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August 30, 2006

Ah, Paris!

Tonight I tuned up my niece’s shiny new MacBook (it came with 10.4.6, so I installed updates and stuff). She’s headed off to college this weekend. *sniff*

The MacBook is nice; I was concerned about the keyboard and the glossy screen, but I liked them both. I’m not in the market at the moment, but it’s still fun to play.

On the way home, I heard a portion of This American Life. The show’s theme was “Americans in Paris.” Such praise for the City of Light! A feeling of giddy exhilaration welled up in me. I had a mad impulse to drive straight to the airport. Yes, take me to Paris! Now!!! I am a mad, impetuous fool. Well, actually I’m not; I went straight home. There’s still time, though, to pour a nice apéritif of pastis, light up a Gauloise, and listen to the whole show from the beginning.


I heard part of that broadcast, too; it was very entertaining. I especially liked the David Sedaris portion, which revolved almost entirely around him embarrassing himself with bad French in public places.

Mrs. Harridan, When I heard the show in the car, I tuned in after David Sedaris, and only heard that segment several days later. It was refreshing to hear from someone who is not enamored by living in Paris, or I should say not enamored for the usual reasons.

August 28, 2006

Vacation Reading

I took a book with me on vacation, although I didn’t expect to do much lounging around reading (and didn’t), but the urge to stop moving and settle in with a good book was often there. When we visited towns (in New Hampshire and Maine on this trip), we always made time for strolling and poking around and typically gravitated toward the bookstore. In one of the first (Village Books in Littleton, New Hampshire), I found a copy of Heat: An Amateur Cook’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Pasta Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher on a Hilltop in Tuscany by Bill Buford. I bought it.

I was introduced to this book two years ago when The New Yorker ran a preview (“The Pasta Station”) in the September 6, 2004 issue. I still have it—and I don’t save magazines. The article enthralled me, and when I got the book, I could hardly put it down. Now, I lap this stuff up, but even so, I think Buford would inspire anyone with his own passion for cooking and his portrayal of the ambitious perfectionism of his mentor Mario Batali. After reading Heat, you might be inspired to apprentice yourself—if only the pay were better and it wasn’t such hard work—but it’s a job you could love.

As an amateur cook with no professional experience, I have always been fascinated by what goes on in restaurant kitchens, and not just the best ones. The challenges of short-order cooking are just as interesting (to me) as those of haute cuisine. I like restaurants with open kitchens that provide a glimpse of the action. I don’t learn much by watching, though. There is a vast chasm between my fumbling around in the kitchen and the professional’s confident moves. Buford draws back the curtain by sharing a lot of inside knowledge. For example, when he was assigned to the grill, he had to learn to keep track of the state of 20 or more items at once. He broke a lot of fish learning to flip them. He learned to grill meat by feel. “You cook a steak until your ‘touch’ tells you it’s there.” It’s all fun to read about, but alas, there’s no substitute for all that practice and having Mario Batali correct your mistakes.

The book I took with me was Mac OS X Internals: A Systems Approach written by the brilliant Amit Singh. I never touched it on vacation, but have dipped into its 1600 pages a few times since then. It’s an impressive achievement and a useful one, too.

August 26, 2006

First Honey Harvest

Anne reaped the sweet rewards of her beehive yesterday with her first honey harvest, extracting about two gallons. Her hive is more about supporting a bee colony for its pollinating benefits in the garden than in honey production, but the bees are workaholics and make way more honey than they need. For more details, read her post all about it.

Jars of honey from the first harvest

OK, everybody, tall jars in the back. Everybody squeeze in close. Good. Now say “bees!”


I'm drooling here.

That looks scrumptious. And a good deed, indeed. From what I read, hinyebee populations are dwindling. Yum.

That looks sooooo good. I love honey.

(Great lighting too, btw! Your photo makes that honey look especially good.)

Mark, Can I put you down for a half-pint then? :-)

Frank, Yes, honeybees are not native to the US, and although there are wild colonies of bees, they have been in decline because of mite infestations.

