The Toilet, The New Private BYOD Office, and Learning Spanish

Reading as much as I do, I noticed something that tech guys have to be aware of.  Your own personal phone.

That and your tablets and all the other “stuff” you carry.  It’s called “BYOD” or Bring Your Own Device.

They’ve got to worry about what you’re surfing, whether you’re doing “nefarious” activities, and whether you are ever actually going to come out of that rest room.

All this was going through my mind the other day.  I realized I was doing that too. 

The particular school of thought was bemoaning that people are sitting at work, getting paid, and playing things like Angry Birds in their offices, restrooms, and other places.

I never installed Angry Birds.  Wasn’t my style.  I’m normally using a laptop or two at any given moment, virtual machines up and running, playing around with VMWare and pretending to Be Productive.

Yes, in Capital Letters.  Stay Motivated.  Be Productive. 


So I tried playing games when I used the bathroom.  Really I did, but it just seemed, oh I don’t know, an annoyance. 

Annoyance as in “Damnit I missed that bubble!” annoyance.  Yelling in the bathroom with the door closed about a bubble?  That’s just too weird for me.

Life is annoying enough, and it just felt futile.  What was playing a game in the toilet going to give me anyway?

Don’t answer that question, I meant it in a G Rated way anyway.

So after years of saying that I had a language tutor called Duolingo parked on my phone, I finally, actually did something with it.

I created a profile and began doing the course on Spanish.

I had had Spanish back in Junior High School.  Having been exposed to French in Montreal as a brat on vacation and also when listening to CBC on Shortwave, I took the courses in that language instead.  In retrospect, Spanish is more “useful” in this day and age where I am.  Unless I am going down to Dania Beach for a soft serve ice cream, my French is limited to hearing an occasional snippet of Creole from a Haitian.  I can usually get the feeling of what they’re saying but it’s truly been too many years.

I set rules for myself.  Goals were set at the lowest possible setting.  I didn’t want it to Be A Thing that I HAD to do even if I did do it once or twice in the car.  Enjoy the experience.  Repeat each “chapter” until I got it completely correct.  Repeat the “mid-terms” until I got it completely correct.

The results are that progress is slow and steady.  It’s more important to get this down and not sound the fool when I eventually get enough Spanish under my belt to be able to speak it to someone else.

At this point, I’m limited.   I am learning how to say useful phrases like “Los Elefantes bebe La Leche” or “La Tortuga bebe La Leche”.

You never knew that drinking milk was so important to an Elephant or a Turtle, did you?

I’m also second guessing my sentences in Spanish there but at this stage I would.

I find myself arguing back at the program, Duolingo, when the thing tells me I am wrong for using correct English.  This gamification of learning has actually had me yelling at the phone saying “That doesn’t make sense in English!”.

*sigh* but it is the correct meaning.  Tap on the little bubble and it puts you into a browser that gives you the social discussion behind it.  Oh THAT’S what they mean by that!


Oh well, take the bullet and do the same chapter tomorrow.

I’m three months into it.  I’m still watching Spiders drink Milk, Turtles eat Apples, The Women read Newspapers. 

I swear once it was a dog writing a letter.

So while it is strictly speaking, correct, it doesn’t make sense all the time.  A bit literal.

After I flush, and come back to what I was doing earlier, I check the headlines on two Spanish Language news sites and challenge myself to read what the front page is telling me.  The BBC Mundo page is helpful because BBC in English is my main source of news.  Something called EFE USA helps as well.  Both are in supposedly basic Spanish. 

I get it.  I’m purposely hobbling my progress, but that’s fine.  I want to be correct. 

I should probably start watching Plaza Sesame, er, Sesame Street in Spanish again.

There used to be a TV show produced on the Miami PBS Station called Que Pasa USA.  It featured a blended Hispanic and Anglo family.  Some spoke both English and Spanish, others only one language.   I’ll keep an eye out for that and maybe set a watch filter on the DVR.  After all, when did you hear anything on a Sit-Com that was really deep and complex?

