Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sunset Over Wilton Manors

The days, being as short as they are in winter, present an opportunity.

It's cooler, sometimes even chilly during the day here.  It allows us to get out and walk further.  We've all got a bit more energy so why not?

Leaving before the sun is down, we get to meet up with friends.  Both two legged and four legged.

We make our way through the back of the neighborhood.  It is shaped like an eye.  Pinched at both ends, wider in the middle.  On the South side of the neighborhood, in the middle of the Quirky Little Island City, we run into our friends.  How did we know they were there, around the corner and behind the park?

The dog had been leaping into the air to get us to go ever faster.

An explosion of black and white fur stomping on the ground, whining excitedly, saying hello to friends gone for forever or at least a day.

As good as they are in certain things, nobody has ever accused a dog of being good at telling time.  They most likely know you are coming home before anyone else because they can hear the motor of your car further away, not because it is you, but because you have a noisy motor in it.

Suddenly the excitement stops.  The humans take advantage of the breather to move the dogs on.  The childlike bouncing around becomes a determined march onwards.  The others leave, we make it up to Wilton Drive.

Rack, being who he is, needs time on The Drive.  He needs to be injected against his allergy.  He has an allergy against loud noises, so we'll let Broward County Transit inoculate him as the 50 bus comes by and blows its brakes.

He flattens against the pavement and moves on.

Better than it used to be, that's for sure.

We make our way up toward Five Points and turn back into the neighborhood.  It has been a long enough walk.  I'm starting to look towards dinner, we all are.

Then we round the corner.

The conversation stops, words were not needed.

The sunset simply was enough.  A beautiful day ending with a riot of colors.  The remnant of the sun shining directly down the block.  Another beautiful evening in our own little city, as the sun snuffs itself out behind the gazebo of our friend's yard, we all head on in for the night.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rosebuds Against The Sky

I spend a lot of time out in the backyard.  That's normal here, especially in Winter when the highs may be as cool as the mid 70s.

Yes, I know, Bracing Weather, innit?

I take Rack, my dog, out back and watch him.  If he wants to play, he makes it quite obvious.  If I am being particularly dense, he even assumes the down on the haunches dog "PLAY!" form.

This wasn't one of those days.  I had to putter.  It was also just a little bit after sunrise so the skies hadn't turned their brilliant blue yet.

Wandering around the semi-private areas, I inspected the pool.  It hadn't rained in weeks but the water level was fine.

The hedges had been trimmed a few weeks back, so I didn't need to putter there, although the one hedge is somewhat of a mess.  You may like Mother in Law Tongues in a pot, but growing under a Night Blooming Jasmine Hedge, they can be an invasive nuisance.

I'd send some to my sister but she'd probably clobber me.  Never tick off a Jersey girl.


Thankfully I learned that some time in my early 30s.  Missed opportunities before that I guess.

I have a Darwinian approach to gardening.  Things grow, I cultivate.  Things die back, I clear and plant fresh.  I'm not terribly effective at that, other than Screw Palms and Dracena.  They're all over my yard, and terribly easy to grow even up North in a pot in a sunny room.

But then there are the roses.  People write sonnets, poems, and songs about the wonders of a rose. 
Floribunda or wild roses, it doesn't matter.

I'm not exactly a fan.  They're less annoying than my bougainvillea because they don't spread.

But I can't pull them out either.  I may cut them back, but I won't kill them.

I have one leggy plant in the yard.  A Pink Rose.  I won't call it a bush, it's more like a stick with some prickles on it and some limbs.  Lately I will let them get a flower on the end, then I will cut that off and bring it inside and have it indoors.

That is where they belong.  Cut in a glass in my kitchen.

When they finally wilt or drop petals, I collect them and put them in a coffee mug.  Pour boiling water over them, I get a mild scent of rose petals in the kitchen to do battle with the curry or garlic or other spices I was cooking with.

I'll get the plant cut down to a useable size eventually.  They won't grow through the fence like my neighbor in Philadelphia, Ruth.  Ruth is gone now, well, really, so am I since I am down here.  She was a powerful woman.  Small of stature, she had a presence that demanded attention.

She also had what we called Little Wellfleet next door.

That's Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Ruth had taken trips up there to Cape Cod and brought back plants for her garden.  One of them was right up against our fence.  Her "Wood Roses".  At least that was what I'd call them when I was being polite.  These were the kind of roses that grew wild up there.  They also would have made a formidable fence for livestock because every square inch of that plant had dozens of thorns on them.  It looked like a hedge crossed with a medieval torture device.  It also insisted on growing through the fence.   Since it was planted next to where my Jeeps were parked, it also managed to get me on a regular basis.

So while I respected and liked Ruth, I also got to trim her rose bushes on a regular basis.

While she wasn't looking.  I wasn't crazy.  I wanted the job done, not to have to answer why.

Now Wood Roses would grow wild.  That was what they did.  You could try to train them, but if you were in their climate, they would not stay trained long.  They'd grow thick and form large mounds of prickles and thorns and flowers.

Every time I manage to cut a flower to take inside the house, and stick my thumb with one of those prickles, I think of Ruth and her wall of Wood Roses.

Blasted prickly plants, beautiful though they are.  Just like Ruth.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What Are You Waiting For?

I've said it before: We train dogs without our even knowing it.

They watch you.

No, I'm not going to make the usual comments about what they're watching you do, simply because they do.  They live with you and since we don't expect them to tell on us like the kid sister in the tattle tale stage, we do what we will even if the dog is watching.

And they watch.

And they remember.

And isn't that what training is?  Watching and Remembering?

Somehow I trained Rack, my McNab Dog, to sit when he wants my attention.  He still is unruly around other dogs.  Going into the heeler mindset of a herding dog, he will nip at their heels.  Even much larger dogs, he will grasp their ankles and hold on.

At least I think it is a hold on since the other dogs he does this to have not attacked him for this behavior.  The other dogs he has done this to are sometimes much larger, even more than twice his size.

I'm sure other McNab owners will say the same thing. 

But lately if I tell him he's doing something wrong, he is listening.  If I can get through the puppy mindset of playplayPLAY, he will simply stop what he is doing and sit.

With Lettie, my departed McNab, I could tell her "Show Me" and she would take me to what she wanted.  Then she would stare at "it" and then back to me.  It was obvious what she wanted.

Rack isn't quite that sophisticated yet.  He simply sits and stares me down.  Or stares through me, I'm not so sure which is which.

With his other quirks, this one is turning out to be a useful one.

I was deep in the middle of mucking about with Photoshop.  I had a "head shot" of Rack that I liked and I wanted to erase all the background rendering it something I could paste into any other picture.

Select area with the magic eraser tool, then hit delete, repeat as needed.

I was happily trimming Rack's whiskers from the flowers in the background when I felt laser beamed intensity in the room.

Stopping what I was doing, I looked back into the Florida Room.  That was when I saw the source of those beams.  My boy was trying for my attention.  Successfully.

I set the computer on the table, stood up, and said to Rack "Show Me" hoping to strengthen that behavior.

He immediately walked to the back door.   We went outside for a good 15 minutes of laps around the pool, quick switchback running around the palm, disappearing through the wormhole that is behind the shed, and coming back into the yard.

I swear there's a Tardis back there, since he disappears into that area and goes to visit an alternate universe, file his reports with Orson like Mork From Ork, then comes back fully dog through my night blooming jasmine back in that corner of the yard.

After all, it's larger on the inside since he takes much longer than I expect to come back into our own reality.

In a while he tires of this and tries to drink from the pool.  If he's paying attention I tell him to go inside and he'll walk to the door.

If I am not paying attention, I will see him staring at me from across the pool in exactly that same pose, one ear up, the other cocked over at the top, waiting for the dumb human to wake up and stop staring at the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars eating away his milkweeds.

It would be at that time that I realize no matter how much he hides from noises blocks away on Wilton Drive, he is learning and it didn't take any effort.

Like the breeders say about the McNab Dog, "if you can't train a McNab, you don't need a dog".

In his case he's training his human well.  He can get me to stand up and walk outside, can't he?  On the way back, I'll get the laundry off the futon.  It looks a little shabby sitting back there but that's between you and me even if the futon is the albatross around the neck of all furniture.

