Florida

Let’s Talk Food!

Specifically, two ladies that gave me a love of good food and how to prepare it.

Those two ladies, are my paternal grandmother “Nanny” and my great aunt (my maternal grandmother’s sister), Arline. I’ve mentioned Nanny several times before on this blog, so I will start with Aunt Arline.

Just about every year of my childhood we would all pile into the family station wagon (mom always drove a station wagon) and head out to visit mom’s family in South Carolina. We would leave way before the sun came up and drive the 14 or so hours straight through, stopping only for gas, restroom breaks, and a quick meal. Since this was before I-95 was completed, we had to travel the entire distance of the Florida Turnpike. The turnpike is, without a doubt, one the most boring drives in America. Flat and straight, and the same damn trees the entire way. Since it runs through the middle of the state, there aren’t even any alligators to break up the monotomy.

But it did have well maintained and clean rest areas. Several of them, such as the one at Fort Pierce, even had full service restuarants. Dad wouldn’t dare pass up that rest area. It was a great place to gas up the car and fill our bellies as well. The only other stop would be somewhere in Georgia at a Stucky’s for the filling up of both car and kids.

The basic Stuckey’s. There were some bigger than this one.

Finally arriving at our destination of Marion, SC things would go downhill quickly as all the cousins showed up. Many days were spent running around in the yards of various family members; especially Aunt Arline’s yard. You do remember Aunt Arline right? This part of the post is about her.

She had a pond in her back yard. I wasn’t allowed to go down to the pond by myself. My mom couldn’t swim and was deathly afraid I would fall in and drown. And with good reason, as when I was abvout 5 I did fall into a pool at a friend’s house; and if it wasn’t for my brother who noticed my struggling to get to the side of the pool and jumped in a brought me safely out of the water, I probably would have drowned.

Out of that pond Aunt Arline would catch some little brim or sunfish. She would scale and gut them, then fry them whole. Remember, this is South Carolina in the 60’s. Damn near everything was fried. I will admit that at first I didn’t even want to try a whole fried fish (I means bones??). But one of my uncles showed me how to open them up and get to the good stuff. I was hooked after that – bones and all. Aunt Arline also had a cage that she kept crickets in for bait. She would somehow catch these crickets by hand! I never did figure out how.

So, let’s talk about Sunday dinners at Aunt Arline’s. There would so much food! There isn’t a buffet around that could compare. Of course there were, at times, 20 or so of us eating. I was not allowed in the kitchen then. That was all the women. My mom, her sisters, my older sisters and some cousins that were old enough handled all the cooking. The “men folk” sat out front talking weather, politics and such. My cousins that were too young to take part in the serious talk would be outside playing in the mud, trying to get down to pond, and just basically getting into trouble.

But then, those magic words – “Dinner is ready”! Naturally, we all had to wash up, which took quite some time since there was only one bathroom we were allowed to use. But by the time the kids got to our table, our moms would have a plate ready for us.

And what a plate! There would be at least three kinds of meats; ham, the fish she caught, and my all time favorite – fried chicken. Fried chicken is still my most favorite meal. Many times there would also be a turkey or a beef roast! Then there would be so many veggies – all fresh. Lima beans (another of my favorites), corn, black-eyed peas, collard and/or mustard greens. Then mashed potatoes and rice. Three kinds of bread – cornbread, dinner rolls, and just plain white. Three or four sticks of real butter would be placed around the tables, along with the usual vinegear for the greens, and if needed, condiments to make sandwiches. One thing I don’t remember is ever seeing a “garden salad”; you know lettuce and chopped veggies. But I don’t think I missed it. To this day, I still don’t care for greens.

We would sit around and eat and drink (Carolina Sweet Tea) until we couldn’t move. Then at some secret signal (unknown to “men folk” and kids), out of nowhere large white bed sheets would be used to cover everything up. Nothing put into little plastic containers that go “burp” when you do that other secret thing men folk are not allowed to understand. Nothing even close to a precaution except keeping the bugs off (and kids out).

