Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Man Wants To Cross A Bridge

A Man Wants To Cross a Bridge

...but a knight won't let him unless he answers three questions correctly but with each wrong answer, the knight promises to cut off parts of his body.

The man agrees. The first question is incorrect and the knight chops off his arms.

Likewise, the second question is incorrect and the legs were sliced off.

Lastly, he answers the third one incorrectly and off his head goes when the knight separates it from its torso.

"Shall we have a fourth question?" Asked the knight.

The man replied, "I should quit while I'm a head.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

More Mommy, Mommy? Shut Up And ...

Mommy, Mommy! Why can't we give Dad a decent burial?
Shut up and keep flushing.

Mommy, Mommy! Daddy's on fire!
Shut up and get the marshmallows!

Mommy, Mommy! Daddy fell in the campfire!
Shut up and get the barbecue sauce!

Mommy, Mommy! Daddy's running down the street!
Shut up and step on the gas!

Mommy, Mommy! I don't want to see Niagara falls!
Shut up and get back in the barrel!

Mommy, Mommy! I want to play with Sheldon!
Shut up and close the coffin!

Mommy, Mommy! Is this the way to make pickles?
Shut up and get back in the barrel!

Mommy, Mommy! Daddy went through the meat grinder!
Shut up and eat your hamburger!

Mommy, Mommy! How will we ever find Daddy on this golf course?
Shut up and search the sand traps!

Mommy, Mommy! I've lost my fingers!
Shut up and eat your french fries!

Friday, August 29, 2014

One Happy Dog

Have you ever heard of a Velcro Dog?

A Dog that is constantly under foot because they want to be with you always?

Never wanting you out of sight?

Glued to your legs?

Sleeping at your side?

Rack isn't it.

Rack will follow me around the yard, but not closely.  He takes a more subtle approach.  Where I am, unless there is something that catches his attention, he will be watching from a distance.

I was out back roaming the property, doing my own version of a Perimeter Search.  Before the heat of the day, looking at the foliage, enjoying the morning cool - or what passes for it, and generally just being there, I managed to keep both of us entertained.  It was one of those rare times where it was quiet, there weren't any pests to chase off, and even the Monarch Caterpillars couldn't be found on their milkweed plants.

I had the camera, so I was preoccupied with taking pictures and trying not to fall into the swimming pool.  Since there wasn't a lot of nature, I wasn't too successful at finding anything really all that interesting to take pictures of.

All the while I was being watched.

Why not point the camera at the dog?

The thing is, they learn.  In the case of my own Rack, he learns very quickly.  The lesson of the day is "Flash Bulbs Are Annoying".

Some people don't like walking around with a big blue dot obscuring their vision for up to about five minutes or so.  Why would you expect a dog to be any different?   Lettie was so insistent that she would turn her head away and wander off when she saw the little black camera in my hand.

Silly dog, I almost always have a camera in hand.

But Rack hasn't quite learned that level of contempt for what passes for Photography.  He may have learned that outside in the bright, the flash may not even go off.  I am not sure, but it is possible, he's a brilliant mind for a dog.

Remember though, as a Canine Police Officer said to me once: On Their Best Days, They're Still A Dog.

I took to entertaining myself.  I was looking for The Shot.  I got about 20 shots this particular day, and the best one was spoiled by my cutting his nose off.

Oh well, it's digital, and Rack didn't seem to mind.

As he saw me with camera in hand, he first started looking away and realized that the flash wasn't going off in the Morning Sun.  So what did he do?  Came for a visit.

I finally got to the point where I thought I had what I wanted and stopped the exercise.  Rack was enjoying the morning, sniffing the air, smiling that gap mouthed grin, and liking the situation.

Sometimes, you just have to step back and smell the night blooming jasmine, relax, and enjoy the day.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dragonfly on Bougainvillea Picture

There's something about a rainy week that brings out something new here.

First the new mosquitoes.  Hide inside for a day or two at dusk and sunrise or you'll end up feeding your very own flock of pets.  Trust me on that one.

Then two days or three perhaps, later, they arrive.  Gliding on the breezes, hovering over land and suddenly veering off to a random direction and gone.  Other times they'll swoop over any body of water for a drink.  The only way you know they got there is the series of small rings that show on the surface from their impact.

Dragonflies can be quite large, but this one wasn't.  It was basking in the golden hour, about an hour or two after sunrise, collecting its insect thoughts, perhaps pondering where would it find its next meal of tasty mosquitoes.

Tasty because they're fed by me, that is.

But breakfast hadn't shown its head either.  The air was clear of them, or so I thought.  My own hide not having been pierced yet, nor have I been considered a landing strip of the nasties.

This particular little jewel simply perched on a denuded branch that I created by going after the long vines of the bougainvillea hedge behind the Florida room.  Dragonflies will do that.  Instead of perching somewhere that you would expect them to on a more sturdy part of a plant, they'll edge out to the very tip and stand there looking serene and beautiful.

It also didn't seem to care that I was looking at it.   I was able to go back inside the house, having forgotten the rule of always bring your camera, and get a series of about 10 pictures.

All the while smiling at its beauty.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - How To Block Messenger

Microsoft, please don't annoy me before 6AM.

I had gotten in after the dog walk, settled in for some iced tea, and wanted to check my email once the computer got started.

Using has never been a pleasure for me.  I want an email service that stays out of my way with extra "features" that I don't want.   Having a chat service tied into an email program that is a bloated mess was not my choice.  Even was better than the steaming pile of garbage that has been bloated into.

At the lower left of the browser screen was a helpful "Messaging" area with little icons of people who I have written in the past.  I found myself immediately looking for a way to turn it off.  After wasting a half hour in the "Byzantine" settings menu in Outlook, I went to do a search for how to do it.  I found this page suggesting that I add an entry into a low level file and restart my computer.   The low level file is a text file called "Hosts" that your computer reads in when it starts.  What Hosts does is to override networking.  

In Windows it is at C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc and Linux keeps it at /etc/hosts which would be where I would expect to find it on Mac OSX.

Some very basic and oversimplified networking concepts.

If you type in your computer doesn't know what that does. It consults your network stack, finds the gateway, and then talks to your internet service provider.  In this case it looks at a giant phone book called your DNS and gets the IP Address of the site.  Since my blog points to a blogger site, that number changes, and it's hosted by Google anyway. 

But I can change that.

If I bring up Hosts in notepad or any other TEXT editor, I can add in a line saying that a specific IP address is to be used when you go to a specific web address or URL.

For example, if I want to block Google, I add a line to the file:

Save the file and restart the computer.

This works for some sites that are advertising providers and other nuisance sites.  My own Hosts file is pretty large having gotten one that has most of those malware and advertising sites that were known at the time.

But all this is annoying to maintain.  Fortunately, there is an easier way to do it.

Adblock Edge or Adblock Plus in Firefox and whichever other browsers it supports.  Adblock Edge is always the first thing I add when I install Firefox.  It allows me to block ads, hide pictures, and even block whole websites (domains) if I choose to from a semi-friendly interface.

Simply add a custom "rule" to adblock to block the following URL:

It would be a whole lot simpler if Microsoft had decided that it would give you a way to block that Messaging app within settings, but they chose not to.  Luckily I can turn it off and get some things done.

How to add a custom rule:
  • Ctrl+Shift+F will open a window called "Adblock Edge Filter Preferences".
  • Click on the "Add Filter" button in the upper right of the window.
  • In the blue box, enter and Enter.
  • Close the window by clicking the Close Box.
  • When you refresh in your browser, it will be blocked in that browser only.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Peat Pots Out Of Used Coffee Grounds Didn't Quite Work

*sigh* That's the thing with these Internet projects.  Sometimes they work first time, every time.  Other times, not so good.

Looking at my results, I see two things that could be possible.

First.  You mix coffee grounds, flour, and water and make a mud.  I think that my mud wasn't quite wet enough.  Sure, it held together like a snowball, but it was still a little brittle.  Next time, I'll add extra water, try again, and report back. 

Second.  It's possible that I didn't bake or "fire" them long enough or at the right temperature.  When I made salt dough for some footprints of Lettie's feet, I baked them, then baked them again.  There was no visible sign of wetness anywhere.  Two years down the line, they're inside of a picture frame and look very solid.  This is basically salt dough where the salt is replace with coffee grounds.  If you check the picture of the results, the inside of the pots looked markedly wetter than the outside.  The one that fell apart was probably too thin for the job.  The second one that is intact in the picture fell apart later that same afternoon when I got wet soil in there.

