Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Pat

Somewhere in the beautiful and fabled land of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, there lives a woman. 

You may know her, but you probably do not.  If you don't that is your loss, because I do.

She's my sister.  If you do know her on Facebook, wish her a happy birthday, I know she will appreciate the thought.

I won't put her picture up here, she never liked it when I took them of her so I don't have too many to share.

A couple weeks ago, I sent her a "Care Package" for her birthday.  I purposely did it early.  Packed it chock full of goodies that I know she likes.

About a half pound of my best home-roasted coffee.  Ground to Espresso Grind, roasted to Second Crack - A Full City Plus or French Roast if you know the lingo.

There were three jars of homemade jam in there.  Cherry Jelly, Lemon Curd, and Key Lime Curd.  The Curds are a recipe that I posted a while back.  It works great with any citrus fruit that I have tried it with, including Grapefruit. 

There was also a birthday card in the box.  I wrote a note for her, by hand of all things!  Yeah, really, I write on here sometimes as much as a thousand words a day and I actually put Pen to Paper and scrawled out something for her to read.

I also tossed some random things in there because I do that sort of thing.  Just a few things I thought would make her scratch her head and wonder whether I have lost my mind, because I generally have. 

I'm sure it all made her smile.

The reason why I sent it early was so that it would be there roughly at her husband Mike's birthday as well.  Mike's a great guy, and I have to say I was truly happy when they got together and built a relationship, then a marriage, then a life together.

Thanks Mike for all of that.

So Pat, nothing else is coming in the mail, but if there is any of the jam or the curds left, I suggest a little on a toasted English Muffin with some cream cheese.  It's excellent.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Have You Ever Felt Like You Stepped Into A Disney Movie?

I got restless Sunday Morning.

I simply didn't want to sit in the chair doing "regular things" and got up from the computer.  

Usually when I do that, I go into the kitchen and make something off the wall.   I could still do that, I have enough Butterscotch Icing to roll out and ice a cake.  More of those Krimpet tasting cakes that I love so much.

Rack was laying in my bedroom on his mat in a pool of sunlight.  I walked out to the main house and I'm sure he read my body language as if to say "Something's Up!" since he followed along.

Grabbing two "dog bags", the camera, and all the gear I would usually have when I take the dog for a walk with the camera, I thought I'd take a walk around town.  Nothing planned.  I had wanted to get to the park and get some shots before the sun got too high in the skies.  At that point, South Florida starts to look a bit Over-Exposed and the colors can wash out.

I didn't have to call Rack.  He was glued to my right calf muscle.

Dressing him up for a walk, he went to the front door.  I looked outside and stepped into Technicolor.  The riot of colors that is Florida assaulted the senses.

We both gathered our minds together, and begun the trip.  I dropped Rack's leash, on purpose, and gave him an Off Leash walk around town.

He spotted someone well down the block and didn't care for him.  Acting the fearful dog, he would follow behind me.  We put some distance between that person, who was completely harmless.  I know the guy and see him often since he walks through the neighborhood twice daily.

Silly mutt, come on.

I turned down the block, camera in hand.

I could hear Snow White singing sweetly inside the empty cavity of my mind.  "I'm Wishing!... I'm Wishing!... For You!... For You!"

The first place I looked to take a picture was a fence.   The bird perched there watched me take my camera out, push the zoom button full and allowed me to take one picture.  Looking at the tiny view window afterwords, I had missed the shot.  Not to matter, the Cardinal flew off in a flash of red feathers.

I was disappointed but not for long.  There was a Curly Tailed Lizard watching me.  It allowed me to get rather close and squeeze off a few shots.  Dinosaur's great grandchild living on my block.  They almost never let you get anywhere near them, let alone close enough and long enough to take pictures. 

As soon as I got enough, it darted away before I had even turned off the power.  It knew.

I was going to take another picture of a different Curly Tail and it knew I didn't need it.  It strolled away.  Not so much as a Curly Tail normally skitters away, but strolled.  Slowly ambled away.

"I'm Wishing!  For You!"

Ok, Snow White, this is getting odd.  Very odd indeed.

At least the flowers didn't need any prompting and I managed to get a few of those.  Flash went off on one, disappointingly I got a second one that was actually natural light, clear and perfect.  What I needed but no more.

Head South on the street, the lizards were ambling away in great herds of raptor's children.  Not concerned of this giant approaching, they merely got out of the way of my size 11 feet.

"I'm Wishing..."

We reached the park.  Rack was still close, now relaxed since the other guy went North a while back.  Off leash and enjoying the freedom of the walk, he went into the little vest pocket park and sniffed at the plinth.  Rack pointed out a Cuban Brown Lizard on the sunny side of the plinth at the tip of his nose.  Neither were concerned with the others presence.

"For you..."

Instead of harassing each other, Rack merely walked to the back of the park and sat down.  He was off a good distance from me, watching me take pictures of Spiders, Butterflies, Bees, and Lizards.  Flowers in a riot of color seemed to stop nodding in the ever present breezes when I needed them.  The Butterfly I wanted to get a picture of hovered, then landed on my finger on the shutter trigger of the camera.

Not terribly helpful, but quite amusing.  The Butterfly helped me notice that the Lizard was trying to get into the act.  When I spotted that, the Butterfly went behind the big copper Butterfly chair as if to say I was taking the wrong shot.

The Lizard slowly walked to the corner of the plinth.  Posing for me, it waited.  I readied the camera and he began doing some slow pushups and what passed for Cuban Brown Lizard Gymnastics.   The little guy really wanted its picture taken.

When I had gotten enough of those, it simply walked out of the sun and stayed in the shade as if to say go look at the dog.

Rack had decided to pose.  Sitting in front of the Butterfly, he was looking from side to side, enjoying the day.  No longer hyper-alert, he was relaxed and enjoying the scene.  I managed to get off some more shots, perfect for what I needed.  You guessed it, he decided I had enough and walked over to me.

"Rack?  What's Up?"

He simply walked out of the park, sat at the end of the little walkway and beckoned me forward.

I was really beginning to expect Thumper and Flower to show up any minute.  Maybe Bambi would join me and I'd thank Snow White for taking me out this morning.

The entire rest of the walk was like this.  Rack stayed close, never really went very far.   I ignored the leash until I got home.  Removing the leash from his harness, I washed the road grit off and told him to go walk in the grass.  Our routine was to wash his feet before he goes inside, and this was no more different.

One last Disney Moment.  Rack did exactly what I asked him.  Off leash, he walked out into the grass, around the car, and down the other side as if I had been guiding him.  Never mind that I was on the porch and merely gave him that little instruction, he did it flawlessly.

I think the ending credits started to roll at that point.  I opened the door, Rack stepped into the cool dark interior and we left the Technicolor movie behind.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A doctor, a lawyer, a priest, and an engineer are golfing

A doctor, a lawyer, a priest, and an engineer are golfing...

... and they keep getting held up by a twosome in front of them. The two guys can't hit straight, take forever to find their balls, they are terrible, and no amount of yelling at them seems to help. Finally the greenskeeper comes around in his cart so they flag him down.

The greenskeeper says, "Oh, those two guys are the firemen who rescued the orphans from the burning building last year! They are both blind and can't hear very well because of injuries they sustained that day, so we let them play here for free." And he drives off.

The doctor looks at the others and says "Wow, I feel terrible. These poor guys are heroes and we've been yelling at them for the last half hour. I am going to talk to my hospital and see if we can get them some free medical care, maybe we can help them out."

The lawyer says "Yeah, I feel terrible too. I am going to offer my services to them pro bono. Maybe there was somebody at fault and I can get them some restitution for their pain and suffering."

The priest says "As a man of the cloth, I feel ashamed. I have been thinking bad thoughts about these poor men simply because they inconvenienced me. I am going to ask my congregation to pray for them on Sunday, and start a collection for their families."

The engineer says "Why can't they play at night?"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Engineer Dies

An Engineer Dies

An engineer dies and stands before St. Peter at the gates of heaven.

After going through all his records, St. Peter finds that the man must go to hell.

The engineer complains, as he's always been loyal to his wife and friends, never stolen, and always tried to lead a good life.

