Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Pat!

It's that time again!

It's time for Pat's Birthday!

This is what she's getting! 

A Box of Random Goodies!

That is if the box made it.   I sent it parcel post last week.  Went up to Oakland Park P.O. on Dixie Highway, just over the other side of the line from Wilton Manors.

Nice folks up there, they always ask what smells so good in the box.

I tell them but I'm not saying until Pat gets the box.

I'll probably hear something got crushed.
It usually leaves her scratching her head as to What on Earth was I thinking?

Something Granular,
Something Blue,
Something Baked,
Happy Birthday to You!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ducks in Heaven and a Redneck Tourist at the Riviera - Humor

Ducks in Heaven

Three women die in an accident and go to Heaven.

There Saint Peter says, 'We only have one rule - don't step on the ducks!'
They enter Heaven, and sure enough, there are ducks everywhere. In fact, it's almost impossible not to step on a duck, and the first woman accidently steps on one straight away.

Saint Peter comes along with the ugliest man the woman has ever seen and chains them together saying, 'Your punishment for stepping on a duck is to spend eternity chained to this ugly man!'

 The next day, the second woman steps on a duck and she too is chained to an incredibly ugly man. The third woman is very, very careful with the ducks and manages to avoid stepping on any of them.

One day Saint Peter comes along and chains her to an incredibly handsome man.

The woman is delighted but wonders why she's been blessed.
She gets on her knees and prays aloud, 'Oh Lord, what have I done to deserve this bounty?'
The man says, 'I don't know about you, lady, but I trod on a duck.'

A Redneck Tourist Goes to the Rivera

and he gets flagged down by the beachside bathing suit store owner.

 Monsieur, you cannot wear cutoff jeans to the beach here, and talks him into buying a speedo type, telling him: "the women will drool over you when you're wearing it."

He puts it on and leaves for the beach.

The tourist comes back an hour later saying that the women still ignore him and give him disapproving looks as he walks by.

The store owner looks down at his crotch and then hands him a potato and says "Monsieur, put this down your suit and the women will be unable to resist you for sure".

The tourist comes back after 15 minutes, and says that now the women were throwing things at him and one even threw up when he walked past her.

The store owner says: Monsieur, the potato goes in the front of the suit!"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Three Old Ladies At The Kitchen Table and Some Crappy Advise - Humor

Three old ladies were sitting at the kitchen table discussing their problems with getting old. 
One said, "Sometimes I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand, while standing in front of the refrigerator, and I can't remember whether I need to put it away, or start making a sandwich." 
The second lady says: "Yes, sometimes I find myself on the landing of the stairs and can't remember whether I was on my way up or on my way down." 
The third one says: " Well, ladies, I'm glad I don't have those problems. Knock on wood," as she rapped her knuckles on the table, and then said: "That must be the door, I'll get it!"
Crappy Advise
The pharmacist walks into the store to find a guy leaning heavily against a wall.
He asks the clerk:
"What's with that guy over there by the wall?"
The clerk responds: "Well, he came in here this morning to get something for his cough. I couldn't find the cough syrup, so I gave him a bottle of laxative."
The pharmacist said:
"You can't treat a cough with a laxative!"
The clerk responded, "Of course you can! Look at him, he's afraid to cough!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rack, The Rubber-band Dog - Picture

You're busy doing your own thing. 
All the sudden you feel a presence.
Are you being watched?
Yes, by Rack The Rubberband Dog.

He sleeps by using his own back as a pillow, bent into a donut shape.  If he were a cat, I'd expect that. Looking up from what I'm in the middle of and being stared down by 42 plus pounds of mostly black dog with white opera gloves, who is bent into weird shapes leaves me with a smile on my face.

Once he's fully asleep the weird shapes morph into other improbable actions.   He's taken to running in his sleep like every other dog, so now I have an excuse for being groggy until after my coffee.   Some days as much as 3 mugs in the morning.  The constant taptap of paws on the inside of a plastic crate will keep you just outside of REM sleep if you're not careful.

I now have an explanation for that Mid Afternoon Nod Off.  No, it's not a siesta, it's the result of a dog that thinks he's running through a field and sounds like a valve tap on a 1973 Chevy Nova.

Inline 6 cylinder motor, of course.

The other problem with having a rubber-band dog is that they are definitely psychic.  I write way too much about having him, he's very entertaining as he stretches in the most inconvenient spots in the house.  He'll do that in order to take up every last square inch in the middle of the one short hallway I have here.  When I ask him what he's doing I get two short wags of his tail, the Shepherd's Light on the tip flashing lightly, then he'll roll over into another rubber-band pose simply because he can.  

There must have been a square inch more he could take up.

My camera is stuffed with pictures of Rack in improbable poses.  My writing fills with cute stories about What My Dog Did Last.  

The puppy who was completely shut down now will do fearful but assertive barks at people he wants to see, but doesn't quite know how to meet.  Other dogs are now something that he will spring into the air to say hello to, while their owners think I've taken leave of my senses if I think that they're going to let my crazy-dog say hello to their precious.

We've got to work on that one, Rubber-band Dog.  At least now, he'll get crazy, listen to correction, then sit down and dust the pavement.

Yes, my dog dusts concrete with his tail, doesn't yours?

All of this happening before 6 in the morning when the sun is a distant gloom over the Bahamas to the East.

Yes, we have work to do.  It takes time.  He's still a puppy.   Lettie was like this when she was small, and one day after she turned 18 months, she decided I'm done with this and acted all grown up.

I have another six months of this.

At least for now, he'll walk with Ellie across the street, and loves meeting other dogs.   The owners, not so much.   He'll wrap himself around my feet in order to make himself small as possible.

That doesn't work, but you'll bounce back.

After all, you're a Rubber-Band Dog.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tiger Striping the Deck - Picture

The conversation started with "How would you like to borrow this?".

"This" is a 1400 PSI pressure washer, and yes I really would.

It has been about 3 years since the last time the pool area has been pressure washed and it needed it.

With Irrigation water that brings up mud, mildew and mold that coats things black, and algae that will grow in the slightest dampness, we have a rainbow of muck on the concrete surround for the pool.   That extends to the actual "deck" under the Lanai, the open area under the roof behind the kitchen as well.  

There is so much muck that collects there that I have to be careful when I roll the barbecue grill out from under the roof.   If it has just rained or the orchids have been watered, the muck becomes slick and my natural reflexes from skating come into play as I slide on slick boards trying to gain traction.

On the other hand, I'm not the best at cleaning this stuff.   The pressure washer has a jet that goes from a pinpoint to a flat spray.   The flat spray is best because that will cover the most area.  One slight drawback, while you are painting an area with the water to clear off the muck, your arm is trembling from the exertion.  

The result is in the picture.  I now have clean concrete that is "tiger striped" with what I missed.

The entire deck surrounds a 16 by 32 foot swimming pool that my sister would have loved in her Swimming Baby Years, and goes down to 7 feet deep.   I'm indifferent to having it, it seems like a lot of work, but it is pretty to look out at while the duck floats on top with the thermometer stuffed up its guts. 

I still have two sessions of work to go on it.   I have done 4 sessions of 90 minutes of work a piece.  Add to it the "I'm beat" accidental collapse into the pool afterwords, and it basically soaks up as much time as it does water.

Right now it looks like a Bugs Bunny Cartoon of the Mason Dixon Line where the North is all dark and dreary and the South is a scene out of a plantation, all scrubbed and clean.  My own Mason Dixon Line beckons me with the promise of more work bent over sweeping from left to right.

