Wednesday, June 30, 2010

dslr: best photos from the first month

The wife and I just got a new toy: an $800 DSLR camera. ($600 camera + $200 lens)

Here are the best photos I've taken in the first month--yes, I'm still learning. Under each picture I'll list the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. (It's even forced me to make my template wider so I can display bigger pictures.)

Briefly: The slower the shutter, the lower the aperture number, and the higher the ISO, the more light is let in. But you have to find the right balance. Too slow of a shutter could open yourself up to blurry shots. Too high of an ISO could add noise. And aperture determines how much depth of field you'll get. So after taking these, I think the best method would be to set the aperture to what you want, start with a medium/low ISO, and then see if you can get a slow shutter without being blurry. If that doesn't work and you have to up your shutter speed, then you'll have to up the ISO to compensate.

Enough words, here are the pictures:

Recreation of Kirat & Nirali's Wedding Salad: Apple, Pear, Dried Cranberries, Candied Walnuts on Romaine with Balsamic Vinaigrette.
(1/40 - f1.8 - ISO500)

Brit's Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo with Parmigiano Reggiano
(1/160 - f1.8 - ISO2000)

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chicken Rub
(1/100 - f1.8 - ISO1000)

Flowers in our yard
(1/100 - f4 - ISO400)

Potato-Stuffed Red Peppers with Herbed Corn
(1/80 - f1.8 - ISO1000)

Notice the aperture difference between the chicken breasts and the flowers. Since the chicken has a smaller aperture number (the smallest our camera can go) the background is a lot blurrier than in the flower shot. I think that is not working that well in the pasta shot, probably should have gone down to a f4 or f7 even.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

up to the minute bracket

Except for my blindingly optimistic mistake of advancing the Yanks, my bracket has gone as expected.

Interestingly, we've got the possibility of an all-South American Final Four.

3 out of 4 look good, Paraguay being the likeliest not to make it. We've got a great match today, Spain/Portugal. And then Netherlands/Brazil and Germany/Argentina are matches worthy of a semifinal being played in the round of 8, along side Uruguay/Ghana. Hmm.

The Netherlands/Brazil game seems huge as it looks like it clinches a place in the final (no offense to Uruguay).

Brazil vs Argentina or Brazil vs Spain would be a solid final, especially with the 2014 Cup being played in Brazil. Brazil losing in the Final, especially to Argentina, would set up a heated scenario when Brazil host next time.

HOW TO VIDEO: dueling steaks on the grill

Sear & Slide vs. Sear in the Rear

The main reason I'm posting this is to preserve this for myself for when I've got a grill going. Not only do they compare techniques (spoilers below the video) but there are just some good general tips, including how and when to season your steak.

Sear First: for a better crust
Sear Last: for more tenderness

Looks like you can't go wrong either way.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Until 2014...

Harumph. That sucked. But Ghana deserved it. They scored 2 goals in open play--the U.S. only managed a penalty that could have gone either way.

It would be easy to be down right now. But I'm ever the optimist...

U.S. Soccer at the 2010 World Cup:
Better than France. Better than Italy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

U.S. World Cup History

The 2010 World Cup is the 19th World Cup.

Of the previous 18, the United States did not qualify for 10. (Of the 8 they did qualify for, one was as a host.)

Of the 8 World Cups the U.S. has played in, 5 times they failed to get past the group stage (2006, 1998, 1990, 1934, and even in 1950, despite the famous upset over England).

That means that only 3 previous times have the U.S. reached the Knockout Round.


The 1930 Cup was the first one. It was, naturally, hosted in Uruguay. Only 13 countries showed up. Mostly from the Americas. Teams were taking boats to get there. I mean, does this really count as a World Cup? In the final, they couldn't agree on which ball to use, this one or this one.

The U.S. did beat Belgium and Paraguay, the two teams in their group. They advanced to a 4-team knockout round where they lost to Argentina 6-1. They are credited as the 3rd place team based on record, since there was not a 3rd place game.