"I'll take it up with the boss," says St. Peter. "But it will be a few weeks before we get an answer, and until then you'll have to stay in hell."

Two weeks later, after the case has been gone over, St. Peter calls down to Satan, telling him that a mistake as been made and to release the engineer.

"No," says Satan.
"Why not?"
"In the past two weeks he fixed the air conditioner, fixed my wireless network, upgraded the internet to high speed, and within a week we're going to have a new ice cream machine. He's staying," comes Satan's answer.

"You can't do this!" exclaims St. Peter. "By all rights he should be in heaven! We'll take you to court if we have to!"

"Sounds fair," says Satan calmly. "But where are you going to find a lawyer."

Friday, September 26, 2014

Don't Threaten Me or I Will Flash My Dewlap At You!

I can't say that these creatures were "here first".  Technically they were introduced and naturalized and pushed out some other lizards that were here before them.  It's a shame for those other lizards, but it is par for the course here in Overcast South Florida.

I've heard they are now being pushed out by the Curly Tails.  Curly Tailed Lizards which are twice as long and twice as thick and four times as assertive.

The Cuban Browns are entertaining to me.  Completely harmless, so much so that children would catch them and let them bite their earlobes to have Lizard Earrings for the few seconds that the scared creatures would hold on.

There you go little girl, have a chomp from my mighty toothless mouth as I wiggle my feet and flash my dewlap at you!  I am the fearless descendent of the great Dinosaurs and you shall respect me!

Not so much for my friend here.  I did my daily run around the backyard looking at my almost dead lemon tree in the pot line and pulling weeds from the mango tree.  Taking time to shamefully look at the banana tree that is so pot bound that the next time it falls over the pot may burst in relief and the tree will walk the two steps to the East saying "I'm Free! I can taste the sweet soil again after these horrible people kept me in prison!".

To which the Mango tree says "Try being me!  I'm over six foot tall and I fall over every time a shower comes through like a child's toy!".

We really do have to decide to create a small garden for these things.  Pots don't work.  You never get enough fruit, even though I was getting enough lemons for a while to make homemade lemon curd from them.  I'd have a chicken in the yard too if it weren't for that they're noisy and I'd get yelled at by code enforcement for having a farm in myback yard in the city!

Fresh Eggs anyone?  Maybe I need to move to Key West for that?  Conchs have all the fun!

Walking out into the yard is an experience.  You never know what you will scare off that is reptilian.  Most of what is back there is completely harmless, even the black racer snakes that keep the rodents away.  Live in harmony with nature and you will be better off for it. 

Stepping onto the Lanai, I have to look.   Rack generally will follow me out the door then go off and sniff the air.  If there is a storm within 10 miles, he'll hear it and try to herd me back inside.  I'm too deaf or just plain human to hear those rumbles that are off shore between us and the Bahamas.  But he does and doesn't like them at all.

At the right time of day, the lizards are on the pool deck catching the morning sun.  Cold blooded creatures need to warm up just like that cup of tea you have.  They'll run away in great herds of lizards like Raptors in a movie after prey.  More likely they're just off to the grass so they don't get trodden on by great size 11 sneakers.

Having inspected the pot line, the irrigation, and considering where to put the Hibiscus that is in the pot that now has gone taller than I am by a few inches with that one red flower at the top which will wilt by tomorrow morning, I return to my friend the brown lizard.   It hasn't moved.  It's still watching me.

Goodbye Lizard.  Catch some mosquitoes while you are there.  There are plenty for you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Shellshock - A BASH bug that effects Linux and Mac OSX ... and everyone on the web

Yeah, scaremongering isn't the best.  Luckily for those of us who run Linux, the fix is easy.

It also effects some Mac systems, although you will need to test and get your own upgrades.

It is possible that it effects Android systems as well.  I did the test on my tablet running CyanogenMod this morning and it was safe.  Your Mileage May Vary.

How this effects Windows is straightforward, it's another one of those low level things in a web server that can bite us later and since Linux powers many websites, you are effected indirectly.  Think of what the Heartbleed problem was and how you went in and changed all your passwords to protect yourself.  Good idea to start changing them again!

The bug is called "Shellshock".  The specifics is that it allows a ne'er do well to hack into an unpatched Linux server and gain full control via something called the BASH shell.  That is a bad thing because with control over bash, you can gain full control of the entire computer.

There is a test and full explanation of all the geekery under the hood here at this link at www.ArsTechnica.com if you care to dig deeper.  Basically, just go in and do a full update of your machine and make sure you see bash updated. 

The test is this line in terminal.

 env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"

If the system is vulnerable, the output will be:

 this is a test

An unaffected (or patched) system will output:

 bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt
 bash: error importing function definition for `x'
 this is a test

Since Mac OSX is based on something called BSD and bash comes with it in their terminal.  If you have an older Mac that is acting as a server, look into a patch.

I personally did the fix last night on my Debian system while I was half asleep.  Really trivial to fix.

In a root terminal -

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

It went out and updated my list of available updates, then upgraded those that needed it.  The package "bash" was included.

CentOS came up this morning with a bubble telling me to install updates.   It worked.  No problem.

I tried it out on my RaspberryPi machine and yes, that was affected.  The patch worked, and the picture is below. 

Here's the thing, it may effect Android tablets and phones depending on whether bash is installed.  It's a very basic and well known tool, so you will need to make sure you can patch the tablets. 

However, it's highly unlikely that some average dude walking down the street with a year old Android phone with an unpatched system will have a problem.  Someone would have to know you're there, get into your machine, and do the hack to gain control.  You aren't the person they would be looking for, it's that big web server sitting somewhere like a store or a bank that they're going to hack.

Just accept the updates if you have manual control of whatever computer you are using, phones and tablets included.

If you are "going into" your machine, set your update preferences to allow security updates automatically while you're at it since that makes it easier to administer the machines.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

iPhone6 Killer Feature? They Bend.

A lesson for you tech buyers is to wait at least a week or three before you buy.

Standing in line from midnight the night before outside of one of the few tech big box stores is all about the social aspect as well as being able to say "Look What I Got".

Boring, but I understand it.

Those people have already stood in line, got their iPhone6 in shiny metal flavors and are using it.  They probably found out about the major flaw.  The phones are so thin that they bend in normal use in a trouser pocket.

Apple has yet to make a statement on the defect, but it's clearly not Suitable For Intended Use - you know, the old English Common Law Warranty of Merchantability?

I'll leave the law to the Lawyers, but you might want to stay tuned. 

If you did buy one of those phones, make sure it is in a shirt pocket or a caddy on the belt.  

If you didn't, wait.   They will probably have to do a quick redesign on the back of the thing, most likely going to Tungsten or some other more durable metal.  Sure it won't be as light as the current Aluminium, but it also won't bend like that foil you used to wrap your baked potato last Sunday Dinner.

I learned that it wasn't the best to buy first a long time ago. This kind of risk that you take when you buy first is a major annoyance to me.

I had bought a 1986 Ford Taurus.  Beautiful car, in cream with a tan interior.  One of the first ones out of the factory.  I almost immediately had problems with the front end of it.  A front wheel drive car that pulled to the left.  After two trips back to the shop for a replacement of the rack and pinion, I traded it in on a Chevy Nova.  I didn't have that car for more than a year, and I haven't considered a Ford since.  The Nova was a great little car, but as sexy as a toaster.  Maybe it was the Sexy that was the problem.  Sexy in machinery breaks.  It's fragile.  Durable is best.  The Nova also lasted 10 years before it started to rust out in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Winters. 

I stuck with Durable but wanted something different.  That's why I drive a Jeep Wrangler that is 12 years old.  It's my third Jeep.

So wait a bit, you don't want a lemon car like the Ford I had, and you surely don't want a bendy lemon like the iPhone 6.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Butterscotch Icing - For When You Can't Find Krimpets

Philly has a very well deserved reputation for liking their junk food. 

Cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and of course Tastykakes.

Tastykake had more varieties up there than I get when I moved down here, although I'm seeing more of them show up here in South Florida. 

There was this flat raisin bar that I really liked but could not find even when I lived there going back a few years.  They were dense things that you could chew and it would even chew back that tasted richly of raisins and cinnamon.

