Oscar’s New Obsession

I don’t particularly “get” tennis.

You buy tennis balls in bulk.  Hit them over walls and fences that never seem to stop that line drive.  Grunt and sweat, and try again.

At least it is harmless, even if I can’t wrap my head around why people want to stand on a clay court on a hot summer day in the Florida sun.

It does have it’s benefits though for us pet owners.  Those wild line drives.   I’ve found tennis balls around town.  I have found them a block away, which leaves me scratching my head.

I guess a Labrador retrieved it and lost interest.

Keeping a supply of them on hand, I tend to try for new uses for them.

I did try bouncing the things to try to get Rack interested in A New Toy.  Nah, he was bored with them.  Every so often he will pick them up and herd them into a spot so that they can be watched in case they escape and try to make a run for it.

Lettie loved the things.  If I bounced one into the pool, she would hover at the edge alternately looking at the ball, and at me, and asking if I would be so kind to get that for her.

Now.

Not later.

NOW!

She was an intense dog.

But Rack seems bored by them.  He’ll watch them bounce after things with a Jeff Spicoli stoner look on his face then glance back as if to ask “You really expect me to get that thing?  You don’t know where it has BEEN!”.

I even tried Lettie’s favorite trick.  Slice the tennis ball open to make a change purse.  Maybe a two inch slice.   Stuff it full of dog food or treats.  Then roll it past the dog’s nose.

You just gave a dog a solid half hour worth of fun.  They won’t be back for attention for quite a while.

Two problems with that.

First, Rack doesn’t have a prey drive.  None at all.  He sees cats, lizards, snakes, and other things that go bump in the night on a daily basis.  Nothing.  He got hissed at by one of the herd of ducks we keep running into here.  Muscovy Ducks are to be looked at and ignored.

Second, Rack hardly eats.  It’s something I worry about, but am finding ways to manage.  If I put a bowl down it is more of a surprise than you would expect if he actually immediately ate it.   He may ignore it for an hour or so and come back, or just skip the meal until the planets align and it is once again The Age Of Aquarius.

Peace, dude.


I have to put his food next to his bed so he can dine in the middle of the night while I sleep.   Just lol his head over the edge and get the food into his mouth.

Strange creature.

That left me with tennis balls.  All over my house.  Under the furniture.  Wedged on top of the dog’s crate door to hold it open.  Under my bed.  Gathering dust.

Some of them are slit open to accept some tasty morsels in case Rack changes his mind, but I really don’t expect that to happen.

The other day, Oscar got loud in the way only a parrot can.  He started chattering and screeching to the

conversation I was having in the house.  Here’s where the tennis balls came into play.

Oscar was inside the cage.  He doesn’t like New Things.  Parrots are prey animals, so New Things may attack.  Guilty until proven innocent.

A New Years hat that was saved got put there.  Oscar didn’t like that but it shut him up.  After a minute or three I walked over and took it off.   Oscar calmed town and went back to chattering.

Then screaming started again.

Out came the tennis balls.

He’s not completely terrified of the balls.   He knows he can reach under them, and if he gives them a nudge in the right direction, they will roll off the cage.

Which was what he did.  No problem, he understands that he can do it and it keeps him quiet until it hits the ground.

So this time I grabbed the ball with the slit in it.   I have a plastic loop with a couple rings on the bottom wedged into the wires of the cage.  He has pretty much given up trying to move that thing.  It won’t go.

I got the tennis ball with the slit in it and opened it to wedge on to the top of the loop.  There is a blue plastic ball on there that keeps it in place.

So now we have a tennis ball that won’t move.

Oscar is smart enough to understand that he can chew the opening, and the fuzz.  Since there seems to be an endless supply of tennis balls here in Wilton Manors that go astray at the park, I’m hoping he destroys the ball.

I added another two to the collection just sitting on the cage.

This particular morning, Oscar got loud when I was making breakfast.  Since I was going to sit next to his cage, I opened the door.  I would see if he got into anything he shouldn’t have, so it was safe.

