Hurricane Sandy’s Gone, All’s Quiet in Florida

The wind finally has stopped

After three weeks of rain, a near miss by Hurricane Sandy and the outer feeder bands, and just general blustery days, we’re in winter.  Winter for us is a high in the 70s or the low 80s.

There’s no wind.  No rain.  No clouds, OK maybe a few Simpsonian Clouds floating by in the distance but that’s it.

Having gone out to unlock the fence and give the yard one last pass before the arborists arrive to repair the landscape after the storms, the overwhelming feeling here is nothing more than normal.  The strangest thing about the neighborhood today is that I roasted coffee earlier so my back yard has the smell of a fine Costa Rican roast on the general Floridian organic scent.  It’s even cool enough to have had Iguanas falling from the tree, but none of those green monsters are around.

No complaints, Normal is good.  After all I could have been at the Jersey Shore or that neighborhood in Queens, NY that burnt to the ground due to the power station that went up in explosions and flames.  

For us, this was the storm that got away.  At least here, it’s a good thing although Fort Lauderdale’s Beach got chewed up and flooded which is very rare normally.  Having grown up in South Jersey, I know what a rogue storm like this would bring.  Neighbors of my old home in Philly said “meh. no big deal.  Let the roads drain and back to work”.  I’m still waiting to hear how it went closer to the shore.

Here in Florida, we are used to a storm like Hurricane Sandy coming through and being annoying.   The soil is like sand in a colander.  It is actually hard to call it anything other than the Beach Sand it will be again.  Trees have evolved to let the wind flow through them.  When they let go of their foliage, they’ll grow it back.  Trunks are in general softer wood so they’ll bend before breaking.  In the Northeast, trees don’t get storms like this often although the Nor’easters are getting more powerful each winter.   The Ice Belt has moved North and we were saying that winters were more like North Carolina than South Jersey.  I never saw an Ice Storm before the 90s, now you expect one or two a year at the beginning and the end of Winter. 

That Ice causes its own problems.   The Northern forests end right around Philadelphia.  50 miles North or South, the forests are a different mix of trees.  There is a blending there and you can actually still grow certain Palm Trees in sheltered conditions, although the only people who do are obsessed individuals who want something different.   Those hardwood trees like the Pin Oak and the softer trees like the White Pine tree would get glazed and snap under the weight of the winter coat.  Since it is warmer, once past the ice, the snow cover isn’t quite as dry as before and there is more of it.

Of course that’s all a falsehood since, as the Republican Party says, Global Warming doesn’t exist.  It’s “Climate Change” now.

Whatever it is, things are a changin’.

The iPhone Bamboo Speaker Dock that Ate My Kitchen

Last Bulk Trash Day, a neighbor had sent me on a month long trip of woodworking joy.

I had seen a project on Kickstarter called the iBamboo Speaker and thought that it was so simple that even I could build one.  So after mulling it around in my head, I decided that I would try it if ever I came across some suitable bamboo.

It turns out that suitable bamboo was growing in a neighbor’s yard and when they cut some of it down to throw it out, I grabbed two six foot lengths of the stuff and took it home.  What you need is bamboo that is roughly the size of your wrist.  You also need time, a miter box, some hand tools, and you can build one of these things in about an hour or two. 

I suggest if you really do want to try this, cure the bamboo either by air drying or in the oven at 212F for at least 4 hours.  That will harden the bamboo lumber.  If you get cracks, it will be before you invest a lot of time in your work.  One of my tablet sized docks split lengthwise so that one will remain mine.

By the time I ran through all of my bamboo, I had made these four plus a couple of failed projects and some variations on the theme like a “supersized” one for my tablet.

iPhones have only one speaker on the bottom plus a microphone port.  It doesn’t require separation of the channels, so I built my phone sized docks out of the smooth center of each “joint” of bamboo.

The tablet I have, Samsung Galaxy 2 7.0, has two speakers on the bottom, so the larger tablet docks are all built so that the tablet sits on the joint giving proper stereo separation.  Since tablets are larger, the extra length helps the dock stay upright because of the added mass of the bamboo.

These things actually do add amplification through resonance.  If you doubt that, find some music on your phone and put it speaker side down in a small bowl or large glass and you will see the result.  In this case, the bamboo just looks nicer.