Seadragon, Thanks! I tried backlighting through the honey, but didn’t like it as much.

I'll trade you some jam for some honey. I have black plum, white plum, and a couple of other varieties that I made before breaking my wrist. (In other words, I have no peach jam and it's breaking my heart)

Pierre MARECHAL Apiculteur écrivain
38 Ter, Chemin Reboul Ligne des Bambous
( Ile de la Réunion )
☎ 02 62 25 40 02
EMail :

Object: demand of photos with written authorization to publish apicoles photos

Sir, I appear at you: I am a small beekeeper on the Island of Reunion and prepare a work on the bees which should be born in 2009 My question is the following one, to illustrate the chapter stake in jar of the honey I look for some dumped on the conditioning(packaging) of the honey.

In summary would have you beautiful 2 or 3 dump high resolutions 300dpi to illustrate the subject of the conditioning(packaging) of the honey (put in jar) as well as your authorization has to reproduce clichés(pictures). Under every cliché(picture) will be mentioned your name and web site
To take(bring) out her(it) of this last one, I am going to see to it to inform you about it. I cannot assure(insure) you a copy of the work because this step(initiative) of free ventilation(breakdown) of books(pounds) is of the only spring(competence) of the publisher(editor). However it will be doubtless possible to me to send to you the page or will represent your clichés(pictures)
Sincerely Yours.


August 25, 2006

Pixsy Visual Search [nanoblog]

I tried out tonight, searching for “lobster roll” of course. Only three of the first 15 hits had anything to do with lobster rolls, and worse, hits 16 through 30 were all photos from the same site site of the same thing, a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship. A personal peeve: They use JavaScript links which don’t degrade gracefully (the links won’t work if JavaScript is disabled), and they broke the back button. Grr. I guess I’m just not a visual thinker. Google’s images search does much better. The first 20 are all relevant, and one of my photos is Number One. I’m just sayin’. It’s not even my best photo, but I’ll take it.

August 24, 2006

That MacBook Wireless Hack

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the cavernous—and empty—warehouse of Mac security exploits also exerts a powerful force whenever the door is opened with the possibility of finally welcoming an actual exploit. That giant sucking sound you hear on some Mac web sites was caused by news of an attack against a MacBook via its wireless card, but it sounds like the warehouse will remain empty. (Hey, close that door!)

I won’t rehash the details here. For those, John Gruber filed a lengthy analysis in his usual thorough and thoroughly-readable style. I read something last week about this at Sex, Drugs & Unix and didn't give it that much more thought, but then I was surprised by Crazy Apple Rumors’ report the other day: “Security Bitch Watch.” CARS is always funny, but rarely if ever has John Moltz riffed on an actual issue in the Mac community. That's not his purview. After all, CARS is “dedicated to the fabrication of Apple rumors that defy verifiability, grammatical convention or any basis in reality” with the emphasis on fabrication. In this case, however, John unleashed the full power of his masterful control of the vernacular on the miscreants. Fortunately he only uses his powers for good.

Although it would be foolish to pretend that the Mac is invulnerable (after all, security updates are released regularly), this episode gladdened my heart about the state of security on the Mac. Clearly, news of exploits real or imagined is so rare that when it arrives its hard to miss the villagers assembling with their pitchforks and torches. Things are so secure on the Mac that the only news is this possibly-rigged exploit, which if it pans out as such has nothing to do with Macs. Not that I’m smug or anything. My pitchfork is at the ready.

August 22, 2006

Woz Coming to Philly

I learned from Angst on a Shoestring that Steve Wozniak will be speaking at the Free Library on September 30. How cool is that? I’d buy his book, and undoubtedly will, as soon as it (“iWoz”) is released.


Hey there! Thanks for the mention. I'm never sure if folks are reading me out here in the vapors of the net. It's going to be so exciting to have Woz here.


