Monday, June 30, 2014

Oscar's New Obsession

I don't particularly "get" tennis.

You buy tennis balls in bulk.  Hit them over walls and fences that never seem to stop that line drive.  Grunt and sweat, and try again.

At least it is harmless, even if I can't wrap my head around why people want to stand on a clay court on a hot summer day in the Florida sun.

It does have it's benefits though for us pet owners.  Those wild line drives.   I've found tennis balls around town.  I have found them a block away, which leaves me scratching my head.

I guess a Labrador retrieved it and lost interest.

Keeping a supply of them on hand, I tend to try for new uses for them.

I did try bouncing the things to try to get Rack interested in A New Toy.  Nah, he was bored with them.  Every so often he will pick them up and herd them into a spot so that they can be watched in case they escape and try to make a run for it.

Lettie loved the things.  If I bounced one into the pool, she would hover at the edge alternately looking at the ball, and at me, and asking if I would be so kind to get that for her.


Not later.


She was an intense dog.

But Rack seems bored by them.  He'll watch them bounce after things with a Jeff Spicoli stoner look on his face then glance back as if to ask "You really expect me to get that thing?  You don't know where it has BEEN!".

I even tried Lettie's favorite trick.  Slice the tennis ball open to make a change purse.  Maybe a two inch slice.   Stuff it full of dog food or treats.  Then roll it past the dog's nose.

You just gave a dog a solid half hour worth of fun.  They won't be back for attention for quite a while.

Two problems with that.

First, Rack doesn't have a prey drive.  None at all.  He sees cats, lizards, snakes, and other things that go bump in the night on a daily basis.  Nothing.  He got hissed at by one of the herd of ducks we keep running into here.  Muscovy Ducks are to be looked at and ignored.

Second, Rack hardly eats.  It's something I worry about, but am finding ways to manage.  If I put a bowl down it is more of a surprise than you would expect if he actually immediately ate it.   He may ignore it for an hour or so and come back, or just skip the meal until the planets align and it is once again The Age Of Aquarius.

Peace, dude.

I have to put his food next to his bed so he can dine in the middle of the night while I sleep.   Just lol his head over the edge and get the food into his mouth.

Strange creature.

That left me with tennis balls.  All over my house.  Under the furniture.  Wedged on top of the dog's crate door to hold it open.  Under my bed.  Gathering dust.

Some of them are slit open to accept some tasty morsels in case Rack changes his mind, but I really don't expect that to happen.

The other day, Oscar got loud in the way only a parrot can.  He started chattering and screeching to the
conversation I was having in the house.  Here's where the tennis balls came into play.

Oscar was inside the cage.  He doesn't like New Things.  Parrots are prey animals, so New Things may attack.  Guilty until proven innocent.

A New Years hat that was saved got put there.  Oscar didn't like that but it shut him up.  After a minute or three I walked over and took it off.   Oscar calmed town and went back to chattering.

Then screaming started again.

Out came the tennis balls.

He's not completely terrified of the balls.   He knows he can reach under them, and if he gives them a nudge in the right direction, they will roll off the cage.

Which was what he did.  No problem, he understands that he can do it and it keeps him quiet until it hits the ground.

So this time I grabbed the ball with the slit in it.   I have a plastic loop with a couple rings on the bottom wedged into the wires of the cage.  He has pretty much given up trying to move that thing.  It won't go.

I got the tennis ball with the slit in it and opened it to wedge on to the top of the loop.  There is a blue plastic ball on there that keeps it in place.

So now we have a tennis ball that won't move.

Oscar is smart enough to understand that he can chew the opening, and the fuzz.  Since there seems to be an endless supply of tennis balls here in Wilton Manors that go astray at the park, I'm hoping he destroys the ball.

I added another two to the collection just sitting on the cage.

This particular morning, Oscar got loud when I was making breakfast.  Since I was going to sit next to his cage, I opened the door.  I would see if he got into anything he shouldn't have, so it was safe.

Up to the top of the cage immediately to investigate those three balls.

Two got knocked off in short order.

Oscar tried to push that third one, but it didn't move easily.

Grabbing the fluff, he managed it to the edge of the cage but it didn't fall.

Poor bird, you've been tricked yet again.

After a good solid 10 minutes of this, he merely accepted it as something that just was.

Walking over to the corner of the cage, he fluffed out his feathers and went to sleep.  Dreaming of the sexy ring neck dove that comes by the window to visit, no doubt.  They could share their avian dreams of tennis balls that can be ejected onto the floor with ease.

There's always a human to pick them up at any rate and set them back on top of the cage.

Silly bird.

Who knows.  Oscar could just be trying to get the dog to fetch.  After all, Lettie would do that.  Oscar would toss the ball off the cage, and Lettie would tear after it.  I'd find the ball later under the bed or some random piece of furniture, but by dog, that was where she wanted it!

I'm still finding those silly things.  Right where she wanted it...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Medicrane

The Medicrane

Once upon a time, there was a small village of not-so-bright people. The village was terrorized by an evil monster known as the Medicrane.
Every few days, the Medicrane would lumber into town, muttering under his breath "Medicrane... Medicrane...", and snatch one of the villagers and take them to his den.

After a while of living in abject terror, the villagers went to the village Wise Guy (who was actually still of slightly sub-par intellect) to ask for a solution to their problem.

"What do we do?" cried the villagers.
"...Let's dig a hole!" shouted the wise guy.

"Why?" asked the villagers in unison.
"...Let's dig a hole!" shouted the wise guy.

"OK!" said the villagers in unison.

So the villagers dug a hole deep and wide along the path that the Medicrane normally took into the village. Later that evening, the Medicrane lumbered up to the hole, and said in a high-pitched shriek:

Then he walked around the hole, grabbed a villager and stole away with him.

The next day, the villagers again approached the wise man.
"What do we do?" cried the villagers.

"...Let's put a loon in the hole!" shouted the wise guy.
"Why?" asked the villagers in unison.

"...Let's put a loon in the hole!" shouted the wise guy.
"OK!" said the villagers in unison.

So the villagers found the biggest and fattest loon they could find and placed at the bottom of the hole.

Later that evening, the Medicrane again lumbered up to the hole, and said in a high-pitched shriek:

Then he walked around the hole, grabbed another villager and stole away with him.

The next day, the villagers again approached the wise man, this time more wearily and skeptically than before.

"What do we do?" asked the villagers doubtfully.
"...Let's put sugar in the loon!" shouted the wise guy.

"Why?" asked the villagers in unison.
"...Let's put sugar in the loon!" shouted the wise guy.

"OK." said the villagers, crestfallen.

Once again, later that evening,the Medicrane again lumbered up to the hole, and said in a high-pitched shriek:
The Medicrane let out an un-earthly roar as he dove into the hole and started ripping apart the loon to shreds and devouring the sugar.
After he had eaten it all, he noticed that he was trapped in the hole with no way out.

The moral of this story, my friends, is "A Loon Full of Sugar makes the Medicrane Go Down."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A 90 Year Old Woman was Getting Married For The Fourth Time

A 90 Year Old Woman was Getting Married For The Fourth Time

A news crew is there to document the story. The reporter asks the woman about her odd marital past.

"Let me get this right," he says.

"Your first husband was a banker.
Your second husband was a clown.
Your third husband was a doctor, and you're about to marry a mortician.

Why the menagerie of different men?"

She smirked and said "It was one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Reimagining the Desk - A Journey With A Stiff Neck

One of the earliest things that I had written about was my living room.   Specifically, I took a picture of my chair, my laptop, and the rest, and I then told the story of the Poang and how I tend to sit in my chair and write.   I also do more than that, all sorts of software development for fun and profit, as well as pretty much treat the thing as an office.

There's a problem.

I originally thought that it was a Tall Guy Problem.  It's not.  It's simply a problem.

After reading Reddit and the Tall Subreddit where people take random selfies looking uncomfortable because the world was not engineered for someone over 6 feet tall, I came to the conclusion that Mom was Right.

My posture had become awful and my coveted chair was contributing to it all.  Back pain, stiff neck, and general achy self were some of the things I had noticed.

Yeah I know, Hey, Bill, Take Control.  Grab the Reins.

Ok, Smart Alec that lives inside my head, what do I do?

The house I live in has my desk.  The desk is in the Florida Room.  That room needs insulation and since the exposed beams warm the place to another five degrees F warmer than the rest of the house as soon as the sun starts to bake it, I had abandoned my desk almost immediately after I settled into it.

