Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Killing the Night Blooming Jasmine With Kindness

When we moved in here in 2006, the first thing that caught my eye was the Bougainvillea Hedge.

I looked through the front window, to the backyard.  It was blocked by a wall of magenta colored flowers against the windows. 

I took in my breath, walked through the house, then out back.  Confronted by the reality of living in Florida, and the giant wall of flowering hedges that were here, I realized I was sold.

There was a hedge on the west side of the property.  Pure white flowers from one end of it to the other that were perfuming the yard with a sweet fragrance that was wafting on the warm breezes.

Night Blooming Jasmine, I was told.

They never grew fast.  Every six months I would go out and hack the thing back.  I would also take note that the plant wasn't growing back as well as I expected it to.

Neighbors have either Podocarpus or Ficus hedges that were impervious.  Complete block of any view corridor through those.  They were shaped into unnatural, but pleasing, rectangles with sharp corners. 

Just no flowers.

Over the years, the hedge has thinned.  There are gaps. 

I think we're overwatering it.  It gets it twice a week, as is legal, on the irrigation system.  7AM I believe.  It also gets a little bit more at 7:45 when the drip feed comes on to water the pots. 

The orchids love it.  Skip one day and you can get away with it.  Skip two and you lose all your flowers.  That happened this year when I forgot and left it on Manual Water.  The whole system is computer controlled so we don't drain the water table and run the well dry.  But if you leave it on Manual, it won't go back on until you test or reset it. 

You do have to test these things.  The drip feed bubblers are fed by neoprene rubber tubes that are quite small.  About as thick as a piece of elbow macaroni, they clog frequently and you end up having to "blow out the lines" two or three times a week.

Just don't forget to put it back on Automatic.

So we'll be reprogramming the two separate zones back a little bit.  Hopefully the orchids will forgive us.  More importantly I'm hoping the Jasmine comes back.

Between the leak we had on the city water line that was in the back corner of the hedge that dumped a couple car payments worth of water into the roots at a slow leak, and the two zones, that hedge is almost gone back in that corner.  The palm tree that marks the end of the yard must have grown until it pinched the pipe back there, and Charlie at the City called us to warn us that we've sprung a leak.

Thankfully we don't go back that far too often.

While I can propagate the Podocarpus in a pot on the chain that I purposely keep most of the drain holes plugged to help it root, I haven't found a way to propagate the Jasmine.

That's a shame, it's a beautiful hedge.  Or at least it was.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Rude Blog? Blogger is OK With That Again

One morning, I was sitting in my comfy bouncy chair, living my G Rated life.  Music playing, the dog by my side, the parrot chattering.

I open up my dashboard thingy after having made a purdy pixture for you folks to look at as well as a backstory.

There are plenty of sites that are nothing more than a picture a day or a list of them.  I look at those as well, they're great to fill up your computer for when the screensaver kicks in.  I must have close to a gig of them, who knows!

There was a nag link at the top of the page.  I rarely look at them anyway, most folks don't look at nags I suspect.  Twenty years of being trained to ignore adverts or simply blocking them in my case, and you get that way.

The link pointed me to a page that was titled "An update on the Blogger porn content policy".

I laughed.  Out loud even.

I may be noisy, but I have never posted that kind of content here.  I could.  It's legal.  At least it is at this point in history, tomorrow could change that.

The original change in policy was fielded to gauge reaction I suspect.  The reality is that "rude" is in the eye of the beholder.  There are some people who look at this blog every single day, others less frequently.  I know of one person who complains about it loudly, although never to my face.  Apparently I cut a little close to the bone in one or more comments about them.

No, I won't say who.


Never anything that would even be considered a Hard Parental Guidance Rating, at least in my mind.  If it would get past the censors on the big three TV networks in the more enlightened parts of this backwards sliding country that I live in, I will post it.

Apparently I can now.  Well thanks, I can let my artistic nude flag fly I guess.  It's not for me, but it is for many people.

There are plenty of blogs out there that have restricted or adult content.  Some are simply to excite the reader, for however long it takes them to finish their visit.  Others are to educate about health or perhaps anthropological issues.  After all, teenage children would keep select copies of the National Geographic under their beds for private reading back in the day.  It was actually a plot point at the beginning of the movie Porkys II.  While seeming random, the plot of that movie is strangely parallel to the whole discussion of whether rude content should be allowed in the movie or not.

That sort of excitement is easy to find.  The educational sites are more important, and that is why the internet exists in the first place - to share information among people who are interconnected no matter how distant.

There was a great amount of noise, digital ink, and whinging done in a short period of time, and Google, Inc. have decided that the Blogger policy on Porn will not be changed.

It doesn't really effect me here, I'll continue to write the kind of things that Mrs Grundy in her small town may be interested in reading, but if you need that kind of medical or anatomical information that is hosted on a blog somewhere and somehow connected with Google and Blogger, it will be safe.

Sure, I'm vague, but I don't need that sort of information right now.  The last time I went for "medical" information it was to diagnose my brake problem on my Jeep Wrangler.

Besides, the kind of excitement that the 1950s teenager found in National Geographic is so prevalent and so easy to come by these days for free online, that you just don't need me taking pictures of body parts and slamming them up in 16 million colors with my website URL hidden semi-discretely on them.

I'll remain here, G rated, for all the world to see.

You may return to your regularly scheduled rude websites now, Google's fine with it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Man Is Late For Work

A man is late for work.

He's been late before and he knows that if he's late again he could be in serious trouble.

He's driving around the parking lot and it's full.
He can't find a spot anywhere.

So the man begins to pray. "Please God, if you let me find a parking spot I'll start going to church every Sunday. I won't miss Christmas or Easter. And I'll start praying every night. I just really need to find a parking spot."

Just as he finishes the two taken spots in front of him separate allowing a vacant parking spot to appear.

"Nevermind. I found one."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Judge Asks A Defendant To Please Stand

"You are charged with murdering a garbage man with a chain saw."
From the back of the courtroom a man shouts, "You lying bastard!"

"Silence in the court!" The judge turns to the defendant again and says, "You are also charged with killing a paperboy with a shovel."
"You tightwad!" blurts the spectator.

"Quiet!" yelled the judge. "You are also charged with killing a mailman with an electric drill."
"You cheap son of a... " the spectator starts to shout.

The judge thunders back, " I will hold you in contempt! What is the reason for your outbursts?"

"I've lived next to that lying bastard for 10 years now, but do you think he ever had a tool when I needed to borrow one?"

Friday, March 27, 2015

I Am Grandfather To My Dog's Hedgehog

It was hot wash day.  

Laundry day.  Nobody really likes that.  I'll call it Clean Sheet Day instead because everyone likes the feeling of sliding into bed with freshly washed sheets.

Hot wash day is a full morning of fun, if you can call it that.

There are two loads.  Bed Linens and Dog Stuff.  The Dog Stuff got into the washer first this particular wash day. 

Not wanting to annoy Rack the McNab Superdog, I picked up the mats around him.  Bedroom, the hiding corner, and the bed.  I tossed in some oddball things of my own since according to the National Health Service of the UK, when you wash clothes at 120F, you kill everything.  My water heater is set to 125F as a result.

Don't run your hands too long under the hot water, you'll burn them.  Trust me, I have.

Finally I needed the last of the dirty mats so I got him out of the crate, pulled it, then replaced it with a fresh mat.  In a week, those mats go from pristine white to a color of gray that I describe as "week old snowfall in a big city".  Grey.  I am sure that it's more than just stuff he tracks in from outside too.  Evil, evil, stuff that needs to go into the wash at 125F.

I settle back into my own routine.  The super low water use front load washer does its thing.  It will take an hour and I can finish quite a lot in that much time.

I blank out on what is going on around me.

Rack pads to the back door.

Open up some web pages, do some research on a nagging question on networking in Linux.

Rack pads out of the back room and does a perimeter search.

Read a page on how to share your home directory by modifying a file called smb.conf .

Rack pads past again, huffing on his way into the kitchen and the laundry beyond.

Restart networking on the linux workstation.  It worked!

