Gmmxie Google Doodle and a Happy New Year

Its another weird google doodle.  At least they’re topical. 

Ok in case you saw it and didn’t realize what it meant, in short it’s a Happy New Year wish from Google to the users of the world.

G
MMXI
E

Still don’t get it? 

Ok MMXI Is the Roman Numeral for 2011 –

MM is 2000
X is 10
I is 1

The fireworks will also clue you in especially if you live in South Florida.   We don’t seem to have any “official” firework celebration in Wilton Manors tonight, but all the same you will see plenty.  The neighbors seem to set them off early and well into the night. 

Luckily Mrs Dog’s Selective Deafness means that she won’t be quite as rattled by whistles, screams and booms as she was in the past.  A 10 year old border collie who used to be very aware of what I’d say to her had to be called five times this morning after being allowed to water the St Augustine Grass before the sun came up this morning… not like it used to be.

So a Happy New Year to all of you.  I’m saying good riddance to 2010, watering the grass legally both by well water and by dog, and will be enjoying the fireworks.

After all what guy doesn’t like a good loud BOOMing fireworks display?

Once we’ve had enough of that, there’s also the “flash mob” at the bars on Wilton Drive.

There will be a New Years Celebration at the Shoppes of Wilton Manors tonight.  The City Commission and the Mayor seem to think that they may be able to stop festivals by ignoring them, but when thousands of people have decided you are having a party, you are having a party.  I’m not quite sure what it will be but there were posters up about Times Square on the Drive with New York vendors and a large screen TV to broadcast the Ball Drop at Midnight. 

My house being so close means I’m going to enjoy the party and maybe you will be there… say hi if you see me…

How Did You Celebrate Good Riddance Day?

On December 28, 2010, in Times Square, New York City, People were able to celebrate Good Riddance Day.

Good riddance day is a day where you were to gather up your old mementos and take them down to the big shredder truck and have them mulched into oblivion.   Nothing like a little bit of revisionist history to salve the soul, right?

It’s not a bad idea.  Cintas was there with a big truck that you could dump old pictures and have them shredded as well as old love letters and other paper objects.  The idea is that you put all those bad old memories into the box and they come out ready to be recycled. 

I remember seeing this sort of thing in a sitcom years ago.  The female lead had just broken up with the boyfriend and instead of cutting his face out of all of the pictures, or using wite-out to blot him out, she gathered up all of the bits and pieces like pictures and letters as well as a teddybear or two and put them into a trash can.  If I remember the story right, she set the can in the middle of the room, tossed in a match and of course the fire got out of control.

This being a sitcom, the woman hooked up with the fireman who came to put out the fire.

Repeat after me… Awwww how cute.

That moment of “squee” aside, its not a terrible idea if it helps you to move on to purge the physical echos of a bad memory.  While you’re at it, it is also a good idea to grab those old bank receipts from the 1900s and shred those.  Anything older than 8 years is of questionable worth anyway other than Deeds or Titles.  You certainly don’t want to shred your mortgage paperwork until the debt has been cleared, but the Charge bills from your trip to the Beach back in 2001 is not really needed.

I just had this mental thought of hundreds of jilted New York women standing in line with big boxes of papers commiserating over their old relationships and vowing to start fresh in 2011.

Like many people, I’ve said good riddance to the last few years.  Between world politics, local politics, and other disappointments, things in general have gone with the economy on the broad view.  That is to say, not very well. 

But hopefully we can all just say Good Riddance to it all and 2011 will be the beginning of the next great boom in the economy.  

Sure, and we’ll finally be able to come up with a fair progressive tax policy in the US and the world will be full of butterflies and teddybears.

Ok, the butterflies are plentiful in this part of the world at least.   Just yesterday I was out inspecting the flowers and saw another Monarch Caterpillar on the Mexican Milkweed and …

Going away? Don’t be obvious online!

Since Facebook has become the fad of the decade, the CB Radio of the new Millennium, everyone has jumped on here.   I’ve been fortunate to be able to keep in contact with my family up North, and my friends here in town, as well as those who have moved away.

Social Media is a great way to stay in touch and let those who you care about be involved with your daily life and life’s milestones.

There is a problem with that.  Some folks aren’t quite so honest.

