Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How I Made Floofy White Icing For A Happy Freaking Birthday

Ok first off, here's the recipe for a standard three layer cake:

8 Cups Confectioners Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Shortening
4 Tablespoons Softened Unsalted Butter
1 Teaspoon Salt
2/3 Cup Milk (I use 2% usually)
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract

Add the milk a little at a time for consistency to the other ingredients in a large mixer and mix well.

Here's what I ended up doing -

First I ALWAYS mix the icing until it gets a lot of air into it.  It will actually get a sheen like a metallic paint.  Gives a lot more volume that way and it never fails.

Second make sure your butter is soft.  Room temp is best.

Third make sure you have all your ingredients before you start.  

Why did I say that?

We just got a pantry cabinet from Ikea.  Put the thing together.  I didn't know that the top part of the cabinet was the new, official home for the mixer parts.  It took me 15 minutes of checking the "Logical Places" for the parts like under the sink or under the oven where they had been for years.  Of course I did watch as they got moved to the cabinet, I really did... it just didn't register that I would ever really find a need for the blasted things again!  Out of sight out of mind!  Cue swearing while I actually find the mixer parts.

I added the 8 cups of confectioner's sugar to the mixer.  That's 2 pounds of sugar!  No wonder why people save a sugar coated frosted cake for a special occasion!

Add all the ingredients save the milk to the mixer.

Go to the refrigerator and realize that I had saved only a wee bit of the stuff for today.  Oops.  It turned out that I had a little more than an ounce of milk in the bottom of the container - 1/6 of a cup or 1/4 of what I needed.  

Cue some more swearing.

Realizing that I had about a pint of whipping cream in the refrigerator, I grabbed the carton gave it a sniff.  Ahhh! Still fresh! Since Heavy Whipping Cream is really just thick milk, that 2/3 cup milk ended up being a substitute.  1/6 cup milk, 1/6 cup water, 2/6 cup heavy whipping cream for a total of 2/3 cup of "milk".

All swearing aside, it turned out amazingly light and fluffy.  I would even call it Floofy.  You can add cocoa powder to get chocolate icing, but that can be tricky and you may have to add more milk to get the icing back to it's floofy best.  I've got those two containers full of icing that will go on the birthday cake once I get that made.

Since the milk just got delivered by a surprise visit from Kevin at lunch I really have to get started.  I've got three layers to bake, little circles of wax paper to cut and baking fun for this afternoon!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Kevin

How would you like to have a dinner outside in a tropical garden next to a waterfall?

Would you mind if the waterfall was a "prefab" and from a fountain? 

You probably shouldn't mind since the place is absolutely gorgeous and lush and unlike anywhere else I have ever been before.

This weekend we celebrated Kevin's Birthday.  It was another trip to Mai Kai, which is a Polynesian restaurant near me over in Fort Lauderdale.  It's about 3 miles from the house and a world away.  They have their shows, and I have never seen them except by passing through the building on my way in or out.  Being as tall as I am, the building's decor which can best be described as below decks meets Polynesian kitsch, I walk through ducking my head through the beauty of the indoor waterfalls and out to the Lanai. 

The Lanai is open to the elements with a bamboo railing and palm frond accented roof.  The view we get is the one you see in this picture, and luckily for us they seem to seat us at the same table each time we go.  Coincidence of our habit of liking an early dinner and getting in just as they open.

I had the barbecued pork tenderloin that was cooked in the Chinese Oven.  It's a method that seems to be as if you have skewered your main course on a metal pike then hung it in a chimney.   The pork comes out amazingly tender, unlike anywhere else that I have ever had.

Have a "Barrel of Rum" to drink with, but don't drive home.  It actually lasted me through the meal and well into the evening after we had dessert of Chocolate Mousse Cake.

Redundant, yes I know,  someone with the long time nickname of Moose having a Mousse cake and so forth.  It was excellent and absolutely worth the calories.

Thank you Kevin for allowing me to share your uninterrupted company at the restaurant.  I truly enjoyed it.

One more week to the 20th Anniversary.  Wow!  I had better start baking!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

$5.37 - Humor

Lately Velma has been sharing quite a few jokes, some I can use here, others I pass along to selected friends.   You know, keeping it safe for work and all that.  I do have to wonder what my dear friend is trying to tell me though with all these old fogie jokes?  I'll have to get my reading glasses out and see what she is saying here. 


Age gracefully it's the only acceptable way out........ 
Can any of you identify with this?  CERTAINLY NOT ME ....
If you have seen it before, it is still good for a chuckle.

Stuff like this can happen to anyone with a few years on their bones.

$5.37! That's what the kid behind the counter at Taco Bell said to me. I dug into my pocket and pulled out some lint and two dimes and something that used to be a Jolly Rancher. Having already handed the kid a  five-spot, I started to head back out to the truck to grab some change  when the kid with the Elmo hairdo said the hardest thing anyone has ever  said to me. He said, "It's OK. I'll just give you the senior citizen discount."

I turned to see who he was talking to and then heard the sound of change hitting the counter in front of me. "Only $4.68" he said cheerfully.  I stood there stupefied. I am 56, not even 60 yet? A mere child! Senior citizen? I took my burrito and walked out to the truck wondering what was wrong with Elmo. Was he blind? As I sat in the truck, my blood began to boil. Old? Me?

I'll show him, I thought. I opened the door and headed back inside. I strode to the counter, and there he was waiting with a smile.  Before I could say a word, he held up something and jingled it in front of me, like I could be that easily distracted! What am I now? A toddler?

"Dude! Can't get too far without your car keys, eh?" I stared with utter disdain at the keys. I  began to rationalize in my mind!   "Leaving keys behind hardly makes a man elderly! It could happen to anyone!"  I turned and headed back to the truck. I slipped the key into the ignition, but it wouldn't turn. What now? I checked my keys  and tried another. Still nothing.  That's when I noticed the purple beads hanging from my rear view mirror. I had no purple beads hanging from my rear view mirror.

Then, a few other objects came into focus: The car seat in the back seat. Happy Meal toys spread all over the floorboard. A partially eaten doughnut on the dashboard.  Faster than you can say ginkgo biloba, I flew out of the alien vehicle.

Moments later I was speeding out of the parking lot, relieved to finally be leaving this nightmarish stop in my  life. That is when I felt it, deep in the bowels of my stomach: hunger! My stomach growled and churned, and I reached to grab my burrito, only it was nowhere to be found.  I swung the truck around, gathered my courage,  and strode back into the restaurant one final time. There Elmo stood, draped in youth and black nail polish. All I could think was, "What is the world coming to?"

All I could say was, "Did I leave my food and drink in here"? At this point I was ready to ask a Boy Scout to help me back to my vehicle, and then go straight home and apply for Social Security benefits.  Elmo had no clue. I  walked back out to the truck, and suddenly a young lad came up and tugged  on my jeans to get my attention. He was holding up a drink and a bag. His mother explained, "I think you left this in my truck by mistake."

I took the food and drink from the little boy and sheepishly apologized.  He offered these kind words:  "It's OK. My grandfather does stuff like this all the time."  All of this is to explain how I got a ticket doing 85 in a 40 mph zone. Yessss, I was racing some punk kid in a Toyota Prius. And no, I told the officer, I'm not too old to be driving this fast.

