1000 Published Posts

When asked about this blog, I am most frequently asked why do I write?

Dunno, felt good at the time.
Gives me an outlet for creativity.
I like to share my thoughts.
It helps keep my Sister up to date with what’s going on.
I can do my Technical Writing here.
It is entertaining to me.
It can be entertaining to others.

All of the above.

This is my 1000th posting.  That’s a lot of writing.

I’ve done a post a day, every day since September 13th, 2009.  Who knows how long I will keep this up?  Someday my priorities will change, I’ll find my time used up by other things.  This typically takes about a half hour a day on average to do.  I don’t write every single day since I do tend to post jokes sent to me on Saturday and Sunday.

Since I’ve never actually gotten paid for any of this writing, I could easily walk away with a shrug.  It wouldn’t be the first time that I volunteered for something I found interesting and stayed with it for a long time.  My own personal philosophy is find something you enjoy and look for the long term results.   When I got into inline skating with everyone else back in the 1990s, I continued until I skated 21,000 miles. 

Long term.  Besides I enjoyed that as well.

In any of these round number pat on the back posts, you always have a list.  

Here’s my top 10 postings of all time.

  1. Gold Medal Flour Extraordinary Biscuits.
  2. Morning Rain Brings Barky Showers.
  3. Hotmail Annoyance – Turn Off Keyboard Shortcuts.
  4. Willie T’s Bar Key West Picture.
  5. New Post, New Month, Last Picture.
  6. Merry Xmas, Here’s Your Sign!
  7. True Story – 2 Duck Hunters in Wisconsin.
  8. Parking Hours Discussed at the City Commission.
  9. GFS Marketplace Review.
  10. Ikea Poang vs La-z-Boy Barnett Reclina-Rocker Review.

Seems like people like Biscuits, My Dog, are annoyed with Hotmail, Like Willie T’s (I’ve got to go back), Jokes including City Commission, GFS, and my Chairs.

Dannon Oikos Yogurt – Close But Not Greek

Earlier this week, I hit the wholesale club.  I had to buy some of the weird things that I had ran out of that were only available there.  I also had a thick stack of coupons.  $25 worth actually.

One of them was for Yogurt.  I tend to have yogurt on top of dry oatmeal.  Mix it up into a paste and it brings some flavor back to the food. 

Wallpaper paste is not pleasant for long.

I really do like the taste of Activia Vanilla and had a coupon for that – or for Dannon Oikos.  It’s the same company.  

Oikos is their attempt to make an Authentic Greek Yogurt.   I think they came close to making third generation Greek yogurt.  In other words, sure, the grandparents might have been Greek, but that kid wasn’t really culturally Greek.

Maybe I’m mixing my metaphors.

You see, I prefer a “proper” yogurt.  It should not be a sweet “pudding”.  There should be a slightly acid tang to it.  The places you will find that is either in a health food store, if you make it at home, or Greek Yogurt that was… well, imported from Greece.  It is a different process to make Greek Yogurt as we call it here, it basically is strained to thicken it more.  On the other hand, yogurts made in different areas will taste differently just like Sourdough bread made in San Francisco will taste different than bread made from the same culture in a different part of the world.

I don’t get the imported kind often, it’s a bit too expensive to justify plopping on top of the half cup of dry “Quick Oats” in the morning but when I do, there is that taste I remember.  Thick, very creamy, almost like cream cheese and a nice little bite to let you know you’re not eating pudding that was made from a box.

Today I cracked the first of the Oikos open.  Blue and White tub to evoke the Greek Isles, a hint of “classical Greek” art on the wrapper and when you open it a thick plug of creamy goodness floating on top of a layer of black cherries.

Stirring the mix up I stuffed the spoon into my mouth, swirled it around and … Meh.  So-So.
Try again…. Meh.

Yep, Corporate America has taken another wonderful ethnic food and dumbed it down for the masses.   It was to Greek Yogurt as Mc Donalds is to Hamburgers.  Food, yes, but not as we know it.

I’ll finish the pack and we’ll go back to the Real Deal, the Fage that we got before when we need a Greek Yogurt.   I’ll switch back to the Activia for my oatmeal.  Like I said, they do have an excellent Vanilla!

