Mexican Milkweed Blooms Again

The Monarchs are Flying,
The Milkweed Blooms,
I guess I have a job to do.

As the Chief Irritant on this quirky little island, I’ve noticed that the Monarch Butterflies are flying around the neighborhood. 

The windows were open most of last week, it’s our secret season. A Secret because we’ve all kept our yap shut over just how beautiful March in South Florida can be.  It can also be near the 90s and humid so when it’s this nice we’ll just take advantage of it.

I got growled at one day for keeping the windows shut and the air conditioning on.  In March.

It was more due to the fact that it was in the mid 70s outside and beautiful.

My tolerance for a warm house is pretty high, and as long as there’s a breeze going through I don’t notice until the indoors are into the low 80s.

This wasn’t the case.

I had the air conditioning off that morning and being a house made of concrete blocks, the cool will stay inside for a while.   The house hadn’t warmed up yet as a result.  Sitting in my comfy bouncy Poang chair, I was watching as one after another Monarch Butterfly would float past the front windows of the house.  The breezes were gentle and off the ocean.  They would later switch to be a land breeze.  When that happens, the palm trees flop over to the East and I know that a front would be coming through.

But for today the conditions were right for my orange and black Monarchs to windsurf past the window.

Time to open the house up anyway.

I had noticed that the Mexican Milkweeds that I had in the yard were eaten down to a stick, which might explain why the Monarchs were back.  Around the corner and down the way, the Mexican Milkweeds had ripened and the seed pods burst. 

So I have a job to do.  Grab one of those pods and be Johnny Milkweed Seed again.  There’s a little bit of open land near the river that needs a few flowers.   Not that anyone asked me to, but as Chief Irritant, one of my responsibilities is to make sure that the world is safe for future butterflies.

Plus I need a few seeds for the back yard as well.  They always seem to turn mine into sticks, and it is a rare plant that gets as far as going to seed.

The ones here are some of the Monarchs that will begin to migrate North.  In a month or two they will be up near the big Cities, and in two they will make it as far as Canada.   We will still have a few.  They will dance on the breezes past my window and rise on thermals in small spirals over the flowers in the park.

But they will need places to lay their eggs so future generations will make the trek North to delight people as they float past their windows in places that they can’t overwinter.   

Somewhere up North in a month or two, someone will look out at their garden, notice their own Milkweed has opened up and is beginning to set forth silver starbursts of fluff on the breezes to make those same homes.  They will grab a few seeds to scatter and pay it forward for the little creatures to find later.

The cycle of butterflies.  They could use a little help now and again.  After all, Canada is a long way away from South Florida.

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A Japanese Shogun is looking for a new Samurai

A Japanese Shogun is looking for a new Samurai

He summons three swordsmen, one of them Jewish, to his palace to showcase their skills.

The first swordsman stands before the shogun with a sword and a small box. When he opens the box, a small box. When he opens the box, a fly flies out. With one swing of his sword, the fly is dead.

The second swordsman again brings a sword and a small box. When he opens the box, an even smaller fly comes out, and he kills it with one swing. The shogun is impressed.

At last, the Jewish swordsman walks up. He is also carrying a sword and a small box. He opens the box and an even smaller fly comes out. He swings his sword around many times, but it doesn’t seem to affect the fly.

“I am disappointed,” says the shogun. “You didn’t kill the fly.”

The Jew replies, “A circumcision is not meant to kill.”

The Doctor and the Veterinarian

The Doctor and the Veterinarian

Two lifelong friends, a doctor and a vet, are in a bar. Over the course of a few drinks the topic of conversation moves to work.

“You are lucky” says the vet “Your patients come in and tell you what is wrong with them. It would make treating them so much simpler”

“Ah” retorts the doctor “But you forget the social pressure and reliance upon which I must do my job. If I make even a small mistake, I could be sued for everything I have’

Neither the Vet nor the doctor wish to concede that they have the easier job. So the vet suggests a challenge. “Next time I am ill I shall come to see you but, as with my patients, I will not say a single word. If you can treat me I shall admit defeat” the doctor agrees and they enjoy the rest of their night.

Months pass and both men are very busy with work but one day the doctor hears a knock at the door. It is the vet who simply enters and lies on the couch. The doctor is initially confused but soon remembers his late night bet with his friend. The doctor begins to do a routine physical exam, looks the vet over, takes his temperature, all the usual tests. This goes on for a while with the doctor seemingly making no progress. The doctors frustration is evident on his face. He eventually signals for the vet to stand up and take his leave. As the vet approaches the door the doctor hands him a prescription for some basic antibiotics and says

“Here take two of these and if you’re not better in the morning I’ll have you put down.”

