Ginger Blossom and Frog

Travel.  Broaden Your Horizons.

Bring a camera.

All that.

I don’t actually get into the Jeep often.  15 year old car with only 46,000 miles on it.  So when I do go for a drive, there has to be a reason, and I almost always really enjoy it.  It’s a fun vehicle to drive, and I’ll get there.  You may not, but I will.

The occasion was that I got to visit one of my favorite people, my godmother Kathie.  She’s a prime example of love makes a family.  The godparent tradition came from our childhood, and we both have found different spiritual paths.  But we stayed in touch via her moves to Florida, my much later move, and many years.

Plus she’s great company.

I got a message in my email asking if I wanted to come up and enjoy a lunch in the restaurant.  Sure! Great! When?

When became a rainy trip up.  We’ve had a lot of random smallish rain storms.  Fun.  I’ve got the right car for it.  30 inch rubber donuts, no lifts, it’s a Jeep not a Mudder.  My theory is that 10 mpg is no fun, and while the car is rated 15, I drive gently and get 18 city, 22 Highway.

Not a Prius.  But I don’t fit in a Prius.

After watching people do stupid things on the back roads, and one clown spin out, I got there.

We chatted, I added her printer to her Mac, and we went out to look at the Preserve.  Hurricane Irma took out a few trees, including a Honeybell Orange that I will miss.  But she did point out the Ginger plant.  We’ve got one too that I just planted, so I was interested to see it in bloom.

You know that motto, Always Bring A Camera?

She lifted a fallen leaf to show me the blooms and right there, sitting on the flower was this wee little Frog.

“I need a Picture of that!”

“For Ramblingmoose.com?”
“Of Course!”

So there it is.  We still don’t know if that is an Ornamental or Culinary Ginger, but it is a pretty thing.  The flowers merely smell Floral instead of smelling like a Gingerbread.  That may be what I will get out back by the shed.

The ginger, not the frogs.   Frogs are welcome too.

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There Is Quite A Lot Of Wildlife Watching Me

I admit it.

Actually I admit it frequently.

I’m fascinated by the wildlife that we have here in South Florida.

Walk out into the yard and I’m being watched.

Lizards, literally everywhere.  I had heard there were a lot of them around, but coming from a “temperate” climate like South Jersey, I never really believed that they existed.  You just don’t see a lizard staring back at you from a Pin Oak tree in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Here, I walk to the front door and there are lizards sunning themselves on my driveway watching me back through the glass.

I’ve seen Muscovy Ducks on my front porch more times than I care to count, and I’ve taken to inviting them to leave.  They’re way too messy to be a good house guest.

They are perfectly fine on the water and near it, but the one night that I stepped onto my porch after sunset and found myself interrupting some seventeen of them making funky Duck Love and smelling the pungent aroma of what happens when you startle them, they needed to move on.

Did you know a bird will lighten the load before flying by making a poop?

Some other places have alligators in their swimming pool.  Key West, Florida has Chickens.  I suspect they are fine until they get to be a bit too populous, but people brought them there to begin with.  If you don’t want chickens, help yourself to the eggs they leave under your shrubs.

I wonder if they will trade a few chickens for some ducks?

They came there because their many generation removed grandparents were used in fighting.  That’s not at all allowed these days, but some did escape and settled in.

So I did get to see the chicken cross the road, even if I am still not quite sure why it did.

You end up with wading birds deciding that it is time to perch on your Jeep.  It doesn’t happen too often, they aren’t out there every day.  Luckily they are some of the more shy creatures out there.  If you get anywhere near them they fly off.

I have seen these Snowy Egrets, or what ever they are called, walk across lawns in long herds like something out of a Disney Movie.  They’re also the reason why I don’t tell the landscapers to spray the yard.

We get so many of them here that the grubs I see them going after are kept well under control.  Along with the Black Racer snakes in some rare occasions.

But we do get quite a few visitors.

In the morning, being awakened by the song birds that show up in my bottlebrush tree is a normal happening.

Some of them are louder than others.  And some are more insistent than others.

It’s also why I  have a habit of waking early, or at least an explanation.

Go on outside and have a look around.  The sheer volume of things that I see in my own little yard here in suburbia always has me wondering just what am I missing.

I’ve been told that there are scorpions here, and if I leave my boots outside for some strange reason, I bang them on the pavement to make sure I don’t bring any hitchhikers in.

I’ve found way too many lizards to count.  They do keep the spiders at bay though and that’s a welcome aside.

After all, a Banana Spider in the house at the size of a Volkswagen is a but of a shock.  For a while I was fortunate.  My old windows had another predator that took up residence in one small nook.  Then the house was upgraded to Impact Resistant glass.  Hurricane Glass they call it.  But it also took the nook away and my frog was gone.

