Best thing about being home alone

Posted in personal at 12:37 am by wingerz


Jen’s away again this weekend.

There aren’t very many good things about being home alone, but here’s one of them: I can leave clean laundry on the bed! This has several benefits: 1) Saves time because I don’t need to fold laundry (this is clearly the most important). 2) Forms an extra layer of insulation over the covers (handy for those cold winter nights). 3) Makes it easier to pick clothes out in the morning (your entire wardrobe is on display). 4) Serves as a great indicator for when laundry needs to be done again (when the bed is clear).

The only drawback is that it looks messy.

And yes, this is a desperate plea to the wife. Stop leaving me at home alone!


Thoughts on DSLR ownership

Posted in equipment, photos at 1:04 am by wingerz

I’ve had my Rebel XT for well over a month now. No regrets about making the switch from point-and-shoot so far. Some random thoughts:

It’s not that clunky. I’ve taken the camera everywhere with me, including two hikes. I’ve also biked with it. Carrying the camera bag around isn’t as bad as I thought.

It’s still easy to take bad pictures. Not all that surprising. At least now I know it’s mostly my fault and not the camera’s. I definitely am more aware of shaking-induced blurriness in photos than I used to be.

The XTi would have been nice too.. Occasionally I find myself thinking that it would have been nice to have the XTi’s extra autofocus points (especially the ones at the thirds), but overall I’m very happy with my decision. Especially since it meant that I stayed under budget.

Post-processing takes time. I’ve been shooting in RAW and tweaking each image a bit before converting to JPEG. Also, I need to do a better job of keeping track of metadata so that later on I can export to RDF and query my images with SPARQL.

I’ve controlled the desire to acquire new accessories. Next big purchase will probably be a decent tripod and ballhead, but that won’t be for at least a few months.

It’s easy to learn on your own. Favorite blogs include Digital Photography School and the similarly named Photojojo and Photodoto. There are also a lot of self-guided courses and podcasts. This is what I love about the Internet, though I’m sure I would benefit greatly from some formal instruction.

There are some drawbacks. Unless someone else knows how to use an SLR, I don’t end up in that many pictures (I guess that’s where the tripod will come in handy). Non-DSLR owners appear intimidated when I bust it out. Jen is about to kill me for taking so many pictures of her. And all of a sudden, a few hundred dollars doesn’t seem like it buys you that much.


Spanish Tortilla

Posted in food, home cooking at 11:25 pm by wingerz


A few weeks ago, Jen told me she had been craving a Spanish Tortilla, an egg and potato dish made by her Spanish roommates when she was living in Pamplona. I actually remember the night that her roommate Sophia made it for us – she used a lot of olive oil and was quite adept at flipping the tortilla (see Step 4 below). Since we had a lot of potatoes last week (thanks to a buy 1 bag, get 2 bags free promotion at the grocery store), I decided to give it a shot.

The end result was quite tasty. Authentic tortillas are a bit thicker, so I think my pan is a bit too wide to do the job perfectly. Be sure to get your potatoes to your desired thickness before mixing it with the egg.

Spanish Tortilla
This recipe is taken directly from here. The original site has some nice pictures to go along with each step.

4 medium sized potatoes of a good variety for frying.
4 eggs, preferably if they are from free grain-fed hens
Half an onion (medium size), finely chopped
ExtraVirgin Olive Oil (EVOO) of a soft variety such as Hojiblanca
Salt (about a teaspoon, but it would depend on your taste and the amount of onion you use)

