Thursday, March 26, 2015

Greetings from Thailand

My buddy MJ is married to a thai woman Oa and they, along with their child Harper, split their time between California and Thailand. I believe that his wife's native village is very rural. He sends shots along of his recent excursions to Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

I wish I knew more about these and that he could narrate and explain but he can't so we will just enjoy the visceral visuals, shall we?

R Dean Taylor - Indiana Wants Me 1970

Notes from flyover country

Indiana wants me, but I can't go back there.

Indiana's Republican Governor Mike Pence has signed the so called "religious freedom" bill that will allow people to discriminate based on their religious views. Pence signed the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a private ceremony Thursday. He says that the bill, SB101,will in no way lead to discrimination.
SB-101 Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer. 
I started looking into the issue and went to one of the principal supporter's website Advance America.

SB 101 will help protect religious freedom in Indiana by providing protection for individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs, along with Christian businesses and churches.
SB 101 will help protect individuals, Christian businesses and churches from those supporting homosexual marriages and those supporting government recognition and approval of gender identity (male cross-dressers).
Hmmm, really worried about the cross dressers, are we? Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage. Just exactly how many men tried to use the women's restroom?

Sounds like discrimination to me, but what do I know? It is obvious the hoosiers are under attack by the forces of the ungodly. Even if the Governor claims it will not further discrimination, evidently its supporters see things differently.

Indiana U. bully throwing chair
Lets take it to its furthest conceivable conclusion; my bible tells me that black people are accursed in the bible. The old curse of Ham. To wit:
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. –Genesis 9:20-27
Good enough, I'm not serving blacks in my establishment, my restaurant or my hotel. And if it is a mixed race couple, miscegenation, sorry, same answer. Yids, don't even ask. In fact such laws were prevalent in the United States until they were finally overturned in 1967 in Loving vs. Virginia. From Wiki:
In the United States, anti-miscegenation laws (also known as miscegenation laws) were state laws passed by individual states to prohibit miscegenation, nowadays more commonly referred to as interracial marriage and interracial sex. Typically defining miscegenation as a felony, these laws prohibited the solemnization of weddings between persons of different races and prohibited the officiating of such ceremonies. Sometimes, the individuals attempting to marry would not be held guilty of miscegenation itself, but felony charges of adultery or fornication would be brought against them instead. All anti-miscegenation laws banned the marriage of whites and non-white groups, primarily blacks, but often also Native Americans and Asians.
In many states, anti-miscegenation laws also criminalized cohabitation and sex between whites and non-whites. In addition, the state of Oklahoma in 1908 banned marriage "between a person of African descent" and "any person not of African descent"; Louisiana in 1920 banned marriage between Native Americans and African Americans (and from 1920–1942, concubinage as well); and Maryland in 1935 banned marriages between blacks and Filipinos or Malays.While anti-miscegenation laws are often regarded as a Southern phenomenon, most western and plains states also had anti-miscegenation laws.
Although anti-miscegenation amendments were proposed in United States Congress in 1871, 1912–1913 and 1928, a nationwide law against racially mixed marriages was never enacted. Prior to Perez v. Sharp (1948), most U.S. states had and variously enforced anti-miscegenation laws. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Loving v. Virginia that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. With this ruling, these laws were no longer in effect in the remaining 16 states that at the time still enforced them. However, the active repeal of the laws was not complete until Alabama did so in 2000 after failing to do so in several earlier plebiscites on the matter. At the time, nearly 526,000 people voted against the repeal. 
It doesn't have to be gays or blacks, it could be jews, catholics, buddhists, muslims, atheists, take your pick. You run afoul of the deity of my choice and you are in big trouble buster. Or at least the government approved brand we tend to favor in these parts.

A slippery slope to be sure and a possible return to a state of mind that many of us thought we had left ages ago. People don't like somebody for one account or another and suddenly they have scripture to back up their right to discriminate against them. Starts out with a single case of discrimination, in the end you get redlining and be out of town by sundown. Has happened before. America at its nastiest.

Pence casts the bill as one restraining big government and as typical blames the media for causing the hubbub.
"I'm not aware of cases and controversies. I mean as I travel around the state one thing I know for sure —Hoosier hospitality is the greatest in the nation. Hoosiers are loving, caring, generous to a fault," Pence said in an interview with conservative radio host Greg Garrison on Thursday. "People that have strong hearts, strong values. But this isn't about any present controversy as much as some in the media want to make it about. It's about making sure that Hoosiers have the same protections in our state courts as they have in federal courts and as 30 other states have."
Pence, in that same interview, said the law was modeled after legislation passed by Congress in 1993 and that the idea was simply to make sure Indianans had the same protections as elsewhere in the country.
Earlier in the day Pence signed into law legislation barring the state from requiring businesses to serve gay and lesbian people if those businesses had religious objections.
"This is about restraining government action, Greg," Pence said.
Conventions and some large companies have already signaled their intention to vacate the state's cheery shores at the earliest possible opportunity.

