Friday, October 31, 2014

My Canadian Earwig Problem, Eh?

Have you ever had something stuck in your head?

I mean truly stuck there for hours or even days?

Welcome to the club.  I'm there.  It's My Canadian Earwig.

No, I really don't have a problem with anything Canadian.  I used to listen to a lot of Canadian Radio when I was a wee brat in my childhood and into my teens.  I'm told that people in the bordering areas of the US have a habit of doing that.  When I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan once, I saw a couple TV shows on TVO out of Windsor, Ontario that I rather liked and wished I could see here.

I listened to a few stations there that made it to my own home in the Philadelphia area as a matter of course.  CKLW in Windsor was one, a pop station that was legend in the 60s through the time that Clear Channel conquered and then killed US radio.  I used to get news from the Northern Quebec Service of the CBC as well as their regular English Language external service that morphed into CBC Radio One.  The French Language service on alternate half hours was a challenge but it helped with my own studies in High School French, sadly mostly forgotten.  The CBC Domestic Service on 740AM and 1540AM made it to the house clear as a bell at night.

No, it all started when someone said they were going to go for a trip.  "Take Off".

You see, we all became Canadian for the summer of 1982.  There was a wacky one-off song called "Take Off" done by the SCTV crew back then.  Everyone was calling each other Hoser and saying Eh - which simply wasn't done in Philadelphia before then or since.

Maybe Pittsburgh.  I heard that the border to the midwest was somewhere around where they start watching the Steelers and stop following our Eagles.

Iggles, Yo!

Of course I had to put my oar in that water.  I found a video on Youtube with the song on it.  Played it.  Then while laughing, I played it again.  Yes, musical OCD.  I'm waiting for Oscar to start saying "Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo" any second now.

Now, being a comedy bit, I know that it's a parody.  I know it's openly stereotypical.  I know their accent is thicker than some of that good Quebec Maple Syrup folks would bring down from Montreal in big tin cans for the French Toast after it was left in the freezer.

Having visited Canada, I will say they're more like us than you might understand, and they'll apologize for that.

Sorry, eh?

I mean, having listened to CBC for news I've got an ear for that accent.  Midwestern US is very similar but not exactly the same just like the Chicago accent is not the same as the accent you'll hear even across the line in Michigan City, Indiana.  But Bob and Doug McKenzie's was over the top.

Being one of those oddballs who picks up other people's accent I didn't realize I was programming myself.

I wanted something different for dinner.  I had some old Gingery Bread in the freezer that was great but it was getting freezer burned.  So I get up from the chair, hit the replay button on that Youtube window, Took Off to the Kitchen to make a beauty meal, eh?  Yep.  French Toast.  Quebec Maple Syrup.  Touch of cinnamon.

"Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo"

Rack joined me and crunched away on his food as I'm puttering with the plastic spatula on the teflon pan.

Man that was good, eh?  Beauty.

We finished the food and ran into someone.  I was whistling the riff from that song and started talking to them.

"What's up?"

We were chatting and I realized just what was up.  Yes, fully programmed I had lost what was left of my fragile mind.  Telling him what was going on he got a laugh out of it and said that I really had it down.

Great, I've lost my mind and people find it amusing.

Day two.  525AM.  I'm walking South on Wilton Drive.  Sunrise isn't for another 2 hours or so.

You guessed it, the revenge of the earwig.  "Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo"  I'm whistling that riff again.

Just give in and enjoy it.  When you have an earwig, the best way I can think to deal with it is just feed it.  Play it out.  Let it go.

You guessed it.  I'm letting my freak flag fly, direct from The Great White North.  I'm looping this track.  You really don't want to play that song, you'll be thrown back into the 80's, and stuck with this in your head.  Don't do it, you know you don't!  No, don't play that song.... Aww you went and done it, eh?


So, crack a Brador if you can find one, or a Molson's Canadian, cause they're great beers,eh?  Don't forget to recycle so the True North Strong and Free can remain clean.

Beauty, eh?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lifeguard Hut on Fort Lauderdale Beach

It is difficult to think of a more South Florida scene.

Lifeguard Hut.  Beach chair.  Sailboat.  Sand and Surf.

Perhaps if you added a pod of Dolphin or a Manatee?

This is the sort of thing you see when you're stuck in traffic on A1A on a late weekend afternoon.

The sun blazing, people enjoying some time off from whatever keeps them occupied, and being outside never hurt.  The beach is always busy, people come from far and wide to be right there.  I can honestly say it was one of the reasons why I moved here, although I haven't put foot to sand since 2006.

But it is there, 2 miles from my home, and I can get there any time I want. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gables Wilton Park Statue - Interior View

I have to say, in my own experiences, the Gables Company have held true to their word.

When we heard that a defunct nursery in the heart of the Wilton Manors Central Business District, right smack dab in the middle of Wilton Drive, was going to be "redeveloped", we wondered what they were going to do with it and would it "Fit In".

We were told that they were going to make Wilton Manors home. 

So far, everything I have seen, they have absolutely made Wilton Manors home.  No reservations.

I worked with the local staff in order to use some of their then un-rented commercial space as temporary gallery space for the Island City Art Walk.  They agreed and liked it so much that it was later used as temporary space for events such as the Stonewall Exhibit during the street festivals, space for civic and political functions, and I want to say some temporary commercial space - although don't quote me on that last one, I could be wrong.

All of the Wilton Drive spaces have finally been rented creating jobs and business opportunities for people here in the city.  There are one or two spots open on NE 21st Drive facing City Hall and Hagen Park, and it will be interesting to see who moves in there.  I've heard comments about one thing or another but nothing first hand, and I am looking forward to see what develops.

A while back they started working on the sidewalk.  It had developed stress cracks so they pulled up the concrete.  At the same time, they put up a large circular plinth.  We had fun speculating what would go there for a while.  When it all cured and the sidewalk was put back, it wasn't empty for long.   Some large decorative pots were placed on the spot.  It was obvious that it was temporary since LED lighting was there and some curious bolts had appeared.

Bolts.  You know, something you'd lash something to in a hurricane?   They were there for the Long Haul, nothing would rip them up.

Then it appeared.  A large art installation.  They were making their home more beautiful.  This was piece of four long tapered columns holding up a large sphere made of metal poles.  All in a deep rust colored finish, it appeared on the plinth, and was lit at night.  Really quite a nice display.

Of course I got involved.  I looked at it thinking there has to be a good angle to get a picture of it.

It taunted me.  Standing along the Drive, there was something in the way.  Either a trash can, the intersection, some part of the building that didn't quite fit.  I couldn't figure out just what was the angle.  The electricity wires just irked me and while I am good enough at Photoshop to 'shop them out, that wasn't the point.

I had a light bulb moment go off in my head.  How about inside?

Yes.  It worked.  Having a rather good cellphone camera that is as thin as a magazine helped too.  I was able to put it on "Voice Shutter" and yell at it "Capture" as political candidates stood on the corner waving signs at traffic and gaining a few random voters.  I'm sure people were wondering why I was yelling at the statue, but they didn't ask.

It's not the kind of picture that you could do with a traditional camera.  The spaces inside are much too small to fit one.  It was just a matter of luck that my camera was thin enough to slide inside and I had the Voice Shutter on it.

But finally, I got my shot.  Now I can clear off those other 40 or 50 pictures that I took before my head cleared!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oscar 1, Rack 0

When you have more than one pet, hilarity may ensue.

When one of those pets is much more fearful than it should be, it's bound to go much differently than you might have expected.

I got Oscar many years ago.  He's my Orange Wing Amazon Parrot, and he's named Oscar for a reason.  He can be a grouch.

But lately, his personality is starting to blossom.  He's demanding more attention, and he seems to be more interested in what anyone is doing around the house.

He used to simply sit in his cage and growl.  As in Leave Me Alone, I'm Going To Attack You If You Get Closer growl.

He did have a time where he was somewhat more cuddly but for some reason, he decided that wasn't for him.

Now he's deciding that he wants some human contact.

