome of a French Chef in crisp white uniform and hat, using an over-sized whisk.  Inside of the vessel was a large pile of foam.  

The foam was their very own special recipe of eggs that was being used to make omelettes.   The idea was that they would whisk this egg mixture as tall as they could get it so it would be light and fluffy and then cook it on top of a buttered skillet.   When served, the outside would be crispy, the inside would be light and fluffy with a light meringue texture of the egg and air froth on the top.

I had never experienced anything quite so light and airy.   With the naivete of a teenager in a one of a kind location in another culture and another country, I enjoyed the meal with big eyes.  After all I was ensured that I would never have it again.

Until Saturday.

You see, I found that in typical American style, I applied Technology to the problem of how to reproduce the recipe and it was not difficult at all.

I put two raw eggs into a tall iced tea glass with about 1 to 2 ounces of milk.   There was nothing special about this.  The milk was 2% milk that had been laying in the refrigerator and just about past the sell-by date, and the eggs were "mass market" that I got from the GFS warehouse store down the block. 

The elbow grease was the important thing.   Actually, the LACK of elbow grease was the important thing.

I have an almost 30 year old hand mixer.  Its one of those things that you can plug into the wall and it is shaped like a wand.  It typically is used to make drinks or to emulsify mixes.  This isn't mine, but it certainly is the same kind of mixer. 

Now you have your eggs and milk in the tall iced tea glass, plunge the mixer into the eggs and mix.   The glass was 22 ounces and I was able to completely aerate the eggs to a full glass of foam. 

Typically when I cook eggs, I use a slow skillet.  It's an electric stove, it goes from LO and 1 through 8 and HI.  Eggs, I put the skillet on the stove and typically I'll cook at 3 so I can get a custardy egg. 

Low and slow, right?   Not with this recipe.

I boosted the heat up to medium at 5 and put a pat of butter on a half of a roll, and put it face down on the skillet.  Repeated that with the second half of the roll.  The French wouldn't approve, but the eggs would be eaten on a roll.  I rubbed the butter onto the skillet to get it greased up, but the byproduct was that I got a nice crispy toasted buttered roll.

Once the roll was done, I gave the egg mixture another shot to pump the air back into it and managed to get 22 ounces of foam.

The trick was that I needed to get the eggs to crust so I poured it all on the hot skillet.  Once it cooked so the bottom of the mix was crusted, I folded it back over itself to get a half moon shape.  The inside would cook completely. 

The results?  I ended up with a Souffle effect.  Exactly like I remembered from that restaurant in St Malo so many years ago.

It's all about the mixer in this case.  I managed to get better than double the volume once it was done.  The inside settled down a little bit as I expected but it all turned out great.  Beyond easy... but if you need the recipe as a recipe:

2 eggs
2 ounces or less milk

That's it.  Cook and good luck!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Actual 911 Calls From Memphis - Humor

Velma had sent this one to me a while back and I'm sharing it today. 

I guess you could say they walk among us, but they can't chew gum at the same time. 

Here are a few actual 911 Emergency Calls to the Memphis Tennessee dispatch for your enjoyment.

Believe it or not... These are Memphis , TN  's REAL 911 Calls!

Dispatcher : 9-1-1 What is your emergency?
Caller: I heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the brown house on the corner.

Dispatcher: Do you have  an address? 
Caller:  No, I have on a blouse and slacks, why? 

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is your emergency?
Caller :  Someone broke into my house and took a bite out of my ham and cheese sandwich .

Dispatcher : Excuse me? 
Caller :  I made a ham and cheese sandwich and left it on the kitchen table and when I came back from the bathroom, someone had taken a bite out of it.

Dispatcher : Was anything else taken? 
Caller :  No, but this has happened to me before and I'm sick and tired of it!

My Personal Favorite!!!

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What's the nature of your emergency?
Caller:    My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart

Dispatcher: Is this her first child? 
Caller:    No, you idiot! This is her husband!

And the winner is.......... 

Dispatcher: 9-1-1
Caller:  Yeah, I'm having trouble breathing. I'm all out of breath.  Darn....I think I'm going to pass out.

Dispatcher: Sir, where are you calling from
Caller:   I'm at a pay phone, North and Foster.

Dispatcher: Sir, an ambulance is on the way.  Are you an asthmatic?
Caller:   No

Dispatcher: What were you doing before you started having trouble breathing?
Caller:   Running from the Police

Saturday, October 22, 2011

One for Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Hanging by One Boob

Physical exams are not fun. Usually they manage to make us feel like a piece of meat no matter what is being poked and prodded, but they're needed.

So next time, Ladies, when you go to the Gynecologist think of this particular story...

Hanging By One Boob

While conducting some business at the Courthouse, I overheard a lady, who had been arrested for assaulting a Mammogram Technician, say, "Your Honor, I'm guilty but.....there were extenuating circumstances."

The female Judge said, sarcastically, "I'd certainly like to hear those extenuating circumstances." I did too soooo…… I listened as the lady told her story.

"Your Honor, I had a mammogram appointment, which I actually kept. I was met by this perky little clipboard carrier smiling from ear to ear and she tilted her head to one side and crooned, "Hi! I'm Belinda! All I need you to do is step into this room right here, strip to the waist, then slip on this gown. Everything clear?"

I'm thinking, "Belinda, try decaf. This ain't rocket science."
Belinda then skipped away to prepare the chamber of horrors.

With the right side finished, Belinda flipped me (literally) to the left and said, "Hmmmm. Can you stand on your tippy toes and lean in a tad so we can get everything?" Fine, I answered.

I was freezing, bruised, and out of air, so why not use the remaining circulation in my legs and neck to finish me off? My body was in a holding pattern that defied gravity (with my other breast wedged between those two 4 inch pieces of square glass) when I heard and felt a zap!

Complete darkness, the power was off!

Belinda said, "Uh-oh, maintenance is working, bet they hit a snag." Then she headed for the door.

"Excuse me! You're not leaving me in this vise alone are you?" I shouted.

Belinda kept going and said, "Oh, you fussy puppy...the door's wide open so you'll have the emergency hall lights. I'll be right back."

Before I could shout NOOOO! She disappeared. And that's exactly how Bubba and Earl, "maintenance men Extraordinaire" found me...half-naked with part of me dangling from the Jaws of Life and the other part smashed between glass!

