Monarch Extinction or Fake News and a reason to keep your adblocks up to date?

Here I am.  In the South Eastern portion of a state named after Flowers.

I just saw a Monarch butterfly float past the window.  It’s February and I do see them daily, I didn’t think much of it.

The other day I was sitting in my Jeep.  I was at Pompano Airpark in the south eastern parking lot.  Putting on my inline skates for a workout.  A Monarch butterfly floated between me and the next car of to do whatever it was that butterflies do.

They are here.  But in a state named after Flowers you would expect that.  Lots of nice Nectar to drink, places to visit, fields to float through.

Along with my favorite Monarchs are Swallowtails and others, flashing black and yellow in their own dazzling display while floating on the breezes.

Then I get home and am confronted with a rather frightening news story screaming that their numbers are Below 1% and Heading towards extinction!

Pretty shouty and frightening titles if you ask me.

Except.

 

Those two links I have above?  Almost Word For Word copies of each other.  If you click on the links, expect to have more shouty advertisements for bogus things that you were not interested in popping up on you shilling some nonsense that you will never follow through with.

Any time you find that the majority of the search of a specific phrase, pick your search engine, I have been using Duckduckgo.com lately, are identical in a search – think fake news.

Those who support that sort of … prank have been busy in recent years.

At any rate, any time you see something like that, it’s a red flag.   Keep your antivirus programs and your ad blockers up to date, someone has a farm of web pages, none of which really are all that worthwhile.

If you are in the west and are witnessing a drop in the numbers, plant butterfly weed and milkweed.

Even if you aren’t, it’s a good idea.

As for me?  Any time I get a web site throwing up a nonsensical pop up urging me to sign onto their newsletter list, I immediately go in and start blocking things.

It’s a sure sign it’s not really worth bothering with.

And plant some milkweed, ok?  After all the Monarchs really could use our help.

Remember

The link for the 9/11 memorial site is here.  You can watch the memorial ceremony today live from New York at the site, and find out more about how they are honoring those fallen on and after September 11th.

http://www.911memorial.org

World Trade Center, 1986 – Photo Courtesy of Eric Reivik
In my own case, that morning was until the time, unremarkable.  I arrived at the university, had my 7:15AM Call with Purchasing to work over things that they had needed, and was settling in at my desk to get started.
The hallway was abuzz with very random activity, more like when you knock over a hornet’s nest than anything else.
I took my headphones off to get a clearer picture of what was going on, and went back to the routine.
I noticed that the internet was becoming quite slow.  In a large university, the internet would run well until something major happened in that time and place.  I was trying to hit the news site of the BBC, and it simply stopped loading.

My boss and my team crowded around asking me what was up when some people began to get details.  The world had changed, and not for the better.

Anger almost never effects positive change.

This is a picture of the Nations First Permanent Pride Flag installation, or so I have been told.  It stands on Wilton Drive, across from City Hall, in Jaycee Park. Taken June 14, 2016 at around 2 in the afternoon.

About a week after it was installed, the murders happened in Orlando at The Pulse bar.  Now the flag is at half staff along with all the other flags that were seen on Wilton Drive.

It was described by John Oliver as The Most Florida Thing That Could Ever Be.  A Latino night at a gay bar in the theme park capitol of the world.

Or very close to that.

It was a closeted man, hyper religious, and hyper authoritarian.  He had a profile on a gay dating app called Grindr.  Whether he used it to date or to look for victims, we don’t know yet.

 

Probably both I would expect.

 

We do know he basically hated everyone, according to what his boss said in the interview that I saw.

I will not Pray For Orlando.  It was religion and prayer that got us to where we are.  Had this murderer been following a Religion of Peace, he would not have killed.  His own personal version of the particular religion that he did follow was a twisted relic of evil once his hateful mind got through with it.

I will leave it up to you to judge.  I simply will never support someone elected to office who supports the possession of those sorts of weapons.  They are designed to tenderize their victims and turn them into hamburger before the victim hits the ground.  They are designed to kill people more effectively.  They have no place in this world.

It is long past time to act.  If Sandy Hook and 20 children dying there, and Columbine’s massacre weren’t I doubt this will be acted on either.  It probably is too profitable for the paid off class of people to want to anger the NRA.

