The Penalty Box

Five minutes for attempted world domination

Guard Tower

June 30, 2013 at 11:40 PM | categories: Five Hole Photo | View Comments

I took this photo on the crazy long walk from the city wall entrance to the inner door to the Forbidden City in Beijing. That's right, getting inside the giant wall does not actually get you into the city where the emperor lived, merely just a long pathway to a door that leads into the city.

The guard tower in the picture is one of many that dots the walls surrounding the city. Emperors had it good back in the day. You know, aside from the constant plots to murder them by people wanting to grab power. But what power it was.


f/8, 1/800th sec, ISO 400

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Adventures in Foodland - Bacon wrapped meatloaf with polenta cakes

June 26, 2013 at 09:22 PM | categories: Culinary Capers | View Comments

I decided to spruce up some leftovers by adding bacon. Yup, because I'm creative like that. Yesterday I made some meatloaf and polenta, which was different from the usual meatloaf and mashed pototatoes. I don't usually like to cook single or two person servings, so I ended up with half a meatloaf and a bunch of leftover polenta. I spread the polenta into half inch thick sheets on some glassware to cool. This resulted in a nice polenta cake that I could slice into smaller portions.

I wrapped some slices of meatloaf in bacon and pan fried those first to render out some bacon fat. I finished the heat up process of the meatloaf in my toaster oven. I then coated the polenta cakes in some flour and pan fried them. Half an inch is a nice thickness because you can get a crust on them quickly and have them heated through after the crust is done.

I don't normally just blanch asparagus, but that was done mostly for pictorial purposes. Blanching vegetables brings out their colour better, even though the flavour isn't. My roasted asparagus from the previous night had garnered a rather dingy, pale green colour and wasn't all that pleasant to look at.

To top it off, I added some butter to the remaining bacon fat (waste not, want not!) and sweatted down some julienned onions. I tossed in some flour to make a roux and chicken stock to make a gravy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Results with some 10 second plating (because I was hungry dammit): IMG_0921

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Plank Hole

June 15, 2013 at 01:20 PM | categories: Five Hole Photo | View Comments

This is another picture from the set I took viewing things from the ground. Looking straight down made it just another hole in a walkway in North Vancouver. I found the background much more interesting once I knelt down and focused on the hole. Bokeh is neat.

Plank Hole

f/2.8, 1/250th sec, ISO 100

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River View

June 02, 2013 at 09:55 PM | categories: Five Hole Photo | View Comments

The Rocky Mountaineer train up to Whistler is a pretty scenic trip. It's kind of expensive, but if you can find a Groupon or some other kind of coupon for $99 like I did, it's worth doing. The trip takes a couple of hours and you see some cool things on the way there and back.

This shot is of a river that the train passed on the way up to Whistler. At this point, the cloud cover started drifing over the train, which allowed for some overcast lighting. Hooray for natural diffusion of light!

River View

f/4.5, 1/800th sec, ISO 400

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Cookie Permanence

May 13, 2013 at 08:33 PM | categories: Tech, Coding | View Comments

Earlier this year, Firefox announced they would block third party cookies by default. The purpose? The age old cry of user privacy. While this is a noble gesture, and in line with Mozilla's stance on openness, it's basically like trying to plug a leaking dam with gum. Just as the water will find a way out, so too do the companies wanting to find out everything that you do on the internet.

For example, you probably know that Facebook is already watching everything that you do. Log out? Tough, that just means no one can baggy pants you by writing that you like to smell butts on your Wall. Facebook's cookie is still active, and whatever site has a Facebook Like button knows that it's you. They aren't the only company doing it. Google does it too, so does Microsoft (despite its campaign against Google). Heck, every ad server is doing it, and not just the big boys. Heard of App Nexus? They've got you placed in segments of interest. Demdex? Them too. That's all from just users seeing and interacting with ads.

So what if every browser says "nuh uh" to third party cookies? Well, there are always other ways around it. Storing cookies in Flash plugins is a popular method. Don't install Flash? How about Silverlight? Etags? JavaScript window objects? Web history? Yeah, cookies can be put in all of those things. Just about the only way around it is to use Chrome's Incognito Mode or Safari's Private Browsing, but then you're still sending it all to the Apple/Google motherships. Plus, you'd then have to log into Facebook, e-mail, forums et al every single time you open your browser. Security and convenience never go hand in hand. Other options include something like Ghostery or plugins that manage third party cookies for you.

Why the incessant hovering over your virtual shoulder? The ever drive towards the return on investment on ad buys. The old way of ad buys used to be spending thousands of dollars on an ad campaign, usually in a flyer in your local newspaper or on the electronic media outlets. If you experienced a bump in sales, you attribute that to the ad campaign. It's a little wishy washy because the campaign didn't occur in a vacuum, but on the whole it's basically true. However, with Internet ads, it's much easier to see if a user actually physically interacted with an ad (clicking) and did something on your site as a result (conversion). Marketers are getting savvier about ad spends because they like numbers they can spin into a story. Ad companies are eager to help write these stories because that's how the business comes in. End result? Your browsing habits become just as valuable as the inventory in the store because what you're looking for is the next bit of revenue for a company. They want to get their ad in your face showing you something that they have that you want to buy.

Mark Zuckerberg was right about privacy being irrelevant. Most of our privacy right now is pretty much security through obscurity. Heck, people still think e-mail is a secure communications method (it's a virtual postcard, for the most part no one cares except the sender and the receiver). Lots of people, young and old, are of the "share first, figure out later" mentality. Heck politicians still think that the Internet is "like speaking to someone in your living room" and are getting fired over it. Every now and then, someone makes noise about privacy (hello Instagram!) but in 3 days, everyone forgets about it and goes back to posting grainy filtered pictures of their food. As much as we should care about our privacy, we don't, because we want to be sold the next greatest thing, we want to share things with our friends and the world and privacy just gets in the way.

We were all willing to give away our user data in order for all of these web services to be free. Horses are out of the barn, and even if we were willing to pay for the content (which we're not, given the failure of newspaper paywalls), there's no going back. It's just going to take a little more effort to protect what we want to remain private.

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