A Security Camera View On The World

Lately I’ve been preoccupied.

When we’re home, I have video to look at.

What you see here is my view on the world.  I have another three cameras to place, and we already know where they will go.

It started with me getting “A Deal” on a security camera set up.   It came with no hard drive, so once we got one of those, dropped it in the machine with a cable and four screws, we were on our way.  Not too shabby for $150 US.  It came with eight cameras and a bunch of wires, mounts, and power bricks. 

Low price to live on the set of The Truman Show.  No, I will not allow cameras inside the house.  That’s just Beyond The Pale.

The machine is self maintaining, so none of the usual “Operating System Twiddling” that everyone was used to.  There is a whole world of terminology to learn.  I had done all this before.   I “Specified, Procured, and Deployed” two of these same units at the mall that I was the IT Director for.

The hardest part of setting the second one of these up is running wires in uncomfortable places. 

The hardest part of setting up the first is learning all the terminology.

Things like “TVL”, IR, and PTZ become second nature after a while.

You have to know that the more TVL you have, the better the picture.  TVL being TV Lines, which is just how “HD” your HDTV Picture would be.  These cameras are only 640 lines so they’re below HDTV spec, around the same as your old square Standard Def TV used to be.

IR is Infrared.  In this case, each camera has a ring of 28 infrared LEDs around the lens.  They glow red at night, and some may not even be able to see that frequency due to color blindedness.  In my case, they’re quite bright and give me a view on the world of everything that goes on at night.

PTZ is something I truly want simply for the flexibility and the Coolness Factor.  Stands for “Point, Tilt, Zoom” and it’s something you need to be able to do even if you never get a camera that will support it.  It will allow an operator, you or me, to Point or Tilt the camera at something, and then Zoom in on it.

Just like any technology, there is a world of jargon to fool the outsiders. 

Add to it that the Chinese who wrote the manual wrote it in crystal clear “Engrish“.  Which is to say there was a passing acquaintance with the rules of English Grammar.   They passed the rules when they were on the bus in the town center.  They were in the book store they rode past at 50KPH.  They didn’t read the rules, but the book was there.

So you have to step back and read between the lines.  The documentation is there, and you just may be able to figure it all out.  Once you do you can twiddle and I have a stack of settings that I can twiddle with.  Getting all that set just so is the goal.  Motion Detection should be just enough that you’re not looking at 8 hours of uninterrupted video every night.  The IR light should not be reflecting against the eaves of the house so you’re looking at solid grey video.   There is a screen where I can block off certain areas of the screen from Motion Detection at all meaning if something happens in the upper third or the neighbor’s house, I don’t care.  I can tell it not to record during certain hours which I’m trying to figure a reason that would be helpful. 

All that is really quite involved.  Just like anything it’s the sum of the parts.  A lot of little parts make a system.

Unfortunately, the software has limits.  The web interface only runs on Internet Explorer which runs like molasses on my i7 laptop, and like crap everywhere else.  The query function is creaky.  I could write some serious improvements to the system if I had “root access” to the operating system but even that isn’t available.  The help messages are written badly, more of that Engrish. 

That’s one very strong reason why this sort of thing should be open.  Chinese Software is horrid.  Give me a LAMP server and let me write my own PHP code or Java.

But it does work, after a fashion, and it is open enough that third party software will work with it – if you are brave enough to try to get it to.

So if you’re coming down the block, wave hello to the camera.  I’m sure I’ll get to watch it on the DVR.

Baking Bread and Bagels and Breaking Boredom

I was in the middle of a software project and realized I was squinting.

Getting a headache is never a way to build a web server, so I pushed away from the computer.   It was time to do something else. 

This PC stuff can get tired after a while, so I had something else to clear my mind.

Since my freezer was getting low on stocks, I knew that I had to make some rolls.   Actually I started out making Challah Bagels with Raisins but since the dough turned out a bit wet, I went with rolls instead.  The reason was that the raisins needed to soak in water to plump up.  All that water had to go somewhere, and it went right into the rolls to make things taste sweet.

Trying to make a bagel shape with sticky dough is annoying on a good day and I needed to relax. 

The main difference between a bagel and a roll is not the shape.  Bagels are “par-boiled” 30 seconds a side in a bath of water and malt sugar, molasses, or some other semi sweet “goo”.  If you’re taking notes, it’s 1 tablespoon per cup of water.  