As I walked in the front door, my wife met me halfway down the hall. I handed her a bag of cold food and a $300 speeding ticket. I promptly sat in my rocking chair and covered up my legs with a blankey.  The good news was I had successfully found my way home.

Pass this on to the other "old fogies" on your list (so they can have fun laughing, too).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Five Minute Management Course - Humor

Velma came through for us today with some management humor.  Yeah, you know those dry and sometimes humorless people with offices that have doors and usually a window?   Well here's how they tend to view the world.  

Or so they say...

5 Minute Management Course

Lesson 1:

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.

The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.

When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.

Before she says a word, Bob says, 'I'll give you $800 to drop that towel.'

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.

The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.

When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, 'Who was that?'

'It was Bob the next door neighbor,' she replies.

'Great,' the husband says, 'did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?'

Moral of the story:

If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2:

A priest offered a Nun a lift.

She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.

The priest nearly had an accident.

After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.

The nun said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.
The nun once again said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest apologized 'Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.'

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.

On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, 'Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.'

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3:

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.

They rub it and a Genie comes out.
The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.'
'Me first! Me first!' says the admin clerk. 'I want to be in the  Bahamas  , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.'
Puff! She's gone.

'Me next! Me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.'

Puff! He's gone.

'OK, you're up,' the Genie says to the manager.
The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch..'

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say..

Lesson 4

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.

A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'
The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Lesson 5

A turkey was chatting with a bull.

'I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree' sighed the turkey, 'but I haven't got the energy.'
'Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?' replied the bull.
They're packed with nutrients.'

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.

He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story:
Bull S___ might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there..

Lesson 6

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field.

While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was.

The dung was actually thawing him out!

He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.
A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.

Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:
(1) Not everyone who messes on you is your enemy.

(2) Not everyone who gets you out of mess is your friend.

(3) And when you're in deep mess, it's best to keep your mouth shut!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Co-evolution and the Coffee Roaster

I've been roasting at home for around 2 years, probably longer.  I didn't realize that I was in a loop when I was doing it.

What I mean is that like any "process", your results will be fine tuned by the equipment that you use to make the "product".

How's that for a lot of hooey?

Ok, it's complex but the idea is that what you use to do something is as important as is how you do it.

I've skated 21,000 miles on inline skates.  Easily 10,000 of them were done on a very low end pair of skates.  One of my friends on the team said, you've got great form but those things are holding you back - pointing at my skate boots.  The next time I had a little extra money I treated myself to a new set of skates complete with shiny racing frame and five wheels instead of the four that are usually on a pair of skates.   My speed increased by about 10 percent.  I had tuned myself to skate with the old skates with the wobbly wheels and the breaks that would stop you on a dime.

Eventually I adjusted to the new race skates and tried the old wobblies back and realized I had moved on.

With the coffee, I have a popcorn popper that I trained myself how to get the perfect results that I wanted.   Perfect for me that is.  You may think it's too light or too dark, and I know how to get just those results too.  Since I'm roasting for myself, I'm going for the results I like.  Medium to light roast, lots of flavor, low acid and low bitterness.   Plug in the popcorn popper, the fabled "Poppery II", fill with 1/2 cup of green beans and wait 6 minutes before checking.   It's right almost 99% of the time.  Sometimes I let it go another 15 or 30 seconds depending on how I felt about the last batch.

Today's results effect tomorrow's actions.   It's a "Feedback Loop".

When Emilio came over earlier this week he had a brand spanking no name air popper.  Casually looking at it after he said "is this the right kind?" and "can it be used?" I said "Sure..." and we set to work.

Two problems showed their ugly heads. 

First the hopper was smaller.   I had poured the beans in there using a measured 1/2 cup and thought no big deal, they don't expand much.

No they really do expand and by the end of the roast some of the beans were flopping over the end of the bin.

Second, there wasn't as much air coming through the machinery.  The fan was "weaker".  What that meant is that the beans that were in there were not spinning around.  They needed to be shook around until they had evaporated some of the water. 

Roasting is a process of caramelization and deyhdration so the beans got lighter.   If you doubt me, next time you roast a chicken, weigh it once you're done and you'll see that it is lighter.

Yes, it was a usable popper, but we had to adjust the process.  

First step was to cut back the amount of time.  There was the same amount of heat, but it was not moving past the beans so it resulted in a faster roast.

Second, cut back the amount of beans.   That allowed the air to flow freely.  He needed to only use 1/2 of what I was using in my popper, 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of beans.

Third watch the time closely.  Mine takes 6 to 7 minutes to roast beans.   The first batch we did I bailed on at second crack which was at only 5 minutes.  

Second crack is what Starbucks APPARENTLY roasts to get the their distinctive flavor.   It's too strong FOR ME, and that taste is what gave them the nick name of "Burnt Beans".  I roast just before that at what has been called a City or a City Plus roast.  

Next batch was much better, the third was where I typically roasted to.  2 ounces at 3 minutes 30 seconds.

Bottom line is introduce change to the means of production, introduce change to the process to get back to the same results. 

It's just like anything else in life, be open to change, you'll have a better time with your results - or your coffee.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why does the Old Dog Bark?

Yesterday I was holding a class of sorts.  Emilio came by and wanted me to show him how to roast coffee and in the middle of all of that he had a call he had to take.

We were out back on the Tiki Bar by the pool so to give him a little privacy I wandered off toward the pool.  It's January, I'm in Florida, I'm also in Cargo Shorts and a Polo Shirt.  I was curious how warm the water was and whether it was too cold to paddle around in. 

Bending over I picked up the thermometer from the pool and squinted through the faded and fogged up plastic when I heard it.  BarkBarkBark Bark!  With the scrabble of dog paws, my own little girl was charging toward her long time enemy.

Yes the pool thermometer.

You see she'll leave it alone for the most part when she's outside watering the lawn.  Open the back door and she'll come charging out or ambling out - it all depends on whether she thinks something is out there to herd.  This particular day she went through all that drama and was back under the roof by the little tiki bar snuffling around the foundation of the house looking for whatever it was that left it's scent oh so many months back.

It was an Opossum that got trapped there and paid the ultimate price.   She smells it and checks the spot  months after we had cleaned it up to our own standards and sent the carcass off to the trash to steam plant. 

Dogs live in a different space than we do.  I think that's why we keep them nearby.

In this case she's decided that it was time to attack that pool thermometer with the little plastic duck that helps to keep it from sinking to the bottom. 

Why it was a shock was she's been acting her age.   She's over 11 years old now, and slowing down.  There have been two episodes of seizures each of which she has come back from in flying colors.   Her hearing is selective.  I tell people that she's deaf.  It's just easier.   In fact if I want her attention, I call to her and realize that she's not ignoring me, she's just deaf.   Hard of hearing really, but deaf is easier to say.   So very gently flick one or two hairs on her haunches and she realizes her attention is needed.

Approaching the duck she was barking like mad.   Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the Noon Day Sun to bark at pool thermometers.   She wrestled with it, now that I was bobbing it up and down with a flick of a wrist and I had a visit with a younger version of my longtime friend.   The energy was there, the intensity was literally radiating off her with a sheen.

I realized Emilio had been on the phone so I moved to the back of the pool to drop the duck back in and she followed wanting to kill it back into it's component parts of glass and glycerine, and send the plastic back to it's origin in the dinosaurs that died back in the big meteorite some 65 million years before.