We are adjusting.

He sits in his TV Set sized cage on the room divider in the middle of the house.  I put him there so he can see everything that is going on during the day, and that he can basically sleep in peace at night since the dogs have always stayed in the bedroom overnight without too much running around.

Lately he has been asking to be let out.  Asking as in repeatedly calling "Hello" at an ever increasing volume that approximates the volume of the explosion of Mount Krakatoa.  I'm wondering if there won't be a visit from the City asking what is that noise and telling me that there have been complaints from someone screaming Hello and laughing repeatedly, but that's an entirely different story.

Once the door is opened on the cage, Oscar has been content to sit on top and watch the goings on with an occasional foray onto the room divider to clear the top of it of anything that I may have had the temerity of leaving there.  If it is in reach, a parrot will eventually chew on it.  Then they will either knock it off whatever it is sitting on it, poop on it, or sing to it.  Their choice.  Not yours, and it will always happen when you least expect it.

One day, I was sitting in my bouncy chair and I heard a soft movement of air in the house.   That was followed by a loud rattle and thump.

Looking around, I saw one green bird sitting happily on top of the door to the dog's crate.

Well!  This is new!

I turned my chair to have a better view.  Oscar didn't mind me but he was intent on staying on the door.

Rack was sitting in the crate, craning his neck to see what was going on.  Watching me, then Oscar, he was wary.

Oscar got bored quickly when he realized I wasn't going to chase him away.  Climbing down the cage after first testing the dog's mats on top for taste, he stepped down to the floor, then pulled himself into the crate.

I wasn't going to stop this, but a curious bird and a fearful dog, could make for a volatile mix.

I was able to grab my camera and walk into the living room for a seat on the coffee table.  This needed to be watched since there were many tasty things around for him to get into such as wallboard, woodwork, and fragile things inside the house that also included the dog.

Oscar had placed himself inside the crate as if in greeting.

Yeah, right.  Greeting.  That's what we will call it.

Rack is a patient dog, but not terribly assertive.  He waited watching Oscar.

Oscar used to preen Lettie when she would allow it.  She didn't allow it much, and it usually had to wait for when she was asleep and when I was brave enough to put him on the ground. When she woke up, she'd be out of the room in a shot.

Maybe that was what was churning around inside his head when Oscar was inside of the crate.  Go meet this new dog.  Maybe we can preen.

Oscar likes to preen.  If I stand next to his cage, my ear and my hair will get a thorough preening.  He hasn't gotten too rough yet, and I haven't ended up with a pierced ear but...

Oh right, Oscar, in the cage.

At this point, my mind was wondering how much longer would this last.

Rack was being approached by Oscar.  He was going to have his leg preened.

Nope.  Just Nope.

45 pounds of black and white fur flew out of that crate and trotted as far away from that feathered beast as quickly as it could.

Oscar remained in the crate alone.  He was probably just looking for a friend but he had ejected Rack thoroughly.

Then he actually laughed.  Some may say that parrots don't understand human noises, I disagree.  He's done silly things for his own entertainment and has laughed afterwords.  I think this was one of these times.  He laughed at the fact that he could eject a dog from a crate.

More like shooting fish in a barrel than anything else.

But it has established a pattern.  Oscar has found out that he can crawl into the crate, fly around the room, and visit.  Rack may not like it, but it will make for an interesting story.

After all, how many people can say that their parrot bullied their dog?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Community Policing In Wilton Manors - A Reason Why You Want To Live Here

We're a small town, only about 12,800 people, give or take a few.  I'm not standing out on the highway with the sign welcoming you here with a sharpie and changing the numbers as people come and go every day.

We're surrounded by much larger neighbors, Oakland Park to the North, Fort Lauderdale to the South.

I hear stories about one or the other thinking of merging with us or gobbling us up, respectively, from time to time.  Growth is fine, but living in a much larger city can be highly overrated.

We're diverse.  A mix of different people and cultures here rub shouders, but we all do seem to get along.

That diversity is why I personally think of the place as a Quirky Little Island.  Sometimes the quirks show themselves in some amusing and wonderful ways.

One day we were coming back from a rather excellent meal at an Italian restaurant that specializes in hand prepared ingredients and the kind of food I remember Mom bringing home from South Philly when she went to visit Grandmom.

Coming onto Wilton Drive from the South, we noticed that there was a sign announcing a lane closure.  The first thought was "I hope they get the two lane initiative started - there's been political gridlock on this too long".  Then I said it out loud.  Getting unanimous agreement from everyone in the car, some louder than others, saying that it's overdue that we narrow The Drive to two traffic lanes and increase the parking to support the central business district, we spotted the blockage.

Ok, this was nothing "usual".  I'm fairly well informed on the goings on here, but this particular street closure was nothing I knew about.  One lane, completely blocked off for the "meat" of Wilton Drive is unusual.  They were overzealous in protecting whoever was supposed to be using the lane, you couldn't turn into the neighborhood streets "off the Drive" because they blocked even the intersections.

Nobody was using the lane.  It was still early, dinner hour, and it had the air of people yet to come.

Driving the length of the Drive, we found the end of the blockage, near the Rumors Bar and Grill, and scratching our heads, we found our way to the house.

Asking around "online" didn't help, nobody had heard.

Had it been a festival, the Wilton Manors Development Alliance might have been asked to do an email blast about it, but they got silence as well.

Pulling into our driveway, we went in, full from the meal and the excitement and settled into our easy chairs for a diet of old sitcoms and pre-recorded television on the DVR.  Forgetting about the blockage on the Drive, we rolled out the evening like a warm blanket of domesticity.

Reaching the end of the night, we decided to grab our furry sidekick, Rack the McNab Superdog, and went for our final walk.

We had gotten to the end of our block and looked toward the Drive and there was a police cruiser, sitting in the intersection with lights flashing.  Even a couple blocks away, it was bright enough to dazzle, and the dog didn't care for it.  He's fearful and it didn't surprise me.

Instead of subjecting Rack to the excitement, Kevin went up to the Drive and stuck his oar in the water to see what happened while I walked a block off the Drive on the usual route.  Whatever was going on had the benefit of giving us less traffic, and that is always welcome in a town with few sidewalks.

When Kevin caught up with us, I heard the story.

There was a Pet Costume party that ended at Rumors Bar.  Of All Things, right?  This would have been fun to visit since Rack would have loved the chance to socialize with all the dogs.

That wasn't the whole of it.  See, this is Wilton Manors, not New York or Los Angeles where you are hearing horror stories of militarized police forces.  We're lucky enough to have a police chief, Chief O'Connell on the Wilton Manors Police Department who understands that in order to have a truly safe city, the community must be involved.  To involve the community, the officers must engage the community and make contact in a supportive way in order to enhance life here in the city.

I would have expected a grumbly or growly encounter with the Fort Lauderdale PD had they been involved, in fact the story I tell is a bit of a stereotype where once there was a FLPD Cruiser that charged through Wilton Drive in the middle of a street closure and festival lights and sirens blazing.  Everyone cleared out.  We happened to be in the right place to see where they were going.  Dunkin Donuts.  Yes, Fort Lauderdale PD officers saw fit to interrupt a street festival to get donuts. 

In Wilton Manors, the opposite effect happened.  The officers were enjoying the show.  When Kevin asked what was going on, the two female officers immediately told that it was a Pet Parade, and that it was a wonderful thing.  The only thing that they wanted to do was to go see the judging of the costumes, which they couldn't do from their posts.  The conversation went on about how beautiful the pets were and how creative some of the costumes were, and that it was a wonderful thing that happened here.  They also said you just couldn't do that sort of thing in some of the other towns around. 

Nice to be in a quirky place that isn't "uptight", right?

I've been stopped from time to time by officers in Wilton Manors while out and about.  Even at my first walk of the day, as much as two hours before sunrise, I've had conversations with officers about things - always light and pleasant.  Always it was in the spirit of engaging the public, being friendly, and offering some bit of news or trivia about how things are going on here in the town.