Rack pads past me whining in that high McNab Dog reedy whine.  "Rack?  What's up boy?"

He stops in his tracks, wags his tail exactly twice, sighs, and goes back on the search.  "Show me what you want!".

Not a good idea.  I spend the next ten minutes looking over every single inch of the house that was open, and a few closed rooms too.  He wasn't telling me what he was looking for, but he certainly got the point across.

"Sorry boy, you just have to keep looking."

Herding dogs.  They all have some sort of OCD.  They also are called Hoarder Collies, even if they aren't strictly speaking, a collie.  Besides, collie just means "useful dog" in the Gaelic that it is derived from.

I let him be.  The wash had another 40 minutes to go.  He clearly was missing something.

With a flourish and a loud sigh that sounded more like a distant locomotive horn on the early morning breeze, Rack finally and begrudgingly settled in on the mats that I replaced.

I went back to my own morning nonsense.  I still haven't found that quirk in networking that will let me see Windows 7 machines.  Windows 8 is fine, but 7 is not.

After a couple more pages, I push that search to the back of my mind.  The washer has just sounded its beeper, I drop all the linens into the dryer.  The hedgehog bounces off my left foot.  I say "this must be what he wanted" and toss the little brown toy into the dryer.  It was stiff with slobber before it got washed, it needed the trip through the dryer now that it was a sodden mess.

A second load of hot wash goes into the washer, the dryer is closed, and both machines get started.

Rack is curled into a dog ball.  Resting quietly from his search for his long lost friend, he's finally settled down.

I go back to my own minutia.  Read up on some more tech, a new shiny object to pass to a friend, some discussion on tablets, that sort of thing.

I lose track of time and the dryer sounds off.  I walk out to the laundry and the washer is in final spin making a sound like a jet engine.  It takes a lot of energy to spin your wash at 1200 rpm.

Grabbing all the mats, assorted dog toys, and my few things from the dryer, I press them hard against my chest.  Managing to make it to the living room, I notice I'm being watched.


Rack comes closer, parks himself mid room, and stares through me with twin laser beams.  

He Knows.

I fold up the dog mats and stack them on top of his crate.  I get midway through the stack and I notice Rack came closer, his tail wagging.

My own hand is on the Hedgehog, Rack gets closer still.

"Is this what you want, boy?"

I get a reedy squeak out of Rack.  Handing it to him, he immediately trots over to his bed and curls up with his long lost friend.

Dogs are amazing creatures, but on their best day, they're still a dog.  Unless you have a McNab, then every day is an adventure, and it's a new opportunity to learn something new.

Especially if a toy hedgehog is involved.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Replacing A Jeep Wrangler 2002 Fan Resistor Pack

Join me on a journey with my Jeep. 

You will see me scrape knuckles.  You will see me swat mosquitoes.  You will see me refashion tools.

But you will see the job completed.

Ok, enough of this Zen Crap.  If you found this article, you have a Jeep.  Probably a Wrangler, but it could be a Liberty, Patriot, Cherokee, or Grand Cherokee.  I am under the impression that this is common for these cars of the 1996-2002 era, plus or minus a few years, and maybe even to this day. 

This is informational only, you're on your own, At Your Own Risk.  I take no responsibility for any mistakes you do or whether you damage yourself or your own vehicle.

Lawyer disclaimer crap aside, it took me an hour to get the part out, and an hour to get it finished.

However, if you had the right tool in the first place, you could have had it done in about a half hour total.  If you have a Liberty or a Grand Cherokee, I understand the resistor pack is in a similar location but much more accessible since they are a newer design or just larger.

My Wrangler still has some AMC Design Elements in it, and that means it's a simple beast and you can still fix it in your carport while swatting mosquitoes, swearing, and sweating, but it could be somewhat improved.  That was what Chrysler did in later models by moving this part into a more accessible area.

I was able to diagnose this with a little logic.

My Jeep had either no air when I turned the selector to off, or it only had air when it was turned on full.  The middle speeds simply did not work.  This implied that the switch should be intact, and the resistor pack was fried.  I confirmed this with a multimeter inside the house when I had it removed on a cool down break.

The Resistor Pack is necessary to put a load on the power lines supplying the blower motor that moves all that precious AC and Heat around your car.  What it does when you select speed 1 is to put the highest electrical resistance in line.  Select speeds 2 or 3, and you get less resistance.  Speed 4 is no resistance, and the fan runs at its highest speed.

That was what I saw in my Jeep.  Darth Jeep by name, he's black and tan just like a good beer.  DJ to his friends.  DJ the TJ.

You don't name your Jeep?  How does it know how to get home? 


The Resistor pack has a large flat area in the back where the resistance is actually created by a number of lines of resisting wire.  The large flat area is stuffed inside your air flow boxes so that it acts like a heat sink and is kept cool while the fans are on.

In my case, my Jeep has 44,000 miles and 12 years on it.  That means, 6 years of use, and it went pop.  That fits with my memory since I needed replacement a couple years after I moved to Florida in 2006.  I almost never use the car since I generally don't have to go anywhere here other than by foot.

The first picture shows the location of the resistor pack as installed in the dashboard of my Jeep.  It is in a cramped spot, and is held down by two 5/16 inch bolts.  You can see the first one in the picture, the other bolt is at the alternate corner.  If the first one is at the Northwest corner, the second bolt is at the Southeast corner. 

Both bolts must be removed, and doing so is a task that I completed with a 5/16 inch crescent wrench.  Since a wrench that small is typically not bent to have the circular end at an angle, and they are made of thin metal, I used a leatherman's tool to bend a 30 degree angle in the wrench in order to be able to get the bolts out.  Once I did that, the bolts came out much easier.  There are tabs that are simply in the way of your being able to do this job. 

You will be removing that lower bolt blind unless you are small enough to wrench yourself under the dashboard.  Since I am 6'4" tall there was simply no way I was going to get into that spot upside down and looking up at the part.

You will also need to temporarily remove the green Connector Block from its tab on the air box/plenum/dashboard.  There is a little red tab that snaps to lock the whole thing in place.  Unlock the red tab by snapping it forward, then slide the connector block out of your way. 

I disconnected the connector block, then pulled the resistor pack out.  It wasn't easy, it required a lot of maneuvering around to get it out of the little hole.  I was able to do so by removing the connector from the back of the block.  That itself was difficult since there was a red plastic lock holding it all together.  I removed that lock by pulling it apart and removing it permanently.  It may cause problems later, but at least I know where it is!

The detail shows the block in close up as assembled.

Two final things:

To get the part?  You can find it at your local auto parts store.  I got mine at Autozone for 1/2 the price of the dealer.  You can also find it on Amazon.  I wanted it TODAY, not in 3 days.

To see someone else do the work?  Search Youtube.  There are videos and none of them showed the detail that I am showing here - where the blasted thing actually is. 

Before you even try, remove the glove box, get your flashlight and look to see if you can find it.  If you can find it, it's an easy fix even if you're going to get your knuckles scraped or maybe mosquito bit.

After all it's March and its in the 80s, and mosquitoes are everywhere.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I'll Keep the Flowers and Fruit Trees In The Backyard, Thanks

If you ever want to meet your neighbors, get a dog.

In fact, if you ever want a "quiet" dog walk, you probably won't ever get one.

Around here we have what we call, informally, the Dog Walk Hour.  I'm sure that if you're in an urban or suburban environment, you'll see it too.

Come home, and you're greeted by family.  Two footed and Four.  In my case, there's feathered as well.  Hellos are interspersed with squawks, jumping paws, and people greeting you since you have been gone forever. 

Get done the absolute minimum, maybe have a perimeter search around the house, and then you're getting ready to go off again.  Leash in hand, a fist full of bags in your pocket, check for keys and phone, and you're on your way.

So is everyone else with a dog.

5:30PM to about 6:30 is the peak.  I have a mile course I do three times a day and it should take me about 15 minutes.

20 if Rack is constipated or if there is a delivery at one of the businesses on Wilton Drive.  He doesn't like those big diesel trucks.

We're out the door and round the corner.   Rack is already furiously wagging his tail.  I spot one of his friends, a big, older husky named Cody and a little maltese that is incredibly well mannered, both way down the block.