Childhood memories, right?  Keep your Twinkies, they're crap compared to something made with real eggs and milk like a proper Tastykake!

The other day I had a box of Butterscotch Krimpets sitting on the table and I thought that such a beloved snack would be fairly easy to try to come close to.  It is a simple yellow cake that is topped with a thick butterscotch fondant icing. 

I am sure that my love for these things are why I am 6'4" and 225 pounds today.   More the weight than the height, but I'm not going to quibble.

I went hunting for a recipe and found an interesting one for Butterscotch icing.   Mind you, this is close but not perfect.  That's fine, I wanted mine a bit richer butterscotch flavoring, so I went for the Dark Brown Sugar.  If you want a lighter taste, use a mix of Dark and Light brown sugars.

For the actual cake, I cheated - I made up a box yellow cake mix and the result was rather authentic for a quick first try.

It is done in two distinct steps.

  • First you make the icing base by cooking the ingredients except the confectioner's sugar in a saucepan.  Bring it to a light slow boil and stir with a whisk for three minutes.  I timed mine, and it came out perfect.
  • Then you cool the icing base in the refrigerator until cold.
  • Finally you use the stand mixer to mix in the confectioner's sugar until it is smooth.
  • That's really it.  It was quite simple, even though you have to restrain yourself from making it until it is cold.  You will end up with enough icing for a cake, or like here in the picture, cupcakes. 


Icing Base:
  • 2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (or 3 ounces) shortening
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
For the final step
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar - Reserve this for the final mixing.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Glory to the Hypnotoad on Kevin's SUV

Hey, stop!


There's a frog on my car!  Take a look!

Oh WOW!  He's a beaut!  Here, take Rack, let me go in and get the camera!

Thus begun a solid 10 minutes of me trying to figure out how to get just enough light onto this shy little creature so that I could get the camera to figure out how to focus.  Flashlight was passed off so that it could shine on the frog, at just the right angle.

It also reminded me of a couple stories.

These tree frogs, or at least I think they're tree frogs, are common here.  In the case of this little creature, it's a Cuban Tree Frog, and classified as, you guessed it, an invasive species.

It isn't the first time I have seen them here, there's one that had been visiting me in the predawn morning hours by leaping onto the back window of the house with a meaty smack.  I guess if it could find itself 7 feet off the ground to get up onto the house, it certainly could jump up into the air and land on the back of a beast of a SUV at 6 feet.

On the other hand, I was told that shortly after we got here, one of them had leapt and perched on my leg one day.  I remember that as being a Cuban Brown Lizard rather than a frog, but it certainly makes for a point of discussion.

I was also reminded that this one could be getting even for my childhood hunts.  Back in Cherry Hill, NJ there was a spring that fed a small pond.  The pond had green frogs in it and when the frogs were plentiful, the kids would do what kids do.

We caught them.

We never really took it too far past that.  We'd catch the frogs, the frogs didn't really think either way about getting caught.  They'd look at you with their eyes wondering what was next and when they got bored, they'd jump off back into the pond.  There were plenty more where that came from.  When we were through with catching frogs, we'd have a bucket of them and we'd set them loose back into the pond and then go back to find something else to annoy. 

Typical kids.   They do things and don't really know why.  It's just what we did.  Now that we're older we know that it's pointless and annoying and someone could get hurt.  Usually the frogs although it did get our clothes and shoes muddy.

For a while, one of my favorite TV shows was Futurama.  Set in a strange future where robots roamed the Earth along with Aliens, travel took place in pneumatic tubes in New New York.  New New York was built over top of our New York which was blasted in the opening scenes of the first episode.  Only mutants lived in New York below the current city.

I guess nothing really changed.

Of course there was a TV show within a TV show there.  One of the aliens was a toad that would hypnotize you with its stare and a groaning and grumbling sound.   That was the Hypnotoad.

Yeah, I guess you had to be there, but if you weren't, here you go!

All Glory To The Hypnotoad.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Guys Night Out

Guys Night Out

The other night I was invited out for a night with the 'guys.'

I told my wife that I would be home by midnight, 'I promise!'

Well, the hours passed and the beers went down way too easily.

Around 3 a.m., a bit loaded, I headed for home.

Just as I got in the door, the cuckoo clock in the hallway started up and cuckoo-ed 3 times.

Quickly, realizing the wife would probably wake up, I cuckoo-ed another 9 times.

I was really proud of myself for coming up with such a quick-witted solution, in order to escape a possible conflict with her.

(Even when drunk as a skunk.... 3 cuckoos plus 9 cuckoos totals = 12 cuckoos = MIDNIGHT!)

The next morning my wife asked me what time I got in, I told her 'MIDNIGHT'.

She didn't seem pissed off in the least.

Whew, I got away with that one! Then she said 'We need a new cuckoo clock.'

When I asked her why, she said, 'Well, last night our clock cuckoo-ed three times, then said 'oh crap!' Cuckoo-ed 4 more times, cleared its throat, cuckoo-ed another three times, giggled, cuckoo-ed twice more, and then tripped over the coffee table and farted.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Good News / Bad News

Good News/Bad News

So I went to the psychiatrist the other day and told him that I think I suffer from an inferiority complex. "Is there anything you can do for me, Doc?"

"Well let me run some tests on you," he said, "and we'll see what we can do."

After a long day of all kinds of tests, he comes back to me and says, "I have some good news and some bad news."

"Give me the good news first, doc."

"Good news is, you do NOT have an inferiority complex."

"That's a relief. What's the bad news?"

"The bad news is, you really are inferior."

Friday, September 19, 2014

So how DO you know when your phone is obsolete?

I have a friend who visits about once a year.  I have a standing request that he brings his "Daily Driver" computer with him when he comes.

He calls it a tune up.  What I generally do is go through the machine, run a virus scan, uninstall spyware, and send him on his way.  It runs much faster because I've cleaned out the junk.

He's also been using that machine for longer than even I have expected.  He's gotten newer machines, but he keeps coming back to that beast of a 17 inch "laptop" because I'm able to keep it going.

Eventually, he'll have to stop using it, and then it will have a second life as either a table leveler, something to hold a shelf down in the linen closet, or I'll put Linux on it and it will be good for another 5 years of use.

I'm leaning toward Linux, but that is because I actually do like using the environment.

Computers have a longer life than the manufacturers want you to believe because they exist to make money by selling you new.  It's Planned Obsolescence.

With a phone, it appears much more clear cut.  Especially with a smartphone, things have a shelf life.  The vendor puts out a new model, it can do more, but does it really warrant you getting a new one?

Again like with my friends beast of a laptop, to me, it appears that it is software driving the decision.

There are two schools here.  Apple and Android.  Not looking at this as a fanboy of either set up, I have a preference for Android because I can do things with it like use the phone as a multimedia computer much easier than I can with iOS.  I look at it as a use case to form a decision as to which works best for me.

Your Mileage May Vary.

With Apple, there is a clear end of life with their phones.  When you can no longer run their current operating system, it is time to consider moving on.  Apple has always done this with their computers as well.  For a while their PowerPC computers were supposed to be the best thing out there.  Then they came out with Intel based computers that made their old computers look horrible and they stopped supporting them after one more upgrade.

My iPhone is an old 3GS.  It will still make calls, but as a computer, Apple is actively pushing it away.  I have software that ran on it until I updated it, then all the sudden the older software is gone, and the newer one doesn't work because I don't have the current operating system.  One after another app is going away and eventually that will be the end of it.

Of course if you have the latest iPhone 6, it's obsolete when you drop it on the ground on the first day it's out because you just broke the screen.

Android is a different animal.

Android support varies with the company that made the phone or tablet.  Typically, an Android phone will get updates within the operating system version that it was bought with.  After that you are on your own.

My tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, got updates until the current OS came out.  That doesn't mean that the tablet is unusable, it merely means that it will get more behind the times as I run into the same problem that my old iPhone had.  Software won't be written for it.

There is another problem with the older versions of Android.  The browser that shipped with every version of Android except the current one has a rather nasty bug in it.  The short of it is that if you have an older Android device, do not use the default browser.  Disable that browser, and install another.  I did that at the start and I use Firefox which is the suggestion that is made by most security groups.