After exchanging a polite Hi, how's it going type greeting, Bubba (or possibly Earl) asked, to my utter disbelief, if I knew the power was off.

Trying to disguise my hysteria, I replied with as much calmness as possible, "Uh, yes, I did but thanks anyway."

"OK, you take care now" Bubba replied and waved good-bye as though I'd been standing in the line at the grocery store.

Two hours later, Belinda breezes in wearing a sheepish grin.
Making no attempt to suppress her amusement, she said, "Oh I am sooo sorry!
The power came back on and I totally forgot about you! And silly me, I went to lunch. Are we upset?"

And that, Your Honor, is exactly how her head ended up between the clamps...."

The judge could hardly contain her laughter as she said "Case Dismissed".

Friday, October 21, 2011

Here is the spaghetti sauce recipe

Last weekend we were given a gift of tomato slices and couldn't decide how to use them. 

Thanks, Billy and Lisa!

After my munching on a stack of slices, I made a comment: "Hey, Kevin lets make Spaghetti Sauce".

Kevin had found a recipe that was one of the most simple ones I had ever seen.  Yesterday for lunch I had this sauce with some Cheese Tortellini. 

After having Mom's sauce when I was growing up and some rather excellent sauces from my Aunt Betty, I ahve to say this is pretty good.   In fact, it's well worth the try. 

Very simple recipe.  We pureed the tomato slices in the cuisinart, then basically dumped all the ingredients into the big pot (TM) and allowed it to simmer on the stove until it was the required thickness.

It made my house smell like ... well my childhood basically. 

We will have this one again, especially if we find ourselves swimming in slices of tomato.  You can't fight a good and easy vegetarian sauce!

I don't think there are any tricks in this recipe at all, just use good quality ingredients and have fun.  It made around 80 ounces of sauce for the 4 pounds of tomato we had.  Yes, the recipe calls for 5 pounds, and we played with the quantities some. 

Remember, a good spaghetti sauce is an "organic thing".  It will change and grow with you as your tastes change.  Absolutely tweak the recipe to your tastes, but here are the basics:

5 lbs tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp basil
2 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp oregano
1 large can crushed tomatoes with basil
1 onion chopped fine
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hey, who turned off the heat?

After 7 solid days of biblical rain from a Failed Tropical Wave that decided to party in Key West, last night I saw something spectacular over the Eastern skies.

One single star.

Who knows what that star was named or whether there is life orbiting around it or any other star, since there simply is no intelligent life here, but it shone nonetheless.

The promised end of the rain had come. 

It had gotten so bad that the towels that were stacked by the washer after having used them to first dry the dog, then to use them to mop up the rain drops from the dripping shoes by the door, were a full load in the washer itself.

(Extra Rinse: Foam)

We were promised a cold snap that night, dress for it! 

You see, in South Florida, any change of the weather is preceded by the media doing its "Duck and Cover" act.  It's going to change, it's going to be biblical, and you're all going to die.  

Or not.   After all, it's a "Prediction" and you get what you pay for!

As a result I stopped watching local news shortly after I moved here.  All except that pretty black lady on Channel 7 who just had a baby.  I like her, she looks friendly.

This morning, girding my loins for the worst, I stepped out into the predawn gloom.  Or rather tried to as the Roomba had decided it was time to attempt to vacuum up the dog, her leash, and my right sneaker.   Once we got past that circular road block, we stepped out... oh wait, it's nipping at my heels, get back inside you errant electronic nuisance!

Third time is the charm...

Outside we looked up at the sky, dog and man together.

I, in my leather jacket, long pants and turtleneck, I was dressed for Silicon Valley.  I should have been dressed for San Diego.  It was 61F outside.  No wind, no clouds, no RAIN!  The cool hit my face and I thought, this is the coldest it had been since March. 

Never mind, on to the walk. 

Looking East toward the Ocean and the Bahamas, beyond, I noticed that the hidden stars were out in force.  There were more than normal in this pre-dawn hour as all the pollution in the air had been scrubbed out by seven days and seven nights of downpours.   The reality is that here in South Florida, especially this close to the beach, the air is very clear.  My allergies are thankful for that.

Chuckling by my reaction to Miss Henny-Penny's warnings, I realized I was one side of the scale.  Down the block there was the other end of the scale, a man was picking up after his two golden retrievers in a t-shirt and running shorts.  He wasn't cold and neither was I.

Welcome to Fall, South Florida.  Now it's time to open the house and blow out the Summer's lingering scent.  After all, it hit 68!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Careful, or else I'll fix that Roomba

A while back I got a Roomba.  I completely didn't expect to get one, they are usually a fairly expensive piece of technology.

They look like a giant dinner plate and wander around your house picking up after your dog, chasing your dog, getting tangled in electrical cords and stuck in inaccessible places that cause you to have to move your furniture.

I happened to win an Auction of goods that turned out to have the Roomba in it.  Not bad for eight bucks right?

After charging the thing up I pressed the power button and then "clean". 

I could see I needed to train the dog.  She immediately attacked it.  Not doing damage to it other than putting a few bite marks on it, I managed to get her unattached from the growling appliance and set it on its way.  Lettie on the other hand has a healthy distrust of it.

The Roomba seems to have a heat seeking aspect to it.  That particular feature is quite useful if you want to find every other person in the house.   For a while, the dog would hide somewhere, then get bored and crawl into a dog-ball and go to sleep when it was running.   I'd hear a bark of alarm as it found her and tried to vacuum up the source of the fur instead of the dust chihuahuas that roamed in lazy circles under the air intake for the air conditioning for the house that runs 11 months out of the year.   After all, this IS Florida.

We learned to pick up the wires for the laptop, the bath mats, any random animal mats and relocate everything either on top of things or in the Florida room.  The Laundry and the Florida room both are separated from the rest of the house by a step down and the Roomba is smart enough to know not to go there.

I grew fond of the brain dead appliance, it saved me a lot of work.   Get the house "Roombaproofed" and press the button.  It would sweep the tiled floors while I was out walking Lettie, and usually get stuck under something that meant I'd expect to find it turned off, the lights flashing and a Sad Sound playing out of the cheesy little electronic squeaker by the time I got back.

Through time, the batteries wore out and eventually didn't have enough charge to run the thing off the charge base let alone around the house.   Since they built the battery pack to be removable, I was going to eventually fix the thing.  The pack had 12 "sub-c" rechargeable batteries in it so how tough could it be?

