Sunday, December 28, 2008

See ya later alligator

Ted's Range Road Diner

As part of my Christmas eat until you're stuffed food tour, I found myself at a restaurant some where near Owen Sound. As it was dark, and some of the roads were closed due to snow and flooding, and that James was driving I had no idea where we were. At least not on a road intersection kind of way. I did manage to get the GPS location coming out of the restaurant.

North 44.633952, West 80.662562

It's Ted's Range Road Diner.

What makes this restaurant interesting is that they have things like alligator and elk on the menu. They also have more "normal" meats like chicken, bison, an assortment of fish, and lobster to name a few. Your friends who might be less adventurous can eat without worrying about having something odd being digested in their system.

As soon as I saw the menu on the wall I knew I had to try the gator as an appetizer. It's rare these days to be able to eat something new and different without travelling to far off places. Eating gator in Owen Sound Ontario seems odd, kind of like eating a burger at a seafood house. It's not like there are gators crawling around in snow boots around these parts.

Gator nugget

The gator came to our table looking a lot like a chicken nugget or more accurately a tiny schnitzel. The meat was pretty lean and tasty. It was difficult to get a full on taste as it was surrounded by fried batter but it wasn't so off putting that I wouldn't try it again should the chance arise. Also it was yummy enough that the appetizer didn't last long. See ya later alligator.

Elk loin, the special special

As a main dish I ordered the Elk. Specifically the Elk loin special special. There were the specials then there were the specials of the specials known by the waitress as the special specials. The elk was covered in a nice meaty gravy and tasted like beef steak mixed with a hint of liver. As I'm not a huge fan of liver I wasn't really that impressed with the taste of Elk. However the one thing that was really good that came with the Elk steak was the homemade horseradish sauce. Not too hot, where you can feel tears running down from your eyes, but far from being bland. It was great stuff.

In the summer I'll have to return to try the food again.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Beans

Beans being soaked and prepped to be used as next test subject

About three days ago I bought a slow cooker also known as a crock pot. It's a 5 quart (what the heck is a quart?) version that I picked up at Canadian Tire for only $25. It's seems so odd that you can buy any kitchen appliance that cooks food for so little money but there you have it. Amazing! It's probably the best value I've gotten in years.

As it's only been three days, I've only made three things in it since cooking times range between 12 and 18 hours so far...
  1. pork pot roast
  2. chicken with tomato sauce
  3. a two bean corn chili
After a few experiments cooking this way I am dumbfounded that the meat tastes so dry. After all it's being cooked in liquid for hours. What the heck? My pork pot roast tasted drier than my pork pot roast I cooked a while back using a conventional oven. It seems like such a shame to use an animal to make sub standard food.

The chicken, the second trial run, was just as dry. Eventually I fixed it by making it into a thick chicken stew, by adding more water and cooking it a bit longer. Both dishes tasted fine but the meat was dry.

After doing a bit of asking around the answers I have come across to solve this problem boil down to two explanations.
  1. the meat being cooked is too lean
  2. the food is not being left to cook long enough
I will have to do more research and get back to you. In the meantime I can say that the crock pot technology is great for making mushy carrots and celery which would be great in a soup or a stew of some kind.

I am currently cooking a bean chili. I'll let you know how that comes out. It smells good for whatever that's worth.

First test subject: carrots and celery on a pork pot roast BEFORE

carrots and celery on a pork pot roast AFTER

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Pumpkin, taken yesterday. It's cold but no snow.

The news sources predicted a big snow storm today. After playing a short session of Warcraft I decided by 1pm I'd venture out into the snowy blizzard. Specifically with the intention to head toward the beach. It's been a while since I've gone off to shoot down there in winter like conditions and perhaps thought that I was getting to be a little lazy, photographer wise, in the last few months.

I dressed for the part by wearing thermal pants (trousers for you people overseas), gloves, two balaclavas (head socks), boots, a polar fleece top, snow goggles and my EFC coat. My Earth Final Conflict coat is pretty old now but it's great to do crawling around in snow.

Today, cold and snow.

I left at 1pm. The walk down required a bit of effort as snow had already started piling up on some streets. The closer to the beach the more trudging involved. My goggles were fogging up and my hair managed to find it's way to the hole in the balaclava and started coming out. Stupid hair. I'll be happy to have short hair again.

Photographing trees facing the wind in a blizzard.

Empty playground

The safety fences.

some snow patterns on the boardwalk

Some neat patterns in the snow created by the wind.

