Friday, January 31, 2014

Writer's Block, the roof, and My Dog's Look Of Fear - Picture

I had gotten to a "Logical Breakpoint" and stood up.  Having walked the dog already this day, I wasn't expecting any weirdness around the house.  I was wondering what I would concentrate on this morning.  I had a blog posting to write and nothing came to mind.  I've also got a number of web pages to complete for the board and for CANA here in town.

It's been wet for a couple days, and today was going to be a 50 percent chance of storms.  If you have ever lived in South Florida or visited for any length of time that means that there is a 100 percent chance that 50 percent of us will get monsoons.  The rest of us may get wet or may not.  Good luck guessing which group you are a part of.

I told Kevin that meant that nobody would be here to work on the house today, just too wet.  It's warm enough but too wet.

After a couple of cool days, this was the first day that we'd had with a morning low at or above 70F.

I walked to the door and saw it.  "Hey, there's a truck in the swale!".

In that moment, I knew I was not going to have a quiet day.

My roof had failed back in December and for the better part of the holidays I was living an I Love Lucy era episode of a TV show.   It was "1950's Sitcom" life with pans on the floor to catch the rain that ran down the roof and onto the desks in the Florida Room.   The roof must be replaced.

We went through the two days of stripping then resealing the roof.  Decking was repaired.  I got used to having access to it and even climbed up there to cut down the bougainvillea that was growing due up instead of onto the arbor back behind the windows in the Florida Room.

Monday would be nice.  80 and sunny, morning low of 70.  I expected it THEN.

Now the truck was disgorging its cargo of men, machines, and glue.   I was going to have a day of banging and sweeping.

These days, installing a tile roof meant that they would glue them to the roof.  Who knew?  I also didn't expect that they could do anything with glue on a wet roof, but apparently my knowledge of Project Management doesn't extend to construction.

They climbed up onto the roof and began moving the tiles.  Each tile was a variegated thing.   Terracotta with black and tan splotches.  Should look quite nice and "distinctive" as the salesman said.

Now it was getting installed.

I knew Rack wouldn't like it.  When I came back in from taking out the trash bins, I walked into the laundry.  It's in the No Go Zone, or so I thought.  He walked past the trashcan monster and right into the laundry to the Port Hole.   I have two glass panes in the door so Rack can look out like Lettie did before him.  He's just discovering it.   I immediately comforted him to let him know that this is safe for dogs and went back to loading the dryer.


Bangbangbang, sweepsweepsweep, bangbangbang.

Rack turned tail and vanished.   If you have never met my dog, he's a McNab.  Incredibly intelligent and sensitive, he still has issues with random noises from when he was abandoned by his first owner at a shelter.  It wasn't going to be a good day for him.

He is also fast.  Very fast.  He vanished silently like a dart into the main part of the house.

Closing the dryer, I finally found him after doing a perimeter search.   Next to My Big Green Chair in the living room is a table.  It has an inlaid leather chess board and sits high enough off the ground to play chess or any other game you might like.  It also has his third mat there and he's taken to sitting next to me when I am watching TV.  I can reach down and pet him whenever I like.  That is one of the nicest things of having a dog, someone nearby to comfort you when you need it, and you can be reassured all is well by his presence.

Not today.  He's hiding there.  Nose on the floor, he looks up when the noises stop and start.  I can't say I blame him for hiding.  I did too.  I've got my coffee next to me on my bouncy Poang work chair, and the headphones on.  Thankfully they're noise cancelling.  They muffle the pounding that is outside my own head causing the pounding on the inside. 

It doesn't do a thing for the dog, but he needs the exposure.

You see with a dog with Noise Issues, you have to make sure that he gets exposed to some noises but not too much.  It is a thing of finesse to find out how much he can take.  Then you have to purposely expose him to a little more each time.  We do this a couple times a week in front of Wilton Manors City Hall on the wall.   Trucks go by.  People walk past.  Dogs bark.  Horns blow.  Rack sits down and shudders.  Then shivers.  Literally vibrating, he will sit for the time we're there.  Each time we visit, it notches down a slight bit in its intensity.  By the time we leave, he's more than ready to go, but the shivering has stopped.

This will be one of those days.   When they put the first two layers down, Rack was a mess but when he recovered, Rack was better than he was the day before the chaos reigned.

Lemonade.  I think we will make lemonade out of those lemons and sit here in the banging.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Kevin. Here's Your Cake!

Ok, so it is a slightly wrecky two layer chocolate cake, but BOY was it ever good!

It's our thing here.  I make a three layer cake.  I freeze two layers.  I Ice one layer and turn that into dessert.  That way we get three different half cakes and they're all fresh. 

Yes, I have indeed found a way to "Right-size" a cake.

Why Pink?  Burma-Shave!  I don't know, I just saw that little bottle of red food color number whatever and thought why not?

Now to all you cake decorators out there, and you know who you are, the reason why the icing is uneven is because I'm crap at decorating.   The other thing is that you should always chill your icing before you put it on the cake.  Not to freezing, but "room temperature" is not the best idea for Buttercream Frosting.  The top layer slid a little bit in a tectonic shift that made it look like a San Andreas Fault fragment relocated to South Florida.

I'll set the lawn chair upright in a second.

Anyway, it was damn good even if I do say so myself.  A bit too sweet icing if you ask me, but this is not my cake.  I also have enough icing leftover to do it again in all its Pink Glory.  If it were for me, I'd make up some chocolate ganache and turn the whole bloody thing into a giant brown truffle, but that's not mine even if I will enjoy half of it's pinkness.

Ladies, sing with me the song of your people:  "Mmmm Chocolate Truffles!".

All hail the pink half wrecky-cake!  Nom Nom Nom.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Forecastfox - Getting Radar My Way in Firefox

I find myself setting this up from time to time.  I end up creating a new computer, or a virtual computer and want a little strip of weather info in my browser.

ForecastFox does what I need.  It works fairly well, supports multiple locations, and does have a bit of flexibility in how you can configure it.

It comes "out of the box" set up for New York City.  Since I live in South Florida, that doesn't work for me.

Since I also have quite a few years of programming, I can fix that. 

The nice thing is that "fixing" that isn't that tough.

They give you a helpful search box that sets everything up for you.  Type in your US Zip Code and it will find your city.   The defaults work nicely, but the address for the radar doesn't work for me.  Radar doesn't change with the city so you end up looking at the temperature and conditions for "your area" and the radar for the Northeast US.

Not so helpful.

Also it makes a small radar display which, while it works, we can do better.

First, install Forecast Fox.  I'm going to assume that you know how, since it's one of the more popular updates to Firefox or Chrome.

It should put a web page up before you telling you that it will update your information immediately.

If it didn't, hover over the current conditions and right click on them for the pop up.   Select "options" and the web page will open.

In the locations box, type in your zip code and hit enter.   It will create a basic profile for that location.  You can then hover over the other profile for New York, NY and Remove or Rename the extra one.

If you want multiple locations, tick the box and it will switch through them every minute or more.

The bit I need to change is the Toolbar Display.  Since the radar sites are not linked, I go through the same steps every time I do this.

First, in another window or tab, I surf to  It will try to detect your location, if it doesn't search for your zip code or city name.

The radar display on the page has a link on it if you hover over top.  Select "NEXRAD" radar.   Zoom in and out until you get just the view you want.   Click on the "Animate" link to make the radar move.  On the bottom left of that display you will find a link that says "View/Save This Image", click on the link. 

The  result is that you will now have a browser page that will show the view you just had.  It will be animated, and there will be no extra bits like ads or controls to move it. 

Copy the address of the picture by right clicking on the image and selecting "Copy Link Location" from the pop up.

That picture and the url are what you want.   But you can do better...

Go back to your Forecastfox Weather configuration page and find the Toolbar Display section.  In the Radar (Or Satellite) box, select Custom.   Click inside the URL box and do the following keystrokes:

  1. Ctrl+A
  2. Ctrl+V
That will select everything in the box and paste the copied URL from the picture into the box.  What I do here is change the size of the picture to something a bit larger.  The width and height can be changed to the size you want.  Default was 480 by 320 but I changed mine to 1024 by 768.