Why I Will Not Buy Another Bosch Product

Water Heaters are a conceptually simple device. 

Bring water into an area, add heat, and bring it out once it has gotten “hot enough”.

We have been building these things for centuries.   First it was called a kettle or cauldron and sat upon a fire in a hearth.  Then someone got the bright idea to containerize the lot and you have the familiar tank that sits in many homes as a result.  They don’t necessarily need electricity, but they do need a source of something to produce heat. 

When I moved into this house it had an ancient washing machine, creaky dryer, and a frightening water heater.

The Water Heater used no electricity at all.  I am in a hurricane zone and this would have allowed hot water and comfortable showers assuming that there were actually water being pumped into the house – which I understand is not a given.   It also was rusty and looked as if it would die at “any second”.

What went first was the Washing Machine.  This threw a coupling and could be fixed at a cost greater than a new washer.   All the mechanicals were broken as a result of the coupling breaking and left the carpet in the laundry covered by some rather soapy water.

We went out and bought a Bosch front loading washing machine.  The idea was that we’d get the most water and energy efficient machine we could find and save on water and electricity despite the greater cost. 

There was a problem.  Bosch in their wisdom went with a computer controlled washer.  Their programming was typically German Precise.  Perhaps a bit too precise as if you put too much soap into the machine, it will happily rinse out the extra soap for you.  It will do so by running an intermediate rinse – over and again until it determines that the soap is all washed out.  IT also requires this “HE Detergent” which has the benefit of being in big bright colored containers and costs more. 

Once the clothes have been washed, then spun at 1200 RPM and sounding like a distant Jet Engine threatening to fly them off to Boschland or where every flying washing machines go, it leaves them glued to the inside of the drum to be pealed off and put into the dryer.

The dryer seems to work well if you like to come back to a giant ball of clothes that is an illustration of how not to dry clothes.  Dry on the outside you reach the damp or wet center and put them back in.

This is particularly evident on Thursday Mornings.  I should say Afternoons as last week I pulled the bed apart and started the laundry at 6AM.  XXSanitary mode meant it was run through the hottest water I could provide, then heated electrically to something nearer steam, then washed thoroughly.  Over and Over until it is spun down to give me a wet ball of blanket, sheets, and pillowcase.

Needless to say this wretched machine needed a number of extra spin cycles and didn’t finish until 12:30 PM.

6 and one half hours of laundry for “one load” of linens.

Then onto the dryer which knowing that it has a penchant for turning things into a progression chart of wet, I put half the linens into then pressed the button.

The Dryer has a helpful time display of 1 hour and 8 minutes allowing me to count down the time until I have to unroll the ball and put them back in for another cycle.

The bed was finally made at 2:30 in the afternoon.  8 and a half hours for one load – two sheets, a pillow case, a light blanket all washed after being “Extra Rinse Foam”ed and spun until a wet sodden blob.

Once those two pieces were replaced we then bought a Bosch AquaStar Water Heater.  Tankless thing, I have a laptop brief case that is smaller than the heater.  Model number ag 250 sx lp

My contempt for this Water Heater knows no bounds.  AVOID this Water Heater!

It saves Propane by turning itself off with a helpful “E0” error code.   We really are not sure what that means, nor is the internet since the going wisdom is to turn it off then back on to reset the code.

I’m hoping for when the Washer launches to BoschLand it takes that bloody tankless water heater with it.  Right out of the wall and off to what ever dump it ends up in.

You see, while it uses on the order of a quarter of the Propane that the old beast of a water tank used, it doesn’t stay on when you need it.  Run the dish washer (thankfully a KitchenAid and very dependable and NOT a Bosch Product) and the water heater model ag 250 sx lp turns itself off.  There’s that E0 code.

Go take a shower.  It’s a crap shoot whether you will complete it without taking a cold shower as it will turn itself off at least twice a week.   So two in every seven showers are a rude surprise.

Today, it was more cantankerous than usual.   Today this beast of a water heater turned off five times in a rushed 10 minute shower.  It took two people to perform the shower.  When the water ran cold, reset the water heater, then jump back in washing what ever body part is needed and quickly because it would run cold again.