Leave The Simpsons out of this.  They’re more subtle than you think, I think. 

Ok maybe not, but for now, I’m having fun challenging my mind, even if it is in the bathroom and therefore a bit weird.

Got any milk, Mr Turtle?

Have You Ever Had One Of Those Mornings?

I am smiling.  I’m also shaking my head.   It’s been an amusing day, and it’s been the last hour that is the cause of it.

I have a groove.  I know what I will be doing at a given time of day for the most part.  When something shakes up my groove, hilarity may ensue.

I also have people around me who think it’s entertaining to upset my groove.   Those people need to be duct taped to the ceiling fan and then the fan turned on full so they spin merrily above the ground.

Or something like that.

Been up early and got the dog out for his walk.  He dragged me out to the shopping center near the house. 

No. Big. Deal. 

I didn’t think anything of it until we rounded the corner.  You see, Rack is “noise averse”.  Drop something on the floor and he’ll jump.  He was about to experience a lot of noise all at once.  The shopping center has been in the process of being painted for the last month or so.   They do it before the businesses open, so you may not have seen it unless you’re at the gym, walking your dog, or a “leftover” from the last night bar crowd.

No. Big. Deal. 

We got to the place that they were working and his dragging me toward the noise became a big “Nope” and he started dragging me away.   As in total fear toward the loud growly equipment. 

Deal.  You will survive.  In fact it’s good for him to be exposed to it and survive.   He did, we got past and he almost immediately went “normal”.

Whatever the heck that is.

Flying through the normal morning routine… er, whatever that is, I managed to get to the point where I needed to leave.  Not completely, the laptop might be needed and it was sitting stuck at 30% update where it had been for the better part of the last half hour.  

Nope.  Stay home computer, you’re drunk.

Getting into the Jeep, I piled my neighbor into it for a trip out to the Hospital where she was to be dropped off for a procedure.  

On the way… I have to say South Florida Drivers need to stop messing about and concentrate on their driving.

Between the woman in front of me at the light at Dixie and Prospect doing her Mascara, and the woman at the bus stop with the see through bottoms, it was a scenic drive.

I didn’t point that out to my neighbor as I dropped her off and got back into the Jeep.

Heading back I saw two different morons texting, and a fool trying to convince a pickup truck with a giant arrow sign pointing into the center lane moving at a walking pace to move faster.

Not. Gonna. Happen.  Oh wait!  You’re a snowbird.  Go back to Ontario, you’re drunk.

Playing with the radio, the local “Party Station” was talking about the Bronies of Kendall.  I had to think about this one.  I’m all for diversity, I’m pretty “diverse” myself, but I still can’t wrap my head around the attraction of technicolor plastic ponies and the society around it.  On top of it, the presenter made her announcement then went into a story about a barn in Germany that exploded due to cow “wind” followed by every bad pun she could think about referring to Cows, Bulls, and Farming in general.

Better to pull into the driveway and wash the Jeep.  It’s much safer.  The roads are a strange place.

With the music pouring out of the house singing the praises of being in America, I realized that the British Forces Broadcast Services were having an odd day as well.  It ended that song with the presenter telling all the British Armed Forces, and one guy in South Florida about his long nose hair that had to be pulled out.

“Crikey!  That’s long!  That came out of me?”

Weirdness is universal.   We’re all weird.  Some of us just get to do it publicly.  Now, my BFBS Gibraltar Presenter is talking about Going Commando. 

I think “all this in one hour?”  It’s time for another mug of coffee.   It is going to be a strange day.

DEET Only Deters Mosquitos First Time

I knew it.  I knew Mosquito Deterrents only worked for a short while.   Now I have scientific proof.

I guess I’ll just have to go find a really big hamster ball.