There is a trend with criminals to watch Facebook, MySpace, Tagged and many other social media for those who are and who will be out of town.  Once you say “Hey, I’m going on Vacation”, you may as well put up a sign on the front door saying “Out of town, Help Yourself!”.

Lately there have been a spate of robberies of homes by people saying that they’ve taken the dream vacation.  The vacation was wonderful, we all were entertained with your pictures, but when you got home, we also shared in your loss of your household items.

Being a bit of a security nut, I do not respond to party announcements online openly.   E-Invites are a great way to send out invitations to a lot of your friends, however they fall into the same bucket.  When 150 people know that you are out of the house from 7pm to Midnight for the New Years Party, someone in that list may be considering that the invitation to your new 46 inch flat screen may be just a bit too tempting.

Ok, maybe I am a bit too careful, but these stories are hitting the press a bit too frequently.  Today, there was a write up in the BBC about this happening in the UK.  I have read about this in the local papers in the US as well. 

Unfortunately you can only see the story in the BBC if you are in the UK or have a proxy pointing you there, but here is the link anyway.

Modern life is complex enough, hopefully it won’t get any worse by your coming back from vacation and finding your keepsakes gone. 

The New Jeep Egret

Generally I don’t like things on my car.  This particular critter I could not bring myself to evict.

I saw out of the corner of my eye a bright white flash.  The weather has been cold, but brilliantly clear.  Looking over at the Jeep that graces my driveway I saw this particular character sunning itself on the soft top.

Having two different emotions I did the right thing, I grabbed the camera. 

The Jeep is an older one, 9 model years old, and for the most part it sits under cover.  The threads that hold the tan vinyl top together are aging and on the stress points, some of them have popped.  The rain won’t get in the car and even if it did, it won’t be the first time.  Mostly, Jeeps are built to be water resistant.  Where a “Normal” car would short out in a rain storm with open windows, I’ve driven mine through a thunderstorm being saturated with the roof down.  There were no bridges to hide under on that particular day after all.

There are no clouds today, or when I took this picture.  The egret visited the roof of my Jeep today, and yesterday.  Since it was a little warmer today, it decided that the front yard would be a better resting place, so it stayed under the tree in the front of the yard.

Some Florida homes have plastic pink flamingos.  I have a white snowy egret that visits me in front.  The back yard has its Bougainvilleas. In that back yard plant, the rock doves shelter there watch me with their beady little eyes screaming “MEH! MEH!”.  I prefer the Egret.  They’re silent and merely look regal instead of stupidly judging you with a MEH as they fly off.

When the Dog tells you It’s Too Cold

39 Degrees is cold in anybody’s book.   Or rather it should be.  If you paid attention in Science Class, you will remember that 39 Degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature that water is the densest.  If it gets warmer, it expands.  If it gets colder it expands then freezes. 

It was colder outside today than it was in my refrigerator.

It was so cold that the dog told me so.

We have lived here for more than four years.  Mrs Dog knows the neighborhood well and we have a route that we walk three times a day most days.  It gives her the mental stimulation she needs to be… well not mental.  Border Collies need that or else they chew up the house, bark incessantly, or just generally become a nuisance.  She enjoys walking past the bars and being told that she’s beautiful because she is.  She enjoys hearing about this person’s dog up in Ohio that they miss because they had to leave it with the maiden aunt down the road.

I could walk the route behind her without a leash and she wouldn’t mind.  I wouldn’t do that because she’s losing her hearing and becoming selectively deaf but that’s beside the point.  The point is that she knows this particular part of Florida very well.  There’s a point in the walk she will tug to tell me that she wants to go for the Long Walk and I’m trying to turn because it’s 6:30 in the morning and I haven’t had breakfast and want to go home.

You see, that is the point.  She likes to be out.  This seems to have changed with the cold snap that we’ve finally gotten.  South Florida was warned to duck and cover and this would be a cold one.  There were Hard Freeze Warnings for every single county in Florida the other day.  That includes Mainland Monroe county – which also contains the Keys.  They were excluded, but the mainland wasn’t. 

I don’t know if it really did get to freeze in Mainland Monroe County, but our thin blood thought so. 