Small dogs are still dogs.  If your dog is barking at a leaf falling in the next county, you're training it wrong.  No matter the breed, they can be trained.

I run into Cody's owner finally and we're chatting about things.   It's our Secret Season here.  Too late for most Snowbirds, the weather hasn't changed over to hot yet, and there is low humidity since the wet season hasn't yet set up.  The Tail End of March into April, as well as Late October or Early November.  Both great times to visit.

I casually mention the flowers and the conversation segues immediately into Cody's mom's neighbor.  Seems that that person had orchids all over the property.  The property is a condo at Belle Isle.  There's a quirk of geography that makes it where people walking into Wilton Manors from Fort Lauderdale want to go to catch the dreaded 50 bus that Rack can't stand the noise from.

She had said that up until recently that person had orchids all over.  Had.  They were strapped to trees and lovingly cared for and at this time of year that means they were in bloom.   I have four in bloom myself as well as a wall of magenta bougainvillia, purple ruellia, and other beauties in my own backyard.

She told me that was why I still have them.  The property in question was off NE Ninth Avenue, and someone came by "at two in the morning" and helped themselves to them. 

Orchids generally take a year to bloom.  I have had one bloom twice in a season, but normally they will rest once the weather changes until they're happy again.  Pictures are taken to enjoy them while they are here for that reason.

I responded that I'm getting some input that I should plant my Mango tree in the front yard, but that's just another reason not to.

"Not if you want some fruit you won't.  You'll never see it.".

That settled that particular thought.  It's going in the backyard as soon as I can get around to it, and far enough from the fence so it doesn't "annoy the neighbors".  Not everyone likes Mangoes and not everyone likes 2 pound fruit smacking against their property from 20 feet up.

So if you want your flowers, listen to Cody's Mom - keep them in the backyard.  Behind the fence.

Kind of a shame.  Like your parents said "that's why we can't have nice things".

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bulgogi or Korean Beef Recipe

When I worked at Temple University, I discovered the line of food trucks outside on campus.  Some were better than others, and since I have a strong preference for Ethnic Cuisines, I hit the one Korean Food truck heavily.

She had this beef dish that I particularly liked.   It was thin slices of beef with a sweet and savory spicy sauce, that had a mild bite to it.  All of this was served on rice. 

When I left Temple, I left that dish behind. 

Recently the local Pei Wei had a dish they called "Korean Beef" that was close.  Their version was much more "hot" and that is the general reputation of Korean food.  I'm assuming that may have been more "accurate", but I am not really sure.  Then, after I having had it for about six months, the dish went away.

"Pop!"  all gone.  I had to find something else there.

But I never forgot about my food truck and the wonderful Korean Beef.

One day recently I got curious and found out that this is called Bulgogi and is one of those "national dishes" that are served all over Seoul and the rest of Korea.

Now there are a few tricks to this. 

First it is VERY easy to make.  The process is to marinade the beef overnight in the sauce, then cook it in the skillet.  We didn't.  Since we used extra lean ground beef, we just poured the sauce over the meat at the end after draining and in doing so made the whole meal in one skillet in 15 minutes total.  It took longer to write this blog posting than it did to make this dish with rice and ground beef.

Second, the sauce would work well on any other meat I can think of, as well as a vegetarian meat substitute like "Crumbles" or Tofu. 

Third, Just enjoy it.  If you want hot, add extra pepper.  This recipe was warm and savory with just enough pepper that it didn't linger long afterwords.

Fourth, you can use the 95% extra lean ground beef if you are trying to keep your diet low fat.  We did this and did not have to add any binders and ended up with a very healthy meal as a result.

Like I said, it's easy!  We will be having this again and again. 

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or dried ginger powder
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or other sliced or ground meat
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Cooked rice, cellophane noodles, or other noodles as needed for serving
  • Sesame Seeds, mushrooms, hot sauces, or Kimchi for seasoning as needed for serving

  • To make marinade, mix together the Brown Sugar, Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Red Pepper Flakes, and Ginger.
  • For ground meats, 
    • brown the meat in the skillet with the garlic, green onions, and vegetable oil, draining the excess fat at the end, 
    • then add the marinade to the skillet and reduce to a sauce.
  • For other "intact" meats, you will marinade the meat in the mix overnight.
    • Remove the meat from the marinade setting the marinade aside.
    • Brown the meat in skillet fully with the vegetable oil, garlic, and green onions.
    • Remove excess fat from the skillet and add back in the marinade.
    • Simmer the marinade and meat together until the marinade cooks down into a sauce.
Serve with rice or noodles, and any side dishes that you might like.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How I Killed My Computer. Or Not.

Maybe it's a story of the Cobbler's Kids having beat up shoes, or maybe it's just a bit of a joke I played on myself far too early one morning.  If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

I settled in at Stupid O'Clock one morning.  Had my coffee in hand.  It was a solid hour or two before sunrise.  The skies weren't even purple yet. 

Look out the front window and all I saw were the neighbor's party lights on their doorway glowing in the pre-dawn gloom.

They really should switch to LEDs if they're going to keep them going all night, but as far as I am concerned, they're pretty and I won't say too much about that.  After all, there's a neighbor a block away who has a permanent holiday display going.  She swaps the Easter Bunny for Santa or for firework like sparkly bits depending on the time of year, and I do appreciate it.

Especially at a quarter past five in the morning.

My own house was quiet.  The kitchen light was on after I finished with it, as it is the only light in the house.

I start up the two computers.  The windows machine is off doing tasks until I need it for graphics work later.

My older machine, by about six months, is a Dell.  Beast of a machine.  A Dell Precision M4500 if you are curious.  I think the case of it is carved out of granite since it would work as a projectile in a theatre of war.

Yes, that solid.  I got it used off lease, and paid less than a cheap tablet computer is today.  Since it's an i7 processor, it's going to be around for quite a while.

Ok, I like the thing.

They threw a copy of Windows 7 32 bit which had me scratching my head.  i7?  32 bit?  Nope.  I've run a couple different operating systems on it and I have settled on running mostly Xubuntu Linux at the moment, with Windows 7 64 bit in a dual boot, if I want to slum on Windows.

The thing is that it's pretty stable, and great hardware - especially for the chump change I got it for.

I don't expect problems with it at all.  Chugging along at breakneck speed, I was doing my thing.  Opening windows, consulting with friends and business contacts, and basically going through my normal morning routine.

I was in the middle of doing something specific.  Looking into a Project Management position with a local company when all the sudden...

I saw the shutdown window pop up.


Then SNAP!  The power relay shut down.  The computer turned itself off.  The room was silent, or what passes for it in noisy South Florida.

I pressed the power button.  Whirr went the cooling fan.  Fweep went the DVD burner.  Blink went the LCD panel.


Uh oh.  She's dead, Jim.

Immediately I panic.  I'm thinking, I'm down a computer, the one I depend on for all my professional correspondence.  All the data is on the servers, I don't have to worry there.  My pictures are safe on The Chip. 

DamnDamnDamnDamn WhaddamIgonnaDo!

Delay.  I stood up and made a second mug of coffee.   I was midway through the normal morning crap, sun was now just coming up.

I figured that I would take the high road.  I got out the screwdriver.  Maybe it is a heat issue.

South Florida gets dust from the Sahara Desert.  The winds come from the East here, drop dust, as well as pick up sand from the beaches in the Bahamas and our own beaches.  The sand eventually drops out all over everything.  You have to wash the car fairly frequently to get rid of the sand and sea salt.

So the fan in the laptop?  Could that be the issue?  Get the vacuum.  "Hey Kevin, I'm running the vacuum, the Dell Died.".

I fill him in. 

First I pop the bottom off the machine.  Professional or Business grade machines, even laptops, are designed to be repaired by us end users.   The monkeys behind the keyboards.  If you know what you're doing, you can really upgrade the machines. 

One screw removed later, the bottom is off the machine.  Hmm, fan's clean.  May as well run the vacuum through it.  Very little dust.  The heat sink was cool.  Can't be a heat issue. 