Why did I do that?  Because, Radar.  More specifically, I have a large screen and would like to use it.  Now when I hover over that little green radar icon in my status bar at the bottom of my browser, I get a big picture instead of a little one.  

You can also turn on some of the other weather data, and change the number of days displayed.  Mine is 5 days and 2 text labels.

The end result is this oversized picture that is below.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Have You Ever Had One Of Those Mornings?

I am smiling.  I'm also shaking my head.   It's been an amusing day, and it's been the last hour that is the cause of it.

I have a groove.  I know what I will be doing at a given time of day for the most part.  When something shakes up my groove, hilarity may ensue.

I also have people around me who think it's entertaining to upset my groove.   Those people need to be duct taped to the ceiling fan and then the fan turned on full so they spin merrily above the ground.

Or something like that.

Been up early and got the dog out for his walk.  He dragged me out to the shopping center near the house. 

No. Big. Deal. 

I didn't think anything of it until we rounded the corner.  You see, Rack is "noise averse".  Drop something on the floor and he'll jump.  He was about to experience a lot of noise all at once.  The shopping center has been in the process of being painted for the last month or so.   They do it before the businesses open, so you may not have seen it unless you're at the gym, walking your dog, or a "leftover" from the last night bar crowd.

No. Big. Deal. 

We got to the place that they were working and his dragging me toward the noise became a big "Nope" and he started dragging me away.   As in total fear toward the loud growly equipment. 

Deal.  You will survive.  In fact it's good for him to be exposed to it and survive.   He did, we got past and he almost immediately went "normal".

Whatever the heck that is.

Flying through the normal morning routine... er, whatever that is, I managed to get to the point where I needed to leave.  Not completely, the laptop might be needed and it was sitting stuck at 30% update where it had been for the better part of the last half hour.  

Nope.  Stay home computer, you're drunk.

Getting into the Jeep, I piled my neighbor into it for a trip out to the Hospital where she was to be dropped off for a procedure.  

On the way... I have to say South Florida Drivers need to stop messing about and concentrate on their driving.

Between the woman in front of me at the light at Dixie and Prospect doing her Mascara, and the woman at the bus stop with the see through bottoms, it was a scenic drive.

I didn't point that out to my neighbor as I dropped her off and got back into the Jeep.

Heading back I saw two different morons texting, and a fool trying to convince a pickup truck with a giant arrow sign pointing into the center lane moving at a walking pace to move faster.

Not. Gonna. Happen.  Oh wait!  You're a snowbird.  Go back to Ontario, you're drunk.

Playing with the radio, the local "Party Station" was talking about the Bronies of Kendall.  I had to think about this one.  I'm all for diversity, I'm pretty "diverse" myself, but I still can't wrap my head around the attraction of technicolor plastic ponies and the society around it.  On top of it, the presenter made her announcement then went into a story about a barn in Germany that exploded due to cow "wind" followed by every bad pun she could think about referring to Cows, Bulls, and Farming in general.

Better to pull into the driveway and wash the Jeep.  It's much safer.  The roads are a strange place.

With the music pouring out of the house singing the praises of being in America, I realized that the British Forces Broadcast Services were having an odd day as well.  It ended that song with the presenter telling all the British Armed Forces, and one guy in South Florida about his long nose hair that had to be pulled out.

"Crikey!  That's long!  That came out of me?"

Weirdness is universal.   We're all weird.  Some of us just get to do it publicly.  Now, my BFBS Gibraltar Presenter is talking about Going Commando. 

I think "all this in one hour?"  It's time for another mug of coffee.   It is going to be a strange day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Feeding Time at the Zoo or Service Pack 1, You Decide

My coffee table is full. 

Mind you, I almost never use it for actual coffee.  I prefer to set my coaster on the floor next to the low slung Ikea Poang Chair just inside reach.  It's also within Dog's Nose Range and he's getting curious. 

My McNab Dog, Rack, is already hyperkinetic.  There isn't a dog on the island that can hold a candle to my boy when we're outside.  He'll see a dog he likes or some certain people and he's airborne.  Jumping five feet into the air is nothing to this black and white spring.  We will just avoid giving my dog coffee, even if it is Half-Caff.

But he was much more mellow this morning, the edge seems to be blunting on his puppy hood insanity, finally.

The coffee table on the other hand has gotten filled with laptops.  My neighbor fried his install of Windows 7 and since I helped his mother get him the thing for xmas a couple years back, we're helping him get back on the road. 

Clicked on the wrong link did you?   We'll see what we can do. 

Meanwhile, I'm reworking a computer of mine.  It is the one I wanted to use this morning, so I wasn't looking forward to seeing a helpful message on my screen.  

At 7AM, I'm walking to my chair, setting the coffee mug on the floor on a bar coaster, and grumbling that there were some updates that needed to happen.  Ok, only three?  Lets do it.

That would be where I needed to actually Read what I saw on the screen, it was a Windows 7 Service Pack 1 update.

Techies know what I'm going to be doing for the next hour or so.  "Civilians"...

Sighing, it's time to go into the kitchen, make some breakfast.

Rack, my ever faithful sidekick stood at the entry to the galley kitchen.   Nut Brown eyes peering through my soul, I asked "Show me what you want, Rack?".  He neatly stood up and walked out to the back door.  I let him out thinking that it was great, now I could have breakfast in peace.

*sigh* What is it Oscar?
Here we go!  Boom!  There it is! Boom!  Herewegoherewegoherewego!  Bwa HAHAHAHAHELLO!BOOM!

I see we have a comedian.  I start up on the bowl of cereal and look out on the Cement Pond in the backyard.

Hmm, Boom, that's a new one.
Hello, Oscar.

I guess the backyard didn't "take", Rack is staring at my reflection in the back door.   I sidle over to the kitchen sink, and start talking to Oscar.

Hello, Oscar!  Good morning.
Head cocked to the side, Rack stares a hole through me from the yard.  He's wanting what I have or more likely what I haven't had yet for breakfast. 

HELLO! HellLOW!  Urp.

More head cocks to the side.  First left, then right, the white stripe on Rack's head is signalling low flying aircraft to try to land at the Fort Lauderdale Airport instead of his head.

BahbahbahbahbahHELLObahbahbahWAHHAHAHAHAHAhahahaha!  HELLO!
I finish the cereal, pour out my cranberry and yogurt.  Really good batch this time too.
Head is tilting to the side still. 

I walk out to look in on the technology taking a nap in the living room.   I'm being yelled at by a Parrot, a dog wants my food, and my laptop went to sleep. 

Wiggle the little trackpoint on the keyboard. 

Do Not Unplug Your Computer.
Update 3 of 3.
Please Wait.

I'm now grumbling at Microsoft.   Hey, the cereal didn't make me "not hungry" yet, I've got a right to be grumpy!

Finally, I get low enough on the bowl of yogurt to set it into Rack's bowl.  He gets let inside and proceeds to attempt to lick the top layer of glass off the bowl.

Like that stuff do you?

Oscar is still making a racket on his cage.  I walk over and open his door.  By now Rack is finished and staring at me.  Fine.  Time for Bird and Parrot to meet.

I get Oscar out of his cage and lower him to dog's nose.  Oscar didn't like that and growled.  Rack is a complete paper tiger and trots off.   So I set Oscar on the floor.  You see, despite my technology timing problems, It Is A Good Day.  Why is it a good day?  Every day that a parrot doesn't poop on the living room floor is a good day!

Rack comes over gingerly and decides that he doesn't need to be quite so close.   I figure that this is a good quick meeting all said and done and set Oscar back into his cage.

My laptop chores are at an end, I hear the windows chime that says it's starting up.  May as well grind my gears on the machine.   Service Pack 1 is installed, I've got things to do.  If you are tied up for an hour, give or take, you may as well play with the dog and the parrot!  They seem to like that sort of thing anyway.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hot Air Balloon - Humor

Hot Air Balloon

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!”