The people at will sell you their speaker docks online.  Theirs are more polished, using lasers to cut the holes and so forth.  I used an old hack saw, leatherman tools and built them out in my back yard giving a “shop class” look.  The ones I’m going to keep will get finished and stained. The ones I’m planning on giving as gifts I may not stain, I haven’t quite decided yet what I will do there.  My friend who will get one has Android phones, and the speakers are not all in the same place. This means the mount hole for the phone may need to be widened “on site”.

A bit of Sunday fun in the back yard with sharp tools.  No, I did not run with scissors.

Tillandsia in the Bottle Brush Tree Picture

After the little storm we had over last week, I went out and started to pull down dead limbs. 

The tree itself is slowly dying, the limbs show that.   Inside the trunk are colonies of ants and termites. 

That dying wood is the food for these “Air Plants” that are called Tillandsia.   Not the little things that you buy in the tourist traps glued to a shell, this one is as large as my hand.  Hand sized is middle of the road here, but none the less I was quite pleased to see it here after the storm. 

I was going to pull that limb down and get rid of the dead wood, but that plant growing there means that it has a home as long as it wants it.

Political Donations – So You Know Where YOUR Money Went

Personally, I’m of the opinion that excluding Eisenhower, there hasn’t been a Republican President elected since before the Great Depression that was worthwhile.  That would be Calvin Coolidge.

If you would like to read deeper, you can start with this Wikipedia article.  What surprised me is that they actually found some Presidents ranked lower than Bush 2.

So when I see a list of where corporations are donating their money that they got by reaching into all of our pockets in the forms of higher prices, I pay attention.   Your corporation has a right to donate money and I have a right not to shop there.

At least Southern Wine & Spirits has the right idea splitting money between the parties, and they’re local here in South Florida.

You can thank Velma for this post and the information.

FYI…When you HAVE a choice!

OK just a little FYI . Notice what companies give to political parties of their choice, makes you want to scratch your head I didn’t highlight the companies and you can be surprise or not, but the majority of these companies regardless of who they contributed too affect the poor one way or another.  Kind of ironic Calvin Klein donates to the Democrats and McDonald’s donates to the Republicans. Just sayin’

A dear friend took the time to forward this information to me. Regardless of your political affiliation, as a community of consumers this should be a part of our purchasing decisions. Please share with others. THANKS

Political Donations and where to spend your money?
Political DONATIONS – This gives us something to think about…

Shopping Price Club/Costco donated $225K, 99% went to Democrats

Rite Aid donated $517K, 60% went to Democrats
Magla Products (Stanley tools, Mr. Clean) donated $22K, 100% went to Democrats
Warnaco (undergarments) donated $55K, 73% went to Democrats
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia donated $153K, 99% went to Democrats
Estee Lauder donated $448K, 95% went to Democrats
Guess, Inc. donated $145K, 98% went to Democrats
Calvin Klein donated $78K, 100% went to Democrats
Liz Claiborne, Inc. donated $34K, 97% went to Democrats
Levi Straus donated $26K, 97% went to Democrats
Olan Mills donated $175K, 99% went to Democrats
WalMart donated $467K, 97% went to Republicans
K-Mart donated $524K, 86% went to Republicans
Home Depot donated $298K, 89% went to Republicans
Target donated $226K, 70% went to Republicans
Circuit City Stores donated $261K, 95% went to Republicans
3M Co. donated $281K, 87% went to Republicans
Hallmark Cards donated $319K, 92% went to Republicans
Amway donated $391K, 100% Republicans
Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures) donated $283K, 100% Republicans
B.F. Goodrich (tires) donated $215K, 97% went to Republicans
Proctor & Gamble donated $243K, 79% went to Republicans

Southern Wine & Spirits donated $213K, 73% went to Democrats
Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons (incl. beverage business + considerable media interests) donated $2M+, 67% went to Democrats
Gallo Winery donated $337K, 95% went to Democrats
Coors & Budweiser donated $174K, 92% went to Republicans
Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines – as well as Lenox China, Dansk, Gorham Silver)donated $644 K — 80% went to Republicans