E0 anyone?

So my bottom line recommendation is to avoid Bosch Products.  When these go, I will NOT be replacing them with another Bosch Product.  German Precision aside, these things are not “Suitable for Purpose” as we learned.  The Water Heater came with a 12 year warranty which is a good thing since it hasn’t worked right since day one.

Kevin is now saying that they have some sort of fix that he can perform with a voltage meter himself.   This should be entertaining, and at least I Know CPR.

Skype the vacation away

A while back, I was consulting for a start up.  Interesting situation, I helped out with some light Web Development and QA for a small group up in Philly and kept it up while I moved here.  The whole time I had a constricting 600 minutes a month on my T-Mobile contract.  The first month here, I blew that out and ended up with a $120 charge instead of my usual $40

We figured out a way to telecommute via Skype, and continued onwards. 

I used Skype to teleconference with people on Windows, Mac, and Linux on every sort of connection from Dial-Up (Yes, people use that still) to cable modem broad band.   It’s an amazing piece of software and completely free to use on the web.

I can go deeper into that, but functioning as a CTO/CIO for a start up from here in Wilton Manors while the rest of the organization was around Philadelphia and NYC was amazing experience.  Too bad the organization folded.  The Republican Induced Great Depression that we’re going through claimed another Small Business…

Right now, Kevin is up in Philly visiting Mom on vacation.  He’s got Skype on his iPhone and an unlimited data contract.  I’ve got it here on my laptop with built-in web camera. 

We’ve always played with technology but this is a difference.  With his iPhone 4 and the two cameras on it, we decided to play and go with a video call.

So I was sending and receiving a crystal clear audio stream.  Sound was FM quality, maybe better.   I didn’t have my headphones to judge, but Skype on my end blows away any cell phone call I’ve ever had except when I used Skype on the iPhone to chat with a friend in Key West.

What was amusing was what Kevin did next.  Video.

He was driving through the rolling green southern Pennsylvania countryside sending me “Quarter VGA” video in full speed.  It was blocky and grainy but it was utterly smooth.  We were laughing as he approached Mom’s home and knocked on the door.

“Hi Mom, look, Bill’s on the Phone in Video”
“Hi Mrs Mom! I bet you didn’t expect to be on TV to Florida did you?”
“Hi Bill! No I didn’t!”

I was then taken for a tour of a condo that I had been told so much about, saw her Orchids and the view through to the forest (or at least trees) behind the home and all the things that I had recognized from the visits to their home before I had moved to Florida.

The thing is that it’s completely free to use it over the web.  They also offer services for a couple dollars a month to allow you to use your Skype Account as a phone with a phone number in the US and other countries. 

Basically we’ve all got some chat options, but when I find myself able to use Skype, it’s what I prefer.   Doing Skype to Skype on two PCs is absolutely smooth. 

Last night I got a video Skype call from my friend in Key West, David. 

The video was full screen, and since we were on a “fast” cable modem connection, the video was better than Standard Def TV.  It may have been equivalent to 720p, I’m not sure, but it was stable as could be.

The thing is we both had older computers with web cams.  Mine is a Core2Duo processor – about 2 years old.  His was a 5 year old Mac Book on an old copy of OSX Leopard. 

You just don’t need high end equipment to do something that “The Jetsons” considered normal any more.

Noise Canceling Headphones or Isolation Booth, You Choose

A while back, one of my “finds” was a pair of headphones.  When the List Price was 120, the “refurb” price was originally 60, and you can find them for 16 it’s worth buying.   Especially since money is tight and I spend most of my day with headphones on and music in the background.

I picked up a pair of Sony MDR-NC7 headphones, put in the battery, flipped the switch and was immediately impressed.  Noise Canceling was not perfect but for $16 they didn’t have to be.  Then I plugged in to the MP3 Player and noticed that I didn’t have to run the volume quite as high to get the same effect.  Yes, a pair of noise canceling headphones can actually save your hearing.

