12.30.2008

Photography Tips

Here is a quick post I wanted to send out before the year ends.

As a photographer I am 100% 'self-taught'. More specifically I mean that I never had any type of formal education or took any paid courses in photography. The best thing I can tell anyone is to shoot. A lot. And everything. If you find a book on photography, read a few. If you have an mp3 player, subscribe to a few photography podcasts. If you have a computer(if you are reading this, you probably do), find tutorial videos online. If you can find a mentor or a more experienced photographer than yourself, pick their brains apart. Always be on the look out for learning opportunities. I am by no means all-knowing, but I am always willing to share what I have learned. I am not usually one to divulge any information unless specifically asked, but today I will make an exception. It is the season of giving. The following is a link to a YouTube.com user who posts informative videos. Go to http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=prophotolife and take a look. They are easy to understand and not very long. This is one of the better ones I have found on YouTube.com - I have seen some photographers on that site who are creepy to watch.

12.23.2008

Half-moon Arepas and Hot Potatoes

Today I was asked: "When you have a moment can you pliz let me know how you made b-fast :)"

And this was my answer, copy and pasted from Skype. (I made an arepa and potato chips for two. This question came to me after we had finished eating breakfast this morning. My girl usually stays away from the kitchen when I am making my creations.)

1 arepa cut in half
pam in pan
add arepa halves
let it cook
flip it like a pancake
add turkey slices on top
add cheese slices
continue to cook...
(kinda lowish setting - not too hot please)
store in nuker(covered) and wait for part II - the potatoes

part II - potatoes
peel 1/2 an Idaho potato...
i mean... cut an (Idaho potato in half and peel the entire half.
then use the peeler to cut up the potato into very thin slices. dunk into bowl
of hot water then drain water and paper towel dry the potatoes...
pam in the pan..heat it up

add potatoes.

add some butter to help in the cooking

add fresh ground black pepper and a small pinch of salt.
occasionally flip
add Enzo's homemade buffalo wing sauce. about 1/2 teaspoon max.
continue to cook and flip to get the potatoes nicely browned.
place cooked potatoes on paper towel to soak up extra oil (healthy now and
ready to eat).
now plate the arepa and potatoes

give the arepa a quick nuke to warm it up a bit if needed

Hope you have enjoyed my cooking lesson for the day. See you soon.

12.22.2008

Croutons

cape-cod-crouton-boat
From edouble's words


After doing finances recently, my girl and I decided that we really needed to minimize on the amount of money we spend eating out. The more we buy groceries and cook our own food the sooner our ppm (price per meal) goes down. Move to my neighborhood and try to avoid eating out. It is almost impossible. There is no shortage of good eating options within a few blocks in every direction. Nonetheless we have made a decision to cut back on eating out or ordering in. I have fun in the kitchen experimenting with foods and flavors, so to me this is also a challenge to improve my cooking abilities.

During lunch, (thin whole wheat spaghetti with meatball *gravy) as I was soaking up the extra gravy from my plate with a piece of bread, I had a great idea. The idea to make my own croutons. I had bread, a whole new loaf as a matter of fact, and since bread is the main ingredient in croutons, I could not go wrong. Now you can't just eat plain croutons, you need to add them to a soup or salad. I decided to add them to a salad since I had baby spinach, mushrooms, Spanish olives, cheese, and turkey slices.

As soon as I was finished eating my lunch, I grabbed three slices of multi-grain bread (any bread works) and began cutting them into small cubes. I had no idea what to do next, but I knew I would eventually need to either bake them in the oven or cook them in the frying pan. Being that the salad was intended for dinner, I had plenty of time to figure out the details. After a little research online, I had all the answers I needed. I did not follow any specific method, but rather took a little from a few different sources. I chopped up about half a head of garlic and mixed it with the bread cubes and some extra virgin olive oil. To the mix I also added a little oregano for flavor. Once everything was mixed, I just dropped it all in a hot pan that had been sprayed with Pam. In a few minutes the croutons were done. Of course it is a personal choice how crispy you want your croutons to be.

I found my croutons to be cooked just right and properly seasoned. Once added to my dinner salad it was a perfect meal. This was a low cost and very easy food to prepare. I recommend that you too try this at home.



*gravy vs. sauce - It had been debated which is the correct term. I prefer to refer to it as gravy.

12.18.2008

Se habla...

