In a matter of hours on Friday, Typhoon Haiyan completely devastated parts of the central Philippines. It was one of the strongest storms ever recorded. The death toll is estimated up to 10,000 with hundreds of thousands more displaced. The country has declared a “state of calamity.”
Storm chaser, James Reynolds shot some incredible video of the super typhoon as it hit Tacloban City.
Folks. A true tragedy has unfolded in the Philippines. These folks could sure use your help. We’ve donated a piddly $75 from our home ($25 from me, from Beata, and from Marzocco the dog, who loves the Philippines!) And I’m challenging all of you reading this to do the following:
1. Post a tumblr post about the tragedy in the Philippines and ask people to donate.
2. I challenge you to match our $25 per person (or living being) per household to the relief funds for this tragedy. $25 is nothing to most of us - it’s a lunch with a beer, it’s two tickets to the movies, it’s a week’s worth of morning cappuccinos at Starbucks. But that $25 (or more) will go a long way to helping these folks hit by such devastation.
So I managed to finally get a Chromecast. I’ve been to the states a few times since it was launched and tried to buy it at Best Buys a few times only to find it sold out. I finally ordered it through Amazon and had it delivered to a US mailing address I have. Here’s some thoughts, especially for folks in Canada.
The Good Redonkulously easy to set up. No IP Address in Canada issues. Plug it in, download the Chromecast app for your computer (or get the APK for your Android phone or tablet) and let it search for the Chromecast. Register, copy an id number, and bam, it’s registered to your Google account. Plus others in the house can access it through Chromecast in Android, and Chrome browsers. Multiple units, no problem - assign it a name (bedroom tv, living room, etc) and they’re listed in plain english on your devices.
Play music works almost flawlessly, if you have done various tricks to get Play music working in Canada (for storage of your own music - you still can’t buy music in Canada from Google Music). I’ve seen a few hiccups, but mostly it works fine. Ditto for Play Movies and TV. The Chromecast pulls this content direct from the Internet, so it works better, and in full HD.
Netflix works well, and full 1080p HD on my Chromecast! It’s quite good and flicker free when it is running HD content. However, if you’ve done things to get Netflix USA on your devices (via Unblock US or other services) you cannot play that content on the Chromecast - at best it’ll start loading the content to 25% and stop. This is because your VPN / DNS tricks don’t work on the Chromecast - it has Google’s DNS servers hard baked into its OS.
Broadcasting Chrome browser tabs works very, very well, and is pretty smart too. It knows when stuff is full screen, as an example, and if you’re viewing pages off the web with high quality video, etc, and go full screen, the HD video plays on your Chromecast tv without any problems or hiccups.
Youtube generally works well, but seems like it could use some work. I like the Android Youtube link better than the desktop browser linking. But see below.
A Hack Want to play your local computer content on your Chromecast tv? You can, by loading your movie files into your web browser, then broadcasting that tab to the Chromecast. But this doesn’t work very well - the video gets choppy and stutters after a few minutes. Basically, your Chrome browser is doing double duty - showing local content and trying to stream that local content via wifi to the Chromecast (which can’t pull the content direct from the Internet).
The Not So Good Netflix US won’t work. Google hard baked in their DNS servers (126.96.36.199). But this also means any other cockblocked content (ie, stuff only available in the US or UK or whatever) won’t work, so any Youtube US only stuff won’t work; The Daily Show, etc ditto. You can try broadcasting a tab in your Chrome Browser showing the Daily Show, but it won’t play on the Chromecast TV.
Youtube has some problems. For instance, it won’t play a playlist. It will just play the first video then stop. It needs some work.
Of course, the other services Google is trumpeting for Chromecast: Hulu, HBO Go, CBS, ABC, NBC (coming soon) Pandora and other coming soon services will not work in Canada.
What it Needs Chromecast needs a better landing screen on your television. When running, it just shows a photo, says its ready and which Chromecast it is (ie, Living Room Chromecast); as well as the network it’s on. It could use added content, like time, weather, calendar, or other stuff you might want to broadcast, like your schedule, news or the like.
Google has blocked any effective 3rd party access for now, so you can’t make use of the full power Chromecast offers. Google has to come up with an easy method to broadcast local content to the Chromecast (a la Airplay for iOS). This is Chromecast’s killer app, and Google needs to bring this out like yesterday.