Sometimes you just let it happen.  Emilio was off the phone at this point and laughing at the spectacle so I let her have her fun for a bit more.  Enjoy a visit with one of the good moments, let her have her place in the sun and bark at a plastic toy like a fool.

It was a good day to be an old dog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Now about an Egg Roll? No, the other kind! - Recipe

Yes, the other kind.

As in slice down the middle and have a sandwich with a sunshine yellow ball of soft carbohydrate goodness.

I guess I may as well play with my food while I am at it.  I've been having problems with finding just the right roll, and I realize that bread is pretty common, but excellent bread is rare.  There are a few very good shops here in South Florida, one on Commercial comes to mind called the German Bread Haus, but that means I'd have to get in the car and so forth. 

Like I said basic and good.

I had trouble finding a decent Egg Bagel at the same time.  Ok, it's not the Bagel Place in Cherry Hill with their chewy goodness - and I understand it isn't even what I remember it from 2006 and has been sold, but I have been having Lenders Frozen Egg Bagels until Publix stopped carrying them in the chain at least in this Region.  Whatever you define a region as.

I also wanted a "right sized" bagel - 150 calories plus or minus 10, not the more generous ones you find when you're out.  Look at the bag on those - 320 calories.  No wonder why people are fat.

So bake them yourself.   I managed to size them correctly and hit right at 150 calories.  

The ingredients are at the bottom but I did manage to tweak the recipe to get them this way.

First, I wanted rolls, not bagels in this case.  No Egg Wash for Shiny Crust.  Personal preference.  If you want a shiny crust, brush them with egg whites.  Separate an egg and brush with pastry brush.  I didn't really want that this time.  Maybe next time.  We'll see how the mood is.

Second, I was going for a set size.  Sandwich sized, not a loaf.  I cut the dough into 9 equal parts.  Weigh the resultant dough, then get the calculator out and divide by 9.  Works best when you use Metric since for some weird coincidence these rolls were exactly 78 grams.   The dough ran at 702 grams.  Just easier to do the math that way since that works out to be 2.78 ounces per roll.

I didn't think so.  Use a calculator it's easier.

Third I wanted big poofy fluffy rolls.  I added extra Yeast.   USE 2 TABLESPOONS OF DRY YEAST.

Fourth I allowed 4 hours to rise.  Just felt better that way and I tossed them in the oven when they looked happy.  I could have stopped earlier and had denser rolls and they just didn't seem to be getting bigger at that time.

The Recipe: 


3/4 Cup Warm Water
1 Package Yeast - I used 2 Tablespoons and got what you see above.
2 Tablespoons plus 1 Teaspoon of Sugar
2 1/2 Cups of High Gluten Flour
1 Tablespoon light tasting Oil.   I used Safflower for heart healthy.
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Egg

Process - Pretty Simple really...
  1. Add ingredients as listed.  
  2. Mix until you get a nice dough.  
  3. Bake at 450 for 8 to 12 or until done like you like them.

I used the Bread Machine to mix the dough but you could just as easily use a mixer with a dough hook or if you're really feeling like a workout, in a big bowl.   It made for a sticky dough.

Bake at 450 for 8 to 12 minutes.   The picture was the first batch baked at 450F at 11 minutes and my oven is notoriously inaccurate.  The next batch was at 9 minutes, the third was at 8 and I couldn't tell the difference in the result.  

If your oven is accurate let me know, I'll come over and use yours.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Have a Cinnamon Raisin Roll - Recipe and Picture

Hungry yet?  These turned out great.  It's probably the second recipe I used when I started making bread in the first bread machine.

The recipe works in a Bread Machine or if you want to do it with a dough hook, I've done that too.

I baked the dough in the oven for 8 minutes at 450.   Why some look darker than the others... your guess is as good as mine, they were all baked at the same time at the same temperature.  Spooky!

But the rolls turned out great, and they're wonderful with Peanut Butter and Jelly or toasted with Butter.

Here you go... first the ingredients for a 2 1/2 pound batch directly from the book.  

Water - 1 cup plus 5 TBL
Lemon Juice - 1 tsp
Oil - 6 TBL
Brown Sugar - 1/4 Cup
Salt - 2 tsp
Dry Milk - 2 TBL
Bread flour - 5 Cup
Raisins - 2/3 Cup
Active Dry Yeast - 3 3/4 tsp
*cinnamon - 1TBL
*walnuts - 2/3 Cup

* Cinnamon it says add at the beep.  That machine allowed you to add ingredients after the first rise.  When I made this bread, I allowed it to mix for 15 minutes, then add the cinnamon.   I then restarted the machine on dough cycle and allowed it to run for 30 minutes.   I also let it rise for 4 hours.

Also cooking with Cinnamon in the dough with yeast is supposed to cause the yeast to work less effectively.  I actually doubled the yeast for just that reason and got great results.

* Add the Walnuts at the same time as the Cinnamon.  I have used Pecans because they're easier for me to find plus they have a much stronger flavor.  It's your choice!

I use High Gluten flour for the "Bread Flour".  You'll get much better results that way.

For a 1 1/2 pound loaf...

Water - 1 Cup and 2 TBL
Lemon Juice - 1tsp
Oil - 4tsp
Brown Sugar - 2 1/2 TBL
Salt - 1 1/2 tsp
Dry Milk - 1 1/2 TBL
Bread Flour - 3 Cup
Raisins - 1/2 Cup
Active Dry Yeast - 2 1/2 Tsp
Cinnamon -3/4 tsp
Walnuts - 1/2 cup - Optional

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Visitors to the Tiki Bar - Picture

When I moved into this house, I knew that I would be changing the way I lived.  Summer's actually cooler in Wilton Manors, Florida than it is in Philadelphia on average.  At least it can be in August.  There's a breeze off the ocean and while 95 degrees is hot especially with the sun almost directly overhead, it feels cooler than it actually is.

Or that's my view of the world.

The house came with a pool, something I'm still on the fence over.  It also came with a Tiki Bar.  We've resisted putting kitchy grass skirts around the bar but there are lights behind it.  Bright Holiday Lights to make things Cheery and a few homey touches.

You learn to blur the view between home and outside here.   On a nice day, I've been known to take my work outside and park my feet up on the railing while editing videos or working on a web page.

It's such a nice place to work that I've noticed that my visitors are coming back.  I've got these ring neck doves visiting me in the morning.  It's almost like they are waiting for a drink.   My schedule is that at lunch time, I'm back in the kitchen and that interrupts them.  Their good eyesight and hearing means that they hear this big moose rattling around the kitchen and grumbling when the midday meal doesn't quite turn out right.

After all, pull the wrong bowl out of the cabinet and you end up with a crap fall of epic proportions. 

Plus it's outdoors.  I'll let the little grey birds perch on my bar.   They do seem to like it there and if Oscar the Parrot is visible there, they pay him a visit through the window. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Moose In Maine

You knew a blog titled Ramblingmoose.com would eventually have this one.  I can't vouch for how true it is but I do like the pic and the story.

This actually happened with some guys from Maine .

They dressed the truck up with the guy dummy spread eagle on the roof of the truck.
The driver and passengers put on Moose Heads.
Down the Maine Toll interstate they went causing about 16 accidents.

They went to jail.

