Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Free Software - On-Line Language Translation

So... besides sitting indoors by the fire reading, we've also been goofing around writing more software.

Google has some GREAT online tools - some are really creative and useful. As big a company as they have become, they still seem to have that playful, engineering feel that many other companies quickly lose. Their accounting department must not yet be staffed...

Anywho - two of their great tools include language translation, and text-to-speech. Neither are very new, but Google has their tools simplified with a LARGE range of languages to use.

This is a simple app written to take and translated any text you want - including ebooks, into a new language. Two clicks. A third click will have your computer speak the text to you in its new language. We call it "Google GaGa".

Google's tools basically take the inputs over the web in the form of a URL, and return a webpage for the translation. This app scrapes out the translation to make it easier to read.

Another URL sent to Google returns an MP3 file, saved onto your computer and played for you.

Kinda fun. Really simple. Totally free. Send us an email if you want to play with it, or go see Google's site.

We're gonna keep goofing around with this stuff until we can get back out on the river and goof around with a salmon...

Our Indoor Spring Sport of Eating

Yeah, its been raining - alot! Obviously we aren't out and exploring the woods and streams like usual. This time of year its tough being patient.

But we've got plenty else to do inside... like cook-n-eat!

Here is a great french meal our teenagers put together on their own. Yum!

Here's another favorite from last night - BBQ'ed salmon.

We are trying hard to eat up all of last year's fish... a new year is here and we will soon need room in the freezer!

This is a great, simple recipe:

Simply spread butter across the top of the fish, and season.

Bake on aluminum foil in the grill. When the fish is ~80% done, load on the BBQ sauce. Easy!

Most of the salmon we fillet we leave the skin on the fillets - it makes it easier to handle in the BBQ, and the skin holds in alot of the oil.

After cooking, the skin separates easily from the meats.

Are you hungry yet???

Waiting Out the Rain-out

Well, with spring coming on we were hopeful to burn last year's pile...

We accumulate at least one of these every year - pruning, clearing land, and leaves.

This year is a big one, but not as big as it could have been.

It started out strong...

But then the rains came.

Oh well - we always get off to a false-start when nice weather sets in in Feb/March.

April rains always set us straight...

We did get out and seeded the front yard, where the trees were cleared out.

Gotta get the grass ready for summer football season!

The first buds on the grapevines have popped, too!
Can't wait for the grapes - especially after eating pie.
This year we'll be trying grape jelly... did we already mention that?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fixing a Fishing Reel

When fishing for spring salmon last week, the nut holding the reel handle on our favorite rod fell off... and into the Columbia. If you find a little, shiny nut in about 45' of water, its ours...

Here is the "boat fix" we did with wire leader... it is ugly, but worked well enough to keep using the rod. Like I said - its my favorite.

Maybe its better we didn't hook anything on this one...

A quick check on Abu Garcia's webpage gave schematics and part numbers. (http:\\

I called and the two parts I need will cost $2.48, however the big nut is on backorder, and they don't do backorder. I'll have to call back in April.

Oh well... maybe we will get a spring salmon on that rod before then... stay tuned!

Auto Repair #26 - Replacing the Front Wheel Bearing... AGAIN!

We replaced this SAME front wheel bearing on the Pontiac EXACTLY one year ago!

Piece of junk...

Its been howling for a few weeks now, so we tore into it. Last time, we bought the "economy", cheaper bearing, and it lasted just under 1 year. This year, its the $pendy, premium bearing.

The replacement went very smoothly this time (we've had good practice), until it was time to pull the bearing off of the driveline. Stuck tight.

Fortunately, another good neighbor had a puller we could borrow, and it came right off. We have great neighbors!

The new bearing went right on with plenty of grease.

The whole job could have been done in 30 minutes... but took 2x that to pull off the bearing.

The car is running smooth and quiet now. I'm concerned the last replacement wore out so quickly - maybe a bent drive shaft?

Piece of junk...

Garden Prep - Grab a Shovel!

Another nice, spring-like day. Its time to prep the garden with manure!

The boys were hard at it loading the truck from the neighbor's pile...

And Mom was busy getting the front landscaping in shape.

Everything is shaping up nicely... it is great to get out and dirty!

One good load from the truck took care of about half of the garden area.

We've burned up alot of the leaves from last year, and with another load of kaka, we are ready to till up and plow the garden.

Just one more load, boys!
The horses don't seem to understand... why are you messing with that stuff!

Emergency Communications Training - Ham Licensing

Over the weekend we had some training from Emergency Communications Specialists in Seaside, OR.

Very interesting stuff - alot of talk about earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.

The hardware was cool - TNC packet modems, connecting a laptop to a VHF radio to send and receive Text messages to cellphones.

As an engineer it was cool seeing the gadgets.

We have setup a Ham Radio training class in St Helens, OR which is free to the public for training and then testing for a Ham License. The date will be May 21st and 22nd, with the test on the 22nd.

We have about 40 licensees already between Seaside, Astoria, St Helens, and Scappoose... and more will be helpful in the event of a disaster.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Springer at the Boat

Ok, there have been far too may posts lately about chores, pies, and goofing on the computer. Lets get out and FISH!

Took the team out on the Columbia with 40 other complete strangers to chase spring salmon.

This last weekend was MADE for fishing. It started cold, but that sun warmed things up nicely!

The whole day was really slow... didn't see anyone else touch a fish.

The sheriff and Coast Guard were out making the rounds, and they came by to inspect the boat and fishing licenses.

Maybe it was the boat brisselling with rods that drew their attention to us... 5 rods and no fish yet - something suspicious is going on!