Up to the top of the cage immediately to investigate those three balls.

Two got knocked off in short order.

Oscar tried to push that third one, but it didn’t move easily.

Grabbing the fluff, he managed it to the edge of the cage but it didn’t fall.

Poor bird, you’ve been tricked yet again.

After a good solid 10 minutes of this, he merely accepted it as something that just was.

Walking over to the corner of the cage, he fluffed out his feathers and went to sleep.  Dreaming of the sexy ring neck dove that comes by the window to visit, no doubt.  They could share their avian dreams of tennis balls that can be ejected onto the floor with ease.

There’s always a human to pick them up at any rate and set them back on top of the cage.

Silly bird.

Who knows.  Oscar could just be trying to get the dog to fetch.  After all, Lettie would do that.  Oscar would toss the ball off the cage, and Lettie would tear after it.  I’d find the ball later under the bed or some random piece of furniture, but by dog, that was where she wanted it!

I’m still finding those silly things.  Right where she wanted it…

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The Medicrane

The Medicrane

Once upon a time, there was a small village of not-so-bright people. The village was terrorized by an evil monster known as the Medicrane.
Every few days, the Medicrane would lumber into town, muttering under his breath “Medicrane… Medicrane…”, and snatch one of the villagers and take them to his den.

After a while of living in abject terror, the villagers went to the village Wise Guy (who was actually still of slightly sub-par intellect) to ask for a solution to their problem.

“What do we do?” cried the villagers.
“…Let’s dig a hole!” shouted the wise guy.

“Why?” asked the villagers in unison.
“…Let’s dig a hole!” shouted the wise guy.

“OK!” said the villagers in unison.

So the villagers dug a hole deep and wide along the path that the Medicrane normally took into the village. Later that evening, the Medicrane lumbered up to the hole, and said in a high-pitched shriek:
“A HOLE!”

Then he walked around the hole, grabbed a villager and stole away with him.

The next day, the villagers again approached the wise man.
“What do we do?” cried the villagers.

“…Let’s put a loon in the hole!” shouted the wise guy.
“Why?” asked the villagers in unison.

“…Let’s put a loon in the hole!” shouted the wise guy.
“OK!” said the villagers in unison.

So the villagers found the biggest and fattest loon they could find and placed at the bottom of the hole.

Later that evening, the Medicrane again lumbered up to the hole, and said in a high-pitched shriek:
“A HOLE! A LOON!”

Then he walked around the hole, grabbed another villager and stole away with him.

The next day, the villagers again approached the wise man, this time more wearily and skeptically than before.

“What do we do?” asked the villagers doubtfully.
“…Let’s put sugar in the loon!” shouted the wise guy.

“Why?” asked the villagers in unison.
“…Let’s put sugar in the loon!” shouted the wise guy.

“OK.” said the villagers, crestfallen.

Once again, later that evening,the Medicrane again lumbered up to the hole, and said in a high-pitched shriek:
“A HOLE! A LOON! SUGAAAAAAAAAAR”
The Medicrane let out an un-earthly roar as he dove into the hole and started ripping apart the loon to shreds and devouring the sugar.
After he had eaten it all, he noticed that he was trapped in the hole with no way out.

The moral of this story, my friends, is “A Loon Full of Sugar makes the Medicrane Go Down.”

A 90 Year Old Woman was Getting Married For The Fourth Time

A 90 Year Old Woman was Getting Married For The Fourth Time

A news crew is there to document the story. The reporter asks the woman about her odd marital past.

“Let me get this right,” he says.

“Your first husband was a banker.
Your second husband was a clown.
Your third husband was a doctor, and you’re about to marry a mortician.

Why the menagerie of different men?”

She smirked and said “It was one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go.”

Reimagining the Desk – A Journey With A Stiff Neck

One of the earliest things that I had written about was my living room.   Specifically, I took a picture of my chair, my laptop, and the rest, and I then told the story of the Poang and how I tend to sit in my chair and write.   I also do more than that, all sorts of software development for fun and profit, as well as pretty much treat the thing as an office.

