Saturday, March 31, 2012

Penguins - Humor

Ok, here's another pun-tastic joke.  It's not from Velma, it's from a friend of mine up North, Scott.

Seeing that I use Linux on a daily basis, he sends me jokes once in a while about Penguins.  Why Penguins?  Well they're the mascot of the operating system Linux.  Why are they the Mascot?  To make outsiders scratch their head and ask why, of course!


Did you ever wonder why there are no dead penguins on the ice in Antarctica - where do they go?
Wonder no more ! ! !

It is a known fact that the penguin is a very ritualistic bird which lives an extremely ordered and complex life.

The penguin is very committed to its family and will mate for life, as well as maintaining a form of compassionate contact with its offspring throughout its life.

If a penguin is found dead on the ice surface, other members of the family and social circle have been known to dig holes in the ice, using their vestigial wings and beaks, until the hole is deep enough for the dead bird to be rolled into and buried.

The male penguins then gather in a circle around the fresh grave and sing:

"Freeze a jolly good fellow"
"Freeze a jolly good fellow."

"Then they kick him in the ice hole."
You really didn't believe that I know anything about penguins, did you?
It's so easy to fool people.
I am sorry, the devil made me do it!!!
I fell for it too.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Would You Bend Down for a Quarter?

The tricks your mind plays on you before sunrise...

I was out with the dog walking around town when on the ground I spotted a flash of light. I got closer, and it was a nice shiny quarter. One of those State Quarters we have these days from Georgia with a picture of a peach on the back of it. I still think it looks like a butt, but then again I've been through Georgia and there's a certain amount of truth to that.

Snide comments aside, I looked at it and wondered just how much change would have to be on the ground before someone would bend down to pick it up. Excluding the extreme cases like people with mobility problems, or kids who will pick up everything, I realized that there's a certain wealth floor.

Pennies are pretty much worthless these days. The Canadians are going to "cancel the penny" like many other nations. We've inflated the Penny into uselessness. It costs the Canadian Mint 1.6 cents to make a Canadian Penny.

The British have a saying of something being "Not Worth A Farthing", which is applicable as well.  It basically is the US equivalent of someone saying "It's not worth a plug nickel".

The US Penny is similar, and now it isn't even copper. It's a zinc slug that is wrapped in copper foil and has been since the early 1980s.

If you see penny candy these days, it is usually a nickel or more. Gas went up by a factor of 10 since the good old days of before the first Oil Shock of 1973.

Having an active mind, I wondered just exactly what that shiny new quarter was worth back then. In other words, lets journey back in time to just before the Oil Shock and figure out how much you would pick up on the ground to have the same amount of purchasing power.

Yeah, another exercise in Pedantic Math, right? Someone has been playing with the Consumer Price Index calculator again. You can too, since here are two different links.

The Inflation Calculator.


The US Inflation Calculator.

Basically what it tells you is that since 1973, the year the economy changed for good, the prices have increased by a factor of 5.  A Nickel in 1973 is what a Quarter in 2012 is worth now.

Kind of sad isn't it?

If you look at the flip side of that, if you invested that Nickel in a bond in 1973 how much would it be worth today?

Oddly enough it would be worth more than the quarter.

I found a "Future Value" Calculator.  "Back Then" in 1973, a good rate of interest would have been 5 percent.  In other words, I'm saying that for a rule of thumb you would have been able to shop around for a 5 percent return on your investment for a long term.  In 1973, the prime rate for borrowers was 6.25 percent so that isn't out of the question.  

Ok so you go and buy a long term bond that pays 5 percent per year for 39 years from that point.  At the end of that time, a 100 dollar bond would be worth 670.48.  

I used this Future Value Calculator.

Back in 1973, if you put that $.05 in the bank at 5 percent interest you would be the proud owner of $.34.

Keep in mind, longer terms of investment tend to have lower interest rates, so more likely a 4 percent loand would have only returned $.23.

So what is the moral of the story?  Invest if you really have spare change and the interest rate is higher than you expect to have taken away by inflation.  Otherwise keep it in your pocket and spend it instead of littering the ground with Zinc Slugs called pennies.

They're just going to print more money anyway and it's all losing value due to that or incompetent management.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pinche Taqueria Grand Opening In Wilton Manors

Last night was a fiesta in Wilton Manors.

Pinche Taqueria had opened a few weeks back quietly after turning an old storefront into something that would not be out of place at any beach town.  The front was pushed back, the old school windows were removed, and big green "garage doors" were installed. 

How better to enjoy the Florida Breezes than to sit at a table, enjoy your food and drinks, and watch the entertainment of the crowd or the TVs on the wall?

They had said that they didn't want to have their grand opening "until it was perfect".

They are now there, last night's food was perfect - even with the size of the crowd that were there to celebrate the event.

I had been there within a week of their opening, and then again two weeks later, and each time the food was noticeably better.  Last night it was incredible.

The place was packed with many local notables that I have seen from the City of Wilton Manors, as well as some of the neighboring cities.  Many more of the locals were there enjoying the scene. 

I got to see City Commissioner Scott Newton and his wife Cindy, Celeste Ellich, and others that I recognized from many other places.  It was the place to be last night.

Of course this being a Mexican Taqueria, they had a Mariachi Band there, and the band was a blast!  The musicians had a lot of personality, and were serenading us as we got our food and rubbed shoulders with the folks at the next table.

Yes, it was a very busy night, as you might expect.

The food was excellent, we will definitely be back.  I've gone on the weekend for lunch, mainly.  The food is quite authentic Classic Mexican fare as their history bares out.  I was told that it started as a taqueria in Tijuana Mexico.  They took the place, Lock, Stock, and Barrel to New York City where it was a success.  Some of the most discerning customers in the world live there, and if you can make it there like the song says, you can make it anywhere - but only if you're doing it right.

They did it right, they grew past their first restaurant into a second and began to look for another place to open and chose Wilton Manors. 

Many cuisines when brought to the United States end up being a bit of a split personality.  We've all heard that Chinese Restaurants will have a "Secret Menu" that "only the locals" will get, but that is the best food and the most authentic. 

With Pinche Taqueria we're all locals, getting only the best.

I have a strong preference for Carnitas, savory pork that isn't "too spicy" served on a soft Taco or a Tostada.  They have one of the best that I have ever had.  Last night I had their signature Crab Taco with Mango Salsa.  It was simply put, amazing. 

If you're looking for something to wash it all down, skip the bottled stuff, and get a Mojito.  A Mojito is typically a syrupy sweet Lime and Mint beverage with alcohol.  When they make it, you get a crisp and clear Lime drink with a little minty sweetness - but it's not tooth achingly sweet.  It's the best Mojito I have ever had, and I was never really a fan of the drink until I had it there because of that sweetness.  You can actually taste the lime and the mint. 

So definitely I will be back, and as demanding as I am, I can fully recommend a stop in for the Carnitas Taco, some chips and a Mojito.   I may even get their signature dish again, that Crab was amazing!

It's a great place to sit back and enjoy some time with some amazing food and drink.  Right across from City Hall in Wilton Manors at 2020 Wilton Drive, in the heart of the Arts and Entertainment District here. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Herding the Smartphone Addicts

You know who you are.
We see you, and we shake our collective heads.
You travel thousands of miles to reach our Island, park yourself, and immediately go into your own little electronic cocoon.

Yes, you are a Smartphone Addict.

I live close enough to a rather excellent Coffee Shop, Java Boys, in Wilton Manors, that I walk past the place roughly twice a day.  When you live close to a shopping center, you end up walking through it.  My neighborhood tends to funnel everyone who wants a long walk past the place on one side of Wilton Drive or the other. 

Plus it's just fun to point and watch people.

There was a walk the other day that I was on my own.  Just Mrs Dog and I.  It was the Dinner Hour, so I expected a host of people milling about, but when I approached the place, I had noticed that everyone there had Joined The Herd.

They became Zombies, attached to their little smartphones.  Every one of them outside was head down, concentrating on their games, or their web pages, or their Apps trying to meet someone new.  The other hand was typically hooked up with another addiction since it was the outside smoking zone. 

Smoking in 2012?  Really?  Enjoy being a social outcast and ruining your health?   Ahh ok.   Well soldier on Mc Duff!