The story is that if I used a mosquito deterrent spray to keep the little nasties off me, they would work only for a short time, then I’d be back to swatting.  The reason is that DEET, which is the chemical that was developed for the US Army back in WWII, would get in the bug’s antennas.   The receptors would get clogged up, and the mosquitoes would ignore the DEET on the second go.

Think about it.  You spray yourself with that Deep Woods Off, you expect to be able to go outside and have a good time.  If the wind is low, and you are in a crowd, that may not work.   The mosquitoes will go to the next guy for a while, and you’re fine.   But after being exposed to your repellent, and not finding something, they home in on your own Carbon Dioxide, and you’re being bit.  In a breeze, the bugs that got exposed to DEET would be blown away on the breeze and fresh, unexposed mosquitoes would be the next in line and be repelled until that breeze stops.

That is completely within my own experience.   I’m the mosquito buffet in a crowd.  I’ll go out lathered in that goop and still get bit. 

Sometimes, just knowing what you are up against is half the battle.  Besides, I think it would be fun to play in a giant hamster ball on top of the waves on the ocean.   Maybe tow it behind a boat?  Bounce off the wake?

The whole story was on the BBC today, here at this link.

That’s a load off my mind, even if it means I’m still going to be bit.

Bread That Last 60 Days Cuts Waste

Going through the news on the BBC can turn up some items you don’t expect to read.  Its essential “Britishness” adds a dimension that one living in South Florida wouldn’t expect to read about. 

After all, when is the last time you were at a proper Tea?

The problem with that Tea is that some things turn stale after a while, so the recipes that are traditional in one area, any area, may not work in another.   Sourdough Bread in San Francisco is phenomenal, but the yeasts that grow in that cool and wet climate would not do well in South Florida because of the warm and wet climate we have here.  As a result, “real” San Francisco Sourdough Bread is different than Sourdough that is baked in Chicago, Philadelphia, or anywhere else without their micro-climate.

Instead, we have different things like molds and iguanas that fall from the trees when it gets cold.

Bread seems to turn stale faster here, as a result of our climate. 

Someone here in the US is working on a solution to that, and they claim that by the use of Microwaves that are somehow “modulated” in a special way, you can get a loaf of bread to last 60 days without spoilage.

I would expect that a 60 day old bread slice would be dried out whether it is mold free or not.   Plus the occasional lizard that sneaks into the house might have a sample. 

The Bread Box isn’t all that practical when you live here as a result.

The reason why bread doesn’t turn stale is that commercial bread bakeries often pump their recipes full of an alphabet soup of chemicals.  They change the flavor of the bread, and you end up with something with an odd taste, or no taste at all.  But it will last more than a day or three which is something that I can’t really say about my own breads that I bake at home, or some of the wonderful artisan breads that you can get when you step away from that stuff that is in a plastic bag with polka dots on it.

Of course they never consulted the people who make the bread for Mc Donald’s hamburgers.  There’s a rather famous, or infamous, study where someone took Fries and a Mc Donald’s hamburger and left it on a plate.

For 12 years.

It was untouched visibly.

Not even the bugs in the house would go near the stuff.  It dried out, looks normal, but has an odd smell about it. This link talks about a 12 year old Mc Donald’s Hamburger.

I think I’ll stick with making my own bread rolls.   Much better for me.  As for the microwave technique, it’s “in testing” and may be rolled out eventually. 

With butter.

Ultrasound Mosquito Deterrents do not work!

Blasted things.   Mosquitoes.  I hate them.

But unfortunately, they love me.

I am a mosquito deterrent, at least for you.  I’m that guy that is swatting the little blighters while everyone around is looking confused because they’re not getting bit.  I have “Sweet Blood” or whatever you wish to call it, but the nasty creatures seek me out.

I was even getting bit inside the house when I forgot to change the water in a “rooting cup” that I had some cuttings in when Momma Mosquito found it, laid her eggs, and her minions came out to bite me.

Yes, the ones who bite are ALWAYS female.  The guys just want to find flowers and suck nectar for their food.  You’re safe.

