Monday, April 30, 2007

Kiss Me!

Yesterday, I spotted what looked like a new figurine of a frog sitting on the edge of a small pond in the patio. Lucky I didn't touch it. That was a real toad. Of course, when I approached, it jumped into the pond and stayed out of view.

So today's blog is about the common toad (Bufo Bufo) instead of anything else. It still stayed pretty much at the same spot all yesterday, and it was a piece of cake to take this photo this morning. This baby fits all the descriptions of how a common toad should look like. Of course, its body is coated with its defensive armor that looks slimy and itchy. This must be the manufacturer of all the tadpoles I see around my back yard, so I'll call her a "she." It must be very boring being a toad and I don't know where her mate is. She just sits there every time I peeked.

Common Toad

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fiji Palm

Here is a tropical palm bearing fruit high up near its top. This is most likely a Fiji Palm (Veitchia Joannis) although it could also be a Veitchia Arecina from Vila, New Hebrides. Hard to tell. It is easy to take photos, and much harder to say for sure what it is that you are looking at.

Fiji Palm

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Neglected and abandoned

Found in a neighborhood neglected backyard.

Neglected Treasure

Friday, April 27, 2007

Funeral Service

The Church of the Little Flower is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church in Coral Gables, the "city beautiful" within the city of Miami. This morning, there was a funeral service for a prominent citizen of the city of Coral Gables who passed away last Sunday. Cameras are prohibited inside so this is a glimpse of the moving, beautiful and sad event at its closing time.

Roman Catholic Church

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Here are two staghorn ferns (Platycerium Bifurcatum) thriving in the Miami sub-tropical climate. They are quite large. The lower one came from the one hung higher so technically, it's an "offspring" that started from one pulp more than 20 years ago. The "mother" must be around 50 year old. It survived a direct lightning bolt during a thunder storm that hit the top of the tree and traveled down the heavy hanging chains. Both are about 6 feet in diameter and can only be lifted by a crane.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Filler' up

Vending machines placed strategically in high schools, colleges and universities are becoming more and more controversial. Some people would like to ban them all together. But they represent a significant source of income for the hosting locations so I predict they will be around a long time.

Here is a time when those machines are being replenished. All things found in them are what the US now calls "junk food and drink" but the young generation can't live without them. I hate them because they steal money, and it's virtually impossible to get a refund. You put in your hard earned US $1.25, push the buttons and NOTHING comes out! Makes you want to kick the machine, not that would help.

Vending Machines

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Alone on top of the world. This could be a Florida ibis. He/she was so high on top of this pine tree I couldn't tell without my binocular. Alone and carefree?

Florida Ibis

Monday, April 23, 2007

Miami Dade College

Miami Dade College (MDC) is a 4 year college with multiple campuses. This photo is taken in its Kendall Campus, which is located in South Miami. If you revisit the April 20th blog, you can see that the Miami Freedom Tower was donated to MDC. North Miami is the location of MDC's second campus.

The photo is that of a student (from Jamaica) working part time at the SAIL laboratory. SAIL stands for System for Applied Individualized Learning. SAIL lab offers an in-depth, computer based tutorial for individuals who require additional help. Students log in and log out by swiping their college IDs and their attendance time is recorded for credit. This station is where the log in is performed and a student is being logged in.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Home gardening

On an increasingly hot (and soon more humid) and typically bright Miami afternoon, home owners do not hesitate to spend small fortunes to buy plants, flowers and gardening necessities for their homes.

Shopping for gardens

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vine Invasion

This is an exterior wall of a meeting/convention facility in South Miami called the "Signature Gardens." All the palm trees are covered by the invading vines. Can you see the two palm trees? They are right there in the middle of the photo. One of these days, I will find out what the name of this vine is.

Wall of vines

Friday, April 20, 2007

Miami's Freedom Tower

This photo is taken at the very heart of Miami's downtown. The Freedom Tower looks very lonely near the new constructions.

Originally completed in 1925 as the headquarters and printing facility of the Miami News & Metropolis newspaper, it is an example of Mediterranean Revival style with design elements borrowed from the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. Its cupola on a 255 foot (78 m) tower contained a decorative beacon.