Icy rocks and freezing water

At one point I took the goggles off to see through the camera. It was then I noticed my eyeballs being pelted by small ice pellets flying around in the air. The snow was blowing sideways and there was thunder in the air. I've never actually heard thunder during a snow storm before. I kept wondering if there was lightning somewhere.

I took some random photos all the way down to the shoreline. Next to a life guard station there were a bunch of rocks that had formed ice on them. I stepped up onto a cement slab to take photos. That was a mistake. I looked out at the water and noticed a huge wave hit the end of the cement. Rather than dissipating like the previous waves this one kept coming. Eventually I found both of my feet underwater. The wave had drenched my legs half way up to my knee. I felt water fill my left boot. It was time to go home.

Boot filling with water. I'm taking photos while running away from the lake.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cornbread Revisited

Indiana Jones and the Corn Bread Monster.

I made corn bread today. I'd been yearning for some for the last two weeks but lost my Joy of Cooking book in a bunch of moving boxes. As I result I went out to get another copy. I figured I'd get the hard cover version as it has more recipes and just in case I find the other copy.

It turns out there's a new edition out right now. It's the 75th anniversary edition. I never realized the book was that old. My mother owned a copy and I've had at least two copies in the past. In one version I noticed they took out a lot of the interesting stuff due to technological advances.

It's hard to believe plastics were not yet invented or refrigerators had replaced ice boxes when the book originally came out. Recipes and preparation of hunting game was taken out as we city folk get further away from living off the land directly. The 75th edition puts a lot of stuff back in. Woo.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cool Programmers

Screen grab from World of Warcraft the bestest game ever.

It's now sunday with not too much to report. As in I've been playing World of Warcraft (WoW) now for a week. It's pretty nice to have some down time. One thing that I thought I'd share because it's so "freakin' cool", I went fishing (yes you can fish in Warcraft - something cool in it's self). I caught a 17 pound catfish... and I can use it a a club! (see picture above) It's the nerdy programmer in me that thinks the warcraft designers should get some kind of medal for doing nerdy things like this.

The attention to some of the details and the vast size of the game is incredible. Amazing even. Did I mention using a fish as a club?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Back to the real world

continuing with my previous entry...


The revisit to the land of Arzeroth commenced at 2:00pm (That's the land in the World of Warcraft for those that aren't cool enough to know). It ended at roughly 7:00am, about 19 hours after the start time.

I would have kept playing if it wasn't for three reasons...
  1. My body started to hurt
  2. I was starting to get tired
  3. There's an alarm clock that can be set in the game
Believe it or not but it was actually the third point that kept me from going for a few more hours. My back started aching hours earlier and my hands were cramping up (also hours earlier). I could have probably sat in front of the computer for another few hours easy. Sitting in front of a computer comes easy for me as I've been doing that since grade 5 while teaching myself the Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code on Dad's Exidy Sorcerer.

Days turn into nights and nights into days as I used to sit coding all nighters and for days on end, working some little project, learning a language, programming some video game, or designing a font one pixel at a time. It's amazing how much time was spent working on stuff that no longer exists.

Enter the alarm. I think it's new or at least new since I played the game last January. The alarm clock feature can be set in advance, much like a regular alarm clock, and you can have a customized message pop up in the middle of your game. Something like "Take out recycling", which is what my message said.

Being awake after a night of computer play isn't anything new. I didn't care if I was awake during sunrise, my hours have been pretty off-kilter lately anyway. Ever since getting back from Portland. Yeah, I blame the trip to Portland and all the fun that ensued.

It's not the jet lag, I think it's the party lag. Keeping up with the Montrealers (ie. Georgia W. Tush) is a full time job for sure. Deemed "Best Canadian Evar" by Justice Feelgood Marshal, Tush is the template for social butterflyness. Who can go to sleep when all that cool social stuff is going on? Portland. Three Days. Roller Derby. Friends from across North America. Sleep? We can always get sleep later...

Which brings us to three or so weeks later and my sleep schedule is still nutty.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Case of the Mondays

Eeek, there's snow!

While I generally don't ever have a "case of the mondays" as I don't work regular hours or regular days for that matter. Today, today would be the exception. I would freely admit to the mondays or at least today getting to me a bit. I woke up to snow. Lots of snow. It was also cold, very cold, winter cold out. It's descember, it's Canada, there should be snow. That doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

A few years ago I would have ran down to the beach to freeze my ass off and take some pretty snow photos in -40 degree (with the wind chill) weather. Today, however, I realized my refrigerator was happily filled over the last week (by me - wow). For once I had a food storage unit with actual food in it, stuff like meat, pre-made curry chicken, fried rice, even vegetables, and fruit. And they were recognizable (not moldy - exhibit A, exhibit B)!!!

