Thursday, December 08, 2011

Battle of Cedar Creek

I built a time machine and traveled back to 1864 to photograph the battle of Cedar Creek. Had to use film. This photo shows what a fast motor winder will let an amateur photographer accomplish (shot a whole roll of this cavalry horseman as he rode by to get this shot).
Confederate cavalry on the move
Union infantry try to extend their left
That's the Heater house in the background, and probably Wrights corps trying to form up in the middle ground. One of my all time favorite Cartier-Bresson-esque serendipitous shotseven though I shot 24 frames to get it.
Jubal Early tries to hold

Phil Sheridan denied my requests for an interview, or this would be an entirely different story.

The Heater house is there today thanks to a successful preservation effort.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Fish Cakes

Fish Cakes version 0.01

It's been a long time since I made a fish cake, so I'm starting over. As usual, I'm stealing ideas from a number or recipes and fashioning my own. The scallions and dry mustard come from the Legal Seafood recipe.

There's a continuum for fish cake recipes. The simplest, and probably historically most authentic, are those with  fish, potato, salt, pepper, maybe parsley (but I wonder how much parsley was used in colonial America, I'm sure I don't know) maybe some cream or butter. At the other end is a recipe like LaGasse's calling for cream, exotic (for the time) spices, celery, and more. Every recipe takes an egg or two. I'm trying to land near the middle with my try at fish cakes.

Here's what I did. Get the best cod fillets you can. Work at this, get 2 lbs or so.

The rest:

Colmans dry mustard (secret ingredient)
2 russet potatoes
fresh parsley
bread crumbs, unseasoned
fresh parsley
fresh garlic
a yellow onion
butter, maybe cream, but not much

Poach the cod until it flakes. Reserve, and get it cooled.

Peel, and cook the potatoes as if for mashed potatoes.

mince the scallions, just the white bits, 4-5 of them.
mince 2-3 cloves of garlic
finely chop about 1/3 cup of parsley
grate some yellow onion, about a teaspoon

Mash the potatoes with the scallions, garlic, parsley and onion, a 1/2 tsp of the Colmans dry mustard and salt and pepper. Keep the potatoes dry, not like real mashed potatoes. Adjust these ingredients until you get a potato mixture that you are happy with, so you have to make fish cakes a bunch of times until it's right for you. It's like making dill pickles to exhibit at the state fair, there isn't a right way.

Flake the cod in a bowl, and add some of the potato mixture until it's about 75% cod and 25% potato. Form into patties, and saute until golden brown on each side. Serve with the home-made Boston baked beans your mother taught you how to make. Ketchup on the side for the beans. 

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Victor, Not a Butcher

I'm reading Bonekemper's A Victor, Not a Butcher. It's ostensibly an apologist's book about Grant's generalship, but it turns out that it debunks the myth in it's title very effectively.

I like to read books about the Civil War that have an opinionated point of view. Sure, if you are going to study the battle of Gettysburg seriously, you must read Pfanz and Coddington, and the rest of that ilk, books that are at least attempts at describing what went on without injecting the author's opinion, and mostly are great attempts at that. We need to establish what probably happened before we begin speculating.

But look at great books like Carhart's Lost Triumph, or Troy Hartman's Cemetery Hill: The general plan was unchanged, or good opinionated first person accounts like E Porter Alexander's. It's easy to argue with the conclusions drawn in books like these, and that's the joy of it. This battle is so complex that the scholarship continues to evolve even now.

Bonekemper uses the facts, mostly casualty figures, to make some surprising comparisons that show that Grant was not an unskilled squanderer of troops, but instead arguably the most skillful general in the ACW at maneuver warfare (see the Vicksburg campaign).

I'm halfway through, Vicksburg has surrendered to Grant, and this is a very good book. Bonekemper quotes some smart people like Ed Bearss, who said: "The oft told story that Grant was a heedless, conscienceless butcherer devoid of the skills associated with history's great captains is shown by the Vicksburg campaign to be a shallow canard.". Grant won the Vicksburg campaign by defeating his enemy in detail through  aggressive maneuver, abandoning his supply lines, shrewd risk taking, and relentless focus on his objective. All things usually attributed to his nemesis Robert E. Lee. I recommend this book.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oysters, Holidays

Waquoit Bay, Cape Cod, MA, USA
The Thanksgiving week ends, and I'm appropriately working on the Nutrition module in my athletic performance software. I had no idea how seriously pro sports teams take nutrition, but this whole development effort has been a big learning experience like they always are. I now know about calculating basal metabolic rate, and macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, and converting kcal's to kjoules, and much more nutrition stuff. The work goes on.