(some cops have no sense of humor)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

First Day On The Job - Humor

Thanks to Kevin I have this little golden nugget of a joke.   Just be careful next time you change jobs, you may be surprised what comes up!

A friend was in a minicab when he leaned over and gently tapped the driver on the shoulder.

The cabbie screamed, lost control of the car, drove over the kerb and stopped inches from a large plate glass window.

The driver said "I'm so sorry but you scared me".

My shaken friend apologised.

The driver replied "It's entirely my fault. Today is my first day driving a cab -- for the previous 25 years I drove a hearse!"

Friday, January 20, 2012

What to do with your Old Hard Drive

Simple, put it in a box and use it.

I've been doing this for years.  You see, for years I've been recycling computers by going through them and setting them back up and passing on to someone who needs them.   Sometimes I hear of a story of someone tossing their old machines and keeping the hard drive in a closet. 

Because it's safe.

No, not really.   You see data is "forever".   I've dropped memory sticks in the pool and after drying them off (and out thoroughly) they work.  Sometimes.   Sometimes not. 

But that old hard drive on a shelf?   You can still read the data. 

So today I was going through the normal morning digital chaff and found a deal for an external drive case.  It's a little metal box into which you plug your old hard drive.  Once you assemble the stuff (two screws typically for a laptop, a few more for a desktop drive) you can plug that drive into your new computer and get the data off of it or run a program to "securely delete" the data.

Oh sure, the government and some police agencies know how to recover some of that but for the most part, the yahoo that ends up with that drive next won't know how. 

Here is one article from an old ZDNet posting from 2007 that goes into all that secure delete deeper.  If you're really curious and don't want to fiddle around with weird command line stuff, there are other programs that will do a "Secure Delete", just search your favorite search engine for the term.

The deal is that you now have what is in essence a big fat floppy drive that runs really fast.   What you do with it then is up to you, but if you've gone through and formatted the drive, and have an empty drive, you can treat it as a place to store a copy of your "most important data". 

You know, things like tax records, receipts, recipes, pictures of the dog, a copy of the check you sent to me because I'm such a good guy... that kind of stuff.

Only kidding about that dog thing.

The deal is that the hard drive in your desktop machine is about the size of a paperback book.  A thick one, but a paperback book.  The hard drive in your laptop is even smaller, thinner than a cigarette pack and probably about 1/4 as thick.   You can store these things with data in them for years in a secure place like a safe deposit box or inside grandma's mattress and not worry about all of that stuff getting lost or someone getting hold of it by trash picking it out of your bins.

Don't throw out electronics if you can, after all it will just pollute, but you do get the idea.

What got me thinking was that I have a stack of old laptop drives in the back room, all 40GB or larger.   A memory stick of 32GB is around $32, the case cost me $4 each and I have the drives.   May as well use them.

Just make sure that when you pull the cables off the old drives you look at the connectors.  Pins mean IDE, Slot connectors (typically grey) mean SATA.   Buy the right type and it's pretty foolproof.

You'll sleep better knowing that there isn't some wierdo looking over your old data.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Modeling Tobacco 1966

Yes, at one point, as a child, I was a model.

But gees, Dad why did it have to be for Tobacco?  YUCK!

I did like the pic, and I'm glad my parents saved the paper cutting.  When I got the scanner going the other day, it was one of the first pictures I grabbed for scanning.  I'm planning on restoring this to its original black and white glory, but for now, this kid's going to stand there staring at a pipe.

I guess if I understood what all that meant, the career might have gone longer.   It petered out shortly after this.  There were more interesting things to do than stand in a store staring at something while someone got out the camera and did his work. 

If anything lasted from that particular page in my life, it's an appreciation of photography and the work that is involved in getting the picture.  Take one, shift, refocus, play with lighting, set up the model again, tell the model that he can't have a glass of water or a seat. 

It might be why I tend to take pictures of nature.  You get it or you don't.  Still life is easier, you just have to wait for the wind to die down. 

I still can't stand tobacco.  Dad used to smoke these cigars in the house, partly for his own enjoyment, and partly for the privacy.   We'd come out of our room and the living room in the split level tract home had a haze right around 3 feet off the ground that would drive us back into the room.  

Oh and Mom's Cigarettes were even worse.  Don't get me started on those!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


There's a protest in the US about this badly written law called SOPA.  If you don't know what it is, there are plenty of websites that will tell you about it and why it is bad for society both in the US and in the world.

Here is a fairly well written article from a tech website that puts it all into a somewhat readable for the average person perspective.

Simply put it says if you own "property" on the internet, you have the right to have websites that are using it to be closed.  You do that by demanding that the search engines block that site, internet providers block the site and so on and so forth.

You send a letter to a search engine saying block this, and they're expected to comply.
You send a letter to Paypal or any other online banking system and they are expected to block you from ever receiving any more funds.

And so on...

If you get on this black list, the person or company who put you there is immune from prosecution.  This is whether it is done correctly or not.

You're blocked.  Period.  You have no recourse.  Bye!  You are now digitally dead.

Luckily President Obama has said (in this Forbes Article) he does not support the law and will not sign it.  That will stop it.  This Time.  It will be back.

So how do we stop this sort of thing from happening in the future in this country?

Maybe the motto of the time shouldn't be Tea or Occupy but Throw the Bums Out, selectively.

Anyone who is in favor of this sort of legislative garbage is clearly against the rights of the individual.  It's up to you whether you support that or not.  After all, there are still elections in this country and November is coming soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Spending time with Dad's Picture

Over the weekend I did the impossible.  I fixed a printer.

Father John of New Divine Mercy Church had a printer that got into a jam.  Literally.  In fact, HP Printers have a nasty habit of doing that. 

If you have an HP Printer be exceedingly careful with clearing a paper jam because even the slightest misalignment can kill the device for you. 

We don't know if John's printer was broke because of that, but the flimsy thing was in a permanent jam state and refused to even go past that into "Limp Along Mode".  In fact many of these devices ended up in the dump because these instructions do not necessarily work.

After cleaning everything with rubbing alcohol, I gave up and let it sit on the coffee table.  Giving myself a week to cool down, I attacked it again.  I got the canned air and sprayed everything liberally to blow out the dust and give myself a nasty headache.  Then I got some dental floss and threaded it in the back of the cartridge mechanism behind the famous metal strip and flossed it clean.   Finally I managed to rethread the metal strip under the guide that is hidden impossible to see behind the printer. 

Through a comedy of errors, around 5 hours of trial and error, and leaving cleaning solution on my coffee table in error, I managed to breathe life into the printer.

Yes, Frankenstein, the printer is alive.  Heroic efforts on my part saved the thing.

At that point, for the first time in years, I was the happy owner of a Scanner/Printer/Fax Machine.  It now sits on my network and I can do all of the above via the network software.

So what to do with the thing.  After all, it's nice to have something come back to life after it was consigned to the trash bin, make it work.

I had a few pictures that I had liked from the family when I was a wee brat.  The one up at the top of the article is the one I started with.  Dad circa 1940s, back when he was a Sergeant or a Master Sergeant in the US Army.   I don't have all the details, and dad's been gone since 1976, so I won't have them all, but I liked the picture and it has moved with me.