Weaving through the scattered detritus of the castaway smokers, I looked into the shop.  Up on the TVs was a program of music, so it predictably didn't require too much attention.  That was a good thing because nobody was watching the TVs anyway, they were all focused, yes, you guessed it, on their smartphones or laptops.

I guess you really don't want to interact with others do you?  After all, they're big and scary!

I will admit I am a contrarian when it comes to this smartphone "thing".  I didn't get my first cell phone until 2003 and even then it was to make sure I could have one with a Florida Area Code to make life easier when I moved later.  I just got my own smartphone, and it is nice to have access if I need it.  I'm still getting used to having Joanna Lumley say from my pocket "You've Got Post!" in the middle of the walk when it is still dark and someone writes to my professional account. 

On the other hand, I usually have a smile on the inside when I see one of the Smartphone Zombies walking along weaving around on the sidewalk, texting to someone miles away and heading right at me.  That would be when I put on my strongest most projecting voice and say a loud "Hello!".  I have just saved another Zombie from certain demise as they would wander into another immovable object, me, instead of off the curb and into traffic.

Worse, you really don't want to step on the dog.  Trust me, you don't.

So when you're on vacation, take a little vacation from the whole texting thing.   After all, you spent all that money to get here, enjoy it.  Or just save the money and text from the couch.  Much easier that way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Yard, Their Salad

Trying to escape the din of the bread machine mixing up a batch of Italian Seasoned Bread dough this weekend, I walked out into the yard.

I realized that I'm stuck.  My yard has guests, and my yard has pests.

Earlier we had turned on the hot tub and sat out under the stars.  Watching the airplanes scud overhead, between the gaps of their droning, we heard complaints.  They aren't quite used to our using the yard for the intended purpose of relaxation, and they were there watching us.  I heard the "niknikniknik" of the squirrels.  At least I think it was a squirrel or three.  It could have been an opossum or just as easily a raccoon.  They tend to wash their food in my pool, a fact I'm not completely comfortable with.

The next day, wandering out to inspect my flowers and pick up after the evening under the stars, I looked closely at my prized plants.   I have a number of imprisoned fruit trees.  Some like being pot bound more than others and they are the ones that are thriving.  Others mope along and really look like they're crying out to be stuck in the ground where they belong.

One day I'll just move that sad yellow hibiscus out to the front yard and be done with it.  Really, I will, I'm telling you!

On the other hand my Mango tree seems to like being in that maroon pot.  It's taller than I am, and even subtracting the height of the pot it may still be taller.  But it's gotten hit by those annoying exotic whitefly.  Frowning, I walked down the line to look at the other plants.  Mango with Whitefly, sticky weeds in my Meyer Lemon, and the Mexican Milkweed had Monarchs.

I'm perfectly happy with Monarchs in my Milkweed, that is why I plant the things where I do.  The plants hadn't recovered successfully from the last time the Monarchs were "in season" so I think that one or two of the little caterpillars may not reach chrysalis.

The Monarchs are why I don't spray my plants.   I can't blame them for the weeds in my lemon trees.  That's just being lazy, but I don't want to harm my little black and yellow friends.  I get more entertainment than most out of watching them.

The Swallowtail butterflies that use my orange tree are a different story.   Their bird poop looking caterpillars aren't my favorite especially since that orange isn't doing quite as well as I would like.   Threaten the bird poop with removal and they start to stink.  Fairly effective at scaring birds, and I don't care to handle them either.

I have a feeling I'm going to be paying a visit to the big box store for some insecticidal soap.  For now, the lady bugs are taking care of the whitefly and keeping them to a dull roar on my Mango, but those Swallowtail caterpillars had better watch out.  They're just not pretty!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Vanda Orchids ate my Batteries - Picture

This is the Other Vanda Orchid.  I had the yellow one open up and bloom for me the other week, and it is still in bloom. 

When this one opened up three days ago, I spent the time waiting just for the right sun angle.  It was either too high or too low.  Too much cloud or I wasn't able to get out there.

Finally when I go to take the picture, I look out set this shot up, squeeze the trigger and get it. 

Oh bright idea, lets reposition and get it in on an angle and catch the yellow one. 

The camera refuses and goes dark. 

You see all those false starts over the last couple days ate the last pair of batteries that were in the house.  This beautiful flower ate my AA batteries.

That's the nice thing about being in the Dry Season.  You learn what you need in preparation for Hurricane Season.  Well that and you're not ducking flying coconuts and palm fronds of death.

So no more pictures until I charge up the batteries that I have for emergencies. 

As for the camera, it's an old 8MP camera.  When it uses up the batteries, they still have enough power left for radios or clocks to run for quite a while.  I have a jar full of these semi used batteries with a black stripe on them so I know they're used. 

Back in the early days of digital photography, the cameras used a lot more power.  They would eat batteries much faster.  As a result there were some interesting work arounds. 

My first camera was a 1MP camera.  It was also a tank of a machine.  Built very solid, but very hungry since the electronics haven't been optimized.   One of the tricks some enterprising geek did was to get some wire and a battery brick of D cells and wire four of them together so he could use his camera to do long exposure pictures. 

He then painted his girlfriend with red laser light.  Beautiful picture, she looked like she was made of rubies.  I'll have to try that sometime, maybe when I get those batteries.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Only in Britain - Complaints to Councils - Humour

In Britain, the City Goverment is run by a Council.  The local Councils have homes and apartments that people live in.  Some wonderfully batty people who sometimes have complaints.  I suppose it helps to understand British slang, so don't get your knickers in a twist.

Thanks, Kevin!

Only in Britain - Complaints to Councils
Extracts from letters written by council tenants:

1. It's the dogs mess that I find hard to swallow.

2. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.

3. I wish to complain that my father twisted his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.

4. Their 18 year old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.

5. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was bad wind the other day that blew them off.

6. My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?

7. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.

8. Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.

9. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.

10. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster, and 50% are just plain filthy.

11. The next door neighbour has got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can't take it anymore.

12. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.

13. Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.

14. Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now is in three pieces.

15. I want to complain about the farmer across the road. Every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's now getting too much for me.

16. The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.

17. Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third, so please send someone round to do something about it.

18. I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.

19. Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.

20. I have had the clerk of works down on the floor six times but I still have no satisfaction.

21. This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broke and we can't get BBC2.

22. My bush is really overgrown round the front and my back passage has fungus growing in it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vern's Funeral - Humor

Velma sent me this one a while back.  Seems this guy Vern had a birthday and ...


Vern works hard at the Phone Company but spends two nights each week bowling, and plays golf every Saturday.

His wife thinks he's pushing himself too hard, so for his birthday she takes him to a local Strip club.

The doorman at the club greets them and says, "Hey, Vern! How ya doin?"

His wife is puzzled and asks if he's been to this club before.

"Oh no," says Vern. "He's in my bowling league ."

When they are seated, a waitress asks Vern if he'd like his usual and brings over a Budweiser.

His wife is becoming increasingly uncomfortable and says, "How did she know that you drink Budweiser?"

"I recognize her, she's the waitress from the golf club.  I always have a Bud at the end of the 1st nine, honey."

A stripper then comes over to their table, throws her arms around Vern, starts to rub herself all
Over him and says... "Hi Vern. Want your usual table dance, big boy?"

Vern's wife, now furious,

Grabs her purse and Storms out of the club.

Vern follows and spots her getting into a cab. Before she can slam the door, he jumps in beside her.

Vern tries desperately to explain how the stripper must have mistaken him for someone else, but his wife is having none of it

She is screaming at him at the top of her lungs, calling him every 4 letter word in the book..

The cabby turns around and says,

'Geez Vern, you picked up a real bitch this time.'


Friday, March 23, 2012

Yummy, Dummy, or Middy, how about a Date?

I have a habit of reading international press.  Through the day I will see articles written in various countries, and all of them have their own way of doing things.  One of the things they all seem to get wrong are dates.

No, not those sweet things growing on a tree on the corner of Wilton Drive and NE 21st Court.  I'm talking about "Today's Date".

You see, I have more years writing computer programs than I care to count.  I've written more reports, displays, screens and web pages full of data that if you show me something, count to 30 and ask, I'll tell you what has been done wrong or if it's right. 