In case you're curious, yes I will do it again when I have enough coffee grounds.  I generally have coffee a couple times a week, so at 26 grams of grounds per mug, that will take a while to get to where I want to be.  Since I always need plant pots, this will help me out if I can figure out all the fine tuning.  

I must be that big kid that likes to play in the mud.

I usually have some seeds somewhere that need a little help to get them going.  I've planted loads of weird things since I landed here in the land of sunshine, palm trees, and critters that try to move your house away.  The pots now have been scooped up and placed in some decidedly non-biodegradable but recyclable plastic pots saved from some cream cheese containers, and are going to serve as the start for some "regular" lemon tree seedlings.  I have more seeds rooting if the originals don't "take".

By the time I get enough coffee grounds for the second try in a month or so, I'll have more seeds to try again.  I would like to start a Key Lime from seed.  Why not?  I have always loved a challenge no matter what it has been in, whether horticulture, agriculture, or technology!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Linux - Cloning Your Hard Disc on RaspberryPi and Raspbian

For a credit card sized computer, it's been getting a lot of abuse.

I've been installing and uninstalling software since I got the thing from my buddy Craig in Atlanta, and not always having success.

Instead of completely reloading the operating system from the "official" image, I decided to do a backup of the computer.

Boring stuff that anyone who uses a computer on any operating system should do on a schedule.

While Windows can be made automatic, it's fussy.  You don't have the control over the operating system like you do in Linux, any Linux.  Anything I am doing on this little credit card sized computer, I can do on my bigger Thinkpad T60 laptop that is running a very similar version of Linux.  I would expect these same steps to work on my Debian computers, as well as any derived distribution like Ubuntu.   Just check your "switches" to make sure they "comply".

That's the strength and the weakness of Linux.  There's so much flexibility it's confusing, but in the flexibility you can get the operating system to do what you want and exactly what you want.

But you have to know what you're doing.

Since the RaspberryPi only had an 8GB SDHC chip for it's "disc drive", it would be small enough and easy enough to backup.  Since it is Linux, why not just make a complete copy of the operating system and all the user data?

Clone the hard drive.

What I did was to cheat.  I did it from the desktop of the RaspberryPi.
Why is that a cheat?  Because files "could be left open" which means you are never 100 Percent Sure that everything gets copied.

The solution with the Raspi is to go into "raspi-config" and set the switch  in "Enable Boot to Desktop/Scratch" to go to "Console Text Console".  That will put you in what we used to call "Single User Mode" and everything will be closed and there will be no doubt.

But, Me?  I'm cheating and it turned out fine.  No corruption and I was able to switch chips (hard drives) and it booted from the cloned chip with not a problem in the world.

On the other hand, I will be using these instructions to do exactly this on my "real" Linux laptop, an older Lenovo Thinkpad T60 machine.  I have the spare hard drives there too and why not?


  • Prepare a chip as a hard drive that is the same size or larger than your original drive.  That will need to be formatted FAT32 which can be done on any operating system that supports it.
  • Open a root terminal.
  • Close all other tasks that are running that aren't essential.

Task 1:
  • In Terminal, run lsblk at a root prompt.  
  • This will tell you exactly what hard drives and media are connected to the computer on the /dev tree.
  • The picture shows the results of both commands.
  • Under the Name Column, the devices are shown as a tree.
  • What you need is not the name of the partition labeled as "part" but the actual root device called "disk".
  • The internal media is the all important boot drive.
  • For mine, the internal media is on mmcblk0 - which is actually /dev/mmcblk0 .
  • For mine, the external media is on sda - which is actually /dev/sda .

Task 2:
  • Perform a "dd" statement from the internal to the external drive.
  • The statement is for my set up:  dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 of=/dev/sda bs=4096 conv=noerror,notrunc,sync
  • What that statement says is:
    • dd - Disc Dump or Copy
    • if=/dev/mmcblk0 - input file is /dev/mmcblk0 .  Since that is the root device, it will copy everything from that chip onto the output device.
    • of=/dev/sda - output file is /dev/sda .  Since that is the root device, it will copy everything from the input chip onto your output device, deleting anything that was on the chip.
    • bs=4096 - block your output data in 4K blocks for efficiency.
    • conv=noerror,notrunc,sync -  Convert the data but do not truncate any data (notrunc), do not stop on errors (noerror), and synchronize (sync) the file sizes by padding them with nulls in case there is an error on a file.

When that is all done, the dd statement will tell you how many records were copied in and out, and the record counts should be the same.  It will also tell you how large your chip was - here it was 7.9 GB.

Close enough.

If you want to test your clone, shut down your computer via a "shutdown -h now" in your root terminal, swap chips, then reboot.

It should "just work".  It did for me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Big Artie the Hit Man

Big Artie

There once was a Hit Man named Big Artie.

Things were tough in the Underworld at the time, what with the Financial Crisis lately and such, the market hasn't been kind to his business.

Because of this, he decides that he needs to put down the prices - It's been months since he'd had a job and his family was struggling.

He takes the price down to $10 000 a hit to $5 000, but still no-one's coming through the door.
He drops it to $1 000, then to $500, $100, $50, $20, $5 and still no-one comes in.
In a final act of desperation he drops his price to $1.

This move pays off as the very next day a shady looking character walks into his office and asks if he's the guy offering "Services" for a buck.

Once they clear up that he is indeed an assassin, not a pimp, the customer hands him a file on the target.

Artie follows his quarry around for a few days, before trying to stage a couple of "accidents" for him, all of which the man manages to obliviously foil.
Artie is getting frustrated and is tailing him late one night and the man goes into a supermarket.
Because it's late no-one is around, so he decides to do the deed there and then, in the fruit and veg aisle.

Like a lion stalking an antelope, Artie sneaks up behind the target and gets a hand over his mouth and and an arm around his neck and silently chokes him out.

With his job done, Artie tries to hide the body under the shelves, but as he's doing that the only other customer in the store comes into the aisle, a little old lady, and before she can scream he has tackled her to the ground and is throttling her on the floor.

Just after she's been dealt with the store manager, having heard some commotion, runs in and Artie is faced with no choice but to snuff him too.

Not wanting to spend any more time in the store, he flees, satisfied with a job well done, even if it wasn't as quiet as he'd hoped.

Unbeknownst to our good friend Arthur, all of this was caught on the store's security tapes and he was promptly arrested.

The next day the headlines read: "ARTIE CHOKES 3 FOR A DOLLAR AT WOOLWORTHS"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mommy, Mommy Returns!

Mommy, Mommy! Daddy puked!
Shut up and get a fork, before your sister gets all the big chunks!

Mommy, Mommy! Why can't we get a Garbage Disposal?
Shut up and chew!

Mommy, Mommy! Daddy's too tough!
"Shut up and keep chewing!"

Mommy, Mommy! Joey is biting grandma's nail.
Joey, stop it, or I am closing the coffin!

Mommy, Mommy! Can I buy a new dress?
You know it won't fit over your iron lung.

Mommy, Mommy! Why can't I play with the other kids?
Shut up and deal.

Mommy, Mommy! Can I brush my teeth?
Yes, now shut up and get the jar!

Mommy, Mommy! My head hurts!
Shut up and get away from the dart board!

Mommy, Mommy! My teacher says my head is too big.
Shut up and get your hat from the garage, so your father can bring the car in!

Mommy, Mommy! Can I play in the sandbox?
Not until I find a better place to bury Daddy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Making Peat Pots Out Of Used Coffee Grounds

We all see them if we use social media.

How to make your life so much better with life hacks. 

There are dozens of websites dedicated to them.  

This particular one caught my eye.  I drink a lot of coffee.  I was throwing the grounds out into the garden for extra fertilizer and that worked.  My front yard smelled of a rich blend of Central American coffee beans for a while.

The trick with this is once you have finished brewing your coffee, spread the used grounds out on a plate and allow them to air dry.  The end result is that you'll have the grounds about the consistency of dry beach sand. 

You know, like the coffee grounds before you used them.

