Archive for June, 2008

Wikipedia—-what you see is what you get!
June 30, 2008

Wikipedia is a living, breathing virtual Internet encyclopedia. The authors are all of us. Sure the folks at pumped a ton of public domain information into the website but over the years it is people like you and me who have contributed and more importantly corrected and edited the articles.

There is of course great concern by educators that Wikipedia is becoming a crutch for students looking for information to include in their research projects. Dr. Stephen DiBenedetto from the University of Miami says of the Wikipedia product, “you do not know where something is coming from, how can you trust it?” He has a point, a valid point, which Wikipedia representatives quickly acknowledge, “Some types of academic papers should be source to a primary or secondary source, not Wikipedia,” Dan Rosenthal told us. Rosenthal is a designated spokesperson for Wikipedia and occasionally edits articles. 

What’s interesting is most everyone involved, students, teachers, professors do agree that Wikipedia is a great first stop for a general overview of a subject. The next task is to take that overview and let it guide you to primary sources. Then it dawned on me. This is much like the same discussion we had years ago when my mom and dad, like lots of parents back then, bought encyclopedia sets from the door to door salesman that knocked on the door. Educators said the same thing, “don’t quote the encyclopedia!” Nothing has changed except Wikipedia is updated every second of the day. Wikipedia does not sit on a shelf gathering dust till needed.

As far a correcting errors or flushing out political attacks, Wikipedia works rather quickly. The organization has two thousand administrators that have the ability to delete or modify articles and  there are thousand of editors who volenteer time. A major error or bit of false information may last only hours.

I have actually added to or corrected information which I have found in articles where I have some expertise. It was quick, easy and has stood up over time. 

Yes, I have Wikipedia on my front screen. It is a short cut that I often use to get the big picture on a story that has been suddenly thrust on me and my photographer. But i realize that it is what it is, a general guideline not the end all source.  Handle Wikipedia gently it can be your friend and source for almost everything you need to know!




Set ’em Kathy!
June 28, 2008

On Friday, June 27th is Kathy Fernandez-Rundle’s “Thank you celebration” in honor of her re-election at Heathrow Lounge: 681 Washington Avenue.

Tonight: JUNE 27, 2008
6:00 P.M. TO 8:00 P.M.

If a tree fell…….would anyone hear?
June 24, 2008

Adriana Niebla said she heard a “swoosh” and then a big bang. She could not see out of he front of her house, pitch black, and then she walked out her backdoor, the front door was pinned shut by a giant oak tree that had collapsed on her front lawn.  Under the crashed ancient tree she found four cars ranging from a Ford Explorer to a small two door late model Dodge smothered in foliage . Two of vehicles are severely damaged by the huge tree that had a large canopy.

Adriana Niebla is says she warned Miami-Dade Public works about the tree months ago, tried to get them to trim it back if not remove it.  Now she wants the county to pick up the tab for removal, a job that is going to be no easy challenge.  So far no luck and likely not going to be any as the tree sits on a swale between the sidewalk and the street.  Despite the warnings the County says it is Adriana’s duty to maintain the tree.  “…please advised that the PWD (Public Works Department) does not provide pre-hurricane trimming service, instead, relies on the abutting  property owners to maintain the foliage fronting their property,” that in a e-mail from David Cardenas, Chief of Miami-Dade Public Works to NBC6 Managing Editor Liz Roldan.  So Adriana is out of luck and even after she protested that it is likely the Public Works Department fault the tree fell. You see the Oak tree is one of many in the area west of Red Road that were planted in the late 1940’s, years later side walks were laid inside the tree line in many neighborhoods.  In the sidewalk construction process the contractors cut the roots resulting in many trees having roots on one side of the root ball.  With a shallow water table the roots are not that deep anyway.  Adriana’s tree fell in a light wind, it did not take much to topple the old oak. 

The lesson  here is two fold. If you are in an older neighborhood check your front yard tree’s root system, see if they have been cut to accommodate sidewalk construction and  remember it is your responsibility to manage tree maintenance even on the swale in front of  your home, at least that’s the rule from the the County Public Works Department.  Oh, and by the way if you have a dangerous tree and want to take it down, you have to secure a permit from the  Department of EnvironmentalResources which generates another set of hassles.

Meanwhile Adriana is sticking to her guns, demanding that the PWD staff come cut the tree out of her yard. At last look the fallen oak was still crashed in the Niebla’s front yard

Late today Adriana phoned to say her County Commissioners office, Rebbecca Sosa is the commissioner, called to say that they will remove the tree as soon as Adriana’s adjuster is finished with the cars.  But no official word from PWD, we will monitor the case. Adriana is still skeptal  and will call back when the chain saws start ripping the massive tree trunk.


