Eyes wide shut

The Day it drags the words of fire
The evil pentance false desire
The water boils the lies that sting
Who knew the drought one heart could bring

Time a sentence procured of lust
Brought around, turn to dust
Blinded by the wounded heart
Betrayal served best apart

The day it leaves an ice cold trail
True hidden hatred, behind veil
The nightime brings the dark uncut
Waking up with eyes wide shut

Eyes Wide Shut

What Christmas means to me..

Over the years the meaning of Christmas changes, at least for me it has. When I was a kid it was all about the haul, what the big man in red was going to bring. The anticipation would grow starting somewhere around Thanksgiving, and culminate with total insanity on Christmas morning. I can remember going outside in the snow, with no shoes on my feet to play with some toy I had gotten on Christmas that’s how great Christmas was as a kid. It was THE day, the only day other than a birthday that mattered on the calendar.

Once an age was hit where the myth was shattered, and the illusion dispersed things changed. Christmas had a different meaning, and the gifts became more personal. The holiday became more about being around extended family that we only saw a couple times a year. I think those were the best Christmas’. All the aunts, uncles, cousins all stuffed together in one place and a lot of love. Those family gatherings were some of the best times of my childhood.

Into the teen and early adult years, Christmas seemed to become more of a chore. With family obligations and gift giving becoming an obstacle to the things I really wanted to be doing. I still enjoyed the family gatherings, but they grew smaller as we grew older and family drifted apart moving away, starting their own families and beginning their own new Christmas traditions. Christmas was nothing more than a big commercial joke!

Then I became a dad, and that changed everything. I was the big man, the myth behind the mask, I was Santa! There is nothing on this earth that is better than the smile of a child on Christmas morning, when they open THAT gift. All the searching, and running to make sure that Christmas morning was the best morning of the year, all worthwhile. There is nothing worse than the day they find out the truth, and the charade is exposed.

Now I am older and again Christmas has a different meaning for me than it ever has before in my life. I am divorced, live alone and for some reason feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning. I do not anticipate the gifts which I will receive, but am excited by the gifts I have chosen to give to those I love. I am excited by the idea of watching my grandson open gifts on his first Christmas. I am thankful that my family is relatively speaking, happy and healthy and that we all have roofs over our heads and food in our bellies.

So for me Christmas has become about the gift that is given, with no expectation of one in return. One that comes from the heart, Christmas is about making someone else’s wish come true. Christmas is about Family, Christmas is about love, Christmas is about charity. Christmas is about magic that happens only once a year. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and so in such I wish you all:

Merry Christmas!!

A new Perspective

Without a doubt I would have to say that in my 49 years, 2013 has been the most trying and challenging year I have faced. I have encountered obstacles which I never could have imagined, and found strength where I did not know it existed. I have seen things through a different set of eyes, and comprehended situations in a different mindset. I have found a new peace, and understanding through the quagmire of untruths and have embraced my weakness’ to compliment my strengths.

As I sit and contemplate my new awareness, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the possibilities which lay before me. Accepting that there are forces at work that are beyond my control, and understanding how to manage the way in which I interact with these situations has been my biggest challenge. Understanding that not everything that is broken can or should be fixed, and not all problems have a favorable outcome. That sometimes we just have to accept things for what they are and move on.

The last 4 weeks have been spent doing some very deep spiritual exploration and examination of who I am, how I have gotten here and where it is I want to go from here. The events and circumstances that have brought me here have been convoluted to say the least, but as I do believe everything happens for a reason I am sure in the grand scheme of things it will all make sense. My journey has been a long, and the road ahead does not appear to be a smooth one, but what would life be without those occasional bumps in the road or miscalculated wrong turns.

I move forward with anticipation of what is around the next turn, and relish in the mystery of what will be. I welcome the challenges, the victories and the failures for these together are what make a person who it is they become. Not so much as to whether one succeeds or fails, but how they handle the situation and accept the outcome. I will not let the events of this last year become who I am, or who I become. I will not respond to hatred with hatred and become my own enemy. I will be stronger than those who seek to fulfill their emptiness with anger and contempt, and I will overcome the obstacles that have been laid before me.

