Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rack and Oscar's Visitor At The Door

This was One Of Those Moments.
One Of Those Moments where you just have to scratch your head in confusion, and laugh.

It all started when I got the house to myself for a long week.  About 10 days.

I was rattling around by myself through the holidays, and December 27th, that was going to end.

Boxing Day, December 26th, I had to pick things up.  It was time to stop being a bachelor, and to begin to clean the house.

Living in South Florida, there is a fine layer of dust and sand that gets all over things.  You don't notice it at first, but you start looking behind things and under things and on top of things that you forgot to look, and there it is.  A layer.  Sometimes there are whole civilizations of dust mites living in it. 

You get used to it, so you periodically "Deep Clean" things.

But in just a week, there's enough that it needs to happen.  Move the furniture around, clean where it was, and move it all back.  Normal boring crap.  However that means that it would get loud. 

Oscar Likes Loud.  Oscar, my Orange Wing Amazon Parrot will make noises with anything in the house.  It could be a pencil dropped on the floor, he will chatter to it.  He laughs like I do, says "What?" in appropriate times, and believes that "Hello?!?!?" is an appropriate response to food. 

As in "Hello, you had better be bringing me some or else I will get louder". 

Louder can be heard a half mile away.  You don't want that.  He does "Louder" when the vacuum is run.  The vacuum would be run through the entire house today. 

"Oscar, want to play with the Hawks?"

I put Oscar out on the front porch on Aunt Betty's white plastic table.  She gave it to me with two chairs when she went back Up North and there it sits.  It was pristine when I got it, now three years of Dust later, it isn't. 

Did I say that the dust is from the beaches 2 and a half miles away?
Did I say that the dust is also from The Bahamas about 120 miles east of me?
Did I say that the dust also comes from The Sahara Desert half a world away?

Yes, really.  And it all got cleaned up.

I got out the vacuum and did the house.  Yes, even under the tv table cart and the couch.  All the chihuahua dog worth of loose dog fur were vacuumed away.  You never knew that a McNab Dog would shed so much, after all, he only has one coat and no undercoat.

At that point things got weirder.  I managed to mop the kitchen fairly quickly, and started on the dining room when I noticed that Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) was acting concerned.  "Concerned" in most dogs will mean they might grumble or even bark.  Not with Rack.  He just stares holes through you with twin yellow-green laser beamed eyes as he melts your heart with curiosity.

Or in this case urgency.  He plopped himself in the middle of the living room staring at me.

I looked past him through the big window noticing that Oscar was not being bothered by anyone.

"Rack, I'm going to need that room soon."

Rack looked at me again as if to say "You had better check the door".  He's great for delegating responsibility since he's afraid of his own shadow.

I went back to finishing the dining room.

Straightening out my own frame and blocking off the dining room, I found out what was going on.  The house had visitors. 

Rack retreated to The Corner where he hides but was keeping an eye on both me and Oscar.
Oscar was looking at something just out of view and lunging at it. 

And there it was.  A Muscovy Duck.

Mind you, these ducks are completely harmless.  Since they're Outdoor Animals, they probably have all sorts of things that I don't want Oscar getting so I watched.  But instead of going to the door and shooing the creature away, I realized it was watching both me, and Oscar. 

I reached for the camera and squeezed off a couple pictures hoping that the light in the window wouldn't wash things out too badly.  It did and I would find that out later.

But there I was.  I was locked in another Wild Kingdom moment.  My house was visited by the ducks again.  This wasn't a surprise, we've got dozens of them.  I am only a short couple blocks from the nearest river and they never quite leave the neighborhood.  They are non-aggressive and harmless.  Since they eat the grubs in the grass, I can even say they're beneficial.

They're certainly entertaining, but I never expected them to come quite this close.

There was one a while back that decided that since I hardly ever drive my Jeep, it would roost under it.  I became a foster parent to a brood of baby ducks that would hide under there from the neighbor's formerly outdoor cats.  Not wanting to disturb them, I would always make certain that I could get outside quietly and go about my business.

Rack doesn't seem to mind them, but understands that they don't belong on the porch.

Like this rather curious one. 

It hopped onto the porch to see what this green parrot, Oscar, was doing on Betty's table, and discovered that there was me indoors watching it, and Rack watching all of us being confused.

I squeezed off a few shots more, turning on the flash for the last one.

The duck had had enough at that point when I tried to walk to the door.  It slowly turned around and walked back under the Jeep.  It had to be a part of the brood here.

So that's the thing.  You may have been used to living around nature, but nature never quite leaves you here in South Florida.  Sometimes it even pays a visit.

I went back to my cleaning and by the time I was done, it was wandering off the neighbor's property.