Grow your own!
June 18, 2008

My job was to produce a story on how to buy direct from South Miami-Dade farmers. Many of the folks down that way to sell fruits and vegtables to the general public and in season you can find some bargains that excel in quality and are competitive price wise. I love these stories because it gets me back to my roots. Our family ranched in Arizona for years. Raising vegetables is in the blood.  

So we talked to lots of folks and the bottom line is there is a strong argument for the quality of purchases made for buying local in the fruit stands that grow their own product. But prices are reflective of the season. When strawberries are coming off in the spring then there are deals, the same for tomatoes and the exotic fruits raised on the small farms in the Redland.  So pick the right time  of year to head down to Homestead and Florida City.  Do not go looking for local strawberrys in July! There is also a travel factor. In order to purchase the veggies you have to drive down that way. Gas becomes and issue. So there are downsides to buying local.

But there was a bright side! Cameraman Rudy Padro pulled up to the Three Sisters Farm.  The little plot of land produces lots of exotic fruits, yucca, malanga, a hot weather spinach called Kaloo all tended by Cliff Middleton.  Cliff is a character, flowing white hair and beard, dressed as if he’s headed out on a Everglades safari.  A son of the farm belt, his family raised grains, Cliff settled in South Dade years ago.

We talked about buying direct and saving money, buying quality and paying a little more but then he said it, “the ultimate cheaper is to grow your own.”  There it was and I took him by surprise when I told him I did exactly that.  We of course launched into a conversation about raising backyard lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, you name it. In my story that aired on NBC6 Cliff says, “It is very possible on a little piece of land to grow all the salad we need to eat.” I have a 10 by 10 foot, 100 hundred square foot backyard garden and when up and running does indeed produce all the salad the Tester family needs. And then there are the herbs, tomatoes, rosemary, mint, and collard greens that round out the backyard “farm.” 

Cliff is absolutely correct, plant it, it grows and you eat it. How much more cheap is there than that? In fact $2 spent on lettuce seed that tolerates heat has lasted for four years and I am about to put more into the ground.

A plastic bag with a lettuce mix costs about $3.50 at the local supermarket. The same amount harvested from my back yard costs pennies.  Ok there is a little physical work but that’s fine and by the way you can do the exact thing in pots on your patio. Cherry tomatoes grown on a terrace are just as good as those from the ground.

So as far as I am concerned Cliff Middleton is the smartest guy in South Dade. “Grow your own” is a message that we can all learn from,  so get out the shovels if you want to save big bucks.

By the way Cliff teaches classes on how to tend a South Florida vegtable garden check out his website at

School Board Side Show-Buy OUT CREW?
June 13, 2008

I do not often get to the School Board. Not part of my usual beat. I read and watch as they squabble over budgets, policy, and politics. It is kind of a circus. As the Miami-Dade School district struggles the board meetings are an experience in their own right. Just when things could not get any wackier as the board members were hacking away a the 2008 budget a person walks up to me and puts a half sheet of paper in my hand. 

In the heat of the massive budget crisis, the district has to trim $284 million from the shattered budget, I read what the small flyer has to say: “Save Dadeschools, Inc. is an organization with a mission to pursue and ensure the successful delivery of quality education…..Towards that end, we are asking all parents, teacher, students, psychologist, custodian, bus driver, cafeteria workers, school police, and all other Miami-Dade County Public Schools employees or Miami-Dade residents who feel Superintendent Rudy Crew has severely impacted our education systemm in negative ways to donate at least $1.00 towards our goal of one million dollars to purchase Superintendent Rudy Crew’s contract. Visit and help our cause.” 

Come to find out they are serious and have some support especially from middle management school district professionals.  I knew it was a little nuts at the School District but not to the point folks are willing to raise money to blow the Superintendent out of office and out of town. Maybe I should stop by Board meetings more often!



Match Box tells of Cuba Woes….
June 9, 2008

It is a small match box.  On the top a picture of “Jardines de La Tropical” on the flip side “Parque Metropolitano de La Habana.” The match brand is “Chispa” which translates: “spark.” The company that makes the matches is listed as, “Emp.Nacional de Fosforos.” The box said it contained 70 matches. WTVJ photographer John Lang plucked the little box out of a 14 foot  diesel powered, hand made boat that had brought eight Cuban men to the United States. After checking it out John gave the match box to me for a souvenir.

The boat was beached on Virginia Key, the eight refugees were long gone when we got there. They were likely being processed by Immigration officials and probalby were already with their Miami families.

I put the little match box on my desk and it sat there for a day before I picked it up and looked at it again.  There was an e-mail address on it for the park and I thought,  “what the heck,” lets check out the origins of the little Cuban curiosity.

