Happy Birthday Pat

Somewhere in the beautiful and fabled land of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, there lives a woman. 

You may know her, but you probably do not.  If you don’t that is your loss, because I do.

She’s my sister.  If you do know her on Facebook, wish her a happy birthday, I know she will appreciate the thought.

I won’t put her picture up here, she never liked it when I took them of her so I don’t have too many to share.

A couple weeks ago, I sent her a “Care Package” for her birthday.  I purposely did it early.  Packed it chock full of goodies that I know she likes.

About a half pound of my best home-roasted coffee.  Ground to Espresso Grind, roasted to Second Crack – A Full City Plus or French Roast if you know the lingo.

There were three jars of homemade jam in there.  Cherry Jelly, Lemon Curd, and Key Lime Curd.  The Curds are a recipe that I posted a while back.  It works great with any citrus fruit that I have tried it with, including Grapefruit. 

There was also a birthday card in the box.  I wrote a note for her, by hand of all things!  Yeah, really, I write on here sometimes as much as a thousand words a day and I actually put Pen to Paper and scrawled out something for her to read.

I also tossed some random things in there because I do that sort of thing.  Just a few things I thought would make her scratch her head and wonder whether I have lost my mind, because I generally have. 

I’m sure it all made her smile.

The reason why I sent it early was so that it would be there roughly at her husband Mike’s birthday as well.  Mike’s a great guy, and I have to say I was truly happy when they got together and built a relationship, then a marriage, then a life together.

Thanks Mike for all of that.

So Pat, nothing else is coming in the mail, but if there is any of the jam or the curds left, I suggest a little on a toasted English Muffin with some cream cheese.  It’s excellent.

Have You Ever Felt Like You Stepped Into A Disney Movie?

I got restless Sunday Morning.

I simply didn’t want to sit in the chair doing “regular things” and got up from the computer.  

Usually when I do that, I go into the kitchen and make something off the wall.   I could still do that, I have enough Butterscotch Icing to roll out and ice a cake.  More of those Krimpet tasting cakes that I love so much.

Rack was laying in my bedroom on his mat in a pool of sunlight.  I walked out to the main house and I’m sure he read my body language as if to say “Something’s Up!” since he followed along.

Grabbing two “dog bags”, the camera, and all the gear I would usually have when I take the dog for a walk with the camera, I thought I’d take a walk around town.  Nothing planned.  I had wanted to get to the park and get some shots before the sun got too high in the skies.  At that point, South Florida starts to look a bit Over-Exposed and the colors can wash out.

I didn’t have to call Rack.  He was glued to my right calf muscle.

Dressing him up for a walk, he went to the front door.  I looked outside and stepped into Technicolor.  The riot of colors that is Florida assaulted the senses.

We both gathered our minds together, and begun the trip.  I dropped Rack’s leash, on purpose, and gave him an Off Leash walk around town.

He spotted someone well down the block and didn’t care for him.  Acting the fearful dog, he would follow behind me.  We put some distance between that person, who was completely harmless.  I know the guy and see him often since he walks through the neighborhood twice daily.

Silly mutt, come on.

I turned down the block, camera in hand.

I could hear Snow White singing sweetly inside the empty cavity of my mind.  “I’m Wishing!… I’m Wishing!… For You!… For You!”

The first place I looked to take a picture was a fence.   The bird perched there watched me take my camera out, push the zoom button full and allowed me to take one picture.  Looking at the tiny view window afterwords, I had missed the shot.  Not to matter, the Cardinal flew off in a flash of red feathers.

I was disappointed but not for long.  There was a Curly Tailed Lizard watching me.  It allowed me to get rather close and squeeze off a few shots.  Dinosaur’s great grandchild living on my block.  They almost never let you get anywhere near them, let alone close enough and long enough to take pictures. 

As soon as I got enough, it darted away before I had even turned off the power.  It knew.

I was going to take another picture of a different Curly Tail and it knew I didn’t need it.  It strolled away.  Not so much as a Curly Tail normally skitters away, but strolled.  Slowly ambled away.

“I’m Wishing!  For You!”

Ok, Snow White, this is getting odd.  Very odd indeed.

At least the flowers didn’t need any prompting and I managed to get a few of those.  Flash went off on one, disappointingly I got a second one that was actually natural light, clear and perfect.  What I needed but no more.