I delayed more thinking about the mystery.  May as well vacuum the house.

I cleared a chihuahua worth of dog fur out from next to the emergency water in the laundry.  Crappy housekeeper that I am, there are some pockets that this 6'4" frame doesn't get to easily.

After telling Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) that all is well, and the vacuum is stowed, I settle back in.

One screw and the bottom is back on the laptop.

I flip the thing over and plug the power back into the back of the machine.

I hope I hope I hope this works.

Wait.  It's not freaking glowing!  Is it that simple?

Yep.  I'm going to take a bullet for comedy. 

All that grief.  It turned out that I didn't plug in the power brick. 

Blue light came on on the power plug and the Dell whirred back to life!

Sometimes, you get the gator.
Sometimes, the gator gets you.
Sometimes, the gator gets your shoe.

I think the the gator got my shoe on this one.

Moral of this story?  Watch what you're doing in the morning before your coffee.  You may make yourself crazy when the laptop snaps you off!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Man Goes To Confession

Forgive me Father for I have sinned...

"Go on" says the priest.
 "I swore the other day" says the man "I was on the golf course the other day and I hit my drive, it was looking perfect, heading dead straight. About 200 yards down my ball hit a power line crossing the fairway"

"And this is when you swore?" asked the priest.
"No Father, my ball the ricocheted off the power lines and flew off into the deep rough" continued the man.

"This must have been when you swore?" the priest exclaimed.
"No Father, not yet. As I was walking over to the rough to hit my second shot a hawk flew down from the trees, picked my ball up in his beak and proceeded to fly off with it" the man continued.

"Ahh I see" says the priest "This must have been the point where you swore"
"Nope not yet, as the bird flew over the green the ball fell from it's mouth and landed two feet from the hole"

The priest pauses for a few seconds "You missed the putt didn't you?"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Driving Through Red Lights

Yeah, I'll admit it, this one is kind of a "Dad Joke" but it made me smile.

A guy is driving with a buddy.

They come up to a red light and the driver flies through it.

"What the hell are you doing?! It's red!" says the passenger.

Driver says "it's fine, my brother drives like this all the time."

They keep going, another red light is up ahead.

The driver blows through this one too, "what are you doing!?" exclaims the passenger.

"Its fine my brother drives like this all the time."

Further down the road they come up to a green light.

The driver stops.

"What are you doing, it's green."

The driver responds "I know, I'm just watching out for my brother!"

Friday, March 20, 2015

Peanut Brittle - or How To Turn Simple Syrup White, Then Into Gold

Never Multitask In The Kitchen.

Only do one thing at a time.

I've only got two hands.

Most of those things were said to me, loudly, at one time or another.

This time I was saying them to myself.

I settled down to make a snack.  The snack turned out fine, but it did spiral out of control a bit.  It ended with my making something else that was much nicer than what I planned.

I got on a tear.  After piecing together a list of things that I had to do over the weekend, I got to the evening and was thinking about it.  I had a lump of ginger in the fridge, and no plans to use it.  "It's not getting any younger" I'm hearing from the next room.

So I set about to making that crystalline ginger.

Now that's not really a tough thing.  I made it more difficult by trying to be slick, or to be thrifty.  I wasn't really sure which when I did it.

I didn't want a lot of simple syrup hanging around.  It's when you boil water and sugar together and it's used in many recipes.  You add equal parts, bring the mix to a rolling boil, and when it's clear and dissolved, you take it off the heat and allow it to cool.

Easy, right?

I only had 2 ounces and a bit of Ginger when it was peeled and sliced thin.  Perfect!  I didn't want a lot of that anyway.  I'd simply cut back on the simple syrup.

Er, well you know what I mean.

I made 1/2 the amount.  1 cup each sugar and water.

The problem is that when you make crystalline ginger, you have to boil that stuff for a good half hour plus.  Or until tender.

Or bored.  Take your pick.

I started stirring, backed the water down to a reasonable simmer and dealt with the interruptions.
Front door.
My buddy in Atlanta that I was having a chat with between spurts of doing "other things".

Around 40 minutes of my fidgeting in the kitchen later, I noticed that that nice clear mix had started to go thick and cloudy.  Like tar.  It was still white, but it was rapidly solidifying.

I hate throwing food out. That's a rule I have.   I scooped the ginger out of the boiling sugar mix and put it on the rack to dry.  Ok, so it has a bit more sugar coating than normal.  I won't coat it with sugar at the end and call it done.

The taste test was good, after all, how can you screw up ginger?

But what to do with that white, now re-granulated, ginger sugar?

I got to thinking.  The stuff is hot already.  Start putting butter in it.  It will make toffee.  I can make Pecan Brittle if I'm quick...

Butter is fat, fat and sugar chemically combine to make toffee, toffee plus baking soda for leavening, add Pecans...


The butter melted.  I had about 1 cup minus a little coating on the ginger to mix up.  I added a tablespoon of butter at a time.  The butter bonded with the sugar making praline.  Add more butter and up the heat back to medium.  All the water had boiled off now, I was left with butter and sugar.

By the time I was done, I had about 6 or 7 ounces of sugar with 3 tablespoons of butter added to the saucepan.  That got shiny, and started to smell like caramel.  The color was what I remembered from all that peanut brittle I have had as a child.

I reached into the cabinet and tossed a handful of pecans into the mix.  About 4 ounces.

Mixing it all together, the scent of cooking pecans wafted over me.  Rack, the McNab Superdog, became curious.

I tossed about a teaspoon of baking soda in the mix and stirred it even as it foamed and rose.

I had pecan brittle.

Pouring it on a sheet of aluminum foil next to the ginger that was now cooled, I had a big block of brown goo that would be light and crispy and taste well of nuts.

So if you are thinking about trying this, there are plenty of recipes. The first time I ever made Peanut Brittle was in Mr Bates' 8th grade science class at Heritage Jr High School in Cherry Hill, NJ.  We used Ehrlenmeyer Flasks and beakers and I used that recipe for decades on the original paper before losing it to the ages.

The recipe is simple, and this makes a reasonable amount of brittle - so that you don't have it sitting around.
proportions, or use espresso beans in 1/4 amount.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup Pecans/Walnuts/Peanuts or 1 ounce of roasted espresso beans that are coarsely ground.
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda


  • To sauce pan, add the sugar and butter. 
  • Turn on heat to medium.
  • Mix well.  
  • The butter will melt and make the mix turn into toffee.
  • If you are looking for proper Peanut Brittle texture, cook until the ingredients are smooth, shiny, and tan to brown.  You will know if it is done by dropping a small drop of the mixture into cold water and it will crack - Hard Crack stage.
  • At this point, add the nuts, and a teaspoon of Baking Soda and mix well quickly.
  • Pour the Peanut Brittle onto a sheet of aluminum foil to cool or onto a cookie sheet.
  • When room temperature, you can shatter the peanut brittle into bite sized chunks with a couple raps with a spoon or butter knife handle.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Some People Have A Memory, I Have A Blog

Going through the list of old posts on this blog, I noticed that there is a weird counter intuitive pattern.

I have commented about how I put recipes on here because I want to be able to get to them.  We have a recipe box.  It is the size of a microwave.  I mean this is more than the card file that "mom used to have", this thing is a beast.

Now, mind you, it does serve two people with two very different cooking styles.  Every fall, for example, when it comes time to bake Fruitcakes, we dig down to the bottom of the box.  Finding the recipe, we place an order for the candied fruit, and wait.  When the fruit arrives, we make up these cakes.  They're nothing like anything you would find in a supermarket. 

At least in a larger supermarket.  Those things are cloyingly sweet and gooey. 

Homemade fruitcakes are rich and sweet but in a savory and almost spicy way.  That was the original recipe.  Not the gloppy stuff you find at a roadside tourist trap in the south.

Trust me it's a different world I'm talking about.

But that's the thing.  Since it is a box, the recipe you haven't used is always buried under the flotsam of baking.  My own recipes, pre-blog, were printed out and saved into a book.  Then, I started to "print" them to PDF files and saved them on my chip, a 128gb postage stamp sized memory chip.  I can move that between machines, and old copies of the files sit on servers now.  Since there are so many I threw up my hands and moved the best online.

