From Canon to Nikon: Focusing Widgets (Part 1 of this article explains my rationale for answering the question “How hard is it for a Canon shooter to go Nikon?” After a month with a D300, I’m ready to answer that question. If you buy equipment from Amazon via links on this page, or click on the ads, we get a little cash, which helps us maintain this site.) Focus Nikon’s auto-focus system UI differs from Canon’s in the particulars. Read On →

From Canon to Nikon: Lighting and Exposure Widgets (Part 1 of this article explains my rationale for answering the question “How hard is it for a Canon shooter to go Nikon?” After a month with a D300, I’m ready to answer that question. If you buy equipment from Amazon via links on this page, or click on the ads, we get a little cash, which helps us maintain this site.) Flash When I first began shooting, I didn’t have any interest in flash photography whatsoever. Read On →

From Canon to Nikon: Noise Widgets (Part 1 of this article explains my rationale for answering the question “How hard is it for a Canon shooter to go Nikon?” After a month with a D300, I’m ready to answer that question. If you buy equipment from Amazon via links on this page, or click on the ads, we get a little cash, which helps us maintain this site.) Noise and High ISO performance Nikon DSLRs have traditionally lagged a bit behind Canons in terms of digital noise at high equivalent ISO settings. Read On →

The Coming Flood

It’s the middle of August which means that the new Madden is out and we can say that the annual “Retarded Fall and Holiday Gaming Release Flood” has officially begun. While the coming weeks probably won’t bring us anything quite as bountiful as last year’s Bioshock followed by Halo 3 followed by Ratchet and Clank followed by Rock Band, there are no lack of interesting titles. But first, Madden. The “HD” Madden engine is now on its fourth release and I have to say that this time they have finally gotten something close to as playable as the older PS2 versions of the game. Read On →

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with Moriarty

I just paid $90 for a set of games that, purchased separately, would cost nearly $500. Long-time readers know of my love, bordering on irrational, for the games of Everett Kaser. From his first great game, Sherlock, through to what I consider the apogee of the deduction game, Baker Street, Kaser’s games have kept me company for upwards of 15 years. There has always been one problem: his games didn’t run natively on Mac OS X. Read On →

A Wee Dram of Hokkaido

I’ve alluded, once or twice, to my growing interest in Japanese whisky, and talked about the bottles that I absolutely, positively, did not buy out of state and certainly did not bring back to Pennsylvania, because that would be wrong. I have, it seems, taken it to a new level: friends have started not bringing me whisky directly from Japan. First, you may recall, there was the bottle of the Yamazaki 12-year that I totally did not buy at Gomer’s in Kansas City. Read On →

I Woke Up And One Of Us Was Crying

I’d like to watch the Olympics opening ceremonies, please. This sounds like a simple request, but apparently is akin to asking a soiled, drunk nun to perform brain surgery on an epileptic chihuahua on the roof of a moving car: not only won’t things turn out OK, but the nun probably won’t even understand what the hell you’re asking her to do. Like Formula One racing, the Olympics broadcast is a feed exclusively licensed to a single broadcaster in each country. Read On →

First Impression: Richard Chen Asian Cuisine

When I go to other cities, especially cities that have large Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or other East Asian communities, I tend to shit on the so-called “Pan Asian” style restaurants. My opinion of the iconic Vietnamese place called The Slanted Door in San Francisco is typical. I couldn’t see why I just spent all that money to get typical Vietnamese takeout food on fancy plates with a bar in the background (we went to the original, not the new one). Read On →

The Abstraction Distraction, Part 2: Distraction

Previously on this channel we discussed the role of abstraction in the context of constructing software. Abstraction enables laziness by hiding details that are unimportant or irrelevant to the problem at hand. This is a powerful and beautiful idea because it gives the appearance of providing programmers with a great deal of leverage against complexity. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. The problem is that at some point if you are going to ship anything someone has to worry about all those hidden details. Read On →

Irons in the Fire

Unfortunately, I’m a bit overcommitted at the moment, which means my leisure writing has taken a back seat. Here’s a nice image to hold you over. Thanks to the model for posing for this photo, and to Nikon for lending me the camera with which to take it. I’ve gotta say, this camera takes really good pictures!