Then, at another prearranged secret signal the sheets would be taken off and everyone would sit back down and eat. Remember, this is the 60’s in rural South Carolina. Microwave ovens are still a good 10 – 15 years away from general use, so everything was at “room tempature”, whatever that is.

Now, I had no issues with the meat not being reheated. And as much as I love mashed potatoes and limas, I balked at eating them cold. This was where the sandwich fixings came in for me. But mom still wasn’t happy. I had to have a “balanced meal”, meaning veggies. But I would not eat them cold like that. So Aunt Arline came up with a fix. She would take a big helping of the limas (she knew I would eat them all), toss them into a small pan with another stick of butter (Paula Dean has nothing on my family), and heat them up for me. Such a sweet lady! I would then take the entire pot of butter and beans and pour it over a mound of mashed potatoes or rice, depending on which I could get my hands on. Guess it’s not really odd that the majority of my mom’s family died of cholestrol issues, and that I fight that myself.

Aunt Arline is holding the baby, her sister, my grandmother Dora is to her right. Mom is to her left. We think the baby is my oldest sister. But no clue who the lady at the far right is.

Let’s switch gears and sides (in a civil war theme). Obvisiouly, my mom is from South Carolina. The little town her daddy’s tobacco farm was in, Fork, is no longer there. She couldn’t remember exactly where the town was but believed it was swallowed by Marion. And that’s where Aunt Arline lived, Marion, South Carolina.

Dad, on the other hand, was from central Pennsylvania. I joke we had the civil war in our house growing up. Mom was a southerner and grew up Baptist. Dad, a yankee (and a damn yankee at that), grew up in a Methodist church. After WWII they settled in the south (if you can consider Miami part of the “south”) and went to a Methodist church. Best of both worlds?

Nanny (again, you do remember Nanny, right? This part of the post is about her), was an exceptional lady. She was widowed at the age of 34 in 1919. Dad was all of 6. She never remarried. From 1919 until she came to live with us about 1968 or so, she was out on her own. She spent a lot of time going between Pennsylvania and Florida, playing the snowbird roll, before she stayed permantly. This was mostly before my time and when I was an infant, so I don’t really remember it.

What I do remember is her cooking. We may not have had the big ol’ spread that we had in South Carolina, but the quality was every bit as good. Nanny was the one that really started me cooking. I was old enough (well almost) to stay around when she was preparing meals. It also helped that I was the only child at home then and our little kitchen had a dining table. I could sit there out of the way and watch, ask questions and more importantly taste!

Not only did she cook your basic meals, she could bake. She would make bread from scratch. This is where I learned how to use yeast. Being the smart woman that she was, she always made me a small loaf when she was baking bread. As soon as it was cool enough to remove from the pan she would give me the first loaf and yet another stick of butter and send me off to get out of her way.

And here is another example of fried chicken; yet completly different from Aunt Arline’s. The crust was different and she would use a buttermilk bath on the chicken pieces. Still every bit as good, just different. Not to brag (who am I kidding??) I have been told that my fried chicken is better than either of their’s. That may be, but I will admit that I am nowhere as consistent as either of these ladies.

But Nanny taught me something more than fried chicken and bread. She taught me BBQ. We didn’t have a smoker growing up, and I can only remember my dad grilling something once. But both my brother and I love to cook with fire. We had to get it from somewhere. It was Nanny. She had a BBQ resuarant in the Altoona, Pennsylvania area. I can find city directories from 1935 and 1936 that list her as the owner. Can you imagine being a widow with a young adult son, in the middle of the Great Depression, and making a good living from a restuarant? The industry that has a very high if not the highest failure rate? Blows my mind.

Her potato salad, fresh made coleslaw and beans were out of this world! And a meatloaf to die for. Somewhere there is a recipe book with all these notes. I really think the printed recipes were there as a distraction. The true treasure were the handwritten notes in the back. My mom, a better than average cook in her own right, added to that collection.