So the blog serves as a mental scratchpad. 

Any task like that I tend to write up. 

Thinking that nobody really wants to read about my recipes, I would cast them off to the four winds like the milkweed seeds that I casually tossed over the fence that one day.

Shhh, don't tell anyone.

But you see, that's the weird thing.  The postings that I think are so much filler are the ones that the internet seems to like.  My recipe for Gold Medal Self-Rising Biscuits gets hit more than any other blog posting in the four-plus-years that I've been at this.

The stories about my McNab Superdog, Rack, get hit heavily too.  Apparently there really is an attraction for those feel good stories coupled with a picture of an admittedly good looking dog.

What was all this navel gazing about anyway, you ask? 

Simple.  I ran out of bagels.  I ran out of biscuits.  So I needed to make more over the weekend.  That caused a cascade of things.  Pizza Dough was made, risen, then half of it is rolled.  The remainder goes into Pretzel rolls

Serendipity is that act of finding something you wanted more than what you were looking for in the first place.  In my case, it's Challah Bread.

In March.  Sure, it's not traditional to have Challah in March, but Mom got it all the time and called it Jewish Egg Bread, and we loved it with peanut butter and jelly, or toasted with butter.


No, Mom's accent wasn't "Like Buttah", but she did have a funny way of saying things.  "Jew-eesh Aig Bread" was how that came out along with her Zs that came out "D'Zs".  I guess if you spoke only Italian until 7 you'd have an accent too, even if you did have an appreciation for proper Italian foods and sauce that you start on Saturday for Sunday's dinner.

Don't judge me.  I still say "Crick" for creek from time to time...

Even if I am not planning on churning butter for those biscuits, and settling for Cream Biscuits, I was going to do some serious cooking.  Since there was Char Siu Pork in the crock pot, there's extra ginger.  Can't waste Ginger since it is too good, so why not make Crystalline Ginger?  While that's simmering there's always time to make Lemon Curd since there are two Meyer Lemons in the fridge.

Recipes aside, those jokes that I feel a little guilty about posting always get hit heavily after the immediate posting.  They save me from Writer's Block, and I haven't had to do any during the week.  But if I ever get completely blocked, or have somewhere to go in an emergency in the morning, you'll see one during the week.

No, I wasn't going anywhere with this.  Other than the kitchen.  That's what happens when you need to do some cooking and your recipe file is online.  You start finding things you forgot you knew how to do.

Now, does anyone have any good ideas of what to do with Ginger Simple Syrup?  Pancakes perhaps?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Orchid and Lizard

Late one afternoon, I took Rack, my faithful McNab superdog, out to the backyard for his pre-walk visit to the wormhole.

He went about his business.  Doing a perimeter search around the yard is important work for Rack. 

We did our dance.  My clapping hands peppering the yard with sounds of joy as Rack rounded the palm tree and over the spa, seemingly hovering in mid-air as he glided over top of it, long way around.

Then he disappeared to the other dimension where he keeps his alternate superdog family in that other galaxy on the other side of the wormhole.

The yard was silent, or as silent as South Florida ever gets.  The FEC doing an evening run on the tracks a mile off in the distance moaning as they approached then passed. 

The Neighbor's puttering in their garden getting ready for an oncoming birthday party.  Sawing and paint testing, the air was perfumed with pine bark mulch.

Chattering a yard over with someone discussing The Farm's Papayas and whether they were ready to be served on the table.  Fresh Papaya is a wonderful thing and if it were only one foot closer, some would be on my table as well.  None of that store bought stuff, this grows on a tree on our property line, just beyond the fence.

I settled on inspecting the irrigation lines.  The drip feeds need attention constantly.  Every single day one or another gets clogged as they dribble life giving rusty ground water into waiting roots.

Getting back to the orchid chain, I notice I am being watched.  Rack was still in his alternate universe.  This was a much smaller creature.  Descended from Dinosaurs, I spotted it.  A friendly Lizard.  Hiding in the shade under the leaf of my Phaleonopsis Orchid, I was being judged.  Threat Assessment.

I reached into my pocket, grabbed my camera, and got a picture.

The little blaggard moved.

I reset myself, took another picture.

The little rapscallion moved again.

"Annoying little creature, do sit still! I need to finish what I am on to."

It didn't care but I did get what I needed and let it on its own little way.  Rack had come back through the wormhole, sliding into the backyard at warp speed.  Gliding to a stop, feet widely spread out, he lay on the ground as if to say "Play! Now!  Resistance is futile".

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hoisin Sauce Recipe

In my goal of putting my recipes where I can find them all, here, here is another recipe for one of those things that I use all the time.

Hoisin Sauce.

The sauces you get at the market are typically chock full of preservatives and you pay five bucks for an itty bitty jar.  Nope.

This is quick, easy, and no cooking involved.  Just stir in a bowl with a whisk or a fork.

I did this the last time I made Char Siu Pork and ran out.  Turns out I had everything I needed and the taste was just what I was used to.

I know that Char Siu Pork recipe way too well by now, and I won't tolerate having the flavor change.  It was "Right On One" using this Hoisin Sauce.

Ingredients for about 1/3 cup of sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter or Black Bean Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey or Molasses
  • 2 teaspoons Cider Vinegar or Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Garlic Clove minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Hot Oil or Hot Sauce (Optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper

Alternately, you could use variations of the Sesame Oil and Hot Sesame Oil in proportions to taste.  When I made it with the Char Siu, I used both oils and left out the black pepper.

Where there is a choice of ingredients, I used the first one.


  • Pretty easy, actually.  Add all ingredients to a small bowl, whisk, and serve.
  • If this recipe is too "thin" for your purposes and you need a thick, almost jelly like consistency, you can either reduce it over heat or add some cornstarch - or both.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream Recipe from Eagle Brand

So my regular readers aren't disappointed, you'll get my blather at the top.  Complete with hints.  If you just want the recipe, page down.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream.  It was my first "Grown Up" flavor favorite.  I've always had a soft spot for a good Butter Pecan.  Not overly sweet.  Not bland.  Basically, Yes, Yes, I shall have some!  Please?

This is a dangerous recipe.  It may not need an ice cream freezer, although I used one.  The way I made the ice cream is to make whipped cream, stop the mixer, then fold in the ingredients, mix it a couple turns around the bowl.  Freeze.  I do strongly recommend a stand mixer with a whisk to make the whipped cream and the ice cream base.

Yeah.  Dangerous.  It is THAT good and THAT easy. 

You're in trouble.

I was baking.  Specifically I was making some Explosively Good Caramel in the crock pot one day and the label fell off the Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk can.  I looked at the back of the label and it had a recipe for my favorite.  I looked at it, passed it around the house, and got the ingredients.  The recipe went onto the fridge with a magnet and would sit there for more than a year while I muddled how tough it would be to make Toasted Pecans.

Hey, Dummy!  It wasn't that hard!  Go make the damn treat!

Get a non stick skillet.  Heat it to medium.  Number 5 on the electric stove, right in the middle of the heat. 

When warm, dump the Pecans onto the skillet.  No oil, no additives at all.

Stir occasionally so they don't scorch.

When the pecan bits began to bubble a little oil out onto the surface, and some of the nuts had began to change color, pour off into a glass or metal bowl.   The glass or metal will draw out the heat and let them cool quickly.

You're done.

So you wanna make some ice cream?  This is truly, hands down, the Absolute Best Butter Pecan Ice Cream I have EVER had.




Yum.  (Shhh, calm down Beavis!)


  • 2 cups Heavy Cream (Should be as cold as you can get it and have it still liquid)
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk  (Should be cold)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Toasted Pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons Melted Butter (Room Temperature so you don't shock the cream)
  • 1 teaspoon Maple Extract (We omitted this)


  • Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks in stand mixer. 
  • Combine sweetened condensed milk, toasted pecans, butter, and Maple Extract in large bowl.
  • Mix Well.
  • Fold in Whipped Cream.
  • Pour into 2 quart container and freeze for 6 hours or until firm.