Sonic Corporation donated $83K, 98% went to Democrats
Triarc Companies (Arby’s, T.J. Cinnamon’s, Pasta Connections)donated $112K, 96% went to Democrats
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. (chicken) donated $366K, 100% went to Republicans
Outback Steakhouse donated $641K, 95% went to Republicans
Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell) donated $133K, 87% went to Republicans
Brinker International (Maggiano’s, Brinker Cafe, Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel’s, Corner Baker, EatZis) donated $242K, 83% went to Republicans
Waffle House donated $279K, 100% went to Republicans
McDonald’s Corp. donated $197K, 86% went to Republicans
Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze) donated $121K, 89% went to Republicans
Heinz Republicans $64,000 Democrats $21,300 !!!!! John Kerry’s wife’s company.
Traveling and/or dining

Hyatt Corporation donated $187K of which 80% went to Democrats
Marriott International $323K, 81% went to Republicans
Holiday Inns donated $38K, 71% went to Republicans

Early Voting Starts in Florida Today

I was walking the dog past Wilton Manors City Hall just before 7AM today and there was a line of around 40 people out there.  Early Voting has started, I think I will wait a day or two though for the crowds to slow a wee bit.

On the other hand, This is one of a few different postings that had gotten sent to me by a number of people over the last year or so.  I am not going to verify every single fact, I’ll leave that to the fact checkers.  I will say that I completely agree with the sentiment. 

You can quote me on this one:  If you wait for perfection in a candidate, you will wait for a very long time.  It is like standing in a house that is burning down and worrying about painting the walls.  Get out, put out the fire, and move forward.

So when I do go and vote, I will be voting a straight Democrat ticket and No on all the Florida Amendment Questions. 

I suggest you do the same.   The arsons have had their day, it’s time to move forward.

Velma had sent me this particular piece.  We’ve seen them all, so read along.

I am a firm believer in the intelligence of the people. 
If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national  crises.
The important point is to bring them the real  facts.

Think of life as a  great road trip. If you spend too much time looking back at where you’ve been,  you’ll miss what’s ahead.

Mad At The  President………………….for What?

Now, since Barack Obama became President, all  of a sudden, folks have gotten mad, and want to take America  Back…

BACK TO WHAT or WHERE is my question?

I am voting for  PRESIDENT OBAMA no matter what. He should get 8 years in office, because he IS  CHANGING America and we all know why THEY don’t like it! If Obama wasn’t Black,  they would be praising and thanking him.

After The 8 Years Of The  Bush/Cheney Disaster, Now You Get Mad?

You didn’t get mad when the  Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a  President.

You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company  officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

You  didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to  us.

You didn’t get mad when we spent over 800 billion (and still  counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad when Bush borrowed more  money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents  combined.

You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash  just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad when Bush embraced trade and  outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the  country.

You didn’t get mad when they didn’t find or catch Bin  Laden.

You didn’t get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion  dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You  didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical  Center.

You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans,  drown.

You didn’t get mad when we gave people who had more money than  they could ever spend, the 1%, over a trillion dollars in tax  breaks.

You didn’t get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations  in several decades.

You didn’t get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens lost  their lives because they had no health insurance.

You didn’t get mad when  lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12  trillion dollars in investments, retirement savings, and home  values.

You finally got mad when a black man was elected  President and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a  doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job  losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and  the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you, but helping fellow  Americans who are sick… Oh, Hell to the No!

PLEEEASE—-circulate this  everywhere—people need to be reminded!!!!
2012 is a good year for them to  remember! Let’s get as passionate about re-electing our wonderful hard working  President as we were when we got him elected! Don’t get complacent and don’t  take for granted he will easily be back in office.

Let’s all get busy  starting the work today!!!!

Give this MAN  credit where credit is due. Black folks stop thinking just because we have a  Black President that you were entitled to something without working for it! (Did  you think because we got a Black President 4 years ago, you were going to get a  check in the mail for $100k or something, maybe the 40 acres and a mule…come  on….get real!)

Make a difference Get educated, stop  complaining and get back on track to preserving our race and represent like The  Obamas. Do your part! VOTE Obama 2012. Spread the word. We have to get out and  VOTE like we did 4 years ago…if we want to keep president Obama in office.  Don’t think for one minute that your Vote doesn’t  count!

One man  can make a difference but he must be in the right place.

