Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day O

Banana plants are of the family Musaceae. They are cultivated primarily for their fruit and are found in more than a hundred countries in the world. Their leaves are used as very popular wrappers for many oriental dishes. It is perfectly natural for banana leaves to be shredded by the wind, and when you see banana plants in their normal habitat they will almost always have severely torn leaves, just like this photo shows. There is actually an old saying in South East Asia that claims that anyone lucky enough to see a perfect, non-shredded banana leaf will have a wish fulfilled. Well, today is NOT my lucky day!

Shredded banana leaves are not a problem for the plant – as long as the leaf is green it will continue to carry out photosynthesis and provide the plant with energy. This plant does not have one leaf not being thoroughly shredded. Can you see the handsome bunch of bananas in this photo?


Monday, September 29, 2008

I Dare You

Last Saturday's blog did not do justice to what I call "Java the Hut," so here he is in full disclosure. He is not a happy camper from the look on his face. Suppose you sit down, plunk down US $.50 (that's 50 cents, or two quarters) to have a friendly arm wrestle match with him, and he does not let go of your hand, what will you do?

Doom and Gloom

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Just Vanda

Vanda orchid in bloom under a yellow royal poinciana tree. This vanda hybrid that has beautifully shaped, waxy with almost uniform color flowers is so strong and full of life it blooms four times a year. The blooms are long lasting so this plant is almost in bloom year round under the bright sky of Miami.

Vanda Hybrid

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Would you spend US $.50 to arm wrestle with this mean and formidable looking hulk? Not me! He looks like Java the Hut! But this young man is fearless, trying his best and not willing to give up. His score shows 414. Not bad! The highest score recorded on this machine was by Hugh. Hugh topped the max score at 999!

Arm Wrestle

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh No!

When you drive around the streets of a large US city, like here in Miami, and you see a bright flashing light in your rear view mirror, that's BAD! This white car is getting a traffic ticket. There is no two ways around it!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Serious Surfing

The students at this computer lab are totally absorbed at what they are doing. True, most study, and I saw some just surfing or browsing YouTube. But take heart, even if the lure of things like YouTube, FaceBook or eBay is too strong, the students do learn just by spending the time at the computer terminals.

Computer Lab

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pinus palustris

The Longleaf Pine (long needle pine) is a pine native to the southeast United States, found along the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeast Virginia extending into northern and all the way to South Florida. It reaches a height of 30-35 m (100-115 ft) and a diameter of 0.7 m (28"). Longleaf Pine takes 100 to 150 years to become full size and can live to 500 years old.

The bark is thick, reddish-brown, and scaly. The leaves are dark green, needle-like, and occur in bundles of three. They are often twisted and are remarkably long 20-45 cm (8-18") in length. It is one of the two southeastern U.S. pines with long needles, the other being Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii.)

The scientific name meaning "of marshes" is a misunderstanding when originally the species was described based on the view of Longleaf Pine forests with temporary winter flooding.

Florida Pine

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Museo de la Libertad

This is a college architectural project dedicated to Havana, Cuba. Miami has a large population of citizens who came from Cuba in search for a better life. The largest wave of Cuban immigrants came during the summer of the year of 1994.

Architectural Models

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wilkommen Bienvenu Welcome!

That's what I hear when looking at these wonderfully beautiful little pink flowers. No wonder they get pollinated easily. All the bees, ants, butterflies that pass by will certainly oblige... These flowers are very small, about 1 cm in diameter. There are just too many species of flora in Miami, and I frankly do not know what this is. May be I'll find out someday.

Come on in

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I was on the roof top parking of the Target shopping complex in South Dade today, expecting to be alone in an empty parking floor to shoot some pictures. Big surprise! The entire roof top was packed as a can of sardines with brand new SUVs. They are mostly Cadillac Escalade, the luxury hybrid 6.2Liter V8 developing 403 hp with price starting at US $57K. The entire huge parking surface is packed with these cars. Can you imagine how much money that is left to cook under the hot Miami sun here? I am sure they will have a very hard time to sell all these cars with this economy that is requiring about 1 TRILLION US $ just to stay alive. That's US $ 1,000,000,000,000.

$60K SUV

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Artist's Canvas

Treasure Troves for hungry but talented artists at Jimbo's place in Virginia Key. This is the same bus that you see in the final sequence of the film "2 Fast 2 Furious" because that sequence was filmed right here.