In the 1950s the Miami News vacated the building to share facilities with the rival Miami Herald. As refugees from the Castro regime arrived in Miami, the federal government used the facility to process, document and provide medical and dental services for the immigrants. After the first major wave of immigration had passed, the government sold the building in the 1970s. Passing through several owners, the dilapidated building was eventually abandoned until 1997 when a prominent and controversial member of the Cuban-American community purchased the building for $4.1 million US.

The building was restored and converted into a monument for the refugees who fled to the United States from communist Cuba. It houses a museum, library, meeting hall, and the offices of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Recently the Freedom Tower was purchased by a developer who wished to demolish 75 feet (23 m) of the original tower and develop 683 condominium units. A group of preservationist organized and successfully stopped the demolition, The developers were unable to gain approval. They then donated the Freedom tower to Miami-Dade College, which plans to use it as a monument to the Cuban community. The city later granted approval to the developers to build on the back of the property without demolishing the original tower.

Freedom Tower

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fire Rescue Vehicle

Emergency people need lunch too. I caught this fire rescue truck parked outside a fast food restaurant while the team was having a lunch break inside. When these people are in a real hurry, they make a lot of racket and always scare other traffic to death. They have absolute priority. The king of the road.

Fire Rescue

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Venetian Causeway

The Venetian Islands are a chain of artificial islands in Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach, Florida. The islands are, from west to east: Biscayne Island, San Marco Island, San Marino Island, Di Lido Island, Rivo Alto Island, and Belle Isle. Flagler Monument Island remains an uninhabited picnic island, originally built in 1920 as a memorial to railroad pioneer Henry Flagler.

The islands are connected by bridges from the Miami mainland to Miami Beach. Today, the Venetian Causeway is a popular stretch for people to jog, ride bikes, walk dogs and stroll. The islands offer residents a suburb feel that is uniquely located between (and within minutes of) Miami Beach's famed South Beach and Miami's new Carnival Center of Performing Arts.

This photo of the abodes of the rich, possibly famous and/or powerful is taken from the San Marco island, on the Venetian Causeway. Maimi Beach is on the left, Miami is on the right and the water is that of Biscayne Bay.

San Marco Island

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Miami JOB Preview

At the end of every year, in December, Miami has a joyfully wonderful event in its Junior Orange Bowl International Youth Festival. Tonight is when the new year theme is unveiled at the beautiful Venetian pool in Coral Gables. Last year's 2006-2007 Junior Orange Bowl Princess (on the left) and the 2006-2007 Junior Orange Bowl Queen (on the right) are serving out their year and their replacements, 2007-2008 counterparts (young candidates between 12 - 14 years of age) will have the great honor of riding on the Royal Court Float during the 59th Junior Orange Bowl Parade on December 29th, 2007. The two reigning beauty royalties are accompanied by the President (on the left) and Executive Assistant (on the right) of the Junior Orange Bowl Committee.

Beauty Queen & Princess

Monday, April 16, 2007

Flowers for sale

Miami residents spend lots of money in landscaping. Lavish landscaping can cost in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars (that is very true and it is no exaggeration.) Here is a photo taken in the gardening section of a large home supply store. Flowers, flowers and plants everywhere.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Justicia Brandegeeana

Golden Shrimp Plant (Justicia Brandegeeana,) although it does not look like a shrimp to me, exists in bright yellow "Yellow Queen" and maroon colored.

Girl Inc.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Vanishing point & Feng Shui

Some ancient (and not so ancient) cultures believed that "shars" or poison arrows travel in straight lines. Therefore, one should avoid straight lines often found in power lines, railroads, walls, rivers and roads. For example, the corner of a neighboring house may be pointed directly at your house. This is a "no no!" There are also traffic or road-related shars, like when your house is at the intersection of two streets, when traffic faces your house, or when your house is built on a curve of a road. Practically speaking, these types of traffic situations are negative because headlights are likely to shine in your windows at night. One remedy would be to build a fence or row of trees/shrubs to shield your home from the road.

I am a scientist, and all I know is the house being "shar'ed" used to belong to a guy in my in-law side. He hurriedly sold this house on 1 acre of prime land for peanuts a dozen years ago after learning about the adverse "shar." Now it is worth US $ 1.5 Million+ just for the land!

