Saturday, August 31, 2013

Three Men Are Walking in a Desert - Humor

3 men are walking through the desert.

3 Men are walking through the desert and they're all very thirsty.

Suddenly, they see a water slide with a genie in front of it. The genie looks at them and says, go down the slide, and while you're sliding, yell out the drink of your choice, and you will land in a pool of that drink.

The first man goes down, and he yells "Water!!" And he lands in a pool of water.

The second man goes down, and he yells "Lemonade!!" And he lands in a pool of lemondae

Finally, the third man goes down, and he yells "Wheee!!!"

Friday, August 30, 2013

Singing Birds and Vibrating Pockets

I stood near the pond this morning.  

Feet firmly planted on the ground, I had my morning meal.

Sharing a spoonful of oatmeal and peaches with my faithful sidekick, I watched as shadow and light painted its way across the pond.  Breezes hadn't started yet, but there were waves on the surface.  Dragonflies hovered in for a drink and disturbed the millpond stillness of the morning creating ripples that echoed their presence on the surface of the otherwise still water.

In the distance floated a small bird, also still, also hardly moving.   It kept a still eye pointed at me watching me in my morning repast.

The birds sang over top of the distant sounds.  Their chattering accompanying the tapestry of the scene, enhancing the beauty of the morning.

On the ground there were small lizards warming themselves, recharging for their day.  Soon they would leave their station in the sun, sliding down leaves of the pineapple plant, leaping to the ground, and going on their business of creating and losing territory and dining on choice bits of insect life.

The gentle breezes were almost still at this time of day.  There was just enough wind to make the magenta and pink blossoms of the paper thin bougainvillea nod their heads in acquaintance, accepting you into their beauty and their presence.

This was framed by the thick tropical foliage around the small pond, deep greens offset by the scent of jasmine coming from their almost zinc oxide whiteness capturing the sun of the early morning.

The hustle and bustle of the semi-urban life seemingly brushed away by the chattering of the song birds came rushing in with one motion.   I shifted to lean on my right leg when I noticed that there was a vibrating in my pocket.  Reaching in I found the old phone that was sending off an alarm, this was the cause of the singing birds, and the vibration was the alarm clock on the phone that I just couldn't bear to turn off.

Reverie broken, I readjusted my headphones to make sure that the noise canceling was turned on.  The amigos from Quintana Roo were next door with their blowers again, and I stepped away from the Kitchen window where my day dream was ended.  No longer standing by a tropical pond, I was instantly transported back to my house, in front of the kitchen sink, in the middle of 100 miles of human habitation.

But for a brief moment, all was peaceful, all was full of nature, and full of song birds and beauty.  I guess I really should cancel that alarm clock.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Goodbye My Friend, Diane Cline

When you move to a new city, there are people who immediately grab your attention.  Some of these fall by the wayside, and you could never say that Diane Cline would fall away.

Some of my most powerful memories were of her in City Commission meetings in the City of Wilton Manors, Florida.  She was once on the City Council, back when it was called that.

Back In The Day when Wilton Manors was on the decline, she worked tirelessly to help slow that progress.   There was a time when Wilton Manors was a war zone.  You could fire a cannon down Wilton Drive at rush hour and not hit a soul.

She and some others were there trying to help bring people back.  It was a place that nobody knew its name.  You would call it East Ft Lauderdale if you were trying to sell the house. 

Then the bar opened, and some life started to flicker back into the place.   Diane was there all the while, and you can easily say that she was directly responsible for the way the City looks today.  She would be at almost every Commission meeting giving suggestions to those who would listen, and letting those know who wronged her or her beloved Wilton Manors what they are doing wrong.  Some were told in no uncertain terms where they should go and where the boundaries of the City were so they could find themselves on the other side of that line, permanently, preferably.

At some point, Diane was given a sign.  I believe that it was made up by someone in one of the City Departments, but I can't be sure.   It is a street sign, looks quite official, and says "Diane's Way".  She said that they were talking about changing Wilton Drive or NE 26th Street to that, with a twinkle in her eye.  The Drive's name has never been changed but the sign should go on the wall in the Mayor's Office facing the Mayor to remind him of the progress that has been made since those bad old days of ineffective government and war zone avoidance.

The picture itself comes from one of the last days of the Old City Hall.  Diane met me at what was the Police Locker Room and Gym that morning to help sell off the contents of the building that had been moved to that room.   It was all to benefit the Wilton Manors Historical Society, another one of her many Good Works.  She and I spent the day rattling around the building, me taking pictures and helping to sell off some things, she was doing the same and giving the history behind some of the artifacts assembled while telling jokes.

One of the most important aspects of that knowledge came out with the Two Lane Initiative that was spearheaded by the Wilton Manors Development Alliance and Wilton Manors Main Street.  Diane came up with the germ of that idea that gradually picked up steam.   It is the Next Step in the re-creation of Wilton Manors, to take the City one step closer to being a true walkable city and an Urban Oasis.  With help, this plan will continue and finally take place now that the debts are being paid off and parking funds are finally being directed with some semblance of sanity to the work at hand.  Politics simply could not be separated from Diane, it was too much of what she was.  The Two Lane Initiative was something she was absolutely committed to, and its progress is absolutely an indication of the current relative capacity and competence of the City.

Diane was known for the best assortment of groaners and dirty jokes of anyone I could think of.  You could always be sure that if Diane was there, she'd have a joke to tell, and it always had a message behind it directed at something pertinent.  You would leave the conversation with the light bulb over your head flickering on and realize just who got the brunt of that zinger.

She was the conscience of this city in many ways, and will be sorely missed.   She was a friend, a confidant, and an amazing source of information.  If you didn't know Diane Cline, you probably didn't really know what was going on in Wilton Manors.

Diane, you will be missed by me and by all.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Since I Have A Dream

When I worked at the School District of Philadelphia, I would get the Martin Luther King holiday off of work.  I wasn't the kind of person that would volunteer to build schools, I always had enough of my own projects to do.  What I would end up doing was to have the TV on and get caught up in my home.

One year I got the bright idea to leave the local PBS TV station on when they ran a day of programming about the Civil Rights Struggle.  I'm a documentary junkie so I got my fill that day.   They did run the I Have A Dream Speech as well as many others, and what I was left with was more than just a sense of history, but a deep sense of loss that this man, Dr. Martin Luther King didn't have more years to share his vision.

The few speeches that did get recorded were always worth listening to, and always fascinating both in and out of context.

I managed to find a place to pull them down on MP3 and loaded them on my trusty player at one point.  Listening to them on the way to and from work on the train happened more than once, they did get into "rotation".

No matter what your political bend, the time spent listening to this man is well worth it. 

Since the I Have A Dream speech is available readily online, you can find it here.

As for the other ones, I'd say happy listening.  Many of them are available in random places, and I did find a helpful web site at Stanford University with a list of some of them for your clicking pleasure.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why On Earth Would You Make English Muffins? - Recipe

I'm on a quest.  English Muffins and Crumpets.

Ok, English Muffins are common, but it has always irked me that you basically spend as much as $7 for a box of 6 of these things.  Usually $3 a pack, or .50 a piece.

Come on, they're just bread for crying out loud.

The other side of this is that I have a good friend who is a British Ex-Pat, David, who is due to come up again, if it ever happens that is.   I thought it might be nice to have Crumpets around and those are even more ridiculously pricey - if you can even find them.  

So I found a recipe online.  They are from Delia Smith, of TV fame in the UK.  Once in a while her shows "leak out" to the US.   If you want a proper Crumpet, why not one of the more famous British Cookery Show Hosts?

First you need something called a "Crumpet Ring".  The US doesn't really eat a lot of Crumpets, but there's a very common substitute.  They're basically called "Egg Rings" here, and let you make a 3 3/4 inch round egg.   You can even go with a cookie cutter or remove the top and bottom from a tuna tin if it were safe to eat tuna any more.

I mean setting aside the fact that tuna is chock full of mercury and most likely glow in the dark from the tragedy at Fukushima.   I won't be eating Pacific Fish from this point on.  You may want to consider that yourself...