Even a Small Storm Does Some Damage

The Key Word Is:  Some.

Oh sure, an 80 mph Hurricane Sandy could have ruined our day.  It could have shifted the 120 miles westward and put itself right over top of the cities of South Florida.

It didn’t.

It was a rain event.   Some winds.  Feeder bands here or there.

But past that it didn’t wake me up in the middle of the night. 

It was a late season weak hurricane that hit right at the same week as Hurricane Wilma had 7 or so years before it.  That was another “weak” Hurricane that parked itself over top of Fort Lauderdale for three solid days or so and caused a lot of damage.

So basically they all should be watched. 

I didn’t spot any damage to the house until well after I got back from the dog walk.  The sun had to come up and show me what happened to my Bougainvillea. 

This picture is of the trellis behind the house.  The Bougainvillea was picked up like a giant blanket during the night and pulled forward off the trellis and the roof.  A few limbs broke, but the plant will survive.

Yep, could have been worse.  But it wasn’t.  The plants here evolved to take it, and there’s a reason why when you move here you want a 1 floor Old Florida home.  Those taller Mc Mansions will take the brunt for you and act like windbreaks, especially when they’re built shoddily like the ones a block away from me.

Oh well, I guess we get to be landscapers this weekend.   I’ll chill some drinks and have fun outside in the yard.


Do Not Track – It’s A Start But Only A Start

In the “modern” browsers there’s a setting deep down that tells advertisers that you don’t want to be tracked for advertising purposes.

Internet Explorer sets that on by default.
It is also in Chrome and Firefox.

For Firefox you can set it yourself by:
Click on Tools
Click on Options
Click on Privacy

Under Tracking, there is a tick box that promises to tell advertisers that you do not want to be tracked.

Mine is checked, but I don’t believe it actually works.

You see you’re telling someone that you don’t want to be a source of their income.  That’s how advertising works, they have learned that they can watch what you surf and build a profile of what you’re doing.   They can tell pretty much everything you can do.

You can lower their effectiveness but you can’t eliminate what they’re doing unless you do something that is fairly “heroic” by installing all sorts of software or learning another operating system and surfing from that.  There is InPrivate mode in Internet Explorer but it also breaks sites sometimes.  Better solution than most, but nothing is perfect.

When I set up a computer for myself or anyone else, I immediately install a few pieces of software.

Firefox as a browser.

Then I install an extension that is also available for Chrome called “Adblock Plus“.  That breaks some more of the advertising as well as some of their tracking.   The benefit is that I do not see advertising.  I can also block that sort of thing. 

For me, browsing a website on someone else’s computer is a jarring experience.  Ads blink, flash, and sometimes even scream at me.  On my own computer, it’s a blissful experience.

That and it also speeds up browsing. 

I’ve taken it a step further by adding a hosts file onto computers that I am not doing web development on which simply tells the computer not to search any web pages that are at a certain address. 

I went so far as to add a hosts file to my Android phone and it’s quite nice not having to look at ads.  It’s a great “advertisement” for “Rooting” your Android phone.

The software I use on Android is Adfree to help block advertising by placing that hosts file in the right spot.  Just because I want to be “complete” I also installed a Hosts Editor but strictly speaking I don’t really need that.

Both of the above only work on Rooted Android phones.  If you’re not rooted, you’ll need to find a guide on how to do it for your specific phone, model, carrier.   It gets complex but usually there’s a step by step guide to do the work for you.  Once I found mine, it took about 10 minutes.

They can’t track you if they can’t find you.

The Problem With the Internet is that Nothing Is Temporary

The title is a quote from someone named Will Smidlein who said something that I’ve been thinking about lately.   In fact, since I read the quote two days ago, it has been rattling around my head like one of those musical “earwigs” that you simply can’t get to leave.

Basically the way things work is that since computers are temporary, you always back your data up.

Well, ok we’re supposed to.  We don’t always.

But once you get out to the internet, it is expected to be “Professionally Run”.  Someone somewhere is paid to slip a tape in a drive in a big ugly computer room half way across the world, start a backup and save the data that you put there. 

It could be the picture of your cat, your thoughts on this blog posting, the sound file you made of the train rolling past the house at 4AM before anyone else awakes.  It doesn’t matter. 

