Facebook Worms and some small steps to protect yourself

This morning I was answering some messages from some folks that I know and care about in other parts of the country.  While doing this I was staring at my lap and wondering what sort of pseudo-intellectual blather I’d write about and it presented itself to me.

Facebook has some well known privacy flaws.   I have my own account’s privacy settings turned so tightly that the only thing you’d be able to tell about me is my picture, my name, and what city I live in.   I’ve given that much away here on this blog, and more. 

The problem is that most people sign on and think that it is this warm and fuzzy place to chat with friends near and far and everything is safe.  Links that people post to You Tube about dogs that make demented sounds like this one, links to NPR quizzes about whether you could pass the citizenship test (I got 100%), and links to this blog amongst others.  Those are safe. 

The question is how would you know if they are?

The answer to the question is that you never can be 100% certain.  There are people out there that get their “jollies” at causing others pain.  In the gaming world they’re called “griefers”.  In psychology there are many names for them, psychotics, sociopaths and deviants come to mind but I am sure you can find other names as well. 

There are some steps you can take though. 

First, I use Firefox.  Others use Internet Explorer which I personally find slow and lumbering.  Both of those browsers have a strip at the bottom of the window (caught you looking, didn’t I?) that is called a Status Bar.  The Status Bar is well named since it gives you information on what is happening to the browser at this moment.  See, it tells you about the status.  Well named, right?  Ok, I’ll tone down the chirpyness since I have only had one mug of coffee at this point this morning. 

You can check in Firefox to make sure it is turned on by these simple steps:

Click View, and the words “Status Bar” should have a check mark to the left of it.  
If not, click on it.

The Status bar will tell you when you hover over a link what that link points to.  It is up to you to look at that link and decide whether it is safe and that is a judgment call.   If the link is supposed to be to the rather excellent organization that will help deserving dogs and cats and other animals find a way out of a shelter to a forever home called Petfinder and you hover over the link you will see the following text in your status bar:

http://www.petfinder.com/index.html

It is a reasonable link.  However if you find a link to a Russian Site or to something that simply doesn’t fit – DO NOT CLICK!

Second you have to be informed.   This is not a “Gas and Go” culture.  This is a computer.  Yes, you can go your entire life and never get hit by one of the nasties out there, but people are looking for you.  The nasties could be as simple as being Rick Rolled and getting to see a video from Rick Astley here.

Go ahead, you can click on those two links and see a discussion on the phenomenon and internet meme as well as the song itself.

The idea is that forewarned is forearmed.   Why it is important to be informed is that this culture offers many benefits to those who are connected.   You can be anywhere in the world, connected on any sort of link or any sort of computer and order something from your favorite store, get a discount over the corner shop usually, and have it waiting for you when you get home from your Holiday in Ibiza if the trip is long enough.  You can transact banking business with your Tennessee based bank from the beach in Key West on your laptop.  This is all well and good, it makes business more efficient and lowers costs and creates savings that are supposed to be passed onto the consumer and usually aren’t but it also creates a problem.

The problem is that if you are a “gas and go” computer user you most likely already have a virus or a trojan.  If you have a trojan that reports back to the host your user name and password you have lost your banking security.  Imagine taking your ATM Bank Card and writing your PIN on it in ink so that it may be read.  That is what happens when your details are stolen online and they happen frequently.

A possible solution is to never use a computer for anything but banking and perhaps shopping at “valid” sites, but we’re back to that judgment call thing. 

I found another option.   On Facebook I “like”d Sophos.  Sophos has been reporting back to me virus information so I can be informed.  Now you can too.  This link is to their Facebook page.  If you are on Facebook, I suggest you add them and you will get a message or three a day.  I am sure there are others and as I find them I’ll add them too.  Their page is also open and visible to the outside world so if you check them periodically and do not have Facebook, you can be informed as one of the many sites that have this sort of information.

These sort of evils on Facebook are all browser based viruses.  You can get them on any modern browser, and the Facebook exploits actually change Facebook to add an application that you do not want so that it can spam everyone and get more widely spread.   If you are on Windows, you can go to http://safety.live.com  and run a free virus scan but I really recommend getting to Microsoft and installing Microsoft Security Essentials.  I did that when I worked as an IT Manager and since it is free to windows users, you don’t have to pay Mc Afee or anyone else and remain protected.

Since it is browser based, you can also get this on a Mac or Linux.  You are less likely to get them there for various reasons, but it is up to you to make sure that you don’t have the problem.  I don’t run either operating system as much as I could or should, and I have both, but they also get effected.

Good luck.  If you need help, my billable rate for this sort of thing is negotiable.