I don't know how to get rid of the tiger stripes, but since I have partial custody of the pressure washer thanks to Billy and Lisa across the street, it won't get as bad as you see in the picture.   Thanks guys, you're great!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Remembering Friends Gone Before Sunrise

I'm out way too early these days.  Stepping onto the front lawn an hour before sunrise, I have to go and walk my Rack around town. 

Since we're looking for a mile and a half, I'm also seeing the majority of my neighborhood at the same time.

The skies were clear and even crisp which is not all that common here.  Of course anything under 80 is cool to me now.

I'm walking Mr Dog and seeing more people than I used to.  If you want to really meet your neighbors, keep the ears open with no headphones, and get a dog.  You most likely need the exercise, and your dog will benefit from it.

Knowing that Rack is over eager when it comes to other dogs, I tend to hold him back a bit while out.  The problem with that is that other dogs want to say hi, so it is drawing me out to have a chat in someone else's lawn well before 6AM.

Sorry folks, I'll try to keep my voice down.

I had stopped listening to the music on the headphones a while back when Lettie got sick.   She was incredible at spotting trouble, but when she lost her hearing, I realized I needed to pick up the slack.  I haven't started listening since.  I'm noticing that people actually do say hello even in the pre-dawn gloom under those starry skies.

Today when I got to near the mid-point of the walk, someone stopped me and chatted me up.  Sheila knew me from when I walked Lettie and thought that my dog looked different.   I explained that the similarity even gets me sometimes, but I had "lost my Lettie" back in April.  This was Rack, and he's a puppy of right around a year.

Sheila was talking about her Chow Chow who was her constant companion since three weeks of age.  When she mentioned that she had lost her dog due to Chronic Renal Failure, I had to share my own experiences.   Apparently I was lucky.   In order to keep her dog alive, she had him on an IV Drip Feed for 2 months.  Lettie never stopped drinking water, in fact drank so much that I was letting her out to water the front yard as much as eight times a day.

There's a spot of grass in front of my house that still is struggling to recover six months later.

I explained that while I wasn't giving IV, I was syringe feeding her up until the day before her last day.   Sharing war stories is a good way to get past grief, even if in these cold Western Societies, we aren't expected to grieve over a loss of a dog.

When Sheila began to cry over her lost friend she apologized and explained it was only a month ago when it all happened.

I told her the story of how we rescued Rack and that I was basically ordered to get him when we lost Lettie.  The pain was strong with our own loss but Sheila took comfort in knowing that she could release a little of her own. 

The thing was that I'm still convinced that Lettie's diet was what killed her kidneys.  I refuse to feed Rack anything that has any content that could be sourced from China as a result.   There is just too much of a culture of deception when it comes to quality control there.  What that means is that I'm feeding my Rack a much better diet than I did with Lettie.  She got a "premium dog food", but it was made by a large pet food company.   Large pet food companies get the size they did by cutting corners.  I won't cut corners again.

Rack gets either Merrick or Orijen food.  He's on Orijen now, and that's a small company out of Canada using only Canadian products.  No "GMO", no "foreign" sourced food - and nothing from China.

I may be wrong, but I'm not willing to compromise.   I've done quite a lot of quality control in my own software development work.  I understand what it means to have zero defects in a product.   When I hear about "premium dog food" being recalled because there was a "scare" or that there's a correlation between Chronic Renal Failure in a specific brand, it clearly makes me aware that something is seriously wrong in the product. 

This is the sort of thing that can easily happen with our own food supply.   The whole Taco Bell scare a few years back when it was found out that the beef in their beef tacos was only around 33% beef and the remainder was other "stuff".  Thankfully the last Taco Bell meal I had was some time back in the mid 1990s. 

Needless to say, I got on this kick with myself and our own food supply.   Making my own food is one thing, it allows me to control the quality of the ingredients, and the other thing about it is that it is vastly cheaper than what sits on a shelf at the store.   Fewer ingredients of better quality, and no preservatives has to help quality and health in the future.

If it is a good idea for the dog, it's a good idea for you.  Sure, cooking takes more time, but aren't you worth it?

I know your kidneys are.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Avoiding Astroturfing

We've all looked at reviews online.   I actually find them entertaining.   Some sites really do have some over the top reviews where an inconsequential widget like a can opener is shown to be the end all of all creation.

Those are usually very easy to spot.   You will hear about an item on an auction site that has taken a life of its own and frustrated comic writers try to sharpen their wit and see if they get any attention for it.

That is rather harmless, kind of a prank.  A recent one was the three wolf moon T Shirt review on Amazon where putting on the T Shirt has been said to cause the wearer to get the powers of levitation and control over a pack of wolves, specifically in a Wal Mart.  This one has been going on for a couple years now as an established Meme.

But that isn't astroturfing.   Astroturfing is the practice of posting fake reviews by someone connected with the company or product in order to drive sales or traffic to the site.   They're usually pretty easy to spot, and pretty easy to avoid.   When you hit a review site like Yelp, simply skip all the Five Star Reviews.  They're usually written by some second cousin of the owner of the shop anyway.

I've spotted them in company reviews posted on Glassdoor. Glassdoor is a site that exists to allow people to research a company they are interested in working for.  Hopefully they will give a glimpse inside the Glass Door to allow them to decide whether the company is worth applying to.   I have seen some reviews on Glassdoor that were clearly written by the owner, and they're always "called out".  What generally happens is that someone who was working there will post an anonymous review stating just how awful the company is and how it is mean to puppies and kittens and ...   well you get the picture.

But Astroturfing also has a darker side, and luckily we have New York to thank for spotting it.  There's a practice called "Search Engine Optimization" where a website is written in such a way to raise its ranking on a search engine.  The current wry definition of frustration is the act of proceeding to the second page of a web search in order to find something about something you need.   So webmasters, myself included, will try to add helpful links and comments in the page in order to make it more important and more pertinent to the web search engine.   The problem is that the rules are never told to the webmasters and they change all the time.

Search Engine Optimization is usually a guess.   A "Scientific wild-assed guess" or a SWAG, but a guess.

So what happened in the case of New York is that the State created some yogurt shops and looked for help in getting their pages optimized.   The shops never existed.   Some companies were valid and helped the shop "owners" work their webpages over with some commonly accepted techniques.   Others were more devious and resorted to Astroturfing.  These companies offered to have fake reviews posted in Yelp and others to drive traffic to the site.   That isn't exactly legal as it deceives the potential client by having people in places like the Philippines and others posting these glowing reviews of a shop that they never visited and doesn't even exist.

It's also apparently illegal in New York, and should be illegal everywhere else.

Luckily these reviews are usually easy to spot, and normally easy to avoid.  Just avoid your Three Wolf Moon T Shirt.   It's out of fashion now and worn "ironically" just like the reviews.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is it a Barometer or a Tail?

Rack may approve of the recipe I was putting together in the picture, but he wasn't really sure he should be sniffing around in the kitchen.

That's what the body language is telling me.  In fact, right after I snapped that shot, he left the room looking confused and walked back to his crate in the back bedroom.

Lately I've been paying closer attention to my dog's tail.  It's been talking to me.   Nothing really silly, but I realized that I have a very good measure of where "his head is at" simply by watching how he holds his tail.

Now, if you pay attention to your own dog, that should not be a massive breakthrough in dog psychology.  Happy dog wags tail.  Scared dog hides tail between legs.  That's pretty obvious.

On the other hand, the higher the tail tip, the happier the dog.

