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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ladies of the Night

More than three years ago, I started a small gem of an orchid hybrid, the Brassavola "Little Stars." Then it has been rush rush rush in life and I neglected to pay any attention to it. This plant blooms when it begins to turn cool in Miami and it gets dark early. At 7PM tonight, it already is pitch-black outdoors, but I did not need much light to find these Little Stars from its scent that is so delightful. This makes one forgets all the troubles of the world. All mine vanished instantly. Thank you, Little Stars, Ladies of the Night. Trouble? What trouble?
Little Stars

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dream On

Students come to this campus to study and complete homework and do research for projects etc... Many do... and many don't. A favorite past time is to surf the internet for whatever their interests for the moment. Girls like to browse for cosmetics, clothing and I think high heel shoes. Boys, like these two youngsters' "numero uno" interest is hot cars. They share their dreams on cars of all make, but mostly hot cars like Mustangs and Hondas that may be just beyond their reach because the norm at colleges like this is that the parents are not rich by any means. So, I guess there is an incentive in this activity: study hard to get a good job.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guy Cones

After having shown you the female Encephalartos ferox, I thought it unfulfilled until I find its match, and here it is. E. ferox is also known as the Zululand Cycad and you may want to know that Cycads are often referred to as "living fossils" because they have changed little since the Carboniferous period 50-60 million years ago. They belong to the group of plants called Gymnosperms (meaning "naked seeds".) The reproductive organs are produced in cones and not in flowers as in higher plants. The Afrikaans name for Cycads "broodboom" means "bread tree" and the stems of these plants have been used in the past as a source of food. The starchy pith is removed, tied up in an animal skin, fermented and then ground into a meal.

Compared to the female cones, the male cones are longer (40-50cm) and much narrower (only 8-10cm in diameter). They are held on short stems up to 3cm long. Pollination of these Cycads can be done by hand: The pollen is collected from the male cones then mixed with distilled water and sprayed into the female cones.

I really have lived the ferox part of these Cycads and was pricked numerous times when trying to get a closer shot of these cones today. Just look at the leaves, they protect the cones like a fortress!
Guy Cone

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I am telling you, there is so much money in the streets of Miami that's unreal. I've been to many cities in the US and found none like here that has so many expensive cars running around town day and night. Here is a brand new looking Porsche Panamera (Type number 970) whose name was derived from the Carrera Panamericana race.

The Porsche Panamera production model was unveiled at the 13th Auto Shanghai International Automobile Show in Shanghai, China, on April 2009; and later, the hybrid version was launched in 2011. This car is manufactured to compete directly with cars like the Aston Martin Rapide, the Maserati Quattroporte, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, and the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo, all of which run in the streets of Miami. Looking at this, I say that it is too long, too big and kind of ugly too. This car upsets many Porsche purists who agree with my assessment. You should know that I am no Porsche purist... but if you do drive a Porsche, not this one though, I may love you.

This one here is the cheapest in the line of Panamera, at a meager US $75K. Adding the label Turbo S and the price jumps to $175K and of course you can see that in Miami too. Only in Miami!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Harp Lady

I was at Macy's today... not that I wanted to, but because I had to. This large department store is a major anchor at Dadeland Mall. They have this young lady playing her harp that really gave a very festive mood to the entire space around here. It's almost Thanksgiving and not quite Christmas which are the two major holidays in the US and the decoration will begin to blossom everywhere very soon. This electric harp does not sound very nice, but she plays it well and I did like her rendering of "Fascination." I wonder if she'll play some rap music. That would be fun to hear that on a harp.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


This is how Audi showcased its sport cars at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables. Come with a lot of green backs in your wallet or all of your credit cards in case you fall in love with one of these.
Car Showcase

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Ficus and banyan trees are beautiful... but before planting them, one must be aware of the aggressiveness of their root structures. They are very invasive and destructive. Near a home, they will eventually invade the foundation and may even find ways to your toilet! In Miami, many concrete sidewalks are cracked and destroyed because they happen to be near a ficus tree. However, the roots are lovely to look at. Stare at this a while and you'll fall in love and you'd want to hug the trees.

In Salman Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, the village of Titlipur is built around an enormous banyan tree, whose roots cover an area "half a mile in diameter." The tree is intrinsic to the village with some villagers building shelters in it and others living in the foliage. Did you also know that Robinson Crusoe, in 1719, built his house in a banyan tree? Well, that's according to the novel, and if I were him, I would be very happy to find a big banyan tree and build a big house in which to live.
Ficus Roots

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free Jazz Concert

Back by popular demand, Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Kendall Campus once again presents its popular Jazz Under the Stars concert, one of many of the campus’ annual Fall Festival. The concert, free with a ticket, features some of the very celebrated names in jazz and Latin music at 7 PM today, at the campus’ Fred Shaw Plaza.

Featured are Jon Secada, a former band member of Gloria Estefan's band, Miami native saxophonist Jesse Jones Jr.; and professors of music at MDC such as Ed Calle, Matt Bonelli and Silvano Monasterios.

The stage is being readied as can be seen here. The people who organize this event must be very good weather forecaster, or must feel very lucky. If it rains, that would be a disaster... but... it won't tonight, knock on wood!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Helicopter Drop

Today, if you were at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, you would have witnessed this event: a helicopter hovering above the huge and beautifully manicured golf court to drop a whole bunch of golf balls aiming at a hole marked by a red flag.

This is an annual event by the local Rotary Club of Coral Gables to raise money for their preferred charity projects. Tickets are sold and linked to numbered golf balls. The three golf balls that land the closest to the hole with the flag win the three prizes.

I was there to watch and am smart enough to stay far away, making sure those solid hard like rock balls have no chance to land on my head.
Golf Ball Drop

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No Flippping

This is is a peek at the local Burger King kitchen where the food magically appears promptly after a customer orders it. I think this is a real high pressure job because the managers' only loyalty is to the bottom line and they are all instructed to have the assembly line moves at top speed. To make a burger here must be tough. The worker looks at a monitor up high to see the code of how to make up the order, then get the correct ingredients on the buns and wrap it up to move it to the counter for delivery. OK.. buns... lettuce... onion... mayo... mushroom... patty (precooked by gas flame under computer control and delivered frozen so there is no need to "flip the hamburger" any more)... next one... next one... Can you do this all day? Someone must!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Virginia Key

Virginia Key is a 863-acre Miami barrier island, in Biscayne Bay, south of Brickell and north of Key Biscayne, accessible from the mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway. On this island, you find Virginia Key Beach Park, Miami Seaquarium, and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the former Miami Marine Stadium, the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center; and an office of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This island has a long history and it acquired its name in 1849. Today's Historic Virginia Key Beach Park was designated as the "Virginia Key Beach, a Dade County Park for the exclusive use of Negroes" in August 1945. That ended in the early 1960s and by the 1980s, Virginia Key beach was the scene for gay couples and nudists. It's too bad that is now long gone. If it were still here, I would understand the US $6 charge the county collects for each car to get in. Now, for that outrageous entry fee, the only nice thing you can visit is Jimbo's place.

The fence you see marks the entrance to Jimbo's , a long time landmark of Virginia Key situated on the right side of this photo.
Virginia Key