Don't ask, it's too warm to use.

The Ikea Poang in the middle of the living room is under a vent and a ceiling fan redirects the air conditioning so it's comfortable.  I used to say that it was the coolest seat in the house, but I'm not so certain.

What I did was to relocate to the dining room.

I have an old 1950s or earlier solid maple table in there with matching solid wood chairs.  When Mom got this set, I took a liking to it.  I saw an opportunity when she started complaining that it didn't do well in her kitchen in Barclay Farms, Cherry Hill, good ol' New Jersey.  So I "helped her out" of it and it's been with me ever since I moved into my first Philly apartment.

After waking up with a proper stiff neck that never went away and some other disturbing creaks and cracks that were getting more insistent, I tried some minor changes.  It convinced me that while this isn't perfect, I'm onto something.

Ergonomically speaking, your eyes will track to the center of the device that you are using.  In my case it is a 16 inch wide laptop.  If I put that on my lap, it will create some problems.

The worst problem is that since I slightly recline in the Poang, the view to the laptop means that I am looking down.  In the more than 10 hours a day I am sitting there using the laptop, my head ends up with chin literally glued to my chest.  That is not a good position.  Not at all.

The laptop had to be raised off my lap and placed onto Mom's Maple table.

Good first step.  Now, slide back... great!  But those chairs are stiff.  Nobody wants to sit on an un-padded wood Captain's Chair for hours no matter how nice it looks.   Plus the angle is still "down".

I slid the chair aside, moved the Poang in.

It's much better.  My eyes are dead center on the monitor.  The picture I took from my right shoulder, while it is out of focus, is perfect for showing the view I get from the bouncy chair.

One problem.  I am an excellent touch typist.  Mrs Momarella and my good friend Donna W. from High School taught me well.

The laptop is just below shoulder height.  That doesn't make for comfort.  In fact, I tried typing that way for all of five minutes.  My hands nearly came off at the wrist.

Seeing that I can type with my eyes closed almost as well as I can with them open, I needed something else to happen.

I pulled the captain's chair out again and used it for a platform to set the track ball.   It's a big clunky thing that uses up my USB port and won't sit on the arm of the chair.  Since this is "work hour use only" no worries there, I'll just "own" using my dining room as my office.

One more thing.  Keyboard.

My old school IBM Model M Keyboard with the clicky keys!  Lets try that first. 

Nope.  It drains too much power to use on the USB converter thing.

Digging through the Parts Cabinet, I found an old Microsoft wireless keyboard.  That is on my knees right now just inside the picture.  It works "well enough" but I still want my PS/2 Keyboard.   Once I find my powered USB hub, I know that it will drive the keyboard I really want to use. 

Too bad you can't get those clicky keyboards with bluetooth though.   It's 1980s technology that will work because it's just that good.  Too well designed to toss with real mechanical switches on each key.  They weigh almost as much as the laptop does.  I have about 4 of them in the house buried under the bed because when people tossed their old PCs, the keyboards would end up at the computer shows being sold for a mint.

If 5 dollars could be considered a mint.  Now they go for between 80 and 200 US Dollars more on auction and reseller sites.

No, I won't share.  Get your own.  Besides, I may figure something else out with my coveted clicky IBM Keyboard Model M.

Yes, I have Ideas.

For now, I have my Tall Guy Adaptation.  It really isn't about being tall though, it's more about looking at how you are working and making sure you are sitting at the right place to put your head when you work.  When I touch type... I can set my head back and close my eyes, like this paragraph was typed.  If your are smaller and have a shorter torso, like about 95% of humankind, you can vary the height of everything so that you can work with it at ease.  That is why most "office chairs" have those adjustments to make things more comfortable.

But Laptops?  I'm beginning to realize that they just aren't meant to live on your lap for 10 hours at a stretch.

Besides, if you do, these days, you will end up toasting your legs.  I'll leave Mom's Table to handle that for me.  I'm nice and cool listening to music on headphones, typing on my lap, and resting my head back with my eyes closed.

Yes, I can do this with my eyes closed.


Writing can be an effortless experience.   If I could only have told my 12 year old self who was bored hearing about all that in English Class in Mr Custer's Sixth Grade Class in Stafford School on Berlin Road in Cherry Hill.

Boring as hell but useful.  Not everything can be an adventure novel after all.   Some come with a beige cover and will bore you to tears but you will use it every day of your life.

Just like that table and laptop combo.

Now oddly enough, before I wrote this up and headed on my little obsessive journey for desk nirvana, the Washington Post had written an infographic on this same subject.  I'll make it a point to get out of my desk and chair more often, or I'll at least try.

Since the poster is at this PDF link, it won't fully display here.   On the other hand, I see that picture below and think... Is THIS what I put my body through?  YUCK!!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mardi Gras Beads Scare My Dog

After all the thunder and lightning, I'm not surprised that Rack is skittish.  I should say, I'm not surprised he's more skittish than normal.

I shouldn't be introducing new things at this time of year.  He's not as Bulletproof with that sort of thing as my Lettie was.  He's a highly fearful McNab Dog.  Regaining some confidence is coming slowly and it is something I am actively trying to foster.

But there are times that I really have to wonder.

We had had major thunderstorms every day last week.  Then Saturday came.  Then hoards of people descended upon Wilton Manors.

Yes, we had the Stonewall Pride Wilton Manors street festival.

You know the maxim about parties, right?  If you are going to hold a party, invite your neighbor.  Preferably have a lot of goodies to eat and drink, and send them home happy, that way they can't complain?

I can't complain.  My home is so close to the party that in my back bedroom I was listening to Sheila E perform live when she was on stage at the end of the live music program.  Try to charge me cover to get into see that and that would be where I would have a problem with it.

So I went out to help.   I was out at the booth for my board helping to sell bricks for a while.  Wilton Manors Development Alliance is trying to build a plaza with the City of Wilton Manors' help and approval on park land in the heart of Wilton Manors so that everyone can enjoy it now and for a very long time in the future.  It will be a centerpiece in the middle of the central business district of the city when done.  The Children's Art Project now has a replica of the post card that originally advertised the land by the original development of the city of Wilton Manors.  There's a small plaza that we're dutifully filling in with laser engraved bricks with sayings.  The profits are actively going to build and furnish the plaza.  There is art there that has been created by and for the children of Wilton Manors.  Their work will help improve the life of the city for decades.

I sat outside and noticed that while it was hot, there was a storm starting to brew.  10 minutes later we were gathering up our artwork and trying to hide it from the monsoon that flew up.

All the while, the music never stopped.

When our replacements arrived, we went for lunch.  The rains stopped and restarted.  The party went on with light rains here and there that surged with the beat.

We got home and Rack came out of his crate wondering what had unleashed these loud demons that were stomping all over our neighborhood.

By the time that the parade started at 7PM, the rains had stopped.  The music throbbed on.

We came back in time to walk Rack, and he was even more disturbed than he was in the afternoon when we returned.   Poor little guy had just had enough of this commotion.

Luckily there won't be any more street festivals for a couple months.  It's just too hot in Florida in Summer for that sort of thing, although it's hotter in Philadelphia from now through a normal September than it is here.

Normal.  This is El Nino so we are watching things closely.  It's supposed to stop the hurricanes for a bit but give us more rain.

Rack won't like that.  More Rain.  More Thunder.  More Hiding.

When I got him back from the last walk of the night, Sheila E was singing her heart out.  I was enjoying her act from my bedroom where the volume was "comfortable", but I'm sure Rack would have loved the earplugs that I keep in the headboard.   He eventually had his dinner that I had put out five hours earlier and we both went to sleep.

The next morning, Sunday, I was up at Stupid o'clock again.  Rack was sleeping against the bed instead of being another six feet across the bedroom in his own bed.  Residual effect from everyone else's party.

We went out.   He stepped out onto the front porch quickly but sniffed the air with caution.  There wasn't a cloud in the skies at 5AM, cool too.  All that rain washed the skies clear.  We started to walk towards The Drive.

Rack did not want to go at all! 

The cleaning crew was still finishing up on Wilton Drive.  They had been out overnight.

I usually expect to find oddball things out on the drive when I go for a walk, especially after a street
festival.  You can tell that the economy is getting better in China.  The giveaways are better.