I had a visit from Ann down the block.   She was delivering some Avon to us, and she's one of the few people that Rack actually likes.   He's gotten territorial about people coming in the house so I will know by his firing off a quick WooWooWoo when someone walks up the driveway or drives up the walkway.

When Ann settled on the couch, she called him and he came over.  Head down slightly but tail wagging furiously.  However, it was down low as well.   He was saying I'm happy to see you, I'm acting submissive, and I'm not completely sure of my place in this but let me say hello nonetheless.

All was well when he finally got to Ann, and he enjoyed a good long pet.

While I'm out and about, Rack's tail is a very good judge of just how close we are to the big scary world of the trucks and buses that roll way too fast down Wilton Drive.   I don't know when the City is going to break down and finally follow the will of the vast majority of residents here and narrow Wilton Drive to two lanes, but I know of one dog that will greatly appreciate it.   That will force the people who obey the 30 MPH speed limit by driving "only" 40 MPH off of the Drive, and move the trucks elsewhere. 

Less noise means a happier dog.
Happier dog means higher tail while he's walking.

The closer to the Drive he gets, the lower the tip of that tail goes.   When I get close enough to the Drive, he'll actively try to herd me until I turn around.  

I know what you're up to you silly mutt, you need the exposure, so ... not this time, lets go!

We've all heard and seen this sort of thing before.   It isn't any earth shattering news, however, Rack's tail is like the tone on a Theremin - the closer you get to it, the more the tone changes - or the lower the tail goes.

Ok, it's the opposite of the tone on the Theremin, but I'm sure you get the simile. 

Surprising what you notice when you just pay a little better attention.   That mostly black tail with its last few white inches whipping in the breeze will tell me more now that I've made that particular connection.  Since I'm trying to work him through the trauma of being abandoned and then rescued, any bit of information will help. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Genie in the Bottle - Humor

A man is walking along a beach on the west coast of the US, when he discovers a genie lamp buried in the sand. Quite excitedly he picks it up, rubs it and a genie appears.

Genie: Good day, I am a genie! I am not like the genies from the movies though, I can only grant you one wish

Man: That's superb! I've never been to Hawaii, and I'd love to go. But I'm very very afraid of flying, so can you create a highway bridge from here to the island?

Genie: Hm, that sounds like a very big task, even for me! Is there anything else you would rather want?

Man: It would be nice to understand how women think?

Genie: ...That highway... do you want 3-lane or 4-lane?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Twins - Humor

The twins

There were two twin brothers called Juan and Jamal who had grown up and left their family to find their luck far away in two different parts of the country.

After a while, missing his sons, their father went to a trip to see them. When back home, his wife, who had stayed home, asked him about their kids.

"I went first to Juan. He is quite fine" he said.

"What about Jamal, did you visit him as well?"

"No need. If I've seen Juan, I've seen Jamal"

Friday, September 20, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Neighbor

It's been wet here.

One of those weird wet seasons that make you look at radar and the weather forecast before you go outside to change your mind.

I've had times where you look at the skies and say it's going to be clear, get the tools out for yard work, close the gate and ... monsoon.

Others where everything holds off just long enough to take the trash out.

Yesterday, in one of those breaks between the storms, I went out and assumed the Suburban Gardener's Position.

Yes, feet spread apart, bent over and pulling weeds out of the rocks in the Swale, all the while mooning passing cars.

I never promised to be genteel, especially in the uniform of the day, cargo shorts and an over sized T Shirt.

I hear behind me, a familiar voice of a neighbor.   Turns out that he's gotten back from a month in Colorado.  Trading our normally wet and spotty weather in for floods in the High Plains, we get caught up on old times.

He's saying to me that he's going to be leaving, for good, in another three weeks.  His other half is "gone now" so nothing is keeping him here on our quirky little island.  His business will be sold and moved to St Petersburg where he will live part time when he's not in Colorado for their Summers.  

It may be 105F there, but it's a dry heat!

I told him that I'll miss seeing him every day, as I brush the beach sand that passes for soil here off of my hands and my legs.

In the warp and weft of the daily fabric, you see people in different ways.  He's one of those folks that I'd see from time to time outside of the house.   In fact he's the one that makes me get up and make breakfast, passing by every morning around the same time.

Sitting in my chair, doing my own routine, I get a view of the great outdoors.   I am facing Northwest, watching the sun come up and paint the world over my right shoulder, first in midnight blue, then mauve and yellow, finally to the brilliant overexposed colors that we know as South Florida.   If you come here in the winter, you will notice it my Snowbird friends, because everything looks bright and lush.

To us we see it as Tuesday or Thursday.  Just another day in the week.   Another bright day in paradise if it is not Wet Season, that is.

Sitting in the chair as the Italian Peace Flag waves in the breezes off the ocean I see a head bob by.   Shoulders and chest walking by the house.   There's a blond Cocker Spaniel out of view, below the couch and the screw palms.  I know it's there because a half of a block away it spotted another dog that had the temerity to walk in view.  The little blond dog is now barking its fool head off, and my neighbor is telling it to quiet down.

I see this little scene every day, and in three weeks this patch on the quilt of life here on my little block on the quirky little island of Wilton Manors will be sewn to the fabric and another patch will begin to be made.

Describing this to my neighbor surprises him.  It may be a mere walk but every day someone notices what you do, no matter how minor it is or how inconsequential you think it may be.  Threads intertwine and make the fabric of life.

Since we have two days that are predicted to be dry with a zero chance of rain, my days will be filled.  Yard work that has been on hold since March or May or some drier time will get done.  Sea Grapes will be brushed from the pool deck.  Weeds pulled from gardens.  Concrete to be power washed.  Life will go on, even if it won't startle a little blond dog at 815 in the morning.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Betty's Flower Blooms Again - Picture

Out in the backyard, in a row of pots, is a common flower.   Pure white, almost like Zinc Oxide, it grows near the pool and under the Sea Grape.

Every time I see the pot and the plant, I think of how I got it.

Aunt Betty.

She used to have a condo in Century Village, that Stereotypical "We're moving to Florida" place that Grandmom and Granddad move to so they can spend time in the sun "while they still can".

I borrowed the condo once a couple years back.  It's not a bad community, although it is age restricted and I couldn't buy in.   Not to worry, I crashed there on a vacation and enjoyed it when I could.

Betty didn't use it all that much, she preferred to rent it out and come down just before and just after.   I figured she used the excuse to get away so she could "clean it up before the renters came". 

We made the best of that time.  I'd take her out to all those Chinese Buffets and Barbecue Joints that she knew she shouldn't go to but would go anyway.   It helped to have a partner in crime, me.

In 2010, the drumbeat of "I'm Selling The Condo" got loud enough for her to actually do so.   Getting a call to come by for "One Last Visit" we hit our favorite Chinese Buffet a few days before she was catching the flight back to her place on Lawn Guy Land.

Complete with the accent, of course.

Just before we left, Betty pointed out all her little flowers in front of the unit.   The stair tower had a bunch of flowers that we see all over South Florida.  I think I brought her some coleus one year and they filled in the empty spots like weeds. 

She pointed at the one little pure white flower that she didn't know the name of with pride and said "I planted that one too, but I guess I'll have to leave it now".

Succeeding to give me a handful of the little things, I got them back to the house and stuck them in this pot where they remain to this day.

Only the one is left, although they do spread from seed if conditions are right.   I'm thinking they may be a bit too wet, but I will try for some cuttings from the plant.

It may not be showy or large, but I do get a smile when I see it and think about the person who gives it to me each time I see them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Four Ingredient Bread Rolls - Recipe

I'll put the recipe last.   It is one I scarfed up from a reference on Reddit, and the page is here, and it flew past while I was sitting staring at the TV.   It is as few ingredients as I have ever seen for bread, and I was skeptical.