To toast nuts:
  • Place Nuts in Dry Non Stick Skillet heated to Medium.
  • Shake the nuts occasionally until lightly brown.
  • To avoid overheating remove the nuts to a cooling bowl or plate when done.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Old Man on a Golf Course

This old man is on a golf course with three of his buddies.

As he place his ball on the tee at the 12th hole, he notices a hearse approaching on the road further to his left.

He took off his hat, and stood in silence. His buddies exchange looks in surprise.

When the hearse disappears out now sight, the old man puts his hat back on, picks up his driver and addresses the ball.

One of his friends says : "Geez, I didn't know you were so respectful!"

The old man responded : "Well, we were married for 30 years, it's the least I could do!"

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Post Tortoise

This was told to me by Larry, my Godmother's Husband.  I liked it so much that I've been using it.

Here's the complete description for you.  I'm sure you can find some use for it.

While stitching a cut on the hand of a 75 year old farmer, whose hand was caught in the squeeze gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man.

Eventually the topic got around to politicians and their role as our leaders.

The old farmer said, "Well, as I see it, most politicians are 'Post Tortoises'.''

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'post tortoise' was.

The old farmer said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that's a post tortoise."

The old farmer saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he continued to explain.

"You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, he's elevated beyond his ability to function, and you just wonder what kind of stupid fool put him up there to begin with."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rack's Dad's a Soft Touch

Just before you left you said it.

"Dad's a Soft Touch".

"No, I'm not!"

You sure are.

I guess I'm starting to break the dog.  Well, not break but "break".

I was waiting for the house to empty.  I wanted to put on the headphones.  Music had stopped on the iPod, there was a queue to start up rolling.  I was going to listen to "Something Different", although someone who listens to music regularly in four languages, in eras stretching back over the last 100 years, and on every one of the populated continents, it's difficult to tell what "Different" really is.

I settled on one of my old favorites.  I had a cache of music I was listening to from a West African group called Loketo in Mostly French as well as a smattering of local languages.  Guitar, but not like what most Americans have heard unless you took a liking to World Music back in the 90s.  Absolutely pure tones in rapid fire contra-puntal form.  Think Bach four or five times removed done by a group of people out to have a lot of fun dancing in the Congolese sun.

I grabbed my noise limiting headphones, a pair of "courtesy headphones" from a computer mounted inside of some "Hearing Protectors" from a gun range, and walked outside with the trash and recycling.  They look like I'm up to no good so wearing them outside will give me "Looks".

While Diblo Dibala was doing his African Speed Guitar act and the background group was singing "Dancez! Dancez! Dancez-la!" I bounded out of the house and bounced down the driveway and back in.

It was time for the last course.  Rack was sitting at the entry of the kitchen staring at the counter when I returned.  I had left a hard boiled egg, peeled, in a bowl there.  Adding to it a bit of Mayo, I made up a light egg salad and realized I forgot the curry and onion as I bit down.

Rack continued to stare.

This is a big change from the dog that I had to feed by hand, one piece of kibble at a time.  We tried the Feed-and-remove bit and decided that was unnecessarily cruel.  I pieced together what was wrong and got the Vet to confirm that he's missing a tooth which means hard food is painful.  His food now gets soaked soft.

He's even begging for some of the stuff now.

Which I guess I started.

Laughing at him as I wolfed down my breakfast sandwich, I looked at the bowl.  It was coated with sunshine yellow egg.

Shrugging, I walked him out to the living room.  Velcro Dog was glued to my right calf muscle.

He sat down in the middle of the room, I was being stared through with brown laser beams as the background group singing in my ears was chanting in French "Ou Yea, Ou Yah!".

Oh here, you earned it, it might put some weight on you!

"Dancez!  Dancez-La!"  "Bolingo! Bailondo!"

Rack proceeded to lick the shine off the bowl.  Yes, I was in proud possession of a CBD Bowl by the time he was done.

After all, who needs to pre-wash the dishes before the dishwasher?  CBD - Cleaned By Dog!

I'll get that dish now that you're done.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What is Foistware or Crapware, and Simple Tips To Avoid It

With five different operating systems running here on far too many computers, I see it all the time.

I'm That Guy.  I'll say it this way:  Yes, I can fix your computer, but I won't do it for free.  I'm done with that free stuff.

On the other hand, I hear this too many times.  Someone went out and got a new computer because it's too slow.

The "new-to-me" computer I am using to write this on is a 5 year old.  It's running Windows 8.1 and it's running it quite well.  The one I do most of my professional work on is a 7 year old beast running Linux or/and Windows 7.  My file server is a 12 year old laptop running Windows 7.  That runs well too.  Laptops consume less power and space and do the same job as that beast of a desktop I used to love to build back in the day.

You say "Sure, but you know how to make it go faster".

Yep.  It's simple.  I don't allow software foisted on me.  Crapware.  Foistware.

I was giving someone an old computer once who was staying for a few days.  Recently.  The day after he got the computer he had two pieces of Foistware already installed.

He got it when he went to install Skype.  I guess he wanted to be spied on, but he also wanted to talk to people in his family that was scattered all over the globe.  So I told him to go find the download and install.

Wrong person to do that to.  He went to a "Partnered Download Site" I was told.  Red lights and fire engine sirens went off in my head.  He ended up with a toolbar on the browser and a redirected home page.  I growled at him, fixed it, then sent him on his way.

Two very simple rules to avoid this kind of garbage.

First, make certain you are going to the software vendor's approved site for downloads.  That means it's going to require you, and not someone else, to do the research for you.  Skype is pretty simple, it's a Microsoft product, so go to Microsoft to find it.  That takes care of the honest software producers.

Second, always, and I do mean ALWAYS, when you are installing the software use the Advanced install.  When you are installing, actually read the page that is presented.  Don't simply click "Next".  That's how you get the crap installed in the first place.  That helps to take care of most of the dishonest software producers.

You don't ever need a toolbar on your browser.  If you get one, remove it through your control panel's "Programs and Features" list of programs.  There are way too many programs to list here, but you will then be able to remove the "feature" by double clicking on the name of the program.  Other more evil toolbars are actually more like a virus, and you will need to do research on how to get rid of them. 

If it truly is a virus, it gets much more complex, but here's one way of fixing all that garbage.

That is the same place you can go to when you find yourself with a program needs to be removed, such as anything is riding along and doing "useful" things like presenting you with ads or anything by McAfee.

Why do I mention McAfee specifically?  Adobe Flash.  If you aren't careful, when you do a security update for them, you will end up with the helpfully named "McAfee Security Scan Plus". 

You don't need it.  More "Foistware".  All this "Foistware" slows you down.  You can get rid of it, or you could get a new PC and start over.  One requires less time than the other.  Since many computer stores that you can actually visit have a nasty habit of trying to upsell you to a more expensive model, you should try to delay that particular task as long as possible.

Basically be careful and watch what you're doing.  It is, after all, your computer.  Just because a particular NEW! and shiny piece of software is "suggested" to you by something you actually want, doesn't mean that you need the blasted thing.

In return, you may be able to skip a new computer next year.

How great would that be?  An extra couple hundred bucks in your pocket?  Or Pounds, or Euro?

You'll thank me later.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Oakland Park, Florida, March 9, 2015

I had to leave the house and drive the Jeep.

It doesn't happen all that often that I get in the car and go for a ride.  In fact, the Jeep is more often driven because I have to than I need to.

If you leave a car too long things get bound up and weird things happen to it.  Emergency brakes get stiff, brake drums may warp, rubber gets dried out, tires will flat spot.

But this was a mission.  I needed to mail a laptop to a friend in Atlanta.  It should be there today.

Just before lunch is a good time to stop off at that little post office in Oakland Park.  It's right by the railroad tracks, just off of Dixie Highway.   I don't have to go to the behemoth over on Oakland Park Boulevard.  That place I can just about guarantee I will be standing in line behind some screaming kid wanting to be anywhere else than standing in that line.

I feel your pain, kid, now shaddap!