Head South on the street, the lizards were ambling away in great herds of raptor’s children.  Not concerned of this giant approaching, they merely got out of the way of my size 11 feet.

“I’m Wishing…”

We reached the park.  Rack was still close, now relaxed since the other guy went North a while back.  Off leash and enjoying the freedom of the walk, he went into the little vest pocket park and sniffed at the plinth.  Rack pointed out a Cuban Brown Lizard on the sunny side of the plinth at the tip of his nose.  Neither were concerned with the others presence.

“For you…”

Instead of harassing each other, Rack merely walked to the back of the park and sat down.  He was off a good distance from me, watching me take pictures of Spiders, Butterflies, Bees, and Lizards.  Flowers in a riot of color seemed to stop nodding in the ever present breezes when I needed them.  The Butterfly I wanted to get a picture of hovered, then landed on my finger on the shutter trigger of the camera.

Not terribly helpful, but quite amusing.  The Butterfly helped me notice that the Lizard was trying to get into the act.  When I spotted that, the Butterfly went behind the big copper Butterfly chair as if to say I was taking the wrong shot.

The Lizard slowly walked to the corner of the plinth.  Posing for me, it waited.  I readied the camera and he began doing some slow pushups and what passed for Cuban Brown Lizard Gymnastics.   The little guy really wanted its picture taken.

When I had gotten enough of those, it simply walked out of the sun and stayed in the shade as if to say go look at the dog.

Rack had decided to pose.  Sitting in front of the Butterfly, he was looking from side to side, enjoying the day.  No longer hyper-alert, he was relaxed and enjoying the scene.  I managed to get off some more shots, perfect for what I needed.  You guessed it, he decided I had enough and walked over to me.

“Rack?  What’s Up?”

He simply walked out of the park, sat at the end of the little walkway and beckoned me forward.

I was really beginning to expect Thumper and Flower to show up any minute.  Maybe Bambi would join me and I’d thank Snow White for taking me out this morning.

The entire rest of the walk was like this.  Rack stayed close, never really went very far.   I ignored the leash until I got home.  Removing the leash from his harness, I washed the road grit off and told him to go walk in the grass.  Our routine was to wash his feet before he goes inside, and this was no more different.

One last Disney Moment.  Rack did exactly what I asked him.  Off leash, he walked out into the grass, around the car, and down the other side as if I had been guiding him.  Never mind that I was on the porch and merely gave him that little instruction, he did it flawlessly.

I think the ending credits started to roll at that point.  I opened the door, Rack stepped into the cool dark interior and we left the Technicolor movie behind.

A doctor, a lawyer, a priest, and an engineer are golfing

A doctor, a lawyer, a priest, and an engineer are golfing…

… and they keep getting held up by a twosome in front of them. The two guys can’t hit straight, take forever to find their balls, they are terrible, and no amount of yelling at them seems to help. Finally the greenskeeper comes around in his cart so they flag him down.

The greenskeeper says, “Oh, those two guys are the firemen who rescued the orphans from the burning building last year! They are both blind and can’t hear very well because of injuries they sustained that day, so we let them play here for free.” And he drives off.

The doctor looks at the others and says “Wow, I feel terrible. These poor guys are heroes and we’ve been yelling at them for the last half hour. I am going to talk to my hospital and see if we can get them some free medical care, maybe we can help them out.”

The lawyer says “Yeah, I feel terrible too. I am going to offer my services to them pro bono. Maybe there was somebody at fault and I can get them some restitution for their pain and suffering.”

The priest says “As a man of the cloth, I feel ashamed. I have been thinking bad thoughts about these poor men simply because they inconvenienced me. I am going to ask my congregation to pray for them on Sunday, and start a collection for their families.”

The engineer says “Why can’t they play at night?”

An Engineer Dies

An Engineer Dies

An engineer dies and stands before St. Peter at the gates of heaven.

After going through all his records, St. Peter finds that the man must go to hell.

The engineer complains, as he’s always been loyal to his wife and friends, never stolen, and always tried to lead a good life.

“I’ll take it up with the boss,” says St. Peter. “But it will be a few weeks before we get an answer, and until then you’ll have to stay in hell.”

Two weeks later, after the case has been gone over, St. Peter calls down to Satan, telling him that a mistake as been made and to release the engineer.

“No,” says Satan.
“Why not?”
“In the past two weeks he fixed the air conditioner, fixed my wireless network, upgraded the internet to high speed, and within a week we’re going to have a new ice cream machine. He’s staying,” comes Satan’s answer.