From edouble's words


This morning we took a walk around the neighborhood in search for our first Christmas tree for the new apartment. Jackson Heights is known for is cultural diversity, which I think is a bonus to those living here and also to any tourist who wants to expand their horizons. I respect all cultures and enjoy learning about their languages and foods. However, there is one language I did not know existed and am very curious what country speaks it. The language in question, as you can tell by the image taken from my Blackberry (aka Crackberry)is "EXPANOL". If you know anyone who speaks Expanol or is from a country that speaks Expanol, please contact me, as I would love to be enlightened with this information. Google search shows me 14,200 results for that word. Am I missing something here?

12.17.2008

Bayside High School

Many years ago I attended Bayside High School in New York. After graduating I have never returned. My only current connection to Bayside H.S. are a handful of friends that I still keep in touch with. With the explosion of the internet over the past 10+ years almost every person, place, and thing has a web presence. I googled "Bayside High School" and instantly I came across the website for my old High School http://www.baysidehighschool.org/

The site has nothing particularly interesting and is quite simple. I scanned the page and my eye was drawn to a section titled "Message from the Principal". The following is the first line in this message directly from Principal Michael Athy:

"According to local legend, I am the fourteenth principal in the seventy-three history of Bayside High School and, in many ways, I believe that I am the most fortunate."

Can you tell me what is wrong with this picture? I am embarrassed to be associated with this institution of education. I feel that Michael Athy is insulting the intelligence of all alumni, current and future students. Unless Bayside High School has seventy-three histories, this line makes no sense. I think the word YEAR is missing here. How can the Principal of a school lead by example and expect better standardized testing scores in basic English, if he himself cannot properly write a short introductory message? Thankfully in the second paragraph he does make a proper reference to the history of Bayside High School

"...who have contributed so much to our school over the past seventy-three years."

Is a little consistency too much to ask for? I think not. If you agree with me please help me reach out to Principal Michael Athy via email: mathy@baysidehighschool.org or phone: (718) 229-7600 x1350 so that this grave error may be corrected.

Thank you for reading, and now please go enjoy the snow.

12.15.2008

Moon - Very, very close to us

Full Moon As you might know by now, on December 12, 2008, the moon's orbit around our planet came the closest it has been in the last 15 years. I would love to say that this is that very same moon. Unfortunately it isn't. On the actual 12th I was busy setting up the telescope and making good use of it by aiming it out of my fourth floor window and observing the moon. Having another building directly across the street puts limits on our window of time to get a good clear look. Luckily it was a very clear night and every crack and crater on the moon was clearly visible.

The following day was just as clear, and to my eye, the moon seemed to be just as close as the night before. We set up the telescope again and got a few looks at the moon. I however was on a different mission. I wanted to photograph the moon. I pull out my D200 and slap on a long lens and... and... no tripod (It is still at my old place). I was not going to let that small oversight stop me from getting my shot. I just braced myself on the window frame and used the burst shot technique. This image is by no means the perfect shot, but I thought it was good enough to share.

Hope you enjoy!

12.14.2008

Playstation Home - Revisited

I have had a chance to explore the Playstation Home environment for a few days now. Is it the most amazing thing ever? No. But I can definitely say that it has a ton of potential and will eventually be second nature for users to launch Home every time they power up their Playstation 3's.

The three dimensional avatars are physically very modifiable. Every feature in a person's face can be adjusted. It was fun creating an online digital version of me. The clothing options are as of now limited, but I was able to find something that was me. The catch however is that you can buy new clothes at the Mall.

Yes there is a mall, but I did not find a 'Food Court', perhaps in a future update there can be one.

There is also a 'Movie theater' which right now is showing a trailer of 'Twilight'. Eventually there will be 10 screens to choose from. Once again, I would like to have the option to buy popcorn to throw at other movie goers who are standing and talking during the show.

The bowling alley is also worth a visit. Unfortunately every time I try to bowl there are no free lanes. But I was able to get in a few games of pool. Once I got used to the controls it was a lot of fun. I am looking forward to challenging my friends to a few rounds. No bowling alley would be complete without a few arcade games, and they the Home bowling alley is no exception. The mini version of 'Echochrome' is my #1 pick.

Home has even included an apartment for your avatar. This as well is fully customizable. I have my own real life apartment to finish settling into, so I do not have time to settle into a virtual one. I did change the wallpaper and move a few tables and chairs around for fun.

The bulk of the action seems to take place in the outdoor main area. Here like everywhere else you can interact and communicate with other users, play mini-games, listen to music, run, walk,sit, dance. Most areas of the virtual world can be accessed though here or via the start button menu.

There are a few more things that can be currently done in Playstation Home but I will leave that for you to explore.