I do kind of miss the frogs after all that is said and done.

Really, Frogs, since I saw three there the day before the nook was taken away a couple years back.  Funny how things like that end up in unexpected places.

At the moment though, there are the butterflies.  Sure, I have all of those creatures cohabiting with me, the dog, the parrot, and the humans in this house.  But the plants are all scattered with a dusting of butterflies in various stages of life.  They all will hatch as time allows them, and I am surprised that they spend more time in that chrysalis than I would expect.  After all, hanging on a leaf just means you’ll get spotted and the leaf could get brought inside for an incomplete photography project.

But I am sure that you all have heard that before, haven’t you?

The Beauty At Your Feet

The Japanese have many artistic traditions that we in the West are beginning to notice and take into account.

Of course we will get them wrong from time to time.  A Minimalist aesthetic can be wonderful.  Walking into a place that looks clean and polished where every fine detail is meticulously fussed over will immediately draw you in and have you pay deep attention to the space that isn’t used in comparison with the spaces that are used.

Then again, sometimes we get it wrong.  The mass market plasticization of society and public spaces can simply look stark and uninviting.  An Apple Store always seems cold and sterile to me instead of a place to draw you in and invite creativity.  After all, that is what a computer is used for, to Create.

Maybe I am digging a bit too deep.  My own wanders over my own patch of beach sand here never ceases to amaze me.  Having grown up in the Prairies of South Jersey, I was used to a certain look and feel of things.  My split level house of my youth was plucked out of a life of The Wonder Years.  The Pin Oaks planted along the street would change with the seasons but were very much of the place and grew with the time.

Here things simply look different.  I live in a town that will never freeze, or so I am told by the USDA and their zones.  I have never seen it below 34, and it may not have been quite that cold since I am rather close to the beach. 3 Km or 2.3 Miles to be specific.

So things are not adapted to lose their leaves in winter.  Flowers can occur all year around.  If you like that sort of thing, and are observant, you can find beauty in just about anything.

My own yard for example.  I find things that look like what the mother of a friend of mine called Wandering Jew.  She told me that if the conditions are right, they will bloom.  That sounded simply insane that a house plant would bloom like that to me since you just can’t leave things outside in the cold weather.

Here, it is a weed.  And it blooms.

A tiny little dot of blue in the field of green at my feet.   All I have to do is be patient and wait.  In this case it was in late February, but no matter.

Other times, there’s a spot of yellow.  Most likely from the shamrocks that grow in my yard, it could also be sorrel.  Either way, these things are predictable.  I almost always see them out there.  Bright yellow or a pale lavender, they are in the sun, growing all over the place.

I have taken notice of them as they end up in my plant pots.  How that happens, I have no idea.  The flowers tend to be cut with the lawnmower, they reappear quickly, and they disappear.

Again, it blooms and brings beauty to a uniform green, if you know where to look.

That would be the key.

 

Open your eyes, pay attention.  You could be missing something quite special.

Art Happens On A Sidewalk

I’m up at Stupid O’Clock.  Even now that the time change happened, I’m still up at Stupid O’Clock.

You folks are doing something sensible like drooling into your pillow, snoring, and catching spiders with your mouth.

But no, I’m up around two hours before sunrise walking my dog.

This happens just about every day, rain or shine.  I do try to wait out the storms since they usually are short and under a half hour, but normally I just soldier on through them.

How can you tell a tourist in South Florida?

They have Umbrellas!

We’ll also say they don’t know how to drive, but you’ll argue until you see it yourself.   Really, folks, a sign that indicates “No U Turn” means the same down here as it does in Lexington, Kentucky, and Toronto Canada as it does here in Metro Fort Lauderdale.

Sheesh.

But I am out with Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) wandering around town.   He’s watering palm trees and I’m on the look out for anything out of the ordinary.

I’m convinced I need to bring a pen knife to remove some stickers on public spaces, and a bottle of Acetone to wipe down the graffiti that some low lifes have decided to “decorate” light poles around town.

 

However, one thing popped up on the sidewalk the other day.  We had a Halloween celebration last month.  Great time for a party.  Thousands of people enjoying being out together.  Homes got decorated here, and some of them stayed decorated.

 

One of the balconies on Wilton Drive ended up with a laser display.  These things showed up on the scene first a year or two ago.  Put Stars on Your House!  Home Laser Display!  Amaze Your Friends.

 

For the most part they ended up looking somewhat weak because of the repetitive nature of the displays but it was a nice change of pace from the over done gaudiness of holiday displays.

 

People took them back in and put them in storage and even a few ended up at the thrift stores in January or February when nobody considered a need for them.

 

But Halloween?  They’re just the ticket.