There’s a problem.

I originally thought that it was a Tall Guy Problem.  It’s not.  It’s simply a problem.

After reading Reddit and the Tall Subreddit where people take random selfies looking uncomfortable because the world was not engineered for someone over 6 feet tall, I came to the conclusion that Mom was Right.

My posture had become awful and my coveted chair was contributing to it all.  Back pain, stiff neck, and general achy self were some of the things I had noticed.

Yeah I know, Hey, Bill, Take Control.  Grab the Reins.

Ok, Smart Alec that lives inside my head, what do I do?

The house I live in has my desk.  The desk is in the Florida Room.  That room needs insulation and since the exposed beams warm the place to another five degrees F warmer than the rest of the house as soon as the sun starts to bake it, I had abandoned my desk almost immediately after I settled into it.

Don’t ask, it’s too warm to use.

The Ikea Poang in the middle of the living room is under a vent and a ceiling fan redirects the air conditioning so it’s comfortable.  I used to say that it was the coolest seat in the house, but I’m not so certain.

What I did was to relocate to the dining room.

I have an old 1950s or earlier solid maple table in there with matching solid wood chairs.  When Mom got this set, I took a liking to it.  I saw an opportunity when she started complaining that it didn’t do well in her kitchen in Barclay Farms, Cherry Hill, good ol’ New Jersey.  So I “helped her out” of it and it’s been with me ever since I moved into my first Philly apartment.

After waking up with a proper stiff neck that never went away and some other disturbing creaks and cracks that were getting more insistent, I tried some minor changes.  It convinced me that while this isn’t perfect, I’m onto something.

Ergonomically speaking, your eyes will track to the center of the device that you are using.  In my case it is a 16 inch wide laptop.  If I put that on my lap, it will create some problems.

The worst problem is that since I slightly recline in the Poang, the view to the laptop means that I am looking down.  In the more than 10 hours a day I am sitting there using the laptop, my head ends up with chin literally glued to my chest.  That is not a good position.  Not at all.

The laptop had to be raised off my lap and placed onto Mom’s Maple table.

Good first step.  Now, slide back… great!  But those chairs are stiff.  Nobody wants to sit on an un-padded wood Captain’s Chair for hours no matter how nice it looks.   Plus the angle is still “down”.

I slid the chair aside, moved the Poang in.

It’s much better.  My eyes are dead center on the monitor.  The picture I took from my right shoulder, while it is out of focus, is perfect for showing the view I get from the bouncy chair.

One problem.  I am an excellent touch typist.  Mrs Momarella and my good friend Donna W. from High School taught me well.

The laptop is just below shoulder height.  That doesn’t make for comfort.  In fact, I tried typing that way for all of five minutes.  My hands nearly came off at the wrist.

Seeing that I can type with my eyes closed almost as well as I can with them open, I needed something else to happen.

I pulled the captain’s chair out again and used it for a platform to set the track ball.   It’s a big clunky thing that uses up my USB port and won’t sit on the arm of the chair.  Since this is “work hour use only” no worries there, I’ll just “own” using my dining room as my office.

One more thing.  Keyboard.

My old school IBM Model M Keyboard with the clicky keys!  Lets try that first. 

Nope.  It drains too much power to use on the USB converter thing.

Digging through the Parts Cabinet, I found an old Microsoft wireless keyboard.  That is on my knees right now just inside the picture.  It works “well enough” but I still want my PS/2 Keyboard.   Once I find my powered USB hub, I know that it will drive the keyboard I really want to use. 

Too bad you can’t get those clicky keyboards with bluetooth though.   It’s 1980s technology that will work because it’s just that good.  Too well designed to toss with real mechanical switches on each key.  They weigh almost as much as the laptop does.  I have about 4 of them in the house buried under the bed because when people tossed their old PCs, the keyboards would end up at the computer shows being sold for a mint.

If 5 dollars could be considered a mint.  Now they go for between 80 and 200 US Dollars more on auction and reseller sites.