Once we were out in our Winter Survival Gear, we realized that the 30 degrees of Cold Tolerance that we lost since moving here was evident.   Add to the 39 Degree “chill” a 12 MPH constant wind and gusts that took things above 20 MPH and you get the picture.  I was walking and talking to Lettie and telling her that she was better suited to the weather than I am because she had a fur coat but there are parts that had to be freezing and exposed.

That was when I was surprised by her insight.  I got to the end of the shopping center near the house and she turned behind it and headed home.  Directly.  This dog who loves a long walk more than anything else it seems, had had enough of her “lady parts” being frozen off and turned home.   I hadn’t realized until then that she was slowing down rapidly and it all became evident.  This is the same dog who in a 7 Degree Above Zero Blizzard in Philadelphia would walk behind me in my lee in order to stay out of the wind.  She’s not a “Dumb Animal” at all.

The minute that Mrs Dog got home, she curled up on the mat as tight as she could and conserved as much warmth as possible.  

So when your dog tells you that it is too cold outside there really is only one thing you can do.  Listen!

Palms Swaying Backwards

Yes, they really can sway backwards, but it depends on just how you define “backwards”.

In this case, the palms are a symptom of a weather front.  Up North from Boston to North Carolina, they’ve gotten significant snowfalls.  There are road closures all over the place, it’s generally a great day to stay home all along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Here, the result is that as the front came through over night, the temperatures held steady until the morning.  We had some light showers, or rather showers that weren’t heavy enough to wake me or the dog.  The roads were covered with a sheen of rain water, and my car that I carefully washed the day before now has water drops on it. 

That’s what I get for leaving it out of the Car Port to serve as a Tourist Block for my driveway on a Bar Night.

It is windy now, and quite grey.  Most of the homes around here of this vintage have jalousie windows.  Get too close to one on a windy day and you’ll learn why they get replaced.  I was standing in my laundry looking for some items next to the door and I felt the breezes coming in from outside.  Those windows are not very efficient at keeping the weather out, but in an area where power outages happen frequently and the majority of the time you’re trying to keep the box of rocks cooler than outside rather than warmer, they’re frightfully practical.

Instead of sitting on a beach, in the sun, watching the palms overhead, from a hammock, I’m indoors on a big green chair looking at a patch of areca palms that are leaning toward me rather than away in the breezes.

It could be worse.  I could be trapped in a hotel in Dumfries, VA near Washington, DC.  It is a long way to drive in weather like they got up there and while it is only 3-5 inches of snow that was predicted.  That was yesterday and now the total accumulation predicted to be around 9 inches in DC.   If you extend your travels south to Raleigh NC, they’re predicting up to 8 inches. 

I’ve driven in bad weather down I-95 before, a number of times.  It was always a bad choice.  One car hitting the snow will compact it more and more until you get a corrugated washboarded road bed full of ice and treachery.

To get below the Snow, you have to travel to South Carolina and then you find Ice.

So palms swaying backwards are not so bad.  It will be back to normal for the New Years Weekend.  If you’re already here on vacation, enjoy.  Just don’t laugh too hard at us Floridians.  Our blood has thinned to water.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Shopping Day

Now that you’ve opened your new shiny toys what are you going to do with them?

Many people will have gotten things that can be upgraded.  Computers mainly, but there are other items you might need like cables and so forth that you are considering.   Having just gone through that with my neighbors, Mother and Son both getting each other PCs for the holidays, I was asked by both what they may need to use it “better”.

The answer is another question – how exactly do you intend to use the thing.  Almost all PCs out of the box are set up with a lot of crapware, trial software and annoyances that once you remove them they go faster.  The exception seems to be the Thinkpad from Lenovo and the Dell Business PCs.  Luckily one of those machines across the street is a Dell Business, the other was a Dell Home.  The difference was night and day.

If you are going to use it to Surf the Web, do Emails, get onto a site like Facebook or any of the other social networking sites, some word processing and spreadsheets, maybe get your finances done, Stop Here.  You’re probably good to go with that new shiny computer as it was out of the box.   Maybe stop into a big box store and get some of those memory sticks so you can store your documents and save the money.  Take your family out to dinner with the savings and enjoy your new PC.

But if you’ve decided that you’re going to upgrade that new shiny little PC then today and tomorrow especially and through until the new year will be good times to shop.  You just have to remember to look online and look aggressively.  Don’t go to the first big box store’s website and pull out the credit card.  One And Done online means you’re probably spending more than you should.

