Saturday, March 31, 2007

No China Town

Strangely, there is no China Town in Miami. There are Little Havana and Little Haiti, but no China Town. However, I have yet to find a cosmopolitan sized city that does not have a Chinese grocery store. There are several such stores in Miami and the one I visited today (just for the photos) is quite popular. It is always well stocked.

It must be difficult to keep good inventory and to price all these items. The photo shows the infinite choice of sauces from different countries in jars and bottles used for seasoning the meals.

Jars and Bottles

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mortgage Meltdown

In the US, there is a current scare called "Mortgage Meltdown." A mortgage is a standard method by which individuals and businesses can purchase residential and commercial real estate without the need to pay the full value immediately. Recently, the prices of homes in the US have risen so drastically and many families obtained mortgages that have obscure clauses that rapidly inflate interest rates and the home owners can no longer afford the monthly payments. These homes go into what is called foreclosure and the homes are put up for sale.

This house is not in that dire situation, but it is for sale because the owner wants to cash in on the still high property value and retire comfortably elsewhere. Unbeknownst to many of these homeowners, they will regret, missing the clement weather of Miami and will want to come back. Most of the time, they cannot.

This beautifully landscaped home on half an acre of land is for sale, and it probably will be sold very quickly. The beautiful tree you see is an old live oak. I really do not know where all the money comes from to pay for all these highly priced homes in Miami. Let me tell you, there are real mansions in Miami, and they are HUGE!

Western Knight Anole

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Miami's Golden Trees

Every year, I look forward to take photos of these wonderful yellow flowering trees that line many of the streets of Miami. This year, the flowers come late, starting only this week; peaking at this time. The flowers last only a few days, but because there are so many trees around, the displays last a good 10 days to two weeks. Its common name is Golden Tree, Golden Trumpet, Golden Goddess... In Trinidad/Tobago, it is called Yellow Poui.

This is the national tree of Venezuela and its origin is from Central and South America. Its scientific name is "Tabebuia Chrysantha" where Chrysantha is Greek for "Golden Flowers."

It is known under the following names in other coutries: Amapa (Mexico), Amapa amarilla (Mexico), Amapa prieta (Mexico), Apamate, Araguaney (Venezuela), Araguaney puy (Venezuela), Cañaguate (Colombia), Chicalá (Colombia), Contoz (Costa Rica), Cortes, Cortés (Costa Rica, Honduras), Cortez (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua), Cortez coyote (El Salvador), Cortez negro (El Salvador), Cortez prieto (El Salvador), Corteza (Costa Rica), Corteza amarilla (Costa Rica), Flora amarilla (Venezuela), Guayacan (Costa Rica), Guayacán (Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela), Guayacán amarillo, Guayacán con flor amarillo (Colombia), Guayacán pechiche (Ecuador), Guayacán polvillo (Colombia), Hahauche (Guatemala), Lombricillo (Mexico), Lotcui (Mexico), Madera negra (Ecuador), Masicaran (Guatemala), matilisguate (Guatemala), Polvilli (Colombia), Polvillo (Colombia), Quebracho (Guatemala), Roble (Mexico), Tajibo amarillo (Bolivia), Verdecillo (Mexico), Verdicello (Mexico).

This photo is not from the best tree around. This small tree sits on a busy segment of Miami's US-1 and you can see the elevated metro rail paralleling the highway. These trees are vulnerable to strong winds, and many were destroyed during the hurricanes of the past two years. You may be able to see that this tree was severely battered, but survived past hurricanes. These yellow flowers are precursors to the magnificent red (and some yellow) royal poincianas that will come next.

Western Knight Anole

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Miami Godzilla!

Florida has only one native species of anole (pronounced: uh'no-lee) -- Anolis Carolinensis, popularly known as the Green Anole (see March 20th blog.) The impressively large fellow featured today is a Western Knight Anole (Anolis Equestris) which is not native to Florida, but one of several species of anole introduced here from Cuba.

Knight Anoles are the largest of the Anolis species. They grow in length from 13" to 19-3/8". They have a large and bony head which gives the lizard a profile reminiscent of the knight in chess, hence the name "equestris" which means "knight." Their eyes can move independently. The tail is often longer than the entire body and has a jagged upper edge which at first sight reminds people of an iguana (for which they are often mistaken), this is not such a surprise as they are from the same family (Iguanidae).

