Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Leafy Light

A perfect example of the luminescent leaves I adore.

Central Park, June 2009.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Old Piano

I've been reconnecting recently with the piano after considerable time apart. Over the past week or two, I finally fumbled my way to a complete song...

It's battered and creaky, but mellow and soulful and rich. I could not love it more.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Water Towers

While running around New York, I noticed that many roofs were adorned with water towers - nowhere more so than in Chinatown. This was a backward glance at sunset as we left Chinatown NYC last June.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NASA Silhouette

A Drop of Light

A transient droplet of light clinging to some irrigation

Somewhere along the river at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, 30 August 2009

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chocolate Heart

A chance trick of the light caused a heart to appear on the shards of chocolate I would soon use to make Sachertorte

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sunset on Venice Beach the winter sun set on Venice Beach and on 2008.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Disney Cinnabon

Just a Cinnabon by the side of Main Street, Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, FL.

Waiting for the 'Celebrate a Dream Come True' parade to begin, 30 May 2009

Monday, March 22, 2010

A windmill and some flowers

A fleeing windmill and a fleeting field of flowers flying past outside the car window.

somewhere east of Cape Town, on the way to the dunes of De Hoop, the caves of Arniston and the clouds over Agulhas...

6 September 2009

For some subtle reason, this image elicits in me feelings of absolute calm and the memory of the fluid ebb and flow of the fields in the buffeting wind.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Ivy at Emmarentia Dam, 21 February 2010

The light was clear and soft and the tiny ivy leaves lined up perfectly...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chocolate and Strawberry Ganache Tart (The Deerfield Senior Dessert)

I have a week off university, and therefore decided to indulge my urge to bake. At the suggestion of my amazing friend Amanda, I chose this, the Deerfield Senior Dessert. A quick email to the very obliging people in the Deerfield Dining Hall, and I had the recipe. Unfortunately, it was in some strange archaic, arbitrary measurement system, but google fixed that. For the sake of those still metrically impaired, I’ve left those original measurements in. Converting from all purpose to cake flour was tricky too, there is a difference, but I played that by ear, as it were, and it worked!
Obtaining half a litre of fresh satisfactory strawberries was slightly harder, but I soon had those in hand too. 

The result, a sugary strawberry and chocolate nostalgic walk down Albany Road.

The Deerfield Senior Dessert
Chocolate Pastry Shell
  • 85g (3 oz) of Unsalted Butter
  • ½ a cup of Sugar
  • ¾ of a teaspoon of Vanilla
  • ⅛ of a teaspoon of Salt
  • ⅜ of a cup of Cocoa Powder
  • 85g of sifted Cake Flour (¾ cups of All-purpose Flour)
  • ½ a cup of Double (Heavy) Cream
  • 114g (4 oz) of Milk Chocolate (Bitter- or semi-sweet as per the original recipe)
  • 114g (4 oz) of White Chocolate
  • ½ a litre (1 pint) of fresh regular Strawberries, quartered

I tried - out of habit - to use our automatic mixer, but the quantity just isn’t enough; either for the dough hook to reach, or to warrant its use. It’s better just to mix it by hand with a flexible spatula or similar utensil, but nothing as thick as a wooden spoon, or as flimsy as a whisk.

Sheer to the point of reflection
Chocolate Pastry Shell
Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth, and then add the cocoa powder and mix to a paste. Add the flour and continue to mix until the mixture forms a consistent dough. My dough had a glorious aroma and a moist but slightly crumbly texture; by this point, yours should too.

Now, here the recipe and my method diverge slightly. The recipe follows the proper way of preparing pastry, but I’ve always found my way works well enough and avoids the chance of everything going irreparably wrong, so first – the proper method.

Form the dough into a disk between two sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Remove and roll the dough – between the plastic – until it is about 3mm (⅛”) thick by 28cm (11”) in diameter. Remove one piece of plastic and invert the dough into a 23-25cm (9-10”) fluted tart pan. Press the dough into the pan, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Bottom to top: Divine chocolate pastry base, Thick dark ganache, Temperamental white ganache, Fresh strawberries, White and milk chocolate curls.

Now, my method, which is a bit of a cheat, really, but it works for me and makes me think I’m a pastry chef. Flatten the dough into a flattish disc, don’t worry about the edges breaking. Place the disc in the middle of a 23-25cm (9-10”) fluted tart pan and press from the middle outwards, making sure the dough is evenly spread and being careful not to break through with an over-eager press. Once you’ve reached the edges of the pan, press the dough up so it covers the sides of the tart pan too. Use two fingers on the outside of each ‘flute’ against a thumb on the inside to get the dough to mould to the shape of the tart dish.
Keep working the dough outwards with your fingers until the pan is covered to a depth of about 3mm (⅛”). Use whatever dough creeps over the edge to fix any holes. To achieve a uniform base, anything with a flat bottom will do; I use the ½ cup measurement cup to press the base into shape. When you’re satisfied with the lay of the dough, use a sharp knife and a deft cut to remove any excess dough around the lip. Once you’re satisfied, refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.