Why is that a problem?  Because if you don't have a current device that runs the current Operating System, you aren't going to get an update and you are on your own.  That means you have just hit the wall with using that phone, it's now obsolete - if you want to be secure.

It all seems a bit alarmist, but considering how many people use their phones and tablets as their main computing devices these days, it really does pay to be aware of what that device is capable of doing.  It is a computer and they do need to be kept up to date.  But when you can't do that any more, you have to be aware what not being up to date can mean.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Intensity, Thy Name is Rack

Have you ever tried to take a picture of moving water knowing that it will never be the same river twice?

We really do not have one dog.  We have two.

There is the calm and quiet Rack that sleeps almost all day.  He is up with me, sometimes before, sometimes I have to coax him out of the warm donut that serves as his bed.  I hardly know he's home until a truck drives down the block, a door slams, or some other intrusion into his quiet canine life.  He will then rouse, and I hear something that I mistake for a motorcycle or a lawn mower in the distance.  That would sometimes go forward into a full yodeling bark but only when someone is on the property.

I know what's going on. Soon he will settle back into his reverie and fall asleep.  Some mental process looping in the background of his canine subconscious until the next intrusion triggers him to come awake.

The other dog appears later.   Once in a while we do have to go out.  That sends our boy into a sulk.  He'll go and hide in his crate, sleep in his bed, or under the chess table in the corner and go into standby mode.

When we come back, that is when the full on fur covered waggle will appear.  I've heard some say that it's bad manners to have your dog go crazy when you come home.  They don't get the point.  As long as they're not knocking you over and causing damage, that excitement is one of the reasons you get a dog.

Walk him out to the backyard and the fun truly begins.  The herding you around the coffee table to greet you back into his presence and to see if the pack is still intact was only the opening act.  Now the question is how much of that rested energy can be used at once.

We go to the door and slide it open with a rattle.  The wedding bells from my sister's wedding are hanging there on a long maroon cord announcing that we all are going outside.

Rack begins a trot to the hedges, does what he needs to and watches.

I kick a piece of bougainvillea back out of the way and Rack runs.   Not away as much as toward joy.  He's covering the yard in leaps and bounds.  A sinusoidal oscillation that covers distance in a bounce.  He's weaving to avoid something that only exists in his happiness.  Bouncing around the plant pots, leaping over the cutting pot that is holding some small treasures that someone wanted us to have, he's airborne.  Running the entire yard, he makes a detour to find out what the sound was in the next yard.

Purposely, one of us jumps, making a human attempt at the Lets Play sign that all dogs understand.

He's out of the hedges in a blur of black and white, running the perimeter in a frenzy of activity.  Behind the table, leaping over the pool gear and the furniture, he makes a switchback that seems otherworldly in its precision.  He has missed the concrete support of the table for the thousandth time, and runs back towards the direction he just came. 

Into the hedges, back behind the shed, and out by the sea grape, you had better watch because he's coming right at you when he stops.  Assuming the position on the ground, he pants about 14 and a half times to cool down.

I jump again.

His eyes light up with a fire of excitement.

Leaping off the grass, he will run over to the sea grape and stop.  Looking to see if that was what we wanted, he'll launch into another circuit of the yard.  This time he flies over top of the small fountain that holds the pool filler down and cuts the corner out of the pool landing firmly on the ground.  Accelerating to full speed would be redundant in this small space, but he does.  Reaching the end of pool area, he squirts between the two bar chairs and around the other two to come back to almost exactly the same spot he was at when he started.

What would be the point of all of this you might ask yourself?   Ask him, we're having too much fun.

One more stomp and he looks to the side.  Another stomp and he launches for another circuit.  We notice he's slower on this circuit.  Instead of an explosion of power, it's a more measured draining.  The adrenalin is beginning to be burned down and this time when he returns it's to plop on my feet.

I don't think I had to move more than six feet.  He passed through a wormhole, visited a parallel dimension, fell out on to that world and orbited it.  Then he returned back through the wormhole and into the hedges.

It's a long trip for a dog.  Once around the world, and back, all in the space of one small South Florida yard.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Small Red Jewel

A small red jewel,

Catches the eye from inside,

Soon to disappear.

Haiku often come to mind,

Playing with the language is helping you,

Work your way with many words.

Burma Shave. 

It also helps to have the same accent.

Haiku and doggerel not withstanding, I was.  Standing, that is.  Inside my house, waiting for Rack to stop walking around and wandering.  He had gotten rather distracted this particular morning and was pacing back to the big glass door in the Florida Room from the living room.  

I had finally decided it was time to get something to drink.  Coffee was done, I was fully caffeinated.  Standing up, I padded into the kitchen and grabbed a glass.  A Half of a Lime, a Key Lime, and two packets of sweetener are added to some water and ice.   Limeade.

What is it Rack?  Show me?

He padded to the back door to be let out for his final out before the routine of the day begins.

It was The Golden Hour, but I wasn't thinking this.  I went back into the kitchen and grabbed the glass of limeade and walked to the entry to the Florida Room.  Something was in my left eye.  Flickering in colors, I had managed to stand at the exact spot that a rainbow of light had formed.  Too small to have noticed on the darker wood on the wall, it made me think to grab the camera and the memory chip.

Walking outside to join Rack, I used a big palm tree as a brace.  Those Philodendron need to be brought under control, but that one last drop of dew was making it's presence known.  Hanging onto the tip, bringing color to a green and grey spot.

Come on, Boy, time to go in.  I'll pull those Philodendron later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zen and The Art Of Spackling The Wall

Weekend projects should not take two weeks.

When you have a house that is older than about a day or three, you will have repairs.  Brand new custom homes around here are generally shoddy, and you never know what you will find wrong.

The house gets a little older and the owners decide to fix that squeaky door hinge and the popped nail heads in the middle of the wall.  With a stud being placed every 16 inches on average, there are a lot of nails that can pop.

The original owner moves out.  The house passes to someone who doesn't know or doesn't care to keep it up.  The "Rearranging the Deck Chairs on The Titanic" school of thought, just cover it up with a bit of paint.

Someone please stop them before they create a problem?

That owner gets someone in and fixes some things, and the house gets sold.  Now the house is a bit older, starting to show its age.  A new owner moves in with great ideas and it is time to act.

Well, that's how the story goes anyway.

I've always been excellent at spackling holes in the wall.  I once moved out of an apartment and was stopped by the maintenance crew who handed me back my deposit check saying "We had to do nothing at all, what did you do?".

I didn't tell them that I used Colgate Toothpaste to cover up a nail hole or twelve before I went to the hardware store for the spackle and paint to cover up a cracked wallboard and a few scrapes in the hallway.  

It did look that good though, all they did was move the next guy in the place.

When I saw plaster bubbles forming on my walls, I cringed.  I knew I was in for an epic.  I dutifully popped the bubbles, peeled back the paint and the craft paper that was attacked for a backing for paint, and saw a spiderweb of geometric cracked plaster.  Some of it fell onto my foot as I pulled the paper off.  More came off with a gentle tap.  By the time I was through, I had created a one foot by a foot and a half wide splotch of bare concrete that needed attention. 

I also had a plugged up bathtub that had some of that old plaster that fell down the drain.

Paint the wall with primer, begin to fill with spackle and putty. 

When you have a large area like this, you are in for a long haul.  You get time to think.  I went out to the computer and started up some music.  May as well. 

As I was listening to Diana sing about her "Baby Baby", I had gotten into a rhythm.  Dab a little spackle, wipe almost all of it off with the putty knife.  Thin as possible.  I had about a half inch to fill.  If you put it on thick it will crack.

"I'm Coming... OUT!"  get the area near the door of the shower under the soap, it's hidden so it doesn't have to be perfect.  A little dab of spackle, rub it thin with my index finger.

"Take me higher!"  Start to feather around the edges of the old plaster.  I had sanded them down so they were lower than the wall, higher than the concrete.  Leave a little bit there to sand down with the block sander.

"Mirror Mirror!"  There's a spot in the texture next to the Medicine Chest that looks like someone threw something at it back in the 70s or the 80s, I'll get that next.  A thumb over top of the spackle to make sure that it domes high enough for me to wet sand later.