For a while, I would walk around the house with the music off because the effect nulled out droning noises like the computers or the air handling units and I was transported from the Noisy Quirky Island of Wilton Manors to the inside of a library.  Once the novelty wore off, I took them for granted and used them like any other pair.  

Not outdoors, because if you were trying to cross the road, you may end up being road pizza.  Just enough silencing to be dangerous.

About two weeks ago, I was given someone’s old iPhone 3GS.   Since I don’t have ATT or a Data Plan on my cell phone contract, I use the thing like an iPod Touch.   It watches my professional email account, plays music, and allows me to do limited surfing.  Sure, all of that can be done on the laptop, but this slips in my pocket and I can listen to music too pretty much all day if I need to.

That would be one of the drawbacks.   I caught myself listening to this iPhone all day and didn’t realize that the iPod applet had a nasty habit of resetting the volume.  I haven’t gotten a good idea where it does the reset or why but I’m watching now.  All the sudden its volume slider is “in the middle” where someone at Apple decided it should be and not at 15% where I wanted it, and I’m listening to Armin van Buuren’s dreamy trance music a bit louder than I’d prefer.

No, not that “Hey Get Off My Lawn and Turn Down That Noise” kind of volume, but more of a “you are enveloped in A State Of Trance and you can’t hear a bloody thing” kind of volume. 

When the washer sounded off it’s beeper, I didn’t hear it.
When the phone rang, twice, in an hour this morning, I didn’t hear it.

Only Armin. 

Or at least until I slipped off the headphones slightly bending over to pick up my cargo shorts after using “The Facilities” and I heard the phone in the other room sing out that I had a message.

Hmmm…. Not one but two I had missed… in 30 minutes.  OOPS!

Ok, I’ll be more careful.  The music’s back on, I’ve got on Armin van Buuren again and it’s down where I like it, around 15%.

Gees, Mom was right!  I really should turn that damn thing down!

Anyway, the headphones are highly recommended.  You can find a pair for around $16 as a refurb, and if you pay more than $20 come here so I can tell you how you messed up.  The iPhone you’ll have to get on your own.  Since it’s locked to ATT (at least this one is) when they swallow up my T-Mo, I’ll be able to use it there.  For now, it’s a pretty good little iPod even if I am forced to use that horrendous iTunes.

Personally, I think iTunes should die a horrible death and I want to do a Dr Johnny Fever with a baseball bat on the source code of that piece of crap, but hey, WKRP in Cincinatti aside, it gets the job done.   Badly.

Why I Stayed with American Express

When someone does something wrong, Tell Them.
When someone does something right, Tell Everyone.

I’ve said that many times in my life.  Positive reviews on my blog are an illustration of that.  Being a Big Brother type, negative reviews are a warning, but that’s a very different story.

We have all gotten used to horrendous support from companies.  The worst seems to be the technical sites like those from computer companies who have decided that in order to pay for upper management’s ivory back scratchers, they lay off the US, UK, Canada, Australia or what have you based expert level support for a cheaper support based out of an emerging economy.  Nothing against the tech people in Bangalore, but when I hear That Accent, I have taken to asking them if they can forward me immediately to a US based group.  I have been almost universally sent back here to someone who has been able to give me the highest level of support that I could expect.

I have been a customer of American Express for years.  I have to say that being able to talk to someone who is much better than average is why I have kept the card.  I am talking to someone in the United States who knows what they’re doing, and will be willing to do what it takes to make me happy.

Yesterday I broke down and made some Customer Support Service Calls.  I don’t like doing that sort of thing, since I have functioned as a Customer Support Manager in a Call Center when I was the Lead Application Manager for a financial package.  I know what these folks go through from both ends. 

I literally wore out my AMEX Blue Card.  The stripe is worn with an even “clear” spot where the many reads of the card had eaten the magnetic stripe away.  The card has a neat dent in it where I took a center punch and a hammer and destroyed the RFID Chip on purpose.  It is now widely becoming known what kind of a “bad technology” RFID is for secure transactions so I won’t go through it here. 

The lamination on the card began to peel up and the thing looks a mess. It got so that I was surprised when it would read instead of reject me.  Gas stations were reliable, the rest… nope.