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jim and Mary - Humor

Jim and Mary are patients at a Mental Hospital

They have been living there for quite some time and every morning when its nice outside they go and walk around the grounds.

One day on a nice March morning they are walking the grounds as usual when all of a sudden Jim jumps into the deep end of the pool and sinks to the bottom. As soon as he does this Mary jumps in after him and pulls him out essentially saving his life.

Well, word of Mary's good deed spreads around the hospital and the next morning she is called into her doctors office.

The doctor says to Mary "I'm quite sure you know why your here... you've been her a few years and if you remember correctly you are here because a judge ordered it because you had no sense of harm to other people and since you saved Jim yesterday it is clear that your stay here has helped so we have decided to have you do a live at home program where you live one week at home and one week here... what do you think about all this Mary?"

Mary after hearing all this is just ecstatic she can finally live at home, sleep in her in her own bed and eat her own food. Shes about to say that she loves the idea until the doctor cuts in.

"I do have some bad news though... as you probably know Jim was put here because of his multiple suicide attempts, what you saved him form was one of his attempts but I'm sorry to say that even though you were successful yesterday this morning we found that Jim had hanged himself in his bathroom, I'm sorry"

Mary looks confused and says "You have it all wrong doctor Jim didn't hang himself that's just where I put him to dry"

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lumpy Green Mystery Fruit - Picture

When you move to a new region, you will have mysteries.   Some are pleasant, and some are even tasty.

I haven't been brave enough to taste this mystery.

Besides, it's not even on my own yard.  It's on a "vacant" lot about a half mile from my house.  Vacant does not mean Open And Free, so I let it be and take only pictures and leave only footprints.

I've seen many curiosities since moving here.  Black Racer snakes that help to keep down the number of roof rats that run on my awnings at night keeping me awake.   There are snails in the garden that ate all my flowers one night that had been growing there for months.  Opossums and Raccoons that walk through the place. 

Some are intentional.  The Mango Tree on the corner I watch over since the owner of the property doesn't like Mangoes and doesn't want a nearly 2 pound fruit falling from 50 feet in the air onto the car parked below.  I've picked more than 100 pounds each year that I've lived here and given away much of it.  Now that I know how to make proper Jellies and Jams, I'll be making Mango Jelly out of some of it.

I just can't get enough Mango.

Learn your trees, snowbirds.  Do not park under a fruiting tree.   You'll have to use that insurance that you paid for without knowing when you rented that white Chevrolet at the airport.

But this tree was a bit of a mystery.  I was told it was either a Sugar Apple or a Soursop by different people.  It looks like a Screw Palm with buttressed roots.  Leaves grow up the trunk in a spiral.  It actually is a striking tree, very tropical looking.  You simply would not expect a blobby green fruit growing in a Northern Hardwood forest or out west off of a cactus.

It just doesn't look like the pictures.  In fact, I spent a block of time on wikipedia looking at every, and I do mean EVERY entry they had under Tropical Fruits.  No such luck.  Nothing that looked like my blobby friend here. I probably missed it.

Some day the property will be built on.  Land in this town is too scarce.  The City of Wilton Manors has a price premium over a block on the other side of the line in Fort Lauderdale or Oakland Park of at least 10 percent, and in some directions, even more.   The blobby fruit tree will be cut down to make room for some other boringly large Mc Mansion squatting on that large corner.  

For now, the mystery of Dixie Highway has its time in the sun.  I'm sure it's a tasty mystery, but it's someone else's tasty mystery. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How About A Pretzel Roll? - Picture and Recipe

I wanted a little something different.
I wanted something a little familiar.
I wanted something a little special.

I started reading.

Coming from anywhere near Philadelphia, you know you can get a good soft pretzel.   I've had them in other cities, and sometimes they come close.

But not quite.

I can do "Not Quite" very well.  Many of my recipes come very close to commercial food, which is scant praise.  Most of my recipes are better than what I can buy at the market which is another reason why I keep trying.   After all, when is the last time you could buy a sandwich sized roll for five cents and have it taste like something other than sawdust.  Yes, I did the math, these rolls cost between 5 and 10 cents for the ingredients and the price variance depends on the market price of the flour.  It makes 1500 calories of dough, approximately.

Yes, it takes time, and yes not everyone has the interest or the knowledge.  I always enjoyed baking, there's something "elemental" about it.  Bringing life forth from food and making it rise, then tossing it in the oven and baking it to perfection.

Once you learn a recipe, it gets tweaked.

Making pretzels is on the surface simply a tweak.  I used my standby recipe - Pat's Pizza Dough for this.   I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can make excellent rolls with that recipe.   I followed it literally and simply dropped the ingredients in the bread machine to make dough.   I pressed start then went to take a shower.

That's it.

I ended up with 780 grams of dough.   Yes, grams, it's easier to do the math - divide by 10 to get a 78 gram roll which is 150 calories if you need to count the little buggers.  That's 2.75 ounces in good old Imperial Measurements which are not used in the Empire any longer.

Dough Recipe is at this link if you want to see the original article, but the ingredients are in order:
  1. 1 cup plus 1 ounce (9 ounces) of warm 110F water
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 3 cups bread flour
  4. 1 teaspoon sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 tablespoon yeast 
How did it become a pretzel?  Very simple.
  • Prepare the dough.
  • For proper pretzels, you want to allow it to rise then knead to remove most of the "gas".
  • For Rolls, form the dough into a ball and allow to rise for at least an hour or two.
  • Roll it out however you want it to be - It's your choice!
  • Put a saucepan with one quart of water in it plus 1.75 ounces by weight of baking soda.  That's 50 grams to the Liter of water.
  • Bring the water and baking soda to a full boil.
  • Place each dough ball in the water for 30 seconds.
  • Flip to the "other" side and allow it to boil for 30 seconds.
  • Place the dough ball on the cookie sheet, and repeat for remaining dough.
  • You can paint the dough balls with melted butter at this point if you wish.
  • Dust with Salt, Sugar, Cinnamon, Sesame Seeds, or any other seasoning or leave plain.
  • Bake at 375 for 13 minutes or until deep golden brown or to taste.
  • Cool, eat, enjoy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Hear You Had A Snowstorm Up North - Picture

This connected age is strange.

Sitting in the Big Green Chair in the living room, I was enjoying a sunset.  My friends are mostly here in South Florida, my family is mostly in the Northeastern US.

The Florida Friends were complaining how we're going to have a few cool days.  I can't handle anything under 70F anymore.  I used to stand out in the subzero cold in a shearling jacket and shrug it off.  Then I got in shape and lost my flab and with it went the insulation and the cold weather tolerance.

That said and done, it's not fatal.  50F will be annoying, but it's highly doubtful that someone is going to die of hypothermia sitting by a pool in South Florida.  The houses are leaky, windows are designed to allow the breezes to flow through and cool you, not keep the heat in.   In this day of Air-conditioning, that is a mistake since the breezes will blow the cool out just as well as blow it back in.

I'm watching TV.  Colonel Hogan was tweaking Colonel Klink for the hundredth time, and the snow was just beginning to hit Philadelphia and the other cities of the Northeast.  My cousin in Long Island took 3 1/2 hours to go home on the Long Island Expressway, a trip that normally took 20 minutes.  Schools started closing even before the snow stuck to the first windshield. 

I remember those days, sitting in my house on top of the hill, up in the third floor front bedroom that became our den.  Heat rises, so that room was always a little on the warm side, even if the ground floor was cold.  Tuned into all the media, we'd notice that people would be stripping the supermarkets bare of Bread, Milk, and Eggs.  The usual comments would fly that you get snowed in and make French Toast.

This time it was surreal.  I'm hearing family and friends talk about how bad it was.  It's getting difficult, don't go out, stay home, stay safe, the roads are clogged.  All the while the FEC train is coming through delivering Orange Juice and Rocks to places North.  I'm watching the sunset through my front window over the shopping center.  The breezes were blowing through the palm trees, and the last of the rays tickled the bottoms of the clouds to a golden glow. 