Sure, that's a lot to say right there but really am I full of myself or do I have a point?

Most of the time these reports are nothing more than a long tedious list of numbers and words.   The trick is getting them all in the right order.  Something will be listed in the main order, then there may or may not be a secondary order, and that can be crucial to the person using the report or web page.

In the United States and many countries, we use what we call a Middy Date.  At least we did when I was learning programming.  Month Day Year is the order.  MMDDYY or Middy. 

It doesn't work. 

Take a long list of dates and sort them in order and you find yourself trying to make sense of "this year" or "last year".  Sure, last year should show first but if you are just looking at the date as 06/01/11, it will come before 07/02/12 but after 05/03/13.   You have to take the year into account.

Europeans with their Dummy Dates aren't any better.  Day Month Year is rubbish when you are looking at a list of dates that are before the 13th of the month.  You won't know until you find a later day in the month, say the 21st that you are looking at a report displaying in DDMMYY fashion. 

Most reporting tools will look at a setting on your computer and check to see if your date string is Middy or Dummy, and display things in that fashion.  The truth is that most data is kept in a database and that is even another weird format based on second since the epoch - January 1 1970 is one number that comes to mind.  The computer will add up all those seconds, do calculations and spit out a date based on where your setting is.

When I was writing programs in old school COBOL, I had to consider these things.  COBOL did not have that built in, and you were constantly fiddling around with dates to get them in the right order.  We settled on a third solution - Yummy Dates.   Store your dates in Year Month Day Order or YYMMDD.   The problem is that outside of programming, nobody uses those dates naturally.

Or do they? 

Actually if you're trying to keep long lists of files and dates are important, Windows can be tricked to use those Yummy dates in the file names.   Sure you can sort the files in Date Order, but then you find yourself having to check the status bar for when that file was created. 

Where I use this heavily is in anything financial.  I have a directory, er, Folder that has a printout of each transaction I have done.  The printouts are all PDF files so I can see exactly what the web page looked like so many years back.  The first few characters of the files are the Yummy Date.

For Example, a bank transfer to checking done on March 19th, 2012 was called "2012-03-19 Transfer To Checking.PDF" and sits in that bank's folder.   Makes things quite tidy.

That reminds me... instead of writing about it, I've got another transfer to checking to do and time to pay the Charge Card. 

Hope that's all clear and not like mud!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Use Explosively Good Caramel for Icing

After you end up with yesterday's recipe for a can of caramel, what do you do with the stuff?

In my case, it gave me an excuse to pull a box of pound cake mix out of the back of the pantry.  I found the world's easiest cake mix, and "Just Add Water" until it was smooth, then poured it out into the little paper cups.

For some reason, even an experienced cook can botch a recipe in an oven that has no real hope of maintaining an accurate temperature. 

You see, there's a trick that was taught to me way back when.  When you want to know if a bread, cake or similar item is baked through, stick a toothpick in it.  Pound cake is a moist but dense texture.  I forgot that.  So I kept sticking that toothpick in, and seeing that come out with crumbs instead of "clean" I left it in there.  

The cupcakes eventually came out dry and strangely like a cookie.

The moisture of the caramel soaked into the crusty cupcakes and made it all chewy.  I'll have to remember that.  Really nice texture that partially made up for the slightly dry cakes.

The icing on the top of the cake was lumpy.  I could have waited for it to warm more, but I got anxious.

To ice something with caramel, it needs to be warm and smooth to get it the right semi-runny consistency like thick honey.  When it cools, it will tighten up and remain on top enough to serve as icing.  At least with the explosive caramel recipe it all came together like that.

I warmed the caramel in a bath of water.  Place the open can of caramel in a dry sauce pan, fill the pan up to near the top of the can, and bring the water to a simmer.   Stir until smooth.

I forgot that part.  When it cooled it was all the same texture and so good that the four that I made and iced were gone between two people in one sitting.


Moral of the story is to learn your recipe, but even if you make a mistake, you can sometimes "recover" from it.  Besides, I still have a half of a can of caramel in the refrigerator to enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Explosively Easy Caramel or Easy Explosive Caramel - Recipe

This is an At Your Own Risk recipe. 

Technically speaking, everything is, but here's the rub.  If you don't do this right, the can could explode scattering 210F molten Caramel and water all over your kitchen and you if you let the water boil down.

To do this safely, always, ALWAYS, always make certain the can of Sweetened Condensed Milk is on its side and fully submerged in water.  Ideally you should have an inch or two covering the can.

I used a spaghetti pot to give me extra room.  I had absolutely no problems with this recipe.  It is one of the simplest I could find. 

Ok dire warnings aside, it truly is a trivial recipe to make a caramel sauce.  The result was tasty, sweet and had a bit of a "Sweetened Condensed Milk" taste to it, so you should do a test batch and see if it works.   This will be best for "bold" items like Chocolate Cakes, Cookies and anything else with a strong flavor. 

The recipe is simple:

1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk.  Use your favorite brand, you may double or triple the recipe easily.

1 large pot of lightly boiling water. 

You don't want a "rolling boil".  A light bubbling is fine.  I tested the temperature of my water with an Instant Read Thermometer for giggles, and it was at 210F, 99C for the entire time.


  • Submerge COMPLETELY your can of Sweetened Condensed Milk in the boiling water.
  • The Can MUST be placed on its side.
  • The Can MUST be submerged, ideally by an inch or three of water.
  • Boil the water for 2 hours and check it periodically to make sure it hasn't boiled down too far. 
  • The resulting Caramel will have the consistency of a hard boiled egg at room temperature.
  • Do Not Open the Can until it has cooled sufficiently.  Around 1 hour or more may be needed since it will be under pressure until it reaches room temperature. 
  • Do Not Open the Can until you can handle it safely without burning yourself.

If you do allow the water to run below the top of the can, Kittens may die, flowers will fail to bloom, your paint may peel from the wall, and you are not a very nice person.

The reasoning is that if the can breeches the top of the boiling water, there will be hot and cold spots and the can may burst.   If it bursts it will be ugly. 

Why do this?  Well if you have an Abuelita handy she will tell you that in Latin America, everyone makes caramel this way.  They just check the water every 15 or so minutes to make sure that the cans are covered.  She will also tell you that I may be overreacting about the "Explosive" part.

As you can see in the picture, I did it.  The Republic did not fall (yet).  The kitchen is still it's usual warm cream color, and that isn't due to sweet caramel goodness painted on my wall like a Jackson Pollock painting.

I bloody hate his "art".  My dog could do better.  Oh wait, did I say that in my Outside Voice?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You've Got Post!

It's a silent morning. 

Out an hour early with the dog, there is nobody around.   The city is asleep.

Even the interstate, two miles away could not be heard. 

The winds have not started up yet, there were few clouds.  

My headphones were speaking of the death of Queen Victoria, having moved me through British History from the Romans to that point. 

Being stopped by the dog wanting to water a palm tree, I reached my hand into the pocket for the stored plastic bags that remained unneeded.

Wandering along and seeing the red star toward the bottom of Orion, there wasn't even an airplane in the skies.  At least not close enough to make a sound.

We moved around the corner into the darkness that wrapped over us like a warm blanket. 

All the sudden I jump.  I hear someone shout at me from the distance "You've Got Post!".  

After having picked up the dog leash I realized that what I had heard was "Joanna" on my phone.  I was so intent on watching the dog, and listening to the close of Queen Victoria's Diary, that I had forgotten that subscribed emails happen even before 6 in the morning.  Thankfully it was only the leash that I had dropped and not the phone.

Laughing quietly at my own forgetfulness, I amble on into the waning night, the walk just having begun, exploring this quirky little island, one audio book at a time.

Monday, March 19, 2012 Update Broke My Job Search

Yep, it's another tech post.

See here's the deal.  Everyone who 'owns' a website is always looking for ways to refresh it so people find more reasons to come back.  More visits mean you're more likely to click on an ad and send a few pennies to a few dollars their way.

Sometimes the refresh works, other times they need to go back and rethink it.   This is one of those times.

