Archive for June, 2008

Apricots Galore (And Muddled Apricot Margarita Recipe)

Monday, June 30th, 2008
Muddled Apricot Margarita, Anyone?

As my sister so eloquently documented, our Apricot tree has gone completely bonkers this year. The last time I saw an apricot tree produce in this volume was Andrew Stone’s tree during the summer I was living & coding at Stone Design.

Loaded Apricot Tree

The fruit is just now starting to ripen and today was the first day that I could pick any quantity of apricots.

And Pick I did.

And pick again — three days later, I just picked an equal number.

The First Harvest

I basically culled the tree for apricots that were ready to pick, while also removing any nearly-ready ‘cots that were weighing down branches to the point of potentially breaking them.

Even so, you can’t tell that a single apricot was removed from the tree! It looks like I have at least 3 to 4 more weeks of fruit to harvest!


Of course, the question is, what to do with all those apricots?

Apricots Quartered and Ready For Action

Eat ’em!
Freeze ’em!

Make: Jam! Pie! Pancakes! Ice Cream! Cheese! Poached Salmon!

Apricots Vacuum Packed for Freezing

The possibilities are endless. In this case, I quartered the apricots into vacuum bags and froze them for the non-apricot season.

However, not all… some were set aside for eating and a couple were turned into a muddled apricot margarita with a blueberry juice float (which can be seen next to that gigantic bowl of ‘cot quarters).

Read the rest of this entry »

Cactus!

Friday, June 27th, 2008
Roger & Cactus Blossoms

Our neighbor, Ron, gave us a couple of these ball cactus that had sprouted off of a cactus he has had for year. Ron said it had really pretty flowers, but it had only bloomed a few times in the decade plus that he has had it and it probably wouldn’t bloom for a while.

Apparently, this particular cactus has other ideas. Or maybe it just didn’t like Ron (just kidding, Ron!). It bloomed once last year, impressive tall pink bloom.

This year, it set two buds prior to WWDC and, of course, bloomed during WWDC when I was in San Francisco. Bummer. I figured i had missed the blooms for the year.

Not so!

Cactus Bud

In the spring, the cactus covers itself in about a dozen little hairy potential blossoms. Most of these will fall off and, typically, all of the remaining ones will fall off after the cactus blooms once in the season.


Not so this year!

Cactus Buds

The week after WWDC, two of the remaining hairy buds turned into bloom stalks and, sure enough, the cactus bloomed again!

The bloom stalks shoot up to that height over the course of just a few days, literally growing an inch or two per day.

Then they pause for a moment with a bit of pink showing at the end before bursting into the flowers seen at left that only last for 2, maybe 3, days.

Awesome flowers, too. Beautiful pastel pink, with a deep deep throat. These blooms evolved to be pollinated by very large moths (hummingbird sized moths) or bats, apparently.

Epiphyllum

Our neighbor has an epiphyllum — a night blooming dessert plant (not a cactus) that is pollinated similarly.

When it bloomed a year or two ago, I took a handful of photos.

While taking some long exposure photos, I was buzzed by something that sounded an awful lot like a hummingbird. Of course, it wasn’t.

Epiphyllum w/Moth

It was actually one of the moths coming in to consume whatever the plant had to offer. It doesn’t appear to eat the pollen, but douses itself in pollen as it climbs all the way into these deep blooms.

I even managed to capture some photos! I can affirm that it is, in fact, very difficult to take a picture of a rather large, very fast moving, insect in the pitch of night.

Just like the cactus.

I keep hoping that such a pollinator shows up for the cactus blooms, but so far it hasn’t happened. The blooms have faded since the above photo was taken and I suspect this will be it until next year.

Change Your Point of View

Friday, June 27th, 2008
Roger with Box Turtles

Duncan posted a bit of a write up on changing your point of view when taking photos. Specifically, take a typical scene and shoot a picture from something other than the typical sight line.

So true.

This was shot while lying on my belly with the camera on the deck in front of me. I had to cock my head at a painful angle to actually get an eye on the viewfinder.

Flames!

When moving from my Sony F-505 to the Canon Digital Rebel, I find that I really miss the 505’s ability to pivot lens from the viewfinder (505 used an LCD, later models also had a digital viewfinder).

It was genius. You could pivot the LCD upwards of 90 degrees off axis from the lens and shoot the scene in front of you from your hip or shoot way over your head while actually seeing what you were shooting!

