Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Want a New Blog...

I want a new blog
One that I can control
One that won't force their agenda
And change the colors on my photos

I want a new blog
One with my own homepage
One with more formats and style options
And links that go various ways

One that won't make me angry
Wondering what to do
One where I can post my photos the way that I want to
With the colors I want to


In 2010 I bought my first DSLR camera and began using it voraciously.  I started a simple blog to share my photos, selecting Blogger because it was free and easy.  Since I already used Google and GMail the menus and formats were familiar.

Shortly after, I hesitantly fell into using Picasa Web Albums.  I use "hesitant" because at times in the past I tried using Picasa software to "Organize, edit, and share your photos" from my computer.  I HATED it.  The software grabs every image on your hard drive and, in my opinion, takes complete control over them.  Naturally, I doubted the Web Albums.

Much to my surprise, Picasa Web Albums was very easy to use.  It provided me with a single place with practically unlimited storage to organize and share my photos the way I wanted.  Posting photos was an easy, stream-lined process.

Then came Google+.

The Google+ entity began rounding up and enveloping all the satellite Google operations one by one.  The first changes were tolerable, I adjusted.  But when Picasa Web Albums was swallowed up by the  behemoth+, becoming a subheading under the giant, everything changed.

All my personal Web Album options reverted to the new default settings in my Google+ profile, which is really Google+'s code for "You will do it my way."  I meticulously combed through every setting, changing and adjusting everything I could.  Most importantly, UN-checking the "auto-enhance" option.  I knew it seemed too simple.

UN-checking "auto-enhance" only affects photos you upload from that time on.  It does not affect all the previously uploaded photos that were "enhanced" with the "upgrade" that reverted all my settings to default.  FOUR YEARS of photos "auto-enhanced" by Google+.  HUNDREDS of hours of post-processing time spent carefully adjusting color saturation, hue, and luminance using color-calibrated monitors all instantly wiped away.  (Note: This only affected the copies uploaded into Web Albums, not any photos on my hard-drive.)

[simmer down simmer down]

I coped with these changes and continued using Web Albums and Blogger, believing that I could keep up with +'s "improvements".

But then, this happened:

On the right is the image taken from Web Albums (un-auto-enhanced) when I was preparing my blog post.  On the left is the preview of what the blog post would look like.  WHAT?!  That is no small difference.  That is full-on auto-enhanced.

(Since I am posting this exact blog through Blogger, I am expecting the photos to be "auto-enhanced" again, so the photo on the left will be hyper-enhanced.)

For comparison's sake, here is a screen shot of my photo post-processed in Lightroom (keeping in mind the photo you see on your screen now is likely "auto-enhanced" through Blogger):

So, after noticing Blogger's gross defiling of my photo, I, again, combed through all my settings, all my options, through every link, and down each menu.  I searched and searched on the internet looking for answers or advice or hacks and only found the option of un-checking "auto-enhance" from the Google+ settings.  There is NO option to not auto-enhance photos posted in Blogger.

So that's it.  I'm done with Blogger.  I need to start over.

I want a new blog.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Piecing Words Together.

[Tamron AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 SP Di II LD Aspherical (IF)]

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Enterprise: The Best Kitty Ever.

Enterprise entered my life fourteen years ago.  He walked right up to me, sat down, and I fell in love.  “If you ever, ever need a home for this cat I will take him.”  A year later, he was mine – The Best Kitty Ever.

This past Wednesday we said goodbye.  Although I am heart-broken, I am thankful that we spent 13 years together.  Even as a cat-person I never imagined such an awesome kitty would come into my life for so long.  He was truly exceptional, a lover of all people, completely unbiased and nondiscriminatory.  

In late August Enterprise was diagnosed with renal disease; his kidney was too far gone to return to health and I knew his time with us was ending.  I returned home, collapsed on the floor and cried.  In the following weeks I gave him all my time, providing loving hospice care and taking him to the vet daily for treatment.  While this was unfolding my husband was gone and I desperately wanted Enterprise to live long enough for them to see each other again; they had a special bond that words cannot describe but that was obvious when they were together.

Being a people-cat, Enterprise sometimes had separation anxiety when we would leave, and especially when my husband was gone repeatedly for so many months.  Throughout these times I promised Enterprise that we would always come home, every time we walked out the door we would always, always come back; I promised.  So when he first got sick and my husband was away I asked Enterprise to hang on until he returned.  At that time his health stabilized and remained so for almost six weeks.  He was a tough cat and hung on so we could fulfill that promise one last time.  

Two weeks after my husband came home Enterprise’s condition began to decline.  On Monday we found out that anemia had set in; he stopped eating on his own and his movements slowed.  On Wednesday afternoon he got worse very, very quickly and I knew it was time to say goodbye because he would have had a miserable and probably painful night.  We knew we would have to make the decision at some point and it was definitely time for him to rest.  

That evening we all sat on the sofa together just as we always do, we wanted him to be comfortable and have a normal night.  Our friend, who took care of Enterprise when we would travel, kindly drove us to the vet's office.  My husband and I were with Enterprise when he died, very peacefully, in a quiet, private room.  He will be cremated (with his favorite string, of course) and returned to us in traditional Japanese style;  I somehow plan to return him to The States for a private burial in my parents’ backyard, alongside our family’s two other beloved cats.

I want to thank all of our family and friends whose thoughts and prayers helped support us during this grievous time. Our little family is forever changed and this support means everything.  I know to some other people a cat is a cat, but you all understand that Enterprise was not just a cat, but a member of the family who will be loved and missed by everyone who had the pleasure and fortune of knowing him.

