Sometime last week, Liz and I saw Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, a biographical film about Howard Hughes. At the end of the movie I remarked that the Hercules flying boat, designed by Hughes, and shown in the film is on permanent display in our Oregon neighborhood. A few minutes of online searching later we decided to go check it out at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville on the weekend.
Sunday morning, after a brief breakfast stop at a local bagel joint, we drove out towards the museum. We passed beautiful hills draped with vineyards and wineries. Later in the day we learned that these were the Chehalem Mountains and Dundee Hills regions of the Willamette Valley Wineries. We hadn’t been there before and were delighted to see it. Eyeing all the wine tasting signs we decided to stop at some of the wineries on our way back.
We got to the museum about an hour before noon. It is located across the road from the airport in McMinnville. There are two museum buildings which house the aviation and space museums and a third building has an IMAX theater. Some aircraft are displayed in spaces along the buildings too. We only visited the aviation museum, choosing to return to the space museum on another day, perhaps after they install one of the retiring space shuttles, which they plan to do.
It is clear upon looking at the aviation museum and the time spent inside it that the Hercules is their star attraction. It takes up most of the space and even though there are about a hundred other aircrafts spanning the hundred year history of powered flight, they all appear negligible next to it. The critics of this magnificent aircraft, the largest of its time, called it the “Spruce Goose”. Liz and I were disappointed that this name, which was despised by Hughes, was the one used prominently by the museum. Their website address uses it; they sport it on gift store items; and they even have a winery that makes wine branded the same.
Even in their relative smallness, the other aircrafts on display offer a great collection of beautiful airplanes, helicopters, balloon-basket, a Wright 1903 Flyer replica and even a model skeleton of the wing-like device sketched by Leonardo DaVinci. There were some charming touches to the museum. Sitting next to a WW2 bomber was an old man who had flown one of those for thirty missions over France and Germany when he was eighteen. Alongside some planes were accurate models. One depicted intricately the machine gun wing assembly on a WW2 fighter. Next to the Hercules was a model of it used in the Scorsese film and donated to the museum.
On our way back, we checked out a few wineries, tasted the wines at a couple of them and bought some at one in Dundee. I haven’t been a fan of wine most of my life, having sided with beer whenever presented a choice, but in recent times I have started to experiment. Now, having had some really delicious ones, I’m starting to become a fan to the extent that I know a bit about what I like and what I don’t like. My wine vocabulary remains minimal and will probably stay that way unless my interest in it skyrockets.
We drove back to Portland through a different, but similarly scenic route. To top off the lovely Sunday, which was filled with expected and unexpected pleasures, that night we saw Terry Jones’ Erik the Viking. It featured a different kind of flying boat and was quite hilarious.
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I’ve returned to using Netflix this year and it’s working out great for Liz and me, both film lovers. Here are some thoughts on my recent Netflix experience.
I noticed the other day that when Netflix shows me ratings for a movie that I haven’t rated (the red stars), it is not showing me what I thought that was. The red stars show me what Netflix thinks I will rate the movie rather than the average of what others have rated. It is a prediction. This is not news, but is news to me. I don’t like it. I’d like to see the average rating given by others instead of the predicted rating for me. I’ve taken to hovering over each film’s title or image to get that information. It’s annoying but doable and I prefer it to the misleading red stars.
Recently when Liz was away for a few weeks, I had a plan to watch a bunch of action flicks and such-like that I wanted to see and knew the she wouldn’t want to see. Not that she isn’t into action films; the other day we greatly enjoyed Inglourious Basterds. So I browsed for those films that I had heard of and those that folks recommended, added them to my queue, and moved them to the top. Soon enough they started showing up and I had a great time catching up on that genre. Now that Liz is back, the queue is as it was before she left and I’m faced with a slight problem. When I come across a film in the aforementioned genre, I would like to store it for another similar time in the future. However, I can’t just add it to my queue without constant annoying maintenance. I’d like a feature using which I can make a list of movies called “Sam’s Must-See Action Flix”. When Liz travels, I can make this list my active queue in one click. And then one-click should return the active queue to the regularly scheduled list when she returns. Simple.
The “Watch Instantly” feature of streaming movies is most excellent. I love it, despite the fact that it causes my browser to crash once each time I use it. I’ve been using it to see movies I’ve enjoyed before but not seen in a long time and also for those times when you just want to see something right away but aren’t in the mood for the DVD lying on the table. It would be most awesome if it worked directly with my PlayStation 3 but from what I’ve read that is not likely to happen anytime soon.
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I’ve just released Avatari 0.3. This version adds support for Adium and also updates the FriendFeed API to the latest version to ensure forward compatibility.
I’ve been considering developing Avatari on iPhone. Would you be interested in it? If so, please answer a couple of questions here. It will take less than thirty seconds of your time. You can also write to me on Twitter at @samgrover or @AvatariApp. Thanks!
The latest version of Avatari is available at the link below, or just select “Check for Updates…” in the menu from within Avatari.