Friendly Wildlife or how a Nature Park has Results

Sometimes walking around the neighborhood is like being in a Disney Movie.

Yesterday I got up early and knew it would be a strange day when I got to the corner and a bat flew by.  

Not only did the bat fly by once but twice.  I guess at the end of its day, it wanted to know why this moose was walking his dog before six in the morning.   I’m not sure why since bats are not terribly common here.   I’ve only ever seen two before and one of those was years ago in the porch of my house in Philadelphia. 

Later after finishing my morning rituals and lunch I decided I had seen quite enough of these four walls.   I have a great view of some Screw Palms of various colour and there’s a large shade tree accompanied by some tall Palms across the street but that wasn’t quite enough for me.   I walked out the door, up to the drive and decided to hit the thrift stores.  

It was the peak of the afternoon, 2 PM, the sun was so bright as to cause the place to look surreal in a riot of intense colour that it hardly made sense.   Normally the birds are roosting in the trees and wilting in the heat like the locals at that time of day but there was one moderate sized flock of parrots that flew by and landed in the parking lot.  Parrots here are about as common as sparrows are back in Jersey, they are always nearby and you can hear them almost every time you go out your door.  This particular flock of a few mated pairs landed and watched the goings on for a while before getting bored to go on to find another place to land.

On the way back from the thrift stores, in front of The Gables on Wilton Drive I got to see the results of M.E. DePalma Park.  I started getting buzzed by butterflies.   There was a small group of them following me along like I was in that Disney Movie I was talking about earlier.  I noticed something on my left shoulder and realized that I had picked up a hitchiker.  I had a Monarch Butterfly sitting on my shoulder taking a rest.  The little critter was flapping its wings and breathing and I was too surprised to consider how unlikely it was until now.  By the time I reached the Shoppes, the Butterfly went in search of some Mexican Petunias to munch and I went on my way on home alone.

I swear all I needed was Bambi and Thumper and some orchestral music in the background and I’d be cited for copyright infringement.

This morning it started again.  I let myself sleep in until all of six in the morning… or rather Mrs Dog allowed it, and I set out the door.   Today was the day of birds.

By the time I reached the midpoint of the walk, that flock of parrots was back behind Hagen Park.   There was one in particular that seemed to take an interest in my dog and I because it flew to the fence behind the conference room there.   The rest of the flock was not happy with it doing that because you could hear them yelling to that one as if to say “Get Back Here, he’s Scary!”.  Needless to say, I ended up having a conversation with a green bird with a red patch over its nose for a couple minutes.  It wasn’t completely one sided.  That bird seemed happy to chatter at me as long as I stood there.

Mrs Dog decided that she liked my chattering to strange birds as much as she likes me talking to my own parrot, Oscar, so she towed me along to the Drive to head back home.

The day of wildlife was not yet at an end.   I got across the street from the little Veteran’s Park and there was a small flock of Sparrows that were in the tree near the corner and stop light there.   Most of them had decided that I was coming this way and that was a bad thing.   There was one particular male that thought that he was far enough away that he could leave any time he wanted so he chattered at me.   Wild Birds will sing, but it is usually not so much of a sing as a territorial warning.   I suspect the little guy was trying to tell me to leave his tree so he could have at it.   Every time he whistled, I did a poor imitation back. When he’d hear that he’d cock his head as if to say “You have a lousy accent but lets try again”.  Then he’d get a little closer.

By the time we were through with all this singing and chattering, he was within two feet of my head. 

I finally broke this little wildlife encounter up.   It reminded me of the sparrows in Provincetown, MA that would hang out near the little mall they have there.   They’d get fed by the passer’s by when they’d land at their feet and chatter.   I fed them myself most lunches when I’d have some chinese food on fried rice while they almost ate out of your hand.

The day’s still young, I could have another encounter.   I know the monarchs like my back yard and I watch them flutter past the front window all day.

Hurricane Season Starts Tuesday

Ok, everyone, it’s that time again!

Time to listen to the media tell you to DUCK AND COVER!!!!

While the houses here are generally built much more solidly than they were up North, it does bear some consideration.  Nothing will survive an Andrew or a Katrina Event, but most hurricanes are not that powerful.

Hurricane Season is upon us and it gives us an excuse to prepare and repair

Everyone here hopes that it will be another gap between major storms like the 80s and 90s.  Fort Lauderdale area went approximately 20 years between major storms, then the season of 2005 that spawned Katrina, Rita, Wilma and stretched on until New Years 2006 happened.  We have had three relatively quiet years, nothing more than tropical storms that were merely Rain Events.  When the Hurricane Season of 2007 hit, we tried all of the shutters on the house, decided they were in good working order, and put them all back in the shed.  The next year, we merely bought food and water, and repeated that in 2009.