This is also a good illustration of why I put "User Experience" and "User Interface" on my resume.  I've written about how made a change, why it was wrong and what they needed to do to fix it.  They hit that blog posting and decided I was right on some points, and used my ideas.   I'm sure they read it because they're out in Iowa and nobody from that city had ever read my blog before that posting.  It was easy to find.

A little background and high order discussion. I'll try not to get too "techie".  In fact, I pride myself and have been told I'm successful in writing about weird tech issues and getting things across to people who don't understand them.

I look for permanent work around 35 hours a week on average.  I use the major job boards and some of the minor ones to ask the question "What Jobs Are Available within 30 Miles of Zipcode 33305 in Computing Within The Last Three Days".  You know, IT and Project Management.   Since I live in a major city, that search returns a lot of positions.  I further finesse that by saying search for specific job titles, certain exclusions of companies that are inappropriate for various reasons, and even some arbitrary things.

Once a week I have a similar search that is targeted at specific companies and all of the cities and towns in my county and a few neighboring cities that I know about.

Pretty straightforward, there are millions who are unemployed, underemployed, looking for permanent positions, and just curious that go through similar processes every day.

This process can be called "Data Analysis" or "Data Mining".  You do the same thing every time you use a spreadsheet.   

One reason why I prefer to all the other sites is that it further categorizes things as to whether it is a "Direct Hire" which is a company vs a "recruiter" which typically is just reposting a position that a Direct Hire had posted the day before.  Needless to say, I know which recruiters to skip.  If they have a "hot deal" they'll call me with the position and most likely I've already made my judgement as to whether to pass or not.  We'll talk but usually they realize I've been there, done that, and moved on.

You can see from this picture that everything that I need to see is presented on one line. has successfully reduced things down to just the information you need to decide whether a position is worth looking at further.

Basically I've managed to use Dice in a fashion that is slightly inconsistent with their website.  I save each individual page as a link so that I don't have to click onto the next page.  Each page is it's own link in a folder in Firefox and I can look at each page in it's own tab. 

When you are opening 150 pages a day, you want to save every last second you can.

The list is presented in Job Alphabetical Order, all jobs are within the last three days, and I can tell at a glance whether I need to pursue looking at a link.

By the way, a helpful hint.  If you are looking at a webpage, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the link and it will open in another tab.  You can do that many times, and look at all those links later.  It saves a lot of time!

That's the biggest criteria about this.  Saving time.  Can you imagine doing this by hand in a newspaper? 

Now here's what happened with

Careerbuilder is a little different.  They're big and they partner with many newspapers around the world.  You're going to hit one of their sites if you are looking at a branded website for many organizations.  It also has a few quirks.

One is that no matter how hard I tried, I can't get it to give me more than 25 positions at a time.  That forces me to open up as many as 20 links for a given criteria.

Their sort is semi-broken.  If I have more than one job type on a given link, it's going to put a few jobs from "today" at the tail end of the search.  When you are looking at 400 jobs for that criteria, that means you have to load up 20 pages just to get to the tail end. 

Now that you're committed to opening all those pages in tabs, you have to consider what you want to look at.  If you're looking at this thing every day, you don't need to look at three days worth, you can skip to the end.  Check for "Today" and "Yesterday".  Today, in a list of 20 opened tabs, Today and Yesterday were pages 1 and 2 and part of 3 then again in page 20.  That's a lot of extra page hits for no good reason.

This screen grab from illustrates how just a few little problems break the page and make it more difficult to get to the information you are looking for.

They used to have a handy page number at the top of each listing.  Minor perhaps, but knowing you are on page 4 of 20 and looking at positions 76 through 100 is surprisingly helpful.  After all, you expect to have to skip ahead to the Next To The Last Page, so you need to know where you are at.  

The date is not shown, but it is implied by saying "posted today" and "posted yesterday" all in grey lower case text.  I can handle the grey, but the date would be more useful since it is more compact.  I would prefer to see the date as "Mar. 18".  The year can be implied, we all make the same mistakes on our checks but by March or even the second week of January, the mental block against the year has been past.

Most importantly they slid all of the position specific information into a single column.

Position Name
Company Name
City Name

Position Name
Company Name
City Name

... is not as helpful as stringing it out in one line.

Position Name     Company Name     City Name   Date
Position Name     Company Name     City Name   Date
Position Name     Company Name     City Name   Date

The reasoning is that if you're skimming through 400 positions for a given search, you need to be able to skim the column and check on position name first.   Ctrl+Click to open that position into a new tab and continue onwards.

That brings up another point.  The order it is presented is incorrect and there is no way to specify which column you're sorting on - and you need more than one column.   The job name should be the most important order.  Ideally this should be Sorted first by Date, then Job Name.   What the result would be is now that you have all the "Business Analyst" positions sorted together for "today" and not mixed in with the "Data Analyst" positions.  They are similar but distinct disciplines and while many of the skills are similar, they don't completely overlap.

After all they have different position names don't they?

Luckily they have the position names all in blue and the rest of the text in other colors so with a mind trick I can try to turn off the rest of the info until I need it...

When you redesign a website as complex as Careerbuilder, you are trying to balance a lot of needs.  You don't want to do a radical redesign because it will get so alien to people that their minds will switch off.   It needs to be evolutionary.   Things as minor as the list of pages you are on will be noticed especially if you're skipping to the end of 20 pages and can't get to page 19 unless you go to page 20 first like I did the other day.

Basically the information is all there - Content gets an A Grade.
Presentation?  You can do better.  C Minus perhaps. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cake or Bed - Humor

Ahh it is a double Velma Weekend!

Just a little story about a man who doesn't like to help out around the house, and another who does.

Sorry about the caps!










SO HE GOES TO THE PUB AND DRINKS FOR ACOUPLE OF HOURS..................................









Saturday, March 17, 2012

Good To Know - Helpful Hints

When Velma sent me this list, I knew I was going to share it.  I love these lists because no matter how many of these I already do, there's always something in here to make my life just a wee bit easier. 

I'll agree with the last sentiment, however, next time at the big box bulk warehouse, I think I'll pick up some Alka Seltzer.


 For icy door steps in freezing temperatures: get warm water and put Dawn dish washing liquid in it.  Pour it all over the steps. They won't Refreeze.  (wish I had known this for the last 40 years!)


 To remove old wax from a glass candle holder, put it in the freezer for a few hours.. Then take the candle holder out and turn it upside down.  The wax will fall out.


Crayon marks on walls? This worked wonderfully! A damp rag, dipped in baking soda.. Comes off with little effort (elbow grease that is!)..


Permanent marker on appliances/counter tops (like store receipt BLUE!) rubbing alcohol on paper towel.


 Whenever I purchase a box of S.O.S Pads , I immediately take a pair of scissors and cut each pad into halves. After years of having to throw away rusted and unused and smelly pads, I finally decided that this would be much more economical. Now a box of S.O.S pads last me indefinitely! In fact, I have noticed that the scissors get 'sharpened'' this way!


Blood stains on clothes? Not to worry! Just pour a little Hydrogen Peroxide on a cloth and proceed to wipe off every drop of blood..  Works every time! (Now, where to put the body?)


Use vertical strokes when washing windows outside and horizontal for inside windows. This way you can tell which side has the streaks.  Straight vinegar will get outside windows really clean. Don't wash windows on a sunny day.. They will dry too quickly and will probably streak.


Spray a bit of perfume on the light bulb in any room to create a lovely light scent in each room when the light is turned on..


Place fabric softener sheets in dresser drawers and your clothes will smell freshly washed for weeks to come.  You can also do this with towels and linen.


Candles will last a lot longer if placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours prior to burning.


To clean artificial flowers, pour some salt into a paper bag and add the flowers. Shake vigorously as the salt will absorb all the dust and dirt and leave your artificial flowers looking like new!  Works like a charm!


 To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stove top. or, fill pan with water, add a fabric softener sheet. Let it soak overnight. Food will just wash away.


Spray your TUPPERWARE with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato based sauces and there won't be any stains.


 Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.


When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness


Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half, and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.


Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces 


To get rid of itch from mosquito bites, try applying soap on the area and you will experience instant relief.


Ants, ants, ants everywhere. Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line. So, get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever they tend to march. See for yourself.


Use air-freshener to clean mirrors. It does a good job and better still, leaves a lovely smell to the shine.


