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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Documenting Dinner – Poached Tilapia with a Sh*tload of Onions

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I was cooking dinner Friday night and it just looked so damn good that I felt like taking pictures of it.

The sh*tload of onions referenced in the title along with dried chilis and a spice blend called panch phoron.

Five minutes later – still a sh*tload but a smaller one.

Freshly ground coriander, cumin, cayenne, and salt added into the mix.

Tilapia filets coated in tumeric.

Searing, part one…

Searing, part two…

And the poaching begins!

Chopping up some cilantro while that happens.

The end result! Served over basmati rice with a Copperhead Pale Ale from Free State Beer in Lawrence, KS.

The recipe is “Poached Carp with Chiles and Onions” from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. I very much recommend picking up a copy at your local library, discovering that you love it, and then buying it for yourself.

Written by Chris

January 26th, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Cooking,Photography

2013’s first project: a saltwater mixing barrel

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As I post this our home has three different fishtanks in it comprising nearly a hundred gallons of water volume – a 75 gallon tank, a 14 gallon tank, and an 8 gallon tank – and we’ve plans to add more. You’d probably imagine that doing regular water changes would be a royal pain but for the most part it’s not that bad. The 75g and 8g are freshwater tanks which means that water changes involve slightly treated tap water. The 14g, however, is a saltwater tank. Doing a water change on that tank involves five gallons of RODI-filtered water mixed with an artificial salt blend which is supposed to replicate the minerals found in the ocean. RODI stands for “Reverse Osmosis De-Ionized” which is a filtration process which takes for-friggin’-ever but totally purifies the water. I recently purchased an RODI filter unit so I can make new water at home. Unfortunately the filter only outputs about 60 gallons a day. A water change bucket takes two hours to fill. After that the bucket has to be heated to match the tank temperature, the salt has to be added and dissolved, and preferably the whole mess gets transfered to another bucket so that I’m not mixing in the same bucket into which I’m sticking my non-filtered hands during the actual change. This part of aquarium ownership is indeed a royal pain.

Not anymore! Courtney and I have made a mixing barrel which we’ll use to store thirty gallons of saltwater at a time. Now when I need to do a water change I’ll just pump five gallons into a handy clean bucket. Presto! What was once a half-day of waiting for water disappears and a water change becomes just a few minutes of doing the actual work.

Almost all the pieces for this project. Not pictured: actual barrel.

We used 3/4″ clear PVC to create a water level viewer so we can tell at a glance how much water is available without opening the barrel.

The actual barrel: a 32 gallon Rubbermaid Brute from Home Depot. We’ve used a 1-1/4″ diameter hole saw to make the holes for the water level viewer.

The black circles are Uniseals. These things are awesome. They provide a watertight seal for non-flat surfaces like the curved edge of a barrel.

Quality control status: passed!

The water level viewer is attached by pushing it through the Uniseals.

A view from the inside.

The pump is installed and mostly plumbed. None of this is cemented together so we can take it apart if necessary.

The tap and a five-gallon bucket underneath it.

Finishing off the plumbing to let the water continuously circulate.

Water in the barrel! The hard-to-see line on the level viewer is the minimum water level – any lower and the pump would start sucking in air.

The barrel in its new home in the fish utility room.

Written by Chris

January 14th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

The re-rise of Hork the Orc

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My favorite D&D character in college was a half-orc barbarian named Horknuth, who went by the stage name “Hork the Orc.” He was a gladiator-slave with an extremely low Intelligence and a penchant for fine shirts. Unfortunately I left the mini in Iowa when I moved to Kansas all those years ago and for one reason or another Hork hasn’t seen play since.

Recently my D&D group has started a second campaign in which the role of DM is shared between all the players. The PCs are employees at a detective agency which performs tasks structured to be resolvable over the course of a single evening. This way we can keep a semi-cohesive story but allow individual players to come in and out without complex-ish explanations (“Carl can’t play? Oh, um, I guess Dinkles the elf twisted his ankle. He’ll catch up.”).