Knight Anoles have special adhesive lamella on their five clawed toes that allow them to stick to surfaces making it easier for them to run. This adhesive pad is located on the central part of each toe. Their body is covered with small granular scales with two white or yellowish stripes below each eye and over each shoulder. They are a bright green color, which can change to a light brown with yellow markings. Their color change depends on their mood, temperature, or other types of stimuli. Yellow areas may appear and disappear around the tail. Males are usually larger than females and have a dew lap that they display during courtship and when defending territory.

This fellow just got his meal this morning from one of the larger baby grasshopper from a newly hatched litter that is feeding frenzily on a red Anthurium. I do not know how often he needs to eat, but there is plenty more where this meal comes from in my backyard. For scale, the chain link fence is 3 inch in its diagonal.

Western Knight Anole

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Miami's Ryder Trauma Center

The Ryder Trauma Center at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center is one of the world’s leading facilities. This world-renowned, state-of-the-art center is operated by Jackson Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the University of Miami Department of Surgery under the Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care Services.

The Ryder Trauma Center is the only certified Level I trauma center in South Florida for adults and children. The center is geared toward lowering the preventable death rate by speeding up the delivery of trauma care during the “golden hour”, the critical 60 minutes after an injury. Jackson Memorial Hospital sees over 8,000 emergency patients per year — about 3,600 at the Ryder Trauma Center. Approximately 30 percent of the general admissions result from gunshot wounds, stabbings or falls, and 70 percent are the result of blunt trauma, vehicular accidents, and various other causes. Children make up about 10 percent of all patients seen at the center.

The two disc antennas seen on the lower right are part of today's demonstration of a telemedicine project. They are big 2.4 meter satellite transmitter and receiver relaying live video and audio signals between Miami and any other location in the world. Today's live feed was from Brazil.

Spiny Orb-Weaver's home

Monday, March 26, 2007


I could not resist to complete the picture from yesterday's blog by showing a follow up. This is a bit more ambitious than I can produce using my poor consumer Canon G5 and I had to resort to a bit of touch up. The only thing I did was to adjust the contrast of the photo and nothing else to better highlight the web. My goal is to have all my photos un-retouched.

I was curious to see how the lady Orb-Weaver in my backyard build her home. This photo sheds a bit of light. The main anchor point lies in the middle of the grass below. Very precarious! I am sure the yard people will go right through this when they come. The bright spots must be the glue spinned to join the smaller segments of silk. The orb-web structure above does not show too well with the sun directly overhead above it; and she cannot be seen but is right in the middle of her home. She does not seem to move at all since yesterday.

It is very windy in Miami today, and this web moves a good 8 inch up and down and sideway. It's amazing how strong this silk stuff is, many more times stronger than steel.

Spiny Orb-Weaver's home

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lady Spiny Orb-Weaver

Spiny orb-weaver, (Gasteracantha Cancriformis.) The spiny orb-weaver spider is one of the most colorful and easily recognized spiders in Florida. The dorsum of the abdomen is usually white with black spots and large red spines on the margin. Specimens from other areas may have the abdominal dorsum yellow instead of white, may have black spines instead of red, or may be almost entirely black dorsally and ventrally.Females are 5 mm to 10 mm long and 10 mm to 14 mm wide. Males are much smaller than females, 2 to 3 mm long, and slightly longer than wide. Color is similar to the female, except the abdomen is gray with white spots.

The colloquial name for this spider in parts of Florida is "crab spider", although it is not related to any of the families of spiders commonly called crab spiders, e.g., Thomisidoe.

It was not easy to focus on this lady Orb-Weaver because she was floating with the breeze among the branches of the live oak tree. She is about 10mm wide as seen from under her belly. This is her permanent Miami residence in our backyard and we must remember not to walk through and destroy her web, although I guess she can spin a new one in no time. The white spot in the lower part of the web is one of her many meal tickets that she caught.

Spiny Orb-Weaver

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Towing strategy

Here is a perplexed driver: How did I get myself in this predicament? Can this guy help get my car out of here? How much it's going to cost? And... he is blocking traffic...

UM School of Business

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dollar Store

As it is the case for all major (or even minor) world's cities, all is not glitz and glamor... Mixed with the beautiful, powerful and rich are the not so glamorous... Here is a shot inside a typical "Dollar Store" in Miami where everything in the store goes for the price of US $1.00

There are some concerns and allegations that some of the products are sub-standard, such as toothpaste, some foodstuffs etc... The question boils down to: Can you pay $4.00 or more elsewhere, or you can only afford $1.00?

UM School of Business

Thursday, March 22, 2007

University of Miami

There is no way this blog not to feature the University of Miami, simply because it is my Alma Mater. But it will come slowly with time. This is the first peek at it on a rainy day (finally.) The rain was more copious than yesterday's prelude, but it was only a minor one by Miami's standard.