Indiana Welcome Wagon.

Ships with sails

Raptor fail

The more I know about this photography business, the more I realize how little I know. I do know one thing for sure, this new camera is showing me that I am truly ignorant and that my panning technique is awful and that I am a doof when it comes to understanding and utilizing the not so terribly complicated auto focus system. Basically I am maybe one rung up from a glorified point and shooter.

Yesterday I set the Wimberly gimbel head up on the tripod in the afternoon and took this picture of mama hawk in her nest. She took the next opportunity to soar. Hot damn, I was set up! Had the perfect rig and the subject, right where I wanted them.

Another massive fail. I was shooting at decent settings, perhaps the shutter speed was a little fast and the iso too low but it was a very bright day.

Ended up getting a bunch of out of focus and unusable shots like this one to the left.

I was shooting AF-S dynamic 9 point with the "release" focus setting and everything seemed hunk dory. I mostly shot AF-A on my old rig. Might have to go back. The pictures with a complicated background were absolutely dreadful.

I have shifted back to focus release instead of the other option. Maybe I need to use 3-D or a group shot AF? Or start using back button focussing?

I definitely need to improve my focus technique. Many birders use single point focus because it's faster and they aim for the eye of the bird but that is hard to do when the critters start flying around.

New technology can be very frustrating.

Telephone Blues

Got a call the other day from ATT. They need to rewire my office for the ATT U-Verse service. They were going to be there next Monday and I should be prepared.

The whole attitude pissed me off. You're telling me or are you asking me? Piss off! I hung up.

My U-Verse service seems to be functioning fine and I really don't want the hassle of people tramping through my office at the moment.

I had needed to talk to ATT anyway so I called them back. I got a letter recently that my plan was to expire in May and they mentioned in the letter that they might have a cheaper alternative. For some reason they bumped my rate this year.

I called and had an entirely dissatisfactory talk with a nasty person that ended up with me using some choice expletives and hanging up the phone once again. Been a little grumpy the last couple days.

I got my wits about me and called back. A woman answered. "Oh, our records show you have actually been off contract for a year. The letter you got was erroneous. But we can now give you a better rate and take the twenty bucks off." I wanted to know why they didn't contact me a year ago when they bumped me up or rebate me all the extra gelt I spilled but I knew the answer - they did it because they could. That is the way corporations treat their customers these days - basically worse than dogs.

I vented a bit. Then I asked them about the U-verse soliloquy and exactly why they needed to get into my shop. "We don't," she said. Well who did? My mind started racing, was it the NSA, cops, burglars, ex wives, WTF?

Turns out it is a big scam. The fake ATT perps called back yesterday and wouldn't give me a return number or identify themselves except to say that they were an ATT contractor. I hung up once again. Apparently they are gaining access, rewiring  and seriously screwing things up for people. Beware. I am not sure who I am more angry at now, the real ATT or the scam ATT? They both suck. Of course Verizon is just as bad. Google phone anybody?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why don't you haul off and love me?

More from the new Nikon

The reach, clarity and resolution of this D7200 camera with its new 1.3 crop mode is just phenomenal.

I took this jpeg yesterday from a distance of at least 90'. It has not been altered or modified in any way besides a crop. This picture was taken at the longest end of my 500mm Sigma.

Johnny's garden

Amid nuke talks, Ayatollah says 'death to America'

Isn't it interesting that this administration chooses to grind on certain allies, but chalks up this sort of hate speech by the titular head of Iranian society as merely "innocuous patter designed for domestic consumption?"

Pho Ever

We had a lovely dinner out with friends Sunday night. She is an educator, he a biologist and amateur botanist, not to mention model railroad aficionado. 

Collectors of unusual and esoteric succulents, they had a specimen of pseudobombax ellipticum displaying a nifty bloom that bordered on the sublime yesterday. 

The bombax, also known as the Mexican Shaving Brush tree, is an arboreal wonder of the hemisphere. Its wood is sometimes used in churches in Mexico and Central America.

I had seen the flower a day earlier, at peak and it was magnificent. Lost a bit in a day but still remarkable. Looks like it is hatching out of an old turtle shell.