When your music is playing, things are pretty bland on the screen - just a static image of your album art that changes position once in a while. It needs more, like a sound sensitive screensaver effects, or showing next songs on the playlist, or something.
The retro design was cute at first but I’m now so sick of Fuji and Oly taking it to the literal extreme.
I won’t comment so much on Olympus’ design choices other than to say I do think that Olympus has done some retro design work just for the sake of it looking retro.
But I can tell you as someone who’s shot film and digital cameras for over 25 years, in many ways the peak of functional camera design happened in the 1970s and early 1980s; at least in terms of usability and intuitive design. It really started with the Leica M3 in the 1950s; Leica came up with a design that, to many, made the camera an extension of your hand.
When Nikon developed their SP rangefinder, they borrowed a lot from Leica and included some of their own innovations - it’s almost completely natural to go from one finger (your index finger) at the shutter trigger area to two fingers - your index and middle finger - up in that area, one for shutter, the other to fine tune your focus. Nikon’s S range rangefinders gave you that option.
Then the Nikon F came along and changed everything. SLRs became the future, and because of the look-through-the-lens ability, the design and usability had to evolve once again.
Nikon, Canon, Olympus and even Minolta fine tuned the SLR shooting experience through the 1970s onto the early 1980s. All these makers (and others) designed an amazing platform that worked with almost every pair of hands out there, no matter the size. They all helped evolve the SLR into a tool that almost literally became an extension of your hand. Everything felt right and natural. The placement of dials, knobs, levers, and buttons all fell into the right spots. The placement of the lens barrel acted as a place to not only hold and stabilize the camera, but also was perfectly placed for focusing… and then in the 1980s, a place to zoom in and out too.
For me, the pinnacle of camera design was the Nikon F4. That camera has an absolutely crazy amount of things you can control on it and everything is accessible through levers, buttons, dials and other electro-mechanical controls. That Nikon was able to make such a complex, intensive camera that still felt natural and comfortable enough to do almost all your control things with your eye to the viewfinder staggers my mind to this day.
But with that said, the camera is still crazy complex, and far too complex for most photographers today. Which brings me back to “retro”. I still think the best mechanical camera ever made for 35mm film is Nikon’s FM3a camera, introduced around 2000. It’s not only the best mechanical film camera ever made because of the technology inside, but also because of how usable it is.
At first glance, the FM3a looks like it could be from the 1960s or 1970s. Nikon didn’t do this to be “retro”; they did it because that design and shape works. It hasn’t been improved upon. The FM3a feels like an extension of your hands. To borrow from a famous quote, you “become one with the camera” when it is up to your eye and you’re firing the trigger.
The Leica M series is the same way. The M7, the Leica film camera still made today, isn’t that much different in shape or form or function than a M3 is. There’s a reason for this - the design works. It works a bit different from a SLR in one’s hands, but it still works. It’s not retro for the sake of retro; it’s retro because Leica nearly perfected the rangefinder camera’s usability design in the 1950s and has rolled with that ever since.
So when Fuji brings out the X100 and gives it dials, controls and layout that comes off as retro, I’m sorry but I prefer to think Fuji recognized historical perfection in usability design and tried to mimic it. The X100 mimics the retro design of old rangefinders because retro works. Of course, the X100 (and X100s) does miss a few things - like a larger focus wheel, or knowing that fly-by-wire focusing is no replacement for a true tactile mechanical focusing system - but they also incorporated a lot of the best things in retro cameras, including the hybrid viewfinder which borrows a lot from the way mechanical rangefinders work. And the aperture control. And the exposure compensation control. And even the threaded shutter button. I could go on.
I’m of the school that the functional design of a camera in one’s hand was perfected in SLRs in the 1970s and early 1980s; and the functional design of a rangefinder camera was perfected in the 1950s and 1960s. Until someone actually develops a new design that does better, I’m happy that camera makers are looking to these examples of engineering and usability brilliance, and are copying them.
The only thing I’m less a fan of is when camera makers go “retro” just for the sake of going retro. Especially if it’s clear these modern equipment designers show an ignorance of why those retro designs worked. Or worse still, not actually implementing the best things in those retro designs, when designing their new cameras.
