Friday, August 31, 2012

Is Facebook Releasing Your Phone Number To Advertisers?

Actually from what I am reading, "Premium Advertisers" with Facebook are going to be granted access to your Phone Number and Email Addresses.  This is planned to happen by way of a program called Power Editor.  Pay them money and FB is giving access to your supposedly private information.

How do you combat this?

Dropping off of Facebook won't stop that, the information will still be there.
Deleting your account may but will they actually delete the information?

What I did was to mess with the information.

Go into what I call the Steaming Pile of Slop called Timeline.

(Who on earth thought two columns was a good way to portray variable information should be horsewhipped with a book of Fonts and the Chicago Book Of Style.)

Find the button that says "Update Info".

Page down until you find "Contact Info" and click on the Edit Button.

Change your phone number to Your Area Code 555-1212.  Such as 609-555-1212.  That will put you in contact with the information.  You know '411'?

Click on the button on the right with a down pointing triangle.  That is where you control who can see the information.  Change it to Only Me.

I did this to my email accounts too.  They don't need all that either.

At this point the article that I saw on Gizmodo says it will be granted your name and phone number as well as your email.  Any advertiser who calls me will get a lecture to put it mildly.

No matter whether this program becomes real or if it is a rumor, now is a good time for you to go in to your settings and see if you really do want to be sharing something.  My personal opinion is that if you want to know something about me, ask.  I may actually tell you.

Of course the safest way to protect your privacy is to simply not put it online.  I'd say if you're on Facebook, that ship had sailed a long time ago.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Firefox 15 Upgrade Happened With No Problems on Windows

Yesterday I had that little window pop up and demand attention.

Firefox wanted to be upgraded.  

I clicked another window and purposely buried it.  I've had bad luck with upgrades before and didn't want a problem.  While Firefox upgrades have been mostly painless I wanted to do what I call an orderly shutdown.  After all, I was due for a client meeting in an hour and had about 20 windows and tabs open under Firefox.

I went to my meeting, got some instructions for a web development project I'll be working on, and came home.   All the while that little window was sitting buried under all the digital chaff I had on my laptop.

I ignored it until this morning.  I had a logical break point, closed the unneeded windows and trusted that the existing Firefox would save all those leftover windows and tabs before closing.

I clicked the button to upgrade, and it closed.

I should have done it earlier, it was completely painless. 

I've gone through a couple hundred window opens, closes, loads and reads now.   All those web pages were fine, it was "normal". 

I'd say just click and do your upgrade.  It was harmless on windows.  I'll have to check Linux later.

If you dismissed the upgrade window, here is the process:

  • With Firefox open, Click Help.
  • Click About Firefox to check your updates.
  • If that window says that "Firefox is up to date" you're done.
  • If that window has a button that says "Apply Update", click on that button, and the update will happen.

If you get lost on that, the official Firefox Upgrade instructions are here.

There's always the other way to do it... grab the software directly from the Get Firefox Webpage.  Surf and click on the tab for either Mobile or Desktop.  In my case, when I clicked on the Desktop Tab it told me "Hooray, your browser is up to date".

Like I said, no problems.  Time to surf some "stuff".  Basically it was a "Non Event". 


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flooding Ants and Ant Killer Recipe

This storm that passed through filled my pool.  It's near the point where it would overflow if we had just one afternoon thunderstorm more.  It also dropped some palm leaves in there, not fronds, just leaves.

Not a big deal.   Nothing like New Orleans is getting. Hurricane Isaac is partying in Plaquemines Parish Louisiana and not moving on.  Dumping a load of rain on that part of the world and not moving means they're going to be flooded with or without that levee breach.

Now I'm waiting for the waves of insects.  South Florida has clouds of gnats, mosquitoes that would carry off a small child, and whole yards full of Dragonflies that come and go while gliding on the breezes eating anything that is remotely bug like.

We like Dragonflies.   The aerial acrobatics on the front yard are something that always gives you a few moments of pause.

They all come in waves in order.  It's quite predictable.

All that rising water that is flushing out to sea through the canals disturbed the ants.  There are red ants, black ants, ants that like grease and ants that like fat.  My favorite are the ants that like sugar.

They also like me.

Yesterday as the last of the few lingering thunderstorms left, I walked into the kitchen bleary eyed to feed my dog.  As I got to the Kitchen Sink they were everywhere.

Little black ants scurrying madly.   We'd had an outbreak of ants.

Living here, you make adjustments.  Never leave food out.  Clean up ALL of the crumbs.  Seal your jars completely.   You develop a first name relationship with the pest control company guys.  You know that you need to remind them that they have to "Send the little guy this time to inspect the attic" because it's a tight fit.

You also bomb the yard a couple times a year.

It sets up a wall of death around your house that you have to remember not to let the pets cross until completely dry.  That "Cordon Sanitaire" was why I was surprised to see the little black ants.
Visit for more comics.
My kitchen had turned into one of those Discovery Channel documentaries.   Instead of carrying green slivers of leaf and making bridges across the old dishes, I had trails of ants.


They started near the kitchen sink.  The trail wrapped itself behind the coffee machine, up the window to the soffits, around the breakfast table to the ceiling.   From the ceiling they worked their way to the back of the kitchen, past the refrigerator and the oven to the pantry where all my baking supplies were.

Crossing the Kitchen Desert for a bit of Dessert are we?

After Mr. Expert had said for the umpteenth time that the old standby wouldn't work, I tried it.  Terro.  It really should be the FIRST thing I try.

Terro is a simple thing, sugar water with borax.  Borax is not exactly easy to find, but seek and ye shall find.   It's used in cleaning and is one of those chemicals that is safe for use in normal quantities but it can make you sick in large quantities.  So don't let your pets at this, and if there's kids around don't let them near it either.  Try the cleaning aisle in the larger supermarkets or your old school hardware store.

Basically it's simple syrup.  You put a drop or three of it down on cardboard near the ant trail and the ants will find it, drink it, and bring it back to the queen.  After a few days, you have a dead colony.  Fascinating to watch as they ring the drop of clear fluid and drink like animals at a watering hole.   Watering hole of death that is.

The recipe is simple, in a saucepan add:

1/2 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 tablespoon of Borax

Bring to a boil for 3 minutes.  Allow to cool. 

You may be able to get away with just adding the ingredients to an old jar, shaking it up to mix, and microwaving it if you are squeamish about using Borax in your good saucepan.

Leave out for the ants.  They'll find it and die.

Keep out of reach of children and pets, as Borax isn't completely safe.  Just like any pesticide, it is "Safe-ish".

We'll be making this up and leaving it out back.  I don't care for the little visitors.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Have you ever had an idea that sounded good?
You know, something that would be a great benefit but in the end turned out really terribly executed so it basically is like banging your head against the wall. 
Something you stop doing when it ceases to be theraputic?

Read on, McDuff, this is one of those ideas.

Luckily I didn't make this boneheaded mistake.

CMAS is a piece of software that runs on smartphones.
CMAS is a service that allows you to be warned, here is the wikipedia page.
It gets information from some central server somewhere that is supposed to be keyed on where you are, based on the cell towers you are near.   Yes, even if your GPS doesn't work on the cell phones, you can find out where your cell phone is at based on the old Triangulation technique.  

If there's something that happens that is an emergency in your area, a notification is pushed to your phone and ...