No, I won’t share.  Get your own.  Besides, I may figure something else out with my coveted clicky IBM Keyboard Model M.

Yes, I have Ideas.

For now, I have my Tall Guy Adaptation.  It really isn’t about being tall though, it’s more about looking at how you are working and making sure you are sitting at the right place to put your head when you work.  When I touch type… I can set my head back and close my eyes, like this paragraph was typed.  If your are smaller and have a shorter torso, like about 95% of humankind, you can vary the height of everything so that you can work with it at ease.  That is why most “office chairs” have those adjustments to make things more comfortable.

But Laptops?  I’m beginning to realize that they just aren’t meant to live on your lap for 10 hours at a stretch.

Besides, if you do, these days, you will end up toasting your legs.  I’ll leave Mom’s Table to handle that for me.  I’m nice and cool listening to music on headphones, typing on my lap, and resting my head back with my eyes closed.

Yes, I can do this with my eyes closed.

Really.

Writing can be an effortless experience.   If I could only have told my 12 year old self who was bored hearing about all that in English Class in Mr Custer’s Sixth Grade Class in Stafford School on Berlin Road in Cherry Hill.

Boring as hell but useful.  Not everything can be an adventure novel after all.   Some come with a beige cover and will bore you to tears but you will use it every day of your life.

Just like that table and laptop combo.

Now oddly enough, before I wrote this up and headed on my little obsessive journey for desk nirvana, the Washington Post had written an infographic on this same subject.  I’ll make it a point to get out of my desk and chair more often, or I’ll at least try.

Since the poster is at this PDF link, it won’t fully display here.   On the other hand, I see that picture below and think… Is THIS what I put my body through?  YUCK!!!!

Mardi Gras Beads Scare My Dog

After all the thunder and lightning, I’m not surprised that Rack is skittish.  I should say, I’m not surprised he’s more skittish than normal.

I shouldn’t be introducing new things at this time of year.  He’s not as Bulletproof with that sort of thing as my Lettie was.  He’s a highly fearful McNab Dog.  Regaining some confidence is coming slowly and it is something I am actively trying to foster.

But there are times that I really have to wonder.

We had had major thunderstorms every day last week.  Then Saturday came.  Then hoards of people descended upon Wilton Manors.

Yes, we had the Stonewall Pride Wilton Manors street festival.

You know the maxim about parties, right?  If you are going to hold a party, invite your neighbor.  Preferably have a lot of goodies to eat and drink, and send them home happy, that way they can’t complain?

I can’t complain.  My home is so close to the party that in my back bedroom I was listening to Sheila E perform live when she was on stage at the end of the live music program.  Try to charge me cover to get into see that and that would be where I would have a problem with it.

So I went out to help.   I was out at the booth for my board helping to sell bricks for a while.  Wilton Manors Development Alliance is trying to build a plaza with the City of Wilton Manors‘ help and approval on park land in the heart of Wilton Manors so that everyone can enjoy it now and for a very long time in the future.  It will be a centerpiece in the middle of the central business district of the city when done.  The Children’s Art Project now has a replica of the post card that originally advertised the land by the original development of the city of Wilton Manors.  There’s a small plaza that we’re dutifully filling in with laser engraved bricks with sayings.  The profits are actively going to build and furnish the plaza.  There is art there that has been created by and for the children of Wilton Manors.  Their work will help improve the life of the city for decades.

I sat outside and noticed that while it was hot, there was a storm starting to brew.  10 minutes later we were gathering up our artwork and trying to hide it from the monsoon that flew up.

All the while, the music never stopped.

When our replacements arrived, we went for lunch.  The rains stopped and restarted.  The party went on with light rains here and there that surged with the beat.

We got home and Rack came out of his crate wondering what had unleashed these loud demons that were stomping all over our neighborhood.

By the time that the parade started at 7PM, the rains had stopped.  The music throbbed on.

We came back in time to walk Rack, and he was even more disturbed than he was in the afternoon when we returned.   Poor little guy had just had enough of this commotion.

