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?