Last night, in the tail of Tropical Storm Isaac, around 4PM, there were some Flash Flood Watches sounded for this part of the world.  Not like they weren't expected, we've had four days of rain in a row and a Duck and Cover Event called the Tropical Storm Watch.  Or Warning, it's never quite clear which is which. 

When you live in South Florida, these warnings are literally EVERYWHERE.  You simply can not escape it because a helpful neighbor will ALWAYS tell you about it.

Sitting in the green comfy chair, watching the rain fall, there was a Thunderstorm.   We're used to that here, the storms can be entertaining in itself.

Right as a lightning strike hits, some drone sitting in a building somewhere decided to make my phone disgorge noise.  First it started to vibrate.  Violently.  So as I reach over to grab the phone before it begins a trip to the floor, it then starts to scream like a siren.  Then back to vibrating.

Figuring it was possessed, my first thought wasn't Oh Let Me Check For An Emergency Warning, Oh no.  I wanted to Kill it with Fire.  As in accelerate it as fast as I could at the nearest Concrete Block and Stucco Wall to MAKE IT STOP.

Had this happened while I was driving, there would most likely be an automobile accident.  Mine.

Regaining composure I found the settings for this vile software.

I had three levels of Alerts. 
  1. Presidential Alerts
  2. Imminent Threats
  3. Amber Alerts

I was able to immediately turn off Imminent Threats and Amber Alerts.  Helpfully, this evil software said "Presidential Alerts are always presented."

This piece of software may not be removed.
This piece of software may not be turned off.
This piece of software may not be modified so that the alarm sound is less offensive.
This piece of software may not be modified so that the vibrate can be turned off.

This piece of software will be the reason why I will be "rooting" my phone, then installing another "operating system" so that I won't have to experience this "feature" in the future.

Cyanogen Mod will be in its future.

You see, this is the problem with software these days.  You have a marketing drone somewhere that says Oooh We Can Give The This Feature And They Will Love It And Pay Us Money.

Remember you can't uninstall this.  You are locked out from this particular feature.

I can't even find an example of it in Google Play so that I can explain what it is. 

T-Mobile's page on this software is here if you want greater detail.  I just want to know how on earth to block this thing.   It is like killing an Ant with a Sledgehammer.

I do know in the future, my purchases of Android hardware will be governed first and foremost by whether or not there is "Locked In" software like this and if I can "root" the device.  

My Device, My Rules.

That unfortunately is a big problem with software these days, whether it be Android or Windows or what have you.  I spend more time removing software from a brand new computer than I do installing operating systems.  Spyware, useless browser toolbars, and games that report back to the writer what you are doing for more pertinent advertising are the norm on Windows.  At least you can remove them there, in the case of my little purple phone, I have to go to the level of wiping it clean and starting over. 

Sad really, because the addition of things like Twitter or Facebook are only useful on a phone if you have an account and use them.   I do not have a Twitter account and do not want one so why can't I remove the software again?

Oh right that Marketing drone.

Oh well, it will be gone too I hope.   In the meantime, while I fully support President Obama, I'm hoping that he doesn't send out an order to make the phone do that again.  It was just too much of a shock the first time.  Once in 9 months is enough.  Three times in one night was ridiculous.  Since all it did was scare the living daylights out of me and not provide me with any useful information it really does need to go.  A Cancel Box plus a one line blurb saying that there was a Flood Watch In Effect is simply scaremongering.

CMAS is currently a voluntary service that needs to end.   At least in this particular way of providing the "service".

Monday, August 27, 2012

It could be worse, then again it could be Monday

I'm writing this Sunday Morning and I am editing it Monday Morning.

The storm has come and it is lingering, but nothing more than a random shower.   Basically a normal Monday in the wet season.

Sunday Morning, I was awakened by the sound of gravel being thrown against the storm shutters that are bolted to the bedroom windows.  It actually was a squall line coming through.   We had been having rain for about a full day at that point, off and on.

The rain had stopped as quickly as it started.  One of those Hollywood Movie Set things where some unseen stage hand has flipped a lever on and off.

Hauling myself out of bed to check radar, I get started feeding the dog.  That in itself takes time since she has to have soft food, and doesn't like that at all.

While I'm sitting in a kitchen Captain's Chair, scooping wet and warm dog food out with my right hand and proffering it to the recalcitrant pooch, another line hits.

I knew it was here when Oscar flapped his wings and said hello, then laughed.

There is no joy quite like a parrot who thinks he's going to dance among the rain drops.

I finish feeding Mrs Dog thinking we're going to get wet.  Listening for thunder, and hearing none, I grab my portable lightning rod.  When the winds gust over 30mph, the umbrella would be useless.  I knew that.

She walks between the cars and over to the lee of them to empty out.  Any other Sunday at that time she'd avoid that spot.  The irrigation had started and the sprinklers were adding to the wet.

Hmm, got to fix that Rain Sensor.  For now, the water we were pumping out of the ground was watering the grass, about a block away once it stops being pushed West on the gusts.

We headed out to the street.

Not as bad as it could be.  The rain had almost stopped.

As she went to do her business, a gust of wind caught her as she was balancing and she went down in a stumble.

It was an interesting couple of days.  Not as bad here as in Key West or when it eventually makes landfall up in the Gulf, but interesting none the less.

At this point, the storm is in the Gulf and strengthening.  It is forecast to make landfall somewhere around Gulf Shores Alabama or westward toward the mouth of the Mississippi.  Lets hope it doesn't turn into another Katrina.

That picture pretty much says what it did to us.  The dog slept through it all, once or twice getting up and sniffing the air, then using her toys as pillows.  No Big Deal.  It could have been worse, and will be when it makes landfall as a Category 1 or 2.  The best thing it did was to fill my pool and wash away some used tea bags in Tampa at their Republican National Convention.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Walking The Dog - Humor

Who knows if this joke is true, but it put a smile on my face so that's what is important.

You can thank Velma for this one.  I know I did!

A woman was flying from Seattle to San Francisco.


The plane was diverted to Sacramento along the way.

The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes..

Everybody got off the plane except one lady

Who was blind..

A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her guide dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight..

He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, "Kathy, we are in Sacramento for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?"

The blind lady said,

"No thanks, but maybe Buddy would like to stretch his legs."

Picture this:

All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog for the blind!

Even worse, the pilot was wearing sunglasses !

People scattered.

They not only tried to change planes,

But they were trying to change airlines!

True story.....
Have a great day and remember.....


Saturday, August 25, 2012

DoNotCall.Gov and cellphone scam

This week I got three copies of a warning by folks who thought this should be on my blog.  The message says that if you don't sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry before a deadline, your number will be sold to Telemarketers.

Thanks but the message is actually a scam.

Just surf and add your phone number, cell or landline, and you will be blocked from legitimate telemarketers.   That is if such a thing as a legitimate telemarketer actually exists.

There are no deadlines.
The list will not drop you off after so many years.
Set it and forget it.

It won't stop those politicians that think it is a good idea to annoy people by telling you how you absolutely have got to vote for them or puppies or kittens will frown at you.  It won't stop people you do business with.  But the ones that follow the rules will stop calling you. 

Trust me on that one, it works.

Consider this, if you are marketing a product by annoying someone, why would you expect them to purchase it?  The first rule of marketing is Do Not Annoy Your Customers.

If you would like to read the message on Snopes, you can see it at this link.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Strange Sort Of Hurricane Prep

Yesterday I noticed that radar was up and then "Down For Maintenance".

Today, the network in the house was fine, but the internet was having intermittent little hiccoughs.  They lasted long enough for me to notice because the music on the internet radio stopped, then came back.