When ever you replace batteries in a battery pack, there is a small, if infinitesimal possibility that the new cells may fail.


They could explode or catch fire.  Sure, it COULD happen.  Especially with the new-fangled Lithium Ion Batteries that everybody is fond of using.  These were Old School NiCd batteries.   The worst thing that could happen is that they could leak and put poisonous heavy metals around the house and turn this into a toxic waste site.

Ok, Pollution aside, replacing the individual cells is not particularly difficult especially if you have more time than money and are handy with a soldering iron.

Check and Check.

You also have to live with someone who wants to live dangerously.  After all the probability is somewhat greater than a Lightning Strike that they COULD leak.

Can you tell that it's raining?  Lightning?  Writing Blog Postings in the dark on the 7th day in a row in the rain here...

Well I don't.  Bless his little heart Kevin doesn't want to wear a hazmat suit to go into the living room.  Having heavy metal poisoning is not a pleasant thing even if once in a while I catch him listening to the Rock station here.

So he ordered the replacement "new" battery pack that arrived yesterday. 

I charged the thing up, and the Roomba growled back to life.

It also immediately took a bead on the dog.

Ahh back to normal!  Come on, Lettie, lets go for a walk while I let the Roomba clean up after us!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting Herded in the Rain

At 4am my eyes opened.  The sound of the rain dancing on the hurricane shutters had gotten loud enough to bring me out of a sleep.  Then they closed.

At 5am my eyes opened again.  May as well get up since this time, the rain had been loud enough to awaken a formerly snoring McNab Dog, my own faithful sidekick, Lettie.

After she had decided that she had enough of being petted and leaving a wet spot on my right elbow, I hauled my bulk out of bed and went in search of the computer for a check on the Radar.  It has been raining since Last Thursday, and at this point, it is expected to rain until Thursday Morning.  At least another day and a half of this mess.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind having moss grow on my North side.  Neither does Lettie.


There was a gap in the storms and we were able to get the first 1/2 mile of the walk done when I was shown that there is no such thing as a dumb animal, unless you count a half asleep human.

She had decided that she had enough of walking in the rain and since McNabs were bred for intelligence and self-directed thought and action, my little furry free-thinker started walking toward my left or outside leg and nudging me gently toward the house.  Being in Shorts in October, it was going up to 86 after all, I noticed quickly.

One of the first things you do when you move home is to get your bearings.  While doing that, you should get your dog used to the lay of the land and try to get her lost.  With a McNab, it is impossible.  Same, truth be told, of many of the other intelligent breeds like the Border Collie from which she was derived, as well as the Aussie Cattle Dogs, Blue Heelers, Kelpies, German Shepards, Poodles and the rest of the top ten list.

Teach them well, give them a job, and they will do it.  In fact if you have an intelligent dog, you are missing out on one of the most rewarding aspects of owning a dog, that feeling of partnership you get when a dog learns you and you learn the dog and all is right with the world.

I've said many times that I could get home anywhere on the island as long as the dog is with me.  She knows exactly where home is as long as she has watched where we are going.  In a car it is doubtful although she does seem to recognize certain places nearby.

Being a herding dog, it is innate behavior to know how to guide animals that may be quite a lot larger than they are.  I weigh about 4 1/2 times as much as she does.   A simple damp furry brush against my leg and I made the turn laughing toward the house.  She'd had enough and this weather had given me a sinus headache, it was time to go home.

There is a story about the Border Collies in their natural region of the border lands of England and Scotland.  When they know their job they are best left to it.  A Farmer up there had a guest dog trainer from the US and was showing her around the farm and allowed her to meet the dogs.  It was time for the sheep to come in, so the farmer told the dog "Get to work".  Then the farmer said "Well fancy a cup of tea?  He'll be back around noon".  The dog then went out to the distant parts of the farm, gathered up all of the sheep and brought them back to the farm house, around noon, as planned.

Never underestimate someone, no matter how small or how furry.  You never know what they will do until they're challenged with the task.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What To Do When Gifted By Tomatoes

Sundays may be a day of rest for you, but it isn't for me.

I go about my usual daily schedule every day of the week without fail.  When the weekends hit, if anything, life gets busier. 

Starting early, I am going through web pages applying to jobs.  This lasts generally from breakfast to lunch, and on average it is a full time job.  30 hours of search, 10 hours of actual applications and record keeping, and to add some spice to that soup, there is also the added fun of chatting with prospects and recruiters. 

On top of that, there is the web development, social media, and other consulting I do.  Generally I'm "at it" being "productive" from when I am awakened by a wet nose on my elbow before 6 in the morning and on until some evenings well after dinner.

On a Sunday, I let the rhythms of the house wash over me.  Sometimes I am able to clear a few hours off, walk outside and rub my eyes like a mole coming from a hole, and do "other things" but generally the weekends are terribly busy.  My "weekend" might just be Monday when the numbers of job postings are normally fewer and I can get caught up on job applications.

Our original plans were to make some Salsa Chicken in the crock pot, which meant Kevin was banging away in the kitchen for about 15 minutes and back doing his thing in another quarter of the house.  I noticed he was gone around a half hour after he had left.  I was busy applying to job number four of the day.

When I broke for lunch, I realized I needed to make some food for the week.  Since the Chicken was going to be made up for us and the rather healthy trade in food across the street to Lisa and Billy, I thought it might be nice to warm up the grill.   Making a few burgers is never an option, I made 10 so there would be some left over for the microwave and freezer.

It's October, we're supposed to keep that freezer empty but it never is an option when you know how to make food and realize that it's just as easy to cook for 10 as it is to cook for one, and it certainly is easier to cook for 10 than it is to cook for one 10 times.   It's crammed with all sorts of goodies.

The refrigerator is just as stuffed.  This time though there are two gallons of Orange Juice that Billy had brought across since he had a lot from a party he had helped throw.   Lisa and Billy are two wonderful people that this particular neighborhood in Wilton Manors are blessed by.  Mother and Son, we chat often, share often, and laugh together at the oddities that sometimes work their way through on the ebb and flow of life here.

Having finished lunch, I went back to my research, Kevin kept scarce since he had "work things" to do.  I am busily reading SQL manuals, and UML manuals, and XML manuals and other things that have an alphabet soup of acronyms that do very well to confuse outsiders and keep them well away.  Sometimes they even do that to me.

