Industrial Amaryllis – Picture

In my yard I have a lot of plants that would normally be considered an indoor plant anywhere colder.

There’s a phrase about the tropics.  If you drop a seed on the ground it will grow.  Pretty much anywhere.

I have Mother in Law tongue under my hedges despite my best efforts to get rid of them.  Scrub palms in the margins along with Asparagus Ferns, and a lot of strange plants that I would like to know the story of. 

This picture has me scratching my head.  On the side of my house there is a little pathway.  It’s a quiet little corner, tucked away from view.  My bedroom window opens onto it and I see a fence.  All of about 10 feet wide, there really is nothing there but the air conditioning compressor and the irrigation equipment. 

This little spot isn’t exactly what you think of when you think of Clean Green Florida as the road maps used to call it back-in-the-day.  

Behind the equipment, one of the previous owners planted a flower.  This Amaryllis comes up every year, and blooms.  If you are looking for a better description of the old saying “Bloom where you are planted” I can’t think of one. 

There are a couple red amaryllis on the property.  Each are planted in strange spots that I have to watch for when I’m out there gardening.  This one is behind the irrigation valves, and you have to know it is there to see it.  Another is behind a light pole and under the hedges just in a spot that the weed eater gets every time no matter how careful I am. 

But strangeness of place aside, their beauty never fails to please, it never fails to surprise, and it never fails to make you anticipate the day that Mother Nature takes what you give her and returns your care with great results.

A Cardiologist’s Funeral – Humor

A good friend Diane is recuperating in the local version of Shady Pines.  The place reminds me of the series Golden Girls where they kept threatening Sophia, the oldest in the group, to be sent to the home when she was just a little too feisty. 

Heck, the place is even called Manor Pines!

In the case of Diane, she’s way too feisty to be held down, even in jest, for very long. 

Our Diane is well known for her jokes.  Rarely are there any that we could tell in church….

… that is just the way we like her.

I don’t think she will get a chance to read this until she’s at home healthy so if you haven’t gone to visit her, you’ll have to tell her this joke… everyone… over and over.  I am sure she’ll blame me for it.

In the case of this joke, it’s from my sister, Pat… and I thought I’d borrow it.

A very prestigious cardiologist died, and was given a very elaborate
funeral by the hospital he worked for most of his life.

A huge heart…covered in flowers stood behind the casket during the
service.
 
All the doctors from the hospital sat in awe.
 
Following the eulogy, the heart opened, and the casket rolled inside.
 
The heart then closed, sealing the doctor in the beautiful heart forever..

At that point, one of the mourners just burst into laughter. 
With all eyes staring at him, he said, I am so sorry, I was just thinking of my own
funeral… 
I‘m a gynecologist.
 
The proctologist fainted.

Faster Defrosting Meats for Immediate Use

I do it this way all the time, and yes, I am being VERY specific with my phrasing.  Like anything on the internet, it is always At Your Own Risk… on the other hand, there’s a big silver pan of water thawing out my lunch right now.

If you are running late and have a Steak, Chicken Parts, Pork Chops, and need to defrost them for the grill, here is a simple way to do it. Usually for steaks or a package of hot dogs, it will take about an hour and you’re ready for the grill.

Obviously you don’t want to do this if you are planning on letting it sit around. 

It also does not work as well with larger meats such as a whole chicken or a large roast but it will help speed things up some.

First you will need a large bowl or clean your sink out of dishes and left over “stuff”.  I usually scour mine until the Stainless Steel shines with soap and a scrubby pad.  The volume of the bowl should be large enough that you can fit the meat in the bowl with no piece of meat covering any other and no meat should be exposed to the air by hanging over the edges.

Second you will need your meat.  I’ll let you choose what kind you will be using.  The meat should be either cutlets, or individual steaks, or parts, chops … that sort of thing.  In the case of what is working for me now are individual steaks that are wrapped.  They’re going on the grill for lunch.

Third you need plastic bags.   Paper will not work.  These should be ideally water tight however a little leakage won’t really be a harm.  The bags should be large enough to fit one of the pieces of meat in it without rolling it up.  The idea is to get as much surface area in contact with the plastic bags.  You can put more than one piece in a bag, but make sure they can lay flat inside and are not piled up on top of each other.  It’s that surface area thing.