Adverse Shar?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cocos nucifera

Miami is not complete without its coconut trees. Here is a "Lethal Yellowing Disease" resistant tree with its trademark yellow nuts. Deliciously cold exotic drinks make you want to climb up these trees and the cocos nucifera are everywhere here.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Schistocerca Americana Nymph

The American grasshopper produces two litters a year and are present year round in Miami. The two hatching periods are from April to May, and again from August to September.

This is one from the recent litter in its "Nymph" (baby) form and it has grown to be the largest at about 2.5 inch compared to its smaller siblings. It is about 3 weeks old (see March 28 blog.) When turning into an adult, it will grow wings and the shining beautiful black and red colors will turn to a more dull greenish yellow.

Schistocerca Americana Nymph

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Heliconia rostrata

As promised in my March 14 blog, here is the first heliconia that is starting to unfold.

Lobster Claw Heliconia

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Jackfruit (Artocarpus Heterophyllus) is widely grown in South and Southeast Asia. It is also grown in parts of central and eastern Africa, Brazil, and Suriname. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The trees grow and fruit well in Miami but can be wiped out if there are prolonged intense cold fronts when the temperatures stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (about 4.5 degree Celsius.) The fruits can reach 80 lbs (36 kg) in weight and up to 35 in (90 cm) long and 20 in (50 cm) in diameter. The jackfruit is the largest tree borne fruit in the world.


Monday, April 9, 2007

Injury Free Mobile

Injury is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-12 years in Miami-Dade County. Deaths represent a fraction of the number of severe injuries that result in hospitalization. Research demonstrates that hands on training of child safety practices and access to affordable safety items significantly increases parent/caregiver knowledge and safety practices of these devices. The Injury Free Mobile offers parents & caregivers with interactive education and skills building in a simulated home setting, and access to low-to-no-cost safety items.

I caught the Injury Free Mobile operated by the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami (which is a Division of Holtz Children's Hospital) this morning at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center (it is a huge complex) being washed and prepared for the next outing.

In the background is the white and modern Lois Pope LIFE Center where the internationally recognized Neuroscience Research Programs are conducted. It brings together all elements of the multi-pronged assault on paralysis and other neurologic disorders, including stroke, brain trauma, and neurodegenerative diseases. It is the home of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Injury Free Mobile

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Sunday

The arrival of the Vernal Equinox, then the full moon lead to Easter Sunday, but life goes on... This photo was selected over an earlier egg hunt today. The man obviously in distress in the wheelchair is a double amputee.

Double Amputee

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Surrinam Cherries

The Surrinam Cherry (Eugenia Uniflora) is native from Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana to southern Brazil (especially the states of Rio de Janeiro, ParaƱa, Santa Catharina and Rio Grande do Sul), and to northern, eastern and central Uruguay. It grows wild in thickets on the banks of the Pilcomayo River in Paraguay. It was first described botanically from a plant growing in a garden at Pisa, Italy, which is believed to have been introduced from Goa, India. Portuguese voyagers are said to have carried the seed from Brazil to India, as they did the cashew. It is cultivated and naturalized in Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia; also along the Atlantic coast of Central America; and in some islands of the West Indies–the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and in the Bahamas and Bermuda. In 1918, Britton wrote, in the Flora of Bermuda, that ".. . as it harbors the fruit fly, the tree has been largely cut out in recent years..." It is frequently grown in Hawaii, Samoa, India and Ceylon as an ornamental plant and occasionally in tropical Africa, southern China and in the Philippines where it first fruited in 1911. It was long ago planted on the Mediterranean coast of Africa and the European Riviera. The first Surinam cherry was introduced into coastal Israel in 1922 and aroused considerable interest because it produced fruit in May when other fruits are scarce, and it requires so little care; but over 10 years of observation, the yields recorded were disappointingly small.

In Florida, the Surinam cherry is one of the most common hedge plants throughout the central and southern parts of the state and the Florida Keys. The fruits are today mostly eaten by children. In the past, many people allowed the tree to grow naturally and harvested the fruits for culinary use. For a while, small quantities were sold in Miami markets. In temperate zones, the plant is grown in pots for its attractive foliage and bright fruits.