Stepping out into the sun, receipt in hand, Florida was being Florida.  All around there were people working on the landscaping.  Carving Coco Plums into regular shapes, cutting dropped fronds off the trees, and making this linear park look rather tidy.

To look at the view, you wouldn't know that right on the other side of that hedge was the FEC Train Track that goes south to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, north to Jacksonville and beyond.

Even on Google Street View, it looks rather interesting...

I'm used to that sort of trail.  My favorite park runs along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia and stretches out to Valley Forge and Oaks PA.  I've skated that entire distance, so wherever there is a linear park, I look to see if it's "Black Ice".  Very hard to find an appropriate place to burn off a thousand or two calories like that.

But get low enough and the tracks disappear.  You'll see what I saw.  It's actually a rather pretty spot.  If the train goes by you may as well sit on the bench and contemplate life, you'll be there for a while.  I know, I hear that train go by every morning when I get up, and through the day from time to time.  It's off in the distance moaning its presence as it rumbles past taking Oranges and Gravel north, and stopping traffic on the way.

Count the cars, kids, it will be through soon enough!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chickpea Sandwich Patties

For a while, when I was training, I was eating Morningstar veggie burgers for the extra protein.  It's tough to get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight and do it without eating lots of meat.  They were tasty and lean and were excellent on a bagel with some cheese.

I was also polishing off about 6000 calories peak season each day, weightlifting five days a week, and skating inline around 100 miles a week.  I needed that protein.

But in the back of my mind I kept thinking "how tough could this be to make"?

This recipe is pretty good and quite tasty.  Add some chopped bell pepper and you'd get a taste that would be close enough to the MSF patties.  I wanted to add some sweet onions as well but I have a habit of adding onions to many of my main dishes.

On the other hand, they were so good as the recipe is written that I had a second one and called my lunch done.  On a homemade roll each they're excellent.  Add some extra sharp cheese and it's a pretty satisfying sandwich.

The prep?  Took me about 5 minutes in the food processor.  Don't have one?  Use a potato masher or a big stiff fork.  You do not want a smooth puree that looks like pudding.  The chunks of chickpea are a welcome texture.  It feels like you're eating a "real" burger.  It has a mildly spicy, more like a savory taste. 

Kevin kept calling it Falafel, so maybe that's what I'm making.  I don't know, I'm not from one of those cultures.  I did have it with a little canned spaghetti sauce on top and really did enjoy them.  After reading a few recipes, Falafel is a pretty good comparison.  Falafel is typically made with a similar recipe and deep fat fried.  The Pan Frying keeps the calories down.

Each pattie was about 150 calories, and it made four.

How tough can this be?  If you can pan fry something in a puddle of olive oil, you're good to go!


  • 1 Can of ChickPeas (15.5 Ounce Can)
  • 1/4 Cup of Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil plus some for frying
  • 2 Teaspoons of Paprika
  • 2 Teaspoons of Cumin
  • Optional - Add chopped bell pepper or onions to taste


  • Add all ingredients except the bread crumbs to the food processor.
  • Pulse the mixture until the chickpeas are broken up, but not so much that you get a smooth mix.
  • Add Bread Crumbs and pulse the food processor until the ingredients are mixed.
  • Form four burger sized patties.
  • Pan fry in some quality Olive Oil until golden.

Serve hot, or store in refrigerator and microwave when needed.  Excellent on a sandwich, with an egg dish, or any time you want something different and savory with a mild hint of heat.

Just a hint of heat.  If you want more "hot" add some Cayenne to the dish.

Monday, March 9, 2015

China Free, Grain Free Pet Food Vendor List

Disclaimer:  I am not a Vet.  I am not a trained expert in Veterinary Food Sciences.  All of this posting, and anything else on this blog is clearly My Own Opinion.  You must decide for yourself whether I am full of crap, or completely correct, or somewhere in the middle.  I am presenting this information simply because the next time my dog gets bored with his food, I want to refer to a list somewhere instead of having to do this research again.   It took me all weekend to find this short list, and I just would prefer not to go back and start over.


When I lost my dog Lettie due to Chronic Renal Failure after a lifetime of feeding her Purina Products, I vowed never again would I knowingly feed my pets anything from that vendor.

Cause and effect?  Perhaps.  I don't know.  But it is my opinion that since there was a spate of recalls due to Purina foods being tainted with Chinese ingredients and that as a result many dogs died of Chronic Renal Failure, that I will avoid anything of Chinese Origin when it comes to food.

The recalls have long since ended.  I am still not feeding my dog, Rack, anything with any Chinese Origin ingredients. 

Many people have the same attitude, and thankfully many pet food vendors have taken up the standard and proudly proclaim that their food is of the highest quality.  That is great, but not really enough. 

My own personal standard is that since Rack can not digest grain well, the food must also be grain free.  The company must clearly advertise that the food is "locally sourced", or preferably "No Ingredients of Chinese Origin".  For "Locally Sourced" I am accepting any ingredients that are Canadian, US, New Zealand, or Australia.  The laws in Canada are better than in the US for purity of pet food ingredients, so as a rule of thumb, if I am hard pressed to find a food, Canada is best.

If there is no clear announcement, I will simply pass on the company whether the company says their food is human grade, or whether it's of the "highest quality ingredients" because those words really do not mean anything.  The laws as I understand them say that if a food is human grade going into a pet food plant, they no longer are human grade when they get into the food.  It's nice to hear but doesn't mean anything really.

I'm not completely comfortable with US ingredients either since our laws here have been weakened and things do "get in" where they don't belong.  Personally I won't eat GMO if I can avoid it, and High Fructose Corn Syrup simply has no purpose in food, in my opinion. 

So why feed it to your dog who has no choice in the matter?

As to recalls, I will forgive any company who has had a recall that is older than 5 years and a reputation that is good.

How did I develop this list?

First I went to http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com and looked at their Dog Food Reviews lists.  I am concentrating on Dry Dog Foods only. 

The list that drove my research was their 5 Star Dry Dog Foods List.  I went top to bottom on that list.

While the list itself may have issues, I tend to agree with Dog Food Advisor's reasons for choosing one food above another and their ratings - Yes, this is my opinion, I am not a vet.

Furthermore, I read through the forums on each individual page.  Forums are tricky, there's a lot of people with axes to grind, and some will say I am one of them.  There are a lot of people who simply post "I love this" and think it's done.  Finally there are companies who will "greenwash" the review by posting their own comments.  I looked through the discussions on each food and made a mental note of them before I followed through.

Some companies who are grain free and China free will be excluded from this list because the company's reputation is not exactly stellar in the forum.  Any mention of bad quality assurance practices, mold in the food, off smells, recent recalls within the last very few years, or anything that simply does not "feel right" means I will leave them off the list.

This is not complete.  This is My Opinion.  Your Mileage May Vary.  This is strictly a personal list that I will follow in the future.  After all, a blog functions well as an individual's "scratch pad" to keep notes and that is what I am doing here.   I hope that this may help someone but if it does not, so be it.  Of course if I later find information to change this short list, I'll put out a new list.

But for now in alphabetical order, the list:

Acana - http://www.acana.com/
Brother's Complete - http://www.brotherscomplete.com/
Dr. Gary's Best Breed - http://www.bestbreed.com/
First Mate - http://www.firstmate.com/
Fromm - http://frommfamily.com/
Holistic Blend - http://holisticblend.com/en/
Orijen - http://www.orijen.ca
Performatrin - http://performatrin.com/
Solid Gold Pet Food- http://www.solidgoldpet.com/
Wild Calling Pet Food- http://wildcalling.com/
Wysong - http://www.wysong.net/
Young Again Pet Food - https://www.youngagainpetfood.com/

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Man Walks Into The Doctor's Office

The nurse takes him to the examination room and leaves him in there.

He sits down on the table and waits for the doctor. The doctor comes in and says to the man, "

Mr. Johnson, we have the results of your test. I have some very bad news for you. You have cancer."

Mr Johnson says, " Oh my god! Cancer! How long do I have to live, doc?"
The doctor says, " I'm afraid you have 6 months to live. And unfortunately I have more bad news.

" Let me sit down for a minute. Okay what's the other bad news?"
"You have Alzheimer's disease."

