Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Giraffe Riddle, A Spoiler, and a Hoax

I will put the spoiler at the bottom in case you're curious...

We have all seen it by now, or at least those of us who have Facebook up and running.   The riddle is asked, you answer, and if you get it wrong you're supposed to change your picture to a giraffe for three days.

Ok, all in good fun, but No, even if I HAD gotten it wrong, I wouldn't do the picture thing.   I'm tall enough as it is, and a little better looking than a giraffe.

Just a little.

Now, the hoax that is going around is some misinformation.  There used to be bugs in Windows that would allow a picture file (.JPG) to hold a virus in it.  Not any more, that's been fixed.  You can pass messages stuffed in pictures in the background labels in the picture, you can pass the location of the place the picture was taken, and other random information.   That is part of the "EXIF" Header, and perfectly safe.  In fact there are programs that take advantage of it.  The process is called "Steganography" and sounds like a tyrannosaurus mated with a Polaroid camera and had a picture as a baby.  

You can read the whole story about the hoax on this link to a handy security blog site.

Now, the spoiler.

I read the riddle and immediately thought of the answer.  Followed by the typical "Oh gees how could they miss it?".   Yeah and I was good at Trivial Pursuit too.  Everyone who was got a little smug collecting those plastic cheese wedges but hey, it's all in good fun.

The answer?   Follow this link to CNN.   Gotcha!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Firefox 25 is Here

Getting caught up this morning I spotted an article speaking about how Firefox has been updated.

The short of it is that it's more stable because they patched some internal stuff.

Internal stuff like memory problems and stability issues.  This is for Windows, Mac, Linux and probably iOS and Android too, but I haven't gotten to the last two yet.

I was finding that Firefox 24 would simply pause.  Since I have on any given moment about 30 to 150 tabs open, that's kind of scary.  Most of what I was doing would just... pause.  Pause for a couple minutes, so I was losing a fair amount of time when it would happen about once an hour.

Upgrading is pretty painless.  I clicked on Help, and About, and found the picture you see above.  Didn't even have to click on a button until it was done.   When done the "Applying Updates" message changed to a button saying Restart. 

Now I'm on Firefox 25.  Whether other bugs will show up, I don't know.  I do know it hasn't locked on me in 3 hours of surfing about 200 web pages in tabs.

Since that's done, I can get back to developing web pages, search engine optimization, and other "web development tasks".

If you want all the deep and dirty info, here's the article that I found that told me to check.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More Monarchs In The Goldenrod

After Mr Dog got used to the trippy wonderfulness of having Monarch Butterflies flutter around us as an orange and black cloud, I was able to get back to my Amateur Photography.

Not having The Right Equipment forces you to get creative.  My camera is better than your average phone camera, but not as versatile as a Digital SLR.  You know those big bulky cameras with a removable lens?

It's not that I can justify having one either.  The next penny I earn from the blog or my photography will be the first. 

So make do and mend as the British said during the Austerity period.

That camera is why I can still justify buying a Junk Box or Random Box of Crap when I come across them.  It was one of seven items that I bought for $3 with $5 shipping.   Yes, a camera that cost me $1.17.  No, I won't tell you how to find one either.  It was Random, and it reminds me I have to look into those sites again.

But when you have a willing subject, take advantage of it.

I stepped into our little park and spotted this beauty.  He was standing on the goldenrod, at least I think it's a goldenrod, having a meal in the Golden Hour Sun.  Rack had wandered in with me and was doing his business - sniffing a clump of that purple ornamental grass and enjoying the scene.  He's a patient soul, allowing me at that time to get this in focus.  At least he is patient when one of his canine friends isn't about.  It was one of those times I didn't have to take a dozen pictures for one good one since all lined up just right for me.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Butterflies and Bubbles Turn My Dog Into Jeff Spicoli

I guess in a way I'm fortunate.   I have this little park near the house.  It's planted cheek-to-jowl with native flowering species.  If you wanted to know what a South Florida Meadow could possibly look like, you would walk into M.E. DePalma Park, put yourself on a giant copper green colored butterfly bench and take it all in.

It is something of an exception in suburbia.  Unless your neighbors are making an effort to plant "Butterfly Plants", you won't see a lot of butterflies float by on the breeze.  We do, and the park does, so we have these gentle creatures all year around.

It is a rare day that I don't see a Swallowtail or a Monarch in my yard.  They leave me with a sense of wonder and I know that I am not alone.  Walking around my backyard "Cement Pond" with Rack, my McNab Dog, I was going through my morning introspective inspection.  Coffee in hand, dog at my side, I was checking the row of pots on the East side of the pool and noticed that my Mexican Milkweed had been chewed down to green sticks.  That meant that another wave of Monarchs had arrived a few days back and visited.  The cold weather up North means that we get their grandchildren here.

This sort of Snowbird I don't mind.  Finding some jade green jewels hanging under the remaining leaves of the plants, I vowed to find my leftover seeds and scatter them in the yard.

Yes, I am Billy Milkweed-Seed.   If you live on my Island, and you have Milkweed in the yard, I may have had something to do with it.

Straightening myself out, I noticed a floating Monarch in his black and orange colors.  It had just left the Bougainvillea, finished his meal, and was patrolling the yard like I was.  Rack saw him too.  He stopped what he was doing and sat down on the ground and watched the insect glide on the morning air.  His brown eyes got as large as saucers and I almost could hear him say "Whoa Duuuuude!  Awesome, Man!" as the Monarch came within a few inches of his nose to land on the Lemon tree in the pot.

My dog acts like a stoner whenever he sees these creatures.  I guess I can't complain, it's entertaining.  Watching my fearful dog go from noticing the sounds of the trucks a couple blocks away in mild fear to total fascination due to this floating orange and black pair of wings.

Awesome, dude, totally awesome!

Padding back into the house, Rack seemed to be in a mellow mood.  Butterflies would do that and the yellow and black Swallowtail that was searching for my Lemon tree to turn it into a snack seemed to help. 

I walked into the kitchen and spotted a pile of trinkets.  Hoping to entertain Mr Dog a bit more, I grabbed a bottle of soap bubbles I keep for this purpose.  Lettie used to attack them.  She would get one in ten, pop the thing and had a great time chasing the bubbles.   She was an alpha dog, anything that I did was great but it had to be in it's place.  Bubbles didn't stay in their place so they had to be nipped at to get them there.  One pop and she'd move on.

Rack is a much more laid back soul, dude. 

I picked up the little plastic bottle, pulled up the wand and gave it a puff of breath.  There was a cloud of bubbles that came forth.  Cause and effect being what it was, Rack sat down.  Brown eyes got wide as the bubbles settled gently on the drafts around him. 

Whoa, Dude, Awesome! 

The construction of the swimming pool across the street didn't matter, the airplanes overhead flying into FLL were irrelevant, my dog's world had spun down to a shimmering, gossamer sphere of water, soap, and glycerine slowly settling on the breeze.  Dude.

Where most dogs would have made a token effort to round up the bubbles, my Rack simply sat and stared at them as one landed on his nose.   Yes, now I had a cross-eyed dog sitting in my dining room staring at the tip of his nose watching the colors shimmer in the compact florescent lights. 

He's an amazingly intelligent dog.  Things he never showed any interest in doing with me, he retained from the first few months of his life when he lived with the people up in Rome, Georgia who turned him into an Owner Surrender.  He "spontaneously" gave a high-five to my neighbor Bill when he came over for a visit the other day.  But bubbles?  I guess he just never saw them.

Cool, Dude.  Bubbles!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Church Whisper and A Great Surprise - Humor

Church Whisper

A mother took her little boy to church. While in church the little boy said, “Mommy, I have to pee.”

The mother said to the little boy, “It’s not appropriate to say the word ‘pee’ in church. So, from now on whenever you have to ‘pee’ just tell me that you have to ‘whisper’.”

The following Sunday, the little boy went to church with his father and during the service said to his father, “Daddy, I have to whisper.“

The father looked at him and said, “Okay, just whisper in my ear.”