They tasted well, but there was a problem.  

I've been banging on about using High Gluten Bread Flour for a while now.  It gives great results but I have to add back extra water.   The flour just soaks it up.  A "regular" all purpose flour does not.

I wanted proof.   The proof is in the pictures.

What happened was that I made the recipe "Precisely".  I measured the water out exactly, warmed it to 108F in the microwave, added the ingredients with Flour last.   Mixing time was done in the Bread Machine simply because I'm lazy.

The High Gluten Flour required an extra 2 ounces of water, and I think I could have added more.

The All Purpose Flour could have used less water.  It turned out very sticky and hard to manage.

All other measurements are exactly as below.  I simply added water, then salt and yeast, then flour and pressed start on my bread machine. 

I was geeking out and really wanted a clear view of what the difference was.

The results were predictable.   The High Gluten Flour batch was a bit denser than they should have been since they needed extra water.   The All Purpose Flour batch had to be cooked longer and turned out with an odd texture that wasn't so much chewy as it was thick and almost rubbery.

Mind you, I had the all purpose flour rolls last night and they tasted fine, but the texture was "off".

They would both have been better if they had the right amount of water... or a more patient baker.  You will notice below that the recipe specifically implies that you're mixing in the water "to conditions" so that you get a dough that is "right".  I was doing it scientifically to prove a point.   It was so simple that I didn't mind doing it wrong to "learn" the recipe.

I allowed 2 hours rise time in a warmish (78F) house.  

Recipe follows.  I found the recipe on this page.  The rolls were good, just the texture needed fine tuning.   Less water for All Purpose flour, More still for High Gluten.  I cooked the rolls at 450 for 13 minutes (or until done).

A Generic Recipe

    3 cups flour
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons yeast
    1 1/8 cup water

Mix everything together. If it is too wet and won't come free from the sides of the bowl or keeps sticking to your hands, add a little more flour. If it is too dry and won't form into a ball, add a bit of water.

Knead it for 10 minutes. Cover and set it aside to rise until it doubles in size, approximately 90 minutes. Punch it down and let it rise again. Shape it, either by putting it in a greased loaf pan or by rolling it out into a long loaf and putting it on the back of a cookie sheet.

Ready to eat!

After it has risen to twice it size again, another hour or so, put the loaf into a preheated oven at 375 degrees. Let it bake for 45 minutes and then pull it out. If you made it into a long skinny loaf, it may cook 5 or 10 minutes quicker, so adjust the time based on what shape you chose. I baked the loaf in these photos for 40 minutes). 350-375°F for 45 minutes is typical for a loaf in a loaf pan.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ellie Joins Rack's Pack

I'm a strong believer that you can't tire out a dog.   There are exceptions, Senior dogs, very small breeds, English or American Bulldogs.  But for the vast majority of us out there, you can't walk your dog further than they need.

Rack gets more than 3 miles a day.  I benefit from that as well.  It fights Middle Aged Spread, gets me out of the house, and most importantly it is a great bonding experience.

Spouting about this over and again, I've mentioned this to my friends and neighbors like a mantra.   You'll bond with your dog, your relationship with this intelligent family member will grow leaps and bounds.

All that happy stuff.

Guess what?   It works.

My neighbors, Lisa and Bill, have a mixed breed.  A mutt if you will, I prefer "Heinz 57".  A little of this and a little of that went into making the stew that is Ellie.   She's fiercely loyal, somewhat territorial, and very energetic.  

She also was picking up some bad habits.  When they got her, I would walk out the front door of my own house and get barked at.  From inside of their house I would hear barking.  So I'd call out "Hi Ellie" and she'd stop.  When I'd visit, Ellie would go crazy barking at the window wanting to say hello.

We rearranged the furniture so she couldn't climb into the window and look out, gave her more time outdoors, and I brought over some toys that were extras.   David in Key West came up with a big bag of them and you can't really have spare toys everywhere. 

But Ellie didn't get walked much.   She'd get to visit the front yard, but then back indoors. 

Recently, that changed.   Ellie started going out on an occasional walk with us.  It turned out that they were concerned how she'd react to Rack.   Rack, my McNab Dog, is made out of rubber bands and springs.  He bounces five feet in the air when he sees another dog.   He is THAT into being around his canine friends that I have to hold him back.  Puppy enthusiasm can be intense when you're an active herding breed, but that luckily has peaked.   He's now a year old and beginning to lose some of that bouncy freaky enthusiasm.

He's now only jumping four feet and eleven inches when he sees other dogs.

Ok, maybe now that slight a difference, but I can tell the intensity is dialed down from 11 to maybe a 10 on the scale.

More importantly, Ellie took it in style.   The first time she met my hyper puppy, she snarled at him and snapped once.  We call that the Puppy Slap.   Rack isn't quite that jumpy now with her, and Ellie is more used to this greeting when they meet.  

Bill had Ellie, I had Rack, and we walked down the block toward the Old City Hall.   It went much better than we could have hoped.   Ellie walked behind us, I had Rack next to me.  Rack understood that this was a chance to be in a pack and became the leader while I guided him as the supervisor around to the Park.

When we got to the Women's Club, I told Bill that it was time to head to Wilton Drive and see if Ellie could take the noise and the bustle of the city.   He was up for the experience.  It turns out that Ellie was better than we could have hoped.   She simply walked down the block past the buses and trucks and handled the E-16 fire truck with sirens blazing and lights flashing when it left the station better than Rack did.

It's not perfect, she still pulls Bill down the block but she's getting better.   He's noticing improvement and it's helping Rack to walk more normally with the pack. 

Our pack now has a routine.   Before the last walk, we get a message whether Ellie and Bill are joining us, and if so, we have a better time of it.   Rack relaxes and acts like the Big Brother, and Ellie gets out and sees the world with us.  We get to see the Drive, use the benches, and visit things outside in the Big World beyond.
It's not so scary out there any more.  But if it is, take a puppy or two.  You just might need it, and the puppy will really enjoy it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Crab Spiders in the Morning - Picture

In the back yard there is a row of pots.

I have good luck with them.  The pots are on drip feed irrigation, so we can water as needed. 

The problem with drip feed irrigation is that you end up with clogged sprinkler jets.   These sprinklers are the size of a dime and have small holes in it to limit the amount of water that is wasted.  Sand often clogs those jets from the ground water that smells slightly of sulfur and iron.

Having a sprinkler water a row of pots, each with a 2 gallon per hour flow over a half hour is much more convenient.  If I had to go out and water them every day, I doubt they'd be there.

Part of my morning routine is that once the sun is up, go out back and look at the plants.  I check to see that they're getting watered by something other than my dog, pull weeds, and make sure invasives aren't taking over my little potted garden.  

It also moves me out of my bouncy chair. 

Every so often I'm greeted by something that makes me stop and look, a new flower here, a little wildlife there.   I've had conversations with parrots and blue jays alike, I'm not proud.

Usually though, I'm still waiting for the coffee to kick in and I'm half asleep.   Treading lightly over the sea grapes that are in season, staining the concrete by the pool, the light caught my eye.   Shimmering in silver and a rainbow of diffraction, there was a gossamer clock face suspended in mid air. 

We have these little spiders here.   They look more like a crab.  Non venomous, harmless creatures that I usually experience by walking through their homes after dark on the dog walk.  I know that they are there when I hear their webs snap as I move through them.  