As I move forward, I will take with me the lessons I have learned over the past 11 and a half months and I will use them to guide me to a better place within myself. I will take the pain and I will use it to strengthen my resolve, and I will not let hatred and evil inundate my life. Destination unclear, and path yet uncertain I follow the unseen signs, seeing everything through a new set of eyes.
fairmount in snow 015

Tech Tips 101

There are many lessons I try to impart to my friends, family and co-workers about the safety of mobile devices. I think most of it goes in one ear and out the other, and it all sounds like geek speak to most of them. As the world becomes more mobile, and we do more and more online, securing all of your accounts and devices has never been more important. Today I am going to share a few articles about how to keep your home computer, your mobile devices, and your online accounts safe from the prying eyes of the internet.
The first and probably most important lesson I can pass on to you is about security, Always use Anti Virus and Anti-Malware programs on any device you use to connect to the internet! In conjunction with those to protect your device, Always User Two factor authentication anywhere it is available to help secure your online accounts.
The following two articles from Lifehacker explain what two factor authentication is, and how to use it on many of the most popular sites such as Facebook, twitter and even Gmail. Save yourself the headache of being Hacked! It can happen to anyone, even I have even had my Facebook account hacked once, and anyone who knows me can tell you, I am big on security and long mixed symbol passwords.

The first article called “Please turn on two factor authentication”
is a quick explanation and plea to use two factor authentication.
http://lifehacker.com/5932700/please-turn-on-two+factor-authentication


This second article explains how and where to turn on two factor authentication
in Gmail and on numerous other popular sites.
http://lifehacker.com/5938565/heres-everywhere-you-should-enable-two+factor-authentication-right-now

 

Not mentioned here, but if your bank, and credit card companies offer such a service, and I am sure most do, implement them on those sites to prevent unauthorized logins!

 

The second area I need to cover, and also touched upon in the above articles is back-up your data! I cannot stress this enough, if your drive fails and you have no back-up you will be screwed and lose everything. This is the second most important lesson I can pass on to you. I too have once been the victim of not backing up my data, and then I lost close to 10,000 pictures. I always back-up now, every night without fail! It’s easy, it’s cheap and it could save your ass!

As you will notice most of these articles are from Lifehacker.com, one of my favorite sites. Below are two links, the first being an article about online backups, comparing the 5 best. Read it, understand it, and decide if it is for you. BTW Dropbox works well to, and is rated as one of the more secure services!

http://lifehacker.com/five-best-online-backup-services-1006345049

The second is a guide for setting up a home back up plan, and easy steps for doing so. You do not have to use this guide, as there are other options available, but whatever you use, use something and check it occasionally to make sure it actually works!

http://lifehacker.com/5787572/set-up-an-automated-bulletproof-file-back-up-solution

 

The last thing I want to share today is about passwords. We all use them, most people hate them and I can crack 80% of them in fewer than 2 minutes.  Passwords should not be simple for anyone but you; it should not be a birthday or pet name, or your husband’s name. Those are easily guessed passwords, and what most people use because they are so easy to remember. The problem is; most people use the same password for everything! Don’t! that is the quickest way to give people access to your private data. They get the password for 1 thing and BAM, they have the password for everything, bank accounts, email etc.

Always use different passwords for different things, and use passwords you will remember easily, but someone else will not. Like a combination of letters and numbers like; B1i9l6l7y, looks complicated but it really isn’t. I took the name Billy, and the year he was born, 1967, and merged them into one word. So I now use 3 different character sets in my password making it harder to crack, or guess!

 

I hope you take what you have learned here today and use it, because I do want to be the guy you call when your accounts get hacked, or your computer takes a dump and all your pictures of fluffy and flowers, and all the music that was “in your ITunes” is gone. I do not want to be the guy saying to you “do you have a back-up?”

In My Backyard

I am a south Jersey redneck all the way, born in wonderful downtown Camden in the year of the dragon 1964. When I was around 5 years old, (I remember that because I started kindergarten) we moved to West Berlin New Jersey. A big house with a huge yard, and enormous woods, this was the edge of the New Jersey Pine barrens. Back in those days when the 2 best toys any boy could have were outside and imagination, this was a dream come true.