The fruits develop and ripen quickly, only 3 weeks after the flowers open. In Brazil, the plants bloom in September and fruits ripen in October; they bloom again in December and January. In Florida and the Bahamas, there is a spring crop, March or April through May or June; and a second crop, September through November, coinciding with the spring and fall rains.

Today's photo shows a huge Surinam cherry hedge that is trimmed frequently to form a huge wall which is the photo's background. The trees find a way to fight back all the trimming and here they show their determination to procreate and display beautiful fruits. Looking closely on the left side by enlarging the photo, you will see the white flowers coexisting with the fruits that are still in the unripe state.

Surrinam Cherries

Friday, April 6, 2007


At first look, you'd think this is another SUV! That is the designation for "Sport Utility Vehicle" which is the darling of the American commuters. You can see in this photo some of them in the parking lot, although these are the smaller ones. The roads of Miami (and I am sure anywhere else in the US) are full of SUVs. I hate these huge "mini trucks" especially when they get inside parking garages. Most of the time, they are empty with only one driver.

This photo is taken outside a large grocery chain in Miami. The "mini SUV" is a grocery cart in disguise so mothers (and fathers too) can do their grocery shopping and keep their small kids happy. The real shopping cart is at the front, and the kids sit in the "car" to pass their time.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

Paying through the nose

There is a saying "Paying Through The Nose" for something that you pay a very high price. We are doing it for gas. The origin of this colorful colloquial expression could be a reference to "The Danish poll tax on the Irish in the ninth century: The story goes that the Danes slit the noses of non-payers," or "The Vikings required the payment of tribute from cities they did not raid. If the king refused to pay they would slit their noses so they pay through the nose." Perhaps our Scandinavian daily photo friends can chime in.

This morning, I filled up my small car which uses, unfortunately, premium, the most expensive gas at the pumps. For 12.057 US gallons (about 45.6 liters) the cost was US $34.95 Of course, there is no more service anywhere at gas stations in Miami and people pump their own gas. I know, I know, it is still cheaper than many cities of Europe, but I want to move to Dubai.

Paying through the nose

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Miami Artist

It's a rainy (just a wee bit, not much) morning in Miami. I feel like escaping from my office for some time off and decided to visit my artist friend. Luckily, he just finished his latest painting and invited me to take a look. My friend does not think that this frame is suitable, but it's used only temporarily here while waiting for the paint to dry. He will need to add four more coats of varnish so he told me.

I love all his paintings and have four of his work in my office, all as gracious gifts. The colors are always exquisite. He also grows beautiful roses as seen in the background.

My friend the artist

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Miami Taxicab

Taxicabs are usually owned by a large taxicab service and operated by an employee of the company (a taxi driver.) There are many taxicab service companies in Miami and the Yellow Cab is one such company. The rides are not cheap when compared to a city bus ride which costs US $1.50 A taxi ride in this yellow cab costs $ 4.50 for the first mile and $ 2.40 each additional mile. If the taxi driver must wait for you, each waiting minute costs $2.00 Most of the cabs are air conditioned which is an absolute must in Miami. Some of the taxi drivers may take un-necessary detours to inflate the meter if they think you are a visiting tourist. Most of the taxi cabs are well maintained and safe thanks to strict government regulations and fierce business competition. For instant recognition, they are all painted yellow as seen in this photograph.

Yellow Taxi

Monday, April 2, 2007

Worship in Miami

This is no Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame de Paris, St. Paul Cathedral in London, Basilica di San Marco in Venice, Duomo of Florence, St. Peter's Basilica of Rome... This is Miami, and this is the Fellowship Church where Easter service will take place on Sunday April 8th. There are many, many more that look just like it but representing numerous different (and competing) church denominations in the US and in Miami in particular. These are the places for church goers to meet and worship on Sundays as well as to participate in other religious events.

Fellowship Church

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April's Fool

This is to observe the theme of the day: a public mail box. I had to visit no less than 7 road side boxes to find one that is clean enough for my taste. The mail boxes located at various locations (usually at office buildings, or just outside post offices) are mostly in bad shape, filthy, covered with dust and/or have faded and peeled off notices of pick up dates/times.

This is a clean pair outside a post office in South Miami.

Poisson d'Avril