“You can’t do this!” exclaims St. Peter. “By all rights he should be in heaven! We’ll take you to court if we have to!”

“Sounds fair,” says Satan calmly. “But where are you going to find a lawyer.”

Don’t Threaten Me or I Will Flash My Dewlap At You!

I can’t say that these creatures were “here first”.  Technically they were introduced and naturalized and pushed out some other lizards that were here before them.  It’s a shame for those other lizards, but it is par for the course here in Overcast South Florida.

I’ve heard they are now being pushed out by the Curly Tails.  Curly Tailed Lizards which are twice as long and twice as thick and four times as assertive.

The Cuban Browns are entertaining to me.  Completely harmless, so much so that children would catch them and let them bite their earlobes to have Lizard Earrings for the few seconds that the scared creatures would hold on.

There you go little girl, have a chomp from my mighty toothless mouth as I wiggle my feet and flash my dewlap at you!  I am the fearless descendent of the great Dinosaurs and you shall respect me!

Not so much for my friend here.  I did my daily run around the backyard looking at my almost dead lemon tree in the pot line and pulling weeds from the mango tree.  Taking time to shamefully look at the banana tree that is so pot bound that the next time it falls over the pot may burst in relief and the tree will walk the two steps to the East saying “I’m Free! I can taste the sweet soil again after these horrible people kept me in prison!”.

To which the Mango tree says “Try being me!  I’m over six foot tall and I fall over every time a shower comes through like a child’s toy!”.

We really do have to decide to create a small garden for these things.  Pots don’t work.  You never get enough fruit, even though I was getting enough lemons for a while to make homemade lemon curd from them.  I’d have a chicken in the yard too if it weren’t for that they’re noisy and I’d get yelled at by code enforcement for having a farm in myback yard in the city!

Fresh Eggs anyone?  Maybe I need to move to Key West for that?  Conchs have all the fun!

Walking out into the yard is an experience.  You never know what you will scare off that is reptilian.  Most of what is back there is completely harmless, even the black racer snakes that keep the rodents away.  Live in harmony with nature and you will be better off for it. 

Stepping onto the Lanai, I have to look.   Rack generally will follow me out the door then go off and sniff the air.  If there is a storm within 10 miles, he’ll hear it and try to herd me back inside.  I’m too deaf or just plain human to hear those rumbles that are off shore between us and the Bahamas.  But he does and doesn’t like them at all.

At the right time of day, the lizards are on the pool deck catching the morning sun.  Cold blooded creatures need to warm up just like that cup of tea you have.  They’ll run away in great herds of lizards like Raptors in a movie after prey.  More likely they’re just off to the grass so they don’t get trodden on by great size 11 sneakers.

Having inspected the pot line, the irrigation, and considering where to put the Hibiscus that is in the pot that now has gone taller than I am by a few inches with that one red flower at the top which will wilt by tomorrow morning, I return to my friend the brown lizard.   It hasn’t moved.  It’s still watching me.

Goodbye Lizard.  Catch some mosquitoes while you are there.  There are plenty for you.

Shellshock – A BASH bug that effects Linux and Mac OSX … and everyone on the web

Yeah, scaremongering isn’t the best.  Luckily for those of us who run Linux, the fix is easy.

It also effects some Mac systems, although you will need to test and get your own upgrades.

It is possible that it effects Android systems as well.  I did the test on my tablet running CyanogenMod this morning and it was safe.  Your Mileage May Vary.

How this effects Windows is straightforward, it’s another one of those low level things in a web server that can bite us later and since Linux powers many websites, you are effected indirectly.  Think of what the Heartbleed problem was and how you went in and changed all your passwords to protect yourself.  Good idea to start changing them again!

The bug is called “Shellshock”.  The specifics is that it allows a ne’er do well to hack into an unpatched Linux server and gain full control via something called the BASH shell.  That is a bad thing because with control over bash, you can gain full control of the entire computer.

There is a test and full explanation of all the geekery under the hood here at this link at www.ArsTechnica.com if you care to dig deeper.  Basically, just go in and do a full update of your machine and make sure you see bash updated. 

The test is this line in terminal.

 env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable’ bash -c “echo this is a test”

If the system is vulnerable, the output will be:

 this is a test

An unaffected (or patched) system will output:

 bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt
 bash: error importing function definition for `x’
 this is a test

Since Mac OSX is based on something called BSD and bash comes with it in their terminal.  If you have an older Mac that is acting as a server, look into a patch.