August 20, 2006


I’m watching a cat-hair tumbleweed swirl around like the trash bag in American Beauty. We’ve been away for a week on vacation, and the mere cats have been working overtime shedding, the implication being that cat-hair tumbleweeds only appear when we’re on vacation, which would be a blatant misrepresentation of our housekeeping, not to mention a run-on sentence.

I mention American Beauty for no other reason than to segue into the news that we signed up with Netflix. Why is this news? For one thing, we spend almost no time in front of the TV, maybe 20 hours a year. An Inconvenient Truth was the first movie we’ve seen in years, yet we both like movies a lot. It’s just that we never carve out any couch time.

We’ve thought about Netflix as a solution for our movie-less ways, but despite its advantages (selection and convenience), it seemed to only promise a treadmill of movies we’d never get around to watching. By treadmill I mean one movie a week; if we didn’t watch that many, it stopped making economic sense at the $17.99/month rate I had heard about. Then we learned they have a “lite” option with a limit of two movies a month for only $5.99. We might be able to keep up with that. We already had a “queue” of sorts—a list of movies we both wanted to see, but of course had no way to watch. Our first two movies will be Ulee’s Gold (1997) and Amelie (2001).


Amelie! One of my all time favs.

I just "resaw" Amelie a couple of nights ago. Hope you like it too!

August 19, 2006

Raw Power

After having a Nikon D70 for two years, I’ve finally taken a few tentative steps toward using the so-called Raw format. I’ve been reading a book by Rob Sheppard.

I took my first Raw picture of some clouds the other day. At the time I was thinking that this was a challenging subject in terms of dynamic range that might benefit from being shot in Raw.


Click for a larger version.

I could stare at clouds for hours (see “Deep Thoughts 2”), especially backlit clouds, but I have never been able to capture the luminous effect. This pic begins to do it. Although I was very careful with the exposure, I otherwise didn’t edit this picture. I’m not sure how this shot looks on your monitor, but the clouds just seem to pop more than in any other shot I’ve taken. I don’t know whether this is because it was shot in Raw or not, though. Anyway, baby steps.


Hm, if you didn't otherwise edit this photo, I'm not sure what benefit you would get from shooting in RAW unless the default settings of your RAW converter were better suited for processing this image than whatever you have your camera set to do when it shoots JPGs. The benefits of RAW have more to do with the latitude you get when post-processing the image, particularly with regards to keeping the image in 16-bit while you make adjustments, as well as being able to adjust white balance, exposure, etc.

I agree with you that this image really pops. But I'd have to credit it to your careful choice of exposure, rather than to using RAW.

I think, if you enjoy post-processing, that you'll really enjoy shooting in RAW. If you hate post-processing, it may not be worth it. :) Personally I find it to be worth the extra step for those times when I do want to make adjustments and wouldn't want to be fighting with the set parameters of a JPG image.

Seadragon, You're right, I got no benefit from using Raw. I was kind of thinking out loud sharing my surprise about the results of no post-processing vs. my usual JPEG workflow of contrast tweaking with a simple S curve and an unsharp mask action. I think you're saying the default Raw conversion is better than my hand tweaking. I totally agree and that hurts. :-) I'd like to find out what the converter settings are. (I previewed the image in GraphicConverter and just did a Save As.) If I could match that look by adjusting the Camera Raw plugin I would learn a lot, I think. I took a few other shots on the trip and they all look like that in GraphicConverter, kind of the way slides do through a loupe on a lightbox - saturated and contrasty in a pleasing way. But you're right; it's not the Raw format itself. The way things seem, I'd be doing *less* post-processing with Raw since I like the default results better than hand-tweaking. :-)

One quick thing you might want to check to see why the RAW images might look different than your previous JPGs, is what your JPG settings are on your camera. You might think you have them set to "nothing" (i.e., "0"), but that's usually misleading. I use Canon, so I don't know the settings on the D70, but my guess is that you have settings for Saturation, Contrast, and Sharpening. Usually setting them to the lowest end of the scale (maybe -2 or -1, depending on the scale) means that it only processes them the minimum levels, setting them in the middle sets them to be whatever Nikon considers a good default (these are usually kind of punchy, since that's what people usually like), and setting them at the high end (1 or 2) gives you more heavily processed images. If you're doing your own processing after shooting, even if you're shooting JPG, you might want to have all the settings as low as possible in case you didn't want that much contrast / saturation / sharpening. You can always add more, but it's much harder to remove (e.g., you really can't remove sharpening, and you can't decrease contrast very much without revealing noise in the darker areas, etc.).