I’ve tried sprays.  Deep Woods anything… Doesn’t work.  At least for me.  Plus I’m not comfortable turning my skin into a toxic waste dump for a half hour of protection.

I’ve tried submerging myself.   If I’m relaxing in the pool or the hot tub, we put this massive fan on that blows a gust across the water, then I get as low as I can so there is less surface area.   Still they find me and turn my head into an airport that they’re approaching for a landing.

I’ve had one fly into my eye and get lodged under my eye lid.   One of the problems with inline skating 21,000 miles like I had is that you eat a lot of bugs.  Don’t ask.

The best thing I found is to simply wear long pants, and don’t go outside just after sunrise or within an hour or two of sunset.  Stay out in the sun because that dries the nasty creatures up.   Drain everything, don’t let water collect under pots.   Kind of a problem here since there’s a drip feed irrigation system that runs each day for the orchids.

I tried the little ultrasound things that make a high pitched EEEEE! sound.   I didn’t think they worked either.   They annoy the dogs though, so since my own Lettie is almost deaf, I use one to keep other dogs away from us.  She’s old and doesn’t want or need the contact so they stay away to the confusion of their owners.

I did find out that there have been tests of these devices.  Even the smartphone apps don’t work, and I’ve tried them out on all of my phones.  There has been scientific double-blind tests that say don’t waste your money.  You can read the BBC article on them.  They’ll say the same thing.  Great picture of the piece of software that I use on the phone, on an iPhone, in the hand of a tester.  The hand has mosquitoes biting the hand while it is on.

The tester must be like me.  Sweet blood.

I’m debating if I can find a hamster ball and use it to go outside, but until then, I’ll be in my cargo pants.   I’ve heard they’re out of style, but they’re great for one thing.  If I have my smartphone in my pocket, I can set the sound on the mosquito chaser to about 17,000 Hz.   They do great for keeping noisy kids away from me too.

Bye Bye BBC Bush House

What is that man banging on about again?

Growing up, I discovered Dad’s Radio.  I have it here.  It still works.  It is a grand thing, a Blaupunkt Hi Fi, built in October 1956.  Glowy things in the back called “Tubes” or “Valves”.  It would get warm and make music and entertain you in a way that the connected era doesn’t. 

Back when you had four TV channels, AM and a growing thing called FM that weirdos and Dentist’s Offices listened to, you would eventually get bored with what was on and do something today that may be radical – turn off the TV.  Or the radio, depends on what you are “consuming”.

Although being a precocious two year old (yes, I was 2 1/2 at the time) I discovered Dad’s Radio.   He showed me how to use it, although I would bet it was after my banging on the buttons that made things work and probably after some yelling on his part.   I got to listen to the usual stuff but being that kid I wanted more.

I found a world of more on Shortwave.

At that time in my life I enjoyed being told stories and other than PBS, you didn’t have real story tellers.  Of course you had cartoons but they got repetitive and daytime TV back then was soap operas.  Talk about dull.

Living on the prairie of South Jersey, we were close enough to be able to pick up certain international broadcasts.  There was a relay on Shortwave out of Sackville New Brunswick Canada that broadcasted the CBC, BBC, Radio Australia, and a few others.   I was hooked.  Learned some French by listening to CBC when they shifted at the hour from English to French on the Northern Quebec Service

Other times, there was the BBC World Service.   The World Service was a life long love affair that continues to this day.  I couldn’t explain to the neighbor kids what I was listening to, and they weren’t interested being more inclined to listen to local radio out of Philadelphia and the same thing that all the rest of the kids were listening to.

Silly Herd Minded People.   Probably grew up driving SUVs too…

While they were listening to pop music on AM radio, I was being told stories and game shows.  I also didn’t care for Pop Music at the time having been exposed to Classical on Shortwave.  I had a bizarre knowledge of what was going on in The Empire at the time and listened in as colony after colony gained independence from The Queen. 