It was a shining example of Sony’s potential to achieve brilliant hardware design and software implementation in a single package.

I honestly believe that my experience with the 505 contributed greatly to my success while stumbling through the newbie stage of dealing with a proper– if relatively entry level– digital SLR.

To get this rather dramatic shot, I was balanced on the loading deck of the back of a truck sandwiched between the truck and a chain link fence, putting the camera an extra 6 feet off the ground.

Roger and Irises

That is, I’m not afraid to lie in the dirt to get a shot from an interesting angle and I have been known to balance precariously on top of a stack of unstable objects to grab a scene from a unique angle.

Blue Metallic Bug Detail

This is also likely why I really dig the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. It is just so terribly sharp while offering a focal length that both provides a bit of zoomery while still being short enough to allow one to easily walk back/forth a few feet as necessary to frame a subject appropriately.

This is a seemingly simple shot. But think about how it would have looked if I shot from a comfortable standing position — the flowers would have been just below my eye level and would have completely blocked Roger. This angle gives a much better perspective of just how bloody big these iris were while also framing Roger’s face nicely in a ring of purple.

The Bug? That was a lie in the dirt and sharp rocks such that the sun hit the bug at just the right angle shot. Sucks when the bug flies away before you take the picture.

Winking Roger Head

All of the shots in this post are examples therein. Every one of them required either kneeling, flat out lying on the ground (or muck), or occasionally climbing into some rather precarious position.

And sometimes, it is all about taking a shot halfway between upright and lying down.

This disembodied roger head was taken somewhere between kneeling and standing. Fortunately, it was sunny enough that I could use a really darned fast shutter speed because my legs were shaking in their halfway-down/halfway-up position.

For each, imagine if the same shot were taken from the default sight line. Boring.

George Carlin to Rise from Grave on 7/23/08 at 7:30pm.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
CarlinSmall.png

Apparently, George Carlin will rise from the dead on 7/23/08 at 7:30pm to entertain audiences one last time.

At least, according to TicketMaster (at this time).

(Somehow, Carlin would probably find this funny. Hell, he’d turn it into a 15 minute rant of brilliance and profanity that would leave me laughing my ass off while illuminating some vastly screwed up bit of our world. I’ll miss you terribly, Mr. Carlin.)

Followup: What is good tequila?

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

When I posted What is good tequila? I had no idea that it would generate anywhere near the number of comments that it has.

Great stuff. Thank you for taking the time to respond (mostly– one or two jackasses out there, no surprise).

I wanted to respond inline, but there were so many comments so fast, that I couldn’t keep up. So, I have selected the ones that I wanted to respond to, pulled out quotes, and responded in this post.

The next post will be my personal list of favorite tequilas. It will be long. And opinionated. And highly centric to the current state of the market in the San Francisco bay area.


Read the rest of this entry »

Netflix: Cancelled

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

I cancelled our Netflix subscription today.

In answering their “why terminate service?” survey, it really came down to several reasons.

The Apple TV has spoiled us. Even with its currently limited (though growing) selection, we can make a decision about what we want to watch less than 5 minutes before we want to start watching it.

Too often, we would look at the three Netflix envelopes and say “No… Nah… Uh uh…” and then either watch some stupid TV (back when we still had Direct TV) or grab something via Apple TV.

Given the 50,000 movies delivered per day to Apple TV and iTunes users, it is clear that we aren’t the only ones seeking immediate gratification.

Sadly, the once nimble Netflix doesn’t seem to really get it.

Their “primary reasons for canceling” selections do not include Apple TV, Amazon’s Unboxed, or any other “the market has evolved beyond physical media” selections. And their “what will be your new primary source?” question has “I will download movies over the internet” as the only appropriate answer. Hopefully, Netflix won’t dump that list on the MPAA as I’m sure they would interpret it as evidence of further supposed infringement!

I was really hoping that Netflix’s online delivery play with Roku would be compelling.

Not to be. The diskless set-top box does not have the space to fully download any given piece of content. Thus, the box requires that the internet connection provide a stable, consistently high bandwidth, connection. In the face of lower bandwidth connections, it compensates by dropping back to fairly low quality bit rates.

My experience with all of the broadband internet connections I have ever had is that they tend to get very bursty in the evening hours as the whole neighborhood takes to their internet connections.

The last thing I want is to deal with an angry family when the quality of some movie drops to crap or drops out completely in the middle of playback.