Have you ever tried to give away a futon?  I didn't think so.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Police Officer

A police officer stops a speeding car and approaches the driver

Police: "Do you know how fast you were going?"
Driver:" Nope"

Police: "Can I see your Licence?"
Driver: "Sorry officer, it has expired"

The officer raises an eyebrow

Officer: "Can I see your Registration"
Driver: "You don't want to do that, this car is actually stolen"

* The officer begins to tense*

Officer: "Open up your trunk!"
Driver: "you definitely don't want to do that, there is a dead hooker in there"

The police officer calls back up. 5 policemen approach and search the car.
They find no dead hooker, the car isn't stolen and the license isn't expired.

One of the officers approaches the driver and says: "Sorry sir, there seemed to be a mistake.

One of the officers said that you stole a car with an expired license and killed a hooker."

Driver: "Yeah, I bet he told you I was speeding too"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Baseball in Heaven

There were two old guys, Abe and Sol, sitting on a bench in a park feeding pigeons and talking about baseball, just like they did every day.

Abe turns to Sol and says, "Do you think there's baseball in heaven?"
Sol thinks about it for a minute and replies, "I dunno, Abe. But let's make a deal: If I die first, I will come back and tell you -- and if you die first, you come back and tell me -- if there is baseball in heaven."

They shake on it and, sadly, a few months later poor Abe passes on. One day soon afterward, Sol is sitting there feeding the pigeons by himself when he hears a voice whisper, "Sol... Sol...."

Sol responds, "Abe! Is that you?"
"Yes it is Sol," whispers the spirit of Abe.

Sol, still amazed, asks, "So, is there baseball in heaven?"
"Well," says Abe says, "I got good news and I got bad news."

"Gimme the good news first," says Sol.
Abe says, "Well... there is baseball in heaven."

Sol says, "That's great! What news could be bad enough to ruin that!?"
Abe sighs and whispers, "You're pitching on Friday."

Friday, December 26, 2014

Now That You Have The New PC, What Do You Do With The Old One?

No, I don't need it.

Well I mean, if it's something really cool like a Mac Book Air, or a Thinkpad Yoga or something like that I could easily find a home for it here, but that's not what I'm getting at.

So you had a computer for a while.  I don't mean a tablet.  Tablets are their own weird problem.

A Laptop or Desktop Windows PC.  For sake of discussion.

And this is not meant to be comprehensive.  There are too many different vendors of computers, there are Macs, there are different places to keep the "original discs".. you get the picture.

If you really need someone to hold your hand while doing this, you may want to consider finding someone nearby.  I've done this a number of times, and it is safe to do, but I am in South Florida and I have my own rates that I charge for this kind of service.

Advertisements aside....

You used the old PC for years.  I have a friend who had an old machine he just upgraded that he used for 10 years.  He's lucky he could keep it going that long.  But normally people use their main computer for 2 years or maybe 3.

You get used to its quirks, it's current operating system, it's way of storing files, its noisy fan, that sort of thing.

I keep hearing the story of people that take the hard drive out of the machine and throw it out, or they just roll it into the hall closet and try to forget about it.

Some homes have three or four computers that way.

No.  Just stop.  Someone else could use that machine anyway, especially if it is a Core 2 Duo or newer machine.

First of all, you need some of those files.  They're typically under a few specific spots.

Open your File Manager: Start,  "This PC"  on Windows 8/8.1 or "My Computer" under Windows 7.

I wish they'd stop renaming things, it doesn't help.

The things you normally need are in places that are listed:  Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures.  If you are someone like me who goes and puts things in places that mean something to "ME", you will know where they are.  I can't tell you where that is from here, you'll have to search for them yourself.

But Windows has for years kept things in specific folders where it wants you to save things.  If you followed Windows' lead, then that does make life easier. 

You will need to copy those folders off.  Use an external hard drive, about $50, and copy the lot onto the drive.  If you know how to share the computer and the hard drive across the network, you probably know more than what you'll get out of this article.  At that point you can copy the folders across the network.

Yes, you are already on a network since you are most likely on wifi and reading this here.  But hopefully you're at home.

At any rate, copy those files back onto the new machine in the same fashion and in the same folders.  When you are done, delete them from the old computer.

Now, that doesn't necessarily "clean" the computer.  What that did was to remove the pointer.  What everyone is afraid of is someone getting the computer and grabbing the data that was on it before.  The easiest way to fix that is to write over the data. 

There's a middle step here that makes life easier.  If you created the original "Install" DVDs or have a way to "Set the Computer Back To Factory Settings", do that now.  Your computer will go back to the way it was when you first plugged it in.  That doesn't clear out your empty space, but it does delete everything and makes it all fresh and new.  It also is a one way trip and you can't go back.  This is a bit of a shortcut since it makes space that needs to be cleared, and it also gets rid of your data.

Once you have done that, you need to clear all that extra space.

An automatic solution is one of those programs that writes "nulls" to the hard drive.  There are quite a few of them and many are free. 

This one, DP Shredder will simply delete files or folders, and there's a handy little button that will let it clear out the free space on the hard drive, including the space you just made by deleting files.  He wrote the software correctly since it is a rare thing these days.  It is portable and does not require an install.  However it does come in a ".7z" extension which means that first you need a program to extract that.  You can install the 7-Zip program which is free, and extract the DP_Shredder.exe to run the program. 

Now that you ran DP Shredder, and that literally took hours I'm sure, your computer is cleared of your private data.

You can safely give the computer to the charity of your choice, the kid next door, or anyone you choose.  Your old data is gone.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays from

No matter what holiday you celebrate, may you have a happy one.

If you don't celebrate a holiday, then may you have a contented and happy day.

This is just my own little post card to celebrate the event in its best Church Bulletin Style.

The Flowers are the Garbage Poinsettia that I dumpster dived for three years back.  They sit under the orchids, by the fence, sheltered by the roof over the Lanai here in my yard.  They also could use a bit of attention since they're really leggy but then again I am an indifferent gardener.

Enjoy my flowers and my best wishes for a good celebration, and a good day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ginger Cookie Recipe

Usually, I don't give out a recipe on the first try. I monkey with it and add my own stamp to it.

In this case, I mentioned that I was making Ginger Cookies on Facebook and people wanted the recipe.  This recipe was so good that in the middle of writing this out, I had to go to the freezer and grab the one you see in the picture. 

Yum.  Really, they are that good.

Here it is.  This recipe makes a cookie that turned out on the softer side.  If you want a firmer cookie, make them thinner or cook them longer.  These were like a commercial soft chocolate chip in texture, warm and savory with cinnamon and ginger flavor.

That being said, the only difference I would do with this recipe when I do it again is to add a little extra ginger.  I like a strong ginger spice flavor, almost "hot", and this was warm and sweet and savory.  An excellent cookie on its own right.

I'd say make it as it is, no changes, as it really is excellent, then decide for yourself.

The dough it makes is soft, not sticky, and forms shapes well.  When you make the cookies, I took the traditional approach - 1 ounce of dough, roll in sanding sugar, then bake.  They will spread out to double the width of a round ball as they cook.

The way I made mine was to mix the wet ingredients in the stand mixer until smooth and creamy, then add all the dry ingredients, one at a time, while the mixer was running.  Finally add in the flour a tablespoon or so at a time to the mixer. 

The ingredients are listed in the same order that I added them to my mixer.

Here is the recipe I used:


  • 1 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light molasses (I used Blackstrap as it was on hand and it was fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour


  1. Cream together shortening and sugar.
  2. Add eggs and beat until fluffy.
  3. Stir in Molasses and mix well.
  4. Sift all dry ingredients twice.
  5. Add dry ingredients to molasses mixture and mix well.
  6. Using cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out spoonfuls of dough and form into round balls.
  7. Optional and Preferred - Roll tops of balls in sanding sugar.
  8. Place the round balls on a cookie sheet, they flatten as they bake.
  9. Bake for 9 minutes in a preheated 350F/175C oven.
  10. Remove from baking sheet and cool.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rack Is Not Ready For His Closeup

If You Can't Train A Mc Nab Dog, You Don't Deserve A Dog.

I read this once.  It was written by a breeder of Mc Nabs out in California.  It's absolutely true.

The same goes for most herding dogs.

Australian Kelpie, shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherd Dogs, Poodles, all that.

A lot of those undesirable behaviors are due to our subconsciously training dogs in ways we didn't expect.

We have all seen those videos of dogs doing unexpected things.  Labrador Retrievers standing on the Ice Dispenser button to empty the freezer of ice cubes is probably my favorite.

The trick is to steer the undesirable behavior into something useful.