Enough praying.  Time to pass some meaningful gun control laws in this country and where ever else needed.  If the laws are there already, why aren’t you people enforcing them?

Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way.

Remember

It is September 11, 2015.

If you would like to explore the National September 11th Memorial Site for the Museum in New York, the link is here.

The 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony will be held in New York at 8:40 AM.  The link for the webcast for the event can be found at this page on the Museum site.

If you would like something perhaps a little more uplifting, the last remaining rescue dog is being given a Dream Day.

Yes, it has been 14 years.  It doesn’t mean we need to forget.

Goodbye Betty

These days you get news differently. 

I remember when Mom was alive, we had a hard and fast rule.  Stay off the phones after 9pm.   That was when the phone was reserved for important family business. 

When she finally went, it was years before I relaxed.  Still to this day if the phone rings after 9pm, I jump.

Now it’s social media.

That’s how we found out that my Aunt Betty passed away.  She was a week before her 96th birthday so I guess you could say she went because of that.  “Being 96”.

What you will never know is how powerful that woman was.  She was a character.  Put the three sisters together in a room and you were due to have a tornado of strength going on.  You knew where you stood with her, my mom, and my other Aunt Millie as a result.

Do something they didn’t agree with, they would tell you.  You’d eventually realize they were right, and you’d eventually tell them so.  Its pretty much the way things were.

Betty would come down to her condo in Century Village for the coldest months and having her there, in easy reach, was a blessing.  It meant that I could come up for random visits.  Of course those places were gated communities so a “drop in” was always a planned event.

We’d go out for our favorite “bad Chinese” food, run a few errands, and do other things which generally meant enjoying each other’s company.  She had made the transition from Matriarch to Good and Trusted Friend decades before, and that was great with both of us.

Once in a while, we’d get to discussing things in general and one of us would get onto food.  Our family was very food centered.  Visits to any of the houses meant these large productions centered around too much food, loud conversations, and the extended families meshing in the house.

I can still picture that oven of hers in the house in Woodhaven Queens stuffed with tray after tray of foods, the counters crammed with dishes yet to be cooked or cooling, and every square inch of that little kitchen stuffed with people rubbing elbows.   There would be a card game going on in the bedlam at some point, and she taught me how to play with the best of them.

“How about a game of Continental?” would be heard and we would settle in as the oven finally cooled well after dark.

But this time the food got moved.  I had gotten to talking about the roasts we made.  The beef was prime bottom round.  We did that up “Old School” in a roasting bag with vegetables and made up a Port Wine Gravy that was so good that I would freeze the stuff up and dole it out sparingly for months.  Every bit of that roast was used with care.  Other than slices for dinners and sandwiches, the bits and scraps and other detritus that fell off the thing would be made into Cornish Pasties, Pot Pies, and other specialties for weeks.

That was when I heard Betty say “Oh that sounds goooood!”.  I knew she was hooked.  She had a certain tone to her voice which turned it into an unsaid question of “You are going to make that for us aren’t you?”.

Of course we did.  It just took time.  Logistics.  You had to go to one of the few proper old line Butcher Shops here in Broward County and put in an order for just the right cut.  Not Choice, but Prime beef.  If we were going to do it, we were going to do it right.

We had to go to the liquor store and buy a bottle of Port.  That one, the one in the black bottle.

We got started using Port as a whim of mine.  It started with “Cheap Red Wine” as it said in the recipe, but we had run out, and the only thing remotely red was some horrible wine that was more vinegar than anything else and my cherished Port.  “Try it!” and it was good.  We never looked back.

The Port went in the roasting bag with onions, carrots, celery and potatoes.  If you never had roasted potatoes and carrots cooked in Port Wine, you are missing something truly wonderful.  The Port complements the carrots and enhances their sweetness and the potatoes are melt in your mouth good.

Can you tell we don’t do this for just anyone?

Betty was looking out the window as she helped us get the roast into the oven.  We suggested a glass of Port by the pool.  She loved the idea and for every visit from that point on we gave her a generous glass of the stuff.  I broke out the bottle of the good stuff, the roast didn’t need this.  This was a bottle of vintage port from a California vintner that after we got the bottle at discount learned that it was selling for over $250 a bottle.  Stock up!