I ate a lot of oysters as part of my Thanksgiving meal, and really good ones come from my hometown of Cotuit, Ma from these folks: I don't know if they are part of a professional athlete's healthy and hypertrophic diet, but I know they're good.

Back when I lived in Maryland, I would drive up to Cape Cod to see my parents, and once I mentioned to my Dad that Cheasapeake Bay oysters weren't very good. He took me down to Waquoit Bay, just a few niles west of Cotuit, where there was a man my Dad's age running a little oyster company, Mr. Kelly was his name. He kept his harvested oysters in milk crates hung off a float on the west side of the bay, and he'd tell me to go down and get as many as I needed. I'd pack them in a cooler and take them back to Maryland. He usually charged me five dollars for a cooler full of 100 or so oysters. I think he enjoyed visiting with my Dad enough that he gave me the oysters for cost.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to be Alone

I decide a late October weekend cruise to the Magothy River from Baltimore is the thing to do. This is a no shore-side support evolution. No restaurants, dinner aboard. A purposeful alone time. Good way to use a cruising sailboat.

One of the weird things about the Chesapeake Bay is that a lot of boaters stop using it after Labor day, so I have the whole place to myself. Sailing out of the Patapsco River and rounding Bodkin Point, my only company is three skipjacks dredging oysters on Mountain Bar off Gibson Island. This cruise was a few years ago. I don't imagine we'll ever see skipjacks dredging oysters again in the Chesapeake.

It's perfect cruising weather, and is the same weather I have now in New Mexico - temperatures in the 40's at night, and in the low 60's in the afternoon.

This time of year we get a breeze out of the northeast sometimes, so it's a comfortable reach down the western shore until late afternoon when I motor into the little creek on the north side of the Magothy where the ugly orange glass house is (the same one that overlooks Ropes beach in Cotuit.) Dan Smeraglioulio will know which creek I'm in. It's a perfect snug little anchorage.

I need the Origo alcohol stove on once the sun goes down for warmth. Dinner is store bought fish cakes and baked beans, easy to cook and eat. The NE breeze lets go, and we lie at anchor in an utterly still cove. Later in the night, a light snow falls.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Foray into Edged Weapons

I've got my new tanto, a Japanese-style knife that's my new weapon of last-ditch defense. I plan on adding a wakizashi to the mix, a longer version of this, and also good for close quarters, and a tachi. The tachi is a sort of cavalry katana, and good for the coming zombie apocalypse because it is quite long, longer than a katana, and therefore better than one for dispatching zombies before they bite you.

My focus remains on short range defense within 21 feet. Most home defense related gun battles happen at very short range, and very quickly. Most likely, I'll have to win exactly zero battles, or in the worst case one.

Given that directing maximum violence at the threat is the correct tactic in a ten second fight (unless you can avoid the fight) having a close-in weapon is a good idea. This little thing works really well as a stabbing weapon, and good as a slashing weapon too. The wakizashi works the same way and adds more terror. It's big enough to behead, and was often used that way to preserve the edge of a katana. Lets not ignore psychological advantage, even in a ten second fight. No one wants their head cut off, even someone who broke into your house to kill you.

In looking into edged weapons, I've learned that there are a lot of different types of steel used to make them. The very best steel is undamaged in edged weapon to edged weapon contact, lesser steels not so. This little tanto is made from aus-8 steel, definitely not the best. But, it does take an edge, and I've got it razor sharp now using my Smiths compact sharpener. Since it will only be used either once or never, and against flesh and bone, it's immaterial if it loses it edge in the process.