After all, have you wondered why your dog has this weird ability to predict when that ice cube needs to be shared when you say "I need a drink"?

I didn't realize that I was training my dogs, but I should have been clued in.  I did this to Lettie, I certainly am doing this to Rack.


Lots of pictures.

They don't like it.

Lettie would just walk away.  Cause meet Effect.  I would grab the camera, even if just to pop the chip out of it to read it, and she would find herself in another room.


Rack is a much more gentle creature.  He doesn't cast aspersions.  He merely avoids.


Trash truck on the street a block away?  In the crate.
Vacuum cleaner out of the closet?  In the crate.
Coffee grinder?  Garbage Disposal?  Toaster finishing with a snap?  All in the crate.

I tend to block areas off these days.  He's got his crate, and he's got his mat out in the open.  The rest of his hiding places are blocked off.

He hasn't learned that Flash Camera Bad thing yet.  He just thinks if he's being aimed at by a camera or a phone, it's going to get annoying.

When people send me messages, text or email, saying what they're up to, and I feel the need to respond with the smartphone, I have been known to send weird random pictures.

Someone started demanding to know where I was.  Driving.  So I took a picture of the "guy in front of me" and sent it back.

I got the same question once when I was in the bathroom.  They got a picture of my feet and the bathroom door.

I was in the yard when the text barrage last happened.  I took a picture of the yard and sent it to him.  He was in Lorton Virginia waiting to get off the Auto Train and bored.

Then I thought "Oooh!  Lets try to get a picture of Rack".

Made a mistake there.  He doesn't understand that when I am coming after him, camera in hand, that we aren't playing a game.


I scuffed my shoes on the pavement.

Time to run the human.  Make human tired.  Go do 100 laps around the pool leaping over the milkweed pot.  Pee on the Spider plant.  Bark at the human because human isn't running at my speed when he scuffs his shoes on the pavement.

I really should toss those sneakers.  They're too comfortable to get rid of but there isn't really any sole left on the stupid things.  Long story.  Good sneakers.  They don't leak through the sole when I walk through a puddle - yet.  10/10 will buy again the brand after I use up the "back stock" in the closet that I got for $20 a piece in close out.

Eventually I knew Rack tired.  He wanted to drink.  Actually he wanted to drink the pool which isn't exactly a good idea with a salt system pool.  Since it just makes you more thirsty.

I started to follow him around.  Looking for Just That Right Picture.

I know.  I have dozens, if not hundreds of pictures of Rack in the year since we met.  I wanted more.

Awww look at the puppy.

It is like the story of the comic who was asked about children.  She didn't think babies were all that beautiful.  There is a rare one that she would comment from the heart.  But for the most part she thought they were pretty ugly.  She'd just say enthusiastically "Its a Bay Beeee!!!!" and move on quickly.

That's what most people think when they hear a pet-parent raving on about their cat, parrot, lemur, monkey, cow, or dog.  "It's a Doggie!!" And walk away.

But... But... It's MY Doggie.

Yeah, well, I'm still looking for That Picture and Rack doesn't like it.

I blame the flash.  If you want to take a picture of your pet - do it outside.  They won't learn Camera Equals Flash so quickly.

I ended up with the tip of the ear snipped off of the frame, and it saved me from sending a picture of my sneakers to someone again.

Oh and keep a few topical shots in the smartphone just to send off as a random comment to people.  It keeps them guessing when your dog isn't ready for the closeup.

A Box of Holiday Cheer at 7:10 in the Morning

I did not really expect it.

Not the box, I was expecting the box to arrive.  It's a box of holiday themed goodies that came from my Sister, Pat, up in Cherry Hill, NJ.

We trade boxes each year, and they arrive welcomed.  This time I was expecting the box because when I told my sister to expect hers last week.  She said that one was coming this way and to keep an eye out for it.

It made its way down the coast to me.

See the thing was I didn't expect it now.  I was just going around the house opening windows.  Florida in December can be beautiful.  Last week was a bit too chilly for my blood to open the windows before dawn.  Since I am up as early as 5AM on a regular basis, I see the temperatures.  They were as cold as the mid 40s one day, and since we have windows that don't hold anything in, heat or cold, they stayed firmly shut. 

Today was the first day that I have thought it was the right temperature before dawn to open the windows.  It was 66 at half five when I walked Rack for his daily march around town, and true to form for a Floridian, I had on a sweatshirt.

Yeah, go ahead and laugh, we don't retain the ability to go out in the cold weather like we did before we moved here.  So go button yourself up in survival gear and try to convince the car it needs to start when you're in Sub Zero Temperatures.  I'll keep my sweatshirt handy when its in the 60s.

Checking to see if my "pet" tree frogs have made it to their nook in the back of the house before I open the windows, I get half of the house open when I hear Rack start to grumble.

Quiet, Rack, it's ok.

Being the smart dog that he is, he stopped growling.  That is about all he'll do.  Growl.  Well, really, growl and then hide.

I looked up at the front window from the back of the house and saw the back end of the mail carrier's truck.

The watch said 7:10AM, this is too early.

I walked to the front door since I didn't want Rack to prove me wrong by barking like a lesser dog, and opened it.

The Postman was indeed making a delivery at this crazy hour.  I guess it's due to the holiday rush.

I looked at the box and said "Wow!  It's even for me!", stupidly not realizing how that sounded, and thanked him with "Oooh! It's Cookies!" and went back inside.

Yeah, ok, I didn't mean it that way, and I hope that the postman realizes I didn't but I can't fix that now.

Sorry, buddy!

More than anything else I was surprised to have a visitor this early in the day.  With Cookies!

Well, not exactly cookies, but some sweets and a rather cool silicone loaf pan with cake mix in it.  I've been wanting a silicone bread/cake pan since I started using them for cupcakes and cakes before.  I haven't broken down and bought the things because my cabinets are chock full of pans and gadgets from my old house in Philly plus the ones we bought here.

Thanks Pat, that's pretty cool!

Now if I could just stop munching on this stuff and get started with my day!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Weather

Back during the days of the former Soviet Union, a fellow by the name of Gerald Chattington had a friend in the Soviet Embassy by the name of Rudolph Nosov, who would drop by occasionally.

One evening, Gerald and his wife, Peg, were sitting in the kitchen chatting when Gerald looked out the window and said, "Look, it's snowing."

Rudolph looked out and said very quickly, "No, I think it is just rain."

"I'm sure it is snow," insisted Gerald.

"And I am just as sure that it is rain," said Rudolph.

At this point Gerald turned to Peg to settle the argument.

Peg looked out the window for a moment, then said, "What can I say? Rudolph, the Red, knows rain, dear."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Construction Foreman Needs to Hire Some More Workers

One morning he has 3 guys come to the job site for an interview.

The foreman looks at the first guy and asks him, "Can you take this hammer, throw it in the air, and catch it in your tool belt?"

First guy says "I sure can!", and tosses the hammer 6 feet in the air, catching it behind his back, it lands perfectly in his tool belt. The foreman nods his head.

The foreman looks over to the 2nd guy and asks, "Ok, now can you throw this screwdriver and get it to stick in the ground at a perfect 45 degree angle?"

"You bet I can!", says the 2nd guy, and with a flick of the wrist he throws the screwdriver, piercing it into the ground, sticking out at a perfect 45 degree angle. The foreman nods his head.

Then the foreman looks over to the 3rd guy and asks, "Alright, what about you? Can you shoot a nail gun from where we're standing and break that coke bottle sitting on the fence post?"

"Of course I can", says the 3rd guy as he takes the nail gun from his tool belt and fires at the coke bottle. It hits dead center shattering the bottle to pieces. The foreman nods his head again, turns and looks at all 3 guys.

"That's all very impressive fellas", the foreman says, "but I already have guys who do that garbage all day. I need guys who know how to work."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ugly Truffles? Ship Them Anyway!

I have a simple truffle recipe.  Two ingredients.

1 pound chocolate (milk or dark)
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream.

Melt them together until smooth in a double boiler.
Chill until firm, then scoop with a melon-baller.
Coat as desired.

Trust me on this one, the "Melt them" step took 10 minutes from start to finish.

They are that easy.

The coating... it didn't go quite so well.

I was showing off.  I guess it helps to be put in your place.  I guess I need to research this again.

I wanted to use White Chocolate to make a dip.  Thinking "how tough could it be?"  I just poured some into the Bain Marie the next day and began melting.

