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Fermentation!…wait, that’s not right?


I’ve spent this past summer trying to DO THINGS but stupid life keeps getting in the way.  No matter –  I have these September days to get a better understanding of what happens to rotting plant matter when mixed with either a shit ton of salt or a packet of yeast.

Few may recall the batch of adorable cucumbers I picked up at DC’s Union Market.  Using a variation on a Alton Brown recipe, I set them to ferment for two weeks.  I assume I did something wrong (too warm, too cold, not clean enough, not the right types of cukes) because they came out gushing like broken water balloons.  The brine was tasty, to be sure, but Dill Salt Stew is a quick path to cardiac arrest.

Back to basics. Sauerkraut is a product of lactic acid fermentation.  That is, with enough salt and smashed vegetation, lactic acid generated by the greens will kill any bacteria which might otherwise make you sick and preserve the cabbage. I hadn’t had any ‘real’ sauerkraut before a brief trip to Hamburg.  It was so good as a side dish for a roasted pig knuckle dinner, also very good, I ate on a cool night outside with a liter of beer.  And I love Kimchi, which is basically the same thing. Basically, pickled cabbage is pretty tasty stuff.

So I shredded two heads, fine strips, and mixed them up with a good bit of sea salt.  I added 1/2 of a white onion, sliced, and five or six garlic cloves.  By the handful, I placed the salted greens in a 3 gallon pickling crock and then pounded it with a potato masher until their juices flowed.  Once the goods were sufficiently mashed, I topped it off with a little spring water, covered it with a plate and weighted the plate down with a bag filled with salt water.  Covered with a towel to keep the bugs out, in two weeks, fermentation should be complete.  If my kraut turns out like previous batches, it’ll be crunchy and tangy.  It already smells awesome.  I’ll serve it with grilled pork…


Beer!  Unfortunately, this batch of RyePA from Northern Brewer won’t be ready until October, weeks after the kraut should peak.  After a seriously long hiatus from homebrew (you should see the stuff growing in the siphoning equipment) my pal Joe came over on Wednesday night and helped guide me through the steps.  He was kind enough to bring along 6 gallons of spring water (only used 5) and a bottle of Stone Farking Wheaton W00tstout.  Between that and a few Mamma’s Little Yella Pils, we managed somehow to successfully boil the wort and get it all into this carboy, where my brew is now happily bubbling away.


Mixtape #4 – Fentanyl Pop Dreamland, On Repeat – Side B



01 – Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years
02 – Jim Croce – You Don’t Mess Around With Jim
03 – The Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
04 – Billy Joel – You May Be Right
05 – George Harrison – Got My Mind Set On You
06 – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Still The Same
07 – Jim Croce – Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)
08 – Wings – Let ‘Em In – Wings
09 – Linda Ronstadt – That’ll Be the Day
10 – The Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want
11 – Traveling Wilburys – End of the Line
12 – Jackson Browne – The Load-Out
13 – Jackson Browne – Stay
14 – The Beatles – A Day In The Life

Mixtape #3 – Fentanyl Pop Dreamland, On Repeat – Side A



01 – Randy Newman – Sail Away
02 – The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil
03 – The Beatles – I Am The Walrus
04 – Linda Ronstadt – When Will I Be Loved
05 – The Hollies – Bus Stop
06 – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – We’ve Got Tonite
07 – The Beatles – Dear Prudence
08 – The Byrds – Mr. Tamborine Man
09 – The Cars – Drive
10 – Randy Newman – I Love L.A.
11 – The Beach Boys – Fun, Fun, Fun
12 – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Hollywood Nights
13 – Huey Lewis and the News – I Want a New Drug

Meg White, You’re Alright

Meg White is a Miniature Pincer/Beagle Mix, or a Meagle.  She rescued us just before Our Dog Sookie left for an afterlife of string cheese trees and comically slow bunnies.  Without her, the last couple of months would have flattened me.

 meg001 meg002 meg003meg006

Today, she’s getting her baby machine removed.  I know it’s ‘the right thing to do’ but that she will be in pain for the next week or so breaks my heart.

Robert P. Pedersen, PhD

When I was my nephew’s age, my father read me ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ or as he liked to say, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Ka-nig-it.’  Even though he shared a modern translation, not the Middle English verse, it’s a tale too advanced for a little boy.  But, as many have told me, Dad thought Sara, Kevin and I were the smartest children any parents could have.

For those who don’t know the story, Gawain is one of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur’s cousin.  At the Christmas feast, a giant, green-colored knight arrives and challenges Arthur: swing an axe at my neck today, and I get the chance next Christmas.  The chivalrous Gawain accepts the challenge on behalf of his king and severs the Green Knight’s head.  Gawain glories in triumph, until, that is, the body rises, picks up his own head and reminds Gawain of his promise.

You can see why any father would tell their son this story.

‘Gawain’ is a tale of chivalry and honor, and how a man might live up to the rules he sets for himself.  One year later, Gawain does set out, even though Arthur gives him an out.  On his journey, Gawain faces three challenges – Dad always appreciated threes in his literature and life – and like all earthly men can be, Gawain is swayed from his code.  He can’t meet the impossible rules he’s set for himself.  As his punishment, rather than take his head, the Knight gives Gawain a gash on his neck, a permanent reminder of man’s inherent fallibility.