We piled into a car and headed for Vista. I eat a lot of vietnamese food on the road and except for an occasional Banh Minh sandwich at Pechanga, rarely ever in San Diego or Riverside County. Haven't found a place around here that ever really thrilled me.

Pho Ever
485 S Melrose Dr
Ste 106

VistaCA 92081
(760) 630-3837
Pho Ever

I had heard good things about Pho Ever, the Vietnamese restaurant near the Vista Court House on Melrose, and was anxious to try it. It is located near Thai One On, one of the best Thai places around. Our friends had been there many times and really liked it and I am so glad that they turned us on and accompanied us for our trial dinner.

We started the meal with the Bo Tai Chanh, lemon cured steak tartare, made with filet mignon. This is a Vietnamese delicacy, very refreshing, absolutely scrumptious. The Vietnamese do not believe in overcooking meat. This one is simply cured in citric acid.

This dish is traditionally served with a variety of accoutrements including rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), tía tô (red perilla), and ngò ôm (rice paddy herb).

One taste and you will be hooked!

I ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee to drink, the sweet condensed milk on the bottom of the french roast strainer waiting to be stirred. Leslie ordered a Vietnamese beer. A bunch of excellent dishes soon came flying our way. 

A well seasoned barbecued pork chop on a bed of rice. Absolutely fabulous.

Pan fried noodles. Delicious crispy crunchy taste in the middle of a juicy mix of meat and vegetables.

A marvelous and crispy Vietnamese crepe, Bahn Xeo. Wrap it up in the lettuce, rau ram and coriander and you are good to go but eat it while it is hot! 

Perhaps the most incredible thing we ordered was the Bun Bo Hue. This is a very old dish, it comes from a time when the imperial Vietnamese court was located in the ancient capitol of Hue. it is made with an old school simmer, long and slow cooked beef bones making a rich stock that is mixed with shrimp paste and sometimes pig blood, knuckles and oxtails. The dish we were served was subtle and heavenly. Fit for a king.

Vietnam is such an interesting country. I wrote a course book on its history once and did a fair amount of studying on the subject. A proud and singular people, they had to face incursions from various neighbors and interlopers throughout history and always eventually regained their sovereignty. And they also received some vital food knowledge in the interim.

Two of the prime interlopers were the Chinese and the French, who coincidentally have two of the most esteemed cuisines in the world. The great french food writer Escoffier maintained that the Chinese had the most advanced culinary arts in the world, purportedly bemused by their over one thousand different ways to cook an egg.

The French were exploitive and tyrannical in their rule of Indochina, really horrifying. But they did leave the Vietnamese with the legacy of what I think is the most highly developed and wonderful food in all of Asia. Certainly the most sophisticated.

Five is an important number in Vietnamese cooking. I am not sure if this is a confucian or taoist remnant. There are five taste senses (ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (Earth), five vital organs ((ngũ tạng): gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder), five nutrients ( (ngũ chất): powder, water or liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat) five food colors ((ngũ sắc): white (metal), green (wood), yellow (Earth), red (fire) and black (water)

When I practiced Hung Gar kung fu many years ago, I learned what was known as a five animal system. My specialty was, maybe you guessed it, the crane. Always had an affectation for long necked birds, from herons to phoenixes.

In any case the Vietnamese are very sensitive to the yin and yang of tastes, balancing cool with hot and flavor with texture. Here is a good wiki primer on the cuisine.

This is a fantastic restaurant. The staff was attentive and helpful. I hear it is near impossible to get a seat at lunch, with all the courthouse traffic so I would try a midweek dinner. Our table mate stated that she wants to try every special. I hope I am there for at least part of the way.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bad Beef

Every great leader needs a great foil, someone to test his mettle against and hopefully vanquish in combat. Think of JFK and Kruschev, LBJ and Ho, Ronnie Reagan telling the Russkis to take that wall on down. Barack Obama has one too. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu. A pox on them both.

If I sound conflicted in regards to Israel it is because I am. As much as I hate the frequently double dealing Israeli President, he is in a tough spot. He leads a country that faces real existential threats, in a region fraught with lunacy and barbaric behavior on a weekly basis.

The American President's Chief of Staff delivered a chiding, wag your finger in the faces of the Israelis speech to J Street today about ending the Israeli occupation. I am all for ending occupations. I am sure that the Sioux, Cheyenne and Hawaiians would like the United States to end their occupations as well. Wouldn't put much money on it ever occurring.