A Great Surprise

Peter walked up to the sales lady in the clothing store “I would like to buy my wife a pretty sweater. ”
 “Oh that’s so cute” exclaimed the sales lady, ”sounds like it’s going to be a great surprise.”
 “It sure is” said John “she’s expecting a new diamond ring!”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ugly People - Humor

Ugly People

So there is this bus full of ugly people, the lowest of the low, people who you would not let your grandma kiss, driving along a cliff and the bus crashes and falls off. All of the people end up going to heaven and

God feels so sorry for them being ugly that he grants each of them one wish.

All of them get in line to tell their wish to God. The first guy says, "I want to be gorgeous."
The next lass goes, "I want to stunning."

Until halfway through the line, God sees this guy at the end of the line chuckling his ass off.

God ignores him and people keep saying they want to be "beautiful" or "stunning", until God reaches the last guy and asks him his wish.

He says, "Make them all ugly again."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Playing with Coffee Roasting Isn't What It Seems - Pictures

Want a good dark cup of coffee because you're feeling tired?  Need a jolt of Caffeine?  Don't get the dark roast then, you will need more grounds than usual.

It's backwards.  The darker roasts like an Espresso Roast or a French Roast have a much stronger flavor than the lighter "American style" roasts.  On the other hand, the American Style roasts have much more caffeine in them even if they are harsher and more bitter.

There is a reason for it.  Basic Science.

Ok, don't switch off on me now, I won't throw numbers at you. 

You see the longer your roast your beans, the hotter the beans get.  The hotter the beans get, the more likely the caffeine will break down.   The flavor you love in the coffee is really the flavor of the sugars breaking down, the coffee oil getting forced out, and the basic "roasting" of the bean.   Caffeine is bitter, so if you actually like that taste, you will have a harsher brew.

That's it in a nut shell.

I did some experiments. 

The picture is "Green Coffee".  It was 1/3 regular beans, 2/3 decaf beans.   Completely unroasted.  It's what people call "White Coffee" when brewed.   Not an unpleasant taste, a bit grassy, but the result?  That "Third Caff" coffee was probably the strongest coffee I have ever had, and that includes the syrup that they call Cafe Cubano here. 

How strong was it?


It was like Mr Sandman stood behind me pounding my head with a giant rubber squeaky mallet and screaming in my ears "WAKE UP!!!!".

Get the picture?   It was pure jet fuel.

So I decided to take it back a step.

I roasted this lighter brown brew that you see in the jar.   Next to it is my regular dark roast in a spoon.  The science content for a fellow roaster is simple.  I stopped roasting the lighter coffee at First Crack, the darker roast was at Second Crack.

Coffee being a solid bean will crack twice during roast.  The Second Crack is what you get in a better coffee house since it's got a full and complex flavor, smooth as silk.   First Crack is what your parents drank - bitter but chock full of caffeine.   First Crack coffee has a much less complex flavor because the coffee oils have not been "forced out" of the beans yet.   A Second Crack coffee will have a sheen of oil on the outside promising full and "Balanced" flavor.   This is what I send to friends and I always get reports back how smooth and wonderful it tastes.

I'm used to drinking Third Caff coffee.   When I tried some of the First Crack coffee, it was a bitter experience, and I felt that Jolt of coffee right away.  Even in Third Caff, I felt the difference.  The thought I had was that since First Crack American Style coffee takes so much less time to roast, they had to do it in order to make more and lower costs at the expense of a better brew.   Naughty, Naughty Roasters.  Be ashamed.

So the rule is Darker is Tastier but weaker coffee.   If you really need to wake up, I suggest getting to bed an hour later and having the darker coffee since life is too short to drink "bad" coffee.

If you'll excuse me, all this talking about Roast Times and Caffeine has me wanting some Espresso.   Just remember not to pack the grounds too tightly or you'll get a sour brew.   The grounds need room to "breathe" but that's a story for a different day.

Oh and it will be Decaf.   Yes, Decaf Espresso.  I see you over there, smirking.  Don't judge me, you don't want to see someone as tall as I am bouncing off walls, it isn't as entertaining as you might think.

You do want to see that?   Not today my friend, not today.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Purple Fire in Wilton Manors' DePalma Park

So much of photography is just timing.

There's a time of day called The Golden Hour.  It's within an hour of sunrise and sunset.  This is the hour when the sun is a bit more muted and turns from a white light to a more golden hue.   It makes things just "Pop" more in a picture instead of the "overexposed" tone things can have at midday.

With the harvest coinciding with the days getting shorter, the opportunities for finding your own natural fireworks show are all around you.  Mother Nature is in bloom and showing off everywhere.

I had noticed that the M.E. DePalma Park near the house was getting truly beautiful.  Chock full of blooms from native species of plants, this little meadow was showing off to me each time I'd walk past it on my daily routine.

I don't have a really high end camera, but I think it did the job that day.  The ornamental grasses that are growing caught the sun lowering in the skies through the slash pines creating a play of dancing shadows and glowing blooms.

Yeah, it was that beautiful that day.

If you can't get to our own park, grab your camera and head out.  The colors are just past peak in the Northeast, but that doesn't mean you can't find your own beauty.

In the meantime, this particular picture is in rotation on my background, and there's more to come.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Ladies, check yourself.   Save the Ta-Tas!  Time to get those puppies checked!

This pic has been all over facebook, and seems to have gone viral.  I saw it linked via one of the dog sites, and managed to trace it back to it's origin, Kristen Alexander's Photography at, and the photo blog site of her dogs at

Ok, the dog site is beyond cute.  I mean first off, how do you get your dogs to stay put long enough to get a shot like that one?   My Lettie used to hide when she saw me start to take pictures of her since she hated the flash.  Rack would get distracted too easily.  His best pics were spur of the moment and usually I had to take four or five of the "same" one just to get something passable!

Mind you, that Border Collie in the middle has to have back problems with balloons like that on her!

So ladies, check yourself and everyone can enjoy the pics.  How can you not enjoy dogs with goofy balloons?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Returning Hedges of Wilton Manors

Running around town we've started to notice some rather interesting things.

Way back in the day, when we were all younger and more spry, South Florida had a lot of hedges of a specific type.

You would go by a bank or a shopping center or some such and you'd look down at an impenetrable knee level green wall.  They were typically Ficus Benjamina, the Weeping Figs that people would have in a pot up North that would grow quickly in summer and mope all winter. 

They shape incredibly well and if  unmolested, they'd grow quickly.

The problem was that over the last few years they got molested.  Badly.

If you want to see the results of what happens when mankind gets things wrong with the environment, South Florida is a great place to see it.   We've got waves of invasive species like Curly Tail Lizards, Iguanas, Ball Pythons climbing the walls and making a mess of things by eating up the plants that belong as well as the ones in the gardens.  For an Iguana, a Hibiscus is "crack".

Hibiscus hedges were once popular too, in fact the Fountainbleu Hotel on Miami Beach had a spectacular hedge that would have these beautiful red blooms that pop out here and there.  For a snowbird, this was mindbending.

One of the waves of invasives were these mites that attacked the Ficus and basically turned them into stick figures.  Since people planted these trees in clusters and hedges, the mites would go from one tree to the next devastating the growth.   Homes would become visible from behind walls of green that had disappeared.

Treatment methods were fairly severe.   You would have your plants sprayed monthly to save them, but for the most part people would let the mites go at them and pull up the remnants.

Natural Selection being what it is would leave a tree here and there alone standing its ground as its neighbors disappeared.

When winter happened, the mites weakened, and if we'd get a cold snap of a night into the high 30s, many of those nasties would simply die.

Fast forward a year or two and things have stabilized.  The mites are a food source for other insects, the climate here isn't quite perfect, so the good news is that these plants are rebounding as well as the rest of the environment.

Sometimes Mother Nature just figures things out.

