Tuesday, May 26, 2009


When Brooke and I were in Dallas this weekend for a wedding, we wandered into a Williams-Sonoma store in the mall and found egg rings. These make perfectly circular eggs that fit on an English muffin. They are 3" diameter rings designed to work on the stove top with little handles that allow you to manipulate them without the threat of burning yourself. While I am sure that they work quite well with eggs, I wanted them for baking instead.

I purchased them and when I got back home I looked up a crumpet recipe on the Internet (this modern technology is great for this kind of thing). I made a quick run to the grocery store for yeast and some all-purpose flour and was in business.

Crumpets look a lot like English muffins sans nooks and crannies. They are made from a batter rather than a dough, hence the need for the rings. They require a lot more time to prepare than biscuits which is probably why they are not terribly popular. I tend to have them with tea and jam and until now have had to buy them imported from England in specialty shops. As you can imagine, they aren't all that great after coming across the pond and waiting on the shelf until I can buy them.

Crumpets are actually quite easy to make. All you need is water, sugar, yeast, flour, salt, baking soda, and milk. First you activate the yeast by adding it to the warm water and sugar mixture. This has to spend time "activating" Once the yeast solution is all bubbly, you mix in the dry ingredients and the milk. This whole batter has to then rest for about 30 minutes.

Towards the end of the rest period you preheat the pan on a fairly low heat with the rings (I spray both pan and rings with cooking spray to make it easier). When you are ready, you spoon the batter into the rings and let them cook for about 12 minutes on the first side. When this time has elapsed remove the rings and then flip them like pancakes to cook the top for about 2 minutes (the top will be brown).

This whole process takes a good 90 minutes with my four rings so its not a quick meal by any means, but then again, anything you do with yeast is going to take quite a while.

Once they are cooked you can have yourself a nice cup of tea with crumpets and your favorite jam.

Nikon F4 and "G" series VR primes

While the Nikon F SLR mount hasn't changed since 1959, the ability to mount the lens on the body doesn't necessarily mean that all lenses maintain all functionality on all bodies, even if they have compatible mounts.

The F4 era camera bodies were the first generation of autofocus and program exposure bodies that were made by Nikon. The tricky marketing problem Nikon faced at this time, in the late 1980's was maintaining compatibility with the older MF lenses that most users owned from the manual focus era. The Nikon F4 maintained remarkable compatibility with most of these lenses, but as time progressed, the lenses were updated and full compatibility with the newest lenses is no longer feasible with the F4.

The newest Nikkors that own are AFS "G" lenses and some have vibration reduction (VR). The biggest issue with the "G" lenses is that they do not have aperture rings that were required by the F4 to control the lens iris in the exposure modes most often used by advanced users. The loss of manual and aperture priority exposure modes is a big loss while using the F4. In addition, the VR feature is not supported by the F4 as it does not have the multiple AF sensors that are required to use this feature. This is not a huge loss in compatibility compared to the exposure modes, but still frustrates the user of a high-end lens to have a key feature disabled on a longer lens.

While most users are aware of the aforementioned limitations of the "G" lenses on the F4, it took some experimentation with my AF-S 200 f2G VR and F4s to find some other quirks in the lens/body combination.

The first thing that I discovered is that the DOF preview lever does not work properly. On later model bodies, the DOF is an electronic operation, but on the F4 is is still a mechanical operation where the button operates a cam that moves the iris control lever. With the "G" lens, it moves the lever to the f22 position and will not depress to the camera-selected aperture.

The second issue that I found concerns the selection of the buttons on the front of the lens. The function of these buttons can be selected to perform one of three tasks with modern bodies: 1) AF-lock, 2) memory recall, and 3) AF-on. The first two functions work quite well. The AF memory can be set and the focus point recalled in an instant with the AFS motor. AF lock also works quite well, but the AF-on button not only fails to function, but will totally disable the AF system in the camera. So if your AF doesn't work when you mount this lens, check that you aren't selected to "AF-on" on the lens itself and see if that doesn't fix the problem.

While the new "G" lenses aren't the greatest thing to try and use on the F4, you still have the option if you move to the correct exposure mode and don't mind loosing the VR (if the lens offers it as an option).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Romance in 1864

This is a diary entry from my Great-great grandfather Barabus T. Billard on when he got married:

"Cold with snow on the ground. Towards night I went down neck* and took a wife unto myself during the evening."

* "Neck" meant down a road to his wife's family farm.

I can only imagine what the actual proposal sounded like. I find it interesting that he began with the weather and then didn't even mention his wife's name.

To be fair, I have read some of his letters from the battlefield to his wife Maria Jane, and he definitely showed a softer side in those writings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10 Things we will never see in Washington

1. The child of a president attend the DC public school system
2. Defined Contribution Congressional pensions
3. An actual decrease in the gross expenditures of the Federal Government
4. Repayment of the Social Security and Medicare “Trust Funds” by the Federal Government without additional borrowing from other sources.
5. A politician who donates more than the required taxes to government and refuses to take deductions
6. A pay freeze on elected officials until the budget is balanced
7. Reading every page of every bill by every member of congress before voting on the bill.
8. Congressional Term Limits
9. An end to gerrymandering
10. Reducing government involvement in the lives of the Citizens.