Needless to say I was in "My Cave" with the headphones on when I heard a passable imitation of Radar O'Reilly from MASH in the next room...

"Incoming!  And its more food!"

Billy was crossing the street with a large aluminum tray of something as well as some smaller trays.  It turns out there was a large tray of tomatoes and two smaller trays of Bread and Butter Pickles

Four Pounds of Tomatoes.  Sliced and ready for hamburgers. 

So what do you do with Four Pounds of Tomatoes Sliced And Ready For Hamburgers?

Four bloody pounds?   You laugh and start snacking.

Then you set about turning your house into a factory.  By the time it was rolling, this house smelled like childhood.

Kevin fixed Billy a drink with that Orange Juice, and one for me, and we set about storing the food.  Luckily I was almost out of pickles and my favorite was Bread and Butter, which was good since now I have the equivalent of a pickle barrel in my refrigerator, replenished from across the street.

I said "Hey lets make spaghetti sauce" and Kevin started pureeing the slices of tomatoes that I hadn't stolen for a snack, Billy and I were sipping a Screwdriver and nibbling on those sweet pickles and generally enjoying ourselves chatting about other people and lowering our I.Q.s.

You see this was a good approximation of what went on in my house while I was growing up, and well into my adulthood.  Mom would have put a big pot of tomato sauce and reduce it down to Spaghetti Sauce by the end of the weekend.  Some weekends it would have started on Friday Night when she'd brown some meat for "bracciola" that would get tossed in to the sauce for stewing all day Saturday with some Italian Sausage.  Served on a torpedo roll from Amoroso's with some extra sharp Provolone and some of that sauce and you had Lunch on Saturday and sometimes on Sunday if you were lucky and managed to get past the Eagle Eye of mom. 

If only I could get some Amoroso Rolls here in Florida.  "Sigh".

She had to keep enough for Sunday Dinner, but she did have to go out and sell some houses.  Couldn't watch every minute could ya Mom?

Any time you have a party you end up in the kitchen, or at least someone did.  This impromptu get together was no exception.  By the time it was going, it was we three, and the dog in the little kitchen preparing sauce, more pickles were brought over from across the street and these Dill Pickles were stored in Ball Jars

How on Earth do you eat so many pickles?  One at a time!  Hopefully with a good bratwurst sandwich.  Billy also brought over a good 20 Brats that will get grilled. 

That sandwich may be a Pizza Burger since the sauce turned out so well much later that night.  Remember this was mid-afternoon, there was still that chicken to finish off.

There was so much food this weekend with the Chicken then later the Sauce and Lisa brought over some excellent Roast Beef that between the two houses we caused a spike in the consumption of electricity in this little corner of our quirky little island.

If anyone was watching they must have thought we were having a pot luck dinner for 10 because of all of the food going back and forth!

So, Billy and Lisa if you're reading this, there's a Ball Jar of Spaghetti Sauce, or Table Gravy as the recipe called it, waiting for you.  I sampled it this morning on a cracker, it turned out excellent.   It also used up a lot of left over vegetable and spices we had laying around.

No I didn't try it on a pickle.  That would be odd.   That roast beef will be had with pickles though.  We like pickles here.  That is a lucky thing.  We have enough pickles for the block.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A list of Puns for Smart People

I knew someone once who said that puns were the lowest form of humor.  I wonder where he is now...
Thanks to Diane Cline for this list!

Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are in Seine

A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

Dijon vu - The same mustard as before.

Practice safe eating - Always use condiments.

Shotgun wedding - A case of wife or death.

A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.

When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.

A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired.

What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead give-away.)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.

She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion .

If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia - the LAN down under.

Every calendar's days are numbered.

A lot of money is tainted - Taint yours and taint mine.

A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

A midget fortune-teller who escapes from prison is a small medium at

Once you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

Acupuncture is a jab well done.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dog Logic

Today I have a number of quotes about dogs.  Just to add one of my own, the next one is on me

If you have ever wondered why you're so loyal to your dog - just spend a full minute looking into their eyes.


The reason a dog has so many friends is that
he wags his tail instead of his tongue.


There is no psychiatrist in the world
like a puppy licking your face.

-Ben Williams

A dog is the only thing on earth
that loves you more than he loves himself.

-Josh Billings

The average dog is a nicer person
than the average person.

-Andy Rooney

Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like
never washed a dog.

- Franklin P. Jones

If your dog is fat,
you aren't getting enough exercise


My dog is worried about the economy
because Alpo is up to $3.00 a can.
that's almost $21.00 in dog money.

-Joe Weinstein

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous,
he will not bite you;
that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

-Mark Twain

Dogs are not our whole life,
but they make our lives whole.

-Roger Caras

If you think dogs can't count,
try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket
and then give him only two of them.

-Phil Pastoret

Friday, October 14, 2011

Iguanas, Whitefly, and hoping for an early Winter

Welcome to South Florida.

We have many migrants to these lands, some welcome, others not.

Have you ever walked back to your porch and stared directly into the red eye ring of an Iguana that was six feet long and munching on your prized Bougainvillea?  I have, and I have written about them frequently.  They're back and running through the yard.

The latest migrant coming in from Miami is something with a tongue twisting name of the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly.  I think they're here already in Wilton Manors and making their way North.

Like most, their numbers will be reduced if we get a good long cold snap.  The previous wave of Whitefly that went after the Ficus turned the hedges into sticks on most plants.  Plenty of spraying cut their numbers back, the cold weeks of February that went as low as 34F/1C did most of them in.

What happens here is we get a cold week in February just like everyone else.  Statistically it is the second week of February.  It won't freeze here but it does have some interesting effects.

It sees flocks of birds of a strange variety flying in to thaw their bones.  They come in from Northern places like Philadelphia, Chicago, Montreal and other cities and clog our roadways.  Yes, the Snowbird.  But the Snowbird's effect is (somewhat) beneficial since they are an engine and boost to our economies.

Despite how they drive on the roads...

In the natural world it tends to empty out some of these exotic species.  Most invasives are not quite used to near freezing weather, so while the natives and those of us who are naturalized like many of us can adapt, these can not.  The last wave of the other kind of Whitefly died off greatly and that allowed the Ficus hedges in Broward county at least to rebound.