I could leave the house in the morning, and not return until dinner, and nobody needed to worry much. Things were much different back then. For me, it was like being Ponce de Leon on the hunt for the fountain of youth, or Columbus discovering the Americas. I fought dragons, foiled criminals and discovered new lands in those woods. I caught frogs and turtles and chased fox and raccoons, I got wet, I got dirty and I had fun.

This was the time in my life when I developed my love of the outdoors, and nature. I could spend the whole day just wandering through those woods, watching the animals, listening to the sounds, smelling the smells it was like I was the only person in the world and this whole place was just for me. I can still spend a whole day just hiking in those woods, listen, watching and photographing.

There at the edge of the Jersey Pinelands, this was my playground. As a boy I learned many things in and from those woods, and the experiences I had there. I learned to respect that which is wild, and it in return will respect you. I learned to always trust my instincts, as I watched, listened and absorbed the forest. This time in my life is most certainly that which inspired in me the Explorer soul and photographer spirit.

The spirit that pushes me to discover and explore, to go to places most people don’t, and do things that most people won’t.  Like hiking the Appalachian Trail from end to end, not something I have been able to accomplish but something on my bucket list. I can however say that I have hiked on the Appalachian Trail, in every state through which it runs. Now I know that’s not exactly the same, but it is mine, and I gotta own it! How about hiking UP the Kaibab trail, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Yes we did it, why? Because we could, it was  there and that’s what those woods gave me.

That was many years ago, I am now a grown man living in the city. I visit the Pinelands every chance I get, because for me it is home. I carry with me everyday many things I learned in and from those woods and will take to my grave some of her secrets. The New Jersey Pinelands may be home to the Famed Jersey devil, and the legendary Pineys, but for me it will always just be my back yard.

Something from nothing

It is my personal belief that more people than not, survive living paycheck to paycheck. There are many people living just one small disaster from being in a very precarious situation, from which it can be nearly impossible to recover. This belief based mostly on my own interaction, and experiences with people.  I grew up in my early years, in a poor household. I learned a great deal about frugality in those years, how to make something from next to nothing.

This is a lesson that is especially useful when it comes to preparing meals. It is absolutely possible to make a meal that tastes great, and the family will enjoy without draining the wallet. As I sit here writing this, my stomach growling, I myself am preparing a nice low-cost meal. Potato and cheese Pierogies, sautéed with onions, total cost $2.35. Now granted this is just for me, cooking for a family can be just as easy and cost-effective!

I believe the key to creating great tasting meals, is having several key ingredients ALWAYS on hand. Adobo all-purpose seasoning, made by Goya is first and foremost. There are very few meals I create, into which adobo is not added. The second thing would be garlic, fresh is better but granulated works just as well in a pinch. Then we have Coriander, sage, cumin, thyme, and rosemary and of course black pepper.  Sofrito tomato base, also by Goya is standard in my fridge as well as Worcestershire, and soy sauces.

If you keep those few things always on hand, you can make a damn piece of cardboard taste good! Not that anyone would, nor am I suggesting you try but hopefully you understand the point. A few other things I always keep on hand, fresh onions, bell peppers, potatoes and tortilla shells. Of course there is always the need for other ingredients as well, but with just those few items it is possible to make anything you are cooking taste and smell fantastic!

I cook for just myself a lot, since I am single and live alone. Cooking for one can be harder than cooking for a family sometimes, especially if you love to cook as much as I do, and enjoy eating as much as I do. I often times find myself making enough food to feed a family in order to actually make what I want to eat. But I do have my few little items that work great for one; anything stuffed into a tortilla shell is great. Hot dog chimichangas are one of my favorites, quick easy and no real clean up.