This time I simply stopped to look at the creature who made its home in my yard, looking for a fly-by meal.

With all the wildlife here, the crab spider had a lot of food to choose from.  An insect smorgasbord behind the bougainvillea.  I'm glad it's there.  Maybe he'll get rid of my other pets, the mosquitoes.  Maybe he'll keep them in check.

I doubt it.  At least it looked interesting in the morning light.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jesus Was Making His Rounds - Humor

Jesus was making his usual rounds in heaven when he noticed a wizened, white-haired old man sitting in a corner looking very disconsolate.

The next week he was disturbed to come across him again, looking equally miserable, and a week later he stopped to talk to him. "See here, old fellow," said Jesus kindly, "this is heaven. The sun is shining, you've got all could want to eat, all the instruments you might want to play-you're supposed to be blissfully happy! What's wrong?"

"Well," said the old man, "you see, I was a carpenter on earth, and lost my only , dearly beloved son at an early age. Here in heaven I was hoping more than anything to find him."

Tears sprang to Jesus' eyes. "Father!" He cried.

The old man jumped to his feet, bursting into tears, and sobbed, "Pinocchio!"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

John's New Horse - Humor

John's New Horse

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 heyhey 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 “heyhey!” 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.” …

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gunite. If You Want Me, You Had Better Email!

There are these neighbors.   I can't say I know them at all.   They moved into the big house on the block and proceeded to settle in.  

They began to make changes to their house this week.   They wanted a pool.


I don't know, you folks who don't live in South Florida have this idea about living here.   Come home from work, crack a cold one, toss the burgers on the grill, then cool off in the pool?

Reality is that a pool is a lot of work.  I've been in mine this week but only because I had the weed eater out and hacked the daylights out of the yard.  Eco-destruction is hard work.

Yes, I know, you lot call it landscaping.   I call it slash and burn agriculture.

All the same thing!

When I heard that the new and somewhat standoffish neighbors were putting in a pool, I joked "We should have just sold them a DayPass to the back yard.  Sheesh, are they nuts?".

More folks who have that idea about what a Florida Yard should be.

Earlier this week excavation started.   I immediately went out and dropped traffic cones in the parking space out front.  Irrigation pipes run close to the street, you really don't want someone running over PVC pipe with an SUV.

The cones were there through the digging.   First day the noise started, but I managed.   Second day, I looked fondly at the Noise Cancelling Headphones and said to myself that Disco on Headphones would be real nice.

We're on Day Five.

Tuesday was the day that they started to turn the open pit excavation into something that would hold water.   A layer of concrete got pumped in.   I listened to Trance that day. 

Too much rain to work while the concrete cured on Wednesday so I got a lot done.

Thursday ... oh my Thursday.

That was when the trucks started arriving.  White dump truck.  White compressor truck.  More black SUVs.  There was a herd of people who were starting to do a job for the day.  A cooler of beer appeared and one shirt got taken off.

No, you really should put your shirt back on.   Seriously.

Then the sounds started.

A compressor half the size of a tractor trailer makes a lot of noise.   Constant grumble along with a rapid fire tickticktick sound.  That compressor pumps the Gunite to the back yard of the house that squats on the once empty lot.  The Gunite is a combination of a sandy material combined with some solvents and adhesives.   They're mixed together and perhaps stained blue.  Blue is traditional, although I have to wonder why not darker blue instead of the Aqua that the ocean is down here.  The water would be nicer in winter.

When the windows began to rattle, I reached for the headphones.  Eventually I got through my normal routine, as well as answering emails and beginning to work on an Email blast that I am the manager for.

All the while the disco was drowning out the noise from across the street.

This morning we went through the same set up routine.   Trucks began arriving at the appointed hour, a large plastic tarp covered the street, giant trucks including that big compressor came.  

I was armed and ready today.  The battery was topped off on my old iPhone.  I had a fresh battery in the headphones to power the noise cancelling circuitry.  I went into the bedroom and found the earplugs.

I literally could not hear a blessed thing other than the normal tinnitus and blood rushing in and out of my ears.   I knew that there was noise going on out there because my faithful sidekick Rack had ran out of the room and put himself in the crate.

When I settled in I put the iPhone and the headphones together and turned on the Disco Party.

I can't hear a blessed thing outside of these headphones.   The world has spiraled down to a laptop, the thump thump of a 4/4 beat, and my own thoughts.

So, if you want me, I'm at home, rocking to the beat in my Poang chair.   No, I can't hear the phone ring.  That's the Android phone, the one I prefer to the iPhone, and I can't hear the bell inside my little electronic and plastic cocoon.

Just email.  It's easier.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sleepy McNab Dog

I can tell, the next dog walk will be a good one.

If we're out of the house for any block of time, Mr Dog's brain falls out of his head.   He becomes a cross between a two year old child and a kangaroo.  

Bounding around the house between the two of us, jumping three feet in the air, and generally acting dumb is what we get for having the temerity of going out for some infraction such as getting the mail, stopping in the supermarket, or even just putting something in the car.   Once we get past whatever length of time that dogs see as "long", the Doggy IQ drops and we get silly.

In this case, we were home the required time and he had a good walk later on in the evening.  

Coming in from the second walk of the day, he settled in on his mat, surrounded by his children.  The CookieBall (TM), Kong, and other toys kept him company as the year old dog plopped down and closed his eyes for the next exciting episode of lets wrench dad's shoulder!

In their natural habitat, the McNab dog is the superior cattle dog.  They will tirelessly work their charges around the ranch, running over hill and dale, chasing strays back to the herd, and making sure things run well.  

South Florida's suburban sprawl isn't really their natural habitat, according to the ranchers and breeders that keep the McNab Dog breed going.  On the other hand, with the right person, it is a perfectly acceptable second choice.  Any herding breed, if you ignore them, will create work for themselves.  Ignore them at your own peril, you'll come home to an active dog happy that he helped you by destroying the cushions in your couch, pulled apart the mattress, or some such other thing that would make you completely lose your mind.

Serves you right for not taking them out for that long walk and stimulating their minds.   These are a breed of dog that needs a job.  You can be their job, I found that out with my old dog, Lettie.  She didn't glue herself to me, but she saw to it that things were done right and she could see one of us in our proper place.  Then she'd hunt out the other and try to nudge us together.

I could easily see a McNab as a service dog.  There is no other breed more intelligent.  They may be even smarter than Border Collies, I certainly rank them at least as smart.  But the personality being more calm and assertive means that they could be better suited for complex tasks. 

Our house motto is "Trust In Dog". 

If you look down because there's a wet nose at your hand, or more likely, at the back of your knee, it's time to ask what happened?  I've found that the pot on the stove was boiling over when Lettie was nudging me, Rack was sniffing at my phone when it was getting ready to fall off the table in a warning.  I'm sure as he learns our way of life, we will have another guardian as he learns well the concept of Yours, Mine, and Ours and what tastes good and what doesn't.

It is the same, but different.  We're not cattle, but the job is similar.

I taught Lettie the complex command "Show Me".  That is to say "you came and got me, now show me what you need".   Rack knows it now and he's only been with me for five months.   It isn't always food, I don't think McNabs are food driven - or at least my small sample of two hasn't been.  He may need to visit the rock or the tree in the yard.   That damn cat may be out back and doesn't belong.  I don't know, but one thing I'm sure about, I need to Trust In Dog and all will be well.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear the bell in the next room.   It fell off the freshly made bed and I think someone's paws are getting into Mischief!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


12 years ago the Towers were needlessly destroyed and the world changed.