This shot was taken at a more secluded corner of the campus of the University of Miami. The relatively new and modern School of Business Administration shows only its edge on the right side. The small canal supports a variety of aquatic animals such as ducks, turtles, fish and other kinds of critters. Lining it are beautifully shaped Royal Poincianas (Delonix Regia.) Due to the hot and dry season to date, the flowering trees of Miami lose their reliable yearly timing. This photo shows some surprisingly early red blooms from one of the poincianas. The one next to the building is a rare yellow poinciana. Every year, I come here to admire its royal golden blooms.

UM School of Business

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

5 minute mini Miami sprinkle

Miami has been so dry for so long, this afternoon's mini sprinkle that lasted a whole 5 minutes or so was welcome. Of course, it didn't make a dent to the water shortage and washing car is still restricted. This section of the street is in the middle of a school speed zone so the speed limit is 15 miles per hour at this time. The man in the bright orange raincoat is the street guard standing ready to help the kids crossing the streets. This school zone ends at the yellow school zone sign seen on the right hand side next to the red car.

Vernal Equinox

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Vernal Equinox

Here is a weather station and magnetic compass for you: Anolis Carolinensis (Green Anole.) I was looking for a photo today and was thinking about the "Vernal equinox" which signals the first day of Spring today. This is what I spotted on an outside wall.

The Green Anole is a common lizard. It is bright green but can change color to light brown. Females have light stripe down the back while males do not. One of the factor that influences the color is the temperature. When the temperature is 70 degree F or higher, this lizard is green; and it is brown when the temperature is in the 60's or below.

If I were to provoke this lizard to a fighting mood, she would display a cream-colored dewlap (a fan-like web under the neck) to say that she lives in Southwest Florida. Common lizards from other geographical locations would show pinkinsh dewlaps.

So, looking at this photo, you can say that the temperature is above 70 degree F (it is 78 today in sunny Miami.)

Now the vernal equinox: The Rite of Spring starts today which means day and night are about equal length (equinox means equal night.) The sun rises precicely in the east and sets precicely in the west only twice each year: today, the vernal equinox and once more on autumnal equinox, in the fall. Technically, Spring arrives at 8:07pm Miami time today.

So the shadow of this lady lizard casts due West, a natural compass.

Vernal Equinox

Monday, March 19, 2007

March 19, 2007

The annual Dade County Youth Fair takes place in Miami every year during March. It is going on full swing until April 1st this year. This fair always attracts large crowds that come to enjoy a wild day/night food/drink and above all, thrilling rides.

Among hundreds of photos, it was tough to select just one. This is the "Polar Express" ride where people sit on a huge circular platform that hurls backward while making wild and violent up-down wave motion that makes you sick and scream your head off. I got a real bad pain in the neck (literally) from this one this year. I am not looking forward to this again next year. Just think that this is one of the tamer rides, there are others much tougher than this one.

Annual Youth Fair

Sunday, March 18, 2007

March 18, 2007

Instead of snow plowers, Miami has lawn mowers. Here is the armada of newest and boldest models in display in a huge "Home Depot" store in South Miami. This store sells EVERYTHING that you would ever need or want to fix up, enlarge or beautify your homes. It did drive to closure many Mom and Pop smaller hardware stores in the Miami area. It also has a huge inventory of plants, flowering and fruit trees and gardening items for sale. You name it, this store has it.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

March 17, 2007

Every year, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated and sponsored by "John Martin's," a local Irish pub in Coral Gables, the upscale heart of Miami. Local street blocks are closed to traffic and a live band performs to entertain the crowd, dressed in green or in Leprechaun costume. Beer is the preferred beverage to wash down fast food aplenty.

The photo shows the "green" crowd lining up to enter John Martin's strategically located on the main street named "Miracle Mile" to party the night away... The insert shows the brochure posted everywhere to help sell the beer.

St. Patrick's Day

Friday, March 16, 2007

March 16, 2007

Here is another bonus that comes with life in the sub-tropical city of Miami: a flowering plant from the tropics. This is Ochna Integerrima, a yellow flowered plant that blooms around February each year. This is the traditional flowering plant the cuttings of which are universally sought after in Viet-Nam when people greet the lunar new year. This year, the lunar new year of the Pig arrived on February 17.

The Ochna Integerrima is traditionally cultivated to bloom spectacularly right on the first day of the new year. Here, in Miami, left to its own device, this plant blooms whenever it feels like it, and this year, it peaks today, a month late. This plant is hard to find even in Miami. It exists in an alba form, which is even rarer, and I am in the hunt for it.

