Category: Personal

“If I make you do good, will it make you good?”

Last month my family and I had the opportunity to visit the home of some good friends (I’ll refer to them as the “Smiths” hereafter). What started as a friendly conversation quickly degraded into a spirited debate on education vs. compulsory schooling. Our family shares a great deal of respect for the Smiths, and we see eye-to-eye on quite a few topics, but one topic on which we have long differed is that of education. While the Smiths are far from evangelists touting the virtues of a public compulsory school system (one which is clearly failing to satisfy society’s needs let alone meet the minimum criteria of what constitutes a successful education) they do have a healthy appetite for the “fringe benefits” of the public system and the value it brings students and families when compared against the absence of such a system.

And therein lies the chief problem: this wonderful family, a family which has produced amazing children and has had a great impact in society, has also fallen prey to one of the biggest droughts plaguing society today — the drought of imagination. Now I can’t prove what I believe, namely that the Smiths are merely suffering the deadening effects of a system that has waged war on one of our strongest differentiators from other, more brute beasts in the world. But I can say with 100% veracity that the Smiths are in nowise the minority in their lack of ability to imagine a world where compulsion is not the key ingredient in the concoction that is today more commonly sold under the label of “A Child’s Schooling.”

My personal beliefs – reinforced by the Christian values to which I subscribe – induce me to declare war against compulsion. I’m no stranger to the subject, either. I was raised in a world that was pretty much the epitome of the classical compulsive system. I attended church and school where my non-standard questions were an unwelcome interruption to the ultra-standard curriculum. I lived in a home where I was expected to behave as my parents imagined a good young boy should behave. I even consumed much of my entertainment according to someone else’s prescribed pattern. Everywhere I went, people were (sometimes passively but usually actively) telling me what I should say, how I should think, where I should go, and what I should do. Honestly, it would be better described as telling me what not to say, think, or do. Apparently, I wasn’t a very “good” boy. 😉

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m merely blaming the world for my woes. In fact, I am the first to admit that I’m as guilty as the rest of us in many ways, bestowing the burden of compulsion upon my own children, friends, acquaintances, and even myself. I, too, suffer from a lack of imagination, if only to a lesser degree. I’m not fighting the war against compulsion out of sense of superiority. I do it precisely because I recognize my own inferiority against this principle which I so despise. As is the case when overcoming any great challenge, I’ve found myself investing a great deal of time pursuing an education on the matter. It has begun with a sizable investment of my conscious thought and observation into the matter of education and compulsion over the past decade or more. I’ve also done a bit of “light reading” on the matter, and will no doubt be sharing those resources here as time goes on.

The debate that accompanied our visit to the Smith’s home last month was stirring for me. So stirring, in fact, that I decided to write a letter to them in an attempt express the many things that were not communicated (or were communicated poorly) that evening. I realized there were some key principles at the foundation of my views that weren’t even discussed. I can see how, in lieu of these basic building blocks, confusion and skepticism might abound. And so it was that I decided to write a letter to the Smiths in an attempt to clearly outline the foundation of my views. If this is indeed a true, universal principle, adherence to it will no doubt vary from individual to individual, family to family, and society to society. However, one important distinction will exist: we will cease liberal peppering of force and compulsion in the rearing and tutelage of our young minds.

I publish this letter here today because it has become clear to me over the last month that this is more than a simple communique to the Smith family. This is, more or less, my manifesto on the principle of the agency of man. This “manifesto” is certainly far from exhaustive. However, I post it here with the hope that I will either be proven irrefutably wrong in my faulty beliefs, or so the discussion can flourish and develop into real change. Either way, I want to know whether the arguments in this document are efficacious, or merely fallacy.

The conversations I’ve already shared with those who have read this have been amazing, and extremely enlightening. So I invite you to read this, pass it along, add to it, comment on it, and let me know if it has had any impact in your life, good or bad. I have felt for some time that this is a conversation we need to have in this crazy world, especially today.