Friday, September 19, 2008

American Solstice

This American roadster Pontiac Solstice is a response to the assault from European and Japanese sport car imports. This car typically delivers 177-hp from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. I don't think that is adequate to back up its sexy sports-car looks, much less to compete with more muscular imports that crowd the streets of Miami. Obviously, it is good enough for a college student's transportation.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


This is the Palmetto Expressway (SR-826) Southbound about to end and merge with US-1. The last exit to the right is Kendall Drive where Dadeland Mall sits and the new Village of Dadeland is sprouting up.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Roots & Roots

Under the vine pergola. As tropical as subtropical can get.


Surf & Turf

It is evident, Surf (Sea food) is on the left side; and Turf (Meat) is on the right side. This is inside a Publix supermarket where I come to empty my wallet regularly. As I said before, you've got to eat. However, I rarely venture to this Surf & Turf corner. Are you kidding? At the price they are charging?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Please Pay More

As recently as about three years ago, the only high rise in this view is the Publix grocery store. This is what this place looks like today. On the left is the Town CenterOne building rapidly taking shape. An immediate consequence is office rent in this area is doubling for every leasee. So, pay up or move out!

New Look

Monday, September 15, 2008

Real Fast Food

No matter how bad the economy gets, no matter how tough your financial situation is, you've got to eat. This man can certainly help because he is here every week day flipping hamburgers, frying the French fries or cook whatever the menu says you can order. It's not gourmet food, but you'll live.

Flipping burgers

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Psidium Guajava

Look at this fruit. It's a guava. This must be mid September! This tree is extremely reliable: if I protect the fruits against the fruit flies, this is the time for harvest. This one is 4.5 inches in diameter. The US money coin to show relative size is a quarter dollar coin.

Guava Season

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Green Snake

The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is different from most performance cars. This car can kill you. The Viper is a machine to be treated like a loaded gun. It's a serious, serious piece of equipment because the reworked 8.4 liter V10 under the Viper's considerable hood has been updated and upgraded to create this 600-horsepower monster capable of top speed over 200 mph (that's about 320 km/hour!) The price of this car starts at US $84K, but by the time you get all the options typically tempting you at American car dealerships, I bet you'll be out about $100K or more. Well, I call this a poor man's Ferrari. It's right next to me today at a traffic light.

$100K Viper

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cheeseburgers... Cheeseburgers

A taste of Hawaii in the heart of South Miami. This is the Cheeseburger in Paradise fast food restaurant inside Sunset Place. The theme is definitely Aloha as can easily be seen in the surf board decorations.

A Taste of Hawaii

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fruits or Flowers

Are these fruits, are these flowers? They are about 20 feet up this tall tree so it will be hard for me to get a closer look. For now, let's call this "mysteriously beautiful red things."

Mysterious Things

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


This is a 1,000 gallons of chlorine being delivered to the olympic size swimming pool site of Miami Dade College Kendall campus. No wonder the water smells funny whenever I go there to swim around.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rising High

Here is an intermediate look of the new office building under construction. There is always big worries of erecting new buildings at construction sites during hurricane season because it is very costly to secure all loose objects so they do not become lethal flying projectiles.

Under Construction

Monday, September 8, 2008


While I am on a roll about Florida flora, I want to show you another nice tree that grows and fruits easily in Miami climate: the Cucumber Tree. Averrhoa bilimbi L., a member of the family Oxalidaceae is native to the Moluccas (Indonesia) but is now cultivated in many other places in the Tropics. It forms a medium- sized to large tree that may reach a height of 60 feet, but more commonly is 20 to 30 feet. This tree has a close relative in the Star Fruit but this is more cold sensitive than the Carambola.

The mature fruits of the bilimbi resemble small cucumbers and usually range from 2 to 3 inches in length. They have a smooth thin, green rind sometimes faintly five-angled, and an acid pulp in which are imbedded several small seeds. As with the carambola, there is a sweet form of the bilimbi, which lacks the acid taste. Fruits of the bilimbi are rich source of Vitamin C. They are candied or cooked with sugar as a preserve. The pulp also is used to make a refreshing drink. The fruit is generally regarded as too acid for eating raw, but in Costa Rica, the green, uncooked fruits are prepared as a relish that is served with rice and beans. Sometimes it is an accompaniment for fish and meat. Ripe fruits are frequently added to curries in the Far East. Bilimbi is often used in place of mango to make chutney. To reduce acidity, it may be first pricked and soaked in water overnight, or soaked in salted water for a shorter time; then boiled with sugar to make a delicious jam. Half-ripe fruits are salted, set out in the sun, and pickled in brine.