This campaign seemed like the perfect opportunity to begin playing Hork again on a regular basis. I was having some trouble finding a mini figure so I decided to do some surgery.

Before: A stock figure from a D&D 4th Edition pack, “Male Goliath Barbarian.”

This guy’s got a ridiculously huge sword, odd colorations, hide pants, shirtlessness. That’s not quite right but the build of the character is close enough. An XActo knife and a bit of paint later and…

I realized belatedly that the haircut and short bold-colored pants make him look a bit like The Hulk. I don’t think it’s too bad for a first effort at modding and painting a figure myself 🙂

Written by Chris

March 17th, 2011 at 11:50 am

Posted in D&D,General,Photography

Dungeons and Dragons – Homemade Minis

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It’s been some months since I started a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with people in R&D at Perceptive. Everyone in the group has been getting into it and we’re having a great time.

My last post on this subject was about a homemade battle grid. I talked about the potentially high price tag of playing D&D with all the Wizards of the Coast-made accessories and such, and it certainly hasn’t gotten any cheaper since I wrote that. Instead of a potentially vast collection of little plastic miniatures to represent foes in the game I’ve been using a large number of 1″ glass beads that I got at a Michael’s craft store for seven dollars. This works out well for straightforward enemies but it doesn’t really give the players a sense of “oh shit!” when going up against a large or otherwise interesting creature. When the group faced a young dragon, I made one out of origami. It went over very well but there were two general problems with the idea: first, it pushed my origami skills to the limit and second, there aren’t easy-to-follow origami instructions for making most other creatures (like aboleths for example).

Then Courtney got a block of Sculpey and went to town.

Why, what’s in this box?


Shiyali (Courtney’s dwarven wizard character) and all her effects – a Flaming Sphere, a Cloud of Daggers, a Pinioning Vortex, and two Rolling Thunder tiles. The grid that the figures are standing on is 1″ by 1″ squares.

Shiyali from the side, featuring her orange mouse Gerard.

Courtney hasn’t only been making figures for her character. She’s also been making some minis for some of the more interesting combat encounters that we face. We haven’t actually had the encounter that will feature the following monsters, but they’re so damn cool I can’t not blog about them 🙂

A beholder and two dimensional mauraders.




Shiyali ruins the beholder’s day by conjuring a Flaming Sphere between it and its guards.

Written by Chris

July 11th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Posted in D&D,Photography

I don’t have a girlfriend anymore

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…because I have a fiancee!

Courtney’s ring – green sapphire, 3/4 carat brilliant round, in a white gold setting.

More pictures on Flickr.

Written by Chris

August 9th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Posted in General,Photography

Some pictures from around the house

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We got new living room furniture!

Bookcase, coffee table, loveseat. The big bushy plant on the left of the bookcase is a prayer plant, the smaller one is a dwarf umbrella tree.

The loveseat and dining room table. Also pictured: French horn and spider plant.

The couch and a small palm tree (I think) on the wall facing the bookcase.

Our new vacuum (thanks Bed Bath and Beyond gift card contributors!) and one of the reasons for it.

Written by Chris

August 3rd, 2009 at 8:57 am

Posted in General,Photography

Courtney’s new rack

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Haha, misleading post title!

2009 is proving to be a great year for organization, and Courtney’s at the forefront of this trend. Her car’s trunk has been getting on her nerves for some time now. Its collection of jumper cables, dog blankets, empty shoe boxes, and god-knows-what-else has been rattling around in her mind as much as it has been in the trunk. But no more, thanks to one (extremely cold) Sunday’s worth of work.

The trunk of Courtney’s Accord, Stanley.

The plan was to create a shelving unit in the trunk. A trip to Home Depot netted some fine shelving racks which we cut up with a saber saw and positioned with zip ties.