One of my favorite things to both make and eat is sausage potato casserole; cost next to nothing to make and can feed a family of 5 for under $10. Take 8-10 medium red skin potatoes; boil until cooked but not soft. Let them cool until you are able to slice them. Slice all the potatoes thinly. Lay the potato slices on the bottom of the casserole dish and up the sides, creating a “crust”. Put in a layer of shredded cheese, flavor of your choice. Add a layer of potato slices, then a layer of thinly sliced cooked sausage (I use Hillshire farms beef hot links), another layer of shredded cheese, potato slices, sausage, and top with the remaining potato slices. Cook in the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes. Remove and top with another layer of shredded cheese and cook for about another 5 minutes.

That casserole is not for everyone, but just an example of one of the tasty meals you can put together for under $10. I also do much of my shopping at discount food stores, such as save-a-lot. I don’t buy everything there, but dry goods, vegetables I will use within a day or two, and spices and sauces are a staple I purchase at discount stores. The dollar stores often carry discounted food as well, but one needs to be aware of what the expiration dates on anything purchased in those stores is on some items.

Get a store awards card for any supermarket you frequent, and pay close attention to deals. If you are able to, purchase dry goods and such in bulk when they are deeply discounted for using the store card. One of things I always buy when there is a special is butter; I will purchase 10 Lbs of butter when it is on sale for $1.99Lb and freeze it, rather than pay $4.99Lb every week. Over the course of a year that is about $150 savings for me, of course I use A LOT of butter.

The point of this whole rambling is quite simply, you really can make something from nothing with just a little planning. In these times of economic uncertainty, any chance we have to get by without spending more money than necessary to survive is sometimes an absolute godsend. Please subscribe for more money-saving ideas, recipes, and general silliness of the Epicurean Technologist.

The Philly Warmth Project

Philly Warmth has been happening as a personal project for about 17 years. It started with Robert Bleattler (49), collecting coats, hats, scarves, etc… from friends and family, and taking a car-load up to Independence Hall, and Love Park on Christmas morning to give the donations to anyone in need who showed up. Over the years more and more people donated, and his son Robert (A.) Bleattler (22) joined in on the project.
In 2011, with the help of Genesis Healthcare in Kennett Square, and the employees of KML Law Group, over 1000 articles of clothing were collected from employees, friends, and family. The response was so unexpected that many of the donations had to be taken to local shelters and other charity organizations to avoid having extras left over.
After facing some tough family financial decisions, the house where the donations used to be stored was no longer available, and since 2011, it has been impossible for us to take any donations from friends and family, simply because of the lack of space, and time.
Our goal is to establish a financial foundation allowing us to have a property (or storage unit) to store all donations, create, and maintain a working website, and spread the word about PhillyWarmth.Org year round!

Above written by Robert Anthony Bleattler

From my perspective, it all started on a cool May night in 1995. I was in the city with some friends, out on the town having a good time. It got late I lost track of time, and missed the last train out of the city! I wasn’t about to pay for a room and it was too late to call for a ride, so I figured I would wander around for a few hours until the first train in the morning. Well that few hours ended up being more like 10 hours, and totally changed the way I looked at life. It made me more humble and very thankful for things I have, a roof over my head, food, and warmth. Things I had always taken for granted, that they would just always be there.
I had been to the city many times, but I had never wandered the subway concourses, and the alleyways of the city, on foot at night, alone. It was an eye-opening experience for me; I had seen homeless on the corner from time to time but never imagined the whole outdoor culture that existed. I met close to 50 people that night, and every one of them had a story about how life lead them here, and most were happy to share those stories. Many of these people were normal people like you and I, living paycheck to paycheck that had one bad fall just snowball out of control leaving them here, that could very easily have been you or  me!
I slept for a good 12 hours when I returned home the next morning, but dreamed of nothing but those people I had encountered. I thought about it a lot, what could I do to help? I do not have the resources to help all those people, or even any of those people. As the months passed, and summer was ending the thought of those people I met being outside in winter really bothered me. So I started asking everyone I knew to clean out their closets, and give me any unused hats, coats, gloves, scarves,etc. I could at least make sure they were warm!
Now here we are in 2013 headed for 2014 and we are ready to take this project to the next level. After 2 years dormant, things are getting back on track and we really want to take this up a notch or 5. My son Anthony (yes we call him by his middle name) has started the Phillywarmth.org funding project to help us make this project what it should be, a fully functional, self-sustaining not for profit agency that helps those people on the streets, who want the chance to be off the streets, and return to pursuing their American dream. Because I cannot imagine it was ever any persons dream to live on the streets!
Please help us spread the word, and donate in any way that you can
https://www.razoo.com/br/causes/Phillywarmth-Org-Funding-Project