"Upside Down!"  Wet Sanding Spackle.  If you want a smooth finish, here's a trick I was taught by a crazy painter once.  Get an old white cotton sock.  Turn it inside out and get it good and wet.  Use that to sand the spackle.   Spackle will get wet but the sanding will give you a finish so smooth it will shine.

"Touch Me In The Morning! Then just walk away."  Now that the thing has been finish sanded, paint it with primer in two hours when it dries.  Good luck cleaning the brush since you need ammonia.  Windex will do in a pinch, but you really need the stuff that your grandmother used back in the 1950s.  Oh and the cheap clear ammonia that stinks and nobody likes?  Nobody carries it any more.  I found mine at a food warehouse to the restaurant trade.  There's the remnant of a gallon in the laundry room, go find your own!

After a good solid week of every two hours of your free time going into the bathroom, inspecting, sanding, spackling, sanding again, you are ready to call it done. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Making Lemonade at 5 AM with the Dog

I'm not really sure why at this stage in my life, my body has decided that 5 in the morning is an appropriate time to wake up.  It just has.  I tried detoxing from caffeine with no effect.

May as well live with it and do things that will improve my life and those around me.

There are some definite benefits to being up well before the rest of the city.  Dad would have said that I'm "Up with the cows".  I don't know why because he was a steel worker from Easton, PA, but hey you never completely figure out your folks.

I get up, get ready, top off Rack's water bowl, and we go for our walk.

It gives me the opportunity to do things with him that I wouldn't do with other people around.  In Wilton Manors, FL, at 5 AM, there are really only a few groups of people up and most of them are easy to avoid.

Dog Walkers are easy to spot, and we're all trying to keep a respectful distance.  After all, we're all in the same boat!

The Police, early workers, and other delivery folk couldn't care a bit about me and my dog.  They're doing their job.  Wave hello to them and go on.

As always, there are the leftovers from the night before.  You know, the people who forgot that the bars closed three hours ago and are sleeping it off.  Easy to spot, easy to avoid.  They don't move too fast.

Walking with Rack has gone from a tuggy job to a much more pleasurable experience at this time of day.  We're really not supposed to be off leash at this time of day.  He has his leash.  Its not always attached To Me.

On that very early walk, we are having a Bonding Experience.   I learned when Rack tugged one too many times one day what happens when he is off leash.   He circles back immediately.  As in gets about 2 dog lengths ahead, turns around and plasters himself to my legs to stop me from going anywhere until I pick up the leash.

"Confused look" Good Dog!

That's all it takes.

He does get more than a leash away when we're walking, and I stop that by stepping on the end of the leash and verbally correcting him.

Trucks still scare him, and since Wilton Drive is where the dreaded 50 bus goes through along with them, I watch very closely.  When he starts to show fear, I stop.  He comes back to me and we wait for it all to pass.

After all this walking and bonding and conversation, we finally get close to the house.

I can tell he wants to go home, he's getting further away from me and needing more correction.  I don't want him  to cross the last Avenue before the house alone.  He usually stops but since it isn't always I make sure to stop him before we cross.

This is all off leash, and it is training him to be better on the leash.  When I walk off leash with a second person he walks right by me, on my left, exactly how I like it.

Crossing the last Avenue, I have learned I can give him instructions and he will follow them.  There's a video about a Border Collie in the English Borderlands that was able to be taken to the fields and do his work with the sheep completely independently of any instruction.  As in All Day Alone.

I simply expect Rack to have that level of intelligence.  Getting past his normal fear is what will get in the way, but it is getting much better.   I tell him to "Go home and lets wash your feet".

He's still a "Yellow Footed Collie with bad aim".  I still have the Foot Wash station on the porch to at least clean him up before we go in.  He walks the last bit at his own speed to the yard, turns up the drive, walks up to the porch and waits for me to amble up to the hose to wash him off.   Independently.

It's still well before 6AM and I haven't had my coffee yet, so of course I'm walking slower than him.

After his foot wash we have a routine.  We walk him through the grass and around the car, back to the front door.   It gives the water time to run off his legs and brush off any crud that has gathered on his toes.

He now does that Independently too.

How about that?  He walks around the car, comes back to the front door, and waits for me to unharness him and let him in.

Small victory compared to that English Border Collie, but my own Rack was completely shut down when we got him.

We're making lemonade out of those lemons.  Turning a weakness into a strength.  It always takes a different mindset when you have a fearful dog.  Things are done on THEIR terms, and at THEIR speed.   Not on yours.

I am learning too.   My little guy is teaching me patience.  I'm excellent at setting goals, rules, boundaries, and limitations.  Plans are laid out, and he's great at following them.  In his own time.

I'm finding out also that his own time can be much faster now than it was.  Fear can fade, but you have to allow it to.

Just have a little lemonade while you're waiting.  It's quite tasty at 6 AM.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Building a Doghouse and Three Spies got Caught

Building a Doghouse

One day, a blonde walks by little Johnny's house.
Johnny is building a new doghouse for his puppy on the front lawn.

The blonde walks up to Johnny and says: "That's a nice doghouse you're building! But what is that pile of nails doing behind you?"
"Oh, those are nails which have the pointy bit on the top side, and the head on the bottom. But I only need nails with the head on top, and the point on the bottom!", Johnny replies.

"Why are you throwing those away? That's such a waste!", says the blonde. "Just use those nails for the ceiling!"

Three spies from Germany, France and Italy got caught spying on the Russians...

First one to get interrogated was the German. He lasted 1 hour of torture until he gave up and told them what he knew.

Then it was the French's turn. He lasted 3 hours of torture until he gave up.

The Italian spy was gone for almost 7 hours and the German and French started to get worried, when suddenly the Italian was thrown back in the cell.

The German asked: "How the hell did you last so long?"

Italian: "I tried to tell them everything, but they bound my hands behind my back"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Guy Was In A Cave and A Woman Goes To The Airport

A Guy Was In a Cave

A guy was in a cave, looking for treasure.
He found an old lamp, rubbed it, and a genie came out.

The genie said "I will grant you three wishes, but your ex-wife will get double."
The man agreed, and said "I wish I had a mansion."

The genie granted it, and his ex-wife got two mansions.
The man said "I would like a million dollars."

The genie again granted it and his ex-wife got two million dollars.
Then the man said, "Scare me half to death."

So a Woman Goes To the Airport

A woman gets to the airport and picks up her boarding pass and passport, and makes it through the terminal to the boarding gate.
The attendant there asks to see her fying information, and she realizes that between the terminal and the boarding gate, her boarding pass has gone missing.

"Oh Crap!" she says.
"Ma'am I must see the boarding pass for you to get on the plane" he says.
She replies "You know I really dont need it, my seat is 32-B. I remember because its also my bra size"

The attendant looks at her briefly and insists "Ma'am I have to see that Pass."

She huffs and replies "I'll try and find it, but I know this would be a whole different story if my seat was 36-D".

Friday, September 12, 2014

Vandas in Bloom

I have a lot of plants in the yard.  In fact the yard is "over planted".

Most of what is there was there before we moved in.  I tend to plant things from the "Drop a seed and it will grow there" school of agriculture.  If it's fussy, I'm not too interested.

In South Florida, it's more that it's too easy for things to grow than not easy enough. 

I have coleus all over the yard.  Probably 4 varieties. When I mulched the side garden around the orange tree, I used the evil synthetic stuff to keep out plants.  Landscape cloth and Rubber Mulch made out of old car tires dyed chocolate brown.  Still the plants return.  I have one maroon coleus growing there, under the carport and the orange tree.  I don't have the heart to uproot the thing and move it on.

Orchids were always my challenge.  I had a microclimate in my house in Philadelphia for Phalaeonopsis Orchids.  Moth Orchids.  The window got about an hour of direct sunlight a day.  It was a leaky ancient pane of 1860s glass.  In the winter there was always a little frost inside.  The plants thrived there and I would have beautiful flowers for 10 or 11 months of the year.  They would drop off in August but always return shortly after.

Maybe they needed a rest.

