Saturday, December 31, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

It's almost midnight on the last day of the year 2011. I always feel melancholic at this time of the year. Today, I was far South at a rural place called the Knaus Berry Farm. This is a very popular place in the deep farming area called Redland, on SW 248th street (Coconut Palm Drive) and 159 Avenue. The Knaus Berry Farm and Bakery opens only mid-November thru the last Saturday in April. There is always a long line to get into their counter for some of the finest fresh baked goods, featuring their cinnamon buns, money can buy in South Florida. This farm, started over 50 years ago, is operated by the Knaus family, who are Dunkers (a sect of German Baptists) with a reputation for outstanding produce and fresh flowers, fruit flavored milkshakes and homemade ice cream.

In the back, near cherry tomato and tomato fields, is a strawberry field, kept meticulously manicured as you can see in the photo below. Unfortunately, their strawberries cannot be picked today, but the sweet strawberries can be bought inside.

Standing in front of this field, I can't help but to think about the famous song "Strawberry Fields Forever," which is a song written by John Lennon of the famed Beatles, inspired by Lennon's memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named "Strawberry Field" near his childhood home. This song was released in February 1967 and it was considered one of the Beatles' best recordings, defining works of the psychedelic rock genre. The song is soulful reflecting the nostalgia of days bygone. The music composition is very complicated with Lennon playing dissonant notes from his Mellotron. The lyrics are hard to understand, and you would need to do some research to know their true meaning reflecting Lennon's deep psyche at that time. It's beautiful once you understand. I am not going into that here to keep this blog short.

If you live in New York, you should know that there is a Strawberry Fields memorial in New York City's Central Park, named after the song.
Strawberry Field

Click on the player above to hear Strawberry Fields Forever from the soundtrack of Across the Universe, by the Beatles...

Friday, December 30, 2011


It is only about 6:30PM but you wouldn't know from the dark sky and the lights in the streets of Miami. We have shorter days after September like everybody else. This is US-1 going South at the Falls (SW 136th street.) Only when it's dark that you can see the nice neon lighting at the top of the tower that is the Falls shopping center's landmark. During this time of year, Miami's sky is mostly clear at nights and the starry sky is usually spectacular, especially if you are somewhat interested in astronomy. Last month's sky night was dominated by Jupiter but now Venus is taking over. The bright spot you see above the tower is the planet Venus representing the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky and it is known as the Morning Star or Evening Star. In December, Evening Star it is, and it is a beautiful sight in Miami many nights.

You can safely ignore the reddish glow on top of this photo. That is not any building because Miami does not have many buildings that tall. What you see is the reflection of the dashboard of my car. If you can read that, it says 18:26 which is the time this photo was taken.

Goddess of love... fancy that!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year "Summit"

Every year, about this time, I can't help to pay attention to this beauty. Isn't this gorgeous? I never mentioned that this Cattleya orchid never fails to bloom right around the new year. Left untouched, this will become a very large specimen. It received an award (not this one, but this species) and was named "Summit." You see the growth at the bottom? In a few days, two or three more flowers will emerge from the protective sheath to greet the new year 2012. These orchids not only are beautiful, they have a faint but delightful scent in the mornings too.
New Year Orchid

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winged Seeds

I can't wait forever for the experts to give me an answer so I am having my own theory regarding this T. sp. The beautiful red flowers you saw did last a long, long time and they went through some interesting color changing cycles. Now they have become winged seeds. I parked my car about 10 meters away from this tree today and after about 3 hours, more than a dozen of these brown three-winged seeds landed on it. From red, the flowers turned milky white as can be seen at the top of this photo, then brown which is the color of the fuzzy winged seeds. I hope the seeds I now have will germinate some day. I still would like to know how these flowers get pollinated. There is also a theory that the ants that nest inside the branches have something to do with that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Critically Endangered

In Miami, you see many beautiful royal palms (Roystonea regia) which is a genus of eleven species of monoecious palms, native to the Caribbean Islands, and the adjacent coasts of Florida, Central and South America. Although royal palms are considered a "tropical" palm, they can grow as far North as Daytona Beach and Jacksonville and also in Southern California, southern Arizona and the extreme southern Texas barrier islands near the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. They are on the right in this photo.