Now, take the meat and insert it into the bags.  Tie the bag so that they’re closed up.  If the meats are already sealed inside of their own pre-fab vacuum packaging, they are already sealed and it works this way as well.

Fill the bowl or sink with water.  It should be enough for you to submerge the bag in the water.  It doesn’t have to be filled and I always use cool water.  If the water is hot, you are risking bacterial growth. 

Next, submerge the bag in the water.  Saw that coming huh?

If the bags float you probably have too much air in the bags, so let the air out.

That’s pretty much it.  You may want to set a timer.  Check it in 15-30 minutes, and if they’re properly thawed you can just put the meat in the refrigerator until you are ready.  Today, I had two 5 ounce steaks in about 1/2 gallon of water.  The steaks were frozen at 0F.  It took 15 minutes to come up to “thawed” temperature.

How this works is simple, just like the ice cubes in your drink on a warm day, the pieces of meat are trying to cool down the water to freezing.  Water holds heat energy better than meat does.  The end result is that the water pulls the cold out of the meat and keeps cool.  The average temperature seeks that of the average of the mass. 

I will let you know about that steak and Au gratin potatoes later if you ask…

Breast Milk Ice Cream

I was reading through this morning’s articles and noticed a write up about Breast Milk Ice Cream on The BBC.  I read the article and shuddered thinking as apex “predators” human beings pick up a lot of nasty chemicals through the course of the day.  Lately with the comments about Tuna Fish being a Once A Week food because of the amounts of Mercury, I count myself lucky that I don’t have a deadly Peanut Allergy and can eat a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich on Banana Bread for Lunch if I like.

Yes, it is before lunch and I’m already plotting out the day’s menu.

If you think about all of the chemicals we are exposed to in the course of the day, how long they take to get out of our system, and how many artificial colours and flavours we take in, the stuff just flat out can not be organic or even pure.  Breast Milk Ice Cream could even be classified as a toxic substance it the source lived in certain places where there is a lot of heavy metals in the soil or a high pollution level. 

It’s geared for babies as well.  There are some certain definite benefits to breastfeeding an infant, so why take the next step and proceed into this step?

The mothers are given 15 Pounds Sterling, about $20 US for 10 ounces of milk.  That makes the stuff pretty expensive when you think of the “wholesale cost” of the ingredients. 

Free Range Mother’s Milk in a nation that has more than the average Cancer Clusters throughout would be a questionable treat for me, but I suppose that you will see Andrew Zimmern show up there some day for Bizarre Foods, London.

The Baker in me on the other hand has me wondering about how the ingredients would churn into butter… and then my mind slips onto what else are passed through Bodily Fluids and it stops right there.

No thanks!

Is it Interference or is it in the Driveway

I listen to a lot of music while I do my thing.  I listen to music from many different cultures, many different languages.  If it bounces I will probably like it.

Early this morning I put on my headphones and I thought I heard some buzzing.  These are some “Refurbished” noise canceling headphones that I got at a deal for $17.  Living in a noisy environment, I hear a lot of oddball noises from the neighbor chasing after the dog that gets loose at least every other day, to the airplanes going to FLL or FXE, to the railroad thinking that it’s appropriate to blow the whistle when they go through South Middle River Terrace at 5AM until they cross through my town and into Oakland Park.

Ok, the railroad only did that once.   I have to assume someone was on the tracks when they should not be.

I started with the headphones that dropped the noises by 1/2, then switched on the noise canceling and lost another 1/2 and put on some “Euro Dance” station on www.di.fm while beginning the morning routine.  I had the feed on for over an hour before I got to the point where I considered another mug of coffee – being in the “Disco Cave” with these headphones helps you to lose track of time easily.

After the coffee, it went another hour of bouncing with an occasional phrase being said in different languages, not always my own.  The windows are open in the house, and while you snowbirds come down here for the weather, having the treat of them open is something to look forward for us Floridians.

