Archive for September, 2008

Singapore Formula 1 Race. At Night. Tilt-shifted.

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Gruber pointed out this absolutely gorgeous set of photos of the recent Singapore Grand Prix Formula One race.

As it was the first F-1 race held at night, the lighting was both intense and unique. Combined with the gorgeous skyline of Singapore, the event made for some spectacular photo opportunities.

Of all the photos, the two that caught my eye were the ones taken with Tilt-Shift lenses.

In this photo, the focal cut is fairly straight across the image However, this photo has the “focal cut” off center and running slightly diagonal from top to bottom, for a rather amazing overall image.

Hole in Pipe? Remodel 1/2 the House!

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

At the beginning of the year, we gave our house a colonoscopy to see why the kitchen/laundry drain tended to back up.

It didn’t go well.

Given that we had to rip out the kitchen island to fix the pipe, which required ripping out the tile, and the kitchen electrical was a bit haphazard, and the lighting sucked, and the position of the fridge was in direct conflict with the door to the garage, and the kitchen cabinets were starting to get a bit tired…. and… and…

… well …

… clearly, we might as well rip the kitchen out and fix it. Including changing a couple of walls.

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Compound Miter Saw Table from Recycled Kitchen Cabinets

Saturday, September 20th, 2008
Completed Kitchen Cabinet Compound Miter Saw Work Table

Let me be frank: Circular saws scare the bejeezus out of me. Always have. Rotating blades of doom ready to swallow a finger in barely a heart beat, technology be damned (very very cool technology).

As we are in the midst of a remodel where the goal is to recycle as much as possible, it was high time for me to get over this silly fear and get a damned chop saw.

One of our goals is to recycle whatever we can. In particular, recycling he kitchen cabinetry and turn them into cabinets in the garage.

Now, garage floors slope. And garages typically have a 4″ to 6″ sill of concrete on the outside walls. Both of which would require cutting various 2x4s to the right sizes/lengths to build new legs for the cabinets to have them be both level and flush with the wall.

And there is about a zillion other little projects around the house that will require custom bits of framing. Shelves. A cover for our atrium. Repairing the Big Green Egg table.

So, I picked up a basic Craftsman Compound Miter Saw. But it required a table. Initial use indicated that screwing it down to a plank on top of a kitchen cabinet works great, so why not turn one of the recycled kitchen cabinets into a roll-around saw table with built in storage?

Easy enough. That is exactly what I did. Better yet, only the 24″x48″ work surface is new. Everything else is recycled.

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Friday, September 19th, 2008 is a very important email address to which no spam should ever be sent.

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Smoked Tomato/Garlic/Basil/Eggplant Sauce

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Update: Just made this again with the final tomatoes of the season. Refined the recipe a bit and produced a sauce that is pretty close to perfect. The tomato intensity is kicked up several notches with the rest of the spices adding a subtle kick.

Some recipe as below, but:

  • Nearly double the number of tomatoes. Ended up with three layers and filled in the gaps with cherry and pear tomatoes.
  • Put the basil and garlic only on the first layer. Half the amount of garlic. Do not mince the basil leaves. Pile tomatoes on top.
  • Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning instead of crushed Thyme and considerably less dry spice than before.
  • Cook for about 2.5 hours at about 220 – 270 degrees.

Smoked Tomato Sauce Post Food Mill

That’s right, smoked tomato sauce.

As we are in the midst of a kitchen remodel, we have no oven. Or, I should say, we (and by “we”, I mean “I”) are using some combination of the Big Green Egg and the Cobb to do our baking and baking-like cooking.

Coincidentally, my community garden plot is producing Tons of Tomatoes. That is about it. Everything else this year has been a failure due to weird plant mojo and neglect. But tomatoes? I got em!

In any case, if you want to make a tangy, slightly smoky, incredibly tasty tomato sauce, it is quite easy! No need for a Big Green Egg, either, as this sauce could be made quite easily on a gas grill, in an oven, on a charcoal grill, or in anything else that can hold a temperature between 300 and 400 degrees for a couple of hours.


n[ate]vw asked about “off flavors”:

Could you elaborate a bit on tomatoes getting “roasted such that the heat totally changes the flavor”? When we’ve made tomato soup and spaghetti sauce, they’ve both ended up with an unexpected “off” flavor from what we’re used to — hard to describe, but it’s almost like the sauce is too fresh or something. Could this have something to do with the cooking temperature? Or would it have more to do with things like the tomato variety, us blending the skins and seeds together, or that we don’t pump HFCS into our mix like the store bought stuff?