Of course, if you're shooting in RAW it doesn't matter what those are set to because no in-camera processing is being done to your image - that's the point of RAW. :) The only settings are whatever you choose to set in your RAW converter (or accept the defaults of the converter).

Anyway, hope you have fun playing around with this! It's funny that as you're exploring RAW, I'm wondering if maybe I spend too much time post-processing and should go back to JPG...

August 16, 2006

Adventure Paper!

Are you a writer craving real adventure, yet you can’t bear to leave the couch? If this sounds like you, have I got something for you! It’s a terrific new product called Adventure Paper from National Geographic. Finally, there’s a paper that can handle your insatiable thirst for adventure. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, Adventure Paper is right there for you in the thick of the action. Just think what heights Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, J.D. Salinger (how did he get in there?) could have achieved if they had Adventure Paper!

Adventure Paper can help even if you never have any real adventures. In fact, you’ll never again need to experience the inconvenience of real adventure. Anything you write using Adventure Paper—no matter how boring—will be transformed into Real Adventure.

Let’s face it. Writing is an adventure. At least it is for me—I never know what's going to happen next when I sit down to write. So, no matter what kind of writer you are, switch to the only paper that can handle your unquenchable lust for life—Adventure Paper!

Available in standard letter as well as legal size for lawyers seeking adventure. Adventure Pen sold separately.

August 15, 2006

Deep Thoughts 2 [nanoblog]

In Jack Handey mode: Yesterday whilst idly watching the clouds scudding across the sky, I realized that they looked painted on to a blue backdrop that scrolled by. In other words, I wondered how they stay intact and why the wind doesn't just break them up. When you see clouds up close (in an airplane), they look fragile and amorphous. My only thought (without actually just looking up the answer, for crying out loud) is that the cloud vapor and the wind are all moving along at the same speed; the wind isn’t “pushing” the clouds along. Deep. Or wrong. I’ll take Meteorology for 200, Alex.

August 13, 2006

More Lobster Rolls Reviewed

I finally finished reviewing all the places we went to last year. Three in Massachusetts, Essex Seafood, Charlie's Place, and Kelly’s Roast Beef; and eight in Maine, Two Lights Lobster Shack, DeMillo’s, Susan’s Fish and Chips, Bayley’s Lobster Pound, Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster, Rapid Ray’s, Rose Cove Cafe, and Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier. That is all.

August 11, 2006

Basil Ice Cream? How About Garlic

Mac wrote recently about making basil ice cream, which I’ll bet was delicious, because now I have tasted garlic ice cream and lived to tell about it. I had some homemade garlic ice cream last week at a friend’s house. Garlic was the only flavoring; the other ingredients were the standard eggs, milk, cream, sugar... something like that; I’ve never made ice cream. If garlic works, then basil must be heavenly. Of the flavor, she writes, “it’s sweet with a light basil note to it.” That’s how the garlic ice cream tasted—mostly sweet and creamy with a subtle edge that was unmistakably garlic. It was surprisingly well-balanced if you can ever balance sugar and garlic, but then I like garlic a lot. I think what would really make my head spin around, though, is cilantro ice cream, if there is such a thing. Cilantro is one of my favorite flavors ever.


All I could find was lime-cilantro sorbet, which would probably be less creamy and tarter (but it seems like the flavors would blend well and refreshingly, no?). Anyhoo, here it is: Cilantro-Lime Sorbet

I was treated to dinner a couple years ago at a bistro in north Jersey called the Garlic Rose.

Excellent Italian fare. Everything comes with a Garlic clove, and they even have garlic ice cream. It wasn't horrible, but comparing other flavors to it isn't exactly setting the bar very high either.