When you get a splinter, reach for the scotch tape before resorting to Tweezers or a needle. Simply put the scotch tape over the splinter, and then pull it off.. Scotch tape removes most splinters painlessly and easily.


Now look what you can do with Alka Seltzer........ Clean a toilet.  Drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets, wait twenty minutes, brush and flush.  The citric acid and effervescent action clean vitreous China ..


Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets.


Polish jewelry. Drop two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse the Jewelry for two minutes.


Clean a thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four Alka Seltzer tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary)


Unclog a drain. Clear the sink drain by dropping three Alka Seltzer  tablets down the drain followed by a cup of Heinz White Vinegar.  Wait a few minutes, and then run the hot water.


Makes you wonder about ingesting Alka Seltzer, doesn't it?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rain. Rain. Rain. Cookie.

After going out this morning in the monsoon that hit us right at the dog walk hour, I settled in for my routine.

It was an hour into it that the washer was bleeping for its attention so I had to get up.  Hearing "Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep." from the other room, I grabbed my empty coffee mug and walked to the kitchen.

On the way through, I snapped on the burner under the tea pot, slapped the mug on the counter and walked into the laundry to stop the electronic warden.  After filling the dryer, I noticed two beautiful brown eyes looking at once to me then to the porthole in the laundry room door that leads to outside.

When she was younger, Mrs Dog hated the rain with a passion.   If I ran a sound effect of rain with her in the room, she would get nervous and whine at the world.  If there were thunder claps in the sound effect, she would bark at it.  In fact, she bit the TV once and nearly pulled it over when there was a thunderstorm on the particular show we all were watching.

Mellowing some, aging more, and losing her hearing changed that.   She's since regained some of her hearing with the thyroid medications that bring her back to normal.  With all those changes I'm never quite sure of what she's going to hear, but feeling humidity and knowing that there is weather out there, she reacts to the word "Rain" as if it's going to come at her with a cold personal vendetta.

Going back into the kitchen, I had started the breakfast meal cooking and noticed that she was shadowing me.  Fear will do that to her.   Looking down at her and into those brown eyes, I bent down and said into her ear so that she could hear:

Rain.  Rain.  Rain.

She got excited.

I bent up and said Rain.

So she did what any dog would do.   She looked at the cookie box and begged.  I guess it's universal, it rains, we all eat.

Enjoy your cookie Mrs Dog and stop rubbing your face on the big green chair.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Endangered Invasive Species Confuse Me

That title sounds like a contradiction doesn't it?

There was an article on the BBC today about the floral trade.  It seems like "Western Demand" is stripping some Central American areas of certain kinds of Palm Trees to the point that the species has gotten rare and endangered.

It's a perfect example of that old saying 'What is Free, is Worthless'.

These countries have the palms growing in "open areas" and since they are there, they are getting picked clean of leaves.  If you pull the leaves off of the palm tree, it dies.  Thanks to UK researchers, they realized that they can be harvested in a Sustainable Manner by allowing them to grow to a certain size than only taking two leaves off of the tree.  The reason why you want this particular palm is because the shelf life of those palm fronds is much longer than most and can be upwards of 40 days.

Great... slow down, take ownership of the land, and protect the plants.   We have all heard of that many times.  After all, if you pick the flowers off of your plants, you will not have any fruit.  Leave some for the bees and you will have a harvest.  It simply makes sense.  Good agricultural stewardship of the land.  Treat it as a farm and you will do well.

So why was I shocked to see this particular article?  Simply put, these plants that are becoming endangered because of our demand and their incompetent and rapacious harvesting are an invasive plant in Florida.

It is a weed tree.

You see here, it is called a Fishtail Palm.  I have pulled seedlings out of my pot deep in the back of the yard that I use to start plants.   When I take a cutting of something, I stick it in that pot and see what I get.  I've gotten quite a few hibiscus, screw palms, coleus and others out of that pot.  It sits under my Sea Grape tree, and I have to pull sea grape plants out of that pot because the birds eat the grapes and "spit" the seeds out.

Well, not strictly speaking "Spit" but I do try to keep this blog safe for work even in conservative offices.

Right now, there are two of these endangered invasive palms growing in my pot.   When I saw that picture in the article, I thought of this starter pot and realized that yes, yet again, we've gotten it wrong. 

This picture was from the Wikipedia Page on the species.  We've got a lot of these trees in the neighborhood.  In fact this plant looks like the one in my next door neighbor's yard.

I guess instead of pulling that plant for next bulk trash day, I'll stick it in the ground out in the Utility Easement.  I may as well, it's not a native, it's an endangered invasive.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lemon Curd Recipe

That yellow stuff on top of the cream cheese on my mini bagels is something wonderful.

I got into a discussion of Lemon Curd with a friend who was coming up for a visit a while back.  He was speaking of his youth in Chester UK area and of how much he loved lemon curd.  I admitted I hadn't had it but next trip out that I saw it I picked some up.

Lemon Curd is a custardy smooth cream that tastes of lemons and sweetness.  If it is done right, it is quite a complex flavor since it uses the Lemon Zest.  If you find a recipe that only uses Lemon Juice, it's just not going to be as good.

This recipe I had found will work equally well with Orange or Lime.  The Lemon Curd is commonly used as Pie Filings but I'd say enjoy it any way you can.

Don't be threatened by something new, this really was easier than it may sound for a beginning cook or baker.  Even Non-Cooks could get this to work, and first time out I got the results I was looking for even though I really went a bit nuts with some bizarre substitutions of technique.

First, Lemon Zest is the yellow part of the skin of the lemon.  If you get down to the white part, it will be bitter so your best bet is to get a Zester.  If you don't want to get a Zester for "just one recipe", use a vegetable peeler. 

Second no matter what you use to get the zest, you will want to chop it down to very small pieces.  It will cook better.

Third, if you can't get your zest chopped down, the solution is simple.  Use your food processor.  Add the sugar to the food processor with a chopping blade, then the zest, then turn it on until everything is chopped down and even. 

All of that is a lead in to how I made it wrong, but it turned out wonderful -  I used a vegetable peeler and then a hand mixer since my food processor was in the dish washer.  It never really got the Lemon Zest down to the right size, you really do want it fine.

Next, when you cook, do so at a low heat and slowly turn the burners to no more than medium.  I got it up to 4 on my electric range with 5 being medium.  If you go too fast, the mixture will make bubbles and when bubbles pop, they'll burn your hands... so keep the heat low.

Finally when you cook this, keep gently stirring.  Use a whisk or a fork.  It will thicken up in about 10 to 20 minutes.  You will want a consistency like pudding.  I used a thermometer and stopped when it got to 180F, but really it thickened much earlier.  I went overboard with the heat but it turned out fine. 

Remember, the goal is to get something that you can spread on toast.  I suggest a Sesame Bagel with Cream Cheese.  Toasted of course...

Now relax.  It's really easy to make something like this!  Trust me, would a face like this lie to you?  No...

There are many recipes out there, the best one I found was the simplest. 

  • 3 Lemons Zested
  • Juice from those lemons
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 stick of unsalted sweet butter

Zest those lemons and get the pieces as small as you can reasonably get them. 
Add Zest to Sugar.
Mix Lemon and Sugar well.
Add all ingredients to sauce pan over low to medium heat.
On the heat, mix all ingredients in sauce pan until smooth.
  • Lemon Zest
  • Lemon Juice
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Butter

Remember to stir the Lemon Curd consistently. 
Slowly raise the heat from low until the mixture thickens but not above medium heat.
Lemon Curd will be finished when the temperature is around 160-180 degrees.
Consistency will be like a pudding, cool and store in jars for up to a month.
Lemon Curd is also wonderful served in tarts or in pies and is an excellent substitute for Lemon Meringue Pie Filling.

These old recipes are usually the simplest and easiest.   I'd say try the recipe as is, then if you prefer a more tart recipe, reduce the sugar to "dial it in" to your tastes.  It yielded 24 ounces of Lemon Curd and tasted to me the same sweetness as a commercially available British Lemon Curd but with a much more complex flavor since it was absolutely fresh.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why Bother Writing it All Down

As I wondered what I would write, my mind flicked back to this weekend when I was asked why bother with this blog thing?

