Spent Adventure Saturday at the Sarasota Fairgrounds, ogling some wonderful costumes and enjoying fine, ancient entertainment.
Marietta Lee does what I think many artists would love to do–she curates her own museum. Each year she puts up a different show and opens the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy in late October. It’s open for three hours a day, three days a week through tourist season.
The collection runs hot and cold, but what is good is very, very good. She has an eye for watercolor, a bit of nice pottery, and yes, lots and lots of whimsy. One of the best pieces is a large fused glass cat carnival–but girls only–it’s in the ladies’ rest room.
The sculpture garden is a real treat, with delightful bits around every corner. There were unlit fairy lights everywhere, so I’m guessing it’s extra special at night.
Admission is free, though there’s a donation bowl by a particularly eerie cop sculpture.
You wake up on damp leaves, surrounded by a dark jungle. Nearby, you hear gunfire, and shouting in a foreign language. Above you, venomous snakes lounge in the trees, and you begin to itch where something crawly has bitten you. Welcome to the World Wide Web*, my friend. I will be your guide.
I’m writing this for my brother, Lane, who is becoming a netizen today. You’ll see occasional asides for him. Note to Lane: the links on my site are a little weird. Usually, links are underlined. Here, they’re white instead of gray. Always single-click on links, don’t double-click.
This is going to be long. Trust me when I say I’m only scratching the surface. You will learn much as you go along. Trust me again when I ask you to read all of this carefully. I will attempt to give you the basics to prevent your computer from becoming a doorstop, to keep you from embarrassment, and finally, to introduce you to some true wonders.
Part I: Keeping Safe
It’s shockingly easy to compromise your computer when you are connected to the Internet. Viruses can shut you down, hackers can make your computer into a slave, and thieves can steal your information. It can happen to anyone, but the chances go way, way down if you just take a few simple steps.
1. Always let Windows update.
2. Always let your antivirus update. (Lane, I believe I set you up with AVG. It will probably need to update when you connect. It may take a while.) I recommend AVG or Avast if you don’t have anti-virus on your computer. Norton probably came with your computer. They will charge you lots later, but they are reliable if you wish to keep them out of convenience.
3. Anti-spyware is an excellent thing to have (Lane, you have this). Spyware or Adware is often installed without your permission with games and other small downloads. I recommend Malwarebytes. Again, always let it update.
4. Don’t use the email address the internet company gives you. It will go defunct every time you change services, and you will change services. Use Yahoo or Gmail, or something similar. This is a security issue because you are sometimes expected to use a separate email program to get to your mail. Don’t do this. Email programs are notoriously vulnerable. Just get your email on the Web.
5. Don’t open email from anyone you don’t know. If you are invited to check out the latest pharmaceuticals, someone’s hottt! pictures, or an improbable offer of cash, just delete the email. Do not open any attachments or follow any links from anyone you haven’t shaken hands with. And sometimes not even then. If you get something questionable from someone you know, write them an email and ask them about it.
6. As you surf the Web, you will get flashing ads and popups, some of them saying alarming things like YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED! Don’t fall for it, and don’t click. They will turn your computer into a paperweight. If you’re nervous about the warning, open up your anti-virus program and run a check.
7. Don’t click ads, period. They are shifty.
8. Lane, I know you’re going to want to look at lyric sites. Don’t just search for them–they are the worst for malware! See Part III.
9. Not sure if a site is safe? You can check it at Norton Safe Web by typing the URL (the part that starts with HTTP or WWW) in the box.
Part II: Etiquette
There are lots of ways to look like a damned fool on the Web. People will cut you a lot of slack at first, but why not look savvy right away?
1. Don’t forward emails, unless it’s something you actually wrote. Funny things, alarming things, things that say you’ll have seven years of bad luck if you don’t forward to 20 people: don’t do it. Everyone has already seen it, and will be greatly annoyed. Email is great for communicating directly with friends and businesses, and for getting newsletters about stuff you’re interested in. Back away from the Forward button.