I can say, having used them, Fuji has absolutely nailed the best of the best from history’s cameras, at least in their X100/s and X1 Pro lineup. Olympus with their EP lineup? Until they have a viewfinder, I think they may be doing retro more for the sake of being retro, than actually using the best parts of retro design.
Enrico Maltoni, a noted slow food activist, antique hunter, espresso machine historian and a fantastic fellow has a few books under his belt already. This is his latest effort, and his greatest one so far. Over 750 pages. At least five years in the making. I got to see a draft of this a few years ago and was so looking forward to the day he got it published. And now he has. You can find out more about it here.
Warning: this is a serious book, for serious coffee folk. It’s 100 euro plus shipping because of the small run and high costs of producing.
I pull my own espresso at home. I buy freshly roasted beans from a local coffee shop and I ask them to grind the bag for me. I do not own my own grinder yet. I have been meaning to get a Hario manual grinder. My question is: I have always stored by freshly ground coffee in the refrigerator in an air tight container. Is this good or bad? I know that storing coffee in a cool dry place inside an air tight container is sufficient but it can get hot and humid here in Toronto.
The most important improvement you can do for espresso is a quality grinder. There’s no getting around this. Hand grinders, like the Hario Skerton or Porlex or other models don’t “cut it” for good home espresso either. They’re too slow, the grind is too variable (the burrs wobble because they’re on a spindle and susceptible to your crank action).
I do not, under any circumstances, recommend pre grinding coffee for espresso and storing it in the fridge, with perhaps one exception: if you’re mobile and use a brewer like a Mypressi or Handpresso, preloading their filters and storing them absolutely air-tight with no oxygen exposure for a short time is on the edge of acceptable (the Handpresso has an option for this - their 3-filter airtight holder that has almost no ambient O2 exposure).
Coffee ground for espresso has much, much more surface area exposed to air than coffee ground for press or drip. Illy showed in scientific studies that coffee ground for espresso will lose up to 80% of its stored C02 in the first minute: this is crucial, since CO2 is one of the primary flavor transporters for espresso and also provides good crema. Without it, your shots will be black and will also be losing most of the coffee’s best nuances, balance and flavour.
The best thing I can advise you on is to get a good espresso grinder (or multipurpose grinder suitable for espresso). At the low price range, the Baratza Virtuoso or Preciso; at the mid, the Baratza Vario; if you want a dedicated espresso grinder, the Compak K3 series is really good, but start saving your pennies.
This will be the most dramatic improvement you can bring to your home espresso.
I want to get into pour over and don't know where to start. Tom at Sweet Maria's says the Hario V60 doesn't get as good extraction as small hole devices. Is there any benefit to the Hario, other than maybe speed for the barista? On the other side I'm considering an immersion pour over, the Clever or the new Bonvita. Do you know if I can simply open the valve and use either of those as a traditional pour over? That's all kind of a big topic. Thanks for your help.
Yes, this is a big topic, and I often feel I’m not the best person to ask detailed questions about pourover, since it’s one of my less-used brewing methods. But I’ll take a stab just by telling you about my personal preferences.
I don’t like paper filtration. I have discovered I’m particularly sensitive to paper taste, much like others are sensitive to metal tastes. So my pour over methods of choice are much more geared towards non paper solutions.
My favourite overall pourover device is the Hario Wood Neck Dripper with the cloth filter system. I like it because you get good cup clarity (sediment free) but all the flavour oils pass through cloth (unlike paper which blocks a lot of oils). The downside to this method is cleaning - for the best possible cup, your cloth filter has to be completely clean and scent neutral each time you use it. I use Oxyclean to clean my cloth filters, followed by a lot of water rinsing. That’s another negative - a lot of water use with this method.
My second favourite method isn’t cheap: it’s the Chemex brewer with the handle and the GoldKone Version 3. Why gold? Gold is totally neutral to taste, and some people can taste the effects of metal filters. The V3 is well designed and you can not only use a slightly finer grind with it, but also stir the slurry if you like - it can handle it. The flow rate on the V3 is really good.
If you have to go paper, I don’t know if I totally concur with Tom on this - I think the V60 + cone filters works okay. Adjust your grind to control the flow rate and the extraction times.