I guess the little man who went up the pole wiggled the wire back into place.

I'm roasting extra coffee.  After all, you don't want to see me without the daily buzz.

This all happened as I had a series of power pops.   I was also considering what to write about when the internet completely dropped off line for a minute or so.

Life in Florida.  It can be odd here.  I think you could say that anywhere that is tropical.  You have lizards that eat your shrubs, power that never is as stable as it should be because a hurricane hit here in 2006, and you get to know your neighbors deeply.

My one neighbor across the street suggested we run a 110v line across the road in case of power being out so that we can keep our refrigerator running.  Nice guy, really I deeply appreciate the gesture, but I keep wondering what would happen if someone decided to trip on that wire.

This is, after all the United States of Litigious Amurrica.

So as the Ice Machine Fills, I make bags of ice and pack every nook and cranny with some day to be melted goodness.  I serve the frozen foods first, to make extra room.  Those fish fillets that I bought for a British Visitor are long gone, served with those Chips that I learned how to fry to perfection in a skillet.

Medium heat, cook for about 5 minutes and check to see if they're nicely browned, then flip. 

Cooking food in a skillet has become a Survival Skill because the Grill in the back yard has a gas burner on it. 

We'll eat well even if the power goes off for a couple days.

Side dishes are easy if you have a 25 pound bag of Basmati Rice and a bottle of water.

The car even has 110 volt plug in the back.  Fire up the car and we can even use electrical appliances.   We've made Mashed Potato in the back of the car once.   When the power goes out in the middle of making a roast beef dinner, preheat the grill to 350F and then move the entire pan, Broil In Bag and all into the back yard and close the lid to the grill.  Move the potatoes from the water on the burner in the kitchen to the grill and finally to the mixing bowl on the stand mixer in the back of the car in the front yard, add ingredients and turn on the mixer.

You may want to start the motor on the car, just to top off the battery.  Oh and roll the car down the driveway so we don't pass out.  Good, that will do!

So today, just in case the storm doesn't sit over top of Tampa and visit the Republicans like I am hoping and knocks our power out instead, I'll put up some comments on the blog for the next few days.  We're not expecting anything, and the storm hasn't even hit Hurricane force yet, but there's nothing strange about being prepared.  I suspect Monday we in the Fort Lauderdale Area will all be sitting thinking "it could be a lot worse" and watching the coverage on the TV. 

There's bound to be someone who forgot "Turn Around, Don't Drown" and is sitting on top of the roof of their posh car somewhere.   It's always someone who thinks that it can't happen to them.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Windows Upgrade Offer Seems Too Little Too Late To Me

Sure, it's minor but follow me here.

You went out and bought a computer.  
You got a Windows 7 machine.
You know that Windows 8 is coming out in October.

At this writing, that is 2 months away.

The industry press is whining, whinging, and pitching a fit worse than a child who has been sent to bed without it's supper because sales are down.

Why are sales down?

Simple, people are waiting for the next Windows, Windows 8 with the new Windows 8 interface.  You know, that ugly Metro Inspired Theme that looks just like the King County Washington State transit signs crossed with a child's construction paper cutout of a bunch of squares?

Ok, I find it ugly, but it is coming, and it will be the standard on the desktop and the laptop of the next few years. 

So why the rant?   Simple, they're charging $15 for the upgrade.  If you buy one now, you can go to this link and grab the Windows Upgrade Offer.  It will get you a new copy of Windows for that machine you just bought because you were either too impatient or were not able to wait another two months.

Another illustration of unthinking corporate marketers. 

I do think that Microsoft deserves to be paid for their work, I'll have to shell out some cash to upgrade this particular machine to Windows 8 at some point, but this is a very different matter.

Earlier upgrades were done with a free rebate coupon tossed in the box with the machine.   When the switch from XP to Vista or Windows 7 happened, many machines presented you with the choice of either operating system when you first turned them on.  This did happen after the newer operating system shipped, however.

I know, I know, it's "Only $15" but come on.... If you want to stimulate sales, it needs to be just like before - free upgrade.  It's a minor point but people love free things, and they may never take advantage of it - just like every other rebate or coupon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What do you do when the Hurricane takes your Cloud away?

There's this little storm down in the Caribbean today.  They're expecting it to clip Haiti, not that they need any more damage.  Then to visit Cuba.  From there, Florida.   The link I check for storms is here,

They say that we are in The Cone of probability.  I've already seen a couple posts of friends online saying "We're Coned" and "Duck and Cover".  It could hit here, it could hit Tampa.  I'm hoping for Tampa.  Should put a nice dent in the right wing nutbag convention, sorry, Republican Convention if it hits there.

More importantly it's a time for us in Florida to take stock.  See if we've got food and water for a week plus.  I've got two weeks worth here and we're hitting the stores tonight.

On the other hand, we've all grown used to having our utilities being on all the time.  Power, Water, Sewage are normally there as well as phone service.  Internet less so.  One well placed storm could take most of that out anywhere. 

With this always on internet connection that we've grown used to, you find yourself stuck if you need something and the power is off.  Usually you can get to what you need, but that's the thing. If you are expected to have a "bug out bag" of things that are required in case your home is destroyed, has the internet services gotten robust enough to serve as an external hard drive?

Personally I think the answer is "maybe".  Great place to copy all those little files you keep on your hard drive "just in case".   Take photos of everything in the house and save it to a cloud drive like Dropbox or Windows Live SkyDrive, or one of the many others.  Scan your papers to either a picture or a PDF and do the same.

On the other hand, that's great but don't depend on it completely.   They aren't guaranteeing you what used to be called "Archive Storage".  If your one and only copy of your tax form from 2 years ago is on a cloud drive and you need it now, what do you do when your internet system won't be back for three weeks. 

My block was without power for that long after Hurricane Wilma.  I'm quite happy to have missed that storm, and it's completely possible for that sort of thing to happen again.

So as a part of "Hurricane Prep", I'll be doing some electronic triage.   If I can pare down my documents to Just The Essentials and it's a reasonable size, they're going to my Dropbox account.   I'll have them on the chip plus a second backup in the house.

As an ongoing thing, whenever you get a file that you must print that is online or just "on the computer", it's a good practice to print it to a PDF.  You can install a printer that does all the hard work for you.   Instead of wasting paper, you take up a few bytes of storage. 

You can grab a copy of the printer I use by going to and selecting the Cute PDF Writer.  That way even if your files are on the cloud that you can't get to, you'll be able to carry the box of the paper things you can't get rid of with your local copy of the forms on the chip.

Backups are just like the ad said about chips, You Can't Eat Just One.  Since I have only 1.3GB of things I can't lose, they'll get to the cloud even if I can't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TL;DR or 250 words on writing a blog

Too Long;Didn’t Read.
You’re kidding me.
You mean …?
Less Tolstoy, more Hemmingway.
Write in Doggerel?  Shorter clipped sentences?  Skip the descriptions and fill it full of actions?
Yes, and TL;DR.
But it’s a blog, a hobby.  You’re expected to stretch out and write long things and enjoy yourself.  Why limit yourself to being all short when you want to describe things deeply and richly.
You’re doing it again.  TL;DR.
Come ON!
No really, nobody reads that long stuff.  Who takes the time.  People read the first paragraph, skim the second and decide if they want to stick it out for the long haul.
You’re getting it.
But what if it’s technical?
It’s a limited audience, they’re reading for something complex and need the detail.
Cut the big words?
Yeah, the iPhone generation was raised on MTV back when they did music.  All blinky lights and short video clips. 
Surely you’re kidding?
Nope.  They have the concentration span of a mayfly.
So what you’re saying is if you can say it shorter it’s better?
Yes.  Sentences are better than paragraphs.  Words better than sentences.
That makes no sense.  You need to string words together to convey meaning.
TL;DR.  Too complex.
No, too short.  1984.
Yes, you get the idea.
No, that’s just Newspeak.  It inadequately conveys meaning on complex subject and gives short shrift to nuance in favor of an artificial standard of brevity.
Ooo, Big Words.
Big words good, small words bad.   More English, less “American”.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Altoids Tin For Your Next Wallet?