Still, history and literature remember Gawain as a man of honor.

As a boy, I admired my father.  He was smart.  He could speak on any topic.  If you were wrong, he let you know with his full might.  He defended the marginalized.  As an educator, Dad did battle against small, self-important politicians so the less fortunate could get a good education.  He took me to see the film Tron.  He wrote clearly and concisely.  He loved the Beatles and the Stones and Bob Seger.  He loved dogs and babies and small children and they adored him.  He made good French toast.


Days after he told me Gawain’s story, Dad brought me this toy knight.  The paint has flaked off his plumage and the crest on his shield glued down with Elmer’s.  I keep it on my desk at home and I look at it when I write.

Like all boys, as I grew older, I noticed rust on his armor and the frayed edges of his garter.  Dad didn’t know everything, but sometimes acted as though he did.  His stories were repetitive and long.  If you held a poorly thought out opinion, he would lecture you on how to correct your error in logic.   He rubbed people the wrong way and did not care.  He moved our family half a dozen times before I was 13.  His body was scarred from illness.  Eventually, he stopped working.  He stopped writing.

I thought he should be different, more like other fathers.  Golf.  Plan vacations to Florida.  He should be cordial even to the people he disagreed with.   We should have stayed in one place for more than two years.

And I think he focused on what his life should have been.  During his last few hospital stays, we talked about how people should have recognized his ideas.  Mom shouldn’t have work so hard, for him or for herself.   He should secure our financial future.  More, I know, he held on to.  He did not believe he should burden me with his responsibilities.

But the word ‘should’ asks people to live up to an impossible standard.  ‘Should’ tells us that we know what today would be like if we had lived differently yesterday.  Should keeps us from moving on after we make mistakes and blinds us to good we do.

Today, as a man, these things I know.  My father loved my mother.  They were married for 43 years.  Dad moved from San Francisco to New York City and earned a Bachelors, Masters and his PhD.  He worked to improve community college education.  He taught and mentored students.  He raised three kids with mom.  He supported every one of our dreams.  We prosper.  Sara is a PhD, married to a good guy and has three brilliant sons.  Kevin is the most genuine dude in New York and brings music to people who really love him for it.  I married a beautiful girl who makes me happier than anyone thought possible.  Dad gave me advice about money and career and life that I use every day.  He taught me how to write.  He loved babies and small children and dogs and they adored him.

As a man, I admire my fatherfor all he was.

QuinCamPoix – Part 1 – Irfanview, the Command Line and Panoramas

From the very outset, I knew the best tools for this hodge-podge of processes would need accept command line instruction, rather than the point and click of a mouse.  It is fair easier to automate text commands than the movement of windows and a cursor.  You can make your computer, and the software on it, do wonderful things with properly formatted text instruction, without worrying about a lot of stuff flying all over your screen. Applications which work from the command line may also have the benefit of consuming few computer resources, which is critical if you choose to run your photobooth with an old PC or low-powered netbook.

Irfanview is an image slideshow and processing application with a modest resource footprint. It can display and manipulate many image formats, including the RAW files form my Nikon DSLR. Although it’s Windows User Interface, or UI, is the primary method of interaction, it does accept command line instruction. Here is a list of those commands.  This list is also included in the Irfanview installation.

Much of the QuinCamPoix functionality is based on two commands: Panorama, which instructs Irfanview how to stitch together multiple images of your choosing; and Slideshow, which I’ll discuss in a later post.

Panorama, from the documentation:

Example for /panorama:

Syntax: /panorama=(X,file1,…,fileN)

First parameter (X) is the direction: 1 = horizontal, 2 = vertical.

i_view32.exe /panorama=(1,c:test1.bmp,c:dummy.jpg)

Creates horizontal panorama image from 2 other files

To get us started, I have placed four photographs, 1.jpg..4.jpg, in the directory c:quincampoix.

 1 2

3 4

To merge these four together into a vertical strip, I type this command while in the Irfanview working directory.

i_view32.exe /panorama=(2,c:quincampoix1.jpg,c:quincampoix2.jpg,c:quincampoix3.jpg,c:quincampoix4.jpg)

Command Prompt_2013-06-25_13-52-31
Enter the command in the Irfanview home directory.

Here is the resulting file:

Saved to the clipboard, opened in Irfanview UI
Saved to the clipboard, opened in Irfanview UI

Good start.

By default, Irfanview opens this image in its UI, but will not save it.  To save the new image automatically, I add the command ‘convert’ at the end of the line, and define the path to the destination directory and the new file name .

i_view32.exe /panorama=(2,c:quincampoix1.jpg,c:quincampoix2.jpg,c:quincampoix3.jpg,c:quincampoix4.jpg) /convert=c:quincampoixtempstrip.jpg

Command Prompt_2013-06-25_15-33-22
Add the command ‘convert’ and the location and file name for your new image, for example: /convert=c:quincampoixtempstrip.jpg

The finished product:

Four Images in a Row
Four Images in a Row

With this single line I have created a basic photostrip, combining four separate images into one vertical image. But it’s not there yet as a complete document of the day’s festivities.  The image is too large to fit on a 4×6 sheet of paper.  Also, I would like to add white borders, to make each photo visually distinct and to make it easier for for the photoboothee to separate the printed image later.   To tell Irfanview how I want the application to make these changes to the photos, I need to first create a batch file through the UI.

