Archive for February, 2008

Crabtacular 5: Tequila Mockingcrab

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Update: Photos of Crabtacular 5 are being tagged with ‘crabtacular5’ on Flickr. Thanks to Ash Ponders for uploading an awesome set o’ photos!

Christine & Bill serving Crabs & Tequila

We held our annual crab party yesterday and it was a total blast! Christine and I served all 200 pounds of dungeness crabs, 30 lbs of smoked pork, and our guests brought an amazing array of other yummy edibles and drinkables!

Thank you to everyone who could make it! It was incredible!

Guillermo Erickson Sauza shared a lot of his amazing Tequila Los Abuelos / Tequila Fortaleza. Certainly my favorite heartlands tequila. Distribution is relatively limited. If you are in the Cupertino area, you can purchase Los Abuelos / Fortaleza at Coach House Liquors.

Julio & Chuck Making Margaritas

Julio Bermejo made the awesome T-shirts and whipped up batch after batch of his famous margaritas. Visit Julio at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco — world’s best tequila bar and an excellent Yucatan home style restaurant, too.

Lilianna, Julio’s wife and member of the Camarena family, shared her family’s El Tesoro de Don Felipe tequila. Made in Arandas, Jalisco, El Tesoro is easily my favorite highlands tequila. It is deliciously spicy and incredibly smooth.

Julio used Tequila Arette blanco to make the margaritas. An awesome tequila that can be found in most decent liquor stores.

Barrel Thief!

I also thiefed out a bit of tequila from my barrel. It is Pueblo Viejo Reposado that has been sitting in the barrel for 6 months.

It is surprisingly delicious; lots of caramely wood flavor with a bit of bite on the finish (due to the young age).

I’ll need to bottle it soon as it is “done”. Now that I have thiefed out about a liter of the 4.5 in the barrel, I might just refill the barrel and let it sit for a while longer.

Truly a legendary party.

Gardening Season Begins

Friday, February 22nd, 2008
Roger Rescuing Ants While Watering the Garden

Or, I should say, Gardening season began in late January, but we are just getting around to starting our gardening in mid February.

Roger and I planted a bunch of fava beans in our community garden plot a couple of weeks ago. Some are destined to be harvested, but most are simply there to fix nitrogen and be turned into awesome mulch.

When gardening, I generally try to set up the garden such that I can flood irrigate. This lets me leave a hose or three running full blast in one area of the garden while I work / weed some other area.

One of our garden mates has this incredibly cool device to chop up fava bean plants and return them to the soil. It is, effectively, a lawn mower mounted in a rain barrel with a hole in the deck through which you feed the plant matter. Quite the frightening device.

Here Comes the Flood!

Of course, with flood irrigation, the numerous ant colonies within the garden do get a bit upset when their homes are periodically flooded. Roger likes rescuing the ants wherever possible, though some ants do appear to be able to walk on water.

This was a bit of dead plant matter left behind from last year’s gardening efforts. The ants seemed to use it as a bit of a watch tower. An ant or two would run to the top, have a look around, and then run back to tell their nest mates whatever bits of wisdom they had gleaned from above.

All photos taken with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens and an Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite. Not that the ring flash was needed for the photo of Roger, it just happened to be on.

First Crocus of Spring

Monday, February 18th, 2008
First Crocus of Spring

Growing up in the midwest, the first sign of spring for me was always the first crocus that I spotted in the yard, typically peeking through the snow.

We lacked crocus around our house in California but, fortunately, we have plenty of bare dirt in the parking strip as we had a boatload of concrete removed last fall.

OSH — local hardware store — had a sale on bags of crocus bulbs, so I grabbed some, planted them in the bare dirt and promptly forgot where.

The other morning, Roger noticed something yellow in the dirt and discovered the first Crocus bloom of spring!

Gorgeous little flower, even for a bulb that hasn’t even had a season to mature and establish itself.

There are a couple of dozen other crocus sprouts in various areas of the parking strip (along with gladiolas and, now, about a pound of California native wildflower seeds) and I’m hoping for a variety of colors, but will be happy with just yellow.

First Crocus Detail

Crocus are also the source of saffron. At upwards of $5,000 per pound, saffron is one of the most expensive spices by weight in the world.

And no wonder! While this particular species of crocus is not one of the saffron bearing varieties (I don’t believe), I have seen ones that are and the actual little bits of spice are about 1/10th the size of that bit of orange in the middle of this particular flower.

A pound of saffron can contain upwards of 200,000 threads. Each saffron crocus contains 3 threads, requiring 70,000 or so flowers to have their little tiny hairs picked out, typically by hand.

Water from a Hose

Sunday, February 17th, 2008
Water Jets from Hose



Water from a hose.

Some Can Walk on Water

Saturday, February 16th, 2008
Some Ants Can Walk On Water (Some Can't)



Some cannot.

Spring Flowers: Thermonuclear Orange Poppy

Saturday, February 16th, 2008
Orange Poppy Flower

Roger and I took a walk around the neighborhood today. As we move later in February, the flowers in the bay area are just starting to bloom.

Some flowers like to get a jump on the pollination competition by exploding with color.

This is a poppy that is growing in our neighbor’s yard. Her husband was a horticulturist at a local university and her yard is just full of rare native and non-native species.