Smooth as silk, it’s called “The Ruby Relaxer” by butlers everywhere and this was some of the best.

She settled in on the side of the pool, breathed in the jasmine scented air, and sipped the glass of red warmth in pleasure.

“Oh Bill!  This is wonderful!  It’s Bee-you-tee-ful out here!” 

Yes, she said it like that: “Bee You Tee Full!”.  Her first language was Italian, and she learned English before hitting elementary school, but if you listened closely, there was the tiniest hint of it still decades later.

But she was right.  It was bee you tee full.  We sat outside under the umbrella, getting up occasionally to check in on the roast.

One point we were outside and heard a hum and a thump.  This being FPL territory and my having lived here for 9 years, I knew what happened.  There was a transformer nearby that blew.  Power was out and there was a roast sitting in the oven. 

While I prefer a rare roast, this was still a wee bit early by thermometer but not much.  Maybe 15 minutes worth.  We closed the door on the oven and gave it that time. 

Part of the preparation of this feast was that you remove the vegetables from the roasting bag, after removing the roast and let it “rest”.  That allows the roast to have the internal temperatures equalize.  It’s a good practice for any cut of meat when they’re over an arbitrary thickness.  We placed the roast back in the oven although it was for all intents and purposes done at Medium Well instead of Well Done. 

It was this meal that got me hooked on making this dish by temperature in the future.  I don’t care for Well Done as much as most.

But how to make the gravy?  We weren’t going to waste all that Port Wine and Beef Drippings and the onions that sweetened it.  The next step was to pour it all into a blender, smooth it out, and then reduce it on the burners on the grill in the backyard if we had to.

Power was still out but I had a flash.  “Hey, doesn’t your car have a 110V outlet in the back from an inverter?”

Yes.  This meal was going to be finished by making the gravy in the trunk of a car.

“Back your car up to the carport, pop open the back!  We will make the gravy in the car!”

Betty was still out back.  She was unaware of the drama.

The car got moved in place, and I heard the blender fire up.  After a while the gravy was brought back inside.

“Now what?”

On cue, we heard the power snap back on.  The oven had to be turned off, and we fired up all four burners under the roasting pan to quickly reduce the gravy.

True to form this was an amazing meal.  Betty enjoyed it so much that she asked to take some home with her for later.

“I’m glad you liked it.  Did you know what happened while you were out back?”

I told her the story and said “Yes, your gravy was made in the back end of a car!”

A one of a kind meal for a one of a kind woman. 

We all will definitely miss her. 

When I got the news from her daughter, Darlene, I was floored.  I was expecting it.  Our birthdays are two weeks or so apart.  I thought something was up when I didn’t get a birthday card from Betty.  The last one was waylaid since it went to the Fort Lauderdale P.O and then back to Long Island.  I was hoping it was something like this but I somehow knew it wasn’t.

We heard that she was in a hospital, and that she was recovering from an illness.  Things were touch and go.  If anyone could beat “this” it was Betty.

But she couldn’t beat “Being 96”.  She was lucid to the end, had a long life full of love, family, and friends. 

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.

Will Garamond Save the Government 300 Million?

There is a 14 year old up in Pittsburgh area named Suvir Mirchandani that did an analysis on different fonts.  Since I play with fonts in creating web pages, it rang a bell with me.

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/politics/2014/03/28/lead-intv-suvir-mirchandani-expensive-fonts.cnn 
In short, most of the government documents in the US are printed in Times Roman.  It’s that “default” font you get when you have text with little tags on the ends of the letters that are called Serif.  Garamond looks similar to Times Roman and its derivatives, but it’s a lighter font.  The idea is that if they switched to Garamond at the same point, you end up saving money.

True, but… A 10 point Garamond is shorter and thinner than a 10 point Times Roman character.  To get the same height, you’d have to bump the size up on your text to a 12 point.

You should still save money but maybe not quite as much.  Since printer ink is ludicrously expensive, around $4285 a liter, any savings add up.

Does it matter?  Maybe, depends on how much you print.   You certainly will save money using the Light or Condensed version of the fonts, but you may not notice it.  If you’re printing out the resume, you don’t care, you just want it to look good.