On the left side, you see the Hyophorbe verschaffeltii, aka the Palmiste Marron, or Spindle Palm which is a species of flowering plant in the Arecaceae family. Spindle palms grow in the USA only in south Florida and in isolated favored microclimates in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area and the Cape Canaveral area of central Florida. Spindle Palms come from Rodrigues island, Mauritius. It is critically endangered and included in the red list of threatened species.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Casual Miami

If you have never been to Miami, this is how some of us dress... very casual. My guess is that these two youngsters accompany their elder to an optometrist office for a visit. Notice the difference in style between the young colorful and carefree; and the more conservative older and wiser look. We love our sports and support them by wearing hats. Older visors point forward and younger ones point backward. Now you are an expert in Miami's fashion according to its popular youth culture.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Green Christmas

It's Christmas in Miami. We regret to say that we never ever, ever, ever had, have or will have a white Christmas here (well, I take it back, may be in a million years or so, when theoretically earth may have a new ice age, Miami may then have a white Christmas...) But look what we do have year round: bananas.

Almost all modern edible parthenocarpic bananas come from the two wild species – Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The scientific names of bananas are Musa acuminata. In popular culture and commerce, "banana" usually refers to soft, sweet "dessert" bananas. By contrast, Musa cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are called plantains or "cooking bananas". The distinction is arbitrary and both terms are used interchangeably. Banana bunches can be as large as 7 or 8 foot in length. This variety is much smaller, but these dwarf bananas are delicious. You can see that the owners pick them on a daily basis. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red; and they are a reliable source of potassium.

My doctor forced me to eat more bananas because he says I need more "K" and I oblige happily. Such a monkey I am!
XMas Eve

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silent Night

It's Christmas Eve and in the US, it's a big deal! Tomorrow is Christmas Day and the kids will wake up taking inventory of what they got from Santa Claus who is supposed to come sometime tonight through the chimneys. Somehow, Santa kept track of who's naughty and who's nice and distributes his freebees accordingly. Expensive iPhone 4S or iPad2 with 64 GB of memory to nice ones, and low end Kindles or Snooks to naughty ones. Fresh from American mythology, Santa is supposed to fly across the skies in his sleigh loaded with state-of-the-art toys and electronic gadgets that is pulled by a team of reindeer. Due to the difference in time zones, the trip has started and in one of the pit stops for refreshment, one of his reindeer had one too many and I caught him red nose'ed in this clip. I guess Santa left him behind because he's obviously in no condition to pull the sleigh. Click on the photo to view the video and to see what's he so happy about. If you can't figure out what he's saying (or singing,) don't worry. I can't figure that out either. If you celebrate Christmas, have a Merry One! If not, enjoy the mini video anyway. You know, I stole it from YouTube. So convenient! Thanks to the person(s) who managed to put this video on the web for us to enjoy.
XMas Eve

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kitty Kitty

Now, how can you not blog this? This is one of the two cats that live in my backyard. I think this one is a she and she may be expecting, else she must have just eaten a big meal. She is very shy and would not let me come close. In this pose, she seems to be very happy... as long as I do not get any closer. Left to their own device, these animals can survive quite well in Miami because the weather is clement and there are plenty of food for them to hunt.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

F. racemosa

This is a ficus tree. Its name is F. racemosa and it is the same species as that of the wishing tree in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Yoko Ono's wishing tree. With this one today, you can see how it bears its fruits. Again, its Vietnamese name is "Sung."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Miami Tough Life

How's this? You wake up, put on your short and floppy, put the top down, make a quick run to your local dry cleaner... then you stop by to get a late morning quick lunch at your favorite local outdoor cafe... and wait for a hot date in a South Beach night club... Yeah, dream on! But you can certainly enjoy a beautiful day like this fit for a very pleasant outdoor life in Miami at this time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Manatee Fest

South Miami "downtown" is ready for the 2011 Christmas season. Here and there along the streets, intermingled with decorated Christmas trees, you can see statues of a large manatee cradling a baby manatee. This is one such statue in front of a very fine Italian restaurant, the Trattoria Sole. All the manatee statues have the same size and basically the same mother-son manatees (I am merely repeating local news reports to say that this is a mother and a baby manatee... in fact, who is to say that it is not a father and daughter, or other possible combinations?) except they are all different in artistic details. These are the work by local pop artist Alex Yanes sponsored by the various local merchants. This particular statue sponsored by the Mile High Karate martial art school is named "Zen." These statues are the objects showcasing the South Miami Manatee Fest for 2011 - 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011


This is becoming a habitually repeating sight at this location: a restaurant venture in a BAD place. You saw the last failed attempt as recently as in August this year. But it seems that newcomers have no fear of history repeating, they keep coming. Meet the new brave entrepreneur to open here sometime in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


If you have time and find yourself in South Miami, take a stroll and you will discover many hidden treasures. I walked into one and OMG! If you have been living under a rock and do not know what that means, it's Oh My God! "Petits Fours!" That is what you see on the bottom shelf, these decadent French delicatessen. A petit four (plural: petits fours) is a small confection generally eaten at the end of a meal (e.g., with coffee) or served as part of dessert. The name is from the French petit four, meaning "small oven".