 

These folks put their display up and turned it on directly below their balcony.  So at 5 AM, rain or shine, Rack and I walk through the red and green lasers and smile.  They dance and make trails quickly on the ground for anyone to pass by.

Now, not having the right equipment to take a professional picture of them is actually a benefit in this case.  You see if it was timed right, all I would end up would be a field of dots.

 

However the camera I used did not have a fast enough shutter in this case.  Turned that display in to fireworks instead.

So if you’re in a light display, try it yourself.  You never know where your picture will get an upgrade to Photography.

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.

How Bad Chinese Manufacturing Led Me To Make a LED Deng

A Deng is a Chinese Lantern.  They are pretty common, they are made out of a frame and paper that can be brightly colored or have patterns.  These aren’t the Sky Lanterns that fly through the air with a lit candle, this is more of a decorative “ball” type of a lantern.

They do seem to bring a smile to my face.  When I spotted one, I kept it thinking “I should do something with that some day”.

Yes, my house is full of those sort of projects.  Things I should do something with some day.  Moving from house to house should solve that but that is not in the plans.  So the Projects mount.

What happened to get it to where it is today is a long and twisted tail that involves alleged drunk driving, my own creativeness, and some truly typically bad Chinese manufacturing practice.

I’ll say this right off.  It is well known that people who make light bulbs of any type have been skimping.  There is a bulb in a firehouse that has been burning 115 years since the early part of the 1900s.  It is a “Centennial bulb” that looks more like the insides of an old Radio tube to me, but there it is.

That company that made the bulb never made any more money on that bulb and that’s the problem with Capitalism.  The light bulb companies conspired and colluded to make their bulbs less sturdy until you have the problem I had.

Helpful hint!  When shopping for Light Bulbs, look carefully at the packaging.  Make sure you buy bulbs that have a 25,000 hour life span.  Leave the lower hour bulbs at the store!

You see my Ceiling Fan broke.  I pointed a remote control at it and it didn’t turn on.  It refused to light, it refused to spin.  You need a Ceiling Fan in South Florida.  I thought I would procrastinate and in a few days we would go to the big box store and see if they still had this fan.   Going back to the well and seeing if it was not dry meant we could exchange it for a new one.

They had them and we grabbed one.  As an aside, I got a spare battery for the remote, just in case.  Type A23 batteries.  The same type as in my Jeep’s alarm remote.  I need new ones for that too.  It turned out that with a new battery, the ceiling fan worked.

We put the new one up anyway, and that one worked.  But out of the six incandescent light bulbs that came with it, two did not work.  We are going to put LED lights in that anyway so I grabbed the bulbs For Projects.

The other part of this story with the drunk driving, allegedly, that is, happened about 5 years ago.  Someone had a tricked out truck with ground effect lighting and a stupidly loud horn.  He drove this beast into the shopping center near my house and proceeded to back it up, clumsily, into a parking space.  He also backed it over top of a cement parking space block and ripped out those same lighting strips, in four pieces.

The lighting strips, I of course, picked up.  For Projects.  Bright white LED Strips that will run on next to no current at 12 volts.  My brain racing, that means that I could basically have free lighting coupled with my solar charger and a couple old laptop batteries and … so forth.

I wired them up with old telephone wire that was discarded by the telephone company one day.  The wires were stiff enough to stand up to some abuse, and hold the LED strips upright against their own weight.

The little LED things would run for days on three rechargeable laptop cells, so they would make an amazing emergency light.  When power goes out here, it goes out for a very long time, especially when Mother Nature is involved.

I’m looking at you Wilma.  Two weeks without power on my block means it would not be a good time to vacation at the beach!

So when the bulb blew, For Projects became Now.  I tested them one last time.  One bulb was dead.  The other popped immediately when plugged in.  I had my base.

The cord was salvaged from an old Ikea lamp that was in my back yard for years.  It had a small candelabra fixture in it that the bulbs fit.

With a tap from a pair of scissors, the glass broke away.  I was able to use the scissors to chip away almost all of the rest of the glass and that gave me the connectors I needed.  Since everything I was doing was low voltage, I used blue construction tape to insulate things and wired up the contraption.  One connection to the ring, the other to the tip.

I had my Deng lamp.  Now, to assemble and “Smoke Test” it.   It worked!  Actually, it really looks quite nice.  Enough to light the desk under it and it is quite bright on a 200 milliamp, 12 volt power brick from an old caller ID box.  2.4 watts of power to get a light that is about as bright as a 40 watt incandescent bulb.

Now, I don’t know how long that will run.  Someone bumps into the connections, it will go dark.  It won’t shock anyone, that kind of power may run a portable radio, but not too much else.  But the light works.

A giant pile of broken bits, discarded wire, and a drunken mistake gave me a rather nice light.