It also cut back the Iguana population to where we had them raining out of the trees.   My own Sea Grape tree in the back yard had 12 of them fall out of it when the tree was trimmed back last year.  Some survive and they come back later.

Personally I'm hoping they stay away.  They're like having a vegetarian herd of stray cats running through your yard that shreds anything they like.  It's not a case of share, its a case of they are like a lawn mower.

The latest wave of Rugosa Spiraling Whitefly may completely vanish if we get a cold enough snap but in South Florida, that is questionable. After all, the urban cores of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach are a few degrees warmer than just outside of downtown and the Keys are next door and always warmer.  That may be all they need to survive.

It's a great advertisement for why the Government is completely correct in it's agricultural inspection efforts.  Once in a while one gets by them, but for the most part it would only be worse if they weren't stopping uninspected fruits and vegetables at the ports, and sending back exotic animals to their homeland.

(I hope)

The reason the Iguanas and the other animals exist in the wild here is because we brought them here as pets and released them.  Either accidentally or "on purpose" they got into the ecosystem and won't leave.  Ball Pythons that may look "cool" in a home display aquarium will get loose and end up in the Everglades and eat up native species that are already under stress or endangered.

I shall take you home and put you in a glass prison and call you Monty.  No, thank you.

Parrots released have taken up residence in flocks all over Fort Lauderdale, and their calls are familiar especially when out on walks.  In fact, a Cherry Headed Amazon visited my property the day I went to look at it the first time.  I took That Particular Visit as a good omen but visits by exotics are typically disruptive.  Those same beautiful flocks of Cherry Headed Amazons that dine on the seeds of the Washingtonia Palms in my neighborhood are displacing native flocks of other types of Parrots and birds.

The Whitefly infestation this time won't be quite as bad as the ones that killed off many of the ficus.   They will cover the leaves with a sticky goo that will turn moldy and drip onto everything.  The host trees won't die, but they will look like they should have.  There are sprays that the cities around me are using to "control" these bugs, but that won't get them all and it never does.   Hope for a good winter cold snap like I am.  I'll gripe and grouse like all the other Floridians will but I'll remember to watch so I don't trip over falling Iguanas and be happy that the Whitefly infestation will be somewhat controlled naturally.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adult Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Have you ever played with your food?   Wanted something "Different" but the same?  Didn't want to do anything really wild and ingredient heavy and make a huge mess out of the kitchen?

That was where I was at when I concocted this recipe.

I had gone to GFS and picked up a three pound block of Cream Cheese the weekend before and decided to try something new with it.  Thinking about the tang of the cheese and how it was easy to melt into a recipe, I thought it might be interesting to do something new with it.

I'm limited with what I'm taking in per meal, so I had made the recipe to conform to my "No More Than 600 Calories per meal" rule.  I came just under that assuming the measurements were correct with a count of 590 for everything.  

This also would work well as a very rich feeling side dish.

The ingredients are:

5 ounces Cheese Tortellini
1 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
1 ounce Feta Cheese crumbles
1 1/2 ounces of Cream Cheese

Boil the Cheese Tortellini until tender.  That took 7 minutes.

When done, drain Tortellini and place in mixing bowl.

While still hot, add in Feta and Parmesan Cheese and mix until evenly distributed.
Chunk or slice thinly the Cream Cheese and add onto the top of the noodle and cheese mixture.

Mix all of the ingredients until smooth and the cheese coats all of the Tortellini.

Enjoy.  It took me all of 10 minutes to prepare.  This will serve one hungry man, or work well as a side dish.  The combination of cheeses will make for a tart or tangy dish.  I had it for lunch and I'll have it again.  If you have salt intolerance, look for the low salt varieties of cheese.  I made the recipe with low salt Feta and Parmesan and you wouldn't know the difference.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dog Whistles and Headaches

I was doing what everyone else does when they're bored and armed with an iPhone.  I started looking for free apps.

Dangerous?  Not really, I've found some quite interesting apps on the iPhone.  I use it like an iPod Touch which is to say I don't use it as a phone since the data plan is about $100 a month.  While at home, it's playing one of a number of streams via the internet.  All of which are done using a free app.

While looking at the list of free apps on the app store I found one that got my curiosity up.  It was simply called the "Dog Whistler".   Cute.  It had a plot of grass there, a picture of a dog whistle, and a helpful slider telling you the frequency that you can broadcast a sound at. 

Having been listening to Classical Pops all morning, I thought lets see what it does.  After figuring out that it doesn't play with the headphones on (probably a very good thing) I managed to get it to burst out a tone.  

Or so I thought.   Wait, I can't be that deaf, my hearing isn't THAT bad!  Lets try this again...

Turn the volume up full, try it again... ahhh there we go, I can hear it.  The volume was set for Bach, Mozart, and Resphigi, not "animal testing".

12000 Hz tone blasting out of the little speaker means that it's not particularly loud.

They call it a dog whistle, lets see what the result was on the dog.

Nothing.  Mrs Dog was asleep and not getting up for "animal testing". 

Walk over to the bird cage where Oscar the Parrot was.  Press the picture of the whistle and ... he walks over to the phone and tastes it.

I live with two pets that are so laid back and so used to weird sounds that the dog sleeps through it and the parrot tastes it.  After all, the parrot laughs like me and says hello when he wants something like my peanut butter cracker this morning. 

No, silly bird, mine.  Not for birds!  In fact the little kitchen in this house gets very crowded when I'm making food with critters begging for samples.

I'm playing around with the app thinking I should be able to get at least a reaction from the dog out of it other than boredom and contempt so I drop the frequency.

The result?   Mrs Dog opens her eye.  Not both, just one.  Continues to snore but looks right at me.   Dog on Auto-Pilot Auto-Contempt.  The parrot continues making a mess by eating his kibble.  I know that for a fact because a red orange crumb shoots between the bars of the cage and goes down the back of my polo shirt.

One other thing.

I now have a headache.

The rule is if you want to be cute and use an annoying piece of software be careful.  You may end up with crumbs down your back, a headache and a withering look from your dog.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

M.E. DePalma Park is in Bloom

For 125 miles, from Jupiter in the North, to Florida City in the South, and around 25 miles wide at its widest, South Florida sprawls over some very tightly packed neighborhoods.  Include the Keys and you have another 125 miles although some of those Keys are land only because Flagler put it there building the railroad that was washed away in the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935.