2. Get very friendly with the amazing Snopes.com. They are the debunkers of the Internet–though again, don’t click on their popups or ads! Just because a site is trustworthy, doesn’t mean their ads are (I know, it’s weird, but true). Check out their Top Scams to get familiar with some of the crazy stuff you may see. Much of the stuff you’re going to see posted on, say, Facebook, is utter bullshit. If you see a quote by a famous person, it’s probably mis-credited. If you see a dire warning about the newest way people are targeted by thieves and killers, it’s probably a hoax. If you see a story about a child needing donations for medical treatment–nope, hoax. Develop a cynical eye. It’s very easy to type a bit of the article + “snopes” into Google, and find out if it’s for real.
3. Facebook has wondrous games. Most of them encourage you to invite all your friends to play. Unless you know they want to, don’t. This applies for any site that asks you to put in friends’ emails. Never do that.
Part III: Wonders
So if it’s so difficult and dangerous, why do we do it at all? Because it’s bloody amazing. Here are a few basic things you will want to explore.
So unassuming. Just a logo and a box. That box is the gateway to the Web. Google is the web’s premiere search engine. Type in anything you like. You can ask questions in natural language. You can even ask something like “how many cups are in a gallon.” Ignore the first couple links, as they are usually ads (and we don’t click on ads, right?), and explore the rest. You still need to be careful sometimes where you click. I repeat, make good use of Norton Safe Web.
Remember Foundation by Isaac Asimov, and his Encyclopedia Galactica? Wikipedia is better. Just go and get lost there, it’s all free, and it’s all safe.
Imagine a place where you can type in a band name, and dozens of videos and live performances come up. And that’s just the beginning. Youtube is used to teach, to post funny stuff, to post, well, anything in video format.
This is like Wikipedia for music. Search for anything music related, and get boatloads of information.
One of the few safe lyric sites out there.
Free internet radio, based on your taste. A great way to find new music.
Free books! Anything in public domain, they’ll have it. Catch up on your classics.
You can see if anything dangerous is heading for your sister in Florida.
People point out interesting things, and then they talk about them. This is a smart group, they’ve been around a long time, and I bet you’ll get addicted to the fascinating things they find.
I’m not much of a gamer, but I did my best to find a place where you could play free chess online against other opponents. Plus a ton of other games. Looks safe, and is well rated. Just don’t click on the ads–but you knew that!
Okay, that’s all I have for you right now. It’s a good start. Have fun exploring!
*The WWW is actually built on the Internet, which came first, but that’s technical, and most folks use them interchangeably these days.
Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar served us one of the best meals we’ve had so far in Florida. And with all the good food we’ve been finding, that’s saying something.
The atmosphere is modern and relaxed, with colorful abstract art on the walls. Ordering can be done with your server, or you can use the provided iPad. The iPad system is very well designed, with bright pictures that do, indeed, look like the meal you are served. Each item includes a helpful wine pairing tab.
Our appetizer was Chickpea Fries, served with two sauces: a savory tomato jam and a tangy curry aoli. The fries were a little plain on their own, but they are meant to deliver these fantastic sauces. I honestly couldn’t decide which I liked better. I could have made a meal of this alone.
My entree was the Ravioli Verde. The vegetables were a perfectly-prepared textual foil for the creamy pasta and deeply flavorful buerre blanc. He had the Spinach Gnocchi, and though the sauces were similar, there were subtle differences. I honestly couldn’t tell you which dish I liked better. His gnocchi had a not-too-soft bite and rich flavor. The only missed note was the caramelized brussels sprouts we ordered to share. They weren’t actually caramelized, as far as I could tell, but rather very heavily smoked. The smoke flavor overwhelmed the poor sprouts, and the bacon were just tasteless, tough bits.