Aluminum party whistles emblazoned with company names and websites.

Scattered mardi gras beads everywhere.

Aluminum Drinking Straws wrapped individually in plastic.

Wait, what?  Aluminum Drinking Straws.  With company logo?  Have we as a species finally lost our collective minds?

Yes, exactly that.

I realized what I was holding when I scooped it up from where I found it sitting on a bench.   Perfectly wrapped in plastic about two grades thicker than it needed to be.   That will go to the trash-to-steam plant on Tuesday.

Laughing at this green aluminum cylinder, I headed Rack back to the house with my find in hand.  Between the aluminum party whistle and the big industrial strength straw, there was just a lot of recyclable materials that were being used in new and creative ways.

We trotted back to the house.  No storms, no dogs, no problems.  After all it was over an hour before sunrise.

Time for coffee.

Waiting for the water to boil, I spotted the Mardi Gras beads sitting on the counter.  Remembering that Lettie thought that those beads were hers as a fashion accessory, and that I have a 2 liter glass beer stein sitting on the windowsill filled with the things as a result, it was time to see what Rack thought.

I didn't see Rack for another hour.

I held the beads out for Rack to sniff.  It's new.  He was fine.  For now.

I held the beads up higher to put them over his neck, and Rack was having nothing of it.  He started to back up and then...

He's gone.

I guess introducing my dog to tacky plastic silver beads wasn't going well.

Calling Rack didn't work.  As he got to the corner to turn into the bedroom, Rack shot me a look back over his shoulder as if to say "Get Real, I'm Not Going Near That".

I'm used to him hiding, and we didn't need him to wear beads.   This is not New Orleans, this is Florida.  I can always re-home the extra beads.  After all, there's a plastic tree hiding in a box in the shed that they will look nice on come the holidays.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fort Lauderdale Beach Palm Tree

Stuck in traffic again.  Driving in Fort Lauderdale it is bound to happen. 

This isn't like the traffic of the Northeast where you can get onto a major road and move a mile in a half hour.  If a person on foot walks faster than your car, it's only for a block or two. 

I know not to expect a clear drive to the airport on Federal Highway when I get South of downtown and below the tunnel, it's just not going to happen.

Since there really isn't any public transportation worth mentioning here in the South Florida Sprawl, you're going to take your car. 

I don't understand how they thought that putting in a lane that you pay for on the road that you paid for with your fuel taxes and registration fees would be a good idea, then they added insult to injury by removing a traffic lane so that the "Lexus Lanes" would be more likely to be used.   Here in South Florida, that Lexus could easily be too passe and it could better be called a "Lamborghini Lane".  Either way it is bad public policy since you have to have the public transit in place before you restrict traffic.  Typical.  Just typical.

The rule is I-95 is to leave town or for Tourists.  The locals take the surface streets.

Sometimes, when you're feeling particularly daring, you can go home by the beach.  Personally I think driving by the beach is beautiful, but it is going to be slow, and it is somewhat out of the way.  Others will insist that it's faster than taking Federal highway.

You may be right there, but sitting in traffic for a block or a mile is not my idea of fun.

If I'm not driving, I'll do my best to shut up.

I did have something to keep myself entertained.  I had my camera.

I was taking pictures of all sorts of things that very late afternoon.  Close to sunset on a cloudy day meant that the camera's brain was going to struggle with things like Light Levels and my own motion in the car.  But the tree was there, in a gap between trash cans and volleyball courts, and it needed to pose for its portrait.

Of all those shots of babes and brawns, beach sand and lifeguard stands, this was the best of the lot.  Dark day, camera only went so far.

But it did manage to keep me occupied.  I guess instead of watching content on a TV I'm better off trying to be creative with a camera.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bee, Buttercup, and Mimosa

There is a duplex near me.  Two apartments separated by a "party wall".

Nondescript building set on a nondescript lot with indifferent landscaping done by an indifferent landlord.

Run of the mill place for anywhere here in South Florida, you could drive past dozens of them and not really think twice about them.

But this is Florida, The Land of Flowers "en espanol".

Everywhere you look there are flowers.  Wildlife is drawn to places where flowers bloom.  Even the weeds here have their own flowers.  It helps to break up a lawn from the insanity of growing turf grass in a place that gets 50 inches of rain a year, 40 of them in six months,  10 in the other six.

Feast or famine.
Flood or Desert.

Or so I have been told.

It is the same place no matter what you call it.  The native plants here have evolved to thrive under these conditions.  The same flower that grows in the Wet Season disappears or at least slows growth when it cools down and the dry season takes hold.

I had taken this picture because these flowers are beautiful to me.  They're simple, they're common since they are pretty much everywhere, and they are native.  I was told that they were Mimosa, but after two hours of research I was unable to prove what this specific flower was.  The leaf under it looks like a mimosa but it didn't fold up when I touched it.  The closest I could find to the flower was a picture of something called a Cuban Buttercup but that is a bush and not a low slung plant.  If I hold this flower under your chin it will show whether you like butter or not, if you're sitting in my friend Karen's yard back when I grew up.  This flower is larger than Karen's buttercups, probably twice as broad across.

The thing that I saw that was called a Powderpuff Mimosa kept coming up with a different flower and that
they spread fast.  Native species that will fill your yard if you let them.  Pretty plant too, something I will definitely consider when I finally fill in my garden.  Perhaps in the backyard under the hedges.  Since I am an expert at growing stinkweed and other noxious plants, this would be a pleasant change of pace.

I'm perfectly happy to chalk it all up to my own confusion and enjoy nature when it presents its sunny self to me.

Knowing that they were there and in bloom, that morning I had grabbed the camera, walked over to the yard and took the pictures.  They hunt the sun so to keep their blooms pointing at the light and warmth.  That makes it trivial to get a bright yellow picture.

While I was there, this bee visited.   Bees are my kryptonite.  I can handle snakes and frogs.  I'm amused by lizards.  I live in a house with a parrot and a dog, and none of them care about the lizards when they get in, but I can catch the little creatures and release them into my garden to go on their lizard-y way.

Bees on the other hand send me running and screaming.  I know that they have a very beneficial purpose but I just don't like them.  Maybe if they ate mosquitoes and didn't sting I could handle them better.  Having been stung twice in all my days I probably should handle it all better, but no.  I can do without them in my presence.

This one landed on the buttercup while I was taking pictures and I realized that the picture was much better with the creature on it than without it.  Wildlife photography in the urban environment!  Always take your camera!  You never know what you may find!

All that.  Veni, Camera, Vici - I came, I took the picture, I conquered.

Or some such.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Finally Missed One

I write an article a day, every day.

Or at least I had up until Saturday, last.

I was sitting at the laptop, looking at the machine, going through my normal grind and something happened.  I guess I got distracted by some shiny object.

At 9AM, I reviewed what I had written to go onto the blog.  That's pretty typical for me.  I tend to write off the cuff and get things done at the moment.  Off the top of my head.  For the longest time I was "A Week Ahead".  That slowed to "A Day Ahead".  Then I started having writer's block and ended up dipping into my Day Ahead and setting them off while writing something for tomorrow at a more convenient time.  My cushion was gone.

Weekends were easy, I keep a file on the desktop called "jokes.txt" where I grab jokes that amused me, change the language so that they could be broadcast on TV, then save them onto that file.  I'd post one on Saturday, one on Sunday.  Just copy and paste and then release, announce the post, then done.

But I slipped.  Who knows.  I'm a great multi-tasker, usually doing four or five things at once.  Well we all make a mistake from time to time, I guess that's why pencils have erasers.

That was the first time since September 10, 2009 that I haven't posted something and that next day was when I went to go to a daily post.  Coming up on 5 years.

I realized that I had done that when I woke up enough to look in the mirror Sunday morning.  Up at 5AM on the dot.  Stupid o'clock ... or so.

Those jokes aren't the favorite things to read by the people who have liked the blog on Facebook.  Yes, I'm there too.  The number of people who read them tend to be markedly lower than the weekday postings, immediately.  But they do get read by people out in the world.  Believe it or not, there are quite a few people who like to read dumb jokes about Moose and they end up reading my blog for a page or three.

It's all linked and they show up on your favorite search engine, whichever that one is.   On some searches, I am actually the first link you will find.   I guess I really do understand Search Engine Optimization, or I have an idea of what I'm doing.  Generate enough content and people will actually read it.