Please find the PDF below:

On Compulsion – A Manifesto on Agency and Force (PDF)

I had the chance to travel to Southern Utah (Kanarraville to be exact) to photograph the Great Solar Eclipse of 2012. It was spectacular, and I had as much enjoyment simply being there as I did photographing and filming the eclipse. It was fascinating watching the quality of light change over the course of the hour, with the light dimming to near-dusk levels at the peak of annularity, only to ease back to full daylight as the moon passed out of the path of the Sun. It was eery and spellbinding, and held tens-of-thousands of onlookers captive for much of that hour.

In the very first moments as the ring developed, we could hear the mob of onlookers begin to shout “It’s starting!”, or “Ring of Fire!”, or otherwise cheering and expressing their awe at the sight. It was, in a way, neat to be connected to all those perfect strangers, all gathered around for the same purpose.

The whole day was inspiring. I half imagined the Sun wanted to inspire us all with its great beauty and power even before the eclipse began. As we drove to our destination, I was able to photograph another rare celestial phenomenon. A stunning sun dog was seen for the first half of our trip, and as you’ll see in the images below, it did not disappoint. (As luck would have it, a few airline contrails appeared in about half of the sundog images, with one passing directly in front of the Sun)

Lastly, please note that all of these images are produced IN-CAMERA, meaning the duplicate Suns, the flares, and the rays are all artifacts that were created the good old fashioned way – without any digital manipulation. I used Adobe Camera Raw to process the RAW images, and of course contrast and color-correction have been applied just like Ansel Adams did back in the good ol’ day’s of silver gelatin. Other than that, these are as pure as you can get. I invite you to enjoy the small collection of images here, or see the slightly larger collection of eclipse images by clicking here. You can also see these on Instagram by following @ronadair. (If you’re not on Instagram, see the Instagramified versions here.

Please feel free to repost to sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. or personal (non-commercial) blogs. Thanks!

Follow me on Twitter if you’re cool.

Geekness: Nikon D800 + 17-35mm 2.8 (sundog photos) & 70-200 2.8 VRII (eclipse images). As mentioned above, no photoshop trickery is happening in these shots — all effects are in-camera. Color and contrast tweaks have been liberally applied. Unfortunately, sundog images have not been spot-corrected for the D800 dust-spot syndrome which I discovered plagues my camera. :(

Here’s another amazing sauce that’ll go in my top 5. Had this at my good friend Casey’s place a few weeks back. I’m yet to make this recipe myself, but wanted to post this here so I don’t lose it.

FYI: We had this sauce over steaks instead of a filet of beef. Either way will work fine, I assure you. I’m confident this sauce performs well on just about any cut of beef. Most of all, Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:
Filet of Beef (alternatively, traditional steak will work):
1 (4 to 5 pound) fillet of beef, trimmed and tied.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Gorgonzola Sauce:
4 cups heavy cream
3 to 4 ounces crumbly Gorgonzola (not creamy or “dolce”)
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

INSTRUCTIONS:
Beef:
Place the beef on a sheet pan and pat the outside dry with a paper towel. Spread the butter on with your hands. Sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for exactly 22 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium rare.

Remove the beef from the oven, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove strings and slice the fillet thickly.

Note: Be sure your oven is very clean or high temperatures will cause it to smoke.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Note: meat will continue to cook as it rests

Gorgonzola Sauce:
Bring heavy cream to a full boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then continue to boil rapidly for 45-50 minutes, until thickened like a white sauce, stirring constantly.

Off the heat, add the Gorgonzola, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and parsley. Whisk rapidly until the cheeses melt. Serve warm. If you must reheat, warm the sauce over low heat until melted, then whisk vigorously until the sauce comes together.

Yield: 3 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

I’ve been consuming egregious amounts of Pork lately—not sure why that is. Between the Pesto-Stuffed/Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loins and the recipe I’m sharing here, I’ve had more pork in the last month than any other year of my life. And you know what? I’m ok with it.

But this recipe—this recipe is a treasure. I wish I had pictures of this dish (it was beautiful), but honestly you just need to trust me on this: try it today. You will not regret it. The sauce is quite distinctive, in a pleasantly familiar way. Smooth, creamy, blasted full of flavor—you’re not likely to find 5 sauces you like better in the world. I can almost guarantee it.