This year we won’t do anything different.  The books all say 3 to 5 days food and water.  Have Buckets for toilets and extra supplies stowed in case you really do have to evacuate.  There are more specifics that I won’t go into. 

They changed the rule of thumb recently to 3 to 5 days.  When I moved here the rule of thumb was a Week To Ten Days.  I then started listening to the Emergency Management Personnel here in the City and what the “Old Timers” had to say about prior storms.  When Hurricane Wilma came through and turned the infrastructure into Barney Rubble, the power on my block was out for two weeks.  There were individual homes that were out for a solid month. 

Wilma was such a slow moving and grinding storm that it convinced everyone here that things had to change.   First, the markets were required to have emergency back up generators.  Good idea in any rate when FPL has such a bad track record of providing clean power.  If you sit in my front room and listen to the music, through the course of the day you will be hearing a mechanical accompaniment.  That would be the addition of the relays in my power conditioner filtering out power spikes because some wire somewhere shorted something out and sent more voltage through than the system is designed for. 

Second, the stores setting up emergency generators resulted in some bright start somewhere getting a great idea.  Lets save money by not distributing Ice!  It was a given during the storms that trucks of Ice would be delivered to central locations and those who needed them could come and get bags of Ice to put in their refrigerator and freezer to try to maintain some cold food. 

This was done away with.  Basically you’re on your own and have to go to that store with everyone else and buy ice.  …if the stores have it.

Once the ATMs have run out of money you’re done with Ice because it is questionable that the phone system will be functional.  The cell towers are programmed to knock we the people off in order to give emergency responders priority.  The POTS Network that came to your house on a pole to feed a phone on the wall will be damaged and even if you have a “landline” service.  You may not have that after the coconut tree takes a header into the phone pole and the lines are now draped down into your swimming pool that is green from the algae that will be joining the mosquitoes that are breeding after a couple days.

There will be a sales tax holiday expected in June for certain emergency goods.  This will be when I go out and buy two weeks of food, a tower of bottled water, and fill up the Propane Tanks for the grill.  The reality is that even if they don’t have that tax holiday, a trip to the big box stores to stock up is in store.

Time to eat the rest of the frozen foods that you stocked up over winter, you will need the space.

I’m here to stay.  Will you be?  After every storm there is always a flow of people who pack up the U-Haul and go to places that are less dangerous in their opinion.  There is no place in the country that doesn’t have some sort of environmental disaster possible.  San Diego gets Earthquakes.  Hawaii gets Hurricanes and has Volcanos so there has to be Earthquakes there.  The North gets snow.  The West does not have enough water for the millions of people who live there.  Forget about Las Vegas in Summer.

We at least get a couple days warning when a Hurricane approaches. 

So it is time to prepare.  Think of it as spring cleaning.  You didn’t really want to eat that three year old can of Okra did you?

The Automotive Equivalent of a Burqa

A car tends to be a choice here.  A very complicated choice.  You weigh your life priorities, what you intend to do with the thing, narrow it down to some  few models, and then make a choice from that.  If you are lucky you can walk onto a lot and just get what you want and not get robbed too badly.

I drive a Jeep Wrangler.   Not a very efficient vehicle, but fun to drive.   I don’t have children, I rarely take anyone anywhere other than my dog.   I got it because I had a friend who had one back in the 80s and really enjoyed the times I shared in it.  So I bought my first and since I would take public transportation I would shrug off the 18 Miles To The Gallon it got, and drove it to places like the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Apple Pie Hill, Atsion Lake, and the “back way” to the Jersey Shore.

That Back Way could save hours and was an almost straight as an arrow shot through some thick forests of pine, on a Fire Trail that was unpaved at about 40 miles to the hour.

I don’t drive much now, and I don’t intend to.   It does drink gas rather quickly by today’s standards, but when I commuted it wasn’t so expensive that it felt like the relative cost to the environment of buying new and efficient outweighed the fact that I have a nine year old car with 42,000 miles on it and can get at least another 10 years at this rate.  

I just don’t drive much.

Cars do tend to fit your personality though.  I could have driven a long list of off road cars and for the little bit that I would go to the top of that Fire Tower at Apple Pie Hill so I could look at Atlantic City, see Philadelphia, and the lights of New York City from the same spot, all would have worked.  The trails in New Jersey are very easy to drive and I did it once in Mom’s old Cadillac Sedan De Ville.