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Did you check those out? I did and found that none of them are in a language I know!
So, what do I do? Well, there’s Google’s language tools which can translate foreign language pages to a language of your choice. Google has handy bookmarklets for many languages. Find yours and set it up in the bookmark bar in your browser. When you’re at any website in a foreign language, just click that button for a quick translation. Awesome!
By doing that I read those blog posts and am quite happy to see that folks like Avatari and are finding it useful. Thanks folks!
I appreciate all comments and feedback regarding Avatari. Blog it or write me directly!
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A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The book is about food production and agriculture in the US. It is also about man’s relation to food and to the culture of eating. This is not a review of the book, but rather a summary of my thoughts on this subject as it relates to my personal health and habits.
Many years ago I saw Super Size Me. Following that I stopped eating at McDonald’s and reduced my consumption of fast food in general. It wasn’t until I saw King Corn and The Future of Food that the reality of industrial agriculture began to sink in. I was increasingly disgusted by what I was eating.
I’ve been altering my food habits towards ones that I believe will support the goal of a healthier life. Habits, that were encouraged by my parents while I was growing up, but those that I easily ignored in my adult independence. My mom taught me that just about anything is good in moderation but nothing is good in excess. Pollan’s observations on food show just how much excess is involved in industrial food. Observations of my own diet revealed that I was having too much meat and processed food and not enough vegetables, whole grains and fruits. I also found a large amount of HFCS in my diet, mostly from soda, but also, and this was a surprise to me, from ketchup and other products.
Throughout my twenties, I didn’t think twice about what I was eating as long as it tasted good, and often, fast and convenient. My younger body could take that abuse without much consequence. My older body won’t tolerate abuse as it gets confused and transformed by the bad food I eat. It is imperative that I live a healthy life and for that it is necessary that I eat healthy food. Enough is enough.
Having moved to the US from India, I’ve always admired the nutrition label on foods sold here. What I had often ignored was the list of ingredients. Now, more than ever, I find that information very valuable when eating or buying food. Labeling is important and I would like to see it become even more descriptive to capture the source of ingredients and to their status as GMOs. I’m grateful to those that research information about food and agriculture and seek to have it readily accessible.
Over the last few months I’ve been eating much less meat. I have eliminated HFCS from my diet. I have greatly reduced the consumption of processed food and increased the consumption of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. I acknowledge that as I seek to minimize my consumption of unhealthy food I may occasionally give in to the desires of speed, convenience or taste. Having Liz in my life has significantly helped to reintroduce and encourage healthier eating habits. Her food ethic is much stronger than mine and she is acutely conscious of what she consumes.
As an omnivore I can eat many things, but I won’t just eat any thing.
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I’ve just released Avatari version 0.2.2. This is a minor release. It preserves avatar file type when uploading to a service. It also improves and simplifies the user interface design when adding a new account. Many thanks to my friend @ubercolin for his suggestions regarding these improvements. For a complete list of changes, please see the Release Notes. You can get the latest version at the link below, or just select “Check for Updates…” in the menu from within Avatari.
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Mike Johnston, over at T.O.P, writes interesting posts quite often. He has recently written a couple of them that hit close to home. They are The Leica as Teacher and Why It Has To Be a Leica. Mike suggests a training program using the Leica for a year to shoot B&W film extensively and to edit and critique oneself on the photos taken. I’ve tried to do exactly that over the last two years.
There are some differences, of course. My camera has been a Bessa R2A. I’ve been using only that camera with a 50mm prime lens since January 2007. The Bessa is like a cheaper version of a Leica. Most of the points that Mike mentions in the second post apply to the Bessa too.
Certainly, I haven’t been as prolific as Mike suggests. Much has happened in my life since then and other interests have sometimes taken priority in spare time. As of today I have 362 photos on Flickr taken with this camera and lens pair. That’s an average of about three selected photos per week, although in reality there were bursts of activity when I was on vacation. About half of those photos are B&W. I typically haven’t thought in terms of color unless it felt quite essential, and have preferred B&W film for the most part.
The gist of the matter is that this is a really good exercise. In the end, like Mike says,
Because make no mistake, photographing the way I suggested in the previous post is the photographic equivalent of being a top athlete: it takes dedication and coordination and talent and time and sacrifice and lots of training.
This gels with what Malcolm Gladwell has written in Outliers and with my own experience. What matters most is that you put a lot of time and effort into it. The constraints Mike suggests help to make the exercise even more focused, pun unintended. It’s definitely not the only exercise out there but I sincerely believe that if you were to do this, it would greatly benefit your photographic eye. I can surely feel it and perhaps my photography shows it.
When I started using my Bessa, I dumped my DSLR and haven’t missed it since. Having said that, I think I’m getting weary of having a film based workflow as my primary one. I’m still hoping that a nice digital rangefinder will come along or that I will find it reasonable to invest in a Leica M8. Until then I may try the new Sigma DP2. It looks quite promising. I’ll keep an eye out for the news and reviews and look at photos from it for a couple of months before deciding.
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