It's an interesting thing to make it a point to write an article every day.  You start with a blank slate and sometimes a blank mind and start to type.  It's all about conveying information.  You never know where that mind will take you.  In fact sometimes it's just that mind being blank that gets you to write.

I've taken it on to write about complex issues on complex topics but what it is is a chance to get outside of my safe zone and work with things that I normally wouldn't work with.  Then take the findings and write about them in a fashion that just about anyone could follow along.

After all, why would someone with a training in Computing get involved in deconstructing the perfect pizza?

I'd say because the pizza here could be better.  Don't tell them that.

So why is this so late?  Everyone has been on the phone with me asking questions about life and the meaning of everything.

42. That's the answer, forty two, "Douglas".

Yesterday went well, today's been a bit fractured, and it's almost lunch.

There's fresh rolls cooling on the counter, and I have some pizza crusts in the oven for later.  I have a feeling that today's going to be a Kitchen Day.

Now, while that bread is cooling, I've got a file to download.  You see, there's a computer here that is going to get blessed with a copy of Linux.  I'm thinking CentOS again.   We shall see where that goes.  I want a secure place to surf and I have some ideas...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Discarded Double Amaryllis Blooms - Picture

In the yard there are a few oddball plants that have shown up in strange areas.  You would think that after 5 years, you would know what is in each spot of the yard.  Last year it was a red amaryllis next to the irrigation pump

In this land where dropped seeds from birds often sprout into exotic trees, it is easy to find flowering trees that show up in places you don't expect.  Ground orchids show up where nothing was before or after the weedeater clears a spot and gives it some light.

It is so easy to grow flowers here that you have folks tossing flowers left and right.  One day, sitting there next to a dumpster, among all the detritus of life, was a little pot with a little soil in it and a sad little amaryllis bulb that didn't look like it had any life left in it.  I left it under my orange tree for a couple years and for some reason it did nothing but mope along.

This year after I had come too close to it with the weedeater which ate the leaves that had grown I had pretty much given it up for a loss.  I moved it around and sat it by the door where I put plants that I want to watch for a while longer before all the sudden it decided it wanted to live.

How did I know?  It first sent up a flower spike.  Then two more.  Amaryllis rarely do more than one spike in my experience.  This little bulb is in a bowl that practically empty of soil and a little spray from the irrigation, and a little bit of rain now has this beautiful bloom by the front door and more flower spikes to come. 

Sometimes, a little help is all something needs to bloom where it is planted.

The Catholic Parrots - Humor

As uplifting as the story was yesterday... well this one is just humor. 

Having a parrot in the house that at this moment has decided to bless me with his morning concert, I have to wonder just how a parrot will hold a set of Rosary Beads...

The Catholic Parrots
A lady goes to her priest one day and tells him, 'Father, I have a problem.

I have two female parrots,

But they only know to say one thing'

'What do they say?' the priest asked.

They say, 'Hi, we're hookers! Do you want to have some fun?'

'That's obscene!' the priest exclaimed,

Then he thought for a moment......

'You know,' he said, 'I may have a solution to your problem. I have two male talking parrots, which I have taught to pray and read the Bible...

Bring your two parrots over to my house, and we'll put them in the cage with Francis and Peter.

My parrots can teach your parrots to pray and worship, and your parrots are sure to stop saying.... That phrase... In no time..'

'Thank you,' the woman responded, 'this may very well be the solution..'

The next day, She brought her female parrots to the priest's house..... As he ushered her in, She saw that his two male parrots were inside their cage holding rosary beads and praying..

Impressed, She walked over and placed her parrots in with them...

After a few minutes, The female parrots cried out in unison:

Hi, we're hookers! Do you want to have some fun?'

There was stunned silence...

One male parrot looked over at the other male parrot and says,

'Put the beads away, Frank, our prayers have been answered!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

No More With Me

Yesterday in the midst of answering emails and researching positions for future work, Velma had sent me this.  It was from something called the E-Mail Ministry, and these stories are always uplifting. 

This one in particular stuck with me.   I was out walking the dog and mangling the story as I was telling it to Kevin.  I stopped myself and said that since I wasn't doing it justice, I'd post it today on the blog.

No joke today, just a heartwarming story, a gift from Velma to you and to me.


"I'm sorry. Please forgive me! I don't mean to hold you up," he said as he struggled to get off the escalator.

I'll admit to it. There have been times when walking or driving behind an older person I've gotten impatient and upset.  I've huffed and zoomed around them because I was in a hurry to get nowhere.  Perhaps I'm more aware of it now because I see myself there one day soon.  Today I saw myself in this old man's shoes and it caused me to slow down, stop and ask for his forgiveness.

He was about five or six people ahead of me. I was in a hurry and saw him as an obstacle. I've seen people get off the end of an escalator and stop dead in their tracks, gather their things and suddenly there's a pile up of angry people behind them. You can't stop an escalator full of people behind you. Like the Energizer bunny, they keep on goin'.

This man was well aware of the challenge. He tried desperately to step aside.  Fumbling with his small packages, struggling to gain his footing, you could see how troubling this was for him.  "I'm sorry. Please forgive me! I don't mean to hold you up," he said as he struggled to get off the escalator.

I suddenly saw this in a whole new light. It was like I was watching my future. I felt sorry for him. I felt sick to my stomach because this man was apologizing to everyone, when we should have been helping him and calming his fears.

One by one, people zipped around him. I heard a few angry comments whispered as one lady passed by him. I saw me.

By the time I got to him he was just about steady on his feet.  "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know there was more," he said.

"No, sir. No more with me," I said. This really hit me hard. I realized right then how sad it was that the world was in such a hurry. That, of course, included me. more with me.  Count me out.

This wonderful man paid his dues. For whatever time he had spent on this earth, he most likely walked many rough roads and too many important miles.  Now he should be apologizing for moving slower?

My heart ached as I looked into his eyes. I wished that I could see what he had seen all those years. His face weathered from life itself, was creased and wrinkled. The small soft pockets under his eyes and the gentle lines that curved up and around them told me he had many happy moments, too. Those were traces left behind from laughter and a smiling, happy man.

"My friend, can I help you with those things?" I asked.  Hesitant at first, he finally said, "Well, yes, thank you!"  I placed my hand under his left arm and walked with him a safe distance away from the rush of people.  "So what are you shopping for, sir?"

"Oh, just a little something for my neighbor. She's a young mother raising kids on her own. She's always so nice to me. I thought a box of candy for Mother's Day..." he said, stopping suddenly as he searched his inside pocket of his sport coat.

"Do you need something?" I asked. "Oh, no. Here. I think I have it right here. I always carry them with me," he said. Then pulling out a hand full of papers he shuffled through them and handed me a business card that read:

"John A. Pomicter
Friend to all...enemy to no one!
I said a prayer today and you were the answer. Thank you!"

"That's for you," he said. "Thanks for stopping to help an old man."

"My friend, you helped me. I discovered that I was unhappy with the world and I was part of the problem.  Now I'll be part of the solution. No more with me!"

"Then this was meant to be," he said smiling.  "You know God sends me gifts every day and always at least one special person.  You were my gift for today!  Let's go get some chocolates, my friend."

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Accuracy of the Feathered Rain Detector is High

Headphones are on.  They're noise cancelling headphones, so the only thing I hear in this house is the occasional moans and groans from the dog, and an occasional shift from the Parrot, Oscar.

I've had the old boy since 1986 when I got him "second hand" in a pet store.  I guess I'm a sucker for a rescue pet.  He's old enough to vote, and I can tell you he'd be better at it than some of these clowns out there getting ready to vote for the rogues gallery of the incompetent Republican party.

Politics aside, other than a few rattles here and there, it's a quiet day.  I've got on some old classic Disco.  One of the uses I have for Sirius XM is their Disco channel, since their DJs are way too annoying on the more current music channels for Trance and Electronic Music.

We've had rain coming through, which is a bit odd.  March in South Florida is still the Dry Season.  Sure, a good stiff breeze could blow sea spray inland, pick up the humidity and cause rain, but it's generally supposed to be predictably dry here at this time of year.  That's why you snowbirds come down for a visit.