Green Tea Mixed Berry Ice Cream

Honestly? I didn’t think this would work. But I tried it anyway, and it is six kinds of awesome. 2 cups cream 1 cup milk 1⁄2 cup sugar Two heaping tablespoons “green tea slurry” made from cheap green tea powder. About a cup of blackberries and blueberries, crushed by hand. Whip for a bit in a blender before adding it to your ice cream maker (if, like me, you are a cheap bastard and have a cheap ice cream maker). Read On →

A Tale of Two Dwarves

Now, here’s the thing about dwarves: they’re not like you and me. We wake up, we shower, we get dressed, we go to work, and while we’re doing all this, sometimes we get an idea. “I should write a cookbook that focuses on pomegranates,” we think, and then we get out of the shower and towel off and we don’t write the book. “I should create a mosaic depicting Washington’s terrible defeat at Fort Necessity,” we think, and then, almost always, we reach our bus stop, we step off the bus, and we go on with our lives. Read On →

The Abstraction Distraction, Part 1: Abstraction

Abstraction is the activity that lies at the core of much of computer science, and computer hardware and software engineering. Understanding what the word means is thus at the core of understanding both how and why computing systems are are put together and evolve the way they do. It is also a large part of the key to understanding the mind of the engineer, because more than anything an enthusiasm for clever and aesthetically pleasing abstractions is what drives people to become engineers in the first place. Read On →

A Road Less Travelled

Today I took Route 48 south from McKeesport, a road I’ve been meaning to drive for a while, just to see what was there. And I managed to find some great images. Click on the next one to enlarge: I’m still deciding whether they’re good enough to warrant going up onto Flickr.

Alpe D'Huez

Wow I love this stage. And who can’t appreciate the brilliant tactics that CSC used to completely obliterate the rest of the race. They put on a clinic in team bike racing. Go watch the stage to see how it’s done.

A Liquor Store Grows in Iselin

While in the mystical land of New Jersey, I went to a wonderful liquor store: Joe Canal’s. There are strict rules in Pennsylvania governing purchasing alcohol in other states. Therefore, believe me when I say that this was merely a visit for entertainment. I did not purchase many bottles of wine at reasonable prices. The wine that I did not purchase was not of a staggering variety from around the world. Read On →

My Mom's Peanut Sauce

Tonight a recipe that will do you no good at all. The Penn Avenue Fish Company has had head-on shrimp lately. These are huge shrimp which are for once sold whole. This means you can cook the shrimp with the head still on. They taste better that way. What I did was just drop them in boiling water until they told me they were done. The second time I got nervous and left them in a bit longer and they were overcooked. Read On →

Modern Television Strikes Again

The request was simple. Tape 2 hours of content from Versus every day from noon until 2pm so that I could watch a nice summary of the daily Tour De France stage without undue stress. The two hour summary is the best because it won’t get cut off due to the vagaries of live programming, and unlike the 8pm repeat, it does not feature two neanderthal retards doing the commentary. Of course, even with all of the world’s 21st century technology brought to bear, this simple task proves to be impossible. Read On →

Hits and Misses

It’s been an up and down time at “Chez Les Deux Petes” and one of the things on the downswing has been my motivation to actually write anything, good or not, to put on the site. So as I tend to do in these times, here is a collection of short thoughts that I never managed to turn into full on wank sessions. Hit: Decent Potato Salad I’ve never been able to make potato salad. Read On →

Boxing Day

Those of you who know me well know that as far as I am concerned, the entire point of software development is to enable me to be as lazy as humanly possible: This has presented a problem when wanting to use DOSBox to play great old DOS games, such as The Summoning. In order to play them, first I have to start DOSBox, then I have to type something. Whenever I think about doing this, there’s a little voice in my head. Read On →

Cream Puff-based Travel Note

If the freakish and wonderfully single-minded “Beard Papa” chain of Japanese cream puff shops had any locations in the Pittsburgh area, I would weigh about half again as much as I do today. That is all.


First, I would like to take credit for peterb’s little epiphany about Internet distribution in our last episode. I found the Blizzard download store while poking around for Diablo 2. Generally I try to avoid Blizzard because they make The Game I am Not Allowed to Play™. After watching the completely incredible demo video for Diablo 3, I was intrigued by the idea of a polished dungeon crawler. But one thing still stood in the way: I generally don’t like to play games on my computer. Read On →

A Blizzard in July

Different people do different things with their vacations. Some people ski. Some people windsurf. Me? I catch up on all the videogames I’ve been meaning to play. I realize that this may confuse my readers. Don’t I already spend all of my free time playing videogames? The answer is: no. I am, regrettably, an unrepentant workaholic, and as much as I enjoy playing games (and writing about them), it ain’t my day job. Read On →

An Entirely Different Game

One of the networks that my “Comcastic” cable system picks up is a repository of HD content called “Mojo”. I don’t know what this network exists to do, but I perked up because it’s only two clicks away from ESPN (NBA playoffs, don’t ya know) and it broadcasts a food show called “After Hours with Daniel” where noted New York chef Daniel Boulud gathers a bunch of food people at various places around the country for “parties” that are then filmed for the television audience. Read On →

Amiga 500 (and Assorted Stuff) for Sale

Allow me to take a moment to pimp this eBay auction wherein I am selling an Amiga 500, various accessories, and pieces of software. Help get this stuff out of my basement by getting it into yours. Most importantly I should note that among the items I’m including in the package is an original cloth map from Ultima V. I suspect that to some people, that cloth map is worth more than the Amiga.