For the zombie work, a best grade steel is certainly worth it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Casal Garcia Rose

Port wine comes from Portugal, and I love the stuff, so I thought I'd try this Rose from there. Won't get this one again, it was pretty bad, actually. Not recommended at any price. I paid 10 bucks.
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Friday, July 01, 2011

Creamed Food

In Henry Merrihew Plummer's classic The Boy, Me and the Cat, a very wryly written account of his 1912 cruise from Massachusetts to Florida and back in a large (by today's standards) catboat, he is forever writing about his cooking, as well as everything else under the sun. He and his son lived largely off the land on their trip by shooting  waterfowl with a .22 long rifle. They ate a lot of creamed this and that.

It's a great book, and I have a couple of copies of it somehow. Early on in the trip, Henry pitches in at a boatyard they had stopped at, lending a hand horsing some bit of heavy gear around, when a cable let go, and swung around, giving him a minor injury to his leg. Plummer writes that he "vowed never to help anyone ever again" as a result.

More great writing from Plummer follows, and great adventures as well. And more creamed food recipes. So here's one of mine.

Tarragon Chicken

This is a simplified version of the way complicated classic French recipe.

2 chicken breasts
fresh tarragon
pint of heavy cream
1-2 cups half and half
olive oil
dry vermouth
1 shallot
salt and pepper

Mince the shallot.

Season the chicken breasts and saute in a little olive oil until half done. Wrap in foil and reserve.

Put the minced shallot in the saute pan. Saute for a minute or two. Don't burn it, sweat it.

Deglaze the pan with 1/3 cup or vermouth. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce.

Chop up some of the tarragon leaves. Leave some unchopped.

Add the cream. Add the half and half. Add the chopped tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce by half or so, until it is a proper cream sauce, coats a spoon.

Put the chicken breasts in the sauce and let them heat back up, and finish cooking. Baste them, maybe for 3 minutes. Make sure they are done.

Serve with peas.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Done in by Communication

The inability of the right and left in America to agree on a single thing is the new political reality.  I say it's by design. And the right have won by stalemate. They have rendered us ungovernable.

Time was that the two parties cooperated even when they disagreed. The leadership traded horses in the back rooms of congress, laws were enacted, and, in a sausage factory-like way, the country was governed.

All that has changed, and the major change is the kind of messaging from the right. It's very, very smart, and it's aimed at the very, very dumb. And it's effective.

Compare an explanation of why making Medicare available to everyone is a money saver, that one might hear from someone on the left. It might be a few paragraphs long. It might require greater than an 8th grade reading level to understand.

The right's message in response? Socialism! One word, carefully picked to be easily (mis)understood and feared by anyone of any intellectual capability.

There are other examples: the various and constant lies told to inflame the republican base - Obama is not a citizen; the country is broke; Medicare will run out of money in seven years; Obama moved "In God We Trust" to a place of lesser import on our currency - and all manner of other ridiculous made-up crap designed to appeal to weak-minded people who are incapable of critical thinking.

The right's strategy is to message to the lowest information people in the electorate, outrage them, drive them hard right, make them unreasonable, that is, unable to be reasoned with.

That strategy has worked.
Republican Safety Net?

And how do you reason with a right wing electorate that has no capacity for reason, because it has been trained to react to everything emotionally? You can't. Real discourse is impossible. The right wins, by default.

I want to live in a country with a real federal government that can do some good. So what do we do about this mess?

I wrote this piece a while back, somewhat tongue in cheek.

Now I think we really do need to break the country up. I'm completely serious. Let the tea baggers and others on the right secede, and form a country with their vision of a federal government. Encourage folks to move there. Grant liberal access to our highway system so that states that secede but don't have contiguous borders (and those states that didn't secede) have easy lines of communications. Do everything we can to encourage states like Texas, Louisiana, Arizona and others to leave. Do everything we can to make it easy to emigrate from the US to those states, and easy to renounce one's US citizenship. Form a NATO-like treaty with the new Red US to protect them.  

What do we get? We get an electorate comprised mostly of people who can compromise, argue rationally, and who don't want to abolish the federal government. In short, a country I want to live in, and I don't have to move to England (although I still want to).

Steak and kidney pie

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The News From Couch Central, 4-7-2011

This week I'll be home, working from my headquarters at Couch Central.