INGREDIENTS:
6 tablespoons butter
8 Pork Loins (or 8 chicken breasts, skinned and boned)
4 tablespoons oil
1 cup raspberry vinegar
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups whipping cream

INSTRUCTIONS:
Dredge chicken in flour and sauté pork loins (or chicken breasts) in butter and oil; remove from pan and set aside. Add raspberry vinegar to pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add meat and chicken stock. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Remove meat; set aside and keep warm.Boil liquid over high heat until it has thickness to the consistency of cream. Add whipping cream and allow to thicken over medium heat. Serve over pork (or chicken).

Serves 8.

EXTRA INFORMATION:
Though I can’t confirm this (I wasn’t the one cooking the meat this time) I can only assume that the most universal law of cooking meat would improve this recipe: if you know how to (sear meat), be sure to sear your pork loins. If you don’t know how to sear, learn today, and never do it the old way again.

Also, if you like your food to taste savory throughout, I would recommend salting your meat as it cooks.

Lastly, BE SURE TO PROPERLY TEMP YOUR MEAT! Get a good digital kitchen thermometer today, and know what temp each meat needs to reach in order to be safe. Trichinosis, salmonella, and E-coli are real, but not real fun. Get the last one you’ll ever need here.

**Update: As I stated, I didn’t cook the meat for this dish, Janese did—and usually searing flour coated meat is a bad idea. Either omit the flour, or I’d recommend not searing this particular recipe. Sorry for the oversight.

Superchrome

December 9th, 2009 Permalink

Check out the latest addition to my web portfolio, Superchrome.
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Lot’s of people (read: like 4) have decided to take a personal vendetta against AT&T and Apple and give up their sweet, friendly little iPhone and pick up either a Pre, a Google Android phone, or both. They tout religious fervor for abstinence from Satan’s Spawn – the App Store – driven by the need to stand up for the rights of users and developers alike. Most say they can’t stand how Apple has been heavy handed with many things (mainly the App Store/Developer relationship) and that they are going on strike. Others claim that AT&T’s incompetence is too frustrating, and they’re not going to take it anymore. A lot of them say both, and therefore have two good reasons to leave the iPhone.

So, I have been thinking in my head this whole time, didn’t these guys use cell phones before the iPhone? I mean, didn’t they try out the abysmal handsets that were crippled by the best network in the game, Verizon? Didn’t they try having conversations with T-Mobile or AT&T users where the conversation sounded more like morse code than 21st century cellular communications? And most of all, on the mobile computing front, did any of these guys actually use the Palm, arguably the best handheld computer on the market before the iPhone? Well, I’ve done all this and more, and I have to say the iPhone was a real treat when it came out.

I was extremely concerned about carrier quality when I began seriously considering the switch. Dropped phone calls was a myth as far as I was concerned, as Verizon’s network really is that good. Calls sounded as clear and as clean as calls originating from a handset. I was living in California when the iPhone came out, and still had a Verizon contract. I tried AT&T for the trial period with the then sub-standard Palm Treo 650, and was utterly dismayed at the crap quality of the phone service, not to mention the hardware differences between the same phone on Verizons network (microphone responded differently, audio levels were so low they were unusable, even on speaker, and the AT&T Treo took about 30 seconds to connect a call, vs. Verizon’s 650 that would start ringing almost the second you pushed send). Then, there was the terrible hissing sound present with ALL AT&T calls, on the 650 and the RAZR. YUK!

So the thought of switching to AT&T, even for the iPhone, was scary. What finally made me switch? Well, it was a combination of things, but the biggest was NOT the lust for the iPhone, even though that was palpable. No, instead it was the sheer hatred I had developed for Verizon. Between a move back to Utah, a first time large purchase of the Palm Treo 700p, and some really crappy experiences with the handset and carrier, I decided enough was enough.