Then I started reading her recipe.  There were a few problems.  

Being a Yank, I do things in Ounces but adapt fairly well to Metric.   Being someone who used to get Chemistry Labs to 99.5% of theoretical yield, I am very precise in the kitchen.  But there was something that threw me.

Her measurement for the flour.  It was, and I quote, "8 Ounces or 225 Grams of Strong Plain Flour".

I took Strong Plain Flour to be Bread Flour, and I have a 25 pound bag of that.  High Gluten Flour.  Good stuff, but it tends to mess with recipes.  I know for a fact that I have to add more liquid to a recipe when I bake with High Gluten Flour.  She MAY be using the equivalent of "All Purpose Flour" which has a lower protein percentage and a lower need for liquids, I'm not certain.

The other problem is that while literally that is correct, which do you use, weight or volume?   I went with By Weight the first time and the result was ... roughly correct.   You can easily pack more flour into a cup than 225 grams by weight, so you might want to spoon it into a cup and weigh the lot.   Or sift it.

Tricky huh?

That can be solved by adding more liquid, milk is best.

That brings me to the next wrinkle.   This is a very basic recipe, only 5 or 6 ingredients.   But it needs the yeast to proof.   I missed that when I made the stuff and ended up making something that turned out sort of like a Matzoh.   While I like Matzohs with Peanut Butter and Jelly as something "different" it wasn't what I wanted.

The trick with Proofing your Yeast was simple - get a quart jar or a glass bowl and let the stuff sit in it.

Add to the bowl a teaspoon of sugar and a half cup 4 ounces of milk plus 2 ounces of water.  Warm this (I used the microwave) until it is around 110F or "Hand Hot".

Since we all have different perceptions, I managed exactly 110 F by giving it two shots in the microwave at 30 seconds each.

What is that like 45C?  (Scratching head)...

Add the one teaspoon of yeast, stir well, and allow to sit aside 15 minutes until frothy.

That actually worked very well when I had made it the second time, which results are pictured here.  Cream Cheese and Mango Jelly on a home made Sourdough English Muffin... YUM!

In a second mixing bowl, add that errant cup of Flour, 1 teaspoon of Salt, and mix them together.

When the Yeast has gotten frothy, add the liquids to the Flour and Salt and mix until smooth.   I used a stand mixer since I was getting frustrated, but that may be overkill.

The thing is that while Our British Cousins will know what this should look like, I have yet to get the right consistency.   My thought is that for an English Muffin, the recipe was too dry and I ended up adding more milk to the mix bringing it to 7 ounces total.   For Crumpets, you will need a dry Pancake Batter Consistency so next time I'll start with 7 ounces and keep mixing in Milk one ounce at a time until I get this right.

Allow your batter to rise for 45 minutes covered with a tea towel.

For cooking, you need a greased griddle at 325F.   Grease the griddle/skillet/frying pan and the Crumpet Rings well.   You will pour the batter in the middle of the rings and will want to be able to lift the rings off when it is time to flip them to "finish them off".  Traditionally Crumpets are not cooked well on the tops, but toasted golden brown on the bottom.  They're simply shown the heat so they're not raw on top, then set aside to be served.

So why did I go through this annoying recipe?   The taste.   Each time I made these, they turned out tasting like Sourdough bread.   I truly love sourdough and while I can find it, it isn't exactly common.  This recipe can be worked to add a little less liquid and make a bread dough.   Needless to say, I'll be making Crumpet Bread out of the recipe because I like Sourdough so much.

Ok, so the short of it... here are the ingredients.   Original recipe is at Delia Smith's website.

  • 8 oz or 225 g or "strong plain flour"
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 1 level Tablespoon Yeast
  • 1 level teaspoon granulated or superfine sugar
  • 4 oz milk - or more 
  • plus 2 ounces water
  • Mix flour and salt in bowl and set aside.
  • To quart sized bowl or Ball Jar add milk, water, and sugar.   
  • You can substitute all milk for a bolder taste. 
  • Warm Milk to "hand hot" or 110F.
  • Add yeast to milk/sugar mix and stir well.
  • Cover liquids with a tea towel and set aside for 15 minutes or until frothy.
  • Mix Liquids and flour/salt together until smooth batter is created - you may have to add extra milk one ounce at a time to get the desired consistency.
  • Cover the bowl with that tea towel for 45 minutes and set aside in a warm place to rise.

  • Heat griddle or skillet to 325.
  • Grease griddle and Egg Rings/Crumpet Rings well.
  • Pour batter into Egg Rings and cook until the bottoms are golden brown.
  • Remove Egg Rings and then flip the Crumpets until the tops are cooked to the desired "doneness".  
  • Traditionally they are only very lightly cooked, you may like them crispy on top.  I did.
  • Re-grease your Egg Rings and repeat until you are done.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Sign Your Dog's Training Is Catching

Picture this:

The sun isn't even up yet.
My eyes are barely opened.
I have fed Rack, and we have begun our first walk of the day.
It is 83 and the clouds in the skies offshore are giant pillars of glowing grey cotton candy fluff.   Somewhere out in the ocean, East of the Bahamas, the sun begins to come up, backlighting the very tops of the clouds that are giving the water back to the briny deep.

I round the corner and spot someone else's morning drama.

Pepper is at the door with Bill.   Bill is watching over her this weekend with extra care.  She's an older Dalmatian who has just had a seizure.  With them is their younger dog, Rocco.  Rocco is an energetic teen of a midsized mutt.

I walk by as quietly as I can, doing my best imitation of Bugs Bunny on tip toes.

It didn't help.

Getting just past the driveway I hear "ROCCO! NO!".

Rocco No has just appeared in a dash of tan and white fur and is now laying on the ground under Rack.  Rack is surprised but merely sniffing Rocco, while my hand goes to Rocco's collar.

Always, always, always have your dog's collar on while in the house.  It makes it easier for someone to catch them if they've run out to meet the neighbor.

I manage to hook my thumb under Rocco's collar and hold him safe. 

Rack goes back to sniffing Rocco while out of the corner of my eye I spot Pepper wandering up, leash dragging on the ground.

Dog Number Two caught as a result.  I now have three dogs.   Rack is standing still enjoying the scene.

Up comes Bill apologizing and gathering up his canine crew.

This all proves to me that the training is working well.   Rack truly loves Pepper, as well as just about any other dog that isn't acting grumpy. 

There are way too many fussy little grumpy dogs in this neighborhood, but that is true with every neighborhood I've ever walked a dog through.   The smaller the dog, the more likely it's going to be badly trained.  Badly trained dog means owner who really needs training.

There are certain dogs, and people, that Rack absolutely loves.  You can tell.   All the sudden I have a 42 pound McNab dog that is doing his best impression of Skippy The Bush Kangaroo by leaping five feet in the air.

The leaps are getting fewer.  The intensity is ramping down.  The number of people and dogs that he's jumping for are getting fewer as well.   He's not yet a year old so he's still a puppy.  It's that he realizes that the craziness isn't as welcome and that he's going to be allowed to play.   It's also that there are certain dogs, and people, who simply don't appreciate that sort of behavior.

Just as growling at passersby is not acceptable, neither is climbing on people and jumping on them.

It's simply happening less as time goes on.

Good Dogs Go More Places.   Bad Dogs Stay Home.  Those points are beginning to take hold in that furry little head

Thankfully since the Right Arm Perpendicular Tug doesn't work well on walks.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

There was a young pregnant woman... - Humor

There was a young pregnant woman...

and her dream was for her baby to grow up with perfect manners. So everyday she would gently rub her belly whilst repeating the line, "Be polite. Be polite."

But a strange thing happened. After 9 months, the baby showed no signs of coming out. After a year the woman was still pregnant, and she still kept up the practice of gently rubbing her belly and saying, "Be polite. Be polite."

The woman`s pregnancy continued and continued. It lasted years. She refused to let doctors check out the situation with ultrasound and she refused to listen to any advice that they tried to give her. But all the while she continued to gently rub her belly and say,"Be polite. Be polite."