I was looking at the online shopping sites and there are a lot of liquidation sales going on, and thought about upgrading one of my PCs since it is the one I use for graphics production.  The memory I need is now $29 a stick for 2GB sticks so for $60 I could have 4GB of memory to wallow around in.  Great, I know that Windows 7 64 Bit will work with that memory and help my video editing and graphics production go faster. 

How do you know if your computer will accept that much memory even at a “liquidation price”?

On Windows, click start and find the “run” box.   Type in the run box “winver” and hit enter.  It will come up and tell you what your machine is running, and may give you more information.  If it says 64 Bit anywhere, you can install as much as your machine will accept – and by now you realize that you will have to find out from your manufacturer by digging into their support sites whether the machine will handle what you intend to upgrade to.  Go ahead and search… you’ll need to know.

If you did look and found out you can put in 4GB or 8GB then you may be able to upgrade safely. 

If you have 32 bit windows – it doesn’t say 64 bit anywhere in that little windows, you are limited to accessing 3GB of memory.  Don’t go past it because you’re wasting  your money.

There are a couple of other “don’t bother” things to worry about. 

If your new PC is a Netbook it will be very difficult physically to upgrade.  Some of the older ones even had the only memory stick it had soldered to the machine.  Research this and find out whether it is worth the effort.  Netbooks are notorious for being very flimsy – you may get that machine open and never get it working again.  A Netbook simply is not a Thinkpad, they are built for the absolute bottom rung of the market to be sold at a cheap price.  They’re the feeder fish of the PC Aquarium.  Great for note taking but don’t expect to even use the thing for watching HD Video online.

If you see “Windows 7 Starter Edition” when you started the machine up or looked in winver – don’t go above 2GB of memory since it won’t address it.  Spend your money on an upgrade to Windows 7 Home or Windows 7 Professional if you’re going to use it on a work network with a domain.  Windows 7 has the “Windows Anytime Upgrade” wizard that will do it all automatically, then once your machine is upgraded to a “real” version of Windows, you can fully decide if you want to go with more memory.  Keep in mind, your machine will run Windows 7 Professional slowly if you only have 1GB of memory.  I have a 3 year old Thinkpad that is running Windows 7 Pro with 2GB and it is acceptable and that machine’s hardware is still being sold new.

Now that you have negotiated all the Gotcha’s where do you find the sales?

I started looking at www.dealnews.com and www.techbargains.com and found that www.geeks.com is running a sale as well as www.frys.com and www.microcenter.com which is a good start. 

Dealnews and Techbargains are a good start since they go out and find all those discounts for you and cut some of the work out.  They are those aggregator sites that I was talking about.  They also make sure that the vendors that they are listing are valid and will show you discount codes that may get you free shipping or another discount on top.

Once you order, and the piece arrives, then the fun begins.  If this is all over your head, find yourself a 15 year old kid that will do it for you or throw some money at your neighborhood PC shop.  It may be worthwhile to have someone else do the research for you and just pull the parts out of their parts drawer instead of doing it yourself. 

For the most part, I’ve had good luck finding on places like www.youtube.com instructional videos of how to pull apart machines, upgrade them, and do all sorts of repairs.  If you can find an appropriate video, it will be worth your viewing time.

There you go!  Are you confused yet?  Good and good luck!

A Visit to Grandma’s Garden

Yesterday I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Grandma’s Garden.

Grandma in this case is my Godmother Kathie and her husband Larry who live up in a gated community in the “village” of Wellington, FL.

The visit was our Xmas visit, we were to go out to lunch at a local restaurant, but I had to be On Time since Larry couldn’t linger.  Unfortunately he had a Funeral to go to and since they’re rarely a pleasant thing, we left for the restaurant almost immediately after my driving up to their place.

As pleasant as Grandma’s Garden is, getting there is unpleasant. I have to ask South Florida have you lost your mind?  I could easily make a nice living writing traffic violations everywhere in between Wilton Manors and Wellington.  I’ve grown used to seeing people not even pretend to see a stop sign.  I am convinced that the mark of a bad driver is the Mercedes Benz nameplate on a car, as well as BMW and Lexus.  Add to all of this, I watched a Delray Beach Police Cruiser speed past me on 441 just to pull into a shopping center and get out to get into a fast food restaurant when I caught up with him later.