They do bring the sounds and smells of the city in on the air, like the police siren that is playing in time with the 4/4 beat – just like in the clubs.  This one was real because I just watched the WMPD cruiser go past the house.

I sit low in my seat with my laptop on my left leg warming it somewhat, the music thumping in the deep background.  It’s a rather nice way to slog through the morning job search of what has grown to 160 web pages of jobs in the area.   When your city has a 15% unemployment rate, and many jobs posted to the job boards, you have a lot to go through – at least 3 hours on a slow day.  The music definitely helps and I choose it to help when I’m working on the web sites that I work on, or some of the work I do on Social Media and Search Engine Optimization.

This particular piece of music had some phrases being spoken.  It started as unintelligible babble that gradually got louder and solidified itself into a conversation.  Looking up over the Mac laptop that I am reinstalling for a client, I realized that there was an argument in loud Haitian Creole taking place.

The strange thing was that in all of South Florida, these two loud women decided that they would drive their cars to Wilton Manors, down my street and park one in my driveway.   When the driver of car number two though she’d add some strength to her argument and leap out of her car, I decided it was time to act.

No, I didn’t go outside and scare them, nor did I turn the sprinklers on or anything that assertive.  I merely said four words.

“There’s Someone In Here”

Loud enough for them to hear it completely stopped the “discussion” dead in their tracks.   The one who lept out of the car raced around the back of the old Toyota Camry with the Jesus Saves stickers all over it, apologizing all the way, lept back into the car and drove off leaving the other loud Haitian woman standing in my driveway on the phone yelling at someone else and looking confused and foolish.

She then got into her old Toyota Camry and drove off after the other woman, head scarf flapping in the breezes.

Do they ever drive anything other than Toyota Camrys or Mini-vans?

I’m so happy they chose to brighten my morning.  It was an amusing episode that led me to do one important thing…

I changed the music to an instrumental Trance channel on www.di.fm – if I hear voices again I’m calling the front desk at City Hall.  They’re nice people there.  I wonder if they’ll mind if I put a gate up?

Devil Ducks on Wilton Drive

One of the things you do when you have a convertible car is to debate whether to leave it locked or not. 

I have a Jeep, although this one is not mine.  The roof is basically vinyl held together with marine thread and the windows are a thick clear plastic that is now scratched over 8 years of use.

I call it Saran Wrap and Velcro.

Not meant to do more than keep the rain or the sun off of you, it’s not the most secure vehicle on the planet. 

I will tell you that they’re a blast to drive. 

This is my third.  I used to keep a fabric Gecko on the dash, made with a filling of little metal balls, it held things in place as I bounced through the open air. 

For the most part, the safest way to keep your “open car” is with an alarm set, nothing in it you wouldn’t mind losing, glove box open, and the doors unlocked.  Let them get in, look around, realize it’s a waste of time, and they move on.  When I lived in Philadelphia, people slashed my windows to get at what wasn’t in the car after the alarm went off.   Having “more than some” graphics arts skills, I made up a sign that looked like a child wrote it on the computer that said “No Money in Car and No Radio in Car” with a picture of the car next to it.

It never got molested again.

Luckily here, right in the heart of Wilton Manors, things are for the most part safe.  This particular person with their Devil Ducks had their Jeep completely open for the span of the afternoon.  I should know, I walked past it twice. 

It’s the Security By Obscurity mindset.  Let them think nothing is there and you won’t be bothered.   Hide things in plain sight.

Oh and my particular Jeep?  I have a stereo in it, but every time I leave that face plate is in my pocket with all the rest of the crap I bring with me.  Right now in the driveway, it sits with literally nothing but dirt in the ashtrays since I do not smoke.   Usually I disable the car so that it can not be started since I never drive the thing.  There’s this one engine Master Fuse that I can pop off the housing and I’m safe.. its just a big planter made in Toledo.

Now, if I lived in Fort Lauderdale, only five blocks away, I doubt I would have been left to keep my Jeep.  South Middle River Terrace scares me…

A Night at the Art Walk

Ok, no opera, but I did get to enjoy myself.

