Grant McWilliams

Gallery Update

In the summer of 2005 we had an apartment in Paris but no internet. To save upload time I scaled all of my photos to 1024x768. I've always kept the 7 MP images around but never got them reuploaded. Gallery2 doesn't make it very easy to do this either. There is a reupload image plugin but it allows you to edit the image, click on modify image, then reupload image. This keeps the image name, comments, description etc.. but can you imagine me reuploading 2000 pictures one at a time? It takes six mouse clicks at he least to reupload a photo. I can mass upload photos but that makes it hard to only get the ones I wanted before without having to go through them and delete the bad ones. I've settled on a comprimise. If the gallery has a bunch of photos with descriptions etc.. then I reupload them one at a time. If it doesn't I mas upload them and delete the original small images. The Europe/France 2005 gallery is the only one that has photos that need to be reuploaded. So far I have London, Going Home, Bologna, Modena and Venice done.

I also updated a few pictures in my portfolio to reflext this. The pictures of the Pantheon are now the full size 7 MP versions. I added two new photos to the portfolio that I like but didn't notice before.

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Enjoy!

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Flash card backup

When I travel I take lots of pictures and it always makes me nervous to only have them on flash. I've lost two flash cards in the last couple of years to file system errors. Considering how much it costs to travel it's nothing to buy a backup harddrive or extra flash cards. I bought

a harddrive case for about $12 like the one above which works great with a 60 GB 5400 rpm Hitachi laptop drive in it. The only problem is I still need my laptop because my camera can't talk directly to the drive. AP25-U-unit

I also need to bring along my memory card reader too because my daughter's camera uses CF cards and mine uses SD cards. I've found a new device that may help me. I've been considering not even taking my laptop to Ecuador in the winter because I don't want it to get stolen. Anyway the device I just purchased is a combined laptop hard drive and memory card reader. It's a lot bulkier than my other drive case but it can work without a computer. It's made by BAFO and I got it from thetechgeek.com which had it for $14.95 without a drive. I inserted a 60 GB drive into it and was thinking to myself I wonder how I format it. I was about to take the drive back out and plug it into my PVR client since it has a ribbon cable that takes 2.5 inch drives when I realized that I could just plug it in via USB (duh) and format it that way. I plugged it in and used mkdosfs to format it which took all of 3 seconds. Now that it was formatted I plugged in an SD card and pushed the Copy button and away it went. It beeped twice when it was done. This would be a great backup tool for my flash cards. I've mentioned that I'm a little paranoid about losing data and for good reason. The summer of 2005 we spent in Paris and I only backed up my pictures to my laptop and uploaded little 1024x768 versions to this website. This summer I did the same but brought along the portable harddrive and it was a good thing too because my laptop got rained on in Poland and I lost the data on the hard drive. Had that been my only copy I would have been toast. Thankfully that was one of three copies. So back to the BAFO device.BF-6010-unit This thing is so easy to backup flash cards with it should be a crime not to do it. You plug the flash card in and push the Copy button. That's it, really! It copies the contents to the hard drive and beeps twice.

I only have two complaints.

  1. It could be smaller
  2. the batteries could last longer

The battery is good for 1.6 hrs and it's about the size of an old
portable walkman. The power adapter is made for continental europe but comes with an adapter for the U.S. It's a bit bulky but not heavy.

To test the speed I created a 1 GB file and copied it to my 2 GB 120x SD card across a USB 2.0 connection.

  • Copy from PC to SD card - 5 minutes (3.3 MB/sec)
  • Copy from SD card to BAFO internal hd - 14 minutes (1.1 MB/sec)
  • Copy from PC to BAFO internal hd - 3 minutes (5.6 MB/sec)
  • Copy from BAFO internal hd to PC - 5 minutes (3.3 MB/sec)
  • Copy from BAFO internal CF card to PC - 4 minutes 53seconds (3.9 MB/sec)

So it's not the fastes thing on the block.. I then plugged it into my USB controller and used hdparm to test the internal hd. It clocked at about 4 MB/sec. It looks like the little device just doesn't have enough oomph to read and write at the same time. Copying from the PC to the hd is almost 5x faster than copying from the flash to the hd. The flash can't be the problem because I can write to it fairly fast. The interesting thing is it's actually faster to copy to the internal hd than from it! This is completely backwards from what it should be. The internal hd shoould be able to sustain 20 MB/sec and our fastest time was 5.6 MB/sec which is about 40 Mbits/sec so clearly we are using USB 2.0. So it appears that something internal to the device hits a roadblock about about 5 MB/sec.

None of this matters unless you're in a speed contest. You can figure that it will take about 10 minutes a day to backup your digital pictures if you're on vacation. The battery is good for 100 minutes so it theoretically could last you a week and a half without recharging...

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Count of Monte Cristo

My first paying job was working in a large restaurant/hotel. I started as a dishwasher as most people do and proceededimg_6428-x to learn how to cook there. I hated every minute of that job but in the end it's turned out that what I learned there has been more valuable than anything I learned on any other job. The reason I mention this is because one thing we used to cook there were Monte Cristo sandwiches. I've tried eating Monte Cristos at other resaurants but they seem to be a bit confused as to what one is. The most common mishap that I've seen is two slices of french toast with ham and cheese between them. NOT what we used to make. Our Monte Cristo's were bread, turkey, ham and cheese cut in four pieces, battered and deep fried. I made them tonight and they didn't turn out half bad. I served them with homemade blackberry jam. In the summer the Seattle area is just festooned with blackberrys so this summer we picked about 2 gallons of them and made jam and syrup out of them. The flavor of real jam is so much better than the store bought stuff that it really made the Monte Cristos taste good. I'd like to see the sandwiches a bit darker though...