When I got back from the morning rituals in the house, the dog walk, and my first mug of coffee, I thought I might just blow it all off for Sunday as well.  Hey I took the weekend off!

Nope.  It's Sunday afternoon, I'm sitting here with a glass of iced tea, ducking laser beams from the sun reflecting off of two different properties, and listening to a generic dance channel, all the while writing to you folks.

I said it once a while back that I didn't know how long I will keep this daily article writing up, but I will go back to pre-writing the blog for now.   It makes it easier to Skip A Day.  I did that when I went to Key West.  Got a full two weeks ahead and took dozens of pics, then posted them for weeks after.  I think that happened the same time that they pulled down Old City Hall here.

There is a funny thing about writing a blog.  "Different strokes for different folks" is a great way to describe writing and content.   Some people actually look forward to my stupid jokes.  Others love the dog stories.  My recipes get hit very heavily.  This week there was only one article that I wrote within last week that was in the top five - the one about scrapple.   All the rest were heavy tech about Linux, Job Search Online, and the Biscuit article - in no particular order.

I do watch what gets read here, it's all about what's on the top of my head when I sit down to write, but I do try to write on a different topic and discipline each day.  I also try not to be too dry.  In fact, I'm reading this and thinking it's one of the more dry articles that I have written in a while.

Since it's going to be a crazy-busy week for me, I will take some more time and try to get ahead a bit.  That includes posting next weekend's jokes today.  Blogger will release them when I tell it to in the future.  It makes it easier for me if I actually remember to put something out there.

So if you actually do enjoy what I write, tell me and thanks, it helps to know and it helps to keep my brain cleared of the chaff.  Introspection is good for the soul.

If you don't then why have you read this far down?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

0 to 200 in Six Seconds plus A Husband's Temper

0 to 200 in Six Seconds

Bob was in trouble. He forgot his wedding anniversary. His wife was really angry.
She told him "Tomorrow morning, I expect to find a gift in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in 6 seconds AND IT BETTER BE THERE !!"

The next morning he got up early and left for work. When his wife woke up, she looked out the window and sure enough there was a box gift-wrapped in the middle of the driveway.
Confused, the wife put on her robe and ran out to the driveway, brought the box back in the house.

She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale.

Husband's Temper

A woman goes to the Doctor, worried about her husband's temper.
The Doctor asks: "What's the problem?

The woman says: "Doctor, I don't know what to do. Every day my husband seems to lose his temper for no reason. It scares me."
The Doctor says: "I have a cure for that. When it seems that your husband is getting angry, just take a glass of water and start swishing it in your mouth. Just swish and swish but don't swallow it until he either leaves the room or calms down."

Two weeks later the woman comes back to the doctor looking fresh and reborn.
The woman says: "Doctor that was a brilliant idea! Every time my husband started losing it, I swished with water. I swished and swished, and he calmed right down! How does a glass of water do that?"
The Doctor says: "The water itself does nothing. It's keeping your mouth shut that does the trick..."

Friday, June 20, 2014

If A Dog Whistle Doesn't Work, Try an Impression

What do you do when a neighbor goes away and the dog barks?

I had to train myself to train the dog is what happened.

Since houses in South Florida are really too close for comfort to each other, you end up knowing your neighbor's habits.  Even in my house in Philadelphia, I never heard neighbors.

We had bad windows there and I have to say that hasn't changed here.  At least the windows here all work.  I had windows painted shut and painted open in Philly and that was an annoyance that I kept until April 11, 2006 when I pointed my Jeep Wrangler South and never came back.

Too bad.  Great house, crappy windows.

Jalousie windows with four inch tall slats are built to let the air flow through.  Even when closed the house may have drafts.  In the storm a week back it even rained in the house.  I guess that's more of a measure of the storm than the windows.

But you do hear quite a lot through them.  As a coping mechanism I have music playing almost all the time at a low volume.   Trance music works incredibly well as an upbeat background music, plus I bloody like the stuff.

There are times when you want to go out and explore.  Generally for me that is when I take the dog with me and we do a lap of the Central Business District of Wilton Manors.  Other people don't have quite as settled a life.

My neighbor is one of those people.   Don't get me wrong, I like the guy.  He's been a good neighbor, and when he has a party he invites us over.

Helpful hint, if you ever have a party and expect it to get annoying, invite the neighbors and have plenty of goodies to eat and drink.  Jack knows how to do that well.

He's moving off in a couple weeks, so we'll have a new neighbor to break in.  But that does remind me of when he got his puppy Buster. 

Buster is a great dog.   A small to mid sized mixed breed, he looks like he has some German Shepard dog in him.  But like all puppies, they want to be with their pack constantly.  With confidence, that will wane.   Buster grew to be a real friendly neighbor too, and he quieted down.  I may have had something to do with it.

The first time Jack went off for a dinner at one of the restaurants here, Buster started to bark.  Repeatedly.

I wasn't quite sure what to do.   Since the houses are not that far apart, I walked out to the back window and talked to Buster.   He stopped barking then began to whine.   Poor lonely pup.

That didn't last long after I closed my windows up and went back to watching the mindless sit-com we had on the TV.

Bark.  Bark.  Barkbarkbark.

*sigh* Lets try that again.

Puppies.   It worked for a little bit.  

But not for long.

Being something of a serious geek, I grabbed the phone and started to search for a dog whistle program, and found it.   It wasn't all that effective.  At least with that dog and with the way I had my phone configured, the 23,000 Hz tone that it was broadcasting was ignored and Buster kept barking.

I forgot about the software and thought this through.

Jack is a big guy.  He's my size and build, so I put him at around 6'4" and probably a little heavier than my own 225 pounds.  He also has a deep voice, about an octave lower than my own.

So I walked out to the back window and said in my own voice "Buster! NO!".

Sort of worked.  Hmmm...

I wasn't out of the back bedroom before "Bark!".

Lets try that again.

This time I tripped over my old shoes I keep next to the weight machine in the bedroom.   But Buster barked.

I summoned my inner "Jack".   You guessed it, I did a terrible impression of Jack saying "Buster! NO!".

It worked.   I was able to go back to the front room and finish my sit-com.

Buster was still a kid at that point.  Barely out of being a puppy, he still wanted Dad, so I had to try this again.

"Buster! NO!" in that booming false-Jack tone.

Well, how about that.  Worked again!

I'm onto something.

Since then I found my voice dropped as low as I could manage, booming over the fence worked better than a piece of free software that stopped as soon as the screen went dark.

When I told Jack what was going on, he was surprised, but then he started laughing when I started talking back to him in this send up of his own booming voice.

I guess a Bass trumps a Treble in a Dog's life.

I do have to watch using that now.  Rack gets scared and can't figure out what to do.  He either will run off and hide or try to help by herding me out the door.

I don't herd well.  Moose generally don't herd well.  But that's ok, I'm the alpha in his eyes, and Rack will accept that.   My own being loud he doesn't accept as well so I use it sparingly.

Through the ensuing years, Buster has gone from being a baby to a teen, and on to being an adult.   His barks are much more purposeful and much less annoying.

He has taught me one thing.   I have to get better at impressions.  I could do so many voices and accents that I could easily do voice overs and voice acting, but speaking "Dog"?  That's a different language altogether.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Oh Scrapple, Why Do You Taunt Me?

They say that South Florida is the Sixth Borough of New York City.

I think that's a bit inaccurate.

A better title would be "Little New Jersey".

It's chock full of refugees from NYC, of course.  I can even find a good Brooklyn Bagel here, and I know of a decent Jewish Deli if I choose to drive a bit.

Lox, Bagels, and Cream Cheese... Yum!

But I can also find Philadelphians by the Septa Train Load, People from the "Pennsylvania Dutch" areas out by Lancaster and Reading, and folks from Connecticut by the Fishing Boat full.

We're all here.  I personally think Broward County is "Little Long Beach Island" because it's mixed pretty thoroughly of New Yorkers and Philadelphians.

That Philly Pretzel place nearby even has a Drexel University flag inside it.

So I wasn't completely shocked when I went to the Big Publix in downtown Fort Lauderdale and found some Habersett's Scrapple.  The one near me in Wilton Manors has packets of Taylor Ham, which was a treat too.

If you know either of those products, you are from an area that is roughly 150 miles from around the Liberty Bell in Center City Philadelphia, know someone from there, or just got curious when you saw them in a random shop.