Here, I have more variety.  Anything that would grow in a greenhouse or microclimate window in Philly grows with very little care here.  Two separate drip feed lines of Orchids here that my friends in Philly would be amazed at.  The reality is that other than a little water, they're care free. 

We went to the KMart in Oakland Park every trip down to Florida, pick up a few, and take them back.  "Seed Orchids" I have heard them called.  Baby plants that you would tie to a tree and ignore in Florida would wither away in the drier and colder Mid-Atlantic climate.  USDA Zone 6B I believe.  The same zone as Atlanta and the South side of  Providence, RI.

The only tropical plants you can grow outside are Needle Palms and Saw Palmettos, and then only on the South side of a building for the extra heat it provides.

Some day, I'll find a small one and send it to my sister in New Jersey.  That should completely confuse her!

The KMart is closing this month, soon they'll put in a Walmart.  I won't go to the Walmart.  I know I'm not alone in that, even if they do have Seed Orchids.

But for now, my Orchids are happy.  They should be.  The one that came into bloom last week is about 4 feet off the ground.  A little above waist high.  It's also grown into the fence.  Orchids are strange plants.  They don't need soil as much as tree bark and "waste".  Humus they called it.

My Vanda with the purple blooms sent out a feeder root when I put it there and it found the fence behind it.  Since it is wood, the rain and irrigation will send food for the plant.  It liked that so it grew more feeders and basically glued itself to the fence.  So much for fertilizing it since I can't remove it from the fence at all.  If some storm thing were to come this way, that Orchid will remain outside through the weather.  Rain or clear, no matter what.

But it's happy in that spot.  Plants won't bloom if they aren't happy, and seeing those blooms?  Well, they make me happy.  So enjoy a happy purple flower.  They don't last forever after all!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


The link for the 9/11 memorial site is here.  You can watch the memorial ceremony today live from New York at the site, and find out more about how they are honoring those fallen on and after September 11th.


World Trade Center, 1986 - Photo Courtesy of Eric Reivik

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Every Computer Recycling Project Needs a Dog!

Any time I go out, I know the routine.

Leave the house, tell Rack to "Watch the House".   It brings good luck and more importantly it lets Rack know that he's going to have a block of time to be quiet and chill out.

A McNab Dog doesn't ever completely Chill.  They're the Business Analysts or Project Managers of the Canine world.  Give them a task, they will perform it flawlessly, and they will perform it until they have been told they are off duty. 

How does your Herding Dog go off duty?  I'm not completely sure, I've never seen him off duty.   Even when I'm asleep in bed at night, he's watching over things making sure all is well.

When I come back, I know that anything I have brought in is going to get a thorough examination.  Sniffed completely for information, your Herding Dog knows what you did, where you went, and what you are bringing into the house whether you like it or not.   He may not understand that that plastic bag is from the supermarket but he sure knows that you've just tried to sneak in some Doggie Snacks along with the Peanut Butter, Marshmallows, and Graham Crackers.

Don't share too much with them, they just get fat and sugar will surely rot their teeth.

A while back my house got filled with a computer recycling project.  There was a stack of laptops that needed to be looked into.  Triage - the act of looking at something, determining whether it is alive, dead, or can be resurrected, is done on all of them.  This time I was lucky.  100 Percent good!  They will all find some new homes and new purposes.

The whole time I was working on this one particular machine, passing it back and forth around the house, setting it up on a table, then my lap, then on Kevin to do some more configuration, Rack was paying attention.

Wet nose would snuffle around the edges.  The one machine kept breathing a mild smell of tobacco smoke.  Why someone would want to smoke is beyond me, the drug of tobacco takes more than it gives, but that is not something I will allow in the house.  I'll be giving it another cleaning to try to help.  Maybe a wipe down with some products on the way.

Someone will end up with that and I hope I can dampen that smell.

But Rack noticed it.  The entire time the machine was being worked with that wet nose was snuffling along.

Finally the evening wound down like my clock when the weight landed on top of the water jug, it came to a stop.  It was time for me to set that machine aside and prepare to go out into the evening for our final walk.

Wet nose went into action as I walked out of the room.  He tried to log into the computer.

Rack snuffled the machine and started to lick the little finger recognition strip on the computer.  Not once
but eight times.  To its credit, Windows 7 tried to talk to Rack.

Would you like to set up your log in?

No, I'm a dog.

Would you like to set up your log in?

You are tasty but no thanks.

Would you like to set up your log in?

What was this person eating?  I think it was a she, I'm sure.

Would you like to set up your log in?

No, but it kind of tastes like what dad was eating!

Rack!  Stop that, you shouldn't lick the laptop!

Silly dog, just wants to help but he doesn't realize that he doesn't have opposable thumbs. 

Windows 7 is good for a lot of things, and works fairly well, but it is not for dogs.

I'll get the cleaners out.  I'm sure it needs more help.  The smell will fade but ... Aww Rack, leave the laptop alone!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oscar Really Doesn't Like Swag Balls

I have always liked what I'll call when I'm being charitable, swag.

You know, the junk that you get for free when you go to a trade show?  These days, now that the Republican Induced Recession is fading away, business is getting better.   That means we're getting better Swag. 

My buddy up in Atlanta, Craig, went off for a visit to San Francisco.  For me that would be a trip of a lifetime, for Craig, he got to learn more about Virtualization and VMWare.  I can hold my own with some of the technology, but his knowledge on the subject is encyclopedic.   He handles a large server farm worth of virtual computer servers for a company up there and can quote you chapter and verse over a beer in a bar.

That's my test of knowledge, how coherent can you be when you're on your second beer on a subject.   Trust me, he knows his stuff.

About the second day of soaking in the Virtualization Goodness, I got a picture of the inside of his hotel room with the second bed covered in Swag.  Tshirts, flashlights, blinky things, a USB hub shaped like a little man, that sort of thing. 

We were laughing about the oddball things he had gotten and I guess it struck a chord.   I have a few things from the Swag Collection, including that blue ball that caught my eye.  Having a pool helps with that thing, give it a smack and it blinks with a bright blue light.   A couple years back that quality of crap wouldn't be given out for free.  The last computer trade show I went to hardly had hard candy at the booths, and the booth babes were just starting to make an appearance in their midriff showing uniforms.

When I got that Box of Swag I opened it up piece by piece in the dining room.  Rack came over and started giving things a sniff.  I can always count on the curiosity of my McNab Dog to stick a wet nose in when something new shows up.  At the same time my own Oscar started chattering.

Oscar chattering is normal, having a parrot in the house means that you have to go out of your way to entertain them or else you will end up having a screeching mess.  You're not going to have a good time of it.  Step one, make sure that you have plenty of bird safe toys.  Un-destructable things that won't shatter when a strong beak grabs it and bites down, or when it hits the floor since both things will happen.

It also helps if they're not something that will scare Oscar.   I have a small beach ball that he hates.  I mean eye flashing growling hates.  He will peck at it until it bounces off that cage and into the dog.

The dog doesn't get it either.

When Oscar gets a bit too loud, the beach ball helps quiet him down as a result.

Putting junk on the cage helps him go and attack them instead of taking a chunk of beef out of my arm.  He'll spend time preening the ropes, chewing the fluff off of the tennis ball that is attached to the rattle, and shred the insides of the toilet paper tube instead of screaming at the music that almost always is playing here.

But he has a nemesis.  Anything ball shaped and larger than a plum is just too much.  That is why I was confused he was showing so much interest in the blue swag ball. 

I placed the swag ball on top of the cage and I heard a little fear grunt as he backed off to the far corner.


I picked up the swag ball and turned it around in my hand letting the light catch it.

Oscar started to flash his eyes in curiosity so I set it back down.

Beak made contact and ... the ball rolled away only to come back and tap his beak lightly.

Flap wings and regain stability, the green bird went after it again.

Tap.  This time the ball rolled off the cage with a bounce or three on the floor.

It was blinking when I put it back on the cage.  Oscar never expected that as he dove for the door of this cage for safety.   Blinking stopped after about ten seconds and he came back out. 

The Swag Ball is Evil and Must Be Banished.

Tap.  Not quite as forceful as before, plus I had it in a low spot where the toys roll to the center of the top of his metal wire room.