The rack was designed to hold one largish under-bed box, and a smaller box for smaller things. A piece of PVC cut to size, drilled, and zip-tied on prevents the smaller box from slipping.

The most difficult part of assembly was creating pillars that would attach to the car’s frame and allow the frame to hang down about a foot. No zip-ties here: small bungee cords were looped through the pillars to hold them to the shelf, which were then hooked to the frame…

…which took forever and involved a lot of very cold hands and awkward angles, but it worked! We eventually replaced the bungee cords on the back with (you guessed it) zip ties. After three times losing the very taut cord down in the PVC and having to re-run it, zip ties looked reeeeally good.

Hooray for organization!

There are more photos on the Flickr set “Junk In The Trunk”. This project had way too many fun names 🙂

Written by Chris

January 21st, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Posted in General,Photography

Ze topoff, ze topoff!

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Just to update my previous post, the new topoff is done and operating nicely. All the pictures are up on the project page.

Written by Chris

December 8th, 2008 at 10:02 am

It’s been a while since I wrote anything, so here are some pictures

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November has just flown by without a whole lot of crazy stuff going on. You all know how it is: DST changes and hours become other hours, three entire Thursdays go by until Thanksgiving, then before you know it December.

My job continues to be great. When I started here I asked if I could have a fishtank, and the answer was “well how big of a tank?” then “sure.” Earlier this month I up and put a 2.5 gallon tank (designed by Courtney, more on that later) on my desk, and in that tank I put a betta. Between the tank and my vine, I’ve got a nice zen thing going on.

The tank on my desk. Not pictured: any work whatsoever.

The betta, whose name is Pixel because he’s red-green-blue.

My home-animals are also good. I don’t have any recent pictures of my saltwater fishtank, though I did take a couple of the cats in their new beds. They got beds because they’re now banished from sleeping in my bed due to them being hairy and shedding like crazy, which means I have to shut them out of my bedroom at night. I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable 🙂



Also, I made some Christmas earlier this week. My large fake tree from last year ended up looking odd and being a general pain in the ass, so I got a small fake tree instead.

Aww, Gromit wants to be Christmas!

I was having some serious problems getting a non-fuzzy picture of the tree.

Or non-speckled.

Written by Chris

November 28th, 2008 at 9:13 am

Introducing the 2008 Mazda 323

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I’ve been idly reading forums geared towards automotive enthusiasts who own Mazdas. It seems that a semi-popular thing to do with Mazda3s is to re-badge them as a Mazda Axela. I’m not that big of a fanboy, but Courtney had an interesting proposition: why not re-badge it as a 323?

I looked on eBay, but no one was selling extra badges from the Mazda3 and the Mazda2 (I wanted to make the fonts look decent). All seemed lost, until Courtney noticed the car’s side panels: a shiny “2.3” badge on each side. Well dang, between the immediate availability of numbers and the fact that yesterday peaked around 75 degrees, how could I not?

It’s been three months since I bought my new car; I’m honestly surprised I haven’t done something like this already 🙂

Fishing line behind the badge cut through the adhesive holding it on in relatively short order.

The car was sitting in the sun, so the adhesive was already soft. Hot water, soap, and my thumb cleaned the residue right off.

Both 2.3 badges and the 3 badge from the back are off. Also featured, the lovely gouge some asshat left in my bumper a couple months ago.

The 2.3 badges got de-gooped, sawed apart, sanded down, and reset on 3M indoor/outdoor mounting tape. I think this is pretty much exactly what Mazda used in the first place.

Laying out how the re-purposed badges will look.

Hooray, a Mazda3…wait


It’s so beautiful!

A wash and a wax later, and everything looks spectacular. Thanks to Courtney for the great photos, and the idea, and locating the 2.3 badges, and cleaning off the badges, and making handy loops of fishing line for cutting them off in the first place…we went through a lot of fishing line.

Written by Chris

November 3rd, 2008 at 9:03 am

Posted in Car,General,Photography