Both of those are what are loosely called "Breakfast Meats".  Fry them up like you would bacon.  Serve with your eggs in the morning.

In this case, I served my Scrapple with a 2 egg onion omelette on top of a home made rye bagel with some extra sharp cheddar.  Not a light breakfast, but I finished it off with my coffee and that was it until lunch that day.

Scrapple is vaguely like sausage.  It's sold in a brick, frozen.  Like sausage you don't really want to know what's in the stuff.   Other than corn meal, spices, and perhaps some thickeners, it is a Pork Product.  Everything but the oink, as we say in Philly.

There are two schools of thought, either thick and creamy or thin and crispy.  You slice the stuff off the brick, toss it in a skillet, and fry it up.


But in my case, I'm being taunted.

I prefer mine creamy in the middle, crisp on the outside. 

First things first, that slicing bit.

I remember my father on a weekend morning.  Only on the weekends.  Saturday or Sunday, and you will like it.  Get the picture?

He'd fry up the slab of Scrapple in the skillet, getting it good and crispy on the outside, hot and creamy inside.  Served just as I like it.  Yeah, Dad taught me how to eat the stuff, I'm sure your parents broke you like that too.

Except there's the rub.  That slicing of a slab.  Doesn't go so well.

I have a habit of making things in "prepared serving sizes" like they're listed on the package.  Two ounces of the stuff is one serving, 120 calories.  Not terrible.  Except that that is an eighth of a brick.

How do you slice an eighth of a brick of frozen sausagey-like goodness into a skillet? 

You don't.  You thaw it when you get it home from the Big Publix that you park on top of, or the Acme in Roxborough in Philly, or even the Shop Rite in Cherry Hill.   Put it in the refrigerator on Friday Morning.  Saturday Morning it will have thawed enough to be sliced.


Now you have a roughly 37 degree Fahrenheit, 2 degree Celsius block of grey gritty gooey block of Pork and Pork By Products with Spices.  Cut open that Red and White package.  Some undefinable liquid leaks out.  The package is briefly looked at and then you realize that the Quixotic desire to be thrifty is pointless and you reach under the counter for a plastic container to place the remnants in. 

Lay the Scrapple block lovingly on a "Cutting Plate".   You want an eighth of the block for your serving, right?  Go to the knife drawer and select the sharpest blade you have.  You will need it.  Walk over to the cupboard and grab a ceramic coffee mug and sharpen it on the bottom, or just use your sharpening stone.

No, really, you need deadly sharp here.  The dog will now be curious, this would not be a good time to step on his feet.  Be careful there.

Look at that block of Scrapple lenghtwise.  Lovingly draw your blade on the top to mark but not cut it in half.  Cut each half in half, then each in half again.  You have just approximated eight pieces.

Yeah you could just toss the damn thing in the skillet and make a monster scrapple but where's the fun in that?

Now look at your eight even pieces.  The outermost one needs to be cut off the block. 

As you draw back that deadly sharp knife through the slightly gelatinous gritty block of savory goodness, you realize this won't go well.   It begins to break apart like a meteor hitting the atmosphere.  Instead of getting a thick slab of grey goodness to toss in the skillet, you have three "large" pieces, and a pile of grit.

Cursing at your luck, you walk across the kitchen to the preheated skillet.   I can't heat it up too high because the skillet has a non stick surface and if you have a parrot, that will kill them if it scorches.  You had better have greased the thing up because if you hadn't you're going to make scrapple crumbles.  Even now, you have a pile of grit to toss to the flames.

Here's where I got creative. 

I had saved a couple ceramic tiles.  They're nothing special being from my old kitchen in Philadelphia.  Some day I will incorporate them into this house here.  For now, they're wrapped in aluminium foil and used to press things down to flatten them in my skillet.  They're my very own "Fryer Blocks".

I take my Scrapple crumbles, and edge them together.  Pressing down with the Fryer Block, I am able to roughly reshape the crumbles into a solid mass.

Now, patience is a virtue.  Cook them until the bottom crisps up.  I can't tell you how long that is.  I went out into the next room, found some wire and needle-nosed pliers for a project, made two copper loops, finished cleaning the counter, and started roasting a batch of coffee in the time it took to get that brown scrapple look that I wanted.  Five Minutes a side?  Six?  Ten?  I just don't know!

With a plastic spatula, I tease the scrapple up from the bottom of the skillet.   It wants to stick, but this stuff has a sheen of grease, a gift of the Pork goodness inside.  Flip it over and hope that it won't fall apart.

It did, push it back together, and use that Fryer Block to re-form the thing roughly back into a square.

Walk away.  More patience.  More time.

The dog is getting curious, the parrot is begging by saying "Hello!" and blowing kisses.   They both want some of your scrapple-y goodness.  But no, Dad was right.  This was a special thing.  This is Scrapple.

Not for dogs!
Not for parrots!

Has it been long enough?  Worry the edge up.  Did it stick?  No!  Tease the now thin Scrapple cookie up off the skillet.   Place on the cheese to warm and melt it into the bagel.

The egg you scrambled will get poured onto the onions that are now translucent with sweetness, your weekend breakfast commune with Dad will come soon.   Reaching through the years, you taste the savory goodness and smile.  I think of the Stoltzfus and Yoders in the Pennsylvania Dutch areas and thank them mentally for passing this recipe on through this day.

This was a good breakfast.  But it just doesn't stick together, no matter how tasty it is.  Not to worry, I'll try again tomorrow.  I have another slice to make.   Maybe I'll get Dad's old Cast Iron skillet out.  Really go Old School on this Scrapple thing.  Serve it with some pancakes and real Vermont Maple Syrup.

A slab of crumbly creamy crispy crusty heaven on a plate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Training Rack to go Off Leash at 5AM

This isn't the kind of thing I'm going to do later in the day.   It is a special treat at this point.   I think it's going to go well, but we have some learning to do.

When I get up early, at Stupid O'Clock, that means that my dog does as well. 

This particular morning, the clock was glowing a teal blue "5:00 AM" from the window well across the room.   I growled at it and grabbed my socks to start the day.

We did manage to get out for a lap around town early.  Earlier than most.  There is always someone out and about here, it's one of the things about living in a semi-urban Wilton Manors.  You're never quite alone.

While there are some very set times people will walk their dogs, my own timing floats around depending on how late I had that last glass of water or whether dinner was to large or small.

I got Rack prepared for a wander and we left the door.  Soon we were at Wilton Drive.  He had watered a couple Yard Rocks, a palm tree or three, and some lizards that weren't quite fast enough to get out of his way. 

Silly wet lizard, I don't want you climbing me either.

Having actually done all of his business we walked into the parking lot and South on the Drive.  This is the part that Rack hates. 

I mean HATES.

You see, my fearful dog jumps out of his skin when he hears loud noises.  I broke him of snooping the trash can and climbing on furniture by leaving small metal bowls out.  Knock a small metal bowl off of a trash can in the kitchen and it hits the Ecru Colored Florida Tiles with a crash.   That's followed by the sound of four paws "ripping tire" as fast as they can trying to get a purchase in order to propel 45 pounds of Mc Nab Dog forward as quickly as humanly possible.

Or would that be "caninely possible"?

Either way, it's fast!

We hear the roar of a tricked out Japanese import firing up through the three gears with a wheeze and a fart.  Nothing like taking a $5,000 car and making it worth less by adding another $1,000 worth of useless crap to make it louder than the diesel roar that comes out of the E-16 Fire Truck that it just passed going too fast.

Rack didn't like that.  He flattened against the walkway until it left.   From that point on, my arm was stretched until we got off that Drive.

He has a similar reaction to the 50 Bus whether Northbound or Southbound, the Entenmann's truck heading downtown, Kirby's F250 Diesel, and just about any other loud noise.

I don't blame him about that Entenmann's truck, that bloody thing is LOUD.

Rounding the corner, we're off drive.  I'd had enough of being towed.  I'm 225 pounds of Moose that wants a leisurely stroll at Stupid O'clock :30 and not to be in the Southernmost Iditarod.

So what do I do?  I drop the leash.

He walks about 20 feet and stops.  Nobody is around.  If it weren't for the air conditioning compressors, we'd hear crickets.

"Rack."  I say at a normal conversational volume.

Rack turns around, smiles, wags his tail and trots back to me.  I'm glued to the side of a dog as he resumes normal walk position.  Reaching down, I get his purple leash, and we begin to walk.