Parrots are exceedingly curious creatures.  They learn quickly.  They also don't like change.  I don't think that little walnut that passes for a brain can process why it rolled off the cage before but not now.

TAP!  The swag ball sat there.  TAPATAPATAP!   His dance school impression worked.  It rolled off the high spot and flew off the cage bouncing off the table and onto the floor.

Parroting in English Slang means to repeat something without understanding it.  In Oscar's Case, he parroted one of my own laughs at the ball as it hit the floor and rolled into the kitchen.  I swear this bird was laughing at the ball and at his success at banishing the evil thing in a triumph of Schadenfreude!

Luckily it was designed to hit the floor.  The ball is intact, the bird is happy, and we found a new routine.   After all, it does tend to quiet the little brat down for a while and he's interacting with me through the ball.

He's not brave enough to leave the cage on the room divider in the middle of my house.  I'm fine with that, especially that since I go absent minded from time to time and leave him out when I wander out into the great beyond of my yard in the middle of the South Florida Sprawl.   He feels safe there now that the Blue Swag Ball has been banished and is content to sit there, staring at me with red ringed eyes from the comfort of his home.

Swag balls or not.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bubble Wrap is With The Vodka, in a Logical Place

I ship boxes to good friends from time to time.  Sometimes the good friend is family, sometimes not.

About 4 times a year I make up some "specialties".  Since I have learned how to can Jam and Jelly, I found that I can make the stuff ahead of time and set it aside.  That makes things much easier, and the next time I hear someone say "I don't like homemade Jam" will be the first.

You probably pull wings off butterflies and hate puppies and kittens too.

But it is a fair amount of effort to get the boxes together.  In fact it's more grief once the items are selected than it is to ship the things.

Cooking for me is fairly therapeutic.  Yeah, that's what they call it, Therapeutic.  Calming.  You get in a groove and can forget the grief of the day.

It's also a bother when you make so much that you have to store the stuff, so may as well share, right?

Just like most of you, I tend to make a lot of online orders.  Here, however we have a hard and fast rule.  Save the bubble wrap, I'm only going to need it later.  Oh and don't pop it.  That is strictly verboten.  Go pop the Texas Air instead.

Living here in Small House South Florida, there are only so many places to stash things.  Neat and tidy means a place for everything and everything in its place.

Not so fast, cowboy.  Not so fast.

See, that conflicts with the need to shop in bulk that we had discovered.  So instead of going to the supermarket and picking up the handy "big" 8 roll of toilet paper pack in the cheery plastic wrap with the teddy bear on it, we end up with the refrigerator sized 30 pack that lingers in the hallway for a week and a half until the paper towels stored on the same shelf percolate down to a level in the hall closet that I can fit in a few more.

The secret is to double stack things.  If it is good enough for the Chessie System, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific on long haul railroads, I can certainly cram in another 13 rolls of TP in the strange thin shelf under the sink in the bathroom.

But stashing things is my own obsession.  From time to time things go missing.  Why you might ask?  Because being a Logical Person, I put things in a Logical Place.  Have a small nook that a box fits in?  Great!  Put the box in there, and stuff the two 16 packs of soap in there that you got a deal on at Amazon.com that one time until you need it!  Does it matter that you have enough soap to wash yourself, your partner, the dog, and the Jeep until 2026?  No but it was a great deal!

Have a headache?  Oh great!  A deal on "Doctor's Office Packs of Advil" will fit in the holes of the toilet paper rolls because they are round and there are teeny little gaps that need to be filled!

That even goes to special purpose things.   I have a bottle of Vodka.  It's lost.  I have no idea where it is.  I was going to use it to make Chocolate Vodka.  Four parts Vodka to 1 part cocoa, stir daily, enjoy it 2 weeks later.

Really?  Yes, and mix it with a drop of vermouth to make a choco-tini.  You can't live in South Florida without trying one.

Shaken, Not Stirred.

But the vodka went missing about eight and a half months ago and I'm too damn stubborn to get more.  Oh SURE I could try the recipe with Rum but it wouldn't be the same.  Just because the Rum is clearly available doesn't mean I can't wait until I find the Vodka and I haven't had the stuff in weeks.   Too many calories. 

So looming in the house somewhere is a black hole.  A Slider's Vortex that goes to a parallel dimension in another Earth.  That Parallel Earth has a great selection of goods.   A single crew sock that I lost in 1995 when I competed in that Inline Skating Marathon the day I did 55 miles in a morning skating the route from Philadelphia to Valley Forge and back and forth and ....

Yeah the sock is there.  Probably still sweaty from the effort.

There's my car from when I was a kid.  Beautiful grey Cadillac with the tail fins.  I know I put that in a cabinet to hide if from my sister and my father.   My sister would get it sticky with something she was eating and my father had a habit of "throwing away things" that would only end up at my cousin's house because "You Weren't Using It".

Yeah.  You use things like that every day of the week.

But they're all protected.  They are cushioned with bags of packing peanuts.  The packing peanuts are wrapped in bubble wrap of all sorts.  Pink Anti-Static bubble wrap.  Bags from shipping.  The ones I got in a shipment from Atlanta that had UPS stamped all over them.

And that roll.   Giant roll of bubble wrap.   Kevin took pity on me back about the time that the Vodka bottle went to that parallel Earth where Dinosaurs roam eating sweat-socks and old metal toy cars, but only the grey ones.   The massive plastic roll of bubble wrap has slid there and bounced around and wrapped that bottle so it can be safe.   I'm sure of it.   I can hear the diminutive Heather from Poltergeist saying "They're Heere..." as they float around the room in a giddy vortex and then in a giant sucking noise are sucked into that world and gone to me forever.

I guess I'll have to make do.  There's a manufacturer North of here.  They cut custom foam rubber bits.  That's what I'll do.  I'll wait.  They have bins of scrap that I could use!  Wrap jars of home made Cherry, Key Lime, and Lemon jams and curds in sheets of foam rubber!  That would save me from having to go to some office supply store and buy the crap like a normal person!

Yeah that's the ticket!  But wait... it will just get sucked into that vortex won't it?

But that's not quite right.  The other day?  I found a cache of soap from 2011!  That stuff was good.  I'm just waiting though.  The Vortex.  Sometimes it's been good.  You know those stories about the hoards of old Roman coins that are found sometimes in the English Midlands?  Great piles of the things?   They're there because they fell into the same vortex.  Right next to the bubble wrap, the toy car, the bottle of vodka, and my blasted bubble wrap!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Priest And The Rabbi - Two Versions of the same joke

The Priest And The Rabbi - Two Versions of the same joke

First - A priest and a rabbi were sharing a compartment on a train.

After a while, the priest put down his book and said to the Rabbi, "I know that in your religion you're not supposed to eat pork... but have you really never ever tasted it?"
The rabbi closed his newspaper and replied, "I must tell you the truth. Yes I have, on the odd occasion."

The rabbi then had his turn to interrogate.
He asked, "I know that in your religion you're supposed to be celibate... but..."
The priest interrupted, "Yes, I know what you are going to ask, and yes, I have succumbed to temptation once or twice."

The two continued with their reading and there was silence for a while.

Then the rabbi peeked around his newspaper and said, "Better than pork, isn't it?"

And Now - A Priest and a Rabbi were on an Airplane

A Priest and a Rabbi were on an Airplane and they start chatting about religion, each one comparing their religion.
Jesus this and Moses that... we eat Matzoh, and we have the wafer... Christmas and Hannukah and so on.

After a while of politely chatting, the Priest turns to the Rabbi and asks: "So tell me Rabbi... what is the single worst thing that you can do in your religion?”
"Well, for us Jews" answers the Rabbi "the single worst thing we can do is eat pork."
"Ah, I see" answers the Priest, before hesitating and turning to the Rabbi with a quizzical looks in his eyes "And tell me Rabbi, have you ever tasted pork?"
The Rabbi looks around to make sure no one is hearing and answers: "Well, there was this one time. I was visiting the state fair and I saw this huge pan of Bacon, and I just couldn't resist..."
The Priest looks at the Rabbi with understanding and asks “So how was it?”
“Pretty good” answers the Rabbi.