My partner is talking to a lot of vendors of specialized athlete monitoring equipment, so I'm looking at different specifications for bringing their data into our database. GPS, heartrate, that sort of thing.

Port experimentation continues. Port of the week is this one:

More Port from Douro, Portugal

This is a Harris, better then last week's Morgado. Really lovely stuff.

I hate to be a cheese snob, but the "blue cheese" I bought last week turned out to be a pale, crumbly mess. From now on it's English Stilton or nothing with the porto. Trader Joes has a nice one.

In the past week, songbirds have appeared here in Pueblo Poajoaque, finches mostly. Since we arrived in November of last year, there have been nothing but crows and ordinary pigeons. And nothing else. I do miss the tufted titmice, cardinals, woodpeckers, hawks, and all the great variety of birds we had back east.

Here in the spring comes wind, and lots of it. It's tiresome, blows up a lot of the desert, and sends the tumbleweeds a-tumblin' past our place.

I'm playing around with cloud databases, and continuing a weekly sprint on the big project.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Self Defense at Sea

Somali Pirates
After this post, my friend Dennis brought up the very valid issue of what to do about seaborne marauders in fast boats. Those Somali pirates travel hundreds of miles out to sea to capture large commercial traffic, and do a pretty good job at it, so being way offshore is not enough to be safe.

It's going to be a real problem if the US or the whole world are in survival/mad max mode, and bad guys like that might well be where I am.

 My solution was and is to be a "hard" target, meaning be harder and more costly to plunder than others. There are tactical issues to work out with that plan (how to communicate and demonstrate "hardness" to the bad guys, communications in general, avoiding a fight, on and on).

So I went down to my local gun shop here in Santa Fe to talk to people who spend time thinking about how to shoot bad guys, and told them I wanted weapons that would allow me to engage, destroy, disable or at least discourage, fast moving targets, at the greatest possible range, at sea. They put me on to the .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun round or .50 BMG.

An embarrassment of riches
This is a massively capable munition, with an effective range in excess of a mile, and successful shots have been made out to 1.5 miles. You can kill a motor vehicle with this round with one shot, by shooting the motor.

But that's just the beginning of the mayhem and destructive capabilities. There are all kinds of rounds available: tracer, armor piercing, incendiary, armor piercing incendiary, sabots, and armor piercing explosive incendiary. An embarrassment of riches.

With this round and the right weapon to shoot it, I could easily sink an attacking vessel at more than a mile away, and also permanently disable their engine, not to mention light it on fire with an incendiary round or two. Leaving the bad guys too busy trying to put out the fire, keep from sinking, and wishing they had a spare engine to devote much energy to taking my stuff.

I handled a 33 pound, bolt action rifle at the gun shop today that shoots this round. It's was $3300 retail, $100/pound, a bargain in my opinion. Needs good optics so add more to the bill. It's a massive thing, but we could pack two of them on the Fisher motorsailor easily, and deploy one forward and one aft. That would leave one unmasked at all times, both unmasked most of the time, and I bet with some luck we could hold off or destroy three fast boats at once. Regardless, I do think we would be a harder target than most with this kind of firepower and effective range, and not worth attacking once it was understood by the attackers what their cost would be.

There are lots of .50 caliber rifles out there, like these:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Survivalism as a Hobby

Back when I went through SERE Level D (Survival Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school in the Navy, I didn't pay that much attention to the survival part of the training, because we all had heard that the resistance part was what separated the men from the boys.

Now I'm looking into what it takes to survive in North America if we had to be totally self-reliant - no grocery store, water off, power off, bad guys prowling around looking to take your stuff. The issues and challenges are significant.

Planning: you have to plan ahead, and stockpile all kinds of stuff.

Weight: The stuff you need is heavy, and you may have to pack it and carry it with you.

Shelter: Again, you may have to carry your shelter.

Food: You can hunt, but you also need to carry freeze dried food or MRE's.

Weapons: They're heavy, ammunition more so.

Fitness: It's hard to walk over rough terrain carrying all your stuff.

Flee or stay: Might be better to try to tough it out in your house, but people may well attack you there to try to take your stuff.