Remember, Snowbirds, Turn Signals are NOT Optional!

Listening to Chic singing Everybody Dance, there comes a loud rattling from the parrot cage.  Oscar is getting excited, feathers are flapping around.   Looking up, its one of those Wrong Time Of Year Showers.  Oscar got excited and it's time to let him enjoy the rain. 

Luckily for him, the cage is light enough to put him outside on the deck.  You don't really want to leave a prey animal outdoors for long here.  We've got Black Racer snakes, Opossums, and Raccoons that like to visit.  The Snakes are more afraid of us then we are of them, but the rest are something to be worried about.  Once I forgot the cage outdoors one afternoon after hosting a small dinner and heard rattling outside.  There was an Opossum sitting on the cage at dusk. 

We... won't be doing that again!

You can move into a neighborhood, but wildlife will stay.  For now, my Oscar has an appointment.  It's time for the Ringneck Doves to show up and pay him a visit at the window.  Him safely indoors, them safely in the bougainvillea.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Walking Under A Grey Sky

Ok, I've done it.  I'm officially on Summer Time, Eastern Daylight Savings Time, a week early. 

The body will do what the body will do I guess, so after waking up at a little before 5AM, it was time to start the routine. 

One of the first things that has to happen, check Radar.  Weather here has been strange this week.  High winds and rain off and on with periods of high winds and sun.  If you don't like it, wait five minutes it will change.  Welcome to Britain, Florida Style. 

Today was no difference, we've had periods of rain and clear and that was just in the 10 minutes I was debating whether I should luxuriate in the warmth of the bed or not.

Not really finding any grand insights on life to read on the insides of my eyelids, I gathered myself and the dog up and went on out for a walk that neither of us were looking forward to. 

Thing is that if you are someone with a normal schedule, try shifting yourself an hour earlier than everyone else.  You can't always do it, it takes discipline.  After all, I'll be having lunch at 11 today and I'm writing this posting an hour earlier than I usually do.  Minor mental game to shake things up.

I've commented before what it is like living in a city and getting out before anyone else.  There's a peaceful calm around the city, any city, at that predawn hour.   I was lucky enough to beat the dog walkers, and I'm sure many of them were wondering if they should just go and get it over with now or have another mug of coffee.  I walked past homes with one light on, two eyes peering out at the world and me.  Others were dark and faintly glowing with the red of their alarm clocks and power LEDs on their cable boxes.  My own house has almost enough light to read by the equipment's power LEDs that I could read by it.

As we walked around my block, listening to the silence, the joy of the event was muted.   Sure my shoes were worn through since they were my Dog Walk Shoes, but I didn't need wet socks.   My trusty umbrella that I had bought in Philadelphia's Suburban Station in that convenience store in the mid 1980s was with me dripping on my head. 

Looking down at my dog, she gave a shake.  Clouds of raindrops were flung back into the air and eventually onto the pavement.   The light from the yellow street lamps gave a few stripes of light in a spectroscopic display of Low Pressure Sodium Vapor light.

Or is it High Pressure?   One of my more geekier friends will most certainly correct me.

We reached the third corner and had had enough.  Mrs Dog decided "Home Was That Way" and "This Is Stupid" as we went right instead of left and ended back at the house.  As we got there, it was time for people to begin to stir, 6AM had bleeped on my watch and we were going to get dried off. 

There's always time for another long distance walk when the weather is better.  There's always time for a walk when you're a dog owner and if not then you're going to have chewed furniture.  How can you turn down those big brown eyes?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Watch Your Language Around the Dog

When I was very young, I was very proper.  Never swore, spoke precisely and properly, and eventually that all wore off through the rough annealing process known as Elementary School.

One develops language via the influence of media, peers and the random changes of life.  You hear a word and begin to use it because "you know" what it means in a sentence.  Many times you find that you're using it wrong but for the most part, you can suss it all out.

In my case, I find that while I do tend to speak my mind while out and about, I have one very important person who has lately effected change upon my spoken word.

My Dog.

You see, she's a McNab dog.  Think of a Border Collie bred for intelligence.  Then add a bit of reserve, general fear, and a dollop of calmness.  They are wickedly intelligent.  If you speak, they are listening and that may indeed be part of it.

I can't use certain words in her presence without sending her into her "I Must Make It Better For It Is My Job" mode.  She's a counselor in the best sense of the word but since she's a dog, she's learned English as a Foreign Language.   So she'll get it wrong.  Frequently and colossally wrong.

I am her entertainment, especially when I'm cooking.  When I cook it is my entertainment.  I do it because the challenge of getting it better than right appeals to me.  Being a Project Manager, I find that getting the order and the process of anything down is perfectly complementary to my being in the kitchen and slopping a dusting of some curry powder on a chicken Pattie to be served on a biscuit for breakfast.

Try it some time, if you are looking for something savory to go with your eggs, it may be for you.

But that's the rub.  You see she's decided that the word Bad is "The Word Not To Be Spoken".   Sort of a McNab "B" word.  Always to be written in CAPITAL LETTERS and even perhaps Italicized! 

This morning when making that Curried Chicken Pattie, I had the Coffee Roaster going.  The room was controlled chaos.  The Parrot was doing his best to out-shout the Roaster-cum-Popcorn Popper and that was when I noticed that I had forgotten to start the timer.

That timer is very important because all it takes is 15 seconds more time in the popper to send a batch of beans to becoming undrinkable "Starbucks Burnt Beans" quality coffee.  

No, Starbucks won't be one of my sponsors any time soon.  I've never actually had a mug of their coffee that I have enjoyed.  Ever.

But that was also when I scared the dog.

She was hovering just out of range since I have her trained not to come into the kitchen if I signal for her to go.  I looked at the timer and said "Uh Oh, that's bad." in a conversational tone to myself.  Just a casual throwaway comment.

In a black, tan and white flash, my faithful sidekick was now glued to my calf.  Being jumpy since I hadn't actually finished making that first mug of coffee, I startled.  My arm jumped and knocked the dinner plate off of the scale that was being used to allow the first batch of beans to cool.  Now the dog being freaked out by the noise began to recoil in abject terror as the little brown beans scattered.

As I dropped an F Bomb I began to pick up my scattered treasure, and realized that the dog had been thoroughly freaked out.  The Explosive Expletive added to The B Word had her completely unnerved. 

It was time to make amends and let the coffee roaster run, after all I had another few minutes left until second crack stage.  More importantly I had My Best Friend to comfort. 

Luckily, she calmed fast, then walked away as if nothing had happened.   I heard the first crackles of the Second Crack stage begin and requisitioned another plate from the cupboard.   All is well, no spilt milk, the coffee beans would be recovered and brewed on some other day.  I had been forgiven and forgave myself for making a fool of myself in the kitchen.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sandblasted Snowbirds

It's trash day here.  Yesterday I chopped down a "Weed" that grew to 12 feet tall.  I guess it's really a tree but it is now in pieces in the trash can.

That started things up.  Your front that caused so much havoc up in the midwest and came through yesterday here dragged a big mass of cool air behind it.  We're having some pretty significant winds as a result.

Seeing that the trash can usually isn't a problem, I had a few sticks from the cuttings that were holding the lid open just an inch.  That was all it took.   I've been up and down all morning slamming that lid back down.  Finally the last time was when I broke those two offending branches and was able to close the lid completely.

While standing outside I realized that here I was, 2 1/2 miles from the beach, getting sandblasted.  If you're a snowbird, this is definitely not a beach day.  The locals won't be there either unless they're serving drinks at the bars that are on A1A.

View Larger Map

There's a view of A1A at Las Olas at Fort Lauderdale's Beach. That many people won't be there today!

After picking the trash can up out of the parking space in front of my house, rubbing the bruised arm from the lid that slammed down on it, then getting the flag out of the screw palms, I looked up at the sun and rubbed the beach out of my eyes.

Thankful that we didn't have Tornadoes, it really is a pretty day out there and it could be a whole lot worse.  72 Degrees and Sunny with a strong wind off of the ocean.  At least the wind is coming from the right direction today.  Winter will ebb and we'll all be inside in the Air Conditioning once again.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Cold Day for an Iguana Hunt

The front finally arrived.  We got cold.  Ok, it was cold for us. 