So what to do with it?  After all I can lose the picture if the house gets destroyed.  I did what I called an Archival Scan.  You see that printer will spit out 600 tiny drops of ink per inch.  I thought since that was good, I wanted photographic quality so the original scan was 2400 dots per inch.  An hour and a half to do the first scan. 

The picture is reduced for the web, but the original could be printed out in high fidelity or retouched.  I'll probably do that some day I have an afternoon to kill, but for now, I've got it here in 29.1 megs of JPEG beauty. 

I'm sure it doesn't mean much to most readers, but for my sister and some of the family, they'll enjoy seeing him up there with my copyright written across his nose.  If they want an original, or a reduced scan, I'll send that along.  For now, I'm enjoying being able to do that sort of thing for the first time in a very long time.

There you go, Pat!  Enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

3 minutes 28 seconds to watch on Martin Luther King day

When I lived up North, I worked for the Philadelphia School District for a while.   We had MLK day off.

There were a lot of questions of what to do with the time.  Some folks parked themselves in a mall and shopped, others took the attitude that it was a day to go out and help their neighbors and do something positive for society.

One year I took the time and found the audio track for Martin Luther King's speeches.  While I can't post them all here, I can post a link to his last speech.  The next day he was assassinated. 

If you have never taken the time to listen to the man speak, you should.  He truly was an amazing speaker.  The topics are just as pertinent today as they were back when he was still alive.

Regardless of your views it is certainly worth the time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

45 Lessons From Life

Since yesterday was humor on aging, I thought why not follow this up with some words of wisdom about aging.   Velma shared this one with me a little whie back and I'm sharing it with you today.

I'm also pulling down the "Good China".   Why not treat ourselves?  After all, there's no sense in saving it for an occasion that may never come.   I just can't use the stuff in the microwave!

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old. This is something we should all read at least once a week!!!!!

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written.

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Change the way you think.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month..
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. Release your children when they become adults, its their life now
9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay cheque.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye.
16. Take a deep breath It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Just because you believe you are right, doesn't mean you are. Keep an open mind.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26.. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. Your job is to love your children, not choose who they should love.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come...
43.. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield..
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Some humor about aging

Lately I've had a lot of friends sending me jokes about aging.   I wonder what they're trying to tell me?   Never mind, just take your eyes off the shiny new object and have some wonderful old chestnuts about your parent's generation... or your own!

Couple in their nineties are both having problems remembering things. During a checkup, the doctor tells them that they're physically okay, but they might want to start writing things down to help them remember     
Later that night, while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair. 'Want anything while I'm in the kitchen?' he asks.  
'Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?'  
'Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?' she asks.  
'No, I can remember it..'  
'Well, I'd like some strawberries on top, too. Maybe you should write it down, so As not to forget it?'  
He says, 'I can remember that. You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.'  

'I'd also like whipped cream. I'm certain you'll forget that, write it down?' she asks.  
Irritated, he says, 'I don't need to write it down, I can remember it! Ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream - I got it, for goodness sake!'  
Then he toddles into the kitchen. After about 20 minutes,   The old man returns from the kitchen and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs.. She stares at the plate for a moment.
'Where's my toast ?'


 An elderly couple had dinner at another couple's house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen.  
The two gentlemen were talking, and one said, 'Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great.. I would recommend it very highly..'  
The other man said, 'What is the name of the restaurant?'

The first man thought and thought and finally said, 'What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love?  
You know.... The one that's red and has thorns.'  
'Do you mean a rose?'

'Yes, that's the one,' replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, 'Rose, what's the name of that restaurant we went to last night?'


Hospital regulations require a wheel chair for patients being discharged.
However, while working as a student nurse, I found one elderly gentleman already dressed and sitting on the bed with a suitcase at his feet, who insisted he didn't need my help to leave the hospital.  
After a chat about rules being rules, he reluctantly let me wheel him to the elevator.  
On the way down I asked him if his wife was meeting him.

'I don't know,' he said. 'She's still upstairs in the bathroom changing out of her hospital gown.'

A senior citizen said to his eighty-year old buddy:  
'So I hear you're getting married?'  
'Do I know her?'  
'This woman, is she good looking?'  
'Not really.'  
'Is she a good cook?'  
'Naw, she can't cook too well.'  
'Does she have lots of money?'  
'Nope! Poor as a church mouse.'  
'Well, then, is she good in bed?'  
'I don't know.'  
'Why in the world do you want to marry her then?'

'Because she can still drive!'

Three old guys are out walking.  
First one says, 'Windy, isn't it?'  
Second one says, 'No, it's Thursday!'

Third one says, 'So am I. Let's go get a beer..'


A man was telling his neighbor, 'I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it's state of the art.. It's perfect.'  
'Really,' answered the neighbor . 'What kind is it?'

'Twelve thirty..'

Morris , an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor to get a physical.  
A few days later, the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm.  
A couple of days later, the doctor spoke to Morris and said, 'You're really doing great, aren't you?'  
Morris replied, 'Just doing what you said, Doc: 'Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.''

The doctor said, 'I didn't say that.. I said, 'You've got a heart murmur; be careful.'


One more. . .!  
A little old man shuffled slowly into an ice cream parlor and pulled himself slowly, painfully, up onto a stool... After catching his breath, he ordered a  banana split.  
The waitress asked kindly, 'Crushed nuts?'  
'No,' he replied, 'Arthritis.'  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dannon Oikos Yogurt - Close But Not Greek

Earlier this week, I hit the wholesale club.  I had to buy some of the weird things that I had ran out of that were only available there.  I also had a thick stack of coupons.  $25 worth actually.

One of them was for Yogurt.  I tend to have yogurt on top of dry oatmeal.  Mix it up into a paste and it brings some flavor back to the food. 

Wallpaper paste is not pleasant for long.

I really do like the taste of Activia Vanilla and had a coupon for that - or for Dannon Oikos.  It's the same company.  

Oikos is their attempt to make an Authentic Greek Yogurt.   I think they came close to making third generation Greek yogurt.  In other words, sure, the grandparents might have been Greek, but that kid wasn't really culturally Greek.

Maybe I'm mixing my metaphors.

You see, I prefer a "proper" yogurt.  It should not be a sweet "pudding".  There should be a slightly acid tang to it.  The places you will find that is either in a health food store, if you make it at home, or Greek Yogurt that was... well, imported from Greece.  It is a different process to make Greek Yogurt as we call it here, it basically is strained to thicken it more.  On the other hand, yogurts made in different areas will taste differently just like Sourdough bread made in San Francisco will taste different than bread made from the same culture in a different part of the world.

I don't get the imported kind often, it's a bit too expensive to justify plopping on top of the half cup of dry "Quick Oats" in the morning but when I do, there is that taste I remember.  Thick, very creamy, almost like cream cheese and a nice little bite to let you know you're not eating pudding that was made from a box.

Today I cracked the first of the Oikos open.  Blue and White tub to evoke the Greek Isles, a hint of "classical Greek" art on the wrapper and when you open it a thick plug of creamy goodness floating on top of a layer of black cherries.

Stirring the mix up I stuffed the spoon into my mouth, swirled it around and ... Meh.  So-So.
Try again.... Meh.

Yep, Corporate America has taken another wonderful ethnic food and dumbed it down for the masses.   It was to Greek Yogurt as Mc Donalds is to Hamburgers.  Food, yes, but not as we know it.

