Bad Bookeeping

Jeez... December and January is an AWFUL period for me! In these two months, besides my normal expenditures, I have somehow arranged my life so that I also have renewals on 2 magazine subscriptions, my flickr account, the domain registration on 3 different websites, two support memberships, and two website memberships... how the fuck did I ever decide to stack all this into one time period... so soon after the holidays?! Bleh!


Food Oddities

Have a look at these:

Hormel Hot Dog Chili,

and Tasty Bites Madras Lentils.

Two vastly different foods, from far flung corners of the cuisine world, as different as I could imagine based on just personal knowledge of the two recipes...and yet somehow (as I discovered to my great disappointment) they taste very similar?! What the hell goes on in the prepackaged food world that that is possible?


293: Photo Phriday: Phake



Moving day! My brand new work space! Taking some serious adjustments, but I'm managing okay in the end. For about 2 years I've shared a 10'x40' space with two other people, now there's just the two of us, plus I went on a serious cleaning frenzy... it's so empty in there now.

Jan 12 of 12: 2010 Panoramas

Moving into my third year of the 12 of 12, (see the other participants here), sometimes it feels like I've taken the same photo over and over, especially when you factor in the Project 365 that I have been working on since last March. Especially when I am spending another day in the office... So today I decided to see if I could broaden the focus a bit, and find a new way to show my environs. Using Photoshop's "Photomerge" command I took several photos of my surroundings today and merged them into a single large panorama for each. Maybe it will provide you a stronger NYC sensory experience...

My home subway station, on the way in to work. This was 24 photos merged. Some of these merged more successfully than others, and I did very little tweaking beyond what Photoshop did for me. Most of the merge process was automated.

Stepping out onto 6th ave for lunch. (Check out a similar view from over 100 years ago, of the same building.) I would have been underneath the train tracks in that photo 100 years ago from my vantage point here. (23 photos)

Buying lunch at "Green Cafe." They have a couple locations in town, my favorite is the North Carolina Chicken Sandwhich, barbecued chicken and slaw on a kaiser roll. (15 photos)
My office space, for a few more days. One of my co-workers recently left the firm so I am shifting over to a new space as soon as I have an afternoon that isn't packed with other obligations. I'll go from working 10' from my office mate to about 30' but I'll have a faster, better computer, and more room. (22 photos)

One of the views that I know I have photographed more than a few times. The view off the fire escape at the back of my building. I come here a lot to use the phone, and to get some fresh air and be out of my chair for a few minutes. (24 photos)

The main area of my office. Long ago and far away when people in my profession made models everyday, and my firm employed 20 or 25 people (about 8 times what we have today!) this was probably a bustling area. Today it is mostly used for sorting the mail, and doing the occassional bit of photo mounting. (27 photos)
On the way out in the elevator. I wanted to test what Photoshop would do with a more confined space. Interestingly this was one of the panoramas that it had the most trouble with. (9 photos)

Broadway and 17th, on my way to the subway. It was a cold clear night in the city. One of the colder that we've had recently actually. (24 photos)

The office subway station. Pretty empty this time of night. (36 photos)

Back in my own neighborhood. Not the most scenic view in the world, I know, but it's where I live. (25 photos)

I stopped off for a jar of tomato sauce for dinner, and few odds and ends. Kid Flash tells me that the veggie mascot guys on top of the case to the left there used to sing and dance. I don't know if I am sad I never saw that, or happy that I don't have to live through it. (19 photos)

Home again, home again. I managed to get my entire family into this one. Both kitties, Ted over on the left (he's black so he blends into the window a bit) Sarah on the right, and there's Kid Flash in the front room. And there I am in the mirror. See my roman shades on the left there? I made those just before Christmas out of a Sari. I've actually made new curtains for most of the house at this point. Just the bedroom is lacking.

Thanks for stopping by!