This week I finally managed to finish a Metal Gear game on the first try. I tried and failed to play Metal Gear Solid 2. I also failed on my first try with Metal Gear Solid 3, although the second try was successful. If it had not been for my second playthrough of Subsistence I probably would not have even tried Metal Gear Solid 4. But I did, and for the most part I am happy that I did. Read On →

I Am Un Chien Andalusia

In my review of Guitar Hero, back in January of 2006, I wrote what can only be considered to be a prophetic sentence: I guess I should be glad, really, that this isn’t an Xbox game, because I’m pretty sure that if I could pay to download more songs on Xbox Live, I’d be broke right about now. Well, I now own Rock Band for the Xbox 360, and I can pay to download songs on Xbox Live. Read On →

Beat L.A.

If there are two strong memories from my high school years watching the Bird- era Boston Celtics, the first is the series in 1981 when the C’s came back from 3-1 down to beat Andrew Toney and the hated 76ers. The other was the very next year when it was clear that the hated 76ers were going to beat us to go to the Finals against the hated Lakers. The crowd at the Garden broke into a spontaneous chant of “Beat L.A.! Read On →

Crème de Violette

Blessings and salutations on the head of Nat, who returned from San Francisco with a bottle of Rothman and Winter Crème de Violette for me. May his head always be the unit by which the size of libations are measured. Click to enlarge I mentioned several months ago that I thought I had found some crème de violette in Kansas City. I was mistaken. What I actually found was a Marie Brizard concoction called “Parfait Amour”. Read On →


I spent last week in San Francisco and the Bay area, which is why updates have been infrequent. Allow me, however, to share one of the niftier things I saw while there: a busker playing the cymbalom, a Hungarian dulcimer, using tools of his own design: The performer is named Michael Masley, and his web site is here. When I first saw him, I momentarily thought that he had grown his fingernails out to a ridiculous length. Read On →

Down and Out in Liberty City

Against my better judgement, but driven by Pete’s positive impressions, I used some game trade money to get a used copy of GTA IV last weekend. By the convention of the Ebay Rating System the game is a high 3 or barely a 4. I have already listed the game on Ebay to raise funds to maybe continue my self-hating suffering with the next Metal Gear game. Since it is pointless to write a direct critique of this title, I will complain about the game indirectly. Read On →

The Great Wiivide

This weekend, as I mentioned previously, I picked up a Wii Fit. I’ve been using it for a few days now, and I’m ready to talk about it: I’m still overweight! This thing is useless! OK, OK, I’m just kidding. Honestly, it is completely awesome. Here’s the interesting thing: gamers don’t seem to think it’s awesome. Only, apparently, normal people. Most of the articles that I’ve read about the Wii Fit focus, understandably, on the fitness angle. Read On →

The French Fry Problem

Back when I was a college student, french fries were easy. You got four or five of your friends together and walked to the O, where you could pick up a few pounds of deep fried potatoes for around $5. What the fries lacked in quality they made up for in quantity and cheese whiz. Life was good. Now life is more complicated. The O is still down in Oakland, but three pounds of fries are not such a pleasing proposition. Read On →

Wii Fit Acquired

A full review will be forthcoming, but I’ve spent a day with the Wii Fit, and you can read my first impressions on the forum. Feel free to register and ask any questions there, and I’ll be happy to answer to the best of my ability.

Acausal Connecting Vehicles

An enjoyably weird moment of synchronicity. As those of you who follow me on Twitter already know, I woke up yesterday morning and was immediately assaulted by the image of the giant vagina bicycle taxi. (_Protip _- the comments are the best part of the link). Shortly thereafter, on the way to work, I encountered this: Who knows. Maybe it’s just Gina’s van.

Irony, Thy Name Is Niko

So, what have I been doing for the past week? In what can only be described as a perhaps inevitably ironic turn of events, immediately after posting my snarky item about how I had no intention of buying or playing Grand Theft Auto IV, the editor-in-chief of a game magazine informed me that he was sending me a copy to review. So, I’ve been playing the hell out of GTA IV. Read On →

A Slight Apology

The Celtics finally lost a playoff game at home tonight, even with Ray Allen finally showing up. Why did they do this? They couldn’t defend the Pistons. Why couldn’t they? Well, because Detroit actually has a lot of different offensive sets rather than just playing a two on five pick and roll game. Therefore, I apologize to them for my earlier outburst. I guess I was wrong. Note: I was probably unfair to the Lakers and the Spurs too.