The only 'issue' I can think of is that every time you go to a new area, it must be downloaded. But on future visits, they will be there and no downloads are needed. A minor inconvenience.

Hope this information was helpful. If this review is well received, I will have more product reviews in the future.

12.11.2008

Playstation Home

As was announced yesterday, Playstation Home would be released today. Some reports were saying that the release was going to begin rolling out 7 AM EST. Waking up early seemed like a good idea today. I power up my system... and nothing. After some more digging through forums I found out that once the update is actualized the Playstation must be turned off and rebooted. So off my Playstation goes... and on again. Guess what I see this time. Nothing once again. A quick run to the post office and then it is lunch time. I cross my fingers only to find out nothing has changed. I decide to kill some time with a little COD4 (I am slightly addicted - When I look out my window I get the urge to snipe my neighbors). Finally at 5:15 PM EST I was able to install Playstaion Home. The install was rather fast, but it has been about ten minutes now and I am stuck on the "Signing in..." screen (of death).

More to come.... Stay tuned!

12.10.2008

Not Gone

I have not stopped blogging. Do not fear. But where are my posts and new pics? Well there have been no traditional posts recently. What I have been doing to update my activities is use twitter. If go look at the right hand column of this site you can find out exactly what I am doing now.

For now I leave you with this image and a message. Pick out your favorite bottle and enjoy the day.

Many-Wine-Bottles

6.28.2008

The plane, the plane!!!

Plane-over-beach-St.-Martin


This is a shot taken in February on a birthday celebration trip to St.Martin/St.Maarten. What you do not see in this image, is the main airport of the island a few hundred feet past the beach. Due to the short runway, planes make the final approach at a very low altitude. Having airplanes pass overhead at such low altitude makes sitting on the beach watching the sun set a very interesting experience.

Seeing planes land is a wonderful thing, but watching them take off is another world. Just past the end of the beach there is a two lane road and just past the road is a fence. The airport fence. Just a short distance from the fence is where the airplanes take off from. The engines fire and soon they are speeding towards the end of the runway and lift off. Each time this happens, a group of people on the beach firmly plant their feet into the sand and brace themselves. Brace themselves for what? They are bracing themselves to try and remain standing against the force of the jet blasts from the engines. The sound is deafening, but some people still choose to endure the powerful blasts. Most fall down and in some way get knocked backwards, even into the water. It is a funny sight, but I have no idea what would possess a person to willingly suck in jet fumes and risk injury by standing in the direct line of fire from a jet engine.

6.17.2008

St. Martin - New Pics

St.-Martin-Local-Spices It is a good feeling when you can combine a few of your favorite things. Mine are food, photography and travel. As you can see in this image of a stand in a local market selling traditional spices of the island. I am curious to know what Magic Spices tastes like, but unfortunately I was not able to. When traveling to other countries I try to get an authentic experience and not just be the typical tourist. I find it sad to spend so much money on flights and hotels and never to venture outside of the hotel or resort grounds. When planning a trip, the first thing I do is buy a travel book and do as much internet research as possible. Once I arrive to my destination I have a well thought out agenda of places to see and where to eat. It is fun to explore new and unusual places, and you never know what you might find.

Here is the link to my St. Martin images... enjoy...
St.Martin Images

6.11.2008

So you think you can cook?

Recently I have been watching a lot of Food Network. There are several shows on that network that I enjoy watching and am inspired by. My food television hunger does not end there, also on the menu are, Hell's Kitchen, Top Chef, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares to name a few. I not only enjoy being an observer of gastronomic delights, but also enjoy getting my hands dirty.

Overall my greatest creations are breakfast related. More specifically eggs, generally scrambled or as an omelette. Historically pancakes have been a bit of a weak point for me, but this year they have actually been improving. This year I taught myself how to make crepes after my trip to St. Martin.

When it comes to lunch, generally I try to use leftovers in a fun and creative way. There is not much that can possibly go wrong with this type of lunch. If the original meal was good, the remix is just as good.

The fun does not end with lunch... things had to be taken up a notch! Now on the menu are couscous, chicken, steak and salmon, not to mention a decent baby spinach salad.