Plenty has been written about how to survive when things go completely uncivilized and full bore crazy. This post isn't that.

The more I think about how to survive that kind of mess, the more I think I need one of these:

Fisher 34 Motor Sailor

This is a blue water capable brick shithouse of a sailboat with a large cargo carrying capacity, and a pilothouse to keep you out of the elements. It's safe and comfortable at sea in any weather. You can safely and confidently cross oceans in this boat, and many people have.

The ketch rig is good for shortening sail in a blow. This is not a speed demon, but making 5 knots under sail 24 hours a day for days on end gets you there, 125 NM a day.

So, as part of my survival hobby, I've thought about how this boat contributes to survivability.

Weight: All of a sudden, weight isn't such an issue. Want that big shotgun and 500 rounds? No problem. Bring books, too, all the ones you always meant to read. You'll have time for that now.

Shelter: A nice soft berth, and an indoor steering station. Never be wet or cold again.

Food: The V-berth can hold a year's worth of freeze-dried food for two, and the bilge an ungodly amount of canned goods. A decent watermaker will produce much more water than two to four people need every day. You can fish all day, underway, just by trailing a line and a lure astern, and probably catch a big fish a day.  Hell, pack some cases of wine aboard, why not?

Weapons: All you want. Big, dangerous ones. Lots of ammunition.

Fitness: Steering is easy. Getting sails up is easy. Fishing is easy. You'll be well-rested to boot.

Flee or stay: If you're on the boat, you've fled.

This boat needs some easy to make changes. Solar panels for electricity, A good life raft, materials to self rescue in case of rig or hull failure, as far as one wants to go down that road.

Bad Guys: 200 miles offshore, no bunch of bubbas in a bass boat with guns are going to come along to try to take your stuff. World navies might molest you, as might other blue water craft, but I think it's unlikely.


Cost: This is a fairly expensive boat, $50K-$200K depending on size (30 to 37 feet) and age/condition. All blue water boats cost a lot of money. Also hard to find in the US. Lots in Europe though.

Flight Decision: You probably have to leave before it gets really bad, or people will try to stop you and take your stuff. You don't want to have to win a firefight just to get offshore.

Here's one with a nice layout, very livable:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The News from Couch Central

This week I'll be home, working from my headquarters at Couch Central.

Some proposal writing for a project that it looks likely I'll get, but I need to push it off a few months, at least while I work on the current app. Might need to sub this new one out, even if it comes in during late summer/early fall.  Hope I get to do it myself though, it's interesting.

 Port experimentation continues. This is the best one so far:

Port from the Douro Valley in Portugal
Like all decent tawny port, it's made better when it's combined with a piece of stilton or blue cheese.

Refactored the vichyssoise recipe. I've been feeling a lot better lately, so I must be healthier. Accordingly, I reduced the amount of chicken stock by half, and slightly increased the amount of heavy cream. Much more intense leek flavor, good.

My friend J. told me about a failure to feed in one of his semi-automatic pistols. Since J. has only the finest, most expensive, and perfectly maintained weapons (I'm assuming this was his Sig Sauer pistol, as good as they get), I was concerned. He says it was a magazine spring failure, from being compressed too long by a mag full of ammo. I keep my magazines loaded all the time, and sprinkled all over the house in case I've emptied one and need another, so it's time to go to the range, fire them all to make sure they still feed perfectly, and also work on the Ruger failure-to-feed-at-rack-time issue. I hope and think the Ruger just needs a good cleaning. I'll do that first thing Monday.

Last, in the clicks and grunts department, I'm debugging why linked SQL Server 2008 R2 tables work on a client machine, but SQL Server Views don't seem to be able to understand that the server name is now different than my development machine name. I'm hoping Drew reads this and phones me up with the answer. If this paragraph wasn't clicks and grunts to you, I welcome your opinion. Before I tear all my hair out.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wide Angle Photography

I am a fan of wide angle lenses, and have owned a couple of nice ones, but mostly I've used wide angle converters. The Sony VCL-DEH07VA which pulls my legacy Sony DSC-V3 down from 34M to 23.8MM is a pretty fine piece of glass, and I shot a lot of good, paid for images with the combination.
Octogon House, Lutherville, MD

Kitchen, Octogon House, Lutherville, MD

But as I move on to Micro Four Thirds photography, which I see as the future of high end amateur equipment, I'm a bit daunted by the cost of good wide angle lenses. Sure, it's early, but after dropping around $700 for a M43 body and a decent 14-42 kit lens, leaving another $1000 for the Panaaonic 7-14, and another most of a grand for the Olympus 9-18, it starts to add up. It's not outrageous money for a body and a few of lenses, it's just that new, better, and better priced lenses are certainly coming along.