There was an account of someone who had witnessed the offense from Lower Manhattan that day.   It was an email that got passed around the world many times.   Reproduced on Neil deGrasse Tyson's web page, I have the link here

The current use of the site is for the National September 11th Memorial Museum.  You can see the write up on Wikipedia here.   The picture below is from that page.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happy First Birthday, Rack!

According to our admittedly sketchy math, this is Rack's Birthday.

Not an Earth-shattering event, but something for me and mine to keep in mind.

Lettie, my old McNab dog passed in April, and I found Rack at the Dog Liberator's about a week later.

Losing Lettie, I was basically "ordered" to "go get another dog" by Kevin.  It helped me get through my own feelings of loss.   She was the Canine Ambassador to Snowbirds in Wilton Manors, even if she really didn't care for the attention toward the end.

We finally see Rack at The Dog Liberator, April 21, 2013
We picked up Rack a week after we contacted Giselle.  The timing was for the best since she was able to help him come out of his shell enough for us to continue the work on the recuperation of this dog's shattered psyche. 

Smart dogs don't take well to shelters.  They cower and hide in the back of the cage and end up being put to sleep in much higher proportion than a less smart dog.  McNabs are the smartest around, and other similar breeds like Border Collies, Poodles, German Shepard Dogs, and the like will suffer the same fate.

Since we got him, he's grown much more assertive.  He doesn't hide in the crate when the train passes by a half mile away, but he still hides from the trash trucks all the same.  He still doesn't like Wilton Drive and all that noisy traffic, but he's no longer shivering in abject terror when we get there.   It's fear but it's more manageable and with time he'll do well.

Whatever he went through before he ended up in the right hands with Gisele and finally us, did leave him with a fear of strangers.   We can manage that, it isn't necessary that some snowbird gets to meet my dog.  Most back off when I tell them "He Won't Let You" and leave the vague comment hang in the air.

He has discovered the joy of other dogs by leaping in mid air when he sees them a block away.   We've got to work on calming him down, silly puppy.

Giselle said that he was "About 7 Months Old" when we first spoke in April.   So I'm "doing the math".  That means that today would be close enough to a year old today.  We'll never know for sure, and this is a good a day as any.

There were a few stumbles when we got him.   It took a solid three months for us to get him fully dewormed and on food that he could tolerate.   Puppies don't always digest their food well so we were giving him probiotics and switching the foods around until we found one he could tolerate.   Wellness Puppy food made him have loose stools, and apparently that is common even if it is a high quality food.  We switched to Merrick and Orijen and both are excellent foods that he tolerates exceedingly well.

We won't be giving him "extra treats" today for his birthday, I don't want to clean up extra mess outside on our walks.  His regular food is fine in a Kong or a tennis ball with a slit in it.   Those two toys keep him busy for a half hour at a time!

So, if you're looking for a dog at the shelter, look extra long at that dog hiding at the back of the cage.  They may need a little extra care because of the shock they've been put through, but they're definitely worth it.

Happy Birthday and many more to come, Rack!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sign of a Good Life

I was sitting on the Big Green Chair, watching some semi-forgettable TV show, dog at my feet, laptop making my legs sweat.   It was after all, September, and it won't cool down until our two week winter in February.

I hear over the lamp and table separating us:

This is a great quote!
What is it?
Sign of a good life: The place your funeral is held is too small to accommodate the number of people who attend.
Wow, who said that?
Mike D.

Of course, Mike d'Oliviera.  He's a local journalist here in town.   He's also got a knack for telling a story concisely.   I could learn from that after all.  I am greeted by people by "Hey! There's the Rambling Moose" for a reason.

With that, Mike described the Funeral or Celebration of Diane Cline's Life perfectly.   I remembered standing in one of the back rooms of the place for most of the night.  I briefly claimed a chair in the center of the room and thought about the crush of people, both Diane's friends and family, how many there were with the sheer volume of bodies in the parlor of the former Richardson's home that Diane sought to save with the help of the Historical Society.  Seeing my friends on the board of Wilton Manors Development Alliance, the once Wilton Manors Main Street, where Diane was the Chairwoman for Life, yet another group that she had helped to found, I realized how packed the place was.

The rains had started just before the selected hour.  It was as if Diane nudged a cloud over the park in order to get things going.   I heard someone announce it was time to come on in out of the rain.   When the music started to gather us together, the rain suddenly stopped.   Timing was interesting even if that sort of on-off rain is something you become accustomed to here in the almost-tropics of Wilton Manors.

It wasn't me who suggested that we pick up and move to the room in the back next to the kitchen, but I heartily agreed.  Crowds are difficult at best for someone who sticks out above them.  The Japanese have a saying that the Tallest Nail Will Get The Hammer First.  I have quite a few dents on top of my head as a result, hammers and low hanging door closers aside.  I got to observe the crowd from my perch near the back. 

I'll just stick to the back of the hall.   Getting hit in the head with a hammer is fine for a nail, but for a too tall person in a too crowded space, it can be difficult.

This was a not to be missed event.  Even those who Diane would have told off in public arrived, much to our bemusement.  Kremlinology didn't stop with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it moved to public events everywhere where people will ask "what is SHE doing here, doesn't she have a clue?".

Standing there listening to the politicians from our City speak about Diane, followed by the WMDA, then Family, the whole time I was looking at the fruits of her labor.   Ironically I spotted a sign against the butter colored walls proclaiming Capacity 92 Persons, and said I doubt very much that the Fire Marshall would dare count heads in this packed building.

With back against the wall and potluck food on a plastic plate, I found my niche.   A part of the celebration but on the periphery trying hard not to block the walkway or the doorway to the speeches with the too-low ceiling height.  Being where I was, balancing the experience, there were a few things that would float in over the thrum of the crowd.  One story about a commission meeting. then later followed by Diane's favorite admonishment to "Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver".

They didn't repeat my comment that if I ever buy a bus, I'll drive it naked.

We eventually left the hall at the South End of the Drive.  Walking out I commented that most of what you see in this little city was directly due to the work of Diane and some other very committed people.  This is a small city.  Small cities all over the world get things done on the backs of the cadres of volunteers working to make life better.

The shape of the Drive, the character of the sidewalks, the widening to four lanes and our ongoing struggle to narrow it back with the Two Lane Initiative, many other aspects of this City that all look like the normal fabric of life here were at least touched by this woman.  It really is a case of if you didn't know of her, you probably didn't know what was going on in this quirky little island.  The same can be said of some others that I know well who are tireless volunteers.

Speeches are all well and good.  In this sort of celebration, knowing what we did, it was interesting to point out, quietly to each other, the intentional revisions of some very specific historical events, all for good effect.

Actions are better.  The works of anyone's lifetime can rarely be summed up in a single afternoon's event.  Sometimes you can get a better view of that life by leaving the hall and walking down your own Main Street after a September rain.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Update on Power Outage at Ohio State - Humor

Update on Power Outage at Ohio State

Q: Did you hear about the power outage at the Ohio State University library?
A: Thirty students were stuck on the escalator for three hours.

Q: Why do folks in Ohio go to the movie theater in groups of 18 or more?
A: 'Cuz 17 and under not admitted.

Q. What do you get when you drive quickly through the Buckeye campus?
A. An undergraduate degree.

Q: What is the definition of safe sex in Ohio?
A: Placing signs on the animals that kick.

Q. Why do they sell so many button-fly jeans in Ohio?
A. Because the sheep can hear the zippers a mile away.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

And Then ...

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, September 6, 2013

You're Using Industrial Waste as Mulch? Why? - Picture

No, I really have not lost my mind.