I would say that while this place has its detractors, they're all welcome to stay where they are.  It's nice to live in a city where much more goes right than goes wrong, and the worst thing that I have heard about was a dog's costume wardrobe malfunction. 

It's a bear to keep those costumes clean, isn't it?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Homeless Man Knocks On A Woman's Door

A homeless man knocks on a woman's door, looking for help...

"Think you could spare a few bucks? maybe some food?"

The woman thinks to herself for a few seconds, then says,

"You could do some handy work around here, I'd be glad to give you $30 if you paint my porch. There's some green paint and a brush right around the corner there, have at it."

He thanks her, and heads towards the bucket. She returns inside and resumes her knitting.

After about an hour, she gets up to check on his progress, and sees no man, or a freshly painted porch.

Just then, she hears a knocking again at her door, and goes to open it.

She is greeted by the same man, green paint splattered on his clothes and in his beard, a wide grin on his face.

"All done ma'am. and by the way, it's a Cadillac, not a Porsche."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Billy The Tree

Billy the Tree

Billy the tree aces his SATs at Forest High and ends up with a full college scholarship. The day arrives for him to move halfway across the state. The older trees wish him luck, and they make him promise to write. They wave and cheer as he packs his trunk and leaves.

He arrives at his college and after a few days of partying with humans he decides that he never wants to see his boring old forest again.

The first letter arrives from home and he ignores it. He trims his leaves into a rough approximation of a human hairstyle. Another letter arrives and goes on the pile. He buys low-slung jeans and an Abercrombie hoodie. Another letter arrives. Billy spends half his savings on an Xbox and practices Call of Duty and Madden in order to better fit in. Another letter. Billy takes up smoking, despite the dangers.

He feels a little weak and notices that his leaves are browning at the edges, but he puts it down to all the Jaeger and cheap beer.

A few other trees in class try to talk to him but he ignores them in favor of his exciting new human friends. He laughs at their bird's nests and old tire swings and their lousy topiary. He makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with them.

But Billy feels tired all the time! His leaves start to fall off. His knots ache and his branches begin to twist in on themselves. His bark feels loose and starts to slough off at the slightest touch. He's dry, tinder dry. He drops a cigarette and damn near burns his twig-and-berries off. His human friends have no idea how to help and abandon him in his dorm.

After a few days he's little more than a dry, cracked trunk surrounded by kindling and rotting bark. His roommate brings his mail and dumps it on his desk. He reaches out and opens his latest letter from home.

"Billy," it says, "YOU'VE FORGOTTEN YOUR ROOTS!"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Password Frustrations

So tell me why is it that some websites have a Fort Knox approach to passwords when it may not be appropriate?

Most of that is answered with a question:  Appropriate to whom?

The best way to answer all of this for myself is through examples.

I have a few passwords that I repeat all over the place.  The reason why I repeat them is because I don't care if the account gets compromised.  Websites that require free registration are typical of this.  If you aren't really invested in the information, a password is a nuisance and I generally give them "that password".

"That Password" was one that I used at work, years ago.  It became something that quickly formed a "body memory" in that I could sit at a keyboard and just burst it through my fingers.  So why not, right?

The problem there is "Familiarity Breeds Contempt".  You want a password you know, and that you think others won't guess, but not too simple.  That leaves out things like your dog's name, Mom's name, your elementary school, 12345, password, or the ever favorite "qwerty".

Why?  When someone tries to crack a password online, any given network for example, they typically won't walk up to "your" computer and type away.  They'll be noticed. 

Who was that guy in cubicle 9 anyway?

They will use software that will show up if someone is actually watching the store.  That network guy who is usually in cubicle 9 is probably down the hall watching the statistics on a remote computer or the phone, and locking down that specific port or address coming in to his network that someone outside is running the software on and will be back in a moment.  He's got to stop off and visit the boss, grab coffee, hit the head, and fight a few fires.

The problem is that companies have decided that it is your problem to worry about your own passwords.  So they're getting grumpy.  You're asked to think of a new password every time you log in because you haven't visited them in more than once a month, and there are rules.  Evil, sick, and twisted rules.  Something that you won't remember because it requires Mixed Case, Punctuation - but not all punctuation, and a f3w numb3rs. 

Yeah, numb3rs.  That will show th3m!  The name Eric becomes 3R1q just because it is k3wl and L337.

Except it doesn't.  All those remote attacks will be done via software.  The software has access to all the same books you read, plus the ones you didn't read, plus the telephone book, plus many other aspects of popular culture.  I once came across some of those dictionaries to crack a computer that I was given and they're massive.

I didn't end up using that because on the fourth try, I guessed the password for the happy client.

My biggest complaint, though, is the Recruiting and Human Resources websites.  The worst of them assume that you actually care about them.  You end up rewriting your resume once you get in, and have to type in War And Peace while you're doing it.  Oh, and don't forget to log back in once every two weeks or we will delete your information!

No wonder why I try the "Low Security" password that I memorized and if that doesn't work I click on the "I forgot" link.

Recruiters, you really are not all that significant and are a hurdle to get past, so relax on the security. 

So what do you do?

When I was doing Project Management at the University you would be shocked to know how many times I found people's passwords.  Forget the Social Engineering tricks of their baby's name plus their dog.  I would walk to their workstation and lift up their keyboard.  There would be a Post-It note with the passwords written on it.

Believe it or not, that isn't as terrible as it sounds - if you convert that post-it note to a text file on your phone or on the cloud that you really really do know what the password is for.  After all, while I would lift  your keyboard, I won't be able to get into your phone.  That is unless it is unlocked or your password is "1111" or something simple like that.

There is a file I keep on my computer.  It's a clear text file.  Has the passwords on it.  There is a wrinkle though, it is only hints to the password and the hints are pretty obscure unless you are in my family.  But it is in a "safe place" that only I know where it is.

Now that you have found the place to store the hint file, what would I suggest you make the password?

Random numbers, letters, and punctuation is probably best, but make it a physical keyboard pattern you will find easy to memorize, and change it for truly important websites like your bank and credit cards and that annoying website you get all your financial advisor's information from.

That last one emails me practically every day and I hate logging into it.

Find the file, open it up and remember what that password was...

Actually, this all makes me wonder where I put that post-it note.  Nope, not under my keyboard.  I'll have to have a look. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fort Lauderdale Beach, A1A And Las Olas

How about a ride!
In The Car!
Let's Take The Dog!

We were heading down to flip tapes at Kevin's office.  That meant we'd be stuck in traffic.

Since we were going to do it at least twice plus other ancillary voyages up and down our suburban pseudo urban sprawl that constitutes the Proposed State of South Florida, that means sitting in the car looking at the pretty scenery.

I have a love hate relationship with the beach at Fort Lauderdale.  It used to be The Strip until some small minded right wingers closed down the whole spring break scene sending it off to other places.  It was a huge draw and an economic engine for all of South Florida.

After that, the businesses closed at the beach one after another, then the Republican induced Great Recession hit, and the Beach isn't anything like it used to be. 

One of my favorite memories was after driving 1206 miles from my home in Suburban Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale, going to the beach and parking right about where this picture was taken from and enjoying the sun, surf, sand, and the party.

Two out of three ain't bad, and that's what they're saying here.  Granted, it is still off season, so the crowds are a little off and that is to be expected.

Going from The 17th Street Causeway to Sunrise isn't exactly an efficient drive.  You get stuck most days somewhere, whether you go up Federal, wait for a bridge on Andrews or NE 3rd, or simply take this route at the beach on A1A. 

So, as I get lectured often, why not take the prettiest drive?

To be fair, I was driving the same route with Kevin one day.  He went via A1A, I went via Federal.  We got home within seconds of each other.

Everyone hates being wrong, but he is right, why not enjoy the scenery.