Shivering in the breeze, I brace my camera against the big blue trash bin and fire off a few shots.  It's cold out, but nothing like what my family is going through right now.  I'm thinking of the silly things we'd do in this weather.  Fill the front yard with snow from the driveway.  Blow soap bubbles and watch them shatter when they freeze before hitting the ground.  Make snow cones from the hopefully clean snow in the back yard.  Skip eating the snow cones because it looks like something the dog made.  Joke that while the dog wrote her name in the snow, it always comes out like "blblppplllbbbttt" so that must be her name in Canine. 

Coming back inside, I see Colonel Klink get into the side car that falls off the motorcycle as Sgt. Schultz pulls away.  Another time the allies pull another fast one on reruns.  May as well watch the rest and stay warm with a can of cherry soda.

Stay Warm Folks.  I'm hearing that while I was shivering in the low 60s, it was 8F in Cherry Hill, NJ, and 15F in Atlanta.

I'll take my 60s.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Now It Looks Like Windows XP Will Get Virus Updates After All

Microsoft blinked.

After saying April 8, 2014 XP Users will get nothing from Microsoft, they changed their minds a little.  It is a reprieve, and a temporary one at that.

Microsoft will provide Virus Warnings until July 14, 2015.

Bastille Day?  Interesting choice.  All the virus writers will have to wait to storm the defenses until that day.

Of course if you are using some other virus scanner like McAfee or Norton,  they will continue to support you like they have been.

This doesn't mean that they promised to provide fixes in Windows Updates, the holes that scare the IT Guy at your office will still be there.   It only means that they will be providing updates to their anti virus program Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP until that date.  You will still be targeted by virus writers for those holes in the system.

Microsoft Security Essentials is the same program that runs on Windows Vista and Windows 7 and is included or "baked in" to Windows 8 and 8.1.   It seems like the virus signature file downloads are most likely the same in both products but there's a switch somewhere that will be thrown to stop it from working with Windows XP.

Planned Obsolescence.  Pay more and upgrade or else.

Their response is straightforward - upgrade to a newer operating system.

This might be why I have so many Linux based computers around these days... But for people who don't want to learn a new operating system, don't stick with XP - the holes will still let the viruses get in, and if the antivirus doesn't catch them, you won't get a fix from Microsoft.  If you really are against learning a new Operating System, Windows 7 is the closest thing that you can get for that old beater of a computer that looks "normal"... you know - looks like XP.  Even Windows 7 may not save you if you have a really old machine with less than 2GB of memory, but Linux would run comfortably on most machines in that class.

Most.  Don't get silly, that old Pentium 4 needs to be recycled.  I could get something  to run on that, but it would be limited and I'm not really interested in doing free support.

Also, if you really are going to keep your old machine and upgrade to Windows 7, remember that Windows 7 is an install not an upgrade.

About 30% of all desktop computers run some form of Windows XP.  I've read statistics that "Some Form Of Windows XP runs on 95% of all ATM Machines in the US", although I really doubt that statistic.   That "Some Form" is probably Windows XP Embedded which is a very different monster than what you know and love on your desktop computer.   The networking component has been made more secure, although you have to wonder just how secure it really is.

I'll stick with my earlier comments, time to upgrade folks.  XP is about to XPire.

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Verbal Tic and the Parrot

We all have these phrases we repeat over and again.  Sometimes we don't realize it, but they are there.

It's called a Verbal Tic.  Just one of those things I guess.

Some folks start off a thought with a word.  "Well, I've ..." is common.  It gives you time to think, gather the rest of your thoughts before you run out of steam and wonder why on Earth you started to speak.

I didn't realize I had one until the other day.   Oscar the Parrot told me that I did by repeating to me what I say.

I'm used to making plans and following them out to their completion.  Part of being a Project Manager, I guess.  You get the plan going and then eventually you have to get started, right?

"Here we go."   Yep, it's mine.

I had been playing some music in the house in the Call To Flock hour.   That's when parrots in a flock will call to each other to gather themselves close for either the evening roost or the morning feed.  That racket you hear when the feral parrots fly overhead serves a purpose.  Other than to give you a headache or annoy you, that chattering and screaming will let the birds in a flock know where the rest are.  You see it in a Mall or a large shop when some kid is screaming for its Mom at the top of its lungs.

Shaddap both of you.  Never mind that, it's happened for centuries and will happen for centuries after this has been read for the last time.

My life tends to be rather ordered.  Certain things happen at certain times of day.  Meals are planned and served.  Dogs need to be walked.  There are trips out to the store.  Gardening to be done.   Many of those tasks have to be completed by more than one person, whether furred, feathered, or thin skinned.

That last one would be me.  Some of the others around me aren't quite so thin skinned, I'm sure.

We would go through the ritual of getting things settled and "Here We Go" dinner is ready.   "Here We Go" it's time to go to the stores and get a gallon of milk, some flour, frozen cherries, and some Fruit Pectin.

Yes, I'm planning on making more Cherry Jelly.  It's dead easy to do.

What I didn't realize was that telegraphing my intent was so frequent that the chattering that Oscar does now includes "Here We Go" along with "WAAAAAH!" and "Hello!" as well as other partial phrases and so forth.

He was barking and flapping and making a general nuisance of myself when I heard it clearly for the first time.

Did he just say "Here We Go"?
Yes I think he did.
I guess I really do repeat it enough.

Oscar the parrot has been with me since 1986.  He's a bit of a grumpy bird, but I guess he's finally finding himself someone to bond with.  I never thought it would be me, but I'm glad it is.

Now, if I could just convince him to let me listen to music loud once in a while without his own accompaniment, it might be a little better for me. 

There's this one Soca song that I want to hear on the speakers that was done to the NFL Football Sound Bed and if I can hear it, the neighborhood will hear "BRaahhhhSSS!" coming out of the house.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Elderly Lady's Revenge - Humor

An elderly lady's husband just passed away and to get things ready she went to the place that sells and engraves tombstones...

When she got there, she ordered the most expensive tombstone she could afford. They were married 65 years after all and; had 6 children, made lots of money, traveled many places, made lots of memories, and loved each other very much of course.

When paying for the tombstone, they asked what she would like engraved in the stone. To which she replied, "To my dearest husband, you were my love and my life. I cannot wait to see you again one day. Rest In Peace" as it was a common and courteous thing.

Later that day she went to find out what she would get of her husbands remaining possessions, as it turns out, he didn't leave her a thing, nothing. Not one item, not one car, not one penny.

The elderly lady was so furious. How could she not get anything after all they have been through? She knew her husband was tight with his money but this had to be a mistake. Going over the papers for a second, third, and fourth time it stayed the same. Nothing for the lady.

So the following day she goes back to the place she ordered the tombstone and said to the man running it, "I would like something added to my late husbands tombstone. You can keep everything I had on it. Especially the, 'Rest in Peace' , but I want you to add 'Until I Get There'."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Naming the Baby and Aging - Humor

Maybe I should have said "Humor?".

A lady almost 9 months pregnant falls down some stairs and knocks herself out...

When she wakes up, she is in a hospital bed.
Doctor: "We had to deliver your fraternal twins while you slept, but they are completely healthy. Also, your brother stopped by and named them for you"
New Mother: "My brother named them? But he's an idiot! What are their names?"
Doctor: "Well, the little girl is named Denise."
New Mother: "Well, that's not so bad. What about my son?"
Doctor: "Denephew."


A young married couple was invited to their friend's home for dinner one evening. Their host was an elderly 82-year-old couple.

The young couple was impressed by the way the elderly man preceded every request to his wife with endearing terms like: "Darling, Sugar, Dear, Honey, Sweetheart," etc.

When the young man was alone with the old man in the veranda, the young man said, "I know both of you have been married for over 60 years and you are still so in love with one another. It's so wonderful after being married for so many years, you can still call your wife those loving pet names."

The old man sighed, "To tell you the truth, I forgot her name about 20 years ago."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Moondogs and 43

The first thing I noticed was that burrowing under a comforter, sheet, and a blanket didn't quite do the deal.  For South Florida, this is winter, this is cold.