The Rabbi then turns his head to the Priest, cocks and eyebrow and asks "And what about for you guys?"
The Priest thinks a moment before answering "Well... for us men of the cloth, really the worst thing we can do is to lay with a woman."
Suddenly the Rabbi's eyes pique with curiosity "And did you ever...?"
“There was this one time” admits the Priest “where they was this beautiful nun, and I just couldn't resist..."

The Rabbi smiles with great understanding, looks at the Priest in the eye and says "It's a hell of a lot better than pork, isn't it?"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Last of the Mommy, Mommy! Jokes!

Mommy, Mommy! How do lions make love?
I don't know dear, all your father's friends are Rotarians...

Mommy, Mommy! Why is Daddy bent over and crying?
Shut up and eat your hot dog!

Mommy, Mommy! Can I wear a bra now? I'm 16..
Shut up, Albert....

Mommy, Mommy! Sally won't come skipping with me.
Don't be cruel dear, you know it makes her stumps bleed.

Mommy, Mommy! Why do other kids tell me I have a big head?
Don't worry. Take your cap and go get me 40 lbs of potatoes at the store.

Mommy, Mommy! Why do other kids tell me I have a long nose?
You don't, but lift your head up or you'll scrape the floor.

Mommy, Mommy! Are you sure this is how to learn to swim?
Shut up and get back in the sack!

Mommy, Mommy! How come sis gets to watch TV and I can't?
Shut up or I'll cut your ears off, too!

Mommy, Mommy! Don't push me towards the elevator shAAAAAFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT!

Mommy, Mommy! I like my brother very much.
All right, you can take another slice.

Mommy, Mommy! Why do they call me spastic at school?
Shut up and take your legs out your pockets.

Mommy, Mommy! I don't want to empty the compost heap.
Shut up and keep eating.

Mommy, Mommy! I don't like fishing.
Shut up and stop squirming.

Mommy, Mommy! Suzi got run over by a steamroller.
Shut up. I'm in the bathroom, slide her under the door.

Mommy, Mommy! Can I go to the toilet?
Yes Johnny I'll take you in a minute.
Can Granny take me?
Her hand shakes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Solving My Fearful Dog's Picky Eating Problem

My dog Rack is a McNab Dog, coming up on 2 years old.  He's a rescue, not that there's anything wrong with that.  My Lettie before him was a rescue, and if Rack would allow it, I'd probably foster another McNab.  We simply aren't ready for another rescue.  If and when we are, Rack will let us know.

McNabs are a comparatively rare breed outside of the Western US, although I personally think that there are more of them than the "experts" think.  They look like a Smooth Coat Border Collie, with the main differences being that there is no undercoat, the feet are webbed, and the temperament is much more laid back.  Even if a smoothie has an undercoat, there may be significant McNab blood in them, just like Lettie was.

No matter what kind of dog, McNab, Border Collie, Similar Breed, or a Mix, you're in for an amazing ride!  We definitely are a herding dog family, even here in the city.

But they do get fearful from time to time, especially with what they're put through in the whole Shelter/Rescue/Foster/Re-homing cycle.  Rack is still, almost a year and a half later, exhibiting the PTSD that you see in dogs.  He hides when the house gets too loud like when things get dropped, and forget seeing him during thunderstorms.  There are three places he will hide, all of which are "dens" to him.  If I need him, he will come when I call if it is not thundering or, Dog Forbid, firework-y out there.

All of this manifested itself in the weirdest behavioral problem I ever saw.  Rack will skip meals.  He simply would not eat.  We have had him checked out at the Vet with this in mind and we all concluded it was behavioral.  So in the house we all, myself definitely included, "tread lightly" and keep noises down. 

But my little furry puzzle still skipped his meals.

Finally after asking a friend of a friend who once was a dog trainer in Stockholm, Sweden, we got a clue.

What happened is that since Rack is such a beta dog, and a weak beta dog at that, he needs to be given permission to eat.

How about that?  Given Permission To Eat? 

A dog's reputation is that they'll sniff your food, steal food from tables, eat your own dinner if you don't guard it and train against that kind of behavior.  I have seen that all in dogs that I have had in the past.  But not Rack. 

How we are going about it, and this is definitely Work In Progress, is to have him eat with me.  Rack sees me as the alpha here.  He is the weak beta.  When I eat, I always eat at a table now.  No meals in the recliner.  This rule must be rigidly adhered to, at the table. 

He doesn't care about setting the table, just the same ritual all the time.  Rituals are important with dogs.  They learn you and your routines and strive to be as much a part of it as possible.  The stereotype of the rancher with the pack of cow-dogs in the back of the pickup is a great example of that. 

What I do in my suburban South Florida Home is that I invite my dog to the table.  He would not come to the table on his own, I don't think he sees himself able of approaching The Alpha like that.

The ritual is like this:

First I make Rack's food.  Put the bowl together and set it on the edge of the dinner table I choose.  It is nearby and he can see and smell it, but it is just out of reach.

I will then comment, clearly so that it can be heard, that I am hungry.  That clues Rack in that something Food is happening.

I cook my own food.   If it has long prep time, I will prepare Rack's bowl noisily and set it on the table before I am ready to sit down with my own.

Now I will begin eating.  If Rack does not show, I will call him to the table.   "Rack are you hungry?  Dinner time!".  He will come into the kitchen and slowly join me.  Head down, ears down, and settle next to me as if to ask if he is allowed.  I pet him and let him know it is ok.

At this time I may even take a few bites of the food.  He may show interest in his own bowl. 

His bowl now makes it to the floor and I go on about my own food.

Usually by this time, he's snuffling around the bowl and should start eating, but not every time.  When he doesn't I may have to "prime the pump.  If I have finished and he has not started, I will hand him a piece of kibble and get him started.   It takes judgement to see where his head is at.   If he takes it, try another or a small handful. 

It literally can be as bad as single piece of kibble for a quarter of the food before he gets to the point that he will eat on his own.  This happens if we have a thunderstorm in the area and South Florida is where "Thunderstorms are Born" for six months out of the year.

Normally though, it usually only takes him being given permission to eat in the morning.  Evenings are a bit more difficult, so I make sure the house is quiet and try again.

Some say to simply remove the food.  I tried that and with My Dog, it didn't work.  Since he readily skips meals, taking the food away simply made the problem worse and he was losing weight as a result.

Intelligent breeds require a gentle touch.  Not to say "de-dog" or "humanize" the dog, but there really is a lot of conversation going on and while dogs are excellent at reading you, you may not be so good at reading THEM.

One last thought.  Every dog is different.  Most won't need this kind of care.  But with a fearful dog, you have to understand the first thing they think might not be anything other than fear.  It is up to us to figure out how to combat the fear.  Most of it can be trained out.  Lettie was this bad when I got her in her own way and by the end of her life, she was the Dog of a Lifetime.  Rack will be too, it just takes time, patience, and training.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Raspbian Gets a New Browser - Epiphany

I saw an posting on Raspberry Pi's Blog announcing that the team behind the default browser on many Linux distributions called "Web" was being brought to the Pi the other day.

Great.  It's an epiphany.  Ok, enough with that particular pun.

"epiphany-browser" is the name of the package itself.  "Web" is what it calls itself when you look at the about screen.  No matter what it's called, it's there and it is an improvement on the older Midori browser that was shipped with the version of Raspbian that I installed on my Pi.

Midori is a scaled down browser using the same underpinnings as Safari.  That's great for a limited memory computer but it was a bit too scaled down.

Epiphany will bring better HTML 5 support, a Javascript JIT "Just In Time" Compiler, as well as and most importantly to me, Hardware-accelerated Video Decoding.  It also will be the default browser in Raspbian in future installs.

It will result in a more robust experience.  Since I have basically "locked up" Midori with four tabs open, I'm looking forward to that.  On the other hand, I went to www.fullscreenweather.com and was able to get a radar map on Epiphany where Midori would have simply been too slow to use.

Just like anything in a Debian derived Linux Distribution, it's easy to get.  It is available via Synaptic, or you can install it from the command line as usual:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install epiphany-browser

The whole install took about 15 minutes on my Pi.

The reason why it's called "epiphany-browser" and not just "epiphany", by the way, is that there's a game out there called epiphany which is a "boulderdash" clone.