Shivering in the 53F Degree chill, I woke a number of times.  Covering my head to conserve the last bit of warmth one too many times, it was enough.  Get out of bed and begin the morning rituals early.

Sunrise would not be for two hours yet.  The dog was snoring on her mat.  The yellow light of the street lamps were creating dancing patterns of Bougainvillea stems on the wall.

Grabbing the long pants and the leather jacket, it was time for what will probably be the last cold snap of the year.  It was also time to brave that "cold" with the dog.

Funny thing about getting up "early", things change.

The train whistle that was coming through on its morning run out of Miami to points North was much louder.  There were fewer people out and as a result, you found yourself trusting them less.  The stars were bright, the wind was strong, and the noises were different.

Knowing that the weather was cold, for us, was a change.  When you are used to room temperature outdoors on a cool day, and air conditioning can be needed at any time, wind chill warnings would come up when the temperature was a frigid 45 degrees.

We weren't quite there yet, and probably would not get there until next winter.   We do get winter, it is all of two weeks long statistically.  My zone won't freeze but 10 miles North will get frost. 

One of the reasons why it felt so different was that the exotics and invasives were hiding from the weather.  Many of the pets you keep in your home are strictly tropical.  This wasn't tropical weather, and they'd be stunned by the cold. 

These thoughts went through my mind as I concentrated on keeping the hand that the leash wasn't held in as warm as possible, and reminding me that I have to put needle and thread to that particular pocket liner.

Walking home, seeing the police cruiser glide back with the officer smoking a cigarette through an open window I realized I wouldn't find what I was looking for.  No iguanas had rained down from the sky in a stunned stupor.  The incongruousness of a cold day in Florida continued.  

Standing over the sink, eating a curried chicken cutlet on a biscuit, I realized that the excitement of the day wasn't the death of a reptile, but that my orchids were still in bloom unharmed by the cold.

We will know who you are, gentle visitors, and you will know us.   While we are shivering in dark and heavy clothes, you are enjoying your hard earned time in the sun in shorts and a T Shirt, even if it is too cold for it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Star Trek - Humor

Ok, this is a bit rude, but when I saw it in my list I thought "why not?"

So, shake off your Political Correctness and you'll see why when you get to the punchline.

Star Trek
The Iranian Ambassador to the UN had just finished giving a speech and walked out into the lobby where he met the U.S. President.

They shook hands, and as they walked the Iranian said, "You know, I have just one question about what I have seen in America."

The President said, "Well, anything I can do to help you, I will."

The Iranian whispered "My son watches this show 'Star Trek' and in it there is Chekhov who is Russian, Scotty who is Scottish, Uhura who is Black and Sulu who is Japanese, but no Muslims.

My son is very upset and doesn't understand why there aren't any Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans, Syrians or Pakistanis on Star Trek."

The President laughed, leaned toward the Iranian ambassador, and whispered back,

"That's because it takes place in the future".

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Do Cats Go To Heaven? - Humor

Since I am going to take Mrs Dog into the Vet today for some blood work, I thought this one was good timing.  Velma shared it with me, and I got a smile out of it when I read it this morning.  I hope you do too!

Do Cats Go to Heaven?
A cat dies and goes to Heaven. God meets him at the gate and says, "You have been a good cat all of these years. Anything you desire is yours, all you have to do is ask."

The cats says, "Well, I lived all my life with a poor family on a farm and had to sleep on hardwood floors."

God says, "Say no more." And instantly, a fluffy pillow appears.

A few days later, 6 mice are killed in a tragic accident and they go to Heaven. God meets them at the gate with the same offer that He made the cat. The mice said, "All our lives we've had to run. Cats, dogs and even women with brooms have chased us. If we could only have a pair of roller skates, we wouldn't have to run anymore."

God says, "Say no more." And instantly, each mouse is fitted with a beautiful pair of tiny roller skates.

About a week later, God decides to check and see how the cat is doing. The cat is sound asleep on his new pillow. God gently wakes him and asks, "How are you doing? Are you happy here?"

The cat yawns and stretches and says, "Oh, I've never been happier in my life. And those Meals on Wheels you've been sending over are the best!"

Friday, March 2, 2012

Playing with Microsoft Surface Globe

If you want to show off, and you have a tablet computer running Windows 7, and you can connect it up to a big screen, Microsoft Surface Globe is how to do it.

I do demos of software, videos, websites, and graphics here in my house.  With my little 12 inch "convertible tablet", it's fairly easy to do.   Turn on the TV, wait for it to come on to being a TV instead of "starting up".  Then plug in the HDMI cable to the spare port on the set and my laptop and most of the time they'll just "come on".  I'll see my laptop in full screen on the TV, in this case it's 46 inches.

Without getting into the technical stuff behind the scenes, today's cheaper TV sets blow away the best of the old school boat anchor computer monitors that we used to be amazed at.  I managed to have a 21 inch thing that made the desktop bow downward and still didn't have the resolution of the laptop I have here.  Now a "consumer good" that is "off the shelf" will cost less than that old thing did and just work better.

Plus I could hang it on the wall if I didn't get static from people about wanting to do that.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah) You Know Who You Are.

But I'm getting away from this software and showing off. 

See Microsoft has been working on bringing the whole iPad and Android tablet experience to the desktop computer and laptop computer scene for quite a while, but it never really gelled.  Windows 7 on a tablet is usable, but if you have a keyboard attached, the touchscreen will leave you hamstrung.  Sure you can use a stylus to write, touch something to select it, or even have an onscreen keyboard but you're left feeling like you're talking to a "C-" student.  Ok, you can do better, now come back when you've tried again.

Surface Globe is one thing that shows the promise of the technology that they're working on. 

Instead of using your mouse on a tablet computer or the track pad on this HP Touchsmart tm2 that is truly abysmal, you can use the fingers you were born with and leave wonderful fingerprints on your laptop screen.   Hooked up to my TV set I can get fully immersed in the maps that I used to read as a kid when I was bored.  Just wash your hands first.

I'll dig deeper into that link later.  It looks like I may be able to do some upgrades...

Completely familiar gestures to the iPad user and Android Tablet folks, you can pull and stretch the map like you're kneading dough and drill down to where you want to see.  The one thing I wish it had was street view.  That's a Google Earth thing since they sent the cars around and Microsoft didn't.  

Remember, Surface Globe is a "Proof of Concept" app.  It works incredibly well, I'm a fan, but there are things that you can't do with it that other software can let you do. 

Trying to use Google Earth like you would on an iPad didn't work on the version I have on this machine.  It's older, and perhaps I should check into an upgrade, but for now, it's useful the way I use it. 

Since I'm adding links to this article for my own memory - here's the download link for Earth.  Just remember you don't need Chrome and to click on the Advanced Setup.  When there on that web page, click "off" the boxes that say allow Google to automatically upgrade since you don't want that extra spyware on your computer.

All of this has me looking forward to Windows 8.  Sure, my machine works incredibly well on Windows 7.  It has been rock solid and stable.  If there have been problems with the laptop it is from manufacture (the trackpad is terrible) and from applications that just go mental.   We've all got stories like that.

Oh and removing all that crapware like Norton and going with Microsoft Security Essentials certainly helped here. 

I'm skeptical about the whole "Metro" look and feel.  Sure, Apple would sue them if they dared to come too close to their iPad iOS interface.  Then again, Xerox was the one who invented the whole icon on computer way of doing things with a Graphical User Interface so it really is revisionist in my eyes for Apple to claim it's theirs. 

In trying not to look like the iPad, Windows treads carefully with Metro.  Things look blocky and all the pictures I've seen of Metro look like they were built in a rush.  Squares and Rectangles in rigid rows done with primary colors look primitive.   I'm all about the way things work, but they could have done a little more work with that "look and feel". 

There's so much promise in Surface that Windows 8 will be something I'll get very quickly on release.  I'm trying to figure out now how I can get the beta installed on this machine and run it beside my current Windows 7.

Until I figure all that out, I'll be flying around the world kneading my way through maps.  I'll also be looking forward to the next version and if it is compatible.

Now that I have Google Earth's latest version here, I'll have to play around with that.   Mrs Dog has been taking me around for some rather odd walks lately