She finally died at the age of 80 without giving birth.

The mystery of the unborn baby was finally solved when doctors finally opened her up. Inside her womb were two little men with long white beards saying to each other, "No, my friend. I must insist. After you."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Trouble With Speed Limits - Humor

Trouble with the speed limit

Sitting on the highway waiting to catch speeders, a state police officer saw a car puttering along at 22 M.P.H. He thinks to himself, that car is just as dangerous as a speeder. So, he turns his lights on and pulls the car over. Approaching the car, he notices there are 5 old ladies, two at the front and 3 at the back, wide eyed and looking like ghosts.

The driver obviously confused said,"Officer, I don't understand, I wasn't doing over the speed limit!, What seems to be the problem?" "Ma'am," the officer said, "you should know that driving slower than the speed limit can also be dangerous". "Slower than the speed limit? NO SIR! I was doing exactly 22 miles an hour", the old woman said proudly.

The officer containing a chuckle explains that 22 was the route number, not the speed limit. A bit embarrassed, the woman grinned, thanking the officer for pointing out her error. "Before I go Ma'am, I have to ask, is everyone OK?

These women seem badly shaken and haven't uttered a word all this time" "Oh! they will be alright in a minute, Officer, we just got off Route 142.

Friday, August 23, 2013

You'll Hear a Splash if You Move to Wilton Manors

I live in a small town, Wilton Manors, Florida.  Sure, it's practically surrounded by Fort Lauderdale, square in the middle of 100 miles of Cheek-To-Jowl sprawl of Zero Lot Line homes and Mid Century Modern splendor, but this is a small town.

The majority of the place is bounded by two rivers, three miles wide, one wide.   I'm close enough that if I set my mind to it I could walk to the beach.   Better have good shoes though.   I'm close enough that if I set my mind to it, I could walk to Downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Philadelphians are known for walking long distances.  Good shoes too.

Sure, I'm stretching the "stroll" bit, but I regularly walk my dog Rack the distance to the upper limits of what we'd call Downtown Fort Lauderdale a couple times a week.  I'd have to unravel it out to a straight line walk, but the distance is about the same even if I'd have to hop a fence or ford a stream.

The thing is that this really is a small town in the middle of it all.  Everything is close enough that I generally don't have to leave The Island.   If I really want to see things, I've got my choice within a half hour drive.

It's also quite full.  There really aren't any open spaces here that aren't being Considered For Redevelopment.  So when someone moves onto The Island, they generally push someone else off. 

That's that splash thing.

View Larger Map

For a city of roughly 13000 people, we generally know each other or know someone who could make the introductions.   Six Degrees of Separation become usually one or two.

I had that shown to me last night.

We were out walking Rack on a short mile and a half walk.  Discussing the nearly full moon over Wilton Drive through the palm trees, the breezes off the Ocean less than two miles away, and the general lay of the land we were interrupted by a horn blowing.

It turned out that it was a friend here, Doug.   He was leaning out of the convertible asking if we got the texts yet.

Not me, I have texts turned off on my phone, I fail to see the value of having someone interrupt me while I'm on The Can at any moment. 

Kevin didn't get them.

Doug was talking to this Nice British Couple at the bar that turns out works with Kevin at his office.   We met them both at their house when I was telling him I could wrap a tow rope around his palm tree to pull the stump out easily.   He's my insurance agent, after a fashion, and Doug's right, they really are a nice couple.

The story went that Mark and Tracey wanted somewhere to go that night instead of sitting in so they ended up at the local bar drinking Long Island Iced Teas.  Being gregarious folk, they struck up a chat with Doug and found the One Degree of Separation you get in a small city.

When they moved into town a while back, they wanted a place that was safe, quiet, and near everything.  So they pushed someone else off The Island and settled into a Mid Century Home over on the East Side that is near but not on the water with a dead palm tree that needed to be hacked out of existence.

They also adapted well to our quirky night life and the helpful bartender who suggested that they may be in the wrong kind of bar for their demographics.  The helpful bartender needed to be a little less helpful, the place was the right kind of bar for the night out on the town since they left after having a great time chatting with Doug and texting Kevin all sorts of details.

So welcome if you're planning on moving in.   You'll find that because the homes are bought up, those that go on the market are rising in price back towards "what we paid for them at the peak of the market a few years back".  Just listen for the splash and if you're lucky you'll find your own really nice British Couple to be friends with.

Don't worry, the tree's gone.  You won't need to borrow my Jeep.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Breakfast With Wildlife - Picture

Having Rack, my faithful McNab Puppy alert to dogs across the street, I'm getting used to his perking his ears, looking at the door, and walking over to it with tail wagging.

It's possible to tell if it's one of the neighbors with their dog or something very different by the way Rack will react toward the door.

He's fond of the neighbor's Rottweiler, named "D.O.G.".  Yes, a 140 pound dog named "Dee Oh Gee" that sees us and wags his stump of his tail from the edge of the property hoping for a hello.

This morning was different.   I was in the middle of making breakfast.  Home Made English Muffins, egg, sausage, and cheese with Home Roasted Coffee, when Rack alerted to the door.

Finishing up the sandwich, I turned off the burners and walked to the door.   Rack was sitting there, wagging his tail and dusting the floor, head slightly cocked to the left.   As I got to the window at the top of the door, I saw this bird across the street going through some odd motions.   Getting closer to the subject, I realized that we were sharing a morning meal.

We live fairly close to wildlife here in Wilton Manors.  Seeing armies of ants going from Point A to Point B is an almost daily occurrence that hopefully isn't across the kitchen counters.  Flocks of Cherry Headed Amazon Parrots or Green Iguanas on the roof are now normal to me.   I don't even notice Squirrels and Pigeons for the most part.

But watching this Egret doing a dance with the Black Racer against the pavement as he cooked his serpentine meal was a bit out of the ordinary.

I reached down for the camera, wishing I had a DSLR and a Macro Zoom, and hoped that this would be enough.   It was.   I got off five shots and called it done, then returned to my breakfast leaving the bird to his.  Rack wasn't getting any sausage sandwich or visiting with the wildlife this morning.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Little Jon's Fire Truck

When my nephew Jon was small, I was able to get him a toy that lasted him most of his childhood until he discovered video games and grew out of such things.

I was lucky enough to be able to find things that a kid liked, simply because I would look at the things I thought I'd like and get them.   Add to that there were a lot of places to pick that sort of thing up near where I lived.  

It gave me an excuse to look at things I had grown out of but hadn't lost an appreciation for, and a chance to see that same joy in the eyes of another.

So that season, I picked up a large fire truck.  Big and red and beefy, I thought it might last a week.  Made of plastic so it wouldn't cut him if he got his fingers in the wrong place, thick plastic so it just might survive a fall down the steps from the second floor, and just enough fiddly bits and pieces so that it might be interesting.

The other thing it did, that I didn't realize until he got his little hands on it, was if you pushed it, it made a siren sound.

Wrapped up in bright paper, glued on the seams, it was "shelled" like a peanut as soon as he got it.  

Little blue eyes went huge when he saw this truck as he tried to get it out of the caddy.  Of course I helped him out there.  

When I removed it from the packaging, we heard it for the first time.   A grunt.   The wheels had turned and it made a small siren sound.

That was it.  Luckily all his gifts were opened and set aside by then. 

For a two year old kid who could barely walk, this truck became a crutch to help him learn how to walk and then to run.  

For his mother and grandmother, it was going to become something that had to be rationed.

This toy became the proverbial drum set you give to the neighbor's kid.  For that year it was his favorite.   Every time it got set aside because there was something new, it wasn't for long.   He'd go back to the fire truck when the newness of some other plastic gadget waned. 

He'd haul himself upright then place his toddler's hands on the truck, point it in the direction he wanted to go and push.   We knew that when Jon was in the middle of the Fire Truck Play Time, the TV was turned off, and it became one thing that parents never seem to do enough of - pay attention to the kid. 