Florida's climate got in the way, I guess.  The chocolate seized up and turned into a strange waxy grit.  I searched for a solution and they suggested a little oil to push the water out of the mix.  That loosened up the white goo into something smooth, but at a high temperature.

While chocolate melts at 86F, White Chocolate directly out of the steam bath is considerably hotter.  Truffles are barely solid at what passes for room temperature here, even on the coldest week of the year.

Rolling the truffles into a little ball, then chilling them had helped a little bit, but they almost immediately started to melt as I tried to dip them in the white goo.

Thinking "You're seeing things" I tried a second and a third.

I stopped at 7.  The rest got dusted in a premium cocoa and sent up North to my sister in Cherry Hill, NJ and my friend near Atlanta.  Those were perfect.

Actually, the White Chocolate Ugly Truffle Bombs were tasty.  Misshapen bombs of sweetness with a thick uneven shell of white chocolate tasted great.  They just looked ugly.

Ugly Ugly Misshapen chocolate.  Poor little things.  Let me put you out of your misery....

*CRUNCH*  Mmmmm you taste good. 

That is part of the holiday box thing I do.  If I make a mistake, find something amusing to send along, add something memorable, I just toss it in the box and send it along.

Memorable to whom?  Me.
Amusing?  I have a creative sense of humor.  Tasty but amusing.

In this case, just Ugly.  I may as well Own Up to it, right?

The solution is that there needs to be some fat added back to the coating to have them melt at a lower temperature.  Your garden variety chocolate bar, melting at 86F, does so because there is an accepted percentage of fat added to the bar to help it melt at that point.  The government here and in most countries say that in order for something to be called "Chocolate" there are proportions of everything.  Otherwise it is merely "chocolatey" or "chocolate flavored".  

Lame imitation of the real food of the gods, you are banished to make Easter Bunnies, Gelt, and those weird coatings on discount branded snacky cakes that never quite taste right.

Add more fat, like the cream in a truffle, they melt at a cooler temperature.  Remove fat and you get something that eventually could become cocoa.

During World War II through Gulf War I, Hershey made up some chocolate bars that melted at a higher temperature by changing the recipe to add egg whites as well as some other tricks.  Living in Pennsylvania at the time, I found some of those "Desert Bars" at the Reading, PA Outlets and got a box or two.  Interesting bars, they had a "harder" texture, but they were definitely what you and I would call chocolate.  It tasted like your garden variety Hershey's Bar.  These were better than what granddad had in WW II in their K and D Rations, but those earlier military chocolate bars were "better than eating a potato".

I guess you had to be there for that one.

So the next time I attempt White Chocolate dipped truffles, I'll add in some cream to lower that melt point so the mix doesn't have to be quite so hot.

After all, the FDA doesn't even recognize "White Chocolate" as chocolate since there isn't any cocoa to be found in the stuff.  It's just "sweet".  A "confectionery".  Great for coating things if you get your recipes right.

Unlike my ugly truffles.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Roasting Garlic Needs No Gadgets And Adds Flavor

Who knew it would be so easy?  This is more of a Kitchen Hack than it is a Recipe.

The whole thing in four lines:

  • Snip the top off the bulb of garlic.
  • Coat the bulb with Olive Oil.
  • Wrap the bulb with Aluminum Foil, adding extra Olive Oil before closing the wrap.
  • Cook for 30 minutes at 400F or until tender.

That's it.

Now, you know my recipes, there are always back stories and reasons why I do things.

I tried this because it sounded tasty.  That's the simple summary of it all.  Roasted Garlic, done this way, will spread like butter, if a little chunky.  The flavor becomes sweet and not so harsh.  You get the Garlic flavor that your recipes call for but it isn't quite so "violent".

The added sweetness will be welcome when you add it to a Pizza Sauce, since most of the best ones really require that.  Add some to a jarred sauce and tell everyone you made it from scratch.

Yeah.  That's it.  I made it from 'scratch'.

No you can't hear the quotes.  I won't tell.

But seriously that's it.  The garlic was a "throw in" item when I made the chicken pot pie recipe a while back.  Just prepped it and tossed it in on a corner of the cookie sheet.

Yes, really, that easy.

Ok, ok, I'll stop with that, but really even non cooks can do this one.

I wasn't kidding about the pizza sauce either.  I took about a half of the bulb since roasted garlic is more mild than regular garlic, and "smooshed" it into a paste.  Adding the paste to the sauce, I then made a pizza which was noticeably better than the last time I used the same sauce.

If you are doubting me, you can find a pound of garlic in the warehouse stores for about three bucks.  Try one and if you hate it forget that I suggested it.

But you really don't need that expensive one purpose gadget, just some aluminium foil.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peeping Ringneck Dove

In South Florida, I have often said, we live closer to wildlife than I did in Philadelphia.

That isn't to say we didn't have wildlife in Philadelphia, and I don't mean the two legged variety.  I once had a deer in my backyard, roughly a solid mile from the park, but that is another story entirely.

Behind my house is an arbor.  It's made of some large poles and holds up the bougainvillea and the Spanish Moss that grows there.  That is to say there is a massive bougainvillea that forms a privacy curtain along the back window of the Florida room, and you can't get through it because you would be shredded by the thorns that grow on the plant.

Bougainvillea are beautiful, but nasty plants.  Every time I work with the plant I get stuck by those blasted thorns.


Wrap yourself in Kevlar Body Armor and it won't matter.   You will get stuck.

I suppose that is the attraction of the bloody stuff.  Literally bloody, that is.  The thorns create a micro-climate safe from things that might "Getcha".

Every so often I look out the window and I see things looking back at me.

My frog hotel is at the top of the window.  Two little boxes, an inch deep, two long, 4 wide.  Just big enough for a frog to smack against the glass and hide for the daytime until it is time to go out at night and hunt for insects.

Tasty, tasty insects.   Mmmmm.

I've seen a four foot long green iguana looking back at me with a mouthfull of bougainvillea leaves.  I wouldn't mind but those nasty iguanas don't share.  I stood up to get a better view and off it ran into the neighbor's yard.

Evil things.

This was more benign.  A Rock Dove.  Perhaps you call them Ringneck Doves.  I go between the names.  They're quite common, quite harmless.   I simply did not expect to see the thing looking at me and watching me as I go through my normal daily routine.

So why not... I got a couple pictures of it.  Then it got frightened due to my attention and flew off into the window.

They're not bright.  Birdbrained might be a better description.

They're all over the area here.  Might be the teenagers of the avian world with their call of "Meh" whenever you hear them.  Harmless creatures, whatever they eat they're welcome to since I know they don't destroy my plants.

One of them a while back made a friend in my parrot, Oscar.  It would fly over to the cage when I had Oscar in the Florida Room near the window.  I would hear Oscar talking to the bird, saying Hello! to it, trying to convince it to talk back, and the Dove true to form would just say "Meh" back.

I am guessing that this could be some sort of revisited curiosity, although it might be misdirected.  Oscar got moved back into the core of the house to keep him comfortable when the weather changed from warm to cold, or vice versa.  I can't really remember which.  I don't have that large a house, so he squats in the middle of it making rude noises at us and glowers while that peeping dove tries to get his attention.

I should move him back out there, but I'm lazy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Story of Our Holiday Lights

What do you do with a typical South Florida home?  Mid Century Modern, built in 1968, 1200 square feet?

I mean for the holidays.

When I think of holiday lights here in South Florida, I think of some of the usual things.  Rows of palm trees wrapped with the same color lights to look like the Parthenon columns.

Ionic?  More like Washingtonia.

If they're done right they look like fireworks.  Right up the trunk and out each frond to send lines of light out to the compass points.

My palm tree isn't that tall yet.  The one that insisted that it gets to grow in my irrigation line got too big to stay there, so I moved it out front and planted it in the island.  The Bottlebrush tree that I keep expecting to die hasn't given up the ghost and I refuse to kill a tree.  Maybe next year.

But we did what everyone else did here, trace out the line of the house in color changing LEDs, hang icicles, and call it done.  There are thousands of these houses in South Florida, and in December, many of them look just like ours.

The funny thing is that I didn't expect us to go through what we did to get the silly icicles in the first place.  Our original lights were subtle.  They would color shift through the spectrum and lined the roof line of the house.  But since we were in a mall up in Pompano Beach, I was shopping.  I ended up in a discount store and spotted their holiday lights display.  They were just put out at that moment so I texted Kevin and asked him if he wanted to look.  He found four boxes of these things and called it done.