I’d threatened to switch from Verizons asininely high priced calling network to something more affordable for months – nay – years at that point, and still had little luck getting what I felt was due from them. Complex things, like proper billing, telephone representatives who don’t lie about what were supposed to be documented promises, and most of all, a handset that actually works. The first two, I could deal with. The bill I would watch religiously. It’s not difficult when you’re paying ~$180/month (sometimes more). Some people drive a good used car for that price. The lying and seemingly cultured cheating I would counter with my all-out assault of annoying calls, hitting the 611 five or six times if needed to get the one representative who was too new, too stupid, or too kind to know that you don’t break Verizon’s policies without repercussions.

But the third point, the telephone that didn’t work, that really irked me. I had always talked Verizon into giving me the highest priced handsets for free, pointing out that this would be cheaper for them than losing me. Alas, I did spend well over the average in monthly plan fees, and always paid my bill. What was not to like. Of course, I did have to sell the idea to them every time, but each and every time, I’d get a new handset for my wife and myself, and not just the cheap ones either. These are the ones that would actually last 2 years and longer. But it was time to move up to the big time. I was sick of carrying two devices in my pocket (a palm and phone), and got the idea that a two-in-one would be the solution.

Enter the 700p. Long story short: it was great, when it was great. But soon it fell into fits of bugginess, freezing, and most regrettably, extreme lack of call quality. I would get horrible sound, bad connectivity (voice AND data) and a whole lot of lame excuses from Verizon. I had the phone replaced 3 times (learning along the way that my $350 phone was being swapped or used look-alikes with some other dude’s earwax in the cracks). Well, three strikes, and Verizon was out. They said that I would have to buy a new, different phone if I wanted to fix the issues. I said I would leave. They said go ahead. I drove to AT&T.

Now I have the iPhone on a sub-standard cellular network, and I couldn’t be happier. Ok, I could be happier. But with all this talk of how evil AT&T and Apple are acting, and how horrible the network is, I have to ask again if anyone has been awake for the last 5 years. AT&T’s customer service is all but wonderful, and the network isn’t bad either. If Verizon is 100% in quality of calls (because they are), then AT&T is about 80% on a bad day, and 85%-90% on a good day. Usually I can make calls the way I like, but I’d say I get hundreds of dropped calls a year, where on Verizon it was almost a privilege to drop a call, as it happened 3-5 times tops. Still, 100’s of dropped calls in a year when I make tens of thousands of calls, the odds ain’t bad when looked at in perspective.

Then there’s the App store that so few have been complaining about lately. Sure, it’s not perfect. But did you guys ever TRY to find software for the palm pilot, let alone the palm phones? It was hell. If you could find what you wanted, tucked away in the corners of the virtual universe, chances are you would have to do a rain dance or some other crazy ritual to get it installed and working. It was extremely hit or miss. Once again, while the App store isn’t perfect, it’s an epic breath of fresh air compared to the prior alternatives. Apple has kept tight control of their handset sphere, and that, my friends, is what makes the iPhone so incredible.

I have been asking myself recently: would I return to Verizon if they jumped on the iPhone bandwagon? Probably not. Maybe, but probably not. I hated the crap I had to deal with from a customer non-service standpoint, and that really matters to me. Feeling like I could stay or go, and they didn’t give a load which I chose bothered me to a great extent. Then there’s the price. Why would I pay more just to be kicked around by those goons. The offer would have to be pretty sweet to jump ship and return to Verizon. Now, maybe I’d consider Sprint, as they share the same network in many places, but even that’s unlikely.

So, what’s driving these folks from the iPhone and AT&T? Same thing that drove me from Verizon. Seething hatred. They’re making a statement, a vote if you will with their wallet. They’re saying enough, because they’re just mad enough. But that’s the thing: most people are NOT seething about AT&T and Apple’s decisions. And I’d argue most are aware of them. They just don’t care. I would assume many of them remember what the dark ages of cellular strangleholds were like, and are perfectly content with the solutions that Apple has come up with to cure their calling woes.

The takeaway, from my perspective, is this: You have to HATE AT&T and Apple to leave for the Palm Pre or an Android phone.