I'll finish the pack and we'll go back to the Real Deal, the Fage that we got before when we need a Greek Yogurt.   I'll switch back to the Activia for my oatmeal.  Like I said, they do have an excellent Vanilla!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wilton Manors Main Street lets you Write Your Name on Wilton Drive

Some cities loom larger than their size.  They mean more than the few folks there could imagine because of what they mean to those who don't live there.

Wilton Manors is clearly one of those places.

Right in the heart of town is a little plot of land.  It was hardly usable for anything economic.  It could have been made into about 3 parking spaces, it could have housed a water tower, it could have been used for something equally as bland.

The city decided to convert it into a park.  Makes sense to me!  If you look at that map above, the little triangle at NE 5th Avenue, Wilton Drive, and NE 21st Court seems to be screaming to be made into something for the people that live there.  

Had a house been built there, it would have had the enviable position of being seen from all corners.  That's not desirable, but being where it is it can be made into a meeting place for everyone.

That is what is beginning to take shape, slowly.  After all it is a Municipal "Vest Pocket" park in a small city, there are only 12000 people here, roughly, so finances will always be tight.

The first phase was to put in a little picnic area, and add in an area for what is called the "Children's Art Project".  That area went through the building of the "post card" feature.  An art installation of a chest high replica of a post card that was used to promote the properties of the city back when it was first settled back in the 1930s.  You can actually see the post card in this google maps street view and the park to the right.

Technological trickery aside, you will have a chance to participate in the growth of this little area.   The artists rendition on this page shows what it will look like once the plaza is complete.   The bricked up area is what they're offering you a chance to be a part of.

The group, Wilton Manors Main Street, will be selling bricks to pave that area.  You have a chance to add your name or your groups name to the brick and have it added to the plaza.   The sale started yesterday, January 11, 2012, and can be participated by people all over the world.

If you have connections to the area, you can participate by clicking on this link and have your name in the sun.  Once the next phase begins, after all the bricks have been sold, you know I'll have pictures of the work on my blog.  You can also get a longer description of what they're trying to do at the little park.  After all, I helped put that page together.

After all, you don't have to live in Wilton Manors to be a part of Wilton Manors.  Sometimes a little 4x8 inch brick is all you need.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Free Beer at the Wholesale Club

We get a lot of birdcage liners here.

Come home from a dog walk and magically appearing at the foot of the driveway is one of Those Papers.  You know the sort.  It's a "newspaper" almost completely advertising with an article every fifth page.  They're basically an excuse for a "publisher" to get paid to distribute manufacturer's cents off coupons to more homes than would be normally.

After all, I get my news on the internet first anyway so why buy the paper?

BBC first, then the local news sites, then the Progressive websites and all the Tech News sites I read to keep things up to date.

I don't particularly want to fill up my recycle bin with a dead tree every day.  I have the Postal Service doing that already.

I would normally grab these newspapers from the bottom of the driveway and immediately drop them into the recycle bin, then walk into the house without reading them. 

Then the lightbulb went on.  I was tossing away money.

I started clipping the coupons for things that we would buy normally, then realized that it was easier for me to change brands that I bought based on the coupons.  Then BJ's wholesale club began promoting that they are taking the manufacturer's coupons as well as their own private coupons.

Last night I went shopping.  We had run down on some odds and ends and I had a nice little stack of coupons.  I'm not one of those Extreme Couponers but I do have a goal to make the Eagle Scream On The Back Of The Quarter.

Dutifully shopping from a list, buying as little as possible, and only those things that I couldn't make at least a substitute for in the kitchen, I realized that I had had enough coupons to make me get that case of beer this time around.

You see by looking at the coupons and counting up the total, I had enough to reduce the bill by a solid 11%.  Nice return on the investment of the time.

Hey what do we need down that Aisle it's just drinks?
Drinks and ... Beer.
You need beer?
Doesn't everyone? 
Fish and Chips.  Beer is proof that god loves you and wants to keep you happy.

Or so the conversation went. 

Into the cart went a case of Yuengling Lager with a smile.  Paid for by all those wonderful coupons for Cheese, Milk, Soap and other needed items.

Call it Bonus Beer.

Besides, who doesn't like a bottle of lager to wash down Fish and Chips?

You don't?  Sit down, lets have lunch...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If Life is about Compromise, why should Technology be any different?

Having a conversation with someone they dropped The Question to me.

What kind of computer would you recommend?

If you know someone intimately, like a good close friend, you will be able to have a better time at this but you will always need to know some more information.

  • What are you using it for?
  • How much are you willing to spend?
  • How are you going to be using it?
  • What size would you like to have?
  • Does color matter?
  • Do you have a favorite brand?
  • Do you have a least favorite brand?

Have you noticed that list has no technology specifics listed yet?

You see, it's easy to say "Mac vs PC" but that's not always the right question to ask. 

To me, the decision making process for getting a new PC is just the same as getting a new Car, moving to a new address, choosing new shoes.  I fail to see the difference on the broad level.

If you have "more money than brains", you can go to the store and buy anything you like.  I got into a conversation with a car salesperson once.   She said that once someone came in and she wanted a new car.  When pressed with the list above, she was told firmly "I want the blue one".

Yes, "I want the blue one".  

We had a laugh at it, but that sort of mindset but it is very prevalent in people who do not understand something.  Again, it's broadly - this could be applied to cars, computers, cookery, and many other aspects of life that start with letters other than C.

So once we get past all the basics, many folks are overwhelmed.

The "How much" question:
  • How much storage do you need?
  • How many people will you put in the car?
  • How many burners do you want on your new stove?

They're all the same question, merely applied to a different "technology".  If you have never believed that cooking is technology and science first, allow me to suggest baking some bread from scratch. 

The next time you consider running out and getting that new shiny object, ask yourself another question - what will I get out of it?

Sure, it's derivative of the questions on the first list, but being general is an asset in making decisions.

The best suggestion I can give to anyone is to find their inner three year old.  That beautiful little toddler that you once were had none of the answers and also no fear.   Your beautiful three year old self had the most important question ever asked.


That simple little word is the fulcrum to the lever that will move the whole world.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Coffee Geek Teaches at Ikea

Ok, I'm over the top with this coffee stuff.  I'll admit it.  In fact, that was what I said to Kevin after this was all said and done.  I can laugh at myself, but it does show that maybe a little research is needed before you spend any money, and I think it also shows that those intractable picture books that Ikea uses to "instruct" you how to use their product may just need a little revision.

I'm a huge fan of Ikea.   I find a lot of things that I need whenever I go through there, and even when I don't need things and end up "going along for the ride" there are always those wonderful gingersnaps and containers of lingonberry preserve waiting for a treat when you leave.  We got Gooseberry Preserve this time.

We went to Ikea this weekend and had a "rightsized" meal of North Atlantic Saithe, steamed veg and a scoop of mashed potato.  Skin on and lumpy the way I like it!  I say rightsized because Ikea serves portions that make sense instead of the 3000 calorie orgies of food you get at some chain restaurants in the US.  I was even able to have a slice of Carrot Cake and not feel guilty.


Oh that "Saithe"?  That's what we tend to call Pollock.  No wonder why I liked it, I have the remnants of 10 pounds of the stuff in the freezer.  I'll have to try the Ikea method of breading the top with some dill and lemon juice and baking. 