Now if we could just get a good solid cold snap this winter of a couple nights a degree above freezing it would get rid of some of the rest of those creatures that don't belong.

No, I'm not talking about snowbirds, but... Hmmmm....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rack's Six Month Anniversary - Picture

Six months ago today, we made the long trek up the spine of Florida.  Past the nearby cities, through the Citrus Groves, into the splat that is the Theme Park ridden area of Orlando, and finally to Deltona.

In Deltona we met Gisele and entered her home to adopt Rack.   Rack was named Les Paul when he was with The Dog Liberator, he needed a name, and they chose that musical one.   It didn't quite fit us, and we were trying to come up with one that did.  Since we were recovering from the loss of our Dog Of A Lifetime, Lettie, we settled in on a name that she suggested. 


When we stood in our large kitchen in Philadelphia shortly after we adopted Lettie back in 2002, I asked Kevin for a little help. I needed a baking rack.  When I said that word, Lettie snapped to as if being ordered around.   We never found out why, but when it came time to name our boy, it stuck.

Like many other, or even most other highly intelligent dogs, those surrendered to a shelter may shut down.  Rack was one of the most severely shut down dogs I had ever seen.   But like Gisele said "He's in Deltona, He needs you".  Our heart strings were pulled, Kevin said "She's good, lets get him!".  

So we did. 

Lettie was shut down when we got her, but in a much better frame of mind then.  She did give us the experience we needed to work with dogs like Rack.  

In the six months that we've had him, we've watched him grow.   He's gone through three different de-worming treatments, and missteps with dog foods that held him back.  He's put on another 10 pounds, grew about 4 inches in height, and has a coat so shiny that when you pet him your hand comes back with lanolin.  Robust is what we'd call him.  Thanks to a suggestion by a neighbor, we got him on Orijen dog food.  No Chinese sourced ingredients for this one.  I don't want to go through the syringe feeding that I did with Lettie near her end.

He's still showing signs of his trauma.  Loud sounds are triggers to him and make him turn and try to hide.  Twice a day we walk out to Wilton Drive and have a sit down on the benches.  At 6AM it's quite quiet, but at 9AM it's an experience.  He is getting immersed in the buzz of the city.  The 50 bus is bad enough, but in the morning when the trash trucks pick up the bottles from the bars, he notices it even a block away.

On the other hand, he's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met.  He's a McNab, a not very well known breed outside of the ranches of California and nearby states.  Incredibly intelligent, eager to please, he'll simply do what you ask as long as you don't drop something that makes a noise.  A similar breed to the Border Collie, but definitely not one.  The BC's are a bit more high strung, my McNab has a mellowness to his personality that you have to experience, but once you do you will understand.  There's a sweetness and a subtlety to him that is hard to put to phrase.  The ranchers will say the difference between a BC and a McNab is the way they work.  Perhaps that is the best way to say it.  They're both great breeds, but the McNab is it's own.

It's not all sweetness, having a Herding dog means that you absolutely must exercise them.  Fortunately he's good with the 4 miles a day that we walk, and everyone in our society could use that.  Anything less and you are in for a strange experience.  The ranchers and breeders in California can't understand how Their Dogs can live in an Urban Environment, but we are proof that they can adapt and adapt well.

Intelligent Dogs aren't for everyone, nor are active dogs.  Some people should only have a dog from a toy store filled with polyester fluff - a stuffed animal.  I'm doing my best by him and as a result my dog is growing every day. 

He's still the "Yellow Footed Collie" as he learns how to properly water a rock or a hedge, but that gives me the excuse to work with him more so that he doesn't get fearful.  That hose in front of the house gets a workout frequently and will until he grows into a better aim.  Once he learns that particular "trick" I may just let him on the furniture.  That picture was taken when he invited himself on the chair.  First a wet nose on the elbow, then he pulled himself up bit by bit until he was on Kevin's lap.  He didn't want to leave the chair when Kevin did so he stayed behind.

Smart dog, huh?

So six months on my rescue and I are continuing our journey.  He rescued me when Lettie left us.  Now we can grow together.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Girl Potato and Boy Potato - Humor

Well, Girl Potato and Boy Potato had eyes for each other, and finally they got married, and had a little sweet potato, which they called 'Yam.' Of course, they wanted the best for Yam.

When it was time, they told her about the facts of life.

They warned her about going out and getting half-baked, so she wouldn't get accidentally mashed, and get a bad name for herself like 'Hot Potato,' and end up with a bunch of Tater Tots.

Yam said not to worry, no Spud would get her into the sack and make a rotten potato out of her!

But on the other hand she wouldn't stay home and become a Couch Potato either. She would get plenty of exercise so as not to be skinny like her Shoestring cousins.

When she went off to Europe, Mr. and Mrs. Potato told Yam to watch out for the hard-boiled ! guys from Ireland. And the greasy guys from France called the French Fries.

Yam said she would stay on the straight and narrow and wouldn't associate with those high class Yukon Golds, or the ones from the other side of the tracks who advertise their trade on all the trucks that say, 'Frito Lay.'

Mr. and Mrs. Potato sent Yam to Idaho P.U. (that's Potato University) so that when she graduated she'd really be in the Chips.

But in spite of all they did for her, one-day Yam came home and announced she was going to marry Tom Brokaw.

Tom Brokaw! Mr. and Mrs. Potato were very upset. They told Yam she couldn't possibly marry Tom Brokaw because he's just....

a common tater

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Knock Knock Jokes

Knock, knock jokes

Knock, knock

Who's there?
The who?
Dude, I'm a huge fan of theirs!

Knock, knock

Who's there?
You who?
Honestly, I'd rather have Ovaltine right now.

Knock, knock

Who's there?
Ya who?
Hey, I guess this joke is more fun than I expected!

Knock, knock

Who's there?
Cash who?
My favorite nut!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bringing Crumpets to Newcastle - Picture

In this house, if it is a staple baked good and I'm running low, I tend to make some rather than make the shlep to Publix.

Mind you, I do like some of their baked goods, but the logistics of getting Rack in his crate, finding my car keys, getting the Jeep started, and all the ancillary nonsense will make me second guess leaving the house.

That sort of thing happens when you have the knowledge.   More importantly, the time, I would guess.

When David was sitting around here one morning, he casually mentioned that I was running low on Crumpets.  I figured that particular recipe out a while back and shared it here, but it is a very fiddly one.  Temperature, water percentage, the amount of batter poured out have to be exactly correct or you get a sinker or something that simply sticks to everything.   Annoying recipe, but that's the challenge.

For the record, the griddle should be between 275F and 300F, grease the crumpet rings after each use with shortening, and pour less batter rather than more.   If you over fill the rings, they stick.  About 1/4 cup or 2 ounces per ring should do it even if that looks "light".

We got to talking about his childhood in England near Wales, I got to talking about mine playing in the mud in New Jersey and getting in touch with our inner brats.  While telling stories I realized he had probably never had these crumpet things fresh.   Fresh as in off the griddle.

With the technology that we've assembled, this is the kind of the thing that is mostly left to the experts.  Here in South Florida, having a sizeable British Ex-Pat community, you can find Crumpets in the frozen food aisle at Publix - occasionally.  They're also about twice the price of the run of the mill English Muffins for about 1/2 of the calorie count.  It's that "fiddly" aspect.

Having been watching Downton Abbey recently, I gained a new respect for how people used to do things Back In The Day.  The sort of thing that I would casually just "whip up" takes some serious planning and time to prepare.  Making food back then, in the World War One era had to be much more difficult.  Wood Fired stoves take a long time to get to the right temperature and once they were there, they had to be maintained very carefully or they'd get too hot or too cold.

I will stop complaining about my own electric oven that has a passing acquaintance with holding the temperature.   It just seemed silly to complain when I saw Mrs Packmore on that show trying to cook on a giant black cast iron stove that took up the wall of a kitchen that was the size of my living room.

We've got it easy in comparison.  Fiddly recipes can be made casually.  Back In The Day memories where people would work all day in the kitchen put people off of cooking because they're afraid they'd be standing over the stove for hours. 