The benefit of this is that if you are arts and crafts inclined or have children around, it's a great activity for a rainy day, and the mix was rather interesting to work with.  A very tactile clay.

Here is how I did it.


  • 150 grams or 5.5 ounces by weight of dry coffee grounds.
  • 150 grams or 5.5 ounces by weight of flour - about a cup.
  • 208 ml or 7 ounces of water - More Or Less.

Yes, my American Readers, I use a gram scale.  The measurements tend to be more accurate that way, but this is not a fussy recipe at all.


  • In a large bowl, add your dry used coffee grounds and flour.  
  • Mix them by hand until they are evenly mixed and smooth.
  • Add the water one ounce at a time to the coffee flour mix.
  • Knead the mixture until all of the water has incorporated itself into the mix and the "dough" sticks together without cracking and without being sticky.
  • The result you are going after is a modeling clay consistency.

Forming the Peat Pots:

  • Find a pot the size you are looking to form.
  • Wrap the pot or glass in aluminium foil so that you may slide the formed pot off cleanly once they have baked.
  • Start with around 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough and begin to work the dough until the outside of the pot has been covered to a desired thickness.  
  • Yes, it is vague, you will need to judge for yourself, the approximate thickness is that of a piece of corrugated cardboard.
  • If there are cracks, it would be best to remove the dough and re-form the pot since this would indicate that it is most likely too thin.
  • My picture shows pots that were made a bit thickly but that won't matter since the pots will eventually be buried.
  • Form a water drainage hole in the bottom by sticking your finger through the "dough" until it makes contact with the form pot beneath.
  • Give the bottom of the pots a flat spot so they don't roll around by pressing the formed pot down on a level surface.

Firing the Peat Pots:

  • Place the pots on their forms on a lined cookie sheet.
  • Preheat the oven to 250F or around 120C - Or So.  My oven is not accurate.
  • Slide the pots on their sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 3 Hours.
  • The finished pots will firm up and cure while cooling but should be firm on the outside when you remove them from the oven.
  • The house will smell like a mixture of coffee, bread, and "earthy".

When the Peat Pots are cooled:

  • Remove the Peat Pots and allow to cool fully.
  • Slide the pots off of the form and remove the aluminium foil.  
  • My foil tried to stick to the inside but I was able to remove the foil by twisting it off from the inside of the pots.
  • Use as you would any other peat pot.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Red Dracena Cane

Anybody need some weeds?

I originally went outside for a little natural inspiration.  Whenever I do that I have a hard and fast rule.  If it rains or if the mosquitoes find me, I'm coming in.

Going outside, camera in hand, I walked around the yard.  Thinking my usual wry comment of "this place would look so much better if someone lived here who knew how to garden", I bent down to get rid of some of the less welcome plants in the yard.  Little white daisy looking things get everywhere.  Some native plants don't really belong in the middle of the grass, and until Western Society realizes that not everywhere should look like a Bowling Green, grass is what we will have.

Spotted by my neighbor, Bill, he knew I was looking for inspiration and briefly commented as he drove off to his own responsibilities.  I went back to finding more weeds to pull. 

I have some plants here that were here long before I moved in.  Doing what I have always done, I took some cuttings of pretty much anything there that I liked.  Some sprouted immediately.  Others withered away. 

One that did well was what I think of as a Red Dracena Cane.  It was planted where it was specifically because Lisa liked it.  Now that has become Lisa's Stand Of Dracenas, and it will take a lot of coaxing to convince me to even attempt to trim it back. 

It came about because I got annoyed.  I was being told that "I can't see out of the window, so if you don't trim those plants, I will!". 

Since Slash and Burn Agriculture is not my favorite, I got the cutters the next day and the stand of Dracena and its twin of Screw Palms, which are also Dracena, were born.

When I was doing it, I had so much of it, I brought a bucket full of the things across the street asking Lisa "Do you want any of these weeds?".

Lisa's eyes flashed and she gushed, "Oh Yes! I love those Red Ones!  As many as you can spare!".

She took a solidly packed 5 gallon plastic bucket of canes and started sticking them all over the property.  I'm sure it was too much and some ended up in the bins, but I'm fine with that.  It made her happy and that is all that counts.

I took her comment to heart and planted a stand in a spot in front of my yard in a spot so my friend could see them when she walked out front to do something in the yard, or if she was just going for a ride.

Her stand of Dracena went from 2 feet to now over 7 feet in a year.

I'm lucky they don't spread.

They're getting so big now that they've outgrown the more common green Screw Palms on the other side of the island garden in the middle of the yard.  I'm beginning to see what Lisa saw in these things.

Going around the yard pulling long thing strands of what the midwest Farmers call Stink Weed off my podocarpus, I thought it best to leave well enough alone.

No, the Dracena won't get cut today.  Lisa's Stand will remain guarding the house, the palm tree and looking over us and the green lizard I saw in them earlier.

Maybe they will eat the mosquitoes.  Maybe not. 

So?  How about some weeds?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Petsitting Ellie

It happens that the other day my neighbor Bill needed to have his apartment bug bombed.

Since his dog Ellie and my dog Rack are friends, I got to play petsitter.

You'd think it would go well but by the end of the day I remembered the old Bill Cosby sketch about the woman on a cross country flight with a child.  The kid was hyperactive and trying to meet and talk with absolutely everyone on the plane.  By the end of the flight the kid who managed to annoy just about everyone it met was asleep.  So everyone who passed by knocked the chair.  When the woman got off to meet her husband she knocked him out with a punch from the frustration.

It wasn't that frustrating.  Besides, you can get through most situations like this.  After all it's only one day.

The original plan was to leave Ellie in the backyard.  You see, Original Plans never are what end up happening.

It's summer here in South Florida.  The high yesterday was forecast to be above 90.  You can't leave a dog outside in that heat in clear conscience. 

I was getting all sorts of helpful hints from people who didn't realize that I was going to do what I thought was right for everyone involved.

Once the house was empty of extraneous personnel, I did what I thought was right.

First step.  Make sure the dog proof house was "strange dog proof".   I gave the place a once over.  Picked up the recycling from the floor.  Got that stray cheezy poof out of the corner, ran the vacuum, and closed off extra rooms.   That made life easier for me limiting where the two dogs could go.

Rack was going to be in the house as well.

Second step.  Ellie was in the backyard, tied to a long tether to the support beam to the Lanai.  She got here fairly early, and it was still what passed for cool here.  Low 80s in the shade.

I let Ellie in.   Rather, Ellie guilted me into letting her in.  She got lonely in a strange yard.   She really didn't understand this nonsense of being tide up for any length of time and was impatient.  I started hearing paws tapping on my back door.  It's glass.  I had visions of an 8 foot tall glass slab breaking and falling into the house. 

Ok so I exaggerate.

I parked myself at the desk next to the door so she could see me.  That just made her more insistent about coming in.

Third step.  The two dogs are now in the house.

She walked over to the parrot cage.  Knew something was going on but didn't see it.  Her nose told her what was up.  She just didn't look there.   Oscar, being a prey animal, didn't like the intruder so he barked at Ellie and flapped his wings.  That clued Ellie in.  The entire afternoon, every time she would pass Oscar's cage, Ellie would look up and sniff.

Oscar, you're not getting out time this afternoon.

If you have a dog, think back to the first day you had them.  The first day, the new dog will walk around and sniff everything.  Absolutely everything.  Then they will eventually mark territory.  Expect it.

What I didn't expect was how Ellie would do all of that.

Rack hid in his corner.  Ellie came over, sniffed him, moved on sniffing the house.  It would be about 3 hours before Rack would come out for that visit.  You see, Ellie is clearly an Alpha Dog.  That's fine, I rule this pack, I'm the Pack Leader.  I've got the chest for that T Shirt anyway!

Ellie having realized that Rack was happy being stuffed in the corner found me.  What I thought was friendly greetings of paw on my arm was a conversation.  By the time she stopped talking, I had a sore spot on my left arm from all that talking.  Gabby little woman, you are!

She got tired of talking and wandered off looking hungrily at Oscar on the way by.

You know that saying that parents have about the house being "Too Quiet"?  It was.

I walked into the main room.  There was a 10 foot stripe of recycled water going from one end of the house to the other.  My house was marked in the way that an elephant may use it's trunk. 