My mother, his grandmother, would try to hide the thing on him when she had enough of the siren and the rumble of him rolling it out into the foyer, but it simply didn't work.   He'd tear apart the house until either she relented or he found it.

Path of least resistance was to let him have his fun.

Eventually, of course, he'd lose interest in the toy, but that would take years.   I think he was in school when it finally went to where ever childhood toys went when they were outgrown.   The last time I saw it was in the garage of the big house on the hill, gathering dust, well into his teen years.

Sometimes, you just get the right gift, and it annoys the hell out of everyone around you.  Never mind them, it made a kid really happy for years.  Besides, I never did get him a drum set.  I think he would have liked a drum set.  After all, his mom got a guitar once...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Making Martha's Honey Cinnamon Buttercream Icing - Recipe and Picture

A Cake with Butter-cream Icing is one of my favorites. 

Trust me, they are not difficult to make. 

There's some sort of mystique around butter-cream icing, but really this was four ingredients and no cooking.

Just cream your butter that is room temperature.

Room temp butter is the trick because it blends really easily, and basically those cupcakes you see in the picture ... you know, that one with the bite taken out of it?  

All I have to say was it was amazing.   The cupcake recipe was the Cinnamon no fry donut muffin things from last month, so a Honey Cinnamon butter-cream just makes it, well, amazing.

Now this is a Martha Stewart recipe, and her original is at this link.   The site is beautiful but doesn't lend itself toward printing since there are all these pictures on it.   When there are four ingredients, it might be a bit much.   I would say read her page too if you are a bit confused by my blather, but here we go with mine...


  • 1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon of Honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon of Cinnamon


  • Add all ingredients to a mixer and cream together until smooth.  
  • Should take about 5 minutes.

Ice your cakes or cupcakes while this is room temp.   While it will chill and store well in the refrigerator, it gets quite stiff since there isn't much that we're adding to the butter and sugar.   

Like any icing, the longer you mix it, the more air it incorporates and the fluffier it gets - within reason.  If it is a bit too stiff, add a bit of milk while you mix it a teaspoon at a time.  I've never had to go with milk, but you may.

This goes well on Pancakes, Waffles, and of course any cupcake where there is a Cinnamon flavor.  I'm thinking about trying it with a Banana Bread next time I make the stuff.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jerked Chicken and The Dog - Recipe

We finally, finally, got out to the restaurant supply store last week.

It had been a bit and I could actually see empty spots in the refrigerator.  Both sides!  Freezer and Fridge!

While out, there was a special on chicken breasts that worked out to $2 a pound and thinking back, I should have gotten more.

These were massive chicken breasts, double breasted actually.  10 pounds of chicken and about 5 double breasts.

While splitting all this up for the freezer I hear from the next room:

Hey!  How about Jerked Chicken?
Yeah!  We hadn't had that in ages!

We have a go-to recipe for Jerked Chicken marinade that always turns out well. 

I mean *ALWAYS* turns out well.  

I've tried making it from Scotch Bonnet peppers.  We've found Aunt Somebody or Other's marinade from somewhere in Jamaica, that was supposed to be the world's best. 

Meh.  So-so.

We tried different ones and they were either too spicy or too weak or just blah.

This one ALWAYS works.

Believe it or not, it's McCormick's "Caribbean Jerk Seasoning".  There's this recipe for Marinade on the bottle.   We would buy it up in Pennsylvania when we could find it, but it's dead common here, so we had so much of it that it got "boring".

Can you believe that?  Boring?  Jerked Chicken?

I guess we needed to be away from it. 

Peeling off two massive chicken breasts into a plastic bag, Kevin made up the marinade and poured it in where they rested from Friday until Sunday lunch hour.

When I went out to move the grill, Rack decided he wanted to explore the wilds of the backyard, so off he went.

I scraped down the grill, turned on the heat and let it burn off any of the excess grease.   When I went into the kitchen, Rack moved from His Spot under the Palm Tree to the other side of the pool.   Every time I looked out the back window, he got closer to the grill, cooking off extra grease in the sun.

He noticed my watching him from the window and gave me this "Come On, where's MINE?" look.  Usually he doesn't park himself on the concrete at lunch time in August.   It's just too hot on a black dog's fur, but the smell of the chicken beginning to cook drew him closer.

Yes, this recipe is simple and that good.   It works with any milder food, including Tofu, so if you're a vegetarian, this would be an amazing alternative.  Serve on rice with a bit of Pick-a-peppa sauce on the side.

The Recipe is pretty simple.  Make the marinade, and allow the chicken to soak in it "a couple hours".   Mine marinaded overnight for about 36 hours, but that is decidedly overkill.   A couple hours should do it.

Pull each piece out and grill with the marinade on them until the chicken is done at 160-170F.



  • 3 Tablespoons McCormick Caribbean Jerked Seasoning
  • 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil - I recommend Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce - I recommend Low Sodium since we really don't need the salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar  or Balsamic Vinegar

Makes enough marinade for a pound and a half of chicken.

Combine the marinade and mix well, add the meats.   Allow to marinade a minimum of 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Broil or Grill until done, turning frequently.

And now you know what my lunch is today, too!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jim wanted a new horse - Humor

Jack strode into ‘John’s Stable’ looking to buy a horse.

“Listen here” said John, “I’ve got just the horse your looking for, the only thing is, he was trained by an interesting fellow.  He doesn’t go and stop the usual way. 

The way to get him to stop is to scream "hey hey!" the way to get him to go is to scream "Thank God".

Jim nodded his head, “fine with me, can I take him for a test run?”

Jim was having the time of his life this horse sure could run he thought to himself.

Jim was speeding down the dirt road when he suddenly saw a cliff up ahead “stop!” screamed Jim, but the horse kept on going.

No matter how much he tried he could not remember the words to get it to stop. “yoyo” screamed Jim but the horse just kept on speeding ahead.

It was 5 feet from the cliff when Jim suddenly remembered “hey hey!” Jim screamed.

The horse skidded to a halt just 1 inch from the cliff.

Jim could not believe his good fortune, he looked up to the sky, raise his hands in the air, breathed a deep sigh of relief and said with conviction

“Thank God.” …

Saturday, August 17, 2013

And Then - Humor

And then

It's Saturday morning and Bob's just about to set off on a round of golf, when he realizes that he forgot to tell his wife that the guy who fixes the washing machine is coming around at noon.

So Bob heads back to the clubhouse and phones home.

"Hello?" says a little girl's voice.

"Hi, honey, it's Daddy," says Bob. "Is Mommy near the phone?"

"No, Daddy. She's upstairs in the bedroom with Uncle Frank."

After a brief pause, Bob says, "But you haven't got an Uncle Frank, honey!"

"Yes, I do, and he's upstairs in the bedroom with Mommy!"

"Okay, then. Here's what I want you do. Put down the phone, run upstairs and knock on the bedroom door and shout in to Mommy and Uncle Frank that my car's just pulled up outside the house."

"Okay, Daddy!" A few minutes later, the little girl comes back to the phone. "Well, I did what you said, Daddy."

"And what happened?"

"Well, Mommy jumped out of bed with no clothes on and ran around screaming, then she tripped over the rug and went out the front window and now she's all dead."

"Oh, my God! What about Uncle Frank?"

"He jumped out of bed with no clothes on too, and he was all scared and he jumped out the back window into the swimming pool. But he must have forgot that last week you took out all the water to clean it, so he hit the bottom of the swimming pool and now he's dead too."

There is a long pause. "Swimming pool? Is this 854-7039?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Trainer Got Trained

I recently had the chance to sit in on a class.  If it is computer related, my own training kicks in and I quickly get things done and have the luxury of watching other people manage through things at their own paces.

I'm the one that trains the trainers when it comes to most computer software.  I've been lucky enough to have the experience of working with people of all levels but mostly the people I would work with in Corporate Education had a certain "floor" of knowledge.  

The test I ask is "How do you play a game of solitaire on this computer?".   A bit misleading, but the idea is you have to know first how to turn the thing on, then find your way into the computer, then find the program. 

If you can play a complete game without a lot of trouble, you probably are able to be trained. 