Nice to have a little visit when you're ready for a break from doing things, isn't it?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Man Gets Drunk - and - A Man In Ecstacy

A Man gets drunk and stumbles straight into a baptism being performed on the river bank.

The priest asks the man, 'Are you ready to find Jesus?'
The drunk agrees, and the priest dunks him into the water. The drunk is gasping for air.

'Have you found Jesus, Brother?'
'No mate, I haven't'

The priest dunks him in again and pulls him back out. The drunk thrashes around for a bit.
'Now have you found Jesus?'
'Nah bro, I haven't.'

The priest rolls his eyes and dunks the drunk one more time, and pulls him back up violently.

The drunk, near suffocation, replies, 'Are you sure this is where he fell in?'

A Man In Ecstacy

He was in ecstasy, with a huge smile on his face, as his wife moved forward, then backwards, forward, then backwards again, back and forth, back and and and out.

It was going on 20 minutes at this point...

Her heart was pounding...her face was flushed...then she moaned, softly at first, then began to groan louder.

Finally, totally exhausted, she let out an almighty scream and shouted:
"OK, OK! I can't park the damn car! You do it, you smug bastard!"

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Engineer's Interview

An engineering firm is looking to fill a position, and has interviewed a few dozen applicants. They've winnowed it down to just three candidates, and they're all bright, motivated, and experienced.

To make the final decision, the interviewer decides to pose one last question to each of them.

He tells the three interviewees, "So this building we're in, any idea how tall it is, down to the inch?" All three shake their heads.

Turning to the first he says, so if I gave you an accurate barometer, how would you determine the height?
The engineer pauses and says, "Well, I'd measure the pressure difference between the roof and ground, use that to find the change in altitude".

Nodding, the interviewer turns to the second candidate. "And you? How would you measure this?",

"Well" says the second engineer, "I would measure the shadow cast by the barometer and the shadow cast by the building. We know the length of one, we can find the length of the other".

"Very good!" said the interviewer, finally turning to the last engineer. "And you?"

After a moment's thought the third engineer finally says, "I think I'd just find the building manager, offer to give him a shiny new barometer if he told me how tall the building is."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Podocarpus, Ladybugs, and The Farm

Lately I have been rattling around in my back yard.

I have been rattling around there so much that I have an area I have taken to calling The Farm.

At least that is what The Internet has started.

About a year or so ago, I got the bright idea to start propagating plants.  I have an irrigation chain on the lawn that is perfect for this.  Each sprinkler head puts out a gallon of water or less an hour.  Think of it as what you would do with a watering can.

On a farm, this would be considered Drip Feed Irrigation. 

There are about 10 pots on that chain, plus the orchids.  It saves me from pretending that I have it in me at dawn to be out there with a hose every day.  I may be up at 5AM, but I am not that crazy.

Mind you, plants in pots don't have a long lifespan.  Sometimes the pots just "up and die".  Other times, they're helped by critters.  Snakes don't bother them, but Iguanas, Opossums, and domestic animals may.  Like my Damn Neighbor's Damn Cat.  Not only have I caught it on my Jeep and inside it, I have caught it inside the pots.

Never mind that blasted cat, I had pots to fill.

I went through a number of iterations of Mexican Petunia, or Ruellia.  I planted so many that I had to stop.  It filled in the border next to the fence on the East side of the property nicely and I have deep green leaves and purple flowers every day.

I then stopped and thought, what would help?  My hedge on the West side was dying.  It needed things to fill in the gaps.  At that point, I had about four pots to start, so I filled one with Podocarpus.  Japanese Yew.  I'd snip off about a six inch portion, dip it in rooting hormone, and stick it in the pot.  

While they grow slowly under that condition, they did grow.  I was surprised to find that I got about 3/4 of them rooting.   I would lose another quarter when they got transplanted, and another quarter after that.  Apparently they didn't like the area that the hedge was in either.

Then, months later, I got The Bright Idea.  Why not just stick them in the ground at the hedge?  Why bother with the pot?   That drip feed irrigation line is under the hedge as well, but is mainly turned off.  Lets try.

Remember that I call this The Farm - I planted 100 Podocarpus cuttings under the existing hedge.  Densely packed.  I did it over three days. 

The third day of Cut/Dip/Stick, I noticed something.  The Podocarpus had visitors.  There was a bit of a white dusting of mites over the newer pieces, exactly what I needed to plant.  But feeding on the white dusting were dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of Ladybugs. 

My hedge was covered with hundreds of miniature Volkswagen Beetle looking creatures all happily gorging themselves on much less beneficial mites.