Reaching for the phone, I waited for it to power up and I saw a red triangle with an exclamation point in it.  Normally that's for Rip Tides, and they're common.  Nobody is really out in the water at 5:30AM but the word does need to get out.

I checked it.  After living here since 2006, it was jarring to see the words "Freeze Warning".   My second thought was I wonder if it will rain Iguanas today?   Under 45 for any length of time and their cold blooded muscles lose grip and they fall from trees.  I'll keep an eye out for that later...

The Non-Urban areas of South Florida, also known as the Everglades, are under a Freeze Warning.   Warmer at the ocean and the heat island of the cities of our sprawl.   It's also warmer on the carport.  My phone said 43, my carport said 47.

Scant comfort.

I got Rack ready for our walk and stepped outside.  Two things that are strange to notice here.   Staring through the Palm Trees on our neighbor's yard to the one side, the moon had a halo around it.  This is a Moondog, and made for a pretty little distraction.   It was a solid hour before sunrise anyway.  The other thing was I had to look through the steam of my own breath to see it.

Ooo weird!  Whoadude!

So we're in for the cold.  At least we're in for what passes for cold.  When you're not used to it...  just shave another 15F off of your cold tolerance.   May have been 43, but I was dressed for 20.   Even Rack's morning enthusiasm was dampened.

When I got in, I checked the full text of the notice.  Meh, for me there's no impact.  I will just leave my sweatshirt on and hope that the winds stay down for the day.  If it doesn't, that will suck all the heat that my weak little heater will put back into the house.

Freeze Warning remains in effect until 8 am EST this morning.
  • Temperature: The latest observations indicate that a few spots have dropped to and just below the freezing mark as of 7 am this morning, mainly across Glades County. A few of the typically cooler spots across Hendry and Collier County have also reach the freezing Mark through the early morning hours. Elsewhere, overnight lows have ranged from the mid 30s across the interior areas of Palm Beach and Broward to the Lower 40s across the interior areas of Miami-dade.
  • Impacts: below freezing temperatures may cause damage to agricultural concerns.
Recommended actions

A Freeze Warning means temperatures of 32 degrees or lower are imminent or highly likely, for any duration of time. These conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation.

Oh well, basically it means that for the next 10 days, the A/C is left off since the highs will be in the low to mid 70s.  Tough work if you can get it, right?

So, Snowbirds, stay home.  You'll force a beach day and wear shorts and flipflops ... and we will all laugh.

Hmmm... then again, we all could use a good laugh!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Dog Does Not Like Classical Music

I grew up a confused little boy thinking that the BBC World Service was a local radio station.   When I was Two and a Half, I discovered "Dad's Radio".  It's a Blaupunkt table radio with tubes in it and I have it to this day.  Datestamped October 1956, it's a true antique in its own right.

The music that the BBC played when I was a child was classical, strictly.  That British Invasion music that those who are a bit older than I am so enjoy was never played on the BBC, locally or on the World Service until the late 60s.  As a result, there are times when I just want to listen to Classical.

In my house, there's almost always something playing, although it is typically some form of Dance Music - Disco, Swing, or Trance.  It helps to drown out any outside noises, and makes it easier for me to concentrate when I am doing something for one of the groups I consult for.  Music makes for a better website.

My dog, Rack, appreciates it as well since on Tuesdays and Fridays when the trash trucks come through, he panics.  Those roaring beasts in green come through and I know that I won't see the dog until they're well away from here.

He's amazingly intelligent, a McNab Dog always is.  He's figured out my own schedule, and is usually nearby when I am doing something. 

This particular day, our schedule got disturbed.   We've had work done in the house, and outside.  The lighting along the back Utility Easement has started getting "glitchy" lately and needed maintenance.  Luckily my neighbor, Bill, is helping out with that.  We had gotten the wrong kind of boxes for the wiring, so a trip to the hardware store was coming up.  Last night we decided to get the boxes for when Bill could come back and work on these things again.

The first thing I did after we all finished dinner was to reach for the controller for the internet radio.  It is piped through three rooms and covers the house well.  I turned on the Classical station after turning off the TV.

Rack immediately got wise and began to fidget.   TV On is normal, Classical On means they're going out.

Since a trip to the hardware store meant that he couldn't come in, and since the hardware store we were going to was in Fort Lauderdale, and in a rather questionable area on Sunrise Boulevard, Rack had to stay home.

Rack doesn't like being away from me.  I am Rack's Job.  He has decided to be my companion, my protector, and my warning device.  In his black and white striped world, that means he has to be with me.

When the internet radio put out its one commercial announcing the station and begging for donations to the symphony, Rack trotted over to the front door and sat down.

I was still gathering myself together, but when I was ready, I claimed the door.   Claiming the door means standing between the door and the dog and making sure he understood that This Door Is Mine.  It works, he won't go outside unless I tell him he can.  The training is still in progress, he's not perfect, but we've got time.

Rack looked up at me, ears down, eyes wide open in a look right out of a comic book.  Dad, Take Me Too! he was saying. 


I gathered the crowd together and Kevin had a bright idea.  "Lets go out by the Laundry Door!  He won't expect that!".

Never doubt a McNab's ability to learn!

The three of us trotted out to the laundry and Rack stopped at the foot of the kitchen.   The kitchen has the evil Trashcan with the warning stainless steel bowl on top.  He doesn't like walking past that so he won't come fully into the kitchen ... or so we thought.  

One at a time we got out of the house, locked the door, and climbed into the car.  

As we fired up the motor, I looked at the door.   It's a frosted glass Jalousie affair that I had swapped out two panels of frosted glass for clear for my old dog Lettie.  She would spend time looking out on the world from that door whenever we went out.   She loved that door, and it kept her entertained and off my furniture. 

Rack hadn't discovered the Lettie Window until last night.  I was sitting in the passenger seat of the car when I spotted two glowing eyes and a black and white face staring back at me.   Rack had gotten past his fear of the evil Trashcan Monster!

Finally, our little boy was growing up.  We got a chuckle out of him bending down to look out the windows, I guess I'll have to adjust that to suit his taller frame.  At least that one time Rack had discovered he could see out the door and look out into the world.

The strains of Chopin played on as we backed out of the driveway and went on our way to get our supplies.  But Rack had found a new view on life, classical music or not.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Can Someone From Key West be a Snowbird?

I got the call just 24 hours before:  Can you pick me up at the airport in Fort Lauderdale tomorrow around 2?

That's my fault.  After many false starts, David finally gets his week off.  It's January, and this is his week off from August. 

Time management issues aside, I'm glad to play host.  After all, I can always throw an extra egg on the griddle or make a double batch of something.  Is that really "extra"?  Not on your life.

So as the week progresses, I spend the time getting caught up on things.   He comes and spends the day with someone here who is trying to convince him to "move up here", or rather I should say "someone else here" who is.  Key West is a beautiful island but it "ain't what it used to be".

It is kind of amusing to watch someone on vacation.  They ask directions and get them wrong.  You'll get a panicked phone call from time to time, but by this point, David knows his way around town.  Since this is a very compact area, and he doesn't want to Do The Beach Thing, I don't have to move the car much.

No, you may not borrow the Jeep, I'll drive.  It's a stick shift and you are decidedly, British.

Besides, there's rumors of a Friday lunch at the big Chinese Buffet.  I'll make sure to wear the loose pants that day.

I've already repaired two of his computers, so I can put my feet up and let things happen.  He will get me out of the house at some point.  I know of this thrift shop that he likes to walk into and buy too many clothes to take back, and I could always use a new pile of kitchen gadgets.

The only drawback is the dog.  He's skittish on a good day, and while he doesn't mind David, this is His House after all.  So he's off his food.  I'm now feeding a dog in special places like under the table that he adopted as his second crate, or just setting the food bowl on his foot so he will have to move it to get up.  Lazy Critter, you need to eat.

Since the decaf has been disappearing, I will be roasting extra coffee too.  The neighborhood will smell nice before the fronts come in later this week and cool off the world for a while.  Roasting coffee in the cold weather will slow things down and throws off my brew.  Can't have that!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How Can Your Dog Dance To The North If Your Compass Is Broken?