Mind you, now people are playing solitaire on a tablet, iPad, Phone, or Android Tablet.

Different story, we're talking about a "computer".  Maybe call those a Tablet vs a PC...

Being in a general audience class I was wondering why for 8 people there were three volunteers and one teacher, but I saw quickly why.

Some of you folks simply have forgotten how to use a computer.

We all surf, if you're reading this, you are surfing.  Some do it on that generic Tablet.  But those tablets simply fall short when you are working with what they call a "Data Driven" website.

If you have to type in "stuff", use a PC.   If you just occasionally click, a tablet is fine.

This was a professional website designed to do some very specific job search exercises.

We had people in the group who didn't think they would need to save their user ID.   Others that didn't understand that they were already inside of a browser on some distant website.

I guess they didn't play solitaire on the PC any more.

Having had to train people on software I wrote holding Executive Director's Titles as well as a clerk in Accounts Payable on more than one occasion, being exposed to someone who managed to become "over 40" and not know how to use a computer was an education for me. 

Being a Webmaster, you have a choice.  Make it work for the PC or make it work for the Tablets or Phones.  Those second websites being Mobile, it presents a host of other challenges.  Since most people are typically a bit lazy, they will to the "80/20" rule, make it work on the PC, then come back for the Mobile site for the Tablet/Phone later.

Hopefully they will come back later.  It's not always granted.  After all, those Tablets have a real browser now, don't they?  Can't they just use the "real website"?

My website/blog is looked at 88 percent of the time on a PC, the rest are on some sort of a Mobile device.  I'll put my time on making sure it looks readable on the PC/Mac/Linux/FreeBSD...

You get the picture.

But you folks on the iPad/iPhone/Android Tablet/Android Phone... If it looks weird, that may explain things.

Now you know why mobile shopping sites look so strange.  It's a matter of effort, and just don't get me started on the mobile Wikipedia site.  Yuck.

So if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed when you are trying to get some work done online, if that whole concept of a Mac or a PC is too much for you, there are some really basic things to try to get comfortable with it all.

First, play a game.  Doesn't have to be a card game, but they're good for this purpose.  They teach you how to actually use a mouse.   I suggest on Windows Spider Solitaire using one deck.  It's dead simple and real good at that drag and drop stuff.  I know that the Mac has a couple good games like that since I have them installed on my own Mac. 

Second, use a laptop or a desktop.  Put the tablet aside.  Actually train yourself on how to use it again, call it a refresher, but your boss will appreciate it.  They may even remember that your skills got better next time Layoffs come around.

Third, you need to know how to do some basic office "stuff".  Write a basic letter with a couple different fonts.  Bold, font size change, paragraph indenting.  Basic stuff.  Print it out to your printer.   Do the same with a spreadsheet.  Enter a column of numbers and calculate the sum.  Change the colors, make it pretty.  Print it out to your printer.

No, I'm not fond of wasting paper, but if you can do all the above, you can find your printer, you can do basic office operations and you have gone from being passed over for that entry level job to being qualified.

But no matter what, set the tablet aside.  The websites aren't there yet... yet.  Unless you work at Apple of course and most people don't.

Fourth and most importantly, open your mind to knowledge.   Once that closes up, you're stuffed.  After all, while playing Angry Birds may be fun, it won't put food on your table, and what you "learn" in flinging cartoon birds at things won't work when you have to post things to your General Ledger.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Little Foot Crosser

He looks peaceful here, but this was the Before Picture.   This was Before Going Out.

Once in a while, I leave the house.   Yes, even I get out.  I had a meeting at the Wilton Manors Development Alliance.  Mind you, this was not a very long meeting, we weren't gone for too long, but one thing I have to let you in on...

Dogs have a lousy sense of time.

You walk out of the house, lean over the fence and talk to the neighbor, have a cup of coffee.  By the time you get back, you are greeted as if you are a long lost friend who has just climbed Mount Everest without a Sherpa.  It was a world shattering event, all compressed into 10 minutes.

That day, I spent making some rather excellent muffins from a recipe that I can throw together in about 15 minutes.  Three dozen of the things, most of which were put in the freezer for "sweet-tooth emergencies".

At one point, my little black and white dart got bored, and I needed to wait to allow the ingredients to come up to room temp.  Looking into nut brown eyes, I said "Lets Go Out!".

What dog doesn't want to go outside on a warm day?   We went out back into the August Afternoon.  90 degrees of brilliant South Florida sunshine.  Rack walked over to His Spot next to the big Palm Tree That Can Be Seen From Space and parked himself.   Not in the shade, but right as you see him, in the sun.

Ready for that close-up now?

I managed to convince him that it was time to come inside once I got warm simply by walking over to the back door.  Faster than normal, he got his fill of things outdoorsy.

Going through the day, we managed to get him walked early and then he walked himself into the crate when it was time to pack up the muffins and go to the meeting.   An amazingly agreeable little dog, motivated to please.

The table was set, both with cinnamon muffins and with the future goofy return dance.   We went about our meeting returning with leftover muffins for snacks. 

Note to self:  3 dozen muffins are either too many or too few depending on what I'm going to do with them, whether they are easy to make or not.

Before the door was opened, we got a cheery "Hello!" from Oscar.   Then we heard it.   Pulling the door out and stepping through, we heard a badly balanced motor sound.

If you ever had a laundry go wrong, this is similar.  When your washer is spinning out of balance and you get that loud Thump-a-thump-a-thump sound, this is the canine cousin.   There was a quiet, then louder squeaking sound while that thumping got more insistent.

Rack knew we were home.

I walked into the bedroom, unlatched the crate, and it was a wall of fur all over me.

No, not my own, the dog.

He was trying to lean against me as if to say if I sit here, you won't go. 

Black and White dog, pink tongue, high pitched squeaks of joy, yielded to wiggling and leaping, followed by slipping on the tile floor.

He spotted Kevin and repeated the ritual.

Someone's happy to see us.

The rest of the night was a cycle of calming down followed by a whine.  At night if the dog whines, you open the door and let him water the shrubs.

Not last night, this was him still wound up from being left alone for that little bit.  Luckily the Dog Walk Hour was approaching and we'd get him out on his normal routine.

Literally it took the Truck Monsters of Wilton Drive to calm him down.

We managed to "empty the dog" a couple different places around town.  Returning from the Evening Mile and a Half after taking time to sit on two benches to give him more time and exposure to Scary Things, we got him home.

Immediately he went into the crate.   My People Are Home, My Job Is Done, I Can Rest.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Firefox 23 is out - Now With Annoying Changes!

I use Firefox as the go-to browser.  
Internet Explorer is ugly and slow.
Chrome... well that's a google product and I don't trust it.  I know, Blogger is a google product, and I accept that.


I read that it was being updated so I checked to see if it was updated to version 23.  No, but helpfully it told me that it was downloading the update.   I didn't actually click on anything, but since I wanted it, I accepted this as "magic" and watched the donut roll downhill.

To Check:

  1. Click Help
  2. Click About Firefox
  3. Read - the Version Number will be there and it will tell you "Firefox is up to date".
Now for the annoyances.   There are two, and they're connected.

I have more than a passing interest in Security.  Web pages that do things I don't like really make me go "red zone" fast.  Tricks with javascript under the hood really make me want to reach through the browser and find the webmaster and pretend I'm Homer Simpson strangling Bart.

So I would go in and set two tick boxes:

Do not allow javascript to move or resize windows.   You don't want this happening either.  Imagine trying to close a window that won't let you because it moves.   Plus everything is "just so" and I don't want something going full screen.   It's this size because I want it this size.

Do not allow javascript to turn off context menus.   If you right click on a web page, you get a pop up asking you what you want to do.   It can be turned off.  Tough, my browser, my rules.

Here is how to set it back - if you don't want my explanation, go to this link and read the geek speak on Mozilla's website.

Open a fresh Firefox browser window - Ctrl N
In the address bar type "about:config" and hit enter.  
There will be a helpful warning about not breaking anything, click "I'll Be Careful".
You are now in the Firefox configuration screen.  You really can make the browser misbehave here so - be careful.