They're Iconic. 
They smell good.
They are durable.
They're common place enough to be ignored.

Yes, it's an Altoids tin.  

People do all sorts of things with them.  They are a great case for electronic projects.  They're storing my little screwdrivers.  They stored my Lottery tickets for a while until the Powerball got greedy and raised the price.  I felt stupid throwing away $40 a month on tickets for the "Math Tax".

Now I've heard a new use for the thing - as a wallet.

Ok, sure, it sounds kind of low rent, but it offers an interesting benefit.  They will shield your credit cards from being read by RFID readers.  

I'm not a fan of RFID.  The chips work a bit too well.  It is a little electronic chip that sits inside credit cards and ATM cards that you waggle in front of a reader and under normal conditions can only be read within a few feet.

That's Normal Conditions.   Since RFID is protecting your credit limit on the credit card I feel safer without it.

Sure, this is "Tinfoil Hat Territory" but if I get a card with a chip in it, I immediately contact the vendor for a chipless card.  The old school magnetic stripe is good enough for me. 

If I can't get the new card, I find where the little square chip is in the card, then hit the chip with a hammer and a "punch".   Electronics can be fragile and that "disables" the chip so I can be completely comfortable.

I tried it out with a card that I did not activate because it has a chip in it and it fit easily inside of an Altoids tin leaving room for some (*GASP*) cash and other things I may find I need.  Like in this Lifehacker article, you even may have room for a memory stick, and you can keep a mugger wallet in case you are in a questionable neighborhood.

You know, a couple bucks and some old spent gift cards kept as a decoy.

I'm just amused enough at this little hack to consider it.  The little tins are just "too nice to throw away" and I have a few here.

Or just stuff your cash in your sock.  I won't tell.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Blonde Pilot

Ok, I don't usually post "Blonde Jokes", but this one made me smile.  So if you don't like blonde jokes, you can change it to something else.   Rednecks perhaps...

The Blonde Pilot...

This is the story of the blonde flying in a two-seater airplane with just the pilot.

The pilot has a heart attack and dies... She, frantic, calls out a May Day.

"May Day! May Day! Help me! Help me! My pilot had a heart attack and is dead.

And I don't know how to fly. Help me! Oh my God, Please help me!"

She hears a voice over the radio saying:

"This is Air Traffic Control and I have you loud and clear. I will talk you through this and get you back on the ground. I've had a lot of experience with this kind of problem.

'Now, just take a deep breath. Everything will be fine! Now give me your height and position."

She says, "I'm 5'4" and I support Obama."

"O.K." says the voice on the radio....

"Repeat after me: Our Father. . Who art in Heaven. . . .."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The CEO and the Seed

Velma had sent me this little story about honesty.  I liked it then, and I don't know if I had posted it before, but if so, here we go again.

A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.

Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. "The young executives were Shocked, but the boss continued. "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today - one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with   what you have grown from the seed I have given you.  I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one  I choose will be   the next CEO."

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the   story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew

Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing.

By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure.

Six months went by -- still nothing in Jim's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing.   Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil - He so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.

Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot.   But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his  stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room.

When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful - in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives.   Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified.. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!"

When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed,
Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "Behold your next Chief Executive Officer!

His name is "Jim!" Jim couldn't believe it. Jim couldn't even grow his seed.

"How could he be the new CEO?" the others said.

Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead - it was not possible for them to grow.

All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!"

* If you plant honesty, you will reap trust 
* If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
* If you plant humility, you will reap greatness
* If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment
* If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective
* If you plant hard work, you will reap success
* If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation

So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.  Think about   this for a minute. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Beginning of the end for Flash?

Steve Jobs famously would not allow Flash on his "iDevices" like the iPhone and the iPad.  It used to be a major annoyance.  It slowly became less important as newer technologies replaced it like HTML5 which does not require messy solutions like extra software.

You know, Plugins?

Flash has just been removed for Android.  Today, it no longer shows up on the Google Play store.   There is something called "Open Flash" that promises that it will play flash files on your tablet.

That means that effectively Flash is dead on phones and on tablets.  That's important because many people really could get away with only ever using a tablet to do their normal computing.

I found myself wondering whether it was a big deal or not.  I reached down and grabbed my tablet, swiped to unlock, then did a little digging.   It turns out that I never bothered to install Flash on the tablet.

At all.

Flash is on my Windows machines.   Flash is on my ancient hand me down Mac in the back room that is gathering dust.  I went through the painful install procedure to get Flash on my Linux machine. 

It's just not on the tablet or the phones.

I guess it's not going to make the transition to the "Post PC World".  It's always been a minor annoyance on Windows, demanding that it be installed if you go to Youtube to watch a video like the one below of a Golden Retriever in China guarding his owner's bike from being stolen. 

Totally safe for work, by the way.

So you can consider that as a test, I won't tell the boss.

Actually it will be nice to not have Flash on my Windows computers.   Flash is constantly demanding to be updated, almost as frequently as Adobe's other software, the PDF readers are.  It's at least once a week I get a notice telling me that there was yet another exploit that is being plugged by this particular update so please don't uninstall the software because we really do want you to use it.  

Now if we could only get Java to actually install correctly on an update, we might have a more pleasant experience.   I just can't seem to remember why I even keep Java on my machines...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Windows Update Forces My Backup

I'll admit it, the last time I did a backup of my computer was February.  Six Months ago.  All excuses aside, it's way too long.

Last night I was sitting in the big green chair.  Watching Oliver Douglas try to get Arnold Ziffel the Pig out from under the floor in the bedroom of the old Haney Place on Green Acres, I realized I reached the dreaded "Logical Breakpoint".

I was going to do a full shut down of the PC that I use for my "Daily Driver".   This is the little laptop that I've had for about 2 years.  I bring it everywhere that it's appropriate and I'll need proper computing power.  I use it for web development, graphics design, all my consulting, as well as a significant amount of entertainment.   I've got others, but this one and I "bonded" and it's the one I start first and use all day.  I have programs that run from when it starts to do chat on AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger, Skype and others so that I can be found if any of my clients and friends need me. 

It's pretty important.

So I don't shut it down often.  I usually hibernate the machine because to shut down all those networks, graphics design programs, video editors, and the rest of the layers of software just take too long to get back to where they were before I shut it down in the first place. 

I don't like that little gold shield that sits next to the shut down button because it will sit there nagging me until I do what it wants. 

Last night I did what it wants.

It took about an hour of reboots to recover. 

The machine went and installed 10 Windows Updates, then powered off. 

I pressed the little silver power slider to get it to come back on.  It finished the updates, then rebooted itself.

To darkness.