Ever since the article came out, we've got something else to obsess over.  Dog Walk OCD, I guess.

In the early morning hours, walking through the city, we've come to notice that there's a routine.  It's not a perfect one but it is ours.

There was a scientific discovery that dog owners are chuckling about all over and now I join the ranks.  The idea is to take your dog out for a walk.  Eventually dogs will do what dogs will do and squat to relieve themselves.  When they poo, they will try to align themselves on a North-South axis.

Rack's compass doesn't work.  It may be sticky, but I've noticed he's not very good at it.  Even if he is pointing North in this picture, he just doesn't always find his way.

We will walk around 3 to 6 miles a day, and when he gets the urge, there is a ritual. 

First we start to speed up.  His pace gets a bit quicker.  Walking With A Purpose I suspect.

Then he will begin to veer off the pavement.  Not knowing why this happens, I begin to pull him back.  Steer him back to the walkway. 

Of course he's trying to go away from the street so I'm beginning to get clued in as to why he wants to annoy the neighbors and impose himself on their privacy.

So I have a 45 pound black and white dog stretching my arm out.  I'm pretty tall, but doing a Stretch Armstrong act is usually what follows.

Then the spiral happens.  "It's Time To Dance, Rack?" as he begins to spin around.  It is never always one direction, not so that we have noticed.  The path looks like a nautilus shell, beginning to curve inwards in ever tighter spirals when he stops.

Everyone then takes notice.  If the street points due North, has he ... nope!  The theory goes that you're supposed to have a dog that aligns themselves on a North-South Axis, someone has to find this dog's compass and give it a little nudge.   He just hasn't found his North yet.

Sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn't.

That spin may have thrown him off.  The dance can get quite frenetic, spinning around like a Whirling Dervish looks comical, as he does this spin around the drain thing. 

Perhaps he's distracted.  There could be a leaf moving on a tree 40 miles away in Miami and he would notice it.  You just try to point your butt when something especially interesting happens as you're spinning yourself dizzy like a top.  Go ahead, I'll wait, but don't fall over.  It could get messy if you knock over a lamp.

The reality is that the study was done with dogs off leash.  As fast as my Rack is, I don't think he's ready for Off Leash Walking yet.   There may be a dog he's friendly with a block and a half away and I was never really a fast runner.  Distance, yes, but speed, no.

Once he's settled in, science aside, the fun and games are over and the work begins.

Does someone have a plastic bag?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Home Repair and Sourdough Don't Mix

Hey what are you doing?

Getting ready to make bread.

Can you come out and hold the ladder?

Nope, got to make some dough.

You left this out.  What is it?  It smells like beer and looks like wallpaper paste that went bad.

I know, it's resting.

What is resting?


Mother what?

Sourdough starter, Mother.  I left it out overnight to "revitalize it".

Why on Earth would you leave wallpaper paste out overnight and how does that make it revitalized.

It's not wallpaper paste, it's Mother.  Mother needed to rest, it was getting a bit flat.

Isn't Mother a "She" and not an "it"?

No, Mother is an It due to the rules of English Language.  Mother is a Sourdough starter.   Remember, yeast plus sugar plus ...

Yeah, wanted to talk to you about that.  You turned the Fridge into a Science Lab.  I need to get the Chicken in there to marinade and you have all this "weird" stuff in there.  Ball Jars with beige and white liquids.  It's going to come to life and ...

It is alive.

...attack me!  What?  Alive?

Mother is alive.  Live yeast and bacteria culture.


Shaddap, you don't like Sourdough anyway and you don't eat the stuff at any rate!

What's this junk anyway?  Looks like...


Was going to say.

And you don't eat that so put it back.  Tastes great with Cranberry Sauce.

Leave it to you, you're the only person I know who eats Cranberry Sauce in January.

Reminds me, add Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce to the shopping list.  We are down to 1 spare can.

Ugh... ok...
So why are you boiling water?

Because Sourdough takes a solid 24 hours to rise.  I don't want the crust to dry out.   It doesn't get crispy when the top of the dough is dry.

You're going to tie up the oven again I see...

Makes better bread.  Good bread takes time.  Bad bread is "Wonder".

I thought you were going to make bread.  Why are you pouring Mother into the mixing bowl in the sink.

The bowl is clean, I'm going to build the dough in that with the dough hook.  We have the ingredients today.  Shouldn't you be outside painting something?

Yes, and will you come out and hold the ladder?

Are you sure you want me to "hold" the ladder?

Yes, Smarty, hold the ladder.

Ok, But can you go do something somewhere else while I get the dough made up?  One batch, split between Hoagie Rolls and Sandwich Rolls.

Leave it to you.  Little Moose on the Prairie.

We don't live on the Prairie, this is the Tropics.  That reminds me, we need cream, I have to churn butter and make buttermilk for biscuits.  Can you add it to the list?   We'll use the leftover to make Butter Pecan Ice Cream.

*sigh* ok, I'll take the hint.  I'm going out to set up the ladder.   Come out when you can.

Ok.  Didn't want to put you to work or anything.  While you're at it...


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Being a Mascot

Being a Mascot

At the age of 17, I attended high school.
Our school's mascot was the lion, and the rival's was a tiger.  I was the guy in the lion suit.

One day at a game against my school's rival, I was doing the typical cheering on the team and keeping the crowd happy.

Me and the other mascot would have small playful battles, like exchanging tricks.

I was so much better. Tiger became angry.

At halftime, the tiger challenged me to a plastic sword fight, and I obviously accepted. It starts and we exchange hits, hurting a bit. I was winning, when the Tiger got really mad and threw his sword down and starts punching me hard. I back off, angry, not wanting to continue the fight.

The Tiger mask was staring at me with it's smug tiger eyes, and I became mad. The Tiger waves his arms at the crowd, and gets applause. His back is towards me, and I rush towards him.

I plunge my hand into his mask and rip out one of the Tiger's eyes. He was scared. I knocked him down and jumped on top of the tiger. I beat the daylights out of him, probably broke his nose.

A ref pulls me off and takes me to my coach.

My coach says "What made you do that?"

I sat there for a second thinking and eventually I say, "It was the eye of the tiger, it was the thrill of the fight, standing up to the challenge of our rivals."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Man Who Loved Tractors and a bonus

The man who loved tractors

There once was a man who loved tractors, I mean he absolutely LOVED them.

He had tractor models, tractor wallpaper, remote control miniature tractors, tractor board games, even some tractor "Adult Literature" (which is not easy to find mind you).

The only thing that even came close to his love for tractors, was the love he felt for his wife. His high school sweetheart, who didn't mind his infatuation with tractors one bit. She didn't even mind the role play where she would dress as a tractor, he would dress as a farmer, and he would take her for a "ride".

Sadly his wife was struck one day, a tractor fell off the back of a transport truck. She didn't die until he was at her side in the hospital. Her dying words "don't blame the tractor honey" and with that she headed to the big farm in the sky.

Sadly, he did blame the tractor, he hated them now with all his mind, body, and soul. He went home and destroyed ALL his tractor related items, the toys, his wifes tractor suit, and even his collection of tractor porn. He put it all in a pile and burned it in the yard. What ever didn't burn enough to his liking was thrown into a woodchipper.

He then went inside, rarely leaving his home, for 8 years. Finally on the 8th anniversary of his darling wifes death he decided it was time to get back out in the dating world, plus the cute cashier at the grocery store had been asking him out for a while now, he called her out to dinner.

The restaurant he choose ended up being quite nice, good food, good service, great decor. But there was one problem, it was EXTREMELY smoky. So smoky that his date, being an asthmatic, was having some trouble breathing.

After noticing her displeasure, and trouble breathing, he started breathing in. I mean REALLY breathing in. Inhaling with such force that all the smoke quickly left the dining room, and went into his lungs. When the room was void of smoke he stepped outside and released it all into the night.

When he rejoined his date she asked "how on earth did you do that?" to which he replied, "I'm an extractor fan."

A Bonus

So a guy is getting ready to take his girlfriend to the prom and he goes to get flowers and there's this ridiculously long line, but he waits and gets the flowers.