Eggs Al Forno

This, ladies and gentleman, is my new favorite Sunday breakfast, Eggs Al Forno, it is such a simple dish you that barely call it cooking, but it is packed with flavor and looks fancy enough to be impressive.

This is one of those "whatever you have on hand" type dishes, very little about it is set in stone.

This works best in a monkey bowl, but could be done in any oven safe dish with a flattish bottom, like a small casserole, a large shallow ramekin, or Corningware bowl.

First cut a piece of nice bread, a baguette, or some sort of rustic loaf, (we used a hunk of a semolina loaf) to the general shape and size of the bowl. Rub a little olive oil on the bowl to keep the bread from sticking, then lay the bread in and drizzle a tiny bit more oil over it.

Here's the "what you have on hand" part. Cube some cheese, and medium bodied cheese will do. We used swiss, but you could also use Fontina, edam, even cheddar I suppose. Anything that will hold a cube shape , and melt nicely. Sprinkle a good handful of the cubes (they should be on the smallish side) around the sides of the bread. Top that off with some grated parmesan.

Over that sprinkle whatever else you like: chopped onion, chives, garlic, or any fresh herb you have around. Even some chopped ham, or (cooked) bacon or proscuttio would do nicely. We used some yellow onion and fresh rosemary.

Crack one or two eggs (depending on what you want) and lay the eggs over the bread. Top with just a pinch or two more parmesan and salt and pepper.

Put the whole thing into a very well pre-heated oven at 500ยบ. Bake for about 8 minutes, then begin checking to see if the eggs are done to your likeness. 8 minutes should leave avery soft eggs, with a runny yolk, and each minute after that will firm it up more. About 12 minutes will give you a yolk the consistency of a boiled egg.

Easy-peasy, pretty to look at and delicious to boot. Make it for your next one-night-stand.




Fire The Graphic Designer!

A common subway poster, pretty ubiquitous, for an associates degree college, again, fairly standard on the subway. But take a closer look and see if you can figure out why the graphic designer out to be shown the door... Don't see it? Here's a closer look....
Notice anything fishy now? No wonder that goldfish is jumping out of the bowl... The Nothing is coming!

Fire the Graphic Designer!

286: Photo Phriday: Phractal

A Little More About Avatar

Another thing... there have been all these articles praising Cameron for the meticulous world building research that he did, that he answered every scientific question, and that he considered every species on the planet down to the smallest plant, blah blah... And that is pretty accurate. The animals all have homologous structures, 6 limbs, (4 up front, 2 in the back.) 4 eyes, (two large ones, and two small ones.) Breathing holes at the base of their necks in the area of the trapezius muscle on humans. That external spinal cord USB port thingie. Obviously they all evolved from a common ancestor.

Oh. Wait.

Except the Na'Vi. Who are humanoid, have only 4 limbs, and 2 eyes, and breath through a nose located in the center of their face... just like us. But they still have the USB port so obviously they are related to the rest of the planet but did a pretty heavy evolutionary divergence at some point? Weird. And not really how evolution works.

If you aren't sick of it you should also read this article on "Project 880" which was the original tile of the movie. It breaks down the script that Cameron had before he so obviously neutred it to create the movie we actually got. It is much, much better, and explores the nature of identity (is a person still the same person if he is in a different body?) gives us a much broader sense of the stakes for the humans in this fight (Earth is dead and Pandoran resources might be able to revive it,) and actually accomplishes a lot of the stuff I asked for previously. Sad that more of this didn't make it past the network execs.


Avatar: A Review

James Cameron's Avatar. One of the most expensive movies ever made, and certainly one of the most talked about. Even before it was released it was being praised and panned all over the internet by the usual geek squads, Cameron was raked over the coals, the story has been shredded and compared to Ferny Gully, Dances With Wolves, and Pocahontas by various people (btw, if you've seen it definitely check that Pocahontas link). And it made a Billion dollars. And it was awesome... mostly. Kinda.