So I looked for a software solution to making wide angle shots (and I do need a specialized one for a web site I'm working on), and came across Microsoft Image Composite Editor. Free. It works very well. Anyone can look like they have a few thousand invested in wide angle lenses, if they have the picture in their mind, and MS ICE.

Here's some shots of my first run at it. I just banged out some nothing shots of the living room on P, overlapping them, and then fed them into MS ICE.

Here are the raw shots:

And here's the composited image of the three.

I didn't tune these images up, so they are a little uncontrasty, but they demonstrate the point. It gives you the whole room. The barrel distortion is from the lens. For landscape photography, which I'll try out tomorrow, I think MS ICE might just be the trick. It's pretty hard to tell that this shot of the LR wasn't made with an 11mm lens on a DSLR. There is the one defect, but I could PS that out in a minute.

I'm not as much of a Microsoft bigot as I was (mostly for development tools) but it looks like they gave us a good thing for free with MS ICE.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Loretto Chapel

Santa Fe was founded in 1610, ten years before the Pilgrims landed on Cape Cod, stole some Indian seed corn, and then made there way to their ultimate destination, Plymouth, MA, where the founded their colony and began an ultimately contentious relationship with the the native people.
The Loretto Chapel's Gothic Architecture

Out here in New Mexico, it was Spaniards and Catholics colonizing, not Puritans. The Pueblo Indians, on who's land I live today, and which they own, forcibly expelled the Spanish from the Pueblo and Santa Fe region in 1680, for bad behavior.

Ultimately the Catholic Spaniards returned, and in 1873 built the Loretto Chapel. The Catholic church abandoned the place in barely 100 years later in 1968, and it was sold in 1971. Today it is a commercial enterprise, rented out for weddings, concerts, and the like. It has a gift shop, and a resort attached where the school used to be. That disappointing end aside, it is still a stunningly beautiful church.

We visited today, and I was struck by the smallness of the place. It seats maybe 80 people comfortably. There's an awful lot of detail and beauty in that small space. The alter is beautiful, as well the stained glass. Along the walls are a series of chronological "dioramas" depicting Christs condemnation to his crucifixion.

All the pictures are here.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

More Camera Talk

Working hard on my couch and expecting to become an internet millionaire any second now, it's time to consider my next real serious camera. My DMC-FX01 has been a great daily shooter, and will still probably ride in my pocket even when I get the next camera.

All Icelanders live in houses like these.

For me, it's all about lenses. At the end of the film era, I wanted one of these for the unsurpassable brilliance of the Carl Zeiss prime lenses. I still might get one and have to pay people to scan the perfect negatives these lenses produce. I know I hate scanning negs.

So get a DSLR you say? Yeah, but the last time I carried a full blown SLR kit on a trip was to Iceland, and it was a lot to lug around. Granted, it was blowing so hard most of the time and so cold that I just drove as close to whatever I wanted to shoot, jumped out of the car and banged away for 30 seconds and called it good, but what if I were to go somewhere like Monterey CA, like we are planning to do? I want to be foot mobile.

Monterey Bay from the Presideo
And I want prime lenses, like those Zeiss beauties. 

So, to get those prime lenses, small ones, and a small body to hang them on I'm thinking the Micro Four Thirds system is a good way. Why?

The Micro Four Thirds system Olympus and Panasonic for mirrorless interchangeable lens digital camerascamcorders[1] design and development, announced on August 5, 2008.[2] (MFT) is a standard created by and
MFT shares the image sensor size and specification with the Four Thirds system, designed for DSLRs. Unlike Four Thirds, MFT does not provide space for a mirror and a pentaprism, allowing smaller bodies to be designed, and a shorter flange focal distance and hence smaller lenses to be designed. Virtually any lenses can be used on MFT camera bodies using a right adapter. For instance, Four Third lens can be used with auto focus using the adapters designed by Olympus and Panasonic.