I started up the challah dough in my big mixer and realized I was out of “regular rolls” too.  So out came “Mother” and I started the bread machine making sourdough dough at the same time.

Yes, I had two different processes going at once.

Timing being what it was, I got the Challah dough done before the Sourdough came out of the bread machine.  80 grams per roll, 120 grams per “baguette”. 

I was able to let the Challah rolls rise while making up the sourdough rolls and took a break.

All better.  The house began to fill with the scent of rising bread.  Very few simple pleasures are as fine as the scent of rising dough and baking bread.  It’s elemental.

After I realized that nothing was rising any longer, I started on the parboiling of the Challah rolls.  That was why they ended up so dark brown.  I managed to get the rolls to have the chewy outside that you expect from a proper Bagel, but had a shape that would hold my breakfast.

A little butter and they would toast up well on the skillet the next day.

I tend to underbake my rolls anyway.  I  could leave them in the oven longer and go for the Golden Brown look but the sourdough is intended to be toasted.  If you toast them and they’re dark brown you may not get the desired results. 

Brown and Serve rolls are basically slightly “underbaked” so you can put them in the oven to finish them off.

After all was done, I managed to eat up an afternoon plus one of those bagels rolls.  My head cleared nicely and I got the LAMP stack on my Debian Linux computer working quite nicely indeed.

I Have Got To Stop Finding Things, And That Includes Dogs!

Basically, I’m a bit rattled by this.  More that it ended up that I wasn’t really able to do much about the situation other than move the problem to a safer spot.

I’m usually up well before most of my neighbors.  I go out and walk around the city.  I have my circuit that I do with the dog.  

So I see things.  I’ve found oddball items before.  Wallets I will drop off at City Hall if there is no ID in them.  More pens and pencils than I can count.  People have lost their eyeglasses, which surprise me more than most items. 

Don’t you need that to find your way home?

Walking through the parking lot past the bars, I made it to the Chic Optique.  There was nobody in any of the shops, save Michael who was setting up Java Boys for the morning caffeine rush.

My faithful sidekick, Rack, stayed close.  At this point he simply sat down.  He does that when he doesn’t know what to do about something. 

He’s sitting there dusting the floor with his tail and I hear dog tags.

Yes, you guessed it, I found a dog.  At least temporarily that is.

This was a tan or fawn colored Jack Russell Mix.  Seemed like a nice enough dog.  He came over to Rack with good manners, even when Rack started doing the play stance and thumping around.

A 45 pound McNab Dog’s paws make the most interesting thump on the pavement when they slap it in play.

I reached down to say hello and the stranger backed off.

Hey, what’s up little guy?

At least the dog wasn’t aggressive.   He simply stepped back away from my hand and out of reach.

I stood there looking confused for someone, anyone to claim this dog.   If he was a stray, he was a new one.  Still looking clean and cared for, he could have just stepped out of the yard for a quick sniff around to the neighbors and kept going.

Rack was still hoping for Play! but needed to poo instead.

After cleaning up, Stranger Dog got in a good long sniff.  He did fall in line.  

Stranger paid attention to me when I said “Lets Go Home”.  Unfortunately he really didn’t go in any one direction.  More intent to follow us around town than lead us somewhere, he fell in with the pack.

I thought that the best thing I could do was to get this stray off of Wilton Drive.   It may be posted at a 30MPH speed limit, but nobody ever does drive that there.   That includes the Fort Lauderdale Police who I have seen speeding through town just to stop off at the local diner (true) or the Dunkin Donuts (Stereotype but true).

If I had been able to catch the dog, there was a Wilton Manors police cruiser directly across the street from me.  I could have walked him across the five traffic lanes and gave the officer something else to do toward the end of their shift. 

Hey, Officer, wanna dog?

“Come here, boy?”  Nope, this dog simply wanted nothing to do with being caught, at least by me.

When I am out with Rack, I don’t tend to walk fast.  I’m being towed around the neighborhood, but I am slowing him down more than him speeding me up.

Me, Rack, and the Stranger walked off the drive and past the park.  He stayed near to us.  Never right on top of us, but near enough to where we are.   Every time he realized that he had been too far away, Stranger turned around and looked at us and waited for us to catch up.

When a car came by, Stranger cleared off the street and back toward us. 

But we did walk further on and eventually ended up at my house.

When I turned off the street and onto my driveway, Stranger was less than two feet away.

I turned around to see where he was and Stranger was trotting East on my street. 

“Come here, boy!” I tried again, to no avail.