Ochna integerrima

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 15, 2007

Miami has a large population of huge banyan trees. Many of them were uprooted during the hurricanes of recent years, but you cannot travel in Miami and avoid seeing them. They are large trees and can provide a source of shellac and dye. Shellac is produced by lac insects that grow on banyan trees as parasites and it is an important ingredient in French polish.

The close up shows the trunk of a banyan tree being strangled by its aerial roots. If you look closely, the new leaves grow from the smaller roots to produce tiny new plants that can be transplanted. The small aerial root seen on the right will become huge if left untouched. This banyan is no other than the sacred Ficus Religiosa that I talked about on March 09. As I began searching for them in Miami, I found a dozen trees on this well traveled North South road. In this photo, you can see the characteristic shape of the sacred leaves of this tree.

The large tree trunk dwarfs the road side bus stop shelter, which is only a few feet away. As always, ads appear on every visible surface areas and this ad sells the dark Dominican Republic rum "Ron Barcelo Imperial."

Sacred banyan

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March 14, 2007

Despite the lack of rain this year, plants still grow vigorously in Miami. They just do not flower as well. Of course, weeds need nothing to grow violently at will and are always a nuisance, but flowers, they need a bit of help from the human touch, and can flourish. The deficit in rain fall thus far has sparked a water ration in Miami. People can only water their lawn on designated 3 days each week and only in the early hours of morning.

The yellow oncidium orchid is perhaps 20 year old, just hung under a branch of the live oak tree on which a stag horn fern has been growing for also two decades. The bush of Heliconia Rostrata on the right hand side is spectacular when its flowers come out next month. The other color patches are seasonal impatiens, the queens of the shades, and they need a lot of water.

School buses awaiting...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 13, 2007

Let's get off the street today and come inside a delicatessen to look at their food offering. This photo is only slightly reduced in size so you can read the names and prices of the ready to eat food. The download time may be slower than usual if you want to read the tags. This South Miami place also makes delicious fresh sandwiches and out of this world byte-size pies and cakes of different kinds of yummy chocolate and fresh fruits. Strictly keeping the rule of only one photo per day, no dessert dishes are shown. Sorry.

School buses awaiting...

Monday, March 12, 2007

March 12, 2007

During the school year, on every school day, Miami school buses criss cross the city to pick up children to take them to and from their schools. Speed limits are strictly enforced in streets neighboring the schools at time the students arrive by bus in the morning or wait to be picked up in the afternoon.

The school buses are seen here at a staging location to be dispatched to their routes. The posted speed limit is 15 MPH (miles per hour, about 24 kilometers per hour) and the fine is very stiff, upward in the hundreds of dollars leveled against careless drivers breaking this law.

School buses awaiting...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

March 11, 2007

Another sunny, hot and dry Sunday in South Miami. Along major streets, banner ads are hung on street lighting posts to advertise upcoming events. Alongside the magnificent royal palms on the left (not intended to be showcased in this photo) are modern highway lighting posts on which ads are displayed. The upcoming yearly event is the annual "Easter Egg Hunt" when children go to various parks to hunt for the Easter eggs. This year's main event will take place April 6 - 8 at the "Parrot Jungle Island." I am not sure why they have the monkey sitting inside the half egg as this event clearly is not going to happen at the Miami's "Monkey Jungle." At the Parrot Jungle, the animal in focus is the parrot, not even a distant relative of the cute monkey in the banner.

The narrow highway lane you see is the "Bus Way" which is exclusively reserved for metro bus traffic to help minimizing the pain of chronic congestion on the US-1 seen on the other side. The new and still unfinished building seen is the same as the one blogged on March 02. As you can judge looking at the brownish grass, we can use some rain.

Easter Egg Hunt Coming soon...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

March 10, 2007

Comes rain or shine, and in Miami, it's mostly shine this year as the rain is making itself scarce, the US postal service makes its round six days a week, except Sundays and holidays. This is a typical postal vehicle making house to house delivery of mail. Nowadays, mail consists mostly of bills and junk advertising. Even bills are disappearing as people start using the internet to pay them. Perhaps this is why the postal rate keeps going up. We have an incremental cost of US $.02 (2 cents) every few months. It now costs US $.39 to send a piece of first class mail but it will be $.41 soon.