Rack still hid in the corner.

Grabbing mop, floor cleaner, bucket, and 130F Water I found that I got a clean spot in the grout after I was done.  I'll remember that for later!

Not a happy camper but I did expect it.  So THAT was what you meant by the paw on the foot.  No more water for you, Ellie.  She seems not to have an off switch with that.

I pried Rack loose of the corner, and left the empty Ellie to have free reign of the house.  When I went in for my shower, she didn't want to be left alone so she parked herself on the bath mat.  Awww, sweet, but in the way when I went to step onto the bathroom floor.

I'm lucky.  Having been a long distance inline skater, that's Rollerblades to you, I slid across the wet floor and into the hallway, careening into the door at around 10MPH. 

I'll leave the door closed next time.

Lunch time eventually arrived.  I told Bill what was up.  He filled me in on the whole Paw on the Arm signal.  Thanks Pal!  You could have told me earlier! 

Ellie was finally empty having been cut off from the water bowl after drinking and losing about a quart in the morning.  Really that's a new breed of dog called the sponge.  Soaks and leaks water where you least expect it.

I'll get that floor scrubber out later...

After Bill went back to his workplace, I had the two dogs free in the house.  Rack had stopped being so fearful and decided to come out to sniff around.  Ellie was bored.  Every 30 minutes she was in and out.  Rack wanted the yard too.

"In or out you two!"

I didn't expect to get anything productive done this day anyway.

Eventually it got so they started to play.  I had two hyperactive midsized dogs.  What were they going to do?

The Alpha dog trying to dominate the Beta Dog.  The Beta Dog doesn't know he's a dog and doesn't speak that language well so he would try to herd the Alpha.  My coffee table got circled about 40 times.  Herding instincts kick in.  Rack starts to nip at Ellie's heels.  Ellie didn't care for that.  Ellie would stop and try to coax Oscar's cage open just by using Eye Magic.  Oscar's wings were wide open, he was lunging at the cage bars and barking.


Rack goes into the bedroom.  I drag Ellie outside one more time.  Perimeter search, no wet spots!  Paws on two doors at once.  Rack hears UPS truck and starts to grumble.  Ellie wants to play.

We have arrived at Bedlam, population: 3.

Kevin gets home.  Two jumping dogs.  Rack backs down when commanded, Ellie tries to charge at the door.

Nope.  Her feet scrabble on the Florida Tiles in the dining room like a windup toy trying to get a purchase.  The ritual of getting Kevin indoors takes 5 solid minutes.   I finally just let go of Ellie.  I was safe in my chair and Kevin was down a dog.  

She runs across the room in a fawn colored dash sliding into the door at full force.


I guess she likes you. 

15 minutes later I had enough.  Time out again.  I took Ellie outside.  It was now 6pm.  Bill would be home in about 15 minutes.  She'd have the last half hour outside.  Temperature was down to 83 in the shade.

Even Ellie had had enough, she just collapsed on the cool grass under the bougainvillea.

The big black pickup truck was rumbling home from a block away.  Bill got in.  As soon as I knew I could hear that large inline six cylinder engine, I noticed that Ellie was out back at the door rattling around sounding excited.  

The visit was ending.  It was time for normal again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This Ends the Great Coffee-Out of 2014

I never believed in fasting.  That whole issue of taking off an arbitrary day from food for some arbitrary reason felt rather arbitrary.

I noticed, though, that I was having trouble sleeping.

No, that's not good.

So Why Not Cut Back on Caffeine?   Easier said than done.

I looked through the refrigerator and finished up all the "regular" sodas, drank my fill of that Iced Tea that I made up, and considered cutting out chocolate.

Nope.  Not Gonna Do It.

Then I stopped making everything.  No Iced Tea.  No Coffee.  No Espresso.

The next morning I felt it.  The whole day I went through caffeine withdrawal.  Not a happy place, really, it felt like I had a cold for some reason.  I guess coffee has a nasal dilator in it, I just don't know.  Miserable the entire day like someone just dampened everything. 

Take Two Aleve and call me in the morning.  Now "Buck Up" and Deal.

Deal I did.  I knew what was going on.  It was the Great Coffee-Out of 2014.

This was a lot for me.  I truly enjoy coffee.  I enjoy the ritual of making it.  The scents of the kitchen after you grind the fresh beans, pour the hot water into the grounds, stir it with sweetener and some cream.

Yes, I generally use those pink packets since they dissolve more fully.
Yes, I generally use creamer powder but I do keep real honest to goodness cream on hand.  That actually tastes too heavy to me but your mileage may vary.

I'm that guy who got tired of "bitter commercial coffee house mass market coffee" that tasted like battery acid or was over roasted, or whatever negative connotations you can possibly come up with in your first-world-problems mindset. 

... and I learned how to roast my own beans.  It really is easier than it sounds, gives an amazing "product" and can be markedly cheaper than even the worst rot-gut you can get in the supermarket.  I paid $2 a pound for beans once which worked out to about $2.66 a pound after roasting.

Home roasted beans that had a complexity I can only describe as hearing a CD the first time after only ever listening to an AM radio station that is about 50 miles away.

Hear that static crash?  Is it going to rain or is it just Starbucks with their crappy over-roasted "Burnt Beans".

Don't judge me, I didn't make that term up!

So the morning I write this I broke down.  It was a week, I wasn't trying to prove anything.  I wanted coffee.

I ground up 27 grams of beans, boiled the water, and poured it over the espresso grind coffee grounds for four solid minutes.  Stir in two packets of Sweet N Low and two teaspoons measured of creamer.  When time hit, I shocked it with four ice cubes to give me 20 ounces of savory, steamy, rich, complex coffee.

Great.  Take a Sip and...  OH HOLY CRAP!

What happened was my taste buds reset, and my body no longer craved the caffeine.  Now, addiction to a substance is partially or even mostly psychological.  I'm possibly having the coffee buzz because I *think* I should, but I am thinking of maybe having a run.  You know, a run from my house in Wilton Manors, two miles North of Downtown Fort Lauderdale ... to Key West.

Heck that's only 190 miles away!  YEAH!  Lets do it!  WOO!  GO TEAM!

Well maybe not quite that much.   I only had a few sips.  But WOW.

The flavor that was rich and complex before from the same batch I roasted now tastes intense.   I'd say the difference between a strong coffee and an espresso.

I'm feeling the coffee.  A little twitchy perhaps.   But you went through that too last time you had your first cup of coffee, you just don't remember it.

True to form, my heart rate jumped to 100BPM where when I write, it's usually around mid 70s.

Interesting stuff.  No matter what, I think I'll have a productive day.  At least the morning.  No second cup.  This tankard thing is a French Press that I drink from since it's also a double walled beer stein sized mug.

(sip)  Wonderful.  Come to Papa. 

We're going to have a great morning.  How about you?

Next time I get a deal though, I'll consider making my own blend of part decaf.  That's how I usually drink it anyway, I just ran out of the decaf beans.

Yeah, that's the story.  I ran out...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Raspberry Pi and Getting Raspbian Installed

Believe it or not, this little clear box sitting on a "bar mat" for a beer company is a computer.

The larger box to the right is only a USB hub.

That might have been more surprising five or so years ago, but I bring my own Big Computing Iron bias to the table. 

That little box is about equivalent to my own cellphone, an ARM based computer with an A7 single core processor.

It turns out that it is just enough to do some real computing.

While I have a tablet computer that is twice as fast, and a netbook that is probably a little faster, this little critter will be put to use, creatively.  I'm thinking it will make a great file server and web server.  Since it uses the same environment that I am used to, Linux, all the software will be familiar to me.

No, it won't run Windows.
No, it won't run Mac OSX or iOS.

It doesn't have to.  It runs Linux.

Ok, it does it a bit slowly but it runs it.  That itself surprises me in a credit card sized box but hey, I'll adapt.

My good friend in Atlanta, Craig had a spare since he upgraded himself to a Beagleboard and is considering a BananaPi once it comes out, so he dropped it in a box and sent it to me with some goodies.

So far, it's kept me engaged in trying to figure it out.

First thing first, you have to get an operating system onto it.  The RaspberryPi foundation says right out that they support Linux, and the flavor they support is a version of Linux called Debian, specifically "Raspbian".

