Archive for April 2012

April Hodge-Podge   Leave a comment

I had a lot of fun with the Spring Break Hodge-Podge. I also suspect that some of the things I throw out in various social networks may get lost, even if they don’t quite become a full-on blog post. I decide to try to make hodge-podges of this sort of thing a monthly feature.

I learned composting coffee grounds is a good idea

Waiting for a meeting to start, I took this picture of the Roebling Suspension Bridge and The Banks.
View from Conference Room

I encountered Hello Kitty duck tape. Fixes everything and undeniably cute.
Hello Kitty Duck Tape

I saw a video from Big Cat Rescue about giving their cats pizza boxes for enrichment. For my coalition, a bag from to-go food works just as well.
Luna in the Bag

I got a new Hawaiian shirt. This might qualify as a space suit. In any case, it matches my Hula Tornado.
Hawaiian Shirt

Hollywood is out of ideas.

Luna claimed my Mexican blanket.
Luna Claims My Blanket

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Posted 2012-04-30 by Mr. Guilt in Hodge-Podge

Our Flowers are Blooming   1 comment

We have all sorts of flowers blooming around our house right now.
Red Rose #2

Red Rose #3

Red Rose #4

Red Rose #1

Purple Flowers #2

Purple Flowers

Other Purple Flowers

Pink Rose #2

Pink Rose #1
So Lovely…

Posted 2012-04-29 by Mr. Guilt in Cincinnati, house

Dreary Day Playing with the Camera   Leave a comment

I try to pull out my camera about once a week and take photos. Mostly it’s to practice and experiment. It helps me learn what different settings do and how to access them, as well as try different ways of composing pictures. It’s advice I’ve learned from numerous photography blogs and podcasts. I often have some rational for doing so. Today, it was more doing it strictly for the sake of practice.

My cats were willing–to an extent–to help me.
The Boys Hanging Out

Eddy and Beso are still very close. They seem to frequently hang out together, sleeping, wrestling, grooming, or simply saying “hi.”
Eddy Headbuts Beso

Luna has a different (though fun) way to look at the world.
Dangling Luna

I really liked how I caught Beso’s reflection in this shot.
Reflective Beso

The Mislocation of the Shuttle   2 comments

Enterprise at Udvar-HazyI’ve seen the Space Shuttle Enterprise three times in my life. It was at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, Louisiana, which I went to twice (once with my family, once with school). As a space junkie, it was a thrill to stand in the presence of the object of my affection. Seven years earlier, I had watched it fly in the Approach and Landing Tests, something I remember to this day. ON a business trip a few years ago, I saw it again at the Udvar-Hazy Center. It was as if the sense of wonder I felt in grade school had never left.

When they announced the retirement of the Shuttle, I had hoped that one of these magnificent spacecraft would be given to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It made a lot of sense: the USAF provided a lot of logistical and technical support to the program, and the shuttle flew a variety of military missions. The museum is centrally located in the country, and it totally free to the public–even Udvar-Hazy (who charges for parking) can’t say that. It seemed like a great place to display an artifact.

Unfortunately, they were not awarded one. Discovery replaces Enterprise in Washington. This made sense, as the Smithsonian is the place to display our country’s heritage. The site of shuttle launches, the Kennedy Space Center, was a natural location for a shuttle–Atlantis will be displayed there. Edwards Air Force Base, the site of the Approach and Landing Tests, is not well suited for a public display, but the California Science Center, in Los Angeles, is nearby, and puts an orbiter on the West Coast. I would have thought Enterprise should go there (as that’s where it actually flew), but Endeavor will be calling it home. Fair enough.

So, the orbiters has a fair geographic distribution, and the locations either have clear ties to the shuttle program or are sites of our national heritage. The National Museum of the United States Air Force would have complimented that well. Instead, the Enterprise is destined for the Intrepid Museum in New York City. I have several problems with this. First, it does not compliment the geographic distribution of these artifacts–Washington, DC is only a four-and-a-half hour drive from New York. So, the shuttles are collected on the coasts. Further, the Intrepid has no connection to the shuttle program, and a tenuous connection to the space program as a whole. The shuttle is not a carrier based aircraft–it does not make logical sense.

Oxcart BellyI’m also concerned about the Intrepid Museum’s ability to care for artifacts. As you may know, I’m a huge fan of the Blackbird family of aircraft–the A-12, SR-71, YF-12, and D-21. The Intrepid Museum has an A-12, Archangel 122. This was a political decision, with Archangel 122 redirected from another museum to whom it was already promised. There are many concerns around this decision.