There are some cars that blend into the background.  The Automotive Equivalent of a Burqa.  These cars tend toward the appliance mindset.  I have to go somewhere, I need the room, and I’m going to do it while I cart about my stuff.   Stuff could be the two-point-three children, the Car Pool, or just the little old man with a Fedora driving 45 in the fast lane on the interstate.

When I first learned to drive, we would be on the lookout for a “Hat Car”.  That would almost invariably be a Chevrolet Nova or Dodge Dart or similar.   A Sedan car driven by that old man with a Fedora, or a little old lady who you would see the top of some blue hair and perhaps white gloves.  Always driven way too slowly for traffic, and something to get around. 

I don’t really drive enough to see that sort of thing.  I would notice that if you had an old Camry here, they almost invariably had a Haitian flag or a sticker from a small Caribbean or Latin American nation on it.  Driving 35 in a 45 zone on Powerline Road in the Fast Lane and choking traffic back.   The Modern Hat drives a 10 year old Toyota Camry or a similar Ford Taurus.

They can be boring but not really anonymous.

I have a neighbor about three houses down.  I truly enjoy them, their children, and the times I’ve spent chatting with them were truly times well spent.   They’re wonderful people… they also drive a Burqa.

One of their vehicles are a Burqa.  They also have a big Dodge Ram Pickup, a real “Cowboy Cadillac” of a thing to haul their Air Boat.   It is Friday Morning and if they’ve got the day off, they’ll be driving down the block shortly with the Air Boat in tow to go west to Weston and launch for a day of Fishing.

I’m jealous but I can’t picture myself doing that.  I’d be miserable slapping Mosquitos and getting everyone annoyed as I turn brown then red.  Rehydrating yourself with Bud Ice can be fun though…

So what is this Automotive Burqa and why do I call it that?

They also have a Navy Blue Chrysler Grand Caravan. The Penultimate Minivan.  It has a “Salt Life” sticker on the back and I have yet to figure out what that means.  There are the stickers for each of the kids, a soccer ball sticker has been on it and a university logo from some local university that slips my mind.

Now, Mind You, I am sitting in my house low in the living room and while windows are open I can not see the street or their car down the block.   I have a very vivid memory of that Burqa, er, car, and I also have a mental block.

You see every time it drives past me, I realize that some person in that car is waving at me.  I can never put to mind who that person is.   It always happens once they have completely passed me.   I think it is the fact that the minivan is so much of the background of culture that this, the only one within blocks, just immediately falls into a black hole of my mind and I simply don’t see it.

They’re great people and I truly enjoy having them and their kids as neighbors but pile them in that big blue black hole and they’re invisible!

I laugh at myself and am embarrassed to say, I just don’t see them.   Nice people though, and I’ll have to tell them this story once I get past my own shyness…

Top Ten Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog

I shamelessly copied this posting from the Senior Dogs Project who adapted it from the Labrador Retriever Rescue page.

I was surfing while watching a Britcom, and listening to my dog, Lettie, snore in her sleep.   This says much that I had said when I adopted her.  She was just past being a puppy at a year and a half and is now nine.

I’m honored to have known her these years.

Top Ten Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog

Housetrained
  
1. Older dogs are housetrained. You won’t have to go through the difficult stage(s) of teaching a puppy house manners and mopping/cleaning up after accidents.

Won’t chew inappropriate items     2. Older dogs are not teething puppies, and won’t chew your shoes and furniture while growing up.

Focus to learn     3. Older dogs can focus well because they’ve mellowed. Therefore, they learn quickly.

Know what “no” means    
4. Older dogs have learned what “no” means. If they hadn’t learned it, they wouldn’t have gotten to be “older” dogs.

Settle in with the “pack”     
5. Older dogs settle in easily, because they’ve learned what it takes to get along with others and become part of a pack.

Good at giving love     6. Older dogs are good at giving love, once they get into their new, loving home. They are grateful for the second chance they’ve been given.

WYSIWYG     7. What You See Is What You Get: Unlike puppies, older dogs have grown into their shape and personality. Puppies can grow up to be quite different from what they seemed at first.

Instant companions     
8. Older dogs are instant companions — ready for hiking, car trips, and other things you like to do.

Time for yourself     9. Older dogs leave you time for yourself, because they don’t make the kinds of demands on your time and attention that puppies and young dogs do.

A good night’s sleep    
10. Older dogs let you get a good night’s sleep because they’re accustomed to human schedules and don’t generally need nighttime feedings, comforting, or bathroom breaks.

2 For The Drive – Commission Meeting Summary

Quite a lot happened last night, the meeting ran until 10:30 which is a good judge of things.