I mean, it says "U.S. third place" but they beat Belgium and Paraguay and then got blown out in their first game in the knockout round. Whopee.


Today there are 32 teams, and 16 advance to the knockout round. In 1994, there were 24 teams, and still 16 advanced. Again, advancing here is not what it is today. Particularly because the U.S. finished 3rd in their group of 4 teams, and got help from a Columbian own goal that resulted in a fatality.

But hey, this was the first time they had advanced since 1930. Once again, the U.S. was eliminated in their first knockout round game by a South American powerhouse, a 1-0 loss to Brazil.


So if you're keeping score at home, prior to 2002, the U.S. was 0-2 in the Knockout Round.

The U.S. was put in a group with Portugal, Poland and host Korea. And they lost to Poland. But they drew with Korea, and together with a shocking upset of Portgual (amazing video includes a Donovan 8-years younger) the U.S. advanced to play Mexico.

I was into the World Cup in 1998, but found it hard to follow in 2002. Because the games were played at 2 and 4:30 AM! That's what you get for hosting it in Asia. Especially before the Internet.

So the U.S. faced Mexico in the knockout round.
And like that the U.S. won their first game past the group stage.

And then they lost 1-0 to Germany, who would go on to lose in the Finals.

So there you have it. U.S. is 1-3 in the Knockout Round. Even though technically 1930 says third place, I consider the 2002 the best result since they actually won a knockout game.

- - -

I think the 2010 group performance is the best group performance for the Americans ever. Only their second time they've won a group, and I think it's against better competition than the 1930 affair.

The question is can the U.S. better their 2002 performance of winning one knockout game?

U.S. Knockout Record vs Continent
South America 0-2
Europe 0-1
North America 1-0
Africa ?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23, 2010: US Wins Group for first time in Eighty Years

World Cup Bracket

By winning Group C, the U.S. would appear to have a favorable draw. Hopefully Germany will win Group D, placing them in line to face England. That winner would likely get Argentina.

We'll see what happens in the next two hours, but as long as the U.S. avoids Germany, their path to the semifinals looks decent.

Update: (3:25 CDT) America will face Ghana at 1:30 CDT this Saturday. While England draws Group D winner Argentina. A chap at The Guardian thinks Ghana will handle the U.S., but I'd much rather face Ghana and then Uruguay then Germany and then Argentina. Ghana beat the U.S. 2-1 in the group stage of 2006, that included a questionable penalty shot.

HOLY CRAP: U.S. Wins Group C

And here I thought the U.S.-Slovenia game was the best soccer game I'd ever seen.

After getting chance after chance. After having a clean goal wiped away by a ref in the 2nd consecutive game. After watching Slovenia let England score and put the pressure on us.

In extra time, literally 3 minutes away from going home in an outrage...Donovan is there to clean up the mess on the counter-attack and just like that, the U.S. wins the group, and England comes through as well.

What a series of three games. The perfect answer for any American who thinks the World Cup is boring.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

breakfast links (get it?)

Inspired by this post, I started thinking about breakfast.

For me growing up, my favorite breakfast was what my Grandpa made. The star of the show was his pancakes. They are super thin, I think it's a Scandinavian/German tradition, not much thicker than some crepes. (Think something like this.) But instead of being crepe like and topped with fruit and nonsense, they're topped with maple syrup and optional brown sugar. I also loved to roll up chunks of sausage inside a piece of pancake--what we called "pigs in a blanket" not to be confused with David Stern's favorite appetizer.

Although the pancakes are good enough to be a meal on their own, to complete the meal I need homemade hash browns and sausage. (And the reason I opt for sausage over bacon, is probably because the sausage goes so well with the pancakes.

Served with a glass of orange juice, now that's a breakfast.

- - -

But wait there's more.

Say you really want bacon. Here's how to cook it for breakfast. (And btw, here's how to cook it for a blt. Hold the tomato on mine.)

So once you've got that pan full of bacon grease, you might as well make some eggs. I guess. I don't like eggs that much. But scramble them, through in some onions, peppers, a little hot sauce, and cover them with melted cheddar and you got yourself some bacon and eggs.