First, it is displayed on an aircraft carrier. The OXCART was never a carrier based aircraft. The display itself is a minor complaint–military aircraft are displayed in a variety of settings. However, the titanium skin of the A-12 is not suited for display on an aircraft carrier, where, in New York, it is exposed to snow, hurricanes, and salt water. So, beyond the historical context of the display, it poses risk to the condition of the aircraft.

There are indications that the Intrepid Museum has not done a good job caring for this artifact. Graffiti accumulated, and not taken the steps needed to care for it, including regular washings with distilled water. Ideally, it should be inside, especially in the harsh environment where the Intrepid sits. Rather than protect it, they allowed a golf ball to be hit off of it for a movie.

Granted, other sites have OXCARTs outside. However, the sum of this–the harsher conditions and care, seem worse. One commentator said they could not think of a worse place to put such an aircraft. For example, the Battleship USS Alabama museum has an A-12 that was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, in spite of an indoor location among other military aircraft. Through tireless work, they have restored it as though it was new.

Will the Intrepid Museum be able to care for Enterprise any better than Archangel 122? I hope so. As noted, I’m already disappointed that a museum that had stronger ties to the program and expand the potential for taxpayers to see their investment was turned down in favor of the Intrepid Museum. It would be sad if it also meant Enterprise did not receive the best possible care. Unfortunately, watching its delivery in New York this week, there is little to be done but hope the best possible care is given.

Posted 2012-04-28 by Mr. Guilt in Aircraft, rant

Bah De Ah, Never Was a Cloudy Day   2 comments

I’m a child of the Eighties. Duran Duran and Madonna are my music, or at least the start of what might mark that.

Yet, somehow, starting last Fall, I got on a big disco kick. Turns out, I’m a fan of Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Comment from one of the versions of this song I looked at: “That’s 2:20 of pure happiness.” You know what: it is.

Posted 2012-04-26 by Mr. Guilt in Music

Files in the Cloud   2 comments

PlacesToday, there were several announcements on the cloud computing front. Google announced the long-rumored Google Drive. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s SkyDrive announced expansions to its service with Mac and Widnows clients. This joins services such as Dropbox in enabling users to store files “in the cloud.”

All these products work roughly the same way: users can upload files to this, and access them from any internet-connected computer. What’s more, they have client software that make the file space appear just like part of the file system. I can launch Word on my home computer, and open a file on one of these services like any other file, edit it, then close it. Later, on, say, my work computer, I can access it the same way.

SkyDrive is interesting in that it works with Microsoft’s web-based version of OFfice. This is very appealing to me, in that I can use the powerful desktop version of Excel to work on a document at home, but can edit it on another computer with the browser-based version. In contrast, Google Docs only edits files in their proprietary format, which cannot be edited by another program such as Excel.

I’m still skeptical about keeping very critical files in the cloud. First, there is the obvious security concern. Further, I worry about the “Hotel California” problem: I might choose to “check out” of the service, but my files may not conveniently come with me. While less of a concern with Google and Microsoft, what happens when the company folds?

However, for keeping some reference files, templates, and logs, it seems like a great solution. I’ve been using Dropbox for some time now, to keep a few files that come in handy in a variety of places. Google Drive and SkyDrive both look like they will expand on this capability. Ideally, I’d pick SkyDrive. However, my MacBook is still running Snow Leopard; SkyDrive only works with Lion. I haven’t decided if this will be the final thing to push me into the new version.

Posted 2012-04-24 by Mr. Guilt in computers, IT Opinion

Backyard Bunny   1 comment

A bunny visited our backyard! Our street dead ends into a park. We see deer and racoons not infrequently, but in fourteen years hear, we’ve never seen a bunny.
Backyard Bunny!

He hopped around a bit, and nommed a few dandelions.
Nomming a Dandelions

I tried to get a bit of video. Shooting through the window screen, my autofocus struggled a bit. I switched to manual after a bit. You get to see him hop a bit, in any case.

We enjoyed our visit.

Posted 2012-04-21 by Mr. Guilt in animals, bunny, house

Pizza Dough!   5 comments

Many years ago, my wife found a recipe for pizza dough. At the time, I had just started moving from the dough cycle on the bread machine to doing the whole process myself. After one or two false starts (and big, doughy messes), I was making something that was great! We went from ordering pizza to preferring what comes out of our kitchen (not to say we don’t go out to Dewey’s once in a while). This recipe has been passed broadly among my friends.

I know this recipe has been successfully executed on a pizza pan, which may already be in your kitchen. However, I favor Alton Brown’s approach: I put a baking stone in the oven before preheating the oven (so the stone gets up to the desired temperature along with the oven), and build the pizza on a floured peel. My usual sequence is to shape the dough, then sauce, followed by any herbs (garlic and basil), then cheese, then other toppings.