I let him walk until he's got my arm pulled forward stiffly.  Then I drop the leash again.

We repeat the ritual.  After about 20 feet, I see a smiling face with nut brown eyes looking at me.  This time I didn't have to call him until after he stopped.

"Hey, I'm back here."

He trots back and glues himself to my calf.  I think he likes this, the goofy guy wandering off but not too far.

We go deeper into the neighborhood, still nobody is around us. 

Walking past the house with the two badly trained barky dogs, I am thinking it's time for another try.  He actually walks with me for a bit but slowly pulls ahead.   I'm not awake, haven't had breakfast or coffee, and not into running anyway.


Barky dogs start barking out of control.  I hear the woman inside yelling at the dogs.  It's still only Stupid O'clock :40.   I smile to myself as Rack glues himself to my right calf.

"Good boy!" as I pet his smiling face.  "Let's Go."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Online Maps Are Going To Get Better Detail

I admit it, I'm a map geek.  I guess, I'm just a geek and maps are another symptom.  I'd be that guy sitting around in a dark office with a big screen and big wide eyes, flying around surveillance cameras and satellite feeds looking at things from outer space.

I'm fascinated with things like borders.  That feeling of "Otherness" that exists because someone drew a line somewhere and said "This is mine, that is yours" always fascinated me.  Growing up in South Jersey, state borders were irrelevant except for car number tags.  TV, Radio, and Media came from Philadelphia, and "local" was Cherry Hill which was too small to ever hit the news when I was small.

The view from the 295 near the baseball fields near where I grew up.

Franklin Square in Center City Philadelphia.  You never really "went" there.  It's kind of cut off from the rest of the world in Philly but you can hover over the place.   I don't remember that fountain from when I was last there, probably in the 90s.

These days, I can endulge my inner Cartographer by playing with either Google Maps, Bing Maps, or perhaps one of the others.  One of the first things I do when I am trying to find a place is to go online, plot the address and zoom in as tight as possible.  In cities and towns in the US, I have found very few places on a street that I can't stand virtually on the ground and look at the building and spot in question.

Other places, not so much.

When you zoom in on certain areas outside of an Urban zone, the detail gets fuzzy.  After all, from a satellite, one tree pretty much looks like the next.  You can expect a minimum resolution of 15 meters or 50 feet as a default, roughly.  That means that one of the dots on your computer screen will represent an object or area of 50 feet by 50 feet or 15 meters on a side.


Pretty much anywhere I was thinking to look within anything as small as a small town at random had "useable" resolution.  If I wanted to see the downtown of a small midwest farm town, Stanton, Nebraska, it was easy enough to do.

In cities it can get better.   The Czech Republic can go as high as 1/10th of a meter on a side which is 3.9 inches.   That's pretty respectable resolution all things considered.   It gives you the excuse to explore Prague from the comfort of your own easy chair.  A beautiful city, well worth poking around.

The view of the Prague Castle in central Prague is the above view, and that is without dropping that little man on the street.

The thing is that these graphics are getting much better.   Barring some self-important fool having their property fuzzed out, for the most part you can see just about anywhere from the air to some detail.

Viewing street level things are a different story.  Germany recently said "nein" to street view, and I seem to remember that they turned it off in Google Earth and Maps.

On the other hand, now I'll have to dust off my older computer that I have Google Earth installed on.  There's an inherent creepiness about Google's software that I don't care for.   You have to basically tell them what you want to look at on the map.  Part of the game.  I'm just not completely sure that all that information is something I'd prefer to share with them. 

While the software and use are free, there is one thing to consider: 

You aren't the paying customer. 
If you aren't the customer, you are the product.

So if you are comfortable being a product, your map playground has just gotten a bit more interesting.   You can always do things like walk along the Quays in Port of Spain, Trinidad for no reason at all.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Now They Want Us To Stop Washing Chicken Since It Spreads Infection

You always did it.
Mom taught you to do it.
Dad taught you to do it.
Maybe Home-Ec or a professional cooking school taught you to do it.

You pull the chicken out of the fridge, wash it well, then prepare it for cooking, right?

Nope.  The Food Standards Agency in the UK has found that you shouldn't.

Here's the back story.

The places that chicken is prepared, a slaughterhouse, are a pretty nasty environment.

Chickens are raised in cramped quarters so that you can have that drumstick at $.89 a pound. 

Yes, I blame you.  If you wanted "clean food" you will need to have a farm, and I don't see a back to nature movement taking hold.  Plus farming is a difficult job, I certainly wouldn't want to do it.

The chickens are in cages, and they tend to do what chickens do. 

Eat.  Sleep.  Poo.  Lay eggs.

You know, like normal, right?

All that poo gets on their feathers and on everything in the environment.

Once the chicken is killed to make that roaster you had on Sunday Dinner, the transformation to "meat" begins.  They remove the insides and are drained of blood.

Pretty grisly right?

Some of that poo is bound to get out.  Even if you were in a perfect environment, they still have to get the feathers off the bird, remove the legs, prepare the neck for soup.

Mmm chicken soup!

All the "innards" are packed up.  What can be salvaged will be used.   The intestines and other organs will be discarded.

Hopefully they can do all that in a perfect environment, but you know they don't.

More poo on your chicken, even if it is invisible.

So you get it home to prepare it.

I know, let's wash it, I'm sure there are icky things all over it. 

Well, you're right there are, but what you just did was to contaminate your work surfaces.  There will be a mist of water that collected those nasties, the poo, and spray all over your counters.  How is your immune system anyway?  Got some good kitchen gloves?

What's the solution?

If you don't actually SEE anything on the bird, prepare it without washing.  You are apparently just wasting water anyway and you know nobody suggested you use soap and water to wash out food!

Make sure you cook it fully, 165F is the usual temperature.  Get an "instant read thermometer" and cook your roaster until the meat is at 165F in the thickest part of the bird, usually the breast. 

165F is the temperature that the USDA recommends.   It will kill "all" bacteria.  Even if you have a weakened immune system, you're not going to get sick from that "dirty bird".

Dirty bird served with stuffing, cranberry, mashed potato, and a slab of cake for dessert, I hope.

You could convince yourself that Vegetarian or Vegan foods are the answer, but this is not a very good reason for you to go Veg.  There are some other reasons and some are quite valid like lower cholesterol and so forth.  But cleanliness?  Nope.

After all, those "bad spots" Mom would cut out of that tomato that had been sitting there "too long" got bad because of, you guessed it, Bacteria.  How did that get on the tomato?  Handling or "fertilizer" from the chicken that went onto your neighbor's table.  While you are at it, how about those pesticides?

Mmmm Chemicals!

So cook your food well - whatever food you choose to eat.  165F is best.  Get a good instant read thermometer and learn how to use it.

That's your helpful hint for the day. 

Oh, and if you do have a roaster, a good set of kitchen shears will help you "portion pack" it in short order.  Just cut along the breast bone and the spine and it splits easily without using a dangerous knife.  Make sure when all is said and done, the counters get wiped down with a strong disinfectant. 

Clean that kitchen, folks, you don't know where that chicken has been!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Two Old Ladies Were Outside On a Bench Smoking

Two Old Ladies Are Outside On A Bench Smoking

...when it begins to rain. The first old woman flicks her cigarette away, knowing it's going to be put out.

The second of the old ladies reaches into her purse, pulls out a condom, cuts the tip off, and puts it over her cigarette.

The first woman asks "What on earth is that?"
"Oh, it's a condom, they're designed to protect your cigarette from the rain," the second replies.

Now the next day, the lady who tossed her cig went down to the drug store to pick up some condoms so she can smoke in the rain.

She asks the clerk "Can you please sell me some condoms?"

The clerk is confused as to why this old lady would need rubbers, but in the interest of customer satisfaction, he says "Sure, what kind would you like?"

To this the old woman responds,"Oh, I suppose it doesn't really matter. Just make sure it can fit a camel."

A Man Has An Interview at the Zoo

A Man Has An Interview At The Zoo

A man has a job interview at the zoo. The man conducting the interview looks over his resume and finds it impressive.

"You're just the sort of person we've been looking for and we would like to offer you the position," says the interviewer. "But the position itself is a bit...unorthodox."

"What is it?" the man asks.