Nanny’s BBQ joint

It makes me a bit sad to know that I didn’t get the chance to cook for these ladies before they shuffled off to wherever great cooks go. I’m sure there would have been lots of “this is nice, but if you had done ….” comments. And I would have taken everyone of those comments to heart and tried to live up to their legacy another time.

Peace,
B

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Random Photographs

Just a few photos of our random life. And I promise, no pictures of food (my older brother laughs at me for posting pictures of my food. But there’s lots of that on my Instagram – link at the bottom of the post).

My early morning crack genealogy crew! Animaniacs Forever!!!
Baron von LardAss hanging out in my beatup truck. Please note the beer and bluetooth speaker blaring the tunes. A typical Sunday afternoon.
A small muder of crows carousing in the road. At any given time there will be three times this number in the area.
The granddaughters striking a pose at Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine.
A foggy morning in the backyard.

All pictures were taken on my Google Pixel 3XL cellphone. Only the first picture uses the “Night Sight” option, all others were a simple point and shoot.

Hope you enjoyed these. Post some of your photos in a comment!

Peace,
B

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What’s Stuck In My Head – 11 January

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, and this series, in particular, I’m sure you’ve noticed a penchant for British music. With an emphasis on the first “British Invasion” as the lead. Well, that’s not surprising, as that was the time frame I was forming my musical tastes. Not that I didn’t listen to American Rock N’ Roll. I listened to The Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Everly Brothers, The Righteous Brothers, even Sonny & Cher as a kid. Later such bands as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane (but not Starship so much), The Mamas & The Papas, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Crosby, Stills, Nash (with or without Young). Although CSN&Y may not be truly “American” as Graham Nash is British and Neil Young is Canadian.

Lately, I’ve been listening to the Tom Petty channel on SiriusXM. Not for any special reason, just as a break from the usual music I listen to. Plus, he’s a Floriduh native as I am. There was a guest celebrity DJ on the TP channel the other day (I think it was Dave Schools, the bassist for Widespread Panic) that mentioned that Petty’s American Girl may be the song that introduced most people to his music since it has been on quite a few movie soundtracks. See this wiki page for more information. And that may be true, but I found his music in other ways.

The song was the final song performed by the band live, on September 25, 2017, at the Hollywood Bowl in Los AngelesCalifornia. Petty died of complications from cardiac arrest after an accidental prescription medication overdose on October 2, just more than a week later, signaling the end of the Heartbreakers’ 40-year career.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Girl_(Tom_Petty_song)

But, that’s not the song I want to talk about. When Wifey and I heard that comment, I said that I was unsure of which song was the what turned me on to Tom’s music. It was between two. One of which is the subject of this post, the other will surface in another post coming up (for a different reason altogether).

That was a hard record to make. It was a 4-track that I made at my house. He (Tom Petty) wrote over the music as it was, no changes, but it took us forever to actually cut the track. We just had a hard time getting the feel right. We must have recorded that 100 times.
I remember being so frustrated with it one day that – I think this is the only time I ever did this – I just left the studio and went out of town for two days. I just couldn’t take the pressure anymore, but then I came back and when we regrouped we were actually able to get it down on tape.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugee_(Tom_Petty_and_the_Heartbreakers_song)

This song peaked at 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980. And Melissa Etheridge did a wonderful cover of it. So, without further ado, here is Refugee.

What’s your favorite Tom Petty song? Leave me a comment (preferably here and not on that social media page – I won’t see if for days, maybe even weeks!).

Peace,
B

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Reflections on Sixty

Yes, today I hit the big 6 – 0, I think about 7PM tonight, but I don’t have my birth certificate here to read. Sixty damn years on this rock travelling around the sun. Not bad for one who didn’t expect to see 25. But you can blame Wifey® for that.  I would have been either dead or living on the street long ago if not for her love. 

Here are some of the things that stand out about my early life growing up in South Florida. 

  • Go barefoot as often as possible – screw the sand burrs.
  • Rain can be fun – I remember sitting in my front yard watching it rain on the house across the street – but not on me.
  • Wear sunscreen – well, I didn’t learn that as a kid. I was much older with kids of my own before that sunk in. I dare say I was sunburned more often than not.