South Florida can be a very unnatural landscape indeed.   Tract homes built in the 1950s and 1960s that are low slung to shelter from those storms, and the newer talller two story buildings that were built to accomodate larger rooms as well as higher profits. 

Imagine trying to sleep on a second or third floor with no air conditioning on a day that is 96F and no electricity to turn a fan.   Foolish.

Homes are build low slung in a hurricane zone for a reason.  Taller buildings are a target.

There are very few places that haven't been paved over in South Florida, at least in Dade and Broward Counties.  Until you get West, the parks are the only place where you see truly natural areas, and those are usually only natural in the margins where the lawn mower can not reach.

On the other hand I consider myself fortunate.  There, in M.E. DePalma Park,  is a small vest pocket area near me that has been planted with native species.  Orange Trees are not native, entertaining and yes, I have one, but not native.  A lawn is an ecological disaster of a "monoculture" that does not exist anywhere but in an artifice.  Yet we have them.

Parks like this one that are planted with native species show that natural can be beautiful places where butterflies dance on the breezes, the scent of blossoms on the air, and the splendor of flowers greet the eye.  They serve to educate us on the beauty that was pushed aside for that 2/1 on a small lot.  They do require care so that the Dragon Flies can dive bomb the Mosquitoes that would take up residence in a controlled landscape.  After all, entropy in a garden left untended would turn anything in the tropics into a riot of Virginia Creeper and stinkweed. 

At this point of the wet season where everything is growing rapidly, the effort needed to rip out all those annoying vines in my own garden is a necessary evil.  The other side of that coin is the beauty of the flowers that are there right now.  Walking by this plot of land results in being dive bombed by Dragon Flies and followed by flocks of butterflies.  Last night all of this happened while there was a double rainbow bright enough to show the seven colors plus the stripe for Ultraviolet.  Needless to say when there was a gap in the clouds, the flowers there gave a riot of color.

This being the wet season, these plants are happiest and thriving.  They are also on irrigation, so it is assumed that without that help in the dry season, most of these plants would end up being annuals.  After all, an empty lot in Broward County Florida tends to be very hit or miss with what can grow there.   Scrub Land unless it is adjacent to a spring or other water source.

Luckily, with a little cropping, the picture can allow the viewer to think they're in a vast tropical garden far away from all instead of standing on the edge of a smaller than usual plot of land planted cheek-to-jowl with these natives.  With a little more maturation, those trees and shrubs may grow tall enough to give a view of nature without interruption.  Until they do, a light crop results in what you see.

I take a retail approach to photography.  Take dozens of shots and see what the computer will give you when zoomed in.  I am fortunate to have scenes to take a picture of.  In this case, the original is now my background on this laptop replacing the bland corporate blue HP thing that came with the machine.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thinkpad too hot? Here's what to do

I've had a series of Thinkpad laptops over the years.  By the time I get them, they are always "surplus" machines, and I can still get my use out of them.  Usually, I get them at 3 years, and I can get at least another three out of them.

If the Thinkpads have a weak spot in them, they always run hot.   At least the ones I have had do.   When I got this, the first thing I did was to "flea dip" the machine.  It was filthy, and encrusted from the last owner's ... funk.  It also required that I blow out the fans to get the dust and grime out of them.

The problem was that getting to use the machine meant getting it hot.  After using the machine for about an hour, I'd look at my leg and realize that it's basically turned into something that resembled a lobster.

I've had this happen with each of the hand-me-down Thinkpads that I owned.

Luckily there is a solution.  Each time I get a new Thinkpad, I end up "testing" the same piece of software and it's called "TPFC".  ThinkPad Fan Control.

I had found this link for the software, and if that does not work, do a search for "Thinkpad Fan Control" and start reading.

The sensors and all the software heavy lifting work has been done for you.  This particular version I am running goes out and takes control of the fans under Windows from the hardware and will keep the speed up.

Sure it is noisier, but you won't end up with sweaty Lobster Legs.

There are other tricks but this is a good one if you're using a Thinkpad.

I found the full discussion for the software at this link.   One thing to concern yourself with is that it is also possible that it just won't work.   They try to keep this up to date, but it is somewhat "experimental".  The only thing I can say is that it "worked for me but it may not work for you".  Luckily Lenovo has kept the same hardware controllers that IBM had on the older models - however that is NOT a guarantee.

The software was a download, unzip and double click on the "setup.exe" file inside the zip.  There is a read me file in there too to help you figure out how to configure it, but I just set the thing to run at full on Manual which was how it was set up when I started it.

Once that is done, you will need to do two things.
1) go to the folder C:\tpfancontrol\ in explorer and run the link "Install Service".
2) TPFanControl from the start menu and drag and drop it into your start up folder.  Now it will run every time you start up the laptop.

You Mileage May Vary - but my legs are not red.

Good luck!  Hope it helps!

Oh one other thing that I found out - if you pop the DVD/CD drive out of the bay and run your machine, airflow is better and it will stay cooler without software.  That *may* be just enough.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

To Maintain A Healthy Level of Insanity - Humor

Velma sent me this one for today.   I got a good chuckle out of it, and have actually done a few of them.   After all, who can possibly resist singing "Kill the Wabbit!" to Wagner's Ring Series?

This is soooo good that I can't resist sending it to you all....I'm going to try it.
To Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity...scroll down"

1. In the Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write ' For Marijuana.
2. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat, with a serious face.
3. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is 'To Go'.
4. Sing Along At The Opera.
5. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend their Party Because You have a headache.
6. When Leaving the Zoo, Start Running towards the Parking lot, Yelling ' Run For Your Lives! They're Loose!'
7. Tell Your Children Over Dinner, 'Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go.'

And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity

Send This E-mail To Someone To Make Them Smile.(Smile hell, I laughed out loud @ #8)
It's Called...THERAPY

Enjoy The Ride, Life is Short!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Last Trip To Costco

Thank Diane Cline for this one.  I was going through my joke emails that I've set aside for the blog, started reading it and laughed.   Since my supply of Purina One is getting low, I may do this next time at BJs Wholesale when I get more!

Now remember, Sharing is caring... Awwww!


Yesterday I was at my local COSTCO buying a large bag of Purina dog chow for my loyal pet, Jake, the Wonder Dog and was in the check-out line when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog.