Immersion brewing… I’ve never been a big fan of the Clever; it’s okay, but again, it’s paper filtration and I’m not a fan. I much prefer the Eva Solo for immersion brewing. There is sediment, but it is a nice rich cup.
Almost seven years ago I posted something to my personal coffee blog proposing a Barista Creed. That post fostered a lot of debate when it first came out and continues to do so occasionally today.
The creed came about because of a theory I had back in 2004/2005 regarding the true craftsperson barista. The capital B barista. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have exposure to a lot of the world’s top baristas in the past (and even some today) and have had many an espresso shot pulled by these baristas. I realised that there’s a truly advanced skill that some Baristas have that I wish more baristas had (if you get my drift). That skill is the analytical skill that comes with a lot of experience with a lot of different coffees, machines and grinders. The skill that comes from pulling a lot of shots - years’ worth of shots. The ability to diagnose the process of making espresso anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
Those words were the foundation of the creed, which is pretty simple: The creed is "any coffee, any grinder, any machine".
Unfortunately over the years, people have questioned - ridiculed this even - because they can’t move past the “any” word, especially in relation to coffee (but also in relation to the grinder or the machine).
Folks. I’m involved with specialty coffee. Specialty Coffee. I wouldn’t write a creed about using a blade grinder and Maxwell House whole bean in a krups steam toy espresso machine. Of course I’m talking about decent equipment and coffee.
This creed makes a few assumptions. It assumes the coffee is good calibre, fresh roasted, decent tasting. It assumes the grinder is capable of doing an acceptable espresso grind. It assumes the espresso machine can produce 9BAR of pressure steady and hold its temperature reasonably well.
But none of that matters. The creed isn’t really about focusing on any machine, any grinder, any coffee.
The creed is about the Barista, with a capital B. The creed is about a skillset so good, the Barista can go up to an espresso machine they’ve never seen or used before, step up to the machine’s grinder — again a machine theyare unfamiliar with — and use a coffee they’ve never tasted before that comes from a skilled roaster, and within 2, 3 or at most 4 shots, are producing the best espresso that combination of three elements can produce.
The creed is about skill. Not equipment. Not coffee. It’s about understanding the espresso process.
I know many baristas who are absolutely kick ass at what they do: they know their blend (or SO) inside out. They know every nuance of their machine. They understand their grinder intimately. But therein lies the problem: many good baristas are almost literally married to their machines. I’ve heard baristas say they can’t hope to pull a decent shot if they didn’t have their Synesso, or their K10 Touch grinder, or their La Marzocco GB5.
I posit there’s very few Baristas around the world who have enough experience with a wide range of machines, grinders and coffees to be able to hit that gold standard of “any coffee, any grinder, any machine” within 3 or 4 shot pull attempts, without any side reference. And I’ll state something here that won’t make some people happy. I’ve seen some national and world barista champions who are in the Capital B Barista category, and I’ve seen others who have had meltdowns when using unfamiliar machines, grinders and coffees.
This creed is why, in 2009, I started suggesting baristas forget about latte art throwdowns and start concentrating on “spro downs” - espresso shot pulling competitions, pulling shots on unfamiliar machines, using unfamiliar grinders, and using a coffee they’ve never used before. To me, that would seriously test the mettle of a barista’s skillset, infinitely more than pouring latte art.
To live up to this creed means you have to understand the process of what makes espresso happen. You have to be able to instantly diagnose a shot’s defects, and use the skillset and experience you have to modify what you’re doing and the machines you’re doing it on to correct those defects. You also have to be able to taste. All of this takes real skill and dedication. Much more than pouring a leaf or heart in a cup.
This is the Barista Creed I proposed in 2006: Any Coffee. Any Grinder. Any Machine. It saddens and dismays me that far too many people have focused on the “any” part thinking I’m suggesting they use folgers and a blade grinder.
I’m focusing on barista skill. A true artisan’s skill and understanding of the entire espresso making process.
Oh a PS: Anyone who thinks this creed is obsolete doesn’t understand the creed either :D
I’ve always been a huge Pam Grier fan (what red blooded maie wasn’t, back the day!); I can remember watching all her movies in the early 1990s (her 1970s blaxsplotation films) and loving her strong female character who isn’t afraid to get a bit naughty. Then kick your ass.