Ok first things first, that's a major problem with Windows 7.  When you start a machine, it does not tell you what it is doing.   Sure, Microsoft wants you to believe that it is a sealed unit, just like a Mac, but it isn't.  Something can go wrong.  In the land of FPL where power pops can destroy your washing machine, a laptop is an easy target.

It went to restart itself and asked if I wanted to try the recovery console.  Sure, lets try it.

Nope, it got part way into it and restarted itself.

Helpfully, from across the room I hear "Try powering it off completely and powering it up from a dead stop".

Tried that, got further into the recovery console but that didn't look comforting.  When you see that first power on screen again after almost two years, you know you're in a weird place with your computer.

I closed that, and tried the shut down again.

It attempted to reboot the system again to the windows startup menu.

This time I got what a little child once called The Dark Place.  Wonderful description about when you get a black screen with white typing all over it trying to tell you what to do.


We selected "Boot From Last Known Good Startup" (or something phrased remotely like that) and it got me back to my familiar desktop.  I was staring at M.E. DePalma Park in bloom.   We all breathed easier.

Grabbing the external backup drive, I plugged it in.

After some hunting for the "Backup and Restore" software, it was started and I told it to do a full backup of my C Drive.

In Windows 7, Backup and Restore is in the Control Panel.  Start, then Control Panel, then Backup and Restore.   Don't listen to Mr Expert.  He's wrong when he tells you that nothing like that is in Control Panel. 

Anyway... when I woke up this morning the backup was at 75% complete.  That was after 10 hours.

So today has been "Triage Day".   I'm familiar with the word Triage from the series MASH.  Basically the concept says you categorize your efforts into three levels:
  1. Dead  - What you don't need.
  2. Repairable - What you need but if you lost it it wouldn't be terrible.
  3. Alive - Absolutely Must Be Kept Safe!
I'm doing that now.  Getting the data into categories.  Copy your "My Documents" library onto some removable media.  Get the videos or music onto the chip that goes into the tablet or mp3 player.  Get your downloads out of the C:\Downloads or the C:\User\Bill\Download tree.

Then do a Chkdsk.   Remember those?   To do it right, your system must be in "Single User Mode".  That means nobody can do anything to the PC.  So basically you schedule that disk check for when you turn it off and back on again.   To get to the program you have to do the following:

  1. Start
  2. Accessories
  3. Right Click on the "Command Prompt" icon and select "Run as Administrator
  4. type in "chkdsk C: /r" and hit enter
  5. respond "Y" to the question "would you like to schedule a chkdsk next time you start your computer?"

You will need to actually shut down the PC and then turn it back on.   That is where I am at.  When the machine comes back on, I'll do the backup, really I will.   But that means I have to get back to the logical breakpoint.

As for Arnold Ziffel, he got out from under the Douglas' floor before Oliver got squirted by the Hooterville Fire Department's hose. 

The PC will take a little bit more time than that escapist comedy on TV last night.  I have 27GB of data from a client that still has to be copied off onto a removeable hard drive before I chance that chkdsk that will take more than an hour.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tempting the Dog with Pork

This week, I made more Carnitas.  It turned out excellent, and it is a next to zero effort recipe.  I've done this recipe before and wrote about it.   Rub the Pork with spice, toss it in a crock pot, add some chicken stock, and press slow cook for 10 hours.   Takes about 10 minutes to set up.  In fact it probably could go for only 8 hours instead for extra moist pork.

I reserved the stock that was left in the crock pot to keep it drier.  Makes for a better sandwich.  It also saves calories.  That gave me roughly a pint of broth that ended up in the refrigerator in a large coffee mug.

The whole time that it was cooking, Lettie was sniffing the air wondering if she was going to get some.  No, but I did take a pound of the pork across the street to Lisa and Bill.

Lettie has her food, and unfortunately she has decided she hates the stuff.   She was put on "Prescription Food" a few weeks back and it has a strong smell of fish oil. 

Royal Canin Renal Diet LP.  I don't know that it's really helping her since it's not getting into her.   Their recommendation was to feed her four times as much as she usually gets, and she's not even eating the regular one cup of food, turning her nose up at it.  I get the sad eyes and then she avoids it all by walking away and sleeping the day.

After skipping two consecutive meals, I had had enough.  I pulled out the big guns.


That mug of pork gravy had turned gelatinous and I had decided to flavor her food with it.  Showing her the mug, I ladled out an ounce and poured it over top of the food.   Microwave long enough to warm it up, shake it around and turn around.  She was drooling.

I hardly had time to get it to the floor when she was in the bowl.  There was a full serving of the Renal Diet, some of the old food that she likes, plus the gravy.  More like a double serving of food.

Gobbled down by the starving dog that she was, it was gone in a flash.

Of course the next meal was less interesting since it was all the Renal Diet plus pork gravy.  She got through about 3/4 of it and then walked away.   I guess she was finally full.

The moral of the story is never toss your pork drippings.  Even if they're not going to be used on rice, they're great on dog food.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Anybody Want A Python?

I woke this morning to the sound of parrots flying overhead.
I nearly stepped on a curly tailed lizard when I took the dog out.
I swatted a whitefly that tried to fly up my nose.

All of those are examples of exotic or invasive species.

Welcome to Florida, Land of Weird Pets.

Weird Pets always escape.  It just takes time.  There are monkeys in the Florida Keys, and Giant Snails in Miami.  It's the second time for the Giant Snails.  The first time a kid gave two to Grandma back in the 1960s.  Grammy didn't like the snails so she tossed them in the back yard.  They multiplied and the state of Florida decided to try to eradicate them.  It took around 10 years and many millions of dollars.

I'm actually not the right person to argue about invasives since I have an Orange Wing Amazon Parrot.  His name is Oscar and he lives in a cage that is in the back room right now.  He likes to watch the ring necks that come for their afternoon visits in he shade of the bougainvillea.

But that's the point.  He actually lives in the back room, right now at any rate.  I may move him to the front room later.  He likes that sort of change. 

He's not living in the Everglades with another colony of parrots.  I'm not letting him go, I've had him since 1986 and got him in Pennsylvania.

Pets do escape, sometimes they're aided by an open door and a pair or three of hands. 

I'm "not allowed" to go to the dog park here.  My dog wouldn't like it.  You see irresponsible owners take their unwanted dogs and leave them tied to a fence so some poor fool like me would show up later and make my old dog Lettie jealous.

Can't really do that with a 17.5 foot long, 164 pound pregnant Burmese Python with 87 eggs in her.  They don't tie to fences too well.   Someone let this snake go at one point thinking they won't do any harm.  They're actually pushing native species closer to extinction.  It is this threat to biodiversity that is the problem.

This one was found with feathers in its stomach that they're looking at to see what kind of critters they're eating.  It's not like you can say, "Hey Mrs Snake can you just eat the invasives?".  They don't really know anything other than eat and sit in the sun to warm up.

I have heard rumors that this sort of exotic pet won't be allowed to be owned in the warmer areas of the state.  North of the I-4 line perhaps.  If that sort of law were in place we wouldn't have dozens of iguanas living on the docks around the island here and my bougainvillea would be less threatened by hungry green mouths that don't know how to share. 

If you want to see a picture of the monster snake from Burma, have a look at this story on the BBC here.  In the meantime, I'll have a look around the yard to see if I have to chase an iguana out of the bushes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Spotting the Perseids

Like all good stories, this one starts with me up too early walking my dog.

This morning, just before dawn, I spotted my first meteor.

Having seen this picture posted quite a few times on Facebook, many blogs, and websites, I thought I'd join in.