Yep not just a fridge with condiments, real food, pre-made food, food waiting to be prepared food. It was right up there with finding out I had a four months supply of toilet paper (actually I don't have a four month supply but you get what I mean). It's the little things in life that make it truly worth living. Filled fridge, toilet paper, one's health, shelter over head (maybe not in that order), and the ability to not have to go in to work.

The only thing that could make the day better was an internet connection, a pre-paid two month subscription to the World of Warcraft and some movies to watch over the Christmas holidays. I could barricade myself in until January. Oh wait, I do have all that. Woo woo!!!

See you next year.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I feel blue

Icy blue photo manipulation

I had some free time today so I thought I'd fiddle around with photoshop a bit. I wanted to make a new desktop backdrop. I also wanted to fiddle with my macro lens. Soooo....

The above photo is a macro shot of the underside of an ice cream container that had been sitting in my freezer for a few months. The underside was covered with ice crystals.

I took it outside and shot a few pictures in the sunlight. Then transferring it onto the computer I added some blue. The original photo was black and white.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cross Rhodes 3

Jack Layton gives the thumbs up to the Hammer City Roller Girls

I participated in a neighbourhood art show this weekend. A bunch of houses on my street were open to the public to showcase the works of the various residents. From photography to pottery, holiday cards, and bobbles, there were quite the variety of things to buy or look at. Heidi Evans a photographer from a few houses over spearheaded the project and invited me to show some of my work.

Since there was a theme or maybe there wasn't but generally there seems to be a theme when one presents "art". I choose "From cat walk to flat track: a celebration of the female form" as mine. It was pretty obvious that I'd choose this as that's what I have been photographing all year. That and maybe Pumpkin the downstairs cat. From London to Toronto Fashion week, the Cadbury chocolate ball, Fashion Cares, the Hammer City Roller Girls, the Eastern Regionals and most recently the Nationals. It all just seemed to fit.

Among the few to show up at my section of the art crawl was Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party. Wow! I didn't expect any big wig politicians to show up. Actually, being a small neighbourhood, I didn't really expect anyone to show up.

He seemed to show a genuine interest in the photos, taking them in one at a time. He stopped and gave me the thumbs up for the Hammer City photo (shown here) of Hamilton Harlot's Carla Coma leaping over the Steel town Tank Girl's Atomic Toaster.

He also noticed the green friendly bamboo floor and gave positive comments to Andrew and Isako, the house owners . What a nice, polite, down to earth, individual.

"Wow!", did I say "Wow"?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Nationals

Located just east of the Thrift Lodge with cool sliding art in each window

Waking up on the west coast with the clock set three hours behind Eastern standard you'd think I'd get up earlier? nope. Woke up at 10am, got outside and headed east. I thought I'd try the opposite direction today from last night. That's the great thing about being in a new city is that any direction you take will be something new and interesting.

Forgetting to pack all my travel stuff during my last minute haste, today I was on a quest for shampoo. There weren't any variety stores or grocery stores in sight (at least going east). But there were other things of interest. Car dealerships, bottling companies, the odd food place. I would make note of the food places as they're always good to have in the back of your head when you're hungry.

You can buy that electric car for $12,000.

notice the old 7up sign in the background

I felt like I was walking suburbia. Not too many places to buy food let alone get supplies and everything was at least a few blocks away from each other. Where were these places hiding? Oooh, a record, CD, DVD store open until midnight. Note to self: remember location.

EM, a DVD, CD, record store open until midnight every day

One of the interesting things about the US, being a country built for cars, they have drive thrus for everything it seems. In Ohio there was the beer drive thru. Here in Portland, a Goodwill drive thru and a Starbucks drive thru are just two drive thrus I noticed. As convenient as they seem I found it irritating last night when wandering around for food. A lot of restaurants are open until wee hours of the morning but in order to get food from them you have to be in a car. What about the people walking around? Thank goodness for Muchas Gracias! Yes, that was a plug. They deserve it as they were open 24 hours and open to people on foot (as well as a drive thru). Hooray!!

The goodwill drive thru

One of the car dealerships I walked by

I just liked the sign

A curved fence

Some sunglasses in the Hollywood district

The old Hollywood theatre - first opened Saturday, July 17, 1926

What's this Superman thing?

Things from another World

Finally after about 40 minutes I arrived in a section called Hollywood. There was a Rite-Aid pharmacy (I suppose the west coast's version of Shoppers Drug mart only better - more selection and that sort of thing). Right next to it was Things from another World. It's amazing that I find these stores. It's like the nerd gods, if there is such a thing, program into my brain the night before where to randomly wander so I can stumble across these places.