Here's the thing. They're right. It IS Dances with Wolves, and Fern Gully, and even Pocahontas... and At Play In the Fields of The Lord, and Alien, and about a dozen other movies, and I think that's where it suffers.

Everyone is also right that it is a visually stunning movie, and a turning point in the way that movies are going to be created. There are points in this movie where even a trained eye will not be able to discern what is real and what isn't. I can honestly say that the created reality of this movie is so fully realized and so awesomely detailed that it astounded me. I'm pretty good at picking out the CGI from the soundstage stuff, and there were points here where I'd be hard pressed to even begin that. They are incredibly close to getting CGI humans right, they have finally began to emerge from the uncanny valley, and soon a mix of CGI and actor will be perfectly seamless (to me the hands are the failing here, they are still pretty stiff.) The animals are already past that point. The ability to create and integrate unreal species has been achieved here. This will be the new point of comparison for every visual movie going forward for quite a while.

The problem is the story. Those apt comparisons to Pocahontas and Fern Gully? WAY too apt. Don't get me wrong, the story was enjoyable, and held my interest, but it was not much above the level of a good young adult novel. It was so simple, and straight forward and incredibly black and white. Corporations=bad. Aboriginals=in touch with nature. Military=evil. Margaret Meade analog=caring. The evil guys act evil. The aboriginals are kind and giving and mystical under their gruff exteriors. The corporation sells out its PC research wing in search of greater profits. Everyone acts exactly the way you'd expect them to. The plot proceeds exactly the way you'd expect it to. There is no one and nothing in this movie that is in any way surprising. I mean... out of a thousand military troops only ONE felt that what they were doing was bad enough to fight against it? Other than the two scientists that went rogue and left the compound NONE of the scientific team made an effort to sabatoge the military, or contact the corporate higher ups, or speak to the media? Thousands of Na'Vi on the planet and the corporation hadn't figured out a way to corrupt a single one of them? (No "firewater" or $26 in trinkets on Pandora?) At no point during this movie was the outcome in doubt, it was all just a matter of watching how the cards got played out.

Formula movies are formula movies, and I guess they have a place in the entertainment culture, but for $500 Million... can't we have a few twists and moments of genuine storytelling rather than just some rearrangement of story cliches? Is Hollywood incapable of not making a remaking, even when they aren't trying to make a remake?

If I wanted to get really nit-picky I could start to question the whole premise of the movie... Why did they need the avatars? So they could breathe? Why couldn't they perform scientific research while wearing those breathing masks that the military used? Because the gravity was different? Obviously not so different as to prevent long term stays on the planet. Why were the humans on the surface at all? If they were all operating avatars from a space station, then sure... but everyone was planet side. If they were trying to blend into the native population unnoticed that would also be another thing, the way Next Generation used to portray their away teams, but again, they told the Na'Vi who they were, even to the point that the Na'Vi knew their real bodies were elsewhere "dreaming" of being with them, so what was the point?

In the end... I enjoyed it. I might even see it again, which is rare for me. But was it a slam dunk, best-movie-I-ever-saw, awesome? No. I have some serious questions about how watered down our entertainment has become. Is this like District 9 where (I'm told) I didn't get it because I wasn't the intended audience?

Oh! And my other question... are we so Puritanical a society that even made up cartoons of alien species who have no breasts and aren't even mammals have to wear bras?



Resolutions: 2010

I'm not making this mistake again... yes... all four resolutions from last year, (Carry lunch, exercise, draw more, blog daily) all still apply. I'm 5 days in... I've already failed at the daily blogging... I've carried my lunch the second day, but not the first... I haven't lifted a leg to exercise any more than I normally do... but I have drawn just a bit... (there are some new ideas bubbling in there...) I refuse to call them resolutions though. Maybe, a wish list? Short term goals? Just... general goals? I don't know. But I do know that I need to do these things. I need to get a creative life back underway especially. That is the most important of this list. So, let's go... 2010. Let's get it on.