Great!  I know that!  It works well, and I could set up a home computer with Linux that would make most people quite happy.  But how to get it running?

Download Raspbian to your computer.  The Raspbian distribution points you back to the download page at where you can find a zip file of the operating system.

Inside the zip file you will find a ".img" file.  That's your whole operating system.  All of 806 Megs.  Everything about this computer is small.  Small is good. 

Unzip the file you downloaded and place the .img file somewhere you can remember.  You will need the tool to write it out to the Class 10 SDHC card later.

For windows, you need a program to write that to the chip.  Easy.  Download Win32DiskImager and install it.  Unzip the download of the file somewhere you can remember, and run the installer .exe file.  This is done by right clicking it and selecting "Run as Administrator".

Now that it is installed, you can run the Win32DiskImager. 

You need a Class 10 SDHC chip, at least 4gb, but 8 will do nicely.  Make sure that you find the mark on the chip that says it is a Class 10 - the mark is a number 10 inside of a letter C that I almost always mistake for a circle. 

Place the chip in your chip reader on your computer and wait for windows to find it.

In Win32DiskImager, select the correct drive letter for the SDHC chip.  This will vary per computer.  I have a built in reader that puts the chip at F: and I was using an external reader that put the one I really wanted at G: so be careful.  If you format the wrong chip, your data is gone forever.  Really.  Be careful.

At this point all you have to do is click on Write button at the bottom of the Win32DiskImager and the program will write the entire operating system to your chip.  Yes, it really is that easy.  The chip then becomes the hard drive for the RaspberryPi.

When Win32DiskImager is finished, safely remove the SDHC chip from the reader and place it in the chip slot in the back of the Pi.  The slot is next to the power connector which is a Mini USB plug.

You must have the RaspberryPi connected to a network to receive updates, and you will also need to plug the computer into a TV in order to see what you are doing. 

Connect the RaspberryPi to your wired Ethernet cable.  The jack looks like a wired phone jack. 

Plug the HDMI cable into a modern TV and the side of the Pi.  Turn on the TV and plug in the Raspberry Pi.  Find the correct HDMI channel on the TV set and you will see Debian begin to boot with a list of messages and a RaspberryPi logo at the top left of your TV screen.

The first time you run a computer, you usually see some sort of splash screen welcoming you to the computer.  With the RaspberryPi, the welcome is a bit more basic.  It brings up a menu that asks you to set up some basic things.  Don't worry if you mess that up, you can always run the welcome screen called "raspi-config" from a terminal window in Raspbian.

You will want to do the following steps:

Expand filesystem - this will let you use your entire chip.  Don't worry, it's simple, I took all the default settings.

Change User Password - It currently is "password".  Change it.  Your user is currently "Pi", and you can later research how to add "your user" on there, but Pi will work for now.

Enable Boot To Desktop/Scratch - You really will want to do things graphically if you are a beginner.  Select "Desktop Log In As User 'pi' at graphical desktop".   This is how you would expect things to run.

Internationalisation options.  Remember, it is a British computer, so it is set up for British English and Keyboard.  It also is confused as to where You live, so you need to reset that. 

I configured mine for "en_US.UTF-8.UTF-8" which is standard for US and worked with my old school IBM Model M clicky Keyboard.   

Time zone is US Eastern Time Zone and I used "America" and "New York" even though NYC is 1200 miles away. 

I know it's the same time zone, cut me a break!

There is also an advanced menu that you will want to visit. 

Advanced menu items I set were:

A3 Memory Split - I set 64MB for Video memory.
A7 Update - this is why you need Ethernet connected.  The Raspi will go out and grab the latest update for "this" program.  It's like the BIOS in your Windows computer.  It is stored on the SDHC Chip and will give you some changes here and there.  For example, the time set up dialogue changed to allow me to select a city instead of a specific time zone. 

At this point you can Finish and you will be sent on your way to the Raspbian desktop.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Admiral and his Fleet are Out to Sea at War

An Admiral and his Fleet Are Out At Sea At War

An admiral at the head of his fleet is scanning the horizon for the enemy ships he's looking to destroy.
Seeing them crest the horizon, he tells his first mate, "Bring me my red shirt."

"Why, Sir?"

"If I am wounded in the fight, and the men see me bleeding, they may lose heart.
If I wear my red shirt into battle, that cannot happen. Now, bring me my red shirt!"

"Yes, sir!"

The Admiral continues to scan the horizon, and sees there are in fact ten times as many enemy ships as his own fleet has.
The first mate returns with the red shirt.

The Admiral turns to him and says,
"Bring me my brown pants."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Even More Mommy, Mommy!

Mommy, Mommy! I don't wanna visit grandma!
Shut up and keep digging.

Mommy, Mommy! Can I lick the bowl?
Shut up and flush.

Mommy, Mommy! I'm sick of learning how to swim!
Shut up or I'll flush it again!

Mommy, Mommy! It's cold and dark and damp down here.
Shut up or I'll flush it again.

Mommy, Mommy! I don't want hamburgs for supper!
Shut up or I'll grind your other hand.

Mommy, Mommy! I HATE tomato juice!
Shut up and drink it before it clots.

Mommy, Mommy! What's a vampire?
Shut up and eat your soup before it clots.

Mommy, Mommy! I don't like tomato soup!
Shut up, we only have it once a month.

Mommy, Mommy! I HATE spaghetti!
Shut up or I'll pull the veins out of your other arm.

Mommy, Mommy! There's something in daddy's eye!
Shut up and eat around it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Trash Day Equals Weed Day

I'll admit it.  I'm an indifferent gardener. 

Bending over for hours at a time is difficult for most people, it's doubly different when you are taller than about 90 percent or more than the rest of the population.

So it's going to be done regardless of lazy grumbling or knees or something else that you can't quite put your fingers at.

Eventually that collection of rocks in front of the house that defines a parking space gets filled with random weeds that demands attention.  Seeds get caught on the winds from the neighbor's yard on the East side and land there.  They'll take root and you'll have to deal with them. 

It is usually the East side since there's a constant breeze coming from that side.  If the winds shift, duck and cover, Mom, there's a storm's a comin'!

As a chore, it's not my favorite.  That Florida Sun that you folks come down here for in February is a lot more intense in August.  While it's cooler here on average than in the big cities of the Northeast in the summer, it's not by much.

About three times a year, or more, it gets to the point where it's time for Chemical Warfare.  Fill a spray bottle with a toxic syrup and water mix, pump it full of air to pressurize it, and pollute the water table for the next generation to get rid of those weeds.  RoundUp.  Kills weeds, and we're not really sure how long it remains in the environment, are we?

I've come to terms with these weeds.  They pop up in the middle of the lawn, and under the hedges.  I'll usually take some time to go after them on twice weekly trash day, early in the morning.

Well it's early for you, I'm up an hour before sunrise anyway, may as well make it productive, right?

A good trash day is defined by how many trips I make it back to the trash cans.  Pull the weeds starting at the can on the swale, and work outwards.  That means that those areas in the back get the weedeater treatment.

Now mind you a weedeater can be a fun piece of equipment to use.  If you can get it started, that is.  Mine takes about a solid half hour of pulling on a cord to get the thing to start.  Tune-up you say?  Probably.

Once it's started, a snarling two-cycle motor sputters to life.  Churning through the weeds that have grown thickly under the Jasmine hedges and under the bottoms of the large fruit plant pots in the back yard, I'll attack.

By this time all sorts of critters that belong there, lizards, snakes, and frogs, have headed elsewhere.  My dog inside the house has retreated to a cozy corner to hide from the din, and flocks of birds have launched noisily to get away from the madness. 

It's clearcut time in the forest!  Run, Bambi! Run!  Down to the dirt.  Except...

There's irrigation lines down there.  Stop what you're doing.  Time to unwind the rubber tube from the bottom of the weed eater's string head.  The machine is stopped anyway, wrapping itself in a double helix of water delivery.   Mutter a few words at the appliance and your own forgetfulness since you could have picked that water line up couldn't you?

It's about now that your friends come to visit.  Insects stirred up from the noise and vibration of the harvesting of the weeds are rising to greet you.  Your pet Mosquitoes have come by for a meal at the diner of you.  It's easier to just walk around the yard while you're trying to get the weedeater started again.  At least it's warmed up.