Besides, I'm not the only one enjoying the scene.  Lovers embracing, bikers walking, people taking pictures, lying about on the warm sand or frolicking in the surf.  All of that is what I saw when I was sitting there, two lanes away from the bike path waiting for that light to change.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What To Do When Stuck In Traffic

I don't often leave the quirky little island.  That is, the Island City.  Everything is here, I generally don't have to go further than I can walk, and if I do, it's usually only because we have to carry more than is comfortable.

If that sounds like Small Town America, it is.  In this case, I'm smack dab in the middle of the giant sprawl called South Florida, in a little city called Wilton Manors.  Kind of a cross between Mayberry, a Beach Party, and a lot of things.

Idyllic, well not entirely, but I will say that every time I read the police blotter, most of the "Perps" are not residents.  I am not fond of that sort of import.

We'd had a house guest over the weekend, and we also had a number of errands that simply had to get run.  Unfortunately that also meant being in traffic.  This being South Florida, there were a lot of really insane moves on the street.  I have to say I could never be a traffic cop, I'd spend all my free time sitting in court listening to how this case needed a delay for some trumped up reason by a shyster connected with a traffic "school" after having written a ticket to someone who made a right turn from the left lane across four lanes of traffic.

Snowbirds, please don't forget that the Universal Vehicle Code also is in force here too, just like back in Ohio, or Quebec, or some other colder spot.

After being stuck in traffic at the beach, twice in one day, and on I-95 in a 3 mile tailback, I pulled out the camera.  It started innocently.  I took a picture of the back of a sealed tractor trailer and emailed it to my sister, still infatuated with the newness of having a new phone with an excellent camera, and the 1 GB of wireless data to use it with. 

"Hi Pat, this is what South Florida Looks Like Today".

I sent her pictures of flowers and so forth later on after I calmed down.

But that is what I tend to do when I am in the Navigator seat.  I'm now fiddling with mapping programs, predicting traffic, making video, and taking pictures.

After the second day of this I now understand why Millennials are constantly fidgeting with their phones when they're "idling".  Traffic is never exciting for anyone.

But add a passing eye for a pretty shot, some incredible weather, a good conversation with the driver, and I managed to fill up the chip with lots of shots.

I also learned that I could silence the lens.  Night shots from a moving car with a silent shutter meant that I got about 5 times more pictures than I expected.

Coming back past the mall, I passed by the Pompano Beach Municipal Golf Course and even my jaded eye was surprised at the sunset. 

As I got shot three, I heard "Boy that is a beautiful scene!  Did you get any pictures?"

Great minds think alike.

Yes, from a moving car, with a cellphone camera, and night photography.  No tripod needed, the software has gotten that good when coupled with a fast processor.  It's even easier than the old film days and the ASA 400 nonsense.

Unfortunately, you still get blur from motion.  A Fast Processor helps but it isn't perfect.

But it does help to keep you from being bored when you are stuck in traffic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Red Hibiscus For My Sister

These are a fleeting, ephemeral thing.

Lasting but one day, faded before the dawn.

I'm sure that they're supposed to produce seeds but I have never seen any from a red hibiscus like this.  It's probably like those bananas we all eat.  Seeds too small to be fertile.

The Rose of Sharon I used to grow in Pennsylvania reminded me of these, so that was why I grew so many of them into the beginnings of a hedge.

Now I have the real thing, surrounding us and blasting forth in color, practically every day.

My sister said that she loves flowers, but you can't grow these in New Jersey without keeping them in a pot indoors all winter.  I had a tree that I had done this with for years.  It put out the same red flowers, and every year when the weather got close to freezing, it would come in with the rest of the pots.  Shivering in the Kitchen of my house, by the door, it would drop leaves and mope until April when it would go outside to be eaten by Japanese Beetles.

Luckily here there is none of that and I can enjoy them whether in pots or in a yard or even in a hedge along the street on the daily walks.

Enjoy your flower, Pat.  Remember, the flower goes behind the Left Ear.  Mike will like that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Revisiting Lisa's Pentas

I think my friend Craig has given me a new set of eyes with which to see the world.

Having been given a new to me cellphone, I started learning how to use it.  The camera in it has more megapixels at 14 mpx than my older stand alone camera.  More importantly, I am able to take more kinds of pictures than before.

While the lens in the old camera had a much better zoom on it, I was limited in how close I could get to something.  The result was that I had to crop too much out in order to get to the picture I wanted.  The cell phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, allows me to get within only a few inches of the subject.  I've been taking pictures of things that I couldn't even see before without a magnifying glass. 

Having been stuck in traffic with the phone, someone texted me to find out where I was.  I took a picture of the car in front of me stuck at NE 3rd Ave and Broward Blvd with the words "Going to FLL", and got back the word "Huh?" and responded Airport and was done with that.

Fun to be a smart alec at times, isn't it?

But getting really close to subjects was something I thought was limited to a proper DSLR and a Macro Zoom.  The extra optics would help in some situations, but there are just so blasted many dots in the raw pictures that I would have to scale it down to print out a "Photograph". 

The rules are that it should be at 300 dots per inch.  The camera puts out, therefore, a 13.75 inch by 7.74 inch image.  A little judicious cropping will be in order, but this is capable of putting out something that could be printed on a sheet of letter paper without scaling and losing detail.

One late afternoon, bored and armed with the camera, I went out back.  I take a lot of pictures of the backyard, including video.  Trying not to be repetitive, I did notice that I could get closer than I expected to my subject.  Why not run with it?

I have a penta plant in the pot in the yard.  It was given to me by Lisa a while back.  She had bought three, and she only wanted two.  I wasn't completely sure what to do with this riot of red inflorescences, so it went on the irrigation chain and later into its own pot.  I figured that it was going to survive in my Darwinian garden or get selected out.  It has done well, although it needs to have the spider plant that I dropped in there with it removed. 

In my climate of never-freeze South Florida, the Penta are a small shrub.  They also produce seeds so I can propagate them.  Yes, more flowers from yours truly, we'll need more pots. 

Lisa's gone, a great friend and a Big Sister to us all, but her flowers are still here.  Just the way I like it.  After all, it gives me a subject to practice getting too close with a cell phone and pretend I'm doing "art".

Or just share Purdy Pixturez with my friends.  Isn't that what life is about?  Sharing with Friends?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Man Was Tailgated One Morning

I try not to "source" my jokes on Facebook since, well you've probably seen it before. 

On the other hand, is there ever a truly original joke?

Thanks to my friend Valerie up in West Virginia, we have this one. 
Thanks to traffic and drivers in South Florida (and everywhere else) it's pertinent!

A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard.

Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten The red light by accelerating through the intersection.

 The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, "I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, Naturally... I assumed you had stolen the car."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Two Guys are Playing Golf

Two Guys Are Playing Golf

The women in front of them are really taking their time and are slowing the men up.

So one man says to his friend, "I'm gonna go ask those ladies if we can play through."

He starts walking, but about halfway there, he turns around. When he gets back, his friend asks what happened.

He replies, "One of those women is my wife, and the other is my mistress. Why don't you go talk to them?"

So the second man starts to walk over. He gets halfway there and turns around.

When he gets back, his friend asks, "Now what happened?"

To this he replies, "Small world."

Friday, October 17, 2014

The "Have You Lost Your Mind" Art Installation

Walking around town, I find things.

Odd things.

Some things you don't want to think about and pass by on your way and hope that either someone cleans it up, or the weather changes and it magically disappears with the next strong rain storm.

This was a nice thing. 

This particular walk, I was on one of the avenues in my quirky little island.  Something caught my eye in the predawn hours.  It was a quarter.  Heads up means good luck, heads down means give the luck away and you will get more in return.

Nice fable, but it doesn't seem to always work that way.

My trusty sidekick, Rack, the McNab Superdog watered a tree and I saw the second find of the day further along the walk.

It was a purple propeller.  It had blown off of a yard whirlygig at one point and fluttered in the breeze to the center crown of the street.

Oooh, Purple!  Spinny!

I did a look to see if anyone had obviously lost this oddball contraption out of their yard.  It didn't seem like anyone had lost anything, and I know the neighbors in that particular block.  Since the traffic was beginning to heat up for the day, this found bit of strangeness would come with me.