We also went for dessert. I had the cannoli, and the seasonal filling was Nutella-based. I’d never had Nutella, and I’m a new fan! Bill had the dessert trio (pictured). The truffles were mocha and almond-coffee, and in the middle was amaretto cherries and cherry custard. He was in heaven.
The sprouts won’t keep us away from this wonderful place. It’s too spendy to visit all the time, but we’ll be there as often as we can manage.
After we came home, I looked up reviews for Poblanos Mexican Grill. One of them said “you’re an idiot if you eat here.” Well, an idiot if you eat there more than once. I liked the pretty tile work all over the restaurant. I liked the waiter who looked a little like Peter Frampton. If we’d been served food, I might have liked it, but I don’t believe what we had qualifies.
He had a vegetarian style burrito. He found it edible. The sauce was this bizarre, salty, mushroom gravy that would be more at home on a trailer-park Thanksgiving table than in a Mexican restaurant. The tortilla was stuffed with a variety of vegetables, but oddly, neither beans nor rice were present, not even as a side.
I had the Enchiladas Suprema, which was one each of their enchilada offerings. One was filled with plain melted cheddar, the second with canned refried beans, the third with barely seasoned taco meat, and the fourth with dry chicken. There was no enchilada sauce, just a dollop of sour cream and a tiny bit of canned tomatoes on the top, so the entire dish was dry and there was nothing to hide how unappetizing the enchiladas were.
I have no idea why we dared order dessert. My rationalization was that we had a weird sopapilla at another local restaurant, and I wanted to see if it was a Florida thing. Well, this sopapilla was certainly not the same as the other place. Nor was it anything I would identify as a sopapilla. There was a fried tortilla with wedges of ice cream on top. There was plain cinnamon (no sugar) dumped on some bits of the tortilla. The whole thing was drizzled with what tasted like Hershey’s syrup and–get this–squeeze butter. Go have some ice cream with butter and tell me if you like it. I’ll wait.
Wasn’t very good, was it?
So yes, Poblanos: you’re an idiot if you eat here.
\We found pupusas!
This little shop is on 15th street in Bradenton, just south of SR70. We got hooked on Salvadoran food at La Guanacita back in Beaverton. As a test dish, Bill decided to order the same thing he used to: pupusas queso con loroco.
They were a bit bigger, and he liked both the pupusa and the curtido better. A wonderful, filling meal.
I had Chuletas con Tajedas, “chuletas” being pork chops (they’re under there!) and “tajedas” being fried green banana slices. The pork chops were smothered in a layer of tajedas–which taste a bit like french fries–cabbage, tomatoes, and a light mustard sauce. While the chops were neither tender nor moist, I don’t think they were meant to be. The flavor was fantastic, and getting a bite with everything was an eye-roller. So. Good.
Service was excellent, and the interior was charming and comfy. I look forward to working my way through the menu.
There’s a reason Molly Brown was unsinkable. Got myself out to the pool today, and had a blast doing laps and watching the anoles on the fence. I found my back uncomfortably arched during my breast stroke because my ass is, well, extremely buoyant. I haven’t done any actual swimming in decades. Once I got going, I enjoyed it. And I certainly have no fear of drowning. Ever.
Besides the swimsuit, my Florida wardrobe is laid in. It is full of skirts, shorts, and bright colors. I haven’t felt pretty in my clothes for a while, and I’m enjoying the girly turn. The Spousal Unit even shopped today, getting some shorts and a gorgeous Guayabera that looks so good on him.
Thing I learned today: when you are on the freeway, and must slow down because the monsoon has reduced visibility, you engage your emergency flashers. It’s apparently a tropics thing, as the Spousal Unit had seen it before.
Before we moved here, we kept hearing from the locals how frustrating the elderly drivers were. I am actually finding the mature, experienced drivers a damn sight safer than the young, uptight jerks that dominate the roads in Portland. Yes, people occasionally drift over to your lane without signaling. But they don’t swoop over and cut you off.