But eventually it's all done and settled.  There's just one last white flower with a yellow head in the middle.  Pull those gently.  There's a root on those that looks like one of those thick ginger roots you see at the supermarket and can't quite figure how much of that to add to your meal to give it a little extra tang.  If the root snaps off, you'll have flowers back in a month.


One month later, it's time to get the weedeater out.  Start over again.  After all, it's trash day isn't it?  What's a little weeding between friends? 

It's the cycle of gardening.  You pull, we'll make more!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sometimes a Victory Can Be Found in a Trashbag

Stepping outside into the pre-dawn gloom, we check to make sure everything is in its place.

I look over my shoulder, see Venus in the skies over the neighbor's palm tree.  Mercury, or at least what should be Mercury, is lower, closer to the yet to rise sun, and slightly to the North.  Nobody is around except the stars in the skies.   You can always spot Orion's belt.

What I can't spot is anyone.  It's too early for anyone sane to be awake.  That's why we're out.

Rack sniffs and then waters the post in front of the house, then his rock, and we're on our way.

For some reason, he's wound up.  It won't be an off the leash day for us.  That youthful puppy energy has tempered somewhat, but it is still there.

We finally spot a car off in the distance, but it disappears quickly. 

Strange how that can be.  When you are used to the sound of the far off train whistle, the air compressors, that box truck that passes by every morning delivering snack cakes from the plant, their absence is like silencing a key on a piano and then trying to play a song.  It's not quite right.  It's different.

We pass the bars and the shops.  Nobody is out.  The gym was open, but nobody was home.

Rack isn't interested in anything here.  He's pulling to get off the Drive.  The trauma of the 50 bus wasn't happening this morning, you're out of order.  But he doesn't realize it so I keep him on his leash.

The last thing I would want to do is have him wander off.   If I drop his leash these days, he immediately comes back, gluing himself to my legs.  Loyal little guy, if a bit uneven in his performance.

There's the travel agency, but even that is empty.  Strange to say, but I look forward to walking past that place.  There's a friendly person in there who is working the same hours as my dog walk, early.  We usually wave to each other but not today.

Even the radio was turned off at the pizza shop.  I have a feeling that whoever cleans the place up at night is a sports fan.  No sports today leaking incongruously from the windows where food was served hours before.  It should be time to start warming up that oven.  Pizza likes a hot oven with no cold spots.

Rounding the corner, it's time to finally leave the Drive.  Into the bowels of the big apartment building's space, I drop Rack's leash.  I get a smile and wag as he looks back at me.

Happy dog, finally off leash where it is safe.  Or so he thought.

There is a round open room that serves as a plaza and entry to the space bounded by the buildings and some parking for residents and shops.  We pass through there most mornings.  It's a convenient way for us to walk the distance and be away from other distractions.  I can work a little more with Rack, get him more accustomed to the ballet of the walk without the leash.  It helps when we're out on the leash.

He looked around the corner as he was trotting out of the little plaza and froze.  Solid.  I looked around the corner and saw nothing worth mentioning.  So much for the off leash training.  Better to pick it up when he's seeing something he thinks is important.

Come on, let's go. 

Falling behind me, Rack was fixated on that evil that had been left there.  I smelled it before I should have.  Reeking of stale cigarettes, the white trash bag had been abandoned near the door to the elevator entryway. 

We got closer, and Rack was certain that this bag was going to come to life, thereby embracing him with the stench of a thousand cigarette butts.  Forget the old banana peels, even I could smell the thing. 

We were still a good 50 feet away, I guess the wind was just right. 

Passing a little cut through so the tenants could walk to the parking area, Rack gave the Universal Canine Signal for "Nope".   He tried to veer off the sidewalk and as far away from the object as possible.

At that point we were getting quite close to the bag.  Rack's normal nature of a fearful dog was showing its muzzle.  Each step, Rack would hide on the far side of me.  I had to coax him closer with each step.  We were about 3 feet plus a leash away from the bag.

I sidled next to it.  Rack was leaning as far as he could away from it.  I wasn't yielding any ground.  This was a bit more irrational than his normal.

Whatever that is.

Come on Rack!  It's oh-kayyyy!

4 feet.

You're doing fine!  It's not going to bite!

3 feet.

Good boy, you can do it!

2 feet.

He was no longer leaning away but getting closer.  Curiosity may have killed a cat, but a herding dog always will investigate if they think it is safe.

1 foot.

It's alright, Rack, what is it?  It's just a trash bag.

Success!  Rack had taken the initiative to sniff the trash bag.  With a wag of the tail that most others wouldn't have noticed, we trotted off into the morning.

So why was that important?  Conquering fears is always important.  A fearful dog may never otherwise get past that sort of fear.  People can get caught up in their on phobias, so much so that "living in mom's basement" is a nice way of describing a catch-all of social skills that aren't quite honed. 

You have to introduce the fearful to the same thing that will otherwise paralyze them and done correctly, success will be seen. 

Even if it is just a fearful dog sniffing a trashbag, a victory can sometimes be found there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Frogs at Dawn

When I was a wee brat in the prairies of South Jersey, we used to explore the nearby woodlands.  I lived near a small river, or "Crick" in our way of speaking, and there was a pond that fed it.  There was a spring that fed the pond and we had lots of things to explore. 

Nothing like telling a kid that if you toss a rock at some Skunk Cabbage, it will smell bad so don't do it.

We did it.  All the time.  Ew.

We would go out in the wrong kinds of shoes, get covered with a thick layer of mud, root around looking for the Salamanders we were promised we would find there and never did.  Turtles were everywhere, and of course, frogs.

Green Leopard skinned creatures.  Completely harmless.  Kids would practice catch and release because once we got them, we really couldn't think of anything else to do with them.  The turtles were a bit more exciting because they could snap and bite so "Don't get your fingers too close to that mouth or else!".

One time Icky and Mark caught a snapper turtle that was as big as a hubcap.  Ornery critter that wanted to tear some of us apart.

I was not thinking about any of that this morning.  I was sitting in the chair debating breakfast.  It was an hour still before sunrise when I heard some rattling around out the back window.  I'm used to that.  We have lizards that crawl into the mounts for the hurricane shutters and think it's their home.  You'll hear some scrabbling around when they wake up in the morning, and some more scrabbling when they return at night for shelter.   I'm fine with lizards.  The ones we have here are harmless.

Right in a lull of the music I was playing I heard a sound that was like what you hear when you drop a steak on a counter.  Like someone slapped some meat on my window. 

Looking over my left shoulder I looked and didn't see the culprit and went back to opening and closing web pages and mulling over whether I should have strawberry or pineapple jam in my yogurt.  All the important things in life, right?

When I heard it the second time, I spotted something on the window.  A distant relative of an old childhood friend.  You guessed it, there was a frog stuck to the glass on the outside of the window.  The sun was starting to think about rising.  There was a purple gloom in the skies that backlit that creature.

So why not, lets go out with the camera and see if we can annoy a frog!

The little thing didn't like my own bulk approaching it.  As I got too close, it started to move on the window away from me.  It was on the glass, and the screen was on the other side.  It was stuck to the window as Frogs would do. 

I got the second shot and it started walking away.  Who would really want a strobe light flash at just before sunrise? 

The camera wasn't smart enough to see the frog in the light, it was telling me that it was a low light so I shifted around and got the final picture when it realized it could focus.

At that point the frog was gone out of my life just as quickly as it came into it.  It had had enough.  I heard the bougainvillea arbor rustle and it left.  I had my pictures and I didn't have to worry about sliding into the mud by the pond on the little creek. 

Walking into the house, it was time for breakfast.  I think Strawberry jam will do the trick.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yes, the View Really Is Different Up Here

I found out that my high school class was having a reunion in a couple months. 

I won't be there.  It's just not in the cards.  The trip is too far, and so forth.  Wouldn't mind, but it's just not going to happen. 

It got me thinking about those things, reunions.  They're great for getting caught up with what happened, but someone said that after a while they become a party for finding out who had just died in the last five years.  After all, you keep in touch with those who mean the most for you, and while you have good intentions, those connections fray after not seeing people.  The Prom Queen and King may have been the most important friends you had ever had when you were in those hallowed halls, but move away, and they fade to black.

Cue the picture of the old school tv set with a dark screen and a white dot fading into the past.