All of that aside, my family is a wonderful group of people, and I truly don’t visit them long enough or often enough.  It is a 50 mile one way trip, and that is just long enough to make it an annoying trip no matter whether I am being passed by hungry police, or have neighbors in a Mercedes Benz trying to cut me off while merging into traffic on Powerline road.

Hey Mercedes Drivers here’s a hint… If I’m in front of you, I have the right of way.  Furthermore, if you’re in Wilton Manors on NE 26th St near the Library and the Elementary School and you are behind me, I’m driving 30MPH or less because of the safety issues that we have here.  Tailgating me only makes me slow down.  That particular driver of the Silver C Class was a neighbor from the Central Neighborhood who I have seen around many times before acting like… well a Mercedes Driver.

I’ll allow you to use the appropriate four letter word, I try to keep this blog Safe For Work.

At the restaurant we spent a pleasant half hour in the shade of the building eating our lunches and discussing the changes of the world, and making some rather complete plans on how to do things as diverse as restructuring the economy, the demise of the political system into one party in the United States, and of course how to make a perfect cup of coffee using the Turkish Method.

Boil water, add four scoops of espresso grounds to 16 ounces of boiling water, stir for 30 seconds, rest for 30, stir for 30 more and allow to sit for a minimum of 3 minutes.  Strain the coffee, or just pour it until you start to see more grounds than you prefer.  Sweeten and Cream to taste.

After all of that, Kathie and I climbed into the dusty old Jeep Wrangler to go back to Grandma’s Garden.  Every time we visit, we have the chance to walk through and see what changes she has seen over the years.  Larry and Kathie are fortunate enough to have a home that backs up to a Nature Preserve.  It is an unnamed little area, and is expected to be left as Nature Intended It.  That means don’t plant hibiscus in it, don’t mow the grass down… in short leave it completely untended.  Since Wilma went though I have watched the area rebound and begin to green up.  The citrus trees that the neighbors have planted to the edge of the area may be ragged, but the palms and sawgrass are coming back and it is harder to see the homes on the other side.

However there is a little garden that borders the “non-property” that Larry and Kathie and the neighbors have maintained of mostly Florida Native species.  Kathie proudly pointed out that the plants that were added since they have come to live in this little patch of South Florida are mostly Natives and told the story of how they are watching the Landscapers from the Home Owner’s Association to make sure that the weed killers they use are not used on the Natives.

The Coleus won’t go in that plot, they’re reserved for their little walkway by the cracked stone in front of the house.  We are replenishing our own little corners of the world each in our own way.  Taking cuttings with us as we go back and forth, she sent me home with some cuttings of a native plant that was encroaching on the walk way.  I was told to make sure it was truly a Native since she was proud to give me something from her world and suggested I show it to M.E. De Palma for her park.

All of her cuttings are in Wellington waiting to root, and mine are gracing the window waiting for that time as well.  For now, we will wait to see what survives the next cold snap.

An Emergency Coleus Delivery

A side effect that we’ve had with all this cold weather that we had last week and will have again next week is that a lot of the Exotic Species have died off. 

The last time I saw an Iguana in my neighborhood was before the last cold snap, last winter.  The last cold snap was just about as cold so I suspect that most are gone.  We’ll never get rid of the things but here’s hoping.

I noticed that my Poinsettias in the yard were a little freezer-burned with the edges of the leaves being crispy.  They were in excellent color, but the things are damaged.  A lot of plants have the same problem being plants from a full tropical area. 

I’m in an area that is not supposed to freeze, but I am on the Northern and Western fringe of that area.   The wind blows normally off the ocean and I can tell that the winds are correct today because the trees are bending in the breezes to the West.  That will keep our area a degree or two warmer than the areas over West of I-95.  Move much further inland and there’s the bottom of the zone that can see frost, although it really does depend on the wind direction.  If it is coming from the North instead of the East, it is entirely possible we’ll have strange cold spots in places like Plantation. 

Go even further out to Sunrise or Weston and the Everglades will moderate the temperatures warmer in Winter. 

Got all that?  No problem… I didn’t think so either.  Weather is a subtle thing.  If you go just a little bit in one direction you will find a place that is consistently a degree or two warmer or colder and that can mean the difference of a plant surviving or not. 

