Monday, March 20, 2017

Chinese Cheong Fun

I've been on this kick of making Chinese Cheong Fun with Char Siu filling lately.

This is a favorite at Dim Sum restaurants and my mom taught me how to make it many years ago.  Traditionally, the wrapper is made with rice flour and water and then steamed.  Char Siu, which is Chinese barbecued pork is baked in advance.  While this is the traditional method, I don't make my cheong fun this way.

My mom taught me that if you substitute rice flour with "Swans Down" cake mix, it actually turns out pretty good!  1 cup of water is mixed with 3/4 cup of Swans Down.  Pour a very thin mixture of this into a slightly oiled aluminum pie pan and then add the char siu.  Steam for 8 minutes and you'll be done!  It could not be easier!

As a dipping sauce, mix light soy sauce with sugar and add a dash of sesame oil.  Thin out with a little bit of water if the soy sauce is too powerful tasting.

So far, I still seem to make the cheong fun a bit too thick though.  I need to learn to pour in less liquid before steaming.  I also have a problem rolling the final product without tearing the skin.  And, I don't seem to be able to slice the char siu thin enough.  They tend to be too thick.  Still, the final product tastes great regardless of how poorly I make it look.  Try the recipe and be sure to give my mom credit for the substitution of the rice flour with Swans Down cake flour!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Never Rent a Modem From Your Cable Provider

Rant: Never believe what your cable provider tells you when they say a modem rental is only $5 or so per month! Mine was $14.95 per month! Figure in that I've had it for at least 44 months, that's about $658 of rental! If it was only $5 per month, it would have been around $220 for those 44 months. Still expensive, but ok... it's insurance in case something were to go wrong. 
You may ask, "Why didn't you see it on the bill?" Well, I really only looked at the total bill and the dollar amount always came out to what I was told I would pay. So I figured it was correct. I never look at the second page unless the total amount is wrong.
Business owners pay more for everything it seems, but I rented it in case something were to go wrong, the cable company would come out and fix it without charge. Home owners only rent it for $10 per month, I found out later from one of the reps at the cable store. Well, nothing has ever really gone wrong with it, so that's a lot of money for "insurance". 
When I found out I had been paying a lot more on the rental than I was told when I first got service in the office space, I immediately went and ordered a Motorola MB7420 for $89.95 from Amazon. Got it the next day, and now it's installed. So when the cable company tells you it's only $5 per month.... never believe them!
That is all.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Apple Mac Pro

Out with the Mac Mini and in with the Mac Pro!
Thanks to Balanced Exposure student Andrew J who was selling his used Mac Pro, I'm going to return the Mac Mini to the Apple Store and purchase his top of the line Apple Mac Pro instead!
The specs of the machine are: Intel Xeon E5 six-core, 3.5 GHz processor, 16 GB RAM, Dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics cards with 3 GB dedicated RAM, 256 GB PCIe SSD drive.
I've also purchased a new Google OnHub router for our WiFi at the school as well. I've been using an OnHub at home for the past year and it's extremely fast for WiFi! Read about it by clicking here.
This is going to be good!
Edit Note: I set up the entire computer and programs in about two hours. It's fast!

Apple Mac Mini - 2.6GHz Dual Core Intel i5 / 8 GB RAM

An update on my Apple Mac adventures...

I ordered an Apple Mac Mini 2.6 GHz Dual Core Intel i5 version with 8 GB RAM and a 256GB SSD drive.  (SSD stands for "Solid State Drive")  This will speed the machine up quite a bit over the standard version which only has a 5400 RPM hard drive. 

Once the new machine comes in, its speed should be near the equivalent speed of my MacBook Pro 13" computer that has a 2.7GHz Intel i5 processor and an SSD drive.

I got tired of the various issues I have been dealing with over the past six years with three PC's for the school each having various problems.  Those in my classes recently will know that I've had problems getting online and other issues with the PC.

While the Mac Mini is often looked down upon due to it's inability to be upgraded, it's actually a good choice for someone who already has a monitor.  You still need to buy a keyboard and a mouse too.  In all, with the machine, Apple Magic Keyboard and a standard Microsoft mouse, my total cost with tax was about $1100.  I already have a 25" 1080p monitor from HP, so while it's not a 5K 27" monitor like the iMac, it's good enough for me.

I am seriously considering offering a class for those thinking of moving from a PC to a Mac.  In the past two years, I've learned a lot about the Apple computers and what it really takes to make the transition.  You can't just buy a Mac and expect it to work like a PC.  There are definitely some things to do differently.  The class would concentrate on your purchase options, making the choice, and reviewing all the things I have found that are different on a Mac than on a PC.  I've been using the PC since it was invented and I'm a Microsoft Certified Professional as well (bet you didn't know that, eh?)