I was one of the folks who staffed the Wilton Manors Main Street Office for most of Friday night.  I did manage to slip out and enjoy the cool Friday night air while the Island City Art Walk was at it’s peak and I have to say it was a resounding success.

Press release speak aside, if you have never been to an Island City Art Walk in Wilton Manors on Wilton Drive – get here.  It’s a wonderful time in a wonderful place.

The idea (in the most general of terms) is that many businesses host artists and their art and get some great exposure to a public that will appreciate what is offered.  It shows off the art and the businesses in a complementary light and you get to actually speak with the artists which is something that doesn’t always happen.

Wilton Drive is a place unlike any other, and I have seen this sort of affair done in a Mall many times, and it just never felt right.  Too one thing or another.  On the other hand, through the efforts of Mary Ellen Charapko and every one else participating, the atmosphere felt like everything just went right.  That ease and pleasure happens with a lot of behind the scenes preparation work.  Nothing ever really just happens on that scale without being prepared, and the quality of all of the exhibits and the venues were obvious.

The other thing that stuck with me was that I kept overhearing comments.  The comments from the patrons were that there were more people and it “Just Keeps Getting Better”.  I think they’re right.  I’m looking forward to next month.

M.E. DePalma Blooms Again

If you build it they will come.

Our own field of dreams is having its effect.

While I was writing this particular blog posting as well as another, I was interrupted by a phone call.  I have a habit of standing up and walking around when I’m on the phone.  I don’t know where I got that from but I wandered into the kitchen.  

After passing the parrot cage and his saying hello to the phone, I ended up at the sink looking out the back window.  Floating over the pool was a Monarch Butterfly.   I went from living in a place that they were a rare sight to one where I can expect to see a couple a day. 

I then remembered that I had this particular picture.   I have gotten the habit of taking my digital camera with me everywhere I go because everywhere you go there are things worth taking pictures of.  In this case, it is the reason why I have all these Monarchs in my neighborhood.   The little vest pocket M.E. DePalma Park is in bloom now with riots of color both insect and floral.  If you walk by the place at the right time of day, there can be flocks of butterflies, bouquets of flowers, and all of them are sparkling in the sunshine. 

Being where I am, all of this beauty spills out into the neighborhood and into my yard.  Looking out the front window I am smiling at the palm trees that are waving in the ocean breezes today and floating by is another one of my orange and black friends. 

Natural is always better than artificial, especially if it is near your house.

Some Advice for Office Depot

In full disclosure, I am a Project Manager.  I do Web Projects.  I do Desktop Publishing.  I do Graphics.  I do all those things that people need in small businesses when their computer goes “oops”.  I’ve done education in a corporate environment.  In fact, I’m a rather good trainer – I can give references. 

The resume is very long, very detailed.  It’s typical for an expert in certain pieces of technologies to have a long detailed resume like that.   I’m the guy who after a beer at 9:00 at night can tell you why you need to run a Virtual Computer using VMWare or MS Virtual PC at home to surf so that you won’t get hit by a virus and then tell you to order me another so I will explain why it is safer.  

Some really esoteric stuff huh?

Well all of that takes technology.  I have some rather old technology here, but it’s all like an old VW Beetle – noisy, slow but gets you there.

Just like that old VW Beetle, some of my technology is beginning to wear out.  I suffered a hardware crash this week on my Desktop Publishing Laptop in front of a client.  My “daily driver” all purpose laptop has a questionable memory chip reader and is starting to have weird freezes due to heat.  It clearly is time for me to upgrade.

I watch the “deal” sites VERY closely.  As any of my friends on Facebook know, I tend to share the links when I think the deal is good.  I’m Platform Agnostic – I’ll recommend Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux compatible hardware from any hardware vendor if I think it will do what the person needs.  I’ve got a very good record at that, and even tell the person on the other end of the line if there are compromises to be aware of and why it is important to consider them.

The whole ball of wax.

So when I personally shop, it is a big deal.

I have been looking for a very tight specification for a laptop.  Must run Windows 7 64Bit.  Must have at least 500GB disc space or a 128GB SSD.  Must be fairly light, and no larger than 15.6 inches.  Must have an i7 Processor.  Price must be below $800. 