Rest in peace, our dear, sweet Enterprise, The Best Kitty Ever.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ten on Ten: August.

August 10 fell on a Sunday this year, a day I am usually busy teaching one-on-one conversational English (ESL) with Japanese people keen on learning it.  However, this is the busiest week of Obon travel season and my schedule was very light, giving me time to participate in the project.

I did not set my alarm hourly as a reminder so photo times are not precise.  Also, every photo is from my iPhone which does not perform well in low light.  Next month I am hoping to use my real camera.

Remains of kitty's brunch.

End of class.

Between typhoon rain storms.

Catching up online.



Dinnertime for kitty.

Still reading.  Rainy day.

Dinner - Choose your own adventure night.

A quiet evening; almost finished.

The Ten on Ten project originally began with Rebekah Gough at her blog, a bit of sunshine.  She explains it as, "a fun and interactive way for blogger's from all around the globe to document a snap shot of their lives too, once a month on the tenth taking a photo an hour for ten consecutive hours. Finding life and beauty in the ordinary things of our day to day!" 

Ginger: Simple Syrup.

Simple syrup is sugar and water, in equal parts, heated until the sugar granules are melted. Simple. It is the ideal sweetener for cold foods, especially beverages.

White sugar is default in simple syrup, though you can use brown sugars, raw sugar, and any other sweetened granule you desire. Experiment.

In a previous posting I shared information on making ginger vodka through infusion and mentioned that the ginger can be reused for other purposes. A recent experiment of mine led to a delicious ginger simple syrup using the ginger from a vodka infusion a couple weeks ago.

I had about a cup and half of leftover vodka ginger slices and about 1 inch of fresh ginger root that I peeled, sliced and added to that. In a small sauce pan I combined the ginger, 1 ½ cups of water, and 1 ½ cups of white sugar. On high heat I brought it just to a boil then immediately reduced the heat to simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

While giving it a gentle stir periodically I smelled and tasted until it reached my desired gingery-ness. I can't describe it exactly but you should know it when you taste it – a combination of “Yum!” and “Bam!”  Once you hit that point remove the pot from the heat and let it cool enough to where you can pour it through a strainer and funnel it into a bottle or jar. I prefer glass to keep the taste as pure as possible.

Ginger syrup in green sun tea - yum!

Simple syrup should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep as-is for a week, maybe two. However, an easy trick will preserve it for much longer: simply add a small splash of plain vodka to the mixture. I add about 2 teaspoons to a 10-14 ounce bottle. I just eye-ball it; add enough that it mixes thoroughly but not enough to make it alcoholic.  You don't need much and you cannot taste it unless you've added too much. Using this trick most of my simple syrups last almost indefinitely, or at least until they are gone.

Ginger: Gin-Gin Martini.

My earliest memories of ginger include the nose-tingling sensation of Vernor's Ginger Ale and my Mother's dinnertime warning to not eat any ginger slices hidden in the stir-fry.

My love of ginger grows each time I taste it used in a different way. If it's on a menu in any manner I will try it. Four or five years ago I went to a Seattle restaurant with a friend before attending the ballet and with a little hesitancy ordered their Gin-Gin Martini. It has been my favorite cocktail ever since.

I began making it at home using store-bought ginger vodka, first with a Polish rye version, Alchemia Imbirowa, and when I could not find that, Skyy Ginger Vodka. The Alchmia was decent but eventually it became unavailable; Skyy was better than nothing but certainly lacked a true ginger root essence, tasting more of ginger ale syrup than the real thing.

Dissatisfied with the ready-made options I decided to make the ginger vodka myself, not actually distilling it of course, but by simple infusion. It was insanely easy and I could not believe I wasn't making it all along.

Three simple steps to make ginger vodka:
1. Peel and slice a ginger root
2. Soak cut ginger in plain vodka
3. Strain

Three detailed steps to make ginger vodka (using a 1 liter bottle):

1. Find a piece of ginger root with maybe 6 or 7 inches of usable pieces; it is better to infuse too much than too little because you can always dilute it down to your preference. You don't have to remove the outer skin but it makes a more clear final product so I always do; use a peeler or a small knife (very carefully). Slice the root across the grain into discs about 1/8 to ¼ inches thick. This isn't science, you don't have to measure, but you want to take full advantage of all the glorious ginger flavor. Once cut you should have a hefty handful of sliced ginger, maybe 1 ½ to 2 cups.

2. Put the sliced ginger into a pitcher and pour the vodka in. Place the pitcher into a refrigerator for at least 2 days, I've left it in for up to a week. Soaking ginger in alcohol is actually one way of preserving it so I wouldn't worry about the time on the long end.

3. Using a mesh strainer and a funnel pour the infused vodka back into the original bottle. I store the finished product in the refrigerator, it just seems better. If you are infusing less than a bottle it is very convenient to use a coffee press because then you can skip the strainer and funnel and simply pour directly from the pitcher.

4. (Optional, but highly recommended) Save the ginger from your infusion and store it in the refrigerator, I use a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap. As I mentioned earlier, it is actually preserved and can be re-used. Most often I use it in strir-frys but it is certainly not limited to that.

Finally, you now have ginger vodka and can make your own Gin-Gin Martini. Yes, I know it is not technically a martini, but since it contains only spirits I let the term slide on this one.

Gin-Gin Martini

1 oz. Gin (Bombay Sapphire pref.)
1 oz. Ginger vodka (home-infused pref.)
1 slice of cucumber

In a cocktail shaker add ice and spirits. Shake or stir (pref.) until well-chilled, the colder the better. Strain into small cocktail glass. Place cucumber slice on the rim. Enjoy.