Edit Update: I'm switching to a Mac Pro!  Read about it by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Museum of Science and Industry

Spent some time with my students at the Museum of Science and Industry today.  We practiced how to use exposure compensation during Aperture Priority mode to get the right exposures.  It made a huge difference in our shots!

Images taken with a Nikon D500 camera and a Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens.  Raw images processed in Adobe Lightroom.

The blue image is a maze made up of mirrors.  Going through it was a bit of a challenge.  Due to my bad knees, I rode a mobility scooter so I sent the students up ahead of me.  Had I tried to go first, I would have likely plowed into the mirrors!  It reminded me of "Enter The Dragon" with Bruce Lee where he had to figure out where the bad guy Mr. Han was actually at since he could see him in all the mirrors!

Monday, February 27, 2017

HDR at the Field Museum

Lighting can be difficult at museums.  These images were shot at the Field Museum in Chicago.

The bottom image is the 0 EV shot.  The top image is an HDR image made up of a combination of 5 exposures at -2 EV, -1 EV, 0 EV, +1 EV, +2 EV.  Can you tell a difference?

Image taken with a Nikon D500 camera and Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens.  Image processed in Adobe Lightroom.

More Field Museum images below.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The People Vs OJ Simpson

I finished watching "The People Vs OJ Simpson" on Netflix. After teaching the crime scene processing class, it sparked my interest to see how TV would portray OJ's case. I liked the show.

My only connection to this case was that the LA District Attorney's Office had called upon one of the San Diego DA's Office's deputy DA's to help make the jury understand what DNA evidence was all about. That was Woody Clark. I recall being asked by Woody to videotape a DNA evidence seminar that he put together for other attorneys and investigators during the time I was with the San Diego DA's Office. Woody was one of the best DNA attorneys at the time. Seems LA needed him to help with the DNA evidence for the prosecution's side.

I recall seeing him on TV and thinking, "Hey! It's Woody!"

I also remember being at a Best Buy at the time the OJ verdict was being read. People hovered over the TV Department to watch. I think we were all stunned when the verdict was read, "Not Guilty"! A huge silence from the crowd... and then a lot of shaking of heads in disbelief.

Watch the show on Netflix if you get a chance. It's pretty good.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Crime Scene Photography Class

Another successful crime scene processing class at Balanced Exposure!

Students learned to identify, preserve and collect physical evidence at a mock homicide.  They got to photograph the scene, process the evidence for latent prints and preserve the evidence.  It was a great night!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Alternative Girl Scout Cookies?

We all love Girl Scout Cookies, right? I went to Aldi and found these cookies which are near identical to the taste of Girl Scout cookies! Cost was $1.39 for the Fudge Mint Cookies (just like Thin Mints! - 42 cookies), $1.39 for the Peanut Butter Cookies (18 cookies) and $1.79 for the Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies (18 cookies).

Benton's (the manufacturer) gives you a LOT more cookies too compared to the Girl Scouts who tend to fill in the packaging with plastic spacing. While this does help keep cookies from breaking, it takes up a lot of space too so you get less cookies.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing having alternative cookies to Girl Scout cookies? What do you think? You get a lot more and it costs a lot less... but is this hurting the girls? Sound off!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pelican Cases

For many years, my favorite storage case for camera equipment has been Pelican cases. I use the Pelican 1510 with dividers in it to carry my camera equipment.

This case is sized to fit the requirements of the TSA, so you can carry it on a plane. I've done that in the past without any problems. It has a pull out handle and wheels at its base so you can roll the case around.

 A lighter weight version of the 1510 case is the new Pelican Air 1535. It is more expensive however.

Check out this YouTube video on how the cases are made

Recently, I purchased a Pelican 1170 case for two guns that we'll use as props in our upcoming crime scene class (see photos above). While it is very small, it's still built to the quality I see on any other Pelican product. 

Get a Pelican case if you really want hardshell protection! I highly recommend their products!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Smith & Wesson M&P 40

One of the weapons for our Crime Scene Processing class on Feb 20. 

Can you tell this is a BB gun? Looks like the real thing! Similar size and weight... blowback when fired means the slide moves when you shoot the weapon as well. You can field strip the weapon just like the real thing too. No wonder law enforcement has a hard time making split second decisions on whether a kid is pointing a real gun or a BB gun at an officer! Shown quickly, you would never know this is not a real firearm.

Birthday Present From My Daughter

I finally built the birthday present my daughter bought for me! This heavy duty cart will be used when I'm cooking outdoors this coming Spring through Fall! I put a bunch of cast iron on it for now. It can handle up to 500 lbs of weight. The bamboo top is really heavy and can be used as a carving table if you want.