An Experimental Forum

As something of a test, we’ve set up a web forum, here. If you’re a regular reader, please consider registering and trying it out. We’re not sure whether this is something we want to support, but I figured it would be an interesting experiment to set it up and see if there’s enough of a community that’s interested in using it. The choice is yours.

Kudos: Rock Legend

One of the strangest games you’ve probably never played is _Princess Maker_. Ostensibly a parenthood simulator, Princess Maker is yet another male attempt to define, categorize, understand, objectify, and, ultimately, dominate teenage girls: reduce a girl to a finite state machine that can be told what to do, and command her to become the ideal woman. Make the right decisions, and your “daughter” will become a princess, or perhaps, if she’s Jewish, a doctor. Read On →

Pick and Roll and Pop and Pick and Roll and Pick

Today a short basketball rumination and tutorial. With the Celtics in a serious playoff run for the first time since I was in college (yes, they made the East Finals in 2002, but that doesn’t count because even if they won they’d have been crushed by the Spurs or whoever) I’ve been watching some NBA basketball on TV lately. One thing I have come to realize is that I’m really tired of watching the pick and roll. Read On →

Mass Effect: It Didn't get Better

I was a bit skeptical of Mass Effect so I didn’t pick it up until I found it at the Exchange at something of a discount. I called Pete, “Is Mass Effect worth $40?“. He said he thought it was. I’m not going to say he’s a liar. Reasonable people can disagree about these things. I thought that the experience started out slow, had a slow middle, and ended, well, slow. Read On →

Pan of Steel

Everyone has their favorite pans. Mine are restaurant-style aluminum non-stick pans. I’ve used these for years, generally just buying another one when the coating on whichever one I had started to go south. The pans are durable (except for the coatings) and perfect for lazy people like me who don’t like cleaning frying pans. They are also really good for cooking eggs. Always important. Lately though, I’ve started to think that maybe I’ve been too lazy if such a thing is possible. Read On →

A Simple Link

It’s a rule of this weblog that we don’t post bare “Hey, look at this” links. I’m breaking that rule for this heartwarming (and heartbreaking) story of a man who introduced his ailing mother to Animal Crossing.

Suicide for fun and profit

I think the major conundrum when describing GTAIV is the conflict between the intrinsic and extrinsic narratives in the game. For the purpose of this note, the extrinsic narrative is the one that the player has no control over: backmatter, non-interactive cut-scenes, the story that is imposed by the authors from on high. The intrinsic narrative (also usually called the emergent) is the one that the player imposes on the system, the text he creates through his own interaction with this virtual playground. Read On →

Cinco de Agave

Several years ago, with the help of Lidia’s restaurant we organized a tasting of Italian amari - bitter digestifs. It was a fabulous event, both informative and fun, and we immensely enjoyed writing about it in this space. It was so much fun, in fact, that we decided to do another group tasting. This time, however, we chose a spirit from a little closer to home: Tequila. Our host was Gene Mangrum, the Director of the Ministry of Culture at Mad Mex (note to self: I need a better job title.) Gene, like many other people I’ve known, is obsessed with great tequila. Read On →

Mario Kart

In case you’re wondering where tonight’s post is, my Mario Kart Wii code is 1032-1807-7532. See you on the track.

GTA Bore

Here’s how it works: 1. Previews of GTA IV appear in every magazine and weblog on the internet. Afraid of being attacked by mobs bearing torches and pitchforks, they universally give it 10⁄10, 5 stars, whatever the rating is that means “Jesus has returned to earth in the form of a videogame.” 2. Everyone buys GTA IV, including all of your 12 year old cousins. 3. Eventually, you give in to the hype and buy it too. Read On →

Dottie's True Blue Cafe

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe is a small place in San Francisco that sits right where the gentrification of Union Square ends and the Tenderloin begins. It is a neighborhood place that has become a destination through well-deserved appearances in every publication that has an opinion on where to eat in San Francisco. As such, you don’t really need me to tell you to go there. But I will anyway. The next time you are staying the night in downtown SF, you should get up early and get to Dottie’s door by 7:20am so you can get in with the first group. Read On →

Egg-Flavored Booze

I had to place a special order with the PLCB the other day to get a bottle of something for my mom. So, as long as I was placing the order, I ordered a bottle of Advocaat. Egg liqueur. When you say the words “egg liqueur” most people will, instinctively, recoil in horror. There’s no need to do this: the liqueur can’t actually get you if you don’t open the bottle. Read On →

How to Not Be a Software Pirate

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, occasionally I’ll read a thread at some internet forum or other. Often in game forums, but also in more surprising places like this, the topic of software piracy comes up. These threads inevitably result in 20 pages of back-and-forth involving hundreds of people which reduce, in the end, to this exchange: Person 1: “Hey, stop stealing software. That’s wrong.” Person 2: “Don’t call me a thief! Read On →