This all ended with me being confused, Rack getting his feet washed, and Stranger walking through the puddles of the yellow street lights and out of my life.

I wasn’t able to help at all unless you consider getting a stray dog off of Wilton Drive and into the neighborhood helpful.

Not much else has happened.  I have been watching my security cameras to see if Stranger shows back up.   If I see him, I’ll try to get him indoors.  While we don’t need a second dog, I certainly wouldn’t fight a foster until the owners could be found.

It’s just so (exasperated sigh!) frustrating!  Can’t help, don’t know what to do.  I’m sure someone was missing the little guy, I just hope he’s safe.

If You Want The City To Yourself, Walk The Dog In The Rain

Waking up early is my habit.

There is a clock across the room.  It is clear, my eyesight at that distance is better than 20/20.  But it is also dark.

So there’s a choice I had to make.   Ignore it and just lay there looking at the inside of my eyelids, or reach up and turn on the light and wake up the dog.  The watch on my wrist wasn’t glowing so it was of no use, and the little reading flashlight I keep in the nightstand was just not being found by my exploring left hand.

Not to matter, the dog was awake well before I turned on the light.  That’s their job, to watch over you.  30,000 years of training and breeding can not be ignored.

It was a quarter to six in the morning.

Pulling the earplugs out of my ears, I heard it.   Rain.

Saying the word, Rack’s ears flapped down against his head and he came over to me.

“Boy, we’re going to have a wet walk.”

I put two and two together, got myself out to the front door just in time.  Rack needed out to water the rock by the driveway anyway.

I hear stories about people who allow their dogs to tell them when and if they will go out for a walk.  It’s said My Dog Won’t Walk In The Rain. 

Rubbish. 

That’s training.  Your dog trained you to buy into its own dislike of being wet.  “Buck Up” and get yourself outside, there’s a world waiting for you.

In our case, we were between two lines of storms.  These weren’t thunderstorms, I won’t walk in those either.  It’s just foolhardy to walk your dog outside in a lightning storm carrying a metal framed umbrella.

This was just a light dribble.  Not enough to worry about.  The trees were dripping more water than the skies were.

Going outside and off the property was a bit of an experience.  The air was crisp and sweet.  The rain was the main sound that I heard.   Being in an urban environment, you grow used to hearing the highways around you.  Regardless of how quiet your area is, if you listen closely and wait, you will hear a car at some point.  The only time I ever heard absolutely zero traffic noise was when I would take my Jeep out to the New Jersey Pine Barrens and turn off the motor.  There is a sand road back there, a fire trail actually, that is far enough away from everything that you literally hear nothing man made.  It is an experience that most urban dwellers never get.  Since the majority of us Americans are urbanized, most people will never get that experience, I would wager.

The traffic was muted.  Sound was scattered, and it was early as well.  We didn’t hear much other than the rain. 

Rack looked up at me and smiled when I said “It’s quiet, boy!”.

Nearby Dixie Highway had a random car here and there, but the wet roadbeds were keeping people’s speeds down. 

The rain also keeps the usual flocks of birds quiet here as well.  They don’t want to be eaten and if they don’t make a sound, it is harder for a predator to find them.

The white noise of the weather surrounded us.   A distant grumble from a cell that was in a front over the Everglades made it to my ears.  While it is urban here, there aren’t a lot of concentrated tall buildings to muffle sounds.   Things carry well.

Anyone who says they don’t talk to their dogs when they walk would be fooling themselves.   Dogs are great listeners, even to the blather that I spout when I am half asleep.  This morning was no different from usual in that respect.

“It’s chilly out!  Enjoy it, this is going to be the last cold snap before summer.”
Doggy smile.

It’s late March.  We never got a large block of cold weather.   What’s cold for us is Room Temperature for more Northern Climes. 

Yes, it was chilly.  All of 20C/68F.   That’s what passes for Winter Weather in South Florida.  I have met people who say that if you put on long pants, it’s winter.   Maybe they were right, but the cool water merely felt invigorating on my skin.

We made it to the corner.  Having walked the block behind our house, Rack wanted home.   It wasn’t due to the rain, he’s getting lazy.   Or rather, he’s getting slick.  He’s realized that he needs to go outside and do his business in the morning.   If he waits to eat until he gets back, it will be more comfortable to him.  On the other hand, I only get a half mile walk in the morning when he pulls this stunt so I’m not completely blameless.  My coffee was calling me.

“Come on, Rack!  Show me Walk!”.

He turned back to look at me and then turned to the house.

“One more time, show me walk!”

I get a wag out of his tail.  We’re going home.