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Sweet pepper totellini

 

.Years ago I ate at the Europa Pizzaria in Spokane Wa, and had the most sublime creme sauce ever. It had sweet peppers in it and was so very mild that at first it didn't grab you but after each bite my willingness to take another bite grew. By the time I got to the end I was licking my plate. Here we are years later and I'm attempting to recreate it. I've only tried to make it a few times and I'm still nowhere near but I thought I'd post a pic or two anyway...

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Grantisms

 

Grantisms are short quips of wisdom that I think up and want to write down so I don't forget them. Unfortunately I usually forget them before I record them.

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The River of Life

People have really really wanted me to write this up and get make it available. I'm just now getting to it. It's such an important part of my philosophy that I don't want it written in haste. Please be patient.

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Grantianity

Whenever I have to fill in a form about myself on some website there is usually a field labelled Religion.

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Adams Morgan and the National Mall

The Adams Morgan district is quite eclectic and nice. One of the guidebooks said you’d end up here to eat noimg_6064 matter where in D.C. you stayed so it only made sense for a gourmand like myself to just stay near the food. Don’t you agree? There is the aforementioned Mexican restaurant (Mixtec), several Ethiopian, one Ghana, one lebanese/Indian, a couple Indian, one Syrian, one Falafal fry stand, one American and a spattering of other restaurants here. Definately the place to be if you like to eat. There was even a McDonalds for those people born without taste buds.

We ate breakfast at the Inn and headed straight to the National Mall. We didn’t go to Claires to get accessories, or the Bon to pick up any sweaters or any of that in case you were wondering. The National Mall is a really wide strip of grass which is lined with museums of the Smithsonian Institute and the ends are capped by the Capitol building and Lincoln’s memorial on each end. This is where the sights are and it was going to be a beautiful day!

We started our tour of the Smithsonian Institute by going to Smithsonian Castle where we picked up our info book and got directions. The Smithsonian castle is a building that’s “castle like” that was built in the lateimg_6111 1800’s. Our first stop was the National Gallery of Art which I don’t believe is really part of the Institute but I could be wrong. We wanted to go there because people compare it to the Louvre and it had a Da Vinci painting, the only one in America actually. We later found out that the only people that compare the National Gallery of art to the Louvre are those that haven’t been to the Louvre. American pride wants us to have a museum equal to the best and I’m here to say that it probably isn’t possible so they should just move on and try to be something else.

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Washington D.C.

As I said earlier we arrived at Union Station in D.C. early in the morning. We were starving so we found food at one of the many restaurants downstairs from the tracks. The station in D.C. is really quite nice is set up like an airplort in that it has monitors for watching your train, newspaper stands, restaurants, bookstores etc.. Downstairs is the connection to the metro which reminded us of being in Europe. I just love being able to get around without relying on taxis or renting a car. We weren’t in any great hurry to get to our Bed and Breakfast because we couldn’t check in until 3:00pm and it was only 11:00am when we got done eating. Still tired from getting poor sleep on the train we longed for a bed to take a nap in. We ventured to the metro station and found our route (the red line) and purchased tickets. The Washington D.C. metro works a lot like the London Underground in that you need to enter the metro using a ticket and you can’t get out unless you still have it so it’s best not to toss the ticket until you’ve exited. This is unlike Paris, Prague and Budapest because in those cities you don’t need anything to exit. In Budapest you can even get on with nothing but you risk being nailed by the authorities which can get expensive. Add a comment

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Biltmore

For breakfast we went to the Waffle House which is a southern chain of breakfast cafes. It was then I realized that the south did in fact break away during the civil war and become a seperate country. The ladies that worked in the Waffle House were mostly missing their teath (the further south you go the fewer teath they grow…) and had accents so strong I could hardly understand them. At one point one said she need a billy goat or bush hog to get her going. The way she said it was hilarious so I laughed and pretended I understood her when in reality she might as well been speaking hebrew or something…

The reason we came down early before the wedding was so we could go to Asheville to see Biltmore. Iimg_5720-x planned a trip in 97 to see Biltmore but my daughter was born with medical problems and we didn’t go. I love French architecture and the Biltmore house is probably the best example of it in the U.S. It’s also an insanely large house on a very large estate. George Vanderbilt was a scholar and traveler so he wanted what he saw in Europe here in the states so he had a French Chateaux built in North Carolina. The area around Biltmore reminds me of the hills around Chinon or maybe the foot of the Austrian Alps around Neuschwanstein castle. In the end it’s a nice place to put an estate. We arrive and enter the 175,000 square foot house and immediately realize that even though it looks French on the outside this is an American house. It’s very easy to compare it to Versaille but that wouldn’t be a fair comparison because Versaille cost as much as half of the yearly income of every resident in France for one year to build. I doubt that Biltmore cost that much because the interior isn’t nearly as ornate. That’s fine because Versaille is really overdone. Who needs gold plated walls anyway? Biltmore is much easier to take than some of the French Chataeuxs but it’s also more apparent that although rich the Biltmores weren’t kings. Overall the Biltmore house was an enjoyable experience and I recommend anyone going there if they’re interested in that sort of thing. If you always wanted to go to the Loire Valley in France but just couldn’t make it this may suffice. If you do go make sure you check out the rose gardens and other parts of the estate.

We left Biltmore and ate at the Texas Roadhouse which was pretty good. We’re realizing very quickly that we should only be ordering one plate for both of us because the portions are huge. I think we carried half our food (at least) out in a to-go box. Our waiter said Statesville was only about 40 minutes away but we soon found out it was almost two hours. Maybe he just never leaves Asheville and doesn’t know…

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