Then he goes to get the limo and there's another long line he has to wait in and he hates it.

So he picks up his date and when they get there there's another line they have to wait in to get in, he's fed up with waiting now.

Finally, they get inside and his date says she's thirsty.

He goes to get her something to drink and luckily, there's no punch line.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Backyard View From the Roof

Always carry your camera.  You never know when you'll have a chance to take a picture that may speak to you in the future.

I wouldn't call myself a photographer, the next time I get paid for a picture will be the first.  But my pictures have made it into some independent movies and are all over this blog and other places.

I do enjoy looking at the back end of a viewfinder.  Once in a while I get a shot that some people, other than me, will appreciate.

Since the Great Orb In The Sky made an appearance today for the first time in about a week, I thought some sunny view would be perfect.

Being a homeowner, I see this picture and ask myself why I didn't bring the hedge clippers up there and take care of that out of control bougainvillea at the foot of the roof.  There are some things that are just easier to do when you're on a roof.   Unfortunately once the tiles get glued in place, I won't be up there again.  Probably not for another 15 years or more.

Seeing that I'm built for skating long distances instead of climbing them, it is probably for the best.  I'm really wobbly on a ladder and not exactly the most graceful in any case.   A bit ungainly for climbing is how I'd describe my own particular build, but we are our own worst critics.

At any rate, that's Winter in Wilton Manors.  It's supposed to be the Dry Season, but nobody told Mother Nature and at least the pool is not drying out.  After all, you could be in the Midwest suffering from a Polar Vortex and having outdoor temperatures below the freezing point of Carbon Dioxide.

No thanks, I'll take the rain.  At least the grass doesn't have to be cut this week.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Another Reason To Dump XP - Security Essentials Will Receive No More Updates

I dumped XP a while back.  I'm on a collection of old machines running Debian Linux which runs faster than XP does on the same hardware - Generally.

I also have two Macs, one running Lion, another on Mavericks.

The Windows machines are either on Windows 7 or the cringeworthy Windows 8.1.  Windows 8.1 does "seem" to run well, but the effort I have to put into making sure that the "Ugly Block Land" of the Start Screen has everything I want, and none of the chaff of their live tiles has turned me off of Windows.  I avoid using Windows 8.1 as a result.

There are also the security and privacy questions that I have about Windows in general.  Any software that "phones home" for updates is by definition a risk - whether it is a miniscule one or not.

The computer I use the most is a Windows 7 laptop, I'm comfortable there and will remain that way until I am forced off of Windows 7 for a business reason.

All that having been said, there are some folks who I Support/Chat/Help/Consult for (and so forth) that still have Windows XP computers that run every day.

Please upgrade those now.

Extended Support for Windows XP will be ending April 8, 2014.

Windows Update will cease to function.
Internet Explorer will no longer be updated and become even more abysmal to use in time.
You will be forced to use Chrome or Firefox for a "modern" browser.

Now the latest announcement - if you use Microsoft Security Essentials for your virus protection, you will no longer be able to get updates.

Seeing that I get an update on a daily or more than once a day basis on my virus signatures on Windows 7, that is a significant issue.

The XP user will have to pay for a virus protection program - and it is a big market with many names.  But by the time you get that virus, you won't be able to save your data.

I've had one virus hit this machine in the time I have used it - one year.  While that clobbered my computer, I was able to restore from a week old backup.  All my data is stored either on a SDHC chip or on a network - so I was safe.  The hard drive on the machine is not for "permanent storage".

Do you have that kind of regimen?

I have a good friend and neighbor who clicked on a link in an email and immediately knew he had a Cryptolocker Virus screaming at him that if he didn't pay 300 bucks for a ransom, his info would be passed to the FBI.  While that threat is bogus, it shows how easy it is to get a virus now.  For XP Users on April 8, 2014, it will get easier since they are already writing viruses to take advantage of back doors and other exploits.  At current 30 percent of US Computer Users run Windows XP.

At any rate, if you are one of those folks who can't afford to pay the 100 Dollars US for a copy of Windows 7 or 8, I strongly recommend looking into a free copy of Debian or Ubuntu Linux.   Since they run Firefox as a browser as the default, you'll be fine.

After all, why spend 100 for an operating system when a new computer runs around 200 dollars for a "beater".  If someone is running XP then their computing needs are a bit more modest than someone who needs a top of the line beast.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Reading Instructions 13 Years Too Late

I was having a thirsty morning.  I had already had a large mug of third-caff coffee.  Went down deep and smooth just like it always does in a big french press mug, and I wanted more.

Being the curious type, I wanted something a little different.

Oh!  How about the Espresso Maker?  I can make some Espresso!

I got the maker out, poured in the water to a line in the metal.  One scoop regular coffee, fill to the top of the filter with decaf, but don't press down - simply smooth it.

Now to the filter.  The dishwasher didn't really get all the grounds last time, so I pulled out the rubber O Ring.

I found out a few things.   The Espresso Maker was made in 2001 because they date-stamped the inside of the machine.  The other thing was that the rubber ring was shot.  It came out in a couple pieces, one big ring that left pieces behind because it was "oxidized".

Luckily, when I bought the machine I had gotten a spare ring from a company that is long gone.  I also kept the instructions.

You know, the British have a wonderful expression for this sort of thing.  It went "Pear Shaped".  Meaning not according to plan.  A "Royal Cock-Up".

Yes, I read the instructions.  They were written in many languages, English being one of them.  I should say "Engrish" as they were written as someone would if it weren't their strongest language.   Bless their hearts, these Italians tried.  Oh yes, they tried.  

Reading these things that I now thought of as "Stereo Instructions", I learned that I was correct.  Never pack your grounds, it will make for a bitter mug of espresso.  Don't use "too finely ground" coffee or else it will plug up.

It also told me that I had the thing put together wrong for 13 years.  So I put the metal filter in "upside down" - so that holding it so I could see it, the filter went in like a cup - high side of the cup pointing up toward me.  Concave side up.  Just like the instructions said. 

I scratched my head, then sealed the thing in place with the new ring.

It moved around... this wasn't good, but Italians have made espresso for centuries.  They invented the bloody thing!

I remember my "Off The Boat" Italian Grandmother and how she had exactly this same machine, or an earlier version of it, that nobody at the house could figure out.  It languished in the back of the cupboard before it disappeared long after Grandmother Rosa went to the coffee shop in the skies.

Having used this machine for 13 years with the metal filter flipped "wrong" I sealed it up and put it on the burner.

Walked out to the front room to do some tasks, I heard a disconcerting sound from the kitchen.

My little espresso maker was venting steam out to the world. 

Ok, sure, it's a cold day in Florida, it was in the 40s, and we could use the extra heat and humidity, but not from my espresso machine!  I gingerly rounded the corner and was greeted by a cloud of steam. 

"Stanley" would have been proud, I was emulating his steamer.

My stove was now colored tan from a cloud of espresso being pushed past that O Ring onto the burners.  There were little fireworks of grounds extinguishing themselves on the glowing red burner.

I stepped back.   Thoughts of "She's gonna blow, Captain!" came to mind.  Scotty wouldn't have designed something like this on the Enterprise, something was done wrong.

Reaching into the cabinet, I donned protective gear.  I didn't want an explosion.   Gingerly grasping the now rapidly warming top of the maker, I put a gloved hand onto the bottom and began to turn the machine to tighten the grommet and seal more.

I had to put out a flaming hand at this point.  The oven mitt popped into flames as it hit the red of the burner.

An explosion was averted, though.  The steam was focused into two hot jets out of opposite sides of the machine.  Two jets of coffee scented gas escaped and continued to paint the burner as espresso flowed slowly out to the top.

It eventually slowed as the water boiled off.  9 shots of espresso is not a lot of water to boil away at pressure, and I ended up with a truncated mug of brown goodness.

So what did I learn?  Either I can't read, or need a new pair of glasses.  I let the machine cool and vowed to flip the filter back the way it was before I started.