What's all that? Small bodies, big sensors, small lenses, and you can change lenses just like an SLR. But it's all small, so you can carry it around more easily.

 Hell, I can hang a Voightlander lens off of one of these bodies if I want, just like in the good old rangefinder days, back when I couldn't afford a rangefinder, and certainly not a Voightlander lens. Lots of lens choices, pocketability with a pancake lens, and lugability with the kit. Full manual control, and maybe depth of field again? I'm sold.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


This is one of the best cold soups ever. I've eaten it my whole life, mostly in restaurants. Never made it until recently though. I'm looking forward to spring and summer, and cold foods, so this comes to mind.

I've made vichyssoise a couple of times, both within the last year. It's turned out great, and this is the closest I've found to a recipe that produces the kind of soup I like this to be. I don't use the soured cream, and I swear to God before I make it again I am getting a boat motor to puree the stuff. It is an enormous pain to do it in batches, more than two thank you, in a food processor, when it's all just sitting there in the pot ready to be whizzed.

BTW, drain the potatoes before adding to the leek mixture.

This one look like an OK whizzer
The other thing I will do is poach a chicken before I make this again. A poached chicken is a delicious meal, even the white meat is good, and I'll have a ton of real chicken stock, which is so worth it for this recipe.

Make sure this soup is served ice cold.

Oddly, the best vichyssoise I've had in a restaurant in recent years was in Gettysburg at the Herr Tavern, where, when I asked our server where the fairly expensive single malt scotch I was drinking came from, went off to consult the bartender and returned to tell me it came from Scotland.

Herr Tavern


  • 2 cups finely diced raw potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces. bobp: I use 8 or more
  • 3 cups chicken bouillon: bob: make stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshy ground black pepper
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • 11/2 to 2 cups sour cream or heavy cream
  • Chopped chives
Cook the potatoes in salted water to cover until just tender. Melt the butter in a skillet and cook the leeks gently, tossing them lightly, for a few minutes. Add the chicken bouillon and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the leeks until tender. Add the potatoes to the leeks and the broth and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put this mixture in the blender (you will need to blend it in two lots) and blend for 1 minute, or until smooth. Chill. When ready to serve, mix in sour cream or heavy cream. Garnish with chopped chives. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What's Going On, anyway?

I'm sick enough with the altitude sickness and some kind of cold or light flu that my production is down. I was to have started going full bore on our Pro Athlete Management software this week, but I'm struggling to get my last consulting client's stuff done. I need sleep.

Sticking with Agile for PM on everything, though. The tools are there, it works.

Kim is working and passed her Ridealong with her boss today, even though she is sick too.

Me, I'm rallying and doing design work, building UI prototypes, and doing the stuff you do at the beginning of a big commercial project..

It sucks to be sick.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wish I were a Union Man, but Glad I'm not an Employee

In solidarity with our brothers and sisters manning the barricades in Wisconson. Also, yet another good cover, which I am all about in addition to peoples's and workers rights.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Puzzle

Raymond Davis is in jail in Pakistan. The Pakistanis want to try him for murder.

Here's some reporting on this.

Apparently, it's common in Lahore for street robbers to ride up to a vehicle on a motorcycle and commit an armed robbery.

Davis worked in the embassy/consulate, and no one on our side of this wants to say what he did there. Reporting elsewhere, Washington Post, I think, said that Davis is ex Special Forces. The Special Activities Division Special Operations Group (SOG) within the agency is my guess for where this guy works. SOG is said to be comprised of the best of the best from all our various special forces, and CIA operational people who are under cover are mostly in our embassies.

But the real puzzle is the interesting part. It's like the cooking show we watch where the chef's are given a basket of seemingly un-combinable ingredients, and made to use them all in a dish (Chefs: you have in your basket a blood orange, kippered herring, a jelly doughnut, and kimchee. You have 30 minutes to make your dish). Davis had multiple false ID's, facial disguises, several cell phones, a pocket telescope, and a headband mounted flashlight in addition to his Glock pistol. Seems like some kind of Mission Impossible scenario.