But wait – I hate AT&T. Sure, I talk nice about them in public, but taking a 20% hit in call quality IS annoying. I do hate them, but not enough to – even for a second – consider switching to T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint. Even IF they had the iPhone, I think it would take some very real convincing. The better network, Verizon, is run by some big anus, and the others seem to be a downgrade in network quality, which I can’t afford. So while I think it’s good that people want competition, openness, and freedom of consumer choice, I think everyone would benefit from a good dose of historical reflection.

Engulfed (photos)

July 13th, 2009 Permalink

A few months back I pulled my car off a dirt road and trudged through quite a bit of brush in order to get a closer look at this fire. I was on my way home, and could see the plumes of black smoke for miles as I approached via the freeway.

I decided on a whim to get closer and see what I could see, even though I didn’t have my “real” camera with me. I met up with an amiable fellow named Thomas, and together we went fire-hunting with our iPhones. It took a lot of cutting through the willows, but eventually we did come within spitting distance to the burn.

Needless to say, it was an incredible sight. The photos don’t do it justice. I was really wishing I had a RED One with a long lens, or at least my D2X with me. The imagery, quite honestly, was breathtaking. Real, high resolution images would have been awesome, and high quality film/video would have been even better.

There were a few times that the flames were a bit too close for comfort, though for the most part we were careful not to let ourselves become surrounded. But the thing that probably struck me the most—aside from the 30-35 foot high surges—was the living nature of the flames as they collectively danced along the tops of the brush, speeding to one patch, burning, pausing, then speeding to another. The heat rose visibly off of the browning reedtops as they bowed dutifully toward the flames, being tanned by the unbearably high temperature. It was clear that these flames had a mind and will of their own, as well as the power to command nature. You can’t help but wonder how anyone would be so foolish as to take its power lightly.

As an aside, I’ve always wondered what fire is. It’s not solid, it’s not gas, it’s not liquid. It isn’t air, earth, or water. It isn’t made of particles, though it seems to produce quite a few as it burns. What is it? Its one of the few things in this world you can’t hold, but you can definitely feel. Maybe I’m way off in my assessment. For instance, maybe it’s actually a gas. I’m a photographer, not a scientist. Either way, if you can shed any light on the mystery, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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P.S. Notice the finger in the top half of shot number 3? Probably not. But that’s how I achieve manual exposure on the iPhone 3g in a high contrast scene. Not ideal, but hey, it works.

✈ Sent from my iPhone 

***All images shot and edited exclusively on the iPhone. (First image gamma adjusted in PS due to WordPress being a bit too aggressive in srgb gamma correction.)

Seems this guy could build anything he wants. Clearly, he’s a genius. I’ve poked around his website for many months now, coming back occasionally to remind myself how cool he is. Each time I visit, I’m amazed at the creativity and industry I come across on this site, from digital cameras made of flatbed scanner parts, to lego marble machines, to wood furniture, to shop tools. Wow, what an inspiration.

I’ve been wanting to make some furniture from the plans he’s posted, particularly the napping bench, the couch/day bed, and heck – why not a few milk crates, kitchen chairs, or even a queen size bed. In a world where the equivalent is crappier, plastic-ier, and expensive-ier, how can you look at his stuff and not want it at least a little?

FUN!

We spent a good part if today going through home videos of the kids over the last few years. What began as an exercise in cataloging what was on the DV tapes quickly turned into a multi-hour family veg. session remembering good ol’ times.

Here are a few iPhone pics from one of the tapes we recorded of the 2+ feet of snow we got our first winter back in Utah:

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Probably the most apparent thing, at least to me? Kids do grow fast.

But don’t think the entire day was wasted on gushy sentimental crap. My wonderful wife served me a delicious breakfast in bed, I had some incredible steak for dinner, and we all went for a lazy Sunday drive right around sunset.

I think I need more father’s days in the year. Thanks guys for the great time!

Sent from my iPhone

Just read it. It’s hilarious. I laughed so hard I spit out a little food.

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