What did she think I had an elephant? So because I'm retired and have little to do, on impulse I told her that no, I didn't have a dog, I was starting the Purina Diet again. I added that I probably shouldn't, because I ended up in the hospital last time, but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.

I told her that it was essentially a Perfect Diet and that the way that it works is, to load your pants pockets with Purina Nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story.)

Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care, because the dog food poisoned me.  I told her no, I stepped off a curb to sniff a poodle's butt and a car hit me.I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was Laughing so hard.

Costco won't let me shop there anymore.  Better watch what you ask retired people. They have all the time in the World to think of crazy things to say. Forward this (especially) to all your retired will be their laugh for the day!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fun on the way to the Proctology Exam

Discussing bringing someone there this morning, Mrs Dog heard the key words.  Drive.  Car.  Jeep.

Noticing a furry tail vigorously wagging, I asked "Do I have to go inside?".  No?  Great!

Mrs Dog, You're going for A! Ride! in the Jeep!

You see, Jeeps are her favorite "Dog Transportation Device".   She's a Jeeper.   Have you ever seen the bumpersticker that says "It's a Jeep Thing, You Wouldn't Understand"?   It's true.   We'll walk around and if she spots a Jeep she starts wagging her tail and expects to go for A! Ride! in the Jeep!

I look and think "Nice wheels but I have better tires".

So we gathered up all the needed technology and loaded the Jeep.   She was so excited that she thought she'd lift her almost 11 year old self up into the cabin of the little car, but since that's no longer possible, I had to pick her up.  Big 31 inch tires, but no lift so it's still too tall.

The first chore was getting the humans into the car.   Trying to get her into the back seat was tough even though she realizes that having no opposable thumbs and that her legs are too short, I'd have to have that driver's seat.  I walked over to the driver's side, got myself in, and that was when Kevin tried to eject her.  She wasn't doing too well until we dragged her into the back.  It's just safer for her to ride back there. 

We pulled out on to Dixie Highway and headed North as we read the instructions.  No smoking since Midnight the night before.  Check, non smoker household here. 

There were some oddball instructions on there such as "No Dark Colored Nail Polish".

"I wonder why no dark colored nail polish?"
I responded:  "Quality Control.  It's just ugly.  Damn Fashion Police are everywhere these days!"

That lightened the mood.  Most likely it's because if the patient goes into hypoxia, the fingernails are one place you can check for blue skin, although why they allow nail polish at all is a question.

So after a night of weird medicines that make you empty your guts out like a firehose, NOW, and a big bowl of Jello that was his last night's dinner, he's there.

That orange jello is calling to me though.  The Publix Chocolate Ice Cream is calling more, but I'll turn up the music and ignore them both.

I'll annoy her later since I'll probably have to go inside to get him and that means No Dogs Allowed.  Too bad.  She does enjoy A! Ride! in the Jeep! so.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

Ok, so you've heard by now, Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs died from Pancreatic Cancer yesterday.

To put it mildly, he's an interesting character.  A Game Changer.

As Barack Obama said it, “The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.”.

I'm sitting here listening to a classical music station on an old iPhone that someone gave me.  No, I don't use it as a phone, more accurately I use it as a computer.   That in itself is a statement of the power of the phone/platform/computer itself.  I have a Windows laptop on my lap using what was originally derided as a ripoff of the Mac platform.  The current Windows 7 look and feel is very similar to that of the Mac OSX.

I've also got a serious case of Mac Envy.  It happens when you know what the other guy has, but can't "justify" the expense.   That "Apple Distortion Field" hasn't convinced me to run out and spend $1100 for a Mac Book Air, the machine I truly want since a similar Windows PC would cost significantly less and frankly, money is very tight.

The Mac is, however, the machine I recommend to semi-technical users who are open to trying something different and don't want to have to go through the fiddling around that you have to do to get a windows machine to purr.  My own laptop has a software problem that is stopping it from shutting down cleanly - it's an annoyance that some day I'll try to fix and is caused more from my insistence of using the machine like a server or a desktop machine than a laptop tool.

If I can mess up a Windows PC, no matter how slightly, think of the wonderfully weird things a non technical person can get into with just the right virus mix!

The environment that a Mac has is instantly recognizable to someone who is used to using a Windows PC, and comfortable immediately.  There are some things it does better, and lets face it Apple machines were almost always just a better looking box than the directly comparable Windows PC.

To stop the flame wars of Mac Vs PC, the reality is that most of what 90% of us do today are on a browser or could be so the operating system is secondary.  In fact, that sleek looking Mac could run Windows if you decide you don't want that OSX thing running.  

If you did, I'd do more than raise an eyebrow at you and probably cast aspersions at you loudly.

If you were on the fence about being a "Switcher" and going with a Mac, that extra money you spend on the hardware is a good investment.  They tend to run longer with fewer problems these days, and Steve's "departure" won't change that.  The new CEO, Tim Cook, was running things behind the scenes for years so the direction of the company won't stray too quickly.   Besides, you probably won't have that new machine from the mostly white store with a fruit logo ten years from now.

Although you just may.  They are built to last, as are many Windows based laptops from premium product lines.

If you want to know the future of the whole Mac OSX line, take a look at the iPhone's operating system.  All big icons and touch sensitive.  My laptop is a touch sensitive machine, but since it runs Windows, it does it badly.  I hardly ever use the touch screen.   The experience on an iPhone or iPad is amazing.  Windows will be playing catch-up on the next version of Windows 8.

So for now, I'll stick with my old iPhone and continue listening to the Sousa march on my headphones.  Mixed approaches are the best - pick what fits your needs.  After all, that mindset is what built that company from a garage to the largest computer company today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cesar Millan Calls My Dog

Whether you agree or disagree with his methods, there is some truth in the Dog Whisperer shows, and Cesar Millan's method of training dogs.

When I got my dog around 10 years ago, I was clueless.  The dog I had when I was a child, was raised in a very different manner.  Now we're more educated about things like click training or whistle training.  Simply whistle and she will come. 

There is usually some sort of music or TV on in the house.  With something on in the background, it is generally a more pleasant place to be - or so I think.  When you have a dog that is trained to come to you simply by pointing at her and crooking your finger up in the common "come here" hand gesture, there can be side effects.