Needless to say, life has taught me many lessons since those carefree days of running around in just a pair of shorts, chasing lizards, and playing ball. Most of it good, but there have been lots of tough lessons too. But I won’t get into that. 

Things from way-back-when I still remember;

  • My big brother picking me up early to go fishing on my birthdays. I never caught a single damn fish, but it was still fun, riding down US1 to the Florida Keys and fishing off the pylons and bridges. 
  • The first football game I went to. My mother was president of the high school PTA, so she always had a little table or booth at every game. I don’t remember what the function of the table was for, was she selling something? But I remember that first game, I was maybe 6. Her table was in a location where she couldn’t see the field, so she had to listen to the PA announcer to know how the game was progressing. Our team had made a first down, and mom, being the somewhat rabid football fan that she was, was happy. I had no idea what a “first down” was, so I asked. All she said was “that means they get to keep going”. Not knowing anything about football, or any sport really, it made no sense to me. But it made my mom happy, so I took it as a good thing.
  • My oldest sister took me along with her date, to a local fair. This was one of the little travelling deals that used to set up in shopping center parking lots. You just don’t see those anymore.  She, and my other sister as well, would take me along to these affairs quite often.  I clearly remember sitting in the Faris Wheel, between my sister and her date, stuck at the top for a good ten minutes. It was night time, so all the lights in the area were quite amazing. We could even see a little of the airport from our vantage point. I don’t think her date was as excited as I was. I wonder why??
  • My other sister and her friends using me as a makeup dummy. They used to try different shades of lipstick, and who knows what else on me to find the correct complimentary colors. Maybe that’s why clown makeup was such an obvious thing for me. Who knew lipstick was a gateway drug??
  • The importance of animals. We always had a pet of some kind in the house. Many times several at the same time. I learned just how important that relationship is, and it taught me the compassion and some of the responsibilities that are needed to maintain a family. 
  • Since my birthday falls around, and sometimes on, Thanksgiving, my mom would buy me pretty much whatever I wanted for my birthday dinner. Mostly to get me out of the way while she and my sisters were working on the big dinner. I always asked for pizza. From one place only. Frankie’s on Bird Road. They didn’t deliver, and the line was always long. But I would get my pizza, take it to my room, turn up the music as loud as I could get away with. That was cool!
  • My (still) best friend, Maurice and I spending entire days driving around in what we called “The Search For The Blue Nehi”. For those that don’t know what that is. A blue Nehi is a cream soda. It just happens to be a very lovely shade of blue. And it’s very hard to find. But it was a way to just drive around, make fun of people, and spend time with someone important.

I could go on forever. Remembrances of my military days. Going to Alaska, Korea, and all over the country. Having spent twenty years in the military and never seeing a day of combat is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it kept me safe, but all my soldier buddies that were pulled from our hospital duties to deploy for Desert Shield/Storm came back at least one rank higher (some two ranks higher). Meanwhile, the reservists that came in to take their place lost my promotion paperwork twice!

What about my wife and kids and grandkids? So many memories I could write pages upon pages. So that will be another post, I’m afraid. 

Before I leave you today, I do have a birthday request. Not just for my birthday, but for anyone’s birthday. 

I have been blessed with more than I need. I have family, friends, a roof over my head that has room for more than just me, food aplenty, lots of beer and whisky, and pretty good health. While I want lots of stuff, I am not in need of anything. I bet you’ve friends and family that can say the same. So, don’t give material things (unless there is a special need for that thing). What I would love is donations to a good charity instead.  And there are many LOCAL charities available.

  • A local women’s shelter
  • A local homeless shelter
  • Your local animal shelter
  • A local food bank

I don’t like big conglomerate charity places (i.e. United Way and the like). Their problem is overhead. One report I read said that for every dollar donated to these types of organizations, only 3 cents or so actually make to the folks that need it. Give directly whenever possible.  National charities are good too.