"Well, our gorilla died this morning, and we haven't been able to procure another just yet. The ape exhibit is one of our biggest attractions, so it's important that our visitors get they moneys' worth," the interviewer explained.  "Your job is to dress in this gorilla costume and just hang out in the enclosure. You know, entertain the guests, beat your chest a little. Think you can do that?"

The man agrees, and soon he is ushered into the gorilla enclosure, fully suited and looking like a revelation.

He stands in the middle of the enclosure and notices that a small crowd is beginning to form.

Remembering what he was told in the interview, he begins to lope around on his knuckles and beat his chest.

To his surprise, the crowd starts to grow, and soon the spectators are oohing and pointing and clapping.

Feeling confident, he grabs onto a vine hanging from a tree branch and begins to swing back and forth.

The crowd begins to cheer, so he keeps it up. Higher and higher he swings, until finally the rope snaps and sends him flying over the fence into the next enclosure.

Dazed, he sits up...and sees a pride of lions stalking towards him, looking at him hungrily.

"Help!" he screams, and begins waving his arms. "Help! Somebody get me out of here! I'm not really a gorilla! Don't let them eat me!"

Suddenly, one of the lions pounces on the man, opens its jaws and says, "Shut up, man! Are you trying to ruin this gig for all of us!?"

Friday, June 13, 2014

Even Weeds Have Flowers In Florida

After the storm comes the calm.

Apparently I slept through a whopper so I needed to go out and do a "perimeter search" of the yard.

Not a problem.  Things here are built to take it.  Evolution is an effective master.  A Flood of Rain with Heavy Winds and nothing fell out of the trees, no pieces of the house ended up in the neighbor's yard, and nothing was knocked over where it shouldn't be.

That's not exactly perfect.  I have a Bottle Brush tree in the front yard that I am hoping dies completely soon.  I'll be able to take it out on bulk trash day and let the palm tree I planted in front of it take over.   It's there just to tell the Bottle Brush Tree to grow or get lost.

So far, the palm is winning.  I have to walk out to the front yard from time to time, clear out the screw palm leaves that are there from a clump I planted under the Bottle Brush.   When I am there, I grab the palm tree and pull it roughly North to free it from the Bottle Brush's grasp.  The Palm grows fast, the Bottle Brush grows slowly if at all, and the Dog Barks At The Moon.

World War II Resistance Fighter Code Word Doggerel not withstanding.

All this went through my mind as I was bent double in the front yard pulling weeds.   Tuberous roots held fast so the plant will recover, but those little white daisy looking things are a nuisance. 

Even the bird's nest from the Northern Mockingbird is still intact.  The birds have left the nest and it is falling apart, but it has served its purpose.

I was wondering why the house was quiet yesterday.  Now I know.  Roofers are at a pause and the birds have fledged.

I'm once again an Empty Nester.

Off in the distance I hear a conversation float over the fence.

I love you.  I love you.

(oh this is interesting, do go on)

I love you, you know I love you, I love you.

I feel ugly now, no, I feel ugly now.

I don't care, I love you.

(Shaddap, it doesn't matter if you're ugly, he loves you!  Accept it!)

I feel ugly now.  (this was repeated about 20 times in order to shut down the conversation)

(I smiled at Rack, he seemed to hear it and on some level he enjoyed it.  Rack smiled back)

I left when I heard something about "Shut up, I'm going to tie you up, I feel ugly now".

Love does take some strange twists and turns when you are outside of the relationship.  But, I guess, Love Never Has to Say I'm Sorry.

However Love should use a soft rope.  Rope burns are a bear.

Come on Rack, lets go inside.  I don't think we're going to help and I need a glass of Iced Tea.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Lone Biscuit

What's That?


You're going to be hungry, I know you too well.

Yes, I know.  I'll add something to it.

Got More?

Yep.  Made 10 just like usual.

You are going to take a picture of them aren't you?

Sure, may as well, they're perfect this morning.

Not much of a conversation, but it went on like that.  Throwaway remarks on a half awake sleepy morning before things got thrown into cruising gear and life took its own rhythm.

I had to get the dog fed, myself fed, and do it all before construction started.  That wasn't too difficult, I was up at Stupid O'Clock again and I had plenty of time.

May as well make biscuits.  Biscuits and Gravy, Yogurt and Cranberry, and an Egg Salad Sandwich on Sourdough.

I got attitude from the dog, he didn't want anything until the yogurt came out.

The noise hadn't started so I had a fighting chance of getting Rack's food into him before it was too late.  Besides, I wanted my own.  Two tablespoons of yogurt on top of dry dog food doesn't look appetizing but when a ladder hit the ground from the top of a Ford F250 Supercab Pickup truck and Rack didn't do anything other than eat faster, I won.

Biscuits are a bit of Breakfast OCD with me anyway.  If I don't have them today, I may make them tomorrow.   If I don't, there will be some in the freezer ready for a 30 second radiation blast in the microwave, then coat with some sausage gravy and nuke again.

Not exactly the most healthy breakfast, but it's not all I'm going to have.

RACK!  Hungry?

Only got about 1/2 of a bowl into him.  Amazing, a dog who won't eat unless bribed.  The washer must have made a rumble since the storms haven't set up this morning.   Wet Season, Wash Day, and Construction, it is all destined to wrinkle your morning along with the washer.

The rituals of an early morning wrap around you like a warm blanket on a cold night.  Just a little bit of comfort in the shape of a round salty biscuit, smothered in pre-fab sausage gravy.  Sticks to your ribs, good for what ails you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are We Ready Yet, Or How Timing Counts With Feeding The Dog

Getting up early, at Stupid O'Clock, gives you the opportunity to stretch out and not have to rush.

Before the world wakes up, the city is at your feet.

Literally and figuratively I can go out and walk through the central business district here and see nobody from time to time.  It isn't quite a post-apocalyptic scene, there are always a few feathered creatures around to honk at me or an air conditioning compressor humming in the background, but it can be pretty quiet.

Even in February, those A/C units can be running, this is South Florida after all.

There are wrinkles to that solitude.  Plans do change.

About a month ago we had a real "gully washer" of a storm.  Now for someone in the placid Northeast where they don't get hurricanes, but now they really do, that would be a thunderstorm.   Now multiply that by another order of magnitude and that was what we had.

In the middle of that my neighbor learned the value of cleaning downspouts when the roof to the Lanai collapsed.   It wasn't a pretty sight, but we did get to see what shortcuts were done to that roof. 

Roofers in Florida.  There are honest one.  Then there are all the others.  At least that is the reputation here.

This is how you find out whether you got the honest one.  In a thunderstorm, microburst, or "weak" tornado, your roof will remain intact.  Or your Lanai roof could fold up and end in your pool and you could be staring through the gloom at your roof joists and be told by an inspector that "When you had it done, it was done wrong".

In this case that was about 10 years ago and four owners ago and now we have construction on the block again because that was probably "fixed" in the "Post Wilma" days.

At least my new one looks good!  I watched them build that thing, you could park a Jeep on that roof.  You could but you would break the tiles, so don't.

But for my neighbor, not so good.  He's patching it back up with the help of a swarm of white trucks that have the word "ROOFER" screaming on the sides.  It all starts around 8 AM.  About three hours after I got up this morning by my hazy count.

My fearful Mr Dog, Rack, doesn't like that noise.  Which is to say that trees are normally green, and water is normally wet.

In three letters, Duh.

Day number "zero", we had the microburst/T-Storm that moved people's furniture into the next yard, knocked over a tree into a car, and did all sorts of mischief.

Day number one, he hid.

Day number two, he hid more effectively.

We're in Day Number Three.   I have begun closing off hiding spaces.   On Day number two he hid so effectively that he was missing from start to plus two hours after they finished.    I know I have a dog in the house because every so often there is a muted jingle from the dog tags or the boxes stuffed behind the recliners in the living room move.

Why are there boxes behind the living room recliners?  So the dog doesn't go back there and hide and end up with legs under the chair.  If you visit, look behind the recliners.  That's where the boxes hide.  I really should just embrace that and put spare things back there like hurricane supplies since the dog has learned not to bother with them, but I am not that well thought out.


After all, we just got this year's hurricane supplies last night at the warehouse club.   Mac and Cheese anyone?  Just stop by in December!

Knowing that things will start at around 8AM means I have to prepare.

Dog walk is early, and the bowl was filled before we left.  He was dancing from foot to foot and doing that high weak reedy whine that dogs will do when they want out NOW! so getting him walked was a priority.