For a little international flavor, today was my first time ever making sushi rolls. Of course it would not be one of my creations if I did not add a twist. I did not use any fish or seafood of any kind. At this point in time some of you may be thinking I am crazy for making sushi rolls with no fish or seafood. When dealing with Japanese cuisine, sushi actually refers to the rice. The proteins I chose to include in my sushi rolls were steak and hot dog. Both meats were marinated in San-J teriyaki sauce. Additional ingredients were baby spinach, olives, and green beans. The process was rather straight forward. Two cups of rice and three of water are put in a bowl for at least half an hour (although not required). The rice and water are then placed in a pot and heated until it comes to a boil. At this point the heat is set to the lowest possible amount and covered for 20 minutes. In a separate small bowl, mix two tablespoons of sugar, two tablespoons of rice vinegar and one tablespoon of salt. This mixture is then microwaved for about 40 seconds and then folded into the rice once it was cooled down. Here comes the fun part! On a sheet of seaweed, spread a thin layer of rice. In the lower third of the sheet, lay your fillings in a thin strip from side to side. Now roll up the seaweed and cut it into bite size rolls. It is key to make sure that your rolls are not too big, anything bigger than bite size is looked down upon in Japanese cuisine. The final finishing touch is to prepare a mixture of low sodium soy sauce (got to watch the blood pressure) and wasabi.

The most important part of preparing a meal is to have fun doing it. Once the food is made, share it with someone else. Practice these two key elements when cooking and your results will improve in no time.

Bon App├ętit.

6.09.2008

A Few More Pics

As promised, I now have a few images from my St.Martin/St.Maarten trip available on my flickr site. Feel free to take a look and enjoy. Leave a comment either here or there. I know most of you are back at work this Monday, with a whole week ahead of you. I have a feeling some of you don't even want to be there. So get away from your desk. Go somewhere else. Go to St.Martin. Let these images take you far away from what ever stress you are facing and relax for a few moments. I will continue to add more images to this link in the next few days. Keep your eyes on the 'What I am doing now...' section, on the right hand side of this page, for updates.

6.01.2008

Cool Down

Icicles After having spent five days in the Bahamas, I am no stranger to warm weather. Now I am back home and dealing with a slight sunburn. If I stay indoors and avoid the sun, I will soon lose any color I might have gained. So what do I do? I cook a nice breakfast for me and my girlfriend and we eat it outside along with a bottle of white wine. The next few hours are also spent enjoying the sun just relaxing in the back yard talking and listening to music. Now it is time for me to start making lunch and the bottle of red wine now gets opened. The menu for the afternoon is grilled chicken drumsticks and grilled corn. By the time lunch is ready for the family... out comes the pitcher of sangria. It is very important to stay hydrated when it is hot outside.

Now you might be wondering what all this has to do with the photograph of icicles. Or you might not.

I believe almost everything is mental in some way. So to cool down on a hot day, I find it helpful to have cool thoughts. I only provide the icicles as a tool to help the imagination find some 'coolness' to get by on hot days.

1.30.2008

Road Trip

So what better to do in the middle of the week when there is no work to be done? Jump in the car and take a road trip. But where to? Niagara Falls, Canada. The spring and summer are probably, weather wise, much better times to visit. The main advantage of going in the winter is being able to avoid hordes of tourists. Having gone to school in Buffalo, the falls were not new to me, but my girlfriend had never seen the Falls. So in the car we jump and off we go. And what better time to take my new camera on a little road trip?

No crowds means not having to worry about vacancy when it comes to finding a place to sleep for the night. As luck would have it, we got a room with a balcony and a nice view. We were happy.

This is what you could see perfectly from the balcony:
Niagara-Falls-Big-Ferris-Wheel

The following day we walked down to get a daytime view of the Falls and try to take a few pics. The day was overcast and gray. Did I mention that it was cold? No? Well it was very cold. I am not sure how I would have been able to take any pics if it were not for my new gloves(Christmas gift). I tried to show the cold of winter and also capture the Falls in the following pic:
Niagara Falls Winter Tree

Eventually things would brighten up, but very briefly. The clouds broke and gave way to sunshine for about five minutes or so. Out come the cameras and *click* *click* *click* was all you could hear from our cameras. Suddenly amidst of our furious picture taking, my girlfriend looks towards the Rainbow Bridge and points out a faint rainbow. This is the best I could do under less than ideal shooting conditions:
Rainbow - Rainbow Bridge

All this reminiscing about this road trip is making me cold again. Time to warm up. Hope you have enjoyed the brief tour.

1.17.2008

New Camera, New Lens. Day 1

The following pics are from my first day out with my new DSLR, the Nikon D200 and a new 50mm f/1.4 lens.


Diner Sign

"Diner Sign"


Tick Tock Diner

"Tick Tock Diner"


Times at Night

"Times at Night"


Any feedback is welcome.