It wasn't.  We got the lights up and needed at least one more set.

Going back to that store was fruitless.  They had been sold out.  Cue one of those mad dashes all over the county looking for more of those stores and more of those lights.  At the third one of the chain he got bold.  Asked the person there if there were more and got the standard "Only What's Out There".  That doesn't work with us, we had him go into the back.  When he was gone, Kevin spotted more of them just out of reach.  Once that person got the ladder, Kevin had the last two boxes.

So we're set for next year when we end up not being able to find a string of the silly things.

Much better than driving all the way down to a questionable part of Hollywood, FL, looking for cheesy LEDs in a discount store!

That white burning bush out front has it's own story.  The Gables has a large apartment complex here called Gables Wilton Park.  It's here for the long haul, well built and sturdy, it looks like it will outlast most of the people I know.  They put up a lot of LED lights over the years and decided to put up something that I found rather nice.  It's an artificial tree that has a white LED in a flower on the end of each twig.  Being white LEDs, it puts out a lot of light on their property and it actually looks pretty realistic.  The flowers remind me of the Crabapple and Cherry Blossoms that were growing all over the place in Cherry Hill when I was a wee brat.

We looked into it and found that they have a "shrub sized" tree.  Got two of them, sunk them in a concrete planter, and wired the one up in the little rock garden by the front door.   Ooooh, Glowy!  The thing actually lights the house up by itself, and only uses about 2 watts of power at mains voltage.  Great for security.  When the holidays are over, that will remain there lighting the path and the carport for years.

I'm glad we looked into it.  We still don't have a clue what to do with the second one, but I think it will probably go out back for lighting near the pool.  Maybe down at the deep end near the Utility Easement.

After all, isn't that what everyone needs in South Florida?  A Burning Bush by the Pool to scare off the predators?

Monday, December 15, 2014 Latest Upgrade Broke The Site

At least as of 6AM to 9AM, the job search website for tech, is not useable in my experience.

They went ahead and rolled out a major revision of their website today.  There actually were a few things in it that were kind of slick.

When you go in to do a search for a position, and it makes sense to do so, you have a slider for a criterion.

For example, when you are requesting a page for a search, you can tailor the number of results you want back by using a slider to change the number from 10 to 100 in increments.   The 100 is a big help.

Distance works the same way.

There are a few others, but the problem is that there should be a little box at the end for you to enter in a specific number.


Simple - I live in Wilton Manors, Florida.  I used to have a search that would look for a 27 mile radius.  That would include West Palm Beach but specifically exclude downtown Miami.  I don't want that commute, nor would I want that for anyone else. 

If there is a slider, you need to be able to enter in a specific number.

They also deleted the ability to search for an Area Code or a group of Area Codes.  Broward County is 954 and 754.  Palm Beach County is 561.  Having the ability in a large urbanized area like this to simply search for something within a county is very helpful.  Otherwise, the distance must be used, and will slow one down with extra searches.

They deleted the ability to exclude recruiters.  Recruiters in my experience are unreliable.  I tend to look for direct hire only.

They clearly did not test their site when they went "Live" today - by the time I got to it.  It may be fixed later, even later today.  Much of this could simply be because they are rolling out changes at this moment.

When I get the results of a search, they come back with either "Relevant" or "Date" available, but the default is usually Relevant unless you caught the tick box and set it.  But the link is dead to change it back - normally, but not always.  This sort of inconsistency is very common within the site.

That's the problem.  Things work sometimes but not always.

So basically their site is not useable as of this writing, 9:15 AM EST, 12/15/2014.

As for the way it looks? 

I personally am not a fan of the Web 2.0 Look And Feel for things where there are a lot of items to search. is one of those sites.  They are presenting a database of links and a tight list format is the most useable. 

I understand that they want to look different than the other two big sites, and however, their search results in LARGE FONTS and lots of Whitespace means that you're constantly paging when you do get the 100 results per page, if you can actually get things to work.

Thank you again for the 100, it helps.

But when you page through the site on a large monitor (1920x1080) getting only seven results per view until you page down is limiting.  Put as much on a line as possible.  I guess that means it's first page with 4 links, then 13 pages of 7 links (or so) plus the remaining 5 links (or so) - that's how the math works out.

Your User Interface guy must have missed that particular meeting.  The Testing folk are confused too - I got a page coming up using the old interface and immediately thought "THANK YOU!". 

Then I refreshed the page and it was back to the new design.  There were no links though, kind of a surprise since I saw links on the Old Format Page.

I'll be waiting.  The new design needs A LOT OF WORK.  The site has so many bugs in it that I simply closed every window that I had.   All my old links are no longer functional.  If I try to recreate them, the site is so buggy that I can not get anything even remotely like the results I expect.  I can't page to the second 100 results.  Not even the old text search works properly.  If you want to search for Business Analyst, and put them in quotes, the new software thinks you are looking for "Business OR Analyst".  It's not the same thing.

For example, if I search for anything within 20 miles of zip code 33301 I am showing results in California.  California is a great place but a bit more than 20 miles away from South Florida.

Oh and one missing thing that is extremely important.  Dice removed the number of hits that a particular resume has.  It's a metric that needs to return.  How else would you know if your resume is effective unless you know now many people look at it in a given month?

At this point, there's nothing else that I could suggest other than telling someone who wants to use a job search engine to wait this one out and hit the other sites. is unusable due to UI, UX, and QA issues today.  

They tried, but ... well, maybe tomorrow.  They went with a Big Bang Release and broke what they had before.  Would be best to roll it all back and try an Agile Project Management approach of gradual improvements instead of what they got here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Bear and a Rabbit were walking through the woods

A Bear and a Rabbit were walking through the woods when they came across a magic lamp. Rather than argue over who would use it, they rubbed it together and out came a magic genie who offered them both three wishes. After a moment deciding amongst themselves, they both agreed to let the Bear go first.

The Bear approached the Genie.
"For my first wish, I wish that all the bears in the forest -- except for me -- were female."
"As you wish," said the Genie. And just like that, all the other bears in the forest were female.

The Genie then turns to the Rabbit for his wish.
"Rabbit, what would you like for your first wish?"
"I want a helmet."
"A helmet?" asks the Genie, "Okay..." And like that, the Rabbit has his helmet.

The Genie turns back to the Bear.
"And for your second wish, Bear?"
"For my second wish, I wish that all the bears in North America -- except for me -- were female."
"As you wish," says the Genie. And just like that, all the other bears in North America were female.

The Genie then turns to the Rabbit for his second wish.
"I want a motorcycle," says the Rabbit.
"Ah, that makes sense!" says the Genie putting two and two together. "A helmet and a motorcycle, of course!" And, just like that, the Rabbit gets his motorcycle.

The Genie turns back to the Bear for his third and final wish.
"Bear, what is your last wish?"
"I wish that all the bears in the whole world -- except for me -- were female."
"As you wish." And just like that, all the other bears in the world were female.

The Genie then turns to the Rabbit, who is on his motorcycle and revving the engine.
"And what do you want for your last wish, Rabbit?"

The Rabbit slowly looks up, staring off into the distance...
"I wish the bear was gay."

And with that, the Rabbit rides off into the sunset.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Best "Dad" Jokes

What's the difference between a poorly dressed man on a tricycle and a well dressed man on a bicycle?

Why do bears have hairy coats?
Fur protection.

What do you call a fish with no eyes?
A fshhhh.

What do you call cheese by itself?

"I'll call you later."
Don't call me later, call me Dad.

"Dad, I'm hungry."
Hello, Hungry. I'm Dad.

"What is the lunchmeat that tastes like hot dogs?"
"This isn't bologna, son, but a serious question."

Where does Fonzie like to go for lunch?

What did the pirate say on his 80th birthday?
Aye Matey!

To a pizza delivery person:
"Hey, you wanna pizza me?!"

Father: How was your English exam?
Son: I've have only one question, that should be right.
Father: what question?
Son : what is the past tense of think?
Father: what you wrote?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Monarch Caterpillars In The Yard

Thank you Constance.
Thank you Kathie.

I've got seeds.
I will be getting more.

These little creatures are eating themselves out of house and home.  They're also one of the reasons I enjoy photography.

Going through the pictures, waiting for something to say it's time to do something with it, I spotted this one.  It's a shame to shrink it down, so I left it as large as I did.  The original picture, big as it is by today's standards, made it into my backgrounds folder on the machines.