I had to go in. Of course I did. It's funny as I checked around peeping the merch I also looked at the people in the store. It must be universal. Comic book/figurine geeks all look pretty much the same. Dressed in black, wearing the comic book/movie T-shirt, dark long overcoat as popularized by John Woo movies, whatever it was that they were wearing I seemed to be able to fit right in. So cool and yes, soooo nerdy.

I didn't have a lot of time as I had to return to the hotel by 2pm to meet up with the Montrealers that were flying in. JP and Raph had text messaged me saying the plane should be landing around that time. I tore myself away from the Domo figurines and left to buy the shampoo. On the way out I noticed the sign for the Hollywood theatre. D'oh, it was tonight. I wouldn't be able to go.

Oh! So that's what that superman thing was about

A phone booth courtesy of Qwest.

I arrived at the hotel just ten minutes before they called to say they were in. The walk back was a bit quicker (25 minutes) as I wasn't taking as many photos on the way back. Raph needed to buy shampoo. We ended up back at the rite-aid store. It only took about 5 minutes by car. We even went into the TFAW store as Raph just wanted a quick peek. Wooweewooooo. Talk about deja vu.

Raph and J.P. at the local sandwich shop just east on the corner from TFAW.

After grabbing a bite to eat and dropping off our stuff back at the hotel we were off to the Nationals...

The Nationals!!!

As soon as we were checked into the building I made a bee line for a place to sit and shoot. I missed all the merch tables thinking I'd check them out later on. This was only day one after all. The track was lit with an enormous amount of incredible lighting. It wasn't just a roller derby track, it was a photographer's dream. A season filled with all those dim lit arenas and to end with this... wow! (insert small shoe theory here)

It was at this point that it dawned on me that I was on the west coast, I was in Portland, and I was about to shoot the Nationals, the Nationals!! The crazy last minute correspondence to get a camera pass, the crappy screen with no selections in front of me on the airplane, the long waits at the airports, the bad signage at the vancouver airport, the bad airport food, the walking around all night looking for a place to eat the night before... it was all worth it. This was the Nationals! THE NATIONALS!!!!

The top eight teams from across the US, four from the east, four from the west, were going to skate it out in the next three days. Combine that with the fans that came out from all over. Add to that the familiar faces that I recognized from the Eastern Regionals and RollerCon and any other derby place I'd been to in the last year, the term "Wow" just doesn't seem to encapsulate the whole excitement very well.

I got my gear together, set up my stereo camera rig, and waited. The anticipation for something to happen was high, you could feel it in the audience. Like me, they were all wired. I wondered if any of them were jet lagged before getting here. I know I was for almost the whole day. I felt a bit tired. That was all gone now. It was like being in a casino pumped with air back in Vegas or perhaps like a large shot of adrenaline running through ones veins.

Holy crap! A marching band!

I'm not sure why but those were the words coming out of my mouth, out loud. "Holy Crap! A marching band", complete with wand twirlers and flag wavers.It was one of those bigger than life moments. They came out playing in formation, the flag wavers and twirlers did their thing. Following the band were the eight teams of roller girls. The Windy City, Philly, Carolina, Gotham from the East, Texas, Rat City, Duke City, and Bay Area from the west.

Crackerjack would address the crowd. Eventually we would hear the words "Are you ready to see some roller derby?". By that point the crowd went nuts. Cheering, applauding, copious amounts of smiling all around. We were going to love the following two games. Every single minute of them.

Carolina VS Texas

Suzy Hot Rod of the Gotham Girls

Cheap Skate in the middle of a roll calls off the last jam of the first period

Gotham VS Duke City

The final scores were...
Texas (125) VS Carolina (61)
Gotham (182) VS Duke City (25)

After the two bouts it had occurred to me that I hadn't eaten anything since before we left for the convention centre. J.P. and I ended up at the Doug Fir, a swanky restaurant attached to the equally fancy (or at least from the outside) Jupiter Hotel. The food was great. Although much like the mexican food I had yesterday which was also great, the food was probably 1000x better just due to the fact that I was starving. Once finished we went down the street (west) to B-side, one of the venues of the roller derby to see what was going on. It seemed not too much was going on.

Jean-Philippe sits in the Doug Fir.

J.P. in front of the B-side venue

It should be noted that the Thrift Lodge was picked (by J.P.) for it's convenient location. It was located just across the street from the party venues for the days to come. A very important detail in a potentially crazy roller derby party world.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Last Derby Adventure

Cold Hawaiian pizza

The Toronto Airport has a bunch of places to eat food but getting service depending on what vendor you pick can be pretty slow, extremely slow. I stood in front of a cashier at a burger place for about 10 minutes with not even a hint of service. I looked at them working, they looked at me. I was beginning to wonder if they were even open. As luck would have it as soon as I left to go to the food place across the way the person waiting behind me got served.