For the most part, I live my life with as small of a "carbon footprint" as I can.  Walk everywhere, keep the A/C warmish, open windows when possible, Compact Florescent or LED lighting...

All that Green Stuff.

Green does help the bottom line since if you don't use it you don't buy it.

That clashes with my method of gardening, which is to say, badly.

When we moved in to this little house, there was an island in front.   Surrounded by bricks, it had this grass in it called Litrope.  Pretty stuff, but it wasn't thick enough to choke out weeds.   This being Florida, if there's a seed, it will sprout.   Lawns are an illogical invention here, as they don't make any sense anywhere except where you have sheep to crop them.

England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland... Sure.  But Florida?  In the City?  At least I have a herding dog...

Lawns use water, give little back, and pollute both air and ground water supplies with chemicals that you have to use to kill off the things that would normally eat the grass.   It's just as true here as it is elsewhere.   Silly tradition.

But they're pretty much required by law.

So back to the Island. 

I kicked Gilligan off the island and made him take that damn Litrope with him. 

For a while I kept it clear by using the weed eater to scalp it down to sand, but that was ugly.

I began planting cuttings from the garden as the most ecologically friendly alternative.   Red on one side, Green on the other, I have now two mature clumps of Screw Palms growing in.   An "Involuntary" palm tree sprouted in one of my plant pots in the back yard.   It wanted to be here, so I gave it a home.

The palm is now 5 feet tall.

There's a bottle brush tree that is termite infested and when it dies, I'll stump grind it if possible.

But those four clumps of green needed weeding.

Did I say I'm lousy at that?   I don't like the idea of going out to pull weeds from the garden when it's 90 degrees out, and it can be 90 degrees out at any month of the year.

Taking a page from the industrial gardeners, I scalped the soil again, then covered it with landscape cloth.  I used old wire hangers bent as hooks to "staple" the cloth to the soil and then we discussed what to do.

Mulch! Kevin helpfully suggested.
I agreed since I don't want to be out there, in the yard, every weekend, mooning passers by as I pull wandering Jew that wandered under the palms.

I want Rubber Mulch!  I insisted.

I won out.  I simply don't want the garden to be a home for weeds.   If nothing ever grows there but the three trees that are growing, I'm fine with it. 

It's a test case.   If it works, I'm going to repeat this in the flower box by the front of the house, plus next to the Orange Tree.  I have to bend down to weed there and I just don't like disturbing that Orange.   It's growing but not completely happy about its home.

Plus it's an amusing mental game.   Go out to the yard and see what the pieces of rubber mulch have on them.   This one is a car tire.  The next one was a sneaker.   The third one was a hose or a basketball.

For now it's saving me work.  Plus the brown bits make for an interesting texture.  Bouncy when you walk on them, they just sit there venting off Tire Smell if the wind is right and it's late in the afternoon.

There, Yard!  That'll show ya!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rack Approves of this Recipe For Pot Roast!

When you set up a crock pot and get no reaction, that is normal.

When you start to put the food together and get this reaction, you know it's going to pass muster!

The recipe was good, I've had better.   The idea was to come close to the old school "Broil In Bag" experience with a Roast Beef - with as little effort as possible.

Our usual recipe is Carrots, Onions, Potatoes in the bag with the spices.  Add in a cup or two of Port Wine, and then the beef.  Roast in the oven.

This is a crock pot recipe which means your outside temperature of the beef will never get hot enough to caramelize the sugars in the outside.   It also means that the outside of the beef roast will not get tough as leather.

It was a trade off.  The prep took me under 15 minutes.   Press low for 10 hours on the crock pot and watch this reaction from Rack.


Simple recipe, if you really would need one.

  • 1 1/2 cup of strong tasting wine.   I strongly recommend Port Wine, but I used Pinot Noir because that was on hand.
  • 2 to 3 pounds of Beef.  Mine was an Bottom Round, and it was on sale.  Doesn't have to be an extra spendy cut since it will cook Low and Slow for extra tenderness.
  • 4 Carrots cut into Bite Sized Pieces
  • 4 Medium Baking Potatoes cut into Bite Sized Pieces.
  • 1 Large Onion or 2 Medium Onions cut into Bite Sized Pieces.
  • 1 Clove of Garlic minced or roughly chopped.
  • 1 Tablespoon of Butter


Ideally, marinade the beef in the wine overnight.  It will give it the flavor you're looking for, however I did not marinade and missed the extra flavor.

Place Beef and Wine in the pot making sure that the beef at least gets covered by the wine.  Since the crock pot will drive the temperature well above 165F for hours, you can cook in your marinade.

Add all your vegetables.  Place Garlic and butter on the very top.

Start your crock pot and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours. 

Beef is done by the charts, 165F internally is Well Done.  When I pulled my beef out for serving, it was close to 200F but it was also tender because of how it was cooked.  I would certainly not roast a beef to 200F because it would be a sad dinner, now, wouldn't it?  Nobody wants shoe leather for dinner!

Your Veg are done when they are tender.   I didn't make it to 10 hours since I was hungry.  Maybe the recipe cooked 8 1/2 hours, could be a little more.  Everything turned out great.  I saved the Juice for later cooking.  My plan is to cook egg noodles in that, and perhaps serve some more beef on top.  Easy Beef Stroganoff.

Who knew a roast could be this simpe!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Story of My Curried Chicken - Picture

Anything I make in a Wok has a story in it.  This is what happens when I get bored and I have a kitchen nearby.  Curried Chicken Stirfry.

The Wok itself was given to me back in the 80s by a good friend, Greg.  I've kept it and used it fairly heavily over the years.  I think well of the wok and think well of Greg every time I use it.

If you're making something in a wok and using a recipe, chances are that you're new at that recipe, or simply new at cooking in a wok.

It's just not that hard to do, and it's just not that hard to make something out of mostly leftovers that tastes amazing.

Amazing to you, that is since you season it to your own tastes when you make it.

Just keep a few things in mind.  
  • Get your spices out ahead of time.
  • Make sure the wok has been seasoned with oil and is not "dry".
  • Don't wash then allow to dry without a coating of oil or you'll end up with a beautiful rust red wok.
  • Don't smoke your oil.
  • Keep stirring and cook everything well.
  • Most importantly, be creative.
Every time I start to cook with this wok, I have to find it first.  Small kitchen means things are tucked away in strange places like under the kitchen table.  Give it a quick once over for dust or "things" that don't belong. 

Place the wok on the burner at medium. 
Find the right oil - Sesame oil is best for strong flavored foods and savory things, Chili oil if it's "spicy hot".
Most other things get olive oil for me.  
Don't smoke that oil, did you hear me?

Toss a few anise seeds in the wok.   Once they begin to crackle, you are ready for your chicken or other meats.  

Everything should be cut to fit the mouth, if you have to use a knife, you're doing it wrong.  Diane told me that up in New Jersey when I was a wee brat and it stuck with me.

I hear you, no, this was a different Diane.  She was originally from El Paso, and a very interesting woman indeed.

Cube up about a pound and a half of chicken, roughly.   Can't go wrong with either a little more or a little less.

The rice I started cooking separately in a rice cooker a half hour before.   It goes in last.   Rice will soak up your extra sauce and give you a nice dry-but-not-too-dry consistency.

Toss the chicken chunks in.  
Add your spices and a tablespoon or three of curry powder.  Should be "to taste", so if you don't like curry, leave it out.  I like curry.  The house still smells like the stuff a day later.