- - -

What about when you really know what you want?

Then it's time for some french toast! I love french toast. I feel like if you're making homemade french toast, that's all you need.

- - -

And last but not least, biscuits and gravy.

This goes back to my love affair with sausage. (Within the last year, Italian sausage has surpassed pepperoni as my favorite pizza topping. Although at some chainy places you probably can't taste the Italian-ness of it, and that ruins it for me. Domino's has a decent Italian flavor for national chains.)

Anyways, I love biscuits and gravy. What's not to like? It's creamy, it's full of sausage. And if you burn the biscuits a little you just need to cover them with extra gravy.

- - -

So what'd I miss? What's your favorite breakfast?

this is when it gets good

Over the next 4 days, the last games in each group will be played simultaneously, with most teams having a chance to get through.

For example in Group A, Mexico and Uruguay have a classic prisoner's dilemma today. (I love World Cup games, and simplified game theory.) If they tie, they both advance. But if one team decides to go for the goal, then the other could be looking at the French or South Africans rolling through.

But more importantly, Group C. Any of the 4 teams could advance, and it will be decided in an hour of half. Let's do this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

inspiring quote

"When you can't find something you are looking for, it's probably right where you thought it was, and you're just unable to recognize it."

-- Coined by me this morning, after not recognizing my bottle of honey mustard because it was turned over and on it's side.

Friday, June 18, 2010

world cup scenarios for usa to advance (post-england)

The England game has been final for a good fifteen minutes and I still haven't found an answer. So I got out the graph paper myself.

Win and in
Loss and out

Okay but what about a tie:

If England wins, USA is out
If Slovenia wins, USA is in
If Eng-Slv draw, goes to goal differential, where US has a 3-1 advantage on England.

So we're rooting for Slovenia. If they can win or get a draw of 0-0, or 1-1, all we need to do is draw vs. Algeria. Of course it's a lot easier to just focus on WIN and IN.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

big ten divisions

Right now the Big Ten has 12 members and the Big 12 has ten. Perfect.

So let's set up some football divisions.

Geography is sort of arbitrary, eh?

Lets think this through.

Michigan-Ohio State-Michigan State should all be in one division.
Same for Illinois-Northwestern...
and Indiana-Purdue...
but I don't think it's a good idea to put those four bad school together.

So let's put Indiana-Purdue with Michigan-Ohio State-Michigan State.

They need one more team out of Nebraska-Iowa, Illinois-N'western-Wisconsin-Minnesota-Penn State.

Penn State moves the balance of power to far to the east. Wisconsin makes sense with Michigan since they touch, but is that also too powerful in the east? Let's move Minnesota over. They have the stupid brown jug with Michigan.

Here's how it shakes out with 3-year win totals

Division A
Ohio State 32
Michigan State 22
Michigan 17
Purdue 17
Minnesota 14
Indiana 14

Division B
Penn State 31
Wisconsin 26
Iowa 26
Nebraska 24
Northwestern 23
Illinois 17

Division A = 116
Division B = 147

Wow. Who saw that coming?

So if we go geographic and swap Penn State with Minnesota we'd get:

East 133
Ohio State 32
Penn State 31
Michigan State 22
Michigan 17
Purdue 17
Indiana 14

West 130
Wisconsin 26
Iowa 26
Nebraska 24
Northwestern 23
Illinois 17
Minnesota 14

It's more balanced based on the last 3 years, but what happens when Michigan gets their head out of their ass and Iowa and Northwestern fall from grace? I think I like the first setup better.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010


All I can say is that Chicago is lucky that Leighton has a huge 5-hole. The Blackhawks stopped attacking with 11 minutes to go in the game. Just like they did at the end of game 2. In that game they had a 2-goal lead and let the Flyers pound away at them for the last ten minutes. Philly got one goal that game but it wasn't enough.