There are two different categories of petits fours. Petits fours secs (sec meaning "dry") include a variety of small desserts, such as special dainty biscuits, baked meringues, macarons, and puff pastries. Petits fours glacés (glacé meaning "iced") are iced or decorated, such as tiny cakes covered in fondant or glacé icing, small éclairs, and tartlets. In a French patisserie, assorted small desserts are usually called mignardises, while hard, buttery biscuits are called petits fours. There are also petits fours salés (salé meaning "salted" or "savoury"), which are bite-sized salted appetizers usually served as part of cocktail parties or buffets. I do not care much for the salted type at all, but I can eat the other type with abandon!

I was looking for a place that has the "petits fours," and now that I found them here, in one of the two "Chocolate Fashion" bakeries in Miami which is on Sunset Drive, I am working on rearranging my budget to move these on the top line item. Here comes the bulge at the belt line!
So Sweet

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Deli Lane

At the corner of Sunset Drive and US-1 in South Miami, you can find this cafe that is a very popular spot for lunch on weekends. You can see that its outdoor terrace is packed on this gorgeous Saturday morning in paradise South Miami. Some of my friends swear for the pressed duck sandwich they find here, but I do slightly differ on that. I tried it once and well.. what can I say? Didn't think that got many stars from my rating. Nevertheless, it is a great place to sit and enjoy life with friends. Only in Miami!
Deli Lane

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Mother of All Santas

If you follow the news, you'd have known that on Thursday, December 15th which was yesterday, the Iraq War officially ended after a long nine year. The phrase "The Mother of All..." was popularized during this infamous Iraqui war by the now defunct President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, after his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Bulletins to Iraqi citizens advised them to prepare for an invasion and "the Mother of All Battles" promised in a speech if the US-led coalition forces of one attempted to evict his army of occupation from Kuwait. The phrase "Mother of All Battles" was a translation of the Arabic expression "Umm al-Ma'arik." This is a common literary trope in Arabic public rhetoric. As Saddam's audience would have understood, it refers to the Battle of Al-Qādisiyyah in AD 637, when an Arab army defeated the Persians.

With that firmly in mind, now you understand the true meaning of the title of today's blog. You can't find another Santa that is larger than this one. Don't even think about trying! This Santa clearly says out loud that you can stop by to get your Christmas tree here at the intersection of SW 117th Avenue and 87th Street. I can safely ignore all this because I have a "Mother of All Fake Christmas Trees" that is at least 30 year old but still looks like a real tree every year.
Santa's Mother

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best Choir

I was at a luncheon today and had the chance to listen to an excellent choral recital. This is a yearly event organized by the Rotary Club of Coral Gables (RCCG) and because this is Coral Gables, tog was there too! This year, the Everglades Legacy Choir of the Everglades Senior High School in Miramar won the Rotary Music Award from the RCCG . Today, they are here at the atrium inside the Coral Gables Country Club to give a great holiday cheers performance and to demonstrate why they won the Grand Prize Full Choir Senior Division winner of 2011 Caroling Competition AND winner of the 2011 Rotary Music Award ("Where Angels Lately Knelt" by Thomas Courtenay.)

The Legacy Choir is directed today by Mr. Shanpatrick Davis who is its director for the past eight years and who has been a voice teacher for 13 years. This year, in May, Everglades had the pleasure of touring and performing in the New York Area. Next year, also in May, they will tour Washington D.C. This choir is filled with dedicated individuals who all bring their vocal talents to enhance the choir's single voice. Together they sing with inspiration to leave a legacy that fills one's heart with music. I thoroughly enjoyed the short time they sang for the audience from the elevated platform in the atrium.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fuzzy Worm Vine

I have no idea what this vine is and I call it the "Fuzzy Worm Vine," but it is too aggressive. It has climbed all over my Ambarella (Spondias dulcis) tree and established a killer canopy over the top. It looks tough, but this vine is no match for my clipper. I hesitated a bit because it has beautiful purple flowers at every turns that become these fuzzy worm-looking fruits that do give me the willies! In only two days, this vine is all gone. My Ambarella tree must be very happy that it was rescued from an almost certain death by suffocation that can't be fun!
Worm Vine

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lonely Bird

If you feel that you are lonesome... put yourself in the shoes of this bird, a black heron (If you could see, you'd realize that this bird's feet are yellow.) Do birds have family to come back to at nights? Some do, but I am not sure about this one. The Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca,) also known as the Black Egret, is an African heron. It is native South of the Sahara Desert, including Madagascar, and prefers shallow open waters, such as the edges of freshwater lakes and ponds. It may also be found in marshes, river edges, rice fields, and seasonally flooded grasslands. In coastal areas, it feeds along tidal rivers and creeks. The Black Heron has an interesting hunting method called canopy feeding by using its wings like an umbrella, and uses the shade to attract fish.