If you take a lot of pictures, you are bound to get something that you like once in a while.

That would be the photography theory of "A Stopped Clock is Right Twice A Day".

Constance stopped by the other night.  I had a pleasant little visit standing in the front yard talking about politics, current events, and of course, butterflies.

She gave me a little plastic baggie with about three seed pods of mixed yellow and red Mexican Milkweed.  I doubt I'll ever see a flower out of them because there are so many Monarch Butterflies in this little part of the neighborhood, but it doesn't matter.  I'm planting them for the Monarchs.

I will also be carrying the bag with me when I go on my walks.  Johnny Milkweed-seed at your service!   I know of one semi-wet spot that will be getting a few.  The trick is that this area is so overbuilt, typical for Florida, that it will be difficult to find a spot to drop the seeds so that the cycle of butterfly can continue.

In front of my house, under the bathroom window, on the wall there is a rust stain.  The irrigation hits that spot twice a week.  I'll be grabbing four roof tiles and making a little square.  That will reserve the spot for my butterflies.  I'm a bit reckless with the weed-eater so I'll need to know where they're planted.

They should do well there as well as replenishing the pots in the backyard.

I'm thinking in the utility easement since that is fairly wild and "untamed".  That should give my friends a little boost.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Merry Chrismoose

If you look around at what you have, you may find yourself amused by what you keep with you.  What gives the most pleasure may be something simple because of the memories attached to the item.  An item of that sort of sentimentality may be worthless otherwise, but you have a life enriched by having them.

Of all of the things we collected in our life, I found myself looking at this scrap of cloth, deeply worn by use, and smiling.  The improbability that what is now a rag would have made it this far over the decades is something quite surprising.  More surprising is that I had given it this much thought.

We had boxed everything we wanted to save.  The basement of our almost 2000 square foot house on top of the hill in the Greene Countrye Towne of William Penn was full.  It became our Box Farm.  First we emptied the basement.  Then we cleaned it for the first time in years, properly.  Raising so much debris that we had had to put an exhaust fan on full blast to draw the air out of it, we swept, vacuumed, and dusted.

The North side of the basement filled.  Boxes collected there and under the stairs, as well as finally on the South side.  More than 200 boxes to be moved to Florida.

Somehow this scrap of cloth made it.

It is half of a towel that we kept for the holidays.  A dish towel in reality, it was never really notable, but it gave me a smile.  A gift from my sister, she knew that I'd be amused by it.  My attraction to Moose was always a source of amusement to me and my friends, despite never having actually met one.  I'm given figurines, statues, plush animals, and this towel.

It got a tear in it along the way and at some point it ended up getting sliced in two.  I may actually have that other piece somewhere, wadded up in a ball most likely. 

Who knows?  But there it was that laundry day.  Sorted out from the socks and towels and sheets on the Hot Wash Load, I separated it out and left it on the big green chair.  Taking the rest of the load up in my hands, I looked back at it and smoothed it out on the chair.

Stopping and staring at it, I thought of my sister, her family - husband and son, still in their home in New Jersey, living their own suburban life.  The green prairies of South Jersey are carved up into small plots with their Wonder Years homes, neat and tidy, in the land of Nice White People, 2.3 kids, and two cars.  Warm and comforting life in one of the ten best cities of the country to live in, and it always has been for as long as anyone can remember, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  When the survey said you could pick it or any of the neighboring towns as number one, I understood why.

It made it all the way here, improbably, to my chair in the little house, on the quirky little island, in the Florida sun, to remind me of the journey and that all that wander are not lost.

We all have our own collections.  Things that make us happy.  Things that make others scratch their heads and wonder why.  Usually they are quite worthless, perhaps worn down or worn out.  They'll be tossed away by someone with the detritus of life when the time comes.  They are the definition of ephemera, something that is designed to fade away with time.

But for now, enjoy what they mean to you, and enjoy the secret smile that comes from having a life worth remembering.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Campbell's Chicken Pot Pie Recipe is Easy and Tasty too

I've been on a Pot Pie kick lately.  Mind you, being from the Delaware Valley and Philadelphia region,
apparently we have a different way of doing this.  You folks think that a Pot Pie - chicken, beef, pork, what have you, should be a pastry shell covered with a filling inside that is soupy and savory.


In Philly, they make it thick.  It should be roughly a pudding consistency.  It may run out, but slowly.  Think of "regular" yogurt (not the Greek kind), or a good vanilla pudding.  Not solid, but not liquid.  Gelatinous almost.

That's what I wanted.   After getting some of those 95 cent single serving microwave pot pies and being disappointed in them, I decided to make a Proper Pot Pie.

I also wanted a roast chicken dinner that weekend, so we had that first.

You see, the filling in a pot pie should be cooked properly first.  Well done, but tender.   Cooking a roast chicken with stuffing to 165F internal temperature was perfect.

Then after it has been enjoyed, pull off all the meat.  Separate and reserve 2 cups of chicken chunks for the filling then go to the store.

So here is how to go about the rest - easily!   What makes it so easy is that I'm using precooked and already prepared items to make this.  Basically you are "assembling" it more than cooking it!

Like I said, EASY but you do have to head to the supermarket for some items.

You will need some mixed vegetables.  Traditionally it is Carrots, Potatoes, Peas, String Beans, and perhaps Onions.  I found a can of the stuff and thought that would be great.  Mixed Vegetables.  You see, if they aren't precooked, then you may find yourself having crunchy vegetables in your pot pie.  That's never good - so get yourself at around 12 ounces or one can of either frozen or canned mixed vegetables.  Your choice.

Make sure you have 1/2 cup of milk in the house.

Next, find yourself some proper soup for the filling.  The recipe says condensed Cream of Chicken Soup.  You want that to be thick right? It can be fat free if you prefer, and it can also be low sodium.  We went that route since I simply don't prefer a lot of salt in my meal.
Pick up some pre-shredded Cheddar Cheese for the filling.  I always look for the lowest salt in this too, again that is my own preference.  Make sure that it is at least 1 cup in the bag, although most packaged shredded cheese packs are 2 cups.

Finally, since we said easy, we need one box of refrigerated pie crust.  The Pastry kind that comes with two crusts per box.  Making pie crust is really quite easy and takes a little time and care, but this is "bachelor chow" - so easy that anyone can do it.

The preparation of this is a lot more simple than you would think, but you do have to make that pie crust.

Trust me it's just as good the second day.  It's a great way to use up leftovers, and works well with turkey or even tofu if you can find a vegetarian creamed soup and want to experiment.

Per Campbells soup, here is the recipe:

Ingredient list:
  • 1 package (about 14 ounces) refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts) at room temperature.
  • 1 Can (10 3/4 ounces) of Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup or Condensed Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken - can be canned or leftover.
  • 1 package (12 ounces) frozen (or canned) mixed vegetables, thawed.  Carrots, Green Beans, Corn, Peas etc.
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (about 4 ounces by weight)

Process (Per Campbells):
  • Heat oven to 400F.
  • Line the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate with one pie crust. Trim excess.
  • Stir the soup, milk, chicken, and vegetables in a medium bowl.
  • Spoon the chicken mixture into the pie plate.
  • Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese.
  • Place the remaining Pie Crust over the filling.
  • Trim any excess.
  • Crimp the edges of the top and bottom crusts together.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top crust.
  • Bake for 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
  • Sprinkle the crust with the remaining cheese.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rearranging the Furniture to Confuse the Dog

You know the old saying "there's more than one way to skin a cat"?

Yeah, grizzly.  I don't get it either.  I don't see the point in skinning cats.


There are more than one way to train a dog.

Certain breeds have the reputation of not being very bright to put it kindly.

Not pointing at a breed, I'd say that comes more from the one holding the leash than the one at the other end of it.

They can all be trained.  Some will take to it faster than others.  How about that?

Again, a lot of it has to do with the human and their techniques.  It also comes from how well the person doing the training "learns" the cues that the dogs are giving them.  Bulldogs are well known to be more stubborn, Herding Breeds like the McNab Dog are well known to be easier to train than others.   But the wrong technique will end up with a shut down dog or a rebellious one.

When you have a fearful dog, the rule book should be flipped upside down on its ear.

Negative Training techniques just are not effective.  They tend to create more problems than they solve.  That's my belief so I do concentrate on Positive Training - reward for good behavior, and Neutral Training.