For the record, it takes me on average 10 minutes per crumpet by the time I have the batter made, and that takes an hour itself.   Yeast has its own rhythm, you can't rush the little Yeasty Beasties.  It is a Long Weekend Afternoon when I make those things.

No wonder why David's not had them made fresh.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Diane Cline's Way... and Cake - Picture

One of the nice things about living in a "Small Town" is that things eventually get made right.

Diane Cline, a woman who I was privileged to know from my own civic work, passed a few months back.  To say that the central business district of Wilton Manors, the Wilton Drive, looks the way it does because of her and her efforts is a serious understatement.

She was the driving force behind the modernization of the entire district from the two lanes with parking it once was, to the widening and refurbishment of the current five lanes, the addition of improvements and other factors that make modern Wilton Manors what it is.  Recognizing the need for correcting the Car Culture of South Florida, she led the effort to reduce the Drive to two lanes via our own Wilton Manors Development Alliance, then the Wilton Manors Main Street. 

The Two Lane Initiative is the idea that we should turn Wilton Manors into an even more walkable city than it currently is by limiting the Drive down to two lanes and increase parking so that the businesses can thrive - it's a win-win for everyone once it gets done.  It would also raise the property values of town, make it easier to cross the streets, and reduce the carnage that happens when people expect drivers in South Florida to follow the Uniform Vehicle Code by allowing pedestrians the right of way.   Diane understood this as a fundamental human right and worked tirelessly to allow this to move forward.

Her pet projects were many and historic, such as the Wilton Manors Historical Society, and the Wilton Manors Women's Club.  If you didn't know Diane, you probably didn't know how Wilton Manors worked and how it came to be.

She used to say that Wilton Drive should have been called "Diane's Way", a clear double entendre to those who knew her.  But either way you read that, it was correct.   It simply wouldn't be what it is without the efforts of this amazing woman.

Last night we gathered, Family, Friends, and the rest, at the little park in the middle of town, Jaycee Park to honor Diane with a get together.   There at the park, we saw the growing Children's Art Project that was just expanded to include the bricks that form a small plaza in front of the Post Card through Diane's efforts with the Wilton Manors Development Alliance and the Wilton Manors Historical Society.  The Jaycee Park improvements are there because of Diane's and others civic efforts, and it was across the street from the heart of the city near Hagen Park, the Women's Club, and "New" City Hall.

At least it's "New" to me since I'm one of the long-time new-comers.  Newish?  Not sure.  Never mind that, I'm rambling.

There's a little street behind the Jaycee Park and Children's Art Project.  NE 5th Street.  To rename Wilton Drive might have brought a twinkle to Diane's eye but it would have been a bit confusing to all the businesses.  So instead of renaming that, NE 5th behind that park will now have another name.   Diane Cline's Way.  A nod to all of her works through her long and productive life.

We got to see the unveiling of the signs by the family, and the commissioners, and had a chance to visit with friends.  One of the nicer things about living in a small town.  Sure you get to know everyone, for better or worse, but when you get together, it's always worth the time.   We got to stand in the middle of Diane's Way, talking about her good deeds, and having her cake.   Diane did have a sweet tooth so she would have enjoyed some of that cake.  I know I did, I would have loved a second piece!

If anyone reading this would like to be a part of getting the Children's Art Project finished, you can sponsor a brick.  Just follow through this link to the page on the Wilton Manors Development Alliance's page for the artist's drawing of the Children's Art Project where you can see what will be when it is complete.

I promise you, I'll keep an eye on them while I'm able.  Diane would have liked it that way.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

David's First Za - Recipe

That's what I get for reading Reddit.  Reddit gives you Ideas.  Ideas can be what you make of them.

In this case, I made a "Za" and I liked it.

Any group tends to have their own slang.   I got started reading the "Subreddits" on some of the food subjects.   Specifically, the Pizza Subreddit.

Occasionally they have a recipe for crust, but I've got an excellent one that I've posted on here.  But reading onward, I got a laugh at their shorthand for "Pizza" - a "Za".  In my own mind, it was cute and silly but I did tend to reserve it for something that wasn't quite a pizza but was somehow.

I got this bright idea one day when rooting around the refrigerator and came up with some oddball ingredients.  

  • 1 Six Inch Flour Tortilla
  • 1 Tablespoon (or so) of Pizza Sauce
  • 2 ounces of cheese - Combination of Feta, Parmesan, and Mozarella is what I used
  • Italian Seasoning spices to taste
Now, mind you, this thing really is a Quesadilla.  The spices are "wrong" but I wasn't going to have Mexican Food, I wanted Italian.

To cook it, I turned the heat on the non stick skillet, put about a half teaspoon of olive oil on it, removed most of the oil with a paper towel to grease the pan, and set the heat for 4 and a Half - on a scale of 8 on the electric burners.   You want a medium or "low medium" heat since these things cook fast.

When it warmed, I slid the concoction onto the skillet and warmed it until the bottom began to toast to a light golden brown.   It was still flexible so it slid easily onto a waiting dinner plate.  The Tortilla would cool and firm up to a cracker texture as it sat.

While it was cooking, I made a second one.

What happened was probably one of the better pizzas I have ever had, including the ones I make from my own thick crusts.  Prep time about 3 minutes including measuring everything on my kitchen gram scale.

David had arrived a couple days back.  When we were riding back from the airport, he told me that wanted to go to a Chinese Buffet some time during the visit, to which I readily agreed.   We went the next day and all of us were stuffed like a sausage - over full and unable to move.

Truly an episode of excess.

But the next day we needed lunch.   We all skipped breakfast that day.   When I brought up food to David, he said that he wanted something small.

I should make you a 'Za'.
What is a Za?
Small pizza on a tortilla.
A what?
A tortilla - you know, those flat Mexican bread things...
Go ahead, I'll trust your judgment.

David is British, even after living in Key West for 30 years.   Decidedly British.   That is a good thing but he doesn't have too much experience cooking oddball things like that "Za" that I tried to describe.

David, it is 300 calories, measured.  Each.   I have two and it's a "rightsized" meal, although a little on the light side.

He agreed since I said I was making one and he could try the first.

Since the process is prepare one, start it cooking, and prepare the second, I started.  When the second is finished, the first can come off of the skillet - they only take about 3 minutes to cook and get the cheese just beginning to bubble.  You could do the cooking in a toaster, but the olive oil on the skillet adds a little flavor that you need.

The first Za was cut into quarters and served while I went back to work with making the third and cooking the second one.

I heard from the living room:  "Bill this is amazing!  It's one of the best pizzas that I've had in a very long time!".

David liked it.  Quite a lot.  In fact he got up to watch me prepare the fourth one later.

So the moral of the story is that you can be creative and play with your food.   Your British Friend may just like it!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fearful Dog and the Visitor from Key West

Last week David arrived.

He has a habit of making plans that do actually come to fruition, but not when he plans.   Give them another six months of being On Hold and they eventually happen.

It's October, this was the "April Visit" so it is all on schedule.

Of a sort.

The last time David had come for a visit, it was right after Rack had arrived.   We were all still getting ourselves sorted out.  Lettie was gone, but her presence in the house was strong.  Rack had just joined us and was hiding at the drop of a hat - or anything else in the house.

He still won't go all the way into the kitchen from the one time that he nosed the trash can and the small one quart bowl that I had perched on top of the lid fell off the top and hit the ground.

... with quite a loud crash.

I drove down to Fort Lauderdale and picked him up at the shuttle for a warm greeting.  He's a Brother From Another Mother, and I'm always happy to see him.   The visits are never long enough. 

The ride back was the usual chatter.  Discussing where he was, where I was, what happened as we neared the place he was staying a couple miles from the house.

We both wondered what would happen when he came to visit us at the house.

Not to worry.  True to form, Rack was entertaining.