I was walking East toward the Beach. 

Looking up to the crescent moon, spotting Jupiter above, Venus below, I looked to the right. Toward the South I saw a dash of light arc across the sky as a meteor burned itself out in the atmosphere. 

Who knows if it really is one of those meteors, all I know is I saw something that wasn't an airplane coming into land at Ft Lauderdale Airport. 

Even here where on an average night it looks like there are twelve stars and the moon, you can see the meteors flashing in the skies coming in for a visit. 

If you want to read more about the Perseid Meteor Shower, Click here.

So grab your loved one and get some well needed exercise, and make a wish for me too.  They really are quite pretty.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Put Your Car Keys By The Bed At Night

Velma's Security Email is finally coming to a close.   This is a real basic thing that I hadn't thought of.  Keep your Car Keys by the night stand in easy reach.   If you think about it, you can find them easily and put them to use in case of an emergency.  I'll let the email tell the whole story.

  Put your car keys beside your bed at night.

  Tell your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your parents, your Dr.'s office, the check-out girl at the market, everyone you run across. Put your car keys beside your bed at night.

  If you hear a noise outside your home or someone trying to get in your house, just press the panic button for your car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies.

(These days, they typically will stop sounding after a couple minutes due to the annoyance that these alarms cause in big cities. - Bill)

This tip came from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Next time you come home for the night and you start to put your keys away, think of this: It's a security alarm system that you probably already have and requires no installation.

Test it. It will go off from most everywhere inside your house and will keep honking until your battery runs down or until you reset it with the button on the key fob chain. It works if you park in your driveway or garage. If your car alarm goes off when someone is trying to break into your house, odds are the burglar/rapist won't stick around.

After a few seconds all the neighbors will be looking out their windows to see who is out there and sure enough the criminal won't want that. And remember to carry your keys while walking to your car in a parking lot. The alarm can work the same way there. This is something that should really be shared with everyone. Maybe it could save a life or a sexual abuse crime.

  P.S. I am sending this to everyone I know because I think it is fantastic. Would also be useful for any emergency, such as a heart attack, where you can't reach a phone. My Mom has suggested to my Dad that he carry his car keys with him in case he falls outside and she doesn't hear him. He can activate the car alarm and then she'll know there's a problem.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Protection for You and Your Home From Wasps and other Pests

Velma had sent me some home security hints last week, here are some for personal security.  A can of Wasp Spray will often be overlooked.  It's so mundane and common that someone breaking in will ignore it. 

On the other hand, that can of Pepper Spray that I keep next to my front door will be the first thing they would grab.   I'll be moving that once I get up out of this chair.  There's already some wasp spray on the front porch.  It's Florida, we get bugs that will carry off a Buick!

Protection for you and your home:

  If you don't have a gun, here's a more humane way to wreck someone's evil plans for you.. (I guess I can get rid of the baseball bat.):


  A friend who is a receptionist in a church in a high risk area was concerned about someone coming into the office on Monday to rob them when they were counting the collection. She asked the local police department about using pepper spray and they recommended to her that she get a can of wasp spray instead.

  The wasp spray, they told her, can shoot up to twenty feet away and is a lot more accurate, while with the pepper spray, they have to get too close to you and could overpower you. The wasp spray temporarily blinds an attacker until they get to the hospital for an antidote. She keeps a can on her desk in the office and it doesn't attract attention from people like a can of pepper spray would. She also keeps one nearby at home for home protection. Thought this was interesting and might be of use.


  On the heels of a break-in and beating that left an elderly woman in Toledo dead, self-defense experts have a tip that could save your life.

  Val Glinka teaches self-defense to students at Sylvania Southview High School . For decades, he's suggested putting a can of wasp and hornet spray near your door or bed.

  Glinka says, "This is better than anything I can teach them."

  Glinka considers it inexpensive, easy to find, and more effective than mace or pepper spray. The cans typically shoot 20 to 30 feet; so if someone tries to break into your home, Glinka says, "spray the culprit in the eyes". It's a tip he's given to students for decades. It's also one he wants everyone to hear. If you're looking for protection, Glinka says look to the spray.

  "That's going to give you a chance to call the police; maybe get out."

  Maybe even save a life.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Using the Camera Phone to Shop

So many people are doing this that many of the larger retailers are messing with the codes on their products so that you can't directly compare.   Many staff in smaller stores will actually challenge you if they see you taking pictures of a UPC code in order to check a price.

Tough.  Lower your prices if you don't like competition.

I hadn't realized that I was doing this until I went into my phone today looking for pictures to post.  After six of my dog, I saw this rather bland picture of a price of a desktop computer at BJ's Wholesale.

Not a very good one.  A Desktop i3 Computer with these specs should be at least 40 dollars cheaper.

I have a picture of a particular little bench from Ikea in my other phone, and on both phones there are apps that will scan your UPC bar code on the product's packaging, compare it against various lists and report back the lowest price.

Android: I use ShopSavvy
iPhone: I have  RedLaser
Both work, although 9 times out of 10, I am using my Android phone.

In the case of this PC, I wanted to research it more at home.  I had a feeling that a neighbor could use it, but we found a better deal... I hope.

Think of it as Guerrilla Shopping.  I knew things were changing when looking for a car changed from get ripped off in the store, to print out the comparable prices and bring with, then finally just quote the prices online. 

The same thing has happened for all sorts of items. exists to service the "Long Tail" theory of marketing.  That is that while most folks will buy the same thing every day, there are some rare One Off purchases that you only do a few times and there aren't a whole lot of folks that can service your need for that product.  You know, the idea that you just can't find that doodad in the store because the local shops don't have it?  Need to find a Screen Protector for that camera phone?  That's where you will probably find it even if it is a 2 year old device... which reminds me I never did put mine on my Android phone.

As much as I try to shop locally, I have to admit, I can't afford to pay 25% more just to shop in a mall.  This trend is even reflected in the tendency to large strip malls instead of enclosed malls since a strip mall doesn't have to run air conditioning or heating (what's that?) in the open areas.  Lower operating costs mean lower consumer prices, and so on.

These apps tie all that together.  You're in the big box store, you have a product for $99.99.  Take a picture and find out that some other big box store down the road has the same item for $79.99.  Unfortunately for the mom and pop stores, they rarely come up lowest because they are trading on personal service.  There are some things that the mom and pop absolutely do better than a big box store. 

Bye, I'm back in the car and rolling for a sweet $20 savings.

It's changed and the Genie isn't going back in the bottle, even if he does occasionally end up in my camera phone.  In a time of austerity, that $20 means a lot. 

Business to Business sales on the other hand don't fit this model very well where bakeries baked goods are always better than the same baked goods in a big box store. 

One size doesn't always fit all but more information makes for a better deal.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Betty's Dish

Every family has it's own stories.  It's own quirks, it's own things that are completely intractable to someone looking in from the outside.  This sort of specialized dementia is why we love telling these oddball stories.

I was looking at a feed on Facebook with this picture asking you to like it if you had these.

Not only did we have these, but we had a 10 year long confusion that crossed two state boundaries, involved two sisters, and to this day brings smiles to my face.

This is at least my memory of this story.  Who knows what the story really is.

The two sisters were my Mom, and my Aunt Betty.  Mom is gone, there isn't a day I don't think of her.  Betty is still around, living on Long Island.  I'd love to visit but it's just too far from here.  Her picture with Sal, her husband, is next to Mom's on the nightstand where I see them every day.