Where I lived in Philadelphia I was considering to try to grow a palm tree.  They will grow outside if you have one of two species where I was at, Saw Palmetto or a Needle Palm.  Move to the bottom of that hill or to the East and there were six palms that would survive a sheltered spot over winter.  They won’t grow fast but you will have bragging rights that you too can grow a Needle Palm in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Here my most fragile plant is the Coleus.   I grew whole bunches of the things in offices and indoors over the years up North, and they’re all over the place here.   The plants can’t really survive just a few miles North, they’ll get frosted over in a cold snap if they’re exposed. 

All of the Coleus I have are from clippings, and I just break a piece off and stick it in the ground where the sprinkler can find them and hope they take.  Mostly they do. 

In the last cold snap I didn’t lose any but some of the more exposed ones look more ragged than I’d prefer.  This morning walking outside to look at the Screw Palms and Poinsettias that I keep sticking into the ground to make sure they survive, I noticed that they all looked fine.   I came back in thinking that the Coleus looked Leggy and needed a trim but didn’t think too much about it.

Then after checking the Email this morning, I had a message from my Godmother.  Seems like up in Wellington which is about 60 miles North and 15 miles inland, it got too cold for them.  I had a request for an Emergency Coleus replenishment shipment.   So along with the Coffee and Cookies, I  will be bringing up for Xmas three varieties of Coleus Cuttings stuffed into an old Parfait glass.

Driving a Jeep with a giant feather duster worth of Green and Red foliage will be interesting but they’ll make it.  Most importantly it will make someone who I care deeply about very happy.

Now just how will I secure those silly things?

Triaging the Gingerbread Man Amputee Ward

After making all this food, somebody has to eat it, right?

I was sitting at the dining room table having lunch and thinking just that.  Working my way through an excellent-if-I-do-say-so-myself BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwich I surveyed the damages of the holidays. 

On the table is two bags of Gingerbread Cookies.  Wonderful things, but after you’ve had an army of them march through your front door on the way to parties along with Pizelles, Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies, Pecan Brittle, and other home baked wonders, you end up with the leftovers.

Gingerbread cookies are a tricky thing to prepare.  Having watched three batches of the things march their way outside to do battle with the belt line since the holidays got into full swing, I came to realize that it is a wonder that you ever see them in a shop at all.  If done correctly, this recipe tends to be a little soft.  I like soft cookies, in fact I prefer them over crunchy ones for the most part. 

The problem is that Gingerbread Men have little dangly bits hanging off their torso.  Now, do get your mind out of the gutter, the dangly bits I’m talking about are the arms, legs, and head.  You roll the dough out while it is cold, use the cutter to make a large cookie of around 4 ounces, then gingerly slide them onto the baking parchment.  If they break while you are moving them, just wad them back up to be rolled out later because they just won’t bake back into one piece without having that break become the death of that ginger-man in transit. 

The trick of getting these off the parchment paper is minimal in comparison to getting them to the destination in one piece.  You see, they will break if you look at them crosseyed.   If you make them thicker it is an invitation to leftovers because they’re quite massive.  This explains well enough why commercial gingerbread men are usually hard enough to break a molar since they want to be able to sell them instead of discounting body parts.

I just weighed one and it came out to 4 ounces which would place it at a minimum of 440 calories per.  Watching the scale inch it’s way upward since October, I’ll be weighing out portions from now on out.

That little recovery ward is a bit too accessible.  Ginger Body Parts easily pop in the mouth every time you pass the table giving a spicy and sweet lift.  Meant as a conscious treat, they’ve become a subconscious necessity. 

Thankfully the holiday season is winding down.   I got to visit the Oakland Park, FL main post office on Oakland Park Blvd. yesterday and shipped off a box full of goodies to my sister.  There will be no Gingerbread body parts shipped though.   Last year the pizelles that I sent up there became pizelle flour because I didn’t use anything to stop the motion.  This year the box is chock full of goodies again, but each type is isolated somehow from the rest. 

Only two more pounds of cookies are to be baked from the original batches.  I know where they’re going and I’ll be baking one more time before the weekend.  I’ll just have to make sure that I don’t leave them on the Dining Room Table. 

The Gingerbread Men may be jealous.