Cucumber Tree

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Under the Baobab Tree

Adansonia digitata, the Baobab tree, is a species from the Bombacaceae family. It is also known by many other names, such as the 'dead-rat tree' (from the appearance of the fruits,) 'monkey-bread tree' (the soft fruits are edible,) 'upside-down tree' (the sparse branches resemble roots,) and cream of tartar tree. In French, it is known as calebassier du Sénégal and arbre de mille ans; in Portuguese as molambeira, imbondeiro, calabaceira and cabacevre; and in Swahili as mbuyu, mkuu hapingwa, mkuu hafungwa and muuyu.

This is a long living tree, and some have been carbon dated to thousands of years. Baobab trees flower for the first time at about 20 years of age. In mid-summer, dozens of luminous white blossoms—the size of saucers—open at sunset. Their strong musky odor attracts fruit bats and hosts of other insects. Bats seek out the sweet nectar so they collect and distribute pollen as they move from flower to flower.

The seeds are housed in a hairy pod that resembles a miniature rugby ball, inside of which is a white pulp from which “cream of tartar” is derived. The baobab’s branches, with their hollows, dents and bloated stems, provide shelter and home for a great many animals: bushbabies, squirrels, rodents, lizards, snakes and tree frogs, as well as spiders, scorpions, and insects may live their entire lives in a single tree. Holes in the trunk provide ideal nesting sites for birds, such as rollers, hornbills, parrots, kestrels and spinetails. Larger cavities are often occupied by families of Barn Owls or Ground Hornbills. Eagles, vultures and storks frequently build their large stick nests on the outer branches. The nests of red-billed Buffalo-weavers are more often found in Baobabs than any other tree.

The fruit can be used for flour, the seeds roasted and the leaves cooked as vegetables. It has twice as much calcium as milk, is high in anti-oxidants, iron
and potassium, and has 6 times the vitamin C of an orange. The bark of the Baobab tree has been used traditionally in Africa to fight fevers.

The baobab tree serves as a meeting place for many villages to discuss community matters, relate the news of the day, or tell stories, thus the expression "Under the Baobab Tree."

This tree is not too large and it is in the FTBG. The photo is taken today and you can see (with some difficulties in this shot) the hanging flowers. It's always hard for me to take this kind of photos to show details against a bright sky as background. If you know the secret for these shots, meet me here.

Baobab Tree

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tango Bleu

Bromeliad "Blue Tango" aka Aechmea "Del Mar" is simply beautiful. It made the news in the Miami Herald newspaper a few days ago in the Gardens section. I am not sure which variety this one is because the leaves are wider and shorter than normal, but it is one of the "Blue Tango" variety. I saw this at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. This is a patented bromeliad made in 1994, a cross of Aechmea fendleri X Aechmea dichlamydea trinitensis. This bromeliad will cost you a good US $50 to own, if you can find one.

By the way, I am very happy and relieved that hurricane Ike, according to forecast, is going to spare the Southeast coastal area, with perhaps the exception of areas near the Florida Keys. Ike in all likelihood will enter the Gulf of Mexico and may become a major threat to the Louisiana coast line, perhaps the city of New Orleans again! Let's hope not.

Del Mar

Friday, September 5, 2008

Oh No!

Bad News! Did I say that the US National Hurricane Center has made giant strides in their capability to make accurate predictions and they are usually right on with the future paths of storms? We are going to be in BIG TROUBLE early next week! Ike is coming, and it may be a mighty category 3 or 4 hurricane with nothing but warm open oceans before hitting the Bahamas and then US! I still remember cat 5 Andrew in 1992, and certainly do not want to blog any of that kind of photos of Miami! We can start to get frantic, starting NOW! I will definitely have to put up all the shutters by Saturday and start to hunker down! I bet the entire Southeast coast of Florida (and Miami) will shut down may be as early as Sunday. Help! Les Femmes et les Enfants d'abord! Au Secours! A l'aide! SOS! Ayuda! De Rescate! Hilfe! ヘルプ! помощь! βοήθεια! hjelp! aiuto! hjälp!