Luckily there won’t be any more street festivals for a couple months.  It’s just too hot in Florida in Summer for that sort of thing, although it’s hotter in Philadelphia from now through a normal September than it is here.

Normal.  This is El Nino so we are watching things closely.  It’s supposed to stop the hurricanes for a bit but give us more rain.

Rack won’t like that.  More Rain.  More Thunder.  More Hiding.

When I got him back from the last walk of the night, Sheila E was singing her heart out.  I was enjoying her act from my bedroom where the volume was “comfortable”, but I’m sure Rack would have loved the earplugs that I keep in the headboard.   He eventually had his dinner that I had put out five hours earlier and we both went to sleep.

The next morning, Sunday, I was up at Stupid o’clock again.  Rack was sleeping against the bed instead of being another six feet across the bedroom in his own bed.  Residual effect from everyone else’s party.

We went out.   He stepped out onto the front porch quickly but sniffed the air with caution.  There wasn’t a cloud in the skies at 5AM, cool too.  All that rain washed the skies clear.  We started to walk towards The Drive.

Rack did not want to go at all! 

The cleaning crew was still finishing up on Wilton Drive.  They had been out overnight.

I usually expect to find oddball things out on the drive when I go for a walk, especially after a street
festival.  You can tell that the economy is getting better in China.  The giveaways are better.

Aluminum party whistles emblazoned with company names and websites.

Scattered mardi gras beads everywhere.

Aluminum Drinking Straws wrapped individually in plastic.

Wait, what?  Aluminum Drinking Straws.  With company logo?  Have we as a species finally lost our collective minds?

Yes, exactly that.

I realized what I was holding when I scooped it up from where I found it sitting on a bench.   Perfectly wrapped in plastic about two grades thicker than it needed to be.   That will go to the trash-to-steam plant on Tuesday.

Laughing at this green aluminum cylinder, I headed Rack back to the house with my find in hand.  Between the aluminum party whistle and the big industrial strength straw, there was just a lot of recyclable materials that were being used in new and creative ways.

We trotted back to the house.  No storms, no dogs, no problems.  After all it was over an hour before sunrise.

Time for coffee.

Waiting for the water to boil, I spotted the Mardi Gras beads sitting on the counter.  Remembering that Lettie thought that those beads were hers as a fashion accessory, and that I have a 2 liter glass beer stein sitting on the windowsill filled with the things as a result, it was time to see what Rack thought.

I didn’t see Rack for another hour.

I held the beads out for Rack to sniff.  It’s new.  He was fine.  For now.

I held the beads up higher to put them over his neck, and Rack was having nothing of it.  He started to back up and then…

He’s gone.

I guess introducing my dog to tacky plastic silver beads wasn’t going well.

Calling Rack didn’t work.  As he got to the corner to turn into the bedroom, Rack shot me a look back over his shoulder as if to say “Get Real, I’m Not Going Near That”.

I’m used to him hiding, and we didn’t need him to wear beads.   This is not New Orleans, this is Florida.  I can always re-home the extra beads.  After all, there’s a plastic tree hiding in a box in the shed that they will look nice on come the holidays.

Fort Lauderdale Beach Palm Tree

Stuck in traffic again.  Driving in Fort Lauderdale it is bound to happen. 

This isn’t like the traffic of the Northeast where you can get onto a major road and move a mile in a half hour.  If a person on foot walks faster than your car, it’s only for a block or two. 

I know not to expect a clear drive to the airport on Federal Highway when I get South of downtown and below the tunnel, it’s just not going to happen.

Since there really isn’t any public transportation worth mentioning here in the South Florida Sprawl, you’re going to take your car. 

I don’t understand how they thought that putting in a lane that you pay for on the road that you paid for with your fuel taxes and registration fees would be a good idea, then they added insult to injury by removing a traffic lane so that the “Lexus Lanes” would be more likely to be used.   Here in South Florida, that Lexus could easily be too passe and it could better be called a “Lamborghini Lane”.  Either way it is bad public policy since you have to have the public transit in place before you restrict traffic.  Typical.  Just typical.