We treat what was once our greatest middle east ally in a quite contemptuous manner these days. Not like they are applying lashes, or stoning women for driving or killing bloggers or hanging gay people or anything. Overrunning the elected government in Yemen. No wait, that was our buddy's the Iranians, the same folk General Petraeus is now calling the greatest threat in the middle east. Barack's newfound BFF's. Why the sudden rush to make nice with the Ayatollah?

Some talking heads maintain that Obama's rather butch and patronizing manner with the Israelis is cover to deflect attention from the fucking they are about to get in the Iran deal. The best deal our President thought he could get, irrespective of the outcome. Don't worry Israel, we will be right there to check on the treaty and plug any leaks in that Iron Dome thingie we gave you. And if that doesn't work out, hey we gave it our best shot, into every life some shpilkis will fall.

Because Obama has turned out to be a big fraud. I saw that from day one. What he says and does are two different things. The new master blaster of realpolitic alienated friends and foes alike, completely disavowed his base, turned right on civil liberty, torture, weed, gay marriage, practically every issue he ever pandered to the crowds to as a Presidential candidate. But he needs something big for his legacy to feed his enormous ego, needs to sacrifice a calf and the burnt offering unfortunately is Israel.

So he is basically going to let the s.o.b.'s walk right over another one of his vaunted red lines, (anybody remember what he said he would do if he found the Syrians using chemical weapons?) and give the Iranians everything they ask for, taking them at their word and leaving them at most a year away from a nuke.

Say what you want about those terrible Israelis, if they do have a 100 nukes sitting there in Dimona they have shown remarkable restraint all these years, a restraint I would find hard to expect from the crazy fucking ahabs.

I am not sure if our President is an anti semite. I know that relations with Israel have never been this bad. I know that administration spokepeople Jen Psaki and Josh Earnest have been very hostile to jews and Israelis and the former once extolled the virtues of a molotov throwing Palestinian "freedom fighter." I know that Obama likes to pal around with Soros and Wright and Maryati and more than a few other jew haters. So who knows?

He is certainly doing a remarkable job playing to the shj's, the J Street self haters, triangulating the pie eyed jewish liberals who couldn't find Israel on a map and have no idea what life is really like there on the ground. I do. I have lived there. My father was born and lived there. My grandfather is buried there.

Disregard the bad actors in the neighborhood by all  means and save your ire for the Israelis, because they dared question the sanity of cutting a deal with the Iranians, the people who stormed our building and held our people hostage and then set up a radical islamic state that helped foment terrorism in places all over the world including south america.

Iranians are rational people, just ask Martin Indyk. Everybody knows that the Israelis are a bunch of drama queens, that none of their fears are well founded, that you can't take somebody with a bomb seriously who has repeatedly stated that he wants to annihilate you. Not when you have Big brother Barack to protect you.

Alienate jewish voters and split more of them off from the liberal base because the democrats obviously don't need them and there's always that dual loyalty question. You go ahead Barack, play with your new friends. Because nobody needs a friend like you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday this and that...

It is spring and the expectant hawk mother is firmly ensconced in her nest in the tall sycamore. I took a few shots with the new Nikon D7200 camera this morning, hand held with the Sigma 50-500mm lens. I tried it both with and without the sigma 1.4 teleconverter and while the gadget brought me in measurably closer the sharpness was dreadful so I will forego that experiment.

Would love to try the new Sigma 150-600mm but I am afraid that I have shot my wad for the foreseeable future and will be foregoing any new toys. Maybe I will rent a long Nikon prime one day for a weekend.

Speaking of hawks, New York Stan sent me this cool San Diego County hawk link, red tailed livestreaming:

Terry S. sent a nice picture from Kaanapali, lucky girl. Very pretty Maui sunset.

Bradford has been fishing recently in Oklahoma and sent a picture over of the Spavinaw spillway. Spavinaw is the town he is setting up his restaurant in, the birthplace of Mickey Mantle.

Loughlin sent a picture of his daughter Harper playing with her two thai cousins in Bangkok at Central World.

Lena sent over a picture of an interesting plant with a blue flower. Blue is the toughest color for nature to color a flower. I read a scientific explanation once. She says it is getting more vibrant every day. Apparently less than 10% of the worlds 280,000 flowering plant species have a blue flowering varietal.

Anton thinks we need a club kitchen in Fallbrook and sends this link over from honest cooking. Just in case you need to boil up some crawfish.

Kip's great shot at Salk. He cheated, used his monopod as an elevated stick and engaged the timer to get over the crowd. Smart guy, that Kip.