They took a while going through all the documentation.

It was good to test out the safety equipment, and the airhorn still is LOUD!

The inspection went smoothly.

We got a nice, shiny new sticker for the boat, too.
And then lightning struck! Fish on!

Beautiful salmon - had 4 of the 6 hooks stuck in him.

After a brief fight, the 15lb fish easily came up to the boat. His mouth was wired shut with the hooks, and he couldn't breathe.
Didn't even need to drop off anchor.

Bummer! He had too many fins on his back... a wild fish!
We took out the hooks, and sent him on his way up to the gillnetters to finish off.
Always a pity to release them, but always a good lesson for the kids.

And that was it... no other fish, just alotta sun.
After that first fish hit, Dad didn't need to keep bugging the kids to watch their poles... they were focused, waiting for the next takedown.
At least for about 5 minutes, then the sun put them back into a stupor, and Dad was fishing by himself again.

It was a great day, and we did get a fish to the boat - the stink is off now!
Here's a cool tilt-pan picture of the boat at the boat launch - it makes a big boat look tiny-n-cute.

There are very few fish coming through... so we're gonna give it a rest until April when the run starts.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pie Day Post-Mortem

On monday we celebrated PI day (3.14.2010) at work, and we had more than 9 homemade pies and ice cream.

Everyone ate too much, but we were happy.

The grape pie was a big hit - no one had ever heard of it, but all were impressed.

There was also a peanut pie, which was new. It was good. ALL the pies were good...

Last fall we cooked up extra grape pie filling and froze it - they are too good to only enjoy 1x each year.

The filling froze well, and thawed out quickly. Tasted FANTASTIC - very fresh.

It filled the kitchen with that fresh grape aroma.

The other key was good pie crust. Using real LARD.

Keep the crust chilled and covered until JUST BEFORE it is used.

Otherwise it dries out a bit.

The last key (that we'll tell you about) is CREAM CHEESE!

WOW - can't emphasize that one enough!

After baking the cream cheese made the filling runnier, but after cooling it setup well.

We ate grape pie all weekend, and then I ate 3 more pieces on monday!


I mean, "yumm."

Watercolor Images from Digital Photos

Ok, here's the last of the digital photo tricks we've been playing with - making pseudo-watercolor images from our photographs.

This one takes alot of filtering, blending, and adjusting of images, but it gives a cool effect. Each image takes about 15 minutes...

Here is a bird-of-paradise from Hawaii...

And here is the watercolor approximation of it.

The colors got kinda washed out - especially on the flower.

The leaves and rock background have a cool effect...

This one needs more work. A real watercolor painting would have looked better...

Here's a nice one from a boat image - sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River in Feb.

The sky washed out too much, but the water and clouds have a nice effect.

I think the boat needs more shadowing and wash effects... we'll keep working on it.

Tilt-Pan Shifting of Digital Photos

Tilt-Pan Shifting is another trick to try with Digital photographs.

It basically blurs the image to make it look miniature - like a diorama!

Here's a cool shot someone did of Ninilchik, AK.

We usually use Paint Shop Pro, but Gimp is another free tool that makes it easy. Lets give it a shot!

Here is an original photo I took from a trip to Shanghai, China.

Photo's from a distance, looking down give the best effect.

Look at all them people!

Here is a quick first-try using PSPro. It only took about 3 minutes (and looks that way!).

First, I just deleted out the sky - to make it look fake.

Then I blurred various areas farther away ALOT. I repeatedly blurred subsequent areas less and less as I approached the area below the Pearl Tower I wanted to focus on.

Not bad for a first attempt.

Here's a nice photo of boats in Shuzhou, China.

Same process to follow.

Also, play around with adjusting the contrast and saturation of the colors, to give them a 'plastic' look.

The variety of blurring and focus gives some depth, and starts to make it all look miniature.

There are some great tutorials out there - once we catch some fish and get out again this spring we will be taking more photos with this tilt-pan in mind.

Panoramic Photos from Digital Images

The best part of digital photos (other than the price) is that there is so much you can do with them.

Tinkering and hacking.

Lately we've been playing with 'stitching' a series of photos together to make a panoramic composit.

Here is a shot from the Astoria Column last weekend.

Hugin is one of the free software packages out there for photo stitching. It is simple and straightforward to use, with very complex capabilities.

First, load all the series of photos you've taken. On each set of photos, identify 2 or 3 common points between them.


This software makes it pretty easy to get the same point between photos.

After you've added 3 points, go on to the next pair of pictures, until points are shared between all consecutive photos.

Lots of other options to choose from, or just stick to the basics.

It took us about 10 minutes to stitch together a series of images.

It took almost as long for the software to automatically stitch the images together for us...

And here is the final result. Not bad...

Obviously the better images provided, the better the result. Lighting and distance were off on these, but it was a first try.

We'll put together some better ones to show later. Go give it a try!

Canon's SD780 Now Has CHDK!

We've mentioned CHDK before - the hacked firmware for many of Canon's point-n-shoot cameras. CHDK is awesome! It gives complete control over most of the camera's hardware features - so you can do time lapse photos, night shots with longer shutter speeds, lightning and motion detection, etc.

We've used it alot on our older SD1000, but have been waiting for it on our new SD780.

Its here! Some bugs still, but very cool. If you own a Canon, it is definitely something to check out.

If you don't own a Canon - go buy one. CHDK is the MAIN reason we only buy Canon cameras now.

They are good cameras, too.

Stay tuned - we'll share some new photos with CHDK features....