Getting back to the house before anyone else was awake, I set the propeller on the porch and went about my day.

Later that afternoon, I came out and saw the purple prop.

The light bulb in my head fizzled to brilliance.  I thought that I had something that I could set it on and make a pinwheel out of the thing.  The first try was a fiberglass pole that was too large.  That would have been perfect, but it didn't fit.

The second time was the charm.   I was going to make a bamboo contraption.

We have a stand of Bamboo in the yard.  About as thick as a finger, I have used it to build oddball things like lamps.  It holds a thin piece of LED light in it and as soon as I can figure out a mount, it will make for a hanging lamp or a desk lamp.  Haven't decided.   But it will allow me to make my gadget and smile.  Besides, LED strips are great lighting for hurricanes and other power outage.

Not that we don't have enough emergency lighting in here.  If I turned on all the LED Flashlights, torches, votive candles, and strips at once, it would glow bright enough to be seen from space.

Cue the Choir Eternal, there's a lot here.

The bamboo poles I have here are long though.  10 foot tall sections that narrow to a point. 

Just what I need.

I cleaned the narrow end off of this fishing pole, slid the propeller onto it, then held it up.  It was tall enough to be in the sun and catch the wind that comes steadily off the ocean once you get above the tree line.

Yeah, this sucker was tall.

I immediately got a silly idea.  It was going into the front yard.

Walking 10 feet of pole with a purple propeller through the house, my house guest asked me what that was.

"Art.  I am having an art installation.  It shall be in the middle of the front yard.  If anyone asks, it is for the Art betterment of the city, what else would you think it is?".

I walked to the front yard with a snicker and promptly stuck it in the grass.   It was well above the house and started spinning happily in the breezes.

Placing my camera next to the pole, I tested the Voice Operated Shutter Feature.

"Cheeze!"  The camera popped.
"Capture!" The camera popped again.
"Camera" and "Shoot" worked as well.

Beautiful blue skies, a purple propeller and shaft were captured for posterity.

I walked inside and giggled saying "Kevin will think I am nuts!".

I have a weird Dr Seuss inspired piece of whimsy shining in the South Florida Sun.

Doesn't everyone?

The next email I mentioned the Bamboo Contraption in the front yard.  This really wasn't the best day to be late from work.

When he got home, opening the door he started asking.

"Have you lost your mind, and why are you videoing me?"
"I have no idea what you mean!"
"You know what I mean!  That bamboo contraption in the yard!  It's not December!"
"I know it isn't December, and that isn't a Festivus pole.  It is Art!"
"Art?  That is Art?"
"I am sure Constance and Krishan will approve!"

At this point he started covering the lens of my camera with an empty bag of dog treats and laughing as he walked out of the room.

Yes, I have a 10 foot pole.  In my yard.  With a purple propeller on top.  Doesn't everyone?

For Art's Sake?

Someone, Anyone, Beuhler?

To witness the art installation, do drive by the house.  It will be there through the week or until I'm told to take it down by an art critic with differing taste.  And if you have lost a purple whirlygig looking propeller thing, look up.  If it's yours, knock on the door and I'll let you have it.

Besides, Festivus Poles don't have propellers and are made from Aluminium.  It is the Cadillac of all Metals!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wilton Drive, October 15, 2014, at 6:24AM

The inherent strangeness of the act of being somewhere when nobody else is around can be a feeling thick enough that you may cut it with a knife at times.

We're finding ourselves being able to go to malls that were rendered empty and dead as a result of the Republican Induced Great Recession of this decade, and you feel yourself in the footsteps of people who were there before you.  You are able to walk and hear echos of times gone by, lives lived, and the joy of celebrated events.

This is most definitely not a dead mall.   This is a thriving shopping district.  It simply is waiting for its daily awakening.  People are out and about and caring for their properties, starting their work days, and opening shops for their daily business.

I have the pleasure of this scene almost every morning.  Getting up well before dawn, my faithful sidekick Rack, my McNab Dog, by my side, I am able to choose my route.  Many mornings, I choose this particular route.  I am able to walk through Wilton Drive, a place of what shall be instead of what was.  A hopeful place where people come from all over the world to visit, enjoy our sights, and partake in our enjoyment.

Those who have lived here for any length of time have heard the stories of how you could fire a cannon down Wilton Drive at one point and never hit a soul.  Now to do that would be almost impossible or at least highly improbable.  You would have to get up well before dawn to even consider a chance of it.  In this case, I wasn't the only person out there as there were others on this same block just out of view.  Even in the pre-dawn, there are people out enjoying the sights - although most of us are tethered to our own canine companions.

Now that things are getting better in the economy, it is a place of hope.  It is a place where it is almost completely occupied and business is thriving.  It is also home to many.  People go about living their lives, visiting neighbors, telling tales, and seeing the sights having chosen this place out of many to be.

It is waiting for the next step, perhaps a redesign of the business district is in order.  This would make this more a friendly place for those of us who do indeed live here, and care for its presence.  Time shall tell whether we of this quirky little island paradise have the strength and vision to make those decisions.

But for now, it is home.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Security? Poodles? Sandworms? Here we go again.

If you have any passing interest in computer security, you have noticed a few announcements go by.

If you don't, you may think it is overwhelming.

Yes, and Yes.

If you are worried, there's a simple solution.  No matter what the computer, no matter what the operating system - make sure you are up to date.

Most home users are set up "from the factory" to automatically get updates.  This is true on Windows and on Mac OSX.  My Linux computers pop up a friendly sunburst to say it's got updates too.

In both cases this will solve these two problems.

Poodle - Make sure your browser is up to date.  Windows update will fix this.  It is a low level problem that is more of a headache for systems administrators. So it's not a major headache for most people.

The long description that 99 percent of us can skip is that it's a bug that Google has found in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) version 3 that is seriously out of date.  It shouldn't be used at this point anyway, but some folks haven't updated that.

Sandworm - It's a worm that goes after Powerpoint files.  Since Windows machines are set up to ask you if you want to open the file, don't.  If your computer asks you to open anything with a ".INF" extension, don't.  That is how the worm will propagate.

How to fix it?  Home users, make sure you go through your Windows Update.  It's a windows problem.  But anyone else should be running the most up to date version of their operating systems that they can.  If their operating system is no longer supported, it's best that you upgrade as best you can.  No more XP for you.

While you are at it, make sure your virus protection is up to date and you may want to just force a run of a full scan.  You never know what is running around on your computers these days and it is just good practice to do this once in a while.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Doggy Pong - or How To Keep Your Dog Happy

Got a herding dog like my McNab Dog, Rack?

Maybe a Border Collie who is running around barking at the ceiling fan?

A Poodle that is chewing up the furniture?

German Shepard Dog who won't let you leave the house because it's clamped down on your right shin?

They're bored.

Well, not my dog Rack.  He's actually quite happy.  Look at the picture for proof!

You see one of the toughest things to do is to keep a herding dog in a house.   They have limitless energy and are the Go Go! Breeds out there.

Walk them three times a day, one mile each time.  I swear by that.  It isn't the be all and end all of keeping them happy and busy, but it is a good start.  After all, not everyone lives within walking distance of a place where people hang out.  You know, a walkable business district?

If you have a farm, you're set.  Let your dog learn how to herd chickens.  

I hear you say "But, Bill!  I don't have a farm!  I'm walking my pooch long and far every day but he still has energy!  What can I do?"

Chill.  First off.  Your dog feeds off your energy.  If you are worried and tense, I guarantee your dog will wonder what's up and start acting up.  Calm, Cool, and Collected.  If you aren't, your dog won't be.

You tried the ball tricks.  You may have a dog like my Rack with no prey drive at all. 

Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  

I did the tennis ball bouncing thing.  He got up and walked away thinking I am possessed. 

Too bad really because there is this park near my house where they play tennis and there are always some stray balls flying over the fence needing a soggy retriever's mouth to reside.