There were some friends I had in high school that I did keep up with for years after graduation.  Some even made it into college with me and into later life.  Jim was one of those people.  He was probably one of the most gentle people I had ever had the pleasure to meet.  When I made it to Drexel University, his room was about three floors below me in the same dorm, Kelly Hall.

Kelly Hall was this concrete block slab that overlooked the campus from a high point on a hill.  If you were lucky enough to have the right window, you had a panoramic view over the train yards, past Fairmount Park, and Center City Philadelphia beyond.

I can't say I remember my view being all that spectacular, and neither was Jim's.

Since many of our classes were the same, we'd hit the books together when his roommate wasn't there.  The little 12 by 8 room made out of highly painted concrete blocks wasn't made for comfort, but utility.  Late Teenage Boys can be incredibly destructive.

It did help to have him there, studying on Chemistry, Calculus, and various Computing courses, so we spent a lot of time there.  Eventually our classes diverged, but our visits didn't. 

He did have a roommate there, Joe.  Joe didn't have any classes or common interests there so he was not in the room too much.  Nice enough sort, he eventually became a Resident Advisor for a while.  Not really sure what that gave him other than being the guy in the hallway that they paid somehow to listen to guys complaints. 

But he did have the patience for that sort of thing.  Listen to complaints, act on them, and generally be involved.

One of those days toward the end of a term, he stopped me.  He said that he could always tell when I was in the room that day.

"How on Earth can you tell?"

Now Joe was a full foot shorter than my own 6' 4".  Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you.  But Joe had something of a valid complaint.

"Every time you are here, everything is moved out of reach!"

We all had a chuckle out of that, but I had to explain "It's part of the territory, it's a tall guy thing.".

I realized he wasn't getting it so I noticed a chair.  When I told him to stand on it, he did so reluctantly.   We stood eye to eye for once.

"Now, look around the room.  What do you see?"
"Wow, it really is different up here"
"You're right, it is.  I'll try to make it a point not to move things, I'm not doing it to annoy you".

From that point on we became a bit closer friends.  I stopped putting the snacks out of reach, he didn't have a complaint.

The crowd moved apart after that.  We all went on Co-Op and when we came back, Jim moved back to his family home in Medford, NJ.  We didn't see each other in school all that much more.  With a changed major, and the discovery that the dorms really weren't as good as the basement of the library for cram sessions, things became more focused for the eventual graduation.

This story came to mind with the coda that Jim's gone.  He passed a couple years back.  A good friend who died in a car crash on an icy South Jersey road in Winter.  Another good reason not to like Winter, it takes good people away.

Even if they do put things on the high shelf.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Anatomy of a Post

The Anatomy of a Post

Start out the day with the Morning Dog Walk. 

Stepping out of the house, I look East toward the ocean.  A little more than two miles away I can see the tops of the hotels and condos at the beach.  A red light glows over the tree line along with the top floor or three of those tower blocks.  They're welcome to it.  The beach can be fun, so can the ocean, but there's a certain something about living on a sandbar with one way out that makes me nervous.  NOAA says we get a tropical storm every two and a half years on average anyway. 

So when do you get a tropical storm on that half year?  Lies and statistics.

Rack has finished watering his favorite rock, and I look up for a friend.   She has been over that way, near the red light guarding the sandbar for most of the year, but she's getting more and more shy as time goes on.  Her name is Venus and she was left alone a while ago by her partner Mars.  He shot off toward the west months back and she's been fading towards the Bahamas and the Atlantic ocean beyond.

We go out looking for our own adventure.   Rack sees someone who he thinks he knows.  I'm never sure whether he sees the dog first or the person, but for no matter, it's merely a distraction.  We're trying to get our walk in.  I'm reminded of a topic and am walking aimlessly at that time of morning.

What was his name all those years back?  Jim's roommate in college?  Joe, I am sure of it.  At least it was the first year only.  He ended up with someone else for the next couple.

We're wandering back to home.  In the full light of the approaching Supermoon, I still can't tell whether he's true to his name, the Yellow Footed Herding Dog, or he's just clean.  We hit the dog wash station on the porch as I wash his feet.  We're plunged into the dark of the approaching dawn and it's time to head in.

More details as I am in the bathroom brushing my teeth.  I'm a lousy housekeeper, the little collection of brass figures on top of the medicine chest need to be cleaned.  Dust gets everywhere, the Sahara ocean leaves its mark on South Florida as everything needs to be washed down frequently.

I get through breakfast, letting the dog wander and water the backyard, and my own morning routine.  It's an early Sunday morning.  I'll be putting up a joke today.  No such thing as a day off, it's merely a slower day.  There are things yet to do.  All the "meta" things we all do, tasks that need to be done in order to do a task.  If you want to make an omelette, you have to break an egg.

I load up the last 80 web pages in tabs on the browser, answer the kettle.  Coffee time.  Settle back in for the mug and the morning.  Finishing all that it's time to check in and see if anything has Gone South, what has exploded.

Nothing.  I may as well go outside.  The internet is broken.  I'm up too early to disturb anyone else in the house, the sun has barely risen.

Pavlov, your dog is drooling.

I get up.  We all have a digital dial tone these days.  The Brrrrr in our ear isn't a wired telephone, too bad as I have a couple that are really quite nice. That has been replaced by the internet.   If that isn't up and running, things grind to a halt.  How do they think they can call themselves a utility if they can't keep the internet running?  Com-crap not withstanding, I hit reset by unplugging the cable modem.  Our internal network is still running.  One of the problems with listening to an internet radio is that when the internet crashes, the music stops.

Or more likely, that's the idea.  Music going means all is well.  Music stops, and we're sunk.  Run in panic like the crazy ants that live in the Mango tree's pot.  Lift that conch shell.  They'll run all over your arm in a panic.  No wifi?  Are you crazy trying to run a business without it these days?

Can I hop on the neighbor's connection?  Not with the Big PC.  I don't have their password any longer.  That machine I fixed for them has been re-imaged, and the password is gone.  Forget using a phone, that's insane trying to look at anything "production" on a browser on an Android phone that is only 2.8 inches across running a 5 year operating system.

Realize that the world hasn't come to an end.  I can write on a notepad.  Or rather Notepad.exe.  My spelling will be checked when I paste it all into Blogger later on.  I could do it live on my internal Website.  I've got Wordpress running here.

I hear stirring from the other room.  I'll pass the ball.  I don't have the phone number for...

"Hey do you know the internet is down?"

Yeah I had a feeling... "Gonna call Comcrap?"

A little bit later, all is right with the world.  I get the posting out.  I think I'll wear That T Shirt "I'm outside today because the internet is down."  Yeah, that's the ticket.  I should probably get that contact info for them.  Yet another magic bullet to the modem.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

April 1st

Defense Attorney: Will you please state your age?
Old Lady: I am 94 years old.

Defense Attorney: Will you tell us, in your own words, what happened the night of April 1st?
Old Lady: There I was, sitting there in my swing on my front porch on a warm spring evening, when a young man comes creeping up on the porch and sat down beside me.

Defense Attorney: Did you know him?
Old Lady: No, but he sure was friendly.

Defense Attorney: What happened after he sat down?
Old Lady: He started to rub my thigh.

Defense Attorney: Did you stop him?
Old Lady: No, I didn't stop him.

Defense Attorney: Why not?
Little Old Lady: It felt good. Nobody had done that since my Beaufort died some 30 years ago.

Defense Attorney: What happened next?
Old Lady: He began to rub all over my body.

Defense Attorney: Did you stop him then?
Old Lady: No, I did not stop him.

Defense Attorney: Why not?
Old Lady: His rubbing made me feel all alive and excited. I haven't felt that good in years!

Defense Attorney: What happened next?
Old Lady: Well, by then, I was feeling so spicy' that I just laid down and told him, "'Take me, young man. Take me now!'

Defense Attorney: And did he take you?
Old Lady: Hell, no! He just yelled, 'April Fool!' And that's when I shot him, the little bastard.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More Mommy, Mommy!

Mommy, Mommy! What's a nymphomaniac?
Shut up and help me get Gramma off the doorknob!

Mommy, Mommy! Why is daddy so pale?
Shut up and keep digging.

Mommy, Mommy! I don't like grandpa.
Well, just push him aside and eat your beans.