What I mean by Neutral Training could also be called Passive-Aggressive I suspect.  You aren't going to be able to do something because I simply won't allow you the opportunity.

Rack hides.  Constantly.  If I am home and not going in and out of the house, I may not see my dog for hours.  Not that he's sleeping, he's just curled up in a ball behind a piece of furniture.

If you are thinking "why is he bothered by that?" you aren't looking at the whole picture.  Dogs are social.  They WANT to be with you and that is why we keep them in our homes.  But if they're so shut down by fear that they feel that they need to be away from you, they won't grow.

So I moved the couch.

There's a corner, more of a dead spot, in my living room.  It has a tall square table with an inlaid chess board.  Nice thing, it was hand made and given to us a while back.  But it creates a dead zone for the dog to hide.  Next to that is the Big Green Chair, my own recliner.  What Rack was doing was to first hide under the chess table.  That wasn't enough cover apparently because we found him hiding behind the recliner.

If you sit on a recliner, it will change position.  Put a dog's paw in the wrong spot and ... YELP!

You get the picture.  It's a safety hazard.

So I put boxes back there and it helped me hide the Hurricane Food as well as the overshopping we do to "catch the deals".  He can't get behind the chair.

Next we filled the area under the chess table.  That pushed him forward to next to the big green chair, but it still was mostly out of sight and not very social.  When I am sitting in the big green chair, that's fine.  I drape my arm over the side and I can reach Rack and give him the tummy rubs he wants.  When I am not sitting there, we found other ways to manage his hiding.

The routine first thing in the morning is to slide the couch next to the chair to close off the area.  Since he isn't allowed on the furniture, he is forced to be out in the room.  His mats and his bedding are in the middle of the living room and his crate is in there with him.  He has "dog" places to be where he can escape to when he needs to.

At least now I know I have a dog who isn't stuffed inside a spot where he could get hurt.

He's adjusting.  Intelligent dogs, herding breeds especially, need mental stimulation and challenges.  Now he's getting them by actually being out in the open when that big bad trash truck comes by on Tuesday and Friday mornings.  He's getting challenged by being out there in the open living room when the neighbors are getting the grass cut and there are teams of workers on the street.

He may not like it but this is the way it is until it is time to use the chair ourselves at night after dinner.  When we're in the chairs, the couch gets moved away from them and Rack dives back into the corner next to the Big Green Chair and the chess table.   The key is to get him used to what he doesn't like, but in small doses like those allergy shots you got when you were a kid.

The shots may have worked, they built up an immunity to whatever it was, but it did take time.

In his own way, Rack is slowly adjusting.

When I had my previous dog, Lettie, she had a similar problem with any loud vehicle.  I lived a block from a very busy shopping district.  On weekends I would take her there and sit and wait for the 23 Bus to go up or down Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.

For a while, we were a fixture near Highland and Germantown.  There was a pair of benches.  One near Kilian's Hardware was my favorite, another was a half block down the hill right next to the entry to the parking lot.  I would sit and watch traffic, meet the neighbors, and watch for busses.  Lettie would love to meet the people, but hated the cars and trucks. She stayed with me where she belonged.

Eventually we realized this wasn't necessary.  She would still cast an evil eye at the 23 Bus when we were out for walks.  She'd watch the trash truck or the semi delivering food to the restaurants, but she didn't try to run from the noise.  She was cured.

It simply took time.  Fear in dogs simply takes time - most likely longer than you might think is appropriate.  Just like in a human, you have to get used to new and scary.  You may just learn to like it.  Lettie did.  She became "bulletproof" in those situations.  When we moved her here to South Florida, she became the "Canine Ambassador to Snowbirds" on Wilton Drive despite traffic.

Rack will learn too.  I may just have to bring a lawn chair and sit with him out on The Drive, but we'll get there.  I'll do my Positive Training best to make sure of it.

Just bring cookies.  Dogs love the right kind of cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Wilton Manors, FL, City Hall at Sunset

November, 26, 2014 at 5:35PM looking West.

We were in the home stretch of the dog walk.

After Rack had finished what he needed to do, I crossed the street.  The sunset was particularly beautiful this day and every time we changed scenes, it shone asking for attention.

Luckily, there was a parking meter there waiting to be used.

Free parking every day until 6pm at the lot.  In this case, all I had to do was balance the camera on top and steady myself.

Pop.  There you have it.

That's the nice thing about having a dog.  You get to see the world, even if it is in your extended backyard.

Even if you don't think you need it, you're getting exercise.  Your dog gets to see the world so they're not barking at the window when a leaf falls miles away, and you can see your neighbors.

Ok, sometimes that last one is not always the best, but it usually is rather nice here.

I am lucky.  I live in a city that people actually choose to live in as opposed to a place that people fall into for one reason or another and have to live there.

There's always something to see, and all you need to do is look for it.  Just bring your camera, you will be happy you did.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

You Must Be Single

A woman at the grocery store went to the register with these items in her cart:
  • a carton of eggs
  • a quart of orange juice
  • a head of romaine lettuce
  • a 2 lb. can of coffee
  • a 1 lb. package of bacon.
As she was unloading her items on the conveyor belt to check out, a drunk standing behind her watched as she placed the items in front of the cashier.

While the cashier was ringing up her purchases, the drunk calmly stated, "You must be single."

The woman was a bit startled by this proclamation, but she was intrigued by the derelict's intuition, since she was indeed single.

She looked at her six items on the belt and saw nothing particularly unusual about her selections that could have tipped off the drunk to her marital status.

Curiosity getting the better of her, she said "Well, you know what, you're absolutely correct. But how on earth did you know that?"

The drunk replied, "Cause you're uglier than hell".

Saturday, December 6, 2014

An Italian Boy's Confession

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl."
The priest asks, "Is that you, little Joey Pagano?"
"'Yes, Father, it is."

"And who was the girl you were with?"
"I can't tell you, Father. I don't want to ruin her reputation."

"Well, Joey, I'm sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?"
"I cannot say."

"Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?"
"I'll never tell."

"Was it Nina Capelli?"
"I'm sorry, but I cannot name her."

"Was it Cathy Piriano?"
"My lips are sealed."

"Was it Rosa DiAngelo, then?"
"Please, Father, I cannot tell you."

The priest sighs in frustration. "You're very tight lipped, and I admire that. But you've sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself."

Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, "What'd you get?"
"Four months vacation and five good leads!"

Friday, December 5, 2014

City of Wilton Manors Holiday Lights 2014

The night before, December 4th, was Wilton Manors' Holiday Lighting party.  I should have went, really I should have.   I was out walking my trusty sidekick, Rack, the McNab Superdog, and was asked.

Not once, but by everyone who stopped to chat with us.

That Dog Walk Hour, you're going to run into your neighbors.  It's going to happen, just expect it.  The nice thing is that most of my neighbors are rather pleasant to talk to.  At least those who I see on a regular basis, which is to say those who have dogs.

Animal People.  

Show me someone who doesn't like dogs, and I'll show you someone who has an axe to grind on some level or another.

On the other hand, there are many people who shouldn't own a picture of a stuffed animal let alone an intelligent being.  The reasons are many: Not enough time, disposable mindset, not financially ready, don't understand how to properly handle the animal, bought one for "fashion".   I could go on.  Those are the dogs that are straining at the end of a leash having a fit because you or your own dog are on its planet.

But for the most part, you'll meet your neighbors and their dogs around that time of day.

I got back to wait to see if I had company to go over there to see the ceremony.  That didn't happen and I wasn't going to go on my own.  That question I'd have to answer of "Where's Kevin" eleventy-seven times gets truly wearing.

The ceremony is an all ages party with soft drinks and cake, usually.  It's fun and you get to see all your friends.  That "Mayberry" feel of being in a small town that I get is rather strong at this sort of event.  When I hear people grouse about where they live, I tell them these stories and suggest they move on in since they'll like it here.

No matter where you go, there you are!

But I had missed the ceremony.  Too bad, I would have liked to speak with my friends who work for the city and volunteer for it.  That lists about 3/4ths of the people I know by name and face here actually.

Again, good people, open, easy to talk to.  Yes, I'm talking about the people who work for the City Of Wilton Manors.  If your experiences differ, you live in the wrong city, come on in, we'll make room for you.  Aunt Bea may even have some Apple Pie made up fresh, and if there isn't any stop on in and get some ice cream.  There are plenty of places for it.