The rule is I-95 is to leave town or for Tourists.  The locals take the surface streets.

Sometimes, when you’re feeling particularly daring, you can go home by the beach.  Personally I think driving by the beach is beautiful, but it is going to be slow, and it is somewhat out of the way.  Others will insist that it’s faster than taking Federal highway.

You may be right there, but sitting in traffic for a block or a mile is not my idea of fun.

If I’m not driving, I’ll do my best to shut up.

I did have something to keep myself entertained.  I had my camera.

I was taking pictures of all sorts of things that very late afternoon.  Close to sunset on a cloudy day meant that the camera’s brain was going to struggle with things like Light Levels and my own motion in the car.  But the tree was there, in a gap between trash cans and volleyball courts, and it needed to pose for its portrait.

Of all those shots of babes and brawns, beach sand and lifeguard stands, this was the best of the lot.  Dark day, camera only went so far.

But it did manage to keep me occupied.  I guess instead of watching content on a TV I’m better off trying to be creative with a camera.

Bee, Buttercup, and Mimosa

There is a duplex near me.  Two apartments separated by a “party wall”.

Nondescript building set on a nondescript lot with indifferent landscaping done by an indifferent landlord.

Run of the mill place for anywhere here in South Florida, you could drive past dozens of them and not really think twice about them.

But this is Florida, The Land of Flowers “en espanol”.

Everywhere you look there are flowers.  Wildlife is drawn to places where flowers bloom.  Even the weeds here have their own flowers.  It helps to break up a lawn from the insanity of growing turf grass in a place that gets 50 inches of rain a year, 40 of them in six months,  10 in the other six.

Feast or famine.
Flood or Desert.

Or so I have been told.

It is the same place no matter what you call it.  The native plants here have evolved to thrive under these conditions.  The same flower that grows in the Wet Season disappears or at least slows growth when it cools down and the dry season takes hold.

I had taken this picture because these flowers are beautiful to me.  They’re simple, they’re common since they are pretty much everywhere, and they are native.  I was told that they were Mimosa, but after two hours of research I was unable to prove what this specific flower was.  The leaf under it looks like a mimosa but it didn’t fold up when I touched it.  The closest I could find to the flower was a picture of something called a Cuban Buttercup but that is a bush and not a low slung plant.  If I hold this flower under your chin it will show whether you like butter or not, if you’re sitting in my friend Karen’s yard back when I grew up.  This flower is larger than Karen’s buttercups, probably twice as broad across.

The thing that I saw that was called a Powderpuff Mimosa kept coming up with a different flower and that

they spread fast.  Native species that will fill your yard if you let them.  Pretty plant too, something I will definitely consider when I finally fill in my garden.  Perhaps in the backyard under the hedges.  Since I am an expert at growing stinkweed and other noxious plants, this would be a pleasant change of pace.

I’m perfectly happy to chalk it all up to my own confusion and enjoy nature when it presents its sunny self to me.

Knowing that they were there and in bloom, that morning I had grabbed the camera, walked over to the yard and took the pictures.  They hunt the sun so to keep their blooms pointing at the light and warmth.  That makes it trivial to get a bright yellow picture.

While I was there, this bee visited.   Bees are my kryptonite.  I can handle snakes and frogs.  I’m amused by lizards.  I live in a house with a parrot and a dog, and none of them care about the lizards when they get in, but I can catch the little creatures and release them into my garden to go on their lizard-y way.

Bees on the other hand send me running and screaming.  I know that they have a very beneficial purpose but I just don’t like them.  Maybe if they ate mosquitoes and didn’t sting I could handle them better.  Having been stung twice in all my days I probably should handle it all better, but no.  I can do without them in my presence.

This one landed on the buttercup while I was taking pictures and I realized that the picture was much better with the creature on it than without it.  Wildlife photography in the urban environment!  Always take your camera!  You never know what you may find!

All that.  Veni, Camera, Vici – I came, I took the picture, I conquered.

Or some such.