The other food place across the way was the same. I stood in line or an area I thought was a line. Near me was a woman looking at me. She wasn't sure where the line was either. Signage would have helped as an unmanned cash register doesn't scream out saying "place your order here".

Eventually the cashier meandered over from her state of trace and asked what I'd like to order. After doing the "You first.", "No you." with the other woman, I placed an order for a slice of the already made hawaiian pizza and a bottle of Coke. I wanted something that would keep my waiting to a minimum.

I could see the pizza slice being heated as it was placed in one of those conveyor belt ovens. The process took about 5 minutes (actually 5:17, I was timing the experience). By the time I found a table, sat down and placed the pizza in my mouth, the cheese was still cold. I began to think the oven was one of those Betty Crocker stoves with the single light bulb... A light bulb that had been replaced by one of those new florescent bulbs emitting zero heat.

The meal was seven dollars.

Flight Air Canada 109

The plane ride was not much fun either. I was placed in the middle of the plane, seat 13E, with a person on either side and my interactive screen was malfunctioning. Didn't matter if I choose a song or a movie. I'd get a bunch of scrambled mpeg data on the screen then the "Selection not available" message would pop up. Crud, and I really wanted to watch that X-files movie. The screens next to me seemed to work. The guy on the right was watching the Dark Knight movie and the guy on the left was watching CBC news. Good thing I packed the game boy.

While playing Advance Wars 2 I noticed my thumb starting to cramp up. "What the heck?". It was at that moment a voice came on the intercom saying to "sit down and fasten your safety belts". I realized I was playing that one level of the game for nearly the whole flight. five hours. I hadn't moved. I was in the shrimp position for all that time. My back ached. Geez.

We arrived in Vancouver airport. If you're a traveller and you feel like going through Vancouver my suggestion to you is to ask people standing around for directions as this airport is one of the worst airports I've been in for signage. Granted, the airport is under construction.

Because my end destination was the USA, my luggage was moved to a pick up area after going through US customs. You have to find US customs first. That is the trick as the signs kind of stop on the first floor. Only by asking a guy at information did I figure out you had to follow American flag images to get to what looked like a kitchen door for wait staff, go through that down some narrow corridors to a small bunch of rooms with no windows.

I had arrived around 4:30pm Pacific time. My flight out to Portland was 7:45pm. So it wasn't like I was rushing around the airport. There were a few glitches during the airport stay. When I got my camera case off the luggage carousal it wasn't closed. All my gear fell out (again). Damn those customs guys, why can't they just snap the case shut?

One of the luggage handlers gave me some string to tie the case shut which I thought was amazing. She also told me to complain to some of the people on the other side of the wall. I looked at my stuff and since it was all there and not noticeably damaged I didn't think it was worth going through customs again.

My flight out was delayed. We didn't start boarding the plane until 9:00pm. The reason, that was told to us, was that the previous plane had hit a bird and they had to get a replacement plane. Our question was "How cheaply are these planes made?", the second question was "How big was this bird?". The bird jokes kept flying (no pun intended).

Waiting for 4.5 hours wasn't so bad though. I met a woman from Portland that worked in medical services. She showed clients software that converts 2D MRI scans (or slices) into 3D representations using voxels (points in 3D space). She showed me some data on her laptop of a brain aneurysm. Density of the tissue determined the color of the voxel. It was very cool to see it in 3D but I felt sorry for whoever the patient was as the brain aneurysm was the size of a walnut.

The flight to Portland on the small plane was very spacious as each passenger had two seats. The ride was also surprisingly smooth. I, for some reason, thought it would be bumpier in a small propeller plane.

Once in Portland, this year's home of the WFTDA (Women's Flat Track Derby Association) Nationals - the Stanley Cup of Roller Derby (or Super Bowl if you're a football fan), I checked into the Thrift Lodge, dumped my stuff and like a good tourist wandered the city.

Glad I'm not paranoid.

The big Made in Oregon sign near old town

I love these old neon signs. Portland? Who knew?

A trailer I'll have to check out when it's open.

There's a lot of shelters or maybe I just happened to be in the right section of town.

The train called MAX can take me to the airport for only 2.25.

Stairway to water level.

I liked this pet sign.

Muchas Gracias, the only 24 hour restaurant I could find that did not require you having a car.

The ThriftLodge. Notice the lack of apartment windows.