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Knaus Berry Farm (or we waited almost an hour to have a snack and it was totally worth it)

Look, I know it’s been two months since my last post and you’re probably wondering where I went and what the heck happened.  I’ll get to that, I promise.  That’s not what this post is about, though.

This post is about dessert.  Sort of.

Last weekend, Amelie and I took a drive down to Homestead, Florida, into the Redlands Agricultural District.  For those who’ve never been to South Florida, Homestead is one of the southernmost cities in the state, just north of where the Florida Turnpike and US-1 meet.  Redlands is about 20 miles south-west of downtown Miami.  If you keep going south from there, you pretty much wind up in either the Florida Keys or the Everglades.

Inside of Redlands is a place called Knaus Berry Farm.   They’re a seasonal bakery that has been run by the Knaus family since 1956.  They also have you-pick-em strawberry and tomato fields, depending on availability.  Amelie has been raving to me about this place for more than a year, but we missed their open season last year and I had to put a reminder on my calendar to check in when they opened again in November.

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Knaus Berry Farm has a dedicated following, and the line on a weekend to get to the bakery counter is often 45 minutes to an hour.   This wasn’t even all that busy, from what I understand.

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The bakery counter has various fresh basked goods, which I’ll get to.  If I had more stomachs, I would have wanted to try one of everything.

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The bakery counter is a cash-only operation, so the line actually moves reasonably quickly.

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There are separate lines for produce and for milkshakes.  The produce counter only had one person step up while we were inside.  The produce looked amazing, but we were there for the baked goods.

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This is what we went out for:  the cinnamon buns.  Fresh out of the oven, they were so, so good.  They’re also dense!  Just one of these is actually crazy filling.  Once we made it to the bakery line,  we just sat in the grass, in a patch of shade near the main building to eat one of these each.

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Since I had a family thing the next day, I also took one of their Black-Bottom Cakes.  I’d never had this type of cake before, and it was damn tasty.  I know it may be blasphemy for me to say this, but I liked this cake more than chocolate chip cookies.

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If you want to visit Knaus Berry Farm, I will offer some quick tips:

  1. Use the bathroom before you go.  There’s no restroom on site.   We were in line already, and had to duck out to go three miles away to a fast food restaurant on US-1.  Then we started the line over.
  2. Bring cash.  They don’t accept plastic here, and you’re gonna want to get more than one thing.  The prices are reasonable, but you don’t want to go all the way there and not be able to buy these delicious baked goods!
  3. Check the weather, and bring sunblock.  The line for the bakery is not covered.   The only time you’re really indoors here is at the bakery and produce counters-  the rest is basically outdoors.  Standing in the South Florida sun for even forty minutes will give most people a bit of a burn.  I’ve lived here almost all of my life, and I wore the same hat I wore to the Great Pyramid, and even I got a little pink in places.
  4. Come hungry.  Seriously, if you eat a big meal before you drive out, then you’re missing out on the joy that is these gooey wonderful cinnamon buns fresh out of the oven.

Knaus Berry Farm is open November through mid-April each year, at this location: 15980 SW 248 Street
Homestead, FL 33031
305.247.0668

You can see more reviews and photos here.

Have you ever been to Knaus Berry Farm?

So this is what having free time is like.

I meant to keep writing on a more regular basis, but the first half of December has been absolutely ridiculous.  I moved out of my apartment with Amelie’s help, and Thursday was the final day at Mr. Company, after more than fourteen years.  I’ve been keeping busy since Thursday afternoon, so I don’t have a lot of emotions to process yet.  I suspect it will hit me later.  Like any long relationship that comes to an end, there will be a grieving process.

It’s difficult to really frame fourteen and a half years in your mind.  We’re used to shorter hops in time-  what happened in the last week? What happened in the last year?

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My ID badge. July, 2002

When I started working for this company, I was in my late 20s.  It was the summer of 2002, and my ID badge photo was taken on July 1st.  I worked for Mr. Company at first in technical support.  I moved from a tier one job to tier 2, then tier 3, and within four years I was a supervisor.  I wrote reviews, did hiring interviews, the whole lot.

During that time, I worked with dozens of people who have passed in and out of my life over a span of years- the tech scene in this part of Florida is not so large that you don’t run into each other from time to time.  I made friendships at Mr. Company that will be with me for the rest of my life.

I didn’t really like being a management type, though.  The job wasn’t technical, favoring delegation of tech work instead.  I much prefer to be responsible for only my own work, and I missed getting into the technical work.