See, Rack gets excited when one of us comes home.  He's good with staying on the property too, not perfect, but good. 

What we do is play McNab Pong.  If you don't have a McNab, you don't know what you're missing, but you could call it, I guess, Doggy Pong or Puppy Pong.

Yeah I'm getting to it.

Here's how it's played.

You are inside the house with your dog.  Someone comes into the driveway with the car.  Your dog wants to go see them.   First get the dog to sit at the door.  He will but he will also be a coiled spring ready to jump.

Open the door gently and work on that door skill.

Then release the hounds.  "Go get'em Boy!".

Rack will run out the door charging with legs flying in all directions.  In two bounces, he's made it to the car all excited.

It doesn't work with our mailman.  He's a great guy, but I wouldn't want my dog charging after someone who he doesn't like or know well.  You have to choose someone who your dog cares about and really wants to see.

I hear you saying "What next?  That's great your dog made a fool of himself running across the grass and is now jumping all over that person in the driveway.  Isn't that against that calm thing you said earlier?".

Yes, it is against the whole Calm, Cool, and Collected thing.  But this is an exception.  We are TRYING to burn off energy.  You see we do this just before the walks.  It actually makes for a better walk because we've blown off some steam.

First we sent our dog out to the driveway.  He's gotten about 30 feet away and now...

The person who he has greeted has to send him back.

"Go see Dad!"  Rack snaps to and runs back to the house in three bounces, legs flying everywhere, mouth open in a doggy smile.

Next your dog will get called back out to the driveway.  "Hey come on back to me!"

Feet flying he gets there quickly but a little slower.

"Go see Dad!"  

We repeat this as many times as needed.  Each time he goes back and forth, Rack slows down.  Finally he's down to a trot.  He loves the game, but he loves his people more.  Instead of him jumping all over us and knocking us backwards into a comfortable concussion on the pavement, he's now back down to almost mellow.

Almost.  Herding breeds aren't known to be couch potatoes. 

We've done the game where one of us was a solid 50 feet away, or more.  Rack will run the length of the property to get to one of us, and only gets sent back.  Athletic dogs need exercise or else they get into problems like obesity or destructive behavior.

In the case of my Rack, he sleeps all day.  McNabs will do that.  But only if their energy is focused and burned off correctly.

So if you will excuse me, I have a little bit of Doggy Pong to play.  Someone furry is wandering out to the back door of the house.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Four and a Half Years Later - M.E. DePalma Park

The South Florida environment that we know, tourists and most locals, is almost entirely artificial.

The green grass that grows as thick as a fine oriental rug under your feet needs fertilizer and constant watering.

The Hibiscus hedges need training and watering.

Palm Trees that grow in long rows down the streets of our cities aren't from here.  Native Palms don't tend to be planted locally and are mostly shorter growing.  When the natives grow, it's because a bird has eaten the seed and dropped it somewhere and it will get pulled from the cultivated garden, just like I did an hour before now.

The point is that it's also easy to tell when you end up in a natural environment here.  You literally can hear it.  The sounds of life are loud and plentiful.

When the rapacious developers leave some land alone, it's because forward thinking municipalities have written into their codes that a certain area must be set aside as a preserve or a park. 

Even Natural areas need care here because we've made such a mess of things.

When there was a property left over from a developer here in Wilton Manors too small to build anything on it, the City moved to take ownership in part to repair some of the damage done by that developer to native species.  This was to become a vest pocket park devoted to Natives.

I remember sitting at the dedication of the park in February 2010 on a lawn chair in the middle of NE 7th Avenue thinking that this will be beautiful when it grows in.  At that point, it was an open expanse of a few pre-existing slash pine trees and a lot of mulch.

The story of that day is better left to the original tellers at the East Side Neighbor's Association.

But it was created and cared for by M.E. DePalma, her friends and family, and the City of Wilton Manors.  It slowly grew to become an island of natural beauty.

I have the pleasure of walking past it almost every day.  The singing of birds, flocks of butterflies, and croaking of frogs is a constant companion to anyone who takes the time to walk to the back of that park and sit at the butterfly chair and commune with the place.

Even if you don't take the time, this is a place where Florida's wildlife has been allowed to return and it will visit you if you let it.  Just ask the little lizard that lives near the plinth who followed me around that day in September 2014.

But cared for it was.  In fact, I'm shocked just how beautiful the place has become over the years. 

It has become a riot of colors.  Flowers beyond my own knowledge nod their heads in the sun.  Spider webs dance on the breezes.  A chorus of Tree Frogs chip their greetings. 

This is a small reminder of the Florida that once was, and could be again.  In some areas, it has returned because some well educated people have allowed it.  Besides, it takes much less effort to allow Nature to reclaim what belongs than to force endless carpets of St. Augustine Grass to suck up the waters from the aquifers.

I am just fortunate enough to have this near me so that I can visit when I need to.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Middle Aged Woman Goes To The Plastic Surgeon

A Middle Aged Woman Goes To The Plastic Surgeon

And says, "Look, doc, I'm feeling a little saggy and wrinkly in the face, but I live out in the country and I don't want to have to keep coming back to see you, so give me something that lasts."

The doctor says, "well you're in luck. There's a new product on the market called 'The Knob.' Basically, we install this small knob on the back of you head and if you ever want a little skin tightening, you just give it a quarter turn."

The woman thinks this sounds great so she has the surgery.

She shows up to the plastic surgeon's office 15 years later and says, "Hey, doc, this thing has been great but lately I've been noticing these bags under my eyes that won't go away."

The surgeon says, "Yes that is a complication we didn't anticipate. Those aren't just bags under your eyes--those are your breasts."

She sighs and says, "well I guess that explains the goatee."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Missionaries in the Savannah in Africa

Missionaries in the Savannah in Africa

So a pair of righteous missionaries are out tracking in the heart of Africa having just converted a small village.

On their way to the next village they have to trudge through several miles of dangerous Jungle.

One of the missionaries spies out the corner of his eye a fierce lion walking behind them several yards away.

Out of fear they start walking faster with the lion close behind them - soon they were running as fast as they could with the lion gaining on them quickly.

The missionaries decide that they'll never be able to outrun the lion so they drop down on their knees and start to pray, "Dear Lord please spare us from this terrible fate of being eaten by this lion, we've been doing excellent work for you and it would be a terrible waste to be eaten right now...and if you can it would be terrific if you could maybe help us teach the gospel to the lion"

With some trepidation they open their eyes and look behind them to see that the lion is on his knees praying, "Dear Lord, please bless this meal..."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Weeds and Lizards - And HDR Photography

I actually enjoy taking pictures.  There are a lot of pictures that I have taken that are strictly for me.  After all, how many pictures of your dog being cute, or that particular friend walking into a wall can you inflict on people?

Not everyone shares "your" enthusiasm for a subject, no matter how good you are at it.

So I meter myself, restrict what I show, and self-edit a bit.

But trust me, I have "gigs" of pictures I have taken since the beginning of the digital photography era.  I'll keep doing it, and I'm getting better at it.

If I bore you with it sometimes, sorry, maybe the next picture might be something we both enjoy.  I'll try harder.

All this was running through my mind lately when I was having a chat with a good friend, Craig.  He lives up in Atlanta and a while back told me that he had an old phone that he didn't need.  "Oh, really?" 

It was a massive upgrade for me, and I'm beyond happy to get it.  I've changed my phone plan to allow texting and to get a gig worth of data per month.  I am being conservative there, but why spend when Wifi is so available, right?

I've gone back to T-Mobile and rightsized the plan.

Plus my old phone, a T-Mobile MyTouch Q was so slow that it literally took 10 minutes for it to come up.  It was that lack of speed that stopped me from really using the smartphone as well as I knew I would.

He knew I'd have a lot of fun with it, and, well thanks again!

That display literally lights up the hallway when I turn it on at 5 AM in the bedroom.

Talking about the phone, Craig shared with me some ideas to make things more interesting.  Cellphone cameras.  This one has a 14 megapixel camera.  Great, about another 50 percent better than my standalone camera that I have been using for years. 