I pulled up in the driveway and stepped into the house.   The tell tale tail thumping said that he was happy to see us.  But it wasn't quite as vigorous as usual.

He knows.

Never doubt a young dog's capacity to learn.  In his case, he learned quickly someone else was coming.

I sat on the edge of the bed and opened the crate in the bedroom and got the usual wet noodle wriggling.   He decided to walk out into the main part of the house when all the sudden the race-memory of a real life Cerberus with all their three heads came alive.


I think Rack spotted David.

Hello, Rack!


Aww, Hello Rackie!


Ok, stop.  This is enough.


I clapped my hands and brought the canine fury to a close with a rumble.

Rack you had your say now stop!

The fearful dog's ears went down low which is a feat for a McNab Dog.   The barking ceased but became a low rumble.   He knew that he was overruled and outranked, Dad had control.

Never bark at a Moose, you silly mutt.

Each time David arrived from a wander out on to The Drive for a shopping foray, or just a smoke, we went through the WooWooWooWoo security bark.  It actually was a pleasant surprise.  Lettie was the complete Stealth Dog - you simply didn't hear her.   Rack would be more assertive with letting you know who was about the house.

Good, in any urban environment you need that sort of warning.

One good thing about McNabs - they learn.  Quickly.  Alexander McNab did an excellent job at creating a supremely intelligent breed.  Smarter than the rest, we seem to believe.

Each time David arrived from the wander, the fear barking and the alert call got less strident.   It calmed down to a mere grumble by the time the visit drew to a close.  

Once he was in the house, David was accepted, but it was the shock of entry and trespass that Rack disapproved of.  Yes, you're being judged by a dog, he lives here, we need to accept that.

Any time someone was having a vacation, it was a time for exploration and David is not exception.  He'd leave and come back all afternoon, and we'd have another time to watch the slow ratcheting down of my Hair-Triggered dog.

WooWooWooWoo indeed!

Rack didn't like the fact that David would take over His Spot between the couch and the coffee table.  It was a den of sorts, and comforting to the little fur bagel.  But being next to the couch, the table had yet-another laptop placed on it, and David would be doing his business on it.

Up for a coffee or cuppa-tea, Rack would get up and wander over and plop down in His Spot.  Right under the laptop.

Coming back to sit down and David would try not to disturb Rack.   Too late, he was out like a shot to go back to the mat or into the crate in frustration.

From my usual spot in the big green chair in the window, one time when David was returning I simply said "Oh!  There's David".   Rack got up and darted out of the living room to go back into the crate.

I think he's looking forward for the trip to end.

The point of all of this is that the Fearful Dog takes training just like any other dog.  It just takes a different style, a different discipline.  Gentle and time consuming, but effective.  Having David by might have annoyed Rack, but it also worked on his shattered soul.   By the time David's visit ended, the warning barks did as well.   He's learning that there are inside people and outside people, and how to deal with them all in the end.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Feeling Fit? Skip the BMI and go with the Waist Height Ratio

BMI never worked for me.

When I was weightlifting, I had a BMI well into the Overweight Zone.   " But it was all Muscle " as I told the doctor, he agreed, we were happy.

I had a resting heart rate of 42 then where normal is nearer to 72-80, skated up to 100 miles a week, spent a minimum of 5 hours in the gym per week.

I laughed at "Overweight".

Since then, my weight has dropped by about 20 pounds.   I don't feel that I am fitter than I was when I was training for skating, but my weight is down.  There goes all that time on the "Pec Deck"!

Recently I calculated my BMI and it had me right inside the Healthy band.

I laughed at BMI and realized it's pointless.

It doesn't take into account, at least accurately, one's muscle mass, or their bone mass, or physical "structure, and your general fitness level.

Recently there has been a trend in fitness to recalculate that BMI, or at least push the "healthy" range higher as a result.

There seems to be a realization that the BMI is rubbish and there's yet another measurement called the Waist to Height Ratio.

You don't have to worry about this one, it's simpler.

You know your height, generally.
You know your waist size, or at least you should.

If not, get the tape measure out.

For someone who is 6 feet tall, or 72 inches, they should have less than a 36 inch waist.

The golden number is a ratio of 1/2.   Your waist should be no more than 1/2 of your height.

*whew*, I made it.

Especially after this weekend of Rum Raisin Ice Cream, and a trip to the Chinese Buffet!

This calculation works if you're metric as well.  180 CM tall means no more than a 90 CM waist.

Don't mix your Metric and your Imperial measurements, and you'll be fine.

Remember, walk an extra block and you'll have a better time of it.   Get off the subway a stop earlier and walk to the office.  Park a little further out on the Mall parking lot under the shady tree.  Go with the "medium" instead of "large" at the food court.  "One To Grow On" is all it takes to get that ratio over the magic .50

If your ratio is over that 1/2 or .50, don't fret, you can get yourself in shape.  Take the long view since it won't happen today but you can start.  After all, it took you this many years to get where you are, it will take time to get yourself in a more healthy place.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ten One Liners! - Humor

Eleven One Liners!

Why did the lion spit out the clown? Because he tasted funny.

What do you call a blind, legless buck? No eye-deer.

What's black-and-white-and-black-and-white-and-black-and-white-and-black-and-white-and-black-and-white-and-black-and-white-and-black-and-white-and-black-and-white-and-black-and-white? A nun falling down the stairs!

"Stay strong!"  I said to my wi-fi signal.

Have you tried the new bistro on the moon? Great food, no atmosphere.

Why do elephants paint their toenails red? So they can hide in cherry trees. Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree? Then it's working.

What do you call a Jihadist that loves turkey? A Tryptophanatic.

Why did the mechanic go to art school? Because he wanted to learn how to make a van go!

How do you make holy water? Boil the hell out of it!

What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn't matter what you call it, it won't come.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Redhead - Humor


A gorgeous young redhead went into a doctor's office and said that her body hurt wherever she touched it.

"Impossible!" the doctor said. "Show me."

The redhead took her finger, pushed on her hip and screamed.
Then she pushed her elbow and screamed in even more.
She pushed her knee and screamed; likewise she pushed her ankle and screamed.
Everywhere she touched made her scream.

The doctor said, "You're not really a redhead, are you?

"Well, no" she said, "I'm actually a blonde."

"I thought so," the doctor said. "Your finger is broken."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Welcome to Fort Lauderdale, Here's Your Coffee

It's October 2013.  David has arrived for his April 2013 Vacation.

It's also one of those things.  Schedules change and life gets in the way.  April slid into May and we were not really set  for having visitors in those two months.   Lettie left, Rack arrived...

The Summer is a busy season for the locals in Key West.  All you people coming from other places in the cooler weather thinking that life's all Margaritaville forget that sometimes you have to pick up the palm fronds, repair fences, and pick up the beer bottles that got left behind.   That job still will happen whether you like to go outside and do it or not.  

My own version of that was the Power Washing of the deck that isn't quite finished.

Yeah, I'll get to it.  Chill out and have a glass of iced tea.   Sorry, we don't generally keep the "hard stuff" in the house.

The Hurricane Season peaked and began to ebb.  Now the cooler parts of the day are absolutely perfect.   You have arrived for our Secret Season.   Snowbirds haven't yet fled the frozen tundra of the North.  They're still bragging about their Fall Colors, and this would have been the week to take the roof off of the Jeep and drive up the Delaware River to the Water Gap and have a picnic on the little park by the water.

But you're here now, let's settle in and have a chat.  Talk about times gone by.  Brother-From-Another-Mother, we've known each other since the mid '80s.  I was on vacation, you stayed there ever since.

It's good having you here.  I roasted for you this morning a special "Half-Caff" blend.  Estate Grown Guatemalan Regular and Decaf in equal parts to a Full City Roast.  Enjoy that, no I don't need the jar back, and we can "Do Lunch" later.

You're leaving after a long weekend?  Sorry to hear that, we'll have to make it count.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

1500 Posts? Is It Time For A Vacation Yet?

Yep, you read right.   This is my 1500th post.