All of this happened in a building called Bush House.  They moved the World Service there after the bombing in 1941 during the Blitz in the Second World War, and remained there to this day.   Today actually.   They will be moving the World Service to The Strand in Central London.  The final news bulletin was read at Noon in London, 7AM our time in Florida.

Of course the news will go on, the World Service broadcasts mainly News and Business News since the “light entertainment” was shifted over to BBC Radio 4 in the 1980s.  I tend to only check into the World Service for news broadcasts preferring the Radio 4 Programming since it is broader and they’re still doing those “stories” I grew up with.

I’m sure my sister could tell you stories about her weird brother listening to that big box in the rec room in Cherry Hill, NJ.  It’s just the boxes got smaller and now connected to the internet so you too can pick that out as well as the overwhelming chatter of billions of voices. 

In the middle of all of that, the comforting voice of Auntie saying “This is the World Service of the BBC” is still connected via a link on my smartphone and on my PCs.  It’s one of the links with the past that I’ve managed to maintain all these years.  It’s just moved on to new digs, just like the production studios.

Snakes in a Plane, and in a Walmart too

Yep, bizarre news is showing itself this week, but in retrospect it kind of makes sense that you should watch out for yourself.

After all, it WAS a WalMart.   Shouldn’t you be shopping somewhere else anyway?

Up in Washington State, some guy was going out to buy some mulch for his plants. His Marijuana plants.  It’s legal there and he’s got a medical need.  That just kind of adds to the aura of “oddness”.

Ok, legal plants, I got it.  Not for me, but I got the story.

So he goes to WalMart, brushes a stick away and it bites him.  Turns out that on top of the bag wasn’t a stick, but a foot long rattlesnake.

Maybe I should have said “A pot grower walks into a WalMart, and…”.

The reality is that in those large garden centers, you do have to watch out.  Over the weekend I was looking at Lemon Trees and spotted a mouse, three species of birds, and a couple rogue bees.  You don’t want to get stung do you?  All this was “inside” the garden center at the hardware store.  It’s really just one of those open air areas with a bit of hardware cloth roofs for shade, and finding wildlife in what passes for inside is normal.

I guess they’re right, those WalMarts are entertaining in a dark and bite-y sort of way.

Endangered Invasive Species Confuse Me

That title sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it?

There was an article on the BBC today about the floral trade.  It seems like “Western Demand” is stripping some Central American areas of certain kinds of Palm Trees to the point that the species has gotten rare and endangered.

It’s a perfect example of that old saying ‘What is Free, is Worthless’.

These countries have the palms growing in “open areas” and since they are there, they are getting picked clean of leaves.  If you pull the leaves off of the palm tree, it dies.  Thanks to UK researchers, they realized that they can be harvested in a Sustainable Manner by allowing them to grow to a certain size than only taking two leaves off of the tree.  The reason why you want this particular palm is because the shelf life of those palm fronds is much longer than most and can be upwards of 40 days.

Great… slow down, take ownership of the land, and protect the plants.   We have all heard of that many times.  After all, if you pick the flowers off of your plants, you will not have any fruit.  Leave some for the bees and you will have a harvest.  It simply makes sense.  Good agricultural stewardship of the land.  Treat it as a farm and you will do well.

So why was I shocked to see this particular article?  Simply put, these plants that are becoming endangered because of our demand and their incompetent and rapacious harvesting are an invasive plant in Florida.

It is a weed tree.

You see here, it is called a Fishtail Palm.  I have pulled seedlings out of my pot deep in the back of the yard that I use to start plants.   When I take a cutting of something, I stick it in that pot and see what I get.  I’ve gotten quite a few hibiscus, screw palms, coleus and others out of that pot.  It sits under my Sea Grape tree, and I have to pull sea grape plants out of that pot because the birds eat the grapes and “spit” the seeds out.

Well, not strictly speaking “Spit” but I do try to keep this blog safe for work even in conservative offices.

Right now, there are two of these endangered invasive palms growing in my pot.   When I saw that picture in the article, I thought of this starter pot and realized that yes, yet again, we’ve gotten it wrong. 

This picture was from the Wikipedia Page on the species.  We’ve got a lot of these trees in the neighborhood.  In fact this plant looks like the one in my next door neighbor’s yard.

I guess instead of pulling that plant for next bulk trash day, I’ll stick it in the ground out in the Utility Easement.  I may as well, it’s not a native, it’s an endangered invasive.

Queuing for Status

This morning I had a laugh. 

Auntie BBC had up an article about how businesses need to plan a strategy to deal with lines, queues, and delays.  In there was a comment about how in some cases, standing in a queue could be seen as a status symbol.

It was at that point where I spewed my coffee on my monitor and had to get up and change my shirt.

Personally I can’t think of an activity that is less rewarding than standing on line. Or in line depending on whom you are talking to.  The anticipation of how long I will stand on line will be the criteria that I will use to decide whether to even bother going into a shop or restaurant.

I haven’t been to a Wendy’s burger joint in decades.  I went to one, three times I believe.  They have a system of feeding everyone through one or two cashiers as the customers are treated to standing in a weaving line like a series of cattle chutes. 

Quality may be their recipe but you can’t prove it by me.  It’s just not worth it to stand around looking at your feet while waiting for your calf muscles to lock up for a burger.  There’s another fast food joint next door, most likely, lets go there!

When I go to a supermarket, I ignore all the impulse items that are stacked in giant pyramids by the door and seek out the checkout lines.   If they’re snaking down the shop to where the frozen food is melting… NEXT!

What gets me is how could they say that it could be a status symbol?  The act of standing in a spot for a posh venue in your Gucci shoes and being seen to do so seems like a rather mindless pursuit.  I can just hear them saying “Oh Muffy, dear, look!  All the peons down there, the little people will see us standing here to get in!”.

No, Dear Muffy, they’re standing there looking at the fool in five hundred dollar shoes getting sunburned trying to get into a venue and question your sanity.

But then again maybe it would be different if I was a poseur and status seeker.  I’d rather get there before the rush and have a seat.  After all, I’ll get that window seat and point at the people waiting to get in while I sip my “cocktail”.

Feel like going to an amusement park?  I hear they have a new ride called the Amazing Line Experience!  You can simulate the experience of standing on a 1 hour line waiting to get on the ride.  Just like the real thing except you don’t have that messy roller coaster at the end!

You really didn’t want to go for a roller coaster ride today, did you?

If You Love Me, You’ll Yawn At Me

Yawning is contagious.


Not always.

Yes, it is a lawyers’ answer.   It depends.

I had caught an article on the BBC earlier, and was amused by it so I decided to test it out.  You see, yawning doesn’t mean you’re bored, it means your oxygen levels in the brain are low so you open your gaping maw to take in more air and show off your molars.

It has been said that you shouldn’t yawn in public because it’s contagious, but that’s not the entire story.   If you’re in a group, it turns out those who are closest to you emotionally will be more likely to yawn and those who don’t know you would not.

So find your dog and yawn at her.   I can usually get mine to yawn back.

Your partner?  They’re not boring you, they may yawn back.

If you love me you’ll yawn at me.

We’re onto something here.   Prove to me you love me, yawn back.

Chatting with someone about that date they had last night?  Ask them if they think that it will pass the Yawn Test.  After all, if they won’t yawn in your presence, what else won’t they do?

Walking down the street and seeing someone you know?  Find out just how well they know you.  Yes, you guessed it, yawn at them.  If they yawn back, it’s Best Friend Forever material.

Just don’t do it in the middle of a sentence, they may not understand.   After all, some people aren’t as enlightened as you are.  

As Freud Said, Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Cigar.

Then again, we can now say Sometimes A Yawn Says I Care For You!