The easiest bit first, the Stop Sign was retained on NE 7th Ave at NE 22nd Drive.  The Pedestrians and the Children of this neighborhood are safer as a result.  There was a petition of 60 neighbors presented to the Commission who felt that public safety was a higher priority than one specific person’s gripe about having to tap his brakes and stop. 

As for the Wilton Manors Main Street Two Lane Initiative, that’s still moving along.

The Commission was treated to a solid hour of citizens and business owners speaking in public comments for the Drive Initiative.  The only dissenting opinion given was Paul Kuta, who objects on Financial Grounds.   I can understand that there isn’t any money in the budget for new initiatives, but I am sure if you have read my writings you will understand that I think this is a Must rather than a Can do situation. 

The short description of the situation is that the resolution to place this on the ballot was canceled by the Commission with only one dissenting opinion, by Tom Green.  Commissioner Green believed that it should go onto the ballot in November for a referendum saying shall the city take back the drive or not.

I think what happened was that the last two weeks the Commissioners got to hear from the people in the city, and the business owners and are going to get an earful of opinions.  This process won’t stop, there seems to be a lot of momentum behind it, and the vast majority of the vocal people in the community want to see the narrowing of the drive to go through. 

I’m sure that there are some who disagree.  There are those that look at the cost and can’t find a way to fund it. 

There are those who say that they don’t want to throw more money at “Those People” who use the Drive as their play ground.

There are those who like the idea of driving through our city to get to other places and do so at speeds exceeding the speed limits.  To those I suggest Boomers or that place on Powerline – go get in a go cart and go nuts.

The consensus at this point of the Commissioners is that they need to do this plan at some level, but are not sure how to make it work.

I have pages of notes that I had taken in the meeting itself on my trusty handheld Zaurus computer.  Watching the proceedings I think I saw the consensus go from We Can’t to We Must But How. 

I stand strongly by my previous appraisal.  If we do not improve parking on the drive, some other city will realize that our business climate is tapped out and the economic engine of this little city, the entertainment district and the bars within, will wither away.  If that happens and they move to Oakland Park or Ft Lauderdale, the elected officials have themselves only to blame. 

The money can be found and must be found.  The most cost effective way is to perform Phase One of the plan and use the revenue from Phase One to prepare to perform the later phases.  That costs approximately $140,000.  The return on your investment will be the same number of parking spaces that demolishing old City Hall and building a multiple level parking garage would at $4 Million.  Chen and Associates agree with Wilton Manors Main Street that the numbers that we have come up with on Phase One are accurate but as was said on the Dais last night, The Devil Is In The Details.

Find the Money.  This is the FOURTH time this plan or similar have been presented to the Commission and Mayor since 2000.

The result of the meeting was that the question will not be on the ballot.  Not due to Intellectual Elitism but the understanding by Three of the Commissioners plus the Mayor that you just can’t pack something this complex into 70 words.   30 seconds of speech.

The plan now is to bring this all up in the Town Meeting to be held in Hagen Park June 15th, 2010.

If you live here or own a business here or just love this quirky city, make your opinion known.  In my case, I will continue to every time I get a chance.

Commission Meeting Tonight – Parking and Stop Signs

I’ll be there at City Hall, in my Semi-Assigned Seat.  How about you?

Semi Assigned… with these knees, I need to stretch out.  That’s the only thing I miss about the old chambers, that little step that I could put my left leg up…

Tonight there will be more weighty things to discuss other than my knees.  They’re going to be reviewing our stop sign at NE 7th Ave and NE 22nd Drive.  They will also be discussing Parking.  I’m sure the stop sign isn’t the most important thing, but it is certainly important enough for them to discuss and leave in place.

They also will be discussing the Parking Solution as proposed by Wilton Manors Main Street.  That is a good thing and it is a massive change to the way the city is laid out in the central business district.  The problem arose back in the bad old days when desperate to make some sort of change to Wilton Drive, they had to do something.  What they did was to widen the drive and make it easier for people to get to and from the place.   Great idea, for a starter, but the problem was that it became too successful for its own good.

Before the change, the saying as I will paraphrase Commissioner Scott Newton, You could have fired a cannon down the drive from one end to the other and never hit anyone.   Now we have a Drive with a four lane highway running down through it, inadequate parking, and it is choking on its own success.  Any given bar night (Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday Evening) the immediate neighborhood around the drive is stuffed with cars seeking parking, people walking to their destination, and people leaving after having their fun. 

The reason for the parking problem was that the design guidelines as set out in the code for the city was intended to pack in as many opportunities for retail space as possible.   Since there were no open shops or practically none in that time, parking was not considered.   We have 7 wildly popular bars on the one mile of road, and parking for approximately 130 cars.  That was by design.  