Mayberry, 2014.

I knew I'd be able to see the tree and the Menorah and Kinara the next morning just before dawn.  It was 6:35AM, December 5, 2014 when I took that shot.  There's a parking meter I used to frame the shot.  I actually had someone stop traffic for me so I could get it.

Friendly people here but that was a bit of an overkill.  See, they'll do that sort of thing for you, stop traffic so a photographer will get Just That Shot.

Thanks, I'm honored and a bit surprised.

When they left, I got this one as the sun was starting to come up. 

So if you want to see our little display, it's at Jaycee Park on Wilton Drive.  Park at Hagen Park, and you can see it as clear as day.

If anyone asks, tell them sent you.

That's me, the tall guy holding the camera.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lizard, Guardian of the Rescue Pot

I went a bit nutty in the yard, but I didn't realize I was creating a habitat for lost dinosaurs.

The original use of the pots was to put what a snowbird thinks is appropriate for Florida.


Lets see... the Lemons all died, the Orange got replanted in the front yard and is moping along.

The Banana tree is still there but it's so pot bound that the pot will split any day.  If it doesn't I may help it to.

(Did I say that in my outside voice?)

My Mango tree is happy, although it's a bit pot bound and in a stiff breeze it will topple over.  Since the winds come off the ocean rather steadily here, that's at least a twice weekly occurrence.

The Hibiscus likes the pots too much and overgrows everything.

I ended up pulling out all the dead plants and ended up with three pots.  I put milkweed in one for my pet Monarch Butterflies who eat them down to a stick.

The other two are my Rescue Pots.  Lisa's Pentas are in one, the other have a collection of cuttings.  Darwinian gardening rules states that what survives will get planted.

The pentas haven't stopped blooming.

The ruellias that I put in there in a clump are half-and-half alive.  Who knows about them.

They both have at least a bit of Podocarpus, Japanese Yew to the rest of us.

One is thick with it.  I figure some of it may indeed root.

I didn't count on them becoming wildlife reserves on a small scale.

Every time I go out there, my friendly lizards spot me.  They don't tend to run off, although there is a story with that.

Last weekend, I had to repot my Orchids.  Four pots, three of which had gotten too weak to survive.  Some were encrusted with mold and lichen, others with ferns.  It was hard to know where the orchids actually were.  One had no potting bark in them, and when I reached up to grab it, the pot fell apart in my hands.

They're basically popsicle sticks held together with wire in a square.

Two of them got a bed of Spanish Moss to hold the bark in and got rehung on the drip feed irrigation lines.

That third one.  I was walking back to the bar to repot my last one.  As I walk past the trees, I am pulling things out of them that didn't belong.  It was a cool morning, me flicking odd pieces of bark out at the pot chain, and I grab what I thought was a stick.

It wasn't.  It was a lizard's tail.  I pulled on it and out came a lizard from between the slats of the pot.  It didn't release its tail, but in shock, I did.  Since the concrete was warm, it trotted away quickly.

The things you find when you're out working in the yard!

So do think of the Lizards when you're out there.  They hide everywhere!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Oscar, The Mint, and The Rain

I live by that old Boy Scout Motto:  Be Prepared.

Sometimes I take that to extremes.

Well, not exactly Extremes, but I do tend to plan well ahead of current needs.

I was asked by a visitor to my kitchen a while back, why do I have a glass full of half dead weeds in my kitchen window?

After laughing at the abruptness of the phrasing of the question I told him that it was for a mid morning cuppa.


Mint Tea, sniff them.


Scratching his head, he went out and sat in the big green chair as I brought a tray of refreshments.

My personal big green chair, but that's neither here nor there.

You never know when a cuppa is on order.  I learned that years ago at my mother's knee around the big white circular table in our kitchen.  I had my friend up from Key West, and if anyone has ever hosted someone from Great Britain, you know that they walk in the house and put on the kettle.

I wonder often whether that isn't some Pavlovian response to walking in the door or not.  Since it doesn't effect me, and he does bring his own tea bags, it's neither here nor there.

He also doesn't care for Mint Tea.  Silly man.

This particular day it was raining, so I told my friend on my big green chair to hold on, and I popped Oscar's cage apart and walked it out to the deck with a cheery "Here, old man, have a shower!".

People do like to watch Oscar flap about in the rain, so my friend was standing in the door way attracting Mosquitoes as I nudged past.

I also reached over and grabbed a sprig of mint as I was out there and walked back to the kitchen.

"Where are you going with that?"

"Refill for tomorrow.  Be Prepared!  May as well, this way it will stay fresh for later!"  I dropped it into the glass looking for anything growing in it.

Nothing to root, my friend went back out to watch Oscar.

"Entertaining old buzzard, isn't he?"

Yes, I've known him longer than just about anyone.  Besides he doesn't like Mint either. 

Silly bird.

"Here, the kettle is on, have a bit of tea..."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Firefox and Other Browser Update Weirdness

I'm settling in to get some things done and notice a blurb.

There's going to be a rollout of the next Firefox over the next few weeks.  I pay close attention to that because I use Firefox extensively.  I'd be lost without it. 

I'm so tightly trained to use Firefox that I have to step back and actually "think" how to use any other browser.  Since I use Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Mac OSX Mavericks, and Debian Linux on a daily basis as well as Android and an occasional toe dipped into Apple's iOS, I have to remain as flexible as possible and Firefox is on all of those computers. 

Except the iPhone but I hardly ever use them.

I will eventually install Firefox on the Windows machines when it tells me that it is available.  I'm not in a rush.  The last time they changed the way it looks, the User Interface or UI, it borked it for me.  I ended up installing things to make it look the way it did before I updated the browser while growling at Firefox in general.  Keystrokes and mouse clicks and all that moved.  They removed the status bar. The bookmark strip got lost, or rather hid, and that stores some of your bookmarks.  They removed the title bar.

Why?  Never heard a reason, but I installed Classic Theme Restorer and it brought it all back.  Immediately after that I installed Adblock Edge to get rid of the blasted adverts and other nasties that hitch a ride onto your computer as a result.  More Privacy means for a faster experience as well as fewer viruses and spyware pushed onto your local computer.  Nobody actually "Likes" ads anyway, we accept their presence and usually are annoyed or distracted by them, but "Like"?  I doubt it.

Rule Number One of Software User Experience (UX) is if you change the way something looks, you will break the way people work.  I learned that back in the days of the Mainframe and College. 

Rule Number Two of Software User Experience is that if you do change it there will be unintended consequences.

In My Case:

I have a computer that has what they call a "Clickpad".  It's also running Debian Linux.  I know Linux in general fairly well, but Debian Linux doesn't manage Clickpads well.  Clickpads are those weird trackpads that are flush with the case.  You click on the pad instead of having normal buttons like every other Synaptic trackpad. 

I do know that is fixed in the next version of Debian, and I do know how to fix it now, but it is an annoyance that I have to deal with.  It basically forgets that it has a physical button in Debian Stable/Wheezy, and you're stuck with whatever you touch on the trackpad.  I only get a Right Click when I tap.  I have since configured a two fingered tap to be a Left Click.

What that all did change did is to break the way Firefox works.  You see, on that particular computer, I can't Right Click.  I can't get the pop up context menu.  They changed the UI right away from it. 

Since that machine is Debian Linux, I have to wait for the next version anyway.  It isn't even using Firefox, but something rebranded as "IceWeasel".  To put it short, and sarcastic, Debian had a spat with Firefox over the branding.  Since Firefox/Mozilla doesn't want anything proprietary at all on their default install, someone in the Debian Project grabbed the source code, recompiled it, created the graphics, and renamed everything to IceWeasel.  It works like Firefox but is Older.  About a version back. 

If you're running Stable, or Wheezy, you could be quite a few versions back.  Jessie has a more current Firefox, but it also has a lot more annoying bugs in it because it is "Testing".

But Windows?  Yeah, you'll get it soon.  Just remember Classic Theme Restorer and Adblock Edge, and you'll be fine.

As for the Mac?  When it is available, you'll get a blip on the bottom of the screen telling you you're ready for an upgrade.  You can also go back to the old theme if you want, but I do recommend Adblock Edge as well.

Why the harping on the ads?  It's a much faster browsing experience when you surf a page without the ads.  No blinky pictures, crawling things, or text ads.  If you don't download them, you use less data.  Things pop faster.

Trust me on that one.  You can always turn it off later.