Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vichyssoise

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











Vichyssoise

  • 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
Preparation
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: http://agilesoftwaredevelopment.com/blog/jackmilunsky/top-10-activities-product-owner

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:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/OlympusXZ1/

It has deficiencies, but all cameras do.

Also looking at this:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasoniclx2/

I like the Panasonic better. We'll see.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Edged Weapon Maintenance

I like Tanto blades for their strong spines. I have a 3 inch fixed Tanto that isn't great steel, and needs too-frequent sharpening if I use it for much, but it will take an edge. It's light and concealable, and pretty usable, but there are trade offs in everything.  I'm thinking about one of these next for a concealed little blade, just for the AUS 8A Japanese steel and relentless quality Cold Steel have.

This little sharpener that Kim gave me is brilliant, I can whip up a good edge in no time. You can sharpen a 14 inch chef's knife, or a small tactical knife. Light and effective, and easy to use. I like tiny things, probably from spending so much time living on boats.

In the longer term, I have a number of bigger Hattori Hanzo steel blades on order that won't need such frequent sharpening, but when they do need it, I'll use this little guy. Sure, I had to forgo retirement, but it's Hanzo steel for goodness sake.

A great little support tool that you can carry effortlessly if you have to rough it or live on the water. I've used it regularly for a while now and it is really, really good.