In 2007, I moved over to operations and became a UNIX administrator.  Right away, I was given the chance to travel to Dulles, Virginia to do a bunch of work in the data center.  The next year, I went to Hong Kong for two weeks to work with a team of colleagues on a big server installation.   Hong Kong was my first-ever trans-Atlantic hop.  My only international trips before that were the Bahamas and Canada- international traveling for beginners.   Hong Kong was the first time I ever went to a place where I didn’t know the language and it was fascinating and awesome.

In 2011, I was in my fourth year as a UNIX administrator and our partners in Zurich asked us to assign a sysadmin to the local German office.  Volunteers were requested, and I was in a perfect situation to go- I had just sold a condo and all of my stuff was already in storage.  I said sure, and by the middle of November of that year, I was living full time in Regensburg, Germany. I was promoted again when I moved, giving me my fifth title change sine I started working for the company.

Including Germany, I visited 23 more countries during my three years living and working in Bavaria, and I made still more life-long friends.   I compiled an incredible variety of experiences in that time, and it’s all chronicled here in this blog.

At the end of 2014, after three years in Germany, I returned to the US.  I worked in the Boca Raton office again.  During the summer of 2015, I spent five weeks in Japan to work on a migration of their customers to a new platform.  While I was there, Mr. Company announced that we were divesting all of our web hosting business, and I knew my time at the company had an expiration date.

Fourteen years is a long time.  While I was working for this company, I bought a home, lived in it for about seven years, and sold it.  In fourteen years I’ve moved nine times, two of them internationally.  I’ve attended weddings of friends and family.  Also funerals.  And births.  My oldest niece has graduated college and purchased a house.  My youngest niece just turned six.   I’ve purchased two cars, a 2005 Civic and a 2015 Mazda 3.  I met my girlfriend just before I moved to Germany, and we got to know each other while I was across the ocean.  We’ve been together since 2014.

Trying to recap a span of nearly a decade and a half is not an easy task.  It’s just too much.

It’s finally the end-  the company has eliminated the positions and the entire office is closing.  I’m not the last person out of the building. but there’s only a dozen or so people left to clean up the mess we all left behind.  I’m glad that I’m not the one left behind, because that’s going to be the most difficult work of all.

The goodbyes on Thursday were difficult.  I mostly wasn’t emotional, until Daryl started saying nice things about me.  That was enough to make me almost lose it a tiny bit.  (Damn you, Daryl!  Why can’t you just hate me like a normal techie person?)

The picture at the start of the post was me on the first day in 2002.  This one was taken earlier this week, in my last days at the company in 2016.  I look like I’ve seen some stuff.  And I have.

Fourteen years later, December 2016.

I also got the best sleep I’ve had in years on Thursday night, because there was no reason for me to wake up early on Friday.  For the moment, I have nowhere to go.

So how’s your December going so far?

Peter Dinklage and I Have One Thing In Common

I never really gave much thought to the place where I was born. I’ve only been there twice. The first time is when I was born, before I went home to the family home in nearby Livingston.

The second time was in 1997, when the entire family went to Jersey for our cousin’s wedding. During that trip, my brother and I took the rental car for a brief day-trip to check the place out. I was a little curious about my birthplace: Morristown, New Jersey.

While we were there, we walked around the downtown area a little bit, walked by the hospital where I was born, and also walked through a park in the center of the town. Unbeknownst to me, the Morristown National Historical Park is the site of General George Washington’s encampment from December 1779 to June 1780, and there’s a Washington museum on site.jon-in-morristown-2016_08_01_21_43_27_001

The picture to the right is of Jonathan standing in front of the equestrian statue of General Washington.  This was the first moment that I had any inkling that my birthplace is interesting on its own, and since then I’ve found out a few other neat facts about the town.

  • During Washington’s encampment in Morristown, Alexander Hamilton was present. It was during this stretch of time that Hamilton met and courted his future wife,  Elizabeth Schuyler.
  • The Morristown Green is also the site of  a statue commemorating the meeting of George Washington, the young Marquis de Lafayette, and young Alexander Hamilton.  (I’m gonna have to go back some time to see this one, probably.)
  • The 1780 court martial of Benedict Arnold also happened in Morristown.
  • There’s an additional encampment from the revolutionary war situated on a hill which gives clear views to the North, East, and South, while being backed by mountains on the West.  This encampment, created by order of General Washington in 1777, has the hilarious and awesome name of Fort Nonsense.    (Note to self:  I’m totally gonna steal that for my next apartment.  “Hey, let’s go back to Fort Nonsense and watch movies!”)
  • Peter Dinklage was born there, four years before me.  He’s no Alexander Hamilton, but he’s really good at drinking and knowing things.