I personally did the fix last night on my Debian system while I was half asleep.  Really trivial to fix.

In a root terminal –

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

It went out and updated my list of available updates, then upgraded those that needed it.  The package “bash” was included.

CentOS came up this morning with a bubble telling me to install updates.   It worked.  No problem.

I tried it out on my RaspberryPi machine and yes, that was affected.  The patch worked, and the picture is below. 

Here’s the thing, it may effect Android tablets and phones depending on whether bash is installed.  It’s a very basic and well known tool, so you will need to make sure you can patch the tablets. 

However, it’s highly unlikely that some average dude walking down the street with a year old Android phone with an unpatched system will have a problem.  Someone would have to know you’re there, get into your machine, and do the hack to gain control.  You aren’t the person they would be looking for, it’s that big web server sitting somewhere like a store or a bank that they’re going to hack.

Just accept the updates if you have manual control of whatever computer you are using, phones and tablets included.

If you are “going into” your machine, set your update preferences to allow security updates automatically while you’re at it since that makes it easier to administer the machines.

iPhone6 Killer Feature? They Bend.

A lesson for you tech buyers is to wait at least a week or three before you buy.

Standing in line from midnight the night before outside of one of the few tech big box stores is all about the social aspect as well as being able to say “Look What I Got”.

Boring, but I understand it.

Those people have already stood in line, got their iPhone6 in shiny metal flavors and are using it.  They probably found out about the major flaw.  The phones are so thin that they bend in normal use in a trouser pocket.

Apple has yet to make a statement on the defect, but it’s clearly not Suitable For Intended Use – you know, the old English Common Law Warranty of Merchantability?

I’ll leave the law to the Lawyers, but you might want to stay tuned. 

If you did buy one of those phones, make sure it is in a shirt pocket or a caddy on the belt.  

If you didn’t, wait.   They will probably have to do a quick redesign on the back of the thing, most likely going to Tungsten or some other more durable metal.  Sure it won’t be as light as the current Aluminium, but it also won’t bend like that foil you used to wrap your baked potato last Sunday Dinner.

I learned that it wasn’t the best to buy first a long time ago. This kind of risk that you take when you buy first is a major annoyance to me.

I had bought a 1986 Ford Taurus.  Beautiful car, in cream with a tan interior.  One of the first ones out of the factory.  I almost immediately had problems with the front end of it.  A front wheel drive car that pulled to the left.  After two trips back to the shop for a replacement of the rack and pinion, I traded it in on a Chevy Nova.  I didn’t have that car for more than a year, and I haven’t considered a Ford since.  The Nova was a great little car, but as sexy as a toaster.  Maybe it was the Sexy that was the problem.  Sexy in machinery breaks.  It’s fragile.  Durable is best.  The Nova also lasted 10 years before it started to rust out in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Winters. 

I stuck with Durable but wanted something different.  That’s why I drive a Jeep Wrangler that is 12 years old.  It’s my third Jeep.

So wait a bit, you don’t want a lemon car like the Ford I had, and you surely don’t want a bendy lemon like the iPhone 6.

Butterscotch Icing – For When You Can’t Find Krimpets

Philly has a very well deserved reputation for liking their junk food. 

Cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and of course Tastykakes.

Tastykake had more varieties up there than I get when I moved down here, although I’m seeing more of them show up here in South Florida. 

There was this flat raisin bar that I really liked but could not find even when I lived there going back a few years.  They were dense things that you could chew and it would even chew back that tasted richly of raisins and cinnamon.

Childhood memories, right?  Keep your Twinkies, they’re crap compared to something made with real eggs and milk like a proper Tastykake!

The other day I had a box of Butterscotch Krimpets sitting on the table and I thought that such a beloved snack would be fairly easy to try to come close to.  It is a simple yellow cake that is topped with a thick butterscotch fondant icing. 

I am sure that my love for these things are why I am 6’4″ and 225 pounds today.   More the weight than the height, but I’m not going to quibble.

I went hunting for a recipe and found an interesting one for Butterscotch icing.   Mind you, this is close but not perfect.  That’s fine, I wanted mine a bit richer butterscotch flavoring, so I went for the Dark Brown Sugar.  If you want a lighter taste, use a mix of Dark and Light brown sugars.

