The pepper gives up the ghost

“Let me tell you why I want to visit the bookstore. The next thing I’m supposed to draw is a green pepper. But because of its shape, I’m having trouble getting started. I thought maybe I could find a different drawing book to distract myself until I can get the energy.”

“So that’s why you have that on our dining room table,” she noted. “You know it’s gotten to the point where the pepper has acne.”

“Heck, it’s much worse than just acne,” I observe.

“Yeah. Did you know that it’s a ghost pepper?”

“Oh? Then it must be really hot.”

“No, not hotter than a regular bell pepper.”

“But, green peppers have a Scoville rating of zero. Ghost peppers are supposed to be hot.”

“Well then not that. It’s a special pepper though.”

“The only thing special about that pepper is it has pepper leprosy. Maybe what makes it special is it’s got Pepprosy.”

I didn’t get a different book, but I finally got unstuck enough to finish the drawing. As I was dropping it into the compost bin, she informed me that it was actually a gypsy pepper .


Photo from August 30, 2007

North Beach, San Francisco, California

Panasonic DMC-LX1
1/500 sec at f/4.0, iso 80, 15.6mm (70mm)

Part of the same photo roll as this photograph, I ended up processing it also before I noticed the error.

It’s a “tourist snapshot” of the Transamerica Pyramid. From a photographic standpoint there is nothing to write about because I took it the same way any tourist might. Even though the camera shoots RAW, the dynamic range of small camera CCDs back then were just not up to the task of recording anything useable in the shadows. All I could do is use the “pump the blues” trick that any nature photographer knows to do for outdoor photos.

Even though Transamerica has long since moved to the East Coast, because it was built by them and its still in their logo, it’s still called the Transamerica Building and has been a the salient fixture of the San Francisco skyline for my entire life. I read somewhere that when it was built it was considered the ugliest building in the city until the Mariott “Jukebox” was built in 1989. I guess after that the One Rincon Tower Fan were built, San Franciscans were like, “You know, the Transamerica pyramid actually looks kind of nice.”

I snapped this photo outside my favorite sandwich shop at the time, Giordano Bros, which, like Transamerica, has moved to a different location.

A lot of people don’t “get” the All-in-One sandwich because they didn’t grow up in Pittsburgh, but putting french fries and coleslaw in a sandwich seems the most natural thing to do. Before I even ate at Primati’s I used to put Snyders of Berlin BBQ potato chips in my chipped ham sandwiches when I ran out of Isaly’s BBQ sauce.

Ever wonder why it took a Pittsburgh franchise to popularize the Bob’s Big Boy sandwich as the McDonald’s Big Mac? Go eat an All-In-One and then go eat a Big Mac and your culinary mind will be blown.

I may not have the tastebuds of a foodie, but to make up for it when I eat, with a single bite into a sandwich, my mind can travel trans-america from San Francisco, to Oak Brook, to Pittsburgh, to Los Angeles and back again. And that’s why my favorite sandwich in San Francisco when I snapped this photo was Giordano Bros’s Coppa All-in-One.

Sapphire Martini

Photo from November 11, 2006

I had recently broken up and moved away from my girlfriend so I was spending time in a still-unpacked new temporary apartment, so I decided to take up some hobbies besides running or cycling. This meant cooking and drinking.

I decided to start mixing drinks again. It was best to start with the basics, and nothing is more basic than a classic dry martini. While my parents gin of choice was Beefeater, I’ve always been a fan of Bombay Sapphire—mostly just because of its distinctive blue bottle. If I start there and understand that presentation is the most important part of a drink, getting just the right martini glass to go along with it immediately follows.

I was toasting the close of an old life and the start of a new one. Odd that I had to down this drink alone at this watershed moment in my life, something I never do.

Sapphire martini
Mountain View, California

Panasonic DMC-LX1
1/20 sec at f/2.8, iso 200, 6.3mm (28mm)

Continue reading about this photo after the jump

Granny G’s Burger at the Boxing Room

Photo from July 27, 2013

Granny G’s burger with egg
Boxing Room, Hayes Valley, San Francisco, California

Apple iPhone 5
1/20sec @ f/2.4, iso1600 4.13mm (33 mm)

This was after going to the symphony. I guess I was hungry because I asked for a fried egg to be put on top of it.

Since this project came up and only had iPhone images, I thought I’d use a non-Camera+ iPhone image as as an opportunity to investigate Lightroom CC’s de-noise and sharpening routines (in the Detail tab of the Develop module). While it is very convenient, I dislike the artifacts it generates when working on underexposed JPEG images.

Surprisingly, a simple application of basic processing, seems to oversaturate the reds in image, which I had to pull down using the HSL controls. I guess Adobe engineers are Canon photographers.

In Lightroom’s defense, the lighting was terrible, so I should be happy anything was usable, as there’s only so much you can recover from a high ISO photo camera shot. Should learn to bring a real camera out when I eat.

Fresh Fruit Cup

Photos from October 17, 2010.

Fresh Fruit Cup (organic)
Fresh Fruit Cup (organic)
Beach Street Grill, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
Lightroom (crop, mask, basic, detail, effects)
1/80sec, iso 160, 35mm (46mm)

Marie and I don’t often get to Fisherman’s Wharf since I moved away from there, but since her sister was visiting, we decided to make the drive for breakfast. The nice thing about the Wharf is that the better food places aren’t busy because they aren’t frequented by tourists who are looking for anything labeled as “world famous.”

Because I was one of the first people to post pictures on Yelp, the owners recognize us and sometimes give us a fruit cup while we are waiting for our order. That’s another opportunity to photograph.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the interesting things about shooting with a Leica camera is its limitations. A close rangefinder focusing of 70cm means puts more in than the food in frame showing a bit of the environment the food lives in… even if it only appears as bokeh.