When I have on a program about dog training and mine is in the next room sleeping, this is predictably going to happen.  Whistling on the TV will get her every time.   Granted with a Mc Nab Dog or many other breeds of Collie and herding dogs, the behavior is almost innate or instinctual.  Of course any loud noise will get an intelligent creature to look and some dogs are more intelligent than some people I know.

So while watching an episode of Dog Whisperer, there was a lot of whistling going on.  This sort of thing eventually taught my dog another thing - TV is Not Real.   Good luck teaching some people that, especially if they're fans of the laughably named "Fox News". 

You see the whistling happened so frequently that after coming to the TV, having a dog lunge at her and bark, and her retreat, there was no pay off.   So whether it was just that there were no cookies involved with her sitting when Cesar told the dog in the center to sit, or she just put two and two together, reality set in.

On the other hand, I'm lucky that she hasn't decided that whistles were "not for me".  I'm able to get her to snap to attention and amble over.  At almost 11 years old, she doesn't run nearly as much as she used to, and her selective deafness is pronounced.

After all, she seems to have decided that an emergency on your or my part, is not necessarily something for her to be all that excited about.  Especially if a good sniff is involved.

Oh and about that sniffing... can we please find a way to limit that?  This morning's mile walk took 45 minutes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 did it right. I need more light.

I promise you this won't be technical.


More "functional" - or the Way things work instead of What You Do To Get them to work.

A while back, I posted a detailed series of articles about the website when they made some changes to their website.  Many of them were picked up by Dice and used, some were not.  My observations were a little flawed since I aggressively block advertisements on websites.  When I'm working to find a Project Management Job, I don't want some blinky or otherwise distracting piece of "graphics" slowing me down.  I've been online long enough to remember what the web was like before they started putting ads in web pages, and for the most part, that is my experience when I surf - I simply do not have time for that when I spend three hours a day looking for work.

Yes, three hours a day, every day, average, every SINGLE day of the year.  Add to that the actual time that I spend applying to jobs and it is well over a full time job of more than 40 hours a week.

I use Dice heavily, and it probably is the first one I hit every morning.

When you go to a page that you use frequently you have times where you have to change your information.  There are ways to protect that sign on, but the most widely known and used ones are called a "Captcha".  They're supposed to captcha the computers and let the humans do their thing.  It usually is text but it's in weird fonts or colors and it makes it hard for a computer to scan. 

It also makes life tough for people.  The ones on Google Sites are the worst.  I have a lot of trouble guessing if "this" blob is a "cl" or a "d" because they're so twisted around.  A quick jump to this link will show you what I'm talking about.  Just look at the picture and I'll wait for you to groan "Oh God Those Things".

Welcome back...

Dice had a system of around six different number strings in pictures so they couldn't be scanned and it was stable - which is to say repetitious.  "MrVies" was one of them.  I have a theory that he was a farmer down the road from the folks out in Iowa that produce this website but I can't really be sure.

I'm assuming they, Dice, knew this and realized something had to be done because it changed.

For the better.

You see instead of putting up an almost unintelligeable blue blob next to another, they went to something simple.

Well crafted questions in ... GASP!... Clear Text.   You know, like you're reading now!  The same size as any other text on your screen that you can make larger or smaller, copy and paste and so forth.

Oooo Text.

Repeat after me... "Oooo Text!"!

Ok so where's the rub?

It isn't with the website this time.  The problem is in what I heard described recently as the "Organic Biological Computing Interface".  Yes, you guessed it, it's that 224 pound slab of semi conscious meat that sits under the computer. 


Yours truly.

Yes, I'm a bit stubborn.  At 645 in the morning when I start, I'm also not completely awake.

Sure, I'm a morning person but even I have my limits.  The breakfast hasn't boosted my blood sugar levels to "awake" nor has the little weak computing chip that I call my brain warmed up enough with some prime home roasted coffee and its subsequent jolt of caffeine induced energy.

In other words, yeah I'm half asleep when I start.

It's also not quite sunrise yet and these homes in Florida are built to shade you from direct sunlight.  At that time of day, you frequently need to turn on the brass Orient Express lamp that you gave Mom back in the 1980s as a present and shed some light on the deal.

So as you are looking at a Clear! Text! question like "Enter the number twenty three thousand five hundred and thirty in digits" you are also running into a problem.  Where the heck is that number five on the darkened keyboard???

It also exposed a little problem, I got a little "ferhuddled" as they say in Lancaster County, PA.  I'd swap digits back and forth while I am going through my morning dyslexia and get it wrong.

Three or four times.

That is until I get off my duff and semi-close the lid to the laptop to shed enough light on the matter.

Score:  Dice.Com 1, Moose 0

Yep, I'm satisfied, and laughing at myself yet again.   I do a lot of that.

So if you're listening here's a little Technical thought for you (You see I lied, but only a little bit, about that functional stuff!).

If the website was done correctly, you should have all these captchas stored in a database.  You should have an internal web page to add new questions as you think them up and delete out old ones that are stale, or just leave them in the database to cycle through.   All in all it's a good solution that you came up with.

And no, I don't really need access to that database. Although... hmmmm think of the power!  WOO HOO!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lizard Is My Co-Pilot - Picture

Lizard is my Co-Pilot
I shall not crash.

He helps me drive down green leafy streets.
He leads me besides still canals;
He restores my trip.
He leads me in the paths of travels
for his name is Lizard.

Even though I drive through the valley of the shadow of palms,
I fear only bad drivers,
For you are with me, your tail and your hunt, they comfort me.

Surely the cleanliness of your lizardry will follow me down the byways;
and you will dwell in my dashboard forever!

Enough of that!  I'm sure it will tick some fool off.

Apparently, my Jeep has been moved into.  I'm used to having these little things slip into my house.  They are never a problem, you can't get bit if there are no real teeth.   They are entertaining to watch, and beneficial since they eat all those insects that love to bite me.

This particular lizard is in my Jeep.  The Jeep is in front of the house, all the windows are closed.  It sits in my carport, and apparently I've given it shelter.  The little thing is on my back seat.  It rode with me the other day to a restaurant and back and is none the worse for wear.

Jeep Wrangler Soft Tops aren't exactly water tight.  Sure, you're shielded from the elements, but there are gaps in the roof where geckos and lizards can get in.  Hopefully my little riding partner is smart enough to get out of there when he has eaten all the insects that decided to move in.

Boy I hope there aren't any insects living in there...