For the actual cake, I cheated – I made up a box yellow cake mix and the result was rather authentic for a quick first try.

It is done in two distinct steps.


  • First you make the icing base by cooking the ingredients except the confectioner’s sugar in a saucepan.  Bring it to a light slow boil and stir with a whisk for three minutes.  I timed mine, and it came out perfect.
  • Then you cool the icing base in the refrigerator until cold.
  • Finally you use the stand mixer to mix in the confectioner’s sugar until it is smooth.
  • That’s really it.  It was quite simple, even though you have to restrain yourself from making it until it is cold.  You will end up with enough icing for a cake, or like here in the picture, cupcakes. 


Icing Base:

  • 2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (or 3 ounces) shortening
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

For the final step

  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar – Reserve this for the final mixing.

Glory to the Hypnotoad on Kevin’s SUV

Hey, stop!


There’s a frog on my car!  Take a look!

Oh WOW!  He’s a beaut!  Here, take Rack, let me go in and get the camera!

Thus begun a solid 10 minutes of me trying to figure out how to get just enough light onto this shy little creature so that I could get the camera to figure out how to focus.  Flashlight was passed off so that it could shine on the frog, at just the right angle.

It also reminded me of a couple stories.

These tree frogs, or at least I think they’re tree frogs, are common here.  In the case of this little creature, it’s a Cuban Tree Frog, and classified as, you guessed it, an invasive species.

It isn’t the first time I have seen them here, there’s one that had been visiting me in the predawn morning hours by leaping onto the back window of the house with a meaty smack.  I guess if it could find itself 7 feet off the ground to get up onto the house, it certainly could jump up into the air and land on the back of a beast of a SUV at 6 feet.

On the other hand, I was told that shortly after we got here, one of them had leapt and perched on my leg one day.  I remember that as being a Cuban Brown Lizard rather than a frog, but it certainly makes for a point of discussion.

I was also reminded that this one could be getting even for my childhood hunts.  Back in Cherry Hill, NJ there was a spring that fed a small pond.  The pond had green frogs in it and when the frogs were plentiful, the kids would do what kids do.

We caught them.

We never really took it too far past that.  We’d catch the frogs, the frogs didn’t really think either way about getting caught.  They’d look at you with their eyes wondering what was next and when they got bored, they’d jump off back into the pond.  There were plenty more where that came from.  When we were through with catching frogs, we’d have a bucket of them and we’d set them loose back into the pond and then go back to find something else to annoy. 

Typical kids.   They do things and don’t really know why.  It’s just what we did.  Now that we’re older we know that it’s pointless and annoying and someone could get hurt.  Usually the frogs although it did get our clothes and shoes muddy.

For a while, one of my favorite TV shows was Futurama.  Set in a strange future where robots roamed the Earth along with Aliens, travel took place in pneumatic tubes in New New York.  New New York was built over top of our New York which was blasted in the opening scenes of the first episode.  Only mutants lived in New York below the current city.

I guess nothing really changed.

Of course there was a TV show within a TV show there.  One of the aliens was a toad that would hypnotize you with its stare and a groaning and grumbling sound.   That was the Hypnotoad.

Yeah, I guess you had to be there, but if you weren’t, here you go!

All Glory To The Hypnotoad.

Guys Night Out

Guys Night Out

The other night I was invited out for a night with the ‘guys.’

I told my wife that I would be home by midnight, ‘I promise!’

Well, the hours passed and the beers went down way too easily.

Around 3 a.m., a bit loaded, I headed for home.

Just as I got in the door, the cuckoo clock in the hallway started up and cuckoo-ed 3 times.

Quickly, realizing the wife would probably wake up, I cuckoo-ed another 9 times.

I was really proud of myself for coming up with such a quick-witted solution, in order to escape a possible conflict with her.

(Even when drunk as a skunk…. 3 cuckoos plus 9 cuckoos totals = 12 cuckoos = MIDNIGHT!)

The next morning my wife asked me what time I got in, I told her ‘MIDNIGHT’.

She didn’t seem pissed off in the least.

Whew, I got away with that one! Then she said ‘We need a new cuckoo clock.’

When I asked her why, she said, ‘Well, last night our clock cuckoo-ed three times, then said ‘oh crap!’ Cuckoo-ed 4 more times, cleared its throat, cuckoo-ed another three times, giggled, cuckoo-ed twice more, and then tripped over the coffee table and farted.