Talk about orange.

Orange Poppie Flower Detail

No, really, I mean orange.

This poppy is like a little thermonuclear charge of bright pigment exploding in her yard.

The fuzzy melty yellow lump right in the middle of the flower is an awesome bit of design work. At the largest size, it looks like a hairy yellow starfish crawling around some black speckled coral.

Totally alien. I totally dig it.

The Cube’s Fatal Flaw

Saturday, February 16th, 2008
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With the recent release of the MacBook Air, there have, of course, been a flurry of reviews and, more relevant to this particular blog post, armchair quarterback style conjecturing as the relevance of the Air’s design within the current marketplace.

Not surprisingly, many of the reviews or commentaries mention The Apple Cube, pictured at left (photo courtesy of wikipedia).

At Daring Fireball, Gruber’s article said in a footnote:

Arguably, the main problem with the G4 Cube had nothing to do with its technical specs, price, or aesthetic appeal, but rather that its case was overly prone to cracking and/or unsightly injection mold lines. I.e., the Cube’s fatal flaw was in the design and engineering of its case.

Close, but not quite. Near the end of the cube’s manufacturing lifecycle, Cubes were on closeout and my company picked up 10 or so to use as general purpose workstations. None of them had noticeable cracking or mold lines.

However, the very design of the cube was fatally flawed.

In particular, the cube sacrificed function in the name of form.

To be blunt: Gorgeous to look at, absolute pain in the ass to live with.

The design was such that anything requiring a cable change was inconvenient. You had to physically tilt the machine over, often all the way onto its side, connect/disconnect the cables, and then very carefully re-route all the cables through the little gap in the back.

The top wasn’t much better. The top featured both the slot for the optical drive and the power button. Unless you paid careful attention, it was damned easy to brush the power button when dropping in or removing a disc.

Worse, the top of the machine was a magnet for dirt, hair and cats. Hair would fall across the optical drive slot and then get sucked right into the drive when you inserted a disc.

And, yes, cats. My friend had a cube at his home. The cats would love to sit on top of the nice, warm, flat cube. Which would both fill it with cat hair and turn it off… then on… then off… then on… then off for as long as the cuts stuck around. He finally had to put one of those pigeon guard kind of strip of nail things on top of the cube to keep the cats from corrupting his filesystem!
(People seem to think I actually take the cat thing as a serious criticism or design flaw. Please. It was funny, that is almost all. Certainly, if the cube had been marketed like the iMac, it would have been a consideration — not a big one, but a consideration none the less.)

The cube was certainly a gorgeous piece of engineering. As a piece of art, it deserved all the awards it received.

However, as a computing device, it really sucked.

Update (responding to comments) on the full post…

Read the rest of this entry »

Aperture 2.0 on Shrooms

Saturday, February 16th, 2008
Yard Mushrooms

At left is a big pile of mushrooms that Roger found in our yard after a heavy rain. That rather large pile pretty much shot out of the ground overnight, as far as we could tell.

As we wandered about, we realized it was but one of many piles of shrooms of similar magnitude in around our house and, even, in the neighborhood.

Fungus is awesome stuff. Lurking about under the soil until the fruiting conditions are just right and then — boom — shroom city!

I reprocessed this particular photo with Aperture 2.0 using the RAW 2.0 processor combined with the various other tools. The results are far, far more pleasing (to me) than anything I could have done with Aperture 1.x.

Awesome update. Congratulations and a huge thank you to the team that worked so hard on it!!

Lights in the Sky?

This was the first photo that I shoved through the Aperture 2.0 pipeline. I really wasn’t happy with what I could do with it in Aperture 1.x; it just didn’t feel right.

It was striking how different the result was from simply switching to the 2.0 RAW processor. The background was brighter and there was considerably more gradation in the color fringes on the out-of-focus lights. From there, I could increase the contrast and still maintain the shades of white on the lights.

Or something like that. I’m pretty clueless about this stuff, but I totally dig Aperture 2.0. It just feels more efficient and more effective.

HD-DVD Month Three: New Levels Of Suck Achieved.

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

As I have written before, I picked up an HD DVD player as it was the cheapest way to vie the BBC’s The Planet Earth (HD DVD) in full 1080p HD.

At that time, it was still unclear which of the new formats would win. No longer. HD DVD is dead.

Good riddance.

I had also configured netflix to send HD DVDs when available.

Even though Netflix isn’t going to dump HD DVD for another few months, I turned that preference off last night.

Why?

Because 5 of the 6 HD DVDs we received from Netflix locked up during playback due to relatively minor damage to the disk. The 6th skipped a couple of times.

The format is fragile. Horribly fragile. Old school DVDs with more damage play back just fine, including on my HD DVD player. And the user experience sucks; slow to load, mandatory “web updates”, and “unskippable” ads abound.

From what I have read, Blu-Ray discs are slightly tougher and generally have the same user experience. Still, I couldn’t care less.

As long as Apple makes good on the promise to continue building out the library of content in the movie rental store, the Apple TV 2.0 find / rent / watch user experience is orders of magnitude more pleasant than dealing with physical media.

A Very Sad Site.

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Definitely the saddest place on the internet I have stumbled upon.

(Yeah — grammar was bad in the original post. Too sad to care at the time.)