1. Preparing your ingredients. Peel the potatoes, wash and dry with a cloth. Cut them in halves through the long axis Cut them in slices, about 2mm thick Put in a bowl, add the chopped onion and salt, stir.
2. The first Frying. Fry them in EVOO in a pan, with not much oil. If you put a lot of oil you’d get crusty french fries and you want them to be soft and tender, so you have to be very careful with the oil temperature and the amount of oil. I usually set my vitro ceramic at about 6/12. It is quite possible that they get stuck amongst them. After all, they don’t have so much space in the pan. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the variety of the potato.
3. The Mixing. Put the eggs on a bowl and give them a few strokes with a fork. A key for success is not to get them perfectly beaten. Take the potatoes out of the pan, trying to avoid an EVOO excess. I usually put them directly in the bowl with the eggs. Let the potatoes rest with the eggs for a while, perhaps 5 minutes will do. This way, fried potatoes will absorb part of the lightly beaten eggs, making it even more yummy.
4. The Shaping (or Second Frying). Now put a small pan (smaller than the one you used for frying the potatoes) and a very small amount of EVOO. Let it gain temperature, drop the mix from the bowl and stir a bit. Now let it sit for a while, because you want the external part to fry while the internal remains tender and wet. As soon as you feel you can put it upside down… do it. I usually turn it with a plastic apparel I bought specially for that matter, sort of a plate with a handle in the center, but you could do it with a plate and a bit of training. Also, I usually turn it about 4 times.


“Done” with Zelda

Posted in games at 11:07 pm by wingerz


Last night I finished Zelda. It was a phenomenal experience, correcting some of the problems that plagued Wind Waker (not enough dungeons, clunky navigation in the overworld). In the end it took me about 41 hours, but I pretty much charged through the story, missing some of the upgrades, heart pieces, and treasure chests along the way. Sometimes when a game is this long I lose motivation to complete it, but this kept my interest all the way through.

+Dungeons: For me, the heart and soul of a Zelda game is the dungeon design, and in this respect Twilight Princess is extremely successful. At a few points in the game (that I remember very vividly), I was “stuck” for a few minutes on a puzzle, but managed to reason my way through it after looking around. I love a game that poses a decent challenge without driving me to GameFAQs every other night.

+Overworld navigation: Take the scenic route on your horse or warp there directly. Walking is an option as well, but not a very fast or exciting one.

+Swordfighting: Loved the new sword techniques (although you can get by without them) and one-on-one swordfights against bigger, uglier enemies. Can’t wait for the Zelda built from the ground up for the Wii.

+Lots of cats: They’re all over the place, and you can pick them up.

Controls: Aiming with the remote was great, especially for picking off faraway enemies. The motion sensing for swordfighting was a bit too sensitive – sometimes I’d trigger it by shaking my leg or moving the nunchuk around.

Creepy NPCs: Bug-collecting girl could have been in Resident Evil. And those clowns are definitely up to no good. And the birds with human heads are just freaky.

-Bosses: Beautifully modeled and cool in concept. Unfortunately, overall they were on the easy side. My fairy was with me from the time I scooped her up into a jar. This isn’t a horrible thing, but it definitely lessens how memorable the encounters are.

-Wallet management. I was trying to collect 598 rupees. I had 550 and found a treasure chest containing a 100-rupee coin. It wouldn’t let me pick it up because my 600-rupee wallet was full.

I’ll almost certainly go back and wander around the world. Hyrule is a beautiful place to explore, and I’m kind of sad about completing the story. Overall, it’s a spectacular game and one of the best I’ve played.


Dinosaur Comics

Posted in amusing, personal at 4:48 pm by wingerz


Yesterday I was catching up on some blog reading and came across the 12 funniest people on the Internet. I started reading Dinosaur Comics and became instantly hooked.

The comic features the exact same panels for every strip. There are three dinosaurs and they talk about everything from grammar to puns to encryption to a guy named Lee. It’s a bit less geeky than my other favorite webcomic, XKCD.

Ah, and here’s one that made me think of Chris.


A Twist on Broiled Salmon

Posted in food, home cooking at 10:17 pm by wingerz


Salmon is one of my favorite fishes. I love eating it raw or cooked, and I love how easy it is to prepare thanks to its fattiness. While thumbing through TNBR, this recipe looked like an interesting take on broiled salmon: when it is almost done, you spread a layer of mustard on the fish, followed by a layer of a bread crumb, potato chip, and dill mixture before sticking it back in the oven for a few more minutes. It was very good, and definitely something that I’d prepare for company thanks to its short cooking time. As you can see in the picture, I probably left it in the broiler for a minute or two too long, so check it early.

