Thursday, April 26, 2007


I know I haven't been posting much lately, and now I'm here to tell the five of you that I'm probably going to have an even lower profile for the next three weeks. I'll be leading a discussion, on the Nero Wolfe email list, of Rex Stout's Wolfe mystery Might As Well Be Dead. Exciting stuff must be happening up in Vermont, don't you think? Evelyn walking? Snow melting? Hint, hint.

By the way, if you want to listen in on the discussion (maybe even participate?), you can join the Wolfe email list by sending a message with just the word "subscribe" (without the quotes) in the body to Note that some ISP's (including mine -- automatically block all mail coming from, the mailing list host, so if you have a problem receiving messages, you might have to subscribe from a free account at Yahoo or such.

See ya!

P.S. The discussion doesn't actually start until next Monday, April 30th. I'm just preparing for it now.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Observations and missives from South Beach, Part Final


I talked in another ablum about the "cruising" that young people do along Ocean Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights. About how exuberant and vital it was. Alas! It appears that Complaints have led to Regulations and cruising has been Put To Death. Ocean Avenue is dreary with the loss.


Wild parakeets nesting in the palm trees on Lincoln Road, the pedestrian mall. Beautiful to see, and beautiful to hear.

To the man at the table next to us at the outdoor restaurant on Lincoln Road:

Three things:
  1. Your teenaged son does not appear to be interested in your explanation of why you are trying to get out of paying child support to his mother (your ex and his custodial parent). I don't think he actually resents your representing his mother as reckless and irresponsible, and maybe even greedy and money-grubbing. No, I think he just so does not want to be involved. Not in your divorce, and not in the mess that you and your ex have created. I think that in his mind, it's your problem, not his. I can see his point.
  2. If you're going to trash your ex to your son anyway (and perhaps you see this as self-defense), pick a place where you have some privacy. Not a restaurant where the tables are spaced about a foot apart (obese waiters and waitresses need not apply), and everyone around you can hear you.
  3. You appear to be well educated, well dressed, and financially well off. Even professorial. Instead of trying to explain to your son, take a moment and actually look at him. Look at how he eats. To begin, he holds his fork backwards -- his thumb is toward the end of the fork, rather than toward the tines. He stabs down with the fork, impaling his steak, and then saws back and forth with his knife, cutting off a large, long piece. This he turns sideways and twists and stuffs until he gets the whole thing in his mouth at once. Then, looking like a hamster with pecans in his cheeks (and still holding his fork backwards), he chews and chews until he's finally able to gag the whole thing down. Then he repeats. Where did he get these table manners? Who raised him? Wolves? No, not wolves, because wolves would also have taught him not to leave half his food on the plate when he was done. Wolves are not wasteful.

If... are in Miami Beach. And if, on the day you're to leave, you discover that your car's battery is dead (because, like, you haven't started it since the day you arrived, because, like, you have bicycles, so who needs a car?). And if, after the valet jumps it for you, you are concerned that there might be a problem with the battery or the alternator. And if you want to get it checked before you leave...

...take it to Sierra Auto Center, 331 23rd Street, 305.531.4335. The guys there are awesome. Especially Carlos.

Don't ask me how I know this.

Farewell, Miami Beach.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Observations and missives from South Beach, Part 2

Seen... four days: Four Lamborghinis, a Maserati, and a Lotus. I am baffled as to why someone would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a car that can go 200 miles an hour, only to it drive somewhere where the driving experience can only charitably be called stop-and-go, and even when "go" is operative it's hard to go as fast as fifteen.

Some people have way too much money. Some people have way too much testosterone. Some people have both.

Way Cool!

The meter maid patrolling Ocean Avenue, enforcing parking regulations, is riding a skateboard. How cool (not to mention practical) is that!