Well one movie I didn’t know about until this eve was Friday Foster… where Pam plays a… photographer! Here’s some stills from the movie.
Review of SPUD Food and Produce Delivery Service - Vancouver
For several years now, we’ve gotten weekly food deliveries from a Vancouver company called SPUD, or Sustainable Produce, Urban Delivery. (nb this is an affiliate link - you save $20 on first delivery, see below) We signed up for it originally because we liked the idea of weekly milk and eggs delivery. Since then, it’s become our primary (though not our only) grocery source, and we order about $80 to $130 a week through the service.
What they Offer
SPUD is a full blown grocery delivery service, but their focus is definitely on organic foods. There’s very few “mass market” brands like nestle, kraft or the like to be found at SPUD and we like that. They started, as I understand it, as a year round source for organic fruits and vegetables, but have since expanded quite a bit in their offerings.
We really like that the offer products from sustainable, transparent companies - companies that have good reputations for food ethics. We buy most of our meats through SPUD because they get their meats from Two Rivers Meats, a butcher on the North Shore that sources super ethical foods.
Breads, most of the dairy, eggs, butter, all the other basic staples are available and also locally sourced, and often organic as well. There’s a crazy wide selection of breads from a variety of local bakers; on dairy your choices are more limited but Avalon milk is the main source and their milk is awesome.
If you want to eat primarily 100 mile food (that’s food grown or produced within 100 miles of your home), SPUD even has a section of their website that allows you to shop only true local. I really like that option, and sometimes will pay the extra 10, 20% for something that is truly local and small scale operations - support your local businesses kind of thing, but also has a dramatic effect on your carbon footprint.
They also offer a wide range of home care products (cleaners, soaps etc) that are environmentally friendly and even organic. I think they offer women’s makeup stuff too, but I don’t venture into that area of the website. And there’s plants, pet foods, and pretty much most of the other things you’d find in a Safeway; though with SPUD, the stuff is usually local and organic.
Some of our favourite SPUD things
I really like that SPUD carries a lot of superior quality products, including the crazy expensive (but somewhat worth it) Q soda drinks, Two Rivers’ Meats products, local soups and pastas, and bread from my favourite bakers in town just to name a few. Before we started using SPUD, I’d have to go to 3, 4 or more stores to get this kind of selection. That’s one of the best things about this service.
We also get a flower bouquet delivery every 2nd week that we alternate - one delivery a month is the cheapest bouquet (Spring Flower Mix, $6ish) and another one delivery a month is their fancy bouquet (full bouquet, $16). This means we have fresh flowers in the home every second week, and they seem a great value - the bouquets are almost always beautiful and fresh, every week the arrangement is different. I think they’re cheap: the $16 bouquet compares with $20, $25 bouquets I’ve seen at Granville Island, and the $6 one is crazy good value: last one we got was 4 “reed” flowers (the flowers are all up the side of a long stick, and open one by one) plus three sunflowers.
I gotta say too, getting fresh milk delivered every week is just so…. civilised. I love it. We sometimes end up pouring milk down the drain (rarely), but every week we get a bottle of half and half, a bottle of 1% organic, and a bottle of “standard milk” (complete with the cream on top) and it’s just great not having to worry about running out of milk.
Occasionally SPUD has fantastic sales too. A month or two back if you order $75, you got $20 off your order; if you order $150, you got $40 off your order, and if you ordered $250 or more, you got $75 off your order. They ran this for a whole month. I ended up doing a few $150 and $250 order because the savings were really good.
If you care about the ethics of your food, including carbon footprint, etc, SPUD is one of the best ways to go about lowering your CF (they even have tools on the site to show you how much you’ve lowered your carbon usage) and picking food with good ethics.
What we don’t like about SPUD Deliveries
The number one thing we don’t like about SPUD is the delivery date we got stuck with: Thursday. We don’t like this because Thursday is their last stock day. Thursday is their new “flyer” and stock day - SPUD sends out an email with all their new stock and sales available for ordering Thursday evening and Friday. I think they deliver Monday to Thursday each week, but the day you’re assigned is the one you get, and you can’t change it.