Mom lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for most of my life.  There would be regular visits between her and Betty and when that happened, it was like a scene out of Moonstruck.  Kitchens rich with the smell of handmade spaghetti sauce with meats.  It was always more than one meat because that was one of the reasons why I got to be so tall.   Sausage, Bracciole, and sometimes Chicken parts.  Never pork, which I didn't understand since I love pork so much.

Dishes would be prepared either here or there, and they would go back and forth between New Jersey and New York.  They'd return next visit.

Cornflower Blue CorningWare dishes.  Great stuff as long as it didn't hit the floor.  Stove to Oven to Table.  My sister still has the set, if she hadn't given it away yet.   You didn't wear them out, you got bored with it and gave it to someone else or sold it at a garage sale.

I can still remember the visit from Betty that one year where she...

"Umm hey, do you have my Dish?"
"Which Dish?"
"You know, my covered dish, I need it and I'm missing one."

Standard stuff.  Sometimes things get loaned out.

Except this time, there was a "bit set".  Something in a mental register where Betty forgot where the dish went.  Mom had the complete set, Betty did not.  I'm sure it went "somewhere" but since Mom had one of everything and no duplicates, it wasn't under the stove in Cherry Hill.

The dishes first appeared in the early 1970s.  The famous dish got lost sometime in the mid 1970s.  Disco playing through the radio much to my sisters chagrin, Cornflower Blue dishes in the oven making up a deep lasagne or baked ziti, two loving sisters ruling the kitchen with an iron skillet.

I think those crazy weekends were the beginning of my love of baking.

"Bet, Go take a look under the counters!  See if it's there!"
"Mmmm, not here... Not here either!  Where is it?" (Confused look)

Betty eventually went back home with Sal, her husband at the wheel.  Confused, missing a dish.

Next visit the conversation repeated itself. 

"I still can't find my dish, and I was hoping it would be here.  You didn't find it?"
"No, Bet, it's not here.  Go look!"

(More rattling under the stove)
(More confused looks)
(More Ziti)

I got involved. 

Some time in the mid 1980s, Betty brought up the dish again.  This time I went to the room that was mine for visits and grabbed an identical deep dish CorningWare dish in Cornflower Blue.  The exact size of the missing dish.  I handed it to Betty and said:

"Here you go!"
"That's not my dish.  It's gone."

I looked at Mom who shrugged, Pat giggled.

"Ok, take it anyway."
"No, it's not mine.   You didn't find my dish?"
Mom got into the conversation and said "Take that one if you want it, we don't know what you did with it"

Betty didn't take that dish, it wasn't hers.  I know that for a fact because "That dish" was one I grabbed at a yard sale and ran through the dishwasher.  Last time I saw it, it was under Pat's stove in her new house in Cherry Hill getting ready to be stuffed with Baked Ziti and go into the oven for dinner.

Some traditions simply shouldn't die.

Betty never did find that covered dish.  In fact when mom passed away in 1996, she had one last look even though she had given it up for lost way back in the 80s. 

To this day, whenever I see CorningWare in Cornflower Blue it is always called "Betty's Dish" even if it is the wrong size.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

If You Can't Parallel Park By Age 30...

If You Can't Parallel Park by Age 30

I get it, some folks are coming from small towns where they just don't have the chance to enjoy the pinnacle of driving experience.

No, I'm not referring to NASCAR or Formula 1 racing.
No, not alcohol fueled funny cars at the drag strip.

This is much more basic.

You see, here in South Florida, we have people from all over the world wash on to our shores and try to take root here.  Some come from Northern climes where Salt and Sand means Icy Winter Driving.  Others from a tropical island where the best road they have are pitted with holes and may end at a sheer cliff face with a drop off.

Things are not quite that bad here.  We get our rains, sometimes literally at the flip of a light switch.  For the most part, at some point it will be sunny and warm, with a slight chance of a few rain drops.

Roads are paved smooth in the Urban Areas and those are the only areas that you will be visiting unless you are on a tour on the back of a boat. 

It's not that tough to get around here, roads run in right angles, all four compass points.

So come and visit.

That must be what the car load of four grey haired grandfatherly looking men must have been thinking.  It will be easy to pilot their large Cadillac Sedan to my little island and find some gentle entertainment at the bar that caters to Older Gentlemen, typically.

They turned off of Wilton Drive onto NE 21st Drive to search for parking. 

Pulling into the neighborhood, they missed the turn for the valet parking and panicked.

Jamming the breaks on, they immediately began to perform a three point turn.


I had seen them come around the corner from about 200 feet away.  Mrs Dog was happily sniffing a Palm Tree, I was chattering to Kevin, and we nudged her forward.

One of us had said to the other those faithful words:  "I think he missed his turn".

The "scary dark neighborhood" had the confused old grey haired man pull to a stop and he had begun to back traffic up to The Drive. 

He begun to pull toward the parking space on the wrong side of the street so slowly that one of the cars behind him had decided that there was someone who should be riding a bus, a short yellow one, instead of a large pearl colored Cadillac.  That second car weaved around the confused gent, up onto the verge of the road, over the grass, into the parking lot for The Towers, and around the scene.  He sped off into his future and out of our lives.

We were now 100 feet away.

The Cadillac was now perpendicular to the flow of traffic. 

Nearing the car, it was almost as if we could hear the passengers say "Wait for them to pass".  We went in front of their bumper saying "Sorry, Pal, We've got the right of way".  Dog leading, we got to the side of the building as the Cadillac FINALLY made the three point turn.

I guess he must have thought that it was too much to ask for him to allow the pedestrians to have the right of way.  He pulled ahead of us three, flung the doors open wide enough to block our egress, then apologized as they all got out of the car in a "Chinese Fire Drill".

He grabbed his door, closed it enough to allow us to squeeze by and we got past this train wreck of a visitor's comedy as the youngest driver in the car got into the driver's seat. 

That was when I heard myself say "If you can't parallel park your own car by age 30, turn in your license".

All four doors slammed shut in unison, and the new driver begun to clumsily try to park that beast of a vehicle in the last parking space before The Drive.

All in all, a great argument for narrowing Wilton Drive and making it easier for bad drivers to get out of their car and park.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fish Oil or Hot Lava, You Decide

Lately Mrs Dog has been even more quirky than usual.  Being 11 and almost 12 with a flaky thyroid, leaky bladder, and a special diet, I guess she has a right.

You see, other than getting up at 2AM, placing a plastic sheet under her mat in the bedroom, and microwaving the special diet, there are no changes.  Actually, they're all changes. 

Getting old is not for the weak I guess. 

We adjusted her thyroid meds, took her in for a check up and they sent me home with a prescription diet.  After 11 years of being fed exactly 1 measured cup of Purina Lamb and Rice, I was told to mix in gradually this new stuff.  It's a Renal Diet, supposed to benefit her kidneys, and it smells like low tide at the fish market.

Take the food, add two ounces of water, microwave for 20 seconds to soften it all up.   11 year old teeth aren't really that strong.  Place 1/2 thyroid pill on top along with a glucosamine tablet and the fish oil capsule.  Put the bowl on the ground.  Watch Lettie Enjoy.

Not today.   She sniffed at it today.   Ate the glucosamine since it is yummy and sweet.  No, really the white capsules that are grit are slightly sweet.  I guess she really does have a sweet tooth.   Ate the thyroid capsule, thankfully.  Ate about three of the little kibbles and left the rest in the bowl.