Cellphone cameras have one big limitation, the lens is fixed.  You can't really zoom in and out with one, they are just taking a digital scissors to the view and cutting it down.  It forces me to put myself in just the right spot where an optical zoom lens would let me do things a little simpler than having to get reeeeeealy close for that closeup.

But on the other hand, if the programmer who wrote the camera software was good, the camera can be amazing.

I'd say that Samsung had some very good programmers when they wrote the software for the Samsung Galaxy S4.

There are a couple of things I can do with the camera that I couldn't do before, one of which is a little controversial.  It's called "HDR" or High Dynamic Range.   HDR photography takes three pictures in rapid succession, so you need a faster processor than you might have before.  First an underexposed picture, then a "normal" one, then an overexposed picture.  The three are blended together and presented as a final picture.

Craig asked me had I ever played with it?

A little. 

I'm finding HDR to be an uneven technology.

Spotting a weed growing from a plank, it caught my eye as pretty typical for Florida.  Drop a seed and it
will grow or be eaten.  So during the golden hour dog walk that evening, I took a normal picture.  Then I took an HDR Picture. 

The normal picture had deep greens in the shadows, but the representation was a bit darker than my eye perceived.  I think the camera's auto mode was looking at the weed in the foreground and using it to figure out how bright everything would be.   Otherwise, this is a very competent piece of equipment.

Then the HDR picture was taken.  The angle is slightly different, and I can now see what the difference was
with the HDR.  There is more of the darker areas shown.  It popped more, however the darker areas near the sunlight shaft were a little hazy.  No, I hadn't left a thumbprint on the lens, I'm thinking it's the code for this particular situation said bring it all up and make it more "contrasty".  

I would say that the HDR picture is more true to what my eye sees in the scene.  At that time of day, the fence in the background is highly visible, and the darker areas of the plants aren't really back into the gloom.

The way I see it is that it is an interesting technology, well worth playing around with.  On the other hand, good old "normal" photography could be just what you want.  Since you won't know until you get home and look at it on your computer - Use Both!  After all, you don't actually pay for film anymore do you?

Besides, isn't Photography all about being creative?  Playing with your environment, the light, the setting, and your equipment?

Another tool in the shed or another crayon in the box.  It's just going to make us better at what we do.  Frankly, I'm enjoying it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Pet Frog's House

I hate to say it, but I don't believe in "Outdoor Pets".  If you truly love something, especially something as social and as intelligent as one of the species we keep as pets, you will want them around you.  Otherwise you're asking your neighbors to keep a pet as well, and they may not want your choice in a pet.

There are exceptions.  I'm sure I will hear them.  But for the vast majority, keep your pets safe, with you, and inside your house.

I think this may be one of the exceptions.

Of course I do, after all, I'm special, and I count, right?   Short yellow bus kind of special, perhaps, but special nonetheless.

Here in Wet Season Florida, wildlife is living fat and happy.  There is plenty to eat, lots of places to hide to sleep and shelter, and the living can be easy.

Unless there's a hawk overhead, then you had better duck and cover.  My parrot will tell you about that.  He doesn't like Opossums either since they tried to eat his food that one time.   He stays inside the house making a mess on the room divider.  He prefers it, I would prefer if he learned to clean after himself.

Sometimes that wildlife makes its presence known.  I've had snakes get in the house, and although that itself would have been fascinating to watch, it would be better if the black racer stayed outside.  I should say "Snake" since it only happened once.  Black Racer.  Maybe it mistook the meal I had cooking in the crock pot that day for a tasty mouse. 

Mmm, Tasty, Tasty Mouse.

That says more about what I cook than its homing instinct.

I had noticed a while back that there was a frog on my window.  The Florida Room in the back of the house.  It was well before sunrise, I heard a sound on the window like someone slapping a piece of meat on the counter.  Going out to investigate, I found Kermit's Cousin out there glued to the glass.  Taking a picture of the little creature, I smiled, and let it go on its amphibian way thinking little more of it.

A couple days later, in the middle of a gap between thunderstorms, Kevin spotted another frog on his vehicle parked in the drive.  Using a flashlight, we managed to get a picture, laughed, and we let it go on its amphibian way thinking little more of it.

See a pattern here?

The frog kept showing up. 

I'm about two weeks into the future.  Or wait, maybe time has marched on.  I know the frog hadn't.

I was in the dining room of the house and looking into the Florida Room one morning.  Having turned on
the lights, I noticed something stuffed into the corner of a little nook in the woodwork.  The whole area was only about as long as your hand, and maybe as wide as your palm.  Not more than 6 by 3 inches.  But it was a gap.  That wood on the outside of the house had a small air gap there of about an inch deep. 

No I don't know why they did it that way, it seems strange to me too, but it is there.

No I don't think we will 'fix it' just yet.  It's treated and not prone to anything nasty.

Just frogs.

Our friend, the tree frog from weeks gone by, has adopted our little air gap as its home.  I think it may be able to see me inside the house, but only because it has eyes that rotate on bulges.  It really doesn't have enough room in there to twist itself around and actually look at me.

Or that's what I tell myself.  Having Kermit whisper "I see you and I know what you do" is a bit creepy, even if it is just a tree frog that took a liking to my strange Florida Architecture.

Mid Century Modern.  Painted Salmon, faded over the years, stained by rust from the irrigation in spots.

Yeah?  So is yours.  Or it will be.  So there.

Every morning for a couple weeks now there is a ritual that we go through.

About an hour to a half hour before sunrise, the house is fairly quiet.  If there is any music playing, it's not too loud as if to rouse the house.  The parrot won't allow that anyway, he'd try to sing along.

In this quiet I hear a familiar sound.  "Thwack!" as the frog's body hits and sticks to the window with the pads on its feet. 

I know it is climbing the walls.  Trying to get to one of the two little cubby holes that it has claimed as its own, it makes its way up the glass. 

By the time sunrise happens, our outdoor pet frog has sidled into position, in the corner, and settles in for his daytime sleep.

This has happened every day save one in the last few weeks.  That one day, I found myself missing the frog.  It wasn't there, and something wasn't quite right.  Laughing at myself, I realize that it will probably go somewhere one day, burrow into what passes for soil here, and hibernate until the wet season returns in May or June and we may have this happen again next year.  It's possible that its children may try the same thing, and it is also possible that my Froggy Florida Room will be Frogless forever.

Or something else that starts with the letter F.  You choose.  But for now, it's for Frog.  As in Frog House.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Peaceful Sunrise - A Time to Make Blood Red Lemonade

I have to say that if I'm going to get up at 5AM, I'm going to find a way to enjoy it.

I gather up myself and Rack, my McNab Dog, and we go for a walk around town.  I've got a course set up, or rather a couple of measured courses in mind.  Like you, I tend to repeat my motions.  Why not?  Wilton Manors, Florida has some rather beautiful areas around.  Even at 5AM there are people out, mostly walking their dogs.

I step out my door, look East to see if the planets are out.  There's one rising in the sky that I believe is Jupiter, although it could be Saturn.  It doesn't matter, it's there, and I know where to look.  I'll find the moon, and all is right with the world.

This morning being the Blood Red Harvest Moon Eclipse, I made sure to look for the moon.  It was low in the Western Skies.   There was a chunk bitten out of the upper left quadrant of it when I walked out into the morning cool.  It made it look vaguely like a corporate logo for a large computer company.  You know the one, Eclipse?  No company named that?  I may be mistaken, excuse me, after all I hadn't had my coffee.

I did make my lap around town and got home noticing that someone had continued munching that green cheese globe in the sky.  It was now roughly half gone.

This was going to be a long lunar eclipse.  59 minutes of totality.  I would see it. 

Standing in my front yard, it hung high enough in the Western sky that it was above the power lines and nearby buildings.  I had a clear view.