More soon…

The QuinCamPoix Photo Booth – Introduction

Several weeks ago, during much happier days, SHE and I flew down to Austin, Texas to celebrate the marriage of her brother to his bride. There was music and tacos and so much beer. I slept during the day and spent evenings and early mornings out with new, interesting people. The ceremony and reception were beautiful.

Selfishly, I had asked the happy couple if they would be interested in booking my latest project for their day. Surprisingly (especially to the laziest part of me) they agreed and I brought the guts and the brains of the QuinCamPoix Photo booth with me to Texas.

I'm So, So Happy
I’m so, so happy for you

When SHE and I were married, I wanted a photo booth at the reception. I like the idea of them, physically and emotionally: friends stuffed into the little chamber, mugging while a black and white camera snapped four quick pictures. Young romantics making duck faced kisses at each other behind the privacy curtain. The pre-War kiosk where your Aunt took her passport photos, one with her eyes closed, just before heading to Europe, the that would change her life and make her the woman twirls at party in long African fabrics. Those like any featured in the movie Amelie and drove that story along.

Photo booths are everywhere now, but scarce as a wedding prop in ought-7. While I’m sure I could have tracked one down for the venue, therental fees with chemicals and paper might have cost more than the reception. Besides, why paper in a jacked in, wire tripping world? Party goers will ultimately scan the strip and share on The Facebook, or MySpace or their blogger blog. I wanted to cut out that middleman and do it right: from camera to Internet in seconds. Print to a photo printer if you wish, but you know it’s going to get online eventually.

There are software options out there for the DIY Bride or Groom with a PC, Web Cam and lots of time. Some are free and/or open source. Most are not and come with both a nose bleed ticket price you learn to expect when planning a wedding and severe licensing restrictions, designed to keep you from cutting into the developers real business: renting out photo booths for weddings. I could have hired someone to code, or tried to learn myself, but with all the other garbage that I avoided until the last minute, I gave up on the idea and focused on the important bits. Like making my future wife happy.

Since then, I’ve moved forward on this idea in half steps, pushed by fresh inspiration or a promising bit of code. My enthusiasm peaks soon and drops straight down a hole, knocked off sides by work or someone’s payday or the goblin that convinces me, fuckitall, this isn’t going anywhere.

Then, a few months ago, inspiration visited again. This time it stuck. Wasting time on the Internet does pay off.

Browsing Instructables, I clicked into a feature story about a fella who made an Instagram-inspired photo booth. I love corporate fluffing as much or more than the next guy, but an oversized iPhone app doesn’t interest me. Plus it uses a DSLR, two flashes and a Mac Book. While that produces a superior photograph picture, I can just see some drunk brah knocking my $1,000 camera on the floor and then spilling a 7-and-7 over the keyboard.

From there I found the so-called Ultimate Homemade Photo Booth. The build is focused strongly on the box, not the software. At the end of the day, if your project can’t take a good picture and format it the way you would like, it’s not much of a photo booth. That said, the Ultimate Photo Booth touches on elements I’ve considered and showed that, with a little polish, I could make my project work. Existing free software I knew how to use could come together to make this thing happen.

With the additional discovery of CommandCam, a Windows command line Web Cam capture tool and many hours spent lurking around the AutoHotKey forums, I was able to finally put a solid plan together.

My goal: to hack together a photo booth with at hand hardware and low cost/free/open source software. The photo booth must navigate through the collection of four or five spontaneous snapshots with a preview before each, pull those separate images together into one final strip and also do one or all of the following: 1) Print to a printer; 2) email to a recipient; 3) post automatically to social media. I decided to name my photo booth project the QuinCamPoix, named after Amelie Poulain’s suitor in the movie which bears her name, who collected discarded photo booth images from around Paris.

Something adorable is under here.
Something adorable is under here.

As I said, this is total hack work. I don’t use any specialized knowledge or skills. This project employees the hard work of many men and women who have way more Kung Fu than I do. As you’ll see, I’ve polled the wilds of the Interwebs for this stuff and I will dump it here for you to do with it what you will. I hope that it makes your day/life/memories better.

Often open source projects solicit contributions to pay for web hosting and to subsidize future development. I have contributed, by choice, to the makers of the tools I use, when available. If you do use any of these elements in your own photo booth, or if you use them for something else awesome, I recommend you give what you can. These smart folks have spent a lot of time making great software. They deserve our thanks in the only material form that makes a difference: greenbacks. If something like hunger gets in the way they will stop their good. I don’t care what any 16 year old girl in art class told you: there’s no such thing as a successful starving artist. Give what you can.

More to come…