First change
In the search box type "dom.disable_window_move_resize".
Click value until it changes to true.

Second change
In the search box type "dom.event.contextmenu.enabled".
Click value until it changes to true.

You can close that window, you're all done.

What you did was force Firefox to give you back control, and we will all admit that control is a good thing.

Really, Mozilla, what were you thinking?  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Your Computer is Slow Because It's Patch Tuesday

When I worked at a small insurance company Back In The Day, we had a user.   A specific user.

She was someone who my boss called The Squeaky Wheel.  

She was The Wheel for short.

She would field calls and do inquiries on people's insurance accounts and wonder why "things are slow". 

Back in that day, computers were not very scalable - you couldn't make them faster or bigger without some major surgery done by some cadre of people dressed in suits and ties carrying black bags.  If that wasn't surgery I don't know what it was.

Basically that company had too small of a computer for the people who needed to use it. 

New Jersey people would recognize that as a "Blivit" - 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag.

Today is Blivit day for everyone reading this.   Even if you don't use a Windows computer, the internet will be slightly slower.  


Well Microsoft has done their work.  They squashed some bugs, fixed some exploits, and solved some problems.   That means that your windows computer wants to download those patches which means if you are on a slow connection, like that insurance company, you're going to have a slow day.

That's OK, Microsoft did their job, your computer will be safer.   Now if we could just convince them that Windows 8 Interface with the butt-ugly start screen was a mistake and turned our nice little kitten of Windows 7 into the Blivit of the Decade...

This is for Windows XP, Windows 8, Windows Server, and a bunch of other things including Internet Explorer and "stuff under the hood".

Never mind, just relax.   Switch to decaf.  Oh and lay off the sugar, we all have too much of that.

If you want to read a bit more about it, there is a write up on this link at Sophos' Naked Security blog.

I think it will be an excellent day for me to work on that graphics project on my Linux machine and bring that one website up to the next level... again.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How I Got Promoted To Pack Leader By My Dog - Picture

We have three long walks a day.  They can be more than five miles total on a good day, but usually closer to 3 one mile walks in any given day.

Through the neighborhood and out to Wilton Drive, there's a lot to keep a Mc Nab Dog interested.  Intelligent dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation, especially if you have a herding dog in any given city.

Give them a job and they're happy.  If you don't, good luck.  Obsessive Barking, Chasing cars or people, tearing up furniture, all of these are things I've heard about where someone takes a smart dog and expects it to train itself and "be pretty".

It simply doesn't work.  The more you work with any dog, the better your relationship will be.

Out on one of these long walks we began to put things together.  We realized that I was promoted to Pack Leader.

You see, Rack is a very timid dog.  He went through a couple months of hell after being "Owner Surrendered".  After a couple of scary and loud shelters, he ended up at The Dog Liberator right at the same time that my dog Lettie had passed away from a long bout of Chronic Renal Failure.  After the better part of a year of increasingly more difficult feedings, Lettie passed in my home on April 10th, 2013.

Three days later, I was ordered to find another dog.   I was a mess.  The House didn't feel right.  I started looking and found Rack online as dog number three.  He was shut down from his experience and managing the whole trauma of Surrender, Shelter, and Rescue very badly.   Luckily, schedules didn't mesh up for me to meet Giselle, who runs The Dog Liberator, for a week, and that gave Rack time to begin to heal in a positive atmosphere.

When we got him home on April 23rd, he was still shut down.   We walked him up the block and back to get him used to the neighborhood.   After all, he didn't know it was going to be the Forever Home, but he did need to lift his leg on a few trees before going to sleep.   Back at the house, he headed for the crate, but did stop to nibble a few things before bedding down.

We've had great luck watching him blossom, and the walks are getting better, but not perfect.   He still hates loud noises so when we get out to Wilton Drive, he's in full fear mode.  Putting on a brave front, he would try the Perpendicular Arm Wrench maneuver to try to get Off The Drive, but that didn't work.  I'm too big for him to move.

Usually by the time we get to the drive, he will have relieved himself.   I'd hand off the leash to Kevin and I'd have a present for the nearest trash can.

We were swapping back to my leading Rack on the walk out on the Drive but once we realized he was calming down, we got sloppy.   Kevin ended up with Rack's leash and walking him through the worst part of the walk - the noisy, bus and truck ridden five lane wide Wilton Drive.  Instead of my following them, I ended up in front.  It's the way we do malls anyway since people can't walk through me.  At 6'4" I tend to create a wall, so smaller people will follow me and let me break through crowds.

It also works for dogs.

Now, when Kevin has the leash, I'm ahead of him and Rack clearing the way.  Instead of Rack doing the Perpendicular Arm Wrench Maneuver, he's now watching every single move that I make.


I have become his pack leader and it is his job to watch what I'm doing.  I can handle the job, it's an easy one, and it means he's accepting where he should be in the pack.   It's much easier for a herding dog to have a job and a role, especially with a beta or submissive dog - following is a lot less work.

Lettie was an Alpha.  She never completely accepted being in a submissive position until the very end.  She would clear the way and walk ahead of us, and we never were able to get her to accept any other position.  She lived life on her terms.  A strong dog, it was amazing to see how she would work the crowd, decide who would be allowed to pet her, and she would block "impaired" people from her people.

Rack is definitely a beta.  He's getting stronger with some gentle handling.  He manages walks with me alone fine until it gets noisy, then all bets are off.  Time to run away from the noisy cars and trucks and get home... NOW.  But placing him in a middle of the pack place in the walk and he calms down and becomes much easier to deal with.

Just like anything in life, knowing what you can do is half the battle.  Having someone else to lead you can be a big help for a scared little dog.  Since every dog is different, I suspect this will change in time, but for now I'm stuck out front.  As a result of this, when I'm with him alone, his walks are getting better until his trigger gets pulled.  Neighbors taking out the trash can send him seeking his crate while we are in the house, let alone the large and noisy bendy bus on Route 50 blowing its brakes at a stop on a long walk.

Our best guess is that his being so very passive and so very scared is most likely what had him end up in the first of a number of shelters as an owner surrender.  It takes a much different discipline to train a dog that is afraid of a bus a block away than it does with another one who just wants to play or sit on a lap.  Not everyone cares to take the time to work with these dogs.  It's a shame because a gentle soul by your side can be the best thing that happened to you, even if you do have to watch for the big noisy things for them.

Our gain.  We're happy to have him, even if it does mean that I can't see him on the walk.

Fearful dogs are the ones that hide in the back of the shelters.  They're usually the ones who are most intelligent and are most upset by the trauma of the experience.   Most people don't want the work, but these are the dogs that become The Dog Of A Lifetime in the right hands.

Cesar Millan says "You get the dog you need." when speaking of this sort of a challenge.  They will bring out the best in the owners as long as the owners will listen.

Time to listen and seek them out.  They need it the most.  After all, it's a conversation of a lifetime.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let's Fly! - Humor

A plane was taking off from Kennedy Airport. After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, nonstop from New York to Los Angeles. The weather ahead is good and therefore we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax - OH MY GOD!"


Then, the captain came back on the intercom and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier, but while I was talking, the flight-attendant brought me a cup of coffee and spilled the hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!"

A passenger in Coach said, "That's nothing. He should see the back of mine!"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Canadian Siamese Twins - Humor

Canadian Siamese Twins

Siamese twins walk into a bar in Canada and park themselves on two bar stools. One of them says to the bartender, "Don't mind us; we're justjoined at the hip. I'm John, he's Jim. Two Molson drafts, please."

The bartender, feeling slightly awkward, tries to make polite conversation while pouring the beers. "Been on holiday yet, lads?"

"Off to England next month," says John. "We go to England every year, rent a car and drive for miles. Don't we, Jim?" Jim nods.

"Ah, England!" says the bartender. "Wonderful country ... the history, the beer, the culture ..."

"Nah, we don't like that British crap," says John. "Hamburgers and Molson's, that's us, eh Jim? Besides, we can't stand the English - they're so arrogant and rude."