Your donation will aid in several parts of this process:
• Establishing the project as a licensed and functioning Non-Profit organization
• Securing the funds to obtain a piece of property (or large storage solution) to store donations
• Securing advertising for the foundation
• Securing transportation for donations to be delivered on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other dates yet to be decided
• Create relationships with community out-reach programs, businesses, and media personalities in order to spread the word
Your donation is helping a great cause; keeping people warm in the frigid winter months, when many people simply have nowhere to go but outdoors.
Once we have established everything, we will be reaching out for volunteers, and everyone (non-anonymous) who donates will be acknowledged.
We hope to have this project off the ground and FLYING before next winter, which is why we’ve set a deadline for August 31st, 2014.
With an unemployment rate of 11% (August 2013) and over 12,000 homeless recorded in 2012 in the Philadelphia area, there has never been a time when programs like this one are more necessary.
If you have any questions, or would like to contribute to the cause in some other way feel free to contact us.

Through the lens anew

In 1974, I was 10 years old and I received my very first camera. It was a little Kodak 110mm film camera, nothing special just something I could take some home pictures with. I have always owned a camera since that time, and have taken 1000’s of pictures. Most of those pictures really bad, some not so bad and the few that I am particularly proud of, not to mention the many rolls of undeveloped film. Photography has come a long way since I received that first camera, and so have I. I now use a Digital Single Lens reflex camera, or SLR.
I don’t have the best camera on the market, probably never will but it serves its purpose for me. I use a Nikon D60 body accompanied by one Nikkor AF-S 18-55mm lens, which came with the camera when I received it. I also use one Tamaron 70-300mm lens and Neewr 0.45x super wide angle, all lens are Macro. I would like to add an 8mm fish eye, and a 150-500mm to my tool set but both are well out of my budget at the moment. Since I acquired my first digital camera, (a Sony Mavica which recorded on 3.5 inch floppies and did not even have a megapixel rating) I have amassed close to 24,000 images.
Most of the images are probably of family, or mundane events thought to be worthy of being documented. Within this trove of digital wonder is the world as seen through my lens, my perception of the event, person, place or activity, the world through my eyes. I have begun the monumental task of actually organizing all of those images, and beginning to share my world, with the world. This is who I am, this is how I feel, and this is how I see. Everywhere I look I see a photograph; everywhere I go has a story. Follow me as I weave a story that can only be told; through the lens anew.

FOOD! The great connector

FOOD!
The Great connector
Food, it is the one thing that connects all living creatures together. It is the primal instinct to eat, to find food so as not to perish. Regardless of culture, ethnicity, class, geography, or even species we all must eat in order to survive. What separates us as humans is the fact that we can choose what we eat and when we eat it. We possess the ability to cook, cure, spice, and flavor our meals.
I have often found the quickest way to find comfort with someone is through food, if I can cook something that another person likes, it creates a first bond. A quick connection, one that can open many doors, but one must be careful which door one opens. Some food can be an aphrodisiac, and that may not be the desired reaction. So be careful what you serve to whom!
The type of foods we eat, and the ingredients used to flavor those foods are often a consequence of geographic or socio-economic circumstance. What I see as normal cuisine may be seen as bizarre to some, and things I never would have thought to put in my mouth are easily digested by others. Never say no, say maybe, it might just be delicious.
Sharing a meal with someone is a very social event, bringing people together. The aroma of food cooking, the texture of the wine, the ambiance of the moment, can make or break a friendship and has been said to have started wars. I was always told a well cooked meal was the way to a woman’s heart, perhaps it is really the way to anyone’s heart. Maybe food really is the great connector that holds it all together, that keeps it from just fading away into the great nothingness of nowhere, probably not.

Keep on eating and remember It really is OK to put that in your mouth