So I merely cut around the Ladybugs.   They would get disturbed and flutter off, sometimes landing back on the plant, other times on me.  No problem there.  I knew how helpful they can be, since they love to dine on Aphids, and if you ever tried to grow ornamental Hibiscus, you know that you will eventually end up with Aphids.

As for my Hedge?  Well I'm about a month into the whole Farm thing.  I'm finding that about 3/4 of the hundred cuttings look like they're still alive.  I'll leave them be.  Since the Ladybugs cleaned off the parent plants, I have healthy Podocarpus in the yard.  I will give the Ladybugs the credit for that.  I always thought that Podocarpus were about as close to "Carefree Plants" as I could get in South Florida's bizarre conditions, and I suspect that as long as they're found by the beneficial insects, I'm right.

Since the area that I am planting created an empty zone, I'm having a bit of a victory.  More accurately, a Victory Garden.  You see, one of those Internet memes was if you cut the tops off your carrots, you can stick them in the ground and get more carrots.  They're growing out there too, right in front of the Podocarpus and the dying Jasmine Hedge.

Just keep the critters away.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Sensitive Guy

A woman meets a man in a bar.
They talk; they connect; they end up leaving together.

They get back to his place, and as he shows her around his apartment, she notices that one wall of his bedroom is completely filled with soft, sweet, cuddly teddy bears.

There are three shelves in the bedroom, with hundreds and hundreds of cute, cuddly teddy bears carefully placed in rows, covering the entire wall!

It was obvious that he had taken quite some time to lovingly arrange them and she was immediately touched by the amount of thought he had put into organizing the display.
There were small bears all along the bottom shelf, medium-sized bears covering the length of the middle shelf, and huge, enormous bears running all the way along the top shelf.

She found it strange for an obviously masculine guy to have such a large collection of teddy bears. She is quite impressed by his sensitive side, but doesn't mention this to him.

They share a bottle of wine and continue talking and,
After awhile, she finds herself thinking,
'Oh my God! Maybe, this guy could be the one!
'Maybe he could be the future father of my children?'

She turns to him and kisses him lightly on the lips.
He responds warmly.

They continue to kiss, the passion builds.

And he romantically lifts her in his arms and carries her into his bedroom, where they rip off each other's clothes and make hot, steamy love.

She is so overwhelmed that she responds with more passion, more creativity, more heat than she has ever known. After an intense, explosive night of raw passion with this sensitive guy, they are lying there together in the afterglow. The woman rolls over, gently strokes his chest and asks coyly,

'Well, how was it?'

The guy gently smiles at her, strokes her cheek, looks deeply into her eyes,
and says:

'Help yourself to any prize from the middle shelf.'

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Young Couple, Just Married

A young couple, just married, were in their honeymoon suite on their wedding night.

As they were undressing for bed, the husband, who was a big, burly man, tossed his pants to the bride and said, "Here, put these on."

She put them on, but they were way too big.
"I can't wear your pants," she said.

"That's right," said the husband, "and don't you ever forget it. I'm the man who wears the pants in this family."

With that, she flipped him her panties and said, "Try these on."
He tried them on, and they were way to thin.

"Hell," he said, "I can't get into your panties."

She replied, "That's right, and it's going to be that way till your attitude changes."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Belle Isle Bird

Have you ever thought that you were being followed?

I don't do the tourist thing all that often.

I live in a place where depending what you are looking for, you can find it.  Sometimes you can find what you're looking for in your own town, sometimes you have to get in the car and drive a little bit.

I'm about two and a half miles from the ocean.  Two and a half miles North of downtown Fort Lauderdale.  I could walk to one or the other.  I could easily ride a bike or skate to either.  Actually, I know my fitness level, I could ride a bike or skate to both in one afternoon since that isn't really that big of a workout.

Nothing quite so exciting that day.  I just wanted to go out to Wilton Drive.  With in a leisurely stroll of the house there are quite a few shops.  I actually am looking for something that you would want to get at a thrift shop, and we have three of them within about a half mile of where I am sitting right now.

I wanted a Pizza Steel.  I didn't find one.  A Pizza Steel is a slab of metal that you put in your oven.  Turn the oven on to "Good-And-Hot" and let the oven come up to temperature.  Then you slide your pizza onto it.  Anything you cook on that would get a crispy bottom.

Since I hadn't found one, I have been using a rather thick aluminum cookie sheet.  It works, but I'd prefer more "mass".

So I left the house.  Noticing that there was this goofy white bird feeding on the lawn across the street, I started heading out to The Drive.  I didn't think all that much of the bird, we've got lots of wading birds here in town.  They tend to fly out overhead as the afternoon begins to wane to go out to the Everglades fifteen miles West, or just any other little waterway nearby.  There's a lot of water in South Florida to manage, and it has been managed.  Badly.