When we got back, if he didn't eat quickly, I would have to dose the food with dog biscuits or yogurt to make sure the fussy eater finished before the construction began.

Then let him back out in the yard.  He will sniff and water the coleus before things get going.

I settle in and make coffee and breakfast before it gets too late.  The dog will chase the morning opossum or raccoon out of the yard by simply being there.  The neighbor's cat knows not to be here either. 

Rack will do a perimeter search watering his way around the ruellia and podocarpus, then end up back on the deck.  This is when he stares at me.  Through the window.  He knows.  I am cheating on him.

I have yogurt.

Yes, I do, and I am getting attitude from a dog.

Just as I get to the door, I hear the ladders arrive from the top of their trucks.

Rack sniffs the yogurt, eats all of the white goo, leaves three strawberry chunks in the bowl and finds the corner.

Everyone's a critic.

It will be a quiet day.  Just the growling from the air tools and workers.  I may as well turn the music up on the radio, it will be a long one as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cashew Fruit and Nut? Apparently They DO Grow On Trees

You never know what you might find if you just open your eyes, take your dog for a walk, and keep that stupid phone in your pocket.

I had been reading about an effort to put the fruit of a cashew tree to use.  The trees grow in India in some rather impoverished areas, and anything that would actually help the people in that sort of situation is sorely needed.

The Clinton Foundation had partnered with some of the farmers there, and with Pepsi Co., will be trying to use the fruit to make a beverage.  Usually the fruit is thrown away to get the Cashew Nut that we've all had.  It is high in anti-oxidants, and has a taste that was described like a Mango.

Feeling that that was not going to be something I ever expected to experience, I went on with my day.

It had come time to take Mr Dog for his second of three walks around town, and I was out on my own for this one.   We've got some strange plants growing here.  Wilton Manors is not an old city by my standards coming from Philadelphia, but it has been here long enough to have the original homes settled and the trees planted are mature.  People would plant things for their enjoyment, for shade, and food.

There are many fruit trees here, and they always catch my eye.  The neighborhood I grew up didn't have any fruit trees along the sidewalk, although the pin oak trees that were planted when the houses were built are now quite tall and create a lot of shade.  The acorns there only feed the squirrels.

Having food grown by the road is a bit of an odd thing.  Food grows in a supermarket, not in a yard in suburbia.

So finding something that is edible and that you never saw before was a shock.  Having just read about this the day before it was also on the top of my mind.

I saw the small yellow orange fruit hanging from the tree and remembered it.  When I got home, I said to Kevin that we have some real exotic trees in this town.  A neighbor has a Cashew Tree, and it's gone to fruit!

There were dozens of fruit there that were on that tree, I explained, and just thought it was another quirk in this quirky little island and filed it away with the rest of the detritus of suburban life.

The next day we both walked past that house and commented to the owner about the tree.  They knew about it and told the story that the construction workers that were building the "Bunker House" next door were from The Islands.  They came by and asked for the fruit, if it wasn't going to be eaten.  The owner gave permission since they didn't really want to try the stuff, and in short order the tree was swarmed over and cleared of fruit.  There were a few nuts left on the tree, but the fruit was gone.

Apparently they have a lot of Cashew trees in Trinidad and the fruit is a delicacy there.

He offered us the one lone fruit that got missed and we happily took it as a curiosity.

I got it home and took the picture, laughing to myself saying that I had to look up how to eat the stuff, who knows what strange preparation you need to do to it.

The nut portion hangs under the fruit and has a coating inside the shell that is poisonous.  That is why all the Cashews you find in a store are in a jar and are pre-roasted for your pleasure.  This black sap that coats the actual nut is not edible.

But the fruit was edible.  Actually, the juice was and I did try it.  It tasted like a Carambola Fruit, a Star Fruit.  The juice from this little fruit coated the inside of my mouth and an hour later I was still tasting it.  It was not very sweet, but an interesting taste all the same.  Then again, I like tropical fruit.

After sucking the husk dry of that fruit, I took the nut out to the yard and stuck it in a pot on my irrigation chain.  It may grow, and if it does, it will go into the ground.  Those trees don't get that tall here, and are a good shade tree.

The Cashew is a true tropical tree, and since the freeze line is in Boca Raton on Clint Moore road, we're not going to freeze.

Yes, I'm 10 miles south of the freeze line.  No snowballs here.

I did manage to find a video of someone in a Cashew plantation eating one fruit right off the tree.  So we were a bit over the top in how we handled it.  The fruit has a strong almost acrid scent to it, and I would have to wonder whatever possessed the first person to decide that this strong smelling thing would be something to eat.  On the other hand, knowing what it was, I would have it again.  It was "interesting" in a way unlike anything else I have ever tried..

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Tree Eats A Honda, or When A Micro Burst Attacks

It started when I looked up from what I was doing.  The skies were getting dark and we weren't supposed to have rain that day.

Checking radar it was clear.

Then a dot formed about 1/2 a mile away in the "bad neighborhood" of Fort Lauderdale South of us.

The next radar frame came six minutes later and that dot was now covering Wilton Manors with green.  It's not a big place, one mile from North to South, three miles wide.

Six minutes later we already knew it was starting to rain.   I was watching it from the kitchen window splat the pool with giant water drops.  It went from nothing to that in an eye blink.

Putting the water on, I was making Mac and Cheese for lunch.  By the time it was off the stove and I was mixing the cheese sauce, the rain was biblical. 

From stove to table in 12 minutes, the storm blew up.

It then got weird.

The mangoes fell from the tree across the street, their fence fell over onto the car next door in the duplex.
Aunt Betty's chair blew from my front porch into Kevin's car in the driveway.
The flag flew then flew over the house and landed in the bougainvillea out back.
It was raining through the Jalousie windows and hitting the back of my neck.   It never rains inside the house, or even gets the front windows wet unless it's a real gully washer.

FLABOOM!  Well, you get the picture.  The lightning strikes were within a property away.

This was rain unlike anything I ever expected, and since I moved to Florida after Wilma, I haven't experienced what it was like to have Mother Nature act like a Real Mother.

Moving my Mac and Cheese to the interior of the house, the lightning took out first the Internet, then the electric power in short bursts.  It went out for an hour or so that time.

I managed to finish lunch while the winds howled like a freight train, but only for a few minutes.  The green blob on Radar had turned yellow, then orange, then red.

Luckily that freight train sound was brief, the lightning started to shift from the front of the house to the back signalling that we weren't sitting at the epicenter of the cell any more and it was moving South. 

Since Radar had been stuck with no Internet to feed it, I hibernated the laptop.  The rain went from Biblical to merely a monsoon, to rain and petered out over the next half hour.

Going outside, we gathered up Betty's Chair and got the flag out of the backyard.   The chair survived, the flag was in tatters from the trip along with the pole that had a neat bend in the middle approximating 90 degrees.

That won't work, plus who uses a metal flag pole in Florida anyway?  Lightning rod would be a better description.

At that point we started hearing about the tree that fell over from our neighbor Bill.  He had taken his truck out for a lap around the neighborhood and said a tree in the parking lot of the Shoppes had fallen over.  Since we still had no internet and power, we were going to take Rack for his walk, then a ride down to Kevin's office to check things out there. 

I brought a camera.  Bill was right.  It was a Honda Civic being eaten by a tree.  According to Bar Security, the guy who owned it had only "PIP" insurance so this wasn't going to be covered.  The pavement under the tree had been lifted up and dropped by the tree falling, and roots under the pavement were severed by the falling.  Just that morning I had walked Rack through that same spot thinking that a tree root pulling up the pavement meant the tree couldn't have been all that stable.

I guess I was right.

Getting Rack out into the car after our walk around town, I noticed that the further from Wilton Manors we got, the less damage there was.  The heat island effect of downtown Fort Lauderdale forced the storm around it.  It swerved to the Southwest of downtown Fort Lauderdale, then went South by way of the Fort Lauderdale Airport.   A lightning strike there left a crater in one of the runways.  I guess they were out there fixing that because as we drove south to the office, we watched a jet take off over Federal Highway, heading East over the ocean before turning North to its destination.

Funny how these things crop up from time to time.  A Lightning strike can hit 10 miles away from the cell itself.  You wouldn't even know what hit you.

By the time we hit the SE 17th Street Causeway area, it looked like a passing sunshower had gone by, nothing really notable.