Good grief.

This blog started July 30, 2009.  I don't know what I had in mind then, but basically that one post just said hello and promised more.

Whether anyone wanted more or not didn't matter, here it is.

I took a bit of a rest, cleared my head and then came back to it about a month later.  First a random post here, another there, then three times a week.

The blog has been at least one article, or joke, every day since September 11, 2009. 

All 1500 of them.

It seems traditional to give a review of the most popular articles each time you do one of these things.  I've had a few bizarrely popular articles.  It seems to show what this blog is about. 

Recipes, Reviews, and Pictures.  

The number one post was my recipe for Biscuits.   It is lifted right from the back of the Gold Medal Self Rising Biscuit bag, and it gets hit almost every day by some cook somewhere.  Let me tell you, they're mind-bendingly good, but you really do need to go and find the post on how to make butter in the food processor.   Add them together and it's something that is an experience.

The second most read post is a picture of an Impatiens flower.   We had them in a pot in front of the door that now has some succulents that were given to us a while back.  The thing is that the irrigation flooded the pot every morning and one of the seeds ended up in the little "ditch" in front of the front garden.   That flower's gone but not forgotten.   Maybe we should try them again - only if we can keep the snails out!

Number three?  It's a recipe.  More accurately a review of my own ineptness.   I tried making Pineapple Jelly out of some leftover cans from Hurricane Season.  I got a slurry that was tasty but way too loose.   I re-cooked that jelly and it thickened nicely.   After discussing it with a friend in Atlanta, Craig just told me to send it to him.  He said he enjoyed the slurry on ice-cream like a topping.   Waste not, Want not!

To round out the top five, I have two tech articles.   One told you how to stop hotmail from doing annoying things, another reviewed a website called .   Hotmail is "dead", having been co-opted into the supremely annoying  SimplyHired is a job search website that I really don't care for.  Yet another "aggregator" of jobs that I look at to see if I missed anything.

These tech articles tend to have "staying power".  In fact all of the top five posts were not very popular when I wrote them but they get hit frequently.  People seek out help all the time online and anything like that will get read over and over by people who stumble over the same problems you have.  Someone out there has found the problem, may have figured out the solution, and will follow up by writing a page or three.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I'm Sorry, It has Six Months To Live. Windows XP Is Dying.

Sure, lets be melodramatic for a bit.   I kept thinking of a doctor's office with dark walnut book cases and the doctor talking to the patient in hushed tones. 

I guess I watch too much TV. 

We had this discussion last night.   Sitting on the bench, Bill, Kevin, and I, and our dogs Rack and Ellie, were watching life go by.  Bill's Mom, Lisa, has an aged Windows XP computer.   We may be able to get some more use out of it by adding more memory since it only has 1 GB.  Maybe not.  But the thing that most needs to change is Windows XP.

On April, 8, 2014, Windows XP support from Microsoft will end.   Customers who pay lots of money will get support, but that won't help you since Microsoft won't be sharing that with the world. 

All of the dates for the end of life of Microsoft Windows are on this page.  You are safe with Windows 7 until 2020, although I suspect that you will find your software won't work with it near the end.  Things might get a bit "weird".

There are reports of people writing viruses to be set out into "the wild" on April 9, 2014 to create havoc.

Bot-nets, Trojans, and Viruses, Oh My! 

The result is that if you are running XP on your computer on that day or later, you really need to change that to a newer operating system.

So there's the typical decision tree:

If you don't need it, recycle the computer or pass it on to someone who can do that for you.  Problem solved!

If you still think you can use it, or you must keep it for "records", or you're just one of those paranoid people who can't stand the idea of your old hard drive falling into someone else's hands, you may be able to upgrade it.  Just don't get onto the internet with Windows XP next April.  You'll have a bad time of it, eventually.

Bad boys, Bad boys, What'cha gonna do when they come for you?!

Ok, so how do you know whether to upgrade?  If you really want to know, here's a great oversimplification of things, but basically:

  • Windows 8 will work on a machine with 4GB of memory but if you are looking at a computer with XP on it, you're going to be shocked when you start it with Windows 8.  You might want to stick with Windows 7.

  • You can install Windows 7 or Linux if you have 2GB of memory, an Intel Core Processor, or newer.

  • Assuming you need to keep the software and data on the computer, and your older computer has 1GB of memory and won't take any more than that, Windows 7 Home can be installed, but it may be slow.  You probably won't want to use it for much more than that "archive" look around for your old records or recipes.

  • If you don't need the data and you're comfortable with playing with new software, look into Linux.  Specifically Ubuntu Linux.   All the software you will need for normal "office" or "web surfing" use is free, including Libre Office to do what your Microsoft Office did for you.  One thing to consider with Linux is that there are very few viruses on Linux.  I don't even run a virus scanner on my Linux laptops.

  • With older computers it gets more complex, but basically Linux will be your only option to use the machine on the web.  If the computer can't take 1GB of memory, you really are limited.

Checking your memory is easy.   Start, find "My Computer" and right click on it.   Select Properties and it will be there for you.  Whether your machine can take more than what it has in it is another story, and you will have to do that research on the computer vendor's website.  Good luck there, there are way too many combinations to fit in the scope of a blog article, so I can't be all that specific.

Personally I have a mix of things here.   My older machines are either Linux or Windows 7.  While all of my computers are old, and some as old as 10 years old, I haven't had to throw any out due to this XP thing - they're all still serving a purpose.  Basically, this is the process I'm going through here as well.   Remember your mileage will vary and one size doesn't fit all, you're going to have to actually think this through, but it isn't that tough, I've got faith in you!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Visiting the Yappers at the Mobile Dog Park

To my neighbors, especially those with dogs, I'm sorry.

My dog, Rack, is awakening.   He is beginning to shake off the mess of being a "Former Shelter Dog" and simply learning how to be a dog.


We actually do enjoy meeting other dog owners, talking about our dogs, giving each other hints.  All that stuff.

But there's a wrinkle, and I'm trying hard to iron that one out.

You see when I got him, he didn't want to associate with anything.   People, dogs, or anything else.   About a week later, we noticed that he actually wagged his tail at other dogs.

About a week after that, the flood gates began to open, the rainbows shimmered in the skies, and the choir sang out.   Rack learned how to like other dogs.

We had a short bit where the other dogs were more assertive than he was.   My neighbor's dog, Buster, a smallish mixed breed with some German Shepard in there somewhere, actually climbed on top of Rack despite his being about 1/2 the size of him.

Last night, we were asked to take Buster with us for a walk since his owner hadn't been able to take him out for a week.  A cold.  He called it "Ebola".  

Yeah, there's something nasty going around.   I'm laying low and not feeling completely right myself.

Did I mention that Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey tastes like someone squeezed Fish and Chips into a glass?  I challenge you to drink that slop without cringing.

But I wouldn't feed that to either Rack or Buster.

Last night Buster did try to dominate Rack.  Rack's play now is way too energetic for that.   He simply started bouncing all over the little dog.   Buster backed off quickly and assumed the Beta Dog position at the back of the pack.  Rack's 43 pounds of muscle vs Buster's roughly 25 pounds of pudgy dog who needed a little less food.

Where ya belong little one, back there.  Let the front of the pack be for us big dogs, ok?

I have a habit of walking the dog almost immediately after I get up in the morning.   If I sleep in to a normal hour instead of my regular two hours or so before sunrise, I end up in the Mobile Dog Park.  Mobile Dog Park Time is probably why my body is getting me up around 5:30AM, or earlier.  

Mobile Dog Park is what a neighbor calls it when you find yourself walking with a pack of 10 or so dogs.  If I'm finding Mobile Dog Park a bit overwhelming, you can imagine what happened with Rack.

He spotted Pepper, the elderly Dalmatian first.   We walked down the block after I calmed Rack down.  A few vertical leaps of five feet happened, then I got him to sit while Rack dusted the street with his tail for a while.