August 8, 2006

Mere Leopard

Yesterday, Steve Jobs previewed Apple’s newest mere cat, Leopard, an OS update due out in Spring, 2007. Even though I didn’t actually watch the keynote, but only followed it via Engadget’s phenomenal coverage (how do they do that?), it seemed like an exciting presentation. “Seemed” only because it looks like Leopard isn’t going to change my life except maybe for Spaces. I don’t know why it’s taken this long to offer virtual desktops. Am I wrong, but doesn’t every flavor of *nix have this feature already? If Apple could build Fast User Switching, I wonder why virtual desktops have been missing in action for so long.

Spotlight, the search utility I love to hate, will be enhanced, but I didn’t see any sign that I’ll be any happier with it. I just want something that can find files, like every other version of Find since the beginning of time, and Spotlight can’t do this reliably. To that end, I compared some utilities recently that actually do find files by name. Two I tried are EasyFind (which is free), and FileBuddy ($39.95). Both have to perform a directory scan for every search so they are slow, but FileBuddy was almost twice as fast. FileBuddy also offers a ton of file-management features. Utilities that use a database are much faster, naturally. HoudahSpot wraps a GUI around the Spotlight API and uses Spotlight’s index to find by filename, so it can work only as well as Spotlight itself. Since in my experience, Spotlight can’t be trusted, neither can HoudahSpot. For now, I’ll be using the command-line utility locate. It is also lightning fast and, more importantly, reliable, although I had to update its database manually.


I'll upgrade to Leopard, mostly because I'm still running Panther on my almost three year old PowerBook.

Plus, I wonder if there will be a release parties at the Apple Stores!

I even have Panther dogtags that a friend got for me when Panther was released.

August 7, 2006

“You Look Exactly Like Linux”

If operating systems were cars, there are plenty of examples of what kind they would be, but what if the analogy were extended to people. What would they look like? One idea is to make the head of the company serve as a proxy.

Apple didn’t stray too far from this idea in choosing the actors for the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” commercials. After all, Steve Jobs dresses similarly to the young man playing the Mac when delivering his keynote speeches, and the actor playing the PC looks vaguely like Bill Gates. Most of the spoofs I’ve seen mine this same vein. But what about Linux? Only the series from TrueNuff TV includes Linux, and I enjoyed these the most. These ads highlight the message that Windows and OS X have much more in common as competing proprietary systems in contrast to Linux as the open-source “outsider.” Check out “Upgrading” to get a glimpse of their characterization of Linux and then “Security,” in which BSD is mistaken for Linux. “You look exactly like Linux.”

I’m also looking forward to seeing how “Mac” does today when Steve Jobs previews the next version of OS X at the WWDC. Hoping for a little proprietary excitement and maybe, just maybe, “one more thing.”

August 6, 2006

Some Band Names

I’ve written about misheard lyrics before, but never misheard band names. Two silly examples: the Almond Brothers Band and the Rolling Scones. (More proof that I am obsessed with food.)

Two other examples I fabricated are more mashup than misheard:

Steely Dan and John Ford Coley. Although the name sounds plausible, it would be an odd combination musically.

The New Christy Seekers Association. You can really see the neck bolts on that one even if the three groups are mostly compatible.

Finally, I give you the name of my band—if I ever have one: Gang Green.

August 5, 2006

Lobster Rolls in the News [nanoblog]

Nice article in the New York Times about lobster rolls. “In a superheated summer, a search for the best lobster rolls is as good an excuse as any to take a road trip on the sea-cooled coast of Maine.” Amen to that. I learned of a few new places to check out in Maine, and the article mentioned some places that were already on my list. Of course, no article would be complete without including Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, “famed among road-food fanatics for its lobster roll.” It’s certainly the most-famous place and widely regarded as serving the best lobster roll. After several visits in the last ten years, I’m on record with a differing opinion of this place, although I’m headed back there to collect another sample. Via Albert via email.