After ordering the cabinet that we're going to use as a pantry, we walked downstairs where all the "Home Goods" are.  You start in the kitchen goodies and wander through various departments.  I can't walk though that place without thinking of new and wonderful things I can do with some of the various things ranging from LED Lights (I really do want to underlight the cabinets in the kitchen), drapes and blinds, and of course the coffee makers.

A while back I had bought this carafe that turned out to be one of the best coffee pots I had ever had.  It's stainless steel, polished to a mirror finish, and is a French Press.   Perfect for taking care of my favorite caffeine addiction if the power is off.   Four scoops of grounds, add water at a full boil, stir for 6 minutes (off and on) then push the plunger down and that is it.

Specifically the one I am talking about is an Anrik French Press. Go, get one, you will be happy.  It is even insulated so the coffee will be fresh for more than an hour. If that one is too small or too pricey at $30, they have a $13 standard sized French Press that will do you well. 

The thing is that this is completely "Off The Grid".  No power needed.  It basically is a "bucket" that you pour your things into.  No place to put a wire into. 

So when I heard a family discussing the item I got my big mouth involved and gave them instructions on how to use it.  They thought you would put it directly on the burner...   You might if you wanted to ruin the poor thing...

Real simple, since you may lose power and want some really good coffee to "settle your nerves"

  1. Boil about a quart/liter of water.
  2. Remove the lid and screen assembly from the coffee pot.
  3. While that water comes to a boil, add 4 scoops of your favorite coffee grounds to the pot.
  4. Pour the boiling water until it is just short of the lip of the coffee pot.
  5. Stir your grounds off and on for about 4 minutes.
  6. Give the grounds about 2 minutes to settle.
  7. Replace the screen and lid assembly and push gently down on the plunger until the lid fits snugly on top of the pot.
  8. There is no step 8.
  9. Done.

Now, isn't that simple?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tailgating Drivers - Humor

The funny thing about the post below is that I had had a discussion like this with Kevin the other day.  He had sent me this joke and didn't realize he was paraphrasing it to me. 

We were walking through the shopping center parking lot with the dog on the way home and a little old lady pulls up beside me and asks where the gym was.   I told her it was around the corner and she thanked me and went on her way.  We caught up to her car as she was up behind this taxi who was being clueless and stuffed like "The Rat In The Belly Of The Boa" blocking traffic. 

Well the situation was basically played out like this joke below...

Tailgating Drivers

The light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

      The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.

      As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up.

      He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

      After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

      He said, ''I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you and cussing a blue streak at him.

      I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.''

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bagpipes for a Funeral - Humor

A while back a friend, Diane, had sent this one along.  It looks familiar to me but I read my saved emails in the "For Blog" folder over and over until they tickle me enough to post.

Since I got a nice chuckle out of this one today I am sharing it.  Hope you enjoy it too!

Thanks Diane!

Bagpipes for a Funeral

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man.  He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Kentucky back country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn't stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.  There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends.I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

Apparently I'm still lost....  it's a man thing

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wilton Manors Recycles ... Santa!

What do you do with everybody's favorite fictional seasonal character when he's torn and not fit to be saved for another year?

Fill him full of recyclables like paper, yogurt cups, and glass jars and set his pudgy butt out on recycle day!

Sing with me now, folks:

Jingle Bells!
Jingle Bells!
Santa Claus Is Recycled!
Ground and processed he will be and sent away instead!

Ok, I'm not a song writer, I'll admit it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Selecting a Popcorn Popper to Roast Coffee

I got into a conversation on Facebook about how I roast coffee and all the pluses and minuses.  The one thing I wasn't getting across was the actual description of what to look for in a popcorn popper.


Here's the deal. 

Get a Poppery 2 air popcorn popper or another model that has a solid bottom to the corn hopper.   Air vents must come in from the side so the air spins the coffee beans around.   Use no more than 1/2 cup of beans per batch and you won't have to worry about any scorching or uneven roasts.

Sure, that's the executive summary.   What about the details?

Check the picture at the right.  I got the one on the left at a thrift store for $6, the new one on the right for $5.  They both work fine and are made by different companies. 

Or they were made by different Chinese Prisoners.  However you would like to look at things...

Specifically, I put 1/2 cup of unroasted "Green Coffee Beans" into the hopper, replace the shield, plug the thing in and wait for 6 minutes 15 for decaf, 6 minutes 30 for regular - depending on the house temperature.  If you're doing it outside to save your house from smelling like coffee permanently (mine does now), you will have to judge.  I keep my house at 76F (I'm in Florida), and in winter I have to roast a little longer because on a cold day, the heater is set for 69F.

Brr.  If you never thought that 69F (that's 20.5 C) is cold, move to Florida.  The second year you're here you will.

How's that Karyna and Emilio?  Did the picture help?

Now if you want more details, check my blog for any "coffee" articles by searching the tags.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to Iguana Falls, Florida

How would you like to wake up to one of these prehistoric looking creatures on your pool deck.

Yes, it is cold (for us) today in South Florida.  The Iguanas are now falling from the trees.  When it gets cold, they lose their ability to manage their body temps and out of the trees they fall.  

Last night it was about as cold as it gets.  It hit 42F.  Sure, to someone in Minnesota or Canada, that's nothing.  When I lived in Philadelphia, this was still fall weather since it's going to hit 65 today.   But when you live in a house with leaky jalousie windows that are just slats of glass designed to let the breezes flow through in warm weather, you find out just how ineffective the heater is in the house.

There are two schools of thought with "frozen" iguanas.

1) Leave them alone.  Nature will deal with them.  If it is still alive, and some of them just get stunned and later shake it off, it will thaw out and wander away.  Eventually.  If it isn't alive, the vultures and the buzzards will deal with them and there's always the neighbor's cat.  Awww Bandit!  Cute Cat!

2) Send them on to their next life.   Iguanas in South Florida are classified as an Invasive Species. They are basically escaped pets.  Someone had them as pets and they ran off or were set free.  Now we have the 23rd or so generation of these Green Iguanas.  The way the people in this class see it is that it is the same as having packs of dogs or cats running around in the neighborhood.  They can be destructive.  They don't "Share" your plants, they will devastate them by trying to get enough food. 

If you are in the second school, state law requires you to kill them humanely by freezing them.  Your home freezer would do the job.  Once you have a frozen iguana in the house, consider that many people make a stew out of roasted iguana.  It is a treasured dish in Trinidad and Tobago, although I have neither had the dish nor have I had the pleasure to visit Trini other than by their music.  I'm a great fan of Soca Music but that is a different story.

When I was preparing for this article, I had originally taken the picture at 7AM and thought "this one's a deader".  Now at 10 I realized the picture was out of focus so I retook it and here's the shot up above. 

I was right though, that iguana is stiff as a board and it's sitting in the sun.  I'll have to get the shovel and the plastic bag.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Queuing for Status

This morning I had a laugh. 

Auntie BBC had up an article about how businesses need to plan a strategy to deal with lines, queues, and delays.  In there was a comment about how in some cases, standing in a queue could be seen as a status symbol.

It was at that point where I spewed my coffee on my monitor and had to get up and change my shirt.

Personally I can't think of an activity that is less rewarding than standing on line. Or in line depending on whom you are talking to.  The anticipation of how long I will stand on line will be the criteria that I will use to decide whether to even bother going into a shop or restaurant.