This bird startled me with a loud screech when it landed out of nowhere, in this botanical center. I was hoping to see it begin an attempt to catch fish by transforming its wings into an umbrella... but it was waiting for me to scoot so it can fish in peace.

Some herons feed in group, but this one is certainly all alone. I think it's sad to be a bird and I am glad I am not one with feathers and wings. A plus is being able to fly around without having to buy airline tickets... but I don't want to be alone. That's a bad deal, no, thanks!

Monday, December 12, 2011


Victoria's Secret is an American retailer of sultry women's wear, lingerie and beauty products. It was started in San Francisco, California, in 1977 by Tufts University and Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus Roy Raymond, who felt embarrassed trying to purchase lingerie for his wife in a department store environment. Really? You wouldn't catch me setting foot into this store either! He, Roy Raymond, opened the first store at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, and quickly followed it with a mail-order catalog and three other stores. In 1982, after five years of operation, he sold the Victoria's Secret company for a cool $4 Million. It now has sales of over US $5 Billion and an operating income of $1 Billion in 2006. Outside of the US, besides stores opened in Canada, the first Victoria's Secret stores outside North America opened in Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Can you believe that? Of all places! I would have never guessed! This one is more at home, in the Dadeland Mall in South Miami.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Boar's Head

This is the deli section inside the Publix grocery store in Dadeland village. This is where I need to come to stock up on my easy way out for a speedy lunch. With this supply, I can whip up a sandwich (delicious, mind you) in about 10 minutes. In the US, we are paranoid about the things we eat... too many calories, too much cholesterol, too much fat, bad fat, good fat, too much carbohydrate, too many eggs, too few calcium, too few Omega 3, we need vitamin A, B, C, D, E, F, G... Sorry, I am going overboard here, I don't know why, but vitamins F and G have not been invented... but our biggest preoccupation is too much SALT! I am reluctant to worry about salt... but the assault against salt is relentless and I somehow got into the habit of reading the labels on stuffs I buy to eat or to cook with. If you did that, you would discover that we are surrounded by salt hiding inside our food.

At this place though, the Boar's Head folks who sell the infinite variety of goodies ready for making sandwich swear that they are salt masters and can make their food plenty good with far less salt than their competitors. I am not sure if that is true, but their stuffs are so good, I don't really care if they lie.

To tell you what I really think... if I want to control my daily sodium intake, it will take me... say... a half day each day to tabulate, measure and count all the milligrams of salt that get into my body. No... that's too much time lost. I'll let my kidneys worry about dealing with the salt. My plan is to talk to both of them once in a while to make sure they still work well. I remember in the old Tarzan movies I watched, the fellows who lived in the deep jungles would kill for a bag of salt. What happened to these good old days?

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This is another lovingly restored classic car that you see once in a while in Miami's streets. It's a Datsun. I am not sure what year it is dated, but most likely in the late 60s.

Datsun was an automobile marque. The name was created in 1931 by the DAT Motorcar Co. for a new car model, spelling it as "Datson" to indicate its smaller size when compared to the existing, larger DAT car. Later, in 1933 after Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. took control of DAT Motorcar Co., the last syllable of Datson was changed to "sun", because "son" also means "loss" (損) in Japanese, and also to honour the sun depicted in the national flag, hence the name "Datsun" : Dattosan (ダットサン Dattosan.) Nissan phased out the Datsun brand in March 1986. The Datsun name is most famous for the sports cars referred to as the Fairlady roadsters and later the Fairlady (240Z) coupes.

For the past 27 years, classic Datsun car owners meet for the Best of Show award. In July 2010, the 26th yearly Datsun Roadster Meet was held at Mt. Shasta. A pristine 1967 silver car from San Francisco won the coveted award. This one does not look as good and may not win that award, but it sure looks a lot better than my car.
Classic Datsun

Friday, December 9, 2011

Power Serve

There is a championship tennis tournament going on at this time at Miami Dade College in its Kendall campus. It is called the Casely International Championships... and it shows. There is a large number of participants, all looking young, athletic, fit, formidable and exuberant. All the tennis courts are occupied and matches are being played continuously. Take a look at this young woman serving her tennis ball. It looks so professional. I would hate to be on the other side of the court when her ball strikes my racket. It probably would make a hole as large as a cannon ball. Ace! Or something like that is what they say.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Get Their Queen