When I put the pizza on the stone, it actually sizzles. If necessary, I use a dough blade to help loosen the dough from the peel, and, if necessary, the finished pizza from the stone. This produces a crust baked through to the center of the pie.

Ingredients
Pizza
1½ Cups of Warm Water
2 tbsp Sugar
2¼ tsp Yeast
1½ tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Cups All Purpose Flour

  1. In a mixing bowl, pour in water, sugar, and yeast. Stir slowly until dissolved. Let sit to “mature” for about ten minutes. A foamy head will form.
  2. Add the salt, olive oil, and one cup of flour. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the remaining flour, one cup at a time.
  4. Remove from bowl and knead, using a dusting of flour as required. Fold dough in half then quarters, over and over again, for about ten minutes. You can also use the hook attachment on the stand mixer (I tend to do a combination, starting with the mixer, and finishing by hand). Better to over-knead than under-knead.
  5. When ball no longer sticks to hands, smooth-textured, and about the size of a grapefruit, it is done. Coat with a thin coat of olive oil, and place in a large mixing bowl coated with oil. Stetch clear wrap over, and allow to rise for 60-75 minutes.
  6. Take dough ball and cut in half. Roll each portion into balls. Press dough ball flat to squeeze and release any air trapped inside. Form portions back into balls, smoothing the outer surface and tucking each ball into itself.
  7. Spray non-stick spray or olive oil into two zip lock bags. Put one dough ball into each bag. Store in the refrigerator for five to seven days.
  8. When ready to bake, let come to room temperature (if from the fridge). Stretch and shape, place on peel that has been dusted with flour, and add sauce, cheese, and toppings. Bake for six to ten minutes in a 450 degree oven.

Heart Shaped PizzaUsually, I’ll make the dough a day or two before I plan to make pizza. One dough ball will go into the fridge. The other, the freezer. I try do cook the one in the freezer within two weeks.

There are lots of good reasons to make your own pizza. Like any home-prepared good, you know exactly what goes in it, and can control ingredient quality. Also, while most pizza places will do half-and-half toppings, you can go even more granular–my wife, daughter, and I each get a unique third of the pizza. One idea I’m saving is to cut the dough into individual pizzas, and let each person make their own. Finally, you can do fun things, such as having a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine’s Day.

Posted 2012-04-20 by Mr. Guilt in food, Recipes

Chocolate Chip Shortbread   3 comments

I volunteered to bake cookies for an event at my daughter’s school. I pulled out a recipe for chocolate chip shortbread. I’m particularly fond of the name of the name of the blog I got it from: ireallylikefood.
Chocolate Chip shortbread Cookies
It’s a simple recipe, with only butter, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt. The recipe also calls for a cup of chocolate chips–I like a 50/50 blend of white and milk chocolate.

Posted 2012-04-19 by Mr. Guilt in food

Zoo Bloom(less)   1 comment

We went to the Cincinnati Zoo last weekend, to see their annual Zoo Blooms. Thousands of bulbs are planted in the fall. Unfortunately, given the mild winter we had, the blooms had mostly come and gone by the time we got to the zoo.
Purple Flowers
There were a few.
Red Flowers
The reptile house is the oldest zoo building still in use in the United States. They are in the processof giving it a new roof, restoring it to its original color.
New Old Roof
We went to Night Hunters, where the pallas cat just glared at me.
Grumpy Pallas Cat
The fossas just lounged.
Loungin' Fossa
Got a decent shot of a clouded leopard from the side.
Clouded Leopard
The black footed cat was lounging, too.
Black Footed Cat Lounging
The fishing cat was having a snack. Not sure why his side was shaved–it was like that the last time I was there.
Fishing Cat Snack
I’m playing with my lens a bit. For the full on nocturnal houses, I use a 50mm lens, opened up to f/1.8. I stopped it down to f/2.8, to see the results. I think it may work, though I’ll need to practice a bit more. This would allow a broader depth of field. There are many lenses that can do f/2.8, which was another reason for trying it. More experimentation required.
f/2.8 Fishing Cat
The caracal is so pretty!
Pretty Caracal
I think we were boring Tecumseh.
We're Boring Techumseh
The lion was already asleep…
Lazy Lion
…as was the bear with his blankie.
Bear & His Blankie
The giraffe, meanwhile, had a snack.
Giraffe Snack
One thing we saw: they’ve named the cheetah run after Cathryn Hilker, its founder. I think that’s awesome–she is one of the reasons we (as a planet) have cheetahs today!
Cathryn Hilker Running Yard Sign

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