I haven't been to a Wendy's burger joint in decades.  I went to one, three times I believe.  They have a system of feeding everyone through one or two cashiers as the customers are treated to standing in a weaving line like a series of cattle chutes. 

Quality may be their recipe but you can't prove it by me.  It's just not worth it to stand around looking at your feet while waiting for your calf muscles to lock up for a burger.  There's another fast food joint next door, most likely, lets go there!

When I go to a supermarket, I ignore all the impulse items that are stacked in giant pyramids by the door and seek out the checkout lines.   If they're snaking down the shop to where the frozen food is melting... NEXT!

What gets me is how could they say that it could be a status symbol?  The act of standing in a spot for a posh venue in your Gucci shoes and being seen to do so seems like a rather mindless pursuit.  I can just hear them saying "Oh Muffy, dear, look!  All the peons down there, the little people will see us standing here to get in!".

No, Dear Muffy, they're standing there looking at the fool in five hundred dollar shoes getting sunburned trying to get into a venue and question your sanity.

But then again maybe it would be different if I was a poseur and status seeker.  I'd rather get there before the rush and have a seat.  After all, I'll get that window seat and point at the people waiting to get in while I sip my "cocktail".

Feel like going to an amusement park?  I hear they have a new ride called the Amazing Line Experience!  You can simulate the experience of standing on a 1 hour line waiting to get on the ride.  Just like the real thing except you don't have that messy roller coaster at the end!

You really didn't want to go for a roller coaster ride today, did you?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Low Vision and Choosing A Computer Monitor or Laptop

I have a couple clients and friends here with less than perfect vision.  It's a common thing.  I even had a programmer who worked under me who was completely blind.  Fascinating character, but that's another tangent.

I keep having this discussion of "I want a new laptop, what do you recommend".  

First, decide what you're going to do with it. Really, how much power do you need?  If you're not making up videos or playing high end games, you can get by with a $500 machine and be happy.  Oh and save the difference for the next $500 machine in two years.  Just be careful since some of those $500 machines are excellent, others are crap.
Second consider how good your vision is.  Got 20/20 vision?  Over 35?  Expect that you'll be needing reading glasses "soon". 

You see, buying a computer is easy, buy less than the top end unless you're really doing high end tasks - the middle end will be more than 90 percent of us will need.  The tough part is all those bits that you actually interact with.

Speakers, keyboard, mouse/trackball/trackpad - all of those tend to be hardwired into the machine and you won't have too much to say about them if you're buying a laptop.  Most buy laptops these days anyway.

The one part of the machine that will be the hardest thing for you to deal with if it is wrong for you is the monitor.   That panel on the laptop.  They come in a lot of different types and shapes and sizes.

Ok, the shape is always rectangular, but the size varies greatly and so do the amount of things you can put up on the monitor at one given time.

If you get a magnifying glass and get really close to the monitor, you will see that everything is made out of little rectangles.  The period at the end of that sentence is not exactly a circle or a dot but a collection of rectangles, sometimes at different amounts of black and white.

The little rectangles are called Pixels.  I'll use that word since it is less typing.  There is a nice long discussion of what is and what isn't a pixel at that link.  If you really want to go in depth on Pixels, click there and come on back when you're through.

Now here's the thing.  Pixels will be different sizes on different devices.  You can pack more pixels in an inch on a phone than on a laptop or a TV because of what they're being used for.  Close up use like a phone, you want more pixels per inch.  For a Laptop there will be less, and for a TV it can be very much less.

A TV show broadcast in Full HDTV in the US is 1920x1080 pixels.  That means that you have 1920 dots across, 1080 down.  No matter what size, those amounts will not change unless it's not a full HD broadcast.  TVs vary from 3 inches way up to 108 inches and are still growing.  For the most part, Full HD TVs will have 1920 by 1080 Pixels whether they are 30 inches, or 108 inches.   The pixels will change in size but not necessarily in the count - at this time.  Sure there are some exceptions but the main thing is that the size of the pixels will vary proportionally for the size of the TV. 

Got all that?  Want to know how to simply it?  How does it all apply to Computers and Laptops?  Hold on a second, I had to blather on for a bit for background so when I get emailed by someone with a stick up his butt I'll be covered.

You Know Who You Are.

Remember the client I had?  The one who had problems with his vision?  He lives about 200 miles from me.  He is also a bit of a gadget freak and kind of impulsive.  That's how I got this laptop - the monitor was too small for him to read.  The number of pixels in an inch on this machine is 135.  He is used to a larger monitor and one with fewer pixels so when he saw this he decided it wasn't for him.   His old Mac Book at 115 pixels per inch was a lot easier for him to read and to this day I have not seen him using those Reading Glasses I got him.

Tsk Tsk.

So how do you find out all of that?


First off, go to the store and look at the computers. 
Really take the time to see the machine and play around. 
When you find one that is comfortable you need to take down some information and go home.
What is the size of the computer?  12 inches?  14 inches?  17 inches?
What is the default resolution of the computer - don't be afraid to ask for help with this one!  That's what the sales staff is for.  You will get a number like 1920x1080 (Also called Full HD), 1280x800 (That's mine) or 1440x900 (That's my other machine). 

For comparison sake, you will probably want to find out the same thing for the machine you have now.
Find an open place on the desktop of your Windows 7 machine and right click.
Select "Screen Resolution" and it will show under the "Resolution" pull down what you are at now.
Windows XP and others will work similar, a Mac will be under the settings...

Now you know where you are, and where you will be going. 

To find the pixels per inch, there's a wikipedia page that has a list of them.  It will take a little effort and some searching around to find numbers that are close enough to what you have written down. 

When you find your Pixels Per Inch in the tables, you will be able to make a comparison.

If you have limited vision, and you're used to a 13 inch Mac Book at 113 Pixels Per Inch, you may find that the iPad of your dreams will end up in my hands after you give up in frustration.   The iPads are currently 135 Pixels per inch.

The 42 inch Full HDTV sitting in the corner on the other hand is only 52 Pixels Per Inch.  That is why when I have clients over to look at web pages, I can get away with plugging in the HDMI cable from the laptop to the TV and we can see it everywhere in the room.  It's bloody big.

My TV is really 46 inches, and the table on the page didn't go that far up, but you get the idea.

Now that HDMI cable?  That's a story for another day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Grandma's New Boyfriend - Humor

The first post of the year, the first joke of the year.   Enjoy!

Grandma's New Boyfriend

A 5-year-old boy went to visit his grandmother one day.
Playing with his toys in her bedroom while grandma was dusting, he looked up and said, 'Grandma, how come you don't have a boyfriend now that Grandpa went to heaven?'

Grandma replied, 'Honey, my TV is my boyfriend.
I can sit in my bedroom and watch it all day long.
The religious programs make me feel good and the comedies make me laugh ... I'm happy with my TV as my boyfriend.'

Grandma turned on the TV, and the reception was terrible.
She started adjusting the knobs, trying to get the picture in focus.

Frustrated, she started hitting the backside of the TV hoping to fix the problem.

The little boy heard the doorbell ring, so he hurried to open the door and there stood Grandma's minister. The minister said, 'Hello son, is your Grandma home?'

The little boy replied,
'Yup, she's in the bedroom bangin' her boyfriend.'

The minister fainted .....