© Kip Peterson
He also sent this great piece by Woody Allen in 1978, If the impressionists had been dentists.

Here is a macro shot taken with the new Nikon D7200 and the 50-500mm. Not the ideal setup but not too shabby.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sundown at Salk

In retrospect it was very foolish to take a brand new camera on a critical shoot, an assignment that I had thought about undertaking for a couple years. Although the Nikon D7200 was similar to my old D7000, I really had no friggin idea what I was doing and it showed. The evening was a multitude of cascading errors and problems, many of them admittedly out of my control and the work product was marginal at best. Not a massive fail but a fail nonetheless.

From 1959 to 1966 the renowned architect Louis Kahn designed the Salk Institute in La Jolla. The Salk Institute for Biologic Studies is a modernist masterpiece. Kahn had the brilliant idea to create water channels at the research facility that lined up with the solar meridians on the vernal and autumnal equinox, the rays traveling along the waterways at sunrise and sunset.

The problem is that the gates shut at 6 and the sun sets at 7. I called a few days ahead and talked to a woman in the communications department about getting permissions to take pictures of the event. She assured me that if I was there by 6 they wouldn't kick me out and I could take the photographs.

Leslie and our friend Kip joined me and we drove down to La Jolla yesterday afternoon.

We got there and hew boy, we saw a cavalcade of tripods and gear in the distance. This wasn't going to be a private cakewalk, no-siree.

Photogs had been camped out since early in the day and were guarding their prime real estate like a staffordshire terrier guards a veal chop.

I talked to the fifty or so photographers on the scene about creating a little dance routine where we could all rotate and share but they were having none of it. It was every man and woman for himself. I was destined to be off the holy center line.

To add to the psychic turmoil, the security guards were telling us that they hadn't made up their minds and they were thinking of throwing us all out at 6, no matter what the nice lady on the phone said. Unbeknownst to me, they actually locked us into the facility and I had the wrong lens for the job, having affixed my sigma 10-20mm wide angle instead of my nikon 18 -135mm.

I was having focus problems with the new gear as well as exposure problems, I had left the Sigma and Leica in the safety of the van and would have to work with what I was dealt. Didn't have enough reach with my wide angle and tragically locked away from my gear bag. 

Kip got some nice shots. These are some jpegs of mine, when Adobe decides to recognize my new camera I might play around with the raw files but I'm not hoping for much.

I thought it was neat when the ducks landed in the canal. Would I do it again and take another shot at the caper some day, hopefully with proper equipment that I actually knew how to use? Probably.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Noel and Cardin

Another shot with the Leica medium format S2 camera

New Schwag

I think that I live a pretty humble life. Try to pay my bills and take an annual vacation if I can, like most schmucks. Drive an old car, live in an old house, don't have a lot of fancy toys. My food budget might be a tad inflated, sort of like my belly, but let's just say I take my food criticism responsibility very seriously. The things I do for you people!

If this sounds like a preamble to a new purchase, well it is. I bought a new camera yesterday.

A new Nikon D7200. This camera is practically identical physically to the camera I use on a daily basis, the D7000, but it is now two iterations further into the future. It gives me the promise of 8 more megs of resolution, wifi, near field, phenomenal low light capability, a larger buffer and fps and most importantly, clearer pictures with the removal of the anti aliasing filter on the new Exceed 4 sensor.

Cognoscenti and photo snobs still consider this an amateur camera but I frankly don't care what they think. This camera suits my purposes and workflow. I like light and nimble and the addition of the new 1.3 crop mode feature will turn my 500mm into a 700mm in a jiffy, giving me a new reach into the hawk's nest.

I actually considered the D750 and 810, both excellent full frame cameras but I am pretty set up with my existing dx glass. The two lenses on my wish list that I would need to obtain for the full frame, the Nikon 24 - 70mm and the 70 - 200mm 2.8 would definitely put me in the poorhouse or cause a divorce at an additional 4k. I liked my old camera very much and this improves it without busting the bank or my marriage! And certain specs and features of this camera actually exceed its more more uptown brethren.

This camera has been on the photo radar since October. I saw yesterday that it was supposed to ship that very day and said screw it, got to have it. Contacted B&H in New York, less than 24 hours later , courtesy of free shipping and no tax, here it sits in my hot little hands.

The camera is too new to be currently supported in Lightroom so I will have to shoot a jpeg raw combination for a while until LR 6 comes out, which I am guessing will have the file support.

I use the hell out of my gear. They are tools for me. I have an exciting shoot this afternoon. Look forward to sharing the tangible results of this fine new camera with you.