This cart has enough space for me to put all my condiments, cooking tools and cooking items on it when working outdoors on my gas wok and gas barbecue grill.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Toilet Repairs - Fluidmaster PerforMAX Toilet Fill Valve and Fluidmaster "Better Than Wax Universal Toilet Seal"

Since moving to a new home last February, the one thing that needed the most work for repairs has been our three toilets.  I had to change out the fill valves, the flappers and the supply hoses on each toilet.

When our first toilet started exhibiting signs of issues of water running constantly, I looked under the tank cover and was surprised to see that the previous owner of the home tried to "repair" the problem by using plastic ziplock bags to stop the water valve from gushing out water!  This was done on all three toilets!  I couldn't believe that someone would think this was a good fix!

I immediately went to Home Depot and purchased a Fluidmaster PerforMAX fill valve for each toilet.  I also decided to switch out the water supply hoses too since they were the old solid copper tubes rather than flex tubes.

Several months later, we found that the toilet on the main floor was leaking.  The fix for this was to remove the toilet and replace the wax seal.  Instead of just changing out the wax, I decided to get a Fluidmaster "Better Than Wax Universal Toilet Seal" which is made of rubber and foam.  Overall, it looked like a better solution although many times more expensive than the cheap $1.42 wax ring.

I had fixed our two toilets in our previous home when we decided to remodel each bathroom ourselves, so I had previous experience with repairing toilets.  But in those cases, I just replaced the wax ring.  This time, due to the leakage, I felt a better seal would be worth the $7.98 per toilet.

The problem using the new seal however, was the fact that after installation, the toilet was a little taller in the center where the drain was than in the past so that made the toilets rock on the floor.  I didn't know what to do!  But with the help of YouTube videos, I found that plastic shims under the toilet was the answer.  Putting in four shims on the lower level toilet made it totally solid!  You can find these shims if you search "Toilet Shims" on the Home Depot website.  The upper level toilets did not need shims.

Originally, we were going to have a plumber do the job of replacing the wax seals, but he never showed up to do the work!  We had hired him for two jobs for our previous home, but for some reason he didn't show up for this job.  We have found that many contractors that we have called over the years are just not reliable and simply do not show up to appointments!  After three text messages and a voicemail message to him to see if he was ever planning on coming, he had an assistant call back  seven hours later to see if we wanted him still to do the job the next day.  No Way!!  This is what prompted me to just do the entire job myself.

I wouldn't say I'm an expert in toilet repair, but I've done enough now that I think I'm getting pretty good at fixing these kinds of problems.  I just hope I don't need to do any more work on these toilets for a long time to come!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

iRobot Roomba 805 Update

Roomba Update: Well, the Christmas tree and other decorations were taken down yesterday. It generated a lot of pine needles and other junk all over the floor, so I couldn't wait to see how well the Roomba would do picking it all up.
I can tell you, I am impressed. The roomba has a built-in microphone that "hears" when there is a lot of debris being picked up at a given spot, so it goes back and forth in that area to vacuum more than it normally would. It's a smart way to do it really. When that dirt gets picked up, it "clicks" more as it hits the dust bin, so the machine knows there must be more dirt in that area than normal and so it concentrates more effort there!
Overall, it picked up perhaps 90-95% of the things left on the ground. However, I ran the Roomba a total of three times, just to be sure everything got picked up... just in case.
Vacuuming manually would have perhaps been a cleaner job because you see where to work more. But again, being a lazy housekeeper, doing it automatically is just so much easier and more fun for sure!
I've included a photo of one of our Christmas trees this year. While it's an artificial tree, it still generated lost pine needles. The garland on the mantel didn't help either!
We've had this Roomba for about three weeks now. Initially, it picked up so much stuff (even though we thought our floors were clean) that we had to stop often to dump the dust bin out! Most likely, it's due to the stuff under beds, etc. Now that it's been running every other day downstairs and twice per week upstairs, there are less things being picked up to force a dust bin cleaning in mid-cycle. Even though we vacuum every other day, I am always amazed that dirt and dust gets picked up every time the Roomba runs! Just goes to show you that a home does generate a lot more dirt and dust than you think! Consistent cleaning is the key to keeping a home more dust-free!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year's Eve Game - Chicago Bulls Vs Milwaukee Bucks

I attended the Bulls Vs Bucks game on New Year's Eve.  Unfortunately, the Bulls lost 116-96.

Lots of action as usual and we sat at the same 12th row seats too.  During breaks, there were baby races and acrobats, and just before the game started, we even witnessed a wedding proposal!

Images were taken with a Nikon D4 and Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII lens on manual settings.