a teatray in the sky

學做鳳梨酥 (learning to make pineapple cakes)

Posted in 5D Mark II, Food, Photography, Taiwan by firthefirst on February 21, 2012

much of chinese cooking is, to this day, shrouded in a ninja-like mysteriousness, unless you are a chinese woman over the age of 45, or a chef.  it probably has something to do with the fact that asian mothers are notoriously bad at communicating verbal instructions, and a lot to do with the fact that they don’t measure anything.  how much salt do I put in this?  how long should I soak the meat for?  what is the name of this vegetable?  you feel like you are conducting a telephone survey, but a lousy one, where the answers range from 1 to 5 but the description of the scale is left undetermined.  a typical learning-to-cook exchange may go like this:

dutiful pupil: “does it matter if we use chicken legs or chicken wings for this?”

asian mother: “four.”

confused pupil: “four what?”

asian mother: “uh huh.  and then you add black pepper.”

thoroughly lost pupil: “how much black pepper?”

asian mother: “I don’t know.  two?”

and you wonder why we’d rather stay upstairs and just come down when the food is on the table.  amazingly enough, Tina’s auntie in Taiwan, gatekeeper of the secret wonders of pineapple cake, offered to teach us how to make these treats of the gods.  at her home.  with real recipes.  how could anyone say no to that?  we went, and learned, and ate, and I photographed.  but to keep the ancient secret a secret (and to protect myself from being garroted in my sleep by a black-clad assassin), and to remain consistent with the asian art of teaching cooking, I won’t give you any sort of measurements to go with the photos. (more…)

Katsucon 18 – a foray into the world of anime geekdom and cosplay

Posted in 5D Mark II, Cosplay, Defrag, Photography by firthefirst on February 20, 2012

Tina and I took a weekend mini-vacation to celebrate her completing her first architectural licensing exam, getting away from Maryland by going all the way to Alexandria, Virginia.  while we were down there we spent some time at Katsucon 18, held at the Gaylord hotel across the river in Oxon Hill.  neither of us have been to any sort of anime/comic convention before so it was quite the intriguing sociocultural anthropology study.  while both of us are sort of out-of-touch with the contemporary anime scene (the most recent thing we’ve really watched being the first Fullmetal Alchemist series), I feel anyone with an open mind can enjoy the skill and energy that goes into the creation of the cosplay costumes on display at these cons.  the most exciting about attending an anime convention is, it’s as if all your childhood TV shows exploded into real life around you, with Spikes and Narutos mingling with EVAs and Boos.  a huge shout-out to John and Ashley for giving us a rundown of this interesting world.


在高雄 (in Kaohsiung)

Posted in 5D Mark II, Food, Photography, Taiwan by firthefirst on February 20, 2012

we’ve all had moments in our life where we eat something so good that we tell ourselves (and our friends next to us, and the yelp universe) that we could “eat this every day.”  and that is a huge, Archer-esque lie.  the reality is, unless you’re my father with taste buds of stainless steel or you have survived prison internment, you couldn’t go four days of eating the same thing without craving something different.  and that’s the dilemma we find ourselves in every time we return to Taiwan.  it’s all so good, but it’s all so … much.  going down to Kaohsiung was a great break-within-a-vacation.  the same feeling of relaxed joy you get from loafing off, watching koi carelessly gyrate in a pond.


蘭陽博物館 (Lanyang Museum) and 基隆廟口夜市 (Keelung Temple Night Market)

Posted in 5D Mark II, Architecture, Food, Photography, Taiwan by firthefirst on January 19, 2012

Taiwan is definitely not up there on the list of architectural destinations, largely overshadowed by the money-burning frenzy that is the Chinese real estate market and the always-fresh-always-funky world of Japanese contemporary design.  I’ve had the lucky opportunity to work for an excellent architect in Taipei (LWM Architects) and I know that there has been a number of great architectural minds working diligently to improve the design environment in Taiwan for the last couple of decades.  the Lanyan Museum, by 姚仁喜 (Yao Ren Xi, Artech Inc.) is one of the newest examples of Taiwan asserting an architectural personality.  there are faint echoes of I. M. Pei still in the work but the building’s design language clearly responds to the landscape around it, instead of being a purely intellectual geometric exercise.  the interior is logically laid out yet provides a compelling promenade, and even the quality of the construction is meticulous (which is typically so hard to find in Asia these days).  there are some exceedingly bizarre moments (like an unwrapped structural member that emerges randomly from a wall, warty fireproofing and all) which stand out because everything else seems to be so well sorted.


mid-week lull

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Defrag, Ecuador, Galapagos, Photography by firthefirst on October 6, 2011

in the middle of a long week … still some backlog to post up, including some Solar Decathlon action (go Maryland!), but not quite enough time to really hunker down and work on it.  so here’s another boobie photo from Galapagos.  I felt like the other boobie shots from the Day 9 post were a little over-saturated, especially in the yellow range, so I toned it down a bit for this one.  and now … back to work.

monday morning escape – Bartholomew Island wallpaper

Posted in 5D Mark II, Defrag, Ecuador, Galapagos, Photography by firthefirst on September 26, 2011

definitely one of those mondays where you need something relaxing to look at.  on the bright side, at the end of today will be … yep, Monday Night Football, with the redskins playing the cowboys in Dallas.  how’s that for motivation to get your work done before 8 PM?

by the way, the wallpaper image I posted today should expand out to full size (1920 x 960) if you click on it, in case you’re interested in having a HD-sized panorama for your monitor.

Ecuador day 9: North Seymour

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Ecuador, Galapagos, Photography by firthefirst on September 20, 2011

this was our last day in the Galapagos Islands and I was a little concerned that we hadn’t yet gotten the chance to see the iconic blue-footed boobies.  well, as with pretty much everything on this trip, I needn’t have worried.  our last stop was at North Seymour Island, a place whose trees and soil happen to be extremely enticing to both frigatebirds and boobies for use as nesting sites. (more…)

b+w monday

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Ecuador, Galapagos, Photography by firthefirst on September 19, 2011

thought I’d post an oversized square format photo today.  this is one of the shots from the trip that I didn’t realize I’d gotten until I came back and downloaded everything onto the computer.  I’m still excited every time I bring up Silver Efex Pro because it does an incredibly good job of capturing the feel of b+w film using your digital shots.  it will never be exactly the same, but it’s a more-than-good-enough compromise.

in case you’re wondering, there’s no post-processing applied here to get the hazed-out effect on the adult male frigatebird mid-descent.  I’m not entirely sure what it is at all that caused the look, but it makes the image far more intriguing.  the wary look of the frigatebird below is also captivating to me.


Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Defrag, Photography by firthefirst on September 18, 2011

it’s things like having to go in to work on Sunday (and missing potentially huge gamedays for your NFL teams) that make you wish you had wings.

Ecuador day 8: South Plaza and Santa Fe

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Ecuador, Galapagos, Photography by firthefirst on September 15, 2011

our time in the Galapagos was almost up, but our last full day at sea would have fooled you.  it felt more like we were winding up rather than winding down.  definitely the snorkel on this day was the most exciting yet, with sea lions swirling around us, sea turtles kissing, and all sorts of other excitement.  I’ll have to ask Tina for the snorkel photos so I can post them on the blog.  but that’s later.  for now, birds and iguanas and more…