In Miami, we sometimes have to deal with fire ants. Do you know that fire ants do not bite? Worse, they sting like wasps and bees by holding on with their pliers-like-mouth and inject venom into your skin through a stinger. Ouch! That hurts like the devil. If that's your only problem, you may just stay away from their nests. But... I do grow a ficus tree and the fire ants nesting near the tree can quite quickly kill it by exposing the roots due to their tunneling network. So they must be dealt with using bait. The bait is a mixture of a carrier, attractants and a killing agent or insecticide. Dosage of the insecticide must be measured carefully so the ant workers cannot detect the poison, but it must be strong enough to exterminate the entire colony, including the queen. Easy said than done!

Here is a red ant mound that has been baited and as far as I can tell, the ants have all but disappeared. The yellow pellets are particles of bait. Now my ficus tree can be safe until the next battle with a new colony that may decide to migrate to this place.
Battle Royal

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Printed Books

The South Miami Branch library is here at the address of 6000 Sunset Drive. Recently, it had an extensive remodeling that included a redesign water fall out in front. With the internet encroaching on every day's life, I fear for the survival of these landmarks. Everyone I know knows that Google is the way to get information... who would take the time to check out and read books from library any more? Mea Culpa! I no longer read printed books, and all my books are either on my laptops or my iPad, sadly so!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Walking Ficus

You can find a large number of Banyan trees in Miami. This one is quite large and it demonstrates well how ficus trees "walk" and grow large to occupy extensive surface areas.

Ficus benghalensis is native of the Indian subcontinent. It produces propagating roots which grow downwards as aerial roots. Once these roots reach the ground, they grow into woody trunks that can become indistinguishable from the main trunk.

Also known as the Indian Banyan, F. bengalensis is the National tree of India and considered sacred. Worship is observed on a day in summer when the full moon occurs near the last star of the constellation Scorpio. There is a huge ficus tree known as the Great Banyan in the Indian Botanic Garden in Howrah. It is considered to be one of the largest trees in the world in terms of area covered.

When a toddler, I believed banyan trees are the home of scary ghosts and always ran as fast as I could when I had to go past them. I think I still believe that is true and would not come near here at night.
Sacred Banyan

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dolce Vita

Look at this Indian peacock (in his blue outfit) perching on this tree. Not an iota of worry in the world... perhaps only about how best to woo the next peahen. Such a good life!
Sweet Life

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guys Are Cheap

This is one of the two Starbucks in Dadeland Mall. There are two women buying the coffee here and no men so the score is 2 - 0. There is a theory about the gender gap concerning frequenters to Starbucks coffee shops: Women outnumber men six to one! Speaking for myself, as a male, I only go for this kind of strangely flavored coffee when I have to, but never, ever on my own doing. A theory ventures that women in general are more affluent than men. On the other hand, the majority of guys say that is a waste of money. So what do you think? Me? It's simply sexual dimorphism if you ask me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In Ius Voco Spurius

This is not quite Christmas, but it's getting close! Macy's has this "Believe Santa Mail" mail box for the kids to send their letters to Santa. I am sure the kids will ask for toys. If I could have it my way, I would force Macy's to answer all the letters with the corresponding toys the kids have asked for. It's too cruel otherwise... to mislead the kids into believing and get no reply or what they asked for. If you are a lawyer and you are reading this... did you get my gist?
Petit Papa Noel

Friday, December 2, 2011

Free Samples

This is the food court smack in the middle of the Dadeland Mall in South Miami. This place is always full of people during lunch and dinner time. This is lunch, and the two very popular selections are the Mandarin Express and the Sarku Japan. Let me give you a good tip: You can come here and get almost a free lunch by taking samples from each of the food stalls here. The workers hand out small cups of free samples for passer by to taste. Beware though, you'd be consuming so much salt you may think you are related to the Atlantic ocean. I never spend any money here. I just come for the samples...
Food Court

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Action Shot

You want to see action? Look at this... taken during the woman volleyball match between Florida State University (crimson red) and the University of Miami (green.) Watch out! The "red" team is going for the kill! You see the ball in mid air? It was nicely set up and the lady in red approaching the net is going to jump up and squat the ball over the net with such thundering force that there is no way the three "green" defenders on the other side can counter punch. I hope that was not the match point! Ouch!
Action A' Plenty

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moon Waxing Over Jacaranda

Here is a shot of the "almost" noon moon. Let me explain: The moon phase today is about 35.5 % full, waxing. It rose at 11:22 AM and will set at 11:05 PM tonight. Its "noon" position is at 5:11PM. This photo was taken at 4:11PM, an hour before its "noon." I am sure you know that one does not need to wait until dark to learn about astronomy. Looking up to the sky now, you can imagine you can see the Aquarius constellation to the left of the moon, Capricorn and Sagittarius to the right. Further down the ecliptic, Mars and Saturn have already set. Soon Venus, then Mars and finally the Sun will set. Then night will fall and Jupiter will rise... These beautiful things are all there although you can't see them in broad day light. The tree you see is my Jacaranda mimosifolia.