What I found spoke volumes about Cuba, and why Cubans are so frustrated with their system. 

It seems that the Chispa matches don’t work! At least they do not work very well and in what appears to be a part of the Raul Castro inspired ability to criticize the system, Gramma,  the government controlled newspaper in an extensive article, detailed woes of the state owned match making company.

Essentially according to Gramma, all the factories are outdated with 1950’s technology. Emp. Nacional de Fosforos produces 170 million boxes a year in the five match factories that are located in Pinar de Rio, Camaquey, Palma Soriano and Guantanamo and in a Havana neighborhood. The factories struggle with inferior raw material, administrators say they are acquiring new mixings for the match heads and better sand paper. The major problem are the factories ancient machinery. Parts are hard to get, have to be self manufactured. “They are still in production thanks to the work of innovators and other workers of long experience,” Reports Gramma which goes on to say, “Another problem is a fluctuating labor force. Part of the qualified technical staff has left the company to go to work in other sectors, looking for better salaries and working conditions.” The administrators promise new mechanical technology is on the way from Europe and will be installed sometime soon.

The little box tells a big story. It is a symbol of what’s wrong on the island. Nothing seems to work.

 Quoting again from Gramma, “Every time I am going to light my gas stove I use an incredible amount of matches, commented Gisela, while here neighbors shared her annoyance.”  Apparently it can sometimes take half the box of matches to get one to fire up.

Not surprising when John pulled the match box from the boat it was empty.

Michael Moore on the hotseat! “Shooting Michael Moore!”
June 6, 2008

Kevin Leffler knows Michael Moore.  They went to high school together. We are talking “the Michael Moore.” The guy at that a gave us “Sicko,” “Roger and Me,” and “Fahrenheit9/11,” is “lunched” by Leffler who is a college professor and CPA from the Flint, Michigan area. Leffler spent $150,00 dollars of his own funds to debunk Moore. Why he was asked?” “Because all of us around town knew Michael was stretching the truth and not treating people right.”

The 80 minute documentary is not bad for a admitted amateur. Leffler uses a lot of Moore’s techniques to build the film,  confrontation, humor, video news clips, highly edited one-on-one interviews. 

Moore’s critics will have a field day with “Shooting Michael Moore.” Leffler pokes holes in all three Moore’s documentaries, talks to folks that say he stretched the truth, misrepresented events, and had production personal shoot interviews without revealing who they actually worked for.  Moore haters will relish shots of Moore’s lakeside mansion in upper Michigan. Leffler says Moore has fudged on his tax returns, and clearly misrepresented the Cuban Health Care system in his “Sicko” production.

What brought Leffler to Miami was an opportunity to screen the production in front on Cuban-American Exiles.  It was a “soft opening premier,” a first ever showing of “Shooting Michael Moore,” that will hit the theaters later this summer.

Lefflers video taped experience with the Cuban Health system was far different than the Moore version. Much to the Exiles delight, Leffler confronted hospital staff and was guided through the segment by Dr. Darsi Ferrera dissident Doctor on the Island. The contrast presented by Moore and then Leffler is dramatic and frankly disgusting.

“Shooting Michael Moore,” certainly paints the other side of the Michael Moore story. Anyone who has seen and enjoyed his previous films should see this. Leffler has been able to produce a documentary that is as thought provoking as Michael Moore’s productions. If a documentary film is supposed to produce reaction, which Moore’s films have, then Leffler has joined the league.

And yes Leffler confronted Moore on camera. Moore refused to talk, got into a van and took off. Leffler scored a “Michael Moore moment.”

The film does need some revamped editing and needs to been trimmed time wise, it does get a bit redundant but it is certainly fun and serious at the same time. Frankly even Moore fans will get a kick out of the effort, the film is “so Michael.”

Want to see a trailer? Google “Shooting Michael Moore” and there are lots of sites carrying images.


Old Miami Arena now fenced!
June 2, 2008

I drive by the old Miami Arena on the way to work. For the last year I have noticed how it is falling more and more into disrepair. The homeless population had invaded the nooks and crannies of the building. Trash was filling the areas near the box office. The landscaping was neglected, palm frawns littered the side walk. It is sad. I remember way back when Glen Staub bought the Arena from the city. He told us that he and his family “banked land.” Little did we know that he had the means to bank the Arena for so long.  It is an eyesore and now a wire fence has been strung around the shuttered building giving it more of a abandoned look. It is certainly a stark reminder that all is not well with downtown development. I am sure that if the real estate market was healthy the Arena would have long ago been sold again and probably sent the way of the Orange Bowl, demolished.