Prick the bottom with a fork and then bake in a preheated oven at 190°C (375°F) until set around the edges, about 12 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before filling.

Chop or grate the dark and white chocolates (I prefer grating; it goes quicker and is infinitely more gratifying) and keep separate. Two ganaches will be made, each using half the double (heavy) cream, that is, ¼ of a cup.

For each ganache, heat the cream over a medium-high heat in a small saucepan or heavy bottomed pot. As soon as a boil is achieved, remove from the heat and add all the chocolate. Stir with a whisk until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. I waited to make each ganache until I was absolutely ready to pour them in, but once mixed, they don’t set immediately so you have a little flexibility there.

Just a little touch of nostalgia.
Assembling the Tart
Spread the dark chocolate ganache in the cooled shell, working quickly before it stiffens, and then refrigerate until it has hardened significantly – it should resist a tap with a fork. Spread the white ganache over and refrigerate until slightly set. Cover the surface with the quartered strawberries, pressing in very slightly. Beware, the strawberries can stain the white chocolate, so commit before placing each strawberry. I went for concentric circles, but I think a spiral could be quite pleasing too.
Garnish with chocolate shavings or curls and refrigerate until fully set. And you’re done! Enjoy :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sunset Silhouettes

A lucky shot out the car window on the way home...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Arniston: Anthropomorphic Birds

Birds, over the edge of the ocean cliffs at Arniston, a few hours East of Cape Town
6 September 2009

Two possible anthropomorphic interpretations:
1) The two on the right are in hushed conversation as the one of the left tries to eavesdrop
2) The pair are nuzzling, and the loner is just kinda awkward.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Telkom Internet Cap Management

After several months living with capped internet, and almost as many months having the internet run out on me, I began trying to manually ration the bandwidth. I opened the Telkom Tracker Website regularly and calculated how much internet I should have used by that point in the month, but that - though effective - grew exceedingly tedious.


So I decided to write a program to do it for me; a program I've been using since December.
I have no idea if it will work for anyone else, but if you use this website:

to check your cap, and you know your username and password, then I see no reason it shouldn't.
Please be aware that it will only work for TelkomSA internet accounts and is not a universal internet usage monitor.

After downloading, installing and starting the program for the first time, you should see this login screen.

Carefully enter your username and password in their respective fields, then enter your base monthly limit in gigabytes. Checking the 'Accutime' is recommended as I will explain shortly. Click 'Save and continue' to sign in to your tracker page.'

If you're successful, the next screen you'll see should look something like these two:

Once you have saved your login details once, this will be the screen you'll see when the program opens, after a brief loading time.
Most of the subheadings are self-explanatory, and if you do need further explanation, simply hover over each in turn. The most important one is the 'Proportional Limit'. This is calculated by taking the current day as a fraction of the month and applying it to your monthly limit, thereby indicating how much of your bandwidth you should have used by a given day in the month. The Accutime option takes into account the hour of the day also.
In the first case (left), the total is just under the proportional limit. The green part of the bar represents combined uploads and downloads, and the light blue portion represents the difference between your total and your proportional limit. In the second case, total downloads and uploads are well over your proportional limit. The green bar represents the portion of traffic within the proportional limit, and everything red after that represents how far over the proportional limit traffic has run.

The program also calculates your average daily use, and - based on your standing with the proportional limit - how much you should reduce your daily use to in order to make it to the end of the month.

Clicking the red arrow on the left-side of the window will open the settings, where you can change your monthly limit (do not include top ups, these will be detected automatically), change your account settings and clear your details from the computer's memory.

Problems installing,
Make sure you install 'as administrator' so that there aren't any problems with permissions.
There seem to be some issues with installing the fonts - just click ignore for each issue, let it finish installing, and then copy all the fonts in the "Fonts" folder in the zip file to "C:\Windows\Fonts". It's not a major issue, but it will ensure that everything is displayed correctly.
If the install fails, then extract the '.cab' file and fine the "Telkom Internet Cap Management.exe' file, which is the program. It should run from there.
If you're using Windows XP, you may need to run an update before you'll be allowed to install.

If anything breaks, or there's something you'd like to see in the next release, please email me or leave a comment and I'll get to work on it asap...

Download Telkom Internet Cap Management here.


I realise that both the link and program have not been working for a while (SORRY!!!) due to google groups shutting down their file hosting, and due to Telkom tweaking something small about their website that flummoxed my programming. I have switched to a better storage site for my files, and am in the process of rewriting the program so it will be more reliable. It also has a new, cleaner look as a side-effect of yet another shift in interface fashion. I've got it working, just gotta work out the kinks and the update should be up within the week, so watch this space!
-11 July 2011

The new program interface (under construction)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Zoo Lake

Zoo Lake, calm and incandescent in the setting sun.
Considering the usual gaudiness and buzz of Zoo Lake, this eerily glorious and deserted scene was breathtaking.

Mail & Guardian