Moon Waxing

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Extended Cyberday

I used to carry around a big and heavy digital camera... No longer for over a year now because I prefer to use my cell phone for all the photos you see in this blog. Indirectly though, the new technology they invented made it to the cell phones, and the results sometimes are deceptive. Take this photo... it was taken at dusk and the sky was darker than it appears here. That is because this camera can take 4 snap shots to create a final "averaged" composite. That does wonder to the background. What I really want to show you is the red balloon in the sky that says in bold letter "SALE" Do I hate that! I needed some shoes but could not go buy them last Friday because it was "black Friday" and that was the biggest "sale" day of the year... translation: maddening crowd everywhere. That Friday became Saturday and Sunday... That was not enough so they invented "Cyber Monday." That is the day retailers expect big traffic on the web that naturally spills over to the shopping malls. Of course, Monday is extended into Tuesday... I couldn't wait any longer because my shoes look like the ones worn by Charlie Chaplin so I endured the crowd today.. and I blame it on this red balloon. I am happy because I got a brand new pair of shoes that will last me until the "Black Friday" of 2021. Yeah! All rite!

Take a look at the metro rail cars in this shot. You really think the doors have three panels like that? Not my fault that the train was moving so fast!
Cyber Monday

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Brown People

There are many "The UPS Store" like this in Miami. Before this spreads widely, I needed to drive all the way to the Miami airport area to ship a package using UPS (That stands for United Parcel Service.) This is very convenient, not only to ship packages... because they offer many different kinds of service too, such as: Mailbox Services, Digital Printing and Document Services, Moving Supplies and Packaging Material, Packing Services etc...

This started out as a retail chain of business service centers known as Mail Boxes Etc. (MBE.) In 2001, MBE was acquired by UPS and it became "The UPS Store." These centers are franchises and individually owned. A bit pricy, but very convenient. Looking at their clocks, you can easily tell the time I was there.
UPS Store

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Immediately after moving into the space vacated by the now defunct Borders Book Shop, City Furniture wasted no time to execute its expansion plan. It thinks this economy is ideal for new growth. I guess no matter how tough your life is, and how broke you are, you do need a bed to sleep in... so they hope you'd go to City Furniture.

On the left is the new smaller City Furniture store that is now in full operation. The building on the right is the old furniture main store in South Miami. It is being renovated to add a new story and a new face lift. The brand new orange car blocking my !@#$%^ view is a Porsche Carrera S! This only confirms what I told you repeatedly: tons of cash are in display everywhere in Miami streets in form of expensive wheels.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Go Canes!

Being a fair weather supporter of the University of Miami's "no longer great" football team who just lost the last game of the season last night, I immediately switched allegiance to the woman's volleyball team... because WE are ranked, and WE are number 25th! Go Canes!

Tonight I am among the record crowd of 1,071 fans who packed the James L. Knight Sports Complex for the regular season finale against Florida State University (FSU,) the hated "Noles" who outranked us at number 21st. Tonight's was the first-ever meeting between two ranked teams in volleyball, and the first time FSU and UM have ever faced each other as ranked opponents. So needless to say, we had a lot of excitement. You can always tell who's who by the shirts we wear. We are green and they are red.

The great news is that we upset FSU 3-1. Canes won the match in four sets by the score of 25-16, 33-31, 21-25 and 25-22.

Go Canes!
Go Canes!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday vs Blue Crab

Today is called "Black Friday" and I stay away from civilization (meaning all the crazy shopping malls) as far as possible... To do that, I went into a remote park when I faced this land crab, aka a Cardisoma-guanhumi. To refresh your memory, this fellow (that's a he) is omnivorous. He can see and hear well... He hears by detecting the ground vibrations, and he "sees" with his ommatidia, that is his compound eyes, which react only to that part of the scene directly in front of it. So this land crab does see me... after he picked up my foot steps, and is ready to take position and put up a good fight. And I said to myself "Here's looking at you, kid!"

I guess you want to know where that famous uttering came from, right? Here is the entire context, from "Casablanca:"

Ilsa: "I can't fight it anymore. I ran away from you once. I can't do it again. Oh, I don't know what's right any longer. You have to think for both of us. For all of us."
And now comes the famous sentence...
Rick: "All right, I will. Here's looking at you, kid!"