Something we’ve done twice already is stop to help a turtle cross the street.
Today this fella was crossing just a few yards from the condo. We set him down in the grass, and another couple stopped to see if help was needed, and ask about turtles in general. They were always afraid to pick them up because they didn’t know which ones would bite. The Soft Shell sat docilely in the grass while Bill petted it and explained that this one wasn’t all that bitey, and how they could recognize the snapping variety. After a few minutes, the turtle made his way to the pond and splashed on in.
On to the restaurants…
Lunch was Bangkok Tokyo, which, as the name suggests, has a pan-Asian menu. Chinese, Thai, and Japanese. I ordered my standard Chinese test of sweet and sour pork, and Bill ordered his Thai test of massaman curry. I was promptly served sweet and sour chicken, but didn’t fuss. The portions were good, and the sauce standard. The white rice was nice and sticky, which I love. The plating was very pretty: I got a carrot bird, he got a carrot goldfish. The massaman was coconut-heavy, lacking the other spices that usually balance that out. The spice was quite nice; he ordered medium and got it. They had some intriguing desserts, so we both had a go. I had Thai donuts, which was a puff of fried pastry with little sweetness, and a dipping sauce of sweetened condensed milk and crushed peanuts. It was very yummy. He ordered the honey banana, which was vanilla ice cream (usually coconut, but they were out), and bananas fried in tiny dough packets. The bananas on their own weren’t sweet enough, but taken with a little ice cream, they were just right.
All in all, well, I might go back just for dessert.
We went to see a second house for the day (it was meh), and had dinner at the Stonewood Grill & Tavern. I was thrilled to find that one of their steak treatments was “Oscar style,” as I hadn’t had that in many years. I ordered a small filet Oscar style, which means it’s topped with asparagus, crab meat, and Bearnaise. It came with veggies and garlic mashed potatoes. Bill had to work a bit, as the place isn’t built for vegetarians, but he had a bowtie pasta sans grilled chicken. They went over and above for him, adding extra veggies and some of their bruschetta sauce to the dish, which added tons of flavor. The cream sauce was very light, and didn’t interfere with the wonderful mix of vegetables with the pasta. A superior veg dish.
My steak was a little dry on the edges, but perfect once you got a bite into it. Nearly fork tender. The asparagus was perfect, the Bearnaise tasty and not overdone, but the crab meat was fishy, and I skipped most of it. The garlic mash was the star, and I had to protect my plate from Bill. Light, fluffy, not too much garlic, with a wonderful herb infusion. The veggies were the only sour note on my plate. The zucchini and yellow squash were badly overdone. I think they meant to have mushy roasted peppers, but crisp would have been so much better. The carrots were pretty good, but none of the other vegetables survived the addition of too much thyme. Thyme is a strong flavor, and it absolutely didn’t work here.
Dessert was joy in my mouth, and even if the rest of the meal had been mediocre, the Florida Orange Cake would probably lure us back. A rich pound cake with mild orange filling was topped with Dreamsicle frosting. The frosting was overpowering, but so, so good it was hard to stay away from. The whipped cream and the white chocolate chips on the side were superfluous. The trick with this cake was to take a bite, then afterward, a nip of orange. Absolutely fantastic.
And now it’s time to get the remote away from The Mad Clicker.
Last night we went to look at our first house. We will be renting for a year or so before we buy. The space was amazing–open plan, tile floors, high ceilings. Basically everything we ever wanted in Portland, but couldn’t find. There were a few small problems, and there are a lot of places to look at yet, so we’re probably not renting that one. But it was nice to know that the listing was for real, because it had a “too good to be true” quality to this girl of less-than-affluent background.
After the showing, we hit the first mall on the parkway (University Parkway is more or less one long mall), and went to the first non-chain restaurant we came to. Tandoor Indian Cuisine was a very pretty restaurant. A bit of a surprise, as we couldn’t really see in the windows, and from the outside it could well have been a 3-table takeout place.