The restaurants along Ocean Avenue fill their sidewalks with tables, leaving only a narrow path down the middle for transiting pedestrians. I noted in another album how crazy this is. Anyway, this is the scene this time: It's morning, at the restaurant next to the hotel. The manager is confronting a skinny young black man in a ski cap and a sweatshirt that's seen much better days. They're on the sidewalk, in the narrow lane between the restaurant's tables. "Just go," the manager says, quietly but forcefully. "Just move along. Off the premises." "I got a right to be here," the young man says, shrilly and loudly. "I got a right to be here! I live here. I live right over there." He points vaguely. "Just go," says the manager, a bulky guy, moving up against the young man, forcing him to give ground.

Inside the restaurant, a waitress comes back and tells the guy at the cash register, "Can you believe that? He was trying to eat food that customers had left behind on the tables."

It occurs to me at that moment that with all the sidewalk tables on Ocean Avenue, and everyone having to walk so close by them, and all the wonderful food that so many people leave behind when they're done eating, that it must be a terrible temptation to those who have no home and are hungry and don't know when they might next have a meal.


On this page I wished that they would extend the bike path from the north end of Lumus Park to 21st, to join up with the boardwalk. Well, (drum roll) they have! Now, if you have a bicycle, you don't need a car at all! And you can ride without risk of being killed in traffic! What could be better than that?


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Observations and missives from South Beach, Part 1


Every taxi has "This vehicle makes frequent stops" painted on the trunk.

Dude, this is Miami Beach. All vehicles make frequent stops. Like, every four or five feet.

To the four tourists on the beach, trying desperately to arrange things so one of you can take a picture of the other three with no other people in the background:

Dudes! Look around you! There are thousands of us here. The beach is so packed that there's only two or three feet between one party's towels and the next. Sometimes less. Do you really think anyone's going to believe that you came to South Beach during Spring Break and you were the only ones here?

To the homeless man sleeping at the top of the stairs leading to the entrance to the modelling agency next door to our hotel:

Dude, we feel bad that you're having to sleep there on concrete. We have both had occasion to sleep on concrete floors in our day, and we know it hurts. However, we're paying almost $300 per night for this room, and you sleeping there, only five feet away (the alley is very narrow), with your rag-tag belongings, was not exactly the view we were expecting. To make matters worse, if you were to wake up you could look directly into our room, and Judi is freaked out enough by this that we're keeping the curtain closed. Judi asked if we couldn't call the front desk and ask them to do something. I said sure, they'd do something: They'd call the police. Judi immediately said no, no, not that. It's bad enough that you have to sleep on the concrete. We don't want to subject you to the police. So we'll keep the curtain closed until you go on your way.


The guy is approaching one of the beverage kiosks on the beach. "Hey!" he yells loudly. "Do you sell beer?"

Dude, did you not notice that sign as you were coming down to the beach? The one that said, "No alcohol permitted"? The kiosks are not going to be selling beer.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007


In the last few days Linda and I passed another new parent milestone. We made our first late night visit to a hospital emergency room with the little one. In retrospect it wasn't too serious, but when she developed a 102 degree fever at about 10:30 Monday night we were fairly concerned. It didn't help that we were visiting Boston at the time. Had we been home we would have just called her doctor. Of course, had we been home we wouldn't have had to hunt around for a drug store so we could buy a thermometer. (This was our second trip to Boston. During the first, several years ago, Linda developed an infection in her foot that required intraveneous anti-biotics every other day for a week. I think we will stay out of Boston for a while.) So we took Evelyn in and had her checked out. They could find no ear or throat infections so they gave her something for the fever and sent us home. She seems more or less fine now, although I think she is still a little under the weather. Poor thing. There are few things as pathetic as a sick infant. All they know is that it hurts, and they can't even tell you where or what it feels like.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Time enough

Many days I drop by The Straight Dope to see what sort of knowledge/wisdom Cecil is doling out. Not every topic interests me, but today I was struck by this parenthetic remark:
(10^-43 of a second, in case you're not hip to the notation, is an incredibly tiny fraction of time. Time enough to create the universe, but not, as a University of Chicago physicist was once at pains to explain, time enough to get off a disputed last-tenth-of-a-second shot against the Chicago Bulls.)
Time enough to create the universe....

And speaking of snappy writing, Breakdown in the Fast Line is very funny.


Sunday, April 08, 2007



I offer this picture as a humble Easter gift. This is a hibiscus that Judi has growing in a big pot on her deck. The flower is enormous -- six inches or more across. The colors are so over-the-top that they're almost obscene... but only almost. The stigmata are so intensely red I think they might be radioactive (anybody have a geiger counter?). You cannot walk across the deck and notice this flower without stopping in your tracks. Isn't that appropriate for Easter?

I took all these pictures on Friday. Below are some close-ups and different views. You can click on any picture for a larger view. I hope you have a sublime Easter:

Anther and Stigma
Anther and Stigma

Saturday, April 07, 2007


You may know that Disney offers themed weddings at its parks, and you may have heard, yesterday, that Disney is extending these weddings to include same-sex unions. I sincerely support Disney in this endeavor and applaud them for this move. However, I wonder how much thought went into the headline announcing this news in my local paper this morning:

Disney Includes Gays in Fairy Tale Wedding

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

eBay: The new Alice's Restaurant

I don't normally link to posts on other blogs, but this is the funniest thing I've seen in a while (it will only take 15 seconds of your time).



In my continuing effort to diversify this blog, I offer a few pictures. As usual, you can click on a picture for a larger view.

The first picture has a bit of backstory: If you've ever visited Florida, you may have noticed that we have lots and lots of ponds. You may even have noticed that these ponds tend to be near parking lots. It may have occurred to you that Floridians have some obscure mental illness that compels them to build parking lots near ponds, as in, "Look! There's a pond! Let's build a parking lot next to it!" But this is not the case. Parking lots go with ponds because of another Florida fact that you may also have noticed, and that is that Florida (the peninsula part, at least) is Flat. As in Flat Flat Flat. Those of you who live in places where topography has three dimensions are aware that when it rains, the rainwater channels in a predictable fashions and flows Downhill. In Florida we do not have Downhill. So when it rains, the only thing that stands between us and a flood is the ability of the ground to Absorb Water. Now, apparently it has been scientifically proven that Paving Over the ground interferes with its ability to Absorb Water, so we have regulations that state that if you Pave Over the ground (say, for a parking lot), you must Dig Pond(s) to store the rainwater that washes off your pavement. The more area you Pave Over, the more/bigger Pond(s) you must Dig.

Almost all of these retention ponds are industrial in appearance. No one makes any attempt to dress them up. Except my local Neighborhood Walmart (which I prefer to call "Walmart 'n 'da hood"), which for some reason put a couple of oversized plastic ducks in their retention pond. Like, duck decoys. On steroids. I don't know why they did this. Are they trying to attract ducks? For what purpose? Are they going to hunt them from a secret blind hidden on the bank? If so, what will the inhabitants of the adjacent apartment buildings think of the gunfire in their 'hood?

Good questions all. However, I drove by my hood's Walmart the other day and saw some evidence that the decoys are not decoying:

Cormorant Not Decoyed

What you see here is a real bird (a cormorant) perched on the back of one of the decoys. Somehow I don't think the cormorant has been fooled.

For photo number two, I offer these red berries, which are growing in my back yard:

Brazilian Pepper Berries

As bright and cheerful as they appear, they Brazilian pepper tree berries. The Brazillian pepper is an invasive species which is so harmful to the local flora that it's illegal to plant it, though this hasn't impeded its ability to spread like wildfire, thankyouverymuch. But while I was taking pictures of these berries, I noticed this bug, who seemed charmingly photogenic to me:

Brazilian Pepper Bug

Warning: If you click on this picture, you will get a very large image of just the bug, so if bugs gross you out, don't do it! However, if you have the stomach for it, I recommend it. I was especially fascinated by the bug's two tiny red eyes, and the amazing resemblance between his coloration and the camouflage fatigues worn by our soldiers in central Asia.

Finally, I offer this close-up of a flower, which belongs to a vine that's growing wild along a fence on public land next to a bike path near my home:


I don't know what kind of flower this is, but, being a guy, I'm not going to let a little thing like ignorance make me look ignorant, so I'll confidently state that this is a passion vine flower, specifically, a Passiflora coccinea.

Hey, how confident do I sound?

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