UPDATE: I found out they deliver on Fridays too, and possibly the weekends. Stuff is always listed as “in stock” on their website on Thursday eve when you roll over for the next week, so I’m guessing now Sat-Mon are the best delivery days, and Fridays might be even worse than Thursday.
What this means for us is we often have substitutions in our order, or just plain missing items because they were out of stock. The substitutions can get annoying especially if you plan a big meal around 3 or 4 items you ordered from SPUD, and one or two of those items end up not being delivered.
Also, we’ve pretty much stopped ordering fruits and vegetables from SPUD because we’ve had too many arrive looking misshapen, old, poor sizes, and in some cases, rotted. I’d say our success rate ordering fruits from SPUD is about 40% or less, and our success for vegetables is around 60%.
I’ve complained to SPUD about this delivery day problem on several occasions but they assured me the stock on Thursday is just as fresh as other days. I’ve tried to get my delivery days changed but they say they can’t do it. Meanwhile, I have a friend who gets her delivery on Mondays and her produce always looks awesome and she also told me she’s never had an out of stock item or a substitution. I’m pretty sure last-stock day has a lot to do with our bad produce and all the subs we’ve had.
To SPUDs credit, they’ve refunded, mostly without questions, any time we’ve emailed to complain about the quality. But regardless, having our delivery on Thursday means we have frequent substitutions, less frequent missing items, and poor fruit, veg and occasionally our bread is old too. If you sign up with SPUD and get a Thursday (or Wednesday) delivery, you might want to reconsider or stay away from produce.
Also, if we wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to place our online order for the Thursday delivery, the SPUD website is awash in red “out of stock” slashes across many items. The bread pages are almost completely out of stock by Tuesday, and sometime by Monday.
So to combat this, we have to do something that’s a bit sneaky: we have to build an order on Friday (a week before our delivery) and overstock it with things we think we might want. We pick 2 or 3 different types of bread, extra baked goods, extra meats, extra dairy items etc (all the items that are usually “out of stock” by Tuesday). Then we go back to the website on Tuesday or Wednesday and prune our shopping list, removing the items we don’t want. I don’t want to do this and I know it prevents others from ordering items, but until SPUD cures their habitual “out of stock” problems mid week, it’s how we can ensure we get what we want in our delivery.
By Tuesday (2 days before our delivery), the breads pages are filled with these red “sold out” banners.
Should you sign up for SPUD Delivery in Vancouver?
Hell yah! Even if you get stuck with sucky Thursday deliveries. The convenience of getting a weekly dairy and bakery order is, as mentioned above… so civilised. They care some of the best and most ethical foods you can find in Vancouver. Their prices are “okay” (not great, not bad either) compared to shopping on Granville Island or at the Gourmet Warehouse or Meinhardt. Keep in mind, they aren’t priced like Walmart or Superstore but you’re getting much better quality food for the price with SPUD.
Delivery is free as long as you order $35 or more. If you get an early week delivery, definitely try the produce too. They also have a full line of ethical and environmentally friendly home stuff like soaps, cleaners, the like, coffee from a few decent sources, and right now they have a couple of great home smoothie and ice cream programs that let you get great Breville appliances (plus the stuff to make the smoothies or ice cream) for a decent price, spread across weekly payments.
Oh and those bi-weekly bouquet deliveries make our home smell nice and look cheerful! :D
SPUD Delivery Service in Vancouver - Use This Link!
Well if you found this review helpful and decide to sign on with SPUD, use this link because it’ll save you $20 off your first delivery, and also save me $20 off my next delivery.
When I visit a coffee shop, I often want to try their espresso. So, I order an espresso as well as another coffee drink that will last a bit longer during my visit, like a pour over or americano. Do you have any thoughts on drink pairings during a single visit?
When I visit most coffee shops, I usually always want to try their espresso, their espresso with milk, and then one of their brewed coffees. I don’t know about pairings of it all per se except it’s always interesting to see how an espresso does on its own and then with milk.
This is why, over the years, I’ve come to recognize that certain acidic qualities that can make an espresso shot a bit too bright or lip-pursey can become super balanced in a cappuccino or a long macchiato. And on the opposite side of the coin, I’ve found situations where a delightful, balanced and flavourful espresso gets lost in milk.