Broiled Salmon with Mustard and Crisp Potato Crust
From America’s Test Kitchen‘s The New Best Recipe

3 slices high-quality sandwich bread, crusts removed
4 ounces high-quality plain potato chips, crushed into rough 1/8-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
6 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 whole side of salmon fillet (about 3 1/2 pounds), pinbones removed and belly fat trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1. Adjust one oven rack to the uppermost position (about 3 inches from the heat source) and the second rack to the upper-middle position, heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Pulse the bread in a food processor until processed into fairly even 1/4-inch pieces about the size of Grape-Nuts cereal, about ten 1-second pulses. Spread the crumbs evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast on the lower rack, shaking the pan once or twice, until golden brown and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Toss the bread crumbs, crushed potato chips, and dill together in a small bowl.
3. Increase the oven setting to broil. Cut a piece of heavy-duty foil 6 inches longer than the fillet. Fold the foil lengthwise into thirds and place lengthwise on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub the fillet evenly with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper to taste. Broil the salmon on the upper rack until the surface is spotty brown and the outer 1/2 inch of the thick end is opaque when gently flaked with a paring knife, 9 to 11 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven, spread evenly with the mustard, and press the bread crumb mixture onto the fish. Return to the lower rack and continue broiling until the crust is deep golden brown, about 1 minute longer.
4. Transfer the salmon and foil sling to a cutting board, remove the sling, and serve the salmon from the board.


Lonely foosball guys

Posted in personal, photos at 12:00 am by wingerz


Our poor foosball table has been totally neglected. The guys must be wondering where we have been for the past few months. They’re probably hoping for another game some time soon.

Noticed this view of the ‘field’ during a brainstorm session this afternoon.


Pictures that cost me my bike

Posted in personal, photos at 12:54 am by wingerz


Here are a few of the pictures I snapped at the Public Garden last week while my bike was being stolen. Not a great trade in retrospect, but it was a pleasant afternoon. There were lots of people walking around, and some confused cherry blossoms were in full bloom.


Kids on sports

Posted in amusing, personal, sports at 4:15 pm by wingerz


Overheard at the Everett Costco mini-food-court, one boy to his friend:

“Beckham’s getting like $205 million for five years. That’s so much money! Pedro only gets $52 million over five years. It’s because soccer is a harder game to play. The forwards are running around all the time.”

Good thing Lee wasn’t there, or he might have smacked the kid.


Boston Baked Scrod

Posted in food, home cooking at 11:14 pm by wingerz


I’m still catching up on some recipes that I made before the holidays. This is another one from TNBR. It was quite good. I used haddock instead of scrod. Be sure to check the fish early; I think mine was overcooked a tiny bit.

Boston Baked Scrod

2 slices high-quality sandwich bread
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 medium shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 1/2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and ground black pepper
2 skinless scrod cod fillets (about 1 pound each), cut in half crosswise

1. For the topping: Adjust one oven rack to the upper-middle position (about 6 inches from the heat source) and the second rack to the middle position; heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Pulse the bread in a food processor until processed into fairly even 1/4-inch pieces (about the size of Grape-Nuts cereal), about ten 1-second pulses. Spread the crumbs evenly on a rimmed baking sheet; toast on the lower rack, shaking the pan once or twice, until golden brown and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Toss the bread crumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.
3. For the scrod: Increase the oven setting to broil. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat until the foaming has subsided. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallot and garlic and saute until slightly softened, about 1 minute. Remove the pan form the heat; add the lemon juice, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and swirl to incorporate. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
4. Season the scrod liberally with salt and pepper. Fold the thin tailpieces in half to increase their thickness. Place the fillets in a shallow 13 by 9-inch casserole and pour the melted butter mixture over them. Broil until the fish is completely opaque when gently flaked with a paring knife, 14 to 15 minutes. Baste the fish with the pan drippings and top with the bread crumbs. Continue broiling until the crumbs are golden brown, about 1 minute. Using a metal spatula, transfer the fish to individual plates and pour the basting juices around the edges of the fish (not on top, or the bread crumbs will become soggy). Serve immediately.

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