  • The Red Cross (International!)
  • St. Jude’s
  • Many veteran’s organizations.

That’s enough, you get my drift. Make a donation in your loved one’s name (and don’t wait for a birthday or other holiday). And if you’re an Amazon shopper like I am, use their automatic donation option. You can have a portion of your purchases go directly to the charity of your choice. It costs you nothing. Currently, I have St. Jude’s as my choice. But I do change it now and then.

Having said that, if anyone wants to send me a boatload of cash so I can get those “wants, but not needs”, I’m not gonna say no. A nice big pellet smoker, an RV (along with a new vehicle) are on that list. And they ain’t cheap. 

But now I have to take on another of my birthday traditions. Namely, cook my own birthday dinner. But hey, I don’t mind. I cook because I love to eat. 

Thanks for spending a little of my birthday with me. I appreciate your time. Hope your day goes well, as I expect mine to go. But I really must go, the smoker ain’t gonna light itself!

I leave you with this video, which has absolutely nothing to do with birthdays. But it’s another memory from one of my trips around the sun. This one is for you Lloyd.

Peace,
B

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How’s Your Day Going??

So today has not started off all that well.  But it’s looking better.

First thing – checked my email and found that the professional genealogist I contacted to help with a search said no. She wouldn’t help me. Just referred me to someone “local”. I can’t even pay anyone to help me find ancestors.

Traffic today was super stupid. There were two guys going 30 MPH (in a 45 MPH area) side by side blocking traffic. This was planned, as they were laughing at each other and waving every time someone honked at them.  And, of course, this was in a no passing area (double yellow line).

Finally, this guy in a very large pickup truck passed them (crossing the double yellow line), pulled over to the right lane and basically just stopped.  This allowed everyone to get around the other jerk. There was much yelling and the customary middle finger salute as folks went around. I saw the passenger door on the big truck open, but no idea if someone got out to have a nice discussion with the gentleman now trapped in his vehicle. I haven’t seen any reports of an incident in that area on Twitter, so hopefully, it was settled without violence. Well, maybe just a little violence.

The next problem – the lines at McDonald’s. Only about 20 cars deep at the drive through and folks lined up out the door to get inside! Were they giving something away? I didn’t have time to sit and wait to find out. Mainly due to the idiots mentioned above that put me a good ten minutes behind schedule.

But wait! It get’s better.  The coffee pot at work is DOA. Seriously, WTF??? But I did find an old one in my bosses office, so I took it.  Hey, he’s off today. Besides, he doesn’t have a carafe for it anyway.  So coffee was finally made.

One more thing – my SiriusXM app wouldn’t load. It’s common for the app (the “official” Windows 10 version from the Micro$oft store) not to open the first time. But today, it took a good thirty minutes for it to load.

I’ll tell you, a day without coffee and no tunes? No chance. I would have gone home.

So, how’s your day going?

Peace,
B

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Celebrate Good Times (Come On)!

Yesterday we had the final celebration of Wifey® and granddaughter-the-elder’s birthdays. Since they both have birthday’s on or around the 4th, and we live in a tourist area, sometimes we have to do our celebrating in stages. Plus it’s more fun to keep the celebrations going for a while! Then this morning, Wifey® reminded me that today is our 73rd six-month anniversary. Yes, we celebrate every six months since that was how long we were told we would last. Ha!

So yesterday the family went to Universal City Walk and had a great time. It was all son-the-younger’s idea. Since Wifey® and I both agree we have too much stuff, we would rather do things with whichever family members we can get together. Son-the-younger picked Blueman Group, and since none of us have ever seen that show, I immediately agreed.

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My fam-damily!

And boy did we pick a hell of a day!  The rain was so bad on the way over to Orlando, we could barely see the hood of the car. But there was no rain in Orlando (surprise!). We had crazy heat. Well maybe not crazy, after all, we are Florida natives (except for son-the-younger, he’s our “token Eskimo” – he was born in Alaska).

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Feels like 108!