Mommy, Mommy! Grandpa's going out!
Well throw some more gasoline on him then.

Mommy, Mommy! I don't want to go to Australia.
Shut up son and keep swimming.

Mommy, Mommy! Why are we pushing the car off the cliff?
Shut up son, you'll wake your father.

Mommy, Mommy! I keep running in circles.
Shut up or I'll nail your other foot to the floor.

Mommy, Mommy! The milkmans here; have you got the money or should I go out an play?

Mommy, Mommy! Why's everybody running?
Shut up and reload.

Mommy, Mommy! Why is Daddy zigzagging in the yard?
Shut up and shoot again!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Popcorn Anyone?

Being a foodie can be annoying.

Not to you, but to others.

There's always the latest fad.  Organically home grown locally sourced this or that can be tedious to find.

Believe it or not, I tend to be on the trailing edge of all of that stuff.  When I find something that I like, I sharpen my own skills until I get it "perfect" then I simply set the way I do it in stone and won't change unless there's a very strong reason not to.

The coffee is one of those things.  While Home Roasting your own beans may sound horribly exotic, and also horribly boring or perhaps strange to many people, that's how it was done for centuries.   Skillet on the stove heated just so.  In my case it's a popcorn popper.

Since I have a popcorn popper I may as well keep popcorn in the house.

But air popped popcorn in my "coffee roaster" popcorn popper doesn't taste like popcorn.  It tastes like styrofoam.  There's a reason why you can legally use popcorn in the US for packing peanuts.  If you pop it with air, it's pretty much harmless and simply takes up space.

I may try that next "shipping season" if I run low on bubble wrap.  It's much more ecologically friendly, and if you simply pack the popcorn in plastic bags, it gives the people you sent it to a nice snack when they're opening the box.


But it still tastes like air popped packing peanuts.  Or popcorn.

So how to improve that for when you are sitting in front of the one eyed babysitter having your brain drilled empty?

I tried Olive Oil which was nice, but heavy.  It also tasted like a pizza when I tossed on some "Italian Seasoning" mix of oregano, rosemary, and other "stuff".

Nah, I will leave the pizza for when I want a pizza.

We found a "Funyun" spice mix which ended up being 2 parts Onion Powder and 1 part Garlic Salt.   Not too exciting, it wasn't quite right.

I got into a long food conversation arc with my buddy in Atlanta who insisted that the thing was to go out and get some Coconut Oil.

"Was this the latest food fad?  Isn't Coconut Oil supposed to be horrible for you?"

And other similar questions.

Yes, it's the latest Foodie Fad.  It is supposed to be the latest wonderful thing that will save you from rack and ruin, and it even will make Julienne Fries!

Sure if you can figure out how to cut those potatoes without slashing your fingers.

So we bought the stuff and it sat in the cupboard for a while.

I wanted a snack.  Had had quite enough of the run of the mill chocolate and other junk food we get in bulk from the warehouse stores.   I was thinking about making popcorn, but since Kevin was home he would want some too. 

Having a well prepared kitchen helps, even if the kitchen is a bit small.  Galley Kitchen with one 6'4" man trying to cook up a snack can be claustrophobic.

I bent my own bulk down to the floor, never the best place for a tall man.  Looking for the large pot to make this stuff in, I realized I had something much better.  Not only one but two Woks.

Yes, I actually have two Woks.  You don't?  How on Earth do you stirfry?  Sheesh!

But seriously, I have two, and I'm glad I did.  It was gift way back in the mid 80s and I have kept it since then. 

Looking around in the cabinets, I was trying to find the right oil.  I hit upon the white plastic jar of that coconut oil.   It's a thick mess of stuff, looking waxy with a layer of thick glop solidified on the top.  But while it was heavier in calories, I could use much less.

You know the old school recipe of a tablespoon to the pot with a quarter cup of popcorn kernels in a heavy domed lid?  I could use less.

It turned out that Coconut Oil has an added benefit.  You don't need as much to fry.   In fact, since I was using a Wok, I used a teaspoon instead and that was too much.  Next time 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil to 1/3 cup of kernels.

It also has a lower smoke point so I had to turn down the heat.   Probably better to fry fish in.  I may have to try my hand at that.

There I was.  In my little crackerbox galley kitchen.  Using weird oils in a wok to make popcorn.  At least I would be able to make enough for three.  Two for me, one for you.

I did say I was tall, right?   We just need more.  It's part of the territory.

The thing is that this was some of the best popcorn I had had in a very long time.  Coconut Oil is what they use in movie theaters, and since I wasn't using "The Cheap Stuff" I was able to use only a little of it, and none of that weird "Flavoring" which I suspect really is nothing more than industrial solvents and something drained from the crankcase of a 12 year old Buick.

Since it was for the both of us, I made a small bowl for Kevin so he could salt or season it to his liking.  I had the rest for myself. 

A vat of popcorn, some old reruns of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch and Petticoat Junction, and pleasant company.  A real nice way to run out an evening.

Pass the Kettle Corn salt, I'm thinking salty and sweet tonight!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

1800 Posts and All Is Well!

Yeah I looked at the blog info and noticed that I had a nice round number and thought, why not?

It's been four years, 1800 posts.  Some good, some I could have done better.

How does that sound, could have done better.  Code word for "What was I thinking?"!

At any rate, I had a four year run and only missed one day recently. I'm still a little embarrassed about that.  I looked at the site that morning very early, got up to do "other things" and got into a shiny object.   Since I try to have something on here by 10AM I simply forgot.

I'm also doing some of these in advance, some of these on the seat of my pants.  Depends on how full my head is at.

I've been told that I can write about just about anything if I have a mind to.  That came from my own training in High School.  I was hard pressed for a book report, remember those?  I went up into our attic.  Back in the 1950s would be my guess, someone had been on that Book Of The Month Club thing.  The books got collected and the box ended up in our attic.  I can't even say it was my own parents that were members of the club, the box may have been given to them.

Taking that box, I found the most obscure novel I could find.  I remember it was titled "Gestapo".  I opened the book up and saw the chapter titles.   Writing a paragraph on each chapter would be easy, I never actually read the book.

Got an A Minus on that report too.  I guess I can tell a story if I put my mind to it.

Those who return here seem to think so.  According to Google Analytics, 27 percent of the people who read this blog on a given day have been here before.   That was over the last year or so.

(Waves hands)  Hi and welcome back!

On a planet of almost 8 billion, that's not a bad percentage.

It's not a big blog, I don't have all THAT many readers, and if someone were to send me some money saying thanks... it would be the first.

Writing helps keep my mind clear, and it is something that given a topic, is easy for me.

I guess though to close this out, I'll give you that David Letterman Top Ten List for the last month only.

  1. Puns and One Liner Weekend
  2. Hotmail Annoyance - Turn Off Keyboard Shortcuts
  3. Parking hours discussed at the Commission Meeting
  4. Gold Medal Flour - Extraordinary Buttermilk Biscuits
  5. The Roof is Evil, and Must Die!
  6. Goodbye Lisa
  7. A Parrot and a Magician on a Ship
  8. Three Men Are Walking in a Desert - Humor
  9. Gnome 3 in Debian Jessie Using VMWare Workstation
  10. I-95 North, Deerfield Beach, Florida
Most of those are older even if it is over this month only, and surprisingly people are coming to this blog for those jokes.  I guess I shouldn't be embarrassed at posting them.  I find them in various places.   If you want to send me some, feel free.  My own rules are that I have to be able to tell them in a business meeting - no swears, no bigotry, and not too controversial.

The other thing that got me is that there are quite a few people coming to this blog directly.  They must have bookmarked the URL.  They are also using google, specifically, and searching for it.  That's a bit circuitous, but hey knock yourself out.

You will note that number 9 is very much the tech that I know that my local readers tend not to read.  It's kind of esoteric.  I use Linux every day without fail, on the desktop, along with Windows.  It's an environment that I'm as comfortable in as my Mac OSX or Windows.  As I find things, I will let  you know.

So enough of this patting myself on the back.  The dryer is beeping, and the dog is begging for more yogurt!

I'm not going away just yet... I'll be back tomorrow.  No, really, that one is already in the can.  I pushed it aside just to do this one when I noticed that it was a round number.