Ficus Religiosa

Friday, March 9, 2007

March 09, 2007

The Hindus regard the banyan as sacred, for it is said that Buddha once meditated beneath one. Probably the most revered tree in the world is Ficus Religiosa, the sacred "Bo" tree of Burma, Ceylon and India. It is said that Buddha sat under its shade for six years while he developed his philosophy of the meaning of existence. The striking heart-shaped leaves of the "Bo" tree tremble in the slightest breeze like a cottonwood--a legendary tribute to the divine meditations of Buddha. The English name "banyan" comes from the "banians," or Hindu merchants who set up markets in the shade of these enormous trees.

If you ever come to Miami, you will be delighted to find that we have an entire 15 city blocks of these Ficus Religiosa trees, all lined up in the median of a main East-West road in the heart of Coral Gables, our City Beautiful. According to historical facts, these trees came from Ceylon around 1920 when the population in Miami was about 38,000 inhabitants and land went for about $60 an acre. This is the only place in the US that has this vast a collection of the same species of Ficus Religiosa in a long row, and we are proud of having them. There may be some isolated tress somewhere else such as Key West, but Miami is the place to see them.

Ficus Religiosa

Thursday, March 8, 2007

March 08, 2007

The Biltmore is a luxury golf and spa hotel resort located in the upscale neighborhood of Coral Gables, right in the heart of Miami. With handsome Mediterranean architecture, painted ceilings, heavy beams, mahogany and wrought iron accents, fountains... it opened in 1926. The iconic and historic Biltmore is surrounded by 150 acres of lush, tropical gardens which feature an 18-hole golf course and the world famous 22,000-square-foot Biltmore swimming pool.

Miami Biltmore Hotel

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

March 07, 2007

One advantage of living in Miami is the year round benefit of green surroundings. Here is a street side mini grove of bamboo bordering a typical hedged-in house in Miami. Of course there are also disadvantages... one is that you got to mow the lawn every few weeks. And that costs money. But I am of the opinion that I'd rather pay the gardener than the heating bill.

Bamboo Shoots

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

March 06, 2007

This shot is taken from the six-story high roof top of a specialty store complex in South Miami. It shows the East-West 878 Snapper Creek Expressway merging into the historical U.S. Route 1 (also called US Highway 1, or US-1.) US-1 is a United States highway which parallels the east coast of the United States. It runs 2,390 miles (3,846 km) from Key West, Florida in the south, traversing Miami, to Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border in the north. The time is mid afternoon so the traffic on US-1 looks great. It's not so before 10 am or after 4 pm every week day. The aerial metro running on rails on pilons seen at the center of the photo delivers passengers to various stations on its track.

A peek at Miami's transportation system

Monday, March 5, 2007

March 05, 2007

Ah... These Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) trees of Miami... They are spectacular in bloom end May through June/July every year. The trees seen in this photo are in a college campus in South Miami. They were pretty much battered during the last two hurricane seasons but survive well because they are tough. Make a mental note of this photo (or return to this blog and take a second look in mid June) and you will see these same plants in full bloom for comparison. It will be spectacular.

Today's Royal Poinciana Trees in Miami

Sunday, March 4, 2007

March 04, 2007

Miami downtown on a lazy, 77 degree Fahrenheit hot, dry and bright Sunday afternoon as seen from the causeway to Key Biscayne. There was a hefty traffic flow as people drive to the beaches to enjoy the remaining hours of their weekend. It now costs US $ 1.25 going through the toll gate to exclusive Key Biscayne. It used to cost $ .25 in the bygone years. On the original high resolution photo, construction cranes can be seen dotting the skyline as the building boom continues. The body of water is that of Biscayne bay connecting with the Atlantic ocean to merge with the powerful Gulf Stream further out.

Today's Miami Downtown

Saturday, March 3, 2007

March 03, 2007

Stargazers around the world have watched the moon turn dark and then shades of red during the first lunar eclipse in three years. The photo shows the eclipse in action at 9:39pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) which is Miami time. After the eclipse, the full moon returns in all its glory.

Fast food Saturday

Friday, March 2, 2007

March 02, 2007

New constructions sprouting up like wild mushrooms in Miami. This new office building is sitting on a tiny footprint perhaps the size of two tennis courts. I am amazed how the architects can design so boldly. Of course, price is out of this world. This area is being built up as the Village of Dadeland, and only deep pockets need apply.

Brand new office building...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

March 01, 2007

Today, I decided to join a daily photo blog group and thus commit to post one photo each day on this blog. I'll try my best, come rain or shine to have a photo taken in Miami, Florida, USA posted each day. I wonder how this will be done if I go out of town? We'll see... Here is the first one... a garage sale in Coconut Grove...

Garage Sale