"So why keep going back to England ?" asks the bartender.

"It's the only chance Jim gets to drive.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I'm Getting Ready For The Spa - Picture

When you go out to the spa, make sure you have enough to keep yourself hydrated. 

If you're planning on climbing into the warm water, you'll want it.

Having a curious dog around always meant opportunities for a good long sniff.   While Lettie never really liked going into the water herself, my glass of Iced Tea was fair game.

Coming out of the house, camera in hand, I saw my old girl homing in on the glass, despite it looking like she was going for a long relaxing soak.

She's gone, and Rack hasn't gotten curious about the joys of swimming in the pool on a warm day when the black fur has soaked up all that heat.  

We figured that Rack isn't quite confident enough to try it on his own.   He is a good swimmer because I did carry him in one day and those McNab Webbed Feet had him swimming toward the steps in the shallow end in short order.  

Job finished, the dog's safe in the pool, we can relax now. 

With or without the Iced Tea.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway and Graphics Search - Picture

I know it's here ...


That's how my day has been all week. 

I am looking for a specific picture to be used as the background for a website that I'm the webmaster for.

Take the picture, sample it, layer it on top of a sunburst, then fade it so it looks like a watermark.

Got it?

If you do, you were probably sitting on my couch discussing changes to that website.

Problem is that it wasn't where I thought it might be.

That's what happens when you take a lot of pictures.  I'm in a place and a time where I pretty much have to take a camera with me whenever I go out.   Cargo Shorts and Extra Pockets are my friend.  That camera fits in there nicely.   Phone cameras just don't cut it.  While Digital SLR with Macro Zoom Lens and all that stuff is a dream, this works well.

Out on a trip around town gives me an excuse to be a hopefully not terribly obnoxious tourist, leaning out of the door of the car taking "Holiday Snaps" of the surrounding countryside.   Even being stuck in traffic can be fun when the bridge opens.  You're going to be sitting in the same spot for about 5 minutes while, as Homer puts it, "Bridge Goes Up.  Bridge Goes Down.".  So lean over the railing with a good grip and get Just That Shot, even if there was a tourist standing in almost the same spot a day ago got Just That Same Shot.

Well never mind that, it did turn out pretty didn't it?  SE 17th Street Causeway looking North from the bridge. 

I really don't want to schedule another photo shoot...
Now, where is that picture?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Weeds In The Backyard are Very Different Here - Picture

It's kind of overwhelming, gardening here.

If a seed falls on the ground, it will grow.

If it is a vine, pull it.

If it is a flower, it may be a weed.

Sometimes, weeds look nice in a little bowl.

Going out to the backyard means that every day I could spend an hour pulling things that in colder climates are considered house plants.

I remember that in my house in Philadelphia, we had Mother In Law Tongue.  I tended them until one year they flowered.   The house was filled with a sickly sweet perfume.   Thinking that a bottle had gotten knocked over by my parrot or my dog, we went on a search and destroy mission.   There was a sticky group of flowers growing on one of the plants that was in the window. 

Who knew.

By the time I moved here, we had about 4 window boxes of the stuff.   Every year from that point on, I would carefully snip the flowers off before they bloom and would be content with them there.

Here, it is a different story.   I pulled out a garden of Mother in Law Tongue that was about 20 feet long by 3 feet deep.  They were growing under the hedges and choking out the growth.   There was also a thick growth of Asparagus Fern intermixed with the Jasmine that I was trying to cultivate. 

A hint here, those Asparagus Ferns that look so nice growing from a pot in the bathroom over the toilet tank should not be pulled by bare hands.  They have spines.   Nasty bloody weeds.

On the other hand, I have these Philodendrons here.  My sister would love them since there are three varieties in the backyard that I have found.   They're all growing in from places I can't reach. Little heart shaped leaves, others that are dinner plate sized, and the ones that I cut a leaf or three from time to time and stick in a vase.   The ones in a vase are three feet from stem to tip.  

Have you ever tried to balance three large green leaves with cuts in the side.   They're quite striking, but in a vase, they are quite top heavy.  I still have that same vase that Mom had on her desk for decades before she departed.   It was at work with some of the same sort of plants that I aggressively pull out of the yard before they en-robe my shed.  Unfortunately for me, I'm not trying to root a dinky little heart shaped leaf that is the size of a child's palm.  Oh no, I am trying to balance something that looks like a sail inside of a slender pressed glass vase.

With a very curious dog in the house.

You see, every time the Cut Leafed Philodendron gets large, it sets off a chain of events.  The plant begins to encroach on the pool.   We cut a leaf or three off.   They go into the vase.  The vase comes into the house and looks quite nice on a little round table that is waist high.   Then the dog comes by and sniffs it.

What happens then is a cascade of a dog running with tail between the legs, a giant leaf nearly landing on it, and the splash of the water pouring out on furniture and floor.  Usually afterword, it's my sliding across the floor ready to meet it with a collision on a sheen of water.

On second thought, I'll leave the nature outside and just look at it from the window.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It All Comes In On The Same Truck - Picture

Driving to Key West from The Mainland one thing becomes abundantly clear:

There is one way in,
There is one way out.

The Florida Keys are an amazing place, unlike anywhere else on earth.  One of a kind ecosystems, their own species of animals and plants, and a culture all its own.  

Only around 100,000 people live on this ribbon of 120 miles of coral rock, swamp, salt ponds, and punishingly blue water.

Lucky them.

You know you are in for an experience once you leave the sprawl of South Dade beyond when Florida City fades in the rear view mirror and the sign looms overhead saying Welcome to the Keys.

If you are lucky, traffic moves smoothly and the sun is shining.  The Seven Mile Bridge is a strip of concrete that separates the Middle Keys from the Lower Keys.   A gap between the two groups of footprints in the water that is best seen from a convertible car or a motorcycle, right at sunset, with the breezes flowing past you.

But, it does rain in Florida.  When it does, that four hour jaunt through a truly amazing landscape of deep azure blue waters and mangrove green becomes a study of license plates, brake lights, and all too common billboards.

While they didn't pave paradise to put up a parking lot, they sure did try to put up signs to entice you to buy the latest crap that they can have shipped in from the mainland at inflated prices.

Oh sure, you'll stop off because being stuck behind the truck that brings in tomorrow's dinner for what could be a 12 hour journey is an experience that would try anyone's patience.

That truck came from Miami right about the same time you did, and you will be following it for the next couple hours.  May as well have a grouper sandwich on a dock somewhere.   The fish will swim right up to you thinking you have something for them to eat.  Like their uncle that was too slow to swim out of the net to become what you have in your hands right now.  Uncle Fish morsels fall into the water and into waiting mouths while you wait for Monroe County Sheriff to clear the accident 10 miles down US1 down in Big Pine or Marathon or some other coral rock speckled with life. 

But at that moment, your reality spins down to an excellent meal, hopefully with an excellent glass of beer or iced tea, in the sun, while you feed a fish its distant cousin.

Circle of life.  Future Food eating Food that came in on the truck yesterday that just had a fender bender on a scrawny ribbon of concrete and asphalt, 120 miles long, leading from reality to a place called the Florida Keys.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tropical Storms, Fear, and the Dog Walk

Lettie was bulletproof.   She would walk out in the storms no problem unless there was a lightning strike within a mile.

Rack ... not so much.

Ok, he's a puppy, still less than a year, so I expect a little skittishness. 

Plus if there are lightning strikes within a mile... what the hell am I doing out there anyway?

Sounds are his trigger for fear.  Loud noises are his kryptonite.   He doesn't like trucks, motorcycles, banging bottles, trash trucks, or buses blowing their air brakes either.

That's all normal living here.   Instead of avoiding those sounds by not walking Wilton Drive, I embraced them and realize that when he starts to go into his shell by trying to walk "THAT WAY NOW" to get away from life, the best way to deal with it all is to stop and let him gather himself up.