We will never know what kind of op he was on, if any. We do know a Glock pistol, once again, is utterly reliable, and let him kill two armed attackers before they killed him. His being ex Special Forces, if it's true,  was undoubtedly a big contributor to his winning that fight. I hope we can get him back from the Pakistanis without too much of a kerfuffle.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Agile Project Management is Ten Years Old

I'm finishing up my first project that I've managed using Agile methods. I like Agile.

The team is a subset of a normal development team. Just me, a subject matter expert, and a product owner. What's a product owner? This is the best thing I've read about that role:

Project managing using Agile feels slightly out of control, at least as far as dependencies and delivery dates goes. It feels a lot like driving my Miata a bit too fast on a road I don't know. I'm pretty sure at any given moment that I will survive the experience, but the issue is certainly in doubt. But the reality is that after doing this work this long, I really hold the dependencies in my head. At the grossest level, everyone knows that physical database design has to be done in order to prove that you know enough about what to build to create a user interface prototype. We all know this.

I'm sticking with Agile. I have a huge project starting next week, and it will be Agile PM'd, Don't want a mess like this.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Camera For Bob?

I'm working on a new software product that is intended to be the quality leader in professional athlete performance management. There's more that goes into managing an athlete's speed, agility, nutrition, injuries, rehab, etc. than I knew. And since a bunch of data has to be collected in remote locations like an America's Cup boat or a field where you are running sprints or other speed tests, I have to make decisions about remote broadband connected tablet PC's and laptops that I don't like making, because that part of software development is completely uninteresting to me. I just want hardware and connectivity that works, so I can concentrate on data models and the stuff I am actually competent at. I'm no technologist.

Simplott Center in Boise, ID. Shot with my point-and-shoot Panasonic DMC-FX-01
But when it comes to photography, I am a hardware junkie. I read about cameras. I enjoy the feel of a well-built camera in my hand (I like small cameras, BTW). Maybe it's because my tools for designing databases are completely abstract (a vision in my head) and the camera is my tool for making a photograph, no different than a hammer or an axe, or a good surfboard, for that matter. Regardless, I chase after good cameras, and it'll soon be time to think about a new camera or two.

A good long lens allows this kind of compression. Gettysburg PA, film.

I admire my friend Dennis Krivda, who is a photographer's photographer, and stays at it with older equipment. He takes great photographs and is motivated to do that internally, and doesn't give a hoot about the hardware, I think. The brain makes the photo.

For me, I get energized to do photography by a new camera, a new environment, anything new. Which is why I make my living with databases instead of photography. I'm like a crow swooping down on whatever is shiny. I'm shallow that way.
Film, point and shoot, with flash

So, it's coming time for a new camera.

We have a real embarrassment of riches when it comes to what they call the "enthusiast compact camera" market, where I'm looking. Panasonic, Canon, and Olympus make very good cameras in this market segment, as well as Ricoh, Leica, and other high-end camera makers. What am I looking for?

First, a world class lens. At the end of my time using film, I went to Contax prime lenses because it was worth the extreme money for tack sharp negatives. Today, you can buy point and shoot a camera with a very, very good lens for less than $200.00, much less than a single Contax lens costs. And you need a bunch of lenses if you shoot Contax which adds up to way too much money for an amateur like me.

Manual control. I need full manual control over shutter speed and aperture. I've owned many point and shoot cameras, both film and digital, that were great, but tricking the camera into using the setting I want is a pain in the ass.

The motordive let me get this shot. Film SLR, and a decent lens.

I want a hot shoe for a real flash. Flash ruins most photographs, but  REAL flash allows photographing a room of people possible.

Pocketability. I will carry this camera everywhere I go, even to just buy groceries. The best camera is the one you have with you. No camera, no picture.

I'm thinking of a couple of promising looking cameras. My first SLR was an Olympus. I used it In Monterey CA years ago. I liked that it was small and easy to carry. Olympus has a cool camera out now, this one:

It has deficiencies, but all cameras do.

Also looking at this:

I like the Panasonic better. We'll see.