The papadon were flavorful, and served with a fantastic onion chutney. A bit sweet and very crunchy, with a nice bite. The vegetable samosas were lackluster. They were serve with a trio of toppings: tamarind sauce, cilantro chutney, and more of the onion chutney. All of the toppings were very good, which was lucky since the samosas needed them.
The dumplings in the Vegetable Malai Kofta were yummy, and just the right texture. The sauce was tomato-heavy, and when mixed with the cheese, tasted very reminiscent of Chef Boyardee spaghetti sauce. At first, this was a little delightful, but it became less tolerable on subsequent bites. The Saag Paneer was very plain. Some salt perked it up–but I don’t expect to add salt in an Indian restaurant. The paneer was unsalted, and the spinach was flat and nearly tasteless.
So, pretty place, but the food wasn’t good enough to go back for. We will continue our search for Indian in Sarasota.
On our way home, these guys were across the street from the condo:
Every day here we see white herons, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, and ibis. And probably a few more big birds that I don’t know the names of. They are not shy, and you often have to wait for them to saunter across the road in front of you. Gorgeous things.
We have been having a good old tropical rain storm all friggin’ day. Sunshine State my ass. At least it’s warm. Also, even though it’s pouring down rain, there still tends to be sunlight coming from somewhere, so it’s not really dark.
Went phone shopping at the Verizon store, only to find that they were out of most of the phones on display. Also, I still hesitate at the monthly price of a smartphone. Ouch.
Lunch was at Mi Pueblo, which is the prettiest Mexican restaurant I have ever been to. Custom door frames, fantastic tile work, and gorgeous religious iconography. I so want the punched metal lights they had everywhere. Weirdly, the booths were standard ugly and way too low, allowing the child behind my to play poke-and-duck. Taller booths would also have worked as a sound baffle, as the place was so loud I left with a headache. But other than that, gorgeous. The food was…well, it was food. The Spousal Unit ordered a bean burrito, which was tasty, but uninspired. I ordered the Pollo en Mole. Basically chicken with melted milk chocolate poured over it. That was a pretty sad excuse for mole. But hey, stuff anything in a tortilla and it tastes better. The only picture I remembered to take was of our mostly-devoured sopapilla. It was a puffed pastry dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and you put the honey and whipped cream on yourself. No sauce. It wasn’t what I know as a sopapilla, but it was still plenty tasty.
Sarasota has an adorable downtown. They’ve worked hard to make it a walking city, with nice sidewalks, small shopfronts lining the streets, and public art. There’s also plenty of parking, because the public transport sucks beach balls.
The Sarasota Farmers Market was good sized, and had a nice variety. When other markets seem to have been taken over by flower vendors, it was nice to see produce, art (well, more or less), and food in the majority. We had some killer Argentinian empanadas, and the chick at the booth wanted the Spousal Unit’s bearded dragon shirt, which I made for him. Once I’m unpacked, I’ll be taking a couple to her.
We also got some delicious sugar-free fudge, tried yet another mediocre jalapeno jelly (I mean really, people!), and listened to The Cadillac Grainers:
Right by the market on Main Street is A. Parker’s Books, which is the kind of book store you dream about. Row after row of aging tomes, as if someone had stepped in and actually curated Powell’s. For me, there’s a great art section, and for him, poetry. Because there are some books that still require paper.
Our little morning adventure then took us to the only independent art store in town, Art and Frame. And good enough, because it’s a very nice store. I was able to replace the fixative I couldn’t ship, and pick up a Montana marker to try.
Oh, and did I mention the garage sales? I found pretty boxes, because I often find pretty boxes. I also found this:
Those are all glass beads and accents. And it casts pretty shadows.
The Spousal Unit worked for a couple hours, then when I picked him up, we chose a street and started driving. And got lost. We ended up way north of Sarasota somewhere. But it was fun, and we made it home in one piece. It was a good day. I shall end with an anole: