The best fruit in the whole world

Enter the 21st century. A group of people called the Bluetooth SIG invents a standard for short-range data communication point-to-point. They see that people will want to exchange data easily and define a function called “Object push” so that you can “push” an object such as a photo or contact or document or whatever to someone else. Conveniently. Fast. Good idea for the upcoming smartphones!

Meanwhile Apple redefines the smartphone market. Unfortunately, due to “security concerns”, Apple decides that they will not support this Object Push. Unlike all other smartphone manufacturers. So, Apple user, you can’t push or be pushed by others. Never mind, live with the limitation.

Fast forward some 13 years (nomen est omen?). Apple announces the new iOS7. And the blogging scene hypes about a great new feature introduced by Apple, dubbed Air Drop. Unfortunately, maybe because it’s so great, it’s an Apple-proprietary “invention” which means it will only work with Apple devices. Don’t push or be pushed by other fruit.

I do like my iPhone. And I usually try to control my temper in public. But to this, I can really only comment “F#$@ you, Apple”. They’re slowly putting nail after nail into their own coffin.

Out in the woods

In case you’ve been living under a rock — it’s been reported all over the Internet recently: On Jun 23rd we will be able to observe a Supermoon. If in your place of the world the cloud cover doesn’t jeopardize it, that is. That Supermoon coincides with my leg having reached a state in which I can go camping again, yay!

So in case you don’t have any plans for this weekend yet, go grab your camera and tripod and go out shooting the moon together with a nice earthly subject — a single tree, a mountain or a dimly lit building come to mind. Just remember to plan ahead. Which brings The Photographer’s Ephemeris to mind.

Yay, camping! Camp fire! Beverages! Marshmallows on fire!

The real health benefits of Kimchi

I rather accidentally came across this article in the Korea Herald about the surge of food poisoning in Korea’s schools last year. 80% increase, so it almost doubled from the previous year. Mainly due to contaminated Kimchi. In September, the peak was reached with 1162 kids being hospitalized. Among a population of some 40 Million. Heard of it before? Probably nobody else beyond some government officials ever did.

To put this into perspective. Germany has about double the population. In the same month last year there was a, what government and media considered gigantic outbreak of Norovirus, carried by frozen fruit from China. The story made it to news headlines world-wide for weeks, task forces had been formed, companies shut down. Jurisdiction is now folding things up. In that outbreak, according to the German disease control center, “at least 38 people have been hospitalized”.

Meanwhile, if you visit Korea, go eat more Kimchi. Locals believe that it’s good for your health, it’s believed to prevent you from contracting diseases such as SARS and avian flu — some even fed it to their chicken during the avian flu outbreak a few years back!

White balance

If you are taking photos with a digital camera — duh, who doesn’t, these days? — spend 5 minutes and read the following about white balance. I’m sure it’ll make these weird colors turn so much better…

In a nutshell, you don’t have to fiddle with white balance all the time. With modern cameras, automatic white balance is good most of the time. But there are times where it just doesn’t work well. And by then it’s good to know what options you have up your sleeve…

Star trails

Night photography was always sort of a favorite of mine; dark backgrounds plus some sort of illumination almost guarantees great looks. Nowadays, DSLRs have reached a price-performance range where one can achieve things previously even very difficult with film cameras.

If you can’t sleep at night or are planning a night away from civilization (read away from stray light) then consider bringing your camera and tripod along! Have a look at this article written by Floris van Breugel for a comprehensive guide on how to achieve some spectacular star-trail shots. His examples speak for themselves!

Meanwhile, I’m out in the countryside, camera in tow!

Hold those young horses…

It’s been just a tad over 3 months now that I had a rather unfriendly encounter with something on a skiing slope. Can’t remember details but from the doc’s assessment some 12hrs and an odyssey through Korea later, I must assume that that something was very solid and me moving rather quickly at the time of impact.

Anyway, while my completely shattered ankle bone had 2 surgeries, a perceived ton of steel bars and screws plus 3 months of time to heal, my 6 fractured ribs, deflated lung and ruptured spleen had enough time to catch on. Merely laying and sitting around during all the time also had the beneficial effect of my leg muscles being able to take an extended rest while my mind had the pleasure to enjoy the beautiful sounds and colors only medically prescribed opiates can induce. A lengthy rest for my leg muscles to a degree where they somewhere along the way decided that they are no longer required. They hence vanished (probably into one of these empty wine bottles which somehow materialized and dematerialized next to my couch all the time) turning my legs into something a toothpick would call anorexic. My muscles had great support from my Doc during all this time, he told me not to do any exercise whatsoever since it may interfere with bone healing.

But now, the 3 months and a tad are over. And today was the great day where I visited the doc again. He looked at the X-Ray of my anorexic toothpick and declared that the bone is almost completely healed. And that, effective immediately, I could put my crutches into a corner and just walk out of the hospital on my toothpick. Simple as that. He even proved me by asking me to take a few steps without crutches. I didn’t collapse! Well, at least not during the first half of the first step, that is.

I have today understood the real problem with the modern health care system. It’s all these unnecessary physiotherapists that inflate health care costs. Send them into a toothpick factory! Or just ask them to manufacture and deliver aforementioned opiates to the public. Humanity would leapfrog!

On a loosely related note, I have made an appointment with PT for immediately after the weekend. I’ll show these guys how useless they are!

More on photography

So you may have seen my earlier post encouraging you to get beyond the ordinary point-and-shoot photo taking and read up a bot on some beginner’s tutorials on photography.
Did you read the tutorials and are longing for more? Or were the tutorials too simple, since you knew all that stuff already? In any case, may I recommend you have a closer look at Ed Knepley’s photography blog? He’s creating new, interesting content almost daily as I write this and previously he published a very interesting series of photography tutorials around a concept he calls the 4 Cs. He covers a pretty wide field and also links to others where appropriate. Go check it out, the easiest way to read it in a structured manner is probably by starting from his Table of contents. And, PS, be prepared to get stuck in it for a long time 🙂

Build your own soda maker

It’s now running for several years and it keeps going well. If you enjoy your own soda, seltzer, Sprudel, … here is a truly low-cost solution. There’s a bit of initial investment, but it’s paid off in a few months and from there on, you make your drinks at a fraction the cost you’d buy them from your favourite soft-drink conglomerate. More, you won’t have to carry the heavy bottles home — just use tap water instead. Just use a filter if your local water a bit questionable.

The set-up is simply a CO2 tank and a regulator which brings the pressure down from ~70bars to ~3bars. All the equipment was purchased in an aquarium shop — the fish lovers use this kind of equipment to inject CO2 into their fish tanks to help plant growth. Go to your local aquarium store or search online, all is readily available.

If you can, get a regulator which has a pressure-adjustable output. You get the best and quickest soda at around 3-4 bars, but non-adjustable regs deliver ~2 bars, which essentially means that it takes you a bit longer to make your drinks.

Then, here’s how it works: The reg transforms your CO2 tank pressure down to a manageable 2-4 bars. It usually then passes through a solenoid, which is nothing more than an electrically controlled on/off valve. You don’t really need this, but many regs have it attached anyhow. If you don’t have this solenoid, never mind. just operate your tank switch instead.

Next in the chain is a needle valve. This is totally useless for your task — aquarists use it to control the amount of CO2 flowing into their tank. They want a constant but slow dissipation of CO2. We want as much CO2 as quickly as possible instead. So for our job, simply open the needle valve fully or better yet, remove it completely.

The CO2 then goes into the hose (which, again, comes from the aquarium shop).

Finally, the hose ends in a bottle cap. You make the drinks in PET bottles which can withstand the pressure. All kinds of Coke, Sprite, Fanta, … bottles are an excellent choice for this. Their caps are standardized, even for bottles of different sizes.

To connect the cap to the hose, there are a few different methods which have been practically verified by now:

  • As shown on the picture, use a plastic hose connector from a little thingy you got from the aquarium shop (such as a reverse-block valve). These things cost close to nothing. Drill a hole into the bottle cap and push the thing in from the back. Depending on the fit, you might have to glue it in to get it resist the pressure. The one shown on the picture actually lives without glue.
  • Use a valve from a bicycle. Don’t go for a thick valve (called Schrader, the same that is used for a car) but the good old standard type (called Presta). These valves are screwed to the rim with a bolt. Just remove the inside (valvy thing) of the valve and use two bolts, one at the inside and one at the outside of the cap to hold it in place. The standard aquarium hose fits right over this thing and holds tight.
  • Get a plumbing hose connector with a matching bolt and screw a normal bottle cap in-between the connector and the bolt. You will need a thicker diameter hose for this and some sort of connector on the regulator side. While being more effort, you will have the advantage of higher CO2 flow, ergo faster drink-preparation.
  • Ask your favourite machinist to make a dedicated cap with connector for you.

Once the cap is sorted out, you’re ready to roll:

  • Always use cold water to make your soda. The lower the temperature of the water, the more CO2 it will dissolve. You will want to be as close to the freezing point of water as possible to get a lot of CO2 in quickly…
  • Shake the bottle well while pressurized. When you wildly break the surface of the water, a lot more CO2 is dissolved into the water. Leaving the bottle “idle” will probably take hours to get your soda done, shaking it wildly reduces this time to seconds…
  • Never fully fill your bottle. You will want some air-space in your bottle so that you have a surface of water which will interface with the CO2. If the bottle is completely filled, it’ll be very very hard to get CO2 into the water
  • Don’t use glass bottles. Never ever! While they might withstand the pressure, the results could be horrible if they do not hold…
  • Only use PET bottles which contained fizzy drinks. Don’t use bottles which contained flat drinks, they might not be able to withstand pressure!
  • Don’t fill the bottles with very hot liquid. They would be deformed, likely weakening the structure.
  • Don’t pressurize bottles while they’re not full of liquid. For one, you’ll lose a lot of CO2 if you do that. Even worse, the gas in the bottle will get compressed a lot. If something ruptures, the compressed gas contains a lot of energy and results might be serious. Liquid, on the other hand, is almost incompressible, I.e. it contains far less energy to blast things around.