Personally I think any business who opens shop without securing parking for themselves at their own cost has to have their business plan turned down.  On the other hand, that is what code here says – open up and worry about parking later.   We all partially created the problem in order to get this place started.   The crime rate was out of control, there were no businesses, and you couldn’t walk out of your front door without taking the attitude that you may have to Duck and Cover.

Since the code worked, but was admittedly incomplete, the Plan addresses the problem.  Using the most conservative of numbers, the Plan will produce a profit within the first year, and will allow the City to improve the drive by the end of year three so that we can have parking pay for the lot on the old City Hall site, trees in the medium, and curb cut improvements that are adequate for the task.

All of that can happen if the money from parking revenue is allowed to be earmarked for the improvement of the Drive and not siphoned off for other purposes.  That will be a tempting low hanging fruit and with the large looming drop in tax revenue here I am hoping that the City will allow that revenue to remain on the tree and used for its intended purpose.  It can help other areas of the city as well, but it has to be allowed to run its course.   Three years down the line we would have a Drive brought to another level, and the discussion will be that now that we’ve got a surplus how about putting on a second level to the City Hall garage at Hagen and other improvement projects.

We just have to get through tonight. 

The other aspect of the discussion is putting this on the ballot.   I don’t believe that this is the right place for the discussion.   The Plan is an amazingly complex plan.  It requires significant understanding and discussion of the details, funding methods, and drawings.   The law in this state says that you have to state the costs and do so in a very short amount of space.   It does not require the statement that this plan will produce a surplus of money to the city nor will it allow full discussion of the benefits. 

As a resident I want this to be funded so that in no way I personally pay more in Taxes and that in no way I lose services.   I can see that being achieved in one of two ways, excluding just doing the job out of the rainy day fund since it will be so profitable.   First a Revenue Bond.  It can be set up to allow the revenue from parking created by striping the drive in the first year being earmarked to pay off the costs in the second year.   Yes, that is a big oversimplification, but that’s the very high order description.  The other second alternative is to have a special assessment or one time tax on those properties within the Entertainment District.  Tax them enough to pay for the first phase of the drive and do so based on the square footage of the buildings in the district.  I would like to see the numbers on that, but I suspect that most business owners would be willing to pay in to get the parking they need and get things moving again.

In this age of neo-conservative revisionist politics and spin doctoring that results in a right of center President being called unfairly, a Socialist, and people wanting short sound bites, the ballot is not the place to discuss complex matters.  I believe that this is not a more democratic way of making the decision and I find that admittedly ironic. 

The City has been given the opportunity to pass this sort of Plan in the past many times.  They have been urged to move forward by the business community and residents alike.   Those who are against the idea of widening the drive are out of step with the rest of the community, and need to be talked to but the plan must go through. 

If not, we’ll be back discussing this next year and the year after until someone in another city begins to get critical mass and the businesses move away.   At that point we will be scratching our heads and looking for a cannon to test Commissioner Newton’s quote.

Cherry pie for the week

Yes CHERRY PIE!!!

My favorite! 

As anyone who knows me personally will tell you, if there is something I like, I’ll try to do it myself if it is reasonable.   That would explain away a lot of this foodie nonsense that I keep posting. 

Last weekend while my friend from Key West was here, we made up an amazing Roast Beef with Port Wine Gravy meal.   We took some of the leftovers and made up a very simple pastry dough and some Cornish Pasties were the result.   Quite good but I realized that I had to make my favorite Cherry Pie.

You see the results. The crust started with Cream that was churned into Butter and Buttermilk, added salt and flour to the bowl, mixed it all together until it was like modeling clay and chilled.   Had I not churned the butter, it would have taken all of 10 minutes so far, and I’m being generous.   Making your own Pie Crusts are dead simple!

Two hours in the refrigerator to allow it to harden enough to be workable, and the crust came out.   I rolled it out until it was the right thickness, laid it out on the pie pan and formed it.   I was not really going for beauty here, but taste.   I got what I wanted.   The pie and the two little leftover jelly stuffed things went into the oven and baked.

 Here is the result.  I came to a few conclusions.   Churned butter here was not necessary.   Don’t get me wrong, the crust was amazing, but you can’t really taste the butter in this crust.  Since you get about 2 cups of butter out of four quarts of Whipping Cream, you’re basically paying $3 a pound for butter.   Save that stuff for biscuits, cookies, and other baking where the butter taste shines through.  Churned butter perfumed the house and made it out to the street with a smell that simply was amazing, but not really to the tongue.