With the Apple TV, we frequently had playback of an HD movie catch up to the download because available bandwidth dropped off during playback. Of course, the Apple TV has built in storage capable of storing the full movie and, thus, fixing this is as simple as starting the download of the movie before taking the ten minutes to make a bowl of popcorn!

None of this is to say that Netflix is a failure. It isn’t. If you are really into movies are like to watch lots of TV Shows, Netflix’s selection is unparalleled and the price can’t be beat.

I’ll revisit their service if they release a device that offers reliable playback compatible with realities of US broadband service. We do watch enough movies that Netflix’s monthly rates combined with such a device would be fiscally attractive.

In any case, farewell for now, Netflix, it was sometimes fun, but mostly disappointing.

What is good tequila?

Thursday, June 19th, 2008
BBum at Tequila Partida

This weblog post is at least a decade in the making. Seriously. I wrote the original version of this sometime in the late ’90s as a mailing list post, then revised it again when someone at Apple asked for tequila recommendations. Likely forwarded it a dozen times or so in the interim years.

Every time I forward it, I said “I should weblog this thing”. So, here it is — with some additional edits, too. Like my “So you wanna buy a big green egg” post, I’ll likely edit this over the coming years, too.

I’m going to break this into two separate posts; one about tequila and one about margaritas. Eventually, I’ll make a third post about cooking, agave, and tequila.

First, Cuervo Gold is not good tequila. It is actually a really terrible product, quality wise, backed by some brilliant market. Sadly, most of the tequila consumed in the United States is Cuervo Gold or something equally as bad. And by “bad”, I mean bad taste and vicious hangover.

Good tequila is almost always a tequila that is made from alcohol distilled from 100% blue agave. Specifically, the species Agave Weber Tequilana. This plant of the class Liliopsida (Lilies) has nothing to do with cactus. Blue agave is grown primarily in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Read the rest of this entry »

Morels & Smoked Pork

Sunday, June 15th, 2008
Little Brown Laughing Mushroom

Things have been a bit quiet around here. I have been a bit distracted over the last week.

Today was spent doing a mass amount of yard work; trimming, cleaning, weeding, mowing, watering and all kinds of other yard activities that require no thought.

However, I did make it out to a friend’s birthday party where his girlfriend brought him something like 2 lbs of freshly picked Morel Mushrooms. We made — I volunteered to man the stove — morel fondue, morel cream sauce on pasta, and pan fried smoked pork with morels.

The smoked pork, not surprisingly, was of my own making. I had a frozen butt that I had reheated earlier and, thus, it was best served with a bit of saucing.

To wit:

  • Heat 1/2 cup of butter in metal pan until it just starts to brown.
  • Add diced onions, diced peppers, and morel mushrooms (halve or quarter any large ones). Simmer until tender.
  • While simmering, spice veggies with a bit of salt, pepper, cayenne, and whatever strikes your fancy. I added a bit of dried lemon (really, it was a “jamaican spice” but it was mostly dried citrus, salt, and pepper).
  • Shred smoked pork into pan.
  • Continuing mixing ingredients over low heat until pork is warm through.
  • Add a splash of white wine and mix in some melty cheese– mozzarella works just fine.
  • Stir until cheese is thoroughly melted and wine is somewhat reduced– you don’t want it too soupy!
  • Sprinkle corn meal lightly over the pork and then stir in. No more than 1/4 cup.
  • Increase heat and sauce with a decent BBQ sauce. Whereby “decent” means that it is sweetened primarily with fruit and cane sugars. No HFCS!
  • Stir for a couple of more minutes to let the sugars caramelize slightly.

In our case, we served it with pita bread and most folks made quarter-pita tacos. It was delicious. The morels added an earthy essence to an otherwise relatively traditional pan fried pork.

If apples or pears were available, I would diced same and simmered it with the onions/peppers/morels.

The photo has nothing to do with anything (it isn’t a morel). It looks like a little laughing mushroom cyclops dude and, thus, captures the rather relaxed mood I’m in after a totally awesome WWDC.

New Spammy Comment Policy

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I am seeing an increasing number of spammy comments that are obviously written by a semi-intelligent human actually responding to the content of the targeted post, but for which the content is almost completely devoid of useful signal. Almost, but not quite.

So, I have decided I’ll employ a new policy.

I’m going to let such comments stand. Especially when they bend over backwards to complement my work. I like that. I’m shallow that way.

However, if the URL and/or email address associated with the comment is nothing but a marketing splurb, those particular fields will be deleted.