Mr Johnson says, " Alzheimer's disease! Oh no! That's horrible!"

Mr Johnson thinks for a moment and says, " Well, at least I don't have cancer!"

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Two Mentally Disabled Patients

John and Elise were both patients in a mental hospital..

One day while they were walking past the hospital swimming pool, John suddenly jumped into the deep end.

He sank to the bottom of the pool and stayed there.

Elise promptly jumped in to save him.

She swam to the bottom and pulled him out.

When the Head Nurse Director became aware of Elise's heroic act, she immediately ordered her to be discharged from the hospital as she now considered her to be mentally stable.

When she went to tell Elise the news she said: 'Elise, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you're being discharged since you were able to rationally respond to a crisis by jumping in and saving the life of the person you love. I have concluded that your act displays sound mindedness. The bad news is that John hung himself in the bathroom with his bathrobe belt right after you saved him. I am so sorry, but he's dead.'

Elise replied. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

'He didn't hang himself, I put him there to dry'

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lets Go For A Ride!

What happened was we needed to go somewhere.  There was a list of short errands to go through outside of the house.

Our intent was to treat ourselves at a local burger joint, then head off to an office to inspect some construction work that needed to get done there.  It was Saturday so the office would be empty.

The problem is that someone put two and two together and got RIDE! 

Because we were going through the normal domestic machinery of getting ourselves together, we had forgotten to take the dog's leash off him. We had just come in from our evening dog walk and it slipped our minds.

Maybe we were also telegraphing our intent to take him along.

When you have a McNab Superdog like our boy Rack, you learn that you have to use very indirect and clumsy phrases to say things. 

Going outside to the backyard becomes "Traversing the rear portal to inspect the posterior of the owned land".

Taking a ride in the car, well, that's more difficult.  A suggestion is "Moving quickly on the highway in the large contraption.".

Like I said, Clumsy.

We're human, we "slip" so that may be what is going on here. 

I also slipped with the door.  It's a little tricky.  If the weather is hot, it expands and gets very tough to close.   In the frigid South Florida Winters it may not close when you expect it to. 

I mean, hey, after all, it has gotten to 34F, a mere degree Celsius over freezing!

I was in the kitchen and I hear from the hallway two things.

Why is the door open?


Where is the dog?

I walk to the door and start laughing.

He figured us out.  He nosed the door open just enough to squeeze a 45 pound dog through and trotted out to the end of the little walkway in front of the house.  Then he parked himself there.  The doors open out here to keep them from blowing open in a tropical storm so it wasn't all that tough.  We just didn't know he knew how to do that.

"Hey, come look at this!".

I hear laughing in my ear followed by some ringing in it due to the volume.

"Well how about you, Rack!"
"Wanna Go For A RIDE! IN! THE! CAR?!?!?"

Rack just looked over, gave me a smile, and looked back at the car with his tail wagging.   He was also dusting the grass clippings from the pavement but that didn't matter, he was going for a ride!

We gathered ourselves together.   Rack Knew.  We went up to Jack's Hamburgers, got a burger and fries and some root beer and ate in the parking lot.

Rack also got two french fries and a double thumbnail sized piece of burger complete with bun sneaked to him but we won't tell anyone.

A good day for a dog.

Come to think of it, a good day for all of us.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vanda Orchids On The Fence

These usually wait for the cold weather to come and then pass before they finally break open and bloom.

I've got two different pots of these vanda orchids, this one and a purple one that will bloom a little later.  The plant has grown into the fence, so when we have that next tropical storm in season, it will have to be left there.  I'm not brave enough to cut the roots off the wall since there are just too many.

It's on my irrigation chain getting its half gallon of mist a day.  When I repotted the thing, I made the point to use some live Spanish Moss to hold the bark in the wooden frame.  The Spanish Moss likes the same "stuff" that the orchids do so I am either getting symbiosis or they're fighting.  I'm not sure but since I have flowers I'm going to leave things as they go.

They're a beautiful plant, and I like the flowers enough that the picture will end up on the wall or in the wallpapers folders for my machines.

I remember being told that these things are so finicky and have to have just the right conditions to bloom.  I must have them because the last time they were fertilized was about 4 years ago when I was able to pry them off the wall for a hurricane.  I guess that the old wood on the wall is perfect for them which is perfect for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seems Like Winter's Peaked To Me

Winter in South Florida is a funny thing.

Officially it's all of two weeks long.  Not the season but the "weather".

It gets cool in waves then locks in with the weather that the snowbirds love sometime around thanksgiving, give or take a month I guess.

Highs around 80.  Lows around 60.

Or So.

Then That Week In February hits.  That Week is usually the second week of February.  It's the coldest week of the Northern Hemisphere in most places, but your own neighborhood may vary. 

Some time in January we'd take the comforter out since the windows here are leaky, and the houses are designed for keeping the breezes flowing and letting the heat out instead of keeping the house one temperature.   It would get used on the random cold night you wake up at 2AM when the bedroom is too cold.  Then you'd fold it back up and put it on the stand or the table next to the bed and wait until the next cold night.

For That Week, you'd use it every night, shivering in what passes for frigid weather here.  It hit 39 one morning, that's cold enough for everyone to be bringing out their coldest weather clothes that they moved down here with 10 or 20 years ago.  Since styles changed in the meantime, you can take a stab at when someone moved by looking at their winter clothes. 

For the record, I have three leather jackets, the oldest I bought in the early 1990s.  Luckily leather bomber jacket styles don't change much.

Or so I tell myself.

After that week passes, the comforter goes back to the table next to the bed.  You start hearing stories from your friends and family Up North that the snow is just beginning to melt.  Now you consider whether it's time to put the comforter away for the winter after you give it that last Hot Wash in Super Hot.  It will go in the Cedar Chest or the suitcase that you moved down here with and can't use anymore since the airlines are hell to deal with and it weighs too much to use anyway.   Nobody wants to carry those big rigid suitcases anymore and the people at the airport will break into it in the name of national security in order to steal the things you hid in there anyway.

What they're doing with all those odd pairs of socks and underwear, I have no idea.

But it seems like it's time.  Time to wash the comforters.  The weather is still beautiful but now the highs are creeping up so the forecasts are at 80 instead of 76 as a high.

The next time that Aunt Patty complains about the snow back in Jersey, just tell her that Winter's Peaked and the Comforter's been washed.   She won't understand, but it will give you a smile.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weirded Out By Your Neighbor's Drone? Create a NoFlyZone.org

I'm amused at this and haven't decided whether to put my address in the database or not.

What the website noflyzone.org does is ask your name and address and email address and it will look it up and create a "Geofence".

While I'm not too happy about having my email address used, I have a gmail account for that sort of thing, it seems pretty simple.

The theory behind it is as well, but of course, it will only protect you from the honest neighbor.  Dishonest folks will bypass that sort of thing, or at least they can at this point.

What happens is that a Drone has software to guide it.  You can't go over a certain height.  You can't fly over an airport.  You can't fly over a military base.

That sort of thing.

How does it do that?  There is a database of excluded areas in the software that lets your shiny little toy go up and spy on the neighbors.

Now to be fair, there are good uses for these things.  Exploring your own property, taking footage of a festival, and other public events.

Here's little Johnny's little league practice from 40 feet up!  Ok, here's little Johnny's little league practice until that pop fly took the drone out.

Anyway, it all looks at the GPS data, the same data that your phone tells you to turn down that blue road on the map that is really a river, and says that this particular area is not allowed.

The theory is great, but if you have someone who is frustrated by the limitations, there's nothing to say that they can't take the time to reverse engineer the database, select all the data, and hit the delete key.

Oops, no more limitations.

So like I said, it's just for the honest, like you and me.

Well, maybe you.  I don't have a drone.  Although I can think of some amazing video to be shot like the fireworks display that got videoed a while back up in West Palm Beach from the middle of the display.

And if you didn't get anything else out of my blather, have a look at the video.  It's truly beautiful and gives you even more Ooohs and Aaahs than a normal fireworks display!

Like the video says, make sure you watch it in HD!