Ilsa: [smiles] "I wish I didn't love you so much."

You guessed it: that's about a love story. Do you like Casablanca? I bet you do if you knew about that classic movie. Remember, it's not: "He's looking at you, kid!" but it's "Here's looking at you, kid!"
Land Crab

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Triplaris sp.

Sometimes, a second look reveals beauty that we missed when we did not pay close attention the first time around. A return visit to the ant tree proved to me that one needs time in order to discover and savor life's hidden treasures. Here is a closer look at the clusters seen from afar the last time. At this scale, I now need to know if these striking pink ladies are indeed still flowers... or are they now precursors on the way to become the T. sp. fruits? I sent out an inquiry to some experts in Panama and will let you know when I learn from them. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Be Thankful

If you live in the US, you should be thankful that you are not a turkey. What I mean is that literally, you do not want to be a real turkey... the bird... and not a turkey meaning a jerk or some other equally derogatory words. Today is the eve of Thanksgiving, an important holiday in the US. Tradition here calls for an entire nation to give thanks by feasting on turkeys. This year, about 40 million were slaughtered for tomorrow dinners... two of them were pardoned by US President Obama today, which is a tradition started in 1989. I know how the turkeys are farm raised and how they are killed every year for Thanksgiving. Let's not talk about that.

This shot is of a large Publix grocery store and it is packed with last minute shoppers getting ready for the giant feast tomorrow. It is dusk in about 15 minutes... and the fast setting sun shines upon the two Marriott hotels in the center of this photo. The Village of Dadeland sure looks handsome in this view.
No Turkey

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Deep Purple

I was ready to mumble something incomprehensible in this space today when I changed my mind due to this sight. Due East in Miami at dusk (5:58PM) today is this breathtaking deep purple sky with a single bright spot of light. There is nothing else in the sky besides the pretty pink clouds closer to the horizon. The sun has already set at 5:30PM in the opposite western direction, so light worked in mysterious ways by scattering to color these clouds. The bright spot of light is our giant gas planet Jupiter, the King planet reigning in our solar system. During the entire month of November, at the latitude of Miami, Jupiter rises at dusk and sets by dawn. It is spectacular to see during the entire night the slow movement of Jupiter and of the Orion constellation, the most conspicuous, and most recognizable constellations in the night sky. Miami is not only spectacular during the days, it is beautiful at nights as well. Come visit, November is the month to be in Miami.
Royal Planet

Monday, November 21, 2011


Amid the uncertainty of the tough economy and Washington bickering on how to reduce the deficit, the largest college in Miami Dade County, Miami Dade College is expanding its Kendall campus because more space is needed. Since 1997, its student population has grown 35 per cent and this campus has more than 34,000 registered students. The new 136,000-square-foot building will be the new home of the School of Business Administration. The US $31.8 million structure is planned to open in the year 2013, assuming it will be completed on schedule in October 2012.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Still Alone

Her home is still the streets of Miami. Then, she was there. Now she is back at her home bench, here. Still all alone! How sad!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


This is my soursop or guanabana, scientifically known as Annona muricata, in fruiting season, which is this month. It is the most tropical of all the annonas and is native to Tropical America. This is supposed to be the best testing annona fruit of them all. It is extremely cold sensitive and cannot tolerate long periods of temperature less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I have lost at least three of these trees because once in a long while, it does dip into the low 40's in Miami and the guanabana would die. This time, it has a few flowers and I am not sure that any fruits would come from them. The reason being that this tree is not receiving enough sun light because of the neighboring big trees that give too much shade. That's too bad because this is the most delicious annona with the best flavor. The fruits are beautiful and quite large. If there is such thing as a miracle and a fruit or two form and mature on this tree, I will show you what they look like, but please do not hold your breath.

Friday, November 18, 2011


It rained all day today but that did not damp the spirit of the big crowd getting a good lunch here at the Shinju Japanese "All You Can Eat" place on Sunset Drive and SW 87th Avenue. The name is a bit misleading because this has more Chinese than Japanese dishes. On this side though, it's all sushi which still is not really what I would kill for. But today, I tried something that looks like sea weeds and tastes like ginger. That wasn't too bad at all. This place is very casual and you can get a full day meal here for about US $15. That's quite reasonable in this economy. The problem with me is that I always have a deep remorse after lunch here because I always overdo it! Me bad bad boy again today!
All You Can Eat