We wandered around the neighborhood.  A little more energy than she's used to but she's got a strong preference.  Since I don't want to be walking a marathon before sunrise, I let her steer me home.

Gobble down some now cold kibbles.   Sniff at the rest.  Leave that fish oil capsule in the bowl and a dart of food.  Apparently it's not going to be a normal food day.  

Oh well, what's an old dog to do.  I know... SLEEP!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Harvesting Laptop Batteries for a few 18650 Cells

Ok, First the warnings:

Don't Try This At Home.
If you do this wrong, you could be exposing yourself to this list and other things that I am not remembering:
  • Explosion
  • Fire
  • Caustic Chemicals - acid or base
  • Poisonous Chemicals
  • Extreme Heat
  • Sharp Edges
  • Delayed Reaction of any of the above
  • Maybe even more, really it can be quite dangerous

If you do this, it is at your own risk, I take no responsibility.  You're a big person, make your own choices...

Even once you have taken these things apart, you must, MUST charge the batteries in a charger that is specifically designed for the purpose.  If you charge the batteries in an unapproved manner by using too much voltage or too much current you'll have that list above to contend with. 

As the video at the end of the article shows, they do explode.

Really these are dangerous objects.  Be careful.

On the other hand, if you are using a laptop, chances are you had one sitting on your leg or your belly safely.  You just didn't try to puncture the thing.

Laptop Batteries are a strange beast.  They come in a couple different types.  I've seen "Flat" batteries like the one in your cell phone, and I've seen ones that look like a AA battery on steroids.  Those are 18650 batteries.  The laptop I am using uses six of those cells in series to power the machine for 3 hours.

The reason I looked into all this weird danger is that I have a flashlight that I depend on.  It puts out as much light as a 75 watt light bulb in a very tight beam - 1200 Lumens.  With a 18650 instead of the 3 AAA battery pack, it throws more light.  This light is really more than anyone needs to follow a dog at night, but when you live in an area with power pops, blackouts, hurricanes, and other strange events, you need a bright light.

Since the 18650 is rechargeable, I can relax about waste and pollution and so forth.

The battery pack you see in the picture has 7 of those batteries.  One was dead.  They normally do that after around 1 year of regular use so I thought to take it outside and disassemble it.  They were taped together and glued in place.  It all came apart with a little bit of wrangling.

The laptop battery packs will cost you around $90, and with these batteries, I can "refurbish" mine once it finally goes to the land of "15 minutes between charges" by finding the bad cell and replacing it.

After cutting the leads between the wires to separate them, I was able to charge all but one.  With those six, I was able to replace the batteries in a number of appliances and put them back to use.   Since each battery costs between $5 and $25, there was a significant cost savings.

As for charging, the charger was put on a long extension cord out to the cement patio and each battery was charged once to see if they "took a charge".  They did with a few that were dead..

That flashlight?  Oh it's much brighter than the little AAA Battery pack could have managed.

Strange weekend project but successful.  Just remember, Don't Try This At Home, and if you insist, forget you read about it here!

The video below is more proof that this is not quite safe.  Youtube is chock full of videos of people doing stupid things to these batteries like burning them or overcharging them.  This is the result.  That result is why I went to the extremes of doing it outdoors, charging the batteries outdoors and so forth.   You just never know if you get the bad battery and you're having a bad luck day. 

Be safe and take precautions.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Eight More Things A Burglar Won't Tell You

When Velma sent me this post, I thought it was so long I'm going to break it into parts.  Here are eight more helpful hints when considering home security.  Since you're reading this online, let me add my comment to number 6 below - Don't Announce Your Vacation Online.  You don't know what's going through your "friends" minds.


  1. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

  2. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

  3. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

  4. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

  5. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

  6. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address.

  7. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

  8. If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

  Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina , Oregon , California , and Kentucky ; security consultant Chris McGoey, who runs and Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis , who interviewed 105 burglars for his book Burglars on the Job.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Thirteen Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You

Velma's sending me a bunch of Helpful Hints.  In this case, sure they're pretty much common sense, but they're all worth reading at least once to see if you're not doing them already.  

So keep yourself safe with some basic things to think about.  

Even in Wilton Manors where we have an anti-soliciting law I get a couple "door hangers" a week.  I would say that most of those people are also testing the door to see if it is unlocked while they're "trying" to hang their flyers.


  1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

  2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

  3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

  4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..

  5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

  6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

  7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

  8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door - understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

  9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

  10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

  11. Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

  12. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

  13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at

Friday, August 3, 2012

It Hasn't Hit The Market Yet But Windows 8 Has Been Pirated

I don't know why I am surprised.  I guess Microsoft has the same problems with security as every other large organization.  But if you hunt around, Windows 8 has already hit the pirate Bit Torrent sites.

No word whether they found a way to fix that ugly "Construction Paper" interface.

Not mocking Microsoft at all, people pirate software for their own reasons, and there had to be an insider on that. 

There are alternatives out there for your trusty computer although most folks would not consider them because of lack of training or even being aware that they exist.  It's a bit sad though that the software has not earned Microsoft a penny yet and people have already put it out on those sites.   Not quite fair is it?

I'm a big fan of open source software.  This particular machine is an Eee machine, a wee little thing that came to me without an operating system or any software at all.  I installed CentOS Linux, then Libre Office came with it, Skype and a few other pieces of software, all of which are free or open source.

FOSS - Free Open Source Software.

FOSS takes a bit of getting used to, but if I need anything to make this particular little machine run, I can get it without resorting to theft.

On the other hand, the graphics programs I use to put those pictures up with those annoying watermarks (I'm sorry, really I am) are FOSS and I can use them on my Mac or my Windows computers.   I use Gimp and Inkscape and they both get the job done quite well and work with accepted industry standards.

For the rest of us, Windows 8 will be released to the stores in October and you can decide then if it is for you.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Your Android Is A Little Safer With Google's Changes

Ok, fair enough, Android is pretty popular.  It's 68% of the Chinese Market for whatever that's worth.  Since people tend to do what their friends like, it may just get better since that means more people writing apps for the platform.

You know, that whole social aspect of life right?   Facebook?  Blogging?  Asking that nice teenager down the block what he uses to do things on his computer, once he crawls out of Mom's Basement that is.

The problem is that Android has always been more open to viruses because the whole software experience has been less rigid.  Apple forces a developer to submit their software so it can be deeply analyzed.  Google hasn't required that yet.

What they have done is to lay out new guidelines that say basically if we don't think you're playing to the rules, we'll pull your software.  No Rude stuff, No Hate speech, no spammy apps, no illegal apps.  

I guess that Chic-Fil-A App should go...

It doesn't say that they are forcing the backyard programmer to hand over the source of their work.  That's that code review thing that Apple does on their iPhone and iPad.  But it does say that they're watching what goes up on the "Google Play Store" now. 

Who knew they weren't?

Well for you and I, the safest way to get a new app is to wait for it to be a bit older and make sure it has a lot of positive reviews.  Make sure your virus protection is up to date.  Have fun...

If you want to read their guidelines, and they read like guidelines to me instead of hard and fast rules, click on this link. They do seem to do a good job of writing things people can actually read instead of something intractable.  Some of the technical documents that I have read in the past to do my web development work have been amazingly clear even when my mind wasn't focused on the task.

Now if I could find a decent free web alarm clock, it would be easier for me to wake up at 5:59AM.  A little BBC World Service News with the Pips at the start of the hour while I prepare to step over the dog on the way to the bathroom...