I got to the first thrift store, walked in, did my browsing.  No Pizza Steel.  Nothing I could hack to use as a Pizza Steel.  I did notice that there was another one of those white birds standing there in the lawn feeding, and watching me.

Thinking, that's odd but harmless, I headed to the second thrift store.  Still no Pizza Steel.  Damn.  But there was a bird again.  Ok, this is getting weird.   I walked a little closer to it and it watched me.  Deciding that neither of us were getting anything out of this bird watching, I headed to the last thrift.  This one is the one that is there to benefit the animals, and as a result I like to shop there whenever I can.

But no Pizza Steel.  I'll have to keep using the cookie sheet.  It is a very thick aluminum sheet, and will crisp the bottom of the pies, but it isn't quite what I want.

You guessed it.  When I headed out, my bird was back.  Now, I can't tell one from another.  They're all paper white with orange beak and bright eyes that watch you back.  It was a strange coincidence.  It just stood there, on top of the little hedge watching me.

Now, to anyone else, these birds are wary.  They'll waddle off when you come near or even fly away.  Not this bird.  It waited for me to get as many pictures as I wanted.  Standing there on top of the hedge, it seemed to like the attention as I fired off more pictures.

Sure, little white bird.  You're happy to be seen.  I guess it knew I was harmless.  What got me though was that coincidence.  We've got quite a few of these birds around.  They're like Starlings up North sometimes.  You'll see great herds of them hunting for grubs in the lawns, especially untreated lawns.  But four separate shops on a heavily traveled road with little greenery?

Where's Alfred Hitchcock when you need him.  I think I have a story idea for him.

Oh wait, it's been done?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bring Me My Red Shirt

Long ago, when sailing ships ruled the waves, a captain and his crew were in danger of being boarded by a pirate ship. As the crew became frantic, the captain bellowed to his First Mate, "Bring me my red shirt!". The First Mate quickly retrieved the captain's red shirt, which the captain put on and lead the crew to battle the pirate boarding party. Although some casualties occurred among the crew, the pirates were repelled.

Later that day, the lookout screamed that there were two pirate vessels sending boarding parties. The crew cowered in fear, but the captain calm as ever bellowed, "Bring me my red shirt!". The battle was on, and once again the Captain and his crew repelled both boarding parties, although this time more casualties occurred.

Weary from the battles, the men sat around on deck that night recounting the day's occurrences when an ensign looked to the Captain and asked, "Sir, why did you call for your red shirt before the battle?". The Captain, giving the ensign a look that only a captain can give, exhorted, "If I am wounded in battle, the red shirt does not show the wound and thus, you men will continue to fight unafraid". The men sat in silence marveling at the courage of such a man.

As dawn came the next morning, the lookout screamed that there were pirate ships, 10 of them, all with boarding parties on their way. The men became silent and looked to their Captain for his usual command. The Captain, calm as ever, bellowed, "Bring me my brown pants!!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Teacher Gave Her Fifth Grade Class An Assignment

Get their parents to tell them a story with a moral at the end of it. The next day the kids came back and one by one began to tell their stories.

"Johnny, do you have a story to share?"

"Yes, ma'am, my daddy told a story about my Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob was a pilot in Desert Storm and his plane was hit. He had to bail out over enemy territory and all he had was a small flask of whiskey, a pistol and a survival knife. He drank the whiskey on the way down so it would not break and then his parachute landed right in the middle of twenty enemy troops.
He shot fifteen of them with the gun until he ran out of bullets, killed four more with the knife, 'till the blade broke and then he killed the last Iraqi with his bare hands."

"Good heavens," said the horrified teacher, "What kind of moral did your daddy tell you from that horrible story?

"Stay away from Uncle Bob when he's been drinking!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pecan Chocolate Bar Recipe

I wanted a Chocolate Bar.  There weren't any in the house, but being someone who bakes regularly, I had an industrial sized bag of Chocolate Chips in the cabinets along with a likewise sized bag of Pecan pieces.

I got the bright idea to try to do something with it all.

First of all, Chocolate is not generally "Cooked" when the stuff is in chip form.  You melt it, shape it, add ingredients to it, but it is normally done at low temperatures.  It melts at 30C/86F.  If you cook it at too high a heat, it turns into something nasty and scorches. 

If you want to do all that, all you really have to do is microwave it in bursts.