The sauce had no off flavor, but I know what you are talking about. The food mill I used prevented almost all skin and seeds from making it into the sauce. I could easily imagine that pulverizing the seeds could quite distinctly change the flavor and in potentially unfavorable ways.

As I’m interested in this subject, I did a bit of research and found that tomatoes are exquisitely complex little beasties. They have dozens and dozens of uniquely identifiable organic compounds that contribute to the flavor, texture, aromatics, and cooking qualities of the fruit.

In particular, it seems that storage temperature can grossly impact tomato flavor. Specifically, cold storage — in the fridge — for any length of time can radically change the flavor, and not necessarily for the better!

Of the numerous articles I found, this one was particularly informative.

Given the acidity of tomatoes, I would also recommend avoiding cooking in aluminum or reactive metals. I could only get away with cast iron because the wok is both well seasoned, providing a layer of oil as a seal, and I was cooking a relatively large volume for the surface area involved. But, still, there was a hint of iron flavor in the final sauce — nothing unpleasant as cast iron is a relatively non-offensive metal — but it would be really bad with aluminum or other reactive metal.

Read on for details!

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Power LEDs from 120 Volts? Sure.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008


The circuit discussed below is really only acceptable for low power LEDs, such as those in the night light. It will also drive the 10MM LEDs found in a Peggy quite nicely, too.

However, it is completely unacceptable for driving the 100ma+ super bright LEDs that are available these days. For that, you need a proper power supply to achieve any kind of efficiency or longevity.

I think I’ll explore such beasts next.

120VAC LED NightLight Lit

Recently, I have noticed an increasing number of LED based lighting products on the market. One that caught my eye were these tiny night-light lamps that contained 3 LEDs.

Looking through the clear plastic envelope, a handful of discrete components were visible.

Curiosity piqued, I picked up a package of 2 for less than $5 to see if I couldn’t figure out how they worked.

This is not without ulterior motive. We are in the midst of remodeling part of our house and our submitted plans specify that we will not use any incandescent or halogen in the kitchen.

Now, LED technology has been moving quite rapidly and the latest, most efficient, surprisingly cheap, chips haven’t made it into standard lamps.

The question at hand: Can I put together a circuit small enough to drive 2 or 3 super bright LEDs in a GU10 lamp (relatively small, bi-pin, bayonet base, 120VAC, lamp)?

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Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Sunday, September 14th, 2008
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Roger was in the front yard with some friends and he yelled “Hey, Dad! A hawk just landed on the tree right over my head!”

Sure enough. A hawk was hanging out on the branch over his head. It stuck around long enough for me to grab my camera and [borrowed] Canon 28-300mm lens.

This is a young Cooper’s Hawk. Thanks to ChuqUI for the identification. Chuq, an avid bird watcher and talented photographer, has a much better picture of a Cooper’s Hawk in his collection.

Cooper’s Hawks are one of more common predatory birds in the United States, distributed across the whole country and quite common in many areas.

The hawks primarily prey upon various smaller birds and rodents. Oddly, a Cooper’s Hawk is just as inclined to chase down its prey through brush on foot as it is to attack from the air.

Though, that is primarily in the wild. With the proliferation of backyard bird feeders, these hawks will often sit in trees overlooking backyard feeders and will swoop in for a tasty meal when the opportunity presents.

In the first house bay area house we lived in, we were enjoying a meal in our backyard while a couple of mourning doves overlooked from the power lines behind the backyard. Suddenly, something swooped up and behind the doves and one dove exploded in a shower of feathers, then was gone.

Most likely, a Cooper’s Hawk grabbed it off the line.

Easy Baked/Grilled Chile Rellenos

Sunday, September 7th, 2008
Andy Stone's New Mexican Green Chiles

When we arrived home yesterday, there was a generic USPS flat rate large box. As I wasn’t expecting a package, I had no clue what it might be.

Within about 5 yards of the door, I knew exactly what it was. There was this delicious, sharp, fresh, slightly spicy smell in the air.

Could it be?

Yup — it was a box full of fresh New Mexican Chile Peppers from Andrew Stone. Awesome. Brought back vivid memories of the summer (1992 or so) some friends and I lived with Andrew and worked on Stone Studio (now Stone Works). We lived on black beans, chile peppers, eggs, goat cheese, and fresh baked bread, mountain biking in the Rio Grande river valley every day. Good times.

Chile peppers are a celebration in New Mexico every bit as much as Garlic is a phenomenon in Northern California. And late summer is chile pepper season. Slashfood has a good summary of the chile pepper scene.

And, of course, with fresh chiles at hand, it was obviously time to make Chile Rellenos!

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