The last bit just knocked about 95% out of the running… so I will sit back and wait and limp through until I find THE Buy since the market hasn’t quite hit my price point.

But here’s the problem… I surf a LOT of eCommerce Websites.  I have some knowledge on how to implement an eCommerce Website, administer them and how to get the Web Developers to do things in a timely fashion.  I did all of that on my own in a Virtual Machine – yeah that weird software stuff again.

When a site is done right, I can drill down and see Just The Right Item and buy it.  If it is done wrong – I get angry and yell at the laptop and scare it.  Not the nicest thing to do to an old friend, is it?

Done right is www.newegg.com – I surf that site FIRST for any deal after I have found the “best buy” on another site.   Its not TOO big like Amazon, although I prefer Amazon for “regular person reviews”.   It’s not too small like some others and it has some very good technology on it.  The nicest thing about www.NewEgg.Com is how I can go to laptops for example, select it by processor with a couple clicks and see all the i7 Intel based laptops and then re-sort by price.

Nobody believes that “featured” makes any damn sense in this day and age of price wars and bad economy.

Here is where www.officedepot.com  has a problem.  Say you want a laptop.  You want an i7 based machine, although you can easily select any other processor.  You have decided that you want to see a specific selection of one particular grade of i7 you can do that easily.   They are basically trying “too hard”.

What if you want to see more than one grade of i7 based laptop?

You can’t do that easily.  I have to ask, did their Project Manager in charge of Web Quality Assurance actually test the changes to the site themselves?  I sincerely doubt it.

Here is the direct link and go through the steps and you shall see why I was annoyed…. Oh wait, I can’t give you a direct link because they store your Session ID.  Yes, they’re tracking you by step through the web site.  Partly that means you will get better service.  In this case I have to tell you how to get there:

1) Surf http://www.officedepot.com
2) Hover the mouse pointer over “Technology” and find Laptops, then click on Laptops

In the case of the link above, there was no Session ID tracking… so they’re not overtly following through with that basic task, but anyway…

3) Page down and under the words “Shop Technology” there is a Processor Model link – click it.
4) Now this isn’t all the Processor Models that you can surf and compare so you will have to click “See All Processor Model”. 

Ok, The Grammarian In Me comes out – it is “… Processor Models” not “… Processor Model” but that is minor.

5) A big long list opens up.  You really can’t help that, although to do a category for each type of processors would be best like “i3” “i5” and “AMD” for example… So select one processor.   I selected “i7-820QM”.  I may as well live large since it was the fastest.

Here is the first problem.  The page reloads.  Who wrote that?  RELOAD?  Come on… ok, so now we go onwards…. because I don’t want JUST that one processor, I have to go back and start over.

6) Select “See all Processor Model” and grumble at the lack of the “s’ at the end.
7) You are presented with the list again.  Select “i7-740QM”

And the page reloads. 

You see the problem.  You, the person sitting at your desk should be able to see the list, click a whole bunch of items and then click a button to “go” and have it go fetch all at once.  It works that way on most other “Ajax” enabled sites.  The situation is so painful with all the reload that my next step was to:

8) Click close and surf another company’s website.

The problem is that while Intel has been great at supplying us with so many grades of processor, there really isn’t THAT much difference to the consumer between grades of processor.  The biggest difference is speed, not whether it is an i7-740 vs an i7-760.   The ideal would be to show each grade of processor and allow them to select that, then allow them to refine the search if they know enough between the grades to continue.

It can be easily fixed, I trust.  They are just giving the user too fine a list.  The person who will need to know the specifics of the processor will be at the tail end of the decision process, not the casual surfer – and there’s a search box to further refine what to include.  It was much easier for me to do a search on “i7”, select computers, select laptops, and then sort “low to high” and find what I was looking for than go through the menu on the left. 

It is my opinion, and only an opinion, that when you are surfing a website you will not use a search box first. Most folks will click away happily but they won’t go to the search box unless they’re frustrated.  Why?  Because they’re lazy and won’t want to move their hand off the mouse or trackpad. 