The recipe:
  • 2 ounces (56 Grams) Chocolate Chips - Any kind, your preference.
  • 1 Ounce (28 Grams) Pecan pieces - small bits are fine.
  • Add both the Pecans and the Chocolate Chips to a small microwave safe bowl.  I used a two-cup coffee mug.
  • Microwave the mix on high for 60 seconds.
  • Check the mix to make sure the chocolate has melted.
  • If not - Repeat this step until the chocolate has melted - Microwave for 30 seconds, then mix and inspect for smoothness.
  • When the mix is smooth and even, spread it out thin on a piece of Baking Parchment, greased aluminum foil, or other flat surface such as a dinner plate
  • Set in refrigerator until cool and the chocolate has set.
  • Serves 2
  • Instead of Pecans, I have done this with toasted Coconut and with Macadamia Nuts
  • You can also try a mix of fruit and nuts.
  • With Pecans, this recipe is 200 calories, approximately. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Guy Is Caught Eating A Bald Eagle

A guy is caught by a ranger eating a Bald Eagle and is consequently put in jail for the crime.

On the day of his trial, the conversation went something like this:

Judge: "Do you know that eating a Bald Eagle is a federal offense?"
Man: "Yes, I did. But if you let me argue my case, I'll explain what happened."
Judge: "Proceed."

Man: "I got lost in the woods.
I hadn't had anything to eat for two weeks.
I was so hungry. 
Next thing I see is a Bald Eagle swooping down at the lake for some fish.
I knew that if I followed the eagle I could maybe steal the fish.
Unfortunately, in the process of taking the fish I killed the eagle.
I figured that since I killed the eagle I might as well eat it since it would be more disgraceful to let it rot on the ground."

 Judge: "The court will take a recess while we analyze your testimony."

15 minutes goes by and the judge returns.
udge: "Due to the extreme circumstance you were under and because you didn't intend to kill the eagle, the court will dismiss the charges. But if you don't mind the court asking, what does a Bald Eagle taste like?"

Man: "Well, your honor, it is hard to explain. The best I can describe it is maybe kind of between a California Condor and a Spotted Owl."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Moving House - and - A Man Pulled Over By The Police

Joe is moving to a new house, and he gets his friend Walter to help load some heavy furniture on and off the truck.

While Joe is driving the truck, Walter reads a magazine.

Walter sees an interesting factoid, and decides to share it with Joe. "Hey Joe, did you know that 90% of all auto accidents happen within a mile of your house?"

And Joe says "huh... Well, guess it's a good thing I'm moving then."

A Man Gets Pulled Over By The Police

A man was stopped by the police around 2 am. The officer asked him where he was going at that time of night.

The man replied, "I'm on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse and the effects it has on the human body, as well as smoking and staying out late."

The officer then asked, "Really? Who's giving that lecture at this time of night?"
The man replied, "That would be my wife."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Devil Toad With Pizza

What can you say other than It's Florida being Florida.

What I mean by that is that we've got wildlife.  It lives with us, whether we want it or not.

It was here first, then we came along and screwed things up.

After all "Boca Raton" means Mouth Mouse in literal Spanish, just like Florida refers to the land of flowers it still is.

I love the idea that all these people acting Posh live in a town named after mice, but that's just me.

Watching the security cameras here, and for that matter anywhere, overnight, you spot a lot of creatures.  Raccoons, Opossums, and Spiders are a daily occurrence.  They belong.

Then there are the introduced species.  Boa Constrictors in the Everglades share space with Ball Pythons.  They're clearing the place of native species while we speak.

Other creatures like cats are doing damage by being out and about and emptying nests of the birds that actually belong.   If you love your pet, keep them indoors or on a leash.  It's common sense, and it is the law here in Wilton Manors.  If it is off leash off property, it's a stray.

But these toads.  The Bufo Toads or Cane Toads.  They're poisonous and have been known to kill a dog. They're one reason why when I let Rack out, I have a flashlight at night.  We walk along the roads next to the grass since there are no sidewalks for the most part here.  Shine a light at the grass to make sure there are no toads around.

Rack has a very weak prey drive, but who knows when it will kick in.  One lick and he's done for.  It would be a trip to the e-vet after using the hose to flush out his mouth while we get him into the car, most likely convulsing.

But this one toad?

You see they sometimes hang out in the parking lots in the storm drains.  They will come out at night and forage.  Foraging is fine, just give them room.  In this case, there was a crust of pizza discarded into the brush next to the building.  The toad found it and tried to eat it.  I say tried because it didn't seem to have any luck.  I could tell you which pizza joint it is that it was eating a crust from, but I'll refrain.

It's not often you come across a poisonous toad by the wall of a building eating a piece of pizza crust just before dawn on an October morning, but when you do, stop and take notice and think about just how weird the place is that you're at.