That is how I managed Lettie.   When we lived in Philadelphia, I was a block from a major shopping district, Germantown Avenue.  The 23 Bus would rattle up and down Chestnut Hill driving her crazy.  Every Saturday, I would take her out to the corner near the house, sit on the park bench facing The Avenue and watch people.  Sunday I would be back out as well.   It took a while but she came around.

Now I'm doing it with Rack.  Walk The Drive whether he's up for it or not.  There are benches and we'll stop most walks.   It lets me stare at my feet for a bit while he obsesses over that 50 bus heading to Pompano Beach.

Add to it the rain.  We had this little tropical storm spin its way up the coast this weekend.  Dorian.  It really was a lot of thunder and lightning more than anything else.   Sure it rained, but it wasn't a major downpour that would flood the city here.   Low lying areas of course would vary.   I'm on a high spot of 15 feet above sea level.  

Let me get my Sherpa and Climbing gear.

Here in the land of flat, a foot makes a difference between a flooded yard and high and dry.

Walking the Drive means Rack is fully aware of every single thing.  Trucks in the distance he notices before I do and he's not liking it.  Puppies, especially fearful ones, neither understand what these sounds are nor do they understand that they are a part of life.   Patience on my part, learning on his part. 

While on a dry day he's merely afraid, we noticed that the rain added a level of noise that he liked even less.  Wet tires.   Those big 31 inchers on my Jeep would make more noise with the water being sprayed out between treads, so the trucks flying by over the speed limit certainly do.

It made for a much more skittish and fearful dog.  The first truck came by and he cringed so badly that he bounced off that fence in front of the shops.  42 pounds of bouncing puppy ricocheting off of a fence means that the walk slowed to a crawl. 

Fearful dogs take a different discipline.  They also require a much gentler approach.  They will come around but it is up to the owner to step back and give them space.  Lettie was never completely over her fear of dogs, but managed it.   Rack will come around too.   We're just too close to noise, no matter where we are, not to.

It just takes patience.  A lot of patience.  A little sunshine would help too.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Wonder why you don't see dead penquins? - Humor

Wonder why you don't see dead penquins?

Did you ever wonder why there are no dead penguins on the ice in Antarctica ?

Where do they go?

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."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Arthur Davidson and God Chat - Humor

Arthur Davidson and God Chat

The inventor of the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Corporation, Arthur Davidson, died and went to heaven. At the gates, St. Peter told Arthur, "Since you've been such a good man and your motorcycles have changed the world, your reward is you can hang out with anyone you want in Heaven."
Arthur thought about it for a minute and then said, "I want to hang out with God."
St. Peter took Arthur to the Throne Room, and introduced him to God.

Arthur then asked God, "Hey, aren't you the inventor of woman?"

God said, "Ah, yes."

"Well," said Arthur, "professional to professional, you have some major design flaws in your invention:

1. There's too much inconsistency in the front-end protrusion.
2. It chatters constantly at high speeds.
3. Most of the rear ends are too soft and wobble too much.
4. The intake is placed way too close to the exhaust.
5. And the maintenance costs are outrageous."

"Hmmmm, you may have some good points there," replied God, "hold on."

God went to his Celestial super computer, typed in a few words and waited for the results. The computer printed out a slip of paper and God read it.

"Well, it may be true that my invention is flawed," God said to Arthur, "but according to these numbers, more men are riding my invention than yours."

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hibiscus Blossom on the Phone - Picture

I spend a lot of time on the phone.

Calls come, I'll take the time to do right by who I am speaking with, but I do have my own quirk.  I generally can't sit still more than a minute or so.

Having a long call, I'll get up after a minute or three from my chair and start to walk around the room, then the house.

The longer the call, the more I tend to roam.   I've planned meals, set out baked goods to thaw, all sorts of strange things. 

Today I was chatting with someone, hopefully giving more than platitudes in return for their gift of time, and realized I had just walked out to my front yard.  There is a tree out there that is slowly being turned into food for termites.  Since it isn't a native, I'm more concerned for the "Air Plants" that are growing on it than the tree itself.   Once this Bottle Brush tree is finally gone, it will give me a reason to replant that little garden in front of the house once and for all, but for now it just looks scruffy.

Laughing at myself and telling the person with whom I am speaking what I had just done, I came back into the house.  Rack, my dog, hadn't come out for a visit, but since there were large trucks rolling around the neighborhood I had not been surprised.

When the conversation had ended I was again outside of the house, looking around the backyard at things.  Rack, this time, followed me out to His Spot next to the Meyer Lemon Tree and parked himself.  I, on the other hand, had camera at hand.   There is always something beautiful in the gardens here.  Even if you hadn't planted, Mother Nature is generous here and even the weeds can be beautiful.

Barring a weed, a passing bird or squirrel may grace your yard with a seed and you never know what will grow from a forgotten corner of the yard or a pot not well tended. 

My own gardening skills are indifferent.   I go in fits and starts in the yard, tearing up vines just enough that my trees and hedges aren't completely draped in Virginia Creeper.  Battling Iguanas here means that if they like it, you may as well not plant them.  In the case of my pots, everything looks like it had been chewed at some level other than the Mango.  They don't like Mango, which is fine because I do.

Even if my pots are chewed up, they do flower.  The Hibiscus here, both varieties that I have, are doing well which is strange because they are Iguana Crack.  They're trimmed back, and the cuttings are stuck indifferently in the soil in the scruffy little pots and sometimes they root.  When they do, they give some perfect little flowers a time to bloom.  One of them will end up in the front yard where that Bottle Brush tree is struggling to stay alive, relieved of the burden of the indifferent gardener's scruffy little pot. 

It will find a new place to thrive and bloom just in time for a phone call.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

LED Lighting at Gables Wilton Park - Picture

You are probably familiar with my favorite view of Miami.   It's actually Miami Beach, but there's a spot just off shore that shows the skyline of Ocean Drive where all those wonderful old Art Deco hotels are lit up.  They show off the colors of the buildings and turn them into a line of wedding cakes standing by the ocean glowing in the evening.  Centered on the Colony Hotel, this is a rather famous view used in many places such as the old Miami Vice TV Show.

Lighting these buildings is a tradition that will begin to show more often in the future.  The reason is that the cost to operate similar lighting installations will get much more cost effective with the advent of LED Lighting.  Being in South Florida, LED Lights also have the benefit of not being visible to Mosquitoes, and nobody wants to draw attention to themselves by those pests.

A typical LED lamp will burn a quarter of the power, on average, than a comparable Incandescent light bulb.   Since they are all considered low power, they may more easily be controlled by computer installations which will allow differing displays based on the whims of the owners.   Color shifting lights, flashing messages, and many more attention grabbing displays will become popular in the future as we learn how to use these lights.

I was considering putting in a line of LED lights under the eaves of my own house when I realized that it would burn less than 20 watts and light the entire front yard.

Large buildings looking for attention would be the more obvious choice for this sort of thing, especially in an Arts and Entertainment district such as our own Wilton Drive.  The largest building collection on the Drive is the Gables complex called Wilton Park.   Gables has a reputation for being forward thinking and when they're here, they're here to improve the cities they choose to place their apartment complexes.

It didn't surprise me when I started seeing changes to the facade of the building.  I didn't know what they were going to put there, but with their reputation, I knew that it would be interesting.

First there showed up a 12 foot-or-so LED tree that graces NE 21st Court overlooking their entrance to the community and visible from Wilton Drive and City Hall.   Now we have the long light strips of white LEDs that are lighting up a diffusing stripe.   They add a touch of class to an already impressive address that we will all appreciate once they are officially turned on.  The additional light on Wilton Drive will serve to enhance the block and the city and make Wilton Park a much more desirable place to open your business.  

"Oh my office is in the Heart of Wilton Manors at the Gables.  Just look for the building with the light stripes!"

These light strips are apparently not "officially" turned on at this moment, but last night on my walk around town, I made it a point to have the camera when I took this picture.   This is only the first or second change to the facade of the building, and there will be more changes since they swapped out the bougainvillea that were there for some smaller plants and installed power drops for future installations. 

They are here to stay and they're making the most of Wilton Drive and Wilton Manors.