Of course I had to click on view all because that’s just the way I roll…

That is what got me started on this blog piece here…

I am a lazy surfer as well and will either click or type and don’t want to do both.  I suspect that the little old lady living in a farm house outside a small town like Stanton Nebraska, surfing on a website to buy a computer with the grandkids for the first time will be just as lazy if not more so.  Every step is important because it is a step for that dear sweet grandmom to step away from your site to someone else because it’s confused her and the Cherry Pie has to come out of the oven anyway.

All that reminds me I have to put the Barbecue in the crock pot for dinner…

Border Collie Psychology at 4:30 in the Morning

I wear earplugs to sleep with.  All I hear in the middle of the night is my heartbeat and the ringing in my ears that was brought on by aspirin when I was a child.

I just picked up some brand spanking earplugs and they blocked out all the background noise.  For the last two nights I have gotten some very sound sleeps.  That is a very good thing because I have been waking up at 4:30 in the morning about 1/2 of the days in each week.

I had no idea, and assumed that it was one of a thousand things that was waking me up.

Bladder, gas, blanket falling off, the train on the FEC Line about a half mile away were all suggested as possibilities.

This morning I found a new possibility.  The judicious planting of a dog’s head under my hand.   At 4:30 in the morning.

My trusty little 10 year old Border Collie needed attention so her head popped under my down arm’s hand and nudged it until I pet her.  She still sleeps through the night without needing to use The Tree, so I figured she was just feeling lonely and wanted to be closer to me.

I sleep on my side and she decided that that hand draped over the side of the bed was just too tempting.

This went on for a little while until I decided that I had enough and wanted to get to sleep.  But what to do?

Mrs Dog never sleeps on the furniture or on the bed.  I was warned not to let her sleep on the furniture and since we’ve got new chairs and couches I’d rather keep them intact.  I stopped her from sleeping on my bed because when I first got her, I didn’t realize that the old saying was completely correct:

If you lay down with dogs, you will get fleas.”

Those welts eventually healed and she stopped sleeping on the bed.  I also was able to wash the sheets less often since dogs don’t stay as clean as you or I do.  Lettie will not tolerate a daily bath, but I luxuriate in hot water from 7 feet above the ground that pours from a jet in the wall.

Today is Friday, as of this writing.  Friday I tend to run all the laundry so I thought that it didn’t matter what I did to the sheets.

Rolling over just a little further than her insistent head, I was able to scoop her up with one arm under her chest onto the bed.

Lettie did not like being spooned.  In the slightest.  I on the other hand didn’t care and fell asleep.

With one arm draped over the dog, the other draped under her, she settled in, kept me warm and I didnt’ realize that time went by until I was awakened.

There was a low rumble that woke me.  It filtered in through the orange ear plugs, and was just enough noise to bring me to consciousness.   Opening my eyes, I found that it was my customary 6AM wake up call anyway, so I lifted the arm that is over my dog’s furry warm body ever so slightly…

Out like a shot, Lettie bounded from the bed with a grumble.

I rolled over and gathered the sheets from the other side of the bed, grabbed all the linens, and followed my dog’s wagging tail through the house and past the parrot to the washing machine.

None the worse for wear, I had found a way to stop Mrs Dog from waking me up at 4:30 by assuming she’d tolerate being treated like a dog.  After all many dogs like to sleep with their people.  The bed is much more comfortable than the mat on the floor and certainly warmer.  Even in South Florida, a Concrete Slab leeches cold into a dog’s older bones.

Mrs Dog did not appreciate being picked up, she never does.  She didn’t really want to be on the bed because it was “weird”.  Weird means anything out of the ordinary.  I sincerely believe that Border Collies are a breed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – everything has to be Just So and In It’s Place.  Weirdness is Not Just So and must be Fixed. 

Perfect dog for me, a Project Manager, since I live an ordered life with certain things happening in a certain order.

Just don’t pick her up or else she’ll grumble and pout.  On the other hand since it is 5PM now, I’m getting the evil eye to get her dinner.  First.

Tonight she gets her way but tomorrow at 4:30 she may have a rude awakening if she puts her head under my hand again!