After all, 13 years of Espresso can't be all bad!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Roof Day Two - The Underlayment

I said before a Roof is a system.  It is a collection of parts designed to work together to perform a job.

In this case, the first part was the tar paper that was laid down once the old roof was stripped down to the plywood deck.

Having gone through a day of hammering, sawing, and general noise, we all took a breather.  I know Rack did.  I sure did as well.  Glad it's over with.

We went through the weekend with just tar paper on the roof, and it held nicely.  Having a front come through with some rather serious rains proved that point well.   The house wasn't as cool those days since instead of having terracotta reflecting some of the light back to the skies, we had a black roof.  The Florida Room was decidedly hot since there was nothing there as insulation.

The day started with Julio ringing my doorbell.  Rack greeted him with barking himself sideways.  Nice to know that Mr. Dog is finally finding his voice.

I was told that the work today would be quiet.  There wasn't going to be "that much noise" but it would be "Steenky".  His emphasis.  While Julio had a little bit of an accent, he specifically stressed that word and rolled it off his tongue so that he would warn me that we may be gassed out.

It turned out that it was Steenky indeed.

They chased my Jeep out of the Carport and took over the yard.

There was an ugly trailer that was spattered with tar which would cook the five blocks of tar that were delivered to the yard.  We had a delivery of sealant and tar paper to the roof, which was amusing to watch.  Most home improvement stores have to be coerced to deliver to the house, these folks delivered the materiel to the place it was most needed, 15 feet above ground on top of my house.

Tar is slightly less thick than candle wax, and more brittle.  You have to heat this stuff up in order to apply it.  This would be where the noises began.  I happened to be seated out of view of the window when this all started up.  By "This" I mean a rocket launch began that wouldn't stop until lunch time.  They fired up a propane jet to melt the tar so that it could be loaded into buckets which would be spread over top of the tar paper.  Then a foam underlayment would be bonded to the tar and it would form a solid unit to block the house from the elements.

The roof is held down by straps to meet the Miami-Dade Code for roofs.  It's not going anywhere, or so that is the plan.

There were five blocks of tar that got melted.  Each time they got dropped into that splattered green hopper, a giant cloud of Steenky grey sulphurous smoke would rise up and fill the yard.  Since the front was coming through and the winds were settling the cold air from up North, the winds were coming from the "wrong direction".  This meant that instead of the winds blowing the smoke off the property and away from the ocean, they blew the smoke toward the house and to the East.

In other words, the house smelled of Steenky tar instead of the usual mild cooking smells that any house had. 

Suck it up, it's time to deal.   The noise was more of an annoyance to me, but it sent Rack running off hiding whenever it happened. 

One thing we noticed.  Rack seems to be growing a thicker skin as a result.   His energy level was up and he was bouncing around once they finished laying all that tar on the roof.  The walk at 5pm was one you would expect with a puppy, full of energy and joy.

So putting up with a half day of a rocket engine in the yard, steenky smoke, and an occasional clomping around on the roof was worth the effort.

We have the underlayment down.  Next we have to wait for the barrel tiles to arrive.   That happens in one to three weeks when the tiles are made in Miami and trucked to us here on site.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Freshly Tarpapered Roof

It took the roofers a day to completely remove the old roof and place down a new layer of tar-paper.  A roof is more accurately called a "system" since it's a collection of parts that act as a whole.   Its job is to keep the weather out of the interior of the house and to keep the wood below it dry.   That's not really a big problem in the Desert areas of the Southwest, but here in South Florida, we get 50 inches of rain a year, 40 of them in the six months from June to December, the wet season.

After about 30 years the old one failed and we needed to act since some of those timbers were getting wet.

They ripped the old roof off in a morning, and in the afternoon they put up the tar-paper.  Yes, That Quickly. It literally was a frenzy of activity at one point.  Seated in the living room I heard in front of me one set of nails go right to left, and behind me on the other slope of the roof, they went left to right.

At The Same Time.  In Quadrophonic Stereo Sound.

The dog didn't calm down until Sunday when with all the stored up energy of a day of roofing and a day of panicking, he became a frenetic ball of black and white tightly coiled furred energy. 

For inspection they had bolted a ladder to the house, I waited for the right time to climb.

I had never been on the old roof and not exactly a climbing kind of person, I gingerly went up onto the new tar-paper to grab this picture and a few others.  Interesting view up there, you can see the neighborhood from a new angle.  Everything was in neat rows on the roof, as well as the neighborhood.  You couldn't see as far as you would expect since it had been more than 7 years since Wilma and most of the trees have grown back.

But at least the work was done - for a few days.   They will come back as soon as the inspection takes place to put down a layer of tar, then another layer of tar paper.  I'm told it won't be as noisy.   Rack will appreciate that as will I.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Shoemaker

The Shoemaker

When my grandma lost mobility, I would drop by more and more frequently to run errands and do chores for her.
Drop off the dry cleaning, rake the front lawn, that kind of stuff.

Well, I was cleaning out her attic for her one day and I found this old army uniform and took it down, I said hey grandma, what's the story of this?

It turns out, it's my grandad's old army uniform.
Yeah, no fooling. My grandad, who'd been dead for years.

Well, I started going through the pockets - I didn't know what else to do with the thing, so I just started going through pockets - and there was this old, yellowed, crumbled, torn piece of paper in there, just barely legible if you looked at it hard enough.

My grandma asked me what it was, but I told her it was nothing. It was actually a paper from a shoemaker my grandad would go. My pop told me about it a few times. I didn't know if they were still around, or if they were still in business, but I swung by the address my pop gave me, and they were, and this man (old as Methuselah, I swear) walks up to the register.

I didn't tell him about my grandad's uniform or the history of the paper I had in my hand, I just showed it to him and he scratched himself and he grunted and shuffled to the back of the store.

He comes back, he looks at me, those ancient eyes, he looks at me, and he says yeah, I got your shoes. They'll be ready next week.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cinderella at 75

Cinderella at 75 years old

Cinderella was now 75 years old. After a fulfilling life with the now dead Prince, she happily sat upon her rocking chair, watching the world go by from her front porch, with a cat called Alan for companionship. One sunny afternoon, out of nowhere, appeared the Fairy Godmother.

Cinderella said, "Fairy Godmother, what are you doing here after all these years?"

The Fairy Godmother replied, "Well, Cinderella, since you have lived a good, wholesome life since we last met, I have decided to grant you three wishes. Is there anything for which your heart still yearns?"

Cinderella is overjoyed, and after some thoughtful consideration, and almost under her breath, she uttered her first wish, "I wish I was wealthy beyond comprehension."

Instantly, her rocking chair was turned into solid gold.

Cinderella was stunned. Alan, her old faithful cat, jumped off her lap and scampered to the edge of the porch, quivering with fear.

Cinderella said, "Oh thank you, Fairy Godmother!"

The Fairy Godmother replied, "It's the least I can do. What does your heart wish for your second wish?"

Cinderella looked down at her frail body, and said, "I wish I were young and full of the beauty of youth again."

At once, her wish became reality, and her beautiful youthful visage returned. Cinderella felt stirrings inside her that had been dormant for years and long forgotten vigor and vitality began to course through her very soul.

Then the Fairy Godmother again spoke, "You have one more wish, what will you have?"

Cinderella looked over to the frightened cat in the corner and said, "I wish you to transform Alan, my old cat, into a beautiful and handsome young man."

Magically, Alan suddenly underwent so fundamental a change in his biological make-up that when complete he stood before her, a boy, so beautiful the like of which she nor the world had ever seen, so fair indeed that birds begun to fall from the sky at his feet.

The Fairy Godmother again spoke, "Congratulations, Cinderella. Enjoy your new life." And, with a blazing shock of bright blue electricity, she was gone.

For a few eerie moments, Alan and Cinderella looked into each other's eyes. Cinderella sat, breathless, gazing at the most stunningly perfect boy she had ever seen.

Then Alan walked over to Cinderella, who sat transfixed in her rocking chair, and held her close in his young muscular arms.

He leaned in close to her ear, whispered, blowing her golden hair with his warm breath, "I bet you regret having me neutered now, don't you?"