If you put it out there, it will get saved.

The nature of things being so broadly distributed, you never really know where that information lies.  Unfortunately that means that you really do have to stop and think when you finally hit that save or publish button.   Someone out there will probably find a way to use it against you. 

After all, the internet being the least common denominator of human thought and the largest library that mankind has ever conceived of has a sizeable amount of people out there who will find a way to use it to their benefit, even if it isn’t to yours.

If it’s out there, it is out there forever.   It’s the same thing that we all were told when we were kids – “a secret told is a secret no longer”.  Or “you aren’t paranoid, they really are out to get you”.

Welcome to the Internet – the largest playground ever and your information is about to get used by the school bully.

Oooh deep!

How to get a Parrot to Bark

For years I’ve had Oscar.  In fact, I’ve had him since 1986.  He lives in a cage in the back room under the Bougainvillea where he is visited by the pigeons and the iguanas.

The iguanas I would rather just go away and never come back, but the pigeons are friendly enough.

Lettie doesn’t like him much, but she hasn’t actively gone after him in quite a long time.   I’d found that all I have to do is put Oscar’s cage on the floor and open the door.   If Lettie notices, she casts the cage the evil eye and then leaves.  Oscar will then wander around looking for something to do like chew on the sea grass basket in the little end table.  

When Oscar’s out, needless to say, he has to be watched.

People keep these birds because they do bond with us, and will try to interact with us.   The spot where the cage is at is one where he can see what’s going on in the kitchen and the living room.  If he hears something, he’s going to try to figure out what it is and whether he can interact with it.  I get hellos and Urp!s from him all the time when I’m baking.  If I laugh, he laughs back.

Today I finally realized that he barks.  Or at least he tries to bark.

I was watching a video of a man somewhere in Europe on a bike trail that I wish we had around here.   He had a pack of more than 10, probably 20 dogs all running along with him in a giant pack.  I Used to do the same with Lettie when she was able, skating for a couple miles at a slow pace but that did not work out.  I was too fast for her to keep up, and there just was no way she’d do a 30 mile workout with me.

This guy has it down pat though.  Riding gently, taking the dogs for a run, they did what dogs do.  At one point there was a dog that decided that it was time to greet the world with a bark.   That was when I heard a response from the back room. 

Oscar was barking back.

Every morning when I see him, he says to me “Urp” as if to say hello, then literally does say hello.   On the other hand, I didn’t know that that noise was his bark.  Yes, he speaks “Dog as a Second Language”.  It is a bit slurred, and since it is in his normal register it would be a small breed like a chihuahua.

I have a green feathered chihuaburd living with me.  Right now, he’s barking at the laptop video that you see below.

Three Ingredient Fudge – Recipe

The picture is overexposed but the fudge wasn’t.  In fact it turned out great.

It says three ingredient fudge, but in reality I added a fourth.  I like Pecans in my chocolate fudge.

The recipe can be made in the microwave in about 3 minutes at High Power.   Just remember to check it after each minute or so to make sure that your chocolate isn’t scorching.  Stir as you nuke!

I made it in a sauce pan at low medium – Mark 2.  Just warm enough to melt the butter will do it.   Chocolate melts at 86 degrees so you really don’t need a lot of heat!

Here’s how I did it.


  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk – 14 ounce.
  • 2 Packages (11.5 to 12 ounces each) chocolate chips or “any flavor” chips you prefer.
  • 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter.
  •     OPTIONAL add 1/2 pound Pecans or other nuts. 
  •     OPTIONAL add mini marshmallows to all of above to make Rocky Road.

To the saucepan on medium low, add butter.
When butter melts, add condensed milk and chocolate chips and Optional Nuts.

Stir until smooth.
Pour fudge out into lined 9×9 pan and allow to cool.

See!  I told you it was easy!  Fudge was one of those things we used to get at the Jersey Shore when we were heading home.   It wasn’t really a childhood thing, more of a 20something thing for me.  I guess it was one of those things that was missing from growing up but really its so simple and easy to make that you don’t need to drive “Down-a-shore” or to the mall to get the stuff.   All the ingredients were on hand here, and since I have extra Sweetened Condensed Milk, we’re going to have more.  

I’m thinking Rocky Road next time!