Does your birthplace have any interesting history?

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A Fork in the Road

As we roll into day 30 of National Blog Posting Month and Nanopoblano, I find myself surprised to have completed the entire month.   When Rara asked me in late October to participate, I initially said that my life is too crazy-busy right now to do a blog post every day.  Nevertheless, on the first of November, I posted a thing.  On the second of November, I posted another thing.

One a day, every day, until we reached today.   I didn’t even write ahead and schedule posts to go up in the future until Thanksgiving- I wrote a new post each day, or had three-fourths of a post almost ready to go in the drafts folder, needing some polish.

The truth is that I’m kind of grateful to this little project, because it’s been a wonderful distraction.   I’ve mentioned only a few times in the blog that my employment is ending on the fifteenth of December, but I haven’t really shared just how terrified that makes me.   Writing something new every day has helped me to stay sane and to keep the stress at bay.  I didn’t know that my blog could do that-  I’ve never really used it that way before now.

I didn’t realize until just recently how much of my identity is tied up in what I do.   And I also wrote a while back about how my highly specialized product knowledge will be useless after this job ends.

This is a fear that I have-  I worry that my skills won’t transfer to a new job, or that even after more than fifteen years doing tech work, I won’t be any different than any other resume on some hiring manager’s desk.   I worry that I won’t stand out enough to get hired.  I worry that if I do get hired, I’ll hate the job and be stuck in a soul-crushing perdition from which I cannot escape.

I worry, also, that this might be the last time in my life that I can really choose a career path different from the one I’ve been on.  I’m two days from 44, and I still haven’t got the foggiest idea what I want to be when I grow up.

I don’t really know if I want to keep doing this kind of work.  I don’t really know where I want to live, although Orlando and Portland are both very appealing to me.  (And, frankly, Orlando is the more likely of the two because it’s right there and it has Disney!)

The image attached to this post is my laptop wallpaper right now, because I find myself  at a fork in the road.   For just this moment, I’m not attached to a lease.  I have, thanks to some creative application of time off, roughly six actual days left in the office before I’m unemployed.

And I don’t know what to do next.

Except to keep blogging,  I guess.   Probably not every day, though, because I have a feeling things are about to get a lot busier around here.

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What was your favorite post from my last thirty days of bloggery?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

My Favorite Scream

Have you ever heard of the Wilhelm Scream?  It’s been in over 200 movies, and it’s so recognizable that if you didn’t notice it before reading this post, I’m sure you’ll start to notice it everywhere.

It was introduced to modern cinema by all-around amazing sound guy Ben Burtt when he was designing the sound for Star Wars in 1977- he used it for a sequence where Luke shoots a Stormtrooper across a chasm while trying to escape the Death Star.  When the trooper falls, you hear the Wilhelm Scream.

Ben Burtt didn’t create the sound, though-  he just found it in the studio sound archives, on a reel labeled “Man being eaten by alligator.”  The scene described there is from the 1951 movie, Distant DrumsIn that movie, a cowboy in the Everglades was indeed eaten by an alligator, yelling out the scream as he is dragged underwater.

The scream was used again in the 1953 movie, The Charge at Feather River, and it’s heard by several different people as they die.  One of them is a guy named in movie dialogue as Private Wilhelm, and he makes the scream when he is shot in the left leg with an arrow.

When Ben Burtt found the sound on the “Man being eaten by alligator” reel, he also found the Private Wilhelm footage, and it was Ben Burtt who named it the Wilhelm Scream.  He went on to re-use the Wilhelm in all the remaining Star Wars movies as well as the Indiana Jones movies.  It wasn’t long before other sound designers started to use the Wilhelm in other movies, and now it’s all over the television and movie landscape, including Toy Story, Batman Returns, Aladdin, Howard The Duck, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, Lethal Weapon 4, and many many more.

Everything up until this point is material that I knew as I began to write this post.  There’s one interesting fact that I didn’t know until I started researching to write this up:  It is now widely believed that the voice of the Wilhelm Scream is none other than Sheb Wooley, known to most for his novelty song, “The Purple People Eater.”  Ben Burtt found notes at Warner Brothers which indicated that Wooley was on a short list of people who recorded dialogue for Distant Drums, and he recorded material for several types of screams.

Here’s two short compilations of a bunch of Wilhelm Screams:

What’s the last movie you saw containing a Wilhelm Scream?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?