So our basic “plan” (we never have a plan – or if we do we don’t follow it), was to get to City Walk around 3PM, walk around and shop a bit, then catch an early dinner and the finally the Blueman Group show at 6PM. But as luck would have it, we sat down at the Lone Palm Bar (part of Margaritaville) and had a few beers. Son-the-younger took his girls and walked around. They found the hot dog stand. And they know that I love hot dogs. But, even cooler, they found stadium seats from some major league stadiums! They also know that papa loves baseball!

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My baby girls in the doughnut chair

Once we realized that we had missed our time for an early dinner, we decided that another round of beers was in order and that we would go to the theater and wait for the show.

Since it was so hot and humid outside, the theater was like an ice-box. But man did it feel good! Plus we were allowed to bring in our drink and snacks! I won’t give much of a review of the show as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing it.

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Beer, popcorn, and Minecraft swords! Oh, my!

The Blueman Group show was totally awesome! I have not laughed that hard in a long time. I was already fighting a head cold and scratchy throat before we went, so now I can hardly talk. But it was completely worth it. wp-1531740904422..jpg

After the show, we went to the restaurant that we used as a ruse to plan this whole adventure. We didn’t tell Wifey® about the show, only we were going to dinner. But since we had waited so long, there was now an hour wait. What to do? What else, go have another beer!  So back around the park, we go back to the Lone Palm Bar. But our very cool server, Bethany, was off shift now. But we only had time for one beer, so it was all good.

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It was 9PM or so by the time we got to eat. The girls were very hungry, almost to the point of feeling sick. But the milkshakes they had took care of that quickly. I will say I was not happy with my meal, but I don’t blame the restaurant. By this time I was feeling so bad, between the heat and the head cold, that nothing would have tasted good to me.  Everybody else said their meals were great, so I’ll take the heat on this one.

Other than stupid Orlando traffic, and all the damn construction, the drive home was a little easier. Traffic on I-4 (AKA The Devil’s Highway), which according to a recent study is the most dangerous road in America, was light. But we still didn’t get home until midnight.

But all in all, a most spectacular evening! I highly recommend Blueman Group. We’ve already made plans to bring the girls to the Universal Theme Park and Harry Potter.  Stay tuned for that review!

So, how was your weekend?

Peace,
B

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Let’s Butcher Another Song, Shall We?

This morning on the way to work (later than usual due to a morning doctor’s appointment) I tweeted this:

tweet

Yes, I was once again stuck behind non-driving fools. The guy in the left lane even had the right turn signal on, for about 2 miles, and then turned left, with the right blinker still blinking away! #SMH

I do have a problem with the song I parody in the tweet. It gives clowns a bad name! As a registered clown, I take a bit of umbrage on this point. But I’ll let it slide because the video is just so trippy!

crop clown makeup.jpg

Skeeter the clown. (ca. 1982)

Peace,
B

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7 Day B&W Photo Challenge – Day 1

matheson hammock

I was challenged by Kirsten over at Once Upon A Spine to do the “7 Day Black and White Photo Challenge”, and I’m always up for a challenge. The rules are simple: Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.

Today I’ll nominate: BeautyBeyondBones

Peace,
B

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To Follow Up

This morning I tweeted this:

tweet

For those not here in Floriduh, basically, it’s rained something like 12 or 13 days straight. Here’s my other post on this nasty weather.

But this morning the sun came up so very, very bright. It was much like this…

Monty_Python_and_the_Holy_Grail_2-1000x601

Walking in with a co-worker this morning from the parking lot, and she said “It was so bright when I was getting ready for work, I had to check what time it was. I thought I was late!”

But alas, it won’t stay.  My favorite weatherman Brian Shields over at WFTV says we can expect about four more inches of rain over the weekend. This won’t bother me so much, as my plan for the weekend is finishing the floor. (See here and here about the floor).  But I do worry that all the rain means that the little girls will have nothing to do and will be underfoot all weekend. </sigh>

But we’ll get through it. As of today, we are nowhere near the May record rainfall. Last I looked we are just under 6 inches of total rain this month. The record is almost 14 inches, set in 2009 I believe.