So I called up American Express from the number on the card.  It was smudged so I got out the magnifying glass and turned up the lights and was able to dial out to them and got through to the call center in less than 5 minutes. 

I spoke with Tiffany.   If you are Tiffany I have to say thank you.  If you are Tiffany’s Boss, you need to give her a raise or at least a bonus.  Tiffany was … well, perfect at what she was doing.  We talked about how I had worn out the card, I mentioned that I use it for the vast majority of my purchases, and that she was happy to help me get a new card.

No muss and no fuss. 

As we worked through the security procedures of giving her the old four digit code off the card and other details, at no time did I feel lost or confused.   Everything was amazingly clear and concise.

The order for a new card was placed and she asked me if there was anything else.   This was where I threw my curve ball at her – could I please have a card with no RFID chip in it. 

She wasn’t sure and had to check.  I sat on hold for under a minute when she found the information and was able to “Turn Off” the RFID chip. 

I feel better about that.  The report about the whole RFID mess and how you can be “Electronically Pickpocketed” has gone viral.  There are a number of reports on You Tube but this one says it pretty well and even shows how easy it is to do the deed.   When I get my passport, I’ll get a foil sleeve and leave the chip alone, but the credit cards have a date with a hammer and a center punch.

According to hackers, you can read an RFID Chip up to 160 feet away.  Around 45 Meters for those who are Foot-and-Inch-Challenged.  Half a football field anyone?

You can see the TV News Report out of a Dallas station on this link here.  At least until it gets pulled.

Anyway once all that happened on the phone, I left Tiffany feeling like everything was done and I forgot about it.  The next morning, 10AM (Now) I am sitting in my chair and I hear the UPS truck drive up.  The friendly driver gave the horn a tap and I went to the door as he got there.  It turned out that American Express sent via UPS Next Day Air a brand spanking new American Express Blue Card.  I now have a new AMEX card with a sticker telling me to please activate it.  From Omaha to me in one night!

So now, I’ve got a call to make …

Simple Lemon Pie Recipe and Review

This pie is SO simple that it could become a treasured childhood memory as you make this with your elementary school child.

It is SO simple that someone who “burns water” can make this.

I mean it REALLY is simple.   Three ingredients plus a ready made pie shell and an optional topping.

Here are the ingredients:

  1. 1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
  2. 8 Ounces Cream Cheese
  3. 1 Can (14 ounces) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  4. 1 Graham Cracker Pie shell.  

That’s all…. Oh how to “cook” this?  That’s the beauty of this pie, you don’t.

  1. Mix together the ingredients in a big bowl until they’re smooth.
  2. Pour Ingredients into Pie Shell.
  3. Chill in refrigerator until set.

Yes, you too can make a pie.

Now here’s the review: 

I made this for Thanksgiving.  I was pressed for time after churning butter, making biscuits, cookie dough, lunch and some other things were tossed in the mixed the day before Thanksgiving.  I had some “backup” cakes in the refrigerator that were ready-made so I was safe if this turned out badly.  I wanted quick!

It took me all of 10 minutes and that was because I dawdled.   You can put it all in a blender to make the filling silky smooth.  Next time I will because I used low fat cream cheese and it clumped more than I like. 

I also used Meyer Lemons which are amazingly juicy but a milder flavor than “regular” lemons.  One lemon gave me 1/3 cup juice which is an awful lot in comparison with the “regular” lemons.  I’ll use two next time and add a little cornstarch to thicken the mix a little more.

The pie’s taste was like a Lemon Cheesecake.  It was rich, tasted like a no bake cheesecake that I’ve had before.  I will make it again, especially since it was so quick to make. 

The only draw back I found was that since it was a No Bake pie, it wasn’t truly “firm”.  The texture was a wee bit looser than I personally prefer, but it did set up perfectly.  When my piece was served, it was also warmer since it was sliced and set out on the counter for 30 minutes.  I recommend serving this cold.

Variations include more lemon juice, use lime or another citrus juice, add a meringue topping, add whipped cream, mascarpone cheese, and finally low fat cheese.

Don’t forget the Cherry on top!  Enjoy and best of luck!