I suppose you can't help but want to clamp down on defense with a late lead, but it's just not a good idea to act like you're shorthanded for 10 minutes, just trying to get it out of the zone and make a change. Whatever, they were the better team and won it overtime anyways.

bbc's top 10 world cup goals

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

the sounds of glascow

Whenever the Blackhawks score they play this little catchy tune...only problem is The Fratellis aren't from Chicago. They're from friggin' Scotland!

Wouldn't if have made more sense to pick a song from a Chicago band? Say perhaps...Alkaline Trio?

(This one works only when playing the Dallas Stars!)

cliff hangers wednesday

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Monday, June 07, 2010

why i've been rooting for the blackhawks

A little background:

In 2005, living in Chicago for the first time, I rooted for the White Sox in the World Series.

In 2007, I rooted against the Bears in the Super Bowl.

In 2010, I've been rooting for the Blackhawks.

- - -

Of course the first thing that should be noted, is that rooting doesn't impact the game, and no one else cares who I'm rooting for, so why spend another second thinking about it.

Let's put that aside though.

- - -

When I moved to Chicago I would get asked, Cubs or White Sox? And I would reply, neither.

I've been to both stadiums. Wrigley is a better experience. Both games bored me. Still, I don't like the Cubs and was happy when Bartman happened.

When the White Sox rolled into the World Series in 2005, there was this notion that I was now a Chicagoan and I could identify with the White Sox. And I was happy for Matt, a life-long Sox fan.

So on the Wednesday in October 2005 when the White Sox swept the Astros, I stayed up to watch the win. I walked the streets of Chicago at 11pm and even in the Gold Coast, cars were honking and waving flags and feeling good.

And I felt nothing. I knew that this was not my team. I was happy for Matt and that was it.

- - -

By 2007, the Bears were riding Rex Grossman to the promised land. This time I was dead set against the local team. Probably because I have such strong feelings for my team in the NFL, seeing any other team exalted by an entire city was too much for me. I couldn't be happy for my friends. I didn't want them to win a Super Bowl and have me sitting there with a 2-14 team. I sort of felt bad for not wanting my friends to win, but not bad enough to change my interests.

And when Grossman threw a pick six, clinching the game for the Colts, I actually felt more than I did when the White Sox won.

- - -

And now just a few years later, another Chicago team is on the brink of a championship.

I've been to two Blackhawk games: 1-13-06 vs Crosby and the Penguins. And 3-12-06 vs the Red Wings. Both times I was there I was rooting for the Blackhawks. Although, the hardest I cheered was for the Big Mac Minute, which never happens!

Never having any NHL affiliation, it was easy to pull for the local team now. But I didn't really care. They weren't very good, and I certainly didn't follow them throughout the year.

By 2010, anticipating a move to Denver, I actually started following the Avalanche-Sharks series on Though I wasn't too invested/upset when Colorado lost, but still that was the team that I cared the most about.

And then the Blackhawks landed in the Finals against the Flyers. And again, I didn't really feel connected to the team.

So it was really more about my friends. (Although, it's not like I saw them watching or wearing Blackhawks red before last year's playoff run.)

And I know that if, God willing, the Chiefs ever make it to the Super Bowl, I want my friends to be watching, hoping they pull it out for me. Of course currently, in that event, there's a 12.5% chance that they'd be playing the Lions or Bears, and then all bets are off anyways.

Friday, June 04, 2010

world cup futures

So much for that Ivory Coast sleeper.

Brazil will win. At 9/2 they are barely behind Spain at 4 to 1 for being the favorite.

If I was betting $100, here's what I would do:

$60 on Brazil at 9/2
$13 on Italy at 16/1
$10 on Holland at 10/1
$8 on Germany at 14/1
$6 on France at 20/1
$2 on Ghana at 100/1
$1 on South Africa at 150/1

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

10 days til world cup

Schedule for ALL games

Group C Schedule (US, England, Algeria, Slovenia)

The U.S. avoided any 6:30 am Central games, and the U.S. vs England game is at 1:30 pm on a Saturday. Sweet.