So, tell me, “How’s the weather where you are”?

And this song has nothing to do with the weather, but it is about “Sunshine”. And it’s one of my all-time favorite songs.

Peace,
B

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(I really should stop linking to my FB page. I never go there anymore…)

Conference Time

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending the KnowBe4 conference in Orlando. (Official hashtag: #KB4Con18). This was without a doubt the best tech conference I have ever attended. Not only were there absolutely dynamic speakers, all attendees were treated to the best food!  I’m talking some of the healthiest stuff I have ever seen at any conference.

I’ve mentioned KnowBe4 before. This is the vendor we use at the city to train, test and generally harass our end-users (OK, maybe not harass). (KnowBe4 website) With just a small part of their product, I can train my co-workers on the latest ways the “bad guys” try to use social engineering to do well, bad stuff. I will admit that I enjoy sending out simulated phish emails. Why? Because it shows me where are weak links are. And this gives me the means to do targeted training to make our city network, and by association everyone’s home PC/Network, that much more secure. I don’t do it to shame someone or hold it over anyone’s head. Since I have been an instructor of some sort for very many years, I use this primarily as a training tool. But on to the conference itself.

Other than the hour plus, each way, drive on I4 (A.K.A. the devil’s highway), and being in Orlando (way too big and crazy for me), everything else went beautifully. The folks at KnowBe4 went above and beyond in this, their first ever conference.

The opening keynote speaker was Kevin Mitnick, or as he likes to call himself “The World’s Most Famous Hacker”, a title he lives up to. If you don’t know who he is, take a moment to read his Wikipedia page, even if it a bit light on his history. Kevin gave us many demonstrations of current hacks, all of which arrive via an inconspicuous email. And all of which are very nasty. But the one hack that scared me the most was when he showed how Google’s two-factor authentication (2FA) could be hacked. Google has always been one of the toughest to crack since they stay on the cutting edge of all technologies. As a big user of many Google services, this is troublesome.

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Me and Kevin Mitnick

The keynote speaker for the next day was Frank Abangale. I have to admit that I did not recognize his name. But once I heard his story I knew how he was. Here is his Wikipedia page for you to educate yourself. Frank is considered one of the foremost experts on imposters and forgery. Steven Spielberg made a movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank and Tom Hanks as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. I have not seen this movie, but I see it available on Amazon Prime so I will correct that error very soon. And if I caught his reference, he was also the inspiration for the TV show “White Collar”.  His family story and subsequent talk on how to keep safe with online financial sources was very eye-opening.

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Myself and Frank Abangale

Another fantastic speaker was Roger A. Grimes (he wants you to know he is not related to the Canadian political figure with the same name), the best-selling author of several tech books. KnowBe4 even included a copy of his “A Data-Driven Computer Security Defense” in the big ol’ backpack they gave every attendee. The big takeaway from his two talks was the point that you have to determine what your biggest exploitable problem is, and fix that first. Common sense, which as we all know, is always in short supply.

One thing that I really was happy to see was the inclusion of women speakers. KnowBe4 has several women in executive roles throughout the company, and that makes me very happy. Since I have two granddaughters, one of which is very interested in the sciences, I fully support women (and really anybody) in STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics). One of the first questions Wifey® asked me was if there were women presenters. I was so very happy to say yes!

There was one thing missing though. No vendor room. Every other conference I’ve been to there is always a room for vendors. Not only can one make some great contacts with products and services that one doesn’t know about, vendors always have cool swag (freebie gifts). I’ll have to check with my manager, but I think a conference is how we found out about KnowBe4. It may not have been in the vendor area, it may have been word of mouth from another attendee (word of mouth is ALWAYS the best advertisement).

Sorry, this is such a broad overview, but I could write about ten pages if I covered the entire 3 days. All I can say is “I’m ready for KB4Con19!”

Peace,
B

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