I don’t tend to care anyway, I print very rarely, and besides I strongly prefer Gill Sans or similar like Trebuchet.  That’s the “Keep Calm” Poster font.  London Underground is another similar font. The M in Trebuchet is wrong, but that’s why I call myself a Font Geek.

What is more important than whether our 14 year old friend is completely right, or slightly wrong, is the idea that if you look carefully at a situation, small changes can make for a big difference in the end.  This is why things have gotten thinner in the manufacturing process.   Cutting costs, or even cutting corners, will save the manufacturer in the end.  If it is something to be thrown out and disposed of like packing peanuts, use the absolute minimum quality that will get the item to the ultimate person using the item.  It’s trash anyway, and trash is a massive problem.  Make enough of them and save a dollar a piece and it ends up being real money in the end.

The flip side of the packing peanut problem is the thickness of something like sheet metal in a car can be a life or death situation.  Thinning the grade of the sheet metal in a body panel of a car can be fine, if the car is never in an accident you won’t care.  If someone leans against the quarter panel of your brand new car and it crumples like a sheet of aluminum foil, you aren’t going to be safe in a crash.

The Warranty of Merchantability or Implied Warranty is a concept that fits well here.   The warranty states that a manufacturer “warrants” that a product is suitable to the reasonable use for its intended purpose.  You don’t expect to use your computer screen as a wheel chock to stop your car from rolling down a driveway, but you do expect to get a couple years at a reasonable brightness at a certain setting.  You know, so you can look at all those pretty letters, and fonts, and pictures of cats.

English Common Law is a wonderful thing, in this and many other cases.

So what do you take away from this?   As a web designer and consultant, I design things so they look good to me.  If I intend to print something out, will I be saving it for multiple uses?  Then splurge on the “bigger” fonts.  Once only?  Try not to print at all.  In the middle? Judge your audience.  Web only?  Make it pretty and change it when you get bored.

That last bit is why this page renders in one font and then snaps to another when it has finished loading.  The background there is that there are only a few web fonts.  Arial and Helvetica is one family, Times Roman (remember that one?), Trebuchet, and a few others in another family.  The font I picked for the blog looked good a while back when I changed my template.  It’s something called Cuprum in 14 point.  As one of the Google Open Fonts, I can use it freely, without royalties, and on any machine that supports the format even in commercial usages.  Blogger does the translation behind the scenes so that you, my reader, don’t have to have Cuprum on your computer.

Whether that saves ink if printed, I don’t know.  I could change the color to a dark grey and the result is I’d use less ink if I chose to print it out. 

Maybe our 14 year old friend should check that out?  What if you keep the font at the same size and weight, but change the color from black to grey?  From #000000 to #888888 for the web developers in the crew.

As long as it never gets printed, it just doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you still have to be able to see it and after all if you can’t see it, it’s a waste of time, isn’t it?

How Can Your Dog Dance To The North If Your Compass Is Broken?

Ever since the article came out, we’ve got something else to obsess over.  Dog Walk OCD, I guess.

In the early morning hours, walking through the city, we’ve come to notice that there’s a routine.  It’s not a perfect one but it is ours.

There was a scientific discovery that dog owners are chuckling about all over and now I join the ranks.  The idea is to take your dog out for a walk.  Eventually dogs will do what dogs will do and squat to relieve themselves.  When they poo, they will try to align themselves on a North-South axis.

Rack’s compass doesn’t work.  It may be sticky, but I’ve noticed he’s not very good at it.  Even if he is pointing North in this picture, he just doesn’t always find his way.

We will walk around 3 to 6 miles a day, and when he gets the urge, there is a ritual. 

First we start to speed up.  His pace gets a bit quicker.  Walking With A Purpose I suspect.

Then he will begin to veer off the pavement.  Not knowing why this happens, I begin to pull him back.  Steer him back to the walkway. 

Of course he’s trying to go away from the street so I’m beginning to get clued in as to why he wants to annoy the neighbors and impose himself on their privacy.

So I have a 45 pound black and white dog stretching my arm out.  I’m pretty tall, but doing a Stretch Armstrong act is usually what follows.

Then the spiral happens.  “It’s Time To Dance, Rack?” as he begins to spin around.  It is never always one direction, not so that we have noticed.  The path looks like a nautilus shell, beginning to curve inwards in ever tighter spirals when he stops.

Everyone then takes notice.  If the street points due North, has he … nope!  The theory goes that you’re supposed to have a dog that aligns themselves on a North-South Axis, someone has to find this dog’s compass and give it a little nudge.   He just hasn’t found his North yet.

Sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn’t.

That spin may have thrown him off.  The dance can get quite frenetic, spinning around like a Whirling Dervish looks comical, as he does this spin around the drain thing. 

Perhaps he’s distracted.  There could be a leaf moving on a tree 40 miles away in Miami and he would notice it.  You just try to point your butt when something especially interesting happens as you’re spinning yourself dizzy like a top.  Go ahead, I’ll wait, but don’t fall over.  It could get messy if you knock over a lamp.

The reality is that the study was done with dogs off leash.  As fast as my Rack is, I don’t think he’s ready for Off Leash Walking yet.   There may be a dog he’s friendly with a block and a half away and I was never really a fast runner.  Distance, yes, but speed, no.

Once he’s settled in, science aside, the fun and games are over and the work begins.

Does someone have a plastic bag?

I Can’t Be The Only One Who Gave Up On The 6 O’Clock News

If a bobblehead makes noise on the TV and it isn’t watched, does it still make a sound?

When I was asked about an accident that happened about a mile away, a car apparently ended up inside of a Miami Subs restaurant last night, I admitted I didn’t have a clue.

We heard sirens in the distance and I just didn’t realize what was going on.

I did look online about this particular story and couldn’t find it which was probably for the best.  

Thinking about it though, it did drive a point.  I stopped watching TV news years ago.  Fire, Murder, Corruption, Theft, Weather, Sports, and Chirpy Close all crammed into 22 minutes plus 8 minutes of Commercials and other “important” stuff all dumbed down to a Least Common Denominator level of intelligence to entertain, and not necessarily inform.

It got too easy to find news online, to skim the headings and read those things that mattered – to me.   With a little effort you could find a way to drop in your email box any story you want, targeted to what you are actually interested in.  Something called an RSS Feed from your favorite news website takes a lot of that targeting and makes it easy.  Frankly, the amount of information that you get from that “Rich Site Summary” is generally more than your favorite bobble head will give you on some of the longer ongoing stories.

I simply find the RSS Link and save that as a bookmark.  It reads in Firefox or other browser and allows me the option to read deeper or skip with minimal effort.  Not as shiny and flashy, but functional and fast.

I already do that, and while it could be too easy to miss something because you’ve pigeon holed yourself by reading only those stories that are interesting to you, it’s a lot more effective.   The serendipity of stumbling across a story that may be out of your normal scope is a wonderful thing, but a bit ineffective use of time.

TV has long become either the First or Second Screen in most people’s lives.  First World Problems aside, I’m lost without a laptop when I’m watching a show.  Easy enough to look up a reference.   Since I always watch TV on a digital recorder, I skip through commercials, pause at random points, and surf while doing other things. 

Broadcast news isn’t one of those habits I picked up again.  Easy enough to reduce a news program on TV to less than 15 minutes.   Sports is irrelevant to me as well as other specific stories.  For that matter, a DVR would be required for news so I could skip through the fluff pieces and thinly veiled commercials that pass for information.

I tried it after I moved here to South Florida.  I had accidentally recorded the hour of news broadcast and found myself watching one story.  It was forgettable, but before long they moved onto some detailed explanation of the opening of a business in another county and my thumb started hitting the skip button.  I also found myself screaming at the TV in frustration because it wasn’t really all that “Fair and Balanced” local news, it was pretty painfully tilted to their one closed way of thinking.

Independent news went out with the Fairness Doctrine and isn’t coming back soon since it isn’t profitable.

I did turn on RSS on this blog.  I know a few people do read it that way since the statistics I see show it.  I guess I’m “Eating My Own Dogfood” by following a philosophy that I tend to live by myself. 

Most major news organizations allow you to read their news that way. 

NPR has a large collection of RSS Feeds.
BBC does as well although you will have to use a separate feed for each topic.
NASA lets you get caught up on their field of Space Exploration in depth if you require.
MSNBC has them on their various pages as well.

And the local papers have them available.

It all makes it a lot easier to get the news you need and not be force-fed by someone else’s interests.