Next time I bake a pie like this, I’ll remember to leave it in the oven just a little more.  The center of the crust on top wasn’t quite done to my standards and was just a little under done.  My mistake but it still turned out great!

I made some biscuits from the rest of the buttermilk and there are still some butter balls in the freezer.   I can see I’m going to have to thaw some of that butter out and make cookie dough or bread… I’m floating in the stuff!

The two little jelly tarts I made turned out interesting.   They too could have done with a little more oven time, but they were fine.  I have some Hurricane Jelly in the house.   A big box of those jelly packets you get in pancake restaurants is in my kitchen and I wanted to use some of that up.  I made one Grape and one Strawberry.   The ooze that got onto the pan was an interesting treat, basically it was Fruit Rollups made out of cheap jelly. 

Not as good as the Cherry Pie, but worth doing.   I’ll do it again, but for now, I have 3/4 of a pie to eat in the next few days. 

Yum!

Why question a needed Stop for Safer Neighborhoods?

Thanks to the Commission and the Mayor of the City of Wilton Manors, we had gotten our stop sign back at the intersection of NE 7th Ave and NE 22nd Drive. 

It had gotten taken down and the reason we got was because there were some traffic studies done that determined that it wasn’t needed.  Too little traffic, too many speed humps and the lot.

Rubbish.

I can sit in my rocking recliner in the front room of my house and get a clean view of the intersection.  I watch people go through there every time I use that particular chair, it can be entertaining actually.  It points out a few problems with these So Called Experts.

First and most important, they never parked a warm body at that intersection and watched how this intersection and the surrounding streets are used.  This neighborhood is used as a thoroughfare by many people going from the Shoppes of Wilton Manors to the adjacent neighborhoods just over the line in Ft Lauderdale.

ON FOOT.

Modern technology can read the car traffic but there is no way that you will get to count the number of people who walk through there ON FOOT.  Many hours there are more pedestrians that walk through that intersection than cross it with a car.   

Go ahead re-read that last sentence.  

The 800 pound Gorilla of the Wilton Manors Economy is that shopping center.   It has two LARGE bars, a very popular coffee house, some clothes stores.   A significant number of people Walk Home.  Many of them are not exactly sober when they walk through there, and others just aren’t paying attention.   This being Florida, there are inadequate sidewalks so people walk in the street.  It is an accepted fact of life here.  If you make it more difficult to go to these shops and bars, you are going to lower the taxable income of the city, and also harm the economic viability of this town.

Yes, all because of one measly stop sign that takes a mere seconds to blow through on your way to your semi gated community of Kensington Street on Townhouse Isle.

I wonder what George and Jackson of Georgies’ Alibi would think if it were put to them that way?

Second, if you don’t like the patrons of those bars and shops, consider the residents.  There are actually significant numbers of children in this neighborhood.  It is a RESIDENTIAL neighborhood despite how close it is to a dangerous four lane highway and all the COMMERCIAL activity that goes on there.  I am happy to see that my neighbor’s children are playing on my little street.   They use it to ride bikes, skate, run Remote Controlled Cars, play ball and do things that are normal in our society for children to do.  These children often have to worry about the high amount of traffic through what should be a quiet residential street, break from what they’re doing, dodge traffic that blows through that intersection and zooms up the street to where ever they are going.  The Stop Sign slows them down.  They actually do stop there.  It is having an impact, people are slowing down on NE 7th Avenue and NE 22nd Drive.  It is obvious to the neighbors who live there and overwhelmingly appreciate the fact the stop sign is there.

Furthermore, the intersection is a logical place for a stop sign.  Seeing the intersection without the sign, there was a chance to observe the normal pattern there.   People still stopped.   People then would get into an accident because they were getting rammed from behind by someone who didn’t want to stop because there was no sign there.   This behavior continued until the sign was replaced.  Having the sign there actually lowered accidents because it was respected.   It wasn’t universally respected, but people did see it and at least slow down for it while considering whether to risk getting caught breaking the law and running it.

So why question the stop sign?

Turns out that someone in the semi-gated community is bothered by it.  He now can no longer drive the three blocks down NE 7th Avenue comfortably without having to touch his break pedal.  The only way in and out of that development is to come out at the South end of NE 7th Avenue at NE 20th Street and hit the four way stop there. The street that serves that condo community is still shown as being connected.  That is because it was connected and someone in the community at the time didn’t like the fact that Those People From Outside walked through their neighborhood and sometimes caused crime. 