Some shops may do the same coffee as espresso and as pourover. It’s always interesting to try that coffee both ways to see how they differ based on the brewing method.
Juts read your Nikon Fm3a article... great writeup! I picked one about a couple months ago and really enjoying it. Love the ability to shoot mechanically w/o batteries at all shutter speeds.
Thanks John! It is a great camera, I think I want to shoot better with it partially because of its history and development. You look at Nikon’s path in cameras: the FM and FE of the late 1970s and their innovations; the F2 and F3, then the move to the F4 and electronics… but Nikon was still thinking mechanical, with the FM2, FE2, and others… and finally the FM3a, which was done in spite of everyone knowing digital was the next big thing.
Why CoffeeGeek accepts products for review and background info.
Recently on twitter I wrote that I no longer accept free subscription coffee services from a variety of roasters - I pay for them all, either in regular payments or via a services trade (photography services, free ad spots on CoffeeGeek, etc). The reason I do this is because I do not want people to think any coffee I talk up or review positively is somehow been bought.
On the other hand, about 2/3 of the products I review, either formally on CoffeeGeek, or informally on Tumblr, Google+, Facebook or elsewhere, are products I do not pay for.
Recently, I’ve been called out on this for the apparent different ethics standard, and while I’ve explained the reasoning on this before I’d like to do so again.
When I was writing reviews for CoffeeGeek (and will be doing so again very soon), they were seriously labour intensive - some of the older reviews on the website were the result of over 300 hours of work when it was all said and done. They required investments in photography gear, lab gear, testing equipment, and time. When I was setting up the testing parameters of CoffeeGeek, I looked at how Consumer Reports did their testing. I looked at how Digital Photography Review did their testing. There was a determination early on to do comprehensive, in depth reviews that you couldn’t just bang out in an hour.
Many websites and magazines actually charge companies to review their products - did you know that? I’m not talking about blogs here - I’m talking about established review websites. Blogs? In some industries (like the food industry), you would not believe how much money flows around for bloggers to review businesses, companies, and products.
I was determined from day one of CoffeeGeek to never ever accept a dime from companies to do a product review. Even when they were labour intensive and required big expenditures on my part for everything from $500 thermometers to many, many pounds of coffee. But I drew the line on the cost of the equipment reviewed. I would only review products that were submitted by companies I either approached, or those that approached me. I had a set of guidelines for product submission - that the products become property of the CG website, that we could not sell or otherwise part with the product for a fixed time (this was so I could build up a stable of products to test future products with - like a variety of grinders, or espresso machines). And that the companies agree to replace the product if it has a failure during the testing period.
This seemed like a very fair trade for companies - they would get the publicity if the product tested very well; my readers would get detailed reviews that no other website online was doing for coffee gear; I would not have so many out of pocket expenses, and also no worry about the warranty, at least during the testing period, and everyone comes out ahead. I also made it extremely clear with the product suppliers that they had no editorial control over the reviews, whatsoever.
I haven’t done a full Detailed Review on CoffeeGeek for a few years now because I just don’t have the time to complete one (I have about a half dozen “in progress” at the moment. I’ve done a few First Looks and Quickshot reviews here and there (each one takes an average of about 75 hours of work). But I still accept products for future review and for something else suppliers want: for an influencer to have direct knowledge of their product. In this age of social media, I have more and more companies that want to send me products just so I have direct knowledge of the products and if I like them, they hope I’ll get the word out via social media.
I turn most of these offers down.
In some cases, if the product is of interest to me, I buy it.
On twitter, someone questioned me getting the Hario Sommelier for free just recently. So let me give some backstory, which I’m sure Conrad at HarioUSA will confirm if you ask him about it. Conrad emailed me after the SCAA as a followup and I told him I would like to buy a Sommelier and the new Hario metal filters as soon as they come available.
A while later, Conrad emailed me back and said he’d like to send me one (the Sommelier). I initially refused and said I’d like to pay for it - at least the wholesale cost. Conrad again offered it for free, and I then offered to trade him the full retail value in ads on CG for it. Again, Conrad refused this and wanted to send the product for free so I could evaluate it and give him my own feedback on it.