Ok, we got the Pepper Walk down.  He's used to walking with her.  

Getting to the end of the block it happened.  10 yappers all at once.

My own belief is that in general, the smaller the dog, the less likely it will be trained well.   People don't really know how to make sure the dog comes first and the toy breed is inconsequential.

Place 10 of them together and you have a lot of barking.
A lot of barking is a lot of energy.
Dogs feed off each other's energy.

That means Rack was trying to leap into the air until I got him to sit.

It actually was pretty easy.   I'm learning that once I see the speed ramp up on the tail, shorten the leash.   He's even starting to sit down on his own as a "trick". 

Hi, other dogs, I'll wag my tail furiously and dust the pavement since I'm going to sit down.

Now, if we could just get him to stop the Right Angle Shoulder Wrench trick when we see a Big Truck or Bus.

Once he finally settled down, Rack realized that tiny fussy little yapper dogs are not all that entertaining and decided all for himself that it was time to go somewhere else more interesting.

Whew.  The Tightly Coiled Spring is beginning to learn that living life at "11" on the dial is tiring!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Sink Is Full, The Grill is in the Yard, and the Lawn is Cut

When we were kids, we knew that we had a good weekend when Monday hit and we were tired.  

We'd have skinned knees, or new scratches, or some fresh mud on our sneakers, and we were happy.

Especially the mud.  There was this wetland near the house with a high spot that was dry.  We'd go out in the tall grasses, through the mud, and get to the high spot.   It was "Our Island Home" with a roof of brambles that in season would give sweet blackberries and shelter from the sun.

Later, we went to college and weekends were spent studying, or at a party.  I think they scheduled those 8AM lectures just to make sure that the Freshmen would fail out early and move on to a different school leaving behind piles of cash - on purpose.  You could tell who would make it by how "hearty" they would party.

Life moved on, people did finally graduate, things would settle out.   You have your responsibilities no matter who you are and where you are.  Some of that is chosen, the rest is due to the path that you have been given.  Nature vs nurture, but all mixed up in the soup called life.

Part of that settling would get rid of some cherished traditions that felt stale.  Traditions that no longer added to your life other than holding you back.  

You eventually hit a rhythm.   You're in a groove.  That's the basis of that old '60s word that some people cling to, others are trying to bring back, and I chuckle at.


Things are falling into place.

Then one Monday Morning, you get up late.   You're out doing your normal schedule but you run into some people who you don't normally see.  It's a time to get caught up with these friends.  That is when the question hits.

"So, how was your weekend?"

I had a pat response.  "Must have been a good one.  The sink is full, the grill is in the yard, and the lawn's cut!".

"Oh...Kay then."

Yep, that's life in suburbia.   It's easy to judge when it has been a good weekend.  The 20s college buzz has turned into the settled "I've gotten my chores done and the food's been made.".

Sure, it's a grumble when you've forgotten to "tidy up" after visiting with the neighbors, or grilling just the perfect Jerked Chicken with Rice, but it's a good grumble because you chose it.  

So lend a hand.  If you're going to hover, you had better learn how to load a dishwasher.   After all, it takes a full dishwasher to make for a good Suburban Weekend.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

God Decides it is Time For A Vacation - Humor

God decides it's time for a vacation... he consults with a few of his angels to figure out where he should go for some much needed rest and relaxation.

The first angel to speak up says "Well, sir, I hear Mercury is nice this time of year. It's nice and warm, you could catch some rays and maybe get a nice tan."

"That could be nice," says God, "but I'm not really in the mood for such warm weather."

Another angel chimes in with a suggestion. "Well if not Mercury, how about Pluto?" (Yes, I realize it's no longer considered a planet, but it works for the joke so calm down).  "You could go skiing, maybe hang out at the lodge and pick up a snow bunny."

"Oh I don't know," replies God. "That's maybe a bit too cold for my tastes and honestly I don't really enjoy skiing all that much."

A third angel says, "You know, sir, there's always Earth. The climate is nice and temperate plus the people love you down there."

"That is true," says God, "but I really don't think I should. The last time I went there I hooked up with that Mary chick and they still won't stop talking about it."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Hot Air Balloon Joke

Two versions of the same joke.   Ok, so it isn't a Two-Fer strictly speaking.  Basically every joke is something told before - it all goes back to the first time that Ugg the Neanderthal looked at his friend and spoke of the Chief.   I guess he had to pay them a goat or some such nonsense. 

Never mind all that, for your reading pleasure, I present the Hot Air Balloon Joke.  

One other thing, that location they're talking about is in the Atlantic Ocean.  I Know because 40 Degrees North Latitude and 75 West Latitude is on the Fourth Green in a Golf Course in Cinnaminson NJ, in suburban Philadelphia.  

Yes, I am in fact, a know it all.   Thank you for asking.

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost.

He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman below replied, “You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

You must be an engineer,” said the balloonist.

“I am,” replied the woman, “How did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is, technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help so far.”

The woman below responded, “You must be in Management.”

“I am,” replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” said the woman, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault.”

Ok, here's version two!

Variation of the hot air balloon joke

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's electronic navigation and communications equipment.

Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter's position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter's window. The pilot's sign said "WHERE AM I?" in large letters.

People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: "IN A HELICOPTER."

The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how did the sign help determine their position. The pilot responded "Well the response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless, so I knew that had to be the Microsoft building."

Friday, October 4, 2013

Breakfast with Bill, The Bird, and the Dog

Getting up an hour and a half before sunrise, you expect things to fall in to place.



And sometimes things actually work out that way.

After trading a mile and a half walk with Mr Dog who was alternately pulling me and my returning the favor, I still got home well before the sun was up.

There were a lot of things that were deferred to this morning that magically fell into place.   Two "experiments" were in the oven.  Both were loaves of bread, a very simple recipe, that I have been playing with. 

If you ever wanted to play with your food as a child, learn how to bake bread as an adult.  Simple and subtle changes like the addition of an extra tablespoon of water will change things from magical to mush.

Since I had the luxury of a little extra time, I decided to bake that bread early.   I turned to the oven and set the temperature, then started the music up for the day.   Singing to an old pop song from 1979, I turned to Mr Dog and asked "Do ya wanna play my Skyyzoo" as I walked him out to the front room.

Cookie Ball!  Cookie Ball!

That ought to keep you busy for a few minutes.

Loading up another 60 web pages in the browser, I went back to the OCD of waiting for the water to boil and the oven to warm up at the same time.

I think Rack likes being sung to by some uncommon pop as the Skyyzoo was being played again in a remix.   He hovered in the kitchen still.  

Cookie Ball you silly mutt!  Cookie Ball!

Some day you'll learn how to open  that tennis ball still has a tablespoon of kibble in it.

With the bread in the oven, the kettle was making a noise on the stove wanting to be poured into the coffee grounds.   The smell of the morning baking was intoxicating.  Coffee to the South of me, Bread to the North, it was the makings of a great breakfast.

Taking the coffee to the front room, I kicked the cookie ball back and forth a while and settled in for a half hour of Bake Time.

Ahh Coffee.   Ahh Cookie Ball?

Here, Boy, have some!   (squeeze, rattle)

He gobbles that stuff up fast.

Shortly the timer sounds off.   The first loaf was done.  A beautiful, if slightly flat from overwatering, loaf of foccacia style bread.   Sure, it's blond instead of golden brown but we were hungry.

Coffee still at hand, we made up sausages and eggs and served in some of the fresh bread that was toasted in butter while the sausages cooked.

Yes, Fried. 

Fixing the egg and sausage sandwich up, I turned to the sink and looked out on my little window onto Lake Backyard.   Out in the wall of tropical green, there was a spec of red.   A Cardinal had just hopped out next to the pool as if to claim the space. He might have spotted me take my first bite of sandwich.   Flying back into the cut leaf philodendron I warned him that this was his cousin from Maryland that I was eating. 

Harass us and you'll be next my beautiful red friend!

Maybe not.  He looked bony.  