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Power Lift

When your car is put in this compromising position, you may be in serious risk of having a hefty bill to pay. This is a Benz C 230. Fortunately, it's not mine. Notice that this is NOT a Mercedes Benz service center, usually at the same place as the high price car dealership, but this is an "off brand" auto mechanic repair shop. In South Miami, there are many such shops where entrepreneurial mechanics set up shop and use their skill to earn good income. They usually charge less than an "authentic and certified" official repair shop, that charges the car owners without any mercy, especially if they drive an "ivy league" car. But... alas, I am also in deep yogurt because the other car, at the other end, the one you cannot see from this view, is also on the chopping block!
Power Lift

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I was in line at this Publix grocery store in South Miami and this caught my eyes. These cakes look mighty appetizing but they are not for me: too sweet. I am not sure if these are related to the devil's food cake, but they all look sinfully inviting. Would you eat one of these?
Devil's Cakes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ant Tree

I am lucky to stumble on this tree in bloom because it is rare. This is a Triplaris sp., meaning its species name in indeterminate. Looking at the flower, this may be a T. cumingiana. Triplaria trees, aka the Long John tree; or the Mulato tree; or the ant tree; or Vara de Maria... belong to the family of Polygonaceae. It is nicknamed Long John because of its very slender shape. The branches are hollowed out and inhabited by the Pseudomyrmex sp. ants in a close symbiotic relationship. In fact, these ants are fiercely territorial and have been reported to attack people who come close to the trees. In some regions of Brazil, there are numerous reports of intensely painful stings by these ants that result in local inflammation.

The red flowers you see in the photo are female flowers in big compound clusters. The male flowers are small and white. After proper pollination, the seeds are hairy with three-blade helicopter-like wings that can be carried by wind miles away.
Long John

Monday, November 14, 2011


I have shown you some activities in this South Miami college campus. That was really not the norm... but rather the exception. Students here are serious and they study hard. Here's proof. This scene is typical of the seriousness of the students in the computer lab to learn new things. If you can zoom in on the screen of the young student in the middle, you would see that he was reading about the work of none other than Albert Camus! I was impressed and followed his surfing for a little while... that brought him to deep philosophical subjects such as "what is absurdism..." and "the myth of Sisyphus." Now, that's deep!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fibonacci Spirals

Pineapple is a symbol of hospitality, for some and not for all, I am sure.... I am in a bad mood today because someone is mad at me... so I am taking it out on my pineapple... I am going to peel it!

This is my third pineapple... because I was always intrigued to know if I am capable of peeling a pineapple the "right" way, that is not to waste any good edible flesh. The end result is that you end up with a beautiful spiral-decorated fruit to show.

My first pineapple made it to my blog, but it rotted away on my counter because I could not figure out how to peel it the "right" way and I couldn't tell that it was too ripe and it couldn't wait forever for my taking action. My second pineapple was peeled... alas, not the "right" way, and shamefully for me, not by me, but by a friend. We ate it, but I was unhappy! This is my third one, and I did my homework so this time I am ready... and today is the day.

First, do you know how to tell if a pineapple is ripe? See? Not so obvious! That's when you can easily pull off the spiny leaves off the top. So mine is ripe and ready to go... The leaves came off easily without any resistance. How do you like that! Instructions on how to peel a pineapple are everywhere you look, but many just cut it the "wrong" way. After some doing, I found a video showing an expert that did it so effortlessly the "right" way... in Thailand of all places. The woman "professor" did a great job demonstrating how to peel her pineapple that really inspired me to try for myself... So I bought a brand new 8-inch "never need sharpening" (I'd like to test that too) knife for this special task. Now, this is what you do: First you take away the top leaves. No, do not cut it off... just twist the entire bunch of leaves off. That worked perfectly well for me. But before proceeding, do you know that while the pineapple was ripening in your kitchen, all the sugar in it migrated by gravity to the bottom part? So the trick I learned is that after twisting off the leaves, you turn it upside down and put it in the refrigerator for half an hour for the sugar to migrate back evenly. Done! Not sure why that is so clever! If you want more sugar, just eat the bottom part and leave the top for your guest (or for the person who is mad at me today!)

So, after a lot of labor, this is my pineapple ready to be cored. Not too pretty, but that's mine! Now, how best to core this? Let's save it for the next blog. But there is a twist... some pineapple cores are soft and are edible and if you can tell, you do not need to core it.

If you are interested to learn how to do this from the master, a lesson is here. My pineapple is not as pretty as the one the master was working on in the video... but in all fairness, mine does not have a perfect spiral pattern as hers so I am happy with the way mine looks. Yummy! Let's eat it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ibis Feeding

Just a flock of ibis feeding among tall palm trees in Miami.
Quiet Botanical Center