Bad News

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chez lulu

lulu is a fashionable casual garment store in Dadeland Mall. If I could afford this, I would have bought whatever it is with the dragon design. I am not sure if this is a unisex store, but judging from the mannequins, it's for girls! Nah!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yikes!... Ike

September is the peak time for hurricanes that can affect life in sub-tropical regions such as Miami (and the surrounding nations.) At this time, the tropic is full of storms brewing, alternately named as male/female. After Gustav, a guy, stormed through, Hanna is poised to cause trouble. In Miami, we are not too concerned about her, but the next guy, Ike, may be trouble in the making. We got to keep an eye on him. Farther out, Josephine is on sight but she will just go North in the open ocean, not bothering much else.

You can see our sister city, the Turks & Caicos Islands, in this hurricane map. She is being battered right now by Hanna, and hope that Ike will spare her.

The National Hurricane Center in the US has made giant strides in their capability to make accurate predictions and they are usually right on with the future paths of storms. I can tell you that is a big relief for us here in Miami. We know when we should get frantic and bite our finger nails. For Ike, it'll be by this weekend.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Star Fruit

This beautiful small tree is full of this curious, attractive fruit of the Oxalidaceae family: the carambola which is believed to have originated in Ceylon and the Moluccas has been cultivated in southeast Asia and Malaysia for many centuries. It was introduced into southern Florida before 1887, and here it is, thriving in Miami.

Averrhoa carambola L., has traveled sufficiently to have acquired a number of regional names in addition to the popular Spanish name of Carambola. In the Orient, it is usually called balimbing, belimbing, or belimbing manis ("sweet belimbing"), to distinguish it from the bilimbi or belimbing asam, A. bilimbi L. In Ceylon and India, the carambola has the alternate names of kamaranga, kamruk, or other variants of the native kamrakh. In Vietnam, it is called khe. Other names: In Kampuchea, spu; in Laos, nak fuang, or the French name, carambolier; in Thailand, ma fueang. Malayans may refer to it as belimbing batu, belimbing besi, belimbing pessegi, belimbing sayur, belimbing saji, kambola, caramba, or as "star fruit". Australians use the descriptive term, five corner; in Guam, it is bilimbines; to the Chinese, it is yang-táo. Early English travelers called it Chinese, or Coromandel gooseberry, or cucumber tree. In Guyana, it is five fingers; in the Dominican Republic, it is vinagrillo; in Haiti, zibline; in some of the French Antilles, cornichon; in El Salvador, pepino de la India; in Surinam, blimbing legi or fransman-birambi; Costa Rica, tiriguro; in Brazil, camerunga or caramboleiro, or limas de Cayena; in Mexico, carambolera or caramboler or árbol de pepino; in Trinidad, it may be called coolie tamarind. Venezuelans call it tamarindo chino or tamarindo dulce.

This star fruit can be eaten out of hand, or used in salad. The carambolas from this tree is very sweet and its fruits are well sought after. I don't like this much and do not care for it at all.


Monday, September 1, 2008


Founded in 1981 by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commission, the Sister Cities Program is currently administered by the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium. The program has established sister cities relationships with twenty-three cities in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. Throughout these years, the program has developed innovative projects, which have furthered international cooperation and understanding between Miami-Dade County and the respective sister cities.

The Miami-Dade Sister Cities Program consists of the following cities:

Asti, Italy
Asuncion, Paraguay
Cayman Islands, British West Indies
Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Iquique, Chile
Kingston, Jamaica
Lamentin, Guadaloupe
Maldonado, Uruguay
Mendoza, Argentina
Monagas, Venezuela
Pereira, Colombia
Petit Goave, Haiti
Pucallpa, Peru
San Jose, Costa Rica
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Sao Paulo, Brazil
St. Kitts & Nevis Islands
Stockholm, Sweden
Taipei County, Taiwan
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Turks & Caicos Islands
Veracruz, Mexico

It's very hard for me to single out any one of our sister cities, because they are all equally our favorites. So, to remain impartial, I am using a "neutral" system to pick one out of the hat. The system I adopt is to take this opportunity to highlight to you our "Hurricane Alley." This is where most of the hot, steamy and stormy action takes place during our annual hurricane season from June 1 through November 30th, which is the area of the Atlantic basin in this satellite photograph. The actual birth place of many of our hurricanes is the area near Cape Verde island, off the western coast of Africa.

Our favorite sister city in question is the Turks & Caicos Islands, beautiful, but so vulnerable. Can you see where she is on this Google map? Hint: She's due East of the island of Cuba.

Emerald Sister City