Stir the chicken often.   When it "looks cooked", find the largest chunk, then cut it open.   If I can't get it to break open with the spatula, then it's not ready.   It should look cooked well, no pink.

Now that the chicken was done, I added a pound of "Frozen Peas and Carrots Medley".  Yes, of course they were warmed in the microwave beforehand, it would freeze up the wok if you tossed them in cold!  "Hand warm" would be fine, they are already cooked and you don't want Mushy Peas do you?

You do want mushy peas?  You must be British... not that there is anything wrong with that!

Now that the peas and carrots have warmed to temperature, toss in the rice from the rice cooker.   The rice will still be hot, so don't burn your hands.  The rice cooker likes 3/4 cup of Basmati rice, 3 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of butter.

No, I don't know why the butter.  I've been told it is so the rice doesn't stick.   I like my rice sticky in stir fried food.  Just me I guess.

Turn off the burner and give it a couple quick stirs.  Everything will cook nicely and be coated well with a sheen of curry and oil.

Oh that's right, you might not like curry.   Like Dad said "You don't know what good is..."!

Don't like chicken?  I could tell you that this recipe works well with other meats too but I won't.   That and tofu.   Pull up a chair and we'll talk about that more...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Herding the Human, It's Time To Go

The Hunter, Orion was high in the pre-dawn skies.  He was guarding his companion, the shy Luna, who was showing only the barest fingernail of light.  Inky darkness greeted us as we turned left out of the driveway heading out toward our morning adventure.

Stopping at the foot of the road yet again to stare down an imagined foe, soldiering onward, and around the bend.

This was to be a morning walk.  Time for the daily constitutional, I was looking forward to the exercise.  Planning on a Mile and Two Thirds of distance, I wanted to cover the entire downtown of my little city.

It was a quiet one as well, there were few of the nearby sounds.   Being a cool if not chilly 73 degrees this early September morning, it felt invigorating on my skin.

Rack was watching the goings on and going about his business quickly.  Sniffing the rock, then pausing, he decided to follow along after a gentle nudge.

When we reached the park, I heard the truck back on the little Townhouse Isle.  Rattling its way through the beginning of the morning, it was trash day on my third of the Island.  I'd have to move the big blue trash can to the front of the yard when we got back.

A bounce in my step, I kept wondering why Rack would stop and stare.  The trash truck finally left Townhouse Isle and headed out to The Drive. 

Come on, Boy, lets Walk!

He kept staring at the now gone truck for a few seconds and begrudgingly moved on with me.

We walked past the construction and empty lot where we would turn up to the Drive.  I realized I was being guided when he walked past me to get to the other side of the intersection, different direction than usual.  Thinking that he had simply had enough of listening to monster trucks, the 50 bus, and boom cars, I shrugged and walked on.  After all, we had plenty of room to roam.

On the little triangle plot of land where there the duplexes were, Rack did more snuffling than usual.   He's a sniff-n-go kind of guy, doesn't usually linger.  All dogs will sniff, some are a trial to simply get out of the yard.  I'm fortunate that mine isn't that way.

A car starts up in the distance and Rack decides he has to listen.  Paws firmly planted on the asphalt, he waits longer than I think he should.   Gentle guidance gets him going to the end of the block. 

The car passes and he simply doesn't move along.  Looking up at me, there is a questioning look in those nut brown eyes.

I ask "What is it, Boy?  Show Me!".

I am orbited from right side, to front.  Paused at my feet, then around to my left.  I've been herded.

His actions say I'm Done.  Lets Go This Way.

"Ok, Rack, Show Me Walk!".

I am led back into the lightening but still pre-dawn gloom.  Stars begin to slowly wink out.   We head home.  It's time to go.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day, But What Is This Thing Anyway?

Ok so here I sit.  It's September 2nd.  Today is a "day off" for most here in the US.

I have some beef in the refrigerator for the Traditional Cook Out.   We'll be making burgers and baked beans.  Probably some canned corn will get nuked, not so sure about that, and there will be time for me to make some sort of dessert.  Some neighbor somewhere will be shooting off fireworks so the dog will hide in his crate later on.

But why did this come about.

When I was growing up, they made sure that we got some sort of feel for why the day exists, but I can't say that the history is too well passed on.  The wind up to the day we'd hear blurbs about what the history was, and to be thankful for the struggle and so forth.

Maybe it's me, but I just haven't heard all that much about it.  I avoid most "live" broadcast media these days anyway.  If I watch the One Eyed Babysitter, it is with the remote control in hand and the 30 second skip button at the ready.  5 presses and I'm through most of the commercial garbage and back to the 21 minutes and 45 seconds of content per half hour.

So it could be me.

I just didn't hear much programming on the International Labor Struggles of the late 1800s.  No mention of how the day started in New York City by Labor "activists" that spread through the US.  There was scant mention of how people actually died in strikes protesting 60 hour work weeks, to earn a full day off Sunday, let alone a weekend. 

It must be a result of having only six companies owning something like 90 percent of the media outlets in the US.   No wonder why I get my news from the BBC, and they have their own bias these days in comparison to the way they were when I was growing up.

I decided to look into things a little bit.  The US government has an amazingly dry and uninformative site up at the Department Of Labor that gives the barest of information.  I guess they are trying to be Politically Correct since they don't want their budget cut by some right wing tea party propagandist.

The Wikipedia site goes into more detail about the history.  The thing with them is that they actually expect you to read more of the links and dig deeper on your own.  To really wrap your head around it, you might need to read about the history of Labor and Labor unions in the US.

There are professors who's specialties are the entire subject of Labor "relations" in the US and in other nations.  You can read about it for hours.

It seemed that the history being history, you have to actually want to pursue this on your own until the dog knocks over a plant or you simply get your fill of the information. 

Most won't, history is not going to go away - or will it?

The bottom line is that you have the Day Off today because there were people who died for that right.   They died for the right to a living wage, a safe workplace, and so many things that are taken for granted these days.  Unions are not perfect, I was "compelled" to join one when I worked at the School District, and since I am not a teacher, it was a complete waste of time for me.  They weren't concerned with people in other job categories.

But Unions perform a function that is larger than their 11 or so percent of membership in this country.  Unions are a safeguard for the workplace.  They are there to make sure that the laws don't slide backward too far, that things are kept in some sort of balance, and that the social programs that we have all forgotten that we have are kept in place.   Call it a safety net for society, they have a purpose much greater than the Day Off mindset would believe.

So when you have your burger and beer, enjoy it, but give a thought to why you are able to have that day off.   I'll be in search of a Documentary.  Maybe I'll get that insight I'm looking for.  

Now, where's that remote?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Guy in a Bar is Chatting to Stranger - Humor

A guy starts chatting to a random stranger in a bar on the top floor of a skyscraper hotel...

The stranger is pretty drunk, but boasts about how he is a meteorologist and can accurately predict wind patterns and stuff. He claims that the wind around the hotel swirls in just the right way that if you catch it right you can jump out of the bar window, and you'll circle round once and come back in the window again.

Naturally the guy doesn't believe him, so the stranger gets up, leaps out of the window, and sure thing comes back in again after going round once.

The guy is amazed! He insists he can't do it again, so of course the stranger jumps out the window again and comes flying back in after one turn.

Now the guy's curiosity is piqued, and he asks if he would be able to do it too.

"Of course!" slurs the stranger. "Just put your arms like so.... and there you are!"

The guy takes a deep breath, spreads his arms out like so, jumps out the window... and plummets to his death on the street below.

The barman turns to the stranger and says "You know superman, you're a real bastard when you're drunk!"