And a story about my own electronic OCD.

Hey!  It’s a Project!  I’ll finish it some day!  Really!  I will!

Banana Leaves In The Morning Sun and a Ground Water Shower

I have a routine around here.

Once I’ve gotten back into the house after a 45 minute dog walk in the morning, I put coffee together.  It’s after the dog has been fed, he gets food first simply because he’s a painfully slow eater and I end up tapping the food bowl to keep him focused.

He is smaller than he would normally be because food is such a low priority.  That means that I end up being his hunger signal, twice a day.  The old school “take the bowl away if he doesn’t eat” doesn’t work and is merely cruel, he would simply stop eating out of fear and acceptance of “This is how it is”.

But once the food is in him and I have had my coffee, it still is a while to sunrise.

At 7AM, the irrigation system kicks in for a half hour.

“Rack!  Want to go out back?”

Did I even need to ask?  He’s standing at the door nodding his head “Yes!” like I’m a fool that should get out of his way.

Yes, I do have a dog who knows how to say “Yes”.  He’s a McNab.  If you can’t train a McNab you don’t deserve to have a dog.

This is the low flow drip feed irrigation that is a maintenance chore.  Every day I have to go out and inspect the hoses and feeds to make sure that all the plants are getting water.  If I see water dribbling out of the individual head, I’m moving to the next one.  If you don’t blow out the lines frequently things clog.  If you do, you are treated to a slug of mud that collects in the most distant part of the system like where my flowers are growing.

Lines the thickness of over cooked spaghetti made of black plastic, sliding onto compression fittings pierced into larger black plastic water lines.  It all ties into a thicker PVC Pipe somewhere that hooks into the valve that is computer controlled.

It isn’t what I would call complex, just involved and fiddly.

Why “Fiddly”?  Because plastic is something that changes in the environment.  It eventually dries out due to UV Light exposure and will crack because of that and the pressure changes that happen during the day when the lines are “charged”.

That was where I got in trouble.

I noticed the spray out of the connector at one of the orchids that is growing into the wood on the fence.

Saying to Rack “I’ll get back to that”, I walked into the yard.  Rack was at my feet because he was herding me to convince me to go inside.  There must have been a trash can lid slammed somewhere in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, two miles away, and he heard it.

“Deal, dog, you need the exposure to noises” and the FEC train was coming up from Miami.  You can hear the whistle a couple miles off and it brings the people up North the Brazilian Oranges they think they are getting from Florida.

Yes, they are coming from Florida.

No, they aren’t all grown here.  That is why you can get orange juice in October.

I make a round of the yard.

 

My Bamboo cuttings are coming in, I will have five plants back by the fence in the utility easement.

 

The Poinsettia is growing so well that last year’s red leaves are covered completely and it is about hip high.

 

My Podocarpus cuttings are doing well, there is bright green growth on the tips.

…And then I spotted the Banana.  I have one original pot, and two cuttings I am getting going for no good reason.  I have nowhere to put them but I like saying that I can grow the things.  But I was standing on the West side of the plant that moment.  The sun had just cleared the tree line and the fences to the East.  The irrigation and the morning dew had done their thing as well, leaving large drops of mist on the surface of the leaves.

This has to be why I grow the stuff.  Gardening.  The light refracting off of hundreds of beads of water causing rainbows and sparkles in the morning.

 

Looking at and marveling at the improbability of it all, I realized it was time to fix that one line.  The rest of the irrigation was running perfectly, which is a rarity.  Usually something somewhere has clogged on a daily basis.

 

In order to have irrigation lines that crack, clog, and spray, first you have to invent the universe.  (Apologies to Carl Sagan)

I walked to the wet wall, slowing my pace on the slick wood deck.  Reaching through the spikes of the bougainvillea that scratched my arm bloody, I just touched the connector.  It was at that point where I was immediately standing under the Niagara Falls.

The pressure was so high that it sent a stream of ground water up over my head.  Luckily for me it missed me until it hit the roof.  The backsplash was as intense as my shower head in the bathroom.  The water was now running down my head, into my eyes, and on the shirt.  Down the roof it dripped under the Lanai roof and onto the kitchen window.

“Damnit, I just cleaned that thing!”  It was a solid 20 feet from where I was standing, a good room away.

I reached over, clipped off the end of the water line, jammed it back onto the connector and the deluge stopped.

“All I needed was soap and I could have had a shower!” I mused

Rack looked at me as if to say “Am I safe?  Can we go in?  Are you through playing with the water yet?”

“Yes, soon, yes” would have been my answers.

Mom said don’t play with the water.  This is my way to do that.  I just would prefer not to do it every single morning.  Even if it does get me up looking at the beauty that can be found in just about any suburban back yard.