I took Rack back inside, got him out of his walking gear, and settled in for a "short hop".  I needed to be back outside in a half hour.  Gave me enough time to get started on my morning routine.  By the time the timer on my phone gave its cock crowing alarm letting me know I was ready, I had made coffee, the dog's breakfast, and a few other things.

Morning routines are routine, but comforting.

Excited at the prospect, I grabbed the camera, spare batteries, and found the tripod.  This was going to be great, right?  Pictures of a rare celestial occurrence?

Walk out to the front yard.  The security lights dim down.  "Oooh!  It's dark out!  Only 6:30am so it should be.", I tell myself, and pop open the tripod.

Screwing the camera to the base, I find the moon.   It's very dim.  Barely visible.  I'm disappointed because I realize that the clouds have returned.  It's a red blob filtered by low clouds out West in the OTP areas.  Over The Turnpike.  Suburbia.

BLAH.  I'm being handed a lemon.  Blood red lemon.  No pictures of that from my little camera happening today!

I squeeze off a few pictures and realize that the real beauty was being overlooked.  Turning around I notice a spectacular sunrise.  Oranges, reds, blues, and deep violet.  The clouds were underlit by a sun that had risen over the ocean out in the neighboring Bahamas.  It had another hour or so to rise here.

I turn around, reset the tripod.  Not getting the view I wanted, I parked myself in the traffic lane of my own residential street.   There was a car approaching slowly from the East.  "He'll go around me", I heard myself say.

Set the 2 second timer, hold for auto focus, one picture done.

Reposition, repeat.

The car is quite close.

Looking up, I see it's one of the police cars for Wilton Manors.

"Mornin'!" I say.  They have to be used to this sort of thing, after all it isn't Plantation or, heaven forbid, Palm Beach where everyone has a stiff set of rules to conform to.

Yes, I'm out in the middle of the street in the tail end of the night, hovering over a small camera on a too short tripod taking pictures.  This is the sort of thing that happens in your neighborhood right?

Beauty happens everywhere, even in places with "rules".  I go back to taking pictures, the officer continued on his way with not even a grunt.  They know me anyway, I'm "Local Color" now.  They usually ask "Where's the dog" when I'm out on my own.

I squeeze off a few more shots and head on indoors.  It was a beautiful morning to make lemonade in the middle of the street.   If the lemon is that you can't take a picture of an eclipse, the sunrise might just be the lemonade.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Friendly Lizard

The other day when I wandered out of the house, I had no real agenda.  Bring the camera, be creative, have fun with it, and see what you find.

What happened was that things found me.

I walked into the little park near the house with Rack.  He walked deep into the cul-de-sac of a walkway and right up to the stone plinth that sits there. 

On the plinth there is a small piece of art.  A green copper butterfly that is held up on a shaft of what looks like wrought iron.  Some fool tried to remove it when the piece was installed and got frustrated.  In trying to remove it, the shaft was bent to an arc of about 90 degrees.  Luckily it was repairable, which is something I'd wager you can't do to that ne'er do well's karma.

I did notice that Rack was pointing out something on the plinth that wasn't normally there.   A Cuban Brown Lizard.

I am amused by these creatures.  Usually I'll look at them and they will dart off into a hiding place with me chanting the mantra of "Run! Gecko, Run", even though they aren't actually geckos.  They're really quite shy.  Their reptile brain sees a large human coming at them and fearfully thinks that it's time to go. 

In this case, the little creature was as interested in us as we were of it which accounted for the novelty of the situation.

I was able to use the camera and zoom into the little being's personal space and fire off quite a few shots.  I fully expected it to move off somewhere, but it just insisted that I do what I needed and try my best to record this encounter.

The plinth having that rough finish that we see around here frequently, has aged well.  The pits of the concrete were collecting tiny micro biomes for creatures to colonize.  The mildew that formed in them showed in the black accents on the North side of the craters, just like the moss will prefer the North side of a tree. 

Having gotten my last picture of the series, my little friend used one of those craters to have a drink of some collected dew that remained after the morning sunrise.  His reptilian brain not registering fear, he stayed put while I went on my way, leaving the encounter and the park behind.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rack the McNab in Get Ready To Play

A tired dog is a happy dog.

No matter what breed it is, whether a lap dog or a greyhound, your dog needs appropriate exercise.

If you intend to keep a Herding Dog or a Working breed in the house, you can tell if you're giving it enough exercise.   A happy and well exercised dog will be a couch potato indoors.  Comes when called, doesn't demand a lot of inappropriate attention.

That doesn't mean that it's a house plant, you set it in the corner and give it food and water occasionally and it goes and does it's thing.  A Dog is a living, social creature that deserves interaction and mental stimulation too.

But you can tell.

Those long walks are great, but sometimes a dog will need to break out of their training and "Just Be A Dog".  This video is one of those times. 

Rack, my McNab Dog, is a bit of a puzzle.  He's just about perfect indoors.  No hair-trigger when the UPS truck comes by - although he does grumble a bit.  He doesn't sleep on the couch or the beds because he knows where his bed is and he's got three of them in a 1200 square foot house.  Take him outside and if his fear is not triggered, he is fine, even off leash.  If there is a storm within earshot, he wants no part of it and heads to the door.

A thunderclap 15 miles away that we don't hear, he does.  At that point he'll decide that being outside is a big "Nope!" and begin to tow me home.

But every dog has quirks, and Rack is definitely quirky.  He's working through his fears and he'll come along to be one of those "Dog of a Lifetime" dogs that you hear about.  Lettie was definitely one, and Rack is on his way.

This is one of the times when everything was perfect.  His routine is after breakfast he wants to go out back and snuffle around the yard.  If I don't get involved, he will do a perimeter search of the property, empty himself, then amble back to the back door.

If I do get involved, he becomes poetry in frenetic motion.  What I do is either clap my hands or stomp a foot.  When that happens he will Get Ready To Play.

Rack is a sprinter, not a marathon runner.  The longest he's ever needed to fly around the yard is about 5 minutes.  I do mean Fly, by the way.  He'll skim past me airborne, all four feet off the ground, poetry in motion in black and white fur.

If you have never seen a dog thoroughly enjoying being a dog, give this video a watch.  It's safe for all audiences and has very little sound.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Married Couple Rushes to the Hospital

A Married Couple Rushes to the Hospital

...because the wife is going into labor.

When they arrive, the doctor tells them that the hospital is looking for couples to try out this new machine that transfers a percentage of the mother's pain to the father during childbirth. The couple readily agrees to use it.

When the birthing process starts, the doctor goes ahead and says, "Okay, let's start easy. Transferring 20% of the pain to the father."

After a few minutes, the husband, seeing that his wife is still in a lot of pain, asks for more.

The doctor says, "Okay, transferring 40% of the pain to the father."

The husband, noticing that he is feeling totally fine and his wife is still in pain, asks for more.

"Okay, transferring 70% to the father."

After a few more minutes, the husband tells the doctor, "Doc, I can handle this, give me all of it."

So the doctor transfers 100% of the pain to the father. The husband seems completely normal, and the wife ends up giving birth with relatively zero pain. Happily, the couple heads home.

When they arrive, they find the mailman dead on the porch.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A pirate, parrot, and a genie were on a boat

A pirate, parrot, and a genie were on a boat

A pirate and his parrot, were adrift in a lifeboat following a dramatic escape from a valiant battle.

While rummaging through the boat's provisions, the pirate stumbled across an old lamp. Secretly hoping that a Genie would appear, he rubbed the lamp vigorously.

To the amazement of the castaways, a Genie came forth. This particular Genie, however, stated that he could only deliver one wish, not the standard three.

Without giving any thought to the matter the pirate blurted out, "Make the entire ocean into rum!"

The Genie clapped his hands with a deafening crash, and immediately the entire sea turned into the finest rum ever sampled by mortals.

Simultaneously, the Genie vanished. Only the gentle lapping of rum on the hull broke the stillness as the two considered their circumstances

The parrot looked disgustedly at the pirate and after a tension-filled moment spoke: "Now yee've done it!! Now we're goon to have to pee in the boat!"