But everything else fell neatly into place.   Good way to start a morning.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Basically, Corporate Radio Stinks

When was the last time you turned on a radio and listened to a local station?

For me it was more than 3 months ago.  Even then it wasn't strictly a "local" radio station.   I was in the Jeep, playing with the car radio.   I'm in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market.   I was listening to ZNS Bahamas out of Freeport.

After I got bored with that, I switched through a series of "HD" radio stations, all of which were better than FM quality sound, but all of which were "automated".   Basically listening to someone else's iPod.

This morning, my own iPod needed a charge so I switched over to my phone, started an app that goes out and finds radio stations and internet-only broadcasters.   I finally settled on a bitcaster that is internet only out of Germany that plays top 40 music in English.

Only.   No Commercials.

It got me thinking how far things have changed.

In my father's day, there was AM.   There weren't too many choices, they all had static, and way back in his day, there were actual programs.  This was before TV, so there were dramas, comedies, and special interest programs run.

TV changed all that, and it became music.   News on the hour and the half, sports when "there was a game on".   Offerings got more diverse.  By the time I got interested in radio, I started with Dad's Radio, a Blaupunkt Shortwave/AM/FM/Longwave that still works.  Glass tubes that glowed warmly and delivered a surprisingly mellow sound.

We had Rock, Dance, RnB, and more.  But still we had diversity in programming because the markets were managed.  No one company was permitted to own too many radio stations in any given area.  

That all changed in the late 90s and by the 2000s, Radio (with a capital R) pretty much was dead or dying.

Sure, people still listened to it, but the MP3 players and iPods came on the scene.  You could program your own music if you had a mind to it.  It would take a bit of effort, but you could do it.  I skated 21,000 miles listening to cobbled together podcasts legally downloaded from the internet.

I still had Dad's Radio, but by then the BBC World Service that I grew up with had pulled the plug on its services in North America and for the most part and the only things I found were some stations that I didn't have too much interest in.  Once BBC was gone, Radio Nederlands was hard to find and that left me with CBC.  It was too easy to find other outlets for news and general interest programming.

Luckily it was easy to keep loading up the iPod and surf stations online at home or work.  I was listening to a station in Miami when I lived in Philadelphia, and if that lost my interest there was BBC Radio 4 or an excellent dance station in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

The world opened up and local radio died to me.  

I would only listen to NPR on the way home if I was following the news, otherwise back to the iPod because, again, Corporate radio stinks.

I guess the next step is what we do in the car.   Here we are in a major media market in the US and we can't find anything to listen to that isn't 22 minutes of commercials plus probably as much "DJ Patter".   So fire up the phone, plug it into the car audio input, and play some bitcaster on Kevin's unlimited data account.

Commercials make me twitchy, and always have.  I'm the fastest remote clicker in the East.

Why bother listening to something local in the car when you can have something that you enjoy?  Forget Sirius Satellite Radio, they're just as bad with all that blathering from abysmal DJs like that horrendous Tim Bauman. 

I wish I never got Sirius XM.  It's better than Corporate Radio but it's like saying I'm happy the cold I have is not the Flu.

Some of the lesser popular or "fringe" music formats are simply not available in Corporate Radio because they don't have the right demographics.  Smooth Jazz, which got very big for a couple years, drew an older audience primarily.   It's rare that you'd find a teenager who was really into listening to a smooth jazz audience.  On the other hand, it was played pretty much everywhere - dentist and doctors offices, elevators and the like.   It had a place.  Small shops would love to have it on because it would be much less jarring than a Top 40 station in the background.

But they left South Florida, at least for a while.   They may be back, I haven't checked.   My godmother, Kathie, is a huge Smooth Jazz fan, and she simply left the radio off for most of the time.   10th largest market in the US and she simply ignored the radio.   Eventually she got a smartphone and a data account and happily can listen to her Smooth Jazz wherever she likes.

Really, there has to be a better way to do it, but I suspect that the Genie is out of the Bottle.  The Radio in the car dash of the future will have a port to plug into the phone, and a volume control.   FM?  Who needs it, we've moved on.   AM?  Wall to wall static from distant cities and right-wing and religious shouters.   Again, we've moved on.

At least I have, and so has my godmother... and so has .... well you get the picture.

Now, I think I'll change the channel.   Time for some Goa or some Trance. Maybe some Hawaiian or Bhangra.  I've got a world of choice and commercial Corporate radio is none of it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Prairie Dogs in my Living Room

Picture this:

Wilton Manors, after 7pm.
TV is on to some mindless comedy, time shifted away from that commercial nonsense.  I mean, really, who watches commercials on TV?
Windows closed, but all is dark.

All of the sudden, Rack perks.  

Ears pop up, and I hear a high pitched whine.   He's saying "I'm excited".  That seems to be the way of life here, an excited McNab Puppy is an on'/off thing.   Either curled up in a dogball, sniffing quietly under the parrot cage looking for dropped food, or running around the house burning off energy.

Who knew there was so much energy stored up in a cup of dog food, twice daily, plus two tablespoons stuffed neatly in a tennis ball or Kong?

Sitting bolt upright in a shot, the high pitched and reedy whine continues.

What's up boy?

He's parked next to my couch, near my feet.  This was the first spot he relaxed enough outside of the crate when we first got him, so he's claimed it as his own.   Instead of sitting on the mat that we lay out as His Spot, he chooses to lay down on the tiles.   It must be to warm the floor up, or cool himself down, because that spot isn't as comfortable as being on a plush mat.

But that's the nature of things with a dog.   We call it "Dog Logic" and smile as we shake our heads in confusion.

It's amped up another notch.   He's standing and whining now.

At this point we're both looking at him and outside to see what is going on.  

Nothing is readily apparent until...

He stands up, feet on the couch.   Now he's able to look out across the hedge into the early evening gloom.  Outside by the large fountain that our neighbor has in the yard that we call the Dog Bowl, I spot the reason.  140 pounds of Rottweiler, painted golden brown in the yellow glow of the streetlights is mooning us.   He's drinking in the catch basin of the fountain, and basically romping in the yard.

Rack, it's just Dee Oh Gee, calm down!

Yes, it's a 140 pound Rottie that's named D.O.G.  What else would you name a 140 slab of canine that wriggles its non-tail every time it sees you and says hello by sidling up to your knees and standing there demanding to be petted?

Rack's tail is dusting my coffee table.   He keeps that table cleaner than I am, since I'm a shoddy housekeeper.

That reminds me the Kitchen's due for another mopping...

Rack is happy, he sees his friend, and knows that all is well.

If you ever doubt that dogs sometimes have friends, rather than an official "pack", you are probably not watching closely.  My own Rack will go through stages.   First an ear perks, then two.  Then the tail starts wagging.  That's about when my own mind thinks "I wonder if he's going to..."

And Rack begins to leap.

He'll do this when he sees certain dogs.  He's now getting much more selective about who he leaps about, although almost every dog will get at least to the one or two wag stage.

But D.O.G. is on the happy dopey leapy list with Rack.   In fact, so is his owner, Kirby.   If he sees Kirby, he's been known to do the jump in the air act.   Dog owners, or even D.O.G. owners, will get the "free pass" and be friends, non-dog owners may get the cold shoulder.  It is a leftover from his experience in the shelters.

Last time he saw Kirby, a biker type who has a motorcycle that I really do want to borrow for a ride down to the Keys, he jumped.   Jumping in the air wasn't enough.   D.O.G. parked himself in front of Kirby and ended up being stood on by 43 pounds of happy McNab Dog.

Yes, Rack climbed on top of a Rottweiler in order to greet my neighbor.

Luckily nobody seemed to mind.

Other than me that is.   That leaping can be a bit much at times, and we're getting a reputation.  People and big dogs generally don't like to be climbed on, and he's still wary enough of strangers than to try that act in public often.

After all, how many times do you have a spare 140 pound Rottweiler around who is willing to be a foot stool for an over-exuberant McNab?