Here is the same fruit cup shot on an iPhone using Camera+

As for processing, mostly I spent the time familiarizing myself with Lightroom’s built-ins. I still think in Aperture (and external plugins), but I’m trying to discover how much I can do things in my preferred style in Lightroom. I masked away some of the background saturation, brightness, and detail, though since I’m not yet familiar with shortcuts, my masking leaves a little to be desired. It’s odd because the more you process an image, the less you can tell it was photographed with a Leica. Lightroom’s film grain effect, while not as good as DxO or nik, is a great convenience when viewed close up or printed.

Pork Tocino

If you live in The Richmond, you know that B*Star Bar is like eating at Burma Superstar but without the line.

Breakfast plate with pork tocino, garlic fried rice topped with two eggs cooked over easy. Spoon in foreground
Pork Tocino with Garlic Fried Rice
B*Star Bar, The Richmond, San Francisco, California, United States

Sony DSC-RX1
0.013 sec (1/80) @ f/4.5, iso400, 35 mm

My favorite brunch dish there is the Pork Tocino. Grilled jerk pork over a bed of garlic fried rice and cherry tomatoes, topped with scallions and balsamic vinegar.

Since Marie loves their Huevos Racheros, I end up ordering this dish a lot. The only times I don’t is when we bring a guest, then I suggest they get it and I order something else.

Continue reading about some WordPress plugin notes after the jump

Terry’s Backstreet Photography

Photos from January 24, 2015.

A weekend away from it all was also an opportunity to try to shoot again with my Leica. I haven’t been doing any photography for a long time, especially with this camera — just having it with me was a minor success, even if I left it in the bag almost the entire time.

Finally, while we were eating a quiet lunch in St. Helena, I got the courage to take the M8 out and to start shooting. It’s frustrating to realize that you have to relearn how to focus and expose manually — even more embarrassing is forgetting to take off the lens cap before pressing the shutter button! But then you remember that photography is about learning how to see, and there is a small joy in experiencing that again as a beginner.

Marie, waiting for food

Marie, waiting for food
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
1/125sec, iso 160, 35mm (47mm)

Continue reading about some photos I took with my Leica M8 and iPhone 6 after the jump

Diet Coke

So the [local McDonalds]( didn’t have seats and messed up my drink order with Diet Coke. This 4Square Mayor had decided that they’re one mess up away from becoming the worst McDonald’s in a two block radius (there are three).

Walking back to the office with an ad-hoc “to go” order, I had a sip of my drink. I was immediately taken aback and had another sip to confirm what I just tasted. Then I crossed the street and threw it away so as to not subject a panhandler to the zero calorie “dirty water of capitalism.”

I then had two blocks to contemplate taste of Aspartame in my mouth. Now I know this is offensive to you Diet drinkers, but to us sugar-lovers, I was taking by how the aftertaste of Diet Coke feels like I just threw up Coke and re-swallowed it.

Luckily, the Wikimedia refrigerator is fully stocked.

They should change the color of Diet drinks to make them easily identifiable. I don’t know why I should have to suffer this taste once every few months because half of America has the [mistaken impression][zero calorie] that zero-calorie drinks will make them less fat.

[zero calorie]: “It’s not that you gain weight drinking diet soda, it’s that you don’t lose it because your body makes up the calories somewhere else. I, for instance, drink 8-16 teaspoons of sugar most weekdays in the form of coke, and it just means I eat less or smaller meals because of it.”

The neighboring McDonald's

My co-workers are constantly amazed and appalled about my obsession with [McDonald’s trivia][stuff i should know]. Most common comment once I get started: “How are you **not** writing the Wikipedia article about this?”

One of the weird talents is the knowledge of every McDonald’s in San Francisco (I’ve been FourSquare mayor of most of them). There aren’t that many.

Because of this, one of the strangest pairs are the two McDonald’s on Market Street which are less than a half block from each other. You can actually see the one from the other.

I thought about this while I stopped by one as I picked up [breakfast][mcmusings] at one and walked passed the other on my way to work. Are people so lazy that they need to put two McDonald’s right next to each other? In fact, there are four McDonald’s within a few blocks of each other here, but there are none north of Golden Gate Park where I live. Is McDonald’s too high brow for the Avenues that it can only be services by a Jack In The Box and Taco Bell?

Then it occurs to me that the clientele is notably different between the two. It’s mostly because one has nearly no seating and therefore doesn’t smell like a bathroom got backed up, which is doubly odd because the smelly one doesn’t actually have a bathroom.

I’m thinking of calling one the “[high class Market McDonalds][]” and the other “[low class Market McDonalds][].” (I’m adding the term “Market” because the one on Front Street is actually nicer than both.)

My faith in the world of business was restored.

If you’re ever in the Financial District stop by all four sometime and you’ll know what I mean.

[stuff i should know]: “Stuff I should know”
[mcmusings]: “McMusings”
[high class McDonald’s]: “McDonald’s SOMA San Francisco—Yelp”
[low class McDonald’s]: “McDonald’s SOMA San Francisco—Yelp”

In-n-Out layover (and mouseovers)

My classmate, Frank Ling, of Groks Science fame, had a couple hours layover in San Francisco on his return home to the radioactive wasteland.

Marie and I stopped by SFO to pick him up for some linner—why not In-N-Out Burger? “A burger sounds good.” And off we went.

Quality you can taste

Quality you can taste
In-N-Out Burger, Millbrae, California

Olympus E-P2, Voigtlander 25mm F0.95

Continue reading about linner with Frank (and my new lens) after the jump.