You know who Those People are don’t you?  Coded Language?  Seems so…

So they put up a giant and ugly Berlin Wall at the end of the condo community and cut off the few houses that are on the street that are not within the condo’s Home Owner’s Association and turned their back on the City.  They’re sticking their head in the sand and saying we can live here without interacting with the rest of the city while dictating what the rest of the city does with the traffic flow and threaten the children of the neighborhood just outside and the patrons of the shops of Wilton Drive.

It isn’t like we don’t have enough to worry about these days with the economy being wobbly and everyone wondering whether the burst housing bubble won’t pull the country from Recession to Depression.

Hopefully this will be the end of the whole Stop Sign question.   If you support it I look forward to seeing you at the Commission Meeting on Tuesday.  Oh and there’s going to be a little discussion about parking there. 

More on that parking thing later… I just needed to get this rant off my chest.

Why I don’t live on a Plantation

Not necessarily A Plantation, but Plantation.  The city in South Florida called Plantation.

Perhaps it would be better to say the Idea of Plantation.

Actually it looks like a nice tidy middle class suburb when I drive through it.  I just don’t really have a reason to be driving through it or going “there”. 

There is a state of mind in any given city.  If you live in Manhattan, you are there because you like the bright lights and big city aspect of things.   Florence, SC was a small little burg with an Old South look to it that I’d drive to and stay because it was half way to South Florida or half way home, so it had the whole small city thing going for it – if that was what you liked.

Plantation is a whole lot of suburbia here in South Florida.  It was built in the 70s as one of the OTP towns that sprung up once the cities East of I95 got full.  OTP is Over The Turnpike.   As in Way Out There.  They built their own malls, their own schools, and have a nice Brady Bunch look and feel to the place.   There are a lot of gated communities out there and I think that might be the problem I have with it.   Being a city of that era, you end up having a lot of homes that are not well designed for the environment of being in South Florida, rather being designed to be Up North.

I grew up in South Jersey, in one of the 1950s suburban tract homes that exploded out of Philadelphia onto 1/2 acre lots that took over the farms that were there before it.  It was a very Brady Bunch way of life.   The Wonder Years were my childhood.  The little pin oaks that grew there when the place was built now are 40 to 50 feet tall.  All the homes look the same-ish, differences in trim or plantings.

That is what Plantation looks like to me, Express your Individuality by living like Everyone Else.  Homes that all look somewhat The Same in Gated Communities.  Perhaps I’m wrong, and I don’t really have a good view of the place.  I Never lived there because I Never wanted to go back to Keeping Up With The Joneses. 

On the other hand, Plantation is starting to experience the same problem that all gated communities are finding.  The Barbarians are at the gate.  Where the Gates on the Community were there to keep the Barbarians (you and I who are here to live together and not apart) out, they now are finding that as people are walking away from properties, the Barbarians are now locked in.  People who are upside down on their mortgages are walking away, renting properties to who ever will pay and they’re taking a small loss in order to hang onto something while living in a smaller place.  Look up Lehigh Acres and you will see an excellent article of what happens to a gated community and the association when half of your city blows away on the trade winds.

The result is that your nice tidy Brady Bunch experience has a biker meth lab next door or worse. 

If you are living in a stereotypical gated community, you also have to deal with the Private Ownership issues such as roads which may or may not be city roads, police presence which may not happen because they’re not allowed in unless called in (See Wellington in Palm Beach County).   All of that tends to lock the problems in and make it that much worse than it would normally be.   Here, our little Police Department and Code Enforcement would find out quickly because crime does not flourish if it is able to be seen.

I live in Wilton Manors, which is a very different place than anywhere else in the world.   The people who live here actively want to be here.   The people who I run into every day actively want this city to be better tomorrow than it was today.  We work hard to make sure that the city is that way, and that shows with a strong spirit of activism and volunteerism.   All this hard work shows in crime stats that are “normal” for the country and 1/3 of that of a neighborhood that is just a short 10 minute walk South.  Neighbors talk, and problems get known quickly.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a gated community, you are not fortunate enough to live in Wilton Manors, except that silly little Jenada Isle, whose gate is all show.  You can drive through there at any time you like.  I think next time, I’ll park my Jeep at a convenient spot and use the little community to skate since it is much easier to get to than driving up to the airpark in Pompano.  That little triangle of land is easy to carve out a mile course and during the day I could go nuts doing 20 laps of it.

I guess this rant is a whole lot of To Each His Own, but I think the whole Gated Community experience is highly overrated, and if you have a lot of them in one area it is easy to generalize.  This housing bubble that has just burst turned a lot of things on their heads, and I think paying for a big fancy fountain and guard house is one of those things that will go away for a while.  

Why pay to a Home Owners Association when you are already paying taxes for the same services provided by the city?  You aren’t going to get a discount on taxes are you?