I told him I’d accept the product without cost (to me) but only because I intend to do a full Quickshot Review on the product, and by accepting it, I would commit to doing a QS review within the next few months. We both agreed to that, and he shipped the product off.
Now some may find ethics problems in this. I do not. I feel the weight and commitment of now having to do a full review, old school style, on this, but I do not see any ethical dilemma. If you do, I won’t even apologise to you for it, because I just don’t see it.
This is pretty cool - a year after the Eiffel Tower was built, London decided they needed one too, so they had a design competition, and went even so far as to start construction (design 37), but it eventually… collapsed. The funding and plans to build it - not the tower itself ;)
I’ve waited for a reason to start a blog for awhile now, but sans any revolutionary thought to pen, I had never started. While the topic that finally sparked the reemergence of my writing holds no lofty promise of revolution, it is one I hold closely enough to feel authoritative on, and thus, I…
My rebuttal is very short. Though I think all espresso should be served in demitasse cups, if you want it to cool quicker, or catch aroma, there’s plenty of ceramic (and glass, for that matter) cups designed for coffee and espresso that will also easily provide all the claimed benefits of using a snifter. I still don’t see any of them as benefits, btw, but at the very least, I believe swirling, sniffing, and drinking an espresso from a 6oz, 12oz cappuccino cup is less pretentious and put-offish than doing the same in a brandy snifter.
I found a great resource for doing homemade Sloe Gin on the Gordon’s Gin website, but unfortunately, it’s not easy to link to since the site has an age detector cockblock. The original article is here.
So I PDF’ed up the article for you to check out. It’s really easy to make great sloe gin at home, and blackberries provide almost the same “hit” that sloe berries do, if you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do. I’d go less on the sugar though. I like my sloe gin DRY.
Anatomies of a Photograph - The Bad becomes The Good.
Last night, I shot a series of photos for an article down the road. The article will be about a manual espresso maker called the ROK Espresso Maker, and to feature the brewers’ interesting construction, I wanted to highlight some details, like the drip tray:
This photo above was just one of about 100 photos I shot of the brewer. I knew the shot I wanted, so I had taken a few at different settings, apertures and the like and though I had the shot. But I didn’t. There’s a lot of things I got wrong with this shot from a visual, appealing and informative standpoint.
Let me start with the lens I was using - a 50mm f2.5 macro Canon lens on a 5D MkII camera (full frame). I went for the .5 macro because I thought i’d get reasonably flat images (no crazy perspective in closeups), but still a wide enough lens for my tight shooting area. For most of my shots, the 50mm macro was fine and did exactly what I wanted it to do. But for these shots, not so much.
Problems in this shot include the following: drip tray isn’t very much in focus (the focal plane is very shallow); the tray’s contrast is pretty flat; my lighting is less than ideal; and worst, my framing, save for the portafilter handle, sucks. Not having the entire tray in frame just really ruins this image for my critical eye.
So. Lens not up to what I wanted. Framing needs to be better. And I need to work my lighting more to get more natural contrast in the drip tray. I staged the shot again and this time put my 100mm f2.8 macro on the 5D MkII. And here’s what I got.
I’m very happy with this shot. Even though the entire tray isn’t in focus (and the portafilter handle isn’t as out of focus as I’d like), a lot more of what I wanted to highlight is tack-sharp, and I had to balance a fully in-focus tray with the blurred handle / top part of the brewer.
I shot this in bracketed mode for the aperture - shot five frames, from f2.8 up to f5.6, and the f4 shot worked best for me. The tray is fully in frame. The lighting makes the beans in the tray much more contrasty. I painted light a bit (with reflectors) to get the glossy white parts of the upper machine. And while the handle doesn’t go out of frame on a 45 degree angle like the blown shot above, it still does the job for me.
Before I even took the new photos, I really ‘massaged’ my light sources for this. I shoot with florescent light box lights and reflectors - silver, white, gold. For this one, silver all the way. I had one big 36” square reflector balancing on my legs as I stood on a chair to shoot this shot (you can see it’s subtle reflection in the brewer’s base slightly left of centre frame). Once I was happy with the light and the increased contrast in the drip tray area, I fired off five frames, picked the f4, and bam, done.